Day 88 – I cook with wine…

…sometimes I even add it to the food.     WC Fields

I was doing dishes yesterday after baking banana bread and was looking out the window, enjoying the view of the woods, nature and my 2 dogs enjoying the warming Spring-like weather.  Then, I noticed a quote in my window I had received as a gift.  A small wooden sign had the wine/cooking quote from WC Fields.  Anyone who knows me and my love for wine and cooking knows this rang true for me.  I love wine, particularly good red wine.  I lived with a French family in Luxemburg as an exchange student and grew to appreciate fine wine through that experience.  When I lived in the UK, the wine store was 2 blocks down and with a wider variety of wines than most US stores at the time (late 90’s), I expanded my palette.  I turned 30 when I lived there in Chester and a friend gave me a bottle of French bordeaux.  He told me to keep it for a special occasion – perhaps my 40th.  I’ve transported that wine now from the UK to North Carolina to Puerto Rico to Indiana, guarding it for a special occasion.  I didn’t bring it out for my 40th, but had been saving it for the right small gathering of friends who could enjoy it with me.

Then 12/21 came…and I entered recovery!  And although I primarily identify myself as an addict, I recognized early on that alcohol was a trigger.  More than once, my resolve to lay off the meth was melted with a vodka martini or cosmopolitan.  The wisdom from other addicts proved true recently when I almost stumbled with a lingering bottle of aged rum. It reconfirmed for me that alcohol is just another drug; that my illness is cunning and will go to great lengths to seduce me back into active addiction.

I can remember telling my dad, less than 60 days out of treatment, that “for now I choose not to drink.  But perhaps some day I’ll be able to enjoy a nice glass of red wine with dinner.”  Even as the words rolled off my tongue, I knew the foolishness of what I was saying.  The experience of others confirms the misconception.  I heard a story this week of a guy who started with just a sip at a party of a new lemon martini…and within a month, he had fallen hard.  The good news is he found the strength to come back in the rooms, finding the support,  encouragement and unconditional love he needed to reclaim sobriety.  But, not everyone is able to do so.

Seeing that sign was a reminder…that a  glass of red wine with dinner would turn into drinking a bottle of wine while cooking, then into worse.  Nope, I understand even more deeply – I’m an alcoholic addict.  Full stop.  No reservations or qualifications.

So what became of that bottle of wine?

I recently went to dinner with some very dear friends, one of which I’ve known for almost 20 years.  They would have been one of the couples with whom I would have savored the wine in celebration.  I brought them the bottle and explained its history.  At first, as I expected, they insisted on keeping it until I was able to enjoy it with them.  But I explained to them that this is a lifelong process — there are no pre-planned detours — my life depends on that.  So, while my primary drug of choice is crystal meth, I must face the truth that all drugs must go with the same conviction and commitment.  I could see in my friends’ faces a deeper level of understanding and acceptance.  I caught a glimpse of sadness as they realized the gravity…but I also know there are so many other ways that we can celebrate and have fun.  And, I know they understand that as well.  For starters, he and his wife know that I’m here – alive – able to celebrate period!  Had December 21st transpired differently, that wouldn’t have been the case.

So, WC Fields – I also bid you farewell. I’ll talk with B. and ask her to replace you with another saying more in line with my recovery.  Deeper than the quote on a board was the gift and the memory it brings of friends and family.  That, I don’t want to lose.  So, I’ll simply replace it with something that can carry the same message and be in line with my recovery….further proof that recovery doesn’t mean the end of enjoying life.  In fact, it’s the beginning of really enjoying the emotions & experiences that life brings — on life’s terms.  For that, I’m grateful.

Day 78 – This Insidious disease

Last night was a little harder night.  I was going great — on a bit of a natural high from the day and from what amazing possibilities are percolating.  I caught myself thinking…”wouldn’t it be a great night to have a nice glass of wine with my dinner.”  Or, needing to relax from a busy day, “wouldn’t it be nice to curl up and watch TV with an ice cold beer.”  I haven’t had any cravings to USE – but I let myself start THINKING about DRINKING.

