I experienced some of what a friend calls “personal turbulence” about two weeks ago. Well, maybe it was a bit more than turbulence, but I’ll call it that for now.

Immediately after it happened, I was in shock. I trembled. I felt nauseous. I felt cold. And I had an extreme attack of dry mouth. I rushed to the fridge where I was at the time and flung open the door in search of soda or sparkling water, but saw nothing but beer, wine and champagne. Nope. Nope. And nope.

I didn’t want any of it. The thought briefly flickered through my head that maybe this situation merited a beer…but as soon as that thought materialized, it vanished.

I didn’t want a drink.

I didn’t need a drink.

I didn’t have to drink.

My release and my comfort came instead from my close friends, from my AA meetings and from my Higher Power. And…from karaoke.

Two nights after this event, my colleagues and I were set to celebrate the end of a big project with a night of karaoke fun. Honestly, I couldn’t wait.

When we first arrived, everyone bellied up to the retro-styled bar to order 60’s-era cocktails – Highballs and Manhattans and Martinis all around. I stuck to my sparkling water, ignoring the teases and pleas to indulge in the “good stuff” from those who didn’t know I was sober.

And then our karaoke room was ready.

Ours was an 80’s-themed room named “Kasbah,” painted purple and yellow with black-and-white accents and a large Nagel-esque decal of a woman’s eyes.

Perfect.

Happily, we jumped right into belting out the usual suspects, including:

“All My Exes Live in Texas”

“Don’t Stop Believing”

“Islands in the Stream”

“(Workin’) 9 to 5”

“Sweet Caroline”

“We Are The Champions”

At one point, I commandeered the controls and entered my own “Heartbreak Playlist,” which included:

“Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”

“Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”

“Heartbreaker”

And then….

I performed the song that summed up how I was feeling that night. And, in retrospect, it also sums up my feelings about giving up alcohol and being sober.

That night, I let my emotions out and lost myself in the moment – and didn’t need alcohol to do so. It was good. It was healthy. It was powerful. It was cathartic.

And it was fun.

I highly recommend “karaoke therapy” for whatever ails you. Far as I can tell, the only downside is the risk of a hoarse voice the next day.

But I’ll take that over a hangover any time.

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Me, demonstrating the fine art of busting one's ass.

First things first: I haven’t slipped.

(I know; I haven’t been posting, either.)

I have been busy, though.

I planned and enjoyed a fabulous Colorado holiday (*snow!*snow!*snow!*), started the New Year off with a bang (fireworks at B’s house!), created publicity materials for our elementary school’s big PTA concert/auction fundraiser, wrote and flew 1,000 miles to present a series of new tv commercials to a client, and kicked off my youngest daughter’s month-long debut as a Girl Scout cookie dealer pusher seller.

I know that I thrive on busy-ness. It brings out the creativity in me. It makes me feel productive. It makes me feel needed. But it can also make me incredibly stressed.

Especially when it comes to work matters. The business trip mentioned above wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be the one to go present our work to the clients. It required me to travel during a week that I had custody of my daughters, which meant not only that I had to give up time with them, but that I had to ask their dad for a favor and to take them for a night. It meant I had to put in nearly double the hours I’m paid for. And it meant I had to give up my Friday – the day off I had negotiated more than a year ago when I scaled back my highly paid position for a lower-profile title that afforded me more time with my girls, more time to pursue personal writing projects, and a whole lot less income — and stress.

Because of a number of factors, including politics, I ended up being the one agency representative to go present the work to an audience of ten decisionmakers at two companies.

No pressure.

I could feel the stress taking over as I talked with the agency travel planner about flights and hotel reservations. I woke up the day of my flight with a sore jaw, no doubt from grinding my teeth in the night. My neck and shoulders ached on the plane, and not just from lugging both a carry-on that held my clothes and laptop, along with a portfolio case that held our storyboards and scripts.

