No Bargain

When did it all get so difficult?

I’ve been alone for most of my life. Of my 36 years on this plane of existence I have been single for approximately 29. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this number. In fact, most days I’m proud of myself for having the stones to be on my own for so long.

It’s no bargain folks. It takes serious independence and strength to forge your own way when the choices you have made haven’t ever panned out the way your sweet, overloaded and hopeful heart hoped. It takes guts and soul to pick yourself up after major breakup number 3 explodes in front of your pretty little face. It’s Not Easy to walk this walk. It’s Not Easy to know that when you are ready to burst at the seams from sheer overwhelmed exhaustion there’s no one waiting for you at home. No one there to offer a comforting shoulder or ear, specifically promised to you.

Please don’t take my stumbling, bungling attempt at explaining myself that I’m saying I don’t have friends or any kind of support system in my life. That is so far from the truth. I have friend upon friend who would answer my call if I said I needed to talk or vent. My mother would never turn a deaf ear to my rantings. Ever.

But those same staples of my younger years aren’t doing it for me the way they used to. I’ve just been noticing that the older I get the less I want to ‘bother’ or ‘interrupt’ my tried and true friends. All of them are coupled off or married, most with a couple of kiddos. And that’s lovely. Beautiful. They made great choices and life blessed each of them. They all deserve the good things in life.

Does that mean that I don’t feel blessed or that I don’t think I made good choices? No. I know I am blessed. I Know in my bones that it could always, always be worse. I know that I have many, many wonderful people and experiences in my life. I know my choices belong to me and I don’t regret any of them.

Does it mean that I don’t think I deserve the good things in life? You’re Goddamn right I don’t. My worth is all wrapped up in being adopted/abandoned/FAT/alone. My drinking pattern has been cumulative over many years. Remember, addiction is progressive. It creeps. It sneaks. It waits.

Life has dealt me some difficult times. I saw grief and utter desolation at 17. My troubled big brother – dead at 21. We didn’t have a good or even existing relationship when he died and I blamed him for that. I loathed him actually. I thought he was a leech and that he didn’t deserve my parents’ love. He made everything in our home difficult and angry and violent. I never forgave him for that. I cried for my parents when he died. I knew they were absolutely shattered. I didn’t feel anything, except disgust. And the guilt I feel typing that, even now – 19 years later….it’s brutal.

I can’t help but wonder why my path has been ever laced with pain – my brother was one of the early notches in my belt. I also wonder why I can’t shake it off and feel grateful and happy for what I have.

I need to reason out my emotions because they’re HUGE. I could walk all day down the corridor of one of those fuckers and still not be able to fully absorb it. I take on others’ emotions and don’t realize that my own stuff isn’t only mine anymore. It’s a mixture of his or hers and mine. It doesn’t separate like oil and water, it’s not fluid. The mixing I’m talking about is Thick; peanut butter and chocolate swirled together. It’s delicious at first, and makes harmony on your taste buds. It can initially taste so intoxicating that you get lost and consume too much and before you know it you’re addicted. This emotional mixing pushes me to the point of wanting to drink every. single. day.

I’m in a low place. I fully acknowledge and own that.

But nothing lasts forever.

This blog O’Mine is helping. I’m still drinking. I’m still overwhelmed. I’m still crippled with my Fears and Old Pain, but I’m offering it to the masses. It’s not remaining inside me any longer. Take what you want and leave the rest.

Let it Begin

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I have been inspired and fundamentally in love with Alice in her Wonderland since I was a little girl. She has a cat (named Dinah (!!)) and a fantastic blue dress (not pink (!!!!)). Those were two big ticket items that I could really relate to. Felines and lack of girlie colors. Sign me up. But the central reason I loved her so much was because she didn’t ever apologize for being herself. She was lost in a world she knew nothing about. She shrank to an eighth of her true size. Then she grew taller than a redwood tree. She was almost ‘smoked out’ and she was thrown out of a garden of very snotty flowers for ‘maybe’ being a weed (bitches). She was constantly confused and led astray by a clever, ever disappearing, floating cat. No one seemed willing to help her in any kind of rational way. Everyone else’s Madness was thrust upon her but she still remained clear headed and strong willed. Surrounded by all kinds of obstacles and unknowns; she was Alice. She is Alice. She will always be Alice.

