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.
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 woke up at 4 am today. This was my first early morning sleepless episode in the past several weeks. (Which is kind of an amazing thing, when I think about it.)
Normally these episodes start at about 3 am, and I am kept awake by racing thoughts for at least 2 hours.
Today, as I rolled over at 4 am, I knew immediately upon glancing at the clock that I had to be up in 2 hours and 20 minutes and that my alarm would be going off in that amount of time. I also knew that I desperately NEEDED those 2 hours and 20 minutes of sleep, and probably for that very reason, sleep just would not come back to me.
So after about 20 minutes of fruitless lying there, trying to force myself back into slumber, I decided to just get up and start my day.
So I fixed myself a mug of hot water with a little apple cider vinegar in it and finally, FINALLY made myself do this “future self” meditation that I’ve been for some reason dreading and putting off doing since last week. And I read and absorbed a few positive messages that I’ve been having emailed to me every morning.
So, I mean, as mornings go, I felt like sh*t due to the lack of sleep, but I was basically killing it on meeting my own expectations for myself.
Hell, I even wrote a couple of futureme.org letters to myself (as recommended by my new support group) — one to be received in a couple of months from now, and one to be received one year from now. I’m not sure whether what I wrote met the spirit of the exercise, but I found myself leaning heavily on the “speaking kindly and compassionately to myself” principle throughout writing each of these letters, and even just the fact that I got them done at ALL, I am taking as a huge win for me.
I’m not sure why I was SO resistant to this exercise. But I guess… talking kindly to yourself… about a future you can barely imagine… a future that only recently even started showing a glimmer of a light in it… is a hugely uncomfortable task to tackle. So there’s that.
I’ve found that in the past week or so, I’ve been even MORE heavily drawn than I have in the past few months toward the idea of drinking, which has been extremely difficult to resist (read: I haven’t resisted very well at all… yet).
But I think something that was said tonight in group resonated with something I’ve believed for a while, which is that whenever you’re really, truly on the verge of making a breakthrough in your life, your subconscious… or whatever you call the “id” or that childlike or hidden part of you deep down inside that wants nothing but to be safe and loved but is probably lost and confused after all of the years of sh*t that its been through and can’t see the harm that’s being caused to your body by alcohol… when that part of you realizes that you’re on the verge of a real change and starts to wake up to the implications of the impending change… then… in absolute total and complete fucking terror (because change is fucking SCARY as fuck), it starts to wreak havoc on all of your good intentions, trying like hell to call back the status quo.
When that happens, I’ve learned that I should take that as a GOOD thing.
Because it means, essentially, that I’m on the verge of a major breakthrough, on both conscious and subconscious levels. That’s the theory, anyway. So that’s what I’m going to take this period of time I’m going through now as.
It’s a remodeling period.
I want so badly to fall back on old thought patterns and start beating myself up for failure upon failure but… I’m not. This house is gonna look kinda janky and messy and destroyed for a while, and that’s okay, because things are being remodeled. Good things are happening.
Please excuse our dust.
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.
We’ve spent a lot of time in my support group lately talking about how we should be kind to ourselves, in our words and our thoughts. How we should begin to practice soft and sweet and loving self-talk, rather than critical and self-censuring self-talk. To tell ourselves that it’s okay, that we’re okay, that no matter what, we’re doing alright, we’re worthy of love, we haven’t failed.
But someone posed a question in the group recently that was super profound for me. Basically, it was along the lines of, “How do I not allow myself to use the idea of loving and talking compassionately to myself as an excuse to drink?”
Right? Good f*cking question.
Hard f*cking question.
Having been exposed to lots of different kinds of meditation and self-healing exercises before, and being not unfamiliar with the whole “loving self-talk” concept (though not great at practicing it… yet), I’ve wondered something along the same lines myself. A lot, to be honest.
But I think I’m starting to come to grips with at least part of the answer to this question — that it’s not about making an excuse at all. It’s about making a decision — the decision not to drink — and allowing that decision to come from a place of self-love, compassion, and caring, rather than from a place of self-judgement or blame. It’s about making the decision to take care of myself fully, no matter WHAT the outcome of that particular day might look like.
That thought process resonates with me a lot. But I’m having such a hard time getting there. Of getting from theory to practice.
I’m still not there.
I want to be there.
I’m trying to get there.
I reconnected with my therapist last night after 3 months absent from sessions (I had been telling her up to then that I was doing okay and didn’t need her, when I sooooo, soooo did). I am trying to be more honest with her now and to work on getting “real” help.
It boggles me that I paid for her time in the past and yet was afraid (and still am afraid really) to tell her everything I was and am going through, not even just surrounding my struggles with alcohol… but other stuff too, like it would maybe be “too much” for her or something.
