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This Could Have Been Me

Recently, someone recommended that I watch a video on Netflix. Lipstick & Liquor is a documentary film that explores the growing number of suburban women who become alcohol dependent. It is a film about women and alcohol – one in particular who disappeared on a frigid December day. Thirty-nine year old Julie stumbled away from a minor car accident, leaving behind her eight year old daughter, an open container of alcohol and a host of questions that baffled her family, her friends, and the police.  Days later, Julie was found dead right around the corner from her home. 
We had a huge snow storm several weeks ago and similar events unfolded right in my own neighborhood. I didn’t know the woman well, but had met her once through my husband. He told me that she also suffered from a life-threatening problem. She disappeared during the storm and was discovered two days later, a victim of hypothermia and other injuries.
This very thing could have happened to me! She came from the same culture, socio-economic status, and community as I do. She was admired and esteemed by all who knew her. 
I remember, awhile ago, I started drinking in the morning and walked down to the local liquor store. On my return up the steep hill home, I slipped into the woods to have a few drinks, hiding so my adult children who were home wouldn’t know. The glass bottle was tucked safely under the waistband of my sweats inside my coat. I placed my arms around my tummy to keep my prize from escaping from my grip.  
I had sneaked out of the house earlier, no one the wiser save for the occasional passerby and the liquor store owner. He didn’t recognize me because I seldom frequented his store. I was ashamed to be known as a familiar buyer in my own neighborhood. Years ago, when it was owned by different people and I was in denial of my disease, I was a regular. Back then, I told my kids it was the licorice store because I would purchase licorice for them when I stopped to get my own treat. My own treat ~ really?
The news of the woman in my community has hit me hard!
I picture that day.  She saw the snow coming, went to church, cleaned the house, cooked her family’s meal, all while sipping her drinks. I imagine her husband getting frustrated with her – scared and angry, helplessly taking away her keys. Then, after he left for work the following morning, the cravings hit hard. Without a vehicle, she grabbed some cash and began the mile long trek to the store. Ahh… the bottle.  Walking home, she stopped and hid to take a swig. She slipped in the snow, already a foot deep and still coming down. She reached for her phone, but realized it was at home. She couldn’t get up.
I envision her husband returning home from work to a cold and silent house. He calls his wife’s cell and it rings in another room. He is alone, completely alone. Out in the driveway sits the new fifth wheel they purchased to vacation with this summer and in the coming years of retirement. After a long while of comforting his anxiety, reasoning that she is with a neighbor, or on one of her long walks, he faces his reality. He calls 9-1-1. A report is filed. The adult children are notified. Days pass. Another needless tragedy has struck. 
Liquor and lipstick – the middle class career woman’s essential purse items. According to the documentary, DUI arrests of women have increased by 30% over the last ten years. Binge drinking by women is also on the rise. However, if you were to query a woman’s family or friends about her habits, many would not even know she has a problem. That’s because women are more likely to drink alone and keep it hidden. 
This could have been me. It could have been you. We must stay vigilant so that our families do not endure this type of senseless loss. I have so many questions. How do I reach out to women in denial, women at risk, women who believe they are fine because they think they are responsible, women who call themselves highly functioning? How do we reach these women before they die? How do we reach all women? How do we help homeless women, women of color, and women in abusive relationships? How do we help them find peace? 
It is my sincere hope that these women will discover the benefits of Women For Sobriety (WFS) and its New Life Program. To learn more visit https://womenforsobriety.org/
~ MAC
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Monday Thoughts 8/27/2018

“As you become aware of what has robbed you of the purity of an innocent mind, a clear heart and a strong body, you will be deeply served by letting go of those familiar limitations.” Debbie Ford

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~~Thich Nhat Hanh

“Often we want to go back to the familiar, go back to where we felt our life pause, but nothing is ever the same.” ~~Erica Durance


Statement #9:
The past is gone forever.
No longer am I victimized the by the past. I am a new woman.


Regret, shame, and guilt are some feelings which can link us to the past.  Before a sober New Life, these emotions ruled and directed, keeping past dramas, emotions and/or feelings pinned to the present.  Sobriety and Statement #9 in continuing action provide an opening to the present enabling feelings of contentment and satisfaction.

