Now We Are Fifteen

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Usually when I hit a “soberversary,” I immediately take to the blog to recognize it.  For some reason this year, on the actual day itself (6/19), I just couldn’t figure out what to write.  I’ve been in a state lately where the words don’t come as easily as they usually do.

I’m getting my medallion this Friday.  In the past, I’d make something of a big deal about it, having it presented at a big meeting I used to attend, getting a card signed by everyone in the meeting, and getting brunch afterwards.  This year I’ve opted to get it at a very small meeting I go to on Fridays, where there are usually no more than 10 people, most of them I consider to be mentors and friends.  Greta. David. Mark.  A hilarious young woman who, for some reason, thinks I’m right for the job of walking along beside her on the often gravelly and lopsided road of recovery, will be giving it to me.  It feels right.  It’s not about splashy anymore.

I did the math, and realized that at 15 years, I’ve now been sober for as long as I drank.  That shit is CRAZY.  I started drinking as a teenager, and I stopped in my very early thirties.  The years in between?  A blur punctuated with just enough humiliation and heartbreak to get me to where I realized I had to stop, before it killed me.  And make no mistake – it absolutely would have killed me.  I suspect that there are many people who still don’t quite get that.  It’s something you can buy in the grocery store.  It’s what you pick up on the way home from work on a Friday evening, to “unwind.”  Go into any gift shop and you’re confronted with the CUTENESS of it:  “Wine improves with age; I improve with WINE.”  It’s funny….until it isn’t.

I’m truly fortunate in that I’ve made more friends than I’ve lost since I quit drinking.  There were a few people who definitely avoided me in the early months, and years, as if my alcoholism was contagious (it’s not).  And we won’t get into the ones who stopped calling because if I wasn’t going to go out and drink, what fun was that?  It made me realize just how many seemingly fundamental relationships were entirely focused on alcohol.  I still mourn people I drove away with my drinking (and untreated mental illness).  But I’d like to believe I’m better at that whole Golden Rule thing, most of the time.

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I should also talk about the vomit.  I was the sovereign vomiter of our epoch.  If you knew me back in the Nineties, chances are I puked around you.  In your car.  In your driveway.  In a stainless steel mixing bowl you hurriedly grabbed for me before I puked on your couch.  I have vomited across these United States.  I can honestly say that – mirabile dictu – I  have only vomited ONCE in the past 15 years, and that was from a breakfast sandwich.

So here it is – the annual “I Made It Another Year Without A Drink, And BOY Am I Thirsty” post.  I’m grateful.

 

Booze Vacation

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My best friend just marked her third year of sobriety.  It’s got me all in my thoughts today.

Few things are worse than watching someone you love circle the drain, knowing there’s criminally little you can do to stop it.  On the flip side, few things are better than watching someone you love get better.  Seeing the light return to her eyes.  Celebrating all of those little milestones you pass when you’re newly sober:  first set of holidays, first birthday, first wedding reception.  (I’ll tell you – when you get through that first wedding reception without drinking you feel like Ben Hur or some shit.  I swear to God.)

Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m seeing other people posting those “Here’s Why You Should Stop Drinking For A Month”-type essays again.  People who are waxing ecstatic about all the wonderful things that are coming about for them because they stopped drinking for a month, or two months.  And while I’m totally happy for them, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t get quite the payoff they’re reaping for having not imbibed for 30/60/90 days.  I didn’t magically regain focus and leap into all kinds of amazing projects because OMG THE CLARITY I HAVE NOW.

I have to remember that I had to stop not because it was cramping my style, but because it was killing me.  And that because of the way I drank, it would take years to rewire everything to the point where I could even manage doing a load of laundry without needing to anesthetize myself.  I’m still not there.  The highway system of my mind is full of potholes and I sometimes feel like I spend most of my time putting traffic cones around them instead of, you know, FIXING them.

Basically, I don’t get to “take a break” from drinking.  I have a restraining order on alcohol that has to be renewed pretty much every damn day.  And 99% of the time, I accept that.  But then there’s that occasional point where I look at Booze Vacation people virtually beaming while posting all these breakthroughs they’re having because they haven’t had a beer in two weeks, and I let it get to me.  I think, “Great, and you get to pick back up whenever you want and suffer no consequences.”  That’s the key word for me:  consequences.  I don’t actually envy you because you can have a couple of drinks and stop whenever you want to.  I envy the idea of drinking without consequences.  I never drank normally in my life.  I always drank like there was a raging brush fire in my heart and I needed an endless bucket brigade.  And I didn’t particularly want to stop drinking like that, honestly.

I have to remind myself not take this personally.  I have to remind myself that if someone is doing something that’s improving their quality of life, the correct – and only – reaction is to be happy for them.  Self-care takes on many forms, and it’s not my place to begrudge anyone their methodology, or be an underpaid tour guide in Miseryland.  And we all have our a-ha moments around alcohol.  For some, it’s “Wow!  I have so much more money at the end of the week!”  For me, it was “Wow! So this is what it’s like to wake up rather than come to.”  It’s all worth celebrating.

I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times…

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Usually I try to post something on my actual sobriety anniversary date, but yesterday’s schedule was such that I couldn’t sit with my laptop and pound out anything close to meaningful.

So.  14 years sober as of 6/19/16.

I’m not really sure where I’m going to go with this.

This was quite possibly the hardest year I’ve had in sobriety.

That’s not to say that at any given time I was tempted to pick up.  Miraculously, when things were at the absolute nadir, mentally and emotionally, the goddamn LAST thing I wanted to do was pour whiskey all over it.

But I had a series of things happen, beginning last fall, that rocked me to my psychic core.  My mental health, always on shaky ground to begin with, got pretty well battered.  I had so many rugs pulled out from under me that I began avoiding rugs altogether, for lack of a better analogy.  I had no soft spot on which to tread, it felt like.

And when my mother-in-law finally succumbed to her years-long battle with Alzheimer’s (she passed away in February), I fell apart.  I mean – I got through the wake and the burial okay.  I put together an album of photos of her when she was well.  Baby pictures.  Pictures of her clowning around with her friends.  It made me feel better to the point where I figured I might be able to pull up some memories of her from before she got sick (which has been an ongoing struggle for me, since most of what I remember about her NOW is her steady decline, and her inability to do things for herself).

But everything that had been churning since last October erupted after she died.  If I’m honest, it was everything that had happened since 2010, when we moved in to take care of her.  My mistake was in thinking my life would “get back to normal” when she moved into assisted living two years ago.  There is no “back to normal” after you’ve been a caregiver.  There is navigating a perilous fucking minefield of emotions before you arrive at a vaguely familiar terrain.  There is having your expectations dashed, restored, then dashed again.  There is the temptation to free fall.  There is the slightest sick thrill in thinking that you won’t be caught, either by loved ones or by circumstances.  There is your sense of faith being blown to bits.  There is the feeling of being small and insignificant, perpetually in the shadow of people who are younger, prettier, and not weighted down by grief and self-loathing.

It’s a giant shitshow, it really is.  And you’re beginning to suspect that there isn’t any intermission.

I didn’t drink.

I fell back into some really puerile, destructive thinking.  Because there’s honestly something quite comforting in being the WORST PERSON EVER.  I’m not sure if “normal” people can understand that.

But I didn’t drink.  And in so doing, I managed to not make things worse for myself.

So there’s that.

I’m crawling out of this, slowly, and with the help of my therapist, my psych nurse, some increased dosages, and my recovery community.  The people in my meetings remind me that I’m not the first to have gone through this – ANY of this – and I’m trying to be humble around that while also acknowledging that my pain is valid.  And it has been painful, no question about that.  I don’t like being constantly afraid.  I don’t like not trusting the people who are closest to me.  I like being happy, or at least more or less content.

Anyway.

We went to see Brian Wilson this weekend.  He performed the entire “Pet Sounds” album, accompanied by the Boston Pops.

This was a nearly transcendent occasion for more than a couple of reasons.  Brian Wilson has been through the wringer, psychologically speaking.  The drugs he was on (both recreational and prescribed) did a number on him.  Most folks know the story there, but in case you don’t, you can get a basic sense of it by watching the fairly recent film Love & Mercy.  Given all of that, it’s a miracle he can get up on that stage and play those songs.

And “Pet Sounds” is not only my favorite Beach Boys album, it’s in the top ten of my favorite albums overall.  There’s really nothing else like it.  Watching it be reproduced, as it were, with the help of a full orchestra is incredibly illuminating.  It’s directed madness.  It’s otherworldly.  It explains almost everything you need to know about the beautiful tangled mess that is Brian Wilson’s brain.  I wish my own tangled mess could produce something even 1/16th as beautiful as that goddamn album.

Brian Wilson.  He has a strange shuffle to his gait.  He has to be assisted to his piano.  Once there, sometimes he plays, and sometimes he conducts, even when there’s a conductor behind him.  And sometimes he just sits there with his eyes closed.  He made everyone sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” twice.  I got the distinct impression that he absolutely would not start playing until we sang it.  There was something so fragile about him, this 70-something year old guy singing these so very painful and gorgeous songs. His voice is broken. He’s broken, but mended in the right places.  The cracks are showing, but it’s so lovely.  My heart burst and shattered over and over again, and at one or two points I full-on sobbed.

Brian Wilson can shuffle up to his piano and sit in the middle of the crazy beauty he created 50+ years ago, and just BE.  This is what I need to remember as I go into my next year of sobriety.

He wasn’t made for these times.  Maybe I’m not, either.  But I’m glad I’m here just the same.

The Egg In My Closet

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Night after night, I would fall asleep obsessing over an easter egg I’d left in my bedroom closet.

I bring this up because it’s ridiculous, yes, but it’s also emblematic of my…condition, I guess you’d say.

I’m not sure why I left an easter egg in my closet.  I don’t remember if I hid it there (unlikely, because easter egg hunts weren’t a thing in my family).  I probably intentionally stashed it there with my basket, because I wasn’t a fan of hard boiled eggs as a general rule.  I liked coloring them, but when it came down to enjoying the bounty within the actual basket, I focused strictly on the chocolate (although the bunnies, with their panic-stricken candy eyes fixated on me, also caused problems, to the point where my mother actually started getting me ornate hollow chocolate eggs, which didn’t freak me out nearly as much).

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Anyway, there was an easter egg in my closet.  I was aware of it, aware that it was eventually going to turn into a biological weapon of some sort if I didn’t get it out of my closet.  In the waking hours, it was easier to forget about it as I went about my 9-year-old’s day, making up mock episodes of The Donahue Show on my tape recorder with my sister and the kid across the street.  But at night, I’d lay in bed and think of all the terrible things that would happen because of that easter egg.  My mother would find it and yell at me.  It would explode, rendering my cheery yellow bedroom a hazardous waste site.

But did it ever occur to me that I could simply throw it out?  Well, yes, but somehow I’d convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to stealthily transport it from my bedroom closet into the trash without being caught in the act (“Is that….AN EASTER EGG?  In JUNE?”).  Because this is the way my mind worked.

And this is the way my mind STILL works.

Nearly everyone I meet in recovery has similar issues.  I mean – I don’t think I know anyone else with the exact same easter egg story.  But there’s always an easter egg in there, somewhere.  A metaphorical easter egg, if you will.  Something you’re deeply ashamed of.  You know that there will be incredible relief in disposing of it, and yet you let it sit there.  And that’s where procrastination comes in.  That’s another thing that nearly all of my sober friends wrestle with.  We all know by now that doing something is pretty much never as bad as NOT doing it.  But that’s a lesson that never entirely sinks in for me, or else my closet would be 100% OLD ASS EASTER EGG FREE.

I’m dealing with this right now.  The anxiety and depression have me so simultaneously bummed and amped up that I can’t get up and get this fucking easter egg out of my closet, because I honestly don’t think I’d know what to do with myself if it wasn’t there, rotting away underneath its perky PAAS-tinted shell.  Because at a certain point, anxiety becomes almost comforting.  If it’s the only consistent thing going for you, of course it’s comforting, even as it keeps you from doing actually enjoyable things because OH MY GOD THERE’S AN EASTER EGG IN MY CLOSET AND IT’S THE ONLY THING I CAN THINK ABOUT.

I don’t even remember what I did with the original, actual easter egg.  I mean, this was over 35 years ago.  By the time we moved from that house, there was no easter egg, unless there WAS, and my mother found it, and in the rush to get everything packed didn’t think to ask her progeny “WHAT THE FUCK WITH THE EASTER EGG IN THE CLOSET YOU EVIL SPAWN?”  Or I was determined to be the culprit, and I was punished so hard I entered another dimension not of sight or sound but of mind.  I just don’t know.

But I clearly remember the panic.  I remember grasping, even at nine years of age, that this was completely insane, and that there was probably something really wrong with me, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be able to pretend that I was normal before the kids in my class caught on (about two more years, as it turned out).  There would be many more closeted easter eggs in my future.

As if.

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My aunt recently posted a picture of a letter written by my (patenal) grandmother 36 years ago. In it, she says she’s been “like a big fat frog sitting on a lilypad letting everything swirl around me.”

That’s me, right now. I have been feeling very stuck, very “less than,” watching things happen and not making much of anything happen for myself.

I’ve committed to writing something here once a week, no matter how vapid and/or disorganized it is.  I go to the gym three times a week.  I go hang out with other drunks and talk about not being drunk.  I make a concerted effort to put on makeup and look “professional” every day.  But it’s all by rote, almost.  I’m going through the motions, but there is very little joy in Mudville.

I realize that this is depression.  And what I am doing is staving it off somewhat.  These things at least distract me to the degree where I’m not spending ALL of my time weeping on the couch and believing the terrible stories my brain is telling me:

My husband is going to leave me for his cute perky coworker.

My new boss is going to see right through me for the fraud that I am and fire me.

I’m not going to lose the 15 pounds my doctor told me I needed to lose last summer.

I’m going to wind up living in a refrigerator box, or at least in a terrible apartment with three other roommates who are at least 20 years younger than me.

I’m going to be a bitter, lonely old woman and my nieces and nephews are going to resent having to buy me Jean Nate gift sets at Christmas.

And on and on.  And the thing that people who don’t have chronic depression and anxiety don’t understand is that I absolutely, 100% BELIEVE that all these things are going to happen.  I’m going to be jettisoned for the perky coworker, and be unemployed, 15 pounds overweight, and living in a refrigerator box with 18 Jean Nate gift sets.  This is going to happen, and I am helpless to stop it.

When I write it all out, it of course sounds fucking ridiculous.  I need healthy distractions, but since I spent the last 6 years distracting myself from the reality of being a caregiver by engaging in UN-healthy things (the one thing I can say for myself here is that I never once thought of drinking in the midst of that horror show), it has proven incredibly difficult to break away from the “comfort” of bad food and bad television.

A thing I was taught in early sobriety is to act “as if.”  This is actually hard for me, even with a B.A. in Theatre.  I want to act as if I’m a confident Woman Of A Certain Age who is absolutely not threatened by my husband’s cute coworker, the new dynamic in my office, or the stubborn blubbery ring around my middle.  I want to act as if I have faith in something bigger than myself and that this something has my best interests at heart.  But that’s really difficult sometimes.  Actually, that’s difficult MOST of the time.  But yet I get up three mornings a week at Stupid Fucking O’Clock and I work out.  I put on makeup and try to look like an adult.  And here I am writing something and posting it, knowing it’s whiny and gross.

But oh well.  Guess I should start making room in this box for this Christmas’s Jean Nate gift sets.

“Gymtimidation”

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In an effort to mitigate the depressive episode I’ve been in for a while (and to try and take off a few pounds if I can), I’ve committed myself to going to the gym every other day.  Nothing excessive; I’m hardly a gym rat, and I have to start with small, realistic goals here.

I go with Coombsie.  In the morning.  Pre-dawn.  It’s really the only time that fits for us and our schedules.  This is dreadful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I am an angry beastie in the morning.  When I wake up and get out of bed, I usually have to go sit on the couch for at least 10 minutes, contemplating the horror of being awake.  Then it takes me two cups of coffee before I can even handle putting on my makeup and getting dressed.  It is a process for me, “waking up.”  It is not that way for Coombsie.  He is relentlessly, unpleasantly cheerful.

To manage this “every other day” thing, I absolutely have to have my sneakers and my gym clothes at the foot of the bed.  If they are in the dryer, that is too much effort.  If they are in a drawer 10 feet away from the bed, that is also too much effort.

Once I am dressed, I sit on the couch with my iPhone, my Kindle, and my headphones, because I also will not go to the gym if I don’t have these totems with me.  I need music to blunt the savagery of being up this early.  I need words to keep me from obsessing over how many calories I’m burning.

In the car, Coombsie makes small talk.  To himself.  Because he knows I’m not listening.

We arrive at our local Planet Fitness, where allegedly one can work out sans Judgement and with no fear of being “Gymtimidated.”  Indeed, at Planet Fitness, “you belong!”  I mutter terrible things about where I’d like Planet Fitness to “belong” while Coombsie bounds across the dark parking lot like a Labrador puppy, yelping “DUDEBROGUY!” while giving the thumbs-up to imaginary dudebroguys.  The only thing that would make me happy, besides being back in bed, would be a sinkhole developing out of nowhere and taking the Planet Fitness down into its gravelly depths.  “You Belong,” indeed.

Once I’m there, though, and fully resigned to my fate, it’s….just as fucking terrible.  IT’S STILL DARK OUTSIDE.  I heave myself onto an elliptical machine facing the bank of television sets.  I can watch old-ass episodes of “Charmed,” the local news, ESPN…pretty much everything except what I’d LIKE to watch, which would be my cats slumbering peacefully at my feet WHILE I’M STILL IN BED.

Fuckthisshitfuckthisshitfuckthisshit.

I glance over at Coombsie, who’s already several minutes into his workout, and happily watching an old-ass episode of “Charmed.”  There is no way I can convince him to take me back home.  So I put on my headphones and prepare to grunt and lurch while simultaneously listening to my Pandora station and attempting to retain what I’m reading.

When I’m not reading utter trash (and Kindles are FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC for that sort of thing, because then nobody can see that I’m reading true crime), I’m currently shoring up my theological expertise, which I abandoned – oh – probably  shortly after I graduated college and stopped studying religion for fun, because drinking my weight in skunky Rolling Rocks and engaging in “experimental theatre” became more interesting.  And that was all rather liturgical in a boozy, rancid sort of way, if I really try and remember it.  Anyway, I’ve plowed through all three of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s books, which were really good, and now I’m on to a couple of books that she recommended:  The Year Of Living Biblically, and Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time.  The latter has been promising so far; I’m hoping it won’t fall flat the way Rabbi Jesus did, because I really had to force myself to finish reading that mess of fantastical speculative…um…mess.  “Historical Jesus” and the synoptic gospels were subjects I got really into as an undergrad.  Historical Jesus & The Synoptic Gospels would be a good band name.  Christ, I’m delirious.

So I’m reading about Historical Jesus, and listening to Alien Sex Fiend, and I’m still so pissed about being here at stupid o’clock that I don’t even think to be amused by this.

I watch the sun rise over the new police station they’re building right across the street.  I wonder if, when construction is completed, there will be a coterie of hunky cops among our sweaty ranks here.  Probably.  As it stands, the Dawn Patrol here at Planet Fitness is mostly people like me and Coombsie, getting that cardio in before going to work.  There’s a woman who is always here well before we arrive, and puts in at least 90 minutes.  She works out with a ferocity that I think I might have had, at some point, between the Skunky Rolling Rock Theatre years and when I moved to this town to help take care of Coombsie’s mother.  There were a couple of years where I was pretty fit.  How did I do that?  Can I do it again?  I don’t know.  I’m in my forties, I’m fighting this depression like it’s my job, and at this point I really kind of have to settle for “pretty good.”  On all fronts.

I finish up, and go sit in the giant yellow hand chair, and contemplate the horror of not only being awake, but having been awake since before dawn, AND having worked out.  Who am I?

I’m still working that out.

Drugstore (Makeup) Cowboy

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Long time no write, wot.

I’ve been struggling with how to “re-enter” the world of blogging.  When I originally started this in ‘99 (on Diaryland – remember THAT, oldsters?), I wrote about pop culture, and my drunken escapades.  When I got sober, I wrote about pop culture, and my Adventures In Recovery.

Then I became a caregiver, and I feel like everything got swallowed up in that.  I felt like I had a responsibility to tell this story, not only to preserve my dwindling sanity, but to let people know what a fucking godawful shitsucking disease Alzheimer’s is.  Because until you’re actually living that reality, you really have no idea.  You have a vague understanding that it involves losing your memory (hence the “jokes” I invariably hear from people when they misplace their keys or something stupid like that), but you really can’t grasp the day-to-day horror of what it actually does to someone.

And so I wrote about caregiving and Alzheimer’s, and not a lot much else.  Now my mother-in-law is gone, and I feel stripped of my identity.  I feel like I’ve lost my voice.  I’m exhausted, even now.  Marcia passed away before my very eyes a little less than two months ago.  I hadn’t been an active, daily caregiver for her for a year-and-a-half before that.  But I’m still so tired.  I’m trying to undo the physical damage that the depression and anxiety wrought, and that’s been tough.  The TMJ symptoms have abated somewhat.  But I’m 45 now, and the weight I gained during those years just isn’t going to come off so easily.   A lot of mornings I look at myself in the mirror and the mental beatings immediately take place.  Things I wouldn’t say to my dearest friends and loved ones are perfectly okay to say to myself.

I’m trying.  I’m getting up at Stupid O’Clock some mornings and dragging my ass to the gym.  I’m wearing clothes that I enjoy.  And I’m buying crap tons of makeup.

This is my new thing.  Makeup.  I’ve always worn it before, but now I’m going out and buying brushes and palettes and primer like my face is a blank canvas, or a weather-worn beach house.  I’m mainly hitting places like Sephora, but sometimes I feel the siren call of the CVS.

I “came of age” in the Eighties.  I began trying to make informed beauty purchases (beyond the tinny/fruity fragrances that my mom would get me from Avon) in ’83 or so, when I was junior high.

Lipgloss was the gateway drug.  I was learning the very complicated rules for budding womanhood via studying the more popular girls in my class.  We all had to carry an itty-bitty Jordache purse.  I had this one:

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These flimsy-ass things could accommodate a comb, a pen that wrote in at least three different colors, a pack of Now & Laters, and not much else.  But we crammed them full of crap anyway, to the point where the strap would fray and break.  And then you had to be the loser with a safety pin keeping the strap on.  I digress.  You of course also had to have lipgloss in this bag.  Maybe several.  Kissing Potion, which gobbed up in a shiny, sticky mess and made you look like you were fellating a jar of rubber cement.  Lip Smackers, which went on much smoother and tasted pretty good.  And if you were really fancy, you got that shit in the olde-tyme-looking tin.  I had them all, although I wouldn’t actually be kissed by a boy until after I graduated high school.  But HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL, OKAY.

I’d peruse the cosmetic aisle of the local drugstore, and purchase things that would make me a little more “adult,” when really what I looked like was a gobby-lipped clown with orange streaked hair (from all the Sun-In I’d pour on my head and then fry into infinity with the blowdryer).

Sun-In

And then, to top it all off, you had to drown yourself in perfume.  The obvious choice, for me, would have been Love’s Baby Soft (“because innocence is sexier than you think”) but I sought a more sophisticated signature scent.  Giorgio seemed fancy, but who could afford Giorgio on an infrequent babysitter’s salary?  PROBLEM SOLVED.

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THEY STILL MAKE THIS SHIT.  My perfume tastes are considerably more refined these days (although I will admit a fondness for J.Lo’s Glow), but every time I go to CVS now, I feel like I should revisit my young-teen-self and blast this all over my naked person, and go around smelling like an aluminum-tinged fruit salad.  SAVOR ME.

So what’s to be had at the drugstore these days?  The usual brands (Revlon still makes “Cherries In The Snow” and “Toast Of New York”), the usual cheap stuff.  But I must now sing the praises of the ELIXIR OF LIFE that is micellar water.

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I want to have a bottle of this in every room in my house.  I want to always have it within arm’s reach.  It is that miraculous.  My makeup just SLIDES OFF MY FACE every night when I use this GIFT FROM THE GODS.  Bow to the micellar water.  ALL HAIL.

I’ve also become fascinated with the NYX brand, which is not quite Maybelline, but not quite Wet-n-Wild.  Their “Butter” lipstick is really good.

I’ve been getting an odd sense of comfort just wandering that cosmetic aisle these days.  It’s taking me back to a more innocent version of myself.  Am I “filling a hole” with stuff?  Possibly.  I won’t lie and say that buying a little tube of something doesn’t give me a little stab of pleasure.  Having something small and shiny that promises to make me prettier.  But it’s helping me somehow.  Having a morning ritual in which I’m highlighting and primping makes me feel a little more part of the world again.  I won’t apologize for that.

Plans & Provisions

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Ever have a UTI?

Yeah, this is a great way to kick off a post, I know. Bear with me.

I used to get them a lot in my twenties. They’re horrible. They’re painful, and they can absolutely ruin your day, for days.

I also have to accept that as I get older, they’re going to make a return. They’re common in the elderly.

And when an elderly person with Alzheimer’s gets a UTI, it’s a whole other level of awful.

My mother-in-law is back in the hospital recovering from a UTI. We’d dealt with this before, when she was living with us, but we’d never seen her this wiped out from it. On Sunday, we honestly thought this was the end. As of today, she’s doing remarkably better.

This is yet another layer of the reality that is Alzheimer’s. And this is, yet again, why I’ve come to have ZERO patience with people making jokes about it (“Lost my keys again! Damn Alzheimer’s! Eh heh heh heh HEH…”). You don’t just forget where you put stuff. You don’t just blank out on names. You forget people entirely. You forget how to use utensils. You forget how to speak. You no longer have the means to communicate when something is wrong. And once all the cognitive stuff is wiped out, the disease attacks the rest of the brain, the parts that regulate things like swallowing, breathing, and fending off illness. I could break it down further, and paint quite a vivid picture of just how fucking horrible this disease is, but I’ll spare you. Just – THINK before you make an Alzheimer’s joke. Please.

And so while my mother-in-law is bouncing back from this infection, these emergencies will become more and more a part of our reality. Eventually, Aviv is not going to be able to accommodate her. Eventually, she is going to require around-the-clock nursing care. Thus, we start our next round of plans and provisions. She no longer lives with us, but the caregiving continues.

I’m tired. I’m sad. I know in my heart that this is not the life she would have wanted for herself, even as I still struggle to remember who she was before the diagnosis. The IV fluids and antibiotics have roused her. She’s sitting up, she’s cheerful, she even ate a little pasta last night. In all probability, she’ll be back at Aviv by the end of the week, having her nails done and watching Family Feud in the dayroom. I’m relieved that this wasn’t more serious, and yet I know I have to gird myself for the battles which most certainly lay ahead. Because “more serious” IS coming. Maybe not tomorrow, or next month. But it’s coming, boy howdy.

Natch, this isn’t exactly helping with my depression. But I’m managing. Trying to give myself a break here and there, by not clobbering myself over my weight gain, my periodically wanting to retreat into hours of crap television, my not being at Aviv 24/7 to make sure Marcia doesn’t get another UTI. I’m wired to feel guilty for just about everything. I can still rattle off an Act Of Contrition like nobody’s business. Your candidate doesn’t make the ballot? Hell, that’s my fault, too. Working on that.

More than ever, I’ve got to lean on that “one day at a time” thing. Because while drinking is not anywhere on the agenda today, I’ve got to do the thing that I’m constantly telling other people in recovery to do, and that’s to look down and see where my feet are. Because when I don’t do that, I’m mentally living in moments that haven’t even happened, and they’re mostly pretty grim. And they FEEL 100% real. I’m not sure that people who don’t experience anxiety like this entirely understand that last point. I can be utterly convinced the horror show in my head is totally going to happen.

In the meantime, I’m staying hydrated. *I* don’t need a UTI on top of all of this.

Limping along…

0

Well, I haven’t written anything here since November. That’s pretty terrible.

I have been entirely too much in my feelings since October. I’m still putting on a good show on Facebook, where it’s fairly easy to compartmentalize and show only what you want people to see. The fact is that I have been battling a pretty ugly bout of depression for the last 3+ months.

Depression lives deep inside me at all times, kind of the way the chicken pox virus camps out near your spinal column. It never totally goes away. Like Churchill’s “black dog,” it slumbers until something rousts it, and it lurches out, yowling and slobbering, and right now it’s taking massive amounts of my energy to take it for a walk and put it back in its crate.

It’s situational, for the most part, and while the circumstances that brought it on are largely resolving themselves, I still have days where I feel like a discarded Dunkin’ Donuts cup in a dirty snowbank.

That’s about as much analogy as I can muster right now. But that was pretty good, right?

So, since the developments last fall which left me emotionally upended, I’m slowly but surely doing everything I’m supposed to. Reaching out, cultivating some really solid friendships with amazing women, staying sober, checking in with the therapist and the psych nurse…and mmmaybe buying crap I don’t need here and there. Fuck it – I spent my bonus this year on totally responsible, adult purchases (a winter coat that practically doubles as a sleeping bag, and Bean boots); I can buy this utterly ridiculous dress that I fully intend to wear at my band’s next gig:

boom

Even though it’s a sweater dress, and sweater dresses look good on NO ONE, I am going to wear the shit out of this. I DON’T CARE.

And I suppose I need to start writing again.

Dear Friends I Saw Play Last Night –

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What a great show. Seriously. You all transported me for roughly an hour back to a place where music was pretty much the only friend who’d never abandon me. Sometimes you forget how important certain artists/albums/songs were in your formative years. Last night was a nice reminder.

But when I saw you after you’d finished playing, I was stiff and awkward and not as animated as I usually am.

I feel bad about this, so this morning I’m going to try and explain.

You all know I’m sober, and have been for a number of years now. Even with that amount of time under my belt, I have to make difficult decisions when it comes to being social. I have learned that if I’m feeling even a little bit like I’m going to be uncomfortable, it’s usually best for me to stay home. I ignored that niggling little feeling last night, because I really, REALLY wanted to see you play.

I won’t say I made a mistake, because I didn’t. You all delivered, and then some. But as the tiny club filled up, I felt myself shrinking up against the wall, trying to find a little elbow room for myself, trying to ignore the smell of everyone’s drinks, praying that something wouldn’t get spilled on me. I kept imagining that happening, and wondering what I’d do about it. It didn’t even happen, and yet I found myself as tense and miserable as if it HAD.

I won’t lie; I very much wanted to bolt. I was ready to tell my husband that I’d take the T home. I hadn’t felt that uncomfortable in a long time, and it scared me.

Fortunately, my husband can read me astonishingly well. He found a table for us further back, not so far away that we couldn’t see and hear you, but enough away so that I could breathe without smelling beer/whiskey/fruity alcoholic concoctions. Enough away so I could feel a little better and in less danger of being jostled. So I got to watch your show, and it made me really happy.

But I still felt bad. I felt bad that people have to make concessions for me, the non-drinker with considerable anxiety issues who doesn’t want to be a drag, truly. I feel bad that sometimes I have to ask people not to drink around me. And I get tired – really tired – of feeling like I have to explain myself.

So by the end of the night I was exhausted from – as needlessly DRAMATIC as this sounds – just trying to keep it together for the few hours we were there. Resenting every glass of beer sloshing in front of me. Not wanting to hug people because they had drinks in their hands and on their breath. Feeling stupid and infantile for feeling resentful and wary. Knowing that I can’t expect everyone around me to change the way they live to suit me, just because I can’t drink. Not understanding why, after 13 years of not drinking, this shit still sometimes GETS TO ME. Well, understanding WHY, but being mad that it has to be this way. I’ve always said that I never wanted to be a “normal drinker.” I always wanted oblivion. But last night I really wanted to be normal. I wanted to be normal so badly I could taste it. Not just so I could drink. So that I could feel like not wanting to crawl out of my skin.

And so I wasn’t particularly effusive after your set. I could tell how happy you were to see me, and I felt like I couldn’t muster half of your enthusiasm. Please know, friends: I love you. I love the work you do and the passion with which you play. For an hour or so, I was transported. But I crashed hard. And so you guys got a tepid hug and a wan smile when I should have been jumping up and down and squealing. You didn’t deserve that.

The next time I see you I will jump up and down and squeal. Because what you all did last night was incredible. I mean – spot fucking ON. I love you guys so much and am so grateful that you’re my friends.

This is me, usually. I swear:

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