Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Compassion Without Internalization: Hamas' Consequences

New Year resolutions are easily broken; much like people.  We feel too much.  We think too much.  We hurt too much.  A very good friend of mine is making an interesting New Year’s resolution...


“We should live in the NOW and let everything else go.”   


It sounds so easy to do.  It sounds like the perfect solution to all of our heartbreaks and disappointments in life.  Is it easier said than done?  Maybe.  What if we put all of our effort into it?  Are we trying too hard then?   Sometimes when we try too hard to forget about something, all we’re really doing is focusing on it. 


It’s difficult to focus on the positive side of things when our economy is literally sinking, people are being killed senselessly in wars and our world as we know it seems to be shaken up by the devastations that people have turned it into.   I’ve been noticing that a lot of people have been internalizing all these negative things happening in our world into their own griefs - even if they have nothing to do with it.  They absorb more than others. They feel more than others; yet we all feel the effects of the world’s anguish to some degree.  Just because war isn’t happening on our own soil doesn’t mean we can’t still feel the effects.  No, it’s not the same as “being there”, because that’s absolutely traumatizing to the entirety, but as compassionate human beings, even thinking about the thought of other innocent people being killed and slaughtered over mere land is dumbfounding. 


I really didn’t want to make this a political post, however when thinking about all that has happened between Israel and Hamas, I was just saddened by the bloodshed itself.  In the same regard, with the constant terrorist attacks by Hamas into Israel, doesn’t Israel have the right to defend itself?   Don’t they have the moral responsibility to end terrorism on their land once and for all?  How much longer can they take another hit from Hamas?  Their actions come with consequences.  Israel must protect itself and their people.  


"...In Iran on Wednesday, fundamentalist students asked their government to authorize volunteer suicide bombers to attack Israel.”   read more...


Truth: terrorists don’t fight a fair war.  What are the people of Israel to do? Just put up with it and let them bomb Israel again and again, killing more people?  How many more crude homemade rockets does Hamas have to fly over and kill people with in order for Israel to have a backbone? 


Those of you who sympathize with Hamas, I understand that innocent civilians are being killed and injured, but innocent civilians in Israel have been getting killed and injured due to Hamas' actions.  Now, with more accurate weapons that have more range, they can do a lot more damage to Israel.  It’ll only get worse before it gets better. 


And yet, we still keep internalizing it all.   


My New Year’s resolution: compassion without internalization.  


With all that's going on, I wish you peace, health, love and happiness for this coming New Year!  

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bad Endings

Sometimes there are things that just cannot be put into words. The struggles that we all deal with, whether little or big are all valid and important to us. Some people would brush it off as “not significant”, while others would make a huge fuss over whatever. What seems so small and petty can be the most important thing to someone else. Most times, people don’t even mention their “small and petty” needs because they think that it will be considered as silly or something that should be forgotten about. But who’s to say what’s important to each individual person?

What bothers me may not be so significant to another person. I sometimes don’t say anything that’s bugging me because I feel like I’m bothering someone. Why bog them down with my little dramas? Why even let the story be told if it’s going to just float in one ear and out the other? Do people really listen? Do they really want to know your problems? Some do. But for the majority, I wonder. Then you have people who feel that every single detail of their life should be broadcasted to the world, because of course, it’s so damn important. To them, it is... Again, who’s to say?

This is where the process of keeping it all bottled up comes into play. This is a scary thing because there are so many turnouts with this scenario; almost like a movie with numerous endings and you’re the one that gets to pick out which way it’ll conclude. Some folks will let things fester up so much that it ends up hurting them health-wise. Then you have those people who store it up until the cork can no longer hold it. That also relates to my post about pent up anger. It’s a very scary thing. To even fathom what can happen due to someone going insane because of anger is beyond belief sometimes. Others will simply bounce the hardcore stress of life’s happenings and dwell on self-deprecation with means of hurting themselves or worse off, committing suicide due to the lack of knowledge of handling certain situations. Studies found that the last thoughts of people who had failed attempts of suicide were: “I don’t want to die.”

It’s not worth it.

I’ve been seeing so many tragedies on television and reading articles like the one I wrote about regarding the man who killed his ex-wife’s family at the Christmas Eve party, then killing himself, that you really have to wonder what will it take to finally bring it over the edge? I don’t know the full story or circumstances of that guy’s divorce, but think about it: did she have anything to do with his rage? Did she torment him or do anything to push it over the edge? As a compassionate human being, you never want to point the blame at an “innocent” woman who was just enjoying a Christmas Eve with her family, but if you emotionally torture a person, 9 out of 10 times you will see their rage one way or the other, and sadly, in the worst ways imaginable.

Why tempt a detrimental fate? If you already know that human nature has its limits, then why go through the traumatic ordeal of emotionally torturing a person because you didn’t get what you want? I personally don’t understand people who can’t let go and just forgive and forget. I don’t understand people who have hidden resentments that they can’t let go of. If the window of opportunity to make amends or seek a peaceful closure with someone they’re at odds with---do it; even if that means never talking to them again. When you play games with someone’s heart, the worst can be seen in the best of people. I realize that there are unique circumstances in each relationship, argument and situation, but if the best results can manifest from it, hopefully things can wash ashore and either be saved or forgotten about...not left to drown in a torturous death.

Again, sometimes there are things that just cannot be put into words.


EDIT: Please visit The Walking Man and read his post, "Graveyard of the Living II".  Although it has a second sequence on it---the story is told where you can grasp everything.   

