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Lesson in amends

13 May

10:33 am

Saturday.  I have to say, before I start ranting about anything, I am grateful.  Every morning, of every day, I am grateful–relieved, joyful, content–to wake up sober.  To a life I sort of think I deserve, but probably not.  (haha)  I have my fiance, my dogs, the blaring tropical sun bleating off the blue ocean below; I have a freelance career that I’ve somehow made work for 5 years; I have a past that I don’t have to live anymore, but that I get to consider, and to think about, and to dwell on, only as much as I want or need.  I am here, and not there.  Why?  How did I deserve this?

Because I worked my ASS off.  (There she is!  Good morning, ego.)

All that being said, I still have trouble dealing with people from my past, relationships gone sour or become nonexistent (maybe not directly because of my drinking, but related to it on one level or another).  And, while I’m eager to “forgive and forget,” it’s not easy.  And mostly, I’m still sort of angry, I guess, at people who have written me off!  It’s not that I’m angry all day, every day; it’s that, when I think about attempting to rekindle our friendship, I think, Eh, it’s been too long.  Eh, I have other relationships that I’ve cultivated here, where I live now, that make more sense to put energy into.  Eh, you sort of wrote me off, or didn’t take my “getting sober” that seriously; why would I want to relate now?  The problem with all this thinking is that, you just don’t know if people need an amends, or if they just need a phone call or an email–have you hurt them or has the relationship simply moved on?  I have to say, every relationship is unique, and has a unique past; so it’s hard to generalize what I would or could or should do.

I received a couple emails recently that made me start thinking more about all this again.  One was from a friend, someone I’ve known since undergrad–needless to say, we’ve been through a lot.  I mean, I consider her my sister (or, sistah, as it were).  However, while we were friends, there were a few key things I really hated about her  personality–one was her grudge-holding.  My hatred eventually came out, when I got drunk.  As you can imagine, when my drinking got bad and our friendship dissolved, she wrote me off.  (At least, that’s how I remember it; who knows, maybe she thought I wrote her off?)  When I got sober, I sent her a few emails (this was years ago)–nice emails, reaching-out emails.  I never heard from her, so imagined that I never would.  BAM!  About two months ago, I got an email from her, wanting to reconnect.  It was short and sweet, but in the end, I truly appreciated it.

It took me a few months to reply, though.  I couldn’t believe or want to accept that she had held a grudge for so many years (I believe it’s been 7 years)!?  On the flip, that’s one thing I really disliked about her, and watched her do over the years to many other people, so I’m not sure why it surprised me.  In any case, I just wasn’t sure she “deserved” a reply.  Then, I got another email (see below) and realized that my hesitation to reach back to her was because of my own sore ego.  Let it go, I said to myself.  The real question is not, Should I forgive her and let her back into my life?, it’s, Do I really want a relationship with her, going forward?  I’m pretty sure she’s changed, and grown; and so have I, and I think she probably assumes that about me–yet, I’m scared to find out.  I did eventually reply, so we’ll see where it goes from here.

And then there is the case of my brother’s email.  Yes, that brother.  Yes, the one who has been forgiving and “unforgiving” me for the past 5 years.  Yes, the one with the girlfriend who takes “angry and bitter” to incredible heights.  Inhale, Drunky Drunk Girl.

Exhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaale.

I’m not sure I ever really understood making amends–the concept, really, and how to do it right.  I’m not sure I ever really did it right, but, I did it, and sometimes, it backfired.  Frankly, I always had this niggling sense that raking up the past was worse than just letting shit be.  Of course, if I truly wanted that person in my real life, then I would attempt to rekindle a broken relationship; but this almost always did NOT involve apologizing again for my bad behavior while drunk.  In those cases, it was never received well.  I didn’t know how to make up for my bad behavior except to say I was sorry, and to let them know I was sober.  Beyond that, if they refused to accept, then what else could I do?  I just always felt like I left them angrier than if I hadn’t said anything at all!

