There are a few tiresome, well-used names and labels in our culture that I absolutely do not embrace. One of those is “Alcoholic”. It is absurd and ridiculous to me to label someone as diseased, piling on a load of shame while singling them out as weak, unable to control their addiction, somehow flawed. We are all brainwashed, nearly from the time we enter the world, by a society that bombards us with advertising, media, and role models that birth and incessantly compound the belief that alcohol is cool, enhances social skills, helps us relax, sleep, connect with others, have better sex, look and feel more attractive, ultimately live a better, happier life. I was duped along with so many others to believe wine was good for me, pleasurable, helped me relieve the stress of the day. I romanticized wine as much as any connoisseur, nearly worshipping it, until it nearly destroyed me, slowly but surely. It abhors me the way alcohol, all forms of booze really, are held in high esteem by the masses. Booze is celebrated as an elixir by athletes, even the Yoga and spiritual communities are including it as a reward, a treat. Multitudes of otherwise supremely healthy people succumb to the perils of addiction, starting at a young age, curiosity leading to experimentation, perhaps with an innocent exploration into mom and dad’s liquor cabinet, then later as they get older, a night out with friends, high school shenanigans, ultimately some binge drinking here and there at a party. Many previously innocent young people find themselves unable to control their need to drink poison in its many well-disguised forms. For some of us, this is a process that covers decades. We find ourselves turning to booze to erase the stress of the day, to escape uncomfortable, unwanted feelings, overwhelm, to procrastinate dealing with situations that are worrisome, dreaded, frightening. The amounts of alcohol consumed increase with the level of addiction. Body, mind, and spirit fall under the spell of the Booze Bitch, her sly and underhanded cleverness is irresistible.
Another label that makes many cringe, and one in which I still struggle with, is “God”. When I first embarked whole-heartedly on my spiritual journey, seeking to connect with my higher power, wanting to establish a true and deep personal relationship, I had no desire to use the word “God”. It had been shoved down my throat for too long. The image of a white-bearded, powerful, sometimes punishing and ever-willful “old man in the sky” who had complete control over me and to whom I absolutely could not relate, did not work for me. When I thought of my higher power as nature, the energy of love and beauty everywhere that brought me joy and peace, it was easy to have a relationship, a deep and abiding love, for that Deity. I still prefer to call my beloved higher power “Source”, or “Universe”, “Nature”, or simply “Love”.
Names and labels we put on people and things, can cause alienation. On this sober journey, my preferred term for making the choice to break up with booze, is FREE. I have decided I deserve to have clarity, a sound mind and body, supreme health and wellness. FREE and CLEAR is what “Sober” means to me. “Choice” is liberating. Understanding what causes addiction, researching the science behind addictive substances and their effect on us, how our culture’s propaganda leads so many into addiction and then slaps a gruesome label on them, makes it easier to break free from the hold of dependence on booze. Learning how easily addiction can happen to anyone regardless of genetics, regardless of constitution, independent of status, age, or circumstances, is eye opening, expansive, and ultimately a huge relief. I am not flawed. I am not weak. We are not “less than”. We are MORE. We are FREE. Knowledge and awareness of the truth about alcohol supports the decision to take control of our lives, to shift our mindset from one of romanticizing ethanol in its infinite forms to seeing alcohol for what it really is, poison. We then can make the powerful choice to walk away from the poison and JUST SAY NO. We are FREE. Let’s celebrate!
Every decision I make comes from a desire. My decision to stop drinking alcohol came from the desire to regain my vitality, to feel great, to live my best life. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My life has included making some very difficult decisions-quitting drinking was definitely one. No longer being part of the boozing population is a huge adjustment. What we focus on, grows. I have focused on how much better I feel, and look, and sleep. And how much more productive I have become. My days off of late have included an incredible amount of creativity in the kitchen. I have had a blast making all sorts of delicious dishes, and my fridge is full!
My decision to leave each of my two long marriages after many years together, came from an overwhelming feeling of discomfort and unease, which grew unbearable over time. I had intense fear but also a powerful desire to find out who I was without a husband. Throughout these years of being single, I have learned to love who I am, to enjoy my own company. I feel settled, confident, trusting, grateful, peaceful, I experience immense joy being with myself. The journey to this place was not short or easy, but vastly rewarding. And now I am ready to welcome a new mate into my life, someone with whom I can share all the ups and downs of this adventure.
My decision to move to where I live now, back in Spring of 2016, also came from a desire – a desire to live in a beautiful place where I feel safe, comfortable, look out over rolling hills, surrounded by open space and beauty everywhere. A place where I have connection with others who are always there if I need something, just steps from my front door. I absolutely love where I live.
