Thursday, July 30, 2015

MIssed This More: Life After Recovery




I spend most of my Wednesday nights in the Moderation Management (MM) Chatroom, Wednesday night is Abs Chat night.  Many of the people that visit on Wednesday night are not people who have chosen permanent abstinence from alcohol, they are people who are going through a temporary period of abs, as prescribed by MM, or people who are curious or considering permanent abs for themselves.  (In MM we used the term "sobriety" to describe both successful moderation and permanent abstinence.)

One of the most common questions is, "Do you miss it?"

And my answer is always, "Yes."

Now most of the time one or more of my fellow absers will vehemently reply with something to the tune of, "No, I don't miss it one bit.  Does someone miss cancer after they survive it?"

And I kind of shrink back in my virtual folding chair and think, "Is there something wrong with me?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I not doing enough?"  Because I do miss it.  Sometimes every day.  Sometimes all day long.  Sometimes not very often.  Sometimes not very much.  

But I do miss it.

Last night, same conversation, same questions.  "Why do you miss it?"  "Do you think you miss the fantasy of it, rather than the reality?"  "What do you miss about it?"

My answer, "I don't know."  "It's hard to explain."

If some magical genie popped out of the lamp right now and said to me, "Abracadabra! You will now be able to drink moderately for the rest of your life."

I just might.  Drink.

But there ain't no friggin' lamp.  Ain't there sure ain't no friggin' Genie.

So last night after chat, I took my bath, ate my ice cream and crawled into bed to finish reading "Beautiful Ruins."  It's a good read, light and easy.  A fiction story about an actress who had an affair with Richard Burton in the 60's and ended up pregnant.  Suffice it to say, I didn't really relate to the characters in the story.

Except one.

The child that resulted from the union of this actress and Dickie-poo ends up as a drug addict.  At the end of the story he is recovered.  This is a quote from the book that describes his life post-recovery.


"In Sandpoint, Idaho, Pat Bender wakes at four, makes the first of three pots of coffee, and fills the predawn hours with chores around the cabin.  He likes starting work before he's had a chance to really wake up; it gives the day some momentum, keeps him moving forward.  As long as he has something to do, he feels good, so he clears brush or splits wood or he strips, sands, and stains the front deck, or the back deck, or the outbuildings, or he starts the whole process again on the front deck: strip, sand, stain.  Ten years ago, he would've thought this some kind of Sisyphean torture, but now he can't wait to  slide into his work boots, make coffee, and step into the dark morning; he likes the world best when he is alone in it, that dark, predawn quiet.

Further down the page...

"And on those days when Lydia, the lake, his coffee, his woodworking, and the Richard Burton film library aren't nearly enough, on those evenings when he craves-fucking craves-the old noise and a girl on his lap and a line on the table...-on those days when he imagines getting just a wee bit higher (See: every day), Pat Bender concentrates on the steps.  He recalls his mother's faith in him, and what she told him that night he found out about his father (Don't let this change anything), the night he forgave her and thanked her-and Pat works: he strips, he sands, he stains-strips, sands, and stains, as if his life depended on it, which, of course, it does.  And in the dark morning, he always rises clear again, resolute; ...

No matter my urges, no matter my 'missing", I don't drink.  And every morning I get up, I feed my birds, I pull my chair up on the deck and say my rosary.  Watch the birds.  Say, "Thank You."
This morning, I mixed a bowl of dough, I kneaded it, I watched it rise.  Twice.  Then I formed cinnamon rolls and watched them rise too before I baked them.  My oldest is coming home tonight. There's a pan of lasagna baking in the oven.  Fresh cinnamon rolls on the counter.

As much as I miss drinking some days, when I was drinking, I missed this life more.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Treasure Hunting









I spent all day yesterday treasure hunting.  No, I did not go down in the depths of some cave with a miner's lamp and pick and shovel thrown over my shoulder, nor did I strap on a scuba tank.  I did it as any logical couch potato, big dreamer would, with notebook and pen in hand and laptop on my lap, of course.

