I’m coming up on a sober anniversary next month. Anniversaries are always a weird and reflective time for “us sober people.” Last week I was all up in my journals from 2012. I got sober in 2013. 2012 was a difficult year for me as well as those close to me. It was 2012 when I landed in my “first” AA meeting. I mean, technically I had been to meetings when I was 21, but those don’t count because I was obviously in the wrong place. Right? People accidentally end up in AA every day don’t they? The morning of my first meeting I woke up hungover and still slightly drunk like every other day. I got my children ready for school. As I was preparing to drive them to the bus stop I couldn’t find my keys. Then I noticed my bourbon was missing. And my wallet. I hadn’t been anywhere the prior evening. These things weren’t missing. They had been hidden from me by my husband the night before to be sure that I didn’t go anywhere. And I was pissed. I took his truck to the bus stop, put my children on the bus and came back to the house. Since I couldn’t find my bourbon, the next logical step was to look for other alcohol in the house. And I found it. Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Those were a thing in my life. Technically, I drank Mike’s Harder Lemonade and because that still wasn’t hard enough, I added vodka to them. On this morning I couldn’t find any vodka. So I cracked open a Mike’s and called a friend. It was 7:00 am. I spent the next 10 minutes on the phone bitching to my friend about what a horrible man my husband was for hiding all of my things. I hated him. I hated him policing me and I hated him acting like he was my father. I told him this regularly. My friend interrupted my rant and asked why I was drinking at 7 in the morning. I didn’t understand then that I had no coping skills and drinking AT the problem was my solution. I was just drinking because I was pissed off. My friend told me I needed to go to an AA meeting. For some reason this excited me. Probably because I was just drunk enough that this sounded fun. It was certainly something different to do with my day. She said she would come pick me up and drive me to the meeting. She had already found one online and it started at 8 am. Perfect timing. I got off the phone and got ready for my new adventure. Here comes the good part…….My friend called back and said her car wasn’t in her driveway. She forgot that she had been drinking the night before and left her car parked elsewhere. She couldn’t take me to the meeting. At this point, I was ready and I was going to the meeting. I called another friend who seemed to think it was a great idea for me to go to an AA meeting. She came over immediately. I grabbed another Mike’s out of the fridge and jumped in her car. She drove me to the church and pointed out the blue AA sign that was hanging in the window. She was familiar with meetings and had been to many herself. Court ordered, I’m sure. I poured out what was left of my hard lemonade and walked inside. This new adventure was neither fun nor exciting, I promise. But, I am fairly certain I brought some excitement to the meeting. It was so weird. If you have never been drunk in an AA meeting at 8 am, you might not get it, but if you have, well, you know. There are no words. Keep in mind that I voluntarily showed up here. Nobody made me go. And it was in this moment that I chose to unleash every bit of anger I had inside of me. I was angry at my husband. I was angry at my life. I was angry that I was the one in the AA meeting when clearly, all of my friends should be there with me. The room was full of “old men drinking coffee” and one woman who I now know was new to recovery. She was probably terrified. I was asked to introduce myself but refused to do it the way they had done it. I would not call myself an alcoholic. I most likely told them “my name is Shannon and I am a mermaid.” That was one of my favorite ways to introduce myself in meetings there for a while. I let them know that the 12 steps were bullshit and they didn’t work. Obviously they didn’t work since I had been to a few meetings when I was 21 and here I was, not sober. I cussed and cried and called them names. They came at me with smiles and pamphlets. AA people are big on their pamphlets. They told me to “keep coming back.” They invited me to a speaker meeting that evening in the same church. They told me there would be cake and promised me that it was a fun time. Nothing about this sounded like fun to me anymore. However, I agreed to come back and told them I would bring a “fucking casserole to their sober party.” I still owe them a casserole. I called a different, more reliable friend to come and pick me up when the meeting was over. Now I was armed with pamphlets and a schedule of all the local meetings. We drove to my friend’s house (the one who couldn’t find her car), to tell her I had made it to AA. She was pleased until I snagged a beer out of her fridge. That part just confused her. I made a plan to hit the next meeting on the schedule. At noon. I am sure there were several beers in my life before I hit the noon meeting. My friend (the reliable one) actually went to the meeting with me. She was my designated driver for the day. Again, when the meeting started, I felt the need to unleash every bit of anger in my being. The AA people directed their comments to my friend. Probably because it was clear they were going to be lost on me. My memory of this second meeting is a bit more fuzzy than the first. Thanks alcohol. I promise I was an asshole. I like to think that was the last meeting I went to on that day, but I can’t be sure. I do know that I went back the next day. To a women’s meeting. I hated it and I hated them. I am sure I told them about it too. The women weren’t nearly as kind to me when I cussed and cried as the old men had been. I was not a fan of that meeting or those women and didn’t go back for a LONG time. But I did keep going to meetings with coffee drinking old men. Usually when I was drinking. Sometimes I would wait until afterwards. I went to meetings for a solid year without really trying to not drink. I kept thinking that eventually I would want to be sober, and when I did, I would just stop drinking. I honestly thought it would be THAT simple. Unfortunately, the not drinking part was the hardest part of getting sober. Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew…….every freaking sober person in the world. Every person who had been sharing at those meetings I had been going to. We all know how this story ends. I am sober today. I am sober because I took that ALL IN thing I do and applied it to my recovery. I went ALL IN with meetings sometimes going to two or three a day. I went ALL in with meditation, creating a local group to sit with and going to meditation retreats. I went ALL IN with yoga which is why I now own a yoga studio. These three things were the magic combination for me. It’s different for everyone but that magic combination is there for everyone. You just have to find what works for you. And now, here’s the kicker……the easiest part of being sober is the not drinking part. Seriously.
