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Posts Tagged ‘alcoholism’

Deep breath.

Sharing my story takes a lot of deep breaths and the ability to dig deep so that my experiences may have a purpose. Perhaps I can heal myself from some of my pain and perhaps I can help someone else to realize they can do hard things too.

When I dig deep, I am doing the spiritual work that allows me to emerge as more whole. My writing nurtures me through the narrow pathways and towards my freedom.  My writing opens doors so that I can walk through them. And on a good day, my writing has the power to make a difference to others by inspiring others to face their own narrow places. Even though many of us feel alone, we usually aren’t.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what
I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.”
~Joan Didion

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I always believed that I would be nothing like my mother. My mother was too sick and violent to nurture me. Mental illness and substance abuse ravaged her life from my earliest memories.  A long time ago I learned that substance abuse tends to run in families. And in my case, it seems to have run deep. My mother is not the only close relative I have who suffered with crippling addiction.

My family history has always lead me to monitor my drinking.  If I saw myself starting to binge drink, I would simply stop until I could resume drinking more responsibly. I started this behavior as far back as when I was a teenager.

If I am really honest with myself, I’ve always known that I have the propensity towards addiction. From the time I was 11 years old, I started smoking and ingesting any drug I could get my hands on. It was easy for me to access the drugs back then because I looked older and my father was in the record business. Opportunities for getting high surrounded me at every turn. And since I was never someone to back down from a chance to disconnect from the dark realities of my life, I was in good shape.

This lasted until I was nearly 17 years old when I woke up and realized that if I didn’t stop myself, I would become my mother. I am not sure how I had the will to stop, but I did. In part, I tried Alcoholics Anonymous along with some therapy. In the end though, I found new ways to distract myself from life. I took up running, I wrote, I did a little art, and I never looked back.

Drinking was another story.

Over the years, I have watched myself navigate some really tough times when I turned to drinking. Life’s roller coasters were hard to endure at times.  Besides the “normal” headaches of living, I experienced nine miscarriages, a horrific birth experience that lead my first child to the NICU, followed by other serious illness for my sons, a rocky marriage, a dying father, multiple broken hearts, and perhaps the hardest one of all, facing the demons of my childhood. I never drank when I was in a good place. But as soon as life challenged me, I turned to the only thing that could calm me – alcohol. Alcohol gave me a place to go so that I could place a blanket or a shroud of darkness over my intense sadness.

And it worked. Until. . .

One day, I realized that I couldn’t stop.  It started when my doctor made an unwanted diagnosis and told me that I should only drink occasionally and not more than a glass and a half of alcohol at a time. I couldn’t wrap my head around that concept. What is occasionally? And what is a glass and a half? I loved whiskey, so what would a glass and half be? Five shots, maybe six . . . I wasn’t a wine drinker, although I did like the taste of good wine. But when I wanted to numb my feeling, it was whiskey or vodka that I turned to.

Love of truth puts you on the spot.
~Naropa Institute motto

Up to that moment in time, I had always been able to make any necessary lifestyle or dietary changes when advised by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner.  Previously I had three major diet changes. The first was when my then ENT realized that sodium was exacerbating my hearing loss. The second was when I stopped eating regular breads, cakes, and pastas when I found I had celiac disease. And third, was giving up sodas when my nephrologist informed me that sodas were probably the cause for my horrible UTIs, otherwise known as urinary tract infections.  In each of the three occasions, I was given the advice and simply stopped. And except for soda, I didn’t look back. And even now,  I am back on track when it comes to drinking soda.

Before the doctor told me not to drink, I was absolutely AWESOME at navigating what I call non-negotiables in my life.  I had always been able to quickly make the necessary lifestyle changes that would ultimately lead to healthy transformation for me.

When we take an honest and fierce inventory of ourselves, it isn’t too hard to discern truth. If I had never been significantly challenged by removing gluten, sodas, and sodium rich foods from my diet, why was I unable to occasionally drink alcohol.

amazing sunrise

Sunrise in Topsail, NC courtesy of Wendy Delson

Wham!!!!! I woke up!

I couldn’t stop because I had become the nightmare I feared most. I had become a drunk like my mother. OUCH!

But here is the good news, I am not my mother. Almost as soon as I realized I was out of control, I called three of my beloveds and shared that I was quite literally stuck in the deep end and unable to swim; I was drowning. The more I drank, the more I wanted out of this life.  The other good news is that I didn’t go as far as to make a plan. I just wanted my emotional pain to go away.

