I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 2, 2012 11:05PM

Stone Cold Sober

Rate: 63 Flag
Heart drowning

I don’t need an aphrodisiac, no wine to marinate my sorrows, no pill to swallow away the pain, no plant to inhale and numb.  My grief is sensual.  It pulsates through my body, coursing its way from the lump in my throat sliding down like burning butter to the place that remembers.  I remember.  My tears drip like small porous pearls that flow down and form droplets of passion and desire.  Images of times spent intertwined flash through my mind like the fingers of fog that run over the mounds of Mount Tamalpais as I drive my car around the bends and curves of the road, like the touches that slowly outlined my hips and legs to the places that knew sweet release.

My mouth remembers the fullness.  My head pounds with the music, beats and gyrations of times past.  I tap my nails on the steering wheel as I weave my way closer to the water’s edge as the sunset seduces and my pain and thoughts of ecstasy explode into a million shards of glass that cut deep to the core of a broken heart.

Some may call me dramatic and they might be right.  But I’m glad my grief teases and taunts.  There was a time when I would reach for the cold crisp glass of cool relief and the searing pain would be frozen in time.  I would wade into waters of sadness without sensation and days would go by where I would go through the motions and never have to feel a thing.

Stone cold sober is the best way to grieve.  There’s no messing around when I allow the waves of agony to throb in the secret recesses of my body and soul.  Cellular memories come to life when there are no fixes, no Band-Aids to dull the senses, no pain pills to lull me into silent and dreamless slumber.

Loss is best experienced in its naked glory.  It comes fast and furious and leaves a blaze of golden fiery dust like the shooting star that cares not where its destiny lies.

I awake in the cold morning with hot breath.  I startle at the sound of my own soft moaning.  My pillow is wet and stained with tears that fell during the night, like the midnight snow that came unannounced and surprised.  No hangover flattens and I find relief in that.  Feeling sad is better than feeling nothing at all.

I play with my grief and appreciate its lessons learned.  Sometimes I’m tempted to use the aid of an amnesiac.  I remember how easy it would be to fall back to patterns old and misused.  Relief is only a short drive away.

But stone cold sober is the way I like my grief.  Straight up.  On the jagged rocks of my ragged heart.  Real.  Stark. 

It’s the place where I know I’m fully alive.  Life and the sun invite me like the gentle nudge of a lover when there is no fog to shroud.

The grief walks hand in hand with me and I know I am not alone. 



Inspired by Loss and This



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Loss is best experienced in its naked glory.

How true and wisely told, for only then does one know the full impact and know s/he is alive. Very poignant piece and song.

This is the most beautiful poetry I have seen. Each paragraph a monument of emotion. Raw and beautiful, I have been to this place I was there a very long time. I may still be there on days when I look back.
rated with love
I'm sure many will relate to the experience, but you have articulated it beautifully.
Sober is better for this, yes, it is, with the ability to see clearly, to feel every sting. I'll be thinking of you, Mary, often and with great fondness.
Thank you for this brilliant, beautiful, visceral piece.

Avoiding pain - especially by altering our sensibilities - is the surest way to shortchange our own understanding of the pain’s power and origins. It also insures that our ability to empathize fully with others will compromised and much less effectual than it might have been.

Undiluted pain is grief without the veneer. It’s a harder pill to swallow but the healing begins much sooner and is more complete than when we must find our way through an artificially induced muddle and tangle of mind.

You’re a brave soul, and a loving soul, my friend. Emerson said, ““When it is darkest, men see the stars.” Quotations like this can feel like terribly cold comfort when we are hurting deeply. But the truth remains. Pain, grief, sorrow and heartache come as seasons. The hopeful thing about life is that no season lasts forever.

Here’s wishing you the briefest season of heartache followed by the longest season of joy possible.

Thank you for allowing others to gain from your deepest challenges. May all the good you do return to you many times over.

