Friday, July 24, 2015

Plenty of Room

I have a few people that write to me at any given time. Sometimes none. Sometimes more than a few, maybe like four. It all follows pretty much the same pattern: a lot of email, then none. It means one of two things: either that person is sober and cruising along fine, or that they are drinking again and don't want to write.

Ugh, drinking again.

I feel so honored when people write to me and say how strong I am. I feel proud of myself way deep down in when people say nice things like "you are so sober" and "you inspire me". I also feel the way it feels when I see or read about someone who is really good at something I want to be really good at. But I'm not really good at it. Maybe I really suck at it, and I think I can't stand to try anymore at it. And so I feel a little weird about it too because I remember what I was like when I wasn't so sober.

I wanted to remind y'all of that too. I wanted to remind you so you can see that I haven't always been this me: for twenty years I was the me you don't know. The drinking me. I imagine that people can relate to my hope, to my strength. To the beauty that is my sobriety. I imagine that makes it easy to forget in all my drinking years how I had sex with strangers, made a fool out of myself time and time again, drank through my boys' babyhoods, almost totally wrecked my marriage, damaged friendships beyond repair, went through a stage where I wet the bed regularly because I was too drunk to know I had to pee. That I lied, disappeared, and hurt the people I loved the most regularly. Including me. You wouldn't have liked me. Or you would have, but then been confused by who I was and wasn't. And then probably given up.

If I'd seen this today me when I was all slung up out on the back porch with my cigs and bottles of wine I would have loved to have been that today me. And thought it was totally never possible. I would have longed and looked and poured myself another glass of prosecco because, well, I had already started so fuck it. And only other people can do  amazing stuff like that. I just knew that I didn't have what it took to stop scraping by.

Turns out that was bullshit.

I have not always been so good at being something. I was really really bad at being sober for almost my whole life. I could fill a room full of the empty promises I made to myself, a building, an acre. For thousands of days I didn't get it right. It looks pretty now, but damn. I was a mess.

The thing I always want to come across is this: you can too. I can see the magic in you even when you can't. I don't know you but I recognize your magic. I know you feel it sometimes when you think about quitting drinking and imagine for real what your life might be like if you really did it. That shiver and grin that scoots up when you don't know it's coming to stop it.

We are all just regular ol' people. None more deserving than the other. My light shines because I finally let it. I didn't ever think I deserved to be shiny, and I definitely didn't believe that there was space in the magical places for a fucked up woman like me. Someone wrote to me recently and I got a sense that they thought because they drank I would be disappointed. That they were comparing themselves to me and coming up short and then not able to believe that there was room for them here too. God y'all. There is so much room here. SO MUCH.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Finding it Bigger

Sobriety is such a big word. It can be so annoying, so all encompassing. So joyous, wonderful, so freeing and like a little prison all at once. It has not only become my life, but given me a life.

I get pissed at sobriety sometimes: all here, in my face, all the time. So needy! So greedy! Sometimes I wish I could grab sobriety into a bear hug- so wonderful! So amazing- here! In my face! All the time!

Like any operation sobriety is a complicated beautiful tangle of me and other people- other lives and ideas and how I piece them all together and then put myself out into the world.

I am not used to or very comfortable putting myself out into the world. I tend to mumble when I speak because I am fearful of criticism. I'm unconsciously and so consciously afraid of being laughed at. I'm not afraid of dying, but I'm terrified of ridicule. It was so wonderful to be drunk sometimes because I didn't even know I was talking. I was never a slurring drunk, people told me time and again that they could never tell I'd had too much to drink from the way I spoke, it was the way I sort of disappeared in my eyes. I was never a loud drunk- not one of those sort who starts yelling after beer four. If anything I would stop talking altogether- but that's mostly because I drank steady alone.

There's something that happened to me when I got sober. Especially from writing this blog, and some from knowing what I'm saying: I've found my voice. I'm finding my voice.

As a writer it makes sense that I have a voice: I believe we all do, regardless of whether you call yourself a writer or not. I believe we all deserve to be heard, even if it's only you doing the listening. (This can be the most important use of your voice: talking to yourself.) The things we tell ourselves can change our lives.

I talk to myself about sobriety a lot. I think about it a lot, I write about it a lot. I think about what to call myself: how to define the person that I am. It used to be so easy: I was me, me who drank too much. Sobriety gives me so much more potential- I can be anything. I am brave enough now to call myself a writer instead of wishing I could be one. Because I write. I call myself a runner because I run. I don't wish to do these things, I do them. So I can say that they are what I am. Even though I run really slow I am still a runner. Even though I am not on the shelves at the bookstore I am a writer.  I call myself many wonderful things because I can- because I don't just wish I act. I make the action. You can call yourself anything at all: and then you be one- even if it's what you feel like is the worst one in the world.

All things are that simple. Really.

