That Time the Grinch Stole my Responsibility

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Anyone else hate opening presents?  No… Just me then?

Okay, so hate is a strong word.  I feel… anxious… around wrapped gifts that are addressed to me.

But hate is not even a strong enough word to explain how I feel about surprises in generalEach year, around my birthday, I make sure to voice this fact aloud to all those closest to me, ensuring no one gets any crazy ideas about hiding a bunch of people wearing cone-shaped hats in a dark living room to jump out and scare me into cardiac arrest.  NOT my idea of a good time.

It’s not that I don’t LIKE presents.  Or birthdays.  Or cone-shaped hats.  I just don’t like the anticipation leading up to it.

When someone hands me a gift-wrapped package, it’s like they’re bestowing me with a tiny box of agonizing uncertainty.  I usually make a play at sloowwwllyy untying the decorative bow, not wanting to rough-handle such a delicately-knotted piece of sheer elegance.  But really I’m just stalling for time – preparing to fake a giant whoop of appreciation so animated that my other cone-shaped-hat-wearing friends can only assume I’ve just unwrapped the keys to a Ferrari.  Not because I’m a filthy stinking liar.  I just don’t want to offend anyone who likes me enough to brave the intricate world of bow-tying when they could have just as easily grabbed a cheap bag and some tissue paper and called it a day.

What if the contents of the box are revealed, and it’s something I already own?  What if it’s a lumpy sweater that looks like the carcass of a particularly ancient muppet?  What if it’s a severed human head?  I have no poker face.  Bluffing my way out of such a situation would prove tricky, so I overcompensate by pretending like I’m a 13-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Most of the time it’s unnecessary, but I stick to the routine just in case.

So do you get it now?  Why gifts are so terrifying that I literally shake when someone watches me open one?  It’s the unknown that I fear.  The inability to predict what lies inside, or the effect it will have on my life.  I have virtually NO control over the situation, and as most addicts tend to be… I’m a bit of a control freak.

Now… when I was in my earliest stages of recovery and the deepest pit of depression, I felt so hopeless and out of control that I was left cowering under the blankets of my bed, wishing that the karma fairy would come along and sprinkle her magic pixie dust, forever transforming each of my life problems into a giant rainbow.  I stopped answering my phone and ignored text messages by concerned loved ones.  I had no means of paying my bills, so I just gave up and resigned myself to a life of horrible credit and endless phone calls from collection agencies.  I stopped opening my mail.  I simply, gave up.

It’s incredibly embarrassing for me to admit all of this.  I haven’t really described the full extent of the damage I’ve done to my finances on the blog yet because it’s not exactly something I feel like shouting from the rooftops.  But as shameful as it is, I think it’s necessary to share with all of you.  Because I’m finally in the early stages of being able to do something about it… and I want to prove to others that it CAN be done.  The damage can be repaired.  Not erased… but repaired.  I say this not from experience, but out of confidence that I have the skills necessary to man up and take responsibility for this shit.  Which is a journey that I started just this morning, as I approached the box of unopened mail that I’ve been avoiding for the past week of my packing frenzy.

I seriously considered for a moment just shredding the entire pile without breaking open a single one.  Sitting in front of this stack of ominous-looking envelopes, I felt that familiar twinge of panic I so often get when I’m faced with a plethora of unwrapped presents.  The thought process was eerily similar too.  What’s inside all of these?  Court summons?  Death threats?  A human head? 

I threw on my happy face and tore them all open one-by-one in rapid succession, eyes glancing quickly over the dollar amounts before discarding their mangled wrappings onto the floor like the peanut shells at Texas Roadhouse.  When I was finished, the scene once again reminded me of the living room of my childhood home on Christmas morning… just after the last present is opened and the carpet is littered with crumpled red paper that sticks to the fuzz of your Holiday socks when you try to step over it.  With a few subtle differences, of course.

The ripped paper on my OWN floor is rather plain, boasting no maniacally-grinning elves or dancing snowmen, except for the occasional “Past Due.  Open IMMEDIATELY”… which isn’t nearly as festive.  Not a single toy or game has been produced from the wreckage.  A small stack of papers is all I have to show for my efforts, most of which contain scary words like “delinquent”.  THIS is what it would look like if the Grinch really DID steal Christmas.  And Easter.  And Thanksgiving.  And then kidnapped the tooth fairy for good measure.

I guess that makes me Cindy Lou.  And that’s not altogether a bad role to assume, I suppose.

Now that all my horrid presents have been opened, I feel an odd sort of release that surprises me.  Is the damage extensive?  Yeah, it’s pretty bad.  Can I devise a plan to go about fixing it?  Absolutely.  Now that there’s no uncertainty, I can stop prepping myself for the apocalypse I’d convinced myself was awaiting me inside those envelopes.  It’s not pretty, but hell… It’s not a human head either.

– Liz –

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Celebrate That Shit.

my trophies

I was seven years old when I won my very first karate trophy.  I remember it vividly.  Standing amongst the giant crowd of white-belt-donning children, I watched my fellow competitors as they ran forwards to collect their sparkly prizes.  Fourth place first.  Then third.  Second.  And then… me.

I was trembling with elation as I wrapped my tiny hands around the glistening object and bowed to the black belt handing it to me.  My ears were bombarded by the sounds of applause echoing throughout the gymnasium, and in a giant rush of excited confusion, I tore off in a completely random direction, arms wrapped awkwardly around the fruits of my achievement.

I ended up running right into the middle of another ring, interrupting a rather intense sparring match between two green belts much older than myself.  The judges shooed me away like a bumblebee and I buzzed around in circles for a while until my dad’s voice distinguished itself from the crowd and we were reunited in a fit of shared enthusiasm.

For the next 10 years, I competed in all sorts of tournaments and won myself all sorts of spoils.  Medals, and plaques, and ribbons decorated the walls of my bedroom, and of course… more trophies. I secretly named each of the little golden men on top of those trophies, and liked to pretend that they came alive when no one was looking, climbing down from their marble podiums like monkeys from a tree… partaking in miniature fighting rounds while I lay sleeping just feet away.