Understanding the need to cling to the past can open the door to the present.  This was a new concept in sobriety.  What was so important in the past that there was a continual need to bring it forward?  Carrying past emotional pain does nothing to ease life but, it is familiar.  Through WFS and the practice of the Statements, I now understand why I remained in a toxic relationship.  It was familiar, and the fear of the unknown bound me.   No matter how much I wanted to go back and fix or rearrange life, the present is the only available moment there is.

The practice of this favorite Statement encourages the release of what no longer works, even if it is familiar.  Examples of this can translate into releasing control and embracing the unknown, letting go of a toxic relationship as I had done, or practicing mindfulness.  New tools can be learned through WFS to bring the present into view, establishing a rewarding, full 4C life.

Hugzzz
Karen


Hi 4C Women,

Letting go of the fear of the unknown and wanting to rewrite history certainly kept me stuck in the past.  Each time I tried to prove myself lovable and worthy, all I got was trapped in a vicious cycle of victimization because I was working so hard at trying to be what someone else thought I “should” be.  My focus was all wrong but I was stuck in guilt that if I was smarter, prettier or worked harder in my role as wife, I would be loved in a way that I needed.  As I started practicing Statement #9, I realized an important aspect was necessary to stop the victimizing of my unfounded failings. That aspect was forgiving myself.  That act of forgiveness changed my actions, responses and attitude.  It helped me to learn that self-love and forgiveness was the key to letting go of the impossible – changing another person’s definition of what my role should be and how love and forgiveness needs to be expressed and given.  Sometimes we carry old baggage for so long that we may not recall when or why we packed our guilt and shame, and most importantly, why we continue to carry it around.

Below is a message from Nancy Cross that dates back a few years.  She was a phenomenal woman, strong supporter of WFS, certified moderator, board member, held the first online chat and wrote thousands of encouraging messages.  Sadly, Nancy passed away on August 25, 2015. In honor of her commitment and loyalty to WFS, I wanted to share her message on Statement 9 – so powerful and insightful.

“I recently had the opportunity to hear Claudia Black, PhD, speak here in Cincinnati . Claudia is a well known author and lectures on addiction and family issues.  You may have read one of her many books, “It Will Never Happen to Me: Growing up with Addiction as Youngsters, Adolescents, Adults.”  (www.claudiablack.com
 
During the second half of the lecture, she presented a visual exercise using three members of the audience.  In front of the volunteers there were numerous pieces of luggage, all shapes, colors, and sizes.  The luggage was handed out to the volunteers – some for them to hold and some for them to hang on their shoulders and arms.  Claudia then went on to explain the luggage.  There is hard-sided luggage representing people who are known for saying, “I can do it myself, I do not need help,” and the soft-sided luggage represents those who “sit on the fence or can’t make a firm decision.” 
 
There was green luggage (envy), red luggage (anger), blue luggage (sadness), and black luggage (guilt, shame, and depression).  All of the things we tend to carry with us or hang on to from our past.  When we find we have too much to carry, we look for a cart.  That cart in my case, was my addiction.  It helped me carry the load, or so I thought.  But that cart only led to other carts as I needed more and more to help with the extra baggage of guilt and shame that became overwhelming.
 
The key sentence in her presentation, for me, was, “Do you know who packed your bags?”  Wow!  So many thoughts came to mind when she said that – voices from the past of parents, other family, friends, co-workers, teachers, ex-spouse, and my own voice echoing my lack of self-confidence.  Each and every one had a hand in packing the luggage that I carried around all of those drinking years.  And was it heavy!  
 
She went on to say that each of us has a choice to continue carrying that luggage, or, to repack it as we see fit to lighten our daily load.  We can unpack all the “shoulds”, the “cant’s” and the “I wish I would haves.”  We can toss out the guilt and shame we carried for so many years.  WE have a choice!  
 
We may have added positive things to our luggage in sobriety/recovery, however,  those bags are still going to be tough to tote until we dig to the bottom layers and toss out the negatives stowed there. 
 
Consider the WFS Program a training manual on how to repack that luggage.  There are some wise lessons to be learned.  I know finding and embracing WFS helped me lighten my load and I have long since given up looking for a cart.
  
So, let me ask you – 
Do you know who packed your bags?  
Have you discovered how to lighten your load?

EnJOY, Nancy”

Bonded in healing from the past and unpacking those unnecessary bags of guilt and shame!
4C WFS Member