Archive | November, 2015

Black(out) Friday

25 Nov


The looney time of year has arrived. The holidays are upon us. For many, they bring up all kinds of memories—good and bad. For some, there is a struggle to search back into the recesses of our minds to see if we can even find the memories or if they are still as dark as the blackouts that may have enveloped them. For me, Thanksgiving reminds me of few times I’d rather forget.

Thanksgiving was always a huge drinking day for me. I would start quite early with champagne or mimosas as family arrived and I cooked. I had a full glass of something for the rest of the day and night. Wine flowed throughout the Thanksgiving meal. Most people stopped drinking and had coffee with dessert, watched football, or took a walk or a nap, but I continued to drink. Didn’t want to lose the buzz. We used to go to close friends’ for dessert where I welcomed the opportunity to have a plethora of new wines to “sample”. But often by this point in the day or evening, I was slurring, stumbling or literally falling down drunk. How embarrassing to look back upon. What’s even worse is to have to just imagine and wonder what I did when I passed that point and maybe even blacked out. I always laugh at meetings when people say they don’t think they were blackout drinkers. How the hell would you know if you were—you certainly wouldn’t remember?!

There were those totally inebriated Thanksgivings. One where I cried before I got up the courage to talk to my brother on the phone when he was in jail. One where I had a total meltdown in front of my friends about my unhappiness in my life and my marriage and said a bunch of things I still regret to my mom. Ones where I passed out in my wine-stained clothes, most likely leaving it to my husband to tell the kids that mommy is just really tired from all the cooking. Again, alcohol is a depressant. Adding that to an already depressed person is a recipe for disaster.

In just three more days, I’ll have 3 1/2 years of sobriety (God willing). One important thing that I have learned in that time is that I have a choice as to how I look back and how I move forward. Looking back, I can wallow in the miserable, drunken episodes, beat myself up and struggle to remember and relive the embarrassment. Or I can look back and use them to remind myself of a place I never want to return. Use them to “keep it green” as they say. And I can dig deep to remember the good times instead. The Thanksgivings where my grandparents were with us and inadvertently had us all cracking up. The Thanksgivings where we were all together. The Thanksgiving where my kids made little turkeys out of their hands and wrote the things that they were thankful for.

Going forward, instead of focusing all my attention on where my next drink is coming from, I can focus on the things for which I am truly grateful. That I’m not in that deep, dark depression but in a much better, happier, healthier place. That I am sober and present for my family. That I can wake up the day after Thanksgiving and not be completely hungover with a pounding headache or even still drunk. And that I am blessed with amazing friends who have been with me through thick and thin.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” —Dr. Seuss

Gimme Twelve Steps

17 Nov

I used to love the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Gimme Three Steps.” I remember dancing to it with my friend Lisa in high school at her house while getting ready for a party. Inevitably, I drank too much and don’t remember the rest of the night. The irony hit me when I realized today’s dance for me would somehow revolve around a twelve step program, since that is such a huge focus of my life. In other words, you can gimme three steps, but I’ll need nine more.

I’ve talked about the twelve steps to recovery before (see my piece from April 17th entitled “Slowly I Turned, Step by Step”). I feel like I’m treading on thin ice when I do because there are those diehards with respect to the anonymity aspect of AA who get extremely nervous when there is a mere mention of them. Like I am violating a secret code. As I have said before, I have the utmost respect for the program and wouldn’t ever want to disrespect any of its rules. But it is easy to find the twelve steps anywhere on the internet.

The wonderful thing about the twelve steps is that they can be applied to many problems in life, not just alcoholism. There are so many situations where I would be much better off if I would simply third-step them. The third step states that we “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Think about the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done.” THY will, not MY will. Turning things over to God (or whatever Higher Power you follow) brings about a whole new world of peace. Being able to recognize the things that are not in our control is not only humbling but pacifying. I’ve pretty much always been a worrier. Now I’m a warrior. I can’t tell you the serenity that the third step has brought to my life.

Then there’s the eleventh step: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.” If we are uncertain what God’s will for us is, we can simply pray for that knowledge. And if we doubt our strength, we can simply pray for power. Look how much this simplifies life. Everyone should have some form of a twelve step program.

