Tag Archives: recovery

I Am Still Learning



One night fifteen years ago, I stood brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed.  I was 14 years old, having a casual yet serious internal battle in my brain: how could I kill myself “accidentally”?

As my toothbrush swished and gyrated and I hawked some foam into the sink, a thought occurred to me: is it normal to think about suicide every night before sleep?

A friend in the program says he never would have made it out of High School alive had it not been for drugs and alcohol.  They anesthetized him. I never became suicidal, but it was always an overly appealing option.   My face, my body, my mind, was unbearable.   Pot and alcohol served as numbing agents, but above all, they fed the most valuable coping mechanism for survival: my façade.

In 9th grade I was alone with the shaky remains of who I had been in Middle School.  My undefined identity, or lack there of, was unsustainable…I needed to change.  The transformation didn’t take long.  Skipping one class with blatant disregard was the first high I got from attention seeking. I wanted to be the “bad” kid.


“Are you going to Psych?” Someone asked.

“Nope,” I said with self-proclaimed authority.


From then on, I strived and succeeded at being the class failure. The class stoner.  The class I-don’t-give-a-shit-girl.   Suddenly everything about my new persona was so easy; I knew where to buy weed, how to roll a blunt, who else wanted to cut class with me, who would pick me up in the morning to take bong rips, and for the first time in years I felt like I belonged.  Granted, every conversation was uncomfortable up until the point I got high..which is why it was a 24 hour a day job.


Sitting in the back of the class and reeking of ganja gave me a fucked up sense of confidence.  See?  I don’t care.


Ferocious honey badger

What I looked like 15 years ago

“Did you study for the test?”  Someone would ask.

“What test?”  I would say humorously, but seriously.


I barely graduated, I had no interest in college, and suicidal thoughts popped up on the reg.  However, thanks to my well-maintained image of comical failure, my “outsides” appeared just fine. Carefree, even! Weed! Yay!  Day drinking!  Yes!  Future? Fuck it!


Up until getting sober, those thoughts remained prevalent; for years I believed them to be my only true potential.  The hardest thing about working on myself right now is reversing the notion “as long as I’m doing nothing, I’m doing ‘me.’” 

Now I know: if I’m doing nothing, I’m being nobody.

The bad news is that I wasted a shit ton of time trying to mask emotions and bury whoever the hell I was scared of becoming (or not becoming.) The good news is, I’m getting an idea of who I am, and I’m liking the person I see in the mirror.   My identity crisis up until my sobriety date was just as real as it was that night standing in front of the sink fifteen years ago.   I didn’t pay attention at all in high school, but I think it was that Michelangelo guy who said:


“I am still learning.” (Age 87)



Me too, dude.




Angelo + Me = Us

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“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink.
Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent.

Day 405

“We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force
the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.
We are without defense against the first drink.”

– Alcoholics Anonymous, p.24

For Step 1 my sponsor asked me to write two lists:

1.   Generate a list of examples displaying your powerlessness over drugs and alcohol.

2.  Create a list for past and present examples of unmanageability.

The assigned task wasn’t in these words, but you get the gist. Initially nothing came to mind.  “Powerlessness” was not a word in my vocabulary until Alcoholics Anonymous.  I gave my sponsor (at the time) an answer in the form of a question, still unsure of what exactly the powerless word meant.

“One time two years ago I went to Vegas with all my girlfriends and I hadn’t seen most of them months, if not well over a year.  From the second the airplane landed I practically vanished, sparsely going back to the hotel room to do more coke and take a shower….More coke and more drinks were the only things on my mind.” I waited for her response.

“Exactly.”  She said. So I proceeded.

I gave her the disjointed bits I could remember.  I remember being alone most of the time. Really alone. I remember aimlessly meandering around the casinos by myself, talking to random men and doing coke in places so foggy I can’t even picture.  Most of my memories (if you can call them that) are snippets—except for the end.

