Freedom

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

Self Discipline is the Highest Form of Self Love

Last night I shared a quote in moon circle that I am completely in love with.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love.”  I shared it because there was a woman in the circle who needed to hear it.  There were probably others who needed to hear it as well. I need to be reminded of it constantly.  Someone recently commented on one of my FB posts that I am so disciplined.  And I loved that she saw me that way. It’s more true than not.  I am all about self love.  I am all about naps, and eating to nourish my body, writing in journals and big fat bubble baths.  With snacks.  Self love can look like that.  Self love can also look very different.  I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn to love myself enough to tell myself no.  I have no doubt that I was filling her ears with all sorts of nonsense that was going on in my personal life.  I got away with ridiculous things because nobody ever told me no.  Nobody ever told me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do a thing that was obviously harmful.  In fact, I talked most people into doing those things with me.  I had some pretty unhealthy habits going on at the time.  Loving myself enough to tell myself no wasn’t one of them.  This was just one of many things she told me that I paid no attention to.  Because it was all bullshit.  I really could not fathom living a different way. Until I did. I stopped drinking before I wanted to.  It was a have to.  Looking back, I realize that giving up alcohol was a radical act of self love even though it felt like the exact opposite.  Self love is also saying yes to the things that are good for us.  I had to say yes to AA because that’s where I was going to meet sober people.  Sober people didn’t exist in my world.  I had to go to the weird meetings with “those people.”  I wasn’t like those people.  I was different.  Special.  That therapist assured me that I was not special.  Just like that.  “You’re not special.”  Asshole.  I was pretty sure she was wrong about that one.  I was pretty sure she was wrong about most things.  But, here’s the truth.  I’m not special.  None of us are.  And we all are.  We are all humans doing the best we can with what we have to work with.  Back then, I didn’t have a lot to work with.  But I have had some amazing teachers on this path and I am a completely different person than I was 6 years ago.  Because I pay attention.  This morning I sat down to write about Discipline, but I hadn’t yet been on my mat and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about something I wasn’t practicing.  So I got up, went down on the dock and practiced yoga.  Because I love myself enough to do the things I know are good for me.  I love myself enough to pursue the things that are going to lead to my ultimate happiness even when they aren’t necessarily the things I feel like doing.  My alarm is set for 4:30 am.  On weekdays, I wake my children around 5 am.  This gives me 30 minutes to myself.  I use this time to meditate and write.  My preference would be to drink coffee and scroll on my phone.  I’m not perfect and sometimes that is exactly how I spend my quiet time.  That is NOT what nourishes my soul.  I don’t wake up at 4:30 excited to write and sit in silence, but I do it because I know it keeps me sane.  It keeps me connected. I’m not telling you to wake up at 4:30 am. In fact, every evening before I fall asleep my mind begins to tell me all of the reasons I can’t wake up in the morning and do what I want/need to do. If I listened to this voice, I would never practice in the shala because Wilmington is too far to drive. I would never get on my mediation cushion because I have chores to do.  I would never sit down to write because someone, somewhere, needs me to do something for them.  There are always reasons that I shouldn’t wake up early for my morning practices. They are all very believable reasons.  The little voice in my head throws them all at me when I set my alarm and get in bed. That’s my self sabotage voice.  This voice will have me wasting my time, sitting on my ass, drinking coffee and scrolling on my phone.  Really.  That voice will have me wasting entire days if I let it. I don’t have that kind of time because there are so many things I want to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do need days that are quiet and restful.  Recovery time after big “extrovert events.”  I need solitude.  We all know I need my naps.   But, I also need to do the things I know are good for me. Especially when I don’t want to. I only dread these things until I get started.    And then……then comes the sense of accomplishment.  The good feelings.  The joy. I have been practicing this lifestyle for quite a while now, and I know the practices that keep me centered.  I am not a runner, but I am willing to bet that runners don’t jump out of bed eager to go running every day.  I also imagine the people who hit the gym every day don’t always feel like it. Artists probably don’t want to create every day. I could go on and on, but you get it. Everything we do is a practice and being disciplined is no different.  Discipline is loving ourselves enough to say no to the things that aren’t good for us and loving ourselves enough to say yes to the things that are.  It’s dropping the distractions to focus on what truly needs our attention. It’s picking up our tools when we are having a shitty day and using them when we want to wallow in misery.  It’s keeping the promises we make to ourselves.  Discipline really is the highest form of self love.  

