My Granny just told my Mom that her dressing looks like cat litter.

OH FOR GOD’S SAKES I’M ALREADY BEHIND.  I had such high hopes to be on the ball this week with my Thanksgiving posts and coping strategies but . . . oh hells bells, y’all . . . the holidays are upon us. Again. This is a SUPER FUN time for folks that struggle with alcohol because, well . . . isn’t it obvious?  Family. Stress. Holiday guilt. Political divides. There are a zillion reasons to get twitchy around the holidays, especially if you’re trying to protect your sobriety AND your sanity. I’m by no means an expert, this is only my second year of sobriety. I’m still baby stepping and navigating the land mines myself.

I’ve had some funky Thanksgiving’s.

One of my most memorable ones was back when I was living in Hollywood.  Me and my gay mexican BFF Jerry (this was my dead friend Ben’s roommate and how I met him, incidentally.  YES, BEN AND JERRY.) decided to say fuck it and go to a bar, (surprise!) and avoid all things turkey. As we sat in the dark solace of The Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, I noticed John Cusack sitting at the end of the bar. He’d been out riding his motorcycle. We chatted and I was even on the receiving end of a delightful Jagermeister shot. He wouldn’t let me return the favor. “I’m not drinking that piss and getting on a bike”, he said. Smart dude.

One year my live-in boyfriend of two years broke up with me promptly after our dinner with family. Was it the brussel sprouts, honey? I proceeded to get Yeltsin drunk and after a hysterical phone call my Mom came over and helped me start packing. THANKSGIVING NIGHT. Moms are awesome like that. She also “accidentally” spilled an entire bottle a wee bit of her red wine on the very light beige carpet that evening. Oops.

One year another friend of mine made me an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. Incidentally, he has one arm. The only thing I did all day was open some evaporated milk with a old school manual can opener. Remember those? You really need two arms.

Another year a casual friend of mine invited my Mom and I to her house for Thanksgiving and due to some plumbing problems she had all of our dishes and prep work in her bathroom and was using her tub as the “sink”. It wasn’t so much disconcerting as it was vomit inducing. I remember bringing jello shots as my side dish. I can’t even make this up.

Reminiscing about these Thanksgivings makes me realize just how much things have changed. How this path that I’ve chosen or that chose me has led me here. This year more than ever I’m thankful for family and old and new friends. I’m thankful for an asshole cat. I’m grateful for a husband that supported me in the fight for my life AND in this writing endeavor. . . and he still makes me laugh every single day.

And of course, thanks to you guys for reading. I’m just getting warmed up.

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Say what you want about country music but they really first cornered the market on drinking songs and this is a new favorite of mine.  Even if you don’t enjoy watching a scruffy but somewhat mesmeric attractive cowboy sing with a voice as smooth as Bailey’s Irish Creme country music, you should at least check this out for their exquisite choice of wardrobe.  Seriously.  Enjoy Midland and their song, Drinkin’ Problem.  

“People keep talking, drawing conclusions, they call it a problem, I call it a solution”

Buy their album On the Rocks now!

Take your kids to work day – Circa 1977

Growing up my Dad worked as the Sexton of our small town’s cemetery and my little brother and I rode along many times as he performed his duties. Have you ever contemplated how they dig graves in wintry climates?  Well, wonder no more.  Coincidentally my parents also had an antique store and had bought an old hearse that my Mom drove to haul their treasures around, so in retrospect it’s amazing that I had any friends whatsoever. I’m telling you, there’s no such thing as a normal childhood.

One of the laments I hear amongst the newly sober is that they are concerned about losing part of their “identity” by becoming a  non-drinker. Drinking is just part of who they are, they say. Oh, I get it, I do.

If you’d have asked me a few years ago to sum myself up in a few sentences I’m quite sure “lover of all things martini” may have come up in the second sentence. When drinking has been part of your life as long as it has mine, well then. . . it IS part of your identity, sure.  It’s partly the truth and it’s partly your reputation but don’t discount the huge role it plays in your interactions with others. I was the life of the party, until I became the laugh of the party. . . and not in a good way.

It was definitely a big part of me though, and my persona. That wild gal, that bawdy uproarious chick that appeared to be so self confident, she and I were one for many years and it was terrifying to think of life beyond my liquid courage. Booze cured any social anxiety that I had. I was less nervous and awkward and more at ease. I could mix and mingle with the best of them and even though I’ve never been a shy person, I’ve been made to feel inadequate and been less than comfortable in many social situations. Booze took care of all of that, thank ya very much. Instant comedian, just add vodka!

