Powerful Words

When my kids were little and trying on profanity as children do, I used to tell them that profanity was just a group of words to which society had given power.  The only power curse words had was what we gave them.  That was usually followed immediately by, “In this house they still hold power so you won’t be using them.”  I also let them know that there was a time and place for those words and that time and place was never around adults or in public places.  I knew they would be using it with their friends because, let’s face it, it’s a right of passage but with those rights came the responsibility to know how and when to let fly with an f-bomb.  I never had one issue with them using inappropriate language and to this day they blush if they say “damn” in my presence.  I like that.

I also modeled the behavior and offer them the same respect I expected of them.  Told you I was only a potty-mouth on my blog.

Anyway, after reading all the wonderful comments from my post yesterday, it occurred to me that I have assigned way to much power to what amounts to a group of vowels and consonants strung together to form a word.  Society has also given the word way too much clout and most of it is negative, which makes a lot of us “non-drinkers” recoil when the word is used to describe us while others embrace it like a long-lost friend that has finally returned home.

Read that last, very long and run-on sentence again.  The important part is that some of us recoil and some do not.  WE decide how we will react to words.  WE have the power…no one else.

Hmmmm….

The fact is that I have a negative connotation with that word and always will.  To me it represents ruined holidays, turbulent birthdays, arguments, drama and turmoil.  It means lies and selfishness, separation and divorce, illness and eventually death.  It scares me.  It’s ugly.

I don’t do ugly.

So I’ve decided to “drop the rope” when it comes to that word.  Since I have and always will give it power, I’m going to stop trying to make it something it’s not.  For me, it’s not a warm and fuzzy word.  It’s comes with baggage and I’ve got enough of that thank you very much.  No more fighting with it.  It’s just a word.  No more and no less.

Hi, I’m Sherry and I don’t fucking drink.  That is all.

(You knew I had to drop an f-bomb before the end of the post right?)

Namaste

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In General

I’m going to admit something here that I never thought I’d admit…out loud anyway.  Are you ready?  Okay…here goes.

Sometimes times I get sick to death of being an alcoholic.

There – it’s out.  You can return to your regularly scheduled programming.

However, if you’d like to stick around for a second or three, I’ll explain.

It’s not that I tire of being sober.  That I like.  Sober sleep.  Sober food.  Sober sex.  Sober heart and love and kindness and LIFE.  There’s also sober arguments and feelings and resentment and anger and guilt and LIFE.  But I never tire of those.  Maybe I haven’t been sober long enough yet to get tired of it.  Who knows?  All I know is that I never tire of waking every morning without a hangover, have a chit-chat with the Big Guy and facing life on life’s terms.

That shit never gets old.

But identifying as an alcoholic?  Wearing the LABEL that says alcoholic?

That shit DOES get old.

Sometimes I wonder why I even need a reason that I don’t drink.  Exactly why does anyone need to know the reason I choose to abstain?  Isn’t the simple fact that I choose to remain sober enough?  Why are we all so freaking nosey?

I think I’m just over the whole “label” thing.  Why do we, as humans, feel the need to categorize and label everything in our world.  Why do we generalize?  It works great with paperwork and spices and perishable food but people?

Yeah…not so much.

Labels and generalizations reduce us to something that fits in someone else’s box.  Our brains are wired such that when we encounter something unfamiliar (read: scary) we have to put a label on it to make it fit in our preconceived notion of the world.  That just doesn’t work for me.  We, as a human race, are so much more complex and beautiful and real than what our words can describe.  We and our possibilities are HUGE and INFINITE and shouldn’t be minimized in anyway.  We should be taken for who we are without regard to anyone else.

Sigh…just had to get that off my chest.

Namaste

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Message Received

Every year my coworkers and I do a community service project.  Our company gives us paid time off to do this so we usually take a full day right around the holidays.  This year we participated in Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan’s Purse.

