What were you doing on New Year’s Eve in 1999? And what were you listening to? A friend just posted those questions on FB yesterday. I haven’t thought about that year for a LONG time, and yet, I immediately knew exactly where I was, what I was doing, who was with me and what I was listening to. On December 31st 1999, I was living at my parent’s house. I was in my bedroom, with a man who loved me, detoxing from methamphetamine for the hundredth time. The man loved me. I didn’t know how to love anyone. And if it wasn’t the hundredth time I detoxed, it sure felt that way. The what was I listening to part especially hurt, because the ONLY thing I was listening to were the voices in my own head. I should have been partying and living it up. I was 22 years old and I wanted to die. I hated my life and the people in it. I lived in a dark and depressing world. My “friends” and I were manufacturing methamphetamine. Dirty. That’s what my world was. A sick cycle of misery. Wait for the sun to come up, (because there was no sleeping), go see people I hated, do things I didn’t want to do, wait for drugs and eventually get high. After that, the next few days and nights would be spent being paranoid and hiding from the cops that I was sure were looking for me. Until the meth ran out. When I was ready to crash, I would roll up at my parent’s house and sleep for days at a time. I was always sure I was going to die when the crash came. I didn’t care. I wanted death to come. It would have been nice if that New Year’s Eve had been the last time I had to detox, but it wasn’t. I lived that way for another 6 months before I finally made it into the treatment center that saved my life. “Another 6 months” may not seem long, but meth years are like dog years. When I arrived there I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was the poster child for the “faces of meth.” Ever seen those adds? That was me. I lived that way from the time I was 20 until I was 23. It is truly a miracle that I didn’t die. And it’s an even bigger miracle that I was able to get off meth. I know people that I used with who are still hanging in there, struggling to stop. Many have died, and lots of them have gone to prison. Some don’t even struggle anymore. They just accept that as their way of life. There was a solid year before I got clean where I had accepted being a meth addict as my fate. I didn’t try to hide it. When you just accept that and live that, nothing good can follow. I am forever grateful that enough people loved me to not let that be my life. Believe me, I was quite unlovable. And, because everything comes back to Facebook, another thing got my attention last week. “On this day” FB memories from December 23rd 2011 reminded me that I was right up in my worst days of alcohol addiction. I was making horrible choices and breaking the hearts of everyone who loved me. It was at this time that I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic. The reason this memory really jumped out at me is because of the date. December 2011. My sobriety date is November 13, 2013. I lived in Hell for two more years. And I took my family with me. Seeing those memories was like getting punched in the gut. I deleted a few, but I kept a few as well. Just enough to serve as a reminder. Not that I could possibly forget. Shit. I still remember that New Year’s Eve in in 1999. Addicted life is hard. I have a friend who is super struggling right now. I love this girl all the world full. She’s been reaching out from time to time for quite a while now. But she’s never actually ready. I like to throw the “want me to come over right now?!” on her when she texts me asking for help. I know it’s a little much, but I am always hopeful that it will be the time. Timing is everything. And…..when you’re really serious, right now is the perfect time. I feel like she’s getting closer. Stringing together more days of not drinking. She’s aware that it isn’t serving her. It doesn’t add any value to her life and it causes problems. Yesterday she texted me and said she needed things to do with her time. I suggested we go to the beach together. Right now! And she said yes. She said yes to my pushy ass “right now.” We sat on the beach and we talked and it was lovely to connect with her. I don’t see her much these days because of life things mostly, but also because I don’t live in the world where people party and get hammered anymore. She kind of fell away when I got sober. It’s ok. I don’t judge it, because it was part of my path. Until it wasn’t. I know how hard it is to be young and thinking about a life without alcohol. It’s scary. Talking with her took me back. Getting sober is hard AF. Staying sober is easy. Maybe she’ll figure out how to manage her drinking. I couldn’t. I tried. Maybe she’ll get sober and have an amazing ass life. That’s my wish for her. I spent so much of my life struggling with addiction in one form or another. It’s misery. Today, all I feel is freedom. And joy. I wish that for my friend. However she finds it. I wish that for everyone. I’m sure I’m still “addicted” to things today. It’s the way I’m wired. That “all in” thing I do. Today I choose things that are good for me.
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.
I never tire of seeing this poem. Ever. I came across it on Instagram yesterday and was reminded of the first time I ever saw it. The therapist that I’ve mentioned a million times here gave it to me. I realize now that it must have been frustrating for her to see me week after week, give me tools, and watch me not use any of them. I see other people do it and it frustrates me. I’m fortunate that I did have these resources available to me and people who pushed me to eventually use them. I had people who loved me and wouldn’t let me drink myself to death. This poem was posted on Instagram yesterday and it stopped me mid scroll. I read the poem for the thousandth time. All the feels came over me. I used to carry this poem with me in a journal. I always felt the power in it’s simple message and understood that this was for me. I just wasn’t ready to “walk down another street.” When I arrived at the treatment center where I finally got sober, this poem was with me. Honestly, all sorts of things were with me. I can’t seem to go places without ALL the books, ALL the journals and ALL the pens. Even when I was too drunk to read any of the books or write coherently in my journals. I’m sure I arrived with a stack of self help/therapy books and handouts. The poem found its way to the refrigerator in the “home” I shared with the other women. I wanted the other women to be able to see it every day. I wanted to share any inspiration I had with these women. I wanted to see them get better. I wanted to see them “walk down another street.” My heart hurt for all of us in that place. Yesterday, when I saw this poem it brought back a flood of memories. When I was in that center, I decided that I was going to be sober because I needed to live. Not because I necessarily wanted to live. Not because I thought I was worthy of anything that remotely looked like a happy life, but ultimately, staying alive to be a mother to my children was the goal. I had been in therapy for quite a while as well as going to DBT groups. You can read about DBT here. I had been going to AA meetings and I owned every self help book ever written. Not that I ever used any of those tools, but they were there waiting for me to pick them up. I began with positive affirmations. As hokey as that was to me. I went to the office where all the rehab “therapists” were and asked to borrow Post It notes. I was denied by the woman I asked because clearly, she was a bitch. And I told her that. Then I got “rehab reprimanded” for letting her know I thought she was a bitch. I probably cried and carried on in a dramatic way after I left the office. I use that word “probably” loosely here. By the end of the day, I had Post It notes in my hand. I wrote affirmations on the Post It notes and put them all over my bedroom walls as well as on the mirror in the bathroom. My housemates asked me to write affirmations for them. Soon, the ladies from the other houses at the facility were asking me to write affirmations for them. I spent my mornings writing affirmations for all of the women in the center. These women would come find me in the morning and ask me if I had post it note for them. I always did. I remember so clearly how happy these little Post It notes