It Wants Us Dead, But It’ll Settle For Miserable

 

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In the recovery community we have a lot of phrases and sayings. They’re not official. Nobody owns them. They’re just out there, author unknown. Im not referring to an official community either, just random people on similar paths. The phrases and sayings get passed around. You hear one and it means nothing. You file it away with the others, in your head. And then one day it means something. You dust it off, roll it around on your tongue, say it aloud and hear it as if for the first time.

Don’t compare, identify
Wherever you go, there you are
First things first
Surrender to win
More will be revealed
Don’t quit before the miracle

These are just a few. There are hundreds. We hear them. We love them. We hate them. Sometimes, we recognize one another through them.

About a month ago, I was traveling from Tampa to New York to visit family. The airport lines were long. I was worried that I might miss my flight. A nice man helped me out. He held my place in line while I raced to the ladies room, he assisted me at the ticketing kiosk and directed me to the right gate. No big deal to him but a really big deal to me. I’m not a frequent flyer. I thanked him profusely and he humbly accepted. And then, he said something. I wish I could tell you what he said but I can’t remember. Maybe I’ll remember by the time I finish writing this. Don’t hold your breath. The point is he said something familiar. One of those sayings.

“Hey wait,” I asked “are you a friend of Bill’s?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “You?”
“Nine years” I beamed (All we have is today. I know, I know but I can’t help it. I’m proud of my nine). “Small world” I added.
“We’re everywhere” he said. And then, as he walked away, “Stick around, it keeps getting better.”
That’s another saying. One of my favorites. It keeps getting better.

If you want to stay sober you’ve got to be willing to step over the bodies. That’s an ugly one, but it’s out there. Like all the others, there’s truth to it. We can’t fall apart and say “screw it” every time we lose one. We stop briefly, yes of course. We say a prayer and we pay our respects. We visit with grief. We feel it in it’s entirety. We soberly endure the intensity of its pain. We don’t unpack and stay there though. That would be dangerous. We march on. We trudge forward on the road of happy destiny.

I didn’t grasp that saying at first. I didn’t think it would ever apply to me. People die from drinking? Not in my world. I don’t even know those kind of people. And then it happens. And it happens again. One too many Xanax chased back with the bedtime wine. A tragic moonlight swim in the ocean. All hope lost, a trigger pulled. These sad endings become all too familiar and the ugly saying takes on new meaning. It belongs to you. You know the drill. Suit up and show up. You accept, acknowledge, grieve and move forward. “Okay, okay” you whisper in the dark. “I can do this. I can step over the bodies.” Still, you hate that saying.

If you’re like me, you keep a secret list. You keep it in your head, close to your heart. It’s a list of names. Names of people, people whose bodies you could never step over. You just can’t. You’re sure of it. At least, you don’t think you could. You do a quick little thing. Some call it a prayer. You ask the God of your understanding to look after those names. The names on your secret list. You beg.

Recently I’ve been in touch with an old friend. She’s hilarious, beautiful and successful. She thinks she might have a drinking problem. We’ve been talking, mostly texting. I share with her my own experience, strength and hope. Whatever wisdom I can muster. She’s trying to quit. She can quit. She has quit. Several times. Five days. twelve days. Ten days. She can’t seem to stay quit though. I been there. I get it. I told her what I finally did. I told her where I went. I told her how it helped me. She’s reluctant to go that route, to that extreme. She just wants to cut back, get the drinking under control. She doesn’t realize that she’s fighting for her life. She doesn’t get it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she’ll be fine. Just in case though, I’ve added her name to my secret list. Not this one, please God, not this one. I just can’t.

Death. That’s the worst case scenario. That’s as bad as it gets. You would think so, right? That’s what I thought.

Somebody I love is very sick. Liver failure. The kind that kills you, but not right away. I can not express just how much nursing homes suck, even the best rated ones with all five stars. I have no words to describe the horrors my somebody has endured. Its been a long hot summer. As he continues to suffer, so do we who love him.

I’m feeling a new phrase on the tip of my tongue. Ive heard it for years but never gave it much thought. Now I get it. Now It means something.

Alcohol wants us dead, but it’ll settle for miserable.

cheers,

j

Empty Nest

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Empty Nest Syndrome. You’ve heard of it, right? Yeah, me too. Years ago. Honestly though, I’ve never given it much thought. None really. Until now.

Last week we drove our youngest to College. We spent the night at a local hotel and arrived on the doorstep of her freshman dorm bright and early. With our industrial strength dolly, we hauled boxes, arranged furniture and unpacked like pros. Armed with command strips, we hung a hook for every towel, a frame for every picture and a shelf for every book. We strung twinkly lights for ambience. We chatted with other parents, shared our dolly and exchanged decorating tips. It was exciting and fun.

Her Resident Assistant is a guy. He’s a third year pre med student. Cute, friendly and funny. He told us that he and the other RAs have nicknamed me Power Mom. “In a good way,” he assured. She lucked out with her roommate, suite and hall mates too. They’re all friendly and have similar academic interests. The neighboring dorms house childhood friends and close high school friends are just a stone’s throw away. She’s in a good place. Our youngest. Our girl. She’s ready. I’m so happy for her. Goodbye was easy. For real. There were no tears. I have no worries.

And then we came home.

I had no intention of wallowing in misery. I’ve got a list that I’ve been composing for months. I’m going to clean out closets, scrape popcorn off ceilings, paint the house, practice yoga, commit to camp Gladiator, lose ten pounds, spend more time with my dad and watch sunsets with my husband. And other stuff. I’m going to write more. I’m going to write better. I’m going to chill with my church basement friends, sipping bad coffee and exchanging secret handshakes. I’ve signed up for a painting class. I’m going to explore my own creativity. I’m going to visit art galleries and replace the junk on our walls with original pieces by local artists. Meaningful stuff. I’ve got a list. A plan.

Empty Nest Syndrome is not on my list. It’s not part of the plan. And yet, things don’t always go as planned. So I’m rolling with it. I tried to ignore it at first, in hopes it would pass. The thing is real though, and it’s demanding to be acknowledged.

I googled it. I googled Empty Nest Syndrome. It’s not a clinical diagnosis. I take comfort in that. One less label is fine by me. It’s a phenomenon. It’s the phenomenon of experiencing sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. Yeah okay. I’m in.

I miss my girl. I miss her friends. I miss our conversations. I miss all of it.

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Now what. How long will this syndrome thing demand that I lie around in sweat pants and eat snicker bars for dinner? Because really, there’s not much wiggle room left in my sweat pants.

Turns out it’s mostly up to me. I get to say when.Turns out recognizing and acknowledging the sadness are steps in the right direction. Good. Done. Turns out its perfectly okay to be sad but it’s vitally important to move forward. Turns out the list I composed will come in handy. Turns out I’ve got to put one foot in front of the other.

So, it’s time. It’s time to act as if. It’s time to suit up and show up. It’s time to fake it till I make it.
It’s time to get back to the business of living happy, joyous and free. One day at a time, starting right now.

One last thing though, I’m not scraping popcorn off the ceiling. I changed my mind about that. Because I can.

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