Monday, May 31, 2010

What A Difference A Year Makes

One year.

One year ago today I plunked down in front of my computer and Googled "how to start a blog". Several people had suggested I start a blog to support my jewelry business. So I stumbled my way to Blogger, set up an account, and thought - quite literally - here goes nothing.

I thought I was going to post about new pieces of jewelry, promotions in my shop, maybe a word or two about creativity, and a couple of cute vignettes about the kids. I never thought I'd write about me. I certainly never thought anyone would ever read it. Maybe because I thought nobody would ever see it, I felt comfortable flexing my muscles a bit, exploring unchartered waters.

I started writing about recovery, and I realized something quickly: I felt better. Purging my thoughts onto the page was therapeutic, cathartic. Just shy of two years sober, it helped me sort through my fledging thoughts and feelings.

A few months into it, I questioned myself. I wondered: is blogging just an over-inflated ego run rampant? Do I think too much of myself? Who am I to think anyone would ever care about anything I have to say? As more readers showed up, I became fearful; I felt vulnerable, exposed.   I was questioned, sometimes criticized outright, about balancing writing about my addiction and recovery and maintaining humility.  Several times in the first four or five months I came close to shutting it down.

I am so very glad I didn't. Not because of me, though.

What I never could have anticipated was the unbelievable community I would find here in the blogosphere. The very real friendships I would make. Total strangers reaching out to each other through the pixilated world of the internet, offering virtual hugs, shoulders to cry on, and resounding cheers.

It is hard for me to believe that one year ago I didn't know Heather, Maggie, Stefanie, Hope, Angelynn, Robin or Corinne. They are kindred spirits in recovery, loving mothers, brave souls and incredible writers.      I stand in awe of their courage, their honesty and their gorgeous words.   

One year ago I didn't know the brave women on the Booze Free Brigade, started by Stefanie and Sweet Jane.    The overpowering love and support on this board props me up, helps to keep me afloat.    I witness real, live miracles there every single day.    Stay strong, sisters.

One year ago there was no Crying Out Now, where women come and share their experience, strength and hope in the fight against addiction - a fight we come closer to winning with each and every story.   One year ago Robin and Val, my co-moderators, weren't a part of my life.   Now I can't imagine what my life would be like without them.

Blogging has changed the way I metabolize my world.   When I started out, I would keep lists of cute things the kids said, things I thought were newsworthy or unusually poignant.   Now I just find a quiet moment and sit, stare at the blank page, and let the thoughts and feelings come.   I start typing, and I see where it takes me.   I find myself remembering moments that otherwise would have slipped away, unnoticed, trampled underfoot with the swift passage of time.

I am uncomfortable with the term "readers", because all of you who comment here mean so much more to me than that.   Your words of support and wisdom never cease to astound me.    I learn from you every day, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming into my world, taking a moment or two to offer your insight and advice, and for sharing a bit of yourself along the way.   

I thought I would get caught up in needing approval, and to some degree that is inevitable, I think.    There have been more than a few times when, after hitting "publish", I wanted to go hide under a table, afraid.    I brace myself for criticism, cynicism, or mean-spiritedness.    But blogging has also taught me how to find my inner voice, the one that speaks from the heart and doesn't worry about what the world will think.    Coming from an alcoholic who only sought external approval for most of her life, this is an immeasurable blessing.    I'm learning how to be okay with people not being okay with everything I say or do.    I'm growing a backbone.

Thank you to my family for supporting me, especially to you, Mom and Dad, for standing shoulder to shoulder with me as I put myself out there in the world.  

And an extra special thank you to my good friend Damomma.    Your friendship, support, and honesty mean the world to me.

Thank you, all of you, for enriching my life, making me cry, laugh, and cheer.    I am so very grateful.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I'm Going To Da Chapel And I'm Gonna Get Mahweed

Last night Finn was getting drowsy, and he wandered up to me, dragging his blanket behind him, and said, "Momma, let's sit and talk about our day."

We plunked down on the couch, he snuggled up against my side and we sat quietly for a moment.

"I'm gonna be a Dad someday," he said.

"You will be a great Dad," I replied.

"I'm gonna have twelve kids."

"TWELVE?"  I said.  "You're going to be very busy."

"Dat's okay.  And if dey are bad, I'm gonna send dem to dey rooms, like you and Dadda do."

"What are you going to do if they are good?"  I asked.

"I'm going to give dem candy.  And if dey are willy good I'm gonna take dem to da arcade!"

 He paused for a moment, then said, "I'm gonna mahwey Wen [Ren] and Emily."   

"You can only marry one person, though," I said.   "You'd have to pick one."

He screwed up his face, and said, "But I love dem both!"

"You have time to figure it out, it's okay."

After a minute he said, "I don't wanna get mahweed, because den you hafta kiss."

"Hmmm, that's true, usually people kiss when they get married."

"I know what I will do.   I'll blow a kiss, like dis." he said, and kissed his hand and blew me a kiss, giggling.

"Will you stay four forever, please?" I joked.  

"Sorry, Momma.  I hafta grow up.   I don't know how I do it, but my bones just keep getting biggah.   I eat da helfy stuff and I get strong muscles and I grow and grow."

"You are getting to be a very big kid."

He stroked my face, and said, "I'll live next door to you, if you want.  Den you can see me every day."

"I'd like that."

"Can I live here forevah if I want?" 

"Sure," I said.  "But not if you have twelve kids.   There won't be enough rooom."

He frowned.  "Oh, yeah."   He thought for a moment.  "Maybe I will only have six kids, den."

He put his head down on my lap, and I rubbed his hair.   

"I love you, Momma,"  he said, sleepily.

"I love you, too, Finn."

Friday, May 28, 2010

I See You

I had a moment this morning.

Greta was part of a first grade Memorial Day presentation today.   The whole grade shuffled into the auditorium, the parents craning their necks to find their kid.    The children took to the stage, dressed in red, white and blue and smiling gap-toothed smiles.    Greta's class came in towards the end, and Steve and I grinned when we saw Greta, waving our hands over our heads.   She flushed bright red, gave us a small wave, but her eyes were beaming with pride.

There was a slide presentation set to music, songs and poems, and each kid had their moment on the screen, saying a line about the Liberty Bell, the American Flag, or the importance of Memorial Day.  I watched with my heart in my throat, tears pricking at my eyes.

I marveled at Greta, standing in the back with the other tall kids, sneaking glances our way, and pretending to be embarrassed when I blew her silent kisses.  There was my proud, strong, beautiful girl, surrounded by her friends, singing her heart out.

