Life… On Its Own Terms

Growing Up
March 20, 2010, 8:26 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello, and thanks for stopping by! This blog has now grown up into its own domain name and will be accessible directly through:

Please join me there.


Crying Out Now
March 13, 2010, 1:07 AM
Filed under: damages, history, writing

Recently, the lovely Ellie started a website for women to share their stories of addiction and recovery. I immediately threw myself at her and she let me join in as a co-moderator.

So this week, it’s my turn to share the first part of my “what it was like” story.  Please come on over, and give a thought to sharing your story, too.

Rainy Days
March 12, 2010, 1:10 AM
Filed under: Adventures, Arizona, Everyday Blessings, Mimi
Rainy days are rare here.
One must take advantage of
any opportunity to give
your favorite red tractor and your favorite Little Pig
(the one who lived in the house made of sticks)
a chance to experience
an adventurous
walk in the rain.
We’re dressed and ready
to show off our
pink boots, pink slicker, pink leggings
as we head out for
a fashionable 
walk in the rain.
So many red trucks
in our neighborhood!
Funny what we discover
while enjoying
a simple 
walk in the rain.
Look! A pen! Floating along the street…
it seems there’s a current!
This has turned into quite
an educational 
walk in the rain.
Rosa has her own idea
of how to enjoy her time
when people go out for
a completely unnecessary
walk in the rain.

And soon we too are inside
where it is
warm and dry, 
after all we did get thoroughly soaked 
on a truly delightful
walk in the rain.

March 11, 2010, 12:57 AM
Filed under: temptations, What it's Like Sometimes

I was not going to write about recovery today, I really wasn’t. I was prepared to write about the first stop on the Preschool for Mimi Grand Tour, which began at 7:30 this morning at our local Waldorf school.


I have been seized by the nastiest cravings. I have no idea why they’ve struck now. I bought a beer at the grocery store for Jon on Monday. I am staring down 10 months’ sobriety. I feel guilty that I have not yet gotten a sponsor. My rehab center’s annual reunion is in three weeks’ time. Things are stressful. Things are great.

I certainly know by now that cravings are capricious and strike when the occasion suits them. These have been notable because there have been so many in such a short time, and they’ve been so sneaky. They have been the nastiest kind, too, the ‘it’s okay, just one won’t hurt’ kind. Not an hour ago I was perusing cooking schools on-line and one place noted that they serve wine with all of their classes and my mind was already choosing between a cab and a shiraz before the rest of my brain caught up enough to put on the brakes. That. Was. Spooky.

So, I am now turning my thoughts away from the Waldorf school and to strategies to deal with this, and I hope to find one or two that do not require vats of ice cream.

Weighty Issues
March 10, 2010, 1:14 AM
Filed under: Recovery, temptations, What it's Like Sometimes

I was tooling around the internet this morning and I stumbled on this post by Jane, who wrote:

Wow, 8 lbs lost since the summer! My head was full of glee. I immediately thought, “Just 7 more pounds and I’ll be at my goal weight of 115. If I stop eating for a while I could get there!”. Wait, I’m going to go back and bold the key part of that sentance… Yes, I thought, “If I stop eating.” Not, “If I eat healthier” or “If I go on a diet” or “If I start exercising”. See CRAZY.

and this:

Not eating makes me feel powerful. And a little naughty. Like I have a secret strength that no one else has. Kind of like when I had my secret bottle of wine for strength and support? Hmmm, maybe. Looking back, I can see that my “pickyness” as a child/teen had a lot to do with control.

Yikes. I SO could have written this. Right down to the “intestinal problem” which she wisely declined to elaborate on, as will I.

When we brought Mimi home, by train (across Russia) and plane (across the Atlantic) and automobile (across Phoenix), I was overwrought, encountering more emotion in a few weeks than I’d probably felt in my whole life. Plus I always lose weight when I travel, choosing to subsist on bottled water and crackers. Jon, on the other hand, has a stomach of titanium, eating everything including the whole boiled fish we were served on the train. Seriously: the man can eat Russian train fish.

But this time the weight didn’t come back once I was home. Sheer terror, I think, kept it going down for a while. But reading Jane’s post up there helped me to realize how much of that weight loss was also about control. I’d never considered that becoming a mother would make me feel so out of control and powerless. I’d expected to feel powerful, now that I was responsible for keeping this little being alive, all by myself for hours at a time. I’d expected to rise to the occasion and flex my mommy muscles and lift up the world.

I didn’t. I shrank.

By Christmas, I looked awful, but my sick brain told me I looked fine. My clothes were falling off. I was close to 100 lbs, which at 5′ 6″ is not good. I preferred photos taken from a distance, like this one:

