addiciton

THE MOST BORING PERSON IN THE HUDSON VALLEY

Let me get this straight. You want me to wake up at 5AM without a hangover, pack up a rental car with suitcases responsibly packed a day or more in advance, then drive 3 hours through the beautiful terrain of the Hudson Valley until I reach a cozy bed and breakfast in a house built in the 1870’s? Fine. I can do all that.

I suppose you also want me to stroll lightheartedly through the quaint vacation town, browsing antiques and old bookstores for hours on end, and I also suppose you’d like me to do all of that without spending a moment plotting, scheming, or obsessing over how I can convince the boyfriend that 10AM isn’t at all too early for a celebratory glass of something.

You’d like me to luxuriate luxuriously on cafe terraces while sipping espresso and eating a delicious, flaky pastry filled with tangy, tart lemon curd, chewing slowly, not wanting the mouth orgasm to end, watching the peaceful wanderers wander by in pursuit of the same contented Sunday afternoon.

And finally, you’d like me to end the day with a delectable meal at a lovely restaurant, all without having chugged a tallboy before leaving the house. You’d like me to decline the wine list, only order stupid food, and leave completely satisfied with what was one of the best meals I’ve ever had? Then you’d like me to cuddle up with the boys, watch movies, and drift off to sleep by 10PM, waking up by 6AM the next morning fully rested and hangover free, ready to start another day of peace and tranquility without the constant chaotic chase of that next sip, that next dip into a dive for a whisky/beer combo to propel me forward miserably.

You want me to have a sober vacation, but more importantly, you want me to LIKE IT?

That’s exactly what I did over Memorial Day Weekend.

It was marvelous. 

I took this very same trip in the fall of 2013. It was a disgusting mess. I packed the very morning we left because I was too drunk the night before to get anything productive done. I drove with a pounding headache, not feeling normal until we made it to our destination and were able to grab lunch (a beer with a side of sandwich). I stumbled through the day, counting down the hours until dinner would arrive and heavier drinking could begin. Fuck antiques. Fuck strolling. Fuck serenity. Me want vodka. ME WANT DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.

In 2013, we made stops at liquor stores all weekend long, him sitting in the car while I ran in to buy large bottles of things for us both to drink, as well as mini-bottles he didn’t know about that were just for me. The minis would be stashed in my suitcase so I could stealthily sneak away, downing a few here and there, hoping to keep the levels in the “public” alcohol bottles located in the kitchen from dropping down too quickly, thus concealing the true quantities I was actually consuming. Side note: These empty minis would be found one year later in the same suitcase as I packed for another trip. I would sneak them out of the house to the trash, the shame flooding back as fresh as ever. 

That trip in 2013 was total misery. I was in a constant state of sloppy, painful drunkenness peppered with extended periods of sloppy, painful hangover. The drunks and the hangovers blended seamlessly with one another until I was never able to tell if I was okay or not okay. Nothing was enjoyable.

When we returned home that year I felt as if I had been through hell. I needed another vacation to recover. And drink more.

I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.

I can live. I can stare at the sky and smile. I can savor time, tastes, smells. I can become consciously aware of sun on my face, of the antiquity and inevitable history built into old objects that I hold in my hand. I can feel the goosebumps running down my spine as my boyfriend grabs my fingers and squeezes while we wander down cobblestone streets, stopping for extended moments to admire the architecture and manicured gardens.

Before I got sober, and even for some time after I put down the drink, this all seemed impossible. During early sobriety I could hardly comprehend watching a movie on Friday night without a cocktail. I’m supposed to SIT? Stare? Watch? That’s IT? You must be out of your goddamned mind.

But I made myself sit there and watch the movie. It sucked. It still sucked the next time I did it, too, but less so. The only way anything started to make sense again was by LIVING. Experiencing. Trying. Being uncomfortable without grabbing for my medicine. When they tell you not to give up before the miracle happens, that actually MEANS something. Actively choosing to endure the discomfort when every cell in your body is screaming for a drink? That makes you stronger. That is lifting weights with your sobriety muscles. It hurts. You’ll be sore the next day. But you’ll never get stronger without it.

