An Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is next week and I’ve been mentally assembling my gratitude list. Here it is, in stream-of-consciousness order:

1. My husband and I have adjusted happily to his recent retirement. He takes care of two of our granddaughters one day a week, subs at the school he used to teach at a couple of days a week, and pretty much plain damn does what he pleases with the bulk of the rest of his time. After 43 years, it’s pretty amazing that we can still tolerate each other, much less enjoy hanging out together. He’s truly my favorite person.

2. I’m so grateful that my kids have all reached a level of contentment and relative peace in their lives. They’re all married and settled and pretty happy. Gainfully employed and making plans for their families and their futures. Our granddaughters are our Number One fans – and it’s 100% mutual. There’s another grand baby on the way. What parent/grandparent could ask for more?

3. My schedule at work this year is manageable and enjoyable. I’ve been pushed waaaaaay out of my comfort zone in terms of what I’m teaching. Guess what? You CAN teach old dogs new tricks! My co-workers and I are in sync about SO many things. I try to remind myself how fortunate I am to work with friends. I almost – ALMOST – feel guilty about getting paid to have this much fun. I’ve fallen back in love with my job, and I try to remind myself of how lucky I am every day.

4. Friends, old and new. Some have suffered losses this year: a brother, a father….. and I’m grateful to be present and able to hold space for them. So very grateful for my sober friends: my online group, and one special friend and her husband that my husband and I have met and become fast friends with. Also very grateful for a new friend – newly sober – who has reached out to me and become a special new light in my life. She reminds me of how it felt to walk this path in the early days, and it’s a privilege to offer her support and share my experiences.

5. My health, physical and mental. This old bird still feels like a 19-year-old most days. I’m one of those rare women who actually LIKES  her body.  It’s produced three healthy children, fed two of them, and gets me where I need to go. I’m proud of every stretch mark and scar. They mean I survived.  I’m happy, content, at peace, and find joy in life’s smallest moments. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

So, friends – there’s my gratitude list.

What are YOU grateful for?

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Life Marches On

Hey, friends. I’ve been thinking about you! It’s been five months since my last blog post. The past several months have been eventful – bringing extremes of emotion, as life is wont to do.

In March, one of my nephews passed away. He had struggled for years, both with depression and alcoholism. You might say it was a shock, but not a surprise. There’s nothing remotely natural about a parent burying a child. My sister and her family will never be the same. Ironically, my nephew knew he needed help – and had scheduled an appointment for IOP (Intensive Out Patient). The appointment date? The day his body was found by his brothers.

So sad and tragic and unnecessary. It just emphasizes the point that, if you’re struggling, STOP TODAY. Time is of the essence. This may be your last chance.

Our family has also recently celebrated my husband’s retirement from 39 years as a teacher, coach, and advisor. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for him, and I’ve been holding his hand and walking through this experience with him. We’re both so excited about the changes in our lives his retirement will bring, especially once I go back to school in the fall. I keep joking that I’ll have a wife – somehow I don’t think he’s as amused by that as I am….

Our youngest daughter and her husband are buying their first home, which is super exciting. Things seems to be looking up for them, after some rocky times and struggles.

We’re enjoying our four granddaughters and the ensuing happy chaos so, so much – and there’s another precious little one on the way next spring!

My sobriety has been a constant through all the tears and laughter – God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll have four years next month. It’s just part of who I am now – and I hardly ever miss it.  I have to admit, there are very brief flashes of – longing? Jealousy? Resentment? Typically, I don’t think about it much any more. I’m still active in my private Facebook group – I check in and read posts daily but don’t comment much.

I don’t intend to drink, ever again. I try not to think about “forever,” though.  That’s a little too daunting and overwhelming.  But for today, I’m good. Not gonna drink.

How about you?

What in the World….?

The other day at work I overheard a conversation between two of my co-workers that almost made my head explode.

