A New Story

I am realizing that continued sobriety is all about changing the story of my life. When I first quit I couldn’t see this story very clearly, just hoped and prayed that there was SOMETHING, ANYTHING, better than what I was doing. When I think of those times, those desperate days, months and years leading up to my quit, I still feel a familiar tightening in my gut. A familiar fear and anxiety that I never want to experience again. When I quit I was afraid that I was going to die from drinking, and none of my dreams would ever come true, and I would live out my days in fear that my life had become something ugly and that it was going to end that way, too. 

Quitting was a huge leap of faith, but there was some sort of inner knowledge, an intuition, telling me that there was more for me if I stopped sabotaging myself. Now that I am creeping slowly upon two years of continuous sobriety, I am seeing more and more of what that might be. The universe is a mysterious place, and my new story leaves plenty of room for wonderful surprises. It’s not all perfection, of course, life is hard sometimes sober or not, but I am so much more open to my truth than I once was. I am becoming more and more aligned with my values and creating a life that reflects that. It just keeps getting richer and deeper. I am excited about what is in store for me, while constantly working to be present, grateful, and authentic in the moment. Not easy, but so much easier than it was at first. 

I still struggle with negativity sometimes, it comes in waves every few days or weeks, but in my new story this negativity no longer defines me. I am not an egomaniac with an inferiority complex anymore…I think I am finally feeling something close to right-sized. I am truly comfortable being social, in the right circumstances, at least. It took over a year and a half, but the transformation happened, just like others said it would. 

I feel like my story is wide open. Instead of being a victim of the shitty circumstances of my life, I am the creator of a beautiful life. It’s all in perspective, and time, and healing the old wounds that drinking simply covered up or exacerbated for years and years. Again, it is not perfect by any means, but so much different and better than I could have imagined. 

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Facing The Past

I have a criminal record. A rap sheet with quite a number of charges on it, from three different states, spanning twelve years of my life. Most of the charges ended up being dismissed, but there are two misdemeanor DUI charges and a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge that are convictions.

I have spent a lot of time sidestepping this fact, or pretending that it didn’t matter, or denying that it would affect my life. Something happened recently that changed my mindset. I got sick last month. Weirdly sick with some kind of urinary tract infection or kidney infection, or something else perhaps, that my doctor couldn’t figure out. I was in some pain, and scared, and I spent a lot of time thinking about my life and the way I live it. The illness went away after about a month, but I am left with the feeling that I want to do more with my time here on Earth.

While I was actively drinking I let a lot of things fall through the cracks. I dropped out of graduate school after making a big mess of my master’s program, got into legal trouble in spurts from the time I was eighteen, and let my finances crumble to the point where there were legal implications as well as some damage to my credit. I denied that all of these things were problems. Or at least, they were problems that were inexplicably happening to me even though I was living perfectly. I was a victim. I denied alcohol’s role and took no personal responsibility.

It’s not my fault that cops are assholes. It’s not my fault that my professors hate me and don’t want me to succeed in this stupid program. It’s not my fault that the credit system is made to only help rich people. It’s not my fault, you see. None of this is my fault. 

Good news: I am finally facing my record. At least I think it is good news… a step in the right direction towards making amends. I am trying my best to clean up the messes that I made during my drinking years. Some of it can never be cleaned up and will haunt me forever, but I am not scared of it anymore. I will no longer lie about it or try to hide it or hope that my records are somehow destroyed in a freak fire. No, it is a part of me. A scar from my past that has made me stronger today. A good reminder that I can never go back down that path unless I want to completely ruin my life. A reminder that I don’t ever want to go back down that path. I like living free of fear and feeling happy with myself when I wake up in the morning. I am grateful for the ups and downs of my life.

Recovery is possible, friends. It might take vigilance and time, but it is possible.

A Mishmash

I have a few things floating around in my brain that I want to get out, here today, at 526 days sober. I have been doing some thinking and a lot of obsessing. Some good, some bad. Such is life, but I am hoping for a breakthrough of some sort soon. I think writing here, in this lovely space, will help that happen. So I have a mishmash of a post here today. I need to clear my brain and let it all go. Thanks in advance for braving through it with me.