My professional life decisions have all come from instinct, intuition, feeling. Many times I have suppressed my feelings of discomfort because they were terribly inconvenient (I never imagined I would go through a divorce!) or the timing was wrong, or it just wasn’t the right thing to do at that time. Sometimes suppressing those feelings made me ill. I had a bout of very deep depression when I refused to admit my unhappiness in a relationship. Our spirit talks to us all the time, in all sorts of ways to get our attention. When we refuse to listen, when we continue to ignore our stresses and our pain, eventually she shakes us awake, sometimes violently.
A year ago, the decision was made to dissolve a 7 year business partnership that wasn’t working. I had always been the financial support for the substantial number of various business expenses, which had added up to amounts I could not longer defend in good conscience. I watched my savings dwindle to frightening lows. I know better than to place all the blame on my partner or on myself. I never fooled myself about our shortcomings. The lack of results we experienced was due to our mutual behaviors, equally divided between us; our learned habit of coming up with excuses for why things weren’t accomplished, our lack of accountability, follow through, organization, urgency – we just weren’t the right team to make the business profitable. I knew dissolving that partnership was necessary, and yet it took a good three years of feeling frustrated, deeply disappointed in both myself and our lack of actions as partners, along with the dread and fear of completely running out of money, before it actually happened. When it did happen, it wasn’t something I had yet summoned the courage to initiate. Fortunately, my partner realized dissolving the bond between us was the right thing for her as well as for the business. I still have huge hopes and dreams for my business, my creation, my baby- so I was lucky it evolved the way it did. Now I have full ownership of the business again. I will patiently await full clarity about the direction(s) I take before I make any big decisions. I am patient as I feel the excitement of being pulled in new directions with new ideas.
My recent job switch was based on a desire to feel valued, fulfilled, and part of a team, which was lacking in my recent year-long stint of employment. After almost exactly one month, I am quite pleased to say I made the right decision, despite the decrease in income. My new work life makes my heart sing. I am proud to be part of a team I admire, respect, and appreciate. I feel respected, highly valued, included, and influential. I love the fine art of service, and this position is all about service. I work every day with a woman I have known for many years, my employer, a woman I am honored to call my friend. I admire her talent, her abilities, her strength, her fortitude, and her straightforward communication. What a difference that makes!
My heart feels full every time I take the opportunity to share our mission with customers. I am a natural teacher, and I have opportunities to teach here. I also have lots of opportunities for growth. Patience is one area where my opportunity for growth is focused. Working with developmentally and intellectually challenged young adults, repeating instructions sometimes five or six times, needing to communicate slowly, clearly, carefully, and precisely, has been a good challenge for me. I feel myself growing as my heart expands when I get to witness their success. I know there are unlimited possibilities for me, for growing the business. We are actively spreading the word about who we are and what we do as a non-profit, communicating to surrounding populations about the amazing cuisine we offer. Recently we have received several five star reviews and customers tell us they love what we are doing. Witnessing that brings tears to my eyes. One day we will be able to again host amazing music concerts, celebrations, special events. That makes my heart sing. I wavered for a bit about my commitment to this employment as fear about paying my bills creeped in. I wondered if I needed to supplement my finances by taking on another job. I sat with the combination of those two fields of thought and realized one was based in fear, the other in love and happiness, trust, and confidence. You know the decision I made. I am very happy to have the clarity that brought me to knowing I belong here, that solid feeling in my gut that told me to stay, to grow here, to learn and expand and evolve, right here. I am proud of myself for my continued sobriety (168 days today!) and I am proud of being part of this wonderful business. Clarity brings so much peace!
Today is my birthday! I blame my exuberant celebration of birthdays (not just mine but also family and friend’s birthdays too) on my parents. My dad had always been doted on by an adoring mother who felt the world revolved around him. My mom, on the other hand, had felt the opposite. Although her mother was sweet and loving, she was oppressed and silenced by a stern, seemingly cold husband and they never had money for anything other than bare essentials throughout her childhood. Because of this combination; my mother wanting her children to feel ultra special on their birth day to make up for what she lacked, and my father carrying on the tradition of ensuring the thorough spoiling of the birthday celebrant, I grew up feeling like a princess on my birthday. Mom would always make an adorable theme-related and delicious birthday cake for me, and there was a party. Always a party. I remember childhood friends in my young years laughing and playing and having a blast, and of course, the sensational experience of all the presents with my name on them. Birthdays were magical in my childhood. The curse of growing up being spoiled on my special day was assuming I would continue to be put on a pedestal on September 19 throughout my adult life, which as you can imagine, made it challenging for any partner who found themselves in the cloud of my expectation on the eventful day. I was rarely disappointed though. I guess I picked mates that understood I wanted to feel that thrill of princessdom, to be honored and enamored, because for the most part, it did happen year after year. I seem to have chosen friends, too, who are willing to carry on the tradition absent of male partners. Lucky me!
