Notes from the Mom Whose Kids Always “Had Her Number”

Today, I am home with my teenagers who have been throwing up.  This causes me to fondly reflect upon previous such “special family times,” one which especially stands out in my memory from Spring 2007, the day my kids had to stay home and take care of their parents because they were both throwing up!  My Isa, 7 years old at the time, divided her time that day between devotedly bringing her Dad and me our favorite popsicles then dancing outside in front of the house.  This beautiful memory has led me to reflect upon the entire history of our family and my approach to parenting.  I love being a Mom.  In fact, it is all I have ever wanted to be.  I used to ride my bicycle up and down my driveway as a little girl playing “carpool.”  What I wouldn’t give to have a recording of those imaginary conversations!

Since my daughter is just a year away from graduating from High School, her Senior year of “lasts” looms largely in my mind.  Anticipating each last.  Hoping I will savor and enjoy them to their maximum.  One of the images that I have discovered in my meditation practice this past year (as a recovering alcoholic with 10 months of sobriety) is a moving stream:  if I feel emotionally depleted, I imagine myself dipping a beautiful vessel into a cool, clear stream and nourishing myself with Nature’s goodness.  This type of imagery not only helps me sustain myself without relying on numbing substances, it is also a great way for me to re-frame the present moment.  Instead of dreading new beginnings or fearing endings, I think of life and love as a continuous stream, a continuum that has no beginning or end.  There for me to enjoy, participate in and freely use to sustain those around me (especially my teenagers).  I am going to try to continue thinking about my daughter’s Senior year as a beautiful transition that is part of the stream.

Yet, my thoughts did manage to navigate toward a gnawing, very human question:  if I had it to do over, would I change anything about the way I parented my young children?  I have only five “regrets,” (a word I try to use sparingly, since it is dangerously close to resentment, which a recovering alcoholic cannot afford).  Surprisingly, nothing on my “List of Five” has anything to do with taking away bad things – rather, it is more about wishing I had done MORE of the good things:

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  1.  I wish I had not been so anxious to put my children into all-day kindergarten.  After working with 6-year-olds these past four months, I know for sure how tired they are after a full day of school.  I was a stay-at-home Mom and could have easily managed having a busy 6-year-old at home with me all day.  But I decided to convince myself it would be “good for their social skills” to put the kids in all-day kindergarten.  Ten years later, with so many working families, there are probably few choices other than full-day kindergarten. I wish I had savored my 6-year-olds a bit more.  But what’s done is done.
  2. I wish I had insisted on learning a musical instrument.  We did our best as parents to expose our kids to live music of all sorts whenever possible.  Our kids love music.  But mastering a musical instrument is one of those life skills that is best undertaken in childhood, like learning another language.  It was hard enough for me to get my kids to sports practices and school, so learning a musical instrument did not make it into our “MUST accomplish” top tier of parenting goals.  I do regret this.
  3. Spirituality practice – we went to church here and there and my children were “dedicated” into a church family before we moved 200 miles away – but I wish I had done more to teach them that celebrating and worshiping God with others is a beautiful part of a healthy inner life.  My kids know that within them dwells a Source of love and goodness, and I believe they know how to tap into that and also live a life devoted to making the world better, not worse.  It was so important to me not to force an “ideology” upon them, I may neglected to help guide and nourish the part of spirituality that includes others.  My children are natural Seekers and very resourceful individuals, so I feel good about their ability to move in that direction later in life, if they choose.
  4. More family meals.  We average 1 sit-down family meal together per week.  Better than nothing!  I would get the job done more often now if my teenagers would participate – as I hear, many do!  (I know it is part of many families’ teenagers regular responsibilities to help prepare and serve meals, which is so nice – I haven’t tried that).  Like many moms in recovery, asking for help (or any kind of delegating), is not a natural part of my personality.  I am thankful to still have time with both children at home to approach family meals more like something the entire family should help create.
  5. MOST importantly, in the earlier days, I wish I had cared less about other Moms’ opinions!  I remember hearing the phrase, “She’s got your number!” way too often and feeling hurt or irritated (or rejected by the “elite moms” who were doing it all perfectly).  To this, I can only go back to a very lovely memory I have when, as a new Mom, I was holding my baby girl on one of her first airplane rides and the older woman sitting next to me very gently and kindly remarked, “Ah!  What a beautiful, content baby!  She has EVERYTHING she needs, Mom!”.  We need to do more to encourage and support one another as parents.  For me, that starts with being open and honest with one another.  Being willing to admit that we aren’t perfect parents and we aren’t raising perfect children.  As a Mom of teenagers, I do get more of this from my social interactions with other parents – much more so than in the early, competitive “toddler war” days.

