Someone recently asked me if it’s possible to stay sober without AA. I am here to tell you that it is absolutely possible. I am NOT here to bash AA or to tell you not to go to AA or that it isn’t a wonderful tool, because it is. It really bothers me to see people trash a program that is free and accessible to anyone who wants it. For a lot of people, it’s the ONLY resource available. And if one is willing to do the work, it works. But so do a lot of other paths. I know a LOT of people who are in recovery and have never been to an AA meeting. I know a lot of people who have been going for years and continue to go because they love it. I have been on the fence about whether or not AA is for me for about three years now. It was great for me in the beginning. I think it’s a great place for everyone to start. It’s where I first found sober community. Community is so important. This is true for everyone in recovery of all kinds. Not just addicts and alcoholics. It’s extremely helpful to have someone who has walked the path before you and can help you navigate a new way of being in the world. Recovery is scary. I can’t imagine how hard it has been for the people getting sober since the pandemic hit. The meetings stopped and everything went on Zoom. My hat is off to anyone with a 2020 sobriety date. That never would have worked for me. In early sobriety I needed to have my ass in a room full of people that I didn’t want to be with, hating everyone in front of me. But that’s just me. AA is not the end all, be all that it once was. Technology has changed what sober support looks like for so many people. I think if you are out there living life and loudly sober, anyone who cares about you can be your sober support. Instagram has a ton of sober accounts and ways to connect. There are apps to connect you and guide you, online coaching programs, FB groups, online programs with meetings and tons of other meeting type programs that aren’t AA. I used to be big on telling people to find a path and stick to it. Now I feel like that’s not the best advice and one should find what’s working for them right now and stick with it. But as we grow, our needs change. What was once a lifeline, might not seem that way anymore. And it’s OK. That’s where I am with AA today. There is a lot of fear around leaving AA and it comes up often in a lot of the groups I belong to. We don’t hear about the people who make it out and live a wonderful life. We are taught in AA that when we stop going to meetings, we will relapse. Of course plenty of people stop going to meetings and do relapse. Also, lots of people stop going and live happy, sober lives. There shouldn’t be fear or guilt involved around leaving. Period. In the past year I went to three meetings. I am in no jeopardy of relapsing. My entire existence supports my recovery. The majority of my friends are not in recovery. But they also do things with me that aren’t centered around alcohol. Because they love me. Truth be told, I built the community I needed because it didn’t exist. In the beginning I built a small community of people to meditate with me. A community to sit together in silence every week. Because that’s what I needed. As I grew, I needed more in my life and so I kept finding more. What I couldn’t find, I created for myself. That community has grown and evolved. That community supports and sustains a LOT of women. Not just me. It was never really about me. Isn’t that beautiful? We always know what we need if we are willing to slow down and listen. Now that Covid restrictions are lifting, and I am scheduled to have my second vaccine, I may go to a few more meetings strictly because there are people there who I have missed and would love to see. But I also might just go to lunch with those people. Because at this point, it’s all the same to me. That’s not how it was those first few years and I wouldn’t be here without AA. I know this to be true for me. But many people do just fine without it. Recovery is never one size fits all. We are all different and beautiful and unique and we all get to decide what works for us. As far as AA goes, I will always tell people who ask me about it that it is a great place to start. Also, I know me so even if I think I am leaving, and I might, I’ll also always keep a foot in the door because when I do show up, it still feels a lot like coming home. There’s no rule that says I have to go every day/week/month. I also suspect that as Covid restrictions start to lift, a lot of new people will be rolling into those rooms. The amount of Covid related alcohol consumption I see on social media is ridiculous. But that’s another blog for another day.
What a difference a week makes. The sun came out. Of course it’s cold AF outside, so I am still in the house and never leaving. My sadness is mostly gone. I think. For now. It will return. I’ll be surprised by it again. Like always. And I will be sure that it’s never going to pass. Because this is how I operate. But I will write about it and be reminded that I am not alone. Thank you all for that. I am sure we are all doing our absolute best these days. Some days my best is better than others. On Friday I stayed in bed and read for 5 hours. The book was excellent. Then I watched a 3 hour documentary on Netflix. I feel great about that. Yesterday was watering day for my plants. I fertilized too. With stinky ass fish fertilizer. I think they loved it. I know I did. I repotted a few plants too. Because you need to know that. These little babies bring me much joy.
