So I was out for a walk this morning with my dog-daughter, the inimitable Ms. Betty Boop the Mini-Schnauzer (you can find her at #bettybooptheschnauzer on Instagram), and I saw someone off in the distance walking along the lakefront, strumming a guitar and singing.
Sadly, I was not close enough to hear exactly what was being sung, and I never got close enough, because at some point this very minstrel-esque human turned off onto a sidewalk and started strolling down a road in the other direction, slowly moving away from me.
But just watching them walk away, totally comfortable and at peace and surrounded by their own music, gave me this feeling of deep comfort and peace myself.
And… like, also, it left me with a sense of wanting to surround myself with my own happy “music” too, whatever that might look like. I mean, I feel like having a positive morning “anthem” that I hop out of my bed and jam out to whenever I wake up would be a great way to start the day. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
But since I can’t play the guitar and I only sing in the shower (badly), I think surrounding myself with my own personal happy music might look more like playing these Starbucks commercials in my head and humming along to them — at least for right now.
Y’all. These commercials rock. And I would just loooove to have a personal pep squad following me around during my day, for no other reason than to sing my praises. For reals.
(This may also partially explain my strong affinity for Starbucks iced coffee in my sobriety years, since I was really NEVER a coffee lover of any kind in my 20s or early 30s.)
Anyway. What’s your fight song for the day? 🙂
For context on this post, and links to related journal entries from this particular piece of my life's journey, see My Sobriety Journey, Journaled.
I am a loud-and-proud mega-dork, which is the only explanation I can give to preface the pics I am about to post along with this bit of writing, which are the result of a somewhat craftsy project I attempted after waking up to 6 inches of snow on the ground on a quiet New Year’s Day in the Arizona desert (!!).
Me and the pup were both feeling a little cabin fever, since we were mostly hanging out in the RV with the heater running so we could stay toasty warm in the unexpectedly cold weather. So I decided that spending some time making matching puppy and puppy mom fleece vests (with NAMES on them, of course) was the way to go. It definitely kept my hands occupied. And I am kind of in love with the dorkiness of matchy-matchy outfits now.
So anyway, as far as my drinking story goes, which is what we are really here to talk about, right…
I come from a long line of closet alcoholics, perfectionists, and overachievers. I started drinking at the age of 18 and pretty much never stopped, from that tender age straight through until just this past year. Well… with the exception of a few months here and there (“scared straight” stretches of time that usually came after I did something really regrettable or was told about doing something really regrettable that I had little to no memory of).
I’m a 9/11 military veteran, and I remember joking around in my early 20s with my military roommate (who was also my best friend at the time) that we would both need to go to rehab together at some point in the future, with the amount that we were drinking.
Isn’t it interesting how humor lets us blurt out the starkly blatant truth, to let out what we’re really thinking, under the comforting veil of a “joke”?
But I think even at that time, some deep hidden part of me knew that what I was joking around about wasn’t really a joke at all. It was a glimpse of insight into a murky future that terrified me. But this is the home of brave, after all… so I didn’t let that terror slow me down ONE BIT when it came to drinking. In fact, that terror just became yet another reason to drink. To numb out. To not have to think about the murky future.
Indeed, it took at least another decade and a half for me to even begin to acknowledge that I needed to change my ways, to stop denying the damage I was doing to myself — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. And with that dawning realization, I began a slow slide into a years-long avalanche of attempts at magical-seeming “quick-fix” solutions, during which I tried all sorts of ways that I thought would SURELY help me in drying out / moderating / slowing down / getting healthier / centering myself — including yoga retreats, juice fasting retreats, fitness retreats, a stay at an ashram in Texas, and going off to intuitively paint my feelings away in the woods with the help of Franciscan nuns.
And some of that stuff worked for a while, but none of the quick-fixes “took” long-term. I mean, you can retreat all you want to, but real life is always there waiting for you when you get back, you know?
Anyway, after going through a rough divorce in 2017 and ending up in a place where none of that expensive quick-fix stuff was really an option anymore, I finally realized what I should have all along — that I had to pull up my big-girl pants, and dig deep in my heart, and find in ME what it took to do this, because no one could do it for me… and that led me to the realization that — surprise, surprise — what I needed had actually been inside of me all along, not waiting for me in some fancy retreat setting (although retreat settings are really nice, to be honest… and I’d totally go back to all of those beautiful places again one day, just without the expectation that they would “fix” me in any way, you know).
Ironically, while much of the aforementioned quick-fix spiritual soul-searching activity was going on, I was actually working as a holistic life coach, and one of my specialties was leading discussion groups at substance abuse recovery facilities (back in those days, I was good at helping everyone except myself, it seemed).
