595 Days

It is amazing to me that I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in 595 days. I have been going through some transitions in my attitude, and I finally feel like it is all settling into place. I am learning who I am, what I want, and forging my own path in life. It doesn’t look anything like I thought it would look when I quit drinking. When I quit I couldn’t see very far outside of the box that drinking had placed me in. I knew my life couldn’t feel much worse, but I had no idea how much better it could actually be. I had no idea that I was stepping into the light, beginning a path of healing where I would eventually release a lot of old baggage and fears. Here are some example of how my life, thinking, and feelings have changed since I put the damn bottle down.

I used to be extremely angry at my parents. I was angry at their drinking, the fact that we moved a lot while I was growing up, the way they handled their divorce, their denial around alcoholism. I still have momentary glimpses of that anger, but for the most part I have dealt with it. We might never have the relationship that I want, but I finally can see that nobody has a perfect relationship with their parents. Mine might have involved a certain level of trauma, but that is in the past. I am learning how to parent myself and now I can accept our relationships for what they are. Doing that has made these relationships, and myself, happier and healthier.

I no longer feel frightened of authority figures. I used to carry this shame around with me, even when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I felt like I was on the verge of being arrested, or somehow called into question, whenever I was around an authority figure. I felt like a phony and a fraud. I did break the law sometimes, which didn’t help these feelings, but I carried more shame than I needed to. I have put that baggage aside, and I no longer feel afraid of those with power greater than my own.

I have stopped comparing my life with the lives of others, at least somewhat. I used to feel crippled by those kinds of thoughts, from the time that I was quite young; I think it started in junior high school and I never really stopped. Maybe because I started drinking at age 14? I think one of the ways my development was affected by drinking was that I never learned about my own “locus of control”. I was always a victim of my circumstances instead of feeling like I could change them. I had a few glimpses of healthier self-esteem and greater self-efficacy throughout my adult years, but the drinking always brought me back to bad places. Now that the drinking is done, I have been better able to dig myself out of that hole. I have realized that I have the power to create my own life, especially if I focus on myself and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.

I am no longer paralyzed with self doubt whenever I start something new. I used to be a perfectionist who often didn’t do things due to fear of failure. I now see that as being very silly, even if it is amazingly common. I try to break things down into much smaller chunks so that a project doesn’t look so overwhelming. I also give myself more breaks. Discipline, self-acceptance and kindness actually go quite well together!

I am sure there are many more, but those are some of the positive things that I have been noticing lately. I am a work in progress, and I am totally okay with that. Progress not perfection, my friends!

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The Importance of the Bubble

When I first got sober it was crucial to develop and maintain a “sober bubble” to live inside until I felt safe. This bubble has been talked about in depth by many other people, but it has become a very important concept for me during my 439 (!!) days sober, so I wanted to touch on it a bit here.

I have recently come to the conclusion that the bubble is a way of life for me. In order to be happy and feel fulfilled, I need a bubble. The people and things that I put in my bubble vary, but I am responsible for taking care of my bubble and making sure that it is healthy. If a person is making me feel crazy, they might need to be removed from my bubble until I can handle them better, or for good. Facebook is no longer a part of my bubble because it doesn’t make me feel very good a lot of the time, and it takes too much of my precious time. My sober bubble is no longer so much about keeping the world out, but instead filtering  and making room for the important of things in my life. When I take care to monitor my bubble, I feel secure, safe and happy.

These days, when I am asked to do something for someone else, I think about it a bit harder than I used to. I think about the big picture and my bubble. I try not to say yes to things simply because I feel like I should. Is the person important to me? Does doing this “thing” make me happy? Then yes. If not, then no. Simple, right? It isn’t always so easy in practice, of course, but it helps me differentiate the truly important things from the not-so-important.

Us sober folks can sometimes feel like we are missing out on things, especially in early sobriety. That was my experience, and I have a hunch that it is/was the same for many of you. Keeping a carefully curated bubble can help to alleviate those bad feelings. WE are in charge of our lives and what surrounds us. We choose not to have alcohol, or other toxic things, in our bubble.