Rated and appreciated much
Oh Mary! With such gifted mastery of language and imagery you unabashedly offer up your precious soul in the depths of suffering. This is not drama. This is life. Breathing in the scorching heat of pain -- made deeper and purer by tenaciously facing it fully exposed and skinned alive. The pure poetry of your experience and expression of it is luminous in its uncluttered clarity. Your ability to compose great pieces that connect us all with empathy in sheer molecular form never suffers -- whether your subject has high notes of joy or low ones of pain. Your life as presented to us here is an opus, a symphony. You conduct your writing in a way to pull out the best in all your instruments. Bask in your naked glory. I love you. Keep sharing. Always. Joan
Several thoughts:

You made me feel your raw pain.

I listened to the song you linked to, and found it quite haunting.

The photo is perfect. I could search Google images and never find anything so fitting.

If you have written about your loss, I missed it. I hope to god no one is ill or has died. Whatever the nature of your loss, I am sending an inadequate hug right now.
Mary, I agree, stone cold sober. There are times, I suppose, to be numbed but when it comes to the real highs and lows of life, best to take them as they are ... raw. Recovery is quicker, and as many have said here, at least we know how alive we are to feel so strongly. Really beautifully written. You are transmitting here and we are all receiving. Best to you in this new year.
I couldn't sleep because of a acute left calf.

My grief etc., hurts too. Bliss is to live life.

Life is to live in the shadow of the sword.

The idea is if your head is on a chop-blog?
Smile as the executioner wield the sword.
Your head may get severed but you smile.

I know that is easier said than done. Mystery.
I heard a true story today in a hot steam sauna.

I man tied his donkey behind his trailer wagon.
The man was broke and headed for the auction.
He had many woes. Big burdens. He forgot tho.
He thought he had put the donkey in the trailer.
A poor donkey was tied outside the mule wagon.
When the poor farmer got to the auction? Sigh.
A head and the rope were all that was left. Sigh.
The donkey was dragged for many miles. Sigh.

Gaud. Bad luck. A donkey head brought? $02.
He sold a donkey head for a bowl of GOP soup.
I'm glad we have October 22 as a Happy birthday.
The numbing always wears off. Better to look at it as you say, "straight up." An incredible piece of writing, Mary. I'm wishing you joy in the New Year. ~r
The best of the best Mary.
Your writing here helps so many.
This piece stands out like a monolith.
Continue and know we care...
Mary, I read this twice over and then sat here for the longest time with your grief and your pain. Feeling your pain and seeing through your beautiful and raw words how you deal with it so bravely and so graciously. I wondered and imagined, too, all sorts of loss that might be real for you right now but, of course, I don't know what it is that you are facing. But Mary, I do know this ... I read your bio and it is so very true ... you do write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at yourself.

So beautifully written.

So beautifully lived.
I love it. I think I learned something today. The alcoholic in my life told me the other day, "I don't feel anything." Your words speak to me. Thank you for writing them.
Beautifully written Mary.
I feel the depth of this pain.
May 2012 bring you peace, health and joy.
Very compelling. Grief to me is like a cold shower. It feels good, but I wonder if it is doing damage to my heart. I try not to stay in too long, and get out into that sun.

So great of you to describe this so well for us.
This is beautiful. And I believe true. Feel it, embrace it, and ultimately you will be able to move beyond it. I don't know your history so I'm hoping this is something you've learned and not something you're going through now. If not, I'm sorry and hope you find your relief soon.
What a dazzling burst of prose this is, so perfect in its rhythm and pulse. And this--"Feeling sad is better than feeling nothing at all"--is unsettling because it is true and consolatory, but only in a melancholy way. It sometimes seem there aren't enough moments of grace to compensate for the suffering.
Your description of the physicality of grief is much richer and truer than the term "stone cold sober" suggests. Like you, I'm on a sober road, and grief to me feels warm, heavy, like a backpack full of books that must be carried in the mouth. The movie that plays in my mind is too engrossing to ruin with booze. Grief is a part in the movie, either onscreen or just about to come up, so I stick around and watch. While it may not be my favorite part, it is always its own reward.

