Wine: A Wolf at the Door

Kenwod Vineyards 30 Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.

(After a long drawn out post about not blogging about “negative” things, the wonderful people in the blogging world set me straight. Writing here is about being honest, and I was not feeling particularly positive at the time this was written. I now realize that this is OK, and have reposted this blog entry.)

___________

It seems so innocent.

It’s just a food substance that has been fermented. Over long, long centuries, my ancestors and yours have been drinking it.

I’m thinking a lot these days about this fermented substance, and what it does to people, and every one around them. And I’m not so sure it’s safe for anyone.

Wine is described in ways that disguise what it really is. It’s poison, loaded with sugar to disguise the taste. It’s a bait and switch, selling you one thing, but giving you another. It’s a predatory loan from a brutal mobster — the slippery devil himself. And Lucifer, described in the Bible as “perfect in beauty,” is the ultimate salesman. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

No one sees it coming. There’s no prettier packaging than a nice chilled bottle of wine at an expensive restaurant, with waiters and other patrons assuring you that all is well, that this fermented substance you are about to drink is a great thing. It’s a symbol of success and leisure and exotic locales and prestige and camaraderie and ease. Welcome to the club! You deserve this.

A toast! Somebody make a toast.

Suddenly, you are a mini-celebrity. People at other tables raise their glasses. “We’re all in this together,” they seem to be saying. And it feels like the truth.

Who doesn’t want this? Which of us, having stumbled through the day — sometimes well, sometimes in aching, lonely defeat — doesn’t want to join the table? To eat, drink, and be merry! To merge with humanity effortlessly. To feel less alone. To celebrate. To forget.

It’s communion. Communion of spirit. It’s everything holy about what we’re supposed to feel at the table of God himself.

Or so it seems.

Sometime later — could be years or just a few hours — in the early morning light of gray defeat, alcohol becomes something else entirely. Now it’s a disheveled thug that appears by your bed. A loan shark, expecting to be paid, with outrageous interest. And there are no boundaries to what he can do to exact payment.

Like the grim reaper himself, he has no scruple about who he takes or when, how unfair the circumstances, how blindsided those left behind.

You have to give the devil his due. It’s a masterful disguise, that pretty bottle.

Decades ago, I watched a New Year’s Eve episode of the Oprah show. It got my attention because it featured a high school girl about my age who had the same first name as me. From what I remember, this Shawna and a bunch of friends got their hands on some alcohol at a party. Some young men at the party convinced Shawna to drive them somewhere because they were too inebriated to drive themselves. They all piled into someone’s convertible, and Shawna, not used to heavy drinking and inebriated as well, ended up driving at a high rate of speed into a brick wall, killing two of the men, critically injuring everyone else.

I was amazed at the poise and calm with which this young woman, who had been a typical high school success story — beautiful, athletic, smart — spoke about the event and her later efforts to make peace with herself and the boys’ families. But underneath the poise, she had a haunted look, as if she had resigned herself to being forever guilty — a sacrifice made to a rapacious wolf, on behalf of the rest of us.

Though the story aired well before the rise of the internet, I’ve searched for it online, and haven’t found it. This girl’s story, however, has never left me. I was a casual drinker then, if that, but me and my group of friends were beginning to experiment with drinking, and then inevitably driving home. I remember thinking, with a slight chill, that could be me.

 

The Heroes of Addiction

best-place-to-be-a-woman-1280x720

What if, as I have been reading, life on earth is really just a classroom?

And what if only the hardiest souls choose to come to earth in the first place because of the turmoil and uncertainty they know they will face?

And what if, before you agreed to be born here, you got to choose what challenges you would face to guarantee the most dramatic advancement in your learning?

And what if, of the hardiest souls who come here at all, only the bravest choose to face the challenge of addiction?

And what if, having chosen to face this, all fell into place, as agreed upon, and you became addicted as planned, and not because you are weak and scattered and selfish?

And what if your addiction brought about the greatest possible learning experience for those around you because, like you, they chose to experience this time here, with you, and have learned immeasurably by watching you do battle with addiction?

And what if, just like in the movies, all the good guys in heaven and earth are put here to help the hero (you) overcome this addiction, and that all you have to do is reach out for help?

And what if, like in a good movie, you are guaranteed success? That you have already succeeded by accepting the challenge, because only the bravest of souls do?

And what if, as the hardiest of souls, agreeing to the hardiest of challenges, you are already a hero?

 

Here’s to you, my friend.

water toast cheers

 

Missing the Sober Universe

cheesecake

I am here and still alive, for those of you who have noticed my absence. I so miss this connection! I am traveling around with just an I-phone (although I know you all blog from your phones, I can’t) with an entourage of relatives, with no real place to check-in with my beloved blogging friends.

So far, I’ve gone to two weddings (sober) and had a blast, three days with the parents, a week of vacation at the beach, with another long weekend with countless in-laws coming up, and the idea of drinking has barely surfaced. It holds the same power now as my desire to have a giant piece of cheesecake — I glance at it, notice it might be appetizing, realize how sick it will make me, and then POOF! — the thought is gone immediately as I turn my attention elsewhere.

What they say is true, although I never believed it. The psychological desire for alcohol goes away. I thought I’d be salivating the rest of my life, watching the world have fun without me. I could care less about it now. Amazing!

Happy Wednesday all, and I will chat with you soon.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

the-chemistry-of-tequila_53d67da7cedaf_w1500.png

Two years ago, and every year before that, I used Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) as an excuse to go out to dinner to celebrate Mexican heritage, or something like that. I’m not sure what the holiday is about exactly. We would get a group together to binge on margaritas, chips, and salsa. Maybe even a few shots of Cuervo, if somebody ordered a round for the table. (It would be rude to refuse.)