If you’re struggling, just know that with some time and effort, you too can be the most boring person in the Hudson Valley. You’ll love it.

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1 Year

A few days back I celebrated 1 year of sobriety and posted this on my Facebook:

I woke up one year ago today knowing that it was over. It had to be. My life had become unmanageable, and I was going down fast. I left work just minutes after I had arrived, took the train home, told my boyfriend I had a serious problem, and climbed into bed to smother my catastrophic hangover with McDonalds. I spent the whole day making a plan as the immensity of the task at hand began to sit heavily on my shoulders. I surrendered on April 14th, 2014.

What a difference a year makes. I’ve spent the 365 days re-calibrating, trying things out, pulling back when necessary, and generally just doing whatever it is I need to do for myself. It required a lot of declined invitations, hiding in bed, reading books, drinking seltzer and tea, delaying projects, and eating tubs of ice cream. At times it felt as if I were being left behind professionally, socially, and artistically, but it was worth the extended pause.

Grateful for so much now: my life, my boyfriend, my dog, my friends and family. Thank you for helping me along, and thank you for your patience and care.

I remember how scary it was initially to come out publicly and discuss my disease, but now it just comes naturally. Before I said anything to family and friends, I worried that they would think badly of me, or that they wouldn’t understand the significance of what I was doing, that they would think that I was looking for attention.

Since then, I have stopped caring about how I’m perceived when I talk about my recovery (for the most part). What others think of me is none of my business. I continue to be transparent about the whole thing because I think it’s important for other people in trouble to see that others have been in trouble, too. I also think it’s important for those who might not understand addiction to have an opportunity to see recovery in action.

People have been amazing. Certainly there are some who don’t quite “get it” and wonder what I’m going on about, but that little Facebook post received 227 LIKES and 40 COMMENTS expressing love and support. Like these:

What an inspiration you are. A great day to celebrate.

Proud of you bud! You are an inspiration indeed.

I’m so unbelievably proud of you my friend

Congrats cuz! You got this. Love you and know if you ever need anything, I’m there.

CONGRATULATIONS FOR EVERY ONE OF THESE 365 DAYS!!!

There is nothing you will do in your life of which you should be more proud. Mazel Tov.

Year two is pretty amazing I have to say, so keep going buddy.

This is the kind of day that makes my day(s) seem so much brighter!

And from my boyfriend:

I don’t have to tell you what a huge accomplishment this is, but as someone who has witnessed it every day…it’s pretty remarkable. How you’ve turned, and continue to turn, everything around us into the epitome of strength. I not only love you, but admire you. You continue to challenge and better yourself toward a brighter tomorrow. We must celebrate with dinner and books, laughter and song…and all the good fortunes life has to offer. You’re amazing.

It is absolutely mind-boggling how my world has opened up, and how people open up their own world to me as I approach our relationship with care, honesty, integrity, and love. Their love and support is all I need, and those that I’ve lost–those who choose to maintain the distance despite my best efforts–those are the people that need to do what is best for them.

This is possible, you guys. We can do this. We can recover.

I think that’s all. Excuse my brevity, but sometimes the moment just wants to speak for itself.

YOU DO YOU

Got a motherfucking email asking me why I fucking cuss so goddamned much.

The answer is simple, Sally! It helps keep me sober! It’s one of my tools! And it’s soooo fun!

For me, there is something extremely freeing about being verbally explosive when I write here or chat with friends. It feels as if it gets the negative shit OUT of me quicker. Some people scream into pillows. Some people buy a punching bag. But me? I WRITE THE WORD FUCK. And I say it, too.

