Dipped and Dyed

It was two o’clock on a Sunday when my eyes fluttered open. The light was bright–like, make-me-wretch-violently, bright. “Good,” I breathed warily, “It’s not rush hour yet.”

It was two o’clock, to be exact, on Easter Sunday. Really, it was just another day. As long as the Ralph’s on La Brea stayed open until I could get there-or-be-square, fit to be tied, on the buy-one-get-one-half-off sale for Oyster Bay Sauvingnon Blanc wine. Give me wine (from obscure regions like Marlborough of New Zealand), or give me death! Though to be fair, what was more urgent for me was to keep my parking spot secured outside of the apartment. That would require some hustle on my part, to and from the store to secure our provisions. Ah, to be young and drunk!

I enjoyed the forgotten holidays the most. Forgotten to me, that is; Christ rising seems to strike a memorable cord with others. Merely a detail. I didn’t need divine celebration. Like, ever. Who needs God when something secret, magical and sacred happens on the days that officially require nothing out of me, an atheist, and even less from the general hedonistic crowd I worshiped booze with? Rhetorical questions for (holi)dayssssss.

I drank because it made me feel bright and shiny, like the child of God I was fashioned to be. Cloaked in a shroud of false confidence, I celebrated that shit out of holidays I cared nothing about. I had every reason to feel uplifted: good job, a designated drinking buddy (boyfriend), available friends, temporary money in the bank and tight jeans. That’s all I ever needed to have a good time. A pair of Ray Bans didn’t hurt, either. Gotta look the part. Too bad underneath those shades my eyes were blood shot, my energies fixated on my next drink and the future pack of cigarettes necessary to mask my homesickness for the holidays. Staycations are slightly less fun when your alcoholism forces you into them.

We yanked the vodka out of his freezer to take some morning shots. “Oooo wait, there’s some Jager left!” he shouts, “Two more shots. Two for me, I mean. Maybe you, too.” Our couple unit had stayed drunk 28 nights (and some days) to date, a fact we were most proud to highlight. We woke up that day, like the previous 28, hungover and ill-prepared for human contact. And almost on cue, his parents called minutes after our morning “juice” to send their Easter love. And we felt the love. A bottle of Dom Perignon was in our future, sponsored by his generous and somewhat clueless family. “What do you two have planned for today? Dad and I are gonna enjoy this weather.” “Uh, we’ll probably cook some dinner, maybe go out later.” I covered my mouth to stifle my laughter. The only time he and I ever cooked anything, it was the elk his family hunted then put into the freezer. It was delicious, but not in my flavor profile. I think I had forgotten the greens (or was it a carb?) on the stove, setting off the fire alarm. We spent the next 15 minutes fanning the smoke away from the alarm and out of the windows. I took that opportunity to light up a cigarette with my head popped outside. I was selfish. Beyond that, I had a nasty habit of leaving shit on the stove or in the oven while wasted. By a grace higher than I deserved, I never needed to lean on mine or anyone else’s renter’s insurance for fire damage.

I composed myself enough to feign interest for this conversation. We chatted his folks up for awhile on speaker phone, batting away the sunshine streaming through the blinds as if it were a swarm of hornets. Might as well have been. “Oh, shit, we gotta call you back, Mom. We love you.” God forbid we don’t take the incoming call from his neighbor, a man I introduced him to when we moved my couch into his apartment. “Let’s hang out with Christina,” he chirps. For those of us who don’t abuse legal or illegal substances, Christina is a name we used when referring to cocaine. I guess you could say this was our version of an Easter egg hunt–search all the plastic eggs to find your perfect dime bag! Jelly beans are bullshit.

The Neighbors. This was the moniker we used to describe our troupe of European gay men who took us to The Abbey like every night. Easter weekend was no exception. Had I been more harmonious with a calendar, I’d be able to tell you when exactly The Neighbors introduced me to poppers. I know it was while watching sweaty men undulate under strobe lights, dancing to Britney’s Toxic. “Lift up your chin and close your eyes,” one of them said. “Inhale, NOW.” It was then I officially became the Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes. “Wow. This makes me want to do it.” “Do what? He giggled. “Dance like no one’s watching,” I very seriously replied. That was the same night my boyfriend dropped me while giving me a drunken piggy back ride home.