I mean, seriously. WTF is that about?
I think I am still trying to train myself that this is a part of my life where people-pleasing has no place, and to train myself that… f*cking hell, there is NOTHING wrong with me for simply being who I am.
It’s a tall order.
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.
Today, a group of us at the community support group I’m a part of now listened as these words were read aloud from a John O’Donohue essay called “The Question Holds the Lantern” —
“If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is, that story is not a story; it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are.”
I started sobbing almost immediately as these words sunk in. I mean… sobbing. Like actual sobbing.
I’m not even sure why exactly I was sobbing. It was a bit shocking to me. I’ve never been a big crier… not over myself anyway (maybe over puppies and kittens, though). But when it comes to my own pain, I tend to be more of a quiet, “hold it all in,” ultra-reserved type. Swallow it and push it down. Pretend it away.
But something about hearing the first few sentences of this essay broke me open inside… in a way that allowed me to touch a part of myself I haven’t been in touch with for a long time. Past all of the shells and walls I’ve built.
These words got through to me in a way that I think I didn’t even know I needed, and hit me on a level and at a depth that I wasn’t even aware I still had inside of me.
To be honest, I didn’t really hear much of the rest of the essay reading. I couldn’t tell you how it ended. I was too distracted by the unexpected visceral reaction I had just had, the wave of emotion that crested over me.
I don’t know what else to say about it all right now. I’m still processing it, I guess.
I mean… I think this raw upchuck of emotion was a good thing? Emotion… it’s a byproduct of connection, right? Connection and community, and not being alone anymore. Maybe that’s why I feel safe enough to feel right now. To feel anything. Even this. This pain.
My heart hurts.
God, I want a drink.
I got drunk for the first time when I was 18. I did this in a very intentional and planned way. I’d never been a drinker or a partier and was actually very strait-laced in high school. I was just really curious what all the fuss was about. Well, my first time flirting with inebriation sparked a rocky love affair that has lasted a little over 20 years now, as of this journal entry.
And over the last five years or so, I’ve become more and more aware that my relationship with alcohol has taken on more of the characteristics of an abusive relationship than a love affair.
I am struggling. A recent divorce and all of the upheaval of money and moving issues has done a number on me, making me want more than ever to stop drinking… while simultaneously feeling more seduced than ever by the desire to use drinking as an emotional anesthetic.
I’ve been trying to cut down and/or stop drinking for years now with very limited and spotty success, but I know I do better at achieving goals when I feel a sense of community and group support, so I have high hopes for what I can achieve with this new community support group I’ve recently found, because it seems like what I’ve FINALLY, finally found is a group of truly kindred spirits, people who can really understand me and who won’t try to make me denounce or renounce a part of myself in order to become a part of the group.
Ironically, prior to my divorce last year, which necessitated a move from California to Arizona (and during which time I had to move in with family… at age 40, like a real winner), I was actually self-employed as a life/fitness coach, and even more ironically, was frequently asked to lead life-skills-centered groups at drug and alcohol recovery centers.
More than a little hypocritical, I know. And frustrating that I couldn’t help myself achieve the same thing that I was helping others to do.
I hope I can achieve more now.
Huh. Hope. It’s such a foreign concept these days.
I guess we’ll see.
So. Here we are.
This is a post that has been a looooong time coming. To be honest, once, I never thought I’d get to the point that I’d have the courage to share any of these writings.
These particular writings, the ones I’ll be gathering together and sharing with you on this page — let’s just call them “journal entries” to make things simpler, because that’s essentially what they are — are intensely personal to me, and I’m not sure they’ll be useful to anyone else to read… but the universe is calling me to share them, and I’ve learned to honor the universe’s call over the past few years.
The universe knows more than I do.
So here they are… glimpses of my evolution, snapshots of my thought processes and struggles, mostly written at various points along the first year of my sobriety journey, from 2018 to 2019.
Well, the first 16 1/2 entries, anyway, were written along that first year or so.
I actually stopped writing altogether for several months when I was halfway through writing journal entry #17, because that topic was a lot for me to wade though, and it took some time for me to be really ready to confront all the different pieces of it.
But I did eventually finish that one, and I’ve actually written a few more journal entries a bit more recently, since I’ve found that it really helps me process things and clarify them in my head. And I think I might continue adding these newer entries, maybe. In time.
Anyway, regardless, I’ll be posting them all here in order from oldest to most recent, so that you can follow along with me on my journey, if you so choose.