I dig that. I dig it so much I’m putting it into my blog. Probably more than once. The idea that you are the only you there could ever be is something I find intensely comforting and gratifying. I’m Annie. I will always Be Annie. I’m the one who is in charge of my place in the world. I’m the one who calls the shots. It’s up to me. Same for her. She makes her way through and eventually out of Wonderland. Another reflection of Alice that resonates year after year. The only way out is through. This latest era of wandering around, challenged and alone has nothing to do with anyone but me.

There’s a slogan in al-anon that says ‘Let it Begin With Me’. I never adhered much to that one because I always felt the reason I landed in al-anon meetings (at least in the beginning) lay at the feet of my angry alcoholic boyfriend. My need for community and support did not begin with me. It began with him. I know now that the slogan wasn’t talking about where fault lies, it’s simply saying if you want something to change you have to start with yourself. Look to you and your own behavior and choices first. Period.

It took me years to figure that one out. When I first started going to meetings – the day after I drove my ex to rehab – I was very angry, very afraid, deeply codependent and lost as fuck. I figured, he was the one who drank, so I was the victim. He didn’t drink because of me, I knew that. But he didn’t stop drinking because of me either and I took that very personally. The patterns of his addiction had nothing to do with me, but it intensely affected the fabric of our relationship. It framed everything we did, said and experienced together. It was a part of us as a couple – his drinking and eventually his anger. Whether or not he drank 30 beers and punched holes in walls and broke things and ruined parties and terrified me was where is began for him. Not me. It took me years to figure that one out too.

Nowadays, I’m sincerely my own woman – in many ways, I’m my own Alice – walking tentatively through the jungles of my own Addiction Wonderland. I encounter lots of temptations, lots of triggers, lots of reasons to drink. For now, I’m lost in the thick multi-colored trees of daily drinking, not exercising, feeling burnt out and that FEAR I talked about before. I’m stumbling around blindly right now, but I have not fallen. It’s going to begin with me, Goddamnit. It’s going to. It’s only a matter of time before I figure out how to run with what’s inside my head.

As before…thank you for reading.

Ball gag

I think about being honest a lot. I think (and often over think) about what I want to say and how I should say it. I want to be sure I’m saying what I mean and meaning what I say…but I also watch out for not stepping on toes and try to be delicate when sometimes I just want to dole out the truth. Being authentic is very, very important to me. I was told just last night – “Don’t ever change.” And all I could do was throw my buzzed head back, laugh and say, “That will *never* happen.” The basic core of me will not change, I know it too well for it to go anywhere. But sometimes, without warning, I feel intensely inauthentic. Like a fraud.

I think about what other people think too much. I worry about how I will be perceived and how I will be received. I concern myself with others’ needs and wants more often than I wonder about my own. Unless, that is, I’m thinking of my own wants and needs in a selfish, immediate way. I often factor in how hungover I might feel on a given day and that, in turn makes me pick and choose what activities or events I can commit to. The weekends as of late are lost causes. All I want to do is keep to my own schedule of having no schedule so if the mood to get fucked up strikes, I have no previous obligations getting in the way.

If I take my drinking time out of the equation (usually between the hours of 6-10 each evening) and lock myself down for an evening event with friends I feel excited and hopeful initially. I think, “that’s going to be a really nice time. I haven’t seen ____ in forever.” I think about the good points in the plans I’ve made, I remember the relationships I want to nurture and foster (and realize, guiltily, that I have been neglecting a lot of them). I feel pretty good about making plans. At first.

Then the clock starts marching forward from the time I say, “yes, I definitely want to attend that party” to when the actual date of the party is a few days away. My brain starts to quietly fret. I begin to feel the pull of isolation. I begin to feel that fucking straight jacket of FEAR pulling taut against my arms and ribcage. I start to plan and then veto what I might want to wear, telling myself that I look hideous in everything I own. Then I beat myself up for not looking fabulous like my slender friends. Then I hector myself for not going to the gym or for eating those fucking pretzels at 10pm. It’s this endless, endless cycle of self loathing. It drives me to cancel plans. Being alone sometimes feels easier than putting myself out there with the attached risk of silent judgment. And that leaves my drinking time blessedly open.

