Blog tour thingy

Last week Paul tagged me in an ongoing open project that gives bloggers the chance to share their writing process and tag other unsuspecting bloggers, which is what I’m going to do at the end of this at this post.

Here is Paul’s post. Paul is one of my favorites because he’s funny, smart, kind and he scours the internet for the most disturbing and/or cutest pictures to work into his beautiful messages about life and recovery. He also writes the most thoughtful and kindest comments I’ve ever seen. He’s priceless.

Here are the questions and my answers to the blog tour thingy.

What am I working on?

Today I am working on how I’m going to clean the bathrooms after work and before karate class. So I am working on hopefully inspiring one of you to invent an affordable bathroom cleaning robot. I would suggest a self-cleaning bathroom, but last week I self-cleaned the oven and started a small fire so a robot seems safer. 
 
I am also pre-writing a post based on a surprise visit with my grandmother last weekend after I said I wasn’t going to visit her and you all left touching comments about how you lost your grandmother and miss her very much. When I say surprise visit, I told her I was coming, so it’s not like I rang her doorbell and hid in the bushes and jumped out. 
 
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
 
I have a hard time writing over 800 words. I include pictures I’ve taken myself or occasional doodles. I write about non-sober things like grandmothers and cats and running and trees. None of this feels different and I like that about blogging. I feel no pressure to fit into a certain mold. It’s very freeing and fun. 
 
Why do I write/create what I do?
 
Years before I got sober and while I was struggling through a tough time, I started a nonsense blog that had approximately 3 followers. It was a lot of fun and I was instantly hooked. I switched to a sober blog to work through the first year of sobriety and then it snowballed once I realized what a great source of support it was. I get to connect with so many amazing people I never would have met otherwise! This is my favorite part about writing. Writing is an extroverted introvert’s dream come true. 
 
How does my writing/creating process work?
 
I usually have most of my new ideas while running. I had this great idea for a radio collar-activated cat door on a run but later saw it had already been invented, so I try and stick to thinking up blog posts. I pre-write them on runs (or in the car/shower/bed) and usually remember at least a few points or key phrases. If I wait too long in between having the idea and getting to a computer, the post vanishes into the ether, but I know another will come along shortly like a bus or a bill. With 800 words or less, these posts are usually quick to write and edit.

 


The other bloggers I am tagging are Michele from Mished Up, Sherry from Oh For the Love of Me and Josie from The Miracle is Around the Corner. I’ve followed these lovely ladies pretty much from the start and learned a lot from their wisdom and kindness.

Michele writes beautifully on a variety of topics, from music to meditation to grief, but she is best known perhaps for motivating a bunch of us to choose a word of the year each December to work on in the coming year.

Sherry is a funny lady and a straight shooter and I’ve seen her reach out generously to help newcomers in recovery. This post she wrote recently pretty much covers it.

Josie is not only a blog buddy but my go-to for local 5Ks. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with her in real life several times, which I never thought I’d be doing when I started here three years ago. She’s even more terrific in person. What I love about Josie’s writing is how dedicated and instructional she is. Here is a recent favorite post about acceptancea topic she seems to cover when I am struggling with the same.

There is no pressure at all on any of these ladies to write a post and tag others if their schedule is too busy. This blog tour thingy is my way of sharing a few writers who helped me over the years through words and kindness. As Paul said to me, it’s not a chain letter :)

Dog days

Grandmother with great-granddaughter

I called my grandmother today. She said she’d been waiting for me to call her back for the last two weeks. She said she’d left a message on the answering machine at the beach, a message I’d assumed was already old when I heard it because I’d talked to her the day before. The date stamp on the answering machine was no help. Sunday 2pm, the tinny robot man informed me on Wednesday. I pictured her sitting by her phone unmoving while the sun rose and set in the sky, again and again.

My grandmother launches right into politics and world war III. She says “I know you won’t believe me” which makes my ears perk up like when I hear my name mentioned in another room.  She uses some word that isn’t really a word – castrophy? astrosy? It’s familiar enough that it rolls around on the tip of my tongue, waiting for the correct combination to fall out.

She asks after me and the kids and Joe and moves onto childhood friends I still keep in touch with. I tell her about one friend who had surgery and another who suddenly became gravely ill and she says “You know what that means?”

“I’m next?” I ask.

“It means you’re the HEALTHIEST one,” she says, her voice strong and proud.

She asks if I still smoke and I say no too quickly and then remember the time in high school she walked right up and reached into my pocket and pulled out a pack of smokes I’d thought were hidden. I think I was smoking Benson and Hedges then because, you know, sophistication. She let me smoke at her house once and we lit our cigarettes on the stove and stood in the kitchen chatting like old friends. I cherished that moment until she ratted out the smoking to my parents. Some wounds are hard to forgive.