I Hope We All Make It.

I never tire of seeing this poem.  Ever.  I came across it on Instagram yesterday and was reminded of the first time I ever saw it.  The therapist that I’ve mentioned a million times here gave it to me.  I realize now that it must have been frustrating for her to see me week after week, give me tools, and watch me not use any of them. I see other people do it and it frustrates me. I’m fortunate that I did have these resources available to me and people who pushed me to eventually use them.  I had people who loved me and wouldn’t let me drink myself to death.  This poem was posted on Instagram yesterday and it stopped me mid scroll. I read the poem for the thousandth time. All the feels came over me.  I used to carry this poem with me in a journal.  I always felt the power in it’s simple message and understood that this was for me. I just wasn’t ready to “walk down another street.”  When I arrived at the treatment center where I finally got sober, this poem was with me.  Honestly, all sorts of things were with me.  I can’t seem to go places without ALL the books, ALL the journals and ALL the pens.  Even when I was too drunk to read any of the books or write coherently in my journals. I’m sure I arrived with a stack of self help/therapy books and handouts. The poem found its way to the refrigerator in the “home” I shared with the other women. I wanted the other women to be able to see it every day.  I wanted to share any inspiration I had with these women.  I wanted to see them get better.  I wanted to see them “walk down another street.” My heart hurt for all of us in that place.  Yesterday, when I saw this poem it brought back a flood of memories.  When I was in that center, I decided that I was going to be sober because I needed to live.  Not because I necessarily wanted to live.  Not because I thought I was worthy of anything that remotely looked like a happy life, but ultimately, staying alive to be a mother to my children was the goal.  I had been in therapy for quite a while as well as going to DBT groups.  You can read about DBT here. I had been going to AA meetings and I owned every self help book ever written.  Not that I ever used any of those tools, but they were there waiting for me to pick them up.  I began with positive affirmations.  As hokey as that was to me. I went to the office where all the rehab “therapists” were and asked to borrow Post It notes. I was denied by the woman I asked because clearly, she was a bitch. And I told her that. Then I got “rehab reprimanded” for letting her know I thought she was a bitch. I probably cried and carried on in a dramatic way after I left the office. I use that word “probably” loosely here. By the end of the day, I had Post It notes in my hand. I wrote affirmations on the Post It notes and put them all over my bedroom walls as well as on the mirror in the bathroom.  My housemates asked me to write affirmations for them. Soon, the ladies from the other houses at the facility were asking me to write affirmations for them. I spent my mornings writing affirmations for all of the women in the center. These women would come find me in the morning and ask me if I had post it note for them. I always did.  I remember so clearly how happy these little Post It notes made them. I believed every positive word I wrote for these women. I believed they were strong, smart, capable, loved, powerful and every other lovely thing I wrote. But I didn’t believe I was any of those things. It occurred to me as I read this poem today that this was where the me who inspires, supports and empowers women was born. It was born from a place of needing to be inspired, supported and empowered. I didn’t believe these lovely things were true about me, but the hope and joy they brought to the women around me was everything. Every word I wrote were the words I needed to hear. I could see the trauma, the pain and the grief that had brought them to this place, but I couldn’t see my own. Writing these affirmations gave me a sense of purpose. It was a positive act that was also an esteem building exercise. In my own small way, I was being of service to others. Ahhhhhhhh. What a concept.  