I did my taxes last week. I thought you should all know that. I waited until July 15th on the off chance that they actually would magically get done. They did not. I am never doing my own taxes again. I am good at a lot of things. I enjoy a lot of things. Filing my taxes does not fall into either of those categories. Something else that isn’t magically getting done is that book I am writing. Or, not writing as it turns out. I tried using the share it to social media for accountability approach. That looks like me sitting down at my laptop by 6:30 every morning and posting a selfie to my story so the world knows that I am doing the thing I said I would do. But early morning selfies are tricky. I always forget that I just woke up until I see the pic. Then I have to take 72 more selfies until I get a decent one. Then I write. This is is what I have learned. I write like I do everything in my life. I am either all in or I am all out. There is no in-between. These past two weeks I have been all out. And it feels like I am done. Not just done, but mad about it. As in fuck this fucking book, it’s stupid and I don’t even want to write it. Which is how I know that I’ll keep doing it. I was doing great, sitting down at the same time every day, posting my selfies to my story, getting solid word counts. I felt like I was really doing something. But I don’t actually know what I am doing. I’m just writing. Which is probably fine because I never know what I am doing, and things always work out for me. Usually better than I could imagine. When I look at my life I see that things work out for me. But I also know I have to put the work in. None of it ever happens magically. One might think I would stop hoping for that, and yet, I never do. But I have this friend. I am 100% certain this woman showed up in my world to help me write this book. She’s a writer. And an editor. Among other things. And she believes in me way more than I believe in myself. Some days she talks me into believing in myself and it lasts for weeks. Then I slowly start to get in my own way. Doubt creeps in. I am writing about a past that is painful and dark. As I write from this place it’s hard to remember that I am not that person. It’s hard to be the confident and strong person I know I can be. The old story creeps up and brings those old feelings with it. The doubt struggle is real. It shows up as shame. It shows up as “not enough.” It shows up as “too much.” It shows up as “who am I to think I can write a book?” It shows up as “why would anyone care what I have to say?” The worst part is that I know in my heart that none of it is true. It’s my head that gets in the way. My story is powerful. My voice matters. But that dark past is a hard place to write from. When I write from that place, I am IN that place. It’s painful. It was suggested to me that I write about my right now. Because my right now is pretty damn fabulous. It’s full of love and joy and so many blessings that it sometimes brings tears to my eyes. It’s full of amazing people and beautiful experiences. It’s full of women who lift me and a family who loves me. It’s full of beaches and sunshine and dancing. But it’s still so new to me. I recorded a podcast a few weeks ago, and that’s probably right around the time I started losing steam for this writing project now that I think about it. The podcast was recorded with a woman who thinks I am 100% bad ass. I have only met her in person two times, but she’s followed my journey on social media and knows enough about me to know that she wanted me to share my story. I shared my journey to self love with her for this podcast. Because it really is a journey. We started in my childhood and moved forward. We had an hour for the podcast. When we were finished I was worried that she might not have gotten what she wanted. She got a small piece of the self love she was looking for. She got a LOT of darkness. But that’s the story. That’s where I am in my journey. I lived many, many years in that dark place. I have only been here, in the healthy place, a short time in comparison. It made me sad. I felt like she wouldn’t want to use my story because there’s too much self loathing and not enough self love. There’s no self love in judging myself harshly for my past. I know this. It’s easy to say. But it happens. It happens when I write about my past. And the doubt comes back. It’s a vicious cycle. But I have awareness and awareness is everything. I am going to keep writing. I am going to write with the expectation that it actually will be easy. But it won’t. And then I’ll get mad and I’ll quit. For a while. This is how I do everything worth doing. It’s not really for me unless I say “fuck it, I’m not doing it.” It’s my go to. And I mean it every time. A thing to know about me is that I am persistent. I know this about myself. It might take years, but I’ll do it. I already have the tattoo. I have to do it now. I fully expect the process to suck. But that’s just because I’m still mad about it.