I understand that superficially it may sometimes appear as if I have major anger issues. And I do. Don’t we all? But I guarantee you that if I didn’t allow for release via words, I’d probably resort to other less kind ways of decompressing… like crashing the birthday parties of little girls dressed like a terrifying clown where I would tell them awful things like, “OMG Taylor Swift IS DEAD!” or, “All of your kittens and puppies have CANCER!”

I choose to view my obscene mouth as a public service that keeps everyone who comes in contact with me safe from more extreme and impolite outbursts.

So it’s on record: This blog is rated R for Recovery, ya’ll, and also for Really Raw Words Sometimes.

Now, I’m not advocating for you guys to call up Ms. Rosetta Stone and purchase her 5 week course in Potty Mouth. But I am encouraging you to do the things that keep you sober as long as they don’t hurt anyone else directly.

Can I get a fucking amen?

HOLIDAY SHOPPING

The goddamned holidays are back, you guys, and I’m actually pretty excited this time around. I’m going to be hopping on a plane with my puppy dog to fly across the country to my home state of Arizona where the people are absolutely fucking bonkers and the government hates gay people and Hispanics. I’m a little bit of both, so returning to the place from which I fled is always a bittersweet event. Fortunately, gay marriage was just legalized in The Grand Canyon State so progress is being made. Politics aside, I am very much looking forward to the week-long trip during which I will be able to spend some quality time with my fam-fam.

At this very time last year, I was in a state of anticipatory dread over the impending return home. I would monitor the calendar daily and attempt to pick the most appropriate day to stop drinking in order to dry out just enough to be able to carry on a conversation without looking and sounding like a freak. My family and friends were all under the assumption that I was still sober after having started my first go at recovery in 2005. For me, a return to Phoenix didn’t mean resolving to make every effort to moderate. It meant complete abstinence. It was not a situation in which I could drink without blowing my cover. I would be dependent on my family for transportation and housing. Even if I weren’t, they surely would be able to identify the telltale signs that I was using again. So, for years I boarded the plane hungover (the attempts to sober up a bit before leaving never worked) and flew the six hours to the dry, dry booze-free desert. I would white knuckle it the entire time and long for the moment when mom would return me to the airport for my flight back to New York where I would immediately stop for a vodka soda once clearing security.

Last Christmas was different. I was unable to remain sober during that visit despite all of the possible negative consequences that could befall me. It was a very real and scary manifestation of how my drinking had progressed over the course of six years. It began when I arrived at JFK before my departure. Already hungover, I stopped for beers. The thought crossed my mind that my mother might be able to smell it on me when she picked me up in Phoenix, but I dismissed those concerns quickly once the warm buzz began to set in. And then the deafening obsession began to howl.

I purposefully neglected to purchase Christmas presents prior to leaving New York with the idea that I would be able to sneak away and do some “shopping” at nighttime when mom was in for the evening. After some minor questioning about why I didn’t come prepared, the keys were handed over and I went about my merry way. The most inconvenient thing about the whole plan was that I actually had to go fucking Christmas shopping. I hastily moved through big box stores giving little thought or consideration to the items I was choosing for those that I supposedly cared for the most in life. Gift cards. Socks. Scented candle. Tampons. Ho, ho, ho.

I threw the bags filled with manipulative deceit and tinsel into the trunk of the SUV, drove to the nearest grocery store, and walked toward the liquor and wine section. I avoided the liquor store and opted for a grocery so I could quickly run to produce section and pretend to be examining an avocado if I happened to see someone I knew. Liquor stores have no avocados to hide behind.

I decided against hard alcohol because the smell was too easily identifiable. I knew mom had poured herself a glass of wine earlier in the evening (just one). WINE. I hate wine but… She won’t be able to smell it if she’s been drinking it herself. I’m a fucking genius! Wine it was. But the bottles are so big. And loud. I’ll need more than one and they will surely clank against one another in my bags of very sad presents. Wait. What’s this?! Wine inside of small cardboard boxes?! With twist-off tops?! Easily collapsible containers that I can smash down and hide the empties in my suitcase in my bedroom?! PERFECT. I’ll take ten.