I’m writing about all this shit not to complain, but to get it the fuck OUT of me. It’s the extra ‘stuff’ that I want to put in these posts in the hopes that eventually, it will remain here and only here. Never to haunt me again. I want to be rid of the circling and recycling thoughts of my Inner Judge. She is such an asshole and she’s loud. Anyone out there know where I can find a decent ball gag?

 

 

What keeps me up at night

I live in FEAR everyday. I’m not afraid of something tangible like spiders or clowns (although clowns creep me right the fuck out). It’s not some future event that keeps me up at night like when my mother will die or wondering if something harrowing will befall one of my nearest and dearest. It’s nothing like that. It’s more an all-consuming feeling that I will never be able to cut myself out of the straight jacket of FEAR I feel I have voluntarily worn for years. I’m not entirely conscious of it all the time, but it’s there. And no one else knows about it. It belongs only to me. I’m the only one aware that it is always quietly maintaining its’ presence by holding me back, keeping me isolated, ensuring I remain stuck. Always constricting my emotions, my sensibilities, my positivity…sometimes the very breath in my lungs.

I don’t want to be unachieved potential for the rest of my life. I don’t want to miss out on the many, many opportunities I have at my fingertips if I would only just let go of this FEAR. I don’t want to feel like this anymore.

And, wonder of wonders, I’m feeling that FEAR less today than I have in ages. My consciousness has shifted. I think my choice to write here and maybe one day gain a larger audience has inadvertently given me a renewed purpose. I’m actually trying to do something now. I’m taking action. I’m putting forth some effort. I’m really thinking about what I want.

I’ve been waiting for this shift. The idea to write a blog came to me in a quick flash and within 12 hours of thinking carefully about whether it would be a good decision or not, my blog was born. That was….4 days ago. Since then I have had my waves of terror over the fact that now people are going to know about the secret I’ve been keeping. But I’ve also had waves of happiness and confidence because I’m informing people I care about that I’m suffering. And it’s finally ok (at least in my head) to go there.

I’m still afraid though. I know I will not be changing overnight. So, coming to terms with the fact that people in my life might actually check in with me and specifically ask how things are going or if I’m still drinking or if I have tried a meeting yet (the answers today to those questions are – I’m fine, yes and no) is what is scaring me today. And that’s ok because it feels lighter than the FEAR of someone finding out before I had the vocabulary to talk about it. That FEAR was keeping me up at night. That FEAR was squeezing most of the life out of me. That FEAR was what I couldn’t take anymore. I don’t want to do this alone. Sitting in the silence of my own secrets is one of the worst kinds of hell I can imagine. It was eating away and worrying my mind like a rabid, vicious dog.

I have other worries now. New worries. And that’s ok too. So far, they’re smaller than my FEAR. With time and effort and more reading and continuing to be open and writing and writing and writing I think they’ll remain small. Who knows what may happen next? Today it feels like good things are coming. A weight has lifted and I feel that straight jacket loosening as I type.

Blessed Be.

Her third time.

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If only I could live my life like the trees. Methodically dedicating time to shedding the dead things. It’s so easy for all of us to carry our pain and hold it close. It’s so easy and sometimes frighteningly unconscious to live in the past. It’s so easy to lose sight of what really matters because you feel like the emotional walking wounded. I want to be like the trees and shed all of it. I want to shed the shroud I’ve kept around myself because I’m overweight, adopted, lived with an alcoholic, lost my brother and my father, helped nurse my mother through cancer, began drinking more and more steadily over the last 10 years, found my birth parents and then immediately lost them again. I want to shed all these hurts and fucking live again. That’s what I want to do. I’m scared of it too.

