Last week I celebrated 6 years sober. I considered updating my birthday on FB to my sobriety date so people would post happy birthday on my wall, but that seemed like an asshole move……so I didn’t. Also, I didn’t think of it in time. When I say I “celebrated” 6 years of sobriety, what I really mean is that I had a beautiful sober day just like any other. There was no big party. I posted a sober selfie on social media. I went to an 8 am AA meeting. I don’t even remember what I did after that. It was a non event. I hope I took a nap. I know I went to the middle school that afternoon to pick up my youngest son and then we went to the high school to take pictures of the band for my oldest son. THAT was the celebration. Spending time with my children. And loving every minute. 6 years ago I might have been able to do those things, but it would have been an awful experience. I would have been worried that I smelled like alcohol. It would have been an event to “get through” so I could get back home and have a drink. And I would be ashamed of these things. That’s how life was 6 years ago. And it sucked. But I’m not here to dredge all of that up today. Sober life is way more pleasant. All of my sober years seem to have a theme. You can read a little recap of those themes/years here if you’re feeling it. When I think back on my last year (year 5) to try to come up with a “theme” it could easily be the year of the bathtub altars. I did a lot of that this year. But it’s got to be deeper than that, right? Year 5 was the year of community. I’ve known for a while that building community is one of my super powers. Which is interesting, because I spent a lifetime feeling apart from. Like I didn’t quite belong anywhere, even though on the surface I could fit in anywhere. Now I see how this “weakness” is my strength. It’s fueled my desire to build a strong community where I feel loved and supported. That community has expanded in such a way that I can see it impacting others. I see others finding the same love and support that I was seeking. I see meaningful relationships being made. I see connection. And it’s beautiful. We all want to be seen. We all want to feel like someone gets us. I spent a lifetime trying to fit in to places I didn’t belong. I was missing the piece where I had to learn how to truly belong to myself first. It’s ironic that I started using drugs and drinking to fit in and be a part of all those years ago. To belong. Only through the process of stripping that all away and peeling those layers to find me, could I truly find a place where I belong. I belong to myself. I put so much of me out there for the world to see. This is my process. It’s not for everyone, but it definitely is for me. It empowers me to show my real self to the world. All of it. Not just the pretty parts. This is how I belong to myself. It’s letting go of what other’s will think. Because it doesn’t matter. By belonging to myself, I am owning my power. By belonging to myself, I am living confidently (most of the time) in the skin I am in. Without numbing out to make myself more comfortable. Without dumbing down to make others more comfortable. By belonging to myself I naturally attract others who are walking that same path. Those who aren’t automatically fall away. “To thine own self be true.” Back in my early sobriety I used the term #teamshannon a lot. #teamshannon referred to my family and the 5 friends I had. The team has grown exponentially in 6 years. It has grown because it’s no longer all about me. I have learned how to hold space for others to be seen and heard. I have created a space that allows others to shine. I have created a space that allows others to find their way home to themselves. A community where we all belong. And what an amazing community it is! ♥️
I was having breakfast with my daughter recently. We were having one of those hard conversations that ended with me telling her that hopefully, one day, she would end up on a therapist’s couch processing that. She told me she was actually ready to do that now. I immediately pointed across the street to the office of a local therapist that I recommend to everyone. I asked her if she wanted me to make an appointment with her or if she preferred to go back to the one she had worked with previously. She chose the familiar therapist. I was so excited. I was excited for her to have support from a professional that I know isn’t going to steer her wrong. It doesn’t hurt that the therapist she picked is a bad ass, spiritual gangster. I wasn’t exactly sure what she needed support for, and I didn’t need to know. I was happy that she chose a healthy way to deal with life. The two of them connected and my daughter went to her first appointment last week. She texted me that evening and said that she was supposed to “talk to her inner child with compassion.” I asked her if that had been explained to her. It had. It all made sense to her. Then she asked if I had any books about inner child healing. I did. Of course. I got the book to her right away and told her to process it with her therapist. I was immediately excited for her. I mean, how amazing to start the inner child healing process at 18 instead of at 40. Wow. Then, two minutes later, I was terrified for me. Because sometimes I still think everything is about me. Inner child healing is all about re-parenting yourself in healthy and loving ways. In my mind this is going to bring awareness to every mistake I ever made raising my daughter. And there were A LOT. My daughter was 12 when I got sober. I wasn’t a raging alcoholic all of her life, but for a few years of it, I definitely was. There are so many things I missed because I chose alcohol over my children. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but today, I do. There’s a lot of shame in that. I can have compassion for myself, and I do, but I also realize that I wasn’t there when I should have been. I was drunk. Then I was in treatment centers for months at a time. I was in hospitals and psych wards. I once jumped out of a moving car with my children in the backseat, my husband was driving. My daughter has told me that one was the worst for her. The worst one for me was one of the occasions when my husband had taken my liquor away. I had a bottle hidden away at a friend’s house. I took off walking down the street. Stomping really. My daughter was following me and begging me to come home. She was crying. In that moment she was standing between me and the most important thing to me. My alcohol. I turned around and told her to stop following me. Then. I told her I hated her. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. If there was just ONE thing I could take back, that is the one. I would do anything to have a do over on that moment. Because there is no doubt that no matter how great our relationship is today and how sober I am, that moment will be with her forever. We have talked about this incident so many times, and she promises me that it’s ok and that she knows I was sick, but nothing about that moment is ok. This is how alcohol destroys families. We were fortunate to have a lot of love and support from grandparents, friends and other family members through that period. So, yeah, inner child healing work will be good for her. I didn’t get to be that mom who broke the cycle before I had children. I am fortunate that I do get to be that mom who shows her children what recovery is. I am truly grateful for that. I admire my daughter so much. She is strong and independent in a way that I never was. I spent years projecting all of my fears onto her. She isn’t me. She has shown me that time and time again. She has been successfully adulting since she was 16 years old. Hell, this child was born responsible. I’m not sure where that comes from. Of course inner child work will be good for her because she grew up so quickly. I texted her to tell her that she will probably be mad at me and hate me for a while through this work. She assured me that it will be fine. I know it will. It’s not about me anyway and I can’t allow myself to stay stuck in the space of all the things I did wrong. She is thriving in ways I couldn’t have imagined at 18 years old. She is on her own journey. She has been all along. My job is to love and support her in any way I can. When I take myself out of her process, I am nothing but excited for her to do this work. Maybe she gets to be that mother who breaks the cycle by doing the inner work before she has children. She makes good decisions. She is capable. She is a powerful force. She is amazing in so many ways. I love watching her grow into all that she is and I am honored to be her mother. I am convinced we picked each other in another time and place because we have so many lessons to learn from each other. She teaches me so much. ♥️
It recently occurred to me that I am the face of recovery for a lot of people. I get a lot of messages and emails from people who want to know about treatment options, meetings, therapy and so on. I respond to every one of them. A few weeks ago a friend asked me to connect with someone who is struggling with alcoholism. She specifically wanted this woman to read my blog. She could have sent it directly to her, but I think she thought it would mean more if I connected with her myself. So I did. I emailed her and slipped my blog into the email as a way of introducing myself. She responded and opened right up to me about her own struggle with alcohol. I had lunch with her this week. That’s a thing I do. If a person is struggling and I can be of service in my own small way, I am all about it. But, let me throw it out there that plenty of people reach out to me who have no desire to help themselves. I am learning the difference and learning how to have boundaries around that. Everything is a process, right? Not that I haven’t been that person in the contemplation stage of recovery, where I knew it was a thing I needed, but wasn’t ready to commit to it. I get it, but I don’t have time for it. On Friday I met this woman for lunch. I was sure it would be a bit awkward, but it wasn’t awkward at all. She told me she had read my blog and she asked me if I was afraid someone would find it on the internet and read it. WOW. That kind of blew my mind and gave me a full understanding of where she is in her journey. Hiding. I told her I hope lots of people find it and read it and connect with it. I told her I share so other people won’t feel so alone in their own struggle. I assured her that everyone has their own shit. Not everyone struggles with addictions, but everyone has their own shit that they are dealing with every day. Some people just hide it better than others. My heart hurt for this woman as I watched her hold back tears several times throughout the hour we spent together. She used the word ‘Shame” and it took me right back to early recovery. Shame is what kept me stuck for a long time. I could feel her loneliness. I could feel her grief. I could feel her unworthiness. All of these were so familiar to me. I wanted so bad to give her the freedom I have. The joy I have. The self love and self worth I have. But I couldn’t. I could just hold the space for her. I could listen to her. I could tell her all the things I needed to hear when I was where she is. I could answer her questions. I talked to her about treatment centers and outpatient facilities. I talked to her about meetings. I talked to her about meditation. I talked to her about finding things to bring joy into her life. I talked to her about the power of community. And over and over I just kept reminding her that she is worth these things. I tried to make sure that she really understood that. In addiction, those feelings of unworthiness are deadly. I know because I’ve been there. Fortunately, I had children that needed me to live. That made it possible for me to keep going before I understood that I was worthy all on my own. Figuring that out took work. That’s not something I can give to someone. I can give someone my time and attention. I can give my heart. I can tell them over and over that they are worthy with every positive affirmation in my being, but ultimately, they have to find it within themselves. And oh how I hope this woman finds it. I hope she finds her light and her strength. I hope she finds community to connect with so she can understand that she is not alone in this world. I hope she comes out of hiding and steps into a big world that is ready to help walk her through her process. When she expressed her concern about people finding my blog and reading it, I explained to her that for me, putting it all out there has been incredibly healing. No hiding. The years I spent hiding were the loneliest years of my life. Allowing myself to be seen in this world exactly as I am, not perfect, sometimes messy, awkward, insecure, and whatever else shows up on any given day has given me freedom. That freedom is there for everyone. It’s just a matter of stepping out of hiding and showing up in the world. However that looks.
I’m coming up on a sober anniversary next month. Anniversaries are always a weird and reflective time for “us sober people.” Last week I was all up in my journals from 2012. I got sober in 2013. 2012 was a difficult year for me as well as those close to me. It was 2012 when I landed in my “first” AA meeting. I mean, technically I had been to meetings when I was 21, but those don’t count because I was obviously in the wrong place. Right? People accidentally end up in AA every day don’t they? The morning of my first meeting I woke up hungover and still slightly drunk like every other day. I got my children ready for school. As I was preparing to drive them to the bus stop I couldn’t find my keys. Then I noticed my bourbon was missing. And my wallet. I hadn’t been anywhere the prior evening. These things weren’t missing. They had been hidden from me by my husband the night before to be sure that I didn’t go anywhere. And I was pissed. I took his truck to the bus stop, put my children on the bus and came back to the house. Since I couldn’t find my bourbon, the next logical step was to look for other alcohol in the house. And I found it. Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Those were a thing in my life. Technically, I drank Mike’s Harder Lemonade and because that still wasn’t hard enough, I added vodka to them. On this morning I couldn’t find any vodka. So I cracked open a Mike’s and called a friend. It was 7:00 am. I spent the next 10 minutes on the phone bitching to my friend about what a horrible man my husband was for hiding all of my things. I hated him. I hated him policing me and I hated him acting like he was my father. I told him this regularly. My friend interrupted my rant and asked why I was drinking at 7 in the morning. I didn’t understand then that I had no coping skills and drinking AT the problem was my solution. I was just drinking because I was pissed off. My friend told me I needed to go to an AA meeting. For some reason this excited me. Probably because I was just drunk enough that this sounded fun. It was certainly something different to do with my day. She said she would come pick me up and drive me to the meeting. She had already found one online and it started at 8 am. Perfect timing. I got off the phone and got ready for my new adventure. Here comes the good part…….My friend called back and said her car wasn’t in her driveway. She forgot that she had been drinking the night before and left her car parked elsewhere. She couldn’t take me to the meeting. At this point, I was ready and I was going to the meeting. I called another friend who seemed to think it was a great idea for me to go to an AA meeting. She came over immediately. I grabbed another Mike’s out of the fridge and jumped in her car. She drove me to the church and pointed out the blue AA sign that was hanging in the window. She was familiar with meetings and had been to many herself. Court ordered, I’m sure. I poured out what was left of my hard lemonade and walked inside. This new adventure was neither fun nor exciting, I promise. But, I am fairly certain I brought some excitement to the meeting. It was so weird. If you have never been drunk in an AA meeting at 8 am, you might not get it, but if you have, well, you know. There are no words. Keep in mind that I voluntarily showed up here. Nobody made me go. And it was in this moment that I chose to unleash every bit of anger I had inside of me. I was angry at my husband. I was angry at my life. I was angry that I was the one in the AA meeting when clearly, all of my friends should be there with me. The room was full of “old men drinking coffee” and one woman who I now know was new to recovery. She was probably terrified. I was asked to introduce myself but refused to do it the way they had done it. I would not call myself an alcoholic. I most likely told them “my name is Shannon and I am a mermaid.” That was one of my favorite ways to introduce myself in meetings there for a while. I let them know that the 12 steps were bullshit and they didn’t work. Obviously they didn’t work since I had been to a few meetings when I was 21 and here I was, not sober. I cussed and cried and called them names. They came at me with smiles and pamphlets. AA people are big on their pamphlets. They told me to “keep coming back.” They invited me to a speaker meeting that evening in the same church. They told me there would be cake and promised me that it was a fun time. Nothing about this sounded like fun to me anymore. However, I agreed to come back and told them I would bring a “fucking casserole to their sober party.” I still owe them a casserole. I called a different, more reliable friend to come and pick me up when the meeting was over. Now I was armed with pamphlets and a schedule of all the local meetings. We drove to my friend’s house (the one who couldn’t find her car), to tell her I had made it to AA. She was pleased until I snagged a beer out of her fridge. That part just confused her. I made a plan to hit the next meeting on the schedule. At noon. I am sure there were several beers in my life before I hit the noon meeting. My friend (the reliable one) actually went to the meeting with me. She was my designated driver for the day. Again, when the meeting started, I felt the need to unleash every bit of anger in my being. The AA people directed their comments to my friend. Probably because it was clear they were going to be lost on me. My memory of this second meeting is a bit more fuzzy than the first. Thanks alcohol. I promise I was an asshole. I like to think that was the last meeting I went to on that day, but I can’t be sure. I do know that I went back the next day. To a women’s meeting. I hated it and I hated them. I am sure I told them about it too. The women weren’t nearly as kind to me when I cussed and cried as the old men had been. I was not a fan of that meeting or those women and didn’t go back for a LONG time. But I did keep going to meetings with coffee drinking old men. Usually when I was drinking. Sometimes I would wait until afterwards. I went to meetings for a solid year without really trying to not drink. I kept thinking that eventually I would want to be sober, and when I did, I would just stop drinking. I honestly thought it would be THAT simple. Unfortunately, the not drinking part was the hardest part of getting sober. Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew…….every freaking sober person in the world. Every person who had been sharing at those meetings I had been going to. We all know how this story ends. I am sober today. I am sober because I took that ALL IN thing I do and applied it to my recovery. I went ALL IN with meetings sometimes going to two or three a day. I went ALL in with meditation, creating a local group to sit with and going to meditation retreats. I went ALL IN with yoga which is why I now own a yoga studio. These three things were the magic combination for me. It’s different for everyone but that magic combination is there for everyone. You just have to find what works for you. And now, here’s the kicker……the easiest part of being sober is the not drinking part. Seriously.
Last night I shared a quote in moon circle that I am completely in love with. “Discipline is the highest form of self love.” I shared it because there was a woman in the circle who needed to hear it. There were probably others who needed to hear it as well. I need to be reminded of it constantly. Someone recently commented on one of my FB posts that I am so disciplined. And I loved that she saw me that way. It’s more true than not. I am all about self love. I am all about naps, and eating to nourish my body, writing in journals and big fat bubble baths. With snacks. Self love can look like that. Self love can also look very different. I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn to love myself enough to tell myself no. I have no doubt that I was filling her ears with all sorts of nonsense that was going on in my personal life. I got away with ridiculous things because nobody ever told me no. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do a thing that was obviously harmful. In fact, I talked most people into doing those things with me. I had some pretty unhealthy habits going on at the time. Loving myself enough to tell myself no wasn’t one of them. This was just one of many things she told me that I paid no attention to. Because it was all bullshit. I really could not fathom living a different way. Until I did. I stopped drinking before I wanted to. It was a have to. Looking back, I realize that giving up alcohol was a radical act of self love even though it felt like the exact opposite. Self love is also saying yes to the things that are good for us. I had to say yes to AA because that’s where I was going to meet sober people. Sober people didn’t exist in my world. I had to go to the weird meetings with “those people.” I wasn’t like those people. I was different. Special. That therapist assured me that I was not special. Just like that. “You’re not special.” Asshole. I was pretty sure she was wrong about that one. I was pretty sure she was wrong about most things. But, here’s the truth. I’m not special. None of us are. And we all are. We are all humans doing the best we can with what we have to work with. Back then, I didn’t have a lot to work with. But I have had some amazing teachers on this path and I am