Jul 182011
 


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






Feb 162011
 


“It seems like everywhere I go, the more I see, the less I know. But I know, one thing, that I Love You.”


Since I find it impossible to understand what’s going on in my own head, I would never try to describe what goes on in yours. But Sarah’s post and the amazing comments that followed got me thinking about the difference between navigating the normal highs and lows of motherhood and real depression. Since, over time, I have suffered through the effects of both an extremely dramatic personality and true depression, I thought I should try to describe the difference between the two. For me.

I come from a long line of dramatic Irish personalities. We are an emotional bunch – my family. Our highs are high and our lows are low. We love easily, but we cry and yell easily, too. We are quick to hug and quick to anger. Now I know that you won’t believe me, because I am so sweet and calm on this here blog. But that is because no one in my house is awake yet. After people wake up, I tend to get dramatic. I often struggle through the day. Trudge through the day. I have to take a lot of deep breaths. I experience joy, too, everyday. But I am not the type to roll with things. I get very down – for reasons that I can never identify. I decide, thirty times a day, that no one in the history of the world has ever had a harder life than I do. When I say this to God and He brings homeless people to mind, I actually think, well – at least they don’t have to SWEEP.

I also worry. Worry, worry, worry. Obsess might actually be a better word. Not about the plight of the Sudanese…I TRY to worry about things like that, but I ACTUALLY worry about whether I chose the wrong throw pillow for my new couch. I snap at my kids for acting like kids. I resent them for getting hungry three times a day. And even though I don’t believe in mommy guilt, I feel guilty all the time. If I could choose a phrase to describe the polar opposite of my personality, it would be “easy-breezy.” As a matter of fact, I call Sister daily crying and whining and I CANT DO IT ANYMOR-ING and I always end the conversation with “Whatever. I’m easy-breezy, Sister.” And she says, “I know you are, Sister. I know you are. Me too.”

Sometimes I get so upset that I become debilitated…I’m talking crumble to the ground, tears, head in hands… the whole she-bang. My break downs appear to be brought on by one little thing… like a grocery bag breaking in the driveway - and so Craig will say, “It’s okay honey, it’s just a grocery bag,” and I’ll say: “IT”S NOT A GROCERY BAG! IT’S EVERYTHING! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE IT’S EVERYTHING???” And I don’t want anyone to try to fix it or fix me - I just want to be upset. I just need to be upset for awhile. Because life is upsetting, obviously.

I’m just A LOT to deal with on a daily basis. And I know this. I do not cruise through life. I sort of crash through life. But I also “WOW” through life, too. And so it’s okay. I’ll take the lows with the highs. Basically, I really like myself. And I think I’m an awesome mom. God chose ME for these kiddos and He knows me better than anyone, so I’m gonna be myself. My kids don’t need some fake idea of a perfect mom, they need me -Glennon, the real person. I get that.

But every once in awhile – something scary happens to me. A black, heavy, murky fog sets in over my heart and my head. When this happens, I do not alternate between super high and super low. During these awful times I alternate between super low and super numb. The fog is so thick that even when I get still and try to find my way home to myself – I can’t. During these times, none of my usual tricks….quiet time, sunshine, exercise, friends, prayer . . . none of them help me find my way through the fog. I can go through the motions of the day . . . I remember what to do – pack the lunches, smile at the kids, sweep the floor, hug my husband….repeat. I just can’t remember why any of these things matter. The love, the life that usually infuses each of these tasks with meaning is gone. I become like a robot. I have completely lost myself. Gone is the joy, the drama, even the suffering that makes me, me. This state of mind has nothing to do with my dramatic personality. It is more like a complete loss of my personality. I’ve suffered this loss three times in my life. Once when I was much younger and suffering from bulimia and alcoholism. Once after my second child was born, and again about a month ago. I have come to believe that this loss of myself is what is commonly accepted as depression.

This last month, when I realized that I had lost myself again, I called my doctor who told me it was time for some help. She prescribed a pill for me and I brought the bottle home and told Craig that I was going to start taking the pills immediately. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. I said, “Be patient though, husband. They take two weeks to kick in.” Craig’s face fell and he said frantically, “What? Well then maybe you could just take a whole bunch at once. Maybe that would work faster.” Clearly, the preceding months had been as hard on him as they were on me. He loves me. He loves his high and low wife. He wanted her back. He didn’t want to medicate me away. He wanted to medicate me back.

