Reflections at One Year by Martha M. and DYSfunction, by Chloe D.

Introduction

Our first feature today is Martha M.’s reflection on her one-year anniversary.  Our second feature is a poem by Chloe D., who is an Al-Anon member and subscriber to the website.  We are learning that more Al-Anon folks who appreciate our secular focus are following us.  Since these two pieces are sharing a comments section, please use their names in your comments.  In the near future we plan to add an Arts Section to the site, and will aim to have separate comments section for each piece featured.

 

 

Reflections at One Year

By Martha M.
 
As of today, I am one year sober. It’s not a constant struggle. I don’t think I’ve had to “white-knuckle” through a day yet. It’s still very fresh in my mind: things I remember messing up (I have a scar on my right thumb tip from one of my many drunken kitchen accidents); the things I remember being told I did after blacking out (swinging my daughter playfully around the kitchen when she was about three and coming dangerously close to hitting her head on a cabinet door); the things I can piece together that may or may not have only happened in my head, but are far too embarrassing and shameful to utter out loud.
 
I often feel reminders of my drinking. When I wake up after having a drinking dream and feel the wave of dread pass over me until I realize it wasn’t real. When I look for something in the back of a drawer or cabinet or closet, I’m afraid I’ll stumble across a forgotten empty or, worse yet, not empty. Anytime I act “off” or “too” anything, I’m afraid someone will think I’m drunk. And, when we’re in a store and my daughter (who makes jokes beyond her age level and sometimes cuts a little too deep because of it) says, “No more wine for you, Mommy,” I want to dissolve into the ground right there.

 don’t have a word that encompasses how grateful I am to be sober. I hated drinking. I hated *needing* to drink. I hated wanting to quit but not knowing how and being so terrified of quitting because I didn’t know if I’d still be me without alcohol. I hated sneaking and lying and hiding. I am beyond relieved that I don’t have those specific burdens anymore.

However, I’m also so angry I can barely think sometimes. I’m angry and self-pitying. Why? Why can’t I enjoy a nice glass of wine with supper; why can’t I have a beer after work; why can’t I sip some bourbon before bedtime? Why does my brain take something that is enjoyable and relaxing for some people and turn it into something that is toxic and destructive for me? Why do my friends feel the need to censor and edit themselves around me now so they don’t come off as insensitive? Why do I feel uncomfortable when other people are drunk around me even if they aren’t alcoholics? Why do I have to fear and dread the day my daughter is given the opportunity to drink because I’m terrified it will grab hold of her the way it did me and maybe she won’t be so lucky? Why can’t I be normal?

Mainly, I’m afraid. What happens when I forget? What happens when it’s not so fresh in my mind? What happens when the only memory of my drinking is the anger that I don’t get to be normal? Will I want to drink? Will I think enough time has passed to cure me? Will I convince myself that I’ve grown and matured to the point that I can handle my liquor now? What’s I there to stop me?

I wrote an inscription in the copy of Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska that I bought as soon as I returned a friend’s copy to her. It says, “This is exactly what it was like. Don’t ever think, ‘It wasn’t that bad.’ It was. Reread this if you ever get complacent. Remember how awful it was. Remember how scared, sick, sad, & tired you were. Keep finding new goals to set. Keep being alive in your life. April 24, 2017 (10 months, 14 days sober).” But what if that doesn’t work? The most terrifying thing for me is hearing people talk about having years of sobriety and then, all of a sudden, going back out. I don’t understand how they can do so well for so long and then lose it. To me, that is the scariest part of this disease.

So, I do my best to remember. I don’t hide my experiences. I talk about them and reference them and that time of my life. I even joke about it. It’s a part of who I am and I respect that and appreciate it for making me who I am now. Some days I hate that I have to do that. Some days I’m okay with it.

When I saved this document, the thumbnail on my computer screen only showed the first three words I had typed: “As of today…” I guess that’s the best I can hope for.

About the Author

Martha celebrated her first year of sobriety on June 10, 2017. Her home group is Many Paths in Urbana, IL. She lives with her partners, her daughter, and their various dogs & cats. She loves gardening, exercise, and her newfound LaCroix habit.


