Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Self-Ish

It feels like I become more of my self more of the time. Self-Ish.

When I got sober I was definitely no one resembling anyone I was supposed to be or had been. I was this mess contained in my very own skin, that I mostly spent time trying to jump out of. In my head I think a lot  "too much me", "I have had enough of me", "please let me be less me and more be".

I had another one of those brain lightning zip pop wow moments. Because of course, when I am overwhelmed with all this thinking I need a huge helping of brain salad to toss around.

It's about care.

When I was a little girl I felt very uncared for: like, "Hey, huh. There's Amy. And also a wall." When I was in fourth grade we moved. After that my parents fell apart for years together. And I existed. The boys in the neighborhood would beat me up or later finger fuck me in the treehouses we built- but no one really seemed to care except me. The boys didn't care that they pulled my hair until I couldn't breathe, and no one noticed me sneaking off into the woods with the older boy who would do things to me that made me shrink into a shell of a girl too full with shame. My mom was more worried about "One Life to Live" than she was about how my life was falling apart. My dad was at work. Unless he was yelling at me to clean the bathroom.

It sucked. It helps me understand why booze was such a relief. It helps me understand how, when I try to care for myself, it feels arduous and awkward. Because when you are ten and everyone is too busy to notice you slowly dying inside you get used to being alone. Uncherished. I got used to saving the worst for myself, to being the worst to myself. People could hurt me, but I could hurt myself worse. So there, I would think: See? I win. You can't get me. I have already been gotten.

I discovered that I am still waiting for someone to come along and take care of me. That in my head there is a mythical time when some magical someone is going to come along and know how to soothe my fears and ease my pain. Who will say things like Oh, it's alright. You can feel sad and out of place and not eat all that ice cream. Or Everyone gets tired, the world is a heavy thing to carry alone. Rest your self. And Wow, you are really not so perfect. That's just fine. That I have waited long enough. That it's time for the caring to just show the fuck up now, OK?

As you can probably imagine I pride myself on the care I give others. I possibly over care about people like my children, but also that lady in line who wasn't very nice to me. There's like all this caring, but none of it gets to me from me.

It's similar to someone giving you a compliment (I like your dress!) and you explaining it away (Oh, I got it on sale super cheap!). So I feel overwhelmed and emotional (PMS is a bitch) and I know what I need (yoga and a hot tea) but instead I spend so much time talking myself out of caring for myself (but the kids need some attention and oh the laundry) that I end up in the emotional bargain basement once again.

I didn't know that while I was waiting for someone else that I might instead choose to show up myself. That I am someone else. That there is no magical someone who swoops in and takes care of it all- that magical someone is me. If I want these things to happen I have to make it so. I am exhausting myself giving all this care to everyone outside of me and giving none of what I need back. It's sort of like standing in front of a speeding train and expecting someone to appear out of nowhere to push you out of harms way.

Gah. This sobriety stuff takes bravery. It takes such courage and grit to not be life lazy. It is so hard to do for myself what has not been done. It's so hard to get so uncomfortable to get to a better place. It's so hard to not just say fuck it, I'm sober! That's all I can do! Isn't that what I deserve? Isn't being sober the biggest best gift I could have ever gotten? I'm sober! Wanting more is selfish! Greedy greedy greedy. And plus what more do you people want from me???

What more do I want from me? I feel like I have a sweet little secret when I ask myself that question. Because, in secret, from my own self, is this: I want everything from me. I have possibilities. I have chances. I have whatever I dream could be as long as I am brave and faithful to my self. Being sober is wonderful, but it is not what makes up all of me, it's what makes me know that there is so much more to come.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Florida Beach Rehab Post

I wrote a post for a site called Florida Beach Rehab. It was so cool and hard to write something for someone else. It took me back to my drinking days and my early recovery days. The most fun was reading all the emails Belle and I sent back and forth for my research! I was really happy to have her to write to- and I could really tell that from reading them.

Here it is: Florida Beach Rehab Post

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Willpower is a Big Fat Lie


This is a post I wrote and then decided not to post. But then I really like what it means to me, and I also feel like if you take it in a gentler sort of way rather than the serious way it comes off you'll understand where I was coming from. I think. 



Willpower is bullshit.

Bull. Shit.

