STONERS
So last night I met Josh, the baker here. We have a very short, weird history. Back before I remembered I had a friend that worked for Alaska Airlines, I posted rideshares wanted from Phoenix to SF, from there to Seattle, from Seattle to Anchorage. I found people going to all of those places and I was desperate enough to try to piece the trip together even though I knew it would be an ordeal to connect with everyone in their respective cities. I’ve had great luck on CL in general and rideshares in particular, so I was down. Once I connected with Kathy, my AK Air friend, I deleted all my CL posts, or so I thought. I don’t even remember posting one from Anchorage to Denali but I was in the Seattle airport the other day having lunch with Kathy and I got a call from a 907 area code. The caller acted pretty odd, VERY unenthusiastic and kind of put out, but he asked if I was the person looking for a ride to Denali from Anchorage and said he worked at Creekside. I said, “Uh..uh…well, yeah”, having totally forgotten my ad. I said I’d call him back and talk to him about it when I was done with lunch. Meanwhile my phone freaked out again and I lost my contacts for about the tenth time since last Thursday, when Microsoft shut down the network my Sidekick works on. So I just let it go since I had no way to recover it.

I flew to Anchorage and was sleeping when I got a call around 3 a.m. It was Josh again, sounding much the same. He had driven down to the city and said we could camp in his tent and then ride back to Creekside on Sunday. I was already cold and uncomfortable in the airport, plus I had told the owner of the cabins that I would be there on the shuttle Saturday and even though I don’t start work till tomorrow, I didn’t want to make any changes to what I’d already told her, and sleeping in a tent with a weird stranger in a cold, damp city was just not my idea of fun at that moment. I had already spent several hours in the airport, had way too much coffee and sugar and I was pretty irritable. So I graciously declined.

I was having coffee last night in the cafe where I’ll be working. I’d asked about Josh when I first arrived and one of the servers pointed him out to me as I was sipping my drink last evening. I jumped up to shake hands and introduce myself. He asked if he could sit at my table and I said yes, of course. He ordered the chicken pot pie and gave me the salad that accompanied it because he didn’t want it. We sat for a long time, talking about all sorts of things…mostly his times in Humboldt after his summers in Denali (11 of them) and his winters baking in Hawaii. Our tattoos, his being a Reverend in the THC Church in Hawaii, why we came to Alaska, that sort of thing.

When we were done with dinner, we went to his room, where he proceeded to produce a pipe and some very amazing-smelling, Alaska-grown weed. I declined his offer, once again. As he continued to try to goad me into smoking with him, he explained that the reason he had sounded so weird on the phone was that he was baked. Ah, all became clear to me. I enjoyed myself when I could get my asshole of a brain to stop asking questions….”Does he want anything more than for me to smoke weed with him?”, “God, I’ve been horny for months, what if he puts the moves on me?”, “Why can’t I be a stoner chick?”, “When is he going to fucking stop asking me to smoke???”, etc. Aside from the whole sober thing, I really don’t like smoking. I realize that I’m in the less than 2% portion of the population, at least up here, but them’s the facts. Anyway, he eventually took out his guitar and stared playing, which was awesome. Then I went outside with him when he said he needed a cig and he mentioned that I should smoke and then we’d watch a movie on his bed. I rejected him once again and said that I should go to sleep…it was well after midnight and I wanted to get up early today but the real reason was that I just couldn’t deal with the continuous questions in my head. My bed, my room and my Terry Pratchett book sounded much safer. Josh suddenly lost his warmth and was pretty cold towards me. We had established at least a tiny bit of intimacy but it evaporated quickly. I went to my room, read for a few and then fell asleep.

I saw him as I was leaving for town this morning and the awkwardness continued. It makes me really sad.

