Addiction – The Family Secret

I really wanted to write about this subject today after giving it much thought. I hope I can be succinct and cohesive, but I am also asking for feedback if you would. That’s kind of the point of the blog post.

How many of you have an addict in your family? Any kind of addict. Alcohol, drugs (<– that was whispered like the mom in St. Elmo's Fire….lol), gambling, sex, shopping, eating….anything that causes a problem for the person and the family unit. I bet you do if you're honest with yourself. I bet there's the crazy Uncle you only have to deal with during the holidays because he drinks too much and gets obnoxious or starts telling dirty jokes around the 5 year old kid table. Or your sister who eats her entire meal telling everyone she's not really hungry, but then grabs some extras and hides in the bathroom finishing off another piece of cake plus 3 more rolls. Or the niece everyone thinks is perfect but has been secretly getting high every night and no one notices. What about the guy at work who can't turn down the next project/phone call/email/business trip/etc because he's afraid of not getting the next promotion or being valued enough?

Or maybe it's you. Can you stop drinking? What if you've never been told you have a "problem" before but now you're being asked to stop. Can you? "Well, **I** don't have the problem. My mom, well, SHE was the one hiding bottles through the house, not me. I can stop when I want." Uh huh. But do you? Can you go a month without drinking? Excess shopping? A little weed? A little pill? Working on a day off? What about exercise? Are you addicted to something "good" for you? Do you push it too far? Are you running 7 days a week? Should you?

Anyone who has dealt with an addict will tell you the above scenario is classic denial. There's always always ALWAYS someone worse off than the person you're talking to. Or an excuse for the behavior. And that's a convenient rationale to not admit your own problem. Yes, admitting you have a problem with (insert addiction here) is a first step. Admitting powerlessness over the addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. Step One in AA. And starting at Step One is always the best place to start. The whole one foot in front of the other thing, right?

But what is YOUR role in all of this? The non-addict family member. Do you cover for the gambling spouse who just spent your electric bill money at the craps table? Do you call in sick for the spouse who can't quite make it to work again this morning? Do you explain to your kids to stay away from Aunt Dee because she can't help but to act the way she does? What if it IS your kid? Do you cover and and hide and put on the happy face for the world to see?

Now I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone open up the four walls of their homes and let everything be a gawking free-for-all. Every home has its secrets that most are sure would be horrified if the outside world could look in and see during your most raw, emotional times. That's not what I'm getting at. I AM suggesting that addiction is so incredibly prevalent in our society, and that the old way of thinking is not what is healthy for the entire family. Talking about it, discussing it, sharing it, help to bring it out of the shadows where it can grow and fester. That helps take away that stigma that unfortunately still exists today.

Which brings me back to the non-addicts role. My role. Most of my readers know my husband is an alcoholic. I don't hide it. It's hard. It's difficult. I've written many blog posts about it. I'm active in an Al Anon group. It's been amazing to find that everything I thought I was dealing with alone, someone right down the street was dealing with too. And right around the corner. And all over the city, the state, the country, the world. But no one knows because everyone hides and covers. It's the family secret.

Here's a great saying in AA: "Nothing changes if nothing changes". Simple right? Simple and true. Changing the way WE act and will bring about change in US. Not others. Ourselves. It's a very empowering feeling when you truly start to put yourself first and change the way you think.

I wish I could get more people talking, and in doing that you could realize you aren't alone. You're family isn't the only one. And perhaps helping to shed some light on what is happening will also encourage the addict to seek support and help. Don't let another generation continue the cycle. There's a Step One in AA and in Al Anon. But there's more than one step. Keep moving, keep growing. You can do ANYTHING for a day. Today can be Day One in your life, whether you're the addict or just love someone who is.

Namaste.

Addiction

Relapse or Slip?

These terms could fit a myriad of issues. And for good reason. They are interchangable with what we all struggle with. All of us. Don’t think you have a problem? Ha! I bet if asked, people could come up with at least “Fault”. I use fault in quotations because obviously not all struggles are exactly equal in scope and size, but at the same time, let’s not diminish any type of internal wrestling with right and wrong.

As some of my most loyal blog followers know, I had to have surgery on my back, again, for a melanoma that thankfully my doctor caught early. Surgery is a general term. She calls it surgery. I’m sure billed like a surgery. But it’s not in a hospital, its outpatient in her office surgical room. (Plus, as a side note, since it’s the beginning of the year and no deductible has been met yet, I’m sure this bill is going knock me off my feet. Sigh…..) So as a result of this “procedure”, I’ve had to miss a few yoga classes and a few barre classes. Throw in the Super Bowl and lots of not-so-good-for-me snacks, and well, you can probably see where this is going. I stepped on the scale this morning and was horrified and saddened to see I’ve gained 1 and 1/2 pounds since last week.