That's when I had my moment.   A wave of gratitude so strong a tear rolled down my cheek.    I almost missed this, I thought.  I almost threw all of this away.  

I know it must seem I can make anything about recovery, and by default about me, but this is really about Grace.   In my darkest moments of despair, stuck in the dark, deep hole of addiction, I could never have imagined this moment.  

When I was drinking, I spent my days afraid, feeling unworthy of the love of my children.    I didn't know how to be a mother, or at least I thought I didn't.   I felt stuck, alone, entangled in the constant needs of a 3 year old and a baby, drained of life force, of purpose.    I went through the motions, prayed for the end of the day and the sweet oblivion of wine.    I longed to erase myself, to slowly edge away from the center of their love.

Greta was nervous about the performance today.   She kept talking about it, working over the details in her mind.   "I'll look for you, Momma,"  she said again and again.   "You'll be able to see me, I'll be up on the stage, near the back row."

"I'll be there," I said, absentmindedly.  "Don't worry, I'll see you."

The power of that sentence hit me today.   I'm here.   I see you.   I really, really see you.

The past couple of weeks I have been blessed to be in the presence of women, mothers, who are struggling to get sober.   I'm standing by, trying to prop them up as they grapple with their fears: of admitting the truth, of being present, of not being enough.

I watch as they square their shoulders, stick their chin up and walk into meetings feigning courage they don't really feel.   I watch as they break down their denial, choke on their words, and admit their powerlessness.

They can't see it, but I can:  a glimmer of hope, a tiny flame of grace inside them that refuses to be blown out.      

As they surrender themselves to that grace, to the comforting arms of strangers who understand, I say to them what was said to me:  You matter.  Under all this fear and darkness is Grace.   You are full of Grace.  

I'm here, and I see you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Which I Just Have To Look

Yesterday ranks up there with one of the worst May days I can remember, weather-wise.    The thermometer on my car climbed to 100 degress, and the pollen was so thick the backyard looked foggy.   My dark blue car turned neon yellow.   

Finn insisted on trying to go to the playground for a picnic.   It lasted four minutes, what with the sneezing and the burning of hands on the roasting metal playground structure.   

We gave up, and spent the day hunkered down indoors.   I was feeling edgy, cooped up and headachy.   A perfect time to catch up on current events troll for gossip on the internet.

My favorite gossip center is TMZ.   I settled in to enjoy some dish, but was immediately struck by all the stories about addiction.   There were five - count 'em - FIVE stories yesterday alone that had to do with celebrities struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse.    And, tragically, two stories about premature deaths due to the use and abuse of drugs.    Click back two or three pages and that number climbs to four.   

Of course, there were several stories about everyone's favorite train wreck, Lindsay Lohan.   I feel for that girl, I really do, because between her crazy childhood and constant scrutiny by the media, her struggles with addiction have been reduced to fodder for the gossip rags.    She has evolved into something of a joke, and I fear one day I'll click to TMZ and read that she has overdosed.   Remember Anna Nicole Smith?   We all loved to watch her, agape at her antics.   She's dead.  

These two pictures alone demonstrate what drugs and alcohol have done to this 23 year old (photos courtesy of TMZ.com):



A judge recently issued her a SCRAM bracelet (which randomly tests for alcohol or drugs in someone's system, and cannot be removed, something she had before, back in 2007).   My heart sank, though, when I read about a caveat in the judge's order; she can take two drugs that are prescribed to her by a doctor:   Adderall and Ambien.   Adderall is a stimulant prescribed for ADHD, and Ambien is a sleep aid.   In other words:  speed and a downer.    Abuse of prescription drugs is rampant amongst young people, and her chances of getting sober are greatly diminished if she is taking these two drugs.    

Mindy McCready, a recent graduate of Celebrity Rehab 3 for treatment of alcoholism, made the news because her mother called 911, fearing a drug overdose.   Mindy admitted to taking 25 pills of Darvocet, a painkiller, as well as another muscle relaxant.   She remains hospitalized due to fears of a suicide attempt.    Mindy has released statements that her mother "overreacted", and it is impossible to know the whole truth, but yet again prescription medication rears its ugly head.

Rip Torn appeared in court to face charges stemming from an incident in February, where he entered a bank, intoxicated and waving a gun around, confused and thinking he was in his own home.   The pain in his eyes in his mug shot makes my heart ache.  According to news reports, he completed an alcohol education course and is considering rehab, so it is likely both the attempted robbery charge and two DUI charges will be dropped.   

Jason Wahler, from the television show Laguna Beach, is potentially signing on to Celebrity Rehab 4, after a string of arrests due to alcohol related incidents and DUIs over the past few years.   Alcohol has aged Jason considerably in the past three years.   He is 23 years old.:













Tila Tequila has signed on to Celebrity Rehab 4 as well, for an addiction to prescription painkillers.

All this in just yesterday's news.   Add to this the death of Brittany Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, at the age of 39.  Monjack was awaiting heart bypass surgery, but sources say prescription drug abuse played a key role in the deterioration of his health.  Brittany Murphy (the actress from Girl, Interrupted, Clueless and several other films) died in December of 2009 at age 32.   The cause of death was a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and multiple drug intoxication, a coroner said. The drugs involved were legal and used to treat a respiratory infection, according to an autopsy.   Nobody owns the truth, but I see this double tragedy as two lives cut short as a direct result of drug abuse.

If the gossip rags aren't talking about peoples' troubles with drugs and alcohol, of course the next favorite topic is who's fat and who's not.    TMZ posted this picture of Ashlee and Jessica Simpson:


Comments about Ashlee's post-baby body (what's left of it) versus Jessica's curves were rampant.    Adding to the post-baby body frenzy was this picture of Bethenny Frankel, of Real Housewives of New York, who gave birth sixteen days ago:


We dont' have all day, so I won't go on a tirade about the unrealistic demands this places on women to bounce right back from childbirth.   All I will say is someone, please, give that woman a sandwich.

I'll end on a positive note.   I blogged about Michael Ventrella's struggles on the Biggest Loser.    Michael was the heaviest contestent ever on the show, beginning at 526 lbs.     He won the competition, losing a staggering 264 pounds:


I find his story very inspiring.   On the days I just don't feel like working out, or I feel like I can't stand my new healthy diet for one more second, I think about how much courage he had, how he didn't give up.   If he can do it, I can do it too.

