Time to be Honest

Today, March 7th 2020 should have been Tony’s and my 4-year Sobriversary. I should be writing about how glorious life still is on the other side of alcohol. But I’m not because we’re not still on the other side of alcohol. We’re back in the thick of it again. And, it bloody sucks.

At the end of last summer, on a whim while making late-night music with my family, I had a sip of my sister’s wine. And then someone appeared with a glass for me, and then someone else kept it full all night long.

I went home and told Tony. I was honest, because that’s what you do when you’ve committed to sobriety and you fuck up. You get real. You admit your mistakes. And you move forward.

Except we didn’t move forward. We moved backwards.

My mistake was all the permission he needed. Tony started coming home with a bottle of wine now and then to go with our grilled steaks. It tasted terrible to me. Then he started coming home with two bottles of wine twice a week. I could get through the terrible tasting first glass, and suddenly I wanted another glass and another. That was always my drinking problem. I didn’t drink often, but when I did, I didn’t know how to stop. Then he found those fruity new hard seltzer drinks that every brand is hawking. Those started coming home every night. I watched in horror as it got worse and worse.

I tried to pretend everything would be alright; he assured me it would. I didn’t drink often, but just as before, once I started I didn’t want to stop. And now with no tolerance, three drinks of anything left me with a wicked hangover. The novelty quickly wore off. Not to mention I was wracked with guilt every time I drank.

I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to go back to the hell we had created before.

I started reading and researching and came across a medication called naltrexone. It’s an opiod blocker that helps take away the buzz and the desire for more to keep the buzz going. That’s basically all an alcoholic is chasing when it comes down to it. There’s a lot more science to it than that, obviously, but you get the gist. I messaged my doctor telling the truth and she prescribed it no questions asked.

And it worked.

It made me awfully sleepy for the first hour after taking it, but it made alcohol taste even worse and it truly killed my desire for anything more than the first couple of sips.

But then I got inconsistent. And it worked less well. I spoke with another woman online who had had great success with it; her alcohol cravings were nearing “extinction” as she put it. She told me I have to be consistent. I have to take the medication every single time I drink. In a nutshell, I had to be honest.

I convinced Tony to try it with me once. He hated the sleepy, loopy feeling it gave him and said he’d never take it again.

He’s been consistent.

Now, he’s drinking almost daily.  I did drink all the fruity drinks recently when we were on a tropical vacation, and I’ll join him for a drink once or twice a month at home. But I have no desire to be a drinker anymore. Tony, unfortunately, can’t stop and doesn’t seem to want to. He stays out after work every night and comes home to us later and later all buzzed up. At first, he’s annoying to me and goofy with the kids. But when the alcohol starts wearing off, he’s impatient and mean. He mocks me. He yells at Iris. He dropped Julian.

This is the man I love. And I’m willing to fight for him. I’m willing to stand beside him to help him see what this drug is doing to him and to us. But right now, I don’t know how. I’m so angry that he would even consider risking all we’ve built ifor the sake of a false buzz.

I know it’s chemical. I know it’s addiction. A disease. Etc.

I know.

What I don’t know right now is how to love him through this. I’m so very afraid. It got really, REALLY bad between us before we got sober last time. There were bruises. There was blood. I can’t go back to that. I won’t. And, I will never let my kids be around that.

I will leave him before anything happens like that ever again.

But I don’t want to have to.

I want to raise my kids with their sober father who is sweet and funny and quiet without the booze propping him up. I want to love this man until I have to cut his steak for him, until I have to drive the car because he can’t see or hear anymore. I don’t want a poisonous liquid to ruin us and our peaceful grow-old-together future.

I want to celebrate more Sobriversary’s. I want to reach big anniversaries of all sorts.

And I want to always be honest. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to save us now.

And we’re in dire need of saving.

Three Years Sober and Counting

March 8th snuck up on us. Busy with the wee babe and the six-year old, we were surprised by our Sobriversary this year. Last year felt like a major accomplishment; this year felt like just another day.

Because it was. 

At three years sober, we’re wellsettled into a life without alcohol. That old life and who we used to be feels very much in the past. So much so, that at times I look at my ever-present ups and downs and wonder if I truly am better off. I still experience depression. I still have much to learn as a parent. I still have a messy house. I still have weight to lose. I still don’t accomplish everything I’d like to. Continue reading “Three Years Sober and Counting”

I’m Scared. And Confused. And Distrustful.

I don’t know what to do next on this health journey.

Food addiction is real. And I’m currently not making any headway on breaking mine.

I don’t have what people would normally call an “eating disorder.” But what I’m learning is that most of us truly do have a food addiction. And we can’t help it. In the name of capitalism, our whole food system in the US is stacked against us, from addictive substances being added to packaged foods en masse, to the horrors of massive slaughter houses, to fresh produce being the most costly purchase in a grocery store.

It’s a sad, sorry state of affairs. And my belly pays the price. (Not to mention my self-worth and overall physical health.) Continue reading “I’m Scared. And Confused. And Distrustful.”

Awake and sober – the journey continues

It’s getting easier to talk about. We’ve been non-drinkers for two years now and it’s time to look back at who we truly were before we quit.

