A Disease No One Wants

Last night I went somewhere I didn’t want to go and sat in a room full of people I don’t know and did a thing I did not want to do.

I felt afraid and out of place. I had to park in an adjacent parking lot in a questionable part of town and walk next door in the twilight, carrying my enormous (high-quality, fake) Louis Vuitton, angry at myself for not remembering to switch purses. My eyes nervously scanned the uneven parking lot as I crunched through gravel in Converse sneakers, grateful I’d at least had the wherewithal to put on appropriate footwear before leaving the house.

Walking into a detox center alone on a Tuesday night is not high on my list of fun things to do. I’m probably supposed to say that I love being around the newly or not-yet-sober, but the truth is, few things make me more uncomfortable. I can smell the vodka and stale cigarettes and what bothers me isn’t the smell of those things but the fact that I miss them so much that admitting that right now is making my mouth water.

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I walked in like I’d been there a thousand times before — pretty ironic considering the last time I was there, I swore I’d never go back — and while I outwardly appeared unbothered, on the inside I was a wreck. I wanted nothing more than to run back to my car, go home, crawl under the covers, and ghost everyone who would inevitably call, asking what happened. I wondered if it would be a better idea to flake out and just go back to drinking. Somehow that idea sounded a lot easier than my current situation, if only for a moment.

I’m not sharing this with you to generate praise for forcing myself to follow through with my commitment to show up to a place I did not want to be, to sit among other alcoholics and tearfully tell a tiny part of my story in front of what felt like a thousand strangers while fighting back anger over the fact that I — we — have this disease.

I’m telling my story to help people understand what living with alcoholism or drug addiction is like. The amount of strength and courage that sobriety requires is far beyond what I am or will ever be able to do on my own. I can’t take credit for anything other than willingness, and even that is fleeting.

Last night, I got myself there via car, and an unseen force put my ass in a chair. If left to my own devices, I would be high right now. That’s just how it is.

Sometimes I find it hard to genuinely share my thoughts, because they just seem so dark and serious and I’m ashamed of the depth of that darkness. Like whoa — no wonder I used to drink. I’m ashamed that I am always one breath away from a rehab facility, ashamed that I could easily be one poor decision from imprisonment or some other form of embarrassment or despair — but the truth is, we all are. It’s just that when I come face to face with people who are literally living my worst nightmare, I am forced to face myself.

Maybe that constant reminder of my own fragility is a gift.

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Cloudy With A Chance of Sadness

I installed an app on my phone to count the days because I couldn’t trust myself to do it. Even now, 1 year, 11 months, and 25 days later, I still find myself questioning whether I got the date right — was it the 26th of February when I took my last drink, or the 28th?

The pills were the first to go; my stash ran out in late December. For the first time in longer than I could recall, I started a new year with only alcohol (and Zoloft) to lean on. There is little I remember from that time other than the terror of having to face myself.

I’m rolling up on two years sober and I’m sad. I’m grieving, still, for a life I once had; even though that life was hollow and riddled with anxiety, constantly haunted by unaddressed pain and trauma that I shoved down deep and covered with layer upon layer of old and new resentments until it was impossible to tell flesh from bone from maggot.

Self-awareness is a good thing to have but it requires a lot of emotional stamina. I loathe feeling sad. I worked really damn hard to avoid feeling anything but happy for a very long time, so it’s hard for me to accept that sometimes, part of the human experience involves being sad. I want to explain it away, validate it, erase it, busy it into thin air. POOF.

Grief doesn’t work that way. Grief hangs around until it is properly addressed.

They say it’s important to acknowledge milestones in sobriety so that the people behind us can see that recovery is possible. When my good friend hit her 2-year milestone a few months ago, I was ecstatic for her. “HOW DO YOU FEEL?” I shrieked, hopping up and down and clapping my hands in the parking lot.

She felt similar to how I feel today: moderately glum, with a general feeling of is this really all there is?

Yep.

