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.

Keep Showing Up

I am currently in a hotel in Knoxville with my 10 year old.  He and I are traveling to Kentucky to see my parents.  I thought he would chill and I would write. I was wrong.  He hasn’t chilled yet.   Hotels are way too exciting for children.  Even a Hampton Inn in Knoxville, TN.  Jackson is spinning circles in the chair and asking me thousands of questions.  His most recent question was “are you mad at me?”  I told him “Of course I’m not mad at you” and I asked why he thought that.  His reply was that I seem annoyed.  I had to remind him that it’s after 9 o’clock and Mommy hates everyone after 8:30.  He knows this.  And then, because I am a good human, I assured him I am not annoyed with him and I love him all the world full. I’m just a bit tired and grumpy.   It’s been sweet traveling with Jackson.  He mostly watches videos with his headphones on. But, we also got some good one on one talk time in.  Jackson was in 5th grade this past year.  His last year in elementary school.  In 5th grade the children participate in the DARE program.  He learned all about addiction/drugs/alcohol/peer pressure and such.  He knows I don’t drink but he’s never asked why.  Until today.  My older two children know the story.  They lived the story.  They remember the story.  Jackson was a little guy.  I asked him if he remembered when I was sick and he came to see me in that hospital where he got to play foosball.  He does remember.  He told me he remembers coming to see me a few times in the hospital.  The hospital was a treatment center, and it seems he remembers a bit more  of my stay than I realized.   Once that topic came up he asked what that was all about.  He wanted to know why I was in that hospital.  I have had ALL the conversations about these things with his brother and sister, but Jackson, being the baby, and not really remembering that life, well, it just hasn’t come up.  Until today.   He could care less whether I drink or not.  When I explained to him that alcohol makes me sick, he compared it to an allergy to red dye number 40, or yellow dye 5. He’s not really wrong.  Other than the fact that as well as making me sick, alcohol makes me crazy and depressed.   I guess he’s never cared or even considered why I go to “those meetings.”  Which cracks me up because I have always said it’s Jackson’s world and the rest of us are lucky to be living in it.  It’s just something I do that he’s never questioned.   We talked about those meetings and he decided I go for no reason and I don’t even need to go because obviously I am cured.  Then he threw in the word hippie and eluded to the fact that AA is for hippies.   I love this child.  AA in my community certainly isn’t full of hippies.  Or, maybe they were at one time, but they grew out of it.   Jackson is a joyful child. A young 10 year old. He’s been able to stay little a bit longer than his siblings did. Innocent.  He has no idea that I rolled straight out of jail and went to his kindergarten orientation with him 5 years ago.  Never have I ever felt more shame or guilt than I did that day. I had gotten a DUI the day before and had to sit in jail for 24 hours. Actually, my husband had the option to bail me out, but chose not to.  He was over it and he knew if I was in jail for the night, I was safe for the night.   I got sober three months later.  I remember going to his class and talking to his teacher about my sobriety. I wanted her to know why I had been absent for the past few months.  I wanted her to know how much I appreciated all the love and support she gave Jackson and how grateful I was for her.  When I explained to her that I had been struggling with addiction and had been away in a treatment center she looked at me like I had two heads.  I was sure I couldn’t have been the first person she had ever met with a drug/alcohol problem.  She assured me I was the first.  I was mortified and I wanted to die.  But I didn’t.  I stood there.  I was getting sober.  I was being honest.  I was standing in my truth.  Uncomfortable and awkward, but I stood there.   For whatever reason, I felt like she needed to know.  I felt like that was a conversation I needed to have with her.  It was the first time I had announced with any seriousness that I was getting sober. For the first time ever, I was able to hold my head high in that school.  Simply because I was sober.  I didn’t feel judged by her.  It was just very matter of fact, “I have never met an addict or alcoholic before.”  I think I expected her to share her own personal story of the people in her life who are either addicted or in recovery.  Maybe I expected a bit of praise for my hard work.  Not that I deserved an award for doing what I needed to do, because I certainly did not. That experience was a big moment for me in early recovery.  Being honest about who I am is OK.   Being open and honest made it easier for me to be a good mother.  I no longer felt like I had to pretend to be perfect, because now it was known that I wasn’t.  But I was there.  I was trying.  Not being perfect meant I could be me.  Being an alcoholic mother is hard.  I had a lot of shame about the way I drank.    I had always felt less than when I was with the other Moms at school because it seemed like they had it all together.  They all seemed so perfect.  Then there was me.  Just hoping they didn’t smell alcohol on me.  That was a special kind of Hell. (There are many kinds) Now, after being sober for 5 years and spending time with emotionally healthy people,  I understand that nobody has their shit together.  At least not all the time.  We all do the best we can and everyone has their own problems to deal with.  In whatever form that comes in.  As long as we keep showing up, we are winning at life, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  Today I am showing up for my children by being a living example of what recovery looks like.  They have seen addiction.   It’s not the life I had planned for us, but we made it and became so much stronger and closer through the process.  My children know that they can talk to me about the difficult things.  They know they don’t have to be perfect, because this life is messy and chaotic and beautiful.  We just have to keep showing up.

