Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wherever You Are

I have been reading this book and it has been rocking my world- in good and bad ways which are really all good ways. Sometimes it hits way too close to home and I wish I was in the middle of another book too so I could give myself a break. But then I am so intrigued by what it makes me think I just go on back to it.

Because I haven't gone to AA I haven't done any step work. I know there are steps, and that there are twelve, and that surrendering is a big huge part of the AA message that I really really like. I believe to this day that the reason I stay sober is that I surrender to my alcoholism and by surrender I mean own it. When I stopped making excuses for myself lo and behold! I was able to quit drinking because I wasn't lying to myself anymore. I need this about sweets too, and people pleasing, and also being a tiny bit bad at asking for help. But, as they say, one step at a time.

The part I am really really loving is the higher power part. Which really surprises me since I have never ever been religious, but then it really isn't all about "religion" but more like faith and prayer without an official title or a building or even a name. I puzzle over it all the time. "Hello!" I say. "Hello          !" I say. "What the hell do I call this person/thing I pray to?" I think to myself. Today I described her as a serene mother nature-y person with long gray hair with flowers leaves and twigs woven into it wearing a dress made from moss, some tights and some clogs when it's cold. She smiles benevolently at me with all the patience in the world.

So instead of being afraid of the higher power part I am totally embracing it. Some because of that description above and then mostly because in A Woman's Way Through the Twelve Steps Stephanie Covington says our higher power accepts us just as we are. That our higher power expects us to be kind of broken and fucked up, BUT it isn't there to fix us but to support us. That it is a shared energy. That it is an eternal safe place inside and outside of all of us. That my higher power and I are a team.


And so then, if I surrender to being part of this lovely team who tells me the truth and tucks my hair behind my ear softly and will love me as big as I will let it, then I can be more self full. More solid. More not me against the world. That makes me feel so safe. It makes it easier to not drink. It makes it easier not to eat seven cookies, or say yes when I mean no. It means that I can think "help" and not "read my mind".

There's a song by the Dixie Chicks called "Godspeed"that I love. My dad made a video of clips of my oldest when he was around two and put this song as the music. I cry every every time, but especially at the part where she sings "God hears amen wherever we are and I love you". My heart breaks open a little bit and I just know. I know that my higher power hears me wherever I am. That I can have my own version, that I have faith. Not in a name, or a religion, but in me. That I hear my amens wherever I am.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ground + Connect

Happy New Year!

So much has been changing around here that I haven't made time to sit and connect in weeks. I've been situating myself into working two jobs for a while which has made things a little wonky. "Oh no!" everyone says. "Two jobs?" everyone says. "How will you do it?" everyone says, and then shakes their heads and looks like they've just smelled something funny. Do they doubt me or just feel sorry for me? I am kind of worn out by trying to convince everyone, including me, that it will be fine. It's only until April.

It will be fine.

Did I mention that my other job is waiting tables? At night? In a fancy-ish restaurant where there's loads of good wine and clever cocktails? Yes, I've been opening and pouring wine. Carefully carrying full martini glasses. I've been to a wine tasting. And sniffed and smelled and passed mine on to my neighbor. It amazes me how much I used to know about wine, and how much I don't know anymore. Somehow without the tasting it just isn't the same.

It isn't the same. Thank God.

It is fine.

I have moments, seconds, of twinges of wishing I could do it. Drink normally. When I open a bottle of something lovely for a couple to share and they settle into the warmth of that first glass I miss drinking so much for a minute. But then I take myself to the end of my night: me, drunk. Outside in the cold. Smoking too many cigarettes and pouring wine down my throat urgently wanting that warm just for a moment feeling back from that first glass of wine. I take myself to all the mornings I woke up hungover and so depressed and guilty. Then I am sober and happy and fine. And I go have some water. It has taken concentration and control but I can do things like that.

I have noticed that I have been doing the hibernating thing I do when there's a lot to think about. When I was thinking about my word for this year I thought about that. About how I have stopped blogging. How I have eased back on my connections with friends. How I have stopped being connected to myself. How I need to find my feet again. Life has needed a lot of arranging for the past six months- there have been big decisions to make and health concerns (no answers yet). It can get overwhelming.

I think it all started when my recovery group went sideways and I lost a big sober outlet. I sort of flung myself out into the world without a net and then got lost in the atmosphere. I'm still sort of new at this and so when I get knocked around a bit I am still not very used to reaching out and saying help. So when I was thinking about 2015 I knew I needed to reconnect with my sober life. That I needed to stop being alone in my cave and come on back out onto solid ground. To find my feet again.