- Journal entry #1: Introductory lessons in pain
- Journal entry #2: Tears of seeing
- Journal entry #3: Excuses and decisions
- Journal entry #4: Please excuse our dust
- Journal entry #5: A shift in thinking
- Journal entry #6: Shame triggers
- Journal entry #7: Puppy love and swimsuit anxiety
- Journal entry #8: You are here
- Journal entry #9: Please allow me to introduce myself (again)
- Journal entry #10: The Year of Trish
- Journal entry #11: When every day STOPS being a struggle
- Journal entry #12: On things that terrify me as much as they teach me
- Journal entry #13: Another introduction to myself
- Journal entry #14: Trish! Trish, Trish, Trish!
- Journal entry #15: No, I’m NOT f*cking pregnant, actually
- Journal entry #16: Probably my most confident, concise intro yet!
- Journal entry #17: Relationship sh*t
- Journal entry #18: On feeling my feelings
- Journal entry #19: A Hildegard von Bingen writing party!
Anyway, that’s all she wrote (or posted, at least) for now, folks…
And if you’ve made it this far on the page… thank you, sincerely and deeply, for bearing witness to my journey, my struggles, and my growth on this particular piece of my life’s path.
Sending out so very much love to you as you move through your own life’s journeys, whatever they might be.
Falling off the wagon isn’t a thing in my world. Not for me. Not for you. Not for any of us. Not because I think people who used to abuse or overuse alcohol in the past and are sober now can never f*ck up. We’re human. Sh*t happens. But falling off the wagon isn’t a thing in my world because I don’t believe relapse equals failure.
Okay. So, in fairness, I’d totally support the idea of a magical unicorn-drawn wagon that was literally impossible for anyone to fall off of. Because that’s just an awesome thought. But in the meantime…
Can we just get rid of this whole “wagon” concept, please?
I’d never been curious about where the expression “falling off the wagon” came from until I got sober. According to the almighty Google, it may have originated in the U.S. during Prohibition times, when one’s declaration of intended sobriety was reportedly sometimes accompanied by the (rather flamboyantly awesome, IMHO) gesture of jumping up on the back of a water-wagon (they had wagons that sprayed water on the dirt roads to keep the dust down, kind of like how they do at construction sites still today) and proclaiming oneself to be a drinker of water forevermore, not the demon alcohol. Huzzah! (Okay, I don’t know if they said those exact words, but that sounds like an awesome mental replay in my head.)
That said, the image conjured to my mind by the phrase “falling off the wagon” has always been that of a downtrodden, dusty, forlorn individual scrambling up from the excruciatingly painful face-plant they have just taken onto the ground and trying desperately to catch up with the aforementioned “wagon,” which is of course at the same time carrying along on its merry way, oblivious to the plight of the fallen one, who is falling further and further behind.
Let me put this a different way: The imagery inspired by the phrase “falling off the wagon” is that of a desperate, hopeless situation, y’all. And in my opinion, relapse is inherently NEITHER of those things. Relapse is not a dirty word. It is what you make of it, and it actually CAN be an incredibly strong building block toward a better life, if you allow it to be.
Relapse ≠ being summarily stripped of your sobriety card. For real.
An article showed up in my inbox recently that took a pretty hard stance against allowing anyone to call themselves “sober” if they’ve experienced any kind of relapse, big or small. There was a lot of discussion in that article about how, no, relapse means you have to start over again at day zero, you have to WEAR your failure around your neck like a heavy, humiliating mantle… not just brush yourself off, leave it behind you, and say, “well, okay, that happened… and I’m continuing on into my sober life and still calling myself sober.”
(And I don’t want to get into a war of opinion or direct any more attention than necessary to a viewpoint I don’t agree with, so I’m not going to link to the article here, but if you want to read it, feel free to contact me and I’ll send you the link.)
I guess to the layperson it does sound a little contradictory, calling yourself sober or “on the sober path” when you’ve just had a relapse, although technically the definition of the word sober DOES allow room for this. And some (including the writer of the above-referenced article) would argue that the technical definition (including that wiggle room) is not what people REALLY mean when they talk about sobriety.
I’d actually agree that popular opinion doesn’t support calling yourself sober if you still relapse occasionally. But I think it SHOULD. And I’m not the only one who questions popular opinion in this.
Because to me, sobriety is a journey. It’s a journey that’s longer for some and shorter for others, and often twisty-turny as f*ck for many of us.
But if the breadcrumbs left behind by others for us to follow to the mythical mecca of so-called “twue” sobriety are all eaten by the birds, and we find ourselves walking in circles for a while, trying to figure out which way leads us to our ultimate destination, that doesn’t mean we’re not doing it right.
That doesn’t mean we’re not headed somewhere f*cking beautiful.
