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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mountains to Climb

My youngest started kindergarten today. It kind seems like an end to a ten year cycle: baby, little, bigger, another baby, little, big kid, little kid- both in school. Whoa. I just ate lunch alone. And in a way I wanted to be sad about it, and then in a way I felt grown up. Able to chew. Able to be quiet. Take my time. Read at the table. (Shhhh. Don't tell.)

This means I have free time.

To like, blog and stuff. :)

And stuff! I swear, whenever I put stuff out into the universe and say "OK, universe. I'm ready for this. Really ready. Suggest some things." the universe goes, "Well, right on! Here you go!"

Over and over again it amazes me that one of my biggest side effects of being sober is being brave! So when the universe says "Here's this?" I can say things like "Oh, that's possible" and "Wow, I never thought of that before- but I could totally do that". Not what I used to say which was "I don't have time for that" or "I can't". It also means I can change my mind about things if I want to and not have to feel scared or guilty about it. It means I can choose, and then re-choose if I want. For you that might be easy, but for me that takes some serious guts- all of it.

I was looking at a picture of some mountains and it occurred to me: there are always mountains to climb. Always. And that's OK. That I love mountains. I love that they rise and fall and come in ranges so that once you get to the top there's a whole 'nother side to hike down, and then another one to walk up. That they all have a view from the top. And not just one view, but so many views you can't even count them all, and to see a new one you just have to change your perspective or turn things around.

I have finally also come to the understanding that even though my most wished wish came true (I'm sober) my life can still be hard as shit sometimes, and it can also be unbelievably amazing. That both of these things can be big and small. That I'm good at hiking. That I can handle the hills. Even when they are mountains. That I can let myself enjoy the view from the top.

I was talking with my naturopath today. We are winding up a fourteen week session of visits and although my progress has been slowish there has been progress- a lot of it. I said to her today "The person sitting here today and the person I was at this time two years ago are totally different. And even when things are hard I am still so grateful for the person I am today." I don't waste my time wishing away the woman that I am- I strive to become more her. And by strive I mean live.

When I was drinking you can bet that there was never a day I loved myself more because I had gotten drunk again. But these days? These days. These days I am brave and possible. These days I am a hiker. These days I see mountains and I hope they are in ranges because it is all so interesting and pretty and hard and lovely. These days I'm getting a lot better at doing and doing a lot less wishing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


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....


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 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.

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


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. 


*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.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I went to go see a holistic health specialist. My appointment was over two hours long. We covered a lot of stuff.

A lot.

She asked me about sleep and dreaming. About my skin. About my joints and muscles. About mucous. And pooping. About exercise. About my vagina. We talked about it ALL. It was cool to talk about my physical health rather than winnow out more mental stuff.

She said, "So, with autoimmune stuff (for me rheumatoid arthritis) stress is a big factor. It seems like you are stressed even when you sleep." I never really thought about that, but I never really wake up feeling well rested either. Huh.

Then we talked about when I quit drinking and smoking and then had to stop running I lost all of my outlets. All of the places I let go of stress had disappeared, but I haven't replaced them with anything else. Eating cookies is not really a stress reliever. Huh.

We also talked about my breathing- how I breathe very shallowly. Another example of being in survival mode.

I need to relax. Saying that makes me laugh a little since my first response is "Yeah. Right."

When I quit drinking I really thought that all the pieces would fall into place. That because I quit drinking I would be healthy, lose weight, and life would tra la la along. That I wouldn't feel tired and wasted all the time.

I would never have guessed that I would be four cups ("cups") of coffee fatigued each day. When I was drinking I couldn't even drink coffee because it made me way too edgy. I wouldn't have thought I'd be thinking about pulling over to take a nap on my ten minute drive home from work. That I would have to go to bed before nine o'clock because I just can't make it any longer. That I would have to give up running because no matter how much I take time to heal it's too much for my body to take. I think about how lucky I was when I was able to go out and easily run ten miles or so even with a hangover. I think about how I felt such relief after that first bottle of wine. How I was almost disappeared by then. Nothing lets me disappear now.

Being present is hard. I didn't realize how alone I felt until Dr. C told me I was in survival mode most if not all of the time. That I don't feel safe in the world. That I lost my three biggest supports and have been sort of flailing around with nothing to take their place. I didn't even think about that.

