Watching Karma Come to Fruition and Other Things I Didn’t Expect to Expect

Resentment:  n – the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.

The word stems from the French word Ressentiment or “to feel again” from prefix “re” and “sentir.”  It is also a Philosophical notion from Nietsche.  According to Wikipedia:  “Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external “evil.””

That being said ………

I had a job that I loved, a job I was good at.  This isn’t just my perception; I received glowing commendation letters from funders following audits and site visits.  Outside agencies and coworkers and clients alike praised me.  They did and they still do.  That’s a fact.

A new manager took over and she “cleaned house.” I was a part of the house-cleaning.

[You know what?  I remember through the years hearing people lose their jobs to “politics” and “house-cleanings,” etc.  In the back of my mind I wondered if there was more to it, if the person who was fired really had some underlying contempt for authority or really wasn’t such a great employee as their self-assessment says…. yeah.  I was a little judgmental.  I put the “mental” in judgmental.  I was positively stunned that this lady could do this to me, that these things really happened and that I had little recourse in our “at will” state of employment.]

Compounding this …. or expediting it, I should say, was the fact that there was a lady who worked there who wanted to move up the ranks and had endeared herself to this new monster manager [birds of a feather….], and reported every little thing to her …..fabricating things if necessary.  She did not just do this to me.  There were others who were suspended and even fired. To protect the agency that does good work for the community (in spite of this), I will not go into too many details.  Besides.  There are tons of good people still standing.

Sponsorship – Thank God:

I kept in close contact with my sponsor throughout this and did EVERYTHING he said.  EVERYTHING.  Even when it was scary.  Even when it was the “right” thing to do and even when that “right” thing to do would make things worse for me.

Oh, and my lawyer, too.  I did everything he said, including keeping any and all written correspondence — even if it didn’t seem relevant.  There were some really unconscionable things going on and I was asked to do some unethical things.  I stayed true to who I was; my sponsor gave me the backbone to do this.  The new manager asked me to misreport some of our data so our census would look fuller.  She may have had a Master’s Degree but she was none too smart …. she made this request via email.  Yep.  Put it in writing.  I added this to the big file I was accumulating and responded to her (via email) just the way the lawyer suggested:  I asked if I should include the clients we report to [insert funding source]_______, the clients we report to _______, and the clients we report to _____ and asked her how I should proceed so that “I do this the way you want me to.”  This would let her come to the conclusion that it was double-dipping and it made me look like I was willing to do what she said …… but not double-dip.

Fired:

I guess if you ask too many questions then this is considered “insubordination.”  This is what they told me that last day in the main office.  The manager was rabid, spitting the allegations with foaming-mouthed contempt.  She really appeared to hate me.

The HR lady sat with her arms folded, eyes fixed on the table, her long hair obscuring her face. I kept looking at her in disbelief.  I wanted eye-contact. I wanted her to look at me.  But she didn’t.  Not directly.  I couldn’t be mad at her.  She clearly looked like she wanted the world to swallow her.

So I left.  I went home, rattled. I called my boyfriend and told him. I was trembling.  I paced.  I turned on the computer. I paced.  I checked the online classifieds.  I couldn’t read. I paced.  A single mom with no income.  How was I going to take care of my son?  There are Food Stamps, yes …… I paced.  I had money in savings. I could pay three month’s worth of rent.  I might need to tap my mother for help.  Would I even get Unemployment if I was fired?  Finally ….after an hour of this outrageousness, I prayed.  I knelt and prayed and prayed with all of my might.  I prayed with tight hands and clenched teeth.  I prayed and surrendered — fully surrendered.  I replayed the meeting in my head and should have said …. no.  No.  I prayed. It’s over.  No more “should haves.”  I’m powerless over the past. I prayed.  A wave of calm washed over me and I felt totally bathed in a sense of “EVERYTHING will be okay.  Everything.”

Being rattled came and went.  But I was adrift on this wave of calm.  I kept referring to it.  It was powerful.

Unemployment:

Staying home and looking for a job is hard work — not physically, of course.  Just mentally & emotionally.  It’s also unfulfilling work.  I sent my resume to one agency and they promptly wrote back:  “we need this in a PDF format. ”  Nothing else.  No encouragement.

The lady at the Unemployment office was outraged by what happened.  She shook her head and kept saying “Really?” in an incredulous voice.  She filled out the paperwork for me and told me to call in my hours every week. I did. And?  The agency  I had worked for appeared to be fighting my Unemployment.

