Recovering In Community

I told my counselor today that this summer I allowed myself “permission” to just sit quietly (a lot!) and rest, reflect and heal.  When I decided to get sober this past June, I had no idea that I would feel emotionally drained for so long – the exact opposite of what I was expecting.

We overuse the word
We overuse the word “balance” like we do “love.” It is a commitment and daily effort, like love.

 Ironically, for me, the clearer my mind becomes, the less I seek the chaos that was once my life – am I now addicted to peace?

Talk to anybody who has been in recovery for more than a couple of years and they will nod in complete agreement and understanding and say, “the longer you are sober, the more you will enjoy a quiet life.”  The trick is learning how to quiet the things that once stressed me emotionally without alcohol.  This must explain my present state of fatigue, I am like a child learning to ride a bike without training wheels.

Thus, the subject of today’s blog:  How does one successfully “recover in community,” with normal deadlines, stresses, demands and all sorts of other messy obstacles life presents?  I began my sobriety without any kind of in-patient treatment, so I have been “hanging out there” in community trying to stay sober and keep my life going for five months.  It is tiring.  I wish I could say it is thrillingly exhilarating – the gratitude I feel each morning for a new day, a healthy and loving family, and my sobriety is comforting.  But maintaining it all makes me well – TIRED.

I am still in nurture mode with 2 teenagers
I am still in nurture mode with 2 teenagers

Doing what is best for my 2 very different children without the influence of alcohol is certainly much easier and more enjoyable!  However, some days it feels like I don’t have as much to give as I’d like.  My body, mind and soul feel tapped out because all I can do is just “be” and “love.”  Is this enough???  I see other parents (whose sobriety status I am not aware of) really “managing” their kids’ lives and this clearly is not what is happening under my roof.  And the gnawing question I have, now that I am sober is, “what’s the difference between the way I loved drunk and the way I am loving sober?”.  Or anything for that matter.  And I think the answer is caring and feeling versus numb and complacent.  I think my body hurts and my spirit feels tired because it hurts to feel and process one’s thoughts in healthy ways all day long, especially when you are responsible for young adults.

Recovering in Community works best in the company of a safe friend
Recovering in Community works best in the company of a safe friend

When I talk about these fears and feelings to my non-sober friends, I kind of get blank stares.  Other addicts know exactly what I mean.  It’s what makes us all different and interesting, right?  So I continue to make room in my life for AA meetings, conversations with others who are focused on their recovery, and living a day to day life that is healthy, balanced and aimed at giving my family the right kind of love – without cheating myself.  That’s enough for one person to handle.  And that, my friends, is how I am attempting to “recover in community.”

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The Difference Between Laziness and Spiritual Peace

Lately I have been on an inner journey.  I won’t say I have “neglected” housework, but let’s just state for the record that I am blissfully tuned out of my immediate visual surroundings. Nobody in my family seems to mind.  Clothes get washed, dinners get served and eaten, pets are not neglected, Fall decorations are properly appointed.  Outwardly, everything seems “normal.”

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What started out feeling like a mid-life boycott of mundane chores has now become – well, more of a daily meditation on the essential.  Gratitude for all that we have been given tops my list of essentials.  When my eyelids pop open in the morning and the awareness of feeling whole and not broken by alcohol, ugly words spewed to a loved one the night before – I breathe deeply and thank God for the blessing of one more day.  Whatever I choose to do with that day, my underlying goal is LOVE.

Is a clean house essential to love?  No.  Right now, at 49 and managing a life with 2 teenagers, a husband intent on planning the sunset of his career, and a boatload of aging siblings and Mother whom I love – I give myself permission to LOVE FIRST, clean second.  I used to think I was getting lazy because I did notice the slowing down.  This coincided with my sobriety, which began almost 5 months ago.

The whole point of sobriety is to NOTICE, EXPERIENCE and CHERISH the good.  This requires slowing down (at least for me) and focusing on NOW.  As much as I love and enjoy these new feelings, it is true my standards of tidiness which were low to begin with – have gotten a little lower.

Nobody is complaining.  So I must not be lazy.

When I am an old woman I will remember the sunsets I watched, not the floors I mopped.
When I am an old woman I will remember the sunsets I watched, not the floors I mopped.