I received a random message from a random woman this week. A FB friend that I don’t actually know. A sweet message that made my whole day. She said that I seemed like a woman who is comfortable in my skin and asked if I could write a step by step guide on how to do that. I feel like that whole process is right here, strewn throughout this blog. But also, I never really had a plan when I started blogging so my organization is super scattered and she would have to do a lot of reading to piece the process together. I guess we can call that my lack of organization. I never really have a plan when I do anything. I just decide I want to do something and I do it. The “how” comes later, usually while I am doing the thing.
I am not and will never be the best yoga teacher. But I am really good at teaching people how to be in their bodies. Because I am obsessed with it. Not that it’s always comfortable. Because it’s not. Learning to be in our bodies takes time. And effort. And a bit of a fuck it attitude. And by fuck it, I mean exactly that. All of that nonsense that lives in our heads that gets in our way. What will people think? Fuck it. What if I look stupid? Fuck it. What if it doesn’t work? Fuck it. If that word makes you uncomfortable, fuck it. (I hope you realize how hilarious I am.) I once had a therapist that liked to say “Oh well.” She would follow that with a big sigh. It works exactly the same way. You can try that on if it’s less offensive to you. But, I know my readers, and you should all be fine with fuck it. Except for you Nanny. I love you! That same therapist also said a lot of fuck its.
To get comfortable in my skin I had to first spend a LOT of years being very uncomfortable in it. I spent the first 36 years of my life escaping my body in the normal unhealthy ways. Alcohol, drugs and sex. Until those things almost killed me. None of that was comfortable either. I was just numb. Until it stopped working. Those things always stop working and we can either find another way, or let it kill us. I chose to find another way. And it was uncomfortable to say the least.
Learning to be comfortable in my body was a process that began on a meditation cushion. Sitting still. It was awful. The voices in my head and the feelings in my body were too much. For the first few months I could only sit for a few minutes at a time. I literally wanted to rip my skin off. I felt so raw. Every bit of the things I had been using to numb myself were gone and all at once I could feel ALL of it. All the things I had pushed away. It was all right there in my head, in my chest, in my belly, in my back, in my body. Yoga saved my life. Practicing on my mat was a way for me to release a lifetime of stored up energy. Emotions. Trauma. Every single thing that I had pushed down was alive and well, right there in my body. Not that I knew any of this at the time. My yoga mat was a place for me to cry, grieve and rage, and eventually calm myself. I hated it. I loved it. I threw myself hard into the physical practice learning how to do the “fun” things with my body like inversions and arm balances. The poses that look cool. Not because they looked cool, but because when I challenge my body in this way, there was/is no room for my mind to wander. There is no past and no future. When I am doing a physically challenging posture, I am completely in my body. Present. And it’s glorious, if only for a few breaths. Yoga taught me to love my body and eventually, myself.
It’s been a journey and the list of things that have helped me get here seems to be endless. Amazing therapists. Inner child work. Shamans. Energy Healers. Women’s Circles. Solitude. All weaving together at the exact right time. It’s all here on the blog. Somewhere. Writing. So much writing. And sharing. The sharing piece is an important part of my process. When people connect to my words and I know I am not the only one to ever feel this way, it’s powerful. And here’s the thing. I am NEVER the only one to experience whatever it is I am sharing about. We are all so much alike in so many ways. We are all so damn human. We all struggle. Some people just pretend they don’t. Some things I write just for me and some I share with the world. I have shared some of my hardest truths on this blog. Scary, yes, but oh so worth it. The “what will people think of me” question still pops up for me. But I share anyway. Because fuck it. Oh well and all of that. Which would be the perfect end to this blog, but I have to keep going because DANCING. Learning to be in my sober body through dance has been so very healing. It’s one of those things that I assumed was over because I am sober. So glad I was wrong about that. These days dancing is saving my life. When I am feeling overwhelmed by emotions, I go to the studio and blast the music that heals my soul. I move and process and cry and calm myself. Or, I just dance. Fully present in my body, with whatever I am feeling.