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Which Restaurant? (iMovie Testing)

Madelene and I go through this every time we have to come to a decision of where and what we're going to have for dinner. It's been an ongoing thing for 14 years now. So last night, I decided to put the cam on so I can play with the effects on iMovie, and it didn't come out too bad, but again, it's the old version of iMovie. Still not happy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

iMovie Complaint #32,9875

Pent Up Anger

Is it me or does Christmas sometimes bring out the worst in people? While reading the newspaper, I stumbled upon an article that told a story about a 45 year old man who had no record or history of violence who recently just got a divorce and ended up killing and injuring people at his ex-wife's Christmas Eve party. Some of those people included children. When he first knocked on the door, and eight year old girl answered. He was dressed up as Santa Clause. He pulled out a handgun and shot her in the face and then moved on to the rest of the party. He then killed himself afterward over at his brother's house 25 miles away.

Some people call this "insanity". Scientifically, yes it can be called insanity for the amount of rage that one can delve into. But personally, I do "believe" that it's pure evil---not in the general sense either. Many years ago and still in some countries, people would have called it "being possessed by the devil". Why has this evolved to insanity? Now people can just go to a mental institution, instead of getting the death sentence or a life term in prison. They weren't in their "right minds". It's a great getaway from being sentenced for life.

Anger does funny things to people. Rage can be very deadly, if the person lets it. If someone simmers in it long enough, it's bound to boil over and hurt someone, possibly killing them. Some people are new to anger and rage, which is why in some cases the least expected people are sometimes the ones who commit the most heinous crimes. "Oh he was such a nice guy, you would never think he'd do something like that." Or even the old saying, "The quiet ones are the people you have to watch out for."

What makes someone known for a good reputation snap? Is it pent up anger? Is it unreleased emotions that never surfaced before? When people hold bitterness, anger, resentment and hatred inside, and on the outside display a loving and patient person---can they explode at the last minute, when least expected?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Buh-Bye, Infectious PC!


It’s 10am, rainy and dismal out.  I have graduated from the PC to a Mac and absolutely loving it.  I thought I would never get used to the change, but there is really not much of a huge “change”, except for all the benefits of what a writer, artist, musician or filmmaker can get out of it.  I don’t know why I haven’t gone this route before.  I’m sitting next to the fire as it pours.  It’s Christmas Eve, and yet I haven’t finished shopping.  I should be in the shower getting ready, but I’m incredibly cozy and enjoying my new toy, thanks to Madelene.  It was her gift to me.  She was sick and tired of me foaming at the mouth over my Sony Vaio that kept getting viruses from day one.  Although that computer was an amazing machine, it had many flaw which made it frustrating. So now, I’m assured 99% of the time, I will remain safe from viruses from the skinny genius Mac-head that helped me pick my computer out at the Apple store. 


Can I just tell you what an interesting experience I had walking into the Apple store?  First of all, the people who work there are either #1. Total Einsteins #2. Incredible artists or writers #3. Homosexuals.    And no, I am not stereotyping Mac people, but this seems to be the going trend for them.  As soon as I walked in, this beautiful feminine gentleman with these huge green sparkling eyes walks up to me.  He was tall, lanky and almost curtsied me in a weird way.  His knowledge of all the machines they had available was extensive, elaborate and overindulgently exciting.  His manager walked up to him.  He was new and needed to know how to use one of his palm pilots to ring up the Macbook I picked out.  She was short, stocky and solid.  Her hair was spiky, frosted and she had those Greenwich Village-type reading glasses on.  Her tone of voice was demanding; she had a masculine way about her, yet there was a glimpse of womanhood in there somewhere.  Yeah, she was on my team.


The entire store was organized. Their employees were like little worker ants trying to tackle every sale and issue.  The lines were evenly distributed throughout each cashier. No one held their merchandises - the sales crew brought it up for you while you waited on line.  The overhead plasma TVs displayed suggestions for your new purchase.   They gave instructions and what to do “if this happens” --it was amazing.   


Let me just say this: the bathrooms they provided for their customers were stainless steel over-the-top luxury suits.  I’m surprised this place wasn’t serving hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.  When you walk into a Circuit City, it’s messy, chaotic and full of arrogant employees who don’t want to be bothered by you.   I am happy to say that I am totally done with PCs for good. What a headache to buy a new PC every two years just because a virus attacked it.  


So this is my note to you all just to let you know I’m back with a new computer and will be blogging after the Christmas holiday.  I’m still on the wagon and feeling wonderful about it.  Things have been very busy here lately, so I haven’t really gone to many meetings, but I’m still experiencing and maintaining these beautiful benefits of sobriety.  


I wish all of you a wonderful holiday and a very happy and safe new year!  



EDIT: I'm not quite sure why my font is a bit different, but if anyone could help me out or give me suggestions, I'd appreciate it.  I'm using Safari, because Firefox oddly links every text I type.  I tried playing with the font types, but they don't appear the same as the other blog posts I have written previously.  Is there something I'm doing wrong?  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unspoken Rules

It was just a double espresso latte, not a four-course meal I ordered. The kid still took forever and a day to get it for me. He kept looking over at his co-worker with this question mark expression and his hands midway in the air as though he was saying, “I dunno what’s wrong with this thing.” I knew I’d be late for my AA meeting. I reached over the counter where I could see him to let him know that I’d be using the restroom while he’s still picking the beans off the goddamn tree.

I came back and the girl (his co-worker) was serving her 5th customer as my boy was still brewing my java. He then came over with a bigger size than I ordered and charged me five and some change. I headed out the door and zoomed down the street to my dismal little stone church behind the graveyard for my meeting.

