Saturday, April 18, 2009


I like liminality; thresholds, ambiguity, transition, even a little disorientation.  Of course, I prefer my familiar states of liminality and reject ones that aren't as well-worn and beloved, because I'm human.  

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So here's what happened...Vol. 1

I'm sure it's going to take me more than one waaay-too long blog post for me to tell the whole damn story, so I'm just going to give in to breaking it up into chewable chunks.  I just think in long, windy paragraphs, dammit, and that's how it is.  I have the hardest time in the world sharing, and I can rarely say more than a few words strung together, but I can't shut up at the keyboard.  Actually, that's part of why I'm sharing this here, both to try to organize my thoughts, and so that anybody who's worried about me can get a peek inside my head, help me check what's going on there. 

So back in January of this year I went to visit my family in Roswell, New Mexico.  It was great.  I took the train, and that was really fun, I met a lot of nice people.  I got to stay with my brother and Clint in their big-ass gorgeous house in Roswell and use their Mercedes to get around and take lots of pictures and only see the rest of my family as I could stand it.  I had been keeping my drinking more under control than normal at that time, and was thinking about quitting smoking cigarettes (again) while I was there.

My brother wanted to have a party on Saturday and invite a few of his friends so they and I could get to know each other.  I was totally against it, so I told him it sounded like a great idea and helped him shop and cook.  I was so nervous, I ended up almost cutting my right middle finger off with a cheese knife (whole other story).  I should have told him I couldn't do it.  I should have been honest and protective of myself and admitted that I hated the whole idea and asked to be excused, and maybe spent the night at my parents' apartment.  So I drank 23 Coronas and probably 4 or 5 shots of liquor, that people saw.  I horrified my brothers friends with a lot of wild talk (Sample line:  "Ohhhh, girl, they got this new dildo without straps--it gotz this handle that you grip with your pussy muscles so it's good for you and you get off, and you know that would be hella fun with a girl but I can think of half a dozen boys I'd rather use it on!")  Then I got weepy and paranoid and angry and started a fight with my brother.

A physical fight that eventually got so intense he got scared for both of us and called my dad to help calm me down.  I broke my phone trying to hit him with it, and I fell and (he thought) broke off my front teeth on the sidewalk, and gashed my bottom eyelid on a lawn-sprinkler-head.  I bit him so hard he saw stars.  I ran away from him barefooted and got my feet full of really gnarly desert thorns that it took me more than a month to get all out.  Somehow he and my dad got me in a car and dad drove me to his apartment.  

Where I started it all again.  I ran into a barbed-wire fence in the dark and cut up my legs, and got more stickers in my feet, hands and knees.  I physically fought my dad and verbally abused him as much as I had my brother.  Eventually a neighbor called the cops, and the cops came.  My mom was scared and sad, and tried to talk the cops out of taking me, but they had to take somebody, so I convinced her they had to take me.

I was fully in a blackout.  I remember little flashes, but I had to be told most of it.  But as soon as the cops turned up, I was the best little girl in the world.  I patiently explained the particulars of domestic violence laws to my parents, and even argued with them that the law was fair and they had to let it go down the way it had to go down.  I thanked the officers for not arresting my father, and told them that I started it and that it was my fault because I was drunk.  I thanked the officers for being kind to us all, and I asked them if I could collect my things and say goodbye before they took me.  I asked them to explain what was going to happen next to my parents.

My mom called my brother, and he and my cousin, who is in law enforcement, came over to help my folks understand what was going on.  I went to jail.  I remember that one officer kept saying, "You're 32 years old.  You're 32 years old.  What are you doing?  You're 32 years old."  I kept asking him his name, desperate to remember it, but I have no recollection of it.  Every single person that dealt with me in the jail was incredibly kind and respectful.  They booked me and took me to the nurse, and put me in a single cell in the medical wing until they could be sure I didn't have a serious head/brain injury or DT's or something else really bad wrong with me.  I stayed there for 20 hours, totally alone except for a few moments when someone brought me a meal or took away my tray, or when the nurse came to check me.

It was freezing cold, and I was drunk for a long, long time.  I felt really sorry for myself, and angry at everyone for letting/making this happen to me.  I blamed everybody.  I blamed people I didn't even know.  At the same time, I was trying to be the best prisoner EVER so they would keep being nice to me and let me out soon.  I was being respectful and trying to demonstrate that I would obey the rules and follow orders.  I was eager to please, but also very, very confused and not sure what was going on.  It was hard to sleep, and I felt scared and deprived and disoriented.  I wanted very badly to be away from there, sleeping in a real bed with real covers on it, wearing real clothes.  At some point I realized somewhere deep inside my brain that I had performed actions, of my own volition, that had deprived me of the RIGHT to do those things.