I no longer numb anything. Which is why I was hating on being sad last week. Nobody wants to be sad. My go to these days is to pick up my phone and look at all the plants on the internet. I mean ALL the plants. Which is a fine distraction for a bit, but I have learned that eventually, I am going to have to sit with whatever it is that I am avoiding. I am going to have to process it in some way. Some healthy way. Apparently, It takes a lot to be mentally and emotionally healthy. Also, if you need help with your plants, I am your girl. I have learned so much!
The truth is that I AM comfortable in my body today. Most days anyway. Because I love who I am today. I’m comfortable in my head and in my heart.. I have fought hard to be here. And more than that, I am comfortable with people being uncomfortable with me. That’s where the real freedom is.
Last week I spent a couple of days away from home. A friend of mine had surgery on her eye and I stayed with her to drive her and take care of her. She’s fine now and it was lovely spending that time with her. While I was there a young lady posted on my FB wall. A beautiful young lady who is beginning her sober journey. She wanted to share with me because she says I inspire her. I sent her a message right before I went to bed that night. I wanted her to know that the inspiration flows both ways. This is a young woman who has traveled the world solo. That is total bad assery right there. This is a brave woman who is completely capable of amazing things. I have no doubt that if she wants to be sober, she can do that too. She comes from a long line of strong ass women. I sent this message to her and then I went to sleep. Which might have been what got my dreaming mind spinning.
When a person is in recovery, it’s normal to have using dreams. Relapse dreams. I have them every so often and I never enjoy them. In this dream I was with a friend. We were out in the world somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure where. Some sort of party or event. I was trying to take a picture of us, but I wasn’t able to hold the camera and push the button at the same time. Because I was too drunk. She told me to just let her do it. This immediately made me feel some type of way. If you know me then you know I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures and NOT being able to do that hit me in a weird place. And I felt it in my dream. Then my friend, the one I was staying with, appeared in my dream. She told me how much fun she was having, dancing like she hasn’t danced in years. There was dancing and I had missed it. It occurred to me that I had been blacked out. I didn’t want anyone to realize that I was drunk and certainly not that I was THAT drunk, so I pretended to know exactly what she was talking about. I was lying in my dreams just like I did when I was drinking in real life. All of the same feelings were coming up for me too. It felt truly awful. So many people I know and love kept floating through. My yoga teacher was there. The special family of Rebel Soul’s that I’ve collected through the years in the studio. And, as always, my AA friend Dave who is 12 days behind me on the sober anniversary schedule was there. He always appears in my drinking dreams because somehow, in my mind, I have to beat Dave. When I am drunk in a dream, Dave is always “winning.” It’s ridiculous really.
I woke up with that “oh thank God it was just a dream” immediately followed by the “what the fuck was that?” feeling. Anyone in recovery is familiar with these dreams and the emotions they bring up. Relapse dreams are a part of sober life. When I woke up that morning, I shared the dream with my friend. We decided it was the message I sent before bed that set off my dreaming mind. I left her house that morning. It was Christmas Eve.
On the drive home I was feeling immense gratitude for this friend. For her heart. For her wisdom. Just so grateful for our connection. And then my mind drifted to home. To my boys who would be so happy to see me. To my daughter who would be coming over later that day. To my Leon who no doubt missed me the MOST for the two short days I was away. And again my heart filled with gratitude for ALL the love in my life. I was in tears. The good kind. The my life is an endless flow of love and it’s amazing tears. It occurred to me how different this particular Christmas Eve drive home was to the one I wrote about recently. (It’s right here if you missed it.) It really is amazing how much things change when we do the work. Then my mind went back to the dream. I thought about every single person who appeared in that dream. They all had one thing in common. Every person in that dream is ONLY in my life because I am sober. These were all people that I was never going to cross paths with in the drinking world. Ever. Because that world was small. Just wow. That realization hit me right in the feels and the grateful tears came again. I will probably never get used to this. When I was drinking, I didn’t notice how small my world was. Because I wasn’t paying attention.