All of this sprang to mind the other day as I was scouring my possessions in a desperate attempt to whittle them down for the big move. It was obvious from the get-go that I couldn’t take them with me, but I stalled as long as humanly possible before I did anything about it.  Eventually I rounded all the tiny men up for one last photo-op of epic proportions, then donated them to a local charity.  My parting line as my dad and I walked out the door was “I feel like I just put an animal to sleep”.  But the sadness didn’t last long.

Thing is, I’ve come to a place in my life where I realize I don’t seem to NEED that blatant, in-your-face-reminder of my achievements anymore.  Well, in regards to my martial arts career, that is.  But as someone who’s about to reach 5 months of sobriety, I’d like to take a second to point out why it’s CRUCIAL to find ways to CONGRATULATE ourselves during recovery.

I began my torturous cycle of addiction roughly 10 years ago, and if I had a dollar for every “Day one” I experienced during that time, I’d be typing this post from a private jet sporting a giant picture of my own smiling face. If I wrote about each and every withdrawal period I suffered through, it would fill a book the size of War and Peace.

But despite all the physical agony, the absolute WORST part of that tumultuous decade was the utter self-loathing I experienced as a result of my numerous failures.  Every relapse served to further hammer the overwhelming sense of failure into my psyche. The brief periods of sobriety didn’t alleviate that feeling.  I felt weak for having succumbed to addiction to begin with. I didn’t allow myself any kind of commendation for attaining recovery.  I simply tried to forget it ever happened.  It didn’t work out very well…

It’s still early days for me, but I know deep down that I’ve finally turned a corner in my journey, and I’ve managed to quell that nagging sense of disappointment and worthlessness.  How… you may ask?  Simple.  I stopped thinking of all those relapses as failures.

Pay close attention now.  Stop what you’re doing and fucking LISTEN.  Seriously.  Yes, you… the one wearing all the shame and self-blame.  Ready?  Okay, here it is —>  GETTING SOBER IS HARD.  LIKE, REALLY HARD.  AS HARD AS RUNNING A MARATHON.  AS HARD AS THAT CROSSFIT CLASS YOU NEARLY HAD A HEART ATTACK IN THAT ONE TIME.  AS HARD AS CLIMBING EVEREST.  AND IT DESERVES EVERY BIT OF RECOGNITION WE CAN GIVE IT.  SO FUCKING CELEBRATE.  CELEBRATE THE SHIT OUT OF EVERY STRIDE YOU MAKE.  NO MATTER HOW SMALL.

Remember graduation day?  Remember how you rolled your eyes as your parents snapped picture after picture as though they were the paparazzi and you were Lady Gaga wearing a suit made of duct tape on the red carpet?  Remember how everyone threw money and cards and ponies at you and there was a special ceremony with roses and music and stuff?  Well, I want you to celebrate your sober achievements in the EXACT same way.

“But… I can’t CELEBRATE not drinking, can I?  I mean, thousands of people do it every day.  Why should I congratulate myself for being normal? “

But you’re not normal.  You have an addiction.  It was classified as a disease by the American government in the 70’s.  It’s an actual, PHYSICAL, recordable, biochemical condition that is almost IMPOSSIBLE to recover from without help.  And you’re fighting it.

Relapsing doesn’t “set the clock back to zero”.  We don’t throw away ALL of our progress by slipping up, as long as we learn from the experience and apply it to the next attempt.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t worry about relapse, or to be flippant about it when it happens.  I’m saying that we shouldn’t use relapse as an excuse to give up altogether.  Because it happens often, and to lots of people.

And when you do finally reach that magical place of recovery, don’t feel like you have no right to reward yourself.  You may find it hard to celebrate a situation that you “put yourself into”, so to speak.  You may feel that your behavior during addiction was so horrendous that you’re unworthy of any type of recognition now that you’re sober.  But you’re wrong.  If a high school student fails a grade level and graduates a year late, they still get a ceremony… right?

Regardless of where you’re at in your recovery, you need to remember to applaud yourself for the work you’ve put in.  Build a sturdy, decorative shelf inside your mind, and start adding trophies to it.  Or medals, or Emmy Awards, or cupcakes, or whatever.  Display your milestones with pride.  Visit the shelf often.  Read the plaques out loud, one by one.  “2 weeks sober”,  “Non-alcoholic Vacation”,  “Beat a craving”.  Remember ALL the accomplishments.  ALL the obstacles overcome.  Give yourself some credit.

If that’s hard for you… let me do it.  Ready?  You are fabulous.  You are inspiring.  You are doing this impossible, life-altering thing.  And you deserve to feel some effing pride for that.  These are the sober Olympics, and even if you’re not quite yet a medalist… it’s pretty damn impressive to be competing at all.  Celebrate that shit.


Come out, Come out, Wherever you Are…

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The sweat from my evening run still clings to my arms as I ease open the bathroom door, flip the light on, and cautiously tip-toe onto the cold tile. I immediately swing my head to the left, eyes drawn to the shadowy corner where ceiling meets wall. Empty. My neck pivots quickly as I scan the remaining corners like a street cop entering a drug house. Only instead of a gun, I clutch the soft fabric of a neatly folded towel.

When the perimeter check is complete, I deem the room safe for entry and proceed to the shower faucet. I flip the knob to scalding, and jump backwards as a spray of water shoots forth, hissing like a venomous snake. Steam unfurls as I undress, sneaking it’s wispy tendrils past the curtain and fogging the mirror with its gentle touch.

As I step over the lip of the tub and feel the warm droplets hit my skin, I perform one last cautionary glance. Satisfied with the pristine cleanliness of my surroundings, I close my eyes and dip my head under the stream of water with a relaxing sigh. My limbs seem to elongate as my muscles loosen under the liquid heat, lulling me into a meditative state of pleasant tranquility.

