Monday, April 13, 2015

Let's Talk About Audrey

While we're on the subject of hang-ups, let's talk about Audrey Kishline, or Audrey Conn, as she later preferred to be called.  I'm a little late to this discussion and there are all kinds of other opines out there about her life and death and what it all meant.

Here is mine.

I first "met" Audrey when she was doing the talk show rounds in the late 80's or early 90's, when Moderation Management was being formed.  I have this image of her imprinted on my mind (apt or not); short permed hair, high waist jeans, polo shirt, big glasses, pushing her toddler in a push toy of some sort down the sidewalk. "Geek mom". The kind of mom who I imagined had her kids' science fair projects planned out years in advance.

So unlike me, who was usually found to be screaming and pulling at my hair the night before every science fair.

"Whaddaya mean it's due tomorrow?"

I could not relate to that woman on the TV at all, but I liked what she had to say.

I could keep drinking.

I remember checking out the book at our local small town library, I remember thumbing through it. Reading the daily limits, the weekly limits, and then the 30 DAYS WITHOUT BOOZE.

And that's all I remember. I think it's probably one of the few books I actually managed to return to the library. Probably before it was even due.

For another twenty some years I stumbled down my thorny path, busily convincing myself there were roses somewhere in those brambles.

Then I decided I was tired of wondering around torn and bleeding. So I started this blog. And I started visiting the message boards.

And late one night, I remembered Moderation Management and decided to see what presence it had on the world wide web.  Bam! There it was.

That was in August of 2010. I'd heard all about Audrey's tragic turn of events and the accident that took the lives of two innocent people by then.  I found her story tragic and, maybe even a little despicable. But that didn't keep me from exploring MM.

When I joined, Audrey was not even a member.  But then about two years ago, maybe it was three, a new member showed up on the mmabsers mail list. I had done my one year stint of trying moderation by then and found that it was not the choice for me, and I was in the pink cloud stage of early abstinence.  I jumped on the big welcome wagon for this new member who seemed really upbeat and bouncy for someone new to the perm abs game.  I was a little more accustomed to the downtrodden and desperate. Like me.

I don't remember how long it took me to figure out that the new member was Audrey, but I can tell you when I did, I wasn't pleased.

And I let her know it.

How could she still be struggling with drinking, after what she did? How in the hell could she still be drinking?  I asked her. I said a few other things. Like, "I just don't know how I feel about this." (That was helpful, huh?)

I was chastised a little bit by the other members. Who was I to judge? That wasn't my job.  As for Audrey, she talked about her new hobby--juggling--her new website, her interviews with Sheryl, the woman whose husband and daughter she killed, the impact statements she and Sheryl participated in.

She dropped in on a few mmabsers chats. She was always upbeat, which infuriated me for some reason.  I kept mum and said nice things on the computer screen while I rolled my eyes and wondered when she was going to announce her new book, or show, or whatever....

Then she disappeared again.

Then I read about her suicide.

And felt sad and bewildered and disappointed and a little guilty. I could have been more supportive, but I'm not sure that Audrey was looking for support when she was at mmabsers.  She never seemed to reach out for it.  Maybe she was trying so damn hard to juggle all those balls, afraid if she let one drop, showed a little weakness, the whole world would come crashing down. Again.

So my feelings about Audrey are a bit ambiguous, to say the least.  She's not a hero in my eyes.  But I am so damn grateful she had the courage to buck the tide and start MM.  I might have found my way to recovery through other means, but, "Damn," I say with a tear in my eye and a catch in my throat, "I'm glad that in a round about way she introduced me to the people who people MM. I wouldn't have wanted to take this journey with anybody else."

So, again, my point?

Audrey had nothing whatsoever to do with my recovery.

MM had everything to do with it.

So don't get hung up on Audrey's story when you're looking for HELP.

If you're reading this and thinking, that maybe you're not ready to quit completely, or if you've tried to quit completely so many times, or if you just want to gain back some control, don't talk yourself out of trying MM because of one woman's tragic story.  MM has a whole lot of other members with a whole lot of different stories.

Mine is one of them.

P.S. I wanted to set one thing straight about Audrey's death, I owe her that much and more. Early reports stated that she was found with two empty bottles of Vodka and countless empty bottles of prescription pills and she hung herself.  According to family members, there were no booze or pill bottles found.

