Isn’t it great how we all have favorite things? I love books, music, and nature. I also have other odd favorites, like bread butts, burnt baked goods, and finding whatever I need when I ask the universe for it. So, it’s no surprise that I once had a strange attachment to a parking spot which caused me a great deal of anxiety and grief.
It started at my old toxic job after co-worker #1 got sick of the bosses shit and quit. Enter, Susan. A quirky senior citizen born and raised in New York only evident by the way she says ‘reguleh’ and ‘wehk’ (work). She moved to Pennsy in her early twenties. It turned out we both lived in the same town (an hour from the office) and both liked to be early.
The first time I saw her car in my parking spot, I was like, “OK, Susan. You’ve only worked here for like three months. That’s my parking spot.” I said it jokingly, but was serious. I had ten years seniority on her at the time! How dare she! This went on for a number of weeks until I came home from work one day and vented to my husband about her disdain and blatant disrespect for me.
He was kind of shocked at my attitude. “What happened to letting go and letting the Universe? What happened to detaching?” I thought about that long and deep.
What the hell was I thinking? A parking spot? Really, Darlene? So, I did what any level-headed human would do… made a cup of coffee and wrote out a list of my resentments and the why’s of it all. It turned out my attachment was the basis of my misery so I had to detach.
It was difficult for a day – after I prayed on it and looked at it for what it was, I asked the Universe to remove my shortcomings and the attachment…
I wanted it removed, believed it removed and so it was removed. Ironically, after I let it go she stopped parking there.
Have you ever gotten attached to anything like a parking spot, mug, etc?
Good afternoon. My name is Darlene and I am an alcoholic, addict, bonafide do anything that feels good until it almost kills me human being. I haven’t had a drink or a drug since 2006. Doing other feel-good stuff however (eating, over spending, etc) I have partaken in and it is time to quit that shit.
One of the things I had to do to get where I am today is “clear the wreckage of my past.” Now, this is a term used in treatment programs and it began in AA. And while it is mostly used in twelve step programs, I have to say that it can do wonders for anyone who feels stuck in the molasses of life.
I have cleared the wreckage of my past a few times… Taking a personal inventory is not a one time thing. It’s kind of like a tub drain. It gets clogged from the daily debris and muck of life and then it starts to slow down and before you know it, there is a clog. Clear the clog and the drain is flowing smooth and free.
Ain’t no arguing with the truth when you spin it in an honest way.
That’s how it is in life. All that crap we hold onto clogs our judgment, thinking, and decisions until we find ourselves in places we don’t belong with people we shouldn’t be with doing things we swore we’d never do.
In 2005, I tried to get clean and sober but refused to take responsibility for anything in my life. Finger pointing still kills me every time. These days I don’t drink over it, but I do feel shitty when I don’t look at my life honestly and decide to blame other people for my shit.
Even this morning, this lady in traffic pissed me off but then after my self-checking honesty I said, “Darlene, you’d be fine if you had left the house on time.” Ain’t no arguing with the truth when you spin it in an honest way. Did I want to be the one to blame? Hell no. But I was and after I admitted my wrongs, I felt way different after I got over my bruised ego.
When I take a look at the shit I have been through and any shit I am currently experiencing, I can absolutely see a correlation with past events if I am honest about it. There are a few gurus I have listened to and read that have helped me with his process.
Some people call me a pretentious, self-righteous bitch. And I am totally cool with that. We can only reach the people the way they are listening. I was that person a long time ago and once in a while I still am that person. A lot of times I want to write something and then I have to rethink it. “Am I speaking from my heart or my ego?” I do speak from my ego sometimes… we all do.
So, every day I try to figure out what is going on with me and live my best life. There is no substitute for rigorous self-honesty. There just isn’t. It is the one thing that will transport you to every next level of your life. So far it has done wonders for me. I am not saying that I am like Deepak Chopra or The Dali Lama and forgive everyone immediately or that I am all peace, sunshine and flowers all the time… hell no.
