Thursday, February 27, 2014

Black Plus White Equals Gray

On my third morning without a drink, I bought two big coffees and a half moon at the minimart on Wanaque Avenue.  I leaned on the counter while I paid for my things, legs wobbly.
"What?  No wine today?" the guy at the register asked me.
"Nah.  Not yet."

I went and sat in the Blazer.  I drained both styrofoam cups and ate my cookie. Then, I went behind the building and threw up.  I wasn't hung over, but I felt really sick.  I couldn't sleep, and I hated being awake. All I did was think about drinking.

How am I gonna do this?
I don't want to.
I need to.
I can't.
I don't want to.
How am I gonna do this?
I don't want to.
Just Drink.
I can't.

I wish I knew more about what was going on inside my body at the time.  Like medically.  So I could have explained it to myself better.  But in all honesty, I wasn't really in the mood for doing much listening.  I was hanging on by my toenails.

My brain was soggy.
Weird physical discomfort.  Big sick.
Plus I was still doing my dope, so my mind was in pieces.

I went back to see Dr. Elrafei.  I told him I had stopped drinking.  I guess I thought he'd be pleased.  I was hoping he'd throw me a bone, like a reward for being so honest.  Something to mellow me out.  His reaction was not what I was expecting.  He was extremely irritated.

"How could you not say what you do?" he scolded.  "When I ask you last time, 'Do you take alcohol?' And you tell me 'no'.
"I was embarrassed," I said.
"Well, you are stupid because you could be dead.  That's worse than having shame."
"You're doing things," he pointed at me.  I wasn't sure if he was asking or telling.  I just sat there, waiting for him to stop talking.
"I still can't sleep," I reminded him.
He sighed.  "Do you want to hurt yourself, Mary?"
"No."  I promised.
"Well, I do not trust you.  And now, we have problems."

Dr. Elrafei took me off the Neurontin.  He increased the Paxil and Klonopin. He said it would help my cravings.  It didn't feel that way.  This shit was for pussies.

I went to a meeting.  I liked the basement of the First Reformed Church on Newark Pompton Turnpike.  It smelled like cigarettes and coffee and a mop bucket.  I recognized a few faces.  I listened to people talk about how fucked up their lives had been.  How they lost jobs.  Alienated family and pissed away marriages. Robbed people they loved and did jail time.  We held hands at the end and prayed. I wished I could have stayed with them when the hour was over.  I didn't want to be by myself or with myself.

I bought a soda at the Quick Chek.  I stopped at CVS and had my prescriptions filled.  I drove to Blockbuster and rented a movie I knew I couldn't sit still enough to watch.  Then I went home and got high.

I saw Dr. Korman later that afternoon.  I told him this was the busiest I'd been in a very long time.  While I was there, my nose started bleeding.  He handed me a tissue and asked me about the drugs.  We talked about them for a little bit.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

National Pistachio Day!

On February 26th, a good way to celebrate National Pistachio Day is by eating as many as you can find. They are so yummy!  Even though removing them from their husks is a tedious and painstaking procedure, I am glad that pistachios are sold with their shells intact.  I personally need something deliberate to slow down my reckless consumption of these tasty little nuts.  I've been known to behave similarly around an unsupervised jar of maraschino cherries.

Pistachios grow on trees, and it takes a very long time to get that first crop.  A pistachio tree matures in seven to ten years.  The nuts are harvested in September by a machine that shakes the trees.  The open hull of a pistachio is unique.  The nut is ripe when the hull splits open.  People often refer to it as the "smiling nut".  This information comes as an appreciable relief.  For the longest time, I thought they were talking about me.

In the mid-1970's, all pistachios sold in the United States were imported from the Middle East.  The traditional growing and harvesting methods used by pistachio farmers in countries such as Iran, Syria, and Greece often left blemishes on the outer shell, which American importers would mask with a red vegetable dye. Currently, about 96 percent of the pistachios sold in this country are grown in California. These nuts are harvested without blemishes, which makes that yucky red dye even more disgusting and a really dumb idea.  Much like radioactive Cheez Doodle powder, I always wipe it on my pants!

Pistachios are nutritious sources of fiber and vegetable protein.  They are loaded with copper, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.  These are some of the most delicious elements from the Periodic Table.  Besides, they have antioxidants, which makes everybody deliriously happy for some organic reason.

In preparation for National Pistachio Day, I have hidden the bag I purchased on Monday and will enjoy them this evening after both of my children go to sleep. Otherwise, there will be no pistachios left for deserving American mothers like myself.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The One I Love Is Gone...

