Sadness is my least favorite emotion.

Never did I ever for one minute think we would roll into a new year and everything would magically be better. In fact, I have been saying for months that I fully expected and was prepared for a “dark winter.” I just didn’t know exactly what that meant and I didn’t expect it to affect me. A couple of weeks ago it started to rain. I love a rainy day. I sat on my bed with all of my books, my journals and the Netflix remote. I was in heaven and I was sure that I would be the type of person who could live in bliss in Seattle. But, by day 3 of the rain, I was over it. And it hasn’t really stopped raining yet. Not for any length of time. I’m still over it, but it’s still raining. I’ve been feeling sad for a few weeks now. In waves. Not a steady sadness. I think it’s grief. My grief. Collective grief. Covid grief finally catching up to my. My super power is building community. Covid has made that very challenging for me. And I miss it. Circles. Group events. Bringing people together. On February 1st, my community lost one of our Goddesses. The thing to know about this is that when we sit in circle together, there is an immediate bond. There’s an intimacy that happens in Circle unlike any other I have experienced. Women grow close in these circles. When I first started leading circles, I noticed how this happened. How when the circles were over and I was cleaning up, all the women would gather in small groups exchanging contact information and making plans for later. It made me feel left out. Lonely. I felt a bit like an outsider. Because I wasn’t a part of this. But I also understood that I didn’t have to be a part of that. I understood that wasn’t my role. I was the space holder. I AM the space holder. I am a connector. I bring people together. Another gift. Every woman who sits in circle with me isn’t my best friend. But, every woman who sits in circle with me is special to me. There’s a love there that I haven’t found anywhere else. It’s the loving and supportive community that I always needed but didn’t exist in my world until I created it. And it is beautiful. When we lost our goddess, it hurt. Funerals in Covid Time are weird. Just like everything else in Covid Time. Her funeral was small. The Pastor had this big, booming presence and was FULL of love. I could feel it radiating from him. There was no way not to be at ease in his presence. Honestly, he felt like Santa Claus. He turned her funeral into a celebration. A joyful celebration of her life. All of her friends who were there were from circle. Every single one of them. It filled my heart to see how she had found her community among us. I sat and noticed the other women who were there. I noticed that all of these women had connected through yoga or circles. Such a beautiful thing to see on such a sad day.

My inner circle is small. I don’t think people realize that. Or maybe they do. I don’t know. I am guarded and private in a sneaky way. I am slow to trust and it’s hard for me to let people in. If you know me, you know. My heart broke a little last month when my favorite friend told me she was moving to California. She has been on the fence about this move for as long as I have known her. This is a good move for her. She’ll be near family. Her soul will be settled here. But it happened so fast. This woman is unstoppable and fierce and capable of anything. Including packing her entire house up, selling it and moving clear across the country in 6 weeks time. She is goals in so many ways. She’s always teaching me without even knowing it. She told me she was busy packing, but until I saw her house a week later, I wasn’t sure I believed it. She leaves in 9 . She’s a “safe space” for me. I don’t have to share her with everyone I know. She’s a friend and not a follower. She doesn’t do social media. She doesn’t care how cool I am on the internet. She knows ALL of my shit and loves me anyway. I am so comfortable being me with her. I will miss that. I will miss her being near.

Sadness is my least favorite emotion. I’m certain it’s the hardest one for everyone. When it hits, I tend to feel dread and think it’s going to be with me forever. But it isn’t. It passes. You might think I would have learned this by now, but when I am in it, I forget. Every single time. You may remember that I “broke up with my phone.” We didn’t actually break up at all. I need my phone in my life. I am working on using it in a mindful way. It’s a process. I have noticed that when I feel sad, which has been a lot these past few weeks, it’s the easiest thing in the world to pick my phone up and distract myself. I was actually fascinated to realize that I was doing this. And it makes me think that I have been doing this for a LONG time. So now I am just paying attention to the why when I pick up my phone. Sometimes I need a distraction. After eleven months of living in a pandemic, we ALL need a little distraction from time to time. I have been using an app called Moment. It keeps track of my screen time and it counts how many times I pick up my phone. My favorite feature is the “gentle reminder” it gives me when I have have had my phone in my hand for 15 minutes. It’s a good reminder for me that there are other ways I want to spend my time. Right now, I find the reminders helpful. I am back to basics. “Chop wood and carry water.” Do the things, feel the feelings and live life. I never forget to be grateful. I have more happy moments than sad moments. “Welcome and entertain them all.” But this rain can fuck right on off.

