If Replacement of PRDM2 Enzyme Can Cure Alcohol Addiction Will I Choose to Drink Again ?

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My first reaction on reading that depleted PRDM2 enzyme may cause alcohol addiction and that scientists may be close to finding a cure for alcohol-dependence was…

“Do I want to drink again?”

About 10% of American adults are reported to be alcoholic or alcohol-dependent. I often wonder how that statistic is compiled because I know that I would not be counted in that group. But at 18 months sober if I drink again I’ll most likely slide back down the rabbit hole of addiction.

Somewhere around the age of 45 I lost my off switch. I went from someone who enjoyed drinking and occasionally overindulged, to someone who lived for that first glass of wine at the end of the day. I would not be counted in that 10% because only I knew how alcohol dependant I’d become. I was never really honest with my Dr about how much I was drinking so there was no record.

I never had a DUI or missed work due to a post binge hangover. I never visited an emergency room after an alcohol related accident or had any kind of medical evaluation that suggested alcohol abuse. The social worker at my children’s school never questioned the stability of our home environment. But I woke up most mornings thinking never again only to find myself with a big glass of wine in hand by 6 PM. The self loathing that I felt at the break of day was usually replaced by mid afternoon with an absolute understanding that I deserved a drink, wanted a drink, needed a drink and would control how much I drank that night.

I knew that when I drank I was detached from my children and husband and that my hangovers were affecting my work. I knew that although I intended to drink no more than two glasses I often opened a second bottle. No matter how determined I was to break the cycle of regret/ indulgence/ regret, I could never stop drinking for more than a week.

I was addicted but it was a silent addiction and breaking that addiction was hard work.

As one of the lucky ones who was not only able to stop drinking but am happily sober I realize that ability to replenish the PRDM2 enzyme could save countless lives. I came very close to the point of no return with my drinking and have the utmost sympathy for people who cannot stop.

But an eventual drug that could replace the deteriorated or missing PRDM2 enzyme could also mean that I get my off switch back.

I could sit in the sun at the beach sharing a jug of sangria with a friend and not worry that the next night I’d be relapsed and hiding my second bottle of wine. I could enjoy a nightly 5oz glass of resveratrol rich Cabernet at dinner without worrying about wanting more. I could be normal again and get a bit buzzed with the cool kids without losing control.

But these past 18 months I’ve learned that it’s not the sangria but the sun, and the friend, that make for a great afternoon. The heart healthy resveratrol in that 5oz glass of red wine can easily be replaced with a cup of blueberries in my morning smoothie and surprisingly, even the most complex gourmet meal, is equally enjoyable with ice water or tea.

So for now…

today….

I think I’ll pass on the enzyme replacement.

I love living life fully awake. I own every minute of my day and every feeling is genuine. I love sobriety and am not really sure why it’s so important for us to drink. Unless we want to get drunk.

And that would seem to be a lose of impulse control.

Suggesting a need in us all for a bit of enzyme replacement.

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Redefining “Me Time”

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I saw an e-card on Facebook about eight years ago that made me laugh out loud.

“Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of wine for your mom on mother’s day. You’re one of the reasons she drinks.”

That same e-card seems to come up every year with different illustrations and every year I have found it a little less funny.

I never told my kids that I drank because of them and I think that many mothers would find that statement a bit offensive but we are encouraged to drink to relieve the stress of parenting and we’re encouraged to find that funny..

OMG I so need a glass of wine or I’m going to sell my kids is a facebook page with well over 100,000 likes. Their mission is to “encourage all mothers to put themselves first now and again, enjoy a big glass of wine and laugh out loud!”. The OMG twenty-one oz “big glass” which holds most of a bottle of wine can be purchased from their website. “Cheers!IMG_1948

I agree with OMG’s mission to encourage mothers to put themselves first and laugh out loud. Parenting in the twenty-first century has become more stressful than ever. From the minute, we childproof the sharp corners of our coffee tables, the kitchen cupboard doors and the second-floor staircase we’re cautioned not to smother our kids. Forget the sun block or allow too much sugar and processed foods and you can be accused of neglect. You’ll most likely be Lawnmower or Helicopter parent at some point. Everyone’s watching and everyone has an opinion.