I spent a bright sunny June Saturday, locked in the Ali Baba treasure cave of my mind, as I plotted and mapped out the clues to Forest Fen's Treasure.  Instead of spending the day out cleaning out my flowerbeds, or going for a hike, or  finishing the Damn Never-To-Be-Finished- Book, (from here on out to be referred to as DNTBFB which could also stand for DadNabitTurkeyBastingFuggingBook, ) which would surely give me more likely and immediate rewards, I went chasing after a dream that thousands of others have chased and still haven't caught.  And they've been chasing that treasure for years.  What chance do I have?

As good a chance as they do.

A month ago I sent in a contest entry to win a 200 year old Inn in Maine. (Were any of you fellow bloggers my competition?)  I dreamed of being the caretaker of  that old Inn.  Taking yearly jaunts out into the woods on a snowy December day with my guests towing sleds behind them, (think Currier and Ives).  Cutting down the perfect tree, and then decorating it later from boxes of antique ornaments hauled down from the attic as we drank hot cider and listened to Christmas Carols.  I planned to let my littlest guests set up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk in the summer, I'd bake the cookies.  I dreamed of my granddaughter receiving her first kiss on those steps, of handing her over the keys some day.  Of her dragging the boxes of ornaments down from the attic.  Squeezing the lemons.  Baking the cookies.

I didn't win.

But that's okay.

I enjoyed richness  of my far flung dreams.

Funny how quitting drinking is so much like a treasure hunt.  I didn't envision it that way, especially in the beginning.  When I was so sick.  My days burdensome.  My nights dreamless.  I wasn't interested in treasure seeking.  All I wanted to do was escape the dungeon I was trapped in.   I didn't know there were riches waiting for me,  If I had, maybe I would have tried to escape earlier.  Maybe I would have sat and plotted and mapped and felt my heart flutter back to life as I imagined all the glittering jewels waiting for me to find them.  Instead of dwelling on my loss of drinking with all of it's false shine.  Fool's gold.

I wished I would have dreamed of trips into the snowy woods, lemonade stands, my granddaughter's first kiss, a best selling DNTBFB.  I wished I would have wool gathered and taken flights of whimsy. Gone all starry-eyed and obsessed, just thinking about all those gems laying at my feet.

I wish I hadn't been daunted by the numbers of people that had searched for the same treasure for years and failed.  Because, you know what?  Their failures didn't matter.  All that mattered was that I dreamed big enough and held on to the dream long enough to find the treasure.  No matter the disappointments.  No matter the misread clues.  The wrong turns.  The rock slides and washouts.

All that mattered is that if I kept dreaming and searching, I would find the treasure.

And I did.  And that treasure chest held so many more riches than rubies and gold.  It housed more bounty than that 200 year old inn could hold.

The End!

P.S.  If you are one of those in the early days of sobriety, one of those who are suffering with mourning or sickness, start plotting and start searching.  Get out a piece of paper and draw yourself a map.  What treasures do you want to find or retrieve?  Map out how you're going to get there.  Have some relationships you want to mend? Put them on the map.  Have some health or spiritual goals,  Mark them with an X.  Carry the map with you at all times.

Good Luck!

P.P..S.  Yes, I have pinpointed exactly where Fenn's treasure is give or take a hundred miles or so, so there's no reason for the rest of you to even look.




Thursday, June 25, 2015

Reaping Rewards



For some reason this pic of my grandkids reminds me of those old Circus photos of midgets and giants, or I guess to be more politically correct these days, Little People and Big People.


But back to matters at hand.

Sorry for dropping out of sight for a week or so, I went to visit my kids and grandkids. It is during these visits that I think I reap the most benefits of being sober, being fully present for my grandkids. They were a big impetus for me getting sober. Only one of them, the oldest, will have ever known the drinking Grandma Kary and since the oldest is now 11 and I quit drinking when he was 7, I hope those memories will fade. But he still has at least one of them, he brought it up to me a few months ago. And although he may not attribute the memory to drinking, I do."Grandma?" he asked, "remember that time I was staying with you and you made me go to bed at 6:00 pm when it was still light out. I wasn't tired at all and couldn't sleep and just had to lay there for hours."