Getting and being sober is about so much more than not drinking. Dammit. DAMMIT! :)

I have to smile at that too because even as hard as it is, I love being sober. It makes me feel like I at least have a chance.

So yesterday I breathed A LOT. Deep, purposeful breaths. I drank water, and ate slowly. Slept terrible.

Randomly, I feel so encouraged by it all. First off, can you imagine if all this was happening and I was still drinking? I would be feeling ultra uber shitty and probably in dirty sweatpants with wine stained teeth and a bottle of ibuprofen in one of those hip coin dispensers. Fuck. So this is kind of like life tra la la-ing along, really.

I suppose it's all in the way you look at it. "How unfair!" I could rant. Or "How possible!" I can be. My life seems kind of like an endless crossroads- but how fortunate I am to actually have choices that aren't all "guess I'd better get drunk again." It reminds me that I am aware. It reminds me that I have a lot to be grateful for. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be." Clementine Paddleford

Since I'm doing all this wishing but not much backbone-ing things are staying the same. Wanting to feel better and working to feel better are two different things. Dammit! So me and Clementine are getting the boat out. The scenery isn't going to change without some rowing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mrs. D is on TV!!!!!!

I am floored and thrilled and delighted to share this segment with y'all. Mrs. D has been a part of my sobriety from my day one. I am so grateful for her spirit and courage and support. Check her out!

Mrs. D is on TV!!!!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Some Posts I Almost Posted

I have lots of drafts that never really made it into posted posts.

1. Um, My Break Please....

Sometimes it all gets so overwhelming I need a break from recovery. Like, um, could I just be a regular person? I don't even want to drink like one, I just want to think like one.

2. Enough Already 

After I wrote about my six months of sobriety, and then having a huge craving (that struck again last night while husband and I were having a before dinner snack and he got the grill started: soooooo time for a few glasses of wine before dinner. It amazes me how tangible and real it feels- almost like I'm having it) and reading the comments about it something has been bugging me.

The enough already.

My mom tells me all the time when I talk to her about something I want to do: "Oh, that sounds like a lot. Take it easy. Don't try to do too much." This is what she means: "I care about you and don't want you to get hurt." This is what I hear: "You aren't strong enough to do it. You aren't really capable of such lofty goals. You should just sit back and not try."

"Already enough" is not a bad thing. It's a great thing, actually. It's contentment. It's OK, but in a good way.

I'm fighting with the sides of average- of already good enough. Of saying yes, I am good enough, but it doesn't mean I should stop trying.....does it?

I feel like I need to clarify a bit- for y'all and for me. Just because I make a big ol' list that says so many things I want to do does not mean I'm throwing myself a pity party everyday if these things don't happen. Not even if they don't happen in six months, or six years. 

It means that I have this new life and I want to shape it. It means that here I am, big ball of clay that is my life: ready to shape and twist and pull. Some planned, lots unexpected. But I'm ready for all that. I'm strong enough.

The message I'm telling myself when I make a big list like that is this: "You can do it. You can take it. You can make it anything you want it to be. Dream big! Because if you dream big and you fail you can get through it. You are strong enough. You can do hard things."

I can't just let getting sober be my biggest accomplishment. I believe you get sober, and then you get a life. I believe that the thing that was really stopping me was my drinking. Now that that mess is out of the way I can take chances, take risks- put my heart on the line and do some living.

I read a great post by Lisa Neumann about how she's doing something hard but getting through it. I don't think the work and love of my life all depends on it being easy, cuddly, and sitting back. I think it takes balance of hard and easy- of pushing pushing pushing to reach lofty goals- and of being gentle enough to say "It's OK" when you need to, and smart enough to know when "It's OK" is the last thing you need to hear. Knowing that all the things you feel are good- because feeling is good. Even when it sucks big time.

So it's not enough already. Not even close. And I'm OK with that. :)

3. We Are Family 

Something I forget to remember is how connected to people I'm getting because I'm sober.

Yesterday my brother and I had a talk about my mom, how she is. How we both feel. How we both feel crazy, but that maybe she's the crazy one. How (like you and I recognize each other because of our struggles with alcohol/addiction) he and I recognize each other because we grew up together. In the same house. With the same parents. That made me feel much righter in the world.