Self Discipline is the Highest Form of Self Love
Last night I shared a quote in moon circle that I am completely in love with. “Discipline is the highest form of self love.” I shared it because there was a woman in the circle who needed to hear it. There were probably others who needed to hear it as well. I need to be reminded of it constantly. Someone recently commented on one of my FB posts that I am so disciplined. And I loved that she saw me that way. It’s more true than not. I am all about self love. I am all about naps, and eating to nourish my body, writing in journals and big fat bubble baths. With snacks. Self love can look like that. Self love can also look very different. I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn to love myself enough to tell myself no. I have no doubt that I was filling her ears with all sorts of nonsense that was going on in my personal life. I got away with ridiculous things because nobody ever told me no. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do a thing that was obviously harmful. In fact, I talked most people into doing those things with me. I had some pretty unhealthy habits going on at the time. Loving myself enough to tell myself no wasn’t one of them. This was just one of many things she told me that I paid no attention to. Because it was all bullshit. I really could not fathom living a different way. Until I did. I stopped drinking before I wanted to. It was a have to. Looking back, I realize that giving up alcohol was a radical act of self love even though it felt like the exact opposite. Self love is also saying yes to the things that are good for us. I had to say yes to AA because that’s where I was going to meet sober people. Sober people didn’t exist in my world. I had to go to the weird meetings with “those people.” I wasn’t like those people. I was different. Special. That therapist assured me that I was not special. Just like that. “You’re not special.” Asshole. I was pretty sure she was wrong about that one. I was pretty sure she was wrong about most things. But, here’s the truth. I’m not special. None of us are. And we all are. We are all humans doing the best we can with what we have to work with. Back then, I didn’t have a lot to work with. But I have had some amazing teachers on this path and I am a completely different person than I was 6 years ago. Because I pay attention. This morning I sat down to write about Discipline, but I hadn’t yet been on my mat and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about something I wasn’t practicing. So I got up, went down on the dock and practiced yoga. Because I love myself enough to do the things I know are good for me. I love myself enough to pursue the things that are going to lead to my ultimate happiness even when they aren’t necessarily the things I feel like doing. My alarm is set for 4:30 am. On weekdays, I wake my children around 5 am. This gives me 30 minutes to myself. I use this time to meditate and write. My preference would be to drink coffee and scroll on my phone. I’m not perfect and sometimes that is exactly how I spend my quiet time. That is NOT what nourishes my soul. I don’t wake up at 4:30 excited to write and sit in silence, but I do it because I know it keeps me sane. It keeps me connected. I’m not telling you to wake up at 4:30 am. In fact, every evening before I fall asleep my mind begins to tell me all of the reasons I can’t wake up in the morning and do what I want/need to do. If I listened to this voice, I would never practice in the shala because Wilmington is too far to drive. I would never get on my mediation cushion because I have chores to do. I would never sit down to write because someone, somewhere, needs me to do something for them. There are always reasons that I shouldn’t wake up early for my morning practices. They are all very believable reasons. The little voice in my head throws them all at me when I set my alarm and get in bed. That’s my self sabotage voice. This voice will have me wasting my time, sitting on my ass, drinking coffee and scrolling on my phone. Really. That voice will have me wasting entire days if I let it. I don’t have that kind of time because there are so many things I want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I really do need days that are quiet and restful. Recovery time after big “extrovert events.” I need solitude. We all know I need my naps. But, I also need to do the things I know are good for me. Especially when I don’t want to. I only dread these things until I get started. And then……then comes the sense of accomplishment. The good feelings. The joy. I have been practicing this lifestyle for quite a while now, and I know the practices that keep me centered. I am not a runner, but I am willing to bet that runners don’t jump out of bed eager to go running every day. I also imagine the people who hit the gym every day don’t always feel like it. Artists probably don’t want to create every day. I could go on and on, but you get it. Everything we do is a practice and being disciplined is no different. Discipline is loving ourselves enough to say no to the things that aren’t good for us and loving ourselves enough to say yes to the things that are. It’s dropping the distractions to focus on what truly needs our attention. It’s picking up our tools when we are having a shitty day and using them when we want to wallow in misery. It’s keeping the promises we make to ourselves. Discipline really is the highest form of self love.
