Big-Girl Panties

Since my return from the cross-country adventure, I have felt a little lost. My mood has been somber, and my temper has reared its ugly head over the last several days. The “pink cloud” of happy bliss escaped me, leaving me restless, irritable and discontent. These are feelings I am all too familiar with, although not good feelings, they are comfortable and I have wallowed in them for weeks now. It’s like slipping on an old pair of shoes that used to rub blisters on your feet, although they still hurt your feet, you wear them anyway. Like when an old song comes on the radio, it can transport your mind back in time to remember events and even the way you felt, back in the day. Some of these old emotions can be hurtful and still sting like it was yesterday, but we keep walking around in those shoes that are a size too small and turn up the sad song on the radio while we cry along. Why do we do it?  

I had allowed myself to tread, stagnate in a sea of negativity, bitterness and self pity.  The new useful and purposeful feelings I had recently discovered through my recovery program, seemed to be drifting farther and farther away. All I did was watch. I could not figure out why I was feeling this way or what to do about. Truth is, I was starting to enjoy just stewing in the darkness again. Although it was not healthy for me to be stuck in my own head, the familiarity was somehow comforting, like seeing an old friend.  I was slowly  starting to withdraw again, slowing beginning to isolate myself in a blanket of fear. Self-doubt and uselessness were creeping back in and I knew it. 

Fortunately, my very wise friend and advisor noticed it too. She called me out on it, and I was grateful. After spending some time with her, examining these negative and potentially life threatening trains of thought, we figured out that I have been standing still in my recovery. After the trip, I felt I no longer had an immediate purpose to work toward. Not picking up a drink is, of course, my main purpose everyday but I had become complacent. I had been isolating myself in a comfortable bubble again, much like the dark hole I dug myself into while in active addiction. No, I wasn’t drinking yet, but it would have been inevitable, if I had not been reminded of the new tools I have picked up through this recovery process. Today, with help,  I can not only recognize when I am starting to slide into the pit, I can fasten on my tool belt and work my way out. I never want to completely loose my footing and end up on rock bottom again! So, I’m pulling up my big-girl panties, strapping on the tool belt and I’m getting to work. Time to bust out of the comfort zone once more and make things happen. It is the only way I can keep moving forward and continue to grow. Standing still is no longer an option. I have to work to keep my cherished serenity and peace, pursue new levels of sobriety and go to any lengths to protect it. 

 This is why I love being sober. Although it is not easy, there is always something to discover and new challenges to conquer…only if I dare.


My Experience-Why I Believe

I’m finally settling back into my home life. The feelings of sadness have faded, only after accepting the fact that the road trip to courage was merely the 1st branch of my journey in recovery.  I know I will continue to have God moments daily no matter where I am physically. That, in and of itself, is a wondrous and magical trip.  

You would imagine I would be patting myself on the back for completing the challenge of driving cross country by myself. The old me would be relishing in the glory of everyone being amazed and proud of me. Rather, what I feel is grateful and honored. While I do whole-heartedly appreciate all the congratulations, I actually don’t deserve them. All I did was to trust my Higher Power (whom I choose to call God), and be willing to follow His lead. I may have been by myself in that car, but I was never alone.

If you’re anything like me (let’s hope not), I would have stopped reading this as soon as I saw all this “God” stuff. I used to believe, folks threw the religious, mumbo-jumbo talk around just to make others think they were good people. I mean, if someone is religious, they must be trustworthy and somehow on a higher degree of goodness than the average Joe, right? For me, they were weak and goody-two-shoes. I also thought, they looked down on me. For that reason, I remained as far away from those people as I could. I wasn’t buying what they were selling.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up going to church every Sunday, like most respectable, God fearing Southerners do. I was even very involved with the youth group. By high school, I went to church for 2 reasons: First and foremost, my parents made me and secondly, I looked forward to hearing all the gossip about who did what at the drunken party the night before. The church didn’t make sense to me. My experience was that of a bunch of hypocrites, getting all dressed up in their Sunday best, only to put on a show. Why did they do it? I determined it was either, to show off their new Mercedes and designer dress or to make other people think they were saints. I just didn’t get it.  

It wasn’t until after my parents couldn’t get in touch with me for 2 days, my kids had not heard from me, and I hadn’t shown up at work, that unbeknownst to me, my transformation had begun. I never really share what came about that day for many reasons. The main reason is out of respect for the entire family, especially Mom and Dad, my children and my sister. It is still really painful for them to think about and although they are now very supportive of my recovery, there is still underlying resentment and anger, because of what I put them through. Rightly so. I cannot even fathom how scared and horrified they must have been. See, what happened that day didn’t just happen to me, it happened to my whole family. We are still trying to come to terms with what happened, why it happened and all the years of damage I caused leading up to that day. The second reason I don’t share much is because I hold no memory of any of it. I only know the details from what I have been told. What I do recognize is that if my folks had not called 911 when they did, I would have been found dead. This is not an exaggeration for shock value, it is a fact.  I was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Room, then spent several days in Intensive Care, not knowing who I was, where I was, or who my family was. Devastating for my family. After I was stabilized, I stayed nearly 2 weeks in the Psych Ward, spent a month inpatient in rehab at the UAB Addiction Treatment Center, then outpatient for two months, on to a halfway house for another two months and now am living with my parents in the house I grew up in. I am grateful and humbled. Those two words were not even in my vocabulary before, now they define my very existence.                                                     