When the state called and asked questions I told the man with the Boston accent, “this is what happened:  ___________, and I have an email …. shall I fax it to you?”  He said yes to all of these instances and offers to fax him the documentation I had collected.  I faxed him a 16-page bundle of documents.  My Unemployment was direct-deposited the following day, retroactive after nearly 1 month.

Where is our cast of characters NOW?

Meanwhile?  That lady who wished to climb the ranks without a college education, without doing anything remarkable to earn it (except lie and be malicious) got my job.

I won’t say too much about the job or where it is…… after 1.5 years …… because I don’t want to hurt the agency which seems like a seedling in the thawing  ice trying to grow back to its once beautiful self.    Really, they appear to have righted some wrongs.

The program manager lost her job (though she got a pretty little cushy layoff), and the Executive Director of the whole agency lost his.  He received a nice column in the paper interwoven with nostalgia for his decade-plus of service.  But I found out he was fired…… for misappropriation of funds.  I’m sure that nice column in the paper will get him a nice job elsewhere with little more than a handshake and a smile.

Even though they left with halos in the public eye and I had this scarlet letter …… this big red F for Fired ……. I was able to move on emotionally.  I was just genuinely happy that their corrupt and unethical  influence was gone, that the clients I loved and the staff that was like family were now “safe.”

That lady?  The one who made crazy allegations and got away with it and got my job?   She kept working there.   That drove me crazy.  On many job applications there is small print stating that lying on an application is grounds for dismissal (or for not being hired in the first place).  What she did to me (and to others) was tantamount to lying on a job application …… except worse because it hurt others and was not simply an act of self-promotion.  I seethed.  Oh, I seethed.

Resentment:

I struggled with a resentment.  I would pray it away and would do well for months and then someone would mention her, or I would see her name in an email CC’ed among many, or I would see someone who looked like her, or someone would mention the work-site in question …….. and there I’d go again.  I would fantasize about getting her fired.  I’d fantasize of enormous hardships in her life. I’d fantasize about all sorts of things, and it would always end with me encountering her somewhere and giving her a big Cheshire-cat grin except more smug, my arms folded, nostrils flaring, and my foot tapping.

Then it would occur to me to pray again …….. but it was too fun living in this maniacal fantasy world where I telepathically tortured her.  When I realized its impact on my serenity – and reminded myself that resentments are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die — I would pray for her.  I would pray for God’s will for her, accepting whatever that will was.  Maybe she WOULD get fired (in God’s time, not mine).  Maybe she would win the lottery and move to Fiji.  Whatever. I accepted it all.  Then I’d be back on the beam.  Then back off of it.  Then back on it.  It was nauseating.  All this back and forth nearly drove me to Dramamine.

One week ago I spoke to my sponsor about it again.  He acknowledged that what happened really was not fair.  When it first happened he told me:  “expecting the world to treat you fairly just because you’re doing the right things is like expecting a bull not to charge you because you’re vegetarian.”  He’s right.  He asked if I can make the distinction between forgiving and forgetting , how this is something I probably can’t – and shouldn’t – forget.  I let him know that I know the difference.  This is more than remembering.  He recommended a step 4 on it, like in the Big Book.  So I started my flow chart of seething.

Her actions affected my sense of security [Fear: might this happen again?….. who knew that a lady doing a good job could get fired in an incredibly hostile way?]    Her actions affected my pride [Fear:  I am not always in control, good , bad or indifferent]……  my self-esteem [Fear: can’t I take care of myself and prevent things such as this?]…. Her actions affected my …… perfectionism! [Fear:  I now have this termination on my resume].

But all in all?  It was a control issue.  She ultimately “won” and had the upper hand and THAT is what was killing me.  Was I accepting that maybe this was God’s will?  No.  Was I accepting that maybe she …. in all her inglorious evil and sicknesses …. went AGAINST God’s will?  And that maybe in His infinite wisdom He knew she would do that and put me in her path for a reason?  No.

My conversation started with my sponsor on Friday. I did work on it over the weekend.

Monday? I got the call I have fantasized about this entire time.  She was fired.

A triumphant smile crept across my face.  I felt relieved.  “Yesssss,” I whispered.   I felt like the universe had somehow been restored.  I felt a renewed belief in humanity, that the agency I mentioned was done being complicit in bullshit.

