Amy

AMY

I saw the Amy Winehouse documentary “Amy” at an indie theater here in town on Saturday. Obviously, I knew how her story would end, but the film managed to break my heart anyway. Amy died in the summer of 2011, a little less than two years before I decided to choose a life of sobriety. It’s life or death, this whole sobriety business. And it’s hard work. It’s hard work for the rest of our lives, at least I know that’s how it will be for me. My disease lies to me constantly, telling me that it’s really not that big of a deal. But it’s a big fucking deal, and I can never safely drink ever again. Did I ever safely drink to begin with?

I am a fan of Amy’s music, and I find her to be incredibly talented. Her death leaves the mystery of what could have been, same with all the other members of The 27 Club. I remember reading about her disastrous nights out on the town, brawls with her husband, the complete downward spiral of her addictions. At the time, I was probably thinking the same as so many other people. What a waste of talent! Hot mess! Why can’t she get her shit together? Does she want to die?

Through the lens of sobriety, I was able to both sympathize and relate to so much while watching the documentary. Don’t get me wrong, our stories couldn’t possibly be any more different. But as addicts, we all have a lot in common. And I watched in horror as so much of her tragic story could have been prevented. As a celebrity, I cannot fathom how much harder life is. To be scrutinized constantly, followed by paparazzi. That is not normal life. Eventually she wanted to disappear, and I don’t blame her.  And she did disappear, thanks to the help of alcohol and drugs.

Towards the end of her life, she managed to string a month of sobriety together. She picked up again three days before her death. All I could think of while watching was “People, places, things!” That ALL has to change for a sober lifestyle to be maintained. Amy tried, but that piece of the puzzle was never there.

Amy, I hope that you’re at peace now, wherever you may be. Of course I hope the same for the countless people who die everyday from this horrible disease.

Have any of you seen the film? Thoughts?

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Weak Spots

As most of you know, this past year has been a constant transition period followed by transition period followed by transition period. I am currently adjusting to my new life on my own, a new job, and another (partial) loss of freedom by being unable to drive. The past four weeks have been another “Look Ma, no hands!” rollercoaster ride emotionally. With change comes anxiety, vulnerability, depression and moments of weakness.

Life would be so much easier without Facebook, wouldn’t it? I wish I could sever the ties completely, but I can’t. Being incarcerated was both a blessing and a curse when it came to human contact. I was no longer a slave to my phone and to social media, but it was harder to get a hold of people via letters and expensive phone calls. There were so many periods where I was so depressed that I couldn’t write letters. And then I felt guilty for friends spending exorbitant amounts of money for 15 minute phone calls just so I could rant or cry to them. Towards the end, phone calls and visits were too much. I went through with them, but it seemed better to isolate myself completely. Hearing a voice over the phone or seeing a face through a glass window left me despondent and missing them more. It was painful.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Facebook. Sigh.

Last night on Facebook, there were some photos of a few people that I love dearly. They were sitting on barstools at my old hangout, pints in hand, with big smiles. I had an overwhelming urge to be sitting there next to them, drinking away my anxieties, feeling that warmth and instant happy wash over me. To have effortless conversation, to not feel like the shy awkward one, to be with my friends in that setting again.

I was jealous. Jealous that I couldn’t be there, jealous of their fun, jealous that for most of them, they can go out and remember what they did the next day. It was a really shitty feeling.

Friends, I know what I need to do, but I also needed to vent with people who understand. Thanks for being here with me.

Oy Vey

A quick update: I’m still alive and kicking. Good news! *wink, wink* And I’m still sober, but I am having a hard time with my new normal. Getting out of jail and suddenly being surrounded by booze (my mom and her husband are drinkers) after being completely removed from it for half a year was a weird feeling. Like walking by an open beer made me feel…really uncomfortable. Almost like it was going to leap out and bite me. In fact, my entire state of mind is akin to my newly sober days. I am not coping as well as I was prior to my sentencing. I feel like I’ve taken 50 steps back in every aspect of my life and emotional well being. I’m not gonna lie, it sucks.