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.
Life is a beautiful practice
I took a solid 6 weeks off from writing on the blog. On purpose. Because I haven’t had time to be here. Or, I guess I should say that it hasn’t been a priority. But don’t you worry, I’ve been busy writing in my journals. All 23 of them. LOL That “might” be a stretch, but those of you who journal will totally get that. I have a journal for everything. My mind is a busy place. For the past 6 weeks I have been practicing Ashtanga Yoga in Wilmington. If you know me you KNOW because I will take any opportunity I can to talk about it. I wrote about my plan to check it out in my last post. Right here. I really wasn’t sure I would love it. But, because I am me, there was a 50/50 chance. Love or hate. No in between. As it turns out, I can add it to the list of things I LOVE. Isn’t it great how the things we need come to us at the perfect time. If we are open and paying attention. How could I not love a tradition that honors the natural cycles of the moon as well as the natural cycles women’s bodies? In Ashtanga there is no practice on full moon and new moon days. And then there’s “Lady’s Holiday.” Not what I would have called it, but definitely a time that I don’t want to be on my mat twisting deeply and locking my mula bandha. I had an aversion to taking this holiday for about two minutes. Because it seemed like taking the easy out. Which is weird because I constantly tell my students to honor their bodies. I have a yoga period story that I won’t share here, but it helped me in making the decision to take the days off. That and a 5 am text to my new teacher asking what he recommended in that situation. That wasn’t awkward at all. 😂 For the record, he recommended that I honor my body and take the time off. I am learning to do just that. Slowly. I thought I had the honoring my body and being gentle with myself part down, but the things that go on in my head at times, make it clear to me that I’m not there yet. It’s also obvious to me that I have come so far. I’m not my own worst enemy anymore. Not on a daily basis anyway. I’m learning to step onto my mat and let go of expectations. Some days my body pleasantly surprises me and other days it’s like WTF? I’m not the strongest person in the shala where I practice. I’m not the “best” if there is such a thing. (*hint* There’s not such a thing) Some days I fall out of headstand. Headstand. Really. I haven’t yet completely learned the sequence in such a way that I don’t have to stop and think about it. I still forget poses in the sequence. I don’t have the opening and closing chants memorized yet. I haven’t yet learned all of the Sanskrit names of the poses. My brain is still busy for at least the first half of my practice. I can’t fully do some of the poses. But none of that matters. I have found a practice for ME. I get to be a beginner. I get to learn and grow. I get to show up for me. I come home to myself every time I step on my mat. I am learning the importance of slow and steady and I am reminded of progress not perfection every single time I enter the shala door. And I am grateful. My teacher is one of only two authorized Ashtanga teachers in all of North Carolina. His shala is only 45 minutes away. How awesome is that? Today I woke up at 4:30 so I could practice in the shala at 6:30. It was 1000 degrees and so humid that the concrete floor was slick with condensation. I loved every minute of “trying not to die.” I can do hard things. I can do the hard things until they become easier. On the mat and off of the mat. Yoga Sutra 2.46 Sthira sukham asanam – Asana is steady and comfortable. Learning to find steadiness and ease in the challenging poses on my mat is where it all starts. I can take that out into the world and into my life finding steadiness and ease in the most challenging times. Life is FULL of challenging situations. Life is a beautiful practice. Yoga teaches me so much.
