Blog

Nostalgia

docs.jpg

They say you stop maturing when you start developing an addiction, and I look around at my life at 132 days sober, and I’ll be damned if they aren’t right.

Freeing my body and mind from the grip/fog of alcohol has magically time-warped me back to my 18-year-old self, proudly donning Doc Martens every day (the brown boots pictured were my 4 Months present to myself!), re-watching  “The Sopranos” for the 12 millionth time (if I said “16 Czechoslovakians” and “one-shoe c*cksucker,” would you know where I’m at in the series right now? 😂) and working out to such Amazon playlists as “I Miss The 90s” and “90s Alternative Hits,” which, it turns out, play most of the same songs.

It’s a hard-and-fast rule that I have to stop whatever I’m doing and sing along whenever “The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe comes on, so I probably should choose different music if I want to get in better shape. I think I have some C&C Music Factory and CeCe Peniston somewhere in my CD collection…

I have no idea why or how this regression to Pre-Drinking Jen happened, but I like it. …Well, except for the acne. WTF, acne?!? Apparently my body decided to go all-in on this “teenage dream” theme and push out fresh new zits for me to notice each morning in the mirror. At 41, I honestly thought my Clearasil days were over. (Do they still make Clearasil? I’m writing out a CVS shopping list.) Continue reading “Nostalgia”

Nutrition

Standing in the checkout line at my local 7-Eleven, clutching a 20-ounce Diet Sunkist in each hand — still can’t stop at just one! — my eyes fixed on the familiar row of baked goods displayed near the registers. Saran-wrapped snickerdoodle cookies and Reese’s peanut butter brownies stared back at me, in all their impulse-buy glory, and a couple of thoughts suddenly sprung to mind.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in this place sober!

I’m so [bleep]ing glad I don’t do THAT anymore!

“THAT” refers to bingeing on junk while drunk, and it’s part of the reason I ballooned up to an unthinkable 176 pounds — thank you, gastroenterologist office, for informing me of that number against my wishes! — before I finally got so disgusted with my gutter-bound existence that I quit drinking on July 7, 2019 — a full 125 days ago.

Back in the bad old days, sweets from the 7-Eleven were my go-to nightcap on more occasions than I can count. I mean, there’s only so much about those occasions I remember, so… You see, tequila started flowing at my house before noon on most Saturdays and Sundays near the end. So while sober Jen held herself to a reasonably strict gluten-free, Paleo-ish diet all week long and never even kept other types of food in the house, those booze-soaked weekends regularly devolved into one big orgy of Swedish Fish, Ben & Jerry’s and whatever ill-advised refined carbs I found up front at the cash wrap and said “🤬 it!” and tossed up onto the counter with all my other bad ideas.

My husband always protested, reminding me of all the other times this DevilDogs-may-care attitude led to my feeling like death for an entire week, BECAUSE HELLO, I HAVE A WHEAT ALLERGY (AND OTHER DIGESTIVE ISSUES WE WON’T DISCUSS)!!! I always ended up with a belly full of gelatinous goo, regardless. Continue reading “Nutrition”

Failure

schaumburg
The time my travel team scrimmaged the barnstorming US Olympians, and I guess we didn’t have enough players because I ended up at shortstop. Pretty sure I was woefully late remembering to cover second on this play, but on the positive side, facing the great Michelle Smith at the plate, I was able to foul off a pitch before striking out.

“BAD JOB, JENNY!!!”

A parent sitting in the bleachers at a softball field in Wisconsin Dells during a girls 18U travel tournament in the summer of 1996 was so upset about an error that she felt compelled to yell at the pitcher who committed it.

Never mind that this field was basically 100 percent sand and you sank like a foot every time you took a step, and it was torture trying to play in that sh*t. The pitcher really could make no valid excuse for airmailing the ball. It was an easy play. A gimme. But she had a legit chink in her athletic armor that, as it turns out, she never really outgrew.

Hi, my name is Jen(ny), and I have the yips when it comes to throwing to first base.

Somehow I still made it on to a college team, though, where the issue wasn’t so much the old 1-3 putout (I learned to underhand those come-backers; ha-ha!) as it was the 43 feet I had to cover from mound to plate. Not only was pitching from that distance an adjustment, given that high school mounds in Illinois were 40 feet back then, but I was also a freshman walk-on facing seasoned Big Ten hitters, and sometimes (read: often), that skill disparity was brutally obvious.

Before my byline began appearing in the sports pages of the Daily Northwestern, as it would pretty regularly over the following three years, the only time I made the paper was after a particularly gruesome relief appearance in a particularly lopsided loss that the student beat writer was on hand to witness. His recap the next day included the line:

“…AND IN THE FIFTH, JENNI WIELGUS CAME ON AND COULDN’T STOP THE BLEEDING.”

😂😂😂😂😂😂 Continue reading “Failure”

Safety

I just spent a little more than three hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, driving through relentless sheets of rain, fog and drivers constantly slamming on their brakes at 65 miles an hour for no reason, to get from my in-laws’ house near Scranton to mine in Bucks County. But my travel experience was nowhere near as scary as what I was escaping from.

THE FAMILY WAS PLANNING TO GO OUT TO LUNCH! 😱

Yes, I am scared of restaurants. I’ve only set foot in two since I got sober in early July, and the last time, I was so anxious I drank at least 12 Coke Zeroes, ate an entire ahi tuna appetizer AND an ahi tuna entree by myself (pro tip: there is such a thing as too much ahi tuna), went to the bathroom 10 times, bit off all the nails on my right hand and sang along to whatever song was playing on the PA system, out loud, while sitting at the table with eight other people, which I was taught as a small child is rude.