The Dom Perignon didn’t last but for a few measly sips. It kind of devastated me. Sixty bones for a legit bottle of booze and it lasted no longer than the Popov vodka we’d later destroy. For someone who blacked out regularly, I would never forget the nights when I just couldn’t get drunk. Didn’t matter what swill I dumped down my gullet–my liver couldn’t process my drinking at the rate I was going. For an alcoholic of my type, there is no greater heart break.

I wish I could tell you I recognized my need to change right then and there, but I couldn’t. Not enough light seeped through the blinds that day, I guess.

Can’t explain, but it’s almost hard to recognize myself
Slowly I’ve changed, turned into someone else
I find myself doin’ things I’d never do
Dreamin’ of [it] the whole day through
Can’t explain, there is no need
There’s no one else who’s been inside of me

Can’t be explained
And there ain’t no reason to
Something strange
Just takes over you

I drank because alcohol made me feel less alone. I spent time with people who I had nothing in common with because it made me feel more interesting. I experimented with other substance because I wanted to defy my family who had raised me to love myself. With every sip of champagne, I spat in the fire, fanning the flames, drinking at others. I broke my own heart, repeatedly, in order to do what my disease saw fit: drink like no one was watching, until eventually, they couldn’t look away.

This is my third sober Easter. Dipped and dyed, purified. I don’t know that my sobriety makes me feel any closer to the holiday. It does make me wonder how many masses I’ve sat through white knuckling the pew. I have’t tried to investigate that too closely. But with every passing year, I get a little more used to celebrating holidays with my family. My mother continues to make me and my sister elaborate Easter baskets. I still wake up early on Easter Sunday to pick through the fake grass to find jelly beans hidden at the bottom of the basket. I don’t avoid the sunlight coming into my room, either, especially when the plants I have need all the light they can get. This year, like the last, I feel closer to okay. From Perignon champs to French Press cafe.

Happy Easter xx

Advertisements

Sober Voting

I’m sad.

I’m sad with a sinus infection, acquired exactly one week ago.

I hate it. The election actually made me sick.

Furthermore, the post-election news cycle practically begs me (us) to bitch. It also begs the question of who we’ve become (or regressed to) as a society. But I promise I won’t propose a solution, not on that. I’m not really the demographic of human whose voice needs to be heard right now.

I just want to admit something:

I have no idea what to do, what to say or how to act now that my first sober election has come to pass. After five years as a drunk/progressive political organizer, I voted–sober–for the first time on an actual election day (no absentee voting, no early voting). This is the first election year where I did not have to knock on doors or make phone calls to GOTMF (Get Out the Mother Fucking Vote). I thought I was home free in a swing state, no less!

Up until this point in my recovery, there was one sober behavior I prided myself on: the ability to admit how much I hated working in politics. The drink made me do it! I would have never gotten or stayed in the business if it weren’t for the booze! DC is Hollywood for Ugly People!

Except maybe I was wrong.

We are effectively–those of us who give a fuck–political organizers now. Or maybe, more accurately, agents of change. At least that’s what feels like the ethical way to be to reverse recent fuckery. At this point, I’ll be taking way more of my cues as a citizen of this country from Black Lives Matter, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. Definitely not from angry white ladies who voted for echoes of the Third Reich.

Other than a deep sense of betrayal that I’m sure minorities in this country have felt since birth, I feel ashamed. To top that off, I haven’t felt more like drinking than when I watched the returns come in on November 9th, 2016.

I spent the hours prior to the close of polls waitressing for binge drinkers and stress eaters alike. I thought that by keeping busy and by being of service, I would avoid a nail-biter of a night. Yet from the beginning, I noticed that every one of my customers was in a shit mood (as reflected by their tips). And with that, I knew what was coming.

Hours later, I sat stunned. I felt sick with the irony that the retired politico and drunk in me got nostalgic for wine on Election Day–

A nausea brought on by the phenomenon of craving, not election results.

So there you have it.

Reality bites. Acceptance bites back.

