Tag Archives: Love

Sobriety Collective Article

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  First of a Two-Part Series

I was not an alcoholic, nor an addict, nor a substance abuser. I was not even a “problem” drinker. After all, I was a college graduate, had stable employment, lived in a decent home, had a husband and two kids, and I was a Jew. Everyone knew that alcoholics lived under bridges or in shelters. Addicts stole and were incarcerated in the finest penal institutions. And, of course, both varieties came from dysfunctional families. Well, okay, my family was pretty dysfunctional.

Not only wasn’t I an alkie or a druggie, but also, in my career as a probation officer, I supervised them. They were on the other side of the desk. They were my caseload, and I was paid to “fix” them or to lock them up. I didn’t get arrested when I drove drunk because I had a badge.

Alcohol and drugs were my solution, not my problem. I used them to “take the edge off,” to cope with stress and unhappiness. I used them to help me feel at ease in uncomfortable settings—and anywhere was an uncomfortable setting. Mostly, I used them to feel attractive to the opposite sex.

Getting drunk and using drugs was cool—for a very, very long time. Most people would never have guessed I had a problem. I kept that secret behind closed doors. To the outside world, I was the life of the party:  I was funny and entertaining when I was loaded. My hijinks were the stuff of water cooler jokes at the office on Monday morning. My “outsides” looked just fine.

Towards the end, drugs and alcohol turned on me. My life got very dark. I drank daily and had blackouts in which I couldn’t recall what I’d done or with whom I’d done it.  I lived a double life: during the day, I was a professional in a job with incredible authority, but at night, I drank in the scummiest of dive bars with “lower companions.” From the time I got home from work and popped that first beer until the time I crashed at night with a wine glass by my bedside, I drank. After all, I had a stressful job and a difficult home life. I deserved to drink and to smoke pot!

I got sober on January 4, 1988. It was, and still is, a journey.

I’ve had a chance to take a good, hard look at my life as an alcoholic and addict in a memoir I recently had published:  Starting at Goodbye. I worked on it, off and on, for over ten years. In the first of this two part series, I will refer to a few excerpts to illustrate what my life looked like drunk and sober. The book is also an outrageous love story and testament to my late husband, Wayne. We shared thirty years of our lives together until his death from cancer. I picked up a hunky cowboy in a country western bar and took him home that night. Wayne was supposed to have been my last one night stand.

One of the main reasons I drank was to help me feel better about myself when it came to men. I had a horrible self-image based on my looks. I’d had horrible cystic acne as an adolescent. I was ridiculed by boys in both junior and senior high school because of my skin. I just wanted to be invisible if it meant they’d leave me alone.

When I drank, I felt pretty. I believed that if I went home with the cutest guy in the bar, I wasn’t so bad looking after all.

Here’s an excerpt from the book set early in my relationship with Wayne:

He flashed me his adorable smile and sexy wink, and I was toast. My anger melted like snow on a sunny day. I knew he was attracted to me for the security I offered, not to mention my cabinet filled with booze and a steady supply of pot. He needed my strength and stability. I needed him needing me. No matter what I did or said, he wouldn’t leave me. My weakness filled me with disgust, but I couldn’t really understand why I stayed. What was missing in me? Where was that empty space he filled? Why didn’t I believe I deserved someone who was my equal educationally, socially, and financially?

 We shared a desire to avoid reality. Although I managed to go into work most days, I found myself calling in sick more often after suffering worse and worse hangovers. With Wayne, I was drinking more than ever, matching him shot for shot. On weekends especially, we’d spend hours sitting around the dinner table sharing intimate feelings while candles flickered.

 “No one asked me to the prom,” I said. Tears plopped down my cheeks as I sipped sloppily on a glass of Gallo.

 “I’da asked ya if I’d known ya then.” Wayne leaned over and patted me on the hand.

 “No one wanted me. I was so ugly with my pock-marked skin. And all the boys in high school were so damn short. Some of the meaner ones teased me in front of everyone, called me a giraffe. I sucked it up and cried later, all alone, in my bed.” I took another sip, knocking over the glass accidentally.

 “Ahh, baby. I think you’re beautiful.” He jumped up to get a sponge to wipe up the mess and got out the crystal decanter to pour me some more wine.

 On nights like these, after I poured out my sob stories, we’d stagger upstairs and pass out on the bed. Often, with the room spinning, I’d puke my guts out first….

 I hated feeling so desperate. I questioned my attractiveness. What’s wrong with me? Wasn’t I pretty enough? Passionate enough? Feminine enough?

 The answers lay in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Once I was drunk enough, I could push down the pain, postpone the issues, and ignore what was happening in my life. 

Because I was a functional drunk and Wayne wasn’t, it was easier to focus on him as the alcoholic. His father suggested that I attend Alanon with him.