DYSfunction

 

By Chloe D.

 

And I ran back to myself lovingly,

Knowing that I was the only one who could fill my cracks;

Knowing that I had done the absolute best that I could.

 

This is the story of returning to myself;

                           of coming home;

                           of becoming whole

                           (Again):

 

I hugged her and kissed her all over,

Thanking her for surviving so that I could now truly live;

For fighting and adapting, sighing,

Knowing that I could safely rest in the one most beautiful place in the entire world.

 

It was when we reunited that I felt peace,

Knowing that, all along, this was what I was aching for.

 

Our perfect and whole spirit is siphoned through sick and hurting humanity.

We manipulate the world into puzzle pieces and force them into our newly formed scars,

Mourning the greatest loss.

 

But without this brokenness, we never know true wholeness,

Never allow ourselves to bloom and fill our throbbing and aching hearts.

 

So I thanked myself for protecting me when no one else would or could,

And then for figuring out how to fix my fixes.

 

Because I love myself— I have to.

Because if I don’t, nothing is ever enough, no one is ever enough.

Because without her, I wouldn’t be alive.

 

So I released the weight of wishing it had been different,

Of raging at the Universe for bringing me those people,

Of doubting my worth for all those years.

 

I did the very best I could—

            And so did they.

 

And so I hug and love myself,

Knowing that every breath brings us closer

Until we fill the cracks and become one again.  

 

About the Chloe D. 

As a young person in Alanon, I am usually a minority; that has never prevented me from feeling understood and embraced. I grew up in an alcoholic home and have suffered extreme depression, anxiety, complex PTSD and personality disorders. In my sophomore year of college, numbing became impossible and I wished for death nearly every second. In Alanon, I finally found hope– I hope to spread this hope to as many people as possible.   

Artwork

Art assembled by Cope C. of Many Paths in Urbana, IL
Cartoons by Mark E. of Urbana, IL
Stone heart photo from the website of Tony Bologna
 
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  1. Kelly T. August 14, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    Martha, Thank you for sharing all of your  “what ifs”.  I too have some of those same fears.  Yes, my daughter has sober parents, but I feel the mere fact that we are both alcoholic puts her at a disadvantage genetically.  We’ll do our best to make sure she’s well informed, and leave the rest up to her own choices for her Life’s journey. I try and remember to live in the moment I’m in, to not borrow trouble from past memories or made up worries and spoil my not yet here future.  

    Chloe, your poem reminded me of the slow and gentle awakening inside my chest when I realized I was loveable and deserving of love from myself first.  Growing up in an alcoholic home left me incomplete in many ways.  Al-Anon was there for me when I couldn’t yet love myself.  And it’s still been there for me when I realized I needed to be in the other room too! Separate, but equally important in my recovery.

    Thank you both.

  2. Gerald August 14, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Chloe. I’m in ACA as well as AA. Your poem sounds like an ACA message to me, and I relate, and I relate to depression, PTSD, self-doubt, and I relate to hitting bottom young. I was twenty, the summer after the sophomore year, no longer able to numb out with either drugs or my own great thinking, just to black out, but the consequences of my black out drinking were unacceptable to me (and to other people 🙂 ) so suicide seemed like the only answer.

    Being “returned to myself” and becoming my own best friend have been the miracle of this program.

    That unsuspected inner resource – from appendix II, the spiritual awakening – turned out to be Me, a Me I didn’t know existed or couldn’t imagine being.

    I never could have done it alone. I still must let go of self-reliance & the cynical mind.

    Thanks,

    Gerald, alcoholic, Japan

  3. Joe C. August 14, 2017 at 12:28 am - Reply

    Thank you Cope C., Mark E., Tony B and the other puppeteers behind the curtain of AA Beyond Belief. 

     

    Chloe, Thanks. I was a child of an alcoholic. I was a regular in ACA for years – essential to my well-being. I still go to an Al-Anon meeting periodically (at least once a year). It’s not to sooth my adult-child wounds. I go to Al-Anon to remember what harm alcoholics (me, I) cause others. Laughter comes back quickly in AA. In Al-Anon, not so much.