Let me preface this by telling you that I absolutely adore the team I work with – they’re smart and funny and snarky and liberal as hell. We see eye-to-eye on practically everything.

They all drink (and one is a recreational pot-smoker) and ordinarily that doesn’t affect me at all. Sometimes, I find myself feeling “other than” when they discuss the latest IPA they tried or a new brand of wine that’s reasonable.

I did find myself feeling like a disapproving, prissy schoolmarm when they regaled me with stories of their drunken nonsense at the annual holiday party. One doesn’t remember much of the evening and spent most of the rest of the weekend hungover.

Whatever. I’m grateful that I don’t waste my weekends that way.

So. Here’s the conversation in question: Two of them were discussing a young woman they both know. She’s a freshman in college and her transition to the dorms and living away from home was very difficult. The young woman in question is EXTREMELY high-strung and suffers from anxiety and depression.

One friend was relating to the other that, at this particular college, sophomore dorms are more or less “themed,” based on the students’ interests. This young woman was talking to her Mom about the options. The first is known as a hard-drinking dorm. Mom counsels daughter, “You don’t like to drink. That one’s not for you.” Good advice, right? Right. The second choice has more of a loosey-goosey, tree-hugging, pot-smoking population. BINGO! That’s the one for our girl! Mom advises, “Honey, you NEED to lighten up and start smoking pot. You HAVE to figure out a way to relax!”

My two friends are both in complete agreement – they think this is a PERFECT fit for an anxious, uptight 18-year-old.

I’m sitting there, in my little cubby around the corner. Listening to this bullshit. Thinking, “What. The. Actual. Fuck.”

Here you have a young woman who struggles mightily with anxiety and depression – who is, statistically speaking, FAR more likely to end up having an issue with drugs and alcohol, and HER OWN MOTHER thinks it’s a great idea for her daughter to use a drug to self-soothe.

I’m thinking – SCREAMING silently – what about Yoga? Meditation? Exercise? Long, hot showers? Therapy?

Ugh.

I don’t know where I’m going with this…. I just knew I needed to bring it here and dump it.

You guys understand.

Thanks for listening.

(P.S. – Yesterday was 3 1/2 years of sobriety!!! Yay me!)

But for the Grace of….

The Universe? God? I don’t know what I believe. But I do have a confession to make.

I have been wallowing in self-pity and resentment. Marinating in “it’s not fair,” and, “I don’t get paid enough for this responsibility,” for the better part of this school year.

You see, I’m a Teaching Assistant. I teach more classes than the two teachers I work with -several more classes per week. I’ve had some really challenging students to deal with. I even went to the principal, who “mansplained” my job to me and basically dealt with my complaints by metaphorically patting me on the head. He even had the balls to admonish me to keep my unhappiness and frustration with my workload from affecting my relationship with my students.

This, from our Fearless Leader who is famous for not only bringing his domestic issues to work with him, but unleashing on anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. Asshole.

So where does the Universe come in, you ask?

Well, sometimes the Divine tweaks us on the nose just when we need it most, if we’re paying attention.

Yesterday we had a long-anticipated sleepover with Darling Granddaughter #3. We kicked off the festivities with a rollicking trip to the grocery store – do we know how to show a kid a good time or WHAT?

As we enter the produce department, I notice another Grandma and Grandpa happily doting on an adorable baby in their shopping cart. The Grandma and I make eye contact and share a knowing smile.  As it happens, she and I find ourselves inspecting the same vegetables. On impulse, I say, “Isn’t being a grandparent SO much more fun than being a parent?” She laughs and replies, “I remember your husband from High School!” So I urge her to go over and say hello to him.  She does, and I follow.  I’m entertaining our granddaughter, half listening to their conversation.   I freeze when I hear him expressing condolences to her. I glean from the conversation that she’s lost a son to addiction, within the past six months or so.

