Grandmother

I grew up during a time when Family Video was a thriving business filled with endless amounts of VHS tapes to enjoy on a Friday night. The checkout line displayed row after row of candy. When you reached the cashier you were greeted with signs saying, “Friday Family Fun Night Snacks!” next to large tubs of popcorn with real movie theater butter. That was the shit right there.

She’d let me pick out whatever I wanted. We rented “Selena” with a side of candy lipstick (if you’re a child of the 90’s, you know what I’m talking about), a big tub of popcorn, some skittles, and a soda. If I had asked her to buy the entire place out, I’m sure she would have. I was the only grandkid for ten years and I wore that crown like a boss. She would set me up in the guest room upstairs with the big AC unit so I could watch Jennifer Lopez reenact the career and life of Selena. I learned every word to “Como La Flor” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” while dancing on the queen-sized bed, using the remote as my microphone. I remember knowing right then and there that I wanted to be a singer. The music moved me in a way I had never felt before (I mean… I was nine years old, but whatever). That movie, in that room, on that hot summer night is when my love affair with music began. As an adult working on a degree in musical theater in my 20s, I reflected on that night over and over.

I learned to swim in the pool out back. I can remember the way the pool liner felt on my feet as it dipped from the shallow end to the deep end. “Look! I can still touch here!” Flip flops off the diving board. Underwater handstands that ended with a mermaid splash. I would put my goggles and flippers on and spend hours dipping in and out of the water while getting in touch with my inner mermaid. “Count how long I can hold my breath underwater!” I would yell out as she dipped her toes on the edge, watching me try to break the Guinness World Record for youngest person in the history of time to hold my breath underwater for the longest amount of time. Or, at least that’s what it felt like. She gave me unconditional love and attention, which I’m sure was exhausting. I was kind of dramatic, if you can imagine that!

Hard to picture, right? I was an only child, the only grandchild, THE LIGHT OF EVERYONE’S LIVES until some other kids were born and blah blah blah. (Love you little cousins and siblings!). After my parents got divorced, my grandmother joined my mom and I on a trip to Disney World. It was fantastic- until we lost her. Yes, my mother and I lost her. One minute she was standing next to us, the next I started screaming about wanting my own parasol with my name written on it in cursive and I had to have it RIGHT NOW before the nighttime Disney parade started. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know that they close the park each night with a massive light spectacle and parade. When the parade starts you can’t really move. If you’re on one side of the street and your family is on the other, that’s just too bad, because Mickey is on his way and you better just stand back.

Did I know this at the time? Probably. But I needed that damn parasol. My parents just got divorced, woe is me, my childhood is ruined forever! The only way that I would ever have happiness in my life was if I had that parasol. The purple parasol with my name written in fancy cursive on top. She crossed the street at the last second. I think we thought she would probably stay there until the end of the parade, but as things came to a closing we realized she wasn’t there.

Imagine losing a family member in Downtown Disney and then having to go to the “Town Hall” where a man in a barbershop quartet is taking your information and putting out an announcement that there’s a lady missing: blonde hair, medium height, probably wearing a fanny pack. My mother was freaking out, and I realized that we may never ever find her- or my parasol.

Priorities.

A few hours later after an extensive search by people and Disney characters alike we realized we had done all we could do. There were no cell phones or GPS trackers yet. We hopped onto the trolly back to the “Mighty Ducks” parking lot trying to figure out what we were going to have to tell everyone back in CT.

“Lost? Disney? What happened?”

“Did she bibbity-boppity-boo herself right out of there?”

“Did she turn into a pumpkin at midnight?”

“Did you call the police?”

As we pulled up to our designated lot we saw a figure in the distance sitting on the hood of a car that looked vaguely familiar. There she was! Sitting there under the stars, waiting for us to finally show up, parasol in hand.

Every winter and summer we would head up to the homestead in Oxbow, Maine. It was a place of serenity and beauty. There were acres upon acres of forest covered in fresh snow and small woodland creatures. We would walk a bit down the road to fill old milk bottles with fresh spring water. If you came for a visit in the summer you would have a chance to see the beautiful gardens cared for by her loving hands and experience the thrill of being eaten alive by 50,000 black flies for weeks on end. My great-great Uncle, whom we called Gramps, warmed the cabin with a wood stove and cooked bran muffins every morning to eat on the screened-in back porch. We’d also do another very fun, exciting – thrilling, if you will- activity while out in the wilderness up there.

Moose watching.

We went moose watching.

Not once. Not twice. But dozens and dozens of times in my childhood.

We’d wait for it to get dark out, hop in the old fashioned mini van that looked like a cross between a station wagon and a box, drive out a bit, turn the lights off and wait.