We don't talk about my drinking yet. He knows I quit. He knows it wasn't just a whim, but a necessity. We are six and a half years apart and never had anything in common. I was miserable by eight or so, and he just added to it. Yet, I have always adored him. And to this day believe that he is the best person I know. He has a kindness inside. He makes me laugh. He knows where I come from- who I come from.

This morning I sat down to read my email etc. and it hit me: I am building relationships. Because I'm not always worried about drinking (either doing it or feeling sick and guilty from doing it) I can reach out. Hold a hand. Show people who I am, and then they might come back. I am building these bonds by slowly getting to know me and them.

4. Soul30 

I'm having a Soul30. You can eat and be and do what you want but it has to feed your soul. Most of the time. Even the soul needs a break, and so you can take those too. But the very biggest unbreakable rule is this: no lying to yourself. That means about "Sure another four cookies are fine" or "Well, I think I can go to that big drunkfest party and be OK" or "I can keep doing this thing that makes me feel like shit because I'm sober". It's about finding out what works for you and then being it, doing it. Even if everyone else can and you can't. It's about finding the can, the yes, the it works and ignoring what doesn't.

So far it's working pretty good.

Two days. It took two days for me to feel righter again. And I ain't gonna lie, I gave up gluten and dairy again. I'm kind of back on the Whole30 way of eating, but with dark chocolate and butter. And I'm calling it a Soul30 instead of a Whole30 because it's sometimes nice to call things something. And also it makes me feel less shallow. Plus Monday was the 21st, which makes me 42 and a half so it seemed logical to start something important on that day.

5. no title 

I've been feeling a little sober stale lately: when I put my sobriety sort of on the back burner and kind of muddle through life with my eyes half closed and my ears half listening.

6. Getting Sober Support 

Feeling safe in the world means that I can speak my truth and not fear any repercussions. Because when you tell the truth it doesn't involve judgement, or malice. It means "Here you are in my life, and these are things that are true for me. Maybe they are true for you too?"

Getting sober for me is like I won the biggest jackpot lucky luck luck lottery there ever was. Sometimes I want the sober parade to follow me around everywhere so you can see what I have. Sometimes my sobriety is big and shiny and I get prideful and looky looky. It's like the emperor's new clothes- as soon as I'm flashy I'm suddenly naked and nervously out there looking for a way to get some cover.

As soon as I think I've gotten all ho-hum about being sober another thing happens that shows me exactly how important my sobriety is to me- how without it nothing else is. I still re-read the beginning of the instructions: One: Get Sober, Two: Be Sober, Three: Stay Sober. Now I need to figure out Four: Share Sober and Five: Sober Support. All without being an asshole.

Support has many forms, but I have to be willing to share without being overwhelming. Without being selfish. Understanding when enough is enough so no one's boxes get too soapy. Being able to be supportive and knowing how to keep myself safe- these are things I've never had to do since it's just always been me far flung without aid or protection. I've never valued myself enough to think I even needed protection until now. But how do I balance support without being self serving? How do I, when someone is struggling, help them understand that I'm not that mean lying ego-y voice in their head that tells them over and over "You're wrong, you suck, you're wrong, you suck" but the one that is really telling the truth? How, when you're holding out a light, can it look like a way into the dark?

7. Out of My Mind

There's been a theme running through my life for the past few fews- trust the body. When I go to yoga my instructor tells me to "hang my bones". I had a one-on-one much needed therapy session and my therapist told me the same thing: "trust your body".

Trust is an evolving thing for me. I want it, I need it, but in a strange twist I don't trust it. Oh.

That comes from way way back when I was little and was hushed and shushed and teased and made fun of. Endlessly. I still am often amazed at who and what people think are "cool" and how I sometimes don't feel like I fit in anywhere. I'm amazed because I feel like I mostly don't really care about being "cool" anymore- but it's still hard at 43 to feel like I haven't quite found my place.

It's hard to find my place when I don't trust my instincts. When I doubt the voices in me that I know are true but that damn lack of trust throws up roadblocks all the time.