The feeling ebbed as quickly as it had arrived.  I felt sorry for her.  No. I REALLY did.

It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas and this lady has a child.   Did that child make bad decisions or any other thing to deserve this?  Nope.  And that’s where my program is weak and can have holes punched in it:  children.  I have to remember God has a plan for children, too.

I felt sorry that she hadn’t learned anything, that she hadn’t “risen to the occasion” and done good work there.  The allegations against her are pretty serious and I’d even daresay scandalous.  I felt sad that the clients I loved so much were exposed to someone so unethical, cruel and perhaps even dangerous.  I felt sad …….. flooded with sadness.  That feeling has not gone away.

What I Wish I Had Done Differently:

* I wish I had been able to continue to look on the bright side.  *

1.  Did I REALLY wish to still be there when the upper management was taken down?  To still be there I would have had to have participated.  Is that who I wanted to be?

2.  My termination was a catalyst to my life improving.  I work for a GREAT agency now.  The governor recognized them a couple of years ago as being among the top ten list of “best companies” to work for in the state.  I was hired for 30 hours/week [not what I wanted, but the pay is better than Unemployment!] and my take-home pay is similar to what it was at that other place.  Working 30 hours permitted me to finish my education.  I needed to do an internship and I did it with this agency.  I learned more there than I might have at other places.

3.  Did I REALLY wish to still be there today?  I would have worked alongside this woman for the past 1.5 years and witnessed her in heartbreaking action?  No.

4.  Last but not least:  God had a plan for me.  I learned MANY lessons from this.  Would I trade that back?  No.  No.  No.

* I wish my forgiveness came before her being fired.  Was there really a need for “justice” to have closure or was I working toward closure anyway?  I don’t know.  I do know that I’ve wrestled with this for 1 1/2 years and wish I dealt with it sooner, using things I had already learned.  * 

In the Big Book it says in Chapter 5/Step 4:

“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’

“We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”

I never found that caliber of sustained tolerance for her.  On my best day, I would feel that tolerance for a few minutes.

So here I am, examining where I went wrong and how I can do better (beginning with remembering that I’m a human being with human failings).  Hopefully this never happens again!  I’m praying for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry it out.   Sometimes if I don’t “get” the lesson, it is repeated.  Hopefully I’ll “get it.”

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Acceptance

One thing I have learned on this journey is acceptance.  I’m not perfect and sometimes I continue to fight things in my head, sometimes I struggle with resentment.  But for the most part, I’ve come a long way.

I think “acceptance” is a loaded word and means many things to many people — and feel free to comment and add what it means to you so this will be more well-rounded.  In the beginning, I struggled with the notion that it may equate passivity.  I thought people in AA with their acceptance had “given up.”  I thought their turning the other cheek meant letting people walk all over them.  They were suckers.

I know now that it means accepting conditions as they ARE today.   It means taking action and sticking up for ourselves and “turning over” the outcomes.  It may mean believing in God’s justice instead of pursuing street justice.

One of the biggest things I struggled with (in terms of acceptance) was my health and it takes ongoing vigilance to stay on top of it.  In 2008 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (after many months) and if the topic interests you for any reason, I keep a blog called Bloody Lymey (www.bloodylymey.wordpress.com)  It was a long journey to getting diagnosed and other sicknesses were tossed out at me.  Lupus.  Fibromyalgia.  MS.  Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Chronic Fatigue.  Certain types of anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. It seemed endless.  By the time I saw a specialist for Lyme, she thought I had had it for 2-3 years.

In 2008, I was five years sober.  I had worked the steps and continued working the steps and had a sponsor who I had been working with for 3 years.  I had a pretty solid foundation.  Thank GOD.  But even with a “program” and even with some knowledge of how to cope and resources to use, I still fought it in my head.  Before being diagnosed, I had a doctor who said I was depressed — and was willing to leave it at that.   If I was PASSIVE I would have shrugged and said “OK.”  But I accepted the very fact that he SAID that.  I accepted the fact that he gave me all he had.  I accepted the fact that perhaps he wasn’t such a go-getting type doctor and that this is how he IS.  But I don’t want a doctor like that.

I didn’t fight it in my head or sit around seething and plotting revenge (which is the opposite of acceptance).  Wait.   Sometimes I did.  Sometimes I did.  Ha ha.  But I realized it was using up my energy that could be directed toward something more productive. I ACCEPTED it but I took appropriate action: I got a new doctor.

