Friday, October 2, 2015


  Getting sober is about doing things differently. You for real decide, "oh hey, I'm not going to drink anymore" and then that day you don't drink anymore. On that before dinner you don't pour a giant glass of wine over and over again until you blackout. Then the next day you decide it again: differently. You drink seltzer and breathe and push and pull while you stand in the kitchen wondering how the hell you're going to manage making dinner without wine. A week passes and you are still differently. A month. Holy shit! Then a whole year and sometimes you don't even notice the differently anymore all the time because now being sober is the same.

Then arrives a whole other set of things you need to do differently! Ack! I have feelings? I need to figure out who I am? What I like? What I can do? What I stand for? Who stands by me? My place in the world? Is it not enough that I quit fucking drinking? Can't that be my grand gesture to the world- hurrah! I am healed! Ta- dow!

Ahem. Welp, I guess not.

There's a thing called "globbing": when you take every option and make a big wall in your head and then no decisions get made and you get trapped in your critical mind and forget about doing the thing another way. When you glob you get sad and confused and blamed and incapable. I am excellent at globbing! I can pull myself under real quick like in most situations with my automatic response that is usually Ugh, I am not doing this right and I want to hide even if I'm fine.

Which means that now I have to figure out how to do my thinking differently: how to talk to myself and the world in my voice and not in my fear of rejection or fear of hurt. I don't mean speaking my truth: I mean speaking for myself. It's about feeling secure: held and safe- even when I'm a total asshole. Recognizing the unthinking responses and then taking a moment to decide: whether positive or negative making the decision instead of blindly flailing along the way I've always gone just because I've always gone it and also that's just easier.

I quit one of my jobs this week. I quit because I didn't like what the company is doing and I was able to say "I don't like this" and be finished. It was so empowering and such a relief: I didn't want to stay and my life is arranged now so that I didn't have to. It has mystified me a little about myself all week: I really did that??? I was able to do that? I'm not totally stuck because of money or obligation? That was pretty different. Normally I'm a person who sticks it out even when it sucks, or I have to stick it out because I run my life like a train wreck, but now I'm not that kind of person anymore.

It can be as small as this: sometimes when I'm at acupuncture a needle can be uncomfortable- but I never speak up- or in yoga class we get into a position and I'm supposed to feel great and I don't- but I don't move. I don't want anyone to know I'm doing it "wrong". I finally spoke up at acupuncture and moved at yoga this week. No one was bothered or noticed, but I feel like a badass.

I smile at myself: me? Standing in my two feet having my own back? Speaking for myself? Pretty cool. The gifts sobriety brings are so dang ongoing- just when I get to a spot where I start to feel a little dum dum dum the universe offers up these opportunities for me to wow and amaze myself- and I've started to take the invitation to get less afraid and let my life be bigger. Even when the world is crazy and the children are both misbehaving at school and I'm hormonal and sad and it feels like the pile of things going on is bigger than all of us I can stop and think for a little minute and be...okay.

We spend so much time concentrating on what's "wrong" with us. I'm not this, I'm not that. I read a book every day called Meditations from the Mat and in it I found the idea of making it good instead of making it bad. That I can concentrate on what makes me not or what makes me me. And so when I start talking bad about myself behind my back I stop it right now.

It's getting easier with practice. All these things: not drinking, getting sober, staying sober, learning to be a person, learning to be a nice person- all have gotten so much easier with practice. It's so small: to not belittle myself, to decide, to be kind.  But the difference is so big.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Body and Mind

I do a lot of my living right in my own head. I noticed yesterday when I was out for a run that I was thinking about all sorts of other stuff besides the actual running. I'm taking a once a week class and this week we talked about living in our bodies rather than living so much of life in our minds.

One reason I drank was to escape my own mind. That thing is big and powerful and always at work. I drank to forget who I was, why I hurt, and to get some peace and quiet. If I had enough to drink I didn't even remember that I existed and that, somehow, felt nice- even though it caused me no end of grief and regret around all the other hours I wasn't drunk.

What about my body? What about it? I've pretty much avoided it my whole life: even though it counts for my whole presence I discounted it as a source of healing or grace. I abused it and hated it and existed solely in my head and forgot about my sweet body.