So far, this journey of parenting two individuals with different temperaments, needs, likes, dislikes and aptitudes has been so beautiful.  Looking back, I would like to have been able to relax more and enjoy the small moments.  Looking forward, I am grateful to be living a healthy, clean and sober life, so the future with these incredible people God shared with me will be as vibrant as I feel.11218179_10206971262472700_5085219549381530292_n

THIS

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February 11, 2016 – Pudgey, Mario, Vanilla and me

My husband snapped this photo last night and emailed me with the title, “Evening Huddle.”  It is a helluva happy huddle!  A year ago, I was way off course and quickly sinking to the bottom of my addiction to alcohol.  My cousin sent me a great article recently that describes addiction as “the opposite of connection.”  Bingo!  Total disconnect – by selfish choice – then by habit – finally without any sort of logic or consent at all.  Just dead.

God and my family have brought me back to life.  In just 8 months, I have been fortunate to have regained my sobriety and focus.  And look at my reward!  A puppy, handsome teenaged son (and daughter, who just celebrated her 17th birthday and is overjoyed with her new ukulele), purring cat, large cup o’ Joe, Netflix and hubby all in one room filled with happiness, a roaring fire and quilts made with love by my Mom.

I don’t know why I steered so far off course in the first place.  It is so scary.  I am one of the lucky ones to have been brought back to a conscious, intentional life.  Yes, I feel pain instead of numbness at times.  AND JOY!!!!  Today, I am just grateful for my happy chaos – I am working with kindergarteners in an underprivileged community.  I have a beautiful family, a Mom I can still call on the telephone as often as I want, an amazing AA Sponsor, a life partner of almost 20 years, and many supportive friends.  Whether our family can afford to take a vacation this year or not:  WE ARE RICH.

I read a lot about addiction and recovery now.  If you are looking for inspiration, motivation, or just curious about people’s stories, I encourage you to check out 2 of my favorites:

RecoveryHeroes.com 

SheRecovers.com

You can be as public or private about your struggles as you like.  I have deliberately talked about mine because it helps my healing and accountability.  More poignantly, talking about it helps me live in the present and experience the joy to the fullest.

Go hug your mess!

 

 

5 Gifts of Living Sober

This past Sunday, I logged into AA Grapevine and entered my Sobriety Date to check the number of days I have been sober.  It’s just way of measuring success, I guess, like weighing oneself on a scale to stay motivated during a diet.  I am an alcoholic, so my “diet” will never end.  I have been sober for 7.7 Months.  If I did not have the “Sobriety Calculator” or any other means of measuring the number of days I have been sober, I, the Stubborn Doubter, have lots of empirical evidence that each hour sober is 100 times better than any vino fino tinto.  Here is my list of 5 Gifts of Living Sober:

