Accepting Forgiveness

notperfectDrinking took me to places that a woman like me — white, middle-class, college-educated — never thought she’d be. Renter’s court. Criminal court. You know, THOSE kinds of places. At the time I thought that the world was against me. And so, to combat the world, I drank more. It’s what alcoholics do.

I almost lost everything. EVERYTHING. I am still, over four years later, putting many of the pieces of my shattered life back together. A few of them I just swept up and tossed in the trash, like the “friends” I used to drink with and the bars I used to frequent. Those pieces, the ones that don’t matter, the ones that never should have mattered, were easily discarded.

The relationships that do matter, that should have mattered more, those fractures are not so easily fixed. Cobbling them back together may take a lifetime. Regaining the trust that the people closest to me lost while I was lost in whatever bottle I could get my hands on, that’s the trickier part of recovery.

I had no idea that the actual act of giving up alcohol would be the easier part of the healing process. That the hard part would be the aftermath is not something they focus on in rehab. In rehab they tell you to put yourself first. I found this advice to be counterproductive. Because, really, that’s what addicts do, have always done — put themselves first. In order to get healthy, I needed to start putting other people first.

I needed, first and foremost, to stop feeling resentful. Instead, I needed to be grateful — to actually FEEL grateful. Grateful to the people who stood by me. Grateful for having done no irreparable physical harm to anyone other than myself. Grateful for being given the second chance that many addicts never are. Grateful just to be.

There is still not a day that goes by that I am not smacked in the face with the realization that I can NEVER have another drink. Not one single day. I don’t know if this ever ends. I don’t know that it should. I know that I must acknowledge this feeling and then I must move on from it before it incapacitates me. It’s really all I can do. There’s no magic to it. It’s just what my life is.

That’s the bad. Forgiveness is the good. Whether through words or deeds, I have managed to receive forgiveness from the people who my drinking affected most adversely. My husband. My child. They are truly special people.

And friends. The good ones. The kind ones. The generous ones. The funny ones. They persevered. They saw me through. They, too, have forgiven me.

My life is far better and infinitely richer because I am able, every day, to accept their gifts of forgiveness. And, because they have, every last one of them, given this gift so freely, I do my part by making every attempt to be a humble and grateful recipient.

photo credits:
Not perfect…

Is this how Bernie Madoff started out?

pinocchio

People are a little worked up about lying these days. Perhaps you’ve read about Lance Armstrong’s admission that he (gasp!) used steroids. Now there’s the Notre Dame player that has been caught out lying about a sick girlfriend (sorry, don’t know the details— don’t care). I find it all so ridiculous. Who cares?

Everybody lies. Some lies are more heinous and have greater consequences than others, sure, but much like burns have degrees, so do lies. We tell little lies all the time (probably every day) to others (and I daresay to ourselves) for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we do so in order to spare people’s feelings. A friend’s new scarf makes her look like she works in a brothel or, on the other end of the spectrum, Caroline Ingalls, but she likes it. So you tell her it’s great, it brings out her eyes, it covers her wattle, whatever. You hate the scarf (frankly you hate her taste in just about everything— what is with that shade of yellow in her kitchen?), but you love her. So, you lie. We all do it. I probably don’t get through the day without at least one little lie.

I practically lie for a living. Every day someone asks me a question and I feel forced to lie, rather than answer their question honestly. Why? Because it’s easier and far less time-consuming. I often get questions like: “How’s the pinot grigio?” My response? “Light and crisp!” I don’t drink. I’ve never had the pinot grigio. I don’t actually care what it tastes like. I just want the customer to order a beverage before the date changes. So, yes, I’m lying when I encourage her to order the stupid wine. (“It’s great. You’ll love it!”) Sure, I’m lying, but so what? This type of lie has no dire consequences. If the woman doesn’t like the pinot grigio that I lied about, she’ll just return it for something else. No big whoop. Also, I lie to protect myself from intrusive questioning. Once in a while a customer will really press me about an alcoholic beverage. When I tell them I don’t drink, they, inevitably, ask me why. When I respond with “Do you have a couple of hours and a therapist’s license?” they usually let it go, but sometimes they’re just nosy Nellies and they continue with their line of questioning or they make a wisecrack (“What? One too many and ten not enough?”) designed to, I guess, get me to open up to them. Yeah, right. Like I’m going to have some deep dark conversation with a complete stranger about why I don’t drink. I think not. So, I lie about how wonderful the $6 glass of wine is. Easier. Expedient. Whatever.

