Wednesday, December 5, 2012

House of Change

I found the moderation management website and online support group a few years ago.  When I was on the MM list, "Pierre" posted the following House of Change.  It has had such a profound impact on my journey that I asked his permission to post it here.  His writing is in the blue, my comments in black.

The House of Change.
The House of Change is crowded, especially the cellar which is damp, dark and cold. But the House of Change has also a roof terrace where the sun is bright and life is good. The way to change goes up from the cellar to the top by means of a huge staircase. Its steps may be of variable height. The House of Change has also large floors where people can rest on their way to change.

Some people in the cellar are not considering change. They are unaware, that high over them there is a sunny, warm place where the view is beautiful, the air pure and the ambiance soothing. They shiver from time to time in the cold and moisture, sometimes they have a feeling that there should be a better place to be, but in the dark of the place they are in and the darkness of their mind they don't see a way to get out. They don't look for a change, may be out of pure ignorance, well established indolence or sheer despair. They stagnate in the stage of precontemplation.

From around 17 to 27 I drank and loved it.  I was the life of the party and had a great time.  My dh and I were either attending or hosting a party.  I didn't drink during the week. I got a teaching degree, got my masters degree, got a teaching job, bought a new house, bought a new car, had fabulous friends, was in great shape, had a great job and partied on the weekend.  Partied to the point that I was pissed off if I had a family engagement and couldn't drink. 

Sometimes I had problems especially with members of my family - sisters, parents, etc. but I never related them to alcohol back then. I could never see how selfishly I was living.  It was all about me and too bad! I was having fun and my friends loved me.  I just focussed on that and didn't worry about family.  Why?  I would rather be with my friends. My dh and I would also fight but then just chalk it up to having too much to drink and forget about it.  

I didn't have a problem with alcohol!  I had plenty of friends that drank far more than I did and its not like I was homeless!

From 28 to 30 I had both my children.  Both extremely difficult pregnancies but had never been happier.  I thought I was just happy pregnant but looking back now maybe it was because I wasn't drinking.

At 30 I had kids and moved into a neighborhood full of partiers!  Perfect! I could raise my kids, take them to the parties with me (everyone else had kids they could play with) and then not have to drive home!  Was this heaven or what!  Plus, I was stressed out trying to raise kids and work full time, so damn it I deserved to let loose and relax on the weekends!  And I had plenty of company.

It started off great!  But over the course of 10 years, it slowly/gradually got pretty bad - embarrassing parties, weeknight wine drinking with the "ladies", not remembering things, worried about what my kids thought of me, stumbling home late at night.  My house eventually became the party house like it was in my twenties.  I didn't mind hosting or cleaning up as long as I had people to drink with that wouldn't judge me.  

I started drinking more and behaving badly.  This was different - I started picking fights and getting angry and saying mean things and getting really sensitive.  I had never been like that before. And the hangovers were devastating - physically, emotionally, mentally.  That was also a new development. Finally I found myself drinking most nights, sneaking beers, finishing other peoples wine glasses when they weren't looking, having some strange empty pit inside that just could never get enough alcohol once I started - almost like I was losing whatever control I thought I had. It scared the shit out of me.

There are those who stumble around in the dark , knowing that they need a change of scene, may be driven and haunted by the memories of better days, groping about to find the latch of the exit door they know to be somewhere. Sometimes they are exhausted by the search, some give it up for good, but most are struggling and after a rest resume the search of light and a better life. They live and search in the stage of contemplation.

Then, at around 38, I started looking for help. I was desperate for my weekends, my self esteem, my life to be different. I wanted to learn to  moderate and control my drinking like all normal people did.

And suddenly in the dark, you see a small stripe of pale yellow light, almost undetectably. You stumble towards the light moved by a wild hope, you get the doorknob, you open the door and you are overflowed by the bright light of a staircase. On the wall sticks a poster informing you that you are now in the preparation stage, and that the staircase is a magic one, where you can program the height of the steps, depending of your mood and ability of the present momentum. And now you plan the first steps to take, you move on driven by your determination to advance, fleeing the dark, damp and cold cellar, up to the light. You are in the action stage.