My greatest work one week out from Election Day is equanimity. Love thy neighbor as thyself to keep it balanced? I’m not really an expert on this sort of thing. All I know is that addiction and recovery criss-cross giant swaths of the electorate that I would just as soon ignore and/or loathe if it weren’t for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Peace and justice,

Lucy xo

 

 

Photo courtesy of PetaPixel

Blind Spots

I got in from New York City last night around 9:30pm. Nothing of note happened during the bus ride (s), except maybe for the Albanian man SCREAMING into his phone for SEVEN hours. Or the sub-zero temperatures. And/or the noxious smell of piss and shit from the “full service” bathrooms. Come to think of it, there was this one nice lady in front of me who was concerned the bus left me somewhere in Delaware. The bus driver needed a smoke and I needed to go number one. She was appalled that none of the other passengers “gave a fuck” that I was not back on the bus. After we exchanged sighs of relief that I was not left or abducted, she and I bonded over our love of being former smokers–the kind who don’t get left on a cigarette break at a bus stop off of I-95.

I knew I’d have a bus breakdown the minute I prepared to leave Richmond for NYC. I could be wrong, but the general disgustingness of any Greyhound station anywhere does not help any situation. Ever. The sounds, the smells, the bedazzled book bags. The shouting, garbled mess over the intercom. CAN’T. So it was no surprise to me that after I settled into my almost-fully-upholstered seat, into the hours-long day trip, I felt a dark cloud pass over me somewhere around Pennsylvania. I knew in my guts that something was about to go down, but I couldn’t pinpoint what that something was.

That something was–and always will be–New York.

To be clear: I do not hate the city. I hate me in the city. I feel like it’s picture day in middle school, the first day I ever got my period in eighth grade, the day I puked during the Pledge of Allegiance in fourth grade and that time I split my pants in college walking home from the bars back to campus in the snow with my ass hanging out. All of that discomfort, all the time, aggressively. We just do not get along.

That being said, the city and I are now at a cease-fire. We are sort of like middle-aged divorcees who have been forced into reconciliation for the sake of the family. (In this metaphor, my boyfriend is my family and I am the one who must save face so that I–and NYC–can share joint custody of him.) We don’t owe each other anything except showing up to smile for the camera, after which we can both go our separate ways. If I’m being honest, I am also the one who does not warn the City that it has spinach in its teeth before we pose for the picture.

Needless to say, traveling to my anti-North Star, Northern city is stressful. But I found a way to make it suck less.

Before I made it to NYC, our bus driver took a routine stop in New Jersey. I made a bee-line for the nearest Starbuck’s, where in line behind me stood a blind man I recognized from the bus. The way I recognized him was by his phone that spoke  to him, the same phone I cursed at for being so loud before I realized home boy was blind. SERENITY NOW. I blushed at my own rush to judgement, then got over it by purchasing a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Because I am a white female and that seems to be something we do a lot.

I wrapped up my purchase pretty quickly. While waiting for what would turn out to be the best cup of coffee I’ve had in months, I overheard the blind man plead with the lady behind the counter to “comp” his coffee. The cynical side of me immediately assumed this dude gets stuff given to him all the time, due to his blindness. The way he approached the barista sure made it seem like his coffee should be on the house–that this is the way it’s always done and she needs to catch up. The barista wasn’t buying it. So me, being the sneaky sneak that I am, mushed myself right up beside him to lean over the counter with my debit card. I tried mouthing to the barista that “I’ve got this, whatever he wants,” but before I could HE SCOLDED ME FOR CUTTING HIM IN LINE. “Miss, the line starts back there.”

No good deed, right?

The moral of the story is, do something nice for someone with no strings attached. Otherwise, you’re in for a rude awakening.

xo

O.K.

The one (and quite possibly only) person who constitutes my “readership” pointed out tonight that I haven’t posted anything on here for awhile. I guess I didn’t have much to say.