My grandmother tells me about an AARP luncheon she went to that cost $3.37. She has no idea why that oddball number but says they couldn’t provide change so she wound up giving them a sixty-three cent tip. She points out the lunch included unlimited coffee and declares it a “good deal” even for $4.  The speaker during lunch joked how old the crowd was and said no one could hear him but they were all nodding at where they thought he might be because they couldn’t see him either. My grandmother says they almost fell out of their chairs they were laughing so hard. I picture overturned walkers and canes askew, broken hips and $3.37 plates everywhere.

When my grandmother learns Joe is out of town, she tells me she wishes I would come down to visit even though she knows I can’t.  She says it just like my kids do when they point out a wonderful toy they know I won’t buy them. I launch into a lengthy excuse involving our cat’s new medication regime for asthma. My grandmother suggests maybe we adopted a defective cat and spends five minutes detailing how she came to the decision to put each of her long-gone cats to sleep.

Her cats all had funny sounding names because they were Lithuanian, like my grandmother. One of my friends used to ask me to tell her the cats’ names because she could never remember but thought they were hilarious. We used to prank call people and I would ask confused old ladies if my grandmother’s cats were there.

“Yes, may I please speak with Snujuki Ryunuki?” I would ask in some terrible accent while my friend trembled with laughter. Kids these days don’t appreciate how caller ID ruined everything, really.

My grandmother and I talk about how hot it’s been and how much worse our storms are than anybody else’s storms anywhere, ever. She tells me she can’t go outside in the afternoon because it’s too humid and there’s nothing to look forward to. For a moment, I can’t remember if I’m old like her. It feels like we are the same person, even.

I say these are the dog days of summer. They’re supposed to be lazy and easy, but mostly they feel deflated and bleached out. We bide our time sprawled across the cool tile, waiting for some sweet breeze we don’t even believe is coming.

My grandmother tells me she’s going to make sauerkraut though she doesn’t know why because no one is coming to eat it. She sounds happy before we hang up, bright with anticipation of cooking for an army of none. When it’s time to say goodbye, she makes a kissing sound through the phone. I do the same and the asthmatic cat looks up expectantly. My grandmother and I say our goodbyes and I pad off into the kitchen like a lazy, aimless dog.

How do I stop drinking?

Yesterday I’d fallen into one of those predictable but still somewhat surprising holes I forget to look out for. Blame it on post-vacation letdown or post-sugar crash or moon cycles or who cares really. I’m human. Sometimes I figure the veil has finally lifted only to reveal that I suck.

Then I checked my neglected blog email account and found a message from someone asking for any tips about the basics of, you know, how exactly does one not drink anymore. And then I remembered clear as day what a therapist told me when I was in this person’s shoes.

First you have to build your sober support system.

I always liked the sound of a Sober Support System. It sounds efficient and strong and not terribly complicated. I still had no idea how to build one at the time, so I asked.

My therapist told me to get to AA. I did. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and there are plenty of non-step support groups too, though availability varies depending on where you live. If you know someone else who doesn’t drink, reach out to them. Chances are they’ll be thrilled to hear from you and happy to help!

Once you get to a sober support meeting, you’ll meet other people going through the same thing. You’ll meet newly sober people like yourself and you’ll meet others with a little time under their belt. If you’re like me, you’ll relate to a lot of stories and feel much less alone and more filled with hope.

If you can’t do in-person meetings right now, there are also online resources and support groups and forums. You can connect at any time and meet a wide variety of people going through the same thing.

(Note: I know I’m missing some good resources and plan to build a page with links. If you know of any helpful sober resources not included, please share in a comment!)

Just pick something or a mix of things and stick with it and build from there. The first thing you pick doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment, no matter what you read or hear or fear. You can use any blend of resources, as long as it works for you.

The key is getting through today without a drink. Because you know what? I’ve never once regretted not having a drink. Not once in 1,116 days have I ever woken up and thought “man, I really missed out by not drinking last night.” Not once. Before I quit drinking, I’d lost count of mornings filled with nausea, dread and regret. They all bled together like one big never-ending hangover.

So build up your sober support network and don’t drink. That’s it for now. Both of these things get easier over time. Each time you get through a tough/happy/bored/anxious day without drinking and practice leaning on others, it gets a little easier to do the next time.

It takes time, so be patient with yourself. I drank for decades, and progress has built slowly over several years, with plenty of room for improvement. No rush, no real end goal in sight. Today I’m enjoying the scenery.

And I’ve yet to meet a friendlier, more helpful bunch of people than other sober people. If you’re not sure where to start, email a few sober bloggers (like me). Seriously. We want to help and it feels good to pay it forward.

Don’t worry, you’ll see what I mean one day.