But I just wanted to let you all know that I am here and doing okay but still adjusting. Still trying to get caught up with all of you again. I just NOW checked my blog’s email account for the first time since I’ve been out. Oops! And there are others of you that I still need to reach out to and reconnect with. Please be patient with me, I’m in a bit of a tailspin at the moment. To all of you who are newly sober and checking out my blog (my stats are going up again, so I’m guessing that there are a lot of you here – Welcome!), I hope that you find my archives helpful. If you need help, do not hesitate to ask. Please email me if you’d like.

I hope you all had a great holiday season. I was spoiled as usual, and despite getting sick, had a wonderful time seeing family and friends I hadn’t seen in ages. And overindulging in lots of delicious food! I lost weight in jail, but I think I’ve gained most of it back already. No worries though, as I am out of that cold, depressing place! Today I applied for a job at my former place of employment. Unfortunately, it’s not my previous job, but it would be a step in the right direction. And trust me, direction would be great right now. Please cross your fingers for me.

Alright kids, be good! I promise to be back shortly.

383 Days

This might be a long and rambling post, so apologies in advance.

It’s been a rough week for me. My foundation is starting to crack as butterflies and fear keep jostling my insides. I was unbearably nervous for my meeting with HR Wednesday, and the nerves have been with me since. I get hungry, but after I eat, I feel sick. I’m smoking, and I haven’t bought cigarettes since 2005. I sit at my desk and cry as I receive yet another amazing letter of character for the judge. I’m trying not to fixate on my sentencing on the 9th, but that’s impossible.

My meeting with HR, my union rep, and my boss went as well as I could ever hope it would. However, it was an informal meeting and the HR higher-ups so to speak seem to be unwavering in their belief that I should not be granted any leave of absence due to serving time in jail. I am writing my letter of resignation next week in preparation for the unknown. My boss can hold the letter for a week or so and tear it up if need be. Having had a history of shitty bosses, I am overwhelmed and feel incredibly blessed to have a boss that is doing everything he can to keep me here. He keeps acting like it’s no big deal, but to me it is huge. My boss is not here today, and he will be away at a leadership conference all next week. We spoke after work yesterday discussing my resignation letter and my options. We’re both hopeful that if my job does end here in June, that I will be rehired. My leaving the university will be on good terms, and HR has said that they will not discriminate against hiring me with a felony on my record. So, if I am forced to resign, I am trying to stay positive with the hopes that I may be able to slide back into my position at a later date. I held in my tears until after our little chat  yesterday. It felt surreal to be crying over my boss, since this may have been our last day working together. His letter to the judge was wonderful, with him asking the judge to consider anything other than straight jail time so I can keep my job here. I hope he knows how much his support means to me.

When I got home from work, I received a letter to the judge from my big brother and it left me crying for an hour. My brother and I are extremely close and 3 1/2 years apart. He was the last one to see me before I drove the night of the accident. Apparently he tried to stop me from driving, and I got belligerent about it. The rest as they say, is history. This is totally assholish of me, but I wanted you all to see his letter. Certain names are left out, of course. Here goes:

Your Honor,

This is a letter of character regarding my sister, Kristina.

My name is blah blah. I was born on blah blah, 1976 in blah, graduated from blah High in 1994, and have lived there my entire life. I’m a CNC operator/set-up person at blah blah blah. I’ve been with the company for nearly 17 years.

Growing up, I was (still am, and always will be) Kristina’s big brother. We’d argue, laugh, fight, and have fun together the way most siblings would. We watched the same movies and TV shows, listened to most of the same music, and both loved reading books. Those are four of the things I’m most passionate about in life. Kristina and I have remarkably similar tastes when it comes to these things. As we moved out of our teens and into adulthood, our shared love of movies, music, TV, and books only brought us closer. Although we live an hour away from each other and we don’t see or talk to one another as often as we used to, there is no one I feel closer to. She’s my best friend. I love her more than anyone else in this world.

