Rea is someone that contacted me recently about reading her debut Memoir, “The Cape House”. I’m about a quarter into the book now and its written very well – I just wish I had more time to read! IHer book has been shared on other blogs and she’s receiving rave reviews! I’m very happy for her! As a fellow writer and author myself, I know how important it is to get our work out there and to get it read! I can’t wait to read more of her Memoir, but for now her Interview was so insightful and I just love connecting with other women in recovery!
Before I got clean and sober, Food was the solution to all of my problems. It was the way I numbed out feelings I didn’t know how to handle and assuage the almost constant fear and anxiety. I truly believed that I couldn’t live without food; one night in Paris, I stopped in the middle of the street and was overcome with the feeling that if I didn’t leave my friends at that very moment for the hotel to get room service, I would die. As for alcohol and drugs, they were another way for me to escape myself, a way to be “cool” and “edgy”, to fit in with my peers and create relationships. I felt as if I was living on the sidelines; drinking and using drugs made me feel a part of.
Today, there is a blessed sense of neutrality around food, alcohol, and drugs. I bake challah bread every week and have my hands in the dough and it just doesn’t occur to me to eat it. I explain to my kids that I’m “allergic” to it, that for me, eating flour and sugar is like eating rat poison. As for alcohol and drugs, it’s just not part of my world anymore. I sometimes with I could relax with my husband with a glass of red wine and a joint, but then I think of what happens to me afterward and I know that any closeness the experience might foster would be destroyed by the monster I would turn into.
My relationships with my family were very selfish. When I was in my addiction, I expected the people I loved, especially my mother, to save me. I stole from them, I demanded attention, I resented them for not being able to make me better. I used my mother to vent my anger. I never related to my siblings; I just compared myself to them. I was never honest with any of them about who I was, because I had no idea who I was. As for my husband, he met me after I’d been clean for a while and had been working the twelve steps. But even that has been a process, because my default is still selfishness. However, I was aware of it by that point and could act from a more conscious place.
Today, my relationship with my family has shifted a lot. My mother passed away about eight years ago, but by then I had gotten clean and made amends to her, and was able to help her when she was dying from cancer. It was an opportunity I will always be grateful for. My father and I became closer when my mother was sick, and now that I’ve become more open and honest, we have real lines of communication open. My sister and I are best friends now; before, I resented her terribly. As for my brothers, things are good. They see I’ve had enough time behind me that I’m no longer the person they grew up with. Sometimes, one of them will ask, “You still go to those meetings?” And I say, “Yup.” Every time.
I didn’t have many romantic relationships until after I got sober. I was obese from the time I was eight, so I used that to excuse myself from the dating ring. My romantic connections were always obsessive; I was looking to them to fill something in me. I was never myself. I felt I had to perform to be more interesting, more mysterious, sexier. I couldn’t have intimacy because I never told anyone the truth. I was quick to give myself away to almost any taker, because I believed I couldn’t do any better than that. I thought that was what made me count, what made me valid and desirable. Later, after I got clean but wasn’t working a spiritual program, I went after men who were in relationships, not caring about the other girls. I sought unavailable people, not knowing at the time that I was just avoiding intimacy.
I’m very married. Ten years in May.
As I said, I was sober when I met my husband, and I’ve been very lucky that he’s been so supportive of my recovery. I’ve had to do a lot of stepwork around our marriage because of my own expectations, demands, and fears. It’s hard to break that habit of thinking that the other person is going to fix something for you or complete something in you, and I found it threatening when my husband showed his defects. If he wasn’t perfect, where did that leave me? I’ve had to learn to practice more acceptance of him, and of myself.
I was completely unreliable before I got sober. I would call out sick to work constantly, not show up, or act obnoxious when I was at work because I didn’t want to be there. I have also changed my profession since getting sober. I started out as a teacher; now I’m a writer. So my co-workers are mostly myself, which makes my work life pretty easy.
My friendships were similar to my romantic relationships; I was always looking for what I could get out of it. Today, I try to show up and be present for other people. I’ve cultivated the practice of asking “How are you?” and then really listening to the answer. “How can I help?” is a big one also. I’m certainly not a perfect friend, but I do my best not to make it all about me anymore.
My relationship with God is the most important part of my recovery, and my life. It’s the foundation of everything.
Being able to turn everything over to God frees me from the anxiety and fear that used to follow me around all the time. There’s a beauty in being able to trust things as they are instead of wasting my energy trying to fix them and shape them into the way I think they should be. For me, recovery means always growing, always striving, always discovering more. It’s all part of a journey God has laid out specifically for me. God knows exactly what I need, painful, wonderful and everything in between. It’s a refinement process into the person God created me to be. So when I experience setbacks, instead of beating myself up for them or dwelling in negativity, I can turn back to that place of trust and know that God sent that experience to me.
When I was a couple of years sober, I took in a friend’s cat, Potato. We lived together for ten months, and being responsible for her was a big deal. My friend told me that before Potato came to live with me, she was really spastic; but after living with me, she was much calmer. So I guess that’s a good thing. Today, we have three cats for whom I take no responsibility – I have my hands full enough with five kids!
These days, it’s tough to keep my faith in humanity, but I follow Mr. Rogers’ advice to “look for the helpers.” I believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I know we are all just flawed human beings doing the best we can. However, I am still disappointed in society sometimes. I want everything to be right and fair and good. But God, for some reason, doesn’t want it that way. There must be something to teach us there. Maybe it’s our opportunity to show up for each other. That said, I do try to focus on what I can bring to the table, and how I can be of service.
I think my writing is a big part of my contribution to society. I’m a truth-teller, and I’m not afraid to show my imperfections. My new book, “The Cape House,” talks all about my battle with food addiction and alcohol. I included that because there are so many people who battle with those issues that if one person picks up the book and something registers for them, then my work is a success. I don’t need to change the world, but if one person’s life is changed because of something I wrote, I believe I’ve contributed something important.
Rea Bochner is a writer, musician, and mother. She has worn many hats in her lifetime, including: a tour guide at Disney World’s “Great Movie Ride”, a story developer at Universal Studios, a special educator, a doula, and once, a kids’ yoga instructor whose class was sabotaged by her own children. Rea’s articles and short stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including the New-York-Times-Bestselling “Small Miracles” Series. Her short stories, “Exodus,” “Zeller’s Dry Goods and Hardware,” and “The Mustacchi Orchard,” were all featured in anthologies published by Mosaica Press. Rea spun her beguiling early years of parenthood into a series entitled, “Parenthology: How to Raise Happy, Healthy Babies Without Losing Your Mind.”
She lives in New Jersey with her husband, five children, and three cats. “The Cape House” is her debut memoir.