What’s new with me? WELL, on April 13th I celebrated two years of sobriety!.. Hold the applause. With much exhaustion, I must confess that I celebrated “two years” one year and three months early. Fo shizzle. Not kidding. I want to throw myself at your feet and apologize for being dishonest about something so serious and for SO long, dear readers. I’ve spent the past three weeks self-flagellating and coming clean at meetings, by text, phone, instant message, and email – and now blog and Facebook – to everyone I can think of (and also to strangers in meetings I’ve been to, like, once in my life, in Boston, Watertown, Milwaukee, etc…) who has ever applauded my sobriety, my program. BUT everyone I have told has been so supportive and loving, their reactions so moving and sympathetic… one was actually congratulatory! Not that I recommend AT ALL that anyone relapse to get the reassurance that you’re loved and accepted by your fellows, because now I know that we always will be, no matter what. Emerging alive from my recent experience, I’d like to very humbly suggest that if you have found, or if you may find yourself some day in my position, that you open up and share about it.. like, right away. There is no need to suffer with this secret – telling will not be as bad as you might think, mostly not bad at all. I promise! And I’m no liar! I’m telling the truth, and at the risk of sounding I-drank-the-Kool-Aid-ish, the truth has graced me with an unexpected freedom that I am grateful for and excited to go get myself some more of… in real-time this time. No apologies for my relapses* were requested, needed – offers were not even accepted! – not even a little bit.. No shame. Seriously – no shame. Sincerely. No shame.
* When people talk about unfortunate occurrences of drinking in recovery, they use different words. When people say ‘slip’ – I think, “Oooops! How on earth did that happen? Silly me!”. ‘Slip’ is too cute a word for something so potentially fatal. On the other hand, when people say ‘relapse’ – I think, “I’m in the gutter dying. I’m washing people’s windshields at stop-lights, whether they like it or not. How the hell did these traffic cones get in my kitchen?” (True story, btw). ‘Relapse’ is too terrifying a word for something so completely survivable, and so common. I looked up the word ‘relapse’ in the dictionary just to be clear. Relapse: A return of a disease or illness after partial recovery from it. No wiggling out of this one – ‘relapse’ it is. I just wish ‘momentary’ was in that definition somewhere. Oh well.
My actual relapses – two total – were pretty boring. The excuses / lies I told myself, shame (shame shame shame), guilt, the stress, self-loathing, sadness, and onus I carried for 13 or so months, and then all the personal horrors and circumstances that eventually saved me from myself are all much more interesting. But the stories are worth telling, too, as cautionary tales in a way… <cue distinctive ‘dun dun’ sound effect from the “Law and Order” intro> …These Are My Relapses:
Relapse #1 ~
At the beginning of 2012, at about nine months sober (no, really, I honestly did have nine months!), I started seeing CM, and all starry-eyed and mushy, I told “A Hip Fella” about him. Knowing I was new and it being totally against the law to date in your first year, AHF asked how much sober-time I had. I told him nine months (no, really, I honestly did have nine months!), to which he replied, amused and snarky, “Let me know how that works out for you”. The nerve! But annoyingly, somewhere within the next two or so months, “that worked out” with me drinking, crying, screaming into my pillow, so mad at myself, and in the throes of what can only be described as ‘temporary insanity’… and just weeks before my one-year anniversary.
I knew exactly what I had to do – I had to tell Nelissa, and then tell everyone else and re-set my sobriety date. I never thought it was OK – I had every intention of doing the right thing. I told my old therapist right after it happened, and he agreed, of course, that I had to tell Nelissa. But I couldn’t do it. Pre-anniversary party plans were being laid. All my loving supportive friends were asking when the Big Day was. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them. The days turned into weeks, medallions came and went, then Denial swooped in and came to the rescue, as it had so many times in my life. Denial – my low-life hero! I’ve had a lot of other low-life heroes in my life, too, come to think of it.