Recovering Out Loud

I have ALWAYS been out loud about my recovery.  I was out loud in my drinking, so I found it necessary for my own recovery to not be anonymous in sobriety.  When I was drinking, I was sure social media was all about taking photos of everything I drank and every drunk thing I did. Including posting photos from the back seat of police cars and hospital rooms. Being social media sober seemed like the natural follow up to that. It’s a tool I have used since day one to help keep myself accountable.  Getting sober was HARD.  Staying sober is easy.  I have so many resources and tools available to me. Really, it’s just not difficult today.  Because I have tools and resources. I live in an alcohol free home with a very supportive husband.  We used to drink together. A Lot.  When I made my first few attempts at getting sober (there were many), my husband thought it would be fine to still have a 5 pm Scotch or two or maybe three.  It was not fine and I ended up right there with him and I kept right on going long after he stopped. I could never have one or two or even three.  It never even occurred to me that I was supposed to drink with any other intention than to get completely hammered.  Because that’s where the fun was.  Or so I thought. I’m sure it started that way. It certainly didn’t end that way. After a few failed attempts at getting sober which included trips to hospitals, Psych wards, detoxes and rehabs, my husband came to understand that if I was going to get sober in our home, there could be no alcohol around.  Even when I didn’t want to drink, I always managed to.  I didn’t like Scotch so that “shouldn’t” have been a problem.   But as soon as something didn’t go my way and I was upset that Scotch of his was good enough to do what I needed it to do.  Numb my overwhelming emotions.  I was convinced he was an alcoholic and that it really wasn’t fair that I was the one getting sober.  Truth be told, he was a little concerned about this too.  We were in the habit of drinking together.  As it turns out, he was able to leave it.  He didn’t have a drink anywhere near me my entire first year sober.  He rarely drinks today, and when he does, he doesn’t get wasted and it’s just not an issue.  He’s one of “those” normal drinkers.  Normal drinkers are cool,  I’m just not one of them.  When I got sober, I had to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media.  I saw them partying and having fun and not inviting me.  I felt left out.  I also appreciated the fact that I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have to say no, but still…I felt left out.  Lonely. A constant theme in my life. I remember calling a friend one evening and as she answered the phone, I could hear her scrambling and banging and making all sorts of racket.  She was in the middle of a party and tried to get into her bedroom where it was quiet so I wouldn’t hear what was going on.  Sweet and hilarious, because believe me, I could hear exactly what was going on.  The more sober I got, and the more practice I had with handling my emotions, the less those things bothered me.  It still hurt my feelings that most of those friends fell away and didn’t invite me to do things, but I am sure I made them uncomfortable.  The majority of them don’t socialize without alcohol (and lots of it).  No judgement, it’s just not where I am today.  And since I’m not invited, it’s not an issue.  Drinking people are not a problem for me.  Drunk people are.  It’s not a fun space to be in. In all fairness , when I was drinking I didn’t want to be around people who weren’t drinking either. So I got used to missing out. Eventually that “fear of missing out” turned into the “joy of missing out.”  I slowly got comfortable in my skin and began to enjoy my time alone.  My family got me back and I like to think they enjoy having me, fully present for them.  I know I sure enjoy spending time with them.  Since I had no friends that wanted to do the “weird” things I wanted to do, I had to learn to do things alone.  Most of the “weird” things I wanted to do were in groups, so I wasn’t even alone, I was just on my own.  In a group.  This is how my world slowly started to expand.  I began meeting people who liked the weird things I liked.  Weird = Spritual.  So, not really weird, just different than what I had been doing my entire life.  And it was ALL new to me.  Today I have friends everywhere.  Sober friends.  Goddess friends.  Yogi friends.  Meditation friends.  Old friends.  New friends.  Internet friends that I haven’t met yet.  Family friends.  And I am a friend to myself above all.  That’s a big one.  I have a huge outer circle and a small inner circle.  I have people I can count on.  Sober me is super lovable.  Drunk me, not so much.  I have extra appreciation for those who loved me through that and stayed.  The girl who doesn’t  get invited to parties went to four parties in the last two weeks.  One of them was mine, but still.  🙂  One of them was a party for a dear friend who I love all the world full.    My invitation went like this, “Would it be weird to invite you to my margarita bar party?”  I think that was the first invitation I have received in 5 sober years.  Seriously.  Or maybe I am making that up and it’s just the first party I actually went to. I’ve been to Christmas parties.  But that’s family, so I don’t think it counts.  I am sure my husband has been invited and by default I was invited, but really feel like this was a sobriety first for me. I went to her party that was FULL of people I love, had a bunch of fun and laughed and then laughed some more that I still managed to shut the party down.  At 8:30 pm.  Because that’s the kind of friends I have.  And I LOVE it.  Last night I went to my first ever sober party.  As in a party by a sober person, for sober people.  I didn’t have to worry about taking my own drink.  Everyone ate food because that’s what sober people do at a party.  I heard hilarious stories that only sober people would think are funny.  Sometimes, when I’m around people who aren’t in recovery, I forget they haven’t lived that life.  Until the moment I notice sheer horror on their faces.  Then I wrangle it back in and explain that THAT is the exact reason why recovery is so important to me.  I am reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray and I really can’t recommend it enough.  Especially to newly sober people.  It takes me back to the early days of sobriety and just how bad everything sucked.  Until it didn’t.  In recovery circles “the pink cloud” is often talked about.  It’s a magical place where some of us find ourselves as the haze of alcohol starts to wear off and we start to find joy in the simplest of things.  At 5 years sober, I am happy to report, that I am still riding that pink cloud.  I’ve learned to look for joy in the small things.  I’ve learned to do things that feed my soul and feel good to my heart.  I’ve learned to stay away from things that suck.  ALL of being sober is an unexpected joy because I knew when I got sober that fun was no longer a part of my life.  My life was over. I could not have been more wrong. We all know the quote “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”  That describes my experience with getting sober perfectly.  Best. Decision. Ever.