Don't get me wrong, I wallow in the gossip rags and websites as much as the next person.    I think the whole point is that it's almost impossible to look away.     But while we're staring, I hope some good can be done, some recognition that drug abuse is killing off young people, that alcoholism is more than a splashy story on the front page.    These are very real diseases that are immune to socio-economic, cultural, ethnic and celebrity status.   

Even though I look, I wish that people would put the cameras down and reach out a hand instead.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sometimes There Is Only One Thing Left To Say

I knew it was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier.

I hit the dreaded 'plateau' of weight loss.   I have been following Jenny Craig's program without cheating, and I have actually increased my exercise regime.   I feel better, I look better, and the clothes I bought only two weeks ago are too big for me now.

So I looked forward to my weigh-in on Monday.   I thought I was going to see the usual drop of 2 lbs., possibly more.   

The scale landed exactly where it did the previous week.   Nothing.  Not an ounce.

I was crushed.   It didn't matter that the Jenny Craig consultant warned me this was coming.   It didn't matter that I know in my heart it isn't about a number on the scale, but about a healthier way of living.   I felt like crying.  

"Just keep doing what you're doing," the consultant said.   "You're doing great, and you are exactly where you're supposed to be."

I almost had to laugh, because people in recovery said this to me, when I was new and struggling.   I say it now, too, to people who are new.   It's an awful feeling, to be putting your heart and soul into something and feeling like it's getting you nowhere.   

I called someone when I was about two months sober, and said, "I thought that once I stopped drinking that everything would be okay, but it is actually harder than ever."

And she said, "Of course it's harder.   You lost your anesthesia.   Everything else in your life stayed the same, you just can't hide from it anymore."   And then, of course, she said, "You're exactly where you're supposed to be.   Keep it in the hour, the day.   Lower your expectations, and remember that every minute you don't drink you are a success."

Just like when I got sober, it's hitting me that this healthier style of living, if I'm going to be successful at it, will be how I live for the rest of my life.   It's daunting, and the numbers dropping on the scale were keeping me afloat, giving me a sense of purpose.   Just like those chips I got for 24 hours, 30, 60 and 90 days of sobriety, the weigh-ins were my little parade to myself.   

No matter how many times I write about it, tell myself that it's true, some days it is hard to remember that it's worth it.   

When I got home from the weigh-in, because I felt discouraged, I was hit with a craving.   For Sun Chips.   I wanted to eat an entire bag of Garden Salsa flavored Sun Chips.    It's the only snack food I have in the house, now, because up until this point I thought I didn't like them.   

I went for a walk, drank a ton of water, ate an apple, and distracted myself.     But all afternoon the Sun Chips in the pantry were just calling to me.   "We are better for you than regular chips,"  they said.  "We only have 110 calories per serving, and we're high in fiber! One little handful won't hurt."

So I did the same thing I did once when I was newly sober, and was caught unguarded around an open bottle of red wine.   I marched into the pantry and told the Sun Chips to Fuck Off.

"Screw You," I said to the bag.    "You'll taste good for one minute, and then I'll hate myself, and I'll eat more.  So FUCK OFF."

F Bomb therapy.   Give it try.  It works.

A friend on the Booze Free Brigade posted a quote that day, at the exact moment I needed to hear it.   I don't even know who said it originally, because for once Google is coming up short.   But it helped, so much:

"I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it."  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Trust Fall

I heard something at a recovery meeting that really struck me.    Someone was describing how he can get caught up in "living in the wreckage of the future".

I loved that, and I understood it immediately.   The beauty of having a safe harbor to go to and just listen, simply exist in a sea of grace for an hour or two, is that I always hear something that nudges my consciousness the right direction.

I do this; live in the wreckage of the future.  I do it a lot, in fact.   I ruminate, speculate, play out scenarios in my head endlessly.    I have conversations with people when they aren't even there (first I'll say this, then he'll say this, then I'll be all like NO WAY, then he'll get mad....).   It's exhausting.

There are some things going on in my life right now over which I have no control.    I like control.   I whip out my crystal ball and try to figure out how it's all going to play out, so I can be prepared.   But, of course, it's all a bunch of white noise.    I don't have control over people, places or things.   It can be drummed into my head thousands of times, and I'll still resist.   

It's hard, very hard, for me to just sit with a negative feeling.   I like things all wrapped up with a bow on top, thank you very much.    I leap in with both feet, try to wrench control, push things towards a resolution that is the least painful, the straightest shot from point A to point B.

Imagine you're in a car that is speeding out of control, no brakes, no ability to steer.   A voice whispers in your ear to take your hands off the wheel, close your eyes, and pray.   It tells you to put the outcome in God's hands.  "Have a little faith," this voice says.   

But keeping your white knuckles wrapped around that steering wheel makes you feel that you're making a difference somehow.   Madly pumping the brake, to no avail, gives you the illusion that you still have some control over the outcome.   

So I clench tighter, pump the brake, and things still turn out in ways I never could have predicted.   Not better or worse, necessarily, but different.   All that ruminating, anxiousness and speculation didn't have one damn thing to do with how things turned out.   It just made the journey to the outcome more stressful, more painful.    

I'm still figuring out my spirituality.   Or, perhaps more accurately, I'm working on NOT trying to figure out my spirituality.    I'm learning to be comfortable with all the not knowing, the not being certain, about a Higher Being.   When that voice whispers to me, what I'm starting to hear is, "get out of the way, Ellie".   I try to keep my heart and mind open, receptive, willing to believe in an energy that moves through us, around us, and that doesn't have anything to do with me or my will.   

It's like a trust fall into the ocean, having faith that the currents will take you where you're meant to go, and will only pull you under if you fight against them, vainly swimming towards what you think is a safe harbor.  

For someone like me it's counterintuitive to simply roll onto my back, spread my arms wide, and float.   Every now and then I'll forget, and start flailing about, afraid.  When I don't surrender, when I give up my acceptance, it's like I come to, look around and all I can see is that I'm alone, adrift on the ocean, and I'll feel like I'm the only one that can save myself, because I can't see the deeper powers at work, gently moving me in the direction I'm meant to go.

Every time I pass through unchartered waters and come through to the other side - every time I have a little faith - I end up in places I never could have imagined.  

And so, I float.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Kindest Cut

I have wanted to write about friendship for a while now.   I have started and stopped, struggled with the words.   It is hard to put on the page how genuine friendships have transformed my life; everything I wrote sounded like a cheesy Hallmark Card or a Miss America acceptance speech.

So I guess I'll start with the truth:   I have always had a lot of friends, but for most of my life I didn't know a thing about friendship.

Ironically, it was the comfort of strangers that taught me what it means to be a true friend.

