Tattoos and Freedom

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

*photo by Ed Speas*

Beautiful, Brave, Badass

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

Letting go

Ahhhhhhhh! I am out of the weird ass moon energy and back on top. Where I like to be. One  might think that after two years of living in sync with the moon cycles, tuning into them and paying attention, I wouldn’t be so surprised or knocked on my ass by a big super moon eclipse. One would be wrong about that. Because whoa.  I know I wasn’t alone in that. I heard it at my moon circle from other women. I saw people freaking out on social media.  I felt it in my soul.  Lost. Lonely. Off.  How fortunate that I have so many practices to keep me “sane,” and so many friends to keep me grounded.  When I remember to lean on those supports. I’m out of my bathtub now and living in the big world again.  It feels great. When I wrote my Sunday blog, I said that my week had been uneventful. That wasn’t entirely true. Last week a 7 year relationship with a very dear friend switched gears. I would say we are finished being friends, but that is a bit extreme. Our roles in each other’s lives have changed dramatically and I’ll be way less involved with this person and vice versa. It sucked and made me sad during an already (overly) emotional time.  After years of knowing this needed to happen, my heart and my head were finally in alignment at the same time. The moon???  After a long conversation with my friend, the letting go happened.  Just like that. It needed to happen so my soul can grow in other directions.  This doesn’t make it hurt less.  I know that “when we let go of the things that no longer serve us, we create space in our lives for that which inspires us.”  We create space for growth and joy and life. I know this. I teach this.  Somehow, I’ve been forgetting to live this.  For years…..That letting go left me feeling more lonely and more lost….but I sat with it. I sat with not feeling centered and not feeling OK.   I sat with lonely and lost. I set an intention for the feelings of Calm Abiding to wash over me and hold me.   Taking it back to basics and knowing that this is the soil I need to be rooted in so I can grow.  I’m growing. On Monday afternoon I connected with a friend in Wilmington.   We hadn’t seen each other in a year or more. She and I did yoga teacher training together. Anyone who knows that life knows it’s a true bonding experience. We had lunch and talked about our teacher training experience, among other things. Life things. I mentioned that I might want to write my own Yoga Alliance program and become “a school” to lead teacher trainings. As it happens, my friend has done that and IS able to lead teacher trainings.  She said she wasn’t feeling quite ready to do it on her own.  We briefly discussed the possibility of doing it together but made no plan. We finished lunch and headed out.  On my hour long drive home, I let the thought roll around in my head. I pictured what it would look like and how it would feel to lead a teacher training with her. By the time I got home I KNEW. I knew it would be intense. I knew it would be a learning experience. I knew it would be fun.  Guess who loves intense?  Guess who loves to learn? Guess who loves fun?  This girl does!  All the details will be available soon as we are just starting to put our heads together.  I can tell you that it’s coming in April. A 3 1/2 week immersion.  Yoga for Inner Peace. It is in complete alignment with who I am and what I teach.  Our special focus will be “Nurturing the Inner Self.” A beautiful co-creation.  I am so excited!   Once again, I am amazed at how quickly the Universe responds when I get out of my own way.   I AM connected and divinely guided.