She went to college after high school and worked hard to earn a Bachelors degree in English, and later, a Masters degree in Library Science. Like a lot of college grads, it took her a long time to find a good job in her chosen field. No matter where she was or what job she had prior to her current “dream job,” she worked hard and took pride in what she did. Those traits are increasingly rare in this day and age, especially for people under the age of 40. I’ve been working in a factory since I was 20 with people of all ages. Believe me, I know how rare a strong work ethic is today. Kristina loves and cares about her job enormously. I have no doubt that she is great at what she does.

The night of May 11, 2013 is a night I’ll never forget. I received a phone call from my Mom – who was in absolute hysterics – telling me Kristina had been in an accident. I told her I’d be right over. When I hung up, I didn’t know Kristina’s condition, whether she was alive or dead. I couldn’t get that information out of my Mom. It was about 15 minutes between the time I hung up and the time I pulled into my Mother’s driveway. She was outside waiting for me, crying, but calmer than she had been over the phone. She told me that “they” said Kristina was going to be okay. Those 15 minutes of not knowing whether or not my little sister was alive or dead were, BY FAR, the worst 15 minutes of my life.

After learning Kristina had been badly injured, but would survive and recover, and learning that the victim of the accident, blank, would also be okay, I felt thankful and relieved. Those feelings quickly turned into anger and disappointment. Why somebody so decent and hard-working and intelligent would make a decision that would jeopardize her life and the lives of others was beyond my comprehension. She made a HUGE mistake. That cannot be overstated. I think it was blind luck that both blank and my sister survived the accident. Any punishment meted out to Kristina would be well deserved. However, I personally don’t know if jail or prison time is given to the guilty as a means of punishment or reformation. If it’s the former, then she committed the crime and should pay for it. If it’s the latter, I think jail time would be redundant. She has completely changed her life. She’s been sober for over a year now and has an entirely new outlook. Unfortunately it took an event of this magnitude for her to realize that she had a drinking problem. It hasn’t been easy, but with the help of AA and an Intensive Outpatient Program for alcohol dependency, she has turned her life around and expresses a desire to help others by sharing her experience. I could not be more proud of her.

I know my sister well enough to know that the guilt and remorse she feels over injuring and traumatizing blank cannot be measured. She would do anything to undo the damage she caused that night. But it did happen. This is reality. Both parties have to live with the events and consequences of that terrible, avoidable accident, for better and for worse. Kristina can’t change what happened and I’m sure she’ll regret it for the rest of her life. What she has learned about herself and the changes she has made as a result are an unexpected blessing. Everybody makes mistakes. The wise and the penitent and the conscientious learn from theirs. I know Kristina will NEVER make that mistake again.

Thank you for your consideration.

Fuck, right? I don’t have any words for this.

Two weeks ago I met up with one of my former drinking buddies. I’d seen her only a handful of times since my accident, and had a growing resentment with our situation. I won’t get into detail, but she’s not one of those people I can blow off by saying she’s a drinking buddy and only a drinking buddy. We kept in touch via text after my accident, and she was there for me for the death of my greyhound and three weeks later when we had to euthanize our cat early this year. She hired me back in 2007 to man the front desk of a very busy county humane society. While working on my masters I decided to take on my passion of animal rescue/welfare. I had already worked in libraries for eight years and wanted to indulge this passion before spending the rest of my life in libraries. Anyway, we became great friends. And drinking buddies. I felt abandoned by her after my car accident, as previously she had all the time in the world for me when I was sitting next to her on a bar stool. So when we got together a couple weeks ago, I finally told her how I had been feeling.

