Belonging to Myself

Last week I celebrated 6 years sober.  I considered updating my birthday on FB to my sobriety date so people would post happy birthday on my wall, but that seemed like an asshole move……so I didn’t.  Also, I didn’t think of it in time.  When I say I “celebrated” 6 years of sobriety, what I really mean is that I had a beautiful sober day just like any other.  There was no big party. I posted a sober selfie on social media.  I went to an 8 am AA meeting.  I don’t even remember what I did after that.  It was a non event. I hope I took a nap.  I know I went to the middle school that afternoon to pick up my youngest son and then we went to the high school to take pictures of the band for my oldest son.  THAT was the celebration.  Spending time with my children. And loving every minute. 6 years ago I might have been able to do those things, but it would have been an awful experience.  I would have been worried that I smelled like alcohol.  It would have been an event to “get through” so I could get back home and have a drink.  And I would be ashamed of these things.  That’s how life was 6 years ago. And it sucked.  But I’m not here to dredge all of that up today. Sober life is way more pleasant.  All of my sober years seem to have a theme. You can read a little recap of those themes/years here if you’re feeling it.  When I think back on my last year (year 5) to try to come up with a “theme” it could easily be the year of the bathtub altars. I did a lot of that this year.  But it’s got to be deeper than that, right? Year 5 was the year of community. I’ve known for a while that building community is one of my super powers.  Which is interesting, because I spent a lifetime feeling apart from.  Like I didn’t quite belong anywhere, even though on the surface I could fit in anywhere.  Now I see how this “weakness” is my strength.  It’s fueled my desire to build a strong community where I feel loved and supported.  That community has expanded in such a way that I can see it impacting others. I see others finding the same love and support that I was seeking.  I see meaningful relationships being made.  I see connection.  And it’s beautiful.  We all want to be seen. We all want to feel like someone gets us.   I spent a lifetime trying to fit in to places I didn’t belong.  I was missing the piece where I had to learn how to truly belong to myself first.  It’s ironic that I started using drugs and drinking to fit in and be a part of all those years ago.  To belong.  Only through the process of stripping that all away and peeling those layers to find me, could I truly find a place where I belong. I belong to myself.  I put so much of me out there for the world to see.  This is my process.  It’s not for everyone, but it definitely is for me.  It empowers me to show my real self to the world. All of it. Not just the pretty parts. This is how I belong to myself.  It’s letting go of what other’s will think.  Because it doesn’t matter.  By belonging to myself, I am owning my power.  By belonging to myself, I am living confidently (most of the time) in the skin I am in.  Without numbing out to make myself more comfortable.  Without dumbing down to make others more comfortable.  By belonging to myself I naturally attract others who are walking that same path.  Those who aren’t automatically fall away.  “To thine own self be true.”  Back in my early sobriety I used the term #teamshannon a lot. #teamshannon referred to my family and the 5 friends I had. The team has grown exponentially in 6 years. It has grown because it’s no longer all about me. I have learned how to hold space for others to be seen and heard. I have created a space that allows others to shine. I have created a space that allows others to find their way home to themselves. A community where we all belong. And what an amazing community it is! ♥️

I Hope We All Make It.

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. ♥️

Shhhhhh. Don’t tell Leon.

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