Sober life is expansive. Even in the year 2020 which has felt mostly constrictive, my world has expanded. I know this because Expansion is my mantra word for the year. Hilarious, right? I have laughed about this so many times because the year has felt extremely constrictive. The exact opposite of expansive. A blog for another day. Soon. I have spent less time writing this year, and yet this little blog has landed in 79 countries. Probably because of Covid, and the fact that emotions, feelings and realities have been so amplified this year, more people have reached out to me asking for guidance, resources and support. This isn’t my job, but if someone reaches out, I do consider it my responsibility to help them. When I get to witness the light come on in someone, it’s like nothing else. I get to see their world expand. It’s the most beautiful thing. I have a string of FB friends that I’ve met this way. It’s an honor to watch their journeys from afar. It’s by far my favorite thing about social media. There are just as many things to recover from as there are ways to recover. I always tell the people who reach out to me to just pick a path and stay on it. Whatever path feels right is the path that will lead you home. Always. Even when it’s scary. Especially when it’s scary.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
In the rooms of recovery it’s often said that “some of us have to die so the rest of us can live.” I have never really paid attention to this. It’s just a standard saying that I never put much thought into. I have lost people that I love from addiction, but never considered that they had to die so I could live. My ex husband died from an overdose. The biological father of my two oldest children. I am very familiar with loss. If I let myself sink into it, I can get really sad about it. Because he missed so much. I can easily get caught up in the what if’s. In the “if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved him” mindset. And maybe that’s true. But I didn’t know then. When I entered recovery I heard people in meetings say “get ready to go to a lot of funerals” or something to that effect. But really, I didn’t believe it because who dies from drinking? I identify as an alcoholic. Because, for some reason, that’s important in meetings. I am and will always be an addict. My drug addiction was so bad that it almost killed me by 23 years old and when I got clean, I was DONE with that life. Never did it occur to me that I could be an alcoholic. Until I could no longer deny that I was. But it also never occurred to me that people I loved would die from alcoholism. Because who does that?
The year I got sober, my cousin did exactly that. She was younger than I am now. I had been asked to speak at a women’s AA speaker meeting on the same day of her funeral. I chose not to attend her funeral and instead carry out my commitment to speak. I couldn’t help my cousin, but maybe I would share something that could help a woman in that meeting. Nobody realized just how much my cousin had been drinking. After she passed, her husband found bottles around the house that she had hidden. She must have been terrified. I know her body was giving her signs that it was shutting down. But she couldn’t not drink. She must have felt so alone. Her death was definitely a message to me to stay sober. I went to meetings and talked about it, and I am sure someone said “some of us have to die so we can live.” But it was lost on me what that meant. The real meaning behind it. It was all just words.
