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.

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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.

 

Liar Liar

I realized yesterday that I sometimes still lie and manipulate even though I am sober. The scary part is that I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time. I am not sure how to be 100% honest with myself…. I thought I WAS being honest with myself and doing the right thing. I am trying to do better at life- be a better person- but this realization made me feel pretty shitty.

What do I do about this? How do I get better at seeing my blind spots? I am not sure. Practice, maybe? Weed them out one by one until they are all gone? Try to do no harm in my everyday life? Think twice before making any moves? Yes to all of it. I need to be more careful and mindful of my thoughts and actions and how they affect the world around me. Alcoholics are selfish, and I am an alcoholic. Fuck, shit, and balls.

Or maybe this is good. I am moving to a new level where I can see things more clearly (again). I didn’t used to be capable of seeing these things about myself, and now I can. THIS IS A GOOD THING. This is not an excuse to drink, it is a sign that I am continuing to grow and change. There are growing pains along the way, of course.

It comes down to self-acceptance. I don’t like these shadowy parts of myself, but they exist. They have had years of practice and they will win sometimes. I have to accept that they are a part of me to truly move forward and put them behind me.

“Be what you are. This is the first step towards becoming better than you are.” – J. C. Hare & A. W. Hare

Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

I am getting better at taking care of myself.

My baby steps are paying off in small but good ways. I am treating myself better than I have… maybe ever? It is shocking to me that I treated myself so shitty now that I have a bit of clarity through sobriety. I didn’t think I was at the time, but I was.

I was doing the best I could then. Luckily, I know better now.

I am only doing simple things to take care of myself, but when repeated daily they have the power to make me feel pretty damn good. Eating healthy and delicious food, getting exercise, looking nice everyday instead of wearing yoga pants, praying, writing, taking some time to myself, etc. …

It all adds up. Self-care is greater than the sum of its parts.

I never knew!

But… I know now, right?

I am trying not to worry about doing it perfectly, either. It is okay to miss a day of exercise, for example, if that is what I need to do to take care of myself. It is NOT okay, however, to make excuses all the time because I am being lazy. Balance, balance, balance. What a nice word. I thought my word of 2014 was surrender, but maybe it is really balance. Maybe it is BOTH.

I am not allowed to talk in a mean way to myself, either. That is not allowed in my new balance-y life.

I just shut those negative thoughts right out of my head, and DO something instead.

Baby steps, baby. Just keep taking them.

Clawing My Way Up

I have been thinking about my life lately…big picture kind of stuff. I feel like I have really had to claw my way to get to this place- this lovely place where I feel pretty safe and okay. I wonder if everyone feels like that? Does everyone have to fight hard to be okay in life? It seems crazy that it is this hard to be relatively sane, balanced, and happy. Those of us with addictions might have a harder time, but I am not sure about that at all.

My family fell apart when I was in my early teens. I don’t really remember it being that bad before that point in time, but maybe it was more of a mess than I realized. I feel like I have been on a journey to get to this place- this lovely place where I have finally found some sort of clarity- ever since that point.

It is a huge relief to be taking responsibility for my own life and to realize that nobody has the power to hurt me anymore. It is really empowering…so much more than I ever could have realized. I think I got stuck emotionally when I started to drink-drink-drink to deal with life, and am finally cleaning up the messes and living my life properly.

I am learning to trust life. It is easier to go with the flow, let go, surrender- whatever you want to call it- than to fight all the time for control. Drinking is a way of controlling reality when everything else feels out of control. That’s where the ‘fuck it’s’ come in. Fuck it, everything is hard, might as well drink. Fuck it, I can’t change anything, might as well drink. Fuck it, I am not happy, might as well drink.

Those thoughts are wrong, wrong, wrong. If you can just trust that things will be okay- that life is looking after you- then you can change. It isn’t easy. I had to claw my way to get here…I really feel like that…and it took me 20 years. I need to remind myself of that when things get tough. I am finally feeling the flow of my life steering me in the right direction, and it is so nice. I am grateful that I get the chance to feel this way because some people NEVER get it.

How to Surrender or Let Go

I never have really understood the concept of letting go. I mean…I understood it in an abstract way, but I didn’t actually know what it looked like to DO IT. It seemed hard. Unrealistic. I would “let go” only to have invasive thoughts creep back into my head…thoughts that I TOLD myself I was letting go of. It just didn’t work. I eventually stopped trying because I felt like a failure at letting things go.

I have decided to focus my attention on the art of letting go. So, instead of trying to let go of my thoughts, I am now telling myself “I Surrender” throughout the day. It is a powerful mantra that really seems to work. It brings me back to the present moment to feel my feelings instead of dwelling on my negative thoughts. “I Surrender. I Surrender. I Surrender.”

I want to let go of my past. I want to let go of my obsessive thoughts. I want to let go of control, especially unhealthy control over things that I have no control over. I want to let go of guilt and shame. I want to be open. I want to listen to my inner voice. I want more peace. I want to gain more personal power. I want my life to be fluid. I want to surrender.

 

Surrender

“That’s the secret to happiness and life: we don’t resist what is. We know that there aren’t any real differences between sadness, joy, anger, and fear. Each is a feeling–emotional energy. Happiness is the peace we get when we surrender to it all–being aware of and present for each moment as it comes.” –Melody Beattie

I read this the other day in ‘The New Codependency’ and it really resonated with me. I think I am starting to ‘get’ the idea of letting go of things that I can’t control. Surrendering to what is. Whoa.

Drinking was such a huge escape for me. My whole family does it; I wasn’t really taught to deal with things head on or feel my feelings. I was taught to withdraw, hide, pretend, and escape. I am finally realizing the error of this type of living…the harm it does to you and the people around you.

After I started realizing this stuff a few months ago, I started a campaign to make my family members understand the error of their ways. I thought that it would be simple. Speak the truth and it shall be revealed! Um, no. I was shut down in so many ways and basically denied. Called uptight, told I wasn’t really sober…ouch, ouch, and ouch. It reminded me of the way I used to feel as a child, way back when, before I started drinking as a way to alter my reality. In a way, I came full circle.

How many times does life give you the chance to meet yourself head on?

I realized this time that it isn’t my fault that I can’t change the situation. I can’t make my parents stop drinking or treat me the way that I believe I deserve to be treated. I can’t force my siblings to see that they are continuing the cycle of alcoholism that they hated when we were growing up. I can’t make anyone do anything. This time…it is okay. I do not have to beat myself up, chug the booze, or hurt myself in any way because of this stuff.

I feel a lot of empathy for my younger self now. I wasn’t capable of handling some of the emotions/situations/events that I was faced with, and it really doesn’t surprise me that I turned to alcohol as a way to deal. My toolbox was pretty empty back then. It makes me sad to realize that, but I also feel redeemed. I mean, I am not a total fuck up! I did what I had to do at the time. It just happens that it no longer works for this adult woman. This person who values different things and wants to grow and change.

So I am trying to surrender to what life brings my way. To me, that means trusting that life knows more than I do. It sure was hard work trying to control everything.