Everything seems to be ass backwards over there. The doors push out and not in and the stairs are uneven with 3 steps here and 2 steps there. People usually fall right into sobriety -the hard way- the concrete way.

“Ga-chunk-ga-chunk-ga-chunk!!!” The door seemingly was locked. I finally opened it to realize that you can’t turn the knob to the left---only to the right. You need a rulebook to get inside, no less get sober.

I sat in the back row and noticed a few sparkling familiar faces. I did “the nod” so I wouldn’t embarrass anyone or myself for that matter. It’s a cross between embarrassing and comforting to see these faces who you have partied with and shared some pretty damn good times with. The “nod” seems appropriate. Almost like the funeral nod. You know what I mean.

Anyway, after the meeting, people congregate to whomever and they do their little fellowship or whatever you want to call it. Hey, I’m new so give me some slack here. Someone taps me over the shoulder. He looks like Joey from Friends. “Yo, you should really get yourself a sponsa’!” He pointed me in the direction of the big ‘temporary sponsor list’. I headed over to the front and another lady helped me out with the names and people she thought would be good for me. I explained to her that I’m a bit uncomfortable calling people since I’m not a big fan of the phone. She insisted that it would be helping them as well. She goes over a few names and a couple that I used to party with and I said no to the first ‘party person’. She asked, “No?” I just said, “Too personal.” She got it.

“I don’t feel right. I don’t think I will be able to call any of these women on here.”
“Well, you can call me, but I’m terribly busy.”
She said, letting me know she really wasn’t an option.
“Well isn’t everyone busy? This is the exact reason I wouldn’t want to call someone. Why are there only female names on this list? How come I can’t call a man?”
“Oh it’s an unspoken rule that women stick together.”
“Well, what if I want a male for my sponsor?”
“We typically don’t do that.”
“Then I don’t want a sponsor.”
“Then the program will not be beneficial to you, and besides, we want to avoid any possibilities of relationship complications, you know what I mean.”

I stared at her for a moment debating my next sentence. Without thinking and a bit ticked off by her standoffish attitude to a newbie, I said this loud enough where everyone just shut up and laughed hysterically.

“I’m a lesbian so I don’t think I will be a threat to your men.”

I saw a few smiles coming across the room from a few women (which was a bit creepy) and a few sparkles in the smiling eyes of the VFW men. I’m sure to get a male sponsor now with opened arms. I highly disagree with a lot of AA's "unspoken rules". I disagree with avoiding people places and things that remind us of the good times we had that included alcohol. This is life. We can’t just avoid people that we love- besides, I’d be avoiding my family and my own damn apartment! I’m not ridding of any of my friends because I love them and they’re not the ones who have a problem drinking: I do. It’s up to me to discipline myself and know that if I do pick up a drink again, I’m back to the days of insomnia, debilitating hangovers, gaining weight and the risk of saying something regrettable to a loved one.

I’m responsible for my own actions and my own decisions whether or not I want to improve myself and my life. No one else can make that choice for me. And if my choice is not to choose a sponsor for my journey, then so be it. This lady left such a sour taste in my mouth that I really don’t ever want to consider a sponsor for my recovery. Oddly enough she was the director of this particular meeting. I will call the friends I have made in AA, not because someone appointed me to them, but because I genuinely like them and can relate to them. I don’t want to be assigned a person. That seems dreadful. That’s like someone assigning you a friend or worse yet---an arranged marriage.

I liked “Joey from Friends”. He was nice and he reminded me of my own family in a way. He was a funny little Italian Bronx boy who was big enough to admit he had a problem. I didn’t have a chance to ask him to be my sponsor, because some little old lady tackled me down to get me to the sponsor list, but if I do see him again I’m going to grab him!

I’m off to Starbucks and to do a little shopping now. DD takes way too long to make a double espresso. Next time I want Dunkin’ Donuts, I’ll just go to Juan Valdez. I bet he’ll be a lot faster.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's a Damn Good Morning!

The contractors that our homeowner’s association hired are now replacing a roof on top of a nearby building. By law, you’re allowed to start working at 7am, as far as high noise decibel levels go. I understand while you’re hitting a nail into a surface that you may get about 5-10 whacks in at a time, but these fellas are hitting the suckers at 50 whacks per nail. It’s almost comparable to having ten pileated woodpeckers right outside of your window.

Good morning.

Can you imagine if this was happening while having a hangover? Which is one of my favorite reasons about quitting booze. I may be a little high strung off the java brew, but I tell ya, I haven’t felt this great in so long for such a long span of consecutive days. Last night after coming home from dinner, I went to bed at 9pm and woke up at 7am (to the wood pecking construction crew of course), without waking up once. It’s a miracle.

There had been countless mornings a couple of years back, where I’d wake up to numerous amounts of empty beer bottles and shot glasses all over my huge squared shaped coffee table. During that period I was staying in the apartment above from my parents. Madelene and I were going through a rough patch and I had many people walking in and out of my door. From the years of 2006-2008 my life was absolutely torturous. I numbed myself by drinking through it all. My stress levels and anxiety were through the roof and the company I kept was even more anxiety provoking. I was severely depressed and often contemplated suicide cowardly, thank God.

There were many demands put upon me. I was relied on too much. I felt it was my responsibility for everything. I had a friend who move from AZ to NY with no means of anything. She temporarily slept on a yoga pad with a blanket on the cold floor in her small apartment for a few months before I found a way to get her a nice king size bed from a man who was selling it for cheap because he had to move asap. Soon enough, with the help of my sister, we were able to get her the couch and finally everything else that a person can need for their kitchen & dining room areas. It was my responsibility. It was my fault for programming my brain that way, but I wanted the best for her.

