Avoiding Anvils

What happens when an AWOL AA goes back to a meeting? She remembers how damn good it is to be sober.

Euphoric. That’s how drinking always made me feel.* (Until it didn’t.)

The trouble with euphoria, though, is that I didn’t really feel anything. I just kind of existed in this heightened buzz of emotion. So, something as still & quiet as intuition… yeah, I couldn’t use something as subtle as intuition at all. Everything seemed like a good idea when I was drunk. And drinking made me bulletproof–so I could do anything. Which really meant I could sit on a barstool and talk about how easy it would be for me to do anything.

The actual doing? Yeah, it never got done.

I’m a bit more capable of honing in on things like intuition now. Like when I got the nudge about AA. I felt it. I tried to ignore it. But I felt it alright.

And I kept feeling that same nudge over & over again. Until I finally pulled my shit together and showed up at a meeting today.**

Post AA Meeting (in a Rocket Designs Shirt)
Check the recovery shirt. Simon designed it.***

The topic? Helping others (skillfully). Which boils down to this: it doesn’t matter how much I want someone else to get sober. They ain’t gonna until they’re good and ready. Sure, I can beat someone over the head with my sobriety. I can shame them about their behavior. I can point out the fact that they are RUINING THEIR LIVES.

But that’s a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit. And I know it.

I remember every cutting, cruel comment people made about my drinking during the worst of it. And I was an awful drunk. I cried. I puked. I slept with other people’s significant others. I hurt everyone around me. People were fed the fuck up with me. I get it.

But I also know now that the level of shame a drunk feels about their own behavior far surpasses what anyone else can pile on.

So, if shame didn’t work, what did?

Nothing really.

But I do also clearly remember my boss (yes, I held a job. Yes, they should have fired me. No, I don’t think they did me any favors by shielding me from the consequences of my drinking. But I also get that it was hard to know what the right thing was in that time and space. Nobody likes to see someone else self-destruct in front of them) telling me stories about the insanity that transpired when she was drinking. Funny stories. Stories I could whole-heartedly relate to. And then she’d invite me to an AA meeting. Real chill like. I always said no. In fact, I didn’t get sober until 5 years after I’d left that job. But she kept inviting me. And she kept living her sober, happy life out loud in my presence.

And when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired (the AAs LOVE to say this), I knew where to go.

That boss that stuck it out, that never shamed me, that just kept inviting to meetings… she’s a huge part of my sobriety. Not because she’s in my life now. But because, without shame or judgement, she offered me a lifeline.

She couldn’t get me sober. She couldn’t save me. No one could. But her kindness–her gentle, super-chill invitations to AA meetings–showed me that she believed I was worth saving. When my time came, I believed her, and took the first steps toward saving myself.

 

*At least for the first hour or so. After that, all bets were off. One of Simon’s infamous one-liners was “It’s HAPPY hour, not crying hour.”

**Totally glad I went. Will probably go again even. WHO AM I?!?

***Need one of these shirts? Of course you do. Head over here to get one. Want a different design? No worries. There’s other rad stuff there, too.

Facing The Things I Suck At

Moving pushes all my buttons. For real–uncertainty and WAITING? I suck at those. But I’m doing it. And that’s growth.

Moving. For real, this whole process is fraught with uncertainty: will the house sell quickly? Will we find another house we think is dreamy*? What if we close on our current house and then have no where to live? What if? What if? WHAT IF?!?

I suck at uncertainty. 

That’s kind of just always been my truth. So, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I haven’t been freaking-the-hell-out. Not even a little bit. I’m just kind of along for the ride. The Universe (… God… whatever) hasn’t let me down yet. So, I’m trying to be all zen. (Living life on life’s terms, as the AAs say).

But shit, I am DONE with this moving business.

I know. I know. I don’t get to be done. And no one cares if I’m done. The process is the process is the process. Listing a house–cleaning, prepping, threatening family members that if they leave their dirty clothes on the floor one more time…–is the opposite of fun. It’s anti-fun. It’s soul-sucking. And that’s just when I’m feeling positive about it.

Through my efforts to be zen, a feeling keeps pushing through: discomfort. I am uncomfortable with this moment in my life. I want to be settled. I want to focus on writing. I want to think about something else other than keeping the house clean so that random strangers can wander through to decide what they think our home–the place where the most sacred things in our life happen, where love and tears and laugher and intimacy collide, where our LIFE happens–what they think it’s worth. I want to live my life. And right now, I’m just waiting.

