Tag Archives: alcohol

A Nice Cold One

Standard

The reasonable voice says
Don’t panic.
But the panicky part in me
panics like never before.
So many questions.
So much uncertainty.
I hear the liquor stores are doing great right now.
It makes sense.
When faced with so much uncertainty,
and you have to stay home,
and you’re around your famly
for longer stretches of time than usual
and you don’t know how to do this…
A nice, cold one sounds like a great idea.
I’d like to tell everyone to wake up,
because that’s my job as a yoga teacher.
But I’m unemployed right now, sitting home,
alone because my kids are with their dad.
I look in my fridge. Virtually empty.
Do I risk going to the store?
A nice, cold one would be really great right now…

Expressing Not Imbibing

Standard

Realizing I can simply relax and have fun
without needing to impress anyone,
I observe many faces at a party.
Loud music, drinks sloshing here and there;
am I the only one not drinking?
There is a blank book
and an invitation to write
birthday well-wishes,
Aha! Writing! My drug of choice.
Is my sense of relief
at having something to do
some form of avoidance behavior?
I cover a few pages with drawings
and words, glad to be expressing
rather than imbibing.

Yay Sobriety

Standard

This happened.

My mother, father,
sister and her boyfriend,
my husband and children
were sitting in a nice restaurant
to celebrate my birthday.

Some of you know
I have chosen
to not imbibe the fermented fruit of the vine,
and you also must know
that this puts me in the minority
of the adult population.

So I, my daughter, and son
sipped on our water,
while the five other adults drank,
two of them to excess.

I attended to my children,
enjoyed giving them bites
of delicious food,
sharing my salad and entree with them,
engaging them in conversation.

My husband,
bless his heart,
and to his credit,
did make an effort to engage with me
between sips of beer,
and we exchanged some pleasant words
in the course of the dinner.
He only had two beers and a glass of champagne.
Surely, this is moderation, is it not?

But inside, I felt lonely.
This was supposed to be my birthday celebration,
and the adults were focusing on their booze,
becoming loud, intoxicated…

I found myself looking around
at the others in the restaurant,
wondering about their conversations,
guessing that they were surely
more interesting
than what was unfolding at my table.

My family,
with its history of alcoholism,
couldn’t help itself.
The alcoholism had to follow us into this dinner,
even though the guest of honor
doesn’t drink.

What would you do,
if you felt lonely at your birthday dinner?
Would you have put your foot down?
Would you have said something?
Would you have withdrawn?

I tried to be kind and present,
but I couldn’t help feeling wistful.

Afterwards my sister was belligerent,
verbally aggressive…
because this is what happens when she drinks too much.
She yelled, gestured,
said she didn’t need anything from anyone,
and passed out in my bathroom.
She has done this many times before.
I wish I could help her,
but I know that I can’t.
She needs to help herself first.

And now, more than ever,
I see that my sobriety,
my clarity,
my lucidity,
my health
is one of the greatest birthday gifts
I can offer to myself…
and to the world.

Yay, sobriety.

Together in Our Own Personal Haze

Standard

It’s Christmas,
and we’re all here together again,
so…
what should we do?

I know!
Let’s pour ourselves a glass of wine,
some eggnog,
let’s drink a beer.

Put something in your hand
so that it will have something to do.
You won’t feel awkward
with something in your hand,
something to sip.

There, that’s better now,
take another sip.

Bathe your brain in some poison
So that laughter and smiles
will come more easily,
so that you will be more talkative
with those you seldom see.

It’s okay, we won’t judge,
we’re all doing it.
And heck,
the red wine provides antioxidants
which are good for heart health,
so, we should be drinking it anyway, right?

Hush up liver,
no whining!
it’s Christmas–
time to let loose,
to celebrate,
to be together
in our own personal haze.