On the last night I remember looking at all my friends dancing in a club, and feeling like I was in a separate world.  Without saying a word I turned around and walked away, invisible among the sea of party-ers and strobe lights.

Once outside the club (but still “inside” because Vegas is weird like that) I sought out a bar without many patrons. I remember thinking it was so strange that the casinos are carpeted.   A man sat next to me, asked where I was from, and I said Humboldt County.  Immediately he asked, “pot farm?” I said yes, and he sparked conversation, but I couldn’t reply.

It was like my jaw was frozen or rusted at the hinges, and even though he was right next to me I felt like there were light-years between our bar stools.  I had one-word answers, and even those sounded distant coming out of my mouth.

It felt like my body was shutting down.  And probably it was, after 4 days without sleep, food, only consuming unearthly amounts of cocaine and booze, booze, booze.

I am not exaggerating when I say my brain and voice couldn’t coordinate to communicate.

He took pity on me, not that I really deserved it.  He walked me to the cab line  and must’ve paid someone something because he got me to the front.  Making sure I was in the cab, making sure I could utter the single word that was my hotel name, he gave me money, since I had none left, and saw me off; my flight was in mere hours.  Who knows what time it was…must’ve been around 5am.  Time had no meaning.

In the hotel room that I hadn’t slept in once, my roommates and best friends who I barely saw, talked to, or partied with, lay sleeping.  I had not one dollar bill; not in the bank account, not in my wallet, not in any pants pockets.  I probably spent over $1,500 on those 4 Vegas days by myself.   The rest of my money was on the pot farm, in cash.  Never expected to blow through a grand.

Here’s the cherry on the shit-show cake:  I still owed $300+ for the hotel room. I did the worst thing a friend or person could do.

Like a coward, I packed my bag in silence–and left.  The room was quiet.  Someone might have said something to me but I can’t recall; because my only foggy fucked-up notion was “I need to get out of here.”

I got in someone’s cab that was going to the airport. Let them pay.  The sun was up.  I got to the airport when my phone rang, and my dear childhood friend on the other end was screaming about everything.  The hotel I didn’t pay for, the thanks I didn’t give, the disappearing act I pulled, and I could not deal.

Like a helpless child I burst into tears.  I told her I had the money for the hotel, and I “just forgot” to pay it.  She said I had to come back and give it to her.  I continued to lie.  Then I broke down further and just said I’m sorry, but I was sorry for me, not what I had done.  There was no such clarity in my mind.   The entire trip was me, me, me, more, more, more.

Every time I turned around on that trip it was like I couldn’t get fucked-up enough.  Each thought in my mind was consumed and centered around the “fact” that it was time for another line, another beer, another scene.  It was like my head was spinning and stopping on the same thing over and over again: More.

With the phone still against my ear I slumped against a wall of the airport and put my head in my knees.

I wanted to die.

I called my mom.

Like a true addict I told her my version of the story.  “Everyone is mad at me for no reason,” and I told her “I have to pay money I don’t owe.”  I asked her to put money in my account so I could pay my friends just to get them off my back. I overshot my money request to compensate for the parking I would need to pay at SFO airport, and the gas money I would need to get back to the farm.  She felt bad for me, for all false reasons.

Two excruciating, sobbing flights later I landed in San Fran.  The feelings from Vegas had followed me and they were exploding into shame.  “I’m never drinking again.”  I said repeatedly to myself.  “I’m never drinking again.”

I got my car out of long-term parking, drove 5 hours north and caused near-accidents the whole way. My body was shot.   I finally reached the windy mountain road to the farm. Up I went, and once my tires crunched under the dirt road I felt freer–but not better.

My friends in the typical drinking house, playing a typical drinking game.   PBR’s and Jameson caught my immediate attention, and a pack of Parliament Lights were perched on the counter.  Someone was taking a bong rip with a sitting casually next to a pound of weed.  “How was Vegas?!” He asked with his voice muffled as he blew out smoke.

I used humor to deflect my brokenness and mask my complete loss of dignity.

