Monday, July 30, 2012

True Confessions

Day 321 of Sobriety

I reached into my refrigerator this afternoon for something and there at the back was the bottle of wine I bought six weeks ago for my friends who were coming over for a Friday night girls night.  They obviously didn't drink it and it has sat back there all this time.  I looked at it wistfully and thought how nicely it would go with the dinner I was fixing for my son and I tonight, but I grabbed the bag of cheese that I'd been looking for and shut the door and the thought went no further.

But I swore when I started this blog that I would always be honest and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss drinking.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't heartbroken sometimes at the thought of never drinking again.    And I'd be lying if I said sometimes I don't get royally pissed off that I can't drink. And I'd be lying if I said I never think about letting myself drink for a special occasion or trip, like a Rhine river cruise or a Napa valley tour and then lying to ya'll about it.  But I haven't and that is the truth.  I know some people on the message boards say they never miss it and they never consider it, but that's not me.  I do.

I don't know why all my lovelorn-ness (I know that's not a word but that's what I feel sometimes, lovelorn for alcohol) doesn't transfer into opening that bottle of wine, or popping a tab or twelve on the suitcase of beer that also resides in my fridge for friends.  But it doesn't.  And that's the truth.  I think one reason is that it would be a big slap in the face to my Co-Writer, the cap'n, my boys, my friends, and myself to squander all these blessings I have been given, all these constant validations that my life is so much better without alcohol in it no matter how much I miss it.  And that's more than enough reason today for me to leave that cork on the bottle of wine and all those beer tabs intact.  And that's the truth too.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Night Blessings

Day 317 of Sobriety

Well, I had a whole 'nother blog planned but then a friend called to talk about her mother who has dementia and is needing to be put in a nursing home and my friend's family isn't stepping up and they are letting my friend carry the load.  So I let her unload some of her load on me for about an hour and then it was too late to write my intended blog but I thought what a blessing it was to be able to be there for my friend at 8:00 in the evening, and to be sober, and to be just listening without interrupting, and I wondered if I had still been drinking, would she have thought about calling me and then thought, "I really need to talk to someone and I really want to talk to Kary but she's probably drunk by now and I can't deal with that tonight."  I'm glad she called.

So the hour I was going to spend writing the other blog is gone and I really need to get in the shower but I really want to talk to you guys too so I thought I'd just tell you about my blessings on this Thursday night.

I have two bags of spicy, nutty cheddar wafers that I just baked, while dangling on the phone talking with my friend, all bagged up and ready to go for the going away party for my boss at work tomorrow.  I've tried about a dozen of them and they are delicious.

Mr. Stanley, the blind killer bichon is prowling around grazing for crumbs.  His eyes might not work worth a shit, but his nose is stellar and his tail still wags when I call his name.

After hanging up with my girlfriend, I called the cap'n via skype and he just finished eating the steak he grilled up at his temporary home away from home. He hasn't had a drink in a month and won't have one for another month because of work, and we both made the comment that this will be the first summer we've ever spent sober.  Two years ago, we wouldn't have even considered it.

In about 5 minutes, I'm going to go jump in the shower and then I'm going to let Mr. Stanley out one last time, then I'm going to crawl into bed, maybe read a little, (Yes, that book, Lulu), then I'm going to say goodnight to a few people no longer of this world and then say a few thanks to my Co-writer.  Then I'll fall asleep.  And tomorrow I'll wake up without a hangover.

Pretty ordinary, huh?  Some of you might not even be able to find the blessings in this post because you've not let all your ordinary, run of the mill blessings slip away yet.  You don't notice them until they are gone.  For me, every single ordinary night is a miracle.  Don't ever let me forget it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Colorado, State Of Mourning

Day 313 of Sobriety

I clicked on the computer at 5:15 am on Friday and read the Yahoo news banner, "Tragic Shooting At Colorado Theater.  As I read the story, I thought of all the parents of the young people attending the premier and my first thought was, "I hope they were sober when they got the phone call."

Strange thought, huh?  But maybe not for me.  Because for all of my boys' teenage years one of my biggest fears was that I would get one of those horrible phone calls in the middle of the night, the kind you know are going to change your life, and not for the better, and that I would be drunk. Or even worse, maybe I would be so passed out that I would never hear the phone at all and it would ring on and on through the night, while my child struggled, alone and afraid, wondering where I was, while other family members gathered and held vigil, while others held him, while my child gave up the fight.  Without me.