However, despite my intimate familiarity with the recovery community (and — intellectually, anyway — with the tools needed to successfully navigate the recovery process), I still floundered a lot in my own recovery efforts. A lot a lot. I mean, sooooo much. Like a third grader with bad behavior being forced to go back to kindergarten to relearn the rules of being a good human — like THAT kind of floundering.
Truth: When I first found the online sobriety support group I’m a part of now… I had this weird, off-kilter feeling for months, like I just didn’t “get it” on the level that everyone else did. I mean, intellectually, I did technically understand what everyone was talking about… but emotionally… I just didn’t feel like I was moving forward in the same way that everyone else seemed to be.
Because, y’all, real talk… my sobriety is imperfect. And my early sobriety was way, WAY imperfect. I spent a lot of it wondering why I felt like I was drawn to suddenly want to drink MORE, now that I’d made the decision to quit, and worrying that I was missing something on some fundamental level since I wasn’t racking up double- and triple-digit sober days right out of the gate.
It felt like everyone else was ahead of me. And that seriously made me feel like a failure. (I was really good at queuing up the old scripts and stories that I’d been telling myself about my life to support that feeling, too.)
I stuck with it, my whole third-grade-but-really-kindergarten-level sobriety effort, despite my many “failures,” and ended up meeting a few really great sober friends along the way, and finding the guts to get back in touch with my therapist to process a load of emotional mess that came up during my early sobriety efforts, and as a result of all of that, I ended up making strides I never thought I could, and finally, FINALLY embracing the “sober mentality” that I felt like I had been chasing for so long.
Of course… looking back now, I realize that because we are constantly growing and changing, my “sober mentality” is also an ever-evolving thing, and not something that I ever really have to chase down. It’s always been a part of me, I just needed to learn how to listen to the quiet wisdom it has always been whispering to me.
Anyway, all that is to say, mostly… hello! 🙂 And also to say… hey, I’m no sobriety expert, and I don’t claim to be. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m sure that will be true for the rest of my life. At least, I hope it will, because otherwise life would be super boring. In any event, I’m more than a bit curious to see how things unfold over the next few months and beyond.
And thanks for listening. Big hugs to all!
For context on this post, and links to related journal entries from this particular piece of my life's journey, see My Sobriety Journey, Journaled.
So. Today’s recovery group mantra has me repeating over and over that “my beauty is made in the fire.”
And this mantra, while it feels truthful to me… well… meh… that truthfulness has the bitter taste of an ironic sort of slap-in-the-face thing to me. Which kinda sucks, on an emotional level.
But it is still probably, overall, one of the cooler and more thought-provoking mantras we’ve covered so far, at least to me — primarily because it’s about FIRE. (I’m just not a super-fan of mantras in general, FYI.)
So yeah. Fire.
FIRST of all… don’t get me wrong, I’m the polar opposite of a pyromaniac.
I mean… I’ll be honest, y’all, I’m actually terrified of fire almost to the point of rabid, drooling paranoia at times… like, well… I’m not really sure what I believe about past lives, but if you look at things from the science-y side where energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only changes forms… I’ve actually wondered a few times if maybe I was burned at the stake in another life or something, because that’s quite literally how terrified I feel of fire and its many, many, manyyyyyy oh-so-numerous potential dangers.
I mean, terrified, like… going to a camping outing and spending all night worrying that a stray spark from the fire your friends built (and that is currently located THREE TENTS AWAY) is going to catch your tent on fire, that sort of thing. Yeah. That’s me. And I mean, terrified, like… living in an RV and NEVER, EVER using the stove YOU PAID FOR because it requires you to light a match and stick it in a stream of propane gas. Yep. Me again. I kinda think maybe you’re starting to get the idea?
Anyway, many people (me included, oftentimes) seem to think firstly of fire as a destructive force.
The thing we don’t seem to often think about is that it is also a force necessary to sustain, regenerate and renew life.
Sustain — in that it gives us the ability to stay warm and cook our food, etc. Regenerate and renew — in the context of basic fire ecology: fires are essential to the sustained health of a forest by clearing overgrowth, returning nutrients to the soil, and providing new habitats to wildlife in the form of burned trees. In fact, I’ve been told that some vegetation actually requires the heat of fire in order for its seeds to propagate (and I think that’s SUPER cool).
So fire can be really f*cking scary, but it can also bring REALLY good things in its aftermath.
Beautiful things. Renewal. New life.
And I really like that whole analogy as it applies to the recovery/sobriety journey.
So anyway. Here’s a story for you, and a true one.