Parenting and motherhood are not for the faint of heart! We need to laugh.

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I used to think that pouring myself a glass or two of wine at the end of the day was the best way to have a little bit of much-needed adult time. Between the responsibilities of my job and my family, it seemed that I hit the ground running at six in the morning and finally only screeched to a stop when the kids were tucked into bed. I was the go to mom in our neighborhood for fun play dates and great homemade cookies. I made sure that every birthday and holiday was memorable and adorned with homemade piñatas and towering cakes from scratch. I needed my “me time.” Kicking back with a couple of glasses of wine was empowering.

Until it wasn’t.

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The problem with my “me time” coming in a bottle is that it eventually took much more than it gave. As my daughter approached adolescence and my tolerance to wine increased I realized that my “me time” was taking over our family time. A few glasses after the kids were in bed became a glass while I made dinner, another while I helped with homework, and another while I folded laundry. I stopped looking forward to a few quiet drinks at the end of the day and started to need wine the minute I got home from work. When my wine habit became an addiction there was absolutely nothing funny about it.

Drinking to celebrate and unwind has always been a part of our culture and I understand that some people can smooth out the rough edges with a couple a glass of wine in the evening and not risk addiction. But in this era when statistics are showing an alarming increase in alcohol abuse among women and an unexpected rise in middle age mortality due to alcohol and drug-related illnesses and suicide, I think we need to come up with more creative ways to unwind than just pouring a drink.

With the help of a  blogging community called HelloSundayMorning I’ve been sensationally sober for a bit over a year and a half now. I’ve learned that I do need my “me time” but it needs to be a time that actually nurtures me. If I spend an hour online writing or soak in the tub with a good book at the end of the day I get the sense of self-indulgence I deserve and wake up every morning ready to take on the world.

I have heard it said that sobriety offers everything that alcohol promised and now I know it’s true!

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Sober Serenity

Put down that bloody shovel, will you?

It can be done. I know this because I’ve done it before. I can stop digging this bloody hole whenever I choose to. I can put down my shovel.

This knowledge is comforting and infuriating in equal parts.

Why am I reluctant to say that last goodbye to alcohol? There’s an annoying self-helpy-type phrase that pops into my head now and again: let go of that which no longer serves you. Perhaps I should analyse my resistance to self-helpy-type stuff in general. I suspect that its source is something to do with the clichés and shitty writing so commonly found in that genre. Cliches exist for a reason and it’s not as if there’s anything original about my behaviour anyway. There are so many commonalities in the experiences of drunks.

Embrace that which works, Geri. How does that grab you?

My cat died, so I told myself I wanted to get smashed–a wake for Suzy. I went through the motions of getting smashed three nights running. Suzy’s death coincided with my days off which facilitated this 3-day binge.

The awfulness of this binge was extra distressing because (again) I only experienced the shitty side of drinking. I couldn’t achieve the pleasant fuzziness I was chasing. In truth, I can’t remember the last time I could.

I recently heard Steve Kilbey say something similar of heroin during an interview on Radio National. He said something along the lines of, “I didn’t finish with heroin, heroin finished with me.” He said his addiction just kind of petered out because he wasn’t experiencing the enjoyable effects of heroin anymore–just the shitty ones. I get a kick out of those moments when I turn the radio on at just the right time–like the big whatever’s communicating with me via the AM waves.

So, here we are again. Clambering back onto the bloody wagon. Sick of myself.

That’s it isn’t it? The self-centredness of the whole bloody business? Introspection might be constructive to a point—until you discover that you’re disappearing up your own arse.

Time to at least redistribute my focus, concentrate on my loved ones and stuff that deserves my attention.

Whip crack away whip crack away whip crack away.

From Gustave Dore's Divine Comedy illustrations--the  Empyrean one.

