Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay...(Ecclesiastes 5.5)


This used to be my playground,

This used to be my childhood dream,

This used to be the place I ran to,

Whenever I was in need...

("This Used To Be My Playground", Madonna)


And so it came to pass that it was time to go down to Texas for my sister's wedding weekend in Dallas.

But I went down to Texas early, before Blaine, because I wanted to spend a couple weeks with my mother before the wedding weekend in Dallas--- especially since my mother had chosen not to attend the wedding (long story.... let's not go there.....)

So it was back onto the Amtrak train for me. The picture below is the leg of the trip Amtrak calls "The Missouri River Runner" which, true to its name, runs by the Missouri River for almost the whole length of the trip. I love it how the landscape changes as the train leaves Kansas and heads down to the south.

But I am going to tell you a secret... which is that for the entire train trip I was wringing my hands, worried and full of angst. If truth be told, I did not want to go on this trip. And not because of my usual phobia of not wanting to leave my home...

No, there was another reason......

It had to do with my wretched alcoholism...

(There's not a whole lot of civilization between Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri. The below is a charming country bridge I love to photograph.)

Anyway, no-- I didn't want to go on the trip because I knew I would be around a lot of alcohol. Weddings and wedding parties are the mother lode of alcohol. And, as most of you know, I am a recovering alcoholic. However, my recovery is still very fragile. I have not yet reached that point where seeing and being in close proximity to alcohol does not trigger a desire to drink.

Seeing people drinking and making merry causes a battle in my heart that makes resisting the temptation and urge to drink a complete contest of wills in my deepest soul---which causes me much anxiety and desperation. It is why I don't like restaurants, vacations, or celebrations of any kind---because many of those activities carry a heavy alcohol supply with them. And I knew that my sister's wedding weekend at the hotel would be full of events where everybody would be drinking.

And I wasn't entirely sure that I could handle it----and I also wasn't sure of how in the world I would be able to devise ways to avoid being smack dab in the middle of it all.

Anyway, I got down to Texas and spent a couple of weeks with Mumsy. We had much fun in her studios, trying out different techniques of making jewelry with clay. (My favorite little piece is the angel with gold wings at the top of this post. I'm trying to figure out how to make it into a necklace.) Anyway, my mother is in the habit of leisurely drinking a whiskey or two in the evenings but this does not bother me at all.

And then Blaine arrived...

Believe it or not, I had asked my mother ahead of time to refrain from offering Blaine mixed drinks---and to just let him continue in his usual habit of having just a beer or two, which would not bother me----but she completely ignored that request and had the blender out and churning tequila and triple sec-filled Margueritas as he was pulling into the driveway.

The next three days were hell for me. She and Blaine started their drinking about 3pm in the afternoon and continued till bedtime. When I finally got up the nerve to mention to my mother that watching people drink and have fun creates a powerful craving in me for alcohol, she snapped back: "Oh take your meds! I thought you said that your meds helped you not drink."

This is only partially true. My meds have relieved me of the constant anxiety I experienced internally for my entire life--- a hopeless mishmash of fears which caused me to run to an alcoholic refuge in order to quell them. But when one of my current psychiatrists began aggressively medicating me for my mental disorders, much of that anxiety was dulled and brought under control---which helped me calm down and stop drinking altogether.

But, as the days wore on of watching my mother and Blaine happily drink their Margueritas, the desire for booze began to rear its ugly head. It was as if somebody had breathed upon some dying coals, causing them to flare back up into an earnest fire. Watching my mother and Blaine drink to drunkenness while laughing at their secret jokes caused my buried, dreaded alcohol cravings to flame up into a fiery desire so strong that alcohol was all I could think about.

I began to sneak a few drinks here and there....

And then it was time for me and Blaine to drive to Dallas for the wedding weekend.

