I did my taxes last week. I thought you should all know that. I waited until July 15th on the off chance that they actually would magically get done. They did not. I am never doing my own taxes again. I am good at a lot of things. I enjoy a lot of things. Filing my taxes does not fall into either of those categories. Something else that isn’t magically getting done is that book I am writing. Or, not writing as it turns out. I tried using the share it to social media for accountability approach. That looks like me sitting down at my laptop by 6:30 every morning and posting a selfie to my story so the world knows that I am doing the thing I said I would do. But early morning selfies are tricky. I always forget that I just woke up until I see the pic. Then I have to take 72 more selfies until I get a decent one. Then I write. This is is what I have learned. I write like I do everything in my life. I am either all in or I am all out. There is no in-between. These past two weeks I have been all out. And it feels like I am done. Not just done, but mad about it. As in fuck this fucking book, it’s stupid and I don’t even want to write it. Which is how I know that I’ll keep doing it. I was doing great, sitting down at the same time every day, posting my selfies to my story, getting solid word counts. I felt like I was really doing something. But I don’t actually know what I am doing. I’m just writing. Which is probably fine because I never know what I am doing, and things always work out for me. Usually better than I could imagine. When I look at my life I see that things work out for me. But I also know I have to put the work in. None of it ever happens magically. One might think I would stop hoping for that, and yet, I never do. But I have this friend. I am 100% certain this woman showed up in my world to help me write this book. She’s a writer. And an editor. Among other things. And she believes in me way more than I believe in myself. Some days she talks me into believing in myself and it lasts for weeks. Then I slowly start to get in my own way. Doubt creeps in. I am writing about a past that is painful and dark. As I write from this place it’s hard to remember that I am not that person. It’s hard to be the confident and strong person I know I can be. The old story creeps up and brings those old feelings with it. The doubt struggle is real. It shows up as shame. It shows up as “not enough.” It shows up as “too much.” It shows up as “who am I to think I can write a book?” It shows up as “why would anyone care what I have to say?” The worst part is that I know in my heart that none of it is true. It’s my head that gets in the way. My story is powerful. My voice matters. But that dark past is a hard place to write from. When I write from that place, I am IN that place. It’s painful. It was suggested to me that I write about my right now. Because my right now is pretty damn fabulous. It’s full of love and joy and so many blessings that it sometimes brings tears to my eyes. It’s full of amazing people and beautiful experiences. It’s full of women who lift me and a family who loves me. It’s full of beaches and sunshine and dancing. But it’s still so new to me. I recorded a podcast a few weeks ago, and that’s probably right around the time I started losing steam for this writing project now that I think about it. The podcast was recorded with a woman who thinks I am 100% bad ass. I have only met her in person two times, but she’s followed my journey on social media and knows enough about me to know that she wanted me to share my story. I shared my journey to self love with her for this podcast. Because it really is a journey. We started in my childhood and moved forward. We had an hour for the podcast. When we were finished I was worried that she might not have gotten what she wanted. She got a small piece of the self love she was looking for. She got a LOT of darkness. But that’s the story. That’s where I am in my journey. I lived many, many years in that dark place. I have only been here, in the healthy place, a short time in comparison. It made me sad. I felt like she wouldn’t want to use my story because there’s too much self loathing and not enough self love. There’s no self love in judging myself harshly for my past. I know this. It’s easy to say. But it happens. It happens when I write about my past. And the doubt comes back. It’s a vicious cycle. But I have awareness and awareness is everything. I am going to keep writing. I am going to write with the expectation that it actually will be easy. But it won’t. And then I’ll get mad and I’ll quit. For a while. This is how I do everything worth doing. It’s not really for me unless I say “fuck it, I’m not doing it.” It’s my go to. And I mean it every time. A thing to know about me is that I am persistent. I know this about myself. It might take years, but I’ll do it. I already have the tattoo. I have to do it now. I fully expect the process to suck. But that’s just because I’m still mad about it.