To me, if you’re here, if you’re reading this, if you’re showing up for yourself in this way, if you’re TRYING, then you’re on that sacred journey, regardless of what your in-the-moment results might look like. That’s my heartfelt belief, y’all.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe it’s about your MINDSET more than anything else. Your success in sobriety is not measured solely by the number of consecutive days of abstinence you’ve been able to string together. If you keep sobriety in mind as your goal and continue to take steps toward it, even (or especially) when you get knocked off course for a moment or two (or seven), then you’re doing it right, y’all. You’re learning. You’re growing. You’re f*cking rocking it, in point of fact.
In fact… you know what? Here’s a (printable!) sobriety card just for you, babes, that comes with a LIFETIME membership to my super-secret and super-awesome sobriety society, and NOBODY can take this card away from you. 😜
And I’m not looking to jump into the controversial AF moderation debate, but…
That article I mentioned earlier made a point of noting that moderation doesn’t work. And I’m absolutely not here to argue for or against moderation, but I will say this: It’s a choice. It’s not the right choice for me, but I’m not here to smack everyone else’s hand away from the cookie jar and tell them they’re diabetic and they should know better. An opinion about moderation, pro or con, is just one of those things that you can’t shove on someone, I think. It’s a decision that people who struggle with alcohol overuse have to come to on their own.
I’ve known lots of folks who abstained for a while, got to feeling confident and were all like, “I’ve got this; alcohol wasn’t reallllllly a problem for me,” and then decided to try moderation.
But from what I’ve seen (and experienced myself), what tends to happen is this: Many who try the moderation route eventually come to the conclusion that it’s HARD AF to moderate, and ultimately not worth the enormous energy output it requires… because it means, basically, you have to be thinking about your alcohol consumption ALL THE F*CKING TIME.
How much am I gonna have tonight? How much did I already have? I have a party coming up, what’s my allotment for that? Did I already go over my max for the week? It’s like when dieters start counting calories. It’s a crazy-making way to think about living the rest of your ENTIRE life.
The other thing I’ve noticed that tends to happen sometimes is this: If you decide to try the moderation route on for size, you may eventually end up going on an unintended bender, because after your carefully allotted two drinks for the night are consumed, your inhibitions are lowered, and suddenly it seems so much more okay to just have one more, just for tonight, and then that becomes two more, and so on.
Because… let’s be honest… most of us don’t start this sobriety journey because we can just have one or two and stop. Most of us truly, absolutely just don’t GET how people do that. How someone could drink HALF a beer and leave it on the table after dinner!? The unthinkableness!
Anyway, that unintended bender may last just for one night, or a month, or maybe even a year or longer. But when we return to embracing the sobriety mindset once again (which also is a thing that tends to happen rather inevitably, because we do tend to recognize at some point that we need to get our sh*t together… though it happens in our own time, not on anyone else’s schedule — a hard truth that can make watching someone you love struggling with addiction so very heart-wrenching), we often return with the realization that moderation is a tricky, risky b*tch, because moderation makes relapse that much more likely.
So what I’m getting at is that, one way or another, I think we mostly tend to come to the same decision eventually about moderation probably not being the best way to do things.
But whether we’re supported and loved along the way or instead have our tails whacked with a newspaper and are relentlessly scolded “BAD! BAD ADDICT!” makes a huge difference, I think, in how STRONG and resilient we feel as human beings when we come back to the sobriety path.
Do “normy” drinkers really exist? Bueller? Bueller?
That article I talked about earlier also seemed to feel that mixing folks who are “just” sober-curious in online support groups alongside people who are “actually” struggling with addiction creates confusion and supports the trend toward people still thinking they can claim sobriety when they have recently relapsed.
But here’s the thing: In my opinion, “normies” (people who aren’t affected by alcohol and don’t have an addiction problem) don’t exist. We ALL have an addiction problem, if we’ve ever allowed alcohol to pass our lips. Because, as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I believe that addiction is just the end-game result of consuming an addictive substance FOR LONG ENOUGH, IN LARGE ENOUGH QUANTITIES.
Some addictive substances act faster than others, and some people are “low responders” to certain substances (they have a higher tolerance and a higher threshold for feeling the effects and thus are able to consume more, faster). By sheer virtue of how fast the downward spiral tends to happen in these instances, it’s much more likely for a low responder to end up labeled with the moniker “addict” (and to have to deal with all of the stigma that comes along with that).
But even if you’re a “high responder” who gets tipsy on two sips of wine, so you don’t drink much or often… it’s a spectrum, people. High responders progress much, much, much more slowly on the spectrum, but even a high responder will MOST LIKELY eventually become addicted to a substance, and develop a higher threshold and tolerance, over a long enough period of time.