One that up until this point, I had only heard in AA.  Up until this very moment, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing.  Acts of service and esteem building exercises were out of my normal realm. Up until this point, I had been tearing myself down day by day. This was surely the beginning of me learning to love myself. After I left treatment, and went back into the real world, I went public with my sobriety. Being social media drunk was never a secret, so there was no reason to keep my sobriety a secret. Social media has always been a great tool for my recovery. I follow tons of great sober Instagram accounts. I belong to FB recovery groups. I read blogs by women just like me. In fact, those blogs were where I first REALLY felt like there were people I could relate to in this world.  I began to use my own social media pages as a way to share my story and the message of recovery. A message of hope.   People tell me all the time that I inspire them. And I love it. It brings me joy. I love to see people win and if I can support that in some small way, I’m all about it.  But, honestly,  I never set out to inspire anyone. We all have a story.  I just knew I was supposed to share mine.  Being able to write in a way that connects with people is a gift and who am I to not use that gift?  And oh my goodness…..I had no idea how many people would resonate with my words.  I have met and connected to so many amazing people because someone sent them to my blog, my FB page or my Instagram.  I have connected to people’s sisters, cousins, mother in laws, friends of friends, random strangers and my personal favorite is when my therapist friends send their patients to my blog or to my yoga classes.  When a woman walks into my studio and says her therapist “sent her”  and I can see that she’s slightly terrified…I love that the most! I love it because I was that terrified woman going into the yoga class because my therapist said it would be good for me. It’s all so beautiful to me. Friday I had lunch with a woman I met through a mutual friend. I had met this woman exactly one time and I think it must have been two years ago. But we are connected on social media, so it’s kind of like knowing her without really knowing HER. Social media is weird. I know lots of people feel like they know me. And….they sort of do, but you can’t really know someone without spending time with them.  The lunch came about in a random way because I followed my gut and reached out to her rather than ignoring my intuition. This sweet woman, and she is sweet but really, she is a 75 year old complete bad ass, told me that she reads everything I write. She told me that I inspire her and so many other women. She was full of kind words for me and she did it in a graceful way that didn’t embarrass me or cause me to go all weird and awkward.  We were instant friends and it felt like we had known each other forever. It was comfortable. She talked about her daughter during lunch. I had absolutely no idea that she lost her daughter to an accidental alcohol and pill overdose 15 years ago. In that moment I knew exactly why we were together at lunch. In that moment I understood our heart to heart connection and why my intuition had led me to her. It was a powerful reminder of WHY I share my story. A reminder of why it’s important for me to inspire, support and empower the people around me. I know how it feels to be at the bottom. I love to watch people rise. I share my story in service.  It’s part of my path. It’s not about me. It’s about the person I was almost 6 years ago. It’s about the person still struggling who believes they are broken beyond repair. It’s about the person who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love or happiness. I share my story because I am alive to share it. It’s one of those things that I know I am supposed to do. The Universe confirms this for me time and time again in so many ways. I am honored every time someone reaches out to me because they read something I wrote and were touched by it in some way.  I truly am. I hope we all make it. I hope we all get to experience every beautiful thing that this life has to offer. ♥️