Yes, I do remember that time.

 It was just him and I up here at the cabin for a week and it had started out so well, we were having so much fun fishing and having campfires. But I was drinking. At this point in my drinking I had started kindling and even if I overdrank by a small amount I would go into these horrendous episodes of withdrawal. Of course, I didn't know about kindling back then, I just couldn't figure out why my "hangovers" were getting so much worse even though at times I drank less. I would continue conducting this dangerous experiment for another year before finally joining MM and then a year later quitting drinking for good.

Anyway, back to that week. From Day 3 of our great vacation, I lay on the couch while grandson was forced to stay inside and watch TV or videos and eat ice cream for meals. I kept promising him that tomorrow would be better. But it never was. And, of course, I was still drinking, weaning off, because that was the only way I knew of warding off what ever might be coming if quit drinking completely. I remember at one point thinking I should teach him to dial 911 and give them our location, just in case.

I should have called someone to come get him, but I didn't, I was too ashamed. 

I survived the week, as did he, and delivered him to the doorstep of his other grandparents at the end of the week. I'm sure I looked like hell. I've told this story before, I guess its one of the ones that stick with me, that still turn my stomach.

But Drinking Grandma is dead and gone, and while I may have looked wistfully at my son's beer last week as he sat on the back porch in the evenings, I have absolutely no regrets about the week. None. And that is the greatest reward of all. 

No regrets.

P.S. More grandchildren coming to stay with me this week and I am not afraid. 

P.P.S.  If your hangovers have started to grow in their extent of horribleness and length, no matter the amount you drink, you have probably started kindling.  It doesn't get any better from this point.  You are at the point that something very scary could happen.  The only way to avoid this is to quit.  I don't recommend even trying to moderate at this point because moderation, especially in those early hard days, is a teeter-totter.  One drink too many and the teeter-totter crashes to the ground sending you, on the other end, flying through the air until you land in a broken heap on the ground.  It's just too dangerous because you don't know if that one more drink, is going to be your last.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

True North


That's my mom up there.  Isn't she beautiful?  I'm ashamed to say that this is one of the few pictures I have of her, it's not entirely my fault, we share a deep abiding distrust of cameras.  My mom and I.

She held my hand as we walked to kindergarten my first day.  She told me later that she cried for a week afterwards.  I was her baby, the last one.  It hadn't been planned that way, but my brother Steven had been stillborn a year earlier, and so, the title of baby of the family remained with me. With all of its trappings and last ditch expectations.  My mom is the baby of her family too.

Over-protective is too pale a term to use when describing Ruth Bohatch Hickey.  The daughter of a mean alcoholic and an angelic mother, by mom's account, she came by it honestly.  She once told of a night her mother and she hid in the woodshed because her dad was chasing them with an ax.  Her oldest sister, Arvella,  became an alcoholic and died at the age of 53.  My mother always claimed that Arvella was the beauty of the family, at her funeral my mother insisted on a closed casket so people couldn't see what had become of her.  I only met her once, years before her death, and I remember her as a hobbled, shadow person.  Raven hair, bent over a cane, smiling tremulously at this strange tow-headed creature that was her niece.  A few years ago, I thought I would end up that woman's legacy. The next generation of female alcoholic in the Bohatch family, gone too soon, leaving people scratching their heads wondering whatever happened to the bright little girl she'd once been.

But my mom had other plans for me, even though I chose to ignore them for 39 years.  Even though I hadn't talked to her since her death when I was 27 and she was 57.  Actually, I hadn't really talked to my mom for a over a decade before her death. Not since I'd fallen in love with her nemesis, booze, at the age of 14. That little tow-headed girl had disappeared down the rabbit hole and what had emerged was a surly teenager. A surly teenager with a drinking problem.  Oh sure, my mom knew I drank, I pinballed off the hall wall outside her bedroom door too many times for her not to know it.  But I'm sure she thought I'd outgrow it.  We all did.

