Blog

Therapy

My butt hadn’t even begun to warm the seat cushion when it became abundantly clear: There would be no sitting back and getting comfy in that chair.

“What made it OK to stay with a drunk all those years?” the therapist asked my husband within the opening five minutes of our very first session.

😳

The balls, right? Of course, both of us just sat there, stunned. It’s actually funny now, to think about my sweet, kind, reserved hubby trying to come up with a response to a question like that on the spot, when he’d never even been to therapy before in his life.

Couldn’t tell you what was going through my head at that moment. My heart, on the other hand, somehow knew.

This was going to be a good fit. Continue reading “Therapy”

Retreat

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I didn’t get to go on my regular weekly nature walk at Tyler State Park this weekend, but I’d say the grounds at St. Raphaela Center were a sufficient substitute.

This might sound silly, but an incident that happened on my high school volleyball team effectively poisoned me against women for most of my adult life. Burned in the recesses of my mind from age 17 on was the notion that even if they seemed agreeable, they were probably out to get me,  and they definitely weren’t to be trusted or “let in” as a potential friend. Yes, I fancied myself one of those “guy’s girls” who just didn’t get along with other women, and that was OK. 🙄

All it took was 25 years spent developing an alcohol addiction and f*cking up my life to discover how wrong I was and how much I had been missing.

Entering recovery back in July 2019 has opened up a whole new world to me, in general, and a beyond-amazing community of women, in particular. “Amazing” is an overused word now — and I hate feeling uncreative — but there just is no other way I can think of to describe the spiritual and emotional experience I’ve been through over my first six months of sobriety. Continue reading “Retreat”

One-Eighty

“You’re different.”

My mom said that to me one morning during my recent holiday visit. We were sitting in the kitchen of my childhood home in suburban Chicago, where my husband and I bunked from Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve, sleeping in my old bedroom until an unheard-of 9 AM (10 Eastern!) every day. I had consumed only half a pot of coffee at the time — 2019 was a year for starting to kick the alcohol addiction; maaaaaaybe we’ll tackle caffeine in 2020 — so I didn’t really grasp what she was saying.

Also, at that particular moment, I absolutely did not feel different.

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Long before I had Tyler State Park, I had the Morton Grove Forest Preserve bike trail. My hometown might not be much to look at, but it’s a pedestrian’s paradise.

In fact, even without the full coffee rush, my brain had already begun its daily race, unleashing the same ripples of anxiety that had launched thousands of disappearing acts throughout my life — some as recent as 12 hours prior. I was already busy plotting my next escape out of the house to the local forest preserve trail for a long walk, just me and my new wireless headphones and the Binge Mode ‘Game of Thrones’ podcast that is my latest non-food/beverage obsession.

I moved through my first sober holiday season in a bit of a daze, observing everything around me with wide eyes and mute mouth, like an overstimulated toddler: Bright lights! Lots of people! Piles of gifts! Plates of food! Pots of coffee! Nonstop noise! News and talk shows on TV! Where’s the remote?! Oh shit, there are little kids here and I can’t put on “Game of Thrones”! I have to get the f*ck out of here NOW!

There were times I sat among my loved ones, my parents and aunts and sisters and their hubbies and children, listening to them talk around the table, and was so overwhelmed that I could not for the life of me conjure up one single thing to add to the conversation. So I did what I always do, which is either flee the scene or shove something in my mouth. Continue reading “One-Eighty”

Appreciation

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This happened to be sitting on the end table within reach of my recliner. How convenient.

We just got home from a lovely weekend celebrating early Christmas with my husband’s parents in the Poconos. It’s an hour until my bedtime. And while I only have to get up at 4 a.m. for two more days in the year 2019, tomorrow is one of those days.

So, this is going to be a quick one. (That’s what he said?)

It’s more of a note than a blog post.

A thank-you note.

When I started writing about my sobriety journey almost six months ago, it was only because I desperately needed an outlet for the overflowing toilet that was/is my brain. I never expected anyone else to read, much less care about, my everlong overshares packed with random pop culture references, none newer than 1999. I expected even less that anyone would take the time to reach out and tell me they cared. 