“I did things my mom wouldn’t be proud of.”  There were some laughs.  “Sounds like it was a good trip,” someone added.

“Yeah it was so fun.”  I actually managed to sound convincing.

Someone handed me a beer, I hesitated, opened it, and blacked out that night.

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Friends = Family = Fear

Day 382

I’ve made friends who have become family in this program.  It is spine-chilling.

Tonight my lights went out around 10:00, but restlessness turned them back on at midnight.  The “universal” iPhone text notification chirped right as my bulb clicked on and a friend (who is my family) asked if I was still awake.  So, SO, glad I was able to say “yes, what’s wrong.”

She was upset to the point that I was out of bed, downstairs, about to rev my truck, and call her sponsor en route.  The phone was probably feeling heavy to hold on the other end so I stayed and listened.  Thirty-five minutes later, the trepidation subsided.  Tomorrow is a new day.

There are certain types of fear I’ve thus far identified throughout recovery (which I may have already mentioned in previous posts); self-centered fear, anger infused fear, irrational fears, projection fears, and one hundred such variations.  The fear that floods me when it comes to my friends relapsing is the most real, and the most rational.  This is a deadly disease.

I know there are “tools” to deal with these frighteningly feasible thoughts, because we “all” have them.  Most of us have seen them come to pass.   No solutions to placate my current unease come to mind, which I suppose is why I’m writing.

What is must boil down to is faith…but I gotta admit, “faith” is sounding more like a word, and less like a feeling at the moment.

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Warming Up My MInd

A few hours this afternoon was spent moving baby frozen boulders around, aka, shoveling the driveway.  The sleet was in my face and my nose was reaching the state of tingly/burn, when a song came on Pandora and shifted my mood instantaneously.  It’s a song that I never seek out for fear of overplay, but always comes as a pleasant game-changing surprise.  In case you haven’t heard this tune here’s the version with lyrics, because every word will make you grateful. 



Here is the version with lyrics, because every word is worth hearing.  

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Train Ride with Morrie


I want to be a writer.  But what am I doing about it?  What have I accomplished over the past year? Am I ever going to get somewhere? This thinking is where doubt tries to prevail. 


On my way home from New York City a few nights ago the train was packed and I wound up sitting next to an elderly man.  I sat and we glanced at each other, as two strangers would in close proximity.   In my head, his glance was a glare.


“What?” I asked.

He raised his eyebrows. As if to say, “what” right back.

 “What?” I asked again.  “You’re looking at me like you don’t want me to sit here.”  (These are self-centered fears I often think and sometimes say.)

“Not at all, I was just wondering what you have in that bag from Zaros.” He said innocently.

I glanced down at the giant brown pastry bag that took up most the seat. 

“Some cupcakes. And a couple cookies.  And a loaf of bread that was on sale.  And red velvet cake.”  (What’s moderation?)

He put his hand up and made the universal sign of perfection, “I love red velvet cake.” From there the conversation took off.


In forty minutes this man dropped more knowledge bombs on me than all the stink bombs in the school cafeteria combined.  Apparently he was a legitimate mentor…like a Tuesdays with Morrie kind of dude.  What are the chances?! Almost an hour with my personal Mitch Albom.


“Let me guess,” he said halfway into the trip, “you were a troubled teen.  Parents got a divorce, you didn’t handle it well, and lost your way for a while.”


“Yes, actually.”  I said.  This guy was good.


“Strip away all of that.  When you were 16, what did you want to be?” 


The first thing that came to mind was “pothead.”  But that’s not who I wanted to be; that’s who I felt like I had to be.  The pothead version of myself was an adaptation for survival; fit in somewhere or die.


What came to mind next was the truth: a writer.  Writing has been my passion since 1st grade, from the first time I sat down at a typewriter and my imagination took off on the page.  I told mentor-man this.  Then I told him about my most recent fears:  I’m not good enough. 


“Well you’re not good enough.”  He said simply.


Um. Ouch?  I thought to myself, and waited for the follow up “just kidding.”


“I’m not?”