I was not expecting her response. Turns out my drinking had become so bad that she forced herself to detach from me. She was there the night I passed out in the park, she helped to drag me out of a cab and get me into my house and on a couch on my birthday last year. I was gobsmacked that one of my drinking buddies was disgusted by my behavior. I was once again overcome with shame and embarrassment. And then anger. Anger because whenever I tried to control my drinking by not drinking for two weeks or a month or whatnot (ridiculous, right?), she was the one who never respected my desire to try to stop for said period of time. I would still be deluged with texts from her: “Drinkies tonight?” “Margs tomorrow?” “Beers on Friday” “Day drinking on the patio Sunday?” I’m struggling with what I should do with this, with her. The best thing would be to continue to detach with love, to walk away. It’s hard with shared friends, though.

Last night sucked. I was overcome with so much emotion, especially after reading my brother’s love and anger toward me and this situation. I feel horrible for hurting so many people with my actions, even worse so that I am still the cause of stress and worry because of my potential jail sentence. I hate that I was so out of control for so long that it took me cheating death and hurting another person to stop the madness. I wonder how long I will feel shitty about my actions? How long people will bring up my actions thus bringing back all the hurt and guilt and shame again and again? I am so proud of myself, and of what I am becoming. But still, I have moments where I wish this was all a bad dream.

I’m tired.

365 Days

This post is dedicated to my mom.

I spent Saturday May 11, 2013 with family in my hometown for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. Before going to my aunt and uncle’s house, I stopped to see my other grandmother, to give her flowers and a card for Mother’s Day. My plan was to go and see my mom after the party (my parents divorced when I was seven), so I wouldn’t spend two days in a row driving back and forth to my hometown. I could have spent the night at Mom’s, but she understood. My mom doesn’t guilt trip like her mother has done for her entire life. If I can’t make it to a family birthday, she gets it. Of course she wants to see me, but she gets that I have my own life.

When I got to the family party, I was surprised to see that my aunt had a pitcher of fresh sangria sitting out in the kitchen. Alcohol is never served at family functions on my dad’s side of the family. My grandparents do not drink. In fact, my grandpa’s dad was a mean drunk who beat up on and eventually left his mother. My grandfather (who is a wonderful, caring man), never drank as a result of his father’s actions. My aunt and uncle have an entire temperature-controlled wine room in their mini-mansion. It killed them to never serve wine at holiday dinners. I am not sure why they did not serve alcohol at family functions after all these years. My brother and I were often puzzled by their actions. After all, it’s their house and they can do what they want, right?

Leave it to me to cheat death the day my aunt and uncle decided to serve booze at a family function.

It was a chilly day for a barbecue, but we made the most of it. Grilled brats, a ton of yummy sides. Cake and ice cream for grandma, and later we had s’mores over the fire. At first, I had one sangria an hour for the first three hours. No sweat. Later, my aunt started digging for wines in the wine room. While I preferred dry reds, a good Gewürztraminer always perked me up. As we all loosened up, we moved inside to play Apples to Apples at the dining room table with my younger cousins. And that’s the last of my memory for that evening.

I started taking antidepressants in spring 2012. My drinking spiraled out of control after that. Constant blackouts. I passed out in a public park, for Christ’s sake! And of course those drugs did shit for my depression, when I poured alcohol down my gullet on a regular basis to deal with my problems. In April 2013, I started another drug in addition to what I had already been taking the past year. That month I went to visit my best friend in St. Louis, a trip I make at least once a year (the city is my home away from home). I was there for the better part of a week, and I had two spectacular nights of drinking during my stay.

But back to that night. I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t end up going to my mother’s. In fact, my accident had me going toward the freeway in the direction of home. Who knows what was going through my mind? Did I pass out behind the wheel? Maybe I wanted to die at that moment? I have no idea. According to state troopers and witness statements, the crash happened at 10:03 pm. At 11:20 pm, mom sent me a message on Facebook that read: “Check in I’m worried. Just a beep when I try to call you.” At that point, I had been extracted from the wreckage and was at the first hospital, which was only a couple miles from the crash site.

