Bloody Lymey

“In honor of Lyme and Tick borne disease awareness month, we would like to designate May 31 as a day of prayer for all those who are coping with this devastating illness. Please get the word out to your family and friends that we welcome their prayers on this day, and for those who have wanted to do something, prayer is a great start.

So no matter where you are on May 31, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for healing for those afflicted with tick borne diseases.”

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Money, So They Say …. Is the Root of all Evil Today. Todayyyyy. Today.

You are short on your rent by $400.  It’s due in the mail Friday to get it by the first.  Pay day is Thursday, but you’re a waitperson.  You can hope your check is $125……….  roughly.  Your head spins with earnings potential.  If Tuesday is busy (for a Tuesday), you might make $40.   Wednesday night there is a big reservation – BIG – but there’s another staffer on.  Hopefully you can make $80-ish.  So now we’ve doubled that check, but we’re still short.

It would make sense to not drink for the rest of the week and scrape up as much funding as possible.  But if you’re an alcoholic like I am, you’re not able to abstain.  Not for money.  Not for the love of your home.  Not for family and friends. Not for anything.  That monkey on your back is no longer just picking lice off of you and grooming you and seeming useful – it’s yelling and pounding on you most savagely until you get to the package store or bar or medicine cabinet or whatever it takes to quiet it down ……..

So it might make sense, at least, to purchase alcohol at the package store where there is less markup than at a bar.  Harm-reduction, right?  If you’re an alcoholic who loves the bar scene, this isn’t doable either.  You might miss something, after all.  You already spend your life feeling isolated everywhere you go and you seek crowded rooms in which to feel alone.  Somehow you feel even more alone in these crowded rooms, but you keep insanely seeking companionship there. 

So one solution is a cash advance on the credit card.  But you know they’ll hit you with a surcharge for EVER if you don’t pay it back right away.  And you won’t.  You already know you won’t.  So how to avoid this …… as a person who waits tables, you bring your credit card to work.  You take the BIGGEST bill that is paid in cash and “treat them to dinner” with your credit card and pocket the cash.  Cash advance.  Free of charge.  And ……  you didn’t tip yourself, right?  So that’s less to report to the IRS, less that will be taxed in next week’s paycheck.  You do this a couple of nights.  You have money for the bar, money for the package store because you’ll want to drink after last call – perhaps more urgently than before you started, AND you have your rent.  Nice.

You go to the bar and you justify drinking every night by telling yourself, “Hey. It’s alright. My bills always get paid.”

You do this night after nauseating night.  $30 one night.  $85 the next.  You bring $20 to the bar vowing that is ALL you will spend.  You leave the bar twice to hit the ATM.  You stand next to the bartender’s five dollar tip she hadn’t noticed – she grabs the fiver, looks at you and says “another ___________[insert name of your favorite drink]?”  You nod.  She rings you up.  It’s not stealing, right?  Just a misunderstanding.    And you let her keep the change. How noble of you.  You take out the crumpled $10-spot hidden in the recesses of your wallet.  It’s for a cab in case you’re too shitfaced to drive.  You drink it all up.  You weren’t going to use it anyway.

Money.  Makes the world go round, doesn’t it?

So night after nauseating night, you do this.  Your bills will get paid.  Your rent is paid.  Your electric is …. a little behind …. but if you send them SOMETHING they won’t shut you off, right?  It’s alright.  You get the credit card statement.

Balance:  $9,076.97

Charges this Period:  $856.23

Minimum Payment Due:  $75.00

You send them $75.  You’re happy.  It’s not making the balance any smaller, but you’ll make more money soon.  You’ll get more hours – they cut them because you were late a few times. Pssssh.  They KNOW you work nights!  That’s what they  GET for putting you on mornings!  They should KNOW you can’t handle it!  So?   This whole thing is on THEM and your being denied your full time hours is bullshit.  Isn’t it???  You’ll get more hours and then you’ll get a better job and you won’t be in this rut.  That apartment is hard to afford with the utilities and the electric heat.  Who wouldn’t be broke?