From Gustave Dore’s Divine Comedy illustrations–the Empyrean one.

The Great Pretender

Drinking alcohol is fun. The advertisements all say so. You can build a boat with mates which will eventually sink, but have fun while building it. You can jump in the spa with your girlfriend and almost drown her with the bubbles, and have fun while you’re doing it. You can paint a porch, have a barbie on the beach, swim in heavenly waters with goddesses, you can even dance to Flashdance in your leotard. All good fun things to do. All done with alcohol.

Where do you go to see the not-so-fun side of drinking alcohol? The domestic abuse. The broken families. The coward punch. The emergency rooms. You watch the News to see all of this. Watch the News on any weekend and I can guarantee you will see at least one of these not-so-fun-drinking-alcohol stories.

So why do we portray drinking as fun? Is it a plot run by advertising companies to make us think we can be smarter, funnier, more interesting when we drink?

We drink to commiserate, to celebrate, to console, to open up, to let down our guard, to feel no pain. Why? Why can’t we achieve these things without the Great Pretender?

One of the hardest things about giving up alcohol is breaking through these barriers and relearning how to celebrate or commiserate without social lubrication. I say ‘relearning’ because there was time when we didn’t drink, and we could do all these things and so much more while sober.

Can we get back to that state of mind? Of course we can. And we can do it without the Great Pretender.

The life of a military spouse

I was a military spouse for more than 20 years. The love of my life served in the Army for 33 years before retiring. It’s not easy being a military spouse. You move away from loved ones and then continue to move every few years. Your partner is away often and for long periods of time. You have to make new friends every few years. You have to find new schools for kids, new hairdresser, new doctor, new dentist, new job. But we do it. And we try to do it well. We stay strong, get on with things, with the minimum of fuss.

Your partner gets deployed; some are deployed on a regular basis. Depending on what is going on in the world, if you get my drift. Brad has been deployed twice. First time was after 18 months of being married and he was away for a whole year. He was deployed to Cambodia; it was 1992 and the country had just been through 20 years of hell with the Khmer Rouge Regime, followed by Vietnamese occupation. The country was war-torn and ravaged. Brad was deployed with the UN and they were sent there to assist with the country’s first free and fair elections.

It was a tough year for both of us. We had not long been married and were living in Townsville. He came home from work one day and said that he been deployed. Where to, I asked. Cambodia, he said. How long, I asked. 12 months, he said. Then he was gone. No email or internet or mobile phones back then. Snail mail only. He was in a remote part of the country, so no phone calls either.

How was I going to get through 12 months on my own? I had no idea. It was fucking tough; I won’t sugar-coat it. But we did our best. We tried to make the most of a shitty situation.

Six weeks into the deployment and I still hadn’t heard from him. The mail was taking a while to get sorted out. One day an Army Jeep pulled up out the front of our house. Two soldiers in ceremonial uniform got out of the Jeep with a letter in their hands. I knew what it was. I’d seen the movies. He was injured or dead. I was sure of it. I had convinced myself of it and by the time they reached my front door I was a mess. I finally opened the front door and they handed me the letter. It was an invitation from the Army Padre to attend a morning tea. Are you fucking kidding me? The Padre had no idea the impact this had on us spouses. It was horrible.

The second deployment was in 1999 to East Timor. Brad wasn’t scheduled to go, but because of a last minute change of plans within the Regiment he was sent. How much notice did we have for that deployment? 2 days. And then he was gone. Thankfully this one was only 3 months, but just as stressful. He was the first Unit to arrive in Dili, and was met with a hostile reception. Enough said about that.

Being a military spouse teaches you so much about yourself. You learn to be independent and you find a strength within yourself you didn’t know existed. Your military family becomes your own family. You find support from fellow spouses and that support becomes your lifeline. You know you can pick up a phone or drop into someone’s house and pour your heart out. No one else really understands, apart from these people. Your ‘civvie’ friends certainly don’t understand. ‘I know how you feel’, they would say. Or ‘hasn’t the time gone quick’. Or ‘oh but the money’s good’. Well intentioned, but completely the wrong things to say.

