Remembering Dad

Whenever I find myself on a deeply introspective healing journey, memories of my father always surface. I lost my dad when I was just a teenager. I didn’t grieve to the extent I needed to grieve. I didn’t acknowledge the enormous impact losing him had on my development, on my entire life from age 16 forward.

Dad was eccentric, loving, fantastically creative, a master at gardening and landscaping, strong, Mr Fix It, an extremely gifted teacher of all the sciences, brilliant, emotional, sensitive, affectionate, and stubborn. I inherited SO many traits from him. He was a writer who published articles about science, contributed to text books, and wrote a book about how education was destroying the joy of learning. He was light years ahead of his time. Maybe even more than light years ahead of his time. Dad won an award for his decision to implement oral exams to his students. He built an amazing gazebo right in our back yard (we had a very large back yard), and his students came in small groups, sat in the gazebo, and were tested orally on their knowledge of the subjects he taught. Can you imagine? There is NO hiding, NO cheating, NO faking it, you have to show what you know by speaking it. I wonder how many teachers do this, and why not? If I had been tested orally, I would have focused so much more on the subject. I would have felt it a lot more important to pay attention than to doodle. Dad was quite the leader of his time. His students voted him Teacher of The Year – I remember how proud he was of that honor. He was one of a kind.

Dad used to tell me, even when I was quite young, that he just couldn’t wait for me to fall in love, get married, and have children. Kind of odd, in a sense, that he was in a hurry to become a grandpa. He adored babies and children. Mom said he couldn’t stop holding the three of us when we were babies, that he absolutely adored each of us during infancy (and beyond). Dad had a gentle way and was playful. He also had a raging temper. I inherited that too, passion and intensity of feeling. Thank you Dad, I appreciate everything I got from you, especially the love of language and the written word.

Dad built a whole corral and barn so that I could have horses as a young girl. I was beyond obsessed with horses. I drew them, talked about them, begged to be taken around the corner to the Pony Rides place pretty much every day so I could ride the little ponies in the little circle over and over and over again. Dad surprised me with a pony on my 9th birthday after assuring me there was no way, not a chance in the Universe, that I could ever have a horse. It was the biggest and best surprise ever. Dad also loved my writing, he was without a doubt my number one fan. He always encouraged me to write, even from age 4. I had started writing a series of (very short and simple!) children’ stories. He was so enamored with them, he tried to get them published. There were many sweet replies from publishers about how precious my stories were, but no takers. Bless his heart. Thank you, Dad!

The devestation of losing a parent during formative years is one that only those who have experienced it can possibly know. I remember living in a state of such intense guilt about not being there at the end of Dad’s life, remembering all the mean things I had ever said to him, wallowing in anger that he left me so early. I was so mad at him. I used my anger to hide my sadness. How dare he leave me before I got to introduce him to my awesome boys that were birthed after he was gone? I remember mourning (deeply!) the fact that he would never get to meet my kids, and how outrageously unfair that was, as he had waited my whole life to meet my kids. How dare he not be there for me as I navigated through adulthood? How dare he get sick and die? I thought I needed to forgive him, but it was so hard, I just couldn’t. I tried not to spend much time thinking about how angry I was at him. It wasn’t until after age fifty, while attending a 12 week class entitled Keys to the Kingdom involving an in depth journey into spiritual growth, that the light bulb finally went off. We delved into intense healing processes, focused on bringing up sources of pain we had experienced. One of the modules of the class targeted forgiveness. I was relieved, believing that maybe, after all these years, I could finally forgive my father for leaving me. I credit my husband at the time who, amazing Being that he is, said “Maybe it isn’t your father you need to forgive. Maybe it is YOU.” The floodgates opened! I cried buckets of tears as I realized he was right. Oh My God, he was absolutely right. I needed to forgive myself. I had to forgive myself for not being there, for saying and doing mean things to Dad, for criticizing him about his table manners, his choice of food, his eccentric ways. Dad had early onset Alzheimers before anyone really knew what that was, so his brilliant mind disappeared slowly over time and we didn’t know what was happening. We thought he had just become really stupid and ridiculously forgetful. I had to forgive myself for the time I felt so embarrassed by him. I will never forget the day, at age 14 (almost 15), when he was filthy from all the garden soil he was working in, perspiring like a madman because it was wickedly hot and humid that day, dressed in raggedly old clothes as he worked in the garden, and I introduced him to a boy I was madly infatuated with who had given me a ride home. All I could think was how Dad looked like a sloppy, dirty, disgusting person. There was no acknowledgement or appreciation given of how sweet and welcoming Dad was to my crush upon introductions. That boy ended up becoming my boyfriend, my first great love. My boyfriend ended up dearly loving both my parents and spent the majority of his time at our home. I had to forgive myself for all the things I didn’t say to Dad, all the times I didn’t tell him how much I adored him, loved him, and was so very, very proud of him. I needed to forgive myself for not sharing with Dad how blessed I had always felt that he was my father, that I knew I was the luckiest girl in the world to have him for a dad. I needed to let all that guilt go. I needed to realize that Dad would never, ever, in a trillion years want me to hold on to those toxic emotions, to suffer needlessly. I had to do the hard work of forgiving myself. And I did. I felt like I had let go of a hundred pounds from each of my shoulders. I could breathe again.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful emotions in the Universe. My Hospice “One Year to Live” class devotes an entire section on forgiveness. It is incredibly healing. We focus on forgiving others as well as asking for forgiveness, and we question whether or not we may need to forgive ourselves. We truly start living better when we clear out those old, stagnant grudges, judgments, resentments. Holding on and not forgiving creates separation, distancing, pain. The women’s organization I volunteer with also does a lot of work on forgiveness, because there isn’t much in the world more freeing, more amazing, more joyful, than forgiveness. I can proudly say that there is no one in my world today that I need to forgive, because I have adapted the ability, the desire, to forgive everyone, and everything, easily, quickly and cleanly. Sometimes it does take time, and processing, along with a lot of desire and effort, but I get there. The world could sure use a whole lot more grace. If each of us could learn to forgive more readily, learn what it really means to forgive ourselves and others, we could create a whole lot of miracles.

