Friday, April 29, 2022

Grown Up


Turning 10 years old was a very big deal to me. My age had TWO numbers and I was officially on the way to being a grown up- the magical thing I wanted more than anything else in the world. My little girl heart desperately longed for the grown up-ness of life to begin. I thought if I was a grown up I would securely fit in, fit most somewheres, that several if not all someones would understand me. That what made me hard to understand was the child part of me, which at 10 years old was most of me. That I would be credible, lovable, and believable if I was a grown up. 

When I quit drinking I wanted to be a person who was a grown up sober person. I didn't want to be a beginner-a sobriety child- I wanted the convincing distance that age of doing a thing for a long time gives you. It was a sense of security, of being able to be believed. Just like wanting to be a grown up as a child, I imagined long term sobriety/recovery would give me the credibility I longed for. That people wouldn't be smiling with goodwill upon hearing I quit drinking and also hiding behind their back the fan of skepticism cultivated from seeing too many people say one thing and do another. 

The interesting thing about quitting the thing that stunts your growth and keeps you from your dream is that it forces you to grow in a whole other ways besides up. My freedom from alcohol now, living my 10th year, seems like such a small step that was also the biggest thing I've ever done for myself. It was a first step, a footfall. A choice. I thought the biggest thing was the quitting, but really it's all the daily things that happen after that that are the big things. 

When I think about the morning I quit, I still cry. It feels so close, the kids innocently small, me a sick sack pinned to the bed so hungover I couldn't speak or move. The slats on the closet door. The love I found for myself that morning, that I dug down and found my worth, my heart. I didn't know that I did that until now. Then I just thought I was miserable, on my last ditch, and if I didn't quit I would lose my children's love and respect, that as soon as they grew up they would get as far away from me as they could. I had to quit or lose them- that was the choice I made then. I could slowly kill myself but I just could not kill their childhoods. 

The boys were 7 and 4 when I quit. They're 17 and 13 now. They are bigger and beautiful, we have solid close loving relationships and both of them thanked me for being there for them in the birthday cards they each made for me. I have wept a bit every day since with gratitude for who we are together. The scariest thing I imagine is how different their lives would be had I drank for the last 10 years. What their lives would be like today if I was still a blackout drinker. How big my mountain of shame would be. Would I still be alive? Would I be alive but dead to them?

I thought drinking made me a grown up. I thought getting drunk was a sign of sophistication. I learned getting drunk made me forget my pain. I didn't know. I didn't know. 

But my children know. I have been open and age appropriately honest with them and we talk about my drinking and why I did it and what they remember about it and what they think about them drinking or using drugs themselves. I am incredibly proud of how quitting drinking makes me the mom I always wanted to be. Present. Loving. Honest. Patient. Supportive. My children love me. We love each other. 

I am also incredibly proud of how quitting drinking makes me the grown up I have always wanted to be. Present. Loving. Honest. Patient. Supportive. I love myself. 

Now I think being a grown up means you learn that there's a lot more to things than you thought. Yes, I did quit for them. What I've learned is that I also quit for myself. As I've reflected on these past 10 sober birthdays and the years that go along with them I am pleased to realize that along the way I found the love I have for my children for myself. There is both. 

That by being their grown up, I also became my own. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022



This morning I woke up and finished watching Broadchurch. I canceled my Saturday clients because my voice is still gone. 

A dear friend suggested fresh ginger tea. I gather the things together- the little knife I got at the thrift store, the pretty stars and animals saucer, part of an espresso set from when I worked at a restaurant called Upstream when I first moved to Charleston when I was 30 years old, which is now 20 years ago. I got that espresso set because the cup was chipped and cracked and it was going to get thrown out. Where's the cup? I’m not sure, it was around for a long time but things like that get lost in moves or suddenly seem like garbage since they're chipped and I maybe threw it away. I can’t remember. 

It made me think about how hungover I was then, at 30, a lot of the time. A lot of my life. Being hungover, feeling bad- it’s just not part of my life anymore, it's been gone for so long. That I did that to myself, dragged myself through my days like that, had babies like that…oh, oh. How it makes my heart ache. 

When I look at this scene: my own little house, the pretty things I have, behind the lovely cup my mom gave me last Christmas because it’s deep blue and has nature and owls on it and she knew I'd like it, the good loose leaf tea in the beautiful blue jars that belonged to my great grandmother. Was I always this loved? 

