Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Survivor's Story

I remember my parents pulling up to the drive-through window of this state line bar, it was the last day of our vacation and we were on that endless drive home, forty miles left to go.  They bought a six pack and then sat in the parking lot drinking beer and smoking cigarettes while we whined in the backseat about the heat, the drive, the smoke, our siblings' encroachment on our space.  They drank two beers each and then they started the car and drove the remaining bone weary miles home.  It was the 70's and our parents remained doggedly uninterested about the effects of  drinking and driving and second-hand smoke. 

I always wondered about the why of those beers in that hot dusty parking lot. Why didn't they just keep driving and wait until they were in the swamp cooler comfort of our own home?  My best guess is that my parents were bidding a last sad farewell to the carefree, careless days of vacation, or maybe they were drowning their sorrows of leaving the cool, verdant mountains for the vast stretch of nothingness in which we lived.  They needed that one last taste of sky blue waters.

I rarely remember my parents going to a bar or beer joint in our hometown, there were the random and sparse evenings out with friends and maybe an occasional Friday night at the VFW, but, by no means, would Mom and Dad be considered regulars at any of the local watering holes.

But vacations were different.  Every day when the heat descended and the fish quit biting the Hickey clan loaded into "Old Blue", our station wagon, and headed to town where Mom and Dad would settle into a duct tape scarred vinyl booth at a local beer joint and us kids would hit the nearest general stores with our sweaty, stink bait scented dollar bills burning holes in our jean shorts.

Eventually, money spent, we slunk back into the beer joint and threw ourselves, one by one, into the booth and commenced pouting the appropriate amount of time required to drive our parents to the desperation of throwing coins at us for the pool table or pinball machine.  They gladly paid the ransom for just a few more minutes of dark, smoky respite from the endless tangle of kids and fishing lines that defined our family vacations.

Scarred floors.  Barmaids with terrifying hairdos and sassy mouths.  Sitting at the bar with my ice cold bottle of Dr. Pepper.  Spinning bar stools. A painted lady on the floor at Joe's Place in Cimmaron, New Mexico.  A creepy  two-headed calf with beady wall-eye stares in some nameless bar in Red River.

My parents kicked back in a booth, laughing over cold beers and a smoldering ashtray.  My mom with a bandanna in her hair and rolled up jeans.  So young.

I treasure those memories, they are as much a part of me as blonde hair, green eyes and my inbred, deservingly under appreciated, Hickey sardonic drollness.

I miss those places.  I can't but help miss them.

 But miss them is all I can do.

When I rolled by that bar on my own last stretch of vacation a few days ago, I felt a rueful melancholy smile lift the corner of my mouth.  I had a kid stretched out in my backseat asleep, my grandchild, and I would no more think of pulling into that parking lot and drinking beers than driving on home...not lately, any way.

I drove those remaining empty miles to my hometown to drop the grandkid off and to spend the night with my oldest son.  Later that afternoon I headed to Walmart to restock my supply of Diet Pepsi.  As I was pulling two liters off the shelf by the gross, an older woman turned her cart into the aisle.  We glanced at each other and then took longer looks.

"Mary Kay, isn't it?" she asked.

For my whole life I have been running into this woman and she always calls me by my "baby" name and she always says the same thing.

"I remember when we lived across the street from your parents.  Your mom and I were both pregnant with you girls.  Such good times."

I nodded.  I've heard it so many times before but I never tire of hearing it.  We exchanged the usual.
"Where is ?"
"How is ?"
"Can you believe how this town has changed? And not for the better."

Skirting, skirting, skirting.


"We lost Jolene, you know?" she asks.

I nod.  I did know.

"She drank a lot."

I nod again.

"I did too.  For a long time," I say.  It is the only meager comfort I can offer, my clumsy attempt to tell her she wasn't the only mother who lost a daughter. It wasn't her fault.

She patted me on the shoulder.

"It happens."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Getting Closer Every Day

When they were little boys, my boys thought I hung the moon and dipped it in sprinkles just for them.  And I would've if I could've.  My favorite Mother's Day Memory is the Mother's Day that they all jumped on their bikes early in the morning and headed over to the nearby miniature golf course and returned with muddy bouquets of iris's that they presented to me with pride, like future car thieves handing their momma the keys to a pink cadillac.

Then things happened.  They became teenagers. I got divorced. They became resentful. I became swamped with guilt.

So I left.  Not physically, not at first anyway. I dove into a bottle of Jack Daniels and didn't emerge for 20 years.

My boys no longer think I hung the moon and dipped it in sprinkles just for them.  But I would, if I could.

I came across one of my many sporadic journals that I kept before I started blogging here.  I thought writing down all those arguments about why I should stop drinking myself to death and keeping them to myself would help, but it didn't.
In one of them, written in 2009, I believe, there is a Mother's Day Entry.

I cried when I read it.