Then this month is identical to last month with the struggle to make ends meet, racking up debts on the credit card, and justifying it with “my bills get paid.”    You have TONS of beer cans.  Garbage bags full. You vow to return them, but it’s getting to be too embarrassing.  You slip them in your trash can on garbage day.  You have a recycle bin …… but filling it with this heap?  And putting it at the end of YOUR driveway when you live on a busy street?  UH-uh.  No.  So you throw them out, the incriminating rustle-rattle acting as an alarm as you lug them hastily down the back stairs to your garbage.  Headlights head toward the driveway and you want to drop the bag and run.  The car passes.  Your heart is pounding.  You throw them violently into the garbage can and cover it quickly before anyone’s the wiser.  You just threw away $18.  Eighteen bucks bought you some pride.  Just a little.  But the nagging feeling is there.  Those cans were less than a week’s worth.  AND you drink at the bar.  It’s hard to see that expansive garbage bag and not realize how much you drink.  Oh.  And there’s another upstairs from the same time frame.  But this is why you go to different package stores every night.  So the staff won’t know you drink EVERY day.

The money.  Something’s gotta give.  Something’s GOT to give.  You need a roommate.  You start looking.  You’re not at all fussy at this point.

Taking Care of Myself …..

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in this here blog before, but I have Lyme Disease (I have another blog about that called Bloody Lymey).  I was diagnosed in 2008 and the specialist I ultimately saw thought I had it for 2-3 years by that point (based on the progression).  I was reflecting today on how lucky I am for this, as lucky as I am to be an alcoholic.

I always used to hate it when people said they were grateful to be an alcoholic and I might have been darned near homicidal if I heard someone say they were also grateful for another chronic illness.

So whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

1.  Why I’m grateful to be an alcoholic:  Well, it brought me to A.A.  And A.A. gave me a new skills set, coping mechanisms, tools for this journey we call life.  [I’m cringing as I write this since it sounds so hokey, but …. it’s also very true].  Because I’m an alcoholic, I’m far less judgmental.  What’s that they say about casting the first stone?  Something about being without sin?  As an alcoholic, I’ve just about done it all.  It’s hard to frown upon other people even if their life choices might be glaringly obviously BAD mistakes.  I’m more tolerant.  I’m more patient. I’m more kind.  I’m more understanding.  It’s given me a new caliber of compassion.  It caused me enough pain to ask for help and I learned alcohol wasn’t the problem – I was.  And in seeking help for my alcoholism, it made me seek treatment for being ME.

2.  Why I’m grateful to have Lyme Disease:  Already fairly established in A.A. with a foundation built in the steps, it deepened my program.  I learned more about staying off the pity pot and removing the victim mentality.  It helped me with another facet of compassion, mostly with people with physical problems.  It taught me even more about self-forgetting, how to think of others and “get out of myself.”  It taught me the importance of service work and staying useful. Today I work with people with disabilities of all sorts.  My alcoholism helps me understand the ones with mental disabilities.  My Lyme Disease helps me understand those with physical ones.  I also have a deeper understanding of the mental toil that chronic pain puts a person through.  I had no idea the peculiar thought processes that go with it.  It taught me even more about patience and God’s Will.  It deepened my relationship with my Higher Power as I understand Him.   It strengthened my faith.    The experience taught me to live life more deeply, to love more fully.  When I’m feeling GOOD, I don’t put off doing something fun so I can laze on the couch and lie to myself, telling me “I’ll do that tomorrow.” I am way more about seizing the day.  Carpe Diem.    Because I honestly don’t KNOW with a capital K if I CAN “do that tomorrow.”  I might not have a chance again for weeks, months, years.  Or I might have a 10-month remission like I did in 2009/2010.  There’s no knowing.  Procrastination was a nagging character defect, and Lyme helped me with it.  I still have work to do.  I still have to work on household chores and such  – I can blow that off.  It’s easy after being sick for some weeks to need to “get in the swing again.”

So why I’m grateful today:  if I hadn’t gotten help with my alcoholism, I never would have gotten help with Lyme Disease. I wouldn’t have had the skills to advocate for myself.  In some twisted death wish, I might have “let it go.”  Particularly when it was going for my heart.   I might be laying crippled on the couch right now, depending on someone to do me a packy run and using guilt or whatever tactic to coerce them into meeting MY will.  I also probably would have been a pill-seeker.  Honestly, this combination of different pains would have brought in quite some med-cocktails.