Longing for Connection

Standard

At the outset of this blog project nearly one year ago, I found myself wanting to explore the idea of creative recovery, how to pierce through the noise of my emotional system and delve into the creative, inspired self that can be expressed outwardly as writer, artist, crafter, teacher, mother, dancer…endless expressions of this indwelling creative spirit embodied as Lorien.

As I began to move through the Twelve Steps with the idea of my creative recovery in mind, I explored the idea of addiction and experiences surrounding this theme in my life; how I perceived my family’s relationship with alcohol, with anger, with hoarding, to name a few.  I started to see how alcohol use and abuse has been normalized within my family, and how choosing not to drink made me part of a slim minority. I am glad to have found clarity though; I didn’t need their approval or support to make this choice–it just seemed like the most loving thing I could do for my body, mind, and the people around me to choose to be substance free.

Having been completely alcohol free for almost a year and a half, I find myself even more sensitive to the use of alcohol in social settings. I don’t miss it, so I’m not worried about a relapse or anything; I never considered myself an alcoholic although I have displayed some unhealthy behaviors during my adult years.

The fact of my being completely sober threw into sharp relief the behaviors of my family members who were drinking, and I found myself wishing for authentic connection with them in the absence of alcohol use.  But how to meet them where they are?  How to be loving, regardless?

Is it unrealistic of me to hope for my family members to choose sobriety?  Is it futile? I want to know them, to be present to them, to listen, but it’s challenging when they are becoming more loud and aggressive with each sip.

Anybody out there have thoughts on being the only sober one in a group of people who are under the influence?

Thoughts After the Party

Standard

My husband and I attended a party tonight,
A surprise birthday party for a friend turning 40.
There was a feast laid out for us on the kitchen table
and everyone was well on their way to inebriation
by the time we arrived.

I have been intoxicant free for nearly two years now,
and I haven’t looked back, not one time.
Sure there have been moments where I felt curious,
Would I enjoy the taste of wine, of beer, now?
But nothing so serious that it would drive me to taking a sip.

I stopped drinking out of solidarity
with my husband who wanted to take a break,
and continued to stay 100% sober out of solidarity
with myself
when husband decided to go back to moderate drinking
six months later.
Sometimes I wish he were still intoxicant free,
but that’s just me.

I mean, how many people in our western consumerist society
actually want to give up the booze completely?
Not many.

And I don’t need anyone else to make my choice,
it is my own, and that’s really all I need to know.
To feel clear in the morning,
to stand in front of my students with my whole self,
to sit in meditation and smile in my liver
to go further inwards and see that there are no demons hiding,
this clarity is so completely worth it,
no one needs to convince me or join with me.

I don’t need anyone else to make my choice;
it is my own, and that’s really all I need to know.

What to Do Instead of Drinking

Standard

We celebrated my mom’s retirement tonight, just six of us, at dinner in the Waterfront Kitchen, overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  I noticed when I sat down that my sister and her boyfriend–who had arrived fifteen minutes before the rest of us– were nursing martinis.  My mom promptly ordered a cocktail.  My dad produced a bottle of distilled water he had brought from home; he always does that. My husband and I just drank the water the restaurant served.

Wine glasses were brought out and wine poured as we began our appetizers.  I noticed my husband was growing agitated, and I asked him what was going on.

“I feel like such a prude,” he said.  “A glass of wine would be nice.”

“Well have one then,” I told him.

“I won’t drink if you won’t.”

“Well, I’m not drinking tonight, but it’s fine with me if you want to, I can drive home.”

He opted out, but continued to seem pretty agitated; I attributed this to his being hungry and was hoping that he would mellow out once he got some food in his belly.  Here we were in a nice restaurant, the kids were at home with a sitter, and we could just relax and enjoy our meal.  Why let a dilemma about drinking detract from this fresh experience?

I watched my sister and mother drink more.  They started getting a little louder, a little more animated.   My dad, who is much more conservative with his consumption of alcoholic beverages, worked slowly on a glass of wine as he took careful bites of his entree. My sister’s boyfriend encouraged my husband to go ahead and have a glass if he wanted one. I was secretly glad that he decided not to.