Within

On January 1st of this year I sat on the beach for sunrise. I have done this every year since I got sober. It’s way more important to me to see the first light of the new year than it is to stay up until midnight. I’m sure there have been some years that I’ve done both. Not many. I like my sleep. This year it was raining when I woke up on New Year’s Day. Pouring actually. I’ve never meditated in the pouring down rain. There have been years where it was drizzling. Freezing. This year it was warm. My best meditation friend who has been there with me from day one had thrown out the idea earlier in the week that perhaps we needed a back up plan. But I am stubborn. And I only meditate on the beach on the first day of the new year. That and the fact that I had shared the info so far and wide on social media that I couldn’t undo it. And then, magically, as I was loading up my car to head to the beach, the rain stopped. I was joined by a handful of people and at 7 am we closed our eyes and began to meditate. It’s just a 20 minute meditation. That way anyone and everyone can join in without feeling overwhelmed. When the time was up, there was no magnificent sunrise. It was still very cloudy. Not that I was expecting a bright sunrise. I was just happy that for the most part, the rain stayed away. When I turned around there was a large group of people sitting with me. With WE. People came after we started and joined in. It was a beautiful crowd and it filled my heart to see so many people on such a questionable weather day. Normally on this day I would follow meditation with 108 Sun Salutations in the yoga studio. But this is no ordinary year. And 108 Sun Salutations is an intense practice that I wasn’t willing to do with a mask on. I suppose I could have practiced by myself, but I wasn’t feeling that. One of my friends asked me to plunge into the ocean with her and another friend after meditation. This seemed like a reasonable alternative to the 108. I told her I would only plunge with her if we could hold hands like lovers and run Baywatch style into the ocean. Her reply? Fine. But her reply sounded like a heavy sigh as she said FINE, so be sure your read it that way. I love my friends and their bad assery as well as their willingness to let my silliness shine. Five of us ended up plunging that morning. It was warm out and it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I had imagined it would be. I learned a thing or two that morning. Don’t wear fleece pants into the ocean. Fleece gets heavy when it’s wet and the pants won’t stay up. Maybe that’s it. Just one thing. I learned one thing from that. Next year I won’t wear fleece.

But here comes the part that I am really here to share with you.

After we dried off, I went to my car and cranked the heat. I was sitting there getting warm as people were coming off the beach and heading home. I rolled down my window to say “see you later” to a dear friend. She mentioned that she was heading home to have mimosas with our friend who was also leaving the beach. And this is what I heard. “We are ALL going to my house to have mimosas and it’s going to be the most fun day ever but you can’t come because you don’t drink.” It was such a weird reaction for me because this doesn’t happen to me anymore. Sure, when I was newly sober, I always felt like I was missing out. But today, it just isn’t that way. But on that morning, I drove home knowing everyone was having all the fun without me. Never mind that I had just done exactly what I wanted to do with so many cool people. Never mind that I just had this amazing spiritual experience. In that moment, I was driving home to be boring while everyone else drank mimosas. And I felt sorry for myself. I was sad. I spent the drive home playing through the actual facts. Everyone didn’t leave to go drink mimosas without me. Two people were drinking mimosas. I only ever drank mimosas as a segue into bloody mary’s which were just a segue into the vodka. Mimosas in the morning meant I would be hammered by noon. Worthless by dinnertime. And God knows where I’d be by 9 pm. Several of my recovery friends were meditating on the beach with me that morning. I know they weren’t going to have mimosas without me. By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was laughing at myself for the way my mind had spun that one comment into “everyone is doing this wonderful thing without me.” Fear of Missing Out. Where did that come from? My friends didn’t specifically plan to not invite me. And even if they did, so what? Mimosas aren’t part of my life and I honestly appreciate that everyone who cares about me knows and understands this. I hear people talk about drinking all the time and it hasn’t hit me like this one did in such a long time. It just took me by complete surprise. Which is why the AA literature calls alcoholism “cunning, baffling and powerful.” I think it’s as simple as that. This is NOT something that I battle daily. I wouldn’t have the strength for all of that. That’s not living. However, it is something that I think about daily. Recovery is such a part of me that it touches my life in some way every day. I love this.