Today, I know without a shadow of doubt there is a Divine Spirit that holds us and protects us. When we are caught up in our own turmoil, we just aren’t open-minded enough to realize it, or maybe it’s easier to wallow in our own self pity or bask in our overblown egos than to seek Him. Truth is, I should have been dead that day. For some reason, I lived. Nothing else can explain the chain of miracles that took place to save my life but a supernatural intervention.  

Sometimes, it’s easier to blame Him for everything bad in our lives than see that we cause our own misery. Maybe we don’t believe, period. Death of loved ones, pain of any loss (a job, a marriage, etc.), anger for having to experience hurt feelings, drowning those terrible feelings in alcohol, sticking a needle in our arm, going into debt for shopping all the time or gambling, downing a handful of pain pills, maybe we starve ourselves, over-exercise… He is to blame for all of it?  We have to open our eyes to see our part in whatever has happened, allow ourselves to feel the pain and be angry, then let it pass. If we don’t let it go, it grows like Cancer inside and eventually destroys us. I know, easier said than done right? Life happens, not always how we want it to. For me, I can either get resentful when things suck for me and drink to numb it (it will still be there when I sober up, if I sober up) or I can look at myself a little closer, admit what part I played in my resentment, ask forgiveness, learn from it and move on. Doing this allows me to keep the voices in my head relatively quiet and gives me a peaceful serenity I have never experienced before. There is a Power greater than all of us, I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it, I don’t know why but I experience it everyday. My daughter said the Pastor at her church explains it this way, I am paraphrasing, “Of course we can’t understand Him, God is larger and more powerful than our tiny brains are capible of conceiving. Would we really follow a God we could understand anyway?”. This has been my experience.

Day 23- Home, What Now?

The last two days of my journey, I felt bummed and a little sad.  I knew this was all coming to an end.  For the last ten months, I had been focused on only 2 things, my recovery and planning this road trip to courage.  I tried to stay focused on Louisville and Nashville, to enjoy every minute of what was left to see, but my heart was so full of disappointment.  Instead of living in the moment, I allowed myself to get caught up in the future.  I kept thinking, what now?  Again, I had fallen into my old way of thinking.

As I made my way into Alabama, I tried to correct my thoughts by pretending this was another new state that I had never seen before.  It actually worked for a while.  The intensity of color all around me was mesmerizing.  The trees were the most vibrant green with splashes of purple, yellow, and deep pink flowers mixed in.  The mountains through Cullman, could definitely compete with any other state I drove through.  Sometimes, you don’t actually see the beauty of where you live, you walk through your day to day life with foggy, mundane glasses on.  It’s there, we just have to clean those glasses or get a new pair.  I soaked in the wonderful pallet of Spring colors Alabama has to offer, until I got closer to home.

Those pesky worries popped in my head again.  I took the exit to my house, then sat there for a good few minutes.  If I kept straight, I could keep heading South to Florida and prolong my road trip.  If I turned right, I could be home in less than 5 minutes.  The thought of taking that right turn meant the adventure was over and I didn’t want it to be.  I finally convinced myself that I should go home, see my family and if I wanted to leave again, I could.  Still, the nagging question, what now?, was swirling in my head.

Seeing my family, my dogs and some very dear lady friends was awesome, but I was still feeling down.  Then I called my closest confidant and trusted advisor.  She always has pearls of wisdom to help me put things in perspective.  When I told her how I was feeling, she reassured me that it’s human to feel sad that my trip is over.  I asked her, “What am I supposed to do now???”.  Her answer, “Ask God, then patiently wait for the answer.  It always comes.”  I knew that, guess I just needed reminding.  The trip may be over, but the adventures on recovery road will continue, just waiting on details from The Big Guy.

Day 22- Undiscovered Nashville

The last stop before heading back to Birmingham was Nashville, Tennessee.  I had only been there once before and the only places I visited were the insides of swanky bars.  The best I can recall, there was loud country music, line dancing and enough booze flowing to sink the Titanic.  This time would be different.  I set my sights on The Grand Ole Opry and all the other famous places this music capital of the south had to offer.

The rain was coming down hard on the drive in and didn’t look like it would clear anytime soon.  I stopped in the parking lot directly across the street from the Opry trying to decide if I wanted to brave the storm and go in.  While I waited, I was looking up hotels to stay the night in, investigating the others sights in town and honestly, just being too lazy to get out of the car.  I had the radio playing and the phone I was using plugged into the charger.  After about an hour of that, the rain let up and I walked across the street to take some pictures of the outside of the Opry house.  I had already decided not to pay to go in since a friend suggested I tour The Ryman theater instead.  