That right there was a lie, right out of the gate.  The truth is, I made the executive decision to STFU.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “You don’t write because you want to say something,” (I always do); you write because you’ve got to say something (I do, either way).” So you can imagine the confusion my predisposition to constantly run my mouth causes me. It pains me to not interject myself in others’ conversations. I always feel compelled to constantly bring something to the table, verbally. At times I feel what I’m saying is very important when it’s actually very pretentious. But by shutting it for the summer, I learned a thing or two about shutting it even more strategically.

very important and very pretentious.png

And what I’ve got to say to you tonight is “okay.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten in trouble at work already for not just saying, “okay” while being instructed (That’s another lie;  I’ve gotten in trouble four separate times in the past month and a half [with two different bosses] for “defending myself” during a busy shift). I waitress almost full-time now, in addition to tutoring a beautiful young girl in third grade. I’d argue these are the best two jobs I’ve ever had. I’m not sure against whom I would be arguing this, other than my former self. A shattered ego has a way of resetting my perspective on all things, including (and most especially) jobs.

I don’t know what it is about being told what to do, but I’m not very good at it. To clarify, I’ve never been insubordinate at work on any job, at any time. I’d like to thank my former friend, alcohol, for helping me fake that scam of workforce submissiveness. Sure, I didn’t talk back to bosses, but I sure talked a lot of ish behind their backs. And of course, I drank my work blues away to some oblivion not even a “forever deleted” email could reach. It’s safe to say that alcohol had the opposite effect on my behavior that it would on your run-of-the-mill drunk; that is to say, it made me behave better (not worse) than I would on my own, unimpaired. However, at my new job I’ve had to face the fact that I can be a bit of a smart ass, hot head and overall know-it-all.

And all it took for me to drop the submissive/perfect employee act was a good, solid Italian family — one much more Italian than mine. My bosses (boss family, legit) are really really really good at their jobs. The restaurant is run like a big, bold Sicilian ship. Turns out, they know A LOT more about serving than I do. True to form, my deficit in serving skills is precisely why I never stuck with a serving job for more than a couple of months. I hate being 1. bad at / 2. not good at / 3. not the best at – things. Any and all things. When I don’t know what I’m doing, my ego feels exposed. I assume everyone around me can see that the Empress Wears No Clothes. In my humble(d) opinion, there is literally nothing worse for an addict/alcoholic who despises being called out in front of an empty audience. The biggest P.O.S. that is The Center of the Universe.

Charmed, I’m sure.

Up until last week, my mother and I have sustained the same argument every day for a year straight. Want to guess who had to be “right” in those arguments? Who had to have the last word? Who thoroughly “researched” her position before defending it? Who never just said, “okay?”

Me. The answer is me.

I don’t know how or why, but I was finally able to hear her message: “Just say ‘uh huh,’ even when you don’t agree with me.” What a heinous proposition. But for some reason, I actually heard her. I mean, really took it all in. My need to say everything BUT “okay” or “uh huh” is what has been getting me stuck with her and with my bosses.

My point here is, I had to shut up in order to shut up more. Know what I mean, Jelly Bean?

(Just say okay).

xo

Grief #10

It feels important that I write something today. It might not be, but that’s never stopped me before. It’s the 10th Father’s Day where my dad has been conspicuously absent from my life. I guess after a decade, I thought it would be easier. Anyone who grieves can testify that it is not and may never be.

From 2006-2014, Grief wasted me. More accurately, I wasted myself while Grief watched. Ever the unwanted guest, I never felt prepared when it came to visit. It’s not like I’d make it petit fours or anything, but an RSVP would have been nice. One minute I’m at a party, soaking up attention without scruples faster than my bloodstream can absorb the whiskey I’ve annihilated; the next minute, I’m sobbing on a street corner to a food truck vendor about how sad I am my dad can’t be in my life. For years, I burrowed myself in that safe nook Grief created for me. And then, I couldn’t find my way out. I locked myself in a bomb shelter of self-pity ostensibly to heal myself. When I finally emerged, everyone and everything had healed and changed but me.

Twenty-seven months sober, this Father’s Day has been one of my most difficult. I’ve taken the Saint Francis prayer literally, seeking to comfort rather than to be comforted. So far, it’s only helped a few minutes at a time, in-between phone calls. Nevertheless, I’m glad it’s an option.