Moving on.

I pick a mantra word at the start of every year. I usually write a blog specifically about this. I guess this year I am not. The word always chooses me. I never choose it. This year my word was a bit slow coming to me. Or, rather, I was a bit slow picking it up. Within. My word for 2021 is Within. As in “I have everything I need within.’ As in “The answers I seek are within.’ As in, “Listen to the still, small voice within.” I have kicked up my meditation practice and I started “The Listening Path” by Julia Cameron. I LOVE her so much. And I am listening. And this is what I’ve noticed. I am distracted. By my phone. Grrrrrrrrrr So now I am doing a 10 day Detox from my phone. Because I have noticed that I have the thing in my hand way too much. It distracts me and steals my precious time. I have known this for years. I have an app for every fucking thing. I even have an app to help me detox from my phone. Which seems counterintuitive, I know. I am on day three and to be honest, I think more than anything, it’s about me finally being ready. I use the excuse that “I have to be on social media for my business” which is somewhat true. But there are ways to effectively manage that time online. I fully expected to feel the Fear of Missing Out, but instead I am already noticing another thing that is completely different. Freedom. I’m not needed in the world of social media. I don’t have to react and respond to everything my friends do. I’m not missing out on the things that are actually important because the things that really matter come to me in a more personal way. With a phone call or a text. It’s not just about social media. But that’s the biggest piece for sure. I’m never leaving. Don’t let your mind go there. LOL Social media is a positive part of my life for the most part. There is a mindful approach to it that I haven’t been practicing. Moderation has never been my strong suit. I want to be able to leave my phone behind when I get up and walk into the next room. That’s where I am. It’s quiet simple. I no longer wish to be attached to my device. I don’t have to respond to every text and email immediately. That’s the beauty of technology. It will be there when I have time to respond. Don’t expect to never see me on social media, because that’s not me. I will never be one of “those people” who announces their departure. And I’ll probably never be one of “those people” who departs at all. Because social media is great when it’s used wisely. I just no longer wish to be attached to it or to my phone. It’s taken me years to get here. Years of knowing. And finally listening.

The most beautiful thing

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

Fixmas

I’ve been baking all the cookies, making all the candy and doing all the shopping. I am really feeling the spirit of Christmas this year. Which is different for me. Usually I feel overwhelmed, and not at all excited about the holidays. Usually the Solstice hits, I have a ceremony, and boom. The magic hits me. This year things are different. I feel different. I’ve been taught to get curious about things when I feel different. To ask WHY? The obvious answer is Covid. We aren’t traveling this year and nobody is traveling to us. That could almost be enough. It certainly removes a lot of anxiety from the equation. But there’s a bigger why for me.

We have lived in this house for 15 years and we have spent Christmas here exactly two times. The first was the Christmas I ruined. The second was my first sober Christmas. I don’t really remember that one very well. Which is odd, since I was sober, but then again, it proves to me how jacked up my brain really was. The “Christmas that I ruined” might sound like another exaggeration, but I promise, it’s not.