Then she died.  And the secret weekend binge drinking that I successfully managed to hide from my mother burst out of the closet, danced across the floor and out the door for the whole world to see. Free at last. Free at last.  Good Gawd Almighty, I was free at last!

But my mom did not give up that easily.  Even after death I felt her disapproving eyes on my back. Her concern weighing down the bubbles of my inebriated life.  So I drank more. And more. And more.  And still she stayed.  I left her name out of my litany of saint's names when I was calling out for help.  But she was already there. When I was broken, she gathered me up.

Because see, she had decided years ago, another dead alcoholic female was not going to be her legacy.  She deserved better things.

Last week, June 12, was her 83rd birthday.  Happy Birthday Mom!  June 15 was her and my dad's wedding anniversary.  Thank you both for loving me!  Yesterday was the anniversary of her death 29 years ago.

Thank you, Mom, for never leaving me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Moderation Management Abs Chat Tonight

Hey all!

There was a discussion yesterday on Time and the Bottle on reaching out for additional help through online message boards and forums.  These venues were and continue to be an integral part of my journey.

I know I've mentioned several times that I am an active member of Moderation Management and it's sublist: mmabsers.  But I don't think I've ever mentioned that we have an abs chat every Wednesday night.  It's very informal and it's a great opportunity to get some real time support from people that have been sober for an extended period.  Stop on by and bounce your questions, fears, and problems off of them.

 I am facilitating the chat tonight and I'd love to see some new faces from the sober blogosphere!

9 PM Eastern, 8 Central, 7 Mountain, 6 Pacific
Abs Chat is focused on abstaining from alcohol—on a permanent basis,
long-term, or even for a shorter period of time (like a 30!).
Everyone is welcome to attend, and to participate, but we won't be
discussing moderation techniques or plans. For discussions of
moderate drinking, we invite you to participate in the Monday Night
Book Chat or the Tuesday Night Online Meeting.
So if you're abstaining, planning to, curious about it, wondering
whether it would be a good idea, or just want to hang out for sober
fun, stop by!
See you there! http://www.moderation.org/chat/
** PLEASE NOTE: Abs Chat will be held in the Abs Chatroom. When
logging in, use the drop-down box to select MM_Abs_Chat. If you wind
up in the wrong room, you can move between rooms by clicking on the
room list to the right of the chatroom screen. **

Other online forums include:





I am sure there are more out there, the important thing is that you find one that is a good fit for you.  The blogging world is populated with amazing and compassionate people.  But if you find, especially in times of weakness or crisis, that you need some real time support, you may find it at one of these online recovery communities.

Whatever it takes!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sober Sabbatical: Top Ten Reasons to Take A Break From Drinking



Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.

I have to admit I've kind of forgotten the angst of early sobriety.  After four years, I roll my eyes sometimes when newcomers worry needlessly about what others will think about them being brave and strong and fucking "balls to the wall" about confronting their drinking problem and doing something about it.

I'm sorry.  I shouldn't do that. You have a right to be concerned about what those assholes, ahem, I mean, your friends think about you.  And on that note I think I've come up with a solution to one of the most common fears of the early sober person.

"What do I say when they ask why I'm not drinking?"

You lift your nose in the air, peer at them down the length of it and say,

"Didn't you get the memo, my dear unfortunate lesser being? I am on a sabbatical."

Come on, haven't you always wanted to use that word?  Haven't you ever imagined yourself as the tweedy professor whose colleagues gaze at him with awe and bated breath as he stands to deliver the findings of his year long sabbatical?

I bet nobody ever looks at him as if he has frogs coming out of his mouth.

"What's the fun in that?  Instead of studying the ritual of penis fencing among the hermaphroditic flatworm population, wouldn't you have rather spent a year singing karaoke and trying to figure out how the hell you ever thought the person in bed next to you was even remotely fuckable."