One day a few years back, I was taking a brisk walk through an urban park I’d trekked through many times before, and I made my normal loop and then turned back on the route returning toward my car, and while retracing my steps… I came across a tree with its base, quite literally, on fire, y’all.
And I was confused and scratching my head (as I placed my first-ever-in-life personal call to the fire department), because I’d just walked past this same tree, like, less than 10 minutes before, and it had appeared fiiiiiine, or at least, not noteworthy to me at the time.
And it was one of those trees planted in those little ovals of grass next to a walkway, surrounded by concrete and sidewalk on both sides, you know, so it seemed so completely random and without any discernible cause.
And the only thing I could think of at the time was that maybe someone had walked by and thrown a cigarette butt on the dry grass at the base of the tree.
And I actually never found out exactly what caused that tree to burn, but wow, it went up fast. The fire department was already on its way from another bystander’s call, or so they told me just before I pulled my car out of one of the park’s many parking lots, and I assume they took care of it, because it wasn’t a big story on the news that night.
But I did start Googling a lot of things about random fire events after that, because I was curious (you know, my fire paranoia in action and all) about what it could have been.
And OMG, y’all… I found out, in the course of this research, that — lo and behold — fire can actually travel through the root systems of trees and bushes and other vegetation, and in fact, it can smolder beneath the ground for DAYS even after a fire seems to be out (and if you’ve seen the movie Backdraft or read about the Combustion Triangle, this isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it seems… and this is exactly the kind of nerdy stuff that toooootally fascinates me… and of course, feeds my terrors at the same time).
Anyway, there was a big open field on the other side of the sidewalk, across from this tree, that had burned the previous week, so there was a lot of black scorched vegetation not too far away, but in between these two areas was nothing but concrete. But if the root systems of those two areas had any sort of connection, it was possible for that fire to jump… from that blackened, burned field… to that single, solitary tree. I mean… wow. Just wow. Isn’t that wild? (Ahem, insert “wildfire” pun here. **cough, cough** Totally ironic coughing too, FYI.)
Anyway, the point is, I feel like my journey so far has had quite a few of those smoldering-roots-erupting-into-new-flames moments — necessary moments, I suppose, but moments that still blindsided me like sudden, scorching flames flaring up in front of my unsuspecting face (usually coming RIGHT when I felt like, yeah… I’ve got this! oh shiiiiit, no I don’t!) and I definitely felt the heat, the burn. The pain of it.
So many moments of renewal… and relearning.
And I can’t help but wonder if this is what Pema Chodron means when she talks about the difference between the burn of “hot loneliness” and how the experience of cool loneliness is so profoundly different — like in the moments during the fire, and then after.
Anyway, these are just a bunch of wandering thoughts that I wanted to put down on paper to sort them out a bit from where they were floating around in the back of my head. I’m kind of an analogy lover, in case you didn’t already guess. I think that’s how my mind tends to try to sort through what it deems “mostly unsortable” data.
Because nothing is unsortable, damn it.
And thanks for listening. 🙂
For context on this post, and links to related journal entries from this particular piece of my life's journey, see My Sobriety Journey, Journaled.
So I had a ROUGH, rough, rough emotional night last night, and felt 1,000% overwhelmed due to a bunch of things that were and are completely out of my control (control freak perfectionist here, hi!), and all of the feelings and rawness and things just going WRONG on me — all of that collided in just the right way to crack me open like a fragile little egglet, leaving me sobbing and leaking a TON of messy fluids everywhere and just feeling, like, broken, you know?
And at the peak of that emotional carnage, ultimately (along with enough crying to puff my eyelids for days), I gave in to some alcohol cravings that I now realllllly wish I hadn’t caved to… especially since one more night would have made the longest sober streak I’ve had yet.
So then of course, this morning I had to deal with the killer headache and the shitty regret hangover, both of which SUCK… but I think the regret hangover is worse for me than the actual physical hangover.
But I decide how my story ends! Right? (Am I trying to give myself a pep talk? Yes. Yes, I am.)
And actually I think last night helped cement in my head some realizations about myself that are gonna be key in my long-term sobriety. Because as much as I hate to admit it, I really kinda felt like EVERY day was a struggle up to this point.
(P.S. Why does admitting that recovery has been a huge struggle for me feel like such a dirty little secret!? Have I been sober-shaming myself with this need to “hide” or cover up the fact that this whole process has been SUPER F*CKING HARD so far? I think on some level, I have for a long while felt like, if you’re doing it “right” and just basically “killing it” at recovery, then it shouldn’t be a struggle. But I don’t think that’s right. I think sometimes it just IS hard. And that’s okay.)