Recovering Out Loud

I have ALWAYS been out loud about my recovery.  I was out loud in my drinking, so I found it necessary for my own recovery to not be anonymous in sobriety.  When I was drinking, I was sure social media was all about taking photos of everything I drank and every drunk thing I did. Including posting photos from the back seat of police cars and hospital rooms. Being social media sober seemed like the natural follow up to that. It’s a tool I have used since day one to help keep myself accountable.  Getting sober was HARD.  Staying sober is easy.  I have so many resources and tools available to me. Really, it’s just not difficult today.  Because I have tools and resources. I live in an alcohol free home with a very supportive husband.  We used to drink together. A Lot.  When I made my first few attempts at getting sober (there were many), my husband thought it would be fine to still have a 5 pm Scotch or two or maybe three.  It was not fine and I ended up right there with him and I kept right on going long after he stopped. I could never have one or two or even three.  It never even occurred to me that I was supposed to drink with any other intention than to get completely hammered.  Because that’s where the fun was.  Or so I thought. I’m sure it started that way. It certainly didn’t end that way. After a few failed attempts at getting sober which included trips to hospitals, Psych wards, detoxes and rehabs, my husband came to understand that if I was going to get sober in our home, there could be no alcohol around.  Even when I didn’t want to drink, I always managed to.  I didn’t like Scotch so that “shouldn’t” have been a problem.   But as soon as something didn’t go my way and I was upset that Scotch of his was good enough to do what I needed it to do.  Numb my overwhelming emotions.  I was convinced he was an alcoholic and that it really wasn’t fair that I was the one getting sober.  Truth be told, he was a little concerned about this too.  We were in the habit of drinking together.  As it turns out, he was able to leave it.  He didn’t have a drink anywhere near me my entire first year sober.  He rarely drinks today, and when he does, he doesn’t get wasted and it’s just not an issue.  He’s one of “those” normal drinkers.  Normal drinkers are cool,  I’m just not one of them.  When I got sober, I had to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media.  I saw them partying and having fun and not inviting me.  I felt left out.  I also appreciated the fact that I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have to say no, but still…I felt left out.  Lonely. A constant theme in my life. I remember calling a friend one evening and as she answered the phone, I could hear her scrambling and banging and making all sorts of racket.  She was in the middle of a party and tried to get into her bedroom where it was quiet so I wouldn’t hear what was going on.  Sweet and hilarious, because believe me, I could hear exactly what was going on.  The more sober I got, and the more practice I had with handling my emotions, the less those things bothered me.  It still hurt my feelings that most of those friends fell away and didn’t invite me to do things, but I am sure I made them uncomfortable.  The majority of them don’t socialize without alcohol (and lots of it).  No judgement, it’s just not where I am today.  And since I’m not invited, it’s not an issue.  Drinking people are not a problem for me.  Drunk people are.  It’s not a fun space to be in. In all fairness , when I was drinking I didn’t want to be around people who weren’t drinking either. So I got used to missing out. Eventually that “fear of missing out” turned into the “joy of missing out.”  I slowly got comfortable in my skin and began to enjoy my time alone.  My family got me back and I like to think they enjoy having me, fully present for them.  I know I sure enjoy spending time with them.  Since I had no friends that wanted to do the “weird” things I wanted to do, I had to learn to do things alone.  Most of the “weird” things I wanted to do were in groups, so I wasn’t even alone, I was just on my own.  In a group.  This is how my world slowly started to expand.  I began meeting people who liked the weird things I liked.  Weird = Spritual.  So, not really weird, just different than what I had been doing my entire life.  And it was ALL new to me.  Today I have friends everywhere.  Sober friends.  Goddess friends.  Yogi friends.  Meditation friends.  Old friends.  New friends.  Internet friends that I haven’t met yet.  Family friends.  And I am a friend to myself above all.  That’s a big one.  I have a huge outer circle and a small inner circle.  I have people I can count on.  Sober me is super lovable.  Drunk me, not so much.  I have extra appreciation for those who loved me through that and stayed.  The girl who doesn’t  get invited to parties went to four parties in the last two weeks.  One of them was mine, but still.  🙂  One of them was a party for a dear friend who I love all the world full.    My invitation went like this, “Would it be weird to invite you to my margarita bar party?”  I think that was the first invitation I have received in 5 sober years.  Seriously.  Or maybe I am making that up and it’s just the first party I actually went to. I’ve been to Christmas parties.  But that’s family, so I don’t think it counts.  I am sure my husband has been invited and by default I was invited, but really feel like this was a sobriety first for me. I went to her party that was FULL of people I love, had a bunch of fun and laughed and then laughed some more that I still managed to shut the party down.  At 8:30 pm.  Because that’s the kind of friends I have.  And I LOVE it.  Last night I went to my first ever sober party.  As in a party by a sober person, for sober people.  I didn’t have to worry about taking my own drink.  Everyone ate food because that’s what sober people do at a party.  I heard hilarious stories that only sober people would think are funny.  Sometimes, when I’m around people who aren’t in recovery, I forget they haven’t lived that life.  Until the moment I notice sheer horror on their faces.  Then I wrangle it back in and explain that THAT is the exact reason why recovery is so important to me.  I am reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray and I really can’t recommend it enough.  Especially to newly sober people.  It takes me back to the early days of sobriety and just how bad everything sucked.  Until it didn’t.  In recovery circles “the pink cloud” is often talked about.  It’s a magical place where some of us find ourselves as the haze of alcohol starts to wear off and we start to find joy in the simplest of things.  At 5 years sober, I am happy to report, that I am still riding that pink cloud.  I’ve learned to look for joy in the small things.  I’ve learned to do things that feed my soul and feel good to my heart.  I’ve learned to stay away from things that suck.  ALL of being sober is an unexpected joy because I knew when I got sober that fun was no longer a part of my life.  My life was over. I could not have been more wrong. We all know the quote “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”  That describes my experience with getting sober perfectly.  Best. Decision. Ever.

