Experiencing LIFE

I have been stalking plants in my neighborhood. Daily stalking, mainly through walks, though sometimes I drive, to check out the gardens of the people living in my neighborhood. I am particularly interested in a few hydrangeas living close by. Those sexy beasts. My husband thinks I have gone slightly mad, and I do not completely disagree. He spends his days and nights dreaming of Vespa scooters, so we are a perfect pair, really. A good match with our slightly obsessive temperaments in regards to hobbies. I feel open enough with him to share my obsessions, in part due to the fact that he’s been there during my struggle with booze. So, I am an ex-boozer and plant enthusiast (stalker). Nice to meet you.

Life seems different to me now. When I take my daily walk to visit my plant friends, listening to the sweet and humorous sounds of my son’s new words bubbling up from the stroller in front of me, I notice the vast quantities of life around me. There is life everywhere and it all seems so new to me now. Where was all of this life before? How did I miss it? We live in a wild place, in a small town near a large forest, and we are surrounded by wild things. I stop and look up at the trees almost every day. “Wow. That is an amazing tree,” I say to myself, “How did I never notice how tall? How green? How old? Those leaves. Wow.”

I did notice, of course, in my own way. The trees were there, the people were there, the animals were there, and the life was there. It’s just that I was stuck inside of my sad drinking life- which is what it is to me now. I accept it, surrender to it, and don’t condemn myself for it, but it was sad to be so damn sad all the time. I spent the majority of my precious time feeling sorry for myself, while numbing the life that was all around me, and inside me, and a part of me and everything else. I was keeping myself in the dark instead of allowing myself to wake up and see the light. But I did see the light sometimes. I noticed the beauty of the world around me at times. Enough to eventually wake up, realize there is more out there, and quit drinking.

Life is breathtakingly beautiful at times. Crushing in the sweetest way possible. And sometimes crushing in a not-so-sweet way. It isn’t always easy to feel this much more of every feeling than I used to. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Feed the Soil

I think about this phrase a lot for my son. My job as his parent is to create an environment that can help him grow and thrive- to feed the soil not the plant. I don’t need to worry about every little thing, or react to every small daily incident, or worry worry worry about how his childhood is going, as long as I remember to feed the soil around my sweet little one. He needs to be surrounded by people who love him, books, toys that interest and challenge him, a variety of people, nature, and new experiences.

The same thing goes for my sobriety. I don’t need to worry about it so much anymore, as it has pretty much become second nature for me not to drink, at least most of the time. I still need to feed the soil regularly to stay fully committed to this path in life. This means reading sober blogs to hear about other people’s struggles and triumphs, reading uplifting materials (even just a few good quotes can do the trick), and spending time with positive people who help me feel good about life. I need to travel every so often to widen my perspective, to interact with people who challenge me, and to learn about new ideas. I need to write. I need fresh air, good food and exercise. I need hugs- so many hugs! All of these things feed the soil of my sobriety so that it can continue to grow and thrive. These things are important for everyone, but particularly for us sensitive-alcoholic types. I think many alcoholics are highly sensitive people, but that is a post for another day.

The opposite is also true. If I surround myself with downers and heavy drinkers, and don’t do the things that I need to stay healthy, then my sobriety will wither away.

Remember to be aware of what you are feeding your soil, is what I am saying. I will keep working on mine right alongside you.

xoxo

 

Worry Not, My Friend

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Letting go of worry has been one of the coolest and most unexpected joys of sobriety. I mean, I still worry, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t paralyze me as much or as often as it used to. The whole cycle of addiction that I experienced regularly- the build-up to a binge, the binge itself, the inevitable blackout, the fear afterwards, the drinking to alleviate the fear, rinse and repeat- that cycle really fucked with my head. It’s such a revelation at times I can’t even believe it. It’s such a relief that that person isn’t really me, or at least not all of me.

We are so much more than our drinking selves.

It is true that many people drink drink drink and still maintain decent lives. They go to school, get degrees, get married, have families, buy nice things, travel, etc. They are living lives that are happy for the most part. They are together-ish, at least. But…they never ever ever reach their true potential. Your, their, anyone else’s potential is not for me to ascertain, but I am betting that there are a lot of people who never reach their potential, or seek their authentic selves, because they are caught in a cycle of addiction. Or just drink too much on a regular basis.

I know that this was true for me.

I am just now able to begin to start to find out my potential. It doesn’t have to be anything super spectacular, but it means being true to myself. Letting go of crutches that keep me from truly feeling, and therefore living my life in an authentic way. Finding balance so that I stop caring so much what other people think. Giving to others in a meaningful way- because I want to- instead of doing it because it is expected or I want something in return.

There are many paths that lead to the authentic self, but for me, letting go of all of that unnecessary worry is helping so, so much.

I thought I would share a few things that are actually working to help me stop over-thinking, over-analyzing and worrying about everything way too much. There are many more ideas to choose from, but this list is as much for me as for you- I want to be able to look back and see where I was during this time.

1. Check in with a reasonable person willing to honestly tell you if you are getting too worked up about this or that. Someone kind and laid-back, who also loves you, is a good choice. My husband is great at this. He doesn’t over-analyze so he can easily and gently tell me if I need to let something go.