Be Still and Know
I tend to live my life in a perpetual state of what’s next. I had an Akashic reading recently. If you are unfamiliar, you can read about Akashic Records here. During the reading I asked my guides what lesson my soul is here to learn. I promise, I was expecting an earth shattering discovery. My answer was anything but. The answer pissed me off. And made me laugh. Patience. My soul is on this Earth to learn patience. I mean, who the fuck doesn’t want to learn patience?! It got a bit better when my guides told me that I should also know that my intuition is one of my greatest gifts and I shouldn’t let my head get in the way of what my heart knows. The reading was 90 minutes. I can sum it up here in four words. “Be still and Know.” Not sure I needed the reading for that, but it’s always a good reminder. I have a tendency to want to move on to the next thing. I will love a thing and love it and love it some more. Until I don’t. Then I’m done. My husband is thrilled that I have stuck with “The yoga thing.” The “yoga thing” is what centers me. It’s not going anywhere. In fact, it could be that I’ve outgrown being either all in or all out. I’ll have to take a deeper look at that. Yoga has definitely opened me up to a world of things to fall in love with. Things I hated in the beginning. Dancing and Kirtan being at the top of the list. But, you may remember, I also hated yoga in the beginning. For a LONG time. We all know how that story goes. So what’s next? Retreats. I have plans for several women’s retreats. A Recovery retreat and a Rebel Soul Sister Retreat. What’s next might also be school. Real school. I have been sitting with that for quite a while now and I still haven’t committed. Maybe putting it here on the blog will give me a push. Sometimes things take me a few years. Sometimes they happen overnight. What’s next could be writing a book. That one has been on my mind far longer than school. At one point I was sure this would be the year. Both of those things terrify the shit out of me for very different reasons. I know I’m capable of doing either of those things. Fear doesn’t stop me from doing things. Just waiting for the nudge. The big one that I can’t ignore. For right now, my what’s next is as simple as a new practice. Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga is a beautiful and challenging practice that I have been interested in for years. I have never practiced due to a lack local teachers. At yoga church last week, my teacher mentioned that she was taking an Ashtanga workshop. That opened up a conversation about the practice. That same evening, a friend commented on one of my FB posts and mentioned a Shala in Wilmington. Shala implies Ashtanga. So I went to Google and sure enough there’s a Shala in Wilmington. Apparently, it’s been there for years but completely off my radar. I immediately emailed the place and talked to the teacher. I made a plan to start this week. Then, as if I needed confirmation that I’m supposed to go, an Ashtanga yogi came to my class yesterday. She’s the only person I know who practices Ashtanga. She rarely comes to my classes and when she does, it’s clear that I’m not really teaching her anything. I love to watch her practice. So strong and beautiful! Having her there yesterday was an extra nudge from the Universe. I am excited to learn more about this practice and as weird as it sounds, I am excited about the discipline involved with it. Those who know me, KNOW how excited I get. This is something I am super excited about. As of late I feel a bit off center and ungrounded. Ashtanga is a daily commitment to come to my mat in a new way. It will take my “morning practice” to a whole new level. Chances are I will hate it. 😂 Yoga is moving meditation for me. An opportunity to still my mind and tune into my body. An opportunity to “be still and know.” Whatever is next is definitely coming. I will know what it is when the time is right and I will embrace it. I will embrace the shit out of it, like I do. For now, I am getting a lesson in patience by resting in the “in between” and simply enjoying where I am. Maybe that’s what the Akashic reading was about. And really, what’s not to enjoy?
