The Confrontation – Con’t…

Pissed OFF.

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, Saturation

I turned back around without saying a word, glopped some food into a bowl and took a seat  at a table next to the beverage cart.  The longer I didn’t say or do anything, the angrier I got.  I couldn’t eat.  I could hardly sit still.  I didn’t appreciate being that pissed off and I resented being so uncomfortable.  “Jennifer, is something wrong?”  The woman next to me asked.  “I am pissed off.  I am so pissed off.”  I seethed.  “Why?  What happened?”  Someone else asked with a mouthful of food.  I stared for a moment before answering. “Did you hear what they were just talking about in the lunch line?” I asked, looking bewildered.  Without waiting for anyone to answer, I blurted, “Did you hear Lany?!”

“No.”

“Hear what?”

“Who’s Lany?”  Asked our newest resident.

“She just called us pigs.” I said, standing up. I could not let this go.  Lany had every right to an opinion of us, but I wasn’t entitled to overhear it.  How could she allow herself to be overheard while making such an ugly comment?  She’d just bumped into my arm and knew exactly how close to me she was standing.  The intensity of my anger caused me to shake.  I walked over to the staff table where she sat facing the room.  We made eye contact before she returned her focus to the woman next to her.  “You and I need to talk.”  I spat.  Lany looked up at me, feigning surprise.  “Is something wrong, Jennifer?”

I glared at the woman she’d been speaking to in the lunch line.  “Yeah, something is very wrong!  I just overheard what you said in the lunch line!”  Lany wiped each corner of her mouth with a napkin and looked around the table.  “Okay.”  She said.  The dining room became silent as 30 residents listened.  Lany blinked at me.  “Okay,” she offered again.  Adrenaline surged through me. 

“I know that you know I overheard you in the lunch line.  My question is – where do you get off making a comment like that within earshot of another resident about the rest of the residents?  I yelled, sweeping my arm out toward the room.  “How dare you call us pigs!  That’s OUR food! We pay for it with out tuition!  If you want to insult us and call us names, you need to do it in your office after you shut the door so I can’t hear you!”

Lany stopped blinking and started flaring her nostrils.  I wanted to high-five myself.  “Jennifer, I’m not sure what you think you heard, but whatever it was has clearly upset you and for that, I apologize.”  She offered evenly and softly.  “You just told her,” I yelled, motioning to the woman next to her, “that you’re astonished by the amount of food we put on our plates!  She agreed with you and said she’s starving and then you called us Pigs!  Do you not remember saying that ten minutes ago as you waited behind me in the food line?!  You knew I was standing right next to you!  You’d just apologized for bumping into my arm!”

“Jennifer, I don’t remember exactly what I said ten minutes ago.  If I said something that offended you, I apologize.”  She repeated, quietly.  And that got me hot.  She was trying to inject everyone, even me, with doubt and it infuriated me even more.  What a bitch! “Well, I happen to remember exactly what you said ten minutes ago.  I’ve been sitting over there at my table fuming about it!  You should be ashamed of yourself and you owe every resident here an apology, not just me!” 

I figured I’d better stop talking at that point because I was so wound up, I thought I might be losing my train of thought. 

And then a second wave hit me.   “This place is supposed to be a professional business and a treatment center where we’ve come for help, and you’re the assistant director?!”  I shouted.  Staff members at Lany’s table were becoming clearly uncomfortable.  “We’re supposed to be able to trust you! And you’re sitting there looking me in the eye pretending you don’t remember what the hell you just said.  Un-fucking-believable!” 

I stormed out before anyone could say or do anything.  Lunch was only half over and by leaving the dining room early without permission, I’d just broken a rule.  We weren’t allowed to leave early.  If we finished eating before break, we were supposed to sit and visit with our peers. 

I stormed outside to the smoking tent and imagined I might very well get kicked out of treatment for what I’d just done.  I figured it was called “causing a scene”.   The treatment center had a ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’ rule. However, some offenses were so monstrous, one offense could count as three.  Smoking inside the building, violence and being intimate with another resident were three offenses I could think of off the top of my head that would get a resident kicked out immediately.  I knew walking out at lunch time would amount to at least one strike against me, but confronting Lany in front of the entire house?  That had to equal like – – – seven strikes.  She was the assistant director. 

When It Comes To Your Sobriety Do You Feel Understood?

Have you ever felt like you’ve wasted your time, energy and breath trying to explain something to someone who just cannot seem to GET IT? And you wonder something like “How is it possible that no matter what I say, she/he just cannot seem to grasp it? How am I explaining this wrong? What else can I possibly add?!”