Tattoos and Freedom

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

*photo by Ed Speas*

Beautiful, Brave, Badass

I’ve been avoiding this space for almost an entire month.  I have been busy filling my time with things other than being still.   I’ve missed blogging and thought about it almost daily.   I just haven’t quite been able to sit down with my laptop.   Last night I went to the big city of Wilmington for Ecstatic Dance.  So.  Much.  Fun.  While I was there, I met a woman who said she knew me.  Our mutual friend told her she knew me because I am FaceBook famous.  FaceBook famous is our joke.  This woman said no, she knew me from reading my blog.  Her therapist had sent it to her and told her she should read it.  She told me how she knows EVERTHING about me now, which was weird and awesome all at the same time. She said she loves my blog.   That was the final push I needed to get my ass back here.  I love it here.  The last time I was here I shared that I was finished with therapy.  I’m sure I called it being kicked out of the nest, because that’s how it felt.    It took me a day or two to get over that, but I’m ok. I have all the tools I need.  My therapist was right about that.   That push may have been exactly what I needed to do the work I had been avoiding with her.  I work best alone, but I also want someone to check in with.  I still have that support system in a million different ways.  The first thing I did was sit on my dock and journal all the feels of “being alone.”  Which I’m definitely not.   Then I decided the time had come for me to be an artist.  I went to Pinterest to compile a list of all the things I would need to start an art journal.  The next morning I went shopping.  And just like that, I AM an artist.  Most of you saw the photos on FB, because you can’t be FB famous if you aren’t posting there.  I spent that entire weekend with my head down and ALL IN some art journaling.  I’m so grateful that I worked through The Artist’s Way last year, because it really made it ok for me to just do my thing and not judge my work.  Honestly, I art like a 5 year old, but I am totally OK with it.  I spent that weekend doing the thing that I wouldn’t do in therapy.  Writing my trauma story.  It was awful and I hated it, but it’s just what happened on those pages.  I didn’t buy the journal and art supplies with that intention at all.   Once that came up, it wouldn’t stop.  The beauty of the art journal was that I immediately painted over those awful words.  I covered up those horrible things that I never want to see again.  Not that I covered it up to make it look pretty, because that’s not where I was in that process.  The act of writing it was huge and something I have avoided since I started dealing with repressed memories resurfacing.  It was huge because once I started, it just flowed so fast and wouldn’t stop.  I could have left the words in the journal, uncovered, but what would be the point in owning all those art supplies?  I can’t quite express how it made me feel to be all up in the art process, but I think that’s why art exists.  To express what we can’t put into words. Those pages of paint are exactly that. It was so powerful and so cathartic. Brave. I felt brave sitting through all those emotions as I worked in my art journal.  I felt like a beautiful, brave, bad ass.   I knew I was going to be crafty, but who knew I was going to be an artist?  😉  That’s a new tool for me and I am loving it.  After a weekend of intense writing in that journal, I ended the process with a Monday morning dance party in the studio.  Such a wonderful  way to move through the emotions of the weekend.  When I left the studio that morning I felt so much lighter. I’ve been back in the art journal a few times since then and have every intention of sticking with it.  The thing about writing a “trauma story” is that it triggers new memories that I get to process.  But it’s not all gloom and doom. Some of those pages are pure joy.  I just show up to the pages exactly as I am and then it somehow all sorts itself out.  Some days I don’t know until it’s on the page.  It’s so different than anything I’ve done before. I definitely see the value in it.  But it’s messy and not as quick to access or clean up as a journal. I can write anywhere, anytime. And I do.  I haven’t had a healing session of any kind for almost three weeks, which is unheard of for me, but guess what?  I feel great and I don’t need a thing. Well, I probably DO need a massage and since March is here, I know I have some energy work and “woo woo” appointmens on my schedule.  Oh.  And there was that Shamanic Journey I went on with Roger the Shaman today.  🙂   I have my meditation practice, I practice yoga, I write, I dance, I take ALL the baths.  I go to meetings. I have moon circles and women’s circles of every kind.   I was asked to be the speaker at an AA meeting this month and that’s the ONLY thing affecting my mental health. I have anxiety about it already. Oh the irony. My mental health game is strong and if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have left therapy.  I know it was time. And now my Wednesdays are open for giant Goddess lunches and cacao ceremonies with circle dancing on the beach.  I know how to fill a void. Believe that. I know how to fill it with beautiful and loving things today. ♥️