Today, March 8th is our two-year sober anniversary. Our “sobriversary” as I can call it now that we’ve had more than one.

We didn’t go to rehab. We haven’t attended any meetings. We just quit. Continue reading “Awake and sober – the journey continues”

Mea Culpa

 

We walked today, picking fall flowers, dried seed pods and colorful leaves. Chattering like a busy chipmunk, she found pretty rocks in the gravel, drew line after line for us to race from, and marveled at the troops of soldier mushrooms. It was more a meander than a walk, but definitions matter not to a four-year-old. Her thoughts bubble over into words like a flowing well in the flat lands; there is no filter, no pause and the music of it all soaking the earth is innocent and pure.

And it never stops. Ever.

Even in her dreams she is talkative and loud. A social sleep talker, telling her stories and voicing her fears.

But it is a respite to tune into her world, letting it drown out my restless mind that takes eternal practice to quiet for even the rare millisecond. She is my practice. Continue reading “Mea Culpa”

The Task at Hand

 

Column 31 Published in the July 5,2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Well hello there, July. Welcome, and we’ll take you, biting black flies and all.

June, the moody mistress that she was, blessed us with an abundance of variety. Steady? No, not she. She took us from whipping winds and bone chilling wet to sweltering heat that sat heavy and dense like a used towel left to dry in a heap.

A recent June day, I remarked to no one in particular in my otherwise unoccupied vehicle, “You know it’s a Windy day when there are miniature white caps on the standing water in the farmers’ fields.”

I love the long drive into town passing the many fields in their different states of dress and undress. The neighboring farmers are the buffer as we move from our densely wooded community to the progressively more open and populated, albeit still sparsely, outskirts of these rural towns. The hearts of their downtown areas and the bustle of their local commerce is a welcome change to the remote day-to-day life that is The Angle’s.

Our tourism economy here at The Angle gives the impression of busy-ness everywhere you look, and indeed we are a hard-working community. But there’s also a hint of loneliness that hangs in the air just as it does on the busiest city streets.

Peculiar to our species, no doubt, we are seeking. We are aching. Wondering. We get so consumed with taking care of our own egoic pursuits that we often fail to make the heart connections that are so vital to our growth, our happiness.

The tabloid of my life at The Angle: the off and on relationship, the ragged, yet wholehearted endeavors to find my place in our misfit community, the craving and searching for soulful, authentic connections, it all continually points me back to learning about love, forgiveness and God.

A Course in Miracles continues to be an almost daily guide for me. It has reminded me yet again that ANYTHING, if it’s not Love, is fear. If a thought doesn’t bring joy, then it is riding on fear, however deeply hidden. Stress equals fear equals illusion equals false, no matter how fiercely I believe in it. If a thought brings anything other than an abiding joy, it is not of God, not of reality. What a bonanza that knowledge is! I write it again and again solely so that I may continue to learn it. We’ve created all these illusions ourselves, and I can finally see that breaking down the fear-based illusions is my life’s work.

There is a certain peace that has settled in now that I no longer have to strive to learn unconditional love. It seemed such an impossible task even mere months ago. I would fail and fail again at every test, judging this, fearing that.

In fact, “unconditional love” is redundant. If it’s not unconditional, it’s not Love. Fear can create love-like feelings, but it takes only a careful look and I’ll see the cracks in the foundation.

Love is our true nature, and we’ll return to it regardless of our earthly wanderings, our raging Get and Keep egos, our ramshackle life stories created largely on fear.

Recognizing what fear has built in my life is my task now. Perhaps that is why my journey led me here, back to Minnesota, to The Angle, so that I may lead a simpler life closer to family and closer to the land.

It would seem there are less trappings here and that living more wholesomely would be a boon. Oh, but Egos are tricky beasts. They will latch on to anything, wrap their fear tentacles around it and create stress under the guise of achievement. Mine has built the illusion of “so much to do” that at times, I can barely breathe.

I was a steady drinker for two decades of my life because my ego had run rampant. Escaping felt like part of surviving, but in fact it only slowed my recognition. I see now that addictions are so prevalent in our culture because we are so mind-identified. Alcoholism has a nasty social stigma, for sure, but if I’ve learned anything over the past many years, it’s that addiction is addiction is addiction.

Guilt seems like a noble cloak to wear in the aftermath of addiction, but it’s not. Guilt comes from fear.

There are many who would argue to the death that what they fear is indeed real. Fear seems real to us because we believe in it and we believe in it because we created it.

I don’t want a life lived in defense of what I’m afraid of. I want a life broken open to Love. Raw and real. Graceful in it’s slow reveal, like the pregnant fields on my drive to town. Like the beauty in my three-year-old’s sly smile as she learns new and better hide-and-seek spots. Like the subdued glory of the pink and white lady slippers that pepper the ditches along our rural highways for just these few shorts weeks this time of year.

I want to see it all. Especially my fears. Bring it on, July.

