Smooth Sailing. Until it’s not.

And then it happened!  I made a Covid 19 memory bigger than toilet paper!  And there was dancing!  And my heart was full!   Yesterday I hosted a social distanced parking lot dance party.  Most of you saw the pics on my FB page.  I am sure there are people who didn’t approve, and that’s ok.  I wasn’t looking for approval.  I was looking for connection.  Friday was a hard day.  Some days are.  I’ve had plenty of down days lately.  I know we all have. Friday was my worst.  I woke up that morning and went downstairs to my fortress of solitude.  I sat on my cushion to meditate, but instead I cried.   I cried a lot.  A thing to know about me is that I am not a crier.  But I couldn’t help it and I couldn’t stop it.  I’m sure it was necessary and I get that crying is good.  I love when my students cry in yoga, and I love when the women in my circles cry.  I’m just not the one to do it.    I was THIS close to jumping on the blog and writing through it, but that seemed like a stupid option.  So instead, I stayed stuck in it.  And I cried.  I haven’t cried like that since September 9th 2018.  I can’t remember why I cried, but I remember that it started at home and continued during the yoga class I went to that morning.  I was hosting a teacher from Florida in the studio and I was in her class, bawling my eyes out the entire time.  Pretty impressive that I have a timeline, right?

This is where I stop to tell on myself.   Because I live my life on social media and share so much from my heart, I was guessing there must be something posted that day to give me a clue as to what that was all about. I had to make the connection back to the date that teacher was here.  A quick search pointed out the date and down the rabbit hole of my activities log for September 2018 and BOOM.  Here it is.  Of course I was crying.  Also,  I was probably due for another good cry on Friday.  2018 was a LONG time ago.  I should cry more.  You know, if I was down to play that “should” game.  I did have a big crying episode on January 1st during sunrise meditation on the beach.  I bawled my eyes out and even pointed it out to my friend who also doesn’t cry.  I was proud of it and wanted to share it with her.  But, that was all gratitude and full heart stuff.  Quite different.  But sooooooo good.  For the record, I am down to cry gratitude tears any time.

The unhappy cry is the crying I have an aversion to.  Back to Friday where I cried for the first time in a L O N G time.  I think every emotion I have experienced over the past 6 weeks caught up to me.  It was a tough day.  After the tears came the anger.  I’m not exactly sure why I was angry, but I suspect it’s easier for me to be angry than it is for me to be sad or fearful or fully feel all the grief that we are collectively feeling.  And by I suspect, I mean that’s definitely it.  This afternoon I talked with a friend on the phone who spun her woo woo therapist magic on that situation.  She pointed out that my inner “kid” likes to get angry and rebel against…….well, she rebels against all kinds of things, but she definitely doesn’t like to cry.   So she gets angry. I knew that being angry around my family for no “real” reason wasn’t going to be helpful, so I stayed in my fortress of solitude.  My husband came down to check on me.  He NEVER comes into my fortress.  Ever.  He asked if I wanted to walk to the beach with him.  We live 15 streets away from the beach and while it’s totally doable, I didn’t want to do it.  I’m not much of a beach walker anyway.  I’m more of a sitter.  My husband isn’t a beach walker either nor is he the kind of guy that wants to walk 15 streets because it’s good for his health.  Bless him.  He wanted to fix me because all of my emotions made him uncomfortable.  He just wanted me to be ok. Because he loves me.   I eventually got past the anger and settled into a nice, comfortable funk.  I stayed there the rest of the day.  Ice cream and music in the bathtub that evening helped, but more than that, sleeping and waking up to a new day was the real trick.   Saturday was the first time I have seen real people outside of my home, not counting the grocery store, in six weeks.  I know I’m not alone in this and that we are ALL right there.  I know that for me and the women who either showed up to dance in their own (appropriately spaced out) circle, or just sit in their car and watch, it was so uplifting.  Dancing for me is ALL about connecting to that inner child.  That girl needed to let loose and have fun.  Saturday was the soulgasm I needed to carry me through another 14 day week. Who knew quarantine days were gonna be 48 hours long?  I’m really looking forward to the day that quarantine and Covid 19 doesn’t come up in my thoughts, in my blog and in every fucking conversation I have.  Today is not that day. Tomorrow is not going to be that day.  This is where we are.  Doing the best we can. Adapting and overcoming.   I had an amazing 10 am writing group Zoom meeting with fabulous women today.  I’m happy to be writing again. For now. Even if it’s just a bunch of rambling.  It feels good for me to connect in this way.  Last week quite a few new readers found my blog.   The toilet paper blog.  People who have never read my blog somehow stumbled onto that one.  I need you to read that again, slowly,  in my southern accent.  People who have never read my blog somehow stumbled onto that one.   What the hell?   I was almost embarrassed.  Almost, but not quite.  I was dealing with too many other emotions to be bothered with embarrassment.  This week is gonna be smooth sailing.  I can feel it.  Until it’s not.  LOL

