Sober Yogi

When I started this blog years ago I had a hard time deciding what to call it. Sober Yogi represented who I was at the time.  Since that time, I have grown in every possible way.  When I started writing here I figured I would write about yoga and being sober, since those were the things I knew. I fully expected more of a how to format. Nothing like what I actually write about. I have used this space to document my entire healing journey which has been so much deeper and bigger than not drinking. Who knew? I’ve shared so much of that process right here with all of you and received so much support. What a beautiful healing space this is for me.  I’ve played with the description of the blog, but have never changed the name.  I’ve thought about it because I’m not so sure “Sober Yogi” represents what the blog actually is, and I am soooooo much more than a sober yogi.  Those things are just pieces of who I am and being sober doesn’t really seem like it’s a big of deal anymore.  It’s just my life.  But today I was 100% THAT girl.  I fully experienced myself as a sober yogi and it was so very special.

This morning I taught a yoga class on the beach.  As I was teaching, I noticed a guy hanging back and observing us.  No big deal, because yoga on the beach is cool.  Who wouldn’t want to check that out?  At the end of practice, I led everyone into Savasana.  The final pose of practice.  Corpse pose.  Here’s a little truth about Savasana on the beach.  Every time all of my students are lying on their backs, eyes closed, exactly like corpses, I feel a little (lot) like Jim Jones.  It makes me laugh and feel weird to be the only one standing or even sitting around all the bodies laid out on the sand.  So today, I walked down to the water while my students rested peacefully.  And they were beautiful.  As I was standing on the water’s edge, I sensed the man that had been observing us approaching me.  In my mind I had an entire conversation about how happy I was that he was definitely not coming to talk to me because of social distancing.  But he was.  And he did. He kept his distance. Don’t freak out. He asked if I was Shannon.  Then he introduced himself and asked if I remembered him.  I didn’t.  He shared with me how he had been to one of my 12 step  recovery yoga classes years ago.  Those are classes that I taught for a very limited time, because I just never felt like I could connect.  The energy was always off.  But, at that moment I remembered exactly who he was.  And clearly, I had connected. He told me he was two days sober and didn’t know what to do or where to go, but he knew I was teaching on the beach this morning and I would be a good place to start.  So he came to the beach.  I still had students in Savasana, and went back to them.  We finished our practice while he hung back.  When everyone left I was able to give my attention to this man.  I directed him to the local meetings and shared recovery resources with him.  He had a ton of questions and seemed so willing to try a different way.  One of the women from my class had stayed behind to enjoy the beach.  A licensed mental health counselor.  I invited her into our conversation and she was able to speak to him on the ways alcohol affects the brain.  All the cool science of the addicted brain.  She was incredibly helpful and informative.  It was such a Divinely orchestrated plan to have her there in that moment with her understanding of addiction. A God moment. You can call it a coincidence if you feel better about that, but I’ll silently disagree with you. I have no idea if this guy will get sober or not.  Sometimes people take that first little step into sobriety and then jump right back out.   Sometimes it takes years.  It did for me. People reach out to me all the time, and then I never hear from them again.  It’s not my job to get people sober, but it is my responsibility to be there when someone reaches out.   I saw honesty, openness and willingness from the man on the beach this morning.  Those are the three things a person needs to get sober and stay that way.  I’m hopeful. I’m rooting for him.

Being sober is such a natural piece of my life today.  It’s no longer some foreign experience I am trying to navigate. I don’t write about it as often as I used to.  It’s not the most interesting thing about me. But it’s never about me is it?  As much as I want it to be.  This morning, on the beach, I was a sober yogi.  Yes, I am so much more than that, and as uninteresting and routine as the sober piece is, without it every good thing in my world would go away.  I was reminded this morning, in a very big way, that being sober is incredibly special.  Sharing about sobriety and connecting to so many people through my words is a privilege and an honor.  I am extremely grateful that I am able to recover out loud.

 

Smooth Sailing. Until it’s not.

And then it happened!  I made a Covid 19 memory bigger than toilet paper!  And there was dancing!  And my heart was full!   Yesterday I hosted a social distanced parking lot dance party.  Most of you saw the pics on my FB page.  I am sure there are people who didn’t approve, and that’s ok.  I wasn’t looking for approval.  I was looking for connection.  Friday was a hard day.  Some days are.  I’ve had plenty of down days lately.  I know we all have. Friday was my worst.  I woke up that morning and went downstairs to my fortress of solitude.  I sat on my cushion to meditate, but instead I cried.   I cried a lot.  A thing to know about me is that I am not a crier.  But I couldn’t help it and I couldn’t stop it.  I’m sure it was necessary and I get that crying is good.  I love when my students cry in yoga, and I love when the women in my circles cry.  I’m just not the one to do it.    I was THIS close to jumping on the blog and writing through it, but that seemed like a stupid option.  So instead, I stayed stuck in it.  And I cried.  I haven’t cried like that since September 9th 2018.  I can’t remember why I cried, but I remember that it started at home and continued during the yoga class I went to that morning.  I was hosting a teacher from Florida in the studio and I was in her class, bawling my eyes out the entire time.  Pretty impressive that I have a timeline, right?

