“the work” and what is true (# 141)

Earlier in this decade, when my first marriage ended, I had two significant relationships that each lasted several years. One was with my high school friend (the recovering alcoholic who relapsed) and one with an emotional unavailable graduate student who kept breaking up with me when he got stressed out. Both of these relationships brought me insight and growth as well as considerable pain.

During this time period I also dated a number of other people more casually, each of whom provided a variety of lower-intensity learning experiences. In the part of my online dating profile that asked what I spend a lot of time thinking about, I answered “what is true.”

Through it all I saw my therapist as consistently as I saw any man. Trying to answer that burning question.

Sometimes in these sessions I succumbed to self pity. I would lament the fact that I was ready and available for a relationship while these guys were not. And I talked about how I resented and resisted the notion that our culture tells divorced women that we must “work on our selves” in order to hopefully, finally, one day find men with whom we could have the enduring relationships of our dreams. The relationships we deserved, goddammit. I resented any implication that we divorced women were especially “broken”–that there must be something in us to be fixed otherwise we would not have ended up out here, adrift and alone.

I was vocally pissed at the idea that while I was sitting on the couch “working on myself,” men were doing whatever the hell they wanted, and they never had a problem finding women who would have sex with them or, better still, take care of them emotionally, financially, or in whatever way.

In hindsight, I can see that while my gripes had a grain of truth to them, I was missing the larger point. The larger point is that no one but me is responsible for my happiness. I cannot make other people more enlightened or more available to have good relationships with me. I can’t make romantic, partnered love a priority for another person if that desire is not core to his being.

Gradually, while doing “the work,” I realized that “the work” needed to serve no other purpose other than bringing me peace and clarity of mind–that was the work’s truest benefit and sole aim. I was not a broken person getting fixed to be a better woman or relationship partner, instead the work was learning how to  follow a path of my own choice and creation, with grace, conviction, and self-possession, no matter what.

The path was getting clear about why I got divorced, scrupulously clear about what I wanted in my life, clear about how to make decisions that would take me closer to things I desired, and clear about my part in the half-lifetime of decisions I had already made.

Fundamentally, this work was about acceptance. When I understood and accepted myself and my needs, I did not have to or even want to accept people or relationships that were not truly aligned with me. Dating became a whole lot easier when I arrived at this place of clarity and acceptance. I learned how to let go of “potential,” which really meant not right for me right now, gently and gladly.

There is a whole a lot of truth and freedom to be found in the cliched phrase “It’s not you–it’s ME.” But you have to own it and internalize it. You have to feel proud and sure when you say it. Not sheepish.

This journey, I now find, closely parallels my more recent journey to change and end my relationship with alcohol. For years, I resented and resisted the idea that I would have to do the work–any work. I was quietly, stubbornly pissed off that I should have to do something (like stop drinking) that was not necessarily being required of other members of society.

But I was getting in my own way, again.

Now, I am joyfully ditching any notion that I am perhaps a bit broken. That is simply irrelevant, even if it is true. I am ditching the resentment I sometimes feel about doing what must be done. Instead, I am accepting that alcohol is fundamentally unable to provide me with the kind of energy, creativity, connection, and clarity I seek. Drinking alcohol is not aligned with me, and I am finding I can release this habit gladly and freely. It’s not a sacrifice or something I begrudge. I am grateful for the clarity I have gradually been cultivating, about so many things, in recent years.

Alcohol is what it is. I am what I am.

I can’t change alcohol’s true nature, I can only choose whether I let alcohol change me for the worse by taking me off my own path and away from what’s true for me. That choice is no longer acceptable to me, any more than a bad date or an unhealthy relationship would be.

This is true freedom, acceptance, and self-esteem.

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on feeling feelings (# 120)

I have been reading and listening to all kinds of things that keep tying back to the importance of feeling feelings. I listen to the Unruffled podcast, the Bubble Hour podcast and, sometimes, Spiritualish. The topic comes up again and again.  This seems to be a crucial aspect of recovery from drinking, especially for women. I wonder if it is the same for men.