In the two months it took to find the right doctor (and after some idiot wanted to give me ATIVAN for the pain!!!  But that’s another story), I had to accept where I was today.  That was tough.   I was fairly athletic, always hiking, always on the move, always playing with my young son.  I had to accept my limitations for the day. If I was passive, I would not have pursued adequate medical care. I would have laid down and applied for SSI, committed to sleeping and being in pain the rest of my natural born days.

It’s a good thing I didn’t do that.  Whatever was wrong with me would suffocate me at night and I would wake up not breathing. It was terrifying and I would swallow air, trying to survive.  It made my heart do peculiar things — murmur, palpitate, race, punch my rib cage, flutter …….   I talked to my son’s grandparents.  I talked to them about “what if.”  I made a video for my son to watch when he grew up “in case.”  And that was hard to do, but I felt it was necessary.

I had to accept the fact that when my then four year old asked to go somewhere I had to say “Not today.”  Remembering the invigoration following a hike in the woods or climbing a mountain, I had to accept that I couldn’t do that today.   Being on the move and out doing things was a part of my identity, a part of my soul.  It seemed impossible to believe I couldn’t do those things.  Sometimes I made myself keep moving.  One time I brought my son to the bike trail in another town to go for a ride.  I struggled, bit my lip and “toughed it out.”  The muscle fatigue got so severe that steering my car back to our town was tapping the last of my resources. I tried not to cry, unsure if I could get us all the way home.   Little by little, instances such as this taught me not to rock the boat.

Finally I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and there was hope. I was being treated.  The specialist I was referred to thought that, based on the progression of the disease, that I had had it for 2-3 years.  Finishing the course of Doxycycline, I still had all the symptoms except the respiratory and heart ones — which had been the most alarming.

It’s four years and one month since my diagnosis and I’m exhausted today.  My knees and hands are stiff.  I slept for 3 hours this afternoon.  I have labs next month and see a rheumatologist in August.  My treatments have changed over the years and some things have worked for a while.  I had a 10-month remission at one point.  This hasn’t been constant and that’s the most insidious part of it, it’s the part that really makes me struggle with the acceptance.  I get to a point and think “Whew!  It’s OVER.”  And then WHAM!   It’s like having an abusive husband that I can never leave.  He’ll woo me, he’ll make up with me.  It’s all good.  Then the vicious cycle comes full circle and it starts again and I’m tortured from within.   Does feeling sorry for myself help this?  No.  Not at all.  My sponsor has beaten my ass off the pity pot.

When I planned my day today, I didn’t plan to trudge around feeling exhausted and unmotivated.  I didn’t plan to sleep the afternoon away.  But I shifted gears.  “I can’t control the wind, but I can adjust my sails.”  I accept my limitations just for today – not that I can do this every minute of every day, but it’s far easier than it used to be and acceptance is the rule and not the exception anymore.  I did what I could to nurture myself and to meet my needs for the day.  My soul wanted to go for a hike.  My soul wanted to clean part of the house to make it a better place for my family.  My soul wanted to scan more old pictures for a dear relative who doesn’t have many pictures of his mom.  But my body needed other things.  And I know if I just make myself do what I planned then I may feel like this for the rest of the week.  Doing the next right thing today will always increase the chances that tomorrow will be better— no matter what.

If I was passive, if I was taking this “laying down,” I would not see a rheumatologist in August and would not bother with the labs.  I would just lay here and say “this is okay.  Someone will take care of me.”  I’m not mousy.  But laying here and feeling angry that I couldn’t do what I want isn’t going to make today any better.  Laying around here and thinking about how many years I’ve dealt with this and how many more may be yet to come is NOT keeping it “in the day.” It will make it more unbearable – particularly if I dwell on it.

Today I have a relationship with God and know that whatever is wrong with me today serves a purpose. In hindsight I have learned so many things because of Lyme Disease.  I’ve learned a new caliber of empathy.  Today I help people with disabilities gain employment — I know more about limitations and have become an adept negotiator for reasonable accommodations, since I know how it feels.  When I have a good day, I appreciate it in the truest and greatest sense of the word — and I used to just take it for granted and sometimes even felt entitled to it.  When I’m okay, I really feel more alive than ever.  I don’t procrastinate as much.  I don’t put off mowing the lawn today because I don’t know if I’ll be up to it tomorrow. I no longer tell my son “some day we’ll go to ________” [insert name of cool place].  I might have to tell him we’ll do it when I’m feeling better, but we always do it.  Some Sundays I wake up feeling better than ever and we hit an amusement park.