I think for most of us, we focus on the shit we did wrong, and who has NOT forgiven us, in our amends; instead of focusing on the other person’s perspective, how they feel, how we’ve affected them, and their choice in the matter.  That’s a lesson for the ages, though, and for everyone–how to let go of your ego when you say you’re sorry.  I have to say, the hardest lesson, by far, I’ve had to learn in both sobriety, and be extension, normal life is the one where you tell yourself “it doesn’t matter what they think of me” and actually believe it.  Actually embrace it.  Actually, move on, if you have to.  And do it all in empathy, with nothing but good will and honest compassion for their choice, even if that choice is to stay angry.

Oof, our egos do not like that.  Which is ironic, because most of the time, we’re not fighting for the relationships, we’re fighting for our ego–we want to know that we are loved, that we’ve been given a chance at redemption, that we are worthy of that.  If I’m honest, most of the relationships I tried to amend–make up for my wrongdoing–I actually didn’t want to continue to have, after getting sober.  There were huge flaws, cracks, and those cracks sucked me into them when I got drunk–hence, the raging blackouts directed at people who were, in reality, frenemies.  (My problem was, having so many frenemies in the first place.)

So it goes with my brother.  He’s forgiven me and then taken it back numerous times these past 5 years, and he just did it again.  (And, via an unexpected email, which, by the way, I consider a form of bullying.)  I see things so much more clearly now, and suffice it to say, I know that there is nothing I can or need to do at this point.  The “incident” where I went bat-shit crazy on their asses while blacked out happened over 5 years ago, and in that time, we’ve all gone back and forth with the mean notes and apologies, and more mean notes and more apologies.  This time, I got another email saying he has not forgiven me–and will not consider it–until I apologize to his girlfriend.

Um, OK.  At first I thought maybe he wrote it while blacked out (or she did; she’s drunk to blackout and sent me mean notes–oh, the irony), because it certainly exudes some kind of delusion, some kind of altered reality.  It sounds like HER words written in his hand, which it could very well be.  She’s the one who refused every single attempt at my amends, and viciously so, not him.

I started shaking when I got it, which I hate to admit; so I immediately called my mom.  I didn’t know what else to do.  She gave me some perspective–there is nothing I need to do; this is their drama, don’t get dragged into it again; it’s time for you to move on, because sometimes in life, we don’t get closure–and I’m grateful for that, and for her.  (And, it makes me remember how wise and present and loving my mom has always been, through all of our and her own struggles–I need to see her more!?)

I wanted to reply with a litany of “I did this, see this email; she sent that, see this crazy Facebook message or that bizarro email sent from your email account, btw;” but, I didn’t.  And, I see now that I should not.  Because, there is one thing that I know for sure to be true in this situation:  what they think of me is none of my business.  I cannot change what they choose to believe, and how they choose to feel, and how they choose to behave.  NO email in the world is going to change those things, because those things are theirs.  It’s not my business what other people think of me.  End of story.

Exhale.

It’s not easy seeing the forest through the trees when it comes to amends, and forgiveness–and, what it all means on a practical level.  For me, a true people-pleaser, it’s hard to not be forgiven!  And, as a persistent-as-fuck person, it’s really hard for me to stop trying (remember:  I want to win!).  Once I remove my ego from the equation,  though, I am left asking myself:  Do you actually want a relationship with that person, if they do forgive me?  Often the answer is, no.  I have good relationships now, with people who are real, and honor my sober person.  The thing is, I’ve always tried to maintain friendships over the years, even in spite of the recognition that we’ve both changed…beyond the point of no return, so to speak.  It’ just something I’ve done, been brought up to do.  Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Five years later, and I’m still learning fundamental lessons about sobriety!  Believe me, friends, it gets better, and the work gets harder, but the well never runs dry.  This is our path, as we get sober:  toward truth, toward enlightenment, toward peace.  As my fiance and I were sitting on the beach the other day, and as I was just floating in the water, embracing the big blue; as we drove home over the hill and came into our ridiculous view of rolling green hills and ocean to horizon–it dawned on me that my brother does not have peace.  Whether he’s angry, or jealous, or just unwilling to address negative emotions, he does not have peace.

