I've been thinking so hard about happiness. What makes it, why we want it. Why we want other people to be it. How it is pounded into our heads relentlessly: "Must be happy, must be happy, must be happy." Then I read this brilliant book called Introvert Power and I loosened my grip some.
Like, a LOT.
I am a naturally medium jubilant sort of gal. I am generally pretty happy, but also quite introspective and thoughtful. I like to soul search. I like to listen to other people search their own souls. I'm a hand holder. An encourager. A truth teller. I like to cry, to listen to sad songs over and over. I'm not afraid of sad anymore. Some of these are old me, some are new me that is really old me but had been drunk for twenty years and got forgotten.
But what I really have been thinking about is maybe not so much the happiness, but the need to be it. The need of other people for you and me to be it. All the time. Chin up. Don't be so down. Don't be so hard on yourself. Stop being sad. Don't dwell. Turn that frown upside down. Be better. Be better. Be better.
I am better, y'know? I'm not drunk out on my porch two to five nights a week. I'm better.
I also get super sad. Really down deep into the me of it all. I have all this alcoholism and depression and bipolar shit winding it's way through my genes like a relentless crazy plague. But I like to think about it. I like to feel the feeling of being search-y and looking and not afraid to shine the light right there on all that ugly shit.
I saw my therapist one on one two weeks ago. We talked about some very very very hard things that sucked so much to say out loud. So much that it makes me cry writing about it now. But again in that grateful way that makes it almost over. I said it out loud which means I'm not keeping secrets. Not anymore.
Because I said some of it out loud and I didn't die. And she didn't tell me to get out, or laugh. She held me while I cried and stroked my hair and suddenly I was safe. Safer than I'd been since I was fifteen and buried myself where no one could hurt me again.
So maybe I'm not happy every day. Maybe just not. But that doesn't mean that I'm not OK.
I'm more OK than I have ever ever been all grown up. More right with myself than I've been since I was five and got a little forgotten about. Strong enough to say hard things and to trust people with my secrets. Safe enough to be happy when I know it, and OK with just regular Saturdays.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Because it makes me feel so real.
Life is good.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
When my youngest turned two we took a bike ride on the trail near our house together. We went to this trail almost every day- I logged miles and miles running and running and pushing both he and his older brother there in the running stroller. On that day he was behind me in the bike seat. I was very hungover.
"I promise you, for your birthday, I will quit drinking. I will quit for you. I will quit on your birthday so I will always remember. I will quit so you can have a mom better than me." I said these words reverently, quietly. I meant them. All of them. But it was a promise I only kept until later that day when we opened bottles of wine to celebrate.
I regretted even speaking those words out loud, for even though he wouldn't know what I meant the universe surely heard and was possibly pissed. But then again the universe knew I was a big fat liar and didn't believe a word I said anyway.
My youngest turns five on Sunday. He will never know the pain and sadness I feel at how I frittered away his babyhood and toddler days carelessly drinking and drinking. I drank when I was breastfeeding. I drank and drank away his first year so carelessly and sporatically that I don't really even remember much of it, other than I was marathon training, picked up smoking again, and stayed out all night getting wasted with people from work when I should have been home with my new baby, his brother, and my husband.
Looking back, I can guess that I had some pretty serious postpartum shit going on. Which I probably could have seen if I hadn't been in such a fog of drunk and hungover and emotional overload. Holy shit. God, I think back on that year and how I hate it. I ran a marathon and was so proud of myself. The accomplishment of that one day should have been what I felt every day about my home, my family. That year I was so so so selfish, and hated it all while I loved it so much I had to turn away. There was so much to lose, and I was trying my best to lose it.
I remembered that bike ride earlier today. Out of the blue it popped up in my head. I didn't keep that promise for a few more years, but the important part is that I finally kept it.
I am so thankful to my husband for staying even when he should have left. I am thankful to my children for loving me in spite of what they don't even realize I've done. I am so thankful to myself for finally coming to my senses and being brave enough to say help, and no. No more. No. more. Please. And then I can. I can. I am doing it.