Best to you in the New Year.
The above comments seem to say it all. I find your approach very courageous and a true sign of love. Any substance that we would reach for in order to cope only makes things worse in the long run and distracts us from what we truly loved and love.

My best wishes to you. This is bound to be a comfort to many who read it.
Very striking - right to the heart.
Fusun: Thank you for reading and apparently resonating. Life is full of the griefs, as well as the joys. To be alive is encompasses it all.

Romantic: I am happy for you now and know you've traveled this road as well. You give me hope. Thank you.

mypsyche: Thank you. You know, as well as I do, that grief is not reserved for just a few. It is a thing that connects us all when we allow it to.

femme forte: Thank you with all my heart. I feel your companionship and it helps.

Dennis: Thank you for your understanding and for the Emerson quote. I took it, not as cold comfort, but a vast universal warmth. And I thank you for the life raft of hope. It's true there is a season for all things, and the season of grief comes and goes. The older I get, I feel its presence more and I've lived long enough to know that the joys increase as well. I look forward to its return. Thank you.

Joan: Thank you for all of it, and especially this, "made deeper and purer by tenaciously facing its fully exposed and skinned alive." Yes, it feels a bit like that. Thanks for being one of my wing women. You know what it's meant and continues to. Love, love.

Snippy: I felt comfort when I read your comment and to know that my words expressed what I was trying to convey. Yes, the song is haunting and I can't get it out of my mind. I have not written much about the current state of affairs in my life. There are several losses occurring simultaneously so my senses have been a bit stunned but ultimately awakened. Your hug is nothing close to inadequate and I am filled with gratitude for it. Thank you.

Scarlett: I heard that Elizabeth Kubler Ross said that if we allow ourselves to be fully immersed in our grief rather than resistant to it, it would pass in moments, much like the passing of a cloud. Grief is a spiral rather than a linear process and facing it with full force ironically makes it a little more transient. At least that is my hope. Thank you for your good wishes.

Art: My heart is always a little lighter when I hear from you. Yes, October 22nd is a happy birthday and I'm happy I share it with you. Thank you.

Joan H.: Thank you Joan and thank you for being there. I've felt your presence often.

Mission: Whispers of thank you to you.

Little Kate: Your comment touched me deeply and I also felt the companionship of your understanding. Sometimes grief is a long time in coming, delayed because of its feared inevitability. And as I said in another comment, several circumstances are presenting themselves at once so there is no running away from it now. Best to look it right in the eyes. Thank you truly for reading it twice and standing there next to me. I sense your deep understanding and it helps.

smalltownwriter: My heartfelt understanding for you and the alcoholic in your life. Thank you for reading and letting me/us know.

ladyfarmerjed: I know you understand that of which I'm speaking of. I wish the same for you in this year which surely brings all three of which you speak, in one form or another.

Irritated: Huge hug to you dear friend. Thank you!

Helvetica: I understand very well the concern about how much damage it does to one's heart. But I also hope that if breathing in the grief deeply and releasing it to the far corners of the spaciousness will ultimately result in a more open and expansive heart. But I also understand the urge to clench the jaw and close up in a ball. It's quite a learning. Thank you!

jlsathre: Thank you for your good thoughts of comfort and relief. They offer hope which is something I just simply wouldn't want to be without.

greenheron: You said, "grief to me feels warm, heavy, like a backpack full of books that must be carried in the mouth. " Loved this and I will grab on to it, if you don't mind. You're right, this is not my favorite part by any means, and I am reminded of the wedding of my daughter in the fall, and grief can melt away in an instant because I know that joy is just around the corner. Thank you!

Paul: It took me a long time to accept that "any substance reached for in order to cope" only prolonged. Oh how I resisted that. I'm glad that myth has been more than debunked. I so appreciate your good wishes. Thank you.