And wait.

Until all of a sudden you saw something out of the corner of your eye.

“Shhhhh! Look…Katie… see? See over there?” “See what? I don’t…”

…and BOOM turn on your headlights and there’s a handful of large Moose ready to charge into your mini van from 1994. But, they didn’t. They just took a good look at us and we took a good look back, and we continued this tradition for most of my life.

“TEN! Ten moose this time! Can you believe it?”

I had more fun looking for moose with my grandmother as a kid than I’ve ever had playing candy crush on my iPhone. Those were some of the best times, and there was no social media to distract us from the wonder and beauty of life.

She has a green thumb that I envy. I couldn’t keep any plant or flower alive if my life depended on it. She has always taken great pride in her work outdoors. Her garden always flourished, and so did the poison ivy rash she would get countless amounts of times. Honestly, in my 34 years of life, not a single spring or summer has passed without that woman catching some rash from this and that in her own backyard. When I was in high school, I went away for the weekend once. She had come over to help my parents with their garden and ended up staying the night. She slept in my bed. A few days later I overheard her talking about her recent bout of poison ivy which just happened to be all over her body. I started itching before she could even finish the sentence. I somehow manifested phantom poison ivy itching because I was certain that the woman had infested my sheets with it. I was a teenager. I never changed my sheets. All of a sudden I imagined big pink and oozing poison ivy blisters all over my torso and how my boyfriend would never want to hold my hand ever again.

The closet upstairs is where she keeps most of her photos. If you opened the door to the damn thing, you’d be buried alive under all the albums that she’s shoved in there over the years. Books filled with photos from Memorial Day parades, birth announcements, birthday parties, piano recitals and more. She would pull them out for me all the time and say, “Hey Katie- look at this one. Remember that?” She would hand me a picture of the time we had a unicorn at my birthday party in her backyard. Of course I remember.

She’s always made me feel important.

Loved.

Cared for.

She and I have always had a special bond, but I didn’t realize how special it really was until recently. Our demons know each other well. When I was a child I found this all to be very confusing. What happened? What was going on? Was she okay? Where did she go?

She always came back. I didn’t ask questions, I just knew that she loved me and she was trying to love herself too. I had no idea how heavy her burden was. I didn’t know what it felt like to carry that burden alone. I had no idea that one day I would understand.

I do understand, but because of her, I have never had to carry that burden alone.

I woke up a few years ago and realized that I was missing out on life because I was too busy numbing myself from it. I couldn’t experience joy, pain, sadness or happiness. I did my very best to drown my feelings, good or bad. I thought it was normal, until it wasn’t.

I isolated myself from everyone I loved and who loved me. I was too terrified to try to cope with life, I just wanted life to shut up. It was too loud. I drank up everything I could, hoping to float. Instead, I just sunk deeper and deeper to the bottom. The deeper I went, the more the darkness grew.

I was scared. I was ashamed. I was broken. I was nothing.

I thought I was alone.

With trembling hands I reached for my phone, dialed her number and waited for her to say hello. I could hardly get the words out, tears were streaming down my face and I could hardly breathe. I called her because I knew that she knew what this felt like. I could hear her own voice trembling and could picture the tears on her cheeks too.

She said she was proud of me for asking for help. She said she loved me and she was sorry.

“Sorry for what?”, I asked.

All the times she wasn’t there. All the times she tried and failed. All the times I saw her at her worst.

I could feel her heartache in my own heart.

None of that matters, Gram.

Every obstacle we go through in life has the ability to either take us down or make us stronger. Even in defeat we have the opportunity to grow.

I sound like a cheesy self-help infomercial right now, but it’s the truth.

When I think about what she’s given me, I can hardly express my gratitude. She and I share the same disease. Without help, it’s fatal. If she wasn’t who she is and hadn’t gone through what she’s gone through, I’m not sure I would have been able to recognize it in myself and muster up enough courage to say, “My name is Kate and I’m an alcoholic,” if she hadn’t said it first.

Her journey helped me discover my own courage to accept and surrender.

She saved my life.

I love you a bushel and a peck Gram. To the moon and back and over again, endlessly.

I know you are but what am I?

There seems to be an identity crisis going on here. I don’t know if crisis is the right word to use but, I’m trying to figure some shit out. Some days, I look at myself and the familiarity is comforting. Other times, I yearn for a map to lead me to where I need to be. Where I should be going. A guide out of my own personal hell of self pity and addiction.

Before.

