Monday, November 30, 2009

1983

Please dear God, may 1983 be the worst year of my life. May I never again experience that kind of bone crushing self-involved, self-centered, self-destructive, self, self, self, self, self, self, self.... horrifying depression like this again.

I don't know what happened. I just hated everything. I was not only drinking beer, but whisky. I was not only drinking whisky at night, but in the morning. I didn't have any friends - I can't imagine why. My kids were beginning to be frightened of me, or maybe I was just beginning to notice that they were frightened of me.

My husband and I were in therapy. I would get drunk and call the therapist because he was the only person I felt I had to talk to. We would get monthly bills detailing the length of the phone calls, and billing by the minute.

I stopped running. I stopped doing everything. I sat at my dining room table and smoked cigarettes and drank. I gained weight. I looked like absolute hell.

My father's birthday was on December 26 and my brothers flew him to Denver for a birthday party at a grand hotel that year. I packed up the kids and drove to Denver for the party. There was a photograph of me taken at that party that I carried in my wallet for years after I got sober. I was with my family. They were all well dressed, all the men in suits, my sister in a beautiful New York dress, pearls, and high heels, etc. I had borrowed some kind of hippie dress from someone because I could find nothing that fit me. I no longer fit into any kind of normal size clothing. So I had this huge floral hippie gauzy thing... in the middle of winter... oh, with sandals. And my kids... my son had a sports jacket and a tie and looked OK. But my daughters had on weird home made (by me) corduroy prairie skirts and sorel boots. The other little girls wore pretty dresses and black patent leather shoes with little white tights, but not my girls. No, they had on winter boots! Oh dear Lord. I have a photograph of them playing pacman at this party, looking absolutely miserable.

I think by this time I had absolutely lost my mind. You can see in the photographs the reality of the progression of my alcoholism. My face was round, and flushed. My hair was limp and messy. My clothes were beyond eccentric. I looked like a mad woman - and very appropriately so.

Only 7 months and 24 more days of this....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1982


In 1982, my husband and I decided we had to leave this town in New Mexico after 6 years. It truly was tearing us apart. Our son was in kindergarten, so it would not be a big deal for him to move. Our daughters were "the terrible two who were two." Well, they turned three in 1982. And then they were the "terrible two who were three." They really weren't terrible at all, but it was fun to say.

He found a job in a lovely town in western Colorado we had visited extensively in years past. It is in a river valley between one resort town and another. It is gorgeous. I was excited about moving. I looked at the decision to move with my husband as a commitment to stay married to him. We had actually gotten a lot closer after the rape.

It was sometime around this time that I started running. Even though I was still drinking every day, I would get up in the morning and get a neighbor to watch the kids so I could go out and run a few miles. It opened up a whole new world to me. It was the most amazing thing. I still smoked 2 packs a day too!

We weren't able to sell our house before we moved, so we rented it out. By the time we sold it, we made absolutely no money on it, so we ended up renting in this new place. First we had a townhouse in town, and then later we moved to a lovely home further up valley. It really did seem for a while that we had left our problems behind and in some respects we had. We left a lot of baggage behind. We didn't leave ourselves behind though, so we managed to create some new problems.

After a few months in this new place, my husband was hurt on the job and needed shoulder surgery. While he was in the hospital, his employer terminated his employment. He was unable to find a new job because he was unable to work! And we didn't have insurance.

Just at this time, I came down with a terrible stomach ache. After a few days, my husband insisted that I go to the doctor whether we could afford it or not. The doc diagnosed some "female" thing and sent me home with painkillers. The next day, I was delirious, had a fever, and pain so bad I knew I was dying. I knew that this was the result of my previous wishing to be dead. And at that time I was at peace with the idea of dying. But my husband dragged me out of bed and to the hospital. They still could not figure out what was wrong with me, but decided to slice my abdomen open from top to bottom to see. I had a ruptured appendix - the surgeon said I was likely one or two hours away from death if they hadn't opened me up. He also said that my 5 mile a day running habit had probably saved my life.

I still nearly died from infection afterward. I was in the hospital for a very long time. I remember laying in that bed watching every sticker come off of every single product that was used on me, and get stuck to my chart, so that I could be billed for it. It is amazing how much all that stuff costs.... you notice these things when you are paying the bill. (and every cent of that bill was paid eventually.)

But I was grateful to be alive which was a revelation to me. My husband was grateful I was alive which was also a revelation to me. My hospital room was full of so many flowers it was a revelation to everyone who saw it.

It was December 1982. I was a 30 year old wife and mother of three young children. I had just survived a life threatening illness. He was still recuperating from shoulder surgery. I was actually happy to be alive. When I got home from the hospital we literally did not know where our next meal was coming from, but we were a family and we actually had a community that cared about us. People would come by with food. Someone came by with a Christmas tree - sheepishly worried about hurting our pride - as if!

In my mind's eye, I can still visualize the photographs from that Christmas. We had no money, and yet, there we were. Opening presents. I know that my husband gave me the most beautiful blue velour sweater. I cherished that sweater for years. My daughter L. got her Annie doll that she loved for years. My son had ET pajamas, the girls had Strawberry Shortcake pajamas. We had a Rubik's Cube. I know that I sat on the floor on Christmas morning with a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream and my coffee and cigarettes. What could be better. I don't know where the money for any of this stuff came from. Probably from the kindness of friends and family. And we certainly wouldn't feel too bad about that because we had been the type of people who had always "been there" for others for many many years.

It is the most amazing thing to write this. The bad times were not over. The drinking was not over. The worst times were yet to come - drinking wise. But yet, 1982, in spite of the health and financial problems was a little bit of a break. I don't think I ever realized what a good thing it was to get out of New Mexico. Phew. Just writing this, I feel I can breathe a little bit.


1981

I guess the people who were so anxious to hear my story were hoping to hear someone else's story. Too bad. I only have my own story.

In 1981 I was the victim of a sexual assault. That is the nice euphemism for rape.

I have written about it extensively here and I don't particularly enjoy doing so. Especially not on a Sunday morning before going to church and meeting an old friend for coffee. So I shall try to only briefly glance over it this morning... as if you can "briefly glance over" such a thing....

In the last year, due to some projects I have had to do at work that have had to do with sexual assault and due to the extremely creepy behavior of another blogger, I was sent into a PTSD tailspin. It culminated in an eye exam that I had to cut short because I could not stand to be alone in the room with the eye doctor! I knew I had to do something about this, so I went to see my psychologist and talked to him about possible therapies for PTSD.

He suggested EMDR (if you are curious, do a google to find out what this is, it is very very interesting, but I don't want to write extensively about it here and have my blog come up in searches for information about this therapy). We did this therapy and it was so enlightening to me. Because what I discovered by sort of "reliving" that night was the worst part of the whole thing was how horribly alone I was. He asked me to pick the worst memory and focus on that and I did. And as I picked it apart, the worst part of walking down that road, barefoot at 3 o'clock in the morning, trying desperately to get home - was how alone I felt.

I did finally get home. My husband did take me to the hospital. I did try to prosecute the case. But a drunken woman who was thrown out of the house by her husband and decides to walk to the bar and gets picked off the road by some rapist is not exactly a sympathetic character, so I had to drop it.

My life really changed that night. June 7, 1981. I became afraid. I stopped liking the nighttime. I only wanted to be at home. My husband's attitude changed towards me. He got very protective. I don't believe I ever set foot in another bar to drink after that night (I have been in bars since, but not to drink). In this small town, everyone knew what happened to me - and they even knew who did it. I tried to hold my head up, but I felt horrible shame.

In my first 24 hours of sobriety, I read the big book (they told me to read it as if my life depended on it, so I did) and found this in the story "Freedom from Bondage":
"...as a practicing alcoholic I had no rights. Society can do anything it chooses to do with me when I am drunk and I can't lift a finger to stop it, for I forfeit my rights through the simple expedient of becoming a menace to myself and to the people around me." Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd ed. p. 549. By the time I got sober in 1984, I was so angry and twisted up about this, it was such a relief to me to admit that I might have had a role in the thing and that perhaps by being a drunk I don't have many rights. I didn't and don't believe that anyone had the right to rape me, but I believe that the police and the courts are not there to protect me from the menace of myself which is what I am when I am drinking. I am hellbent on self-destruction and no one can stop that.

After the rape, I knew that I didn't want to leave the house, but I certainly wasn't going to quit drinking. I needed to drink now more than ever.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

1980

I am getting sick of this!

But thanks be to God, I got sober in 1984, so I only have 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984 to write about after today.

1980 is another one of those years I barely remember. There is only one outstanding feature of the year and it is pitiful. For a young woman with a young family, the only thing I remember from the year 1980 is a suicide attempt.