Who would I be without it? Dull, for sure I thought. An exposed fraud perhaps? A sniveling and trembling graceless idiot? Yes, definitely. I will never be the same, I fearfully speculated.

Taking away the element of alcohol was a crippling thought. It was my defense, my armor. . . my SHIELD. The thought of going “dry” into just about any adult social situation (and some with children, let’s be honest) was enough to throw me into hyperventilation. Until I just did it.

That’s right. I just had to do it. And you know what? It was something I discovered at one such gathering that helped me to see things differently. My husband was speaking to a mutual friend of ours at a dinner party and I walked through the room at just the right moment and overheard him talking about me with his usual candor.

“Yes, she’s doing great and you know what? She’s funnier than ever. She is! In fact, I’d say she’s even more hilarious because she’s just so sharp now.  Man, I swear, she doesn’t miss a beat. Her wit and observations are even more astute, if you can imagine that.”

And just like everything else in my life, I saw myself a bit clearer than before.* Booze hadn’t made me smarter or funnier, or exceptional in any way. I realized then that by getting sober I had in fact unknowingly become a better version of myself. No, I certainly wasn’t the same gal anymore, and I’m truly thankful for that.

I’m certain not everyone likes this gal, but I sure do. And so do the people that matter most to me and of course, in the end, they’re all that matter.

 

*Let me be clear,  I’m no Gilda Radner or anything, it’s just occasionally he thinks I’m amusing and I sleep with him so he mostly has to say nice things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My two year surgery anniversary just passed and that means I got to go the hospital for what is called a TIPS ultrasound. This is just like the ultrasounds they do for pregnant women, except in my case they’re looking at a super expensive shunt attached to veins bypassing my liver and not a blossoming baby girl or boy.

This appointment has been set for quite awhile yet I was still nervous the night before. I wasn’t able to have anything to eat or drink past midnight so of course I was already starting to worry about this around 9pm.  Yes, this is what my brain does to me.  “What if I wake up at 3am and I’m CHOKING and need some water just so I can breathe!? I better have an extra scoop of ice cream so that I don’t get peckish later tonight. OMG DOES THIS MEAN COFFEE TOO?  I can’t have coffee in the morning?” Let me just mention here that I am NOT one of those have-to-have-coffee-in-the-morning people but if you tell me I CANNOT have it, well then I immediately become caffeine dependent and my life depends on it.

Funny thing though, when I sprang out of bed at 5:43am coffee was the last thing on my mind. I was a little pace-y. My sweet husband gave me a comforting hug and assured me that everything would be just fine. After all, I really don’t have any legitimate concerns. I have not had a drop of alcohol in 828 days, not that I’m counting. I continue to practice a low-sodium diet. I poop like a ROCK STAR, yo.  All of these things get a big thumbs up in the liver support management department.

I arrived at the hospital and a deluge of memories hit me as soon as I hit the automatic doors. That hospital smell. Oddly enough though, it was somewhat comforting. For all that I went through in that exact same hospital, I was surprised to discover that I harbor no scarring post traumatic feelings or thoughts about the place itself.  Quite the opposite, really, I felt safe.

Part of the process entails meeting with your patient representative first to go over your paperwork and medical insurance, etc. They basically just verify all your information and get you to sign some waiver thingies and whatnot.  As Nicole greeted me and shook my hand I liked her immediately.  She had a warm smile and a cheerful scarf tied in a jaunty bow around her neck. As we went through the protocol, she could tell I was nervous.  And in typical Jen fashion, when I’m nervous, I overshare.

“Yep, just here for a standard check up on my liver. Nothing’s wrong of course. Just here to make sure everything is tip top, you know?  Run o’ the mill appointment.  I mean, not that it wouldn’t be okay. . . I’m doing everything the Doctor’s told me. I’m not drinking or anything. Does it say “alcoholic cirrhosis” right there in my file? Geez, that’s embarrassing.  Is there any other kind? Well, I guess there probably is. Now THAT would suck. At least I did something to deserve this, right? Anyway, that’s all in the past now, I’m good. I mean, in today’s world it’s really a miracle we’re not ALL alcoholics, isn’t it? Have you seen the news lately? OMG, do you watch The Handmaid’s Tale?! Do you think that’s really where we’re heading? Now that I don’t drink I just eat a lot of chocolate and go to meetings. You should put that in my file. If my liver is failing will someone call me directly because that’s not really something I want to recieve via text message.”  And on and on it went. . .