Feeling feelings is an interesting topic for me–but my most intense experience with it does not arise from my experience stopping drinking and facing life alcohol free, though it does, actually, arise from my past relationship with an alcoholic. What I have to say here is a recovery story, I believe. It’s a story of how I almost lost touch with my soul and how my soul began to speak again.

Personally, I used alcohol to escape–escape from responsibilities and expectations. My patterns did not involve overtly using alcohol to numb any feelings about particularly painful things, like trauma or physical pain or difficult relationships. I have been fairly fortunate that way. Even when bad stuff happened to me, like a break-up, I was generally careful not to get drunk as a coping strategy. I was consciously worried about alcohol serving an anesthetizing purpose for me. I knew it was risky and I avoided alcohol at those times.

Instead I tended to drink the most when I needed to blow off steam after the stress of planning an event, finishing a project, or working hard. The problem was that just existing started to feel stressful and hard, so I drank. I deserved it. Or I was having fun and celebrating, like I did after the excitement of meeting my now-husband and getting remarried, when I found reasons, at times, to drink exuberantly. What’s the problem  . . . I’m happy! 

Back to feeling the feelings. In a previous post, ancient history, part 2 (# 46), I wrote about the early phases of my relationship with a man named Mal. At the end I hinted that there would be more to say about him. There might be, but I am going to fast forward over some of that, right to the bitter, rock-bottom end.

I will offer a little context first though. In 2011, Mal and I reconnected for the first time in 15 years at a reunion of school friends. After months of passionate e-mail writing, just like old times, we embarked on a marriage-ending (mine, not his) affair. It lasted three years, during which we were living in different cities several hours apart. At the time we reconnected, Mal was a recovering alcoholic who had not had a drink in 9 years. He was  even working as an AODA counselor.

At some point during our time together, he started drinking again. Heavily. Life-threateningly. To the point of hospitalization on several occasions. This whole relationship sounds terrible and doomed, and indeed it was doomed, but interestingly I was mostly sober throughout the whole thing (technically, if not emotionally). I never drank with him. I occasionally had a drink or two out with friends in my city, but I was pretty steeped in concern about alcohol during my relationship with Mal, both at the beginning when he was sober and later when he was drinking again. So I didn’t drink much during this period of my life.

By the end of 2013, I was divorced and moving ahead with my single life, and Mal’s life was full-on imploding.

There are many details to unpack, but suffice to say that the last year of our relationship was A Total Unrelenting Shitshow. By then, I was well past the rosy notion that we would somehow find a way to be together and live happily ever after. Knowing the frightening depth and truth of his alcoholism (think Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born, and, yes, Mal, too, is a musician), I could no longer imagine a world where I might be able to introduce Mal to my children or my coworkers, never mind live with him. That said, I was still totally hooked on him. I could not imagine life with or without him.

At one particular low point, not long before he ended up in a month of residential rehab, I was feeling so anxious and stressed I could barely breathe or focus. Mal was mostly unreachable on his end, but he would be calling me (often at work) drunk or in crisis. I was constantly reacting to fresh horrors, and I knew it was unsustainable. To continue this way would jeopardize my job and my sanity. I was seeing a therapist who was helping me tease out what was acceptable for me and what was unacceptable for me. In my bones, I knew I was chest-deep in unacceptable territory.

One day, I came home from work with about a half hour before I was planning to go to tango class. (Tango was my one bright spot in this bleak time.) I was a wreck. Practically bouncing off the walls with anxiety. I think I was worried that Mal would ask me to drive 150 miles to pick him up somewhere. Whatever it was it was bad, and it was insane.

I am not quite sure what inner wisdom was guiding me in those terrible moments, but I decided I had to stretch out on my bed and force myself to imagine life without him. Imagine life never talking to him again, if necessary. Could be if I chose this, or if he died, or if whatever reason.