made them. I believed every positive word I wrote for these women. I believed they were strong, smart, capable, loved, powerful and every other lovely thing I wrote. But I didn’t believe I was any of those things. It occurred to me as I read this poem today that this was where the me who inspires, supports and empowers women was born. It was born from a place of needing to be inspired, supported and empowered. I didn’t believe these lovely things were true about me, but the hope and joy they brought to the women around me was everything. Every word I wrote were the words I needed to hear. I could see the trauma, the pain and the grief that had brought them to this place, but I couldn’t see my own. Writing these affirmations gave me a sense of purpose. It was a positive act that was also an esteem building exercise. In my own small way, I was being of service to others. Ahhhhhhhh. What a concept. One that up until this point, I had only heard in AA. Up until this very moment, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. Acts of service and esteem building exercises were out of my normal realm. Up until this point, I had been tearing myself down day by day. This was surely the beginning of me learning to love myself. After I left treatment, and went back into the real world, I went public with my sobriety. Being social media drunk was never a secret, so there was no reason to keep my sobriety a secret. Social media has always been a great tool for my recovery. I follow tons of great sober Instagram accounts. I belong to FB recovery groups. I read blogs by women just like me. In fact, those blogs were where I first REALLY felt like there were people I could relate to in this world. I began to use my own social media pages as a way to share my story and the message of recovery. A message of hope. People tell me all the time that I inspire them. And I love it. It brings me joy. I love to see people win and if I can support that in some small way, I’m all about it. But, honestly, I never set out to inspire anyone. We all have a story. I just knew I was supposed to share mine. Being able to write in a way that connects with people is a gift and who am I to not use that gift? And oh my goodness…..I had no idea how many people would resonate with my words. I have met and connected to so many amazing people because someone sent them to my blog, my FB page or my Instagram. I have connected to people’s sisters, cousins, mother in laws, friends of friends, random strangers and my personal favorite is when my therapist friends send their patients to my blog or to my yoga classes. When a woman walks into my studio and says her therapist “sent her” and I can see that she’s slightly terrified…I love that the most! I love it because I was that terrified woman going into the yoga class because my therapist said it would be good for me. It’s all so beautiful to me. Friday I had lunch with a woman I met through a mutual friend. I had met this woman exactly one time and I think it must have been two years ago. But we are connected on social media, so it’s kind of like knowing her without really knowing HER. Social media is weird. I know lots of people feel like they know me. And….they sort of do, but you can’t really know someone without spending time with them. The lunch came about in a random way because I followed my gut and reached out to her rather than ignoring my intuition. This sweet woman, and she is sweet but really, she is a 75 year old complete bad ass, told me that she reads everything I write. She told me that I inspire her and so many other women. She was full of kind words for me and she did it in a graceful way that didn’t embarrass me or cause me to go all weird and awkward. We were instant friends and it felt like we had known each other forever. It was comfortable. She talked about her daughter during lunch. I had absolutely no idea that she lost her daughter to an accidental alcohol and pill overdose 15 years ago. In that moment I knew exactly why we were together at lunch. In that moment I understood our heart to heart connection and why my intuition had led me to her. It was a powerful reminder of WHY I share my story. A reminder of why it’s important for me to inspire, support and empower the people around me. I know how it feels to be at the bottom. I love to watch people rise. I share my story in service. It’s part of my path. It’s not about me. It’s about the person I was almost 6 years ago. It’s about the person still struggling who believes they are broken beyond repair. It’s about the person who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love or happiness. I share my story because I am alive to share it. It’s one of those things that I know I am supposed to do. The Universe confirms this for me time and time again in so many ways. I am honored every time someone reaches out to me because they read something I wrote and were touched by it in some way. I truly am. I hope we all make it. I hope we all get to experience every beautiful thing that this life has to offer. ♥️
Last week my husband went golfing. I never love the days he golfs, which thankfully are few and far between, because golf tends to includes day drinking. I have not been around any day drinkers that I enjoy. I was a day drinker and that’s what ultimately took me down. Once I decided I was grown and I could drink any time I wanted to, it wasn’t long until I was drinking ALL the time because I had to. Back to last week……My husband was on the family schedule to pick our boys up from the places they needed to be picked up from. We do A LOT of running in this house. If you have children, you know. I was teaching a class that afternoon when I received a text from my husband informing me that he had been drinking shots and wouldn’t be picking up the boys. I didn’t open the text, but I could see the entire thing on my phone and I was NOT happy. I texted him back when my class was over and let him know exactly how unhappy I was. He responded by letting me know that he was on his way home and would figure it out. I too was on my way home by this point. And this is what I noticed. While I was driving, my heart was racing. I felt such a need to get home before he did or at least right behind him. In my mind he was completely fucked up, and as soon as he got home, he would leave again. I would be alone. I felt like I needed to rush home and stop him. Or something. And I was rushing. Heart racing and speeding down the road. In that moment, something shifted in me for the first time ever. I was triggered and I knew it. I knew exactly what the trigger was. I could feel the familiar feelings in my body. Fear. Sadness. And the one that really struck me was grief. I felt grief. I noticed all of these things and I slowed the car down. I stopped rushing and I took some slow breaths. These feelings had nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with my Ex husband. The father of my two oldest children. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pissed at my husband, but the reality is that he had two shots at the clubhouse in celebration of a hole in one that happened on the course. (Not by him) He wasn’t going anywhere. Yes, I would have preferred if he had passed those up and went to pick up the boys, but I was also happy that he didn’t drive after those two shots. Maybe there were beers involved too, I can’t remember. He wasn’t hammered. He just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to drive our boys. I was pissed because I had no plans and would have liked it to stay that way, but on this particular evening, I ended up doing the driving. Back to being triggered……because looking at it now, I am certain that I have been triggered in this way so many times without being able to identify it for what it was. I was reacting to the two years I lived with a man in relapse. The two years that I tried to hold my little family together. I was married to a wonderful man with a horrible addiction. We were both clean and sober when we met. We married and had two beautiful babies. Then he relapsed. I actually think he relapsed when I was pregnant with our second child. For the longest time, I was in denial about it. I thought he was sick. He let me believe that. He saw Dr’s and Neurologists to try to figure out what was wrong with him. I had a sick husband, a toddler and a new baby to care for. It was A LOT. He had been diagnosed as having “absence seizures.” The reality is