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?


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.

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.

A Few Thoughts….

I’ve mentioned before that I think our society is soaked in alcohol, especially as it pertains to women. It seems that every “Girls’ Night Out” event includes wine. Just last night, I saw a commercial sponsored by a local bakery. Here’s the concept: bring your girlfriends and the ubiquitous bottle of wine. And decorate cupcakes together. Ummmmm…… ok? Cupcakes and wine, together at last. Seriously, people.  Let’s see: what goes well with cupcakes……. Well, wine, of course!

And I think today’s women have been sold the shittiest bill of goods ever. We’ve been taught that every rough spot that life provides requires alcohol for lubrication.  Rough day at work? Have some wine! Fight with your husband? Well, wine’s the answer! Kids driving you nuts? Wine will help smooth out those rough edges (even at playgroup).

Not to mention that no celebration is complete without booze. Birthdays, holidays, special occasions – you HAVE to have a glass (A glass – yeah, right) of wine.

I’m not paranoid by nature; nor am I a conspiracy theorist. But if you step back and take a hard look at the bigger picture, how very convenient, in our society – which remains largely patriarchal – to keep women “medicated.” I kinda feel like booze today is the Valium of my mother’s generation.  There’s certainly no stigma attached to drinking – quite the opposite, actually.  If you DON’T drink, you’re the odd man (or woman, as the case may be) out.

In today’s society, the consumption of booze is endorsed, promoted, and encouraged in much the same way that smoking cigarettes was in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. There are already studies coming out showing an alarming increase in alcohol-related health issues for women.  Our bodies aren’t built to drink or process alcohol the way men’s do. Young women are binge-drinking at higher rates than young men.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and make a prediction: it may not happen in my lifetime, but I truly believe the tide will turn. I’m convinced (and fervently hope) that the medical community will force society to ultimately see alcohol for what it is – an addictive substance, not a necessity at every social event.

Don’t get me wrong: if you can drink safely and truly moderately, go for it! (But if you follow this blog, that probably doesn’t include you.)

A Week of Extremes

My summer is melting like ice cream on a 90 degree July day – every day is jam-packed with granddaughters or yoga or long walks or even ice-skating with my husband. There’s a world of difference between last summer, my first as a sober adult, and this summer. Sobriety is as much a part of me as my eye color or height – just a part of what makes me “me.”

But last week, out of the blue, our son lost his job.  None of us saw it coming, as he’d worked his way up (in one of our city’s charter schools) from per diem substitute, to classroom teacher, to administrator, to principal.  He was the only constant employee in the school’s 13-year history.  A new ‘top dog’ was hired recently, and the decision was made to clean house. So his position was written out of the budget. Thirteen years of employment was reduced to six boxes in the back seat of his car.

At first, he was stunned. Then enveloped by such deep sadness. Then furious.  And he’s used his anger to propel him forward as he contemplates a brand-new career.  We were watching his two little girls that day and, consequently, were the first family members to see him.

I hugged and kissed my boy. And told him how sorry I was. And said that it was their loss.  And that they were fucking fuckers to do this to him.  And I cried a little after hearing that his sweet five year old tried to console him with a story about how she knew he was sad to leave his job, but that she understood how he might be feeling.  Because she was really sad to leave kindergarten but now she’s looking forward to first grade – and maybe he’d be just as excited about a new job.

But never – even though my mother’s heart was crushed for him – did drinking cross my mind.

And then a few days later, my entire family: three kids,  two sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, and three granddaughters, traveled to Cleveland to beam with pride as our youngest graduated from the University of Phoenix.

This young woman is in long-term recovery from heroin addiction and has attained her bachelors degree while working full-time.  It’s taken the better part of six years. And back in the dark days of her addiction, I never would have dreamed that she’d graduate from college. I thought it was far more likely to be planning her funeral.  But by God, she did it.  It was a weekend of memories I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

And again, I never wanted to drink to celebrate.  I wouldn’t dream of fuzzing out one second of the joy and pride and gratitude to a beneficent universe that I felt.

We can suffer crushing disappointment – sober.  We can experience huge, huge triumphs – sober.

And while it doesn’t make the hard stuff suck any less, it’s processed and moved through more efficiently when we “feel the feels,” instead of numbing out.  Because the unpleasant feelings are still waiting there, waiting to be dealt with, once you sober up. It’s just delaying the inevitable.

Being present for the good stuff makes for glowing, complete memories that last forever.  And they play in your mind, over and over, in a glorious loop.

