I never tire of seeing this poem. Ever. I came across it on Instagram yesterday and was reminded of the first time I ever saw it. The therapist that I’ve mentioned a million times here gave it to me. I realize now that it must have been frustrating for her to see me week after week, give me tools, and watch me not use any of them. I see other people do it and it frustrates me. I’m fortunate that I did have these resources available to me and people who pushed me to eventually use them. I had people who loved me and wouldn’t let me drink myself to death. This poem was posted on Instagram yesterday and it stopped me mid scroll. I read the poem for the thousandth time. All the feels came over me. I used to carry this poem with me in a journal. I always felt the power in it’s simple message and understood that this was for me. I just wasn’t ready to “walk down another street.” When I arrived at the treatment center where I finally got sober, this poem was with me. Honestly, all sorts of things were with me. I can’t seem to go places without ALL the books, ALL the journals and ALL the pens. Even when I was too drunk to read any of the books or write coherently in my journals. I’m sure I arrived with a stack of self help/therapy books and handouts. The poem found its way to the refrigerator in the “home” I shared with the other women. I wanted the other women to be able to see it every day. I wanted to share any inspiration I had with these women. I wanted to see them get better. I wanted to see them “walk down another street.” My heart hurt for all of us in that place. Yesterday, when I saw this poem it brought back a flood of memories. When I was in that center, I decided that I was going to be sober because I needed to live. Not because I necessarily wanted to live. Not because I thought I was worthy of anything that remotely looked like a happy life, but ultimately, staying alive to be a mother to my children was the goal. I had been in therapy for quite a while as well as going to DBT groups. You can read about DBT here. I had been going to AA meetings and I owned every self help book ever written. Not that I ever used any of those tools, but they were there waiting for me to pick them up. I began with positive affirmations. As hokey as that was to me. I went to the office where all the rehab “therapists” were and asked to borrow Post It notes. I was denied by the woman I asked because clearly, she was a bitch. And I told her that. Then I got “rehab reprimanded” for letting her know I thought she was a bitch. I probably cried and carried on in a dramatic way after I left the office. I use that word “probably” loosely here. By the end of the day, I had Post It notes in my hand. I wrote affirmations on the Post It notes and put them all over my bedroom walls as well as on the mirror in the bathroom. My housemates asked me to write affirmations for them. Soon, the ladies from the other houses at the facility were asking me to write affirmations for them. I spent my mornings writing affirmations for all of the women in the center. These women would come find me in the morning and ask me if I had post it note for them. I always did. I remember so clearly how happy these little Post It notes made them. I believed every positive word I wrote for these women. I believed they were strong, smart, capable, loved, powerful and every other lovely thing I wrote. But I didn’t believe I was any of those things. It occurred to me as I read this poem today that this was where the me who inspires, supports and empowers women was born. It was born from a place of needing to be inspired, supported and empowered. I didn’t believe these lovely things were true about me, but the hope and joy they brought to the women around me was everything. Every word I wrote were the words I needed to hear. I could see the trauma, the pain and the grief that had brought them to this place, but I couldn’t see my own. Writing these affirmations gave me a sense of purpose. It was a positive act that was also an esteem building exercise. In my own small way, I was being of service to others. Ahhhhhhhh. What a concept. One that up until this point, I had only heard in AA. Up until this very moment, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. Acts of service and esteem building exercises were out of my normal realm. Up until this point, I had been tearing myself down day by day. This was surely the beginning of me learning to love myself. After I left treatment, and went back into the real world, I went public with my sobriety. Being social media drunk was never a secret, so there was no reason to keep my sobriety a secret. Social media has always been a great tool for my recovery. I follow tons of great sober Instagram accounts. I belong to FB recovery groups. I read blogs by women just like me. In fact, those blogs were where I first REALLY felt like there were people I could relate to in this world. I began to use my own social media pages as a way to share my story and the message of recovery. A message of hope. People tell me all the time that I inspire them. And I love it. It brings me joy. I love to see people win and if I can support that in some small way, I’m all about it. But, honestly, I never set out to inspire anyone. We all have a story. I just knew I was supposed to share mine. Being able to write in a way that connects with people is a gift and who am I to not use that gift? And oh my goodness…..I had no idea how many people would resonate with my words. I