When I started this blog years ago I had a hard time deciding what to call it. Sober Yogi represented who I was at the time. Since that time, I have grown in every possible way. When I started writing here I figured I would write about yoga and being sober, since those were the things I knew. I fully expected more of a how to format. Nothing like what I actually write about. I have used this space to document my entire healing journey which has been so much deeper and bigger than not drinking. Who knew? I’ve shared so much of that process right here with all of you and received so much support. What a beautiful healing space this is for me. I’ve played with the description of the blog, but have never changed the name. I’ve thought about it because I’m not so sure “Sober Yogi” represents what the blog actually is, and I am soooooo much more than a sober yogi. Those things are just pieces of who I am and being sober doesn’t really seem like it’s a big of deal anymore. It’s just my life. But today I was 100% THAT girl. I fully experienced myself as a sober yogi and it was so very special.
This morning I taught a yoga class on the beach. As I was teaching, I noticed a guy hanging back and observing us. No big deal, because yoga on the beach is cool. Who wouldn’t want to check that out? At the end of practice, I led everyone into Savasana. The final pose of practice. Corpse pose. Here’s a little truth about Savasana on the beach. Every time all of my students are lying on their backs, eyes closed, exactly like corpses, I feel a little (lot) like Jim Jones. It makes me laugh and feel weird to be the only one standing or even sitting around all the bodies laid out on the sand. So today, I walked down to the water while my students rested peacefully. And they were beautiful. As I was standing on the water’s edge, I sensed the man that had been observing us approaching me. In my mind I had an entire conversation about how happy I was that he was definitely not coming to talk to me because of social distancing. But he was. And he did. He kept his distance. Don’t freak out. He asked if I was Shannon. Then he introduced himself and asked if I remembered him. I didn’t. He shared with me how he had been to one of my 12 step recovery yoga classes years ago. Those are classes that I taught for a very limited time, because I just never felt like I could connect. The energy was always off. But, at that moment I remembered exactly who he was. And clearly, I had connected. He told me he was two days sober and didn’t know what to do or where to go, but he knew I was teaching on the beach this morning and I would be a good place to start. So he came to the beach. I still had students in Savasana, and went back to them. We finished our practice while he hung back. When everyone left I was able to give my attention to this man. I directed him to the local meetings and shared recovery resources with him. He had a ton of questions and seemed so willing to try a different way. One of the women from my class had stayed behind to enjoy the beach. A licensed mental health counselor. I invited her into our conversation and she was able to speak to him on the ways alcohol affects the brain. All the cool science of the addicted brain. She was incredibly helpful and informative. It was such a Divinely orchestrated plan to have her there in that moment with her understanding of addiction. A God moment. You can call it a coincidence if you feel better about that, but I’ll silently disagree with you. I have no idea if this guy will get sober or not. Sometimes people take that first little step into sobriety and then jump right back out. Sometimes it takes years. It did for me. People reach out to me all the time, and then I never hear from them again. It’s not my job to get people sober, but it is my responsibility to be there when someone reaches out. I saw honesty, openness and willingness from the man on the beach this morning. Those are the three things a person needs to get sober and stay that way. I’m hopeful. I’m rooting for him.
Being sober is such a natural piece of my life today. It’s no longer some foreign experience I am trying to navigate. I don’t write about it as often as I used to. It’s not the most interesting thing about me. But it’s never about me is it? As much as I want it to be. This morning, on the beach, I was a sober yogi. Yes, I am so much more than that, and as uninteresting and routine as the sober piece is, without it every good thing in my world would go away. I was reminded this morning, in a very big way, that being sober is incredibly special. Sharing about sobriety and connecting to so many people through my words is a privilege and an honor. I am extremely grateful that I am able to recover out loud.
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
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. 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.
