I spend my evenings figuring out work around to numbers that don't pick up my weird international numbers, transferring my way through back to the nurses' station after we are disconnected for the 4th time because wifi and 3G is having another bad day in Egypt. I worry. I feel helpless. I feel far away.
My my dad is so sick with pneumonia that he can't talk. He let the infection fester for so long before going to the hospital that it caused his kidneys to fail and he is now "on" (is that the word?) dialysis. It is heart breaking. And hearing the nurses talk about health, calming describing how the COPD, the congestive heart failure and the hypertension in combination with pneumonia has led to his kidneys to fail causes such a panic, freezing pain in my chest that I almost vomit.
And then It turns to anxious energy. My way to cope with the emotions and the helplessness and the waiting is to take actions in other ways. It is a release. When I was drinking this week would have been long nights of drinking to self sooth, to embody the emotional pain-it seems to distance them zoom in in pain works to really keep for seeing it for what it really looks like.
Instead of drinking, I did some smoking, on the porch, talked to nurses, rearranged the living room and front room furniture, made jambalaya, made cards to send my dad, texted the firefighter that dad more sick than ornery. I talked with Husband about how to be a good daughter, how to love my dad in a way he can see and accept, how to honor his terms for how he wants to wrap up his life...when it comes. I feel I failed my mom as she was dying, I want to do better this time, but the rules are different.
Im almost to work, the bus blogging, the dwelling on my state will be paused. Work does draw me into the present: puts a spotlight on problems to solve, actions, movement, other's issues.
By the vague rules I set, as to not commit too much, I think I have partial success. I have smoked, repeatedly, but outside! And not-as-often-because-it-isn't-in-my-face.
But that isn't what I really want to talk about, I'm okay with my "failure". Yep, quotes around failure. I don't feel bad. It isn't like tripping up with drinking, that was a problematic state that needed a turnaround. I did that, I continue that, I'm so much better for that. This is minor, fine tuning of my wellness disguising the underlying need to improve myself, prove myself, drive myself...instead being able to love myself.
I'm currently listening to the book Present Over Perfect and relate to author Shauna Niequist's take to the root of her pushing, achieving, proving competency exhausting lifestyle: self loathing. Running from the self loathing into external affirmation or numbness. I have worked a lot to dig into myself and rut around into what is lurking there. But it is a long conversation.
I'm back to my family and how they trigger my emotions, my sadness, my failures, my resentment. I got a text from my Dad's friend, the firefighter, that my Dad called himself an ambulance and went to the emergency room. (I'm so glad I mined th firefighter's phone number from their newsletter-did I tell you that story?)
I called the hospital and talk to the ER nurses and he is just having a hard time breathing and has an elevated heart rate. I'm told that dad can't talk to me because he has on an oxygen mask. Okay, fine. I call everyday and a couple days later he is moved to a regular room. The hospital connects me to his room, no answer. His cellphone has no answer. I talk to The Firefighter and he says, "your dad is refusing to talk to us, he's being ornery." And there it is reflected back at me: my dad can't handle the love of his friends and family; the concern and attention makes him uncomfortable, he probably says it is no big deal.
When I see this in my father, it makes me sad, I want to tell him, "let people love you, we care about you. Your wellbeing is a big deal to us." Can I do this for myself? Better than him, not good enough for healthy.
On the the other side of the family, emailed to my brother to tell him that dad is in the hospital and to wish his boy a belated happy birthday. The email I got back told me his son is now 6 and not 5. No acknowledgment that our dad is in the hospital.
All good on the smoke free trail, but those sneaky thoughts are creeping in: I will just smoke outside too, and I won't want to do it all the time, I can go back to smoking a pipe without the tobacco. I am a pretty amazing problem solver against my own set limits. I need to crystallize my goal a bit more; the pro and con list can help this too.
Ultimately, I don't like the daily tobacco intake. I'm mildly bothered by my ensuing laziness from the hash, but that isn't too big of a deal: I'm pretty productive most of the time. While I could say no to the Rollie, I find it so tempting because of the same ritualistic, calming, bonding characteristics that drinking has. It's sometimes to do while sitting around and chatting about the day. If I give stop completely the smoking the Rollies do I stop the shisha too? That isn't good for me either, but It isn't a daily or even weekly problem. Do I need to be this cut and dry? Am I getting neurotic and needing something to "work on"? Am I talking myself out of this because it's the drugs talking? ...I'm laughing at myself. I wish for moderation in everything, can I have it here? I wish not to be such a square, I wish to be healthy. Unnamed reader, you too have played this game with your mind.