It happens just after I’ve squirted a giant dollop of creamy shampoo into my palm. The scent of coconut is wafting through the air, but I hardly notice it. My attention is drawn elsewhere, to a tiny spot near the edge of the tub that I seem to have overlooked earlier. It is here that the unwelcome visitor lurks, skulking in the shadows cast by a pleated vinyl curtain.

I freeze, my arm coming to a grinding halt halfway through it’s path towards my head, shampoo jiggling expectantly in my hovering hand. The creature responds to my sudden lack of movement by making a mad dash for the slick vertical wall opposite the showerhead. Despite the temperature of the water, my skin erupts in goosebumps as I watch the eight tiny legs wriggle upwards.

The quarter-sized arachnid and I are hardly strangers. We’d made our acquaintance nearly a day ago and had been making tremendous efforts to avoid one another ever since. I’d made my peace with his presence in the bathroom, mostly out of fear that any attempt at killing him would bring us close enough in proximity to reveal his supernatural leaping powers and result in horrifying skin-to-spider contact. I’d decided that as long he respected my need for distance, I would respect his need to occupy the space between the toilet and the far wall.

But now that mutual agreement is being brazenly violated, and I am faced with a serious dilemma. His death is now inevitable, however, my arachnophobia will not allow for quick action. I know from experience that such an endeavor will include lots of splashing, shrieking, and hopping about on one foot…. And the water is beginning to creep from scalding to slightly-less-scalding. Time is fading quickly, along with all hopes of finishing this session before it becomes a modified version of the polar bear plunge.

Spidey reaches eye-level just as I decide to take my chances and finish out the shower – under one condition. My eyes are to remain open at all times, and trained solely on Spidey, NO MATTER WHAT.

Speed is key, here. I whip my fingers through my hair, vigorously scrubbing. Bubbles erupt violently from my head and foam pours down my hairline like hot, soapy lava. It drips into my right eye, stinging painfully, causing the lid to clamp shut involuntarily. My remaining eye screams for lubrication, but I dare not close it. Spidey has come to a stop in front of me, and I have no idea what his intentions are. Now, more than ever, he must be watched vigilantly.

Is he playing dead? Pausing for air? Strategizing his attack? These thoughts flicker through my mind as I back my head through the spray in an awkward position that allows for a quick rinse without compromising my line of sight. I switch eyeball duty, forcing my right eye out of it’s cocoon and allowing the left to retreat into darkness. Both are screaming in agony. Spidey scurries upwards another three inches.

Having read The Art of War, I am aware that the one who gains higher ground on his opponent holds the advantage. Spidey now appears to have the upper hand. I frantically squirt conditioner in the general direction of my scalp in hurried panic. I ignore the bottle’s recommendation to wait 2 minutes before rinsing. My eyelid muscles are twitching from the effort of fighting the blink impulse. An imaginary digital readout is blinking giant red numbers inside my mind, counting down to an imaginary spider-infested apocalypse.

After a record-breaking 2-second body scrub, I scramble for the faucet and leap over the ledge of my porcelain battlefield. Spidey stands triumphantly amongst the glistening beads of moisture, taunting me with his very existence. I vow to avenge my stolen shower experience as I rush out of the bathroom, plotting his demise as I go.

I like to think of my own addictive nature as a spider in the bathroom. I’m vaguely aware of its presence in my brain, but because it is no longer at the forefront of my thoughts, sometimes I forget that it’s even there. It lies dormant, hiding in the shadows, crawling sneakily from one dark corner to another.

Most days I wake up and immediately search around up there, doing a quick run-through of my mental status and gauging my susceptibility to potential triggers. But sometimes I neglect this small task, lulled into a sense of complacency by my recent lack of encounters. Until something unexpected happens that I’m completely unprepared for, causing panic and wreaking havoc on my psyche.

This is why 12-steppers believe wholeheartedly in lifelong recovery efforts, even after years of sobriety. And I think they have a point. My addict voice may recede from time to time, but I doubt it will ever vacate the premises for good. It’s hard-wired into my brain, maybe even my genome. That doesn’t mean that I can’t go in there and do what I need to do. It just means I need to be aware of Addict Spidey by assessing his position on a daily basis. And it means that when I notice he’s gaining higher ground… I have to keep my eyes open. Even when they’re filled with shampoo.

spidey

– Liz –


Goodbye, palm trees. Hello life :)

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The ending of a long vacation always sparks this weird bout of cognitive dissonance for me.  On the one hand, I’m understandably bummed out by the fact that my tan lines are going to fade and that lounging by the pool with a book in my hand will no longer be a regular part of my daily routine.  But at the same time, the thought of performing that flying starfish leap onto my OWN bed (don’t even try to pretend like you’ve never done this after a long trip) fills me with a sense of orgasmic anticipation.

Plus, there comes a certain point when the novelty wears off and you start to weirdly resent the palm trees for no reason other than they’re the same fucking palm trees you’ve walked by every day for the past 3 weeks. The white sand that you’d once spent 20 minutes photographing from every POSSIBLE angle becomes an annoying, gritty, nuisance that binds itself to all your possessions and infiltrates every crack and crevasse of your body.  The pool is still as refreshing as ever, but hopping painfully across the scorched concrete to reach it becomes too much of a hassle to even bother.

I don’t care HOW amazing the locale, whether it’s Hawaii or fucking outer space, spend enough time there and eventually you’ll look around and think, “meh”.  Yes, somewhere beyond the stratosphere right now there is an astronaut weightlessly hovering above a giant picture window in the international space station thinking “Earth.  Again.  Sigh…” 

It’s not that we’re ungrateful.  It’s just human nature.  It’s how I feel near the end of every vacation, including this last one, which I just arrived home from yesterday.  What an amazing vacation it was!  I spent some much-needed quality time with family, worked out every day, and used all the time in between to reflect on this exciting new direction that my life is taking.  Exciting, new, and… let’s be honest, scary.