a completely different person than I was 6 years ago. Because I pay attention. This morning I sat down to write about Discipline, but I hadn’t yet been on my mat and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about something I wasn’t practicing. So I got up, went down on the dock and practiced yoga. Because I love myself enough to do the things I know are good for me. I love myself enough to pursue the things that are going to lead to my ultimate happiness even when they aren’t necessarily the things I feel like doing. My alarm is set for 4:30 am. On weekdays, I wake my children around 5 am. This gives me 30 minutes to myself. I use this time to meditate and write. My preference would be to drink coffee and scroll on my phone. I’m not perfect and sometimes that is exactly how I spend my quiet time. That is NOT what nourishes my soul. I don’t wake up at 4:30 excited to write and sit in silence, but I do it because I know it keeps me sane. It keeps me connected. I’m not telling you to wake up at 4:30 am. In fact, every evening before I fall asleep my mind begins to tell me all of the reasons I can’t wake up in the morning and do what I want/need to do. If I listened to this voice, I would never practice in the shala because Wilmington is too far to drive. I would never get on my mediation cushion because I have chores to do. I would never sit down to write because someone, somewhere, needs me to do something for them. There are always reasons that I shouldn’t wake up early for my morning practices. They are all very believable reasons. The little voice in my head throws them all at me when I set my alarm and get in bed. That’s my self sabotage voice. This voice will have me wasting my time, sitting on my ass, drinking coffee and scrolling on my phone. Really. That voice will have me wasting entire days if I let it. I don’t have that kind of time because there are so many things I want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I really do need days that are quiet and restful. Recovery time after big “extrovert events.” I need solitude. We all know I need my naps. But, I also need to do the things I know are good for me. Especially when I don’t want to. I only dread these things until I get started. And then……then comes the sense of accomplishment. The good feelings. The joy. I have been practicing this lifestyle for quite a while now, and I know the practices that keep me centered. I am not a runner, but I am willing to bet that runners don’t jump out of bed eager to go running every day. I also imagine the people who hit the gym every day don’t always feel like it. Artists probably don’t want to create every day. I could go on and on, but you get it. Everything we do is a practice and being disciplined is no different. Discipline is loving ourselves enough to say no to the things that aren’t good for us and loving ourselves enough to say yes to the things that are. It’s dropping the distractions to focus on what truly needs our attention. It’s picking up our tools when we are having a shitty day and using them when we want to wallow in misery. It’s keeping the promises we make to ourselves. Discipline really is the highest form of self love.
I never tire of seeing this poem. Ever. I came across it on Instagram yesterday and was reminded of the first time I ever saw it. The therapist that I’ve mentioned a million times here gave it to me. I realize now that it must have been frustrating for her to see me week after week, give me tools, and watch me not use any of them. I see other people do it and it frustrates me. I’m fortunate that I did have these resources available to me and people who pushed me to eventually use them. I had people who loved me and wouldn’t let me drink myself to death. This poem was posted on Instagram yesterday and it stopped me mid scroll. I read the poem for the thousandth time. All the feels came over me. I used to carry this poem with me in a journal. I always felt the power in it’s simple message and understood that this was for me. I just wasn’t ready to “walk down another street.” When I arrived at the treatment center where I finally got sober, this poem was with me. Honestly, all sorts of things were with me. I can’t seem to go places without ALL the books, ALL the journals and ALL the pens. Even when I was too drunk to read any of the books or write coherently in my journals. I’m sure I arrived with a stack of self help/therapy books and handouts. The poem found its way to the refrigerator in the “home” I shared with the other women. I wanted the other women to be able to see it every day. I wanted to share any inspiration I had with these women. I wanted to see them get better. I wanted to see them “walk down another street.” My heart hurt for all of us in that place. Yesterday, when I saw this poem it brought back a flood of memories. When I was in that center, I decided that I was going to be sober because I needed to live. Not because I necessarily wanted to live. Not because I thought I was worthy of anything that remotely looked like a happy life, but ultimately, staying alive to be a mother to my children was the goal. I had been in therapy for quite a while as well as going to DBT groups. You can read about DBT here. I had been going to AA meetings and I owned every self help book ever written. Not that I ever used any of those tools, but they were there waiting for me to pick them up. I began with positive affirmations. As hokey as that was to me. I went to the office where all the rehab “therapists” were and asked to borrow Post It notes. I was denied by the woman I asked because clearly, she was a bitch. And I told her that. Then I got “rehab reprimanded” for letting her know I thought she was a bitch. I probably cried and carried on in a dramatic way after I left the office. I use that word “probably” loosely here. By the end of the day, I had Post It notes in my hand. I wrote affirmations on the Post It notes and put them all over my bedroom walls as well as on the mirror in the bathroom. My housemates asked me to write affirmations for them. Soon, the ladies from the other houses at the facility were asking me to write affirmations for them. I spent my mornings writing affirmations for all of the women in the center. These women would come find me in the morning and ask me if I had post it note for them. I always did. I remember so clearly how happy these little Post It notes made them. I believed every positive word I wrote for these women. I believed they were strong, smart, capable, loved, powerful and every other lovely thing I wrote. But I didn’t believe I was any of those things. It occurred to me as I read this poem today that this was where the me who inspires, supports and empowers women was born. It was born from a place of needing to be inspired, supported and empowered. I didn’t believe these lovely things were true about me, but the hope and joy they brought to the women around me was everything. Every word I wrote were the words I needed to hear. I could see the trauma, the pain and the grief that had brought them to this place, but I couldn’t see my own. Writing these affirmations gave me a sense of purpose. It was a positive act that was also an esteem building exercise. In my own small way, I was being of service to others. Ahhhhhhhh. What a concept. One that up until this point, I had only heard in AA. Up until this very moment, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. Acts of service and esteem