Last night I prayed at 10:03 pm. I prayed to my Higher Power for sparing my life, and for sparing the life of the woman I hit. For giving me the brunt of the injuries that night, for keeping her relatively safe. I prayed for her, and hoped that she was doing okay on this anniversary of our lives colliding, hoping she had a good Mother’s Day with her family. She was picking up her son from a friend’s house when I hit her head-on. I prayed for my sobriety, and for being a completely different person today. I gave thanks. Thanks for my strength, my clarity, my new attitude. For everything. These days I am overflowing with gratitude. I prayed for peace of mind. I prayed for the strength to get through my jail sentence.

And I cried. And I cried. And I cried.

Back to my mom who probably worried herself sick before falling asleep that night. When she answered the phone at 2 am, it was officially Mother’s Day. She got the phone call that all parents dread: that her daughter had been in a horrible car accident, that she was in critical condition, that after being at one hospital briefly, she had to be lifeflighted to the number one trauma hospital in the state. Mom said that I was conscious when she arrived. She held my hand while the tears streamed silently down my face. I didn’t make a sound. I wonder what I was thinking then? I must have been terrified. I will be forever grateful for having zero memory of all the trauma involved with that evening.

As I’ve mentioned before, I came to (so to speak) sometime that following afternoon. Family and friends were surrounding me. I was intubated, on a backboard with a cervical collar, on oxygen, my arm in a giant soft cast. I found out I needed surgery for my three nasty forearm fractures, but that I would have to wait until Friday because the swelling was too great.

Image

The day was a blur. I didn’t know what happened, and I was afraid to ask. Once my endo tube was removed, I couldn’t stop vomiting. The nurses were upset because I kept trying to lift my head to vomit into a container, but they were still worried about me having a neck injury. Mom stayed with me, and gently helped me to aim without using my neck (bit rough, trust me). Finally everyone went home for the night. I didn’t have my contacts in, but I was able to listen to “The Golden Girls” on television. Sleep is impossible in the ICU as your vitals are being taken so frequently, and nurses are coming and going all the time. My nurse that night was a man named James. He was also there when I came in the night before, but I didn’t remember him. He was in his late 20s, and very kind. We talked that night, and while I don’t remember our conversations that well, I will always remember his kindness. My mother felt the same way about James, as she spent that entire first night with me (and him). I’ve always regretted not getting his last name so I could send him a thank you to the hospital. Of course that was his job, but none of the other nurses treated me with that same level of kindness. I will always remember him, and be thankful for his soothing words during one of the scariest times of my life.

Here I am, one year later. That night in the ICU, I knew that I had to stop drinking. Hell, when I started this blog I couldn’t even call myself an alcoholic! I am astounded by how much I have grown in 365 days. One thing I have learned is that my experiences are unique to myself. I know it sounds silly, but I remember reading wonderful blogs here by folks with much less sobriety than I had. I felt like these folks had it together while I was still dealing with my mess. It took me a long time to get my “Aha!” moment. To know that I am an alcoholic, and to recognize that this accident was the best thing to ever happen in my life. To plead guilty to a felony, wait to be sentenced to jail, and still remain in a good state of mind. To those of you in early sobriety, do not base your recovery on the recovery of another. Just a guideline.

I had a great day with family yesterday. Most of it was spent with my mother and family at my grandma’s house. After, I visited my dad and grandparents. I talked at length with my grandparents about My Drinking for the first time. My grandfather started to cry as he recounted a time when his father came home drunk again, and starting hitting his mother. Pappy’s older brother (one of them – there were ten siblings total) attacked his father and drove him out of the house. Pappy eyed me and nervously asked if I was done with the alcohol. With tears in my eyes, I reassured them both that I was done with alcohol for good.

 

 

355 Days

Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful!”

The above quote has been swirling through my head all day. It’s helping me to make sense of what is happening, with what I have done, with my consequences. Today I pled guilty to a felony in court. It was part of a plea offer, but still, I pled guilty to a felony in court.

Me.

I did that.

This is my life.

