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.

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

 

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!

Ups, Downs and All-Arounds

I was worried there for a bit, but things are starting to feel better. Life was beginning to feel really hard without alcohol. Like, really damn hard. I was feeling left out of activities because I no longer drink, worrying about meeting new people sober, and thinking that my husband would probably want to leave me because of how boring I have become since we were married, due to the lack of alcohol in my life, of course. My thoughts and reactions have been totally overblown and my paranoia has been in full effect. Last night I started thinking about why I have been feeling this way, and alas, I just passed 9 months sober last week. That significant trigger of a date plus a yucky sinus problem that felt never-ending pushed me over the edge, I think. Or triggered a PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) episode, more accurately.

Luckily yesterday, when I was beginning to think that I couldn’t take the stress and strain of it all anymore, I found some really reassuring reading about getting back to normal in sobriety and how at 9 months, it probably ain’t gonna happen. Not yet. But I am on the way there, and that makes me feel better. Just knowing and understanding that I was having a PAWS episode helped make me feel better. Like, right on. I’ve dealt with this before… I can handle this. Just ride it out and see what I can find out about myself in the process.

One thing I have learned from this rough patch is that I need to have a better plan for rough patches. Until today, I could feel myself slowly slipping down the path of relapse one negative thought at a time. I feel lucky to have found something- grace perhaps?- when I did. I was pulled up and out of my negative thinking at a crucial time. What will I do when something really bad happens? I don’t want to sit around waiting for my life to go to shit, but based on the fact that shitty, sad, scary, and bad things happen to everyone, I think I would be remiss not to make a plan for this eventuality. I am not sure what my plan is exactly, but working my atypical program on a regular basis is vital. The problem, I believe, is that relapse creeps up like depression and hits you when you are at your worst, when you’re weak and feeling less-than-able, so some of my program needs to be built into my life. Routine. Support people. Sturdy things that are there no matter what during those rough times. I need to work on structure.

I also need to remind myself to have more patience. I am thrilled to be free from alcohol for 9 months, but I am still learning about myself and my limitations. In order to stay off the booze I need to be careful with how I choose to spend my time, who I spend it with, etc. My ‘old normal’ just isn’t an option anymore, even if I feel left out of activities sometimes. I don’t get invited to bar outings anymore, which makes me feel sad and left out and bereft, but do I really want to go, anyway? Should I go? Probably not, to be honest. As much as I admire the cool sober chicks who are fine being at bars on the reg, I am just not there yet… and I might not ever be there. And that’s okay. Sobriety isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. It isn’t even a one-size-fits-all thing for me. It changes regularly.

I think I am finally-sorta-kinda-maybe beginning to understand that self-care is doing what feels right, what I can handle, and what is good for me on a day-to-day basis. I have always admired it in theory, but am pretty self-care challenged in everyday life, as much as it pains me to admit. In real life sobriety with real life things happening, there are ups, downs and all-arounds that you have to deal with. Luckily, it seems that the answer is pretty simple. Don’t drink and eventually you will be okay again. I was going to say don’t drink, do some processing, and eventually you will be okay again, but I am not sure that is accurate. Sometimes the processing just seems to happen with time. I have been dreaming crazy dreams like a madwoman the past few weeks, and I think my mind has been doing some subconscious processing… with or without me.

So, in summary, life is a mystery, but it is also amazing to be able to really and truly experience it without booze. Thanks for reading, my friends.

The Ups and Downs of Life

There are always going to be highs and lows in life.

Fact: I used to bypass them with alcohol.

It didn’t matter whether I felt good or bad- drinking would make me feel comfortably numb and a kind of spaced-out happy. I skipped the hard work that goes into creating a mostly-happy life by drinking to change my feelings…no matter what the reality of the situation.

Fast forward to now. I am 145 or so days sober, and I feel highs and lows on a regular basis. My body does its thing. I don’t feel happy all the time. I don’t even know that it is possible to feel happy all the time, unless you A) work really hard at creating an enlightened spiritual mindset or B) use a substance to change the way you feel. Option B doesn’t work for me and I have a really long way to go with Option A, so I am going to have to live with the fact that I shall experience cycles of highs, lows, ups, and downs in my life.

I definitely like being happy more than angry or sad, but that doesn’t mean that those feelings….my low periods…don’t have purpose and merit. They totally do! They create balance in my life. As I continue to be sober and work on myself, there will be more and more equilibrium present. It will be easier to let go of the bad feelings to make room for happiness. That takes time, though! I have a lot of funky shit to work out from years of stuffing my feelings down with booze.

I have noticed some signs that I am in a funk, in my thought patterns. Once I notice these thoughts I KNOW that something is going on. I start worrying much more about what others are thinking about me. I start suspecting that my friends and family are thinking bad things about me. I start “shoulding” myself about small stuff, big stuff, and everything in between. An offhand comment can make me feel small and unloved. I get totally down on my appearance.

My mind basically runs away with me.

These are all signs that I am feeling low and need an immediate prescription for self-care. I am realizing that I am pretty bad at caring for myself sometimes, especially when it really matters! Like when I feel lonely, small, and unloved. It is easier to do nice things for myself during the happy “high” times.

I also have to ignore my mind during these time periods. My thoughts are my enemy and can make me do things based upon fear and insecurity…things that I really don’t want to do! Weird/bad/unhealthy things. Like fight with loved ones, invade someone else’s privacy, or pick up a drink.