It's hard, when you are being sober and figuring things out about yourself, when people question your passion and your intentions. I am very passionate about my sobriety and I sort of lost that after I left the recovery group, because of what happened in group. Which means, instead of hiding and being safe from others (which is what I've realized I was doing) I need to find a group that fits for me. I need to put it back out there to the universe that I'm strong enough to put myself out there again.

That's where the ground comes in. My head is often in the clouds- all involved in it's own thinks and thoughts and none of those are about my feet on the ground. For me I need a strong base so that when something happens I can remain safe on my own two feet. I still struggle with a lot of self doubt: who am I really? what do I stand for? what do I believe? who do I want to be? I think that spending most of my life drinking has taken the opportunity to find those answers and cement them a lot more difficult. As a peace keeping people pleaser it is hard for me to know who I am when I am made up of  molding myself to fit so many other people. How to un-shape and un-pretzel into standing straight on my two feet me.

Luckily I have grown patient. I have untangled enough to know that things take time. I can look at this next year with tolerance and not feeling that unsettling urge to be all fixed all at once today right now. I made a New Year's resolution to mind my posture. It seemed kinder than promising myself my typical promise: lose weight. I made a decision to meet myself the way I am today, not some version of me I wish I were, but the version of me I am. All that head speak about "I need to be             and then I'll be OK" is bullshit for me. It's like smoke and mirrors- it distracts me from living. It's like a trick my mind plays to keep me from growing because it's comfortable right here. If I concentrate on all this flim and flam then I stay right where I am: promising to quit drinking, to lose weight, to be a better wife, a better mother, a better anything that what I am today.

So instead I'm going to sit up straight, I'm going to stand tall on my two feet and find the ground. I'm going to be brave and connect even when I'm afraid that people are judging me and think I'm a fake and I'm doing it all wrong. I'm going to open myself to connection again. Blog again. Put intentions out into the universe again and not be afraid of the things that come. Ground + connect.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Almost Two Years

"The rain is over; what we're left with is the life that follows the weather."
Ann Patchett

At this time two years ago tomorrow will be the last time I got wasted. I can't remember if I drank on the 5th of December 2012, but I know for sure I did on the 6th. (Did I ever.) I remember lots of wine, and then eating these coconut oil pot cookie things a friend made for me, sitting out on the porch chain smoking even though I'm betting it was cold. It wasn't a terribly unusual amount for me, it wasn't especially worse than the other nights I drank. It was the same as always, a lot.

I remember waking up on December 7, 2012, my children next to my side of the bed, their hair rumpled, their faces expectant and sleepy. I'm sure they were both in their underwear. I had promised French toast and spelling words for breakfast- my oldest had his class spelling bee that morning so we were going to have his favorite breakfast and go over his words one last time. My oldest was eight- to be nine in a week. My youngest was four.

I was so hungover I could not get out of bed.

The enormity of that really strikes me as I write it. I drank so much that I couldn't get up the next day. It makes me feel small and tight like a walnut. Ashamed. Cringe-worthy. I can picture myself as I can always picture me when I was drunk: eyes half closed certain that I'm with it, that I'm fine. Certain that one more drink won't hurt, certain that I can handle that awful hangover I'll have tomorrow because haven't I done it so many times that I'm like some kind of evil hangover expert genius? The picture I have is a physical one and a spirit one: I can feel what I felt like when I drank, when I was a glass or two in, a bottle in, a blackout in. I can easily dredge up the sick anxiety I felt the next morning: my brain can start the guilt tapes over with no problem. "How could you? It's OK, you know you need to quit. It's OK, you can quit...TODAY! Then everything will be fine. I suck." I was a two-faced finger pointer cheerleader. Both worried and relieved because what did I do and I was quitting today anyway so it didn't matter. But until December 7, 2012 I always drank again.

I didn't really even mean to quit that day. I meant to quit every day, but that day stuck for me. It was the day my oldest was due to be born in 2004 and my reasoning was it was a day marked for a new life, it just wasn't his, it was mine. It was my lowest point as a mother: bedridden while my children held out the plate of French toast they'd made with their dad and I couldn't take it so they just whispered "We'll leave it right here mommy" and they put it on the bookshelf next to my side of the bed and tiptoed away. The fat sad tears that slid down my face as I knew the truth about myself deep deep down: I had a problem. A serious problem.

I'd had this problem for years. I always knew I drank differently from other people. I was always glad to find another person who drank like me. I did most of my drinking by myself though- none of that pesky sharing to worry about. I knew, even in my teens, that I shouldn't drink, that my family history basically screamed out NEVER DRINK ALCOHOL!!!! and I chose to ignore it. Between four of my grandparents three were raging alcoholics. Two committed suicide. The deck was very obviously stacked against me. Odds totally in favor of me being another raging alcoholic. But I hurt too much to care.