Who knew that giving up one little thing would grant so many enormous blessings?


Game-Changing Gratitude

A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest at a bridal shower for my sister-in-law. My granddaughters were invited, too – which was a huge treat for me. My youngest granddaughter is shy in social situations when there are a lot of people kind of converging on her – come to think of it, who wouldn’t be put off in a situation like that?

Anyway, this little one’s Mommy wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed close and focused on keeping the toddler happy and occupied. I rarely have an opportunity to spend such concentrated time with all my grands, so I was in my glory.
Had a lovely afternoon, and thought everyone else did too.


A few days later, my husband gets an email from his elderly uncle (at the behest of his wife, who was also at the shower). Apparently I didn’t spend enough time with them at the shower and they wanted to know what was wrong “before it becomes a problem.” Wonderful man that he is, the hubs fired an email right back setting them straight and ending with, “nothing is wrong and it won’t become a problem unless someone MAKES it one.”

Have I mentioned lately how crazy I am about him?

Fast forward to yesterday. There was an engagement party for the bride-to-be and her intended, that we (and the bride’s other siblings) were hosting. I was very edgy about having to see this aunt and uncle in person again, so soon after the tension their email created.

Now, a great strategy I’ve used in the past is to reward myself after something stressful. But I had a whole afternoon to fill BEFORE the party. So here’s what I did: I used a gift certificate for a pedicure, which is one of my very favorite indulgences. Then I came home and had about an hour before we needed to leave for the party.

So, I made myself a coffee, went into my bedroom and closed the door, and used a free meditation app called “Insight Timer.” I was scrolling through the menu looking for something for stress relief. But instead I stumbled on an eleven minute guided meditation for gratitude.

This was a complete game-changer, people.

My head was filled with images of my three sweet granddaughters, my grown children and their spouses, my precious husband….. There was absolutely no head space left for the asshats I was so worked up about.

And everyone showed up at the party and it was just fine. As a matter of fact, as we were choosing which table to sit at, I looked over and noticed that the offending relatives were sitting all alone. I just looked at my husband and said, “Let’s go sit with them.” And we did. And it was – fine. Really fine! I felt like I was adulting like a champ. I had the upper hand with them, was gracious and friendly – and I have no idea where it came from.

The party was really nice, everyone had a good time – even me! And I was home and in my pjs by 8:30.

I just had to share, as we head into the summer, with its graduation and summer and 4th of July parties – maybe try stocking your mental shelves with gratitude before you head out? It just might help, more than you can imagine!

Even More Gratitude for a High Bottom

Something happened last week that I’d like to tell you about. This story is aimed especially toward anyone who’s sitting on the fence, suspecting that their relationship with alcohol isn’t healthy, but not sure if that’s a good enough reason to quit. After all, you probably have a successful career, marriage, happy family…. You’re fine! You’ve never had to deal with any negative consequences of your drinking, right?

I totally get where you are – I was there too, for many years.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the main reasons I decided to quit drinking was the fear that I would do something under the influence that would hurt one of my grandchildren. Thankfully – I stopped before anything like that ever came to pass.

Our youngest granddaughter is almost two. She lives six minutes away and we see her several times a week. This child is a miracle – born to our older daughter after a pregnancy fraught with complications that I’d never heard of before – complete with an emergency c-section delivery that was completely harrowing.

In her short time on earth, she’s been hospitalized two or three times with viruses and high fevers. She has asthma. And peanut, tree nut, and cat allergies. You’d never know it by her appearance or the way she talks and plays and sings. To say that she’s precious to us is an understatement of epic proportions.

So last weekend was rainy and chilly. I had a hankering for homemade sauce and meatballs. We invited our daughter, son-in-law, and this little one over for dinner.

I’m happily tending to the sauce and boiling spaghetti. For some reason I may never understand, a little voice in my brain says, “Check the pasta boxes.” So I go to the recycling bin and pull one out. I’m struck dumb when I read the ingredients: made with chick pea and lentil flour. Both are legumes and could have caused – no, WOULD have caused – a pretty dramatic allergic reaction. So I told my daughter what I discovered and we quickly regrouped. Little sweetheart did have Grandma’s meatballs, cottage cheese, and corn. Strange combination, but she loved it.