that he was taking massive amounts of pills and nobody had any idea. One evening I had the children packed up in the car waiting on him to come home from work. We had an appointment with a photographer to have family portraits made. He was supposed to come home at 4:00, jump in the car and then we would leave. But he didn’t come home. We waited and waited until the babies got tired of being in the car. He wasn’t answering his phone and I was worried and I was getting pissed. I took the kids inside and my phone rang. It was one of the local hospitals. Apparently my husband had a seizure and was in the hospital. Then, the rest of the story followed. After work he had gone to the UPS store to pick up a package that had been delivered to him there. It was a package from an internet pharmacy. The package contained a bottle of Soma muscle relaxers and a bottle of Loritab pain killers. He opened the package in the UPS store and took a handful of the Somas and fell out in the floor. The UPS store called 911 and he was transported to the hospital. My life changed in that moment. My husband wasn’t sick. He was a drug addict. I mean, he WAS sick because of his addiction, but there was no medical reason beyond the pills he was taking for the seizures. The Dr asked if I knew about the internet pharmacy, which of course, I did not. There were a lot of things I had no idea about. I didn’t tell anyone in my family or his family. I had no friends to speak of outside of the Mom’s that I sometimes did kid’s things with. I didn’t want anyone to know that my world was falling apart. I sent him to the treatment center where he and I had both gotten clean. Over the next two years, I sent him there several times. He never stopped using. His using escalated. Cocaine. Heroin. All of it. After spending the majority of my life addicted, I was clean and had no desire to use drugs. All I wanted was for my husband to choose us over drugs. All I wanted was to have my happy family and live the dream that we were building before he relapsed. But it was not to be. After two years of fighting for him I had to let him go. I had to save myself and my children from the horror of drug addiction. I filed for divorce while he was off on a spree. He never showed up in the span of time that it took me to file, take the parenting class that is mandatory in the state of TN for parents filing for custody, and go to court two times. On the day our divorce was granted, he called me. Not because he had any idea that we were now divorced. He called because he had used up every last resource he had available to him and was ready to go back to treatment. I picked him up at a local gas station, gave him $10 and put him on a plane to California. Then I went home and cried for days. I put the children to bed and drank myself to sleep at night. My heart had been broken a thousand different times in those years. My heart hurt for my children. My heart hurt for me. My heart hurts right now as I write this. My children saw their father one more time. The spring before we moved to NC he came from California where he was now working at the treatment center. And he was high when he arrived. He nodded out the entire weekend. It was incredibly hard to watch and of course I was pissed at him and at the treatment center. I put him on the plane back to California when the weekend was over and called the center to let him know that he was still using. We moved to NC soon after that weekend and continued to keep in contact with him. We all loved him so. My current husband knew him before I did. A story for another time. But, when I say that he was a wonderful human, it’s because he really was. He was my best friend. He was brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious. Addiction sucks. In late September of 2009, I received a phone call from my ex mother in law. She told me that he had been found dead in the bathroom of the halfway house he was living in. I had to tell my children that they would never see their dad again. They were too young to understand words like overdose and they didn’t need to know that at the time. I held my children and cried with them. Drug addiction sucks. I hope that he can see how wonderful his children are. They are all the beautiful things that I loved about him. I see him in them every day. Last week, when I felt the trigger of being left alone, it was a powerful and healing moment for me. It gave me an opportunity to sit with the sadness. The sadness that most likely will always be with me on some level. It gave me an opportunity to talk to my husband about the sadness I was feeling. And he listened. We had the most beautiful conversation and he was there for me. As open as I can be when I sit behind a laptop writing, face to face is still quite a challenge for me. But I’ll get there.
I have ALWAYS been out loud about my recovery. I was out loud in my drinking, so I found it necessary for my own recovery to not be anonymous in sobriety. When I was drinking, I was sure social media was all about taking photos of everything I drank and every drunk thing I did. Including posting photos from the back seat of police cars and hospital rooms. Being social media sober seemed like the natural follow up to that. It’s a tool I have used since day one to help keep myself accountable. Getting sober was HARD. Staying sober is easy. I have so many resources and tools available to me. Really, it’s just not difficult today. Because I have tools and resources. I live in an alcohol free home with a very supportive husband. We used to drink together. A Lot. When I made my first few attempts at getting sober (there were many), my husband thought it would be fine to still have a 5 pm Scotch or two or maybe three. It was not fine and I ended up right there with him and I kept right on going long after he stopped. I could never have one or two or even three. It never even occurred to me that I was supposed to drink with any other intention than to get completely hammered. Because that’s where the fun was. Or so I thought. I’m sure it started that way. It certainly didn’t end that way. After a few failed attempts at getting sober which included trips to hospitals, Psych wards, detoxes and rehabs, my husband came to understand that if I was going to get sober in our home, there could be no alcohol around. Even when I didn’t want to drink, I always managed to. I didn’t like Scotch so that “shouldn’t” have been a problem. But as soon as something didn’t go my way and I was upset that Scotch of his was good enough to do what I needed it to do. Numb my overwhelming emotions. I was convinced he was an alcoholic and that it really wasn’t fair that I was the one getting sober. Truth be told, he was a little concerned about this too. We were in the habit of drinking together. As it turns out, he was able to leave it. He didn’t have a drink anywhere near me my entire first year sober. He rarely drinks today, and when he does, he doesn’t get wasted and it’s just not an issue. He’s one of “those” normal drinkers. Normal drinkers are cool, I’m just not one of them. When I got sober, I had to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media. I saw them partying and having fun and not inviting me. I felt left out. I also appreciated the fact that I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have to say no, but still…I felt left out. Lonely. A constant theme in my life. I remember calling a friend one evening and as she answered the phone, I could hear her scrambling and banging and making all sorts of racket. She was in the middle of a party and tried to get into her bedroom where it was quiet so I wouldn’t hear what was going on. Sweet and hilarious, because believe me, I could hear exactly what was going on. The more sober I got, and the more practice I had with handling my emotions, the less those things bothered me. It still hurt my feelings that most of those friends fell away and didn’t invite me to do things, but I am sure I made them uncomfortable. The majority of them don’t socialize without alcohol (and lots of it). No judgement, it’s just not where I am today. And since I’m not invited, it’s not an issue. Drinking people are not a problem for me. Drunk people are. It’s not a fun space to be in. In all fairness , when I was drinking I didn’t want to be around people who weren’t drinking either. So I got used to missing out. Eventually that “fear of missing out” turned into the “joy of missing out.” I slowly got comfortable in my skin and began to enjoy my time alone. My family got me back and I like to think they enjoy having me, fully present for them. I know I sure enjoy spending time with them. Since I had no friends that wanted to do the “weird” things I wanted to do, I had to learn to do things alone. Most of the “weird” things I wanted to do were in groups, so I wasn’t even alone, I was just on my own. In a group. This is how my world slowly started to expand. I began meeting people who liked the weird things I liked. Weird = Spritual. So, not really weird, just different than what I had been doing my entire life. And it was ALL new to me. Today I have friends everywhere. Sober friends. Goddess friends. Yogi friends. Meditation friends. Old friends. New friends. Internet friends that I haven’t met yet. Family friends. And I am a friend to myself above all. That’s a big one. I have a huge outer circle and a small inner circle. I have people I can count on. Sober me is super lovable. Drunk me, not so much. I have extra appreciation for those who loved me through that and stayed. The girl who doesn’t get invited to parties went to four parties in the last two weeks. One of them was mine, but still. 