Not So Happy Holidays

Well, we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, now all eyes are looking toward the New Year and the promise of new beginnings. Some will look upon the end of the holiday season with a sadness, a realization that the magic of the season has left along with the clearance-priced ornaments, Christmas cards and the ever-present box of chocolates. Others will welcome an end to the forced cheerfulness, the endless demands of the holiday season, including but not limited to Black Friday shopping, the unspoken expectation that everything must be FESTIVE and everyone should be DELIRIOUS WITH HAPPINESS. You must get the perfect gift, sit alongside family members you haven’t spoken to all year and do your best imitation of a happy, loving family. I think more effort is spent each year acting like we are happy, not alone or lonely; pretending we are immersed in the joy of the season, when in reality, we are immersed in a sadness that colors all the holiday lights a brighter shade of grey because everything and everyone is grey. For those of us who feel this way during the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can just be what we are, which ultimately is some degree of depressed. Maybe it’s the forced merriment, maybe it’s the manic pace of the season, the never-ending demands of shopping, decorating, attending parties, kisses under the mistletoe and boatloads of eggnog or the over abundance of alcohol and sugar-laden foods or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t be with the one we want, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the holidays always make us think of family members who are no longer with us, loved ones who maybe don’t love us like they used to, family that isn’t quite family any more. Maybe it’s because the real message of Christmas has been drowned out by the crass commercialism and unrealistic expectations set forth by some ad folks in some corporation somewhere. Whatever the reason, no matter how many, those of us who struggle through the holidays don’t stop struggling when the holiday season comes to a close. If anything, we may experience some tiny measure of relief when they pass, but depression is not a seasonal disorder; it is a year-round, take no holidays, 24/7 kind of condition.

My wish is for the spirit of Christmas (the real spirit) to burn brightly within my heart, be shown in my actions and be shared with all I encounter, this New Year and all throughout the years. Just because the calendar says January and the Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down, the Christmas music has (FINALLY) stopped playing in the stores doesn’t mean that goodwill towards your fellow man has to be put away, too. Keep those thoughts in the fore front of your mind, keep the love alive in your heart and above all else, love yourself, celebrate everything that makes you who you are, even if you’re not crazy about those traits. I personally am not overjoyed when my mood takes a trip on the Rocky Roller Coaster ride that only bipolar disorder could design but it’s a part of me; it’s not a curse nor is it a blessing, just a part of me as much as my curly hair and hazel eyes. It has taken me a long time to accept it, not rage against the unfairness of it all, wishing things could be different while doing nothing to change anything. For the best gift we can give is love; to oneself first and foremost and from that self-love, we can send it out to others.

If there is someone you haven’t connected with in a while and they’ve been on your mind, pick up the phone, give them a call and reach out. Chances are that they are thinking of you, too. We don’t know how many Christmases we will have, how many opportunities to say we love them, we are sorry or we just miss them. The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone who is starved for kindness.

Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your love. You continue to make a difference in my life and I appreciate you tremendously.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

Begin Again (Again)

Another year, another month in rehab; seems like this cycle never fails to repeat itself. Stress, depression, poor coping skills and ultimately, drinking. Drinking is not the origin of the problem, but the one that usually brings the issue to life in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound. Learning who I am and why I do the things I do will more than likely be a lifetime project, but I am getting closer to my truths each time. How many times does one have to travel down a road before they recognize it leads to a destination that is not the one they want? How many times do I try again, only to fail? How many times can people be there for me, encourage me and help me when I just fall back to pieces again? Compassionate people have their limits and everyone has something they are battling, be it depression, simple unhappiness, a toxic relationship, addiction, avoidance and a painful past. The painful past doesn’t stay in the past; like a child coloring for the first time, it goes outside the lines of the past and bleeds into the present time, often without our knowing.