I also want to share a truth about Moderation Management:  It does not pressure its members to moderate. It provides tools and support for them.  If a person declares that they have chosen to permanently abs, as I did, they accept  and offer encouragement and support for your choice. I never once had someone try to talk me into trying moderation longer or harder and I've never had someone suggest that I try it again.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Don't Let Yourself Get Hung Up On All That Shit

So yesterday, I saw a shark on a bike. Okay, it wasn't actually pedaling the bike, it was slung over the handlebars while a smiling young Mexican girl pedaled the bike. And it was dead. The shark, not the bike.  I have a cool life. I do. Now my Midwestern, "Aw Shucks Roots" are prodding me to say, "Yeah, but you should see the dog shit I have to step over. And the Trash? It's everywhere." And while that's all true...

I have a cool life.

I can't blame it for my drinking.  I don't.

I had a wonderful childhood. Sure there was some shit and trash there, too. But I can't blame it for my drinking. I won't.

I don't know where to lay the blame for my drinking. I don't care. I never did. And I probably never will.

Because it doesn't matter.


“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew.
Just go right along, you'll start happening too!”

Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

In my recovery, I have been besieged by explanations, and theories, and booga-booga.  Is it a disease? Is it not?  Who gives a rat's ass? Was calling it a disease or not calling it a disease going to make it any easier for me to quit?

And then there's that power thing. Some people say you have to admit that you're powerless over alcohol. Some people stomp their feet and say they'll never admit they're powerless over anything.

Fine. I shrug my shoulders. Who cares?

Then there's the biggie. That God Forsaken Label.  ALCOHOLIC!!!

Am I one? Is there such a thing?  Do I care?

Not really.

For me:


Here is what does matter to me. (Finally! you say.)

Drinking made me miserable.

Not drinking, doesn't.


Perhaps, just maybe, if you're spending all that time trying to figure it all out, it's because you're avoiding doing what you know you need to do, NO MATTER WHAT.

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.

Some windows are lighted. but mostly they're darked. 
But mostly they're darked. 
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! 
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?” 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crazy Dog Lady

One of my favorite movies is "Hope Floats" starring Sandra Bullock and Gena Rowlands. It is about a daughter (Sandra) returning home to live with her somewhat zany mother (Gena).

There is a scene in that movie in which Gena Rowlands is up early in the morning, down in the creek feeding the ducks. Her dogs are barking and chasing the birds. The ducks are squawking and flapping their wings, rising up out of the water. The sun is turning the spray of water to geysers of sparkling diamonds. And Gena Rowlands is right smack dab in the midst of it all in her overalls and hip waders, tossing out more food, feeding the frenzy.

I so much wanted to be her, caught in that maelstrom, but at that time in my life, that early morning unbridled joy, those sun diamonds, were as unreachable as the moon and the stars.

All I could do is watch in wander that such moments existed.

This week I am at our little house in Dzilam de Bravo.  My friend, Linda, left yesterday to go back to Canada for a month and I am watching the brood of ragtag dogs that she has collected through the years. Twinky, Holbox, Bebe, Sparky and Toby have all found their way to her after being abandoned by their former owners.

This morning I am up with the sun. I gather my motley crew and herd them out the gate.  When we reach the stretch of road past the last house along the sea wall, I slip the leashes off.  There they go.

Unbridled Joy.

Toby bounds the seawall to chase the pelicans drying their wings on the rocks and the water sprays sun diamonds.

I made it.

I am the crazy dog woman I dreamed of being.

Hey, at least I'm not a crazy cat woman.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Still LIfe

Warning: Mutiple Mixed Metaphors Ahead

Although they don't come around as often, I still get those pangs for my old life. Yesterday, the whole day was basically a pang. Actually it started on Friday night when I was at a friend's house for dinner and we were all listening to music. Jimmy Buffet. Kenny Chesney. Beaches, Bars, and Booze.

My friend said, "Some nights we just drink and put on the music and dance the night away, just the two of us."

Pang! The cap'n and I used to do that.

Yesterday I drove down to Chelem to spend Easter with my friends there. I have a house in Chelem, I used to call it home, but this year I've been a gypsy traveling back and forth across the Yucatan while strangers pay money to live in my houses so I can pay for them.