I brought the bag of wine cartons to the vehicle and put them on the passenger seat next me.

WHAT AM I DOING?

I got back out and went to the trunk, retrieving one of the depressing bags of obligatory gifts. I put it in the front seat along with the wine cartons. I took the wine cartons out, one by one, and shoved them in with the gifts so I could easily sneak them into the house. I drove home with my hand resting atop my brilliant plan which sat next to me whispering sweet nothings into my ear. DRINK ME. I’M WINE. I’M CUTE! I would get home, walk in the door, announce that I had presents to wrap, and disappear to do so. And drink. Then I’d slink from the bedroom and into the bathroom thinking I was finished imbibing for the night, and I would brush my teeth. I’d then return to the room and decide that I wasn’t done. I’d drink another box of wine. Then back to the bathroom to re-brush. And back and forth several times.

But before I would do all of the above, I pulled the SUV over to the side of the road and turned off the engine. I was about 30 feet from the house, 30 feet from being able to easily start my evening of isolation as planned. But it wasn’t soon enough. I wasn’t close enough. Without any thought process preceding the action, I reached into the bag, pulled out a box of wine, twisted the top. CHUG. CHUG. CHUG. Ahhhhhh. I put the empty back into the bag. I pulled out another, twisted the top. CHUG. CHUG. CHUG. Ahhhhh. Ok. Now I’m ready to go inside and start drinking.

I started the engine and drove the remaining 30 feet to the curb in front of the house. As I unloaded my gifts, a cop car drove by very slowly apparently on patrol. He waved. I waved back. He drove away.

I did my wine thing that night, felt like shit the next morning, and spent the rest of the trip filled with resentment and anger. I resented the fact that I couldn’t repeat the process the following night. I resented the fact that my mother would have a glass of wine here and there even though she asked if it would bother me and I said no. I was angry that I couldn’t be a big fat fucking alcoholic and let it all hang out. As a result, I wasn’t present. I missed the one opportunity I have each year to connect with my loved ones. I missed the entire thing.

With 8 months of sobriety under my belt, this year will be different. It has to be.

Looking forward to loving, feeling, embracing, and soaking up every little bit of joy that I possibly can.

I COULD HAVE RELAPSED MONDAY

When I left the dentist’s office on Monday, I suddenly found myself sitting in a fairly dangerous combination of emotional states. I was feeling extreme ELATION (that is was over and that I was brave) and TERROR (that it was about to start hurting like a motherfucker once the anesthetic wore off). I felt like I should be celebrating (YAY, COURAGE!) and also girding my loins for the inevitable onslaught of pain that surely was just around the corner. I deserved lollipops. I deserved parades……  I deserved vodka.

The thought entered my mind without any active participation on my part. In a split second, the entire process flashed through my head like a film in fast forward: Me in the liquor store and then me at home with a glass full and then me dicking around aimlessly on the internet until I passed out. It was the middle of the day and no one was home. No one would know. I’d have plenty of time to get myself in working order and shower and flood my mouth with Listerine to cover one antiseptic smell with another.

SHUT UP, STUPID FUCKING IDIOT. I said this under my breath and pushed the thought back out of me. In total, the entire rapid fire thought process probably lasted no more than 2 seconds. It never turned into a real craving. My mouth didn’t water. I didn’t feel the rush of the recreated warmth that your body can so easily reproduce if you think too long about swallowing liquor. That feeling I got just now as I typed this out. That burn and momentary hug. How frightening that my mind can make that feeling happen without a drink.

So, after I cussed myself out on the street, I went to the drugstore, got some extra gauze and some treats that I could eat, and went home where I rested and took care of myself like a human being who just had a tooth ripped out should.

