• Alcohol and Sobriety,  This is Me

    Compound Interest

    Everyone was laughing except me. At this point, I had pasted a smile to my face, which now felt stiff and wooden. I probably looked like a monkey, tightened lips spread in a parody of human emotion. I’m usually pretty good at faking things, but it was all bubbling so closely under the surface that day. “I went back and told her, ‘Uh uh. That’s not a raise: that’s a cost of living adjustment,’” Sophia proclaimed, straight-faced. “Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate a cost of living adjustment. It’s great. Really. But, you know, let’s just call it was it is.” This followed a discussion of her husband’s signing bonus, which with an…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    Where We Take Our Smoke Breaks

    “That’s where we take smoke breaks,” Anna pointed toward an E-Z Up under the Eucalyptus, several yards from the facility’s cafeteria. The dust was high on the dirt roads, the decrepit blue van billowing trails behind us as we carted around various brooms, mops, buckets, rags and cleansers. That was our job, to clean. Housekeeping, they called us, as if we serviced an upscale hotel instead of rehab. “I don’t smoke,” I said. “Good, that’s good. I should quit. These things will kill you.” After a few hours at the Ranch, I had anticipated her response to my smoke-free existence. Everyone reiterated the same sentiment in their own words, different summaries of the…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    The Long Walk Back

    I couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day off work. Sky so crisply blue it seemed tangible, clouds high and fluffy, temperature in the low seventies. A perfect North County day, as all the days seemed during that spring so many years ago. Right after the other girls in the house went to work cleaning cabins and raking leaves, I dressed, filled my water bottle, and set out on the two-mile walk to the train station. On my various walks to the Target or the Stater Brothers or the bank, I would shuffle through the music my boyfriend had loaded on an iPod he gave me for Christmas. Sometimes the playlists grew stale…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    Someone is Always Dying

    Every few months, somebody dies. The first time it happened, I heard about it from a random Facebook check in. Posted on my recovery group page, I saw from a short message that Matt* had left the inpatient treatment facility after over a year of sobriety, locked himself in a hotel room, and drank himself to death. My jaw dropped, and tears sprang to my eyes with their prickly sharpness. Dead? I knew Matt a little. He was handsome, in a washed-up actor sort of way, with light brown hair and eyes that crinkled when he smiled. He was probably in his early fifties, about my dad’s age. Always met…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    New Year’s Day

    New Year’s Day, 2010. It was still dark when the act of coughing up sludge awoke me. Shit, I thought. No cough syrup available because of the alcohol content. No soothing Benadryl or Tylenol PM to rock me gently to sleep despite the lung ratting. We couldn’t even take allergy medicine with antihistamines, which would cause a dirty result if the director decided to randomly drug test us. Thankfully I had the room to myself. I’d have hated to wake up a roommate before 8 AM on one of the only days off we got here. I kept hacking, regretting the cigar I smoked last night to ring in the…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety,  Family Dynamics,  This is Me

    “What do you want to do for Christmas this year?”

    “What do you want to do for Christmas this year, hon?” I felt myself jump, even though I know I didn’t actually do it on the outside. We were driving home from dinner, and I mentally cursed the twenty minutes on the freeway ahead of us. Twenty minutes of what would very likely be a Marital Dispute. Someone, probably God, was punishing me. Faster than you could say “Let’s change the subject, sweetie,” the memories of the past few Christmases wheeled through my mind. Like last Christmas, when family members didn’t cooperate with my ideas and Mike and I opened presents alone. I felt guilty for forcing my plans on…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    A Harmless Little Lie

    It was just another run of the mill Monday at rehab. Like always, the first item on our housekeeping list was the New Beginnings House. Run by the county, New Beginnings facilitated supervised meetings between parents and children when the children have been removed from the parents’ care. Victoria and I volunteered to clean the nurse’s station, the small trailer about fifty yards away where they did physical check-ups on the children in foster care. The nurse’s station was an easy task, as it was infrequently used. A light dusting, bathroom wipe down and vacuuming took care of the little space. Lugging the vacuum down the slope was probably the…

  • Medical Money
    Alcohol and Sobriety,  Deadly Diseases

    A Trip to the Hospital: Part II

    See here for the first part of the story. – – – My mom and I sat side by side in hard plastic chairs, listening to the social worker go on about why I didn’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. Mom had driven down to take me home so I could convalesce before going back to rehab, but first thing’s first – the bill of services. Hence, the social worker. “I’ve been sober for thirteen days. I’m in rehab. I have nothing. Who is going to pay for this?” I asked everyone from the epidemiologist to the nurse who changed my IV fluid. Any time I repeated this question I…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    Year Four: Practicing Peace

    I know I’ve been writing a lot about my addiction and recovery lately. Hopefully it doesn’t scare anybody off, but there’s a few reasons for the trips down memory lane… It’s partly because tomorrow is my fourth birthday, meaning, the marker of four years without alcohol. Birthdays tend to make me reflective. It’s also because I’m embarking on step eight. You know, the fun one where you have to list all the people you’ve harmed and prepare to apologize to them. Yay. There’s nothing I like more than cataloguing all the terrible shit I’ve done to people. I’ve also been dealing with addiction again in an up-close-and-personal way, though this…

  • Me at the Ranch
    Alcohol and Sobriety,  Deadly Diseases,  Depression is a Bitch,  This is Me

    The Bravest Thing I’ve Ever Done

    I’m not a terribly brave person. If anything, I’m rather cowardly. Exhibit A: I flee from confrontation Exhibit B: The thought of a spider crawling across my arm sends me into apoplectic shock Exhibit C: A crowded room makes me want to crawl into myself and disappear Exhibit D: I’m not into extreme sports like cow tipping or, to my husband’s eternal dismay, skydiving Exhibit E: It took me about a decade of writing experience before I summoned the bravery to share my work with others That’s a lot of evidence against me, enough for me to write myself off as a cowardly lion, which I’ve always done. But as one of my favorite…


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