I struggle sometimes with the concept of sobriety: not the being sober part, but what it means. I sometimes feel like an imposter because I don't go to AA, I don't have a program, or a set of guidelines to follow. I have always built sobriety my way: in the ways that have worked with my life. This is the most important part. I am sober: this is the only requirement. Sobriety is an elastic stretchy suit that has plenty of room for every and any body. It isn't a one size one way idea.

I stop myself, sometimes, from doing things I want to do because I won't be the best at it, or even very remarkable at all. I didn't run for a long time because I was embarrassed to walk.

It's true that we can all be in the world in our own way. That we can all take the pieces of the parts that make us work and don't worry so much about the rest. The spare parts will stick around in case you learn to use them another time. One of the hardest parts of longer sobriety is that you never really finish: it just keeps growing and changing and moving every every single day. Accepting this has been one of my bigger struggles: I am very good at completion.

Perhaps there aren't needs for definition: we can only find the meaning in the act. And because it changes so much we can't be graspy and grabby, or make labels. I can use my name to tell you what to call me, but calling me sober narrows my potential somehow. And also makes me bigger than the world.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

How You Say It

I don't know when I started to notice that people are kind of mean to each other a lot. Probably when I was a little girl and the modus operandi in my family was a sharp tongue full of insult and jab. Something like this:

"Oh! I love horses! They're so beautiful! I wish I could get one."

"Like that would ever happen. Horses are too expensive, and you wouldn't take care of it anyway. Horse. Yeah, right." Laughter.

Yep. How funny.

When I remember things like this I always feel guilty for thinking of the people I love most in the world with such unkind thinking. Were they really mean to me? Did they really act like I was stupid? Stupid to have big dreams? Ridiculous to think that big things could happen for me? Like getting a horse? Was it a form of protection? Don't dream too big, you might get hurt. As hurt as both my parents were by their parents who didn't indulge their dreams either. If you act like something is stupid then no one gets too hurt when it doesn't come true.

The other day in the woods I had this moment of forgiveness for my father. I realized what a broken heart he must have had from his own childhood. How hard it must have been for him to be open hearted and love someone like me: someone he loved fiercely and with fear because I could hurt him too. How he knew exactly what it felt like to imagine the magic and then see the reality.

I am sensitive to the smart ass way people talk to me. I have a lot of people around me who aren't able to have polite conversation, they just string together tiny insults and act like that's communicating. Maybe that's been me and I'm finally growing out of it.

Once when I was at my naturopath she did guided imagery with me. Afterwards she told me she could tell when I stopped holding up my protected version of me and became myself. The funny thing about that was I could tell, too. I knew exactly what she meant. I can tell all the time when I'm my safe version of myself and when I can feel just like me.

Drinking made it easy to forget that a me existed. It made it easier to put myself out into a world that I felt unsafe and crazy in. It made it easier to hate myself so when people talked to me like I was an idiot I could easily believe it was true. Years of this built a shell that isn't so easy to slough off even though I really really want to.

It isn't really so much what you say as how you say it. It's letting down the I'm so stupid of it all and just being who you really are. It's knowing that even if the whole world lined up and pointed at you and said "Yeah, right" you can still say to yourself "Yeah. RIGHT."

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Our house is settling. We watched a show about sinkholes and then days later up the street appeared a spray painted note on the road: sinkhole. My youngest sons' door jamb is separating at what to me seems like an alarming rate, or maybe it's just more than any other door jamb separation I've ever witnessed, which to date is only this one. I still am not 100% convinced that we aren't going to wake up in the middle of the night suffocating under the collapsing floorboards even though no one else seems as worried as me.

My life is settling too. I was thinking about the house and it sort of mooshing itself down in the dry earth just by the pressure of its' own weight. Getting steady. Me too, I thought. This is me too. I spent a long time resisting pushing myself into the ground not quite sure of where to stand. It's one of those things like every damn sober thing: you just know when you're there. I picture a bird on a wire- flying in, feet out, catching on, and then shaking out its' wings. Then settled. Settling.

Then I thought of all the settling I did with my life before I got sober. How I settled for being a shadow of the woman I am. How I settled for being a drunk. How I settled for next day hangovers, one night stands, blackouts, forgotten fights. This is my life, I thought. I can't undo it all. I settled for it. Finished, I thought. Done deal.

This picture was taken at the start of my very worst year (2008-2009). I know now that I had a whopping case of post partum depression and being an alcoholic made it so much worse. I was trying so hard to settle in to being the woman it looks like I am in the picture, but in reality I was flailing all over the place. No safe place to land- wings and feet everywhere. Staying out all night. Dabbling in a little cocaine. Training for a marathon and picking up smoking again. Digging into the quicksand of my life over and over and over and over again. Somehow I found my feet around the end of the year and stopped behaving like a maniac. Still drinking, but no more all nighters, no more drugs. I settled for the shame of it and hid from the repercussions by acting like it never really happened. Even now thinking of that time gives me a vacant pit in my middle.