  1. Stop Wanting And Start Living For years, I have had a restless spirit, longing to be and have things that were within sight but mysteriously unattainable.  Then, about 5 years before I got sober, I decided to approach life with more of an open heart.  “Perhaps if I pray to God to have an open heart, He can lead me in the right direction,” was my thinking.  I wasn’t ready to admit that I was avoiding doing things (e.g., the hard work of living sober) by preoccupying myself with having things.  I never believed I would have what it took to make that leap.  I do now! Each morning that I wake up sober, I thank God for leading me to pursue worthwhile things and also giving me the strength and courage to keep at it.
  2. Stop Gambling With My Health And Start Cherishing The Body God Gave Me  Of course, drinking is not a gamble to the non-alcoholic because they can stop.  Since I couldn’t, yet continued daily drinking for several years, I was literally treating my body like a garbage dump.  In my newly-negotiated relationship with Spirit (e.g., “Higher Power”), I truly believe harmful, self-destructive behavior that could potentially lead to death (like addiction to alcohol) is a beautiful opportunity to love oneself in disguise.  Does a person who really understands the importance of being healthy, physically, emotionally, and mentally, gamble with those gifts by sinking further into addiction?  I hear people in AA meetings say all the time, “I thank God for my alcoholism, it has given me the gift of (fill in the blank with anything valuable)”.  Again, if you’re not an addict or alcoholic, this “gift” may not make sense.
  3. Cherish The Company Of Other Alcoholics  I know I avoided going to my first AA meeting because I was sure it would be full of “depressing people” that I would not be able to “relate to.”  It’s the opposite!  It is home.  Alcoholics are the most compassionate, funny, friendly, dependable, humble and noble people I have ever met.  The “Hi, Joanie!” greeting you hear (often joked about, even) in meetings is warm, sincere, safe and accepting.  SAFETY is a major trigger word for alcoholics, the lack of which (whether it be emotional, financial or physical), because our disease plays with our minds and tells us that we must remain fearful and on guard at all times because no person or situation is safe.  I had a Counselor in my twenties (who was unaware of my binge drinking but completely pegged one of my alcoholic behaviors) described my emotional state like this:  “Joan, you seem to be in ‘fight or flight’ mode 24/7 – always prepared for the danger that lurks around the corner, feeling hunted.”  Precisely.  I was deeply unsettled but had no idea why.  My Alcoholic pals understand and I am so glad for each and every one of them.
  4. Accepting Endings And New Beginnings And The Process In Between3562ced271566a90f3770d5caa4487b8  Like “The Little Prince,” my favorite time of day has always been the sunset – and during my drinking days, especially so.  Watching the sun drifting into the horizon meant I had survived the challenges of the day (e.g., sick kids, frustrating work problem, hangover, overdrawn checking account, whatever) and that it would soon be time to open my bottle of serenity.  I avoided admitting I was an alcoholic for years because I knew it was a permanent commitment.  However, nowadays, my very grateful sober self sees something quite different in the concept of “forever.”  In her new book, “Bottled,” Dana Bowman describes the paradox:

“The toughest part was realizing that recovery would never be “over” – not if I was going to take it seriously.  When you’re a part of my club, taking out a lease on recovery is not an option.  When I really thought about the lack of alcohol forevermore, it felt like I’d been told to clean the Grand Canyon with a toothbrush, while blindfolded.  But every once in awhile, tiny moments of peace and joy descended upon me and were so defined and real, they lifted me out of my canyon.  I would focus on the higher horizon then, and just kept walking.

5.  “Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room” (William Shakespeare, “King John.”)

I saved the best gift for last:  Living a Sober Life means spending your time the way you want to, free from the chains of an addiction that leads to darkness.  There is so much LIGHT in my life because of the new freedom I have discovered that it is okay to feel and express emotions and spend a day doing as I please instead of constantly weighing and measuring myself against impossible standards.  Reading poetry has always been one of my favorite hobbies, but I gave it up to lead a more “serious” life of career and family.  Now it is back in my life and I feel rejuvenated.  Here is a new favorite poet and her artful examination of leading one’s own life:

Poetry
By
Mary Oliver
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holding on and Letting Go

Yesterday it became official:  After 20 years of marriage, I am officially 31 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day.  But I am too busy getting sober, raising teenagers, losing my reading glasses, finding myself, and holding on to the time I have today with loved ones to really give a damn.

Another thing became official in the last week:  my husband believes in the regular “God Winks” I am receiving from my Dad.

I have had some really awful moments in my struggle for sobriety these past 156 days - and Daddy always appears at just the right moment, in the form of a feather.
I have had some really awful moments in my struggle for sobriety these past 156 days – and Daddy always appears at just the right moment, in the form of a feather.