In the bright light of the large staircase you can now see your fellow occupants, the presence of who you only felt in the dark of the cellar of the House of Change. They are of all races, of all continents. They are small or tall, slim or big. There are males and females of all ages, most go upstairs, some come downstairs. You are yourself melting with this community, exchanging your impressions and experiences. You are warned that you may slip downstairs, that there are some traps where you can go right down to the cellar again, but always with the knowledge that there is an open door and a staircase to go up.

This is where I realized I wasn't alone.  There were so many people out there with the same issues as me.  I tried and tried and tried to moderate - for 6 years!  I would do really well and then have a horrible night and fall right back into regret and shame.  Those times would be fewer and fewer but when they happened, they were worse. Because of reading other people's experiences, I realized that I was withdrawing from alcohol every Sun, Mon, Tues - started feeling better Wed and Thurs was filled with the anticipation of the weekend coming and being able to drink. I was passing out in the bathroom, throwing up, spending beautiful Sundays in bed.  Working so effing hard to moderate just to come crashing down so much worse when I did drink.  I was so lost.

And so you go up and down, but always averaging to the up, sometimes with ease, sometimes with pain. You are passing the floors, taking a rest or not, sometimes finding yourself back on a floor where you have already been. Oh yes, this may be your fate in the action stage, but finally you reach the upper and last floor. On this floor there are club chairs, where you can take a rest and meditate before opening the door to the roof terrace. You look back to your struggle, you catch a glimpse over the railing to the basement and you are proud of your journey. You are older and wiser than you were in the cellar, and oh, so happier. You are in the waiting room to the final stage, you are in the maintenance stage.

Then I found MMabsers - a group of wonderful, positive, supportive, happy sober...wait...what....sober?  Really?  Could life really be good without alcohol?  I couldn't even imagine the thought of that!  No way!  

Last year at this time, I had a horrible Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Go back and look at my blog as I often do.  It was terrible! I was a mess!  OK fine I will try this abs thing.  I absed from from Dec to March which was amazing for me, but I wasn't happy.  The fear of having a summer without alcohol along with the warm sunny afternoons convinced me to give moderation another shot.  I did really well for a while and then had two drunken vacations. Right back to where I was. I decided enough was enough and decided to quit again.  I did for two weeks and then just got a wild hair to have a beer with my neighbor and got wasted.  

The day after that I quit again and have now been sober for 127 days. It is better this time.  I really have no desire to drink.  I get a craving once in awhile but it goes away.  

What I struggle with now is being in the waiting room.

Finally you open the door to the roof terrace. You are in a beautiful garden, richly flowered, bees are humming, the grass isgreener than it was ever in your memories and dreams, the sun is brighter and the sky is bluer. You are at the end of your cycle of change. You are in the termination stage.


I am waiting for that door to open so I can see all the beauty in life again without alcohol.  Although life is better and I am glad I am not drinking, it  just seems so boring, dull, average, uninspired, uneventful, without anticipation, lackluster without alcohol.  I am waiting desperately for joy to return to my life.  It has to, doesn't it? There are plenty of people who don't drink and are happy.  Can I be one of them?  Can I find fulfillment, purpose, joy in life without alcohol?

PS - Thank you mirror, mirror for checking on me :)


  1. In my first year I felt the SAME EXACT WAY! Truth be told - part of my second year felt that way too. But then I started to realize that the "fun" and fullfillment that used to be my life was external, in order to be truly happy I had to find a way for it to come from inside.

    That, my dear, was the hardest thing about my recovery...and I'm still working on it. But slowly I began to find joy in life that came from just BEING. From just sitting and enjoying a warm evening. Of course the thought would surface, "It's the perfect evening for a glass of wine." But I'm getting to the point where I can just acknowledge the thought and let it go. Then I focus on what is beautiful about the evening and let it fill me with joy.

