Saturday, November 21, 2009

Radio Flyer

I've been working at home today. There is always something to work on at home. Two-A is project central anyway; but there is also the buying and cleaning and cutting and preparing and cooking of foods for the week, as well as the other things that come up like unpacking all of Pat's cases and putting away the items from therein -- settling back into our real life now that he is home from his travels. It's also the holiday season and there are Christmas presents to make, gluten free recipes to do test runs of, photos to scan for online albums... there is always work to do at Two-A. So when I am actually home from the gym, not on location for a photo shoot, not out running errands, not out nurturing my relationships with social engagements.. I am working at home.

One of the nice things about working at home is that I can set up the card table and work in the living room while watching my tv shows from the week. That's today. I've been working from home and working my way through Survivor, Flash Forward, Mercy, The Good Wife, NCIS LA, Trauma, Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy (I watch the dance shows and my Sunday night dramas as they air, usually). As I watched this week's episode of Grey's Anatomy (and consider this a spoiler alert - if you are a Grey's watcher and haven't seen this week's show and are even remotely concerned that I am about to ruin it for you, stick a pin in this blog and come back after you have watched it), I was impressed, once more, by how good the writing is this season. Then we came to the ending of the show and the chief was in a bar ordering club soda after club soda. The bartender asked for his keys and, upon taking them, he poured the chief a vodka in a water glass.

Did I know the chief was an alcoholic? I don't remember. Clearly, though, he is an alcoholic. The montage they played as he drank his club soda, the drama they heaped on the scenario, using underscoring and camera angles and looks from Meredith Grey, tells me he is an alcoholic. And I am happy it is the end of the show.

I am happy it is the end of the show because I hate it when I am taken out of a storyline by my own thoughts. And I had plenty of thoughts at this moment. Fortunately, the credits rolled and I could take out a few minutes to think about being an alcoholic.

You see, I am an alcoholic.

On Monday I had lunch with a close friend that I have known for a few years now. When the waiter asked if we wanted drinks, my friend asked if I did, indeed, want a DRINK. I said no. The subject stayed on the table and it came out that my friend knew I didn't drink but thought that it was because I am health and fitness oriented. Whether it is because the alcohol is bad for my body or because the calories (and sugar and everything else) in alcohol are fat-making, he simply thought I did not drink out of a choice I had made. I explained that I do not drink because I cannot drink. I have an allergy to alcohol. If I have alcohol in my system it is totally a Jekyl and Hyde situation: I turn into a monster. I have friends who will back me up on this. My husband will. Brady will. Larry Stillings will. Marci will. Jane will. Lisa-Gabrielle will. Laura Wells will. These people have, definately, seen my Mr Hyde. Some other people have just seen the fun part of my allergy - the party boy - and are stunned to hear that, upon taking a drink, I turn into a one man production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe. The only thing I can say to them and everyone else is this: trust me; I know what I am talking about - you don't want me to drink. When I say Monster, I mean Monster.

I was watching the chief step off the wagon. If the character is an alcoholic (as it seems to be set up for the audience), then he didn't fall off the wagon. He stepped off the wagon. Within the confines of the tv show, he is seen, calmly, drinking; he even has a code worked out with the bartender. He orders club soda, not vodka. The bartender pours the drink WAY below the line of the bar so that nobody can see. It is calculated and premeditated. He didn't fall off the wagon. He stepped off the wagon.

I have a friend who is in the AA program who recently told me that they went back to meetings, after not going for several years. To discuss this any further would be an unwarranted invasion of my friend's privacy, not to mention a violation of the ANONYMOUS part of the AA program. What I can, want to, and will say is that I was so proud of my friend for telling me about their decision to return to meetings ( especially because my friend is actually NOT drinking ). It was a simple case of recognizing the signs and saying to oneself "I'm gonna nip this muthafucka in the bud". THAT is STRENGTH. THAT is POWER. When a person knows their own self, their own demons and their own WORTH and that person says "I'm not going to step off this wagon - I am going to pre emptively go to meetings and self protect from the demon grape." Dudes, that is what I am talkin' about. I have love and respect for that friend -- and it has grown by Herculean leaps and bounds with this recent confidence because I also know people who cannot seem to stay on their wagons. I admire my friend's fortitude.

Frankly, I admire my own fortitude. When I quit drinking (for the tenth and final time) I went to meetings for about two weeks before deciding that I had this NEED to do it all on my own. To that end, I quit drinking cold turkey. When I quit smoking, I quit cold turkey. Even as modest as I am, I feel (often) the right and the justification to give myself a metaphorical pat on the back. Thinking about some of my friends and acquaintances who haven't been so lucky as to quit cold turkey, people who have struggled for years (still struggle in some cases) with whatever addiction they have, I feel my heart going out to them; but I also feel a strong sense of validation and pride for my own triumph over the addictions I have beat. I cannot bring myself to feel remorse for putting aside my usual modesty, so that I may (occasionally) congratulate myself for those triumphs. I quit drinking over ten years ago. I had my last cigarette some two years ago. I changed my addictive eating habits eight years ago. I did it. I took control of my destiny.