Mike witnessed it as we gazed outside his office window anticipating the start of the Kansas City World Series Parade last week:  out of the blue, a single feather gracefully frolicked in the wind and made its way to the pavement just beneath us.  He looked at me with wonder and said, “Dickie’s here!”.  Yesterday, I was feeling like a little kid again, preparing to meet a new friend and try a new AA meeting, and wanting to just go home and hide beneath my covers.  I ran out to my car before my friend met me for coffee before the meeting to look for my phone:  a single feather lay just beside my car door (it was NOT there when I arrived a few moments earlier).  Dad was reassuring me, “Go ahead and go to that meeting.  You need it.”

I’m holding on and letting go to everything and everyone these days, it seems:  my beautiful teenagers; my youth (and former figure!); things that used to matter but really don’t anymore; my dreams of who I wanted to be and reckoning with the reality of the time I have left to fulfill them or make new ones.

Grandma Rhetta gets a BIG hug from 5-year-old Mario for the beautiful quilt she made him.
Grandma Rhetta gets a BIG hug from 5-year-old Mario for the beautiful quilt she made him.

I am still thrilled and sometimes even enraptured by the journey of life – including the scars I carry as a mid-lifer.  It’s wild to ponder the things that matter more to me now that I know I don’t have a lot of time on this Earth.  I care more about being gentle and kind than winning, at anything.  I worry less about deadlines and more about resilience and protection (social work lingo that I love!).  We live among the wounded and I want to be a healer.

Sally Wilcox. my dear friend, passed these along to me when my family was treated unkindly in a small town. She became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church very late in life and never shied from
Sally Wilcox. my dear friend, passed these along to me when my family was treated unkindly in a small town. She became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church very late in life and never shied from “sticky” situations. I will always cherish Sally, these earrings, and the brief time I had with her.

I guess the trick to living a life of Grace after 50 is to know when to hold on and when to let go.  I cannot be in this state perpetually!  Luckily, I have had some pretty wise friends share their wisdom with me along the way.

Remember the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes”?  I picture myself often as the character Kathy Bates plays – Evelyn – that awkward midlife woman, pathetically hanging on to a shell of her former self until she meets Jessica Tandy’s character – Ninny – the older woman in the nursing home who shares the story of her relative, Idgie, in segments for Evelyn,  and gives her the gift of strength to prepare her for old age.  I had a friend like Evelyn in Winfield, Kansas.  Her name was Sally Wilcox and she was a writer.  She volunteered to write an article about an old dairy house on our land adjacent to a neighborhood development.  Mike and I saw beauty and grace in this old structure.  Our neighbors saw blight. They wanted it torn down, we maintained it had Historic value and submitted to the City’s requirements that it be boarded up.

Who would have thought that a historic dairy house would be the
Who would have thought that a historic dairy house would be the “mountain we chose to die on” in our small town experience? We learned a lot, thanks to Sally.

The dairy house was designed and lived in by a relative of a well-known architect from the region.  Louis Caton, a musician, lived there for a period of time and was a known local artist and musician.  We romanticized the past and the things that transpired in the old dairy house  but to the neighbors, it represented a hatred they carried for the former developer of their neighborhood and broken promises.  It was ours but, in the end, it was not.  Our fight did not matter because the neighbors won the right to tear it down, after all.  Looking back, I realize the dairy house was just a symbol to Mike and me of something beautiful we had found and wanted to “tend to” for our children.  We imagined a future for them in rural Kansas and all the cool things they might get to do with this beautiful barn like structure set beside a wooded canyon that many children, including Osage Indian children and pioneer children, had played in before.

But maybe we held on to the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reasons which now, ultimately, does not matter.  But I cannot stop thinking about the twinkle in Sally Wilcox’s eyes as she interviewed us and published the article in the local newspaper about it.  In all her wisdom, Sally thought the fight was worth it and she liked us, unlike our neighbors!  One afternoon before a public hearing about the condemnation of the dairy house we were forced to attend at the City, Sally gave me the earrings she wanted me to wear bearing the words:  “People are no damn good.”  I will always love her for her strength and courage and carry with me the memory of my very own “Evelyn,” who helped me confront one of my first ugly midlife battles over WHAT to hang on to and WHEN to let go.