Thoughts like these flicker in and out of focus from time to time. Towards the beginning, they happened regularly and I managed them by checking in with other alcoholics, immediately binge listening to recovery podcasts, or hopping online and reading old posts from sobriety bloggers just like you might be doing right now. As time has gone on, the thoughts have become fewer and further between and are easily quieted by a swift kick to my own ass through internalized self-talk. Sometimes even OUTLOUD if I’m really taken aback at my brain’s stupidity. And I am very fortunate that up to this point, I’ve never really had a close call where such thoughts ran the risk of turning themselves into a relapse.

Monday was no different and I knew I had no intention of drinking. And I didn’t drink. But in hindsight, there is something a little more unsettling about the chain of thoughts I experienced when leaving the dentist when compared to other random drinking thoughts I’ve had in the past. Usually, drinking brain farts seem to be random for me. They are rarely motivated by anything specific. But these thoughts were connected to a traumatic event. Something had just happened that was, for me, extraordinarily stressful and frightening. And for a split second I not only considered alcohol as a solution and a reward, but I also considered myself DESERVING of getting drunk because of what I had just experienced. IT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO when something hard just happened. It’s how people cope. And you are no different. That was scary, you are about to be hurt, and you overcame fear. So go be like everyone else and claim your reward.

A dentist appointment and tooth extraction are not anywhere near the worst I will ever experience. But still, here were the thoughts of self-medicating and using my old friend to cope. It got me thinking about my preparedness for life events that could… will… eventually come my way. Relationships can end. People can die. Jobs can be lost. Houses can burn down. And am I ready? Surely the same thoughts will bubble up in one of those instances and I would also assume that the intensity of the thoughts are proportionate to the severity of the trauma experienced.

NO FUTURE TRIPPING. This is something I hear a lot. Just do the work thoroughly, reach out, and if/when those fleeting thoughts convert themselves into actual cravings that threaten sobriety, think through the drink. Think it through from start to finish. See where you’ll end up before you put the glass to your lips. Live one day at a time. Don’t create problems that haven’t happened yet.

Yes. All of those suggestions are valid and helpful and it all makes sense. But I think it is entirely normal to ask the question: WILL I BE READY WHEN SHIT HITS THE FAN? As of right now and at this very moment, the resolve I feel to remain sober seems unbreakable. But I know that confidence can be vastly misleading. It’s evident by the countless people we eventually come in contact with who have suffered a relapse in the past. Myself included. Six months before my big breakup happened in 2008, there was no way in hell you could have convinced me that six months down the road I would be passed out drunk on the living room floor of my empty apartment. Not possible. I was sober, strong, and had NO desire to drink, thank you very much. But that’s exactly what happened.

As someone who has relapsed in the past, I suppose the good news is that I have a reference point. I know that leading up to that relapse, I had stopped doing any recovery work. I had stopped seeing or speaking regularly to people immersed in sobriety. I was flying solo and seemed to be doing okay as I surrounded myself with busy work, art, etc. It wasn’t enough and it all came falling down.

I now know that should something awful happen like a death, I am DOOMED if I’m not in active recovery. That’s not the same as simply not drinking. Because for me, relapse wasn’t conscious. It didn’t happen gradually. I didn’t think to myself Oh. Ok. This is painful. This hurts. Let’s have a drink. It just suddenly WAS. It was as if I was forcefully strapped down to a chair emotionally and I watched myself do the things that led me to another six years of misery. Yes, I was DOING the things. I suppose possession is a fairly accurate way to describe it. Or when you get put under for surgery and that few hours of unconsciousness feels like alien abduction. It just is gone and you don’t remember it or how it could have possibly came to pass. All because I was unprepared. I wasn’t at the ready. I let my guard down. I stopped treating my disease.

The little stupid shit storm that went through my brain on Monday was easily snuffed out. These days, I always have on armor. And I guess the real issue here is not whether or not I have the ability to stay sober in the face of great obstacles. The question is whether or not I’ve kept myself armed when those things eventually come.