One of the things we learn in therapy is why we react the way we do to certain people, places and things (emotions can be included with things) and I am learning that my painful past is fully present in my present day. The strings that lead back to the original pain are like telephone wires, communicating and echoing the pain of the incident long ago. If I do nothing to cut those ties, heal those wounds and exorcise those demons, I will be destined to repeat this process over and over again, until I can fight no more or until I am dead and gone. This is not a post about blaming others for my past, but more to understand how the past is still manipulating my thoughts and with them, my emotional well-being. I have created a great deal of my painful past, simply by being a human being and trying to make myself happy, without having the understanding of how to create real happiness. Alcohol made me happy until it made me dangerous to myself and others; men made me happy until I realized the emotion I was feeling wasn’t happiness, but some ugly deformed cousin of happiness in which their happiness (supposedly) made me happy. The old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may be true, but it’s better to not pretend love when it’s lust you’re feeling. Not to confuse the two, which I have done for most of my life. If you’ve never felt true, unconditional and pure love from someone, how would you recognize it? The thrill of the love affair brings about emotions that could be mistaken for happiness, but I’m fairly certain that the formula for happiness does not include compromising ones morals or living in secret, experiencing alternating moments of bliss and shame. My life is what I have made it and will continue to be a mix of good and bad, but mostly what lies between the two. I am responsible for my happiness and my well-being. I am not responsible for everyone else on the planet, I cannot save anyone except possibly myself. Others may care, but their lives demand their time and attention, as it should be. The choices I have made in the past have led me to the place I am today as the choices I make today will lead me to tomorrow’s destination.

My painful past is not without its benefits, as pain is a sure sign of growth. I have learned how precious life is and how easily one (me) can believe that I am not worthy of such a precious gift and try to return it. I’m pretty sure God (or Buddha, or my Higher Power) doesn’t want me to take that gift and s**t all over it and return it to Him with a single finger salute. I’m pretty sure the idea is to live the life, to the best of my ability with whatever gifts and challenges that come with it; learn and grow, love and give, have and hold forever and ever. Understanding that to error is human and to forgive, divine is the formula and there is no pass or fail, there is only learning and growing. To love oneself seems simple enough, but for some of us, it is the most difficult challenge we face, every single day. So, I will begin again (again) and keep trying, keep learning and hopefully, ultimately, I will love myself as those of you who love me do. This is my wish and my most passionate prayer. For a life without love is no life at all.

BrotherWord-Love-Thyself

Deja Vu/Vuja De

It was a year ago, around this time on the calendar when I finally admitted to myself and to my psychiatrist that everything was most definitely NOT fine and a change of venue was in order. My doctor, being the good doctor that he is, referred me for psych evaluation and an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) to deal with the immediate concerns and to eventually get my mood rightened and myself back to the land of brilliant Technicolor, instead of the shades of black in the world I was living in. Well, fast forward a little over a year and guess what? I’m back in the same place, with the same therapists and doctors, cafeteria style lunches and rooms with uncomfortable chairs, lots of Kleenex boxes and people with stories, like me and very much unlike me. My immediate thought upon having to tell my doctor YET AGAIN that I was losing my s**t was not one of “Atta Girl!” but more like, “Seriously? Didn’t we JUST do this?? WTF is wrong with you, loser??” because my first thoughts are always from a place of extreme judgment and an unrealistic goal of perfection, no matter the circumstance.