However, because of how slow the process happens, high responders often never reach that point in their lifetimes. And because of this, many people will point to these high responders and say, “Ha! See? You’re wrong! So-and-so isn’t an addict and they drank until they were, like, 192 years old!” (Okay, maybe not quite THAT old. But you get my point.)
I think if we all lived forever like vampires, we’d probably see things a lot differently, and the statistics would probably look a lot different, too. And maybe Prohibition would be a thing again. Because I really do think that it’s all just a matter of time.
But, you know… talking is good. And stuff.
The good thing about all of this is that these are conversations that we never used to have before. And we are having them now. We are talking about it.
We are getting people interested in what it means to be sober, to be sober-curious, to be a beautiful human soul caught in the grips of an addictive substance. We are having conversations about how to define sobriety, about what it means to be an addict (and whether it’s even useful to use that label… or ANY labels), and about how we can best support and love those who are going through this struggle, this journey, this ultimately transformative, life-reaffirming, and courage-strengthening path.
Alcoholism was a topic that was swept under the rug in my family growing up. I saw evidence of it as a child, in overly ruddy cheeks, in adults swaying and staggering and swerving in the lane on the way home at times, in angry words and angry fists. But nobody talked about it directly.
My grandfather died right before I was born, and the story I was told as a child was that he was in the hospital for a “routine surgery,” and he got out of bed and fell on his way to the bathroom, and the complications from the fall caused his death.
Later, when I started doing genealogy research, I ordered his death certificate and discovered the truth.
Cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver.
So let’s keep these conversations about sobriety going, y’all, and maybe we can begin to REALLY change the way our society glamorizes an addictive substance that is KILLING us every day. Because that’s the real deal here, isn’t it? It’s not really about whether you can call yourself sober or not if you had a relapse. That’s just the window dressing.
But wait, isn’t all this just giving
addicts and problem drinkers beautiful human souls struggling with alcohol overuse the permission they’re looking for to drink again?
I want to take a moment to address this issue from the perspective that a good friend of mine brought up recently, which is basically that it seems inherently problematic to “sanction” the idea of relapse by telling people that it’s okay if they drank when they didn’t mean to, that they can just move forward with their sobriety despite having a setback.
Because that feels a lot like giving people “permission” to drink, despite the fact that they’re trying to stay sober. And doing that seems counter-productive, perhaps even counter-intuitive to the whole sobriety movement.
Honestly, I took quite a while mulling this over, because on the surface of things, it does seem really problematic. Are we, I had to wonder, making it harder for people to stay sober by welcoming them so readily back to the fold when they slip? Is there perhaps some deeper wisdom to that familiar “tough love” battle cry that so many seem ready to shout from the rooftops?
Real talk, y’all: I felt some frustration along these SAME lines during my first few months of attempting (what I thought of at the time as) “serious” sobriety. I mean, I was surrounded by this amazingly unconventional, extra-loving community of sober folks who were just sooooo very warm and understanding and ready to support me despite how imperfect my attempts might be, that it was basically… umm… kind of annoying… because it really DID feel like I was being given tacit permission to drink, when all I really wanted was for someone to tell me NOT to, in no uncertain terms.
And I spent a lot of time struggling with this feeling in the beginning of my sobriety journey and not really understanding where the frustration was coming from (and I wanted nothing more than to blame other people for making me feel it, no doubt). But with the benefit of space and time (and sobriety), I can see a lot more of what was going on beneath the surface with this, at least for me.
Here’s the bottom line: Basically, I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. I was so quick to judge myself, even just for having the THOUGHT that I might drink, that the idea that anyone might still love and support me even if I did — that was just too much for me to process. It did not compute, you know? I think a part of me wanted a reason to hate myself, on some buried, unacknowledged level, because that was familiar. That was the kind of pain that I knew how to deal with (by drinking… surprise, surprise). And having that realization was a big part of what finally helped me to move past my frustration and into the rest of my (sober) life.
Anyway, frustrations aside, as hard as it is to hear sometimes, the whole “permission to drink” line of reasoning really does fall apart when held up to the light of personal responsibility and autonomy. Because nobody can GIVE anyone else “permission” to drink, y’all. We’re all adults here, and we make our own choices.
I mean, it’s not like we arrive at this point without any experience with what imbibing alcohol does to our bodies, our relationships, our work, our clarity of mind. We typically arrive here only because we already have a VERY robust database of past experiences to draw upon, experiences that can tell us fairly reliably what kinds of unpleasant consequences we will suffer if we decide to start drinking again.
But it is a seductive idea to have someone else to shove this responsibility off on, to be sure.
I can’t tell you how many times, while in active addiction, I wished and hoped and prayed for the money to hire a “sober companion” — someone whose sole job, I imagined, would be to follow me around and SMACK the drinks right out of my hand before I could drink them.
