Monthly Archives: April 2015

1 out of 37…..Part 2

1 out of 37…..Part 2

I had an uncle who was rich by our limited standards and he had an impressive bar in his basement. I decided that I would steal booze from his bar and drink it with some friends. I stole a bottle of Jack Daniels and the friends brought some beer into the mix. It was the August that I turned 14 and I was very thin, under 100 pounds.  I rode my bike to my friends house and the three of us proceeded to get drunk, insanely nearly deadly drunk. We counted 21 shots, that’s what I drank by myself plus whatever beer I got down. There was a lot of vomiting that day which likely saved my life. I don’t remember much from that day, I woke up in a hospital. A sweet nurse commented that she liked my nail polish as I lay there covered in vomit with no memory of how I arrived.

At some point my friends left me in an apartment complex laundry room. Someone called an ambulance (thank you responsible citizen) and I was found vomiting and passed out. Truly lucky to be alive. When I arrived at the hospital I was covered in vomit and my bra was undone and my pants were unzipped. I had no recollection of what happened so I had to see a gynecologist to determine if my hymen was intact. It was thankfully, but no memory of several hours that day an absolute black out.

This would have been a great time to reflect on what happened and decide a different course and I did.  I never drank Jack Daniels after that day. That clearly was something I could not handle. I stayed away from beer for awhile maybe a few weeks but mostly I gained momentum on a course for self destruction. It’s been so long I don’t remember the specifics of what I consumed but I do know that I put myself in harm’s way for the chance to drink or get high and that is all I wanted to do. I stole, lied, cheated and even hitch hiked for the chance to get high or drunk. I think back on it now and again, I am amazed that I didn’t get raped, beaten or killed. I did have some tense moments hitch hiking but I was able to talk my way out or crawl out a back window.

I mostly drank beer and smoked pot but I was a garbage head and would do whatever mind altering chemicals were available. I was fortunate that some harsher chemicals were not at my disposal. If heroin was as prevalent as it is today I have no doubt that I would have used it. I was fearless in my quest to destroy myself. I do recall having a hard time looking at myself in the mirror. I had moments of remorse and disgust with the girl looking back at me. Part of me wanted to get my act together and the other part just wanted to party all the time. I drank to escape and when the escape starts to be worse than reality….well what is the point then….it just turns into a dark, fast, downward spiral.

I breezed into the adolescent rehab with an I’m-gonna-write-a-book-about-this-someday attitude. Grandiose, probably. I really thought that I could just charm these people for 28 days and bonus when I got out I would have some street creed. I thought I was a bit of a bad ass. I had absolutely no intention of getting sober – none, zero, null, the empty set wasn’t.gonna.happen.

This particular institution relied heavily on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12 steps of recovery approach to sobriety. Here it is in a nutshell – admit you have a problem, believe in something bigger than you (God, group, whatever), take a moral inventory and discuss it with someone you trust, continue to evaluate yourself, make amends (past and present) and help others. That is the basic gist of it. I remember reading the 12 steps on a giant poster and considering each one as if just reading them would count as some kind of a checked off task, so naive.

AA has some well known sayings – “One Day at a Time”, “This Too Shall Pass”, “But for the Grace of God….” these slogans and common experiences are discussed often in meetings. Many people talk about a “spiritual awakening” which can happen in recovery. I would think that was total bullshit if I didn’t experience it myself. I was about three days into my rehab stay when my “spiritual awakening” occurred.

I know what your thinking “spiritual awakening” has this woman traded in her booze for weed or some other mind altering chemical, no I have not. For me my “awakening” was a moment of clarity. I can still visualize it some 30 plus years later. I was sitting in my room which was huge, it served as some sort of drama room in another life because there was an elevated platform where the two beds were, like a stage. I was sitting on the steps to this area and I was wearing white jeans with a dark top and a scarf and so help me there was a beam of light coming in through the window nearest my bed. In that moment a calm washed over me and I was able to see how messed up I was at that time. I realized that I was in a rehab and that I was indeed an alcoholic and that I needed to be there and I vowed to get sober right then and there. I remember thinking I am going to stay sober no matter what…….and a lot of no matter what happened especially that first year.

To be continued……


1 out of 37…….Part 1

1 out of 37…….Part 1

1 out of 37 will make it. That was the sobering statistic heaped on me when I found myself in rehab in 1983. I was 15 years old. There were about 20 people in the room so either someone was going to get incredibly lucky or we were all doomed, math doesn’t lie. Which one would draw the lucky straw? Loser, burnout, whore you don’t have a shot kid. Give up, accept defeat……or maybe not.