I didn't will myself sober. I made myself sober. Willpower to me seems like deep in the sea wishing for air wearing a suit of armor and concrete sandals. Out of all the words there are in the world willpower is one of my very least favorite ones. It implies that you probably don't have any of it and you are weak and unable to even get out of bed in the morning much less change your whole life. It makes it seem like you could just drop by the store and pick some up: eggs, butter, apples, paper towels, willpower....

Mergh.

The other trouble with willpower is this: there are two sides of it. There's the will to not drink. Then there's the will to drink. Then it's a mind wrestling match and without practice we all take the easy way out. No, yes! No. Yes. NO! Yes! NO NO No no yes yes oh, fuck it. Yes.

Thanks a lot, Will Power. You officially suck.

I had to change my mind- change my thinking to quit drinking. I feel like I thought that there was a person I was yet to be, and that person was the one who could quit drinking. Just as soon as I got some willpower then I could start being that new person who could resist the lure of the wine store. Somehow I could force myself to be someone I wasn't. As soon as different than me me showed up I would be OK.

I am realizing now that the person that I am today has always been here. This woman has always been me, I just haven't always been this woman. The things that I say that I want in my head (peace of mind, sobriety, patience, contentment, well being, an open heart) are here right this second. They always have been. I only have to pause and look for them, find them. When I tell myself that I can't deal, or that I deserve things that cause me harm (like booze or too many cookies) I can change my mind. 

I can change my mind.

I used to tell myself not to drink on New Year's Eve because I believed the way I started the new year was the way I would finish it. All day I would sweat and sigh and swear I wouldn't drink. By midnight I would be wasted and give up- another year ruined. Unturnaroundable. I would make the same decision on my birthday: don't drink and I would be safe. I could be sober because it was a new year and I hadn't ruined it. Until I was drunk and wrecked my grand plans again. The first of the month worked for this too: if I could just manage to pile up some days then I would have the willpower to never ever drink again. Day one was a nice neat beginning until I had too much wine on the second.

But really all these beginnings never worked because I had already made up my mind: I was a wishing quit drinker. Plain and simple. A drinker with no "willpower". There was no possibility of revolution- the year had already started. I had already been drunk on my birthday. It was already the third of the month. I was always choiceless. I was always one hand on the glass and one hand into tomorrow- magical tomorrow when I could make that fresh start....tomorrow.

Willpower? Willpower was marathon training with an eight month old and a four year old picking up smoking again and drinking hard. Hard. I made myself do it because I couldn't not do it. I couldn't change my mind. I couldn't give the children back. I couldn't undo the promise to run a marathon. I couldn't stop drinking and I wanted to smoke. I wanted to make it as hard as I could on myself so I could try to change my mind but I didn't change it. I didn't think I had the right. I didn't think I had a choice. My willpower wasn't the right stuff. It was the total wrong stuff. Countless times. Years of times.

I didn't quit drinking because of willpower. I quit drinking because I changed my mind. I decided that drinking was not who I was, and that I was going to do everything I could to make sure I didn't drink. That did not include a lot of hoping and wishing: it included a decision. A decision that I was not a drinker. I didn't hope I wouldn't drink: I declared it. I made it a damn law. Rule number one: no drinking. Ever.

I had to see myself not as someone wishing for the willpower to quit drinking but as someone who could make a decision. I didn't need a word that was so....needy. I needed words like courage. Backbone. Ones like concentrate and pause. Handfuls of words like surrender, peace, and able. Words like safe. And loved. Tough words like surrender and powerless. Big big words like forever. As soon as I decided quitting was something I was doing rather than something I wished I could do I was there: there at the place where I quit.







Thank you, Sherry

There are times that make me want to pinch myself to see if it's really real- really real that I'm sober, that I write a blog, that people read it and feel the same way I do. That people read it and feel like I have had a good thing to say, or that it made them feel better. There are other blogs that do that for me, too. Oh for the love of...me is one of them.

In my time here in soberspace I have met only one other sober blogger in person. That person is Sherry. I liked her blog from the get go, at first mostly because at the end she says Namaste and that's one of my all time favorite words. Then I got to know her and realized that we are so similar- that we both come from the places of fear and broken hearts but we are still honoring our light. And then we spent a day together and I got to see her strength and grace in person. She is a truthful, kind, open hearted woman. I am honored that she called me someone who inspires her and makes her happy. Takes one to know one, sister.

What am I working on now?