To make a long story short: the rough patch Madelene and I were going through was assumed to be an official breakup on my friend’s part. Without going into too many details, my friend and I got ourselves caught in many webs that couldn’t be untangled. The friendship / relationship eventually became messy and unruly. We ended up arguing all the time. I drank through it all. She drank through it all. We both enabled one another to drink through this thick foggy mess we put ourselves in. I didn’t know what I wanted and everyone knew that I was uncertain about my entire life. I knew what type of martini I wanted though.

The pressures that I was being put under were enough to bring me over the edge. I felt guilt, resentment, anger, bitterness and depression. To remove these negative emotions, I would make myself a drink. It would temporarily remove these thoughts and make me happy for the time being. While still be separated from Madelene, Easter quickly approached and I brought my friend with me to my family’s home to celebrate. I must have consumed 10 fishbowl size goblets of red wine. In fact, there is a write up about "the morning after" on this post. I was a mess. I woke up and I literally thought I was going to die. I had the DTs and I couldn’t put words together. I was unable to speak clearly or even think for that matter. I thought I was literally brain dead. It scared me so much that I seriously asked my friend if she could take me to the emergency room.

“It’s just a hangover, Deb.”

I knew that, but I felt my liver screaming bloody murder. Staying in the company of the same people, I had found myself in seedy bars on my birthday no less, watching my friend throw her brains up and then having the audacity to say that I should have been watching her alcohol intake and that I had a problem with drinking. Well, if I’m drinking and you’re drinking, isn’t it a given that both are unaware of each other’s well being and safety? In fact, wouldn’t it be a grand idea if one of us decided to be the designated driver?

“Oh we’re just down the road.”

Most accidents happen closest to home. The irresponsibility on both our parts was soon coming to a head and finally, the arguments and fights broke out. Being in the company of toxic people will soon match up to the toxicity levels in your liver. It never ends. I found myself pouring drinks just to be in the company of my “friend” who stressed me out on many levels.

I’m grateful that my future now holds many positive things for me: a world of sobriety, friends that are made consciously and decisions made clearly. I’ve never had that much stability in my life before. I never want to go back to that old time of being tanked just to maintain life. But, hindsight 20/20 ; it wasn’t “maintaining” life, it was placing a band aid on it until help arrived, or when I finally decided that I, myself needed help.

So let the construction crew bang all they want, let the woodpeckers peck at their hearts’ content…because it’s a damn good morning!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Process of Elimination

It started off as a method of process of elimination. I wanted to know what caused my sudden weight gain and also, what always kept me at a higher weight than most. I started drinking beer at the age of twelve. Before that age, I was a little skinny tomboy. I ate like all the other kids and ran amuck around the neighborhood. Weight was never an issue for me. Once, while drinking a huge can of Fosters with my old friend Geri, my mother came out on the deck and screamed at me. She said, “If you keep drinking beer you’re gonna get a potbelly!” Geri and I were hysterical. She brought it up the other day and we were laughing. Soon enough, the belly came. Some people call theirs a six pack---I call mine a keg.

As I went through my teen years and early twenties, I knew I had gained some weight, but not enough where it would leave me depressed holding onto diet after diet. It wasn’t a concern. After I hit my thirties, all hell broke loose, as well as my buttons. I worked out, got a trainer, did a little dieting and lost some weight. Nothing significant. I wasn’t much of a junk food eater. My doctor (gyno) was baffled by it and suggested that I stick to vodka only, since hard liquor doesn’t tend to put weight on. (Odd that he never suggested AA.) The only reason he was involved in my life of dieting is because he’s also a nutritionist. I went over every single thing I ate on a weekly basis. He kept nodding of approval, however there was a look of skepticism in his eyes when I never mentioned fast food or sweets. I picked up on this as though he thought I was one of those “closet eaters”.

I took his advice and stuck to vodka only. I did my workouts 2 hours per day and even limited any take out foods. I never ate fast food, but I was a fan of Chinese cuisine, which happens to be the most fattening foods ever. I had it once a week, or once every two weeks. It wasn’t like I was consuming this stuff every single day of my life. When I found out that vodka wasn’t improving my weight loss, I started to get worried. I was gaining more weight and my wedding day was right around the corner. Of course, like any human being, I was a total nervous wreck the final weeks of my upcoming wedding. We held little parties and celebrations beforehand --- I drank tons before my wedding day. Before I even realized, my face and everything else blew up like a balloon. I was swollen and uncomfortable. There were days beforehand where our wedding planning was so overwhelmingly busy, that we didn’t even eat anything all day, until we came home. How could it be? I should have lost 10 lbs right before the big day.

Could the theory of empty calories be true? Can a beautifully cleared-colored martini or two be as bad as eating a bucket of KFC? Can a glass of wine be just as fattening as eating a big ham sandwich? Can a beer or two simulate a happy meal? Dammit! It’s liquid---how can someone gain weight from this? You pee it right out! I don’t understand! Alcohol does not put weight on people! Food does. ----All of these “wishful” thoughts went zooming in and out of my head trying to reason with “empty calories vs. real caloric intake by real food”.

It’ll be exactly one month this coming Tuesday of my sobriety. I have lost a total of 10 lbs and I haven’t even dieted. In fact, I have been eating a lot more chocolate. I went down a pant size and feel great. I haven’t even exercised all that much either. I still have more to go, but now I’m finding other reasons to maintain sobriety besides weight loss. Because let’s face it, at first this was a vanity thing. I wanted to lose some weight. And now, it’s become a matter of maintaining all of these health benefits.