This is where I stop to tell on myself.   Because I live my life on social media and share so much from my heart, I was guessing there must be something posted that day to give me a clue as to what that was all about. I had to make the connection back to the date that teacher was here.  A quick search pointed out the date and down the rabbit hole of my activities log for September 2018 and BOOM.  Here it is.  Of course I was crying.  Also,  I was probably due for another good cry on Friday.  2018 was a LONG time ago.  I should cry more.  You know, if I was down to play that “should” game.  I did have a big crying episode on January 1st during sunrise meditation on the beach.  I bawled my eyes out and even pointed it out to my friend who also doesn’t cry.  I was proud of it and wanted to share it with her.  But, that was all gratitude and full heart stuff.  Quite different.  But sooooooo good.  For the record, I am down to cry gratitude tears any time.

The unhappy cry is the crying I have an aversion to.  Back to Friday where I cried for the first time in a L O N G time.  I think every emotion I have experienced over the past 6 weeks caught up to me.  It was a tough day.  After the tears came the anger.  I’m not exactly sure why I was angry, but I suspect it’s easier for me to be angry than it is for me to be sad or fearful or fully feel all the grief that we are collectively feeling.  And by I suspect, I mean that’s definitely it.  This afternoon I talked with a friend on the phone who spun her woo woo therapist magic on that situation.  She pointed out that my inner “kid” likes to get angry and rebel against…….well, she rebels against all kinds of things, but she definitely doesn’t like to cry.   So she gets angry. I knew that being angry around my family for no “real” reason wasn’t going to be helpful, so I stayed in my fortress of solitude.  My husband came down to check on me.  He NEVER comes into my fortress.  Ever.  He asked if I wanted to walk to the beach with him.  We live 15 streets away from the beach and while it’s totally doable, I didn’t want to do it.  I’m not much of a beach walker anyway.  I’m more of a sitter.  My husband isn’t a beach walker either nor is he the kind of guy that wants to walk 15 streets because it’s good for his health.  Bless him.  He wanted to fix me because all of my emotions made him uncomfortable.  He just wanted me to be ok. Because he loves me.   I eventually got past the anger and settled into a nice, comfortable funk.  I stayed there the rest of the day.  Ice cream and music in the bathtub that evening helped, but more than that, sleeping and waking up to a new day was the real trick.   Saturday was the first time I have seen real people outside of my home, not counting the grocery store, in six weeks.  I know I’m not alone in this and that we are ALL right there.  I know that for me and the women who either showed up to dance in their own (appropriately spaced out) circle, or just sit in their car and watch, it was so uplifting.  Dancing for me is ALL about connecting to that inner child.  That girl needed to let loose and have fun.  Saturday was the soulgasm I needed to carry me through another 14 day week. Who knew quarantine days were gonna be 48 hours long?  I’m really looking forward to the day that quarantine and Covid 19 doesn’t come up in my thoughts, in my blog and in every fucking conversation I have.  Today is not that day. Tomorrow is not going to be that day.  This is where we are.  Doing the best we can. Adapting and overcoming.   I had an amazing 10 am writing group Zoom meeting with fabulous women today.  I’m happy to be writing again. For now. Even if it’s just a bunch of rambling.  It feels good for me to connect in this way.  Last week quite a few new readers found my blog.   The toilet paper blog.  People who have never read my blog somehow stumbled onto that one.  I need you to read that again, slowly,  in my southern accent.  People who have never read my blog somehow stumbled onto that one.   What the hell?   I was almost embarrassed.  Almost, but not quite.  I was dealing with too many other emotions to be bothered with embarrassment.  This week is gonna be smooth sailing.  I can feel it.  Until it’s not.  LOL