So, here I am, almost 50, getting feathers from Dad and remembering a brilliant older friend who gave me many gifts of wisdom.  In their own ways, they both sustain me as I daily weigh what’s worth my energy and what’s not.

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.”

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

What A Shame (90 Days of Using It For Good)

On June 6, 2015, the unthinkable happened:  my children witnessed me out of control drunk and they were apologizing to my sister and her husband for my behavior.  The next day, I did not remember it.  All I knew was I had been having a good time dancing to great music when my sister suddenly refused to serve me more red wine.  I passed out in the dress I had worn that day, and the next morning I had a mother of a hangover.

Today, 90 days into my sobriety with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I thank God for my ability to still feel shame, otherwise I may have never stopped drinking.

It was pure shame that led me to my first AA meeting 3 days after the incident.  Because, in my mind, nobody had ever noticed I was drunk (nearly nightly) sitting quietly on my couch at home, I had never until that point had to confront the brutal truths about my drinking.

The AA “Big Book”  refers to alcohol as “cunning and baffling.”  Indeed it is.  Cunning because I wanted it in spite of all the reasons why it was a bad idea.  Baffling because it never once made my life better – yet I continuously sought it’s soothing comfort (with strings attached).  I can see now, after 90 days in recovery, how my disease was progressing rapidly.  I changed my definition for needing a drink from feeling “stressed” to the mere fact that it was 5 o’ clock in the afternoon (a cliche because it is true!).

Copyright Douglas Ferrin
Copyright Douglas Ferrin

After about 2 weeks of attending AA meetings, my shame began to fade and, in its place, I felt something I had not experienced in years:  optimism.  I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do instead of have!  That little inkling of hope called possibility started growing in my consciousness.  I was starting to think that a better future might be possible because of the tools I was learning from AA.

Trying to fix something without a tool is magical thinking.  One by one, I was getting new tools to add to my toolbox.
Trying to fix something without a tool is magical thinking. One by one, I was getting new tools to add to my toolbox.

Before getting some sobriety under my belt, I would give up before I even started because I just knew I would fail.  One of the phrases I kept hearing repeatedly at AA meetings was, “You don’t HAVE to live your life like this.  You CAN HAVE a better life.”  Okay, that’s a big promise – show me HOW.  And AA delivers.  By talking to people with many years of sobriety, I am learning how to recognize my triggers for self-destructive behavior before they overtake me.  Check out the cupcake photo from my first birthday – I really dig excess!  My new friends with more sobriety than me are teaching me that I don’t have to be a slave to the self-esteem killing, excess-loving beast inside of me.  I can conquer the beast, if even minute by minute some days, by being honest with myself and living a life that sustains serenity.  For some people, this involves daily rituals like starting each day on your knees and thanking God for waking up sober.  I am not ashamed to say that I need to practice healthy rituals to stay sober – I am grateful that I now know other people who share this need!

My children as babies, innocent and playful and loving each other.
My children as babies, innocent and playful and loving each other.

Tomorrow, when I wake up and officially have 90 Days of Sobriety, I will begin my day in somber gratitude to my Higher Power who is showing me that to be good to others, I must first be good to myself.

I can’t believe that in just 90 days I, the “Queen of Dread,” am looking forward to the rest of the journey with anticipation and excitement.  At my lowest point, I told my incredulous husband, “I cannot imagine enjoying anything right now.”  That was the beast talking.  I don’t serve this creature anymore.  But it takes conscious effort, every single moment of every day, to keep the beast quiet.  And I will never forget that it might have been shame that led me to this journey……but it is gratitude that propels me forward.

Learning to “Hold Place” for Myself in My Recovery Journey

I can reach for the support and encouragement I need at any time.
I can reach for the support and encouragement I need at any time.

I have 38 days of sobriety.  This is very encouraging and exciting!  I am not frightened or fidgety, in need of a drink.  But I am tired – bone tired.  I have discovered a wonderful author, Heather Plett, and her writing about self-care gives me encouragement as my steps toward whomever I am meant to be at the end of this journey feel more like impossible efforts against a rushing tide of water.

