Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Hear You - A Call for Help From NJ in The Wake of Hurricane Sandy

"We are in the affected area of NJ hard hit by Sandy. Could use a post if you have any with encouraging words for those of us struggling not to drink during this extremely trying time. Any words of reflection and encouragement would be most helpful to us who feel like we are on an island floating in the tumultuous waves of uncertainty. Many of us are insulated from the news reports that are depicting the reality we are living. I am in an area that still has no power and am a nurse who has been working around the clock to provide care at a level 3 trauma center. I manage a level 3 intensive care Neonatal ICU. We are still in crisis mode since last week and don't see an end in sight. It even feels good just to vent here to someone who understands"

Her words come to me through the vast expanse of the internet, sitting in my Inbox today.  Though she is only a few states away from me, she may as well be on another planet.   I close my eyes and try to imagine my house surrounded my mud, water and debris, and having that be the least of my concerns; the top priority, of course, being the safety and well being of my family.

I can't imagine it.  I can't imagine family treasures lost to floods. I can't imagine a week without power and no end in sight - the spoiling food, the pets, and where do you sleep?  How to keep strong for your children when you're full of fear yourself?

I can't imagine the sights and smells and sounds she's experiencing in the NICU.  Where the smallest of the small struggle to exist even in the best of circumstances.  I can't imagine that weight on my shoulders.

I'm touched by her words that it helps to vent to someone who understands, because my words of advice and/or encouragement seem so small in the face of all this hardship.

But then I realize she's reaching out to me as a sober sister.  This part I do understand.  How do you stay sober when the world is pressing down on you, making you suffocate with boredom or responsibility or tragedy? 

Because a drink is the only way to hide from yourself, to lift the burden of being in your own mind, even temporarily.  

This part, I understand. I think most of us do, and not just alcoholics, either.  Normal Ordinary Regular People (whom I fondly call "NORPS") drink, a lot of the time, for that same little release.  That whoosh of freedom from mental anguish, stress, anxiety or boredom.

When you're sober, this particular mental trap door is no longer an option for you.  Because if you're a surrendered alcoholic, you know you won't stop at one and then you won't be of any use to anyone, least of all yourself.

So I DO understand. She's triggered, and looking around at the ruins of the life she knew before the storm make the reasons not to drink become smaller and smaller.  She's asking me to remind her why a drink is a bad idea, or how to get through this sober.  Because that's what we do for each other.

There are the more commonplace (some say trite) words of advice like "this too shall pass" - all bumper-stickery and can only serve to aggravate and enrage someone in the throes of wanting a drink.  Because when you're in the grips of a craving, it feels like it will never pass.  When you're in the grips of tragedy, it feels like life will never be set right again.

And maybe it won't ever be the same.  Maybe you're sailing toward a new normal, one you can't begin to envision right now. One where you rolled up your sleeves in the face of tragedy and did your best.  Your sober, present, anxious, stressed and sometimes victorious BEST.  You didn't hide in a drink, because you're needed.  By strangers and family alike, you're needed, and that's part of what makes you want to hide.

So I'm here to say I HEAR YOU.  When the rest of the world wants something from you, all I want for you is to get through this moment, and then the next, until the moments pile up, the waters recede and life slowly pieces itself back to its new normal.  If you disappear in a drink, you may never come back. You'll recede with the flood waters, little by little, until you're barely recognizable to yourself.

When this passes - and it WILL pass, no matter how frustrating it sounds at the moment - you will look back with pride, sorrow and peace of mind that you DID it. You got through.  Sober.  You're out there fighting more than one battle - you're fighting the elements and the lack of power and the darkness and the water and keeping young babies alive, and you're fighting your demon at the same time.

I think that makes you the bravest person in the world at the moment.  I hope that's what you need to hear. Because I can't do any more than tell you I think you are incredible - truly - and an inspiration to every single person out there batting back their urge to drink without flood waters around there ankles. 

Take a deep breath, my sister, and be proud. I am proud of you. We are all rooting for you, and everyone standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you during this difficult time.

I. Hear. You.  And you have inspired me in ways mere words can't express.  

Thank you.


  1. Oh my goodness. Please know that there are SO many people thinking of you and your community right now. I cannot even imagine the anxiety and stress you must be battling through. Not only at home, but inside of a NICU. I wish i could say something completely inspirational but I don't think I could ever find the words to express what I would like to. We are thinking of you.

  2. This is so beautiful. I am a longtime lurker here and love your words, strength and wisdom. Thank you for encouraging me to make changes and all those who read your words here.

  3. I love this act of caring. And I hope the good thoughts and hopes fly across the miles and make a spot of peace in your reader's heart.

  4. Ha, I like that description 'longtime lurker'! It fits me too. I have often visited but never posted. I want American 'sisters' to know that we are thinking of those in turmoil after Hurricane Sandy..take a deep breath, do what is needed and the grace and compassion you give to others will ultimately strengthen you.. It is 2 years since devasting floods all but destroyed my small town on Queensland, Australia. We pulled through together. I am still sober, stronger and when I look back on those terrible days I feel so proud of what we achieved. You will be too.

  5. As a mother of three former NICU babies and a fellow recovering alcoholic, you are and always will be a hero, a rockstar, a lifesaver.


  6. As awful as it is now, your so right, this will pass. God bless you all.

  7. Saying a prayer for you now- thank you for what you do.

  8. Ellie, thank you for sharing this woman's plea with us and for shoring her up as she holds the lives of so many in her hands. Her steady, work-worn, knowledgable, competent, loving, sober hands. The hands upon which so many are depending right now to help them see their way clear to that new normal that is out there somewhere, someway, someday.

    I salute you nurses, moms, animal rescue workers, aid helpers, emts, mayors, deacons, wives.