I remember those feelings as if they were yesterday. I remember sitting on my bed composing a suicide note. I remember drinking a Miller High Life beer as I wrote it and thinking how ridiculous it was to call a beer "High Life."

By then I was drinking all day long. I had discovered the secret to getting though my days without the dreaded hangover. It was to keep a pretty steady flow of alcohol through my system. I would stand in the bathroom ( a tip I picked up at that AA meeting back in 1973) in the morning and drink and puke and drink and puke until I could safely leave the bathroom and just drink without puking.

Some days I screwed up and got too drunk to properly care for my children. This was a big problem when my husband was out of town (most of the time). I remember one day praying that I could just keep myself upright long enough to get my son in the house - the girls were already in bed, but he was still outside playing. I was so drunk I didn't know if I could get outside and call him and get him inside. I prayed that God would give me the ability to do this. I don't know that I made any promises for what I would do in return, if I did, I know I didn't deliver. Thankfully, I was able to get him inside and I went to bed and passed out.

Pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. Yes, I understand what that means.

Perhaps there was a time when I could have blamed my misery on life's circumstances or my husband's lack of attention, but that was years prior. I was keenly aware of my own culpability. I knew what I had become. I was not one thing I wanted to be. I was a drunken mess.

A reasonable person would ask a young mother how she could be so selfish as to consider suicide when she has young children. But if you have ever been suicidally depressed, and particularly alcoholically suicidally depressed, you probably don't need to ask that question. I was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that my children and the entire world would be better off without me. I knew that I was a liability to every situation in which I was involved. Again, a reasonable person would ask - why don't you just quit drinking? Well, honestly, that thought never even occurred to me at this point. Never.

So, my husband was home for a weekend, and I took an overdose of pills. He noticed. He dragged me to the hospital. They took care of my acute toxicity and sent me home. End of story. There was no aftercare whatsoever. (Working in psych, as I have for the last 15 years, I cannot even believe that.) I went home extremely remorseful and shamed. I felt that I had destroyed many many brain cells, I felt addled. I think my husband was shocked. My young children were too young to know what was going on, but my brothers, sisters in law, and nieces and nephews were freaked out and for that I am still sorry.

And I wasn't even done drinking yet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

1979

The year began with me ordered to bed so that I would not miscarry. Ha ha. Me, with a 2 and a half year old baby boy and an unhelpful husband. By this time he was not only not talking to me, but he wouldn't even look at me! I was massively pregnant with twins. Massive. It was unbelievable. I know that multiple births are now commonplace, but they weren't back then, and I would posit that they are never commonplace for the mother of the multiples. I was beginning my annoying consistency even then. I was pregnant by gum! And I wasn't due until March 1. My tailbone was about to break from the pressure the babies were exerting, and I could barely walk from the pain this was causing, but I was still pregnant. By the end of February, my doctor was marveling that I had not yet given birth and said that he would induce labor if I hadn't yet gone into labor within a week.

But on March 1 (exactly the due date) I went into labor and misguidedly refused anesthetic of any sort when offered. So, 100% naturally, I gave birth to two little girls, seven minutes apart. And the second one (my alcoholic child) was not an easy birth. After they were born, the doctor informed me that there was another baby. He was probably as shocked as I was, but not quite as worried about going through this process again. This baby was stillborn. This still makes me sad. I don't care how many children you have, you still don't want to lose one. (And when my daughter was pregnant, I advised her to take as many drugs as her doctor was willing to give her when she was in labor. I think that was one of the most insane things I have ever done - and it has lots of competition.)

When I got home from the hospital with the babies, I weighed less than I did when I got pregnant. I fit into my skinny jeans that day. That night, my husband and his friends went out for dinner and I stayed at home with the babies, sat on the sofa in my skinny jeans and drank an entire pitcher of margaritas. I was so very happy to be able to drink again. And so began a bout of daily drinking that would not end until I got sober in 1984....

My husband started traveling extensively again. With three small children, I wasn't even able to go to the grocery store without another adult to help me. I would either get a neighbor to help me, or I would get a babysitter. In order to get a babysitter, I would have to get a neighbor to watch the kids so that I could drive to pick up a babysitter... I couldn't physically handle all of my kids in the car. When the twins were three months old, I broke my right wrist while roller-skating. That didn't help matters.

I don't know exactly when it was, I know it was a summer night in 1979.... we were invited to some fancy schmancy party my brother had at a ski resort - which was so lovely in the summer - I was drinking a lot and having fun in my disco dress and my husband got mad at me and left me there! Well, I got a ride home all right! I showed him. I got a ride home with the biggest "player" in town, and we "played" plenty.

My drinking went into turbo drive with the addition of cheating. I turned into a country song. Come to think of it, I started listening to country music. I was trying to be a good mother by day, which isn't that easy when you are sick as a dog, and then as much as I would swear I wasn't going to drink that night, I would. Some nights, I would get a babysitter and hit the bars. There weren't too many young women in this small town in New Mexico who drank in bars, so I was a bit of a novelty. Or I would get a babysitter so that I could go paint watercolors in nearby towns - and do nothing but drink in bars. I came to "befriend" several young men in one nearby town. Oh, it was all so sordid. And I could not wrap my mind around the way I was behaving. Oh good Lord, I needed a drink so bad.

At around this time, I was also attending a prayer group. In that group I met a wonderful group of women. I am certain I tried their patience. Maybe it is because of their prayers that I am alive to write this today. One night when my husband was out of town, I hired one of the prayer group ladies' daughters to babysit my kids for a few hours so that I could go out for a drink with my neighbors. They were going to a nice bar for a cocktail and I was sure I wasn't going to get into trouble. But I didn't get home until 5 o'clock in the morning and when I got home there was a furious 15 year old girl sitting there waiting for me! The daughter of a lady from my prayer group! I wrote her a huge check, drove her home, and called her mother later to apologize.

She said she was plenty mad at me. She said her daughter was plenty mad at me. She said she had prayed for me and that she would continue to pray for me. She said that when she prayed for me God had told her that I was "lonely." I thought at the time that was convenient - and I hoped she believed it, but I knew I was just a horrible person. But as I have written this for these days, I can see how alone I was. But this was not going to change until I changed. And I wasn't going to change until I admitted defeat and gave up on every single one of my ideas. And that wasn't going to happen for a while...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I took the afternoon off work to get a little jump on my cooking for tomorrow. I baked a pumpkin pie, made cranberry sauce, even made the mashed potatoes and have them in the fridge. Since I am the matriarch (and cook), I have made the unilateral decision to have standing rib roast with yorkshire pudding instead of turkey. Oh, how I love Thanksgiving. What a glorious day to spend reflecting on the many things for which to be grateful.

Writing about these years prior to sobriety has been so enlightening to me. I have spent almost zero time over the last 25 years doing anything other than looking at "my own side of the street" and believe me, there is plenty there - as you will see if you continue to read for the next couple of days. It is amazing to go back and look at the chronology.

But as I said, I had intended to write today about something that happened to me on Monday morning and I think perhaps it is one of those things that take a more gifted writer than I to communicate well. But I shall try:

On Sunday evening I watched 60 Minutes as I frequently do. I watched a segment on healthcare with great interest, as it is my field. I was struck by the story of a 68 year old man who was hoping for a kidney and liver transplant. Unfortunately, his heart was also pretty shot. His doctor was trying to kindly tell him that he was pretty much done and that he wasn't a reasonable candidate for an organ transplant. At the end of the show they announced that this man had died a few days after filming. I felt so bad for him. Not for the fact that he died, but that he probably had a pretty rough life, he looked pretty rough for 68, and yet he thought he should be able to get medical care to reverse whatever had happened to cause such massive organ failure - and I could speculate what that was, but it would be speculation and unfair to him. And I probably once thought that 68 was pretty old. But I am going to be 58 in a few weeks and I am planning to run a marathon next year for crying out loud! I don't think I am old. But he was only 10 years older than me, and he was old.

On Monday morning, my thoughts turned grim, as they sometimes do. In the bathtub, pondering, what the heck have I done in this life? My career has not turned out as I would have thought. I have not made the kind of money I wanted. I haven't been able to travel to Europe as I wanted. It seems I am perennially single. And the question came to me - Have I made any difference at all?

And the answer came to me like a bolt of lightening.

