Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thanks Receiving

From Nov. 29 2015

After almost three years sober I have a lot of gratitude practice. In my head and in reality I get on my knees every day or I look up at the big sky and give heartfelt thanks. And I mean it: my sobriety has given my life breath, and I know enough to know that it's polite to say thank you for the greatest gift I've even been given.

It's cold here now, the woods are staring to get bare. The leaves have fallen and gone from vibrant to brown in a matter of weeks. Me too- I feel myself shriveling a little, shrinking in, but gaining a little weight. I'm trying not to worry about that. I looked in the mirror this morning, my face a little swollen, my belly a little more belly-y and thought about what a great diversionary tactic that is: worry about this outside shit so I don't have to go inside where things can get real real quick.

One of my favorite things to talk about is feeding the right part of you: if all your attention goes in to the part that is always saying how ugly and awful and worthless you are then that fucker gets fat quick. But why isn't my kind part ever hungry? Probably because it just sits there on the couch watching TV every day, waiting to get out, waiting to get to work, expending no energy at all while I'm out tirelessly running around with that other part that secretly hates me but won't leave me alone.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't always getting the runaround from my own self. In junior high school I had a pair of embroidered Gasoline jeans that were a bit too long but looked pretty great until I remembered that my butt was too big. I colored my hair red with temporary hair color mousse and shopped at all the places I was supposed to but it rarely quieted that voice. I used to dream I had the perfect outfit to wear to school and I would wake up so relieved only to remember it was just a dream and I was stuck in this reality where all my clothes were wrong, I never looked right, and no one really liked me anyway.

You would think after all these years I would have wised up and stopped paying attention to what that dang voice is saying, but there I was just this morning ears perked right up. And so I started the litany of self improvement plans.

"Yep, tomorrow is Monday. Perfect time to get back to my old routine. I'll just do what I want today, then tomorrow I'll start eating right again. I'll run every day, do yoga every day. I will feel comfortable in my own skin because I won't be swollen, or pudgy. And then I can feel OK about myself. I'll stop drinking coffee. I won't have dairy. Or bread. Or sugar. Then I'll be controlling all these things and I'll be good enough."

God. I feel so sorry for that part of me that just cannot give all that up. It's that same part of me that thought giving up drinking was going to solve all of my problems: if I'm sober then I'll be OK.

Another of my favorite things to talk about is facing your problems. Here they are, relentlessly chasing you and you just keep running and running. It seems like I've kind of been looking back and throwing band aids at them instead of stopping and seeing what's really going on. 

Thinking Big

Here I am holding most of my children's clothing so they could swim in the ocean at Folly Beach the day after Christmas.  Thinking big.

Someone said to me the other day, "I can't wait for the holidays to be over so I can take a break from drinking." It took me a minute to realize what they were talking about- but only a minute. I can easily remember this feeling- the exhaustion from all the "celebrating". I can remember feeling like I wanted to drive away and go hide from everyone so I didn't have to get drunk again because Christmas and New Years. I remember how it felt to drag myself through the joyful days of the holiday season- puffy faced, fat feeling, endless guilt and drinking, drinking, drinking.

The feeling I can't shake these days is the one that doesn't understand how almost everyone feels like getting drunk is normal. That this is the truth: I am the oddity because I don't drink. It's accentuated by times of celebration. Another feeling I can't shake: how disingenuous it seems to find celebration at the bottom of a glass and not in the space of our hearts. Why does it take some liquid courage to own up to the love we feel for one another?

I have been so remiss in my writing, I almost feel like I could never catch you up on all the things I've been connecting one to the other in a flurry of one to the other. I have been hibernating, concentrating myself small small small like I have to. I have been lazy- caught in the suspension of this warm rainy winter- ironically frozen almost in my middle place of this thing to the next. Life getting bigger isn't so much about big motion as it is about being willing to sit still.

In the van on the way back from visiting grandparents over Christmas my husband and I were talking as we sped along I-95. We talked about the new year- wishes, responsibilities, possibilities. I tried to explain to him how I want to be out loud- proud of myself and my sobriety, how I want to help others who want it, but how I want to remain humble too. I have such a hard time when it comes to writing my blog now- writing people one on one gives me such pleasure, but when I sit down to write here I find myself struggling to not leave anyone out, to not be preachy or too woo woo, too. Sometimes it's just hard to put into words what I'm thinking in a way that makes actual sense.

I am afraid. Sitting here thinking about it I know that I have been keeping things small because it's safe. I read Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron and I take writing classes and sign up for yoga teacher training and join a writing group and then I push my feet into the sand and try to stay scared and small but my life just ain't having it. I've spent this month trying to think myself into keeping my life little- less work, less connection, less of everything when truthfully I am ready to give more than ever before. It's not the more that's cramping my style- it's the way I keep trying to keep myself as less. 

It strikes me how much truth is in the telling. Mostly the stories we tell ourselves, and the ones made from the things we're told. How telling you the truth here makes it more OK to tell myself the truth inside. How this, here, now, tells me what I need to know. Maybe it tells you something now, too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting to Solid Ground

This time of year is so all over the place for me- glorious things happen all month: my yearly I got sober day, my oldest's birthday, Christmas- but I'm sort of an emotional wreck at this time of year just by the natural way my body works. I have noticed, since getting sober, that I have about three times a year when I get downer than just down and I have to work for normalcy.

This time of year just lends itself naturally to change- it seems like I learn big stuff around this time, so that November and most of December seem to be me pushing something big around and around until suddenly things start to fall into place and I feel lighter again.

I am wondering about yoga teacher training- still a solid five weeks away. I finished my writing class and feel so inspired to write but can't seem to get it into my schedule with any regularity. I feel so fragile, and incapable-  I'm trying to honor that instead of pushing myself. But then I'm just in my head all the time which sucks. It reminds me of all the years I spent trying to quit drinking: I wanted to be different but I was so scared to be different. The me that I am is still a comfort, even when I've outgrown myself.

I've been sick for three days, a sure sign that I need to do less. While I was lolling about in bed for those three days I came across an article about how people who are into controlling everything like to make lists about all the things they want to do, but then never actually get around to doing it. That is so me! I love to map out ideal schedules, regimented times for yoga and writing and running and book work and research. Then my life gets in the way and I abandon my ideal in that hopeless way I get when I just can't get myself on track.

I have a huge problem with things being the way they "should" be. I did it when I was drinking- if I couldn't quit on the first of the month well then, fuck it. The month was ruined. If I didn't keep my New Year's Resolution to quit then the whole year was ruined. Might as well drink. This carries over to my sober: if I can't do an hour of yoga why bother? Unless I can write for a solid two hours I might as well just fritter away my time on the internet, or wandering around the house accusing myself. What good is a fifteen minute walk? I need to run, and for an hour.

I know, of course, that all of that is ridiculous. A few minutes of yoga is grand. A few minutes of anything is better than no minutes of it. I know, I know.

I've been thinking so much these past few weeks: thinking about my spirituality (have you read "Take This Bread"?) my habits, the way I wake up sort of mad and disappointed every day even though that's not how I really feel. It's so confusing to try to reconcile the person I feel like I am with the person I'm in the habit of being. It's like I'm stuck in a rubber suit- it's too small, I need to take it off, but I'm held fast by my inability to surrender.

It reminds me of the time I was running in the fall a few years ago. My therapist had given me a beautiful palm sized amber crystal-y rock. She told me to write down all the things I was trying to control and rubber band them to the rock. Then I had to carry it with me everywhere. So I was running, holding my rock- list of control things held tight by a big purple rubber band from the broccoli. I started crying. "What if I fall?" I wailed. "What if I catch you?" said a voice from inside of me. I cried harder and had to stop running.

There is not much faith in the world in me. I have always felt unsafe and on the look out. It's like I'm on a tightrope- sometimes I'm ok, carefully picking my way along, and sometimes I'm flailing everywhere, but I never reach the end where I stand two feet solid on the ground. I've developed the habit of reminding myself that I am loved, that I am safe, but years of flapping are hard to undo. Even if I'm settled I still long for lopsided. It's hard to feel the precariousness of my place in the world, it's just as hard to trust my roots. Feelings are just hard all the way around sometimes.

I am not so good at being caught. I am good at pushing people away. I want to help everyone, but feel so uncomfortable accepting help for myself. While I was sick I made myself have help. It sucked. It felt awful and I felt useless but my husband took care of me- a job I reserve exclusively for myself because I am not accustomed to or comfortable being cared for. It feels....weird. Like I have to wait for the other shoe to drop- here's your help, now here's the price.