Now, I wouldn’t say that to my worst enemy anymore than I would say it to someone who was doing another round of chemo or radiation in an effort to destroy that which is trying to destroy them. Treatment is treatment; the disease may differ, the course of treatment may differ but the goal is the same, to provide relief of symptoms and improve the health of the individual, thus improving the quality of life. Mental health is really no different, although much less one size fits all. Mental illness and those who battle depression, mania and other disorders are as different and varied as any selection of human beings can be; one person’s burden is another’s blessing. There is no absolute 100% guaranteed course of treatment and whatever course is selected, the patient must be able and willing to follow subscribed course of treatment, which often if not always includes eliminating substance (pick a poison, alcohol included) abuse and implementing a medication program that includes a cocktail (pardon the pun) of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and perhaps a little Antabuse thrown in for the hard core alcoholics. The patient must be willing to give up those self-medicating methods and switch to the psych meds, which usually come with a hefty side of side effects, weight gain being at the top of the list and covering all manner of ailments including, but not limited to: psychosis, permanent facial and/or body tics, blindness, headaches and possibly (of course) death by suicide, because some of these drugs have induced suicidal tendencies in certain groups, such as adolescents and the elderly. Go figure. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but every rose has its thorn, as we learned from Guns ‘n Roses/Poison.

If you’re still reading and still awake, I commend you. 

Back to the present time – I am back in the land of black and bleh, trying to find my way to the light and a coherent, relatively calm mind so that I can make some decisions that will hopefully keep me from having to return again at this time next year. I have a great many decisions to make at some point in time and I want to choose wisely and make choices that are good for me and my health. It’s easy for me to say that (I’ve said it over and over again) but the execution is where I falter. I guess if I’m thinking about what I SHOULD do instead of what I NEED to do, that could lead me to an unwise choice.

For all of you who have sent happy thoughts, well wishes and in reached out to me in general, I want you to know I feel the love. Seriously. Those of you who are thinking about me but haven’t reached out, I assure you, I still feel the love. You are the difference between me giving up or carrying on; your belief in me is my sword of truth, fighting against the lies and untruths that hold my spirit hostage, trapped in a dark and dismal mind. Your love and support brings a light to the darkness, a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to come back to the land of the living and love. I have talked to many people who have no family, no friends and oftentimes it is because their mental illness/addiction issues have exhausted the supply of people willing to lend a hand or support that person. Some people have a limited time only offer of assistance and once that window is closed, there are no more. I understand the reasoning behind this; if you are trying to save a drowning person, but don’t know how to swim yourself, you will both most certainly drown. Dealing with mental illness is neither pretty, Facebook post-worthy or fun. It tests  your limits, your love and your own mental stability. It’s like a fire you can’t get too close to or you end up with some pretty serious burns. It’s a rollercoaster ride you don’t remember buying a ticket to ride, a storm that was born of sunny skies and fluffy clouds; sunny and bright one minute, dark and destructive the next. It can tear apart the closest family, take away your best friend and leave a wake of destruction miles wide and years long. Knowing this makes you and your continued support all the more precious and appreciated.

Shooting thoughts of love and gratitude to you. Wish we were there (Half Moon Bay)

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Die Hard, Old Habits!!

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In the time that I have been away from my blog, I have come to the realization that the only time I feel I must post something is usually when it evokes a strong feeling, be it pleasant or otherwise. I have been feeling a great deal of strong feelings, not all of them unpleasant but definitely outside of my circle of comfort. I have been single for so long that I had forgotten about the give and take of a relationship; of sometimes putting aside my own wish/desire/opinion in order to support that of my friend/partner/love and light of my life. I believe it falls into the category of “The Greater Good” when it truly doesn’t matter one way or the other what happens (in the grand scheme of things) and one person will defer to the other’s wishes in an effort to keep the peace, avoid confrontation or just because they can realize how insignificant their wish/desire/opinion is when compared to losing that love, that peace and harmony. Sometimes it is not an insignificant thing, though. If a friend told me that they were going to bath in gasoline then have a cigarette, I would strongly encourage them to reconsider. But in the end, it is their life, their choice and they will be the one who will be most effected by the outcome. I know this logically but I can’t seem to make the jump from logical understanding to emotional understanding.