We all lie for different reasons and under different circumstance. If you’re anything like me, though, and I bet you are, I guarantee you that you lie every day. Lying about the wine or the shrimp stuffing (“to die for” — truthfully, it might kill me) is small potatoes. There are no real consequences to these lies.

The stakes are pretty low when we engage in a little fib (a word practically invented to indicate a very minor and socially acceptable lie). The stakes are higher for guys like Lance Armstrong. Stripped of his titles! Or Roger Clemens. Probably no National Baseball Hall of Fame for him! Whatever. I don’t care. It’s hard to get worked up about millionaires who engaged in wrongdoing and are now paying the price.

Still, sometimes lying is essential. Fang gets a little crazy if the cat gets into our bedroom. If my husband had any idea how many lazy afternoons the idiot cat has passed underneath our bed he would have a heart attack. So, I don’t tell him. If he finds cat hairs in the bedroom and point blank asks me if the cat was in the room my policy is to outright lie about it. I don’t need to be lectured about the proper way to open the bedroom door to avoid the possibility of a sneak attack by one very savvy cat. Because that’s what Fanganini does. He lays in wait. My husband has a method for slipping out of the bedroom without drawing the attention of the cat. Seriously. It’s a whole procedure. A procedure which has been extensively and thoroughly demonstrated to me as if, can you imagine?, I care. Just in case you care, let me give you a shorthand version of the procedure. Through a very small opening in the door, Fang scans the hallway for any sign of Fanganini. If he determines the coast is clear, he opens the door just wide enough to accommodate his girth (ampler in his advancing years) and scoots out of the bedroom. He does this in a very stealthy, spy-like way. Mission accomplished! Every foray into the hallway takes on the feel of a reconnaissance mission. He has a similar procedure for getting into the bedroom. Fanganini, God bless his little feline heart, is pretty sneaky and, given his age and his prodigious size, can still make a pretty impressive run for the open door. Fang’s methodology and the seriousness with which he takes it is, as you can imagine, all too much for me. I refuse to scoot or to take part in what feels like a clandestine military operation simply to make my way to the kitchen. As a result, the cat often gets one over on yours truly. I’m not sure what the allure of the underside of our bed is, but it seems pretty important to Fanganini. He’s thirteen years old and is unable to have sex. He’s got to have some kind of fun. So, sometimes I have to applaud his perseverance (or his stupidity). I mean, come on people, he plays this game every day. He can’t lose every day. Live and let live, I say. Oh, and lie about it. Definitely lie about it.

I guess one could say that I subscribe to the theory of “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him”. It applies to the cat getting into the bedroom just as much as it applies to the small slush fund (very small!) that I have and that Fang knows nothing about. It’s just a little bank account that I throw whatever money I have left at the end of the week (or if I work an extra shift) into. It never amounts to much, mainly because Fangette knows about it. And she’s always hitting me up to dip into it. And I do. Because that’s really what it’s for. My husband still thinks that I can outfit her at Target for $150 a season. If only.

I used to keep my slush fund in an old purse in my closet, but he discovered it. Fang tends to be a bit of a snooper. He could have a hooker stashed away in the closet and I would never know. Me? I can’t even sneak a Snickers late at night because he will find the wrapper crammed into my nightstand. Whatever. He can’t help himself, it’s just how he is. Naturally curious, I guess. To his credit, he would always inform me that he had hit my “stash” so that he could pay for take-out (or whatever) for himself and Fangette. So, that was nice. I guess. But that’s not what the slush fund was for. So, I had to move it to a more secure facility. I still leave a $20 or two in the old bag, but the lion’s share now goes into my little bank account. I’ve never lied about having a bank account of my own, I’ve just never offered up the information. I suppose if he asked me, if he found me out, I would come clean about it. I wouldn’t outright lie about it because that would feel wrong. I would feel guilty. I have no guilt about lying to him about the cat or lying to my customers about menu items, but lying about money (even in an account that’s never had a balance over $200) just seems wrong, somehow. But if he never asks, I’ll never tell. Because what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

I don’t think that these little lies will in any way act like a gateway drug and lead me to bigger, more elaborate ruses. You don’t think this is how Bernie Madoff started out, do you?

photo credit: pinocchio

The Pub Crawl at the Mall

drinkingshoppingThere was a time when malls were for shopping. These days they are veritable entertainment complexes. Drinking establishments are around every corner. The mall is a great place to be an alcoholic. Those of you with a drinking problem can take full advantage of this by participating in a little activity I used to engage in, back in my drinking days— “The Pub Crawl at the Mall!”