building exercises were out of my normal realm. Up until this point, I had been tearing myself down day by day. This was surely the beginning of me learning to love myself. After I left treatment, and went back into the real world, I went public with my sobriety. Being social media drunk was never a secret, so there was no reason to keep my sobriety a secret. Social media has always been a great tool for my recovery. I follow tons of great sober Instagram accounts. I belong to FB recovery groups. I read blogs by women just like me. In fact, those blogs were where I first REALLY felt like there were people I could relate to in this world. I began to use my own social media pages as a way to share my story and the message of recovery. A message of hope. People tell me all the time that I inspire them. And I love it. It brings me joy. I love to see people win and if I can support that in some small way, I’m all about it. But, honestly, I never set out to inspire anyone. We all have a story. I just knew I was supposed to share mine. Being able to write in a way that connects with people is a gift and who am I to not use that gift? And oh my goodness…..I had no idea how many people would resonate with my words. I have met and connected to so many amazing people because someone sent them to my blog, my FB page or my Instagram. I have connected to people’s sisters, cousins, mother in laws, friends of friends, random strangers and my personal favorite is when my therapist friends send their patients to my blog or to my yoga classes. When a woman walks into my studio and says her therapist “sent her” and I can see that she’s slightly terrified…I love that the most! I love it because I was that terrified woman going into the yoga class because my therapist said it would be good for me. It’s all so beautiful to me. Friday I had lunch with a woman I met through a mutual friend. I had met this woman exactly one time and I think it must have been two years ago. But we are connected on social media, so it’s kind of like knowing her without really knowing HER. Social media is weird. I know lots of people feel like they know me. And….they sort of do, but you can’t really know someone without spending time with them. The lunch came about in a random way because I followed my gut and reached out to her rather than ignoring my intuition. This sweet woman, and she is sweet but really, she is a 75 year old complete bad ass, told me that she reads everything I write. She told me that I inspire her and so many other women. She was full of kind words for me and she did it in a graceful way that didn’t embarrass me or cause me to go all weird and awkward. We were instant friends and it felt like we had known each other forever. It was comfortable. She talked about her daughter during lunch. I had absolutely no idea that she lost her daughter to an accidental alcohol and pill overdose 15 years ago. In that moment I knew exactly why we were together at lunch. In that moment I understood our heart to heart connection and why my intuition had led me to her. It was a powerful reminder of WHY I share my story. A reminder of why it’s important for me to inspire, support and empower the people around me. I know how it feels to be at the bottom. I love to watch people rise. I share my story in service. It’s part of my path. It’s not about me. It’s about the person I was almost 6 years ago. It’s about the person still struggling who believes they are broken beyond repair. It’s about the person who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love or happiness. I share my story because I am alive to share it. It’s one of those things that I know I am supposed to do. The Universe confirms this for me time and time again in so many ways. I am honored every time someone reaches out to me because they read something I wrote and were touched by it in some way. I truly am. I hope we all make it. I hope we all get to experience every beautiful thing that this life has to offer. ♥️
Last week my husband went golfing. I never love the days he golfs, which thankfully are few and far between, because golf tends to includes day drinking. I have not been around any day drinkers that I enjoy. I was a day drinker and that’s what ultimately took me down. Once I decided I was grown and I could drink any time I wanted to, it wasn’t long until I was drinking ALL the time because I had to. Back to last week……My husband was on the family schedule to pick our boys up from the places they needed to be picked up from. We do A LOT of running in this house. If you have children, you know. I was teaching a class that afternoon when I received a text from my husband informing me that he had been drinking shots and wouldn’t be picking up the boys. I didn’t open the text, but I could see the entire thing on my phone and I was NOT happy. I texted him back when my class was over and let him know exactly how unhappy I was. He responded by letting me know that he was on his way home and would figure it out. I too was on my way home by this point. And this is what I noticed. While I was driving, my heart was racing. I felt such a need to get home before he did or at least right behind him. In my mind he was completely fucked up, and as soon as he got home, he would leave again. I would be alone. I felt like I needed to rush home and stop him. Or something. And I was rushing. Heart racing and speeding down the road. In that moment, something shifted in me for the first time ever. I was triggered and I knew it. I knew exactly what the trigger was. I could feel the familiar feelings in my body. Fear. Sadness. And the one that really struck me was grief. I felt grief. I noticed all of these things and I slowed the car down. I stopped rushing and I took some slow breaths. These feelings had nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with my Ex husband. The father of my two oldest children. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pissed at my husband, but the reality is that he had two shots at the clubhouse in celebration of a hole in one that happened on the course. (Not by him) He wasn’t going anywhere. Yes, I would have preferred if he had passed those up and went to pick up the boys, but I was also happy that he didn’t drive after those two shots. Maybe there were beers involved too, I can’t remember. He wasn’t hammered. He just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to drive our boys. I was pissed because I had no plans and would have liked it to stay that way, but on this particular evening, I ended up doing the driving. Back to being triggered……because looking at it now, I am certain that I have been triggered in this way so many times without being able to identify it for what it was. I was reacting to the two years I lived with a man in relapse. The two years that I tried to hold my little family together. I was married to a wonderful man with a horrible addiction. We were both clean and sober when we met. We married and had two beautiful babies. Then he relapsed. I actually think he relapsed when I was pregnant with our second child. For the longest time, I was in denial about it. I thought he was sick. He let me believe that. He saw Dr’s and Neurologists to try to figure out what was wrong with him. I had a sick husband, a toddler and a new baby to care for. It was A LOT. He had been diagnosed as having “absence seizures.” The reality is that he was taking massive amounts of pills and nobody had any idea. One