That hurt carried me through years of drunks, years of mistakes. It piled it all up until by laws of balance and toppling it had to fall. I had to fall. So I fell- my years of free fall finally touched down with a resounding thump and I knew I could get up again. Not that I had to, but that I could.

Sobriety happens in all different ways. It worked for me to blog a lot at first, to have a pen pal. A sober therapy group worked for a while. I never went to AA. I don't really have a lot of sober support except for what I make for myself which is true for everyone I guess. I've learned along the way how to nurture and care for myself and for me that doesn't involve a lot of other people. I look back at the beginning of my sobriety and marvel at the fact that I stopped drinking and smoking by getting up early every day and emailing my pen pal (endless gratitude Belle) and having my own one woman free yoga class in my living room. To this day I am still jealous of people who get to go to rehab: what would that have been like? To free myself from my life for thirty days and get it together without having to do my life and get sober all at once? I probably romanticize it too much. It was harder for me to manage AA meetings than it was to cobble together my own "meetings" by reading other sober bloggers. I plodded through my first days clutching my wineglass full of seltzer and fresh grapefruit juice at dinner time and putting us all in our pajamas and in my bed at 7:00. It was safe up there.

I discovered something amazing: I was really good at being sober. Being good at it didn't mean it wasn't hard, sometimes heartbreakingly so, but I keep practicing and so I keep getting better and better. Being sober makes my life livable. It makes it so I could deal with the things that happen on a daily basis that threaten my sanity. I've learned to recognize when I need a minute or a weekend to hibernate and shake myself back out. It's given me the patience and courage to rebuild my relationship with my husband and my parents. It's taught me who I was, who I really am, and then it taught me to be just fine with that. It gave me my love story of a life time. Mine + Me.

So this morning I am sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the hum of the dishwasher. It's spelling bee time again. My oldest will be ten (ten!) in ten days. We all had scrambled eggs and pears this morning, argued about crazy eights cards and no one wanted to put their shoes on. My life has gone on even though at first I thought I could never ever ever make it without wine. I have made it and put two years of consistent sobriety together on my own. I have something I only dreamed of: an alive life. I am what I never thought I was: capable. Honest. Sober.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Me as Me

I found myself in a situation that would normally make me feel sad, apologetic, and back pedaling so people wouldn't be mad at me, or think bad of me.

I have a dear friend who is having trouble staying sober. And I called her on it. 

I'm pretty sure that violates all the AA rules and also the ones I learned in my therapy group too. 

But I've only been to two AA meetings, and the first one was 20 years ago. My therapy group turned out wonky and sad. So now, here I am, making up my own rules. Which aren't rules, but more like this one sort of guideline: be firm but understanding with an open heart.

One of the hardest parts of recovery for me is all these rules everyone seems to have for what you can and can't say. "Don't give advice!" and "Use only 'I' statements". I also sort of infer ones like "Always say 'Yay'!" and "It's better to sugarcoat it!". Since I have mostly been on my own with the help of other sober bloggers and books as the backbone of my sobriety I really don't know all the nuances and catch phrases. It makes it hard to navigate when a lot of people do. It makes it even easier to sit down and shut up before I put my foot in it and get in trouble. 

But, you see, this friend is struggling. And has been for a while. And maybe it's only a sponsors job to tell hard truths (I heard that once) but what if I don't go to AA? Does that mean I just have to keep quiet when I see someone I love lying to themselves? Isn't it my job to, as a successfully sober person, help others who are struggling? Am I only allowed to help if I'm being encouraging? Am I not allowed to tell hard truths? Do people who need to hear the hard truth even ask? 

I have this sober pen pal I've been writing to for the past two years. We hit it off immediately. I know if we were in the same city we would be coffee once a week friends. But, this person struggles to stay sober. So I tell her: you might be in trouble soon. It happens faster than you think. I told her the story of how I was just drinking and drinking and then going out and doing drugs and staying out all night while my family wondered where I was. My children only 4 years and 9 months old. My husband at a loss. Why? I ask myself? Why didn't anyone speak up and say "This shit is FUCKED UP." Why did everyone just act like it was fine when it was clearly NOT FINE. 

I told her that it wasn't fair to breeze in and out of writing her sober blog. That it helped to stay engaged. Engaged in sobriety. To hold oneself responsible to the people who read you and care for you. I got a little bossy.

