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.
When I started this blog years ago I had a hard time deciding what to call it. Sober Yogi represented who I was at the time. Since that time, I have grown in every possible way. When I started writing here I figured I would write about yoga and being sober, since those were the things I knew. I fully expected more of a how to format. Nothing like what I actually write about. I have used this space to document my entire healing journey which has been so much deeper and bigger than not drinking. Who knew? I’ve shared so much of that process right here with all of you and received so much support. What a beautiful healing space this is for me. I’ve played with the description of the blog, but have never changed the name. I’ve thought about it because I’m not so sure “Sober Yogi” represents what the blog actually is, and I am soooooo much more than a sober yogi. Those things are just pieces of who I am and being sober doesn’t really seem like it’s a big of deal anymore. It’s just my life. But today I was 100% THAT girl. I fully experienced myself as a sober yogi and it was so very special.
This morning I taught a yoga class on the beach. As I was teaching, I noticed a guy hanging back and observing us. No big deal, because yoga on the beach is cool. Who wouldn’t want to check that out? At the end of practice, I led everyone into Savasana. The final pose of practice. Corpse pose. Here’s a little truth about Savasana on the beach. Every time all of my students are lying on their backs, eyes closed, exactly like corpses, I feel a little (lot) like Jim Jones. It makes me laugh and feel weird to be the only one standing or even sitting around all the bodies laid out on the sand. So today, I walked down to the water while my students rested peacefully. And they were beautiful. As I was standing on the water’s edge, I sensed the man that had been observing us approaching me. In my mind I had an entire conversation about how happy I was that he was definitely not coming to talk to me because of social distancing. But he was. And he did. He kept his distance. Don’t freak out. He asked if I was Shannon. Then he introduced himself and asked if I remembered him. I didn’t. He shared with me how he had been to one of my 12 step recovery yoga classes years ago. Those are classes that I taught for a very limited time, because I just never felt like I could connect. The energy was always off. But, at that moment I remembered exactly who he was. And clearly, I had connected. He told me he was two days sober and didn’t know what to do or where to go, but he knew I was teaching on the beach this morning and I would be a good place to start. So he came to the beach. I still had students in Savasana, and went back to them. We finished our practice while he hung back. When everyone left I was able to give my attention to this man. I directed him to the local meetings and shared recovery resources with him. He had a ton of questions and seemed so willing to try a different way. One of the women from my class had stayed behind to enjoy the beach. A licensed mental health counselor. I invited her into our conversation and she was able to speak to him on the ways alcohol affects the brain. All the cool science of the addicted brain. She was incredibly helpful and informative. It was such a Divinely orchestrated plan to have her there in that moment with her understanding of addiction. A God moment. You can call it a coincidence if you feel better about that, but I’ll silently disagree with you. I have no idea if this guy will get sober or not. Sometimes people take that first little step into sobriety and then jump right back out. Sometimes it takes years. It did for me. People reach out to me all the time, and then I never hear from them again. It’s not my job to get people sober, but it is my responsibility to be there when someone reaches out. I saw honesty, openness and willingness from the man on the beach this morning. Those are the three things a person needs to get sober and stay that way. I’m hopeful. I’m rooting for him.
Being sober is such a natural piece of my life today. It’s no longer some foreign experience I am trying to navigate. I don’t write about it as often as I used to. It’s not the most interesting thing about me. But it’s never about me is it? As much as I want it to be. This morning, on the beach, I was a sober yogi. Yes, I am so much more than that, and as uninteresting and routine as the sober piece is, without it every good thing in my world would go away. I was reminded this morning, in a very big way, that being sober is incredibly special. Sharing about sobriety and connecting to so many people through my words is a privilege and an honor. I am extremely grateful that I am able to recover out loud.
Quarantine Things. Unexpected and weird pandemic growth edition.