have met and connected to so many amazing people because someone sent them to my blog, my FB page or my Instagram. I have connected to people’s sisters, cousins, mother in laws, friends of friends, random strangers and my personal favorite is when my therapist friends send their patients to my blog or to my yoga classes. When a woman walks into my studio and says her therapist “sent her” and I can see that she’s slightly terrified…I love that the most! I love it because I was that terrified woman going into the yoga class because my therapist said it would be good for me. It’s all so beautiful to me. Friday I had lunch with a woman I met through a mutual friend. I had met this woman exactly one time and I think it must have been two years ago. But we are connected on social media, so it’s kind of like knowing her without really knowing HER. Social media is weird. I know lots of people feel like they know me. And….they sort of do, but you can’t really know someone without spending time with them. The lunch came about in a random way because I followed my gut and reached out to her rather than ignoring my intuition. This sweet woman, and she is sweet but really, she is a 75 year old complete bad ass, told me that she reads everything I write. She told me that I inspire her and so many other women. She was full of kind words for me and she did it in a graceful way that didn’t embarrass me or cause me to go all weird and awkward. We were instant friends and it felt like we had known each other forever. It was comfortable. She talked about her daughter during lunch. I had absolutely no idea that she lost her daughter to an accidental alcohol and pill overdose 15 years ago. In that moment I knew exactly why we were together at lunch. In that moment I understood our heart to heart connection and why my intuition had led me to her. It was a powerful reminder of WHY I share my story. A reminder of why it’s important for me to inspire, support and empower the people around me. I know how it feels to be at the bottom. I love to watch people rise. I share my story in service. It’s part of my path. It’s not about me. It’s about the person I was almost 6 years ago. It’s about the person still struggling who believes they are broken beyond repair. It’s about the person who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love or happiness. I share my story because I am alive to share it. It’s one of those things that I know I am supposed to do. The Universe confirms this for me time and time again in so many ways. I am honored every time someone reaches out to me because they read something I wrote and were touched by it in some way. I truly am. I hope we all make it. I hope we all get to experience every beautiful thing that this life has to offer. ♥️
Last week my husband went golfing. I never love the days he golfs, which thankfully are few and far between, because golf tends to includes day drinking. I have not been around any day drinkers that I enjoy. I was a day drinker and that’s what ultimately took me down. Once I decided I was grown and I could drink any time I wanted to, it wasn’t long until I was drinking ALL the time because I had to. Back to last week……My husband was on the family schedule to pick our boys up from the places they needed to be picked up from. We do A LOT of running in this house. If you have children, you know. I was teaching a class that afternoon when I received a text from my husband informing me that he had been drinking shots and wouldn’t be picking up the boys. I didn’t open the text, but I could see the entire thing on my phone and I was NOT happy. I texted him back when my class was over and let him know exactly how unhappy I was. He responded by letting me know that he was on his way home and would figure it out. I too was on my way home by this point. And this is what I noticed. While I was driving, my heart was racing. I felt such a need to get home before he did or at least right behind him. In my mind he was completely fucked up, and as soon as he got home, he would leave again. I would be alone. I felt like I needed to rush home and stop him. Or something. And I was rushing. Heart racing and speeding down the road. In that moment, something shifted in me for the first time ever. I was triggered and I knew it. I knew exactly what the trigger was. I could feel the familiar feelings in my body. Fear. Sadness. And the one that really struck me was grief. I felt grief. I noticed all of these things and I slowed the car down. I stopped rushing and I took some slow breaths. These feelings had nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with my Ex husband. The father of my two oldest children. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pissed at my husband, but the reality is that he had two shots at the clubhouse in celebration of a hole in one that happened on the course. (Not by him) He wasn’t going anywhere. Yes, I would have preferred if he had passed those up and went to pick up the boys, but I was also happy that he didn’t drive after those two shots. Maybe there were beers involved too, I can’t remember. He wasn’t hammered. He just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to drive our boys. I was pissed because I had no plans and would have liked it to stay that way, but on this particular evening, I ended up doing the driving. Back to being triggered……because looking at it now, I am certain that I have been triggered in this way so many times without being able to identify it for what it was. I was reacting to the two years I lived with a man in relapse. The two years that I tried to hold my little family together. I was married to a wonderful man with a horrible addiction. We were both clean and sober when we met. We married and had two beautiful babies. Then he relapsed. I actually think he relapsed when I was pregnant with our second child. For the longest time, I was in denial about it. I thought he was sick. He let me believe that. He saw Dr’s and Neurologists to try to figure out what was wrong with him. I had a sick husband, a toddler and a new baby to care for. It was A LOT. He had been diagnosed as having “absence seizures.” The reality is that he was taking massive amounts of pills and nobody had any idea. One evening I had the children packed up in the car waiting on him to come home from work. We had an appointment with a photographer to have family portraits made. He was supposed to come home at 4:00, jump in the car and then we would leave. But he didn’t come home. We waited and waited until the babies got tired of being in the car. He wasn’t answering his phone and I was worried and I was getting pissed. I took the kids inside and my phone rang. It was one of the local hospitals. Apparently my husband had a seizure and was in the hospital. Then, the rest of the story followed. After work he had gone to the UPS store to pick up a package that had been delivered to him there. It was a package from an internet pharmacy. The package contained a bottle of Soma muscle relaxers and a bottle of Loritab pain killers. He opened the package in the UPS store and took a handful of the Somas and fell out in the floor. The UPS store called 911 and he was transported to the hospital. My life changed in that moment. My husband wasn’t sick. He was a drug addict. I mean, he WAS sick because of his addiction, but there was no medical reason beyond the pills he was taking for the seizures. The Dr asked if I knew about the internet pharmacy, which of course, I did not. There were a lot of things I had no idea about. I didn’t tell anyone in my family or his family. I had no friends to speak of outside of the Mom’s that I sometimes did kid’s things with. I didn’t want anyone to know that my world was falling apart. I sent him to the treatment center where he and I had both gotten clean. Over the next two years, I sent him there several times. He never stopped using. His using escalated. Cocaine. Heroin. All of it. After spending the majority of my life addicted, I was clean and had no desire to use drugs. All I wanted was for my husband to choose us over drugs. All I wanted was to have my happy family and live the dream that we were building before he relapsed. But it was not to be. After two years of fighting for him I had to let him go. I had to save myself and my children from the horror of drug addiction. I filed for divorce while he was off on a spree. He never showed up in the span of time that it took me to file, take the parenting class that is mandatory in the state of TN for parents filing for custody, and go to court two times. On the day our divorce was granted, he called me. Not because he had any idea that we were now divorced. He called because he had used up every last resource he had available to him and was ready to go back to treatment. I picked him up at a local gas station, gave him $10 and put him on a plane to California. Then I went home and cried for days. I put the children to bed and drank myself to sleep at night. My heart had been broken a thousand different times in those years. My heart hurt for my children. My heart hurt for me. My heart hurts right now as I write this. My children saw their father one more time. The spring before we moved to NC he came from California where he was now working at the treatment center. And he was high when he arrived. He nodded out the entire weekend. It was incredibly hard to watch and of course I was pissed at him and at the treatment center. I put him on the plane back to California when the weekend was over and called the center to let him know that he was still using. We moved to NC soon after that weekend and continued to keep in contact with him. We all loved him so. My current husband knew him before I did. A story for another time. But, when I say that he was a wonderful human, it’s because he really was. He was my best friend. He was brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious. Addiction sucks. In late September of 2009, I received a phone call from my ex mother in law. She told me that he had been found dead in the bathroom of the halfway house he was living in. I had to tell my children that they would never see their dad again. They were too young to understand words like overdose and they didn’t need to know that at the time. I held my children and cried with them. Drug addiction sucks. I hope that he can see how wonderful his children are. They are all the beautiful things that I loved about him. I see him in them every day. Last week, when I felt the trigger of being left alone, it was a powerful and healing moment for me. It gave me an opportunity to sit with the sadness. The sadness that most likely will always be with me on some level. It gave me an opportunity to talk to my husband about the sadness I was feeling. And he listened. We had the most beautiful conversation and he was there for me. As open as I can be when I sit behind a laptop writing, face to face is still quite a challenge for me. But I’ll get there.
