january 10, 2020—down but not out

Day 10 AF/AF reflections…after a gung-ho, fiery start to this experiment, the flames have fizzled momentarily, dimmed but not out…kinda quiet over here the past few days, still checking in, watching the vids, reading a lot of your posts, marveling at the lovely side-by-side Day 1/Day 10 pics being shared (oh, the sparks back in your eyes! and softness of the mouths! Your day 10 faces so reveal the weight of this secret easing up, finally giving you respite and hope—I love them all! Please, keep sharing!). Even in this quiet phase, I draw strength and energy from all your stories, no matter where you are on this path. Thank you all for sharing your hearts, baring your souls, for being brave and vulnerable, angry and grace-filled, funny and heartbreaking, wise and thoughtful, tentative and questioning, and most of all, being on this journey with me.

I’ve been 30 days AF before (Whole 30 a few times, the non-live TAE last fall); but this time feels different, a strange shift seems to be happening and I don’t quite know what to make of it…I’m just letting it settle in my cells, see what curiosities bubble up; in the past, it was like, “whew (wipes the brow)! Alright! I made it through *that*—see! I’m NOT an alcoholic! Let’s pick up where we left off!” which, in time, meant back to old ways.

I’m 100% certain doing the work that accompanies this experiment—watching the videos, engaging in this group, reflecting, observing, digging in deep, feeling all the feels and writing it all down—has made the world of difference. Trouble is, when you dig down deep, you usually unearth a lot of stuff that alcohol so adeptly kept hidden, and it’s suddenly, crystal clear, why alcohol has been in the picture for so long. This shit is ugly and is the reason I can’t even attempt to post a side-by-side Day 1/Day 10, because all I’ve been doing is crying—my swollen, puffy eyes and blotchy skin and snotty nose would be an out-right deterrent to the program!

Tonight, my heart is heavy, for so many reasons. For coming to the realization that, other than a handful of 30 day AF challenges in the past few years, I’ve never been without alcohol longer than that, not since before I started drinking in earnest, back in the 80s, in college. An even heavier weight is added, when I think about how my drinking escalated when my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and I became full-time caregiver for my 40-year-old best friend, who went from being the healthiest person I ever knew to the sickest person I will likely ever know. How ill-prepared I was for what it truly meant when we signed on the “fight cancer” dotted line; how the drinking slipped into secrecy after he died two years later. I recall talking to another widow who had also lost her husband to cancer, who asked me, “How much Ambien does it take for you to fall asleep?” I looked at her, shocked; I took great pride in the “fact” that I never resorted to prescription drugs to “get through” that ordeal; just don’t look in my extra-large recycling bin…

I marvel that I’ve been able to do anything at all in the wake of that loss; when Bob was sick, I began a blog as a means to keep our friends and family informed about what was going on with his health because he became so critically ill so quickly and remained so for the duration of his ordeal; I didn’t anticipate the blog to be anything more than that, but when he died, I was encouraged to keep writing, so in a cloud of grief (you do some pretty bizarre things in that cloud—the motorcycle license probably wasn’t the best idea, in hindsight, but sometimes it’s not always for the worse), I gathered about 30 pages of loosely edited material from my blog, submitted to a graduate writing program and was accepted. I completed my MFA in 2018 (I took the long, wandering scenic path through the program, which is another way of saying, i questioned myself every step of the way, calling myself a fraud, feeling so out of my league—I’m not a writer, everyone else here knows what the hell they’re doing, all I have is this stupid blog about some guy who went and DIED on me, the fucker…kidding…we have the best relationship now—I can yell at Bob for ruining my life and leaving me with a big ol’ mess to clean up, and he just smiles at me in that heavenly way and lets me rant away. It’s pretty amazing, really, though I wouldn’t recommend it, if you do’t have to do it this way…)

I’ve been given a large grant to help turn my writing into a memoir; I’ve recently been selected as part of a prestigious writing fellowship in the Twin Cities to continue to develop my project with a team of established authors, some local, some coming in from around the country to work with us. Problem is, I’ve been stuck for the past few years with my story; I keep saying there’s a big piece missing and I don’t know what it is, and I need more time to figure it out. It’s funny, not funny, how I’ve not been able to see what’s keeping me back, what’s made me feel like a fraud, until these past 10 days parked their fat ass smack dab in front of me, arms folded across their chest, forcing me to take al long, hard look. See, for eight years, I’ve been telling all these lovely, heartbreaking stories about what I watched my husband go through, but all the while, I keep avoiding the main thread of my story: what *I* went through along side him. And how alcohol played a huge role in my story, and that my story would not be true if I left this huge truth out of it. And this is how cognitive dissonance finally came to a head in my life. but now, I don’t know how to write about all that, or if I can even do it…The end (for tonight…). xo

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