But here’s the thing: if I hadn’t made the decision to quit drinking, I know myself well enough to know that I would have had two or three glasses of wine already on an afternoon just like that one. (Pasta and sauce? You HAVE to have wine, right?) And if I even heard that little voice, which I doubt, I’m reasonably certain that I would have ignored it.  The results would have been awful: for her, for her parents…. And most definitely for me.  I would never, EVER have forgiven myself.  And the entire situation would have been a direct result of the muddled state of mind that I routinely inflicted upon myself by drinking.

By nature, I’m not a hand-wringer or a worrier.  I’m not big into wasting my time with “what-ifs.”

But I know, in the very core of my being, that I dodged a HUGE bullet last weekend.  Another reason I’m so incredibly grateful that I stopped drinking when I did.

Glorious Chaos

The kids all came over for dinner yesterday, to celebrate Mother’s Day. My husband had ordered specialty pizzas from my favorite place, along with these incredible, pizza oven baked, lemon-juice-and-olive-oil marinated chicken wings. Our son brought dessert and one of our sons-in-law brought two delectable salads he’d made. And homemade Gorgonzola vinaigrette. I was in food heaven!

By the time my son and his family arrived, our three year old granddaughter had fallen asleep in the car. She was carried in, snoozing contentedly, and lovingly placed in the middle of our bed and surrounded by pillows, to continue her slumber.

When she was awakened for dinner, it was discovered that she had peed on our comforter. It’s one of those big puffy ones that has to be cleaned in a commercial washing machine. I was a little unsettled, and went to determine just how much of our bed would need to be stripped and laundered. Luckily, nothing had soaked all the way through the bedspread so that was all that needed washing.

So, we sit down to dinner. Everyone’s laughing and talking and passing things at the table. My son goes to pick up one of the bowls of salad – which was heavier than he expected. The bowl slips out of his hand, and he inadvertently knocks over his bottle of beer. It goes sloshing across the table and onto his niece’s plate of food. This sweet toddler has recently been diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies, so her Mama prepares her food very carefully.  Into the trash her dinner went, and some homemade frozen soup had to be defrosted for her dinner instead. Much mopping up and apologizing ensued….

At the end of the evening, after everyone left, my husband and I headed up to the laundromat at about 8:30.  This was the view as we sat and chuckled  about the events of the day.


And we laughed as we talked about how grateful we are that we HAVE children and grandchildren living within 20 minutes of us who can spill beer all over the dining room table and pee our bed.

I silently contemplated how differently I would have reacted to mishaps like this a couple of years ago.  Maybe not outwardly, but – I would have been SO massively annoyed, especially about being inconvenienced by the trip to the laundromat.  And no one but me would know how much I resented my “down time” (i.e., drinking time) being cut into. I was so incredibly calm and NOT stressed out.

Truly a Mother’s Day to remember.

Addition by Subtraction

Last weekend we went to a concert .  Our local philharmonic was playing, featuring the music of Elton John.  His music comprised a huge chunk of the soundtrack of my youth. One of the first songs they played was “Daniel.”  Admittedly, it’s a sad song – and I felt the tears start to well during the opening notes.  I was overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia and regret and gratitude.

The nostalgia piece is probably obvious…. I spent hours as a young teenager, sitting cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom in front of the record player listening to “Madman Across the Water” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  Memorized the lyrics written inside the album cover, singing along with every song.  It brought back memories of the girl I was, with my entire life ahead of me. I’m at a point in my life where there’s more of my life behind me than in front of me, and I guess I’m getting nostalgic in my old age.

And I had one of those “time-removed-from-time” moments: when you step outside of yourself and view your circumstances with such clarity and perspective that it feels almost other-worldly. I was so acutely aware of how the old, pre-sobriety me would have most likely approached an evening out like this one.  I would have suggested dinner out first – most likely with a cocktail first, and then wine with the main course.  The concert hall had several bars set up – I would have insisted that we wait in line to purchase overpriced glasses of wine to sip either before the concert or during the intermission.  Then I would have been a little “itchy” as the evening wore on, anxious to get home and have even more drinks.  Because it’s the weekend.  And a special occasion, of course.

And finally, the gratitude that washed over me was all-encompassing. Almost overwhelming.  It occurred to me that I was absolutely present and living in the moment – loving every second of the concert and so gloriously, acutely aware that this new way of life is a gift and a blessing.

I was struck by this feeling that I’d  been asleep for so long, focusing too often on the wrong things – and I’ve spent the better part of the past 20 months honing in on how to create a new life for myself. Without a trap door or escape hatch.  I’m just now fully waking up and appreciating the gifts that have been right in front of me for so long.

This sober life, that I was so terrified of – is so completely amazing.