So that’s what I did. I lay down and pictured life without Mal for about 15 minutes. I felt the pain of this picture through every inch of my body, into my toes, into my clenched fists, into my knotted stomach. I grieved the loss of him. I despaired. I accepted that my great love was ending in ruin. Tears rolled out of my eyes, and I made myself breathe. I consciously sent breath throughout my body, to all the clenched and knotted places. I started to feel that I would be OK, that I could live through this, that I would live through this. I would love again.

I felt a weird peace and knowledge come over me. I had been unhappy, miserable, and completely and utterly foolish, but I had not done anything I was irrevocably ashamed of (yet)–not even getting divorced. I had lived, thus far, with integrity to myself (even if everything seemed fucked to any rational outside observer). I was grateful for knowing Mal and grateful for the parts of myself that shone more brightly because of knowing him. I knew I had learned something important about the limits of love and the limits of my self.

I did not know then exactly when or how Mal and I would say goodbye, but I knew our story was, for all intents and purposes, over. My soul was finally willing for it be over, and my soul was so, so, so tired of letting my heart cling tooth and nail to the fantasy. I got up from the bed, wiped my eyes, and went to dance tango (which is, come to think of it, another beautiful way to feel feelings in the body . . . ).

I did not leap up. I did not dance a little jig. Yet my heart felt lighter, and a little pocket of space had opened to new possibilities instead of absorbing more pain.

Since this experience, I have done pretty well at remembering to feel difficult things. I know from this experience that feeling–sober, conscious feeling of feelings–is the only way through the hard stuff. Without feeling deep into the body, feeling pulsing through the breath and the blood, the pain stays stuck and the head stays in its reacting groove. The only healthy way out of a place of reaction (which is ALL about flinching and clenching) is to surrender, and accept, and even, as in my example, invite the painful feeling. Bring it out of the ever-circling head and welcome it into the body where it can course freely, without constriction. The truth is: Pain needs more oxygen, not less, and eventually pain that moves will pass.

Something truly beautiful is occurring now that I am no longer drinking. As I said, I figured out how to feel hard stuff because of this painful experience before I stopped drinking, but it is only now that I have stopped drinking that I am figuring out how to feel the good stuff consistently and at a cellular level. I don’t need to jack myself into a even bigger buzz amped by alcohol (or perhaps lust-love, as with Mal).

Instead I can sit still and feel sweetness in me and around me. Freedom from alcohol and the peace I have consciously invited into my life and body create the proper conditions for joy.

a perfect sober weekend (# 85)

This is a bit of an odd weekend as my kids are with their dad AND my husband is out of town. On the one hand, that’s too bad because it’s beautiful here and there is a fun local music festival going on. It would be fun to be enjoying this with my husband. On the other hand, I have throughly loved every minute of flying solo, and I have accomplished much , even while indulging myself in many activities I like to do.

It has been especially good, because I know it will be a sprint to the end of the year. This might be my last chance to deeply relax. So, let’s recap . . . and catch a glimpse of me in my natural habitat under the influence of nothing stronger than my own whims and interests. . .

Friday Left work at 4:45 p.m. to meet two of my best friends for drinks. I am far enough along in alcohol freedom that it doesn’t bother me when I am with people who are drinking. In fact, I realize that I actually have more fun, feel more present, and am able to leave invigorated and ready to switch gears instead of itching for more drinks. I had an NA Becks and some iced tea and soaked up late afternoon sun on the patio, instead soaking in several margaritas. After the drinks, I headed over to an outdoor tango event. This summer I have not done a lot of tango. I’ve been focusing on yoga instead and thinking about what role I want to give tango in my life, given that it will be a smaller role than it was when I was single. But last night was a great opportunity to dip my toes back in that water. Except for the fact that we were tangoing with mosquitoes, as much as we were with each other. I was home by 9 p.m., where I talked to my husband on the phone, web surfed and read.