I have come to believe it’s something other than concern for my fellow man; it’s about control, plain and simple. Control has been the one reason why I’ve shied away from relationships, romantic or otherwise because I am deathly afraid of losing it.  Control, that is. I have lost it to another, I’ve given it away, I’ve lost it again when I (temporarily) lost my sanity and I’ve taken it back and lost it more times than I care to count. I guess this is just one of those things that we all must deal with in life. It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s not supposed to be without obstacles and tests (or events) that will test a person’s strength, both mentally and physically. Life also has a way of bringing into question truths that had previously seemed to be carved in granite. Those old sayings “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and “A leopard cannot change its spots” tell us that people don’t change and the older we get the more true that becomes. I disagree. People change all the time; the changes may not be made by a conscious decision, but more by necessity and a will to survival.

The real question is am I changing to conform to someone else’s ideal of who I should be or am I changing because I can see the old ways no longer serve me and may in fact work against me? This is the crux of the matter, in my eyes. I don’t want to become so fixed in my ways that I avoid the opportunity for growth, but I also recognize that old habits die hard and if I decide change is necessary, I can’t keep the old habits that provided comfort and safety for me; being a loner because I was afraid of rejection; staying away from dating because I was afraid of losing myself in another person. Staying drunk because then I wouldn’t have to feel anything, period. Keeping myself out of situations where I may not fit in because I didn’t want people to realize how out of my element I would be. I would break up with someone in anticipation of them growing weary of me or finding out who I really was. You get the idea. So, I’ve stopped staying drunk to avoid feeling but I haven’t stopped trying to control the entire freaking free world, either. Baby steps, right??

In the meantime, I will continue to put one foot in front of the other in an effort to keep moving forward. I may not know exactly what will happen next, but I guess that’s why we have faith.

Shameless Plug for The Book

Many of you have read about my Little Brother and of those many, some have actually had the pleasure of knowing him. He is absolutely hands-down the most crazy (in the non-judgmental, strictly used as an adjective, sense of the word) creative people I know. Since he was a little guy, his mind has always fascinated me with how fluid and complete his created characters and worlds were. He used to have these drawings that were truly blueprints for these worlds; every detail thought of, created and made real with pen and paper (yeah, WAY back in the day, just after stone tablets and chisels) I loved the way it was seemingly effortless, more as if he were recalling a memory instead of creating fiction.

Happily for all of us, he has just completed the First Revision on his book, which is currently available on Amazon. The title is “System Seven” by Michael J. Parks. If I had to classify its genre, I would say sci-fi, but there are many elements of other genres also. It’s a lot like my brother – intelligent with a great sense of humor and bursting with energy.

I’ve got it loaded on my magic tablet device, ready to disappear into its world as I make my way to Edinburgh in December. I believe it’ll be as if I take two trips – one to Edinburgh and the other to the future and to a world I couldn’t have dreamed up if I tried and a peek inside the mind of a creative genius, who happens to be my brother.

Reading and escaping are synonymous in my vocabulary. Before I discovered drugs and alcohol, it was my salvation and a balm to the wounded parts of my soul. I could be anyone, anywhere! I could stand beside queens as they are crowned; be the fly on the wall, seeing everything, hearing thoughts of men, honest and ugly or lying and sweet. I could travel to anywhere, visit any time from prehistoric to futuristic. Reading is the ultimate magic carpet ride, at least for me. When all else fails or the day is just too much, a trip to the library and finding The Book That Calls To Me and taking it home and reading it will set things right.

I hope you take the time to check out my brother’s book or any book the next time you have some free time or just want to escape.
It’s good stuff.

http://www.amazon.com/System-Seven-Michael-Parks-ebook/dp/B00P0IPRD2/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Foolish Me

 

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. –Chinese proverb

 

This weekend I experienced a painful reminder as to why I chose to distance myself from a couple who I can call friends, in the broadest sense of the term. I’m sure that most of you have encountered couples like these two; they are married, have a kid and seem to be making a good go of it, until they’re not.