I’ve held my 70 lb weight loss to the pound since I hit that goal. Even though it was frustrating to not continue to lose more when nothing had changed. Maybe my body needed some time to recalibrate. I don’t know. But I went into a quick inventory of what I’ve been doing, what I’ve slacked off doing and how and when I need to refocus my efforts.

Do you know someone who struggles with an issue of trying to change and they have the tools, they know what to do, and yet……even after much success something switches in their mind and they give up all the progress they made? I think we all know someone (at least one) who has gone through this. The alcoholic who is sober for days, weeks, months, and in a moment, has the bottle? No thought about about what is being thrown away. What about the drug user who is out of rehab, made changes and suddenly an opportunity is there and they take it without a second thought. Until it’s too late.

So I’ve been thinking about this relapse or slip terminology. I’ve talked to some very knowledgable people in my Al Anon group as well as some in AA. The difference seems to be what happens after the fall. Do you continue on a shame-spiral and think “Screw it. I messed up. I have to start all over. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I don’t even want to try anymore. This is who I am, if you don’t like it, YOU leave.”

OR

Can you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and realize how much you’ve learned since your last Day 1? Can you start Day 1 with renewed determination and focus? Can you call someone who is helping you along your journey and honestly ask for help?

This is the difference between a slip and relapse. It’s not that you have to start over (because you do) it’s that you start over with serious gusto. You add more tools to your toolkit so that it doesn’t happen again.

I’m choosing to look at myself as the latter. I’m going to go barre Thursday and do what I can. I’m going to drink more water, because I know I’ve been seriously slacking in that department. I’m going to confess to my trainer that I had more than a few bites of ooey gooey yummy homemade soft pretzels Sundays, and yes, one or more may have fell into some cheese dip and then stumbled into my mouth. Mmmmmmmmm.

But I can tell you what I won’t do. I won’t allow it to derail me. I think about people who have lost significant weight by going on a fad diet or one of those pre-packaged meal deals like Jenny Craig or Nurtisystem. Those people all lose weight. I did when I was on Jenny Craig decades ago. But it doesn’t really teach you to keep it off. It teaches you how to use the microwave. Long lasting change isn’t easy, or fast, or without trials. But it’s soooooo worth it.

So even if your “slip” is falling away from your New Years Resolution, or you’ve fallen off the diet/alcohol/drug/sex/gambling/whatever wagon that you’ve been trying to stay on, fear not! Today is a new day. And today is a great day to call Day One.

Namaste

dont give up

Fallen Off the Wagon….again

I know no one is shocked. I’m not shocked myself even though I wish I could say I was. But, I’ve fallen off the proverbial wagon for my blog. ::insert sad face here::

It’s one of those cases where life literally stopped me in my tracks, sidelined me, when I was doing well. So I’m here to pick myself up, dust myself off and start writing again. Life can sometimes suck the joy out of good intentions and make you not see clearly or be able to focus. So I’m refocusing. ::insert happy face here::

I’ve had a couple of friends lose their parent, more are sick, I had a great night out where waaaaay too much wine was consumed, I’ve been going to yoga, not sleeping well as usual (last night I logged a whopping 4 hours 3 minutes), it’s been brutally cold with even colder air plus snow heading our way, my birthday last week (see previous blog for the horrendous turn of events that was!) and that’s just been within the past 10 days or so. I’m not very happy.

I don’t mean depressed, in a clinical sense, I just mean that sometimes, despite our best intentions and normally sunny outlook, life can sometimes just slap you in the face, punch you in the gut and shake you like a snowglobe until you beg for mercy. That’s kind of how I felt. Not one “major” thing happened specifically to me (if you can overlook my texting mishap), just a series of things that take the air from your lungs and you feel like you need a break. And then, before you can completely take a new breath, the next thing happens. Watching friends mourn their parents is difficult. It brings that overwhelming feeling of mortality to the forefront, no matter how much we all try to ignore it as much as possible. 

My one saving grace was going out and enjoying time over a few (eh hem) glasses of wine, laughing, talking, sharing knowing no matter what was said, we had each others back. There is true POWER in that. Minus any headache that may arise the next morning, it was much needed for each of us and I’m so overwhelmingly thankful for it.