Saturday  Woke EARLY naturally. (It was 5:00 a.m.) Instead of cursing my inability to fall back to sleep, I felt excited to have a couple of  bonus hours in the full day ahead of me. I read some more and worked on a photo downloading project necessitated by having had to get a new phone last week. Got laundry going, picked up the kitchen, had breakfast, and started watching a documentary. And that was all before 7:45 a.m. when I headed to the yoga studio for a 45-minute meditation followed by a 75-minute flow class. Home again, where I finished the documentary before heading out to shop. I had to get some groceries, as well as few things, including clothes hangers, at Target. Last weekend, I embarked on a massive three-closet overhaul but ran out of hangers before I could properly finish the job.

Came home. En route I discovered a podcast called “Dr. Death” and immediately got hooked. The story involves a multiple messed-up back surgeries by one messed-up doctor in Texas. As a former medical malpractice defense attorney, I find this topic fascinating–it’s about more than just one bad egg, it’s about the failure of the medical establishment to stop a surgeon like this in his tracks before he harms many patients.

After finishing the closets, I talked to a high school friend on the phone, then headed out for a 2.25 mile run around 6:30 p.m. More photo stuff, some light cooking (vanilla-cardamom-pear compote to eat with yogurt and tomato-mozzarella salad) a phone chat with my husband, and sound asleep by 10:30 p.m.

It was a quiet day, with very little social interaction, but it was peaceful and productive.

Sunday  Woke at 5:00 a.m. naturally, again. More futzing around with photos on my computer. Mostly deleting hundreds of bad selfies, I am embarrassed to say. I biked over to coffee shop a little after 8:00 a.m. to meet a friend from grad school (almost 20 years ago!) who was in town for an event. He and I caught up for about an hour, and then I went to a yoga barre class before biking to yet another yoga studio for ecstatic dance from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Home again for lunch and great deal of laundry folding and another appointment with Dr. Death. Thankfully, all the clothes had places after the closet job. Cleaned up the bathroom and scrubbed the slightly nasty kitchen stove top. Showered and walked over to yet a different coffee shop where I did a little research related to our new soon-to-be store and wrote this blog post. Soon, I will walk home, and then bike to yoga flow, followed by meditation/yin. I will be home by 8:30 p.m. to get ready for the work week and unwind before bed. Tomorrow morning I will be fresh as a daisy and back on the yoga mat at 6:00, before work.

Phew! I am taking really good care of myself this weekend (and taking care of my family too, by doing all this house stuff, even though no one is around). This is marvelous and made possible primarily by the complete and total absence of alcohol from any of these proceedings. I felt centered and able to make good decisions from hour to hour, in which I balanced my personal desires for entertainment, friendship and movement with my needs to get certain specific projects done. There was time for everything I wanted to do, and then some.

I have gone into all this exhaustive detail about my activities because I am really pleased with myself. I want to bottle this feeling! I LOVE the difference between this kid-free weekend and kid-free weekends of the not-to-distant past. Typically I would feel a bit hungover or sub-par on one of the days. I would still squeeze a lot in, because that’s my style, but I would let house stuff slip, for sure. I would not feel such surges of energy nor would I feel true peace.

Also, when I was between marriages I HATED spending any time alone. I would either be with my boyfriend-du-jour (or going on dates), planning my schedule around tango, exercising, or generally finding someplace to be. I would go to bars alone, I would go dancing alone, if I had to, just to be around people and combat my overwhelming fear that life and love would pass me by if I did not get out there and stay out there. I had no ability to sit still and just BE WITH MYSELF . . . and all my feelings.

For a while I had a certain boyfriend who had a terrible habit of canceling plans with me whenever he was freaking out about his own shit. It was a true push-pull dynamic between us, deeply unhealthy. When he pulled the last-minute bail move, as he often did on a Sunday afternoon, I would freak out — mostly because I was utterly unprepared to spend any unstructured time alone. Looking back, it was pretty pathetic. If I had to spend unplanned alone time, I did not embrace the opportunity to get other stuff done. Instead I would mope and obsess and stress and generally let everything go all to hell.