But here I am, wrenching my heart open anyway. Sometimes the work we do is not so obvious- it can't be plotted on a bullet list or mushed into a clean neat schedule. It's just me, and my heart, and the days and years it takes to heal from all the years that came before. I have these moments now- where I feel like myself, really like myself and I know it's working. I know the tightrope walk is coming to an end- to a place where I can carefully place my feet on solid ground. Even if it's only for a few minutes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Again and Again

There are a few times a year when PMS knocks me for a loop. This has been one of those times- you know, one day things are fine, then the next day you want to crawl into the dark closet with a quilt over your head and just cry cry cry your heart out all day because you don't know why but because.

I imagine this is a tiny taste of what depression might be like. Things go sideways and there isn't really an explanation- just this deep feeling of everything and nothing all at once, but then there's also  intense impatience and quickness to anger that I'm not sure where to put. In an argument with my seven year old about getting ready for school I flipped him the bird and yelled "Fuck you!" at him. I picked a fight with my husband about the same thing we always are trying to work out. Twice. I came home from work and sat in the car sobbing for a long time before I wanted to come inside.

I can remember when I first got sober it was like a revelation when I could feel the crazy creeping up on me. I would start to feel impatient, and irrational, and weepy but I would know what it was: PMS. I never knew this before. Drinking I was always so off center because I was hungover and I felt like hell, guilty and ashamed. Sober I knew it was my wacky hormones being out of whack. Then I found an app that would keep track of it for me and it's been lovely that as soon as I feel off kilter I peek at my app and yes- the concrete evidence is there. I am not just batshit crazy, I'm definitely not hungover; there's a real reason for all these flying around feelings.

Again and again it seems like I am always looking for reasons for things. Reasons why I feel this way, or that way. Reasons why my seven year old can't manage to get ready sometimes. Reasons why I have to be so feeling when it seems so easy for some people to be so blasé about it all. Reasons why people blow themselves up in Paris, why at a football game I can't help but feel compassion for the losing team. I really wanted to go down on the field and say "Hey y'all, wouldn't it be more fun to play football? And maybe after have some coffee and cookies?" It seems like I am always looking for explanations to make things that don't make sense make sense. If I find the reason then I can find the solution and then I'll be able to understand. Lately I've been having this urge to hold everyone in my heart because I want it all to be ok. Like a giant Kumbaya on crack. Which seems like an odd thing to say on a blog about addiction, but well, maybe you know what I mean.

I've been doing a lot of heart opening. I wish I could explain how you do this in steps and then it could be easy, but I don't really know. There's a lot of laying on the floor, getting my body on the ground. A lot of not concentrating on outcomes, a lot of not being the same as always. I didn't really know it was happening to me until I just now thought about that it has been happening to me, but I did know too. It has been my intention, but I didn't really realize that it was actually working until I thought about it. Which seems to be the case for every fucking thing- I set out to do it, kind of forget I'm doing it, but I've put that intention out there and so the universe is hard at work answering my prayers anyway. Then things get good, but also tough and sad, and then I remember my intention and feel awesome but also pissed off because dammit! Prayers are meant to be answered...ohhhhh, right.

There aren't a lot of big things weighing on me- it's all the little things that pile up together making a big thing. Actually it's my attachment to all these little things that make a big thing. I'm reading about avidya (spiritual ignorance) and it makes so much sense- because I am afraid I become attached to these little things and I forget that I am already who I'm supposed to be. Because I am already who I'm supposed to be I don't need to be afraid and attached. But I'm so attached to my attachment to the little things! Who am I if I'm not my idiosyncrasies or victories? Who is my self if I am not supported by these illusions?

Rolf Gates says, "Our pain is simply feedback from the universe: 'No, that's not it; no, that's not it either. Oh yes, you are getting a little warmer, a little warmer. Ooops, you're getting a little colder.'" I think that's such a cool way to think about it- the universe playing the hot/cold game with me. It makes it easier to take when I feel so sad and lost inside, or when I'm feeding my arrogance and not my confidence. Such a simple message: change direction. Move to where you are comfortable, where it feels better. Too hot or too cold- move to where it feels good. I don't have to all over everytime question it: Shouldn't I push myself though? or Whoa! Is that too much? These are just things I can know how to answer.

The day I cried in the car after work was a big step for me. It wasn't awesome to feel so sad, but it was awesome to let that sadness out- to feel my heart breaking and know that it was okay- I found the right spot in the hot/cold game. As soon as I yelled "Fuck you!" at my son I had a big peace come over me and I got quiet and said "I love you. Let's stop fighting." It took a minute, but he did, and grabbed me around the neck and we both cried. The right spot again. I often wonder who made the rule that hearts are wrong unless they're singing?

Again and again I find my life to be so much like seasons: after winter must come spring. And then around around again. Slowly circling around the spiral reaching closer and closer to center. Sometimes the view is the same, again. Sometimes it's all so new I don't know where to look. It isn't about arriving at the center though- it's about getting there even though you're already there. It's about seeing when you've mistaken your pain for pleasure, and then healing along the way. It's about taking a knowing look at yourself and understanding that the grace comes when you surrender and allow your prayers to be answered. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do, again and again.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hey Look! Me Too, Two!

Woo wee! Over the weekend I got the news that my "How I Got Sober" was posting today on AfterParty Magazine. Check out their site if you haven't yet- another great resource for reading, Me Too's, and staying sober. They sent me this awesome tank top just for doing an interview. At first I felt a little funny wearing it, but then I thought about it and my sobriety is one of the things I'm the most proud of. Plus it's interesting to watch people try to figure out what it means. :)

I know non-anonymous isn't for everyone, but it works for me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to tell my story, and hopeful it helps. I'm always available for being a pen pal so don't feel shy or like it's a burden. Thanks for reading! :)

Here's the link:How I Got Sober

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hey Look! Me Too!

I am always so delighted when someone contacts me and says "Hey...would you do an interview for me?" (link below) So far it's happened four times, which I find pretty amazing considering I'm just a regular woman going about a regular life doing regular things. Wait, that's not really true... :)

One of my biggest things sobriety has given me is this urge to help other people who are struggling with alcoholism to know that the booze doesn't have to be the end: that ending it can be the beginning. When I was drinking I never knew that there were other people out there just like me. I knew in my heart I was an alcoholic- but because I didn't drink every day, or in the morning, or have jail time, divorce, or lost jobs I thought I was sort of ok. Drinking two bottles of wine a few times a week is not normal- duh.

I want to put myself out there so other people can see that being an alcoholic looks "normal". It 100% looks like a married mother of two holding down a job and a life. It looks like a woman who has it together- except when she's hammered on the back porch a few nights a week, and then desperately hungover on the days after. You can still get up and get dressed and do a day when you're so hungover you feel like you might die: it just really sucks. But it doesn't scarlett letter you with a definitive "A" for alcoholic like the typical image people have of us.

I'm not trying to be all grand when I say I want to help people. But I do! I want to help all the people! It's like that song about buying the world a Coke to keep it company- I want to buy the world some sobriety. I sometimes feel like I could be an infomercial- Try it! It worked for me- it can work for you too! And then there are pictures of me wasted, and then there's a picture of me sober, and then I ride gloriously off into the sunset the end.

Being sober never ends. THANK GOD. I know that sometimes when you're getting sober the thought of never drinking again is the most painful thing ever. For some reason for me it has always been the biggest relief- I never have to do the thing that caused me countless hours of suffering ever again? PHEW.

The ME TOO. It's the thing that gives us all the power to grab a hand and have some help up. It's the thing that can give me such a feeling of peace: of being understood.

Veronica Valli has a great blog called Recovery Rocks. Here's the interview I did for her HERE. I loved reading other people's sober stories and looking around her site. I got so many ME TOO's.

I never ever in my whole life ever would have thought that I would be doing interviews about being sober- or being interviewed for anything at all, really. I never thought I would make the life I've made. I pinch myself sometimes knowing that it's really true. Anything is possible for anyone y'all. Anything is possible for you. Anything is possible for me, too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bigger Life

I had my first writing class last night.

When I signed up I was all "hell yeah!" then I thought it was going to complicate my schedule too much and I got fearful and almost cancelled doing it. Then I had the time wrong and it turned out I realized that I wanted to not go out of fear rather than actual complication.

So I went.


It was grand. I sang and yodeled and lalala'd all the way home. There were about ten of us in the library at the Center for Documentary Studies which was as lovely as it sounds. A room full of other writers??? Shut the fuck up. The woman teaching the class is thoughtful and funny and genuine. We did some short writing and I made myself read what I wrote because that's why I'm there: to put myself out there, to share my way with words. I did NOT want to read out loud even one tiny littlest bit, but my go ahead voice urged me on so I did it. It was so cool to hear other people's words and thoughts, to think about other people feeling the necessity of writing too.

