Just Write {171}

January 20, 2015

On the Eve of five years of sobriety, I found myself considering making sugar cookies. They weren’t for me, which made me even more afraid to make them. I’ve never made sugar cookies from scratch. True story. I assumed it was way harder than it actually is, that’s what I did. For almost 40 years, I had not made sugar cookies for fear of a lengthy process with terrible results. Or something. I suppose it worked like that when I drank for all those years too. Stopping was foreign and daunting and fear took over so many times. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t want to do it. But something took over, just like with the damn cookies. I simply threw my arms in the air and started getting out all the things I needed. Sometimes a little blindly, always with a recipe. Thank God. Stay in the day. Be […]

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Just Write 154

September 23, 2014

I saw in his face what something in me already knew. He was tired from staying up too late and drinking more than he planned to drink. He was tired from thinking and thinking again and thinking about his drinking again. They were both tired, he and his wife, from years of building things and watching them crumble, building them back up again. That’s life, that’s parenting, that’s marriage, that’s work. But there was More, the mysterious illness of a child. And we who are prone to drink, genes broken up and begging for More, we will drink More. That’s what we do. Until we don’t. So there we stood, not going to church but meeting in a church, and we recognized our matching sickness because of a hesitant willingness to see it. He finally said it out loud. All the wonderings of self, the fears and the unknowns that are truly known […]

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Don’t worry, I won’t pretend to be an expert on depression or any mental illness or addiction for that matter. I could try to do that, telling you I have a degree in Psychology and ten years experience working professionally with people struggling with mental illness. I could tell you that I have struggled myself, with both depression and addiction and I am sober and I’m better. That I know how it feels. I could tell you how many people I’ve known who have taken their own lives. In a way, I guess I’m telling you all of that. But none of it matters, so let’s not focus on it. Nothing makes any person an expert on another person’s pain, mental health, life, or death. And yet there sure are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there, especially on the Internet. And lately I’ve been so immersed in life that I am very […]

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we are all misfits here

April 24, 2014

se·ren·i·ty səˈrenitē/ noun 1. the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. “We are all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass A lofty goal, to stay there, holding hands with serenity, not over here, in the anxious unknowns, the fear. So prone to wander, to want something Other, to never stop the ruminating and trying to step on the gas while the emergency brake is on. I was flipping through the racks in a thrift store, treasure hunting. I saw so many t-shirts with today’s popular inspirational quotes. Live, Laugh, Love. I Am Enough. I Love Myself. Peace, Love, Joy. I am simply not a word-wearing kind of girl. Unless the shirt says something like “This is my jam!” next to a boom box. I’m totally cool with that. But something in me steers clear of the more common sayings, like I’m adverse to looking too ordinary or something. Obviously, I […]

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I can see inside of you

April 17, 2014

When Really Big Life things are going on, I find that even though these big things are so often stressful, I am more at ease about the little things. I mean, there isn’t any room for a long conversation about why a lot of sugar is bad for your body. They know this already and good grief, they don’t even have that much sugar to consume around here. So I get over it. I say yes. We move on. Later they eat broccoli with dinner and I don’t even have to make them. There’s give and there’s take. There’s push and then pull. There’s pain and then grace. There’s a marshmallow Peep at the beginning of the day and a whole pile of carrots at the end. Only one is actually even food, but so be it. Maybe one day I’ll tell the rest of the story here. Maybe I won’t. Is that […]

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Just Write {122}

February 11, 2014

You create a space for people to be vulnerable, he said. The way you talk about recovery, especially. And it’s just kindness, you treat people with such kindness, they feel safe…” The funny thing is, I was leaning on a bar when he said this. I was ordering drinks, mine with no booze, his and hers with. And in telling me this, he let me know he saw me. He really saw me, took me in. And I wanted to cry because wow, thank you and because I want so badly to be kind, I want people to be able to feel safe with me, always. Anyone. This guy, the one that said these things, is the kind of guy that loves, just like me, to talk about Big Things for hours, and he has a great sense of humor and killer writing skills. He’s young and in love and getting married in […]