Dream World

 I published a post on Wednesday that touched a lot of people in a lot of ways.  It became clear that I am not alone in feeling lonely.  It became clear that perhaps I was throwing a little shade.  It became clear that I was blaming others for my hurt feelings.  It became clear that people have a desire to “fix” me when I am feeling less than joyful.  All of these things are fine. I’m down to do the work I need to do around my hurt feelings and shade throwing.  We all have a shadow side.  It’s not a problem unless we deny it.  I know some shit. I show up and write what’s in my heart and on my mind.  Not what I think people need to know.   I love that people read my words and FEEL.  What they do with those feelings is completely out of my control.  There is FREEDOM in that.  I am not here to hurt feelings.  Ever.  I am not here to be fixed.  This is my space.  I appreciate everyone who takes time to read my words.  What you do with that is NOT my business.  I am thrilled some of you have therapists.  I am NOT a therapist.  My therapist has reminded me of that a time or two. Or three. 🤣   I wrote my last blog right before a therapy session. The one about loneliness.  Something magical happened in that.  I named it, claimed it and tamed it. I am sure we talked about those feelings.  I don’t even remember now.   And life went the fuck on.  As it has a tendency to do.  My week was uneventful, but here I am sharing my uneventful week anyway.  Because it’s Sunday and it seems like the thing to do. I  journaled more than a 13 year old girl this week.  Most weeks really, if I’m honest. I’ve just switched up my journaling routine from morning to night. Holy Shit! It’s like another world.  Night time journaling  has opened up some portal into my dream world where a lot of serious action is taking place.   This week (in my waking hours) I spent some time trying to decide if AA is still my path.  I sit in those meetings some days and laugh at how weird it all is. Not that I am opposed to doing weird shit.  I do plenty of it.   The topic of quality vs quantity comes up from time to time in meetings.  I live in an area where most of the population is retired.  In the sober community, that means I am in meetings with people much older than me with a lot more sober time than me.  And yet some of them are still so miserable. Miserable could be a stretch, but there are a lot of them who still haven’t figured out how to be happy, joyous and FREE.  They have quantity, but are clearly lacking quality.  I am not lacking in quality.  After 5 years I am still not comfortable sitting in a meeting and sharing openly. It’s something I rarely do. Maybe if I got past that I would feel a shift in my attitude.  I don’t know.   There are lots of people I love in AA, but the meetings, not so much.  And I wonder……..  AA was a great place for me to get sober.  The 12 steps were a beautiful launch pad out into a much bigger spiritual world.  But does it still belong in my life?  My AA friends will say it absolutely does belong in my life, and perhaps I just need to switch my meetings up.  This week as I was rolling that around in my head, NOT going to meetings and night time journaling about it my dreams came at me.  Alcoholics have “drinking dreams.”  I am not sure if people who don’t have a problem with alcohol have those or not, but I am guessing not.  I dreamed that I sent my husband to the store to buy me a bottle of bourbon.  He asked if a pint would do and of course, it would not.  I would need at least a fifth.  In real life a half gallon would have been called for, but anything can happen in the dream world. He then asked why I was still going to those meetings if I am still drinking.  I wasn’t exactly sure why.  I just knew it was what I do.  He asked me if I planned to pick up a white chip.  A white chip means surrendering and choosing to live a sober life.  The start of the journey.  Basically, a white chip would mean I had to start over at day one.  I don’t do white chips. I was always one to bedazzle mine. Another story for another time. Dream me said a big Fuck NO to him about picking up a white chip because although I was drinking, I wasn’t getting drunk.  In my mind, there was no reason to pick up a white chip.  I can rationalize anything,  Even in my dreams.  Drinking dreams suck. I know this one came from all of my recent questioning. These questions aren’t really new to me.  I have spent the better part of a year wondering if I I want to continue going to meetings. I don’t have to figure it out today and chances are, I’ll be drinking coffee with old men at least one day this week.  Maybe that is the solution.  The real movement and processing that’s happened in my dream world this week has been in the form of my little sister.  Who doesn’t exist.  But she exists in my dreams and I KNOW that she is me.  Little me.  All thanks to going back and taking another stab at inner child healing.  And night time journaling.  I tend to go hard at Inner child healing (like I go hard at everything I do) but when I touch on something painful, I stop.  After seeing the group that’s working through this process in my studio, I decided to take another crack at it.  I love watching the women in the group connect and grow.  I can SEE how much this group is helping them heal. I also know  that the group in the studio wasn’t the time or place for me. But, I definitely see the value in it and KNOW it’s something I want to keep at.  I bought the book they are using and I enlisted a far away friend to work through the book with me.  We connect weekly and discuss.  I have my therapist to help me process what comes up and she has hers. (Although hers sucks and she needs  a new one)   I know it’s going to take us a little longer to get through the book, but it seems safe and comfortable to me and my inner child.   She needs that.  I won’t be blogging about those dreams, but they are powerful.  Powerful and private.  THAT is what it’s like to pay attention to my inner child. I’m learning to listen to her more and more.  When I use that term inner child, I know there are tons of them, pieces of me that I haven’t connected to yet.  But I’m getting closer every day.  Yesterday I taught my 8 am class how to chant “fuuuuuuck.”  It might have been my greatest teaching moment ever. Pretty sure that was my inner 15 year old Rebel girl. I know her well. 😂

The Work is Never Done

When you are on a “journey to wholeness” the work is never done.  (Here. Listen.) That doesn’t mean that I always want to do the work.  Because, honestly, some days and weeks or months, I don’t want to.  So I don’t.  I am rolling into the third week of mentioning repressed memories that just came back to me and I still haven’t done anything about them.  My therapist really wants me to write about them to help me process them and move on, but who wants to do that?  Not me.  Not lately. Plus, I’m a busy person with a life to live, a business to run and a family to take care of.  She suggested to me that I am scared to sit down and do it.  It would be great if I just used my time with her to do it, but I can’t.  I freeze and nothing comes out.  That leaves little to work with.  And if I don’t do the work on my own, it doesn’t get done.  But I’m busy, remember?  Also, I really don’t want to.  Yesterday, I received a text from a friend.  Or, as I like to call it, a loud and clear message from the Universe.