Like with so many things, I'm learning, you get back from friendship exactly what you give.    Before getting sober I didn't put much thought into what it meant to be a friend.  As I slowly unraveled inside, I tried harder and harder to put up a 'normal' front, to show my friends the version of me I thought they wanted to see.    Without realizing it, the versions of myself I showed the world became my reality - I lost all sense of self, or perhaps more accurately, I gave it away.

I kept waiting for my friends to realize how deeply flawed I was, and I believed with all my heart that once they knew I was inherently broken, they would all go away.    My definition of friendship evolved, over time, into a mad scramble to pull together a persona that gave people what I thought they wanted.  

If you played tennis, I professed a love for tennis.   If you were artsy, I talked about creativity, feigned an appreciation for whatever form of art you loved.    It didn't matter to me if there was a genuine synergy between us.  I gave you what you wanted, validated you, tried to be your missing piece.

So when I went sailing off the cliff, babbling all the way that I was Fine, it is no wonder that people didn't see it coming.   The only way I knew how to be a friend was to meet your needs.   Mine never came into play.  I didn't even know what they were, so how could anyone else?

I fell, and fell hard.  As I lay at the base of the proverbial cliff in a broken heap, I left my friends on what they thought was our solid ground, peering over the edge and scratching their heads in bewilderment.  I turned away.    Well, now they know, I thought.   Now they know I was never worth the effort

Congratulations, El.   You sabotaged yourself, and it worked.

I dragged my broken body into a recovery meeting, thinking, so this is what the end of the road looks like.    This is all I have left.   I didn't have anything to prove to the people there, didn't care anymore anyway.  There was no need to morph, to validate.   For the first time in a long time, all I could do was exist, be.

So when strangers' hands reached out to me, literally and figuratively, I had nothing to lose.   I grabbed on like a drowning woman reaching for a life raft.   I had nothing to give.  I had nothing to offer.   And they helped me anyway.   Complete strangers came into my life, with no expectations and no pretense, and allowed me to piece myself together bit by bit.   

When I re-emerged, sober, into my former life, I feared people wouldn't like me anymore, that I would be shunned, judged, pushed out from the herd as weak and flawed.    

I was wrong.

My friends were still there, only now I had allowed them to see my fault lines, my humanity.    The ones that stayed knew they were seeing the real me, possibly for the first time.    They showed me their own fault lines in return, like veterans comparing old war wounds.   The scars had always been there, but until I allowed myself to be real I couldn't see them.  

To be a good friend, now, means I start with me.   I try to stay true to myself, live authentically.   I can't afford be around people who make me feel compelled to be something I'm not in order to feel accepted.   It's easier to be inauthentic.   It's simpler to show the world what they want to see.  It's harder to trust people, at least it is for me, with my truth.   I learned that it takes real courage to be vulnerable.    I learned that it's worth it.

I get what I give.  Without my "I don't matter anyway" defense, I've been hurt in sobriety, but at least it is genuine.   It's real.   I have hurt people, too, because I can't afford to gloss over the tough stuff.   Now, though, I'm surrounded by people who walk with me through my mistakes, and celebrate my victories with me.    

But mostly?    We are together, just being.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Post I Swore I Wouldn't Write

I never thought I would be so happy to have my pants fall down in public.

A few days ago I was standing in line at the bead store, and Finn was nagging me to pick him up.   He's close to 50 lbs now, so maneuvering him onto my hip is tricky.   I got him settled, and - zoop - my favorite pair of stretchy capri pants slipped down to my knees.

I have lost 18 lbs in six weeks through a combination of Jenny Craig and a moderate exercise regime, and it feels great.

I'm reluctant to post about it, because every time I would read a blog about weight loss, when I knew I needed to lose a few pounds, my eyes would cross and I'd click away.   

But I also realize something transformative is happening to me, and not just in the sense that I'm losing weight and getting in shape:  I care about myself, more than I ever have before.

The whole experience has been a lot like getting sober.   Just like when I was drinking, I've had nagging doubts and insecurities about my weight for years.   I've also had a big dose of denial.   I'm tall - 5' 10" - and have a large frame, so I hide weight gain fairly well.    I can put on 20 lbs and still squeeze into the same clothes.  Granted, they don't fit well or look good, but it fuels my denial because I'm not forced to go up a jean size.    But little by little, over the past six or seven years, I found myself shopping in Women's stores, ticking slowly up the rack to find clothes that would fit.

Just like with getting sober, something had to click.   I had to care enough about the problem - hit bottom, in a way - before attempting to lose weight made sense.    Usually I'd think about dieting when I had a formal event coming up and I had to find a dress that looked good.   Or my husband would make subtle (or not so subtle) comments about my weight gain, and I'd think that I should lose weight to make him happy.

The trick, as with all major life changes, is that I had to do it for me.     And to do that, I had to care enough about myself to make changes.

I don't really know what happened.  Six weeks ago I woke up on a regular Saturday morning, slumped into my sweatpants and oversized tee shirt, and thought:  I'm ready.   Two days later I was sitting in a Jenny Craig consultant's office, pouring my heart out, and coming up with a weight loss plan.

I can look back on my blog posts, starting in January, and see that this thought has been growing in the back of my mind for months.  Pre-contemplation, it's called.   I had that with my drinking, too.    Countless mornings I would think, enough of this already, but somehow by 4pm my resolve was gone and I was having a glass of wine.    But the pre-contemplation counted for something, because when the switch finally flipped I was ready to take action.

It was important to be truly ready, too, because the first two weeks were horrible.   I was agitated, angry, irritable, and all I could see all around me were examples of things I could no longer eat.   I felt left out, less-than, and was upset with myself for letting it go so far that I can't just eat like a normal person anymore.   Just like with getting sober, when all I could see were examples of the drinking life that was no longer mine.  

The key to making it through those first two weeks - both with drinking and dieting - was that I didn't want to cheat, because I was tired of letting myself down.  

If I was dieting for someone else - to impress my husband, for instance - when it got tough I would get angry with him for 'making' me do this, and I'd eat at him.  

On Sunday, we stopped at our regular ice cream spot on the way home from a day at the beach.   This place usually has a nonfat alternative, but they were out.    The kids and my husband all got dishes of homemade ice cream, and I didn't get anything.    It just wasn't worth it.   I am working so hard, making such great progress, and the ten minutes of pleasure the ice cream would provide were fleeting compared to how good I feel all the time.   

I know this territory.    When I'm hit with a craving for a drink (which, thankfully, isn't often anymore) it usually lasts about three minutes.   If I can wait it out, do whatever I have to do to distract myself, it always passes.   I'm finally content with the knowledge that one drink is never enough for me, so why have one?