Tattoos and Freedom

EE8BD19E-0227-4798-A822-E9462D48AF13Tattoos tell a story.  Ask anyone about their tattoos and you will likely hear the story of their life, or at the very least a very personal piece of their “story.”  I got my first tattoo when I was 21.  The tattoo that will forever be known as the tramp stamp.  Which is total bullshit, but whatever.  The low back tattoo that every girl my age got in the 90’s.  I wanted to get tattooed as soon as I turned 18, but I spent a few years getting pierced instead and waited for the desire to pass.  It didn’t pass.  I had that one tattoo for years and years without ever needing or wanting another one.  But then I fell in a hole.  A hole I couldn’t climb out of.  I have lots of mantras tattooed on my skin.  Those mantras helped me climb out of the hole and truly represent what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.  It goes like this.  Once upon a time, I was a raging, hot mess.  I was hopeless.  Hopeless is the worst feeling in the world and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I had been exposed to the words hope and faith quite a bit in AA meetings.  I wasn’t sober and I had neither hope nor faith in my life.  I was also attending group therapy.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  To treat my Borderline Personality Disorder that I don’t actually have.  Being Borderline was better to me than claiming alcoholism and having to give up drinking.  I rocked that Borderline Personality Disorder too.  I owned the shirts and I wore the awareness bracelet.  I gave a face to Borderline, “normalizing” it, much like I do today with addiction and recovery.  And, I got to keep drinking.  The best part of the whole deal.  But, I was dying inside.  Failing at life in every possible way.  Even my liver was struggling.  Every day I would tell myself that today I won’t drink and then every day, usually before 8 am, I would be drinking.  I HAD to.  It was the only way to keep my body from shaking.  Every day was the same and every day was awful.   I was reading a self help article about Borderline Personality Disorder when I came across the acronym for Hope. Hold On Pain Ends.  I fell in love with that idea and knew I needed to carry that with me.  My first mantra tattoo.  I really don’t remember getting it.  Most of those first tattoos blend together in a gray kind of memory.  But there it was.  On my hand where I couldn’t miss it and was reminded constantly that I could get through this.  I was able to get clean from methamphetamine addiction.  Nothing could possibly be harder than that.  That’s what I told myself.  I have since learned that addiction is addiction and it’s ALL hard.  I was going to AA meetings regularly, although I still wasn’t sober.  I was starting to like the idea of being sober.  I kept thinking one day I would be ready and I would just stop drinking.  At this stage of the game I was having little spurts of “sobriety.” Or, rather, I was managing a few days in between being drunk.  Or, maybe I was just waiting until 5:00.  Again, it’s such a blur.  AA people use the term One Day at a Time.  I always hated that term because I knew it was bullshit.  I knew if I committed to a sober life it meant every day for the rest of my life.  I was seeing a therapist who was teaching me about mindfulness.  She kind of, sort of convinced me that it simply meant living in the moment.  I could live with that.  My second mantra tattoo is on my foot.  One Step at a TIme.  That’s how I was going to dig myself out of the hole.  I am fairly certain I wasn’t drinking the day I got that tattoo and I probably thought I was done with alcohol.  I assure you, I wasn’t done.  On another day I was in my therapists office freaking out about something. That was a common occurrence.  I had been drinking before therapy.  Another common occurence.  She always knew when I had been drinking.  Most people didn’t notice strictly because it was my norm.    I am sure she yelled at me a bit because that’s who she is.  Then she taught me about a practice called “calm abiding.” Calm abiding is a Buddhist practice of stilling the mind of any thought that might arise.  I promise you I wasn’t able to reach the place of calm abiding, but I fell in love with the concept and knew that’s what I needed in my life.  I left her office and went straight to the tattoo shop and got the word Calm tattooed on the topside of my wrist.  Not sure why I didn’t throw in abiding, but there must have been a reason.  It’s on my right wrist near my hope tattoo to remind me to be calm and have hope.   Not long after that tattoo healed, I was leaving my house to go somewhere, who knows where, and my husband told me to try not to come home with any tattoos.  I am sure it wasn’t my intention to get tattooed that day, but those words lit me up.  It sounded a lot like he was telling me not to do a thing.  In my mind, on that day, it meant I had to get two tattoos.  What I recall about that incident is that it started at a local gas station.  The gas station was right beside the tattoo shop.  I went inside and bought a cup of ice and a can of ginger ale.  I came out to my car, where my 1/2 gallon bottle of bourbon was, and mixed myself a drink.  As I was mixing the drink there was a knock on my window.  I looked up to see a woman I knew from AA.  In my mind she was a sober woman.  In reality, she was anything but.  She was struggling like I was struggling.  I had no idea.  She got in the car with me and offered up Valium and Xanax.  