shit is all emotional up in this biatch

Tomorrow morning I have a minor surgical procedure and I’ll be bruised and bleeding, no that’s actually pissing blood, for a couple days afterwards. That’s best-case scenario as they may find they need to add a few things into the deep recesses of my body. And homegirl isn’t too excited about that.

I’ve been working rather intensely with a new-to-sobriety alcoholic. She is the real deal, young but a pretty-far-gone alcoholic with an astonishing story (but, spoiler alert, we all have amazing stories if we survive!). She is so inspiring I simply don’t have words. I’ve never seen someone so busted-down, let alone worked so closely with someone in that state… although I suspect that’s where I was at, not so very long ago. And her lowness is not humility or anything good, it’s the disease trying to straight-up murder someone. I’ve done my best to help her on a daily basis for a little while, and then – once she’s left my home or I’ve hung up the phone – move on to the rest of my life, where I am also needed. But I must admit, her struggles have me in a tender spot. She is (re-)instructing me how very important it is to surrender everything precious to me, to the dharma. To pray, meditate, and keep faithful no matter my fears.

So today about three miles into my evening’s bike ride I stopped trying to not feel fear about the surgery. It seems I am afraid of such procedures and I can do little about it, really. I can only pray, meditate, and keep faithful.

I had more than one friend call with kind words of support; one friend tells me his sister’s church is praying for me. This kind of support is so very meaningful, as is the kind caring my husband and children give me. I am a very grateful woman.

Tomorrow pain and suffering may come, maybe less than I imagine, maybe more. But today I am still here, and I can Be Here Now.

tell yourself it’s all you know / you should know me better than that

Tonight my work at the treatment center was less than stellar. Every now and then there is this tension and there are less-than-civil interactions… a hostility, specifically directed at me or at least what I’m saying. I find myself frustrated at times because addicts and alcoholics in early recovery (or even several years into recovery!) go from being desperate and willing to seek help – to being easily-offended, egocentric, selfish, myopic, and stubborn. (I am in no way claiming immunity to these emotional relapses!)

Oddly though even when I’ve spoken words that weren’t well received (which when I lead meetings is my prerogative to ensure everyone in the group gets a chance to speak, and is respected while speaking), the oddest thing has happened every time. When I return a couple days later, these same individuals who flashed in anger and sarcastic under-the-breath remarks see me and they simply light up. I don’t even mean a guarded smile, I mean they smile genuinely and instantly upon recognizing me. Any bad feeling that may have existed, seems to have vanished entirely.

The first time this happened I was taken aback, but it has happened enough times in the last couple years it is, so far, the absolute rule. I’ve thought a lot about this odd (seeming) turnabout, and concluded a few things. A., that they might think I’ve got some relevant experience to share, after all – since so many non-addicts do not understand, B. that my kindness and compassion comes through regardless of our verbal exchange, and C., most importantly:

that for any alcoholic or addict, no matter where they are at and if they’re going to die drunk and never get sober, there is this part of them gut-deep that recognizes sobriety and they respond to me like a flinted spark. I will tell you that the miracle of sobriety is so instantly-recognized that there isn’t even room for envy, and that is saying something! In that sense it doesn’t matter too much what I do or say, the important thing is they see me sober, see me coming back to help (if I can), and see me with a smile in my face and love in my heart. And so far, I too have that love in my heart when I return. Because no matter how rude someone has treated me I don’t hold a grudge. I have a love for people that recovers despite, well, despite all sorts of insults, big or small. And I have a willingness to live without a resentment, a willingness that has served me well.

It blows my mind, though. No matter how deep these addicts are and even when they’re absolutely detoxing they recognize the miracle of sobriety. This is incredible!

This hope, this reality, is something I’ve come to believe, at least at this stage in my life.

My irritation tonight is not so much perceived personal insults: it’s from spending some time in the resultant ugliness within the disease of addiction. It’s an ugly disease in a way that many diseases can’t compete with. Usually I feel pretty fine, but some days? I’m a little down.

***

Last night I ask my husband, “Do you know, I have a tendency to hold on to something, even if it is broken or worthless?”

“I’ve come to count on it!” he says, and gives an embarrassed laugh. I realize he’s talking about himself, or maybe the harder years of our marriage. And I laugh. Surprised even after this time he thinks of himself that way. He’s not broken or worthless, he’s my life’s companion and he’s a treasure to me.

But I’m thinking: I will hang on to things, a half-glass of iced tea, rags, canning jars that might serve a use, things other people regard as trash. I have a bag full of squeezed lemon halves in my fridge! It isn’t just that I might find a use for the seemingly-defunct, but I hate to discard something entirely as it seems wasteful. Especially given that, in so many ways, I have relied on others’ cast-offs (my entire sewing room is furnished with equipment that has been gifted me – this last week for example, a seam roll and a sleeve board).

