sober lifestyle

Rebirth

Miss this man and his philosophies. 😢

It’s my shtick. I’ve told pretty much everyone I’ve met in the past four-plus decades that I was born on Opening Day 1978 — often adding “a Cubs loss,” with exaggerated exasperation — as if that makes me a special brand of baseball fan.

I fancied myself exactly that for most of my life.

As a kid growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, in a house where Cubs baseball was (*Pat Hughes voice*) on the air, every afternoon from early April through…well, back then, it would’ve been the official drop-dead end of the regular season…sports fandom was like comfort food. It was a soothing distraction from childhood angst. It was also a pathway to social acceptance; being crazy about the Cubs gave me something in common with my dad, and a conversation starter to help me relate to my classmates.

Well, in reality, my wearing oversized polyester Ron Santo and Mark Grace jerseys mostly just gave fickle frontrunners/pubescent poseurs a great excuse to yell “Cubs suck!” at recess.

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sober lifestyle

Tolerance

Not to brag, but in the span of two weeks, I handled a dental drill to the mouth AND a tattoo needle to the arm without having a complete nervous breakdown. I didn’t even cry! I mean, I’m still kind of sore from the full-body tense-up I held for an hour at a time, and my hands are still stuck in a bit of a claw from death-gripping the chair arms/table sides…but all in all, I did good.

If you want to go back a month to the date of my COVID booster shot, you can even add a drama-free injection to my big-girl resume.

I proudly texted my friend earlier this month, upon returning home from getting inked for the third time (see above: two wolves on left tricep), that my pain tolerance had finally reached adult levels. 💪🏻

I’m a couple months shy of 44. 🤷🏼‍♀️

It only took a few decades of downward-spiraling into in an alcohol addiction, and 31 action-packed months of sobriety, but I’m starting to get the hang of facing my fears — and feelings — without my old favorite security blanket.

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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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sober lifestyle

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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Trigger

Everything I loved most in the world was at that table: my hubby, the Cubbies (symbolically, at least), tequila…and freedom.

We were about to fly from snowy Philadelphia to sunny Phoenix for a weeklong Spring Training vacation in Mesa, and although we were sitting in a cramped corner of a nondescript airport bar, the promise of fulfilling a lifelong dream, plus the blissful buzz of those first few drinks, made that moment feel like paradise. ☀️🧢😎

Oh my God, those moments when you’re right smack dab in the sweet spot between reality and intoxication, when all seems right with the world and your place in it! I still grieve for those moments.

Sometimes, I wonder if I always will.

I was overcome with grief when the above picture popped up on my phone screen Saturday morning, as I sat in my therapist’s office waiting for my appointment to start. Facebook memories nearly always trigger an emotional reaction, and it makes sense, because pretty much anything I posted prior to my sobriety date — July 7, 2019, not even 2 years ago — involved alcohol. A.K.A., my ex-best friend.

The memories aren’t all bad.

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sober lifestyle

Imagination

When I was struck with childlike whimsy on Tuesday afternoon, it didn’t come with a side of foresight. So, I found myself ankle-deep in heavy, wet snow out on my deck, staring at three semi-round blobs stacked on top of one another, with nothing nearby to bring my spontaneous snowperson to life.

I had to traipse down to ground level, my hubby’s ancient duck boots filling with slush, and wrestle a few scrawny twigs off the shrubbery in order to fashion some arms. And I had to remove the soaked boots completely to go hunting through the house for everything else.

Even then, the best I could do was a swath of old T-shirt, a baby carrot and two de-stemmed chocolate Tootsie pops (you think that looks creepy; imagine if I’d chosen cherry!) If not for the souvenir Anthony Rizzo Cubs cap gifted to me by a local American Legion coach back in my reporting days…well, you could argue this accessory adds little cache to my creation here in 2021, given the team’s fire sale of an offseason. 🤕

“Can he pitch?” my dad shot back when I sent the above pictures to the family group text.

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sober lifestyle

Certainty

Celebrating a sweet Chicago Sunday on my Monday sunrise walk. Forgive the tired face; it was smashed into a pillow like 10 minutes prior to taking this pic. 🥱

Sunday was the first time in a long time that I sat down and intentionally watched sports. It was a “safe” endeavor, given my complete lack of skin in the Eagles-Washington game — which, come to think of it, lacked “skin” altogether, now that the home team has dropped its controversial nickname.

“Safe” is all I do these days, now that I’m sober.

Of course, the second that game was decided, the sports gods LOLed at my snugness (and smugness), and FOX switched to the final seconds of Bears-Lions. Detroit had the ball down 4, with favorable field position and plenty of time to snag the winning score. Then, before I could change the channel in a panic, they had it — no, they dropped it! — and Matthew Stafford was launching one more last-ditch pass…😱

This was precisely the type of emotionally-charged, unpredictable situation I have been strenuously trying to avoid for the past 14 1/2 months.

It’s almost — no, it’s exactly — like I don’t want to feel things I can no longer numb with a drink. 🤔

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sober lifestyle

Regret

It’s not that I don’t have some beautiful memories of the once-in-a-lifetime, two-week trip to Hawaii I was fortunate enough to be invited on, back in August of 2015. It’s that the “bad,” or at least cringe-worthy, ones are so hauntingly vivid that they crowd out everything else.

I suppose I’m lucky to have any recollections at all of that time, given how much of it I spent intoxicated.

Part of early sobriety, I’m finding, is flashback attacks that hit at random moments, without warning. It’s like my brain is healing itself by scanning for sores and starting to apply ointment, creating some ugly, pus-like seepage in the process. 🤢

Sound gross? I’ll tell you, it is. Picture me relaxing on my deck at 14 months sober, listening to a peaceful, calm “beach massage” meditation track and suddenly, WHAMMO, I’m back to slipping on the wet tile stairs of a cabana in Kailua while double-fisting bottles of Corona I was drunkenly carrying back to the beach, then lying there bleeding profusely in a pile of broken glass while my traveling companions look on disgustedly, no doubt noting that just a few days earlier, they watched me drunkenly horsing around at the pool, and slipping and face-planting on a rock, cracking my front tooth and busting open my lip and cheek.

(Enlarge the attached picture — snapped, I think, in a blackout — and you can see the scabs.)

I lost a lot of blood on that trip. I also lost quite a few friends.

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