This is one of the bigger conundrums alcoholics run into when they first get sober. Trying to explain what cravings feel like to a non-alcoholic is maddening. Trying to explain what it means to need to protect ourselves from dangerous events or situations, where alcohol and drinking are abundant, can be maddening. Trying to explain how it feels to watch another person drink can be maddening. The non-alcoholic just doesn’t and can’t understand. They can’t identify. They can’t relate.

Someone might say, “Let’s go to a party.” And I say, “I can’t. I can’t be around other people who are drinking.” And this begins an epic conversation that dead ends with confusion on the person having to listen to me. They don’t get it. They don’t understand how great the temptation is to reach for a drink or how hard it was to get sober in the first place.

And that’s ok. They don’t have to understand. But if they also don’t or WON’T support me or respect my choice to avoid tempting situations, we have a problem. And usually we do have a problem because my drinking caused them to abandon their trust in me in the first place. How can I be trusted to know what I’m talking about regarding this when I can’t be trusted to know what’s good for me regarding anything else?

This is a major bone of contention between a lot of folks.

To those of you that are not addicts or alcoholics – please support your loved one when they say they cannot attend events or gatherings where alcohol is prevalent. Please respect their decision to leave the room if you choose to drink in front of them. The alcoholic is, most likely, only trying to protect their sobriety. The pull of the Black Hole that is alcoholism is beyond your comprehension. You don’t have to understand us. But PLEASE respect and support our decision to avoid being near alcohol and drinkers, even when that means you. Thanks!

No, Actually, You DON’T Get It!

A Temporary Home

Alcoholics, Addicts and a few others don’t seem to fully comprehend the fact that their existence on our planet is temporary. As in – there is no more waking up. No more coming around. No more snapping back into it. No more pulling it together. No more chances.

My age definitely has something to do with my choice to get and to stay sober this time around. It pains me a great deal to look back on the two decades I gave away to drinking alcohol. Gone. Poof. Vanished. Never to be recaptured. Time lost with my family. Time lost with friends and lovers. time lost with myself doing cool shit like, oh – I don’t know – exploring the planet! But most importantly – time lost with my sons. I started drinking when they were both very young and today – they’re both old enough to make me a grandmother.

FUCK ME!

While I love the idea of being called Grandma, it’s excruciating to think about the chunks of time during my sons’ youth that I canNOT get back.

I wonder, if folks really grasped the concept that one day they will no longer be taking up space down here on this spinning ball we call home, might they do something about their behavior, and how they treat themselves and other people? If folks would capture this concept and bring it into their BEING – what would they change? What could they change if they started behaving like they’re only visitors here? Wow. That’s all we are – visitors.

Where does this illusion of permanence come from?

I don’t know.

I think most folks walking around will tell anyone, “Yes, I know I’m going to die someday,” but they don’t really believe that day will ever arrive or they haven’t fully integrated the concept in the first place and concluded that they too are going to poof out just like everyone else.

The Confrontation

Lany, the assistant director of our treatment center, seemed oblivious to the fact that other people might overhear her if they’re standing next to her. I’d been editing my 1st step all morning. A 1st step is a lengthy AA assignment and we were asked to complete one during treatment. By the time I realized it was lunch time, I was already late. I made a bee-line for the lunchroom just in time to fall in at the end of the short line that was left. Most everyone else had already started to eat. Irritation gnawed at me from two sides – being late to anything isn’t cool and I couldn’t seem to word my assignment to my satisfaction. Every time I reread it I found something new to change.

As the line inched forward, and I chided myself for having edited my work so many times, someone behind me bumped my arm. I turned to see who it was and Lany apologized. I hadn’t noticed that she, along with several staff members, had stepped in line behind me. I smiled at her and faced the front of the line again. Staff was allowed to eat our food, but they weren’t allowed to eat it before us. Our fees paid for the food and staff etiquette required that they eat last.

“Can you believe these people?” I overheard her say behind me. “The amount of food they put on their plates is astonishing. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be much left.” She concluded. I turned to face her again and her back was to me, not 18 inches away. The woman she was speaking to said, “I know and I’m starving.” “They’re pigs.” Lany answered.

When the woman speaking to Lany averted her eyes to look at me watching them, Lany turned to face me. I watched the blood drain from her face as her eyes widened. I could tell that my expression conveyed my thoughts perfectly: Yes, I heard everything you both just said.