Some Things I Have Learned
-The locals here don’t consider Anchorage to be part of Alaska. They hate Chris McCandless for throwing his money away and for just being stupid. They think the people in the southern parts of the state are a bunch of pussies. They hate corporate America for destroying their habitats, etc.
-The Wolverine is one of the most vicious mammals in Alaska, especially taking its small size into consideration.
-Leave the moose alone! Moose attack so many people each year that recently officials warned people to “assume every moose is a serial killer”.
-Alaskans scoff at Texas. There are t-shirts that have a picture of Texas inside Alaska, with the saying underneath, “Ain’t Texas Cute?”
-Alcoholism is such a problem in rural Alaska that communities are allowed to regulate the importing and purchasing of it themselves.
-Reindeer are Caribou that are in captivity. There are Reindeer farms in which the animals are raised for slaughter in the same way as cattle. We have reindeer sausage at Creekside, which I’m eager to try. (Don’t tell Katie.)

How I Feel
This place is fascinating and I already feel its pull. I am beginning to understand its power over people and its ability to get in one’s blood. I went on a dog cart tour last night that I honestly thought would be kind of lame, but it was really cool. I got to hold a pup that will be raised to run the Iditarod and our 900 pound cart was pulled by a team that runs. They go crazy when they think they’re going to be allowed to run…it’s what they live for. I learned fascinating things and had to keep asking the tour leader to repeat herself because I was so busy digesting the last thing she had said that I missed the current one.

I miss my kids, my friends and the sober house. I’ve asked one of the girls to accept my 30 day chip for me tomorrow. I’m going to a meeting here in town for the first time tomorrow but my spirit is at the house with my friends, in part. But I love waking up each morning, looking out my window, going to the common room to make a pot of coffee and planning my day. Making my oatmeal with a banana, sipping coffee, greeting anyone that comes in. Hanging my white Christmas lights around my window, my pretty scarf as a valance, my tiny Tibetan prayer flags, my Angel card at the head of my bed and anything else that makes it more me. I love meeting people and hearing their stories of what motivated them to come to this remote and beautiful area.

One of these nights I’ll hang out at the fire pit with everyone, listen to music, laugh and watch the kids get drunk.

Kebra, the housekeeping manager, and a couple other employees are on their way to pick me up. We’re headed to Fairbanks to take Heather to the airport so she can fly home to go to a wedding and while we’re there we’ll hit Fred Meyer’s since it’s a bit cheaper than the tiny Denali stores.

Adventure vs. Safety, Emotional-Style
I don’t get it. I’m so utterly scared of letting anyone into my world, my head. I think I’ve always been like this to an extent…even when I worked at The Good Egg, I had tons of acquaintances but few close friends. I just picked up and moved to the most remote area I’ve ever been in, took a new job and a new place to live, sight unseen. But the mere act of spending an evening with another person, especially a male, is so fraught with worry and insecurities that it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.

I truly hope I can transcend this at some point because it’s making sobriety more difficult. Things are so much easier with alcohol. They remove the awkwardness, the constant self-doubt. But they also make things completely unauthentic, like the attitude Josh conveyed when he was stoned. I can no longer present that non-genuine Self. It’s just not fair to anyone.

Over and Out

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I am in Alaska. Fucking ALASKA!! I keep saying it over and over in my head but I still can’t believe it. I did this shit. I made this choice and it feels incredible.

So I was reading this book called “Drinking: A Love Story”. There were tons of things I identified with, of course, and much to digest. Near the end she talked about choices and I gave that some thought. I wrote this earlier when I was in the common room today:

“Each moment holds within it an infinite number of possibilities.”
This saying has kept a sense of wonder inside me for many years. How I never ended this magical and astounding thought, however, was that it also demanded a choice. Of COURSE each moment was rife with possibilities…but until we make a conscious decision to do something ELSE…to make a CHOICE, to acknowledge that we have power-POWER TO CHANGE-we will never, EVER realize any of those possibilities. We must take it a step further than a mere abstract thought, no matter how magical it might be…we must take an ACTION. That action involves doing any number of things on our mental or physical lists.
hiking
staying in bed and reading
taking a class
taking a flight over Mt. Denali
doing the dishes that aren’t my own
white water rafting
making my bed
hitchhiking into town
adding something to my gratitude list, however tiny and insubstantial it might seem
learning what to do if I spot a bear and what to take on a hike
being honest with myself
sitting in stillness
getting a tattoo
going to Europe
opening myself to things I might not even be able to imagine yet
sitting in stillness
doing a remarkable job in my work
touching lives
talking with the Universe, my Higher Power and the Source of all things, connecting with the Infinite, feeling the Oneness in every molecule of my Being
taking a nap

The list goes on and on and on. For each and every one of us.