I had been drinking around the clock for days, weeks, maybe even months. I really don’t know. I just know that I wasn’t able to make any good decisions. My brain wasn’t working properly anymore. I can put it together through Facebook memories and journal entries and it went like this. It was a few days before Christmas and I was on my way to do some Christmas shopping for the kids. Some of my friends were meeting at the bar at the pier for lunch. “Lunch” was liquid and after a few drinks, I wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t go anywhere. A girlfriend gave me a ride home that evening. When I showed up at home, drunk, with no packages because I hadn’t gone shopping, my husband was pissed. Hurt would work here too, but this hurt showed up as anger. He insisted that I get my car home from the bar. I don’t know if I took a cab or if someone came to get me, but I went back to that bar to get my car. Obviously I had no business driving. My husband was always the first one to take my keys and hide them from me, so I can’t really say what he was thinking. Other than he was hurt and angry, at his wits end and over it. The bartender wouldn’t let me order a drink. Believe me when I say it’s hard to get cut off at a bar that makes money selling alcohol. But, I had been there all day and they weren’t thrilled to see me back. So I cried like the raging alcoholic that I was, had a drunken fit and left. I drove to the library and called a friend who came and got me. I think we went to the ABC store, I know we went to a bar, and at some point we went to the home of another friend and really, who the fuck knows. I was blacked out and wide awake from what I’ve heard. It’s not pretty. Eventually I crashed. When I woke up the next morning, still drunk, I had zero desire to go home and face my family. So I went to see another “friend.” I knew I had to get the Christmas shopping done so we set off to the big city of Wilmington. Only I got sidetracked by a bar. And I didn’t go shopping. By this time my family and my real friends from all over were calling and texting, telling me to get my ass home. But I couldn’t. I wanted to. I just couldn’t make myself do it. And then finally, it was night time again. It had been two days since I had gone to retrieve my car. A friend who really loved me called me and talked me into coming to her house. She stayed on the phone with me while I drove to her. She was on the phone with my mom when I arrived. I remember nobody being mad at me. And this surprised me. They were all too scared. She talked me into going home.

When I got home, it was not the same welcoming environment where nobody was mad at me. It was the exact opposite of that. But I also didn’t care. I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember getting in the hot shower, sitting down, crying and throwing up over and over again. A lowest low for sure, but there would be many more even lower lows. I passed out. While I was out my husband went through my phone and saw every awful thing that I was. All of the awful choices I had made. It was Christmas Eve. He called everyone we knew to tell them ALL of it. It felt like he was telling on me. Gossiping about me. And he was. But he was really seeking support in the only way he knew how. I spent the day dry heaving, crying and attempting to be there for my children. I can’t even imagine how this looked. I know how it felt, because I can still feel it now and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I didn’t drink that day.

My husband went out with our friends that evening. It was Christmas Eve and someone was having a party. I stayed home with the children. I played Santa as best I could with the gifts that he had shopped for on his own. We woke up on Christmas day. The children opened their gifts and we tried to be happy. But there was no happiness. Not in the hearts of my husband or myself. And as much as I would like to think the children were happy, how could they have been. My only solace is knowing how this turns out. And then it was Christmas night. While most people were enjoying their holiday meals of Ham and Turkey or whatever they were eating, my family was eating Chinese food and we were grateful that the Chinese restaurants were open on Christmas. Because I just wasn’t able to pull it together and do