So much of our drinking is simply out of habit.  A lot of it arises from social pressure–everyone else is drinking, I might as well have one too.  Why–and how–have we normalized the act of ingesting this powerful intoxicant when we know full well that it’s dangerous, and that ultimately it poisons us?  And why don’t more of us question this behavior?

I sat there thinking about all of the things I could do instead of drinking:

1)  Stay clear-headed and really listen to what the people around me are saying.
2) Take in the environment around me.  Observe.  Listen more.
3) Be aware of my thoughts.  Challenge the thought that I would be more comfortable if I would let loose with a drink.  Challenge the thought that catching a buzz is “fun.”
4) Sit up a little taller in my chair.  Take a deep breath.  Take another deep breath.
5) Remember that all of this apparent activity in the realm of the senses is simply a play of shadows cast over a timeless ground.  For one moment, hold the awareness that we all are of source energy, expressing it as individual bundles of energy, all emanating from the same source.
6) Respect everyone’s freedom to live in accordance with their own set of values.  Be loving and kind and appreciate the individual’s expression of his or her uniqueness.  Be the opposite of judgmental. Be tolerant.  Accepting.
7) Revel in the fact that my liver doesn’t need to work overtime to filter toxins out of my body.  Look forward to waking up tomorrow hangover free.  Feel a little smug and elitist about my healthy choice.  Catch myself feeling smug and elitist, and take another deep breath.

Yes, I had a lot going on as I sat there at dinner tonight.  Even as I watched my husband battling it out in his head about this choice to stop drinking (it has been since August), I was so clear about my choice, so in my integrity, that I was able to feel compassion for everyone there, just doing the best they can with their current resources and motivations.

I watched waiters bustling around, I heard people talking and laughing.  I smelled delicious food and enjoyed tasting so many different flavors.  I have discovered that not drinking has sharpened my senses measurably; I enjoy my food even more, and the simple taste of water leaves me content.  Not drinking has simplified my life; it’s a blessing to enjoy what is right there in front of me.  I am grateful I chose to stop.  My body is too.

And I don’t have the guilt I had before, knowing that I was putting strain on various important organs in my body.  What was driving me to drink before?  Did I just want to cut loose?  To have fun?  Did I want to blend in?  What the heck is this kind of reasoning?

Yes, there is much to do instead of drinking alcohol, but even so, I can drink with the best of them. Next time I find myself in a social situation where people around me are drinking, I’m going to pour myself a big ol’ glass of self love, smack my lips, and guzzle it down.

To your health!

Therapeutic Sharing

Standard

I saw my therapist today. It’s something I do every week, unless it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, or his three week summer vacation. I mentioned before that my decision to see a therapist regularly is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. I’m grateful for the safe space therapy provides, so that I may explore my life in a non-judgmental way, to be curious, to laugh about my neuroses, to hear feedback from someone who has been doing this for decades. I really look forward to therapy; it’s time to be myself, to not have to take care of anyone else. It’s a breathing space. It’s a time to rest. Even if I’m feeling emotionally charged and I begin to cry, there is still something so restful about just sitting there, sharing what’s on my mind, and being heard.

Today I brought up my blog and the direction I decided to take with the Twelve Steps. I heard myself saying, “I won’t have a sponsor, and I won’t attend group meetings, but I’ll work through these steps.” And then I thought, Well, why shouldn’t I attend meetings? Why shouldn’t I have a sponsor? 

Am I afraid of going through with it all the way? I have been telling myself that my Twelve Step work isn’t the same as the person who is recovering from alcohol addiction, or the one who is trying to stop sticking themselves with needles. My work isn’t the same as someone who is addicted to sex or binge eating or…is that true?

My therapist said, We all have our addictions.