Prior to sobriety I had always hated my body. I’d change my clothes 30 times every morning to try to find an outfit that would make me look skinny. I didn’t have confidence in myself. I thought that it was my job to keep my family and friends happy. If I failed I was devastated. As I got older those things started to haunt me day after day. I hated those feelings. They hurt too much. Fuck that. I wanted to be numb and feel absolutely nothing.

Someone introduced me to alcohol and the rest is history. Alcohol was the solution for everything. I didn’t start off drinking like a fish, that would come later. But the door had started to open and my brain invited addiction in like it was a long lost love seeking shelter.

Beer. Vodka. Tequila. Wine. My new besties.

148118_662222628867_5249277_n

*Hey, check out those DEAD eyes… knock, knock! No one’s there. Also, no clue who that blonde was, but she seems to be having a good time* 

 

Alcohol made me feel pretty. My insecurities washed away in a shot glass of whiskey. I felt confident. I flirted with disaster and bad boys. I laughed loud and passed out quick. I took shots of vodka from my water bottle during third period on a Monday. It wasn’t an everyday thing, but the more I drank the better I felt. I invited friends over and raid the alcohol cabinet again and again. I was also pretty dumb, because I decided to replace in the freezer with water. Water freezes. I told my parents it must have been the men outside gardening. They must have come into the kitchen and pounded it all without a chaser.

I used my fake ID daily during my freshman year of college. It was totally normal. I’d start pre-gaming house before the bar or party. I’d put my makeup on while drinking old style. I felt beautiful. I’d dance with strangers and take the shots they offered me.

21370849_10102229351533937_7585698918920757950_n* I’d like to call this my faux mug shot. I’ve never been arrested (Thank you sweet baby Jesus), but I imagine this is kind of what it would be like. There’s nothing behind those eyes*

One night I was talking to my friend and she asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was in my dorm room drinking. She said that drinking alone is the start of something bad.

I stopped telling people what I was doing. I became a masterful drunk. I’d tell my friends how happy I was to be out and drinking beer with them. I’d leave out the part where I had already drank four glasses of wine and two beers. There was also a strong chance that I had popped some random pills too.

Whatever. Didn’t care. I felt wanted, smart, clever, funny and talented. If it meant killing my liver in the process, so be it.

 

The next morning those euphoric feelings disappeared. They were replaced with shame, guilt, confusion, pain, heartbreak and a slew of other horrible feelings. I’d cope with all of that by drinking more. Meanwhile, my self hatred grew and grew. Alcohol fed the beast inside of me.

After becoming a mother my drinking started to spiral. I believed whole heartedly that alcohol made me a better mom. Want to color? Sure! Want to do a puzzle? Sure! Want to bake cookies? Absolutely! In bed at night I’d tear myself down piece by piece. What kind of shitty person drinks to hang out with their kids? Only a piece of shit. I was a piece of shit. I didn’t deserve happiness. I deserved a difficult life (all by my own doings). I accepted that I would never find peace.

17553882_10101959875815437_9215602668637248072_n*Oh, wow look at you, you little emo/moody wino. Still with the dead eyes.*

In the back of my mind I knew that I was an alcoholic. I knew that without a solution that my alcoholism would be fatal. I fully intended to drink my life away until death. I thought my family would be better off without me. I was terrified of messing up my kids. When those emotions crept in I would pick up the bottle again and again.

 

What a hot ass mess.

 

Present

I wake up and fall to my knees. I pray to a God that I had long dismissed as a myth. I ask my God to help me stay sober today and help me follow His will, not mine. I don’t know what His will for me is, but every single day tiny miracles happen in my life. I don’t fear being alone anymore. I just get on my knees and repeat over and over again. I cook my daughters breakfast and we laugh over silly stuff the baby did. I’m slowly learning to love myself. I’m present. I see myself in pictures and I see the face of a girl who finally knows her worth. I know that I deserve happiness, peace and joy. None of that would be possible if I was still pounding drinks every day.

46836961_10102749939970537_4338203563537727488_n*I didn’t get sober for my girls. They inspired me to get sober, but I got sober for me so that they could have the mom they deserve*

All of that shit is awesome, right? Yeah. It’s amazing. I work so damn hard everyday to maintain the serenity I so badly need in my life.

But it’s kinda weird too. I have moments where I miss being a miserable drunk. I know that’s crazy, but getting drunk means I won’t have to feel anything. I’m a lazy ass person. Super lazy. It’s challenging to have to work on myself twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Drunk Kate didn’t have to do anything but sit on the damn couch and watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Sober Kate has to pray, read, call my sponsor, embrace the fellowship of others, use healthy coping skills, be present and be accountable. I share my sober story through this blog, because I need to be honest and transparent with others in my life. No more secrets. I mean, I’m probably going to lie to you if you ask me if I’m wearing the same pants that I’ve been sleeping in for four days while at kindergarten drop off.

