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.
My fire to write has been reignited. Not that Covid extinguished it. I stopped writing nearly as soon as I started back in January. Mostly because I didn’t think I had anything to say. But I do. Maybe nobody wants to read what I have to say, but that’s not the point. I am writing again and it feels great. At least for the past week. Nine days if we are being technical. Now to stick with it for just 83 more days until it becomes a habit. No problem, right? I wish y’all could hear me laughing. Laughing because it actually is a problem to make myself get up at the same time every day and do anything these days. I talk a big game of self discipline is the highest form of self love for someone who is lacking in the self discipline area. But self acceptance is up there at the top too and I accept the fact that my priorities have shifted.
We are all learning to navigate in this new world. It’s not my favorite. I doubt that it’s anyone’s favorite. I miss sitting in circle with my soul sisters in the studio. I miss hugs. I miss having lunch with my friends. I miss practicing in the shala. I miss grocery shopping like a normal person. I miss thrift stores. That’s pretty much it. The list isn’t long. I don’t require a lot. My husband would disagree. I like being at home. I like my family. Something else I miss is the way people used to be nice to one another on social media. Those were fun times. I have such a love hate relationship with social media. Facebook in particular. Social media has been a powerful and positive force in my life. It’s connected me to so many amazing people. It’s helped my recovery, it’s helped me build a business, it lets me see what my family who are all far away are up to. But my God. People suck right now. Or maybe they’ve always sucked and I haven’t noticed. My scroll game is strong and I am usually able to scroll right on past the bullshit, but there’s so much of it these days. I am mindful of my feed and have carefully cultivated it to be a positive and inspiring place for me, but the ugliness has crept in. And the people who only acknowledge my existence when they want to make a snarky ass comment. I can do without all of that. Life is too short to spend it aggravated with people who live behind a screen. Perhaps this is what’s going to finally cure my addiction. But I doubt it. Because as much as I would love to completely disconnect, I cannot. My business needs social media presence. So I unfollow. Constantly. And clearly I need to do more of it. Not today though. Today my schedule is FULL and I have a life to live in the real world. After the nap I have scheduled in my planner.
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.
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.
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.
Last night I shared a quote in moon circle that I am completely in love with. “Discipline is the highest form of self love.” I shared it because there was a woman in the circle who needed to hear it. There were probably others who needed to hear it as well. I need to be reminded of it constantly. Someone recently commented on one of my FB posts that I am so disciplined. And I loved that she saw me that way. It’s more true than not. I am all about self love. I am all about naps, and eating to nourish my body, writing in journals and big fat bubble baths. With snacks. Self love can look like that. Self love can also look very different. I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn to love myself enough to tell myself no. I have no doubt that I was filling her ears with all sorts of nonsense that was going on in my personal life. I got away with ridiculous things because nobody ever told me no. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do a thing that was obviously harmful. In fact, I talked most people into doing those things with me. I had some pretty unhealthy habits going on at the time. Loving myself enough to tell myself no wasn’t one of them. This was just one of many things she told me that I paid no attention to. Because it was all bullshit. I really could not fathom living a different way. Until I did. I stopped drinking before I wanted to. It was a have to. Looking back, I realize that giving up alcohol was a radical act of self love even though it felt like the exact opposite. Self love is also saying yes to the things that are good for us. I had to say yes to AA because that’s where I was going to meet sober people. Sober people didn’t exist in my world. I had to go to the weird meetings with “those people.” I wasn’t like those people. I was different. Special. That therapist assured me that I was not special. Just like that. “You’re not special.” Asshole. I was pretty sure she was wrong about that one. I was pretty sure she was wrong about most things. But, here’s the truth. I’m not special. None of us are. And we all are. We are all humans doing the best we can with what we have to work with. Back then, I didn’t have a lot to work with. But I have had some amazing teachers on this path and I am a completely different person than I was 6 years ago. Because I pay attention. This morning I sat down to write about Discipline, but I hadn’t yet been on my mat and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about something I wasn’t practicing. So I got up, went down on the dock and practiced yoga. Because I love myself enough to do the things I know are good for me. I love myself enough to pursue the things that are going to lead to my ultimate happiness even when they aren’t necessarily the things I feel like doing. My alarm is set for 4:30 am. On weekdays, I wake my children around 5 am. This gives me 30 minutes to myself. I use this time to meditate and write. My preference would be to drink coffee and scroll on my phone. I’m not perfect and sometimes that is exactly how I spend my quiet time. That is NOT what nourishes my soul. I don’t wake up at 4:30 excited to write and sit in silence, but I do it because I know it keeps me sane. It keeps me connected. I’m not telling you to wake up at 4:30 am. In fact, every evening before I fall asleep my mind begins to tell me all of the reasons I can’t wake up in the morning and do what I want/need to do. If I listened to this voice, I would never practice in the shala because Wilmington is too far to drive. I would never get on my mediation cushion because I have chores to do. I would never sit down to write because someone, somewhere, needs me to do something for them. There are always reasons that I shouldn’t wake up early for my morning practices. They are all very believable reasons. The little voice in my head throws them all at me when I set my alarm and get in bed. That’s my self sabotage voice. This voice will have me wasting my time, sitting on my ass, drinking coffee and scrolling on my phone. Really. That voice will have me wasting entire days if I let it. I don’t have that kind of time because there are so many things I want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I really do need days that are quiet and restful. Recovery time after big “extrovert events.” I need solitude. We all know I need my naps. But, I also need to do the things I know are good for me. Especially when I don’t want to. I only dread these things until I get started. And then……then comes the sense of accomplishment. The good feelings. The joy. I have been practicing this lifestyle for quite a while now, and I know the practices that keep me centered. I am not a runner, but I am willing to bet that runners don’t jump out of bed eager to go running every day. I also imagine the people who hit the gym every day don’t always feel like it. Artists probably don’t want to create every day. I could go on and on, but you get it. Everything we do is a practice and being disciplined is no different. Discipline is loving ourselves enough to say no to the things that aren’t good for us and loving ourselves enough to say yes to the things that are. It’s dropping the distractions to focus on what truly needs our attention. It’s picking up our tools when we are having a shitty day and using them when we want to wallow in misery. It’s keeping the promises we make to ourselves. Discipline really is the highest form of self love.
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. ♥️
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*