Driving Under The Influence

Negotiating

Sokka meat and sarcasm guy

Sokka: Okay Karma person or thing – whoever’s in charge of this stuff, if I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat and sarcasm. Okay? That’s all I got. It’s pretty much my whole identity, Sokka the meat and sarcasm guy, but I’m willing to be Sokka the veggies and straight talk fellow. Deal?

How many times, in the grip of a terrible hangover, have you declared, “God, if you can just get me through this day, I’ll never drink again!” Or while driving home inebriated said, “If I can just make it home safely, I’ll never get drunk again.” Negotiating and bargaining are familiar tools I remember wielding, with no effective use really other than attempting to convince myself that I was in control of the situation.

Around 1am one morning three years ago I was sobbing to a man in a white coat in a hospital ER. He left to attend to my best friend in the cubicle next to me. The curtains were drawn and she was crying out in pain as I prayed to God, making all sorts of deals with him if he’d just make sure that my best friend was okay. We should not have been out so late. We had promised each other that we’d be safe at home by 11:30pm. But 11:30 came and went with “one more round for the road” as is a common saying in my country. I was “sober enough to drive” and the accident was deemed not my fault as the driver of the other car had also been drinking and was drunk enough to break his red light, slam into my car and send it into a tailspin. He was not wearing his seatbelt and had bodyslammed his dashboard and windscreen. Two ambulances and one firetruck later we were in that ER calling out to each other through a flimsy blue curtain.

At 4am, after we were released from the hospital, I made all sorts of deals with God, The Universe, Queen Karma and anyone else I thought might be in charge as my best friend’s boyfriend drove us home, and cried for an hour sitting on the shower floor when I got home. I went to bed at dawn a very penitent girl with prayers and promises on my lips as I fell asleep.

But, of course, six weeks later my injuries had healed and I’d forgotten all about those promises. It would take another two years and two near misses for me to honour the deals I negotiated in that cold hospital emergency room.

~*~

This is Post N, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

The Lowest Point

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Aang: When we hit our lowest point we are open to the greatest change. 

I’ve found that on our soberversaries it’s customary for us to talk about “The night that changed it all”. My first soberversary was on February 3rd of this year but I wasn’t ready to talk about the night that was a turning point for me. I’m still not but I can talk about what was my lowest point. I was a binge drinker. Which means that I didn’t drink every day, or got drunk every time I drank, but I had problems with limits. Oh and most importantly, I used alcohol as a means of escape instead of dealing with life. Long story short, all binge drinkers can and will become alcoholics at some point. By the time I reached my low point I was drinking at least three times for the week and getting drunk about four times for the month. Once or twice a year I’d get drunk enough to have to rely on loved ones to drive me home. The last night was one of those nights. I’m not ready to talk about the details but I will say that my sister was there that night.

The next day when I called her to “find out what happened” the night before, she was calm, collected, and did not mince words. She is a highly practical and straightforward person and there was no emotion expressed as she narrated the events of the night before. Her tone of voice was one of resignation and acceptance. She said that she was not angry with me, but had decided that she would be better off if she removed herself from my life. THAT hit me very hard.

I know I did not quit drinking for my sister but her actions that day forced me to look at the kind of person I was. Who I knew myself to be deep down inside was not the person on the outside. The Me on the outside was drowning in alcohol related side effects and becoming someone who had no understanding of herself and honestly did not like herself very much. I ran from my issues, numbed them with alcohol, squashed any chance of healing or growing, and lashed out at loved ones, especially those closest to me. Like my sister. The fact that I could hurt her so much that she would consider removing herself from my life shook me to my core. It was my worst day.

And, in the end, it was also my best day. It was the day I changed my life.

Love and light, Phoenix.