Here’s something most people don’t know about me. In fact, I would say only my innermost inner circle of people know it. The people who live with me. Ready for it? I hate buying toilet paper. I fucking hate it. I can do it if I have a cart FULL of other groceries, but I don’t like it. I don’t like being in the aisle. I don’t want people assuming that I need toilet paper. Never would I ever go to the store to buy only toilet paper. When I’m out in the world and receive the dreaded “we need toilet paper” text from my husband, he immediately gets a “fuck you” text back. Imagine my horror when the entire world became focused on toilet paper and in particular, purchasing toilet paper. When the world ran out of toilet paper, I sent my husband to the hardware store because I heard they had plenty. Plenty of off brand, one ply, porta-potty approved toilet paper is what they had. And he bought as much as he was allowed to purchase. 3 packs of 9 rolls I think it was. And it was fine. I expected it to last forever, and it would have if I lived alone. But I live with 3 boys who clearly require a lot of toilet paper. I have been doing my grocery shopping online and picking it up curbside. Every week I add toilet paper to the list and every week they have none. My super awesome neighbor friend was out in the world and ran across toilet paper and was kind enough to snatch up extra for us. He delivered it to our carport. Y’all. It’s lavender scented. I think just the roll is lavender scented, but it makes all the toilet paper smell like lavender. Every time I walk into the bathroom where the lavender toilet paper is, it transports me to another time and place. Not a lavender field like you might expect. No. It takes me to a public bathroom. A public bathroom where sketchy things take place and the smell of chemical flowers attempts to cover it up. And I laugh every time. I read on social media that a local friend has toilet paper that smells good, so I imagine half of this island is rocking the Dollar General lavender toilet paper. Also hilarious. And the fact that people are just openly discussing toilet paper EVERY DAMN DAY. What is this world? On Monday morning, I took a trip to the grocery store because I needed to pick out my own groceries. I got there at 6:30 am. Last night a friend said that grocery shopping during this time feels like it’s straight out of The Hunger Games. She’s right. It does. Mask on. Focus. Go. Don’t stop. Get out. But, at the last minute, I remembered that I should look for toilet paper. So I back tracked. And “blessed be the toilet paper.” (If you read The Handmaid’s Tale, you know.) There wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely there. Brand name, two ply, non lavender toilet paper. A freaking miracle. I was allowed to purchase two, but there was absolutely no way I was going to be THAT asshole. There was another woman in the aisle who was very excited about the toilet paper. And then it happened. This woman and I had a conversation about toilet paper right there, behind our masks, 6 feet away from one another, in the toilet paper aisle. I kid you not. This was my big moment of growth. Buying toilet paper while having a discussion about toilet paper with a stranger as I stood in front of a shelf of toilet paper. This cannot be what I take from my time in quarantine. This cannot be how I remember this time. But, it’s etched into my mind and it will absolutely be a moment that I don’t forget. We will ALL remember the toilet paper crisis we experienced during this time. There is no way around it. How fucking crazy is that? BUT…….I am also going to remember how good it feels to hear someone’s voice on the phone. I am going to remember how much I love the sound of quiet. I’m going to remember how much I enjoy watching my 17 year old bake. How much I love all the extra snuggles from my 11 year old. How my husband and I have learned to be more patient and kind to one another. To not seek outside of myself to nourish my soul. That I actually need very little to be content. That I am hilarious and make myself laugh out loud several times a day at the things that go on in my head. There’s so much good stuff in all of this. This time is truly a gift in strange wrapping. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness everyone adapt and adjust and keep moving forward.
Something a little different for the blog. A question for you. What will you remember most about this time. Good, bad or indifferent. There’s no wrong answer. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just honest.
