Saturday, July 24, 2010

Answers - Part Two

Thanks again for all the great questions!   Here is Part Two of the answers:

Question: how'd you come up with your kids names?  Both times we used a baby name book.   We decided on Greta's name right away.    We were reading the book together, and both pointed to her name and said, "That's it!" at the same time.    What is great about her name is that my mother's heritage is Swedish, and Steve's father's side is German, and "Greta" is both a Swedish and German name.     We had a much more difficult time deciding on Finn's name.    We wanted something unusual, but not so far off the page that it would get him beat up on the playground.     Steve's mother's side of the family is Irish, and we loved the Irish boy's names.    We narrowed it down to a few finalists, and after a few weeks "Finn" just seemed to fit perfectly (his full name is "Finnian").     It suits his personality perfectly. 

Questionfavorite book?   Oh my.   I really can't come up with just one.   I did a post a while back about the books and authors that have influenced me the most, so I guess it's easiest just to direct you here.    It's easier for me to name some of my favorite authors, and they include  Sue Miller, Jane Smiley, John Irving, Kelly Corrigan, Jodi Picoult (some of them), Stephen King and the Dalai Lama.

Question: what inspired you to make jewelry?   Again, I blogged about this here.   It's easier to send you to the post than to describe it all again.  :)

Questionon facebook/twitter/etc. i often see status updates that say something like "gosh i need a drink" or "settling down for the night with a glass of wine!" do statements like that bother you, and do you try to distance yourself from people who update like that frequently?   In early sobriety, reading things like that was a punch to the gut.   They made me feel "other than", different, broken somehow.    They amplified the feeling of loss I felt that I couldn't drink.    I stayed away from situations that involved drinking, but in main stream media (commercials, magazines, social media, television shows) references to drinking are everywhere.     With time, I was able to see a wine commercial without wanting to cry, or read a facebook update like "Is it 5 o'clock yet?  Mama needs a drink!"  without feeling a profound sense of loss.   Now I'm able to take all that in stride.    I think, though, that if I wasn't working a program of recovery, things like that would quickly become difficult to read, because it would poke at the feeling of not fitting in, not being able to have fun, not being normal.    When I read things like that now, I think about the amazing sober network of friends I have - of all the compassionate, smart, funny, loving, brave women I know who are out there rockin' it sober, and I feel grateful, not like an outcast.    I think about how if I hadn't stopped drinking, these amazing people wouldn't be in my life.   No matter how badly I may want to drink at any given time, the fear of losing those people is far more powerful.

QuestionHave you noticed any financial benefits to quitting?   Absolutely.    When I was about three months sober, Steve came across one of my bank statements from the last month of my drinking.   He showed it to me, and I nearly fell over.    Just about every single line item was a liquor or convenience store, and the total amount spent that month on alcohol was staggering.     When I was drinking daily, I never bought alcohol in bulk (it was a way to keep up my denial - if I'm buying a case of wine I must have a problem, right?).   So I would go to a different liquor or convenience store every day, trying to make the people who worked there (like they cared) believe it was my once-weekly stop to stock up.     So every day I was spending anywhere from $8 - $15 on wine.   If that averages out to $12/day - that is $360 a month, or over $4300/ year on alcohol.

QuestionHow did you handle pregnancy and abstaining?    I didn't drink during either of my pregnancies, even though when I found out I was pregnant with Finn I was drinking every night.    Part of it was a protectiveness of the baby - it's one thing to destroy my own health, it's another thing to destroy the health of an innocent fetus.     So that was definitely a big part of it.    But another thing was equally powerful - I didn't feel an urge to drink when I was pregnant.   When I was pregnant I felt a sense of identity - the pregnant mother.    Everywhere I went, once I was visibly pregnant, people were exclaiming over the pregnancy, gushing with congratulations and stories of motherhood.   It all gave me a feeling of belonging I had never felt before.    So that 'hole in my soul' that I carried with me when I wasn't pregnant just kind of evaporated.    Within three months of giving birth, each time, I was right back to where I had been before with drinking, if not worse.     I used the fact that I could just stop for nine months as my strongest argument that I couldn't be an alcoholic.    I know now that alcoholism is a progressive disease, and it doesn't matter how long you abstain - the minute you pick up the first drink it is only a matter of time before you're right back where you were.     I learned in rehab about the physiological reasons for this - I won't get into it here, but it has to do with how the narcotic effects of alcohol travel through the brain.     It was comforting to learn the physiology behind it, to know it wasn't because I'm weaker than everyone else.    It also helps me stay sober, knowing that no matter how good I feel now, the disease is lying in wait - in my brain - and it will wake right up if I drink.