And then… only THEN, I imagined… I could finally be successful in sobriety! I fantasized about this a lot. Seriously.
But abdicating responsibility for your own sobriety isn’t the answer. And a sober companion (while a step in the right direction, at least) is really just a band-aid slapped on top of a soon-to-be-festering wound that needs WAY deeper care.
I know that band-aid definitely wasn’t the answer for me. And I believe it isn’t the answer for anyone who wants to truly recover — and by “recover,” I mean live, and LIVE WELL, rather than just white-knuckling it through forever until death.
Examining the reasons behind the alcohol excess in the first place, building self-care routines and stress management tools, and just generally adulting better — that’s the long-term solution.
That’s building a life you don’t want to escape from. That’s why I’m here today, writing this article. And that’s why I am so ever-loving grateful to all of the folks who loved and supported me on my own imperfect journey, who helped to hold space for me to create the nurturing environment of self-care that made that growth and change possible for me.
And WOW, this post got crazy long. I think it developed a life of its own. I just hope it helps someone out there. Mad love for you all!
Are you curious but still on the fence about living the full time RVing lifestyle? If any of the following applies to you, you might just want to have a long, heartfelt conversation with yourself about exactly what you’re willing to sacrifice to live the RV life. Because it’s definitely a lifestyle that flies in the face of the standard cultural narrative (in the U.S., anyway), and it’s certainly not for everyone. (But for those who love it, it’s the bees f*cking knees, y’all!)
Sign #1: You’re a hoarder.
Could your current home be featured on an episode of the TV show “Hoarders“? Do visitors have trouble navigating your space because there’s barely enough room to squeeze even the narrowest of asses through the clutter of faded recipe books, old encyclopedias, scary porcelain dolls, and other assorted knick-knacks you own? Does it feel almost physically painful for you to part with even a single piece of your massive memorabilia collection, even for a good cause?
I feel you. I’m not a huge lover of collectibles or anything, but when I was prepping to start my full time RVing journey, it was really tough getting rid of some of the sentimental little things I’d held on to for what felt like my whole life, you know? They were like old friends to me. (I even got my phone out and took pictures of some of my old friends before I let them go, because I wanted something to remember them by.)
But getting SUPER comfortable with the downsizing process is a critical part of getting ready to be a full time RVer. Because you can only take so much with you. And, yes, renting a storage space is a good in-between solution for some of the things you aren’t ready to part with, but if you know you have the tendency to amass “stuff” just in general, you really need to hold yourself in check and accountable for staying light on the road.
Because the danger is that most RVs can physically hold a lot more than they are actually weight-rated for, which means you really can’t just fill up every available nook and cranny willy-nilly; you need to be very careful about how you load up. Having a vehicle with an overweight (or even a severely unbalanced) load on the road can cause serious damage to your tires, your axles, your frame… and more importantly, your life and the lives of those around you on the road.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, I love you, you little hoarder you, and I want you to stay safe. So just be realistic with yourself about this stuff, ‘kay?
Sign #2: “Super-size me” isn’t in your vocabulary. Because you’re, like, a culinary genius, yo, and you need the kitchen to match.
Now I’ve gotta say, if you’re a cooking whiz on, like, a Julia-Child-level or something… well, first of all, I’m totally
jelly impressed, ’cause my culinary genius pretty much stops at putting sandwiches together. And also why aren’t you inviting me over for your oh-so-yummy falling-right-off-the-bone ribs? (JK! Well. Sorta.)
But seriously, if you can only find your true happy place while cooking up a culinary storm of epic proportions, you may find yourself a bit underwhelmed by what an RV kitchen has to offer. Because, I tell you, by wholly guacamole, even the most well-equipped of RVs will probably fall short of what you’re used to when it comes to appliances, counter space, and storage space for all of your magical kitchen supplies.
I’d imagine, really, only a food truck with a bed might approximate what you’d need? Maybe? And I’m pretty sure the health department wouldn’t approve of putting a bed in a food truck. But hey, what do I know about it? If they do, come find me. (I really do want to try some of your famous ribs.)
Sign #3: Your job won’t allow for it. And you don’t have enough savings to wing it
unemployment-style freewheelin’-style for a while.
This is probably the biggest and most common sign that I see stopping people from jumping into the full time RVing life these days. And it’s a realistic and totally understandable one! But let me just say this: If this is you right now, take heart young grasshopper, because this is just a temporary obstacle, and it doesn’t mean full time RVing is not for you forever… just maybe for now, you know?
