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.