Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

A New Way of Living

29 May

When I was younger (much younger), I used to eagerly count down the days until my birthday. I couldn’t wait for my special day when the sole focus was on me and I would anticipate all of the presents I would receive.   Ok so maybe I’m not so different today. Today, I counted up my days of sobriety, 1826 to be exact, and I reached my 5-year anniversary. Or 5-year birthday, as many in recovery like to call it.

On your “regular” birthday, you celebrate the fact that you were born. Let’s face it – you didn’t do much. Your mother did all the work. But it marks the day you came into this world. Your sobriety anniversary or birthday, on the other hand, marks the day your new life began. A better life. A second chance. Something you did have a huge role in. It celebrates the choice you made to live.

My emotions run the gamut today, but what I feel mostly is gratitude. I think about the last drinks I had in NYC on Memorial Day weekend five years ago. I think about how awful I felt when I woke up, how my hands shook until I had a drink in me. I think about how ashamed I felt when I admitted I was an alcoholic. I think about how insurmountable the concept of getting sober seemed. And I think about how much better I feel now that I am sober. How proud I am of the fact that I didn’t pick up on the many occasions when I felt like caving. How grateful I am to those who stood by me and helped lift me up when I needed it.

I’m very happy to have my shiny, new 5-year coin. But I am also trying to remember my need to stay humble and strong. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. Today is just another day in the battle. It’s always there, ready to pounce. I’m still just a second away from picking up a drink and going back to the insanity.   But as my sponsor says, it’s okay to give yourself and ‘atta girl every once in a while and pat yourself on the back.

While I celebrate my special day, I am also painfully aware of the fact that there are so many out there still suffering. I wish I could somehow let them experience how I feel right now and let them know that they can get there too. Yes it’s hard work, but it is oh so worth it. To my friends who are struggling right now, please try to stay strong. Life is so much better on the other side of this wretched disease. And it is a disease. It is not a weakness or a lack of will power. Reach out for help if you need it. Turn to your higher power, whatever that is for you. For me, that higher power (or HP) is God. And I couldn’t have done this without my faith in Him.

I heard at a meeting today that getting sober isn’t about thinking your way into a new way of living, but living your way into a new way of thinking.   I really like that. I am living a new way, without drinking, with much more gratitude and with a much stronger connection to my HP. Doing so has resulted in a new way of thinking for me. Thinking that life is good. Sobriety is wonderful. And each day is a gift. So on to day 1827….

And, God bless those who gave their lives for our country. Talk about gratitude.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy




Just a Little More

19 May

You may have heard the recent news about the death of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell.  While the story is still unfolding,  his death was reportedly a suicide by hanging.   Cornell was only 52 years old and a recovering addict.   His family is questioning whether the drug Ativan played a role in his death. Cornell had a prescription for the anxiety drug but may have exceeded the recommended dosage. The possible side effects for the medication are suicidal thoughts and impaired judgement.   Was it the addict in him that led him to take “just a little bit more” for added benefit?   Cornell went public about being newly sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous in 2003. He remained clean and sober for many years. And then this.  A tragic, preventable death.

But what you didn’t hear about in the news was the passing of a lovely, elderly woman who battled alcoholism for decades. I had the privilege of meeting her “in the rooms” and getting sober having her “experience, strength and hope” to guide me.   She was an animated Southern belle, who said the serenity prayer and Lord’s prayer next to me in meetings with her trademark slow, Southern drawl. Her death brings sorrow and grief to those who knew and loved her, but there is also a certain amount of peace surrounding it because she died a sober woman. She fought the “cunning, baffling and powerful” disease for decades. And won. I’ll always remember her humorous stories and infectious laughter.

So the contrast? A famous lead singer in a popular rock band. A little-known, elderly Southern woman. Two completely different worlds.   Suicide vs. natural causes. The common factor? Addiction. Supposedly both recovering alcoholics/addicts.   Vastly different people bonded together by sharing the same disease.  I guess Cornell’s toxicology report will shed some light on whether or not he was, in fact, still in the throes of his addiction. Regardless, I pray for both of their families and that they both rest in peace.

The death of famous actors or musicians tends to raise awareness about addiction, temporarily at least. But what about the millions of “normal” people who battle the disease valiantly out of the limelight but succumb to its power?   Their passing isn’t plastered on newspapers and magazines or online publications. Some die on the streets a horrific, lonely death without anyone even knowing. Not sure if that is worse or if being the loved one having to watch someone die from alcoholism is.

This isn’t one of my more upbeat blog posts. But it needed to be written. The death of an addict, famous or not, serves as a good reminder of why we fight the fight every day. As has been said many times, alcoholism is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” It takes strength and determination to win the fight. It takes discipline. It takes HELP. If you need it, ASK for it. Many recovering alcoholics or addicts, including myself, take prescription drugs for anxiety, depression or other things.   We need to remain diligent and not let ourselves go to that place where we may think “just a little more” will help.   Cross-addiction is something that we hear about all too often.

