No Matter What

We returned from our vacation to a difficult reality: my husband’s father has entered into the final stages of a terminal illness. He won’t be with us much longer, and it hasn’t seemed right to post all the happy photos from our trip while our family is so heavy with sadness.

We drove through a hailstorm to visit him on Sunday. My new car took a beating – cracked windshield and hail damage to the body – but it was worth it to see him, to be where we needed to be and where we were needed.  A car is nothing. Family is everything.

I returned home last night and tried to go through the motions of normal life today.

I was shampooing carpets at one of our rentals when the machine made a strange noise and began to spew smoke. With the receipt for this new machine in my wallet, I decided to load it all into my car and return it to the store. Backing up, something didn’t seem right. I stopped and ran around the car. Apparently, I’d  only set the box of parts behind my car, not IN it, and backed over the damn thing. The good news, however, is that I was able to return it anyway.

A phone call came in on my cell. My mom’s condo building was on fire. She made it out safely and was staying with a friend a few blocks away.  I drove by, so much destruction. Her unit was untouched by there is no doubt smoke damage to her belongings. No one was hurt, that’s all that matters.

On the way home I picked up a stir fry for supper. It flipped over inside the bag and the contents came out of  the container. Teriyaki chicken and rice smoosh.

My car is damaged but I am safe.

My mom is displaced from her home but it’s only temporary.

My carpet shampooer blew up and then I drove over it but the store still gave me a refund.

My dinner dumped all over the bag but I poured it on a plate and ate it anyway.

Is this fucking day over yet?

No, it’s not. It’s messy and it sucks but it’s life and I’m living it.

My heart feels like it’s going to drop into my feet with dread and grief. I don’t want my sweet, funny father-in-law to go. I don’t want to think about the world without him in it. And at the same time I wish him a gentle end.

We can do hard things. It would sure be nice if we didn’t have to do it all at once, though.



  1. […] had some amazing moments, like travelling to Italy and hiking in the UK; some awful things, like losing my dad and father-in-law last year; some challenging things, like downsizing our business. I did it all sober. Going to industry […]


  2. thank you so much for your open and honest writing about sobriety during times of grief. These posts have helped me so much with the recent passing of my father. I listen to the Bubble Hour as well, just another great coping skill when I am feeling tempted!


  3. Thank you for your blog, and for keeping up with it even after years and years of sobriety. I have been a secret drinker for 16 years. Believe it or not, I trace its beginning back to when my second bathroom was being renovated and I was without a bathtub for 2 months, and I started substituing a relaxing bath with a glass of wine (or two) before bed. It just continued from there. I am a 52 year old woman with two twenty something daughters. I didn’t know secret drinking was so common, and I would assume most of us are women who want to appear perfect, calm and relaxed. But my secret truth is that I always want to have a buzz, sometimes from morning until bedtime. I can’t believe people still don’t know, even though my husband has days when he’s surprised I fell asleep so early/so deeply/during a movie etc. My secret drink is vodka because if I drink wine he smells it during our “after work/hello” kiss. (That was when I tried to stop vodka and switch to wine in the hopes I would drink less.). I am fully functioning and can cook for a dinner party for 12 with a buzz and clean up without breaking a dish. And this is day 2, because I’m sick of the shame and the hiding and what I’m doing to my health. If my eyes look like crap in the morning imagine what my liver looks like. I always say I’ll quit my secret drinking “someday.” When I go on vacation, I have cravings yes but I abstain because I can’t sneak vodka on a plane and there’s nowhere to hide it when you’re sharing a suitcase etc. (Writing this is helpful.). And then I get back home and buy more vodka even though I didn’t drink much for 2 weeks. What’s wrong with me? I love that I woke up this morning after a good night’s sleep (despite minor night sweats which I attribute to the previous weekend’s alcohol. ) I love that my eyes were not pink and I didn’t sneak a few drops of Visene to “take the red out” before my morning shower. I love that I felt no shame due to lying by omission when talking with my husband over morning coffee. He deserves better. If he had ever walked in on my hidden stash or seen me drink some from it sneakily, I would have wanted to die of shame. I shudder at the hypothetical thought. And I’m sorry about the constant “I” “I” “I” but I know I have the discipline to stick with it I want to (I’ve run 20 marathons in 15 years) but I’m afraid of losing the discipline on day 2 or week 2 or year 2. How do I keep the discipline? I am going to check this blog every time I get a craving (I’ll have one by lunchtime) and get the courage to go on. Thanks again. Xox.


    • Great question, Suzanne – how to stay motivated. Journaling through these early days can be really helpful, so that you can look back at it if you start to think “I wasn’t that bad” (a common thought after a few weeks, it’s a mindset that our addicted brains use to manipulate us back into that old “fix”.) Having a support network can really help, they’ll hold you accountable for your decision and if you ask them “hey guys, should I drink again?” You will get an honest answer. From what you’ve written here, yes you are making a good decision to stop. Alcohol free living will serve you well and at a time of life when your hormones are shifting (as I know too well) and alcohol really messes with menopause. I’m so happy for you! Keep reading. Keep
      Posting. Keep reaching out!! Ps – have you checked out my
      Podcast ? Hundreds of hours worth of stories from others who are just like


      • Thank you! I’m now on Day 7 and continue to feel better, and I trust you all when you say it’s a long continuous journey. I do journal (always have) and it is filled with my guilt and goals for stopping. The bloated physical feeling is gone and I don’t feel guilt or shame or self loathing every morning/day. Yes, I have discovered your priceless podcast and it keeps me company while exercising or cooking. (Elizabeth Vargas’ book is where I learned that there were such things as sobriety podcasts – who knew? And by women!) I feel part of a community that understands, and am not alone. My negative physical withdrawal is now a headache on morning #7. I still wake up at 3 every morning but without sweat. I’m not sure I was physically dependent on alcohol but I sure am emotionally attached to it in the brain. I just have to remember and remind how much better I feel and keep making choices based on that. Today, after work, I am going to get a hair cut instead of rush home to get my buzz on. I am going to try and fit into the summer clothes I bought and wore 3 years and 10 pounds ago because I still love them and haven’t been able to wear them since 5 pounds ago. When I count up the calories of my drinking I am amazed. Even that incentive helps. Thanks again!