I imagine that most of my trouble comes from my mind. That big crazy awesome place where who I am is. I think about how my body does its' work without any help from me- my heart beats, I don't forget to breathe, I coordinate all these parts to be able to type this without having to consult instructions. Then I think about all the work I out myself through in my own head- studying why things happen, questioning myself, reviewing things over and over until I want to throw my brain out with the bathwater. I am living sober, but I still have a drinking mind.

I am working hard on that.

The universe is working hard to put me in places where there are lessons. Tough ones. I'm making a new way of thinking that isn't really new as much is it is me.

I took some time this morning to remember where I came from. How far I am. How, because I trusted that instinct that said "QUIT DRINKING" I am here, now, figuring out all this other stuff that was making me need to drink in the first place.

8. Get Some

Speaking my truth is one of the hardest-easy things I do. Easy because I believe in sobriety with every bit of my self, hardest because I'm one of those people who really wants to be liked and even though I know better I still say things to make others feel better rather than the things I really need to say. That makes me feel a little like I'm wearing the wrong color lipstick and there's some on my teeth- weird and awkward. I don't even wear lipstick. Perhaps I should just keep my mouth shut. I'm learning when to do that too.

Feeling safe in the world means that I can speak my truth and not fear any repercussions. Because when you tell the truth it doesn't involve judgement, or malice. It means "Here you are in my life, and these are things that are true for me. Maybe they are true for you too?"

When you are fighting for sobriety- however you may need it- freedom from the any thing you can never ever do enough no matter what- the first step is to check ego at the door.  I had to understand that I didn't have the answers, I just had all the excuses why I didn't have a more than just liveable life. But this, but that, but later, but tomorrow, but but but. I think most of the reason I drank and drank and continued to drink even though I knew it was the very worst thing I could do to myself was because I handed the keys over to my ego and said, "I'm tired. You should drive. Maybe forever." And then I reclined my seat and closed my eyes. But but but.

After you've turned over the keys it's hard to hear anything over the blaring blaming ego-radio. You take suggestion as insult and when people say things that are meant to be helpful you think they're pushing you around. You think this because you don't really want to give up your big comfy comfort and when someone says you have to your ego yells "Well FUCK YOU" and so you do too.

The reason I know this is because I yelled FUCK YOU at myself for twenty some years and so I know just what it sounds like. And it usually didn't sound like FUCK YOU, but more like IT'S OK TO DRINK SO MUCH. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME. PLUS I AM SO HURT. I know exactly what it looks like in the dark. I know that the light can be there all end-of-the-tunnel-like and then there's that hopeful feeling like you can make it and then the tunnel end rushes away from you when it seems like you're getting closer to the light and so you just can't go on.

It's just too hard.

This is when you must go on.

You can.

And then you are sober, or you are not. This is overwhelming at the beginning of sobriety, I know it. But that's just the way the sober thing works. It isn't a give-a-try hobby, it's your life. You have to be all in. I was the best alcoholic I could be: I dedicated my life to the surety of my own suffering. So therefore I am equally as passionate about my sobriety. It only seems fair.

But when you aren't there yet, you aren't there yet. When you are sober like I am sober all you want is for everyone else to be able to be sober too. To be free to live and not merely exist from one excuse to the other. I know I am a miracle. I know that I fought hard to be one. That even though it seems like I just woke up one day and found my sober it was really a lifetime in the making.

It's unfortunate that you can't really cut sobriety and recovery in half to share. It isn't like a PB & J, where if you seem hungry I can just tear mine in half and then you get some too. You have to get your own. You have to. I'm not sure about the rule books since they are different for everyone and so there aren't really any rule rules except you have to be "sober" and I can share mine but it won't make you full.

I've been sober for long enough to have learned what it means to me. I've been in recovery long enough to know that it lasts forever- there are no breaks or vacations for time served or good behavior. Like children, sobriety and recovery are relentless miracles. There's more more more than enough sobriety for everyone to have some. But you have to help yourself.

9. It's All About Me It's Not All About Me

You know how, when things happen, it's all about you? And then, all at once, it's not?

I'm learning about my bubble. I'm imagining it- making it. My bubble is the place I go when I need to feel safe. It's where I can gather my anxious self together and take a breath. It's where, when I don't understand or I want to sort out something that's none of my business, I go to shut up. It's where I can say to myself in my own little force-field of OK-ness that everything is fine. That I am fine. It's where I go to know words like "enough" and "peace".