Thank God it’s not like that today.  Turning a different corner some years ago, and I might be a vegetable today.  As bad as Lyme Disease SUCKS sometimes – the fatigue is epic, the pain is immeasurable at times, and the fear I sometimes feel for the future feels unconquerable – I believe it is necessary for my spiritual growth.  And I say that on days I’m in very bad pain.

This Burnin’ Ring of Fire …..

“Wake UP,” the voice implored ….. and partly whined and partly pleaded and partly commanded.

I blinked stupidly at the morning light and the blurry smudge of a person swaying in front of me.  She wasn’t swaying.  My post-drinking morning vision was.

“What?”  I asked, annoyed.  I glared at my clock then squinted.  The 8 digits combined seemed to indicate it was 6 AM.

The smell of smoke permeated the air and the blurry smudge of a person who had been swaying in front of me disappeared out of my bedroom door.  I rushed out of my room, and followed the thick smoke to the kitchen.   She had set the oven to “clean mode” and the oven was hot enough to melt the candle that was on top of the stove.  It had gradually melted and commenced dripping into the burners which trickled into the oven.  If I recall.  Little flames occasionally shot up from the burner.

“I called 911,” she asserted, waving a towel at the smoke toward the open window.

The firemen arrived and extinguished the fire.  There was smoke damage, to be sure – a black streak akin to the sooty designs you’d see in a fireplace.  Gray dust settled on everything.  The firemen brought in a humongous fan – had the blades not been caged in metal, I could see this badass puppy playing a role in a horror movie.  It sucked the smoke out the window in five minutes.  I couldn’t believe it.  It also slammed shut doors and tousled papers.  Some of the empty Rolling Rocks rolled around the kitchen like fallen leaves on a windy autumn day.

Yeah, that was humiliating.  The heaps of beer cans.   It didn’t go unnoticed.  While they said nothing about them, you could see an eye surveying the evidence of heavy alcohol consumption.  You could see them scrutinizing the filled ashtrays.

One of the firemen was inspecting the smoke detectors.  I cringed.

I remembered my roommate and I smacking the hell out of it with a broom handle because the batteries were old and the chirping noise was unbearable.  We giggled about it, smacking it with the broom handle like it was a pinata about to drop us a load of candy.  She bent over, clutching her chest.  “Stop making me laaaaaaaaaugh!”  I laughed harder and smacked it some more.  The cover flew across the room.  In tandem we smacked at the battery which ultimately fell out.  Neither of us bought new batteries.

One of us was rightfully broke, the other thought alcohol a financial priority.

Now it was here, coverless with wires sticking out in disarray.

Her baby toddled out.  Actually, he was about three.  His big brown eyes were drowsy, the corners of his lips sleepily turned downward.  The fireman looked at him and smiled softly.  Turning his attention to the smacked, useless plastic overhead, he shook his head.  Another fireman approached him, and the first one gestured to the nonsense on the ceiling – the neglected smoke detector.  They looked at the little boy and then looked at us.  They made no effort to mask their contempt for us.  They were disgusted with us and I wished a big black hole would swallow me whole.

“You HAVE to have this working,” one of them blurted.  He folded his arms and glared at it.  Both walked away muttering and shaking their heads.

After I thought they had left, I heard heavy-booted  footsteps lumbering up the front stairs.  One fireman emerged with batteries that he had, perhaps, in the truck?  He smiled thinly and re-positioned the stepping stool to rectify the smoke detector that had once been our hockey puck.  Without a word, he got down and looked at us.  He raised his eyebrows and wordlessly wandered back down the hall.

That situation stayed with me.  It made more sense to me later.  But at that time, I thought the situation could have been avoided with the FIRE itself.  Then there wouldn’t be outsiders inside judging me.

Looking back …. I know if my roommate hadn’t woke me up I would have slept through it.  What if she wasn’t there?   I could argue she wouldn’t have been there to turn on the “Clean”  function of the stove either, but what if it was a DIFFERENT fire.  What if I was alone?  I’d be charcoal right now.  Honest to God.