I am currently in a hotel in Knoxville with my 10 year old. He and I are traveling to Kentucky to see my parents. I thought he would chill and I would write. I was wrong. He hasn’t chilled yet. Hotels are way too exciting for children. Even a Hampton Inn in Knoxville, TN. Jackson is spinning circles in the chair and asking me thousands of questions. His most recent question was “are you mad at me?” I told him “Of course I’m not mad at you” and I asked why he thought that. His reply was that I seem annoyed. I had to remind him that it’s after 9 o’clock and Mommy hates everyone after 8:30. He knows this. And then, because I am a good human, I assured him I am not annoyed with him and I love him all the world full. I’m just a bit tired and grumpy. It’s been sweet traveling with Jackson. He mostly watches videos with his headphones on. But, we also got some good one on one talk time in. Jackson was in 5th grade this past year. His last year in elementary school. In 5th grade the children participate in the DARE program. He learned all about addiction/drugs/alcohol/peer pressure and such. He knows I don’t drink but he’s never asked why. Until today. My older two children know the story. They lived the story. They remember the story. Jackson was a little guy. I asked him if he remembered when I was sick and he came to see me in that hospital where he got to play foosball. He does remember. He told me he remembers coming to see me a few times in the hospital. The hospital was a treatment center, and it seems he remembers a bit more of my stay than I realized. Once that topic came up he asked what that was all about. He wanted to know why I was in that hospital. I have had ALL the conversations about these things with his brother and sister, but Jackson, being the baby, and not really remembering that life, well, it just hasn’t come up. Until today. He could care less whether I drink or not. When I explained to him that alcohol makes me sick, he compared it to an allergy to red dye number 40, or yellow dye 5. He’s not really wrong. Other than the fact that as well as making me sick, alcohol makes me crazy and depressed. I guess he’s never cared or even considered why I go to “those meetings.” Which cracks me up because I have always said it’s Jackson’s world and the rest of us are lucky to be living in it. It’s just something I do that he’s never questioned. We talked about those meetings and he decided I go for no reason and I don’t even need to go because obviously I am cured. Then he threw in the word hippie and eluded to the fact that AA is for hippies. I love this child. AA in my community certainly isn’t full of hippies. Or, maybe they were at one time, but they grew out of it. Jackson is a joyful child. A young 10 year old. He’s been able to stay little a bit longer than his siblings did. Innocent. He has no idea that I rolled straight out of jail and went to his kindergarten orientation with him 5 years ago. Never have I ever felt more shame or guilt than I did that day. I had gotten a DUI the day before and had to sit in jail for 24 hours. Actually, my husband had the option to bail me out, but chose not to. He was over it and he knew if I was in jail for the night, I was safe for the night. I got sober three months later. I remember going to his class and talking to his teacher about my sobriety. I wanted her to know why I had been absent for the past few months. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated all the love and support she gave Jackson and how grateful I was for her. When I explained to her that I had been struggling with addiction and had been away in a treatment center she looked at me like I had two heads. I was sure I couldn’t have been the first person she had ever met with a drug/alcohol problem. She assured me I was the first. I was mortified and I wanted to die. But I didn’t. I stood there. I was getting sober. I was being honest. I was standing in my truth. Uncomfortable and awkward, but I stood there. For whatever reason, I felt like she needed to know. I felt like that was a conversation I needed to have with her. It was the first time I had announced with any seriousness that I was getting sober. For the first time ever, I was able to hold my head high in that school. Simply because I was sober. I didn’t feel judged by her. It was just very matter of fact, “I have never met an addict or alcoholic before.” I think I expected her to share her own personal story of the people in her life who are either addicted or in recovery. Maybe I expected a bit of praise for my hard work. Not that I deserved an award for doing what I needed to do, because I certainly did not. That experience was a big moment for me in early recovery. Being honest about who I am is OK. Being open and honest made it easier for me to be a good mother. I no longer felt like I had to pretend to be perfect, because now it was known that I wasn’t. But I was there. I was trying. Not being perfect meant I could be me. Being an alcoholic mother is hard. I had a lot of shame about the way I drank. I had always felt less than when I was with the other Moms at school because it seemed like they had it all together. They all seemed so perfect. Then there was me. Just hoping they didn’t smell alcohol on me. That was a special kind of Hell. (There are many kinds) Now, after being sober for 5 years and spending time with emotionally healthy people, I understand that nobody has their shit together. At least not all the time. We all do the best we can and everyone has their own problems to deal with. In whatever form that comes in. As long as we keep showing up, we are winning at life, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Today I am showing up for my children by being a living example of what recovery looks like. They have seen addiction. It’s not the life I had planned for us, but we made it and became so much stronger and closer through the process. My children know that they can talk to me about the difficult things. They know they don’t have to be perfect, because this life is messy and chaotic and beautiful. We just have to keep showing up.