I found out recently that people do in fact attend Twelve Step meetings for dealing with anger, which kind of blew me away, because I always thought the Twelve Steps mainly revolved around people recovering from substance abuse, and then perhaps sexual addictions, and addictions to food.  But anger?   My therapist related to me an anecdote of a guy who described his fits of rage as mood altering, like any drug–and I was struck by the truth of it. When I get to the point where I’m feeling put upon over and over and over again, and that feeling accumulates and then resentment consumes me and I explode… just after that explosion, I’m not feeling put upon any more. I’m feeling really charged up, really on fire, full of energy, but I’m not feeling put upon. After I explode, my mood has been altered, like it would be altered on alcohol or pot or a whole bar of chocolate. Okay, maybe not in the exact same way as alcohol or pot or chocolate, but it has been changed in some way.

So today I’m thinking I might try to find a Twelve Step group near me. I don’t know if I will find one that deals specifically with anger, but maybe I’ll find a welcoming space where people are working through their own addictions and I’ll be able join with my energy and intentions. I’m starting to see that being a part of a group is a big deal in this whole Twelve Step process. I thought that I would sort of just tra-la-la through a year of the Twelve Steps in my own mind, on this blog, with anyone in cyber space who wanted to comment–but having real person to person contact, hearing other people’s stories, and experiencing the collective energy of people who are doing this tried and true work together–I suspect that I might experience greater transformation this way.

I haven’t addressed my readers before, because I thought this was going to be a project just for myself (and I kind of assumed that no one would be reading anyway)…but as time goes on, I get surprised by people liking, commenting, and even following this blog. Which means I have a few readers out there, which means a whole lot to me. So I guess I’m going to address you now. Have any of you been to Twelve Step groups before? Have any of you worked through all of the Twelve Steps? What is the greatest benefit of attending regular group meetings?

My therapist said that my idea to work through the Twelve Steps made a lot of sense. It came out of left field one day, which makes me think that something greater than my every day behaviors was calling to me to give this a try. And I’m listening now. Now, who wants to share?

 

Dragging My Feet to the Next Step

Standard

Yesterday I mentioned I’d be moving into the second of the twelve steps on my path to uncovering and rediscovering my creative self. I was hoping that the decision to weave in my work with the twelve steps and create some healthy structure for this blog would result in renewed excitement and enthusiasm, almost in the way that someone who has been muddling through darkness might feel when a light is switched on, and they can finally see where they’re going.  But that is not the case tonight. Instead of excitement and enthusiasm, I’m feeling lethargic right now, not much like moving at all. I don’t want to write, I don’t want to think, and I certainly don’t want to delve into my addictive emotional tendencies and attempt to summon the energy necessary to shed some light on how those tendencies continue to block me from realizing my greatest potential as a creative being. I can see what this lethargy is. It’s resistance, and I’m very familiar with it. As soon as I choose a path, I have many inner voices telling me I shouldn’t do it, that it won’t work, that it doesn’t matter, that it wasn’t a good idea to begin with. Luckily I’m familiar enough with this resistance to just take a deep breath and keep typing.

I feel like throwing out here–I guess kind of offhandedly–that my husband and I decided to stop drinking this past August, just like that. We didn’t call ourselves alcoholics, and our lives were certainly manageable at that point; there was no big aha moment that led us to cut ties with the drink. We just decided together that drinking wasn’t so great. It’s expensive, it’s not good for our health, and we just feel better without it.

Since I stopped drinking I’ve given a great deal of thought to our culture’s relationship with alcohol and how normal is its use and abuse; I’ve watched myself becoming secretly judgmental of others’ drinking habits, and have felt a need to protect my choice to be completely sober. My not drinking has made me a bit of an odd dog in my family; Thanksgiving, Christmas, just about any dinner would be strange without the accompaniment of several bottles of wine. There were a few looks of surprise and some silence slightly tinged with awkwardness the moment I explained that my husband and I just one day decided to stop.