Through all this I have learned more about me. I have to live my life: me as me. I cannot worry about the so called rules of this or do's and don'ts of that. I know how to behave. I know how to not be an asshole. And I know how to apologize if I am one. I cannot be one of those helicopter parent types cheering people on for just doing the tiniest amount required. I cannot say "It's OK" to someone who, after expressing a sincere and heartfelt desire to quit drinking drinks again. I can say "YOU are OK" but not "It's OK."

Sometimes in this place there are hard things that need to be said. Sobriety is not easy. It is hard. It's an every fucking day hard thing. To feel safe in my place in the world I have to be able to speak my truth the way I see it, not to curtain my words to soothe the sensibilities of others. This is true for all aspects of my life- not just sobriety. One really great thing about being almost two years sober is that I am finally learning that me as me is fine. That it's OK if I don't hold with popular opinion. That it's fine for me to say what I feel, to like what I like, to do what I do. That when I read my friends blog about this situation and comments say things like "Sounds like your 'friend' is trying to shame you" I can know that I wasn't do any such thing, and that the person who is struggling knows this too. 

It was hard to say something difficult to someone I love. It took a lot of courage for me to send an email (for godssake) and say these huge things. And it took a lot of courage for my friend to respond. It made me think hard, really hard, about the choices I'm making in my life: where I waffle back and forth. It made me have my own come to jesus with myself about the lies I've been telling myself about things that haven't been working in my life for a long time. Things I can see because I stay sober. Truths I can tell myself and because my friend could hear me I could be brave enough to hear my own.

We are all in it together. We are. We are here to hold each other up. We are here to cheer on, to love, to look to. But we must be able to tell each other the truth. Even when it hurts. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Washing Up

I was washing the crock pot at the sink the other day. As usual I was hurried, frustrated that it was taking so long. All of the sudden I realized what I was doing: washing a crock pot. On my day off. With nothing to do all day. Why in the heck was I all bent out of shape? Then I realized that wait....this is my default setting. I am always anxious to get on to the next thing. Always doing a mental work up of a situation or event.

It came as a total shock to me that I am so anxious all the time. I had no idea. But as soon as I recognized it my whole self was like BUSTED!!!! And I had a good laugh at myself and adjusted the water temperature, added a dab more soap to make bubbles and took my time scrubbing up that pot.

I think it comes from living a childhood where my parents fought all the time. They started fighting when I was in mid fourth grade (when we moved to a place my mom quickly grew to hate from a place we all loved)  until we moved away from that hated place the summer before my senior year of high school. I always wanted to be able to fix it, so I was always on edge- on the lookout for the solution that would make everyone happy and please not fight anymore. This is still me today- tensely watching for any sign of disruption or disturbance so I can prevent it from happening. But I didn't know that until the other day when the crock pot showed me the light.

This makes it hard for me to get absorbed in things, or even lose track of time. It makes it hard to enjoy things because what if I start having fun and someone else isn't and then they get upset and wreck it for everyone but if I was just watching I could have stopped it? It doesn't make sense but these things often don't. I can only start to make sense of them when they come out from under the bed and into the light. "Oh, here" say my brains. "Did you know that you do this?" "Oh" says me. "I didn't but damn. That kind of explains a lot."

So much of my "stuff" is from when I was a kid. It's like I have all these loose ends that never got tied up. Slowly but surely I'm catching ends and wrapping things up. One thing I could never do when I was drinking was learn a lesson and then move on.

I don't think much about sobriety anymore. It's just something that I am. But without it these revelations wouldn't happen. Because I'm sober I can now see that one of the reasons I drank was to sedate my anxiety. If I was wasted I couldn't care less about what was going on, I didn't have to worry if anyone was upset, or fighting, or not having fun. I really didn't know if I was even having fun. I like the way these things pop up- unpredictable, any time, any where- and I learn something that is really totally true about me.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Making Decisions Practice

I'm at the beginning of a three day weekend! 

I cannot begin to express how much I need this weekend- since school started I've been like a rubber band- boing-ing and boing-ing from here to there. I proclaimed a hiatus weekend. Meaning no plans fun or otherwise! 

I need this. I know I need this. I need it most of the time because I am mostly an introvert and a homebody which means I need to be mostly at home and mostly not with anybody. BUT. Then I make coffee plans and dinner plans and volunteer for things and school has meetings and work has meetings and those are all in the same month as my husband and my youngest's birthdays and holy shit. It shows. It shows in what I'm eating and reading and doing with my time. 

I do it all the time- say yes when I really mean no. Or no when I really mean yes! I wish I could cut out the part of me, whatever its' name is, that is responsible for all of my poor decision making. That part that squelches the idea that getting up early for a walk is a good idea, the part that says I can quit drinking coffee another day, the part that has me face first in my phone while the kids bounce around me wanting attention. Snip snip snip random part- be gone from me!

