Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Frustrated Song

The woman on the television pops the cork on a fresh bottle of red wine, smiles at the camera and says, "Oh, I just love that sound."

I sigh, change the channel, and see a close-up of a river of amber beer pouring into a frosty glass.

~~~~~

These days alcohol is everywhere.    In preparation for the holidays, television commercials, billboards and even newspapers are full of ads for booze.   I forgot how trying this can be, especially this time of year when by 5pm my shoulders are hunched and tense, the kids are jacked up on sugar and excitement and a pile of work waits for me each night.

I talk a lot about the gifts of sobriety, and they are ample, to be sure.   But the challenges seem louder these days, between my hectic schedule and the stress of the holidays, it is hard to find ways to unwind.    I don't want to drink, but I do want to escape.  

When I was newly sober I felt wistful about alcohol.  I pined for it like an ex-lover.  Then for a while I felt jealous; seeing someone slowly sipping a glass of red wine made me crazy with envy.  Then I got angry.   Why me?   Why do I have to be an alcoholic?  I stamped my existential feet at the unfairness of it all.

Now?   Now I mostly just long for a pause button - some way to just dial down the volume for an hour or two, especially at the end of the day.

~~~~~~

Today was a two steps forward and one step back kind of day.  Nothing bad happened, but every inch of today was inconvenient.   I had the day all planned out (mistake #1), but then Greta's cough took a scary turn and she stayed home from school.    Instead of the errands and work I had to do this morning, we headed off to the pediatrician's, only to wait in the ever-loving exam room for an hour and a half.   I sat in that little room, trying to keep Hurricane Finn from destroying everything in sight, while my day backed up on itself.   There was nothing I could do but sit and wait.

On the way home from the doctor's all the idiot lights on my car's dashboard came on simultaneously for a second, then blinked off.   They did this all the way home, while my hands gripped the wheel so tightly my knuckles turned white.  There was nothing I could do but hope it was a faulty wire, and not every major system in my car failing at once.

Next we waited in a huge line at the pharmacy to get Greta's antibiotics ("Oh look.  We're waiting.  THAT never happens,"  Greta declared, rolling her eyes). 

~~~~~~

The sun went down on today and nothing on my list of things to do was done.   I helped Greta with a pile of homework while Finn restlessly ran around the house.   Dinner, bath and bedtime for the kids, and then I dug into a pile of work.  

That's when I turned on the television, hoping to watch some mindless home decor show while I made jewelry, and it turns out to be Wine and Dine Night with the irritating Cork Popping Lady. 

~~~~~~

One sentence kept scrolling through my head today, on an endless loop:   the only way out is through

I've lost the ability to manufacture peace in a glass, so I have to talk myself through stressful times, endless waits in waiting rooms, and serpentining days.     Just wait it out, Ellie, says the Voice.   You can wait it out peacefully or you can simmer in irritation.   You choose

Half an hour into our wait in the exam room I felt like my head was going to explode.    Greta gave me a timid glance, and said, "You okay,  Momma?" while Finn wriggled in my lap like a spastic monkey.

No, I'm not okay.  I have eighty badzillion things to be doing and I'm STUCK here.   I am most certainly not okay, I thought.

"I'm just a little frustrated with this long wait,"  I tell her.   "Do you know what I do when I'm frustrated?"  I ask her.   I'm totally winging it.  I have no idea what I'm going to say next.

"I sing the Frustrated Song."  WTF? Where did that come from?

She raises her eyebrows expectantly.  

I made up a little ditty on the spot.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I was desperate. 

"Ohhhhh, we're stuck we're stuck and I don't give a ....  darn.    Some days don't go as planned, some days really should be banned.   When everything is going wrong, I sing my Frustrated Sooo-oo-ooong!"

Greta and Finn looked at me like I had lost my mind, and maybe I had, but then Greta chimed in:

"Ohhhh it's the Frustrated Song, it won't take long, not like this wait we're haaa-aa-ving.   So sing along, bang your gong, its the Frustrated Sooo-ooo-oong."