 

Recovery, and Life, and Hello

Recovery is a thing that happens all the time these days. It is seamless, integrated, a part of me that exists along with breathing and going pee. Well, maybe not exactly, but I feel super grateful that I no longer have to dwell on it quite as much as I used to. It took a lot of brain space and time. It was totally worth all of the brain space and time to start living a sober existence, but it has changed. Amazingly, though, I don’t feel in danger of relapsing because I am not focusing the same kind of attention on it. I feel super alive for the first time in many years, and I am grabbing onto that feeling with both hands.

Let me tell you a little about what is working for me these days, because recovery has a tendency to change over time, just like life. It looks different for different people, and it even looks different for different people on different days. Lately for me it has looked like reading lots of books that inspire me to be the best person that I can be. Thinking about big picture things on a regular basis. Being open with people about who I am, including the part of me that is an alcoholic. Starting a new business venture that scares the shit out of me but also makes me feel useful and creative. Reading one good book per week. Prayer. Gratitude. Family and friends.

Oh, and remembering this thought EVERY SINGLE DAY- I can not have this life, this amazing life, if I start drinking again. Drinking is simply not an option for me. I still think that surrendering to that knowledge is the single most important thing you can do to get yourself sober. As long as I remember that every day, I don’t feel in danger of drinking.

Blogging hasn’t really been my thing lately, and that’s okay with me. Being here all the time helped me so much for those first few months. Hell, for the first whole year even. I still stop by every day and read what all of you have to say, but I don’t comment as much as I used to. I feel like I have limited resources to get me through every day, and sometimes I would rather focus my attention elsewhere. So, it is what it is for now. Maybe one day I will feel like writing more here again, but for now I am okay with stopping by occasionally for an update, and reading your thoughts, struggles and feelings. It helps.

The work of recovery doesn’t ever stop, I am finding. I am constantly learning more about myself. Turns out I am a ‘highly sensitive person’. Have you heard of this label? It seems like a bit of pop psychology, but I secretly love pop psychology and self-help type stuff, and the description fits me perfectly. I recently read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and it helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses that come along with being this way. I think I was using alcohol as a type of medication for so many different purposes. It is interesting to become more ‘me’ as sober time increases. It’s not all good, but it’s definitely a more authentic way to live.

You all take care of yourselves out there and remember that you are never, ever alone. I’m sending out lots of good vibes to the universe for every single one of you.

 

Reflections

I haven’t been too keen on writing lately, and I have been having some wicked drinking dreams. These things might not seem related, but I know that they are. The dreams are coming up because I haven’t been taking good care of myself. I have felt tired when thinking about blogging here, and tired when thinking about the new site that I want to use for non-recovery related writings that I have not yet started. I am a jumbly, bumbling, grouchy, cross person when I don’t practice self-care. This needs to change, as I need a decent amount of alone time to feel like myself. My little family’s travels are over for the summer, additional family has visited and left, and now I have the space to take some alone time. All is well. The road to relapse is slippery, but I know what needs to be done from here to get back on sure footing.

I have been reflecting a lot on life in general lately, and the future, and the past. One year ago I was a total mess, on the inside for sure, and maybe on the outside a bit, too. Maybe that’s a huge understatement but it sure is hard to see yourself clearly when you are drinking every evening, and the past is gone forever, so all I have is memory and other people’s versions of the truth. I know that I was wearing yoga pants a lot and I was constantly freaking out that I wasn’t doing a good job at being a mother. The guilt and shame of parenting is amazing. I didn’t think it would happen to me- the guilt and fear that I was doing everything wrong and damaging my child at every turn- but it did. Parenting is a truly humbling experience, as is battling an addiction. Both are right up there in the category ‘life experiences that will change you forever’.