Earlier this year I lost another friend. This was a woman I had sponsored in AA. When I arrived in meetings, still drunk and spewing hate, this woman was there. Always with a smile and information about AA and all the things I needed to know. She was the first to give me her phone number and the first to be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. But I bounced in and out and didn’t stay in close contact with her. When I finally arrived in AA for real, sober and ready to do the thing, she wasn’t around. In my mind she had moved on with her sober life. Because also in my mind, everyone in those rooms had been sober forever. I spent those first few years of recovery changing everything about myself. Discovering who I was without alcohol and building a brand new life. A beautiful life. And one day about 4 years into my sobriety, she showed up. She had not been out living her best life like I had assumed. She had been out drinking. For years. She was blown away by how much I had changed. She started coming around regularly and we spent a lot of time talking. She asked me to be her sponsor. This is a woman who had been in and around AA for a LONG time. She had put together many sober years in a row, but just couldn’t manage to maintain it. She knew the literature way better than I did and if AA was a class, she would have passed with an A+. She knew it in her head way better than I ever will. But for some reason she couldn’t stay sober. I agreed to be her sponsor, which just means that I would take her through the 12 steps and be a sober support person for her. My only requirement was that she was always honest with me. And she was. I attribute meditation and yoga to my recovery just as much as I do AA. I suggested these tools to her and she was eager to jump in and try them. She too was ALL in and bought herself every prop possible for yoga as well as a meditation cushion and alllllll the books about the two. I spent a year with her sharing every tool I had. Every tool that worked for me. I encouraged her to find her own things as well. She joined a gym and got a personal trainer. She learned how to wrap crystals and make beautiful jewelry. She danced with me every chance she got and she even tried Kirtan, as weird as that was for her. We journaled and made vision boards. We went through the steps together. And she was joyFULL. A quiet joy as she was a quiet soul. But joyful just the same. It was so beautiful to witness. She made it to one year and then I’m not sure what happened. She lost it. She began drinking again. Off and on. Mostly on. I wanted her to be sober so bad. I wanted to see the joy on her face that I had seen when she was sober. But I didn’t know what else to do. I continued to work with her for a while. Encouraged her to be just start over. But she wasn’t getting sober. So I let her go. I promised to be her friend and sober support any time she needed me, but as a sponsor, I wasn’t the one. I had given her everything I had, taught her everything I knew and it wasn’t enough. I encouraged her to find another sponsor, because clearly, I wasn’t the one. We remained friends, although I rarely heard from her. She was drinking a lot and not contacting me. Then, in early August she called to check on me. The island had been hit by a hurricane and she just wanted to know that I was alright. It was 10 am and she was drunk. We talked for a while, she said she wasn’t doing well, and that she would see me soon. She was ready to get sober. One week later my phone rang and her name lit up on the screen. I told my husband I didn’t want to answer because I knew she would be drunk. I let out a grumble and I answered the phone. It was her husband. He was calling to tell me that she had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She died that evening. Her body could no longer handle the abuse. This one hit me hard. Not that I was all that surprised. We all expect these things. But I also expected to see her “get it.” Wanted her to ‘get it.” I had already seen it once, and it was beautiful. I went to a meeting the next morning and talked about it. The first person to respond said “some of have to die so we can live.” My initial thought was what an asshole thing to say. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and for the first time, I understood what it meant. It means that I think of her when I dance, holding her in my heart and dancing with her. It means that while I am incredibly sad that she couldn’t get it, I have it and I am not willing to lose it. It means that I will keep writing these blogs for the person who needs to see them. It means that I don’t take one minute of this life for granted. It means that it could have just as easily been me. It means that I wake up each morning and choose recovery. I choose life. It means feeling all the feels and not numbing myself. It means being fully present in each moment, even the ones that suck. It’s life and it’s beautiful and terrible and everything in between. I choose it everyday.
She gave me this little figure for my birthday because it reminded her of me. She was always giving gifts and had the most beautiful, generous spirit. She is called Happiness. I think of her every time I look at it. I remember her joy. I picture her somewhere on the other side dancing with a little smile on her face and her arms stretched out. Feeling complete freedom. This is how I will always remember her. I am forever grateful that I got to experience those moments with her.
