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.

Advertisements

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.

Life Lessons

This week has been hard. I’ve been holding onto my sobriety with a tight grip, knowing that drinking won’t do anything good, but desiring the fade out and numbing of my feelings that drinking would provide. Epiphanies, small and large, have been coming one after another, along with a lot of self doubt and uncertainty that I am on the right path.

Epiphanies are cool yet sometimes painful. I have been seeing more clearly the ways in which I have, and still am, living in fear a lot of the time. It is a hard thing to look at honestly because it hurts to see those flaws in myself- to allow myself to be truly vulnerable, even to myself.

I know that isolation is the bain of many alcoholics, but I never saw myself as isolating per se. Instead I told myself that I was a loner. I enjoyed my own company more than that of others. Instead of looking for my people I decided that there were no people like me in the world. I longed to write and needed the space and isolation to do so. Artists have to suffer! They have to weep and self destruct! There are some truths to these words, in these thoughts, but they are not the whole truth. They are not MY truth. I have been living my life shielded by my loner status to avoid the possibility of being rejected by others. To avoid having to show my true self to others. To avoid being vulnerable. And the truth hurts.

That’s the thing about quitting drinking. You no longer have a shield of alcohol to rely on when you are around people or things that scare you. You have to look people in the eye and see them and let them see you. This is a wonderful thing because it allows relationships to develop and form and grow. But it is also hard, especially when you have spent your entire life hiding from others. When you grew up hiding because your family hides and that is simply what people do.

I’ve begun to think that this blog is another way of hiding, which is not to say that it hasn’t been absolutely crucial in getting me sober. I don’t have to talk to people face to face about my drinking, or lack thereof, if I stay home and write about it on the Internet.** When faced with the shortness of life, I have realized that I don’t want to live this way anymore. Instead, I want to ravage life. I want to live it to the absolute fullest. I don’t want to hide away to stay sober. I want to mingle with all the people and experience all of the things, though I think I have experienced about all the alcohol I can handle in one lifetime, so that’s still out.

I was reading an article the other day. I don’t remember where it was from, or who wrote it, and I apologize if it was someone reading this blog because I didn’t like what it had to say. The individual spoke of treating her alcohol addiction as a disability and learning how to work around it for the rest of her life. I have been living my life like my addiction is a disability, so I see where this idea comes from, but I hate the idea of disability in the first place. Why can’t we just be people, with differences. Why do we have to “work around” anything? Why can’t we accept each other as we are? I want to heal the reasons that I drank so much in the first place so that I can go anywhere and do anything without requiring the fake fix that alcohol provides. I want to find my own elation in the world. A way of being that simply does not require or want alcohol to be a part of it. I don’t want to sequester myself into a tiny corner of the world and hide there forever.

Whew. Felt good to get that out.

**Edit: I am not judging anyone for writing about sobriety online. It has been a totally cool, amazing thing for me. Any way you get or stay sober totally freaking rocks. Not that you need to hear this from me, but I wanted to clarify my statement a little.

Fear

My last post talked about a play group that I recently started attending that includes wine drinking for most of the other moms. I had a hard time at the last one that I attended, and kind of wanted to join in the drinking even though I knew that would be a horrible idea. I don’t have to attend this group! I am doing it so that my son has some kids to play with. If it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. I was worrying way too much, as I do. As I am trying NOT to do, but you know. It’s hard to stop.

Do I wish that we had a less alcohol-infused society? Yes. Do I want to try to meet more sober people? Yes. Do I want to ONLY attend activities that are alcohol-free? No, not really. A lot of people in our society drink so if I limit myself to spending time with those who are sober or teetotal I am severely limiting my life! However, if I find it too hard to be around drinkers I will leave. I don’t like being around drunk people. I will ALWAYS have an escape plan. I will ALWAYS say a little prayer before going out to help me stay sober. I will ALWAYS listen to my gut and try to do what is best for me (even if this means staying home and missing a social activity for me or my son). My sobriety comes first.

I think part of recovery is facing my fears. I couldn’t do that at first because I wasn’t ready, but I am stronger now. I have faith that I will make good decisions about my life. I trust myself. I don’t need to test myself or my resolve by placing myself in unnecessarily hard situations, but I need to learn how to live life as a sober person in various settings and situations. I want to be a social person. I don’t want to live in fear.

And speaking of fear- I think I have been reacting to old fears for a long time. I became scared as a young girl because I saw the world fall apart around me, and I learned to live with the constant fear I experienced by self-medicating. I don’t need to do that anymore. I need to fight these fears, many of which are totally irrational, and become the person I am capable of being.