The above is a short excerpt from my book, Saturation, A Memoir

To be con’t…

The Game.

One morning during breakfast, late in the second week of my stay, someone announced that our schedule had been changed and everyone needed to meet downstairs in the lecture room at 9:30. I arrived early and counted 45 chairs placed in a U shape against three of the walls in the room. The chairs started on one side of the door and ended on the other side of the door and next to a tall white marker board. There weren’t half as many residents and staff together as there were chairs in the room, and I had no idea what was about to go down.

Unfamiliar faces and voices peppered the mix of staff and residents bustling through at 9:30. Someone yelled for more chairs. I quickly took the last seat near the door and next to the marker board as everyone decided where to sit. Once everyone had quieted down, Lany walked to the center of the room and explained that she’d been given the wonderful opportunity of presenting to us several guest speakers, including the founders of our treatment center.

YAY! Just about everyone but me clapped. I watched.

Tossing off my flip-flops, I sat Indian style on my chair and listened. Lany took her seat and our guests began taking turns walking to the center of the room to introduce themselves. The last lady to introduce herself was one of the founders of our treatment center. She looked and dressed, but didn’t sound like, Stevie Nicks of the music group Fleetwood Mac. At the end of her introduction, Stevie walked to the white board and, standing next to me, informed us that we were going to play a game.

Oh, Shit! I thought. I hated group games.

Stevie, that was easier to remember than her real name, picked up a red marker and drew a straight line through the middle of the board from the left side to the right side. Then she drew a circle in the center of the line and colored it in.

“This line is the line of addiction.” She said, tracing her index finger along the line. “This circle represents the ‘Addicted Self’.” She explained. “The idea behind the game is honesty.” She clearly emphasized that word. “Every resident is going to write their initials somewhere along this line of addiction. The line extending to the left of the circle represents how far away you believe you are from being addicted to your substance of choice. The line to the right of the circle represents how deeply you feel you already are in your addiction. Before you come to the board, please introduce yourself and share your triggers.” No one said anything. “Okay?” She asked.

Everyone nodded and uttered affirmations. This seemed easy enough.

But she hadn’t finished. “Now remember, triggers are people, places or things that make you want to drink or use. For example – 5:00 p.m. is a trigger for some people because it indicates the end of a work day. An argument with a spouse, a family member or someone at work can be a trigger. A celebration, maybe a birthday or a wedding or even a phone call; these can all be triggers. Things or people or situations that makes you feel either bad or angry or happy or good can be triggers.”

And then she started to repeat her entire explanation all over again. I wished she’d shut the fuck up already so we could get on with the game. Eventually, she chose the woman sitting next to the door on the other side of me, which meant that my turn would be last. An hour and a half later, my turn finally loomed. Time had never passed so slowly in my life. Not even in jail. This was torture. Nearly every resident turned their turn into an episode. There were only 24 of us for crying out loud. The entire game shouldn’t have taken more than maybe 30 minutes. Each resident had to be reminded to keep their turn down to two minutes, but no one payed attention.

Nearly every resident had marked their initials within about three inches of the circle that represented the ‘Addicted Self’. This made me wonder why they were even here. Several residents had initialed the board far to either side of the circle, but no one had written their initials near either edge of the board. I remembered what Stevie had said about the game and that the point was to be honest. Excitement coursed through me. I knew EXACTLY where I wanted to write my initials!

I intended to end the game quickly.

Finally, my turn arrived and I walked to the center of the room. “My name is Jennifer Place, I’m addicted to alcohol, and my trigger is being conscious.” I looked around at the group. I walked to the board and wrote my initials at the top of the board above the ‘Addicted Self’ circle. But before I could continue, someone interrupted me. I turned and saw that it was Stevie. “Jennifer, Before you continue, would you please elaborate on your triggers?”

“TiggER.” I corrected her. “Life is my trigger.” I said, wondering if she needed more information. She did. “You said that being conscious is your trigger, Jennifer. What do you mean?” She asked.

How could I be more specific? It irritated me that I was being singled out to elaborate. She hadn’t asked anyone else to elaborate. Stevie just so happened to be sitting next to my counselor, who, I noticed, was nodding her head at me slightly.

I took a deep breath, trying to shift my impatience over to one side so I could indulge her. “The word ‘trigger’ is bullshit.” I said. “Using that word to identify something that makes a person want to drink or use is an excuse. I don’t need an excuse to drink. I drink all day every day. I like alcohol and the way it makes me feel. Mmmkay? When I wake up, I drink. I drink all day until I go to bed or pass out. Being conscious IS my ‘trigger‘.” I figured if that didn’t help her, we were both out of luck. I didn’t know what else I could say to this woman.