With the help of these three beautiful souls, I was able to move forward. The first two were Ricky and Eudice, my brother and sister-in-law. My brother got the first call a couple weeks before I understood the full picture of what alcohol was doing to me. He was the person I called when I simply wanted out of life. He listened and I knew I wasn’t alone. A couple of weeks later, I reached out to my sister-in-law who gifted me with her wisdom; she reminded me that my self-awareness was a gift and that I could do hard things. AND finally, I reached out to my beloved friend Joseph who met me at a coffeehouse and without judgement held space for me to share my brokenness; he then offered to take me to my first AA meeting in decades.

As I sat in that first meeting, I was aware that I was in the right place. I left the meeting knowing I had to stop drinking, but not yet willing to do the work to get there. So two weeks later, I started drinking again. For two evenings in a row, I was back to my old ways of drinking late into the evening and then being 100% functional in my daily life. No one, except my sons knew that the only way I could quiet my sense of overwhelm was with multiple stiff drinks throughout every evening.

On the second morning after my drinking binge, I understood that I needed help. My health depended on me to stop drinking.  So, I did what I had to do, I reached out to my friend Joseph and I started going to meetings as much as possible. It was a few weeks before I understood that I was an alcoholic. Initially, I told myself that as soon as I learned to navigate anxiety, I would be able to drink without being excessive. But today, I know better. I am an alcoholic.

While drinking never got in the way of my actual work or functioning, it did impact my life. As the years wore on, I couldn’t quiet my mind at the end of a tough evening unless I downed a few shots. And whenever I was away at a training or retreat, I was one of the people that drank all night long and into the early morning hours. I did this because I didn’t have to be any place until morning. I loved the sweetness of those nights.

Today I am doing the work I need to do. I am sober with the help of AA and all it offers.  Plus I am surrounded by loved ones who are holding space for me to show up as myself. And through it all, I am learning that I don’t have to hide behind a mask, I can be me with all my intensity and rawness.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Twenty-seven years ago I buried my mother. I was 24 years old, newly married and devastated beyond words.

I remember thinking, how could I mourn a woman that deeply wounded my spirit and beat my body. And yet, I did. I mourned the lost years; I mourned the belief that one day she would love me unconditionally; and I lost the only mother I ever had.

A handful of memories made me realize that if she hadn’t been so mentally ill or had received the right help, my mother may have been a beautiful and giving soul. But she wasn’t very beautiful, she was mentally ill at the core of her being and she coped with it the only way she knew how. She drank excessively and took prescription medication as if it were candy.  When she wasn’t volatile, she lived a life in a drunken stupor.

There are times, I mourn the mother I never had. I wish I could have felt the warmth and love that only a mother/parent can give. But instead, I remember the turbulence that reigned as addiction ravished her body.

Now that I have lived longer without her then I had with her, I am acutely aware that there is so much wisdom I have gleaned since her death.

Sunset Wilmington NC by Lynne Klein

Sunset in Wilmington, North Carolina Photo Courtesy of Lynne Klein

1.
After struggling with the one person that I did not choose for my entire childhood, I now take David Whyte’s writing to heart, “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” While it took me a while to get to this place, I did get there. I have let go of people and things that exhausted or troubled my spirit. It isn’t always easy, but it usually feels like the right thing to do.  For the most part, I am trying to hold onto that which jazzes my soul; this goes for people as well as ‘things’.

2.
Red used to me the most toxic color in the world to me.  I associated red with the very rough conditions I lived under. Growing up, many of the doors, ceilings, and walls were painted red; even the shutters on the front of our house were red. I hated red. Red was analogous to child abuse and suffering.  My mother loved red so much that she dyed her hair many shades of red over the years.

After moving out of my house, I swore that red was my enemy. Really, I did!!! And then about 4 years ago, I went into a chiropractor’s office for the first time. Walking into his office, I was surrounded by red walls.  After hearing so many awesome things about this chiropractor, I knew I couldn’t walk out.  So I sat down and literally felt a cold sweat overtake me. Over time the reactions faded and I found myself falling in love with the very color I once hated. Because of the healing space and the fabulous adjustments, red was slowly transformed from a noxious color to a healing color.

(Note: I love that as I was considering writing this blog the most beautiful red sunset showed up on my Facebook feed and the photographer gave me permission to use it! Don’t you love the photo above?)

3.
After fighting years of demons, I have learned that it is incumbent upon me to always seek the best for myself. While reality may sometimes be a little messy, I often find myself thinking about Mary Oliver’s final question in ‘The Summer Day”, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This question has become vital to my existence. I am always working towards creating a conscious life that encompasses beauty and light by always asking myself what I will do with my “one wild and precious life”? Now I live like the thriver that I am!

Conclusion:
While my mother’s life was not for a blessing, I am awed that I still learned from being her child. And the bottom line is that I love life. I have come so far! May my life be for a blessing – always.

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