This morning the family and I sheltered in the bathroom in preparation for a possible tornado. For 10 minutes. THAT was the most exciting thing that’s happened here in 4 weeks. And now it’s passed and we are fine. Back to trying to figure out how to fill our time. I miss teaching yoga. Not enough to teach online, but I do miss my people. I miss having purpose outside of this house. I am over it, over it, over it. But I’m doing it. We all are. I no longer feel like I “should be” doing anything other than living my life in any way that suits me. I am a bit less scattered these days. I have this cycle that I am incredibly aware of. Every other day is a “good” day. On a good day, I wake up and do all of the things that keep me connected, grounded and centered. Meditation. Writing. Yoga. Dance. And then, the very next day I do none of the things that I know will make me feel better. And I spend my day in my head and feeling like shit. It’s almost as if the good days take all of my energy and I need a day to do nothing and recover. Then I wake up determined to not feel like shit and I do ALL the things that I know work for me. I use my tools. Every. Other. Day. That’s my current cycle. I am one of the most mentally and emotionally healthy people I know. This still surprises me and probably always will, by the way, but it’s true. And I wonder, if I feel like this, how is everyone else REALLY doing? Because this shit is hard. Social media keeps us connected, but I’m over it. Zoom is great, and I could spend all of my time doing ALL of the Zoom things, but I don’t want to live there. In a virtual world. Sometimes I wonder if that’s going to be our new normal and if the world is going to pass me by because I won’t get on board. Two or three online commitments is my limit per week. If I go beyond that, it’s only because the “I should” has crept into my mind. Which is weird, because we all know I’m way cooler on the internet. And the dreams…..nightmares really. Something about this situation has triggered me into the days of my methamphetamine addiction. I am having using dreams. I haven’t used meth since I was 23 years old. And chances are, if you are someone I love, you are there with me. And it sucks. My heart breaks every night in my sleep. My guess is that the feelings and emotions this is bringing up is triggering a place in my body or mind that FEELS the same. Feelings of being stuck. That this will never end. That there’s no way out. When I am awake, my mind knows none of these things are true. I am safe. Not stuck. This really will pass. Right now, it’s just really intense and the dreams suck. And the weather sucks and HERE I am being the exact negative Nelly that I bitch about. Oh the irony. There is nothing to take the edge off. I don’t get to pop a pill, because I would pop 10. I don’t get to have a drink because I wouldn’t stop. No bong hits or whatever the weed smokers do these days. And I don’t want to. “Don’t get to” just means I choose not to. I learned a long time ago that nobody can stop me. I enjoy being fully present and alive. It’s just hard sometimes. That’s why I take so many baths. Baths are my go to for taking the edge off. And naps. I can usually sleep it off and what a blessing that is. It’s my super power. Yesterday was a good day, and if I get off my ass today really doesn’t have to suck. But I probably won’t. I did that yesterday. Today I get to wallow in my shit. The cycle makes me laugh because I KNOW how to remedy it. And really, maybe I am being a bit dramatic because even my bad days aren’t that bad. Maybe that’s what my dreams are here to remind me. My favorite quote ever is by Jon-Kabat Zinn. It’s the quote that has carried me through so much darkness. I share it constantly and today seems like a good time to share it again. “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong.” Today there is nothing “wrong.” This is just life. For all of us. We don’t have to like it. We just have to live it.
What an uncomfortable time to be alive. When I open social media, which is way too often these days, I see two types of people. The excessively grateful and the excessively pissy. The pissy ones are the ones arguing with everyone and posting nothing but doom and gloom. Arguing with everyone. I tend to fall on the excessively grateful side. Don’t get me wrong, I can be all kinds of pissy and I am at some point every day lately, I just don’t spread that out into the world. I keep it to myself, take it out on my yoga mat, put it in my journal and my husband gets more than his fair share of it. Sorry Leon. The world is stuck right now. What I see is that those of us who have a practice are getting through a little easier than those who don’t. When we actually practice. Which is proving to be a challenge for me. That’s why it’s called a practice, right? I’m completely off my schedule like the rest of the world I imagine. Staying up late and sleeping in. I miss my morning quiet time, before the world wakes up. Some days I set my alarm, but most days I don’t. Getting up early is one of those things I “should” be doing. My mind swims in the things I “should” be doing. I “should” be reading all those books on my shelf, and I am trying, but I’m just not into it. I have two books that I am currently working my way through, both by authors I know and love. And I hate both books. I’m sure it’s just me and the weird mood and lack of focus I’m experiencing. Maybe I just need some good fiction in my life. I “should” get my ass off social media because