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I called Hazelden on my first sober day. I was sitting at my dad’s desk in his office, in the house I grew up in. I was playing with post-it notes for fidgeting purposes. I was trying not to cry. Ryan, my husband, was trying to keep the boys from coming to the door to say Mommy, Mommy, Mommy over and over, but they kept coming back. Shhhh, he’d say, and I felt that pressure, like I should hang up and go to them. The nice Hazelden lady on the phone asked me a series of questions. I answered honestly. She did not say she was asking to see if I’m an alcoholic or not. She just let me talk about why I was calling and then she empathized and then she asked questions, one after another. Then she said that it seemed like Hazelden would be a good fit for me. I […]

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(photo credit – that1960schick.com via google images)   When you look back, after getting sober, it makes very little sense that you could have been so addicted, inflicted. You wonder who that was, while you were gone. You try to trace the steps to that darkest place, where you were, with that need that took over you and your life. You just can’t. You can’t see how it could have happened, any of it. I can’t, anyway. I have no idea how it came to be, but there I was. There will always be people who say that it’s a moral decision, a very simple and obvious choice. They will always scoff, roll eyes and stand firm in self-righteous indignation. After all, that kind of behavior is also addiction. Ironically, it seems to me it is an addiction involving choice more-so than the addiction to substances. I did not choose alcoholism. Philip Seymour Hoffman […]

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Elizabeth Vargas

January 24, 2014

My mom called to tell me that Elizabeth Vargas was on Good Morning America telling her story of alcoholism. She said that it sounded a lot like my story, and as I listened I was shocked at how true that is. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me anymore, how we’re all the same, but I guess it does. The face of alcoholism is everyone’s face. I wanted to hug Elizabeth and high five her and talk for hours. Because of how we’re the same and how powerful the sisterhood of sobriety is, and because she’s never going to know how powerful her story’s ripple effect really is, simply in its truth-telling. None of us can know, but it is good. When you are still drinking, it feels like there’s no way it could ever stop. But I’m writing this little love note to Elizabeth Vargas and hoping that if you came across it because […]

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November 10, 2013

The car is totaled and my right side is tight and stiff and stubborn. I saw him coming, in my rear view mirror and I knew. He tried to brake at the last second but he’d been going so fast and the impact was great. I hit the car in front of me and then we all sat stunned. He took off, and the woman from the car in front of me stood on the sidewalk with me and I saw her beautiful big eyes and jet black hair and her fear. Her sari’s colors were bright and she said she had been on the way to temple. Oh bless you, sweetheart. He took off and we were shocked. We found out soon enough that he went on to create another accident, sending one woman to the hospital and many witnesses into a confused lack of control. Just like that, a drunk driver […]

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So then there was that ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer show. It’s weird to see yourself on TV, friends. I’m starting to get middle-aged lady jowls. (Just to keep it real around here, I want you to know that I just tried to make jowls, “jowels”, for a really long time and I could not for the life of me remember how to spell it right.) (Ahem.) Anyway, after the nightly news gig, people came over here from abc.com, and then they sent me emails or they clicked over to Shining Strong, a non-profit for people struggling with addiction. That’s why I let people see my jowls on national TV. All joking aside, this really is what matters. It’s terribly common for a woman to find herself overly dependent on wine. I hear from a lot of people who share their stories with me and every single one (even if I can’t […]

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Tonight on ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on women and their relationship with wine. (You know, since I did a lot of research by practicing alcoholism before I got sober.) (I should clarify: The name of the show is ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer, but I will not be seen sitting down with Diane Sawyer herself. There will simply be clips of an interview I did with a lovely producer who asked me questions about my journey with alcohol.) I’m so honored to have a voice in this discussion, and what I want from this is for more women to know they aren’t alone, if they’re struggling with addiction. If you’re here because you saw the show, welcome. I hope my words made sense and encouraged you. I hope you know you aren’t alone. I hope you know there’s hope. If you’d like to learn more, […]