I'm working on my physical health- getting things sorted out from years of abusing my body with booze, cigarettes, and general mean-ness to self. I have taken a break from the mental therapy and am trying to feel the best I can physically. It has helped me so much to be able to fix some concrete things and not just be searching for answers about why I needed to drink for twenty five years to be able to deal with life. Feeling healthy makes me feel safe. I'm working on slowing down, taking deep breaths, and pausing. I'm also working out how I can have both Tara Brach and Anne Lamott as my neighbors.

I'm always thinking about the big beautiful book I'm working on. And by book I mean the one I haven't "officially" started or even really planned but I think I'll know when it's time.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?

I think we are all so particularly lovely in our differences. I spent most of my life trying to fit in with the ideas of others, so my blog gives me the license I need to be the person I am whether I fit in or not. That being said I think we are all so comfortingly similar that fitting in here feels good. I try to keep my focus on sobriety: how it affects my life, and the changes that happen because of it.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I feel such a tenderness for this blog- it has saved me and saved me over and over again. Some of my very biggest moments have come when I was sitting at my desk typing away trying to work out how to say what I'm trying to say in a way that feels right. It's my place: mine. The only person it has to please is me, or no one. That other people like it is one of my biggest reasons I feel grateful to write it. I need to be able to put the things that run around in my head on a track so they can finish. Otherwise I just have all these loose ends continuously bouncing off the sides of my brain. I do it because I can't not do it. I often fantasize about the places this could go if I just had more time, or money, or gumption. But you know, this has worked really well so far, so I'm gonna just keep going.

How does my writing/creative process work?

Something pops into my head, or I have a persistent thought. Or a book I'm reading grabs me in a way I want to share. The things I write about are things that make my sobriety easier, that make my life feel easier. I usually write and post in one sitting- very rarely do I work on something more than the hour or so it takes me to write it. I used to get up at the crack of dawn to write when I first got sober, but now I just write it in when I feel it. Like now- one o'clock in the afternoon, music playing, kids content. So far I've only gotten up three times to look at what they've made, look at what else they made, and remind them to be kind to each other. Which means I probably have about four more minutes left.

Now for three blogs that I encourage you to read if you haven't. And y'all can do this fun process and call out some more folks if you want to.

Thirsty Still is honest, encouraging, and a pleasure to read. I love how she writes about regular things and makes them seem so special. It's like she has a day and then brings you along with her and explains perfectly how being sober makes it work. I feel like she understands where I'm coming from when I read about her own struggles and joys. Plus the added bonuses of delicious recipes and poems. I'm hooked!

One Too Many. Lilly is one of the bravest women you'll read. She puts it all out there and keeps right on going. She tells of her struggles in a thoughtful genuine way. I can relate to all of it.

Tired of Thinking about Drinking is a great place to begin. I would be totally surprised if you haven't visited Belle's site, but if you haven't then you could go join her 100 day challenge. She posts all kinds of helpful hints, and audio, and gives kudos every time to folks who are pushing their way through the days. Belle was my daily pen pal for months when I first got sober. She is dedicated and insightful.

*BONUS*
Renegade Mothering. Dude. If you haven't read this blog you should. Janelle is hilarious, smart, and totally human. Her blog is more about parenting than sobriety, but sometimes it can't all be about being in recovery. So, she is pretty popular, and I don't know if you can name people who have thousands of followers, but I'm naming her.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Daily Struggle



There is progress.

Here is what happens when you force yourself to get up and try not to be heartbroken every day: you heal. You eventually get to not feel heartbroken, or even heart impaired. I sometimes forget how hard I work every day to get to where I automatically feel like my self. Where I don't question it, I know it. That place where I forget where I am for a few minutes because I'm lost in what I'm doing. That place where I am not constantly every second steadily berating myself for the simple crime of being. Oh, the being.

I get an email or two a week (not hundreds like someone suggested which made me feel so good and gave me a good laugh) from people who are just starting out. They reach out and say help me. They say I am like you. I want to be sober.

Sometimes I think we give the surface issue all the attention and forget what we're really running from. I gave myself permission to drink too much, and then blamed the drinking for my sad sack life. And so I drank too much. I feel like if I had said "I hate myself" rather than "I hate my drinking" I would have been being more truthful. Drinking was the symptom of a much bigger problem. It's like having a headache while you bang yourself in the head with a hammer. You have to stop hitting yourself and treat the headache. It doesn't really work unless you do both.