Life In Six Songs: Vol. 18 (Karen and Kristen)

byebyebeer:

So excited to be a part of Christy, Michelle, and Jennie’s Life In Six Songs this week, and with Karen of Mended Musings to boot! I’ve been reading her for about as long as I’ve been blogging.

It’s especially sweet timing because I’m wrapping up vacation and busy getting sunburned and practicing important things like eating ice cream cones “moderately”. Hope you’re having a sweet week!

Originally posted on Running On Sober:

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Karen from Mended Musings and Kristen from Bye-Bye BeerI fell in love with each of these beautiful, kind-hearted and talented women after I discovered them through Christy’s space. I’m so happy to have Karen and Kristen here today! Please be sure…

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Give me some sugar

I’ve written about my struggle with sweet, sweet sugar too many times to count, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find I’m still learning new things.

I’ve had a sweet tooth my whole life, but in sobriety I’d lost my trusty emotional cushion of booze and instinctively turned to sugar. While part of me wishes I could just live with it, I’ve worked really hard over the last five years to lose more than 40 pounds through better diet and exercise, and sugar binges sabotage that. Plus it doesn’t feel good to feel out of control.

I’m writing about it this morning because some new ideas came my way via where else but the sober blogs.

First, More to Me Than This wrote this excellent piece on how sugar affects the brain and how it has affected her personally since getting sober. I would say it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve realized how much I’d been self-medicating with sugar, so her insight and ideas really impressed me.

When I started the herbal cleanse I mentioned in my last post, I took most refined sugar out of my diet. I say most because I did allow ice cream on two special occasions that fell within the cleanse period. In the past when I’ve attempted to wrangle sugar, ice cream was strictly forbidden.

I observed some new things this time around.

Moderation with sugar is pleasurable!

When I drank moderately, I hated it. I used to count drinks and as I got closer to the maximum number I’d allotted, I would feel every ounce of pleasure drain away. I didn’t enjoy a mild buzz. I wanted more.

When I eat dessert moderately, I enjoy the taste and textures. I’ve never really noticed an emotional effect from sugar, but I believe the reward centers of my brain are feeling it plenty. When I don’t overdo it, I also don’t suffer the post-binge crash, though there has been a curious emotional reaction more recently.

The guilt is still there, but maybe not forever

The secretive binges and shame I feel from overindulging in dessert remind me so much of how I used to drink. When I ate ice cream these last two times, I enjoyed the experience but not the guilt I felt while eating it. I wondered where this anxiety and fear came from. I was eating moderate servings. I wasn’t doing it every day. This wasn’t a binge, so why was I reacting like it was?

For me, I think it’s that I don’t trust myself yet. And with good reason. Enjoying sugar moderately is not something I have much experience with in sobriety.

When I ate the ice cream these last two times, part of me was thinking “oh no, here we go again.” Only I didn’t keep going back and I got back to healthy eating with the next meal. I also noticed my mood overall has been better when I eat sugar moderately compared to when I cut it out completely.

How will I know I’m cured?

I predict a continuation of cycles of eating better and overindulging with cravings. This doesn’t sound like much of a cure, huh? My hope is that with continued, consistent practice of making better choices about what I choose to eat, the eating-better cycles will last longer and the binges will slink back from whence they came. This will happen over time, like it already has. I have seen improvement in the last three years, so I can reasonably expect to see more if I continue seeking it.

A “cure” might be asking for a small slice of cake because I know it will satisfy. My hope is that I can enjoy dessert occasionally…moderately.

The last thing I wanted to share (via Sober Truths) is a TED-Ed on how sugar affects the brain. Watch if you have 5 minutes!

Tough cookies

I have another post up on The Fix, so please check it out when you have a moment.

Writing for a larger audience has been a humbling experience. It’s taken me well outside my comfort zone into one of excitement but self-doubt. I may have taken the sweet, easy cocoon of blogging for granted. I don’t anymore.

Thank you for reading and for your comments. Thank you for the posts you write and for the comments you leave on other blogs. Sometimes I’m just lurking along and read something that helps me in a way I wasn’t looking for. Sometimes I’ll feel bothered by something I read and chip away at why only to uncover something new to work on. This sounds like it might be exhausting, but it’s not. Overall, it’s refreshing and affirming. It’s concrete, irrefutable proof of the hope found in connection.

I was just trying to think what else to write about and oh yeah, I celebrated 3 years sober last Saturday!  So that happened. I took the train into Philly with my family and we walked around a comic show and visited the market to get cookies as big as my head. I did have a drinking pang at the end of the day when I was feeling overdone and worn out. I took pictures of graffiti from the train and thought about the head-sized cookie in my purse. It passed.

photo (8)

dont get snotty – unless you have a cold or are doing a cleanse

The very next day I started a 10 day cleanse. The cookie thing, see, it’s a (first world) problem again. This will be my third formal attempt at cookie wrangling. Think what you want, but I’m no quitter. Unless we’re talking about booze and cigarettes.