(See those things there? Those are BONES. RIBS. 
Sticking through my SKIN.)
and ones that pretty much completely covered me up, like this one:
(Kindly ignore the skeleton hiding behind the VERY CUTE BABY.)
While purposefully ignoring pictures that showed what I really looked like, like this one:

and this one:
Dark circles under eyes? Check. Teeth dominating entire face? Check. 
Neck veins popping with the effort of SMILING? Check.
Soon after, though, I discovered that alcohol not only a) boosted the effect of the tranquilizers but also b) had a lot of calories, so drinking instead of eating carried all sorts of benefits. Through 2008 I experimented with this miserable equation, telling myself and the world that nothing is wrong this is the happiest time of my life I am on cloud 9 things couldn’t be better.
We all know, of course, what was really going on. It was a happy time, but also a noisy time, a sleepless time, a terrifying time… By fall 2008, back at work full time, I was the perfect storm of a bloody mess. 
In rehab I immediately went the other way; I could not stop eating. Stefanie wrote about her struggles with sugar, and I could totally relate. After about a week in the hospital I began to eat. And eat. And eat. I gained 23 pounds in the FIRST MONTH. I ate cereals with names like Choco-Puffs,  pop tart sandwiches (two pop tarts held together with whipped cream in the middle), lasagna made with five cheeses. When I went to my parents’ house for a weekend pass, my mom was stunned when lollipops and fudge fell out of my bag. I had been the kid who hid my Hallowe’en candy under the bed so I didn’t have to eat it; my mom would find it months later.
So I get it. I get the loss of control and the power and the need to feel just “a little naughty” once again. Right this minute I am neither at the high nor the low end of the range I carved out for myself, and I am determined to regulate myself healthfully, for perhaps the first time ever. 
Which doesn’t mean a diet of bread and water. Yesterday, I had terrible cravings — the worst kind, the kind that whisper that it’s all right, I can have one glass, go ahead, no one will notice. I squelched them only with a double-barreled shot of a meeting and a big bowl of ice cream. Chocolate French Silk. 

Trading "looking forward to" for "in the moment"
March 8, 2010, 11:54 PM
Filed under: Life on Life's Terms, Recovery, What it's Like Sometimes

This morning when I was pouring my first cup of coffee, I realized how much I had been looking forward to it. The smell, the warmth as it slides down my throat, the little kick…


As an addict I am always looking forward to something, always anticipating the sensation that hits when the [insert drug of choice] first nuzzles our brains. Any addict or alcoholic can describe it for you, in brilliant detail. It’s as if the addicted brain releases just a fraction of feel-good chemicals to ensure that we’ll keep doing whatever we have to do to get the rest.

Recovery teaches the danger that can hide in this, the danger that we’ll find ourselves in a place where we’re never in the now, never experiencing a moment as it really is. Anticipation is most useful for the first few notes of the bridal march, the last half mile of the marathon. It’s sort of like trading in a roller coaster for a scenic drive: riveting ups and stomach-churning downs for steady and manageable and pleasant.

I never have been good at living in the moment. It’s too scary, too raw, too precarious to actually experience life as it comes, however it comes. It’s something I work on every day. I’m told that worrying about my morning coffee is overreacting (I am, after all, a founding member of Overreactors Anonymous) but it’s okay. Where I come from there’s a saying, advice to “arm for bear and hope for bunnies.” As with many things Southern it doesn’t completely make sense but the gist of it comes through.

So I’m trying. I’m working on it. I’m getting used to the scary, the raw, the precarious; learning to appreciate the quiet and known. The moments. It’s always about the moments.

Monthly Record: Six months post rehab
March 4, 2010, 4:16 AM
Filed under: family, Life on Life's Terms, Monthly Record, Recovery, Take me home

Dear Disease,
A friend who is an ER doctor says that she prefers her specialty because she always knows exactly what her primary goal is: keep the patient alive. To ease pain, diagnose illness, or dress a wound, that’s important, but it all comes second to her prime directive. Keep the patient alive. The first months out of rehab felt like that to me: stay sober. Everything else was icing, had to be icing, because it took all I had to just address my primary goal: stay sober.

The past month has taken me beyond that one clear goal out into the world of shaping-up-my-act. I’ve gone back to work, had a birthday, navigated off-limits medication, started my spring project, had bad days and some very, very good ones. I’ve started some healthy habits. I’ve measured and recorded and kept track and made lists and other basic things that must have been taught the day I skipped class in People School. We go walking in our neighborhood on Saturday nights, and I have loved it, loved the quiet time with our two unruly hounds and our little girl zipping around on her scooter. I joined a Moms of Preschoolers group. I’ve gone to the movies with a grownup friend and we’ve met friends of Mimi’s at parks for playdates.

It is scary out here, working without a net for the first time. I am no longer in full-fledged crisis, no longer just a patient. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, an employee, a friend, a daughter. Now it is time to apply what I have learned, to claim these identities and to show myself and others what I can do with them. I am learning as I go. It is definitely on-the-job training.

In the last month I’ve had moments as a mom that I wish I could bottle up and keep, and moments I so wish I could live over. I have had moments when I felt like a good wife, and moments when I was keenly aware of my shortcomings as one. I have done some things well and others poorly and in half a year I’ve compiled enough experiences to sift through them and look for patterns. I can start to build on what works and retool what doesn’t. I can ask myself why I hurt someone and can have a reasonable expectation of learning from that and not doing it again. I can mend: I can mend me, and I can attempt to mend damage I have done.

Two strange things just happened. Yesterday, Jon and Mimi and the dogs and I were in a big pile on the living room floor and I suddenly exclaimed: “I love our house!” Jon looked at me as if I’d just announced that I love the Republican party. Since Mimi came home I have done nothing but complain about our too [small, old, hot, cold, etc. etc.] house. Then this morning we were racing around, communicating in short bursts when we passed each other in our various tasks, and I was starting to quiver with anxiety. Jon stopped and asked if I was all right. Stressed, I said. And I have yet another cold. And my shoulder hurts. But I’m happy, I said. I don’t know why, but I am happy. Right here, right this minute, standing here in my kitchen, I FEEL HAPPY.

And for now, that is all I need to know.