Then again, I used every holiday as an excuse to celebrate, no matter how obscure … St. Patrick’s Day, Bastille Day (what is that anyway?), the Chinese New Year, Yom Kippur. But soon every day became like a party, and I had a hard time convincing even myself that there was a reason to celebrate. The low point might have been drinking alone on Christmas Eve.

But today, at 400 DAYS SOBER, I got up, celebrated by going out to breakfast, and then went around town looking for an office space. A really cool one with big windows. For business purposes. As in I’ve been looking for a place away from home to concentrate on my creative talents. Instead of drinking the day away in a bar, pretending it was a celebration.

Never in a million zillion years could this have happened while I was drinking. By a conservative estimate, I’ve saved $12,000 since I quit drinking. (Conservative because I may have had health issues, possibly a car accident, possibly a DUI. The possibilities here are endless.) Instead, the possibilities for success are astronomical. I turned the train around, and then just kept chuggin’ along. I hope you are doing the same.

So, A VERY HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!

May you have many more. ♥ ♥ ♥

ONE YEAR!

x3a1d

The tagline on my site says “A women’s quest for one year of sobriety.” And let me tell you, the odds weren’t in my favor.

But guess the fuck what? Fall down 1000 times, get up 1001!

WOO Freakin’ HOO!!

I would expound more about the miracle year I’ve had, but guess what? I am off on a reward vacation to Athens! Yes, all the way to Athens!

Athens, Georgia, actually. Ha ha ha! Why? Because I have family there, and as part of my newfound sobriety, I actually visit family with out worrying about how to drink around them. And it’s not even a family-obligation day, like Thanksgiving. AND I’m looking forward to it. This is soooo unlike me!

So I am off to Georgia y’all!

(Here’s a picture of Ug to make your day. He has to sit on ice packs during the football games so that he doesn’t get overheated. FYI — I am not a Georgia fan. I just like the dog.)

90754588

 

How NOT to Stay Sober

534306c0465614738043ff69ddd83d75

From a wealth of experience, some even remembered, I would like to start an un-checklist of things to avoid.

It just so happens I am an expert on how NOT to stay sober. Here are some pitfalls that played out over and over again in my own life. Feel free to add your own.

Don’t do these things! (An un-check list)

Play the victim. Even though you are the victim of a devastatingly addictive substance, playing the victim keeps you stuck. Don’t allow your mind to continually revisit the past, especially knowing that your brain is cleverly weeding out the shitty and emphasizing the sublime, so that it can once again turn you into its shady dealer.

You are not helpless. You are not defeated. You are still alive, and you can still win this battle.

Bathe in guilt. There is an allure to guilt. Sometimes it feels like you are punishing yourself (righteously!) the way you think you should be punished. But guilt has no place in early recovery, if anywhere at all. Guilt makes you feel like drinking. It makes you drink when other people aren’t watching. It makes you feel unworthy, and that eventually translates into feeling unworthy of healing. I used to force myself to review moments of bad behavior, and believe me, it didn’t bolster my will to succeed. It made me feel hopeless and ashamed.

Betray your own cause. I used to switch sides in the battle against alcohol like the worst traitor. Instead of siding with my self, my life, my children’s lives, my God, my better angels, my best intentions, my desperate handwritten pledges to stop drinking, I would gaze across the battlefield and see what the enemy had to offer. I would then sneak across battle lines in the middle of the night, like the turncoat I was, and begin plotting to allow myself to drink. I joined the enemy in shooting down help from the outside world and from my wiser self. You can’t help but lose when you abandon your own cause.

Let your thoughts rule you. One of the most freeing things I’ve learned since nixing the Cosmos is that I am respnsible for my thoughts. It’s not life that will cause you to drink again. It’s your thoughts about life and yourself that will cause you to drink.

If I’m not watching my thoughts, I will be controlled by them. The minute I start thinking, “Why can’t I have a drink? Everybody else is,” and then wallow in that self-pity, I have set the stage for eventual drinking.

Instead, I can hear the thought, recognize it as damaging and untrue, tell myself I am way beyond this kind of thinking, and then let it go. I then immediately substitute a thought like “I am healthy and happy.” I let that thought wash over me, and repeat it until I feel healthy and happy. Believe me when I say this becomes so second nature that the thought to drink becomes more like an annoying gnat than an alluring siren’s call.

Be accommodating. This was a huge factor in keeping me trapped for so long. I didn’t want to disappoint my drinking buddies. I wanted romantic relationships to stay the same. I wanted to continue the life I had, while somehow finding the fortitude not to drink. And I didn’t want to inconvenience other people.

THIS DOES NOT WORK.

You must put yourself first, no matter what. This is counter-intuitive to everyone who has been beaten down by alcohol. We must accommodate other people so that we don’t get fired, dumped, or exposed.

I remember a friend called me in one of my earlier attempts at sobriety, and she was upset. She begged me to meet her at a bar to ‘talk.’ It was 9:30 on a school night. I said no at first, but she pleaded, saying that I was the only one who would understand. I went. Three hours later, I was drinking, she was off dancing with someone, and I eventually had to call a cab because my friend wanted to stay.

She didn’t need me. I needed me. She could have easily called someone else. And I didn’t really help her, except by listening, which could have been done over the phone. On the other hand, I had betrayed my own cause and wrecked my sobriety. Was it worth it? It never ever is. Never.

So … what’s on your “un-check” list?