It's the same thing, now, with food.    I don't want just one ice cream.   I never have.  I want to be able to eat whatever I want, without consequence, and if I can't have that  - then what's the point?    As hard as it is to resist temptation, the benefits are totally, completely worth it.   

And you know what?  I'm worth it, too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Talk About It

Greta was almost five when I got sober.   I came home from rehab 14 days before her 5th birthday.

I spent a good deal of time in rehab wondering how I was going to talk to her about why I was gone for thirty days, searching for words to explain a complicated disease like addiction.

It turns out that I didn't have to explain much, not at first.   As is the way with young kids, she took it in stride that I had been in the "hopspital" because I was sick, but that I was better now and wouldn't be going back.

Her undiluted faith in me was a big part of what kept me strong those first weeks and months.    Every now and then, as I was re-learning how to be a parent, a wife, a daughter, a friend, she would look up at me with her huge brown eyes and say, "I'm glad you're better now, Momma."

Eventually, of course, the questions started to come.   I resolved to answer only what she asked, and to tell her the truth.   When I had been home about four months, she asked me what had made me sick.  

"Alcohol," I replied.  "I am allergic to alcohol, and if I have even a little bit I will get really sick."

"Like the kids at the peanut table at school?  If they have even one peanut they have to go to the hopspital.   They could die."

"Exactly like that," I said.

Last year she started asking me what happened to me when I drank alcohol.   It turns out she had seen a commercial for the television show Intervention, where an intoxicated mother had stumbled around in her front yard, mumbling, before lying down on the grass.

"Did you do that, too?"  she asked.

"I didn't lie down on the lawn," I said, "but when I drink alcohol it makes my mind go funny, I can't think straight, I can't talk straight, and I make really bad choices."

She was quiet a moment, and then she said, "I'm glad you stopped."

Last night we were having an early family dinner, because I had to leave for a recovery meeting.   Greta was overtired from a busy weekend, and didn't want me to go.    We have talked about meetings before. I explained that I go to meetings to talk to other people who are alcoholics (she knows that word now), because even though something is bad for you it can be hard to stay away, and talking to people who understand helps.

She stared at her plate.  "I wish you hadn't drunk all the alcohol, Momma," she said.  "Then you wouldn't have to go to so many meetings."

Two years ago this statement would have hit me like a punch in the gut.  The guilt over being an alcoholic mother was overwhelming.  The first year of sobriety, for me, was all about trying to come to terms with the past, and learning not to let guilt crush me.     As I was struggling to get sober, guilt was the number one reason I would fail.  It was so hard, sober, to face guilt that I would drink to hide from it and the cycle would begin all over again.

Now, however, I'm grateful that she feels comfortable talking about it.  I welcome the questions, the statements, because it means she's not afraid to bring it up.   I don't volunteer information, because I don't want to tell her more than she's ready to hear, so I wait for moments like these to talk.

"Do you remember why I go to meetings?" 

"Yes.  But I don't understand why you drank alcohol even when you knew you were allergic to it.  Even when you knew it would make you sick."

I looked at Steve, and he nodded.   "It's called addiction, honey."  I said.  "I'm addicted to alcohol, so if I have even one drink my mind tells me to have more and more, and I can't stop.    If I have one, it doesn't matter to my brain that it will make me sick, because alcohol makes my thinking all wrong."

She thought about this a moment and then she said, "And I might be allergic too, right?"   

"Yes," I said.  "But we won't know right away.   It's not like a regular allergy where you know immediately that you're sick.   It can take a long time to figure out whether or not you have a problem.   So we're going to have to be really careful."

"No we won't," she said.  "Because I'm never going to drink.    EVER.    If someone offers me a beer, I'm just going to say NO THANK YOU!"

I smiled.   "That's a good plan," I said.  "As you get older we're going to have to keep talking about it.  Especially when you're a teenager."

"Okay," she said.   "But I'm not going to drink, I can tell you that right now.   Not even one sip."

If only it were that simple, I thought.   I guess the best we can do is keep an open dialogue going, hope that both Greta and Finn have enough information to have a healthy fear of alcohol.     I'm hoping that my experience will give me a little street cred with them in the future, because they have seen me fall.   And get back up.

It's ironic, how much my fear of not being a perfect parent kept me afraid and stuck for so long.    Now, I feel like my proudest parenting moment is that I can show them that mistakes can be great teachers, if you're willing to learn.

Three years ago, if someone had shown me this simple scene, together as a family at dinner talking about my alcoholism,  I never would have believed it.   

I'm so very grateful.

Friday, May 14, 2010

WHOOSH

When Greta was very little - old enough to sit up in the front of a shopping cart but too young to walk - I used to take her out to stores a lot.  

We were living in a trendy Suburb west of Boston, filled with large houses (we rented), manicured lawns  (tended to by landscaping crews) and the Moms were Ladies Who Lunched or had Big Corporate Jobs.    It was a great place to live if you worked in the city or had infinite discretionary income: close to public transportation and walking distance to several cool pubs and restaurants.   

It was not so great if you were home full-time with an infant.

At first I would go to the playground, excited to meet other Moms.   I was taken aback by all the beautiful, young women there - their long ponytails shining and their bodies showing no signs of childbirth.    It took me a while to realize these were the Nannies.   No Moms in sight.

I couldn't find any Mommy and Me clubs or community playgroups, so to avoid going stir crazy I would take Greta to the grocery store.   Like, every day.

