It’s the First Day of School…..again. Moms and Dads all over the world proudly and wistfully send their hearts out the door as their children take on a new year of challenges. I am all too familiar with the emotions this day brings. Big expectations and hopefulness, with a sprinkle of tears over the loss of another year of youth.
The start of a new school year is like a new chance – an opportunity to discover, redefine and experience life. Our kids probably don’t see it this way, but we parents know how rarely in life we get new chances – and how easy it can be to squander such a beautiful gift. THAT’S why it is bittersweet for us. We don’t want our kids to really know about the frightening and painful parts that new chances bring. Sentimentality overtakes our senses and before we know it, we are overlaying the new chance with memories, stories, pictures and gratitude our children were once innocent. That’s how the first day of school feels for me, anyway.
The backpacks stuffed with homemade craft projects coming in the door are in my past now. I have them all, they are overflowing in plastic tubs but many of them I have framed. The innocence and tenderness expressed through the art my children have bestowed upon us is one of the best experiences of parenthood. Now, instead of art projects, I look into their eyes for those signs of love and expressions of how they are relating to the world. This morning, I saw a freshness in my son’s eyes I have not seen in many years. Hopefully some of the storms of his early adolescence have passed. In my daughter’s eyes, I saw a beautiful, spirited young woman on the brink of leaving the nest – her “senior year” eyes. She loves her journey, and I think we are both on the same page: enjoy every minute.
So this brings me to my final point this morning: I have also been given a second chance, and today is a wonderful day to celebrate and “mark” it. 14 months ago, I began my recovery from addiction. I have been given a second chance to savor the present moment free from the numb world of alcohol. Living in the real world, fully present, each day committing to accepting my journey without altering it in any way – is a beautiful second chance. I am ready for Sophomore and Senior year of High School and incredibly humbled by the gift of this second chance. Even the difficult days are grounded in goodness because they are real and offer second chances to grow into the future.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
This is me today. In 9 days, I will celebrate my “First Sober Birthday” with my my AA friends and family. I feel grateful and humble and raw.
For every person, the desire to become sober and begin living a life in the truth, however imperfect, comes from unique motivations. Sadly, many find themselves seeking sobriety after huge losses or tragedy. I am lucky that my story is pretty simple. I knew alcohol consumed ME, not the reverse. I knew I needed to find something I wanted more than the feeling of numbness and relief I got from consuming an entire bottle of Malbec on my couch every night.
I was tired and afraid. Our family had been through so much and I sort of resented (WARNING! Resentment is so dangerous! ) having to start over again with our young children after the course my husband and I had put in motion in 2002 did not succeed. Starting over after moving to the comfort and simplicity of small town life in the company of dear friends, in every sense of the phrase, had not been in our consciousness whatsoever. It happened. Everything we had planned on failed (and then some) and we were forced to come up with another plan. Meanwhile, my parents were getting older and I resented the fact that I was so preoccupied with caring for my own family. I resented everybody and everything for a very long time. I lived with the awful sense of complete domination by choices of others for many years and it broke me. I started to drink. Then I started to need to drink. Then I couldn’t stop.
When you resent people and situations, you forget the power you have to change your life and you lose all hope of ever experiencing serenity. Though I did not know this is what I was doing when alcohol dominated my life, it was. And it was destroying me and moving closer to destroying my family. After suffering the indignity of watching a friendship and business partnership destroy my husband and interfere with our marriage, I did not want to live in the present any longer. My drinking was the equivalent of hiding beneath the covers.
Slowly, after many bad hangovers and raging outbursts that produced nothing but hurt feelings and distance between my husband and me, I began to have tiny inklings of desire to climb out of my self-protective shell (what irony, alcoholism is anything but) and live in the truth everyday. I couldn’t do it by myself. I had to be humble, grateful, open, raw, willing to confess my bad behavior, open to listening to others’ stories, and willing to being broken open over and over by memories and feelings I thought I had long ago dealt with at any moment. This is the life of a sober alcoholic. And it is beautiful.
“After we’ve been in A.A. for a while, we find out that if we’re going to stay sober, we have to be humble people. ….Gratitude to God for His grace makes me humble. When I think about the kind of person I was not so long ago, when I think of the person I left behind me, I have nothing to be proud of. Am I grateful and humble?”
Richmond W., 1954
At the end of the day, however imperfect, I want to live life instead of copping out. Even though unpleasant, feeling fear, anxiety, pain, dread and powerless are part of everyday life. I had to learn to cope. I love the lessons God is giving me, even unto this very moment, in coping with life and my feelings. It has given my family a new life. Sobriety is my joy and I am willing to fight for it every single day.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Accepting Endings And New Beginnings And The Process In Between 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.