Regardless of a reason, they have regularly scheduled Matrimonial Death Matches (Rounds 1 through 1 Million and counting), they go all out; screaming, blaming, throwing stuff, hitting and in general, tearing each other apart. That in itself is bad enough, but then they go outside their relationship and drag other people in, make them a part of the swirling mass of dysfunction and inability to take ownership of their part of the catastrophic event that is their relationship. Take sides, bash the other person (when they are not around to hear it or have the opportunity to respond to such poisonous barbs) but just when you think they are going to do everyone a favor and divorce, SURPRISE! They are back together, ready to work it out or even better, last week’s fight is a distant memory and now if you are the friend who agreed with those poisonous barbs, the other half of this Marriage from Hell is now angry with you for “taking HIS/HER side” and begins assaulting you with guilt-inducing declarations such as “I thought you were my FRIEND!” and “I TRUSTED YOU!! I thought you UNDERSTOOD how horrible/abusive/mean he/she is to me” and so on. Well, the reason why I’m putting you through all of this (assuming you’re still reading) is because about 5 years ago, I was the stupid person who was trying to befriend both parties and when they say that no good deed goes unpunished, I think of those times. Thankfully, I lived to regret every minute I spent with them. Fate finally smiled on me when I moved out of that neighborhood and out of their lives. Or so I thought.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I received a message from Mr. X, telling me that he had missed me all these years and wanted to meet up with me. Against my better judgment, I did meet up with him, had dinner, caught up on current events and found out that he was going through a separation from the little missus of about two weeks, at the time. At any rate, we met, we talked, we ate, no biggie. Until yesterday, when I received a message from Mrs. X, basically telling me that she had FOUND OUT about us. Seriously? OK, Nancy Drew – do tell. What exactly did you find out, all by your little self? That your husband is unhappy with you? Check. That the two of you are insane, in the clinical sense? Check. That you both can’t keep your toxic waste in your own little corner of Hell on Earth? Check.  I listened to her for about 30 minutes, until I began to realize that she was basically seeking a free “counseling” session, where she tells me her side of the sordid tale and I’m supposed to bash him and tell her she’s an angel for putting up with him as long as she has….yeah, that’s going to happen right after I get married to Liam Neeson….so, basically NEVER. (NOTE TO LIAM: I would marry you in a heartbeat, so in case you are interested, ignore the part where I said NEVER, just so we are clear). I wished her the best of luck with everything, asked her to please tell her husband to forget I ever lived, forget my number, my e-mail address and for her to do the same and NEVER contact me again. I then said a silent prayer for their child and hung up.

BAM! All at once, I realized (again) how incredibly toxic that couple is for me. Not saying that they aren’t good people, or they’re not loving parents; I don’t know if they are good, bad or indifferent, I just know that when I get around them, things tend to go badly for me. Much like the rescuer that gets pulled underwater by the drowning swimmer, my desire to save them is not strong enough to keep both of us above water. I walk away from conversations with them feeling like I have been drained of energy and happiness and in their place darkness and despair have taken up residence. Back in the day, I would wash those feelings away with a bottle or two of wine, but that’s no longer an option. It’s not a good feeling, especially when trying to stay away from alcohol and dark places in the mind. I know better than to ignore that voice that tells me to stay away, don’t answer the phone, don’t reply to that e-mail, etc. I guess sometimes I just need these painful reminders to keep me on track, keep me focused on me and remind me why when it comes to friends, I will choose quality over quantity any day. Better to have one true friend than 100 energy vampires, masquerading as friends, feeding off your good energy, your happiness and the rewards of years of hard work.

Like the proverb says, Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. You won’t get a third chance.

 

The Winds of Change

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails”

William Arthur Ward

I came across this quote back in November and wanted to write a post around it but couldn’t figure out how to convey what it says to me, specifically. I’m going to try now, so bear with me.