I am relatively thorough when it comes to moving something on. I have gone through lengths to get those scraps of fabric, or the older bed frame, or the half-consumed bag of flour we’re not using, or the compost from our composter when we move, to someone who can use it. This frugality and this desire for ethical consumption (which means weighing the entire life of the thing we bring into the home), is an asset – as long as I don’t take it too far – don’t grasp and cling, or get too worried about any of it.

Today Ralph and I performed music on the street. I sang, even, with a microphone and everything! It was only in front of a small group, and many of them were friends or at least known to me, but I had a few compliments on my singing – and one on my bravery. My friend M. says to me, “You’ve got balls. I could never sing unless I had a few drinks in me.” I smile and tell her, “I never sang until I got sober.”

I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be Me. That’s a pretty do-able vocation these days.

“infinitely flexible and constantly amazed”; gifts of Illness

I have a journal that, the way it works, when you’re writing in this year’s entries you see those from the year before. Today I had a moment of discouragement when I saw I’d recorded “lots of kidney pain” – and that I had written the same thing a year ago. By the way, my brain works okay so I know that as years unfold this may be a regular part of my life and years may stack up of “lots of kidney pain” – so this is, in its way, just the beginning of my path of Acceptance.

Now, (conscious contact with one’s) chronic pain has been, for me, quite a spiritual experience and a game-changer in so many ways. But this post isn’t about pain – or even the attendant nausea and fatigue. This post is about loosening my death grip on Knowing The Story, or Having Things Figured Out.

I got sober in May 2011 and a few months after that I began to be plagued with severe kidney pain, as bad as the first time I had it so many years ago. In fall 2011 I remember sitting and sweating through my job chairing a Recovery meeting at a treatment center and then calmly, shakily, driving myself to the ER and throwing up. Now as I began to seek treatment for my kidneys – again – the treatment became ongoing, not just a visit here and there. At first a few sober friends told me that perhaps my drinking and my kidney troubles were related; my drinking had made my kidneys ill (causation). I asked my nephrologist/specialist about that, and he waved the theory away. He is a kind of hilariously handsome guy (to me anyway), all wearing a white lab coat with impeccable manners and a slightly aloof disposition. And now he tells me I was born this way (meaning I was born with a kidney illness – Renal Tubular Acidosis Type II).

This didn’t make sense to me for a while – I comprehended what he was telling me, but my heart told me something else. I kept trying to find ways to blame myself for my kidney problems! And you know over the months I asked him a couple more times if I’d caused this condition, and specifically why it is these severe bouts of pain were flaring up now that I was sober. He kept saying: you didn’t cause shit, and your sobriety is a total coincidence, nothing to do with the other.

I’m not sure he’s right that the whole thing was coincidental.

My first horrific kidney stone pain was at age sixteen. Since we didn’t know what was happening, it scared my father and I very much the morning of onset (my father vomited from anxiety before he took me to the ER!). Once we figured out what it was I felt this relief I wasn’t going to die soon. I got a prescription for Vicodin, and soon after this it seemed the stone had passed. I don’t remember using the Vicodin very much and I certainly didn’t get hooked on it – like so many others I’ve now had occasion to meet. But here’s what’s odd: after a bit of trouble at age sixteen, I was mostly (not completely) asymptomatic, as far as I can tell, the exact number of years I drank.

People today ask me if I’m in pain and because I’m in chronic pain and I do not use narcotics or painkillers I can no longer answer “yes” or no because I simply do not know. I used to say “No” when I wasn’t in a lot of pain. But I am beginning to realize I am in pain if I’m awake (I hope my body finds respite while it sleeps). Sometimes it is in my conscious awareness and sometimes it is not. To be honest, I think it is almost better when I am consciously aware of my pain (that is, when it is quite severe), because that keeps me in the moment and keeps me knowing exactly what I’m supposed to do (breathe deep, pace, vomit, pray, stuff like that). The daily and by-rote experience of what I would call very low-level pain, I deal less well with. I am apt to feel discouraged that I am fatigued (hello! I am sick!), or I feel irritated I’m nauseated (hello! I am alive! Isn’t that something to be grateful for?), or succumb to anxiety and depression and start thinking What Am I Doing Wrong? (that’s just… dumb. But, I do it).