The Honeymoon

Day 57. I have been feeling pretty blissful lately. My energy is over the moon, bursting. I am hiking pretty much every day. I am full of joy. I wake up feeling good, eager for all the things I get to do. I am full of pride. I am super productive, I am getting things done! I am not sitting on my butt for hours at a time. Amazing! I am excited to be getting my body back, inside and outside. The pool reopens Monday and I can hardly wait to swim again, knowing I will get myself there nice and early as I no longer have the post-alcohol lethargy. Everything is in flow in my life these days. I trust my future will be blindingly bright because I know that if I can conquer this sobriety monster, SLAY the Booze Bitch, I can do anything.

All well and good. The Honeymoon phase is lovely. All Unicorns and Rainbows. Joy, Love, Freedom, Nirvana. At the same time, I know there will be lots more challenges ahead. I know those tough emotions such as sadness, discouragement, boredom, anxiety, financial worries, depression, life stresses, have not gone away forever. But now if they come visiting, I will sit with them. Maybe some of them will become my friends, teachers to further my healing journey. Yes, that’s it, my emotions will show me things, they’ll point out areas of my life that still have room for growth. And I love growth! Well, most of the time. And if the Booze Bitch comes lurking in an attempt to cast her spell on me, if she uses her mighty powers to try to tempt me back into her lair, my big bad sober fearless wolf will show her teeth and growl fiercely, and the Booze Bitch will go scampering away with her tail between her legs. I know, a booze bitch doesn’t have a tail. But maybe mine does!

In light of my gloriously delicious Honeymoon period, I have created an acronym for sobriety. Here goes:

S- SUCCESS

O- OPPORTUNITY

B- BEAUTY

R- RECOVERY

I– INSPIRATION

E- EXCELLENCE

T- TRANSFORMATION

Y– YES!

I have a thing for acronyms. They call to me, they make words even more fun. I love language, and I love expression, and I love sobriety. So there’s my honeymoon-period sobriety acronym, which I will turn to if I ever decide to rethink my choice. I love being sober. I love knowing I can trust myself again. I love the clarity of my mind and heart and soul. I love the dreams I have for my future. I love my family and friends. I love myself again, and that’s absolutely priceless. This sober journey is understated, and this is just the beginning.

Cheers to that!

Healing Addiction

Day 54. Let’s talk about addiction. How we got there, and why. And what we can do about it.