Last year I was having a hard time dealing with my usual anxiety about life and love. I emailed my friend Josie and said, “I can’t take the intensity in my head anymore. I need to relax. I’m gonna medicate myself. What do you think?” I hadn’t talked to Josie for years, so I don’t know why I emailed her. I guess if you listen hard enough, God will always point you towards the right person. Josie wrote back and said, “A friend once told me that if medicine allows you to be more yourself, take it. If it doesn’t, don’t.” I really liked that. And that advice helped me decide NOT to take medicine back then. Because the truth is that myself is dramatic and anxious and obsessive and ridiculously intense and you know, a little WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

But myself is not numb. When I get numb, I take my own hand and help myself find my way of the fog, back home. And medicine helped me this time around. I’m grateful.

I’m also hesitant about taking medicine. Not for the reasons that many others are. I’m not embarrassed. Ever, really. It’s a gift, my shamelessness. I know that I’m only gonna get one go ‘round on this beautiful Earth and I want it to be a good ride. I figured out a while back that there is no award for she who suffers most. No way, Jose. Not my bag. I think it’s a strong and brave and inspiring thing to find out who you are and then find a way to be it.

No, I’m hesitant to medicate away my depression because I worry that my depression fuels my writing. What medicine does for me is help me to relax into life a bit. Craig’s perspective is that when I’m on it, I am the same Glennon, I just “struggle a little less.” I agree. I struggle a little less. And I also lose the feeling that if I don’t write I will die. This is how I feel when I’m depressed. Since I lose my joy and meaning, I come to the blank page to create meaning and joy, to get it back. Because I become desperate to make sense of things. And that desperation, I’m afraid, is what makes my writing good. So it scares me, I guess, not to be depressed. A lot of really good writers are depressed. But, as Craig says . . .“Honey, don’t a lot of good writers also kill themselves?”

True, dat.

Anyway, even if my medicine dulls my creativity a little, I think that at this point in my life, I’m willing to risk it. I think I’d rather be a good friend to myself and Craig than a good writer. Yep, I would. How nice of me. I really do like myself.

Love You,

GDo





Jan 222011
 


My original plan was to take another month off from writing, and come back to you in February.

But then a friend told me that she knew a Monkee who had just hit rock bottom. This Monkee has been drinking heavily for years and years and last week her world was turned upside down when her alcoholism was discovered. And my friend told me that this Monkee needed us.

And so I said, “but, God – the thing is that I’m not ready just yet.” And God smiled and said, “But sweetheart, who asked you?”

That voice might have been Bubba, actually. I get unsure sometimes. Either way, it sounded true. So here we are.

I’m going to write a lot about recovery this year. And I think we can all benefit from it. Because done right, life is one long recovery process. I believe that we’re all recovering from something. Maybe for you it’s not food or booze addiction like it is for me . . . maybe it’s an addiction to selfishness or pride or anger or isolation (which it also is for me). But The Truth is that we’re all recovering jerks. The only other possibility is that we’re active jerks, and refusing to recover. Anyway, nobody recovers alone. We are in this together.


Dearest Drunken Monkee Friend,

I have been where you are this morning. I’ve lived through this day. This day when you wake up terrified. When you open your eyes and it hits you . . . the jig is up. When you lie paralyzed in bed and shake from the horrifying realization that life as you know it is over. Quickly you consider that perhaps that’s okay, because life as you know it totally blows. Even so, you can’t get out of bed because the thing is that you don’t know how. You don’t know how to live, how to interact, how to cope, how to function without a drink or at least the hope of a future drink. You never learned. You dropped out before all the lessons. So who will teach you how to live? Listen to me, because I am you.

You are shaking from withdrawal and fear and panic this morning, so you cannot see clearly. You are very, very confused right now. You think that this is the worst day of your life, but you are wrong. This is the best day of your life, friend. Things, right now, are very, very good. Better than they have ever been in your entire life. Your angels are dancing. Because you have been offered freedom from the prison of secrets. You have been offered the gift of crisis.

Kathleen Norris reminded me last night that the Greek root of the word crisis is “to sift.” As in to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to decide and hold onto what matters most. And what matters most right now is that you are sober. You owe the world nothing else. And so you will not worry about whether the real you will be brave or smart or funny or beautiful or responsible enough. Because the only thing you have to be is sober. You owe the world absolutely nothing but sobriety. If you are sober, you are enough. Even if you are shaking and cursing and boring and terrified. You are enough.

But becoming sober, becoming real, will be hard and painful. A lot of good things are.

Becoming sober is like recovering from frostbite.