Here is an excerpt of my first Alanon meeting:

At 6:30 on the dot, Nathan arrived to drive me to the community center in Costa Mesa. A sign posted on a door declared “Alanon meeting here.” We entered a brightly lit large room with dozens of metal folding chairs arranged in straight lines. Slogans with trite sayings like “Let go and let God” had been posted on the walls. A woman dressed in a conservative, navy suit stood at a podium on stage. I surveyed the audience, composed mostly of middle-aged women in dowdy lounge wear with worn, beaten looks on their faces. This is going to be a laugh a minute.

 The leader read aloud some material from Alanon literature, which was followed by enthusiastic clapping. A parade of others stepped up to the podium, announcing their names, which were echoed by the audience—“Hi Loser!” Each told a tale of woe about husbands, boyfriends, or adult children who were out of control from alcohol. There was continuous mention of “the alcoholic,” as if he or she was an inanimate object.

 They had no sense of humor regarding “the alcoholic,” that’s for sure. I had to stifle a desire to laugh out loud on occasion hearing them describe some pretty riotous drunken antics. If they could’ve read my mind, they’d have booted me out of the joint. I didn’t want to humiliate Nathan, so I kept my feelings to myself.

 They ended the meeting by joining hands and reciting some stupid prayer with which I was unfamiliar. I think they said it was the Lord’s Prayer, which lent the whole shenanigans a clearly Christian slant, adding more icing to this unappetizing cake. I’ll give them a piece of my mind if they try to convert me, Nathan be damned.

 After the meeting, we were steered to a table which held Styrofoam cups, a big coffee urn, hot water and tea bags, and an assortment of pastries and cookies. Nathan nudged me in the direction of a group of women who had congregated in the area, and he suggested I talk to them about Wayne. One woman who appeared to be the head sob sister was surrounded by a group of fawning women. I approached the bunch timidly as they formed a spontaneous opening to allow me into the circle. I found myself tattling on Wayne, focusing on his sporadic work history, and recounting tales of outrageous bourbon-related incidents. The head sob sister swept me into her arms and hugged me tightly. Her cohorts made sympathetic tsk-tsk sounds while patting me on the back and muttering jargon.

 A tear slipped down my cheek as I grew more comfortable with this new role of victim. I began to embellish the stories, culminating with a synopsis of the SWAT blow-out.

 “How awful, you poor thing,” one grey-haired matron said, locking eyes with me. “Keep coming back!”

 I was beginning to relish being the center of attention. Hey, this isn’t so bad!…

Is this what the future holds in store for me? Sitting around with a bunch of pathetic losers talking about “the alcoholic”? Might as well shoot myself now and get it over with. Is being with Wayne worth it? I need a stiff drink. 

 

The second part of this two-part series deals with my realization that I too might have a substance abuse problem.

 

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My book is published

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It took me more than ten years, but I finally finished my book “Starting at Goodbye.” I think I hesitated and dragged it on for so long because I was terrified about dealing with publishing.

In the many critique groups in which I participated, I asked those who’d finally completed their books how they had gone about the publishing process. One woman said she actually got an agent who was interested in shopping her book around to different companies. She waited months and months and, finally, the agent told her no one was interested. In the end, she published it herself.

Wanting to spare myself a similar frustrating experience, I decided to skip the whole agent and famous publishing house deal by self-publishing. In this day and age, it seems like the easiest and best prospect for those of us who aren’t BIG named authors.

I found a guy on facebook in a writers forum who said he had just started his own publishing company. For $1000.00, he’d edit it, format it, design the cover, and then send it to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. It sounded good to me, so I corresponded with him for several weeks. Allegedly, he had a partner who was the talented artist and who would design my cover.

The longer we were in contact, the more suspicious I grew. He was just too lackadaisical about the money thing (“You can pay me on a payment plan whenever you want”) and so on. He said he was based in California, where I live, but he wouldn’t divulge the exact location.

We spoke on the phone a couple times, and he sounded more nervous about it than I did. In essence, he wasn’t very professional, and I began to smell a rat!

After working on my book for so long, I was not about to deal with an unscrupulous publishing business.  My gut was screaming “run for your life!”

When he suddenly picked up and moved out of state with his “partner,” I was about done. Then the partner started pressuring me for money so they could pay their rent. Really?!!!

I decided to quit while I was ahead. I wanted no nasty repercussions, so I simply told him I planned to go with another option. He didn’t argue and just begged me not to share my experience of him and his business online.

I looked into other options and queried other writers who’d been through self publishing. None was willing to give me a solid recommendation.

While I’d been writing the book, I kept emails from different sources that offered publishing options. Most seemed to come from Book Baby. I held my breath, did some mild meditation, and decided to contact someone from BookBaby. The whole deal sounded so professional and straightforward, especially after my previous experience.