My husband shares with her that we have two daughters who narrowly escaped with their lives – addicts ten years in recovery now…. He gives her a big hug, and I do too.  As we walk away I find myself fighting back tears. I know we could very easily have lost not one, but both of our daughters. I can’t even imagine what hell she’s going through.

And then it occurs to me – that could so easily have been us. And in the grand scheme of things, my problems are so minor.  I have a job with co-workers I adore. I don’t have to worry about being laid off. My husband, children, and grandchildren are healthy. All of my immediate family lives within 30 minutes of me.  I want for nothing.

I need to keep all of this in mind the next time I feel negativity start to creep in.

Because for a million and one reasons, my life could have easily become a tragedy. It’s quite the opposite.  And I’m so unbelievably grateful.

41 Months and Still Learning

I just realized it’s been a long time since I posted. Life has been moving at breakneck speed. I just wanted to share some things I’ve been thinking about.

This weekend my husband and I are going out of town for a family Bar Mitzvah. I’ve got all kinds of treats packed for the hotel room: Kcups and a clever little portable coffee maker, special creamer, fun a/f beverages, snacks…..

Almost exactly three years ago, we traveled to the same town for a family Bat Mitzvah. It was my first sober getaway and I remember still feeling like everything was almost painfully strange and new. I packed a care kit for myself that included special scented hand cream, treats for the hotel room, and ear buds so I could use a sleep meditation on my phone without disturbing my husband. I remember being at the party, where craft beers and glasses of wine were offered. The glasses of wine were so small – I wondered, if I’d still been drinking, how many of them I would have felt comfortable drinking without anyone noticing. Ugh.

Now I still notice what/how much other people drink, but I’ve realized nobody really cares what’s in my glass. Events like these are no problem whatsoever.

But here’s the thing: as I began making mental lists of what to pack, I noticed that my husband’s bottle of bourbon was running low (he likes to pack some for the hotel room). I found myself getting a little anxious that he wouldn’t have enough booze for the trip. Because I remember all too well having to make sure that there was enough wine for me when we traveled together.

Just a friendly reminder from the Universe that, yes indeedy, I had a problem, and – nope, my brain is neither healed or fixed, even after all this sober time under my belt.

Another Sobriety Anniversary

Ten years ago, our lives were a nightmare of chaos, drama, anger, despair, and terror. Every day was ruined by our daughters. Every time the phone rang, we were acutely aware that it could be the police telling us we needed to come and identify their bodies. At the very least, it was usually one of them, wheedling and manipulating us for money. Our lives had slowly become something unrecognizable, our home a war zone. Every day, I’d come home from work dreading what would be waiting for me: two daughters who were barely recognizable as the girls we’d raised. They were sullen and sneaky and beyond hateful. Monsters who were slowly killing themselves and, in the process, taking us with them. You see, our precious daughters had become heroin addicts.

My husband and I got ourselves into counseling when it became glaringly apparent that what we were doing to help them (pay their bills, give them chance after chance after chance to turn themselves around) wasn’t working. We began to change how we reacted to the daily drama.  But what really brought their addiction to a screaming halt was our town’s Drug Court.  They turned themselves in to the police after getting involved in some illegal stuff – and the Court stepped in.  They were given two choices: get and stay clean, or go to jail. Well, there were more than a few bumps in the road, but ultimately – they both chose sobriety and a return to their place  in our family and our hearts.

They’ve transformed from dead-eyed strangers to two young women I absolutely adore: wicked smart, absolutely hilarious (usually inappropriately), hard-working, and ambitious. Our older daughter is married and the mother of two precious little sweethearts I couldn’t possibly love more. She has hopes and dreams for her future and plans to go back to school to become a sonogram tech in a few years.  Our younger daughter has worked her way up in Financial Aid at a local business school. She attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology while working full-time. She’s also married, and planning to start a family soon.  They’re both fully engaged in life and society and our family.  I’m so unbelievably proud of them and beyond  grateful that they’re whole and healthy. I have to believe that they survived their addiction for a reason.