It must have been written early in the morning because I was still boosting myself up and making excuses about why my kids might not call me, how difficult it is to get hold of me, how they're boys and boys just don't think about those things...blah, blah, blah...But I wasn't in total denial, I knew that booze was the captain of the ship that was steering a course further and further from my kids.  I could see that I was totally losing sight of land and them.  They wouldn't be able to throw me a lifeline, even if they wanted to.

I don't remember if the oldest and youngest called me or not that Mother's Day.  I know the middle one did not because he did call me a few days later to apologize about not calling me, he had a good excuse, he'd been in jail.

That Mother's Day was the turning point for me.  I made a vow, that no matter what, by the next Mother's Day my relationship with my kids would be better, I would start doing the necessary legwork and healing that was required.

Was I sober by the next Mother's Day?  No.  But I'd started this blog and I was heading that way.

This is the message that I received on fb today from that middle child.  He doesn't have an excuse this year, he's in a much better place too.

Hey mom thank you for all the love that u have gave us as kids and u continue to give us as adults. And all the patience and understanding that you showed us.. no matter what direction life may take us you will always be our mother and i know im not alone when i say i take great pride in calling you my mom. I love you mom. Happy mothers day!

I called all of my boys yesterday to let them off the hook, I am still hard to get hold of, one more barrier I need to break down.  Am I where I want to be?  No, I've let myself chicken out of facing the hard things with my youngest, we're still skirting around the issues, keeping our coats buttoned tight. (Thank you to Amy, my friend, over on Soberbia for that image and a great book recommendation)  But I'm heading to his house in Texas to dig up some bones and rattle them as soon as I get back to the states in a few weeks.


Am I where I want to be?



But I'm closer and that's a hell of a lot better than farther.

(BTW, Paul, if you read this, that middle son is the one that landed in my lap all of a sudden.)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ten Things You Gotta Love About Sobriety

The cap'n has been buzzing around all morning.

 Busy, Busy Bee!

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

I want to swat him, because I'm still all fuzzy headed and laying about in bed and just spent 45 minutes looking up Foghorn Leghorn quotes so I could write something really snappy to one of my friends on the Moderation Management List.  I came up, I say, I came up with nothing, so I wasted, I say, wasted 45 freakin' minutes!!  Why in the hell did I go looking to Foghorn Leghorn for inspiration this morning?

"Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!"  Goes the cap'n.

"It's amazing what you can get done when you're not hungover," says he.

"Preachin' to the choir," says I.  (And what the fruck do you think I've been trying to tell you for the last three years. But, oh yeah, I forgot, you were never hungover.  That's what you kept telling me anyway.  I guess now you know the difference)

I guess you've figured out that the cap'n is behavin' lately (a week) and that we must have had a "come to Jesus" meeting. (Yes, we did).  But more about that later.  He's decided to "essentially" quit drinking. (Can I get a collective eye roll on that?).  But he's doing pretty good so far.







He's out there digging up Coconut Trees and I'm still laying in bed.

He reminds me of what those first sober mornings felt like.

Like a Fucking Miracle.

And then I wandered over to Mrs. D's Blog this morning between my Foghorn Leghorn expeditions, and she's yammering away, lah-di-dah, zippity do-dah, and all that shit, about why she loves sobriety. 

And I said, "Fuck it, I say, fuck it, if you can't beat'em you might as well join 'em. Now listen up, ya hear, listen up."

Why I Love Sobriety:

1.)  I'm still alive.

2.)  I'm laying in bed all fuzzy headed and lazy and I can't blame drinking.  I haven't been able to         blame my drinking for anything for almost 3 whole years.

3.)  I'm a damn inspiration.  Yep, I can't deny it, I am.

4.)  There are now people who know me who never saw me drunk, they don't even know that I used to drink.  They just think I'm an uptight sober person.  Hallelujah!

5.)  I remember every single thing that happened last night.

6.)  I haven't vomited in almost 3 years, which means I haven't had to look at, smell, or clean up vomit in 3 years.

(The cap'n just reported that he's already dug up 9 Coco Trees.  He's a regular Johnny Coconut Tree)

7.)  Sober sex.  It's just easier, quicker and cleaner and a lot less theatric.  (Addition to today's "To Do" List:  Burn all those old videos.)

8.)  I can make plans for later on tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month, Christmas...because I can depend on me to be present and accountable.

9.)  I'm no longer worried about qualifying for the liver transplant list.

Drum Rollllllllllllll!!!!!!!

10.)  I love myself and life again, with all of our foibles, ups and downs, ins and outs, darks and lights, hards and easy's, goods and bads, happy and sads.  I love that I feel it and live it.

Thank you, I say, thank you, God!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Much Needed Swift Kick In The Ass

After a week or five of feeling sorry for myself, I reacquainted myself with a blog written by a guy I went to high school with.  Rocky is no longer really battling cancer, he is surrendering to it with more valor and wit than I could ever hope to master.  Please don't skip over this.  We all need this wake-up call to go out and have the best damn day we can manage.  Today.