~*~

This is Post L, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

The End Depends on The Beginning

“We think when we stop drinking that we are giving up a mind-expanding substance [when] in fact sobriety is the true freedom, and opens up new horizons beyond anything we could have dreamt.” Primrose

Deciding to give up drinking is an emotional, mental and physical struggle I remember very well. For years I suspected I had a problem and was terrified to admit it. I was afraid that it would mean that I was broken and a mess, which (in my ways of thinking back then) would mean that I was unworthy and unlovable. I was afraid that I would have to give up my keys to The Little World of Block-It-All-Out and be left with no way to escape all those issues I was running from. I wasn’t ready to spend time with real me because I felt that I was ugly and shameful.

I had tried quitting or at least curbing my drinking before. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.” But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. When I finally got fed up enough with myself and knew I had no choice, I knew that this time, I was quitting for ME. In my heart I believe that this made all the difference in the world.

“Problem is, people go into rehab and they’re not ready. You want to get sober for your parents, you want to get sober for your job, you want to get sober for the cops, you want to get sober to protect your image. A lot of good reasons, by the way, but unfortunately, the only thing that works is that you have to want to get sober for you. So, I was ready.” ~ Rob Lowe (quote courtesy How To Vomit Politely)

Finis origine pendet: The end depends on the beginning.

I was talking to a friend today about how self-assured and confident I feel. A lot of doubt has gone. I am ready for possibility, for all that life has to offer.

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Little Phoenix

I smile at baby photos of myself now. I never used to, and didn’t like to display my childhood photos around the apartment. When I looked at them I used to feel ashamed. Like I’d let that smiling toddler down. My heart would break to see her cheeky smile and innocence and I felt so far removed from the little girl I saw in those photos. I used to feel that I’d lost ME somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m smiling back with the same smile, full of wonder and joy and mischief. We whisper secrets back and forth. She tells me to look for the hummingbird hovering outside my window, to listen out for the wind chimes hanging in my porch, and about the real magic of rainbows. I tell her that the world is just as big and beautiful as she thought it would be, and even if life gets rough sometimes (as it will) she will be okay. And I tell her that I can remember her voice and her stories. I tell her that we are still up to mischief. I tell her that yes, she did grow up to be brave, strong and amazing.

If you choose to value yourself and make the change for YOU, because you deserve it, you too can do it.

Love and light, Phoenix

The Beast

“The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars.” Johnny Cash

I gripped the steering wheel tightly as the tires screeched around the corner. My heart was racing and I giggled at the thrill.

“Do you fear death?” I asked my girl friend in the passenger seat. She was silent, her mouth set in a straight line. She’d seen me that way before. She knew talking to me would be useless.

When I think back to the times I fed that side of me and what I allowed myself to do I still shake my head in disbelief:

Yelling at my sister or my mom, scaring them and pushing them to the point of tears; Lashing out and saying terrible things to friends; Hurting and harming myself in more ways than one. I’d always end up crying uncontrollably at the end of the worst episodes. When I’d pushed people as far away as possible just to see who loved me enough to stay and hug me tight despite my claws and bared teeth. But who would (or could) stay when that beast was out? So inevitably I’d be in that place alone – scared and ultimately ashamed and full of remorse. That’s when the crying would come. Tears of frustration, anger, shame, fear, loneliness and guilt. If it was a really bad night I’d howl for all the ways that I’d hurt myself.

I used to ask myself over and over why I behaved so dreadfully. Why was I so awful? Where did that horrible side of me come from? I had my suspicions of course but did not know how to deal with that knowledge. It was easier to turn away, hell it was easier to pretend I did not know where that beast came from.

But I know now that she came from a place of fear. Any experience which triggered subconscious memories of times when I’d felt insecure, unloved, taken advantage of, unworthy, broken, hurt, ashamed, unseen, or unheard were enough to stimulate strong emotional reactions. Most of the time my rebellious nature and a sense of daring would take over, determined to let fun override any negativity. It worked most of the time. Every now and then it didn’t. My fear of facing those emotions brought out the beast in me.