“Nope.”  He said.  “But if you care enough, you will be.”


And just like that, a light blub turned on. Just like fear and faith can’t coexist, neither can passion nor doubt.  At least that’s what I took from my train ride with Morrie, because the more doubt I let creep in the quicker passion fizzles out.  

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Once You’re a Pickle, You Can Never Go Back To Being a Cucumber


I mean come on...does it have to say white?

I mean come on…does it have to say white?

I heard the other day that men think about sex every 11 minutes.  It occurred to me last night at the rock climbing gym, as I  reached into my chalk bag and saw cocaine, that I think about drugs and alcohol just about as frequently.  It’s not that I’m triggered every 600+ seconds, but I smell, and taste, and see coke and booze everywhere:

1. When I reach into my chalk bag

2. When I eat hotwings

3. When I see football

4. When it’s 5:00

5. When it’s any-o’clock

6. When I see Metro-North

7. When I smell coca cola I smell rum

8.  When I smell red bull I taste jager

9. When I hear country music I want whiskey

10. When hear the word “ski” I think of coke benders

11. When I hear the word “happy” I think hour

12. When I hear MacDre

13. When I eat celery I think bloody mary

14. When it snows I think Baileys

15. When I smell BBQ I think keg

16. When I hear cucumber I think about how I’m a pickle

The list goes on, and on, and on…….and on…..

RIP cucumbers

RIP cucumbers

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Russell and I Didn’t Have That in Common

“Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] - 'I shall have heroin, but I shan't have a hamburger.' What a sexy little paradox.”

“Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox.”

Day 359

Looking back on my active days of alcoholism and addiction, the pure apathy is what scares me the most.  The idea of ever going back to that place of self-destruction keeps me white knuckling it in the rooms when “just one beer” sounds good.

The pot farm was where my body learned to function on nothing but poison; toxic thoughts kept me from caring about others and toxins in my body kept me from caring about myself.

Drinking 7 days a week was what kept me going.  When I’d wake up with a hangover threatening my sanity and my nose full of dry blow, the only panacea was more substance.  Sometimes I’d start at 8am.  Sometimes I’d wait til 12.  There was never more than 2 days without getting drunk…. and I simply didn’t care.

Every once in a while I’d look in a mirror and see lines on my face that were way too defined for a 25 year old.  I didn’t know at the time that my skin was drastically dehydrated from alcohol consumption.

During the months I had to wake up at 4am to pull tarps over light deps in the green house, it was often after going to bed at 2am.  Generally I was still drunk or almost hung-over.  It struck me as normal, and actually responsible, to do a couple lines beforehand to get the job done efficiently.   I ran on apathy.

The other day I asked someone, “is it bad to eat 3 clementines in one day?”   I had to pause and laugh at myself.  After everything I’ve done to my body, vitamin C should be the least of my worries.

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At the End of the Day….

Day 352
“Here’s one simple approach to the daily inventory.  We set aside a few minutes at the close of each day to sit quietly and check out our feelings.  Is there a knot, big or small, in our gut?  Do we feel uncomfortable about the day we’ve just finished?  What happened?  What was our part in the affair?  Do we owe any amends?  If we could do it over again, what would we do differently?
We also want to monitor the positive aspects of our lives in our daily inventory.  What has given us satisfaction today?  Were we productive?  Responsible?  Kind?  Loving?  Did we give unselfishly of ourselves?  Did we fully experience the love and beauty the day offered us?  What did we do today that we would want to do again?
Our daily inventory doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.  It is a very simple tool we can use to keep in daily touch with ourselves.”
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Yes, I’m back on the AA bandwagon, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  The slow truth is: life is better without poison.  The relationships I have now have blossomed and/or been created because of sober living.  Prior to Alcoholics Anonymous the most important and dedicated alliance I had was with drugs and alcohol—bottom line. 

You know…actually…. as I write this reluctance lessens; my will is turning back over a little more with each sentence.  

