Failure May Very Well Be An Option

Since my post the other day about the “A” word, I’ve been thinking a lot about why that word bothers me so much when I apply it to myself.  I have nothing but compassion (and maybe a little pity) for other alcoholics.  What’s the problem with just saying it out loud…to the world?  Why can’t I have the same compassion for myself that I feel for other addicts?

So I sat with the feeling a little while and tried to dissect it.  (Get me!  Using all my recovery tools like I know what I’m doing!)  I let the feeling settle.  I got very quiet until the reason popped into my head like one of those old MTV pop-ups.

Failure.

Whoa…back this train up a sec.  What did I just hear in my head?

F. A. I. L. U. R. E.

Shit.  That’s what I thought I heard.

The longer I sat with that one word, the more I realized that it was exactly why I was having trouble (and may always have trouble) with calling myself an alcoholic…even though SURVEY SAYS!!!!…I am most certainly an alcoholic and always have been an alcoholic.  (Let’s play a fitness game shall we?  Every time Sherry says the word “alcoholic” in this post, do 20 squats. That ought to help with that April challenge.)

Then I got all analytical on myself because…well because it’s what I do.

Why do I feel this way?

That, friends and neighbors, is the question.  Let’s examine the facts as we know them.

  1. We all know I grew up the child of an alcoholic.  I loved my father fiercely but I did not like what his alcoholism did to our family and to me.
  2. My mother was a train wreck that not only could not feel unconditional love, she couldn’t express it either.
  3. My extended family on my mother’s side – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. were also a fucked up mess and could have benefited greatly from some deep, soul-searching therapy.
  4. My extended family on my father’s side was either narcissistic, alcoholic or had divorced themselves from the family long ago (guess I should have taken that as a sign – I always liked those people).
  5. In short, I come from a long line of losers.  Some of them loveable but all of them a hot mess.

I grew up knowing that I was different.  That I wanted to be somebody separate and apart from these people.  I set about to make myself different.  I took control.  I took care of everyone and everything.  I dressed differently.  I spoke differently.  I carried myself differently.  Most importantly, I believed that I was different…better even.

And it worked!  It was a crock of shit but it worked!  I crafted a successful, well-educated, articulate and loving human being.  I have a lovely home, amazing husband and relationship, fulfilling career (for the most part) and six of the most wonderful offspring on the planet.  More importantly, they are growing up to be healthy and happy as well and have begun raising their own kids.  Look at me!  I’m not a loser!  I didn’t FAIL. 

But I forgot one, very important thing.  Genetics don’t give a flying rat’s ass what you think of yourself or how much you’ve worked to separate yourself from the fray.  If you’re born predisposed to alcoholism (it counts…start squatting) then guess what – if you drink then one day you’re going to wake up and say to yourself, “I think I have a problem.”  And you’ll be right.

For me…that spelled a failure of epic proportions.  How could I, the “good” one, the “successful” one, the “stuck up” one (that’s my sister talking) have let myself get this way?  How could I have lost control like that?  After all the promises I made to myself about how I wasn’t going to torture my family the way my father tortured us could I have let this happen?   OH MY GOD!  I’m one of THEM! 

I failed.

The problem is that children of dysfunctional homes that have taken on the control freak-care-giver-grow-up-way-too-fast persona (there’s usually one) don’t fail well.  We do not tolerate mistakes in ourselves.  We MUST be number one at all costs.  Things MUST be perfect in our lives.  Our houses must be clean.  Our children must be well-behaved and well-dressed and get perfect grades.  We must excel at school, work and every single activity we put on our plate. 

WE MUST SUCCEED.

And if we don’t?

Well then we fail don’t we?

I failed.  I succumbed.  I lost control.  I suck.

I became an alcoholic. (Squat)

But wait sports fans!  Sherry would never end a post with negativity like that!

Hate to disappoint you but this time she will.  After all, I just figured this out.  Believe it or not this concept of alcoholic=failure just popped into my pea-brain.  Why, you ask?  Well because I never thought of alcoholics as failures.  I never looked at my father and thought, “Dude…you failed!”  On the contrary, at some base level I knew he couldn’t help it – that he was an addict and that it had him in its grips.  He may not have been a great man but he was no failure.  He was simply an alcoholic.

