Support Groups to the Rescue

I’m starting a 12-step support group for people who are addicted to lattes.  There are millions of us, and LA, Latteholics Anonymous, could help us. The only answer for latte addiction is total abstinence. 

She looks calm and happy, but she’s a secret latte addict. She needs Latteholics Anonymous.

It’s the same as for alcohol. I know, because after trying to control my alcoholic drinking on my own for years, I went to AA 30 years ago and I haven’t had a drink since. The 12 steps work! In contrast, I have a friend who tries to cut down her daily lattes to every other day, or just weekends, or whatever, but she always shoots back up to every day.

LA would not only improve her life in general but also her pocketbook. That Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato at Starbucks costs about $4.00. Yikes, that’s $1,500/year. That’s a latta money.

Though I like lattes, my habit isn’t daily—yet. But it could be. I qualify for many 12-step programs. My car used to autonomously steer itself into 7-Eleven parking lots. I would wander inside like a zombie and buy lottery scratch cards, often several times daily. I scratched all my cards off in secret after everyone was in bed. I finally admitted my addiction was controlling my life, and somehow managed to quit cold turkey. But it was comforting to know Gamblers Anonymous was there for me.

After LA gets going, I might start Chocoholics Anonymous. I have that heavenly substance every night, a piece each of Dove plain milk chocolate and caramel milk chocolate. Sometimes I spin out of control and have more than one of each, and maybe a cookie too. I never know when that’s going to happen, I just wake up in the morning and realize it did. It reminds me of how I never knew how many drinks I would have at night.

I make jokes—it’s my survival mechanism—but the truth is I’m profoundly grateful for AA and all the 12-step programs it inspired. In addition to AA, I also went to Al-Anon, for family members of alcoholics of which I am one. I went with my daughter, for help in healing the effects of my drinking on her and on our relationship. I also found help in CoDA, Co-Dependents Anonymous.  

I see how I could easily develop a dependence on support groups. If I’m not careful I’ll end up needing a support group for addiction to support groups. SGRA, Support Group Recovery Anonymous! I’ll get to it after I get LA and CA going.

There are no misteaks.

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no worries


I was a wild one when I was in my thirties. I had a sign in my office above my desk that said, “I type like I live. Fast, with lots of misteaks.” (There were no computers way back then—we used electric typewriters.) The sign always got a laugh from first-time viewers. They laughed, but it was true. I drank a lot, I rode around in fast cars, I partied, I stayed out all night and dragged in late to work.

I was making lots and lots of misteaks. I lost a couple of jobs. I got new ones right away, though, which kept me from facing up to the need to straighten up and fly right. Jobs grew on trees in young Silicon Valley forty years ago. I drove drunk and got DUIs. One night stands out because I did NOT get a DUI. I quietly drove off-road after leaving a restaurant on the edge of a San Francisco Bay inlet, and ended up on the bottom with my car completely submerged in salt water. I don’t remember how I got out of the car but I did, and stumbled into a Mercedes showroom. They summoned the police and I was transported to a hospital for overnight observation. I wasn’t given a DUI or even cited because no one saw the accident. They just saw a dripping wet, muddy, bedraggled young woman.

Don’t worry. All this gets better, just hang in with me a bit.

After my Bay swim, as if the misteaks I’d already made weren’t enough, I made a DOOZIE. I got pregnant, by a man I’d been dating for a few months. Finally, I was scared. Petrified. I did all right financially as a corporate writer and editor but I didn’t have a steady job with a lot of security. I had no extended family for support. I didn’t know if Mike was going to help me and his child. I didn’t know anything about being a mother. I went to Planned Parenthood, and spoke with a woman who definitely favored the abortion route. She frightened me, more than I was already, with her tales of how difficult it would be to bring up a child by myself.

But by that time I deeply loved the baby—him or her. Back then we didn’t know the gender until the baby was born. I decided to have the baby and keep it rather than put it up for adoption.