As I head into the last bit of my third year sober I have discovered something: I like my body. I like it because I am finally thinking with it instead of just my brain. I don't ask my brain if it wants cheesecake or another cup of tea anymore- I ask my body. My body has an intelligence all it's own. It knows without debate what I really want. My brain can suck me into an endless internal debate that usually ends with me doing the exact opposite of what my body wants to do. Perhaps they're like sisters who can't help but fight and the mind big sister will win if the body doesn't speak up. Ego and voice of reason.

As much as I love the thinking my brain can do that shit can be exhausting. All the thinking I do about things and the actual feeling I don't do about things. How to live in my body and not live in my mind. How to feel the power of hurt, of joy, and not just feel the thought of it. Pinpointing where in my body I feel something: anxious about a family gathering? That's in my shoulders, in my jaw. Then I can breathe into my shoulders, open my jaw. Take charge of the anxiety and feel it for what it is, not start thinking about the last family lunch that went wrong and replaying scenes and conversations but being here now. Breathing. Feeling my lungs expand. Getting quiet for a moment. When I concentrate on identifying where I feel something in my body it makes it real- and reality is something I can relate to. It's a lot easier to think to myself "Relax your jaw" than it is to try to fix something in my head that happened a week ago.

There is something so powerful about separating the body and the mind and then allowing them to work together. Boiling it down to the physical and then seeing where you are at the moment. And then thinking about your big mind (your higher self) and your little mind (your ego) and how to make them work with your body.

Our bodies are such a battlefield- especially for women. We are taught that they should look this one way. That we are not beautiful. That our bodies can be hurt, that we should hide. I have struggled with the way my body looks my whole life- I have always felt "too"- too fat, too short, too plain.

I willfully harmed myself steadily and purposefully for almost all my life and still- here we are: me and my body. I drank to ease my mind without giving one thought to how it felt in my body. I ate too many cookies and made excuses for just one more and forgot that my body, when unhappy, would show it. Then I'd be mad at my body for showing the evidence of my troubled mind. I would be furious at the 16 in my jeans and forget that even with all this abuse my body still showed up every day doing the best it could given the circumstances. Heart beating. Lungs breathing. Creating the motions of waking, of mothering, of living. Despite all I could do to make it quit it just kept going.

That's the thing I guess, really: to keep going. To take a fine example from your showing up every day body. My brain will take me places, dark ones, that my body has never thought of. I can be brave enough to visit and heal the dark places because my body can step me into the light. It can tell me too much, or press on, or I need a break. If I pay attention I can feel what my life is trying to tell me rather than think it to death.

It's taken me such a long time to make friends with this flesh and bones miracle that makes I'm only now just just learning to know when I need a rest, or a minute, or to be alone or together. To recognize that my shoulders are creeping up to my ears or that I'm holding my breath. There's a magic in these little details: consciously putting my shoulders down, the exhalation of breath. It makes it easier not to try escape mad dash with my inner -aholic when I feel physically what I'm running from. Touching the physical event gives me my own power in the story.

Friday, September 4, 2015


This week I am one thousand and then one thousand and onetwothree days sober. This blows my mind a little, but comes as no surprise.

When I quit drinking the last time I really quit. Back at the beginning on that day onetwothree it was all I could do to keep a grip on just getting through the motions of my day. Now I can have a friend come visit and she and my husband can sip wine one day or have a beer on the porch the next and no one gets hammered and I don't flake out because I just don't drink alcohol and that's just that.

My truth is that I am an alcoholic. Their truth is that they are not. We all have our own truth- our own truth. Sometimes I get so bugged by how big the sobriety part of my truth is: goddammit, can it be a less part? Do I always always always have to be so aware of being in recovery- of my self that gets nervous when beer walks in the front door? That I have a thousand bits of shame willing to wash up on my shore at any random moment to remind me of the woman I used to be? Or that I am still big time changing and not the same me as I was five hundred days ago and I know I'll be different in five hundred more? It can get so exhausting sometimes. It makes me want to lay in the middle of the bed and stare at the ceiling for a week.

A thousand of anything can get pretty tiring I suppose.