it’s a waste of time and since the studio is closed, I don’t have to promote my business. But, my friends live there and it keeps me connected. I unfollow and unfriend people constantly. The negative Nelly’s. Limiting screen time is on my list of things to do. It’s seriously right at the top of my intentions. I “should” be streaming online classes. I paid for a Zoom account and everything. But here’s the thing. I don’t want to. And I have some guilt about it. I feel bad about leaving my people high and dry, but the reality is that while yoga is absolutely essential, I am not. Anyone can lead people through an asana practice. Every teacher I know is streaming on Zoom. It might be the Rebel in me that is refusing, but my heart just isn’t in it. I could change my mind next week. Or even tomorrow. That’s what I’m noticing more than anything is the way my mind and emotions are all over the place. I know that’s not unique to me and we are all experiencing that. I’m just trying to be gentle with myself and the rest of you. All of this is showing me that I am judgmental AF. That’s my lesson this week, this month, this year and maybe this lifetime. I judge myself more than I am judging everyone else, but I catch myself doing that too and I have to stop and remind myself that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. I just wish some of y’all could do better…….lol. I “should” be writing. I “should” be doing my taxes, but now I have that extension, and if you know me, you know I’m not. I “should” be connecting to my community and leading everyone in group meditation because the world needs that right now. The list of things I should be doing goes on and on and here I am doing none of it. That’s where I am. Stuck. And I know it’s ok. I really do. I know I’m not alone in this. Every day is a new opportunity to practice. Practice moving forward through the stuck-ness. This feels a lot like early sobriety to me. The being unsure of what I’m supposed to be doing. The emotional rollercoaster. The uncertainty. The being uncomfortable. All of it. It’s not my favorite. But unlike early sobriety, I have the tools to navigate this. I can be uncomfortable. I can be uncertain. It’s about going back to basics. It’s about sitting with myself. Just sitting. Writing my way through it, which I will admit I haven’t done. I opened my journal yesterday and saw that I hadn’t written in it since March 10th. Which is craziness, but these are crazy times. And I wrote. No guilt over all the days that had gone by. I just poured my heart out onto the pages. Back to basics means that I might be taking two baths a day. Snuggling my boys. Netflix. I don’t even watch TV, but here I am on the Tiger King train(wreck). I even busted out the adult coloring book today. That took me way back. I’m getting by the best I can. I believe we all are. Whatever that looks like for each of us. I’m letting go of “should” and doing what works. Giving myself permission to just be. My heart hurts for the world. Some moments it overwhelms me. I am one of those excessively grateful people. I have to be. Gratitude carries me through. I can be mad, sad and all the things in between, as long as I bring it back to gratitude for all the things that are right in the world. Gratitude is my anchor. I see beauty on the other side of this. I’ll keep looking for the beauty in every day. I have everything I need plus all the extras for my comfort. I have my family and community for support and love and I have all the free time I could ever ask for. When I feel overwhelmed, I bring it back to this. Again and again.
Here’s a thing to know about me. I like it when things magically happens for me. When I don’t have to do any work and shit just gets done. Rarely does this happen, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping. I am currently waiting for this to happen with my taxes. When a warning light comes on in my car, I prefer for it to magically go off all on it’s own. I not only prefer it, I expect it. Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t. When I announced to my readers that I am writing a book, I fully expected that I would magically have the discipline to sit down at the same time everyday and write. Without distractions. This has not magically happened for me. YET. I’m still hopeful. I’m still writing. Just not with the magic discipline I had imagined. Certainly not with no distractions. You best believe that when I declared to the world I was going to get sober I had no doubt that it would just happen for me. Magically. Because that is my preferred way. I assure you it did not happen that way. I pick up a lot of new followers and friends on social media because of my sober status. Every time I post about sobriety, someone new reaches out to me to inquire about how it’s done. I know how it worked for ME so that is always where I start. I also know that there are many ways to the top of the mountain, so I share resources that might be helpful. I always give my time to the people who reach out for help. If the person is local it almost always ends with them asking me to go with them to a meeting so they don’t have to go alone. I always agree even though I rarely go to meetings anymore, because meetings are a great place to start. I know that first meeting is super scary. Here’s an interesting fact. I have gone to exactly zero meetings with the people who reach out and ask for help. Because, inevitably, something else comes up and they can’t make it. And I get it. I so get it. They know they