My faith in God fuels my feeling of acceptance.  This fatigue and creakiness?  God gave it to me for a reason.  Maybe I need to slow down.  Maybe it’s a test.  Maybe it kept me home and prevented me from being in a fatal accident.  Maybe it meant for me to reflect on this some more today.   Maybe I’m not even ever meant to know.

Humility, too, fuels acceptance and a lot of my humility is based on my faith in God and knowing I’m not his right-hand man.  I’m not entitled to health.  God doesn’t have to do me any favors. He knows what’s best for me – better than I do – And what about “why me?”  Well?   Why NOT me?  Why should someone else have to go through this?  And the end of the full Serenity Prayer is :   “living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”

Humility helps me when my pride is eating away at me when I’m gimpy or struggling up the stairs with people accumulating behind me.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not untouchable.  I don’t need to be the tough guy.  But I’m not perfect and I’m not always on the proverbial beam.  Sometimes it does hurt my pride and sometimes I do feel self-conscious.  Like at the end of an AA meeting, I try to be considerate of other people and let the crowd gravitate to the stairs so I can lag behind and not inconvenience anyone.

All of this takes practice.  Acceptance is earned, not granted.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts on acceptance — how it works for you, how you attain it, anything at all.

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.

Being a Real MOTHER on Mother’s Day

I can’t help but think of a major life lesson when I think of Mother’s Day. Thanks to my sponsor. Love you. 🙂

Bloody Lymey

I called my sponsor. The pain was severe and I still wasn’t sure what was wrong with me.

My sponsor is a short, older biker dude. In AA it’s unusual for a lady to have a male sponsor and vice versa. They always say men stick with the men, women stick with the women. I never understood that until long after I chose my sponsor. Have you ever gone to a bar and said hi to someone of the opposite sex? And then they thought they were going home with you? Yes. That still happens in AA. I get it. But there’s never been anything improper with Mike O. Never.

I called him on Mother’s Day and whined about the pain and they don’t know what’s wrong and when will this ever end and I can’t stand it ….

He chuckled in the way he always does when I have…

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Making [Inner] Peace with a Rapist

I went to my AA meeting.  It was generally held in the “gymnasium” of the church.  It was a large room with a stage and a floor painted like a basketball court, the smell of coffee and the sounds of metal chairs in the room with friendly chatter and visuals of familiar faces.  Instead, it was held downstairs.  They were doing maintenance things in the bigger room.

The room downstairs was a small brick cave, the bricks painted lavender with visible brush strokes.   I crammed into the crowded room and sat in the middle seat of a middle row, politely stepping over people and saying my “hellos.”

The meeting promptly commenced and the chairperson read the reading of the day. I have no recollection of what reading it was.  It would pull this story together if it was based on forgiveness or some other something …. but I cannot lie. I don’t remember.  The format lends itself to going around the room, “You may pass if you wish.”

The second person to share was a strawberry blonde in the front row.  “Hi, I’m ________ and I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi ________!” Everyone merrily answered in unison.

He started to share and the voice was familiar. I knew the name.  He turned his head and there was the profile.  The guy looked like Keifer Sutherland.  (See my Gateway Drug Blog).   It was the man who raped me nearly twenty years prior.  All the hatred I had ordinarily felt was displaced by terror.  It was illogical, and I knew that.  But there was no telling that to the adrenaline that was churning through my veins, to my nauseated stomach, to my shaking quaking head and hands.  I trembled and was afraid to stay, afraid to leave.  The thought of pushing past this crowd of chairs and quiet alcoholics was too intimidating.  I was also afraid I would piss myself – or in some way lose control.  I shook and stared and didn’t hear a word he said.

“….and with that I’ll pass,”  he smiled, turning and looking back at those of us in rows behind him.

“Thanks, ____________” the room merrily answered.

I shook.  When it came my turn, I uttered “pass.”  I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I didn’t want to say my name. I wanted to hide.  I wanted to call my sponsor, but I couldn’t.  My mouth was watering like I was going to puke.