That no one had just done this to me.  Or let it happen to me.  That I had knowingly and willfully violated the common social contract so badly that I was going to have to face the consequences that I knew, in advance of the violating actions, would be possible afterwards.  I was stunned.  It hurt so much I could barely breathe.  I did it to myself, and I had known that it could happen.  I just thought I would get away with it.  I thought somebody would let it slip by, like so many somebodies had done before.  I wished, and I wished, and I finally even prayed.  I wondered why they hated me so much that they couldn't let it slip by one more time, just this one last time.  

What clinched it was that everyone in that jail was as kind and as gentle and respectful as a really good parent disciplining a beloved child.  They weren't doing it to be mean.  They felt sorry that they had to lock me up, and they wished me well.  They went out of their way to help me and make me feel more comfortable.  Some time after breakfast, they came to get me.  I didn't know what was happening, and they took me to a visiting room.  I thought maybe a lawyer was coming to see me.  I had pretty much resigned myself to losing my family at that point.  I had tried to accept, for a little while, that I had finally violated their trust so much that I couldn't get it back.  I put my head down on the table to wait for the lawyer to be brought to the other side of the glass.

When I picked up my head, my mother, father, brother, Clint and my grandma Dot were standing there, holding the horrible little phone receiver and taking turns to talk to me.  I cried and cried.  They cried and told me that the shame in my eyes was terrible to see and they wanted to fill me up with love to make it go away.  They told me to start over, to not dwell on it, to know that they loved me and would never give up on me, no matter how hard I tried to make them.  They told me that they would always be there for me, even if they had to do it through bulletproof glass.  They told me I might be in jail for 18 months, and that I wouldn't find out for sure until my hearing, about a week away.  I went back to my cell weeping, joyous, terrified and aghast.  

And I'm going to stop there.  I got out in time to not even miss any school or my return ticket on the train, and I'm three months sober now, so don't get your panties in a bunch.  I'll tell the rest tomorrow or the next day.   

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

recent triumphs

On the bus, on my way home from vermont, a man sat down not far from me and asked if he could sit with me. The bus was fairly empty--every person had a two-seat row to themselves and several rows were vacant. The bus had been packed all night and several very uninhibited strangers had wedged their rumps and shoulders right into me and slept like lambs. Snoring, teeth-grinding, squirming, murmuring lambs. And I had been good. I strangled no one. I poked no one furtively with my knitting needles, only to pretend to be asleep when they woke, outraged and dimpled. One woman, in a bad wig, lovely scarf, and chemo-bloat, inspired my sympathy and I let her make me as uncomfortable as she needed to to get some sleep. Another was so obnoxiously free with taking up half of my seat that it became silly and fun to try to fall asleep between her grunting re-positionings. I had been looking forward to hours of small-town Virginia and empty seats through it all, and now this man (this slavering lady-killer, this depraved groper, my tired brain informed me) was very politely asking to sit next to me. I didn't know if he wanted a hand job or to talk about Jesus, or anything in between. All I knew was that he could. Not. Sit next to. Me. So I told him so. I told him I was exhausted and had been looking forward to sitting alone and sleeping. I told him that I'd be glad to sit next to him and talk later, when I didn't have a seat to myself anyway. I told him I was sorry and I hoped he found someone to talk to. Then I laid down in the seat and slept for several hours.

I hit a slump between my two- and three-month milestones in A.A. I was chugging right along, doing okay and even going up to strangers and acquaintances in meetings and just talking to them and telling them the truth about things they asked me about.  I even went out for dinner or coffee with a few people.  Then my birthday, then various things, and I started living too much in my head, living for daydreams and fantasies, ignoring the reality I needed to be paying attention to, letting the crazy lady in my brain talk to me, and things got so so so hard.  Grace of G-d, I didn't drink, or even really want to.  Someday I'll tell you how Tweeker Jeezus took care of me in jail and taught me to pray and took that away from me.  But I was tempted to go back to that wretched old way of thinking, and hole up in my head and be that sad, lonely girl again forever and ever and not let anybody help.  Just for a few days, or maybe a week and a half, but it was discouraging.  It's crazy to think I could have forgotten in such a short time how boring and miserable being that person is, but it really did surprise me to find myself back in it.  It was so dreary and ridiculous, and real and scary, and I couldn't think how to stop it.  So I told somebody how it felt, and when they acted concerned and tried to help, I responded as best I could and tried not to push them away.  Then I told somebody else, and tried to respond to them.  I tried to think what I was doing before that I had forgotten to do, and found some things, so I started doing them again.  Like reading my A.A. literature and going to meetings even if I don't want to, even if I'm scared and awkward.  Like telling the truth and asking for help, even if I have to literally choke the words out, or tell on myself, or make myself vulnerable to people I don't know very well.  Like not trying to protect the people that love me so much from the negative aspects of my life.  And it worked.  I feel better.  Not fixed, and not healed, but safer and more loved, and much less dreary and discouraged.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

what's so special about three months?