have a problem, they kinda/sorta want to do something about it, but ultimately, they want it to happen for them. Magically. And I hope it does. I also know that as much as I want it to happen for me, my taxes aren’t going to get done unless I do them. My book isn’t going to get written unless I sit down and write it. The warning light on my car is a toss up. There’s a chance it actually could go off all on its own. Doubtful, but possible. For my readers out there waiting to magically get sober, I promise you it doesn’t happen. Ever. When I first arrived in the rooms of AA it wasn’t even because I had a problem with alcohol. It was strictly because the people around me had a problem with my alcohol use. I didn’t even try to get sober in the beginning. I drank on my way to meetings. I was in a meeting once and the person sharing made a reference to the bottles they used to hide in their active drinking days. I learned in that meeting that lots of “those people” hid their drinking. They hid bottles around the house so nobody would know they were drinking, or maybe just how much they were drinking. That knowledge changed my life. It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard. Why hadn’t I thought of it? That knowledge changed my life because on that day I started to hide my drinking. That decision (if you can call it that) changed my life in awful ways. Seriously. Once I started to hide my drinking it made perfect sense to have a drink at 6 am. Why not? Nobody would know. It would be as if it didn’t happen. On those mornings I would hold my hand under the ice dispenser and catch the ice as it fell so it wouldn’t make noise hitting the glass. I would make breakfast and pack lunches while drinking bourbon. Those days all run together and none of them make sense. I do know that some of those mornings I would wake up and know that I had things to do and if I started drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do them. I started to understand the severity of the situation when I would promise myself I wouldn’t drink until 5 pm (or let’s call it 2 pm) but my hands would shake so badly that by 8 am, I was having a drink to make them stop. That’s when the fear set in for me. That’s when I really began to understand that no matter how much I wanted to wish myself sober it wasn’t going to happen. I was depressed and the alcohol was making that, along with everything else, worse. I felt like the biggest loser in the world. Really, who drinks so much that their body becomes addicted to alcohol and they have to drink in the morning to function?. How does this happen to a woman in her 30’s who has everything in the world that should make her life perfect? In my mind that kind of alcoholism was reserved for the people who lived under bridges and drank from brown paper bags. But in my heart, I knew what this was. And it terrified me. I had been addicted to “worse” things. So I thought. And I had beaten those addictions. But once I crossed that line with alcohol, and my body was physically addicted, it was the same horrible addiction as any other addiction I ever had to fight. And it took me down lower and lower for the next year and a half. There was no magical cure for me. I had to decide that I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink. That meant that I had to choose sobriety above all else. When things sucked, and everything does in early sobriety, I had to choose not to drink. I had to stop making excuses and show up every day ready to do the work. I had to stop expecting that I could latch onto someone who would make it easier for me. It’s lonely getting sober. (Latching on is a whole different set of issues.) We are all familiar with the term one day at a time, but it’s often more about one hour, one minute or one breath at a time. It’s a fucking battle some days. In the beginning, I would say it’s a battle most days. Being in contact with people who are in the midst of it and looking for a way out keeps it fresh for me. It is so much easier to be sober than it is to get sober. Getting sober is for the warriors who have the strength to say I want to live. I never expect the people who reach out to me to “get it” right away. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful each and every time. Because I am. I just hope they get it before it’s too late. I’m here for anyone who reaches out.
This weekend I escaped. All alone. To a cabin in the woods. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while. My sweet husband booked the cabin for me as a Christmas gift. My intention was to come here and spend the weekend writing. Which I have done, along with reading, hiking, napping and all the other beautiful and quiet things. But let me back it up just a bit. I arrived on Thursday and pulled right up to my cabin. I walked up to the door and used the code I had been given to open it. It wouldn’t open. So I tried again. And again. No luck. I called the cabin rental office and they informed me that my cabin wouldn’t open because that wasn’t the cabin I had reserved. I was sure they were wrong. I had specifically told my husband that THIS was the cabin he needed to book. Surely he didn’t do it wrong. They directed me down the gravel road to another cabin that they said was mine. I used my code and it unlocked immediately. This was NOT my cabin. This cabin didn’t have an upstairs loft area. This cabin was one big room and a bathroom. This cabin meant that I would be sleeping between the front door and the back door with no walls in