But anyway… all of that is to say, I think this morning I reached critical mass for just surrendering this whole recovery process to a higher power than myself instead of continuing to struggle against it (and myself) every day. So I guess there are really truly no mistakes. Even the f*ck-ups and missteps in “falling off the wagon,” as some call it.
(Sidenote: Regarding the “higher power” concept, I feel the need to clarify that I definitely don’t subscribe to all of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, some of the beliefs that AA asks its members to embrace just don’t sit well with me at all. But the idea of opening myself to the wisdom and guidance of a higher power rings true for me, because I do believe that the universe guides me, when I’m willing to listen.)
Anyway, I’m feeling a lot lighter emotionally and mentally in my sobriety today than I ever have before… which is amazing, considering how my night went.
Lots of love and hugs to all, and thanks for listening to this rambling bit of processing.
So here’s the truth. I spent most of 2017 struggling. With a lot of things, really. With EVERYTHING… or at least, it felt like that some days.
I was struggling against a divorce process that I didn’t want to be going through (but that was also probably one of the best things that could’ve happened to me as far as my love life goes… because hindsight is 20/20 and all that).
I was struggling with fears over my future and how I would survive being ripped away from everything that I’d known for most of my adult life, everything that I believed in, everything that I’d built my life around.
The ex was the main breadwinner in our household at the time, and had (in my opinion) helped to cultivate a whole “monetary value equals personal worth” thing in our relationship dynamic for years (but only after he started making more money than me, interestingly), and when you couple that with the fact that I ended up having to sell/donate a lot of my stuff and live with friends and family for a while after the divorce, well… I found myself just sort of bouncing around in a half-hearted, reactionary, ungrounded state during a large part of 2017… feeling lost… feeling completely unsure of myself… feeling unsure of what I even really wanted.
I was struggling with unhealthy behaviors that were escalating out of control… binge eating, drinking myself to sleep, late nights spent sexting and/or having phone sex with people I’d met online but never ever planned to meet in real life (you know… the exact opposite of any sort of meaningful connections, basically).
And all of that left me feeling empty and alone in the long run, you know? I mean, when the distractions were over — when the food and alcohol was gone (or I just couldn’t consume anymore of either because I’d made myself sick), when whatever high-class human I’d been sexting randomly stopped responding to my late-night messages… there was just… nothing. Emptiness. A never-ending hole inside me demanding to be filled with something other than what I was attempting to fill it with.
I was also struggling with identity issues and feelings of being a fraud at work, since I held myself out as a health and fitness coach, and spent my days helping other people get their sh*t together, and was even getting paid to lead discussion groups at in-patient and IOP recovery clinics (so basically, I’d been spending a lot of time giving everyone else the advice that I needed to be taking myself but absolutely wasn’t taking).
So like… with 2017 being soooo f*cking hard, I just had this idea in my head that 2018 would be like “The Year of Trish,” you know (catch that “Happy Endings” reference, anyone)? Like… I imagined this major turnaround in my life, where I would get it ALL together with gusto and banners flying and balloons and celebration. Huzzah! You know? Or something like that.
Anyway, 2018 has turned out to be a year of change, for sure, and challenges, and growth, and learning, but it’s been NOTHING like what I expected. There haven’t been any banners or balloons, and it definitely hasn’t been an easy-peasy walk in the park.
I did decide to take a lot of leaps of faith this year, though. So maybe 2018 is the year of the leap?
I mean… I leapt into the full-time RV lifestyle this year, embracing my independence in finally not having to live with family anymore, and embracing a dream I’ve held onto quietly for years about living a free-wheelin’ nomadic adventure.
I leapt into this online recovery support group I recently joined, and started doing the work to confront my alcohol overuse issues, and actually finally got real with myself (and a few close friends and family) about my drinking.
I leapt into therapy. Again. I’d actually been in therapy to help me process some of the issues surrounding my divorce for a while prior to this, but this time I came back to get real with my therapist about my drinking and eating issues (something I’d not discussed or revealed to her up to that point).
And I’ve been slowly leaping (err… as much as anyone can slowly leap… which I guess entails waiting motionless for a while and then making a big dramatic jump, and repeating that process over and over again) into the practice of not pushing down my feelings, of being with them as they arise, and of not holding myself back from speaking my truth. And that’s a work in progress.
But I’m looking forward to 2019 with a sense of hopeful curiosity. Which is, I suppose, all anyone can really do, right?
And I’m so grateful to be able to be here right now sharing these feelings and insights with you all. I think there’s a kind of magic in the group synergy of conscious presence and intent that exists in the sacred spaces we create for ourselves, whether online or in-person. And this feels like a sacred space to me. I hope it does to you as well.