KATIE’S LETTER TO HER MOTHER

I was in the airport in Anchorage, where I had to spend the night before the shuttle picked me up in the morning. I was reading the book I mentioned earlier and then I decided to spread out and try to get some sleep. Once I did, I noticed a paper on the floor under my seat and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if this is important to someone”. I picked it up and started reading.

“Momma,
I hope this book helps you. I was very surprised how many feelings and actions I related to as I read it. It actually made me feel better that there was actually a reason and that other people have these feelings, too.
In a more personal note, I want to tell you how proud I am of you mom. For quitting drinking, for following your heart, for taking a plunge to do something that most wouldn’t. You are a fantastic woman and I cannot wait to pursue our new relationship.
I look up to you so much and I know over the years of drinking I have never really said it but the basis of the woman you are is a beautiful and magnificent thing, spirit, creature. YOu don’t let fear run your life, you don’t take things for granted, you show the people that you love that you do, in fact, love them. Nothing can stop you mom. YOu are so incredibly strong, and even though alcohol made you feel the opposite, I k now you can feel that lioness coming through now.
I cannot wait to hear about your journey, not only to Alaska but also rediscovering your true self and falling in love with her again. Only then can your true potential shine through, and I know that she will.
I love you with my whole heart and have all the faith in the world in you.
Love,
Katie”

I realized this was from my daughter in the first sentence and I spent the entire time reading it wiping the tears away and blinking so that I could focus. To my daughter:

I know that some of what you wrote was was designed to give me confidence and hope, and it did. I DID live in fear, though, Katie. Alcohol blunted that fear. It was my lover, my friend and the only thing I allowed to be intimate with me. But I AM feeling that lioness emerging. Just making this choice, actually DOING this, gave me a much-needed dose of confidence, which is the thing I’m hoping to gain during this summer. I am only going to add to this confidence and I will return to Phoenix a different woman. A woman that knows her strength, that makes good choices for herself, that has fallen in love with the person she is becoming. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you but I count you and Nick as my greatest blessings, as the people in my life that will be with my always, even if it is in spirit rather than location. I’m so glad that you can still have that hope and see that future for me. I love you more than anything and also look forward to our new relationship and showing you with my actions. You will always be my baby.

Momma

Hopelessness accompanies addiction. We try again and again to kick it, whatever it is. THIS time will be different. THIS time will be successful. THIS time we’ll make it stick. THIS time our lives will change.

And then THIS time turns into LAST time and the time before that and before that…and with each new decision to use, a little more hope is lost. A little more self-respect is gone. Hope is what keeps us going, what makes us put our feet on the floor each morning and partake in this thing called life. But if you continue to make the same bad decision, you become war-ravaged. The war is the personal one you wage inside your head. We can be going about our daily routine or trying something new, it doesn’t matter…when that thought, “Hey, I could go get *insert drug of choice here* and numb everything right now. Let’s go!!” enters our heads and we might argue for a minute, or just observe the thought as it exits our brain or deal with it in any number of ways…but it’s always there, lurking, waiting to be noticed. That scares the holy hell out of me because I don’t want that for the rest of my life. I don’t want to think of myself as an alcoholic or an addict forever. I want to see myself as healthy, happy and whole, thus one of my problems with AA. But I will take the good stuff and leave the rest, as one of my ex-roommates always used to tell me. There is fellowship with others who know exactly how I feel. And there is always laughter. Because without it, what is life worth?

There is a no fraternization policy at the house, but we have a few women and a lot of men there and we take it to the edge of appropriateness in our remarks and our conversation. There is always the sideways glance and a smile, the shit-eating grin that tells me that person is thinking things not so platonic or the remark that can be taken a few different ways but I know exactly how it was meant. Those things make us smile inside, they might give our demolished ego a tiny boost just for a few seconds and they also might keep someone from punching a wall or crying because they are so incredibly lost or doubting their sanity or missing a loved one that won’t have anything to do with them because they’ve been fucked over repeatedly by the addict side of that person.