I find it shocking that I don’t want to numb my feelings. I just don’t want them to be there. I miss my dad a lot. The woman who helped me get sober lost her father at a younger age than I did. My ride or die best friend lost her dad the same age I lost mine. What strikes me most about these friendships is that we never knew these facts about ourselves until after we got close. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Grief the credit it deserves for inviting these beautiful women into my life.

I don’t think I would have stayed drunk as long as I did if I hadn’t had Grief’s shadow to hide behind. Or maybe I would have been drunker for longer. Who knows? My addiction shelter could have easily held me twice or three times as long as it did. My “happy” drinking may have resulted in a bigger onslaught of consequences than my “sad” drinking did. Any good alcoholic has an armament of resentments and reasons to keep breaking their own hearts. Mine were just effective enough to hold me until the pain I created outpaced my Grief.

What’s cool about turning 30 this month is that many of my friends are starting to make their own families. My newsfeeds are filled with pictures of my contemporaries in newfound fatherhood, including my family members. That makes me much happier than it did when I was still stewing in my own self-absorption. I am grateful that there is a chance to see fatherhood from this new angle. I’m even more grateful that I am not home alone drinking, pretending that it doesn’t still hurt.

My father died of natural causes. Today I am reminded that there are people mourning for loved ones whose death came prematurely, with no justification. Though this post focuses on Grief concerning a man central to my life, it is dedicated to the LGBTQIA community of Central Florida. Your loss will not go unnoticed. When Grief comes–and it will–just know that it won’t stay.

xo

 

 

 

The Worst Four-Letter “Word”

Ahhh, the great paradoxes in life. Smart women meet Sexism, Smart Black Men and Women meet Racism, Everyone on the Planet meets Trumpism. All the various permutations of the “isms” creep up in everyone’s life, much to our dismay. It seems like any word ending in ism almost always has a negative connotation. And for the past two years, I’ve heard people cite their own alcoholic brand of isms hundreds of thousands of times. I hear well-meaning AAers discuss isms in their thinking as though emotions and thoughts and fears are all independent diagnoses. My internal dry-heave mechanism activates itself every time I hear that shitty, four-letter combination. “I took away the drink, I’m still an alcoholic. Because MAN those isms.”

Gaaaaaaaag.

I don’t like cliches. This is not to say I’m innocent of using them, I just think it’s a poor-man’s conversational trap door. “I have nothing original to say, so I’ll take a normal, human neurosis and slap ‘ism’ on the end of it.” All disgust aside, I think I understand the sentiment. As is our way, alcoholics tend to be self-absorbed. Our fear of say, public speaking, amounts to an enormous flurry of speculation about what others think of us.We might as well be leading a press conference at the Rose Garden. Forget about the thing we actually need to speak about; the immediate need is to analyze how and why the audience thinks we are blubbering, bullshitting fools. Like right now.

I don’t believe alcoholics are special people. I know special people who happen to be alcoholics. I think we are humans with a magnificent affinity for overwrought thinking…and alcohol. I agree that a program for continuous sobriety–any program that works–is necessary. But I don’t agree that we are superhuman or subhuman. We just need to be reminded that “the wolf is always at the door,” so to speak. I hate to feel apart from humankind, just like anyone else would. There is nothing special–or more accurately, unique–about that fear.

Because I want. To fit. In.

-Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

I guess what I’m alleging here is that addicts and alcoholics are way more normal than we think. There are times when I feel like such a weirdo for having the thoughts that I do. But I’ve noticed that the longer I am sober, the more willing I become to share those outlandish thoughts with my non-alcoholic friends. On any given day, one of my closest “normie” friends texts me comments about her bowel movements. I mean, this is the nature of of friendship, true. But it also shows me that my thinking isn’t so crazy, especially when we talk about serious things. She has insecurities and irrational resentments, just like I do. The only difference is, if I don’t work through the hidden complexities, I am wired to take it out on a drink. And there will most certainly be consequences if I do. Dire ones.

I’ve learned to block the isms. Audibly, mentally, figuratively. I keep in mind what I taught my kids to do. When they get rowdy, I tell them to “take a chill pill” (not to be confused with Xanax). Silently, they put out one hand, grab an invisible glass of water and slosh down their invisible chill pill. Miming this never fails to amuse them (or me). They can’t very well walk around thinking their problems are The Most Important Problems of Ever.