I am not thrilled I am in pain, but I am not angry about it and I don’t feel Special Snowflake about it, either. Pain is part of Life and everyone has pain. I am grateful to start being honest about my pain – that’s new for me, historically. Re-joining the human race and knowing that A. my pain is real but B. I am not Special has been very helpful and has restored a bit of humor. Sometimes when a situation hurts, I find the most help in laughing about it! It’s just my Life, no big deal. Like I like to say, in a Buddhist mantra close to my heart:

Two Tears in a Bucket /
Motherfuck it

I guess what I’m thinking is, if I don’t know my own story I shouldn’t speculate on others’. I never know why or how someone medicates and with exactly what substances or processes they are medicating with. When I see someone behaving poorly or even in a scary way I like to reflect that they are doing their best with what they have. This gives me a lot of peace and keeps me flexible and compassionate. And truth be told – excited! There is a lot I don’t know.

Did I drink to medicate chronic pain (along with whatever emotional pains I felt)? Who knows. Today I know that is a possibility, and the fact I suffered under an illness for years without properly caring for myself makes me sad. The possibility I developed another illness – alcoholism – as a result of improperly caring for myself – is a very interesting one! When I think that this is a possibility, I have a lot more compassion for the woman who went through this. She has been through a lot! She should take it easy, take a break.

I don’t know why I am alcoholic, or how I became one. I don’t know why my kidneys are busted. I’m okay not knowing, today. I am no longer as attached to my self-stories as I used to be – which ultimately means I am no longer attached to figuring out your story either –

and that maybe, just maybe, I can actually be here for you. And for me.

please leave my pasty white thighs in peace

Yesterday I listened a (sober) drunk talk about his drinking for a bit. At one point he said: “It used to be fun… then it was fun and consequences… then it was just Consequences.” I started laughing in that kind of way I do where there is nothing past the moment of my laughter, a big belly laugh really that feels good. GOOD LORD do I remember the days – brief in my drinking career, as drinking careers go – of “just Consequences”. Those consequences I can enumerate if you like but the main point is they got to a place beyond what I could endure. I am here to tell you there are people who can Endure a great deal and today I have nothing but awe for this. They’re no weaker or stronger, more or less spiritual than I – it’s just a Thing.

Anyway I’m here one hundred percent for someone who wants to get sober. They can text or call day or night and I am one hundred percent. You don’t even need to think you can do it (I sure didn’t think I could!), you just have to want it in this way that is deep in your bowels, even if only a little bit, if that wanting is a little twinge right now while you’re reading. If you’re already thinking about it why not join those of us doing it? It’s like sitting at the top of the biggest awesomest water slide that everyone tells you is SO FUN and you know they’re right but you’re messing about and thinking of just walking down the stairs with sad Charlie Brown music. No! GO for it because you’ll be tortured until you do!

So, enough of that. When I write about alcoholism and addiction it’s generally to crickets, or at least a dearth of comments (don’t think I don’t notice!). Odd since it touches so many lives – it tells me stigma is very real. I still do it though, write about it, because perhaps there are those out there reading who find any kind of strength and hope or even amusement or even, “She’s crazy, how can she stand herself?”

And oh, I was slut-shamed today. I walked into a room and a woman yelled out, “Where’s the rest of your outfit?” I was taken aback and took my seat and thought about it and quietly asked myself why I was disturbed. A crystal-clear moment came to me: there’s no way this woman would have shouted that “joke” without an audience – she never would have confronted me in any way had it been just she and I. Sad thing is she (probably both victim and perpetrator) makes it hard as a woman to love my body and just be in my body and not feel it’s on display or that people have the right to size me up and put me down; she doesn’t know how difficult it is to give myself permission to dress a way where I’m not overheated. She doesn’t know I hardly have anything in my closet and I’d actually thought my on-Sale Target short-sleeved black dress was cute until she Jezebel’d my ass. Her shouting at me is just one bit of that endemic ladyhate out there that we don’t realize we’re breathing until we choke on it. It’s boring yeah but it’s also oppressively sad. I don’t have anything I learned from that except Yes, when people try to humiliate me it can actually work sometimes.

And finally: one of our two missing kitties came home, Harris. He was oddly starved – as in he’d lost a lot of weight, but he was so grateful and tender to be home. He has been like a new cat, all friendly and sweet and not biting us with his huge shark teeth. I do not know what is up but I hope the personality stays even if his weight comes back. Hutch continues to improve, which is wonderful. Hamilton, alas, is still missing.

The kind words, texts, and emails during our recent difficulties – financial, health, and pet troubles – have been so lovely. I can tell you it is never a waste of time to reach out and give some love. That kind of kindness has no endpoint.

Thank you.

a new possibility opens and opens and opens

The longer I’m sober the more I realize I need alcohol. I don’t expect many to understand this except alcoholics in recovery, or practicing alcoholics who are particularly soulful. Both these are my kin in a way deeper, it would seem, than blood.

