Three Years!

1,096 days, 42 minutes and 94694685 heart beats, so says the sobriety calculator.  I say that it’s good to be alive and celebrating 3 years of being alcohol free – today!

Graced!  That is how I feel today.  I don’t think of myself as being any sort of deeply religious person, but no better word describes how I feel.  I now realize that taking alcohol out of my body placed me at the starting line of life.  Not a new life, but one that has given me the opportunity to learn who I am.  It has given me the opportunity to put my “false self” behind me and to bring my true and authentic self to the forefront.  At three years into this journey, I am overwhelmed with elation and I look forward to every day in front of me.

Reflecting back three years, for a moment, I have found this journey to be the most difficult thing that I have ever met in my life.  At year one, I was “happy” for the most part.  I was on a ski trip with my daughter for that anniversary and I knew that our trip would not have been if I was still drinking.  What I didn’t realize at the first year mark was that I was still in an unconscious state!  The full impact of the guilt, shame and remorse for the lives that I had affected, while drinking, had yet to wash over me.

 On my second anniversary I was completely paralyzed with fear.  I was definitely conscious and I was hurting.  My critical thinking skills had returned to me and I was seriously questioning the ideology of AA.  I wanted to move in another direction but found myself conflicted with the AA slogan that “this (AA) is the last house on the block.  Only jail, institutions or death await you if you leave AA” brainwashing!  Above all else, I didn’t want to run my life into the ground again.

Full of fear, I struck out on this journey of “self discovery”.  With the help of a great counselor and the love and closeness of my family and friends, I made that journey out of darkness.  I learned to forgive myself (that was tough) and I have found a wonderful life that makes me want to stay sober each and everyday.  I also discovered that all that fear I felt in my second year – it was really courage!  So that was an added bonus.  I now know that courage does not mean that you are walking forward without fear.

If this post apply’s to you in any way, it my sincere wish that you will be able to find your place as a sober person and that you will be able to, or are already taking, an amazing journey of your own!

The Drama of the Gifted Child

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

Alice Miller’s book The Drama of the Gifted Child is such an affirmation of my belief that what we are modeled to as children – and what we model to our children – is the key to future happiness. When Alice Miller says “gifted” she doesn’t mean academically gifted, but rather the natural gift that we have as children to survive, to find a way to survive when we are confronted with pain, humiliation, anger and sorrow that we cannot express, because we are not safe in doing so. As children, we are neglected and abused in varying degrees, despite the best intentions of our parents. We have nowhere to escape to and so have no choice but to consider our situation a normal life. It becomes our reality as adults unless we become conscious of the process.

As children, we need our parents to survive physically, for food and shelter, and when they cause us pain and suffering, we cannot express ourselves honestly lest we lose those who can meet these most basic of needs. We grow to love our parents because we have not known any other reality, and the ties, the connections, are profound. We are bonded to them and the reality they present us, even if that reality is painful.

We survive by taking the happy times and suppressing feelings about the bad times. We focus on the good times and sometimes, glorify them. The bad feelings don’t go away however, they go underground, and later surface as compulsive behaviors and grandiosity. My father vacillated between delusions of grandeur and depressed alcoholism. These were the recurring themes in a man who was otherwise intelligent, generous and charismatic. He had not had an easy childhood. Being the oldest son of an East Indian family, he had alternately been doted on and pressured into inappropriate responsibilities.

We suffered as children because we were walking on eggs not knowing how he might be mood-wise at any given time. There was a tacit understanding that we had to keep up the illusion of being a successful family. My mother, the enabler, would be equally unpredictable. She was the steadfast backbone of the household, but sometimes, regularly, she would fall apart, emotionally, and lose herself in despair and grief. Loving though she was, she didn’t give the love we *needed*, but only the love she knew how to give, which was to be affectionate and to care for us. She did not see our pain, as no one had seen hers when she was a child. She was looking in all the wrong places for the love she never got from her parents. She was hoping for unconditional love from her husband, but he didn’t know how. The one place where she got close to that kind of love was her babies, but babies aren’t supposed to give their parents the love they never had. Babies have their own needs.

When I realized all this in my personal work I spent a lot of time being pretty angry at them. Furious actually. Both my parents were victims in their own right. It was an edifying time in my life when I realized that my parents were just people who happened to have made babies, and not perfect humans who understood everything. Nevertheless, I had been wounded and I needed to take care of myself.

Paraphrasing Miller, if we don’t become *mindful” of our pain and what happened, then we are condemned to repeat the pattern and make our kids suffer. This is not an easy path, it is fraught with pain and sorrow, but that is the only way to become conscious of which we are. It is “lonely work” and we have to deal with some pretty scary demons. Alternatively, we may look for parent figures in an authoritarian church, political party, domineering husband, Alcoholics Anonymous, or corporate career, so we can exchange personal power for protection just like when we were babies. That protection may be valuable, for a while, until we are stronger: a holding pattern to build courage. But in my experience, at some point, we can no longer stay away from seeking our true selves.

 Quoting Anais Nin:

“And the day came when the risk (it took),to remain tight in the bud was more painful, than the risk it took to blossom”.