Even in the midst of this current bout of free-floating sadness, I am proud that I’ve come this far. The hesitation comes from knowing that I am an alcoholic/addict who will have to actively participate in my recovery for the rest of my life in order to remain sober. I can’t allow myself to think ahead, or it suddenly feels impossible and I start to shut down.

People who self-destruct always grieve the Thing That Destroys Them. I’ll never quite understand why.

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I spend a lot of time sitting and listening and sharing these days.

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How To Make Anyone Uncomfortable

There are so many things I’ve bungled up due to arrogance.

My daddy used to say all the time when I was a kid, “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity.” I’m not sure where that quote originated — maybe the Bible, or perhaps my grandmother — but either way, I was raised to be humble.

Sometimes, in therapy, I express frustration that my parents didn’t constantly pump me full of baseless pride. Wouldn’t life be easier if I never called into question my body mass index or abilities? My impostor syndrome would cease to exist.

The thing is, though, that it would not have mattered what my parents did or did not do, how high or low my body mass index or education level is. It wasn’t until I entered recovery that I learned that alcoholics and addicts have a special kind of misplaced narcissism imprinted into our DNA. We are a walking, talking contradiction.

God bless the people who fall in love with us, because for someone who is so needlessly terrified of everything and everyone, I’m a very arrogant person.

There was the time that I tried to give myself a Brazilian wax at home, assuming that arming myself with online tutorials, how-to videos, and the best hot wax Sally’s Beauty Supply had to offer would suffice.

“It will be fine!” I chirped to my friend. “I’m going to play Christmas music and rip it all out.” I get it done at European Wax Center all the time — how hard could it actually be? I mean, I have a Bachelor’s Degree.

“Okaaaaay. Call me when you’re done.”

I never called. The pain was too great.

Arrogance is what made me think that having a large brood of children would be easy. It’s what made me leave my job to stay home with the kids. It fooled me into believing that disciplining small humans would be a piece of cake. It tricks me into thinking I can stop eating my feelings by my own sheer will.

It is also what made me think, stupidly, that taking a 7-day cruise with our children would be in any way restful.

Most recently though, arrogance landed me squarely in the office of a Colon and Rectal Surgeon. When he walked in, I smiled brightly, shook his hand, and announced that I was there because I need surgery. He looked surprised, probably because who in their right mind would be peppy and cheerful about having a hemorrhoidectomy?

ME. I WAS. After years and years of dealing with indescribable pain and Issues That Nice People Don’t Discuss, I’d reached the end of my rope. A rectal exam couldn’t possibly be that bad, especially after everything I’ve been through, right? At least, that’s what Google (and my misplaced arrogance) told me.

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In our latest Hobbs & Hayworth video, I shared with the world that I’m gonna have ass surgery.

It absolutely was exactly as bad as they say. Holy numbing gel, nothing about that was acceptable. I could no longer make eye contact. Why would anyone do this FOR A LIVING?!

“I can see why you want surgery,” he said, after my pants were back on. “Ten years of THAT? You need to have it done.” He went on to inform me that for a minimum of 2 weeks after surgery, it will feel exactly like someone is stabbing me in the anus with a knife. By then, I was too invested in the situation to back out — a rectal exam will do that to a person — so I went ahead and put myself on the schedule.

Sidenote: butt issues make everyone uncomfortable. What is more awkward than blurting out that I’m an alcoholic to a room full of drinkers? Saying I HAVE TO HAVE HEMORRHOID SURGERY. That one hundred percent wins the award for Making Any Situation A Weird Situation. Keep that parked in the back of your brain, should you ever need to make people cringe.

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My favorite piece of rectal humor.

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Blurt Sharing: My Kids Are Aspergery

Okay, look — I have a lot of words and I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to form them into readable sentences, but nothing is coming out right, so … I’m just going to do what I like to call “blurt sharing.”

Do you ever do “blurt parenting?” I think I read that term on Facebook somewhere — one of my smart writer friends said it, I think — and it basically sums up my life. I don’t have time to form sensible paragraphs. When I’m in parent mode, I’m seriously outnumbered and outmanned in every way, and the best method of dealing with that is blurt parenting. Here’s an example:

(IN CARPOOL LINE AT THE SCHOOL)

Me: “Hi, kids! How was your day?!”