Anyway, I arrived here in the late afternoon and another friend was here and they were all sitting around the pool having drinks.  Little pang.   Then they got to talking about a recent overnight trip a whole group of them took to Merida. Bars. Booze. Laughter. Stumbling into the hotel courtyard at 5:30 am singing so loud they woke up all the other guests.

Big Pang!

I  used to be in that group.

"I'm just the boring old sober person," I told my friend later. "I can't think of the last time I did something wild and crazy"

"Sober is not boring," she said.

She wasn't very convincing.

Mexico is party central during the Easter Holidays, the locals use Holy Week as an excuse to go to the beach, rent a one room house for themselves and their 36 closest relatives, sling hammocks, and stay up all night laughing and playing loteria and drinking vast quantities of tequila.  Pang! As I made my many sojourns along the outside verandah to the bathroom through the night last night, I could look down at  my friend's neighbors yard next door.  Tarps were tied up and lights were strung, and kids were chasing each other through the sand while their adult counterparts milled about eating and drinking until 5 am.

This morning, I was up before anyone else. I sat out on the verandah with my rosary and put on Pachelbel and watched the sun come up over the water.  Listened to the birds stir and sound their first notes.  I often listen to the Canon in D and wish I could give the world something as beautiful.  A legacy. A piece of me to leave behind in remembrance

As I sat listening this morning, I realized, I don't want that old life to be my legacy. I never did. When I was living it, I kept trying to convince myself it was beautiful.  I tried to wedge the beautiful parts in where they would get more notice.  Tried to make the ugly bits prettier than they were. The dark swaths more vibrant. The unsteady lines look as though they were intentional.

Maybe it looked beautiful to others. But it didn't to me.

And, hey, I'm the one that gets to choose.

So I took it down and stuck it in a closet somewhere and decided to start over.

My life now is a Still Life.

Simple, burnished days.  An open window. Sweet, sun-warmed fruit.  A dappled window seal.

I never get tired of looking at it.  From every direction, it fascinates, yet soothes, me.

It's a legacy I can live with.

Happy Easter! Happy New Day! Happy New Life!

Friday, April 3, 2015

What's In It For Me?

I've thought long and hard since jump starting this blog, what is it I have left to say?  What can someone who has been sober for almost four years offer to someone that is still struggling to see the worth of a life without alcohol?  After all, my days have become somewhat routine, I know longer wake up in wonder that my head isn't pounding, my stomach isn't revolting, and my spirit isn't looking back at me in the mirror with sad, sad eyes.

I can't promise that life will get easier. It could get harder. God might be saving up the really bad stuff for when you are strong enough to handle it.

I can't promise that you'll be happier.  There are plenty of miserable sober people walking around to disprove that theory.

I can't even promise that you'll have a new life, be a new you. Because I guess it's possible to give up the booze and remain the same. It would be damn hard.  But possible. I think that's what they call a dry alcoholic.

But here is what I can promise you:

You will never wonder if the reason you didn't get that promotion was because of your drinking.

You'll never worry that the reason your youngest son doesn't call you is because of your drinking.

You won't have to lie to your doctor about your drinking.

You can run to the store at 10:30 pm to get that thing your kid forgot to tell you he needs for school tomorrow without worrying about getting a DUI.

You can quit imagining the day you kill yours' or someone else's child while drunk. (I know you're already saying, "But I don't drink and drive." What about backyard bar-b-q's and a bunch of beers and no one's watching the kids?  What about weekends at the lake and too many cocktails? What about sleepovers and you've drank  two bottles of wine and passed out and don't hear the smoke alarm? These were my constant nightmares when my kids were growing up...but it didn't make me quit drinking.)

You will be able to answer the phone at any time of the day.

When you forgot something someone told you, you no longer have to be ashamed. You just forgot.

Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, will no longer have to worry that you'll make a scene at the next get together because you're drunk.  Weddings, baptisms, Christmas, trips to're good to go.

More importantly, you will no longer worry that you'll make a scene because you're drunk.

You'll no longer have to try and "act" sober.

The voices in your head will find other things to talk about.

I'm just getting started. I'm sure you can think of a few, too.

Is that enough for you?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sometimes You Just Need To Cut Your Bangs

As I mentioned in the last post, another birthday has passed--sigh.  I used to kind of gloat inside that all my time spent in sand and sun hadn't made itself glaringly apparent on my features. I used to get the occasional, "How do you do it?" referring to my skin. (It helps if you hang around with a significantly older crowd and everyone assumes that you are their age.)  Even the occasional, "Have you had work done?" came my way.  (Only one teeny-tiny blepharoplasty ten years ago because my upper eyelids were threatening to fall down around my ears.)