I came clean about my drinking with my therapist and she urged me to think of a place that I could go to in my head. A place that I could picture and eventually access whenever I need to fill myself with something. She urged me to think of a place that would soothe, comfort and hopefully help me heal. She gave me a homework assignment to write about it. So, here’s what I came up with —

‘She stands alone on the waters’ edge. The sand beneath her bare feet is hard packed and soft. The body of water laid out in front of her, is as peaceful as freshly fallen snow. The forest behind her, is thick and full of life. There is a slow, easy breeze playfully pulling at the tendrils of her hair. It tickles her neck in a pleasant way. She inhales deeply, gazing across the calm water to the opposite shore. The trees on that side are not quite as thick as the ones at her back. There is a shady meadow on the far side of the pond. There is a weeping willow in the far corner, her favorite tree. There is an old, crumbling rock wall along the left side with all manner of flowers blooming along it. Hydrangeas, roses, pansys, tulips. The flowers remind her of the garden in Alice in Wonderland. It possesses a loveliness that evokes a longing in her heart. She can see woodland creatures moving through the grass in the clearing. The quiet of that place gives birth to a yearning she has never known.

The wind shifts direction, she closes her eyes, inhales again. She is very conscience of her body. Her feet are planted firmly on the ground as her lungs fill with pure, clean air. She lifts her arms out in front of her, palms up, as if in offering. The breeze blesses her skin with its touch and she smiles. Eyes still closed she can hear the animals around her, frolicking and living. Happy in their natural habitat. She can smell the flowers in the meadow across the pond as the breeze moves yet again. Wonderful. A soothing scent from her childhood. Again, the image of Alice stumbling into the unknown crosses her mind. She has felt so like Alice all these years. Lost and unsure, yet confident in her ability to find her way. She opens her eyes to notice a different texture to the day. The time of day is late, she can tell by the way the light slants through the clouds and vegetation. There is power in that light. It brings the end of the day, the stopping of activity, of responsibility. The light begs for rest, for the need to slow down and appreciate. This light, this gloaming, is everything about life that she loves. The quiet. The simplicity. The availability of beauty. It is her.’

I use ‘she’ and ‘her’ because I’m just barely putting my toes into the waters of recovery at this moment. It didn’t feel right, at least not yet, to use ‘I’ and ‘me’. I feel like I am watching the woman, waiting to see what she will do next. I’m very, very curious about what her next move will be. Will she stand at the waters’ edge forever? Or will she dive head first and swim to the other side?

Time’s going to tell…I’m hoping for the latter.

 

Again, thank you for reading…

Becoming

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This book changed the way I looked at my own drinking and my life. I read it about 3 months ago at the recommendation of my therapist. I read the first few chapters in one sitting. With every turn of the page I recognized myself more and more. I was mirrored in her story. I behaved very, very much as she did. The brutal force of this reality immediately knocked the wind out of the sails of my denial. The booze cruise of refusal I was drinking the night away on was now stranded on the water, rocking back and forth, going nowhere. Stalled. Stagnant. Making me seasick.

“But then the wine came, one glass and then a second glass. And somewhere during that second drink, the switch was flipped. The wine gave me a melting feeling, a warm light sensation in my head, and I felt like safety itself had arrived in that glass, poured out from the bottle and allowed to spill out between us.” – Caroline Knapp, Drinking: A Love Story

That is me. 100%. Although my switch generally flips after the first three sips. The warmth swirls into my face, my shoulders drop and I relax. It’s like the moment right after you have an orgasm and all your faculties turn to mush, you’re sated and you exhale deliciously. Your body loosens. Wave after wave of pleasure flows through you. Thought and control are both very distant. All you want is to marinate in this sensation until your fingers get prune-like and wrinkly. You never want it to end.

It is safe in that space. I feel incubated by the slow buzz creeping through my blood. I feel disconnected from the pain I constantly feel. That in and of itself is why I have begun to drink more and more. The pain. The loss. The aloneness. I don’t want to feel it anymore. I want to be distracted from it. What better way than to drink a bottle of wine, alone before bed?