I am in this constant state of wonder these days: the bigness and ease of my life stretches my imagination to no end. I'm always writing back and forth with at least one person who is at the very beginning or not even started getting sober yet and it's always this feeling that I want to convey- the feeling of wonder. It's so interesting to be able to remember clearly the frustration and suckiness of living that alcoholic's life and then mash that up to living this alcoholic's life: the only true difference is that I don't drink anymore.

Me minus booze equals magic.

It takes so long to get to this place: I want to share that but then I want to keep it secret because I'm afraid if anyone knows that they won't even stay or get started. But here's the thing- it just keeps getting better and better and better. So you start out and your victories are all big even if in retrospect they seem small. When I first got sober one of my biggest victories was all the crying. Then it was being able to show up for stuff like parent teacher conferences and work without raging hangovers. Now my biggest victories are pushing my boundaries into what I know my life was meant to be. Singing out audibly in yoga class when we chant. Reading what I wrote out loud in front of people. Every time I stretch I take my time because I know I need to, but sometimes I just push myself out of the boat. Sometimes my life is bigger than the boat anyway.

The thing about it taking a long time is this: time is for the taking. I can take time to build my life, or I can take time to drink it away. It's the same 24 hours every day. It will all pass regardless, marching on no matter if you're blackout drunk or on your way to writing class.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rainy Days

It's raining so hard here today. I'm on the lookout for a few animals to go floating by or maybe a man called Noah to knock at the door and ask if I'm interested in either tree trimming or arks. I've been caramelizing onions for what seems like almost an eternity, listening to Death Cab for Cutie radio on Pandora AND shaking my ass in the kitchen. It's awesome.

A song by Coldplay came on and I had this sudden flashback to when my husband and I had gone from pals to living together in a slow but fast decision that we did, in fact, like each other "that" way. We used to get off work around 11 PM and head down to the corner bar to get started getting wasted the way early twenty somethings do except we were in our early thirties. Then we'd head home (lord, that we drove, really???) to drink more and I would put on that Coldplay CD and headphones and sing at the top of my lungs. I don't remember any of it, of course, I've been a blacker-outer from waaaaayyy back. I would drive him nuts with my drunken off key bellowing. Can you imagine? I was in such pain and such glory all at once.

Only later did we talk about how much he hated it. But what to do? Piss of a drunk person? God. Who the fuck even was I?

I was thinking this morning about how I am almost three years without a drink, without a drunk, or a blackout. How when I sing at the top of my lungs I know I'm doing it, how I'm becoming a better dancer because yoga and also letting go y'all. How I'm alive and living and I know all the things I do all the time. ALL THE TIME.

I was also thinking about the way that being a sober person is just part of my fabric now: that it would seem so weird to drink instead of vice versa. It seems so natural, like I was faking it that whole years of time I drank and now I'm who I really am finally finally finally. It gives me such a burst of joy and relief that I never have to drink again, that I never have to be that me ever again.

I put glittery golden hearts from fall festival prize making on my computer to remind me of how beloved I am by me- by the universe. I dance and sing in the kitchen while I make caramelized onions for half my life (those mugs take forever!). I sign up for writing classes and yoga trainings and I still yell at my children and pout when I don't get my way. I am not the same person I used to be- I am here with faith and learning to comfort my fears. Every time life seems to be as bright as it can be I am mesmerized again by what else is possible. This is not to say there is no sorrow, there is, but I suppose it's all the way I look at it.

Ah, rainy days. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I had coffee with one of my sober pen pals the other day- at a coffee shop ten minutes from my house. I amaze at this: here I am, in a city, in a state, in a country. I write a blog about being sober and and out in the great wide world another person reads it and writes to me and it just so happens she works ten minutes away from that coffee shop.

It's interesting to meet people in person: to see the hope and hurting in their eyes, their bravery and shyness there all at once. It's like meeting an old friend but you've never met. The reason you're meeting is because of your worst so there isn't anything to hide. It's pretty cool to know there isn't a reason to sugar coat it: after all, our biggest "secret" is out.

It's even more interesting to find out that we have the same kind of father, a similar kind of personality, the same kind of drinking. There's something so comforting about someone across a small table describing a situation and saying "I don't really remember" and you both understanding it means you blacked out. The knowing when you talk about those nights before: telling how you used to wake up the next morning and have to take yourself through the morning-after shame check to see what damage you'd done that you might have forgot. The me too y'all. It's so connective.

I have spent most of my sobriety in the regular world. By that I mean I didn't go to rehab, or AA. I had a recovery group for a while but that hasn't been around for over a year or so. I mean that I don't spend any time with people in recovery or talking about being sober. It was such a pleasure to hear her story in person, and to share the victories I've gained, to connect eye to eye. To be able to give advice, and to get a different take on things.

I had to write a 500 word essay for my application for yoga teacher training. I had to write about things I wanted to transform about myself with the help of the training- i.e. intention. It surprised me (and then, of course, didn't surprise me at all) that the thing I most want to transform is my ability to connect with others and myself.

I am so so shy about letting people in: being vulnerable is one of my hardest things- I think I'm only really good at it with my children. With them I can let it all hang out and love them fiercely and big and not feel afraid. With pretty much everyone else I am always in protective mode- always making sure I have a defense or an out. I am hyper protective of my sweet heart- it has been hurt so many times.

Drinking helped me not have to connect. It insulated me from things like feelings and relationships. It bonded me to people but I often wouldn't remember.  It helped me isolate myself into a defended safe place where the only person reliably hurting me was me. Ack, that just sucks.

Sometimes I feel like such a dumbass for being so middle aged and so inspired by the magic of it all. I laugh at myself all the time: where have I been all my life? I laugh at this too: thank god I'm finally here- feelings! Relationships! Connecting! It seems like it all ends up being a study in opposites and differences, which ends up being about balance I suppose. In a wonderfully universe-ish practical joke my choices have placed me in a class that will connect me intimately with a group of other people and myself- my hardest thing combined with my dream come true. The universe never ceases to delight and puzzle me with it's twisted sense of humor. As soon as I announce something I can't do it seems like an opportunity to can do appears- and I'm learning to take it. These are the things that make miracles.

Friday, October 2, 2015


  Getting sober is about doing things differently. You for real decide, "oh hey, I'm not going to drink anymore" and then that day you don't drink anymore. On that before dinner you don't pour a giant glass of wine over and over again until you blackout. Then the next day you decide it again: differently. You drink seltzer and breathe and push and pull while you stand in the kitchen wondering how the hell you're going to manage making dinner without wine. A week passes and you are still differently. A month. Holy shit! Then a whole year and sometimes you don't even notice the differently anymore all the time because now being sober is the same.

Then arrives a whole other set of things you need to do differently! Ack! I have feelings? I need to figure out who I am? What I like? What I can do? What I stand for? Who stands by me? My place in the world? Is it not enough that I quit fucking drinking? Can't that be my grand gesture to the world- hurrah! I am healed! Ta- dow!

Ahem. Welp, I guess not.

There's a thing called "globbing": when you take every option and make a big wall in your head and then no decisions get made and you get trapped in your critical mind and forget about doing the thing another way. When you glob you get sad and confused and blamed and incapable. I am excellent at globbing! I can pull myself under real quick like in most situations with my automatic response that is usually Ugh, I am not doing this right and I want to hide even if I'm fine.

Which means that now I have to figure out how to do my thinking differently: how to talk to myself and the world in my voice and not in my fear of rejection or fear of hurt. I don't mean speaking my truth: I mean speaking for myself. It's about feeling secure: held and safe- even when I'm a total asshole. Recognizing the unthinking responses and then taking a moment to decide: whether positive or negative making the decision instead of blindly flailing along the way I've always gone just because I've always gone it and also that's just easier.

I quit one of my jobs this week. I quit because I didn't like what the company is doing and I was able to say "I don't like this" and be finished. It was so empowering and such a relief: I didn't want to stay and my life is arranged now so that I didn't have to. It has mystified me a little about myself all week: I really did that??? I was able to do that? I'm not totally stuck because of money or obligation? That was pretty different. Normally I'm a person who sticks it out even when it sucks, or I have to stick it out because I run my life like a train wreck, but now I'm not that kind of person anymore.

It can be as small as this: sometimes when I'm at acupuncture a needle can be uncomfortable- but I never speak up- or in yoga class we get into a position and I'm supposed to feel great and I don't- but I don't move. I don't want anyone to know I'm doing it "wrong". I finally spoke up at acupuncture and moved at yoga this week. No one was bothered or noticed, but I feel like a badass.

I smile at myself: me? Standing in my two feet having my own back? Speaking for myself? Pretty cool. The gifts sobriety brings are so dang ongoing- just when I get to a spot where I start to feel a little dum dum dum the universe offers up these opportunities for me to wow and amaze myself- and I've started to take the invitation to get less afraid and let my life be bigger. Even when the world is crazy and the children are both misbehaving at school and I'm hormonal and sad and it feels like the pile of things going on is bigger than all of us I can stop and think for a little minute and be...okay.

