Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Frustrated Song
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.
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.
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!!'
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.