The good feelings and the safety I feel when I’m drinking are fleeting. There’s always the inevitable headache, rotgut, dry mouth, general sense of malaise and bone deep exhaustion that follows me every morning when I wake. And every morning – for the last 6 months or so – I have said to myself, ‘I will not drink tonight. I will take a night off because my body needs a break. I am making this promise to myself right now.’ And I believe it, until mid-afternoon or so when the small hangover I have starts to walk away from me. Once I begin to feel a tiny bit better I think, ‘well, maybe I’ll just have one glass tonight. Just one with dinner and that will be it. I promise.’ But it’s never just one. It’s always 3 or 4.

I rationalize and I bargain. I feign control in an uncontrollable situation. I pretend I feel fine all day long. And for the most part, I do. I physically feel like shit and I’m always quietly worried about how I’m going to get to the other side of this deeply ingrained habit of mine, but in the grand scheme of things I am F.I.N.E. I have a stable and safe place to live, a great job that I love, family and friends who love and support me, food in my belly every day, a kitty girl who makes my heart grow 3 sizes every time she looks at me and a warm, delightfully comfortable bed to sleep in every night. If you look at what I actually have in my life, I’m living the dream. On the surface it’s fucking hunky dory. Underneath it’s………bad.

How did this happen to me? When did I lose sight of the goodness and light in my life? Where did I go wrong and not realize I had fallen into a pit of addiction?

“Trying to describe the process of becoming an alcoholic is like trying to describe air. It’s too big and mysterious and pervasive to be defined. Alcohol is everywhere in your life, omnipresent, and you’re both aware and unaware of it almost all the time, all you know is you’d die without it, and there is no simple reason why this happens, no single moment, no physiological event that pushes a heavy drinker across a concrete line into alcoholism. It’s a slow, gradual, insidious, elusive becoming.” Caroline Knapp

I think she nailed it. Thank you, Ms. Knapp for opening my eyes. Now I know more about what I am becoming. Awareness, for me, is half the battle. Mindfulness will help me move out of the dark and into the light.

I hope.

Thank you for reading…

 

 

Her First Time

Oh God.

I made a decision to start a blog without really thinking about what it would actually feel like to write about myself honestly and allow *everyone* to read my words. I’m shaking in these boots of mine a little. Be gentle with me….won’t you?

Here goes:

I am an addict. This is my attempt to stay accountable, responsible, conscious and one day, become sober. I am a truth seeker, a truth speaker…but I’ve been lying to myself for too long. I am an addict. I have been hiding it for too long. I need help. Maybe, just maybe, in writing this blog and talking about what is slowly taking control of my life I will be able to dig deep and let go.

Most people are addicted to something – booze, drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, social networking, gossip, food, etc. A lot of people are unaware of their vices, I certainly was. Addiction is quiet, stealthy. It builds and waits. Waits and builds. It likes to *pounce*. When it pounced on me, the paralysis was total. And terrifying. I thought I had my shit together, I really did.

Growing up, I was always the good girl. Good grades. Good friends. Good after school activities. Good plans for my future (Syracuse University baby!) I did everything right, it never occurred to me to be anything but a ‘good girl’. That was the first half of my life. Everything was mostly ok until the summer before my senior year of high school. My brother died. And the Good Girl part of me was lost. His death gave birth to The Addict in me.

The second half of my life feels like a whirlwind of grief, bad relationships, booze, overeating, random sex, cancer, more loss, more grief and chaos. All the tough life experiences that have simply happened to me have dragged me down so much that I am now a daily drinker. I don’t even think about it anymore, I just come home from work and pour. Desperate to disconnect.

My addiction is threefold – food, men, alcohol. The focus of my addictive behavior ebbs and flows. Sometimes all I want is to drink myself gone. Others I want to eat an entire bag of potato chips and then some cake. Maybe an entire cake. And others still, I want to get laid and I don’t give a fuck who it is. But the foundation remains the same, I continue to need to be numb. I need to fill myself because inside I feel empty, broken and viscerally scared.

I think I’m almost to the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m almost ready to make a significant change. Almost. Will I drink tonight? Probably. Will I feel quite as guilty about it as I have in the past few months? Maybe not. I’m finally talking about it. My white knuckle grip on my ‘secret’ has loosened.

Thank you for reading.

More to come.