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How funny is that?  I am surrounded by so many amazing people and I just need to remember that I am never alone in my struggle.  None of us are.  It sure feels like we are when we are going through some shit, but I have learned that if I open my mouth and speak up, I will find someone who says “Me too.”  Always.  I live in this world where it’s usually easy for people to open up and share their struggles with me because I am so open about mine.  On the internet.  If you know me in real life, “I’m fine.”  I am always OK.  It was only last night while I was journaling that I realized this.  I always throw up the I’m fine wall.  It’s probably not a secret to those who know me and my therapist will probably laugh that I am just figuring this out.  I’m OK when I know I’m not but I don’t take the time to identify what I am feeling.  I wrote myself a little “Notice That” with an asterisk in my journal.  I guess that comes from a lifetime of numbing myself out.  Whew.  Always learning.  The work is never done.  But, now that I have this new information, I can work with it.  One would think with ALL the meditation and yoga and “noticing that” I do in my life ALL DAY, EVERY DAY that I would be an expert by now.  But, it seems, “notice that” is as far as I have ever gone.  Not “identify that.”  Identify that could be a game changer for me.  I tell my therapist all the time that I may be slow, but I am oh so thorough!  And really, what’s the hurry?  As far as I can tell, this is a lifetime path.  I can be healed and still healing.  Someone once left a comment on my blog that I am a “Soul Detective” and that was my favorite thing ever.  If it was you, you should tell me so I can hug you.  😊  I am still my favorite project but you should know that if you are on this path, and lean on me for guidance and support, chances are you are my other favorite “project.”   I root for you and want to see you win.  Complete strangers root for me and it’s the coolest thing ever.  Sometimes those strangers become my friends.  Have you ever talked to or hung out with someone you know nothing about but knows everything about you?  I have and I do often and it’s weird as fuck.   At the same time it’s completely liberating to have nothing to hide.  Boom.  This is me.  And you’re still here.  It’s our humanness that connects us all.  Our “not having it all figured out.”  Our “still learning and still growing.”  Our struggle really is our strength and when we share that we open the door for powerful connections.   And suddenly I am no longer afraid to sit with my deep dark shit and sort it out on paper.  I know someone will come hold my hand or just sit with me if I need that.  I also know that I know how to take care of ME and that I will feel so much better once it’s done.  I’m not saying it will get done today, because I’m busy.  Remember? 😂 But I’ll do it.  And then I’ll burn that shit.