Too Much, Not Enough & Shame

I started a 7 week “Embodied Writing” course on Monday called Too Much, Not Enough & Shame.  What I mean by “started Monday,”  is that on Monday I received my first email with my instructions, looked at it, and then didn’t do any of the exercises.  Yesterday, the second email came with new directives.  I have yet to open it.  This is who I am as a person.  When I lead writing workshops, there are always people who don’t do their assignments.  It’s never my favorite, but I understand it.  Resistance.   In the circles I lead, a common theme for us is “letting go.”  Over and over we let go of that which no longer serves our highest good.  Outdated beliefs we hold about ourselves.  Shame,  being “not enough” and being “too much” are always right at the top.   Not just for me.  For ALL of the women.  It’s a common theme.  Doubt is another biggie, but isn’t that just us telling ourselves that we aren’t enough?  Or too much?  I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were discussing this very thing.  Later that day, I opened Instagram and saw a post advertising the course.  We all know social media spies on us, but in all fairness, this was a page that I actually follow.  And this course was everything she and I had just discussed.  Obviously, it’s not just prevalent in my circle.  This is a real thing.  I emailed her the info and before I had a chance to sign up, she texted me to say she was in.  Signed up, and paid for IN.  I followed her lead.   This week, I have been the girl who signed up for, paid for and was excited for a new journey only to avoid the shit out of it when it was time to actually do the work.  I think this will sound familiar to some of the women who are in the writing group I am currently leading.  I see you.  I feel you.  I am you.  Resistance to doing the work.  Because it’s not fun unpacking these narratives that we have been telling ourselves for so long.  This morning I finally did the first exercise.  We were asked to spend time with our hands holding our heads…..embodiment.  Followed by connecting to our breath. I typically like to come out of my head for these practices, but this asked me to do the opposite.   We were to make two columns on a page (or 7 pages if you’re me) and list the times we felt we were too much or not enough in one column and in where we heard that story or whose voice is telling it in the second column.  I get the method to her madness head holding embodiment practice now.  This is what I discovered.  I carried a sexual abuse secret with me as a very young child.  I went to Kindergarten knowing I was broken and different than the other children.  I didn’t need any other voices telling me I was not enough, or too much, because my own little voice was powerful enough.  Of course, there was plenty more on that list.  That was just the first thing that I wrote down.  My first memory of feeling broken.  My list was long and full of stories and voices other than my own, but really, my own voice is the loudest.  And as I grew, the secrets and the shame grew. That “not enough” story got louder.   In the rooms of recovery the phrase “we are only as sick as our secrets” gets thrown around a lot.  And it’s true.  I don’t hold onto secrets anymore.  I have a full conceptual understanding that for me, secrets are incredibly harmful. I have a team of support people in my life that I am comfortable sharing with.  Women who won’t judge me and will hold my secrets.  Women who will love me unconditionally.  That is exactly the thing I aspire to give back in the circles I facilitate.   The first exercise of this course has cracked me open and brought up a ton of shit that I have already worked through.  And it’s brought up things I haven’t thought about in years, or rather, conveniently misplaced in my brain.  Because that’s what our brains do.   Rearrange things to help us survive.  But I am no longer about that surviving life.  I am all about thriving in life.  And I absolutely AM enough.  I know this in my soul…..my mind questions it occasionally, but my soul knows that’s bullshit.  That leads to how knowing I AM enough can feel a lot like being “too much.”   Whew.  How’s that for some serious bullshit stories I tell myself?  Embracing ALL the parts of me and sharing with the world can feel like I am being too much.  Too silly, too smart, too spiritual, too sexual, too loud, too public, too much.  I’m gonna do it anyway, because that’s who I am.  Unpacking the story of too much is going to be interesting. But I’ll be right here. Embracing ALL of my too muchness and showing it to the world. 

Addicted

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.