between. There would be nowhere to hide should a murderer bust in during the night. I was prepared to be able to hide upstairs in the other cabin. I called the man at the cabin rental office again. He said he was sorry, but, this cabin was the one that had been booked. I told him I wanted to switch my reservation because I wanted to be in that other cabin. Again he apologized and told me it was already booked. I wanted to cry. This was not what I had seen in my mind’s eye and I couldn’t get past it. I was pissed and in that moment, all of the things I practice went away. I had a mini meltdown on the phone with the man. I was already scared to be here by myself. In the woods. Now I was surely going to die here when someone busted through the front door that I would be sleeping near. The man got an ear full of my F bombs. Not that there is anything wrong with the F word. We all know it’s my favorite. But these were angry F bombs. Not my norm. I didn’t want to call my husband immediately, because I knew I was too upset and I would blame him for messing up the reservation. I also knew he was taking a nap. That worked out well for him. I looked around the tiny cabin as I was attempting to calm down and the first thing that popped into my head was that the only thing to do in this tiny place is to get fucked up. Seriously. That’s the thought that went through my head because I didn’t get the cabin I wanted. My next thought was “Holy Shit, what is wrong with you?” Followed by “Maybe I need an AA meeting.” Followed immediately by “Hell no. You are here for solitude, the last thing you need is to be around a bunch of AA people.” I think a lot of thoughts, all the time. Which is why I write and why I meditate. I texted a friend who is also in recovery and while I never mentioned having that thought, I did tell her about the “horrible” experience I was having. Her response helped me reframe my thinking. The cabin is far from horrible. It’s cozy. It’s actually perfect and after I made myself dinner in the full kitchen, I settled right in. I came back to gratitude and realized that I was being a spoiled baby. Which I can be. I read all evening and went to bed. I didn’t get murdered. Yesterday I decided I needed to get outside in the fresh air. There are tons of great trails here. I drove two miles down a gravel road and arrived at the trail I intended to hike. When I got there, there were three men in the parking lot. I sat in in my car trying to decide if I wanted to go in or not. I put my hiking boots on, and watched as these three put all of their gear on. They had everything. It looked like they weren’t coming out for a few days. I didn’t feel good about going in alone behind them. As I was leaving, I noticed they all had Eagle Scout stickers on their car. They were probably exactly the kind of people you want on a trail with you. But, I was over it. I found another trail nearby, but on the side of the road leading to the trail head were tons of Busch Light cans and boxes. All I could picture were drunk men in the woods, waiting to rape and kill me. Or kill and then rape me. Basically, the woods was full of drunk men waiting to attack me. I knew it. I passed on the trail. I tried one more time. And I hit it. No beer cans. No people. Perfect. I went into the woods a little ways, but I was still scared to go too far by myself. The trail was marked well and I mostly felt safe. I got the fresh air I wanted and went back to the cabin. I thought of a million things I could do with my time, but I made myself do the thing I came here to do. I started writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote until 1 am. This morning, I made coffee, got right back in the bed with my laptop and wrote some more. I wrote a solid chapter in what will one day be a book. It might not be the book I have in my head, but it’s definitely a chapter. But not a first chapter. A middle chapter. Which is odd, because that’s not how I had it pictured in my head, but then again, this weekend hasn’t been what I pictured. But it’s been perfect. There was a thunderstorm last night. It poured rain, the cabin shook and the power went off. And, I didn’t flip the fuck out. The battery was charged on my laptop and I kept on writing until the power came back on. And I thought, “Look at me. I am such a bad ass. I’m not even freaking out.” LOL I told you I think a lot of thoughts. I went back into the woods today. Back to the trail that proved to be a winner for me yesterday. This time there was a truck parked at the trail head. I could see a woman’s jacket inside and that was somehow comforting to me. I went further down the trail today. If I had a week here, I might make the entire loop around. Not unlike exposure therapy. I noticed one can on the side of the trail today. It was an unfamiliar can. Blake’s Hard Cider. Mango Habanero. 6 1/2% alcohol. It said El Chavo on the side. Google tells me this is the name of a sitcom. Or a wrestler. For whatever reason, I felt better about this empty can than a can of Busch. Obviously, the person should have carried out their trash, but they probably weren’t drunk and waiting to attack me. Emphasis on probably. As much as I love solitude, I don’t think hiking alone far from home is for me. I wanted it to be, and maybe it will be someday, but I’m not there yet. But the back porch here is lovely and I am right in the woods. Tomorrow I will rejoin the people in the world, but solitude is my friend and I am going to find ways to incorporate more of it into my life.