I had been lucky enough to have more than two weeks off during the holidays, and now I was back in the rat race, but at an accelerated pace. And I didn’t like it.

I had gotten lazy over the break. I had sort of been following my AA program. I had more or less made it to one meeting a week. I had picked up The Big Book…every now and then. I had talked to AA friends…once in a while.

I could handle this flurry of activity, right?

Right?

Well, kind of.

The good news is, I had a perfectly uneventful travel experience (thank you, o mighty travel gods!), kicked butt at the presentation and sold a tv spot, and made it home in time to pick up my girls and treat them to take-out pizza.

In spite of all that, though, I realized that I had been doing something quite risky. I’d been involved in all these projects and activities that fed my mind and creative appetite and ego, but I hadn’t been helping my sobriety one bit. I wasn’t using the resources available to me in recovery – resources like fellow alcoholics, AA meetings, recovery literature, fellow recovery bloggers. And the thing is, I knew better. I felt what I can best describe as “jangly” – off-kilter, irritable, tense – and still I chose to concentrate on the whirl of busyness at hand, rather than seek out some serenity-inducing help.

I’m happy that I have no bad news to report. Yet I know I was treading along a very dangerous path for a while there. I could have easily slipped and careened down into a not-so-good place. I’m thankful that I didn’t. I’ve since stepped up my program and make time for it every day.

Because I know it works. If you work it.


Cheers to all – I raise a glass of sparkling water to you!

Here’s wishing you a happy holiday, and much love and serenity in the New Year.


It should come as no surprise that as an alcoholic, I have a hugely obsessive personality. Which means that when there’s a topic that seizes my interest, I read everything about it that I can lay my hands on.

When I finally admitted I was an alcoholic and started participating in Alcoholics Anonymous, I loaded up on all the AA literature (most AA meetings will have copies of The Big Book and The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, or you can find them online). I hit the library for books on alcoholism, addiction and recovery. I scoured my local Goodwill stores and favorite used book stores for even more AA literature. (Goodwill has proven a fabulous source for this, by the way…)

Because the two dozen or so books on my nightstand just aren’t enough, I’m always in search of new titles on this subject. And I recently discovered a new book, Undrunk: A Skeptic’s Guide to AA, by A.J. Adams. I found it online and even though I hadn’t read it yet, I told my friend T. about it, when she was contemplating getting into AA.

After she read it, she passed it on to me, and I can only say that I wish it would have been around 14 years ago, when I first tried to stop drinking. Back then, I barely gave AA a chance before deciding it just wasn’t for me, mainly because I didn’t understand it and was far too skeptical of the program and its potential to help me.

Undrunk explains everything from the history of the program to how to find and attend meetings to how to get a sponsor – information that would have helped a very frightened and confused me all those years ago. Adams – based on his own experience – also addresses the questions, preconceptions, and doubts that a reluctant newcomer might harbor. Best of all, he does it in a light-hearted, self-deprecating manner.

It’s a good, helpful read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who might be contemplating getting sober in AA.


Purty, ain't they?

 

It’s what we say about sobriety in the Alcoholics Anonymous program: “You’ve got to give it away to keep it.”

Last month, as I was nearing my one-year anniversary of being sober, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to give away my sobriety. That is, I was able to share my strength, hope and experience with someone who suspected she might be an alcoholic.

In addition to experiencing some drinking-related trouble, T. has an alcoholic parent, and had been following my blog from the start. It wasn’t until recently, though, that she began to ask questions about the AA program, mostly regarding what I got out of it and how difficult (or not) it had been to give up drinking.

I answered her questions as best I could, resisting the urge to say, “Yes, from everything you’ve told me about your drinking habits and the events resulting from your drinking, I’d say you are an alcoholic. Let’s get you to an AA meeting, stat!”

Instead, I just offered up tales of my drinking life, how I came to my decision to get into AA, and my experience with sobriety thus far.

Eventually, T. decided that she wanted what I had.