We spend so much time concentrating on what's "wrong" with us. I'm not this, I'm not that. I read a book every day called Meditations from the Mat and in it I found the idea of making it good instead of making it bad. That I can concentrate on what makes me not or what makes me me. And so when I start talking bad about myself behind my back I stop it right now.

It's getting easier with practice. All these things: not drinking, getting sober, staying sober, learning to be a person, learning to be a nice person- all have gotten so much easier with practice. It's so small: to not belittle myself, to decide, to be kind.  But the difference is so big.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Body and Mind

I do a lot of my living right in my own head. I noticed yesterday when I was out for a run that I was thinking about all sorts of other stuff besides the actual running. I'm taking a once a week class and this week we talked about living in our bodies rather than living so much of life in our minds.

One reason I drank was to escape my own mind. That thing is big and powerful and always at work. I drank to forget who I was, why I hurt, and to get some peace and quiet. If I had enough to drink I didn't even remember that I existed and that, somehow, felt nice- even though it caused me no end of grief and regret around all the other hours I wasn't drunk.

What about my body? What about it? I've pretty much avoided it my whole life: even though it counts for my whole presence I discounted it as a source of healing or grace. I abused it and hated it and existed solely in my head and forgot about my sweet body.

As I head into the last bit of my third year sober I have discovered something: I like my body. I like it because I am finally thinking with it instead of just my brain. I don't ask my brain if it wants cheesecake or another cup of tea anymore- I ask my body. My body has an intelligence all it's own. It knows without debate what I really want. My brain can suck me into an endless internal debate that usually ends with me doing the exact opposite of what my body wants to do. Perhaps they're like sisters who can't help but fight and the mind big sister will win if the body doesn't speak up. Ego and voice of reason.

As much as I love the thinking my brain can do that shit can be exhausting. All the thinking I do about things and the actual feeling I don't do about things. How to live in my body and not live in my mind. How to feel the power of hurt, of joy, and not just feel the thought of it. Pinpointing where in my body I feel something: anxious about a family gathering? That's in my shoulders, in my jaw. Then I can breathe into my shoulders, open my jaw. Take charge of the anxiety and feel it for what it is, not start thinking about the last family lunch that went wrong and replaying scenes and conversations but being here now. Breathing. Feeling my lungs expand. Getting quiet for a moment. When I concentrate on identifying where I feel something in my body it makes it real- and reality is something I can relate to. It's a lot easier to think to myself "Relax your jaw" than it is to try to fix something in my head that happened a week ago.

There is something so powerful about separating the body and the mind and then allowing them to work together. Boiling it down to the physical and then seeing where you are at the moment. And then thinking about your big mind (your higher self) and your little mind (your ego) and how to make them work with your body.

Our bodies are such a battlefield- especially for women. We are taught that they should look this one way. That we are not beautiful. That our bodies can be hurt, that we should hide. I have struggled with the way my body looks my whole life- I have always felt "too"- too fat, too short, too plain.

I willfully harmed myself steadily and purposefully for almost all my life and still- here we are: me and my body. I drank to ease my mind without giving one thought to how it felt in my body. I ate too many cookies and made excuses for just one more and forgot that my body, when unhappy, would show it. Then I'd be mad at my body for showing the evidence of my troubled mind. I would be furious at the 16 in my jeans and forget that even with all this abuse my body still showed up every day doing the best it could given the circumstances. Heart beating. Lungs breathing. Creating the motions of waking, of mothering, of living. Despite all I could do to make it quit it just kept going.

That's the thing I guess, really: to keep going. To take a fine example from your showing up every day body. My brain will take me places, dark ones, that my body has never thought of. I can be brave enough to visit and heal the dark places because my body can step me into the light. It can tell me too much, or press on, or I need a break. If I pay attention I can feel what my life is trying to tell me rather than think it to death.

It's taken me such a long time to make friends with this flesh and bones miracle that makes me...me. I'm only now just just learning to know when I need a rest, or a minute, or to be alone or together. To recognize that my shoulders are creeping up to my ears or that I'm holding my breath. There's a magic in these little details: consciously putting my shoulders down, the exhalation of breath. It makes it easier not to try escape mad dash with my inner -aholic when I feel physically what I'm running from. Touching the physical event gives me my own power in the story.

Friday, September 4, 2015


This week I am one thousand and then one thousand and onetwothree days sober. This blows my mind a little, but comes as no surprise.

When I quit drinking the last time I really quit. Back at the beginning on that day onetwothree it was all I could do to keep a grip on just getting through the motions of my day. Now I can have a friend come visit and she and my husband can sip wine one day or have a beer on the porch the next and no one gets hammered and I don't flake out because I just don't drink alcohol and that's just that.

My truth is that I am an alcoholic. Their truth is that they are not. We all have our own truth- our own truth. Sometimes I get so bugged by how big the sobriety part of my truth is: goddammit, can it be a less part? Do I always always always have to be so aware of being in recovery- of my self that gets nervous when beer walks in the front door? That I have a thousand bits of shame willing to wash up on my shore at any random moment to remind me of the woman I used to be? Or that I am still big time changing and not the same me as I was five hundred days ago and I know I'll be different in five hundred more? It can get so exhausting sometimes. It makes me want to lay in the middle of the bed and stare at the ceiling for a week.

A thousand of anything can get pretty tiring I suppose.

I will always always always be so aware of my sobriety- of my recovery- of my healing from this disease that kept me unhappy and unwell for most of my life. I will always honor the depth of strength it took for me: one woman me- to get myself sober. You don't get sober by yourself, but you do. In all the minutes that go into a thousand days the only person around for each and every one was me. I did it- I do it. I am a little different: I find comfort in the solitude of healing myself- I don't go to meetings or therapy or spend a lot of time discussing being sober as much as I just do. Maybe because I am still perhaps getting used to this me and not able to push myself to the middle of the class for show and tell, maybe because the right people are still coming to my life who will help prepare me to be brave enough to stand center stage. I know they are: I signed up for two classes (a ten week yoga one and a six week writing one) this fall, yoga teacher training in January. I'm putting myself out there because now I'm ready. I will probably be so flush with teachers and mentors that I'll start having yard sales of them just to manage the overflow. Just thinking about it means I'm readying myself: because I am sober every day my life gets bigger, and different, and more.

The gratitude I feel towards myself is uncomfortable and incredible. My dear friend who came to visit got me thinking hard about the hiding that I still do. How I want to make me getting sober into just another ho hum casserole thing when it's actually this amazing astounding miracle! I am as embarrassed by my successes as I am my failures. Here she was, in my thousand days week, to come and firmly remind me that I must celebrate and own my accomplishment. That I can be proud and humble all at the same time. That when I diminish what I've done I go backwards. That it is wonderful to be me since along all these days I have become the woman I longed for: capable, reliable, steady. Full of gratitude, full of grace. A foundation for the things to come.

A thousand of anything can be pretty amazing. It was amazing on day one. It was amazing on day fifty, day 247, day 400, day 708.43. And today, it's amazing today. It's amazing to know that 1000 days can be joined by another 1000. That the thousands can go on and on forever. That my life, this good life, can be counted on and accounted for.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I was running in the woods the other day and I fell. Hard. The kids are away for the week visiting their grandparents, all summer I've been waiting for this part of August to get here: visiting time, next week back to school time, back to regular running time.

I have been running for about ten years now. I started after my oldest was born- he was born in December and we would bundle up and go on these epic walks that just naturally evolved into runs. I would push him in his stroller and feel so tough and so proud of myself: look what I could do! I ran desperately hungover, exhausted, rested, feeling fine, in the rain- it was my one thing I hung on to. If I could run I was OK. If I could run I wasn't an alcoholic, or a bad wife, or a bad mother.

When I got sober at the end of 2012 one thing I was really looking forward to was being able to run not hungover. Then the reality of being newly sober set in and it was all I could do some days to just get through the day much less get out for a run. Four months in I did a trail run that I shouldn't have done but did anyway and ended up with a nasty case plantar fasciitis that took me over a year to recuperate from.

I had other things I needed to concentrate on anyway- like learning to breathe and not drink and be in the world. Then when I tried to run I wasn't very good at it anymore. I used to be able to run ten miles and now I couldn't run one. So I gave up trying. I saw people out running and just wished I could be like them. "Oh, I wish I could be a runner again," I would think wistfully in my head, "That used to be me."

Now, this year, 2015, I am finally running again. I think it took me a long time to sort myself out enough to be able to give in to something again. To trust myself to not make it disappearing but a therapy: a part of my practice. To give it what it really is: a run. To not make it into something that saves me but something that soothes me. I don't need it to be crutch, I need it to be a thing that fills my soul but also a purely physical thing that reminds me of how beautifully my body works- and it does.