Recovering from that one year took a lot of forgiveness. If you want to know how magic your husband is, be a drunken fucked up asshole for a whole year with a new baby and a four year old and he forgives and loves you anyway.

Going back there is hard. It helps to remind myself how far I've come from that woman to this one: two and a half years sober. It helps to feel that hurt because I am made up of all the good and bad that's been done. It helps because I know that bad won't be done again: I don't drink anymore so I don't forget who I am anymore.

There is a fierce comfort in the settling my life is doing. A rightness. I am establishing myself as this woman I am today, and leaving behind the shaky ground I inhabited for so many years. Resolving the argument between who I was then and who I am now. I am settling down, settling in. Settled.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Two and a Half Years

I had an idea to make a Soberbia Instagram page. So I did it.

You can find it there with this: s.o.b.e.r.b.i.a

I was two and a half years sober yesterday. This Brian Andreas picture hangs on the wall at 6 1/2 year old height outside my sons' room. It says:

"There has never been a day when I have not been proud of you, I said, though some days I'm louder about other stuff so it's easy to miss that."

With two and a half years has come more quiet, and more proud. I'm more apt to notice how proud I am rather than henpeck tiny mistakes imagined or real. I got down on my knees in the woods yesterday by my tree and gave prayer and thanks- thanks to the woods, thanks to my spirit, thanks to myself, thanks to all of my sobriety, to my family, to my heart. I find that with all this gratitude comes humility- a sense of being huge and small all at once. A sense of belonging in the world and to the world that is still so new to me. The last six months have been especially transformative- I suspect it's because I decided to be in charge of my life again. Not in control, in charge. There have been so many days in my life when I have not been proud of me. But now I'm much louder about the other stuff, so it's easier to miss that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


It's raining here today so I started messing around with the look of my blog. I'm never very happy with it, so every so often I change it. Then I think about moving over to Wordpress. Then I think I should maybe make my own page. But I don't know how to do that, and I have lots of posts I want to write but then I don't and so I'm going to start there.

I heard something the other day on NPR about survival of the fittest and how that it really isn't based so much on being the fastest or the strongest or the best, but on the ability to adapt. It went straight into my brain with a zoom and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

I have a friend who gives up drinking every several weeks or so. I don't really know why, but my guess is that things go sideways and in that way we drinkers do he has that moment of clarity: Hey... things are fucked up because I drink too much. And so he quits for some days, but always goes back.

He was complaining about being bored. There's nothing to do, he says, if I'm not drinking. I say be patient, you will think of some things. Not drinking takes practice.

It takes practice, and adaptation. I feel like I am just now getting to the part where I am actually changing my life: where I am totally comfortable being sober and my foundation is really strong and I'm much less afraid to try new things. I think about the ways I adapted when I first quit drinking: giant glasses of seltzer and grapefruit, going to bed right after dinner, up at dawn to write and do yoga because that made me feel needed and like I just had to be sober. I think about the ways I am adapting now: I'm finally, finally comfortable taking care of myself.

I am slowly but surely adapting my life to fit my idea of my life. I am only working the job I don't like for six hours a week. I have been keeping promises to myself- this has been HUGE and all started almost three months ago with my tiny promise to floss my teeth every day. Then I got bigger and promised to write three pages a day. Then I promised myself I was going to eat right and start running again. Then I added meditating every day. Writing them out like that makes them seem so....small, sort of; maybe more like simple. But it's working. I still don't quite believe that all it took was to keep one small promise, but it was all it took.

I run in the woods. I have three birch trees that rely on me to be there, and when I get to the last one I stop and make a circle with my water around her base. She has a strong trunk that branches out into four smaller trunks that reach into the sky and make all the branches that make up the whole tree. A trunk for everyone in my family-me, my husband, our children- united by the strong base. After I make my circle I press my head to her side, place my palms on the bark, and close my eyes. I say a prayer of gratitude. I cry every  time. I don't care if anyone sees me. I let go of the world for a minute and reach deep inside to really feel my gratitude.

With these smaller promises have come moments like this: moments when I am brave enough to pray at the base of a beautiful birch tree, moments where I am brave enough to run, when I have the courage to let myself be guided by my heart and not by the what ifs of money. Because I am seeing that I can change I am changing. I am not the strongest, or the best, or the fastest. I am the one who is adapting.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just a Moment

It's Saturday night. I'm sitting on the little green couch drinking a cup of chamomile tea. I have a houseful of kids. I had some cashews. I'm wearing bright blue sweatpants and a black hoodie with little hearts all over it. I am sober.

I keep thinking: "Dude, this rocks."

It rocks because I know that I'll be able to get up in the morning and not want to crawl right back into bed. I can feel full of possibility tonight and tomorrow! As soon as I digest these cashews I might go do some yoga in the office while the kiddos have a Saturday night movie. Or I might keep reading the book I'm reading. Or stare off into space. Listen to these kids and be grateful that I'm sober so that we can have sleepovers.

It only takes me just a little minute to be grateful for all this. But it makes me smile for a long time.