So I’m kind of a “challenge-all-social-norms, alternative-lifestyle-embracing” sort of girl, and probably mostly not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay. I actually think my unique blend of quirks and weirdnesses are the exact parts of my personality that drew me to this online recovery support group that I’m a part of now like a homing beacon.
And when I first found this community of special humans, the recovery space they shared — online thought it may have been — just felt like home to me. Probably more than my own familial home growing up ever did, honestly, even though I love my family with all my heart. I mean, the amount of acceptance and love in the words I’ve seen shared in this space, between total strangers on the internet, is just, like… an uber-supportive, all-encompassing, spiritually touching approach to sobriety that I’ve never been exposed to before (and I worked in the recovery business for several years, so that’s saying something).
Anyway, now that I’m a part of this community of special humans… as tends to happen in support groups, I find that I’m often re-introducing myself to the group, whenever there are new people that come into it. And since I think it could be an interesting thing for me to witness how my own introduction of myself to others — especially in relation to my recovery — changes over time, I’m going to record my latest re-introduction posts here, going forward. So here goes…
Hey there, y’all. I’m Trish. I’m a relatively recently divorced 9/11 military veteran, have been leading an ethically non-monogamous lifestyle for the past 6 years or so, and am a newbie full-time RV dweller (by choice) who is about to migrate from Southern California to Arizona for the winter.
I’ve struggled with alcohol for about 20 years, with my divorce and subsequent issues probably bringing that more to the forefront over the past couple of years than in the past. I’ve also struggled with eating disorder issues rather sporadically throughout that whole time. The eating disorder stuff was really bad for part of my early 20s, but I thought I had totally kicked it, until I started purposefully trying to incorporate periods of sobriety into my life over the past few years. And then, surprise surprise, the eating disorder behaviors reared their ugly head again.
I’ve actually spent the past few months with my therapist working through how all of that mess is tied together with my tendency to subsume my own desires for those of my romantic partners, and have basically been learning to stop repressing my feelings so much, so that I won’t feel as strong of a need to turn to consumption of anything (food or alcohol) as a numbing or distraction agent.
That’s definitely a work in progress, but I’ve started practicing… IDK… “conscious vulnerability,” I guess is what I would call it, with trusted friends and family thus far, and it’s been… well, way more positive of an experience than I expected. I’ve read a lot of Brene Brown’s stuff (“Daring Greatly,” “The Gifts of Imperfection,” etc.), and I guess it makes more sense to me now how sharing the story of my softer and more vulnerable parts has made me feel strangely better. But dang, it sure doesn’t make sharing that stuff any less scary.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Sharing is hard, y’all.
So… I just last year came out of a painful divorce from a 13+ year live-in relationship, and was financially shell-shocked/traumatized enough from that to not EVER want to be dependent on another person like that again… a situation that ultimately spurred me to finally embrace a lifestyle that I’ve been secretly pining for for quite a while… and so I became a conscious nomad, of sorts. Which basically means that, after living with family for months, I decided to get an RV and strike out on my own. Making the RV my actual home. Yep, you read that right. My home has wheels.
It might be an odd choice to some, akin to embracing homelessness (I prefer the term “houselessness,” actually), but I have a wanderer’s soul, and having the freedom to go where my heart pulls me, combined with having a place that’s just MINE no matter what, that is paid for and that nobody can take from me, after the hell and financial insecurity of divorce, is actually amazing.
I’m still pretty new to the nomad thing, so I’m sorta taking it easy on the traveling around, making little baby hops here and there, not very far, you know, that sort of thing.
The pic above is actually one that I took myself, and it reminds me a lot of how far I’ve come on the journey of my life thus far.
I came across this oh-so-appropriate mindfulness message on the sidewalk one day about a year before my ex asked for a divorce. I was at work, on my lunch break, taking a walk to clear my head. We’d been fighting on the phone (again), and I’d suggested couples therapy or counseling, and he didn’t want to hear it, and the conversation hadn’t ended well.
It actually ended with me in tears, wandering watery-eyed and confused around the streets of the neighborhood, if I’m being honest. I felt like I was shattering, like I was going to die if I lost him, like he was my whole world, like we’d been together so long it felt like I didn’t know who I even was without him. And nothing made sense.
How had this happened, how had I let it happen, how had I failed at marriage so badly, how come he didn’t love me enough to stay… all these questions and so many more were spiraling in my mind.
And then I looked down and saw these words that someone had etched in the cement of the paved sidewalk at my feet: “YOU ARE HERE.”
And I’m not even sure I can totally explain everything that went through my head right then, but it just somehow… stopped me from going deeper into my dark mental rabbit hole. Because…
You are here. This is a journey, a process, a stop along the way, and there’s more to come.