All the Feels

I am in that weird space of having a million things to write about and yet nothing comes up for me.  My thoughts are scattered here there and everywhere.  The “problem” is that more and more people are reading my blog and I get in my head about it. Am I oversharing?  Will my readers like this?  The truth that I need to remember is that this blog is for me.  It’s a great tool to look back and see how things are unfolding for me.  So here I go.
Yesterday was such a weird day for me emotionally.  I joked about everyone crying in yoga, and maybe they needed that, but it was me who I was really talking about.  I was on the verge of tears all day.  But they didn’t come.  I have written about repressed memories coming up for me in the past.  And I processed those the best way I could.  I really figured that was it and I was done with that.  Life is great.  Things are flowing my way effortlessly and easily. I AM connected and divinely guided.  So when more shit from my past pops up, it knocks the wind out of me.  Last week I sat on my therapist’s couch with my journal of “all the amazing things” that are going on in my life.  The amazing things are always the things I want to talk about.  When our time was almost up, I blurted out “want to do the therapy now?”  And of course she did, because that’s her job.  I told her that I have had more memories of childhood sexual abuse surfacing.  When she asked me if I could talk about it, I just looked at her and said nothing.  We both chuckled a little and she told me that “was an invitation.”  My response to her was that I obviously couldn’t talk about it.  Because nothing was coming out.  So weird because I do trust this woman so much.  I have spent some time on this and perhaps it’s the office and the couch that get me.  Like “white coat syndrome.”  Maybe I should ask her to sit on the floor with me.  I bet she would.  She’s cool like that.  Since I wouldn’t or couldn’t talk about the memories with her, she offered up some suggestions as to what I could do to move through it.  Dance it out, write it out, yoga it out.  The things she knows I am comfortable with.  The first time, back in the spring, when she suggested “dance it out” I thought she was nuts.  And now, well, we all know how that ended.  What I was looking for was a definitive answer about why this is happening again and when will it end.  The why is simple. She’s explained it before, but she explained it again.   Because I am strong and healthy and have all the support in the world.  And because I have everything I need to look at these things when they come up and then let them go.  The when will it end isn’t as simple.  I read everything I could find about this subject, but there are no concrete answers.  Unfortunately we live in a world where this is fairly common.  I reached out to a friend who I am able to be completely open with and talked to her about it.  She has her own experience with this exact thing.  Which is what I needed more than anything.  Someone who has been where I am.  Someone with personal experience.  This is what I gathered from our conversation.  Something in my present moment experience triggered these memories.  They are there to teach me something.  And I guess as the healthy adult that I am, it’s not really a big deal.  But, it feels like a big deal to me when it happens.  Talking to my friend helped more than anything. She told me there really is no specific end date.  No magic time. Healing is a lifetime process.  More than anything, just knowing that I am not alone in this experience was helpful.  The specifics aren’t important and I don’t need to share with everyone or maybe even anyone.  My plan is simply to honor the path that got me to where I am today.  I keep telling myself to write it down and burn it.  A ritual.  I love ritual.  Not that I have done it yet, but it’s coming.  The gift in this is that it never crosses my mind to hide from it.  It never crosses my mind to numb myself.  What I have done is take 1,000 baths.  Maybe I am subconsciously trying to crawl back into the womb.  Whatever.  It feels good and it soothes me.  The bathtub is where I spent all of my free time when I first got sober.  It’s still a go to when I am emotionally triggered.  And honestly, I have been super sensitive lately.  OR, maybe I AM super sensitive and I have been allowing myself to experience that. I don’t know.   What I do know is that I am human.  A human with ALL THE FEELS who doesn’t have everything figured out and probably never will.  The good news is that I am surrounded by healers and sensitive souls who will hold my hand when I need that.  The reality is that I really do have everything I need already available to me and I can handle whatever comes my way.  So I lean in to the uncomfortable until it passes because I know for sure and certain that joy is waiting for me on the other side.  I AM a warrior.
B4436FD4-8D54-4AAD-BC7A-0CE8564978B4.jpeg