That was thirty-six years ago. I still remember the day Michele was born. I wasn’t ready for how much I loved her. It was like an emotional earthquake and tsunami and Category 5 storm all at once. I loved her so much it scared me. Mike and I lived together for five years but never married. He did support his daughter, always, and we actually shared custody when she was small. But as time went on things got more complicated. When she reached the science-project stage of grade school we practically had to rent a U-Haul to get the projects back and forth. From then on she stayed with me and spent every other weekend with her dad.

I made lots of misteaks as a mother. I continued to drink alcoholically until she was three. But one morning I woke up and had my Moment of Clarity, a phenomenon well-known in AA circles. I realized without a shred of doubt that if I continued drinking I would lose Michele, either physically or emotionally or both. There was a county alcoholism treatment center close to where we lived, and I got out of bed that morning and called about their services. I went to a group meeting that very night and haven’t had a drink since. I went from the county treatment center to lifelong membership in AA. Five years after that I quit smoking. Michele absolutely hated smoking—a filthy habit, for sure—and I finally got to the point where I couldn’t stand her nagging anymore. I paid for five sessions with a licensed hypnotherapist and haven’t smoked since.

Michele and I have had some rocky times but she’s brought more love into my life than I ever thought possible before she was born. And pain, too. She graduated from college and is married and working now, and lives in a nearby town, but a few years ago she estranged herself from me for two years. That was more pain in my life that I ever thought possible. I had quit drinking but I still had a lot of stinking thinking, and ghosts from my childhood, lots of anger, rejection, the shock and sadness of my father’s suicide, and other traumas.  I’ve worked through a lot of it but even now much remains. My work is cut out for me. Recently I joined the Religious Science church. It involves constant study and there are frequent classes and discussions about basically seeing the deeper side of things, beyond appearances. It helps me stay positive—and keeps me busy. 

I’m far from a perfect mother, but I always do my best. And I realize that getting pregnant and having Michele was the best thing I ever did. She might be the main reason I’m still alive. My drinking was becoming more and more destructive, as continued drinking always does. Thank God I didn’t injure anyone, or worse, while I was driving around drunk. Michele in my life has made me such a better person. I’m much more honest about myself now, and see my flaws, and do my best to change them, and have learned to apologize when it’s called for. I’ve been to anger management classes and forgiveness classes and all kinds of other classes, I meditate, I read spiritual books constantly, I volunteer… I do these things because I want to be the best person, and the best mother of a 36-year-old, that I can be.

Getting pregnant seemed like a misteak at the time but it wasn’t. Even my drive into the bay no longer seems like a misteak. When I’m discouraged, it’s one of the things on my cheer-up list because it shows me how much God loves me. I have absolutely no memory of getting out of the car and swimming to shore. I was guided by an invisible force that has always been there to protect me. The police said my car was deeply submerged and far out in the water. They were amazed that I made it to shore. They figured I was on the swim team in school. But I wasn’t on the swim team. I dog-paddled, that’s the only stroke I knew. And nevertheless here I am, thirty-some years later, alive and blogging about it.

It does me more good to look at what I used to think of as misteaks in a different light. Now I call them learning experiences. I examine them and draw all the wisdom and understanding and guidance that I can squeeze out of them. Instead of feeling ashamed, I profit from them. I learn. In fact, I no longer believe there are any misteaks. Everything happens for a reason, one which isn’t always apparent.

Well, there is one thing I consider a misteak. A real one. It’s meowing at me now. A ragtag, scroungy feral cat used to run through my yard a lot and one time I broke down and fed it. That’s all it takes. One time. They never stop hounding you after that. Now, a small fortune later, he’s neutered, immunized, and deflead. He has a heated bed and gets Fancy Feast. He considers all this his divine right, no way a misteak.  


rose-1403530_640Scripture: “I have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try to reach the goal before me. And I own up to my misteaks.” ˜Philippians 3:13

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The Power of Chocolate: “If there’s no chocolate in heaven, I’m not going.”


no worries

Relax. It all works out.

This is my year to keep it real.


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The thrill, the exhilaration, the excitement of bringing in the new year doesn’t happen for me on New Year’s Eve. It happens in the morning, when I wake up on New Year’s Day. No, “it” is not that. I know what you’re thinking, you naughty blog reader.