Denial is quite an evil bitch. I would talk to my old therapist about recovery and often would mention my sobriety date.. the liar-liar-pants-on-fire date, knowing absolutely but still not quite registering that I knew that he knew that I was hopelessly lying to his face. So I started using air quotes and rolling my eyes when I mentioned the date, which I did all the time because I was so genuinely happy and unfathomably grateful for the program and that I made it “one year” (rolls eyes) without a drink. I was a perfect representative of sobriety. I would catch myself telling him and twist my face with guilt, like maybe if he knew I felt reeeeally bad about lying, the ‘slip’ wouldn’t count. I asked him once if he thought I was a horrible human being for not being honest in a program of honesty, and he said, “I have no judgment. I work with a man who likes having sex with horses, and I don’t judge him either”. I thought, “OMG – it’s sooo much worse than I thought. Lying is on par with having sex with a horse?!? I’m definitely NEVER telling anyone now”. And then I thought, “How does that work? That must be very confusing for the horse (like dressage), not to mention a logistical nightmare for the perverted, degenerate ol’ chap. Hmm – chaps. Are chaps involved?”. Disturbing images from the world’s largest S&M leather event, the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, I used to go to for unresolved voyeurism, popped into mind – kindly folks with whips, chained collars, and yup – chaps over bare legs. I still have nightmares about sunburned asses waiting for aloe at the first-aid stations – safety first!
Relapse #2 ~
Not as interesting as but much more dangerous than Relapse #1. I went to Portland and Hawaii last July, and smoked a bunch of weed. I half-confessed at that beach bonfire CK meeting I went to in Waikiki. I raised my hand and told them I smoked weed and that I was anxious about having to tell my friends in Cambridge, but it was the right thing to do, and so do it I would. I left the meeting feeling relieved about telling the truth (rolls eyes) and grateful to be able to practice a trial-truth-run to my new CK friends outside the continental US – then left the meeting and smoked more weed. (Important note to friends on OR and HI: you did NOT, not even a smidge, contribute to my relapse. It was entirely my decision. I love you guys so much!). I celebrated having a marvelous and sober (rolls eyes) vacation by having two drinks on the flight home and taking way more ativan than necessary (which is to say, any ativan at all – it’s an anti-anxiety med and I like flying – never had anxiety about it). I took enough that I didn’t remember much or really any of the 15-or-so-hour trip from Hawaii to Boston. Definitely a ‘relapse’. I came back to Cambridge and a friend asked in jest if I had to change my sobriety date, and I said “Nope!” but I thought, “Nope! I didn’t have to change it last time!”.
As time and then more time passed after these relapses, the more convinced I was of the humiliation I thought I would have to face by ‘fessing up. The time and then more time just pushed me further into denial and guilt, and further away from the option of coming clean. On April 13th I celebrated two years (rolls eyes) of sobriety, and on April 15th, the day of the Marathon Bombings, I accepted my two-year medallion. On April 16th, I melted down and told my dear dear top shrink the truth (rolls eyes) that I didn’t deserve the medallion… because I smoked weed on my trip. He kindly pointed out that over these past six months, I’ve had to endure the crushing sadness and emotional, physical, and hormonal devastation of my hysterectomy and the resulting menopause, the degradation (that some part of me thought I deserved) of sexual harassment at work (more on that in a later post), and the worst thing that could possibly happen – my sweet Leroy dying. By pointing this out, he assured me that I have had a legitimately rough time lately, and that I did not cause of all of it with my lies, and that I not only need, but I deserve, to use every resource necessary to carry me through this, and that there’s one thing I can control and that is to release this burden of secrecy about my relapses – that it is actually no biggy to anyone but me, no one will probably change their (nice) opinion of me, and I’ll still be loved. So I left his office on that April 16th, and called Lily and told her the truth (rolls eyes) that I drank before my one-year anniversary and smoked weed on my trip. On April 17th, I got sick of rolling my eyes and told Lily, and later that day my home group, The Entire Truth, which is.. I drank weeks before my one-year anniversary, and smoked weed AND drank on my vacation, and my actual sobriety date is July 13, 2012. I got my 9-month chip a few weeks ago and was over the moon. Hot dog! The truth surely shall set you free!