As I returned to my car, I was anxious to get to The Ryman.  My car, on the other hand, had something else in mind.  I suppose it was still in lazy mode since it wouldn’t start.  I tried again and again but…tick,tick,tick was all I got.  Instead of being irritated and mad (like the old me would have done), I remembered my dear sweet dad had gotten me a AAA membership before I left home.  At the time, I thought it was a bit over protective of him, but now, I was more than relieved he had been that smart.  I sat and waited for the AAA guy to get there.  

Half the day was over by the time my car was up and going (the battery had died).  I decided to cut my loses and try to find a hotel instead.  I drove on to Franklin, Tennessee since rooms were cheaper and it was a little closer to home.  When things like that happen, sometimes it’s best for me to realize it was not meant to be…this time.  I’ll have to go back to Nashville another time to see all those undiscovered gems.  Here’s the little I did see.

Day 21- Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I went to bed conflicted on the next day’s travel plan.  The most direct course for home was to head toward Memphis, Tennessee, a straight shot to Birmingham.  For some reason, I was drawn to Louisville, Kentucky.  I had been to Louisville as a child, with my family so it wasn’t like I hadn’t seen it before.  The only memory I had retained from that trip was sitting on a tremendously large horse and having my picture made.  It was my very first time to feel the powerful and muscular animal under me, it was instant love. From that moment on, I was obsessed with horses.  I prayed about which direction I should go, then hit the sack.

I awoke the next morning with no doubts.  I was heading to Kentucky.  It was only about 4 hours from where I was and I knew there would be regret if I didn’t follow my gut instinct to go.

On the road there, I was thinking about why there was such a strong urge in me to go to Louisville again.  Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks, it was the first time I remember my mom showing concern about me.  When the barn hand was helping me up onto the back of that magnificent horse, Mom said, “Bill, Bill, it’s too big!  Don’t they have a smaller one?  What if she falls?!”.  Now, I’m sure my mother loved me before that moment, but it was the first time in my life I really knew it.  Mind you, I was all of 6 or 7 years old.

As I continued to relive that memory, I remembered  getting pleasure from frightening my mom.  There was a sense of power from doing something that effected her emotions in a negative way.  Even at that early age, manipulating someone’s feelings, brought me some form of satisfaction.  That is sick thinking!

Maybe, the magnetic pull to visit Louisville was God’s way of helping me understand that I have always had this disease.  It really shouldn’t be called “addiction”.  Being chemically addicted to a substance is merely a symptom of this disease of the brain.  The bottom line, I process and react differently to everyday interactions and stimuli than earthlings (normal people).  I believe it is a disease I was born with, just like millions of others.  We use chemicals to change the way we think and feel, to help us deal with the twisted way our brains work.  The addiction part happens when we use these chemicals to excess, all in the name of feeling “normal”.  This is just one addict’s opinion.

I also think the draw to Louisville was a gift.  It just so happened,  the Grand Opening of the newest exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum was that day.  It was dedicated to the latest Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah.  It also, just so happened, that the main event was planned for 3:00.  I arrived at 2:00.  The owners, jockey and Pharoah’s trainer were all there and I got to hear them interviewed.  I was also honored to see the 1st screening of the movie about this amazing horse’s story.  Very cool to connect some of my past feelings and to be a part of history in the making.


Day 20- St. Louis from a Safe Distance

Next stop, St. Louis.  After the chain of events in the Chicago traffic, I was a little gun shy about going into another big city.  I found a park just across the river and got some awesome shots of the Gateway to the West, the classic Arch.  The weather cooperated for the photos.  It rained all the way there, as if by magic, the drops stopped just as I arrived at at the park.  

I’m one step closer to home and instead of being happy about it, I feel rather sad it’s all coming to an end.  Chin up Les, we still have Nashville tomorrow!  Yes, after 3 weeks on the road, you’d talk to yourself too!  Grand Ole Opry here we come!  Here are a few pics of St. Louis, with a very distant shot of the Cardinals field.  

Day 19- More than a Picture

I had only one goal for the day, make the drive to Chicago, get a quick picture of  Wrigley Field, then get out.  The only reason I was going?  I just wanted to see the field where Babe Ruth called the famous home run shot.  Thought it would be an easy in and out situation, not so much.

 Firstly, I hit the big city at rush hour and all of their 2 billion roads were bumper to bumper.  After a good 2 hours of sitting in traffic, I finally saw the stadium!  I also saw every baseball fan in town since the Cubs were playing at home.  After getting the best picture I could, without hitting one of those very enthusiastic fans, I slowly finagled my car away from the field.  I was desperately trying to make my way back to the interstate to escape the chaos when, low and behold, I’m in even worse traffic.  When I came around a corner, I finally realize why.  I had just finagled myself directly behind the NFL Draft Selection Square.  Needless to say, I had a lot of time to take in the sites of the city, since I think I saw every square inch of it at a snail’s pace.  

The whole experience was very exciting!  I only got lost a few times, easily escaped a wreck or two, and didn’t hit any pedestrians!  I did make manage to reach Wrigley Field, but I got way more than just a picture.