Someone recently asked me if it’s possible to stay sober without AA. I am here to tell you that it is absolutely possible. I am NOT here to bash AA or to tell you not to go to AA or that it isn’t a wonderful tool, because it is. It really bothers me to see people trash a program that is free and accessible to anyone who wants it. For a lot of people, it’s the ONLY resource available. And if one is willing to do the work, it works. But so do a lot of other paths. I know a LOT of people who are in recovery and have never been to an AA meeting. I know a lot of people who have been going for years and continue to go because they love it. I have been on the fence about whether or not AA is for me for about three years now. It was great for me in the beginning. I think it’s a great place for everyone to start. It’s where I first found sober community. Community is so important. This is true for everyone in recovery of all kinds. Not just addicts and alcoholics. It’s extremely helpful to have someone who has walked the path before you and can help you navigate a new way of being in the world. Recovery is scary. I can’t imagine how hard it has been for the people getting sober since the pandemic hit. The meetings stopped and everything went on Zoom. My hat is off to anyone with a 2020 sobriety date. That never would have worked for me. In early sobriety I needed to have my ass in a room full of people that I didn’t want to be with, hating everyone in front of me. But that’s just me. AA is not the end all, be all that it once was. Technology has changed what sober support looks like for so many people. I think if you are out there living life and loudly sober, anyone who cares about you can be your sober support. Instagram has a ton of sober accounts and ways to connect. There are apps to connect you and guide you, online coaching programs, FB groups, online programs with meetings and tons of other meeting type programs that aren’t AA. I used to be big on telling people to find a path and stick to it. Now I feel like that’s not the best advice and one should find what’s working for them right now and stick with it. But as we grow, our needs change. What was once a lifeline, might not seem that way anymore. And it’s OK. That’s where I am with AA today. There is a lot of fear around leaving AA and it comes up often in a lot of the groups I belong to. We don’t hear about the people who make it out and live a wonderful life. We are taught in AA that when we stop going to meetings, we will relapse. Of course plenty of people stop going to meetings and do relapse. Also, lots of people stop going and live happy, sober lives. There shouldn’t be fear or guilt involved around leaving. Period. In the past year I went to three meetings. I am in no jeopardy of relapsing. My entire existence supports my recovery. The majority of my friends are not in recovery. But they also do things with me that aren’t centered around alcohol. Because they love me. Truth be told, I built the community I needed because it didn’t exist. In the beginning I built a small community of people to meditate with me. A community to sit together in silence every week. Because that’s what I needed. As I grew, I needed more in my life and so I kept finding more. What I couldn’t find, I created for myself. That community has grown and evolved. That community supports and sustains a LOT of women. Not just me. It was never really about me. Isn’t that beautiful? We always know what we need if we are willing to slow down and listen. Now that Covid restrictions are lifting, and I am scheduled to have my second vaccine, I may go to a few more meetings strictly because there are people there who I have missed and would love to see. But I also might just go to lunch with those people. Because at this point, it’s all the same to me. That’s not how it was those first few years and I wouldn’t be here without AA. I know this to be true for me. But many people do just fine without it. Recovery is never one size fits all. We are all different and beautiful and unique and we all get to decide what works for us. As far as AA goes, I will always tell people who ask me about it that it is a great place to start. Also, I know me so even if I think I am leaving, and I might, I’ll also always keep a foot in the door because when I do show up, it still feels a lot like coming home. There’s no rule that says I have to go every day/week/month. I also suspect that as Covid restrictions start to lift, a lot of new people will be rolling into those rooms. The amount of Covid related alcohol consumption I see on social media is ridiculous. But that’s another blog for another day.
What a difference a week makes. The sun came out. Of course it’s cold AF outside, so I am still in the house and never leaving. My sadness is mostly gone. I think. For now. It will return. I’ll be surprised by it again. Like always. And I will be sure that it’s never going to pass. Because this is how I operate. But I will write about it and be reminded that I am not alone. Thank you all for that. I am sure we are all doing our absolute best these days. Some days my best is better than others. On Friday I stayed in bed and read for 5 hours. The book was excellent. Then I watched a 3 hour documentary on Netflix. I feel great about that. Yesterday was watering day for my plants. I fertilized too. With stinky ass fish fertilizer. I think they loved it. I know I did. I repotted a few plants too. Because you need to know that. These little babies bring me much joy.
I received a random message from a random woman this week. A FB friend that I don’t actually know. A sweet message that made my whole day. She said that I seemed like a woman who is comfortable in my skin and asked if I could write a step by step guide on how to do that. I feel like that whole process is right here, strewn throughout this blog. But also, I never really had a plan when I started blogging so my organization is super scattered and she would have to do a lot of reading to piece the process together. I guess we can call that my lack of organization. I never really have a plan when I do anything. I just decide I want to do something and I do it. The “how” comes later, usually while I am doing the thing.