I love music. Have since I was a wee crying baby in a crib and my grandmother couldn’t take it anymore. The closest thing she could find was a little music box that played ‘London Bridge.’ She tossed it in next to me and whaddaya know? I zipped my lips. I’m still that way. If you want to shut me up, turn up the music.
Since I got sober in 2006, I have done a lot of reading of certain texts like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, One Day at a Time, etc. You get the idea. I have also thrown myself into numerous writing projects. It started with The Daily Woman, then I went on to write for Technorati, then Rock On Philly, then Brutalism.com, then on and on. I now write this blog (damswriter), along with books and also for a website called Devil Inside Promotions. Around 2015, I started a website called Rock Metal Scissors. It was really just for fun. I had been writing about music since about 2008 and had built up a lot of connections through writing via other sites. I’m sure me branching out on my own had to do with someone pissing me off because I couldn’t write what I wanted to write.
They say that contrast causes us to act and thereby changes our lives. Isn’t that beautiful?
The Steel Onion was born and I was able to do what I loved! I wasn’t getting paid, but that was fine. I was having fun. The whole project was 100% self-supported financially but the more I said, The Steel Onion, the more people didn’t get it.
I need to change the name… after some meditation, I came up with ROCK METAL SCISSORS. I loved the way that sounded! I envisioned it as a household name in the music scene…
But, I let Rock Metal Scissors fall by the wayside for about a year. I had so much stuff going on – plus working a day job – that I couldn’t hang anymore. Some things I noticed while I took a break from writing about music:
I was prone to more fits of crankiness. I felt sad a lot more. I was hearing all this great stuff but what could I do about it? I was able to immerse myself in nature which was awesome and I also got to spend more time with my husband, which was doubly awesome.
Then I got an email that threw me right back in… A guy from a label was representing one of my favorite bands! Was I available for an album review and also… to cover a local show? Um, yeah! That was all it took for me to realize writing – writing about music – is a true passion of mine.
And now I am 100% serious about my writing. I have set up a Fiverr site, and am starting to pitch to sites all the while keeping up the work on Rock Metal Scissors.
Stay tuned for my next post about exhaling and going for it in the world of freelancing! And hey, go check out Rock Metal Scissors. 🙂
As a former trainwreck of society, I dumped my share of toxic damage on many loved ones and even a few strangers while sifting through my twenty year ‘it’s not me, it’s you’ phase. It was something I was ashamed of after a sober realization in the middle of the night when I sat up in bed screaming, “I am a monster bound for a sweltering hell!” But after successful and even a few unsuccessful amends to those tied to my ‘train tracks of redemption’ I see my part in all of it. When I was still actively using, I wore a mask of self-righteous indignation, and I destroyed anyone who didn’t cosign my bullshit.
Fast-forward eleven years, and through hard work, determination and a lot of ‘for fuck’s sake’ moments, I have seen the error of my behavior and have now crossed the bridge to unwillingly watching non-sober people try to live their non-sober lives.
I am not talking about people who drink casually or have wine with dinner a couple of times a week. Drowning in addiction is a terrifying thought… and it isn’t something that becomes apparent immediately, which is more terrifying. Most times, we have no idea there is a problem until it is too late. Although every knock on the door is a storm of chaos and turmoil saying “What’s the worst that could happen?” we do not possess the ability to recognize we are the eye of that storm until it literally destroys our life.
“But for the Grace of God, there go I.”
I am currently working on a memoir because my story is important; it is important for me to write as much as it is important for people to read. Hell, it is possible as you read this you know someone who just cannot get their shit together – maybe they hide bottles in the house and car – or maybe it is you. I share my story to help those who are still sick and suffering.
When I run into a new version of the old me, I have to stay and deal because honestly, these people are put in my path for a reason. While my initial thought is to get this person in a sober headlock and bombard them with catch phrases, famous quotes, and literature, I am confident this will just scare the shit out of them, so I have to resort to stern subtlety.