I absolutely spoiled my boys on their birthdays as they grew up, which must have driven their father and stepfather a bit nutty. Not possessing my mother’s talent of elaborate cake making and decorating, I instead spent a lot of money on beautiful bakery cakes decorated with whatever superhero or cartoon theme was most important to that child at the time. There were clown birthdays, superhero birthdays, Pokemon birthdays, treasure and scavenger-hunt birthdays, gaming birthdays, birthdays at kid-friendly arcades, swimming pool birthdays, game-filled birthdays, and endless gifts. I admittedly overspent to the extreme for birthdays for my boys, but no doubt they felt honored and cherished on their celebrated days. I continued that with friends, gifting in great big ways, wanting my friend or partner to feel like a million bucks on their special day. Naturally, this has pros and cons, but ultimately, I have no regrets.
This morning, I find myself reflecting on birthdays past. This is my first sober birthday since I can remember, probably since my teen years. Birthdays always involved some form of alcohol. One of my birthdays with girlfriends involved drinking bubbly all day long; each friend brought a bottle, and we had delectable cuisine that paired magnificently with the sparkling wine. Some birthdays are real stand-outs, like my surprise birthday at “The Rio Grill” post work shift, for my 30th. Thank you Kathleen, that was absolutely magnificent! My fortieth birthday was a fabulous surprise with loads of friends at a winery, magnificently orchestrated by my then hubby with live music and great fun – but it ended in extreme trauma, the beginning of the end of marriage number one. That is another story for another day. My favorite birthday memory is of my 9th birthday, when my parents presented me with a scruffy, dirty, adorable pony. My dad had convinced me, in response to my incessant, endless begging for a horse and absolutely nothing else for my birthday, that a horse was completely out of the question, that there was absolutely no way we could afford it, or house it, or take care of such a beast. He did a great job making me believe, in deep despair and feeling absolutely hopeless, that my biggest dream, my greatest desire, was never going to come true. When Dad surprised me the morning of my 9th birthday with Lexy the pony, a truly life-changing gift, it created one of the most magical days of my entire life. My therapist decades later claimed that monumental event was evidence my father lied to me, betrayed me with his insistence on an untruth, but I choose to cherish his scheme as true love and eagerness to delight his little girl.
My most recent birthdays, the past two years, were super fun and celebrated with dear friends at a local wine bar, connected to the man who was my on-again, off-again lover over these past five years. That is not happening this year. I have to admit there is sadness connected to the loss of the joy and love and laughter our connection held. But it is better we part ways, our lives are in very different places these days. Suffice it to say, I have had unforgettable birthdays, happy birthdays, sad birthdays, mundane birthdays, disappointing birthdays – an entire kaleidoscope of birthdays. For each of us, birthdays come every year whether we dread them or look forward to their arrival.
For this next revolution around the sun, I am excited to celebrate my continued sobriety. My body and mind are healthier than I imagined possible as I embark further along the path of my life. I finally feel my best, full of vitality and eager for the new beginning of each morning. I have great big hopes and dreams and believe I can make them all come true. This blog is the substance for a book I feel I was born to write. I have been strategically planted in this powerful new movement that will ultimately have an enormous influence on many peeps – The Sober Movement. I feel thrilled to support, inspire, encourage, hold the hand, or crack the whip for anyone curious about discontinuing their dependence, addiction, self-medicating tendencies, numbing with, or in any way ready to divorce society’s ever present shiny penny, dangling jewel, disguised devil, glorified evil witch, whom I named “The Booze Bitch”. Let me know if you would like help in slaying The Booze Bitch. I have lots of tools in my sober tool shed, lots of tricks up my sober sleeve. I have been there, I know how hard it is, but yet how it is so simple. The sober island holds more beauty, more fun, more excitement and joy, greater connection, self confidence, trust, adventure – than any place I have encountered previously. Surfing the ever-thrilling, incredibly refreshing, unbelievably exhilarating, ultimately satisfying wave of sobriety in the best thing I have ever done for myself. Come on a sober Surfing Safari with me!
I wanted to take some time to write my own favorite benefits of sobriety after 152 days without swallowing a drop of alcohol, but I got involved in emails this morning, fascinated by a few which lead me down a different path than I had planned, and now I am nearly out of time. However, I did come across this wonderful post written nearly 5 years ago by a Sober Blogger named Marilyn Spiller in The Recovery Connection, and I can relate to each one in some way, from my own perspective. Perhaps you can too, or perhaps her words, and my words, will inspire you to step into the sober sphere. I’ll write my own list very soon. There is SO much to love about being Sober! I am sharing Marilyn’s blog post for you here:
The 12 Things I ADORE About Being Sober:
The Mornings: My very favorite thing about being sober is the way I feel when I open my eyes in the morning. I am well rested, I remember what I did the night before without a sense of dread, and I feel great. Tony the tiger “GREAT!” and ready to start a new day.