(All three of my children are yelling over one another, trying and failing to get a word in edgewise to tell me ALL OF THE THINGS)

Me: “OKAY, STOP. HERE. SNACK.”

(Kids make cookie monstery sounds)

Me: “We’re going in order. Pepper, you start.”

(Someone interrupts)

Me: “WAIT YOUR TURN.”

(Spitballs flying)

Me: “NOPE.”

Me: “STOP.”

Maverick: “I have an inflamed blood vessel under my tongue … is there such a thing as a tongue hemorrhoid?”

Me: “You’re fine.”

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Now that I’ve introduced you to blurt parenting, I can move on to the actual thing that prompted me to write today: Asher, our cat-obsessed, overly clumsy, endlessly kind-hearted 7-year-old, is on the autism spectrum. There’s really no way to say that other than to blurt it. I have two children who are, as their pediatrician puts it, “Aspergery.”

It was only two years ago when we learned that Maverick, now 10, has what used to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome (before someone revamped the DSM-5 and made Asperger’s part of the overly-general “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”).

Robbie and I have always suspected, slash known, that this day would someday arrive. We have extraordinary kids with extraordinary abilities and challenges, and there is no shame in identifying what makes them who they are. Also, it’s suuuuuuuuuper fucking hard to parent children who are different, so I feel the same relief now that I felt when Maverick was diagnosed — a giant feeling of “OHHHHH … that explains it.”

And now, we know what to do.

When I met Robbie Hobbs, I found him fascinating. I didn’t marry him for stability or security (although he now offers me that), or because my parents wanted me to. I didn’t marry him because I was pressured into it. I didn’t marry him because it was expected or arranged or agreed upon by people other than ourselves.

No. I married Robbie because he was interesting. Every experience was an adventure, and still is. And then, I was given three extremely quirky children to raise to adulthood, and I could not be more grateful.

For what?

Why am I, a recovering alcoholic with not that much money, raising two kids on the spectrum, plus another child, plus two cats that I never really wanted, while my husband works long hours, GRATEFUL? How can a woman drowning in responsibilities and challenges be happy about it?

My gratitude is the sum of moments like the one I witnessed several evenings ago, when Maverick pulled his siblings into the living room and read aloud the books he was given by a dear friend when he was first diagnosed with autism. As they listened, I saw Asher’s body melt into what appeared to be a palpable feeling of understanding and relief. Pepper, who is only 5, listened quietly.

A few minutes later, I turned around to see Asher standing behind me, clutching a dog-eared copy of All Cats Have Asperger’s. 

“Maverick said I could have this,” he whispered, almost reverently, before running off to display it on his bookshelf. Mav shrugged it off — “It’s no big deal,” he said — but it WAS, because it showed that we’re all pulling for each other, as a family, and the best part is that I noticed. Sobriety has given me that, the gift of noticing.

It’s easy to forget that a diagnosis is just that: a diagnosis. It’s simply a tool to help us navigate complicated things. Asher is struggling to make sense of the world, and the right help will ensure that he will grow into the very best version of himself.

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My Husband Cannot Make Me Happy

I’ve been sitting on this thought for awhile, trying to figure out how to frame it into easily digestible words, but I think I just need to blurt it out: it is not my husband’s job to make me happy.

It is not his job to make me feel any kind of way. Robbie Hobbs cannot make me feel valued, pretty, thin, smart, or like I’m good enough. Sure, he has the power to hurt my feelings — and if he tried to purposefully insult me, I’m sure he could do some damage — but thankfully, I was fortunate enough to marry a man who does not intentionally hurt the people that he loves.

Somehow, I grew up with the idea that my partner is supposed to complete me. Since I wasn’t happy on the inside, surely I’d be happy once I found my soulmate, right? I would finally feel COMPLETE.

No.

Years after falling in love and marrying the man who is now my husband, I am finally beginning to wrap my mind around the concept of happiness being an inside job. For nearly 15 years, I’ve been looking to Robbie to make me feel complete. What I mean by that is, I expected his eternal adoration and undying love for me to patch up the cavern inside my soul, and when he failed to do this, I got mad at him.

