RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: October 2014

I’m Andrea and I’m an Alcoholic

1

Hi –

I’m Andrea and I’m an alcoholic.

Actually, it’s true. It’s kind of a new thing, so I didn’t know how to break it to you all. Honestly, I’m not even sure who reads here anymore. My biggest stats as to date are 95 on October 3. I used to get close to 1000.

I’m not sure if my dip in readers is because sound bytes on Facebook are far more exciting than reading narrative. It’s of course possible that my narrative totally sucks. I mean, the first 4 years of me complaining about tics were amazing, but year 5? Meh. I’ve got no cures for this disorder. I’ve got no answers. I could just drown my sorrows in a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and feel better about it all. But I can’t do that because, like I said, I’m an alcoholic.

My mom might be mortified that I’m publically blabbing about my personal defects to all 3 of you who are reading on a Friday night. (The rest of you? Likely out drinking. In fact, Stink has a friend sleeping over tonight because his mom is going out with girlfriends to party it up. Me and tics, the dog, the Ebay, the coffee, Pip reading, the spouse in his polar bear pajamas… that’s my Friday these days.)

I wasn’t always an alcoholic. I didn’t drink through high school, college or even my wedding.

Then, five years ago, I went to a blogging conference in San Francisco. It was 7am in the morning and I saw some ladies sitting at the airport bar. It seemed like a reasonable enough time to buy a rum and Diet Coke. It cost me ten dollars, but it was the biggest buzz I ever had in my life. Totally worth it.

My descent into loving alcohol was a slow one. It started innocuously enough. A rum and Diet Coke at home every other night. A glass or two of champagne at a wedding. Drinks on holidays with the inlaws.

Eventually it turned into Friday nights with some girls from school. It didn’t seem bad at first. If anything, it was liberating. We all brought food, a bottle of red and let the kids run wild. It was called “Wine and Whine.” It was a place to be a bad ass adult. It was community! And venting! And only the cool moms were invited!

Maybe for the other girls, that was their one night a week of debauchery, but for me, the party continued during the week, too. I was hardly drinking a bottle of wine a day. A few glasses here, a few glasses there. Then it progressed to three and four. I’d stop for a day or two, but I’d always start up again. I would begin to obsess about it more than I wanted to. “It’s not a drinking problem, it’s a thinking problem,” a sober friend told me.

“Of course it’s a thinking problem!” I bitched to a different girlfriend. “I’m a writer! I think!” She made me feel better than that healthy bitch who exercised, never drank and had an amazing career and boyfriend. My drinking companion tsk tsked my fears away. “You know what Italians call wine at lunch, a nap, two glasses of wine at dinner, a walk and then a final glass at the pub? Monday.”

“Yeah! I didn’t have a problem,” I told myself after that conversation. “I was making too much of this.” I did the whole self-congratulations check-list: My nightly drinking didn’t make me miss appointments. I wasn’t stumbling to the PTA meetings. I only drank after 5PM. And really, I drank waaay less than many of my peers.

But inside, I knew it didn’t matter what other people were ingesting. It was too much for me. I knew, because I started darting to the market when my daughter was in ballet… just so I could have a glass three glasses when the kids were in bed that evening.

I also started hiding the evidence because I didn’t want to catch grief from my spouse.

A few times I’d hide the bottle in the closet. A friend at AA asked if I hid it in my boot. Apparently that’s a really great trick that all the cool lushes do. I’m not a cool lush. I don’t have stories like my friend, Bobbi, who tried to choke her girlfriend one night after lines of coke and a bottle of vodka. I didn’t end up in jail like Frida. And unlike Rita, I didn’t realize I had hit bottom when I woke up to my drug dealer raping me only to forgive him because I wanted to kiss the coke off his lips.

I had what they call a “high bottom.” That meant I stopped before it became a real problem.

Word to the non-alcoholic crowd: They call alcohol a “progressive” disease. And frankly, I didn’t want that. After a few occasions where I put a bottle away over the course of a few hours – by myself – I got scared. I didn’t want to become “that” person. You know… the one who had such a bad stomach the next morning from the acid that I had to pull over in bumper to bumper traffic to use a museum’s rest room.

Except I didn’t make it out of the parking garage. It kind of (turn away Mom) slipped out before I got to the restroom. I had to finish my business behind a pole. Thank God the plants were tropical. It’s Los Angeles! I covered up my business with a fancy succulent and did the walk of shame back to the car.