Poor Nicole. Perhaps she should’ve had an extra cup of coffee.

And the end of my diatribe she gently smiled and put me at ease the best she could. Her job is really just administrative and I’m not sure she was even privy to any procedural information related to my appointment.

Upon finishing we stood and she shook my hand. She wished me luck and told me to have a good rest of my day. As I stepped into the doorway our eyes locked for a second and I could tell she had something else to say.  I looked at her inquisitively, eyebrows raised.

“Jen, on the 15th of this month I will be sober for a year and a half.”

I couldn’t control my big cheesy grin because at that moment, I knew everything was going to be alright.

 

Ben and I hit up New York City for their gay pride festival some years back and needless to say the entire experience was off the chain. For four days straight we ran through the city like children on a playground. It was a magnificent trip and one of my happiest memories. Ben died in May of this year and I think about him every single day. It’s so gut wrenchingly hard. He made an appearance in one of my dreams recently and I was telling a mutual friend of ours about it.

Me:  “Yeah, it was nice. He seemed happy. He was wearing a tie-dyed shirt.”

Friend:  “Really? Well, there’s your sign. You said you were waiting for a sign from him.”

Me:  “Yeah, I know, but what do you mean? Do you think it’s a sign that he’s happy?”

Friend:  “No way. He’s clearly in hell if he’s wearing a tie-dye”.

We laughed for five minutes straight.

 

One of the awesome benefits of having your own blog is sharing stuff that you dig. This is my favorite song right now and I pretty much just listen to it over and over all day long. Remember the show Ally McBeal? In one episode her therapist recommends that she get her own “theme song”. I like that idea, so here it is. I’m not sure if it’s the galloping melody in a unsettling minor key or their siren like harmonies or the tapestry of the dream like video or the raw girl power or just the stirring lyrics themselves. . . which are filled with regret, remorse and worry, but it’s an ethereal tribute to hope and we could all use a little more of that these days. I present to you, First Aid Kit and their gorgeous song, My Silver Lining.  Enjoy.

 

“I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon, having no idea who or what or where I am”

When the shit hit the fan in 2015 I developed a condition knowns as Ascites. It results when there is a surplus of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Ascites is most often caused by liver scarring, in my case, Cirrhosis. This increases pressure inside the liver’s blood vessels. The increased pressure can force fluid into the abdominal cavity, causing your belly to swell where you appear to be about 14 months pregnant.

I got stopped everywhere I went with well-wishers wanting to know everything.  “Have you picked a name?  Is this your first child?  Oh my goodness is it going to be a Christmas baby?!?”

And you know, people seemed so sincere and kind in their heartfelt words for me that I just didn’t have the heart to tell them it wasn’t actually a baby so naturally I made up a bunch of crap because that’s how I roll.

“It’s a girl and I’m naming her Nicorette!”*

“Heck no it wasn’t planned, I’m not even sure who the father is!”

“Can you touch my belly?  You do realize you’re not at a fruit stand, right?!?”

I had to be drained seven times before my surgery.  Go ahead, read that again.  Drained.  VURP.

It was during this time that per Doctor’s orders, I attended my first meeting for addiction and recovery. I was terrified. I hear a lot of folks say how indignant they were at their first meeting, how they didn’t identify with anyone there and how, inevitably, they felt they suffered from “terminal uniqueness”. Yeah, well, if everyone is unique than no one is, amirite?!?

I was scared, plain and simple. Scared of the meeting. Scared of dying. Scared of living. I was just flat out terrified. I was determined to not talk to anyone and to sit in the back with one horribly swollen foot (donning a cammoflage Croc*) out the door.

Which leads me back to my initial point as I was also HUGE in circumference. As I sat there planning on how I was NOT going to participate in said meeting it occurred to me that these folks here were going to take one look at me and assume I’m pregnant. Pregnant and drinking copious amounts of alcohol, nonetheless. As the meeting began, they asked if anyone was here for their first meeting. My plan of staying silent flew right out the window because, you know, HOW DARE THEY JUDGE ME?!?

I immediately spoke up and said in a high squeal, “My name is Jen and I am not pregnant. I know I look it but my liver is really swollen and there is a lot of fluid surrounding it right now and I just want you all to know that I’m definitely not pregnant.”

So yeah, I cleared that right up. In hindsight, I also made it abundantly clear that I was in the right place by that assertion. I waited for their scathing reactions.

Remarkably, they did not recoil in horror, nor was I laughed at or judged.  I was met with warm smiles, kind eyes and a soft but solid “welcome” by the group. Don’t get me wrong, I was still humiliated and filled with shame, but something in me softened, and looking back on it now, I’d say it was relief. For the next hour I heard their stories.