I hadn’t taken pills or any other drugs in years, but I didn’t hesitate for a second.  I don’t know what you know about mixing pills and alcohol, but I can assure you, it’s not good.  There is not one memory after that, but the two tattoos I got that day are the words “Forgive” and “Love.”  Forgive faces away from me, in such a way that I can hold my wrist out and ask forgiveness.  I found it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission in those days.  “Love” must have been for me. I am sure I wanted to feel love or feel loved or just feel lovable.   I was quite unlovable that day.  I was quite unlovable for a long time.  That was the longest day that I don’t remember.   It’s weird the few things we do remember in those black outs or brown outs.  I remember calling my therapist and yelling at her.  I was in the parking lot of the hospital wearing one of my shirts that identified me as borderline and realizing that this made me look crazy.  I was yelling at her for giving me that label and more than anything for not calling me out on wearing the shirt.  Then I woke up in the hospital room.  There was a security guard outside of my room and the nurses told me they didn’t know what I had done, but I must have done something bad.  They monitored me and they let me go because it’s frustrating trying to treat a drunk person who doesn’t want help.  I remember leaving the hospital and walking through the parking lot.  I remember the security guards but I can’t remember exactly what they said to me.  I do remember that it enraged me and I screamed obscenities  at them until they tasered me.  I woke up in the hospital room again.  This time I didn’t have a security guard.  This time I had “a watcher.”  The person they place outside of your room to watch and make sure you don’t kill yourself.  I must have told them I was going to kill myself or someone else while I was blacked out. I was “a danger to myself and others.”   I stayed there for three days, refusing food and anything else they offered me.  I was eventually moved to a psychiatric hospital.  Every morning in this hospital it was my job to wake up and talk to the Dr on staff and try to convince him that I wasn’t actually mentally unstable.  Unfortunately, my actions proved that I was mentally unstable.  Also, every other person in the hospital was trying to convince the Dr of the same thing.  Some of them had serious mental health issues.  A scary situation that lasted way longer than I wanted it to.  Eventually I was released into a treatment center and almost got sober.  But I didn’t.  I was back with my therapist and back in my DBT group.  My therapist was pushing yoga on me and teaching me weird things, like how to breathe.  I couldn’t breathe.  I hated the breathing part of yoga because I felt like the more I was instructed to focus on my breath, the more I couldn’t breathe.  It was awful and I clearly needed a Breathe tattoo to help me.  I could no longer go to the same place where I had previously been tattooed because my husband made it clear to the tattoo artist that it would NOT be ok to tattoo a drunk me again.  I want to say I was sober when I went for the breathe tattoo, but I was not.  Had I been sober, I might have thought to put it in a place where I could see it.  Instead, it went on the back of my arm, just above my elbow.  It happens to be great for people who are standing behind me.   I am happy to report that the Breathe tattoo is the last drunk tattoo I have.  A few more psychiatric hospitals and a couple more treatment centers where I finally decided I had had enough Hell and it was time to do something different.  I’ve been living sober for 5 years now and when I get a tattoo, the whole process has more meaning.  My first sober tattoo was “Let it be.”   Obviously I would let it go if I could right?   When I let it be, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me or still exist, it just means that I don’t have to let it control me.  Whatever ‘it’ is.   My next sober tattoo was ‘Learn.”  The intention there is to remind me to look for the lesson.  The short form or “what the fuck am I supposed to learn from this?”  So interesting that after I got that tattoo, I started learning more than I ever imagined about my past.  Repressed memories came back and I learned how to deal with that.  I am still learning every day in every way.  and I know that won’t ever stop.  The memories have stopped.  At least for now.  Maybe I am done with that.  Time will tell.   My last two tattoos are my favorites.  At least they are my current favorites.  I have a little Tt “element” tattoo on my forearm that identifies me as a Tee-totalar.  This one is not at all original. It’s a movement.  A community of people choosing to not be anonymous and recover “out loud.”  I love being a part of a community that identifies in this way. I find it’s much better than wearing a Borderline Personality Shirt and identifying in that way.  On New Year’s Eve I got my most recent tattoo.  It’s a representation of where I am at this moment in my life.  “Free.” Along with the word, are little birds flying free.  I love it so much.   I have found freedom that I never knew was possible.  Freedom to be me, whatever that is in each moment.  Comfortable in my skin more often than not, and able to deal with being uncomfortable when that happens.  There’s a special kind of freedom that comes from living through Hell and coming out the other side.  That freedom shows up as gratitude and joy for my life.  It shows up when I catch myself dancing to the music at the grocery store.  