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Just Write {98}

August 19, 2013

{Just Write simply means that I “just write” without hesitation, not stopping to edit. I end up saying what the page says, not on purpose, sometimes clearly, sometimes not. Feel free to join me.} We sat out on the front porch in the seventy degree beautiful Minnesota evening weather and went through the year book from 1993. It was the weekend of our 2oth reunion and we are two friends from fifth grade on, still sitting together when we can, like on the night before our reunion. Her big brown eyes are the same and her naturally curly mane of brown hair. Actually she looks the same, only better. I noticed that about so many people this weekend. Twenty years have gone by and they look better than ever, like they’ve grown into themselves, maybe even found out that they are as great as I always thought they were and then got all […]

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I was in my early twenties, it was winter and the friends I had grown up with were in town for the holidays. We were younger and had fewer responsibilities, most of us. Some of us by choice and some of us just…because. There were a few of us with families and/or real jobs and all those other “grown-up” things. I was not one of those. I was partying a lot and wanting to stay unattached to real responsibilities, but I didn’t even realize that’s what I wanted. I thought it just was what it was, but I was wrong. The truth was that I had a really unhealthy relationship with alcohol, starting back then, right then. Not only that, I had a really unhealthy relationship with myself. I would drink so much that my insides would hurt, while my liver fought to process. I blamed it on other things, like maybe an […]

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My mom had taken the kids to her house in our minivan, so I had her car. It’s fun to drive. It has a fancy radio that brings in all kinds of stations. You know, it’s serious. Or Sirius. I love to scan through the stations and usually I land on public radio. I love NPR. This time though, as I was scanning I landed on a talk radio show and heard a woman talking about how she’d gotten married and then four years later, her husband started drinking too much. She said he totally changed and she honestly hadn’t seen signs of alcoholism before she married him. Then I realized I was listening to Dr. Laura, which I don’t normally do. Like most people, I’m not a fan of listening to the self-righteous belittle and shame others under the guise of helping. Because I’m an alcoholic in recovery, I didn’t turn the […]

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Just Write {79}

April 1, 2013

It was a long day with so much sugar in it. Jelly beans, pastel ones, everywhere and chocolate eggs and Peeps. The boys landed flat on their backs on the couches when the company started to leave, head and stomach aches totally taking over. Elsie zipped around, bouncing off the walls, with her cheeks full of stolen jelly beans like a little chipmunk. At bedtime it was a crash and burn situation. There were several requests for more water, more hugs, more stories, more time. The sugar needed to finish doing them in. The two youngest fell silent first, which is almost always the case. Miles has these big blue eyes that stare into the dark longer, with all kinds of activity behind them, his mind zinging and zapping. His synapses are more active than all three of my sugar-over-dosed kids combined. He went to the bathroom, again. He came to get me […]

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Just Write {70}

January 28, 2013

Saturday, in a coffee shop, I worked hard. Sending emails and writing posts and writing other things. I got a lot done, there in the caffeinated room, high ceilings, chill in the air from the door opening and closing. My friend Rhonda sat nearby doing her work. She has two daughters and a full-time job and a part-time job–the one she was working on today. We sat apart to stay focused but took breaks together. She loves her coffee strong and so do I but I can’t drink it in the afternoon like she can or I don’t sleep. I called Ryan to check-in and he said he was out with the kids looking at a book store for a new puzzle because we’re almost done with the last one. We do many puzzles in the winter, it started after I quit drinking. Puzzles were a way for me to distract my brain […]

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three years sober

January 21, 2013

{just write will be up tomorrow morning, Tuesday} {this post was written yesterday} Our dog is the color of copper, maybe a bit lighter, almost orange. Tia Maria. She has a stripe of white like a cowl around her neck, and more white like sweat socks on her legs. About half of her tail is white, too. It changes from copper to white at the point in which her tail was once broken by an over-zealous preschooler who yanked a wild hello. After that, her tail has always had a bump and a strange bend to it, but it wags just fine. Quite violently, actually. Her happiness is vicious. Thwap slap thwap slap. She is sleeping on the floor beside me, Tia Maria, with that tail laying over one of her back legs. She is softly snoring. I love her more lately. Many mothers admit that their love for their pets dwindles with […]

