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

Some of us have to die…

In the rooms of recovery it’s often said that “some of us have to die so the rest of us can live.” I have never really paid attention to this. It’s just a standard saying that I never put much thought into. I have lost people that I love from addiction, but never considered that they had to die so I could live. My ex husband died from an overdose. The biological father of my two oldest children. I am very familiar with loss. If I let myself sink into it, I can get really sad about it. Because he missed so much. I can easily get caught up in the what if’s. In the “if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved him” mindset. And maybe that’s true. But I didn’t know then. When I entered recovery I heard people in meetings say “get ready to go to a lot of funerals” or something to that effect. But really, I didn’t believe it because who dies from drinking? I identify as an alcoholic. Because, for some reason, that’s important in meetings. I am and will always be an addict. My drug addiction was so bad that it almost killed me by 23 years old and when I got clean, I was DONE with that life. Never did it occur to me that I could be an alcoholic. Until I could no longer deny that I was. But it also never occurred to me that people I loved would die from alcoholism. Because who does that?

The year I got sober, my cousin did exactly that. She was younger than I am now. I had been asked to speak at a women’s AA speaker meeting on the same day of her funeral. I chose not to attend her funeral and instead carry out my commitment to speak. I couldn’t help my cousin, but maybe I would share something that could help a woman in that meeting. Nobody realized just how much my cousin had been drinking. After she passed, her husband found bottles around the house that she had hidden. She must have been terrified. I know her body was giving her signs that it was shutting down. But she couldn’t not drink. She must have felt so alone. Her death was definitely a message to me to stay sober. I went to meetings and talked about it, and I am sure someone said “some of us have to die so we can live.” But it was lost on me what that meant. The real meaning behind it. It was all just words.

Earlier this year I lost another friend. This was a woman I had sponsored in AA. When I arrived in meetings, still drunk and spewing hate, this woman was there. Always with a smile and information about AA and all the things I needed to know. She was the first to give me her phone number and the first to be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. But I bounced in and out and didn’t stay in close contact with her. When I finally arrived in AA for real, sober and ready to do the thing, she wasn’t around. In my mind she had moved on with her sober life. Because also in my mind, everyone in those rooms had been sober forever. I spent those first few years of recovery changing everything about myself. Discovering who I was without alcohol and building a brand new life. A beautiful life. And one day about 4 years into my sobriety, she showed up. She had not been out living her best life like I had assumed. She had been out drinking. For years. She was blown away by how much I had changed. She started coming around regularly and we spent a lot of time talking. She asked me to be her sponsor. This is a woman who had been in and around AA for a LONG time. She had put together many sober years in a row, but just couldn’t manage to maintain it. She knew the literature way better than I did and if AA was a class, she would have passed with an A+. She knew it in her head way better than I ever will. But for some reason she couldn’t stay sober. I agreed to be her sponsor, which just means that I would take her through the 12 steps and be a sober support person for her. My only requirement was that she was always honest with me. And she was. I attribute meditation and yoga to my recovery just as much as I do AA. I suggested these tools to her and she was eager to jump in and try them. She too was ALL in and bought herself every prop possible for yoga as well as a meditation cushion and alllllll the books about the two. I spent a year with her sharing every tool I had. Every tool that worked for me. I encouraged her to find her own things as well. She joined a gym and got a personal trainer. She learned how to wrap crystals and make beautiful jewelry. She danced with me every chance she got and she even tried Kirtan, as weird as that was for her. We journaled and made vision boards. We went through the steps together. And she was joyFULL. A quiet joy as she was a quiet soul. But joyful just the same. It was so beautiful to witness. She made it to one year and then I’m not sure what happened. She lost it. She began drinking again. Off and on. Mostly on. I wanted her to be sober so bad. I wanted to see the joy on her face that I had seen when she was sober. But I didn’t know what else to do. I continued to work with her for a while. Encouraged her to be just start over. But she wasn’t getting sober. So I let her go. I promised to be her friend and sober support any time she needed me, but as a sponsor, I wasn’t the one. I had given her everything I had, taught her everything I knew and it wasn’t enough. I encouraged her to find another sponsor, because clearly, I wasn’t the one. We remained friends, although I rarely heard from her. She was drinking a lot and not contacting me. Then, in early August she called to check on me. The island had been hit by a hurricane and she just wanted to know that I was alright. It was 10 am and she was drunk. We talked for a while, she said she wasn’t doing well, and that she would see me soon. She was ready to get sober. One week later my phone rang and her name lit up on the screen. I told my husband I didn’t want to answer because I knew she would be drunk. I let out a grumble and I answered the phone. It was her husband. He was calling to tell me that she had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She died that evening. Her body could no longer handle the abuse. This one hit me hard. Not that I was all that surprised. We all expect these things. But I also expected to see her “get it.” Wanted her to ‘get it.” I had already seen it once, and it was beautiful. I went to a meeting the next morning and talked about it. The first person to respond said “some of have to die so we can live.” My initial thought was what an asshole thing to say. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and for the first time, I understood what it meant. It means that I think of her when I dance, holding her in my heart and dancing with her. It means that while I am incredibly sad that she couldn’t get it, I have it and I am not willing to lose it. It means that I will keep writing these blogs for the person who needs to see them. It means that I don’t take one minute of this life for granted. It means that it could have just as easily been me. It means that I wake up each morning and choose recovery. I choose life. It means feeling all the feels and not numbing myself. It means being fully present in each moment, even the ones that suck. It’s life and it’s beautiful and terrible and everything in between. I choose it everyday.