 

 

(Alas, my lady slipper photo was too blurry. The above photo was pulled from Flickr via the MSFT bank of online photos using the Common Creative content licensing. I don’t know the person’s name to give them credit, unfortunately. So beautiful.)

Drowning in Hell

Column 15 Published in the November 24, 2015 Warroad Pioneer

 

There are many ways for a person to drown. Struggling for breath, for life can appear calm and quiet to the unknowing observer. Living on a lake and raising a toddler requires knowledge that no parent hopes they’ll need. Living beside alcoholism necessitates another kind of knowing.

I’m watching someone drown.

They aren’t waving their hands in the air for help. They aren’t sputtering breathlessly for a lifeline. The vocal chords of someone drowning automatically constrict to prevent more water from entering the lungs. The stomach fills up with water and the extra weight then makes them sink. It’s painful and terrifying, according to the literature.

In the case of alcoholism, perhaps the booze numbs that pain and terror enough to allow them to project some semblance of normalcy. Surely they know their predicament, but the water feels warm, the danger feels far away.

I have gotten close enough to see that the danger is real. I have jumped in to try to save them. I have thrown ropes from the shore. I have tried tantalizing them to stand up in the shallows and walk towards what they desire. I have tried love. I have tried anger. I have tried ultimatums.

When none of it worked, when all of it only served to drag me into the water as well – being already a little susceptible to the lies of booze – I had to walk away. It’s been a slow and agonizing walk, and I keep turning back to see if something else might possibly help.

Hard lessons learned, as I wrote about last time, torturous as they may be, still serve a purpose.

It’s gut-wrenching to watch someone you love slowly go down. And I fully admit I’m not strong enough to watch anymore. I have to shield my eyes and those of my child. But I’ve also recently written about letting things lie, and in fact, I have learned that lesson. I can’t do it any longer.

So, getting to my point, I want to talk about enablers and the enabling lifestyle that is The Angle’s. Anyone who was upset by my previous columns, anyone who thought I got too personal, here is your Stop Reading warning.

I’m watching someone drown. And so are you.

I’m not strong enough to pull them to shore on my own. I’ve failed. I’ve been the worst kind of enabler.

An enabler is someone who, by their actions, allows an addict to continue their self-destructive behavior, according to Darlene Albury, LMSW. Enablers avoid conflict by protecting addicts from their problems, not holding them accountable for their wrong-doings, and assisting them with normal life responsibilities that would otherwise fall by the wayside.

The Angle is unique in that we are a strong little community of freedom fighters. We toil and work, celebrate and love, grieve and heal side by side. We get into jams. We break. We borrow. We lend. We are family and neighbors.

We put up with the hardships of living at The Angle because we love what we get in return. Namely, freedom.

But anywhere else, the addicts we all know and love would have had the opportunity to reach bottom by now. They would have lost everything. They would be pulling themselves up by their worn bootstraps because they have no other choice.

They would change or they would die.

But here, we gently push them out of the ditch, back on the rutted gravel and on their way to the next drink with only so much as a shake of our head and maybe a scornful look. We make excuses that this is just how it is at The Angle, and aren’t we lucky that we don’t live somewhere else where flashing lights can appear behind our swerving vehicle or our speeding boat.

If my words serve to bring the law down on us more harshly, so be it. I’ll live with the disdain of my neighbors if it helps someone, anyone get help in grappling with the demon that has them by the throat.

Enabling an addict is dangerous and damaging because unless an addict is fully experiencing the harsh life consequences of their choices, they have no incentive to change. They could and likely will continue to spiral into more deadly territory with every unwise decision.

Rumor has it that there is a makeshift jail cell in an abandoned house along the main drive here at The Angle. In my four short years here, I know of a half-dozen times it should have been legitimately used and wasn’t. And that’s just me. Do terrible things have to happen at The Angle for us to hold anyone accountable?

This rant is not directed at law enforcement. It’s meant for those of us who have turned a blind-eye for too long. Our inaction will lead to the law getting involved eventually, and that’s obviously not what anyone wants.

For the most part, we live a quiet, peaceful life here. But it’s time to make waves.

It’s time to loudly and forcefully help those who can’t help themselves. Do it with gritted teeth. Use curse words if you need to. Call. Show up. Get in their face. Coddling hasn’t worked. Ignoring it hasn’t helped. Love them enough to finally say, “Enough.”

Enabling is a lose-lose situation; I know that first-hand.

Enablers are not the bad guys. Worst case, our lives are in shambles because we’ve directed all energy to a lost-cause for years. Enablers need the love and support of a community just as much as the addicts.

If you think this isn’t about you, you’re wrong. If you think you don’t know someone in this situation, you’re wrong. All addictions are equal. People attach a more shameful stigma to certain addictions, but they are indeed all the same, coming from a place of disconnect with Source, Love, God, whatever you want to call it. Enablers, addicts, bystanders, we are also all the same.

That said, a quote fell into my lap recently, as they often do when I am praying, pleading, weeping for guidance. At the risk of offending a few more people, I’ll close with interpreted words from Dante’s Inferno, used frequently once upon a time by John F. Kennedy,

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, remain neutral”.

Drowning in hell is no way to live. Something must be done.

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