sober lifestyle

Success

It’s always tough going back through old photos on my phone. My camera roll is full of emotional triggers, from the head-shaking, facepalming, uncomfortable close-ups of tequilas-on-the-rocks and (dear God!) my face under the influence thereof, to the guilty gut-punch of all those CrossFit gym pics.

You guys, I once won trophies for my fitness! One of them was even made of metal! 💪🏻🏆👸🏼

(I don’t know if you can read the plates in the above image, but that hardware was from a local competition called “Masters of the Universe” that I used to enter every year in my late 30s.)

Sitting here years later, sans six-pack abs, and a good two clothing sizes larger (I would guess…my pandemic wardrobe has been 100% extremely lived-in loungewear), having swapped alcoholism for a sugar addiction, I remind myself for the 10 millionth time that I was not happy as a hard-bodied exercise fiend. Doing muscle-ups and deadlifting 300 pounds and running around in public in a sports bra and booty shorts did not fill the hole inside, just as guzzling booze and buying things and cruising social media and even winning awards at work failed to soothe my restless soul.

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sober lifestyle

Purpose

Did I ever tell you about the first time I got drunk? Summer of ‘98. My first college apartment. Vodka and lemonade in a Big Gulp cup. Lettuce and mushrooms on my pillow. …

I was 20 years old when I experienced the classic rite of passage that is waking up in a pool of your own vomit.

Somehow, that incident didn’t ruin my ability to stomach salad — I still eat it every day…with mushrooms, even! — or make me think twice about entering an intimate relationship with alcohol.

Nothing in the following 20 years deterred me from pursuing that toxic love affair with complete abandon — not crashing my car into a median while covering Braves spring training in Orlando, Fla.; or cleaning vomit out of the same car (passenger side!) the morning after a Cinco de Mayo party in Macon, GA; or waking up in my Bensalem, PA, apartment with all my clothes lying in a pile by the front door and the wreckage of a binge from the bakery section of the 24-hour GIANT strewn about the living room; or all those countless times I came to, lying next to my husband in our various Langhorne and Newtown abodes circa 2005-2019, and snapped into super-sleuth mode, trying to piece together what embarrassing or hurtful shit I’d done or said under the influence of tequila the previous night. I became quite adept at changing the subject when Hubby tried to confront me about how that shit affected him…

It was all so pointless, riding that vicious-cycle roller coaster, ignoring every “DANGER” sign and passing up every chance to get off.

Sitting here now, at 20 months sober, it’s still hard to figure how I made it out of alcoholism alive, without (physically) hurting anyone else or going to jail, and how I was gifted with a second chance to be a good spouse.

An even bigger challenge is understanding why.

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sober lifestyle

Anticipation

I woke up nervous Saturday morning, thoughts racing faster than usual, and as the hour of the event drew nearer, my pulse steadily quickened. It felt like I’d been plugged into an electrical outlet, like everything inside was vibrating, and by the time I was set to leave the house, I was so on edge that I felt like crying.

My anxiety is pretty potent on a normal day, but on days when there’s a commitment on my calendar?

(It’s funny because it’s true.)

Leaving an entire pot of coffee on the counter, untouched, for fear that caffeine would trigger a full-blown heart attack, I pushed through the front door. Slowing my pace only to prevent my slick-soled knee-high boots from slipping on black ice, I got in the car and set off to speak at a recovery meeting in a local drug and alcohol treatment center.

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sober lifestyle

Measurement

If you’ve been here before, you don’t need me to explain the above photo. You know that’s the whiteboard on the wall in my basement gym, aka “Fly The W Fitness.” And those are the one-day-at-a-time red hash marks I’ve been drawing on every inch of the thing — except a small space in the middle where we can write actual workout stuff, and a column where I collect inspirational quotes from the likes of deep-thinking former Cub Nick Castellanos and badass assassin/world-saver Arya Stark — to keep the score of my sobriety since July 7, 2019.

You’re looking at the tally as of last Tuesday.

Since I’ll officially run out of room in a few days when I hit 17 full months, my husband’s idea is to cover the walls with whiteboard paint so I can just start marking time there…

…🤔…

Sorry. Got distracted by thoughts of Homer Simpson scrawling all over the walls in that classic “Treehouse of Horror” parody of “The Shining.”

I can relate a little bit, my man! 🤣

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sober lifestyle

Recommendation

The biggest news in my life right now, other than the tatt and what’s going on every week in Season 4 of “Fargo” (Timothy Olyphant 😍…that’s pretty much it), is my quest to study psychology in grad school.

We’re officially in Phase 2 of that quest; I just received an email from the admissions office saying they reviewed my application and they’d like to invite me to a formal interview with the program director and other high-ranking school officials.

🥳

I learned a few things during Phase 1:

  • Openly identifying as an addict isn’t a professional death sentence;
  • My GPA at Northwestern was lower than I thought;
  • Probably the best decision I made in my (pre-sobriety) life was to move to Bucks County, PA, to join the local newspaper community.

Like most things you’re immersed in day after day for years, I didn’t really appreciate what — and who — I had in that community until I left it. I had a surrogate home/family, both in the company buildings and out on the sports beat, even if my loner personality made me, like, the distant third cousin twice removed in that scenario.

(Here’s where I am obliged to mention that I met my husband at the paper back in 2002.)

Most of us who moved on from the Bucks County Courier Times/Doylestown Intelligencer in the Gatehouse era did not do so voluntarily, so we didn’t really get to stop on our way out the door, look around and get proper perspective on our careers there and all the relationships we built over the years.

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sober lifestyle

Aspiration

You know how people ask, “What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?” as a way of getting at your true goals?

As a little kid, I would’ve replied, “Cover the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune,” except I thought being a reporter was, in fact, a stable, well-paying job that set you up for a comfy life. 🤣 I also had no clue that life as a pro sportswriter was 90 percent waiting around to talk to dudes who just stepped out of the shower and were, like, actively trying to avoid talking to you. 🤣🤣

My gut said, “Write books,” but I only verbalized those words as a kind of pie-in-the-sky “reach.” Even in a childhood characterized by creative invention, I had trouble imagining such a free-wheeling, left-to-your-own-devices lifestyle. How would you support yourself, just sitting there and writing?

You had to pay your bills. You needed a “real job.” Dreams were cool, but money was an issue, and despite my youth, I somehow understood the importance of setting “practical” goals. Middle class kids who wore clothes from Venture had to pick something “safe.” Dreams were for the rich kids with a built-in safety net!

That’s how I thought, and it probably explains why it took me until age 42 to start thinking about my true purpose and how I might go about pursuing it.

I think I might have figured out what my dream is, and instead of throwing up a bunch of knee-jerk “reasons why not,” I’m sort of actually allowing myself permission to say, “Why not?”

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