The good news: You can do it! Eventually. (Yes, f*cking hellz yes babes, you totally can, even if all your friends and family think you’re crazy for wanting to live in an RV, and even if it feels like nobody believes in this dream of yours except for you.) Start saving, and/or start looking for remote work now. The good news is that there are more and more remote work jobs available now than ever before, and there are tons of resources for finding them too! Here’s one of my favorites to help get you started.
Sign #4: You hate the great outdoors, and even the idea of “glamping” makes you shudder.
Be forewarned: As a full time RVer, you’re probably gonna find yourself spending more time outside on the regular than you ever did before. And you might be surprised to hear it, but this is likely gonna be true even if you aren’t one who likes to sit outside and chill on a camping chair, taking in the sights and sounds of nature (which of course includes eyeballing the new neighbors who just made camp across the way from you).
I mean, yes, obv, you will get more outdoor time in if you like to park it under your awning and people-watch every day, but even besides this, just the process of managing RV life in itself involves a lot of outdoor time — whether its hitching and unhitching, managing and refilling propane tanks, securing awnings (and then hastily pulling them in during high winds!), hooking up water and electric, dumping waste water… the list goes on, my friend. In my first few months of full time RVing, I spent so much time in the great outdoors that I developed tan lines in places I’d never had tan lines before and had to get super conscientious about protecting my skin from the sun.
Oh! And another thing: When you live an RV, the great outdoors doesn’t always STAY outdoors. So if you aren’t prepared to skillfully manage unwanted incursions into your space by various flying and crawling creatures (preferably without bloodcurdling girlie-screams, because #girlpower, y’all), then full time RVing might not be the lifestyle for you.
On the other hand, if you’re saying, “Bring it on, Trish! I’m a critter-wrangling badass!” then I salute you, fellow woman warrior. And also, I highly recommend Magic Mesh, because it totally works wonders when it comes to cutting down on flying thingies getting inside.
Sign #5: You need ongoing medical care.
First of all, if this is your situation, I feel for you, and I hope it’s just a temporary roadblock on your journey to full timing. Second of all, disclaimer alert: I’m neither a medical professional nor an insurance specialist. But with that said, I do think that, unless you plan to park your RV in one place long-term and that’s all she wrote, getting medical care outside of your home of record and away from your primary care provider might prove to be a sticky business. Of course, this likely depends on many factors, including the type of insurance you have and the type of medical plan you’re covered under.
But even above and beyond insurance issues: With an ongoing condition, traveling could make continuity of care difficult to impossible, which means likely NOT having ready access to a doctor who knows your medical history intimately, which could make things confusing. And if you’re like me, the last thing you want when you show up at a medical appointment is for your doctor to be ill-informed (pun totally intended) about your situation.
Sign #6: You’re only considering RV life to save on living expenses.
I mean, oy! It already feels like everybody’s doing it, and there can only be so many of us cool kids, yo. JK, JK! Howeverrrrrrr… if you are primarily looking at full time RV living from an economical perspective, it does bear keeping in mind that there are lots of hidden costs that could pop up that you may not be taking into account.
For instance, RVs are notorious for being assembled in a less-than-stellar, rather slapstick manner, which means that even if you buy a brand-new, right-off-the-lot model, the likelihood of something needing to be repaired every so often is high. (I shelled out around $1,000 for mobile repair work in my first 15 months of RV life.)
And RV parks in many areas seem to be raising their rates without any good reason other than that they CAN, probably in response to the increase in demand for spots (because #EverybodysDoingIt, as I said, LOL). For perspective: I called one popular park in the Los Angeles area and was put on a waiting list with an estimated call-back time of six to eight months. Which is like, wow. And makes “advance planning is critical” kind of an understatement.
On the other hand, if your plan is to boondock on public land, like BLM land, for instance, well then okay — dispersed camping (that’s what the cool kids call it, BTW) offers fairly wide open venues where there’s usually space for everyone (especially in the southwestern part of the U.S.). And it’s also typically free or low-cost, as long as you’re willing to move to a different location every two weeks or so.
An important caveat: Boondocking (sometimes also called “dry camping” because it usually means parking in an off-the-grid spot with no electricity, water, or sewer hookups) comes with its own unique expenses. And since getting power into your rig is a big part of what makes RV life so “homey,” you’ll likely need either a generator (and generator fuel), or a solar-panel and inverter set-up. And if you’re not handy and plan to hire one of the experts to do your solar installation (f*cking around with electricity is no joke, y’all), be aware — many of the most reputable solar installers are highly in-demand and have lengthy waiting lists (again, we’re talking months, babes).
If this article makes you think twice, good. Just don’t let it make you think that I don’t love my RV lifestyle.
Question things, y’all! Question all the things! Questions bring clarity, and that’s what I want for you — to be clear on your direction with this. It just might make the difference between dancing a celebratory jig over your new RV lifestyle or wallowing in the sinking feeling that you made a big mistake.