Consider how many forms of addiction exist in our society. There are the obvious, common addictions such as drugs (like alcohol), yes, but think about all the other forms of addiction we practice. The array of addictions is vast, including pornography, gambling, prostitution, video games, social media, shopping, sex, caffeine, exercise, working too much, plastic surgery (yes, that’s really a thing!), food addictions, hoarding, collecting too many pets (think Cat Lady), religious fanatics…you get the idea! It all starts innocently enough. We find something that draws us in, and we go for it. We like the way it feels, and we continue doing it. Maybe it makes us happy (at first), maybe it satisfies a need, maybe it gets us out of our head. We turn to our form of addiction when we want to escape whatever our mind is focusing on, likely something we experienced during the day, maybe a loss, or a painful memory from the past, financial worries that scream at us – something that creates stress of one sort or another. We train ourselves to turn to our addiction when something happens that sets us off on a course of anxiety or discomfort. We seek the familiar by returning to our addiction in order not to deal with whatever is too terrifying to face. Over and over again. And then we start sliding down the slippery slope of addiction. We try to stop doing this “thing”, but we just can’t. And we keep doing this even though the evidence of its negative impact on our lives is right in front of us. We look away. We procrastinate. We avoid. We become more addicted. Maybe there is damage to our relationship. Maybe our finances are taking a big hit, creating massive debt. Maybe our health is being affected, or our work. No doubt our family is suffering in some way because of our addiction. I venture to bet that most of our society has one form or another of addiction. How about our smart phones, our addiction to staying plugged IN? I have a variety of addictions myself. Not proud.

How do we navigate the muddy waters of addiction? How can we rid ourselves of our dependency on habits that are destructive? First, we have to pull down the covers and take a peek at what is underneath. The why. Why do I feel like drinking after a crazy stressful day? Easy! I want peace. I want relief. I want the “relax and chill” effect. I want to let it all go, escape from my mind, quiet the chatter, feel that sense of euphoria that takes me away from reality for a spell. Maybe I am in a new social situation, or at a business related function, and I want to let go of my inhibitions. I want to feel self confident, not feel stiff and self conscious. I want to feel smart, or fun, or loose, or silly, fearless, or just real.

Tackling our emotions is hard. Dealing with past wounds and traumas is no fun. Who wants to revisit feelings that recreate fear, maybe even a sense of terror? Nobody that I know. But personally, sitting with my uncomfortable feelings is truly the only way I can begin to understand them, so I am learning to do that. I am getting more and more curious about the things that trigger me in others, because I know they are shadow (hidden in my sub conscience) aspects of myself. Growth is the hardest thing ever, but it is also the most rewarding thing ever. Addiction keeps us from growing. It keeps us stuck at a certain level of maturity, of development. Addiction is our escape from facing the reality of our circumstances, our lives. Once we pull down those covers and peek at what is hiding underneath, when we start excavating the numerous layers of thick outer coverings that hide our soul, the layers of our own personal onions, that is there we find our spirit, our essence, our beauty, our gifts. This is a journey for heroes, those who want to experience the highest level of living, the peak, the top of the mountain. It is how we are all meant to live, where we are all meant to hang out together, with trust, and love, and connection, and joy.

My life has included a variety of healing work that brings me an incredible sense of satisfaction and great pleasure. I have enthusiastically volunteered with a powerful international women’s organization that focuses on healing traumas and abuse that way too many women experience throughout their lives. I have donated my time to make a difference in the lives of women who have suffered, and I have experienced deep healing within myself on these many weekends and week-long workshops. I find more happiness than I can express when I help to create a space, a safe container, that becomes a platform that invites us all to share our most vulnerable selves. That’s how we heal, by sharing ourselves and feeling heard, accepted, and loved despite what we call our flaws. My circle of women say “ALL of you is welcome here”. That pretty much sums it up.

I also have volunteered for Hospice for several years by facilitating a group called “One Year to Live” which focuses on living a full life whose goal is ultimately to come to the grand final, the end of life, with no regrets. As a group, we share and examine many aspects of our lives, leading to the acknowledgement through discussions, journaling, meditating, introspection and sharing, that we have a myriad of things we never said, or did, or made happen. Then we realize we still have time. We aren’t dead yet, so there is time to write that letter, say those words, forgive that person, change that bad habit, reach out to that special someone, start something new, travel to that destination we have been yearning to see, experience that new creative endeavor, put those affairs in order, declutter that messy room, get those living trusts in order, clean some things up – you get the idea. It’s very impactful to those who participate, even changing lives sometimes in incredible ways. It becomes a magical journey of realizations, reconnections, forgiveness, inspiration and ultimately, deep healing.