QuestionNot an addict (well, chocolate), but a child of an alcoholic and with an addictive personality. So, what I want to know is, how do you cope with all the stress of life, the universe and everything now that you're not drinking? What helps most?    Talking.   Hands down, talking about how I feel helps the most.    Not just talking about how I feel about drinking, but how I feel about everything.    Before getting sober, I never talked about my emotions - I barely acknowledged to myself that I had them.    I didn't know what to do with anger, sadness or resentment - it's as if I felt like somehow I wasn't allowed to feel badly.   So I stuffed everything down, buckled down, moved through life without ever processing anything.    When the negative emotions got loud, I'd drink to manufacture a better state of mind.     As a result, I never learned how to move through bad feelings, how to be vulnerable, how to ask for help.     It's still something I have to work on - A LOT.    When things are tough - like the witching hour and the kids are driving me nuts, etc. - the first thing I have to do is acknowledge to myself how I'm feeling - cranky, bored, angry, frustrated.    Just putting a name to the emotion helps a lot.    The second thing I have to do is talk about it - call a sober friend, or a regular friend, talk to Steve.    Putting words to my feelings diminishes their power over me.    Left to my own resources, I turn molehills into mountains, I start thinking I'll never feel better again, I 'kitchen sink' my emotions - they snowball out of control quickly.   I need help keeping things in perspective, and my support network helps me do this.     With time, I can do this on my own sometimes - find a quiet corner and meditate, or pray - but if I don't stop and acknowledge my feelings I'm in real trouble.

QuestionSome people feel alcoholism has a genetic component to it - what are your thoughts on this? Do you talk about alcoholism with your kids yet? Or if you don't, do you have thoughts on if/how you will in the future?    I personally believe alcoholism is a disease.   I know it's kind of a controversial topic, but the American Medical Association and other organizations have acknowledged alcoholism as a disease since the early 1950s.    I also believe it runs in families - I see far too many families ravaged by addiction to believe otherwise.    I'm adopted, so I don't know the medical history of my biological family, but I'd be willing to bet addiction is in there.       As such, I am very concerned about my kids being more susceptible to addiction.   We deal with it by talking openly and honestly about it with them.    We don't tell them any more than they ask, because we don't want to give them more information than they are ready for, but we answer all their questions honestly.     As they get older, we'll keep talking.   I hope my experience gives me some street cred with them as they get older - I know from which I speak - but I'm not naive enough to believe there is anything we can do to stop it from coming, if that is the way things are going to play out.    All we can do is be powers of example, I hope, and keep communicating as honestly and openly as we can.     I want them to have a healthy fear of alcohol, but it's not up to me alone, of course.    

QuestionTell me it will be okay.    If I quit.    I saved this one for last, because it hit me hard, and I've given a lot of thought to my answer.    I wish I could say it will be okay, but of course life isn't like that.   I can say it will be hard - the hardest thing you've ever had to do, probably - but I can also say that it will be worth it.    That you will be free - freer than you can possibly imagine now.    You will live an authentic life, be present for everything - good and bad.    It's hard to find words to say what a gift this is.   Sometimes I look at people who aren't alcoholics or addicts, but who I feel live an unexamined life, and I say a prayer of thanks that I was forced to stop and take a good hard look at what my life means to me, what kind of footprint I want to leave on the world, what I want to mean to other people, but more importantly what I mean to myself.      No matter how difficult things get in sobriety, I am present in the moment, in touch with my feelings, and able to surrender and be free.    It's amazing.   

Truly, staggeringly, amazing.


  1. You will live an authentic life, be present for everything - good and bad.

    Beautiful quote and a good commentary on recovery. i loved all your answers! you are such an inspiration :)

  2. That last one got me to. Wow, I hope that person finds the strength. There is a whole new world out there, and I pray that they will get a chance to see it it through sober eyes.

  3. well, shit, you mean I have to deal with my emotions?? ok, then. Bad Cohen's been telling me that for years, but for some reason it's more convincing coming from you.