Yes! Because I have been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for the last 25 years, I have made a difference. I have shown up and been privileged to share my life with other alcoholics. I am not one who brags about how many women I sponsor or have sponsored and I do find it offensive when others do. But I know that over 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to sponsor quite a few women. I can't really remember the first one, but one of the first was a 15 year old girl. I was in my 30s. I just loved her (this could be my mantra for the women I sponsor, I almost invariably "just love" them all). She moved away and I stopped being her sponsor. She later drank again, but now is sober again. She is now in her late 30s! To say she is special to me would be an understatement. I have been present at births of babies and held the hands of sober mothers. I have been to the funeral of the child of sponsee. I have held the most feared secrets and learned that I could be trusted - believe me, that was news to me! I have had so many wonderful male friends over the years, something else I didn't know I could have. I have found out things about myself I would never have known without being constantly being challenged by these wonderful women and men who have been in my life.

What a deal. I brought to you my broken self, thinking that by asking for your help I was admitting defeat and that my life was over, and in return, I have been given a life beyond my wildest dreams. I have been stretched far beyond what I would ever have been without you. Thank you all.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1978

First let me say that this is getting really incongruous. I am writing about some really dark years, just as we are going into a really festive season. Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States of America - and this is a holiday that is just a natural for a happily sober alcoholic. I will post a Thanksgiving post tomorrow night. I had a teensy bit of a spiritual experience yesterday morning and I would like to write about it. It will likely be of the nature of a "Doh!" awakening like I witnessed when I was newly sober.... it went like this... a man ran up the stairs to the meeting room, out of breath. He interrupted everyone sitting in the room to tell them something. He used a profanity which I will paraphrase "HOLY COW!!!! It is the Rocky Mountains Out There!" Everyone looked at him and said - "um, yeah. There they are." He was incredulous that he had taken them for granted his entire life - and he had lived in this area his entire life. He wanted to share this wonderful news with everyone!!! But I had one of these experiences in the bathtub on Monday that made me earthshatteringly grateful and I would like to write about that - instead of this - for a brief interlude.

OK, so back to 1978. Things were mysteriously not going well with my marriage. I honestly can tell you that I have no idea why. I have spent years wondering what the hell happened. If I think about it for long enough, I can start crying right now, so I think I will skip that. We had a son. He wanted more children. I wanted a daughter. We decided to try to get pregnant again.

In the meantime, he took a business trip to Germany. I found out that I was pregnant while he was gone. I thought that was a good enough reason to make an international phone call. He was angry with me for calling him to tell him something so personal when he was unable to have privacy there... I don't know how I was supposed to know that.

Once again I was pregnant and unable to drink. This time I was pretty unhappy with this husband who suddenly didn't like anything about me. And for the first time I didn't much like HIS drinking. I remember talking to my obstetrician about his drinking - which is pretty funny considering I had to know that I was simply on a 9 month reprieve from my own active alcoholism.

Our landlady saw that I was pregnant and told us that we would need to find another place to live. She loved us, but two kids in this little house with lace curtains and other fancy doo-dads was probably not a good idea. We started looking for another place to live and ended up building a house. I was so excited about that house. I was only 26 years old when I moved into it.

And if I thought I was sick in my previous pregnancies? I didn't know what sick was. I had chalked it up to being a couple of years older. But as the months passed, my belly was growing at an alarming rate. (at one point I measured it at 50 inches around - and I don't think I was even close to being done) My doc suggested I was due a month or two earlier, but I wasn't buying it. I insisted on an ultrasound - which in 1978 was a new and amazing technology - so that we could see what was really going on. We drove from our small town in New Mexico to Pueblo, Colorado for the nearest ultrasound. My husband sat in the waiting room while I watched the tech outline one baby and then amazingly another! I was shocked and happy and shocked and frightened and shocked and shocked some more.

When my procedure was done I met my husband in the waiting room and told him the news. We were having twins!!! He looked at me with a stoney face and said "how did you do THAT?" I really should forget this, but I think that was the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me. That was on my 27th birthday, December 15, 1978.

Things went downhill from there for our relationship, but I was two months away from giving birth to two of my favorite people on earth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

1977

I know where I lived. I know who I was married to. I know that my son was a baby. I know little else. I know just from reconstruction that my husband was traveling a lot. When he was home we skied a lot, or if in summer, we took wonderful trips throughout the mountain west... which for a couple of kids from the midwest was a wonderland. (well, it still is to me all these years later.)

I know that when my husband wasn't home, I was horribly lonely. I drank every day though - whether I was lonely or not.

I remember a trip we made to Salt Lake City, Utah in October 1977. On a Sunday morning, we went to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (which was wonderful) and when we got back to the hotel, there was a message. My father in law had died suddenly of a heart attack. We quickly packed up and flew back to Chicago.

During that trip my husband stopped talking to me. I thought he was grieving. I still have no idea what happened really. It just occurs to me that maybe he was angry that we moved? But that makes no sense in light of the fact that we have been divorced for over 20 years and he lives only 5 miles from me.... Obviously, he never shared with me what changed. After we got back home to New Mexico, he spoke to me again, but something was different.

This is another year like 1971, I don't really remember.

There is a lot of my life that others remember a lot better than I do. It is odd to be so damaged that others may have a better idea of what I have done and what has happened in my life than I do. Just recently, my daughter, who is now sober in my old homegroup, told me about talking with one of my old friends. He asked her if I ever got my Volkswagen Jetta. She asked why. He told her I always wanted a new VW Jetta. Really? I don't remember that. It might explain why I have bought 5 new VWs since 1999 though. Two of them were Jettas.

Back to 1977: I know that I was drinking a lot. But I was staying at home and wasn't getting in trouble. Yet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1976

My life changed radically in 1976. Once again, I had a difficult pregnancy, so I took my maternity leave early and left work in April or May. I enjoyed staying at home and cooking and cleaning and getting ready for the baby to be born. It was a hot and humid Chicago summer and I had gained a lot of weight. I had never experienced hot like this.

In early August, a little boy was born. He was named after his father. He was perfect and gorgeous. And just after he was born, my thirst came back. I could drink beer again. I could smoke again. I thought these were wonderful things.

I don't remember exactly the timing anymore, but my brother called and asked if my husband would like to come and work for him in a small town in New Mexico where he had started a business. We both thought this sounded like a great adventure. We were young and had no idea how permanent some of these young "adventurous" decisions can become. His parents were heartbroken when we told them we were moving. I know that we moved when our son was only 2 weeks old.

We rented a little house on the side of a mountain. My clothesline was weaved through pinon trees and at night, I would listen to the wind howling down the canyon. It was a long way from Chicago. I thought it was so romantic! The entire town was like going back in time. We were both so charmed by it. We were also charmed by the skiing nearby. Skiing at Taos in the 70s was something of heaven.

Within a month or so after arriving in this town, my husband was offered a much better job by a man from a german company who came through town to see my brother. Of course, he took the job. And soon he was traveling all the time. He was gone. All. The. Time.

For a while, I went with him. I spent a month or so at the end of 1976 at the Holiday Inn in Fairmont, West Virginia. Spending a month or so at a Holiday Inn with an infant while your husband works 10 and 12 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week is no fun.

I came back to New Mexico. I didn't know anyone. My sister-in-law didn't much like me (she was the first name on my first 4th step, and first 9th step lists). There was nowhere to work in a town like this. I was a bit depressed. I missed my husband terribly.

I stayed at home and drank. What else was there to do?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1975

What a great year. I was 23 years old. I was in love with a man who loved me. We were married in June. A June wedding. Oh, isn't that wonderful. The only thing wrong with that was the fact that I had already had my church wedding (to marry the man I didn't even want to marry when I was 18) , so I couldn't marry my Catholic husband in our shared church. I hated my church for a good 17 years over this.

But we had a big wedding, there was no other way with this man and his many friends and big family. He had groomsmen and I had bridesmaids, we had gowns and tuxes, cakes, and an open bar - for a long time. It was a nice wedding. After we left the reception, we went to a honeymoon suite and sat on the bed and tore open the cards and counted the gift money to see if we could afford the honeymoon we had planned. We left the next morning in our Jeep for a three week scuba diving trip in the Florida Keys. It was just the way we wanted it. It was great fun.

We would drink a bit at night, but you cannot drink a lot and scuba dive. It is much too technical of a sport to be hungover. I was already looking forward to ski season because it was much more to my tastes - I could drink like mad and still ski reasonably well. In fact, my skiing improved as my intake of alcohol increased. (And after I got sober, I had to give it up entirely.)

After three weeks, we came back to Chicago having spent every last cent. In fact, we had to run the last couple of toll gates driving back through Chicago because we didn't even have any change left! We both had jobs to return to and married life to start. We found a nice little townhouse to rent.

In the midst of this joy, I phoned my dad one day just after we got home from our honeymoon and was horrified to realize that he was drunk! After 10 years of sobriety, my father was drunk. And he never got sober again. He lived until 1993 and he never got sober again. He may be my greatest teacher.