     

    Martha, Drunk Mom was a great book wasn’t it. I hope you keep writing. You are impact-full. Both Chloe and you (your writing) gets under my skin. Some people don’t like being disturbed. Sometimes I do – certainly from art and writing.

  4. life-j August 13, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Martha,

    Thanks. It is nice to see a piece from someone recently sober. I think us oldtimers can learn from that. Many of us mosly concern ourselves with what the program is and could be and should be, and while we have been there, done that, in many cases it is so distant that without newly sober people’s input, it can easily get to be too academic.

    I have a few daily readers, and sometimes when we read them, I can see the newcomers puzzled – What the hell is he talking about? – while I have to admit the Daily Reflections are for the most part more accessible. in many cases religious nonsense, but we have been raised to deal with it. We need accessible daily readers for our newcomers.

    And while I have heard some of the stuffy, back to basics types sit and tell how they prefer to “talk about the solution, not the problem”, I have had newcomers come thank me for talking about what it was like for me when I was drinking instead, it was something they could relate to, made them feel more at ease about who they were. If I just sit and talk about how great it is being sober – or those who sit and tell about how much they have accomplished in their sober life, masters degrees, real estate, jobs, all that just makes the newcomers feel inferior, hopeless, even if I can sit there with just a little bit of smugness and know, that it will in most cases be coming to them, too, if they stick around.

    So we need to hear the fresh experiences. It is after all, the newcomers we’re trying to help stick with it. Yes, occasionally the oldtimers go out too, and I think those cases are when there is a problem which seems to be unsolvable, and AA claims to be able to solve all problems, and people believe it, and don’t go seek professional help for it instead (or can’t afford to), but most oldtimers can take care of themselves, and each other. It is the newcomers we need to look after the most. All the ones that come to AA for a month, three months, a year, and then disappear, because the regular AA is full of nonsense, and doesn’t serve their needs, and even the various secular varieties have not yet done a whole lot to explore what the newcomers need, since it is mostly composed of oldtimers. So keep telling us. thanks again.

     

    Chloe,

    thanks, too. It is always a good thing to see someone else talk about their fear, dread, hurt, loneliness. that is what brings us closer together. And I think it is a good thing if secular AA reaches out to embrace a secular al-anon. I’m such an alcoholic. Even with 30 years sober, and my wife/GF going to alanon, and me fully supporting it, there is still a place in me,  that says “alanons are just a bunch of whiners, what’s wrong with a man’s right to drink?” Crazy, isn’t it? If men are from mars and vomen are from venus, are alcoholics, and those who put up with us even from the same solar system? Everything that can bring us closer together is good. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Sharon J. August 13, 2017 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Thank you, Martha and Chloe! You each made my day with your beautiful writings!

  6. steve b August 13, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Congratulations, Martha, on your first anniversary.  For me, the first one was the most important one, because it was then that I realized that if I could stay sober that long, then there was no reason why I couldn’t stay sober indefinitely, and now I have 37 years. Yes, I too resented at first that I couldn’t drink safely, and was envious of those who drank. And I too wanted to stay sober but feared that I would fall by the wayside like so many others. In fact, I experienced that fear for my first 10 years. Now, I’m fine with not drinking. I like getting up in the morning with a clear head, I enjoy being able to taste my food, I like to understand what I read, and it’s nice just to be alive without drinking or craving alcohol. I found out that, at least for me, things got easier as time went on. Keep up the good work.

     

  7. XBarbarian August 13, 2017 at 10:06 am - Reply

    thank you Martha. well played, attempting to communicate a whirlwind of emotions into a short and concise essay.

    for context, not by any means bragging, Im 23+ years in now. one day at a time.

    my best days, are open to new information. they are right sized, grateful, in awe. my worst, are obsessive fears and unmanaged mind.

    dont drink and dont die, resonates, yet, to be as comfortable as I can be, in that journey, remains the goal.  comfort in my skin, and the ability to summon gratitude have been really, the foundation of a desire to remain sober, to create enough motivation, to get off my ass, and go to the meeting I dont want to go to, take the call Im not really feeling like taking. just as in my life, with or without recovery, I’ve meandered in and out of religions, spirituality, and beliefs. today, I remain deeply agnostic of any deities described by any religions, of the religious dogmas in place, yet comfortable there is some kind of unknown connection.. I describe as a google cloud kind of thing.