I knew of Operation Christmas Child but knew very little about Samaritan’s Purse or exactly who the OCC program served.  So I was thrilled when I heard we had to go through an orientation before we would be led to our work stations.  The 10-15 minute orientation consisted of a short message from the organization’s leader followed by a description of and instructions on each workstation.

Oh…it also included a lot of what I affectionately refer to as “Jesus Jamming”.  That’s when I come to feel that an organization or individual is jamming Jesus down my throat.

And these people were jamming!  Strike 1.

Then I discovered that ALL of their ministry was outside of the U.S.  We were packing shoe boxes for children all around the world while there were children in the U.S. who might not have a Christmas.  Strike 2.

So here I am, all confused and confuddled and following everyone like a lemming to the sea, thinking the whole time, “OMG what am I going to do?  How can I do this?”

Let me get something straight.  I don’t have a problem with Jesus.  After all, I’m a Christian.  I LOVE Jesus.  And God.  And while we’re at it Mary and Joseph as well.  I am not, however, a religious person.  In fact I really am not comfortable with organized religion at all.  I am however, deeply and profoundly spiritual.  My faith is very important to me and I rely on it to guide me through my life.

So it’s the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded and the count is three and two when the leader of the local group invites the chaplain to the front of the room so that we can “pray over the boxes”.  Great…more Jesus Jamming.

As I’ve said before, God has been known to speak to me on occasion.  Well…that is when I remember to “Be Still” and listen.  Unfortunately he usually has to throw a brick my way for me to actually get the message.

He threw one of those.

As I laid my hand on those boxes and the chaplain started praying, I was filled with the Holy Spirit (or something anyway) and my heart swelled like the Grinch after Cindy Lou Hoo gave him his gift.  Tears sprung to my eyes and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing so I should probably just shut the fuck up and get to work.

So I did.  It was one of the most fulfilling and fun days in recent memory for me and I know we’ll do it again next year.

Message received Lord.  I don’t need to know why or how or agree with the politics but if you want me there then there I will go.

Namaste

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A Quick Interlude

I’m working on a new post about an experience I had yesterday while volunteering at Operation Christmas Child.  In the meantime, here’s a link to an article just published on the Florida Beach Rehab site. I am loving writing for these guys!!!

http://www.floridabeachrehab.com/i-know-what-an-alcoholic-looks-like/

Namaste

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Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Gloomy gray day here.  The kind of day that makes you want to curl up with a good book next to the tree with a warm cup of tea (or, because it’s still unseasonably warm here – a diet Pepsi).  The kind of day that was made for napping.

But, alas, I’m a working stiff so here I sit…um…blogging.  Okay – so it’s our slow time of year but it’s a well deserved break.  We only have about six weeks of slow time and the rest of the year is a full court press so you know…don’t judge.

Boxes have begun arriving at my home and with no time to wrap I’m running out of hiding places.  I’ll figure it out, I always do.  This is, after all, my season.  The season when all of my, um, unique talents are taken out, dusted off and used.

For example.  I am the product of a pathological liar.  As I’ve stated before, my mother truly could not help herself, she simply could not tell the truth.  She had begun to realize it at the end of her life and would actually stop, mid-sentence, and say, “I don’t know why I just said that…it’s completely not true.”  I’m not pathological but I do have the gift of being able to lie and make people believe ANYTHING.  I, however, choose to use my power for good.

Christmas is one of those times.  Any other time of the year I abhor an untruth.  I have been known to say nothing rather than let a falsehood slip from my mouth.  Don’t get me wrong, I do tell the occasional fib to spare feelings or, gasp, to avoid unnecessary confrontation (but for the life of me I can’t think of a single example right now).  Just know that I am no saint and have been known to dance like Ginger Rogers around the truth and sometimes even stomp right on the sucker.

But at Christmas?  That’s when I really shine. 

Kids:  Mommy, why don’t you and daddy get any gifts for Christmas?

Me:  Because after parents have children Santa knows there is nothing he could ever bring them that would be as wonderful so he doesn’t even try.