I am!  I got my three-month chip this morning.  I've been thinking about a lot of stuff, and have a post sitting waiting to publish about it all once it stews a bit more.  It's really the first big thinks I've done seriously since jail, and I think I'm getting ready to start really being serious about sobriety.  I'm starting to accept that it might just take me longer to do everything, and that it won't be a problem unless I get impatient.  Anyway, a big cosmic thank you to everyone at LL&LL and to Hope for going with me and Steve for driving us and Jasper and Leslie for pep talks and everyone who cares and my whole family for just being there.  As someone in my group says, "This chip belongs to you; all of you, because I couldn't have done it without you.  But I'm taking it home with me."

saving my life

Photo by C. of A Passion for Jaywalking.  Click photo for link-thanks so much for permission!
It's become increasingly obvious to me that the past ten years, and my escalating drinking/self-destruction had exactly one point:  to cause me enough pain to make it alright for me to die.  There were lots of peripheral reasons, and I had no idea at the time that that was the point.  I thought I was having fun.  Or maybe I thought that it looked like I was having fun.

That's a complicated thing to say, though.  I hear people share about "when drinking stopped working" but for me it was always about pretending:  that I was like the other people in the room, that I didn't hate what was going on and where we were, that I could be whatever it was I thought I had to be 

Right here I could point my finger at a couple of people and say it was all their fault for making me think I was having fun, or for pressuring me to be something I'm not, but that's a lot of bullshit.  

I was the only one in control of my actions, and I chose to do what I thought other people wanted from me.  I knew.  It might have been subconscious a lot of the time, but it was there.  I knew it really wasn't fun, and that it led to bad places that I had a sick desire to be in.  I knew I was hurting myself and other people.  It was my place to refuse to do that, to stick to my guns and protect myself and to BE the person I knew I was.  

I just didn't want to.  I wanted to wander a little way down the primrose path and see.  I wanted to see if I could let it all go.  To literally let it all go--to inch far enough toward the end of my rope that it was permissible to let go.  To die.  To hurt bad enough, and to throw away enough of myself that I could make it okay to throw away the rest, to make a job of it.  To stop hurting forever.  I thought that was the way to be safe.

And it didn't work.  I was totally shocked about three weeks ago by the fact that part of me is really pissed off about that.  I had left class (a nearly 3-hour ASL class) for a little break, and went into the bathroom.  As I was sitting down on the toilet (I know, TMI, but that's where it happened) I just had this flood of emotion; regret, wistfulness, longing, and I heard my voice say (out loud) "I can't believe I don't get to drink myself to death and I have to do all this."  I felt a little betrayed, even.  It beggars the imagination, even mine, but I think if I had the balls to bring it up in a meeting I'd see a lot of nodding heads, a lot of people who know exactly what I'm talking about and lived through it.

Here's the thing, though.  A big part of the power of A.A. is in the fellowship, the letting people get close to you.  "G-D works through people," and all that.  There is so much help and care I can pick up just by being there, and just by listening, and living on the fringe of it all.  It helps so much.  But there's no way of getting around the fact that to really get weller I have to jump in, make friends, socialize and get into service.  Or at least get brave enough to get a damn sponsor.  And I can't.  I just can't.

It's bullshit, and a stupid reason, and I just can't.  I'm too scared.  People just aren't safe enough to trust my heart to.  I'm just too damn scared.  And that scares me.  Part of the reason I started drinking is because drunks are shallow, and you don't have to let them in.  They're happy with acquaintance-ship and, "Oh...I'm fine..." and not having any responsibility to each other.  I know that these people at my meeting are wonderful, loving people who are helping each other and supporting each other, I know that.  I WANT that, deep in the core of me, to be with them and be like them.  I also know that they're flawed human beings just like me, and they'll screw up, they'll hurt me and they'll let me down, just like I sometimes do.  Like everyone does.  I even know that for me to be happy, joyous, free, fearless, thorough and honest I have to learn to be okay with all that.  