It does because I finally got patient enough to practice. I finally pushed my damn ego out of the way and started going out for walks. I would dress in my running gear and stick in my headphones and go out for a walk and it wasn't long before I was running a little bit. I remember running and feeling like I was flying and looking down at my GPS watch thing thinking I was just as fast as before and seeing that I was running four minutes a mile slower than I used to. Four minutes!

So I laughed and kept going. Because, really, fuck it. It wasn't important how fast I was going- the important part was that I was out there running- even when I was walking. Practicing.

I'm up to three miles now. I can run without stopping for three miles. I go run to the woods and I jam out to music and run fast and run slow and hug my tree and find bits for my altar. I cry and pray and laugh and dance and feel real-er than I've felt in a long damn time.

If you'd told me at the end of summer last year that I'd be running again this year I would have never ever believed you. I was waiting to see the neurologist. I was weak, tired all the time. Stressed. I was sober but I wasn't paying attention to the next things. Finally after I saw the neurologist in December and a clear CAT scan showed I wasn't suffering from a big honking brain tumor or dying I could let it go- I could not be afraid and go run. I could have more tests. I could face what was coming, or what wasn't. I could stop being paused and start again.

It's funny, the stories we tell ourselves. How things happen at just the right time: I shake my head at how things have lined up and played out over these last couple of years. I look back at last year at this time and then this year and I'm amazed at how much I've grown and changed. I think about how last year I wanted and planted a garden but didn't tend it and this year I only planted tomatoes and they're big and all over the place and they take some time but not all the time. How last year I wanted to say things like "I'm training for a half marathon" but wouldn't even go out for a walk. How next fall I want to do my favorite ten mile trail run again but how this fall three miles feels like a miracle.

When I told my mom that I fell running in the woods the other day she said I should think about not running in the woods anymore. That maybe it was time to just stick to safer paths. What if I fell again? But I can't listen to her story about me, I have to tell my own. It's taken me a long time to be brave enough to say that.

I used to feel so frustrated that I couldn't ever reach the end- that I never seemed to be "cured" or "well" or "recovered". That I wasn't happy all the time, and zen. That I wasn't doing it right since I have sad days, or mad days, or days when I just can't be the woman I want to be despite all my best intentions. But that's the it of it: the story just goes on and on. I am the woman I want to be in spite of my intentions. Every day is just practice: and every day is the big show- the show is the practice.

So the other day I was running- welled up, full of delight- running as fast as I used to. I forgot to pay attention to the rocks, to the roots, to that voice in my head that tells me I look stupid, or that I'm tired. I flat out forgot to be and just ran. I don't know what I tripped over, and it doesn't really matter. All I know is that one minute I was flying and then next I was on the ground. In ten years of running I have never ever fallen even though I spent most of my life falling down.

I breathed and laughed a little and thought I might should cry but the dog looked too confused for me to make her feel worse. I wanted to be so mad: here, out on my first day of my new running schedule, I'd fallen and fucked it up. Instead I did what life is really meant to be: practice getting up, practice dealing with what happens- whether it's a root or a rock, a day or a year, a recovery, or a skinned knee.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The String of Things

I had a big important to me meeting today. On the way home I started thinking about the threads that make up my life: how I sort of launch them like I imagine a spider flings a string of web and how some catch and some fall.

Four years ago I was supposed to do yoga teacher training. I was in fantastic physical shape, awful in my head shape. Six weeks before the training was supposed to start I developed an umbilical hernia and had to drop out. I was so sad about this: I'd been waiting for us to have the money and the time for me to do it and then finally been brave enough and waited enough that I was all signed up and then blammo. No dice.

Of course, now I am so grateful that it happened just the way it happened- life has this way of dropping and tying those strings so they actually make sense. That string has been out there waving around, waiting to get caught- and now it has! My class starts in January.

That made me think about all my other strings too: about how strings aren't really in a big fat hurry most of the time. How they just wave about in the breeze, waiting. I thought about my please let me be sober string that I cast out there time and time again only to discover I'd forgotten to put on the bait. Or I was flinging that string in the wrong direction and could only catch more drinks. Or that I had too many afraid strings out there and not a one was secure enough to grab me a handhold and a help up.

I think about the tightrope of it all: how to make it life there has to be balance and care. How I can't rampage out into the world and expect any of my strings to make it across, and how if I wear out the same old string that wears it out, and how keeping all my strings to myself keeps me stuck at the ledge.

All of the patience it has taken, all the waiting to see this through: all these four years I waited. I got sober in that time! I found myself again. I learned to wait and see. It makes me know that the time things take could be the most valuable thing of all.

We live in such an instant world. We are taught to zip and hurtle ourselves through life and to be impatient and frustrated when things take time. Sobriety has taught me that strings take time. That I am OK just as I am. That me being the best me I am isn't something that should happen soon- it is already who I am today, this minute, right now. That the dreams I put out there into the world will come true.

One reason I could never stay sober is because I thought if I wasn't over it by day three it probably wasn't working. I always thought I wasn't doing it right and always said fuck it and tossed my string down in disgust. Two and a half years in I want to always have the mind of a beginner: fresh and open. Awkward, full of questions. Full of hope.

If you aren't drinking you are doing it right. Period. There are great and awful and in-between days and they are all you being awesome at sobriety if you aren't drinking alcohol. Some days that's just what it takes. Tie a string around your finger to remind yourself that you're sober. Let that string remind you of all the dreams you have out there looking for a place to land. String together days and then years of this then when you step back and look you see a woven well lived life. Rejoice in the time it takes to get here: be grateful for the string of things.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Plenty of Room

I have a few people that write to me at any given time. Sometimes none. Sometimes more than a few, maybe like four. It all follows pretty much the same pattern: a lot of email, then none. It means one of two things: either that person is sober and cruising along fine, or that they are drinking again and don't want to write.

Ugh, drinking again.

I feel so honored when people write to me and say how strong I am. I feel proud of myself way deep down in when people say nice things like "you are so sober" and "you inspire me". I also feel the way it feels when I see or read about someone who is really good at something I want to be really good at. But I'm not really good at it. Maybe I really suck at it, and I think I can't stand to try anymore at it. And so I feel a little weird about it too because I remember what I was like when I wasn't so sober.

I wanted to remind y'all of that too. I wanted to remind you so you can see that I haven't always been this me: for twenty years I was the me you don't know. The drinking me. I imagine that people can relate to my hope, to my strength. To the beauty that is my sobriety. I imagine that makes it easy to forget in all my drinking years how I had sex with strangers, made a fool out of myself time and time again, drank through my boys' babyhoods, almost totally wrecked my marriage, damaged friendships beyond repair, went through a stage where I wet the bed regularly because I was too drunk to know I had to pee. That I lied, disappeared, and hurt the people I loved the most regularly. Including me. You wouldn't have liked me. Or you would have, but then been confused by who I was and wasn't. And then probably given up.

If I'd seen this today me when I was all slung up out on the back porch with my cigs and bottles of wine I would have loved to have been that today me. And thought it was totally never possible. I would have longed and looked and poured myself another glass of prosecco because, well, I had already started so fuck it. And only other people can do  amazing stuff like that. I just knew that I didn't have what it took to stop scraping by.

Turns out that was bullshit.

I have not always been so good at being something. I was really really bad at being sober for almost my whole life. I could fill a room full of the empty promises I made to myself, a building, an acre. For thousands of days I didn't get it right. It looks pretty now, but damn. I was a mess.

The thing I always want to come across is this: you can too. I can see the magic in you even when you can't. I don't know you but I recognize your magic. I know you feel it sometimes when you think about quitting drinking and imagine for real what your life might be like if you really did it. That shiver and grin that scoots up when you don't know it's coming to stop it.

We are all just regular ol' people. None more deserving than the other. My light shines because I finally let it. I didn't ever think I deserved to be shiny, and I definitely didn't believe that there was space in the magical places for a fucked up woman like me. Someone wrote to me recently and I got a sense that they thought because they drank I would be disappointed. That they were comparing themselves to me and coming up short and then not able to believe that there was room for them here too. God y'all. There is so much room here. SO MUCH.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Finding it Bigger

Sobriety is such a big word. It can be so annoying, so all encompassing. So joyous, wonderful, so freeing and like a little prison all at once. It has not only become my life, but given me a life.

I get pissed at sobriety sometimes: all here, in my face, all the time. So needy! So greedy! Sometimes I wish I could grab sobriety into a bear hug- so wonderful! So amazing- here! In my face! All the time!

Like any operation sobriety is a complicated beautiful tangle of me and other people- other lives and ideas and how I piece them all together and then put myself out into the world.