Let me be even more brutally honest here: the other day while talking to a good friend who is also in AA, I explained how I feel so great and been sleeping like a baby, yada yada fricken yada… She said, “Yeh. That’s your pink phase.” I said, “Wut?” She said, “That’s the phase where you’re enjoying the benefits, until the urge and cravings start kicking in—until the stress levels start resurfacing and you just want to say, feck it!”

Not even a day later, I was sitting by the fire enjoying the ice storm that hit New York the other night and thinking: God how nice it would be to make a delicious Ketel One martini with three olives! I usually do this around 5:30 pm when I get home and wait for Madelene to come home at 6pm. It was my “ritual”. I loved having a cocktail while waiting for her. I would cook dinner, have a few sips of my martini and listen to my favorite music. I enjoyed that so much. Then it all came crumbling down on me: I “needed” a drink.

"This can’t happen. This can’t happen. This can’t happen. I’m sleeping so well and if I relapse, then I can’t go back to AA, and if I do, then I’ll be lying and I want to be in there completely honest.” I said to myself, trying to talk myself out of it. I called my friend and told her what was going on. I was literally pacing and tugging at my hair. It was the hardest point of my sobriety other than the first three days of being in my bed shaking. The withdrawals were gone, but now the cravings and fond memories of my cocktail hours were kicking me in the stomach.

Here’s my “problem”: other than a few mishaps and words that should have never slipped through my lips and of course, the driving while intoxicated part in the past-----I was more of a stay-at-home enjoy a cocktail while cooking and dining type of person. I never got into trouble drinking or was considered a “low bottom”. (Meaning losing everything to drinking.) I was always a “happy drunk”----the drunk who never looked drunk. My initial plan was to last 30 days without a drink, until AA gave me the 90-day challenge, and then be a “social drinker”. I was going into AA with full knowledge that I was going to remain sober for 90 days and then be a moderate drinker. I wanted to discipline myself.

Now, with all of these health benefits and new friends I have made, I don’t want to ever touch a drink again. And yet, I sooooooooooooooooo want a martini right now. Last night, Madelene came home and we were about to have dinner. She knew I was being a little quiet because I wanted to pop the cork off one of our favorite wines. It would have gone well with our dinner. She rubbed my back and reminded me of how well I was doing and how great I was feeling. I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted to hear, “Well having one won’t hurt, right?” But, she didn’t. She kept egging me to stay on my path. I’m just so damn curious to see how my body will react to the 90 days of sobriety. I have to give it at least 90 days. How am I ever going to survive the holidays?

“One day at a time”, they chant at the meetings. Count each minute if you have to. “60 seconds and still sober.” Keep doing it until the urge passes you. I kept rehearsing these lines that were spoken to me by other people who are struggling. Then, on the TV, a famous doctor who is also an autopsy surgeon came on and explained how if you quit drinking cold turkey that it may kill you.

An excuse! I don’t want to die! It was then I realized it was for those who drank morning till evening who needed detox and certain medications to wean them off. I thought I had a way out, until I Googled it of course.

Tonight I will be attending a party. I noticed if I give myself a jolt of a double espresso, it takes the urge of drinking away. I’ll be stopping by DD before the party. (Not AA, Duncan Donuts.) Wish me luck and thank you for reading my latest posts. It’s been very difficult to admit to this and to be so open on my blog. I feel very vulnerable and sometimes embarrassed because I have so many old friends calling me up asking, “So what’s this about you and AA?” I tag my blog on Facebook and have my old high school buddies back in my life. I just hope they don’t think I’m a slacker for not wanting a beer at this time. I’m still the same crazy Deb, minus the booze.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Proving My Efforts

Fumbling for my car keys, I reached down into my bag and found them tangled up into the red flashlight that I had previously added onto my new collection of nonsense key chain mania. I didn’t need the flashlight, besides it was too heavy anyway. It was 6:45pm and pitch dark outside. The streetlights are a blessing around here. I had to make the 7 o’clock meeting. This was my first AA meeting I was ever attending.

I hurried out to my car and zoomed off to the Catholic Church where they were holding the meeting. I knew where the church was, but when I pulled in, there were five different buildings on the property itself. I pulled up to where it was lit up the most. I looked around and was relieved to see other people were pulling in too. I waited for a couple of minutes. I then realized that the people who were coming out of their cars had children with them. It was more of a school-type of church with classrooms lit up on the right hand side of the building. I got out of the car and went over to read the list of services they had available. They were all CCD listings. I walked back to my car and drove around the other buildings.

Everything was dark and I couldn’t see where I was going. I drove back over to the lit parking lot area and got out of my car to head inside the building. The doors were locked. One of the nuns saw me through the big windowed doors and started walking over. She opened the door and asked if she could help me.

“Where is the lower chapel?” I asked, trying to be discreet about my whereabouts.
“Oh, for the AA meeting?” she blurts out, loud enough for the parents to take a peek over at me.
“Yes.” I said, almost giggling because of my embarrassment.
“Oh dear,” she says as she looks over at the lower chapel located across the cemetery, “You may have hard time seeing because it's so dark down there, but it’s in that old stone church house, but there aren’t many lights outside. Please be careful.”

(This photo below was taken the next day while it was bright enough out to see where I was walking.)
I head back into my car and start driving toward the cemetery. There is no road leading to this building- only a pathway through the cemetery. Great. This should be lots of fun. So as I was walking through this dark cemetery with the moon shining on me, I kept hearing a little howl from beyond. I felt like I was in some weird horror movie. I tried to ignore it and pretended that it was way too far away to even sense or see me. I heard the howl louder now. I started walking faster and faster until I tripped and fell. I fell onto a tombstone that had a family friend’s name on it. I freaked out and ran back to my car. As I sat in my car, I noticed that my knee was bleeding. I then saw the little puppy that was walking through the cemetery howling---actually whining.