Life is so different now. I feel happy and secure with my partner, my husband. We spend a lot of time together, but when he is away I embrace having time for myself. I keep busy, but I don’t spend all that energy I used to expend putting myself in the path of strangers (i.e., men), adventure/experiences, and, many, many times, alcohol. I was always seeking to escape myself and my situation and propel myself into something new, no matter how meaningless and un-nourishing it was.

I am grateful for my perfect sober weekend and for this sweet life I am creating. Better late than never.

“each of us has to cut our own key” (# 81)

This essay, “The Problem That Comes After Your Drinking Problem,” is worth reading. I relate to this writer’s experience and her idea that we might each have to cut our own key to break out of the alcohol trap. In her case, as mine, the issue is not that the drinking was that much compared to the rest of society. The issue is that alcohol addicts. Any amount that, through no fault of mine, leads me further and further away from the life I want to be living is too much for me.

I find the idea of leaving the herd empowering.

I have always been independent minded and a person who enjoys thinking critically about social norms that many others accept at face value. I am not afraid of being different. I prefer not to conform. Thinking of quitting alcohol as choosing to living outside the herd really works for me.

Basically, I am comfortable being outside the herd, as long as I am being true to myself. That was true when I was a little kid walking home from school alone with my nose in a book, instead in a pack of other kids. Even when I was drinking I would not say I was happily part of a herd. That’s never what I was looking for in alcohol, exactly. I was most often looking to be taken out of myself or to feel myself, intensified. I wanted to shake myself up like a snow globe. I wanted to feel even more wild and free, for a moment.

But I can say for sure that when I came to rely on drinking more and more as part of a normal day, and not as a splash of special sauce, I was not being true to myself. I was fitting myself with a crutch that my spirit never actually needed. The crutch was crippling me.

Alcohol, on the other hand, was behaving totally true to its type as a highly addictive substance that invites progressive use. Alcohol was leaching my inner strength from me, making me sluggish and less adventurous, much less willing to strike out in the pathless woods.

I am so happy to be running free from the herd again, listening for my own heartbeat and feeling the wind in my hair.

Check out this song by Birds of Chicago . . . Remember Wild Horses 

Remember wild horses running

Oh! With the morning in their eyes

Ears pinned back on free land

Under free blue skies . . .

trading spaces (# 70)

It has been an interesting time. The summer is hurtling to its end, and the rest of the year will pass even more quickly. I am excited because changes ahead will move my attention away from analysis and toward action. The analysis has been necessary, but I do not want to stay stuck here.

After not getting the job I wanted earlier this summer, I embarked on a lot of soul-searching about whether to keep trying to leave my job or whether to try to improve it from within. I finally found some peace around my decision to stay put and improve it. And, of course, life goes on no matter what I decide to do about it. Last week I found out there are some changes coming at work that are not necessarily quick fixes for me, but that happen to be aligned with my vision of what my job could be. So, I am interested in sticking around to see what develops.

Out of the blue, a headhunter contacted me about two other possibilities that sounded pretty good, but I quickly decided not to pursue them. I was able to see that those opportunities would likely offer more money, but they would offer me a lot less of the main thing that I have zeroed in on as most desirable: autonomy and flexibility around time. Happily, my current work does not suck up my time and energy with demands by other people to put out fires. My last job required this on a regular basis.

The very day after I settled the headhunter situation, my husband got some amazing news, and the whole picture of the next phase of my life beyond this summer of regrouping clicked into focus. Before I met my husband, he used to own a store (several incarnations of the same concept) for about fifteen years. He has not had a store since 2007, and he has been longing to start one while doing other things, including selling materials wholesale and doing creative work.

The problem has been finding a suitable space. He only needs a small one, and they are hard to find in our growing city.  In the last several years, he has explored several spaces that didn’t work out. He thought about giving up on the retail dream altogether, but could not let it go. He wants to try something different from the stores he had in the past, and he has thought a lot about how to make it work.