So, for me, self-care that lets me lose myself for awhile is good. Interesting or funny television shows or movies, doing things with my hands, creative projects, cleaning, reading, baths, cooking, yoga, and naps. Hugs, too! Never forget the power of a good hug.

I am still not through my low period, but I am starting to see the light peeking from behind the clouds. I have also been fairly productive and not caused any relationship or life problems because of my stinkin’ thought patterns.

Thanks for all of the nice support. You guys are the best.

Gaining Understanding Vs. Playing the Victim

My parents are alcoholics. Admitting that is almost as hard as it was to first admit that I am an alcoholic. My mother is an active alcoholic and my father is dry (I think?) but not recovered or in recovery. It is stupidly hard to admit that I grew up with parents who put their addictions before me. I feel so guilty about it, like I am saying that they were bad parents. I still love them even if they WERE bad parents, and feel fiercely protective of that. They did a lot of good things, especially in my early formative years- travel, cultural events, books, extra-curricular activities, family dinners- but our lives gradually grew more and more out of control as I grew up. I adapted the best that I could with my limited skills and abilities, but I really needed more help learning how to navigate the world around me.

Part of my recovery process is learning why I ended up where I did. Gaining knowledge and understanding is one of the main things that drives me. I want to know WHY. Not just about this, but about everything that sparks my interest. In searching for answers I have been reading a lot of literature geared towards adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs). I have found that I fit in with this group better than any other groups I have found (not the support group, just generally). It is so comforting to finally understand why I do some of the things that I do and feel the way that I feel. This article, Adult Children of Alcoholics ACoAs: Qualities and Traits, is so right on. I exhibit almost ALL of the qualities and traits outlined in the article. It is interesting that being an ACoA is comparable to experiencing PTSD, and that it can be triggered by beginning a family of your own. I have felt traumatized, like something BIG was happening in my psyche, since my son was born. It is gradually getting easier and easier, especially with the clarity that comes from sobriety, but I totally identify with that. I am really thankful for this validation. Feeling “off” is the pits.

What do I do with this information now that I have been awakened to it? It is tempting to dive into a blaming, victim role and live there for a time, but I know that isn’t very healthy. I can’t really talk to my parents because they are not ready to face their denial or the ramifications of their actions. My brothers are stuck in an addictive hell that I can’t enter. (The article I referred to has an interesting section on ‘survival guilt’ that is already becoming an issue for me.) I think my husband finds my story increasingly sad as I make further realizations about who I am and where I come from, so I don’t want to heap too much on his plate. I put a lot on his plate anyway, as he is truly my best friend. My good friends have their own lives, struggles and family problems, even though they are always willing to lend an ear. I have decided that what I want, what is best for me, is to find a therapist who is experienced in these matters to help me sort it out. It seems like a big task to do alone, and since part of my family is still stuck in the cycle of addiction, it will be an ongoing struggle. I want to talk to a professional who understands what I am talking about. Also- self-care is where it’s at these days.

I think it is so helpful, regardless of where you are with being sober, to remember that you are not alone. xx

** Writing this post was really hard for me because so many people have had childhood experiences that were much worse. I have been pretty lucky overall, so who am I to complain? I am gradually realizing, however, that I have to tell my story and own my life experiences to truly move past them.

Is Alcoholic a Bad Word?

There seems to be a lot of controversy over the term alcoholic. For some people it is a dirty word, while others use it constantly to define their relationship with alcohol. I think “alcoholic” and it’s parent term “alcoholism” generally follow the disease model of diagnosis and treatment. Some people find it helpful to believe that they have a disease, while others find it limiting. I am still deciding where I fit on this spectrum. Whatever works for you… I think that is my stance. Being an alcoholic shouldn’t be an excuse for bad behavior and a lack of personal responsibility. It does help explain some behaviors, though.

I have referred to myself as an alcoholic on this blog. Not so much because I think I have a physical disease, but because I drink in a dysfunctional and unhealthy way. I haven’t found another word that describes my relationship with alcohol very well. Problem drinker doesn’t quite cut it for me. Drunkard isn’t very nice. Lush, maybe? Boozer? Umm, no way man.

Alcohol issues run in my family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that alcoholism is a disease that I inherited. I could have learned things from living in a dysfunctional drinking environment while I was growing up. Who is to say what exactly happens that causes one person to drink problematically and another person to be fine with having one or two? My paternal grandparents both had alcohol issues in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, but they eventually quit drinking altogether. My father is an alcoholic who tried to drink moderately for decades before finally giving it up last year, hopefully for good. His long-term struggle with alcohol is something that I do not want to repeat, and is a huge motivating factor for me to quit forever. Let’s say that while I was growing up he was a functioning alcoholic who didn’t always function so well. My maternal grandfather spent half of his days at the local tavern in his small town, but nobody remembers ever seeing him drunk. My mother drinks three to five beers almost every night, but has no physical addiction, and does not believe she has a problem. My brothers both have serious alcohol problems. I have traits from both sides of my family, and they fall on various sides of the “alcoholic” continuum.

So am I an alcoholic? Yes, absolutely, I am sure of it. Do I wish there was a better word to describe me? Yes I do. But the main thing is that I am sick and tired of alcohol being such a big deal in my life. Absolutely done with it. So whether I refer to myself as an alcoholic or not, I am committed to quitting for good. I would rather not have the stigma of “alcoholic” on my back forever, but at least I am a sober “alcoholic” today. 14 days!

What are your thoughts on the term “alcoholic”? How do you describe yourself?