The process of defrosting is excruciatingly painful. You have been so numb for so long. And as feeling comes back to your soul, you start to tingle, and it’s uncomfortable and strange. But then the tingles start feeling like daggers. Sadness, loss, fear, anger, all of these things that you have been numbing with the booze . . . you start to FEEL them for the first time. And it’s horrific at first, to tell you the damn truth. But feeling the pain, refusing to escape from it, is the only way to recovery. You can’t go around it, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it. There is no other option, except for amputation. And if you allow the defrosting process to take place, if you trust that it will work, if you can stand the pain, one day you will get your soul back. If you can feel, it means there has been no amputation. If you can feel, you can hope. If you can feel, you are not too late.

Friend, we need you. The world has suffered while you’ve been hiding. You are already forgiven. You are loved. All there is to do now it to step into your life. What does that mean? What the hell does that mean? This is what it means. These are the steps you take. They are plain as mud.

Get out of bed. Don’t lie there and think - thinking is the kiss of death for us – just move. Take a shower. Sing while you’re in there. MAKE YOURSELF SING. The stupider you feel, the better. Giggle at yourself, alone. Joy for its own sake . . . Joy just for you, created by you – it’s the best. Find yourself amusing.

Put on some make-up. Blow dry your hair. Wear something nice, something that makes you feel grown up. If you have nothing, go buy something. Today’s not the day to worry too much about money. Invest in some good coffee, caffeinated and decaf. Decaf after eleven o’clock. Read your daughter a story. Don’t think about other things while you’re reading, actually pay attention to the words. Then braid your girl’s hair. Clean the sink. Keep good books within reach. Start with Traveling Mercies. David Sedaris is good, too. If you don’t have any good books, go to the library. If you don’t have a library card, apply for one. This will stress you out. You will worry that the librarian will sense that you are a disaster and reject you. But listen, they don’t know and they don’t care. They gave me a card, and I’ve got a rap sheet as long as your arm. When practicing re-entering society and risking rejection, the library is a good place to start. They have low expectations. I love the library. Also church. Both have to take you in.

Alternate two prayers – “Help” and “Thank you.” That’s all the spirituality you’ll need for a while. Go to meetings. Any meeting will do. Don’t worry if the other addicts there are “enough like you.” Face it: we are all the same, be humble.

Get Out Of The House. If you have nowhere to go, take a walk outside. Do not excuse yourself from walks because it’s cold. Bundle up. The sky will remind you of how big God is, and if you’re not down with God, then the oxygen will help. Same thing. Call one friend a day. Do not start the conversation by telling her how you are. Ask how she is. Really listen to her response, and offer your love. You will discover that you can help a friend just by listening, and this discovery will remind you that you are powerful and worthy.

Get a yoga DVD and a pretty mat. Practice yoga after your daughter goes to bed. The evenings are dangerous times, so have a plan. Yoga is good for people like us, it teaches us to breathe and that solitude is a gift. Learn to keep yourself company.

*When you start to feel . . . do. For example – when you start to feel scared because you don’t have enough money….find someone to give a little money to. When you start to feel like you don’t have enough love. . . find someone to offer love. When you feel unappreciated, unacknowledged . . . appreciate and acknowledge someone in your life in a concrete way. When you feel unlucky, order yourself to consider a blessing or two. And then find a tangible way to make today somebody else’s lucky day. This strategy helps me sidestep wallowing every day.

Don’t worry about whether you like doing these things or not. You’re going to hate everything for a long while. And the fact is that you don’t even know what you like or hate yet. Just Do These Things Regardless of How You Feel About Doing These Things. Because these little things, done over and over again, eventually add up to a life. A good one.


Friend, I am sober this morning. Thank God Almighty, I’m sober this morning. I’m here, friend. Yesterday my son turned eight. Which means that I haven’t had a drink for eight years and eight months. Lots of beautiful and horrible things have happened to me during the past eight years and eight months. And I have more or less handled my business day in and day out without booze. GOD, I ROCK.

And today, I’m a wife and a mother and a daughter and friend and a writer and a dreamer and a Sister to one and a “sister” to hundreds of monkees… and I wasn’t any of those things when I was a drunk.


And I absolutely love being a recovering alcoholic, friend. I am more proud of the “recovering” badge I wear than any other.


What will you be, friend? What will you be when you become yourself? We would love to find out with you.



When Jesus saw her lying there and knew that she had been there for a long time, he said to her, “Do you want to be made well? . . . Then pick up your mat, and walk.” – John 5:6-8