Captivating and Dangerous
Captivating and Dangerous

But Heather’s work reminds me of something very important:  it is my job to take care of myself first.  She recounts a recent lesson she learned from a jewelry maker about this:

http://heatherplett.com/2015/07/a-steady-mind-before-a-steady-heart-what-i-learned-from-a-jewelry-maker/

She chose a beautiful wooden image of a tree that has taken root in an unstable place as her reminder that she is capable of caring for herself, as long as she does that first.

Youngest of 7, my sister closest in age to me, Susanna, helps me out in a muddy situation.
Youngest of 7, my sister closest in age to me, Susanna, helps me out in a muddy situation.

But what if, like me, you have lived 49 years of “making messes” and surrounding yourself with people who clean them up?  My only choice is to forgive and love myself or I won’t be able to maintain my sobriety or fully love the children my husband and I brought into this world.

Isa, my older child, is extremely strong - inside and out!
Isa, my older child, is extremely strong – inside and out!
Mario, the younger child, shares his conquest with pride then sets it free (like a good boy!).
Mario, the younger child, shares his conquest with pride then sets it free (like a good boy!).

You’ll notice a lot of water in my post today.  Throughout my life, during times of intense change and uncertainty, I have always dreamed of rushing water.  It carries me to the place I am meant to be – my destination.  Although I am terrified daily of losing myself, losing my family, losing my way – I know these fears are irrational.  Learning to quickly access my “quiet place” deep inside – my source of strength – helps reassure me (sometimes hundreds of times a day) that all is as it should be.

I am not alone on my journey, thank God!  My partner and husband, Michael, is with me every step.
I am not alone on my journey, thank God! My partner and husband, Michael, is with me every step.

So, for one more day, I believe I can continue this journey – as exhausting as it can be.  My family and friends that know me and love me understand I may not be the “Queen of Perky” for awhile…..but she will be back and when I find her LOOK OUT!!!!!

4 Things I’ve Learned After My First 4 AA Meetings

13 months ago, I told everybody I was an alcoholic and I stopped drinking – cold turkey.  5 months later, I had decided that I could manage drinking moderately on my own.  3 months after that, I allowed myself to expand my definition of “moderate” to 1 bottle of Malbec nightly.  About a month after that, “moderate” often meant 1 1/2 bottles of any wine – I wasn’t picky any longer.  In the last 6 months, I have had more hangovers than the previous 25 years combined.

But I kept craving my wine every evening by 5:30, in spite of the hangovers.  Meanwhile, things got pretty challenging for my son in Middle School.  He lost 50 pounds in 3 months and stopped going to school altogether.

It was time for me to stop riding in the backseat of my life and commit to sobriety, for myself, for my family.

Sitting outside the first AA meeting, terrified and shaking and on the verge of tears.
Sitting outside the first AA meeting, terrified and shaking and on the verge of tears.

Today, I have been sober for 6 days, and I have found a brand new group of empathetic souls.  I live for my sobriety and my daily Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  Here are 4 poignant truths I have learned from listening to many brave people about addiction to alcohol:

1.  FEED YOUR SOBRIETY LIKE YOU FED YOUR ADDICTION

I hear people talking about being grateful for waking up sober each morning, in spite of their fears of facing a new day.  They cherish their newfound way of living and find creative ways to nourish it.  Meeting and talking with other alcoholics is just one way.  Other people have found comfort and courage in meditation, prayer, public service, laughter, and just relishing in the simple gift of living one day at a time.  I learned there is a term for the first way I tried to stay sober – “white knuckle sobriety” – just like the metaphor suggests, it is all work and no play, very tense and lonely.  Now I am learning new ways to enjoy my life free of fixating on that next drink – because I am surrounding myself with the wonderful people of AA.

The
The “24 Hours Recovery” Coin I received at my first AA meeting.

2.  “ROCK BOTTOM” IS YOUR FRIEND

Whatever it is that leads you to commit to Recovery is a blessing.  Don’t ruminate over it, be grateful that it opened up a new way of living and move toward the future.  Yes, eventually I will “work” the 12 Steps and do a thorough and honest inventory of my past and make amends to those I have harmed.  But for now, in my first week of Recovery, I am just grateful for my “rock bottom” and whatever Force that led me to a program with new friends to help me stay sober.  At my first meeting, I received a plastic coin with the Serenity Prayer on one side and the phrase, “To thine own self be true” on the other.  I touch it several times a day – it is a real symbol of a miraculous change that is happening  within me.