I have peace.  Some of the time.  I might not have closure, and I might not have HIM in my life, but I have peace.  And, I am grateful for that.  In fact, I have the sense that not only is it the cornerstone of my sobriety, and sober life–it’s probably the most I can hope for…to just be, in peace.

Facebook-free 2017

8 Jan

11:23 am

Well, I’m doin’ it.  Finally.  It’s been 1 week and almost 4 days since I logged onto Facebook.  Like, I literally have not logged in.  I decided that “deactivating” was not the route I wanted to take (in quotes because one, do you really disappear on the back end, and two, all you have to do to “reactivate” your account is log back in!).

And you know what?  I feel good.  Like, really good.

Yes, I feel out of it; and, I’m not sure I can maintain such a distance from my professional sphere for THAT long–personal and professional are intricately intertwined in journalism, and probably other metiers, too.  I don’t mean or want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I don’t want to disappear–I still want a career, and to be present in said career.  And to be present in the world of information is to have it, and to dish it out.

That all being acknowledged (obsessively, over and over), I’m learning to let all these fearful thoughts go because, well, I feel better.

I must admit, I feel that sort of righteous self-satisfaction that is similar to how you feel when you get sober.  I also have this sense of a load having been taken off; I am no longer burdened with YOUR LIVES.  Other people’s lives.  So many other lives to ping me, enrage me, give me joy–I guess it was just too much, and I took it home with me.  Now, I just have this sense of relief, this screaming cheer in my head that keeps saying, I don’t have to take my friends home with me!  Haha.  I get to focus on MY life.  Sure, it’s boring as shit sometimes, but… it’s my life.  Isn’t it worth as much appreciation–time and effort–as I’ve been putting into other people’s lives?  (And, now I really do see how this is related to drinking to drown out:  you tend to put yourself second, then you feel un- or under-appreciated; not to mention, you have ZERO actual connection, and reciprocity, in your relationships if they are primarily virtual ones…all stuff that drives us to drink to soothe, fix, drown out, douse, hide from!  I say, No shit, sherlock, now, but back then, how everything was connected and impacted my drinking seemed so…inaccessible.)

I also think it’s given me the head space, literally, to start digging in on some personal writing projects.  And that digging in entails a lot of things that you forget, as a writer, are necessities to the creative process–one being the time and well, empty-headedness to actually think.  Or not think, as it were.  To conjure memories.  To dream up random plots, or have deeper thoughts that may have been buried, drowned out by all the incessant noise.  The chitter-chatter is gone, and it’s a relief.  The endless drone of increasingly source-less information (i.e., why the eff is THIS in my feed, and is it even real news?), over.

I decided NOT to deactivate because to me, that’s like giving the bird to your friends.  I mean, it’s rude.  It’s like, NO ONE keeps in touch via phone or email anymore, we all know this; so if you’re going to ghost but don’t mean to, at least have the courtesy to give people your “off Facebook” contact info.  Otherwise, you’re just ghosting.  That’s not what I want to gain from this–as it is, I feel guilty just “abandoning” some of my friends, i.e., not keeping up…  I just can’t anymore, is all.  And, it feels good, albeit a little scary, to let go.

I don’t know for how long this will be; maybe long enough to clear the cobwebs from my head, maybe longer.  I’m just going to keep going, and see where it takes me.  (Kind of like getting sober, no?)

No one else has to care about my sobriety

9 Nov

11:14 am

That’s pretty much the lesson I learned on my trip. And, I’m trying to basically ignore the nagging feeling that most if not all of my old friends–people who saw me at my worst, who drank with me and around me–acted as if either my problem wasn’t one/wasn’t that bad, or that even if it was, I didn’t deserve praise.

I don’t know. I don’t get it.