5 Sober Years

I love when people reach out to me after reading my blog or a particular social media post that I have written.  I love when people connect to my words.  Last week I wrote THIS post full of “classic one liners” from my old therapist.  A few days later I received this text that’s too good not to share. CB067C8D-AEDE-4A4A-8A18-37C1DCD5BE24.jpeg  I saved this screenshot because it’s THAT awesome and I laugh so hard every time I read it.  It’s become a mantra for me this week.  I often tell my children when they are leaving, “make good choices.”  Well, “don’t fuck the monks” has played on repeat in my mind since I received that text.  It’s the same.  But different.  It’s “Make good choices” for grown ups.   I laugh so hard at the shit that goes through my head.  I even told my therapist “don’t fuck the monks” last week as I walked out of her office.  She loved that so much.  I mean, how could she NOT?

All that silliness aside.

I didn’t write yesterday because I was too exhausted from all of the exciting things happening in the studio and in my life.  There is always something new and exciting coming my way and some days it’s just too much and I crash.  Which is what I needed yesterday.  And I allowed myself to do that.  At the beach.

Last week was an amazing week in the life of me.  I turned 5 years sober 6 days ago.  There was no parade, but you probably saw the sparkly medallion on social media.  What a ride that’s been.  Each year I look back and each year gets better. Year one was all about not drinking.  Anything extra I learned was a bonus.  Each and every day I practiced not picking up a drink and that was enough.  Yes, I meditated and practiced yoga, but the NOT DRINKING was where all of my focus was.  Those other things were simply ways to pass the time and carry me through the day sober.  I’m sure there was plenty of growth involved, but I wasn’t feeling it.  During my second sober year, I began the journey of becoming comfortable in my skin.  I learned how to properly love and care for myself.  I had no idea how good I could feel.  During that year I learned how to fuel my body with nutritious foods.  I kicked up my yoga a notch and began to move my body in new ways.  I always assumed that since I wasn’t overweight, the whole exercise thing didn’t apply to me.  Who knew that Dr’s weren’t just being assholes by suggesting exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.  This girl LOVES some endorphins! Early in my third year of sobriety, I completed my yoga teacher training.  Sobriety introduced me to something I was more passionate about than drinking.  I decided I needed to share that.  I found my light and my purpose.  Not that my purpose is to be the greatest yoga teacher the world has ever seen, because that is definitely NOT it.  But my purpose is absolutely to help others heal.  Teaching yoga has been a launchpad out into the world of helping others find their own light.   Year 4 was my Rebel Soul year!  The best year yet.  I opened the studio on November 6th 2017.  I spent my 4th sober year growing community and growing ME.  I entered therapy (again) last year in November.  Just a few days before I opened the studio.  This time I entered therapy as a strong, sober and healthy woman who wanted support through my journey.  And damn.  There was a lot more to work through than I ever imagined.  From what I can tell, “working through shit,” is a never ending part of life.  That weekly session has been a great resource for me. I have grown more this past year than any previous year. On EVERY level.   This is the year I learned to sing and dance and pray with my words.  That little yoga studio of mine is such a safe space for me to try ALL THE THINGS that bring about a deeper level of healing for me and my community.  So freaking amazing.   To say that I am grateful for my sober life is an understatement.  I talked to my AA sponsor on Saturday and shared with her how magical my life is and how I am in love with every minute of it.  She reminded me of a time, that first year, when she and others were just trying to convince me that things would get better if I stayed sober.  All I wanted in those days was for my life to not suck.  That was it.  I wasn’t asking for joy or magic or anything great.  I just wanted my life to not suck so bad.  Never could I ever have imagined that not only would my life not suck but that I would be happy and that I would wake up excited about life every day.  And really, it happened in such a big way and it happened so quickly.  One skillful choice after another.  In AA they call it “doing the next right thing” however, in my mind it will forever be  “not fucking the monks” one day at a time.  You’re welcome. 😂  If I can do it, anyone can.  I promise.