I am not and will never be the best yoga teacher. But I am really good at teaching people how to be in their bodies. Because I am obsessed with it. Not that it’s always comfortable. Because it’s not. Learning to be in our bodies takes time. And effort. And a bit of a fuck it attitude. And by fuck it, I mean exactly that. All of that nonsense that lives in our heads that gets in our way. What will people think? Fuck it. What if I look stupid? Fuck it. What if it doesn’t work? Fuck it. If that word makes you uncomfortable, fuck it. (I hope you realize how hilarious I am.) I once had a therapist that liked to say “Oh well.” She would follow that with a big sigh. It works exactly the same way. You can try that on if it’s less offensive to you. But, I know my readers, and you should all be fine with fuck it. Except for you Nanny. I love you! That same therapist also said a lot of fuck its.
To get comfortable in my skin I had to first spend a LOT of years being very uncomfortable in it. I spent the first 36 years of my life escaping my body in the normal unhealthy ways. Alcohol, drugs and sex. Until those things almost killed me. None of that was comfortable either. I was just numb. Until it stopped working. Those things always stop working and we can either find another way, or let it kill us. I chose to find another way. And it was uncomfortable to say the least.
Learning to be comfortable in my body was a process that began on a meditation cushion. Sitting still. It was awful. The voices in my head and the feelings in my body were too much. For the first few months I could only sit for a few minutes at a time. I literally wanted to rip my skin off. I felt so raw. Every bit of the things I had been using to numb myself were gone and all at once I could feel ALL of it. All the things I had pushed away. It was all right there in my head, in my chest, in my belly, in my back, in my body. Yoga saved my life. Practicing on my mat was a way for me to release a lifetime of stored up energy. Emotions. Trauma. Every single thing that I had pushed down was alive and well, right there in my body. Not that I knew any of this at the time. My yoga mat was a place for me to cry, grieve and rage, and eventually calm myself. I hated it. I loved it. I threw myself hard into the physical practice learning how to do the “fun” things with my body like inversions and arm balances. The poses that look cool. Not because they looked cool, but because when I challenge my body in this way, there was/is no room for my mind to wander. There is no past and no future. When I am doing a physically challenging posture, I am completely in my body. Present. And it’s glorious, if only for a few breaths. Yoga taught me to love my body and eventually, myself.
It’s been a journey and the list of things that have helped me get here seems to be endless. Amazing therapists. Inner child work. Shamans. Energy Healers. Women’s Circles. Solitude. All weaving together at the exact right time. It’s all here on the blog. Somewhere. Writing. So much writing. And sharing. The sharing piece is an important part of my process. When people connect to my words and I know I am not the only one to ever feel this way, it’s powerful. And here’s the thing. I am NEVER the only one to experience whatever it is I am sharing about. We are all so much alike in so many ways. We are all so damn human. We all struggle. Some people just pretend they don’t. Some things I write just for me and some I share with the world. I have shared some of my hardest truths on this blog. Scary, yes, but oh so worth it. The “what will people think of me” question still pops up for me. But I share anyway. Because fuck it. Oh well and all of that. Which would be the perfect end to this blog, but I have to keep going because DANCING. Learning to be in my sober body through dance has been so very healing. It’s one of those things that I assumed was over because I am sober. So glad I was wrong about that. These days dancing is saving my life. When I am feeling overwhelmed by emotions, I go to the studio and blast the music that heals my soul. I move and process and cry and calm myself. Or, I just dance. Fully present in my body, with whatever I am feeling.
I no longer numb anything. Which is why I was hating on being sad last week. Nobody wants to be sad. My go to these days is to pick up my phone and look at all the plants on the internet. I mean ALL the plants. Which is a fine distraction for a bit, but I have learned that eventually, I am going to have to sit with whatever it is that I am avoiding. I am going to have to process it in some way. Some healthy way. Apparently, It takes a lot to be mentally and emotionally healthy. Also, if you need help with your plants, I am your girl. I have learned so much!
The truth is that I AM comfortable in my body today. Most days anyway. Because I love who I am today. I’m comfortable in my head and in my heart.. I have fought hard to be here. And more than that, I am comfortable with people being uncomfortable with me. That’s where the real freedom is.
Last week I spent a couple of days away from home. A friend of mine had surgery on her eye and I stayed with her to drive her and take care of her. She’s fine now and it was lovely spending that time with her. While I was there a young lady posted on my FB wall. A beautiful young lady who is beginning her sober journey. She wanted to share with me because she says I inspire her. I sent her a message right before I went to bed that night. I wanted her to know that the inspiration flows both ways. This is a young woman who has traveled the world solo. That is total bad assery right there. This is a brave woman who is completely capable of amazing things. I have no doubt that if she wants to be sober, she can do that too. She comes from a long line of strong ass women. I sent this message to her and then I went to sleep. Which might have been what got my dreaming mind spinning.