Then . . . this week, the landlord of a storefront that my husband has had his eye for more than two years called to say the space will be coming open in November. It’s a great location just a few blocks from our house, on a street with other independent businesses and restaurants. It’s just the perfect size, and it comes with basement space where my husband can keep his equipment and do some of his creative work. My husband jumped on it.

I should interject  here that a specific reason I took my low-key job 16 months ago was to have more time to work on creative ventures with my husband. We like working together and make a good team. Up until now, our partnership has mainly involved making jewelry and selling it at local festivals, which we have done a few times each year. We have also set up a website as a possible online alternative to the bricks-and-mortar store concept. That website is still pretty barebones, but we did bring it into being together. Anyway, both the jewelry we make and the website dovetail with the new store concept, and both will be important as we move forward.

It looks like we will be opening a store sometime in November!

I won’t be quitting my day job, instead I’ll be feeling grateful for a job that allows me enough freedom to participate in the birth of this store. The other jobs I had been considering would not allow such freedom. They would be challenging and stressful.

I am also feeling grateful that I chose to stop drinking at the beginning of the summer, because that making that choice opened up the space in my life to bring in something big and new and allow my creative energy to flow. At this time, I have succeeded in stepping out of the ever-shrinking space where alcohol was sprawling out, talking too loudly, and getting way too comfortable. I feel relieved that I left that dark space freely and fairly cheerfully, before alcohol bound me, gagged me and took me hostage.  I do not want to return there.

writing past perfectionism (# 56)

I will preface my comments with this: I am a word person, a voracious reader since preschool, an English major, and a holder of a graduate degree in Irish literature. I have steeped myself in words professionally, working as either a writer or an editor for the majority of my adult life.

And yet. . . although reading and writing (for hire) have truly been my life’s work, I have never been more than a dilettante when it comes to writing “my own stuff.” I have entertained several “novel” ideas, but never got them off the ground. By which I mean page one.

Some years ago I embarked on a long-distance love affair that generated more written words than the amount contained in Moby-Dick. Along with a smattering of poems for his reading pleasure. Not sure what I am ever going to do with that hot mess.

I have been reading blogs consistently for about 15 years (!). I started when my firstborn was a baby, and got hooked on the first wave of mom blogs, including Suburban Bliss, Dooce, Sweetney,  Finslippy, Breed ‘Em and Weep, Fussy, Catherine Newman’s blog for ParentCenter. This great, witty writing captured my interest. At the time I did not have a blog of my own. While I enjoyed seeing these life narratives unspool in real-time, I could not quite wrap my head around the idea of airing my thoughts and the details of my life for all the world to read. Instead, I contributed to a group parenting blog called Dot Moms. My bi-monthly pieces were polished, clever, and careful to hew to a chosen theme while giving little personal away.

I was, shall we say, constipated. Plenty confident in my ability to write well, technically speaking, but quickly paralyzed by the inner critic who insisted on editing everything to the hilt on a sentence-by-sentence basis. I had ideas but I could never let truly let them rip. I talked myself out of writing at all, and, if anything started to slip out, I talked myself out of anything I managed to write. Or rewrote it. And rewrote it again.

That whole writing-for-myself thing is settled, then. . . . Bad idea. . . . Now, where did my wine go? You get the picture.

Almost all those mom blogs I used to read have fallen by the wayside, and my blog interests morphed over the years. For a while, there were peak oil and political blogs, later there were 40-something dating/sex blogs. Now, ’tis the season for sober blogs, and for the first time in my bystander relationship with the blogging world, I am wading in.

Again, I am delighted by the variety and thoughtfulness of the perspectives I have found. I am impressed and moved by the sincerity, vulnerability, and quality of the words I read on a daily basis. So much insight, so freely shared.

If I let it, this could paralyze me into thoughts of I’m not original enough, I’m not generous enough, I don’t have anything much to contribute here. My stuff is not going to be perfect. It’s never going to be as good as I think it should be, so why bother. And on and on.