I am not used to or very comfortable putting myself out into the world. I tend to mumble when I speak because I am fearful of criticism. I'm unconsciously and so consciously afraid of being laughed at. I'm not afraid of dying, but I'm terrified of ridicule. It was so wonderful to be drunk sometimes because I didn't even know I was talking. I was never a slurring drunk, people told me time and again that they could never tell I'd had too much to drink from the way I spoke, it was the way I sort of disappeared in my eyes. I was never a loud drunk- not one of those sort who starts yelling after beer four. If anything I would stop talking altogether- but that's mostly because I drank steady alone.

There's something that happened to me when I got sober. Especially from writing this blog, and some from knowing what I'm saying: I've found my voice. I'm finding my voice.

As a writer it makes sense that I have a voice: I believe we all do, regardless of whether you call yourself a writer or not. I believe we all deserve to be heard, even if it's only you doing the listening. (This can be the most important use of your voice: talking to yourself.) The things we tell ourselves can change our lives.

I talk to myself about sobriety a lot. I think about it a lot, I write about it a lot. I think about what to call myself: how to define the person that I am. It used to be so easy: I was me, me who drank too much. Sobriety gives me so much more potential- I can be anything. I am brave enough now to call myself a writer instead of wishing I could be one. Because I write. I call myself a runner because I run. I don't wish to do these things, I do them. So I can say that they are what I am. Even though I run really slow I am still a runner. Even though I am not on the shelves at the bookstore I am a writer.  I call myself many wonderful things because I can- because I don't just wish I act. I make the action. You can call yourself anything at all: and then you be one- even if it's what you feel like is the worst one in the world.

All things are that simple. Really.

I struggle sometimes with the concept of sobriety: not the being sober part, but what it means. I sometimes feel like an imposter because I don't go to AA, I don't have a program, or a set of guidelines to follow. I have always built sobriety my way: in the ways that have worked with my life. This is the most important part. I am sober: this is the only requirement. Sobriety is an elastic stretchy suit that has plenty of room for every and any body. It isn't a one size one way idea.

I stop myself, sometimes, from doing things I want to do because I won't be the best at it, or even very remarkable at all. I didn't run for a long time because I was embarrassed to walk.

It's true that we can all be in the world in our own way. That we can all take the pieces of the parts that make us work and don't worry so much about the rest. The spare parts will stick around in case you learn to use them another time. One of the hardest parts of longer sobriety is that you never really finish: it just keeps growing and changing and moving every every single day. Accepting this has been one of my bigger struggles: I am very good at completion.

Perhaps there aren't needs for definition: we can only find the meaning in the act. And because it changes so much we can't be graspy and grabby, or make labels. I can use my name to tell you what to call me, but calling me sober narrows my potential somehow. And also makes me bigger than the world.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

How You Say It

I don't know when I started to notice that people are kind of mean to each other a lot. Probably when I was a little girl and the modus operandi in my family was a sharp tongue full of insult and jab. Something like this:

"Oh! I love horses! They're so beautiful! I wish I could get one."

"Like that would ever happen. Horses are too expensive, and you wouldn't take care of it anyway. Horse. Yeah, right." Laughter.

Yep. How funny.

When I remember things like this I always feel guilty for thinking of the people I love most in the world with such unkind thinking. Were they really mean to me? Did they really act like I was stupid? Stupid to have big dreams? Ridiculous to think that big things could happen for me? Like getting a horse? Was it a form of protection? Don't dream too big, you might get hurt. As hurt as both my parents were by their parents who didn't indulge their dreams either. If you act like something is stupid then no one gets too hurt when it doesn't come true.

The other day in the woods I had this moment of forgiveness for my father. I realized what a broken heart he must have had from his own childhood. How hard it must have been for him to be open hearted and love someone like me: someone he loved fiercely and with fear because I could hurt him too. How he knew exactly what it felt like to imagine the magic and then see the reality.

I am sensitive to the smart ass way people talk to me. I have a lot of people around me who aren't able to have polite conversation, they just string together tiny insults and act like that's communicating. Maybe that's been me and I'm finally growing out of it.

Once when I was at my naturopath she did guided imagery with me. Afterwards she told me she could tell when I stopped holding up my protected version of me and became myself. The funny thing about that was I could tell, too. I knew exactly what she meant. I can tell all the time when I'm my safe version of myself and when I can feel just like me.

Drinking made it easy to forget that a me existed. It made it easier to put myself out into a world that I felt unsafe and crazy in. It made it easier to hate myself so when people talked to me like I was an idiot I could easily believe it was true. Years of this built a shell that isn't so easy to slough off even though I really really want to.

It isn't really so much what you say as how you say it. It's letting down the I'm so stupid of it all and just being who you really are. It's knowing that even if the whole world lined up and pointed at you and said "Yeah, right" you can still say to yourself "Yeah. RIGHT."

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Our house is settling. We watched a show about sinkholes and then days later up the street appeared a spray painted note on the road: sinkhole. My youngest sons' door jamb is separating at what to me seems like an alarming rate, or maybe it's just more than any other door jamb separation I've ever witnessed, which to date is only this one. I still am not 100% convinced that we aren't going to wake up in the middle of the night suffocating under the collapsing floorboards even though no one else seems as worried as me.

My life is settling too. I was thinking about the house and it sort of mooshing itself down in the dry earth just by the pressure of its' own weight. Getting steady. Me too, I thought. This is me too. I spent a long time resisting pushing myself into the ground not quite sure of where to stand. It's one of those things like every damn sober thing: you just know when you're there. I picture a bird on a wire- flying in, feet out, catching on, and then shaking out its' wings. Then settled. Settling.

Then I thought of all the settling I did with my life before I got sober. How I settled for being a shadow of the woman I am. How I settled for being a drunk. How I settled for next day hangovers, one night stands, blackouts, forgotten fights. This is my life, I thought. I can't undo it all. I settled for it. Finished, I thought. Done deal.

This picture was taken at the start of my very worst year (2008-2009). I know now that I had a whopping case of post partum depression and being an alcoholic made it so much worse. I was trying so hard to settle in to being the woman it looks like I am in the picture, but in reality I was flailing all over the place. No safe place to land- wings and feet everywhere. Staying out all night. Dabbling in a little cocaine. Training for a marathon and picking up smoking again. Digging into the quicksand of my life over and over and over and over again. Somehow I found my feet around the end of the year and stopped behaving like a maniac. Still drinking, but no more all nighters, no more drugs. I settled for the shame of it and hid from the repercussions by acting like it never really happened. Even now thinking of that time gives me a vacant pit in my middle.

Recovering from that one year took a lot of forgiveness. If you want to know how magic your husband is, be a drunken fucked up asshole for a whole year with a new baby and a four year old and he forgives and loves you anyway.

Going back there is hard. It helps to remind myself how far I've come from that woman to this one: two and a half years sober. It helps to feel that hurt because I am made up of all the good and bad that's been done. It helps because I know that bad won't be done again: I don't drink anymore so I don't forget who I am anymore.

There is a fierce comfort in the settling my life is doing. A rightness. I am establishing myself as this woman I am today, and leaving behind the shaky ground I inhabited for so many years. Resolving the argument between who I was then and who I am now. I am settling down, settling in. Settled.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Two and a Half Years

I had an idea to make a Soberbia Instagram page. So I did it.

You can find it there with this: s.o.b.e.r.b.i.a

I was two and a half years sober yesterday. This Brian Andreas picture hangs on the wall at 6 1/2 year old height outside my sons' room. It says:

"There has never been a day when I have not been proud of you, I said, though some days I'm louder about other stuff so it's easy to miss that."

With two and a half years has come more quiet, and more proud. I'm more apt to notice how proud I am rather than henpeck tiny mistakes imagined or real. I got down on my knees in the woods yesterday by my tree and gave prayer and thanks- thanks to the woods, thanks to my spirit, thanks to myself, thanks to all of my sobriety, to my family, to my heart. I find that with all this gratitude comes humility- a sense of being huge and small all at once. A sense of belonging in the world and to the world that is still so new to me. The last six months have been especially transformative- I suspect it's because I decided to be in charge of my life again. Not in control, in charge. There have been so many days in my life when I have not been proud of me. But now I'm much louder about the other stuff, so it's easier to miss that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


It's raining here today so I started messing around with the look of my blog. I'm never very happy with it, so every so often I change it. Then I think about moving over to Wordpress. Then I think I should maybe make my own page. But I don't know how to do that, and I have lots of posts I want to write but then I don't and so I'm going to start there.