more than that. This was the real eye opener to everyone who knows and loves me that I had a real problem. And yet, this isn’t when I decided I needed to stop drinking. I stayed sober for a few days I am sure. I found a therapist as well as a couples therapist shortly after Christmas. But it would be another 11 months before I got sober. The longest 11 months of my life. My youngest child has no memory of any of this. My older two remember bits and pieces. I still cringe at the scene of the family in A Christmas Story in the Chinese restaurant. After that awful year, Christmas always felt like a Fixmas to me more than an actual holiday. A time for me to repair the damage I had done in those awful days in 2011. I have written all about that year leading up to my sobriety in this blog, so I am going to skip most of that for today. Except to mention that the year was FULL of ER trips, medical detox, psych wards and treatment centers. As I sit writing this I can’t even recall exactly what led up to the final trip to a treatment center. I don’t think it was a big event and I don’t feel like digging in my memory bank. What I do know is this. My husband dropped me off at the front door and drove off. He didn’t get out of the car. He didn’t come inside and wait with me. He said “I hope you figure it out this time” as I was getting out of the car and then he drove off. I remember that I laid down on the couch in the reception area and when they were ready to admit me they had to wake me up. I spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the treatment center. My family could have came up to spend the day with me, but how awful would that have been? Even I wasn’t selfish enough to ask them to do that. So I spent Thanksgiving with a bunch of alcoholics and addicts eating shitty food. When it was time for me to leave the treatment center, my family wasn’t ready for me to come home. My husband had seen me do the same thing so many times that he was afraid I would immediately start drinking again. We made a plan and I went to a half way house. It was two weeks before Christmas and the women who lived in the house were busy putting up the tree when I arrived. Every day I was planning my escape. The house was less than an hour away from my home, so I was able to visit with my family from time to time. It really sank in with me that this was NOT the life for me. I needed to be with my children. I needed to be present in their lives. These people who lived in this halfway house were not my people. Even if they were exactly what I needed. And they were. My parents came from Kentucky to spend Christmas with my family. They wanted to make it a happy occasion and give some normalcy to a less than normal time. On December 21st my husband picked me up for a quick trip home. He planned to return me that evening, but I wasn’t having it. I knew before he arrived that I wasn’t going back. And I didn’t. I spent that Christmas at home with him, my children and my parents. The only memories I have are the ones I can piece together from journals. I know it was better than the year before because I was sober. My relationship with my husband was severely strained. For obvious reasons. My only thoughts during that time centered on not drinking. What a weird fucking time early sobriety is. Going to meetings, talking to sober people, trying not to drink. Insert a few wholesome activities to fill time and keep oneself from drinking. And repeat. I’ve heard it said that it’s much easier to stay sober than it is to get sober. Damn if that’s not the fucking truth. It blows my mind to look back at my journals and see the me of seven years ago. The me of seven years ago could have never pictured the me that I am today. I honestly only wanted to get well enough to leave my husband. Because I hated him and he was the bad guy, He was the bad guy who told on me when I was doing things I shouldn’t be doing. He was the bad guy who was always mad at me, again, because I was doing things I shouldn’t be doing. He was over my shit. He only real desire was to keep me alive through all of my extreme drinking so my children would have a mother. I never could have imagined that we would be together all these years later. I still aggravate the shit out of him. In different, mostly healthy ways. Recovery changes everything.