It's unsettling how I can recall that one snippet of declaration from three years ago. And totally understandable since I said those things to myself all the time, but just never out loud, to anyone. And how that one conversation on that one day stuck with me.
I imagine that my sobriety is built on all of these conversations and wishes. I believe that I am so strongly sober because I yearned for it so desperately for so long. I know that one reason I stay sober is because I made a promise to a little boy three years ago and I need to keep it. I will stay sober because I make a promise to myself every day to keep going.
Luckily my husband stayed. My boys love me fiercely with open arms and hearts. Our loves aren't perfect, but they are ours. I don't have to break the beauty of them to keep them holy. I keep my promises. I make ones I mean. I'll stay sober. I'll love and not be afraid. I'll go through it instead of around it. I promise.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Part of what I find the most glorious about being sober is when I find my way there. You know: there. Where you knew you needed to be all this time, but then there was that wrong turn at Albuquerque ugh! And who folded the map this way? Somehow your inner GPS sends you in the right direction in spite of all the "Are we there yet?" and stops for the bathroom. Oprah calls it "light bulb moment". I call it "there". About compromise? I'm there.
My life has children. And other people. Which means my life is full of compromises. And plan changes. And this way. And that way.
I realized something: stop that. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
When I was drinking my life was full of compromises too. Every day I drank, or was hungover, or tried not to drink and then drank anyway: compromise. Bending. Making concessions to make it work out.
I notice that my compromises usually end up with me clutching the short end of the stick and wondering what just happened. That I tend to make sure other people's or easier needs are met. That in interest of peace I retreat, although sometimes I don't go gracefully, I go.
I think I'm confusing "compromise" with "giving in".
I'm a peace-maker. And a care-taker. I want there to be happy. But I do this for other people. So, I'm taking care of someone else, or
I realized suddenly: wait a minute here! WHY AM I DOING THIS? Why am I yammering on and on for ten minutes about this rule and why that thing? Why do I not stand up for myself? Why can I not have my rules, my way, and stick to it? Why do I waffle and waver? Why am I making my own life so hard?
Why am I making my own life so hard.
I have to laugh a little since that sounds totally dramatic.
But totally true! Gah! Why do we make things so hard on ourselves? Why do we give in even when we know it will totally suck? Why are we so afraid of hard, fast rules? And why will I put myself out for someone else, but I won't make things easier for me? Is it easier when I make things harder because that's what I'm used to?
I can hear the answers to those questions: It doesn't have to be hard. I don't have to give in. I like rules. I will take care of me. Yes! I make things harder because it feels comfortable. And I'll work on that.
Suddenly: I'm THERE.
Ready for this next part. Able to start practicing being a negotiator, not a doormat. Having some guidelines. Guidelines: rules I have and hold that guide me, that flashlight-in-the-night show me the way.
With my children: there are rules. Some are not bendable, or earn-back-able. Some things just are.
With people in my life: there are rules. Some are not flexible. Some just are. I'm still learning to stand up for myself and say what I mean and not try to fix it all. Making other people's problems their problems. Not compromising my sanity for your stuff. Asking myself "Who's job is it to fix it?" or "Is this the right decision for me?" and my new favorite "Can I really handle that?" And then listening to the answer.
With me: there are rules. Some are not stretchable. Some just are. Remember to follow them even when these new ones feel weird and not at all like the old days.
Being sober gives me this sense of pride that I never had before. Pride in the cherished way, not pride in the puffed up way. That pride makes it easier to see when I need to bend, and when bending makes me break.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I had a conversation with my universe sent friend Amy about being sober. About how long is OK. About if it's a day by day thing, one day at a time, or what about forever?
For me, forever works. I'll tell you why: there is never ever any choice about whether I drink again or not. I don't. Ever again. Not in two years, or on my tenth wedding anniversary, or when my eight year old son gets married one day. Never.
And maybe forever might work for you, too.