I loved how people would fawn over her; oh, she's ADORABLE, how old is she?  Look at her smile!  She's such a doll!   I would push her along, walking the aisles, occasionally tossing an item or two into the cart to keep up appearances, and wait for someone to exclaim over her cuteness.    I was struggling as a new Mom; I felt lost, inadequate and scared a lot of the time.   At the store, though, I soaked in the validation of these complete strangers, and felt awash in maternal pride.  

~~~~~~~

This memory came roaring back to me last weekend, as I stood on the sidelines of the soccer field and watched Greta run past me, long brown hair streaming behind her, a huge grin on her face.   

She ran with coltish grace, her arms and legs pumping madly, propelling herself forward at a seemingly impossible speed.   

She effortlessly ran with the ball, no defenders in sight, until the only thing between her and a goal was the opposing team's goalie.   Pause.  Shoot.  SCORE.

I leapt into the air.   "YAY, GRETA!!"  I yelled, unable to stop myself, awash in maternal pride.   She shot me a sheepish smile, happiness beaming from her eyes.

And I felt it - that WHOOSH of time flying past.   That long legged, graceful beauty on the field was my little bald baby who used to love to flash her four tiny teeth to strangers in the store.  

It will happen again, I thought.   Another WHOOSH and she'll be pulling down the driveway without me in the car, or a boy will be slipping a corsage onto her wrist.   

"When you're a parent, the days are long and the years are short," my friend Karin used to say as we huddled together for marathon playdates, babies tugging at our shirts and toddlers teetering around at our feet.   I would nod when she said this, but the long days of tending to babies and toddlers held me firmly in their grip.    I couldn't wrench myself into the moment, savor it, treasure it, because I felt weary right down to my core.

Last Monday Greta wasn't feeling well and she stayed home from school.    Finn was at preschool, and so just Greta and I went to the store to pick up a few household items.   As we waited in the checkout line, Greta quietly standing by my side, I glanced at the woman behind me.   She had an infant in the cart who was pulling at her hair, giggling, and a toddler lurching away from her, trying to pull the candy off the shelves.    She looked pale, tired and bored, and was snapping at her oldest while shooing her baby's hand away with a sigh.

"How old is your baby?"  I asked her. 

"Eight months," she said, disentangling her hair from a little fist.   "She still isn't sleeping through the night, and he's potty training," she said, almost apologetically.  "It's been a long day."

I gave her a smile and said, "Yes, I remember those days.   They're tough."    

But I wanted to lean over and whisper into her ear:  WHOOSH.   

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Because You're Worth It

I hadn't been watching the latest season of The Biggest Loser, but I had heard about 31 year old Michael Ventrella, the heaviest contestant the show has ever had.   At the outset of the show, he weighed in at 526 lbs.

Last night, during a commercial of Dancing With The Stars, I tuned in to The Biggest Loser and got hooked.  

The contestants have been at the Biggest Loser ranch for 17 weeks, and Michael had lost an astonishing 192 lbs.

This isn't what gripped me, though.    What made my jaw hit the floor was that Michael was struggling.   He was fast approaching the record for the most weight lost on the show, ever, and despite this incredible achievement he was down on himself.     He couldn't see his own success; all he could talk about was that even after losing almost 200 lbs, he was still overweight.   "Who leaves The Biggest Loser ranch still obese?"  he said, through tears, to his trainer, Bob.   

He was anxious, depressed, angry, and despite the support of his trainer and friends he couldn't wrap his mind around his own achievement.    He looked ready to give up.

I recognize that, I thought.   He's got a bad case of the Fuck Its

A good friend of mine in recovery - he's something like twenty years sober - tells the same story every time the subject of relapse comes up.   He describes a time when he was about ten years sober, and he had gotten away from meetings, drifted away from his support network.    One night he found himself at a bar, with a soda, watching some men across the room polish off huge frosty beers.    He says that he didn't think to himself:  I bet I can drink in safety now.   What he thought, he says, was:   what difference would it make?

He had forgotten about the difference - the difference inside him.   The difference his support network made to his well being, his success. 

He didn't drink that night.   Thankfully, he recognized his disease talking to him, and he got himself to a meeting, got back into the fold.

Michael Ventrella had lost nearly two hundred pounds, vastly improved his health and his appearance, and yet he was suffering.    Part of it, I think, is that when you strip away the thing you use to numb yourself - to disappear yourself - pain, boredom, anger and self-doubt can reach you again.    When you're used to living in a place where you don't matter in your own mind, caring about yourself is scary.    And difficult to sustain.    Just like sobriety, when the euphoria of putting down the drink or drug wears off, you are staring down a long road adorned with a blinking neon sign that says, "You will have to do this for the rest of your life."

You have to re-learn how to care about yourself again, because the Fuck Its are always waiting around the bend, waiting to tell you:  What difference does it make?  

Measure success in small increments of time - a minute, an hour or a day.    When you've lost your anesthesia - whether it's food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling - an hour can feel like a really long time.   An alcoholic who wants to drink, but doesn't, is a miracle.   An overweight person who wants that piece of cake more than anything but eats a salad instead, is a miracle.   You are full of little miracles.  

Sometimes the only thing between you and disaster is finding the courage to believe that you're worth it.

Who brought Michael out of his self-doubt?    He did.   They showed him a video of his journey.   There, on the screen, was the 526 lb. Michael, speaking to the now 334 lb Michael, and telling him not to give up.   

Sometimes I wish I had a video of myself at the end of my drinking, to remind me of the pain I was in, the pain I caused, to be able to see with my own eyes what I had become.    Then I realized:  I have that.   I have my recovery friends, my support network, who are there to remind me what it was like at the end.   To show me how far I've come.     But most importantly?   They show me that I'm worth it on the days I'm not sure myself. 

At the end of the show, Michael stepped on the scale and he had lost another 11 lbs.   He broke the show's record, losing over 200 lbs.  The weight loss was amazing, but what I loved the most was the spark was back in his eyes.   He believed, again, that he was worth it.    He made it through that bad patch by talking about it, reaching out for help, letting other people carry him when he didn't want to carry himself. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guest Post at Drinking Diaries

One of the side effects of the increased media attention surrounding mothers who drink is that women and drinking fell under a lot of scrutiny.    While I'm pleased that the problem of women, particularly mothers, who drink in secret is in the public discourse more and more, it is also true that the majority of women who drink are not alcoholics.

The Drinking Diaries is a website dedicated to discussing women and alcohol.   Caren and Leah, who founded the site, describe it this way:

Drinking Diaries is a forum for women to share, vent, express, and discuss their drinking stories without judgment. Whether you drink or not, are the child of an alcoholic or the mother of a future drinker, sip wine on occasion or binge drink for sport—we want to hear your story....We want to reach out to women, like us, for whom alcohol—for whatever reason—is also a loaded topic. And so, we started The Drinking Diaries.

I was thrilled to guest post there today.  They asked me to write a bit about what it is like to be a friend or family member who loves someone struggling with alcohol.    Stop on by and read The Alcoholic Next Door if you have a chance.   And please leave a comment if you have something to add - addiction touches everyone around an alcoholic or addict, and it can be hard to know what to do.

If you click on "photo source" at the bottom of the page, it will take you to an article I was quoted in that appeared in USA Today last summer, entitled The Secret Lives of Female Alcoholics.   

Thank you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Gifts of Sobriety

Three years ago, on Mother's Day, we were driving to my sister-in-law's for a mid-day lunch.

The thought of an entire day without alcohol was terrifying to me, so I snuck wine in my purse.   We stopped at a local chocolate shop, and while Steve was inside picking up a gift for his Mom, I snuck a sip from the bottle.   When he came back into the car, he immediately knew I had been drinking, grabbed my purse and found my stash.

He didn't yell or scream - the kids were in the backseat - he simply turned around and drove me home.   As he kicked me out of the car he said, calmly, "Why don't you stay home with your booze.  It's where you want to be anyway,"   and drove off with the kids.   On the way back to his sister's, he threw the Mother's Day cards from him and the kids out the window.