She gave me this little figure for my birthday because it reminded her of me. She was always giving gifts and had the most beautiful, generous spirit. She is called Happiness. I think of her every time I look at it. I remember her joy. I picture her somewhere on the other side dancing with a little smile on her face and her arms stretched out. Feeling complete freedom. This is how I will always remember her. I am forever grateful that I got to experience those moments with her.

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

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.

 

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.

No Magic Cure

Here’s a thing to know about me.  I like it when things magically happens for me.  When I don’t have to do any work and shit just gets done.  Rarely does this happen, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping.   I am currently waiting for this to happen with my taxes.  When a warning light comes on in my car, I prefer for it to magically go  off all on it’s own.  I not only prefer it, I expect it.  Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t.  When I announced to my readers that I am writing a book, I fully expected that I would magically have the discipline to sit down at the same time everyday and write.  Without distractions.  This has not magically happened for me.  YET.  I’m still hopeful.  I’m still writing.  Just not with the magic discipline I had imagined.  Certainly not with no distractions.  You best believe that when I declared to the world I was going to get sober I had no doubt that it would just happen for me.  Magically.  Because that is my preferred way.  I assure you it did not happen that way.  I pick up a lot of new followers and friends on social media because of my sober status.  Every time I post about sobriety, someone new reaches out to me to inquire about how it’s done.  I know how it worked for ME so that is always where I start. I also know that there are many ways to the top of the mountain, so I share resources that might be helpful.  I always give my time to the people who reach out for help.  If the person is local it almost always ends with them asking me to go with them to a meeting so they don’t have to go alone.  I always agree even though I rarely go to meetings anymore, because meetings are a great place to start.  I know that first meeting is super scary. Here’s an interesting fact.  I have gone to exactly zero meetings with the people who reach out and ask for help.  Because, inevitably, something else comes up and they can’t make it.  And I get it.  I so get it.  They know they have a problem, they kinda/sorta want to do something about it, but ultimately, they want it to happen for them.  Magically.  And I hope it does.  I also know that as much as I want it to happen for me, my taxes aren’t going to get done unless I do them.  My book isn’t going to get written unless I sit down and write it.  The warning light on my car is a toss up.  There’s a chance it actually could go off all on its own.  Doubtful, but possible.  For my readers out there waiting to magically get sober, I promise you it doesn’t happen.  Ever.  When I first arrived in the rooms of AA it wasn’t even because I had a problem with alcohol.  It was strictly because the people around me had a problem with my alcohol use.  I didn’t even try to get sober in the beginning.  I drank on my way to meetings.  I was in a meeting once and the person sharing made a reference to the bottles they used to hide in their active drinking days.  I learned in that meeting that lots of “those people” hid their drinking.  They hid bottles around the house so nobody would know they were drinking, or maybe just how much they were drinking.  That knowledge changed my life.  It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard.  Why hadn’t I thought of it?  That knowledge changed my life because on that day I started to hide my drinking.  That decision (if you can call it that) changed my life in awful ways.  Seriously.   Once I started to hide my drinking it made perfect sense to have a drink at 6 am.  Why not? Nobody would know.  It would be as if it didn’t happen.  On those mornings I would hold my hand under the ice dispenser and catch the ice as it fell so it wouldn’t make noise hitting the glass.  I would make breakfast and pack lunches while drinking bourbon.  Those days all run together and none of them make sense.  I do know that some of those mornings I would wake up and know that I had things to do and if I started drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do them.  I started to understand the severity of the situation when I would promise myself I wouldn’t drink until 5 pm (or let’s call it 2 pm) but my hands would shake so badly that by 8 am, I was having a drink to make them stop.  That’s when the fear set in for me.  That’s when I really began to understand that no matter how much I wanted to wish myself sober it wasn’t going to happen.  I was depressed and the alcohol was making that, along with everything else, worse.  I felt like the biggest loser in the world.  Really, who drinks so much that their body becomes addicted to alcohol and they have to drink in the morning to function?. How does this happen to a woman in her 30’s who has everything in the world that should make her life perfect?   In my mind that kind of alcoholism was reserved for the people who lived under bridges and drank from  brown paper bags.  But in my heart, I knew what this was. And it terrified me.   I had been addicted to “worse” things.  So I thought.  And I had beaten those addictions.  But once I crossed that line with alcohol, and my body was physically addicted, it was the same horrible addiction as any other addiction I ever had to fight.  And it took me down lower and lower for the next year and a half.  There was no magical cure for me.  I had to decide that I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink.   That meant that I had to choose sobriety above all else.  When things sucked, and everything does in early sobriety, I had to choose not to drink.  I had to stop making excuses and show up every day ready to do the work.  I had to stop expecting that I could latch onto someone who would make it easier for me.  It’s lonely getting sober.  (Latching on is a whole different set of issues.)  We are all familiar with the term one day at a time, but it’s often more about one hour, one minute or one breath at a time.  It’s a fucking battle some days.  In the beginning, I would say it’s a battle most days.  Being in contact with people who are in the midst of it and looking for a way out keeps it fresh for me.  It is so much easier to be sober than it is to get sober.  Getting sober is for the warriors who have the strength to say I want to live.  I never expect the people who reach out to me to “get it” right away.  And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful each and every time.  Because I am.    I just hope they get it before it’s too late.  I’m here for anyone who reaches out.