I heard something the other day on NPR about survival of the fittest and how that it really isn't based so much on being the fastest or the strongest or the best, but on the ability to adapt. It went straight into my brain with a zoom and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

I have a friend who gives up drinking every several weeks or so. I don't really know why, but my guess is that things go sideways and in that way we drinkers do he has that moment of clarity: Hey... things are fucked up because I drink too much. And so he quits for some days, but always goes back.

He was complaining about being bored. There's nothing to do, he says, if I'm not drinking. I say be patient, you will think of some things. Not drinking takes practice.

It takes practice, and adaptation. I feel like I am just now getting to the part where I am actually changing my life: where I am totally comfortable being sober and my foundation is really strong and I'm much less afraid to try new things. I think about the ways I adapted when I first quit drinking: giant glasses of seltzer and grapefruit, going to bed right after dinner, up at dawn to write and do yoga because that made me feel needed and like I just had to be sober. I think about the ways I am adapting now: I'm finally, finally comfortable taking care of myself.

I am slowly but surely adapting my life to fit my idea of my life. I am only working the job I don't like for six hours a week. I have been keeping promises to myself- this has been HUGE and all started almost three months ago with my tiny promise to floss my teeth every day. Then I got bigger and promised to write three pages a day. Then I promised myself I was going to eat right and start running again. Then I added meditating every day. Writing them out like that makes them seem so....small, sort of; maybe more like simple. But it's working. I still don't quite believe that all it took was to keep one small promise, but it was all it took.

I run in the woods. I have three birch trees that rely on me to be there, and when I get to the last one I stop and make a circle with my water around her base. She has a strong trunk that branches out into four smaller trunks that reach into the sky and make all the branches that make up the whole tree. A trunk for everyone in my family-me, my husband, our children- united by the strong base. After I make my circle I press my head to her side, place my palms on the bark, and close my eyes. I say a prayer of gratitude. I cry every  time. I don't care if anyone sees me. I let go of the world for a minute and reach deep inside to really feel my gratitude.

With these smaller promises have come moments like this: moments when I am brave enough to pray at the base of a beautiful birch tree, moments where I am brave enough to run, when I have the courage to let myself be guided by my heart and not by the what ifs of money. Because I am seeing that I can change I am changing. I am not the strongest, or the best, or the fastest. I am the one who is adapting.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just a Moment

It's Saturday night. I'm sitting on the little green couch drinking a cup of chamomile tea. I have a houseful of kids. I had some cashews. I'm wearing bright blue sweatpants and a black hoodie with little hearts all over it. I am sober.

I keep thinking: "Dude, this rocks."

It rocks because I know that I'll be able to get up in the morning and not want to crawl right back into bed. I can feel full of possibility tonight and tomorrow! As soon as I digest these cashews I might go do some yoga in the office while the kiddos have a Saturday night movie. Or I might keep reading the book I'm reading. Or stare off into space. Listen to these kids and be grateful that I'm sober so that we can have sleepovers.

It only takes me just a little minute to be grateful for all this. But it makes me smile for a long time.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Simple As A to B

The past month, or well, you know the past this whole year, has been big and stressful and wonderful too.

I started thinking a bit back about how my thoughts are like wires. That started from thinking about myself as a house and figuring out what needed remodeling and what was worth saving- and what needed total demolition. The first thing that popped into my head was that I need rewiring. It has been so cool to think about untangling all these thought wires that are every every where, ditching all the extra, and having enough for point A to point B- just enough to make things work.

I am a thinker. I have a thought, then I add several necessary or unnecessary thoughts to it: so one wire, then lots of other wires. Or, I have a thought, and then I butt into someone else's thought and there are all sorts of wires- and mine don't even need to be involved- well, that can get confusing but maybe you see what I mean.

I make things so complicated when I make things so complicated! So I've been boiling things down to the simple: what is point A? What is point B? Like: What do I want for breakfast....an egg. Done. Instead of: What do I want for breakfast...what do the kids want? what did we have yesterday? will everyone want an egg? have I had too many eggs? do I have time to make eggs? do we even have any eggs?


It helped so much when I was waiting for my spinal tap results, it is helping while we wait to see if my husband gets this job he really really wants, it is helping when it's bedtime and the boys are being boys and I just need a minute. I just stop and A to B in my head. A: I'm waiting on test results. B: Let's wait. Or A: I really hope my husband gets this job. B: He will or he won't. And A: Ack! The boys are making me nuts! B: Take a minute and take a breath. The funny thing is I thought I wasn't allowed to make it so simple. Like that was a cop out or something.

So much of my thinking is just my own attraction to my own thought clutter. It is exhausting sometimes trying to maintain the noise in my head so that part of me feels safe and comfortable, tangled in all the thought wires.

I am also realizing this: it takes practice. Every day is practice- in a good way. I've been washing my face, brushing, flossing, and writing in my journal every day for three months now. Every day. All small things that have made it so I can take on the challenge of morning pages and be successful. So that I can believe in myself. So that I can un-mix-up myself. Practice is slow. Really slow. But so worth it.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Last night after dinner I got an email from my neurologist. Negative. It actually said this: "Normal results with no evidence of multiple sclerosis on this test." 

It was what I expected, but I didn't expect to sob like a baby. I dropped my head into my hands and cried in surprise: surprise I was crying, surprise that it was really negative, surprise that I had all that crying inside me and I didn't know it.

I've been thinking about where to go from here. It was December 2013 when I first asked my eye doctor about my double vision- how things would just suddenly separate and sometimes go back together, sometimes not. "It's nothing." he told me- but six months later I was not convinced. In three trips to the ophthalmologist last summer they couldn't figure out where the double vision was coming from, why it was happening. That, coupled with the weakness in my arms and hands, as well as the more than normal fatigue didn't make any sense. It was July of last year when they told me I needed to see a neurologist, then I had to wait five months for an appointment. Then wait three more months for a follow up. Then another six weeks for the spinal tap. I suppose I could have cried from after dinner into today for all the waiting and wondering I've been doing.

I am so grateful for all the positive things that have come from possible scary diagnosis situations: in December 2014 when I had the MRI there were no brain tumors or bleeds, or cancer. When the EMG and blood work came back negative for Myasthenia Gravis. And now- another good news, no MS! but it still leaves me wondering. Is it just stress? Am I internalizing things that much? What the fuck is wrong?

Part of me says to stop trying to define it. To just eat right, do yoga, walk, and be patient. To embrace the good that has come from this. (The possibility of being in a wheelchair makes you really appreciate your two feet on the ground just walking.) Another part of me wants answers. To be able to treat it, to fix it. I'd be willing to do what it took if I only knew what it was. Neither part really gets what they want. So it's just not time to move yet.

Being sober in this situation has helped me zero in on the few simple things I need to feel most my self. It has made me even more grateful for my sobriety- that I was here to handle a tough situation and not getting drunk to avoid it. I try to not get pissed about being sober and now things are wrong- I know my sobriety gives me the grace to be a person about it rather than being a drinking mess about it. They call booze "liquid courage" but I'd call it "liquid fear".  Drinking never made me brave enough to face my life at all, much less a long drawn out mystery like this. Being sober has given me the ability to face this eyes open instead of closed in anxiety and afraid. It has given me the courage to look straight at what's coming and not be scared because I know I am capable, trustworthy, and loved. I can handle the truth.

I am so grateful for all the support y'all have given me. It has helped so much to read your kind and thoughtful comments, to get emails that say supportive and funny things. I'm just going to go on, business as unusual from here: being sober, taking good care of myself, learning and practicing living this lovely life with a courageous open heart. I am filled with gratitude and humbled by the grace of it all.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Surrender, Again

I've had my spinal tap/lumbar puncture- which was, as things like that go, quite fine. The worst part, besides getting a needle stuck deep into my spine, was laying down face first on this bench-ish thing with my pants halfway down my fanny. Duke is a teaching hospital so there was a guy student in the room and that made me feel sort of weird, and kind of old? Like, um, hey? I don't want this kid who isn't really even a doctor or a nurse yet looking at my sweet vulnerable little butt. It gave my eager brain something to work on while the doctor numbed my back and got things going.

There aren't supposed to be any results until maybe the end of this week, probably next week. BUT! Last night I got an email from my neurologist that said everything is normal so far. Therefore I am feeling cautiously super optimistic and then also grumpy frustrated: if not MS then what is going on?

What is going on? I can't rightly say, nor can modern medicine it seems. Which is fine, really- it is. I've been doing a lot of yoga reading and practicing lately. Yesterday on that thin table with the half moon X-ray machine and half my fanny hanging out I remembered that I needed to breathe. So I did, and I almost disappeared. There are all these moments that are really just this one moment: this one changeable flowing uncertain moment that makes up a lifetime.

