Friday, December 27, 2013

Sober Life: The Christmas Special

"Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?" - Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase)

"Naw, I'm doing just fine, Clark" - Eddie (Randy Quaid)

I was very blessed to be able to spend Christmas with two of my sons this year.  It took some finagling to get my butt from the beaches of sunny Mexico to the winter ravaged wheat fields of Kansas, but I managed.  I started formulating my plan way back at the end of October when the cap'n got a call about working in a small town in western Kansas over Thanksgiving, only an hour and a half from my hometown where my oldest son lives and a mere twenty minutes from where my second son lives.  I might have encouraged the cap'n just a little bit, my sights were already set on Christmas and the hope that, if everything worked out well over Thanksgiving, they would ask him to come back and work at Christmas and I would be able to hitch a ride to see my kids.  It did, they did, I did and they even payed for my ticket!  They don't call me a scheming beeyatch for nothing, years ago I bought our cabin in Colorado while we were living on our sailboat in the Bahamas and arranged that the closing would neatly coincide with my oldest son's K-state graduation.  After all, I'd promised him months before that I'd make it back for his graduation.  I can already hear you, "Why don't you just by airplane tickets, wouldn't that be easier?"  You've obviously never been privy to the negotiations that have to take place between the cap'n and I before he relents to buying a ticket to see family. He always relents, but buying a house as an excuse to make the trip is less complicated.

The plan was to have Christmas Day dinner at my oldest son's new house in our home town and my second son and grandson would drive down to join us.  Now to say that my two boys are a little different, would be an understatement of significant proportions.  They are only nine months apart, but since birth they have occupied two different worlds.  In the same solar system, and, for most of their lives, in the same family, but worlds apart.

A brief, non-biased, motherly comparison.  Just the facts.  My oldest son is a self-proclaimed socially awkward introvert (like his mother), take him out in public and he won't be able to come up with two sentences to string together to throw at a stranger, after a couple of drinks he becomes pretty affable, after four or five he becomes an asshole (these are his words, not mine).  He's thirty-two and way ahead of his mother in his capacity for self-awareness since he already recognizes this about himself and drinks rarely.  My second son is everyone's friend, sometimes that's a good thing, other times, it's not.  He has a heart bigger than Seward's Folly, unfortunately he's let too many people stake claims and mine for gold on it.  He's also thirty-two and doesn't drink much, he's put himself through rehab twice for cocaine addiction.  He, too, is way ahead of his mom in having the bravery to confront his demons.

My oldest son has no tattoos, no piercings, no facial hair, no wives, no get the picture.  He just got a great new job, just bought his first home in a nice part of town and has a nice new pickup sitting in the driveway.

My second son has numerous tattoos, some that I hope he didn't take too much food out of my grandbabies' mouths to pay for because he didn't get his money's worth, he likes his bling, he has one of those hair patches under his lip, he's a former gang wannabe (maybe he wasn't just a wannabe, but I don't want to think about that), he has one wife but they haven't lived together in years and they both have other significant others, he has two children, one here and one in California.  He lost his license several years ago, but he still drives.  He and his girlfriend and her two boys, eighteen and sixteen, and one of the kids' friend just moved to a trailer in the country.  Second son also has a new job with insurance and everything and he wears it as proudly as he would a new pair of two carat diamond studs.

Christmas Morning:

Me: "Oh by the way, I invited your brother's girlfriend and her boys for dinner."

Oldest son: "What??? You didn't ask me?  Who are these people?  I don't want a bunch of strangers in my house.  Jeezus, Mom! You should have asked me!"

Me:  "Come on, it's Christmas.  You can't ask her to leave them at home, besides they're teenagers and they probably won't even come.  Why would two teenagers want to come hang out with us?"

Oldest son:  "fuggerscmooozingdamryanfuggingbetternotfugging...grumble,grumble,grumble,"as he continues to annhilate foes on his video game.

Christmas noon:

Setting:  Me on one couch with phone in hand, oldest son on other couch still annhilating and blowing up his foes, body parts flying through the air, blood splatter on the tv screen.

Me into the phone:  "Hey, what time are you guys going to get here?  Uh-huh...uh, three would be better. How many did you say were coming?"

Oldest son:  Eyebrows shooting to the ceiling, mouth rounding in horror.  "What?"

Me into the phone: "Uh, okay, well, we should have enough food.  We'll see you at 3 o'clock.  Be careful.  Yes, I have the gift card so you can buy some gas to get back."

Oldest son:  "Don't tell me.  He better not be bringing anyone else."

Me:  "Just his girlfriend's son's girlfriend and another of their friends."

Oldest son, exploding off the couch:  "F'ing ________ (insert second son's name).  Who does he think he is?  This is so f'ing rude.  Don't you think he'd call and ask?  I don't want these f'ing strangers in my house."

Me:  "I'm sorry. This is my fault."  I get up and go into the kitchen so he can't see that I'm about to cry.  I check the turkey, it's done and they're not going to be here for three hours.  Fuck. Tears in check, I go back into the living room, oldest son has his phone up to his ear.