That was a few weeks ago, and I’m still not feeling the whole “going out in public places where alcohol is served” thing. I decided I need to avoid those situations in order to protect my precious young sobriety.

Fact is, at 112 days, I truly am a small child. Don’t get me wrong; I could sit here and list a thousand tiny ways in which this stage of recovery feels absolutely amazing. But it also feels like walking around completely naked, like all of us kids used to do when we were two or three…with one major difference.

The adults don’t think I’m cute. Continue reading “Safety”

Nature

sundaymorning
Tyler State Park. Newtown, PA. October 20, 2019 (Day 106).

The forecast called for rain, so even though it was Sunday and the only opportunity I had all week to sleep past 5 a.m., I sprung up at 4:30 for some weightlifting in my basement gym — current whiteboard hashmark tally: 105 — then laced up my Asics and hit the road.

I’m currently at the step in recovery when you ask a higher power to restore you to sanity, and for me, that’s setting out on nature walks, every single day, weather be damned. I take lunch walks along the riverfront to break up the work day. I go for hours-long morning walks in the local state park on weekends. Through hair-trigger hamstrings, boots that cause blisters, insufficient outerwear, full bladders, busted headphones, rain, mud, 40 mph winds…if there is time and even a little bit of daylight, I’m out there trying to calm the emotional cauldron that’s bubbling away inside.

Fresh air and movement are the only two things in the universe that ever made (the sober version of) me feel sane.


jenfarm
My grandparents’ farm. Brodhead, Wisconsin. Fall…1988?

My grandparents lived on a farm in Wisconsin throughout my childhood, and we went up there several times a year to visit. We would set off from our house in Chicago’s northern suburbs on Friday night when it was already dark, Dad driving the old brown Ford Fairmount station wagon (and playing one of his legendary mix tapes), Mom next to him on the front bench, and my younger sister and me in the back.

I remember staring out the window as we rolled along on the two-hour trip, and excitedly waiting for the point when the bright lights of civilization faded into the countryside canopy of stars. Continue reading “Nature”

Moderation

With proper instruction, the thinking goes, one can be taught to drink responsibly. To me, the idea that a budding alcoholic can learn to drink moderately sounds like a contradiction in terms. (I rarely, if ever, drank moderately, even at the beginning.) It also seems to ignore the more deeply-rooted, compulsive pulls a drinker feels toward alcohol; these are needs that don’t respond well to the concept of moderation.”

— Caroline Knapp, “Drinking: A Love Story”

I quit drinking and discovered some fun new things to do with my hands, such as tapping out each week’s stream of consciousness here on this blog. Or, stuffing my mouth with gum, popping piece after piece in the old pie hole like Homer Simpson in Donut Hell.  The trash can near my desk at work looks like the undercarriage of a high school cafeteria table.  I find myself picking up a new supply of sugar-free anxiety-easers (tooth-crackers, probably, given my luck) every morning at the Wawa, and finding all of it gone shortly after lunch.

A two-packs-a-day — and escalating — Orbit habit. Well, shoot. That figures.

I’ve been a glutton all my life. A bottomless pit. Whatever shut-off valve exists in other people that engages when they reach satiety, mine’s either defective or I didn’t get one. And this charming biological deficiency came out to play, long before I discovered alcohol.

It didn’t matter if it was fresh bagels from the deli after church, frozen Market Day pizza on a Friday after school, a box of Golden Grahams during Saturday morning cartoons, a half gallon of egg nog at Christmas or Grandma’s homemade cheesecake on my birthday. Even as a kid, I saw zero point in stopping at “just one,” or using a knife; my serving size was “all of it.” I ate as much as I could get until somebody stopped me or, God forbid, barged in and wanted to, like, have some too.

I clearly wasn’t one of those kids who didn’t clean her plate or had to be tricked or threatened by adults to “just take a bite.” I was one of those kids you wondered, how does she not weigh as much as a school bus?

Answer: genetics and athletics. In other words, I was just lucky. Continue reading “Moderation”

Ninety

 

My life at 90 days sober is excruciatingly boring — unless you like books; wanna talk about books?!? — so I’ll try to spice this thing up for the audience.

I RIPPED MY CLOTHES OFF THE SECOND I WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR ON FRIDAY.

Approximately five seconds later I was wearing my husband’s pajama pants and one of his ancient white long underwear tops (think: Peter Stormare’s character in “Fargo” and had my face buried in a mixing bowl filled with chocolate Jell-O pudding (think: Augustus Gloop)…but still! 

Kidding aside, Day 90 looked exactly like Day 89, Day 88, Day 8, etc. Maybe swap the pudding bowl for a giant bag of lightly-salted almonds, but the variance stops there.

Actually, for my three-month sober anniversary, I should mention I did get a balloon bouquet with a “Proud of You” mixed in, an actual bouquet with my favorite orange roses, and brand new Yankee Candles in scents like “Autumn Wreath” and “Ciderhouse” from the aforementioned husband. In case you didn’t already think he was solid [bleep]ing gold, he still accepts newspaper freelance assignments every Friday night after he’s done with his day job, to make extra money for us. So, while my gifts certainly added a touch of excitement to the usual evening routine, Hubby and I didn’t have the chance to “celebrate” together. Continue reading “Ninety”