A New Story

I am realizing that continued sobriety is all about changing the story of my life. When I first quit I couldn’t see this story very clearly, just hoped and prayed that there was SOMETHING, ANYTHING, better than what I was doing. When I think of those times, those desperate days, months and years leading up to my quit, I still feel a familiar tightening in my gut. A familiar fear and anxiety that I never want to experience again. When I quit I was afraid that I was going to die from drinking, and none of my dreams would ever come true, and I would live out my days in fear that my life had become something ugly and that it was going to end that way, too. 

Quitting was a huge leap of faith, but there was some sort of inner knowledge, an intuition, telling me that there was more for me if I stopped sabotaging myself. Now that I am creeping slowly upon two years of continuous sobriety, I am seeing more and more of what that might be. The universe is a mysterious place, and my new story leaves plenty of room for wonderful surprises. It’s not all perfection, of course, life is hard sometimes sober or not, but I am so much more open to my truth than I once was. I am becoming more and more aligned with my values and creating a life that reflects that. It just keeps getting richer and deeper. I am excited about what is in store for me, while constantly working to be present, grateful, and authentic in the moment. Not easy, but so much easier than it was at first. 

I still struggle with negativity sometimes, it comes in waves every few days or weeks, but in my new story this negativity no longer defines me. I am not an egomaniac with an inferiority complex anymore…I think I am finally feeling something close to right-sized. I am truly comfortable being social, in the right circumstances, at least. It took over a year and a half, but the transformation happened, just like others said it would. 

I feel like my story is wide open. Instead of being a victim of the shitty circumstances of my life, I am the creator of a beautiful life. It’s all in perspective, and time, and healing the old wounds that drinking simply covered up or exacerbated for years and years. Again, it is not perfect by any means, but so much different and better than I could have imagined. 

Nostalgia

I used to worry constantly that I was missing out on something. In fact, I often drank to help numb the feeling that I was missing all of the cool happenings with the fun people of the world. I felt like everyone was out living amazing lives while I was sitting home feeling sad and alone, so why not drink? At least that way I might get drunk enough to go out and talk to people. But of course, if I left my house post-bottleofwhatever I wouldn’t remember talking to anyone, and I didn’t really act like myself while I was out, so I was left feeling sad and alone again. Sad, alone, and worried that I did something completely stupid by going out. A vicious, terrible cycle if you ask me.

I sometimes feel a mild nostalgia for those days, or for the people that I used to like drinking with, but those days are gone. I read a great line somewhere that said something like “once you experience nostalgia the thing you are feeling nostalgic about is long dead”,  and that makes so much sense to me. There is no going back once you get this far down the path of recovery. I could relapse, but I can’t unlearn what I have learned, and drinking will forever haunt me because I know how much more there is to life now. I genuinely used to think that drinking was the best. Now I am sad for the person who feels that way. Not sorry for them, but sad because life has a lot more to offer than hangovers and regrets. Life is different now in so many ways, and it is important to acknowledge that every once and again.

 

595 Days

It is amazing to me that I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in 595 days. I have been going through some transitions in my attitude, and I finally feel like it is all settling into place. I am learning who I am, what I want, and forging my own path in life. It doesn’t look anything like I thought it would look when I quit drinking. When I quit I couldn’t see very far outside of the box that drinking had placed me in. I knew my life couldn’t feel much worse, but I had no idea how much better it could actually be. I had no idea that I was stepping into the light, beginning a path of healing where I would eventually release a lot of old baggage and fears. Here are some example of how my life, thinking, and feelings have changed since I put the damn bottle down.

I used to be extremely angry at my parents. I was angry at their drinking, the fact that we moved a lot while I was growing up, the way they handled their divorce, their denial around alcoholism. I still have momentary glimpses of that anger, but for the most part I have dealt with it. We might never have the relationship that I want, but I finally can see that nobody has a perfect relationship with their parents. Mine might have involved a certain level of trauma, but that is in the past. I am learning how to parent myself and now I can accept our relationships for what they are. Doing that has made these relationships, and myself, happier and healthier.