I called Dr. Korman the next morning and asked if I could come and see him.  He agreed to meet me at the office, right after his last class.  I was waiting for him in the parking lot when he drove up.

"Are you okay?" he asked.
"I don't feel good," I sobbed like a four year old.

We went inside and sat there together in silence.  I guess I was hoping he'd tell me what to say.
"You do realize that I can't tell you what to say," he reminded me.  Well, so much for that.

"I'm sad," I told him.
"I know," he replied.
The minutes dragged.  They moved so slow, I could almost see them.

"I think maybe I'm done."  As soon as the words left my lips, I regretted what I'd said.  It felt like I was jumping off a building in slow motion.
I drove to my first AA meeting that evening.  The people there were nice.  When it was time to introduce ourselves, I could barely say my name without crying.  I compared my situation to each of theirs.  No way, he'd understand what I'm going through.  I'm definitely not like her.  I judged everyone.  The whole while, I kept wondering, How the fuck am I gonna get out of this?

I went home and policed up some of the empty wine bottles and beer cans I'd stashed throughout the house.  Dave held open a trash bag, and I kept filling it. He looked dismayed and somewhat relieved.  "I'm not gonna drink no more," I swore to him.

I waited until he went to bed, and then, I got super high.  As high as I could, short of stroking out.  Everything about it sucked.  My life had officially turned to shit.


The next morning, Dr. Korman called to check on me.
"Did you get to the meeting?" he asked.
"I did."  I was absolutely miserable.  I was the unhappiest girl in the world.  Still, I felt like I did something different for the first time in forever.
"Good.  Go again today.  Look for a sponsor."
"But I don't know anybody."
"It doesn't matter.  They know you," he reassured me.

I hung up the phone and gave myself a boost.  Getting high was really unpleasant without the drink.  Needless to say, I missed the noon meeting but managed to make it to the one at 7:30.  On the way there, I realized that I was coming up on two whole days without being drunk.

I'd been drinking for 20 years.  Daily for at least ten, but more like thirteen.  Every single day, there was a reason to get loaded.  Without fail, I consistently had to put booze inside my body. We needed to be together, and I never questioned why. I didn't want to know. That night at the meeting, it dawned on me.  Holy shit.  It's because I'm an alcoholic.  It was that easy.  One simple admission.

This time when they went around the table, I told everybody my name and said something really important for the very first time.  "I'm Mary, and I'm an alcoholic."  It was the saddest I've ever felt in my whole life.

So I'll sigh, I'll cry.  I'd even wanna die.
For the one I love has gone.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jean Martinet

Strict is such an old-fashioned word.  You hardly ever hear it anymore.

When I was growing up, there were three types of mothers.  Those that were strict, whack jobs and the ones who just didn't give a shit.  Mine was strict.  And she gave a shit so intensely, her vehement nature made up for all the flakes and goldbrickers within a fifty mile radius.  Good, bad or indifferent.

Big Mare ruled with an iron fist.  She required absolute control when managing her offspring.  We girls were given very little freedom of choice or input regarding decisions.  I almost hated when kids would invite me over after school.  "I can't," I'd reply without even asking.  "My mother's strict," I told them.  "I'm only allowed to leave my veal crate for educational purposes and on-going religious instruction."  In other words, save your strength and find someone else to hang out with.

Mom viewed raising children as the kind of job that carried a tremendous amount of risk and required rigid safety procedures.  Variations from the program could potentially lead to accidents.  She had her hands full with my father, so she really tightened her grip with us kids.  My sister and I were entry-level workers.  We had few technical skills and were willing to work for no wages.  An afternoon spent eating Cheez Doodles and watching TV at somebody else's house could be detrimental to the disciplinary underpinning of her organization.

Interestingly enough, the same rudimentary parenting styles described above still exist today.  They just have nicer names.  Instead of being labeled as strict, this kind of mother is now known as authoritative.  The whack jobs are permissive, and the shit stains are considered uninvolved.  Everything sounds very smart and polite.  That is, if you care.  Personally, I do not.

I'm determined to bring strict back into fashion.  As far as I'm concerned, it should never have left.  My boys are very aware that this is their reality. Sometimes when they look a little too relaxed, I remind them of the rich familial conventions that precede them.  I try to temper the rigid inflexibility that is embedded in my genetic code with a gentler, more practical approach.  Grooming these two blockheads to become upstanding citizens is a challenging enterprise, and I take it very seriously.