It’s strange to realize how much I suffered at my own hand. Is this a stage of recovery/sobriety? What would I call it? Realization? I’m winding my way to 10 years this year. TEN. YEARS. WITHOUT. DRINKING. Me. 

How did I do it? Go to work, live? Feeling so shitty? And how did I decide to do it over and over again, not caring about the me on the other side of getting drunk, drunk, blackout drunk? It makes me proud of my determination in a strange way- that I was so driven to show up even when inside I was suffering so so much- physically from the effects of so much alcohol, mentally from so much else. 


This morning I woke up, made coffee. I did my little morning routine- while my moka pot heats up the coffee I unload the dishwasher and make my bed. I empty the litter box. I check my email and social media while I drink my first coffee and poop. I sit at my round dining room table, the one where I sat with my beloved grandmother as a little long haired girl, drinking sweet milky coffee. I read my book.  

I didn't used to be able to drink coffee when I drank alcohol. The anxiety and edginess it produced was so overwhelming- when I think of it now I know it just made the voice of something is really wrong here unbearably LOUD. I would get so shaky and nervous and uncomfortable that I just became a person who could not drink coffee instead of a person who could not drink alcohol. 

Now, my morning coffee gives me a sense of accomplishment- I can drink some coffee and be okay in the world. I don't know why it's these little things- these every day little things that make me feel the most like I found my way. These little things like coffee, making my bed every day. Washing my face and brushing my teeth at night. My patience and not taking things personally with my children, who are now both lovely teenagers. I don't just care about myself, I care for myself. 

Being sick this past week has been a bit of a chore and a light bulb in my head. It has taken me a lot of reality checks and presence to remember that being sick people aren't bad people. I made myself sick drinking for so many years and then had to deal with those consequences like nothing was happening. Like I was fine. Years of pretending you feel fine when you actually feel like you're dragged out dying makes it weird to be actually sick, or hurting- like I'm faking this cold, or I went and did this to myself on purpose. Like it's my fault. Like there's blame to be tossed around and I will throw it and catch it and hold it tight because that's what you do when you drink a lot to cope. 

I am really proud of myself. It seems like such a small thing: take sweet tender care of yourself when you're sick. For me, my work continues to be showing up in the world with the truth in my outstretched hands. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

How to be Sick


Does it seem like I'm always at the doctor? Here's another selfie, this one from urgent care on Monday when I had what felt like strep throat. My hair looks lovely but I feel like total shit. 

I felt pretty worn out on Sunday, I took an at home Covid test and it was negative so I kept the walking date I had that morning. By Sunday afternoon I felt exhausted, heavy. Rest I thought. I just need a good night's sleep. 

I woke up Monday morning and it was clear I was sick. I had several things to do on Monday- clients, a meeting for a class I'm taking, and not just clients, one of the appointments a brand new client who was considering working with me. OH NO I thought. How can I make all these things happen? How can I just get through it?

Then, the sweet moment of realization that I did not have to make anything happen. I was sick. It is normal to be sick. It is normal to cancel everything when you are sick. Relief, then dread, thick dread. It felt wrong, and weird to think that way. What would my clients think? What about the brand new person? What a terrible impression to have to reschedule our first meeting. What about my classmates? They'll think I don't care. 

I had the out of body experience I have when I understand that my training is at work and I am living in my habit instead of being in the moment. I become two people: the old me, the one who thinks people judge you for canceling and it destroys your credibility and I am not really that sick, I am just lazy and dumb and careless. Ouch. Then the this me, the 50 year old who has been in recovery for almost 10 years and therapy for 7 years and working so hard to know what's real me gently comes in. She knows not to rush, or be loud. She mothers me, tenderly. This me knows what's real. 

I have to break it down into the most basic of basics in actual conversation with myself because I am still young in my practice of this kind of knowing about things. Wait Amy, 50 year old me says, without force or agenda. You are sick. You can feel it. You know what you're talking about. What would you tell someone else or your clients? Tell yourself that too. Now, what would you say? 

I answer myself, shyly. I would say if you're sick you take care of yourself. That being sick is not a character failing, but something that happens to everyone. That people are understanding. That if they aren't understanding those aren't your people. That to be in my integrity I cancel everything. I go to the doctor to make sure I don't have strep. And then I go to bed until I'm well. Old me and 50 year old me look each other in the eye. Together we open my email, we text clients to reschedule. No one is mad, or disappointed- they know who I am. We make the doctor appointment. Together. 