Struggling for some semblance of mental clarity, I finally heard my sponsor’s voice.  He’s a guy – and I know it’s unconventional – and he’s old enough to be my father. His voice itself is quite fatherly, very matter of fact and has a warmth about it as well as a sternness.  How does he do that?  I could hear him talking to me.

“This isn’t YOUR meeting.  The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking and you know how sick he is.  Maybe he never would have done that if he didn’t have a problem.  He needs help just like you.  Let it go. It’s over.  You’re safe.”

And you know?  When I called him later and told him about it, he did pretty much tell me it isn’t MY meeting and that he’s sick and needs help like I do.  I laughed.  I knew he’d say that.

But hearing his voice in that meeting gave me peace.  The adrenal glands eased up and the trembling subsided.  During the break, I felt emotionally hungover and there weren’t many women there that night to talk to.  I did grab one and talked to her.  She huffed about it and how bad that sucked. I didn’t tell her which one it was, but he was really the only guy there that wasn’t a regular ….

Somehow, I kept replaying my sponsor’s message over and over.  By the end of the meeting I felt peace.  It was okay that he was there.  It honest to God was. I can’t believe it myself.  It was genuinely a miracle, this change of heart I had in that meeting.  I had thought that during my 4th and 5th steps that I had “gotten over it.”  Obviously seeing him was a whole other thing – and being crammed into a small room with him with 20 more people than a fire marshal would dig …. that was another matter entirely.

The following week, I chose not to go to that meeting.  I made the decision the night before.  Just wasn’t going to happen!   The meetings I had gone to in between – I entered those rooms with cautionary glances.    But I prayed.  OH I prayed like only the desperate can.  And I DID go to that meeting.  I wish I could say he became a regular and we made our amends, but I never saw him again.  That was three years ago.    But it wasn’t a coincidence, I’m sure.  And I’m at peace.  Absolute peace with it.

Sometimes My Liver Gets Horny …….

Last fall I went to a concert with some friends from AA.  Obviously the very last thing on my mind was drinking.  We took our seats in the old theatre with the ornate ceiling paintings and brass fixtures.  In its heyday, it was doubtlessly elegant. The seats are staggered in such a way that you always get a good view – and then the seats are situated on an incline so tall people sitting in front of you don’t matter.

So …. about that incline.  Someone behind me somewhere spilled their Peachtree Schnapps and its trickle took it down the incline and under my feet where its sticky sweet boozy smell wafted up.  My liver was horny.  I wanted that stuff.

Were I to make a list right now of my favorite drinks, Peachtree wouldn’t be a priority.  It might make the list.  Perhaps it would be number 76 on a list of 100.  But the smell activated something.

The everyday compulsion to drink is gone – thanks to my taking AA’s suggestion of praying and asking God to remove the  urge.  But once in a while it taps me on the shoulder.  Generally it’s too brief to even act upon – even if I wanted to.  My sponsor says this is GOOD.  It reminds me I’m not a social drinker – ‘lest I forget.

Another time I had this huge tidal wave of cravings overwhelm me was at Price Chopper on a Sunday morning.  I was returning my empty soda cans to a recycle machine in the front of the store.  The person who used it before me must have returned beer cans – cans that hadn’t been rinsed.  It smelled like a bar mat.  All sticky and stale and disgusting …. and I wanted to stick my FACE in there and suck it clean.  The Price Chopper that I go to DOES sell wine and beer.  It was maybe 63 paces from where I was.  I took the rest of my uncrunched cans and departed.  The feeling ebbed with the fresh air and the slipping shut of the automatic doors.

But it’s there.  It’s there anytime I want.  All I need is to be off my game for a while and to smell something or hear a song they played in bars I haunted or to see a neon light.  A neon light set me off once.  I could see it from the Mc Donald’s drive-thru.  Its warm red glow and cursive promises of Budweiser were hard to resist.  It didn’t help that the light was in the bar of a favorite old haunt. I could almost hear the bargoers singing “Beh-beh-beh!  Good times never seemed to goood [so good, so good!]  I’m feelin’ fine …..Beh-beh-beh!……..”  I could almost feel the glass in my hand and taste the ……

I drove away.  No hamburger is worth this.  The feeling grew smaller as I sped past the endless yellow stripe in the road.  Passing by blurred buildings and trees, it shrank until it was gone.

As scary as the urge is, I don’t have to act on it – no matter how big it is.  As long as I remember that I’m powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable and feel that healthy FEAR – I’ll be okay.

Milestone Birthdays ……….