When I started this blog years ago I had a hard time deciding what to call it. Sober Yogi represented who I was at the time. Since that time, I have grown in every possible way. When I started writing here I figured I would write about yoga and being sober, since those were the things I knew. I fully expected more of a how to format. Nothing like what I actually write about. I have used this space to document my entire healing journey which has been so much deeper and bigger than not drinking. Who knew? I’ve shared so much of that process right here with all of you and received so much support. What a beautiful healing space this is for me. I’ve played with the description of the blog, but have never changed the name. I’ve thought about it because I’m not so sure “Sober Yogi” represents what the blog actually is, and I am soooooo much more than a sober yogi. Those things are just pieces of who I am and being sober doesn’t really seem like it’s a big of deal anymore. It’s just my life. But today I was 100% THAT girl. I fully experienced myself as a sober yogi and it was so very special.
This morning I taught a yoga class on the beach. As I was teaching, I noticed a guy hanging back and observing us. No big deal, because yoga on the beach is cool. Who wouldn’t want to check that out? At the end of practice, I led everyone into Savasana. The final pose of practice. Corpse pose. Here’s a little truth about Savasana on the beach. Every time all of my students are lying on their backs, eyes closed, exactly like corpses, I feel a little (lot) like Jim Jones. It makes me laugh and feel weird to be the only one standing or even sitting around all the bodies laid out on the sand. So today, I walked down to the water while my students rested peacefully. And they were beautiful. As I was standing on the water’s edge, I sensed the man that had been observing us approaching me. In my mind I had an entire conversation about how happy I was that he was definitely not coming to talk to me because of social distancing. But he was. And he did. He kept his distance. Don’t freak out. He asked if I was Shannon. Then he introduced himself and asked if I remembered him. I didn’t. He shared with me how he had been to one of my 12 step recovery yoga classes years ago. Those are classes that I taught for a very limited time, because I just never felt like I could connect. The energy was always off. But, at that moment I remembered exactly who he was. And clearly, I had connected. He told me he was two days sober and didn’t know what to do or where to go, but he knew I was teaching on the beach this morning and I would be a good place to start. So he came to the beach. I still had students in Savasana, and went back to them. We finished our practice while he hung back. When everyone left I was able to give my attention to this man. I directed him to the local meetings and shared recovery resources with him. He had a ton of questions and seemed so willing to try a different way. One of the women from my class had stayed behind to enjoy the beach. A licensed mental health counselor. I invited her into our conversation and she was able to speak to him on the ways alcohol affects the brain. All the cool science of the addicted brain. She was incredibly helpful and informative. It was such a Divinely orchestrated plan to have her there in that moment with her understanding of addiction. A God moment. You can call it a coincidence if you feel better about that, but I’ll silently disagree with you. I have no idea if this guy will get sober or not. Sometimes people take that first little step into sobriety and then jump right back out. Sometimes it takes years. It did for me. People reach out to me all the time, and then I never hear from them again. It’s not my job to get people sober, but it is my responsibility to be there when someone reaches out. I saw honesty, openness and willingness from the man on the beach this morning. Those are the three things a person needs to get sober and stay that way. I’m hopeful. I’m rooting for him.
Being sober is such a natural piece of my life today. It’s no longer some foreign experience I am trying to navigate. I don’t write about it as often as I used to. It’s not the most interesting thing about me. But it’s never about me is it? As much as I want it to be. This morning, on the beach, I was a sober yogi. Yes, I am so much more than that, and as uninteresting and routine as the sober piece is, without it every good thing in my world would go away. I was reminded this morning, in a very big way, that being sober is incredibly special. Sharing about sobriety and connecting to so many people through my words is a privilege and an honor. I am extremely grateful that I am able to recover out loud.
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.
