the bright spot of our lives

The atmosphere at the club is chaotic; there’s a Halloween potluck and dance assembling. Friends flit in and out and talk, smoking or vaping outside and loudly laughing; the energy is high. Flirtations – eyes casting about at one another. Parcels of hot food unwrapped and placed on the tables. It’s cold and crisp outside and warm and convivial indoors. I love seeing people in costume – some of them rag-tag or incomprehensible, others quite developed. You discover a little more about your friends when you see them in their glad rags.

soak up like a sponge about to be wrung out again

The weather may be dipping into fall but it’s still plenty warm out, the sun is still hot on my skin and the heat catches and holds in my pigtails as my sponsor and I step out of the grocery store – carrying small packets from the deli and in my case, a quaint salad roll of basil, avocado, and cucumber – and travel to her car. She’s a far-parker, like my late father. It feels delicious outside.

May 27, 2018 cd cover

“and death shall have no dominion”

I type this from on my couch, in a quiet home as dusk falls on a beautiful warm spring evening. My feet are up and my fourteen year old son’s head rests in my lap as he sleeps.

Today I celebrate seven years’ sobriety. I woke up to texts from friends, and an invitation (or rather a prompting), to attend a meeting. Of course I would go. I go to meetings several times a week and I can’t think of missing one on my birthday like that. On my kitchen counter rests two vases of lovely flowers; one from my husband, one from a friend. In my pocket a well-worn coin passed on to me by friends: VII.

Tonight my friend G. looked right at me and congratulated me on my sobriety and thanked me for my help in keeping his. I am not an inarticulate person but I find it impossible to communicate the depth of feeling I have for my brothers and sisters in recovery. They are the strongest people in my life, and the most unfailing.

Here’s the playlist from this last year. Enjoy.

[ spotify playlist ] [ zip file for CD & case ]

May 27, 2018 cd cover

 

overwork / natural high

Every day after coffee with my husband, I take a shower, tie my hair up and put on my little zip-up hoodie and get to work. I would work all day if I didn’t have other responsibilities; children, mostly, and volunteer work. And feeding myself so I don’t collapse. Lately I’ve been out of balance: too much work, too much time on other people. I need more rest; I want to take more care of my home. I scooted past a young man today at a recovery meeting, a young man with a broken face who had just a couple days clean. Mistaking my passing for affection, he gave me this little sideways hug. My heart breaks in these little ways when these moments happen; there is no point trying to express what I’m feeling so I don’t try. But I look at him and ask if he’s staying for the meeting, and I remember his name and I know it means something to me.

Back home and my children come by and pull me in for a hug (if I’m standing); they prostrate themselves across my body (if I’m laying down). The college quarter is over and my oldest child has, as a birthday present, a new computer. Both kids shout and laugh from their little basement gaming room; supremely happy. They need this time, and time with friends and food and sleep and affection and those are most of their needs. The house is only tidied when I can yell at the kids to do some work, and when my husband puts his incredibly efficient housework into effect. His body is strong and so is his mind and both rarely slip.

I am sewing on a buttery-soft jersey ITY; I am hanging up dresses on the dress form. I am hemming a little black dress and shortening sexy spaghetti straps. I am work, work, working to keep food in the refrigerator and try to stay on top of these bills. I am busy with the seam ripper with a little heater at my feet and the sunshine of Martina Topely Bird falling on my ears. And I suddenly realize in all our time together, Ralph never put his job before the family. He did his job but he stood his ground. And I think to myself what that shows our children about their value. I see so many straight couples where mother works her ass off and father has (or thinks he has) the big important job and is away from home or too tired when he gets home because he has Bills to Pay and I think it’s so often unfair, so often shit.

I stand up; stretch. My daily yoga practice is sluggish because I am tired in some way that defies explanation; still, my efforts keep those little kinks out of my neck, my shoulders, my hips. But yes I am exhausted, beyond tired. I have a call into a physician because I can tell something is wrong. Some nights by the time I’m in bed, I’m in a fog. I came out about this fatigue recently and as expected people shout explanations, solutions at me. These things can take time. I only hope I have the persistence to see it through, and that I am assisted by a pair of skilled hands and a good mind.

the warmth of the sun in my hair

For St. Patrick’s Day I spent two days in preparation: a soda bread with caraway seed, corned beef, roasted cabbage and butter carrots – all vegan. I have a very pragmatic attitude toward cooking: I do my best, but I also know it doesn’t always work out. In this case, my efforts paid off. It’s funny I make traditional Irish fare as I don’t even care for it. I guess I love these small rituals, these observances. I also enjoy cooking – now that I don’t have to do it every day, three times a day.