2. Look for the root of the issue and express it in some way. Talk to the person, write it down, go tell your therapist, blog. Get it out of your head!

3. Write a gratitude list and focus on the positive.

4. Read this article. It is very simplified, but helpful at the same time. I read it earlier this week and was able to feel a bit more confident letting go of worry about what others think.

5. Remember that you are creating your reality and worry is blocking happiness. The universe is your playground, so enjoy it! Everything is okay. All is well. Choose a mantra and go with it.

6. Physical activity. Cleaning, exercise, a walk, a project that requires the use of my hands. I have been really into painting furniture, which is pretty physical even though it doesn’t get my heart rate up. It helps me concentrate on what I am doing so I get out of my head.

What works for you guys?

A Thicker Skin

Living life as a sober person requires a sense of humor and a thick skin. To fully integrate into everyday life you have to have the ability to laugh things off and not take everything so seriously.

Many people like to drink. While I sometimes wish this wasn’t the case, the world isn’t going to reorganize itself to suit my whims (or diseases). If I want to reintroduce myself into parts of my old social life, I have to be the one to adjust.

So, a lot of people like to drink, and they also like to talk about their drinks.

Friend: This wine is so delicious. Did you know that Australian varietals are really in right now?

Jen: ……No, I haven’t bought much wine lately…always good to know, though. Thanks.

Friend: So-and-so brought this fantastic pepper beer over recently and we all had a taste! It was weird…hot but cool, if you know what I mean.

Jen: ……

And then the subject changes and all is well in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this at first, which is why I pretty much stayed away from all drinking events, but it is more manageable now. I feel awkward, try not to take it personally, and then move on and talk about something else. I even try to laugh to myself at the whole situation.

I mean, I already drank a whole life’s worth of drinks, so I know how to talk about them. I think that the more comfortable I get in these situations the more comfortable others will be. I want people to feel comfortable around me, yet at the same time I don’t want people to talk about their damn drinks all night long. Seriously. That would make for a pretty boring conversation.

It just is less important now, which is really cool.

I read an article about ego-depletion somewhere recently. Ego-depletion is the idea that your self-control is finite; you only have so much willpower. Once you use it up, you use it up. This really spoke to me about addiction and placing ourselves in difficult situations that require the flexing of our sober muscles. We need to do it a little at a time and then have activities that fill us back up in between, like sober blogging. Or AA meetings. Or whatever makes us feel powerful and in control instead of deprived and sad that we can no longer drink.

Laughter helps to fill me up. When I can see the humor in a situation I am able to defend myself better against ego-depletion. I don’t feel like I am using so much self-control to avoid drinking, instead I feel happy that I am making good choices for myself.

300 Days

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I’m going through a really lovely rebellious period right now where I feel happy as hell to be doing my own thing in life. Being me. Sober and proud, baby. I spent some time feeling sad that I wasn’t like everyone else anymore, but now I am happily living my nonconformist, sober life. Time to explore some uncharted territory and find ways to be high on life- real, unfiltered, and raw.

I love this article by Prince Rama’s Nimai Larson about quitting drinking. She is a badass and I admire the shit out of people who make positive changes in their lives. I don’t look down on her, or the countless other amazing people I read about who have quit drinking, so why feel less than myself?

I think it is badass to take control of your life and stop doing something that is hurting you!

Notes From a Good Day

Life has been good lately, and I know that it is because of sobriety. I am enjoying living more than I used to… genuinely appreciating the small things. The everyday things. Taking my son swimming. Drinking a delicious cup of coffee in the morning. Going for a hike and really noticing the trees and the sky and hearing the birds, and just feeling happy and content. Feeling joy bubble up inside when I hear a good song on the radio and can’t help but smile and dance around. I look silly, but I don’t care. My son dances, too, and I love how unselfconscious he is. I want that for myself.

It seems that my thinking has shifted. I used to feel fear and pain so much of the time. I thought constantly about drinking, even if I didn’t realize I was thinking about it. Everything revolved around numbing out my fear and pain, because then I was able to laugh and relax for awhile. Drinking was my constant reward for having to deal with life, which I found to be terribly hard and strenuous most of the time. Life wasn’t fair. I didn’t always get what I deserved. People could be so mean. I felt left out and left behind and so, so scared.

This is so much better. The true relaxation and happiness that comes with thinking things through, talking things out, feeling all the feelings on the spectrum, processing the happenings, and really and truly living life on life’s terms.

My family-of-origin has been helpful to me in letting go this past week, as they are nowhere near close to accepting the alcoholism that continues to warp and damage their lives. I have been hitting my head against a brick wall trying to get them to see the truth. Gah. I am realizing how hypocritical I have been by doing that, and therefore feel able to let go of it all, at least for now. Finally. I am sending them love and light from afar.

They aren’t all good days of course, but the good ones are really good. I am grateful to be here, writing to you all and myself, enjoying this glass of iced pomegranate green tea. Now I am off to clean the house and get prepared for a fun play date this afternoon. xo