It could have happened any given Friday night, or Saturday night, or any night or any day.

Did it keep me from drinking?  No.  Instead, when I moved onto the boat, I started turning off the phone every night and I told myself and everybody else that I did it because there wasn't anything I could do in the middle of the night, on a boat in the middle of nowhere.  And every morning I turned on that phone and the computer with a feeling of dread, fearing what might have happened while I was nonchalantly drinking my life away the night before.

Luckily, I've never missed one of those phone calls because luckily none has ever been made to me.  Now, in sobriety, the excuses are gone, and the phone is on and even if I'm in Timbucktu, should, God forbid, one of those horrific phone calls come in the middle of the night I will be with my child, or grandchild, or friend, or brother, or sister or whomeve,r in spirit and in thought and in prayer.  And in sobriety.  They deserve that.

As to the tragedy in my beautiful state, I have no answers.  I wonder why our state seems to be so beset with people that intend harm to masses of others.  Columbine, Platte Canyon High School, and now this?  Do they come there because others have wreaked evil before them and have shown them the way or does the beauty of Colorado amplify the desolation of their own inner landscape?  I don't know but as I've said on the message boards, the only antidote I can think of is kindness.  I have to believe that some act of unkindness, or several acts of unkindness, is what triggers a pursuit of revenge in these beings.  Some act damaged them bad.  I took my grandson to lunch yesterday and I asked him who his best friend at school is and he said, "I don't have any friends at school they all make fun of me."  This is a cute, funny seven year old kid who does well in school and when I ask why they make fun of him he shrugs and says he doesn't know.  These people that do these unthinkable things were cute little seven year old kids at one time too.  We've got to make kindness an esteem worthy, admirable trait again, instead of a sign of weakness.  And when faced with unkindness, we need to combat it with kindness, the way the family of Emily Keyes, the heroic young girl who lost her life in the Platte Canyon High School Hostage Tragedy, are doing with the Emily Keyes I Love U Guys Foundation.

Kindness, people. To Others. To Ourselves.  Don't drink today and keep the phone on.

Love U Guys!

P.S.  If you haven't already read Jodi Picoult's book Nineteen Minutes, it's a real eye opener into what drives people to do horrific things like what happened in Aurora. I think I need to read it again but today I'm going to spend time with my grandson and show him how to be kind.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Well, it finally happened, it took 307 days, 19 hours and so many minutes of sobriety but someone finally told me that they didn't think I was that "bad" and that they didn't understand why I had quit drinking.  It was my best friend, of course it was her, I could always count on her to tell me that.  Good thing I haven't seen her much in the last 307 days.

She was drunk when she called, I could tell when I answered the phone.  I had just finished eating dinner with my oldest son and was about to shoo him out the door so I could spend the rest of the evening determinedly finishing one of the half dozen books I've started haphazardly reading, when the phone rang.

I'll give you a synopsis of conversations that went on, including the ones in my head.

She said, "Hey, what are you doing?  I thought I'd stop by."

I said, "Sure, come on over."

In my head I said, "Shit! There goes my book.  How is she going to stop by, she doesn't have a car?  She's obviously been drinking, maybe she meant I was supposed to go by and get her.  She shouldn't be driving anyway."

I call her back but her son said she had already left.  She had borrowed a friend's car.

Knock! Knock!

 I call, "I'm in the backyard, come on back."

She comes out the backdoor carrying a plastic bag of beer.

She says, "I bought my own beer, since you don't drink anymore."


In my head I said, "What kind of friend is this?"

I said, "No, thanks."

She said, "Oh yeah, right.  So you just stopped all of a sudden?"

In my head I said, "Jesus, how many conversations have you and I had over the course of 30 years about trying to control our drinking?"

I said, "No, I tried to seriously moderate for a year and decided that I couldn't do it so I needed to quit."

She said, "I just never thought you were that bad."

In my head I said, "Yeah, because if you admitted that I was that bad, you'd have to admit you are that bad, too."

I said, "I just got tired of feeling terrible all the time and the hangovers were evil."

She said, "I never get hangovers."

In my mind I said, "Bullshit!"

I said, "Really? You never get hangovers?"

She said, "Well, I can't remember the last time I got drunk actually."

In my head I said, "You're drunk on your ass right now."

I said nothing.

She said, "I don't drink everyday."

In my head I said, "Yes, you do."