And you are HERE, breathing, alive, able to enjoy the sun and the breeze and the birds and squirrels and trees, and you’re not doing yourself any favors if you stay so mired in your own misery that you let yourself miss it, all of this awesomeness.
You are here. YOU. You. Nobody else. And you are strong, and unique, and some parts of you may be bittersweet and tough for some people to swallow, but that’s okay, because you have a flavor all your own that is just right for YOU, that is just the right amount of sweet and tangy and salty and all of the other things that you are. You are enough. In fact, you are an absolutely delicious treat.
You are here. And that is pretty amazing.
And as hard as life is sometimes — especially when things feel like they might be forever broken and the edges of my feelings press into me like cut glass and I just bleed emotion — I really do believe that the universe is guiding me.
And it’s moments like this that make me believe.
Hey there, y’all. I just wanted to check in. It’s been a while. I do miss talking to you all.
I’ve been less active in writing than I’d like the past few weeks, since I recently adopted a new puppy who is basically eating up almost all my free time at the moment. She doesn’t have all her shots yet so she can’t even go outside, which means both of us are cabin-fever-y together for about the next… oh… EIGHT weeks or so (yikes), since she can’t even go outside to walk or play and definitely can’t socialize with other dogs until she is protected from parvo and all the scary doggie diseases.
Well, and on top of that, she also came home from the rescue center with an upper respiratory infection and is on TWO different antibiotics right now to try to clear things up. So things are a bit chaotic and worrisome. Probably more for me than for her. LOL. But yeah. Seriously.
But I’m finding the interesting thing with this new time-crunch and these new pet-parent responsibilities is that the time I do end up devoting to my self-improvement nowadays (I’m doing my best to keep on track with both morning and evening rituals) feels so much more deliberate and so much less like an after-thought or less like something that I am forcing myself to go through the motions of (it feels more like a privilege to be able to do it, rather than a chore… which, though it’s sad to say, I think many types of self-care have kind of felt like to me on many levels for most of my life… like a chore; and it strikes me now… isn’t it strange how we feel like the most important moments of life are the moments that we need to rush through just to get to “real life” sometimes?).
So… in summary… I kinda feel like I had maybe WAY too much free time on my hands prior to this puppy thing, and maybe that free time was doing me more harm than good. Is that a weird thing to say or think? It’s definitely something I’ve been wondering about for the past week or so.
I mean, I’m not totally sure that’s exactly what the issue has been with me. But I do think I tend to thrive under pressure, at least historically, and maybe this experience is starting to allow me to unpack some of that and see the roots of where my Type-A-ish tendencies start to manifest in the first place. My mind seems to need at least 10 different tracks to actively function on and work on at any moment in order to keep it from having enough energy LEFT OVER to start attacking me with worries or cravings or anxiousness or other uncomfortable feelings.
Which has me thinking… isn’t the whole business of high-performance “under pressure” functioning really just another way of numbing out, then?
So, like… what does that say about my progress? Or lack thereof?
I guess maybe just the fact that I’m pondering all this is progress in a sense. But…
At the same time, part of me wonders if I didn’t get a pet as a stop-gap measure to staunch the flow of loneliness in my life… since that feeling of loneliness and the so-closely related feeling of being unloved/unwanted are the two critical, tender heartstrings that, when pulled, tend to make me spiral into really bad places and say and do things that I regret to people that I care about a lot.
And that makes me question my motivations as a pet parent, kind of.
Like… am I a bad person for getting a pet to make me feel less lonely? Am I trying to use her to make me a better version of myself? Am I going to totally fuck the puppy up with my neuroses the way it seems like my own mother did to me?
Anyway. I guess these are the mental spirals of a childless 40-something woman struggling with trying to kick an addiction.
Yeah, you’re welcome. Welcome to my world.
On another note… or maybe a related note…
Something that my recently reopened relationship with my therapist has uncovered, funnily enough, is the fact that I seem to constantly allow myself to get sucked into vortexes of unproductive worrying. Like… wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-staring-at-the-ceiling-from-2am-to-5am-vortexes. But it seems that just the fact that I’m able to recognize these vortexes now (some of the time anyway) for what they are, is progress.
I did feel stronger somehow this morning when I woke up. A little bit.
Well… maybe a lot? It’s tough to say yet, though. I have learned not to count my chickens in this life, when it comes to feelings of confidence.
But, for whatever reason (I’m still not sure why), I did go to the store today and buy a bathing suit and several pairs of shorts that I actually intended to wear like… now. Not in minus 10 or 15 or 20 pounds from now.
Like, with the me I am now, in this body, in this moment. Which is… whoa.