“You don’t communicate,” I’d say, which of course actually meant “You are not accurately communicating your undying love and eternal adoration in a way that will fix my soul, and therefore you are falling short as my husband and life partner.”

“I don’t feel like you love me,” I’d complain, after lashing out to piss him off and then waiting for a negative reaction which would, to my dismay, confirm my hunch that I am unloveable.

“You act like you’re bored with me,” I would tell him, which was my way of saying “I want you to believe that I’m such a magnificent creature that you are unable to tear your gaze away,” even though we all know that if he actually behaved that way, I never would have married him in the first place.

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MY FAVORITE PICTURE EVER.

After years of saying I feel unloved, no matter what he said or did to demonstrate that he did in fact love me, he got tired.

Because WHO WOULDN’T? I’m exhausting.

The reason why I felt lonely in my marriage (and in general) was because I was asking a human to do something that isn’t humanly possible. A man can’t make me feel worthy. The scale can’t make me happy. Money can’t make me feel complete. Look around — there are people all over the place chasing happiness, and it doesn’t work.

So, I can no longer say that Robbie Hobbs makes me happy. He is a wonderful man and husband, and I’m so glad we picked each other, but he is just a very important person in my life who brings me an abundance of joy. He’s not the keeper of my worth.

When I finally began to understand how my own expectations were negatively impacting my most important relationships, I finally began to heal. No one on this planet can do this work for me, or make me comprehend it fully. It had to happen organically, as I became ready, and it’s required a hell of a lot of hard work on my end to keep my shit in line.

OUR PEOPLE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO MAKE US HAPPY, YOU GUYS!

We are supposed to find our happiness on our own, ON THE INSIDE. What a revelation! I’m probably the last one to figure this out. Oh, well.

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I’m Back, Bitches!

At the behest of my therapist and everyone else who knows me well enough to understand the tortured artist inside, I’m finally writing again.

I have a love/hate relationship with my blog. First of all, I’m a writer, not a blogger, but actually that’s not true because I AM A BLOGGER. I HAVE A BLOG, DUH, GET OVER YOURSELF, HARMONY.

Additionally, I am a mommy blogger which is a phrase that literally makes me shudder every time I hear it (blech). And guess who put herself in that category by

  1. Creating a blog — and,
  2. Putting “mommy” in the title?

Me! I did!

So, rather than continuing to ignore what is clearly my calling, I’m choosing to lean into it. Here I have a well-documented journey of the past 8 years, the better part of which I thought other people were the root cause of my distress. To be completely honest, I’m embarrassed because now I know better and I want to do better. I constantly fight the urge to go back and edit, erase, and alter the not-quite-right things I said about myself, my husband, my kids, and my life before I got sober.

The thing is, people understood what I said then, and strangely, people understand what I say now. I’m not going to go back and change anything. We are just going to keep moving forward, together.

Speaking of therapy … I need therapy more now, as an almost-39-year-old woman, than I ever did in my teens and twenties, yet this is the time in my life when I have very little free time for anything. Almost everything is like that: ass backwards.

Last year, my therapist gave me an assignment: I was to fill out four sets of questionnaires and bring them back to her. “That’s no problem,” I told her as I gathered them into a stack and placed them neatly in my purse. “I’ll bring them back as soon as I’m done.”

The minute I left her office, picked my three children up from different locations, and arrived home to a kitchen that was still dirty from breakfast 10 hours earlier, I forgot about the worksheets. Motherhood has a way of stomping all over whatever it is that I’m trying to do on the side, not in a mean way, but in a larger-than-life, grimy manner that is actually sort of charming when I’m not busy feeling like I might die trying to keep up with it all.

There’s beauty in the chaos, but I’m neurotic and chaos makes me crazy. Not figuratively. Literally.

A few weeks later, I arrived at my 6:30 p.m. therapy appointment unshowered and covered in whatever popcorn ceilings are made of. My husband and I were renovating his childhood home, a small ranch with dark wood paneling and loads of potential; I’d ducked out early to make it to my appointment.