My Memory: I had gotten pretty good at faking it, but I couldn’t remember anything in my late stage drinking days – I was like a sham fortune teller, watching for body language clues to help me figure out what I was supposed to have done or said.
My Looks: Everything about my appearance is better: my hair, nails and skin; the whites of my eyes; and I finally lost the “Freshman 15” of sobriety – the weight I gained because I treated myself to anything but booze, including a newfound weakness for party-packs of Charleston Chews and Debby Snack Cakes…
The Length of the Day: Drinking three bottles of wine takes time. I’d go to bed with a glass of wine on the bedside table like a security blanket and in the morning I’d lean over and drink the dregs – starting the vicious cycle of a new, bleak day with too little time to do anything else…
The Night: If it happened after seven o’clock at night, I was not there. I missed weddings and funerals and the milestones of loved ones because I was too drunk to get up and go. There is such great joy now in an evening walk, or a party or just looking up at the stars.
The Freshness of My Emotions: Remember when the Grinch feels his face and it’s wet from crying and he’s like, “What is this?” That’s me. I spent so many years anesthetizing my feelings, I am as raw and emotional as a toddler, and it feels amazing.
My Energy Level: Drinking makes you sleepy and dumb. I have started working again (after a 20 year vacation) and I am shocked every day by how smart I am – how eager to learn new things and contribute, how energetic I feel.
Sleeping and Eating: I have had a lifetime of insomnia, constipation and bulimia – the trifecta of “women’s complaints” that have GONE AWAY now that I am sober. I eat. I sleep eight hours. I poop. Yay.
My Relationships: I think alcohol makes a person shallow and self-absorbed. I feel myself reaching out now: being friendlier and caring more about others than about myself. I have rekindled some relationships that were negatively impacted by booze, and I have formed many new friendships with those in the recovery community.
How I Cope With Stress, Sorrow or Disappointment: I used to deal with all my emotional triggers (death, taxes, lost love, slights, hurt feelings) by pouring a drink or ten. The way I handled the death of my friend, is the best way to emphasize the change in my behavior toward emotional setbacks. I dealt with it. In the moment and full on.
Community: I hate the term, but I think I was a “dry drunk” for a while. I transferred my alcohol addiction to processed sugar and coffee, I isolated and pouted. One of the saving graces of my sobriety has been my foray into community – (I’ll admit it) I sometimes force myself to get out, meet with friends, attend meetings and be a part of the world, and magically, I feel better.
My Faith: I danced with the devil for many, many years. This is not a metaphor – I actually tangoed with some really bad guys who took advantage of my vulnerability and my deep-seated insecurity. Last, but certainly not least, I have found solace and joy and strength in prayer.
Lots of folks these days, seem fired up about ending the stigma and/or shame of being in recovery, but I still see the labels of “alcoholic” and “addict” tossed about and used by some of the leading voices, and on progressive platforms. I know some things die hard but I’m all for retiring pathological and negative and hurtful labels. The sooner the better, preferably yesterday.
It’s okay if an individual wants to claim and wear a label,
IF it feels like their inner truth,
IF they find it empowering,
IF it fuels their resolve or constantly reminds them of the thing(s) they absolutely cannot mess with…EVER.
My problem lies with people and programs and groups that promote (or demand) taking on one of these labels as essential to a successful recovery. And here’s why…
1. The word alcoholic has no clear concise definition.
Look it up and you’ll find something like “a person suffering from alcoholism” and a list of synonyms like dipsomaniac, drunk, drunkard, heavy/hard/serious drinker, problem drinker, binge drinker, alcohol abuser, person with a drinking problem. And to all that I say: What on earth does any of that really mean? Is the drunkard the same as a person with a drinking problem? What’s a drinking problem? Who defines that? The person or someone else? Dipsomaniac is a new one if you want to get fancy. Try that out the next time someone asks why you aren’t drinking. Are binge drinkers alcoholics? Then about 80 percent of the kids on our college campuses are already alcoholics, more like 97 percent of the freshmen. What’s a problem drinker? What kind of problems? Is the person a problem or just that miserable hangover? Was it because they called in sick and didn’t go to work that day or did they go on a bender one Friday evening in Boca Raton and woke up Sunday morning in a Vegas hotel dressed only in stilettos and a red boa?
A word that means something different to everyone has no real meaning.
2. One of biggest proponents of the label “alcoholic” is Alcoholics Anonymous.
It’s the group name for God’s sake, and the history of that is completely understandable. I don’t have enough time and you don’t have enough attention span for me to elaborate on how much I love Bill W and Dr Bob for giving birth to the recovery moment and for the gift they gave to the world. But AA protects its 1930’s language like a hothouse flower. Can you imagine where medicine or psychology would be today if they truly feared that changing anything at all would be the ruin of the discipline and its value, that it would degenerate into a free-for-all total anarchy. Even the Big Book has a much more open “we suggest” or “in our experience” attitude than you will find in the culture that’s grown up around that program. Constantly identifying yourself as an alcoholic internally and out loud to the group feels very etched in stone. The First Commandment of AA. Maybe that’s why so many progressive recovery programs are dropping archaic, misunderstood, negative, shaming, baggage-laden labels completely.
