sober lifestyle

Disenchantment

My phone was buzzing away on Friday afternoon, but I was busy banging on a keyboard, finishing out my work week. And by the time 5 o’clock hit, I was so eager to get home and eat my Door Dash sushi, I barely glanced at the long string of texts my family had been firing into our group thread, as I…well, dashed out the door.

I didn’t see the news until this morning.

It’s probably a good thing that I’ve kept baseball beyond arm’s length over the past couple years while I was preoccupied with getting sober, working on my marriage, changing careers — you know, all that annoying “real life” shit that adults have to deal with. There was a time I had a finger planted on the pulse of my favorite sport, but now, it can’t reach me to deliver a debilitating gut punch.

The Big Cubs Breakup has me feeling numb.

I’m in disbelief but not really shocked; the selling-off our 2016 World Series heroes was by no means a bolt from the blue. You’d have to be completely off the grid to miss the telegraphed signs of an imminent fire sale, and if you’ve followed sports for even a little while, you know these things are par for the cyclical course.

I feel more like one would if, say, her parents had been threatening to ground her for months, and all of a sudden one day, she found herself confined to her room with TV and phone privileges revoked.

They did it. They actually did it.

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Quality

You could say that pole did us a favor; an obstructed view of last Monday’s 13-3 debacle was the next best thing to changing the channel. The Cubs have been unwatchable over the last few weeks, so it’s fitting that my husband and I organized a family trip to watch them play live at Wrigley Field, as part of our annual summer visit to Chicagoland.

We’ve lived together in the Philly area for almost 20 years and have an abysmal track record when it comes to Cubs-Phillies games. We probably should have warned my parents, sisters, nieces, brothers-in-law and aunt when we bought the tickets: “Guys, the steel beam blocking half the field will probably be a more pleasing sight than the final score.” 🤷🏼‍♀️

Of course, as lifelong Cubs fans, we’re all used to making light of losing, and we ended up having a blast. Or at least I did!

I sat next to my two younger sisters, a rare treat considering they both live in Illinois and have busy lives with jobs and kids. We spent three-plus hours sweating in 90-plus heat, me sucking down water and diet cola and keeping score on a $1 scorecard (cheaper than Citizens Bank Park!) We clapped and danced along to the ballpark organ and made snide comments (Patrick Wisdom’s pitch selection? Not very wise! …For those of you who missed BP, here’s Eric Sogard on to pitch!) that entertained some out-of-town fans in the row below. We laughed, long and loud and from the gut, just like we did when we were kids at the game with our friends.

It was real, honest-to-goodness “quality time,” the likes of which I rarely — if ever — experienced as an active alcoholic.

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Momentum

Everything has felt incredibly heavy over the past few weeks: my entire body, the summer air, the constant drag of depression, the side effects of my second COVID shot (before you even ask: Pfizer), the looming responsibilities of attending — and paying for — grad school while working full time…

Lugging all that shit very slowly up a hill at Tyler State Park at 5AM on a Wednesday — less than 10 minutes in, my drenched clothes were like sandbags weighing me down even more — I started to crack.

It began as a guttural groan, like a mortally wounded animal crawling off to die, and crescendoed into a primal scream.

“OH MY GOD YOU’RE SO F*CKING FAT!!!”

😳

Of course, the sane part of me knows that verbally abusing oneself out loud in a public park not only doesn’t provide the satisfying release one seeks from abject misery, but it also drains additional energy from an already sputtering engine. Still, I yelled my putdowns and profanities, searing rage flying off me with every splash of sweat as I lumbered along my typical 30-minute jogging route.

I guess the key takeaway from this charming anecdote is that I kept going. I did not stop “running,” or give up and go home early, or throw myself into Neshaminy Creek hoping to float away forever — don’t think I haven’t contemplated that — and when my disgusting, dripping slab of meat finally burst back through the door into the air-conditioned entryway, creating an instant puddle on the wood floor, I felt a little better.

And that, friends, perfectly sums up my entire second year of sobriety. Well, the first 359 days of it. I still have one week to go. 😬

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Calculation

For our first “date night” of the summer, my husband and I dove headfirst into the deep end of post-COVID reality, crawling through stop-and-go traffic down I-95 to Citizens Bank Park for last Sunday’s full-capacity Phillies-Yankees game.

On the drive to the stadium, we discussed how nice it was not to have a dog in the fight.