I had hoped that maybe the mess wasn’t too bad. I took a selfie of the back of my pants – careful not to “Post” to Facebook. Um, it was bad. I had to go all the way home to change. That got me mad.

I was angry at God. It had been a terribly stressful year. I was still adjusting to full-time work and my husband’s freelance business. Add in tics and my daughter’s needs, it was too much to bear. I had thought drinking would solve it… take the edge off… but the more I drank, the more I had to drink to feel less. And then the next morning I’d be depressed. You know, because alcohol is a depressant. And then I’d wonder why the Zoloft wasn’t working.

And here’s the thing – feeling less pain also meant feeling less joy. Which, in the car home that day, I was faaaar from feeling.

I shouted out to God, “Why didn’t you give me a sign that maybe I was doing too much?” From the pit of my soul, this was the response I heard from Him. “You SHIT behind a pillar at the Skirball Museum. What bigger sign did you need?”

Two things dawned on me that morning.

1. When you are driving home, with the sun beating into your SUV that smells of human feces, you are no better than anyone else.

2. I needed to stop drinking. It wasn’t worth it.

So really, my bottom hit because of my bottom. And I’m glad.

I’m telling you this story not because I have no shame (sorry, Mom, I really am an over-sharer) but because no matter how much we want something to change, no addiction is going to make it better. In fact, it’s only going to make it worse.

I got lucky. I realized that wine was not my friend before I killed my kids in the car, ended up in jail, ruined my marriage or destroyed my family.

It took 3 months of attending AA to finally get comfortable with my label. But now? I love it. These women I chat with every week are some of the most enlightened, happy, together people I have ever met in my life. They cry sometimes, and they get angry. But they have hope. This hope comes from having a place to share life. A place to do relationship. A place to vent. But unlike Wine and Whine where all I did was vent and stay stuck, I now have a place to be honest and get real. I have safety.

Feeling safe and loved and warm is far better than being packed in cotton from alcohol and anti-anxiety pills. I’m now sober and completely off my Zoloft for the first time in years. It feels exhilarating. I feel like myself. It’s not always pretty – but it’s me. (Well, I look pretty. Sheesh.)

Tics don’t always feel safe.

My marriage sometimes doesn’t feel safe.

My income and not selling this book as fast as I’d hope doesn’t make me feel safe.

But guess what. It’s life on life’s terms. And that has to be enough.

In closing, for those of you who have a glass of wine or two sometimes, that’s totally fine. My ladies at Wine and Whine can do it and that’s their choice. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m lucky that they have never once given me a hard time about it. Now, on occasional Fridays, they drink and I suck down coffee. I don’t make apologies. I’m too bad-ass for that and they are too accepting to need it.

If you’re like me, thinking that wine (or something else) is the only way to get rid of some frustration over what you can’t change, I am here to say that you can do it.

You are strong enough.

You don’t need to numb your soul to soar.

You need to let it out.

Ask my spouse, my mom and some of my closest friends who have seen my emotions zig zag the past few months. That freedom can be ugly, and pissy and uncomfortable while you find new ways of dealing with a new life. But holding onto habits is false freedom. A bear in a cage gets free food and warm blankets, but it’s fake domesticity. A bear is meant to live in the wild. He needs to be free to fight, to socialize, to hunt and to bathe in river streams. So do I. And so do you.

Don’t get sucked into a false life.

What you are holding onto might seem okay, but it could be so much more than okay. It could be AWESOME. You just need to walk into that room and say what you know in your soul is true. That you are not living in a manner that is worthy of your true potential.

That you can do so much more.

That there is joy and peace and so much more laughter than you can ever imagine.

But you just have to be brave enough to take that first step.

I’m Andrea, and I’m an alcoholic.

(And I’m so grateful.)

Advertisements

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other, Second Installment

A year and a half ago I brought you the first installment of “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.”

Featuring Pip and Stink playing arcade games, as well as packing suitcases, it was very apparent that one had a Hermione Granger flair that was in direct and obnoxiously startling contrast to her Fred and George Weasley counterpart.

While one might think that over the years personalities might soften, my two rug rats seemed to hold even tighter to their attributes. And where did this show up more than when I received their school photos back?

First, I present Project A. Notice the combed hair, the polka dot jacket, the lovely smile and, peeking through the crisp vest, a modest tee shirt featuring a vintage typewriter. It’s subtle and modest. Class mixed with modesty. A real elegant stunner.