When I congratulated the friend I mentioned above by saying "You're in control of your destiny!" the response was a somewhat bemused smile -- but I meant it. We control our destinies, in so many ways. We may as well control the ones we can -- some of our destinies are, firmly, out of our hands. We must control the ones that we can.

A different friend of mine recently went through a self imposed (and public - which was also self imposed due to some well placed Facebook status messages) 60 day stint in rehab for multiple addictions, most notably a decade plus struggle with crystal meth. This friend got out of rehab a week ago and all who feel love for the person are so proud, so optimistic and so happy for this chance at a second chance. That is being in control of your destiny.

I know people who are addicted to any and every thing. Booze. Drugs (of varying names and natures). Food. Cigarettes. Sex. Gambling. Shopping. Hell, I even know someone (ok, I know more than one someones) who is addicted to talking. How does a person beat their own, personal, addiction? Well; sometimes they don't. Sometimes it has such control over them that they never are able to recover and be strong, again. The fact that I know a few people who beat their addictions, the fact that I am one of the people who beat their addictions, is a good sign that it can be done. I am not unsympathetic to the people who continue to struggle; well, not much, I'm not. I DO have sympathy and empathy for them. I just don't understand the choice. And, honestly, I cannot be around it. That's why I have that hard and fast rule about crystal meth addicts. I have seen it destoy at least 8 lives and I have had the drama that comes with crystal meth addicts in my very own living room. It's too much. Ugh. I have held the hands of loved ones while they overcame addiction, been their cheerleader, their friend, their father figure - but those people are moving. They are moving forward and away from a life of pain and self torture. I can always deal with that kind of work and struggle. It is the work and struggle of dealing with a crystal meth addict who keeps getting off the wagon where I draw the line. Get help. Grow up. Open your eyes. Be accountable.

There is always a choice.

Did I ever blog about the reason I quit drinking? This is a true story. There is absolutely no embelishment for the sake of the story, either. Here it is in plainest terms:

Brady was visiting from California. He was living in the Happy Room. AJ and I went to the Tenth Avenue Lounge for happy hour. Sex and the City was all the rage and Cosmopolitans were the drink of the day. The bartender was mixing extremely strong drinks and the special was two for one and AJ and I just kept putting them back and talking and laughing; and by the time I got home, I was loaded. The monster came out and I became verbally abusive and very, very sloppy. Never one to pass out, I had the great good pleasure of being wide awake and sloppy and abusive for a good long time. It was disgusting and humiliating and my poor husband should be canonized for putting up with it. The next day I went to Brady and said "I'm sorry you had to see me like that."

"That's ok. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe is my favourite movie. I love Martha."

I never had another drink.

I watched the chief drinking his club soda and thought to myself "it has never occured to me to take a drink again". It's the truth. Not under the pressure of stress, not for the pleasure of taste, not for social acceptance or the promise of recreational enjoyment have I ever, once, in the last ten plus years, thought about taking a drink. I am in control of my destiny. I don't ever want to be that out of control again. I don't ever want to inflict that kind of pain on my loved ones again. I don't ever want to begin counting those days again. I am in control of my destiny.

And it would be easy to begin drinking again. There is booze in my home. Many is the time that Marci has asked me how I keep all the liquor in our home that we need for parties. My answer is always (ALWAYS without fail) the same: "it ain't callin' my name". I could go out, tonight, and have a drink in a bar. I defy anyone to tell a glass of vodka from a glass of water at twenty paces... they are identical. For years, while drinking, I could cover up the smell of the hooch on my breath by simply eating a tablespoon of peanut butter or a tunafish sandwich before I had to be with Pat. He has told me he had no idea. I WAS Suellen Ewing and Maggie Gioberti. In fact, Ricky Pope once asked me "when you need a drink really bad and you finally get one, do you sigh and close your eyes and roll your head back and touch your face and lick your lips like Suellen Ewing does?'


We are in control of our destinies.

We don't fall off the wagon. We step off the wagon.

Fortunately, there are people around us to help us get back on if we do. Be it a 12 step group or friend, spouse or family member, there is always someone here to help us look after ourselves. We just have to MAKE the CHOICE. For some of us, the person who helps us back on the wagon, the person who keeps us on the wagon is none other than ourselves. And God. Whatever God a person believes in, that is a big part of the quest to stay on that wagon. That's my story. I keep myself on the wagon. It is my choice. I decided. I have a big faith in God and a great relationship with God (and, again, it is the God that I believe in and that is unique to me) and those two things (my faith and my relationship) help guide me in every area of my life.

But it is ME who keeps me on the wagon.

It is my CHOICE. There is always a choice.


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