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! ♥️
I was having breakfast with my daughter recently. We were having one of those hard conversations that ended with me telling her that hopefully, one day, she would end up on a therapist’s couch processing that. She told me she was actually ready to do that now. I immediately pointed across the street to the office of a local therapist that I recommend to everyone. I asked her if she wanted me to make an appointment with her or if she preferred to go back to the one she had worked with previously. She chose the familiar therapist. I was so excited. I was excited for her to have support from a professional that I know isn’t going to steer her wrong. It doesn’t hurt that the therapist she picked is a bad ass, spiritual gangster. I wasn’t exactly sure what she needed support for, and I didn’t need to know. I was happy that she chose a healthy way to deal with life. The two of them connected and my daughter went to her first appointment last week. She texted me that evening and said that she was supposed to “talk to her inner child with compassion.” I asked her if that had been explained to her. It had. It all made sense to her. Then she asked if I had any books about inner child healing. I did. Of course. I got the book to her right away and told her to process it with her therapist. I was immediately excited for her. I mean, how amazing to start the inner child healing process at 18 instead of at 40. Wow. Then, two minutes later, I was terrified for me. Because sometimes I still think everything is about me. Inner child healing is all about re-parenting yourself in healthy and loving ways. In my mind this is going to bring awareness to every mistake I ever made raising my daughter. And there were A LOT. My daughter was 12 when I got sober. I wasn’t a raging alcoholic all of her life, but for a few years of it, I definitely was. There are so many things I missed because I chose alcohol over my children. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but today, I do. There’s a lot of shame in that. I can have compassion for myself, and I do, but I also realize that I wasn’t there when I should have been. I was drunk. Then I was in treatment centers for months at a time. I was in hospitals and psych wards. I once jumped out of a moving car with my children in the backseat, my husband was driving. My daughter has told me that one was the worst for her. The worst one for me was one of the occasions when my husband had taken my liquor away. I had a bottle hidden away at a friend’s house. I took off walking down the street. Stomping really. My daughter was following me and begging me to come home. She was crying. In that moment she was standing between me and the most important thing to me. My alcohol. I turned around and told her to stop following me. Then. I told her I hated her. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. If there was just ONE thing I could take back, that is the one. I would do anything to have a do over on that moment. Because there is no doubt that no matter how great our relationship is today and how sober I am, that moment will be with her forever. We have talked about this incident so many times, and she promises me that it’s ok and that she knows I was sick, but nothing about that moment is ok. This is how alcohol destroys families. We were fortunate to have a lot of love and support from grandparents, friends and other family members through that period. So, yeah, inner child healing work will be good for her. I didn’t get to be that mom who broke the cycle before I had children. I am fortunate that I do get to be that mom who shows her children what recovery is. I am truly grateful for that. I admire my daughter so much. She is strong and independent in a way that I never was. I spent years projecting all of my fears onto her. She isn’t me. She has shown me that time and time again. She has been successfully adulting since she was 16 years old. Hell, this child was born responsible. I’m not sure where that comes from. Of course inner child work will be good for her because she grew up so quickly. I texted her to tell her that she will probably be mad at me and hate me for a while through this work. She assured me that it will be fine. I know it will. It’s not about me anyway and I can’t allow myself to stay stuck in the space of all the things I did wrong. She is thriving in ways I couldn’t have imagined at 18 years old. She is on her own journey. She has been all along. My job is to love and support her in any way I can. When I take myself out of her process, I am nothing but excited for her to do this work. Maybe she gets to be that mother who breaks the cycle by doing the inner work before she has children. She makes good decisions. She is capable. She is a powerful force. She is amazing in so many ways. I love watching her grow into all that she is and I am honored to be her mother. I am convinced we picked each other in another time and place because we have so many lessons to learn from each other. She teaches me so much. ♥️