    Such a foreign concept to me in my prior life. Without a party, a bottle of wine...there was no fun, no joy, no...anything.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is to give yourself some time. Boring, dull, and average won't kill you, won't disappoint your kids, won't leave you feeling like shit the next morning. Boring, dull and average it will change - I promise.


  2. AWE YAH!! I have to say I found myself tearing up and then giggling and then tearing up again while reading this. When I think back to when we first started blogging about our "stuff" I had gone a month or two without and you were still teetering, February or so and I was pleading with you to see the light as to why it was so beneficial to stay on the wagon. No matter what I said, I couldn't emulate how I was feeling and it was naive, borderline moronic to think I could somehow make you feel what I was feeling even though 100 percent of everything you were saying I was relating to wholeheartedly! I remember when I fell off, In april, you were the last one I wanted to know. Like I failed you and everything I had said was bullshit. The truth is, its day in and day out our own personal journey. I see that now. As much I can relate or use others stories and advice, I can recreate their success, that's for me to find on my own. Considering your success, 125 DAYS is just such a huge inspiration to me!! and where we were a year ago I once again am reminded that I am not just another person to be judged by the world but my own individual person learning all the lessons that were specifically designed for me to learn, not to teach everyone else when I felt like I figured them out. This post of yours was by far the most honest and pure of any I have ever read on blogger, so proud to say it came from you. And for those lackluster days where you wonder when the circus is going to knock on the door, whisk you away and make your life interesting again... focus on gratitude and love - name 5 things you are grateful for everyday, it shouldn't be hard and then feel your heart fill with love, after all that is the name of the game, the meaning of life - love. <3 Take care

    1. Turns out... You have been on here much longer than I thought- my bad. Guess I have some reading to catch up on.

  3. Glad to see how well you're doing, K. 127+ days! Whoop!

    As far as the no-joy goes...I suppose for me (at just over 2 years) I would say that my baseline joy-level is steady. It hums along at a lower level than the Whee!!! type of highs I would get when I was drinking, but I no longer have the miserable lows anymore either. I've traded a wild ride of exciting highs and miserable lows, for a quieter life. I guess maybe things are more "boring" if I look at it that way, but you remember that the phrase "May you live in interesting times" is supposedly a Chinese curse.

    Excitement isn't always a good thing. I mean, if my hair caught on fire I would be very excited, but it wouldn't be a good thing. Ha!

    I just try to remember to be grateful for feeling good and healthy, for genuine laughter with my friends rather than "must-be-the-life-of-the-party" laughter, for not having to sneak and lie, to feel honest and clean and trustworthy.

    I'm still a work in progress, and so are you. Hang in there--you are doing SO great!


  4. k,
    I'm so glad that you're sticking it out in the waiting room instead of heading back to the cellar. The waiting room's gotta be better than that, huh? I think sometimes the "Wow" factor is dependent on how totally malformed your life has become because of alcohol, in my case, it was unrecognizable as a life form. So when I got back something that once again resembled my life, it seemed like a miracle, and pretty damn profound.

    You still had something that looked like a life, you were working, you were raising kids, cooking dinner, grading're one of the smart ones that realized that drinking was starting to squeeze and force your life into something you didn't want it to become before it became unrecognizable, before you damaged it irreparably.

    So maybe the change in your life isn't as pronounced as some of the rest of ours, that's a good thing, a really good thing.

    I wish I could tell you how to capture the excitement again, there are still times I miss that "something to look forward to" that used to be drinking, but now I am able to look forward to more things because I'm not drinking. I'll admit it's not with that longing and crazed anticipation that I used to look forward to drinking, but, then again, I don't think I should have been looking forward to drinking with that kind of obsession, I think that was the problem.

    Don't you?

    I'm so proud of us.

  5. How you doin'? I bet you're ready for Christmas break. I was just thinking of you and wanted to say, "Hi", I'm missing CO and snow at this time of year.

    Feliz Navidad, mi amiga