Connected to Myself

What a difference a week makes.  The dreams about using meth went away after I wrote about them.  I love when that happens. They have been replaced with really weird dreams that probably should make me uncomfortable, but I can roll with most things.  I won’t write about them here because you would probably judge me, but at least they are changing up the scenery a bit.  And they give me something new to say “what the actual fuck” about.  I’ll take anything new and exciting at this point.  I hate to fill you in all things quarantine, but that’s the life we’re all living. I miss the beach.  I miss seeing the sunrise.  Technically the only thing stopping me from seeing the sunrise is my new tendency to sleep in.  I should be really well rested when we get to the other side of this.  I spent the entire winter hibernating.  In my bed. In my bath. In my home. I worked, but I didn’t create new content, workshops or anything outside of my standard schedule.  I felt good about it to.  I said no to so many event invites.  I rested and nourished my soul with zero guilt.  Then one day, I was ready to reemerge into the world.  I was ready to plan, create and live outside of my home. But the world said sit the fuck back down.  And here we are. Sitting.  I have a LOT of practice sitting.  I have a lot of practice with being uncomfortable.  I’m still not good at it, but I know how to do it. My heart goes out to those of you who don’t.  But what a perfect time to learn.   My week was much better because I felt useful.  I found that “purpose” outside of my house and outside of myself that I was looking for. I created my first online writing course. It was so special to connect with a group in that way.  To read their thoughts and feelings every day.  To share tools that are so helpful to me.  To see into their hearts and souls through their words.  I see more of this in my future.  Last night as I was lying in bed, the last thought (and maybe only thought) that went through my head was turning that embodied writing course into a real live studio class.  The thought excited me.   It’s been a minute since I have been really excited about anything other than eating.  Yesterday, a question came up on social media that caught my attention.  The question was “Did you pick one word to focus on this year and how do you feel about that word now?”  My one word is expansion.  It made me laugh.  Then it made me think.  It would certainly seem that this year has been the exact opposite of expansion. I’ve barely left my house.   I haven’t expanded the studio to incorporate online classes.  My circle has gotten even smaller as I have found that there are actually only a few people I wish to connect with regularly.  But, here’s the beautiful thing.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who is important to me.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who I am important to. I actually feel closer to a few people in my life because of this distance.  I suspect I am expanding in ways that I am not aware of yet, but will be so obvious to me by the end of the year.  That’s an exciting thought.  I feel closer to myself today. When I am in a funk, feeling depressed, feeling lonely, feeling all the unpleasant things, I am in need of connection.  To myself.  To my soul.  To God, Spirit, Source, whatever you want to call it.  I know this.  I know this.  I know this.  And I always forget it.   I got away from my meditation practice. I got away from my writing practice. Let me just throw it out there that I did not get away from my yoga practice, you know, in case my teacher reads this. Without taking time to be still every day, my soul doesn’t have an opportunity to tell me what it needs.  Well, technically it does, but I can’t hear unless I am still.  Everything is  a practice right?  I know you’ve heard me say that a bazillion times.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love” runs through my mind a lot these days when I’m doing literally none of the practices that sustain me.  But it’s not discipline is it?   It’s devotion.  Devotion to my higher self.  Back to my cushion.  Back to my journal.  Back to nature.  So simple.  The funny part is that these are all things I taught in the writing course I created.  I always teach the lessons I need.  And then I’m surprised later when I realize that it was all about me.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  I’ll be eager to see which direction the roller coaster moves me this week.  A nice, flat kiddie coaster would be cool, but I’ll roll with whatever comes.