I went on a trip with my family this weekend. Everyone was who they are. And I was me. But, I was me. See?

Instead of taking on other people's stuff I minded my own business. I thought about if I was thirsty, or had to pee. I thought about what things to worry over, and what things had nothing to do with me. I was me me, not me who helps everyone feel happier. I wasn't me who tries so desperately to keep the even keel when things go wonky. I let the wonk wonk, I let people have their own moods. I stopped and soaked in the joy and terror while my boys rode big rides at an amusement park. I let them be: ride this ride, go here, go there. I didn't have a plan, or that awful thing parents do where we set our expectations so high for something we are just flat out disappointed all damn day since children get tired and want to do things just one more time and maybe really want a huge stuffed animal that you don't want to carry around the park for five hours.

I minded my own business. It seems like it's hard enough for me to keep my own life flowing along without adding other people's flow to the mix. I minded my own business when my dad seemed grumpy. When my nephew cried before every ride. I said "Sure!" when my husband wanted to go ride a huge roller coaster I did not want to ride. "Sure!" to him, and "Sure!" to myself who didn't want to go ride it. And we didn't debate, or struggle over it- he just took off on his own and rode it. He met us, beaming, thirty minutes later. And I didn't have a heart attack because I'd already ridden enough roller coasters and one more would have really been too many.

I have to say what I mean. When I find my space in my bubble I can gather the courage to do it.

10. After the 'But'...

"I feel bad, but....."

Do you ever say that? And then not really feel bad, maybe just a little uncomfortable? Like this: "I feel bad, I want to volunteer for that committee, but....." and then the truth is what you say after the 'but'. And that's the part making you squirm. Oprah or Dr. Phil told me that once, so I know it's true.

Or it's like this: "I feel bad, I really want to quit drinking, but....." and then there's the truth again.

My sentence of that was pretty simple for a long, long time: "I feel bad, I really want to quit drinking, but..... I really don't want to quit drinking." And that was the truth. I mean, I wanted to, but I didn't want to want to. See? The truth after the 'but'.

The truth is not always pretty. "I feel bad, I want to quit drinking but it's too hard." "I want to quit drinking but I like it too much." "I want to quit drinking but I don't really think I have a problem." Or, like someone said to me the other day, "I don't want to quit drinking. I might be a stumbling mess, but that's who I am." Oh. Well.....dang.

The truth can also be an excuse. "I want to create a successful at home business, but I'm afraid I can't do it." "I want to run a 5K, but I don't have time to train." Can the truth be a cop out? Or a clue into what you need to adjust so you can do the thing at the beginning of the sentence that seems like the thing that you really want to do. Which then makes that part of the sentence the truth, and the after the 'but' the lie?

I suppose before and after the 'but' are all important. These 'but' sentences have power.

11. Fault Line

Knowing who or what to blame for all this life is an interesting proposal. I'm not a big fan of finger pointing, I am a fan of accountability. Which means I should just go look in the mirror.

How long do you look for something to blame before you just put past as past and move along with it?

Current Me:

I'm not sure why I didn't post these. Oh, well, yes I am. They were either not quite right, or too close to that moment, or going to get worked on or it was Tuesday or some other something. I'm having trouble collecting my thoughts and so putting out the loose strings frees up some space for some more strings.

A friend sent me a quote that I can't get out of my head. It's from The Zen of Recovery.

"You must believe in your true self 100%, especially when the world is telling you otherwise, trying to knock you down the long stairway of recovery.  Listen:  Don’t take any shit off anyone if you believe in yourself and your direction 100%.  No one else has to live your life and die your lonely death.  No one else has to make your amends and pay your karmic debts.  No one else has the right to judge you and take your inventory if your personal evolution is well-motivated and clear.  Everyone works his or her program his or her own way, and everybody practices Zen or any spiritual path according to his or her own needs and vision."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


There must be something in the spring that makes me go a little off. At this time last year I entered a funk that lasted all summer- it didn't abate until early fall. And here I am again.