Myriad: Thank you for reading, and understanding.
Matters of the heart are always best when we're not afraid to show ourselves to others. Being vulnerable and willing to open ourselves is empowering; it is then that we've learned to let love walk in.
Chica . . . this is an incredibly clear-eyed description. Of course, that clarity is something I've always appreciated in your writing. I wish you comfort when you most need it, and peace as the process waxes and wanes. You have offered understanding to many - in "real life" and here on OS . . . be good to yourself, friend.
I agree that loss is best faced cold stone sober. It is easier for some of us than for others, I am afraid. Hope things are looking up for you and that you will be smiling once more. Happy New Year!
The memory of remembering, visceral and dreamy at the same time. You cannot get high to forget the bad, and you can't get high to remember the good, either. Part of the pain of remembering is knowing we cannot climb back into that body and redo things, they are only retraced in the worn out grooves of our emotional body, and thus the grief is twice told. Good song.
Mary, you seem to be beautifully coping with --embracing and writing about-- the harsh realities, something you have commented to me about. Hoping you continue to find peace and joy in life. You do live it fully and openly, with humor and caring. Maybe someday we can sit down and schmooze about life's and downs.
Back to read comments. And I have to say that anyone who can refer to "naked glory" has never seen me in the buff. I'm more like "naked ghastly."
Oh Mary, you touched me so very deeply with this. Achingly beautiful writing and a true warrior's courage. Braveheart indeed!
Why water down what is such a powerful emotion? Why seek to sleep past it when the pain and sadness can fire our souls? Amazing.
This is amazing, honest, and sometimes jarring. And I couldn't agree more... sober is the way to both love and hate life!
Your final line is a gem. The entire post is beautiful, and I agree. I like my grief straight up too.
at times i spoke to echoes
not expecting a reply
visions masked by pain
relief found in sunrise
a new day
echoes yet heard
This is beautiful in the measurement of the depth of loss. There is no closure, and grief is an Everest not to be conquered but climbed because we love.
You are not alone and yet we all are during our brief time on earth. Sobriety does afford intensity (in my experience) and ultimately something approaching acceptance. It sounds corny; but, the only thing I know is to "feel your feelings" and get some rest. Loved your writing despite your circumstances.
I was just thinking the other day how I would have been handling my grief if I still drank like I used to...your writing has confirmed what I came up, it is better to face it head on, little bits by little bits. Beautiful writing
Happy New Year, Mary. Great post. But I think there are, for some individuals, a certain grief, for whatever the reason, they just can't overcome. It consumes them, so they turn to other substances to help them????
I needed to hear this, I realize after reading it. I hope your trial by fire works like a kiln for clay and you emerge stronger and more beautiful.
So powerfully honest and open, Mary. I wish you peace and that this "season" of you life passes quickly. Sending love.
Yowza. Great writing. Rated for raw courage.
Wow, Mary; just . . . wow.
Great piece of writing, Mary!
To know and love someone or even an animal means devoting a portion of one's nervous system to that individual where that person or thing lives dynamically within one's self. When that loved one ceases to exist, in order to remain sane, one must, in effect, kill that person within one's self. That is an act of supreme misery but it is a necessary act of a small suicide. It usually takes me about ten years to complete the process but there is no doubt is is a real physical personal injury and it hurts terribly to convert a living dynamic within one's self to a fixed memory. It's not easy.

This is an amazing post. Congratulations on the EP.

For me I think it is vital that I truly experience my emotions fully and then respond to them. When I don't first identify my feelings and allow myself to feel the full intensity of them and be present with them in all their glory, then I seem to end up reacting to them.