I no longer feel frightened of authority figures. I used to carry this shame around with me, even when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I felt like I was on the verge of being arrested, or somehow called into question, whenever I was around an authority figure. I felt like a phony and a fraud. I did break the law sometimes, which didn’t help these feelings, but I carried more shame than I needed to. I have put that baggage aside, and I no longer feel afraid of those with power greater than my own.

I have stopped comparing my life with the lives of others, at least somewhat. I used to feel crippled by those kinds of thoughts, from the time that I was quite young; I think it started in junior high school and I never really stopped. Maybe because I started drinking at age 14? I think one of the ways my development was affected by drinking was that I never learned about my own “locus of control”. I was always a victim of my circumstances instead of feeling like I could change them. I had a few glimpses of healthier self-esteem and greater self-efficacy throughout my adult years, but the drinking always brought me back to bad places. Now that the drinking is done, I have been better able to dig myself out of that hole. I have realized that I have the power to create my own life, especially if I focus on myself and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.

I am no longer paralyzed with self doubt whenever I start something new. I used to be a perfectionist who often didn’t do things due to fear of failure. I now see that as being very silly, even if it is amazingly common. I try to break things down into much smaller chunks so that a project doesn’t look so overwhelming. I also give myself more breaks. Discipline, self-acceptance and kindness actually go quite well together!

I am sure there are many more, but those are some of the positive things that I have been noticing lately. I am a work in progress, and I am totally okay with that. Progress not perfection, my friends!

Facing The Past

I have a criminal record. A rap sheet with quite a number of charges on it, from three different states, spanning twelve years of my life. Most of the charges ended up being dismissed, but there are two misdemeanor DUI charges and a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge that are convictions.

I have spent a lot of time sidestepping this fact, or pretending that it didn’t matter, or denying that it would affect my life. Something happened recently that changed my mindset. I got sick last month. Weirdly sick with some kind of urinary tract infection or kidney infection, or something else perhaps, that my doctor couldn’t figure out. I was in some pain, and scared, and I spent a lot of time thinking about my life and the way I live it. The illness went away after about a month, but I am left with the feeling that I want to do more with my time here on Earth.

While I was actively drinking I let a lot of things fall through the cracks. I dropped out of graduate school after making a big mess of my master’s program, got into legal trouble in spurts from the time I was eighteen, and let my finances crumble to the point where there were legal implications as well as some damage to my credit. I denied that all of these things were problems. Or at least, they were problems that were inexplicably happening to me even though I was living perfectly. I was a victim. I denied alcohol’s role and took no personal responsibility.

It’s not my fault that cops are assholes. It’s not my fault that my professors hate me and don’t want me to succeed in this stupid program. It’s not my fault that the credit system is made to only help rich people. It’s not my fault, you see. None of this is my fault. 

Good news: I am finally facing my record. At least I think it is good news… a step in the right direction towards making amends. I am trying my best to clean up the messes that I made during my drinking years. Some of it can never be cleaned up and will haunt me forever, but I am not scared of it anymore. I will no longer lie about it or try to hide it or hope that my records are somehow destroyed in a freak fire. No, it is a part of me. A scar from my past that has made me stronger today. A good reminder that I can never go back down that path unless I want to completely ruin my life. A reminder that I don’t ever want to go back down that path. I like living free of fear and feeling happy with myself when I wake up in the morning. I am grateful for the ups and downs of my life.

Recovery is possible, friends. It might take vigilance and time, but it is possible.

A Mishmash

I have a few things floating around in my brain that I want to get out, here today, at 526 days sober. I have been doing some thinking and a lot of obsessing. Some good, some bad. Such is life, but I am hoping for a breakthrough of some sort soon. I think writing here, in this lovely space, will help that happen. So I have a mishmash of a post here today. I need to clear my brain and let it all go. Thanks in advance for braving through it with me.