3.  THE VIEW FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT IS MUCH BETTER THAN THE BACK SEAT

Some alcoholics are control freaks, others are fearful “yes” people who prefer to let others control them.  I am the second type.  Sitting in the back seat, I have observed a lot of faults in others but given myself permission to avoid honestly assessing myself.  Each additional day I nurture my sobriety, I am stronger and have more desire to sit in that driver’s seat and enjoy the journey that is my life.

A few hours after my first AA meeting.  Completely serene.
A few hours after my first AA meeting. Completely serene.

4.  HUMILITY SHINES MORE BEAUTIFULLY THAN GOLD

When actively living in my addiction, I tried to fool myself with a “pretty veneer” – shallow expressions of success, happiness, and a good life.  Everybody knows, the only thing more frightening than a room full of crusty bikers is a room full of addicts.  I avoided walking into that room for longer than I care to admit.  But I have and it is glorious.  Maybe only an addict can laugh at this, but one of the the group leaders self-deprecatingly shared with us how unlike other addicts he was sure he was – until one day he found himself sitting in a County jail reading a copy of “I’m Ok, You’re Ok”!!!!  Fortunately, he got out of the jail and generously shares his story with “newbies” like me because getting sober is a really scary thing at first.

I am excited about starting this journey with others instead of “white knuckling” it by myself.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to share parts of the journey with those who wish to read about it here.  Stay tuned!

How My Sobriety Is Like “Fuck You” Money!

Cheeky in 1988 - when I could chug a beer and feel good the next day!
Cheeky in 1988 – when I could chug a beer and feel good the next day!

September 13 will mark my 4-Month Sobriety Anniversary.  I am pretty excited.  I have done it all on my own – not even a single AA meeting, no sponsor, nothing but GRIT and DETERMINATION.  I have managed to turn around in my head all the old assumptions about why/how drinking made me a better person.  For instance:

1. “I cannot get through another “Back to School Night” without a nip of the old sauce” has changed to “I can go and enjoy noticing the OTHER parents who have had a nip or 2.”

2.  “I am just not fun anymore now that I cannot drink” has changed to “I am giving myself and my family a wonderful sense of stability and security knowing that I am fully present, alert and sober 24/7.”  That is KIND OF fun, right?

I have also learned a thing or two about how other people react when you tell them you are no longer drinking.  Many of them appear supportive – how can they NOT be, right – but there is always a little question at the end of their interactions that says, “Maybe in a few months you’ll be able to be like me again.”

The most amazing support I have received since admitting to myself and my friends and family that I am an alcoholic has come from the most astonishingly surprising places.  People in my midst that I  really did not think I had much of a connection with have continuously expressed positive, affirming, loving praise and kindness.  It helps a lot.  Especially when I feel my head exploding and would love to have a drink and a smoke!

 

After 4 months without drinking, I definitely feel more like my “old self” and am so happy to be embracing a life of acknowledging and avoiding addiction.  It is much more pure – it liberates me.  And it gives me the security that other people feel when they have “FUCK YOU MONEY” in the bank!  I have MYSELF in the bank.  I have MY ESSENCE.

Guess what else?  I am thinking about the future for the first time in many years.  I don’t feel trapped in a life I did not choose anymore.  No more self-pity.  It went away with the Malbec someplace far, far away!  I am back in college and pursuing a career in the allied health professions – and this goal I will ACTUALLY achieve and celebrate with CAKE and my FAMILY – not a bottle of Malbec in the darkness.  I am stronger, better, happier, and have that “Fuck You” attitude back that is healthy.

If you find yourself battling addiction – don’t hesitate to think about what I am saying and reach out for the support you need to move forward in your future.  It feels good to have SOBRIETY at my side….at all times…..covering me like Linus’ security blanket.Lucy-and-Linus