Of Lighthouses and Wayward Seafarers

…or maybe the title of this little screed should be “If You Build It, Will They Come?”.  When I came up with this title,  3 days ago, this was going to be a verbal vomit about how my sister (she of the elevated, but now normal, liver enzymes) had started drinking again, and how that made me feel.  I did everything I thought I could, in addition to staying with her 24/7 for her first detox week of sobriety, to support her in this journey. Books, articles, motivation, websites, unconditional love…ad infinitum. Blah, blah, blah.

Then the other shoe dropped. I mean, if your liver enzymes return to normal, that means you’re not an alcoholic, right? Cue sad music here.  I have been the lighthouse, I thought; I shined my light out into the darkness so she could find her way to the shore. What went wrong?

The flaw in my thinking was two-fold (well, actually it’s multi-fold, but I’ll hit the main two).  The purpose of a lighthouse, I now realize, is to light the way for wayward seafarers to be able to make their own way to the shore. The lighthouse is unable to make them take the proper course, unable to save them, unable to even make them aware that they are in peril and need to be saved.   OK…got it.  The second flaw came to light in the physical embodiment of not one, but TWO, friends who have desperately reached out to me for help with their sobriety, within the last 48 hours.

Ah…the REAL purpose of a lighthouse is to provide a guiding light to safe harbor for all those seafarers who determine they need said guidance.  Emphasis on “ALL”. Emphasis on “WHO DETERMINE THEY NEED”.  I was so wrapped up in my…not disappointment…not dejection…disheartenment would probably be close…in my target’s lack of embracing her sober life, that I was unaware of some other seafarers that were holding on to the decks of their sinking ships and were about to be cast into the roiling cauldron of an unforgiving sea.

“If You Build It, Will They Come?”



Self-Revealing Revelations

Awkward title for this post? –maybe. Accurate? –definitely.

In response to someone’s post in an online forum for recovery, I posted the following:

Dear xxxx:

Thank you for your bravery and honesty in reaching out and sharing this post with us. In my case, I think I look at it as just the opposite of your post’s title. “Why Can’t I Allow Myself to Stay Sober?”…for me, my sobriety isn’t necessarily something I “allow myself to be”.  I actually work at it, every day, in small (and sometimes large) increments. I work at my sobriety. I have come to enjoy this “work”, have grown from this “work”, and look forward to this “work” every day. Sobriety is something I DO for me.

The way I see it, I used to “allow myself” to drink, I used to “allow myself” to get drunk, I used to “allow myself” to shirk my familial and financial responsibilities, I used to “allow myself” to neglect my personal appearance/self care, I used to “allow myself” to be found on the floor next to my bed, on my face in a pool of blood from passing out and falling on my face nearly breaking my nose (yes, more than once). But finally one day I REFUSED TO “ALLOW MYSELF” TO DIE FROM ALCOHOLISM. Because that’s where I was headed.  That’s the “allow myself” straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back. 

I have a life-threatening problem that once had me. I now take charge of my life and my disease. And my responsibility to myself, doesn’t involve “allowing” things to happen to me–I am in charge of my life and my disease. This I know, and this is what has worked for me thus far in my journey. I wish you peace and strength in yours–you can do this…I did.

I think I just learned more about myself, in my 5-minute response to someone else, than I have over the last 15+months…


When is Good Liver news Bad for the Liver?

I received some phenomenal news that has me giddy with gratitude and full of fear. My sister, she of the elevated liver enzymes and possible liver damage, received word today that her levels were normal, and to return in 3 months for a final testing.

Good news: she is out of danger health-wise.

Bad News: she may be in danger sobriety-wise.

I fear that after being sober for over 3 months, she may use this “get-out-of-jail-free-card” as an excuse to resume her 8am-8pm daily drinking.  My strength in this situation is my over 1-year period of sobriety (achieved over this summer-yay me!)…but that’s also my weakness. How to encourage, without being preachy. How to set an example, without making her feel she can’t live up to my standards. How to be firm, without being intimidating.  How to suggest an attitude of gratitude, without her becoming resentful of me…and my suggestions.