Tattoos and Freedom
Tattoos 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*
Beautiful, Brave, Badass
I’ve been avoiding this space for almost an entire month. I have been busy filling my time with things other than being still. I’ve missed blogging and thought about it almost daily. I just haven’t quite been able to sit down with my laptop. Last night I went to the big city of Wilmington for Ecstatic Dance. So. Much. Fun. While I was there, I met a woman who said she knew me. Our mutual friend told her she knew me because I am FaceBook famous. FaceBook famous is our joke. This woman said no, she knew me from reading my blog. Her therapist had sent it to her and told her she should read it. She told me how she knows EVERTHING about me now, which was weird and awesome all at the same time. She said she loves my blog. That was the final push I needed to get my ass back here. I love it here. The last time I was here I shared that I was finished with therapy. I’m sure I called it being kicked out of the nest, because that’s how it felt. It took me a day or two to get over that, but I’m ok. I have all the tools I need. My therapist was right about that. That push may have been exactly what I needed to do the work I had been avoiding with her. I work best alone, but I also want someone to check in with. I still have that support system in a million different ways. The first thing I did was sit on my dock and journal all the feels of “being alone.” Which I’m definitely not. Then I decided the time had come for me to be an artist. I went to Pinterest to compile a list of all the things I would need to start an art journal. The next morning I went shopping. And just like that, I AM an artist. Most of you saw the photos on FB, because you can’t be FB famous if you aren’t posting there. I spent that entire weekend with my head down and ALL IN some art journaling. I’m so grateful that I worked through The Artist’s Way last year, because it really made it ok for me to just do my thing and not judge my work. Honestly, I art like a 5 year old, but I am totally OK with it. I spent that weekend doing the thing that I wouldn’t do in therapy. Writing my trauma story. It was awful and I hated it, but it’s just what happened on those pages. I didn’t buy the journal and art supplies with that intention at all. Once that came up, it wouldn’t stop. The beauty of the art journal was that I immediately painted over those awful words. I covered up those horrible things that I never want to see again. Not that I covered it up to make it look pretty, because that’s not where I was in that process. The act of writing it was huge and something I have avoided since I started dealing with repressed memories resurfacing. It was huge because once I started, it just flowed so fast and wouldn’t stop. I could have left the words in the journal, uncovered, but what would be the point in owning all those art supplies? I can’t quite express how it made me feel to be all up in the art process, but I think that’s why art exists. To express what we can’t put into words. Those pages of paint are exactly that. It was so powerful and so cathartic. Brave. I felt brave sitting through all those emotions as I worked in my art journal. I felt like a beautiful, brave, bad ass. I knew I was going to be crafty, but who knew I was going to be an artist? 😉 That’s a new tool for me and I am loving it. After a weekend of intense writing in that journal, I ended the process with a Monday morning dance party in the studio. Such a wonderful way to move through the emotions of the weekend. When I left the studio that morning I felt so much lighter. I’ve been back in the art journal a few times since then and have every intention of sticking with it. The thing about writing a “trauma story” is that it triggers new memories that I get to process. But it’s not all gloom and doom. Some of those pages are pure joy. I just show up to the pages exactly as I am and then it somehow all sorts itself out. Some days I don’t know until it’s on the page. It’s so different than anything I’ve done before. I definitely see the value in it. But it’s messy and not as quick to access or clean up as a journal. I can write anywhere, anytime. And I do. I haven’t had a healing session of any kind for almost three weeks, which is unheard of for me, but guess what? I feel great and I don’t need a thing. Well, I probably DO need a massage and since March is here, I know I have some energy work and “woo woo” appointmens on my schedule. Oh. And there was that Shamanic Journey I went on with Roger the Shaman today. 🙂 I have my meditation practice, I practice yoga, I write, I dance, I take ALL the baths. I go to meetings. I have moon circles and women’s circles of every kind. I was asked to be the speaker at an AA meeting this month and that’s the ONLY thing affecting my mental health. I have anxiety about it already. Oh the irony. My mental health game is strong and if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have left therapy. I know it was time. And now my Wednesdays are open for giant Goddess lunches and cacao ceremonies with circle dancing on the beach. I know how to fill a void. Believe that. I know how to fill it with beautiful and loving things today. ♥️
