Finding the Razzle-Dazzle
Every day is a gift you get to unwrap and enjoy.(paraphrased from Harry Harrison or Thich nhat hanh or some other wise person)
Hello. My name is Vixen Lea and I have been Razzle-Dazzle for 753 days.
January 7, 2018 is the day that I made the decision to quit drinking.
It seems like such a small thing when you look at the words of it: I Decided to Quit Drinking. Like I just made a decision and then that was that and all was good in the world. But of course, it’s so much more nuanced than that. I was SO AFRAID. It was like I was about to say Goodbye to my entire Being; like I was going to strip off all of my layers of self that I had spent the last 25 years of my life crafting around me and start over bare and nude. Who would I be? I asked myself, panic gripping my chest, my pen shaking as I wrote in my journal. I’m afraid to quit drinking. I was terribly hungover as I wrote those words. I had wet the bed. My brain felt like it was pushing through my skull. My body hurt somewhere (legs, arms, toes? maybe it hurt everywhere). But these sensations were normal. They were part of my usual morning routine. They were the toll I paid for the numbing and false joy the night before. My baggage and burdens I had been toting around for decades. I endured them and carried them on my back and in my heart because I thought I could never set them down.
I had already had a plan to cut back on my drinking before this painful morning. I knew things had to change. The universe had been screaming at me for some time now that I needed to pull my head out of my ass and take a good look at my reality. My kids were 4 and 2. I was their primary caretaker and I was too exhausted most days to do much more than lay on the playroom floor and silently hope that no one would poop in their diaper because I might vomit. I got winded climbing the stairs to their rooms. My throat would close up most mornings during breakfast and I would have to excuse myself to spit and gag in the kitchen sink. My guts alternated between constipation and diarrhea (the “beer shits” as we would call it). Alcohol was slowly killing me, and it was finally too much to ignore.
My New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to limit myself to one drink per day, and no more than 4 drinks for a special occasion, like Date Night or Book Club. NO HANGOVERS! I wrote in bold letters in my journal. On New Years Eve I had 4 drinks and went to bed, so proud of my new accomplishment. Then 6 days later I had a rough day with the kids and my husband opened a bottle of wine. We got to talking, and –well, what the hell?- I had another glass. Then the rest of the bottle and then who knows what else, because once you’re in it, you’re in it, and now it’s fun, and we are listening to music, and we were going to have sex… and then I woke up in a puddle of my own pee with my throbbing brain trying to bust out of my head.
I cannot control it, I remember thinking that morning. I have a problem. I began to cry. I finally admitted what I had tried to push back and hide and explain away for years and years. Once I said it to myself there was no taking it back, no pretending I didn’t know how bad it was. I checked my Facebook feed (like I do every morning, ugh) and saw a Before-And-After post by my old high school friend Ed who I used to party with. He announced that he was 5 years sober that day and living his best life. I opened up Messenger to contact him, then paused and set the phone down. My stomach lurched again, doing flips, my throat began to close up: What am I doing? If I dare speak this alou or write it in words, it will make it irreversibly true.
I breathed. I cried. I picked the phone back up and typed the words: Hey old friend. Just saw your post… congrats on your soberversary. I have just begun my journey to quit drinking. It’s terrifying. Any words of encouragement would be great appreciated.
He wrote back. He became my lifeline through those first few weeks as we messaged back and forth. I didn’t really tell many people in my everyday life about my new path, mostly because I didn’t want to field questions or elicit sympathy. I didn’t want my friends to tiptoe around me or perceive me as “Broken” or “Sick.” I knew I did not want to go to AA – I’m not a believer in the traditional “God” and I did not feel that I was diseased. It just didn’t resonate with me. My friend Ed said “I don’t think if myself as an alcoholic, or in recovery. I also don’t want to admit to being powerless against it. I’m not anonymous. I’m not powerless. I’m out, proud, and powerful.” That’s what I wanted. That’s where I wanted to be in 5 years.
I had ordered two books the week before that I finally opened that morning: How to Quit Drinking Without AA by Jerry Dorsman and This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol by Annie Grace. The first book had some great self-assessments and journal prompts that forced me to come face-to-face with the depths of my alcohol problem and its impact on my life. The second book is what set me free. My inner scientist really lit up as Annie explained the chemical effect of alcohol on the body and mind. It was undeniable. I had to choose to walk away from it. I have two small children and it is my responsibility to be healthy and strong so that I can be their mom for as long as possible!
And so it happened that as my mind began to clear and my body began to heal, I began to discover the magic of living.
I became connected to my own cells in a way I never have before. I found myself becoming more spiritual and deepening my connection with nature and other humans. I started riding a bike again, which is so much fun! I started doing yoga and realized that so much of the pain and shame I used to hide within myself can be shifted and released through mindful body movement. I began to meditate and find comfort inside my own being and peace through stillness. I rediscovered my quirkiness. I love unicorns and weird socks. I like wearing crystals and hugging trees. I like reading about quantum physics and paranormal stuff. I’m less and less concerned about other people’s judgments of me.
Every day is a gift I get to unwrap. My days are no longer spent in false pickled mania or sour aching recovery. They are mine to build and enjoy, challenges and all.
I struggle now with the word Sober as a descriptor of my current state of being. It seems far too beige, too muted, too quiet, too obedient. If Sober had a face, it would be that of a stoic older male, lips pursed and eyebrows slightly raised at too much tomfoolery. I just can’t wear that term around as a label. I’m not just Sober: I’m intoxicated by the summer breeze or a trickling stream or a group meditation or a live concert. I’m not just Sober: I’m giggling in downward dog because I had an epiphany that made my earlier mom-nagging seem so trivial and silly. I’m not just Sober: I’m wearing a bright green Miss Frizzle dinosaur dress and a feather ear cuff and I’m dancing on top of a granite boulder to a song playing in my own head.
Everything is so much BIGGER now that I’m not constantly numb. Everything is so much LESS BEIGE AND MUTED AND OBEDIENT. I have so much more SPARKLE in my life than before I made that decision to quit drinking. Sometimes there are aches and pains and bad feelings, but at least they have a name or a source, not just some amorphous cloud of sad or fear or shame that I had to drink away.
I needed to call myself something different than Sober. It just didn’t fit. So I looked up the antonyms to sober in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. I scrolled through the adjectives: asinine, ridiculous, flippant, tawdry, over-done… no, no, no, no, nope.
And then there it was, the term that describes my life now: Razzle-Dazzle (adj) Definition – a state of confusion and hilarity.
Yep, that about sums it up. As a wife and a mom of 2 kids, I’m trying to heal myself and fuel my inner joy while heating up mac and cheese and wiping butts. I’m trying to connect with the souls of the world and also remember dentist appointments and make valentine boxes that look like ponies. I am the opener of juice boxes and the soother of bad days and the cleaner of litter boxes, while hoping to find time to keep my own chakras in line and fan the ember of my personal power. My days are almost always heavy with confusion, but when I can breathe deeply enough to stay in the present, they are also lifted with hilarity.
753 days of Waking Up Razzle-Dazzle. And counting.
©Vixen Lea 2020