Friday, March 25, 2011

Because rehab can be so lengthy and tiresome.

{Opening note: I am not saying that rehab is bad. I went to rehab once for a whole other issue. I think rehab is really important and that if someone needs it, then they should go. Cheers and snaps for rehab. I am not pulling a Charlie Sheen here. I did not cure myself with my mind. This is just a tale of my journey and how it went down in my life. Not a judgment on rehab. Had to be said. End opening note.}

This past weekend was the six-year anniversary of my farewell to drinking, more affectionately known as “The Bender Bash”. Upon finding out that I do not drink (or that I “quit”) most people immediately ask if I am an alcoholic and if I go to AA, which is a oddly personal question to ask someone that you are just meeting (not to mention that the second A in AA stands for anonymous), but you know me I am an open book, so it does not phase me. The truth is that I am not an alcoholic, I had the potential to be, and that became painfully clear to me as time went on, but I had a really hard time embracing that fact. Which is funny to me now, because it seems SO OBVIOUS in hindsight.

For numerous reasons, I did not drink until my 21st birthday (outside of an unfortunate incident involving premixed vodka and grapefruit juice in an unmarked container found in the fridge when I was 14…lets just say that the aftereffects of that ensured my purity until I was of legal age). Upon becoming 21, I learned that there were perks to my Irish heritage, namely that I could drink more than most men double my size. And believe me, having attended Arizona State University for the latter portion of my education, I had many occasions to gather empirical evidence to back this statement up. I was the girl who brought a round for the bar – the party girl that everyone loved. Lets just say that there were numerous instances that pointed to the “this could be a problem” theory [lets refer to those as RED FLAGS #1-99], but I was “in college” and “having fun” and “embracing my youth” – so that theory was put on the back burner.

Fast forward to when I was informed of my craziness on paper in mid 2004 (explained in detail here), one of the things that the sassy graph made of stars told me was that I had strong addictive tendencies and that I had an equally strong tendency not to realize that could be a problem [RED FLAGS #100 & #101], but I decided that since I was given this information that I could control the issue therefore it would not be a problem (oh justification, you are a snarly beast).

Then, in October of 2004, I got a DUI [HUGEST RED FLAG IN THE HISTORY OF RED FLAGS]. I am SO lucky that the situation was not worse. That being said, I can say with out reservation that it was the most humiliating and awful 15 hours of my life (and I have had some pretty low lows). To this day when I think of that phone call that I had to make to my mom, my stomach turns – it was not my finest moment, to say the least. Side note: You may wonder why on earth I would share this dirty little detail with all of blogdom. Well, as I have said before, I am just trying to keep it real here and it is a very REAL part of this story and an important detail of my journey to superpower-hood.

So one might think that this horrifying incident would be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but ooooooh no…instead I told myself that I just needed to “understand” what it meant to be over the legal limit cuz clearly I was confused before and that I would just stick to 2 drinks at a time (as opposed to 10) and then I would be fine. But before long 2 drinks became 3 and 3 became 4 and so on. [At this point the RED FLAGS are so large that they might as well be RED BANNERS, so I stopped counting] During this time I was seeing my new doctor and we were discussing meds and such and there was this constant little voice of reason in the back of my head that said, “helloooooo, if you need to be on mood stabilizing drugs, you probably don’t need to be drinking…CAN’T YOU SEE THE RED FLAGS?!?!?! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!” But justification reared its ugly head once again and I carried on because “I had it together” and “I could handle it”.

And then one morning after a night of more than 2 drinks, I woke up and that voice was YELLING at me, I could not ignore it any more. That day I told my dear friend Tanya with tears streaming down my face that I had to quit. I told her that I would change my mind in like an hour, but that she had to promise to make me do it, this had to be the end. She did just that. She is a really really good friend.

Suddenly I was faced with all sorts of questions: How would I convince my friends that I was serious? Would I still be the fun girl that everyone loved? What on earth would I drink when I went to bars? Could I even go to a bar? Is there life beyond a perfectly made dirty martini? The list went on and on and out of these questions the ‘Bender Bash’ was born. Tanya and I devised a fool proof plan: I would go out in “Jenn Lafferty” style and throw the bestest most fabulous party ever, then everyone would know that I was for serious and have to support me (besides it gave people the opportunity to have “one last drink with the fun party girl that everyone loved”). And to top it off we had commemorative shot glasses made that read: “Bender Bash 2005, because rehab can be so lengthy and tiresome”. Because a party is not a party unless you get to take a shot glass home (pictured below) always, keeping it classy.

It was epic. A million people came. I curled my hair and wore a backless shirt (hey, I could only exhibit good judgment on one thing at a time in those days, don't judge). Hilarity ensued. I did a shot with my mom. More madness. More shots. My first and last Irish Car Bomb. And then it was done. I went home, got in bed, woke up the next morning and it was over. No hangover. No drama. We went and had pancakes. Chocolate chip pancakes in fact. And that was that.

It was the best decision that I could have ever made for myself – it honestly changed my life. Standing here six years later I feel so incredibly blessed. Had I not listened to that voice in my head it could have turned out really bad and that decision would have been made for me by circumstances with consequences that scare me to even imagine. So I don’t, instead I try to live every day with a thankful heart.