Kids:  Mommy, why do we have to buy toys for the poor kids?  Doesn’t Santa come to their houses?

Me:  Of course he does.  We buy these toys so that the parents have something to give their children on Christmas morning.  (I admit – this one always brought me to tears and had me digging a little deeper into the wallet.)

There were lots more, thought of completely on the fly, and then committed to memory for the future.

Back to the boxes.

For years boxes have been arriving at my house.  In the early days of internet shopping, not all company’s were savvy enough to put that huge Rescue Heroes Command Center into a plain cardboard box.  They just slapped a label on the damn thing and sent it to my house.  In the middle of December.  Really?

Kids:  Mommy, is that OUR Rescue Heroes Command Center?

Me:  NO!  That’s for charity.  I wanted to make sure they got something they would like.  (Then I had to put it in the car and pretend to take it “somewhere”.)

Kids:  Mommy, are those scooters for us?  You said we couldn’t have them because we’d get hurt.

Me:  Of course not!  Those are going to charity.  You are not getting scooters.  You’ll hurt yourself.

Kids:  So, um, mom.  Why is it okay to hurt the poor kids?

(facepalm)

Me:  They’re much older than you.  They have promised they’ll be more  careful.

And on and on and on.

Yesterday, a package arrived from Home Depot.  Earphones for my theatre tech son from Ryobi that will block the noise from the woodshop but allow him to hear music and voices. 

And guess what?  Yep…a label slapped directly on the Ryobi box.

Really Home Depot?  Do you not own a calendar?

Fortunately his twin saw the box, screamed at him to turn around and not look and took the boxes into the house.  Christmas was saved.

I’m telling you, this Santa shit is hard.  You have to be diligent!

And a really good liar.

Namaste

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Tid Bits and More Writing

I just realized that I haven’t posted anything since 11/22…whoa!

Well part of the reason is that I’m on the road again…Pittsburgh this week, Nashville week after next and then…..

VACATION! I’ll be off til January 5th!

I wait all year for these two weeks. This is when I recharge my batteries. Shopping is done. Events are planned. House is cleaned and decorated. Nothing left to do but wrap, bake and relax. Ahhhh….

There was a time that these two weeks meant parties and late nights drinking. I miss that TIME but I do not miss what I became. Those memories take on a rosy glow and come to mind complete with jingle bells and lightly falling snow (even though I’ve always lived too far south for Christmas snow). What I force myself to do is see the memory all the way to the end…to the part where I’ve ruined the event, passed out and wake up with a horrible hangover.

I DO NOT miss that…EVER!

Anyway, when I travel I get to watch movies on the plane and I the evening. This time I rented and downloaded Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. My kids have gotten me hooked on Gotham on TV (which is Batman as a child) so watching these movies is helping me understand more context in the show. It’s awesome!

I guess I should explain that I grew up watching the original series on TV, used to jump up and fight with them and had a HUGE crush on Robin, so it really didn’t take much to reel me in.

Watching movies in my room or on the plane is a far cry from my old travel routine filled with booze and the precarious and dangerous situations I was putting myself in. I’m so much happier with my iPad, iTunes and a comfy bed. Bliss.

Finally, check out my article on The Change Blog. Long time readers have heard it all before but the blog is a fascinating collection of stories from people going through all manner of change. It’s definitely with a look.

Namaste

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Lung Cancer Awareness

mesothelioma facts

About a week ago I received an email from a young woman named Heather Von St. James, asking me to post some information to bring awareness about lung disorders and diseases for Lung Cancer Awareness month.  Since I’m a former smoker who still lives in fear of developing lung cancer…of course I said yes.

And since I’m me…I’m a little late.  Sorry Heather.

Heather says that it was in the month of November that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma which is a rare cancer that impacts approximately 3,000 people per year.  You can read her story here http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather.  Inspiring is an understatement.  Give it a read and watch her video.  I dare you not to be affected.

