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sober lifestyle

Tradition

“This is too much rain, even for me,” I thought this morning as I peered out the door of my basement gym at the scene depicted above. The bottom portion of our deck was getting pelted, and I understood that I would have to program myself some kind of indoor workout, rather than taking my usual Saturday nature walk.

But, at least my hubby would be happy!

A soaking wet deck meant we couldn’t carry out my harebrained Memorial Day weekend scheme: setting up our tent right here at the townhouse and doing a quarantine campout.

I conjured up that ill-fated idea earlier this week, while walking through Tyler State Park at lunchtime of a much nicer day. Looking up at the leafy canopy above me, with sunlight streaming through onto my face, I was instantly catapulted to our campsite at Lake In Wood, Lancaster County, where we used to kick off the summer every year by kicking back in zero-gravity chairs and drinking beer (after beer after beer) under towering elm trees, next to a fire pit we worked hard to keep active all day long.

Old traditions die hard, but at 321 days, I’m starting to feel strong enough in sobriety to dive into some of my old favorite activities without one of my two long-time best friends.

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Fellowship

It was nearly past my bedtime, but I sat fully upright, at attention, on my living room couch. Staring at a blank blue iPad screen, waiting for the thin green line in the center to pulsate, twitch — anything to indicate signs of life on the other side of this video call — I felt patches of sweat quickly forming in my armpits.

My heart pounded and my mind flashed back to my first recovery meeting last July. Deja vu.

This was, somehow, even more surreal. I’d volunteered to serve as guest speaker for a 12-step group at a rehab center — a local one, but it could’ve been on the moon, for all I could see…which was nothing. Nothing but blue.

They could see me, though. And they were waiting for me to tell my story.

I’ll skip past that part, because A) you know everything there is to know if you’ve ever peeked into this space; and B) I was so nervous I don’t even remember what I said.

I do know I tried to lean heavily on the last part of the “experience-strength-and-hope” blueprint. The turbulent experience of early sobriety (314 days and counting…) is a daily struggle to find, or summon, strength, and if you don’t have hope, you probably ain’t gonna make it. While I could only speak for myself, I figured the invisible people I was talking to would be able to understand that universal truth.

I was right. The men — turns out it was a room full of men — who stepped to the mic, sending ripples across that green line, talked about feeling triggered, pissed off, ashamed, scared…and grateful for the chance to keep going, do better.

They reminded me of the men in that very first recovery meeting (oh look! I wrote about it!), when I sat, flop-sweating my ass off on a stiff folding chair in a room full of strangers, and for one hour ceased to feel hopelessly alone.

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Foundation

We look sweet, but my mom and I have had our scrapes.

There was the one traumatic afternoon when I was 8 or 9 years old, and she drove me to Old Orchard mall and dropped me off in the courtyard with boxes full of chocolate bars I was supposed to sell for a community softball fundraiser. Suffering from crippling peddle-o-phobia as I did (still do), I had instead left them sitting in the middle of the living room floor for months, not-so-secretly hoping they would eventually get eaten and *poof* become someone else’s financial (and probably digestive) problem.

My mother wasn’t sympathetic to my plight, nor hip to my plan. On the day before the money was due, she threw her terrified firstborn child into the abyss of the local shopping center, a hellscape of upscale storefronts teeming with well-heeled strangers. Her instructions: basically, don’t come home without a wad of cash.

It’s hard to do this with a straight face, sit here and try to paint my mom as some kind of pimp. I can’t even imagine what I would do, as a parent, if my child marched in the door every day toting half a candy store or catalog full of useless tchotchkes for every activity she was involved in, and expected me to pay for it all. Be responsible, kid! Show some initiative! I hope you don’t plan on checking “journalism” on your college application if you can’t even ask someone, “Would you like to buy a box of Thin Mints?” 😂

My mom was the reason I got involved in anything to begin with, from sports to music to church youth group, because otherwise I’d have been perfectly happy hiding in my room writing stories and making mix tapes (*looks around at current life* 🤔). To her credit, once she provided that initial push to get out of my own way and get started, she let me run with whatever I wanted to do. She didn’t grab me, shake me and say “Journalism?!? You don’t like to talk to people!” or give me a hard time when I decided to up and move to Georgia for my first sports writing job 20 years ago, almost to the day. She let me live my life, and make my own mistakes, remaining a solid, supportive foundation I could stand on when things felt shaky — and a soft place to land when I fell.

How fitting that I fell into her arms the day I finally decided to stop drinking.


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Perfection

Just OK is completely OK.

A personal spin on the commercial slogan (needed Google to identify it as AT&T) spontaneously popped into my head on Saturday as I lounged on our newly renovated deck that’s somehow 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the world and is a serene and wonderful place, whether conditions are sunny or overcast, or whether I’m feeling ambivalent or disgusted with my current state of being (those are my two primary mindsets, and they flip-flop by the hour 🤷🏼‍♀️). I have always loved sitting back in my zero gravity chair and listening to podcasts and audiobooks — and writing run-on sentences — while staring out at the trees in my beautiful neighborhood, and the cool thing is that I now do that with a Citizens Bank Park souvenir cup filled with Diet Sunkist, not Jose Cuervo, and seltzer.

There was a time I never imagined I’d be able to do that.

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Protection

Caption: 300 days without alcohol and I’m (cough) still alive.

It would be a smidge overdramatic, and not quite accurate, to refer to my sobriety date as “The Day The Music Died,” but it seems I unintentionally gave up more than one of my old favorite things on July 7, 2019.

That was 10 (get it? Ten?) months ago today, by the way. I still vividly remember every moment of no fun I had at a family get-together the first alcohol-free afternoon of my new life, without any substance available to blast through my ironclad inhibitions.

Loosening up used to come naturally to me, back when I was a little kid who spent hours spinning, and spinning, (*Pee Wee Herman voice*) aaaand spinning around the family room carpet singing along to “Steal Away,” “What A Fool Believes” and other 70s pop hits playing on my dad’s reel-to-reel stereo system. My parents have this on video (viewer beware: may cause dizziness). Isn’t it cute how oblivious kids are to embarrassment?

…she says, at age 42, while relating the gory details of a 20-year drunkalog on the World Wide Web…😳

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Discomfort

Well, guys, it happened. I lost it.

I almost literally lost it the other day during my weekly virtual recovery meeting, so it’s a good thing we spent so much time messing with technical difficulties that the hour expired before I could go on an unhinged tirade. I’m fed up with Zoom, and staring at computers, and with everyone who tells me that MORE of these meetings full of rustling and background noise are the antidote to my increasing insanity. Or asks me if I’m praying. Or gives any kind of advice at all using the words “you should.”

I’m fed up with the “this does not feel better” mindf*ck of early sobriety in the age of coronavirus.

I’m fed up with myself (you’re like, “That makes two of us!”)

Maybe I should just go back to bed.

My bed has become my favorite place in the world, now that the world’s in crisis, and I no longer drink. Every day I look forward to popping a melatonin gummy, hitting the pillow and shutting off. Sleep: the drug du jour on Day 294.

If it sounds like life might be a lot less….un-lifelike if I relapsed, I’m here to tell you, you’re right. I strenuously agree. In fact, it suddenly struck me one day, earlier this week when the sheer monotony of my (our) Groundhog Day existence and the rabid, feral rage of my 42-year-old hormones combined to drive me as close as I’ve ever come to complete nuclear meltdown, that I totally understand why people relapse. I understand why they say “f*ck it” after months, years, half-lifetimes of living in unaltered reality.

WHO THE F*CK WANTS TO DEAL WITH REALITY?!?!

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