By my 24th birthday, I had just learned that I was pregnant. Here I sit, 34 years later, and I have tears of joy in my eyes just to think about learning that I was pregnant with my son. Well, I didn't know it was my son then. I just knew that I was married to a man I loved and he loved me. I was pregnant with his child. We both wanted a child. We had wanted for me to get pregnant. I had always wondered what it would be like to get this news from a doctor and actually be happy! I don't think I ever thought I would be so fortunate and yet here I was.

And I will be eternally grateful that God blessed me with the revulsion for alcohol during my pregnancies; thereby saving my children from terrible afflictions caused by my drinking.
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You know, I am actually enjoying writing these for the most part. There are a number of things I have wished I could write about instead in the last week or so. I have particularly wanted to acknowledge awards so kindly given to me by Ed G., Pammie, and Annette. I need to properly write about that, but it needs to probably wait until I am done with this series.... thanks!

Friday, November 20, 2009

1974

There is only one thing I really remember from 1974. I am sure other things happened. But who cares?

On October 22, I met the man I loved. The man I would marry. The man who is the father of my children. The grandfather of my grandchildren. I think it is safe to say, 35 years later, the "love of my life".

I met him after a football game he was playing. A huge group met at a bar for a drink. It was not my kind of bar and it was not my kind of group. A friend from work thought I ought to meet a man who happened to be the roommate of the man I was destined to love. I didn't like the roommate one little bit. But when I saw the tall good looking one smile, oh, I felt like cupid shot me through the heart. I hope you can forgive me for being so sentimental. It was so powerful. You have heard a lot of my stories, but you must admit you have not heard one like this. Oh, this was the real deal.

He also drank like a fish, but there was something different about the way he drank. He had tons of friends, unlike me. He had a close family, unlike me. He was a real stand-up guy, he was quiet and unassuming. He was big and strong, but I not once saw him get into a fight. Everyone loved him. He was so funny. He had gone to college on a football scholarship. He was a skier and a scuba diver. He taught me how to do those things. So, we drank, but then we got to bed because we had to get up early to get up to the ski slopes or to the dive boat or whatever we were doing - and we were ALWAYS doing something. Oh, we had such fun!

His friends loved me. His family loved me. My few friends loved him. My family was skeptical about him, but I really didn't care because it wasn't like I was spending a lot of time with my family. I felt like I belonged with his family and it was a strong family.

I felt like all my problems were a thing of the past. You know that I was wrong, but it was fun to believe this for a while....


1973

The year I would first go to AA. I knew almost from my first drink (when I was 14) that I was an alcoholic. But it was really getting to be a problem when I was 21.

I was going to bars, quite frequently. I loved, loved, loved bars. The seedier the better. Sometimes I would go out with friends and meet them at bars they liked. I couldn't get the concept of getting all dressed up to drink. One time, in one of these bars, I walked into the women's restroom and saw a couple of young women touching up their fingernail polish at the sink - and I KNEW I was in the wrong place!

I liked redneck bars and old man bars. I liked bars with great old music on the juke box - like "For the Good Times" by Ray Price. (I just found a version by Al Green that I love) I still had my job and I liked it. They liked me to and it was a good thing, because I had a little bit of a problem with attendance. When I was there I was great, but I had a problem getting there.

Because I was an alcoholic, once I took alcohol into my body, I had no idea what was going to happen to me. It might be that I would have five or six beers at home and go to bed. I would get up in the morning, feel great and go to work. I might drink the six beers and decide I really need to go to the bar. Once at the bar, I might run into a great friend and we might drink shots and stay there until closing - which I believe was 4 a.m. Or I might decide to go home with someone. Or I might pass out in the bar, or in my car. I might not be able to get to work the next day.

On Good Friday of 1973, I went to the bar with my best friend (this was almost always a recipe for disaster, she was an alcoholic just like me). We went to the old man bar in my old town. I loved that bar. She insisted we go to the young man's bar down the street. So we did. We got quite drunk. She found a ride home with someone else. At about 2 a.m., I smelled something burning, turned around and found that it was my hip length hair! I dipped it in my beer. And noticed that a group of men were laughing - they had set my hair on fire. I confronted them and found that their ringleader needed a "good talking to." Luckily not much of it actually burned. But does this sound like the beginning of a romance to you? No? Well, I guess it did to me.

I came out of the blackout sometime on Saturday afternoon driving his porsche across the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He was passed out in the passenger seat. After a little trip to the east coast, I called in sick to work on Monday and flew back to Chicago. We had a romance for a few months. He had a great job and was very very handsome. He was a worse drunk than me, and I even found it scary!

By July, I was in an AA meeting because I kept doing things that scared me and got me into trouble.

But in AA, I was greeted by people who had truly been to the depths of despair, and I knew I hadn't. I know I was welcomed warmly. I know that I was invited to peoples' homes. I know that I even went on a 12 step call! (I was, after all, sober more than a day!) I think I stuck around for a weekend. There was a man who told me what I probably wanted to hear and I hung on his words for the next 11 years. 1. You are too young. 2. You have not hit bottom.

But I left AA feeling so hopeless. I knew I had a terrible problem, but I didn't know what to do about it. So, I just drank.

I think it was in 1973 that I decided I needed to make more money, so I got a job at the Post Office of all places. I lasted 9 months. I was a window clerk and it was truly a horrible job. Whenever someone talks about "going postal" I really understand. I am unclear about exactly when this 9 months was. I know that when I started looking for another job and someone called my old boss for a reference, he hopped in his car, drove to the Post Office, lined up at my window and asked me if I wanted my old job back - with a hefty raise! Heck Yes!!!

By the end of 1973, I was 22 years old. I loved being 22. I had long straight hair still. I had a beautiful wardrobe - and some debt from it. I remember when that Porsche guy saw my closet, he asked me if my ex-husband was a millionaire! I had a pretty apartment with a lot of my original art hanging in it. There were some good things about this time, but what I remember most are the mornings - with the fear and remorse. What a way to spend your youth!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1972

The year I would turn 21. The age of majority. The age of drinking in bars. Oh, how I loved drinking in bars. Second to AA meetings, bars might have been my most natural habitat.

But I didn't turn 21 until December. My birthday is December 15 (coming right up, eh?) so for most of the year, my birth year doesn't seem to add up right until the last 16 days of the year...

In 1972 I got a decent job by some weird twist of a great economy and a lack of people to fill jobs. I had absolutely no skills. I lied and said I could type 30 wpm. Unfortunately my lie became evident when they had me sit down at an IBM Selectric to perform a typing test! I typed 11 wpm, with too many errors to count, and still they hired me. I loved that job. They loved me. I got raises and actually made a living wage.

Can you see what is coming? I got a teensy bit of gumption and decided I really didn't want to be married to a pot smoking, drug dealing, miserly postal worker anymore. I had my brand new 1973 Datsun hatchback, and my pretty apartment, and a credit card for a women's clothing store so that I could purchase the clothing I needed for my office job. I was about to be 21 so I could get my own booze, and besides, I could drive to Wisconsin (where the drinking age was 18) to drink in bars whenever I wanted! Who needed a husband? Not me!

My father by this time had remarried and moved to Brazil! And back in those days, it took 6 weeks to get a letter to him and 6 weeks to get one back. So if I needed money, I wasn't getting it from Daddio. I was truly on my own.

It was absolutely thrilling.

These are the great moments from my past that I later would have an insistent yearning to recapture. The bars were new to me. I was new to the bars. It was true love. Oh, I screwed up plenty, but for the most part, I really had a lot of fun.

On the eve of my 21st birthday, my best friend and I sat on the steps of the bar on a snowy Chicago December evening and waited for midnight to come. At midnight we walked into the bar. I ordered a beer and the barkeep asked me for ID. I asked him what time it was. He said it was exactly midnight.... We screamed and showed him my driver's license. That bar hadn't seen a young woman celebrating her 21st birthday probably ever - so the whole bar joined in the party. They let me tend bar. They let me dance on the bar (to Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives), they "let" me do all kinds of things and there are probably old men in nursing homes today who fondly remember that night... I woke the next morning to the sound of roosters crowing, and when you live in Chicago, you know something has gone extremely wrong when you wake to roosters. Hungover as I was, I got to work anyway. And had another date that night - in another bar.

If it were 2009 instead of 1972, people would be trying to get me into "rehab" or something, but I thank God it was a different time and place and I had the luxury of plumbing the depths of my own bottom, because I was nowhere near it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1971

I don't know why I am doing this. It seems such a waste of precious time.

So, in 1971, my mom died.

I got drunk.

I got drunk some more.

I felt guilty.

And then I drank some more.


