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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sober lifestyle

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

Seventeen

I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since I moved away, back in the year 2000, but on one relatively recent visit to my parents’ house in suburban Chicago, I snapped the above pic — of another pic that hangs in their basement with a bunch of framed sports memorabilia.

My high school softball glory days aren’t really relevant right now; I post this to call attention to my jersey number.

I always felt a special affinity for 17.

So, having made it through that many months of sobriety (510 days as of today), I’m struggling to come up with anything wise to say, because thinking about that number immediately sends my brain into a Mark Grace rabbit hole.

He was my favorite Cub growing up, which made me just like every other female in about three Midwestern states — and any females elsewhere whose homes got WGN — but the sex appeal wasn’t what really mattered to me. The important thing was that Mark Grace was a Gold Glove first baseman and a .300 hitter who was really cute, and he was basically the captain of my team throughout my teens. He inspired what we all know is a HUGE life decision for a young girl: what number to wear on her back during athletic endeavors.

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sober lifestyle, Uncategorized

Redefining the ‘W’

IMG-5892
Some days, I have to force myself to come down to “Fly The W Fitness” to work out . Most days, I have to force myself to appreciate the little victories – and brush off the inevitable setbacks – that dot the road to recovery.

A mature woman with proper perspective on life would take it in stride, rationalizing that since she was THERE when IT happened, all other good stuff is gravy — and any bad stuff can easily be shrugged off. She’d also probably realize how little sports really matter.

I mean, I’m just speculating that’s what she would do. I don’t personally know that woman or relate to her in any way.

Nope, this woman still falls to pieces over the Chicago Cubs. Even in the midst of the most self-improvey era of my life, as I choose personal growth over substance-induced stagnation for the first time in 41 years, I’m still apparently stuck in sports fan infancy. When things don’t go my way, it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay out of it.

What’s making me unfit to mix in society these days, of course, is the Cubs completely missing the playoffs for the second straight year, after a cruelly anticlimactic tease of a season in which Murphy’s Law reigned supreme across the street from Murphy’s Bleachers — just like it always did back in the old days. Continue reading “Redefining the ‘W’”

sober lifestyle, Uncategorized

Keeping Score

scorecard
Unfinished home side of the scorecard from Cubs-Phillies series finale at Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 15, 2019. Was too busy booking the hell out of there to color in the final four diamonds and complete Holland’s pitching line — it should say “Owned.”

It’s a better story if they blow it.

This is what I kept telling myself in the bottom of the ninth inning of Thursday night’s Cubs-Phillies game. I stood in Section 134, staring at the giant white moon glowing in the sky above the grandstand just to the left of home plate, trying not to watch the cosmic meltdown happening on the field. What had been a five-run Cubs lead was now certain, impending doom in the form of Bryce Harper stepping to the plate with bases loaded and Rhys Hoskins (HBP; WTF?!?) standing on first, repping the winning run.

Insanity is a palpable physical sensation, and I know this, because that’s the only way to describe how I felt in my gut at that moment. Looking around me at the Phillies fans on their feet, ready to celebrate (because everyone knew how Harper v. Holland was bound to turn out), it hit me. I felt this exact same way on the night of Nov. 2, 2016, standing in the upper deck on the third-base side of Progressive Field in Cleveland after Rajai Davis’ game-tying home run. Yes, Game 7 of the World Series when your team hasn’t been in the World Series since World War II is a smidge more significant than a cross-divisional matchup in mid-August, but my anxiety doesn’t get that! It only knows one speed: full spin cycle.

I spent about half my life trying to slow the motor with alcohol, but anyone out there who loves sports with every fiber of their being – as I do – can attest that nothing soothes the insanity of those excruciating/exhilarating suspenseful moments. What you want so badly is completely beyond your control, and no amount of wringing your hands, biting your nails, talking to yourself, punching your husband in the shoulder, screaming – or drinking – your face off will ever change that. It’s maddening. It’s almost unbearable.

It’s real life. Continue reading “Keeping Score”