I brought her to her first AA meeting, which just happened to be one of the two during which I picked up a chip commemorating my first year of sobriety. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be the recipient of this gift  —  which I was at that very moment giving away.

I’m happy to report that T. has embraced AA wholeheartedly, exploring all the meetings available in our town, reading the Big Book and 12&12 I gave her (as well as some other helpful AA-related literature), even seeking out a sponsor.

Seeing her discover the joy of sobriety and being able to give her some guidance along the way just reinforces my commitment to my own sobriety. To me, that is a beautiful thing — and a gift I’m determined to keep.


Lonely bench, ©2009 all rights reservedB.’s father died early yesterday morning.

He’d been in a nursing home for about two years, landing there after a long and – from what I’d heard – often destructive battle with alcoholism and its attendant illnesses.

He died in his sleep, and I think B. had made his peace with him a while back, so I am thankful for these things.

In the 3+ years B. & I have been together, I never got to meet the man. Of course I made the assumption that it was something about me that kept that meeting from happening, but I came to understand recently that it wasn’t.

In fact, B. told me that he was sorry that I hadn’t met his dad, and that he was even more sorry that his dad hadn’t met me. I appreciated his making that distinction, and the bittersweet admission.

We spoke about my own parents, against whom I still hold numerous resentments, no matter how hard I try to let them go. I hope eventually I’ll let go, given enough time and effort. As B. said this morning, “There are no guarantees” that the people in your life will be there tomorrow or the next day. So it is probably in everyone’s best interests to accept the past and the present, and just live with both, and make the best of both.

As we spoke, after I expressed my sorrow and offered condolences, I struggled to know what to do, how to act, how to be, what to say, regarding B.’s father. We live an hour apart, and I probably won’t be able to see him for a day or so. I told him if he needed any help with anything – making phone calls, putting together a family gathering, dogsitting, whatever – I would do it. Still, I felt anxious; expressing my sympathy and trying to offer comfort via a phone call seemed terribly insufficient. Overall, I felt helpless and useless.

I went to an AA meeting at noon, and as usually happens, I heard what I needed to hear. The man chairing the meeting read The Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Just what I needed to hear.

This wasn’t and isn’t about me, and I know that. The best thing to do now is get outside of myself — offer myself up to help, to serve, to be there – for however I’m needed. It may be that I’m not needed, and that’s okay. I won’t press to be involved, as I might have done in the past. I’ll just be there.

And that’s enough.

And…I think I’ll call my mom and my dad today.


ac-dcI ran into a friend at Starbuck’s this afternoon.

She: “We’re going camping tonight.”

Me: “I’m going to the AC/DC concert.”

She: (Laughing) “Oh, you’ll be soooo stoned.”

Me: (Weak laugh) “Welllllll…..not really. But I probably should be.”

I won’t, in fact, be stoned. I won’t be drunk, either. Or even tipsy. As a recovering alcoholic, I’ll be stone cold sober at an AC/DC concert.

This is definitely one of those events that, in the past, would have required me to have a good buzz on. I would have said that a concert like this just begs to be attended under the influence…of something.

So it’ll be interesting, to say the least, to experience it with nary a drop or drag of anything mind-altering.

Though I’m a fan but not a huge fan, I’m sure I’ll still enjoy nodding – if not quite banging – my head in time to “Back in Black.”

I’m hoping they’ll play a lot of those classics.

I’m anticipating some good people-watching.

I’m bringing ear plugs.

Hell’s Bells!

Update – the morning after: AC/DC rocked. It was an incredible arena-rock concert like I haven’t seen in years. The stage show was everything you might expect and more – with animated sequences broadcast on huge screens, fantastic light and smoke effects, a giant AC/DC locomotive as the set centerpiece, cool camerawork, a surprise appearance by Rosie and a cannonfire salute to those of us already rocking. I had a fabulous time, and though the smell of booze and pot wafted through the air, I thoroughly enjoyed the show – sober.

AC/DC ©2009 all rights reserved