It was lovingly suggested that I go to rehab…..that’s a joke. I was told that if I didn’t go to rehab I would be taken to court, ruled incorrigible and sent to a less desirable location. I took the bait, part of me must have been ready. My mother was newly sober having about six months dry. She thought the world was riddled with alkies and that her daughter had succumbed to the disease. I wasn’t convinced at this point but I thought it was better to go willingly than be dragged somewhere worse. But wait….how did I get to the point where rehab was even in the family vernacular?

I come from a long line of drunks. My gene pool is polluted, very polluted. Both parents, at least two grandparents and other assorted relatives on both sides share a a common thread, alcoholism. My parents divorced when my brother and I were toddlers. My mother drank in excess from my earliest memory. My father was simply not around but I have heard from numerous reliable sources that he is quite the drinker. As an adult I have witnessed that for myself.

Alcoholism is classified as a disease and the “ism” refers to the precursors of alcoholic drinking. These are the behaviors and attitudes that can start before alcohol is consumed. The “isms’ for me started at a young age. I was a bright child who had a good grasp on our dire financial situation. I have been told that I stole money from family friends and gave it to my mother. I don’t remember that. I do recall sneaky devious behavior from early on when I would hide candy and go to extremes to consume sugar. Lying was second nature to me and so was people pleasing and enabling.

As a kid I cleaned up after my mother. I would hang up the corded beeping phone wrapped around my mother on the many times she passed out during late night drunken phone calls. I would nudge her body from the bathroom floor and coax her into bed. I memorized my way home from outings as it was not uncommon for our mother to drive drunk and forget the way home. I also routinely searched our apartment when I got home from school. I didn’t connect the dots on this behavior until I was an adult. My mother spoke of suicide so often that I subconsciously looked for a body every day when I got home from school.

From age 8 until about 28 my father was pretty absent from my life. There was a custody case which he lost when we were 8 years old and shortly after my mother, brother and I moved to Florida with our mother’s boyfriend. We only lasted there a year but when we returned my father pretty much shut me (and my twin brother) out of his life. He was remarried with the first of what would be five children with his second wife. So add absent daddy syndrome to the alcoholic mother and my own personality deficiencies and I was a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t remember my first drink….I was probably under the age of five and I am sure the adults thought it was cute. Managed to steal a few sips from left over cans and bottles from 12 on but the real fun started at 14.

To be continued……………….

Nurturing through hospice

Nurturing through hospice

It’s the #1000Speak topic of nurturing. Well I am a bit of a paranoid nerd so let me make sure I understand the definition first. So I did what any red blooded human would do and googled nurture and this is what came up –

verb: nurture; 3rd person present: nurtures; past tense: nurtured; past participle: nurtured; gerund or present participle: nurturing
  1. 1.
    care for and encourage the growth or development of.

Well I was prepared for the care portion of the definition but encourage the growth or development of was more of a stumbling point for me. I know how to care for myself and others but encouraging growth or development takes it to a whole other level and frankly it is not something I learned in my family of origin. Growing up we were always in survival mode….just getting by to pay the rent and have the necessities there was not a lot of emphasis on personal growth. This is something I had to discover outside of my first little tribe.

What is interesting to me is that the actions required to nurture a person are so individual. For instance, my son can be nurtured with a gigantic bowl of pasta while my daughter will prefer an in depth conversation regarding recess who played 4-square, who didn’t, why they didn’t, do they like me…..and round and round we go. My husband, my children, my mother, my brother, my friends we all have different needs so the manner in which I nurture them varies by person and circumstance.

One thing that has been tricky about motherhood is finding ways to nurture myself. The obvious ones – eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, take time for yourself, shower regularly…..seem like monumental tasks when you are raising tiny humans. The early years are rough and that time just gets stretched more with each additional child. I made it through babyhood, preschool and the early elementary years and most nights if I can’t sleep it’s due to my own diabolical hormones and not night terrors. So my self nurturing takes me to the gym, out to lunch and helping others.

Yes for me nurturing others (outside the family) also nurtures my soul. It is natural to care for close family and friends but stepping outside that circle is also rewarding. For the past 8 years I have been a hospice volunteer. When I tell people that they either cringe or smile, few people are lukewarm about hospice. The ones that cringe tend to have a fear of death for themselves or someone close to them. The people that smile have usually been an eyewitness to hospice work, it is beautiful.

For those that aren’t familiar hospice is an approach to terminal care. It is the point where the patient decides that they want a different course of treatment. Instead of curative care they seek more palliative care basically comfort measures. My role in this varies by situation. I volunteer to provide respite for the caregiver. I stay with the dying person so their primary caregiver can take a few hours to do whatever they need to do. I’ve had dozens of patients in the past 8 years and while they share some similarities each one of them needed to be cared for in a unique manner. Sometimes I will read to the patient other times we will discuss current events or swap travel stories. Sometimes I make meals or tidy up the house it really depends on what is needed.