I have friends still going through rough times. I’m too much of a “feeler” and a “fixer” (Did you ever have to take those personality tests? Yea, I know it’s crazy to know I’m an ENFP. Extrovert, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) and sometimes in my rush to talk things out, fix it, look at the bright side, I can run over the person I’m trying to help. Good intentions, bad results. So I’m trying to step back. I can’t fix everyone. Not everyone to be fixed. Some are perfectly happy to wallow. Some know the problem but refuse the help or to think for themselves. Easier to go along status quo and hope on a wing and a prayer that everything will work out. You know the ole saying you can lead a horse to water……

So now it’s time to turn the page, literally, and put that behind us and move forward. I’m going to put my best foot forward, help when I can, step back when I should, encourage always. Sounds like a pretty good motto for starting the rest of the year. Now if I can just stick to it. 

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Crazy Week, please let it be over!

So, yea, I kinda fell off the face of the blogosphere didn’t I? And I was on such a roll too! I’ve had some weird, some sad, some funny as hell things happen though, so before I go off for my run, I thought I would leave them with you to ponder the ridiculousness of my life. Have at it.

Let’s start back to last Sunday, when my crazy, idiot, horrible, white-trash, no-mortgage-payin neighbors decided to call the cops on US! What a freaking joke!! They called because we have a security camera in our backyard (which has been up for over **2** months!!!!!) and they were suddenly, on a Sunday morning as I sat in church, concerned that it might be capturing their backyard. So I had to leave church, come home to deal with police at my door. I showed them the camera, I showed them the app of what the camera displays, I showed them the lovely pepper plants that the camera was originally for, and I offered them a bottle of water (to show how kind I am!). Yea, well, WE aren’t doing ANYTHING wrong by having a security camera, outside, pointing at our pepper plants. And even if we were pointing directly into their backyard, there is nothing wrong with that either! He said something about there not being any expectation of privacy when you’re outside. Anyone can take a picture of anyone, anytime, anywhere, if they are outside. Now, he calmly pointed out that if we had pointed that directly at their bedroom window, that could be a problem. I told him I didn’t want to make myself nauseous at the thought of anything going on inside their house, let alone their bedroom. ::shudder::

So the cops laughed with me for a while, talking about trivial things like how hot it was, were they sure they didn’t want a bottle of water, then they went back over the wretched neighbors to let them know there was not one damn thing I was doing that was wrong. And further, if they call them again over a non-issue, not only will they file charges against them, but I can then file harassment charges against them. Ha! I bet when she was relaying this info to others, she left that little part out. Mmm Hmmm.

Then Ryan started school. Sophomore year. First day of school didn’t bother me. I didn’t well up with tears. I didn’t hug him till I crushed him. I didn’t hold him til he was pried from my grip preventing him from not going out the door. No, no. The tears came crashing down yesterday as I was looking at Pinterest!! PINTEREST!!!! Seriously?? I’m looking at fattening recipes which I will never make but I’m drooling nonetheless. I’m looking at cute ideas for my house that I will never have the funds to do. I’m looking at adorable outfits that will never look that cute on me. Then I see some fall stuff. I don’t even know if it was for a classroom or just home decor, but it was apples, and pumpkins and cinnamon and stuff. And I BURST into tears. Bawling, sobbing OMG-what-am-I-doing tears! And I love fall!! Second favorite season! Love it! But my boys birthdays are in October (both of them) and Rob will be 25 and Ryan will be 16. 16??? OMG! Tears flooding my eyes!! Can’t see the cute purple outfit on Pinterest. Can’t see the perfect gray kitchen that I long for. Aaaaccckkkkk!!! Close Pinterest. Let’s forget this even happened.

As for the laughter, because really, that’s my favorite part, Saturday I went to a party with some friends. This was awesome because it wasn’t just girls hanging out at a bar, feeling old and deaf from the music that’s too loud. (I know I’ve said it before, but really, mid 40s women should not be hanging out at a bar every week without starting to look a bit pathetic and desperate to hold on to their youth. Have some class. Going to a bar can be fun, but really, we all have houses or apartments or condos. Go there. Be an adult. Much more fun.) So we went to a PARTY! This is a friend who has a party every year and I swear every year it gets better and better. I also love that we go together as a group, and people we have met there remember us from year to year. It might be the only time all year that we see each other, but it’s so awesome to get “Chrissy!!! I’m so glad you’re here!!” screamed across the lawn, complete with a hug and a peck on the cheek! I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love that?? So we got our drink on, laughing, talking, laughing, mingling, laughing, passing out glow sticks and glow necklaces, drinking, laughing.

It was one of those nights that when you wake up the next morning and besides your pounding headache, your stomach muscles and jaw aches from the laughter. Yep. One of those night. So much fun and looking forward to next years bash already!!