I’ve accepted a new job that will radically change my life in every way imaginable over the next few years.  I’ll be moving thousands of miles from my family to a place I’ve never seen in person, a place so remote that it can only be reached by boat or plane.  I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve lived under similar circumstances before, and that I will be training under a few former coworkers.  The confidence I’ve gained over these past 4 months of recovery is strong as ever, however, I’m not naïve enough to say that my sobriety won’t be tested by the challenges this new opportunity presents.

I’ve been home for less than 24 hours and I can already feel the beginnings of anxiety creeping in.  I have a little over three weeks to sort through all my shit and somehow compress all of these earthly belongings into a dense mass small enough to shove inside a large suitcase.  I’m attempting to coordinate travel arrangements and housing arrangements with a human resources department in another time zone, mostly by e-mail.  Documents need faxing and papers need signing and somehow I’m supposed to find the time to pee in a cup to prove I’m not  on the drugs I probably would have resorted to in the past to deal with all this chaos.

This time around, though, I’ve got a handy little toolbox of coping mechanisms that don’t require inebriation of any kind.  Things like deep breathing, constructive problem-solving, or, when necessary… a giant bowl of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. All 2,000 calories of magnificently gluttonous splendor.

I’ve also become so good at identifying my own negative thought patterns that it’s like I’m being heckled sometimes.  My subconscious often screams out psychology terms like a motivational speaker with Turret’s.  All-or-Nothing!  Minimization!  Overgeneralizing!   This all sounds rather annoying, and well.. It is. But it also has this pesky way of being helpful by allowing me to redirect the shitty thoughts to a better place.  A place that doesn’t involve straight-jackets and a ridiculous amount of finger-painting.

This is what real life is supposed to be like.  What we spent so long avoiding in the height of our addictions.  With every drink, every pill, we boarded a plane to escape the unbearable reality our lives had become… embarking on a lengthy all-inclusive vacation without a set return date.

At first it was all palm trees and coconuts and sexy cabana boys rubbing us down with suntan oil.  But like those literal vacations we spoke of earlier, eventually the pleasure fades away and leaves us restless and unhappy.  We scour our former paradise, searching for new palm trees, trying to get that feeling of contentment back, but we know deep down that the sensations are temporary.  We can’t live here forever.  Our problems haven’t disappeared.  They’re only a plane-ride away.  And sooner or later, we’ll have to deal with them.

By the time we board our return flight, we are practically relieved.  We’ve begun to long for the normality of our former lives, the comfort of our own beds.  Because true happiness is never achieved by escaping from life.  It’s only achieved by the living of it.

So here I sit, memories of Florida fresh in my head, unpacked suitcase still zipped on the floor, crumpled boarding pass on the nightstand.  A small part of me is nostalgic for the blissfully relaxing existence of the past few weeks, a place without e-mails or cargo containers or housing woes.  But a much bigger part of me is excited to participate, once again, in this miraculous thing we call life.  To do it sober, even.  To face challenges head-on and feel the pride swell inside me as I do it all with a clear and present mind.

I’m re-entering the vaguely familiar place of sobriety, leaping into the comfort of an old metaphorical bed.  Even though the vacation is over, I’m diving headfirst into the excitement of this radically new life with all of its infinite possibilities.  And as stressful as that can sometimes be, I still fucking love it.  More than palm trees.  More than pills.  I fucking love it.

– Liz –


EEK! I’ve become THAT girl.

You know, the one that gets a sexy new boyfriend and suddenly drops off the face of the planet because she’s too busy being deliriously happy?  Yep.  Guilty as charged.

Okay, so I don’t actually have a new boyfriend.  I did flirt with the pool security guy the other day, but that’s mostly because he was nice enough to let me inside the gate without a wristband.  And he was sort of cute.  But I digress…

I AM nauseatingly happy, but it has nothing to do with boys. It has EVERYTHING to do with sobriety.  Sober vacation, to be exact.

By now I’m sure you’ve deduced that I am still in Florida, and you would be correct.  My last post, aside from expressing a particularly whiny version of myself that I would currently like to punch in the face, did a rather good job of establishing this.  Directly after reading all of your insightful comments and helpful advice, I had a bit of a paradigm shift and decided to listen to my wise friends of the sober Blogosphere.

I did my best to stop worrying about what people were thinking about me and just concentrated on ENJOYING MYSELF.  And guess what?  It worked!  When I finally decided to stop obsessing over all the negative crap that was going on, there was suddenly time to appreciate the stuff that DESERVED APPRECIATING.

Things like… the sun. I was aware of it’s existence before, but here?  It doesn’t mess around.  When you walk out the door in the morning it smiles at you with a big cartoon grin and waves it’s giant yellow hands so excitedly that you just can’t help but smile and wave back.  Palm trees dance rhythmically to the unheard beat of a Bob Marley song.  The ocean extends it’s frothy fingers and tickles the white sand, while miniature crabs cartwheel along the shore in unison.  A tiny, red plane dots the cloudless sky and a banner trails behind it, reading “THIS IS SOBER!!!!”  in giant block letters.

Seriously, you guys… it really is THAT awesome!

Of course, old habits die hard.  I’ve had a moment of panic or two in between the bliss, usually caused by catastrophic thinking that in retrospect… was completely unwarranted.  I met up with my sister and her family the other day to watch Jurassic World at Universal Studios.  My sis was raving about the fact that the cinema we were going to served BEER, right there in the theater!  Oh God… I thought, I haven’t explained that I’m not drinking or why yet… And now I’ll have to do it in front of the kids and my brother-in-law and it will get weird and I’ll feel awkward and it’ll ruin EVERYTHING. Yes, EVERYTHING! And.Then.I.Will.Die.

But nobody died.  Well, I mean, people got eaten by genetically-hybridized dinosaurs.  But just in the movie. Not in real life.

Futhermore, when I was asked if I wanted a beer by my sister, and responded with a well-rehearsed “No thank you”, nobody gave a fuck.  Seriously.  Their pockets could have been overflowing with fucks, and not a single one was spared for me and my non-alcoholic beverage.  It was that simple.