You guys did all three of those things.

You might not anymore if I keep talking about toilets, but while you’re here right now, I want to tell you how much your readership and support means to me.  Continue reading “Appreciation”

Endurance

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Taken after my second half-marathon four years ago. Of course, the next picture in my camera roll was of the free celebratory cup of post-race beer…and this is why I rather dislike scrolling through the old pictures in my phone.

I used to run a lot in my younger years, and while I got gung-ho enough about it to complete two half-marathons, I never crossed the threshold into “hard-core runner” territory. Never did I feel even the faintest shred of desire to run a full marathon, and when people would ask when I was going to move on to that natural next step, I just laughed.

Hell, 13.1 was too much for me. I never lasted longer than 10 miles in training, and during the actual races, I distinctly remember getting to the seven-mile mark and being like, “OK, I’m good now! Ready to do something else!” (the first time), and “Shit! How did I forget about the awfulness of the last six miles and sign up for another one of these?!?” (the last time). Of course, I am a competitor at heart and I don’t quit in the middle of athletic events, so I kept plodding along to the finish line — and got there in less than two hours; thank you. But that invisible “wall” runners always talk about hitting was, to me, a mammoth fortification akin to the home of the Night’s Watch in “Game Of Thrones”, complete with undead ice monsters on the other side whom I didn’t care to meet.

At some point or another, I always smack straight into that damn wall, no matter what task I undertake or journey I embark upon. And it’s not that I get tired physically. It’s some kind of short circuit in my head.

I hit it — or it hit me — for the first time in my recovery last week. I just woke up one morning and felt empty and spent, as if all my positive energy had drained overnight and been replaced by sadness, frustration — and yes, self-pity. I found myself contemplating a dangerous question that tends to pop up during all the low times in my life: “What’s the point of it all?” Continue reading “Endurance”

Identity

For Secret Santa at work, they asked us to write three things about ourselves on a piece of paper, to give the person who ends up picking our name a clue for how to spend their 20 bucks.

I wrote: 1. Chicago sports fan; 2. Love scented candles; 3. No booze.

Yeah, I’m not sure the last one was really necessary. I could’ve just said I drink coffee, or something. At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of bottles change hands in office gift exchanges over the years, and I’m not ready to even hold one in my hands to re-gift it at this point.

Over the past five months, not drinking alcohol has become the biggest thing about me there is. It’s the headline of my bio. The plot of my story. It’s even listed in my Twitter profile, right there alongside my pledged allegiance to the Cubs and Bears.

Thank goodness for the sports thing, by the way, or I’d have literally nothing to talk about with people outside of recovery meetings. As it is, I have to stop myself from blurting out, “I’m [X number of] days sober!” every time someone asks “How are you?” Continue reading “Identity”

Gratitude

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I considered taking this outside and stomping on it and screaming, like Angela on that one Christmas episode of “The Office,” but thankfully, my time-of-the-month hysteria had slowed to a simmer by the time I found this in the tub where we store our decor.

As expected, decorating the Christmas tree without draining a bottle of Jose Cuervo — as much a staple of the season, for me, as Mannheim Steamroller music, “Christmas Vacation” quotes and Hallmark keepsake ornaments — was the hardest part of this holiday weekend.

Well, that, and getting my 🤬-ing period on Thanksgiving Eve, but we don’t need to get into that…too much.

I did dump a bottle of tequila, technically (see picture), but that wasn’t the least bit difficult. When I came across the cheap piece of decorative glass I brought home from my retail job last year around this time, when I had just about reached “raging” on the alcoholic spectrum, I marched right past the tree and over to the recycling bin. RIP, shiny souvenir of shitty decisions!

If there had been any actual booze in that bottle, this might have been a different story, because for all the years since I moved out of my parents’ house back in 2000, drinking and decorating went together like “Why is the carpet all wet, Todd?” and “I don’t KNOW, Margo!” in my head. Continue reading “Gratitude”