This morning, I asked Brother if he cleaned the bathroom vanity after he brushed his teeth.  It's a relatively easy assignment, as long as you're not spitting all over the sink and mirror while you're practicing good oral hygiene.  My request was met with malignant huffiness, which did not go over well considering I was carrying a full load of clean, folded laundry belonging exclusively to Rory Malcolm, male supermodel.

"Mom, I cleaned the vanity to the best of my ability."  That was his answer.  I'm not making this up.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?  You're not disabled.  Get back in there and wipe down the goddamn sink.  And make sure the edge of the commode is clean while you're at it."

I put away the clothes and listened while he moaned and groaned his way through the task at hand.  When he was done with all the noisemaking, I checked the countertop.  Not bad.  Then, I looked over at the toilet and saw the puddle of pee, glistening in the reflection of the ceramic tank.
"You took care of this?" I asked my young victim.
"Yes," Bro foolishly asserted.  Wrong answer.
"Okay.  Come over here and lick the rim."
"No!" he cried.
"Why not?  You said it was clean."
"I lied."  He stared at his shoes.
"Well then, shame on you.  Thirty minutes off your bedtime.  Now, clean the friggin' toilet."
"Yes, ma'am."

I love when my parenting is cool and collected.  It doesn't always work out that way.  These boys have freedom and privileges I did not know existed in the real world when I was a kid.  I only ever saw it demonstrated on TV.  Mike and Carol Brady were big on executing lessons with regard to accountability and consequence.  Even the Ingalls' girls had more leeway than I did, and they were prairie prudes.  From the 19th century, no less.  I'm sure the Partridge clan faced similar predicaments, but it never even dawned on me that they were a family.  I suppose I considered them mellifluous gypsies that lived together and tried to concentrate on the music, despite David Cassidy's arresting good looks.

I want the Killian Brothers to understand the importance of personal responsibility.  Sometimes, it gets ugly here, and it stays that way for quite a while - until there's a breakthrough.  There are nights that David and I are staring at each other at 8:15 because they've both been sent to bed.  Yes, I can be strict but I am also fair.  I believe in rewarding good behavior.  I encourage their relationships with pals.  It's good for them to see how other young people live.

Every once in awhile, I can tell that my efforts are appreciated.
"Mom, I'm glad I have you and Dad," Desmond told me recently.  "The microwave at Jordan's house is filthy.  Plus, some of his fingernails are really long, and I don't think he owns a belt."
"Look, honey.  As long as he's decent to you, none of that matters," I reminded my sweet son.
"Yeah, I know.  I'm just saying."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

These Shoes

Some psychologists believe that children who have an intimate knowledge of their family's history are typically more well-adjusted and self-assured than youngsters who don't.  It only makes sense that understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself helps promote confidence and a more satisfying sense of purpose.

Even if what you came from was beyond nuts and may very well have contributed fundamentally to what made you half crazy to begin with.  Once you own it, it's all yours.  You can do whatever the fuck you want with it.  That's the gift.

My family and I do not speak often or get together frequently.  We've all grown up and have had lots of experiences.  Yet we still have each other.  Something wonderful is there.  Like an old pair of shoes, it feels worn and familiar.

I drove to the Bronx over the weekend because my Aunt Joan passed away.  I went to be with my cousins.  Like a child, I wanted them.  To spend time in their company and be exactly who I am.  To tease and joke and comfort and cherish.  To give and get some love.

Best funeral ever.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Sex Talk

"Mom, what's a boner?"  Desmond asked.
"It's when your penis gets erect."  As soon as the words left my lips, I felt my mind chase after them.  But it was too late.  My practical explanation had already reached his eleven year old brain.  My son looked horrified.
"That's revolting," he decided.
"Nah.  It's just part of growing up.  Where'd you hear that word, anyway?"
"On How I Met Your Mother," he said.

The next question involved big cox.  Believe me, I was just as surprised as you are. Unfortunately, I must blame myself.  Desmond received several Stephen King novels for Christmas, The Talisman being one of them.  He was beyond thrilled. Stephen King is his teacher's favorite author.  God bless him, the child is a voracious reader.  As responsible parents, I scanned the book jacket and Dave read the on-line reviews.  Everything seemed to be on the up and up. 

Twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer embarks on an epic quest - a walk from the seacoast of New Hampshire to the California shoreline - to find the Talisman, the only thing that can save his dying mother.  But to reach his goal, Jack must make his way across the breadth of the United States as well as the menacing and medieval parallel universe of the Territories. 

Hmm.  Sounds okay.  Go right ahead, kid.  Knock yourself out.

Desmond tore into the story with gusto.  A few hundred pages later, however, Jack encounters some miscreants from Reverend Gardiner's Home for Wayward Boys. It is common knowledge that youthful deviants are notorious for their flagrant use of sassy language.  It's how they get attention.  Remember, the poor things are wayward.

One evening last week, I was innocently preparing the dinner.  While shoveling tater tots onto a plate, the big cox inquiry came at me from out of nowhere, like a runaway train filled with juvenile delinquents.

"Who said this to you?" I asked.
"It's in my book!" Desmond shot back.  He pointed to the page, clearly uncomfortable.
"Let me see that."  I briskly inspected the salacious material in question.
"Well, what does it mean?"  At this point, both kids were all ears.  
"It has to do with sex," I explained without explaining.  Neither boy blinked. "And intimacy between two partners," I continued.  "Do you need additional information at this juncture?"
"No, I'm good," said Des.
"That's just gross!" Bro wailed.

It has recently come to Desmond Henry's attention that this kind of fresh talk is being bandied about at the very back of the school bus.  In what context, I cannot imagine.  It seems to me that when you're in the fifth grade, cox is the kind of word that might drop from the sky and land on you like a grand piano.  It's a tough one to incorporate into mainstream conversation.  Unless of course, you are a recalcitrant youth.  Or you have Tourette's.

"Who's the one shooting his mouth off like a filthy animal?" I asked so loudly that some might suggest I was hollering.  "There are little girls on that bus!  I promise you, if I ever catch wind of you saying nasty things like that with young ladies present, you'll be licking the pavement along Cotton Press Road.  Do you understand me?"

At that moment, it might have appeared that I was angry with my children.  I attempted to reassure them that I was not.  And through clenched teeth, I'm pretty sure I said something about loving them both.

"Fellas, gentlemen do not speak that way.  It is disrespectful to women and dudes."  That's the best I could offer without losing my cool.  "Now, who said it?"
"I don't want to get anyone in trouble," Desmond mumbled forlornly.
"It was Brian," said Bro.

The next morning at breakfast, I suppose Rory wanted to make certain I understood there was nothing to worry about.
"If I hear guys saying bad things in the schoolyard, I'm just gonna run around and run around until they stop talking."
"That's a good idea, Brother."

Desmond's turn again.
"Mom, what does it mean when somebody does this?"  My eyeballs rolled up into the back of my head as I watched my darling son make an "okay" sign with one hand and insert his index finger into the opening.
"Good Jesus, honey.  It means sex."
"Oh, God!" he cried out, covering his face.


We've had quite a week.  We seem to be going through somewhat of a learning curve.  I am grateful that these guys feel comfortable coming to me with their questions.  I hope their unselfconsciousness continues long enough for me to figure out a way to react without looking so shocked.  I understand that curious young men require information.  It just seems early, that's all.

I will continue to address all concerns on a 'need to know' basis, to the best of my ability.  I'm reluctant to offer too many sensational details at this stage of the game.  It's hard to have a discussion about the Facts of Life with boys who are still fighting over gummy bears.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nowhere Else to Go...

Occasionally when I write, the story is already intact and comes together with relative ease.  The details present themselves in a straightforward manner. There is a strong beginning, a compelling middle and a satisfying payoff at the end.  It is exhilarating to guide these accounts into the world, like a capable midwife on hand for a routine childbirth.

Other times, ideas are just floating around like the oddly shaped pieces to many different puzzles.  Removed from their original packaging and left in a big pile, emotions get complicated and need to be sorted out.  These operations can be risky, and I am not a surgeon.  I'm just a girl with a pen and a notebook, writing stuff down.  I remind myself that part of the joy comes from trying to figure out where everything goes.  Cool heads always prevail.

I appreciate the limitless potential of thoughts.  A tender memory, a clever idea, a life-changing experience.  With a little encouragement and guidance,  these musings can become something more.  Something worth documenting and sharing.  I like putting my feelings into words and guiding sentences along, building paragraphs that create the pictures I see in my mind.  It makes me happy to share something homemade.  I love every aspect of this creative process.