Things I can conclude for now:
I didn't write yesterday but I thought about it and that kept me from smoking, both at the house and a shisha (which I haven't decided if I'm cutting out, but I had a jab of a headache behind my right ear just thinking about it) Thank you potential readers, one day at a time, one problem at a time.
I have been reminded again that I can't force those near and dear to change their habits to suit my needs. Let's cut to the chase: I can't make Husband change his habits to suit my needs. I have told him how difficult it is to be tempted by his constant rolling of cigarettes and smoking them in front of me. I asked him if he could just smoke outside. H said yes, but then sometimes he forgets and then jumps up guiltily. I don't want to be in charge of his actions, I don't want to have to remind him to do something each time. Or do I out of Principle that he is smoking in the house and tempting me? This is a new bad habit that started about 8 months ago. We never smoked in the house before that in our 10 years together. Now he is, I let it happen and joined in, and now I want it to stop.
Well then. Maybe I need to Pro and Con it. Even how I frame it leads to different results:
its between the last two, is the real issue the smoking in the house or that I want to stop smoking.? Easy answer is both. I never liked smoking in the house but I get too tired / lazy to enforce the rules against the actions of Husband. I find it exhausting to be the enforcer on household matters, this is one more of them.
But, this might be a good one to enforce, even though Husband claims this is an Egypt Specific Habit. Maybe it is, he can be like that. I'm out of time for the day. Pro and Con list will be milled about and captured in writing tomorrow.
So I'm back for a bit, with a new challenge that I'm hoping blogging can hold me accountable for quitting: Smoking. Smoking has crept into my evenings and week-ends and I want to stop and find that when presented, I can't resist. I had set myself up multiple times with different rules, new start dates to quit completely have not been able to keep that promise to myself. February 1 was the last nice round number that was going to be a fresh start, but that didn't work out, obviously. I wake up with headaches and ashtray mouth and claim "enough of this stupid habit!" in the morning, and then soon as I walk in the house in the evening, I can't wait for Husband to make a rollie. Repeat!
Happily I'm on Day 2 of not smoking. I started this blog on Day 2 of not drinking over 2 years ago. I just went through a lightening quick session of thoughts saying I should reward myself for that by having a rollie, that drinking was way more detrimental to my health than a couple of cigarettes a day....no foul. But the point is that I have fallen into the habit, I don't like this reliance on it and I can't keep my promise to myself to moderate.
Back to being on Day 2. All yesterday and most of today I've been thinking about and planning on blogging and those thoughts kept me from smoking: even thinking about accountability made me accountable to myself.
Why Day B instead of Day 2? Well, because it doesn't have the same heavy weight of needing the endless counting...Day 8?? of not drinking. At least I don't think it does, so I thought going through the alphabet once to mark the days over the blog might be all I need to cut out this bad habit. A-Z and then done. As I write this, it sounds dumb.
I've reached that magically date of two years. Why is it magical? I think because Mrs. D always talked about she wished she was at two years so her drinking years would be SO far behind her.
Well, I've reached that milestone! While exciting, while I want to grab people's arms and look them in the eye and say: "Can you believe it's been two years since I've had a drink?!?! Two years!" I still think the step into month two is more momentous for me. Stepping into Month Two was a true step into the dark for me, I had never gone that long without a drink before that moment. I was fragile, shaken in my identity and on a path into the unknown.
Now I'm at two years. What does that mean? I don't know. I still have moments of loss, of feeling left out, of having amnesia of why I'm extreme in the "all or nothing" stance of drinking. But I continue to "walk through the drink" and keep deciding that its best to stay on solid ground.
Husband and I travelled for New Years with old friends and the conversation came up about my not drinking. Of course, "do you miss it?" and "that sounds nice, but I could never do it" and "is it really forever?" was a part of the conversation. I've had that before. But both friends did bring up a fear of mine when they said they were both glad they knew me when I was a drinker, because if not they would be uncomfortable/intimated by my non-drinking. That's the worst! But that's a fact. Drinkers don't like non-drinkers around potentially and silently judging them. I've been there, saying, "fuck non-drinkers!" Even at two years and at 40 years old I have to keep telling myself: their insecurity is their problem not mine. Their insecurity says more about them then it does about me. AND if they want a 'safe' spot to drink without the prying eyes of a non-drinker, go for it, because it isn't that interesting and I'm not missing anything by not being there. That place isn't special when you see it from the outside, its a big sad actually. And You are annoying after 4 drinks.