So that’s my experience so far.  I’ve got another week to go here in Florida and I’m LOVING THE HELL out of my sober vacation.  And guess what?  In a completely random turn of events, I’ve gotten an AMAZING job offer… and accepted it!  No, it’s not in Florida.  It’s a position that I applied for AGES ago, and FINALLY just heard back from.  I’ll get into it more later, but it looks like I’ll be relocating to the Great White North again, and starting a brilliant new adventure in July!  And the best part?  I FEEL READY.  I really do.  I know I can do this.  I know that I would NOT have been able to do this if I hadn’t gotten sober.  I know I have SO MUCH to be thankful for, and I really, really am thankful.

So stick around, guys, because shit just got real.  I’m slowly easing my way back into life again, and I’m doing it 100% drug and alcohol-free.  AND IT’S AMAZING.

I can’t think of a funny tagline to end this with, so here’s a picture of me at Cocoa Beach, being photo-bombed by a random Puerto-Rican dude.

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– Liz –


So I’m in Florida.  

That’s not a metaphor or anything.  I actually AM in Florida!  I probably COULD turn it into a metaphor for sobriety.  It wouldn’t be all that hard.  I’ve had lots of practice over the last few months.  But the truth is… I don’t have the energy for metaphors today.  So I’m just going to tell it like it is…

I’m in Florida.

Why am I in Florida?

My mom lives here.  So does my sister.

My dad and other sister recently spent a month down here, visiting the other half of our family while I stayed at home.  And shortly after they returned, my mom offered to fly me out for a visit.  I took her up on it.  I hadn’t seen her or my other sister in two years, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to make the trip.

So now I’m in Florida.

For three weeks.

And it’s beautiful and it’s sunny and there are pools and fresh fruit and palm trees.  I’m literally sitting in the center of freaking paradise, and to some degree, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.  But when I’m NOT enjoying myself, I’m busy hating myself.

Why?

Because I’m in  Florida.

Because my dad and sister have done nothing but express contempt at the fact that I’m in Florida.  Because my family is fractured and dysfunctional and someone is ALWAYS pissed off at someone else and people are ALWAYS making alliances with each other and being a member of this family is a lot like being on a never-ending episode of Survivor.

I spent most of last night bawling my eyes out.  Because… drama.  Family drama.  And Facebook.

Because… sobriety.  I passed countless airport bars on the way down here, passed up numerous offers from persuasive flight attendants with miniature bottles of my favorite type of booze.  My mom and I went to an outdoor bar & grill yesterday for lunch.  There were fancy pictures of delicious-looking frozen drinks all over the menu, all screaming from their pages, “Drink me!”  “I’m cute, and fun, and tropical!”  “I come in a PINEAPPLE!  A fucking PINEAPPLE!  Could I BE more perfect?”

But I haven’t had a drop of alcohol.  I haven’t taken a single pill.  I’m sober, and alert, and…

…I’m in Florida.

And I’m really trying to enjoy it.  I’m trying not to sound like an entitled brat here, and I really REALLY hope that I don’t come off that way.  I just hate it when people are mad at me.  I HATE feeling like I can’t make everyone happy.  I HATE not having some way to just numb all the pain.  I HATE that I know this is all part of being sober, and that it’s probably good for me in some weird way.  And I HATE how whiny I sound right now.

Ugh.  I’m sorry, guys.  I’m annoying.  I’m mopey.  I’m in a crappy place.  Mentally.

Physically?  I’m in mother-fucking Florida.  And I SHOULD be enjoying it.

– Liz –


You Might Be a Sober Blogger If…

I’m not usually the type to post lists, but thought this might be kind of fun.  If you’re a lurker wondering just what, or who I might be talking about, maybe it’ll encourage you to start a blog of you own!  We LOVE newcomers, so don’t be shy!  To the rest of you… maybe you can relate to the following?

You might be a sober blogger if…

  • Many of your friends are Anonymous and have no pictures to indicate what they look like, and you wonder if the image of them you’ve concocted in your mind is even REMOTELY accurate.
  • You play mental travel-Bingo with the “countries” section of your traffic page.  Turkmenistan?!  Never had that one before!  SCORE…
  • Getting a new follower can secretly make your day.
  • “Wolfie” is a regular term in your mental vocabulary.
  • You get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when someone suddenly stops posting, or even worse… deletes their entire blog.
  • Insane relief washes over you when that very same person authors a post titled “Sorry guys!  I’ve been soooo busy!”
  • You do no less than 3 mental cartwheels when Unpickled comes out with a new post.
  • When you spot a newcomer with a WICKEDLY awesome blog name and you’re like, “Why didn’t think of that?”
  • Inspiration for a new post can strike at the WEIRDEST times, without warning.  Which is probably why your purse is filled with random sticky notes about sober topics you jumped off the treadmill to jot down.
  • A fellow blogger posts about a slip-up or relapse, and you genuinely wish you could reach right through your computer screen and give them a giant, re-assuring hug.
  • When Mrs. D adds you on Twitter and it ignites the same kind of excitement as though you’d just received a personal invite to Katy Perry’s birthday party.
  • You check your WordPress feed more often than your Facebook.
  • You used to think having “online friends” was weird, but now you have TONS and you’re 99% certain that none of them are pedophiles or axe-murderers.
  • You genuinely worry that you’ll have nothing to write about once you’ve been sober for a year.
  • Other blogger’s sober milestones are celebrated as though they were your OWN, and seeing something like “90 days today!” can bring an enormous smile to your face.
  • A blogger friend alludes to their country of origin and you suddenly have to go back and re-read their last post, to try it “with the accent”.
  • You wonder why Belle hasn’t won the Nobel Prize yet for her awe-inspiring ability to juggle the “100 Day Sober Challenge” simultaneously with her 5,000 sober pen pals.
  • You read a friend’s post when you’re dead-tired that you absolutely LOVE, but then forget to comment on it.  Cue awful guilt.
  • You listen to The Bubble Hour so much that you forget you don’t ACTUALLY know these women in real life and catch yourself thinking “Oh Ellie… you crack me up!”
  • You wish you’d found this community 10 years ago, when you thought you were totally alone in your addiction and had no one to talk to about it.
  • Widgets.  They’re the bane of your existence.
  • You often wonder how SO MANY people from SO MANY different countries and SO MANY different backgrounds can all have so much in common.
  • You have a sense of respect and admiration for your fellow bloggers that few can compete with, and you think they are some of the bravest and most beautiful people you could EVER meet.