I am one of a huge group of people who knows what's best for me and totally ignores it! I do this all the time. I can list the things I need to make me content easily: enough sleep, exercise, connection, creativity, good food. (good food meaning not eating five chocolate chip cookies and two pieces of birthday cake in one day or another helping of the delicious polenta just because it's delicious but I'm already full) It's like when I was drinking and I knew one hundred fifty million percent that I needed to quit and then I drank anyway. It's like when I knew I had to stop having caffeine to fuel my days but I was still chugging coffee. It's making excuses around what I need so other people can be happy while I lie to myself that it's all OK. Why do I do that? 

Oh, right. I'm human. :)

BUT! Here's the good part: I know it! I know that I need to take a little minute and get my self together because otherwise I will eat all the Raspberry Beret snack mix in the whole world and compensate for my exhaustion by drinking six cups of coffee a day. Here's the best part: not only do I know it I'm actually doing something about it.

Practice. It takes such practice! I am reminded time and time again that I don't really know how to do the simplest stuff- like decision making. Being sober means learning how to do all this basic stuff all over again. Knowing the right answers. Yes to one cookie. No to five of them. I feel like I'm in sober first grade. And I'm grateful to have made it through kindergarten. :)


Monday, September 15, 2014

Ten Random Things to Write About Because I Had No Other Ideas

1. I am doing fine. Fine. As in, you know- OK. I haven't had any big moments of oh! lately. Just regular stuff like: coffee makes me grumpy, the laundry is never ending, if I stay here in this moment instead of somewhere else (like tomorrow) I feels loads better.

2. I went out on a limb and started taking an upholstery class. It meant I had to go sign up and then ask for days off to be able to take the class. It meant I had to ask for time from my family and my work. This took some bravery. I am no bueno at asking for stuff that's just for me. But I'm a little better at it now. Practice.

3. I am running again. This brings great delight and joy to my heart!!!! I am running almost a mile with no pain the next day. Yesterday we saw a friend on the trail doing a 24 mile training run and I can remember when that was me. And now a mile is a triumph. Never underestimate the power of small stuff or short runs.

4. The clock works of our lives are shifting some- different plans in motion. Braver, bigger plans in motion. Because when I got sober my expectations got much higher. I'm not at the sky's the limit yet, but I'm way above the rock I was under.

5. My health is still my biggest worry. (I've been having double vision, headaches, and fatigue) I don't see the neurologist until December which is good because they didn't need to see me straight away and not good because what the fuck is going on???? I think I have a brain tumor at least four times a day. This is one of those things that is good letting go practice since as much as I want to control what's going on with me I just really cannot. And so I just keep remembering to let go, put my hands up and fly on down the big hill. On a scale of one to ten I am three to five scared. I get all sentimental and treasure my lovely sobriety life like a precious gem while I feel like it's totally fucking unfair that I'm going to die with only a few years of sobriety. And then I remember that nothing is wrong yet so I may as well just keep on waking up in the morning. I have a flair for drama. This means until I hear different I AM TOTALLY FINE.

6. I have poison ivy again. I am terribly allergic and love to play in the woods. Which makes it a total surprise that this is the second time I've had it this summer and it's actually really pretty much fall.

7. Another thing I'm really thinking on is being the me I'm actually meant to be: not the world's version, or my parents one, or this one, or that one- my one. I remind myself when I get dressed every day to wear what I feel like- even if maybe 73% of people might think I'm a total dork. I remind myself to not worry about what so and so does with their kids, or what things I'm "supposed" to be doing. I stay not busy because that's the way I like it. So even though most people around me are dashing to and fro and crowing about how busy they are I just make little bits of plans and cancel them if I feel stretched thin. Because that what works for me. The other day I was talking with a new friend and she said "I'm introverted extrovertish" and I was like "Yes! You are my people!"  This could also translate into liking myself for who I am.

8. I am working on getting my sense of humor back. Do you every look around and wonder "Who the hell made this so serious?" I had a little come to jesus with myself this morning on the way to work about lightening up and laughing more. I have gotten into a pattern of getting something in my craw and keeping it there. My naturopath taught me this thing called tapping that helps me ease through my nagging problems. Big and small. But it only helps if I use it. So I did, and lo and behold! It helped!

9. Things are good. Remarkably regular. Comfortingly similar. I like it. I still like waking up in the morning and knowing what I did last night. It hasn't gotten old yet. It still feels like a pretty little present when I wake up unhungover and with it. I am still getting used to not wanting to sleep for all of my free time. This is very cool. Very.

10. Being sober is the greatest. Ever, ever ever.