Alas, those golden skinned years have decided to exact their revenge. I kind of take side glances out of my weaker left eye at my reflection in the computer screen these days and I often lie to the cap'n  and tell him the internet is too bad for video skype. Not because I don't want him to see me-- how he saw me every mornings during my boozer days and didn't turn to stone, I'll never know -I just can't stand staring at myself while I talk to him. I can't pay attention to anything he's saying because I'm noticing the newest crevice at the side of my mouth or how my latest attempts at improvement via make-up reminds me more and more of Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

On top of all that, I need a haircut!  The last one I had is a faint memory and the humidity down here causes my fine hair to droop about my face like ropes of over-cooked pasta. I told the cap'n I was going to get it all chopped off but he's got that guy thing about long hair and he promptly replied,"The Hell You Are!"

That's okay, I've got the guy thing about long hair, too. My friend, Barbara, says at a certain age woman should not wear long hair. I reply, "I agree. At the age of 105, it  might be time to get a whack job so I'll look my age."

But last night I'd had it . I was going out with some friends for dinner and it was hanging lank around my face and my too-long bangs were parted in the middle just begging for some bobby pins to complete my look.

In desperation, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the shears out of the drawer. Chop! Chop! Chop!

Then I looked back in the mirror.

And smiled.

My bangs weren't perfect, but they weren't as bad as some of my grade school pictures where I swear my mother must have used my kindergarten safety scissors at the same time the one and only earthquake to ever hit Liberal, KS must have struck.  But just like in those pictures, I looked younger. Better.

I decided I could live with the rest of my hair for awhile.

NPR ran an article last week on moderation for heavy drinkers, In the article, Re-Thinking: Can Heavy Drinkers Learn To Cut Back it mentions Moderation Management and as many of you know MM is the organization that was and still is my main means of support through this recovery journey of mine.  MM has fought to overcome that all or nothing mindset of "If you are a problem drinker, you're only recourse is to quit drinking completely." that has been force fed to all of us through the years. Many of moderation's naysayers, have gone as far to say that MM is a danger to alcoholics, that it encourages recovered alcoholics to drink again. To that I say, if they were that unsteady in their sobriety, they were probably going to drink again, with or without MM.

 When I joined MM, I knew that I most probably, maybe even most certainly needed to quit drinking, the equivalent of shaving my head in the above scenario. I had been drinking heavily all of my adult life, twenty five years, more or less. In the latter years of my drinking, I'd developed a physical dependence to alcohol and found myself  stumbling downstairs at 2 am most nights to chug wine just to quiet my palpitating heart. By no one's definition, certainly not MM's, was I a candidate for moderation.  But I just couldn't get my head around walking around like a bald troll in a world full of people with luxurious heads of hair.  I worried that my husband and friends would not adjust to it well either.  It was too big of a change all at once.

So, basically, I cut my bangs. I started participating on the MM message boards and learning about and using their tools, such as counting my drinks, limiting the days I drank, spacing my drinks.  All those things that define moderation. My husband and friends raised their eyebrows a little bit, tried to cajole me into drinking more to assuage their own misgivings about their personal drinking, but then shrugged their shoulders and continued to drink. After all, I wasn't making them cut their hair.

However, those little snips here and there weren't working so well for me, I wasn't seeing the big change that I wanted and let's just say my hair seemed to grow back overnight. So I  I decided to take and inch or two off the ends and attempted my first 30 day abstinence period.  I didn't succeed, but I made it twenty days and I found out the world did not stop revolving, my husband and friends didn't run for the hills, and I lived through it.

I tried to moderate for a year. In the end,  I found that trimming the amount I drank  did not work for me. There was never enough change or progress to make me feel good about myself and I still had no control once  I started drinking.

But those dramatic swaths of time I spent abstaining, as recommended by MM?  They saved my life. I hadn't had one day, much less a week, or a month without booze, in a decade .  Those abs periods introduced me to a life I had never experienced as an adult.

A much gentler world.

They also introduced me to a person I had never taken the time to get to know.