She’s an awesome lady…and not just because she has short, rock star hair and ink.  But for me, that certainly helps.  (Just kidding!!!!  Maybe.)

She sent me the following links to help educate me (and you) on the causes, symptoms and treatment for this rare form of lung cancer.  Her goal is to raise awareness about all lung diseases including mesothelioma which, in spite of annoying attorney commercials, doesn’t get enough real, life changing, funds raising attention in the U.S.

For more information on mesothelioma you can go to http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma.

Thank you Heather for reaching out and for all you do to make people aware of this horrible disease.  I hope I’ve helped in some small way.

Namaste

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Again

I got some truly amazing comments on my post yesterday about The Before.  It resonated with a lot of people which made me happy because, well that’s why we’re all out here right?  That, and the cheap therapy.

One comment in particular has been stuck in my brain since yesterday and I have to write about it or it will be up there tumbling around unaccompanied until it drives me batshit crazy.  So to avoid all that drama – I’ll be writing about it here.

Josie over at The Miracle Is Around the Corner commented that she feels like she’s in The Before when it comes to her eating and exercise plan and that it feels just like it did when she was in The Before of her drinking career.  She and I have discussed this, so she knew I would understand (which I DO).  Pop onto yesterday’s post and check out her comment – it was awesome.

The reason I get it is because it’s the same for me.  The only difference is that this particular Before has been going on for me since fucking puberty.  It’s been rolling around in my brain and making me miserable since I was about 12.  That’s almost 42 years of bullshit brain activity (or approximately 336 dog years). 

What the what?

This is my 474th post on this blog.  Of those posts, I would estimated that at least 1/4 to 1/3 of them are about eating, exercising, dieting, body image, etc.  That means between 119 and 158 posts have been written about my struggles not with alcohol but with FOOD.  That feels like a lot to be on a blog that is supposed to be about sobriety.  Maybe it’s not.  What the hell do I know?

What bothers me is the up and down in and out back and forth of the whole thing.  One day I’ve got this killer eating plan and I’m exercising every day, the next day I’m stuffing my face with Oreo’s and Halloween candy and my self-esteem is in the toilet.  One day I’ve sworn off thinking about food and I’m just going to learn to love myself the way I am, the next day the doctor calls me “obese” and I’m crying in my Diet Pepsi.  One day I’m meditating and practicing self-care and telling myself only good things, and the next I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I swear I’m not going to eat until my 55th birthday by which time (in 2016 btw) I will have lost approximately half my body weight and have to check into Betty Ford for an eating disorder.

I’m not making fun of eating disorders by the way – I’m saying that thinking like this IS NOT HEALTHY.

Where does it stop?  Unlike cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or gambling, WE HAVE TO EAT!  What’s more, food is one of the greatest joys of life.  Sharing a meal with friends and family is a beautiful thing.  Sitting down to a table of food made with love (including dessert and bread) is a blessing that I never take for granted.  (There are too many people in the world that never have enough to eat.)  All this bullshit going on in my head ruins that joy if I let it get away from me.

Which I do.

Often.

I wish that for once in my life I could make peace with sustenance.  I wish I could find a happy place that was free of guilt or shame or self-righteousness (when I’m doing well I can get very self-righteous).  I wish I could learn to treat food as sacred and, in turn, treat myself that way.

I know there’s a root to this issue that I’ve yet to uncover.  I’ve read book after book on the subject.  I’ve scoured the Internet and plunked down lots of cash in an effort to understand what’s going on with me and food.  I’ve been to nutritionists and spas and doctors in a desperate attempt to right this ship.  And here I am typing about it again.

I often talk about wanting to get back to the way I was when I was in my 30’s and early 40’s.  Now I’m not so sure.  While it’s true that I was at a healthy weight and was extremely fit, the fact is that I was not happy.  The shit going on in my head now was there then – a constant stream of consciousness about what I was eating, where, how much and how much exercise I needed to do.  That’s not healthy.  It also wasn’t very joyful.  It was, in fact, a Before.