I drive the two boys to the pizza parlour and hand my son my debit card. Despite the fact my children are old enough to walk here and there I have a fear of them being struck by a car – either while they are in a car themselves, or while they are walking. I tell them, “be careful”, and maybe I shouldn’t but I can’t help myself. When they were very small, I worried about drowning. I’d walk over a bridge carrying one baby and holding the hand of the older and I’d have horrible visions.

My son and his best friend are so happy together. They spend about twenty hours immersed in their own word – mostly gaming and eating and laughing – before the lad’s mother texts and asks us to send him home. My son comes and finds me shortly after and wants solace. He is a young man now but he still seeks me out. Both children do so I am surprised to think, perhaps it will always be like this.

Both Ralph and I have a weekend full of volunteer work: cooking for others and hosting events, answering phone calls and texts and email: he as an eSports advisor, me in the Recovery community. I am vaguely sensing I need some down time, a break; I am also uncertain when I will take one. I love my work (paid and volunteer) so much that in the morning I almost spring awake – but I also know I am out of balance, overworked, stretched thin.

On that account my child has finished their last paper of their community college career; they study for two more finals and are finished in a couple days. The entire family is getting used to the idea of them being finished; I know that we will then be onto driving school, and trying to fund a car, and trying to set up a (quasi-)business for this child.

Years ago when I got sober people in Recovery used to tell me about a life “beyond one’s wildest dreams”. I am experiencing that now and it is very funny. It seems to take as much focus and mindfulness as anything else, and it seems to be entirely out of my control. I do pray daily and lately I have felt so much gratitude for our health and safety. These things will be threatened in time, but every day we have them is very precious indeed.

i believe that fate has brought us here / and we should be together

I’ve been to thousands of recovery meetings by now, which means I’ve listened to tens of thousands of testimonies: the lives of addicts. Our experiences, our struggles. One to two times a week I chair a meeting – a small bit of service, easy enough to do even if you may be prone to a case of the nerves during public speaking.

This bit of work is a wonderful opportunity to put aside my own little plans and schemes; a few moments to ground myself, breathe, and properly orient my mind to being helpful. Being helpful is a great ambition of mine. And a great joy, I may add.

So anyway, all people are equal in these rooms of recovery. People new to these meetings don’t believe this is the case because how could it be – it isn’t anywhere else! But if they stick around they will discover this tenet is astonishingly observed. No one will be denied their turn to speak; and no one can reasonably expect to dominate the group, either. I have never been part of a more profoundly egalitarian fellowship in my life.

In that spirit I pass out readings ensconced in tattered plastic coversheets. The group is often mostly men and today is no exception. I hand one of these readings to a very large man in the back; he tries to shake me off. “Thank you!” I tell him, as I press the sheet into his hands and head into the kitchenette to check on the coffee. I figure he’s another one of those reluctant fellows. Either shy (in which case a gentle nudge may help him) or stubborn (in which case, get over yourself a little!). I also know that when someone really doesn’t want to read, they can pass the sheet to someone else without incident.

After coffee is settled I commence our business and our recitations. I discover this young man was not stubborn; he has a low degree of literacy. As it turns out I’d handed him the longest reading, and he forges through. Everyone listens, quietly. We’ve heard these words thousands of times, and we wait. The sunlight spills in through the window and the room settles to comfortable observance; we listen to our recitation. We listen to our brother.

The fellow reads the whole thing; it’s an effort. He chucks the handout on the table at the end; I can’t tell if he’s disgusted with the affair or not. I look at him across the room and say, “Thank you.” He has beautiful blue eyes and as so often happens I see one of these intimidating men as a young child, and think about a mother who loves him and who treasured him above all things. In that moment we are two human beings in the room, utterly unknown to one another but entirely familiar, too.

Sometimes I look around these busted-ass chairs at the lot of us who live this sober life. So many of us are Garbage People; we come from places that society considers disgusting. No one escapes life unscathed but there is something different about this group. We no longer pretend these ugly things didn’t happen; we are busted up a bit like the lumpy cushions of a favorite chair. Not so pretty, maybe. Something happened where I got broken up inside and reassembled and everything’s a bit crooked but all the more beautiful for it.

I tell the guys since next week is a special day for me, I’ll bake them some fresh bread and bring it to share. Life’s easy like that, these days.

the clack of keys on a table

I’m holding a little tin chip in my hand. “6 months”. A little green coin, a trinket. I have it sequestered for a new friend, who’s asked I sponsor her in her sobriety. When the time comes for announcements in the group I introduce myself, say her name, stand up to bestow this little chip on her. Her face pulls down and she is crying, gratitude. We meet halfway and I hold her close and give her a hug because she is precious. I am honored she shares with me. I am delighted to see her.