So why can’t think of myself in the same way?  Why can’t I have that same level of compassion for myself?

I’ll have to get back to you on that one.  Besides, my butt cheeks are cramping up from all these squats I’ve been doing.

Namaste

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Some Days

Some days can turn on a dime.  One minute you’re going along your happy way singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da and the next your afraid that one wrong move will make you cry and you’re pissed at the world (but really you’re pissed at yourself).  Yep…some days.

Yesterday was a bit of a shitstorm for me.  It started out fine.  I was up, awake, happy and ready to face the day.  Then, at 9:55 am I went to my appointment to get my finger stuck and have my “health assessment” for work.  We have this deal where we can earn $800 in our health accounts (for co-pays, prescriptions, etc.) if we take a few online classes and let them get our “numbers”.

So I cheerfully stuck out my finger and watched my blood ooze into a tiny little straw and then onto a slide and then into the machine.  While waiting for my results, the nurse took my blood pressure, wrote some notes on my paper and told me to go wait in the chairs facing the window until I was called for height and weight measurements.

Wait…what?

No one said anything about weight…

Damn.

I did as I was told, knowing full well that my day had just gone to hell in a handbasket.  The next nurse came to get me and told me to take off my shoes and get on the scale.  I didn’t even look at the numbers.  I also couldn’t convince her to let me get naked right there in the middle of the atrium…but she did let me take off my earrings and watch.

Then I had to take all my paperwork and see a “counselor” before I could leave.  I sat down with this perfectly nice gentlemen and could tell immediately that I have forgotten more about health and fitness then he’ll ever know.  However, I sat quietly and listened as he went over my results.

  • Blood Pressure: 124/84 – Prehypertensive
  • Cholesterol:  TC – 220 – Slightly high; HDL (good cholesterol) – 45 – should be 60+
  • BMI:  In the “O” (there’s that fucking O word again) range
  • Glucose: 87 (my one shining moment) – should be less than 150

I left that meeting feeling like I had been run over by a truck.  Long time readers of mine KNOW what a struggle it’s been for me to get my health back since I quit drinking.  (Note to anyone out there trying to quit…QUIT BEFORE YOU ARE OLD.  Once you start into your 40’s it’s harder and harder to get back to healthy.)  I’ve done Whole 30’s (love); I’ve done Jenny Craig (hated); I’ve done Weight Watchers (meh); and any other scheme you can imagine.  I gave up looking at the scale; I started looking again.  I counted calories using my app; I stopped counting calories.  I wore my fitbit everyday and tried to get to 7,000+ steps a day with an ultimate goal of 10,000 (still doing).  I ordered videos.  I promised myself I’d do more yoga and meditation.

Start stop start stop start stop – it’s like I’m in traffic on 495 in D.C.  My engine is running but I’m not getting anywhere. 

I’m trying things but when they aren’t working in my timeframe (you know…NOW) I get frustrated and quit.  OR (more likely), something happens that sends me looking for comfort and, since I don’t have any cigarettes or wine, I reach for other things.  Food, my comfy chair and iPad, my bed, my beloved reality TV.  When I should be dealing with things and not seeking comfort.  OR (more likely) I should be looking for healthier ways to provide comfort to myself.  Meditation, exercise, healthy food options, yoga.

Here’s the thing, I don’t want to be some skinny little thing.  It’s not in my DNA.  I’m short but sturdy.  I just don’t want to die like my mom which is where I’m headed if I don’t get my ample ass in gear and soon (I’ll be 53 in a little over a month.).  I want to move more which will then adjust all of those numbers whether I stay in the “O” range or not.  The problem is that I want to get there fast and the fact is that my poor body is aging and being broken down by excess weight and bad numbers (all that shit going on inside of you ages you dramatically – just because you can’t see what’s going on doesn’t mean it isn’t happening).

So I’ve formulated yet another plan to get back to healthy before those fucking numbers get out of control and I’m taking more pills than the average octogenarian.  I’m going to pick one thing from each of these categories to implement each month, do them for a month and then add something else the next month.  ADD not SUBTRACT. 