What were you doing on New Year’s Eve in 1999? And what were you listening to? A friend just posted those questions on FB yesterday. I haven’t thought about that year for a LONG time, and yet, I immediately knew exactly where I was, what I was doing, who was with me and what I was listening to. On December 31st 1999, I was living at my parent’s house. I was in my bedroom, with a man who loved me, detoxing from methamphetamine for the hundredth time. The man loved me. I didn’t know how to love anyone. And if it wasn’t the hundredth time I detoxed, it sure felt that way. The what was I listening to part especially hurt, because the ONLY thing I was listening to were the voices in my own head. I should have been partying and living it up. I was 22 years old and I wanted to die. I hated my life and the people in it. I lived in a dark and depressing world. My “friends” and I were manufacturing methamphetamine. Dirty. That’s what my world was. A sick cycle of misery. Wait for the sun to come up, (because there was no sleeping), go see people I hated, do things I didn’t want to do, wait for drugs and eventually get high. After that, the next few days and nights would be spent being paranoid and hiding from the cops that I was sure were looking for me. Until the meth ran out. When I was ready to crash, I would roll up at my parent’s house and sleep for days at a time. I was always sure I was going to die when the crash came. I didn’t care. I wanted death to come. It would have been nice if that New Year’s Eve had been the last time I had to detox, but it wasn’t. I lived that way for another 6 months before I finally made it into the treatment center that saved my life. “Another 6 months” may not seem long, but meth years are like dog years. When I arrived there I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was the poster child for the “faces of meth.” Ever seen those adds? That was me. I lived that way from the time I was 20 until I was 23. It is truly a miracle that I didn’t die. And it’s an even bigger miracle that I was able to get off meth. I know people that I used with who are still hanging in there, struggling to stop. Many have died, and lots of them have gone to prison. Some don’t even struggle anymore. They just accept that as their way of life. There was a solid year before I got clean where I had accepted being a meth addict as my fate. I didn’t try to hide it. When you just accept that and live that, nothing good can follow. I am forever grateful that enough people loved me to not let that be my life. Believe me, I was quite unlovable. And, because everything comes back to Facebook, another thing got my attention last week. “On this day” FB memories from December 23rd 2011 reminded me that I was right up in my worst days of alcohol addiction. I was making horrible choices and breaking the hearts of everyone who loved me. It was at this time that I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic. The reason this memory really jumped out at me is because of the date. December 2011. My sobriety date is November 13, 2013. I lived in Hell for two more years. And I took my family with me. Seeing those memories was like getting punched in the gut. I deleted a few, but I kept a few as well. Just enough to serve as a reminder. Not that I could possibly forget. Shit. I still remember that New Year’s Eve in in 1999. Addicted life is hard. I have a friend who is super struggling right now. I love this girl all the world full. She’s been reaching out from time to time for quite a while now. But she’s never actually ready. I like to throw the “want me to come over right now?!” on her when she texts me asking for help. I know it’s a little much, but I am always hopeful that it will be the time. Timing is everything. And…..when you’re really serious, right now is the perfect time. I feel like she’s getting closer. Stringing together more days of not drinking. She’s aware that it isn’t serving her. It doesn’t add any value to her life and it causes problems. Yesterday she texted me and said she needed things to do with her time. I suggested we go to the beach together. Right now! And she said yes. She said yes to my pushy ass “right now.” We sat on the beach and we talked and it was lovely to connect with her. I don’t see her much these days because of life things mostly, but also because I don’t live in the world where people party and get hammered anymore. She kind of fell away when I got sober. It’s ok. I don’t judge it, because it was part of my path. Until it wasn’t. I know how hard it is to be young and thinking about a life without alcohol. It’s scary. Talking with her took me back. Getting sober is hard AF. Staying sober is easy. Maybe she’ll figure out how to manage her drinking. I couldn’t. I tried. Maybe she’ll get sober and have an amazing ass life. That’s my wish for her. I spent so much of my life struggling with addiction in one form or another. It’s misery. Today, all I feel is freedom. And joy. I wish that for my friend. However she finds it. I wish that for everyone. I’m sure I’m still “addicted” to things today. It’s the way I’m wired. That “all in” thing I do. Today I choose things that are good for me.
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! ♥️