When I drank, it was always “just a little more.”   Just one more drink. Just a little more wine. Just another shot. And it always led to just a little more trouble. Now, it’s “just a little more” in a much different way. Just a little more time without a drink. Just a little more serenity. Just a little more strength. Just a little more help from my higher power. There are many things for which more is better. Alcohol and drugs aren’t examples of those.

I’m in NYC this weekend celebrating my upcoming anniversary of 5 years of sobriety. Back to the last place where I had a drink, Memorial Day weekend of 2012. I am so much stronger than I was back then. So much more grateful. And honestly, I’m just a little more proud.

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self- given. Be careful. “ – John Wooden

Cinco de Derby

7 May

Cinco de Mayo Friday. Kentucky Derby Saturday. To me, that used to mean Margaritas and Mint Juleps. Not anymore. I just hit 1800 days of sobriety. A good friend pointed out, ironically, that 1800 is also a tequila. So cheers to those of you enjoying those drinks, and cheers to me.

There was always a reason to drink. For me, it used to be just because it was a day that ended in “y”. Or Arbor Day—there’s cause right there to celebrate. The Ides of March also brought an excuse to party.   You name it—I could find a reason to drink. I was depressed so I thought a drink would help make me happier. I was stressed so I thought the drink would take the edge off. I was frustrated, angry, resentful – whatever – and always thought a drink would make it all better. It might have provided some temporary relief and distraction, but it never made things better. Usually quite the opposite.

But this year, I didn’t pull the covers over my head and hide from these occasions like I did early in my sobriety. This year, I went to a good friend’s birthday party on Cinco de Mayo and a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday. A few years ago, I wasn’t able to do anything of the sort.   Was there drinking at both parties?   Yes. But the wonderful thing for me was that being surrounded by alcohol didn’t really bother me. I had my own special drinks and enjoyed them. I could actually relax and not be overcome with anxiety about the temptation.   Progress. Lots of progress.

I know that I have to be grateful for the progress, which comes with a great deal of hard work, but not get too cocky. I need to remember what it used to be like. The miserable hangovers, the forgotten nights (and days), the drunken screw-ups. It is often referred to as “the gift of desperation”. We remember what brought us to admit our alcoholism and to get help. And became willing to accept our powerlessness over alcohol and the fact that our life had become unmanageable. I went to a meeting almost every day this past week. Meetings help keep me grounded. Often it is too easy to let life get in the way of working on my sobriety. I can’t do that. Without my sobriety, there is no “life” to get in the way.

I gave a talk at our public library last week. I was touched by how many people came out to hear it and support me. Despite the fact that the talk ended on a very positive note, one woman, whom I have known for many years, was in tears. She said it was hard to hear all that I went through and that she couldn’t believe she didn’t know or realize my struggle while I was in the middle of it. I’ve heard that from several people. I guess I was pretty darn good at putting on a happy face. But now you see the real me. Hopefully you see a humbled, grateful and genuinely happy recovering alcoholic.

Three weeks from today, God willing, I will be celebrating 5 years of sobriety. Memorial Day. And the weekend before, I’ll be in NYC, where I found my “gift of desperation” on the street corner at 4am. There’s a big reason right there to celebrate. Sparkling cider for everyone is on me.

 “The gift of willingness is the only thing that stands between the quiet desperation of a disingenuous life and the actualization of unexpressed potential.” – Jim McDonald




How Big is the Damn Onion?

13 Apr

Peeling away the layers of the onion. A common phrase heard in recovery rooms and plastered all over self-help books. Stripping away the surface layers, getting to the core of the problem. After almost 5 years of sobriety (God willing I’ll hit that milestone on May 28th) and peeling many, many layers of the onion, I have started to wonder when I’ll ever finish peeling. Or IF I’ll ever finish peeling.

In order to achieve and maintain sobriety, you have to take a hard look at the things that led you to drink in the first place. Some of these are obvious. Some come after peeling back layers of the onion. Just like when you peel a real onion, peeling the metaphorical onion can lead to tears.

It’s hard work. And usually not fun. There are things that we all wish we could forget. And sometimes we do forget them. For a while. And then they start bubbling up to the surface. We peel back the layers to reveal them. Often painful memories. But with the peeling comes growth. Working through the layers and getting to the root of things may be painful, but it can facilitate a great deal of personal growth and betterment.

It seems like my journey into sobriety and recovery has been nothing but peeling away the layers of the onion.   The peeling goes hand in hand with working the twelve steps. Starting out with Step One, “Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable,” we throw away the crutches of the booze and rip off the surface band-aids with one fell swoop. It is the ultimate first peel of the onion and waving of the white flag. But there are often deep scars underneath the bandages. And yes, you guessed it, the more we peel and unravel the bandages, the deeper and deeper we get.