  4. Hi from Louise from Australia, I have started my sobriety journey this week and have come across your blog, being a very private person I find it difficult to discuss my situation with anyone, even my husband, although he knows something’s bit not all, my teenage daughter is very intuitive and can sense I have begun a change, a bit like an awakening from my dark past seven years since losing my mum and looking after my dad with dementia. Time for me to grow up and take ownership of my health, I once was quite an athlete and would love to find that passion again. I have started reading your blog from the beginning but any tips to remain calm and on track would be most helpful. Many thanks and I congratulate your strength and willpower x may god give your father inlaw a gentle and dignified passing, open your hearts to hurt but also to peace and healing xx


    • Hi Louise, I’m so happy you’re here. Tips based on what worked for me are don’t drink (important), baby yourself as if you were watching your ten-year-old self for a sleepover – treat every night like a sleepover with that younger version of yourself (nail polish, reading in bed, playing outside, yummy food, etc). Build a support network (online and/or in person), listen to podcasts and read recovery lit for new insights. Ps – have you listened to this episode of The Bubble Hour? My friend Karen from Australia is the guest – her voice should sound like home to you ❤️


  5. Hi Jean,

    I’m so sorry all of this is happening. We move onward, even if we have the curse the whole way there. My thoughts go out to you and yours.

    Onward, always onward


  6. I hope you keep in mind how awesome & strong you are. You are having, and have had, a challenging few months, year?, it seems. But all of your friends in the blog-o-sphere are sending extra positive support your way.


  7. Dear Jean,

    You cannot possibly know how much you have inspired me and shown me how to live a life in sobriety. I’ve read every single word in your blog and have listened to hours of The Bubble Hour podcasts. If my mental math is correct, I am sober 70 days today.

    I’ve thought to write you several times to say thanks, but I procrastinated. After reading your most recent post, I thought that the least I could do was to acknowledge your sorrow and truly crappy day and tell you that I am thinking about you a lot and sending peace out to,you and your family. You have done so much for me and us; I wish that I could do more in return.



    PS – And, thank you!


  8. Hey Jean….I just wanted to let you know that your vacation is over. In case you were wondering.

    What a re-entry back into reality!!!!!!

    I’m so sorry about your Father in Law….it’s just so hard. Your husband and you are in my thoughts.

    But you handled the rest of your day beautifully and still found time for gratitude. Lol on eating your teriyaki dinner anyway.


  9. Thank you. I recently lost my mom. She has been on hospice for a couple of months, ill for about 16. She died the same day my dad did, June 16. He died on Father’s Day four years ago and I’ve had a few s*&t shows myself. Sending you healing thoughts as you make your way through this. It really sucks to be in this world without our parents.


  10. Really sorry for you going through all this love, sending kind thoughts and hugs to you and your family xx xxCSMxx


  11. Jean as always you share and with your generosity comes inspiration and reflection.
    I know you can weather these storms but I whisper to the universe for that cool breeze that fortifies and lightens.
    Hugs Kathy


  12. Wow! I am sorry you have all of this happening at once. Big prayers going up for your father-in-law and your family. Sending lots to of love and comfort for you all. Yes, we can do hard things, and we do, and doing them without alcohol adds an element of clarity and peace. Now if we could just do something about the sting, we would be on to something, sadly, I think the only course is to be with it and feel it and process it and heal from it. Something you help all of us do daily❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️


  13. Oh boy, no getting around this, it just sucks. Ramp up the self-care tricks and remember that eventually the sh&@t-show will pass.
    Day 377


  14. Rough days for sure! Thank you for your transparency and unfiltered emotions. Your posts are always so helpful to me, especially this one. I’m not the only one out there going through tough times! I’m so so sorry to hear about your father in law and that your Mom’s ok. Big things like that (for me) are easier to get through because I’m sober. But the vacuum? The dinner? Trigger city…for me. Glad you got through the day…hang in there Jean!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Life on life terms. It’s hard and ugly and painful. Thank you for sharing your pain and demonstrating that it is possible to get through this hard time sober. Hugs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sending much love to you. These waiting days are so damn hard. So much of our emotional energy is taken up with getting through The Thing and just. putting. one. foot. in front of the other. Glad you are getting take-out even if the bloody stuff tips over in the bag. Have an enormous hug from England. Prim xx

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What a day! I hope you took a nice long bath – or whatever happy healthy thing you do to unwind – at the end of it. My mom passed recently, and a favorite uncle gave me this thought: “You calm is yours to keep or give away. Don’t let anyone take it. And in the end, the best gift you can give your mother is that calm.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This was written so raw and real, WTF for you I swear what a day. and all in one day, and you did what needed to be done. I commend you I really do. Prayers to you and your family.
    Your best line in this post to me was
    don’t want to think about the world without him in it. And at the same time I wish him a gentle end. That really touched me and I thought A gentle end is peaceful to be.
    Thank you for sharing, and keep being you.

    Liked by 1 person

Your Turn! Have Your Say:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s