I tried catching my breath and gave it another shot. I really needed to go to this meeting. Now that I knew the howls weren't coming from some hungry wolf, I walked with a little more ease toward the big stone cathedral building. There were red lights illuminating the chapel windows and there were two doors on each side. The architectural art on this building was amazing—almost had a European touch to it. I tried opening each door. No luck. It was way too dark and at this point, I wished I hadn’t removed my flashlight from my key chain previously.

I walked back over to my car frustrated and seriously upset and drove home. Screw it. God doesn’t want me to go to AA so I’ll go home and have a drink. Thoughts went through my head about giving up and just not caring at all. The frustration of not being able to find a simple meeting had me rustling in the freezer for the bottle of vodka until something nudged at me.

“Go to the directory on the computer.”

I ended up finding an 8 o’clock meeting a few towns over. I jumped back into my car and said a little prayer as I zoomed off once again. I then got stuck in heavy traffic. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was about to scream bloody murder. After the traffic cleared and I kept driving, I found where the church was and pulled into their parking lot full of caravans filled to the brim with kids. Another CCD class was being held and I couldn’t find any section where there was a separate meeting going on. I walked around and around until finally I saw a man with his two children. I stopped him and asked, “Where is the lower chapel?” He gave me a look, smiled, and then said in a whisper-like voice, “Oh, they usually hold meetings in that church over there, however it looks too dark to walk over. Bring your car if you have to go there.”

I look, and again, it’s creepy and dismal. I was so sick of waltzing through ancient churches looking for help. PLEASE GOD HELP ME! Seriously. I’m gallivanting around God’s house, at least He can do is guide me, right?

So get this: I walk up these ancient stone stairs in the pitch dark. It led me into a short creepy tunnel, however it seemed like I was walking in there forever. I get to the end of the tunnel and saw a light. (No I didn’t die out of frustration and this certainly wasn’t heaven.) Over at the lit up area, I met a cowboy. (This is definitely starting to sound like a weird dream.) He looks at me, tips his hat and says, “You hear for the Tupperware party,” and then winks, as though he’s saying, “AA is right here ma’am.”

I walked inside and was swarmed by dozens of women asking if I was new. Oddly enough, I had coffee after this entire anxiety-provoking experience. It wasn’t so bad after all. But I still have the scar to prove my efforts of getting there.

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Clearer State of Mind

This morning is gorgeous! And by that, I mean it’s about 65 degrees here, cloudy, dismal----the perfect weather for me. I almost feel a tinge of tornadic possibilities. Anytime cold air meets the warm, it’s bound to kick up a few twisters now and then. I woke up to the sounds of rain falling on my windowpane. I woke up sober. It was beautiful. No headaches, no queasy stomach or the need to make one of my hangover concoctions. I made some delicious coffee and on my second cup. I never used to drink a second cup, but again, my addictive behavior tells me: one more cup! Hey, it’s better than ‘one more beer’.

The wonderful and unfamiliar thing that has happened is, I had a hard time sleeping last night and got probably 5 hours in, however I feel like I have slept for 8 hours. When I was drinking, I was lucky I even got 4 hours in per night. Anytime I drank vodka, I’d fall asleep and then wake up two hours later with my heart racing, leaving me awake the entire night. My sleep was always interrupted.

My life was interrupted.

The first couple of days of my sobriety, I made a list of things I noticed about alcohol in and out of my life.  Some are about the positive aspects of my days of drinking and others are the negatives.  I also made notes about the positive results of my sobriety. 

Alcohol in my life:
(Things I miss about alcochol.)

-Socializing with people while out or having a party was easier. I was more open and outgoing.

-Took away my anxiety attacks, (temporarily of course) .

-I loved to match different wines with certain dishes. For instance: pinot noire with a marinara sauce, cabernet with a rare steak, pinot grigio with a white flaky fish and a sweet plum wine or sake with sushi.

-The one thing I will miss is having Sambuca in my espresso and cocktail hour (12 noon) which included martinis with mom.

-I will miss my little “reward system”. I used to open a nice bottle of wine from my collection after completing a paid writing project or finishing a chapter or two from my book. After all, I deserved it, right?

-Opening a chilled bottle of white wine or champagne and sitting with my wife out on our deck overlooking the views of the mountains. I loved that! We usually went through 2 bottles though.

Without alcohol in my life: 
(Also, some things I don't miss about alcochol and the wonderful things that come with sobriety.) 

-Even though alcohol placed a band aid on my anxiety disorder, it actually increased it when it finally left my system, leaving me drained and completely depressed. Wow, who knew alcohol was a depressant?

-I used to obsess over certain things that were just uncontrollable. I used to have unmanageable obsessive thought patterns that overtook my entire life.

-I said very hurtful things to special people. Without the alcohol, I find I think before I speak. 

-I have clarity. I think, speak and do things without doubting myself like I used to. I’m able to make a decision and hold it. I’m not so indecisive like I used to be. I like that very much.

-I won’t be endangering people’s lives out on the road or in the same vehicle as me. I will never have to worry about the thought of losing someone I love from having a few drinks and driving them home.
-My days are much more busier and productive. I’ve started attending meetings twice per day and doing some help (volunteering) on the side. I’ve signed up for a few more writing projects and now looking into going back to school.