The peeling continues with Step 4 when we make a “fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves”. That’s some serious peeling. Taking a look deep inside yourself and recording both your character defects and your personal assets. Often it’s the listing of the assets that is more difficult for people. Why do most of us find it easier to point out our faults rather than shine the light on our strengths? Human nature?

In Step 5 we get to share the peeling process. We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Ouch. This part feels pretty damn raw. It feels like we are completely exposing ourselves and it is the ultimate in vulnerability.   After doing Steps 4 and 5, I thought I was done with my peeling. But no! There’s more. Much more. In Step 8, we make a list of all the people we had harmed during our drinking days and become willing to make amends to them all. Again, ouch. Not exactly a fun exercise. This step takes more soul-searching and memory bank withdrawls.

Step Nine is where we actually make the amends. I’m on this step now. So if you’ve been waiting for an apology from me since I got sober, get ready. And if you don’t get one, it means that perhaps I haven’t peeled back enough layers of the onion to remember what I may have done to you that merits an apology.

Step Ten is even more peeling. We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong, promptly admit it.   Just when you thought you had all the fun taking personal inventory back in Step 4, you get to do it again.   Digging deeper. Peeling more layers away. But the exercise leads to a great deal of freedom. Promptly admitting we are wrong about something allows us to learn from our mistakes and move on quickly. And to grow.

In Step 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”), our peeling of the layers of the onion brings us closer to the God of our understanding.   We are reminded to pray for help and to meditate in order to connect with our Higher Power, both allowing us to dig deeper to get to the core of the onion.

According to Step 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.” Does the spiritual awakening come once we have peeled away all the layers of the onion? Have we reached the core and lightened our load? 
Are we done??   No. I’m not sure we are ever done. The key word in Step 10 is “continue.” And we can go right back to any step we need to at any time.   In Step 7, we “humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” This is something we can do on a daily basis. I know I have a long list of shortcomings. But I also have a long list of assets. As I mentioned, let’s not just beat us up for our character defects, but give ourselves a pat on the back for our strengths when we do all this work.

So I believe the onion is pretty damn big, and that it takes a great deal of hard work to get to the core.   But it is possible to get there. And maybe, just maybe, what you find at the core isn’t so bad. Or if it is, hopefully you have built up your strength through all this hard work and have found solace in your prayer and meditation to handle it. And if you have had a spiritual awakening, you’re in even better shape.

Peeling the layers of the onion and working the steps aren’t easy tasks. But they are so worth it. We get rid of what we no longer need. We get rid of the guilt. We let go. We allow the good stuff to come in. Peel away the layers and open your heart and your mind. So how big is the damn onion? As big as your life is.

“Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep.” – Carl Sandburg




Welcome to Fantasy Island

12 Mar


Do you remember the television show “Fantasy Island?” A white-suit-clad Ricardo Montalban and his trusty sidekick,Tattoo, greeted a planeload of guests at the beginning of each episode. They came to the island to live out their fantasies. I was recently reminded of this show as someone pointed out to me that I may be trying to live in a fantasy world of my own these days.

Let’s face it. The real world is tough. Really tough. Who doesn’t want an escape occasionally? For me, the escape used to come from the bottle. So now that there’s no bottle, what is my escape? Those of us with addictive personalities usually find something to replace whatever it is that we are addicted to. Some people start smoking. Some become exercise fiends. Some turn to Ben and Jerry’s, candy and other sugary treats. Some find vices that are even worse.

But at the end of the day, the real world is still there. We may think the grass is greener somewhere else or in a different situation. But when we are sober and present in our lives, we are able to use the tools we have to make the best of the reality. I’d rather feel the ups and downs than be completely numb.

Drinking was like a mini-vacation to fantasy island. It was an escape from reality but it often ended in a nightmare. Blackouts, massive hangovers, throwing up, bad decisions, etc. Whether we wanted to or not, somehow we were always on the return plane. We woke up. We got over our hangovers with either just time or with the hair of the dog. The real world was always still there when we came back.

One thing that helps me deal with the real world now is the serenity prayer, which I try to remember to use often. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The fact is, in the real world, the majority of things we think we have control over are things we cannot change. Just pause to think about that when you are in a troubling situation. If it isn’t something you can control, turn it over. Let it go. Leave it to your higher power to handle.

For the things we can change, sometimes we do indeed need the courage to take the necessary steps to do so. Change can be very difficult, especially for those who take comfort in the status quo. Taking bold steps to make necessary changes is hard. Being sober is a huge change. It takes strength and courage to put the bottle down and figure out a new way to escape reality when need be. A healthy way. But for now, I’m signing off to have some Cherry Garcia. Stay strong.