There really is no point to this post.  No pithy comment that will make you think, “Yes!  That’s it!”  Only a recovering alcoholic, ex-smoker who would love, for once in her life, to find peace of mind on a plate.  I have no idea how I’m going to get there or even if I’ll ever get there.  I just know I have to keep trying because, as I said yesterday, The Before is no way to live.

Namaste

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The Before

There is always a lot of discussion about our lives after we got sober or what particular “bottom” resulted in us getting sober.  There’s talk about our drinking careers, lives ruined, people pissed, DUI’s, jobs lost, blah, blah, blah.  Then there’s talk about the first day, the second day, the first weekend, the first birthday, first Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and all other reasons we alcoholics loved to get our drink on but were no longer allowed.  We cheer for milestones because, let’s face it, if this were a cake walk I wouldn’t be blogging and I suspect neither would a lot of my friends.  We even discuss our methods of staying sober whether it’s AA, SMART, blogging, therapy or some form of medication.  It’s awesome that it’s out here, for anyone to read and to take what they need and leave the rest.

Recently however, I’ve noticed a gap in all of these heartfelt and thought-provoking discussions.  I call it “The Before”.  For me The Before was the time when I knew I had a problem but hadn’t yet truly committed to sobriety.  I was still drinking, or relapsing, or drinking or relapsing.  What’s more I was thinking and thinking and THINKING about how I needed to maybe be sober for like…forever but not today.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or next week – on Monday.  Or Thanksgiving – no wait…the Holidays are hard maybe New Year’s day since I’ll already have a hangover.

See what I mean.

When I look back I see that this was the most difficult part of my journey.  Not the first few days or the first weekend or the first birthday or the first anything.  It was The Before.  The Before was the toughest because I had no peace of mind.  Hell…I had no peace of anything during that time.  My brain chattered on and on and on and just would not be still.  No matter what I did I could not convince it to just shut the fuck up and leave me the hell alone.

It’s a funny thing about my brain, or higher power or conscience or whatever.  Once an idea that is fundamentally right has been awakened it will not rest until I’ve done something about it.  The thing is that this can conceivably go on for years and years and years before I actually get around to doing something about it.

Finally putting down my wine glass was no different.  I remember very clearly the first time the idea that I had a problem popped into my head.  The hubs and I had just moved in together which means I was in my early twenties.  We came home from a night out and I could barely walk.  I face planted into the bed and said, “I think I have a drinking problem.”  He thought I was kidding but I knew, way down deep in my gut, that the way I drank wasn’t normal.  I also knew that one day I’d have to do something about it but the thought was so repulsive I stuffed it down…for the next 25 years or so.

As the years went on I grew more and more aware of how much I drank and that, once I got started I was not able to quit.  What frightened me more was how much I thought about drinking.  All that planning and thinking and manipulating was not only tiresome but it signaled a much deeper problem.  One I refused to admit out loud but that my gut knew was true.  Then came the second time I saw my son cry because I was drunk.  That’s when I knew something had to be done. 

I can’t count the number of starts and stops I had after that moment but there were a lot of them.  I’d get a few days or weeks or even months under my belt before I’d proclaim myself fine and start The Before all over again.  The Before that resulted in the looks of disappointment on the faces of my family when they saw me bring in a bottle or three of wine. The constant beratement of myself because I was weak, or a fraud, or a bad person or bad mom or horrible wife until I finally just had to drink away the self-deprecation which only made me hate myself more.  The promises before my feet hit the floor the next morning that I would never drink again…followed by a loss of my resolve somewhere around 2:00 pm which led to the grocery store and more wine.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then there was the endless noise in my head about drinking…always about drinking.  Why, when, and how?  What it was doing to my kids.  What is was doing to my marriage.  My job.  My health.  When will I quit again? (There was no longer an issue of “if” it was now “when”.)  Planning, planning, planning for that day – only to chicken out at the 11th hour and start the planning process again.  I was unhappy no matter which way I turned.  If I didn’t quit I was horrible, if I did I was angry.  Lose-lose.  I was a loser no matter what.