SMART Recovery says Nope to labeling.
So does the Buddhist-based Refuge Recovery program, although oddly Noah uses the terms “addict” and “alcoholic” in the handbook. The meetings are absolutely not run that way. Just your first name, please.
3. The world has learned a few things about the brain and psychology and mental illness and the anatomy of desire and habit and the formation of addictions since the first recovery program began in the1930’s.
There’s a thing out there now called Positive Psychology that says we are better off focusing on the positive aspects of life, our strengths and virtues, the things within us that can help us flourish and grow and thrive. We might want to take on such mantras as “I can do hard things” or “I was made for this work” or “I am enough” instead of the phrase “I am an alcoholic” after our name. We have spiritual teachers and psychologists and therapists who are intent on helping us learn how to love ourselves, take care of ourselves, raise our self-esteem, release feelings of unworthiness and shame, heal our wounds, and use our imaginations to create new and better realities. They aren’t asking anyone to wear a stigmatizing label that has been used for centuries to shame and scorn. Addict, alcoholic, drunk…right up there with slut, bitch, whore (interesting how few sexually shaming labels history has conjured up for male behavior).
And last but not least, those damn labels are massive bricks in the wall that holds back what could be a tidal wave of people who could truly benefit from RETHINKING THE DRINK.
Millions and millions of people who don’t fit the label of “alcoholic” are ripe for re-evaluating the place alcohol has in their lives. In odd moments when they are questioning how much or how often they are drinking, they might wonder about that dreaded word, but then they do a little research and find their habits and drinking levels are not part of that picture.
They aren’t drinking any more than their friends. Most of the time they drink moderately but sometimes it gets away from them, and maybe those times seem to be getting closer together. They used to drink socially but now they like having wine with dinner, and that turned into a glass while cooking, and now one after dinner. Now we’re up to three but nothing else has really changed. Okay, on a Saturday night the last bit of that bottle disappeared too. We slept in late and missed the workout but that’s okay, coffee is waiting. Maybe they used to be weekend warriors but the job became so stressful and the work hours so long that weekends extended into weekday save-my-ass downtime. Maybe alcohol was never an issue but someone died or a love was lost or the job disappeared or some inexplicable depression hit or they started having anxiety attacks. It’s not great but it’s only temporary.
Alcohol creeps into our lives in so many ways and accelerates so slowly and quietly that we don’t see it coming…until one day we do. It might be a teensy wakeup call or something bigger, but that’s the day we say “This isn’t working anymore” or “I would feel so much better without this” or “I have to cut back” or maybe even “I have to quit for a while.” That’s the point where many of us find that moderating or cutting back is not that simple, or if it is, we can’t sustain it. Now the internal struggle begins, the promises we make to ourselves that we break. Over and over…and over. Our minds are no longer free because we’re so occupied with drinking or not drinking. Will we or won’t we. How long has it been? How much, how little. Alcohol and the place it holds in our lives has become unhappy making, an internal tussle, a silent struggle.
Those people, especially those people, would be so much better off if we just drop all the stigmatizing labels and all the toxic baggage those labels have been collecting since the first caveman distilled a few dandelions.
Am I an alcoholic? is not the question we need to ask and answer.
Are you concerned or even just unhappy about how much or how often you are drinking or how it makes you feel? It doesn’t matter how much or how often you are drinking. That’s ENOUGH.
Alcohol is an addictive substance and you don’t have to be diseased or genetically predisposed or special or broken or weak or anything but human to develop an issue with using it to make life more pleasurable or numb pain or feel more social or less anxious. And for God’s sake, you don’t have to call yourself AN ALCOHOLIC to take the steps you need to nip a questionable drinking trend in the bud before it blossoms any further. Because that’s what any addictive pattern does, it grows. Read the science, it’s just the way our beautiful miraculous brain works!
To conclude this convoluted mess, I love Tommy Rosen’s definition of the word disease: Dis-ease; Distance from ease.
If you’re “sober curious” …If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break…or if you have stopped drinking and are trying to stick to sober! Talk to Us.