Observing the members of my family drinking together at every gathering, I’ve caught myself going to this curious place in my mind and asking, Why do they have to drink every time we are together? What need does this drinking fill for them? What would it be like to connect with them without the effects of alcohol influencing their speech and behavior?

Questions like these spoken aloud might cause conflict. We have, after all, joined together as a society that enables its members to continue on with destructive habits by calling them normal. Take drinking, for example. When people drink, they are having fun, letting loose, celebrating, taking the edge off…By confronting the thing that is normal and questioning its place in our lives, I might become a threat, something to be taken down, something to be trivialized.

I also have discovered in my life that people don’t take too well to my requests for them to change their behavior. It just never works. It might be my delivery, or it might be the fact that people just want to be loved for who they are right now, but my asking someone to entertain the idea of reducing or even eliminating the use of something that they are attached to just doesn’t go over very well. Go figure.

Little by little I’ve learned to stop looking at everyone around me, asking them to change, and instead turning the focus on myself, and asking how I can change. I think it’s called becoming an adult, or something like that.

All of this thinking about other people’s substance use and the distance I’ve taken from substances has led me to believe that we’re all addicted to something. If I’ve completely eliminated the use of intoxicants from my life, where else will my own addictive tendencies play out?  If anything, sobriety has given me the clarity to see the depth of the problem, and how much work I need to do to find out who I am underneath all of the behaviors I’ve inherited and learned and absorbed growing up in a society where alcohol and drug use is a rite of passage into adulthood, something to be praised and celebrated and encouraged.

What else am I addicted to? In the absence of mind-altering substances, I see that my fear and anger run deep, and that there is no end to the currents of self-denigration that course through my mind every waking moment. It’s enough to drive one to drink. But it’s also thoroughly entertaining, this human drama–this poignant, real as day, continuous unfolding of the many layers of my self.  There’s something so seductive about letting myself explode with anger, stomping and screaming and lashing out. It is so familiar to listen to the voice that says I don’t do anything well, that I will always be a failure. With no substances to mask these feelings, I see that I’m addicted to my anger and my self-hate. And this is a big problem, too big for me to handle on my own.

So here I am, seeking change, seeking understanding, knowing that there is something better beyond my ingrained patterns of thought and behavior. Here I am, asking for something else, something bigger and more powerful than I to step in and show me a different way.

Here is the second of the twelve steps:

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Sanity. It has a nice ring to it, but I need to figure out what the greater power is for me. The enormity, perhaps even the impossibility, of defining “greater power” makes the second step seem out of reach. It’s a relief to come across passages like this one:

When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our own conception, however limited it was. We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. – “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?” As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built. 
-A.A. Big Book p.47 

I liked this one too:

The process of coming to believe is something that we seem to experience in similar ways. One thing most of us lacked was a working relationship with a Higher Power. We begin to develop this relationship by simply admitting to the possibility of a Power greater than ourselves. Most of us have no trouble admitting that addiction had become a destructive force in our lives. Our best efforts resulted in ever greater destruction and despair. At some point we realized we needed the help of some Power greater than our addiction. Our understanding of a Higher Power is up to us. No one is going to decide for us. We can call it the group, the program, or we can call it God. The only suggested guidelines are that this Power be loving, caring and greater than ourselves. We don’t have to be religious to accept this idea. The point is that we open our minds to believe. We may have difficulty with this, but by keeping an open mind, sooner or later, we find the help we need. 
– Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 2

The path is wide open, and the only thing that can hold me back is myself. Parts of me might be afraid, suspicious, and doubtful of this work, and rapid progress seems unlikely. So okay, baby steps. I might have dragged my feet on this one, but I still took a baby step. And it doesn’t matter how big the steps are, after all. Each one brings me a little closer back home to myself. Maybe someday I’ll get to this place where I can love and celebrate each small step along the path. Maybe that could happen tonight, right now.

Tonight I celebrate this little step I’m taking. I’m glad I’m here.