I was aggravated to see that he was again using the GPS doo-hicky. I absolutely HATE that stupid thing telling us what to do! It acts like HAL in "2001 Space Odyssey". If you so much as get off the road to get a Dr. Pepper at a gas station it starts nagging:

GPS: "Recalculating......Please turn your vehicle back around and turn right on the highway to resume course..."

Me: "We know we're not on the highway, dimwit. But I want to get a Dr. Pepper!"

GPS: "I can't let you do that, Bo...."

Finally we got to Dallas and found the Marriot Hotel at "The Shops at Legacy". My sister and her man met us in the lobby to give us our room keys---they had already performed the check-in procedure for the entire wedding party.

It was a huge hotel, very luxurious. Our room was delightfully comfortable.

And I hadn't been in there for 10 minutes before I was thumbing through the room service menu, searching for the alcohol selections....

A little background on my sister's new husband: He is a self-made millionaire. He treats my sister very well so I approve of their relationship whole heartedly. He owns a huge company in Dallas and works 7 days a week. In fact, he worked right up until the wedding.

The below is the view from our room's window.

The first night was the Family Dinner, held in the banquet room of a nearby restaurant. It was a wonderful, sumptuous meal. My favorite appetizers were the pumpkin ravioli with nougat sauce. I've never had anything like it and it was delicious.

And, as I had predicted from the beginning, the amount of drinking there was amazing. Literally everybody was drinking---and if they weren't drinking they were talking about drinking. I was aghast when the wedding planner (who for some reason had been invited to the Family Dinner) ordered a large bottle of wine just for herself.....TWICE! Yes, she actually drank two bottles of wine---plus glassfuls of the other wine the waiters kept on pouring! Even I, in my worst drinking years, had never done anything so blatant as that.

That night, when Blaine and I returned to the hotel, I ordered a small bottle of wine to be delivered from room service for myself. Blaine was not happy but he refrained from saying things which he knew would cause a big fight.

Previous to the weekend, I had texted my sister and asked her to not encourage Blaine to do a lot of drinking and she gave a noncommital answer. But then, on Saturday afternoon, the day after the Family Dinner, Blaine went downstairs to go outside for a cigarette. And he didn't come back for a long time.

I called my sister to see what was going on and she said she'd sent Blaine to the sports bar with the other men in order to watch a football game.....and drink.

When I admonished her about that, she took up for Blaine---and acted as if I wanted to take away all Blaine's fun....

But what about my feelings I wondered?....

And then, finally, after the wedding, there was the formal reception in the ballroom of the hotel. And, of course, there was tons of drinking going on there--- even more than usual because the bar was free. All alcoholic drinks for the night were absolutely free for the taking. Needless to say, there was a line at the bar for the entire reception.

Earlier in the day I had complained about all the drinking to my sister and she had snapped: "Well just order 'virgin' everything!"

But that wasn't my point. I didn't care what people thought I was drinking---and so I don't know why she even said that. But it was clear that neither she nor anybody else knew or cared how much I was suffering. It was then that I began to truly understand that I really shouldn't have ever said anything to anybody in my family about my problem because they don't give a shit....and why should they?

Because the truth of the matter is that just because I have had to stop drinking doesn't mean they or the rest of the world has to....

So, during the reception, I got up to go to the bar and said to Blaine: "I'm going to get a virgin screwdriver...."

And he replied sarcastically: "Why don't you get a real one?"

And I replied, in all seriousness, "You know what? I think I will."

And I did. I drank three "real" screwdrivers within about 45 minutes. My niece, who was sitting next to me, asked: "What is that you're drinking?"

Me: "Orange juice...."

Her: "Is there alcohol in there?"

Me: "A little bit.....and please, I'm begging you....don't tell my sister? And don't worry--I won't do like Sandra Bullock did at her sister's wedding in the movie '28 Days', okay?"

Her: "Okay."

But I knew she'd tell my sister the first opportunity she got. But by then I didn't care a fig. I mean, I really didn't give a rat's ass at that point. I was so very tired of resisting the forbidden fruit....