Here is a good article about fear if you are interested in reading it.

Are Your Frightened Too? (from Veronica Valli’s blog)

I really appreciate all of your thoughts and support. I am sending the best and nicest of my thoughts to you all.

 

Grey Areas

url

My thinking is becoming less black and white than it used to be- I both think and hope this is true. I am noticing the grey areas, and actually feel comfortable living there some of the time. I realize now that the black and white thinking that I was doing was childlike, probably because I never completely moved on from my childhood. I notice when I overreact to things, even if I am unable to completely stop myself from doing it. Progress, progress, progress. My sobriety is trudging along, making small changes in me, as long as I stick to the plan.

I must stick to the recovery plan that I constructed many months ago because it is still working. The pillars of prayer and gratitude keep me going. I am not going to attempt to live without them, probably ever again in my whole life, because it is too damn scary to contemplate drinking at this point. I just don’t want to go through that again, you know? The months of mental and physical self-harm leading up to the actual torturous quitting process. No thanks. I remember that whenever I am tempted to drink, which isn’t too often these days. The cravings come out of the blue and surprise me sometimes, or I feel a bit flat and bored, but nothing I can’t handle pretty easily. I remind myself that every single day is only twenty-four hours, and I can live through pretty much anything for twenty-four hours. After all, tomorrow is another day. Thank you, Scarlett O’Hara. I have loved her since I was twelve.

It is true that life goes on without drinking. I am slowly venturing out into the real world more and more, and handling it without experiencing crippling anxiety. I still feel anxious in new settings, but I am venturing out because I know it will get easier over time, and I am able to regulate my anxiety once again. I have a few events coming up where drinking will be happening, and I am curious to see how they go. I think I will be able to handle them a zillion times better than I did six months ago, but I will still have a plan to leave if I need to. My sobriety comes first, because it allows me to have everything else. It deserves to be treated with care and respect.

Recovery is real, people. Many of you know this, but if you are doubtful I am one more voice to tell you that it does get better. xoxo

Regrets

What will I regret at the end of my life? Living sober?

I don’t think living a sober life is something that I will EVER regret. Does it feel sort of lonely and flat sometimes? Yes. Do I have cravings for booze sometimes? Yes. Do I feel like I am missing out on fun sometimes? Yes.

Do I regret getting and staying sober for the past six months? Hell to the no.

I have been realizing more and more that experiencing life without tamping down my emotions is really fuckin’ worthwhile. I am feeling more creative than I have in years. I want to add to the world. I didn’t add much when I was drinking, even though I wanted and planned to, because I was stuck in a foggy rut of alcohol abuse. I did okay some of the time, but I was never even close to reaching my potential. Yikes.

I think people who abuse alcohol on the regular do not experience life in the same way. I was caught up in a cycle of ups and downs, highs and lows, hangovers, depression, anxiety, anticipation, being buzzed, wanting more, more, more and experiencing full-on drunkenness and blackouts. The next day the depression, anxiety, guilt and shame would kick in and the craving for booze would begin all over again. I would feel happy when I was drinking because it gave me a brief respite from feeling bad about myself and thinking about my life. I also spent a lot of time planning and thinking about drinking… when, where, with whom, how, on and on. All of that takes a lot of time! Hours, days, weeks, months, and years of my life spent thinking about, engaging in, or recovering from drinking! Fuck me sideways!

I have spent a lot of time in the past six months getting some balance back in my body, mind and spirit. I have had many negative thoughts. I have been scared shitless of living life without any alcohol in it. I have also learned how to be more kind to myself… to set boundaries and say no and tell myself nice things and let go of bad shit that keeps holding me back. I was really, really bad at all of that before. The fog of 20 years of alcohol abuse is slowly lifting from my brain, and I am beginning to see things much more clearly.

I love how this keeps happening… this clarity. It just keeps on coming!

I see that giving up alcohol is something I will never regret when the end comes and I am looking back over my life. Those hours, days, weeks, and years devoted to just getting by through a fog of addiction are now being spent in other ways. Better ways. Ways that fill me up instead of bleeding me dry. I have grabbed the reins and am learning how to be the curator of my life. I am shedding anger and sadness over the past and trying to view the future without fear.

Is living sober perfect? No. I still feel crappy sometimes. I don’t always like myself, sometimes I absolutely hate other people, and I still feel unsure of pretty much EVERYTHING at times. But one thing is for sure- losing the booze has simplified my life by leaps and bounds over the past six months. I like simple, so I am going to stay here.