That was me, 2 years ago, before I got Sober

0429160942_HDRThis is me today.  In 9 days, I will celebrate my “First Sober Birthday” with my my AA friends and family.  I feel grateful and humble and raw.

For every person, the desire to become sober and begin living a life in the truth, however imperfect, comes from unique motivations.  Sadly, many find themselves seeking sobriety after huge losses or tragedy.  I am lucky that my story is pretty simple.  I knew alcohol consumed ME, not the reverse.  I knew I needed to find something I wanted more than the feeling of numbness and relief I got from consuming an entire bottle of Malbec on my couch every night.

I was tired and afraid.  Our family had been through so much and I sort of resented (WARNING! Resentment is so dangerous! ) having to start over again with our young children after the course my husband and I had put in motion in 2002 did not succeed.  Starting over after moving to the comfort and simplicity of small town life in the company of dear friends, in every sense of the phrase, had not been in our consciousness whatsoever.  It happened.  Everything we had planned on failed (and then some) and we were forced to come up with another plan.  Meanwhile, my parents were getting older and I  resented the fact that I was so preoccupied with caring for my own family.  I resented everybody and everything for a very long time.  I lived with the awful sense of complete domination by choices of others for many years and it broke me.  I started to drink.  Then I started to need to drink.  Then I couldn’t stop.

When you resent people and situations, you forget the power you have to change your life and you lose all hope of ever experiencing serenity.  Though I did not know this is what I was doing when alcohol dominated my life, it was.  And it was destroying me and moving closer to destroying my family.  After suffering the indignity of watching a friendship and business partnership destroy my husband and interfere with our marriage, I did not want to live in the present any longer. My drinking was the equivalent of hiding beneath the covers.

Slowly, after many bad hangovers and raging outbursts that produced nothing but hurt feelings and distance between my husband and me, I began to have tiny inklings of desire to climb out of my self-protective shell (what irony, alcoholism is anything but) and live in the truth everyday.  I couldn’t do it by myself.  I had to be humble, grateful, open, raw, willing to confess my bad behavior, open to listening to others’ stories, and willing to being broken open over and over by memories and feelings I thought I had long ago dealt with at any moment. This is the life of a sober alcoholic. And it is beautiful.

“After we’ve been in A.A. for a while, we find out that if we’re going to stay sober, we have to be humble people. ….Gratitude to God for His grace makes me humble.  When I think about the kind of person I was not so long ago, when I think of the person I left behind me, I have nothing to be proud of.  Am I grateful and humble?”

Richmond W., 1954

 

At the end of the day, however imperfect, I want to live life instead of copping out.  Even though unpleasant, feeling fear, anxiety, pain, dread and powerless are part of everyday life.  I had to learn to cope.  I love the lessons God is giving me, even unto this very moment, in coping with life and my feelings.  It has given my family a new life.  Sobriety is my joy and I am willing to fight for it every single day.

 

 

 

34 Acres, 2 Kids and a Boxer Named Tango

“I just think you’re distracted,” Scott, the Dog Trainer, kindly pointed out.  I had failed to work with our uber intelligent Boxer puppy in advance of our training appointment once again.  “It would only take a minimal amount of work and Tango could be competing in….” (the rest of the sentence made no sense to this City Girl).  We had fancy “AKC” papers (whatever that means) that were supposed to be officially “filed” someplace, for some important reason that eluded me.  All I knew was that after letting the puppy outdoors for more than 20 minutes every 2 hours, the first thing she did was waddle over to my favorite new beautiful rug, squat while gazing directly at me, and potty. “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!  I FEEL LIKE I JUST BROUGHT TWINS HOME!,” I would scream in exasperation.  My seven-year-old daughter had to take over the role of “Handler” (what the HELL is a handler, anyway?).

 

kids with tango

Oh, how the kids loved “Tango,” a name that was, in the early days, in competition with “Tiara.”  The final name decision came down to 2 main factors:  1) We had named our 34-acre piece of Kansas paradise “Tango Canyon” to honor my husband’s Argentinian heritage; 2) It brought joy to my husband and me that the neighbors, with whom we were feuding legally, had to hear us yelling “Tango” several times a day.

And, just like the enchanting and wondrous dance from Latin America, our Tango was complicated (because she was smarter than me), challenging (because we had no fence in Paradise/Tango Canyon), and charming (the Country Club Superintendent knew her personally from all the times she ran away and the Rancher across the street could never catch her fast enough to return her home, away from his cattle).  Tango became a kind of precocious Peter Rabbit in our parts and I was the tired and overwhelmed Momma Rabbit, constantly in search of her infinitely curious Peter.