September 11, 2001 – (Through Beer Goggles)

I rolled out of bed that sunny September morning, my head swimming and throbbing from last night’s activities.  My mouth was dryer than a dryer sheet – and far less fragrant.  Hastily I dragged a brush through my hair and yanked on some jeans.  The t-shirt I’d slept in last night would do.  I scrubbed a toothbrush across my teeth.  No time for coffee.  At least I was sort of awake.

That morning I was en route to read to the blind people – – my volunteer gig.  And it was shameful how often I was late or how often I didn’t show up because I’d overslept.  Even though it was a volunteer job, I took it very seriously – maybe even more seriously.  I remember being bitterly angry one morning when I arrived to find the director arranging some brochures and to see they were from A.A.  “Am I an Alcoholic?”  was the title of one.  My cheeks burned redly and I was sure they were meant to convey some secret message to ME.

On the morning of September 11th, Howard Stern was on the radio shouting about NYC and planes and chaos.  Incensed, I turned the channel.  How could he joke about such a thing?

But the next station had a news anchor’s voice parroting what Stern was saying.  The next station said the same thing. I could have hit the “scan button” and had a seamless news report in the same male broadcaster’s voice.  I took a right and headed for my mom’s. It was sort of on the way.  I turned on the TV and watched.  One of the Twin Towers was smoldering.  I watched in disbelief.  Just then there were screams and a plane came ripping across the sky.  Pow.   My hands clutched my face and I stared and stared.  I was too shocked to cry.

I watched and watched and watched.

The Pentagon got hit.  I was numb.

I was pushing it, time-wise.  But I couldn’t stop watching.  Couldn’t stop being numb.  My “radio show” was going to start soon. Part of me wondered if I should be afraid to leave the house.  But I wasn’t.   I raced to the agency and the director told me what had happened in NY.  I told her I knew, adding little else.  She advised me to JUST read the paper.  “Give them one more hour of peace,” she whispered.    The duo doing the 2-hour show before mine were emerging, smiling and chattering, their papers rustling as they folded them back up and put the sections in order.  The director sat them down and told them the news.  They looked at each other, gauging each other’s reaction….. stunned looks on their faces.  They sat there and stared for a long time.  I went in and read the paper in my usual cheery voice.   Normalcy felt so good.

I went through the motions of driving home.  Once in a while it would pop in my head to just accelerate at top speed and plow into a building.  I wouldn’t do it, not really.  In hindsight, I was just trying to figure out how someone could plow a plane into a building.  Was it as simple as roaring the engine and flying low?  Do you just close your eyes?   With the doors to the cockpit closed, do you just forget all the people in the back?  Is there screaming?  Do you get the urge to take to the sky and call it off?

At home I made coffee and tried to shake off my quasi-hangover.  Pretty much the only thing to watch was live news broadcasts.  They zoomed in on people on the upper levels hanging out of the window, charred smoke enveloping them.  I realized in horror that it wasn’t debris falling from the towers; it was people.  Unable to take my eyes off of it, I watched with jaw agape.  Eventually the towers collapsed in neat columns, great gray clouds of dust and ash and fragments of everything soaring into the air.

Not knowing what else to do, I walked to Red Cross.  I power-walked there, arms swinging and a deadly look of intent (probably) on my face.  The two ladies running the desk answered the phone repeatedly, smiling politely at me and raising a finger in the classic “just one minute” gesture.  I stood there politely, wanting desperately to donate blood.  Another person came in behind me.  And then another.  We stood there silently, waiting to DO something.  The ladies were putting people on hold and answering questions briskly.  Both were clearly moved by the inundation of phone calls.

We were turned away.  We knew we would be.  We overheard the ladies on the phone, but didn’t want to leave and have them think we were impatient – yeah, that seemed to be the consensus.  The lady thanked us profusely but said they were understaffed and they had a regularly scheduled blood drive on Tuesday.  I wandered away feeling empty of satisfaction, full of anxious energy.    I walked all over town.  The streets were quiet, save for the occasional car.  I walked all over with that nervous energy that Forrest Gump had when he ran across the country.  I was too sad to run.  But I couldn’t sit still.

What nagged at me was how intensely I wished I was dead.  And here was a buildingful of people with careers and families and LIVES.   I had none of that.  My life was a broken record, skipping to the same redundant beat.  It was equally annoying.  I would work. I’d come home. I’d get drunk. I’d pass out.  I’d wake up some time after noon.  Repeat.  I drank all my money, paid my bills with credit cards, and detested myself for being so irresponsible – and then there was the denial.  “I’ll get more hours soon.  Business will pick up and tips will be better. I’ll get a better job …..”