*photo by Ed Speas*

Dream World

 I published a post on Wednesday that touched a lot of people in a lot of ways.  It became clear that I am not alone in feeling lonely.  It became clear that perhaps I was throwing a little shade.  It became clear that I was blaming others for my hurt feelings.  It became clear that people have a desire to “fix” me when I am feeling less than joyful.  All of these things are fine. I’m down to do the work I need to do around my hurt feelings and shade throwing.  We all have a shadow side.  It’s not a problem unless we deny it.  I know some shit. I show up and write what’s in my heart and on my mind.  Not what I think people need to know.   I love that people read my words and FEEL.  What they do with those feelings is completely out of my control.  There is FREEDOM in that.  I am not here to hurt feelings.  Ever.  I am not here to be fixed.  This is my space.  I appreciate everyone who takes time to read my words.  What you do with that is NOT my business.  I am thrilled some of you have therapists.  I am NOT a therapist.  My therapist has reminded me of that a time or two. Or three. 🤣   I wrote my last blog right before a therapy session. The one about loneliness.  Something magical happened in that.  I named it, claimed it and tamed it. I am sure we talked about those feelings.  I don’t even remember now.   And life went the fuck on.  As it has a tendency to do.  My week was uneventful, but here I am sharing my uneventful week anyway.  Because it’s Sunday and it seems like the thing to do. I  journaled more than a 13 year old girl this week.  Most weeks really, if I’m honest. I’ve just switched up my journaling routine from morning to night. Holy Shit! It’s like another world.  Night time journaling  has opened up some portal into my dream world where a lot of serious action is taking place.   This week (in my waking hours) I spent some time trying to decide if AA is still my path.  I sit in those meetings some days and laugh at how weird it all is. Not that I am opposed to doing weird shit.  I do plenty of it.   The topic of quality vs quantity comes up from time to time in meetings.  I live in an area where most of the population is retired.  In the sober community, that means I am in meetings with people much older than me with a lot more sober time than me.  And yet some of them are still so miserable. Miserable could be a stretch, but there are a lot of them who still haven’t figured out how to be happy, joyous and FREE.  They have quantity, but are clearly lacking quality.  I am not lacking in quality.  After 5 years I am still not comfortable sitting in a meeting and sharing openly. It’s something I rarely do. Maybe if I got past that I would feel a shift in my attitude.  I don’t know.   There are lots of people I love in AA, but the meetings, not so much.  And I wonder……..  AA was a great place for me to get sober.  The 12 steps were a beautiful launch pad out into a much bigger spiritual world.  But does it still belong in my life?  My AA friends will say it absolutely does belong in my life, and perhaps I just need to switch my meetings up.  This week as I was rolling that around in my head, NOT going to meetings and night time journaling about it my dreams came at me.  Alcoholics have “drinking dreams.”  I am not sure if people who don’t have a problem with alcohol have those or not, but I am guessing not.  I dreamed that I sent my husband to the store to buy me a bottle of bourbon.  He asked if a pint would do and of course, it would not.  I would need at least a fifth.  In real life a half gallon would have been called for, but anything can happen in the dream world. He then asked why I was still going to those meetings if I am still drinking.  I wasn’t exactly sure why.  I just knew it was what I do.  He asked me if I planned to pick up a white chip.  A white chip means surrendering and choosing to live a sober life.  The start of the journey.  Basically, a white chip would mean I had to start over at day one.  I don’t do white chips. I was always one to bedazzle mine. Another story for another time. Dream me said a big Fuck NO to him about picking up a white chip because although I was drinking, I wasn’t getting drunk.  In my mind, there was no reason to pick up a white chip.  I can rationalize anything,  Even in my dreams.  Drinking dreams suck. I know this one came from all of my recent questioning. These questions aren’t really new to me.  I have spent the better part of a year wondering if I I want to continue going to meetings. I don’t have to figure it out today and chances are, I’ll be drinking coffee with old men at least one day this week.  Maybe that is the solution.  The real movement and processing that’s happened in my dream world this week has been in the form of my little sister.  Who doesn’t exist.  But she exists in my dreams and I KNOW that she is me.  Little me.  All thanks to going back and taking another stab at inner child healing.  And night time journaling.  I tend to go hard at Inner child healing (like I go hard at everything I do) but when I touch on something painful, I stop.  After seeing the group that’s working through this process in my studio, I decided to take another crack at it.  I love watching the women in the group connect and grow.  I can SEE how much this group is helping them heal. I also know  that the group in the studio wasn’t the time or place for me. But, I definitely see the value in it and KNOW it’s something I want to keep at.  I bought the book they are using and I enlisted a far away friend to work through the book with me.  We connect weekly and discuss.  I have my therapist to help me process what comes up and she has hers. (Although hers sucks and she needs  a new one)   I know it’s going to take us a little longer to get through the book, but it seems safe and comfortable to me and my inner child.   She needs that.  I won’t be blogging about those dreams, but they are powerful.  Powerful and private.  THAT is what it’s like to pay attention to my inner child. I’m learning to listen to her more and more.  When I use that term inner child, I know there are tons of them, pieces of me that I haven’t connected to yet.  But I’m getting closer every day.  Yesterday I taught my 8 am class how to chant “fuuuuuuck.”  It might have been my greatest teaching moment ever. Pretty sure that was my inner 15 year old Rebel girl. I know her well. 😂

Hiding from the world.