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” – Maya Angelou





I’m Still Standing

29 Jan

Most of my readers know how much I like to quote song lyrics.  One of my favorite Elton John songs is “I’m Still Standing” and recently, my boys have started singing it around the house because it was featured in the animated movie “Sing.”   It’s a great, upbeat song that says: 

“Don’t you know I’m still standing, better than I ever did. 

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.

 I’m still standing after all this time,

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.” 

That can mean so many different things to people, for whatever their struggle is.  For me, it’s alcoholism.   Sometimes I need to remind myself that I have been triumphant in my struggle and despite its power over me, I’m still standing strong.  I’ve been picking up the pieces of my life for several years now (actually 1706 days but who’s counting) and although I can’t say it’s without alcohol on my mind, it’s on my mind less frequently than when my journey into sobriety began. 

 I’m still standing after struggling to get through the holidays sober, surrounded by alcohol at a number of parties and events.  I’m still standing after some rough personal trials and tribulations.  I’m still standing after years of battling depression.  During the more difficult times, I rely more heavily on my sponsor and I am truly grateful for her help.  She makes sure I get to my meetings and work my 12-step program.  She makes me check in daily and give her a status report on my emotional sobriety.  Basically, she makes sure I’m still standing.  

 For me, the “still standing” also has a very literal meaning.  My go-to escape throughout my battle with alcoholism and depression has been hiding in my bed, isolating.  While it’s not a great way to handle things in life, it’s definitely better than what my escape used to be – alcohol.  On days when things are rough, I want to just pull the covers over my head and hide, and I often do.  But once again, I’m incredibly grateful to my sponsor and close friends who will pull me out, sometimes literally, sometimes just with a text, and let me know I need to get up and face the world and live my life.  You can’t look like a true survivor buried under your covers.  It’s the opposite of still standing.  I could write a song that says I’m still hiding, but I’m not sure that would go over very well and it certainly isn’t very inspirational.

 Whatever your struggle may be, give yourself a pat on the back for standing strong.  Somedays you may just have to be proud of yourself for getting out of bed.  It’s a good start.  We all have our times when we don’t feel like we have the energy or strength to stand tall.  And it’s okay to hide sometimes, but life goes on around us.  It’s better to participate in your own life, even when times are tough, than let it pass you by.  Stand strong.

 Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”  – Abraham Lincoln




/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;

Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time

28 Dec

I just saw on Facebook a tribute to the many talented people whom we lost this year – David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Garry Marshall, Florence Henderson, Glenn Frey – and the list goes on. At the end of every year, there is a nostalgic look back at the major events and passings. This year there seems to be an exceptionally large number of them.

The lyrics of David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and others were  beyond brilliant.  Their songs were covered by many and quoted by teenagers filled with the angst and pains of their trying times. “And these children that you spit on as they tried to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through” was a quote I referred to often in high school. Prince’s Purple Rain album also brings back memories of high school as our team colors were purple and white and our soccer team used to sing the song as “Purple Reigns”.

Florence Henderson will always be Mrs. Brady to me. Garry Marshall gave us Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days and other iconic shows we grew up with. Muhammad Ali was, of course, the Greatest and, as I have written before, kissed me on the cheek one summer day nearly 30 years ago.

But yes, time has indeed changed me. I am a completely different person than the one I was just five years ago thanks to my sobriety. I didn’t just stop drinking – I completely changed who I am at the core. In order to get sober and STAY sober, one must get down to the very root of what led to the drinking in the first place. Why the need for an escape? The need to be numbed? Did that teenage angst lead to the bottle? Did the family of origin fall far short of the Brady Bunch and result in not-so happy days?

Glenn Frey crooned in Depserado: “Your prison is walking through this world all alone.” I learned during the last few years of my sobriety how to break out of that prison and that I don’t have to walk alone. I have an incredible support system and for that I am truly blessed. I just received a call last night from a friend in between flights while traveling clear across the country to see if I was doing okay and give me a pep talk to get through the holidays without picking up a drink. He’s on my gratitude list.

George Michael never knew how right he was when he sang “ maybe we should all be praying for time.” It goes quickly. Take the time to enjoy it. To be real. To be present. To be grateful. And may the force be with you.

Dearly beloved we are gathered here together to get through this thing called life.” Prince, Let’s Go Crazy

Happy Holidays!

24 Dec

Like many people, I’ve found myself consumed with holiday activities and preparations and with little time to write. This piece will be brief—I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or anything else you may be celebrating.   Thank you for all your support and kind words throughout this year. They really mean a great deal to me.