Me:  "Who are you calling?"

Oldest son: "  __________(insert second son's name)."

Tears start spurting again, so I go check the turkey again.  It's still done and they won't be here for two hours and forty-five minutes.  I go back into the living room, phone is still attached to oldest son's side of head.

Me:  "I'll call him and tell him not to come.  I'll make some excuse and tell him I'll go see him this weekend."

Oldest son takes phone from side of head and puts it on the coffee table.  "No, Mom.  It's okay.  It'll be okay.  I'll be good."


Oldest son:  "It's 3:15 pm."

Me:  "I know."

Oldest son:  "F'ing ________ (you know what to do), he does this every time.  This is so f"ing rude."

I try to call second son.

"The Verizon customer you are trying to reach is not available at this time. A voicemail box has not been set up."

4:00 pm:

The phone rings.

Second son:  "Mom, what street does _________ (insert oldest son's name) live on?"

A few minute later second son's girlfriend's car pulls into the drive.  Second Son is driving while four other persons, that probably have driver's licenses, are passengers. He jumps out of the car and slams the car door, it springs back open.  He slams it again, it springs back open.

Girlfriend:  "You have to kind of lift it up and shut it, Babe." (I like Girlfriend, I've only met her once before, but my son sounds happier than he has in a long time)

 Second son follows Girlfriend's directions and the door stays shut.  He shrugs and grins and turns to wrap me in a big hug.

Second son:  "Merry Christmas, Mom."

Girlfriend's kids and one kid's girlfriend pile out of the car and we are introduced. We stand around outside making conversation while they all finish their cigarettes.  They throw their butts on the ground and I wince, I hope Oldest Son isn't watching out the window.  I'll come out and pick them up later.

We file into the house.

Second Son:  "Hey guys, take your shoes off."

They do it without grumbling at all before they march into the living room to meet Oldest Son who is still killing people left and right in living color.

Girlfriends Sixteen Year Old Son, the one with the big spikes in his ears:  "You have Playstation 4? Cool!"

Oldest Son:  "You want to play?"  (That's my boy, sharing his toys just like his momma taught him.)

Girlfriend's Eighteen Year Old Son, the one with the girlfriend attached to his underarm, "Hey, watch out for the dude hiding behind the oil tanks."

Oldest Son: "Thanks, Man."

They all gather round to watch in rapture as more body parts go flying.

My Nine Year Old Grandson:  "Grandma, you wanna play a game of Sorry?"

Me: "Sure, dude."


We ate, we played, we laughed. A lot.  As usual, I am blown away by how good  a dad Second Son is to my grandson, but I am even more blown away by the warmth displayed between him and Girlfriend's kids.  Girlfriend's kids love my green bean casserole and secret recipe whipped cream.  Oldest son is happy, he has someone to play with. 

They have to leave too soon.  Hugs are passed around, Girlfriend's Oldest Son detaches his arm from around his girlfriend and pulls me in.

Second Son:  "Thanks, Mom. you have that gift card?"

Oldest Son and I watch as they chug out of sight.

Me:  "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Oldest Son:  "No, Mom, it was good.  It was real good."

Merry Sober Christmas from My Family To Yours!

(Thank God for Playstation.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Tribute to You


My fellow MM member, Heidi, shared this beautiful blog written by Jen Louden on the Moderation Management message board today and it reminded me so much of all of you in this wonderful, giving, tenacious, sober blogger, message board, chatroom, AA meeting, rehab... world of ours.

Thank you for holding my hand and not letting go.

A 2013 Tribute to You
I see all the times you followed your desires, without guilt or second-guessing or demanding a particular outcome. Even if only for a few breaths.
I see all the times you stopped hurrying, played in the field of creative joy, took a nap, flowered with self-kindness.
I see the kisses you savored, the connections you took in, the evanescent beauty of life you let break you open.
I see the days you started with reverence and ended with gratitude.
I see the times you nodded briskly at your fears, said “I hear you; we’ll talk later” and turned away to pick up the pen, the paintbrush, the business plan.
I see all the times you bit your tongue when you wanted to say something cruel, all the times you took a deep, slow breath and found your heart instead of your anger.
I see all the times you softened your heart, forgave yourself, forgave someone else, dropped the grudge, the blame, your defenses.
I see all the times you turned away from comparison and envy at the curated lives parading on the screens that surround you, turned off the din and settled back into your sovereignty.
And all the ways you have allowed life to temper you, faced your shadow with tenderness, dared vulnerability, loved greatly.
The times you dug deep to serve – from the money given when the month was tight to the petition signed to the soup made. Yes, I see that. And yes, it was enough.
Please imagine us in a circle that stretches – literally – around the globe. We join hands. We do not sing “Kumbaya.” We do, however, look to the right and then to the left. We nod at each other. Maybe we tear up a little. We are, after all, fiercely awesome.
We bow to each person’s fierce desire to be whole and to heal the whole.
We are ennobled by each other.
Thank you, we whisper, thank you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Those That Go Before Us

Two years ago almost to this day, I wrote a blog about my brother Pat who went before me on the road to sobriety.  In Shining Examples, I talked about how I watched him from the sidelines for almost twenty-five years while I waited until it was my time to embark on that peril fraught journey.