I enjoyed reading all the special words chosen for 2015. I have decided, quite late to the party, that my word for the year is inspiration. It keeps hitting me in different ways the more I think about it, which I love. I think it something that could be a lot more present in my life. I sometimes feel that life is meaningless, but when I choose inspiration I don’t feel that way. I feel a spark light up inside of me. Inspiration doesn’t just magically strike, at least not always; it needs to be sought out and given room to grow. So choosing this word means spending more time seeking inspiration in my everyday life. It also means trying my best to be an inspiration to others (humbly, oh so humbly) by living my best life. How else does it fit? Pursuing the spark of inspiration by writing and creating art. So, inspiration it is. Thank you to those ahead of me for inspiring me to choose a special word for 2015. Inspiration is truly everywhere.:)

I have also realized recently, maybe today even, that one of my biggest addictions is trying to control the world around me with obsessive thoughts. I don’t always do it, but when something is bothering me I think about it and worry over it until I feel in my bones that I have determined the outcome one way or another. Something clicked for me today, maybe when I was listening to an episode of the Bubble Hour, but I realized that oh hey, I don’t have to determine an outcome for every so-called problem that appears in my life. I don’t need to figure it all out. In fact, I can’t figure it all out, nothing big ever works the way I plan it, and trying is a huge waste of my time and energy. Epiphany!

For example, the past few days I have been obsessing over whether or not I should have another baby. I have thought about the pros, the cons, decided yes, decided no, talked to friends and family about the matter, talked to my husband about it, worried, and stressed. Yes, people do sometimes plan pregnancies or protect themselves against them, but in reality I have limited control over this. Since I have thought about this so much, I know that I will be okay no matter what, that my happiness does not depend in any way on the outcome of this decision, and that the ultimate fate of my uterus is in hands greater than mine. God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it. I am not calling the shots here, even if I desperately want to know what happens in the end. The stories that I tell myself about this subject aren’t helping me, and no matter what happens I will learn something. In fact, I am sure that I will learn valuable lessons no matter what.

This is an recent example, but these types of thoughts are pretty normal for me. I need to plan! I need to figure everything out! I am actually really happy with life right now, but I need to get out of my own way. I am ruining my own happiness. What a waste of a short life.

It is time to set down this heavy load and let myself be happy. It was these kinds of thought patterns that kept me stuck drinking and numbing. I am not numb anymore, I do not drink anymore, so it is time to let that baggage go. It is time to change. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind. I think I need to hold it a bit closer these days. I feel like I always need to qualify these things by saying that I am not all that religious, and that I don’t go to AA, but who really cares in the end? Sometimes wisdom is just wisdom. Here is the beginning of the Serenity Prayer if you want to read it, too.

the-serenity-prayer

Wishing you all serenity today.

Small Things

I think I am learning how to let go of perfectionism. It looks something like this: realizing that nothing is ever perfect, that I make mistakes, and that is okay. Trying over when I do not do something the way that I planned. Working at my goals day by day. Chipping away instead of giving up if I do not do it right. Oh, and getting rid of the word right. And the word wrong. And the word perfect.

Except for drinking. I am “not drinking” perfectly because I don’t drink alcohol anymore. It is pretty easy to stay perfect at that goal as long as I don’t drink ever again. Drink, or don’t drink. I choose not to drink. Because I feel happier than I think I ever have, and I 100% believe that getting rid of drinking is the cause. Well, the cause that led to many other causes in a sort of snowball effect from quitting.

Not drinking alcohol anymore makes me feel like I can do lots of good things as long as I take them one day at a time. There is no need to worry so much about the outcome of everything, rather just fill up my time doing things that make me feel pretty good. And some chores, because lets face it, life is full of chores that must be done and not all of them are particularly fun. In fact, a lot of the things that I choose to do are not particularly fun while I am doing them, but they make me feel good and help me in some way. I feel good afterwards because they are finished. How strange.

I have been writing every day, just for me. I have been exercising more. I have been building my little business slowly. I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I spend whole days not exercising or working or writing. I let my toddler watch too much TV on those days. I mope and I am not particularly nice. But most days I do a little more than that. I write a page. I go for a walk. I get up and go to the gym early in the morning. I brainstorm business ideas. I put ideas into practice. I play with my toddler instead of allowing him to be hypnotized by TV. I go out into the world and say hello to people and look them in the eye and try to connect.