Here and there, I have to put aside the serious content and switch to lighter observations.  Just to regain some balance.  I don't live in the past, nor am I a futuristic goal-driven maniac.  I try to find a peaceful place between the things I have done and what I've yet to accomplish.  I seem to be making progress in the world, and I am generally pleased with the results.

This morning, I woke up really early and spent some time in quiet reflection.  I said my prayers and thanked God for all the wonderful blessings I enjoy as a faith-filled member of the human race.  The relationship I share with my Higher Power makes the difference in my life.  As I put myself in God's hands, I can only hope for the best.  I'm okay with knowing He's in charge.  I drank some coffee and started thinking about my breakfast.

As I was typing up these notes, I clicked on the image of this photograph.  I keep it on the desktop of my computer because I love it so much.
It's a picture of Rory Malcolm at the five month mark, a robust lad weighing in at roughly thirty pounds.  Gosh, he was enormous.  This snapshot remains one of the singular, most hilarious things I have ever seen.  Whenever I look at it, I like to imagine that he's just polished off a big roast beef sandwich.  That makes it even funnier.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

World's End

"Well, Mary," Dr. Korman said.  "After listening to your paranoid ramblings for several sessions, it is my professional therapeutic opinion that you are, indeed, batshit bonkers and could benefit from a great deal of pharmaceuticals.  Here is some Valium and Xanax.  Take as much as you like, whenever you want.  Preferably with wine and vodka tonics."
"This is awesome," I replied.  "Thanks, Doc.  See ya when I run out!"  I skipped away into the traffic.

Of course, this conversation never took place.  I would have loved for Dr. Korman to tell me I was nuts.  How much easier for me than having to be truthful.  My therapist informed me that he couldn't authorize the use of any drugs.  He explained that as a psychologist, he wasn't licensed to write prescriptions.  I would have to go to a psychiatrist and convince him that I needed medication. Jumping through all these hoops was a real pain in the ass.  But when I make up my mind to do something, by jove, I stick to it!  Except for almost destroying my life.  That was totally an accident.

Although Dr. Korman stiffed me on the scripts, I kept going back to see him.  He was easy to talk to, even though most of what I told him was bullshit.  He was smart and well-informed.  He explained the difference between bi-polar disorder and post traumatic stress.  I was hoping I had both, as long as it got me some tranquilizers.  I cancelled a few times when I got too high to show up.  He billed me for the appointments and told me if I did it again, he'd drop me as a patient. That hurt my feelings.  I bet I got super drunk that night.

I finally secured an appointment with Dr. Elrafei, a psychiatrist who came highly recommended in Dr. Korman's circle of nerdy shrink friends.  I had no idea at the time that Dr. Elrafei's speciality was substance abuse.  When I showed up for the first meeting, I was relieved there was no drug test.  That would have put the kibosh on my surreptitious intentions.  I told him a little bit about my traumatic pretend life.  I used compelling buzz words like flashbacks, nightmares and mood swings.  I left out the parts about all the drinking and dope I was doing.  Dr. E suggested Paxil for anxiety and Klonopin for panic attacks.  I did some research in the drug handbook at CVS, and I was unimpressed.  Neither of these feeble concoctions were any good for taking the edge off; my edge was sizable.  I needed something with sandblasting potential.

Back I went to Dr. Korman, exasperated.  He explained how anti-depressants work.  Something about receptors, synapses and neurotransmitters.  His explanation sounded like lame and ridiculous science fiction.

"Can I drink with these?" I asked him.  "You know, in case I go out some time."
"Well, I wouldn't if I were you," he said.
Yeah, but you're not me, I thought.  I'm not even me.
In the final throes of my active addiction, I had no identity to speak of.  I was like one of those fast-moving zombies in the World War Z movie.  Feral, wretched, loathsome.  Looking back, I remember sprinting about, searching for anything to put me out of my misery.  I must have been a sight for sore eyes.  I hate that I frightened the folks who love me.  I know I scared myself half to death.

Everything was agony once I couldn't get enough.  I could not cut back or have less.  There always had to be more to cover the need, but by then, the need was too huge.  No joy came, only the intermittent relief from smothering the high with short periods of unconsciousness.  Mostly, however, I was awake.  That was the whole ride - blurry acceleration with no stops.  And I just stayed on.

My duplicity continued for seven additional months, with Neurontin thrown in as the final crowbar to the head.  I was still getting drunk and doing speed every day, plus taking the Paxil and benzos.  At night, I'd chew my way through handfuls of Tylenol PMs in efforts to further anesthetize myself, 20 to 25 caplets.  They never did shit.