And, if there’s anything I suck more at than uncertainty, it’s waiting. 

But, that’s okay. I can manage these things I’m ultra-sucky at. Because managing them is building resilience. How the hell are you supposed to develop something that seems so inate (like you’ve just got it or you don’t) as resilience? Brené Brown has some thoughts:

It’s all about a “tolerance for discomfort,” she says.

People who healthfully navigate firings, divorces, and other super difficult situations are able to do so because they’re aware of their emotional worlds — which are often uncomfortable places.

“What I’m talking about is an acceptance that our drive, this insatiable appetite for comfort and happiness, does not reconcile with who we are as people ,” she told Tech Insider in a recent interview. “Sometimes we have to do tough things and feel our way through tough situations, and we have to feel tough emotions.”

“Hold up!” I can hear you thinking. “This move is, like, no where near as emotionally intense (and potentially devastating) as a divorce or being fired. What is your major malfunction?” 

And you’re right (although you can ship “major malfunction” back to the 80s where it belongs). This move (that we chose freely to make) is not in the category of a major life event. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hit on some of my biggest pain points, some of the places I can most use growth.

Truthfully, an earlier iteration of myself wouldn’t have chosen this move, even though it is best for our family. Because earlier iterations valued comfort and certainty above all else. I wouldn’t have been able to take a chance on leaving a good house in a good neighborhood to move to another community that we think we might love EVEN MORE, just because we thought it was right.

But this iteration of me can. And I’m proud of that. And I’m god-awful uncomfortable. But I’m sitting with it and managing it. And I’m choosing to stay in this moment and do the next task at hand, instead of letting the what-ifs make me frantic.

And that is the best I can do. That is my next right thing.

 

*I watched a ton of Brady Bunch as a kid. I was always a little smitten with how Marsha used “dreamy” to describe a variety of things (although, most often a boy). So, because I’m into living my best life and seizing the moment and all, I worked it in. I think we’re all better for it.

 

Pug Image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Moving On Up (or, really, just east a bit)

5 Helpful Tips for Moving (from someone who apparently thinks she needs to move every 2 years or so, even though she’s got a hoarder(ish) kid and a messy as hell dog. Ahem.)

I’ve dropped hints. I’ve insinuated. But now, I’ll come right out and say it: We’re moving. Again.

IMG_6970

Apparently, this is a thing we like to do every few years. You know, to keep things fresh. And to test the limits of my sanity.

We’re not leaving Atlanta. (My love for Atlanta is welldocumented. Like, real well.) We’re just moving about 2 miles down the road–from Grant Park to East Atlanta. (Moving just down the street from our current home is also something we really like to do. In Florida, we moved a quarter mile down the road once.) But, look, what I’ve come to understand is that place matters. And, sometimes, you’ve just got to make a move to a place that really fits who you are.

Since I’ve unwittingly become a seasoned mover, I’ve created this handy 5 Step Guide to Surviving a Move:

  1. Give everything away. I mean, keep your family members. And your dog (if you have one. But for God’s sake, don’t go out and get a dog. They’re hella messy.) But seriously, if you haven’t used it in a year, toss it. It’s messing up your chi (or something). Living in clutter is not living your best life. And, if you can put it in storage (or in the garage or basement or attic… wherever) for months or years, do you need it? Let me answer that for you: no, you do not.
  2. Bribe your kid to get rid of stuff. Look, I don’t usually support this kind of behavior, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Kids are like little, tiny hoarders. They develop sentimental attachment to broken pencils and scraps of paper. Ship your kid off to a friend’s house, throw away anything that might escape their attention while they’re gone, then bribe them to get rid of stuff you’re sure they’ll notice if you pitch. I’m talking cash money here, people. Pay up and get that stuff out of your house.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself to face the dirt. Unless you are a self-avowed compulsive cleaner, you have no idea how dirty your house is. If you did, you wouldn’t be able to live there. Dirt is lurking everywhere. Put on your adulting panties, throw soap & water in a bucket and start scrubbing. “Getting ready to show the house” is a whole separate category of clean, like next-level clean. Usually, my family lives in “clean enough.” And I’ve got no trouble admitting it. But now, my baseboards sparkle. For real. Will it be like this after we move? Hell, no. It’s too much work. But for now, we’ve got sparkle…
  4. Label boxes clearly. This is going to be super-important when your kid is freaking out because they can’t find their Piximonkuncle Kerflauflehead. You aren’t even going to know what that IS, much less where you put it. Especially if your kid had so much junk in their room that you filled up 5 full-size moving boxes with just their stuff. (No, I’m not bitter. Not at all) And, no, labeling boxes “Random Shit from Jane’s Room” isn’t going to help. Especially if your kid isn’t even named Jane.
  5. Pray for serenity. You’re going to need it. giphy

