I felt fine when I woke. It was 5:00 am yesterday and I thought that I had a pretty good hold of things. I’d gotten more accomplished Saturday than I had planned. I was proud that I even woke with the time (and desire) to spend a few minutes in prayer before beginning the day’s to-do list. I was only 10 minutes into this quiet start when my emotions took me hostage. I couldn’t concentrate. I had made the mistake of re-checking my list. How was I going to get it all done? My list was large but my desire was little.
Flying would have been so much easier. I could just sit back and let someone else manage the controls. I could have zoned out and relaxed until I got there. I wouldn’t have to pay attention to my surroundings or focus on any details. I could more easily engage those around me. It was so appealing for a day like this one...
I’d spent Saturday driving between basketball games, dress rehearsals, Target and Kroger. I’d shopped, prepped, wrapped and decorated to get ready to host Carl’s family for Thanks-Christmas. His uncles, cousins, nephews and brother would be traveling from Columbus to spend the day with us. I was making the entire meal. A typical Thanksgiving meal. It wasn’t something I could throw together quickly...especially on an abbreviated day like this one. Yes, I was up at 5:00, but I had a lot to do before serving a meal like this immediately following two church services featuring our three kids in the “Not So Quiet Christmas”. I was making an entire Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours! And I would be gone for most of the morning!
This wasn’t an ordinary meal. This wasn’t an ordinary day to prepare and host such a meal. And I wasn’t the ordinary woman I knew who usually prepared any of it! Self-pity began to take over. I just wish I could fly!!
Why can’t I fly?
I deserve it!
I’d be more enjoyable to those around me if I could.
It’s the holidays! I should live it up!
I’m stressed, tired and overwhelmed. It would just be easier...
I’d resorted to pouting. I got up from my warm chair to begin chopping and mixing. The change in venue (sitting room to kitchen) just increased my beliefs. There wasn’t time for anything, and I didn’t really want to host anyone anyways.
I’ve always understood the phrase “fight or flight” to refer to the reaction our brain has to a sudden, possibly dangerous, situation. Do you default to your human instincts and run away, or do you get enough of an adrenaline rush to run into it? I can’t recall of any particular incident when I experienced this dilemma.
Until this week.
I only have 4 months and 26 days of sobriety. I’m experiencing a lot of firsts. Non-alcoholic firsts. I made it through Thanksgiving (with the help of my incredible sponsor, a few extra naps, a lot of prayer and cases of sparkling water). No rest for the weary! Here come the cocktail parties, open houses, luncheons, happy hours, dinner reservations and house guests that chronicle the holidays. And with all of those obligations and those visits come expectations and tension. And small talk. I wanted to be left alone!
Somehow, someway, I made it into that kitchen and I poured and I stirred. I cooked and baked and cleaned. I sorted and I organized and I fought to forget the memories of drinking under such circumstances. A day like this one was grounds for day-drinking. I wanted to stage a celebration and justify drinking because this was a holiday!
Memory is a funny thing though. It tends to embellish, glorify and glamorize things to seem much better than they were. Have you ever pined for a specific meal at a restaurant so much that your mouth watered every time it came to mind? The next time you dined, however, it wasn't as good as you remember.
Marry that function of your memory with the deception that is addiction. Their chemistry is unnerving. I'm only reminded of the parts of my drinking that I enjoyed. The mimosas at brunch, a glass of red wine with a steak dinner, the Pinot Grigio I'd drink while preparing a meal. I can still taste them all and remember the exhilaration and warmth that came with the first glass. I can still remember the flight from reality that followed. There was no longer any pressure, timelines or social discomfort. All of the feelings that preceded any major event - the anxieties, the expectations, the fears and the resentments - they were removed after that second or third glass. All was well.
This disease of my mind wants me to forget what came with the absence of self-preservation and dignity. It doesn't want me to remember the regret, the humiliation, the shame. My disease wants me to forget the slurred conversations, the messes, the repeated stories, the passing out. My instincts are to think about the perks of the flight, not the landing.
But I’ve been in training. I’m much stronger for battle. My sponsor calls it my “spiritual fitness.” Although I’m no model for a magazine cover, I’m closer to God’s image of me.
Yesterday, I was exhausted before the day even started. I had training and tools, but all I really needed was God. I needed Him to do what I couldn’t do for myself. He groomed me for the fighting. He was in my corner coaxing me on. And when my knees got weak and I wanted to quit, He fought for me. I don’t know how I made it through two church services, and an extensive meal with 12 guests for six hours, but I did, and I felt every second of it.
Initially, I would have preferred flying through the day assisting my wine as its co-pilot. I could have cooked and hosted all day long, numbing the stress, the pressures and the engagement. It sounded easier, more comfortable, more familiar. But I didn’t. I chose to fight the self-pity, the resentment and the fear. And today, I'm drained.
I survived. I persevered with God as my coach and trainer, maybe even my body guard. And I can now add "Clear Memory of Successful Hosting of Large Family Gathering" to my list of firsts.