Last year, ironically without anticipating all the difficult emotional terrain I would cover, I selected the word “Awaken” (or awake, I cannot recall!!) as my “Word of the Year.” Boy did I subconsciously Nail It! The Universe mercifully gave me lots of wake-up calls……and my Divine Power gave me the strength to answer. Suffice it to say, our family soared through potentially staggering emotional challenges and I am now a strong, proud “Friend of Bill’s” (aka Recovering Alcoholic).
This year, it took fewer than 5 minutes to imagine my guiding phrase/philosophy: “Abrazos Fuerte” – Translated from Spanish, it means “Strong Hugs.” Our wise and adoring Primo from Argentina (Spanish for Male First Cousin), Charlie, always ends his written communication with this beautiful phrase – it is his “signature.”
Cousin Charlie (pictured above, enjoying his 71st birthday in Bariloche, Argentina and in 1998, “supervising” my sister-in-law Christine in the family tradition of empanada making), is a strong and loving figure in our family. He is the existing “Patriarch” of the Tamburini family of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the homeland of my husband’s father, Mario Tamburini (my son has his name).
Charlie is the lifeline between my husband and his Argentinian heritage – he can tell us stories and share history that brings the family ancestry to life and provides a strong foundation for our children. When my husband and I announced the news of our engagement to the Argentinian branch of the family, they sent telegrams of congratulations and Charlie offered me abrazos fuerte in the form of one simple line: “Grandma Isabel is smiling for she would have found you extremely simpatico.” Simpatico means likeable and easy to get along with. WHO COULD ARGUE WITH THAT?!!!!
Anyway, life continues to amaze me and the journey would be impossible without MUCHOS ABRAZOS FUERTE. As a side note, I should add that the Tamburini family are known to be extremely strong huggers – so much so that my sisters, as Aunts, have had to caution my son Mario before hugging, “Not too hard, Mario!”. I am the proud Mother of 2 very strong huggers – they will do well in life.
The infamous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo published in Time Magazine from “V-J Day in Times Square 1945” really, for me, visually depicts the spirit of what I hope to achieve in everything I do with everyone I encounter in 2016. In life, one must march onward and celebrate moments with laughter and abrazos fuerte or else what the hell is the point?
Happy New Year, friends! May 2016 bring each of you your own special moments of warm embraces that melt away life’s jagged edges.
After 49 Thanksgivings, I finally “get” why it did not matter to my Mom, in her later years, whether our family ate dinner together on paper plates (themed, of course) or not. The mere fact that we were together was enough for her – and it should have been enough for me – but, alas, I needed more “road miles” in life to fully understand.
This Thanksgiving I am wildly and enthusiastically thankful for 4 Things:
To be curious is a state of willingness to allow life, ideas, people, nature and the world to enthrall and intoxicate you. In spite of my struggle this 49th year of my life on earth to discover and maintain a healthy sobriety, I am thankful to discover that I still experience the wonder of a child every single day. AMEN to that and keep the curiosity coming!
After all, it has been said, “interesting people are interested people.”
We all experience setbacks and many of them are stunning, paralyzing and utterly terrifying. Looking back, I really am thankful for each and every setback I have experienced. Not only am I learning humility, I am experiencing the ebb and flow of the journey and learning to take my EGO OUT OF IT. I mean, a mortal can only do so much – the Universe is so much larger and powerful, and there is no escaping the lessons we’re each meant to learn. To me, setbacks are just another way of experiencing mortality and human limitations. And like Garth Brooks famously crooned, “I thank God for unanswered prayers” every single day.
My husband and I were “curious” about life in a tiny town more than 200 miles away from our home so we packed up and moved away from friends, family, professional connections, and all the lovely comforts of city life. We stayed there 8 years. I joke that 2 of them were happy, but I seriously mean it! Looking back, that really is not true: my mental state was not happy because I was fighting the flow of our new lives. But something super cool I have discovered in mid-life: you can actually reflect back and accept what was once unimaginable and unendurable and it has the same effect – now my memories of what I thought was a “really dark time” are mostly funny and happy! I am so thankful for this gift.
A wise woman once told me, “Your kids aren’t always going to be this little.” Obvious statement of fact but, at the time, I could hardly imagine a time when my life was not dictated by play dates, diaper changes, snack times, story times, intrusive “Mom friends” and never-ending messes, usually involving bodily fluids. This is my beautiful daughter, now 16 years old, at 16 months old. I hardly remember the passing of time. Another wise woman, my own Mother, told me, “Honey, life will pass you by so quickly it will leave your head spinning.” And it has. She was right, as usual. I am thankful for my tribe of family, starting with my husband and children and colored with many interesting friends and co-workers. At the tender age of 49, I have learned how to assess quickly what “works” for my tribe and what needs to just go away! THANKS be to GOD!!
Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are, and whether you enjoy it on the finest china or paper plates. Life is a gift.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.