So I did it! I went with BookBaby. The whole thing, including 25 hard copies of my book, cost over two grand. Now that I’ve gotten those books in my grubby little hands, I feel like the whole thing was worth it. The books are beautiful! The cover, which I helped by suggesting themes and by sending three photos taken in a cheapy fair photo booth, looks wonderful.

I have already sold out those first 25 copies, giving a few copies to family members for free and saving three for myself. On November 26th, the books go on sale on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Nook, and some online companies I’ve never heard of.

You can buy an ebook for $4.99 and a paperback for $16.99. Of that amount, I’ll probably receive about $1.50 for each paperback book sold.

I didn’t write the book to make money and to be famous. I wrote it to share my life and my experiences with others. So far, my friends have told me they “love it.” Several read it almost non-stop, saying they couldn’t put it down. I may decide to market it, after all.

In my next post, I’ll share the first three chapters here. If you are interested, you can buy the book afterwards.

I’m ecstatic! I finished a major item on my “bucket list.” I hope others here will enjoy the journey.

Diary of a Divorce–Nov 10th

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I SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOU (sung in the voice of Alannis Morrisette!)

       The more I thought today about that date with “Cowboy,” the angrier I got. Did he plan to pull a “fast one” on me? Was he trying to get “lucky” that night and then decided to drop me because he hadn’t? Had he realized I was a smart cookie who wouldn’t fall for his many scripted charms?  Or worst of all, was he a flat out sociopath?

       I’d seen those shows on 20/20 or Dateline. You know the ones where lonely women fall for allegedly “great” guys who then take horrible advantage of them, using excuses to “borrow” money, etc. Some of these “great” guys also marry dozens of women, none of whom know about the others. No, this guy wasn’t about marrying me, but I’m not sure about the money angle. I still key into that one remark he made during dinner where he assumed I had the same concern as he did about women pursuing him for his money. “You should relate,” he said. “Don’t you worry about guys coming after you because you’re rich?”

        At that, I’d just laughed. “Rich?” I said. “Are you serious? I’m FAR from rich!”

       His response was simultaneously shock and then denial. “It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care about money.”

       When someone is a horse thief, all they see around them are other horse thieves. If someone is consumed with money, all they see around them are others similarly consumed. Was he after me because he figured I was rich? Good joke!

       And what did it mean that he’d paid our dinner bill with cash? It was an expensive restaurant, and most people use credit cards to pay such high amounts. Was it to keep his wife from seeing and wondering about the receipt on his credit card statement?

        I stewed about the way all of it went down last night. I stewed more when I thought of myself as a “victim.” I’m nobody’s victim.

        I decided I’d call and confront him right then and there. I used my landline, a number he didn’t have and which wouldn’t identify me. He answered after a little “happy trails to you” cowboy ditty played first. I identified myself to him and enjoyed his surprise. There was no warmth upon learning it was I who was calling him–quite a different attitude from the one he’d had BEFORE we’d met. I got right into it and asked him about all the women on fb. I could tell he’d had no time to rehearse or prepare a response. “It was all just fun. You know, they were looking for fun. It meant nothing to me. I haven’t really even looked on that fb site in awhile.”

         Oh yeah, that’s right. It was all about the WOMEN having fun. He was simply accomodating them by flirting with them on his fb site. What a guy!

         I asked him why he’d misrepresented himself as such a “romantic” and “sensitive” guy when he was clearly anything but.    He had no answers. He did say, however, that he’d been disappointed we hadn’t been able to sit down and speak together “personally.” Huh? We’d spoken together for about FOUR hours! ” No”, he said, “I meant alone, just the two of us.”

         Then I said, “Oh yeah? Where? A motel room?” Of course, he quickly denied he’d meant that.

          In short, I was stunned at his inability to offer me any explanation about the women. I probably would’ve given him the benefit of the doubt if he’d claimed these were women who’d been soliciting him for sexual services through the personals website. OTOH, if you are solicited on fb, you have the right to refuse “requests” from potential friends or other contacts. Why hadn’t he done that if he’d been honest with me about how he wanted to quit the personals site because he was tired of the numerous solicitations? The guy was clearly a liar and a first class manipulator. Basically, I’d literally caught him with his pants down. He admitted he was on the toilet when I’d called!

          I was pretty cold on the phone but I wished him all the best anyway and hung up.

          Another lesson learned–and quickly this time. I could’ve been hurt both emotionally and potentially financially. I’ve heard of too many scams perpetuated on lonely women. Luckily, I’d kept my wits about me. Luckily, I’d been sober or I might’ve invited him back to my home that night and lived to regret it.

          I accept full responsibility for loving the constant compliments, the attention, the promise of infatuation that he’d offered me in daily texts. I loved feeling beautiful when he told me I was, and I loved believing I was special to this one guy who thought the world of me. The problem is that it was all illusion, fairy tales, and romance novels (which I don’t even read!) I’ve missed feeling loved and cherished. I’ve missed feeling adored. I’m vulnerable.