With humor comes renewed hope that maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time WILL be the one. The point from which I can learn to forgive and love myself, gain some self-respect and possibly get another chance at starting to repair the relationships I’ve trashed. At times I felt like Sybil…coming out of a binge and trying to piece together what happened by receipts in my pocket or debit card charges or any number of clues I’d gotten skilled at locating. What did Evil Kris do this time, when Good Kris wasn’t in possession of her faculties? I never ended up in another city but I did some really fucked up shit. I wonder if I will ever be able to incorporate her into my personality and coexist peacefully without warring.

I’m going to the Cocaine Anonymous World Convention at The Biltmore today. I can only think that this had to be a scary proposition for The Biltmore, having addicts from all over the world congregating under their roof. Either the money they’re taking in is incredible or someone in a decision-making role is in recovery because I can’t see them opening their doors to this bunch otherwise. But I guess they did have a tattoo exposition there recently so maybe they’re just trying to be progressive. In any case, I suspect there will be a whole lotta laughter and some having of fun. I know what it’s like to be sober and find the magic in life, so I don’t need to see this to know that living without one’s DOC doesn’t mean a dull, nothing existence, but it will be nice to be reminded of that.

Magic I have had today: Raja’s kisses, being called thick (apparently this is a good thing, lol), knowing Katie and our other friends are having a great time at the festival, sweeping my driveways and meditating (that’s my regular chore for the week and I like to think of it in a wax on, wax off kind of way), having a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and cantaloupe and playing Chevelle loudly. Laughter at breakfast for silly, silly reasons. Michael lending me a pair of socks and me asking if my feet in his socks is fraternization. Seeing my favorites, wishing them a good day and meaning it. Saying good morning to the people walking by while I was sweeping and hoping that might make having a halfway house in their neighborhood just a tiny bit less scary. Being able to look at myself in the mirror and finding a twinkle in my eye. Touching a life in a good way somehow. And hope. Always hope. 🙂

So in keeping with my new policy of honesty, I have to come clean a bit.

Yes, I did make the choice to do something different but I have to talk about how it came about.

So I was dropped off at the detox place with no money, no keys to the house, nothing except for my phone, which was dead when I was released, and my charger. So now what? I’d already made the appointment to talk to the people at the halfway house but quite honestly, at this point all I wanted was to get home and drink again. But I was stuck. I had no money to get home and no way into the house. God knows I wouldn’t fit through the dog door. My daughter was out of town and I’d burned so many bridges with my son that I doubted he’d help, even if I did have access to his number. My choices were limited.

So my plan was to go to this place, listen to what they had to say, charge my phone so I could get my contacts and then take off when I could get in touch with anyone who would help.

So I’m dropped off and I go into the office. The guy there was kind of a dick, as are many people in recover that are in positions of authority. I guess so many years of dealing with addicts turns people that way pretty often, which I can understand but also find very sad. Anyway, I tell the guy I can get money to him as soon as I figure out how to get home and into said home. Which was true, it just wasn’t my plan.

And then I was shown around and given a bed. I ate dinner, looking literally like something the cat dragged in. I don’t even remember if anyone spoke to me, I was so buried inside my head. My liver was slowly processing the alcohol out of my system but it was far from gone. I could barely put two thoughts together but my plan still seemed a good one.

Except that for the first time in forever, there was a part of me that was curious about this place and what would happen if I actually did commit.

My daughter’s boyfriend came to pick me up first thing in the morning. He dropped me off at home and let me in. There my keys were, and my car started so I told him I was ok on my own. I had a shower to take and things to do on the computer. And that’s exactly what I did. I’m not sure in what moment the decision was made but at some point I decided to see how this played out. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Confession number one: over.

Hiya. I’m a 51-year-old ex-suburban housewife. For the last ten years I’ve been in a cycle of self-destruction, choosing to binge drink rather than live the life I’m capable and deserving of. I’ve hurt countless people, destroyed relationships, lost more jobs than most people even hold in their lifetimes and basically tried to never wake up, time and time again.

