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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Drowning Revisited

Alcoholic diva Amy Winehouse sings a beautiful ballad called “Love is a Losing Game.” I adore the song but disagree with it. I don’t think love is a losing game. I know that drinking is a losing game. Combining the two is the lamest game of all.

Yet how easy it is to blend love and liquor. How romanticized and entrenched it is in our culture. For me, as for so many others, the two activities have too often become entangled–with disastrous results.

When I was drinking, I usually did it to deal with trouble in my love life or in other relationships. Alas, alcohol did nothing to solve my issues. It made them a million times worse.

Often I became inebriated when I was trying to convince myself that someone loved me who didn’t or make myself love someone for whom I had no feelings. Drinking allowed me to mute uncomfortable or intense sensations. It also, I failed to recognize, dampened the best feelings, and destroyed essential defenses and boundaries.

The result almost invariably was that I allowed myself to be abused. Forget date rape drugs. I did not need them. Half a bottle of wine would induce me to submit to things that made me shudder with self-hating shame the next day.

The saddest part is that I drank in a twisted quest for genuine affection, real connection. You have heard of the angry drunk. Well, I was the opposite: the yearning burning love sick drunk. Drinking unleashed all the repressed longing to express and receive love, physical and emotional. Moreover, I seemed invariably drawn, while drunk, to seek affection from other alcoholics: usually angry, abusive, or emotionally distant men.

These days, in my recovery, I still feel the vestigial impulse to order a festive vial of champagne or amusing new fad martini when out on a date. I try not to. One recent tumble off the wagon, which led me to the brink of a creepy, denigrating close encounter, frightened me sufficiently to discourage future lapses.

Sometimes I long for that sweetly dizzy, light and lofty, soft and fuzzy feeling that used to overtake me when sharing a bottle of wine or a shaker of cocktails with a new and promising swain. Knowing where it will lead, I try to focus on the beauty of sober intimacy.

Here’s what I keep in mind:

The most passionate, transcendent, intimacy will occur only when my reasonable defenses and boundaries are functioning, when I am fully alert and aware; when my senses, emotions and intellect are magically alive and blissfully present to the extraordinary, exquisite moment.

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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Recovery Journal

 

Green and Bright

How strange that on St. Patrick’s day the Higher Power has turned the lights way up like a barkeep at closing time. The annual inebriation celebration seems more suited to the sort of overcast day that makes a crummy dive seem cozy and a whiskey or two terminally tempting.

Today the St. Paddy’s pub crawlers will have to accessorize with green sunglasses and wide-brimmed leprechaun hats. The light at mid afternoon is as bright as a new mirror and the world a blinding mosaic of chartreuse and gold: daffodils, forsythia, tender shoots, budding vines. All of nature’s lines are sharp, as if drawn by a steady, sober hand. There is no where to hide in this radiant happy world.

I am grateful that on this first day of real spring weather I do not wish to duck out of the sun because I am feeling hungover, lonely, homely, hefty or sad. Nor am I longing to join the Celtic revelry and drink until I am too amorous, too honest, too stupid for words, too loud and off key, too crazy, and too sick for living. I am astounded by how relieved I feel to spend this holiday drowning in greenery and not tinted Guinness. For the first time in a long time I am not planning to celebrate my part-Irish heritage in a foggy funk.

Slowly, I am waking up to the fact that being sober is compatible with pretty much everything I used to associate with drinking: celebration, sadness, friendship, love, excitement, fear, despair, youth, aging–all the changing seasons of nature and the heart.

Sunlight and sobriety. Things are starting to make sense.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2011 in Recovery Journal

 

Drowning

I’ve discovered that dating is the greatest challenge to my sobriety.

It seems I have a troubling tendency to be amorous with men who don’t love or even like me–as well as guys I can’t abide. Getting drunk appears to be a way to force myself to show love to people whom I find repugnant, indifferent or even dangerous.

My sober self would never allow me to consort with the losers, addicts, misogynists, sadists, rageaholics and haters who too often hold a peculiar magnetism for me. If I want to be intimate with these louts, I have to disarm my personal security system by drinking until I don’t care what happens. Inevitably something does, and it’s usually embarrassing, revolting, depressing or worse.

Mornings after drunk dates are rough. I find myself reeling not only from the hangover but also from a seeping sense of self-loathing. Through my nauseating fog, I recognize one truth: My quest for love is blind and crippled–to say nothing of perilous– if I allow myself to drink on a date.

Sober is another story.

Sober is strong, clear, protective, beautiful.