  • What I feed my body.
  • How I move my body.
  • How I care for my spirit.

For example, for the month of April (so convenient that it starts next week don’t you think…thanks for making that happen God), I will make the following changes.

  • What I feed my body:  Eliminate refined sugar (yes…I’m aware that Easter is in April) and drink more water.
  • How I move my body:  15-30 minutes of additional movement each day no matter what. Even if it’s running in place or doing 100 situps or 50 pushups or whatever.  Just so it’s something.
  • How I care for my spirit:  5-10 minutes of sun salutations and/or meditation every day no matter what.

That’s it.  No pressure.  No eating the elephant whole.  Just small nibbles for a month…enough time to form a habit.  And then we’ll see where I am.  At least it will be forward progress.

Ugh!  I am so tired of talking about this shit.  (I’m sure you’re sick of reading about it too.)  In fact, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired…again.  But come to think of it, the last time I was like that – miracles began to happen.

Namaste

Frozen Hearts

I’m on a heart theme lately so just go with it okay?

I FINALLY saw Frozen for the first time on Friday evening.  It was a beautiful movie, clearly made for a stage production, with strong female characters.  What’s not to love?

I cried almost through the whole damn thing.

I know that a lot of people cried while watching Frozen but I don’t think I was crying for the same reasons.  See, I was crying because I’m estranged from my only sister and will likely be for the rest of her (my?) days.  Watching two sisters grow distant and then come together was tough for me.  Then there’s THAT SONG…but that’s another post entirely.

My sister was born 49 years ago today.  I was four when she came into the world.  She was conceived in an ill-fated attempt to save my parents marriage after my mother figured out that she didn’t love my father and my father found out he was going blind and he started drinking and she started gambling and running around.  A real “happily ever after” if there ever was one.  I know this because I knew all the intimate details of my parents marriage…doesn’t everyone?

From the moment she screamed her first breath she was a challenge.  She was always getting into something.  When she was about two my mother awoke one morning to find my sister at her feet with her purse contents all over the floor and my sister eating her “diet” pills (amphetamines…it was the 60’s after all) like they were candy.  I remember it clearly because she yelled at me and told me it was my fault.

I was six.

That was just the beginning.  I won’t go into detail because her story belongs to her; but suffice to say, she has been in active addiction to anything and everything since she was about 13 years old.  She is the worst kind of addict.  A narcissist who believes all of her problems are someone else’s fault (usually mine or my parents…but mostly me) and that she never gets a break.  She’s been through countless rehab’s, spent tens of thousands of dollars (most of which were not hers), has never worked a day in her life, and tried her best to ruin the lives of her children.

I cut off all ties with her after my mother died in 2006.  Her children we pretty much grown thanks to the hubs and me so I didn’t have to worry about court battles and lawyer fees any longer.  I had only tolerated her to that point because my mother continued to try to help her and stay in contact in spite of some very bizarre and hateful things. (She called the police once from where she lived, 1200 miles away, to report that I had my mother tied up in the basement and I was abusing her.  We didn’t have a basement.  The poor police had to come out, wait for my mother to get home from bingo, and make sure she was okay before they could leave.  That was an example of the bizarre…the hateful I’ll leave to your imagination.)  Even before I got sober I knew that her dysfunction was something that I no longer wanted in my life.

If she had just been an addict I can say without question that I would have had more compassion and would likely still be in touch.  But the ugliness that she brought upon her children and my parents is something I can’t forget.  I’d like to think that if she suddenly got sober and clean I would relent and greet her with open arms…but I don’t really know if I could.  I’m still working on healing wounds she inflicted in her children…the kind you can’t see.  I’m not sure there’s any hope for my niece…but I keep trying.

The thing that made me cry though was the fact that, like the sisters in the movie, we were so close when we were little. Of course we fought, but we played together when things were good and comforted each other when things were bad.  We were a unit and I loved her so much.  Like the movie, I think she was born with her demon and it wasn’t long before it became apparent to everyone around her that there was a problem.  Teachers, clergy, psychologists, relatives, doctors all tried to help…only to give up when it had no impact.