-Weight loss. YAY! I used to cringe anytime someone would say, “Oh alcohol has empty calories.” What the? Now, I’m realizing that even if I do crave more chocolate and a bit more sugar in my coffee, those calories are able to be burned off, whereas the alcohol just sits in your system doing absolutely nothing. I have lost weight without dieting. Even when I was with my trainer at the gym, I’d work out **2 hours** per day from Mon-Fri and yeah, I lost some weight, but not what I thought I would lose. Alcohol was my enemy. After I stopped working out like that, I gained it back and then some in a very short time.
-Nightlife doesn’t have to include a bar! I have met some really great people and most of all, my wife has given me such great support, which I appreciate with all my heart. She doesn’t have a drinking problem though. She is able to have only one drink and then have the ability to stop. However, she encourages me to push forward with my mission of sobriety for now. By the cons, you can see that I’m feeling great.

-NO MORE GERD! I have no more indigestion or reflux! No heartburn or stomach aches. This is a totally new life for me. I cannot believe the health benefits that I doubted so much if someone were to quit alcohol completely.

-I save the best for last. I’m closer to God than I have ever been. I meditate and pray for 2 hours per day. It’s not even enough for me! I have peace. I feel calm. I feel like I can do absolutely anything in the world. (Almost like being on crack!) I find joy in the smallest of things.

I’m excited about my journey. I also wonder about the AA program and its focus on God. I’m thrilled about it, however one girl who was a Buddhist got a bit upset at one of the meetings due to the focal point being God. The director said that it can be a “higher power” than yourself----even if you want that to be your parents or the Universe or “your God”, whoever that may be. Yet, they do grab a couple of scriptures from the Holy Bible that raises some questions to those who do not practice Christianity or any related religion.
So, even if I replaced one drug for another, at least coffee won't get me into trouble. I'm happy to say I'm going to make all my decisions with a clearer state of mind.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Awakening: Coming Out

…as an alcoholic; the person who maintained an illusion of sobriety while being three sheets to the wind. I was the one who proudly admitted I was an alcoholic. I had no problem drinking—I had two hands for each drink.

“Come over for a beer!’
“Let’s go out for a drink!”
“Let’s go wine tasting!”

My life was surrounded by the good ol’ grape and potato juice. As a former bartender and one who makes drinks at everyone's parties, I knew what people liked. Drinks made to perfection and sometimes, an extra dose to loosen up the crowd.

Oddly enough, although alcohol is a depressant, when I was completely down or upset, alcohol would make me “happy” and turn my grim mood around….temporarily. I never knew that the long-term effects were depression and anxiety. I just thought alcohol cured it. I masked my anxiety and depression by drinking through it; self-medicating so to speak. I could always quit…if I wanted to. Sure, no problem, right?

One evening while walking over to throw away a beer in the recycler, I noticed that 11 bottles were stacked up. The twelfth one was about to fall into the bin—my last beer. Before the twelfth one, I had a couple of martinis. The beer was there to “weaken” my alcohol level. I then thought to myself: “Wow.” That’s all. Just, “wow”. I stared into the bin and thought about how much I had consumed. Oddly enough, I wasn’t “drunk”---the staggering, slurring type of drunk. That was the scary part. 1, 2, 3, 4 drinks didn’t do it for me any longer. I found myself switching to scotch on the rocks. It was then I knew I was falling into a pit of darkness.

It was then I knew, I was a really bad alcoholic.

Some mornings, I woke up not knowing how I got home the night before. I was the “designated driver”. Not only did I put my loved ones at risk, but I put many people out on the road at risk too. About 14 years ago, while driving through a heavily populated area trying to get from one bar to another, I made a left hand turn on a major highway onto the wrong lane while a cop was waiting for the light to turn green. I passed the cop on the LEFT side. I raced down the highway on the wrong side, hopped the medium and raced over to a Dunkin' Donuts, parked in the back and turned the lights off.

I never got caught, sadly.

Back in 2003, while at a club in New York, my best friend was trying to tell me I shouldn’t drive. I was a control freak and I was not about to leave my car to be “inconvenienced” and have to pick it up the next morning. I had to nurse a possible hangover. She insisted by pushing me up against my SUV and I took that as an attack. In my deepest regret, I punched her in the face because I was in a drunken stupor. But I do hold myself 100% accountable. I thought she was attacking me for no reason. She was laid out on the ground and we had to pick her up and let her rest in the back seat of the truck. It was awful. She was trying to save me. I’ve apologized to her and still regret that evening to this day. She still remains my closest friend…so I am grateful for that.

I’ve been drinking since the age of twelve. I was a “weekend warrior”, if you will. I was drinking my way through school and through some pretty traumatic times always self-medicating. As I grew into a young adult, it became pretty moderate: a glass of wine or two with dinner on the weekends or if I went out dancing, a few beers with a shot. I was pretty much like anybody else. I could go a week or so without drinking and maintain a level of calmness, but it became increasingly worse two years ago.

Right before throwing the twelfth bottle of beer into the recycler, a thought came into my mind.

I need help.

November 18th is my sobriety date. I’m in AA and have a sponsor who I relate to on many levels. Being in the group has given me so much hope. I have learned so many things with all the various people who attend these meetings. These people range from old vets (VFW guys), Catholic priests, housewives, grandmothers and people who I recognized back from my party days. I even saw my old childhood friends. We’re all in there for the same reason. I go twice a day sometimes. We pray together and help one another by personal techniques or sharing stories. This was the group I had always poked fun of. This was a group that I called “a cult”. And...this is a group where I belong. For the first couple of days of being sober, I was home in bed shaking. I was so close to picking up a drink. After day 4, it got better. I started leveling out.