I’ve long believed that I was powerless over circumstances, that I was like a leaf in a storm; at the mercy of the wind, with no say in where I would go. I went along with whatever the group mentality was, never questioning whether it was what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be with. By doing this, I set up myself up beautifully for great disappointment and the role of the ever-suffering victim. I gave away my choices, my voice, my power and then couldn’t figure out why I was always so unhappy; why I had no sense of self, no idea who I was. It has taken me many years and a great deal of wrong turns, heartbreaks and utter despair to realize that no one had made me a victim, except myself.

Now, that’s all fine and good, but what could I do with that great revelation? We’re talking a lifetime of identifying as a follower, how could I un-learn all those behaviors? How could I reclaim my voice, my power? I had no clue, but I did know that if I didn’t try, nothing would ever change, except to possibly worsen. There is another saying regarding a long journey and it beginning with a single step; that is exactly what I had to do. One step. One different thought. Turning left instead of right, speaking up instead of suffering silently, making one decision to change one thing. They all add up. Just as a bad habit is formed over time, the same is true of a healthy one. I had been living this way my entire life (40-something years) and I would have to have great patience and determination if I wanted to change.

Now, a little over a year free from alcohol and I have found my voice, I am slowing realizing the extent of how much power I gave away and am in the processing of getting it back and then some. I have a greater sense of self, of purpose and of value. Needless to say, every day isn’t like a scene from some ridiculously happy and upbeat musical, but it’s good. The challenges will always be there, although their form and delivery may differ, I will still have to find the strength to make good choices while allowing myself to be human. The words “failure” or “victim” can never be used again when I’m thinking about who I am, what I am. I am a fighter and I will fight the good fight until I can no more. I am looking forward to each next day, each new lesson learned and each victory celebrated. I will keep steadily on my course, my mind focused on my destination, eyes open for whatever beauty appears and gratitude in my heart for the people that have loved me through thick and thin. And if the seas get rough, I’ll adjust the sails.

Happy One Year Anniversary to Me

Today I celebrate my one year anniversary of freedom from drinking. When I started out on this journey, I had great expectations and a healthy dose of fear about giving up my dear friend, alcohol. We’d had a long relationship that started when I was 13 and it had been my constant companion throughout my life. I wasn’t sure that I could manage without it. From the days of standing outside the liquor store asking people (mostly men) to buy me Bacardi, to the homesick days in Mississippi, drinking White Zin (yeah, I know – yuk!) to the days of red wine and roses (without the roses) to the final days of Happy Hours ending in blackouts, not to mention the poor choices I made while intoxicated, I have come to the realization that alcohol is no friend of mine.

Since I have quit drinking, I’ve been able to reconnect with myself, feel my feelings and have regained a sense of power that I thought I didn’t have. I have faced events that would have sent me running to the nearest bottle before and I have lived through those events, shed the tears and moved on. I have regained my self-esteem, my confidence and my ability to truly be present. I would have to say this is the best gift that I’ve ever given myself and I know that there will be times when I romanticize those drinking days, but much like the boyfriend that wasn’t any good for me, I will have to strive to remember why we parted in the first place.

Today I celebrate my first year and I pray for the strength to have many more years to come. I have made a promise to myself that I will nurture and love my mind, body and soul; I cannot keep this promise if I am drinking. I have found a clarity that is better than any buzz I had gotten while drinking and have shed the guilt, the shame and the constant worry that came with drinking. I no longer have to wonder if I’ll make it home without getting pulled over; I no longer have to ask someone else what I did or said the night before. I don’t have to choose between buying a bottle of wine or buying groceries. It sounds pretty simple, but it all adds up. I am by no means stress free, but I have a found better ways to cope with my stress.

So, today I will be celebrate my one year with family and look forward to the next year. I have found a great strength and comfort in the Serenity Prayer and for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, I’ll leave you with the prayer in closing.

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.

257 Days and Counting

Yep. 257 days since I last drank. That’s less than a year but feels like more than a lifetime.