Here’s a thing to know about me. I like it when things magically happens for me. When I don’t have to do any work and shit just gets done. Rarely does this happen, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping. I am currently waiting for this to happen with my taxes. When a warning light comes on in my car, I prefer for it to magically go off all on it’s own. I not only prefer it, I expect it. Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t. When I announced to my readers that I am writing a book, I fully expected that I would magically have the discipline to sit down at the same time everyday and write. Without distractions. This has not magically happened for me. YET. I’m still hopeful. I’m still writing. Just not with the magic discipline I had imagined. Certainly not with no distractions. You best believe that when I declared to the world I was going to get sober I had no doubt that it would just happen for me. Magically. Because that is my preferred way. I assure you it did not happen that way. I pick up a lot of new followers and friends on social media because of my sober status. Every time I post about sobriety, someone new reaches out to me to inquire about how it’s done. I know how it worked for ME so that is always where I start. I also know that there are many ways to the top of the mountain, so I share resources that might be helpful. I always give my time to the people who reach out for help. If the person is local it almost always ends with them asking me to go with them to a meeting so they don’t have to go alone. I always agree even though I rarely go to meetings anymore, because meetings are a great place to start. I know that first meeting is super scary. Here’s an interesting fact. I have gone to exactly zero meetings with the people who reach out and ask for help. Because, inevitably, something else comes up and they can’t make it. And I get it. I so get it. They know they have a problem, they kinda/sorta want to do something about it, but ultimately, they want it to happen for them. Magically. And I hope it does. I also know that as much as I want it to happen for me, my taxes aren’t going to get done unless I do them. My book isn’t going to get written unless I sit down and write it. The warning light on my car is a toss up. There’s a chance it actually could go off all on its own. Doubtful, but possible. For my readers out there waiting to magically get sober, I promise you it doesn’t happen. Ever. When I first arrived in the rooms of AA it wasn’t even because I had a problem with alcohol. It was strictly because the people around me had a problem with my alcohol use. I didn’t even try to get sober in the beginning. I drank on my way to meetings. I was in a meeting once and the person sharing made a reference to the bottles they used to hide in their active drinking days. I learned in that meeting that lots of “those people” hid their drinking. They hid bottles around the house so nobody would know they were drinking, or maybe just how much they were drinking. That knowledge changed my life. It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard. Why hadn’t I thought of it? That knowledge changed my life because on that day I started to hide my drinking. That decision (if you can call it that) changed my life in awful ways. Seriously. Once I started to hide my drinking it made perfect sense to have a drink at 6 am. Why not? Nobody would know. It would be as if it didn’t happen. On those mornings I would hold my hand under the ice dispenser and catch the ice as it fell so it wouldn’t make noise hitting the glass. I would make breakfast and pack lunches while drinking bourbon. Those days all run together and none of them make sense. I do know that some of those mornings I would wake up and know that I had things to do and if I started drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do them. I started to understand the severity of the situation when I would promise myself I wouldn’t drink until 5 pm (or let’s call it 2 pm) but my hands would shake so badly that by 8 am, I was having a drink to make them stop. That’s when the fear set in for me. That’s when I really began to understand that no matter how much I wanted to wish myself sober it wasn’t going to happen. I was depressed and the alcohol was making that, along with everything else, worse. I felt like the biggest loser in the world. Really, who drinks so much that their body becomes addicted to alcohol and they have to drink in the morning to function?. How does this happen to a woman in her 30’s who has everything in the world that should make her life perfect? In my mind that kind of alcoholism was reserved for the people who lived under bridges and drank from brown paper bags. But in my heart, I knew what this was. And it terrified me. I had been addicted to “worse” things. So I thought. And I had beaten those addictions. But once I crossed that line with alcohol, and my body was physically addicted, it was the same horrible addiction as any other addiction I ever had to fight. And it took me down lower and lower for the next year and a half. There was no magical cure for me. I had to decide that I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink. That meant that I had to choose sobriety above all else. When things sucked, and everything does in early sobriety, I had to choose not to drink. I had to stop making excuses and show up every day ready to do the work. I had to stop expecting that I could latch onto someone who would make it easier for me. It’s lonely getting sober. (Latching on is a whole different set of issues.) We are all familiar with the term one day at a time, but it’s often more about one hour, one minute or one breath at a time. It’s a fucking battle some days. In the beginning, I would say it’s a battle most days. Being in contact with people who are in the midst of it and looking for a way out keeps it fresh for me. It is so much easier to be sober than it is to get sober. Getting sober is for the warriors who have the strength to say I want to live. I never expect the people who reach out to me to “get it” right away. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful each and every time. Because I am. I just hope they get it before it’s too late. I’m here for anyone who reaches out.