I said, "It doesn't matter if you drink every day, what matters is if you can quit drinking once you start."

 She ignored that and said, "I'm just so glad you don't judge other people who drink."

In my head I said, "Oh yes, I do.  I'm judging you right now and I have no right to.  I was you."

So the rest of the night was spent listening to all of her woes, of which she genuinely has a multitude, most of which could be laid at the doorstep of her drinking and me wanting to bean her up the side her head with one of her beer cans and say, "Get Real and quit lying to yourself."

I finally shooed her off so I could get a shower before bed and then beat myself up for letting her drive home just because I didn't want to seem like I was "judging" her (I won't let that happen again).

And today, the girl that never has a hangover called in sick to work.

I received a comment today on a blog I wrote months ago, I didn't really understand most of what it said but a couple of things stood out to me since they seemed timely in relation to my conversation with my friend last night.  One statement was that self-righteousness is as toxic as offering an alcoholic a drink.  I get that, which is why most of my self-righteousness was kept in my head and I tried to preface all of my comments to my friend last night with, "When I drank, this happened to me" instead of making sweeping generalizations.  Another quote the commenter quoted was "Good Teachers don't abandon their pupil, not on purpose." Well, I've never claimed to be anyone's teacher, hell, I've got too much to learn, myself.  But I don't like to see my friend in pain, even if it is infuriating to me that she will not take any responsibility, and I'd like to help her and I don't think sitting there accepting the bullshit she is feeding herself in big heaping smelly shovelfuls and nodding agreeably like an idiot is one bit of help.

So Whaddayado?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Awakening

 Alright, I admit it, I'm kind of copping out on writing a blog this morning but this work thing is kicking my arse and I have been out in the OR until midnight for the last two nights and this morning my body and mind just aren't bending right.  But if I could write a blog this morning, this is the blog I wish I could write because, for me, this is what sobering up is all about.  I especially like the highlighted paragraphs because I know that I held on to drinking so hard and so long out of fear, fear of what my life would be without it, fear of the changes that would have to come and I needed, really needed, my sober friends on the sidelines, on the message boards and blogs, to tell me it was going to be worth it.  And it is, Oh My God, is it ever worth it.

"The Awakening"

A time comes in your life when you finally get it...when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out...ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on.

Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes. This is your awakening. You realize it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.

You realize that in the real world there aren't always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you... and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are... and that's OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions. You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself... and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.

You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you - or didn't do for you - and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that everything isn't always about you. So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself... and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties... and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness. You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for. You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you've outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" looking for your next fix. You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life."

You learn that you don't know everything, it's not your job to save the world and that you can't teach a pig to sing. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake. Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO. You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you believe you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen. More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance.

You also learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it's OK to risk asking for help. You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people... and you learn not to always take it personally. You learn that nobody's punishing you and everything isn't always somebody's fault. It's just life happening.

You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls. You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart's desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.

- Author Unknown

P.S. While looking for images of wind chimes for this blog, I found the link to "The Wind Chime Shop" in the picture at the top, so this blog just cost me some of that overtime moolah I've been busting my arse for.  I'm sure it's going to be worth it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Naomi and Phil

I hugged a lady in the Walmart parking lot the other morning.  It was one of those long hugs that you don't want to let go of, a kind of holding on to memories, good and bad.

I have never not known this lady.  She tells the best stories, about ghosts, about Indians, of which she is one, and about saints, of which most people say she must be one. Her name is Naomi.

She was married to Phil and they were friends of my parents before I was born and our families were intertwined throughout my childhood and then some.  She and Phil had thirteen kids, ten of them living   Two of their baby girls are buried next to my baby brother out in our hometown cemetery.  My dad was godfather to a handful of their kids, and their daughter, Mary, was my best friend in grade school. We suffered together, hands clasped, heads bowed, and knees shaking, through years under the benevolent tutelage of the Sisters of Perpetual Rigidness and Fright.  My mother, took in their baby brother one winter when Naomi fell and broke her arm crossing their icy street, Naomi taught me to make deviled eggs and fried chicken for my Girl Scout father and daughter box dinner banquet one spring when my mother was in the hospital.

Phil was a scrappy, scrawny, red-headed Dutchman.  And he was the town drunk. I'm certain, back in the day, that you could have asked any citizen of our town who the town drunk was and they would have readily identified Phil.  He might have fallen out of the top spot a year or two, but he was always in the running.  Not many of those same citizens would have many kind things to say about Phil, but my dad loved him.  My mom tolerated him, sometimes barely.