The worst birthday I ever had (in many ways) was my 30th.  By all appearances, it was okay.  Mom and I went to New York City.   She was trained to work in a detox, so I could not drink the way I wanted to when I spent a significant amount of time with her.  In fact?  I turned down a free trip to Ireland with her for this very reason.  I labored over this decision, trying to think of a way to get away from her but I knew deep down that it would be too obvious.

Toward the end of my 30th birthday, that day in November 2001:  When it started getting dark, the cravings really set in.  We had dinner and I had a soda because having just one or two would have ignited that big fire in me and I would not have been able to put it out.  I thought it would be wiser to abstain until I could get home and unload.

But was this a reason for it to be the “worst?”  No.  It was my feelings about it.  Here I was entering a new phase of adulthood and these are the things I wanted and didn’t have:

1.  A decent job/career

2.  A husband/significant other

3.  A child (didn’t want one at this point/knew I couldn’t handle being a decent parent – and somehow knowing this stung all the more)

4.  A house

5.  A decent ME

Now let me tell you more about why I didn’t have these things:

1.  Career – I was a college graduate, graduated summa cum laude.  Not bad for a drunk, huh?  Graduating top of my class?  That was part of my denial.  What I easily forgot was that it took 7 years to get my 4-year degree.  When I graduated, mom’s relatives were asking if it was my Master’s.  It wasn’t.   I continued to work in a restaurant because I wanted the evening shifts to fill my time because I knew I could easily become a round the clock drinker.  I also knew I couldn’t get up in the mornings.  Ever see that t-shirt that says, “I used to hate myself in the morning, so I started sleeping past noon?”  Well?  That was partly me.  I didn’t have what it takes to get out of bed and face the day – there was that and the fact that I was still intoxicated in the morning from the night before.  I detested my restaurant job and felt superior to the people I worked with.  I felt contempt for the customers like it was somehow their fault that I worked there – and I felt a special contempt for the ones who treated me like a peon because they amplified what I was already feeling.

2.  A Husband/Significant Other –  All through my 20’s, I had a boyfriend who I loved dearly.  It took years for me to get over the fact that I drank him away.  A bulk of what bothered me was the what “could have been” with him and knowing that I was single (or hopping from one brief bad relationship to another with nothing sticking) because of ME.  Today I know I would have outgrown him.  It’s good that it didn’t work out.  But at the time, it stung profusely.  I latched on to ANY guy who showed interest in me. I detested being alone.  That was another component to this

3.  The Child –  When I was with the man I mentioned above, we had “an accident.”  I swiftly went to the clinic in the morning and took the Morning After Pill.  It wasn’t that I was anti-life and it wasn’t that I never wanted to have a child.  The urgency had mostly to do with knowing I could NOT quit drinking for 9 months.  Not by any stretch of the imagination. I couldn’t even think far enough ahead to think of what kind of a parent I would be.  So at 30, my feeling like I didn’t have a child and was subsequently a loser was different.  It was because I knew I couldn’t stay sober long enough to raise a healthy fetus.  There was also something about having a child as something “to show for” my life as an adult.  My friends all had one.  Part of me felt envy for them and part of them felt sorry for them. I mean, they had NO life!  At least that’s what I thought.

4.  House – I couldn’t take care of a HOUSE.  Neighbors would have HATED me.  My lawn would have been towering with tall grass and would have been a flowing Lyme Disease risk.    Dead leaves and decay would have stagnated there year after year while I didn’t rake – swearing “I’ll do it tomorrow.”  And the money …. I was paying my rent with a credit card.  Of course, the fact that “my bills were paid” was part of my strong denial system.  It never occurred to me that paying my bills with credit cards and sending them the minimum – $65.00/month – was NOT effectively “paying my bills.”

How would I have come up with a down payment?  How would I have paid a mortgage?  And how would I have maintained it?  The thing would have had peeling paint, a broken furnace, and who knows what?  It would not have been kept clean. It would have been given countless promises from me that I’ll “pick up tomorrow.”  And it would have sat there squarely and silently, rotting:   a testament to my sickness.