It’s an odd niche to get into and people always ask “why”? Of course I had personal introduction….I don’t think many people read a textbook and think….hmmm….I want to give that hospice thing a whirl. No most people that work or volunteer for hospice have a personal story. For me it was my aunt who was a chaplain and died from metastatic breast cancer at the age of 59. Her faith and ability to face death with a practical and loving heart gave me my first adult glimpse at the dying process. I was 29 when she died and was on the corporate fast track. It took another 10 years and many major life events to get me on the path to being a hospice volunteer. The seed was planted though and I am fortunate that I have been able to devote some time to something so important.

So what is the allure of hospice? To me I find it similar to when a new baby comes home. There is usually a lot of activity and well meaning visits, some family tension but mostly people tend to get their priorities in order. Suddenly the size of Kim Kardashian’s back side becomes unimportant and people can focus on what really matters in life – love, kindness, forgiveness, letting go, faith and hope. Now this isn’t a universal process but the end result is pretty consistent.

Perhaps that is another pull toward hospice. Maybe I just want to learn more about this universal truth that we all must face one day regardless of race, religion or whatever color socks you happen to be wearing…..we are all going to die. I find it interesting that while this is something we all know on an intellectual basis not many are willing to look it squarely in the eye. My hospice work is my way to acknowledge death and perhaps make some friends that can guide me when I get to the other side. And the stories……the stories they tell me are great and I am privileged to listen to them.

Sippin’ the Kool-Aid

Sippin’ the Kool-Aid

So many things about today’s society or at least the world I live in has me feeling like we are standing around a universal trough and it’s filled with Kool-Aid. We keep getting fed the same news stories, hear the same chatter and get outraged at the same things. People seem mad as hell over things that really have little or no impact on their personal lives. Sure sometimes it’s warranted….justifiable anger, a lot of things wrong in the world. The actions, misdeeds and hurtful outcomes seem to be creating a globe with twitching masses of rage and hate.

I was clicking through my Facebook Newsfeed the other night and the big story was about “Free Range Parenting”. It featuried a family that allows their 10 year old and 6 year old to walk a mile to a park.  They have been turned into Child Protective Services (CPS) several times for their parenting style. At this point I am not aware of any harm this has actually caused their children other than the fact they were held by the police for several hours because someone thought something “might” happen. So by calling the cops and CPS they pretty much guaranteed that something awful would happen and it did. The cops held the kids for several hours until late in the night without meals or the ability to see their parents…..I’m sure that will leave a mark.

Honestly I don’t have enough information about this family or their situation to form a well rounded opinion about the safety of their parenting style. I’m going to guess that most people don’t unless they are personally familiar with the family and the geographic area. That doesn’t stop the haters and the proclaimers from posting about it.  I too got swept up in the emotion of it.  A lot of posters commented that they were more afraid of CPS then the “free range” issue. One poster took a harsh tone with that attitude and suggested that parents get off their ass and play with their own kids. I puffed up my chest and replied with a comment that said “judge much” as I went on to judge her comment publicly. It is so easy to get sucked into this vacuum of negativity. I’m not proud, just human.

My other Kool-Aid moment this week happened yesterday. I came in after dropping my daughter off at early morning band practice. As I entered the kitchen I saw it like a beacon, the yellow canister of gum…..oh sh*t. Let me tell you about the gum folks…….this week is testing at the kids school. Perhaps you have heard some ruckus about standardized testing and the wake of destruction it leaves in it’s path….OK that may be a tad dramatic or not. For those that don’t know standardized tests have been taking over our public school systems, true story. Ask a teacher they will have very strong opinions about it and tell you how f-ed up it is in the most diplomatic way possible. Countless hours are spent teaching to the test so that schools get high scores and thus improve their districts ranking or at least slow the slide downward.

OK silly woman but what does a yellow canister of gum have to do with this testing issue? Glad you asked. Some brilliant academic determined that chewing gum during a test promotes better concentration for test takers. So now the kids in my school district all obsess about gum during the test weeks. For those that can’t chew gum due to dental work or religious reasons (that’s a joke, don’t over think it) mints are allowed. Oh yes and make sure little Johnny has a great breakfast (think cruise ship style midnight buffet) before test day, every day for 10 days (guess he can eat garbage for breakfast on the remaining school days). So when my precious child left his gum behind on day one of testing I knew I had to deliver it to the school pronto. And that my friends is sipping the Kool-Aid and it leaves a nasty aftertaste.