Solitude Is My Friend

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This weekend I escaped.  All alone. To a cabin in the woods.  I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while.  My sweet husband booked the cabin for me as a Christmas gift.  My intention was to come here and spend the weekend writing.  Which I have done, along with reading, hiking, napping and all the other beautiful and quiet things.  But let me back it up just a bit.  I arrived on Thursday and pulled right up to my cabin.  I walked up to the door and used the code I had been given to open it.  It wouldn’t open.  So I tried again.   And again.  No luck.  I called the cabin rental office and they informed me that my cabin wouldn’t open because that wasn’t the cabin I had reserved.  I was sure they were wrong.  I had specifically told my husband that THIS was the cabin he needed to book.  Surely he didn’t do it wrong.   They directed me down the gravel road to another cabin that they said was mine.  I used my code and it unlocked immediately.  This was NOT my cabin.  This cabin didn’t have an upstairs loft area.  This cabin was one big room and a bathroom.  This cabin meant that I would be sleeping between the front door and the back door with no walls in between.  There would be nowhere to hide should a murderer bust in during the night.   I was prepared to be able to hide upstairs in the other cabin.  I called the man at the cabin rental office again.  He said he was sorry, but, this cabin was the one that had been booked.  I told him I wanted to switch my reservation because I wanted to be in that other cabin.  Again he apologized and told me it was already booked.  I wanted to cry.  This was not what I had seen in my mind’s eye and I couldn’t get past it.  I was pissed and in that moment, all of the things I practice went away.  I had a mini meltdown on the phone with the man.   I was already scared to be here by myself.  In the woods.  Now I was surely going to die here when someone busted through the front door that I would be sleeping near.  The man got an ear full of my F bombs.  Not that there is anything wrong with the F word.  We all know it’s my favorite.  But these were angry F bombs.  Not my norm.  I didn’t want to call my husband immediately, because I knew I was too upset and I would blame him for messing up the reservation.  I also knew he was taking a nap.  That worked out well for him.  I looked around the tiny cabin as I was attempting to calm down and the first thing that popped into my head was that the only thing to do in this tiny place is to get fucked up.   Seriously.  That’s the thought that went through my head because I didn’t get the cabin I wanted.  My next thought was “Holy Shit, what is wrong with you?”  Followed by “Maybe I need an AA meeting.”  Followed immediately by “Hell no.  You are here for solitude, the last thing you need is to be around a bunch of AA people.”   I think a lot of thoughts, all the time.   Which is why I write and why I meditate.  I texted a friend who is also in recovery and while I never mentioned having that thought, I did tell her about the “horrible” experience I was having.  Her response helped me reframe my thinking.  The cabin is far from horrible.  It’s cozy.   It’s actually perfect and after I made myself dinner in the full kitchen, I settled right in.  I came back to gratitude and realized that I was being  a spoiled baby.  Which I can be.  I read all evening and went to bed.  I didn’t get murdered.  