That’s all for now.  Much love to all my sober blogging family out there.  You all ROCK!

– Liz –


CANNONBALL!!

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It’s just past 10 am on a warm Thursday morning in late June, and the lonely beach sits quietly, awaiting its first visitors.

I squint my eyes and shield my crinkled brow from the sunlight that’s been building up intensely for the past hour.  The flurry of sounds from the street we’re waiting to cross seems to fade away for a brief moment, as I scan the familiar horizon for signs of life.

“It’s empty!”  I turn and say, my voice bubbling with excitement.

The delight is mirrored in my best friend’s face as we scamper across the black asphalt together, past the line of cars waiting patiently for the light to turn green.  My backpack bounces with each step, and I’m briefly reminded of my sunburn from the day before as the straps rub across my reddened shoulders. 12-year olds have no need for sunscreen, of course.  They have much more important things on their minds.

Our pace quickens as we approach the stretch of grass that fills the outskirts of the tiny park.  Empty swings gobble up the heat as they hang silently in the still air.  We barely give them notice as we run by.  Eventually the green turf gives way to patchy bits of sand, and makes its final surrender just moments later as we cross the threshold onto the tiny square of beach.

Flip-flops are kicked off in unison, and our packs hit the sand with a muffled thud.  We chat excitedly as we cast aside layers of shorts and tank tops, revealing the brightly-colored bathing suits worn underneath.

The dry granules of gritty sand burn the soles of my feet like hot coals.  I hop painfully from one foot to the other as I make my way towards the wooden dock just ahead.  The waves are so slight as to be almost nonexistent, but I can hear them whisper quietly as they lap, rhythmically,  against the shore.

I can hear my best friend’s footsteps, plodding along on the planks of wood behind me, and I speed up in response.  Competitive by nature, I know we’re both secretly fighting for the coveted role of being the first one in the water.  I sprint the last few steps, closing the gap between myself and the edge of the dock at breakneck speed, and launch powerfully into the air.

Okay.  Let’s pause the tape here for a moment.  Yep, right there.  Good. 

There I am, hovering magnificently over the water, leg muscles tense from the exertion and arms spread wide like a featherless, swimsuit-wearing, eagle.  Had we only this image to admire, and no others, we could imagine that this illustrious moment was one filled with all the glory and fearless adventure one should experience during the dog-days of a childhood summer. 

However, if we alter the camera angle slightly downward… ah yes… you see?  There in the water?  I’ll zoom in a bit…  there.  You see that brown, muddled area just below my feet?  Those are bugs.  Dead bugs, to be exact.  THOUSANDS of them.  Like a giant, floating, dead bug landfill.  And I’m about to bury myself inside of it.

They’re a special kind of bug that swarms our hometown for a couple weeks in June every year, like a sea of locusts.  They cover every shop window, square inch of pavement, and human being that dares to venture outside during this time.  And at the end of the day, they all congregate near the water and take turns diving into it like miniature Kamikaze pilots, committing miniature bug suicide right there in the lake.

But with the heat and the excitement of having the beach entirely to ourselves, we’d forgotten about this crucial detail.  So there I am, hovering above a filthy soup of bug guts, about to realize my horrific fate but unable to do anything to stop it.

Resume tape.

A high-pitched shriek and a large splash ensues.  I bob to the surface, and as I clamor to bat the nasty creatures away from my body, I hear the hysterical, breathless laughter echoing across the water.  I look up towards the dock with a murderous expression, hair clinging to my face along with the bug remains, and find my best friend curled over the railing with tears dripping down her face and shaking uncontrollably with giggles.  I wasn’t nearly as amused.

You see, I’ve always been a rather ALL OR NOTHING type of person.  Moderation simply isn’t a word in my vocabulary.  Some people can start from the shoreline and GRADUALLY work their way into the water, one step at a time.  But me?  I prefer to jump straight in and immerse myself from head to toe in whatever I’m doing.

This presents a problem when it comes to things like, oh, pills for instance.  I’ve never been able to take ONE Vicodin and be satisfied with the results.  If I’m going to get a buzz, I want the BEST buzz I can possibly hope to achieve.  One little pill ain’t gonna cut it.  No, sir.  I’ll be taking that bottle, thank you very much.

But I’ve quit now, so it shouldn’t be an issue anymore… right?  WRONG.  My tendency to over-do it is something I’ve carried with me into recovery, and it’s something that I catch myself doing regularly.

Sometimes I get so excited to have my normal life back, that I start making plans and starting projects and planning vacations and applying for jobs and offering help and making commitments and… WOAH.  CHILL OUT THERE, SISTER.  STEP AWAY FROM THE TO-DO LIST.  THAT’S RIGHT, NICE AND EASY NOW… PLACE YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.  GOOD.  LET’S TAKE THAT CAPE OFF TOO, OKAY?  SUPER-WOMAN MIGHT WANT THAT BACK…

So that’s where I’m at today.  Needing to reign it in a bit as I realize that I may have taken on a little too much, a little too soon.  As much as I hate being idle, sometimes recovery just calls for it.  Diving head-first into a sea of responsibilities and commitments is NOT entirely compatible with early sobriety.  Lest you wind up in a sea of nasty regret, with the remnants of bug guts all over your face.

– Liz –


The Mirror

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In my bedroom, on the far right wall, next to a hanging calendar, there sits a long, rectangular, mirror. The cheap kind that you buy from Walmart or Target with the flimsy cardboard backing and tacky wooden trim.

