One year ago today, I had my last drink. Me. The girl who loved all things wine. Why? Because my relationship with it became dysfunctional.
Like any great love affair that turns toxic, it was an insidious shift. For one thing, we’d started spending far too much time together, causing me to lose all sense of self and wonder how my dreams had taken a backseat. For another, most of that time had morphed into the clandestine variety, sneaking away – just the two of us – to avoid judgement or repercussion. All-in-all, grape – the friend who had accompanied most of my good times and bad – became controlling, and it was literally causing me pain. You know, the pounding variety that pulsates between temples leaving its victims couch-bound on perfectly good weekends.
Was the break-up an easy one? No, not at all. It came with all of the usual fanfare: tears, longing, loss. I don’t fit in with some of wine’s friends anymore, making them somehow feel uncomfortable in a way I hadn’t expected. And then there’s having to really experience emotion without something there to take the edge off, whether facing the loss of loved ones or simply having an awful day. But, oh the rewards.
There is that three or four month mark after a break-up when the dust begins to settle and you start to breathe again. Then there’s a phase of rediscovering the person you’d been before the dysfunction ever started. And finally comes the glorious rebirth of someone that you didn’t even know you had the strength to become. Well, I’m breathing again, my friends. Big alveoli expanding breaths of joy.
A little over a year ago, a friend whom I have the utmost respect for, posted a blog about quitting drinking. I didn’t know she’d quit or that she’d felt the need to, but that post planted a life changing seed. It then got watered by someone I hadn’t seen since high school who confessed that he’d given up alcohol, followed by, “I have no idea why I just told you that.” I knew exactly why. It was something I needed to hear.
Sometimes we don’t find the courage to escape a bad relationship without stories of those who’ve gone before us. For that reason, I’m sharing.
A great many people can be an acquaintance of alcohol’s and never give it a second thought. They manage to see each other on occasion and even have a few laughs. Others, however, commit to the relationship almost unaware and then start to feel that there’s no way out. I’m here to tell you that it’s doable, and that “fulfilling” would be a gross understatement when describing my life without it.
Quitting drinking is one of my all-time top life decisions. Do I miss it? Sometimes, but rarely. And again, like a toxic lover, seeing it may give rise to temptation and longing, but nothing is ever worth going back.
And by damn, you can find love again. Sobriety is now my knight in shining armor.
If alcohol coerced you down the aisle at some point, you’re not alone. Think annulment. Consider divorce. There is a thing called Google, and there are resources.
And THANK YOU to the people who inspired me to have the best anniversary of my life. This girl has no regrets.
It was the best of years; it was the worst of years. Okay, so that was hardly an original thought, but the perfect summation of 2016, nonetheless.
I sit here on the second day of the new year reflecting back on both immense joy and intense sorrow. And how it all flew by as quick as it did, while delivering such a wallop, I’ll never know.
The joy? Plenty of it, including my ongoing work on The Matthews & McGuire Show, getting within weeks of completing the final edit on my second novel and quitting drinking (more on this in a future blog). But I also knocked three big things off my bucket list:
The sorrow? I lost an aunt, an uncle, two cousins and, worst of all, my beloved mother who suffered a massive stroke on the very day of her 60th wedding anniversary. Years have gone by without losing a soul in our family, but the celestial train pulled into the station and refused to leave until every last seat got filled. Many of my friends had loved ones climb aboard that beast of a machine, as well, leading to a permanent heart based bond in grief and support.
So what has two days of reflection on that 12 month roller coaster ride brought me? Gratitude. Yes, gratitude, because that’s what I choose to focus on.
Don’t get me wrong. I have moments yet when I’m overwhelmed by the losses and have to retreat into my cave made of bed sheets, but I’m grateful that I had as much time on the planet with these people as I did and that we got to share so much. Besides, my mother would kick my ass if I didn’t recognize my blessings amidst the mayhem, and nothing reminds us to live quite like death. Believe me, I’ve received that message blastingly loud and clear.
I’m also grateful for the above mentioned highs that pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that it would be a major struggle to crawl back in. Each new adventure prepares us to take on the next, and I’m primed for the new year.
I wish each of you a fun filled, goal-centric, limit breaking, love induced and rockus 2017. Regardless of what it delivers, let’s take one step at a time, one day at a time, and one glorious opportunity to grow at its ever lovin’ time.
There’s a steady course that I’ve been running for years. One that’s well marked and comforting, for the most part, although its surface has varied over time and presented unexpected challenges. Branches have fallen and blocked my path; weather has turned nasty, requiring an added dose of determination. Even my gear has worn and needed replacing, at times. But all along, I’ve remained fully supported and confident, regardless of terrain.
Recently, however, a hand, a big one, came out of nowhere and knocked me completely off course. My feet stumbled from the trail, and I rolled into thick brush before spiraling down a cavernous ravine. After a massive tree broke my fall, I stood bloodied and bruised and assessed the situation to find it dismal.
The path where I knew I could withstand anything is no longer visible. The woods around me are dense with the thickest of foliage hiding a wealth of unknowns. It’s dusk, and I’m hearing noises that scare the shit out of me.
It’s going to take every ounce of bravery I possess to find my way – not to the trail where I ran before, as that’s gone forever – but to a new one, where I pray I’ll find sunshine again and perhaps even moments of heartfelt joy.
That’s what it feels like to be derailed.
That’s what it’s like to lose a mother.