So here I am, on perhaps the biggest healing journey of my life, right where I am meant to be. I am bursting with anticipation of what’s to come, where this will take me. I have a powerful yearning to make a difference in the world. I love to connect with like minded souls who are on similar paths, to discover my tribe, or create a new one. We are so very fortunate to be living as we do in the 21st century, despite the crazy mess of a world we have collectively created. There is always unfairness, and destruction, and gloom. Look at Mother Nature, and how her fires, and hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and tsunamis can destroy whole populations in a flash. How about the animal kingdom? Is it fair that the ant exists only to labor painstakingly, endlessly, throughout its short life? Picture the pitiful ant, on a mission to carry a tiny but delectable cookie crumb three times larger than itself, marching along like a determined backpacker with way too heavy a load, destined for the sacred ant farm to present its gift to the queen. Suddenly, in the flash of an instant, the poor little sucker gets swooped up, only to suffocate in a sticky, miserable spider’s web, to be eaten by a huge eight-legged monster. Nothing really is fair, but everything serves a purpose. Our wounds and traumas happened, yes. Our lives may have included some pain. Maybe a whole lot of pain. But now here we are, together as humans with just one precious life to live, one chance to make the best of it. Let’s not let addiction screw it all up. Let’s choose to pause when we feel uncomfortable. Let’s ask what’s underneath those covers, what is hiding for fear of being seen, acknowledged, discovered? Let’s get really brave and step out of our comfort zone, be vulnerable, take the risk, share the story, get naked and expose our soul. The rewards will be astounding, and totally worth it. I’ll see you at the top of the mountain!

Body Love

As I navigate this alcohol free journey, I notice how my body is responding; it is as though it is saying “Thank You!”. My liver and brain (and no doubt all the rest of me too!) had a rough time at the beginning, slowly recovering from my booze addiction. It took about 40 days to start feeling good, and that was really hard. 40 days of waking up and not wanting to get out of bed, not feeling motivated, not wanting to do much of anything. My body was lethargic, achey, inflamed, weak, and drained. My brain was full of anxiety and fatigue, and I had no motivation. Repeatedly turning to alcohol to numb and escape the discomfort that it inevitably causes in the first place creates a vicious cycle of physical and mental decline.

My biggest “why” for quitting booze was to feel good again. Now that I have given my body and brain over 50 days of freedom from alcohol, I am really noticing how good I feel. I was so tired of feeling cruddy, so discouraged about feeling spent upon awakening. I used to be such a morning person. I used to be one of those super perky, rise-and-shine types who get up at ridiculously early hours, the type that annoy non morning-folks. I was not benefitting from an energy boost even when I consumed caffeine- or anything else. It was like, as they say, whipping an exhausted horse (I cringe at that image!). I had already been feeling all these symptoms intensely long before I quit drinking, on and off for years. I knew I had to change, but man it was challenging to come to terms with quitting booze. Thankfully, the desire to experience what it might be like to truly live my best life, to be kind to my body and brain, to reach my highest potential, won out. Of course I want to be my best, I only get this one chance, at least for now.

I have always appreciated the body I was born with, even with all its imperfections. I am blessed with how healthy and strong and athletic I am and have been my whole life. I had been pouring poison in my body temple for such a very long time and I felt really sorry and sad, even ashamed. That created cognitive dissonance, and when one experiences those conflicting emotions, it is nearly impossible to feel peace. How could I keep doing something that was causing me so much harm?!

You could label me a health nut. My mother drove my dad and me crazy when I was around 16-17 years old when she started following (worshipping!) a health guru, Adelle Davis, arguably the most famous nutritionist of the mid-20th century. Mom became obsessed with wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, mega doses of vitamins and supplements, and ridding our home of anything unhealthy. It drove me nuts! I rejected her insistence on forcefully spoon feeding us an overload of pills that she insisted we needed. It was quite irritating. Regardless, and inevitably, that passion for health and nutrition really took hold with me. Mom and Dad had always been great cooks (my father was a cook in the army) and each was an awesome gardener as well. We had plentiful fresh organic vegetables on the table with dinner every night when the garden was thriving, and I was never a picky eater. I remember both my parents (Mom especially) running down to the garden and picking fresh green beans, tomatoes, peas, or asparagus for our meal. I loved them-both my parents and the vegetables.