In 2018 I chose the word “learn” as my one word mantra. This has been my year to learn on so many levels. With all of that learning came a lot of leveling up. This was my year of cacao, kirtan and dancing. Opening my heart more, connecting to something greater than myself and being FREE. This was my year of the inner child. Listening to her and helping her feel safe. This was my writing year. So. Much. Writing. A year of finding my voice. A work in progress, but I have made giant leaps. This has been a year of healing old wounds. An ongoing process I am sure. This is the year I learned that I am an artist simply because I allow the creator to create through me. I am always creating. This was my year of connection and community. I have a full understanding of how important community really is. This is the year I learned to truly get out of my own way and stop doubting myself all the time. My year of listening to my intuition which doesn’t seem to steer me wrong. This is the year I allowed myself to show up and be seen in my ALL of it. This has been a powerful year full of learning and lessons simply because I was paying attention. A year of soul growth. The year my faith grew by leaps and bounds. A beautiful year. A difficult year. This is the year of learning to love some people from afar. Boundaries. Something I am still learning about. Most of my big learning moments are right here on this blog and I can see the growth this year brought. Writing has connected me to some amazing people this year who have reached out to me as they began their own “journey to wholeness.” A testament to how powerful our stories are. People are seeking connection and community. I love to watch people grow. I suspect a lot of you love to witness my growth. People are mostly good I think. Sometimes I think my world isn’t actually reality because it’s so magical and full of so many loving and supportive people. Healers of all kinds and spiritual seekers. People who always strive to be the best version of themselves. But it IS my reality and I have worked hard to build that reality for myself. Also, I am deserving of all the blessings that flow my way. I’m not sure I believed that on this day last year, and it is still kind of hard to say out loud, but I believe it. What’s even more special is that I get to share so much with so many. That’s the true gift. My heart is overflowing with gratitude this morning. I will be carrying all the lessons, all the growth and all the gratitude with me into the new year. And I will build on that. New Years is my favorite! I thought long and hard about what my one word would be for 2019. Last week as I was making vision boards with a friend, it became crystal clear to me that my word is “Allow.” Not in a passive or weak way, but as a spiritual practice. There’s not a thing wrong with having a vision, but what I know is that when I ALLOW the creator to create through me, anything I want to manifest, create or experience will show up in my life as it is meant to. I allow things to happen without having to control and manipulate people and situations. When I can do this, the Universe always delivers something more amazing than I could have planned. 2019 is going to rock. 💥
The Work is Never Done
When you are on a “journey to wholeness” the work is never done. (Here. Listen.) That doesn’t mean that I always want to do the work. Because, honestly, some days and weeks or months, I don’t want to. So I don’t. I am rolling into the third week of mentioning repressed memories that just came back to me and I still haven’t done anything about them. My therapist really wants me to write about them to help me process them and move on, but who wants to do that? Not me. Not lately. Plus, I’m a busy person with a life to live, a business to run and a family to take care of. She suggested to me that I am scared to sit down and do it. It would be great if I just used my time with her to do it, but I can’t. I freeze and nothing comes out. That leaves little to work with. And if I don’t do the work on my own, it doesn’t get done. But I’m busy, remember? Also, I really don’t want to. Yesterday, I received a text from a friend. Or, as I like to call it, a loud and clear message from the Universe.
How funny is that? I am surrounded by so many amazing people and I just need to remember that I am never alone in my struggle. None of us are. It sure feels like we are when we are going through some shit, but I have learned that if I open my mouth and speak up, I will find someone who says “Me too.” Always. I live in this world where it’s usually easy for people to open up and share their struggles with me because I am so open about mine. On the internet. If you know me in real life, “I’m fine.” I am always OK. It was only last night while I was journaling that I realized this. I always throw up the I’m fine wall. It’s probably not a secret to those who know me and my therapist will probably laugh that I am just figuring this out. I’m OK when I know I’m not but I don’t take the time to identify what I am feeling. I wrote myself a little “Notice That” with an asterisk in my journal. I guess that comes from a lifetime of numbing myself out. Whew. Always learning. The work is never done. But, now that I have this new information, I can work with it. One would think with ALL the meditation and yoga and “noticing that” I do in my life ALL DAY, EVERY DAY that I would be an expert by now. But, it seems, “notice that” is as far as I have ever gone. Not “identify that.” Identify that could be a game changer for me. I tell my therapist all the time that I may be slow, but I am oh so thorough! And really, what’s the hurry? As far as I can tell, this is a lifetime path. I can be healed and still healing. Someone once left a comment on my blog that I am a “Soul Detective” and that was my favorite thing ever. If it was you, you should tell me so I can hug you. 😊 I am still my favorite project but you should know that if you are on this path, and lean on me for guidance and support, chances are you are my other favorite “project.” I root for you and want to see you win. Complete strangers root for me and it’s the coolest thing ever. Sometimes those strangers become my friends. Have you ever talked to or hung out with someone you know nothing about but knows everything about you? I have and I do often and it’s weird as fuck. At the same time it’s completely liberating to have nothing to hide. Boom. This is me. And you’re still here. It’s our humanness that connects us all. Our “not having it all figured out.” Our “still learning and still growing.” Our struggle really is our strength and when we share that we open the door for powerful connections. And suddenly I am no longer afraid to sit with my deep dark shit and sort it out on paper. I know someone will come hold my hand or just sit with me if I need that. I also know that I know how to take care of ME and that I will feel so much better once it’s done. I’m not saying it will get done today, because I’m busy. Remember? 😂 But I’ll do it. And then I’ll burn that shit.