Tonight we’ll enjoy some of our favorite things: chips and queso and guacamole, cheese, crackers, and cupcakes. We’ll celebrate with waaaay too much food and even more laughter.  I’ll encourage my husband to propose a toast – I know myself well enough to be sure that trying to put what I feel into spoken words would just result in tears. My heart is so full.  And I know how impossibly lucky we are that our girls have returned to us.

Life is good, friends – so incredibly good.

Brand New Experience

This past summer I was super duper busy with my granddaughters, spending lots of quality time with my husband and family, deep cleaning my house, and just generally enjoying some time off work.

I kept meaning to share something with you but life seemed to get in the way: I was a guest on the Bubble Hour podcast! The Bubble Hour is a fantastic resource for anyone who’d like to get and stay sober. There have been a handful of hosts through the years, but the focus of the podcast has remained the same. There’s typically one guest who shares his or her addiction and recovery story.

The current host, Jean McCarthy, was warm and kind and welcoming. I was pretty nervous at first, but after a few minutes that wore off.  It felt like I was talking to a friend – she’s just a wonderful person. She writes the blog “UnPickled,” too, which is another excellent resource.

So, if you’d like to hear my story – and my glorious flaaaaaaat “a” Western New York aaaaaaaccent, have a listen!  Here’s the link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bubblehour/2017/06/27/mary-of-life-without-vodka-rocks-blog

 

The Beauty of “IRL” Connection

You know that feeling when you meet someone and you instantly feel like they “get” you?  You feel safe  and comfortable with them right away – like you’ve known them forever?

I do.  I’ve met two incredible women “IRL” (In Real Life) through my blog and the Booze Free Brigade (the private FaceBook group I belong to). One of these new friends lives about 10 minutes away.  I’ve met her a handful of times for coffee and/or early morning walks. Our lives have many dissimilarities, but we each understand where the other is coming from.  We’ve been able to share our stories, openly and honestly.  And it’s a beautiful thing, the power of “me, too….” There’s absolutely nothing like talking to someone who has walked the same path and experienced the same struggles and triumphs.

I can trace the other friendship back to a specific date: April 14th, 2015. That’s the date she emailed me after stumbling onto my blog. What began as a casual email conversation has bloomed into what I truly believe will be a lifelong friendship.  She and her husband traveled to our town over Labor Day weekend, and we spent a couple of days talking, eating, shopping, and mostly, sharing and laughing.  It was also great for my husband to be able to talk to hers – and for them to be able to share their experiences with each other.

Well, I guess the point of this post is to encourage you to reach out  and make connections with people who understand this journey.  It’s easy to feel “other than” in a world that seems to be obsessed with the inclusion of alcohol for every occasion.  Having a connection with and talking to people who are traveling the same road is immensely comforting.

To that end – if you’d like information about the BFB, just send me an email and I’ll give you the secret handshake! It’s my very favorite place on the internet.

Three Years

On August 18th I marked three entire years of sobriety. I look back and see myself sitting in the exact same spot on the couch I’m sitting on as I write this. I wish I could reach through the veil of time and comfort that poor, lost woman. She had so much love in her life and had so much to be grateful for – but at her core, was so lost and felt so alone and so damn scared.

The one thing I wish that I’d known about sooner was the private Facebook group that I eventually learned about and joined.  It’s called the Booze Free Brigade and it’s chock full of the best people I’ve never met.  We all share a single goal: to live our very best lives without alcohol mucking everything up.  There are people in the BFB from all walks of life at every stage of the journey, and it’s a beautiful thing.  It’s a 24/7 support group. I’ve made a new friend who lives near me and connected with people from all over the world – there is absolutely nothing like talking to people who “get” you.