I am back, and having a great Sunday–I finally get to enjoy some down-time. Ahh…sweet breezes, warm weather, the sounds and scents all around. It feels wonderful to realize just how different my values and priorities are now. And, I have to say, it’s what helped me move forward–being forced to live outside my comfort zone, on multiple levels, and try something NEW–and the lack thereof that’s allowed some of my friends to remain stuck.

But, I digress. I don’t want to dwell too hardcore on the whole “my friends don’t seem to give a shit about my sobriety” thing. Which may or may not be a figment of my imagination. First of all, I haven’t been in great touch with any of them since swearing off the wine, and frankly, I don’t think they knew all that much about this whole journey because I didn’t divulge that much (though, to several I did, so…).

I just had this niggling feeling that they were either shocked that I was still sober/am sober at all. I just didn’t get it. They know me, and know my past, and each and every one of them knows specifically that I am, indeed, sober, and not just “not drinking.” None of them really congratulated me, which is OK, I’m used to that. They don’t need to. However, on two occasions, I had to basically interject about my sobriety because no one was asking anything. It’s a huge part of my life, the fulcrum on which everything else rests these days. So, I thought I needed to at least address it–in the context of how it’s made my life much, MUCH better. To one friend, I said, “Everything I have right now is because I am sober.” She was stunned, but got it. Melodramatic? I don’t think so.

I went out to a piano bar with one group of friends, and when the waiter came around, I ordered a San Pellegrino with lime (so delicious). My friends literally went quiet, staring at me in disbelief, as if to say, Well, I didn’t think you were SOBER sober. At a restaurant with another friend, we got to talking about not drinking because she was pregnant, and she goes, “So, you don’t drink AT ALL?”

It’s like, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m sober? And, these are close friends, people who know how bad things got. It’s why I felt like they were purposefully trying to bring me back to the ground…because of envy, because of fear, who knows.

After my trip, I honestly don’t know how much more I can interact with these three friends. It’s sad, in a way, because if they only knew the work and thought that I’ve put into my sobriety, maybe the two who seem stuck could learn from my experience! I felt like they were saying, I “hate” (not hate, but you know) you because you’re well and I’m not. It’s the exact same thing I get from my brother and his girlfriend. I refuse to forgive you: not only did you “get away” with being a drunk, but you get to be sober and happy and productive, too. It’s not fair.

Sometimes, it’s confusing to go “home again,” in terms of old friendships. I think I’ve come into my own to where, I don’t attract dysfunctional ones anymore? I must say, however, that my circle of friends where I live now is awesome: I can’t even count the number of times they’ve gone out of their way to welcome me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t drinking at parties; to offer me nonalcoholic beverages; to respect my choice to not imbibe and make me feel respected and proud, even.

I did wonder if my one friend was turned off by my being sober because she, as a doctor of psychology, is all about harm reduction. I have some new thoughts on harm reduction, and I’ll get to that later. For me, and I think for most of us who have crossed that line, ONE sip is too much. ONE sip activates Wolfie. And what we’re trying to accomplish in the end, is shut Wolfie up, not stop drinking per se.

Anyhoo, la la la. I am great, doing well, rocking the stories and hopefully, starting work as a part-time barista this week. All in all, though, I don’t need the barista work (at least for this month’s income)–but it could be fun. I got to think a lot about my three years in exile here–and how I could have done it differently (for another blog post). My trip back to the city allowed me to both connect with my old self AND let her go. And, though it was exhausting, it’s allowed me to go even further, to expand and grow even more. Oh, and that slip, or whatever it was? Totally allowed me to fully conceptualize never drinking again–drinking just doesn’t do anything but ruin the next day, it’s not how I roll anymore, and the benefits of sobriety are so mind-blowing in terms of moving forward in my life that…there is no place for wine, and that is OK. I can keep on being free. Sobriety is liberation from the old way you did shit; and it allows you a blank slate of mind, to finally try doing shit a NEW WAY.

Sobriety is banishing the “Wolfie thinking” and doing shit a NEW, DIFFERENT WAY. Because you’re free, you really are. And because you can–you are able.

Lots to do today, so I’ll sign off. More soon!

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