And to bring it all back to the here and now…..this year Christmas feels very special to me. For the first time in years. When I am curious about it, I know why. I am excited to be at home with all three of my children. My daughter doesn’t live at home and we haven’t been together on Christmas morning since she moved out, three years ago. Nothing about this year feels like FIXmas to me. I’ve done the work, I have fixed ME. This is the year to sit back and enjoy the blessings in my life. At home. Quietly. With the people I love the most. This is why I am so feeling it this year. In a year where so many can’t spend time with their families, mine is right here. I am grateful and I am blessed. This is my why.

December 21, 2013

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

A Gift in Strange Wrapping

Quarantine Things.  Unexpected and weird pandemic growth edition.

Here’s something most people don’t know about me.  In fact, I would say only my innermost inner circle of people know it.  The people who live with me.  Ready for it?   I hate buying toilet paper.  I fucking hate it.  I can do it if I have a cart FULL of other groceries, but I don’t like it.  I don’t like being in the aisle.  I don’t want people assuming that I need toilet paper.  Never would I ever go to the store to buy only toilet paper.  When I’m out in the world and receive the dreaded “we need toilet paper” text from my husband, he immediately gets a “fuck you” text back.   Imagine my horror when the entire world became focused on toilet paper and in particular, purchasing toilet paper.  When the world ran out of toilet paper, I sent my husband to the hardware store because I heard they had plenty.   Plenty of off brand, one ply, porta-potty approved toilet paper is what they had.  And he bought as much as he was allowed to purchase.  3 packs of 9 rolls I think it was.  And it was fine.  I expected it to last forever, and it would have if I lived alone.  But I live with 3 boys who clearly require a lot of toilet paper.  I have been doing my grocery shopping online and picking it up curbside.  Every week I add toilet paper to the list and every week they have none.  My super awesome neighbor friend was out in the world and ran across toilet paper and was kind enough to snatch up extra for us.  He delivered it to our carport.  Y’all.  It’s lavender scented.  I think just the roll is lavender scented, but it makes all the toilet paper smell like lavender.  Every time I walk into the bathroom where the lavender toilet paper is, it transports me to another time and place.  Not a lavender field like you might expect.  No.  It takes me to a public bathroom.  A public bathroom where sketchy things take place and the smell of chemical flowers attempts to cover it up.  And I laugh every time.  I read on social media that a local friend has toilet paper that smells good, so I imagine half of this island is rocking the Dollar General lavender toilet paper.  Also hilarious.  And the fact that people are just openly discussing toilet paper EVERY DAMN DAY.  What is this world?   On Monday morning, I took a trip to the grocery store because I needed to pick out my own groceries.  I got there at 6:30 am.  Last night a friend said that grocery shopping during this time feels like it’s straight out of The Hunger Games.  She’s right.  It does.  Mask on.  Focus.  Go.  Don’t stop.  Get out.  But, at the last minute, I remembered that I should look for toilet paper.  So I back tracked.   And “blessed be the toilet paper.”   (If you read The Handmaid’s Tale, you know.)  There wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely there.  Brand name, two ply, non lavender toilet paper.  A freaking miracle.  I was allowed to purchase two, but there was absolutely no way I was going to be THAT asshole.  There was another woman in the aisle who was very excited about the toilet paper.  And then it happened.  This woman and I had a conversation about toilet paper right there, behind our masks, 6 feet away from one another, in the toilet paper aisle.  I kid you not.  This was my big moment of growth.  Buying toilet paper while having a discussion about toilet paper with a stranger as I stood in front of a shelf of toilet paper.  This cannot be what I take from my time in quarantine.  This cannot be how I remember this time.  But, it’s etched into my mind and it will absolutely be a moment that I don’t forget.  We will ALL remember the toilet paper crisis we experienced during this time.  There is no way around it.  How fucking crazy is that?   BUT…….I am also going to remember how good it feels to hear someone’s voice on the phone.    I am going to remember how much I love the sound of quiet.  I’m going to remember how much I enjoy watching my 17 year old bake.  How much I love all the extra snuggles from my 11 year old.  How my husband and I have learned to be more patient and kind to one another.  To not seek outside of myself to nourish my soul.  That I actually need very little to be content.   That I am hilarious and make myself laugh out loud several times a day at the things that go on in my head. There’s so much good stuff in all of this.  This time is truly a gift in strange wrapping.  It’s incredibly inspiring to witness everyone adapt and adjust and keep moving forward.