I mean, I guess that doesn’t seem like a lot, maybe, to most folks… but it is HUGE for me. It’s a VERY big deal moment for me. And I’m still not sure what got into me to do it.
I haven’t worn a bathing suit or shorts without feeling just… complete and utter self-loathing and disgust… in probably almost 5 years now. Err… to be real… I actually have not voluntarily worn any of the aforementioned pieces of clothing in much of that time, either. And when I did, I hid beneath huge shirts and towels and just… hid.
Hid myself. Hated myself. Hated my body. I think I kind of felt like my body had betrayed me somehow, by turning into something I didn’t recognize and on some level, something I felt like I couldn’t love… and that nobody would ever love.
That’s hard to say. The truth is HARD to say.
And I’ve heard a million times that saying that you can’t truly love or be loved by others until you love yourself, of course. But I don’t think it ever hit me on a visceral level, that sort of “aha” understanding, you know, until today. Because I might not look the way I want to look right now, but I’m going to stop hiding myself away from the world.
So I know this post somehow ended up way more about body image and all than anything directly alcohol-related, but since this is relationship week at my support group, it’s had me thinking more about one of the most important relationships I will ever have — the one with myself. And that relationship has been so TOTALLY fucked up prior to this, that I can honestly look back at it now and think, “Huh… wow, it’s no wonder I drove myself to drink.” LOL.
So hopefully if I do what I can to heal some of this, it’s another step in the right direction.
Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps.
Just a pre-warning that this post is going to be more raw than most I’ve made thus far.
Because something weird that has struck me over the past week or two, that I haven’t yet posted about, for reasons that will become obvious as I continue with this, is the fact that… and I hope I’m not alone here, but… I tend not to post anything here, or to ask for advice or help or anything along those lines (from anyone, really), when I’m feeling the most broken, the most in-pain, the least put-together, the most fucked-up… in life, in love, in everything.
When I need help or commiseration or companionship or a friendly ear is when I am LEAST likely to ask for it.
Which is an interesting thing to observe about myself, from that detached “let’s get curious” place that I’ve found lately.
I mean, I really want to say something judgmental to myself about this, like, “that’s just crazy, it’s ridiculous, it’s (fill in the blank).”
But I watched a video on YouTube recently where a woman (I can’t remember her name now, but it was probably a TedTalk) talked about replacing the expletives and the harsh words in our language with the word “fascinating” instead. (Ex: Instead of saying “you f&*#er!” when someone cuts you off in traffic, saying “oh… fascinating!” And getting curious about it.) And I really liked that approach.
I even put it on a post-it and added it to my post-it mantra menagerie on my fridge. LOL.
Anyway, this whole thing — the self-observation of my total resistance to asking for help when I really need it — it’s something I don’t think I would have been open to noticing (or, god forbid, talking about to anyone because that’s just terrifying) before now. Before finding my community of kindred souls.
And it prompts me, finally, finally, finally — early early early this morning, after waking up at 2am and being up now for over 3 hours, not able to fall asleep, knowing I’ll probably face my Monday sleep-deprived and wan, after spending the evening trying to chase down (via text and online chat, mostly) old lovers that don’t seem to have time for me anymore, after crying my eyes out while falling into a pit of heart-rending loneliness that feels like this hole I just can’t fill and I don’t even know WHY I feel this way or where this loneliness came from — to end up here writing this post. Facing myself in the mirror of my own writing.
Which I think is where I should have gone first, probably. To this place, the place where I know there are people to hold space for me. Who *are* holding space for me, even now.
You, my community.
It is a curious commentary on where I am in my life (and on the work that I need to to do to heal, ultimately, if I’m being brutally honest) that I continually want to turn toward those who can’t or won’t or just aren’t capable of doing what’s necessary to hold that space for me (usually emotionally unavailable men, one of my drugs of choice, apparently). And yet, like a starving dog, I still am hanging around, waiting outside of their windows, hungry for whatever scraps they are willing to throw me, no matter how paltry or rotten.
I know this isn’t a great way to be in the world. I know I am worth more. Emotionally, I think writing about this has actually helped clear my head about it a bit, but still, it’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time, and this is a process.
And I know that drinking is tangled up in the mess of all this, the self-esteem issues, the learning to value myself, the idea of mothering myself.
But I also just caught up on last Wednesday’s Q&A session in my support group, and the profundity of how eating disorders are also so often tangled up in all of this as well, of how so many of us suffer and fight the same slew of battles all at once… I don’t even have words for what all that brought up in me. A lot of feelings and memories.
Bulimia… it’s actually something that I think triggers more shame for me even than the booze. It is something I’ve struggled with for almost as long and talked about much, much less.