We don’t have to like it.

This morning the family and I sheltered in the bathroom in preparation for a possible tornado.  For 10 minutes.  THAT was the most exciting thing that’s happened here in 4 weeks.  And now it’s passed and we are fine.  Back to trying to figure out how to fill our time.  I miss teaching yoga.  Not enough to teach online, but I do miss my people.  I miss having purpose outside of this house.  I am over it, over it, over it.  But I’m doing it.  We all are.  I no longer feel like I “should be” doing anything other than living my life in any way that suits me.  I am a bit less scattered these days.  I have this cycle that I am incredibly aware of.  Every other day is a “good” day.  On a good day, I wake up and do all of the things that keep me connected, grounded and centered.  Meditation.  Writing.  Yoga.  Dance.  And then, the very next day I do none of the things that I know will make me feel better.  And I spend my day in my head and feeling like shit.  It’s almost as if the good days take all of my energy and I need a day to do nothing and recover. Then I wake up determined to not feel like shit and I do ALL the things that I know work for me.  I use my tools.   Every.  Other. Day. That’s my current cycle.   I am one of the most mentally and emotionally healthy people I know.  This still surprises me and probably always will, by the way, but it’s true.  And I wonder, if I feel like this, how is everyone else REALLY doing?  Because this shit is hard.  Social media keeps us connected, but I’m over it.  Zoom is great, and I could spend all of my time doing ALL of the Zoom things, but I don’t want to live there.  In a virtual world.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s going to be our new normal and if the world is going to pass me by because I won’t get on board.  Two or three online commitments is my limit per week.  If I go beyond that, it’s only because the “I should” has crept into my mind.  Which is weird, because we all know I’m way cooler on the internet. And the dreams…..nightmares really.  Something about this situation has triggered me into the days of my methamphetamine addiction.    I am having using dreams.  I haven’t used meth since I was 23 years old.    And chances are, if you are someone I love, you are there with me.  And it sucks.  My heart breaks every night in my sleep.  My guess is that the feelings and emotions this is bringing up is triggering a place in my body or mind that FEELS the same.  Feelings of being stuck.  That this will never end.  That there’s no way out.  When I am awake, my mind knows none of these things are true.  I am safe.  Not stuck.  This really will pass.  Right now, it’s just really intense and the dreams suck.   And the weather sucks and HERE I am being the exact negative Nelly that I bitch about.  Oh the irony.  There is nothing to take the edge off.  I don’t get to pop a pill, because I would pop 10.  I don’t get to have a drink because I wouldn’t stop.  No bong hits or whatever the weed smokers do these days.  And I don’t want to.  “Don’t get to” just means I choose not to.  I learned a long time ago that nobody can stop me.   I enjoy being fully present and alive.  It’s just hard sometimes. That’s why I take so many baths.  Baths are my go to for taking the edge off.  And naps.  I can usually sleep it off and what a blessing that is.  It’s my super power.   Yesterday was a good day, and if I get off my ass today really doesn’t have to suck.  But I probably won’t. I did that yesterday.  Today I get to wallow in my shit.   The cycle makes me laugh because I KNOW how to remedy it.  And really, maybe I am being a bit dramatic because even my bad days aren’t that bad.  Maybe that’s what my dreams are here to remind me.  My favorite quote ever is by Jon-Kabat Zinn.  It’s the quote that has carried me through so much darkness.  I share it constantly and today seems like a good time to share it again.  “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong.”  Today there is nothing “wrong.”  This is just life.  For all of us.  We don’t have to like it.  We just have to live it.