1

And then we have this.

2

Any questions?

ScholasTIC – Are You Comfortable With Your Kid’s Teacher?

teacher

I’m not sure about your children’s education situation, but my kids go to a charter school. For some people, sending their child to public school is akin to throwing them out on the street with nothing but a can of Yahoo and a comic book. For me, it’s heaven.

Their peer group, and teachers, have more skin colors than Joseph’s amazing technicolor coat. There are at least 20 moms and dads I can call last-minute if I’m running late for pickup. One mom, who reads this column, met me at 830 this morning to give me a few bottles of GABA that her daughter wasn’t using. “I read your blog,” she wrote me last week, “I have some extra if you want it.” Doesn’t get better than that. (Thank you, friend! You know who you are!)

Our school isn’t perfect. If Tuskany were a blogger (which she isn’t because she actually has a strong sense of boundaries and privacy, unlike some people she knows… ahem) she’d tell you many stories about my freak outs. “Some kids are ganging up on Stink at the play ball courts!… This one teacher thinks Tourettes is spelled Tooretts and is the reason Stink is into fart jokes!”

Yup, some of the kids over the years have been rough around the edges. And some of the teachers weren’t what I’d call Mary Poppins perfect, nor insightful. But isn’t that what school is about? To learn how to accept differences, stand up for oneself when things aren’t fair, fail, grow, rinse and repeat?

Lest I sound like St. Andrea, Patron of the Los Angeles School system, I didn’t always feel this way. Sure, I wanted my baby kinder to go there, but in all truth, I was terrified. On his first day of school, I introduced myself to a man with long hair, striped socks and George Michael shorts. I thought he was an eccentric big brother. “Hi, I’m a new mom, Mrs. Frazer,” I said, giving him my hand. He shook it with exuberance, smiled and declared, “I’m one of the assistant teachers… Chachi!” I almost passed out.

Stink’s new school was very developmental. It used buzzed words like “engaging the student” and “peaceful learning circles.” Some people might think, “Whole Child! Montessori style nirvana!” I’m an ex-Catholic school girl. My thoughts ran more along the lines of, “Tree huggers! Unicorns! Ruuun!”

Before you judge, Stink was my first to go to school, and I had a big diagnosis in my pocket. For some people, a few tics and a T.S. label wouldn’t sound so daunting. But for me? It produced nausea-inducing fear. “What if he got worse? What if other kids noticed? And worse, what if he was made fun of?” I ruminated.

In retrospect, I made myself crazier than I needed to be. While it’s normal to have concerns, I didn’t put mine to rest easily. If only I had someone to guide me… to tell me that it would be okay. I wish I knew that even if he ticked to the point of cursing (my biggest worry) he’d still be okay. Why? Because who Stink is, not what he does, is what counts.

Little by little, I began to cut the cord. I started being less concerned with who I wanted Stink to be. I started truly enjoying who he was. So what if he’s not into sports. So what if he has a hair-do resembling a bed-headed Beetle. So what if he still likes Pokemon while other kids are into baseball cards. It really doesn’t matter one bit what other children are doing. What matters is what my kid is doing. And best of all, he’s happy and content.

He’s not the only one. If I was ever not sure about my big leap of faith into the chasm of the L.A. charter school, yesterday’s letter from his teacher sealed the deal.

I had written to her about Stink’s tics which, well, are still pretty intense. I had told her that I didn’t want her to be afraid of bringing the situation up to me. After all, as much as my son deserves to make a few sounds and twitches, other kids deserve to learn. If it becomes disruptive, I’d be open to accommodations.

After a brief note back from her, reassuring me that no one is bugged by his tics (minus one kid who goes into the office sometimes for solitude), I wrote back. I thanked her, as well as informed her that I knew Stink was in good hands. I told her I wouldn’t harp on the tics anymore and asked, instead, if she would keep me abreast of his focus issues.

This is what I got back – everything verbatim but the names.

Hi Andrea,

Please don’t feel as though we can’t talk about Stink’s tics. I have no concerns about you worrying about his tics, and how it may impact his learning in the classroom! That’s like me blaming you for being a caring mother! So, talk to me about his tics anytime, and I will inform you if it gets to be too much for the other kids. They know to accept him, and treat him with compassion and respect. No one in class talks about Stink in a negative light; I will not tolerate that.