These things cannot be looked at too closely or they will fall apart. If I let myself look at the big picture or think about them too much I will panic and shut them down. My inner monologue goes something like this, “There is no way I will ever do this correctly so why even try? My little effort means absolutely nothing when there are people out there doing much bigger and better things. Who do I think I am to take this on in the first place? What is the point of life anyway? Why do humans do so many pointless things? Why not spend the rest of my time here on Earth with my head stuck in a bottle since THERE IS NO POINT TO ANYTHING ANYWAY?”

Sorry to yell, but it gets pretty rough when I travel down that old familiar road.

I can’t allow myself to follow those thought patterns anymore. I am NOT following these thought patterns as much anymore. They are unhelpful and fueled by fear. I try to focus on the positives, and take it one day, one small baby step, one little goal, at a time. I remember that we all matter, we all have things to share, and we are all worthwhile in so many ways. We are worth the effort it takes to make lasting changes in our lives and to be genuinely happy.

No wonder recovery is a lifelong process. I think I am just beginning down this path.

Life Lessons

This week has been hard. I’ve been holding onto my sobriety with a tight grip, knowing that drinking won’t do anything good, but desiring the fade out and numbing of my feelings that drinking would provide. Epiphanies, small and large, have been coming one after another, along with a lot of self doubt and uncertainty that I am on the right path.

Epiphanies are cool yet sometimes painful. I have been seeing more clearly the ways in which I have, and still am, living in fear a lot of the time. It is a hard thing to look at honestly because it hurts to see those flaws in myself- to allow myself to be truly vulnerable, even to myself.

I know that isolation is the bain of many alcoholics, but I never saw myself as isolating per se. Instead I told myself that I was a loner. I enjoyed my own company more than that of others. Instead of looking for my people I decided that there were no people like me in the world. I longed to write and needed the space and isolation to do so. Artists have to suffer! They have to weep and self destruct! There are some truths to these words, in these thoughts, but they are not the whole truth. They are not MY truth. I have been living my life shielded by my loner status to avoid the possibility of being rejected by others. To avoid having to show my true self to others. To avoid being vulnerable. And the truth hurts.

That’s the thing about quitting drinking. You no longer have a shield of alcohol to rely on when you are around people or things that scare you. You have to look people in the eye and see them and let them see you. This is a wonderful thing because it allows relationships to develop and form and grow. But it is also hard, especially when you have spent your entire life hiding from others. When you grew up hiding because your family hides and that is simply what people do.

I’ve begun to think that this blog is another way of hiding, which is not to say that it hasn’t been absolutely crucial in getting me sober. I don’t have to talk to people face to face about my drinking, or lack thereof, if I stay home and write about it on the Internet.** When faced with the shortness of life, I have realized that I don’t want to live this way anymore. Instead, I want to ravage life. I want to live it to the absolute fullest. I don’t want to hide away to stay sober. I want to mingle with all the people and experience all of the things, though I think I have experienced about all the alcohol I can handle in one lifetime, so that’s still out.

I was reading an article the other day. I don’t remember where it was from, or who wrote it, and I apologize if it was someone reading this blog because I didn’t like what it had to say. The individual spoke of treating her alcohol addiction as a disability and learning how to work around it for the rest of her life. I have been living my life like my addiction is a disability, so I see where this idea comes from, but I hate the idea of disability in the first place. Why can’t we just be people, with differences. Why do we have to “work around” anything? Why can’t we accept each other as we are? I want to heal the reasons that I drank so much in the first place so that I can go anywhere and do anything without requiring the fake fix that alcohol provides. I want to find my own elation in the world. A way of being that simply does not require or want alcohol to be a part of it. I don’t want to sequester myself into a tiny corner of the world and hide there forever.

Whew. Felt good to get that out.

**Edit: I am not judging anyone for writing about sobriety online. It has been a totally cool, amazing thing for me. Any way you get or stay sober totally freaking rocks. Not that you need to hear this from me, but I wanted to clarify my statement a little.