🙂 One of them was a party for a dear friend who I love all the world full. My invitation went like this, “Would it be weird to invite you to my margarita bar party?” I think that was the first invitation I have received in 5 sober years. Seriously. Or maybe I am making that up and it’s just the first party I actually went to. I’ve been to Christmas parties. But that’s family, so I don’t think it counts. I am sure my husband has been invited and by default I was invited, but really feel like this was a sobriety first for me. I went to her party that was FULL of people I love, had a bunch of fun and laughed and then laughed some more that I still managed to shut the party down. At 8:30 pm. Because that’s the kind of friends I have. And I LOVE it. Last night I went to my first ever sober party. As in a party by a sober person, for sober people. I didn’t have to worry about taking my own drink. Everyone ate food because that’s what sober people do at a party. I heard hilarious stories that only sober people would think are funny. Sometimes, when I’m around people who aren’t in recovery, I forget they haven’t lived that life. Until the moment I notice sheer horror on their faces. Then I wrangle it back in and explain that THAT is the exact reason why recovery is so important to me. I am reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray and I really can’t recommend it enough. Especially to newly sober people. It takes me back to the early days of sobriety and just how bad everything sucked. Until it didn’t. In recovery circles “the pink cloud” is often talked about. It’s a magical place where some of us find ourselves as the haze of alcohol starts to wear off and we start to find joy in the simplest of things. At 5 years sober, I am happy to report, that I am still riding that pink cloud. I’ve learned to look for joy in the small things. I’ve learned to do things that feed my soul and feel good to my heart. I’ve learned to stay away from things that suck. ALL of being sober is an unexpected joy because I knew when I got sober that fun was no longer a part of my life. My life was over. I could not have been more wrong. We all know the quote “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” That describes my experience with getting sober perfectly. Best. Decision. Ever.
Tattoos tell a story. Ask anyone about their tattoos and you will likely hear the story of their life, or at the very least a very personal piece of their “story.” I got my first tattoo when I was 21. The tattoo that will forever be known as the tramp stamp. Which is total bullshit, but whatever. The low back tattoo that every girl my age got in the 90’s. I wanted to get tattooed as soon as I turned 18, but I spent a few years getting pierced instead and waited for the desire to pass. It didn’t pass. I had that one tattoo for years and years without ever needing or wanting another one. But then I fell in a hole. A hole I couldn’t climb out of. I have lots of mantras tattooed on my skin. Those mantras helped me climb out of the hole and truly represent what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. It goes like this. Once upon a time, I was a raging, hot mess. I was hopeless. Hopeless is the worst feeling in the world and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I had been exposed to the words hope and faith quite a bit in AA meetings. I wasn’t sober and I had neither hope nor faith in my life. I was also attending group therapy. Dialectical Behavior Therapy. To treat my Borderline Personality Disorder that I don’t actually have. Being Borderline was better to me than claiming alcoholism and having to give up drinking. I rocked that Borderline Personality Disorder too. I owned the shirts and I wore the awareness bracelet. I gave a face to Borderline, “normalizing” it, much like I do today with addiction and recovery. And, I got to keep drinking. The best part of the whole deal. But, I was dying inside. Failing at life in every possible way. Even my liver was struggling. Every day I would tell myself that today I won’t drink and then every day, usually before 8 am, I would be drinking. I HAD to. It was the only way to keep my body from shaking. Every day was the same and every day was awful. I was reading a self help article about Borderline Personality Disorder when I came across the acronym for Hope. Hold On Pain Ends. I fell in love with that idea and knew I needed to carry that with me. My first mantra tattoo. I really don’t remember getting it. Most of those first tattoos blend together in a gray kind of memory. But there it was. On my hand where I couldn’t miss it and was reminded constantly that I could get through this. I was able to get clean from methamphetamine addiction. Nothing could possibly be harder than that. That’s what I told myself. I have since learned that addiction is addiction and it’s ALL hard. I was going to AA meetings regularly, although I still wasn’t sober. I was starting to like the idea of being sober. I kept thinking one day I would be ready and I would just stop drinking. At this stage of the game I was having little spurts of “sobriety.” Or, rather, I was managing a few days in between being drunk. Or, maybe I was just waiting until 5:00. Again, it’s such a blur. AA people use the term One Day at a Time. I always hated that term because I knew it was bullshit. I knew if I committed to a sober life it meant every day for the rest of my life. I was seeing a therapist who was teaching me about mindfulness. She kind of, sort of convinced me that it simply meant living in the moment. I could live with that. My second mantra tattoo is on my foot. One Step at a TIme. That’s how I was going to dig myself out of the hole. I am fairly certain I wasn’t drinking the day I got that tattoo and I probably thought I was done with alcohol. I assure you, I wasn’t done. On another day I was in my therapists office freaking out about something. That was a common occurrence. I had been drinking before therapy. Another common occurence. She always knew when I had been drinking. Most people didn’t notice strictly because it was my norm. I am sure she yelled at me a bit because that’s who she is. Then she taught me about a practice called “calm abiding.” Calm abiding is a Buddhist practice of stilling the mind of any thought that might arise. I promise you I wasn’t able to reach the place of calm abiding, but I fell in love with the concept and knew that’s what I needed in my life. I left her office and went straight to the tattoo shop and got the word Calm tattooed on the topside of my wrist. Not sure why I didn’t throw in abiding, but there must have been a reason. It’s on my right wrist near my hope tattoo to remind me to be calm and have hope. Not long after that tattoo healed, I was leaving my house to go somewhere, who knows where, and my husband told me to try not to come home with any tattoos. I am sure it wasn’t my intention to get tattooed that day, but those words lit me up. It sounded a lot like he was telling me not to do a thing. In my mind, on that day, it meant I had to get two tattoos. What I recall about that incident is that it started at a local gas station. The gas station was right beside the tattoo shop. I went inside and bought a cup