When a person is in recovery, it’s normal to have using dreams. Relapse dreams. I have them every so often and I never enjoy them. In this dream I was with a friend. We were out in the world somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure where. Some sort of party or event. I was trying to take a picture of us, but I wasn’t able to hold the camera and push the button at the same time. Because I was too drunk. She told me to just let her do it. This immediately made me feel some type of way. If you know me then you know I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures and NOT being able to do that hit me in a weird place. And I felt it in my dream. Then my friend, the one I was staying with, appeared in my dream. She told me how much fun she was having, dancing like she hasn’t danced in years. There was dancing and I had missed it. It occurred to me that I had been blacked out. I didn’t want anyone to realize that I was drunk and certainly not that I was THAT drunk, so I pretended to know exactly what she was talking about. I was lying in my dreams just like I did when I was drinking in real life. All of the same feelings were coming up for me too. It felt truly awful. So many people I know and love kept floating through. My yoga teacher was there. The special family of Rebel Soul’s that I’ve collected through the years in the studio. And, as always, my AA friend Dave who is 12 days behind me on the sober anniversary schedule was there. He always appears in my drinking dreams because somehow, in my mind, I have to beat Dave. When I am drunk in a dream, Dave is always “winning.” It’s ridiculous really.
I woke up with that “oh thank God it was just a dream” immediately followed by the “what the fuck was that?” feeling. Anyone in recovery is familiar with these dreams and the emotions they bring up. Relapse dreams are a part of sober life. When I woke up that morning, I shared the dream with my friend. We decided it was the message I sent before bed that set off my dreaming mind. I left her house that morning. It was Christmas Eve.
On the drive home I was feeling immense gratitude for this friend. For her heart. For her wisdom. Just so grateful for our connection. And then my mind drifted to home. To my boys who would be so happy to see me. To my daughter who would be coming over later that day. To my Leon who no doubt missed me the MOST for the two short days I was away. And again my heart filled with gratitude for ALL the love in my life. I was in tears. The good kind. The my life is an endless flow of love and it’s amazing tears. It occurred to me how different this particular Christmas Eve drive home was to the one I wrote about recently. (It’s right here if you missed it.) It really is amazing how much things change when we do the work. Then my mind went back to the dream. I thought about every single person who appeared in that dream. They all had one thing in common. Every person in that dream is ONLY in my life because I am sober. These were all people that I was never going to cross paths with in the drinking world. Ever. Because that world was small. Just wow. That realization hit me right in the feels and the grateful tears came again. I will probably never get used to this. When I was drinking, I didn’t notice how small my world was. Because I wasn’t paying attention.
Sober life is expansive. Even in the year 2020 which has felt mostly constrictive, my world has expanded. I know this because Expansion is my mantra word for the year. Hilarious, right? I have laughed about this so many times because the year has felt extremely constrictive. The exact opposite of expansive. A blog for another day. Soon. I have spent less time writing this year, and yet this little blog has landed in 79 countries. Probably because of Covid, and the fact that emotions, feelings and realities have been so amplified this year, more people have reached out to me asking for guidance, resources and support. This isn’t my job, but if someone reaches out, I do consider it my responsibility to help them. When I get to witness the light come on in someone, it’s like nothing else. I get to see their world expand. It’s the most beautiful thing. I have a string of FB friends that I’ve met this way. It’s an honor to watch their journeys from afar. It’s by far my favorite thing about social media. There are just as many things to recover from as there are ways to recover. I always tell the people who reach out to me to just pick a path and stay on it. Whatever path feels right is the path that will lead you home. Always. Even when it’s scary. Especially when it’s scary.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
In the rooms of recovery it’s often said that “some of us have to die so the rest of us can live.” I have never really paid attention to this. It’s just a standard saying that I never put much thought into. I have lost people that I love from addiction, but never considered that they had to die so I could live. My ex husband died from an overdose. The biological father of my two oldest children. I am very familiar with loss. If I let myself sink into it, I can get really sad about it. Because he missed so much. I can easily get caught up in the what if’s. In the “if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved him” mindset. And maybe that’s true. But I didn’t know then. When I entered recovery I heard people in meetings say “get ready to go to a lot of funerals” or something to that effect. But really, I didn’t believe it because who dies from drinking? I identify as an alcoholic. Because, for some reason, that’s important in meetings. I am and will always be an addict. My drug addiction was so bad that it almost killed me by 23 years old and when I got clean, I was DONE with that life. Never did it occur to me that I could be an alcoholic. Until I could no longer deny that I was. But it also never occurred to me that people I loved would die from alcoholism. Because who does that?