No, I’m not the Emily Post of air travel, nor am I a disgruntled airline employee. I’m just a woman who gets on a plane several times a month and has learned a thing or two about getting from Point A to Point B without losing her mind or pissing people off.
In my experience, there are 10 simple things that one can do to maintain sanity and foster goodwill on any flight. These are not written in order of importance, but rather as they come to mind, because I’m at 32,000 feet right now, and I’m sadly watching several of these scenarios unfold.
They are as follows:
- Refrain from grabbing the headrest in front of you to lift yourself out of your seat. There’s someone attached to that headrest, and you’ve just jarred them out of their comfortable position, or – worse yet – woken them up.
- Speaking of sleep, unless you’re fortunate enough to be in first class, a full recline should be avoided. I’ve actually had my laptop jammed between myself and someone’s seat back, unable to pry it loose. Most travelers are professionals with work to do. Be respectful of space.
- Speaking of laptops, I recently sat between two guys who decided to share drinks. One of them held his glass over my laptop, while the other reached out to pour whiskey into it. Ah . . . no. DO NOT pour liquids anywhere near the vicinity of someone’s laptop – ever.
- Try hard not to lose patience with screaming babies or their mothers. Babies cry, and I sometimes envy the fact that they can do so in public. They’re in unfamiliar environments, they’re being held tight against their will, and moms can’t just say “pop your ears.” There’s a good chance that they’re in pain. Cut them some freakin’ slack.
- Speaking of babies, I empathize with the little gaffers, but one thing moms can do for the empathetic among us is keep them from kicking the backs of our seats. Cry, scream, laugh all you want, but a constant battering from behind can make even the kindest of us take a turn.
- We’re all going to get to our seats eventually, so chill. If there are seniors boarding in front of you, or someone who is handicapped, do not let out a loud sigh and start rolling your eyes. Give them a hand, instead. There’s a concept.
- While boarding a plane, please be aware of the location of your carry-on luggage at all times. If it’s smacking numerous people in the head who are seated in the aisles, it’s in the wrong place.
- If you’re seated beside someone who is reading, staring out the window, has their eyes closed or is wearing headphones/earbuds, do not start talking to them. They do not want to engage. A friend recently had his earbuds literally pulled out of his ears by a person beside them so that they could talk for an entire flight. Good karma will never come from this.
- Smile. ‘Nuff said.
- Be nice to your flight attendants. Dealing with impatient, rude passengers day-in and day-out can really suck. It actually is not all about you. Surprising, I know.
There you have it. Ten simple rules that have potential to make your travels far more enjoyable. If you have additional suggestions, add them to the comments section below. I’d love to hear them.
Feel free to share this information with the road warriors in your life, and if you see me on your next flight, please take the time to say hello. Unless, of course, I’m wearing headphones.
The death toll rose to five officers not long after I read this post, and the announcement of seven other officers and two civilians being injured soon followed – as did the location of the shootings: just a few blocks from my home. According to news sources, these attacks are now, “The worst shootings targeting police officers in our history.”
I moved to the U.S. from Canada in 1997 as an RN. I’ve now spent nineteen years in America – eight of those as an American citizen – and during that time I’ve cared for, grieved over, laughed and cried with and respected every form of American I’ve come in contact with. That’s how I was raised, and I’m grateful for the example set.
You see, color isn’t a major issue where I come from – neither are guns. As a Canadian, it took me several years to really see the reality of prejudice and distrust that exists in America. I simply couldn’t grasp the concept of people hating each other for any reason, let alone race. I still can’t grasp why it continues, but I have certainly witnessed and personally experienced prejudice enough times now to know that it’s alive and thriving. Sadly, it appears to be growing stronger.
Now that violence and death have moved into my neighborhood, I’m more acutely experiencing the anger, disappointment, heartbreak and fear that accompany such senseless acts. What I don’t feel is hatred. I refuse to. Nothing will drive me to that.
Maybe I’m still suffering from naivety, but what I’m seeing is a people issue, not one that’s specifically black or white. “We the people” need to embrace our differences and stop judging entire races or subcultures on the small percentage of radical individuals, in every group, who want to grease the hate machine. We collectively can’t allow these perpetrators to succeed in destroying the very thing that I think we all desire: genuine community.
For a year now, I’ve been working on “The Matthews & McGuire Show,” a podcast dedicated to diversity and personal growth that I cohost with my
good friend, Mike C. Matthews. On it, we celebrate our differences and the differences of others, trying to help bridge the racial, generational, gender and cultural gaps that threaten our society as a whole. I’m constantly learning from my cohost, and I believe he from me, which speaks volumes on how much richer our lives can become with inclusivity.
I challenge each one of you to take some form of action, large or small, to amplify the voice of acceptance and encourage love where you are.
Hate and violence cannot, and will not, solve the issues that we’ve allowed to manifest in this country. The only answer is love and acceptance, something our spiritual leaders, including Christ, I might add, have been telling us for centuries.
I think we all agree that things have gotten out of control. Now let’s try and agree on the most loving way to move forward.
If you’re reading this, I love you. If you’re white, black or brown, I love you. If you’re green, purple or teal, I love you. If you’re gay, lesbian, straight or transgender, I love you. If your blood is red, I love you. If you choose not to love me back, for whatever reason, I’ll love you still.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all families of, friends of, and victims of violent crime tonight. May you find peace and the support of every variety of neighbor.