Sometimes I wake up late at night, and I walk over to it, kneeling down to gaze at my ghostly reflection in the dim light pouring in my window from the street. I stare for several minutes, taking in the familiar shapes of my face, running the pads of my fingers over my cheeks, turning my head from side to side. The reflection doesn’t look so very different than it did four months ago. There are slight changes, of course. My eyes are less sunken. My cheeks less hollow. My skin is no longer pale or sickly. But overall, the reflection of my sober self is much the same as my addicted self. They are twins.

One night not too long ago I sat, once again, in front of the mirror and felt a growing sense of black despair from somewhere inside of me. It continued to swell like a balloon filled with dark water, slowly spilling out from my stomach and into my extremities until it finally reached the crevices of my vulnerable mind. Thoughts and memories that had lay dormant came surging to life, and I found myself consumed by an overwhelming sense of regret.

How did I get here? Why did this have to happen? Why did I let myself get addicted? How much better would my life be if I had NEVER taken a pill? What kind of person would I be? Everything… everything would be different.

I leaned my forehead against the cool surface of the mirror and felt the tears drip down my nose like warm raindrops. It was then that I heard it. A soft voice. I pulled my head up in alarm. Looked about the dark room. No one there. Just shadows and stillness. Perhaps a voice carrying over from the street?

Then it spoke again. But this time I was certain of it. There was no mistake, it had definitely come from that direction. It was…  the mirror. Whispering quietly… a simple question.

“Would you like to see?”

I leaned closer, until the mirror was lightly dusted with the fog from my breath. A trembling whisper escaped my throat, and I answered…

“Yes.”

Very well… The mirror softly replied. A few moments of silence. And then I watched as the blurry patch of fog began to grow in a most unnatural way across the mirror, like frost stretching across a cold window on Christmas morning. My reflection disappeared gradually, as the invading mist enveloped the mirror in a thick, grey shroud.

I sat unmoving, transfixed by this strange phenomenon, until the fog had stretched from end to end. A slight glow now seemed to emanate from the mirror, growing brighter with each passing second until I felt the heat of it on my skin. Cautiously, I leaned forward. I pulled the fabric of my flannel pajama sleeve over my wrist and reached out towards the mirror. And wiped the dewy condensation away.

Immediately, the light grew stronger, piercing the small circle that I’d rubbed away. I brought my face to it and peered inside, curiosity overwhelming me.

My reflection was gone. In fact, the mirror itself seemed to have disappeared. A pane of glass pressed hard against the tip of my nose as my eyes grew accustomed to the strange light. A dining room table. Two plates, with cheerful hues that perfectly complemented the color scheme of various placemats, drinking glasses, and utensils surrounding them. The muffled sound of tinkling laughter and conversation struggled to make it’s way through the window. I paused in shock as my eyes settle on the familiar face of a young woman taking bites of her dinner, in between giggles. The face was my own. That person was… me.

I winced as she seemed to glance directly at me, feeling like a voyeur being caught in the act. But she didn’t seem to notice my presence. Looked past me, through me. An invisible spectator, watching another’s life unfold through the one-way glass of a secret window.

She… I.. Looked different. More… together. Nothing fancy, just… cleaner. Her clothes were more sophisticated and her makeup looked fresher. Her hair had obviously been cut recently and shined healthily. Her movements were careful and precise. She had an air of grace about her that seemed ingrained.

The man she sat across from was everything I’d ever wanted in a boyfriend. Dark hair, easy smile, kind eyes. They appeared to be enamored with each other. There was a sense of comfortable familiarity as well. They’d obviously been together for a while.

Then, without warning, time seemed to both speed up and slow down in the same instant, and the scene in front of me changed rapidly. Flickering images assaulted my senses as the world inside the window came to life. Brief glimpses of a life so different than my own transcended both space and time.

From scene to scene, I watched dizzily as the girl in the window drove to work, planted a garden, signed a lease, got a massage, walked a dog, drank her coffee, cuddled with her boyfriend…. I watched her achieve and accomplish and thrive. And I knew that this was a girl who had never swallowed a pill in her entire life. She’d never heard of PAWS or pink clouds. Had never known addiction. She was the me I’d always wanted to be.

The jealousy stung sharply. I cursed myself for having looked, for allowing myself to SEE. And just as I thought to pull myself away from the cursed window, the flurry of images began to slow… and then came to a screeching halt.

I heard the distant sound of water running. The pristine white of a marble bathroom counter lay before me, the girl bent over it, staring directly into the glass. Our eyes met. My breath was cut short. I noticed the tears and bloodshot eyes first. The quivering hands. Her face was the very picture of sorrow. She whispered little things into the mirror in front of her… to herself… to me. Chastising, berating things. And it suddenly became clear. This girl was not as happy as she appeared to be. I recognized the depression, the self-loathing, the need to appear perfect on the outside. This girl, was just like me.

No. Wait. This girl was not like me, because this girl.. Didn’t even know that she had a problem. She had no way of knowing that her thoughts were untrue, that she couldn’t trust her own mind. No addiction meant no alarm bells. Nothing to manifest on the outside to force her into dealing with her issues. Nothing to force her into GETTING HELP. She would never be truly be happy. She would never be whole…. Not really.

Steam began to unfurl from the shower as the water grew hotter, but the girl stood in front of the mirror still. I reached up and spread my palm against the glass, wanting to offer comfort, to tell her that it could get better. That there was always a way. Her palm reached towards my own and for a moment, we stood together, hands separated by a thin stretch of glass that was slowly filling with fog. Her hopeless expression disappeared into the mist, gradually fading away as the light began to dim.

The glass grew dark once again, and the fog gave way to a familiar reflection. I pulled away from the mirror and felt my own face again with the tips of my fingers. The face of a girl who’d conquered so many fears. The face of a girl who had discovered her own strength, not in spite of addiction, but BECAUSE of it. I knew I would never, again, regret my addiction. I would never wish I could change the past. I was on my way to becoming whole again.

I launched to my feet, finally ready to get back to sleep. But before I turned to the bed, I leaned in towards the mirror and whispered softly into the glass..

…”Thank You”……….