This year is different. The guilt, shame and fear has receded into memory-land, at least for the most part. I sometimes worry about my son, but I have a deeper sense that things are okay, and that I am mainly doing things right for him. I realize that everything about who he is and how he turns out is not my responsibility. Drinking is also a memory now. Some are good memories, but a lot are bad ones that hold the power to make me cringe when I think of them. They aren’t so present anymore, even though I can see them with a kind of clarity that only comes with time. They are wispy things, and for that I am grateful. I hold tight to them because they remind me that I never, ever want to go back to the dark place where I was living. No thank you very much.

On the other hand, I am not sure that my pink cloud of love for everything mundane and normal is going to last forever. Look at me! Living in my own house! Gardening! Eating a dinner with fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market! Paying my bills on time every month! Buying gifts and cards for people in a timely and appropriate fashion! Being normal!!!!

I know that not all of you relate to this sentiment, as your lives stayed more ‘normal’ during your drinking days, but mine was really up and down while I was drinking. I never quite had it all together, even though I tried reeeallly hard. It seems like I was always juggling everything and dropping balls, picking them back up only to drop another one. I was really proud of the balls I managed to keep in the air, though!

I can’t predict the future. I don’t know if ‘normal’ is going to be exciting enough for me forever. It is for right now, and I can keep building my life in the meantime, finding new and different things that I love to fill me up from the inside. Thank you all for following along and offering support to me over the past 11 1/2 months. It is so wonderful to know that this space is here for me when I need to work some stuff out. I follow many of your blogs and reading your stories helps a lot, too. Keep doing your thing.

 

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?

Feelings and Reactions

I am getting to a place where I feel pretty solid sober. Cravings come every once in awhile, but they can be dismissed much easier than the cravings I felt in the first few months. This is good. I like being sober, my life is going well, I have more clarity, I am energetic and making positive changes in many areas of my life. Good, good, good. Oh, and did I mention that I am 200 days sober today?

Now I am working on all the STUFF that comes up from being sober. I am no longer numbing my feelings with buckets of booze, so I have to deal with them somehow. I might have mentioned it before, but DEALING WITH FEELINGS IS HARD. For everyone, not just me, but this is my blog.

I am realizing that I almost always want to react immediately when my feelings are hurt or my buttons are pushed. I want to TELL THAT PERSON THAT THEY HURT ME RIGHT THEN AND THERE. I have a need to do something right away. I have a hard time letting go without action.

I basically see red until I say something, or text something, or write an email, or call the person. I have a hard time concentrating on other things until I clear my head of the issue and get it out on the table. DIRECTLY TO THE PERSON.

I believe in honesty and telling people how I feel, but sometimes I think I am reacting to my feelings instead of taking the time to think about what I am saying. I move too quickly to let people know that they hurt me. I want to stop doing this.  I want to detach and learn how to deal with my feelings without ALWAYS having to tell the other person everything that is in my head. I want to create space in my life for new reactions and thoughts. I want to be more patient with my feelings… to see how they change, flow, ebb if I don’t react right away. I think I am missing an opportunity for healing by blaming the other person for my feelings. I don’t want to follow the same patterns of thinking and behaving from my past.

Wow, writing about this subject is triggering me. I can feel my shoulders tensing up.

I really like for communication to be crystal clear. Things were murky when I was a kid, so I prefer to have everything out in the open. Is this always the best way to do things, though? I am realizing more and more that it isn’t.

I think people don’t communicate their feelings to one another often enough, which leads to many miscommunications in life. People should talk more and tell each other their thoughts and feelings. I err on the opposite side, though, by sharing too much, too often. LOUDLY.

There is a time and place to have talks about hurt feelings, and sometimes I need to put on my big girl pants and deal with it on my own. It is selfish to put it on the other person’s plate when it is really all about ME and my perceptions. Chances are they didn’t mean to hurt me in the first place.

I know that it will be hard to change this, but from here on out I am making the intention to pause before I react. I shall simply pause to sit with my feelings for a few moments, regardless of the discomfort I feel. Maybe I could write them down, take a shower and cry in private, or go for a run to help release them instead of going straight to the person with them.

Huh, sounds so grown up.