We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using
A special HAPPY BIRTHDAY tribute to my beautiful mom, Bea. Mom, you were the quintessential Active Chick! It was appropriate that I create a business to empower and support women being active not only in nature, but in community. Your incessant caring, your desire and ability to reach out and make a difference in so many others’ lives, was something I absorbed. Your physical abilities were superior to most. Always a supreme athlete- a cheerleader throughout high school and college, you aced every sport. You were amazing on ice skates (!) spinning around and looking like a ballerina. At the gym (where you spent a lot of time!) everyone always told me “I want to be JUST like your mom!!”. I loved hearing that even as I grew weary of hearing it. You loved the water and everything related to it (me too!!). You were the one working out harder than the Instructor at Aqua Aerobics, you easily could have lead the class. I am surprised you didn’t instruct fitness classes, even into your seventies. You could put your whole leg behind your head and do the splits even well into your seventies. I so wish I had inherited your flexibility. Dad gave me my muscular legs and nice feet, but I would loved to have been blessed with your stretchy ligaments.
You were close to age fifty when we moved across the country to Deerfield, Massachusetts. I never really thought about how hard it must have been for you to leave thirteen years worth of deep, close friendships behind because Dad was let go of his amazing teaching position when that brutal new Headmaster was hired. That whole episode of life for all of us was somewhat of a nightmare. Then Dad got sick and none of us knew what was happening. That had to be excruciating for you, so lonely and sad. My heart bleeds for all the pain you endured, the feeling of alienation, the sadness at losing the love of your life. I adored hearing you talk to me about how you and Dad met in college, how he was the President of his fraternity and absolutely the life of the party, the most admired person you knew. I probably asked you to tell me those stories a hundred times. It was important for me to hold that love you felt for Dad in my own heart. He left our world way, way too soon. Then you met Bruce and had the blessing of a second great love for ten years until cancer took him down. Bruce was a gift in my life. His incredibly sharp wit and intellect, his humor, his stubbornness, his zest for life, his love for you and for me – he was a special person and I am beyond able to express how grateful I am to have known and loved him for those ten years. You made many beautiful, life long friends while we lived in Deerfield. Best of all, you and I bonded deeply in our mother-daughter friendship which lasted the rest of your life. The beginning of our deepest connection on that level was experienced as I navigated through the most excruciating year of my life, my senior year of high school.
You learned to ski both downhill and cross country when you were nearly age 50 in Massachusetts. You were so passionate as a downhill skier you traveled internationally to five different countries over the years to ski – all the way into age 80. I admired and adored you. I worked hard to learn to walk as fast as you, a metaphor for my endless attempt to keep up with you. Then I became you in many ways. My boys were blessed to have you as their incredibly loving “Grandma Bea”. You spent one on one time with them, so nurturing and playful. I recall coming to your home and finding you on the floor immersed in legos with Sean or cooking Tobin’s favorite spaghetti with butter. You let them know how much you loved them by your attention and your adoration. You cherished them, and they you. Now I have the role of Grama Judes and it is the best thing ever. I feel you in my heart intensely these days, more than ever. I feel the influence of your love in all the choices I make. I feel great appreciation for all the gifts I received from you. You were the perfect mom to teach me what I needed to learn this lifetime. I am still learning SO much. Your resilience upon losing not just Dad but later Bruce, your strength despite so much loss of family and loved ones, was an example of your amazing courage. You were a powerful role model. I also learned what not to do as I watched you unable to release the immense grief you felt at the loss of your son, my brother, Doug, which I believe ultimately caused your fatal illness. You kept all your grief inside, and it was intense. It festered and became your disease. I thought you would live to be 100, but grief can take us down. It took you down.
Thank you for your generosity over my lifetime. It was because of YOU that I was able to make my dream of having horses come true, and you were right there with me, with a horse of your own, riding and enjoying all aspects of the horsey life along with me. It was icing on the cake to witness you and Bruce getting horses and riding into the sunset of your golden years together. When I was young, you took on the majority of the responsibilities with the horses, but I learned enough to become a caring and responsible pet owner myself. I am grateful to have been raised with all the many dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, birds (including chickens), and various other critters we had growing up. You were a supremely loving pet mama and a beautiful example of how to treat animals. Your zest for life, your incredibly powerful love of music (your dedication to teaching piano) is instilled in me. You were adored by your students as their piano teacher for 52 years! Your over-the-top “social”, very extroverted personality, your beauty as you aged (you truly became more beautiful every year as you aged!), your amazing health and fitness, your vitality, are all part of me. Thank you. Thank you feels inadequate but you know how I feel. I love you SO very much.
Happy Heavenly Birthday! I miss you. And I know you are right here. Always. All Ways.
I was asked what made me start writing my blog, “Fiercely Sober”, which is material for my book.
