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?