As tempted as I’ve been to pick up a drink throughout this chaotic season, I can’t. And I won’t. I just spent some time with my youngest child tracking Santa on the computer. Sober. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’ll wake up early tomorrow morning to see the excitement on my kids’ faces and I won’t have a massive hangover. I’ll remember the conversations we have over Christmas Eve dinner tonight. And, I’ll celebrate day 1672 of my sobriety tomorrow as well.

I’ll try to get another piece out soon. Meanwhile, stay warm, safe and strong.


Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”- Norman Vincent Peale

God Bless Us, Every One!

26 Nov

I haven’t had much time to write lately and now that the chaos of the holiday season is upon us, I’ll probably have even less time. But once again, I was on a train up to NYC and finally sat still long enough to catch my breath and have some time to reflect. I also haven’t had much time to get to meetings and I can definitely feel it. I start getting squirrely. We’re heading into a very tough time of year for me, and for many alcoholics, and more meetings are crucial to make it through the holidays sober.


Thanksgiving has always been tough for me. It was a day of heavy drinking and some memorable meltdowns. I would start drinking pretty early in the day as I prepared the food and set the table.   A walk over to our neighborhood football game was usually good for a few Bloody Marys or Mimosas. Plenty of wine with dinner and the flow continued well after dessert. I still remember the embarrassing drunken episodes. But there will be no more. This was my fifth Thanksgiving sober. I will hit 4 ½ years of sobriety on the 28th. And life is SO much better.


I have numerous things for which I am very thankful. Too many to list here but suffice it to say that I thank God every day for my sobriety and for all I have. I think you tend to appreciate what you have much more when you come close to losing it. In the height of my drinking, I was on a path of destruction that could have caused irreparable damage. Many people have asked me at what point did I know that I was an alcoholic and had to get help to stop drinking – when I reached my rock bottom.


I am one of the very fortunate alcoholics whose rock bottom doesn’t have a horrific story. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty awful for me and those around me, but not nearly as bad as some of the stories I have heard in the rooms. While many accounts may be similar, everyone has his or her own rock bottom.


In a recent meeting, I heard one of the best descriptions of rock bottom I had heard during my sobriety. It’s from the Big Book (of Alcoholics Anonymous) on page 425:


“One definition of bottom is the point when the last thing you lost or the next thing you are about to lose is more important to you than booze. The point is different for everyone, and some of us die before we get there.”


For me, the next things I was about to lose were more important to me than booze – my family, friends, health, sanity and more. It just took me a long time to realize it. Had I not, things would look very different for me this holiday season, if I was even still here to enjoy it.


And, thanks to a wise friend, I’m learning to look forward optimistically rather than back regretfully. The past is the past. I can learn from it but move on and look forward to new Thanksgivings and holidays rather than dwell on the pitfalls of past. It’s a good time of year to take stock of what truly is important to us and not let booze, or anything else, put us at risk for losing it. Whatever your demons are that can take you down, it’s never too late to get help and turn things around.


Happy belated Thanksgiving and warm wishes for the holiday season upon us. I hope you can realize and appreciate all your blessings too. Don’t wait until you risk losing them to do that.


“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings









Red F@%$* Solo Cups

13 Aug


There’s something about early evening at the pool. The light is just a certain peaceful way as the sun goes down.   The kids are still holding on to their last remnants of energy for the day, hopefully expending what’s left playing in the pool with friends. But this time of day is also when they come out in full force. The red Solo cups. The adults at the pool are having their end-of-the-day-beginning-of-the evening libations in red plastic cups. Instead of concealing their contents, red Solo cups are like, well, red flags for alcoholic drinks.

I never noticed them before. Probably because I would have had one in my hand too. It’s just a tough time of day. At the beach, it’s just as bad, if not worse. I think about coming home, wiping the sand off and starting the blender. I probably would have already had a few beers down at the beach. I miss that. But as I’ve said before, I don’t miss what came with it – ridiculous, drunken behavior, bad choices and massive hangovers.

It wasn’t always that bad though. There were definitely times when I wasn’t over-served, as they say. When I just had enough to have a happy buzz. I’m sure I was more talkative and outgoing then. When is the line crossed when it becomes too much? I wish I could tell you. For everyone it’s different. For me, I could go from zero to stupid in about 30 minutes. And then that warm fuzzy feeling came and the slurring started. Much more babbling. And everything around me started to look better.

Every time I drank, something bad didn’t necessarily happen. But pretty much every time something bad did happen, I had been drinking. As an alcoholic trying not to pick up a drink again, I can’t look back at the “fun” drinking times and romanticize them. If I’m going to stay sober, I have to remember the times that too many red Solo cups led me down the wrong path.