In the past three years, I’ve experienced just about every challenge you can think of. There have been births and deaths, my children have faced some major crises, work issues that have tested me, weddings, family and day-to-day stress,  and most recently – my 40th High School reunion.  Interestingly, the reunion was very, VERY difficult.  I graduated in a class of almost 1,000 – and did nothing of note during my three years there. I was incredibly uncomfortable for much of the evening – and didn’t want to drink so much as just pull an “I Dream of Jeannie” –  blink my eyes and disappear.  I felt uncomfortable and awkward and out of my element.  If my husband hadn’t encouraged me to walk around and talk to people, it would have been a complete waste of an evening.  I would have been far more comfortable in a room full of strangers than I was surrounded by people who, for the most part, I only had vague memories of.  Without the social lubricant of alcohol, I realized I have a definite social anxiety/shy streak.

I wish I had something new to say or some sparkling nugget of wisdom to pass on, but I don’t.  If you’ve just stumbled on my blog and/or you’re new to this journey, all I can encourage you to do is: anything but drink.  Read as many sobriety blogs as you can – some good ones are: Tired of Thinking About Drinking, Sober at Sixty, Mrs. D is Going Without, and UnPickled.  Listen to podcasts!  The Bubble Hour,  Since Right Now, and Hip Sobriety come to mind.  Eat ice cream, candy, popcorn with real butter – any damn thing you want.  Make things easy on yourself:  if the answer to any question isn’t a “Hell, yes!” – then it’s “Hell, NO!”  Cut back on any obligation that doesn’t make your soul sing. “No” is a complete sentence.  Try meditation.  Insight Timer is a great app – maybe costs two bucks – and is worth its weight in gold.  I use it every night. Try yoga – it works wonders for a million reasons.  There are tons of videos on YouTube. And when all else fails, go to bed.

And as for me, I plan to stay the course and make the most of whatever life throws my way. I’ll be posting less – but if you need me, I’m only an email away. (lifewithoutvodkarocks@gmail.com)

Take good care, friends!

 

 

The Journey of 1,000 Days

….. Began with a decision. A decision that was born from a moment of the purest intuition. I just knew – in the very deepest core of my being – that I could no longer continue drinking. It was absolutely going to kill me.

One thousand mornings ago, I woke up – yet again – unable to remember going to bed the night before.  Or the details of the television show I’d watched.  Or much of anything after the big fat martini I’d consumed, come to think of it. (Which was after the drink in the afternoon and the glasses of wine I’d  had with dinner, of course.)

I woke up to my morning ritual – silent self-interrogation:

How much did I drink?

Do I remember going to bed?

Did I say or do anything I need to apologize to my husband for?

Along with the resolve to STOP drinking so often, so recklessly, so unpredictably….

I’ll never forget that moment: when a thought – no, more like a voice – unbidden and unwanted, said, “You need to stop drinking.” I couldn’t un-hear it.  Couldn’t un-know what I knew. I felt my blood turn to ice as I realized what I needed to do.  I had to save my own life. There was no turning back.

And the first year was alternately exhilarating, and terrifying, and sad, and frustrating, and exquisitely strange, and unbelievably wondrous.

Year two was when I could start to take my eye off the ball. Being a non-drinker became much more comfortable and natural. I felt like my old self, only a little more socially subversive and with just a touch of bad-assery.

I thought I’d be done getting used to this new way of life by now.  But I’m still growing and learning how to navigate tricky situations and uncomfortable moments.  Mostly by reminding myself that “I am the sky, and my feelings are just the weather.”

And when I start to feel guilty about treats or self-care, I need to remind myself that:

Sobriety is HARD work.

Taking care of myself benefits not only me – it allows me to be the very best person I can, which in turn creates a positive ripple effect that touches everyone in my life.

There was always money for booze – why not for self-care?

And the thing that I’ve realized that surprises me the most, is that my growth as a sober person will continue for the rest of my life.  At least, I certainly hope so.  Because I’m ready – both hands and my heart are wide open.