What an uncomfortable time to be alive.

What an uncomfortable time to be alive.  When I open social media, which is way too often these days, I see two types of people.  The excessively grateful and the excessively pissy.  The pissy ones are the ones arguing with everyone and posting nothing but doom and gloom.  Arguing with everyone. I tend to fall on the excessively grateful side.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be all kinds of pissy and I am at some point every day lately, I just don’t spread that out into the world.  I keep it to myself, take it out on my yoga mat, put it in my journal and my husband gets more than his fair share of it.  Sorry Leon.  The world is stuck right now.  What I see is that those of us who have a practice are getting through a little easier than those who don’t.  When we actually practice.  Which is proving to be a challenge for me.  That’s why it’s called a practice, right?  I’m completely off my schedule like the rest of the world I imagine. Staying up late and sleeping in.  I miss my morning quiet time, before the world wakes up.  Some days I set my alarm, but most days I don’t.  Getting up early is one of those things I “should” be doing.  My mind swims in the things I “should” be doing.  I “should” be reading all those books on my shelf, and I am trying, but I’m just not into it.  I have two books that I am currently working my way through, both by authors I know and love. And I hate both books. I’m sure it’s just me and the weird mood and lack of focus I’m experiencing. Maybe I just need some good fiction in my life.  I “should” get my ass off social media because it’s a waste of time and since the studio is closed, I don’t have to promote my business.  But, my friends live there and it keeps me connected.  I unfollow and unfriend people constantly.  The negative Nelly’s.  Limiting screen time is on my list of things to do.  It’s seriously right at the top of my intentions.  I “should” be streaming online classes. I paid for a Zoom account and everything.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t want to.  And I have some guilt about it.  I feel bad about leaving my people high and dry, but the reality is that while yoga is absolutely essential, I am not.  Anyone can lead people through an asana practice.  Every teacher I know is streaming on Zoom.  It might be the Rebel in me that is refusing, but my heart just isn’t in it. I could change my mind next week.  Or even tomorrow.  That’s what I’m noticing more than anything is the way my mind and emotions are all over the place.  I know that’s not unique to me and we are all experiencing that.  I’m just trying to be gentle with myself and the rest of you.  All of this is showing me that I am judgmental AF.  That’s my lesson this week, this month, this year and maybe this lifetime.  I judge myself more than I am judging everyone else, but I catch myself doing that too and I have to stop and remind myself that we are all doing the best we can with what we have.  I just wish some of y’all could do better…….lol.    I “should” be writing.   I “should” be doing my taxes, but now I have that extension, and if you know me, you know I’m not. I “should” be connecting to my community and leading everyone in group meditation because the world needs that right now.  The list of things I should be doing goes on and on and here I am doing none of it.  That’s where I am.  Stuck.  And I know it’s ok.  I really do. I know I’m not alone in this.   Every day is a new opportunity to practice.  Practice moving forward through the stuck-ness. This feels a lot like early sobriety to me.  The being unsure of what I’m supposed to be doing.  The emotional rollercoaster.  The uncertainty.  The being uncomfortable.  All of it.  It’s not my favorite.  But unlike early sobriety, I have the tools to navigate this.  I can be uncomfortable.  I can be uncertain.  It’s about going back to basics. It’s about sitting with myself.  Just sitting.  Writing my way through it, which I will admit I haven’t done.  I opened my journal yesterday and saw that I hadn’t written in it since March 10th.  Which is craziness, but these are crazy times.  And I wrote.  No guilt over all the days that had gone by. I just poured my heart out onto the pages. Back to basics means that I might be taking two baths a day.  Snuggling my boys.  Netflix.  I don’t even watch TV, but here I am on the Tiger King train(wreck).  I even busted out the adult coloring book today.  That took me way back.  I’m getting by the best I can.  I believe we all are.  Whatever that looks like for each of us.  I’m letting go of “should” and doing what works. Giving myself permission to just be. My heart hurts for the world.  Some moments it overwhelms me.  I am one of those excessively grateful people.  I have to be.  Gratitude carries me through.  I can be mad, sad and all the things in between, as long as I bring it back to gratitude for all the things that are right in the world.  Gratitude is my anchor.  I see beauty on the other side of this.    I’ll keep looking for the beauty in every day. I have everything I need plus all the extras for my comfort. I have my family and community for support and love and I have all the free time I could ever ask for. When I feel overwhelmed, I bring it back to this. Again and again.