Stern subtlety: Not cosigning their bullshit but not making them feel inhuman.
I have someone in my life right now who refuses to understand that while bad things don’t happen every time they drink, every time something bad does happen, they were drinking. And I want to grab this person and shake them and somehow get footage and lowlight reels from when I was their age and in a whirlwind of chaos, but I can’t do that.
I can’t save her.
I have to remind myself I cannot save anyone… salvation lies within, my friends. Instead, I have to sit and listen… really listen… and yeah, maybe throw a few slogans their way if the opportunity arises, but mostly I just sit and listen… and hope like hell they get it sooner than later.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” J.K. Rowling
If you think you have a problem with drinking, please visit:
Hi Ted, thanks for agreeing to do an interview with me. First off, I want to congratulate you on your clean time. It is a rough road I know personally, but very rewarding. It is people like you that inspire addicts and alcoholics in recovery to keep that glimmer of hope alive, no matter how dark it may get.
1. I read your press release and you said, “After I got clean, I thought ‘What am I going to do with my life?” I can relate to trying to transition into a life without drugs and alcohol. Was it difficult for you to find something to do immediately?
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be creative without drugs or alcohol and I’d almost made the
decision not to play music anymore! My thinking was that my creativity was too closely linked to my
drug use. Fortunately, the Universe had a different plan and opportunities in music presented
themselves more abundantly than they ever had before! 2. What brought you to the United States from New Zealand?
I moved to the United States when I had around 18 months clean as guitarist, co-writer and
backing vocalist with popular NZ artist Greg Johnson. I had started playing in his band and he
asked me to accompany him for some showcases for Record Companies. He ended up getting
signed, and we moved to L.A. to make an album..
3. What was your darkest moment while out there (using)? Was that enough to get you to wake up and realize you could die?
I had a few brushes with death while I was out there. I think one of my darkest moments was getting
the news that my friend and fellow musician Matt had died from this disease. I was devastated and
although I had OD’d several times myself, it still took me over a year more to go back into detox and
try treatment again. He was so talented and it was such a waste, but I knew it could be me or any
one of those ‘smart, talented’ addicts I was using with.
4. What has been the most amazing part of your journey through sobriety so far?
There have been so many wonderful moments. I feel like all the great things that have happened in
my life have been since I got sober- getting married, traveling the world playing music, seeing all the
art I’d only ever seen in books, making albums.. Using provided me with a very limited view of the
world but recovery has expanded that view by putting me back in contact with human beings! Every
day can be an adventure if I can keep an open mind and remember to be grateful.
5. Now that you are clean and sober, do you look at people differently? Like, do you have more tolerance?
I really had to learn how to deal with people again because I was just so used to being loaded all the
time and that had been my point of reference for so long! I think I’m more tolerant these days simply
because I feel more a ‘part of’, but it’s still a challenge (especially on the freeway!) 6. I actually love driving on little country roads, it helps me reconnect with my Higher Power and regroup when life keeps being life. How do you relax these days?
I meditate, I read (for entertainment as well as for inspiration). I have 2 cats and a dog and I find
them to be a great source of relaxation! ( I never had pets growing up so it’s still a novelty for me). As
I said, I love art so going to museums and galleries is something I love to do.
7. Tell me about the song, “Bringing my Past Back (But Not To Haunt Me).
This is really a song about the ‘steps’ and the work that’s asked of me if I really want to get the most
that recovery has to offer. Sometimes that work is tough- messy and painful but if I’m prepared to do
it (and I never have to do it alone) I’ve discovered that the benefits are incredible. The trick is, that I
have to keep doing it if I want to experience growth.. 8. Did you ever think that you’d be living the dream today? Getting to do what you love?
I don’t know what I thought when I was in active addiction! Mostly “getting, using and finding ways to
get more”. I always thought that I had the wrong life, that it, “wasn’t supposed to be like this”…my
fear was that I would die from my using. Every day surprises me!
9. Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for addicts and alcoholics still struggling with addiction?
Anyone can get clean, lose the obsession and find a new way of life. But you need to have had
enough and of course that ‘rock bottom’ is different for everyone. One thing I know is that we can’t
do it alone, I tried many, many times. The disease of addiction is cunning, it will give you many
reasons why you’re different, why recovery won’t work for you, but it’s working for millions of people
all around the world every day! It’s important to just jump in feet first! It’s scary, but so is using..
10.I did not get to hear the song, “Looking for Home Down Hallways.” But it immediately gave me a chill as I thought back to the days when I was so alone and just wanted to be loved. Can you elaborate on this song?
This song is about looking for salvation. From a person, a drink, a drug, money, a location.. Anything
outside myself that I think might be the thing that’s finally going to make everything ‘O.K.’ The pursuit
of that ‘fix’ is what nearly killed me and it can manifest in recovery as well, even without the drugs
11.When it came time to make amends to people, were you excited to get it out or nervous to reach out to people you had wronged?
When I was new, the first step I noticed on the wall was #9 and I thought, “Oh no, I’m never going to
be able to do that!”. Fortunately the steps are in order so I didn’t have to make amends until I got to
that step. I did however try to make some amends before I got there and without my Sponsors
blessing- needless to say it didn’t go so well. The steps are a gentle slope, so even when I’m
apprehensive I’ve been able to move forward..
12.What is in the future for you and your music?
We just completed a beautiful clip for the song “Love Is..” which is due to drop on
10/15. I’m working on songs for another album as well as promoting “An Unwide
Road” The future looks musical!
Decisions, decisions… we make hundreds a day. Some are made with much thought and others are automatic. Like, this morning, I had to decide what to wear (that took a little time since I hadn’t done laundry in a week!) and then I had to decide which way to drive to work (automatic – I go the same way every morning).
But there are other decisions we must make through our busy days. Bigger decisions we don’t even realize we are making! Decisions like: which bill to pay first (for those with struggling finances), public school or home school (for our kids) and whether or not to work from home.
For those tough decisions, I like to do a “pro & con” list. I actually did one of these when I was in outpatient therapy in 2006 for alcohol/drug addiction. Being new in sobriety, I needed all the help I could get and kept that list with me for the first year of my new-found freedom. In group, I had to list the pros and cons of using my favorite narcotic. Honesty was important! This list helped me much in the beginning, because abstinence from alcohol and drugs for someone like me is not just stopping. To never use or drink again required a change in thinking and I was prepared to make that change no matter what.
The most important thing about making a decision is deciding what is the most important (a little Cheshire cat action there for ya).
So the next time there is a big decision to make, get out that piece of paper and make a ‘pro’ column and a ‘con’ column. It sounds silly and childish, but the best decision is an informed decision.
I noticed something about myself yesterday and it wasn’t one of those, “oh wow, this is so cool! I didn’t know I could do that!” epiphanies. It was more like an, “are you freaking kidding me, why do I do this?” glaring defect.
Sometimes I act a certain way, think a certain way or feel a certain way simply because I think that I THINK this is what I am supposed to do. Like, I really get upset over unmonumental bullcrap. Sincerely. This light bulb went off in my head this morning.
So then I ask myself: “WHY AM I SO DAMN ANGRY?” Like, why do I let my head control me to the point of borderline insanity? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that it drives me batty and I am in the painstaking process of changing the way I think so I can change the way I feel there by changing the way I act.
Did you ever tell someone something and their reaction is along the lines of, “Well, just stop doing that.” or “Think about something else.” or (and this is my favorite) “Get over it.”
Get over it?! Cue bitter resentment teetering on unabated rage. “Nobody tells me to get over it! I’ll get over it when I’m good and ready!” “How dare you tell me that. You don’t know how I feel.”
Yeah, somebody call me the Waaambulance.