What I need to remember is to respond and not react to my the full range of my emotions.
I don't do grief well, at all. My adult life is a constant struggle of wrestling with my id and too often losing. My mother died seven years ago and I still feel an impulse to call her every Sunday night at 9, as I did in her later years. My cat died two years ago and I find myself scanning the yard and the woods beyond for his favorite spots every time I go outdoors. I like Jan's explanation that the belo9ved remains alive in oneself and must be killed before the memory can be permanently fixed, but I'm not sure they ever completely die. At least not for me.

Your eloquent look at this addresses the pain and the changes better than I've ever seen it done.
This is so true and so profound. And haunting and beautiful and heartwrenching and life affirming despite the pain it speaks to. You are even more wise and beautiful and sensuous and nurturing than when you arrived here. This took my breath away. Thank you.
dunno the story around this, its rather evasive and abstract.
sounds like maybe you just need to join a dating website & go have some fun.
ps its usually "stone cold" and not "cold stone"....
Belinda: You said, "It is then that we've learned to let walk in." Yes, being vulnerable and willing to open ourselves is empowering, and I'm also learning to be discrete with who I allow to see that; the indiscriminate sharing to anyone who is willing to listen can be a set up for grief undeserved. Thank you for reading and your good comment.

Owl: >, thank you :) Thank you especially for your good wish of "peace as the process waxes and wanes". To be good to myself is a goal that perhaps this kind of grief is the only real motivator. It's a disentangling of many unhealthy belief systems implanted in the core of my being. Thank you!

Miguela: Yes, we all have our different capacities and as the wise Pema Chodron says, we can only start where we are, without judgment or prejudice. Thank you!

Oryoki: You so wisely said, " Part of the pain of remembering is knowing we cannot climb back into that body and redo things, they are only retraced in the worn out grooves of our emotional body, and thus the grief is twice told" and for some of us, told thousands of times over. Thank you always for your wisdom and compassion.

Lea: I'm so glad to see you back up and running and forgive me for not visiting your most recent posts. Grief can swallow one up I'm afraid. My intention is to sit down with you, a woman who has blazed a bright trail for me through her own trials, losses, griefs and stupendous joys, and schmooze about it all! Thank you.

Snippy: I can only say that you are surely way too hard on yourself and that's a shame for one as lovely and so full of good humor as you. :)

Gail: Thanks for being my mentor, my spirit guide as of late. For helping me breath it all in...the gifts, the smiles and the sorrows. And for teaching me that while Love may not cause those things, Love drives all things. I'm forever grateful for you!

bobbot: Love the thought of firing our souls. The silver lining around the dark cloud that helps burn the pain away. Thank you!

Roger: Yes, sober is the way to love and hate life...with all the intensity that both can bring. Thanks for being friend.

Erica K: Someone commended me for not returning to drinking during such dark and troubled times and I felt thankful for being incredulous. Quite frankly, while there may be a momentary thought that is as brief as the blink of the eye, I can't imagine doing anything more harmful to myself. Thank you!

Sarah: Thank you! Thank you for reading and resonating.

Chuck: Your poem more than inspires and I will read again tomorrow morning and the next morning and the next...thank you!

ccdarling: "Grief is an Everest not to be conquered but climbed because we love." How can one not love such an amazing group of writers who teach and inspire in their comments alone? Loved yours. Thank you.

grif: I was hoping you would come who are so acquainted with both sides of the coin. and healer of so much. Thank you for the reminder.

Lunchlady2: Oh my heart aches for you and for the losses you have suffered! And I feel honored to have you as companion. And you're right..sometimes just in bite size pieces because there are times that is all our hearts can handle. Thank you.

neilpaul: Yes, it does burn and that hurts, and it also reminds us of our capacities. Thank you...

FromTheMidwest: I agree. And I would never be the judge of that, especially for those who have lost children. I had a client once who could only manage the grief of the tragic death of her daughter through alcohol and I didn't spend a minute of our sessions dissuading her. How could I ever know? She did eventually quit drinking when she was ready, but in an odd way, the drinking saved her life until she could handle the overwhelming grief of it all. Thanks for that compassionate reminder.

keri h: I'm glad it may have been helpful. Loved this encouragement, "I hope your trial by fire works like a kiln for clay"...I will trust in that as I do for others. Thank you.

trilogy: Thank you always for your presence of love trilogy. I always know you're there.