You see, the last time we were here, back in August of 2019, we came to see the Cubs…who rewarded our loyalty by blowing a 5-run lead and serving up a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper. 🤨

It was at that game that I first tried keeping score as a sobriety strategy — a hands-busying distraction from all the alcohol swirling around me — and it worked so well on Day 40 that I went back to it on Day 708.

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Rewards

My husband and I booked an ocean-view suite on the “concierge floor” of a quirky old Victorian hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for a brief weekend getaway to celebrate my new job. The accommodations came with a list of perks, and the friendly young man in the suit who greeted us in the lobby (I think he was the actual concierge) was eager to tell us about them as he chaperoned us to our room.

I got distracted staring out the glass elevator shaft at the Atlantic, so I didn’t hear most of what he said. But I snapped back to attention when he pulled a pair of coupons out of his pocket.

“…and as a welcome gift, we’re happy to offer you BOTH complimentary alcoholic beverages at the bar!”

I burst out laughing. An inappropriate reaction, but I couldn’t help myself. It was like some internal pressure relief valve opened, and all the nervous energy and anxious tension I’d felt building up in my body throughout our three-hour drive came gushing out. And of course, because it’s me, this happened in the most awkward way possible.

The guy must’ve been used to all kinds of weirdness, because he barely missed a beat. “Orrrr…” he said, “if one of you doesn’t drink, it’s two drinks for the other person!”

“Thanks,” Hubby replied, taking the vouchers and handing the guy an obligatory tip as the elevator dinged and I dashed, still giggling, out the door down the hallway.

Nearly two years sober, and he still can’t take me anywhere.

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Confidence

Covering one of my first stories as a one-woman videography band: the opening of Cole & Heidi Hamels’ charity headquarters on Philly’s Main Line. I ended up doing that video reporting job for six years (2012-2018)…and eventually learned to actually look at the camera. 🙈

There are dense clumps of cobwebs stretched across my memory banks, particularly in the pre-2019 era, so I can’t recall the exact details of the day when I officially became a video reporter.

In my head, it went something like this:

“We’re shutting down phillyBurbs.com [where you’ve worked as an online content writer for the past four years]; either take this camcorder and go shoot high school sports stories [which you’ve never, ever, ever done before] for the newspaper’s revamped website, or…seeya!”

I took the camcorder. That was 2012, and, by my calculations, it marked Major Life Change #4 for a young print journalism major from suburban Chicago.

Today, I’m on the threshold of #8.

Does that mean I have only one life left? 🙀

If everything goes according to plan (🤞🏻🤞🏻) that’s all I will need to reach my ultimate goal.

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Worthiness

Someone from another life sent me this picture several years ago, and in case you need help understanding why, I’ve drawn you a big red blob.

It’s very possible I’m the one who needs help.

I mean, I was the one who took the very flattering label of “Most Athletic” female — in a senior class of about 500 total kids — and internalized it to the point where it completely defined my identity. This process started long before the (Niles, IL) West Word staff assigned their 1996 Senior Superlatives; I was probably 8 years old (and going by Jenny Wielgus) when I smacked my first home run in coach-pitch softball, and, based on the reaction of the parents in the crowd, instantly decided that sports were MY THING. From that point on, I was convinced my purpose in life was to be a top athlete, and that my worth as a person was inextricably tied to my performance on the field/court.

To be “good” at all, I had to be better than everyone else. Not that those were my explicit thoughts…but sadly, looking back after a lifetime trapped in a “fixed mindset,” that’s really what my belief system came down to.

And then, I walked on to a Big Ten softball team, and WHAMMO!

Literally. 🥎💥🤯

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Comparison

One of my favorite parts of recovery is suddenly remembering embarrassing shit I used to do when I was drinking, and then dramatically clapping my hands together in a prayer pose and jerking my head skyward to thank heaven I don’t do it anymore. Sometimes, I even cry tears of joy.

The feeling of relief really does hit that deep. 🙏🏻

Unfortunately, there are also moments when comparing “Old Me” to “New Me” steals joy, rather than inspires it (see above TR quote.)

Those moments almost always have to do with my body and level of fitness.

“You really let yourself go,” I’ll think to myself as I hold a yoga pose, head bent over one of my legs and eyes pointing straight at my upper thigh. My mind will flash back to my CrossFit days, and I’ll start thinking how much slower and softer and lazier I’ve become. The old inner critic starts whispering: Who I am now is not enough…

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