Monday, November 16, 2009

1970

I did it! I graduated high school! I know that others think this is just a ho-hum accomplishment, but this may have been the hugest thing I ever accomplished in my life. Ever. It was 1970, so when the young man held out his hand to help me down the stairs from the stage at the graduation ceremony, I turned my nose up at him and walked down the stairs on my own capable womanly feet, ensconced in great huge platform shoes. My hair by this time was down far past my waist, and I was feeling quite free!

I had a scary experience with an illegal substance that summer and decided that I didn't care to use drugs anymore. So I stopped. And that truly is the end of that story.

I had a job in town that I could walk to. I enjoyed it and the people I worked with. I don't remember there being any real problems on the horizon. Until....

Boyfriend started applying pressure for us to get married. You may have noticed that in my descriptions of him, I have not once said how I felt about him. I certainly didn't love him. I wasn't physically attracted to him. After he decided not to go to a real university and instead to work for the post office and go to community college at nights, and devote most of his energy to selling pot, I didn't really respect him. So, one might ask - why the hell did I marry him? I have certainly asked myself that question, and I have had to write about this for the Catholic church in an effort to have this abomination annulled, and I just have to say that I was full of fear and was incredibly self-centered and dishonest.

In September we were married. We had a beautiful little church wedding, with a little reception to follow at the country club. I had a beautiful little wedding gown - it was a real gown, with beads and veil and all, just a mini-mini... it was hot! We moved to a little one-bedroom apartment in a northern suburb. I left the job I liked and got a job I was fired from in a short time.

After a while, I fell in love for real. With a lasting love. Beer. Oh, I never fell out of love with Beer. I stayed at home in the day time and drank beer. The mister worked in the daytime and went to school and then had a very busy schedule selling pot. I would want to go out with him, and ended up spending a lot of time sitting in parked cars outside of places he didn't want me to go into. Oh yeah, those were the days.

In November of 1970, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She had a kidney removed and for a minute we thought that was going to stop the cancer. I think by Christmas we knew it was going to be her last. She was 56 years old and had just gotten her youngest child (of five) out of the house... after over 30 years of raising children. To say that she was angry would be an understatement. My father was sober, so was she. They had a beautiful home, she had a job she loved, everything was good for almost the first time in her life - and she was dying of cancer. I dealt with my mother's emotions the best way I knew at the time - I stayed as far away from her as I could. I can never make direct amends for the harm I caused her by my selfishness, but I got to make a kind-of, sort-of indirect amends when I could be with my dad when he was dying because I was sober.... but I digress.

I was 19 but felt like I was about 89. I think I am younger now than I was then. Thank God.




1969

This was the year I should have graduated from high school. The rest of my class graduated. But it wasn't like it was heartbreaking to watch my friends graduate, my friends were all gone, they had dropped out. I was stuck in school with a bunch of people I didn't know or care about. I was laser focused on my goal of graduating in 1970.

I found the perfect recipe to get me through my days. I would get Ripple (69¢ a bottle) wine by the case and hide it in the attic, each day I would take out a bottle, wrap it in a paper bag and put it in my purse. I would drink it all day long at school. I really don't know why I wanted to drink a skid row bum's drink while living in a nice suburban home and attending a nice suburban high school. Maybe it felt more authentic to my state of mind? A cheap bottle of wine, wrapped with a paper bag. And I thought it was funny.

My prince charming was morphing into something not so charming. I have never really gone back and thought much about this relationship because it is such ancient history. As I wrote yesterday about him not going to college when he was supposed to, it occurred to me that he was probably going to resent me for that. I think he did resent me for that. I think he showed early signs of being a total control freak when he directed my life out of the gutter, but I was so happy to have someone steer me out of the gutter that I wasn't looking for signs of a control freak.

By the end of 1969, I was almost done with high school. I had been attending night school, day school, summer school, and had compacted 4 years of school into 2 years of time. I was wearing an engagement ring, I think we had some vague plan to marry after I graduated. He was working at the post office by day, and attending community college sometimes at night. But his real job by this time was a very lucrative marijuana business. It kept him in enough money and pot so that he was an overweight, slovenly man.

I was very depressed, but had found a way to maintenance drink my way through life. I learned that I could keep a steady flow of alcohol into my body all day long and not appear drunk. It would help me to be able to cope with the demands of life. I know that occasionally I would get "drunk," but for the most part, I just drank every day.

I think of this as a time so dark I can barely remember it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1968

Martin Luther King
There is no way to describe 1968 to someone who wasn't there. To be 16 years old and already freaked out in 1968 was a formative experience.

I stopped going to school. I would leave the house in the morning so that my parents thought I was going to school, and then come back home after they left for work, and drink all day, many times with lots of friends. (It wasn't as difficult to obtain alcohol under-age as it probably is now - I always had friends who could get it for me.) By April, my parents were told that if I missed one more day of school I would be expelled, so they allowed me to drop out. I should have been a junior in high school. I don't believe I had any credits at all. I had lost all of my freshman year due to the move from a Catholic to a public school, I dropped out in my sophomore year due to pregnancy, and now I was dropping out in my junior year.

Not only did my life seem hopeless, but frankly the world seemed hopeless. The chaos was so frightening. In April, Martin Luther King was killed. This is in the history books and everyone is keenly aware of this today. But I think what has been forgotten is the fact that in response to the killing, there was rioting, looting, and torching of cities. Cities were burning. At this time, I left Chicago to visit my brother in Ohio, and flew over the midwest... from the air it was horrifying to see the smoke rising from the midwestern cities of the United States of America. (I found the above photo in a publication from the UK.)

It was shortly after this that I attempted suicide for the first time. My parents sent me to stay with my sister in Boston and to be seen by a psychiatrist there. He diagnosed depression - what a brilliant diagnostician! And prescribed antidepressants. This was 1968 and there were no fancy schmancy SSRIs, I was started on a tricyclic, which caused me to sleep for 3 weeks. At the end of 3 weeks, I lied and said I felt much better and could I please go home? While I was gone, my parents had found an all-girls Catholic boarding school for me in Wisconsin - which I absolutely refused to go to. The psychiatrist agreed that it would be futile.... he said there would be boys in town and I would find a way to them even if I had to climb over walls. Nice. So, I was sent home with a bottle of pills.

A week or so later Robert Kennedy was killed.

It might sound like these killings were political or external issues, but to a 16 year old depressed girl, they were terrifying.

And another week or so later, I met a young man at a club I was fortunate enough to attend weekly in those days. Honestly, I have no idea why there was a teen club with world class live music at an affordable price - that you could stand and dance to! What? It seems so crazy now, but it was real. I saw some really great live music there. Anyway, I met a young man who had just graduated from high school and was going away to Southern Illinois University in the fall. He was an award winning student. He was a poetry writer. He was a speaker of foreign languages. He thought I was pretty cute, but thought I needed to make some major changes in my life. Gosh, writing this, I can maybe see why he seemed like a good guy....

He insisted that I knock off the drinking - at least when I wasn't with him. He insisted that I knock off a lot of the drug usage - at least when I wasn't with him. He insisted that I go back to school, which for me, was basically starting high school when I should have been starting my senior year. He insisted on a lot. And for some reason, I complied with a lot of this.

The really sad thing is? He "fell in love" with me and on the night before he was to leave for college, he decided he couldn't leave me and didn't go. That made me sick then, it makes me sick now. What a horrible, horrible mistake. Where were the adults? Why didn't his parents MAKE him go? This brilliant kid got a job at the post office and went to school at night at a community college.... oh good grief!

I did clean up quite a bit, with the help of this young man. In the fall, I went back to school. I signed up for every credit I could get. I signed up for night school - I took things like sewing and typing classes for easy credits, anything to get me to my goal, which was to graduate in 1970, only one year later than I should have - which was a lofty, lofty goal.

I have a photograph from Christmas of 1968. I am sitting by the Christmas tree with my mother and father. I look healthy and happy. I am certain my parents were relieved that I was back in school and so focused on my goal of graduating. I think they didn't really like this new boyfriend of mine, but weren't going to complain because he seemed to have a good effect on my life. And my life had been in dire need of good effect. Things were looking pretty good right then.....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

1967

The year started with me, a 5'7", 100 lb. pregnant girl, just turned 15 years old. I was so sick, I could barely function. My mother overheard a telephone conversation between me and my boyfriend and discovered that I was pregnant. She sent me to the doctor who confirmed what we already knew. The thing that amazes me as I look back on this is that there was no adult who said, "OK Mary, this is the deal, here is what is going to happen, this is the plan..." So I just kept getting bigger and bigger and going to school and having no idea how I was going to have a baby. My mother wouldn't even tell my father I was pregnant, fearing he might drink again or have a heart attack or something.