           I said a silent thank you to the women on those TV shows that had risked shame and ridicule by admitting they’d been scammed by men who’d earned their trust, only to shatter it later…and many thousands of dollars later.  This guy was slick.  He knew all about us women–what we want to hear and what we want to believe.  His entire persona was designed to “groom” me, much like a child predator grooms his victims. He had me going, and I’m not usually gullible–except in matters of the heart. We women want so much to believe in knights in shining armor,  heroes on horseback, and princes that kiss us and turn us from frogs into lovely ladies in love. And that’s what’s so sad about all this: it’s because we all want so much to be loved.

          I hope my story serves as a cautionary tale to other women who want so much to be loved that they are blinded by the truth of what they know in their guts but refuse to acknowledge, those red flags flashing “warning” signs in our faces which we choose to overlook. Be careful, ladies and even you gents. It’s dangerous out there.

Diary of a Divorce–October 24th

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LOVE MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND–OR IS THAT MY HEAD SPINNING?

     I’ve been reading some blogs lately from people whom I follow. They are writing about love, and, perhaps, they are missing having love in their lives.

     I’ve known love–REAL love–and I’ve learned it’s not a feeling. It’s an action.  Let me explain.

     We all love how we FEEL when we’re first meet someone new and become infatuated with them. They tell us what we want to hear about ourselves–how lovely we look, how they can’t wait to see us again, to touch us again, to hear our voices again. We are walking on clouds, in a delirium of fantasy and excitement. God, I love that part of “love.”  The word “love” usually is uttered when one person in the couple announces at a romantic moment or right after sex that he or she is “falling” in love. It’s no accident that we feel we are “falling.”  We are in a trance, our cheeks flushed, the happiness radiating from every pore. We have fallen…Into a form of insanity!

      The truth is that what I’m loving is how HE makes me feel about MYSELF.  I feel beautiful. I feel treasured. I feel valued and lovable. It’s not really about him or about loving him. I love how he makes me feel about myself. I’m saying this twice so that I can hear it myself.

       The husband I’m now divorcing said he couldn’t help “falling in love” with me. Then he said the magical words: “I love you.”

        I wasn’t sure if I truly loved him, but what could I say?  “Oh, how nice! How flattering! Thank you so much”?

        No, I went against my gut and told him I loved him too. We had been together less than a month.

        I knew deep in my heart what true love was. I learned it when my previous husband (#2 & #3) got ill with brain cancer. I watched this once beautiful, sexy, strong man be replaced by a brain-damaged, dependent child who could no longer walk. His  thoughts revolved around food and sleep, the most elemental of primal needs, and it was my job to take care of all his needs. I sat for hours in wooden chairs in emergency rooms and hospitals, even after having major back surgery. I drove him to treatments, to chemo and radiation, while he argued with me like an obstinate 6 yr old–and while I worked full-time. I had no thought of myself or how I was “feeling.” I was a human savior, and it was my duty to keep him from dying. I cleaned up after him when he couldn’t make it to the toilet, I lifted his 250 lb body off the floor when he fell.

         No, I was no martyr. I cried and railed against the unfairness. I complained bitterly about what had become of my life, the darkness in which I lived, the fact that I had no time left for my own needs. When I didn’t think I could do it for one more minute, I did it for many more hours, months, and then years.

         During those days, weeks, months and years, I learned what love looked like. And I learned it had nothing to do with how he made me feel about myself. Love was truly about giving to HIM, about caring more about someone else than I did about myself, even when he wouldn’t and couldn’t reciprocate. I got no appreciation or words of love from him during the almost four years I took care of this man with whom I’d shared almost 30 yrs of my life. Before he’d gotten sick, he’d been there for me. He’d been my protector and had loved me unconditionally. He would ultimately follow me to the ends of the earth, at my whim.

       He had been the wind beneath my wings.

       At the ending stages of his life, I realized just how much I loved him. Not the fantasy of him, not the storybook version of the prince with the ruby slipper–but a real and very vulnerable man who’d stuck with me through thick and thin.

          He taught me the meaning of love. And then he died…

         I don’t know if I’ll ever know love like that again. But I do know that I’ll never again say it to keep from hurting someone’s feelings.  When my soon-to-be-ex told me he loved me, I should’ve said “Thank you for saying that,” or even “Thank you for enjoying how I make you feel about yourself” But love? No, I don’t think I ever really loved him. Now, I even wonder if I ever liked him.

          I already knew what real love was and is:  an action.   I still miss and ache for the one true love of my life. Even though at the very end of his life I made lots of mistakes, mistakes I’ll regret forever, I know I acted always out of love.

         As John Lennon said: “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

          After we’re gone, the love we give is what we leave behind. In the words of another song, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” 

          Today, show somebody you love them.