It recently occurred to me that I am the face of recovery for a lot of people. I get a lot of messages and emails from people who want to know about treatment options, meetings, therapy and so on. I respond to every one of them. A few weeks ago a friend asked me to connect with someone who is struggling with alcoholism. She specifically wanted this woman to read my blog. She could have sent it directly to her, but I think she thought it would mean more if I connected with her myself. So I did. I emailed her and slipped my blog into the email as a way of introducing myself. She responded and opened right up to me about her own struggle with alcohol. I had lunch with her this week. That’s a thing I do. If a person is struggling and I can be of service in my own small way, I am all about it. But, let me throw it out there that plenty of people reach out to me who have no desire to help themselves. I am learning the difference and learning how to have boundaries around that. Everything is a process, right? Not that I haven’t been that person in the contemplation stage of recovery, where I knew it was a thing I needed, but wasn’t ready to commit to it. I get it, but I don’t have time for it. On Friday I met this woman for lunch. I was sure it would be a bit awkward, but it wasn’t awkward at all. She told me she had read my blog and she asked me if I was afraid someone would find it on the internet and read it. WOW. That kind of blew my mind and gave me a full understanding of where she is in her journey. Hiding. I told her I hope lots of people find it and read it and connect with it. I told her I share so other people won’t feel so alone in their own struggle. I assured her that everyone has their own shit. Not everyone struggles with addictions, but everyone has their own shit that they are dealing with every day. Some people just hide it better than others. My heart hurt for this woman as I watched her hold back tears several times throughout the hour we spent together. She used the word ‘Shame” and it took me right back to early recovery. Shame is what kept me stuck for a long time. I could feel her loneliness. I could feel her grief. I could feel her unworthiness. All of these were so familiar to me. I wanted so bad to give her the freedom I have. The joy I have. The self love and self worth I have. But I couldn’t. I could just hold the space for her. I could listen to her. I could tell her all the things I needed to hear when I was where she is. I could answer her questions. I talked to her about treatment centers and outpatient facilities. I talked to her about meetings. I talked to her about meditation. I talked to her about finding things to bring joy into her life. I talked to her about the power of community. And over and over I just kept reminding her that she is worth these things. I tried to make sure that she really understood that. In addiction, those feelings of unworthiness are deadly. I know because I’ve been there. Fortunately, I had children that needed me to live. That made it possible for me to keep going before I understood that I was worthy all on my own. Figuring that out took work. That’s not something I can give to someone. I can give someone my time and attention. I can give my heart. I can tell them over and over that they are worthy with every positive affirmation in my being, but ultimately, they have to find it within themselves. And oh how I hope this woman finds it. I hope she finds her light and her strength. I hope she finds community to connect with so she can understand that she is not alone in this world. I hope she comes out of hiding and steps into a big world that is ready to help walk her through her process. When she expressed her concern about people finding my blog and reading it, I explained to her that for me, putting it all out there has been incredibly healing. No hiding. The years I spent hiding were the loneliest years of my life. Allowing myself to be seen in this world exactly as I am, not perfect, sometimes messy, awkward, insecure, and whatever else shows up on any given day has given me freedom. That freedom is there for everyone. It’s just a matter of stepping out of hiding and showing up in the world. However that looks.
I’m coming up on a sober anniversary next month. Anniversaries are always a weird and reflective time for “us sober people.” Last week I was all up in my journals from 2012. I got sober in 2013. 2012 was a difficult year for me as well as those close to me. It was 2012 when I landed in my “first” AA meeting. I mean, technically I had been to meetings when I was 21, but those don’t count because I was obviously in the wrong place. Right? People accidentally end up in AA every day don’t they? The morning of my first meeting I woke up hungover and still slightly drunk like every other day. I got my children ready for school. As I was preparing to drive them to the bus stop I couldn’t find my keys. Then I noticed my bourbon was missing. And my wallet. I hadn’t been anywhere the prior evening. These things weren’t missing. They had been hidden from me by my husband the night before to be sure that I didn’t go anywhere. And I was pissed. I took his truck to the bus stop, put my children on the bus and came back to the house. Since I couldn’t find my bourbon, the next logical step was to look for other alcohol in the house. And I found it. Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Those were a thing in my life. Technically, I drank Mike’s Harder Lemonade and because that still wasn’t hard enough, I added vodka to them. On this morning I couldn’t find any vodka. So I cracked open a Mike’s and called a friend. It was 7:00 am. I spent the next 10 minutes on the phone bitching to my friend about what a horrible man my husband was for hiding all of my things. I hated him. I hated him policing me and I hated him acting like he was my father. I told him this regularly. My friend interrupted my rant and asked why I was drinking at 7 in the morning. I didn’t understand then that I had no coping skills and drinking AT the problem was my solution. I was just drinking because I was pissed off. My friend told me I needed to go to an AA meeting. For some reason this excited me. Probably because I was just drunk enough that this sounded fun. It was certainly something different to do with my day. She said she would come pick me up and drive me to the meeting. She had already found one online and it started at 8 am. Perfect timing. I got off the phone and got ready for my new adventure. Here comes the good part…….My friend called back and said her car wasn’t in her driveway. She forgot that she had been drinking the night before and left her car parked elsewhere. She couldn’t take me to the meeting. At this point, I was ready and I was going to the meeting. I called another friend who seemed to think it was a great idea for me to go to an AA meeting. She came over immediately. I grabbed another Mike’s out of the fridge and jumped in her car. She drove me to the church and pointed out the blue AA sign that was hanging in the window. She was familiar with meetings and had been to many herself. Court ordered, I’m sure. I poured out what was left of my hard lemonade and walked inside. This new adventure was neither fun nor exciting, I promise. But, I am fairly certain I brought some excitement to the meeting. It was so weird. If you have never been drunk in an AA meeting at 8 am, you might not get it, but if you have, well, you know. There are no words. Keep in mind that I voluntarily showed up here. Nobody made me go. And it was in this moment that I chose to unleash every bit of anger I had inside of me. I was angry at my husband. I was angry at my life. I was angry that I was the one in the AA meeting when clearly, all of my friends should be there with me. The room was full of “old men drinking coffee” and one woman who I now know was new to recovery. She was probably terrified. I was asked to introduce myself but refused to do it the way they had done it. I would not call myself an alcoholic. I most likely told them “my name is Shannon and I am a mermaid.” That was one of my favorite ways to introduce myself in meetings there for a while. I let them know that the 12 steps were bullshit and they didn’t work. Obviously they didn’t work since I had been to a few meetings when I was 21 and here I was, not sober. I cussed and cried and called them names. They came at me with smiles and pamphlets. AA people are big on their pamphlets. They told me to “keep coming back.” They invited me to a speaker meeting that evening in the same church. They told me there would be cake and promised me that it was a fun time. Nothing about this sounded like fun to me anymore. However, I agreed to come back and told them I would bring a “fucking casserole to their sober party.” I still owe them a casserole. I called a different, more reliable friend to come and pick me up when the meeting was over. Now I was armed with pamphlets and a schedule of all the local meetings. We drove to my friend’s house (the one who couldn’t find her car), to tell her I had made it to AA. She was pleased until I snagged a beer out of her fridge. That part just confused her. I made a plan to hit the next meeting on the schedule. At noon. I am sure there were several beers in my life before I hit the noon meeting. My friend (the reliable one) actually went to the meeting with me. She was my designated driver for the day. Again, when the meeting started, I felt the need to unleash every bit of anger in my being. The AA people directed their comments to my friend. Probably because it was clear they were going to be lost on me. My memory of this second meeting is a bit more fuzzy than the first. Thanks alcohol. I promise I was an asshole. I like to think that was the last meeting I went to on that day, but I can’t be sure. I do know that I went back the next day. To a women’s meeting. I hated it and I hated them. I am sure I told them about it too. The women weren’t nearly as kind to me when I cussed and cried as the old men had been. I was not a fan of that meeting or those women and didn’t go back for a LONG time. But I did keep going to meetings with coffee drinking old men. Usually when I was drinking. Sometimes I would wait until afterwards. I went to meetings for a solid year without really trying to not drink. I kept thinking that eventually I would want to be sober, and when I did, I would just stop drinking. I honestly thought it would be THAT simple. Unfortunately, the not drinking part was the hardest part of getting sober. Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew…….every freaking sober person in the world. Every person who had been sharing at those meetings I had been going to. We all know how this story ends. I am sober today. I am sober because I took that ALL IN thing I do and applied it to my recovery. I went ALL IN with meetings sometimes going to two or three a day. I went ALL in with meditation, creating a local group to sit with and going to meditation retreats. I went ALL IN with yoga which is why I now own a yoga studio. These three things were the magic combination for me. It’s different for everyone but that magic combination is there for everyone. You just have to find what works for you. And now, here’s the kicker……the easiest part of being sober is the not drinking part. Seriously.
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.