“I’m sorry I look like this,” I apologized.

“Harmony, you are going to have to learn some self-compassion,” my therapist said. “You are entirely too hard on yourself.”

And that is why I’m in therapy — because I’m too damn hard on myself, because motherhood makes me want to drink and because I’m not the kind of person who can drink a glass of wine and put the bottle away, because I’m an alcoholic and because I can’t do anything in moderation and because if it wasn’t alcohol it would be work and if it wasn’t work, it would be money and if it wasn’t money, it would be fitness or bingeing and purging or something else that would distract me from feeling my feelings and thinking my thoughts.

Some people spend their entire lives running away from themselves. Sometimes, not one other person is aware of their struggle, or maybe everyone is, but no one ever says anything. The real tragedy is the people who never stop running away. They die feeling that unsettled feeling of incompleteness, or blaming everyone around them for their discomfort because they are unwilling to face themselves.

When I got sober, I made the conscious decision to face myself. I stopped running, slowing down to a jog, then to a walk, and finally I just stopped and sat down in the dirt. Therapy is slowly but surely giving me the instructions I need in order to learn how to function without a drink in my hand. I’ve been parenting from a sitting position for damn near two years now, and I have to say, it’s not half bad.

One afternoon, I tackled the pile of mail on the kitchen table, piling bills and things that I needed to take care of on top of my calendar. I made a separate pile of junk that needed to be tossed, and feeling quite proud of myself, I filled out half of the worksheets from my therapist. By the end of it, I was exhausted. Feeling and thinking wears me the fuck out.

My then-4-year-old dragged the kitchen garbage can over for me, and I let her help me throw away the pile of trash.

“I’m big like you, Mommy,” she said, her blue-green eyes wide like dinner plates. “Can I wear mascara now?”

I went to therapy. I have a habit of sitting in the parking lot layering more and more makeup on before I go in. It’s nerves, I think, and possibly a fear of judgement. I want so much not to look like someone who is sitting in the dirt. I want my insides to match my outsides and vice versa.

“Do you have those worksheets I gave you?”

My head snapped up. “The worksheets! I finally filled some of them out,” I said proudly. “I’ll bring them next week.”

When I got home, my husband met me at the door. The boys wanted to kiss me goodnight, they’d been waiting up for me to get home. I climbed into my middle child’s top bunk with him and whispered the Lord’s Prayer. We both like the ritual of it, and he doesn’t ask me deep philosophical questions like his older brother, so it’s easy.

“You look pretty,” he whispered.

I didn’t feel pretty.

Later, I remembered the worksheets. I looked everywhere for them, my husband helping me overturn every drawer, surface and stack that they could have possibly gotten mixed into. I was terrified that my oldest child had found them and read them. I looked in my car, in my husband’s car, in all of my bags.

Then, it hit me.

I threw them away. Or, my daughter threw them away, when she was “helping” me sort the mail. I completed, and then threw away, my therapy assignment. The irony is not lost on me.

The most important lesson I’m learning now is to embrace progress, rather than perfection. Sitting in the dirt is progress. Trying is progress. Sobriety is progress.

Here’s a photo of Robbie and I at a Christmas party. My dress had pockets. He didn’t really say that he wanted to do butt stuff, but I’m almost certain he was thinking it.

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How To Raise An Ally

Parent-teacher conferences are right around the corner, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I’m going to discover.

Are my kids measuring up to their potential (whatever that is)? Is my 5th-grader showing his work on math tests? Is my kindergartener learning how to hold her scissors properly? Does my 2nd-grader assert himself?

But most importantly: Do my kids stand up for others?

I was picked on a lot as a kid. Almost everyone is, at one point or another, which is the main reason why I’d never want to relive my childhood if given the chance. But this is why issues of bullying are never far from my mind.

Looking back, it wasn’t so much the bullies that hurt my feelings the most — it was the kids who stood by silently, complicit in the act. The kids who saw what was happening and could have stepped up and said something — anything — but chose not to because my pain wasn’t worth risking their own.