Of course one day something clicked and here I am almost five years later sober as a judge and healthier and happier than I’ve ever been.  I wish I could tell you what switch finally flipped but I can’t.  I can (and have) told you what made me try…again, but I can’t explain why I stayed sober.  I guess I just got so sick and tired of the constant negativity in my head and I felt that I didn’t have any other choice.  I think I just decided that I couldn’t listen to that crap for one more goddamned day (little g).

The rest of the journey was difficult, at first, but the thought of going back to The Before is what kept me sober that first year and still, quietly, keeps me sober now.  That dark and ugly Before is not a place that anyone should be. 

Namaste

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Empty Nests are Emptier at Christmas

Okay, so my nest isn’t completely empty but it’s emptying at an alarming rate and quite frankly is sucks ass more than anything has ever sucked ass before or since.  So there!

To be honest, I’m spoiled because my one child is in an apartment near school that’s only a 20 minute drive from our house and the other two are still technically living at home so I do get to see them more than other parents get to see their college age kids.  But I’m having a tantrum here so you’ll just have to bear with me and deal with my whining.

The part that sucks is that while their bodies are near their heads are GONE.  They’ve got LIVES separate and apart from ours and it feels really weird.  I was in Target yesterday because, well…that’s my happy place…and I wandered over to the Christmas section.  There were stocking stuffers and bedazzled Christmas Trees and carols playing and all manner of ornaments, stockings and lights to be purchased.  A little farther down were aisles and aisles of toys and games and puzzles and dolls just waiting for Santa’s elves to swoop in and purchase them once Christmas lists have been completed.  I was there to soak up all the warm and fuzzy’s because that’s how I’m rolling this year.  Right?

No…because it wasn’t warm and fuzzy…it was cold and sad.  Why?  Because I was there alone.  Normally being alone in Target is my nirvana.  A fountain soft drink or Starbucks coffee in hand and I can wander those aisles for ever and never buy a thing (well at least I try to keep it under $100).  My blood pressure goes down, my permafrown turns upward and I leave a little broker but a lot happier.

Not yesterday though.  One of the things I used to love to do was take the boys shopping at Christmas time.  I loved to watch their faces light up when they saw the trees right after Halloween (while I stuffed down all my feelings I let theirs run amok) and listened as they ooo’d and ahhhh’d over all the stuff they wanted Santa to bring.  Even after they got older I liked to watch them try on clothes or pick out the latest video game.  Then we’d get a soda or a frap and talk about Christmas all the way home.

Even as recent as last Christmas this was still happening.  Perhaps more infrequent and not all three (or four) at once but one on one I’d get to experience it.  Something happened this year however that changed all that – they turned into adults with lives of their own.

Shit.

I didn’t even realize that the Target Experience was a thing until I found myself alone in the “seasonal” aisle.  I swear to God I started to cry and had to get the hell out of there before I embarrassed myself any further.  As I sat in the car sniffling I texted my boys…

“I HATE being in Target without my boys at Christmas.  Empty nesting SUCKS!”

One replied…

“I’m coming home soon mom.  You could have asked.”

And I said…

“Dude – you were busy and it’s my JOB to LET YOU GO.”

Later he told me that if I was supposed to let him go I shouldn’t send texts like that.  I let him know that even though it was my job, I didn’t have to like it and he’d just have to deal with his crazy mother a little while longer.

The other twin sent me this…

“I HATE having to work on the weekends and not go to Target with you.  Being an adult sucks!”

Well played my son…well played.

The third didn’t reply at all which is completely normal for him.  Texts like that don’t require responses in his mind.  Did I mention he’s the most practical of those three? 

Anyway, after I got home I cried on the hubs shoulder and told him to dust off his shopping shoes because he was going to have to get used to shopping with me again – like we did before we had these love sucking heathen children.

Namaste

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