of ice and a can of ginger ale. I came out to my car, where my 1/2 gallon bottle of bourbon was, and mixed myself a drink. As I was mixing the drink there was a knock on my window. I looked up to see a woman I knew from AA. In my mind she was a sober woman. In reality, she was anything but. She was struggling like I was struggling. I had no idea. She got in the car with me and offered up Valium and Xanax. I hadn’t taken pills or any other drugs in years, but I didn’t hesitate for a second. I don’t know what you know about mixing pills and alcohol, but I can assure you, it’s not good. There is not one memory after that, but the two tattoos I got that day are the words “Forgive” and “Love.” Forgive faces away from me, in such a way that I can hold my wrist out and ask forgiveness. I found it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission in those days. “Love” must have been for me. I am sure I wanted to feel love or feel loved or just feel lovable. I was quite unlovable that day. I was quite unlovable for a long time. That was the longest day that I don’t remember. It’s weird the few things we do remember in those black outs or brown outs. I remember calling my therapist and yelling at her. I was in the parking lot of the hospital wearing one of my shirts that identified me as borderline and realizing that this made me look crazy. I was yelling at her for giving me that label and more than anything for not calling me out on wearing the shirt. Then I woke up in the hospital room. There was a security guard outside of my room and the nurses told me they didn’t know what I had done, but I must have done something bad. They monitored me and they let me go because it’s frustrating trying to treat a drunk person who doesn’t want help. I remember leaving the hospital and walking through the parking lot. I remember the security guards but I can’t remember exactly what they said to me. I do remember that it enraged me and I screamed obscenities at them until they tasered me. I woke up in the hospital room again. This time I didn’t have a security guard. This time I had “a watcher.” The person they place outside of your room to watch and make sure you don’t kill yourself. I must have told them I was going to kill myself or someone else while I was blacked out. I was “a danger to myself and others.” I stayed there for three days, refusing food and anything else they offered me. I was eventually moved to a psychiatric hospital. Every morning in this hospital it was my job to wake up and talk to the Dr on staff and try to convince him that I wasn’t actually mentally unstable. Unfortunately, my actions proved that I was mentally unstable. Also, every other person in the hospital was trying to convince the Dr of the same thing. Some of them had serious mental health issues. A scary situation that lasted way longer than I wanted it to. Eventually I was released into a treatment center and almost got sober. But I didn’t. I was back with my therapist and back in my DBT group. My therapist was pushing yoga on me and teaching me weird things, like how to breathe. I couldn’t breathe. I hated the breathing part of yoga because I felt like the more I was instructed to focus on my breath, the more I couldn’t breathe. It was awful and I clearly needed a Breathe tattoo to help me. I could no longer go to the same place where I had previously been tattooed because my husband made it clear to the tattoo artist that it would NOT be ok to tattoo a drunk me again. I want to say I was sober when I went for the breathe tattoo, but I was not. Had I been sober, I might have thought to put it in a place where I could see it. Instead, it went on the back of my arm, just above my elbow. It happens to be great for people who are standing behind me. I am happy to report that the Breathe tattoo is the last drunk tattoo I have. A few more psychiatric hospitals and a couple more treatment centers where I finally decided I had had enough Hell and it was time to do something different. I’ve been living sober for 5 years now and when I get a tattoo, the whole process has more meaning. My first sober tattoo was “Let it be.” Obviously I would let it go if I could right? When I let it be, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me or still exist, it just means that I don’t have to let it control me. Whatever ‘it’ is. My next sober tattoo was ‘Learn.” The intention there is to remind me to look for the lesson. The short form or “what the fuck am I supposed to learn from this?” So interesting that after I got that tattoo, I started learning more than I ever imagined about my past. Repressed memories came back and I learned how to deal with that. I am still learning every day in every way. and I know that won’t ever stop. The memories have stopped. At least for now. Maybe I am done with that. Time will tell. My last two tattoos are my favorites. At least they are my current favorites. I have a little Tt “element” tattoo on my forearm that identifies me as a Tee-totalar. This one is not at all original. It’s a movement. A community of people choosing to not be anonymous and recover “out loud.” I love being a part of a community that identifies in this way. I find it’s much better than wearing a Borderline Personality Shirt and identifying in that way. On New Year’s Eve I got my most recent tattoo. It’s a representation of where I am at this moment in my life. “Free.” Along with the word, are little birds flying free. I love it so much. I have found freedom that I never knew was possible. Freedom to be me, whatever that is in each moment. Comfortable in my skin more often than not, and able to deal with being uncomfortable when that happens. There’s a special kind of freedom that comes from living through Hell and coming out the other side. That freedom shows up as gratitude and joy for my life. It shows up when I catch myself dancing to the music at the grocery store.
*photo by Ed Speas*
I have landed on a consistent, weekly writing practice. I say practice, because that’s exactly what it is. The more I show up and do it, the better I get at it. Like everything else. Everything is a practice. That phrase used to piss me off like no other when my therapist would say it to me. Because I couldn’t understand what she meant. I would come to her freaking out about one thing or another and her words to me would be “Remember, everything is a practice.” I am sure my practice at the time was to yell “What the fuck does that even mean?!” at her. She was very patient. Or she wasn’t and she just had really good boundaries and a strong sense of self. I am guessing it’s the latter. My consistent writing practice has been taking place on Sunday mornings as of late, and even though I didn’t write this morning, here I am, showing up for myself. I didn’t write this morning because I went to yoga church instead. Yoga Church is the practice that grounds and centers me for my week ahead like nothing else. It connects me to my past and roots me in my present. The same therapist who taught me that “everything is a practice” is my Yoga Church teacher. If you are familiar with my story, you already know I had a love/hate relationship with this woman. I could always count on her to call me on my bullshit like no one ever had. And I hated her for it. But I paid her good money to (in my mind) be mean to me every week. The reality is that she was honest with me in a way nobody else would be. She didn’t sugar coat the truth and wrap it in a pretty package either. I would have certainly preferred that. I have a head full of her “classic one liners” that were both absurd and hilarious. But spot on too. Nothing is hilarious unless there’s a bit of truth to it. When I first started going to the Buddhist Temple to look for peace and clarity, I mentioned this to her. She looked at me without batting an eye and said “Please don’t fuck the monks.” In my mind that was absurd, but in reality, I understood why she would say that to me. The me I was on that day anyway. I am sure I wasn’t even truly offended until I got in my car to leave and I am equally sure I called her and let her know how awful I thought she was. That was the standard procedure. I would spend an hour on her couch. She would piss me off. I would think about it on my drive home and upon my arrival I would call her and complain to her. About her. Or I would call her in the middle of the night, on the office emergency line if need be, because I needed something. Her.