I think as long as he makes a conscientious effort to stay focused, he can do it. By the way, I reviewed his essay with him today, and gave him a few recommendations…like transition sentences between paragraphs, topic sentences for each paragraph (that are not, “I’m going to talk about…), expanding his ideas, etc. I’m not sure he will revise independently, tomorrow or not. I think that he is under the impression that he is done. Maybe once he types it up, he can take it home and have you look it over with him.

My Best,
The Most Amazing Teacher on the Planet

You’re doing great, Andrea.

Take-away

Find a school with teachers like this. It can make all the difference in your kid’s journey. It can also keep you from running off with a Highlander and drinking a vat of Two Buck Chuck.

Leave a Comment

Tics or not, where does your child go to school? What makes you love it and why? What makes you not love it and why? Would really love to hear.

Exercise, The Magic Kingdom and Richard Simmons

1

I took a break from blogging, T.S. and all things work related yesterday to spend the day at Disneyland with my daughter. Thanks to Tuskany, whose hubby works at the studio, we not only got free parking and a free park entrance, but there was a substantial discount on merchandise and food as well. Plus she has an electric car, so no gas was required. (Well, I can’t say there was no gas. I had two cups of coffee. But that doesn’t count.)

To say it was a magical day is an understatement. It was exactly the medicine the doctor ordered. I am so grateful.

While I absolutely refused to post Facebook photos of myself and my kid in front of Cinderella’s Castle per my latest anti-boasting Facebook Embargo, I feel okay bragging about it here. It’s a reminder for me, when I look back at posts, that sometimes when the world feels like a big giant “no” there arealways people ready to throw me a “yes.” That was Tuskany, and I am so very grateful.

Side note: For those of you with friends two decades long, call them up and say hi. Whether they can offer you free theme park passes or not, there’s nothing like a live chat with someone who has loved you through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Throughout the day, I made a conscious effort to not look at my phone. I didn’t need to text my friend about my job interview. (Yes, it went very well, thank you!) I didn’t need to call my spouse about picking up my son. (Rex is more reliable than the inevitable waxing and waning of tics.) And I certainly didn’t need to check my email to see updates on my Ebay shipment, who needs help with their kids, or what some random website was emailing me about gluten free corn dogs that I can’t afford to buy now anyway. Yesterday was just about the people directly in front of me.

Staying focused on the present is no easy task for an over-thinker like me. Pinocchio’s nose made me think about lying, which made me think about the Monsanto cheating us out of healthy food.

As quickly as I’d bring myself back to the present, Cinderella’s lost slipper would make me think about my shoes. “Is that why my back is hurting? I don’t have proper footwear?” which inevitably lead to my son’s feet. “I need to get Stink new shoes. And really, if I think about it, he needs to do more exercise, that would help with the tics!” And just like that, I’d be down Alice’s rabbit hole quicker than you can say Giles de la Tourette.

But here’s the deal. At the Happiest Place on Earth, it’s impossible not to think about the magic of life. I might not be able to make all my problems go away like Bibbity Bobbity Boo. I might find myself fighting tic crocodiles for a while or being rudely awakened by the fact that my Prince sometimes has more frog in him than Royal blood. (Like last week… not our greatest week ever. But hey, I didn’t make a horny toad joke. Until now. Oh, well.)

james and andrea

But life is not a fairy tale. There are good chapters and bad chapters, villains and heroes. But in the end, with the right perspective, I can have Happily Ever After in accepting what it is I can’t change, changing the things I can, and having the wisdom to know the difference.

Yesterday, I accepted what I couldn’t change: The tics were still very  high.

I accepted what I could change: “Yes, Tuskany, I would LOVE to take my daughter out of school and surprise her with a Disney day. Thank you!”

And I had the wisdom to know the difference: I reminded myself that I had a plan to slowly incorporate some of Doctor Carroll’s suggestions when I get my full-time job. Until then, I would journal and write lists. Then, with the knowledge that nothing would be forgotten,  I had no choice but to focus full attention on a lovely little girl who is growing up before my very eyes.

I also would like to add that I had a another genius stroke of wisdom. My son needs more exercise, and so do I. With all the gray hairs I’ve gotten in the past two weeks worrying about what I can’t change, and his spike in symptoms, perhaps we can both start exercising to Richard Simmons. He makes me laugh like crazy, plus he has a video called Richard Simmons and the Silver Foxes. It stars his mom, Farrah Fawcett’s mom, Al Pachino’s mom and Sylvester Stallone’s mom doing leg kicks, twists, stretches and other good-for-you cardiovascular moves, all set to tacky 80’s music. When Simmons does a re-do with Stink’s mom, I’m in.