The Shameless Quest to Get Sober

The first rule of getting sober: do not pick up that first drink. Not for any reason. Then get to work on you. Because you’ve got this moment of grace–and you damn well better use it.

We’re watching Shameless over here. Not quite binging it. But close. That show is damn fearless. Nothing escapes it’s irreverent probing. Everything feels gut-punchingly profound, without ever being preachy. And nothing is ever simple.

We’re on Season 8. Admittedly, there are lots of great storylines swirling around, but Lip’s sobriety is what’s getting me this season. Check out Jeremy Allen White talking about what sober Lip is like:

https://www.tvguide.com/videos/embed/shameless-jeremy-allen-white-sober-lip/

Oooff. The pains of early sobriety. No shit, it’s completely starting over. From scratch. Why? Because obviously, if you’re sitting in an AA meeting or you wake up in the bathroom where you passed out or you have zero idea who you slept with (talked to, argued with, or punched) last night, you have no idea how to manage your own life. And that is the honest to God truth. So, you start over.

How? You take that moment of grace you’ve been offered (make no mistake, it is a gift. And it won’t stick around forever), and you start working your ass off. On what? Yourself. It’s a serious, arduous process, this getting sober. It’s likely all you’ll think about for the first year or so. Does that make it a selfish process? Yes and no. Yes because your sobriety always exists top of mind—and it has to drive all your decisions. No, because part of getting sober & staying sober, is getting out of your own damn head and into the world to be of service to others.

And it takes commitment. Stubborn, dogged commitment. To not drinking. That’s the key: not drinking no matter what. Not if your dog runs away. Not if your girlfriend breaks up with you. Not if someone dies (a random celebrity or someone you love). Not ever. Not for any reason. It can’t even exist as an option somewhere in the back of your mind. It’s got to be annihilated. Obliterated. The idea that you can take that first drink for any reason has to die.

Early sobriety is about staying present in the moment. Wondering what your entire life will look like if you never drink again? Oh, you’ll wonder. But it’s useless. Until you start to heal–to move from simply not drinking to really getting sober, to participating in your own recovery–you’re gonna have NO IDEA what life will look like if you don’t drink. And if you try to imagine it, you’ll believe you will die of boredom if you try to live sober. That’s because, right now, your brain is entirely fucked. It’s telling you stupid shit, and you believe it, because that’s how alcoholism works.

It’s all a lie. You don’t need a drink. Not to cope. Not to sleep. Not to take the edge off your anxiety. Not to deal with your kids. If you’re an alcoholic (and, by the way, I’ve never known anyone to wonder if they had a drinking problem that didn’t actually drink problematically), thinking you need a drink is like thinking you need to take a shot of cyanide. It’s poison. It will kill you. But first it will take everything you love.

“GOOD GOD, that’s bleak,” you’re probably thinking. Hell yeah, it’s bleak. That’s why the first order of business is to not take that first drink. Do what you’ve got to do. Go for a run (Lip runs all over town in Season 8). Pray. Do yoga. Drop and do pushups until your arms give out. Put your white chip (that’s the surrender chip in AA*. The one that says you give up & need help. Very important, that chip) in your mouth–when it melts, you can take a drink. Call someone. Drive to a homeless shelter to volunteer. Eat an ice cream sundae (sugar is life-giving the first year). Do what it takes.

Why would you want to bother with all this? Because in this moment of grace you’ve been granted, you understand that you want to live. Not survive. Live.

You are worth it. Whether you believe it right now or not. I believe it for you. Put down the drink.

 

*My sobriety is part of the AA tradition. I am not a Big Book Thumper. I diverge from AA in some of my thinking. A lot, maybe. But I still believe that it is one of the very best ways to get sober. Why? Because it worked for me. Find what works for you. But going it on your own rarely works. The shift from active alcoholism to sobriety requires support, huge life changes, and usually therapy. Told you it was work. Don’t worry; you’re still worth it.