I have ALWAYS been out loud about my recovery. I was out loud in my drinking, so I found it necessary for my own recovery to not be anonymous in sobriety. When I was drinking, I was sure social media was all about taking photos of everything I drank and every drunk thing I did. Including posting photos from the back seat of police cars and hospital rooms. Being social media sober seemed like the natural follow up to that. It’s a tool I have used since day one to help keep myself accountable. Getting sober was HARD. Staying sober is easy. I have so many resources and tools available to me. Really, it’s just not difficult today. Because I have tools and resources. I live in an alcohol free home with a very supportive husband. We used to drink together. A Lot. When I made my first few attempts at getting sober (there were many), my husband thought it would be fine to still have a 5 pm Scotch or two or maybe three. It was not fine and I ended up right there with him and I kept right on going long after he stopped. I could never have one or two or even three. It never even occurred to me that I was supposed to drink with any other intention than to get completely hammered. Because that’s where the fun was. Or so I thought. I’m sure it started that way. It certainly didn’t end that way. After a few failed attempts at getting sober which included trips to hospitals, Psych wards, detoxes and rehabs, my husband came to understand that if I was going to get sober in our home, there could be no alcohol around. Even when I didn’t want to drink, I always managed to. I didn’t like Scotch so that “shouldn’t” have been a problem. But as soon as something didn’t go my way and I was upset that Scotch of his was good enough to do what I needed it to do. Numb my overwhelming emotions. I was convinced he was an alcoholic and that it really wasn’t fair that I was the one getting sober. Truth be told, he was a little concerned about this too. We were in the habit of drinking together. As it turns out, he was able to leave it. He didn’t have a drink anywhere near me my entire first year sober. He rarely drinks today, and when he does, he doesn’t get wasted and it’s just not an issue. He’s one of “those” normal drinkers. Normal drinkers are cool, I’m just not one of them. When I got sober, I had to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media. I saw them partying and having fun and not inviting me. I felt left out. I also appreciated the fact that I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have to say no, but still…I felt left out. Lonely. A constant theme in my life. I remember calling a friend one evening and as she answered the phone, I could hear her scrambling and banging and making all sorts of racket. She was in the middle of a party and tried to get into her bedroom where it was quiet so I wouldn’t hear what was going on. Sweet and hilarious, because believe me, I could hear exactly what was going on. The more sober I got, and the more practice I had with handling my emotions, the less those things bothered me. It still hurt my feelings that most of those friends fell away and didn’t invite me to do things, but I am sure I made them uncomfortable. The majority of them don’t socialize without alcohol (and lots of it). No judgement, it’s just not where I am today. And since I’m not invited, it’s not an issue. Drinking people are not a problem for me. Drunk people are. It’s not a fun space to be in. In all fairness , when I was drinking I didn’t want to be around people who weren’t drinking either. So I got used to missing out. Eventually that “fear of missing out” turned into the “joy of missing out.” I slowly got comfortable in my skin and began to enjoy my time alone. My family got me back and I like to think they enjoy having me, fully present for them. I know I sure enjoy spending time with them. Since I had no friends that wanted to do the “weird” things I wanted to do, I had to learn to do things alone. Most of the “weird” things I wanted to do were in groups, so I wasn’t even alone, I was just on my own. In a group. This is how my world slowly started to expand. I began meeting people who liked the weird things I liked. Weird = Spritual. So, not really weird, just different than what I had been doing my entire life. And it was ALL new to me. Today I have friends everywhere. Sober friends. Goddess friends. Yogi friends. Meditation friends. Old friends. New friends. Internet friends that I haven’t met yet. Family friends. And I am a friend to myself above all. That’s a big one. I have a huge outer circle and a small inner circle. I have people I can count on. Sober me is super lovable. Drunk me, not so much. I have extra appreciation for those who loved me through that and stayed. The girl who doesn’t get invited to parties went to four parties in the last two weeks. One of them was mine, but still. 