I've taken the whole week off from work because I lost my voice on Sunday. I'm still hoarse today. I went to the doctor yesterday, she breezed in, announced what I had was a viral infection, there was no magic pill, I needed to rest and drink lots of fluids and could go back to work in a few days. Gee, thanks.

I suppose I need to back up a little and tell you that I've been having trouble with double vision since around Thanksgiving last year. My regular eye doctor sort of blew it off and so I did too. Then it started getting worse, and so I went to a different non-blow-it-off eye doctor who sent me to a double vision specialist who sent me for a myasthenia gravis blood test. That I managed not to freak out about until the night before I got the results: negative.

Oh yay! Negative! Negative. So now what? A neurologist. Deeper tests. The double vision plus other symptoms mean something is going on, but none of us know what. So we're pulling back on my eyeglass prescription. I'm going to see a hollistic health specialist since I'm one of those folk that believe in treating the source not medicating the symptoms. I have another appointment with my double vision specialist at the beginning of July.

At yesterday's appointment I learned that I gained ten mother fother pounds since last year. Wahhhhhhhh.

I wasn't really going to say anything about all this until I read this post from my dear friend Sherry and knew that I had been hiding myself away too. Yesterday I read this post from another blog friend, Chenoa, and really felt the fear I've been feeling: me, rolling stone, innocently gathering moss. Insulating and isolating from keeping my soul full.

Shit y'all. I'm scared. Scared I'm having something big that I can handle because I'm sober, but so resentful too because goddammit! I am sober! Can't that be enough? Can't it be enough that I suffered for all those years? Can't I just be healthy and happy for one time, ever?

OK, I know. I am healthier and happier than I have ever been! I am, really. All the dealing with life is still something I am not quite used to. It's hard! So hard. Work, and kiddos, and this and that. Sometimes that is more than I can handle without words like "neurologist" and "autoimmune neuromuscular disease" thrown in.

The funny thing about all this is I know what to do. I know how to feel better. I need to eat right which means four pieces of pizza are too many. I need to exercise every day which means go for a walk. Stretch some. I need to read things that comfort me rather than the book I'm reading now (The Goldfinch) that is totally stressing me out. I need to do the things I should do and not the things I want to do- and I know the difference.

The difference is: the things I should do make me feel capable and safe. The things I want to do make me feel fat and wobbly-brained. Fuck. The shoulds are good seems easy enough to remember. So why can't I do them?

The things I "want" to do put me back into my booze cocoon sans booze. It all started with a bad situation in my recovery group and is now snowballing because I'm dealing with things in my old way (i.e. NOT dealing) rather than keeping myself at the level to which I've become accustomed. I got a big shove backwards and it's not easy to regain momentum even though I know overthinking myself into paralysis is not the solution.

I know that I need to not sneak out of the pool and slink away. I need to climb up on the diving board and holler "CANNONBALL!!!" and jump back in. And so when my brain says "coooookies" I'll just yell "CANNONBALL!!!" and when I want to hide under the covers I'll get up on the diving board instead. Because that's all I can do. Because I know my old way doesn't work.

Because really, the water is fine. I am fine. I'm OK. I am capable and able and I can swim. Even though life is hell-ish it isn't hell. It's only hell-ish. And I have to remember that's a big step up from what it used to be.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading Books About Drunk People

I just finished Drunk Mom. I read it since one of my very favorite blog friends, Thirsty Still, read it.

The book reminded me of how excited I would be on the way to the wine store: the giddy relief of giving myself the go-ahead, that I was going to drink. It brought back the sense of acceptance- that I never really had a choice in the matter anyway- that once I considered it I was going to drink. I could feel how it felt to pour that first giant glass of sauvignon blanc, adding ice because it was warm. How wonderful it felt to sneak out the sliding glass door. How I stood on that grey paver at the bottom of the stairs and lit a cigarette. I finished my first glass and the smoke at the same time. The bones deep relief of that. The feeling that I was getting away with something. That I was an adult- finished with a day of work and relaxing with wine and a smoke. The feeling that no one, not even me, could stop me.

It brought back the awfulness of my youngest's first year- me suffering from postpartum and boozing and breastfeeding and training for a marathon and picking up smoking again. I would sometimes go out with work friends and not come home- blacked out and coming to in a guilty rush on someone's couch. Slinking home at seven in the morning. I feel sick just thinking about it- anxious, nervous. God, it really sucked.