So, this morning after much coffee and a bowl of Special K Fruit & Yogurt (okay, two bowls) mature thoughts started to creep in my head (kinda like a black goo, only not as ugly) and I started to think:
I do not have to feel this way!
Anger is a choice and it’s on me if I choose anger (or any one of the subcategories of anger).
I can come back to these ugly thoughts later.
I will feel how I choose to feel today.
Let me repeat that last one: I will feel how I choose to feel today.
And that there is the truth about anger. We choose to feel angry, resentful, jealous, bitter and any of the other byproducts of hate. We also choose to feel many of the byproducts of love. We get to choose how we feel about anything at any moment in any situation. We have that power. That’s some huge stuff right there!
Today I have a choice and so do you. Today I will choose love over anger, confidence over insecurity and acceptance over jealousy.
When I was new in sobriety and going to my outpatient group along with attending four or five AA meetings a week, I heard “people, places and things” a lot. When I was out drinking, using and being a degenerate, my people, places and things were drug dealers, bars and excuses to give me the fuel to drink or use more.
My very first time in an attempt to get sober was in January of 2005. Now, my reasons for wanting to get clean and sober were inwardly pathetic. I told my dad I did not want to get high or drunk anymore. He said, “Darlene, is this an attempt to detox so it won’t take so much to get drunk or high?” “Of course not, Dad. I really mean it!” So on New Year’s Day in 2005 my dad drove me up to Livengrin in Bensalem, PA and dropped me off to detox for four days.
Now, when I went in there, my dad was right on the money. That was exactly why I wanted to go to detox. But after being in there and getting weaned off of opiates and detoxing from alcohol and spending time with people who had it far worse than I did, I changed my mind. I really did want to get clean and sober.
After four days in detox, I got out and felt refreshed. I had a roommate who lived in Bucks County (I was living in Philadelphia at the time) and we exchanged numbers so we could hit a meeting in a couple of days.
I went to an AA meeting with her; it was the only AA meeting I attended in 2005. My dealer lived right down the street from me and I knocked on her door about seven days after I had gotten out of detox, told her I just got out of detox and asked her if she had anything. She looked at me stupefied. Looking back, I do not blame her.
See, people, places and things are huge in recovery. I am not saying that everyone that goes into recovery or treatment or gets clean and sober should move, change their name and paint their dog, but it is a good idea to be aware of triggers (people, places and things).
How I avoided people, places and things:
1) I moved. This is not possible for everyone, but it helped me.
2) For the first few months of my sobriety, I avoided passing establishments (places) I previously frequented.
3) I worked on what my triggers were and went to great lengths to recognize them; not embellish them and use them as an excuse to drink.
For those who cannot move, I suggest building a strong sober network and keeping in touch with those people. Addicts and alcoholics still active in their addiction/alcoholism feel resentful at those trying to get sober. And while they will not necessarily try to drag someone down who is trying to get clean and sober, they will not exactly be on your cheering squad.
I have a friend I used to get high with and had coffee with him a couple of times after being new in sobriety. I could not figure out why I had an awful knot in my stomach and wanted to get high each time I was in his presence.
Thankfully, I had a great sponsor and was in outpatient therapy at the time (both of these helped me greatly) that gave me the tools to recognize that he was a “people” and I needed to cut ties for a while.
Do you have any people, places or things that trigger you into bad behavior?
When I first came in the rooms, I did not know what to expect. As an active alcoholic, I made it a point to avoid people (especially women) at all costs because of the shame I felt inside. So when I got sober, went to meetings, and saw people talking and laughing as they drank coffee from little Styrofoam cups I was kind of freaked out. It was one of those things like, “Ok, I didn’t know what to expect, but I surely did not expect this.”
Being a woman (and I hear this in the rooms and the stories) and newly sober I did not get along with other women. I stuck with the men because I had always been more comfortable with men and apparently, I am/was not the only woman who felt that way.