Yesterday I decided I needed to get outside in the fresh air.  There are tons of great trails here.  I drove two miles down a gravel road and arrived at the trail I intended to hike.  When I got there, there were three men in the parking lot.  I sat in in my car trying to decide if I wanted to go in or not.  I put my hiking boots on, and watched as these three put all of their gear on.  They had everything.  It looked like they weren’t coming out for a few days.  I didn’t feel good about going in alone behind them.  As I was leaving, I noticed they all had Eagle Scout stickers on their car.  They were probably exactly the kind of people you want on a trail with you.  But, I was over it.   I found another trail nearby, but on the side of the road leading to the trail head were tons of Busch Light cans and boxes.  All I could picture were drunk men in the woods, waiting to rape and kill me.  Or kill and then rape me.  Basically, the woods was full of drunk men waiting to attack me.  I knew it.   I passed on the trail.  I tried one more time.  And I hit it.  No beer cans.  No people.  Perfect.  I went into the woods a little ways, but I was still scared to go too far by myself.  The trail was marked well and I mostly felt safe.  I got the fresh air I wanted and went back to the cabin.  I thought of a million things I could do with my time, but I made myself do the thing I came here to do.   I started writing.  I wrote and wrote and wrote until 1 am.   This morning, I made coffee, got right back in the bed with my laptop and wrote some more.  I wrote a solid chapter in what will  one day be a book.  It might not be the book I have in my head, but it’s definitely a chapter.  But not a first chapter.  A middle chapter.  Which is odd, because that’s not how I had it pictured in my head, but then again, this weekend hasn’t been what I pictured.  But it’s been perfect.  There was a thunderstorm last night.  It poured rain, the cabin shook and the power went off.  And, I didn’t flip the fuck out.  The battery was charged on my laptop and I kept on writing until the power came back on.  And I thought, “Look at me. I am such a bad ass.  I’m not even freaking out.”  LOL  I told you I think a lot of thoughts.  I went back into the woods today.  Back to the trail that proved to be a winner for me yesterday.  This time there was a truck parked at the trail head.  I could see a woman’s jacket inside and that was somehow comforting to me.  I went further down the trail today.  If I had a week here, I might make the entire loop around. Not unlike exposure therapy.   I noticed one can on the side of the trail today.  It was an unfamiliar can.  Blake’s Hard Cider.  Mango Habanero.  6 1/2% alcohol.  It said El Chavo on the side.  Google tells me this is the name of a sitcom.  Or a wrestler.   For whatever reason, I felt better about this empty can than a can of Busch.  Obviously, the person should have carried out their trash, but they probably weren’t drunk and waiting to attack me.  Emphasis on probably.  As much as I love solitude, I don’t think hiking alone far from home is for me.  I wanted it to be, and maybe it will be someday, but I’m not there yet.  But the back porch here is lovely and I am right in the woods.  Tomorrow I will rejoin the people in the world, but solitude is my friend and I am going to find ways to incorporate more of it into my life.

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.

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.