I'm always amazed when I can recall memories.  They return in vague chunks.  I like to sit with them quietly until they come into focus.  For the life of me, I can't remember the specifics of the very last time I got loaded.  I'm sure it was a day just like every other.  I know David was mad.  Interestingly enough when I think about it, I find myself wishing I had seen it coming.  I would have hit it much harder.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ding Dong Bell, Pussy's in the Well...

Most folks are pretty serious about how they take their coffee.  I know I am.  I prefer mine light and sweet.  It's a fairly simple recipe, but one that requires effort and planning.  We generally purchase enough supplies so I'm not caught short in the morning.  If, by chance, I reach for my cup of joe and there's no cream or sugar, I rarely drink it black.  I do not like to improvise.  I need to make arrangements to get myself safely to a place where they provide these ideal components.  It's that significant an experience.  Until then, I am in grave danger.

I was the same way with my drugs.  Sure, I loved to drink, but I also had to get high for everything to be perfect.  I needed both activities occurring simultaneously in order to achieve any satisfaction.  I did not like one without the other, so I never went without.  If I found myself coming up short, I started looking until I got what I needed.  The mere thought of not having enough made me feel like I might die.  I mean it.  Every single day involved extreme survival strategies.

It's easy to lose your bearings when you're strung out.  Going up and coming down, always moving.  I was pointed squarely in death's direction.  I was just too fucked up to realize I was dying.


I didn't go to therapy hoping to get sober.  I just wanted some sleep.  I was hoping to snow job the doctor and score enough pills that could knock me out.  I liked the idea of something other than myself telling me how to feel.  It seemed easier than figuring things out of my own.

By the time I got to my late afternoon appointment, I was plenty irritable.  Doing speed all day without drinking put me in a jangly state, but I knew I couldn't show up to therapy with booze on my breath.  I had to demonstrate to this quack that I was an ideal candidate for prescription sedatives.  God, I needed a drink in the worst way.

Dr. Korman opened the door to his office and suggested I come in.  He was tall and conservative looking.  Super straight, almost stiff.  He asked me quite a few questions about my general condition and habits.  I was reluctant to answer truthfully.  I was embarrassed.  I wanted to feel ambivalent about my behavior, and I wasn't ready to change.  If I didn't put into words what was going on, I could convince myself that nothing was wrong.

Lying in therapy is a huge impediment.  At best, it's a distraction and at worst, a manipulative pretense that will just postpone any real progress.  Initially, however, it feels like self-preservation.  And keep in mind, I was just in it for the drugs.

Do you smoke?
Do you drink alcohol?
How frequently do you drink in a week?
     Once, maybe twice.
How many drinks do you have?
Do you use drugs?

Heh.  This was going great.
I had all the answers.

Dr. Korman asked a bunch of other questions, and I tried to keep things unfocused and confusing.  He wanted to know about my family and childhood.  He took a few notes here and there.  Mostly, he just listened while I yammered on about my mother.  I told him how scary it was to be with Charlie.  We talked about Dave and Kirin.  Plus, lots of other things that I don't remember.

Finally, Dr. Korman inquired, "Mary, why are you here?"
It's a reasonable question, but I had no response.
I just sat there on his couch, sinking in between the two heavy leather cushions.
I felt like I was trapped inside a deep, dark well.  I had no idea how I got there.

I found myself staring at the snow globe on Dr. Korman's coffee table.  I think snow globes are beautiful, especially the ones that play music.  I enjoy a glitter-filled melodic world.  It seems so nice.  But when the confetti starts to fall a little slower and the song begins to distort, I become preoccupied with the realization that it will end soon.  I shake it another time and wind it some more.  Again, again and again.  I cannot pull myself away.  I may just break it.  I know this about myself.

"Mary, why are you here?" the doctor asked a second time.
"I don't know," I said.  "I think I may be going crazy.  At least, I hope so."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Truly dedicated alcoholics lead very exciting lives.  We drink, drink, drink, drink and drink.  Because we love adventure, some of us use drugs.  As a result, we get terribly thirsty.  So we drink even more.  Drinking, using, drinking, drinking and using.  It's a labor intensive existence.

I drank all the time and got crazy high.  Chronic daily drinking and amphetamines. Sometimes, I'd feel nervous and sick, so I'd throw up a little.  Then, back to the drinking.  And the drugs.  Another drink.  One more hit.