Yesterday alone:  The girl I nanny taught me how to play a Coldplay song on the piano, and taught me about patience as she placed my fingers on the keys.  We shared the Steinway bench after waffles for breakfast and before I took her to school for the day.

 Afterwards I went to the cold sunny beach with my dog, and took pictures of the frozen broken ice that looked like shards of glass on the sand.  I had conversations with strangers…real conversation! My dog ran up and down the shoreline with other pups, and naturally my Mommy heart swelled at the sight of my “child” so happy.  (I’m a firm believer that dogs are people, too.) 

My Dad came over with some food since I have not yet mastered the culinary arts, and began teaching me the basics of cooking.  I didn’t truly know my Dad before I got sober. 

Later in the afternoon I went to my office, which feels like family. My boss gave me a promotion, and he and my coworker offered loving life advice because they care.

At 6:00 I went to the rock climbing gym where I took a three-hour course for certification to become an instructor. For a couple nights of the week I’ll be working at the facility to support my newest healthy hobby. 

Throughout the day I was in contact with 4 or 5 amazing alcoholics (not an oxymoron) from my home group, and when I got home at 9:30 after acing my course in climbing, I got to have a 30 minute conversation with my other half.  Ate dinner, did a crossword, went to bed, woke up fresh, and drank tea infused with antioxidants as I blogged a turnaround thought process.


FINE…. life is awesome.  






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Difficulties type 1 & 2

mouse strongLast night I went to a much needed meeting. I hadn’t been to one since Saturday, and it’s amazing how quickly my thinking turns.  There was no impending doom of drinking, but when my thoughts turn more selfish less selfless I know it’s time to get my butt to the rooms.

The best part about the meeting was that someone else got me there.  All it took was one text message:  Is there a meeting at 5:30.  I was promptly and positively informed of the time and location of a group I’d never visited.

There were familiar faces in the room and the chairs formed a circle.  I always like when the chairs are in a circle.  It feels personal.  It also feels like a stereotypical 12-step meeting…like in FightClub.  Or 28 Days.

It started with a 5 minute meditation.  I used to think meditation was hocus pocus stuff–seriously.  It was a firm belief of mine that anyone who practiced meditation was full of “it,” or slightly mad as a March hare.  Now, it’s a practice I value, respect, and work on daily.

The lights in the room were turned off and a candle sat in the middle of us on the floor.  There’s something undeniably magical about candlelight.  Meditation is not something I’ve “mastered,” (if that’s even proper mindfulness terminology) so I keep it real simple; usually breathing in love and breathing out patience.  Anyway..the lights turned on the leader read from the 24 Hour book.  The gist of the reading was “welcoming difficulties.”  At first, I thought, huh?  Then I realized that sobriety has completely redefined my idea of difficult, and there are two forms.

1) The ones I bring upon myself — I can take a traffic jam and turn it into a catastrophe. I can launch a diatribe against one person for several no good reasons.  It’s not difficult to make a situation even more difficult.  It’s actually my nature to take aspects of life and transform them into obstacles…but the program has given me tools to counteract the titanic thoughts. Perspective…that’s the tool I’m thinking of. It allows me to realize that some situations in my head are just not true.

Life on life’s terms, however, is full of uncontrollable adversities.  This is difficulty type 2:

The world can be a cankerous cold habitat…and/or completely laden with challenges. I don’t welcome anyone dying.  That goes without saying, but I said it anyway.  I do, however, welcome difficulties that give me strength, and those difficulties take form in  infinite numbers of ways.  Yesterday I went in for a follow up on a job I’m thrilled and nervous to start.  Holding my own in terms of wages and displaying my knowledge without panicking was difficult!  I made it.  I made it through friends’ deaths and family illnesses and times where my heart feels like it’s going to drop out the bottom of my chest. I’m not saying that life gets easier, but I read a quote once that said:

“Hope is the key that unlocks the door to discouragement.”

For Difficulties type 1, I need to recognize my own defects.  For Difficulties type 2, I need to remember and hold onto the message above.

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