I needed her.
During the time she was my therapist, I landed in a psychiatric hospital. I was allowed to make phone calls and I called her.
Because I needed her.
She reminded me to “practice my skills.” She was referring to the communication, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and mindfulness skills that I had been learning in my DBT Group. It seemed a little late for me to practice those skills since I was already in the hospital, but I went with it. I practiced my skills and did what I needed to do to get out of the hospital. But I stopped practicing when I got out. I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. Within a few months, I landed back in the psychiatric hospital. And I called her.
Because I needed her.
She reminded me to “practice my skills.” “Everything is a practice” she said. I was so pissed because nothing about anything seemed like a practice to me. This was my LIFE and I was losing. I screamed into the phone “what the fuck does that even mean?!” She simply repeated that it’s all a practice. Life is a practice. I hung up on her. I practiced my skills, did what I needed to do and got out of that hospital. But when I got home, I stopped practicing. Again, I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. A month or two later, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Again. This time I was committed on an involuntary basis. This was a different hospital. This was a hospital where the steel doors were kept locked and I couldn’t leave if I wanted to. I was “a danger to myself and others.” I saw what real mental illness looks like in this hospital. I was terrified. I called my therapist.
Because I needed her.
She did not tell me to practice my skills. She did not remind me that everything is a practice. She said “Oh. You’re in the Ha Ha Hospital. Why are you calling me?” This was not the response I was expecting and I honestly didn’t know why I was calling her.
I just knew I needed her.
She told me there wasn’t a thing she could do for me. I told her bye and we hung up. She was right. There wasn’t a thing she could do for me. There wasn’t a thing anyone could do for me. I did what I needed to do to survive that hospital. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Locked up. Terrified. I practiced my skills. I was there for 10 days. I was released from that hospital and eventually I started to “practice my skills” on a more consistent basis. I wish I could say this is the moment I got sober, but it’s not. It took more terrifying experiences to make me understand that alcohol was not helping me and was, in fact, destroying my life and killing me. It was destroying all the things I loved as well. I went back to therapy, and eventually I did get sober. When I rooted myself firmly in AA, that therapist let me go. She had given me all the tools I needed. She had pointed me in the direction of a skillful path. It was my turn to do the work. I was terrified.
And I needed her.
But I knew, it was time. I began the long, difficult process of becoming a sober person. And it sucked. So bad. I kept in occassional contact with that therapist just to let her know my progress and make sure she was still there.
Because I needed her.
Eventually, I needed her less and less, but she was always there when I emailed her, and that helped me let her go. I got sober. I grew. My life changed. Our relationship changed. I don’t need her today, but I am grateful for her presence in my life. She has been a wonderful teacher to me in so many ways. She gave me what I needed at the time even though it was never what I wanted. Today in “yoga church” as she was giving a dharma talk, she made a reference to a scientist who was so ahead of his time, that he was thought to be crazy. Isn’t that always the way it is with scientists? She told the class how this particular man “ended up in the ha ha hospital.” I laughed out loud and flashed straight back to the day she said that to me. I remembered exactly the way it felt and the person I was back then. But then I came right back to the present moment. I sat up a little straighter and beamed a little brighter because I am NOT that person today. That one little phrase made my practice that much sweeter. That one little phrase reminded me why I was there. I was there to practice. Everything we do is a practice.
Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about being addicted to meth. It was the last blog post I wrote. It’s right here if you want to read it. I never know what I am going to write about until I sit down and write. I wasn’t expecting to write about meth that day and I was unprepared for the way it would make me feel. As soon as I began to write that day, I was overcome with sadness. I cried the entire time I was writing. I am not one to cry and when it started to creep up on me, my instinct was to shut it down. I didn’t shut it down. I let it go. I bawled my eyes out. Big, crocodile tears, snot and ugly crying for an hour. I cried for my parents who lived through that Hell. I cried for the girl I was. I cried for my children who lost their father. I cried because it is just all so sad. When I finished the blog, I stopped crying and went upstairs to make breakfast for my boys. But I was still incredibly sad. I went to a yoga class in my studio and it came out again. Pigeon pose got me. Big, crocodile tears, snot and ugly crying again. I was exhausted when it was over. That was on a Sunday. I had no idea that on Wednesday I would be in Kentucky at my parent’s house, waiting out hurricane Florence. We evacuated Wednesday morning and I figured if we were going to leave, we might as well go visit people who love us all the world full. So that’s what we did. All of those meth memories were still heavy in my mind and in my heart. Even though that part of my life was 20 years ago, the memories are still fresh and home is full of emotional triggers. Nothing could ever make me want to use again, but the familiar sites take me right back. Every time. The first day I was there I went to an AA meeting. The meeting was just starting when I heard someone come in. I turned my head to check it out and was blown away by what I saw. Standing in the kitchen of this AA clubhouse was a friend I had not seen in years. Maybe 20 years. This woman had been a very close friend. She was the big sister of my best childhood friend. Growing up, she was like my big sister. I was at their house all the time and we did all the things together. All the normal childhood things. Then she started to grow up. We all did. She went first. Sometimes, when she went on dates, she would bring us home a bottle of Boones Farm. If we were lucky, she would bring us vodka. I smoked my first joint with her and as I got into harder drugs, I drifted away from her little sister and gravitated towards her. When I was 17, I did my first rail of meth with her. She was in and out of my life for the next few years as we had different crowds that we associated with. Then, near the end of my addiction, at my worst, we hooked up again. It was an awful time in my life and I have to assume it wasn’t much better for her. Meth is an awful drug. When I saw her standing in the kitchen area of that AA meeting, my soul exploded and I immediately jumped out of my seat to go hug her. Again and again. I couldn’t stop hugging her. She sat beside me during the meeting. I noticed that she couldn’t be still. She seemed nervous. Fidgety. My heart hurt for her. She has 18 months clean and sober. 