The escapades involving the chasing of Tango and her valiant return home are too numerous to recount here, so since it is Memorial Day, I will recount only one.  I mentioned Ranch across the way from our land but directly across from where we lived was a beautiful cemetery called Highlands.  It overlooked the whole town of Winfield, Kansas as well as the Walnut River.  Memorial weekend was our favorite time to live across from Highlands because of the constant flow of townsfolk who would bestow their loved ones’ graves with silk flowers that later blew away in the fierce prairie wind – and my kids would gather like treasures in the wagon and lovingly present to me!  There was also a beautiful and somber Ceremony of Remembrance that the local Armory sponsored among the hundreds of flags placed throughout the cemetery by the local Rotary club.

Around 10 am each Memorial weekend Saturday morning, we would hear the patriotic trumpet music from Highlands and up the driveway we’d ramble to watch.  I guess one Saturday, when Tango was about 2, we forgot.  Or the kids were in the basement and the noise from the tv overpowered the patriotic trumpet music.  So we forgot to go, but Tango didn’t.  Off she trotted by herself (she was quite accustomed to this), to enjoy the lovely service in honor of the American fallen heroes.  When the ceremony concluded and everyone had gone home except Tango and Sergeant Pfeffer of the local National Guard, the 2 left together in his truck and returned to the Armory about 3 miles away in town.  There, Tango spent a wonderful weekend with Sergeant Pfeffer as the newly appointed “Armory Mascot.”  Sadly, I probably did not even notice that Tango was missing until late in the day on Saturday.  The kids became aware of it and set out to find her, calling “Tango” all over our land until dusk.  When she did not reappear, as usual, we became concerned and decided to call Dr. Warren, the local vet who knew just about every pet in town and was the unordained “lost dog network” figurehead.  He had not heard anything, but promised to keep us informed.  We slept better that night knowing our good friend, Dr. Warren, had his ear to the ground in search of the missing Tango.

The following day, our home phone rang a few times with the id “National Guard,” so I did not pick it up, assuming it was some kind of fundraising call preying on the emotions of patriotic Americans during Memorial weekend.  The same thing happened on Monday.  Oddly enough, Tango had not reappeared, either.  Our lines of search and rescue were going cold, but the calls from the “National Guard” persisted.  I never put it together that there could be a connection between our missing Tango and these annoying calls.  My seven-year-old, Isa, had to point it out.  “Mom, call them back!” she urged.  So I did.  On the other end of the line was a very pleasant and kind voice, Sergeant Pfeffer.  “Hi, this is Joan Tamburini, I have received many calls from this number,” I began in my irritated big-city tone.  “Oh, great! I think we have your dog,” Sergeant Pfeffer proudly announced.  He then told me the story of how Tango had wandered up to his group during the annual Remembrance Ceremony and how she had lingered by him when the rest of the crowd disbursed.  “She just happily climbed right into my truck,” he amusedly recounted.  “So she’s been here with me all weekend, keeping an eye on things and enjoying the Armory.” Oh. My. God.  Instant embarrassment and apologies from my fast-talking city mouth.  And my Isa stood before me, hand on her hip and lips pursed, judging my incompetence.

Retrieving our Tango from the Armory and meeting the delightful Sergeant Pfeffer gave our family something to do that boring Memorial Day in 2007.  When we arrived, Tango greeted us personally and gave us a tour.  She would have been the perfect Armory mascot.  But we brought her home.  And the adventures continued…….

 

 

 

T-365 Days ‘Til Our Household Shrinks

I LOVE BEING A MOM.  I especially love days when JUST being a Mom gets to be my main focus.  Today was one of those days.  It was great!

Though 17 and 15, my daughter and son still need their Momma for support, advice, caring, guidance and help shaping their world views.  (They need Dad, too, for all the same things.  We do it differently, of course!).  It is late May and they are weary from a long school year.  My daughter is a little teary as the pressure of her impending Senior year mounts:  ACT prep; Drill Team camps, practice, leadership; saying goodbye to friends who will be leaving for college; making plans for her departure from the nest; bonding with her friends through each of the “lasts” of 12th grade.  Yesterday, I left a pair of socks with the word “relaxed” in her room for her – an “I love you” just from me for her sweet dancer’s feet.11194554_10205531647904213_7725532153420392392_o

My son, who is very much a free spirit and his own person, drudged through his 9th grade year – it has been a long year for him and he his looking forward to summer and a possible career as a life guard!  A week ago, he referred to each remaining day of the school year as “7 hours of soul-crushing disappointment.”  This morning, as it poured rain in Kansas City, and I had the entire day off to myself, I received this text from my son:  “If you get me I’ll give you a foot rub and 3 quarters.”  So I did!  We went to lunch and had a wonderful time.

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I may not always get things “right” as a Mom.  But I try and I definitely enjoy the experience.  My children know I love them and they will always be FIRST in my world.  I have been fortunate to be able to spend alot of time at home with them.  And, like many other Mothers have said before, I can honestly say that I have found things to LOVE and enjoy about every stage of their young lives.  Somehow, it always works out that the stage we happen to be in together feels like my “favorite” stage until it changes again and the new stage becomes my favorite.