But as that party usually signifies the end of summer, so does school starting, fall stuff on Pinterest, football, Homecoming (Oh Lord, Homecoming is coming up. Where did I put those tissues???), and taking the boat out for winter storage. I think we might be ready to sell the boat. Even Michael isn’t fighting the idea as much anymore. The season for the boat may be over. We’ll see how that goes. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the transition from summer to fall and not stress about things I can’t control. Serenity now…..Serenity now…….

Girls Night In…the follow up

I was going to blog yesterday about how amazingly awesome Wednesday night was, but I spent the most of the day not sure I really alive. After consuming a bottle of Malibu, mostly by myself, I’m pretty sure my morning started off yesterday with me looking as well as I felt. 

We managed to polish off 2 bottles of wine, 1 1/2 bottles of Malibu, and most of a bottle of cherry vodka. Oh and beer too. I stayed away from the beer. My friend Malibu was all I needed. Plus we had little umbrellas for the drinks too! I mean, hello?? Do you know me??? They weren’t all pink umbrellas, but they were still cute. We had lots of food but even more laughter! I think it will be a night to remember for a looooong time. But this was an evening we planned and will be doing again….soon!!

In my morning after haze filled with coffee and silence, I was texting with a friend about all that went on that night and laughing about stuff, and she decides, get this…..that we should go for a run. REALLY??? She could’ve suggested we lay on blankets in the backyard with the radio and some SPF 15. She could’ve suggested we take a nap!!! But no. And what did I do??? I AGREED!!! I’m telling you it was the alcohol still coursing through the veins because I don’t know what possessed me to agree to that! So I showered because in all honestly, I looked like death and even though I would be running and sweating and requiring another shower, I would rather shower twice than be seen in public like that! (And you just know that those are the times you run into the one person you wish you hadn’t and they think you just look like that ALL THE TIME!! You know exactly what I’m talking about!) I laced up and out the door we went. I didn’t wear my watch because, honestly, I would rather not time it than bring our average down with a bad run. So with no watch, too much coffee, not enough Exedrin in the world and our shoes on, we started. And we thought, wow! We aren’t doing too bad! I mean, ya know, for what we expected! For the first mile, even mile and a half, we were pretty good. “Oh! We GOT this!!” Uh huh. By mile 2 our pace slowed. By mile 2 and a half, I felt like my legs were filled with concrete. By the 3rd mile, I was actually thinking in my head that I could just lay down right there in the middle of the street and take a nap right there. Cars could go around me. Or, if I was run over, I would be put out of my misery quicker. But the last almost quarter mile, we finished strong.

I downed a carton of Pineapple Coconut Water and felt a little life spring back. After another shower, and Ryan hanging out at a friends house, the couch was calling my name. Well, not just calling, more like pleading for me to come lay on it. Who I am to ignore pleading? 

I’m alive today, feeling better, feeling stronger, I can handle noise above a whisper. So what would be a great plan??? Michael has to work late, Ryan is going to a party, and I think I’m heading out for drinks with the girls. Oh yea. And please don’t remind about yoga tomorrow morning. Not yet. 

 

Girls Night in

So tonight I’m throwing a Girls Night In party with some of my closest friends, lots of drinks, some food and some naughtiness thrown in. A few of my friends and I had been talking about doing this for a while, and we thought, “What are we waiting for?? Let’s just do it!!” So I looked into it, made a few calls and BAM. Here we are.

In preparation for tonight, I have been trying to clean and get organized, making room for everyone who is coming. It has also given me a new insight on to how crap I have that is not necessarily in boxes in the basement!!! Here’s how I know it can be labeled “crap”. When I remove it from the place it has probably been sitting for months (who I am kidding?? YEARS!!) has not been moved, touched or even acknowledged, it’s time to go. I cleaned off one entire counter in the kitchen to make way for drinks, food, drinks, napkins and drinks and I realized how much of that stuff is just clutter than doesn’t need to be there. I cleaned the dining room thinking WHY do I have this here?? It’s just taking up space. OMG, is this the beginning of some minimalist attitude??? ACK!!! I need to get on Amazon STAT!!!