No one I knew drank like me. No one understood. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone finding out my truth, and yet, here I was in a room of strangers that suddenly seemed to have a pretty good idea.

There’s a saying that reads “Alcoholism can kill you, but it has to get you alone first.”

And just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore.

 

 

*this is Jason Isbell’s joke and I totally ripped it off but the reactions were so worth it

** much like in legit pregnancy my feet had swollen to astronomical proportions and I had to purchase CROCS to wear as they were the only shoes what would accommodate my HUGE ASS FLIPPER FEET and if that wasn’t bad enough I had to get MENS and they were camouflage from the Duck Dynasty line.  I SHIT YOU NOT.

 

Fun Foto Friday!

November 3, 2017

OMG I’M SO SORRY.  I know Halloween is over but ever since I saw this photo of The Shining twins I cannot wait until next year and now I really need to start stalking looking for my new husband that will do this with me.

How do you know if you’re an alcoholic?

I get asked this all the time. Even recently by a nurse. When someone finds out about my trainwreck of a past ahem, history, I always encourage any questions they may have. For such a common problem, alcoholism is still very much a dirty secret for many. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to publish a public blog declaring their status as a raging alcoholic. Go figure.

Webster’s Dictionarya chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction.

For me, pretty much everyone knew I had a drinking problem, especially in the last few years, so it wasn’t really a surprise to anyone what happened to me. No one was scratching their head, let me assure you. Rarely does an alcoholic hide it as well as they think they do, and I certainly can vouch for that.  Sooner or later, the jig is up and rock bottom is different for everyone as well.  The lucky ones don’t get to the depths of despair before reaching out for help. However, I was always a late bloomer.  Late to the party and the last to leave, me. I knew I was an alcoholic, but it kinda felt like having high cholesterol. . . just keep an eye on it and manage it accordingly.  Seriously, this was my thought process.

I’m Irish. It’s a thing. At least I thought it was.

And here’s the other thing; you could ask every alcoholic out there and they’d all have a unique and individual response to that question. . . how do you know if you’re an alcoholic? 

A lot of folks also will offer “if you want to stop drinking and you find that you cannot“. That one has always seemed kinda obvious to me, but trust me, in the insanity of alcoholism nothing is obvious to the alcoholic. “You make alcohol a priority over your responsibilities” is another. “Normal people don’t worry about their drinking” is also a favorite.

I don’t know. I defer to the always astute Morticia Addams…

There is no normal, in my opinion. In the last two years I have met alcoholics of all ages, sizes, creeds and colors. Decorated war veterans. Professors from universities. Indigent folks and yes, some even homeless. Stay-at-home mothers. Business folks of both genders. Alcoholism does not discriminate. Alcoholism doesn’t care what town you’re from or how you grew up or where you went to school. It doesn’t give a flying flip if you’re a kindergarten teacher or a inmate on parole. It’s a misconception even now that most of us do not in fact sleep under overpasses and hiccup bleakly from the gutters surrounding bars in dark and shady neighborhoods.

No, I guarantee you know an alcoholic even if you don’t know you know. You do.

The good news is that we’re all in this together.  Every single person I’ve met in my journey has taught me something.  No one is more qualified to relate to an alcoholic like another alcoholic. This I know for sure.

So, sure, you can take an online quiz. You can try just drinking on weekends. You can try white wine only for awhile. Can you stop? Do you even want to?  How do you know if you’re an alcoholic? It’s a simple question although the answer is can be remarkably complicated.

Here’s my answer to that question: If you stop drinking and your life improves dramatically, then you may be an alcoholic.

I’m Jen and I’m an alcoholic.  It’s nice to meet you.

 

 

Wednesday wins!

October 30, 2017

 

Perez and I will be out and about tomorrow getting into Halloween shenanigans.  You can catch us on Instagram @thepartyisoverblog, or check back here for a recap!  Thanks to everyone for reading, voting, and indulging Perez and me in our ridiculousness.

Perez does Halloween – Costume Contest!

October 28, 2017


Alright, it’s been exhausting awesome, but the week is finally over and it’s time to vote!

See the nifty poll below and let’s place bets on how long it takes me to figure out this software.

We’ll announce the winning costume on Monday and Perez will wear it as he goes about his day to day. . . on Halloween!

Scarecrow

Tom Petty

Wednesday Addams

Eleven from Stranger Things

The Artist formerly known as Perez