Often I am so angry at the part of me that kept me drinking and numb for so long. The part that made me work when I was actually sick, that never let me see how bad things were. TWENTY SEVEN YEARS!!! I want to scream at that part, over and over. I want to be so angry at it, to burn it down, to shame it and hurt it and reject it and ask it how on earth could you be so fucking foolish while I'm standing there close in so it can see the anguish of what it's done. 

It knows. She knows. I know. 

I am to the point where I am starting to feel my feelings and recognize my true feeling. I don't know how to say it better than plain like that. When you master numbing out for the majority of your life there are fathoms and trenches to tirelessly swim through before you feel the tiny jolt of aliveness that matches what you're truly actually really feeling. Oh, I will think. I FEEL MAD. Oh. 

It seems like such a simple thing: to be sick. And then to take the normal steps that you take when you are sick, that are new steps to me. What a glorious moment! To recognize myself and to openly care for myself in front of people. It feels monumental. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Replacement (Part 1)

I've been a runner since spring of 2005. In my memory I started running to offset the boredom of walking with the baby in the jogging stroller. But, it was probably more to combat the extra weight I was carrying from having been pregnant. (baby weight on top of the extra weight I was already carrying from a lot of late night binge drinking) 

Another fighting my body. 

I have always wanted to be effortlessly beautiful. 

When I was in my early 20's, I moved home a year or two after dropping out of college. I got a DUI the night before my mom was driving three and a half hours up the mountain to Boone, NC to pick me up and bring me home. I called her as soon as I got out of jail just before dawn that morning, lying, saying I had to work just one more day, could she please come get me tomorrow? 

Back at home, I got a job waiting tables at Chili's and I'd go hike up Crowder's Mountain whenever I had free time. I lost weight- down to a size 2, which to me felt like a weird miracle, and yet I still often felt excruciatingly big and uncomfortable in my own skin. I was probably a size 8 or a 10 to start. None of that feels important now, and yet it does- these decades old numbers and the images that go along with them tattooed on my brain. Anything past about size 6 started to mean you were an out of control body failure. I have spent years of my life resenting the body I have- wishing someone else would find me substantially beautiful enough enough times so I could start to believe it myself. 

You know how you get so tired of something, exhausted from carrying the idea you were taught that wasn't even yours to begin with? And yet, resigned you sigh, heave it up, ratty and worn, heavy old burden that's super glue fused to your thoughts, the boomerang that can't be tossed far away enough to not come back? God, damn my fixation about my body. I'm so sick of it. 

I start to feel uncomfortable. I start to try to control it, but then following my pattern, I alternately want to starve myself or stuff myself. I stress. My body is the first place I turn against when I'm stressed. I immediately start finding things wrong- my stomach isn't flat, my legs are dimply. The solution seems to become "look different and all problems resolve themselves". I feel ugly. I start to change clothes 7 times when I get dressed, my anxiety making it harder and harder. But also looking too pretty is a problem, so I have to find the right balance of I look great and I didn't try at all

If I only could look right then everything will be okay. 

What does "look right" even mean

It's interesting to be 50 years old and still feel like this. To tangibly want to give up giving a shit about this, and to be so attached to it as a coping mechanism that losing it feels like losing myself, in a way. What do I have if I don't have this consistent criticism of my appearance in my thoughts to comfort me? 

The empty space is harder than the familiar. It is hard to quiet the voice and wait. It feels inauthentic to cheer myself on, the other option feels like waiting for what else I have to say but that is so...empty. I resort to comforting myself by trying to say the truth (I look like me, I 'm supposed to look like me) but I can only approve of myself in an echo chamber for so long before my own voice coming back to me feels insulting. 

It seems like it's about control. I think about myself on the beach in a bathing suit and the people who see me are thinking: look at her body, she has no self control. 

Ha! I am overflowing with self control! I have a grand surplus of it! It squeezes out of everywhere, bursting forward, leaking all over everything. 

To let go of control. Or approval? Or both? 

Circling back to the beginning and me being a I physically can't run much more than a mile. I can walk about 4 or 5 miles, only after some ibuprofen and it isn't great. I have to stop some, and the last mile or two I'm often wishing I were finished already. So I don't go as often, even though running in the woods is my redemption, my saving grace. 

It happened suddenly, not being able to run. Around Christmas I was continuing a long practice of running 6 miles four or five times a week, sometimes further. I was signed up for an 8 mile trail run in February. But I had to email the race director mid January and let them know I wasn't going to be there. I physically could not do it.  