Although I went through my years rebelling against health-nut-itis, I certainly embraced healthy living. My mother role-modeled a very full and sports-influenced lifestyle, and I happily followed suit. I was always athletic and active, swimming in the summer months and horseback riding all year long, climbing trees, playing kickball with neighbors, riding bikes, hiking, camping, skiing – enjoying all sorts of healthy outdoor, nature-centered fun. I loved it, and still do. However, during my teenage years, I adopted the not-thin-enough belief system even though my body was at a healthy weight. It seemed there was a contest to see how thin an adolescent girl could become, striving to look like Twiggy (argh!). I starved myself by eating only one scant meal a day, and lost my period for many months. Then I did the opposite, after all that deprivation. I binged and purged for awhile. That never settled well with me, so I continued the binging and gave up the purging. I realize now that it was the beginning of numbing my feelings, and at such an early age. It all makes sense as I look back. I wish I could tell that young woman how perfect she was, how she didn’t need to abuse her body by depriving or overstuffing it. I feel pain in remembering how insecure I felt as a teenager, how much I wanted to have the ideal body, whatever the hell that was. Now, in my third act of this life, I am completely in love with and accepting of my body.

The best thing about being sober, so far, is the outrageously joyful return of my vitality. It is so worth it, my willingness to let go of the familiar and horrifically destructive alcohol habit I had acquired. I desperately wanted to feel that joie de vivre again, my lust for life. I am a very passionate person who ‘goes for the gusto’ and tackles life with all my might (apparently that is a very common trait among us “addicts”), and I sorely missed that part of myself. It is coming back! I wake up in the morning eager to start my day. I feel inspired. Work is going well because I glow with happiness, a happiness that comes from loving myself. I can trust myself again. I am reconnecting with myself at a deeper level, and it feels really, really good. I know for sure there will be days when I feel really sad, really low, when I experience deep discomfort, loss, all the hard stuff. But I know now that I can be with those feelings. I know that this too shall pass. I know that sobriety will lead me to the future I am meant to live, one filled with joy, and love, and excitement, and lots and lots of passion.

Relationship

I was pondering this morning a memory of something I had shared, that surprised me, with a couple of very close friends. What I had shared was the realization that I would be willing to give up (forever!) drinking alcohol for a man I dearly love, if he were to choose to give up booze, in order to have a sober relationship together. This is a man with whom I have been in relationship on and off over recent years, a man with whom I share a deep heart connection. I admire, respect, and adore this person, we have amazing chemistry together, he is brilliant in more ways than I can number, and he is heavily addicted to alcohol, a self described “high functioning alcoholic.”

Funny that this memory came up for me this morning. He comes to mind often with nostalgic fondness for the love and joy we shared in the best of times, along with sadness I felt when his drinking brought a very dark cloud over our relationship. His life centers around wine, it is his career, and for awhile that was absolutely delightful. Until it wasn’t. I was drinking more than ever when we were together, and because I was deliriously in love, it really didn’t matter to me. Until it did.

What came to mind in remembering that I was sure I would be able to say goodbye forever to booze in order to have a beautiful relationship with this man, when booze was still an enormous part of my life that I equated with fun, joy, celebration, pleasure, de-stressing – all the keys- was that I had pondered sobriety for the wrong reasons. I had to choose sobriety for ME. I had to realize that I deserve this for my own happiness, not as something I need to sacrifice for another person. How full of martyrdom is that?! Sobriety is something I am doing for myself, and already it is bringing boundless blessings to my life.

I have been married twice to two wonderful men, in two long marriages, with whom I am close today. Booze was a common denominator of each. We drank and danced, played a lot, laughed a lot, traveled to many fantastic locations, enjoyed delightful romance and love, suffered the pain of losses, supported one another, and had great lives while raising children. We also avoided a lot of difficult, truly intimate subjects that probably would have made our marriage healthy and enduring. I can’t help but wonder what kind of relationships we might have had if we had not focused so much of our leisure time around booze.

In my twenties and thirties, booze wasn’t really an issue. It was my social lubrication, and being part of a roaring party was fun, and pretty normal. Once my forties hit, booze started to cause some problems in my life and in my marriage. I was too dependent on the pleasure I thought I was getting from my favorite alcoholic beverages, when really what was happening was my increased skill at avoiding what was uncomfortable. It is just now, all these many years later, that I am truly learning to accept discomfort, question its origin, delve deeper, and allow healing to take place. I always ran away from conflict before, it terrified me. There were definitely some childhood traumas that triggered my inability to confront those fears head on, and some adult traumas that accentuated the difficulties. Booze was always there to smooth everything over and allow me to avoid the reality of my / our problems. I am actually excited about the healing that is taking place within me now that booze is not numbing me. I am single, outrageously happy for the most part, and developing a deeper self love than I have ever experienced before. I am quitting booze, slaying the booze bitch!, for myself, not for anyone else, because I am worth it.