Here is my reply:
My intention is to be part of the pro-sobriety movement, shifting preconceived notions that sobriety is dull, hard, or in any way less fulfilling than a booze-filled life. I hope to help booze go the way of cigarettes, with factual information showing the dangers of addiction for some individuals. I know many have a solid handle on imbibing and I never wish to be judging or intolerant of anyone who enjoys partaking. I have no problem being around it and still have a large collection of valuable wine. Changing our culture’s heavy pro-drinking influence, especially the marketing that portrays alcohol as socially acceptable, even a necessary component of having fun, marketing that makes us think we will be sexier and more attractive, more appealing with booze, represents alcohol as confidence-inducing, that it rids us of anxiety, will take a village- a sober village. I do envision a successful shift of our pro-alcohol culture to one based more on unbiased information not funded by corporations that profit from the sales of alcohol and alcohol-related habits. I want young people to be knowledgable about the consequences of addiction, the negative experiences that can occur. It is right that more people be made aware of the facts about addiction and the brain, how easy it is to become addicted to addicting substances of many types, how to spot the warning signs, how to gain control, and knowledge of the truths that un-romance wine and all forms of booze so people can be better informed to make wise decisions.
Part of the reason quitting drinking can be difficult is the physiological withdrawal symptoms that make us feel absolutely miserable, because our body and brain are addicted to The Booze Bitch and her toxins. Our body and brain become addicted to the ingestion of alcohol as we become regular drinkers, awaiting the deluge expectantly, ready to garner all possible defenses to battle the enemy and restore balance as soon as possible. All our organs work overtime to rid our bodies of the toxins we ingest. When we quit putting poison into our bodies, we slowly begin to detox. The cleansing of toxins in withdrawal causes a variety of symptoms, none pleasant.
I felt pretty miserable for the first 40 days after I stopped drinking. I increased my intake of greens, drank a boatload of water with lemon, forced myself to exercise even when it was the last thing I felt like doing. I slept more than usual during the day – it was quarantine so that was easy to do. I was gentle with myself, didn’t beat myself up for not feeling like doing anything. I indulged in my sugar cravings more than normal. I upped my vitamins and minerals. Everything I did to help support my detox was beneficial. So many people suffer much more than necessary because they are not aware of all the ways they can assist their body in returning to health.
There are many great supplements that can aid our withdrawal symptoms and help us feel better faster. It is totally OK to take medications or supplements that can help get us past the worst of the withdrawal discomfort. I kept going on my sober journey even through the “feeling rotten” stages because I knew beyond any doubt, returning to drinking would only ruin all my efforts and make it exponentially harder to stop in the future. I was dying to feel good again, desperate to regain some vitality. Once I started feeling better, really great (around Day 41), it was like my body had fully rejuvenated. I still take some of these supplements and vitamins, but my body is so happy and healthy now with my clean diet sans booze, I don’t need much. I recommend doing lots of reading and research before you quit. Read everything related to withdrawal. Gather a support system for accountability and comfort when you feel weak or low. If you are a heavy drinker wanting to quit booze, PLEASE seek medical assistance. Quitting cold turkey if you have been imbibing at very high levels (more than a bottle a day) can be life threatening, not worth risking.
I am dedicating this post to sharing the amazing business called “Fit-Recovery”. Chris Scott is a Pioneer and I am grateful to him for the excellent work he has done in the field of recovery, especially for the essential aspect of what our body (and brain) needs to regain total health. Here is his website, full of wonderful resources: https://fit-recovery.com/alcohol-withdrawal-vitamins-supplements-detox-recovery/
May you feel like a million bucks. I sure do, and better all the time! Slay the Booze Bitch. Sobriety is Sexy!
Sobriety brings many things to the surface, most of all feelings.
I never realized how much I was numbing my feelings. One of the many problems with numbing our feelings is that we can’t numb fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, depression, hopelessness, shame, resentment, and blame without also numbing all the good stuff. We don’t feel our joy, gratitude, inspiration, self confidence, trust, and excitement at their highest decibels when we numb out our scary emotions. Once I stopped numbing out, a part of me starting freaking out. Now what do I do when I want to scream, cry, run, hit something??! OMG, this road is not an easy one. I have done years and years and years of healing work on myself. I have been on an intense spiritual journey for two decades and devoted to my meditation practice for a full decade. But now I have to FEEL and FACE all my emotions? Woah.
These days I am seeing what an enormous gift it is to feel everything. Now that I have placed myself and my wellness at the highest spot on the pyramid of my priorities, I care a whole lot about how I am treated, whether I feel valued, respected, seen, heard, loved. The decision to care more than ever how I am treated by others has brought about some enormous new changes in my life. After a year of endless challenges along with huge growth and rediscovery of my true self, I gave notice at my work just after they offered me an incredible benefits’ package and full time hours, as my income reached its highest numbers. I am embarking on a new employment path that will deeply honor who I am; I will be utilizing my talents, my abilities, my skills, my light, my passion for team building, and my heart. This new direction fills me with excitement, eagerness, optimism, inspiration, and joy. I know it is meant to be, and I feel enormous gratitude. I will be collaborating with a powerful, amazing, highly accomplished woman I admire, love, and know well from years working together in the past in one of the best hospitality environments of my long career.