Ah, the tight-rope of sibling relationships complicated by the pickling (prickling?) effects of decades of abusive drinking. Well, after 30+ years of working without a net, I’ll step onto that rope. I owe it to my sister…I owe it to myself.  And hey, I’ve got a safety net of sobriety to shore up my courage and fortitude. BRING IT ON!!

Out of the Frying Pan, Into…

And so it begins. As I rapidly approach my 1 year sobriety “re-birth” date, I receive the call, not 3 hours ago, that I had been dreading. A close family member has been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. I had been dropping gentle suggestions over the last year for her to reduce/quit her drinking before she got a physical wake-up call, as I did last year.  But as we all know, from our own experiences, alcoholics know better, and they sure as hell don’t listen, do we they? So it is now my job, my calling, to use every ounce of gentle coercion persuasion to try to convince her:

  • No, Monday morning, 4 days from now, is not a good day to start sobriety…TODAY IS THE DAY!
  • No, I don’t think she should detox “naturally” at home…LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR, DETOX IN HOSPITAL!
  • No, I don’t think she should do this alone, whilst hubby works…LET ME COME SUPPORT YOU FOR A FEW DAYS!

How does one preach without being “preachy”? How does one proselytize without getting the door slammed in your face? I am on thin ice AND shaky ground here. As I sit on my sobriety pedestal stool, I can feel it is sturdy, all four legs are on the ground, and yet the paint is still tacky and undried. I know my stool isn’t enough for her right now, she needs a wheelchair. I am not a trained professional…I don’t even play one on TV…how am I going to pull this off?Image



Free Refills

My cup is approaching half-full.  This used to be panic time for me,  in my other life.  It’s still a troubling time now, because my “sobriety cup” is usually well over half-full.  I’ve been on an upward trend emotionally over the last few months, with plenty of good sobriety mojo to spread around, but something is pulling me down as of late.

In my other life,  lots of my friends were bartenders.  Or was it that lots of my bartenders were friends?  Either way, I used to get my share (and then some) of “free refills”.  But nothing really is “free”, is it?  God knows I paid the price for those freebies.  I paid in relationships, I paid in health, I paid in depression, I paid in having my soul sucked out of me.

In the nearly 1 year since I have become sober, I’ve been on a semi-high emotionally.  Chipper, helping drag friends out of their emotional quagmires, advising family members through their various crises, and counseling/consoling members of my sobriety group.

I’m starting to come up dry.

Emotions and generosity and energy are all lagging.  I need a free refill.  Guess I have to walk to the soda machine like a big girl and get it myself now.



I. AM. SOBER.  Three little words. Yet gigantic in meaning. Which word we put the stress on in this sentence tells us where we are at any time in our continual journey into sobriety.
I am sober.  I, me, as compared to my friends, or my family, or my spouse or partner, or my co-workers.  It doesn’t matter what they are, or aren’t doing. It doesn’t matter what I see on TV, in movies, magazines or online. I am doing this, and I am doing this for me. For myself. For the “I”.
AM sober. I’m not talking about last week or last month. I’m not talking about tomorrow, or next year. Or when I find a job. Or on Jan. 1 next year.  Right now, right here and now, in this moment. Not “was”, not “will be”, not “want to be”, not “wish I was”…..I am. Be the “am”. Own the “am”.
I am SOBER. I am a lot of things. A woman, a wife, a sister. I am at times happy–at times melancholy. I am a procrastinator. I am a changeling.  But I need to acknowledge to myself, that among my many wonderful (and not-so-great) characteristics, my sobriety is both an important, and yet still one part of the puzzle of me. I need to keep an eye on this important puzzle piece.
So how do you say this sentence? Which word are you emphasizing…today?
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