 

Of course these aren’t the same pants. I’m super mom. I do 70,000 loads of laundry every morning. With a smile on my face. ***** ALL LIES *****

The pants are comfy man, so lay off.

 

I haven’t been sober for years and years. I’m still learning how to navigate life without wine, sometimes I’m pretty good at it, sometimes I suck at it. It’s progress, not perfection. One day at a time. ONE. Not the next 90 years of my life. Just today. This one day.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I do know this…

Every single moment of every day it gets better and better. Every feeling, good or bad, brings me closer and closer to peace. Just by feeling them, staring them in the face, instead of ignoring them with a PBR tall boy.

I still yell at my kids. I still have road rage (bc no one in Michigan knows how to drive apparently…). I’m still selfish and loud. I’m still jerk to the most important people in my life- but you know what? I’m sober. It’s only through sobriety that I can grow and learn to forgive and accept forgivness for my actions and those of others. I pray for complete strangers and I feel Gods presence in the quiet moments of the day.

 

If the old me read this, I would probably laugh. A life without alcohol was not a possiblity. I couldn’t even imagine it.

 

I am so grateful to be able to share this journey with others as I grow and learn to love the new me. We don’t do it alone.

 

One day at a time.

 

46853629_10102750615506757_2530707130097336320_n* OMG THERE’S LIFE BEHIND MY EYES*

Twelve steps to happy hour…

Habits are hard to change. They become imbedded in our bodies. Muscle memory. That’s just how it is. My habits were out of control.

Cooking dinner? Here! Have a glass of wine!

Putting away laundry? Here! Have two glasses of wine!

Cleaning the house? Here! Have the whole damn bottle!

 

I was cooking dinner the other night and I had the strongest urge to have a glass of wine. I felt like I didn’t know how to cook without it. I was folding laundry and my body just ached to get buzzed so it wouldn’t suck so much.

 

Bad habits are incredibly hard to change. I decided to quit drinking and go sober for one month. My relationship with alcohol had become incredibly desperate and dangerous. I could make up a reason, any reason at all, why I deserved to have a drink. It was easy. I could have a glass and block out my postpartum anxiety like magic.

 

It was very easy to slip and slide into self medicating mentality. It starts with one glass.

 

But it’s never just one glass, is it?

 

I don’t like committing to things at all. I like to have excuses. I like to have a way out if I need one. I need to be in control. But, by my second day of sobriety, I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t commit to making this change all by myself. I needed help. I didn’t even realize how much help I needed, but holy shit did I need it.

My husband half jokingly asked me if I was going to start going to AA meetings. Normally, I would have laughed. I did not laugh this time. Only two days into this whole sober living thing, I realized that my relationship with alcohol was toxic. Slowly turning me into a shell of a human being, hiding behind drunken smiles and laughter.

I couldn’t do this on my own.

So, seven days ago I walked into a room in a local church, scared shitless. I was scared to know that I was going to have to face my demons right then and there, without the cozy warmth of a buzz. As I walked in, a woman rushed over to me and asked me if this was my first meeting. Still skeptical, I said yes. She immediately hugged me and told me how proud she was of me. A woman that I had never met before opened her arms and heart up to me. The tears started pouring out of me. It didn’t stop with her. Every single woman in that room introduced themselves and hugged me. I felt wrapped up in the love that was being poured all over me. I felt something else too.

Support. I felt supported.

Within that first hour, I cried, laughed, listened and embraced the women who had just opened up their lives for me. I walked into that meeting thinking that I was just going to see if I could gain some insight so that I could have a healthier relationship with alcohol. Because, apparently I believed I could have a nice, clean relationship with booze. I figured I would learn a few tips on how to stop drinking after two drinks, and gain some control back in the relationship. I had no idea that I was going to fall to my knees in humility and admit that this wasn’t just a bad relationship.

This is an addiction.

 

For the past five years, I’ve jokingly portrayed myself as the wino mom. Almost every single night I would open up a new bottle of wine and drink the whole damn thing. No problem. I told myself that I could stop whenever I wanted to. I told myself I had a high tolerance. I told myself that it was normal to buy extra wine and hide it in random places throughout the house. I had hundreds of excuses as to why this was normal and that I deserved it.

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I told my birth doula that I couldn’t wait to have champagne after the baby was born. She said, ” You could probably have one glass if you really wanted one.” I replied, ” No. You don’t get it. I don’t want a glass, I want the entire bottle.”

That was the beginning down the path I’ve been drunkenly crawling through for years.