The year I got sober, my cousin did exactly that. She was younger than I am now. I had been asked to speak at a women’s AA speaker meeting on the same day of her funeral. I chose not to attend her funeral and instead carry out my commitment to speak. I couldn’t help my cousin, but maybe I would share something that could help a woman in that meeting. Nobody realized just how much my cousin had been drinking. After she passed, her husband found bottles around the house that she had hidden. She must have been terrified. I know her body was giving her signs that it was shutting down. But she couldn’t not drink. She must have felt so alone. Her death was definitely a message to me to stay sober. I went to meetings and talked about it, and I am sure someone said “some of us have to die so we can live.” But it was lost on me what that meant. The real meaning behind it. It was all just words.
Earlier this year I lost another friend. This was a woman I had sponsored in AA. When I arrived in meetings, still drunk and spewing hate, this woman was there. Always with a smile and information about AA and all the things I needed to know. She was the first to give me her phone number and the first to be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. But I bounced in and out and didn’t stay in close contact with her. When I finally arrived in AA for real, sober and ready to do the thing, she wasn’t around. In my mind she had moved on with her sober life. Because also in my mind, everyone in those rooms had been sober forever. I spent those first few years of recovery changing everything about myself. Discovering who I was without alcohol and building a brand new life. A beautiful life. And one day about 4 years into my sobriety, she showed up. She had not been out living her best life like I had assumed. She had been out drinking. For years. She was blown away by how much I had changed. She started coming around regularly and we spent a lot of time talking. She asked me to be her sponsor. This is a woman who had been in and around AA for a LONG time. She had put together many sober years in a row, but just couldn’t manage to maintain it. She knew the literature way better than I did and if AA was a class, she would have passed with an A+. She knew it in her head way better than I ever will. But for some reason she couldn’t stay sober. I agreed to be her sponsor, which just means that I would take her through the 12 steps and be a sober support person for her. My only requirement was that she was always honest with me. And she was. I attribute meditation and yoga to my recovery just as much as I do AA. I suggested these tools to her and she was eager to jump in and try them. She too was ALL in and bought herself every prop possible for yoga as well as a meditation cushion and alllllll the books about the two. I spent a year with her sharing every tool I had. Every tool that worked for me. I encouraged her to find her own things as well. She joined a gym and got a personal trainer. She learned how to wrap crystals and make beautiful jewelry. She danced with me every chance she got and she even tried Kirtan, as weird as that was for her. We journaled and made vision boards. We went through the steps together. And she was joyFULL. A quiet joy as she was a quiet soul. But joyful just the same. It was so beautiful to witness. She made it to one year and then I’m not sure what happened. She lost it. She began drinking again. Off and on. Mostly on. I wanted her to be sober so bad. I wanted to see the joy on her face that I had seen when she was sober. But I didn’t know what else to do. I continued to work with her for a while. Encouraged her to be just start over. But she wasn’t getting sober. So I let her go. I promised to be her friend and sober support any time she needed me, but as a sponsor, I wasn’t the one. I had given her everything I had, taught her everything I knew and it wasn’t enough. I encouraged her to find another sponsor, because clearly, I wasn’t the one. We remained friends, although I rarely heard from her. She was drinking a lot and not contacting me. Then, in early August she called to check on me. The island had been hit by a hurricane and she just wanted to know that I was alright. It was 10 am and she was drunk. We talked for a while, she said she wasn’t doing well, and that she would see me soon. She was ready to get sober. One week later my phone rang and her name lit up on the screen. I told my husband I didn’t want to answer because I knew she would be drunk. I let out a grumble and I answered the phone. It was her husband. He was calling to tell me that she had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She died that evening. Her body could no longer handle the abuse. This one hit me hard. Not that I was all that surprised. We all expect these things. But I also expected to see her “get it.” Wanted her to ‘get it.” I had already seen it once, and it was beautiful. I went to a meeting the next morning and talked about it. The first person to respond said “some of have to die so we can live.” My initial thought was what an asshole thing to say. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and for the first time, I understood what it meant. It means that I think of her when I dance, holding her in my heart and dancing with her. It means that while I am incredibly sad that she couldn’t get it, I have it and I am not willing to lose it. It means that I will keep writing these blogs for the person who needs to see them. It means that I don’t take one minute of this life for granted. It means that it could have just as easily been me. It means that I wake up each morning and choose recovery. I choose life. It means feeling all the feels and not numbing myself. It means being fully present in each moment, even the ones that suck. It’s life and it’s beautiful and terrible and everything in between. I choose it everyday.
She gave me this little figure for my birthday because it reminded her of me. She was always giving gifts and had the most beautiful, generous spirit. She is called Happiness. I think of her every time I look at it. I remember her joy. I picture her somewhere on the other side dancing with a little smile on her face and her arms stretched out. Feeling complete freedom. This is how I will always remember her. I am forever grateful that I got to experience those moments with her.
I’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.
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.
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.