So my 20 plus years of being a military spouse was hard, but I loved every minute of it. It had many ups and downs, and has made me the person I am today.

A little black dress

It all began in December 1989.

I was in Wollongong visiting friends for New Year’s Eve. Brad was in Wollongong for Christmas, on leave from the Army. Wollongong is his home town. I had friends there who I had been visiting for a few years, and had often heard about this Army bloke named Brad, but had not met him.

I drove from Melbourne to Wollongong on my own, and by the time I arrived I was exhausted. Too tired to go out, but my girlfriend Tina convinced me that we should go out. So off to Dapto Leagues Club we headed. A group of friends had gathered there, and I was introduced to a tall, dark and handsome bloke named Brad. We hit it off straight away. We spent the whole night talking, and he asked me where I was going for New Year’s Eve. Tina and I were heading up to Darling Harbour in Sydney for the night. I’ll meet you there, he said.

The next day Tina and I boarded a bus to head for Sydney. I looked beautiful! I was wearing a gorgeous black halter-neck dress, black stockings, black patent leather court shoes, and black handbag (did I mention that I am a Greek chick from Melbourne?). We arrived in Sydney and decided that drinks were required, so off to the nearest bottle shop we headed. We didn’t have much money, so thought it made much better sense to buy a box of chateau collapsible; nothing but the best for these party gals.

We walked around Darling Harbour administering shots of wine to each other. No glasses required. We were getting a nice buzz on when a bloke came up to me with a tub of Tiger Balm ointment and proceeded to wipe the burning ointment all over my face and arms. He then casually walked off. My arms looked like I had been struck with a stick. Nothing a few more mouthfuls of wine won’t fix though. Tina and I continued on our merry way. Further into the afternoon the Tiger Balm welts were still there, and then I got hit with the contents of a cyloom stick. One of those glow in the dark sticks had been emptied all over me. Now I was burning and glowing at the same time.

I had to pee. I told Tina that I was going to wait in the conga line for the ladies toilet, shuffling closer and closer to the porcelain. A very tall woman with a deep voice was in the conga line behind me, and informed me that I had a hole in my stockings. She/he then stuck her finger in the hole and ripped the entire stocking leg off my body. I walked back to Tina; glowing, burning and one black stocking leg missing. In my drunkenness, I didn’t think to remove the other black stocking leg. One black leg. One pale Melbourne white leg.

The night dragged on. My patent leather court shoes were hurting my feet. The shoes came off and were being carried with the handbag and the bladder of the cask. The box had long ago got wet and finally came adrift. No shoes girl then stepped in glass and blood was pouring from my feet. I needed First Aid. I told Tina I would go looking for help, and asked her to stay put. And ‘glow in the dark-Tiger Balm burning-one stocking leg-bloody feet-girl’ got lost. It was 10 minutes to midnight. I was lost in a crowd of 70,000 people.

I did the only thing a girl would do. I cried. I looked up only to see Brad standing there. My knight in shining armour was there! He took in the whole situation without commenting on my appearance and found Tina within minutes! I was reunited with my friend and I was seeing the New Year in with Brad.

The countdown began. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….and he kissed me! And just as we were kissing I felt something happening to the back of my dress. A bloke had grabbed the bottom of my gorgeous halter-neck black dress and had ripped my dress straight up the back seam. My dress was hanging off me like a hospital gown. The back was completely open, exposing my control-top single-legged black pantyhose. Brad and Tina, being the good people they are, found a big black garbage bag and tied it around my waist. I was glad it was black, because the rest of my outfit was black.

Glow in the dark, Tiger Balm burns, one stocking leg, bleeding feet, bladder of chateau collapsible, dress ripped open, garbage bag tied around my waist.

And he still married me….

Failure is Good

In Flow with Otto

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Failure is inevitably linked with art – and life for that matter. Well, it’s also linked to success if you think about it. To put it a little harshly; if we don’t experience failures it’s because we don’t live – or we don’t create, when talking about arts. And if we don’t dare to make failure we will never succeed, either.