Of course, now that I’m older, I understand why. I’ve certainly been silent and complicit before myself. It takes courage to speak up, especially when doing so might jeopardize your social status. Staying quiet means staying on the bully’s good side; being loud will only draw attention. There’s always a feeling of relief when you aren’t the one being called names in the lunch line, and when it isn’t your backpack being thrown into a lake.

The thing is, there will always be bullies. There aren’t always allies.

Being an ally requires more than just empathy, and I want my kids to know this. It means being willing to be brave, to act with and for other people simply because it’s the right thing to do. In large and small ways, I try and instill in my kids the value of fighting for justice. I just hope these lessons stick.

In our house, there is a combo of neurotypical and neuroatypical children. Our oldest has ADHD, anxiety, and high-functioning autism. Our younger two are not officially diagnosed with anything, but each have their unique sets of challenges and eccentricities. My husband is a rumpled, absent-minded mathematical mastermind, and I’m a newly-sober, neurotic writer.

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This is us. And yes, my oldest is definitely giving you the bird.

Basically, our entire family is quirky, and none of us pretend to be perfect. As a result, our day-to-day existence revolves around kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and the ability to say “I’m sorry” whenever it’s warranted.

My kids are growing up intimately aware of the fact that there is always a lot more to people than what we can see on the outside. They know that sometimes, what people need most is a big hug or a super comfy bed to take a nap in, but also, sometimes people don’t have access to either of those things, and it’s our job to understand that. So we talk about the fact that everyone has challenges.

Sometimes we can’t see them. Sometimes they’re not pretty to look at. Sometimes they’re even uncomfortable to be around. The important thing is that they are learning to be allies, whether or not they ever call it by that name.

Of course, no parent wants their child to be the bully — or worse, be bullied themselves. But I want to take it a step further and give them the confidence and the tools to step up and stand up for other kids who might not have the same.

After school, I ask my kids if they noticed anyone who seemed lonely or sad that day. When one of them mentions social drama, I ask questions. What did you do when you saw Allie getting picked on? How did that make you feel? Then I use real-life situations to point out ways they can help their peers.

At the end of the day, I try not to put pressure on my kids to solve the world’s problems, because that would be an impossible expectation; but it’s important for them to understand that part of being a good human is helping the other humans within your orbit. And because I want to raise the kind of people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, I’ve learned that I have to be willing, as a mother, to let them speak their minds. Frankly, it’s exhausting, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

It is my highest hope as a parent that my kids will be gutsy enough to say, “Nope, that’s not okay,” when they spot an injustice. I want them to be friendly enough to say “Hi, new kid, you can sit here,” or “Stop picking on her!”

I want them to understand that saying something can change the course of a person’s day, or even their entire life.

I can’t control whether or not my kids get teased or picked on at school, and the reality of that is painful. But my job as a parent isn’t just to make sure my children know the difference between right and wrong; it’s to make sure they’re gutsy enough to actually open their mouths, speak up, and refuse to be a part of the problem.

If I can pull that off, then my job here is done.

 

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The Consistency Key

I have behavioral problems. Not with my kids — with myself. I just cannot seem to get my act together. 

Since becoming a mother a decade ago (First of all: WHAT? Second of all, I’m old), policing my own behavior has been a huge challenge. All of my energy goes to being a consistent parent, which is great, right? Of course it is! Parenting experts always stress the importance of consistency because kids thrive under steadiness and uniformity; it brings a sense of stable predictability to an often unpredictable world, blah, blah, blah.

Even adults prefer consistency, which is why my husband predictably has to use the bathroom at the exact same time every morning, just when everyone is trying to cram into the bathroom to brush their teeth for school. In response, I predictably roll my eyes and let out huffy sighs to let him know how irritating his predictable bathroom schedule is.

OK Google, make me skinny.

If only it were this easy.