I did my taxes last week. I thought you should all know that. I waited until July 15th on the off chance that they actually would magically get done. They did not. I am never doing my own taxes again. I am good at a lot of things. I enjoy a lot of things. Filing my taxes does not fall into either of those categories. Something else that isn’t magically getting done is that book I am writing. Or, not writing as it turns out. I tried using the share it to social media for accountability approach. That looks like me sitting down at my laptop by 6:30 every morning and posting a selfie to my story so the world knows that I am doing the thing I said I would do. But early morning selfies are tricky. I always forget that I just woke up until I see the pic. Then I have to take 72 more selfies until I get a decent one. Then I write. This is is what I have learned. I write like I do everything in my life. I am either all in or I am all out. There is no in-between. These past two weeks I have been all out. And it feels like I am done. Not just done, but mad about it. As in fuck this fucking book, it’s stupid and I don’t even want to write it. Which is how I know that I’ll keep doing it. I was doing great, sitting down at the same time every day, posting my selfies to my story, getting solid word counts. I felt like I was really doing something. But I don’t actually know what I am doing. I’m just writing. Which is probably fine because I never know what I am doing, and things always work out for me. Usually better than I could imagine. When I look at my life I see that things work out for me. But I also know I have to put the work in. None of it ever happens magically. One might think I would stop hoping for that, and yet, I never do. But I have this friend. I am 100% certain this woman showed up in my world to help me write this book. She’s a writer. And an editor. Among other things. And she believes in me way more than I believe in myself. Some days she talks me into believing in myself and it lasts for weeks. Then I slowly start to get in my own way. Doubt creeps in. I am writing about a past that is painful and dark. As I write from this place it’s hard to remember that I am not that person. It’s hard to be the confident and strong person I know I can be. The old story creeps up and brings those old feelings with it. The doubt struggle is real. It shows up as shame. It shows up as “not enough.” It shows up as “too much.” It shows up as “who am I to think I can write a book?” It shows up as “why would anyone care what I have to say?” The worst part is that I know in my heart that none of it is true. It’s my head that gets in the way. My story is powerful. My voice matters. But that dark past is a hard place to write from. When I write from that place, I am IN that place. It’s painful. It was suggested to me that I write about my right now. Because my right now is pretty damn fabulous. It’s full of love and joy and so many blessings that it sometimes brings tears to my eyes. It’s full of amazing people and beautiful experiences. It’s full of women who lift me and a family who loves me. It’s full of beaches and sunshine and dancing. But it’s still so new to me. I recorded a podcast a few weeks ago, and that’s probably right around the time I started losing steam for this writing project now that I think about it. The podcast was recorded with a woman who thinks I am 100% bad ass. I have only met her in person two times, but she’s followed my journey on social media and knows enough about me to know that she wanted me to share my story. I shared my journey to self love with her for this podcast. Because it really is a journey. We started in my childhood and moved forward. We had an hour for the podcast. When we were finished I was worried that she might not have gotten what she wanted. She got a small piece of the self love she was looking for. She got a LOT of darkness. But that’s the story. That’s where I am in my journey. I lived many, many years in that dark place. I have only been here, in the healthy place, a short time in comparison. It made me sad. I felt like she wouldn’t want to use my story because there’s too much self loathing and not enough self love. There’s no self love in judging myself harshly for my past. I know this. It’s easy to say. But it happens. It happens when I write about my past. And the doubt comes back. It’s a vicious cycle. But I have awareness and awareness is everything. I am going to keep writing. I am going to write with the expectation that it actually will be easy. But it won’t. And then I’ll get mad and I’ll quit. For a while. This is how I do everything worth doing. It’s not really for me unless I say “fuck it, I’m not doing it.” It’s my go to. And I mean it every time. A thing to know about me is that I am persistent. I know this about myself. It might take years, but I’ll do it. I already have the tattoo. I have to do it now. I fully expect the process to suck. But that’s just because I’m still mad about it.