Nobody regards someone that is going on, in the middle of, or just back from a sabbatical as anything less than colossally cool.

So don't just talk the talk, walk the walk.

I googled reasons to take a sabbatical and there isn't one of them that doesn't fit in the Sober Sabbatical realm of possibilities.

Top Ten Reasons To Take a Sabbatical Right Now

1.  It's Not As Expensive As You Think:  A big "Hell Yeah" to that.  My booze habit used to cost me about $600.00 a month.  Do the math.  600x12x30=I wouldn't be worrying my ass off about retirement right now.

2.  There's Probably Not Going To Be A Better Time:  Would you rather look back on this time and remember how you spent the months drinking, trying to control your drinking and beating yourself up about your drinking or how you used the downtime to get to know yourself, reevaluate your life, and experience a new culture?

3.  It's a great way to hit life's reset button:  Getting away from drinking might be the only way you can really reset or change course. If you continue around the day-to-day, making significant changes is tough. Taking a few months off will give you the space you need to figure things out

4.  You'll Reconnect With Who You Really Are:  After years or decades of drinking, it’s easy to lose track a little of what we really want as individuals and of who we really are underneath our “drinking selves.” Disconnect with your drinking self on a sabbatical, and you’ll reconnect with who you really are.

5.  You'll Have A Major Breakthrough About What You Want From Life:  When did you ever really “decide” to pursue the path you’re on now anyways? Are you doing what you really want to be doing, or are you following more of the default or acceptable path?A sabbatical might open your eyes to what you really want from life.

6.  Those Things You Are Stressing Over Right Now Aren't That Important:  Once you’re away from your drinking for a while, you’ll start to see clearly again. Eventually you’ll barely remember details of things that once seemed life-or-death important. You will start to understand that the truly important things in life exist outside of drinking – and you might begin to wonder how you ignored them for so long.

7.  You Might Meet Some Special Friends:  Like me.  But seriously, when was the last time you and your friends sat down and had a meaningful conversation, one that wasn't brought on by the false closeness of drinking.  When was the last time you felt like a person really got you on an emotional level, without having to be drunk?

8.  "Aha! "Moments Require a Sober Mind:  Ok, yeah, you might have some brilliant ideas when you're drinking, or so they seem at the time.  Real innovation requires full attention.  What innovations and discoveries has your mind been holding onto, just waiting for you to take a breather from your drinking so you can act on them?

9.  You:  You owe it to yourself , more than anyone else, to give yourself this time.  You deserve it.

10.  Your Drinking Life Will Be Waiting For You:  If you still want it.

P.S.  Copy this list and carry it in your pocket.  If your friends give you anymore crap,  just whip it out and hand it to them.  Hopefully, they'll shut up long enough to read it.

***Note to "friends", next time one of your friends says they are taking a break from drinking, just say, "Good for you" even  an"I'm proud of you" wouldn't be too far out of line..  It takes a lot of gumption to confront this problem and a very real fear is that you'll lose all your friends.  Believe me, your non-drinking friend has been contemplating and worrying about this moment for months, maybe years.  This is your time to shine and show that you really are a friend.

****I need to give credit to the original article, "Ten Reasons To Consider a Sabbatical" . I was amazed how many of their points applied to taking an extended break from drinking.  I want to give them credit for their stellar writing,  I only tweaked a few things to make it more applicable to our circumstances.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quiet


View from my porch yesterday, May 15, 2015

There is a quiet up here after it snows.  Interrupted only by the occasional squabble of the birds at the feeder, a scolding from the squirrel  My knitting needles clicking.  The fire crackling.  The slide of snow off the roof.

The footprints in the snow are mine, coming and going to bring in wood or feed the birds. The other prints are from the other creatures that belong here.

This is what sobriety looks like to me.  Quiet. Unsullied by unnecessary trodding and stomping around.  Unbroken by relentless unnecessary babble.

Only me and the creatures that belong here.