Even with ten kids to call his own, he loved me.

"Little Girl, come hug my neck."

One year he took Mary and me to the seediest bar in town, the Red Carpet, to sell Girl Scout cookies.  We did pretty well, as I remember the Go-Go Girls, who danced in wire cages, were very fond of the Thin Mints.  My brother likes to tell the story of when Phil was his Boy Scout leader and he took the pack to earn a merit badge watching some new houses that were being constructed.  Phil had to run a quick errand and left the boys there for just a minute and, of course, he forgot to go back and get them.  Good thing our town was small and most everything was walking distance back then.

Once when I was in high school, I went to a party that Phil's son, also a good friend of mine, was throwing and Phil was right there among all the high school kids, drinking and smoking pot.  He saw me walk in.

"You don't belong here, Little Girl."

Phil was one of those drunks of which it was often surmised, "He can't quit drinking.  It would kill him."

But he did and it didn't.

My oldest brother was his sponsor in AA, he said he had never seen anyone tackle the 12 steps with the ferocity that Phil did, that he paid back every penny that he ever owed anyone.  And that was a lot of copper.

Phil died several years after he sobered up.  I fried chicken and made deviled eggs and took it over to Naomi and the family.  At the funeral, Phil was lauded in his eulogy for turning his life around and then turning around and helping others, I recognized at least one of his pallbearers as one of the men that Phil, himself, had sponsored in AA. The eulogy also mentioned that Phil had guided one of his own sons, the one whose party I had seen Phil at when I was in high school, back to sobriety after years of alcohol and drug abuse.

After the funeral I invited that son over to my house and we got drunk. Boy, did we get drunk. Sick drunk.

Phil's role in my life didn't end when he died. Many times when I contemplated sobering up I thought, "If Phil could do it...."  And his name featured prominently in my litany of saints and redeemed drunks and deviants on those nights when I was pleading for help from anyone that might be listening.

"Little Girl needs some help here, Phil."

He must have been listening.

The other day when I hugged Naomi's neck I thought, "If Naomi could do it...."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Middle One

My middle son is adopted, well kind of.  He is actually the son of my first husband's sister, which makes him our nephew.  He was our nephew, then he became our son, well kind of.

He came to live with us when he was seven years old after his mother, his little sister, baby brother, and his grandmother (my mother-in-law at the time), were killed in a trailer house fire.  He and my nineteen year old brother-in-law managed to escape.

He came to us damaged.  By the fire, by the loss of his family, and by an unstable environment before all of that.  His "real" father wasn't a member of the family for long, but long enough.  He never offered to take his son, I wouldn't have let him anyway.  He came around a couple of times and I let him visit while I looked on but then he did what he was good at, he left.

I wish I could say it all happened like you see in the movies or on the Brady Bunch, that once he was mine, I loved him like he was my own.  But I can't.  I tried, I really tried.  It wasn't his fault, he was a sweet kid and so needy for love. It was something lacking in me.  I remember thinking, "He doesn't smell like my own kids."  I remember breaking down in tears three years after he'd come to live with us and asking my then husband if we should have let him go to foster care, that maybe there he would have found parents that loved him like he deserved.

I felt like I was just going through the motions, and I felt like he knew that.  But I kept going.

He struggled, with a lot of things, with everything.  Shoplifting, gang-wanna-be, high school drop-out, drugs, marriage, rehab, relationships...

But he's still sweet.

And he's a good father, and that's a lot.

Through the miracle of fb, he has connected with some of his "real" brother and sisters (his father has died) and he went to see them last weekend.  I called him to see how it was going.

"I got some of the answers I was looking for," he said. "My brothers and sisters say he was a drunk and abusive.  I guess I was lucky not to know him"

I was thinking of him when I went to bed that night, and I thought of what a good dad he is and I wondered if he would be the father he is, if his mother had lived or if his father had claimed him.  I know that he was disappointed to find that one more parent figure in his life wasn't what he deserved them to be, the kind of father he is to his son.

I got out of bed and fired the computer back up and went to his fb page and posted for the world to see that I think he is a great father and that he should be proud of himself. I am.

He posted back, "Thanks mom. I learned how 2 luv from u. Thank u."

I think I just fell  a little more in love with my son.