“Alcoholic”

I have a real issue with the term “Alcoholic”. I have always avoided the term, or rather avoided labeling myself as one. I felt such pride and confidence (and a bit of arrogance if I’m honest) in saying “There is no history of alcoholism in my family anywhere. No one that I know of ever had a problem with addiction to alcohol, so whew!, that means I will never have any problems with it either, as “alcoholism” is primarily genetic, right?” That false premise gave me permission to go about enjoying my booze – whatever form it took on that particular moment. But I was wrong! The whole concept of placing the blame on the addict is very wrong.

Why do we blame the person drinking alcohol for their addiction to alcohol, call them an “Alcoholic”, and point our fingers at them as though they are poor, weak suckers? We classify alcohol-addicted drinkers in a low, less-than-whole category below normal, healthy, strong individuals who are just “drinkers”? Then we cart them off to 12 step programs or rehab centers and expect them to use willpower and shame to recover from their addiction. We tend to harshly judge people that develop an addiction to alcohol, rather than teaching them how insane it is that our culture glorifies this substance, practically shoves it down our throats until we cry for more. Why don’t we instead teach about the profound effects alcohol has on the brain, the liver, essentially every single body system? Why don’t we point out that alcohol is a dangerous and highly addictive substance that needs to be avoided by vulnerable individuals? Alcohol is respected, honored, worshipped in our culture, and those who choose not to take part in drinking alcohol are considered the odd ones, the ones who have a problem. Non drinkers are questioned for their choice to not drink as though there must be something wrong with them, some issue that makes them a level below normal humans. This is so backwards!

Also, why do we call the person who performs the act of drinking alcohol a “drinker” when we all drink many liquids every day? Each of us is a “drinker” of water and many other liquid beverages, none of which contain alcohol, but the term “drinker” always means alcohol is involved. Such an odd society, ours.

When a person regularly imbibes a highly addictive substance (alcohol) to the degree that it becomes an addiction, they become an addict. Even that term carries immense negativity, and I shiver at the notion of being called an “addict”. No one is a born “addict”. Any of us admitting we have a problem with alcohol are just that, humans realizing that partaking in an extremely addictive drug (alcohol is a drug!) is no longer serving us in any beneficial way, and the only solution is to stop drinking alcohol. There is no moderating, I have tried for years to drink just on weekends, or just 3 nights a week, or take a break for awhile and have just one drink per day – it has never lasted for long. Alcohol slowly pulls us back because it is highly addictive to our brains and causes us to crave it even when we know it is causing us harm.

We must stop blaming the human for falling under alcohol’s intoxicating spell, a spell highly prized in our society, the effect of feeling tipsy, buzzed, dizzy. Alcohol is an extremely seductive and full-of-temptation demon. Our culture heavily endorses the fairy tale story of alcohol’s effect on our lives, marketing and selling it as an elixir for romance, for bravery, for social finesse and better sex, for building up our self confidence – I could write pages about how our culture revere’s the substance named booze. We have to start waking up to the fact that it is alcohol that is to blame for our addiction to it, alcohol that causes our downward spirals into anxiety, depression, dysfunction and despair. We must change our culture’s sorely dysfunctional relationship to alcohol, our attachment to the romance and myth of alcohol. It is time we called out the substance by its true name, a drug that is highly addictive, wildly dangerous to consumers vulnerable to its negative effects, a drug that needs to be avoided by those who have fallen under its spell and experienced its negative impact on their lives.

Quitting drinking alcohol has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and it took me decades to realize I had to quit if I wanted to live my best life. I DO want to live my absolute best life. I deserve that. We all do! I feel heartbreak in witnessing fellow humans falling under the spell of booze again and again as it takes them further into the despair of alcohol-induced hell, knowing they are trying so hard to end the relationship but finding themselves pulled back in repeatedly thinking this time will be different, this time they can handle just one. Each time the return to drinking has worse consequences. Each time quitting drinking is more difficult. It becomes progressively harder to end the pattern because the addiction takes hold on a deeper level, physiologically and mentally. We can’t step over the addiction threshold, cross the chasm into sobriety, until we realize and fully accept what alcohol truly is and what it does to us; to our body systems, to our brain. We have to stop romanticizing booze and know we are not missing out on anything (except hangovers and despair) by not drinking it. We need to step forward and acknowledge to ourselves that the world is very bright when we are sober. Life becomes amazing when we realize that without booze we are better, stronger, happier, and free. Letting go of our belief that we need the booze bitch in order to be happy, calm, or better in any way is essential. The Booze Bitch is a slithering snake that wants more than anything to pull us into her den of despair, our personal hell. Sobriety is a beautiful thing. Focusing on the benefits of living without booze and associating booze with the problems she brings us leads to healing. That’s the mental shift that has to take place. When we see the naked truth about alcohol, when we are able to look at a gorgeous glass of wine or a delicious chilled cocktail and say “No way, you f-ing monster, you are not pulling me in! I know better now, and you are not worth it”, we have arrived at our happy place. At that point, when the yearning to drink is no longer pulling us in, that’s when we know we are mastering sobriety.