18 months and she still hasn’t settled. Meth is an awful drug. She has been stuck in that world all this time. She never left. She got in trouble with the law a few times and is now in the drug court program. She had to go through a local treatment center. She has to check in with the court fairly often, keep a job and pass drug tests. Her main focus in life right now is not using drugs. We talked after the meeting and I shared with her how meditation and yoga have helped me in so many ways. I stressed the importance of finding a sponsor that shes’s comfortable sharing with. I told her she could call me anytime she was struggling and I would be there to listen and help guide her. I wish I could give her what I have. It doesn’t work like that though. She has to want it and she has to do the work. I have never been more grateful for my recovery than I was in that moment. Grateful that my parents got me out of there. Grateful for that crazy, Scientology based treatment center in Oklahoma that tried to keep me forever but still saved my life. Grateful that I never went back to Kentucky to live. It’s a lovely place, but for me, it holds too many ugly memories. Before I went far, far away to treatment, for a long, long time, one of my dearest using friends told me I didn’t need such a long time in treatment because I wasn’t a “real drug addict.” She assured me that once I got there and saw all the heroin addicts I would realize that I didn’t belong. My brain told me she might be right, but my gut said she was wrong. As it turns out, I did belong. I was a “real drug addict.” I realize now that she was losing her best friend and she was sad. She got left behind. I hated leaving her and I had “survivor’s guilt.” I left her in that Hell because I wanted to live. I am still friends-ish with her and I have watched (from afar) her struggle to stay clean all of her life. I really had to distance myself from all of that. Have I mentioned that meth is an awful drug? My entire trip home seemed to be about recovery. I suppose my entire life IS about recovery. It has to be. I connected with a cousin who is much younger than me while I was there. I only knew her as a young child. Thanks to social media I “know” her as an adult. An adult recovering from meth addiction. She too was in the drug court program and happened to graduate while I was there. Her mom asked me if I would like to come see her graduate. I will always do what I can to support people in recovery, so naturally, I said yes. It was a very sweet and moving experience. She has all the love and support of family and as long as she keeps doing what she’s doing, she will be OK. While I was in the court room I ran into the drug counselor who helped get me into my very first treatment center when I was 21 years old. He works in the drug court program. He has helped so many others since then and it was really great to see him. I went to yoga while I was in Kentucky and I went to more meetings. I meditate daily. Always. Those things keep me grounded. I ran into another woman I knew from my childhood at the meetings. One I never used or drank with. She has 6 years in the program. We weren’t necessarily friends growing up and the way I remember it, we didn’t even like each other. But 20 years and the bond of AA changes that. She was so friendly and helpful. I was extremely grateful for her presence. She is a living example of AA. I was in Kentucky for a week and the ONLY people who reached out to me and said they wanted to see me are friends I know from social media who are also in recovery. Amazing how that works. So often I feel like I’m not AA enough because I don’t quote the big book and I have so many other tools to support my recovery. But, being there, AA felt like Home. I was exactly where I was supposed to be. While I was in Kentucky, I spent a lot of time with my parents. We just chilled together most of the time. I spent time with my brother and my sister in law. I saw my nieces almost every day. Ram Dass said “If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” I’m not saying I’m enlightened, I’m just saying we had a lovely time and my Mom said I seemed more at ease this trip than I ever have. So. There’s that. 🙂 It was a sure sign that all the “work” I’ve been doing is working. I am thrilled to be back home in NC and I’m ready to get back into my routine. I’m grateful for the reminders of my past last week because it makes me appreciate today even more.
When I was 21 I was addicted to methamphetamine. I had already been married and divorced. I was living with my parents because I was unable to take care of myself. Methamphetamine is a horrible drug. They all are I suppose. I did a lot of them but none of them took hold of me like meth did. I lived in a community where meth was rampant and so many people were addicted. The thing is, when I first started doing it, the people I knew who introduced me to it seemed pretty normal. They had jobs and houses and lives. Until they didn’t. I had a job when I first started too. I think we all crashed and burned at the same time. I worked third shift and meth helped me stay awake all night. My habit also cost me most of my paycheck. I sure wasn’t using my money to pay my bills or buy groceries. I would come home to my apartment after work and use all day. I rarely slept. I had a friend who came over and used with me a lot. On one particular day, he was there for hours, smoking meth, like usual. That afternoon he left to sleep it off before work that night. I managed to fall asleep and woke up to tons of missed calls and a voicemail telling me that my friend had gone home, went to sleep and never woke up. The rest of the message said “I hope you aren’t using that shit.” I didn’t go to work that night and as best as I can remember, I stopped going altogether. I locked myself up in my apartment, stopped answering my phone, stopped answering my door and hid from the world. For days? Weeks? I really have no idea. Until my mother showed up with my ex husband. I can’t imagine what I must have looked like. I’m thinking death is a close description. There was no food in the apartment and there were no lights. I had used every single light bulb as a makeshift pipe to smoke meth. I was terrified of the dark. My TV was the only light I had. My mother talked me into going to a treatment center in Nashville, TN. Not far from where we lived. I went. For 28 days. I began to feel human again. Eating and sleeping and learning all about addiction and recovery. I went to meetings and I think I thought I would be fine when I left. I was not fine when I left. I left on the weekend of July 4th. I moved in with my parents after I left the treatment center. Within two days of being out, I told them I was going to a meeting and instead of doing that, I went and bought meth. And just like that, it was on again. I used to stay out for days on end, not sleeping and not eating, until I was absolutely insane and extremely paranoid. I hung out with people I hated and did things I hated even more. That’s how it is when you are addicted. I had to be where the drugs were. I would come home and crash at my parents house. They were kind enough to keep their house available to me so I had a place to go when I needed it. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for them to witness this time in my life. The reality is that their memories of this time are probably more accurate and more horrifying than mine. I would roll in while I knew they would be at work, shower (maybe), eat (maybe), and sleep for days. This went on for a long time. My mother researched treatment centers. She would leave information around the house for me to look at. It wasn’t a secret that I was a drug addict. I had accepted that this was my life. When you reach that place of no longer denying, hiding, or lying about being a drug addict and you just accept that this is your life, it’s a special kind of Hell. I knew it was going to kill me and I had accepted that too. I assumed it would happen in my sleep. I remember coming home one day and trying to sleep. I had the worst headache and every time I got still, my body would go into convulsions. I called my mom at work and asked her to come home to be with me. She did. I didn’t want her to take me to the hospital so she just laid down beside me and kept a cold washcloth on my head. Eventually I fell asleep. I’m sure when I woke up I went right back out and stayed as long as I could. And this