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I made peanut butter cup pancakes for dinner – it sounded good to my son and will be comforting to my daughter when she comes home a little melancholy after attending her boyfriend’s graduation.  I love being a Mom.  I love living in the moment. What a beautiful blessing it is to have the privilege of bring another human being into the world and preparing them for their journey.

 

Tools For Living Sober Part 2

SOBER COURAGE

Welcometo the second part to the new feature on the Sober Courage blog, called Tools for Living Sober which is based on the highly recommended book published by Alcoholics Anonymous called Living Sober.

LivingSober

The Living Sober text was first published in 1975 by AA World Services. It is a book that describes methods to stay sober that were developed by AA members after the Big Book was published in 1939. The Living Sober text was written by Barry L. an AA member who joined AA in the mid-1940’s.

There are 30 chapters in the book dedicated to the many ways that we stay sober. I have split them up into groups of six and created a 5 part series which will be published over the next several weeks.

Here is the second set of excerpts from the suggested methods for living without drinking:

7. Fending Off Loneliness:

“Although some of…

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For Cal

EXIT ONLY

mom 6 mos pregnant

I was 8 when my mother was 50, and sometimes, standing among the young moms in the schoolyard, she said she felt like our grandmother. For Cal, as everyone called her, had married late.

Because there was a Depression, she said, and no one had money. Because there was a war, she said, and all the men were gone. We had heard both reasons as she described her young life as one of five children of a widower.

They may not have had much money, but they sure had fun, to hear the tales: of evening dress at the Ritz and raccoon coats at the Harvard games. And yes, there were men on these occasions: young singles and the brothers of friends. “But to be honest,” she said of them all, “there was no yeast in the bread” – by which she meant they didn’t attract her.

Then she met our father, stationed…

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Affirmations for a Fearful World

I have been mad at Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright since they insulted women voters (and subsequently “walked back” their remarks) this Spring.

But I am also a recovering alcoholic in my first year of recovery, with a blog, so I have to be careful not to be the “grump with a brainstorm” and do or say anything that is just going to make me feel less at ease with an already  strung out world and ragged emotions

Part of the recovery process is learning to deal with our emotions without hurting ourselves or others.  Without contributing to the trashy landfill of uselessly spent hurt that contaminates our world.  So I am learning about breathing and mindfulness and affirmations.  My Mom introduced me to the affirmations part of healthy thinking many years ago.  Fearful of what might become of 4 beautiful young girls setting off on a month-long journey through Europe in 1988, my Mom wrote an affirmation and stuck it in my backpack and asked me to read it to my traveling companions each morning before starting our day.  I was absolutely amazed when one of the friends I went on that trip with told me more than 20 years later, that she still uses the affirmation and it works!  It goes something like this:

God is always with me.  Therefore I am always safe and at the right place at the right time.

I know it said more but that is the essence of the affirmation and demonstrates the simplicity of the act of centering one’s thoughts, focusing momentarily on one’s breathing, tapping into the abundance within, and bringing that goodness forth into one’s day.  It is such a healthy practice.  If you are a recovering alcoholic, finding solace and the strength to navigate a world of conflict without numbing is essential.  I think it is impossible without a personal meditation practice.

fern-yonge

After all, if a person’s entire sense of personal safety/security is centered on a person or thing outside of him/herself, that leaves the person very vulnerable to the unpredictable influences in the world.  Fear is extremely dangerous.  We must constantly find ways to mentally transform fear into love and connect with some sort of constant assuredness to live in this crazy world.  Not sure what I’m getting at?  It is simple.  If we learn to practice controlling our thoughts for even 10 minutes a day, preferably at the beginning of the day, it becomes a protective shield against negative outside influences and we feel better, make better choices, and affect the world more positively.

To my daughter, who is about to begin her Senior year, and all the other people I love, cherish and see struggling in the world, I wish 4 simple internal messages to be written on their heart:

  1.  I have abundance within that never fails to protect and lead me closer each day to fulfilling God’s purpose for my life;
  2. I have unlimited gifts that are meant to be shared lovingly with others;
  3. Time is on my side – there is no expiration date or end to the amount of love and goodness I can experience and share in my lifetime.

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4.  Spirit is Infinitely Intelligent and will support me through any and all hesitant beginnings, sticky middles and rocky endings in my life – all I have to do is Ask and listen.

Life is difficult but joyful.  Finding one’s purpose is the most gratifying experience of the human condition, and learning to access our Infinite Love within is the most simple yet powerful tool to combat fear and overcome paralysis.  Affirmations lead to love.  Love leads to action.  Action leads to wholeness.  Wholeness is our essence.  Our essence is goodness.  Start today!