Somehow this love was installed in my body and it flows without end every single day. My heart lights up when I see people. I am less angry. I find myself searching the hardened faces at the grocery store. I find my heart cracked into a million little fragments, and light flows through.

Yet there have always been impediments to the experience of love and lately those seem to be financial. My dog is ill and needs a $950 operation. My own medical bills have piled up with, what looks like some degree of mishandling from my urologist. Our home needs some proactive work (re-sealing the deck, repainting, and moss cleanup on the roof), and I’d hoped to fix an attic space into a livable one to better outfit my daughter with a study space for her colelge year. In trying to work a bit more, I’ve had the work of teaching the children how to run the household. Despite their willingness and general competence, this is taking a little time. I’ve had an influx of jobs lately, and I’m behind. I’m not angry about this, just surprised how much I’m struggling with the changes.

And when I set those worries aside I can take a few steps and enjoy the goodness I have. I can hold my daughter’s hand in mine. I can laugh at the kitty clawing at my window screen and gently remove her, instead of feeling angry. I can move on from conversations full of hate and misunderstanding. I am starting to speak up a little more. A little more directness.

Tonight my friend, my “6 months” friend, is in my heart. She has shown more vulnerability and sweetness – and smarts – than so many I’ve et. And I’m thinking of how the world is full of scorn and derision for those addicted. But those who are addicted have a bravery that few people can grasp.

something other than fear

Tonight a young man tried to crash our gathering, for alcoholics, our women’s meeting. He asked me if he could attend; he said he’d be “nice” (meaning well-behaved, I suppose – not prone to interruptions).

Truthfully, he is not ready nor able to stop drinking, but he has few places to go. He is homeless (again), and maintenance-drinking so as to not suffer delirium tremens, a severe affliction that I knew nothing about only a few short years ago. Tonight he is suffering a mouth injury that is getting infected; a very ugly wound indeed. In the moments before the meeting I ask him how he sustained such a painful abrasion; he says, “Someone hit me.” I tell him he needs antibiotics. The injury looks very painful, and not at all healthy.

What he really needs is a little kindness, and a little more time to live. Such individuals can get sober, I’ve seen it happen.

In the next hour – well, for the most part the young man behaves himself. Halfway through our gathering however, an authority strides in, interrupting the proceedings, and speaks very sternly. He tells the young man he’s banned from the location. I know this building and know it takes a little bit of bad behavior to get 86’d. The same authority later takes me aside and, his chin shaking, tells me the young man has busted up a few walls, and followed a few women around, and is no longer welcome on the premises.

drinking every drop

Five years ago today I got sober. It wasn’t quite like that, of course. I’ve written about it here, more than once. One of the biggest days in my life. The very biggest, so far? I don’t know.

It is quite something to sit today in a meeting. And to have a guy, I remember him from when I first got sober. He had two years on me and at the time that seemed immense. He’s shy as hell and always has been but he looks right at me and says to me across the room, “I’m proud of you, girl.” There are like three men ever who get to call me “girl” but he has earned it. I thank him and look at my hands because I don’t want to cry because I think I might lose it big time.

And then my friend M. She gives me a card. We talk a bit. When I get home, I sit down. The card reads inside: “After all we’ve been through together I believe I can call you my sister.” No one’s ever adopted me as a sister before. I am deeply moved. She calls me later in the evening. We both laugh about how we basically had to bolt so we wouldn’t cry today. We couldn’t hug, not then anyway. We hug all the time, usually. Not today. It would have been too much.

And my sponsor. She texts me. She, too, has given me a card. I open it and find a memento from her five years.

We’ve walked through the flames of hell together.

Survivors.

May 27th, 2016

saints need sinners

Today’s a really special day for me. And as is my custom, I made y’all a little mixtape.

Click on the image to get m3u download and CD cover, zipped:

May 27th, 2016

Streaming: [ gmusic link ]

playlist:

1. Shadows Of The Night / Pat Benatar
2. Shadow People / Dr. Dog
3. Guitar Town / Steve Earle
4. Going To California / Led Zeppelin
5. Operate / Peaches
6. The Passenger / Iggy Pop
7. Missionary Man / Eurythmics
8. Airbag / Radiohead
9. Disparate Youth / Santigold
10. Turn to Stone / Electric Light Orchestra
11. The Only Living Boy in New York / Simon & Garfunkel
12. Hopeless Wanderer / Mumford & Sons
13. Electric Love / BØRNS
14. My Shit’s Fucked Up / Warren Zevon
15. Moonage Daydream / David Bowie