Here’s how to play:

Reward yourself with a drink, or several, following a successful purchase. Start small. Buy a box of cards that you have every intention of sending out (but that you never will). Earn a glass of buttery Chardonnay. Chilled.

Knocked the Christmas pajamas off the list? Time for a martini! If you’re feeling particularly festive, opt for the green apple martini. Request a cherry garnish. Red and green! Fa! La! La! La! La! La! La! La! La!

Two gifts and two drinks down— and it’s not even noon! Plenty of time to do more damage to the pocketbook and the liver!

Now that you have a slight buzz on, hit one of the finer department stores. Surely someone on your list (or everyone) can use some nice earmuffs. Buy a half-a-dozen. Throw in a couple of scarves for the ladies and several body wash sets for the guys. You’re on a roll now! Get yourself some lunch. A few chicken wings and a couple of beers should do the trick. Find the place with the Christmas Ale on tap.

Woozy, yet fortified, make your way to the big electronics store. It’s only a little walk through the parking lot. And it’s right next to the place that offers $1 margaritas and free chips and salsa after 3:00. Timing is everything! Kill some time browsing and asking questions of the staff about things you have no intention of buying. Take a crack at making the right decision regarding DVDs. (Remember, last year you bought two copies of “A Christmas Story”— don’t make that mistake again!) Listen intently as the clerk describes the slight, but critical differences, in the latest entries to the “point and shoot” digital camera marketplace. Let him sell you the most expensive one, because it’s 3:05 and, let’s face it, there are a few margaritas calling your name. Never mind that your husband has no interest in photography.

There’s nothing quite like the late afternoon tequila high. It is, however, short-lived. And the only way to recover is a nap. From experience I will caution you about having a brief lie-down near the fountain. There is a very real possibility that you will be pelted with coins and/or picked up for public drunkenness. To avoid the potential for embarrassment (not to mention the attendant legal fees), for the love of God, spend the $12 on a movie ticket and sleep in the darkened theater. Choose wisely, though, don’t go for the blockbuster or the cartoon, select the boring indie title (if there’s a foreign film playing— even better). There’s a good chance you’ll be the only one in that theater, making the cocktail-induced snoring and drooling a non-issue. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, you will need the $15 jumbo bucket of popcorn to soak up the $5 worth of crappy tequila. Don’t cheap out.

This combination of carbs and rest should give you a second wind. Don’t waste it on more shopping. Unless, of course, it’s a brief foray to one of the kiosks where “As Seen on TV” products or calendars are sold. That’s fine. Take ten minutes to grab a pasta pot that’s also a strainer (!) or “The Audobon Official Bird Watcher’s Calendar”. You’ll undoubtedly be able to unload these items on some unsuspecting loved one.

You could rest on your laurels and go home now, but if you want to finish the game (and what self-respecting alcoholic wouldn’t want to do that?), you must cap off your adventure with at least one coffee drink. For added points, ease into this portion of the evening. Nothing says the holidays like a smooth, smoky 12-year-old Scotch! Bartenders just love customers who order $30 drinks! (Remember to tip accordingly!)

Don’t worry about the killer hangover that will be incurred by your fun-filled day of drinking. Starting your day as you finished your night is always an option. Throw a little Bailey’s in your morning coffee. It’s a real eye-opener. Enjoy this tried and true hangover cure while you guiltily fish through your, mostly useless and ridiculous, drunk purchases. Oh, and have a second shot ready for when you tally up the receipts. You’ll really need the “hair of the dog” then. Because “The Pub Crawl at the Mall!”? It never comes cheap.

photocredit: drinking and shopping