🙂 One of them was a party for a dear friend who I love all the world full. My invitation went like this, “Would it be weird to invite you to my margarita bar party?” I think that was the first invitation I have received in 5 sober years. Seriously. Or maybe I am making that up and it’s just the first party I actually went to. I’ve been to Christmas parties. But that’s family, so I don’t think it counts. I am sure my husband has been invited and by default I was invited, but really feel like this was a sobriety first for me. I went to her party that was FULL of people I love, had a bunch of fun and laughed and then laughed some more that I still managed to shut the party down. At 8:30 pm. Because that’s the kind of friends I have. And I LOVE it. Last night I went to my first ever sober party. As in a party by a sober person, for sober people. I didn’t have to worry about taking my own drink. Everyone ate food because that’s what sober people do at a party. I heard hilarious stories that only sober people would think are funny. Sometimes, when I’m around people who aren’t in recovery, I forget they haven’t lived that life. Until the moment I notice sheer horror on their faces. Then I wrangle it back in and explain that THAT is the exact reason why recovery is so important to me. I am reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray and I really can’t recommend it enough. Especially to newly sober people. It takes me back to the early days of sobriety and just how bad everything sucked. Until it didn’t. In recovery circles “the pink cloud” is often talked about. It’s a magical place where some of us find ourselves as the haze of alcohol starts to wear off and we start to find joy in the simplest of things. At 5 years sober, I am happy to report, that I am still riding that pink cloud. I’ve learned to look for joy in the small things. I’ve learned to do things that feed my soul and feel good to my heart. I’ve learned to stay away from things that suck. ALL of being sober is an unexpected joy because I knew when I got sober that fun was no longer a part of my life. My life was over. I could not have been more wrong. We all know the quote “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” That describes my experience with getting sober perfectly. Best. Decision. Ever.
Tattoos 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*
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. ♥️
I keep sitting down to write and then deciding that I don’t want to share my feelings with the world. I have been in protection mode lately. Protecting my heart. I am ready today. These past couple of weeks have been so full of growth for me. I spent a weekend at a women’s retreat. I had been looking forward to this retreat for months. I was the first person to register when tickets went on sale. I was so excited about the whole experience. It began on Friday evening with a cacao ceremony and Qoya. How could that not be fabulous? And it was. One of my favorite friends was there with me for the weekend and she experienced these two things for the first time. I loved being there to share that with her. A Qoya class has 13 pillars. One of them is dancing with your shadow aspect. Embracing rather than repressing our humanness. I found myself triggered in this piece and had a difficult time integrating my light back in. We left the studio at 9:15 that night and went to the Airbnb we rented for the weekend. I was up until almost 11. One would think that’s no big deal, but one would be wrong. I woke up Saturday morning already tired before we started our day with a 7:30 am yoga class. I don’t function well when I’m tired. I’m like a 5 year when it comes to sleep (and food). I was irritated and I began to close off and shut down. My intention for the weekend had been to remain open and be a part of. I was so looking forward to being a part of rather than leading. I was there, I was in it, but I was resisting every thing about the weekend. Partly because I wasn’t in control. Maybe fully because I wasn’t in control. I found myself being judgemental toward myself and toward the whole experience. The things I normally love, I had an aversion to. So. Fucking. Weird. But at the same time, the experience was beautiful and just what I needed. How much sense does that make? The entire weekend I was acutely aware of my shadow aspect. The fear, the judgement, the insecurity, the anger the need to control and my lack of trust. All of it showed up and stayed with me. I showed up and stayed with all of it. I lived and I learned and I met a bunch of amazing women. I processed the experience for a week. It’s a sacred act to sit in circle with women you don’t know and be open and real and vulnerable. I see women do this in my circles all the time and they are my heroes. I thought I was ready and I would be WIDE open, but that’s not how my weekend went. I was disappointed in myself. It’s still difficult for me allow myself to be seen and heard. I was in my comfort zone of a circle of women, but out of my comfort zone by not being in charge. It’s a control and trust thing that I obviously need to work on. And I will. Possibly forever. That was two weeks ago. This week the growth is still coming. I went to therapy (for the last time?) on Wednesday. My therapist let me know that if I was going to keep coming into her office, she needed to feel as though she was being of service to me. And she no longer does. What this means is that I am making good choices, I’m processing my own shit, I have no super secret life on the side and I am SO FUCKING GROWN. I got kicked out of the nest. It happened so fast. I think we both knew it was time, but she is better at assertive and saying what needs to be said than I am. So she said it. And I rolled with it because I trust her. But, I was super sad when I left her office and scared that now something horrible is going to pop up that I can’t handle and there I’ll be, alone in the world. We ALL know this isn’t true, and I’m not alone, but it’s how I felt. Now that I have had a few days to sit with that, I’m OK. I’m learning more about my need to cling and how it doesn’t serve me. More space has been created in my life and the good things will flow in and fill that gap. I do not doubt that at all. Now I wait. Patiently. Without clinging. Remember that time I choose the word ALLOW for my “One Word?” I’m putting that into practice on so many levels.