evening I had the children packed up in the car waiting on him to come home from work. We had an appointment with a photographer to have family portraits made. He was supposed to come home at 4:00, jump in the car and then we would leave. But he didn’t come home. We waited and waited until the babies got tired of being in the car. He wasn’t answering his phone and I was worried and I was getting pissed. I took the kids inside and my phone rang. It was one of the local hospitals. Apparently my husband had a seizure and was in the hospital. Then, the rest of the story followed. After work he had gone to the UPS store to pick up a package that had been delivered to him there. It was a package from an internet pharmacy. The package contained a bottle of Soma muscle relaxers and a bottle of Loritab pain killers. He opened the package in the UPS store and took a handful of the Somas and fell out in the floor. The UPS store called 911 and he was transported to the hospital. My life changed in that moment. My husband wasn’t sick. He was a drug addict. I mean, he WAS sick because of his addiction, but there was no medical reason beyond the pills he was taking for the seizures. The Dr asked if I knew about the internet pharmacy, which of course, I did not. There were a lot of things I had no idea about. I didn’t tell anyone in my family or his family. I had no friends to speak of outside of the Mom’s that I sometimes did kid’s things with. I didn’t want anyone to know that my world was falling apart. I sent him to the treatment center where he and I had both gotten clean. Over the next two years, I sent him there several times. He never stopped using. His using escalated. Cocaine. Heroin. All of it. After spending the majority of my life addicted, I was clean and had no desire to use drugs. All I wanted was for my husband to choose us over drugs. All I wanted was to have my happy family and live the dream that we were building before he relapsed. But it was not to be. After two years of fighting for him I had to let him go. I had to save myself and my children from the horror of drug addiction. I filed for divorce while he was off on a spree. He never showed up in the span of time that it took me to file, take the parenting class that is mandatory in the state of TN for parents filing for custody, and go to court two times. On the day our divorce was granted, he called me. Not because he had any idea that we were now divorced. He called because he had used up every last resource he had available to him and was ready to go back to treatment. I picked him up at a local gas station, gave him $10 and put him on a plane to California. Then I went home and cried for days. I put the children to bed and drank myself to sleep at night. My heart had been broken a thousand different times in those years. My heart hurt for my children. My heart hurt for me. My heart hurts right now as I write this. My children saw their father one more time. The spring before we moved to NC he came from California where he was now working at the treatment center. And he was high when he arrived. He nodded out the entire weekend. It was incredibly hard to watch and of course I was pissed at him and at the treatment center. I put him on the plane back to California when the weekend was over and called the center to let him know that he was still using. We moved to NC soon after that weekend and continued to keep in contact with him. We all loved him so. My current husband knew him before I did. A story for another time. But, when I say that he was a wonderful human, it’s because he really was. He was my best friend. He was brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious. Addiction sucks. In late September of 2009, I received a phone call from my ex mother in law. She told me that he had been found dead in the bathroom of the halfway house he was living in. I had to tell my children that they would never see their dad again. They were too young to understand words like overdose and they didn’t need to know that at the time. I held my children and cried with them. Drug addiction sucks. I hope that he can see how wonderful his children are. They are all the beautiful things that I loved about him. I see him in them every day. Last week, when I felt the trigger of being left alone, it was a powerful and healing moment for me. It gave me an opportunity to sit with the sadness. The sadness that most likely will always be with me on some level. It gave me an opportunity to talk to my husband about the sadness I was feeling. And he listened. We had the most beautiful conversation and he was there for me. As open as I can be when I sit behind a laptop writing, face to face is still quite a challenge for me. But I’ll get there.
Before I had really committed to giving up alcohol, I tried numerous ways to fix my mess of a life without actually giving up alcohol. My husband and I were in couples therapy because “we had problems.” I clearly remember writing that on our intake form. And laughing about it. We didn’t really know how to describe our problems. I did shit that enraged him (read HURT him) and we didn’t know how to fix it. We would sit on the therapist’s couch and he would complain about all the things I had done that week that I shouldn’t have. Eventually when we went into her office, I started sitting in the corner chair by myself because it felt like the naughty chair. I felt like a five years old. I’m sure I acted like a five year old too. I also had a therapist that I saw on my own. She was horrible. You know how we attract what we put out into the world? Well, I was putting out raging alcoholic crazy bitch and that’s what I was attracting. A crazy, stalker therapist who was also a raging alcoholic. Believe me when I say that I have had some bad therapy in my life. That “relationship” got really bad before I decided to seek out a new therapist. Our couples therapist referred me to a woman in her office. The two of them (with my permission) worked together to figure out how to best help me. The first time I met with this new therapist, she told me I had been referred to her because she took “The worst of the worst.” Well shit. Thanks lady. That was a prelude to what was to come with this woman. The therapist who didn’t hold back and pissed me off week after week. This woman. The one who told me to “suck it up, buttercup” when I came in whining and complaining about how much my life sucked. You can imagine how well that went over with me. She tried to help me in so many ways. She sent me to (strongly suggested) Dialectal Behavior Therapy to learn emotion regulation skills, mindfulness, and other coping skills. She cheered for me when I had periods of not drinking. She tried to help me find activities to do that were “wholesome.” She gave me a giant list of ‘adult pleasurable activities.’ Because I needed a list. A list of activities to fill my time that weren’t self destructive. Who knew such a list existed? And that people actually need this? Because of my addictive tendencies there were quite a few things on the list she advised against. Also, my ability to turn wholesome activities completely unwholesome meant there were quite a few no go’s for me on the list. But, the list was huge and full of things that I could do. If I wanted to. The list made me laugh and the thought of someone needing a list of activities to fill their days was ridiculous. I wanted to spend my time drinking and being miserable. Obviously.