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Just Write {65}

December 10, 2012

I pressed the coin into his glove-covered hand. I want you to have this. It’s the first one I got. It’s the 24 hour one, they give it to you even if it’s been more than 24 hours.  It had been a month when I showed up for the first time. I was white knuckling it. I was terrified. Not drinking for the rest of my life seemed like a bad idea. Turns out it really is all about taking 24 hours at a time. One sober person told me at the beginning, don’t think. what are you doing thinking? You can’t think about it!  That’s like telling me to stop breathing, that’s what I thought. I suppose he meant something about not thinking about this being for the rest of my life. Just for today. I can do anything for one day, right? Today was no joke, almost three years later. I […]

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I wish I would have thought to write down every good thing that hit me in the gut that I’ve heard at recovery meetings. I haven’t. I would love to leaf through that notebook, to be reminded of all the simple truths spoken there. Many of them I’ve heard so many times, but on certain days, I finally really hear them. It would be so nice to look in my notebook, at a date in a corner, to see when I first “got” something and to ask myself if I still have it. In reality, I have no way to do that, except to keep going back. That’s how I’ll be refreshed, I think. When complacency or pride slips in, I can hustle in the door and it will slam behind me and everyone will turn to see and then I’ll sit down and hold my coffee and be changed. All the truths […]

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Rewriting My Name

August 23, 2012

My friend Gi at Sweet Peas and Buddies asked me to come on over there and tell a story. I’m so happy to oblige. I’m sharing a post from before I stopped drinking. Re-reading some of those posts so often makes me shake my head. Not in regret or shame or some such thing. Just in wonder, I guess. That I could see my unhealthiness, but I wasn’t really willing to see it. Rewriting My Name is a story about Miles and being haunted by your history and learning to start again. You can read it at Sweet Peas and Buddies if you’d like. Peace. Comments are off.

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August 15, 2012

I guzzle my first (and never last) cup of coffee. I don’t mean to, it’s just that it’s one of my last vices. I want to be a person who sips a fantastic cup of coffee, just one, and then goes on with a day drenched in 8 glasses of water and only whole foods. I drink a lot of water and I work hard to eat well, but I also love sugar as much as I love coffee. We addicts are far too aware of our compulsive behavior, at least in sobriety, so I bend and tip forward, pulling my eyes to my navel to dissect this behavior. Then I remember, I’m a human being. Flawed and a work in progress and imperfect and all that. One day I will sit and sip tea, decaf of course, maybe by the ocean and I’ll be wearing something white and flowy and the breeze […]

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not flat, but round…

July 21, 2012

This morning the chickens jumped out the coop and I peeked in their first ever eggs peeked back. I nearly squeeled. I took them in the house and left Ryan a note “from the chickens” For: Ryan… We made you something. From: Haymitch, The Road Runner and Boss Hog. Sorry about the chicken scratch. On Instagram, with this picture, I said “Thanks for the eggs, Haymitch.” Someone asked if the name comes from The Hunger Games and I tried, not so eloquently, to explain. (If you don’t know much about The Hunger Games, Haymitch is a soft-hearted, hardened and drunk human being.) “Yes, actually. I understand Haymitch a little too well. So there’s some meaning for me. Chickens make me feel peaceful and that name reminds me of how much I need that dose of grace. Which sounds weird if chickens aren’t your thing.“ Yesterday a friend told me that Brennan Manning died. (Edited […]

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June 28, 2012

Oh Milesy, you’ve been here seven years and you are a million good things piled up through all your learning and then a million more things that simply came along with you, out into the world on the day you were born. I was reading this book about age 7, about what happens developmentally at this stage and it said something about this being the year of melancholy. A year in which kids start to spend more time alone and a year when the brain and body is doing things that make a person extra sensitive and frustrated. I thought, UH OH. But I’m glad to know this ahead of time because it already started. You’ve always done that. As a baby you did everything the books said right on target, or as the over-achiever that you are, sometimes a little ahead. Back then I had no idea what a content baby you […]