I enjoyed reading all the special words chosen for 2015. I have decided, quite late to the party, that my word for the year is inspiration. It keeps hitting me in different ways the more I think about it, which I love. I think it something that could be a lot more present in my life. I sometimes feel that life is meaningless, but when I choose inspiration I don’t feel that way. I feel a spark light up inside of me. Inspiration doesn’t just magically strike, at least not always; it needs to be sought out and given room to grow. So choosing this word means spending more time seeking inspiration in my everyday life. It also means trying my best to be an inspiration to others (humbly, oh so humbly) by living my best life. How else does it fit? Pursuing the spark of inspiration by writing and creating art. So, inspiration it is. Thank you to those ahead of me for inspiring me to choose a special word for 2015. Inspiration is truly everywhere. 🙂

I have also realized recently, maybe today even, that one of my biggest addictions is trying to control the world around me with obsessive thoughts. I don’t always do it, but when something is bothering me I think about it and worry over it until I feel in my bones that I have determined the outcome one way or another. Something clicked for me today, maybe when I was listening to an episode of the Bubble Hour, but I realized that oh hey, I don’t have to determine an outcome for every so-called problem that appears in my life. I don’t need to figure it all out. In fact, I can’t figure it all out, nothing big ever works the way I plan it, and trying is a huge waste of my time and energy. Epiphany!

For example, the past few days I have been obsessing over whether or not I should have another baby. I have thought about the pros, the cons, decided yes, decided no, talked to friends and family about the matter, talked to my husband about it, worried, and stressed. Yes, people do sometimes plan pregnancies or protect themselves against them, but in reality I have limited control over this. Since I have thought about this so much, I know that I will be okay no matter what, that my happiness does not depend in any way on the outcome of this decision, and that the ultimate fate of my uterus is in hands greater than mine. God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it. I am not calling the shots here, even if I desperately want to know what happens in the end. The stories that I tell myself about this subject aren’t helping me, and no matter what happens I will learn something. In fact, I am sure that I will learn valuable lessons no matter what.

This is an recent example, but these types of thoughts are pretty normal for me. I need to plan! I need to figure everything out! I am actually really happy with life right now, but I need to get out of my own way. I am ruining my own happiness. What a waste of a short life.

It is time to set down this heavy load and let myself be happy. It was these kinds of thought patterns that kept me stuck drinking and numbing. I am not numb anymore, I do not drink anymore, so it is time to let that baggage go. It is time to change. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind. I think I need to hold it a bit closer these days. I feel like I always need to qualify these things by saying that I am not all that religious, and that I don’t go to AA, but who really cares in the end? Sometimes wisdom is just wisdom. Here is the beginning of the Serenity Prayer if you want to read it, too.

the-serenity-prayer

Wishing you all serenity today.

Small Things

I think I am learning how to let go of perfectionism. It looks something like this: realizing that nothing is ever perfect, that I make mistakes, and that is okay. Trying over when I do not do something the way that I planned. Working at my goals day by day. Chipping away instead of giving up if I do not do it right. Oh, and getting rid of the word right. And the word wrong. And the word perfect.

Except for drinking. I am “not drinking” perfectly because I don’t drink alcohol anymore. It is pretty easy to stay perfect at that goal as long as I don’t drink ever again. Drink, or don’t drink. I choose not to drink. Because I feel happier than I think I ever have, and I 100% believe that getting rid of drinking is the cause. Well, the cause that led to many other causes in a sort of snowball effect from quitting.

Not drinking alcohol anymore makes me feel like I can do lots of good things as long as I take them one day at a time. There is no need to worry so much about the outcome of everything, rather just fill up my time doing things that make me feel pretty good. And some chores, because lets face it, life is full of chores that must be done and not all of them are particularly fun. In fact, a lot of the things that I choose to do are not particularly fun while I am doing them, but they make me feel good and help me in some way. I feel good afterwards because they are finished. How strange.

I have been writing every day, just for me. I have been exercising more. I have been building my little business slowly. I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I spend whole days not exercising or working or writing. I let my toddler watch too much TV on those days. I mope and I am not particularly nice. But most days I do a little more than that. I write a page. I go for a walk. I get up and go to the gym early in the morning. I brainstorm business ideas. I put ideas into practice. I play with my toddler instead of allowing him to be hypnotized by TV. I go out into the world and say hello to people and look them in the eye and try to connect.

These things cannot be looked at too closely or they will fall apart. If I let myself look at the big picture or think about them too much I will panic and shut them down. My inner monologue goes something like this, “There is no way I will ever do this correctly so why even try? My little effort means absolutely nothing when there are people out there doing much bigger and better things. Who do I think I am to take this on in the first place? What is the point of life anyway? Why do humans do so many pointless things? Why not spend the rest of my time here on Earth with my head stuck in a bottle since THERE IS NO POINT TO ANYTHING ANYWAY?”

Sorry to yell, but it gets pretty rough when I travel down that old familiar road.

I can’t allow myself to follow those thought patterns anymore. I am NOT following these thought patterns as much anymore. They are unhelpful and fueled by fear. I try to focus on the positives, and take it one day, one small baby step, one little goal, at a time. I remember that we all matter, we all have things to share, and we are all worthwhile in so many ways. We are worth the effort it takes to make lasting changes in our lives and to be genuinely happy.

No wonder recovery is a lifelong process. I think I am just beginning down this path.

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.

 

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.