All the Feels

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

AFD2D825-661D-4A0E-88E2-22B293ECCF28Here’s a little secret.  My husband doesn’t read my blog.  Not regularly anyway.  And I don’t offer it up to him for some odd reason.  Probably because he’s the one who knows me best and sees me every single day.  He doesn’t give a shit about how popular I am on the internet.  He sees the real me.  Every day.  Not just the best photos and the edited words.  He gets the unedited version.   He’s not on FaceBook and he hates social media.  But, he did recently get an instagram account, which I was quick to give him shit about.  Because Instagram is social media.  Now I feel like I have to censor my Instagram posts a bit. Like he’s there to babysit.  Not that that’s necessarily true, but I do get asked who certain followers are.  And since it’s social media, I typically have no idea.  He assures me his life would be easier if I was ugly.   I encouraged him to get the Instagram account because he used to ask me to post pics for him on my page.  I like to keep my page looking a “certain way” which doesn’t include pictures of the fish he caught that day.  Now he has an Instagram and it’s cute and hilarious that he really doesn’t know how to use it.  I post my blog on Instagram and use the standard “New blog post is up, link in bio” caption.  He has no idea how to get to my bio or click on the link.  I showed him how to do it a couple of weeks ago and he sat next to me and read my blog for what seemed like hours.  He went way back…….and I could tell he was upset.  I have suggested to my Mom that perhaps reading my blog isn’t the thing she needs to do.  I am thinking maybe he shouldn’t have read it either.  It hurt him to go back and relive some of it.  I know he also felt slighted because he never saw his name in any of my posts.  I totally understood that too.  I frequently speak about my therapists, past and present.  I write about my “tribe of women” who support me.  I don’t write about my family.  There are a few reasons for this.  The first reason is that believe it or not, I do keep parts of my life private.  My family is the MOST important thing in my life.  I feel like they have their own stories and they aren’t my stories to tell.  But here I am.  Talking about my family.  My husband anyway.   The truth is, I hated him for a few years before I got sober.  He was the enemy in my mind.  He was one of the firsts to point out that I had a problem with alcohol.   I could fool a lot of people, but he wasn’t one of them.  I hated him for that.  He was the person always taking my keys, my wallet and my liquor away.  But he wasn’t sober.  In fact, we drank a together A LOT.  So why was I the one with “the problem?”  Maybe because I was the one who blacked out and did stupid things?  Here’s the reality.   My husband is 15 years older than me.  He rescued me when my marriage to my second husband fell apart.  I didn’t know how to be alone but I also knew I didn’t need to involve myself in a relationship.  I found a man who lived far, far away that would come visit me when I wanted him to but didn’t live close enough to roll up at my house anytime and get too comfortable.  Because I DID NOT want to be in a relationship.  6 months later I moved to North Carolina with my two children to be with him.  That happened so fast.  I had a pretty good handle on my drinking at that time.  I was a “functioning alcoholic.”  Two years later I got pregnant.  I stopped drinking while I was pregnant and nursing (or at least didn’t nurse when I was drinking).  When our sweet Jackson turned two, I weened him (yes, I nursed him for two years).   It was at this point that my raging alcoholism kicked up several notches.  I’m not really sure why.  Other than the fact that once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop, which IS the very thing that makes me an alcoholic.  I drank every day.  At 5:00.  Until the day I discovered that I could drink during the day because I was grown.  That was a game changer.  That’s when the blackouts started coming. The insane behavior and really bad choices started happening more and more frequently.  My husband spent a lot of time on the phone with my family and friends “telling on me.”  I hated him for it.  Today I  know he was looking for guidance and support, but that’s not what it felt like at the time.  I would have preferred it if he had gone to a support group rather than bring all of our friends and family into our mess, but he’s not that guy and it wasn’t my choice.  He spent a lot of time on the phone with my therapist too.  She suggested hospitalization for me.  I hated her for that.  I hated a lot of people for a lot of things.  All things that I was responsible for.   He took drunk me to an AA meeting once and asked “those people” what he should do.  He just wanted someone to fix me.  He was watching the woman he loved, the mother of his children, kill herself.   My oldest two children lost their biological father to addiction.  My husband has raised them since they were tiny and he IS their Dad.  I think he hated me as much as I hated him, but he wanted me to live.  And eventually so did I.  He supported my recovery by giving up alcohol.  It wasn’t a struggle for him and if sobriety was going to work for me, he knew he had to make some changes too.   I had every intention of getting sober and leaving him because he was  a controlling asshole.   But then a funny thing happened.  Not overnight, because that’s never how things work for me.  But, as I began the process of getting sober, along with gaining some emotion regulation skills and a tiny bit of sanity,  he began to seem like less of an asshole. Not because he changed, but because I changed.  Not gonna lie, all of the changes freaked him out too.  I’m not sure either of us knew who sober me would be.  All of the new things I was doing seemed weird to him.  They were weird to me too, but also things I needed to do.  Meditation.  Yoga.  Meetings.   I caused a LOT of damage to our relationship.  Damage that isn’t a secret to our friends and family.  Things that I had to own and walk through.  But, he hung in there and walked through them with me.  He hung in there because he knew I was worth it.  He saw my worth when I didn’t.  And sometimes he’s still an asshole.  But he’s my asshole.  He’s no longer freaked out by the weird things I do and pretty much expects me to come in the door beaming about the new “weird thing” I am currently in love with.   Our relationship isn’t perfect, but whose is?   I’m still trying to figure out what we have in common.  There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot.  But, he makes me laugh and he’s pretty damn cute.  So there’s that.  He’s a safe place for me. He makes me feel secure. He gives me the space I need to grow. He has his life and I have mine and they are very different.  But, we come together every day and share our “seperate lives.”  Every now and then we even do things together.  Like a real couple.  One day, I’ll even go fishing with him.  What I am not going to do, is put this blog in his hand.  He can find it on the internet like everyone else.  Sometimes, I’m an asshole too.  😊

 

 

5 Sober Years

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

All that silliness aside.

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

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

Everything is a Practice.