Cheers to slaying the booze bitch!

Alcohol Free Happiness

Day 50 alcohol free. This is a big milestone for me, I don’t think I have ever gone 50 days alcohol free other than my two pregnancies. That’s a whole lot of years of not giving my body, mind, and spirit a total break from alcohol. A whole lot of years wondering if I have a drinking problem, googling “Am I an Alcoholic?”, “Do I have a problem with alcohol?”, and all those quizzes. I was usually right on the edge when I tallied my score.

I spent a whole lot of years avoiding the thought of my life without wine, cocktails, happy hours, social times with friends, celebrations that included booze. But now the perks of not drinking are far outweighing anything I am missing from alcohol. I have changed the way I view my relationship with alcohol. There were endless trials to moderate my drinking, which worked beautifully at first (only drink on weekends, only drink four days in a row and take two days off, go dry every January), until they didn’t. Alcohol was my best buddy, until it wasn’t.

It was COVID 19 and an overconsumption of alcohol during Shelter at Home orders, while simultaneously experiencing massive anxiety and subsequent depression, that made me realize I had to change or my life could totally end up in the gutter. I knew I had to be willing to stop drinking. Over the year previous I had been watching Annie Grace (This Naked Mind) YouTube videos, along with Craig Beck (Alcohol Lied to Me) and lots of other great sober cheerleaders who were inspiring and taught me to look at alcohol as the issue causing the problem, not to feel myself a failure. That was key for me, learning all the science of alcohol’s effect on all our body systems and distinguishing the truth from all the marketing lies and propaganda of our society. How wrong it is that our society views not drinking alcohol as odd, and imbibing alcohol as normal!

Waking up in the mornings and feeling fresh and bright is a gift. I caught myself in the mirror the other day and was amazed at how bright my eyes are now. I have not lost weight yet even with tons of exercise, but I trust that my body is readjusting and that eventually the weight will easily drop off. When I was drinking the most, I followed the booze with overeating late at night, and not caring what I ate. That piled the pounds on quickly. For me, five extra pounds feels like twenty as I pride myself on being fit and healthy, always active and a lover of many sports. I am looking forward to dropping those extra pounds but I’m not dwelling on them. I am less puffy and bloated. My digestion is improved. I definitely look better. I am really happy and proud of myself. I am trusting myself. I believe in myself because I am DOING this. Everything is working out.

The Struggle

Day 37 Alcohol Free. I did not realize the extent of the sense of loss and grief/ discomfort I would experience throughout this alcohol free journey. I had not yet learned that letting go of a steady (albeit highly dysfunctional) companion would feel so odd. Not just hard, not just sad, nor merely lonely- but confusing in many ways. Ungrounding. Unsettling. 

I am ending a long term relationship that has been a constant in my life for most of my years. I am now 61- my first episode of drinking (like many) was at age 14 with Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. Giddiness, dizziness, silliness, laughter, risk taking; the first evidences of the lure of the sneaky snake’s lethal venom. 

There are many complicated emotions attached to letting go of something so known. Who will I be without this familiar presence, without all the easy, agreeable (to our drinking culture) excuses for avoiding, escaping, unwinding, dismissing, denying? Without the romance of the beautiful wine in the bottle, and then in my glass, and your glass, the discusssions of where and how it was made, the comparisons to lust and sex and sensuous pleasure? Who will I be in this new life I am creating? 

There is uncertainty not only throughout this pandemic concerning what the world will be once we resume our lives. In addition to the insanity of the life we are all managing presently, there is unrest and uncertainty deep inside my heart. I am going to have to transform my life. I am, in fact, in the process now of transforming my life. I am tightly held in a cocoon while slowly developing wings and I don’t know how long I need to remain in this safe haven until I have enough strength and trust and certainty to grow and develop beautiful new wings. I know my wings will take me to magical places and I know I will feel joy beyond what I have ever known, but this in-between place is difficult. This growing up, this healing, is tortuous sometimes. This alcohol free “hero’s journey” is not for wimps! It takes immense determination and fortitude, courage and trust, to take this wild train ride into unknown territory with all it’s terrifying curves and detours.

