“When called into battle, you don’t rise to the occasion. You default to the level of your training.”

Well, my friends – my level of training is woefully deficient.  Here’s what’s been happening, as I round the corner on 11 months of sobriety. First, and most importantly, my life absofuckinglutely rocks.  I’m crazy about my husband, kids, grandchildren, job, co-workers, friends, and most of my family.  I’ve got this self-care thing down pat.  I work out, eat right, make sure I have plenty of “me” time, and have pared way back on things I was doing that didn’t make my soul sing.

But there’s ONE thing that’s bubbled up to the surface of my mind, and it’s floating along like trash on the surface of a pristine lake: my relationship with my mother. It is difficult.  Has always been difficult.  For me – not so much for her. She thinks everything is peachy. Because I keep my mouth shut.

Listen, I don’t mean to offend, but – her belief systems, world view, and politics are diametrically opposed to mine. Which is fine.  I have a couple of friends who hold the same opinions as she does and we’re civil.  We respect each other’s right to be wrong and move on. Not an issue. Not the same with my mother. If you don’t agree with her, she plays the morality card. Or the “next life” card.  She has been known to take something I’ve said, gnaw on it for six months, sharpen the edges, and throw it back in my face when I least expect it. I don’t feel safe with her.  I’ve learned not to share anything of substance with her. So I bite my tongue and seethe and passive-aggressively avoid her for seven weeks at a stretch.

And goddamn it, as a 55-year-old grandmother, I have earned the right to speak my mind when she goes off on a tirade about global warming or how the Democrats were against the Civil Rights Act or whatever.

I just don’t. Know. How.

When I was growing up, I was a feisty, mouthy, spirited little kid. And I learned, in very short order, that those qualities were not valued in my family.  Any sign of rebellion was quite literally squashed – with the back of a hand, a hair brush, wooden spoon, fly swatter, or belt. I never learned conflict resolution skills because she doesn’t fight fair.

So I find myself seeking counseling to put some tools in my sad, empty little toolbox. I want to learn how to stand my ground and respect myself without diminishing her.  Because to me, silence is compliance.

I had my first appointment yesterday.  I went back to an agency that my husband and I went to years ago, for codependency, when our daughters were in active addiction.  And I don’t know if I’ve made the right decision about where to seek help, but I’m going to reserve judgement until the initial assessment is over.

But I didn’t appreciate having to blow a breathalyzer and having to pee in a cup with a counselor standing next to me in the bathroom. Ew.

The irony being that I’m there BECAUSE I’m solid in my sobriety – and that, from what I’ve learned, it’s pretty common for other issues to crop up once you’re not thinking about not drinking all the time.

So, friends, I’ll keep you posted.  If this isn’t the right place for me, I’ll keep looking for help.  Because she’s 84 and life’s too short to waste.  I know she’ll never change; I’m the one who has to. I just need some expert advice.

300 Days Without Alcohol

The 13th of June was my 300th day without booze. This is probably the longest I’ve gone without ingesting any kind of mood-altering substance since I started smoking pot at 13. I progressed from pot to cigarettes at 15, dabbled with speed, and then finally, focused my interest on booze. Back then the legal drinking age was 18 and I only drank on weekends, usually a couple of beers on a Saturday night. Fast forward many years and many, many drinks later…..

This has become my new normal. I no longer feel uncomfortable in my own skin when we’re at a restaurant, where it seems like EVERYONE but me is drinking. Enjoying elegant cocktails or glasses of chilled white wine or frosted glasses of beer.  And there I sit with my big dumb Coke glass and white straw, filled with club soda, cranberry, and a wedge of lime. I do occasionally get what I call “the grumblefucks” when I wallow, momentarily, in the “why me’s” and “it’s no fair that I can’t drink – everyone else is” kind of thoughts.

But they don’t last. Honestly, though – I would very much like to get to the point of being able to say that I don’t ever miss it. I do wish I could drink like normal people. But I know I can’t – not EVER.

And another thing: this weekend, we’ll have a house guest. Our adorable, active 1-year-old granddaughter who’s not all that fond of sleeping through the night. I’m steeling myself for the high likelihood of four nights of interrupted sleep. And can I tell you a secret? If I were still drinking, there’s absolutely NO fucking way I would have volunteered to take her.  Can you imagine what a crimp she’d put in my ability to drink the way I was accustomed to, especially on the weekend? No cocktail hour in the afternoon? No wine with dinner and during the evening, as we watched TV? No big fat martini before bedtime? No, thanks.

It would have been easy enough to make excuses: Dad has to get up so early every morning, he needs his sleep…. I can’t get the time off work….. I’m really freaked out about being responsible for her, with her parents so far away…..

Instead, I’m  proud to step up and take the baby so my daughter and son-in-law can get away for a few days.  It’ll be so good for them, as a young married couple who never had a honeymoon. Not looking forward to potentially sleep-interrupted nights, but – I’ll be clear-headed and sober and capable of handling whatever their precious, pint-sized tyrant throws our way.