Here’s a thing to know about me. I like it when things magically happens for me. When I don’t have to do any work and shit just gets done. Rarely does this happen, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping. I am currently waiting for this to happen with my taxes. When a warning light comes on in my car, I prefer for it to magically go off all on it’s own. I not only prefer it, I expect it. Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t. When I announced to my readers that I am writing a book, I fully expected that I would magically have the discipline to sit down at the same time everyday and write. Without distractions. This has not magically happened for me. YET. I’m still hopeful. I’m still writing. Just not with the magic discipline I had imagined. Certainly not with no distractions. You best believe that when I declared to the world I was going to get sober I had no doubt that it would just happen for me. Magically. Because that is my preferred way. I assure you it did not happen that way. I pick up a lot of new followers and friends on social media because of my sober status. Every time I post about sobriety, someone new reaches out to me to inquire about how it’s done. I know how it worked for ME so that is always where I start. I also know that there are many ways to the top of the mountain, so I share resources that might be helpful. I always give my time to the people who reach out for help. If the person is local it almost always ends with them asking me to go with them to a meeting so they don’t have to go alone. I always agree even though I rarely go to meetings anymore, because meetings are a great place to start. I know that first meeting is super scary. Here’s an interesting fact. I have gone to exactly zero meetings with the people who reach out and ask for help. Because, inevitably, something else comes up and they can’t make it. And I get it. I so get it. They know they have a problem, they kinda/sorta want to do something about it, but ultimately, they want it to happen for them. Magically. And I hope it does. I also know that as much as I want it to happen for me, my taxes aren’t going to get done unless I do them. My book isn’t going to get written unless I sit down and write it. The warning light on my car is a toss up. There’s a chance it actually could go off all on its own. Doubtful, but possible. For my readers out there waiting to magically get sober, I promise you it doesn’t happen. Ever. When I first arrived in the rooms of AA it wasn’t even because I had a problem with alcohol. It was strictly because the people around me had a problem with my alcohol use. I didn’t even try to get sober in the beginning. I drank on my way to meetings. I was in a meeting once and the person sharing made a reference to the bottles they used to hide in their active drinking days. I learned in that meeting that lots of “those people” hid their drinking. They hid bottles around the house so nobody would know they were drinking, or maybe just how much they were drinking. That knowledge changed my life. It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard. Why hadn’t I thought of it? That knowledge changed my life because on that day I started to hide my drinking. That decision (if you can call it that) changed my life in awful ways. Seriously. Once I started to hide my drinking it made perfect sense to have a drink at 6 am. Why not? Nobody would know. It would be as if it didn’t happen. On those mornings I would hold my hand under the ice dispenser and catch the ice as it fell so it wouldn’t make noise hitting the glass. I would make breakfast and pack lunches while drinking bourbon. Those days all run together and none of them make sense. I do know that some of those mornings I would wake up and know that I had things to do and if I started drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do them. I started to understand the severity of the situation when I would promise myself I wouldn’t drink until 5 pm (or let’s call it 2 pm) but my hands would shake so badly that by 8 am, I was having a drink to make them stop. That’s when the fear set in for me. That’s when I really began to understand that no matter how much I wanted to wish myself sober it wasn’t going to happen. I was depressed and the alcohol was making that, along with everything else, worse. I felt like the biggest loser in the world. Really, who drinks so much that their body becomes addicted to alcohol and they have to drink in the morning to function?. How does this happen to a woman in her 30’s who has everything in the world that should make her life perfect? In my mind that kind of alcoholism was reserved for the people who lived under bridges and drank from brown paper bags. But in my heart, I knew what this was. And it terrified me. I had been addicted to “worse” things. So I thought. And I had beaten those addictions. But once I crossed that line with alcohol, and my body was physically addicted, it was the same horrible addiction as any other addiction I ever had to fight. And it took me down lower and lower for the next year and a half. There was no magical cure for me. I had to decide that I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink. That meant that I had to choose sobriety above all else. When things sucked, and everything does in early sobriety, I had to choose not to drink. I had to stop making excuses and show up every day ready to do the work. I had to stop expecting that I could latch onto someone who would make it easier for me. It’s lonely getting sober. (Latching on is a whole different set of issues.) We are all familiar with the term one day at a time, but it’s often more about one hour, one minute or one breath at a time. It’s a fucking battle some days. In the beginning, I would say it’s a battle most days. Being in contact with people who are in the midst of it and looking for a way out keeps it fresh for me. It is so much easier to be sober than it is to get sober. Getting sober is for the warriors who have the strength to say I want to live. I never expect the people who reach out to me to “get it” right away. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful each and every time. Because I am. I just hope they get it before it’s too late. I’m here for anyone who reaches out.