Today I want to tell you another story of one whom I watched from the sidelines.

I met my friend, Pattie, ten years ago.  A few short months before I met her, she died.  She had  esophageal varices that silently bled into her stomach until she bled to death.  They pumped new blood into her and they performed CPR and they brought her back.  She told me once that she wished they hadn't.  She'd wanted to stay where she'd gone but she had to come back and take care of someone. Bob, her husband.

They told her if she ever drank again, she would die.

I met her when I was living on a boat and drinking and she was living in a mansion and not drinking.  I never knew why she liked me.  People that loved her called her the Dutchess, people that didn't, called her something else.

I loved her.

I watched her go out in the middle of the night, in the middle of a hurricane to refill a generator so that she could continue to post hurricane updates and health and welfare statuses over her VHF radio.  She wore a floral raincoat with nothing underneath, except her pearls.

I watched her get up in the middle of the night to come out into her living room, where all of us hurricane bound drunks were strewn, and walk over to Bob's chair and pick up his drink, sniff it, and proceed to carry it over to the sink and throw it out.

I watched her as Bob's health declined and his drinking increased.  She didn't drink.

I watched her regally maintain her dignity, while those around her tossed the ragged remnants of their own into the wind, like confetti at a death march.  She never touched a drop.

I watched her after Bob had a stroke and sometimes didn't remember who she was.  She was tired and she talked to her doctor about just having one glass of wine a night to help her relax and sleep.  He gave his reluctant assent.

Bob died a few months later.

I wrote her earlier this year and told her that I had quit drinking and how I had watched her, years ago, as she stood so strong while her husband and all of us who surrounded her drank with no regard to how it affected her.  I told her that now, as I struggle with the drinking that surrounds me. while I cling with a tenuous grip to my sobriety, I think of her.

She wrote back and said that she had stayed sober for eight years to take care of Bob, but now she was having fun.

She died two weeks ago. Her stepson's blog Natural Causes says she bled to death from  ruptured esophageal varices.

She's finally made it back to the place she didn't want to leave.

P.S.  I struggled about whether to write this blog, Pattie was the epitome of class, and it is hard for me to reconcile the person I know with the means of her death.  But Pattie was a woman who, while I knew her, found her purpose in helping others.  I think she would want her story to help others.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Green Up!

A woman hired a contractor to repaint the interior of her house. The woman walked the man through the second floor of her home and told him what colors she wanted for each room. As they walked through the first room, the woman said, "I think I would like this room in a cream color."

The contractor wrote on his clipboard, walked to the window, opened it and yelled out, "Green up!" He then closed the window and continued following the woman to the next room. The woman looked confused, but proceeded with her tour. "In this room, I was thinking of an off blue."

Again, the contractor wrote this down, went to the window, opened it and yelled out, "Green up!"

This baffled the woman, but she was hesitant to say anything. In the next room, the woman said she would like it painted in a light rose color. And once more, the contractor opened the window and yelled, "Green up!"

Struck with curiosity, the woman mustered up the nerve to ask, "Why do you keep yelling 'Green  up' out my window every time I tell you the color I would like the room?"

The contractor replied, "Because I have a crew of blondes laying sod across the street." 

Update:  I was belly aching, again, at mmabsers chat the other night, bitching that my pink cloud had floated off and that sobriety had become...mundane. Stretch, yawn stretch.  Which is just ludicrous in light of my last post.

One of my fellow mmabsers said, "There is a saying in AA about keeping it green." (Do you see an obsession with AA developing here?)

That hit home.  I've been wandering around, looking for my pink cloud, but I was doing nothing to bring it back.  I wasn't blogging, I wasn't reading blogs, I wasn't participating on the message boards, instead I was just like the drinker I used to be, pouring booze down my throat, knowing that it was making me miserable, but being too damn ambivalent to do anything about it.

"You have to work the program."  Uh-oh, there it is again.

I ran into the lady that I mentioned in my last blog, the one that reached out to me through a friend. We were both at another fundraiser and I did my best to avoid her.  Why did I do that?  Was I afraid that she was going to run up to me and grab me in a choke hold and start shoving the big blue book down my throat, page by page.  I had just complained to my friend that I feel like such an outsider these days, that people were either alternately avoiding me or else they couldn't wait to tell me how much they'd been, or not been, drinking lately.  It makes me sad that people are afraid of me and avoid me, and here I was doing the same thing.  But to be truthful, she seemed to be trying to avoid me too, as if she was regretting the advance she had made.

Anyway, I felt bad about being so ungrateful so I decided to act like a normal adult and respond to her kind offer of support the way grown up people do these days, I contacted her on facebook.

She wrote back this morning and said she was glad that I had wrote, that she and another woman were forming an AA group in Progreso, (a short 6 mile hop instead of the 40 minute trek to Merida) and she'd love for me to attend.  I wrote back and said, "I'd be happy to."

"Green Up!"