And it's not so bad...I've made it three months now.  I got my chip this morning, and despite being so scared I almost passed out on my way to the front of the room to take it, I made it.  And the attention was awful, and wonderful, and I felt the love through the tears.  I want this, and I want it badly enough to keep doing something that every fiber of my being says is wrong, bad, scary and dangerous.  It's the best, safest and most productive place I've ever been this scared.  So that's my dilemma--I'm too alive to die, and too scared to live.  That's all.  I'm working on it.  I'll let you know how it goes.  

Thanks so much to C. of A Passion for Jaywalking for graciously letting me use the three-month chip picture above.  I was frantically searching the entire internets for a picture of one that I could use and found this one, which is so beautiful.  I consider it a triumph that I wrote and asked a total stranger for permission at all, and the fact that C. was willing to let me use it for just a credit and a link was gravy.  Incidentally, it's also a great blog about sobriety, poetry, life, etc.  Definitely worth reading.  

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

my age

I've been thinking about this for years, since working at Celebration! when I asked a lady her baby's age and got, "Oh, she's 27 months."  At first it hacked me off, because really, why can't she just say, "About a year," what's so special about three months?  I think a co-worker had to point out that, at that age, everything is special about every month. 

So why not continue this into our later lives?  I know, I know, we're not learning to sit up or speak or walk (unless we've been subject to Unfortunate Incidents, in which case we do often revert to the months accounting), but why shouldn't every month be just that special?  We're learning something new every day, from mending a broken heart to how to really love someone, to how to get our shit together.  How to live more fully, how to cut our losses, and practical things, too.  How to train a dog, or become an accountant, or make a real friend.

Or maybe we're not.  Maybe we stop learning, and start congratulating ourselves for having gotten to the end of all that.  Maybe we decide we're finished, and ignore all the learning opportunities that present themselves to us, and we become Grown Up.  Maybe that's why time seems to go so much faster as we age, we stop counting the days and weeks and months, and move to years or even decades.  We count by the last thing we learned, and so instead of treasuring this week, this month, this year, we gloss over big chunks of years, chunks of our lives that we weren't really paying attention to because we, we've got this shit down cold.

Let's nip that in the bud, let's treasure the smaller increments of time we grow through.  Look, listen to me now, I'm going to talk about something I know.  Give up your hang-ups about age, and aging, and death.  When you are 98 years old, if you are lucky to live to be so old and decrepit, you will wish for your strong, youthful, lusty body, full of life.  You will not care how your skin was or whether you felt attractive.  You will think that you were stupid and vain and foolish and selfish, back then, to be so picky about yourself, so nailed to others' opinions.  You will say, "Oh, God, to be 65 again!" and you will be deadly serious.  You will yearn for the days when you had your teeth, your hair (you too, ladies, and you lose it all over your body), your spouse still alive, the days when you could remember, at bedtime, what you had eaten for breakfast.  Or dinner.  You will mournfully cry, "So young!  So young!" when a friend dies at 77, because he didn't know how good he had it, he without a walker, a hearing aid, a 30-year-old Guatemalan helper with better things to do brusquely helping him toilet;  he who had so much life before him.  

I was 250 months the first time I got my heart broken, but I've learned since then to do it more often.  I was 300 months when I moved back in with my parents.  I was 370 months when I went back to school.  I periodically calculate my age in months because it throws off my brain.  Does that make any sense?  I can't really get any perspective on being 32, but 384.4 months kicks in a new gear in my head that understands something I can't when I'm in the "years" gear.  Being in AA has got me thinking about days, too.  Just so you know, I'm now 11,700 days on  this Earth.  That's 1671.4 weeks, if you were wondering.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It's like a four-year-old in here.

"Why won't things be good?" She wails in despair.  
What things, and how are they not good?
"I don't know, you know...things.  They're bad, not good.
And I thought they would be GOOOOOOOOOOOD!"
She is very sad. Saaaad.  SAD.  Just look at that lip jut out.
Are you disappointed?  Frustrated?  Hungry?  Angry?  
"No.  I don't know.  And my teacher is mean.  And my classmates are stupid.  
I want things to be excellent and they are only good.  And I don't have my cupcake anymore."
Things won't always be like you want them to be and sometimes people are mean, or stupid.
Er-herm.  And you ATE your cupcake.  Excellence is an ideal, a journey, not something 
you can just have when you want it.  I know this is sad news, and you're disappointed.
I wish I could tell you something else, but this is life.  The sooner you accept it the 
sooner you can get on with it.
"NooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Make things BE GOOOD!"
Things are go...