There is too much going on in my life right now- some good, some hard- but what else can I do but keep going? Last night after I got the "normal so far" email from my neurologist I let the dogs in and our big guy is limping badly again out of the blue. I got so mad at the universe! "WTF?" I ranted in my head. "You fucking see me waiting to see if I have MS don't you? And that Jonathan is looking for a job? And that we might move in a year? What if I have to put the dog to sleep now? Too much!"

And then I started in on all the things I'm worried about. I started winding myself into a big fat tizzy, until I stopped.

Yo. I stopped.

I remembered that I can handle all these hard things, and all the good things too, because I can surrender. I can stop wishing the truth wasn't true and go with what's actually real. I can wait patiently for a minute while my mind/ego starts a tantrum and then in the pause let it breathe, let it know that it will all be OK. I stopped fighting it. I gave in. Yes, I told myself. Yes. It is too much. It's a lot. It's OK. And then I didn't have to handle it just right. I stopped predicting the future and stayed here.

Surrender is such a gift: it's not giving up, or giving in. It's accepting things as they truly are and going from there. Or from here: this moment where I might have MS, or I might not. Where the dog is hurting, where the job situation is exciting and uncertain, where we might move in a year (I know, a year! I can be a little neurotic). The thing about surrender is this: when you admit you don't know what to do that's when you get shown the way. Surrender is a graceful way of saying "Help". It's a way to say "I don't know"- I don't know how, I don't know what to expect, I don't know what to do. When you stop thinking you have all the answers- that's surrender.

When I quit drinking I had to surrender big time. I had to surrender everything I thought I knew about myself and be willing to learn what was real. Now I'm learning that surrender happens in big and little ways every day- that surrender is one of the strongest most power full words I know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Work of Reality

What a relief- to blurb and bleat all of my inner dialogue out into the world. Like sharing a too big secret, today things don't seem so big. They are the same, but manageable again.

Something I know about myself is that I am not good at asking for help, I'm not good at placing value on my own wealth of feelings. I tend to minimize things until they end up screeching at me. I was so angry that no one has been as scared as I have been, and in doing that I have been discounting my own self.

I had a couple good snotty cries. I told my husband about my fears, and I reminded myself to stand in my own two feet- that even if it sounded totally stupid it wasn't.

Blasted reality. There's the way I want to see the world, and then there's the way things really are. I've known for a while now that it's much simpler to accept the things that are true rather than wallpaper and shellac over it. It's when I forget the security of surrender that I start to feel frantic and too big for my skin.

I went back to bed this morning and slept. I did some yoga. I meditated. I didn't have coffee. I could have gotten up, poured coffee down my throat, and forced myself through another day. But I didn't. I'm thankful that I'm learning how to recognize what I really need, and to ignore what I want, and then actually do the things I need. Whoa.

I'm still afraid. I'm still thinking about all the unsure-ness about the future. It's true that the one you feed is the one that gets stronger. So I'm going to feed the one that keeps me grounded. And I'm going to remember if I'm behind a wall and I'm on fire I have to make sure that someone, even me, can see the smoke.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Something happened to me at acupuncture today.

I realized I'm doing the thing I do: going backwards when I'm starting to head forwards. Goddammit.

So, I've been going to acupuncture for about 4 months now. It has helped my double vision. It has given me insight into what I need help with, what I need to pay attention to- my blood, my digestion. It gives me a solid hour of meditation that is usually useful. A month ago I was in a good healing place. I realized today that I'm on a steady slow backslide.

I wasn't happy with my earlier post- but it was about things I've been thinking about and I have been pressuring myself to get a post out there. It makes sense that it was about slowness, and about my body, but the part that feels bent is that I can feel myself sliding into old comfy behaviors not after I'm way back into it but as they are starting. And it feels good and sucky and oh. Awful.

It's hard for me not to sugar coat everything. It's hard for me to be honest about the way I feel because I don't want to seem weak or even worse to burden anyone. This always puts the world on my own shoulders- me lugging all my own heavies around afraid to ask for help. Afraid everyone will think I'm stupid. Or that I'm a fake. Or that I'm lying to get attention, or that there are people with actual real problems in the world and I should just be quiet, please.

My acupuncturist is insightful and quietly curious. He put all my needles in and asked me a question before he dimmed the lights and started the chime-y music. "What's different now?"

I almost started weeping right then and there- but y'all. I just couldn't. Instead I said the thoughtful thing instead of the feeling thing. I said I thought I wasn't going all in- that I was backing out at the last minute like I'm prone to do. We talked for a minute about slowly bankrupting yourself, and then about how I'm around people who drink a lot a lot of the time. He said, "That's difficult." in a statement-y way that comforted me. I mentioned that I was worried now that my husband is out of school and looking for a job. He said, "That's hard too. Not to mention kids, and life, and marriage. Tell me if you need anything." Then he left me on my own.

My dear friend Sherry wrote this amazing post that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. It was so honest, and upfront, and truthful. It made me start to look at how I'm really feeling, and then today I just had to face all the things I'm afraid of and let it be hard.

I am dying for a sober/recovery outlet. I have got to get myself into another group, or find a good meeting to go to. I need some more like minded people around me. I won this giant bottle of wine at work and not one person thought it was a strange thing to give it to me. Um...hello? I am an alcoholic. Holding out a giant bottle of fabulous wine is not the best prize for me. I do not have enough people in my life that understand where I'm coming from. At all. Even my husband is insensitive to what it feels like for me to not be able to drink, for what it feels like for me to serve wine and watch everyone I work with drink every night I work. People still come up to me with terrific wine and best intentions. "Taste this?" they say. Then "OH, I forgot. Want a smell?" Being around half drunk people at work is annoying. My husband is working at the restaurant again while he job hunts. Staying after work for a glass or two of wine and to "hang out". It feels like because  I am successfully sober he has forgotten that it is actually still a struggle, and he feels resentful when I say it bugs me when he drinks.

I feel like no one notices or cares about all the sacrifices I make to stay on top of my health. I don't drink alcohol or use any other substances to take the edge off. I handle all my shit just as me: no prescriptions illegal or otherwise. I'm still working two jobs. I'm still handling the bulk of the housework, caring for the dogs, and sharing care of the kids. Plus dealing with both sets of our parents when it comes to those logistics. The kids' social lives, plans for the summer. What kind of vacation we want to take. Can we afford it. I have to quit caffeine again because as un-fucking-fair as it is I can't have it if I want to get good sleep. Not to mention the fact that I can't eat pretty much everything else because it aggravates my MS-ish symptoms. So no dairy, or gluten. No grains, no beans. No sugar. But then I get bratty and eat a biscuit. Or we get a fire pit and make s'mores and I just want to be a regular mom that can eat a fucking toasted marshmallow on a graham cracker for gods sake. Or I have all these strong things come up for me at acupuncture and while I really just need a good cry and some support I instead have to pick the kids up at after school and make dinner on my own because my husband is at work and I don't see any other support except to hold on tight and write when I get the kids to bed. My youngest has been in twice already to be scared of a knocking noise and to remind me that he finally has a loose tooth.

And although I love him to pieces I just want to be left alone. I feel like there's the part of me that needs to just cry and pout and shout and wallow and heal and then there's the me that I am in my day to day life: holding on for one more day. Being all I can for all my people and keeping it together so no one can say I can't handle it or see that I'm kind of falling apart. I sometimes fantasize about having a nervous breakdown or almost hope that I do have MS or something else definable wrong with me so that people with be more tender with me, that people might recognize that even though I might make it look easy I am fighting mightily under here and then they could offer me a blanket and a break. That instead of my mother saying things like, "Oh, you're so worn out, so stressed out." or "Yeah, you're handling it" with that unsaid "not so gracefully" or "I'm not going to worry about the MS thing until it's actually true" that she might call me and say "I know you're worried. It's OK. You should worry some. That could be scary. I'm here for you."

Lying there in the dim and the chime at acupuncture I thought about how I need to take things more seriously to be taken seriously. That I want to and need to be all in. Then I came home and ate my proper dinner, and then promptly ate half of the kids' unfinished chicken and cheese quesadillas and almost a whole bar of chocolate telling myself the whole time that I might as well since the liverwurst I had earlier had a little surprise dairy in it and so whatever, I'll get serious again tomorrow. And then I broke off a big piece of easter bunny and ate that. I've been doing so well for 34 days now, and today I finally broke and ate all the feelings that came up.

We all struggle. And here I am: struggling. I'm tired of doing it alone. I'm tired of always being fine and never being weak. I'm afraid. What if I have a disease that could put me in a wheelchair? And why won't any of my people feel afraid with me? Why do they all blow it off like it's nothing when it may well be nothing but I need someone to sympathize with my fears that it could be something?

I feel a load better just writing all that out. I'm so grateful to have this blog, and people out there to read it, who give me kindness and support- it helped to know while I was writing this that I would be heard. That I am never alone in the world. Thank you.