Anyway, as I quietly sipped my drinks, the reception went on. Neither Blaine nor I dance so we just sat in our seats at the Family Table and watched the festivities. I snapped the below pic of my beautiful sister's and her new husband's first dance together. (Sniff....sniff...)

There was, of course, a professional photographer taking pictures, but nobody will get any of those for several weeks. But this snapshot of the happy couple was beautiful, I thought.

My sister is extremelly beautiful, successful, charming--- and she lights up any room she enters.....

And all during that first dance I watched wistfully, tears rolling down my face, wishing hopelessly that I could have turned out like her instead of the fucking mess that I am.....

....but that was not to be....

My adult life has consisted of 22 long, hard years of slogging through pools of blood, pus, pee, shit, and vomit as an ER or ICU nurse.

And now that I'm not working, I am simply a nothing. Although I have an ungodly high IQ, it is for naught as I am an overly dramatic straight shooter who has always had mental problems combined with hardcore alcoholism---and I have never had one ounce of my sister's charm or glamour.

(Yes, again I am feeling sorry for myself. Such an unattractive emotion, isn't it?)

Meanwhile, during the entire reception, Blaine kept bitching about how I had instructed him to dress for the semi-formal evening. He griped: "I thought you told me I had to wear a dress shirt with sleeves to this event? And a tie! So how come your sister's husband gets to wear short sleeves with no tie at his wedding reception?"

Well, I really didn't know the answer to that question so I just shrugged. I do know my sister's husband has frequently said he's always hot---so maybe that was the reason. And he is a rather rough character. So I simply told Blaine that it wasn't going to kill him to wear a dress shirt for once in his life.

One interesting thing about the wedding was that my sister's boss and his boss, the third wealthiest man in Texas, gave the toasts for the new couple. (And they were wearing dress shirts with ties, heh.)

That night I secretly ordered another bottle of wine from room service. Both times I ordered the bottles of wine I asked the front desk to allow me to pay cash for the orders because I didn't want them to appear on the room's bill which my sister and her husband would see---even though I knew they would probably know by then that I had drank alcohol at the reception.

Alcoholics always fool themselves into thinking they can keep their drinking a secret....

While Blaine and I were driving back to Kansas, I felt a mixture of anger, sadness, and frustration. I knew there was no way I could have avoided going to the event. And I felt a nagging worry for the future...
How am I going to handle it the next time I am with my family and they are all drinking like fish?

But when I saw the first sweeping plains and the cornfields of Kansas, with its billowing fluffy clouds above, I knew I would be alright. I was almost home....

It was only a matter of days before I began seeing all my therapists again....and could once again take refuge in the safety and sanctuary of their constant supervision....


Saying life's begun to cheat you,
Friends are out to beat you,
Grab on to what you can scramble for...
("Hide In Your Shell, Supertramp)




Sue said...

Aw sweetie - they are tough demons aren't they? Take care of yourself, you are worth it.

Bo... said...

Thank you, Sue. Truly, thank you very much.

Charlotte said...

I'm sorry your family isn't more supportive. I don't drink because I don't like the smell let alone the taste. I've had several uncles who committed suicide while drunk and one who seriously compromised his health because of his drinking. So I find it hard to be in situations where there's a lot of drinking. I usually get a soft drink and nurse it along if I have to go to some place like that. Ginger ale with a twist of lime is a good choice.

Anonymous said...

While I think your family and husband should be slapped stupid for the way they allegedly treated you, your sobriety is your responsibility. And as such it is ultimately your responsibility to not drink and not put yourself in situations where that may be impossible.

Bo... said...

You're right, Anonymous. I don't deny that. It's what AA taught me.

(Hi Charlotte!)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that the trip you were so looking forward to didn't live up to your expectations. It's hard to stay sober when you're in that kind of situation, and you're right that it's wrong to expect everyone to keep from their normal behavior because it might tempt you.

But good luck with your renewed sobriety.

Bo... said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. This is the most real post I think you have ever written.