 

I’d love to know how you all are managing your lives. What exciting things are you saying yes to?

Bonus points for anyone who wants to do a Richard Simmons video. Who is in? Leave a comment. I’ll be giving you a quiz next week, so no cheating. Get on your tennis shoes, strap on your fanny pack, and get ready to disco like a silver fox!

9 Ways a Naturopath Can Help with Tics and Tourettes

1

Today I took Stink back to Dr. Carroll. It had been over 3 years. Instead of fitting halfway on his exam table, Stink took up the entire table, his size 8 mens Nike’s dangling off the edge.

As usual, Dr. Carroll was calm, cool and collected. Just walking into the office I felt a sense of peace. I’d call it the placebo effect of Mama about to get some help, but Stink himself barely ticked at all. Between Stink’s “Tough Guys Wear Pink” tee shirt, and Dr. Carroll’s crisp and cool lavender pressed oxford, I felt like Spring had sprung again in my heart. I had forgotten how smart and lovely this doctor is. He really knows how to interact both with a neurotic mama (um, me) and a spirited, sweet kid.

Note to self: We need a calmer environment at home. Working on that. Sadly, I don’t drink wine anymore and I’ve never smoked doobage. Perhaps I need a full box CD set of John Denver. And a truck load of clove cigarettes. Thoughts?

Keeping this short as I have a big day with my daughter tomorrow. You know… the kid that doesn’t tic who is just as valuable to this family and worthy of attention. (Note to Moms: Don’t get so sucked into your “special needs” kid you forget that all your kids have special needs! And you do, too, cause you’re special!)

Here are 9 things Doctor Carroll had to say about tics

1. No gluten or dairy: It is the devil for all auto-immune disorders.

2. No video games: NONE. The basil ganglia gets over loaded with dopamine. Wires get crossed. It’s just bad bad news.

3. Check for food allergies: Get blood work done up to check for a comprehensive food allergy test. Once you know what your child is allergic to, you can best give him the nutrients he needs for his growing body. The testing these days has offending items narrowed down to food dye and specific chemicals. (Specific test links to come once I find out!)

4. Lots of exercise: If your child is addicted to video games, the physical movement will help the craving go away.

5. Fish Oil: Make Nordic Naturals your friend. It helps support a child’s brain and aids in focus.

6. Saliva based Genetic Testing: Get a work up done by 23 and Me. One swab of your child’s saliva and you can have real insight into what’s packed into their DNA. Knowing this can help your naturopath treat your child’s specific ailments.

7. GMO is the Devil: Yes, not feeding a child GMO can actually make a huge difference in their symptoms. I’ll talk about GMO more another day. First, I’d like to watch the movie, Genetic Roulette, which talks about how the chemicals in our food is a huge reason for the issues we are seeing in our children. 

8. Organic Organic Organic: Yes, this makes a difference. See #7. It’s not that much more expensive to eat organic if you are willing to shop on sale. Stay away from the Dirty Dozen and stick with the Clean 15. The verdict is split on if fruits with thick skin like bananas and melons have to be organic. Some say the thick skin makes it okay. Others say it’s bad because it gets into the “blood stream” of the plan either way.

9. Supplements: Once you have a nutritional plan figured out for your child, a good naturopath can provide suggestions for supplements that can work with his nutritional needs. (Ex: Dr. Carroll mentioned Gaba as an excellent source of “calm” for Stink’s overactive brain.)

2

HELP!!!!!!!!!!!

Does this seem like a lot to you? It does to me. I can’t do ANY of it now. I just can’t. I’m on a budget. My husband is not on my alternative medicine train. And yet, I feel excited. I have a plan. To me it all makes sense.

For the next few days, I’m going to let this all sink in.

Then I’m going to hear about my job interview from yesterday.

And when I get something full time with benefits, I’m going to execute. Little by little, step by step.

PS: The one thing I don’t think I’ll do is take away video games all together. Why? Stink isn’t 100% on board. He’s almost 12. He must be proactive in this area. I would like to see if we did everything else, with video games down to a few hours only on weekends, if this will do the trick. If not, it’s out like a rotted organic peach.

Until Thursday, may God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, change the tics you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

What about you? What do you think about the list?

More of my writing can be found at ChristianMingle’s sister site, Believe.com.