~~~~~~~~~

This morning I opened my eyes, rested and refreshed, to a glorious spring morning.   I could hear the kids making breakfast with Steve downstairs, and I took a moment to listen to the birds chirping, the newly blossomed leaves rustling in the wind:



A few minutes later, I heard the kids padding up the stairs, and two little voices said, "Momma?  You awake?"    I peeked over the covers and saw this:

(Greta's stomach says "Oobi stay always".  Don't ask - I don't know either)

They hopped into bed with me, chanting "Happy' Mother's Day, Momma!"     Perfection.

Me, first thing in the morning.   I know, I'm brave.  

Today, I said a prayer of thanks.   Every sober day is a gift, and I am truly blessed.  

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Subject: One Crafty Mother. Diagnosis: Human

Progress Report
Subject:  One Crafty Mother
Date:  Mother's Day 2010
File Number:  404RTFM*


The following is the Parenting Committee's Annual Pre-Mother's Day Progress Report.    Subject is a 40 year old mother of two impressionable young humans:   Greta, aged 7 and Finn, aged 4.    She shares parenting responsibility with male subject Steve, File Number: 143MWAH.    Also under their care:  one elderly canine, six chickens and one teddy bear hamster.   

SOCIAL/LANGUAGE SKILLS:   Subject plays well with others.   Her verbal communication is usually clear, and she uses her words nicely.   However, the committee would like to remind Subject that "crap" is technically a bad word, and spelling S-H-I-T is no longer a viable alternative to swearing.  The Committee recognizes that social occasions without alcohol can be trying, and commends Subject for her skill in small talk without the assistance of any intoxicant.     Areas for improvement include increased tolerance for multiple interrogatives, even when delivered by both children simultaneously.   "Because I just don't freaking know, that's why!" is not an acceptable response to questions, no matter how inane they are or how frequently they are asked.  

COGNITIVE ABILITY:   Committee acknowledges that Subject was once quite skilled in academics and business.    Subject would be well advised to brush-up on more applicable topics.  Some of these are as follows:

  1. Imaginary Play:    Child expects a realistic imitation of a canine, not a half-hearted "woof".  This requires physical skill and agility, including but not limited to crawling on hands and knees and sniffing butts.  

  2. Repetitive Humor:   Knock-knock jokes are a valuable part of a child's development, and Subject should be aware that failure to respond "who's there?", no matter how many times it is required, could lead to permanent emotional scarring.    

  3. Reasoning:   This area requires significant improvement.     Subject is reminded that she is, in fact, in charge.   The Committee acknowledges that the children have youth and determination working in their favor, but Subject should be able to employ superior reasoning skills.  "Because I said so," and "I'm  the Mom, that's why," will not be effective responses in the future.

  4. Memory:   Subject is diagnosed with a severe case of CRM.    There is no long term cure for this affliction, and Subject should start writing everything down.     For those unfamiliar with the disease, it strikes people after the age of 35 or after childbirth, whichever comes first, and means "Can't Remember Shit."
ORGANIZATIONAL:    Improvements in the area of memory (see above) should improve Subject's limited skills in this area.   Recommended Plan of Action:   inspect the contents of the childrens' backpacks on a daily basis, read and follow through on all notices, bulletins and permission slips.   Subject should not continue to rely on social mediums such as Facebook to stay up to speed on all relevant activities.    Facebook status notifications like those dated March 18, 2010:  "Help!  Did I miss soccer registration?"  and April 21st:  "Why are there so many cars in front of the elementary school - did I miss a memo?"  are ineffective and potentially embarrassing.

DISCIPLINARY:   While subject has made significant strides in this area, improvement in Organization (see above) will decrease last minute rushing about, necessitating the use of empty threats, pleading, and lack of follow through.   These are generally considered ineffective disciplinary tactics.    The Committee commends Subject's attempts at reward-based parenting (although Committee observed that the "Yelling Jar" resulted in contributions only from Subject and not from children).   

CONCLUSION:   Subject is a loving, active and involved parent who clearly loves her children.    Daily quotas of hugs, kisses, giggles and general ridiculousness are always met.    Committee wishes to remind Subject that she is only human, and advises Subject to keep her chin up, because she is doing the best she can.


*404 - for all you coding geeks
*RTFM - one for all you crazy texters.   Google it if you don't understand. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just A Day

There is a lot to do today, I thought as I silenced my alarm yesterday morning.
    
I am swamped with Mother's Day jewelry orders, and I had to get three orders in the mail by 5pm.   I was proud of myself, because I knew it was going to be a busy week, so I went to the jewelry store Monday and stocked up on all the supplies I would need, trying to avoid my usual last minute mad dash to the store with a 4 year old in tow.  

I woke up with a plan - my whole day sketched out:  eat breakfast, get Greta on the bus, go to the gym, lunch, playtime with Finn, a friend/customer coming by around 2pm to pick up an order (that I needed to finish first) and then the afternoon dedicated to making the orders that had to be mailed that day.   

By 9:30am it was clear the gym wasn't going to happen.    Finn has allergies, and was cranky, tired and needy.   He refused to go to the gym's daycare, and threw himself on the floor screaming as I was trying to get out the door.

I worked out at home, with Finn draped across my chest as I lay on the floor doing sit-ups.    My half hour exercise routine took over an hour, what with stopping to get him a snack, fetch toys or change the television channel in a desperate attempt to distract him.  

At 11am Finn and I had a picnic lunch outside, played on the swings, and kicked the soccer ball around while I tried not to glance the clock.   At 12pm we went upstairs for a snuggle; I was hoping he would take a nap.    No such luck.   I gave up at 1pm, went back downstairs and plugged him into a movie, wincing at the thought that he was watching television on a gorgeous day. 

I settled down in my jewelry studio (read:  dining room table) and was pulling together the supplies I would need when the big yellow bus pulled up outside.   I had completely forgotten it was a half-day at school for Greta.   As she bounded up the driveway I cursed myself for my absentmindedness - what if I hadn't been home?   The mother-guilt dug deeper.