When it comes to dealing with the people I live with, I’m relatively constant, but when it comes to me, a human being with vices and a love for simple carbohydrates, it can only be described as dysfunctional mayhem hidden beneath a highly-functional exterior. The only things I’ve managed to do consistently as an adult involved eating something I shouldn’t be eating when I’ve already gained a few pounds, or spending money that I don’t actually have at the worst possible time — like when bills are due and our account is already in the red. Sure, I’ve got a few redeeming qualities, but as a general rule, I have a long and well-documented history of a self-sabotaging inability to stick with anything that could be classified as healthy.

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I almost skipped going to an NFL game because I was so freaked out by how my legs looked in this dress.

I’ve experimented with every type of diet and exercise available. I’ve owned a ThighMaster, a NordicTrack, rollerblades, a mountain bike with matching helmet, and dumbbells. I have belonged to a multitude of gyms, danced or huffed along with many different workout routines on a multitude of medias, visited yoga studios, cleansing centers, psychics, and therapists. I’ve had a witch doctor in Alabama inspect my fingernails. I’ve spit into a glass of cold water first thing in the morning. I have tried pills, shakes, “dry brushing,” saunas, and massages.

I’ve been a runner and I hated it. I’ve been a swimmer and I almost drowned. I’ve kickboxed, weight trained, raquetballed, and rock climbed. At 38 years old, I’ve tried everything short of plastic surgery to radically change my body, and guess what? I’m still the way that I am. My body likes to be how my body is, and I’m inching closer to accepting that, except for one tiny detail that I’ve failed to mention.

Consistency.

I don’t have it.

Amid all the things I’ve done (keto, Whole 30, vegan, diet pills) to make myself look and feel better, I’ve struck gold with a few. Yoga, for example, makes me feel amazing. My body operates on a much higher level when I eliminate sugar. I absolutely love diet pills, but that’s apparently a really unhealthy thing to get hooked on. So is, unfortunately for me, vodka.  

After hitting bottom nearly 2 years ago, I got sober and ate many pans of cookies and gained a bunch of weight and then I lost some weight and gained it back again. Why is it so hard for me to just be healthy? The thing I’ve missed this entire time is consistency, which is something I didn’t realize until my last therapy visit.

“Why is it so hard for me to take care of myself? It’s EXHAUSTING.”

“Because you’ve never done it consistently,” replied my therapist. “You do great for awhile, start feeling good, and then BOOM.” She slapped the arm of her armchair with an open palm, to demonstrate, I assume, my face slamming against pavement. “Up and down, up and down. That’s how you’ve been living your life for a really long time.”

My eyes widened as I absorbed what I was hearing. It’s true, for certain — I’m a yo-yo dieter, and up-and-down caretaker of myself, and I’m never consistent. In sum, I do whatever I feel like doing, and expect things to magically change.

“You self-sabotage.”

“I do?”

“Um, yes.”

There’s a lot that I am consistent with, though, like my self-loathing. I’m consistently anxious and unhappy with my physical appearance, which leads me full circle back to my original point. If I’m unhappy with myself, and I have the tools to make an improvement, then WHAT IS STOPPING ME?

We tend to pin the blame on our families or our workload, and while those are certainly valid scapegoats for the most part — aren’t almost all American mothers overworked? — it’s mostly just us women avoiding taking care of ourselves the way that we take care of our families. I don’t know why we do it. I have no idea why most moms, myself included, have no problem spending money on a child’s ballet lessons even if said child does not even enjoy said lessons, and yet we can’t seem to bring ourselves to pay for a massage or a gym membership. Or, if we do, we feel guilty.

I’ll leave my kids in the care of someone else so I can run errands, but I won’t leave them to go for a run.

I’ll take my son to the dermatologist to have a wart taken off of his thigh, but I don’t make myself an appointment for a weird mole on my face.

I put breakfast on the table in the morning and make sure my family is fed, but I’ll fail to feed myself. Later on, I’ll hangrily shove processed garbage into my mouth and wonder why I keep doing this to myself.

I don’t make time for self-care, because self-care has never been a priority. I have it backwards. Instead of caring for myself first, I care for everyone else and then run out of steam. There is nothing left. I gave it all away. Then, I act like a raging lunatic and blame it on hormones and then I look in the mirror and wonder where the real me went.