I couldn't go to that first appointment with Dr. Korman.  My calendar was booked solid with these two very important pursuits.  I couldn't go anywhere at 6:30 in the evening that didn't involve drinking.  And I knew better than to show up drunk.  So, I left a cowardly message to cancel.  "What a relief," I thought.  But it wasn't.

Maybe you're an alcoholic.
"Be quiet."
I'm just saying, you drink a lot.
"You'd drink too if you had my life."
Uhm, I do have your life.  I'm your conscience, remember?

A shift was occurring in my chemical dependency.  The tolerance I'd built up over the years was starting to break down.  I was using just to feel normal.  And nothing was working like it used to.  I was sad and paranoid and exhausted.  My behavior was making life unmanageable.  For so many years, I drank and got loaded without thinking. I'd accumulated a host of problems, but I never once considered these difficulties to be the direct result of the habits I'd developed.  I wanted to appreciate my drinking as if it were an enjoyable leisurely pastime.  The way it was for everybody else.  Recreational, like all the speed and cocaine I did.

For me, drinking and drugs were habits that became compulsions.  It is difficult for folks who are not alcoholics or junkies to understand what this means.  "You could stop. You just don't want to."  These words are usually the beginning of an unfortunate conversation that goes nowhere.

Drunks cannot control the desire to drink.  This is gonna sound gross, but alcoholism is like diarrhea in that regard.  It is an uncontrollable urge.  When a person has diarrhea, activities are chosen based on their proximity to the bathroom.  It's exactly the same with addiction, only we stay close to the booze and whatever else we need to keep going. Just in case.  We have to be ready for every emergency.  Especially those that require us to be extraordinarily high.

When the therapist called back to reschedule, I was already spun out.  Doing my thing, which amounted to a whole lot of nothing.  I hid from the phone for several hours, but eventually listened to his voice on the machine.  "Hi, Mary.  This is Dr. Korman.  I have an opening at 4:30 on Thursday, if you'd like to come by.  I look forward to meeting you."

I did not believe him.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Love Candy

I began seeing a therapist recently.  Sometimes, my life is just a little too excellent.  I figured that puts me in the ideal position to grow a healthy future.  Kara and I are having a very nice time, getting acquainted.  We have quite a bit of ground to cover, so our sessions are brisk and lively.  It feels like having coffee with a friend, who I'm paying for therapy.

Kara wants lots of backstory which appeals to me because I like to talk about myself.  I can describe hair-raising situations with humor and clarity. They hardly seem scary anymore. Fortunately, most of the people who used to frighten me are dead or in jail. I've moved 700 miles away from the rest.  In the meanwhile, I work on making healthy choices.  I have to take some responsibility for allowing unpleasant individuals into my life; I did, after all, leave the door open.

Let me tell you a little bit about my first experience with therapy, though.  It's nothing like this time around.

In March of 2000, I'd just finished working on a project for a bank in midtown Manhattan. I was a well-paid consultant.  I created Powerpoint presentations and remembered everyone's birthday by baking them a cake. My eldest, Kirin Greene, was 14 at the time and about to start high school.  David and I discussed my staying home for awhile, just to keep an eye on things.  It wasn't the greatest idea.  I had lots more time on my hands, and by the freshman dismissal bell, I was always far too jacked up to be of much use to anybody.

Addiction is slippery.  Some things were going very well.  With David's help, I'd started recognizing some purpose.  I had a terrific job, very nice friends and successes in my personal life.  We owned a beautiful home.  I got my driver's license reinstated.  I'd been to the dentist and had six rotten teeth removed.  I'd opened a modest bank account, selecting Scooby Doo personal checks.

In ways, it seemed like I was really putting things together.  But I was still a mess, and most of my decisions were made with a wine glass in my hand.  I'd get too tight and need to drink so I could calm down.  I'd find myself too drunk and do more speed to keep from becoming sloppy.  It's a fair assessment that I averaged 130 minutes of sleep each night.

Poor David.  He'd stay awake with me as long as he could.  I just wanted him to go to bed and leave me alone, so I could have my little pathetic party.  My brain had become this frayed pinata.  As part of my routine, I climbed a ladder and hung it from a tree.  Then I beat it with a stick until the contents poured out.  I sat in the dark blindfolded, devouring my own thoughts until I was sick.  Until it wasn't fun anymore.  Of course, Dave knew there were problems bigger than just alcohol.  My secret was the loudest thing in every room.

"Why don't you go talk to somebody?" he would ask.
"Like who?"
"Like a doctor.  You can't keep this up.  You're gonna have a heart attack."