After that year, I could finally imagine a life without booze. But even more, Since my "hair" no longer consumed me, I looked forward to the baldness of life in all of its fierce and liberated beauty with an anticipation I hadn't felt since I was young.

I haven't had a drink in almost four years and I've never regretted or been disappointed in one second of it.

Does hanging around and listening to people discuss moderation tempt me to try again. Nope. My unfettered hairstyle suits me to a "T".

Friday, March 27, 2015

God Winked

Let's see if I remember how to do this.

This picture was taken about 10 years ago when we lived on the boat. It was right after 9/11--oh my God! That was almost 14 years ago!--, the cap'n and I had been docked at Gangplank Marina when the attacks happened.  They shut down the Potomac for about 3 weeks and when they finally opened it up, the cap'n said, "To hell with staying in the Bull's Eye Zone, I'm going to Fantasy Fest in Key West before I die."

Two weeks later, we were on a mooring in Garrison Bight, Key West. If you know anything about traveling on a sailboat, you know we hauled ass!

So here is Stanley, the killer bichon (he wasn't blind yet.) looking about as trepidatious as I was about donning a mermaid suit with two tiny triangles to cover my bodacious ta-ta's and a tight mermaid's tail skirt and wandering around with a bunch of drunks all night. (That would be me in the mermaid suit, not Stanley. And if you've ever been to Fantasy Fest, you know I was way over dressed.)

Yes, my costume was giving me cause for concern, but that wasn't the real reason for my trepidation.  For the longest time, maybe ever since I started drinking, I dreaded the thought of these kind of events.  I used to stare in bemusement at people who got so enthused about concerts and big holiday parties, and all-inclusive vacations.  These same people would wander into work on Monday morning and laugh about how drunk they got and what fun they had.

That was  never me.  My stomach was always cold with dread before these occasions, and afterwards...well, I didn't come into work laughing about what some other drunken idiot did at the office Christmas party. I was usually the drunken idiot.

My drinking was always wrapped up in worry and shame.  Maybe that should have been my first clue that maybe I shouldn't be drinking.

Oh, I had fun, but only after I had enough drinks in me to make it seem like fun.

There weren't enough drinks in all the bars on Duval Street to make Fantasy Fest Night fun.. I was pretty much wasted by 7:00 pm, which is when I thought I'd pull one of those drunken girl tricks.  I guess I decided that the cap'n was ogling too many of the bare but highly decorated and much younger ta-tas of the other female revelers. So I thought, I'll just step away for a minute and see if he misses me. Not a good idea in the shoulder to shoulder and other sweaty parts to other sweaty parts press of humanity that is Key West during Fantasy Fest.

This little mermaid was soon swept away by the crowd.

I didn't see the cap'n or Stanley again until 4:00 am. Of course, the cap'n swore he never moved from the spot where I left him.  Then we had the photos developed--that was a long time ago, wasn't it? Suffice it to say Stanley ended up with a lot more beads than I did and most  of the photos depict a decidedly worried Stanley trapped between two masses of silicone.

We said good-bye to Stanley last May, he was nineteen and blind and even the mild Mexican winters were getting hard on his bones, but he still loved me ferociously. I used to comfort myself with the fact that I couldn't be all bad if Stanley still loved me.

God Wink Time. ( I bet you wondered if I'd ever get around to it, huh?)

1:00 a.m day before yesterday. I can't sleep. It's been my 53rd birthday for an hour and I'm feeling a little sorry for myself. I'm here in Mexico all alone while the cap'n is stateside working. I think I suffer from Birthday and Holiday PTSD from all those years when the kids forgot to call me, or relied on the fact that they could forget to call but tell me that they had, knowing I'd be too drunk to be sure.

All of a sudden my phone on the nightstand makes that little "brrrinnngg" sound it makes when I get a notification and I grab for it in the dark to see who might be sending me my first Birthday Greeting.

Up pops the picture above. Nobody sent it and I had no idea it was even on my phone. I obviously didn't have that phone 14 years ago. And the computer it was stored on died two months ago. I have posted the same pic on this blog I think, and on the old blog I used to write about cruising, but I haven't seen the pic in a long time. Not since Mr. Stan died.

I guess he was letting me know I wasn't as alone as I thought I was. Oh geez, here I go crying again.

I've been receiving a few God Winks that I should get back to writing this blog,  So here I am. Not much has changed in the last half year.

But I'm still not drinking and that's pretty major.