Something a little different for the blog. A question for you. What will you remember most about this time. Good, bad or indifferent. There’s no wrong answer. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just honest.

Connected to Myself

What a difference a week makes.  The dreams about using meth went away after I wrote about them.  I love when that happens. They have been replaced with really weird dreams that probably should make me uncomfortable, but I can roll with most things.  I won’t write about them here because you would probably judge me, but at least they are changing up the scenery a bit.  And they give me something new to say “what the actual fuck” about.  I’ll take anything new and exciting at this point.  I hate to fill you in all things quarantine, but that’s the life we’re all living. I miss the beach.  I miss seeing the sunrise.  Technically the only thing stopping me from seeing the sunrise is my new tendency to sleep in.  I should be really well rested when we get to the other side of this.  I spent the entire winter hibernating.  In my bed. In my bath. In my home. I worked, but I didn’t create new content, workshops or anything outside of my standard schedule.  I felt good about it to.  I said no to so many event invites.  I rested and nourished my soul with zero guilt.  Then one day, I was ready to reemerge into the world.  I was ready to plan, create and live outside of my home. But the world said sit the fuck back down.  And here we are. Sitting.  I have a LOT of practice sitting.  I have a lot of practice with being uncomfortable.  I’m still not good at it, but I know how to do it. My heart goes out to those of you who don’t.  But what a perfect time to learn.   My week was much better because I felt useful.  I found that “purpose” outside of my house and outside of myself that I was looking for. I created my first online writing course. It was so special to connect with a group in that way.  To read their thoughts and feelings every day.  To share tools that are so helpful to me.  To see into their hearts and souls through their words.  I see more of this in my future.  Last night as I was lying in bed, the last thought (and maybe only thought) that went through my head was turning that embodied writing course into a real live studio class.  The thought excited me.   It’s been a minute since I have been really excited about anything other than eating.  Yesterday, a question came up on social media that caught my attention.  The question was “Did you pick one word to focus on this year and how do you feel about that word now?”  My one word is expansion.  It made me laugh.  Then it made me think.  It would certainly seem that this year has been the exact opposite of expansion. I’ve barely left my house.   I haven’t expanded the studio to incorporate online classes.  My circle has gotten even smaller as I have found that there are actually only a few people I wish to connect with regularly.  But, here’s the beautiful thing.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who is important to me.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who I am important to. I actually feel closer to a few people in my life because of this distance.  I suspect I am expanding in ways that I am not aware of yet, but will be so obvious to me by the end of the year.  That’s an exciting thought.  I feel closer to myself today. When I am in a funk, feeling depressed, feeling lonely, feeling all the unpleasant things, I am in need of connection.  To myself.  To my soul.  To God, Spirit, Source, whatever you want to call it.  I know this.  I know this.  I know this.  And I always forget it.   I got away from my meditation practice. I got away from my writing practice. Let me just throw it out there that I did not get away from my yoga practice, you know, in case my teacher reads this. Without taking time to be still every day, my soul doesn’t have an opportunity to tell me what it needs.  Well, technically it does, but I can’t hear unless I am still.  Everything is  a practice right?  I know you’ve heard me say that a bazillion times.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love” runs through my mind a lot these days when I’m doing literally none of the practices that sustain me.  But it’s not discipline is it?   It’s devotion.  Devotion to my higher self.  Back to my cushion.  Back to my journal.  Back to nature.  So simple.  The funny part is that these are all things I taught in the writing course I created.  I always teach the lessons I need.  And then I’m surprised later when I realize that it was all about me.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  I’ll be eager to see which direction the roller coaster moves me this week.  A nice, flat kiddie coaster would be cool, but I’ll roll with whatever comes.