And in case you were wondering, there is life beyond the perfectly made dirty martini – its called dessert. Deliciously wonderful heavenly dessert. OH and I still have a box of those shot glasses if there are any takers out there. Perhaps it could be my first ever blog give-away ;).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On balance.

Side note before we even begin: Yes, this is supposed to be an obnoxiously skinny cartoon representation of me “balancing” life (the baby carriage is clearly symbolic, lets not get carried away) it was the lesser of 2 evils from my google image search results – while the elephant on a beach ball may have been more accurate, I went for skinny red head striking yoga pose for obvious, on to the topic at hand...

A few weeks ago I attended a conference where I was asked to sit on a panel and then lead a small group discussion on finding balance in life. The attendees were all 20-something ladies who are searching to find that all too illusive state called balance. As I prepared for the weekend I was a bit intimidated. The panel was comprised of some incredible women, all who have had long established and successful careers and family lives and the woman who was facilitating the program is an accomplished author, life coach and all around impressive lady who at a young age has dedicated her work to helping people navigate through the treacherous-ness that is one’s 20s. Who was I to talk to 20-somethings about balance? I am just slightly out of my 20s (which lets be honest, I barely survived) and still find myself on the daily quest for the B word. At the same time I was quite flattered to be asked to participate and knew that it would likely be a great learning experience AND I would get a weekend in San Diego with my mom, cousin and niece – sign me up!

We were set to have the panel discussion on Saturday morning and on Friday night I was reading through the questions that the moderator of the panel sent us to prepare. I was making my notes and things were flowing freely until I got to the second to last question: What is a something that you were told in your 20s that you have discovered is a myth? Immediately two things popped into my head 1) ‘You can be anything you want to be’ and 2) ‘You can live a balanced life’….wait, what?? BALANCE?!? I certainly cannot get up in front of all these ladies and claim that a balanced life is a myth, that is the whole reason we are all here, besides who am I to say? So I decided to prep the “you can be anything you want to be” answer and be done with it (which BTW is a really good answer, because it is a totally myth, but that discussion is for another post entirely).

Saturday morning came and I put on my cutest ‘its raining and I am going to be on a panel, but need to look chic and cozy” outfit and headed out for breakfast. We all got settled in the front of the room, did our intros and the discussion began. It was interesting and witty and organic – people were very engaged and then it came to the second to last question. Each of the ladies answered with beautiful, poignant and eloquent statements. I was anticipating my turn and getting ready to deliver my amusing antidote about your mom telling you that you could be anything, but then you went on American Idol and learned the hard way that “anything” did not include singer…blah blah blah…funny funny funny…brilliant nugget of truth, the end…when suddenly I was called on and without skipping a beat said ‘I believe that true balance in life is a myth’….wait for it…and…crickets. I quickly busted out some trusty ‘look at me I can laugh at myself’ humor and attempted to explain myself…

Life is not balanced, it never will be. There are times when you work like an insane person because you have to, or you have kids and it is all about them or your partner needs to be overwhelmingly supported so its all about them or YOU need to be overwhelmingly supported so its all about you or everything is falling apart due to circumstances beyond your control and you are doing everything just to get out of bed in the morning…the list goes on and on. THEN in the middle of this ALL we are beating ourselves up because we can not seem to find the time to meditate and work out and cook healthy meals and do laundry and have an immaculate house and go to a yoga class and be an attentive partner/friend/caretaker/family member (this is my list, I am sure you can insert your own) – we are unbalanced in our quest for balance, so how about them apples…

As I was talking, I realized that I was talking at myself -- this is what I needed to learn and I was hoping that I made some sense to someone else (if anything I made them laugh, which is always a win in my book) and once the discussion was over, we moved on to small groups and then back to the big group again. The aforementioned brilliant facilitator (who is Christine Hassler, btw, you can read more about her here and 'like' her here…she is really fabulous) brought it all home by explaining (and I am paraphrasing here) that balance is really about the big picture and about your self-care. It’s about understanding that things will be up and down at any given time and in the middle of all that we have to find ways to be good to ourselves because that will be the only way we can tackle what life throws us. Balance is not stressing yourself out over the list of things you can not fit in to your life, rather it is about picking one or two of those things at a time and committing to a few things that make a BIG difference.

The weekend was amazing. I met some incredible ladies, each of which is on a path of greatness. I learned a lot about myself and committed to a few small things that have, in just a few short weeks, made a big difference. So thank you 20-somethings ladies searching for balance, you taught this 30-something a whole lot!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fancy meeting you here.

Turns out that getting back to writing after an unintended hiatus is even harder than getting back in the gym after having 10 babies. Or math class. Or cooking without butter after watching a Paula Dean marathon. Or walking in Alexander McQueen heels. Or not laughing at the ‘Charlie bit my finger’ video (watch it, I dare you not to laugh).

For serious, I have started this post at least 50 times and this is how far I’ve gotten: a mildly amusing list of things that do not trump my hyperbolic struggle to ‘pick up the pen’ again. So this morning I draw a line in the sand. I am posting what I have at this very moment. My theory is that once I hit publish post, then I will have gotten past the monumental wall in my mind that is my extended absence from writing.

So I will finish my tea and go put on a flowery dress, paint my nails black and embrace the sassiness that is the girly girl wordsmith extraordinaire pictured above. Tomorrow is the day after I started writing again. Now, if I could only master those McQueen heels.