“Yes, thank you, Jennifer. Please continue.” So I faced the board again and completed Stevie’s’ line on the right side of the circle by drawing it to the edge of the board. I drew an X at the edge. Above the X, I drew an arrow to where I’d written my initials at the top center of the board. I drew another arrow pointing to the doorway and wrote in large bock letters next to JP, “MY LINE ENDS OUT IN THE HALLWAY ABOVE THE BATHROOM,” indicating that I was so far into my addiction, I wasn’t even on the board.

The above post is an excerpt from my memoir, Saturation.

What To Expect In Residential Treatment.

Betty Ford

The following is a list of things I either received, experienced or witnessed, in order of frequency, from all seven of my treatment centers combined. Hold on to your hats…

Drama – SO much drama

Noise (crying, laughing, yelling, music, etc…treatment centers are very loud.)

Deceit (folks lying to themselves, to others or to me.)

Gossip

Education on addiction.

Help

Compassion (sometimes)

Empathy

Patience

Honesty

Arrogance/superiority from residents or staff.

Residential treatment is an experience like no other. In my experience, staff, not the facility, makes or breaks the reputation of a rehab. The attitudes and personalities of the staff will make a person’s stay there either wonderful or a nightmare. Staff controls this element of the treatment experience, which is enormous. I cannot stress that enough. My favorite treatment center in terms of the setting and physical aesthetics was in Florida. That was my 4th treatment center. The grounds and our living quarters were peaceful and beautiful and relaxing. And the staff was absolutely horrid. They ruined the entire experience for me.

They made my time there so awful, I left four days early and relapsed before I even got on the plane to go home.

If you or a loved one is thinking about residential treatment – do your research and READ THE REVIEWS!!

What Does A Productive Day Entail?

Not now. I’m busy.

Does it mean I get to go to bed having completed at least 3/4ths of the things on my list? How about half? How about if I manage to get at least one thing done? Was I productive?

I don’t know.

So, I’m editing my book and it’s turning into a bigger challenge than I imagined it would be. Not because the editing is tedious, but because my story is pulling me back into my past – a time I’m all too happy to leave unvisited. I’m reading things that I no longer remember doing or saying – things I remembered word for word when I wrote the book nearly ten years ago. Details and events and conversations are bringing up uncomfortable memories of times I figured were long buried.

I guess a lot has happened since then.

I’m removing parts of the story. Saturation, my memoir, moves along fluidly without them and they’re reminiscent of journal entries. If you don’t have the first copy, I will be unpublishing it as soon as this 2nd edition is finished. My goal was to have this ready by March, ten years to the month since the 1st edition, but now I’m not sure it’ll be ready by then. Parts of the story are requiring a lot of consideration and honestly, I’ll be glad to never pick this book up again.

I’ve decided that rather than complete a specific number of pages every day, I’ll work on it every day and leave it at that. Some days, I may write two pages and other days I may write 15. By forcing myself to complete a specific number of pages every day, I managed to turn editing my work into a chore. Something I dread doing. I don’t want to have that kind of an attitude toward my work. It took me 18 months to write the first edition and while it may not be a masterpiece, I did write and publish a book. I’m a little pleased with myself about it and I want to at least look forward to fine-tuning what I consider an accomplishment.

Exactly HOW Useful Are These Things…? 🤨

I’m talking about feelings and emotions. Granted, they come in very handy for some things like – oh, I don’t know – warning us about danger or indicating love or compassion or regret or what have you. But, and maybe it’s just me, these things – feelings – tend to hang around a lot longer than they’re useful for.

For example; is it necessary for me to be angry with someone for an entire day or an entire WEEK when I’ve already accepted that yes, I’m angry with so and so? Why doesn’t my body just shoot me a feeling that says “ANGER ALERT!” and then shut the fuck up about it? Or maybe like, “Hey, there’s a shark over there. Get out of the water.” I’d listen and react accordingly. This feeling doesn’t need to harass me all day about my fear or cause me to think twice about getting into my own bathtub. Yes? Especially once I’m no longer in danger.

But when my body shoots me a feeling that lingers for an entire day or longer – now what is the point? Is my feeling-O-meter broken? Why is it running on high? Why – if I’m not the one who turned it on in the first place – do I have to learn how to shut it down? Something about this feels off. This seems like I’m being asked to learn more than just your everyday self-control, which I’m all over.