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.  ♥️

Triggers

Last week my husband went golfing.  I never love the days he golfs, which thankfully are few and far between, because golf tends to includes day drinking.  I have not been around any day drinkers that I enjoy.  I was a day drinker and that’s what ultimately took me down.  Once I decided I was grown and I could drink any time I wanted to, it wasn’t long until I was drinking ALL the time because I had to.  Back to last week……My husband was on the family schedule to pick our boys up from the places they needed to be picked up from.  We do A LOT of running in this house.  If you have children, you know.  I was teaching a class that afternoon when I received a text from my husband informing me that he had been drinking shots and wouldn’t be picking up the boys.  I didn’t open the text, but I could see the entire thing on my phone and I was NOT happy.  I texted him back when my class was over and let him know exactly how unhappy I was.  He responded by letting me know that he was on his way home and would figure it out.  I too was on my way home by this point.  And this is what I noticed.  While I was driving, my heart was racing.  I felt such a need to get home before he did or at least right behind him.  In my mind he was completely fucked up, and as soon as he got home, he would leave again. I would be alone.  I felt like I needed to rush home and stop him.  Or something.  And I was rushing.  Heart racing and speeding down the road.  In that moment, something shifted in me for the first time ever.  I was triggered and I knew it.  I knew exactly what the trigger was.  I could feel the familiar feelings in my body.  Fear. Sadness. And the one that really struck me was grief.  I felt grief.  I noticed all of these things and I slowed the car down. I stopped rushing and I took some slow breaths.   These feelings had nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with my Ex husband.  The father of my two oldest children.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still pissed at my husband, but the reality is that he had two shots at the clubhouse in celebration of a hole in one that happened on the course. (Not by him) He wasn’t going anywhere.   Yes, I would have preferred if he had passed those up and went to pick up the boys, but I was also happy that he didn’t drive after those two shots.  Maybe there were beers involved too, I can’t remember.  He wasn’t hammered.  He just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to drive our boys.  I was pissed because I had no plans and would have liked it to stay that way, but on this particular evening, I ended up doing the driving.  Back to being triggered……because looking at it now, I am certain that I have been triggered in this way so many times without being able to identify it for what it was.  I was reacting to the two years I lived with a man in relapse.  The two years that I tried to hold my little family together.  I was married to a wonderful man with a horrible addiction.  We were both clean and sober when we met.  We married and had two beautiful babies.  Then he relapsed.  I actually think he relapsed when I was pregnant with our second child.   For the longest time, I was in denial about it.  I thought he was sick.  He let me believe that.  He saw Dr’s and Neurologists to try to figure out what was wrong with him.  I had a sick husband, a toddler and a new baby to care for.  It was A LOT.  He had been diagnosed as having “absence seizures.”  The reality is that he was taking massive amounts of pills and nobody had any idea.  One evening I had the children packed up in the car waiting on him to come home from work.  We had an appointment with a photographer to have family portraits made.  He was supposed to come home at 4:00, jump in the car and then we would leave.  But he didn’t come home.  We waited and waited until the babies got tired of being in the car.  He wasn’t answering his phone and I was worried and I was getting pissed.  I took the kids inside and my phone rang.  It was one of the local hospitals.  Apparently my husband had a seizure and was in the hospital.  Then, the rest of the story followed.  After work he had gone to the UPS store to pick up a package that had been delivered to him there.  It was a package from an internet pharmacy.  The package contained a bottle of Soma muscle relaxers and a bottle of Loritab pain killers.  He opened the package in the UPS store and took a handful of the Somas and fell out in the floor.  The UPS store called 911 and he was transported to the hospital.  My life changed in that moment.  My husband wasn’t sick.  He was a drug addict.   I mean, he WAS sick because of his addiction, but there was no medical reason beyond the pills he was taking for the seizures.   The Dr asked if I knew about the internet pharmacy, which of course, I did not.  There were a lot of things I had no idea about.  I didn’t tell anyone in my family or his family.  I had no friends to speak of outside of the Mom’s that I sometimes did kid’s things with.  I didn’t want anyone to know that my world was falling apart. I sent him to the treatment center where he and I had both gotten clean.  Over the next two years, I sent him there several times.  He never stopped using.  His using escalated.  Cocaine. Heroin.  All of it.  After spending the majority of my life addicted, I was clean and had no desire to use drugs.  All I wanted was for my husband to choose us over drugs.  All I wanted was to have my happy family and live the dream that we were building before he relapsed.  But it was not to be.  After two years of fighting for him I had to let him go.  I had to save myself and my children from the horror of drug addiction.  I filed for divorce while he was off on a spree.  He never showed up in the span of time that it took me to file, take the parenting class that is mandatory in the state of TN for parents filing for custody, and go to court two times.  On the day our divorce was granted, he called me.  Not because he had any idea that we were now divorced.  He called because he had used up every last resource he had available to him and was ready to go back to treatment.  I picked him up at a local gas station, gave him $10 and put him on a plane to California.  Then I went home and cried for days. I put the children to bed and drank myself to sleep at night.  My heart had been broken a thousand different times in those years.  My heart hurt for my children.  My heart hurt for me.  My heart hurts right now as I write this.  My children saw their father one more time.  The spring before we moved to NC he came from California where he was now working at the treatment center.  And he was high when he arrived.  He nodded out the entire weekend.  It was incredibly hard to watch and of course I was pissed at him and at the treatment center.  I put him on the plane back to California when the weekend was over and called the center to let him know that he was still using.  We moved to NC soon after that weekend and continued to keep in contact with him.  We all loved him so.  My current husband knew him before I did.  A story for another time.  But, when I say that he was a wonderful human, it’s because he really was.  He was my best friend.   He was brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious.  Addiction sucks.  In late September of 2009, I received a phone call from my ex mother in law.  She told me that he had been found dead in the bathroom of the halfway house he was living in.   I had to tell my children that they would never see their dad again.  They were too young to understand words like overdose and they didn’t need to know that at the time.  I held my children and cried with them.  Drug addiction sucks.  I hope that he can see how wonderful his children are.  They are all the beautiful things that I loved about him.  I see him in them every day.   Last week, when I felt the trigger of being left alone, it was a powerful and healing moment for me.  It gave me an opportunity to sit with the sadness.  The sadness that most likely will always be with me on some level.  It gave me an opportunity to talk to my husband about the sadness I was feeling.  And he listened.  We had the most beautiful conversation and he was there for me.  As open as I can be when I sit behind a laptop writing, face to face is still quite a challenge for me.  But I’ll get there.