We are well into Janauary and this is my first blog.  I think I’m hiding from the world.  In my bathtub.  I have been avoiding the process of sitting down to write out of fear of sounding like a whiny baby.  But whatever.  I have been in a weird space since 2019 started.  I know I won’t stay stuck in it, but I have also learned to honor my now and allow myself to be where I am.  I’ll tell you where I am.  Lonely.  I am in a perpetual state of loneliness. Not sad. Not depressed. Just lonely.   I’m surrounded by a tribe of amazing people in all of my communities from home and outward into the real world as well as the virtual world.  It would seem lonely isn’t something I “should” ever feel.  See those quotations around “should?”  That’s because I do know should is a bullshit word and my feelings are valid.  So there’s that.  It seems the more connected I am, the more alone I feel.  My brain knows that I am NOT alone.  My heart is learning that not all of my relationships are real.  I am a sensitive soul and lately my feelings are getting hurt left and right.  I’m not exactly sure what that’s about, but I suspect it has a lot to do with actually paying attention to my feelings.  That’s therapy working.  As of late it’s becoming clear to me that some people want to be around me because they think I can do something for them.  Add to their status or popularity.  And it hurts my feelings.  That seems childish as I read it, but I’m also someone who is learning to tune in and pay attention to my inner child. Again, valid.  It’s not such a big deal when it comes from someone I don’t know that well, but when it comes from someone I love, it sucks.   What hurts worse is when someone who IS my friend and I know loves me blindsides me with a passive aggressive comment about my happy life.  I imagine that happens to everyone?  Jealousy?  Envy?  Those words are hard to say and sound harsh, but I can’t find any other words that seem right.  Yesterday I saw my favorite Woo Woo Witch Healer and she informed me that it hurts because it’s opening an old wound that hasn’t fully healed.  The wound of being used? Or jealous people?   I’ll have to dive into my journal on that one, but I have no doubt she’s right.  I learned from trauma informed yoga training that “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.”  If something is triggering us today, it is coming from our past.  It seems I will never run out of “work” to do on myself.  Soul Detective work. I have put a lot of energy into building a loving and supportive community for myself.  In the early days I called this Team Shannon.  I still have my team. I have come full circle in that area and now I get to be on other people’s teams.  Cheering them on and supporting them.  I find that to be meaningful “work.”  I love to see others succeed.  Seems everyone doesn’t feel that same way.  Lately the word “discernment” has been appearing in my life on repeat.  This is the lesson I am getting hit with hard this January.  Learning how to discern my circle.  I have never been that person who needs everyone to like me.  In fact, I have been the opposite.  Quite content to push people away.  That’s the exact reason I don’t have many friends from my childhood or even my life pre-sobriety. I never learned how to build healthy relationships.  Sobriety has given me that gift.  Sobriety and a spiritual path.  I don’t need everyone’s love and friendship.  I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me.  I’m just trying to figure out who gets to sit at my table.  I also know that when I am feeling lonely, it’s the time I most need to be alone.  The Divine is present within me and I am NEVER alone. And there it is.  There’s my aha moment right there.  THAT is the connection I am seeking.  Funny how putting my thoughts down in a blog can bring me clarity that a journal can’t always bring me to. Beautiful. And now I’ll just be over here, practicing discernment, connecting with a power greater than myself and finding my way.