I don’t know how this woman put up with me, but I like to think she saw my awesome that was hiding behind the mask I wore. In the beginning I took a lot of naps and a lot of baths. They were on the list. I mean, I still take a lot of baths and naps but in the beginning of this journey I took 3 baths a day. It was my go to for self soothing. I did yoga, but it was absolutely NOT pleasurable. I meditated, but it was also not pleasurable. I was so uncomfortable being sober that anything other than bathing and sleeping was not at all pleasurable. Because I was miserable and uncomfortable in my skin. In AA meetings I would cry and ask how long it would be awful like this. The answer was always, until it isn’t. There was no time frame and everyone is different. One of my favorite sober authors is Augustan Burroughs. I read a lot of his books in my early sobriety. If you haven’t read his books, I highly recommend that you do. He has a twisted sense of humor that I appreciate. In “This is How” he writes about getting sober….”What has worked for me is to find something I wanted more than I wanted to drink, which was a fuck of a lot. The way you stop drinking is to want sobriety more.” Huh. Sounds so simple. And I did want to be sober more than I wanted to be drunk. My family was what I wanted more than I wanted to drink. For the first 500 days that was it. My family. I would like to think I fell in love with myself and my life sooner, but that just isn’t true. I was just learning how to do normal day to day life without alcohol. Nothing fabulous there. Fast forward a few years and my life is FULL of people and things that I am in love with. I had to get off my ass, be uncomfortable and do the things and meet the people. They weren’t just magically appearing in front of me. I did all the things alone. And wouldn’t you know, doing things is a great way to meet people. I got sober in November 2013. I fell in love with ME in 2015. It took a lot of work, but I love me today. I think until I found that love for myself, love for anything else just wasn’t going to happen. And then it happened. I fell in love with yoga. Finally! After years of practicing to save my life, I now did it because I loved it. And then I fell in love with teaching yoga. It gave me confidence that I had never known. I opened the studio in 2017 and have fallen in love with something new every other month since then. At least it seems that way. Today my calendar gets so full that I have to schedule naps and say no to things that I love and want to do because I also try to keep a healthy home/work/social life/me time balance. And it’s hard at times. I always feel it when I am off balance, which is a bit more often than I would like….but that’s just kind of how life is. This summer has been insanely busy and at times I feel overwhelmed. It helps to remind myself that I am busy doing the things I love. I am busy doing the things I choose. I am busy doing the pleasurable activities that I LOVE. I don’t need a list today.
I am currently in a hotel in Knoxville with my 10 year old. He and I are traveling to Kentucky to see my parents. I thought he would chill and I would write. I was wrong. He hasn’t chilled yet. Hotels are way too exciting for children. Even a Hampton Inn in Knoxville, TN. Jackson is spinning circles in the chair and asking me thousands of questions. His most recent question was “are you mad at me?” I told him “Of course I’m not mad at you” and I asked why he thought that. His reply was that I seem annoyed. I had to remind him that it’s after 9 o’clock and Mommy hates everyone after 8:30. He knows this. And then, because I am a good human, I assured him I am not annoyed with him and I love him all the world full. I’m just a bit tired and grumpy. It’s been sweet traveling with Jackson. He mostly watches videos with his headphones on. But, we also got some good one on one talk time in. Jackson was in 5th grade this past year. His last year in elementary school. In 5th grade the children participate in the DARE program. He learned all about addiction/drugs/alcohol/peer pressure and such. He knows I don’t drink but he’s never asked why. Until today. My older two children know the story. They lived the story. They remember the story. Jackson was a little guy. I asked him if he remembered when I was sick and he came to see me in that hospital where he got to play foosball. He does remember. He told me he remembers coming to see me a few times in the hospital. The hospital was a treatment center, and it seems he remembers a bit more of my stay than I realized. Once that topic came up he asked what that was all about. He wanted to know why I was in that hospital. I have had ALL the conversations about these things with his brother and sister, but Jackson, being the baby, and not really remembering that life, well, it just hasn’t come up. Until today. He could care less whether I drink or not. When I explained to him that alcohol makes me sick, he compared it to an allergy to red dye number 40, or yellow dye 5. He’s not really wrong. Other than the fact that as well as making me sick, alcohol makes me crazy and depressed. I guess he’s never cared or even considered why I go to “those meetings.” Which cracks me up because I have always said it’s Jackson’s world and the rest of us are lucky to be living in it. It’s just something I do that he’s never questioned. We talked about those meetings and he decided I go for no reason and I don’t even need to go because obviously I am cured. Then he threw in the word hippie and eluded to the fact that AA is for hippies. I love this child. AA in my community certainly isn’t full of hippies. Or, maybe they were at one time, but they grew out of it. Jackson is a joyful child. A young 10 year old. He’s been able to stay little a bit longer than his siblings did. Innocent. He has no idea that I rolled straight out of jail and went to his kindergarten orientation with him 5 years ago. Never have I ever felt more shame or guilt than I did that day. I had gotten a DUI the day before and had to sit in jail for 24 hours. Actually, my husband had the option to bail me out, but chose not to. He was over it and he knew if I was in jail for the night, I was safe for the night. I got sober three months later. I remember going to his class and talking to his teacher about my sobriety. I wanted her to know why I had been absent for the past few months. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated all the love and support she gave Jackson and how grateful I was for her. When I explained to her that I had been struggling with addiction and had been away in a treatment center she looked at me like I had two heads. I was sure I couldn’t have been the first person she had ever met with a drug/alcohol problem. She assured me I was the first. I was mortified and I wanted to die. But I didn’t. I stood there. I was getting sober. I was being honest. I was standing in my truth. Uncomfortable and awkward, but I stood there. For whatever reason, I felt like she needed to know. I felt like that was a conversation I needed to have with her. It was the first time I had announced with any seriousness that I was getting sober. For the first time ever, I was able to hold my head high in that school. Simply because I was sober. I didn’t feel judged by her. It was just very matter of fact, “I have never met an addict or alcoholic before.” I think I expected her to share her own personal story of the people in her life who are either addicted or in recovery. Maybe I expected a bit of praise for my hard work. Not that I deserved an award for doing what I needed to do, because I certainly did not. That experience was a big moment for me in early recovery. Being honest about who I am is OK. Being open and honest made it easier for me to be a good mother. I no longer felt like I had to pretend to be perfect, because now it was known that I wasn’t. But I was there. I was trying. Not being perfect meant I could be me. Being an alcoholic mother is hard. I had a lot of shame about the way I drank. I had always felt less than when I was with the other Moms at school because it seemed like they had it all together. They all seemed so perfect. Then there was me. Just hoping they didn’t smell alcohol on me. That was a special kind of Hell. (There are many kinds) Now, after being sober for 5 years and spending time with emotionally healthy people, I understand that nobody has their shit together. At least not all the time. We all do the best we can and everyone has their own problems to deal with. In whatever form that comes in. As long as we keep showing up, we are winning at life, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Today I am showing up for my children by being a living example of what recovery looks like. They have seen addiction. It’s not the life I had planned for us, but we made it and became so much stronger and closer through the process. My children know that they can talk to me about the difficult things. They know they don’t have to be perfect, because this life is messy and chaotic and beautiful. We just have to keep showing up.