The daily struggle began for me when I was five. I can remember feeling forgotten. I can remember trying to be noticed, trying to feel important. I can never clearly remember feeling like I was the person someone was delighted to see. I was an afterthought. For everyone- my parents, my friends. I was an outline of a girl and I was on the sidelines.This may not have been the intention of anyone, but it is a consistent truth in my life. Because of this I cradle my children close every single day and look them in the eyes so they know that they are the lights of my life. I tell them: you are a joy to me. I tell them: you make me happy. That without them my world would be less than. That they are tall as to space important in this world. I tell myself these things too. There is nothing like the comfort of being loved just because you are just you.

One December day in 2012 I decided I was finished. And it turns out that that day I actually was. Looking back the quitting drinking was the easy part- for me. The hard part has been facing myself, dealing with the years of guilt, shame, anger, and pain. Not wanting to face myself was why I drank in the first place. Do you see what I mean?

I've been trying to think of what the secret is for me. Like, what was the magical thing that changed my mind? What made it NOT ok for me to guzzle another couple bottles of white wine that night? How did I decide that was it? And what made it stick then when I was writing in journals about "I had too much to drink again. I know I need to stop" for all my life? I made morning promises several times a week, and broke them on the same night. It used to only take me a few hours to change my mind about being sober, how did I make it this far?

It was this: I wanted to love myself more than I wanted to kill myself. My heart and soul were tired of the daily struggle to drown myself. It was this: I listened when the me part of me said "I love you. It's going to be OK." It was this: I believed I could do it. And I didn't look for reasons to drink again. I look for every reason to stay sober, and never reasons to drink.

I drank because I thought it made me better. And not better as in better than but better as in healed. It blocked the hurt I could not muster the courage to face because it hurt. And so I would get drunk. And then sometimes black out drunk. At the end it was black outs all around.

But I have been facing things. Facing things that are true. Facing things that aren't. Learning what the truth is (I'm OK) and what the truth isn't (I'm not OK). My daily struggles are ones that see progression. Like learning a language or an instrument I am finding myself more in tune. Instead of the same daily struggle (to drink or not to drink) I am having lessons in life. Which actually sounds sort of lovely but can really suck except for when it is really lovely.

For the first time in as long as I can tell I feel peace of mind. Actual peace. In my mind. I feel like it's because I started stopping all the mind stuff and addressed some physical issues. That I am getting into my body and out of my fucking mind. For me it isn't all about what I'm thinking, but what I'm feeling in my body. You know, paying attention to real feelings rather than ones my mind has manufactured for me. It helps so much to see how I'm physically feeling. It's easier to not dismiss the concrete evidence.

The daily struggle is still here: it will stay forever. It's how I handle it that's different. I can handle my self.

There is progress. I can see it. I can feel it. I can trust it. And I am thankful.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yes

Do you ever tell yourself yes, but in the right places? I've been looking for yes in all the wrong places.

I've been reading Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. It has me thinking about yes.

I do this thing, all day, where I make choices, and then I un-choose them. And then I choose them again. And then back. I do this other thing where I look for the worst in everything. And not the worst worst, like "Oh no. Driving home I'm going to get car bombed and then flattened by an eighteen wheeler" sort of worst; more like "Oh. no. Morning. Again. Work. Gah. I don't like this day already. I never get to do what I want." It's the whiny worst that really isn't even true when I look at reality. I give myself permission to have the cranky fear/doubt stuff, but not to deal with it. Yes, I say to myself. Yes. You can not trust yourself or rely on yourself. Sure. Sounds fine. 

How is my brain such a murky mucky place to be when my heart and soul are out gathering daisies?

There's what plays in my head, and then there's my actual real life. They resemble each other, but don't really look alike. They're my own set of personal inner fraternal twins. Hydra Siamese ones. 

I've been looking for yes, but only seeing no. "No" is my default setting. It's a blanket statement that covers all the things from "I can't" to "I shouldn't" to "No way in hell". It's a tiny little word that keeps me safe from harm. It also holds me back, pushes me back to my tiny corner of the world where I'm protected. Where I can predict the future. 

This morning I started in on the same old, same old: "Do I want to get up now? I should. Do I want to? I won't have time to write later if I don't. I don't want to get up." Blahty blahty blah blah. So I did what I do when I can't decide about getting up or not- I picked up my book. Then I read about yes. Yes.

"I felt the inner freedom that comes from agreeing unconditionally to life."