I have landed on a consistent, weekly writing practice. I say practice, because that’s exactly what it is. The more I show up and do it, the better I get at it. Like everything else. Everything is a practice. That phrase used to piss me off like no other when my therapist would say it to me. Because I couldn’t understand what she meant. I would come to her freaking out about one thing or another and her words to me would be “Remember, everything is a practice.” I am sure my practice at the time was to yell “What the fuck does that even mean?!” at her. She was very patient. Or she wasn’t and she just had really good boundaries and a strong sense of self. I am guessing it’s the latter. My consistent writing practice has been taking place on Sunday mornings as of late, and even though I didn’t write this morning, here I am, showing up for myself. I didn’t write this morning because I went to yoga church instead. Yoga Church is the practice that grounds and centers me for my week ahead like nothing else. It connects me to my past and roots me in my present. The same therapist who taught me that “everything is a practice” is my Yoga Church teacher. If you are familiar with my story, you already know I had a love/hate relationship with this woman. I could always count on her to call me on my bullshit like no one ever had. And I hated her for it. But I paid her good money to (in my mind) be mean to me every week. The reality is that she was honest with me in a way nobody else would be. She didn’t sugar coat the truth and wrap it in a pretty package either. I would have certainly preferred that. I have a head full of her “classic one liners” that were both absurd and hilarious. But spot on too. Nothing is hilarious unless there’s a bit of truth to it. When I first started going to the Buddhist Temple to look for peace and clarity, I mentioned this to her. She looked at me without batting an eye and said “Please don’t fuck the monks.” In my mind that was absurd, but in reality, I understood why she would say that to me. The me I was on that day anyway. I am sure I wasn’t even truly offended until I got in my car to leave and I am equally sure I called her and let her know how awful I thought she was. That was the standard procedure. I would spend an hour on her couch. She would piss me off. I would think about it on my drive home and upon my arrival I would call her and complain to her. About her. Or I would call her in the middle of the night, on the office emergency line if need be, because I needed something. Her.

I needed her.

During the time she was my therapist, I landed in a psychiatric hospital. I was allowed to make phone calls and I called her.

Because I needed her.

She reminded me to “practice my skills.” She was referring to the communication, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and mindfulness skills that I had been learning in my DBT Group. It seemed a little late for me to practice those skills since I was already in the hospital, but I went with it. I practiced my skills and did what I needed to do to get out of the hospital. But I stopped practicing when I got out. I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. Within a few months, I landed back in the psychiatric hospital. And I called her.

Because I needed her.

She reminded me to “practice my skills.” “Everything is a practice” she said. I was so pissed because nothing about anything seemed like a practice to me. This was my LIFE and I was losing. I screamed into the phone “what the fuck does that even mean?!” She simply repeated that it’s all a practice. Life is a practice. I hung up on her. I practiced my skills, did what I needed to do and got out of that hospital. But when I got home, I stopped practicing. Again, I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. A month or two later, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Again. This time I was committed on an involuntary basis. This was a different hospital. This was a hospital where the steel doors were kept locked and I couldn’t leave if I wanted to. I was “a danger to myself and others.” I saw what real mental illness looks like in this hospital. I was terrified. I called my therapist.

Because I needed her.

She did not tell me to practice my skills. She did not remind me that everything is a practice. She said “Oh. You’re in the Ha Ha Hospital. Why are you calling me?” This was not the response I was expecting and I honestly didn’t know why I was calling her.

I just knew I needed her.

She told me there wasn’t a thing she could do for me. I told her bye and we hung up. She was right. There wasn’t a thing she could do for me. There wasn’t a thing anyone could do for me. I did what I needed to do to survive that hospital. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Locked up. Terrified. I practiced my skills. I was there for 10 days. I was released from that hospital and eventually I started to “practice my skills” on a more consistent basis. I wish I could say this is the moment I got sober, but it’s not. It took more terrifying experiences to make me understand that alcohol was not helping me and was, in fact, destroying my life and killing me. It was destroying all the things I loved as well. I went back to therapy, and eventually I did get sober. When I rooted myself firmly in AA, that therapist let me go. She had given me all the tools I needed. She had pointed me in the direction of a skillful path. It was my turn to do the work. I was terrified.

And I needed her.

But I knew, it was time. I began the long, difficult process of becoming a sober person. And it sucked. So bad. I kept in occassional contact with that therapist just to let her know my progress and make sure she was still there.

Because I needed her.

Eventually, I needed her less and less, but she was always there when I emailed her, and that helped me let her go. I got sober. I grew. My life changed. Our relationship changed. I don’t need her today, but I am grateful for her presence in my life. She has been a wonderful teacher to me in so many ways. She gave me what I needed at the time even though it was never what I wanted. Today in “yoga church” as she was giving a dharma talk, she made a reference to a scientist who was so ahead of his time, that he was thought to be crazy. Isn’t that always the way it is with scientists? She told the class how this particular man “ended up in the ha ha hospital.”  I laughed out loud and flashed straight back to the day she said that to me. I remembered exactly the way it felt and the person I was back then. But then I came right back to the present moment.  I sat up a little straighter and beamed a little brighter because I am NOT that person today. That one little phrase made my practice that much sweeter. That one little phrase reminded me why I was there. I was there to practice. Everything we do is a practice.

I AM a channel

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