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

The Time Element

1,084 days, 6 hours and 42 minutes and…93,667,839 heartbeats!  I have a sober anniversary fast approaching and decided to plug my sobriety date into one of those online sobriety calculators. 

So what does 1,084 days feel like and what does it mean to me?  I am suddenly flooded with clichés related to time.  Such as “time heals all wounds”, “time marches on”, “hindsight is 20/20” and “time takes time” etc.

What does it feel like?  It feels incredibly great.  And by “great” I definitely do not mean all good.  But great in the sense that I now have an awareness, an understanding and acceptance that life is an on-going series of “good” things and “bad” things.  Events that will bring you great joy and happiness and events that will bring you much disappointment and sorrow.  That, I believe is called the Balance of Life!  Knowing and accepting this balance has been gut wrenching at times, confusing, curious and joyful.   Overall, it has been 3 years of real maturing development for me.

One of the best messages that I could pass along to someone who is just joining the ranks of the “ex-drinker” is that Time Takes Time!  That’s a bit redundant and easy to remember.  From my experience, the first thing that I wanted to do newly sober, was fix things as quickly as possible and put back all the time that I thought I had lost.  No doubt there was a ton of wreckage behind me.  I needed to mend relationships, get a job, lose 40 lbs, get my brown lawn looking green again and go out and proclaim what good fortune had come upon me.  In hindsight, I would have been better off going down to the ocean and trying to stop the waves from breaking.  That’s a good visual of what I was trying to do with my life.

If it feels like you are trying to swim against the rapids, chances are good that is exactly what you are doing!  With hindsight and the passage of time, my advice to anyone today would be to recognize what you “want to do post-haste”, put it aside and focus squarely on taking care of yourself.  There is no need for proclamation either.  People are happy that you are showing a want to bring yourself out of a nose dive and they will be supportive of you.  Keep the proclamations in your support circle as a constant need for that and that is the proper place. 

Surround yourself with others who have been there before you and heed their advice.  Learn how to a sober person – that takes time!  Take walks instead of runs.  It took a long time to put on those extra 40 lbs. and it will take time for them to come off.  Water your lawn which will slow you down.  The lawn will eventually turn green again but it will not be over night.  And it will not be restored by flooding it once or twice.  It will come back to life through nurturing and daily care.  Your life will come back to you in this same way.  Turning your face into the sunlight will help too!

Surrender…Surrender Not!

“Try Not! Do, or Do Not! There is no try.”
Yoda

On Feb 9th, it will be 3 years since I “surrendered” to my alcoholism and entered a 28 day treatment center. WOW! Today….it is painfully obvious to me what I would do if I were in that cycling struggle of trying to stop my drinking. I would go to treatment as soon as possible. And, if I didn’t have the money, I would borrow it. Isn’t hindsight amazing! I tried and I tried to get sober for 7 years. But it doesn’t work that way. There is only Do! Unfortunately, we generally have to experience much pain, over and over, before we actually do something about it. Hopefully we don’t die in the process, or worse, kill someone on this destructive journey.

I was commenting to my wife the other day about how I watch the daily struggle on the Sober Dare page. Where it is not so painfully obvious of what to do when one cannot stop drinking, despite continued adverse consequences. If I offer up my advice and tell them what to do, in the kindest way possible, it just seems to fall on deaf ears! Hell, I owned those ears for 7 years! Continue reading “Surrender…Surrender Not!”

And So It Begins…..

I have always considered myself to be a pretty good planner. From a very early age onward I seemed to have my life pretty well planned out. Go to school, get good grades, play sports, have fun, graduate, go to college, get a degree, pursue a career, fall in love, get married and have children. Living the American dream had a real appeal to me!

I never considered the fact that things might happen in my life that I had not planned. At about the age of 35, career on an upward path, married with two small children and another on the way, I began to have an affinity for alcohol that seemed to gradually escalate beyond normal social drinking. Hey, who could blame me though for having a good stiff drink or two or three or four! There were now a lot of demands in my life and alcohol just seemed like a pretty good way to offload some of the burden that I had started to feel.

As my family grew, my marriage carried forward and my bank account increased as my career began a meteoric rise, my alcohol consumption kept pace with all of the things that I had so carefully planned for. For the next few years life was pretty darn good!

They say that a DUI is the first legal indication that you might have a serious drinking problem. In fact, you might even be an alcoholic! I learned that in one of the AA meetings that I had been sentenced to attend by the Courts. When my children were the ages of six, four and two, I went out partying one night after work. After leaving the night spot, that I had been at, I drove my vehicle down a winding road on my path homeward. Traveling at about 50 mph, I passed out as I was navigating an s-curve and proceeded up an embankment until my Jeep Cherokee began a barrel roll back onto the road that I had been traveling on. Amazingly, my Jeep came to a stop on all four wheels and did not take out any other vehicles in the process. The police arrived, assessed me for any injuries and then assessed me under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. When I failed the field sobriety test, I was handcuffed, put in the squad car and driven off to the county jail.

In all my 38 years I had never been arrested. Being arrested was never anything that I had planned for in my life. Neither was the precipitous decline into alcoholism that I had yet to become aware of