Deborah Mendez-Wilson: Thank you!

montanarose: Got your FB message. Thank you...and yes, the dogs must meet soon. Thanks for reading!

john b: Good to see you John. Thank you for reading and your kind comment.

Jan Sand: You astutely said, "It usually takes me about ten years to complete the process but there is no doubt is is a real physical personal injury and it hurts terribly to convert a living dynamic within one's self to a fixed memory. It's not easy." While I'm hoping it won't be ten years, it wouldn't surprise me either, even if it's remembered in bits and pieces. You are wise and I loved this comment. Thank you for reading.

Diary: The struggle between reacting and responding is a daily one...and I tend to react more more than respond. I am grateful that you are reminding me of this important practice of mindfulness. Thank you!

Matt: I found Jan's explanation helpful as well and I understand what you are saying. I think you are a sensitive soul and with that comes perhaps the difficulty in truly letting go. And then I ask myself and why should you? I have a friend who was devastated for years by the death of his pet parrot and I would never judge the reasons why. Again, my sense is that someone who is particularly attuned to the preciousness and briefness of life may also have a hard time letting go of those that pass before them. Thank you!

Skanktimonious: Well, wow, thank you! Surely I must know who you are if you have been around for as long as I have. And I will happily accept your compliment. I believe that writing on this site has opened my heart in ways I never imagined and helped me frame the circumstances of my life in ways that have helped me better express myself. I appreciate you noticing. Thank you again.

vzn: ?!?
Excellent piece. I too find myself wishing and picturing fantasy love affairs that are oh so much more exciting than my real life - Slightly different than what you've expressed here, but the longing maybe stem from a similar place

I really like the way you've describe your tear drops, like pearls
Damn, that was beautiful. I miss your work....
Hayley: I think sometimes our grief involves grieving an illusion and not a reality. Thank you for your perspective on this.

Michael: Hey Michael! Long time, no see either! I hope you are doing well. Write a post will ya?
Wow, Mary...although I'm sad that you're in pain right now, your description of your grief experience is beautifully told. It helps to read it as I remind myself to just feel the pain rather than try to dismiss it or escape from it.

I wish you a short journey in the grief stage and much peace and happiness once you're through it. XOXO
I'm not afraid to show my emotions. Fear doesn't consume me. Neither does grief. I prefer the straight up process over crutches some use to anesthesize themselves from feeling.
stunning writing, a courageous heart.
Brilliant and it struck me down to my knees. More More. I have felt the pain and know to keep it close.
"But stone cold sober is the way I like my grief. Straight up. On the jagged rocks of my ragged heart. "
Beautiful and real. I just noticed that grief and relief rhyme. Seems fitting, that there might be a natural segue if one allows oneself to feel the feelings to the end point. (r)
"Feeling sad is better than feeling nothing at all."

That is precisely my thinking, and it's why I struggle against anything that makes me numb, even when the alternative is genuine pain.

It's a sentiment that I find very few people seem to understand. I can only find people who are struggling in exactly the same direction - towards anesthetic state of mind, against experience.

Thank you for demonstrating that there are people who understand the value of negative things.
Left me speechless! xo
Amazing as per usual. I research a good amount of famous quotes for one of my marketing blogs. This should be on one of the lists:

"Loss is best experienced in its naked glory."

Sometimes it seems sick to mess with grief, via drugs and alcohol...or whatever. It wants to do its thing and needs no cloudy interference.
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"Loss is best experienced in its naked glory. It comes fast and furious and leaves a blaze of golden fiery dust like the shooting star that cares not where its destiny lies."

Truly beautiful, and beautifully true. And..what Beth Mann said. Grief will run through you until you allow it to run its course.