I agreed this morning with myself to stop fighting the life that's mine and to start living it by not resisting every thing that comes along.* And by not resisting every thing I mean having an open spirit about all the things. Things like children who won't get dressed, another red traffic light, spoiled milk. Things like money that's tight and scary health mysteries. Resisting those things doesn't make them not true, it just makes them harder to swallow.

But then I also have to not resist the good things. Things like compliments, green lights, and a back up loaf of bread in the freezer. Things like a lovely place to live, plenty of food, and beloved friends and family all around. I can't resist the gratitude part. 

This yes is different from permission. It's more of an acceptance rather than carte blanche. It sometimes sounds like yes but means no. It means hearing the part of you that's scared, and then putting a blanket and an arm around its' shoulders and inviting it in. It means hearing the part of you that's happy, and then feeling it fully without downplay. It means that I have permission to feel what I'm feeling, and that there's a part of me that knows how to take care of that with either a gesture of reassurance and comfort or a high five and a boost up on the shoulders. It means that inside I am capable of handling whatever comes along.

So much of my struggles come from fear. Fear that I can't get my children to do what I ask. Fear that I am not doing it right- some of it, any of it. Fear that I am not where I should be. Fear that I am too far behind to catch up to whatever it is I'm supposed to be up to. Fear that with all this good trying that I am still badly failing.

Facing life fear is hard. It helps to know that I can say yes- yes I am afraid, yes I am not perfect, yes I am happy. It helps to know that it doesn't have to be all one way or another- I can have both. I can be afraid and OK all at the same time. It helps to be able to say yes to the things that sound like they need no's. It makes the hard parts easier because I know I don't have to resist them, I can reveal them and keep going. 

Yes.

*This seems kind of big for just a regular Tuesday morning, but you know. That's just how these things happen.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Little Things

I got a haircut last week. My first one since I've been sober. I haven't had a haircut in over two years. I've been sober for almost nineteen months. It seemed like about time.

There are so many things I put off. Things I swear I'll make time for next week, or tomorrow, or in the fall.

Like haircuts. Going for a walk. Erasing some things from my mind that just don't need to be keeping up on the rent.

It seems like such a small thing to take an hour or so to trim the ends of my growing long hair. It has given me no small amount of pleasure to braid it and not feel the tiny frustration at the dried rough ends poking out from my pony elastic. To pull my braid forward over my shoulder and finger the smooth ends: a sign of upkeep, a sign of self care.

I continuously puzzle over the chore of taking care of myself. The in between of putting forth some effort and working on conscious avoidance.

I got new glasses. It took me two weeks to get around to it after the double vision doctor told me to, but I finally did. It has not helped my vision much but it makes me feel better to know that I didn't blow it off. And it's fun to have a new pair of specs. They are big and square like I like and transparent grey. I decided on them all by myself: no asking anyone but me if they were what I wanted.

I quit my recovery group and have decided not to join the next group my therapist is starting. It took me weeks of anxiety and soul searching to decide that I had to urge myself towards other unknown things. I am on my own again: me, my blog, and books as my therapy while the universe conspires.

I made flaky pillowy biscuits this morning. I even got out the food processor and shut up the voice that whined that it was too much trouble. I let the kitchen be messy-ish and a bit floury. I took my time and drank my coffee. Asked my husband to relax at the table and talk to me. I let the biscuits rest for twenty minutes before they went into the oven. We made the children cups of tea since we were out of orange juice.

I read Just Kids by Patti Smith this week. It pushed me. It freed me- it acknowledged the artist in me and made me want to let her more out. It made me want to write and write and take loads of pictures and remember to take the time to feed my soul and not just my face for solace and repair. It made me feel like I can be more brave about what I write here and there and to not listen to the voice in my head that warns me about sounding weird or not like everyone might want me to. I love all that when it comes from a book.

Do you ever forget to add up your self full stuff? Forget to give yourself credit for the little things you do to care for yourself? I do, I so do. I forget that it's OK to get a haircut. To spend time picking out new glasses. To stop doing something because inside I want to and that's all the reason I need. To make a simple lovely breakfast slowly. To get some insight from someone else's written about life.

I used to try to get all that stuff from getting drunk. It works a lot better this way, hands down. It stays with me instead of draining away with my hangovers, guilt, and headaches. The self full stays here as long as I remember to pay attention to it, to look at it. I don't feel bad when I think about biscuits and walks and books and new glasses. And I feel better when I think about taking it slow to find the things this week will bring. My spirit moves because I let it go.