It's so wonderful to remind myself that I am here- almost a year and a half sober. THANK YOU.


I was disappointed that the book was almost all stories about being falling down drunk out making stupid decision after stupid decision. Why are the parts about being in successful recovery so small in most of these books when it's the recovery part that is so damn interesting? I would much rather read about how she dealt with beginning sobriety, what it was like a year in, how she changed as a person and as a mother while she maintained her sobriety.

The recovery part is the one that deserves all the chapters, not all the black out wasted stories that we can all tell in some way or another. I woke up not remembering going to bed more times than I want to mention: How did I get here? What did I say? Do you really need to read more stories about how I screwed up again because I had ten gin and tonics? Or would you like to know about how I dealt with it when things went wonky in my recovery group instead?

I feel like I've read it all the flotsam and jetsam before. I know the shame of it, but I haven't read anything about the recovery of it. The good part. The part that would inspire people to, you know, not be drunks anymore. The part where I sit in the den discussing my recovery stuff with my mom and my husband like we're talking about just regular old stuff. The part about how I had an awful day at work and then ran over a block and blew up the A/C in the car and then the kids were cranky and there was nothing for dinner and I still didn't drink. The parts we write about in our blogs- that should be in books out there for everyone to see. That's why I love Anne Lamott- she alludes to how bad it was, but then focuses on how good it is.

When I read books like Drunk Mom I feel comforted in a way- "I was kind of like that" I say to myself "but not that bad". Does it make people choose to not quit because they think that just being home having a bunch of wine isn't as bad as all that? What if you're just a boring old housewife getting drunk three or four times a week and not almost freezing to death? I didn't drink during the day. I was just starting to feel like I had to hide the amount I was drinking, but not that I was drinking. It makes me feel sort of under-qualified. Did I really need to stop? (Yes) I didn't do all that crazy shit. (Yet)

I think that bad enough to quit is when you know it, it isn't like a race: "And in first there's the woman who wrecked the car and lost custody of her children and now she's in jail. In second the lady who has vodka in her coffee. In third the woman who screams at her children and is drunk by bedtime! Oooop! Here comes the woman who has two or three glasses of wine a few times a week and it just makes her life suck some!" Justified sobriety is the pits. It doesn't make you the winner to have had more fucked up things happen to you, it just means you probably should have stopped sooner.

The only question needs to be "Does your addiction hurt your life?" and if the answer is "Yes" then it's bad enough. The inner suffering on it's own is plenty "that bad".

We all win when we choose to cross the finish line and stop drinking. We all get first place, and medals, and trophies, and parades. Anyone can qualify, everyone can win. Reading these kinds of books are good reminders, but they don't need to be the only reminders we read.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Anonymous People

I'm not sure if you've watched The Anonymous People yet- I have only seen half of it because I tend to fall asleep in the middle of every movie-but now it's on Netflix so I can watch it in parts if I need to. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Normal

For the first time in a long long time I'm up writing. I love getting up early- when did it turn into such a chore? It makes me puzzle over why, when I do nice things for myself that I love, that I talk myself out of them. Who's in charge up there anyway?

I had a one-on-one session with my therapist last week and she recommended a book to me. It's called Changing Course: Healing from Loss, Abandonment, and Fear by Claudia Black. Reading it is helping me understand who really is in charge up there, and why I choose the things I do.

I've felt so many things the past few weeks: sad, hurt, angry, healed, calm, confident, reassured. Life seems an awful lot like a roller coaster until I remember that oh, yeah, right. That's kind of what life is when you aren't numb most of the time. It reminds me of the theme song from The Dukes of Hazzard- the part about straightnin' the curves and flatnin' the hills. I want my curves curvy, my hills hilly- but I'm not used to it and it feels like I need a harness, a net, and maybe a break now and again.

Reading Changing Course is helping me understand how I react to things and feel the way I do. My childhood wasn't spent locked in a closet, but it wasn't really all that great either. I made and continue to make choices that protect me from pain and these choices keep me stuck. I do and say so many things a day, but where does that come from? Who am I really? Why do I react the way I do? I sometimes feel quite stuck at about twelve- a girl on the brink of womanhood hurting and confused and hiding as best I can.