Finally, I went to see a priest and asked him what he thought I should do. He called my parents and talked to them. By this time I was 5 months pregnant and showing - heck, there was nowhere for that baby to hide! The priest got my parents to take action and they got me into a home for unwed mothers. Once again, for those readers more than a couple of years younger than I am, this probably sounds like something from a 19th century novel. But there were such things. And thank God. And thank God I got to go to one.

It was at 721 N. LaSalle in downtown Chicago. I was on the floor for unwed mothers. There was also a floor for nursing students. It was a grand old building. It was run by nuns, and you know I had to feel at home there! I loved that place. I loved going to mass every morning. I loved the structure of the days. I loved my little job of serving the meals to the nuns in the nuns' quarters. I loved every single thing about this place that should have been more of a penance than a blessing.

Having all those days to contemplate the mistakes I had made in my short life, I knew that I would mend my ways once I had to go back to my "real" life. I knew that I wouldn't take back up with the boyfriend. I knew that I wouldn't drink again. I knew that I would continue to go to church and continue with my life of prayer. I didn't just kind of think these things... I knew them.

On August 15, 1967, I gave birth to a perfect little girl and named her Mary Catherine after a nun from the home who was beautiful and kind and wonderful. Surely some of you who read this have given up a baby, so you know. For others, there are no words that can describe what it is to give up a child. I remember walking out of that hospital on an August day, in more anguish than I had ever had been in prior, and maybe ever have been in again. Feeling that I couldn't bear to physically leave the building containing the physical presence of my daughter. Knowing that it was permanent. That I would never get to touch her. Ever. I never got to hold her. Ever. The word devastated comes to mind, but it seems a pale description.

I got to go back to the home on LaSalle Street for a few more days and then I had to go home. I thought I was prepared to go back, but I wasn't. I wasn't ready for anything. I don't know if I had ever heard of post-partum depression, but I sure had a world-class case.

I had left my house in April of 1967. The world was still somewhat "normal" at that time. I was still a somewhat skinny girl at that time. When I came back home in late August, the world had gone insane. It was the Summer of Love, man. My friends were all wearing bell bottoms and beads and doing all kinds of things they weren't doing when I left. I suddenly had a full-blown woman's body and it was rather shocking if you hadn't seen me for a while, which nobody had. I found out my boyfriend, who I thought was going to continue a chaste relationship with me (until we were married), had been carrying on with several unchaste relationships while I was away in an unwed mothers' home carrying his child. It was all a recipe for some crazy stuff.

I picked up a drink without a thought at all. Not a thought.

I went back to school in the fall, it was a nightmare. I think the other kids could accept the fact that I had just had a baby, even though nobody was supposed to know, everybody knew. The teachers, however had a harder time with it. When I look back at it, it is gross, particularly the behavior of some of the male teachers. (Later I found out that although I had a hard time, they ran my boyfriend out of town, he literally had to move to his grandparents to finish school.)

I broke up with the boyfriend. I hung out with my best girlfriend. We drank. We smoked pot. We took LSD. We hung out with some pretty unsavory characters. The Doors first album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, Jimi Hendrix's Are you Experienced, Fresh Cream, oh, what a grand sound track to such misery!

By the end of 1967, I was a depressed mess. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, thanks to taking up a 2 pack a day cigarette habit. And by now, I had the requisite long, straight hair, a suede fringed jacket, bell bottoms, seed beads in many different hues - oh, I looked the part! In 4 months, I had gone from Catholic girl, who was never going to drink again to drunken depressed girl who hadn't been near a church in months and wasn't going to be near one again for a long time.

A year and a half after my first drink, and 16 and a half years before my last.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

1966

I took my first drink of alcohol on a Thursday night. It was early July 1966. I know it was Thursday night because my parents went to their regular AA meeting on Thursday nights, so that was my night to live it up. Oh, but by then I was 14 years old and already just waiting to have a drink! So let me back up a little bit...

I was the youngest of 5 children born to my parents. It was a good home. My father was an engineer for a large steel company. He went to work for them when he graduated from college and worked for them until he retired. He was a wonderful man who was a terrible alcoholic. My love for my father is something that still has the power to make me cry. It is something so complex. My father was so complex. He got sober on April 15, 1965 and all of our lives changed.

I grew up in a beautiful little village of about 2,000 people near a steel town in eastern Ohio. I went to a Catholic elementary school. I started high school at the same prestigious Catholic high school that my brother and sister had graduated from. I also dreamed of becoming a nun. But my father got a promotion and we moved to Chicago in April of my freshman year. I was horrified. I could not get into a Catholic school and had to go to a public school. It was huge. Talk about culture shock! From a town of 2,000 to a suburb of Chicago - from a Catholic school, wearing a uniform every day, to a public school which was a free-for-all - it was all too much for me.

I had no clue what to do. So, when a nice young man asked me out on a date, I was happy to go out with him. When he gave me a ring and asked me to go steady with him, I was very happy to agree to that and was thrilled that I fit in somewhere. And when he suggested we have a "party" at my house while my parents were out, I thought that was a good idea too.

And when I sat on the floor in front of my parents' liquor cabinet and uncorked my first bottle of bourbon, put the bottle to my mouth and felt that burn of that magical liquid for the first time... I knew I had come home. I had arrived. I finally knew who I was. All the answers were finally there. I had gone in one instant from a skinny 14 year old girl from Ohio who wanted desperately to go home to her childhood friends who spoke latin with her - to a glamorous, voluptuous, sophisticated woman, sure of herself and what she wanted. And what she wanted was more of that glorious booze. Oh, it was good stuff!

When I hear people talking about drinking to "escape" or to get "f***ed up" I don't understand. I drank to fit in. I drank to be charming and funny. I drank to be able to talk to people. I drank to relax. I drank to not be self-conscious. I drank so I could have fun! I didn't want to be anti-social, I wanted to be the life of the party, not the ruination of it! Unfortunately, I could not stop drinking once I started, so although my motivation was to fit in, drinking nearly always backfired in this respect.

So, I went from being a young skinny girl, wearing my navy blue jumper with my white blouse and cardigan, knee socks, and penny loafers (bass weejuns), hoping with all my pure heart to be a nun, to living large in a suburb of Chicago, having flunked all of the classes of my freshman year... with my first boyfriend, sure that he was the love of my life... wanting to drink every single day because it was SO GOOD...

And by Christmas that year, I knew that I was pregnant. This was not socially acceptable in 1966 as it is now. It was a very dark secret. I dared not tell anyone. I had no idea what to do. I knew that I would have a baby, I knew I would give the baby up for adoption, and I knew that my life was ruined, and that I would bring disgrace to my family - that much I knew. But I did not know how a person went about doing all of that. And I was sick as a dog. I went to school and I slept. I came home directly from school and went to bed.

I was terrified. I don't think I could ever adequately describe to anyone much younger than I am how terrifying it was to be 14 years old and pregnant in 1966. The world was such a different place then. The year ended with me not having any idea what would happen to me, other than knowing, with certainty, that my life was ruined....

6 months after my first drink. And 17 and a half years before my last drink.

My Story

Once again, I am sick of writing about my daily self every day. I have an idea for a "concept" for 18 days of this blog and am asking for your feedback.

Since I started this blog, I have threatened to share my story. It is probably all here, but not all in one place, and not in chronological order. I wrote the story of my sobriety earlier this year, year by year. It hurt like hell, but I think it was a good thing to do.

I drank for 18 years. I am proposing writing out, for 18 days, year by year, the story of my life that brought me to the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. I will start tonight, and do this at night because it won't be possible to do, on the fly, in the mornings before work.

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately. Alcoholic and family of alcoholic. And it occurred to me that we alcoholic bloggers show up all shiny and spiritual (which is good) but that a person wouldn't really know what hell we have been through to get to this. The years of hell that most of us had to endure to make us willing to be willing. Because without that willingness, nothing can be accomplished. That desire to change is the one thing that cannot be externally supplied to the alcoholic.

I know that I hear AA members say that they don't like to hear "drunkalogs" - but oh, how I love to hear a person's story! I love to tell mine (or did until recently). If we just like to come and talk about how well we are doing, we could go anywhere and do that! It is important to remember where we came from and where we could return in the blink of an eye. It is also important to let others know the whole picture of who we are. Not just the good, but the bad and the ugly. So that they might also have hope.

What say you, should I write this?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November Eleventh, Two Thousand and Nine

Veteran's Day, United States of America. There are better places than an alcoholic's blog for writing about Veteran's Day, particularly this year, so I think I will leave it alone. I will call my son (veteran of the war in Iraq) and my brother (Vietnam vet) later today. I have my flag flying on my front porch and I guess that is my contribution today.