I will always always always be so aware of my sobriety- of my recovery- of my healing from this disease that kept me unhappy and unwell for most of my life. I will always honor the depth of strength it took for me: one woman me- to get myself sober. You don't get sober by yourself, but you do. In all the minutes that go into a thousand days the only person around for each and every one was me. I did it- I do it. I am a little different: I find comfort in the solitude of healing myself- I don't go to meetings or therapy or spend a lot of time discussing being sober as much as I just do. Maybe because I am still perhaps getting used to this me and not able to push myself to the middle of the class for show and tell, maybe because the right people are still coming to my life who will help prepare me to be brave enough to stand center stage. I know they are: I signed up for two classes (a ten week yoga one and a six week writing one) this fall, yoga teacher training in January. I'm putting myself out there because now I'm ready. I will probably be so flush with teachers and mentors that I'll start having yard sales of them just to manage the overflow. Just thinking about it means I'm readying myself: because I am sober every day my life gets bigger, and different, and more.

The gratitude I feel towards myself is uncomfortable and incredible. My dear friend who came to visit got me thinking hard about the hiding that I still do. How I want to make me getting sober into just another ho hum casserole thing when it's actually this amazing astounding miracle! I am as embarrassed by my successes as I am my failures. Here she was, in my thousand days week, to come and firmly remind me that I must celebrate and own my accomplishment. That I can be proud and humble all at the same time. That when I diminish what I've done I go backwards. That it is wonderful to be me since along all these days I have become the woman I longed for: capable, reliable, steady. Full of gratitude, full of grace. A foundation for the things to come.

A thousand of anything can be pretty amazing. It was amazing on day one. It was amazing on day fifty, day 247, day 400, day 708.43. And today, it's amazing today. It's amazing to know that 1000 days can be joined by another 1000. That the thousands can go on and on forever. That my life, this good life, can be counted on and accounted for.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I was running in the woods the other day and I fell. Hard. The kids are away for the week visiting their grandparents, all summer I've been waiting for this part of August to get here: visiting time, next week back to school time, back to regular running time.

I have been running for about ten years now. I started after my oldest was born- he was born in December and we would bundle up and go on these epic walks that just naturally evolved into runs. I would push him in his stroller and feel so tough and so proud of myself: look what I could do! I ran desperately hungover, exhausted, rested, feeling fine, in the rain- it was my one thing I hung on to. If I could run I was OK. If I could run I wasn't an alcoholic, or a bad wife, or a bad mother.

When I got sober at the end of 2012 one thing I was really looking forward to was being able to run not hungover. Then the reality of being newly sober set in and it was all I could do some days to just get through the day much less get out for a run. Four months in I did a trail run that I shouldn't have done but did anyway and ended up with a nasty case plantar fasciitis that took me over a year to recuperate from.

I had other things I needed to concentrate on anyway- like learning to breathe and not drink and be in the world. Then when I tried to run I wasn't very good at it anymore. I used to be able to run ten miles and now I couldn't run one. So I gave up trying. I saw people out running and just wished I could be like them. "Oh, I wish I could be a runner again," I would think wistfully in my head, "That used to be me."

Now, this year, 2015, I am finally running again. I think it took me a long time to sort myself out enough to be able to give in to something again. To trust myself to not make it disappearing but a therapy: a part of my practice. To give it what it really is: a run. To not make it into something that saves me but something that soothes me. I don't need it to be crutch, I need it to be a thing that fills my soul but also a purely physical thing that reminds me of how beautifully my body works- and it does.

It does because I finally got patient enough to practice. I finally pushed my damn ego out of the way and started going out for walks. I would dress in my running gear and stick in my headphones and go out for a walk and it wasn't long before I was running a little bit. I remember running and feeling like I was flying and looking down at my GPS watch thing thinking I was just as fast as before and seeing that I was running four minutes a mile slower than I used to. Four minutes!

So I laughed and kept going. Because, really, fuck it. It wasn't important how fast I was going- the important part was that I was out there running- even when I was walking. Practicing.

I'm up to three miles now. I can run without stopping for three miles. I go run to the woods and I jam out to music and run fast and run slow and hug my tree and find bits for my altar. I cry and pray and laugh and dance and feel real-er than I've felt in a long damn time.

If you'd told me at the end of summer last year that I'd be running again this year I would have never ever believed you. I was waiting to see the neurologist. I was weak, tired all the time. Stressed. I was sober but I wasn't paying attention to the next things. Finally after I saw the neurologist in December and a clear CAT scan showed I wasn't suffering from a big honking brain tumor or dying I could let it go- I could not be afraid and go run. I could have more tests. I could face what was coming, or what wasn't. I could stop being paused and start again.