On the morning of two years I am in London at a Job Fair. Yesterday Husband and I accepted jobs in Guangzhou, China. Husband celebrated with drinks and I celebrated with a lovely elderflower, soda and cucumber drink. I celebrated this morning by keeping my promise to myself to do yoga and say hello to my sober community. I'm celebrating by being grounded in the shake up of CHINA next year, celebrating the choice of growth instead of fear. Celebrating with clear eyes and mind about who I am and what brings me meaning in my life.
Thank you to Athalia for writing a blog comment to bring me back here! I haven't written and I haven't been drinking either. Living a life of soda water, self respect, yoga, good sleep and fun with people who still drink. I couldn't ask for anything more really. I continue to be in a really good spot with myself and because of that the ups and downs that life brings me are taken in stride.
This blog is about to expire, and I can't decide if I should pay to keep it active...it is just sitting here. I don't feel the need to write because the not-drinking isn't a central concern anymore, but, but might this blog sitting here be needed for someone on a day one at any point? Can my notes of the walk into the dark of a new identity and rediscovering myself be a service to others?
I just listened to a Terry Gross interview with Sarah Hepola, the author of Blackout. Wow! Sarah was able to articulate so well her motives for drinking and really owned her behavior without the shame I carry around. I cringed at my own memories that run parallel with hers. I was also comforted by her explanation and reveal at how often she blacked out. I blacked out very often, even when I thought I hadn't drank very much, which of course is relative, right?
I haven'r read Sarah's book, but now it is out in paperback...maybe I should add it to the ever growing reading list for summer. Anyone read it?
On May 18 I will be 40. On May 16 I will have 1 year and 4 months of sobriety. Both milestones bring me joy for my accomplishments and anticipation for what's to come for the second half of my life.
At a year and 4 months I would say my identity and "transformation" to non-drinker status is a success and no longer in transition. I am here. This is me. My community has adjusted and when rounds of drinks are ordered my soda water gets thrown in the mix, no questions. I do find a bit of relief / pride that every once in a while a friend will say, "What? You don't drink? Ever? But I thought I saw you ...." This shows me my core self before and after the sobriety isn't all that different after all and people are not noticing I'm not drinking. I fit in to the fun even without a drink.
I will always have to monitor and do check ins with myself but outside of that I would say urges and dangers seem very distant and theoretical. Can I say I arrived? It feels like it, but 21 year olds feel like they have arrived at adulthood and we know that is only technically true.
Since my my last write back in Februry, my world of fun and healthy habits continues to expand. The biggest life changer is Street Dog Dolly. This little street dog took up refuge in our back yard. We started to leave out food for her, then put a blanket out there, then decided to spay her, then, then, then, the baby steps led her to fully inside. Just this week I've started taking her on morning walks with Dog Face. She is being crate training and learning the ropes of being civilized. She is adorable. A meek little cuddler that wormed her way into our pack by choosing us.
The other "about to be" change is that I want to re-learn the viola as my 40th birthday gift to myself. I stuck right now because I can't find a "C" string in Cairo thus far, only violin strings. Anyone stopping by Cairo and could bring me one? But with my 3 strings I squeaked out "Ode to Joy" by memory from when I learned it in 4th grade. I will get a string eventually, even if that means I have to wait until July when in Portland. Then, to find someone to give me lessons! I just know it will be true: when a student is ready, a teacher will appear.
I'm one string short, but I will be ready soon teacher, so make your way over this way.
I am chaperoning a trip with 22 high school students that has too much down time built in. They blast their "gangster" hip hop, loving to scream along with the profanities and the glorified life of sex, drinking and weed is core to the songs on repeat.
They are so obsessed with drinking, often asking us American adults questions to see how we will respond. Most of them are Muslim kids on this trip, which adds one more layer of sinful allure to drinking and overtly sexualized behavior. They want to mimic the life in music videos and all of the drama they see there is cool to them. They want to loose control and be lost in the moment in the ways tv is showing them. Alcohol and drugs are glamorous and essential to be cool.
It has been nice to be able to honestly say that I don't drink, but of course they probably don't believe me or think I'm other worldly in my boringness. In moments like these I am reminded how grateful I am that I have shattered that glamorous allusion of alcohol. I recognize that they are 23 years younger than me and that it took me 22 years to fully change my relationship with alcohol, ultimately severing all ties.
I feel a bit helpless against the overwhelming force of drinking within societal norms. Because I struggled to pull myself away from a life centered around alcohol, I don't know how to realistically warn kids. Alcohol is a sneaky one to pin down. I hope that the kids are faking it, they see the allusion and parroting it back and not merely setting themselves up to enter that world.