What Teapots and Birkenstocks Mean After 120 Days Sober

In less than 6 months, I will be turning 50.  For the first time in 30 years, I will celebrate sober.  A little over halfway through the journey, sometimes I feel regret that I waited so long to discover inner peace but also many days I feel upset that I can’t party like a rock star anymore!  Maybe that feeling will fade as 120 days rolls into 200, 365 and more.  More time of living in the present and fully engaged.

In many ways, my newfound sobriety has brought me back full circle to the things I have always loved, especially COMFORT.  I am a homebody (though this is surprising to many) who loves my couch, family, warmth of the sun or a roaring fire, homemade meals and simple pleasures.

I think the bare-boned honesty it takes to admit one is powerless over a person, place or thing brings with it comfort and liberation – so really, I have just come “home.”

I choose comfort over cuteness
I choose comfort over cuteness
I want my tea, not my Malbec
I want my tea, not my Malbec

I realized I had accepted my “lot” as a “recovering alcoholic” when I found myself daydreaming about having a pair of Birkenstocks and a good tea kettle.  Chuckle and snort, though I may about this, the darned truth of the matter is:  I AM HAPPY WITH MYSELF!  

There are messes our family must deal with left behind from my years of selfish self-medicating, at the top of which, of course, is my habit of overspending.  But, my God!  4 months ago I could not have stayed clear-headed long enough to even research where our money was going much less devise a plan to resolve it.

A good friend is helping me re-vamp my resume, too.  THIS would never have happened when I was drinking.  She cannot believe I don’t have any “professional” self-esteem.  I can’t believe there is someone out there that sees something I can’t see, but I am willing to dig further, to consider some truths about myself and put myself in the ring of competition for whatever rewarding career awaits me next.  I must do this, not only for myself and my family, but because things are going too well to just sit on my couch (as much as I love it!) for the rest of my life.

Push Push Push.  I think I can until I know I can – the Little Engine that Could.  This is me at 49, a little war-torn and rough but loving the journey and thanking God every day I wake up sober.

120 days sober looks like this when you are 49
120 days sober looks like this when you are 49

The “Family Bed” Remembered

For years our family slept together in the Master bedroom- pets and all
For years our family slept together in the Master bedroom- pets and all

Just going through some old photos this morning and found this gem and HAD to write a quick blog post.  This is 2008, our daughter Isa was 9 and her brother, Mario was 7.  Those were our pets, Tango the boxer and Boris the cat.  We lived in a beautiful 5,000-sq ft home on 34 acres.  At bedtime we might as well have had a studio apartment!  For at least 2 years, this is what the “family bed” looked like.  Mike (my husband) would sigh when the lights went out and quietly say, “There are ALOT of beating hearts in this room.”  I loved it!

As Dad got “grumblier” about the situation, Isa would type “contracts” for him to sign designating a specific future date when the “family bed” situation would cease – but she always “filed” for an extension!

Fast forward to 2015:  both children are normal (okay, that’s debatable!) and sleeping in their own beds.  But they have memories of many nights in our “shared sleeping quarters” watching movies, talking, laughing, playing with the pets. Some people think this is nuts and I do sort of get their point.  But I am SO GLAD we did it.  It gave the children comfort when they needed it and we have lots of fun memories to look back on….especially after they flee the nest, which I am dreading, of course.

So, my advice to parents of young children struggling with the bedtime routine:  give up!  Enjoy being together now.  I know there are all sorts of studies now encouraging “the family bed” but I don’t know where they are or what they are saying about the benefits.  I know my 1950’s-era parents thought I was the WORST POSSIBLE type of wishy-washy parent while this was going on.  The 7 of us were sent marching up the stairs at bedtime with 1 “regulation size” cup of water and ordered to SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP!  Anyone who dared get out of bed and tiptoe downstairs again had better be ready for the WRATH of my DAD!!!

At one point, tired of the “charade” of pretending to resist my children’s nightly pleas to sleep on my floor, I just gave in and bought 2 air mattresses at Wal-Mart for the Master Bedroom floor.  In my opinion, this was one of the best investments I ever made.