Instead I chose to draw a hot bath and soak, meditate.  My normal metal cup had been moved this weekend by a friend who was helping to clean house.  He put it back in the bar — it is half of a Bacardi Rum shaker (metal cup and glass used together).  It’s not a drinking trigger for me at all – it goes well with the bathroom; I use it to rinse the tub after soak baths; it looks better than a plastic cup.

The cup wasn’t the problem.  I went to the bar area, which had been cleaned out of liquor already.  Except…I saw…a special bottle of aged rum.  I had left it behind wanting to give it to a friend who would appreciate it.  Or, perhaps, subconsciously, I left it behind for me.  I wonder which…

All of a sudden my head was filled with lies.  Remember, this is the only disease which wants me to believe I don’t have a disease.  “Your issue never really was alcohol – it was drugs.  You’re ok to have one drink.”  “You don’t have to give up wine or good alcohol – you’ve been able to control that part.  It’s the crystal meth.”  And the all but insane, “You had a great first day – you’ve gotten through being fired with amazing strength.  You deserve to celebrate with a hot bath and a nice shot of aged rum from Puerto Rico — a gift from Carlos in Puerto Rico.  This is all worth celebrating.”  No, I take that back.  It’s not all but insane…it IS insane!

Nonetheless, I wasn’t there at the time…I was at “all but insane” or “far from insane.”  I poured the shot glass…I smelled the rum.  Familiar scents and memories — good ones — came flooding back.  My mind was playing insidious tricks with me.  It knew better than to hit me with drugs this time.  It went for the subtle smell of rum.

I brought the shot into the bathroom — the tub already filling with hot water; my readings (from NA!) and meditations sitting on the edge of the tub platform.  I thought about calling my sponsor to stop this and talk myself through.  Then I looked at the shot; I could smell the rum permeating the bathroom as the steamed air began to fill up the room as well.  I started to play through how relaxing it would be — how GOOD the rum would taste.  That was much more enjoyable than talking to someone!  I was caught up in the moment.  I was caught up in the lies of this insidious and cunning disease.

Then I thought of all I had going for me — of all the progress I have made.  I took the shot and poured the rum down the sink.  I rinsed the sink out; moved the glass out of the bathroom; and lit a candle to burn of the smell.

I was in relapse again.  I didn’t drink or use — but next time, I may not find the strength to stop it.  I used some of my tools – but not enough of them soon enough.  I played with this temptation WAY too long.  I didn’t cut it off a the root..I fed it with nutrients…I let it pop its head up through the gentle, warm soil…I allowed time for the sun’s rays to beat down on it to give it life.  I nurtured it and encouraged it just enough to find a budding plant.  And then, only then, did I rip it out and kill it.

That’s NOT what our Lenten series at church means when we ask ourselves, “What are you growing for Lent?”

The bottle still needs to be out of the house.  And I realize now that the 3-4 bottles of red wine I’m storing to “give to a friend” must also go.  Today.  I win this battle one day at a time — I must fight this battle one day at a time.  Not tomorrow — not “when I feel ready” — not eventually — TODAY.

Yes, one is a bottle given to me for my 30th birthday party in England.  It’s been from the UK, to NC, to Puerto Rico, to here.  I’ve been saving it for a special occasion — it’s one to keep for 10+ years.  So now would be about right.  But, I’ve also been to hell and back since then — seen the bottom of my addiction — faced the choice of life or death.  By the grace of God, I chose life.  With that same grace, I must be realistic and pull out all of the stops with the same fervor, joy and determination that I have had about my recovery in the past days.  I must “ride the wave” and keep on the path.

I wrote a good-bye letter to Crystal Meth during inpatient.  Sounds like I need to write the same for fine wine and spirits…

Watch this space for said letter…