My body reflects this change in my running practice. It feels like a slap in the face. I have been devoted, careful, dedicated to running in a way that felt wise and good. Losing it means I lost my comfort in my own skin. I feel like I'm in a stranger's body. Like I inflated a little and can't exhale. It's not much, no one would notice. Like a rock in my shoe, you probably don't see it, but I feel it. It's painful, and annoying, and also feels petty and vain. 

The picture above is one I took of myself before my consult with the surgeon who is going to replace my hip on June 13th. Finally, after years of pain and lack of mobility I will get a new hip. He will replace the one that's worn out, the one that is bone on bone, with bone spurs that act like locked doors and that for the past couple years has only let me do one kind of movement: run. In turn, running let me feel okay. It gave me control of my body, and my own approval. 

Now, it's gone. 

And it's not okay. 

For now, I'd like to acknowledge that. To not rush myself past what I'm experiencing now, but to feel it, suffering vanity, the lack of approval, the discomfort I have in my own skin. 

Not rush towards the solution, to the but, but, but! 

"But no one can tell!" 

"But it's not forever!" 

"But you know you are (insert positive descriptor here)!" 

I am here now to say: I want the time to feel uncomfortable. 

I want to see what it feels like, to get to know it, so maybe I learn something about myself by not being okay. 

To be patient enough to hear the silence of me not knowing what to say. 


Friday, March 18, 2022




Out on a run/walk/wander I remembered what I thought on a recent early morning: I am separate from other people. It really struck me that what I feel, think, decide, am... it's all mine. And that other people's those things are all theirs. Like I am a cloud, and you are a cloud, and we are each our own weather systems that can also create weather together. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about humans- how we behave, our histories, our family histories, our behavioral legacies, our training, choices, conditioning, changing, stagnating- it's all fascinating to me. I think about myself and how I got sober and what it took to get there. 

What it was like to live the life I lived before I quit drinking. 

What it was like to live that life. 

What it's like to live this life. 

The things I have learned and how much I still have to go. I remember being out on a run in the beginning of my recovery and thinking "What if I never finish?" and starting to cry because then I thought with relief and joy "I will never finish!!!" 

I realize periodically that something I do unconsciously pretty often is: I try to not make any mistakes by being me the individual. I really guard myself closely, collecting myself, looking for loose threads or flyaways of self. Oh this? That's nothing! And I scoot that part of me you might have seen under the rug. It's weird for someone who is like me- I am open to talking about your behaviors or your life so I seem like I am open and revealing, but just try asking me about myself and I will probably clam right up like a... clam. I'm so good at it you may not even notice that I change the subject or that I'm very brief and that I rarely talk about myself. 

I am working on this. It can feel like being pushed out onstage naked when I talk about myself. I watch the audience closely. Was that my line? Am I saying it right? I watch for signals. Did I mess that up? Am I in the right place? Did I hit my mark? Your mark? I try to be palatable. Too much of me and I start looking around for you, but you coming from me. Talking about myself makes me feel afraid. I don't like it. I worry you/the world won't like it. 

My afraid is the fear of being ridiculed or looking foolish, of making a mistake. My therapist and I have discussed this for several years now and I am at this place where I really love and trust myself inside. How to put that on the outside? It's like if you had a beautiful treasure but you keep it hidden. I love my beautiful treasure and I'm afraid if I show you you'll make fun of it or tell me it's stupid or that I don't know what I'm talking about. So it's much easier to live inside myself where I'm safe. 

Vulnerability is hard. 

Except.. I want to connect. I know I'm mostly not breakable fragile like that anymore, and I'm working on remembering that I'm a 50 year old woman who made my own recovery (don't we all?) and I've been purposely living and studying human behavior for almost 10 years in my own cool way and I have pretty terrific things to share about that and about me. I have mothered and run my own business and been married and separated and/or ended and/or repaired signifiant relationships- like my marriage, my relationship with my parents, a couple of friendships. 

These boundaries, the separation from other people is not a wall, it's a defense mechanism. A coping skill. I was thinking about how I tend to think people in my life think like me, but it's more like I try to guess what people are thinking and then I make myself like them. Writing that makes me think about how I don't really do that as much anymore but I feel like I do and I need to catch up to where I actually am. 

The idea that I am separate from other people means that we might be in relationship but we aren't the same person. 