All the Feels

I am in that weird space of having a million things to write about and yet nothing comes up for me.  My thoughts are scattered here there and everywhere.  The “problem” is that more and more people are reading my blog and I get in my head about it. Am I oversharing?  Will my readers like this?  The truth that I need to remember is that this blog is for me.  It’s a great tool to look back and see how things are unfolding for me.  So here I go.
Yesterday was such a weird day for me emotionally.  I joked about everyone crying in yoga, and maybe they needed that, but it was me who I was really talking about.  I was on the verge of tears all day.  But they didn’t come.  I have written about repressed memories coming up for me in the past.  And I processed those the best way I could.  I really figured that was it and I was done with that.  Life is great.  Things are flowing my way effortlessly and easily. I AM connected and divinely guided.  So when more shit from my past pops up, it knocks the wind out of me.  Last week I sat on my therapist’s couch with my journal of “all the amazing things” that are going on in my life.  The amazing things are always the things I want to talk about.  When our time was almost up, I blurted out “want to do the therapy now?”  And of course she did, because that’s her job.  I told her that I have had more memories of childhood sexual abuse surfacing.  When she asked me if I could talk about it, I just looked at her and said nothing.  We both chuckled a little and she told me that “was an invitation.”  My response to her was that I obviously couldn’t talk about it.  Because nothing was coming out.  So weird because I do trust this woman so much.  I have spent some time on this and perhaps it’s the office and the couch that get me.  Like “white coat syndrome.”  Maybe I should ask her to sit on the floor with me.  I bet she would.  She’s cool like that.  Since I wouldn’t or couldn’t talk about the memories with her, she offered up some suggestions as to what I could do to move through it.  Dance it out, write it out, yoga it out.  The things she knows I am comfortable with.  The first time, back in the spring, when she suggested “dance it out” I thought she was nuts.  And now, well, we all know how that ended.  What I was looking for was a definitive answer about why this is happening again and when will it end.  The why is simple. She’s explained it before, but she explained it again.   Because I am strong and healthy and have all the support in the world.  And because I have everything I need to look at these things when they come up and then let them go.  The when will it end isn’t as simple.  I read everything I could find about this subject, but there are no concrete answers.  Unfortunately we live in a world where this is fairly common.  I reached out to a friend who I am able to be completely open with and talked to her about it.  She has her own experience with this exact thing.  Which is what I needed more than anything.  Someone who has been where I am.  Someone with personal experience.  This is what I gathered from our conversation.  Something in my present moment experience triggered these memories.  They are there to teach me something.  And I guess as the healthy adult that I am, it’s not really a big deal.  But, it feels like a big deal to me when it happens.  Talking to my friend helped more than anything. She told me there really is no specific end date.  No magic time. Healing is a lifetime process.  More than anything, just knowing that I am not alone in this experience was helpful.  The specifics aren’t important and I don’t need to share with everyone or maybe even anyone.  My plan is simply to honor the path that got me to where I am today.  I keep telling myself to write it down and burn it.  A ritual.  I love ritual.  Not that I have done it yet, but it’s coming.  The gift in this is that it never crosses my mind to hide from it.  It never crosses my mind to numb myself.  What I have done is take 1,000 baths.  Maybe I am subconsciously trying to crawl back into the womb.  Whatever.  It feels good and it soothes me.  The bathtub is where I spent all of my free time when I first got sober.  It’s still a go to when I am emotionally triggered.  And honestly, I have been super sensitive lately.  OR, maybe I AM super sensitive and I have been allowing myself to experience that. I don’t know.   What I do know is that I am human.  A human with ALL THE FEELS who doesn’t have everything figured out and probably never will.  The good news is that I am surrounded by healers and sensitive souls who will hold my hand when I need that.  The reality is that I really do have everything I need already available to me and I can handle whatever comes my way.  So I lean in to the uncomfortable until it passes because I know for sure and certain that joy is waiting for me on the other side.  I AM a warrior.
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Shhhhhh. Don’t tell Leon.