I shine when I am sober. I don’t need a guy to tell me that I am a goddess–I know it. When I am clean I don’t care what some distracted twerp thinks of me. Instead, my alert and healthy brain inquires whether or not I dig him. I don’t want to kiss a creep and pray he will become a Prince. I want to wave goodbye–and escape. When I’m sober I examine which attractions are healthy and which are projections of childhood traumas, repetition compulsions, neuroses or low self esteem.

Without alcohol my choices become pure and transparent–like the water I am drinking instead of wine.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Recovery Journal

 

Illumination


Everywhere I see visions of life rising: Buds thrusting defiantly into the chilly air, shrubs growing greener with each day. I yearn to merge with the happily blooming world, but my faith in the possibilities of personal renewal is fragile.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about whether love and intimacy can return in the second half of life–after divorce, the emptying of the nest, the abrasion of body and spirit. I chide myself for wanting to revive these youthful joys in my sixth decade. How can I hope to experience such stirrings again? Have I not already used up all my chances to create life with another?

The longing to awaken my heart is achingly present on these March days. The light shines with illuminating clarity, unveiling the winter-shuttered rooms of my home and the fallen branches in my abandoned garden. Gently, like a lover pushing aside a lock of hair to gaze at his beloved and tell her what he sees, spring pulls back the curtain covering my winter weary soul and speaks to me.

 
 

It Must Be Him

Want to know my lamest dating strategies? I mean, just in case you’d like to try them yourself and see how truly dumb and dumberer they make you feel. This I promise: My foolproof moves will lower your self esteem faster than an asteroid makes a crater.

I will list them in the order in which I bring them into play in a typical dating situation:

1)When saying “Si” to a potential suitor, I purposely and willfully ignore all red flags, advice of friends, previous mistakes and lessons learned. If someone tries to dissuade me, I cover my ears and shout nonsense like I did as a child to annoy my siblings.

2)During the dating process, I refuse to let conventional standards for a decent man get in my way. Bring me your poor, wretched, misogynistic playuhs trollin’ for hoochie hos. I’ll date ’em, love ’em, bring ’em home to meet my peeps. Is he a liar? Womanizer? Screaming souse? He’s no match for my denial.

3)In my hot pursuit of sociopaths, weirdos, ho-mongas and creeps, I say to any and all decent men who may try to intercede: Outta My Way Mr. Boring–don’t you DARE open a door for me. You say you’re sincere? I say ZZZZZ Senor Ambien, you’re a snooze. Like cuddling? Please, gag me, already. You’re not a HOTTIE. Want one partner to love for the rest of your life? Ewwwwwww. Wimp alert. I am like incredibly OVER YOU. What a dweebster.

4)After discerning during one or two dates that my new Prince is most def a psycho, even after fleeing and shrieking in horror, I start spinning the whole thing until it smells like a corsage. For instance, I might remember his really cool collection of coasters from Oktoberfest. Or I might think about the nice way his nose looked from one angle, or the cute smile on his face when he said, “I’m gonna handcuff you to my leather lounger while I watch the game”. I might even reassure myself that when he started hollering it wasn’t anything I did but the fact that the waitress forgot to salt his fries. Her oversight was the reason he screamed, stood on the banquette and pelted me with sugar packets.

5)Finally, the ne plus ultra, my absolute guaranteed lamest move of all: The day after the heinous tryst, I wake up and immediately check my email, texts, voicemail, twitter, face book, front porch, local billboards and skywriting to see if he CONTACTED ME. Almost invariably, the answer is NO. Though I despise him, I am devastated. For hours, I wonder obsessively what he didn’t like. Finally, having listened to Vikki Carr’s grovelling lament, “It Must Be Him”, at least 100 times, I dial his number to ask him why he hasn’t called me. Of course he doesn’t pick up.

Options exhausted, I sink into the couch, sobbing, and turn on Vikki again, really really loud:

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Essays, Oops I Dated Again

 

Evensong

It is six pm on March 1. Evening has fallen at a perfect moment. Nature’s light is dimming and indoor lamps glowing in time for homecoming, for supper.

In the pale sky overhead, silver airplanes trace their remarkable geometry as they descend: an equilateral triangle, a perfect X. Below, where I walk, I see green lines of daffodils, small squares of bright grass, spherical buds emerging bravely into a cold dry world.

Some people say the daffodil is the flower of hope because it is the first one to bloom in the spring.

Between man’s aerial artwork and nature’s botanical display, the birds swoop and dive, their high sweet voices strong and excited. Evensong bells peal their faith in Lent, in Easter, in suffering and rebirth.