What a relief. And what a mind fuck. For a lifetime I have thought that if someone was in my life it meant we matched. A strange sort of branch of codependency. Gaining the understanding that we can be in each others lives and differ vastly feels like maturity. It feels like I'm responsible for me, you're responsible for you- and we are responsible for each other too, but not dependent on similarity to function. 

This gleaning of personal separation feels like a wise expectation. 

As in: 

I expect me to be like me, and you to be like you. 

That seems real, and honest, and much less confusing than thinking the people in my life are mostly like me but I actually have to be mostly like them. It was a blind spot. It feels validating to see myself in the pool of that insight. 

I was reading something somewhere about how lately these days we all think we are unique and separate and individual and that's what's getting valued- that the collective has become the pieces, not the picture. I think it's both. 

It's the permeability. 

The ability to allow things to pass through you. To keep your self while keeping community. A frog's skin is permeable to water- but the frog does not become water, and the water does not become frog...they exist together, and apart. The frog is a frog, the water is a water. And there is the frog in the water, and there is the water surrounding the frog. 

Putting yourself - the youest you- out into the world as yourself is crazy: hard/easy/hard/easy on and on. There are so many ways we are bombarded with different options and do you know? And then how do you not short circuit when rejected or laughed at or made fun of- even if it's only in your own mind? Being the "right" frog in the "right" water- it can be exhausting. 

And such an unconscious habit to be absorbed instead of be permeable. 

When I am absorbed I do not have boundaries. Something I have started noticing is that I do have boundaries, but I tend to set them and then erase them. It's wild to watch. I'm learning that if I am permeable I don't lose myself, or my boundaries- and it feels healthy and care full. I know where I am. It's kind of like always telling myself the truth and being willing to stand with that truth, and knowing that truth can change. That it isn't a threat to know more or do things differently. 

Taking it apart- here's me in a situation:

Me deciding what feels wisest for me. 
Wanting to erase it (oh no! I didn't mean it! never mind! it's okay!), but not erasing it. 
Feeling totally uncomfortable in the itchy scritchy sweater of not erasing it. 
The sweet nugget of warmth that comes, a bit of confidence, of trust, of love. 

I have to do things in these kinds of instructions because then it makes more sense: I slow down, recite my practices to myself- whatever they may be- First you do this, then you do that. It's not about right or wrong. Please slow down. You don't have to go fast. 

There's a sense of recognition and congruency that arrives. I am me, and I am here, standing next to you, apart and together- permeable. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Moving Back

(pictured: where I first started writing Soberbia)

 It's funny how I loved writing this blog so much, and then as life got different, I got things like a my own website and I left Blogger to move on. I wrote on my website on Wordpress for a while, but it felt confusing and flat. Now all of those posts are gone, deleted by Wordpress without me seeing their look out warning. I started to blog on my current website but that didn't feel right either. 

Thankfully, these early years are still saved here. I started thinking about jumping on the Substack bandwagon, made a Soberbia page there, and yet...every time I wrote something it remained a draft and now there are 10 or so and it just doesn't feel like me. So I just leave my writing hanging in the draft space in Pages or on Substack and in my mind I keep promising myself to publish something, anything, for gods sake. 

But alas. Months go by, years..and nothing. No publish. 

Then on a call with a potential client the other day they told me they'd read this blog. And my old blog before this blog. I'd forgotten there even was a blog before Soberbia, but there was and it was called Sell the Goat. 

When I started Soberbia my method used to be: get up at 5 am. Sit at the computer desk next to the fireplace and hope no small children wake up early. Start writing, or find a picture that says what I'm trying to say and build on that. Be as honest as possible. Don't overthink it. Just write and publish and write and publish again and again, learning and living my way into some answers. Words are the flashlights for me. Scour the landscape and find the thing that needs light, writing is a lighthouse. 

It feels real and right to sit here, now, in a totally different life, nine years later, to return to write for the deep deep pleasure of writing writing. That it's a way to connect, to be in community, to build real relationships, and to offer what I know and to learn from others. I left Blogger when I decided my writing needed to look important, and be more legitimate, and got on social media and promptly killed my love of writing words with the soggy blanket of comparison and shiny expectation. It's interesting, I did that with my running too- made it complicated with times and miles and achievements and appearance and then let go of all of it and found the deep deep pleasure of running again. 

Maybe it's because I'm 50 now that I value my experience of my life more than I value the experience others have of my life. Maybe it's humility, or freedom, or the heart of dedication to my art- my beloved and temperamental writing- that beats steady and loud in my ears. 

Or maybe it's just that somehow we always manage to find our way home...