It was an empty void. I hated it.  I wanted off and didn’t begin to know how to stop.  And here it was …. one of the biggest events in modern history and I was sitting in my one bedroom apartment pitying myself, the injustice of THEIR being dead and not me, feeling jealous, feeling envy, making this epic event about ME.   I was one selfish drunk.

I thought at times about killing myself with pills and booze.  Seemed like the right way to go.  Mellow.  Sleepy.  Would look like an accident – at least to anyone who knew me at all.  But I was afraid of brain damage.

I thought about a one-car accident, but I figured I’d survive and wind up paraplegic.  Drowning didn’t seem too bad either.  When I was a kid, I got pushed under water and I remember sinking a little and hovering there.  Everything was still and serene and quiet.  I couldn’t get up to the air.  I was an awesome swimmer, too.  I was just stuck there in that watery limbo.  I enjoyed it, the sunlight permeating the clear water.  The muffled soft sounds, the near-silence.  My cousin yanked me out.  I lay on the cement next to the pool coughing and fighting to catch my breath.  Right.  Drowning didn’t seem too bad.  Was I drowning?  Or was I just stuck?  There had been no struggle.  That was what I liked. Hanging seemed a bit extreme.  I couldn’t see myself doing anything that involved blood.  All of that could go horribly awry, too.

I cracked open a beer, watched the news and cried.  I cried for a lot of obvious reasons, and then there was the fact that I was alive.  If I had any foresight then, I’d know that being alive was another chance.  If I had had any common sense at all, I would know that I was lucky and that I should be living the best life I can – the life those people would have loved to have lived, breathing fresh air this balmy evening and hugging loved ones even tighter.  But at that time I was so completely self-absorbed, wallowing in the misery I created without knowing I was creating it.  The nightly news was neatly edited, the people falling from or jumping from the towers  erased from the footage.  I watched the news compulsively for the coming days, but it didn’t replace the compulsion to drink.  And it didn’t give me any more will to live – or to really live instead of exist.

The Voices in My Head ………

So ……. why did I drink?

Obviously I had full-body cravings, an epic lust, that just could not be ignored.  But there were times when I didn’t feel that way.  Empty nights when I came home and knew deep in my heart I didn’t HAVE to today.  Regardless … I always did.  I was a daily drinker and didn’t know how to NOT be.

Have you ever had someone come in the room, someone negative and obnoxious and rotten, and you just wanted to get up and walk away?  You see them coming, you shift your eyes, and rise to make your exit before they see that you see them and have made the connection.  Every word they utter – even if it’s not directed directly toward you – is like an assault.  They bitch incessantly and it’s such a buzz kill.  Well?  I was that person.  Even I wanted to get away from me.

Other people LIKED me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I could be funny, witty, smart, sweet … anything you wanted me to be.  But  that’s because I didn’t always have the audacity to voice the negativity that was spinning unchecked in my head.

“This sucks.  Why does SHE have to be here?  Man, I hate her.  Why me?”  This is the kind of stuff that churned inside like a brewing hurricane.  I’m actually surprised no one could see it.  It was a category 136 storm.

“I have to get out of here.  OH man, how much longer do I have to be here?  This sucks.  I hate my job.”  This was me at work.  The silent me.  The verbal me was cracking jokes and smiling, desperately trying to hide the part of me that detested where I was.  Detested WHO I was.

“This is f***king boring.  This sucks.  Why me? ”       This was me at home.      Alone.        “Life sucks.  This blows.”

So how could I possibly see this girl coming and sneak out of the room without her seeing me?  How could I avoid being taken hostage from this hostile, rotten wretch?

I drank.  I quieted her down.  She didn’t CARE if life sucked after a few.

For the most part, it was cravings.  It was a magnificent hunger I couldn’t ignore.  But on the days when the hunger was quelled, it was to shut me up.   Of course there were still other reasons.  But this was the biggie.

First Sober Concert

Sober for two weeks, I went to my first concert.  I felt vulnerable. I felt naked.