Expansion

Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch, making winter playlists for my classes and I heard myself say to my husband that winter is my favorite time of year.  For real. It rolled right out of my mouth. That was immediately followed by, “except being cold, because I hate that.”  So, I’m not exactly sure why I decided winter is my favorite.  I think it’s just the practice of mindfulness in full effect and the fact that winter is almost here so I might as well embrace it.  And I have.  I made winter playlists. Obviously. I bought new boots.  I planned a bomb ass Solstice Celebration.  I put my spring/summer clothes away.  That one was new.  Never have I ever done that before and for some reason, it made me feel incredibly accomplished.  Christmas isn’t stressing me out AT ALL.  I just feel ready for all that winter brings.  I am ready to slow way down. I am ready to spend time hibernating.  I am ready for all the rituals involved in the upcoming weeks. I am ready to spend time with my soul.  Every year I pick one word as my “mantra” word for the year.  My one word for 2019 is Allow.  To be in the space of allowing doesn’t come naturally to me, so this was a bit out of my comfort zone.  I wrote about that last year.  It’s here if you want to check it out.  I just read it myself and it did a world of good for me.  I never go back and read my own blogs.  I should probably spend some time doing that this winter.  Looking back, I think I got exactly what I expected from living in the space of allowing.  Which is great, because some years the word I pick shows up in unexpected ways that make me say “What the actual fuck?”  I have learned to be specific with intentions so the Universe and I are on the same page.  In my year of allowing, I let go of trying to force things that I thought were for me.  I had two big projects on my agenda this year, planned, promoted and floating around in the world.  And guess what?  Those things weren’t for me. They never came to fruition. And I know the WHY in that.  Those two things were never an absolute YES from me.  I went along with them and felt good about them, but they were never things that made my soul scream.   And the lessons in that were HUGE.  It was totally ok to put myself out there and try something that didn’t work out.  Also, I fully understand now that if it isn’t a HELL YES in my soul, it’s a NO from the Universe.  I need soulgasms. Cool.  Thanks Universe.  To be in the space of allowing meant that I just did my thing.  I allowed the path to open up in front of me and kept stepping forward.  The path led me out of therapy because I’m finished healing. Haha. I kid. But, I have the tools to handle myself, my emotions, and whatever pops up in my life. The path led me to The Hanuman Ashtanga Yoga Shala in the spring. If you follow me on social media, then you KNOW I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga this year.  There’s a whole little story of how that happened somewhere on the blog, but I’ll save you and just let you know that I was divinely guided.  Prior to stepping into the shala, I had zero experience with the practice of Ashtanga.  I knew enough to know it was physically challenging and like all things that are good for me, it wasn’t for me.  Until it was.  When the messengers showed up, I paid attention.  I allowed myself to try it out.  It has been my biggest blessing in 2019.  I love the practice.  Most days. My teacher is amazing.  The shala students are all wonderful.  I have learned so much about myself practicing in the shala.   I learned that I am stronger than I think I am. I learned that I can keep going when I am sure I am going to die.   I learned that the pure joy that comes after the not dying is indescribable.  I learned about trust in the shala.  Trust is still a hard one for me.  My teacher is compassionate and kind and I trust him to keep me safe.  And he does.  I allow him to help me when I need it, which is every time I practice.  See?  There’s that allowing again.  I went back and forth with Allow last year, because it seemed a bit “weak” to me, but ultimately, Allowing is all about strength.  Allowing is about having a strong faith that what is for me, is going to find me.  I don’t have to chase it.  What’s for me will always be for me.  Allowing is being ok when things don’t work out.  The strength is in pushing past the fears and trying.  Allowing is living my life, writing my blogs, teaching my classes, all of it, whatever it is, when a new friend shows up on the path and says “I want you to write your book.  I’m a literary editor. You just write and I will  turn what you have into a book.  No pressure.”    And, because I have learned so much about trust this year, I just roll with it and assume she knows what she’s doing.  Feels a lot like allowing to me.  And it seems like the next logical step for me.  I’ve always known it was in there.  I’ve talked about it.  Now I get to be about it.   My word for 2020 is Expansion.   I won’t be getting the tattoo.  I know some of you were going to ask.  I am about to grow on every level.  Sounds scary as shit.  I am ready to do my thing and be open to how that plays out.  I have no real expectations, as the Universe prefers to surprise me anyway.  I am just going to write.  And write.  And write some more.   In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says “The first rule of magic is self containment.  You must hold your intentions within yourself, stoking it with power.  Only then will you be able to manifest what you desire.” I know what she means by that is to not tell people who will doubt you and make you second guess yourself.  I circled that line in the book and wrote NO beside it because I am fortunate enough to live in a world where people believe in me.  I live in a world where I can blast my intentions and people show up to help me make them reality. I created that world. So beautiful. So grateful. I really understood how much people believe in me that time I Facebook shared a photoshopped image of myself doing a handstand on an iceberg in Alaska.  In all fairness, it looked pretty real if you didn’t stare and I had been in Alaska. The comments blew me away.  My initial thought was that these people are dumb asses for thinking I actually got onto that iceberg.  My next thought was WOW.  People believe in me and think I can do anything!  How fucking awesome is that?!  It’s powerful people. I have always had people who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. That is a true blessing and honestly, it’s the only reason I’m still alive. Seriously. Thank you for believing in me friends.  Expansion feels good for 2020.

Belonging to Myself

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! ♥️

She is a powerful force

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.  ♥️

Freedom

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.  

Reflecting

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. 

I Hope We All Make It.

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. ♥️