I remember the first time I had a drink; it was Mickey’s Big Mouth beer and I was about 13 years old. I liked the bottle more than I liked the taste, but I drank it nonetheless. I eventually graduated to California Coolers, then Bacardi 151. I immediately enjoyed the effect. The numbness, the fuzziness of the mind, the emptying of the worry bin inside my head. I drank only occasionally, but always with the same result, a welcome brain buzz and immediate mood shift. It wasn’t difficult for me to obtain back then, I could stand outside the local liquor store and at most, it would take me two attempts before I was successful.
It wasn’t until much later in life that I really needed to drink. When I was living in Mississippi, I would drink a bottle of White Zin every night for about two weeks. (I know – White Zin??) I used it for the same reason I always drank; to numb and to not feel. Eventually, I was able to adjust to life away from my hometown and family, but I still drank. Just not as much and not at home. I have wonderful memories of living there, but they all centered around being at a bar, going to a bar, buying alcohol, drinking alcohol, having drunken walks on the beach, drunken intense, soul-searching conversations that I could barely recall the next day. I didn’t see it at the time, but I was starting a pattern that would later come back to haunt me. Me + Drink = Good Times. I can’t recall the exact date, but somewhere during this part of my life, I got the idea that I wasn’t fun, smart, good-looking and/or interesting unless I had fueled up with some form of alcohol first.

Fast forward to 2011. I am now hitting happy hour in any day ending with “y”. I set a limit of how much I was going to drink, then would blow past that in the first hour. I’m coming home, but not remembering the drive there. I’m waking up in the morning and not remembering the entire evening. I knew on some level that I had a problem, so I tried to establish as many safety nets as I could. Drive home, then walk to a bar close by, so I could walk home and as a bonus, more alcohol consumption as a reward for my “responsible drinking”. Other useless rules included: No shots, all shots, 2 drink minimum, 1 hour maximum….the list went on and on, along with the drinking. The only thing that was constant was my drinking.

At last, I had an intervention of sorts; it was really just one very important person, telling me how much he was scared of losing me, scared I would kill myself or someone else. He was trying to say it in the nicest way possible, but I could hear the embarrassment and the underlying anger, laced with fear. My son. My grown son had to tell me, his mother, that I was out of control and heading straight for an epic fail. The nagging voice in my head that had been whispering the same message agreed wholeheartedly. I had other clues that my mental state was not improving and all this self-medicating was serving only to fuel my ever-increasing rage and rising manic state. So, I made a call to my psychiatrist and told her that I was finally ready to get serious about my ridding myself of my out-of-control addictions.

After 7 weeks of intensive outpatient treatment and countless AA meetings, I better understand why I drank so much, how it had a negative effect on my attempts to manage my mental illness. I was able look back at that time and shudder. I shudder to think that I drove, that I lost countless hours, days, nights and whole weekends just because I didn’t want to go through the temporary discomfort of facing my fears and doing the hard work to get right with myself. Life is truly what we make it and I am determined to make mine count. Live each and every day mindfully and honestly. I don’t want to be numb or try to avoid discomfort. Discomfort is what tells me that I need to make a change or I need to move on. It’s a necessary evil, for lack of a better term.

I’d like to say that the hard part is over, but I’m done lying to myself. I think the worst is over, but there will always be difficult times, with or without those crutches. I will trust in myself, know that I have more strength than I could ever imagine. If I feel weak, I know what to do to gather my strength. If I feel lost, I have friends and family to help me find my way. I have AA and all the wealth of experience and support that offers. Most of all, I have my self worth and a clarity of vision that help me to see what is good for me and what is not. I have the courage to speak up for myself and the strength of will to walk away from what is not good for me.

This year, I will celebrate one year of sobriety the month before my 45th birthday and I know it will be the best birthday I’ve ever had. I look forward to living life without the burdens of shame, fear and self-loathing. I raise my glass of Hansen’s Natural Soda and toast to living the good life.

Cheers!