Turning 40:

On November 4, 2011 I turned 40.  By all appearances it was wonderful.  Surrounded by friends and family, I was the subject of a surprise party.  My son was there.  I drank diet soda and laughed a lot.  My boyfriend (who I was now living with in a HOUSE) was the one who arranged it with some help from Mom.  Co-workers were there.  Co-workers who admire me in my CAREER.  I now had all the things I didn’t have at age 30.  But you know what?  It’s better than I imagined and I’m at a point – sober for 9 years and working on my SELF and my character defects – where I can nurture the things I have and deserve them.  Here’s the difference:

1.  Career – Although my degree is in Writing, my career is in Human Services.  A friend in AA admired what I have some years ago, admired the work I did with sponsees.  He had a friend who was hiring at a homeless shelter. I interviewed and gained an entry level position.  In 5 months I was promoted.  Today I work with people who have disabilities for another agency.  I never would have been able to follow this path with my credentials alone. It was partly networking, partly doing the next right thing, and partly “getting it” – the “it” being people’s struggles.

2.  A Husband / Significant Other – I met him in AA.  He is the LOVE of my life – and thank GOD things didn’t work out with my boyfriend from my 20’s.  I cleaned house and maintained it for some years and I was ready for my guy.  He and I both have the same amount of years of clean time.  And speaking of milestone birthdays – we’re both coming up on 10 years in the next few months at the time of this writing.   Two of my ex boyfriends went to prison, so being with a nice guy is a change of pace for me.  In AA I was taught to deal with difficulties “one day at a time.”  Well? I learned to deal with the good things “one day at a time” because there’s that nagging voice deep down that says “this won’t last,”  “don’t get used to it,” “you’ll f**k this up!”  He excels at some spiritual things that I don’t yet.  Likewise, I have strengths that he doesn’t quite have yet.  We learn from each other.  And we live together.  Having lived together for 6 months at this time, we haven’t had an argument (yet.)  I’m sure we will and we’re not perfect, but our misunderstandings and miscommunications lead to discussions.  Sometimes they’re uncomfortable but I don’t have to get defensive and yell at him.  I sometimes swallow those damning words such as “I told you so” or “Why didn’t you listen to me?”  That’s hard to do.  I used to think good relationships were luck. I realize now they are WORK, but if you love someone enough … it doesn’t feel like a big sacrifice.

3.  A Child – The week I got sober I had a dream about his name. I told my then-husband and he thought it was cool.  Two and a half months later, my boy was on his way.  They say “no major life changes” the first year of sobriety.  I was nine months and three weeks sober when my boy was born.  My life was a shambles.  But I stayed sober for those nine months and I didn’t doubt I would.  I kept going to meetings.

I used to think people with kids had “no life.”  Well? When my little honey arrived, my life began.  What a blessing. He shows me things I never would have seen.  And the magnitude of love is amazing.

4.  A Home–   Notice I said “home” and not “house?”  I never knew there was a difference.  If you asked me the difference, I could have come up with definitions … but no lived experience to support the definitions.  My boyfriend and I are renting a house.  We’re taking things slowly – just seeing what it’s like to live together and if it will work with my son.  It’s a big commitment, and if it works out we might buy a house.  This house is lovely. It has a fireplace and SO much square footage (holy, I never thought I’d live in a house this big) so that we can all have our space.  It was the best place to celebrate Christmas and my boyfriend’s son and granddaughter slept over to spend it with us.

This brings me to something that hadn’t been on my list:

5.  Family – I had no idea that bonds such as this could be so strong.    Not only do I have my boyfriend and son, but I have my boyfriend’s grandchildren and his son and his son’s girlfriend (that seems an inadequate title for her since they share a child, but she’s close to us).  I love them all so much.  For my 40th birthday, my boyfriend’s son taught his little 3 year old daughter to call me “Grandma.”  It was an age joke, but I loved it.  The title does not denote an age so much as a role, and it was flattering to be called that.  I love her so much – and the other grandchildren , too.

Our Christmas included a fire in the fireplace, laughter, sneaking around and being “Santa,” and love.  Honestly, I had no idea that I could ever have something so beautiful.  It almost makes my heart explode.

We’re free to talk about feelings. I was never used to that.  We’re free to be ourselves.  We are all loved as we are.  It’s not perfect – don’t get me wrong.  There are misunderstandings and tensions, but it comes with the territory and we love each other enough to work it out – and to swallow our pride (I’m not used to that either).

So ….. being 40.  This is the BEST.  I never thought I’d feel this way, but it’s the best year ever.  Life just gets better all the time.  I’m tempted to say I can’t wait to turn 50, but things are SO good right now I just want to live in the day.