Everything is a Practice.

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.

I AM a channel

This morning I found myself reading bible quotes on the internet. This is NOT how I usually spend my mornings and if I am honest, it made me laugh a little. At myself and my openness. I call that smiling out loud. Earlier this week I heard myself use the phrase “I am a channel.” I know I am a channel although I didn’t know exactly what that meant when I said it. This morning I have a full understanding of what that means. It means I am a channel, not a reservoir. This is what I learned from the internet bible. “If you sow abundantly with a good (cheerful) attitude, then God will bless you. Why? So that you can bless others. Being a channel for God’s blessings means passing them on to others.” That doesn’t exactly sound like a direct quote from the bible to me, but I’m not willing to go dig and I am happy with what the internet has to say about being a channel. Makes perfect sense. I am well aware that one of my gifts is my enthusiasm. Remember? Enthusiasm means to be filled with God. I am FULL of enthusiasm and love nothing more than to drag others into that space with me. And I have this wonderful internet platform to do just that. I always think the internet version of me is “my best self.” People love internet me. I have pretty yoga photos and the best inspirational quotes. I can (and I will) write an entire bog about that one day. Back to being a channel. People connect to me and to my words. It’s truly a gift and I am grateful. I am always amazed at the people who reach out to me and ask me about my”story” and about recovery. I am always willing to spend time sharing my “how it works.” Everyone’s version of “how it works” is different, but I can tell you this. Pick a path and STAY on it. The path doesn’t matter and there are a million ways to the top of the mountain. My path seems to be constantly changing and evolving as I grow. There are some constants that keep me grounded. Yoga, Meditation and AA. These are the three that I never stray too far from. But here’s a little secret. Those things aren’t for everyone. Most of the other sober bloggers I read are anti-AA. They either don’t like the idea of calling themselves alcoholics or they don’t like the old school patriarchal feel of the literature. Some people don’t like the idea that they have to go to meetings for the rest of their lives. There have been many times in my sober journey that I have felt like AA isn’t for me. Probably as recently as yesterday. But I also don’t feel like I have to go to meetings. I choose to go. I enjoy being around other people who are “like me.” People who don’t look at me like I have two heads when I talk about that time I wanted to hang myself. Those people have been there and they get it. Also, like me, those people have found a solution and a better way to live. I am all about surrounding myself with positive people. I’m not saying that AA is full of positive people, because it’s definitely not. I have just managed to do that thing they call “sticking with the winners.” I take what I like and what works for me and I leave the rest. Isn’t that how life is supposed to work? We are all different and have different needs. I had no idea who I was when I began my recovery. I am still learning and growing and changing every day. I have no problem saying out loud that I am an alcoholic. I have friends who think I shouldn’t put that out into the Universe because everything is energy and what we put out is what we get back. Being an alcoholic isn’t a negative thing to me. My life has only gotten better since I began affirming to the Universe that I am an alcoholic. The Universe has sent me the tools and people I need in my life to help me along the path. In return, I get to give it away to anyone who wants it. I know what it’s like to struggle. I also know what freedom feels like. It hurts my heart when people reach out to me who are SOOOO close to grabbing a lifeline but are also too scared to actually do it. It’s not my job to save everyone, but it absolutely is my job to be there when someone reaches out. It absolutely is my job to share what works for me and it absolutely is my job to share the things I am enthusiastic about. I AM a channel, not a reservoir.