I went to that job interview yesterday and got so excited about a job that I thought I wanted. I was interviewed by two people who spent two hours with me, so I know they were interested in me as well. But I left there with the conviction that I cannot work there. There are too many reasons to list here. I went back to my office rather sad. But rather happy to see my pretty, pretty office. I love my office. I forget how much I love my office.

It was after 5 o'clock last night and almost everyone was gone. My boss' boss and I ended up having a nice conversation in the copy room. He told me it is important to him that I get a promotion - but it will take a year or two. I couldn't believe my ears. I have despaired of ever getting a promotion - I have tried for so long - to no avail. And here he was asking me what departments I thought I should take over, and I had a list for him.

I would be elated if I could stay where I am. It appears that I will for today anyway.

This morning I got to go to my 6:30 meeting. I got to talk for a long time afterwards with a dear friend I have known since he got sober in 1999. He is a wonderful man. A decent man. A man who loves his wife. The best kind of man. I am proud to know him. I am also glad I got a chance to talk to him because it undid the creepy-crawly feeling I got from the meeting which seemed to be more of a therapy session than any kind of AA meeting I am familiar with. I actually heard people refer to AA as a "12 step program" right in an AA meeting. When did that happen?

So, as if you all care what I am going to do today I will tell you... I am going to do what I dream of doing on days when I don't have to go to work. I am going to sit on my world famous sofa and knit. I still have to put together the baby blanket, I will post pictures once I get it done in the next day or two - or after the weekend at the latest. I have felted slippers and hats to knit for Christmas presents. And I have flannel pajamas to sew for grandchildren - out of that bright flannel I bought that I am not going to use for the backing of the baby blanket. At $9.99 a yard, I have to use it! I was able to find some flannel across town that I like and is Scott W. approved!

I am grateful for a quiet peaceful life today. Although this probably doesn't sound like much, this is more than I could have ever dreamed when I walked into Alcoholics Anonymous sick and desperate. Quiet and Peaceful. Yes. That is good.

Wishing that for you too.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Turn and face the strange Changes....

I have a job interview today at 12:45.

This was not part of my plan. But as the sages say, "if you want to hear God laugh, just tell him your plans."

I haven't picked out what I am wearing yet. I do have a pair of panty hose. I do have a skirt I think I am wearing. I do have a pair of 4 inch heels I think I am wearing - which I know is insane, but I think I am going to do it anyway.

My M.O. for an interview is to wear a suit. But I hate wearing a suit and I do not want to wear a suit. I have plenty of nice clothes that are at least as nice as a suit, they just aren't a suit.

I guess it is easier to dwell on whether or not to wear a suit than it is to think about leaving the place I have loved so dearly for 15 years of my life. Since I was 10 years sober. I walked into that place with a still-married-name, and had to change it all after I worked there. My kids were still kids when I started working there. My "plan" (here we go again) was to retire from there. I would gladly stay there forever, but it doesn't look like that is going to be feasible...

I had a preliminary phone interview yesterday. The woman I was speaking to started the conversation telling me that they had already filled the position with a temp. By the time we ended the conversation, she was telling me they needed me to start on November 30. And I was telling her - woooaaaah, let's sit down and talk first and see if this is a fit.

So, let me tell myself this morning (as I have been and will be doing):

Wooooaaaaah, let's sit down and talk with God all morning and ask him what He thinks.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday Morning


I do believe I did run hard enough on Saturday to cause pain on Sunday, because I still have it on Monday. I do also believe that I was tired enough to feel sick on Sunday. I am grateful that I had the opportunity for some serious "sofa time" yesterday, including a 2 hour nap. The best kind of nap, with a football game as background music for my dreams.

A sponsee called yesterday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when she said "I am sitting in your driveway, do you mind if I come in?" That was a wonderful surprise. She has been my sponsee for a long time and I just treasure our relationship.

Yesterday I finished the knitting portion of the baby blanket I am making for someone, and then purchased fabric for a backing. It wasn't what I had planned, but I was unable to find what I thought I was going to use. What I found is flannel, and it is bright. The turquoise is for the back, the red is for a piping around the edge. I am considering driving to the other side of town after work tonight to another specialty fabric store to see if I can find something I like more. Any opinions? (see, I am capable of asking for opinions - about some things!)

As always, on Monday morning, I am grateful to be going back to work. I am also grateful that Veteran's Day falls on Wednesday and I will have the day off. There is so much that is good in this world, but I really must turn off the news to be able to see it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Morning at Home

I am so grateful that I get to stay home today. I had plans to meet an old friend for breakfast this morning but she had to cancel. I was elated. Isn't that awful? I just am so happy to not have to do anything today.

I am really kind of afraid I am getting sick. I ran 5 miles yesterday and afterwards I was in so much pain I just thought I had perhaps chosen a route with too many hills. Today I am in so much pain I really wonder if I am getting sick. I am sitting on my sofa, wrapped in blankets, freezing, and it is not cold in here. Then I reflect on how bent I got about a couple of things last week and it kind of makes sense if I was slightly sick.

Last night my daughter and I went to one of my sponsee's house for an AA function. It was really wonderful. I got to sit in a room with a bunch of people who were talking about spiritual experiences. You know, talking about these things outside of "the rooms" is very different from listening to what gets shared at meetings. Not that there is anything wrong with how or what people share in meetings, but having interactive discussions with people just adds so much understanding of them and what they are actually saying.

Later we got to just be so silly, and laugh so much. What a joy it is to watch my daughter fit right into this group. Actually, age-wise, sobriety and natal, she fits in better than I do. What an awesome thing to see.

I am grateful to have a group that has some structure for getting together outside of the regular meeting. Granted, it is only one evening a month, and some special occasions, but it is still powerful. It is a great way to get to know people. We do also have breakfast at least once a week (which I don't always get to).

When I was new in AA, I was really encouraged to get to the "meeting after the meeting" and I am glad I was. I think if you only show up for the meeting, you will really not get a good feel for what we are about. And that holds true for people with years and decades of sobriety too.

Oh, and if no one has ever asked you out for coffee or breakfast or dinner or lunch or whatever, ask them. Sometimes, even though it would be very nice if someone would reach out to us, we have to be the ones to stick our hands out. Yes, even if we are the new ones.

And I just have to say that I am so glad that Pammie is back. Much Love to you my friend.

"Still you may say: 'But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book.' We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave." -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 164.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Morning

I will be off to my meeting in a minute and that makes me very happy. I got a good night's sleep last night and that also makes me very happy. I will run 5 miles after the meeting, that also is very happy. My daughters will be over later, so will my grandchildren, and that is happy.

My son was not at Ft. Hood on Thursday, Thank You God. But he was at another place, just like Ft. Hood, and he spent many years at Ft. Hood. I can thank God that he is in tact, while praying for those families who are not so fortunate. I can also thank God for text messaging - I knew he was out of town, but didn't exactly know where. When I heard the news about Ft. Hood, I was able to quickly send him a text message and get an answer back from him within seconds.

On Thursday, at about the same time as the breaking new about the massacre, I got an e-mail from one of my college buddies. She just wanted to let me know about the person who was hired for the job I applied for back in August. I was horrified! I never got a letter, a phone call, nothing! Hiring was frozen and I was just waiting for that job to be released and felt it would soon. I had no idea it was. And that they didn't even consider me! And that they didn't even contact me! So I called the HR person responsible for that job who told me she never got my application. Despite my emotion, I was able to maintain control and calmly tell her that I personally brought my application where it was supposed to go and watched it get stamped it, just like you are supposed to. Thankfully, she took me seriously.

Two hours later, she called me back to tell me she found a duplicate file for this job - with three applications in it, including mine. Mine was the only one that met the qualifications of the job, but still, she had quite the problem on her hands. She had to call a person who was hired for a job and tell her that she may not have the job. She had to call the facility that desperately needs to fill this position and tell them that there is a problem and now they need to interview me.

I told the HR specialist that they would probably just as soon shoot me as interview me, but I don't care.

I could not sleep on Thursday night thinking about a woman who thought she had a job and then found out she really didn't. Wondering if she quit her other job - surely she must have. Wondering if she has kids... is she a single mother... etc. Thinking about the facility that needs to fill this position so desperately. Wondering if I even want this job! Wondering why I didn't just say "never mind."

By yesterday afternoon at 4:00, all the paperwork had been processed, my application is in the works, and an interview should be forthcoming. And it seems the other person decided she didn't really want the job after she had accepted it. (what??????) This should be really interesting. I think I am the only qualified candidate for this job. I will keep you all posted....