“My Awakening”

I feel alive. The things I am experiencing now are indescribable. My days of insomnia are over. I sleep 8-10 hours per day. I’ve lost weight and oddly enough, haven’t changed my eating habits. The alcohol literally blew me up. I’m back into my old jeans and I feel wonderful. Other than that, I’m not obsessive like I used to be. I don’t get upset easily and I try to find logic in things I used to call “irrational”. I’ve been writing music again and started an outline for a new book I want to write and publish. I’ve been cooking up a storm in the kitchen, trying new things. I found out how much I love bookstores and coffee. Yes, coffee being my new addiction. I'm evening looking into going back to school for a couple of courses.

And, I found out that I no longer suffer from agoraphobia as I used to. I do all the grocery shopping and I’m not afraid to drive long distances to go to a mall by myself. I have never been able to do this ever----even with cognitive behavior therapy. This is a new world---a new life for me.

I have clarity.

During dinner at home, I drink sparkling cider. It acts like a sweet wine to me. I love it. When I am out sitting at the bar with friends, I order a club soda with lots of limes in it or hot cider with cinnamon. A friend said to the bartender, “Get her the usual—it’s on me!” And I just said, "No thanks, really---I’m on antibiotics.” It was the beginning for me so I didn’t want to just say, “I’m in AA!” She would think I was nuts. I still go to bars and restaurants, but luckily, I don't crave alcohol and can mingle with friends at different places as well as parties. I’m advised not to do these things, but I have different and stubborn views on this.

I’m not ashamed of being in AA, in fact, it has really enriched my life on many levels. Not only have my senses come alive, but also I have learned so many moral foundations about maintaining sobriety. They challenged me 90 days. I do believe moderation is key, however lately with my drinking habits, it wasn’t considered “moderation”—it was over indulgent, self-medicating and masking any problems that I ever had. I still believe a drink a day is good for the heart, but for someone like me, at this time, I can’t just stick to the one drink. So, I’m trying it for 90 days.

On another note: I do want to apologize for anyone who has come across my path who has either been offended by my words or actions. I want to truly say, I’m sorry. And no, this is not one of my 12 steppin’ “to do” lists; it’s my genuine feelings because I missed out on a whole lot in life due to alcohol.

I also want to mention to my friends and family members: please don’t act differently around me just because I have a problem with alcohol. If I’m at a party, I’ll still be making you drinks. I’ll still bring the wine and cordials. I can still go out to a bar and hang out. I’m no different—I’m just sober. I don’t crave alcohol anymore—in fact I’m scared of it because I know if I do drink, I won’t be able to sleep that night. Not sleeping for me is the worst feeling in the world. That alone is motivation for me.

I’m finally awake now. Today’s a good day.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mom & Dad Get Hospitalized--(3 Part Series)

My mom left me this funny message on Thanksiving morning, reminding me to preheat my oven. I thought it was the cutest thing, so I started saving her voice mails and adding them to videos. The very last video is my personal favorite. It reminds me of why I should never take advice from mom, even though I love her dearly. All of these videos are short.

VIDEO 1: Thanksgiving Day


VIDEO 2: A Post Thanksgiving Reminder---What To Do With Your Leftovers


VIDEO 3: The Hospitalization of Both My Parents


Good news... They're both doing well and home resting.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Squish the ANTS! (Automatic Negative Thoughts)

Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It isn’t something that is done automatically. It’s a choice. Being hurt is a feeling. Remaining hurt is a choice. It’s difficult, but when we choose to remain hurt, we become the victim. We choose to be the victim because it “feels” better. By choosing to remain being the victim, somehow in our minds, we are getting back (or seeking revenge) toward the individual(s) who has hurt us in the past or present, when in fact they have probably resolved their issues and have completely gotten over it.

Keep in mind a few things while I begin the steps: bitterness, anger, resentment and holding grudges can and will kill you both emotionally and/or physically. Depending on the type of person you are, you will experience a number of things while remaining the character of “the victim”: depression, low self-esteem and loneliness due to people avoiding your negative energy. People –even animals pick up on negative energy. If you remain bitter, most likely you are lonely and have very few friends that’ll spend a long duration of time with you. They’ll find they can only take you in small doses.

Steps toward forgiveness and emotional recovery:

1. Seek forgiveness from a higher power first. If you lean toward a particular religion, pray for forgiveness from your God. Personally, I’m of Christian faith, so asking for forgiveness from God is most important to me.

2. Forgive the person who has offended you. You might still have strong intense feelings of resentment and anger, but it’s important to purge all of these negative emotions for your own health and well-being.

3. Forgive yourself. The worst thing someone can say or internalize is that they have nothing to be forgiven for. Forgive yourself for anything that "may have” hurt others in the process. You’ll find that you’ll feel lightness in your heart. The heavy weight of being resentful and bitter can emotionally and physically damage you.

Sometimes, you just can’t change things; it’s just out of your control. You can change your attitude about things and live a more fulfilling life by purging all of your negative thoughts, feelings and choices of remaining in that dark place.

Squish the ANTS! ANTS (Automatic Negative Thinking) can truly ruin your life and make those around you uncomfortable. I just recently learned this term and couldn’t help but relate to it all. We all have negative thoughts that fly in and out of our minds. If you give water to a plant, it usually grows. If you give more thoughts toward anger and bitterness, it’ll grow too.

Again, it’s a choice. It’s totally up to you.

By changing out thought processes, we can try to get out of that rubble and climb up to a more comfortable place; a place of forgiveness and love. If we choose to stay under the rubble, we’ll never be saved. We’ll have heavy boulders weighing us down and keeping us down.

Which will you choose?

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!