AFD2D825-661D-4A0E-88E2-22B293ECCF28Here’s a little secret.  My husband doesn’t read my blog.  Not regularly anyway.  And I don’t offer it up to him for some odd reason.  Probably because he’s the one who knows me best and sees me every single day.  He doesn’t give a shit about how popular I am on the internet.  He sees the real me.  Every day.  Not just the best photos and the edited words.  He gets the unedited version.   He’s not on FaceBook and he hates social media.  But, he did recently get an instagram account, which I was quick to give him shit about.  Because Instagram is social media.  Now I feel like I have to censor my Instagram posts a bit. Like he’s there to babysit.  Not that that’s necessarily true, but I do get asked who certain followers are.  And since it’s social media, I typically have no idea.  He assures me his life would be easier if I was ugly.   I encouraged him to get the Instagram account because he used to ask me to post pics for him on my page.  I like to keep my page looking a “certain way” which doesn’t include pictures of the fish he caught that day.  Now he has an Instagram and it’s cute and hilarious that he really doesn’t know how to use it.  I post my blog on Instagram and use the standard “New blog post is up, link in bio” caption.  He has no idea how to get to my bio or click on the link.  I showed him how to do it a couple of weeks ago and he sat next to me and read my blog for what seemed like hours.  He went way back…….and I could tell he was upset.  I have suggested to my Mom that perhaps reading my blog isn’t the thing she needs to do.  I am thinking maybe he shouldn’t have read it either.  It hurt him to go back and relive some of it.  I know he also felt slighted because he never saw his name in any of my posts.  I totally understood that too.  I frequently speak about my therapists, past and present.  I write about my “tribe of women” who support me.  I don’t write about my family.  There are a few reasons for this.  The first reason is that believe it or not, I do keep parts of my life private.  My family is the MOST important thing in my life.  I feel like they have their own stories and they aren’t my stories to tell.  But here I am.  Talking about my family.  My husband anyway.   The truth is, I hated him for a few years before I got sober.  He was the enemy in my mind.  He was one of the firsts to point out that I had a problem with alcohol.   I could fool a lot of people, but he wasn’t one of them.  I hated him for that.  He was the person always taking my keys, my wallet and my liquor away.  But he wasn’t sober.  In fact, we drank a together A LOT.  So why was I the one with “the problem?”  Maybe because I was the one who blacked out and did stupid things?  Here’s the reality.   My husband is 15 years older than me.  He rescued me when my marriage to my second husband fell apart.  I didn’t know how to be alone but I also knew I didn’t need to involve myself in a relationship.  I found a man who lived far, far away that would come visit me when I wanted him to but didn’t live close enough to roll up at my house anytime and get too comfortable.  Because I DID NOT want to be in a relationship.  6 months later I moved to North Carolina with my two children to be with him.  That happened so fast.  I had a pretty good handle on my drinking at that time.  I was a “functioning alcoholic.”  Two years later I got pregnant.  I stopped drinking while I was pregnant and nursing (or at least didn’t nurse when I was drinking).  When our sweet Jackson turned two, I weened him (yes, I nursed him for two years).   It was at this point that my raging alcoholism kicked up several notches.  I’m not really sure why.  Other than the fact that once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop, which IS the very thing that makes me an alcoholic.  I drank every day.  At 5:00.  Until the day I discovered that I could drink during the day because I was grown.  That was a game changer.  That’s when the blackouts started coming. The insane behavior and really bad choices started happening more and more frequently.  My husband spent a lot of time on the phone with my family and friends “telling on me.”  I hated him for it.  Today I  know he was looking for guidance and support, but that’s not what it felt like at the time.  I would have preferred it if he had gone to a support group rather than bring all of our friends and family into our mess, but he’s not that guy and it wasn’t my choice.  He spent a lot of time on the phone with my therapist too.  She suggested hospitalization for me.  I hated her for that.  I hated a lot of people for a lot of things.  All things that I was responsible for.   He took drunk me to an AA meeting once and asked “those people” what he should do.  He just wanted someone to fix me.  He was watching the woman he loved, the mother of his children, kill herself.   My oldest two children lost their biological father to addiction.  My husband has raised them since they were tiny and he IS their Dad.  I think he hated me as much as I hated him, but he wanted me to live.  And eventually so did I.  He supported my recovery by giving up alcohol.  It wasn’t a struggle for him and if sobriety was going to work for me, he knew he had to make some changes too.   I had every intention of getting sober and leaving him because he was  a controlling asshole.   But then a funny thing happened.  Not overnight, because that’s never how things work for me.  But, as I began the process of getting sober, along with gaining some emotion regulation skills and a tiny bit of sanity,  he began to seem like less of an asshole. Not because he changed, but because I changed.  Not gonna lie, all of the changes freaked him out too.  I’m not sure either of us knew who sober me would be.  All of the new things I was doing seemed weird to him.  They were weird to me too, but also things I needed to do.  Meditation.  Yoga.  Meetings.   I caused a LOT of damage to our relationship.  Damage that isn’t a secret to our friends and family.  Things that I had to own and walk through.  But, he hung in there and walked through them with me.  He hung in there because he knew I was worth it.  He saw my worth when I didn’t.  And sometimes he’s still an asshole.  But he’s my asshole.  He’s no longer freaked out by the weird things I do and pretty much expects me to come in the door beaming about the new “weird thing” I am currently in love with.   Our relationship isn’t perfect, but whose is?   I’m still trying to figure out what we have in common.  There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot.  But, he makes me laugh and he’s pretty damn cute.  So there’s that.  He’s a safe place for me. He makes me feel secure. He gives me the space I need to grow. He has his life and I have mine and they are very different.  But, we come together every day and share our “seperate lives.”  Every now and then we even do things together.  Like a real couple.  One day, I’ll even go fishing with him.  What I am not going to do, is put this blog in his hand.  He can find it on the internet like everyone else.  Sometimes, I’m an asshole too.  😊