It took me a good three years before I took a deep breath and started chatting with women outside the rooms before the meeting, during the break and after the meeting. There is a slogan “show up early and stay late” concerning meetings and that is the best thing any alcoholic can do to build a sober network.
There is also a slogan “the men stick with the men and the women stick with the women” that newly sober people should stick to, but rarely do (I did not stick with the women in early sobriety and wish I would have).
How I Built My Sober Network
The biggest thing in building my sober network was getting rid of the old, drunk network I once had. That was first and foremost as people, places and things are a huge part of getting sober and staying sober. So I had to weed out my old “party” friends and replace them with new sober friends that have similar goals in mind.
As I met people in the rooms and got phone numbers (from women!), I quickly realized that getting a phone number and actually calling that number were at opposite ends of the comfort spectrum level. I had to talk to these women or I was going to stay stuck in the rut of anger, resentment and bitterness that had consumed my life.
This is what I did:
Said hello to women at meetings.
Made it a point to make small talk with women during break.
Got phone numbers and gave out my phone number to women at meetings.
Went to women’s meetings.
Doing all of those things was extremely uncomfortable but they needed doing and I could feel myself grow a little more each time I talked or interacted with another woman in the program.
Today I do not have many female friends, but the friends I do have are good, sober women that I can count on if I ever need an ear a shoulder. We have coffee, chat about life stuff (not always pertaining to sobriety), are honest with each other about where we are, and if there may be a better way of doing things.
Emotions are a part of our internal make-up. All emotions derive from two core feelings: love and hate. Slice it how you want, all the positive feelings we have stem from a form of love, all the negative feelings stem from hate.
I just finished reading a great book (I reviewed it – the link to that will be up within a couple of weeks) called, “Why You Drink and How to Stop” by Veronica Valli. I was skeptical at first, but I kept an open mind and although I am over six years into my sobriety, I learned some valuable information from this book regarding emotions.
One of the worst behaviors I ever learned was “acting out based on emotion.” Being a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, if something made me feel sad or angry, I would act accordingly. Likewise, if something made me feel happy or fuzzy, the addict in me would react in a positive manner and want more, more, more.
Now, human beings are emotional beings. Duh, like I am telling you something you do not already know. However, when we let our emotions rule us, we get into trouble. There is no law or rule that dictates “everyone must know how everyone feels all the time.”
I will share a psychotic story from my past:
When I was 22 years old, I was already married for six years. Yep, I got married when I was 16. It was part of that whole “alcoholic thinking.” As an alcoholic, I thought outside circumstances could fix the way I felt inside always.
I had found out my husband at the time was cheating on me and I went ballistic. Like full on rage mode: seeing red, black, shaking, and everything else, that comes with unabated rage. Being ruled by my emotions (all stemming from hate) I decided to do what I thought was in my best interests and show him.
So, being out of my mind (and to make a long story short) I wound up smashing my beautiful 1986 Monte Carlo into his pick-up truck. Yeah, not smart. This is not the best way to express emotion! Now I had new feelings and emotions to deal with: remorse, guilt and sorrow.
In the midst of the insanity, I thought I was expressing emotion in a healthy way! I mean, I was pissed and needed to let someone know, right? Well, maybe… but there are healthier ways to express emotion.
One of the best tools I learned in sobriety is to take a moment and calm the hell down. Just because I am feeling “some kind of way” does not mean I need to freak out, hop in my car to drive like a maniac or start throwing dishes.
Some of the ways I have successfully controlled my emotions:
Calling a sponsor or a friend and talking it out.
Chanting a mantra. “Feelings aren’t facts, facts aren’t feelings.”
Going for a walk or some other physical exercise.
And yes, even taking a nap.
I know I have brought up journaling a bit in previous posts, but writing does help. Moreover, finding what helps (not hinders or hurts) to control and deal with emotions is the key.
I still have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, which may just be one of those character defects I have to learn to control if it has not been removed.