It's kind of like this: I don't ever ever have to decide if I'm going to drink again. When I woke up that morning nine months ago I decided, "If I ever drink again it will wreck my life. Welp, thank god we're done with that." And then it's hard some, and easy some. But there is never that chance to waffle around and second guess myself. There is never the maybe just one or two conversation, the I can handle it back and forth with myself, with my alcoholic self. That person has to be gone forever. Or I will shrivel up and die a slow sad death while hurting the people I love the most. No thanks.
I can't follow the one day at a time philosophy because that gives me too much leeway with something I don't need any freedom about. Obviously I can't be trusted to make good decisions when it comes to booze, so I have to never have a choice. Since, knowing me, there's a good chance I would make the wrong one. Over, and over, and over again. So forever is a relief for me. In that phew, it's out of my hands way that faith makes people feel. The pressure is off.
I've talked with people who can't say forever. That saying forever makes it too hard to quit. Saying to myself, "Well, I won't drink today, but I can tomorrow" makes me feel all wobbly and like I'm already headed to the wine store. Even if every day I say "Just today" it makes me feel like I'm not sure about tomorrow, which makes me nervous. Real nervous.
Forever makes me safe.
Forever is big. I've been sober for nine months now. Forever is much bigger than that. But these last nine months have been the best of my life. When I say "best" I don't mean easiest, or happiest, or I've been floating on a cloud of joyous rapture. I mean whoa dude, look. I have lived. I have been a real person in the world. I have cried hard and desperately, wrung my insides out. I have learned so much about myself: most surprisingly that I really do like me. A lot. I have loved with my learning to open heart, and smiled so big that I have to stretch out my arms and shake my butt a little, pump my fist in the air a little.
I will definitely take all of that forever. With a side of always for good measure.
So maybe forever might be OK for you, too. You could walk up and introduce yourself. You might have a lot in common with forever and you didn't even know it. Forever could be the back up you needed to make sobriety work. It could be totally OK to wrap yourself in the security blanket of never again. Forever makes me not doubt myself, which makes me trust myself. And that makes me stronger. And sober. Forever.
Monday, September 9, 2013
My sister-in-law got married, we were all in the wedding. By all I mean me, husband, and kiddos. Which meant that I had the rehearsal and the reception to scurry around in my head about. And that I had lots of back up.
It's interesting being sober at drinky events. I was sort of at loose ends for both the rehearsal dinner and the reception: kiddos to eyeball, not my gig so basically a room full of strangers which is not my very favorite, husband here and there trying to be the brother of the bride and make sure his lovely sober wife doesn't flake out.
There was a moment a few hours into the reception where I almost started bawling right there into my donuts. There were fat tears, all ready to fall.
Thankfully right then it was time for the toast.
Husband took care of me and made sure I had sparkling cider. We moved to the head table, each of us with one of our boys in our laps. The best man made a funny speech, my youngest slurped my cider, (which made me chuckle, I'm sure some folks raised an eyebrow at that!) and I remembered to feel the love and forget to be all wound up. Remembered that no one really cared what I was doing, or not doing. And that I was doing just fine.
I guess the worst and best part was all the feeling- you know how weddings are. You feel sentimental, and overwhelmed. Joyous. You miss the people who aren't there- you can see the holes in the family. There's a load of reflection, and emotion. Tiny little things go wrong, and the stress stress stress of getting it all right, and on time. Talk about overload! No wonder people drink so much at these things. I think maybe instead of just a reception weddings should have an optional gentle yoga class right after so people can just have a minute to breathe.
Maybe no one would even need a drink if we did that.
I'll tell you what I didn't miss: the hangovers that go along with a celebratory weekend. Like, here I am. Monday morning. Fresh as a sweetgrass flower, ready for the world. A little travel weary, but not glued to the bed for the next day or so trying to recover from all the (ahem) ...fun. Not puzzling over what I might have said to Aunt Louise after seven gin and tonics. Not feeling embarrassed because we came home late and were smoking in the driveway. Not ashamed of anything I did, not one little thing at all.