I kept trying though.  I kept trying to be there for her.  To help her when she needed it and even when she didn’t.  I stuck around for a very long time until I couldn’t any longer.  I had to save myself, my children and her children.  For lack of a better term…I froze my heart where she was concerned.

It’s still very sad.  I don’t really miss her because she’s been gone from my life for a very long time.  I certainly don’t miss the chaos and dysfunction she brought.  I think what I miss is the idea of a sister.  Not in a “happily ever after” kind of way but in a “no matter what we have each other kind of way”.  I have that with a number of other people, my best friend of 35 years, my daughter, my husband…so I’m not lacking for anything. 

But still…

Namaste 

The Heart Knows

The hubs and I were driving along yesterday talking about the upcoming release of Mrs. D’s book (YAY MRS. D!!!!) when we got on the subject of how normies think vs how addicts think.  As usual, I find normies fascinating.  He just couldn’t believe how much time and energy goes into a normal day when you’re an addict.  I couldn’t believe how much free space is available in your heart and in your brain when you’re a normie. 

From the very first sip my heart said, “This is a mistake, remember your heritage.”  I was young and really, really stupid but I thought I was really, really smart.  I took my first drink at about 16 and then not again until I was 18 and legal for beer and wine.  I drank beer and a little wine from time to time but I never got drunk.  I was 22 when I really kicked off my drinking career and it was a blast.   I had a shitload of fun.  Twenty-something, no kids, no worries.  All of us drank too much but as the years went on I was the one who always got drunk.  First to arrive, last to leave, always saying “just one more”, never wanting the party to end.  That’s about the time the my heart piped up, “I think we have a problem.”  When I mentioned it to friends and the hubs, they would just say, “Don’t be silly.  You don’t drink enough to be an alcoholic.  You’re fine!”  So I let those messages into my head and told my heart to stay out of it.  But it knew.

When I was pregnant I didn’t even think about drinking.  And I mean that literally.  My heart was happy.  No longing.  No cravings. No feeling left out.  No desire to party.  Just peace and quiet and healthy babies.  My heart and my brain, for once, were in harmony. 

That was true after they were born as well.  I was happy drinking only on date nights or when I traveled and I kept it to a minimum.  In spite of this, my heart was on alert and when I would occasionally get drunk it would say, “Whoa…better give that up girl.  You’ve got a family to think of.  Remember your dad and what he did to you.”  And then my brain would say, “I’m nothing like him.  I work.  I take care of everyone.  I’m FINE.”  And thus it beat down the heart.

As they got older and my mother got older and we closed my husband’s company and we relocated once and my mom died and we relocated again and the kids kept getting older…the drinking escalated to epic proportions.  The heart was weak from being beaten down so much but still it whispered…”I think we drink to much”.  And the brain responded with what other people said… 

  • “So what if you drink wine at home, lots of women do it?” (Hah…way more than you know.)
  • “Don’t be silly, you’re just letting off steam.”
  • “No way!  Look at you!  You wouldn’t be able to function like you do if you were drinking too much.”  (Ever heard of a functioning alcoholic?)
  • “You can’t be an alcoholic, my {uncle, dad, sister, mother, neighbor} was an alcoholic and you’re nothing like them.”

But the heart knows what the heart knows.  It knew way, way back when.  It knew I was an alcoholic long before my brain caught up.  Or should I say long before my brain allowed the truth in.  I was denying what I’d known from the time I took my first drink, got drunk and swore I’d never do it again.

I was an alcoholic. 

Until I was so far down that I couldn’t get up.  Until, finally, my husband said (out loud), “I think you’re drinking too much.”  Until I put down the wine glass and surveyed my own personal wreckage.  Yep, in spite of being “functioning” I had a great deal of wreckage – mostly to myself but to a lot of other people as well.  Every alcoholic has wreckage.  You don’t have to get arrested, or wreck a car or end up in detox to have lain waste to your life.  The journey into that can or bottle tends to destroy everything that is touched along the way without regard to what or who it is.  And that, is also, a stone cold fact.

That’s when the heart rolled up her sleeves and said to the brain, buckle up brain…it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I heart my heart…it never fails me.

Namaste