Just When You Least Expect it

So, here I am, puttering along in my little sober car. Doing the next right thing, minding my own business. My mind isn’t preoccupied with thoughts about drinking or not drinking. Sober is the new black for me. I wear it every day; it goes with everything!

Every waking minute doesn’t revolve around how raw and weird and new sobriety is…. So my thoughts and focus return to the ups and downs of daily life.  A life that includes a job I love: I work with groups of elementary school kids, helping them with their reading or math skills.  Now, I love my co-workers. I adore my job. I love the kids that I work with.  I love MOST of the kids that I work with.  But there’s one kid in one of my groups who’s a ginormous pain in my ass.  Disrespectful, argumentative, disruptive – seems to delight in walking that very fine line between discussion and argument over every single thing I tell him to do.  I’ve tried explaining why I need him to do what I ask.  I’ve tried TELLING him to just do what I ask.  I’ve tried ignoring it when he gets out of his seat for a tissue every three minutes. Or belches.  Or passes gas – you get the idea. My husband is sick of hearing the kid’s name.  I’m sick of hearing MYSELF say the kid’s name.  He is just all-around disagreeable and I find myself thinking about him every morning when I wake up, just dreading having to deal with him yet another day.

So. One day last week, there was a substitute teacher in our room; a lovely retired teacher whom I’ve gotten to know pretty well, as she’s become a familiar face in our building.  We were chatting at lunch and she asked me how my sister is doing ( I have a sister who’s undergoing chemo for breast cancer.) I thanked her for asking and mentioned  a new medication she’s on, one given to cancer patients whose white cell counts are low.  She said,  “I’m familiar with that drug – my son was on it for a while.” I ask, “Oh! Is your son a cancer survivor?”  There’s just a beat – she responds, “He didn’t survive.”  Three little words.  So much pain.

She proceeds to tell me about his diagnosis and eventual death – at the age of 28.  I could feel the tears start and just couldn’t keep them from falling.  She cried too,  and it was a little uncomfortable and awkward, to be honest.  But I just listened as she told her story and gave her the space and time to share as much as she wanted. Needless to say, I was reeling by the time I went back to work; I had absolutely no idea that she’d been through something so devastating. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 50-some-odd years I’ve been on this earth, it’s that you can never look at another human being and assume you know their story.

So then later that evening, as we’re eating dinner, the phone rings.  The woman calling had been given my name by a mutual acquaintance who’d asked if I’d be willing to talk – or more likely, listen – to her friend, whose son is an out-of-control heroin addict. He’s destroying her family.  And she’s a widow, trying to raise three kids alone.  Such heartbreak.  And anger. And love.  All rolled up in one little woman, trying to be the very best mom – and dad – to her kids that she can. So we talked for about an hour and a half, and I made her promise me to stay in touch.  I know the road she’s walking and I don’t want her to ever feel alone.

I was reeling and exhausted emotionally by the end of the day.  And I thought – these people have REAL problems. I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

And I think the Universe was just trying to remind me to be grateful and focus on the important, wonderful blessings I’m so incredibly lucky to have.

Duly noted.

My Word for 2016: Health

Well, friends… now that I’ve got enough sober time under my belt, it’s time for me to focus on my health – mental and physical.  Starting this week, it’s back to counseling.  My therapist has recovered sufficiently to begin seeing me again.  I have so much to catch her up on, in the four months that’s elapsed since our last chat. I feel as though I’ve been in an emotional state of stasis since I saw her in September.

And I see my primary physician early next month to discuss physical therapy for a strained left shoulder,  and golfers’ elbow in my right arm.  Super frustrating as I tried cold laser therapy for the elbow, which was a gigantic waste of money and time. And I love to incorporate weights in my workouts.  Now I can’t even lift a 6 pound dumbbell comfortably.  I used to curl 20 pounds! Ugh.

The fridge and freezer are both stocked with healthy foods: fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy.   Breakfasts and lunches are prepped and healthy dinners are planned for the week. Time to tame the sugar monster: bowls of berries and cut-up fruit will replace ice cream for evening treats.  This is my year to focus on getting in the best shape of my life.

The second set of sober holidays was much, MUCH easier than the first.  So much more comfortable and normal feeling.  I’ve also noticed that the “drink counter” in my brain seems to have taken a hike.  I no longer notice, with such glaring focus, what everyone else seems to have in their glass.

Another new experience? Handling some pretty overwhelming worry sober.  One of my kids has a health issue that is almost positively minor, but I had managed to work myself into a near-frenzy over it. It cast a pall over much of my holiday break. I’m typically not a worrier and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t “talk myself off the ledge.”  Until I realized that this is the first time I’ve experienced something like this without any anesthetic.  I did work my way through to the other side, but – boy, howdy – it sucked scissors. But it just goes to show that we can handle the hard shit that life throws us, stone-cold sober.

And continue to grow, and learn, and evolve.