It's funny, the stories we tell ourselves. How things happen at just the right time: I shake my head at how things have lined up and played out over these last couple of years. I look back at last year at this time and then this year and I'm amazed at how much I've grown and changed. I think about how last year I wanted and planted a garden but didn't tend it and this year I only planted tomatoes and they're big and all over the place and they take some time but not all the time. How last year I wanted to say things like "I'm training for a half marathon" but wouldn't even go out for a walk. How next fall I want to do my favorite ten mile trail run again but how this fall three miles feels like a miracle.

When I told my mom that I fell running in the woods the other day she said I should think about not running in the woods anymore. That maybe it was time to just stick to safer paths. What if I fell again? But I can't listen to her story about me, I have to tell my own. It's taken me a long time to be brave enough to say that.

I used to feel so frustrated that I couldn't ever reach the end- that I never seemed to be "cured" or "well" or "recovered". That I wasn't happy all the time, and zen. That I wasn't doing it right since I have sad days, or mad days, or days when I just can't be the woman I want to be despite all my best intentions. But that's the it of it: the story just goes on and on. I am the woman I want to be in spite of my intentions. Every day is just practice: and every day is the big show- the show is the practice.

So the other day I was running- welled up, full of delight- running as fast as I used to. I forgot to pay attention to the rocks, to the roots, to that voice in my head that tells me I look stupid, or that I'm tired. I flat out forgot to be and just ran. I don't know what I tripped over, and it doesn't really matter. All I know is that one minute I was flying and then next I was on the ground. In ten years of running I have never ever fallen even though I spent most of my life falling down.

I breathed and laughed a little and thought I might should cry but the dog looked too confused for me to make her feel worse. I wanted to be so mad: here, out on my first day of my new running schedule, I'd fallen and fucked it up. Instead I did what life is really meant to be: practice getting up, practice dealing with what happens- whether it's a root or a rock, a day or a year, a recovery, or a skinned knee.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The String of Things

I had a big important to me meeting today. On the way home I started thinking about the threads that make up my life: how I sort of launch them like I imagine a spider flings a string of web and how some catch and some fall.

Four years ago I was supposed to do yoga teacher training. I was in fantastic physical shape, awful in my head shape. Six weeks before the training was supposed to start I developed an umbilical hernia and had to drop out. I was so sad about this: I'd been waiting for us to have the money and the time for me to do it and then finally been brave enough and waited enough that I was all signed up and then blammo. No dice.

Of course, now I am so grateful that it happened just the way it happened- life has this way of dropping and tying those strings so they actually make sense. That string has been out there waving around, waiting to get caught- and now it has! My class starts in January.

That made me think about all my other strings too: about how strings aren't really in a big fat hurry most of the time. How they just wave about in the breeze, waiting. I thought about my please let me be sober string that I cast out there time and time again only to discover I'd forgotten to put on the bait. Or I was flinging that string in the wrong direction and could only catch more drinks. Or that I had too many afraid strings out there and not a one was secure enough to grab me a handhold and a help up.

I think about the tightrope of it all: how to make it life there has to be balance and care. How I can't rampage out into the world and expect any of my strings to make it across, and how if I wear out the same old string that wears it out, and how keeping all my strings to myself keeps me stuck at the ledge.

All of the patience it has taken, all the waiting to see this through: all these four years I waited. I got sober in that time! I found myself again. I learned to wait and see. It makes me know that the time things take could be the most valuable thing of all.

We live in such an instant world. We are taught to zip and hurtle ourselves through life and to be impatient and frustrated when things take time. Sobriety has taught me that strings take time. That I am OK just as I am. That me being the best me I am isn't something that should happen soon- it is already who I am today, this minute, right now. That the dreams I put out there into the world will come true.

One reason I could never stay sober is because I thought if I wasn't over it by day three it probably wasn't working. I always thought I wasn't doing it right and always said fuck it and tossed my string down in disgust. Two and a half years in I want to always have the mind of a beginner: fresh and open. Awkward, full of questions. Full of hope.

If you aren't drinking you are doing it right. Period. There are great and awful and in-between days and they are all you being awesome at sobriety if you aren't drinking alcohol. Some days that's just what it takes. Tie a string around your finger to remind yourself that you're sober. Let that string remind you of all the dreams you have out there looking for a place to land. String together days and then years of this then when you step back and look you see a woven well lived life. Rejoice in the time it takes to get here: be grateful for the string of things.

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.