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I avoided discomfort for most of my life. Now I’m learning to sit in it–to walk through it, not around it–but I still had the idea that discomfort would only come in waves. Ebb and flow. Easy then hard, then easy then hard. Like life was like a carousel moving slowly with the scenery changing from good to bad. It seemed like people take their turns, you know? That their seasons are marked with Joy or Pain, one or the other. It looks like that, when you’re a child because you hear about the Big Things but adults don’t really talk to you about all the constants. And it looks like that as an adult because we compare a lot and comparing makes everything seem big and black and white and one way or the other. I’m finally learning, since I can’t escape it anymore, that discomfort is there all the time. Of […]

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March 5, 2012

{this post was inspired by my own story and also Maggie May’s post Anxiety: A Plague, Years of Wonder. Her words help me more fully understand myself and for that I am always grateful.} It feels ridiculous sometimes. I am a grown woman and my husband is holding my hand and taking me to the doctor, carefully. I sit there, child’s pose and Dr. M. says my face looks brighter, better than the first time. Yes, I’m feeling a little more like I can see myself. She increases the dosage of medication that will hopefully round off the corners of some of this anxiety and depression. She says the medicine will at first make the symptoms worse and then better. I hate that I need a medication that is so confused about itself. She was right. I can’t sleep because of the all the drunk monkeys in my head, pounding around, my eyes flying […]

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like a run-on sentence

March 3, 2012

I received an email from a mother struggling with her drinking and it inspired my last post. I wanted to share her story with you and she gave me permission to do so. Please offer her some support by reading her words. I remember so clearly exactly how it felt to feel what she feels in the fight to get to 5 o’clock and the fight to stop. We all need a better understanding of this very personal  and painful struggle. Thank you.   I’m keeping this mother’s identity anonymous: (sorry for the really small text at the beginning. I just can’t seem to get it to get bigger.) You are almost 2 and 1/2. You are a good – sweet – amazing girl, but today – this week – you have been extremely emotional and aggressive. I myself have been feeling the same. The weather is turning, you are growing and I am […]

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guinea pain

March 1, 2012

It hit me right then, Oh. I said to me. One of the reasons I was drinking so much was to be nice to me. Of course now, in recovery, I see I wasn’t being nice to me at all, but then? I wanted to claim my time, give myself the treat of glass after glass that felt like kindness. It hit me when I got an email from a reader who also struggles with her drinking. In it, she told the story of her day, one in which her child had repeatedly physically hurt her. You know, in the ways that a toddler can–a sippy cup to the head, a tantrum slap to the cheek–things we chalk up to irrational little emotions because a kid is a kid and they’re learning and it’s not personal. But as this lovely mother described this difficult day, I could feel exactly what she was saying. […]

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a different thing

February 17, 2012

That kid’s song says, “it’s alright to cry, crying gets the sad out of you” and I always thought it might be a lie. It doesn’t seem like it’s alright. So I would sing it as a kid and it would choke me up right there at school with no reason. It still makes me cry to sing the crying song, especially lately because this anxiety thing is wearing out my body and I’m so damn depressed. You might be wondering why in the world I would listen to that song, but I don’t know, it just came on with the ipod on shuffle because there are a lot of kid songs on there. It takes all I have to give to walk over and turn the power on, make the music start to change the house song, to keep going. But I did the hokey pokey. Miles watched with such intensity waiting […]

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730 times

January 20, 2012

It’s been 2 years. 2 years 365 days plus 365 days or 24 hours strung together 730 times. I suppose I could go on with all kinds of numbers, but I’m terrible at math and the day must go on. That’s what they do, you know. The days go on, sometimes walking and sometimes running and sometimes marching. Oh the ones that march, they are the stompy and defiant ones, annoying and hard but entirely necessary. This morning I woke up to Elsie Talk, crackling at me over the monitor.  I went to get her and nursed her in bed and when she was done she looked up at me and made the silliest face you’ve ever seen. Then Miles came in and sniffed her head and sniffed her head some more. It’s his favorite thing to do. We got up, we three early risers and I made coffee and thought my thinks […]

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