We are well into Janauary and this is my first blog. I think I’m hiding from the world. In my bathtub. I have been avoiding the process of sitting down to write out of fear of sounding like a whiny baby. But whatever. I have been in a weird space since 2019 started. I know I won’t stay stuck in it, but I have also learned to honor my now and allow myself to be where I am. I’ll tell you where I am. Lonely. I am in a perpetual state of loneliness. Not sad. Not depressed. Just lonely. I’m surrounded by a tribe of amazing people in all of my communities from home and outward into the real world as well as the virtual world. It would seem lonely isn’t something I “should” ever feel. See those quotations around “should?” That’s because I do know should is a bullshit word and my feelings are valid. So there’s that. It seems the more connected I am, the more alone I feel. My brain knows that I am NOT alone. My heart is learning that not all of my relationships are real. I am a sensitive soul and lately my feelings are getting hurt left and right. I’m not exactly sure what that’s about, but I suspect it has a lot to do with actually paying attention to my feelings. That’s therapy working. As of late it’s becoming clear to me that some people want to be around me because they think I can do something for them. Add to their status or popularity. And it hurts my feelings. That seems childish as I read it, but I’m also someone who is learning to tune in and pay attention to my inner child. Again, valid. It’s not such a big deal when it comes from someone I don’t know that well, but when it comes from someone I love, it sucks. What hurts worse is when someone who IS my friend and I know loves me blindsides me with a passive aggressive comment about my happy life. I imagine that happens to everyone? Jealousy? Envy? Those words are hard to say and sound harsh, but I can’t find any other words that seem right. Yesterday I saw my favorite Woo Woo Witch Healer and she informed me that it hurts because it’s opening an old wound that hasn’t fully healed. The wound of being used? Or jealous people? I’ll have to dive into my journal on that one, but I have no doubt she’s right. I learned from trauma informed yoga training that “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” If something is triggering us today, it is coming from our past. It seems I will never run out of “work” to do on myself. Soul Detective work. I have put a lot of energy into building a loving and supportive community for myself. In the early days I called this Team Shannon. I still have my team. I have come full circle in that area and now I get to be on other people’s teams. Cheering them on and supporting them. I find that to be meaningful “work.” I love to see others succeed. Seems everyone doesn’t feel that same way. Lately the word “discernment” has been appearing in my life on repeat. This is the lesson I am getting hit with hard this January. Learning how to discern my circle. I have never been that person who needs everyone to like me. In fact, I have been the opposite. Quite content to push people away. That’s the exact reason I don’t have many friends from my childhood or even my life pre-sobriety. I never learned how to build healthy relationships. Sobriety has given me that gift. Sobriety and a spiritual path. I don’t need everyone’s love and friendship. I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me. I’m just trying to figure out who gets to sit at my table. I also know that when I am feeling lonely, it’s the time I most need to be alone. The Divine is present within me and I am NEVER alone. And there it is. There’s my aha moment right there. THAT is the connection I am seeking. Funny how putting my thoughts down in a blog can bring me clarity that a journal can’t always bring me to. Beautiful. And now I’ll just be over here, practicing discernment, connecting with a power greater than myself and finding my way.
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. 💥