"I like the fwustwated song," said Finn.  "Sing it again!!'

~~~~

I have to work harder to find peace of mind these days.   Even sleep doesn't bring immediate solace, because when I lay my exhausted head down on the pillow at night the nocturnal, hyperactive squirrel who lives in my brain pops to life and starts burrowing around for Panic Acorns.

My thoughts turn to alcohol more often these days.   It's just the truth.   I don't feel sad, angry or wistful anymore.  I'm mostly just tired, and in need of a fast-acting solution.   There isn't time for meditation, or reading, or talking on the phone with recovery friends - all things I do when life is moving along at a more normal pace. 

So I sing the Frustrated Song.   And I wait.  

10 comments:

  1. "Now? Now I mostly just long for a pause button - some way to just dial down the volume for an hour or two, especially at the end of the day."

    This.

    Oh yes.

    Now, I admit I *do* love the sound of a cork popping out of a bottle. However, it is because the only time that happens is when my husband and I have time just to sit and be together, enjoying a few moments of peace. Much of the time I pour two-thirds of a small glass and still have half left, so it's not the alcohol, it's the moment that I need. I realise, though, that the sound of the cork acts as a 'trigger' for me to relax in anticipation. So, yes, I *do* love the sound.

    But, boy do I know the need for a pause button. One thing I have found brilliant is Taoist Tai Chi. I started in January and I *love* it. I only go once a week. But if I find myself stressed and remember it, I do the first few moves and they act as a moving meditiation. And it's quick. OK, it's taken a few months to learn the moves. And I go to a class once a week. But in the moments I need a quick chill out? It's brilliant. In fact, excuse me while I go do some now in the corner of my office :-)

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  2. This is brilliance: "I have to work harder to find peace of mind these days. Even sleep doesn't bring immediate solace, because when I lay my exhausted head down on the pillow at night the nocturnal, hyperactive squirrel who lives in my brain pops to life and starts burrowing around for Panic Acorns."

    I have found a new way to quiet that squirrel in yoga. It seems the only place where I can live in my body AND my mind at the same time. Unfortunately, I can't do it all day long or in the pediatrician's office (had one of those fruitless visits yesterday, too) but the blissed-out feeling I get from it seems to help me get through the other. I know you don't have time in your schedule but maybe if it was a place that had childcare for Finn, you could find the time? I think the holidays are just particularly hard to stay centered and patient and kind and loving, especially with ourselves.

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  3. I like the song too... and I think you should record it and post it for us :)
    This time of year is so emotionally charged to begin with, add on the alcoholism, the stress, the to dos, and man is it tough.

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  4. dear booze, I hate you so much. Please leave my friend Ellie, countless others, and me alone. (and I might miss you a little too). But don't call. OR text.
    Love,
    Jane

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  5. thank your for this. certainly hit home. i am constantly walking the line that is constantly moving of trying to let things go, trying to pause but when my 2 and 5 year old wildcats are going insane i am wrestling with the constant conversation/argument in my head. "let kids be kids; walk away and ignore the deafening noise..." i can end up acting like a 5 year old when i feel like my head will explode. this usually happens between 4:45 and 5:30 when i am counting seconds until husband gets home. today is second snow day this week and it is the last day of kids preschool before the two week break. shite. so this morning, as i'm chopping tomatillos for crock pot and christmas cd ended, it skipped to ryan adams. i had read your post earlier and when this song came on, i thought hmmm, how appropriate.

    "Halloween Head"

    Here comes that shit again
    I've got a halloweenhead
    Head full of tricks and treats
    It leads me thru the nighttime streets
    Black cats and falling trees
    Under ladders always walking
    Salt shaker spills just throw it over your shoulder, babe
    I've got a bad idea again, i've got a
    Halloweenhead, halloweenhead
    Head full of candy bags
    Costume shops and punks in drag
    Head full of tricks and treats
    Places where junkies meet
    And it leads me thru streets at night
    That's alright, i just watch i don't go inside
    It's all the same old shit again
    I got a halloweenhead
    I got a halloweenhead
    Lord, i got a halloweenhead
    Guitar solo
    I got a halloweenhead
    Lord, i've got a halloweenhead
    I got a halloweenhead
    Oh lord, i've got a halloweenhead
    Here comes that shit again
    I've gota halloweenhead
    Head of tricks and treats
    It leads me thru the nighttime streets
    Downtown
    Downtown
    Downtown
    I've got a halloweenhead
    Lord, i've got a halloweenhead
    What the fuck's wrong with me, god i'm a halloweenhead

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  6. Great post! I'm still in the "wistful" stage of recovery. It seems everywhere you go at this time of the year, there's a line to wait in. Love the little song--great job winging it! Thanks for sharing. BTW, love your jewelry too. Will be making some purchases for myself after the holidays. ;-)

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  7. I think you are so brave to blog about this openly. I hope that doing so makes it easier. Reading about your struggle with alcoholism has really changed my perspective on the whole 'Mummy needs a drink' mentality. It really bothers me now! I agree that sometimes as a mother we really do need coping mechanisms, but that's definitely not the way to go.

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  8. digging for panic acorns, I love that! perfect fit for me. I've been writing about stuff like this over a BFB lately; 1) how I am so tired of being on (AND WIRED) 24/7, an escape just sounds so nice and 2) how the panic and stress of the holiday season is wearing me down. Strike that, 2 major panic attacks and 3 doctors visits later: I AM WORN DOWN. It helps to know I'm not the only one.

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  9. I LOVED the part about the hyperactive nocturnal squirrel! I can so relate to that feeling - mine's usually at 3am when I wake up and can't get back to sleep. So I make lists in my head of all the things that need to get done ASAP.
    I'm trying to take a few minutes this year to sit down for 5-10 min a day in front of the Christmas tree and enjoy the lights and decorations. Just sit and enjoy. Otherwise, I feel like I've missed Christmas due to all the rushing around wrapping and mailing gifts, writing out cards, crossing off things on the "to do" list.
    Hope you can find some peace and joy this season! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this blog - I really enjoy it.

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  10. Hang in there Ellie - you are awesome.

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