But perhaps the most helpful, and most difficult, is the fourth step: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Could you imagine a world where everyone did this, not just addicts or alcoholics? A searching and fearless moral inventory. A list of our good and bad. A real and honest look inside ourselves. If we can identify our own flaws and character defects, and then pray for God to remove these shortcomings (as we do in Step 7), we can become a better, new and improved person (Martha 2.0 as my friend calls me). But believe me, step four is not easy. For many, it opens up the closet to too many skeletons and demons that are just too difficult to deal with, especially sober. The good thing is, if you are able to get through step four, and then in step 5 admit them to yourself, to God and to another human being, you can leave the past behind you.

So that you don’t have to go and search the internet, I’m going to list all Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for your here. If you know someone in recovery, this will help you to understand what they are going through better. If you are just curious and wonder if these steps might be applicable to your life somehow, try them out.

1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Even step 12 advocates for practicing these principles in all our affairs. I try to carry this message to other alcoholics, as well as to other people who may benefit from it. Of course you may not have any shortcomings or character defects, but I sure as hell do. But I’m working on them and I’m asking them to be removed.

I didn’t give much attention to steps eight and nine—making a list of people we had harmed with our drinking and making amends to them. That’s for another post. I wish I could just do a blanket apology here and say sorry to all those I hurt, but I can’t. I need to do the work. But when it gets tough, I still may just ask you to gimme three steps towards the door.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

Mocktail Mania — Part II

14 Nov

We held another Mocktail Party this past weekend. Unlike the last party, where people created and named their own concoctions, drinks were provided this time by Mocktails Beverages, Inc., an awesome new company that makes delicious non-alcoholic beverages. Two of the company’s cofounders, Ali and Jim, brought plenty of their product and served as bartenders for us for the evening. They were two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

There are four flavors of Mocktails: Scottish Lemonade (like a Whiskey Sour), La Vida Loca (Margarita), Karma Sucra (Cosmopolitan) and Sevilla Red (Sangria). I did a review of them in a previous blog. The only one I hadn’t tasted before was the Scottish Lemonade, and that turned out to be my favorite (and the favorite of many other people as well). The best thing about this product is that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, they are gluten free, Kosher, all natural, allergen free, and BPA free. As I said in my earlier review, I expected them to be sickeningly sweet and they absolutely were not.

When I spoke to Mocktails President and Founder, Bill Gamelli, a few months ago, he told me why they started the company. He and a few college friends (including Jim) had members of their own families who found it difficult to find any good options when they were in social situations where most people were drinking alcohol. He said that the product is for those who want a different choice when they go out and aren’t drinking alcohol. Take it from me, water and seltzer get a little boring. Whatever the reason someone isn’t drinking alcohol—whether they are pregnant, an athlete in training, the designated driver that night, on medication that can’t be mixed with alcohol, or, like me, an alcoholic—Mocktails can be a great choice. And for those who do want to drink, alcohol can be added to any of the four products.

When I first got sober, I pretty much hibernated in my house alone. I couldn’t handle the idea of going somewhere and having to answer the questions of why I wasn’t drinking. People were definitely used to me having a drink in my hand. What I finally know now is that no one really cares if I am drinking or not and it isn’t a big deal to just say I’m not drinking. But back then I was scared and hanging on to my sobriety for dear life. If I had Mocktails back then, it would have been easier for me to socialize because people wouldn’t have been able to tell if I was drinking or not and I wouldn’t have had to deal with the questions.

Our party guests were all pleasantly surprised by the flavors of the Mocktails. We served them in the appropriate glass for each drink. Jim and Ali poured with smiles and explained to those who asked all about the product. It was a Saturday night and I was actually having a party at my house—not sitting in my pajamas reading a book as usual.

A huge thank you to Ali and Jim, as well as Bill and the rest of the team, and kudos on an excellent product. What they have created is so more than just a non-alcoholic beverage—it’s an open door to a whole new world of possibilities for the non-drinker.

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” Edward de BonoIMG_0200

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