This year my husband and I went to Monterey for New Year’s, as we have for the past ten years. They have First Night, an “alcohol-free-family-friendly” street event. There are little puppet shows, a guy with ten parrots that pose with kids while parents shoot pictures for free, a juggler, a clown, and other gentle activities and entertainment. What might be the world’s smallest parade, at twilight, features people on stilts dressed as the moon and planets and stars, young dancers from local dance schools, a troupe of middle-aged belly dancers, a small paper-lion dance…. If you blink, you’ll miss it. Food booths and a few small bands are scattered around the town and stores and restaurants are open until midnight. Every year we eat at the same Greek restaurant, Epsilon, and every year the menu is exactly the same. I always have the dolmades and Frank has the chicken kabob. 

It wasn’t what you’d call a rousing evening. But when I woke up in the morning on New Year’s Day, I absolutely quivered with excitement and anticipation. Like I always do. I quiver because I remember where my car is! It’s in the hotel parking garage. I even know the space number every year. I’ve been waking up sober since 1984, when I awoke on New Year’s Day sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d been drinking alcoholically for twenty years. I also had what is called in alcoholic circles a Moment of Clarity. I woke up knowing without a doubt that if I didn’t stop drinking I would lose my family, my friends, and myself. The very next night I went to a county alcoholism treatment center near our house and have been sober ever since. I enrolled in their treatment program and in another venerated organization they recommended (go ahead, guess!). I have thirty-one years of sobriety.

So there it is, the honest, naked truth about me. My past is not pretty. Among other things, I had lots of missing-car experiences. One New Year’s Eve I was inebriated and a good friend drove me home from a party in my car. The parking lot at my apartment was full (poachers). She parked two blocks away, walked me home, put me to bed and drove away with another friend who had followed us. The next day I was shocked to find someone else’s car in my parking space when I walked out to drive to the grocery store.  Panicked, I called my friend, who reminded me what had happened and told me where she’d parked my car on the street. Thank goodness she was home. In those days there were no cell phones and people only answered the phone when they were at home or work.

Another morning, during the week, I was hung over but determined to go to take an SAT test I had scheduled. When I rushed to my car, it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I rushed back to call the friend I had been out drinking with the night before, and saw her note by the phone that she had driven me home, followed by a friend, and my car was around the corner from my apartment. I found it and raced to the university, where I annoyed the testing staff because I was a tad late and obviously hung over. They grudgingly let me take the test and somehow I passed it.

In my most spectacular misadventure, I woke up in bed in a hospital, unable to remember a single thing about the night before. I learned eventually, from the police, that I had left a popular restaurant located at the edge of an estuary of San Francisco Bay, and driven my car off-road into the water. I somehow got out of the car and swam to shore, which I was told was quite a distance. Several people saw me stumbling around and called the police. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know where my car was that night. Nobody knew, for several days until it was dredged up.

There’s a point to all these stories. I’ll tweak a line by old-time entertainer Sophie Tucker. I’ve been drunk and I’ve been sober. It’s better sober.

By the grace of God, and with recovery programs and a lot of other support available, for the past thirty-one years I always know where my car is. It’s such a good feeling. I would even call it a buzz. I’m particularly grateful for this on the morning after New Year’s Eve, which of course is the biggest drinking night of the year. And to think I didn’t even have one. Yay. It’s great to know I don’t have to ever again go outside to my car and see an empty space or someone else’s car where it should be. After all these years it hasn’t ceased to delight me. But of course the real miracle is that I didn’t injure anyone—or worse—all those years I was driving under the influence.  

I just wish I always knew where my keys are. I’m constantly losing them, and spend half my life searching around the house. I always find them eventually, in the oddest places: my underwear drawer, my tax file folder for 2012, the mini-freezer in the garage. But I’m grateful that I’ve lived long enough to suffer from this touch of dementia. Considering how many times I drove drunk and how many years I abused my mind and body with alcohol, I shouldn’t even be alive. And here I am, blogging away.

Happy New Year from a grateful blogger.