 

As I listened to these women share their stories of sobriety, accomplishments and failures, I could feel my guarded wall slowly breaking down. Slowly but surely. I related to these stories. I have felt the same things.

I found more than just a meeting of women discussing their sobriety, I found a community. A huge, unwavering, welcoming, understanding community. I didn’t even realize how long I had been searching for the peace I felt while sitting in that meeting. The weight of the world was finally off my shoulders.

I could finally admit that this is a huge problem in my life. I could finally admit that I had been lying to myself for years. I could finally admit that I couldn’t do this on my own.

Complete strangers were willing to tell me their deepest, darkest secrets to help me realize that I wasn’t alone. My heart was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. After everyone else had spoken, they asked me if I wanted to share anything. My heart was racing, because I knew exactly what I needed to say.

 

” Hi. My name is Kate and I’m an alcoholic.”

I let out a deep, long breath and felt lighter than I have felt in years. The first step.

I left that meeting with a new sense of purpose, a new reason to be honest with myself and others. The next day I decided to go again. And again. And again. Pretty soon the women started joking that I really got around the block, with all the meetings I was attending. In truth, admitting that I’m an addict was the absolute hardest thing I have ever done. But, attending those meetings made me feel so happy and so alive. I started to look forward to it. Every day around five pm, I start counting down the minutes until my next meeting. My happy hour. 

 

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I can only handle one day at a time, but instead of handling it with a box of wine, I’m handling it with faith, strength, and sharing with others. I know that I could very easily fuck this up. I’m very aware of that. It isn’t easy being sober, it’s a constant battle. I am ready for the fight and I know that I won’t have to fight it alone.

I left that first meeting as an entirely different person. There was the wine drinking, shit talking Kate from before, and now there’s the sober, but still shit talking, Kate.

It feels amazing. This is my new normal. I’m fighting for myself so my children have a mother, so my husband has a wife, so my parents have their daughter back, and a million other reasons. This is probably the best thing I have ever done for myself. I’m going to fight this shit day in and day out, but I’m gaining the skills to kick the hell out of it.

 

One day at a time.  Serenity.

Sober.

This past weekend was a blast celebrating St. Patricks Day.

 

Or, what I should say is, I think it was a blast, because I can’t remember a damn thing. It’s a miracle I even made it home. Sunday morning I woke up just filled with dread. Absolute dread. I’m a 31 year old mom of three amazing kids, and I decided to get black out drunk? What if something had happened to me? Some sort of switch just went off in my brain and I realized… This has to stop.

When I became a mom I would spend hours looking at peoples instagram accounts with funny jokes about moms, coffee, and always wine. It seemed obvious that all moms need coffee in the morning and at 4 pm switch to wine. That’s just how you get through the day right?

 

So, I bought into this. I became a wino. I loooooooove wine. LOVE. Love, love, love. It was fun at first, drinking wine while cooking dinner for the family, or sipping some on my back porch with my friend at 2 pm on a Wednesday. I thought this was normal and cool. I thought I could handle it. But, it didn’t take long for one bottle of wine to turn into two and so on.

 

I realized that I was drinking way too much. Too many glasses while prepping dinner. Too many glasses at kids birthday parties. Too many glasses at family gatherings. Too many too often.

 

That’s not me. That’s not the kind of person I want to be. Alcoholism runs in my family, I have always been hyper aware of that fact. So, this past weekend my mom asked me if I thought I could just stop, and my answer was yes. Absolutely.

 

So, that’s what I’m doing over here. Taking a break. I never could connect the dots together before, but drinking certainly has not helped me climb out of the darkness of my postpartum depression, anxiety and ocd. In fact, I’m pretty sure it made it significantly worse. I feel like I’ve been wearing beer goggles for five years and I finally took them off.

 

I don’t know how long I’ll do this break. Maybe a few months. Maybe a few years. Maybe never again.

I’m not sure how this is all going to go. I just want my body, mind and heart to be healthy.  I want to remember all the moments with my children day by day. Maybe this is the kick in the ass I needed to finally start taking care of myself. I’ve put everyone before me for so long (because, duh that’s what moms do), it’s time for some self-care.

Sober self-care. I’m excited about it.

Part of the reason that I’m sharing all of this with you, is that I need to hold myself accountable. My family will read this. My friends will read this, and I need people to call out my bullshit when it needs to be called out.

 

Life is so beautiful. We’re only here for a short amount of time. I’d rather live in these moments. Instead of  living with my head in the toilet after a night of rough drinking. Maybe someday I will be able to just have one glass of wine. Maybe I won’t. Who knows? But, I’m giving this all I’ve got, because my family deserves it. I deserve it.