I need alcohol the way we consider a perfectly-cared-for infant needs mother’s milk. I need it to function and to feel okay. I need it because without it I am at a precipice and there’s nothing between me and a blank, muffled abyss. I don’t need to be drinking it right now or at any time of day or even tomorrow night, but I need to know I can have it when I need it.

Now having said this, I will also add that I never, ever, ever thought any of these statements were true about myself – not even when I had begun to realize I had a problematic relationship with alcohol, not when I admitted to another human being I was an alcoholic (and not as a joke, either), and not even for many, many months after getting sober. No, I never thought of alcohol as something I needed but rather something I had a complicated relationship with, at times unpleasant, many times quite lovely. I was at least a year sober when I heard a man talk about how he hadn’t had to have a drink for twenty-some years – and how was this possible, when he needed alcohol more than he needed oxygen? At one year sober (or so), I didn’t quite relate to what he was saying. Over a year from then I understand it at a deeper and deeper level. I look forward to an even deeper understanding as even more time passes, should I be so fortunate.

One of the things that gives me the spookys big-time is knowing that a practicing alcoholic is often quite certain they are not one. They also are often completely convinced they know how to run their life, and whatever problems they have are usually circumstantial – other people, money, their job, that sort of thing. This is true of all types of compulsion and obsession, craving and aversion – and is not limited to alcoholics. I feel helpless to help those who are in this place. And when I think about how I lived this way I feel a sort of PTSD, a thrill of terror. I had placed myself beyond human aid and today I know this. It’s why I consider my life a miracle, a miracle in the everyday sense but also a miracle in the profound: I Cannot Explain How This Could Happen. Who could save me when I’d made myself unsaveable?

There is nothing more treasured by me than my spiritual life, today. My spiritual life includes not only those beautiful moments but also the experience of Hell and the knowledge of a pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization that no one can talk me out of, add to, or detract from. I have come to treasure this experience the way one might treasure the memory of holding their child’s hand and walking in a sun-spangled surf. I can start to cry just remembering the experience, and the tears are of joy.

To be sure I have had so many beautiful things happen to me in my life, a life blossoming even today with beautiful moments and friendships. But it is the wretched and the Failure that I place in the most treasured inner places of my heart. My suffering became beautiful to me over time as it ripened, and that means that today’s fresh suffering can, too.

“May I do the honors and have a nice slice of chocolate cream pie? It’s ‘honors’ because it’s the LAST PIECE.”

"JESUS <3s YOU" Bus

I first saw the “JESUS <3s YOU" bus as I biked past the laundromat this afternoon, returning from some voluteer work. And I thought, wish I had a camera, but I didn’t, so. Later in the day the very singular vehicle was parked on a side street we drove down – and I snapped this picture. The long-haired blonde man out front playing guitar through some amplifier shouted a compliment at my dog, in the back of my mom’s truck.

Today was a good day.

Tonight I tell my son. “I apologize.” “For what?” he asks. “For not getting you ice cream today.” “That’s okay,” he says. “There’s always tomorrow. Do you like my folder?” – holding up a semi-misshapen bit of crafting paper taped up like no tomorrow.

I like his folder so much. I like how tenderheartd my children are. I like today when we got a furniture delivery how helpful and kind the children were, and how when we left to get our groceries, Nels turned to his sister and sighed, “We have a good life.”

Oh and today I heard the best meth-story today involving a nap and a sandwich, a story from a recovering addict. I won’t type it out here but if you run into me, go ahead and ask.

JCS

linkage on friday!

JCS
dance, you filthy, taut-buttock’d hippies, dance!

***

First: after some sewing-room time listening to JCS, which is kind of one of my favorite things, I went online and found the ultimate Bob Bingham thread – Bingham also known as Caiaphas, who wore a novelty calculator on his sexy bare chest and a spray-painted acorn squash on his head. ZOMG so many great memories of singing the entire rock opera word-for-word with my HS girlfriends!

Second: I need any great pictures, video snippets, or factoids re: Billy Zane. Don’t ask why. Hush, child. Just: Trust. And post anything good in the comments.

Today: attempting to catch up on my writing commitments, I wrote a piece on Underbellie. I hope it helps someone.

Finally: you have a few days left to pre-order my zine and save a little funds. I have to be honest, my zine is in desperate need of help. I make about $1 to $2 per issue, and I think last issue (in February) I had fewer than ten subscribers. You can grab archive zines gratis; please do so to consider if this is a project you’d like to support or pass on.

Additionally, in zine news: I am offering up a sponsorship program. If you’d like to know more details, email me at kelly AT hogaboom DOT org. I am aware I just told you my zine is not enjoying widespread circulation; however, I do have a business plan for increasing viewership and response. So please do contact me if you’d like to support the zine in this way.

TTFN!