I’m in the middle of the cleanse. The first few days I felt terrible. Today I feel a little better. It’s like my first week sober all over again. I haven’t run all week because of weird pains and lethargy. I have enjoyed vigorous walks. Why did I ever stop walking? I can’t remember. I notice more things when I slow down and walk. I notice how vibrant and lush everything seems, even the air. I see teenaged geese waddle by in their full-sized bodies and fuzzy brown feathers. I smell dill in the woods or something in the wild that dill smells like.

This is one snapshot in time. I am happy to be alive. I’m grateful for the release and support I’ve found in writing….for the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I’m even grateful for the cookies because they tasted good and taught me that I can’t conquer everything. I’m a tougher cookie than I knew I could be.

 

Aside

A nice place to visit

The below post was inspired after reading two recent and lovely pieces by Michelle and Sherry. And also a short trip home.

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While watching my daughters reenact the “I’m Flying!” scene from Titanic on my dad’s boat, I realized I don’t hum on boat rides anymore. It was a bittersweet moment. I’ve always hummed involuntarily on boat rides and took it as a sign I could be deliriously happy at sea no matter my state on land. Watching my girls goof around and sing, I felt like I’d passed the baton.

We cruised past an eroding strip of undeveloped land, my dad at the wheel. I could see a tramped down path in the bluff above, but I’ve never seen another soul up there. My dad told me he’s recently walked along the trails, which branch out like fingers. He asked if I ever explored it as a kid, and incredibly I hadn’t and stopped to think how that could be. Then I remembered Old Man Jenkins.

Jenkins wasn’t really his last name and his real name was actually more fitting, but he’s long gone so let’s just let him rest. He was an ornery old fella when he was alive and who knows what his ghost might be like. The real reason I never explored the bluff was fear of death by shotgun. Neighborhood legend was that he once shot at some kids who wandered onto his land, which was only separated from our neighborhood by a tall chain-length fence strangled with ivy and weeds.

Jenkins ran some kind of ship repair shop or hospice for dying boats and he lived alone on an overgrown compound on at least five acres of prime waterfront real estate. He could have sold it and bought himself a house on the Riviera, but I guess he liked his spot and I can respect that.

The town where I grew up has always been a mix of newcomers who just want a pretty water view and people who stick around for what time hasn’t been able to change. It still has the same old country store my parents didn’t want us going in as kids because it was dirty or the clerk surly or prices jacked too high or all of the above. The post office and fire station look the same from the outside and I can still picture the inside of the fire hall from that neighborhood dance in 7th grade when I was allowed to wear eye shadow and mascara for the first time and felt beautiful for two solid hours.

My brother used to walk home late at night from his dishwashing job at the crab house and sometimes burnouts from the rougher neighborhood threw things at him. Once he got pelted with the letter E from our nautical-themed neighborhood sign. It wasn’t class warfare exactly, but there was a clear divide between new neighborhoods and old. Several decades later, all the neighborhoods are old and waterfront lots are scarce. People with money will buy up anything, tear it down and put up window-covered castles on postage stamp lots.

Jenkins’ old land sold and has a handful of new carriage homes on it. I don’t think he would have cared for anything called a carriage home. The undeveloped bluff has to stay that way, according to my dad. For the record, I don’t think Jenkins ever shot at anyone, but the rumor kept me out. I imagined him poised at a murky window, his sweaty, nicotine-stained finger twitching close to the trigger, his eyesight not all that great but his hearing pretty keen.


 

I love visiting my parents and smelling the brackish tides and watching osprey carry off long sticks to nests high above. I love visiting “home” but the place I miss isn’t here anymore. The kids are old now, like me, and most of them gone. The woods we played in are long gone too, except for that bluff I never went in anyway. Now I want in.

We were only visiting for one night and most of a day, so there wasn’t enough time for trespassing. There was barely enough time for a boat ride and a swim in the creek, but we managed both.

By we, I mean the collective we. I stood barefoot on the pier with my sweet baby nephew while my girls and dad swam in the silty brown water below. I paced to keep the bottoms of my feet from burning as they waded in to water that was still cold but sea nettle free. Soon they were swimming and splashing around. My dad offered a bounty to anyone able to locate the sturdy wooden rocking chair that blew off the pier in a big storm a couple of months back.

My girls felt around tentatively with outstretched legs and arms in the murky water and tried not to think about what else might be down there. Somewhere nearby or far away or who knows really, the rocking chair laid on its side, already fuzzy with algae and forgetting what the warm sun felt like on its softly silvered wood or the sound of unmuffled squeals of girls or rumble of motorboats and other things that had once been home.

He might know, but he's not talking.

He might know where it is, but he’s not talking.