Hm. The mysteries of being human just never cease to confound me.

I Was Attached.

😦

And now that I can’t find what I’m missing, I’m having unfortunate thoughts and feelings. I had a conversation just last night about the Buddhist philosophy of attachment and suffering. When we become attached to stuff – a person, a place, an object, a thing – anything – and then it disappears – for whatever reason – we aren’t too fucking happy about it.

It’s a bummer.

So – getting worked up over what’s missing isn’t going to help me get it back. And herein lies the opportunity to detach from it. It’s either that or walk around moping and feeling badly, and who wants to feel like THAT?! What else is a person supposed to do? Is this giving up? No. Not when the effort of trying to recapture it isn’t worth what’s missing in the first place. Surely whatever’s missing can be replaced. My sanity and peace are invaluable.

It’s a strange predicament.

Little Yellow Mountain Bike

“Oh, look!” Beth exclaimed.  “Someone forgot his adorable little toy bike!”  Beth was our Yoga instructor and I disliked her a great deal. From her rancid breath to the fact that she had no sense of personal boundaries, I found nearly everything about her offensive. We’d walked to the park that morning rather than doing yoga and I’d made friends with a park bench and sat down. One of the other residents joined me. The sun was out and it was a beautiful summer morning.

I balanced the tiny bike between two bench boards so it wouldn’t topple over.  The woman sitting next to me warned Beth as she approached, “Don’t ask if you can see her little bike.   Jennifer won’t share.”  This was true.  Several women had already asked about the tiny bike and I wouldn’t let anyone hold it.

Beth ignored the woman and leaned over to get a closer look.  As she did, I snatched the bike right out from under her nose and put it back in my jacket pocket.  She looked up, startled, and leaned back.  A handful of women watched. “Told you,” my bench partner said, knowingly.”  I tried not to grin.

“Oh, it’s so cute and little,” Beth sang.  “It looks so well made.  Can I see it?”  She asked me. 

“No.”  I answered

“No?  Why not?”  She asked.

“Because.” 

“Is it yours?”  She countered.

“No.”

“Where did you get it?”

“Doesn’t matter.”  I was enjoying this.  She made it so easy.

“Why can’t I see it?”

“Because.”

“Because why?

“Because I said so.”

Dumb Bitch, I thought. Something about that exchange felt so cathartic.  Without another word, I walked over to the women on the swing set to mark the end of the conversation.

~ ~ ~

The above is an excerpt from my memoir, SATURATION.

WHERE DID THE ROAD TAKE YOU DURING 2020?

Where did the year take you?

It has been one CRAZY year!

During 2020, I started a new relationship in February, got sober in March, Had a seizure and spent three days in the hospital in April, broke up with my boyfriend in May, got back together with him in May, moved in June, started exercising in June, my youngest son turned 25 in July, I bought two new kittens in July, survived the Oregon fires in August, celebrated my boyfriends birthday in August, broke up with my boyfriend in August, got back together with him in August (August was busy), realized I’d gained 20 lbs in September (how did this happen? I was exercising), turned 51 in October, refurnished my home in October, still hadn’t contracted COVID 19 in November, watched the worst President in History get his ass rightfully kicked in November, broke up with my boyfriend in November, started editing my memoir in December, lost 15 lbs in December, celebrated Christmas Eve with m ex-boyfriend, and spent Christmas at home with my kittens and stayed sober.

Phew! The more I think about this year, the more I could jot down. That’s enough. Seeing it in front of me on the screen is – well, it’s a lot. You should write down your big events too. See how much us humans can handle? We’re AMAZING!

I’m rounding the corner and approaching ten fat months without a drink. I need to high five myself!!

And what am I doing this weekend? Going to pick out my new BIKE!! I’m terribly excited about it! Photos to follow. 🚲🚲🚲 😁🚲🚲🚲 Whop whop!!

Christmas Trees And Kittens

Buster

I can’t keep my tree upright. Every time I walk into the living room, one of my kittens is attached to the tree. I already figured out that decorating the tree is not only a waste of time, it amounts to a lot of missing decorations. I swear, my kitties must be eating the ornaments. I can’t find them. No idea where they’re disappearing to. I suppose if the kitties survive this holiday without getting electrocuted, I should count my blessings. What on earth is it about the tree lights that makes them want to gnaw on the cord? I want to add more decorations because the tree looks so – undecorated. Not unlike a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Oh well. Maybe next year.

Thank God it’s almost nap time!

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