What were you doing on New Year’s Eve in 1999? And what were you listening to? A friend just posted those questions on FB yesterday. I haven’t thought about that year for a LONG time, and yet, I immediately knew exactly where I was, what I was doing, who was with me and what I was listening to. On December 31st 1999, I was living at my parent’s house. I was in my bedroom, with a man who loved me, detoxing from methamphetamine for the hundredth time. The man loved me. I didn’t know how to love anyone. And if it wasn’t the hundredth time I detoxed, it sure felt that way. The what was I listening to part especially hurt, because the ONLY thing I was listening to were the voices in my own head. I should have been partying and living it up. I was 22 years old and I wanted to die. I hated my life and the people in it. I lived in a dark and depressing world. My “friends” and I were manufacturing methamphetamine. Dirty. That’s what my world was. A sick cycle of misery. Wait for the sun to come up, (because there was no sleeping), go see people I hated, do things I didn’t want to do, wait for drugs and eventually get high. After that, the next few days and nights would be spent being paranoid and hiding from the cops that I was sure were looking for me. Until the meth ran out. When I was ready to crash, I would roll up at my parent’s house and sleep for days at a time. I was always sure I was going to die when the crash came. I didn’t care. I wanted death to come. It would have been nice if that New Year’s Eve had been the last time I had to detox, but it wasn’t. I lived that way for another 6 months before I finally made it into the treatment center that saved my life. “Another 6 months” may not seem long, but meth years are like dog years. When I arrived there I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was the poster child for the “faces of meth.” Ever seen those adds? That was me. I lived that way from the time I was 20 until I was 23. It is truly a miracle that I didn’t die. And it’s an even bigger miracle that I was able to get off meth. I know people that I used with who are still hanging in there, struggling to stop. Many have died, and lots of them have gone to prison. Some don’t even struggle anymore. They just accept that as their way of life. There was a solid year before I got clean where I had accepted being a meth addict as my fate. I didn’t try to hide it. When you just accept that and live that, nothing good can follow. I am forever grateful that enough people loved me to not let that be my life. Believe me, I was quite unlovable. And, because everything comes back to Facebook, another thing got my attention last week. “On this day” FB memories from December 23rd 2011 reminded me that I was right up in my worst days of alcohol addiction. I was making horrible choices and breaking the hearts of everyone who loved me. It was at this time that I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic. The reason this memory really jumped out at me is because of the date. December 2011. My sobriety date is November 13, 2013. I lived in Hell for two more years. And I took my family with me. Seeing those memories was like getting punched in the gut. I deleted a few, but I kept a few as well. Just enough to serve as a reminder. Not that I could possibly forget. Shit. I still remember that New Year’s Eve in in 1999. Addicted life is hard. I have a friend who is super struggling right now. I love this girl all the world full. She’s been reaching out from time to time for quite a while now. But she’s never actually ready. I like to throw the “want me to come over right now?!” on her when she texts me asking for help. I know it’s a little much, but I am always hopeful that it will be the time. Timing is everything. And…..when you’re really serious, right now is the perfect time. I feel like she’s getting closer. Stringing together more days of not drinking. She’s aware that it isn’t serving her. It doesn’t add any value to her life and it causes problems. Yesterday she texted me and said she needed things to do with her time. I suggested we go to the beach together. Right now! And she said yes. She said yes to my pushy ass “right now.” We sat on the beach and we talked and it was lovely to connect with her. I don’t see her much these days because of life things mostly, but also because I don’t live in the world where people party and get hammered anymore. She kind of fell away when I got sober. It’s ok. I don’t judge it, because it was part of my path. Until it wasn’t. I know how hard it is to be young and thinking about a life without alcohol. It’s scary. Talking with her took me back. Getting sober is hard AF. Staying sober is easy. Maybe she’ll figure out how to manage her drinking. I couldn’t. I tried. Maybe she’ll get sober and have an amazing ass life. That’s my wish for her. I spent so much of my life struggling with addiction in one form or another. It’s misery. Today, all I feel is freedom. And joy. I wish that for my friend. However she finds it. I wish that for everyone. I’m sure I’m still “addicted” to things today. It’s the way I’m wired. That “all in” thing I do. Today I choose things that are good for me.
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.