I have ALWAYS been out loud about my recovery. I was out loud in my drinking, so I found it necessary for my own recovery to not be anonymous in sobriety. When I was drinking, I was sure social media was all about taking photos of everything I drank and every drunk thing I did. Including posting photos from the back seat of police cars and hospital rooms. Being social media sober seemed like the natural follow up to that. It’s a tool I have used since day one to help keep myself accountable. Getting sober was HARD. Staying sober is easy. I have so many resources and tools available to me. Really, it’s just not difficult today. Because I have tools and resources. I live in an alcohol free home with a very supportive husband. We used to drink together. A Lot. When I made my first few attempts at getting sober (there were many), my husband thought it would be fine to still have a 5 pm Scotch or two or maybe three. It was not fine and I ended up right there with him and I kept right on going long after he stopped. I could never have one or two or even three. It never even occurred to me that I was supposed to drink with any other intention than to get completely hammered. Because that’s where the fun was. Or so I thought. I’m sure it started that way. It certainly didn’t end that way. After a few failed attempts at getting sober which included trips to hospitals, Psych wards, detoxes and rehabs, my husband came to understand that if I was going to get sober in our home, there could be no alcohol around. Even when I didn’t want to drink, I always managed to. I didn’t like Scotch so that “shouldn’t” have been a problem. But as soon as something didn’t go my way and I was upset that Scotch of his was good enough to do what I needed it to do. Numb my overwhelming emotions. I was convinced he was an alcoholic and that it really wasn’t fair that I was the one getting sober. Truth be told, he was a little concerned about this too. We were in the habit of drinking together. As it turns out, he was able to leave it. He didn’t have a drink anywhere near me my entire first year sober. He rarely drinks today, and when he does, he doesn’t get wasted and it’s just not an issue. He’s one of “those” normal drinkers. Normal drinkers are cool, I’m just not one of them. When I got sober, I had to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media. I saw them partying and having fun and not inviting me. I felt left out. I also appreciated the fact that I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have to say no, but still…I felt left out. Lonely. A constant theme in my life. I remember calling a friend one evening and as she answered the phone, I could hear her scrambling and banging and making all sorts of racket. She was in the middle of a party and tried to get into her bedroom where it was quiet so I wouldn’t hear what was going on. Sweet and hilarious, because believe me, I could hear exactly what was going on. The more sober I got, and the more practice I had with handling my emotions, the less those things bothered me. It still hurt my feelings that most of those friends fell away and didn’t invite me to do things, but I am sure I made them uncomfortable. The majority of them don’t socialize without alcohol (and lots of it). No judgement, it’s just not where I am today. And since I’m not invited, it’s not an issue. Drinking people are not a problem for me. Drunk people are. It’s not a fun space to be in. In all fairness , when I was drinking I didn’t want to be around people who weren’t drinking either. So I got used to missing out. Eventually that “fear of missing out” turned into the “joy of missing out.” I slowly got comfortable in my skin and began to enjoy my time alone. My family got me back and I like to think they enjoy having me, fully present for them. I know I sure enjoy spending time with them. Since I had no friends that wanted to do the “weird” things I wanted to do, I had to learn to do things alone. Most of the “weird” things I wanted to do were in groups, so I wasn’t even alone, I was just on my own. In a group. This is how my world slowly started to expand. I began meeting people who liked the weird things I liked. Weird = Spritual. So, not really weird, just different than what I had been doing my entire life. And it was ALL new to me. Today I have friends everywhere. Sober friends. Goddess friends. Yogi friends. Meditation friends. Old friends. New friends. Internet friends that I haven’t met yet. Family friends. And I am a friend to myself above all. That’s a big one. I have a huge outer circle and a small inner circle. I have people I can count on. Sober me is super lovable. Drunk me, not so much. I have extra appreciation for those who loved me through that and stayed. The girl who doesn’t get invited to parties went to four parties in the last two weeks. One of them was mine, but still. 🙂 One of them was a party for a dear friend who I love all the world full. My invitation went like this, “Would it be weird to invite you to my margarita bar party?” I think that was the first invitation I have received in 5 sober years. Seriously. Or maybe I am making that up and it’s just the first party I actually went to. I’ve been to Christmas parties. But that’s family, so I don’t think it counts. I am sure my husband has been invited and by default I was invited, but really feel like this was a sobriety first for me. I went to her party that was FULL of people I love, had a bunch of fun and laughed and then laughed some more that I still managed to shut the party down. At 8:30 pm. Because that’s the kind of friends I have. And I LOVE it. Last night I went to my first ever sober party. As in a party by a sober person, for sober people. I didn’t have to worry about taking my own drink. Everyone ate food because that’s what sober people do at a party. I heard hilarious stories that only sober people would think are funny. Sometimes, when I’m around people who aren’t in recovery, I forget they haven’t lived that life. Until the moment I notice sheer horror on their faces. Then I wrangle it back in and explain that THAT is the exact reason why recovery is so important to me. I am reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray and I really can’t recommend it enough. Especially to newly sober people. It takes me back to the early days of sobriety and just how bad everything sucked. Until it didn’t. In recovery circles “the pink cloud” is often talked about. It’s a magical place where some of us find ourselves as the haze of alcohol starts to wear off and we start to find joy in the simplest of things. At 5 years sober, I am happy to report, that I am still riding that pink cloud. I’ve learned to look for joy in the small things. I’ve learned to do things that feed my soul and feel good to my heart. I’ve learned to stay away from things that suck. ALL of being sober is an unexpected joy because I knew when I got sober that fun was no longer a part of my life. My life was over. I could not have been more wrong. We all know the quote “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” That describes my experience with getting sober perfectly. Best. Decision. Ever.