Maybe Dave's right, I considered.
I bet a doctor could give me something to help me fall asleep.

So, I looked up 'psychotherapists' in the Yellow Pages and called one that was a few blocks from our house.  I was very busy, and I didn't want to have to go far to get more drugs.

I spoke briefly with Dr. Korman by phone, and we made arrangements for the following day at 6:30.  The next morning, I drove down there, never realizing the appointment was for that evening.  I sat on the curb in front of his office for two hours.  I watched people park their vehicles and disappear into office buildings.  They held cups of coffee and little bags filled with breakfast things.  What a waste of time, this is, I thought.  I needed to go home and get high.

I walked back to the car and left Dr. Korman two voicemail messages, annoyed and confused that he didn't show up.  He called me back at 9:00 and explained that he taught classes during the day.  He only counseled individuals after school.  "I never see patients this early in the morning", he said.  "You'll need to come back later on."

After we hung up, I sat there with the phone in my hand.  I'd misunderstood.  I started to cry.  I didn't think I could do nighttime appointments.  That kind of commitment would interfere with my drinking.

I drove home and shut the car off.  I stayed in the garage for a while, listening to the sound of my breathing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Teddy Bear Contest Winners!

Once in awhile, I lie in bed and wish I had more teddy bears.  Last night was one of those times.  So many darling friends and readers from which to choose the big winners...

Here are the results of this morning's drawing:
Donna Sweeney and Diane Dollar Harris.  WooHoo!

Message me your addresses, sweet girls.
Two of the most ideal companions are heading your way in tomorrow's mail.

Congratulations to both girls!
And thanks to everyone for supporting High Wire Girl.

Love always,
Mary oxooxo

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Crossing the street with Big Mare was a fate worse than death.  Although raised in New York with a keen sense of the city, my mother approached each intersection as if she'd been struck by tractor trailers every day of her life.

Westchester Avenue was a particularly harrowing thoroughfare.  An unfortunate logistical fact because we needed to survive its pedestrian chokehold in order to get to school each morning and home again in the afternoon.  Perhaps it was the roar of the elevated trains that blocked out the sun as they passed overhead.  Or the livery cabs darting between the steel pillars that held up the tracks.  Maybe it was the momentum from the buses as they lurched and wobbled forward along their routes.

I have no idea what filled her with such apprehension.  She was a control freak. But traffic in a major metropolitan area is hard to control, especially in flip flops and a house dress with a cigarette dangling precariously from your lips.

As we stepped off the curb together, Mom squoze my hand so tightly that she cut off the circulation right up to my elbow.  She twisted my wrist backward at such an angle that I limped by her side like a docile chimpanzee.  Sometimes, she tucked my hand clean under her armpit as we ran the gauntlet from one corner to the next.  The whole while, she cried out "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" until we made it safely to the other side.

Once she collected herself on the pavement, she commented loudly with regard to her hopes for the drivers who leaned on their horns as she passed.  "I wish you four flats, you stupid son of a bitch!" she'd holler.  Sometimes, they gave her the finger.  She'd stare down those vehicles all the way to the stoplight, praying that their cars exploded when the light turned green.

As we got older, Mom loosened the reins a little bit.  She let us walk up to St. Raymond's by ourselves, but she still insisted on meeting us at dismissal.  I'd race down Zerega Avenue in attempts to traverse that busy exchange on my own, without having to subject myself to her sweaty grip or witness the ambulatory torment that was part of her daily routine.


Here in Ardrey, we don't have a whole lot of blood-thirsty boulevards.  Desmond and Rory enjoy their adventures in our neighborhood.  Mercifully, folks drive nice and slow through our streets.  I'm hopeful that my children behave themselves when they leave the house.  I remind them that they are representing our family. Our motto, these days, is "Don't be a dick."

Except for the Trader Joe parking lot, I don't hold my sons' hands as a necessity anymore.  If I could, I'd escort everyone from their vehicles into the grocery store over there in Piper Glen.  People are crazy!  For the most part, I just pull on the hood of a jacket or guide these guys by the shoulder.  They're not always paying attention when cars are backing up.  Occasionally however, one of the boys will reach for me as we're walking together.  That's always very nice.

Recently, I saw Bro look both ways as he crossed the street coming out of the barber shop.  I nearly dropped dead right there in the patch of grass behind the bank.  I wish Big Mare could have seen him.  She'd have grabbed me by the hand. I just know it.