I know that we will have a great time, because, well, we always have a great time! I also don’t think that for a fun bunch of girls to get together means we have to go out to a bar. I mean, I was ALL about the bar scene when I was younger. Especially after my first divorce. I had ever other weekend free, I was young, Woooooo Hoooooooo!! But at some point, the music became too loud, the well drinks were NOT as good as I could make them and the crowd kept getting younger and younger. I am not some stuffy fuddy duddy. I just don’t want to be THAT woman hanging out at some small dank bar where the bartenders know me by name and other people point and say “Oh her?? She’s always here.” Sigh….there is much more to life than being the “Norm!!!!” of a bar! And what better way to do it than a girl’s only party at a house where you can control the music, the atmosphere, the people and NOT serve icky well drinks! (And I refuse to pay with Ryan’s college fund for a great Cosmo made with Grey Goose out at some bar who opens a beer bottle by slamming it against the bar. Ohhhhh like that’s some awesome trick and shows off your mediocre bartending skills. Yes, that’s me rolling my eyes at you.)

I have invited a great bunch of girls and some of them are bringing other friends as well. It’s one of those nights where the vibe “Epic” is already oozing out. We can all feel it. The weather is supposed to be perfect, so we’ll be able to mingle outside as well. Maybe a great night for a bonfire too!! (Note to self, make Michael clear away all his pepper plants and prepare the bonfire for lighting so even **I** can do it) Michael and Ryan have been banished from the house. They get to spend father/son bonding time while I spend girlfriend bonding time. Sounds pretty perfect to me!

I have to put the finishing touches on some on my cleaning, try to do a once over, then time to get dressed and do my hair (YES! I still have pink in it! Don’t judge, it’s fun!) and try to wait to pop the first cork and unscrew that first frosted Goose bottle. I think I can wait. Then again…..it is MY party…….

Alcohol and perceptions

I’ve already told the story of Michael’s motorcycle accident, so I don’t need to do a retelling. If you didn’t read it, it was my blog from 3/28/13. Feel free to go back and read it. I try not to sugar coat what happened, or hide it for what is was.

Hiding alcoholism is never the way. It doesn’t help the alcoholic, the family, or anyone who cares about them. It doesn’t make it go away, or hurt less, or lessen the severity. Unless you know or live with an addict, you have no idea what daily struggles are present. You can sympathize, you can nod or hug, but you don’t know the pain. Some people are in denial about it and think the family is making a bigger deal out of it than it is. I think this is especially true for alcoholics. Drinking is so socially accepted, almost expected, that when someone turns down a drink the reaction is usually shock or bewilderment. “Oh sure ya do!!!” as he’s handed a bottle. “You can have just a couple, I’ll make sure you don’t get too drunk.” Or how about the best one, “You can have just one, it’s my birthday/anniversary/job promotion/insert the reason here.” If he could have “just one”, he wouldn’t BE an alcoholic, would he????

Alcoholism never goes away. Someone can achieve sobriety, but it doesn’t ever go away. A person in recovery can go years without a drink, but something triggers a response in them and after that first sip, it’s all over with. Hopefully, they can get right back to whatever helps them stay sober; 12 step, counseling, friends, church, rehab, whatever worked for them, they need to work it hard! But so many can never right that ship once it’s off course. The shame they feel internally can not be expressed outwardly. I call it the “Shame Spiral” because that’s what it does. They continue to drink because of the shame they feel for drinking. Makes a lot of sense, right?

I go back and forth on my feelings about people drinking in front of or around him. I think it’s rude most of the time. I think it’s mean-spirited, selfish and inconsiderate. I also think that if you can’t go an evening without drinking to support a friend, maybe you need to look at your own drinking habits and seriously evaluate your own life. I’m not saying non-alcoholics shouldn’t drink, it’s a trillion dollar a year industry (I just made that up, I have no idea how much they make a year, but it’s a LOT) and it’s a lot for a reason. Happy Hour is one of our favorite past times, right? But here’s what I want all of you non-alcoholics to realize….if an alcoholic (especially a recently in recovery alcoholic) attends a social gathering where alcohol is sure to be present, it has taken a tremendous amount of nerve to even show up. S/he sees everyone drinking. S/he feels like they are sticking out like a sore thumb. If S/he stays for 15 minutes, that might be all they can take. But to come to the alcoholics own home with alcohol, drink it in front of him, is just…..just….. WRONG!! How selfish do you have to be?? Is it REALLY all about you that you can’t give one precious evening of drinking soda? Or tea? Or water? Can you really not have a good time unless you’re drinking? Again, I would say that calls for some self-evaluation. Sorry if that’s harsh. I’m calling it like I see it.

If you know someone who is an addict, please do what you can to support that person. Support them where they are right now. Not where you want them to be, or where you think they should be, but where they are. It is soooooo hard to do that. It’s hard to live it every day. It’s hard not knowing what each evening will bring. Encourage that person you know to get help. Attend a meeting with them. Offer to drive. But always remember, it’s there, lurking below the surface. Because one thing an addict is great at doing besides using…is hiding.