Why did I take on such a big drink fest so early on?  I had the tickets already and was determined not to miss it.  I had seen Guns N’ Roses before.  And this wasn’t even the full band!  It was Axle Rose and Bucket Head and whoever else.  Waiting for my ride to arrive, I paced.  I was usually getting “started” now.

(I get up around seven 
Get outta bed around nine
And I don’t worry about nothin’ no
Cause worryin’s a waste of my, time)

In the car and en route, I was thinking I’d be drinking now – yep. Open container law et al.  Approaching the city the concert was in, I thought that we passed a store I would normally stop in for a refill.  In the concert hall, I passed concession stands with long lines waiting for some golden sudsy splendor.  A lump grew in my throat and threatened to strangle me as it expanded.

I shoved my hands in my pockets and fixed my eyes on the floor  – or the little I could see of it in this teeming mob.

(The show usually starts around seven
We go on stage at nine
Get on the bus at eleven
Sippin’ a drink and feelin’ fine)

A big scoreboard/clock/advertising thingy hung above the floor seats of the arena.  I stared at the clock.  7:41PM.  In five minutes, I vowed, I would get a beer.  7:46PM.  In five minutes, I vowed, I would get a beer.  People giggled in front of me, swilling theirs.  A man had a pint crammed in the back of the waistband of his jeans. Yukon Jack.  I salivated and looked at the clock.  7:51PM.  In five minutes, I vowed, I would get a beer.  Someone nearby lit a joint and I could smell its pungent blissful stink wafting in smoky curtains in front of my face.  I exhaled hard, busting its skunky cloud.  Turning my head from it, I breathed through my mouth – that won’t help.  Glancing at the clock, I saw it was 7:56PM.  Five minutes.  8:01.  I’ll get a God damned beer.

(We been dancin’ with 
Mr. Brownstone
He’s been knockin’
He won’t’ leave me alone)

No.  No I won’t.  Not yet.  Five minutes.

The show didn’t start.  At 8:30, people were getting restless.  The big scoreboard/clock/advertising thingy displayed girls in the front few rows giggling and lifting their shirts or making out with a guy.  People cheered.  Two girls kissed.  The arena roared with baritone cheers.  The canned music that “GNR” chose grew louder.  People stomped their feet in stampeding unison.  8:33PM.  Five minutes.  I can do it.  FIVVVVE minutes.  I lit another cigarette and sucked hard on it, holding in the smoke like I was smoking a joint.  I sipped my soda, feeling like an outsider.  8:38PM.

(He won’t’ leave me alone…………no, no, no)

Should I leave?  I was starting to believe I would get a beer.  I started thinking that the concession stand was about a five minute walk, so instead of giving myself empty promises such as having a beer in five minutes and knowing it will be another five then maybe I should start walking NOW so that the beer will be in my HAND in five minutes!!!

(I used ta do a little but a little wouldn’t do
So the little got more and more
I just keep tryin’ ta get a little better
Said a little better than before
I used ta do a little but a little wouldn’t do
So the little got more and more
I just keep tryin’ ta get a little better
Said a little better than before)

The lights dimmed.  The stage lights buttered the stage  yellow.  Music.  My salvation.

I can’t recall now if it was an opening act or not.  I can’t recall how long I endured the show, but I made it til the end – sans alcohol.  I started to cry at one point and I laboriously dragged myself to a concession stand …. and had an ice cream.  It was the best one I ever had.   I felt self-conscious having ice cream at a concert – such a wholesome and even childish treat, certainly not the gritty badass type of treat I thought I wanted.

(We been dancin’ with
Mr. Brownstone
He’s been knockin’
He won’t leave me alone)

If I could do it all again, then I guess it doesn’t matter because I’m sober today.  But I tortured myself.  I really did.  And it was a close one.

(Now I get up around whenever
I used ta get up on time ……….)

The only thing that stood between me and that promised five-minute beer was the dimming of lights.  That’s a pretty thready thread to dangle from.

(………………..  But that old man he’s a real mutha****er
Gonna kick him on down the line……………………………)

(Lyrics:  Mr. Brownstone by Guns N’ Roses …… and while I know Mr. Brownstone isn’t about BOOZE, it’s about addiction and I relate……….)