Well done.

Maggie said...

I am glad you did have some quality time while in TX and do know you have fought a hard battle with the alcholism. It's not an easy one for any one, you have come a long way, you will continue to gain ground on that battle, loosing a small skermish is NOT loosing the war, it's a part of being a human, and for the most part, a normal human.
And I am glad to hear that coming home to Kansas had that 'coming home' feel.
The photos were nice, am glad you posted them.

Bo... said...

Thank you, Maggie!!

Anonymous said...

If I ever get married again, I will NOT have an open bar. I'll serve wine with dinner and toasts but if people really want to drink they'll have to pay for it themselves! Nothing makes people act more stupidly than the words "open bar"... except perhaps the words "all you can eat"

Some people might think it's tacky and cheap to refuse an open bar, but people drinking to excess makes me extremely anxious. I was married to an abusive drunk for 8 years... eight years of wondering when that mood would shift from euphoria to rage. I refuse to be uncomfortable and anxious at my own wedding and those people who won't understand that don't matter.

I'm sorry to hear that your family (specifically your Mom and Blaine) weren't more supportive. Try not to beat yourself up too much. A bad day doesn't have to mean a bad week/month/year, and a slip like that doesn't negate all the hard work you've put in so far. Recover is a process... and not a short one.


Bo... said...

Thank you, Lora.

jane said...

Please don't think you are a nobody. You are a very talented and sensitive person. I enjoy your work. Keep on - the others have their demons too.

Bo... said...

Thank you, Jane.

Anonymous said...

You wear your alchoholism like a badge of honour. Being a drunk doesn't make you special or interesting. You're just exactly like thousands and thousands of people who blame others for their escaping into a bottle instead of facing life.
You were sober when you chose to get drunk. Your mother didn't make you do it.

Bo... said...

To the above Anonymous: If you think I wear my alcoholism "like a badge of honor" then you're just as crazy as I am. What upset me was that my mother wouldn't help me out in a difficult situation. I never said it was her fault I drank. Go back and read it again till you understand.

aj said...

Oh, Bo,
It's not the end of the world. It's just yet another start. Please have the guts to dig in and start counting the days of your sobriety again. Your relatives did not make it easier, but I'd bet they really were not trying to make it harder. Have you ever considered that your mother may have a drinking problem also? Better controlled for now, but . . .? Hugs, and have a nice cuppa hot tea.

Anonymous said...

When we are letting go of an addiction, those in our life who are still addicted but cannot see that they are addicted do not understand. It would mean examining their life and seeing that there is something very wrong with them. When I started the process of giving up drugs and alcohol some of my party friends just didn't get it. They ridiculed me or thought I was "a goody two shoes". Some did see the fact that I needed to weed out those things that were harming me. They were supportive and treated me no differently because of my sobriety. Those who didn't understand are still allowing drugs and/or alcohol to rule their lives.

You can only do so much and must choose what is best for you. Don't waste your energy fighting where it will do no good. And do not waste energy beating yourself up for slipping. Get back on track and move on from here.

Bo... said...

Thank you, aj and Anonymous. In looking back on it, I have to admit that my family has always made alcohol a big factor in everything. I think perhaps you're right--- that they do have some substance abuse issues.

Katherine said...

Such a hard battle you are dealing with!! I've watched my son fight the alcohol demons for many years and was pleasantly surprised when our granddaughter chose not to have alcohol at her recent wedding. Bless her heart--she knew it would be difficult for her uncle. I wish your family had been as loving and sensitive to your feelings!

You are the best Bo and deserve all good things. I'm praying you will achieve a lasting sobriety in the future and life will be all that you deserve.

Bo... said...

Thank you so much, Katherine!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes mothers make mistakes. The issue of alcoholism brings out the worst in families. Your mother is a talented artist and loves you. I hope you can take care of yourself and rest a lot. Healing takes time, but the love between you and your mom is forever.

Bo... said...

Thank you, Anonymous.