was my life. I hated it so much but I also couldn’t see a way out. My drug using friends and I even had a nickname for meth. We called it “Hate/Kill” because it was that fucking awful. I remember my last big binge. After being awake, smoking meth for days and days, a “friend” showed up with some mushrooms. I decided it would be a perfcet time to try them. I was wrong. I was already halucinating from the amount of drugs in my system and it was intensified by not sleeping. The mushrooms pushed me over the edge. I ended up outside of someones house walking around lost in the driveway and sobbing. I begged my “friends’ to take me home. In my memory the door was locked that day and I climbed onto the roof over the porch and busted our a window to get into the house. It’s also possible that was a halucination, but it’s very clear to me either way. I went in the house and went to bed. My parents were planning to go to South Carolina to visit family that weekend. Instead, they stayed home because my mother was certain this was the weekend I was going to die. They saved my life that weekend. They talked me into getting into my Dad’s truck and going to Oklahoma. They had found a treatment center far, far away from everyone and everything I knew. A long term treatment facility that could last anywhere from 4 to 6 months. It was a miserable trip for all of us. I was in the back seat eating, snorting and trying to figure out how to smoke the meth I brought with me. When we finally got there, I gave what was left of it to my dad, told him not to smoke it, and never touched that shit again. I was done. I went into their detox facility and slept for days, waking only to eat and then going right back to sleep. I was terrified to come out of my room, but on my 23rd birthday, I surfaced because the people in charge wouldn’t let me hide any longer. They escorted me around the property and into the main cafeteria. I was physically ill and emotionally broken. I was angry, sad and miserable. I knew going there was a mistake and I wanted to leave. I sat in the cafeteria, alone and crying my eyes out. I couldn’t believe I had ever thought this place would be a good idea. At that moment, an angel walked into my life. He was carrying a small gift bag when he approached me. He said my parents had left a birthday gift for me. It was the cutest handmade ceramic frog. The frog had the most ridiculous smile with giant white teeth. I loved that frog. At that moment, I knew I would be ok. I had no idea how much my life was about to change. On every level. That angel with the gift bag became my best friend. I finished the treatment program and stayed in Oklahoma to work at the treatment center. My best friend was already working there. He was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met in my life. Sweet. Kind. Generous. Brilliant. I eventually married him. I loved him with my whole heart. I still love him. I will always love him. “They” say that two addicts in a relationship is never a good idea. I can understand that logic. He gave me two beautiful children and so much more. It hurts to share about him, but the long and short of it is that he relapsed. I didn’t. I knew my children needed a mother and I couldn’t be that if I picked up drugs. I survived and he didn’t. Drug addiction is a horrible monster and there’s not always a happy ending. I see him every day. He’s alive in my children. They inherited so many of the things I love about him. I just wish he could be here to see it. 💔
With all the inner child work I have been doing, I forget that child wants to play. This week I let her do just that. On Sunday, I met up with friends and danced at the Buddhist temple. At least for a bit. On Tuesday I played on the beach, chanting, singing and not giving a fuck what anyone thought. I’ve been busy levitating everywhere. That’s really fun to do. Wednesday I locked the studio and had the BEST solo dance party ever. That’s really what I came here to write about. Who knew dance could be so healing? Except, my dance teacher friends and therapist friends. I know they knew. I always did love to dance. When I was drinking. I stopped dancing when I stopped drinking. The dancing stopped because the going out to bars and clubs stopped. The parties on my top deck stopped. It never occurred to me to have a sober dance party in my living room. Until recently. Living room dance parties have been a thing for me all summer long. And the singing! LOL My husband told me last week that all I do is sing and dance these days. How freaking awesome is that? Of course, he’s wrong, but I do A LOT of singing and dancing. Pure joy. That’s my inner child at play. I told the Universe (and my friends) that I wanted to dance and guess what happened? All the dancing. All the time. The Rebel Soul schedule is FULL of all kinds of dancing! Ecstatic Dance. Belly Dancing. Dancing Mindfulness. Qoya. I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Qoya, because I hadn’t either. Let me tell you, I love it already and I haven’t even tried it. Tonight I am leading a moon circle and you can bet your ass that we will be dancing. I have always known that movement heals. It wasn’t until I took a trauma informed yoga training in January that I understood why. Then I read “The Body Keeps the Score” and just WOW. Mind Blown. Really. Then, because I am who I am, I read everything I could find on healing trauma through movement. I struggled to get sober and I’ve known since day one that I needed more than just a 12 step program. 12 Step programs are great and I am in no way knocking them. 12 step programs do a great job addressing the mind and spirit piece, but they don’t address the body. We are whole beings. Mind, body and spirit. To truly heal, we have to address these all. My yoga journey began in a treatment center. Most of you know how much I hated yoga in the beginning. Maybe for the first year. Nobody explained to me why it made me cry, and if they did, I wasn’t listening. I just know that I hated crying in front of people and I felt like such a freak. I thought something was truly wrong with me. Today I understand that I was releasing years of trauma and emotions that were locked in my body. It all came flooding out in tears and anger and sadness and even rage that I didn’t know what to do with. So I sat with it. Holy shit did I sit with it. In reading an old blog post, I realized that this was the beginning of repressed memories resurfacing for me. Only I wasn’t ready to deal with them back then, so I filed them away and completely forgot they were there. Aren’t humans fascinating? I live in my head way more than I probably “should.” My therapist reminds me every week to try to feel my way through things. You might assume I would be good at that by now as much as I practice and TEACH yoga and meditation, but it’s not my natural state. I am forever trying to figure everything out in my mind. And honestly, sometimes I get busy and forget to get on my mat and drop into my body. Dancing has been a great way to do just that and it’s a nice compliment to all of my other practices. Plus, it’s FUN. When I said I had a dance party on Wednesday, what I really mean is that I experienced myself from the inside out through movement and music. A personal Dancing Mindfulness practice. I closed my eyes and connected to my breath. I witnessed my mind and let go of judgement. You feel me meditators? Then I began to move to the music. The intention was to stay focused on my breath and my body and for the most part I was able to do that. Emotions came up and I was able to move them through my body by feeling them rather than thinking about them. It was very similar to the way yoga works for me, but it was dance. No alignment. No sequence. I danced for two hours with a few breaks when I needed to rest. In no way did I solve all the worlds problems, but I had peace, clarity and serenity when I was through. So beautiful.
Also, hair flipping and booty shaking fucking rocks.