My personality got kind of buried under all that self protection. It's been pretty cool and kind of odd to really think about my reactions instead of just blerbing through it like I normally do. In my therapy session we did something called somatic experiencing. It's an interesting way to create a safe place for myself and it makes total sense. My therapist told me a story about how, after a gazelle has a narrow miss with a lion, it goes and rests. It recovers, then goes back to the herd. But it doesn't go back all dramatic "Oh! Lord! Other gazelles! I just almost got killed!" After it calms down it rejoins the herd and life goes on. I tend to draw things out and make them last longer than they need to- giving loads of energy to the past and to mistakes instead of healing and living now.

Like this: In traffic if I make a mistake or someone else makes a mistake my whole drive can turn into a blame game. Blah blah turn signal, blah blah wrong lane, blah blah too slow, blah blah blahhhhhhhhh. I can spend half a day feeling embarrassed or high and mighty about something insignificant. I've been concentrating on letting that traffic stuff go. All that thought into a few second incident. Let it go.

That's the way I tend to deal with my mistakes: big or small, I really let 'em have it.  And it makes me feel better since I either get to feel superior or beat myself up. Which is kind of how I spend a lot of my time, which may explain why I feel kind of mad-ish and negative a lot. Which sucks. There isn't any middle ground- it's either waaaaayyyy up or waaaaayyyy down. That's the way I was raised.

After drinking for all those years to numb myself to all this personhood stuff little things like making conscious choices about my reactions seem so big! To be able to make a tiny traffic blunder and whoops it off. Something that small is changing my life. It's making me feel like the forty three year old woman I am, and not that scared little girl. I'm creating a safe place for myself within myself. It's a new normal for me to have some confidence in my place in the world.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Lord. Where have I been? Every morning I wake up and think, shit. I have a blog post to write. Then I think it again the next day, and then there's so much to say that I sort of got overwhelmed and just put it off for a better time, another day I'll be able to sit down, to concentrate for real. Then I can do it.

Ha ha ha. We all know how that kind of planning goes. But then! The children went to see their grandparents for Mother's Day. My husband is at work. I'm having a huge Saturday night vegetable roasting party and I'm the only one invited so I can do whatever I want. Which means I can cook and write and go to sleep when I get tired. Word.

I finally funked right on out of my funk. Something that helped was this rock my therapist gave me in group the other week. Here it is:

I was talking about how I can't get things to go the way I want or think they should and then we all nodded since I have "issues" with being a little...."controlling"? And then she gave me this rock, some slips of paper, and a rubber band. She said something like: "Write the things you're worried/trying to control on the slips of paper. Rubberband them to the rock. Carry it everywhere. When you're ready to let something go take it off of the rock until there's just the rock. Then maybe be able to let that go too."

I wrote my things: my mom. My dad. My weight. Money. Finding balance. Work frustration. Eating too much. I rubberbanded them to my rock and went to sleep with my rock next to me on the table by my bed.

I got up the next morning and went for a run: me and my rock and my worries. In my head I was bitching at myself for holding on to things, for being worried and not faith full. Chiding myself for not being able to do the rock thing right. Worrying about failing. In my in my head desperate voice I wailed to myself "But what if I fall???"

And then a voice, my own, but from way down deep inside of me said,

"What if I catch you?"

I sobbed in relief. Instant, overwhelming, blanketing full on full out relief.

I looked at the rock in wonder.

Then I remembered that I was in public, and running. And so I said a fervent prayer of thanks out loud straight up to the sky. Then I wiped my eyes and kept on going.

When I got back to the car I took the rubberband off of the rock and put the slips of paper in the door compartment of the car. I drove home with the rock in my lap.

I haven't really carried the rock around since. My parents and I have made a gentle peace with each other- kind of like we were all wearing tight coats and then someone suggested we unbutton them. It still feels weird, but more comfortable. I am still too thinking about my weight, but I'm running, and rolling around on the floor doing yoga. I'm not eating too much on purpose. I gave up money worries because it's May, or Saturday, or a bird chirped.

I'm reading this book. It's changing my life. It came along when I was ready. Ready, just like I was ready for the rock. Ready for my voice.

Ready, after all these years, to trust myself again.