Terminal Velocity

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Real Life Is Just Real Life

Thank you guys for your kind words, it was so good to hear your sweet voices again.

I don't know what is up with me lately, I'm feeling so apathetic about the whole "support thing." I'm not drinking, not thinking about drinking, not wanting to drink.  It's just that when I think about blogging or posting on my message boards I just feel "Ugh".

Did this happen to any of you?  I know if I were in AA they would probably say this is a harbinger of a relapse.  But I don't think so.  I think it is a step in recovery.  I watched my brother move away from AA after a few years and he's never drank again.  He just lives a normal life without meetings and without drinking.

So do any of the rest of you ever say to yourself, "I am just so done with all of this recovery crap?"

Here's what I think is happening.  When I quit drinking, I filled up my days to the brim.  You know how that is, you're so afraid if you have a second to spare, you'll pick up a bottle.  But now I want some of those moments to spare.  I want to do some other things.  Or I want to do absolutely nothing.

I'm to the point I've got to give up something, but everything seems too important to give up.

But here's what I need to remind myself, even if I give up this blog, or posting every day on the message boards, it doesn't mean I have to give up the friends I made here or there.  Some of you have become a part of my life as a whole, not just the fraction that is my recovery.

On the up point, I have created another blog, it's not about recovery but it's about living a sober life down here south of the border.  I haven't published it yet, I'm still working on the first posts.  I'll post a link here when it's ready if any of you want to become a part of that part of my life.

And I'm still working on my book, or trying to work on it, except I keep letting all of these other things I've gotten myself involved in conveniently interrupt my work on it.

Or maybe that's just another excuse for not getting done what I need to get done. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Good-bye Sweet William

My best friend from high school died a week ago, I hadn't talked to him since our tenth high school reunion, and I hadn't talked to him for the ten years before that.  So all in all, I went 26 years without talking to my best friend.  I tried to remember why.  I couldn't remember any big fights or falling out, try as hard as I could.

Then I remembered.  He called one day and I didn't return his call.  A week later, he called again and I didn't return his call.  No big reason, I was eighteen, suddenly pregnant, suddenly married, trying my damnedest to stick in my first year of nursing school.

Then a month went by and I thought, I should call William, but he's going to be so pissed off at me.

Then a year went by and I thought, I should call him, but what can I say?

Then ten years went by and he walked into our tenth year reunion and it was as if no time at all had passed, as if I'd returned all of those phone calls.  And we made the usual promises to stay in touch, and we did.  For that whole weekend.

In recent years I had this fantasy of walking into his liquor store in Wichita, Kansas, yes he owned a liquor store, ironic, huh?  Anyway, I had this thought that some day I would walk into his liquor store and it would take a minute but then he'd look up from the register and that look of recognition would flash in his eyes and he'd jump over the counter and he'd hug me and we'd hop in his old '58 Chevy that we used to drag main in and we'd head to the Taco Tico for his nightly bean burrito that he ate every night of our junior high and high school lives.

I'll never get to do that now, I should have done it when I dreamed it up.  I tried.  I was actually in Wichita a couple of years ago and I actually drove around looking for his liquor store (this was after I quit drinking so I wasn't looking for a bottle) but I didn't even know the name of his store or where it was located.  I guess I thought fate would somehow steer my car toward a storefront that had "William's Liquor Store" etched in the front window.  Of course, I never found it.

Yes, I could have called him, but what would I say?

I have a terrible history of walking away from or letting go of people when my focus changes.  I hate that about me, I view it as one of my biggest flaws.  One that I need to make more strides in overcoming, as my recent two month disappearance from this blog demonstrates.

I know now what I would say to William.  I would say,

"I'm sorry I haven't been there for you all of these years, I'm sorry I never got to know the man you became.  The fact that life keeps trying to convince me that I have more urgent, more pressing issues to take care of is no excuse.  There is no more pressing issue, no more urgent "thing" in need of my attentions more important than a friend who supported and loved me through the most trying of times. I will do better."

"I promise."

P.S.  I'm sorry for the "Sweet William" title, I know you hate that.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Misery Loves Company

Slap. Slap. Squish.  Slap. Slap. Squish.  It's 4:00 am and the Gulf is blowing in through my upstairs bedroom window.  There's at least an inch of water covering the whole damn floor.  And in the other bedroom too.

And I am so damn grateful.

Slap. Slap. Squish.  Slap. Slap. Squish.

It's 8:00 am and I'm scrubbing the stubborn cooked on scrambled eggs from the bottom of the skillet.  My eyes are bleary and I can feel myself getting bitchy from a lack of sleep.

And it's still raining.

And I'm still so damn grateful.

Because I used to look at days like this and think how beautiful they must be, untainted by booze.
How wondrous it must be to move through the small hardships without the added weight of misery.

I never thought they'd be mine.

Thank you.