…And went to sleep.


This Place is a Zoo

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“What is it, like, a hedgehog or something?”  The little girl with the blond ringlets asked, staring through the fencepost at the prickly creature in front of us.

“Well… I think it might be a porcupine, actually” I answered.  I looked around for the girl’s mother, but the only other living creatures nearby were the ones locked away in their tiny pretend-ecosystems.

“Are those things on it’s back needles?  Do they sting people?  How do they hug each other?”

Kid, you’re cute, but I’m not Doctor freaking Do-little.  Where the heck are your parents?

Luckily I didn’t have to wonder much longer.  A woman with equally curly, blond hair appeared and whisked the little girl away to the beaver exhibit, leaving me alone with the porcupines.

How DO they hug each other?  I wonder…

All-in-all we had a pretty decent day wandering through the zoo with my sister’s hiking group.  It sounds dumb, but I was actually super NERVOUS about going.  I know, right?  The ZOO?  Seriously?  Could there be anything LESS terrifying?

But no amount of rational thinking, no amount of repeating to myself “You are being an idiot.  Don’t worry, the animals aren’t going to judge you” seemed to help.  Because there was going to be PEOPLE there.  Like, normal, everyday people… that I would have to do crazy hard things like MAKE SMALL TALK with, or LOOK THEM IN THE EYE.  You want me to do WHAT?!  Introduce myself?!  Too hard.  TOO FUCKING HARD. I CAN’T.  PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME.

That was the dialogue going on in my head the entire way there.  Now, in the past, I would have anticipated all of this and made the necessary preparations.  By this I mean I would have taken pills.  Lots and lots of pills.  I’d have started with just a couple… maybe 2 hours before we left – so that I would have had a nice buzz going before I so much as got in the shower.

Once out of the shower, I would have decided that 2 pills were not enough and that this SUPER SCARY excursion certainly called for extra.  So I’d pop 2 more.  Then I would have emptied out a tylenol or ibuprofen bottle of it’s contents so that I could refill it with other, stronger pills instead.  I’d have stowed this bottle in that secret pocket of my purse that usually only holds random stuff like dirty pennies and lint-covered tic-tacs.

During the half hour ride to the park, I would have fidgeted nervously and avoided talking to anyone in the car because all I’d be thinking about is whether or not I should take some more pills now, or wait until we got there.  I’d probably have decided that I needed to take 1 more, just in case, and would revert to stealth mode while reaching into my purse to sneakily open my hidden bottle.  I would have made sure everyone was pre-occupied with the scenery or conversation and then pretend to be really interested in something outside the car so I could turn my head and slip the pill into my mouth discreetly.  I would force myself to swallow, even though the lack of saliva would make it near impossible to do so.

Once we got to the zoo, I would have felt a sense of calm euphoria and smiled at all the people I met from my sister’s group.  This would last about an hour or so and then the euphoria would begin to dwindle and I’d start to feel sleepy.  The people I’d been making conversation with so pleasantly an hour ago would begin to annoy me and I’d start to go quiet and branch off on my own.  I’d have trudged from one exhibit to another, pretending to be excited about the chimpanzees and prairie dogs, but really I’d just be wishing I was at home sleeping.  I would have tried to rush my family through the rest of the park so that we could be finished with all this and I could go home and nod-out in peace.

And once we arrived home, I would have cursed myself for taking too many pills because now I would have less for TOMORROW.  I’d berate myself for having no self-control for about 15 minutes, and then I would decide that since I’d ALREADY taken too much, I might as well take even more to ease the pain of having taken TOO MUCH.  Then I would fall asleep.

Funny how a trip to the zoo would have turned into this incredibly complex affair that required so much preparation.  There was no preparation whatsoever yesterday.  I simply put my coat on and got in the car.  Then we went to the zoo.  Then we left.  Did I feel awkward and raw without my usual crutch?  Absolutely.  Did it ruin my experience?  Nope.

But there IS something else.  Right as we got back in the car, my dad and sister got into a minor MINOR tiff about something incredibly stupid.  Seriously, if I explained it you’d laugh, but I won’t bore you with details.  However, my dad got super defensive about it and sort of lashed out at my sister, which seriously almost NEVER happens.  They’ve always been super close and I’ve rarely ever seen them disagree on anything.  After he snapped at my sister, I attempted to stick up for her, saying “Dad… all she was saying was…”  and that fucking backfired enormously.

My dad refused to talk to us the entire ride home, and once we got home he went into his bedroom and shut the door.  The next morning he got up super early and left the house without telling anyone where he was going.  He didn’t come home until later in the day and when he did, he refused to speak to anyone AGAIN.  Even after I said “hi” when he walked in the door.  He just looked at me and walked away.

This whole thing is just so STUPID, I can barely even believe it’s happening.  My biggest pet peeve has always been the silent treatment, and my dad has always been a pro at it.  I’ve always been the “let’s just hash this out so we can get it over with and apologize to each other” type.  I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE REFUSE TO TALK ABOUT THINGS.  It makes me want to punch puppies and choke kittens.  It makes me want to walk into the living room, look right at my dad and say “Hey, it would be really nice if you could just QUIT BEING A DICK.  Please?”

Now I’m sitting here wondering how we managed to somehow bring the fucking zoo back home with us.  The atmosphere in this house is crazy stupid right now.  But if I could make it through the ANIMAL zoo sober, then I’m pretty confident I can deal with the PEOPLE zoo as well.  Time to flex my sober muscles and test the resilience of my sobriety.

My dad is like that stupid porcupine.  All bristly and sharp and always in defensive mode.  Keep your distance!  He says…  Just let me hug you!  I say.

I guess that begs the question – CAN you hug a porcupine?  Seriously… can you?

– Liz –


The Everyday Addict

Hi! I’m Ashley and I am just your average everyday addict! Recovery is a new adventure that is hard, but it CAN also be fun and exciting! I created this blog to share my experience with addiction, my perspective as a youth in recovery, and the joys of my recovery. Clean & sober since 10/27/2008!

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