    lately, my focus is detachment. from everything. which is not to be confused with indifference, or apathy. I am not a buddhist or anything, but the practice of detaching with love, has produced greater joy and comfort in life. the fear you describe, relapse, struck drunk, etc.. are all things I have experienced. today, I see any and all fear, as attachment.

    if all my “character defects” ( a term I dont like, I was not born defective, I only learned some behaviours and attitudes along the way, that do not serve my happiness and comfort over the long haul) are rooted in fear, and I see now that fear is merely an inappropriate attachment to some outcome, some expectation, some failed control, then surely the solution is seek out, understand, then detach, from stuff Im attaching to. again, not discard, just let go of the attachment.

    may you create whatever experience you chose to create for yourself. peace.

    • life-j August 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm Reply

      hmm, I like that, “a google cloud kind of thing”.

      The religious people made a god in their own image, a “father” or “mother”, imagining a supreme version of their own lives. Maybe only after google cloud has been created are we beginning to find tools to start imagining that a non-electronic, similar, while so far unexplainable connection may exist between people. That would be nice. Sometimes I have thought I have felt it, just been too scared to wander into that territory for fear of the patches of religious quicksand in the landscape.

  8. Kit G August 13, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Chloe~

    Thank you.

    “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
    Anaïs Nin  (I found this on the dedication page to a book I greatly enjoyed entitled, “Broken Open” by Elizabeth Lesser)

    I’ve heard the Nin quote paraphrased in meetings as, “My willingness to change is directly proportional to the number of arrows in my ass”.  🙂

    Your piece also reminded me of the lyrics in a song by Pink; “We’re not broken, just bent; we can learn to love again”.

    Thanks for the poetic expression!

     

  9. Kit G August 13, 2017 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Martha~

    Thank you for your honest appraisal of what it’s like now. I see your anniversary is the same as AA itself; supposedly the day of the last drink Dr. Bob took. Serendipity abounds.
    What came to me while reading your story was how much I need to go to meetings and hear others’ stories, especially newcomers, who are fresh off the meatgrinder. These are the things that help me remember what it was like and provide the necessary incentive to keep going when I forget how bad it was or could be and how attractive a relapse might be. I think Wilson was on to something when he said something like nothing insures immunity to relapse like working with others even if that work is only listening.

    Be well.

  10. Diane August 13, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

    WOW. How beautiful. “And then finding out how to fix the fixes.” Alcohol was the first fix to give up. Then I was left with the adrenaline addiction that I used alcohol to control. Then it was the anger that I needed to keep the adrenaline active. Then it was the literal running and exercising that I used to release the anger. Then it was the codependency that kept me away from feeling.  Then it was the suicide ideation. With medical help I learned about the severe depression I’d inherited. At 29 years sober I’m still diligent about it all. And I’m still learning. Secular AA is keeping me involved when I couldn’t buy the other any longer. A new way to be of service. Thank you.

  11. Thomas B August 13, 2017 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Poignantly poetic & so inspiring. Thank you !~!~!

     

  12. RonB August 13, 2017 at 6:38 am - Reply

    8/8/2016, the day mt blood tests told me stop, or die. I am thankful to AA whose fellowship helped me through the first months. I’d planned to go back yesterday, to say thanks. I din’t, it’s too hard to face being a fraud. The religion, 12 steps, higher power is not me. The strength is in us all, finding it is the problem. People who care, who have been there, really help.  I don’t count the days, the last time I took poison is not a good memory. Yet as said in the first post, I really want that glass of wine, or champagne toast. Worse has been the problems of society, unfair legal cases people have to face sometimes. When the ‘system’ hurts you so unfairly, it’s not the nice glass of wine, it’s the bottle of gin that has to be toughed out. A drunk knows how that bottle can take away the anger, the frustration, the depression……at least temporarily. But so far so good, one day at a time, I accept my responsibility, it’s nobody else’s fault. But it can be hard…….very hard. Thank you for your post Martha, as they say in England, keep your pecker up.

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