We’re at a friend’s house at the beach now and I can tell you that I’m trying hard to remember why I don’t drink. I’m surrounded by alcohol as I type, with no one around right now to know if I picked up or not. But I would know. And HP would know. I won’t do it. I am determined to make it to day 1538. So what do I do? I called my sponsor. I prayed for more strength. I removed myself from the situation. I looked out at my boys playing in the pool and reminded myself why I am sober today. Without my sobriety, I wouldn’t notice the beautiful light this time of day. I wouldn’t look out on the water as the boat cut through it and think optimistically about the future.

For those of you who can drink a nice cocktail out of your red Solo cup, cheers and enjoy. I’m going to go make myself a mocktail and look out at the water. Perhaps I’ll try a blue cup…and make up a new song to go with it.




Finding (and Using) My Voice

28 Jul

Chicken: noun meaning “coward”. When I drank, I did a really good job keeping everything inside and swallowing my feelings with each gulp of alcohol.   The more things that piled up inside, the more difficult it was for me to use my voice. I never wanted to rock the boat and I hated confrontation. I still do. When I got sober, part of what I needed to work on was finding my voice again and using it.

We are all born with a voice or some means of expressing ourselves.   As children, we were fully capable of asking for what we needed and conveying our feelings. Sometimes they came across in the form of crying or screaming or stomping our feet. I want an Oompa Loompa NOW daddy! We didn’t take into account how these outbursts would be received. We didn’t care if they hurt someone else’s feelings. That was a foreign concept to us then.

As we grew, we started to learn that our words and deeds affected those around us. There were repercussions to our tantrums. We began to realize that our words had the power of making other people feel good, or bad. We even learned that sometimes our words carried the ability to come back and haunt us. Once we opened our mouths and spoke the words, we couldn’t rein them back in.   Today with social media this is even more true. I try to tell my kids that once they put something “out there” it’s out there for good.

The good thing about constantly working on my sobriety is that I can see when I start slipping back into old habits. I realized recently that I was letting things build up and not using my voice to communicate my feelings. It’s often easier to sit at the keyboard and type away rather than having to talk to someone face-to-face. That’s not necessarily the best approach. Sometimes you need to be able to see someone’s reaction to what you say — body language, facial expressions, etc.

I often wish that I were more assertive. I respect people who are. People who are able to clearly state and stand up for what they believe and what they need. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come a long way since I got sober. It’s easier to see what’s important with a clear mind.   It’s a little bit ironic, though, to talk about losing my voice while I was drinking. Many times alcohol gave me the liquid courage to say things I probably shouldn’t have. But most of the REALLY important stuff got gulped down or temporarily washed away with the booze.

Lately I realized that I had built stuff up to create a humongous problem in my mind instead of tackling it head-on. Chicken. Afraid of what result my words would have. Would they hurt someone else’s feelings? Would I regret something that I put out there that I couldn’t take back? This is where self-worth comes in. Believing that I am worthy of expressing my feelings, believing that how I feel and what I think are actually important. And they are.

I finally did use my voice. And things went very well. Better than expected. I could have saved myself a great deal of stress and anxiety if I had just opened my mouth sooner. But I’m getting there. Stronger every day that I am sober. Wiser every day that I have a clear mind. Braver when I acknowledge that I am worth it.

“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.” — Unknown




The Fortress of Solitude

15 Jul

I have a friend who has shared with me a little about what it was like growing up with alcoholic parents. After hearing some of her stories, I am so grateful that my children will grow up with a recovering alcoholic and not one still actively drinking. She is one of the smartest and most generous people I know, which is all the more impressive knowing the circumstances under which she was raised.

Unfortunately, she’s packing up to move a few hours away. Although I’m sure we will keep in touch, I will miss our tea time together, often several times during the week. I’ll also miss her as a confidant, loyal advisor and wonderful friend. The friend who introduced us also moved away, and she is sorely missed.

Back to the alcoholic upbringing. The few stories she has relayed to me are horrific. She was pushed down the stairs and left temporarily blinded by her mother when she was in an alcoholic rage. Often times when her mother started drinking and Mrs. Hyde’s appearance was imminent, my friend would hide inside a small, round table in their house. Her mother would never find her in there and would become even more infuriated.

As my friend is packing up her belongings, she is getting rid of a huge amount of “stuff” since they are downsizing considerably. The time has come to decide what happens to the round table. The Fortress of Solitude. The Safe Haven. To those who might look at it in an estate sale, it would just be a normal table, suitable for putting drinks or little knick-knacks on. To her, it carries a Pandora’s box of memories.

Alcoholics are cautioned to avoid people, places and things which may be triggers for their drinking. But what about things that just trigger difficult memories for someone who isn’t an alcoholic? Do you hang on to those things because they hold so much meaning or let them go to try to alleviate the pain that they can bring? Packing up the “stuff” that you have accumulated over the years can bring a barrage of memories. Perhaps that’s why I have so many boxes of crap up in my attic. Too much to go through. Or perhaps too difficult to go through because of some of the memories associated with the “stuff.”