Solitude Is My Friend

solitude.JPG

 

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

Freedom

It recently occurred to me that I am the face of recovery for a lot of people.  I get a lot of messages and emails from people who want to know about treatment options, meetings, therapy and so on.  I respond to every one of them.  A few weeks ago a friend asked me to connect with someone who is struggling with alcoholism.  She specifically wanted this woman to read my blog. She could have sent it directly to her, but I think she thought it would mean more if I connected with her myself.  So I did.  I emailed her and slipped my blog into the email as a way of introducing myself.  She responded and opened right up to me about her own struggle with alcohol.  I had lunch with her this week.  That’s a thing I do. If a person is struggling and I can be of service in my own small way, I am all about it.  But, let me throw it out there that plenty of people reach out to me who have no desire to help themselves.  I am learning the difference and learning how to have boundaries around that.  Everything is a process, right?  Not that I haven’t been that person in the contemplation stage of recovery, where I knew it was a thing I needed, but wasn’t ready to commit to it.  I get it, but I don’t have time for it.   On Friday I met this woman for lunch.  I was sure it would be a bit awkward, but it wasn’t awkward at all.  She told me she had read my blog and she asked me if I was afraid someone would find it on the internet and read it.  WOW.  That kind of blew my mind and gave me a full understanding of where she is in her journey.  Hiding.  I told her I hope lots of people find it and read it and connect with it.  I told her I share so other people won’t feel so alone in their own struggle.  I assured her that everyone has their own shit.  Not everyone struggles with addictions, but everyone has their own shit that they are dealing with every day.  Some people just hide it better than others.  My heart hurt for this woman as I watched her hold back tears several times throughout the hour we spent together.  She used the word ‘Shame” and it took me right back to early recovery.  Shame is what kept me stuck for a long time.  I could feel her loneliness.  I could feel her grief.  I could feel her unworthiness.  All of these were so familiar to me.  I wanted so bad to give her the freedom I have.  The joy I have.  The self love and self worth I have.  But I couldn’t.  I could just hold the space for her.  I could listen to her.  I could tell her all the things I needed to hear when I was where she is.   I could answer her questions. I talked to her about treatment centers and outpatient facilities.  I talked to her about meetings. I talked to her about meditation. I talked to her about finding things to bring joy into her life.  I talked to her about the power of community.  And over and over I just kept reminding her that she is worth these things. I tried to make sure that she really understood that.   In addiction, those feelings of unworthiness are deadly.  I know because I’ve been there.  Fortunately, I had children that needed me to live.  That made it possible for me to keep going before I understood that I was worthy all on my own.  Figuring that out took work.  That’s not something I can give to someone.  I can give someone my time and attention.  I can give my heart.  I can tell them over and over that they are worthy with every positive affirmation in my being, but ultimately, they have to find it within themselves.  And oh how I hope this woman finds it.  I hope she finds her light and her strength.  I hope she finds community to connect with so she can understand that she is not alone in this world.  I hope she comes out of hiding and steps into a big world that is ready to help walk her through her process.  When she expressed her concern about people finding my blog and reading it, I explained to her that for me, putting it all out there has been incredibly healing.  No hiding.  The years I spent hiding were the loneliest years of my life.  Allowing myself to be seen in this world exactly as I am, not perfect, sometimes messy, awkward, insecure, and whatever else shows up on any given day has given me freedom.  That freedom is there for everyone.  It’s just a matter of stepping out of hiding and showing up in the world.  However that looks.  

Reflecting

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.

Tattoos and Freedom

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

*photo by Ed Speas*