Even at 36 consecutive days without alcohol, I am still finding that some mornings I awaken and get out of bed grudgingly feeling dull, listless, empty- even though I am sleeping and eating well, getting outside and moving my body, and spending a lot of time allowing myself to feel the feels.

Sometimes I am very impatient. I want to feel amazing and bursting with energy. It’s ironic how eager and expectant I am to be magically “repaired” in such a short duration of time when I spent so many years dancing the awkward bipolar dance of my relationship with alcohol and the ultimate acknowledgment of what became an addiction. Alcohol and I have had many varying stages of joy and despair, pain and pleasure over our many years together. We were such good friends (I thought!) for many of those years, until we weren’t. We were inseparable at times, which ultimately lead to the start of the downhill spiral of anxiety and depression. When the negative affects of alcohol became so unbearable that I wasn’t functioning well, and every part of my life was suffering because of it, I woke up to the awareness that it was time to say goodbye to the despicable presence, the Temptress. It was time to admit that my health and happiness depended on our parting of the ways.

I have no doubts, no second thoughts, about the fact that I will be so much better off with an alcohol free future. But that doesn’t make the tough moments any easier. Doesn’t change the fact that I have no motivation to move at times. The only way out is through, I know that. We are all in this together. I will do this. I am fully responsible for where I landed in this alcohol-induced hell. I am equally capable of building a future blindingly bright and full of unlimited possibilities, a future I can only imagine and dream of now. 

I have your back and I know you have mine. Sometimes just sharing is enough. Knowing we are all in this together gets me through the hardest stuff. Thank you for being here with me, for going through your stuff too. 

Life is good, life is full, life is here and now. 

The Breakup

…a letter to my “Ex”

Dear Alcohol,

Over three decades of loyalty to you and now I see those years were filled with lies, deception, grief and despair. You came wrapped in pretty packaging, The Temptress. I thought being a wine connoisseur and so steeped in your culture and romance meant I could enjoy you without fear of going too far. Now I know better. I’m done. No longer will I turn to you for solace. No longer will I call you friend. Our affair is over, I am moving on.

Although we have been steadfast companions for so many years, your presence has unraveled me. I used to think you were my favorite playmate, my reason for fun, and laughter, my friend. You made me the life of the party, the quintessential host. My friends knew being with me probably included you, and a really good time. 

But now I have learned all those years we spent together brought me quite the opposite. You have been cunning and clever, calling to me in sorrow, when I felt desperate and wanting to escape. How could I beat these emotions without you by my side? You were there for me when I felt joy, you were always part of every celebration. We have laughed and cried together. I have given you second chances too many times to count. You were two faced, promising happiness but instead causing grief. I asked you to back off but you wanted more of me. I felt your influence overwhelm me and drag me down, but I couldn’t resist you, you had such a hold on me. 

You have caused so much pain in my life, stealing my vitality and my inspiration. Because of you I have hardly made it out of bed some days. The light inside me dimmed because you dimmed it. My life became so difficult with you in it. I knew we had to go our separate ways.

It is hard to say goodbye, but I must do this. For me. I felt safe with you, isolated from the world in my secret cave. Little did I know how much I was sinking into your lair, believing you would fix everything. You made me forget all my anxiety until it resurfaced with a force at 3AM and I awakened with terror unable to sleep. Everything not right in my life became larger. I couldn’t do the simplest of things, you would remind me they could wait. Everything had to wait because I was worn out, you exhausted me, depleted me.

I used to believe you added great happiness to my life. I used to look to you to find pleasure. I didn’t realize what a venomous beast you are, drawing me to you until I surrender to your evil spell and find myself later, drowning in shame. 

You have undone me. You have won the battle too many times. You could have made me lose everything. I shudder to think how far down I could have gone.

I am wiser now. It’s my turn. I have learned so much about you and now I see who you really are, deceptive, lying, sneaky, alluring, ultimately fatal. I will no longer be your victim. I have decided I am worth living my best life, and that does not include you. I will rise above. I’ve got this. I wish we had never met but I don’t regret all I have learned. Begone you, and never come back around. You are not welcome here.

Goodbye!

Judes