But I am taking a different approach this time. I am not self-editing (well, just a teensy bit). I am not sleeping on any of this. I am just writing what I am thinking about, when I feel like it, and hitting publish. Sometimes, when it has been a while, I remind myself to “feel like it,” because I know that writing, like yoga, can be a practice. You just have to show up and assume a position.

In addition, I want to share something of myself with the world of words online that has provided me with silent enjoyment for so long. I want to add my voice, instead of being a standoffish voyeur. I would love to connect, for a change.

So, here I am trying to find a new path into the vast thicket of possible words I have been hoarding, pruning, or tending on others’ behalf all my life. This blog of mine might be silly, or messy, or trite, or pretentious, or, god forbid, riddled with typos, but it is my attempt to stray beyond the perfectionism and self-inflicted limits that have been penning me in.

This is me, setting myself free.

 

 

quiet here at least (# 54)

It has been a peaceful week, mostly. I have stopped perseverating about the job I didn’t get. After talking to husband, therapist, and a friend, I have made a mental shift and decided to focus a little more on making my current (boring) job more interesting. Upon reflection, I can admit that I am a person who is always running off in search of a new challenge and not so good at sticking around, playing a long game, and growing in place. I think it would be good for me to try a different strategy, while I am in this new alcohol free stage of life. So I will take some time to see what develops and make no sudden moves.

I am not eager to be out there applying for more jobs right now. I am feeling bruised and confused. Not sure what I really want from my work life, not sure if I am being proactive or reactive in my search. I need to let everything settle. I will embark on a new job search if/when more clarity about my objectives emerges.

I would like to make more money, but for now I am glad I have a job that is flexible and peaceful. It’s stressful dealing with my teenage daughter. I am having to talk to her dad a lot, and it sometimes eats into work time.

My husband is away on a work trip. Tonight, which is the night before his event starts, two of the people he works with got really drunk. My husband was already up in the hotel room watching Anthony Bourdain episodes and thinking about getting a good night’s sleep when the two guys were brought back to the room flanked by a complement of hotel security. One had a giant bruise on the back of his balding head. My husband had to spend the rest of the evening babysitting them. The one without the bruise attempted to return to the bar, and my husband had to coax him back to the room. These are not young men. They are around 60, a decade older than my husband. They will have to work a long day tomorrow, suffering mightily, I have no doubt.

My own drinking exploits did not sink to that level, at least not recently. I am relieved that my husband has not been in the position of taking care of me in a state like that. However, he has had to shush me from talking loudly a couple of times when walking home through our quiet neighborhood at night. In recent years my drinking was more of a soul-sucking personal preoccupation than a menace to society.

But tonight, I have been reflecting on what an awful position to be in it is, when an unruly drunk (or two!) is holding you hostage. It’s so very unfair to check your sanity  at the door of the bar and leave others to pick up the pieces. I remember that kind of shit happening among my friends when we were in our teens and early twenties. I was guilty of this as well. In one early drinking episode, age 18, camping out one night, I ate nothing but blueberries all day and swigged a bunch of vodka at night. Puked everywhere, and my friends had listen to me, plaintively insisting like a broken record that they make sure to turn my head to one side before leaving me to pass out because “I didn’t want to die like Jimi Hendrix.”

One friend of mine was always getting into this state, and it got tiresome. No one in our group wanted to deal with it anymore. People were tolerant of rare occasions of extreme drunkenness, but reached a limit. With this particular guy, several friends had a little intervention. I don’t remember if it really solved anything about his drinking at the time, but the event did show that people will stop coddling incapacitated people once they are feeling taken advantage of on a regular basis. Easier for friends to draw the line than for relatives or lovers, though.

So I empathize with my husband for having to deal with this tonight, but I am happy he can soon return home to someone he can count on to be responsible for herself, no matter how much alcohol free fun she is having.