Now, on with my Saturday. It will include some of my very favorite things:
  • a 6:30 a.m. AA meeting
  • a 5 mile run
  • both of my twin daughters - together
  • my granddaughters
  • making them dinner
  • making a pie for nightwatch
  • going to nightwatch
  • maybe getting a nap sometime?
I hope you all have a wonderful sober Saturday too.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Our Differences

"We are people who normally would not mix" -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 17

I had an atrocious day yesterday. I had difficulty sleeping last night. I got up this morning and checked the blogs. It seems that we have collectively decided to focus on our differences instead of our commonality today. Okay. That is the way for me to separate myself from you, and that, I think, is my alcoholism's best tool to get me back.

So, you guys go ahead and focus on your sexuality, nationalism, political and religious views, I will try to plug through today the best I can. Thank God I have places to go and people to see. I have an assembly to go to tonight and lots of people who need lots of help right now.

And I think I will stick to telling my own story today.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Going for a Sunrise Run

As soon as that old sun rises, that is...

"If a man is centered upon himself, the smallest risk is too great for him, because both success and failure can destroy him. If he is centered upon upon God, then no risk is too great because success is already guaranteed - the successful union of creator and creature beside which everything else is meaningless." Morris West, Shoes of the Fisherman.

I have been thinking about something I slipped into my post yesterday, only one person noticed it, seemingly as an afterthought. It was about my ex-husband "borrowing" whole chunks of another person's story and telling it as his own. (hey, my shirt is on inside-out, better fix that, at once! Ok, I can resume my writing now...) Unfortunately, I have heard this happen more than once in AA meetings. Frequently it is someone trying to inflate their "bad-ass" experience before they got to AA. Sometimes, very disturbingly, it is someone inflating sober time. Most often, it is picking up phrases that seem to go around AA that sound cute but have little to do with a person's actual story.

I wonder why it is that people can't stick to their own stories. And amazingly enough, my take on it is that it boils down to being extremely self-centered. If I trust God, I will do the "work" to get down to causes and conditions and clean house. I will get a clear idea of who and what I am. I will come to believe that I am one of God's beloved children, no matter what I have done with His gift. I will know that I am here to play the role that He has assigned, and that is an important role, no matter what it is. I will know that I cannot play the role of another. I have to play MY role.

(Now it is daylight and I am still writing...)

The last time I spoke at an AA meeting, I left there thinking I would NEVER speak at an AA meeting again. Because I was not trusting God that he made me, Ms. Mary Christine, just the way I am. I am a silly woman. I get in front of a crowd and get a bit silly and ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I tell my story, but as I get older, it gets sillier. Maybe I am taking myself less and less seriously.

When I talked with my sponsor about this, she told me to shut up and get over it. God made me this way and I need to trust him that I said just what I was supposed to say and that I was not to review it afterwards. It was not about me, it was about someone else who I would probably never know about. OK, Ms. Sponsor. Gee.

About a week later I came to realize that I don't get to be someone else. I am me. God made me to be me. He wants me! He loves me! Imagine that! I always thought that someday I would "grow up" and be a serious person, I would stop being funny, I would stop making faces, and being ridiculous. It just never happened. I have learned at work to be serious a good part of the time. I have had to. But most of the time, I am still the silly person I was as a child. I can't help it.

My job is to be the most authentic me, fitting into His plan to be of the most authentic usefulness to Him and my fellows. Wow, what a job. It should take the rest of my life! How great!

Today I am sending love and prayers to my friend Pammie XXXOOO.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

20 Years Ago

Sometimes a period of time gets stuck in my mind. So it has been lately. I have been thinking about a time 20 years ago. As for the photo, I knew if I took a cursory glance into my underwear drawer, I would find something of that relationship, and I found this note within a second. Not wanting to drag out my camera, I held it up to the one on my computer and it took this wonderfully symbolic (of the relationship) convoluted photo.

I was sober a little over 5 years. My life was in so much turmoil. I didn't know which way to turn. Into this mess walked Mr. Right. He had come to visit a dear friend who had met him while speaking at an AA event in Australia.

He was sober nearly 8 years. He was so handsome, intelligent, and charming. He was so impressive in meetings - and so funny! Months later I heard a tape of Chuck C. for the first time and discovered that somehow Chuck C. had "stolen" much of my dear heart's experience - years before he had even gotten sober! But by then it was too late for me, I was totally in love.
My friends loved him. We looked so good together! We were both passionately in love with Alcoholics Anonymous. We went to meetings every single day. We talked about AA morning, noon, and night. And we were, as you can see by the note above, passionately in love with each other. Oh, it was an amazing time. For a couple of months anyway.

Within 3 months we left Denver for British Columbia where he could work. He was not a citizen of the United States ( I later fixed that!) and couldn't work here.

Within a few more months we were married. And before a month had passed after our wedding he started hitting me. And it went downhill from there. I won't detail it all here because I have done it piecemeal and it doesn't bear repeating, at least not this morning before work.

He was so "passionate" about AA after we were married that he would actually badger me and start fights with me over things that I had said in meetings that he didn't feel were "correct." He would only hang out with the "right" people in AA, and after a while this required travel. We had already moved from British Columbia to a small town in northern Washington because that is where we had found a great home group. After about a year, he became disenchanted with the folks in this town. We ended up traveling all over the place to find just the right people and he would follow them around. For a while I followed too. After a while, I didn't want to follow. I just wanted to be left alone to be with regular old drunks. People who said the "wrong" things.

On November 1 of this year, 20 years to the day of our first date, he sent me an e-mail (from Thailand where he lives with his next wife) quoting the words from the Elvis Costello song "Every Day I Write the Book." I think I am supposed to understand something about that. I don't really care to sit around and try to figure out what he is trying to say. I wrote him back and told him it was our 20th anniversary. And he wrote back and said "I love you too Mary Christine."

On the day we were divorced, we sat in the Jefferson County Courthouse, and we held hands through the procedure. As we said good bye at the door, I said to him "Good bye B.A., I will love you always." Because, the sad truth is, I always will.

But I will never allow someone to hit me again. And I will never allow someone to badger me over something said in a meeting again. And I will never allow someone to tell me what is "right" AA and what is "wrong" AA again.

Especially not a blogger.

Thank God it is 2009 and not 1989.

YAY!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A treadmill of her own

Acknowledging that I have absolutely no impulse control when it comes to purchasing any shiny object that pops into my pretty little budget impaired brain, I talked to several people before I made my purchase last week. I spent my snow days last week engaged in internet research as to the best price/brand of treadmill. And then on Friday I purchased one. Trying to be somewhat responsible, I am trying to purchase whatever I can locally, so I got it local, got my son to meet me at the store and brought it home on Friday night. He and his girlfriend put it together for me while I watched. There are advantages to age!

What a wonderful thing it is to get up in the morning and be able to get a run in regardless of weather, ice or snow on sidewalk, dogs, coyotes, elk, or other creatures about, lightness or dark, time, or any other external factor. So, I was able to run 3 miles this morning, and then stretch (see photo above). I am now sitting at my computer dripping sweat, trying to cool off. Don't get me wrong, I will still run outside, because that is my preference, but I will be able to maintain my fitness this way when I am unable to run outside.

Today I shall endeavor to be kind to all. My poor new boss is such a nice guy and I have had an indifferent (at best) boss for so long, that I am afraid I do not know how to have a boss who is a nice guy. I am afraid I shall be a hardship to this man. He came to tell me something yesterday and I went into a tirade and I saw the horrified expression on his face, but I kept talking and kept talking and kept talking.... "help! I'm talking, and I can't shut up!" He is a tender man and he actually cares about me and I need to be cognizant of that.

With the help of God I can do that.

Monday, November 02, 2009

All Souls Day

I am getting back to work this morning after a nice, busy, full-of-family weekend. Yesterday my son and his girlfriend brought over an elk roast and I cooked it. He was so thrilled to have actually gotten an elk this year when he went hunting. The roast was very very good. I made a huge dinner, the menu mainly based on requests - elk roast, baked potatoes, green salad, focaccia, apple pie (home made - of course, do you really need to ask?) and ice cream. It was a lovely afternoon, with the minor exception of the loss of our football team... that is OK.

I spent Saturday with my daughter, the recovering alcoholic. It was a nice day. We were driving here and there getting this and that, we just have the most fun together. In the evening, as I was driving her to an AA dance after our portion of the day was over, she just said in the most casual way, "I love AA." I could have cried. I know that sentiment was not expressed for me, it was truly heartfelt. And it might have meant that she loves going to AA dances and dating AA men, but I have a feeling that is only a part of what she meant. Because earlier in the day she had met with her sponsor, she had gone to a noon meeting and attended the business meeting of her group. I think she has a pretty good feel for a well-rounded AA experience. And it is my experience that people who immerse themselves in the program and the fellowship tend to stay sober.

I better get ready for work. It is lovely to do this in the daylight! I might not wear mismatched socks for a while!