I hated myself when I was like that. I was ashamed and I’d lash out at everyone else for not understanding. But how could they? They never knew. I’d never given anyone a chance to really understand. I’d built myself a little cage around me to keep others at a safe distance. To keep anyone from really connecting with me.

But that carefully constructed cage had frail and fragile bars. They were never really solid though, fashioned as they were out of the unexplained remains of a broken heart, so of course with the right (de)vices they were easy to break apart. Unfortunately, instead of letting others in, that broken cage  let the beast out. You see, I never really believed that I was worthy of love. I had trouble believing that love, kindness and understanding offered to me could be sustainable, so instead of gently accepting what was offered, I’d snarl and bite and demand proof that was offered was of substance.

I think differently now of course, at least I hope I do.

Phoenix

 

Love Letters

Quill-and-Ink

I’m still learning to understand the difference between an alcoholic and an abuser of alcohol. Apparently there is a difference.

An alcoholic is someone who no longer has control of his/her life as every activity and thought revolves around the next drink. They get sick when they go a day or two without alcohol and their lives deteriorate rapidly on a professional, emotional, social and spiritual level.

An abuser of alcohol is one who binge drinks – more than 8 drinks at a sitting, (8 for men, 6 for women), or has difficulty stopping once he/she has started. An abuser also suffers blackouts just like an alcoholic would. This is me, as far as I see it. But nevertheless, drinking is no longer an option for me.

To those of you I drank with, please know that because I will no longer partake it does not mean that I won’t hang out with you. We’re friends and I would like us to remain as such. Nor will I judge you if you drink. We all know ourselves best and you can probably handle your alcohol. I can’t. It affects my body differently and we all know that I have been a right proper arse at times. (see here for The Truth about my drinking) I’m sorry for that. I did not understand the effect alcohol had on me.

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To my loved ones: I apologize  to all of you for not understanding and realizing the seriousness of my situation. This is not who I am meant to be.

I guess this is the point where promises and grand declarations are made but this letter is not about that. No promises or grand declarations can be made. This is just something I have to do, for me.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Love always,

Phoenix

You Want The Truth? You Can’t Handle The Truth.

People don’t talk about Alcoholism. At least most people I know. Like them, I did not understand what it really is.

Being an “alcoholic” was long (and for some still is) thought to be a moral failing — a character flaw or lack of willpower. Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D

Alcoholism is a substance-use disorder in which the sufferer has problems managing how much alcohol they drink and their lives as a result. While there is always room for moral decisions, an alcoholic’s body reacts to alcoholic much like it would to a substance or chemical it is allergic to. It is a definitive and progressive chain of reactions which occur.

The Truth about my drinking:

I never drank every day. I drank as frequently as several days per week and as infrequently as once per month. Usually when I hung out with friends: after work at our regular watering holes, at clubs, at parties, at barbecues, at exhibitions, family events. Sometimes I would have one or two drinks and other times I’d have several. Sometimes I’d have only wine or I would consume different types of alcohol if I felt like it. Usually I’d go home tipsy, or a little more than tipsy. I’d say that once a month I’d drive home drunk enough to not remember driving home. Once every few months I’d binge drink and not remember hours of the night before. Every year or so I’d have a major episode where I would become a holy terror: Lashing out at friends, crying, screaming, rebelling, embarrassing loved ones and making a grand nuisance of myself. It is a wonder that so many people still love me.

What happens to me when I drink:

That feeling of euphoria I get when the first drink enters my blood stream is one that I cannot explain. I love it. I love the numbness, the high, the rush. My mind knows that that feeling will never be matched but my body says I need one more anyway. My body begins to crave another and another. Depending on my emotional and spiritual state either my mind or my body will win that night.

The Truth about Me:

I am always going to be one drink away from being drunk. I have to accept that this is my reality. I can make as many deals with myself to just have one drink when I go out, or stop all alcohol by a designated time that night, but the truth will always be that I am one drink away from being drunk.

Phoenix