There’s a lot of damage for us to repair, I think, and it has nothing to do with cellulite or wrinkles or body fat percentage. The fixing needs to start inside us, and slowly radiate out. We have to amend the belief that we come last. We have to unapologetically reclaim ourselves. No one is going to tell us it’s time to do it, and no one is going to give us permission. We need to give ourselves permission.

Now is the time to find consistency: within ourselves, for ourselves, because I’m the only me I’ll ever have, and the more I take care of her, the more I like her.

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Hello From The Other Side

Hey, guess what? School is back in session, which means all three of my children are in school for 7 (SEVEN!) hours a day, and I have the luxury of taking a full, uninterrupted, breath.

Once I got past the initial stress of throwing my kids into a brand-new school (all three of them miss their old friends) and adapted to this particular school’s carpool line situation (not enough space for two carpool lines, and yet it’s happening, so, terrifying), I quickly settled into my new life as A Person Who Has 35 Hours Per Week To Do Things. Just so you know, I’m really good at it.

Things are funny again, which is probably good news for those of you who have stuck around here for awhile. For those of you who are new, let me break it down for you:

  1. I used to be funny
  2. I got sober
  3. Nothing was funny anymore

I’d kind of leaned into the idea that perhaps nothing would ever be comical again ever and maybe this was just going to be the new me. Maybe Sober Harmony was going to be like a depressed clown — sort of funny, but mostly not. 

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Thankfully, after working really, really hard to do the things that I have to do to continue growing as a human being, I think I’m seeing life for what it truly is. Just don’t ask me to explain that part yet.

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Becoming Well

This year is supposed to be my year of Becoming A Well Person.

Last year was all about getting myself dried out, staying sober, and remaining afloat — which, by the way, took a literal team of people constantly supporting and pushing me forward. I still have days that are just as difficult as the dark, early days of sobriety, but overall, it’s becoming easier to function in society without feeling like I might have to jump out a window.

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Becoming A Well Person is a lot harder than I imagined it would be, although that’s probably not a shocking revelation coming from an alcoholic. The hard part isn’t figuring out what to do. It’s actually doing it. For whatever reason, people like me (and there are way more of us than I initially realized) are really, really terrible at taking care of themselves.

We are the unwashed, the martyrs and the passive aggressives, the alcoholics and the pill-poppers, the doctor-shoppers and the compulsive gamblers. We starve our bodies, cut our arms, eat until we’re sick and swear we’ll never do it again. We punish ourselves in a million different ways; we’re either overly done or not done at all, and unless you’re one of us you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

So.

Most of the time, the things I need to do in order to be well are often the very things that make me want to wear my frumpiest flannel pajamas, curl into the smallest ball possible, and shove store brand chocolate chips into my mouth. The thing about doing the deal is that it takes an awful lot of energy. It would be a lot easier to just stop trying. I could park myself at home, let the shit pile up around me, yell at my kids, stop doing the things that help me hold my life together, eat nachos or whatever the hell, and do what comes naturally which is absolutely nothing. It would be glorious, until I let it go for too long, as people like me tend to do, and then before I know it I would be doing lines of cocaine off the coffee table at 3 a.m. wondering how I let myself get here again.

Early this morning, I had an appointment that I’d already procrastinated for entirely too long. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed when the alarm went off, in fact I did not get out of bed until a full 20 minutes of Instagram-scrolling later, but I finally managed to drag myself and my kids out the door even though I was in a fasting state as directed by the nurse — no coffee, no breakfast, full on suckage. I dropped the children at Grandma’s and drove myself to the doctor, where I waited and waited some more and finally I had a checkup and blood drawn and even a tetanus shot.

I didn’t want to do any of that, and I’m pretty sure the good people at the medical center could tell, but the way this thing works is that I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other until I was free to exit the building and then I realized that it felt really good to do the right thing. Doing the right thing doesn’t end in 3 a.m. mistakes or trips to rehab. It ends in looking in your doctor’s misty eyes as she tells you how profoundly refreshing it is to have a patient who genuinely wants to be well.

That patient is me.

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