Life and art is about jumping from an airplane without knowing how a parachute really works, but hoping it will. It’s about taking chances, knowing that often they won’t lead to anything – or at «worst» to failure. I use brackets because failures aren’t necessarily bad. On the contrary; you can use them as stepping stones to learn more, to become better next time, to evolve, to grow. In my post Weakness as Potential Strength I wrote: By figuring out where our weaknesses lie, we can take steps to…

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We’re not perfect

We love our life together, me and Brad, but we are not perfect. Perfection seems to be something we all aspire to. Well, most people do anyway. Most want the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect family. But how many people actually have that? Do you really want perfection? I know I don’t. Never had it, and never want it. How boring would life be, if it was perfect?

Brad and I have never worked on perfection; however we have always worked on happiness. Mutual understanding, mutual love, and mutual friendship. They are our priorities. Not perfection. We like each other. We don’t just love each other, we actually like each other. We like spending time together. Important, considering we live in a caravan and spend all our time together! We laugh. We listen. We love. We like. We enjoy. We are happy. We don’t have a lot of money. We don’t have kids. We don’t have a home. But we are happy. We are living life on our terms. And we love it.

How do we do it? How do we stay happy? We work at it. We respect each other. We talk openly. We don’t hide things from each other. We have no secrets. We don’t argue. We don’t yell. We don’t give each other the silent treatment. We don’t go to sleep angry. We have finance meetings. We decide everything as a couple. We’re a team. We’re on our side.

We’re not perfect. But by fuck we’re happy!

The H-Word

I hate my life.

I hate green vegetables.

I hate waiting in line.

I hate everything.

I hate you.

How often do hear these words? How often do people use the H-word? I hear a list of hates every time I speak with people; in fact I mentally add them up in my head during a conversation.

I hate hate. I really do.

So I made a decision to remove this word from my vocabulary. Sometimes I dislike the way people drive. Sometimes I disagree with other people’s opinions. I do not like my sister-in-law (actually I can’t stand her, but that’s another story).

But I do not hate. I refuse to hate. My life is so much nicer without the H-word.

Caravan Parks – The Art of Reversing

(The love of my life and I are permanent travellers and this is my observation of caravan parks.)

Caravan Parks are terrific for watching people try to reverse their rigs.

Reversing a caravan is tricky business. The Caravanning Corps knows this. There is tremendous pressure on getting it right on the first attempt. Many can’t cope, and some don’t even bother. It’s a drive-through site or nothing, for the non-reversers.

4pm is the worst time of day to arrive. Happy Hour is well underway in caravan parks and campgrounds around the globe. Often entertainment is required, to go with the copious amounts of alcohol being consumed. An arrival of a newcomer is just the ticket.

Every right-minded caravanner is sitting on cheap fold-up chairs outside their vans, and are getting stuck into the cask wine and home-brand crackers. A caravan rolls in.

The meerkat heads go up. All eyes are on the newcomers. They find their allocated spot. Both get out of the vehicle to do a cursory check of the site. A discussion between the husband and wife occurs over the best way to reverse into the spot. A bit of friendly banter from other caravanners takes place. “Don’t stuff it up” they say. No pressure.

The husband walks back to the vehicle like a condemned man on death row. The wife waits on the caravan site, sweat pouring down her brow. Please don’t fuck this up, she thinks to herself. He starts backing. She is guiding him, yelling instructions. He hits the curb. Damn. Goes forward. Lines it up a bit better this time. Reverses into the spot like a pro. The wife is thanking the good lord above; he got the van in.

Out he gets, chest puffed out like he’s just won an Olympic medal. Struts his stuff and heads over to the nearest group of blokes to wax lyrical about reversing. He’s been forgiven for hitting the curb. You are allowed 2 hits of the curb before you lose your Caravanning Corps Ticket. He’s safe.

The meerkats go back to drinking. Until another van rolls in…..