Greta and I chatted about her day, I got her a snack and sent the two of them outside to the swing set.   My friend came by with two of her kids, and I finished up her order while our kids played.   

She left at 3:15pm, and I drew a deep breath.   I have just enough time to finish these bracelets, I thought. 

Greta and Finn started fighting, something about Finn touching her favorite stuffed animal.   I separated them - Greta played at the computer and Finn watched his movie.  The first two bracelets took 30 minutes to finish.  As I started on the third order, Finn streaked by naked and screaming, Greta burst into tears because her computer game crashed, and the phone started ringing - a local customer calling about the status of her order. 

"MOM! The phone is ringing!" Finn shouted as he streaked by again.   The dog started barking and chasing Finn, and Greta was tugging on my sleeve, sobbing about her computer game.

A low roar began in my head; if I didn't get the last order in the mail, someone wasn't going to get their Mother's Day gift on time.    One kid was crying, one screaming, and the phone rang again.   I felt tears well up, and as calmly as I could I asked the kids to go play outside.   

"But, Finn's NAKED!"  Greta wailed.

"Please help him get some clothes on, and then go outside so I can finish what I need to do," I said in my low, dangerous voice.

"I have to do EVERYTHING around here!"  Greta screamed, and stomped out of the room, dragging a squirming, naked Finn behind her.

Hot tears began flowing down my face.   It's too much, I thought.   I can't even organize one simple day.  I looked at the clock - 4:15pm.     Greta and Finn were fighting in the next room, and the dog was still barking.   I slumped down to the floor with my head in my hands.   Why is it so hard for me?  What am I doing wrong?   I should just close down the jewelry shop.  I can't do anything right.

Just breathe, I thought.  Sit here and focus on your breath.    In.  Out.  It's going to be okay, just do what you can.  In.  Out.

I tried to put things in perspective.   Who would have thought, three years ago, that one day my biggest problem would involve balancing life and my own small business?  That I would have one whole day of playing with my children, creating jewelry, exercising - and not have one thought of a drink?

I picked myself up off the floor, and sat back down at my beading table.    Just do what you can.  

I finished the last bracelet at 4:45pm.    We piled into the car - Finn was wearing one of Greta's dresses and both kids were barefoot, but we made it to the post office in time.   On the way home, Lady Gaga's "Telephone" came on the radio, and we all sang our hearts out.

It's just a day, I thought.   A regular, crazy, horrible, wonderful day. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Trying To Stir It Up A Bit

Last Friday, there was a 20/20 episode on Moms who struggle with drinking.    It featured four moms - one of whom left her high powered job to stay home full time with her young daughter, and slipped into addiction to alcohol quickly.   Another Mom had been drinking for over 20 years, and her family had finally had enough and sent her to rehab.   Mary Karr - author of Lit and many other really fine memoirs was on to talk about her struggles with alcohol as a young mother.   She is now 20 years sober.   My friend Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, of the fabulous blog Baby on Bored (as well as three hysterically funny books about life and motherhood), was on as well, speaking about her struggles and exemplifying that life exists on the other side of the bottle.  

I have conflicting emotions when I watch shows about mothers and drinking.   I was on a show about mothers and drinking, for crying out loud, and I still feel really itchy about the media coverage on this topic.

I am pleased that the main stream media is talking about this problem.   It's not a new problem; there have always been alcoholic mothers.    For years they suffered in silence and shame - most of them still do.   I believe strongly that the only way to combat addiction is to talk about it, shine a light on the problem and try to get more people to understand the true nature of addiction.

Beginning with the Diane Schuler tragedy last August, there has been increased media attention on Moms who drink.     This is where the squirm factor starts for me.    Alcoholic mothers face a double-whammy, in my opinion.    Admitting you have a problem with alcohol is hard enough, without having fears that you will be branded a "bad mother".    The fact that main stream media considers drinking moms headline worthy is a blessing and a curse.    A blessing because at least we're talking about it.   A curse because it heightens, in my opinion, the idea that Moms should somehow be exempt from the stresses and foibles that everyone else faces.   Moms, quite simply, are the last to come apart, because they don't feel like they are allowed to fall to pieces.  

We've come a long way, but the blueprint of the perfect mother, the woman who can do it all, still hangs over our heads.    Many mothers I know still struggle against the notion that they should be able to do everything:  raise kids, work full-time (or part-time), cook meals, keep house, manage school and activity schedules, bake a mean batch of brownies, keep fit, and give her man some good lovin' along the way.    I'm being a little facetious, but you get the point:   it's a tall order, and it's no wonder many mothers struggle.    Alcohol winds its way into many women's lives when they become mothers, because it helps them hide from their fear that they don't measure up.

I have found an unbelievable community of women dedicated to busting the myth of the perfect Mom, both in my day-to-day life and online.  Some are in in the recovery community as well, but many are Moms who write with honesty and love about the struggles of parenting.   Social media outlets like blogging, facebook and twitter provide the perfect platform for a little honest sharing.

And then there are many, many Moms I meet who are struggling - with addiction (drugs, alcohol, food, shopping), depression and anxiety, who don't believe they can wave the white flag, because what would happen to the kids?   What would her friends think?  Everyone else makes it look so easy!   They are far more frightened of being branded a bad mother than being branded alcoholic, depressed, addicted or afraid.

So, while we're shedding a light on the problem of women and addiction, let's also have a discourse about why women - mothers especially - fall into this perfection trap?    Why do Moms feel that they are supposed to be impenetrable?    Why do we put our hands up to our mouths in shock when we see a woman who left her high-powered job to stay home with her daughter full-time and she can't handle it?     It wouldn't be nearly as newsworthy if a Dad left his job to stay home and couldn't hack it.   Of course he couldn't, many of us would think.   And why?  Because women are somehow stronger?  Better equipped to fend off addiction or depression?   

I want to know what you all think.   If you saw the 20/20 episode, or other recent media coverage about Moms who drink, what did you think?    How does it make you feel?   Shocked?  Angry?  Relieved?

Talk to me, people.

Edited to add:  After reading some of the comments, I want to mention one other, very important, point about the 20/20 episode.   Stefanie's part in that show was so important, I believe, because she demonstrates that you don't have to take the elevator of addiction all the way down to reach out for help, to get sober.   She said one other extremely important thing, too, which was that the 'secret will keep you sick'.    More and more, women are finding venues where they can reach out for help earlier in their struggle .  The Yahoo board Stef co-founded - the Booze Free Brigade - is an example of a safe place women can come together to talk about alcohol without fear of judgment or alienation.