I’m not sure when my pain started, and that analysis is for another time. This particular day I’m talking about my recent decision to change my life and what I consider to be some of the components that I will use as catalysts for that change.

A few days ago, I wound up in detox. The word “detox” is thrown about in the substance abuse world pretty freely, and usually means a controlled, medical process of removing the offending substance from the body. Without medical care, lots of very bad things can happen. In this case, “detox” meant being put into a disgusting bed (of course there were “fresh” linens on the inch thick plastic, stained mattress. I’m sure the thread count was at least 9.) in a freezing room that was worthy of holding meat at approved health department temperatures for 23 hours with little supervision and no controlled, medical process of anything. There was gourmet food and drink in the form of 1. a cheese sandwich or 2. a pb&j, and 1. water. There was entertainment, if one could actually get out of one’s head and/or stop the teeth chattering long enough to pay attention to the outside world, in the form of completely fucked-up people, usually men, moaning, throwing chairs, punching walls, puking, coughing, sneezing, peeing and performing various other body fluid-related activities. Every so often, the tinkling of laughter could be heard and you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was the staff. The rest of us were too miserable to see humor in anything, even a cheese sandwich. Especially a cheese sandwich.

I knew that as soon as I was released, I’d go back to the same bullshit I’d been doing for years. What would change it? I loved it in some ways, obviously. Drinking made loneliness and hurt go away. As soon as I had that bottle in my pudgy little sausage fingers, I felt freedom. I knew release was close, and I loved it. My heart would soar and I would feel a peace rarely felt without it. So that bottle got closer and closer as time passed slower than it ever had in my life. There was absolutely nothing to do but lie there and feel the misery. No books, no TV, nothing to take my mind off the fact that I had lost another job…two, in fact…and let my children down yet again. My body was in bad shape, but my mind and spirit were much worse off.

At some point, I decided to to see the Peer Counselor, just to see if I had any other options. I knew I wouldn’t choose anything else…it was just too easy to go home and start all over again. I asked about rehab, but of course I didn’t have the $30,000 to make that choice. And then the nurse mentioned a halfway house.

Probably just like you, halfway houses conjured up certain images in my head. Dirty junkies, people who couldn’t cope in the real world or who wanted to continue to use without being completely homeless, sad, broken people from a class much different than myself who were completely motivated by their addiction. And then I stepped back and took a good look at myself. Was I really so different than any of this? So what I REALLY thought was this: Fuck it. What do I have to lose? I have two decisions, as far as I can tell: go back to the same shit or do something different. You’ve done the same shit for the last ten years and all it’s gotten you is horror, tragedy and near death. So let’s do something different.

So I’m doing something different.

The nurse called several halfway houses before finding a bed for a female. I had told her that I wanted coed because I couldn’t handle the drama of an all-female house, but in reality I know that I just find men more appealing than women. Which is the totally wrong reason to make that decision, of course. It’s irrelevant at the moment, though.

In any case, Comtrans came and picked me up to transport me to my new home. I really didn’t think I had any expectations but was pleasantly surprised to see a sparkling pool and patio area inside the gate. I was checked in, my brain still in a mush and my body still shaking and full of the toxins that hadn’t been de’ed. Even though I had blown a zero on the breathalyzer for hours before I was released from “detox”, I knew that alcohol still permeated every cell in my body. Part of my cycle is trying to return to normal after a binge, which usually takes a full five days or so.

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least. The conditions of my stay in the house are that I make a 90 day commitment, attend 90 AA meetings in those 90 days, get a sponsor in 7 days, a job in 8, have a home group and service commitment in two weeks and live by the rules of the house. Today is my seventh day and I just got a sponsor. I’m working frantically on a job and am completely sick to my stomach that I might have to become a telemarketer, one of the main jobs people just into recovery do. I’m SO not telemarketer material, but we shall see.

Anyway, I’m writing this because I want others to go along on this new journey with me. Hopefully, I will learn about me and what I’m capable of becoming. This is my last attempt at sobriety, because if I choose to start drinking again, it will surely be my death sentence. So welcome. Let’s get this shit started.