I finally closed the door on a relationship that has been on again, off again for over five years. I was deeply connected to this person, but I ultimately had to admit I felt more like a puppet on a string than someone he values at the level I deserve to be valued. I have always been available to him when he feels ready to be together. I have always worked my schedule around his convenience, always put him higher than he earned in my life. I forgave him all his indiscretions too easily. I took on guilt for things that were never my fault. I went along with his righteousness and placed him on a pedestal. I was one of his groupies, one of the many fans – the president of his fan club. I looked past all the problems and errors of his ways. I told myself I could live with all the parts of him that didn’t fill me with joy. I had illusions about us, about him. I held on senselessly to the hope he would stop drinking. Now that I see more clearly than ever, I can part ways without anger, resentment, or even sadness. I am finally feeling powerful again, unstoppable. Why would I want to be meek and vulnerable with someone who doesn’t deserve me? I have never been at the top of his priority list, why would I put him at the top of mine? It feels good to wake up and smell the coffee! I deserve better, and I know better is out there seeking me. Here I am! And I am ready for you. Let’s do this.
The espresso of my life is so sweet these days. When my drinking was completely out of control, when I kept promising myself I could moderate, take several days off my booze habit, just stop drinking – yet never succeeded in that goal, I lost all trust in myself. I stopped drinking alcohol because I got sick of feeling so rotten all the time. I got sick of waking up each morning with dread. I got sick of depression and anxiety haunting me at 3 AM. I got sick of tossing and turning most of the night and then taking an hour to force myself to throw off the covers and get out of bed in the morning. I got sick of my body aches, inflammation, lack of productivity, low self esteem, and procrastination. Now I leap out of bed at 4 AM and can’t wait to tackle new projects. My new work environment is bringing all sorts of exciting opportunities for me to build, create, inspire, develop, nurture, collaborate, shine, and love my life. I feel so thankful I can hardly express it. I have deleted what was causing me pain. I am FREE. I took the leap, and where I have landed on the other side is absolutely breathtaking. Risking it all and leaping with confidence, trust, and knowing is the bomb. I have found my holy grail. Sobriety is the new sexy!
Life is an obstacle course and how we navigate the obstacles is up to us. I have overcome some pretty great challenges in my days: incessant torment in early childhood by older brothers, bullying by playmates and others, sexual abuse both in childhood and adulthood, loss of my father early in adulthood and loss of my mother much later in my life, loss of a sibling in my arms, loss of many close relatives and dear friends, episodes of debilitating depression, addiction, moving multiple times-the first across the country just before my senior year of high school, two divorces, dissolution of a 7 year business partnership…I could write a novel about overcoming, about resilience. Perhaps that is why sobriety fits for me, it is the hardest and biggest example yet of overcoming.
Right now I have two major challenges showing up for me: my dogs (who have been with me their entire years, and together for 14 years), are at their very end of life. Tears are flowing as it feels unfathomable to not have them in my life. My other major challenge is my work life, my coworkers. I am an outsider there, an alien -very different in my perspective, my outlook, my personality, my style with customers. I feel excluded, criticized and shamed unfairly on a regular basis, made to feel very small at every opportunity. I make a great living and love my customers, love the owners, love my highest level supervisor; so there are lots of beautiful aspects of my job. I have a decision to make…
Sobriety brings everything to the forefront. Everything is bigger and brighter, including tragedy, crisis, joy, celebration -emotions of all kinds. I have an opportunity to develop a tough skin, or to move on. There is nothing I can do to change the fact that my dogs are old and close to transitioning, but I have a choice about whether I stay or leave my work. Yesterday was a good day, the most difficult person is off on Wednesdays, so that makes the day automatically better for me. My customers were awesome, as usual. I came home to perky dogs as opposed to early morning when I left for work. Sadie, my 14 year old yellow lab, looked desperate and miserable and I had a hard time parting ways but was reassured that my friend was going to check in on her repeatedly. She was a ton better by evening. So for now, all is well. I will choose wisely, no impulsive rash decisions. I trust myself completely. I am reactive and sometimes want to bolt, sometimes the pressure cooker’s lid threatens to fly off, but I am also in control and grounded. I will remember to breathe…I will remember I am loved…I will remember all the blessings in my life. Everything always works out for me. I am a cat who always lands on her feet. Resilience comes from confronting the seemingly impossible, leaping to the other side across the enormous chasm that separates despair from freedom. The result is that we ultimately find ourselves standing up again on our stronger and healthier two feet, brushing ourselves off, and stepping into the next chapter. I can do this. I have so many amazing opportunities awaiting, with or without this particular employment. I will choose what feels best for me. I am supported, I am resilient, I am invincible. I am woman, I roar!