A move is an emotional upheaval. The prospect of a new start is exciting but the sadness over what you leave behind can be tough. I haven’t moved much in my life – I’ve been in the same area for over 25 years. While a move would be good in that it would force me to go through all the stuff in the attic, I think I have had enough change in my life the past four years while getting sober.

Everyone has stuff and baggage from the past. How they sort through it and deal with it is a very personal. Lately, I’ve been sorting through mostly intangible items from my past– my character defects that led me to drinking and the repercussions of my actions. Slowly but surely, I’m working through them and trying to become a better person for doing so.

As for the Fortress of Solitude, my friend has decided to let it go. Hopefully she will let go of some of the pain along with it. We may have scrapbooks of memories in our attics or simply in our minds – maybe in the corners of our minds, as the song goes. They are no less real than the table. My friend can put a pricetag on the table and sell it. The memories that go along with it have no monetary value, but the feeling of letting them go: priceless.

There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.” – Shannon L. Alder

On the Road Again

1 Jul

Once again I find myself on a train…this time heading to NYC for the weekend with my daughter. We are going to spend the weekend with her godparents who have an apartment in the city. Shopping, show and super restaurants. Can’t wait.

So while on the train, do I do my fourth step work that my sponsor has assigned me or do I write a blog piece? I guess you can tell which one is winning. Can you say procrastination?   One of the things my sponsor told me to do when I do my fourth step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) is to list some character defects that could be making it hard for me to do my fourth step. To put it into perspective, I’ve been stuck on my fourth step for four years now.

As I’ve said before, the fourth step is known to be one of the hardest steps, if not the hardest, among the twelve. Many people have a very hard time looking at their own character defects and digging into the past, often uncovering numerous demons. I’ve known a few people who never made it past step four because it was just too painful to face. But some of the worksheets that offer guidance on how to go about doing the fourth step remind us that we are taking an inventory. They compare it to a business inventory, where everything is recorded, not just the bad or unnecessary items but also the good and useful. So when an alcoholic looks at their “moral inventory,” we must consider not only our defects but also our assets. For many, this can be hard as well if we have a hard time finding the good qualities in ourselves due to low self-esteem, among other things.

I’m not going to list all my character defects, or my assets, here. But I will say that it’s obvious that procrastination is a big defect of mine. And perhaps when it comes to doing this step, fear. If I knew what exactly I was afraid of, I might be able to deal with it better. But it will take some digging. Some digging that I keep procrastinating on doing. I know that there are many things that led me to drink, and many things that I regret having done when I did drink.   But a big part of this program is forgiveness and moving forward. As they say in the program, “We do not dwell on the past nor wish to close the door on it.” We revisit the past and learn from it what we can, and then move on.

In the past four years of sobriety (I’m coming up on 1,500 days next week, but who’s counting?) I’ve learned so much.   I’ve done a great deal of soul-searching and introspection. There’s a lot that I saw that I didn’t like, but also some that I did. We should all take the time to see our good qualities. My sponsor calls me “AG” for Atta Girl. I’m a firm believer in patting oneself on the back when it’s called for.   In my case, those days and nights I make it through a rough craving without picking up a drink. Or when I have a major breakthrough of understanding or come to a great revelation about myself or my drinking. On some days, I literally give myelf a pat on the back just for getting out of bed.

I’ve had a few reasons lately to be both displeased with myself for some of my actions, but also proud of myself for trying to correct them. Overall, I’m going to give myself and atta girl pat on the back. Sometimes I’m a little slow, but as long as I learn from my stupidity and mistakes it’s not so bad. I’ve also got a few amazing people in my corner who I can always count on for a kick in the head when it is called for instead of a pat on the back. Believe me, often that’s what I need. Everyone should be so lucky to have friends who care enough about them to kick them in the head sometimes.

Not sure if being nostalgic falls into character defect or asset column, but I’m coming up to that part of the train ride when we pass by my old alma mater in Philly. I can see the stadium and high rise buildings and even some of my old haunts as the train passes by.   I was just there a few weeks ago for my 25th college reunion (see my piece called “Once I Was 20 Years Old.”)   My daughter says she would love to go there one day. Raising smart kids—definitely falls in the asset column.   J

For more nostalgia this weekend, I’m going to see one of my oldest and dearest friends tonight.   She and I were actually in incubators next to each other in the hospital when we were born just a few days apart. Really looking forward to seeing her. Keeping in touch with old friends—asset.

And I can’t make a trip to NYC without being hit with the memory of it being the city where I had my last hurrah when it comes to drinking.   Memorial Day weekend, four years ago, my hands shook until I got a drink in me at lunch. Not this time. Sober and happy to be able to remember every minute I get to spend with my daughter and dear friends. Progress—asset.