I drank the first time out of pure heart-breaking anguish. I drank the second time for no reason other than I am an alcoholic – that’s what I do – I drink. The second relapse was much more dangerous because I shut it out almost completely – no one knew about the drinks on the plane but Virgin Atlantic. My logic behind not telling anyone about the second relapse was that if I told about the second one, I’d have to spill the rotten beans about the first one, and if I was going to finally be honest about everything and have to reset my sobriety date, then I may as well go on a holy bender and get tanked one final time.. knowing full well that the one final time could very likely be “final” because it would kill me sooner or later, and with my track second, I’d pray for sooner. And that’s terrifying.
The beauty and grace in all of this is the proof that CK is working, and I am right on track. What stopped me (which truly is a miracle) from collapsing into raging active alcoholism is what I’ve been told so many times – go to meetings meetings meetings. And prayer, by golly! When Leroy was dying, I was desperate – I felt like I was dying with him. I screamed into my pillow (I seem to do that a lot) for the will and strength to live through the heartbreak and helplessness of seeing my sweet boy whither and in pain. I prayed for mercy to help ease my guilt for being dishonest because I started thinking I was the cause of his sickness. I had no notion nor intention of finding relief through telling on myself – no, I was asking for a way around telling the truth at all costs. So, I prayed, and I screamed, and I never skipped a beat in my meeting schedule. [Actually, that’s not entirely true. Coincidentally (or not?) I got really sick after my relapses. Not hangover sick, but caught a virus, cold, or infection kind of sick. I got the flu (which I passed along to CM.. snicker snicker - oh give me a break! I didn’t mean to! I’m still in my first year of sobriety, remember? I have to be sober, not nice) the first time, and caught a respiratory infection on the plane home from Hawaii the second time].
More beauty and grace in all of this is the undeniable evidence of Love – wonderful, comforting, healing, you-go-girl Love Love Love! I’ve known for ages that I am powerless over alcohol, but still I drank in recovery and that can be called nothing but insanity. I continued to go to meetings and be truthful about everything else I could bear – I made a commitment to myself to stay sober when I came into CK on April 13th, 2011. I continued through my shame to keep what I could of that commitment. Keeping those secrets and lying about my sobriety date were agonizing until they became unbearable. I threw in the towel – the monogrammed damp yucky towel of fear and self-will – and asked for forgiveness and help. What was thrown back at me were the gifts of Love and Freedom, the promise of Happiness. But happiness is not just on the horizon, it’s already here.
Slushkitty Lives, indeed! This entire blog, up until today, is peppered with lies about my sobriety date but I’m not going to go back and change anything. That would be dishonest.. and those days are over. Those days of “dishonesty” were never actually really here though. I had to tell the truth – not the truth about me being a big, fat liar – but the truth about me NOT being a big, fat liar. I’m a human alcoholic in recovery, which is not only the best kind of alcoholic to be (human), but the best kind of human to be (an alcoholic in recovery). I mean that! I am seeking (and fighting tooth and nail for) honesty and peace in life, and from that I am finding freedom and Love. I certainly could never do any of this alone – I am doing this with the happiest and most honest people in the world. I heart CK and am honored to be in your numbers.
Quick notes: This entry has taken me a long while to write because it’s been a painful, stressful time in my life, and I was scared to tell you the truth. A bunch has happened since I started writing this. And regarding my recent blog subject matter – my last blog was about putting my sweet Leroy to sleep. This one is about my relapse. My next may very well be about losing my job.. but that will be a fun and victorious one – I promise!
UPDATE: I lost my job yesterday! As promised, it was victorious indeed! Stay tuned for details… they involve a vibrator and unintended revenge!