I started a 7 week “Embodied Writing” course on Monday called Too Much, Not Enough & Shame. What I mean by “started Monday,” is that on Monday I received my first email with my instructions, looked at it, and then didn’t do any of the exercises. Yesterday, the second email came with new directives. I have yet to open it. This is who I am as a person. When I lead writing workshops, there are always people who don’t do their assignments. It’s never my favorite, but I understand it. Resistance. In the circles I lead, a common theme for us is “letting go.” Over and over we let go of that which no longer serves our highest good. Outdated beliefs we hold about ourselves. Shame, being “not enough” and being “too much” are always right at the top. Not just for me. For ALL of the women. It’s a common theme. Doubt is another biggie, but isn’t that just us telling ourselves that we aren’t enough? Or too much? I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were discussing this very thing. Later that day, I opened Instagram and saw a post advertising the course. We all know social media spies on us, but in all fairness, this was a page that I actually follow. And this course was everything she and I had just discussed. Obviously, it’s not just prevalent in my circle. This is a real thing. I emailed her the info and before I had a chance to sign up, she texted me to say she was in. Signed up, and paid for IN. I followed her lead. This week, I have been the girl who signed up for, paid for and was excited for a new journey only to avoid the shit out of it when it was time to actually do the work. I think this will sound familiar to some of the women who are in the writing group I am currently leading. I see you. I feel you. I am you. Resistance to doing the work. Because it’s not fun unpacking these narratives that we have been telling ourselves for so long. This morning I finally did the first exercise. We were asked to spend time with our hands holding our heads…..embodiment. Followed by connecting to our breath. I typically like to come out of my head for these practices, but this asked me to do the opposite. We were to make two columns on a page (or 7 pages if you’re me) and list the times we felt we were too much or not enough in one column and in where we heard that story or whose voice is telling it in the second column. I get the method to her madness head holding embodiment practice now. This is what I discovered. I carried a sexual abuse secret with me as a very young child. I went to Kindergarten knowing I was broken and different than the other children. I didn’t need any other voices telling me I was not enough, or too much, because my own little voice was powerful enough. Of course, there was plenty more on that list. That was just the first thing that I wrote down. My first memory of feeling broken. My list was long and full of stories and voices other than my own, but really, my own voice is the loudest. And as I grew, the secrets and the shame grew. That “not enough” story got louder. In the rooms of recovery the phrase “we are only as sick as our secrets” gets thrown around a lot. And it’s true. I don’t hold onto secrets anymore. I have a full conceptual understanding that for me, secrets are incredibly harmful. I have a team of support people in my life that I am comfortable sharing with. Women who won’t judge me and will hold my secrets. Women who will love me unconditionally. That is exactly the thing I aspire to give back in the circles I facilitate. The first exercise of this course has cracked me open and brought up a ton of shit that I have already worked through. And it’s brought up things I haven’t thought about in years, or rather, conveniently misplaced in my brain. Because that’s what our brains do. Rearrange things to help us survive. But I am no longer about that surviving life. I am all about thriving in life. And I absolutely AM enough. I know this in my soul…..my mind questions it occasionally, but my soul knows that’s bullshit. That leads to how knowing I AM enough can feel a lot like being “too much.” Whew. How’s that for some serious bullshit stories I tell myself? Embracing ALL the parts of me and sharing with the world can feel like I am being too much. Too silly, too smart, too spiritual, too sexual, too loud, too public, too much. I’m gonna do it anyway, because that’s who I am. Unpacking the story of too much is going to be interesting. But I’ll be right here. Embracing ALL of my too muchness and showing it to the world.
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.
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! ♥️
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.