Now on to my step four work…

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” – Augustine of Hippo

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee…The Greatest Kissed Me, Playfully

8 Jun


With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali, I thought that I would share my story about my encounter with “The Greatest.” For my first job out of college, I worked at a trade association in downtown Washington, D.C. My new boss, some of my coworkers and I were having lunch in a conference room that had windows facing the front of the building.   As we ate our lunch, we noticed a small crowd gathering outside in front of the bank across the street.  As the “new girl”, I was sent to go see what was going on.

When I got outside, the mob was gradually growing and I could finally see what the excitement was all about. Muhammad Ali and the small entourage that accompanied him had just come out of the bank. He was very noticeably shaking from his Parkinson’s and for some reason, I caught his eye. He proceeded to basically play “hide and seek” with me, hiding behind the columns outside the bank. He would peek out, smile at me, and then go behind the column again. This repeated a few times and then he motioned for me to come closer. Meanwhile, the throng of people watched this exchange curiously. I myself was wondering what it was all about. Why me?   I walked toward him as he requested and he leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. I must have turned a ridiculously bright shade of red. After that, The Champ and his crew got into a car and drove away.

I wondered if my coworkers saw this whole exchange from the windows. I eagerly ran up the stairs, threw open the door, jumped up and down and said “The Champ kissed me!” To say they were jealous is an understatement.   Being the new girl that day had its advantages. The man whom many consider the greatest athlete of all time kissed me on the cheek. For no apparent reason.   I guess there was a reason though—to give me a story to tell my kids….and you.






Health, Happiness and Healing

28 May

Once again, I’m in transit as I write.   I’m on a plane on my way home from Houston.   The roller coaster is rounding the bend and coming to its last downward slope. For this turn on the ride at least. It was, as I anticipated, a wild ride full of loops. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally, and if I am this tired, I can only begin to imagine how my friend feels after her daughter’s surgery and the past few very difficult days of recovery.

First off, the surgery was successful. The doctors managed to remove the tumor intact and she was wiggling her toes soon after she woke up. We all cheered as those happy little dancing toes were moving, indicating that one of the major fears surrounding surgery on her spine had been eliminated.   And then came more laughter and joy.   As she began to talk more, we saw the effects of the drugs and anesthesia as she asked repeatedly for a duck and then for someone to bring her 92 bags of ice from a gas station. Her mouth was so dry and she wasn’t allowed to have anything to drink yet. Finally she got some ice chips and managed a faint smile. During the last few days, I’ve realized that sometimes the little things in life make all the difference in the world.

It wasn’t all laughter and calm the last few days though. Following the surgery, she was in terrible pain and despite all the different medications they tried on her, she couldn’t seem to get any respite. Two horrible nights for my friend and her daughter, awake all night with the staff trying to manage her pain and difficulty breathing. Fear that something wasn’t right since the pain was that unmanageable. Sure enough, they did an x-ray and found a small tear in the pleura of her right lung and it was pooled with blood. They inserted a chest tube, and then a second one, to drain the lung and finally she got some relief.

Yesterday, she managed to get out of bed a few times and even took about 20 steps with the aid of a physical therapist. Unbelievable to me so shortly after major surgery. Last night brought more breathing difficulty though, and when they finally got her more comfortable and back to sleep, it was time for me to go. I wanted to stay but much more importantly, I wanted to let my friend get some sleep while her daughter was resting. While the thought of leaving them there was gut-wrenching, my heart was more at peace knowing that she is on her way to recovering, hopefully closer to her normal life than she has been. I put on my big girl panties and my poker face and hugged my friend goodbye. She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, and while I know that she would have been fully capable of dealing with this all on her own (as she is accustomed), I hope that by being there I helped somewhat. I got on the elevator and as the doors finally closed, I let the tears flow. A lot of emotions bundled up in the past few days. It’s one thing to watch someone you love suffer. It’s another thing entirely to witness someone you love watching their own child suffering and not be able to do anything to comfort them.

I got up at 4:30am for my flight and realized the irony of the fact that exactly 4 years ago today, at about that same time of morning, I sat on a street corner in NYC with the same friend and finally got the words out to her that I was an alcoholic. I’m looking forward to getting my four-year chip this week at my home group meeting. I even made it to an AA meeting in Houston yesterday. In another ironic twist, the building in which I attended the meeting was named after a huge donor whom I had known years ago in the heyday of my drinking.

So now it’s time for me to head home to my crew, to whom I am very grateful for managing without me for a week and whom I missed very much. I have no idea what kind of shape my house will be in when I return but having been through what I have this week, I honestly don’t care. Health, happiness and healing are really all that matter.

“You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.” – Paul Walker



%d bloggers like this: