Jul 142011
 
If you follow me on Facebook, you know how much I loved The Bloggess’ chicken post. I made Craig read it, for the same reason that I tell him every time a friend gets in a fender bender or locks her kids in the car or sets her kitchen on fire – to prove that I’m not the only eccentric wife out there. I read a lot of the Bloggess’ posts to Craig, to make him feel less alone. Their marriage dynamic seems similar to mine, and it’s comforting.

Here’s the thing – I’ve been spending too much money lately. It happens to me every once in awhile . . .I get into this yucky rhythm in which I experience these feelings of restlessness and anxiety until I get to a store and buy something. The something is usually a stupid and unnecessary thingamajig for my house. Then after I get home and set up the thingamajig, I feel relaxed and happy for a bit. Then my eyes travel to a different part of my house and I notice something else I “need.” And back out I go for more stupid thingamajigs.

And this cycle turns into large credit card bills. And a worried husband. And Craig drops little hints that make me feel guilty for not having more control over myself and for not being a better partner and for putting my petty imaginary needs ahead of my family’s financial security and our giving. And so I promise myself no more shopping. But then I find myself driving to my favorite treasure store the next day.

For me, not wanting to do something and then compulsively doing it anyway is a Big Red Flag. Because the anxiety that I experience before shopping feels dangerously similar to the anxiety that led me to binge on food and booze. And the temporary feeling of relief I feel after making a purchase reminds me of being high. And then the guilt I feel when the credit card bill comes reminds me of how I felt when the insanity of the binge was over . . . when I sobered up and crashed back down to Earth.

After it’s all over, I feel more anxious and empty and out of control than when I started the whole exhausting compulsive process. For me . . . all three – drinking, overeating, mindless shopping – they are like frantic attempts to fill up on air. I feel emptier and hungrier afterward than I did before I started. Because, of course, you can never get enough of what you don’t really need. Thank you, Bono.

My head knows that…but my appetite has a mind of its own.

After years of experimenting, I’ve learned that there are healthy ways for me to deal with my anxiety. . . large glasses of ice cold water, a long hot bath, a walk outside, meds, deep breaths, exercise, yoga, reading, writing, meditation, a date with a friend . . . but at this stage in my life – there is a certain kind of mindless shopping that is an unhealthy choice for me. Leaves me worse off than when I started. Hurts my family. Makes me feel untrustworthy.

But it’s tricky because as a parent of little ones, there’s plenty of shopping that does have to get done. Shopping’s like food- I can’t avoid it completely. So Craig and I have been talking a lot about Wants vs. Needs – trying to determine which sort of thingamajigs fit into which category.

One evening recently, I decided that I was DONE with my children for the day. I was feeling anxious and I made a conscious decision to relieve my anxiety destructively, by shopping.

I casually yelled to Craig, “I’m going out for awhile,” and I grabbed my keys and started walking to the car. But the sneaky bastard followed me outside, stuck his hot little head in the window and said:

“Glennon. Please don’t come home with a huge metal chicken. Just, please.”

The man has a sixth sense which God granted him to survive his marriage to me. I rolled my eyes as if he was completely ridiculous.

DAMNIT, I thought.

Tragically for him, Husband mentioned nothing about six foot wooden giraffes.

 This is Mr. Wardlow. Chase named him after the husband of my friend, Geri. Because Geri’s husband is tall, obviously.

Mr. Wardlow was our friend. We dressed him in tutus and sunglasses and tiaras and purses. I guess Mr. Wardlow was a bit of cross-dresser. We embraced him for who he was. And for three glorious days Mr. Wardlow stood proudly and ridiculously in our foyer and greeted each of our confused guests. Tish hugged him each morning. Chase made him a huge nametag which hung around his long. elegant neck. Forgive me, I didn’t take pictures of him all dressed up because I assumed we’d have more time together for photo shoots.

But it was not meant to be.

 

Craig returned Mr. Wardlow.

He sure did.

When he got home from The Returning, Craig found me on the couch wearing a black t-shirt and black leggings. I announced that I was in mourning for Mr. Wardlow and could not speak for several days. Craig disregarded my mourning process and spoke to me anyway.

Craig: Glennon. I really thought we were doing better about deciding between Needs versus Wants. Wooden giraffes are definitely WANTS.

Me: Well. In your opinion, I guess they are. I guess they are.

Craig: NO. In EVERYONE’S opinion. NOONE NEEDS a six foot wooden giraffe. That thing was TERRIBLE. AWFUL. Embarrasing.

Me: HOLD ON A SECOND. Let us be clear. ARE YOU INSISTING THAT NOONE NEEDS MR. WARDLOW?

Craig: Right. NOONE. That’s what I’m saying.

ME: What about a GIRAFFE COLLECTOR? A GIRAFFE COLLECTOR would most definitely need Mr. Wardlow.

Craig: What, are you suggesting that you’re a giraffe collector now?

Me: WELL, NOT ANYMORE, AM I????? Thank you for killing my dream of becoming an internationally respected giraffe collector. Thank you. I hope you are satisfied.

So long, Mr. Wardlow. You were a good, tall, wooden friend.

Done forget to vote today! We’re #12!

Love, G

Jul 182011
 

inside-the-whale

I love addicts. I don’t want to be around them though, because they remind me of what I used to be and often still am.

Stubborn, stupid, reckless, arrogant, manipulative, mean, untrustworthy, lazy, bitter.

These are the characteristics of the disease, not the characteristics of the person with the disease. The person gets swallowed up by the addiction, like Jonah in the whale. The WHALE is the enemy. Not Jonah. He’s lost inside, scared to death, but still alive.Still whole, still himself, just trapped.

I’m often asked if I want to use my recovery experience to counsel addicted people and I always say Hell to the NO.

Mostly because I have no idea how to help addicts. When people ask me how I got sober, the only answer I have is, “I stopped drinking.” I can sort of tell them my why – Because Of Chase. I think. But I can never explain how I got sober. How I stopped drugging. How I stopped puking. How I quit smoking.

All on the same day, thank you very much. All on the same day.

Mothers Day. Sunday, May 13, 2002. All done. No more.

I found this poem a few years ago and it’s the closest I can possibly come to explaining my how.

The Worm’s Waking, Rumi

This is how a human being can change:

there’s a worm addicted to eating

grape leaves.

Suddenly, he wakes up,

call it grace, whatever, something

wakes him, and he’s no longer

a worm.

He’s the entire vineyard,

And the orchard too, the fruit, the trunks,

a growing wisdom and joy

that doesn’t need to devour.

That’s what it was like for me.

I didn’t go through a twelve step program. I went to a few AA meetings and loved them, but then I stopped going for some reason and got busy with life. I started living- for the first time, I guess. And I fell in love with life, mostly, except for when I hated it. But love or hate, I’ve lived sober for nine years. I hesitate to write that, because staying sober without a twelve step program is supposed to be statistically impossible. But my life has never made a whole lot of logical sense, so. Maybe my success is based upon the fact that my whole existence is sort of a twelve step program. It is, kind of.

Please, if you are addicted and wondering if you should go to a twelve step meeting, the answer is decidedly, yes. Secondly, if you are wondering if you are addicted, the answer is also probably yes. People who are not addicted to anything generally don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they are addicted to things. Addiction seems to be one of those Smoke = Fire sort of situations.

Every once in a while I’ll tell someone I’m an alcoholic (usually when a neighbor asks me to drive their kid somewhere and I don’t feel like it) and in response she’ll say, “Oh. Are you sober now?” And I always say: Yes, Nine years. But to me, a truer answer would be: “I’m working on it.”

It’s like when people say, “Are you a Christian?”

I’m working on it, I want to respond. Every day, I’m working on it.

Becoming sober and becoming a Christian seem like the same lifelong process to me. Each requires me to decide not to be a jerk one million bazillion different times. When I am a jerk, each insists that I forgive myself immediately.

Each demands that I sit with pain and anxiety and grief and joy and refuse to weasel out of them with booze or food or gossip or consuming.

Each requires faith that Someone Else is in control and that this Someone loves me. Each insists that I constantly rise above my own ego and hover up there long enough to see that BARELY ANYTHING IS EVER ABOUT ME. Each demands that I stop taking people and life so damn personally.

They require me to forgive myself and others for being human. To accept life and people on their own terms. To tell the truth and listen to the truths of others. To seek first to understand. To let the past go. To let the future come.

Sobriety, conversion, marriage . . . they are based on one single decision, but the more important part is making that same decision again every single day, in every single moment.

So am I sober? Are any of us? I’m working on it. I’m getting sober-er each day. That’s good news. I am very, very pleased with that. That is my life’s work.

Jonah Part Two coming soon.

Love, G

Jul 192011
 
whale

 

I think often about the Monkees with addicted family members and friends. I know how hopeless it looks. How far gone they can seem. How angry and confused you feel.

Early one morning during my drinking days, I staggered home drunk and high, and found my mom and dad sitting in the family room waiting for me. They were as blurry eyed as I was. Bubba looked right at me and said, “Glennon. Do you even love us?”

And my heart imploded into my own chest. All I could do was whimper a slurred yes but I knew how hollow and weak and false that yes sounded to each of us. Because love is as love does and addicts don’t love, we destroy. It is hard for others to believe that we can love the things we are destroying.

But I remember that moment vividly and I recall how my heart felt in response to my dad’s question. My heart was broken deep and hard with love for my parents. I loved them in that moment, when I was a hopeless drunk and treated them horribly, exactly like I love them today . . . wildly, frantically, solidly, all.

I don’t know how that works, I’m sorry. I just know that it can be true. Your addict can love you madly and still keep hurting you.

Addiction just does that. It’s evil, addiction.

But addicts are not. As a matter of fact, whenever an addict writes to me about how she is so lost and shameful that she’s certain God can never love her I always say, really? Because I think God loves us the most. I really do. I know a whole lot of addicts and outside of the whale, they are some of the kindest, brightest, most creative and passionate people I know. It’s the sensitive soul that feels the need to escape the harshness of reality. And so whenever a parent writes to me about her addicted child being “special” I always think, Yep, I know exactly what you mean. I really do. It’s like this:

For now, let me say this: measure the hate you feel now, and the shame. That quantity is your capacity also to love and to feel joy and to have compassion.

                                   – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.

It’s true…where there is great pain, there is the hope for great joy. With great shame comes the possibility of great redemption.

Sometimes I think this blog is for families of addicts. I want you to know, mamas and daddies and sisters and brothers and daughters and sons of addicts – that even when I’m not writing specifically about addiction and recovery, I’m still writing to you.

When I write about my marriage, or my children, or my friendships, or this crazy, typical, magical life I’m leading . . . the message underneath, meant for you, is:Look! There is hope! I was hopeless . . . and now I’m so hopeful I’m ridiculous. I’m just ridiculous with hope.

I am not perfect, I am not always well or stable or happy or kind or peaceful or content. And as I may have mentioned…I’m generally a little WOOOHOOOOO!!!

But I am myself. I am living this tough, confusing life as myself. That’s the best I can do. That is thrilling. I just want you to know that it is possible.

And I think you need not wait till your addict starts living before you do. It is okay for you to live while you wait. It’s necessary, really.

I’ll end with this passage from I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. It’s a conversation between a therapist and her patient – a young, brilliant girl who is deciding whether to hold on to her mental illness or let it go and try to Live. Scary decision.

Well, did I ever say it would be easy? I cannot make you well against your own wishes. If you fight with all the strength and patience you have, we will make it together.

And what if I don’t?

Well, there are lots of mental hospitals, and they build more every day.

And if I fight, then for what?

For nothing easy or sweet… for your own challenges, for your own mistakes and the punishment for them. For your own definition of love and sanity- for a good strong self with which to begin to live.

That’s enough, right? That’s all we can ask of ourselves. To allow ourselves to live. Addicts or not.