But I’ve recently started watching some videos with Glennon Doyle and just seeing how starkly open and vulnerable and strong it is possible to be about all of these issues, all together, does give me a sense of hope.
Sorry for the rambling post. I really didn’t want to take the time to edit this too much because I know if I go back and look at what I’ve written in depth I might delete this whole thing altogether.
I don’t usually talk about my pain while I’m feeling it. I’m a controller. A perfectionist. I talk about my pain only once I have space from it.
But in the past, getting space from the pain meant numbing out long enough to dull the edges of it, and I think there’s a better way. So I’m acknowledging it and talking about it instead. For probably one of the first times in my life.
Thanks for listening, everyone. Truly. You all just being here with me right now means so very much.
Here’s to a brand-new week full of opportunities to grow.
I feel like I’ve had a radical shift in thinking and perspective over the past 24 hours, a shift that feels so “big” to me that I’ve actually been hesitant to write about it for fear of somehow jinxing myself.
I think it’s like, everything about this journey has felt so hard and like such a struggle for so long that I’m afraid to believe a change is really happening. Like I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment or something. It’s weird to be in a place where I feel good, but I’m afraid to let myself feel good. If that makes any sense at all.
But today didn’t feel like a struggle. Which is a minor (okay, not minor… MAJOR) miracle to me.
I was really struggling with the “be kind to yourself” concept before, not because I didn’t want to be kind to myself, but because there was a part of me that I knew deep-down was still equating “kindness” with giving myself alcohol. So I was afraid to fully embrace that message because it felt like giving myself a pass for still drinking.
Here’s the thing, though. I’ve listened to Annie Grace’s “This Naked Mind” book twice now in the past several months, and it’s awesome, and I loved the message sent and I knew it should be able to reach me… but up ’til now, it was not seeming to get through to me, for whatever reason.
Well, at least that’s how it felt to me, because I was still drinking. Which was frustrating.
I mean, intellectually I knew and accepted beyond a shadow of a doubt that alcohol was NOT being kind to me or to my body or to my relationships, but it was like… that cognitive disconnect was still there, stubbornly refusing to allow me (I think on more of an emotional/fear/survival level) to successfully re-categorize alcohol as a poison, something bad for me, something that makes me feel awful.
Mentally, alcohol still felt cozy and comfy to me, even though what it brought to my life was anything but cozy and comfy.
But I’ve been doing the work, checking in with my support group every day, meditating, all that sh*t.
I really don’t think I would be able to be doing all of this without the group’s support. And — in a way that feels truly miraculous to me — I think this work I’ve been doing and the support of this community I’m a part of is actually starting to enable me to create the mental shift I’ve been seeking for so long.
Which is not just kind of a miracle, but actually still hard for me to let myself fully believe.
I mean, I know we’re surrounded with pro-alcohol messages just throughout the course of going about our daily lives, so in the past, I tried bombarding my psyche with anti-alcohol messages through audiobooks and hypnosis soundtracks and watching a million scary alcohol documentaries. But that never seemed to create the same kind of shift that I’ve felt over this past 24 hours.
I actually spent the past 5 nights crying my eyes out before finally falling asleep. But the crying was not crying in a bad way. Not in that morose, needy, please-love-me-and-pay-attention-to-me mode that alcohol always used to throw me into, that way that used to have me texting or calling or doing things with guys that I really didn’t want to do.
This crying felt like a release. Like letting go of something. And I guess I had a lot of letting go to do, because it took 5 days. It felt kind of like grieving the end of a relationship… like in that way that you grieve when you realize finally that the person is so bad for you in so many ways, and you’re just done.
I had a really, really bad relationship in my 20s with someone who took horrible advantage of me, who truly put me through hell in a lot of ways. I think I have more traumatic memories surrounding that relationship than any other relationship in my life thus far.
We started dating when I was 19. And he was a sh*t to me from the very beginning. But I was so hooked on him. And I kept coming back to him, no matter what he did, no matter the pain or loss or tragedy I went through because of him.
It was like a part of me just completely dissociated the concept of him as a person from these acts that caused me such trauma, so that I could still be with him. It was like, when I grieved those painful events, he wasn’t even in the memories. It was like in order to be with him, I let myself forget that he had caused that pain.
Anyway, one day in my late 20s, something inside me just shifted. I’m still not sure what caused that shift. But I finally told him that I didn’t want to see him or hear from him anymore ever. Not because I hated him or regretted anything about the past, because it taught me so much and made me a lot stronger person. But simply because being around him didn’t do good things for me. And I wished him the best, and it was over. It was really over.
And I think I’m starting to see alcohol in the same light as that old relationship. Which is a really good thing.