And then the quote from the Big Book runs through my head again and again…

This was never going to happen to me. I’ve always been the quiet shy one with my head in a book (unless booze was involved, of course). I love school and learning. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college. Not only that, but I have a Master’s. I am the type of person who would never eat a stray grape in a grocery store. Wouldn’t the flashing lights come on? ISN’T THAT STEALING?

Silly, I know, but that’s how I think. Okay, I’ve got a bit of a wild, rebellious streak in me, but I’m a good person. And good people aren’t criminals, right? Wrong. What I am trying to convey is that if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Granted, I was not in my right mind when I committed a crime. Sober me would never be so reckless, thoughtless, careless. Sober me has swerved on country roads to avoid running over snakes. Other animals too, of course, but I’m trying to make a point. That person who hurt another person almost one year ago was not the real me.

Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful!”

Give me a couple days, and I hope to be back to feeling good and kicking life’s ass. But right now I am scared again. Rough week, plus my car died on the freeway yesterday (great timing) followed by this today. Life will not give me more than I can deal with, but it does a good job of knocking the wind out of me from time to time.

I am grateful to be sober another day. I am grateful to have so many wonderful family, friends and coworkers who have flooded me with texts and phone calls today to see how things went and how I am doing (even though I’m wiped out, totally overwhelmed, and haven’t responded to everyone yet). I am grateful for being able to borrow a car from my father while I decide if my current car is worth putting more money into. I am grateful for you all here, for reading the words of a stranger and offering support and encouragement. I am grateful to be able to sleep in my own bed tonight. My sentencing is June 9th. One more month of freedom for a while. Very grateful for that right now.

352 Days

Life continues to be all kinds of crazy these days. I’m also a wee bit behind on reading blogs here, but I’m hoping to catch up on all your lives soon (promise!).

I had a rough go of things last week, but I really am feeling better. It took a few days to digest the news from the prosecution (not backing down on me doing six months in maximum security jail), but I am over my little pity party. Obviously it is up to the judge to decide my fate, and I will continue to believe and prepare myself for the full six months. My judge is tough, so I am not anticipating leniency on his end. However, if he gives me a lesser sentence and/or work release then that will be wonderful.

As of last Thursday, I have a new sponsor. Back in February I was considering dumping my first sponsor. After a crisis at the end of that month, I told her that I needed her to “kick my ass, AA-style”. We got together for breakfast and a meeting, and kept in touch a few times after that. I haven’t seen her since then, and decided that I need and deserve someone who is going to push me along on this journey. My new sponsor, M., has been sober since 1997. She’s in my home group, and her lead blew me away last fall. She’s had a really amazing life, and didn’t get sober until alcoholism took her husband and soul-mate from her. We met for coffee last week, and I told her my story. It was agreed that we were a good fit, and she gave me assignments immediately. We’ll also be meeting once a week, plus we share our home group. I am grateful to have her on my side as I prepare for my jail sentence. I need this, big time.

My job is still up in the air. I have a union rep working on my behalf, and now I am thrilled to have my boss in on the fight. He has no idea what I’ve been going through, and yesterday we met and talked for about an hour. I was so nervous to discuss my case with him that I was worried I was going to hurl in his office (“If you’re gonna spew, spew into this“). I told him everything, and he was incredibly supportive. Blown away by all I’ve been dealing with and what I’ve done (busting ass to get well, seven week treatment program, etc) to get well without hurting my work performance in any way. He’s going to reach out to HR, and do anything possible to ensure that my job will still be here whether I am gone for six months or two months. He is also going to write to the judge on my behalf prior to my sentencing. I went back to my office when we were done talking. My door was cracked open a bit, and a coworker who has become a good friend came in to see how our meeting went. I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) by my boss’s response that I just started sobbing at my desk while she came over and hugged me.

I cannot get over how many amazing people I have in my life right now. Family, friends, coworkers, sober bloggers. The amount of love and support I continue to receive is mind blowing. All this support plus my continued sobriety has shown me that whatever happens, everything will be okay. I will get through all this, and be stronger for it. Hell, I already am! 

Come on, life! BRING IT.