Leave that to the alcoholics.

xo

 

 

 

While Patience Percolates

The sweetest sound in my mornings is the subtle music coffee makes while it percolates. The only overture which guarantees I’ll make it anywhere–ever–is the promise of coffee. I don’t have much luck once I get downstairs to pour my first cup because I outrun the speed at which the coffee drips. I remember when I helped my mother purchase our coffee-maker; I insisted she buy the one where you can pour a cup while the machine suspends its production. One can always put the pot back on its burner. This mad rush in the morning drives my mother crazy. She doesn’t get why I can’t just wait. Maybe put more makeup on or something? she asks. No, mom, it doesn’t work that way. There isn’t enough mascara in the world.

Lack of patience, she portends, will make for unnecessarily miserable days to come.

My coffee routine, of course, is a microcosm of my world view. My absence of patience has led me down many creative dead ends in my lifetime. This is not to say that my mistakes are less beautiful than my successes, just that they are less obvious and much more difficult to unravel. So we shall call them creative cul-de-sacs.

Thanks to my practice of silence with self, meditation hastens my patience production right along. What’s interesting, though, is it also makes me feel irritable or sometimes angry. When I sit still for 12 minutes, as I have done most days for the past week, I feel great until I don’t. It’s almost as if my addictive self gets frustrated with the few minutes where my spirit and soul spurn my brain’s anxious intrusions. I am rarely ever angry with a person or an event on these occasions. I feel frustrated for absolutely no reason at all–not one I can recognize, anyway.

I fell into a thought cul-de-sac this week with my teacher life. On Thursday, a parent of one of the school’s students came in to tutor me in science, equipped with cool demos and funny stories of his teaching experiences. I listened with rapt attention, hanging onto his every word. I thought, “How the fuck am I ever going to be able to understand the laws of the universe, let alone teach them?” My thoughts made their crescendo to a point where if this nice man looked up from his book, he would have witnessed the thought bubble hover ’round my head. He kept talking, though, so I kept swatting the thought bubble aside to obsess over later.

I’ve started three careers since 2009. I’ve been a political organizer, a writer and now a teacher–five years, eight months and six months, respectively. Never once did I picture myself skipping into the sunset while fundraising for candidates. Never once did I imagine birds chirping as I write the final pages of my novel, greeting the daylight with no sleep on a deadline that looms. But more than once, I’ve pictured myself teaching sixth graders about protons and neutrons–and liking what I see. More than once, I’ve watched as the smile creeps across a students face when she correctly identifies the phases of the moon in order, no less. More than once, I saw myself fulfilling my vocation.

My twin called me on Friday to see how things were going. I told her how intimidated I was by the whole “being teacher-ready” process. I explained how much of a paradox it is that more people are leaving the profession than are coming into it. And why do I have to work so hard for credentials and placement when that is the case? She went into real-talk mode immediately. “What do you define as success?” she asks. And for the first time in my life, I answered without a convoluted response: “I want to be a good teacher, that’s all.” She told me how hard it will be to have that success. She is in her third year of residency as a podiatrist, living in something similar to a sleep-deprived hell. She told me that to work toward something I define as success, I can’t be fooled by self-doubt. That I have to work hard to remain focused. That I have to be patient–“Lucy. You HAVE to be patient,” she repeats thrice, for dramatic effect.

On many a campaign trail, I learned from training that a voter won’t be fazed by a candidate’s message until he’s heard it an average of seven times–and in as many ways. I wonder at this point how many times my sis will have to repeat herself for the message to resonate. As it turns out, the pursuit of success as I’ve defined it will not be subject to my impatience. Lest I forget, I promised myself over two years ago that my ultimate definition of success is to remain sober one day at a time. That’s all. It is clear to me now that I will have to remind myself of this definition every day, multiple times a day. But when I don’t remember to do this, and my coffee is still brewing, I’ll need a little help from my friends. Who knows? Maybe I can remind them, too.

And like a good friend, I’ll tell them it’s “Time for Da Percolator.”

A good friend who gets songs from the 90’s stuck in their heads.

 

Photo courtesy of Healthy Home and Kitchen