And I encourage everyone to question things, just in general, babes. Because I like to question things. Like… I question literally everything about everything. And it serves me well, I think.
If I never questioned the socially accepted idea that everyone should live in a “3 Little Pigs”-style home that was all, like, “you can huff and puff but you can’t blow it down, you dirty wolf, because it’s built of safe and comfy bricks,” well then you wouldn’t be here reading this.
And truly, I love full time RVing and wouldn’t trade it for the world. In fact, my plan is ultimately to upgrade and have two different RVs — a “biggie” (probably a Forest River 5th-wheel, but I’m still debating) and a “little-y” (a totally cute and convenient conversion van, for easily zipping to and fro around the nation) — so that I can claim the best of both nomadic tiny-home-on-wheels worlds.
I hope you find the best of all possible worlds for you, as well. Mad respect for being here and doing some serious questioning, babes.
P.S. Be on the lookout on my website in the next few weeks for some totally awesome tips and tools I’m developing to help make this whole process a LOT easier on my fellow BADASS LADY-BAWSES out there!
F*ck. Stop telling me meditation is good for me already. Seriously. Meditation suuuuucks! It’s boring. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. And damn it, there are SERIOUSLY about a million other things I’d rather be doing right now. And no, I don’t care if you just learned the greatest new technique for easy meditation online or in some class somewhere. Don’t tell me about it. Don’t wanna hear it. Nope. No, thank you. Move along. These are not the droids you’re looking for. I’ll find my self-care elsewhere, TYVM.
Is this you? Does this sound like your inner dialogue when it comes to meditation?
Are you ready to punch a wall the next time someone goes off on you about the “wonders” of meditation? Do you imagine getting a root canal would be less painful than trying to meditate for any length of time? Does the thought of sitting cross-legged and trying to focus on your breath make you want to gag? Have you tried all of the so-called “easy” meditation techniques without success, and STILL found yourself sitting in meditation classes grinding your teeth and watching the clock, or maybe even tried to follow along with some simple meditation online practices via videos or apps and gotten completely FED UP with the whole thing?
Sing it loud and proud, my friends!
Awesome! That’s very, very cool to hear. Because that means you ARE, in fact, the droids I’m looking for. I’m talking to YOU. Indeed, peeps, indeed!
In fact, if your meditation mantras typically end up sounding something along the lines of: “F*ck this f*cking bullsh*t, f*cking meditation, I can’t even!”, then I’m DEFINITELY talking to you (and you are totally singing the song of my people… isn’t it beautiful?).
Curse words f*cking rock!
And cursing is a GOOD thing for what we’re about to discuss, actually, so curse away! Curse words, used in the right context, are super powerful for creating major positive changes in our lives, because they tend to have a pattern-interrupt kind of effect on our brains, jolting us out of ingrained thought cycles and habits and allowing new learning to happen in a much easier, sneakier, and totally FUNNER (yes, that is totally a word I made up) way.
So let me get to the meat of my message, which is, in a nutshell:
CURSING + GUIDED MEDITATION = SOME NEXT-LEVEL, BREAKTHROUGH SH*T THAT MIGHT JUST CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
The new hotness: Pro-profanity meditation!
So let’s integrate some good old-fashioned SWEAR WORDS into our “easy” meditation routine, shall we? I know you’re wondering to yourself now, “Well, Trish, how the f*ck am I supposed to do that exactly, huh? Sit cross-legged on the floor, close my eyes, and just concentrate on cussing up a f*cking storm?”
Hmm. Actually, now that I think of it, that could be a super fun exercise too (and great for releasing stress, I’ll bet), but no, it’s not what I had in mind. The guided meditation portion of this equation is where the cursing comes in. It is a super-sneaky way to make meditation feel like NOT meditation and yet still reap all the awesome benefits of DOING meditation, and thus be kind to yourself and give yourself the self-care you deserve.
Sadly, it maaaaay be difficult at the present time to find a meditation studio or in-person meditation class with a facilitator willing and able to skillfully lob F-bombs right into the middle of the zen flow of the moment (ooh… and with that, a new business venture idea is born! pow!).
But the good news is, you can totally find this kind of thing in a bunch of meditation online videos out there right now. Because thank goodness, a few YouTube geniuses were ahead of the curve in this F-bomb meditation movement. (Sidenote: I’m actually considering making a video of my very own along these lines at some point in the future, because this stuff is just too f*cking good for me to NOT be dying to add to the available content. So keep an eye out on my YouTube channel for the precious f*cking gem that I’m sure that video will be.)
Curse-y McCurse-urton meditations: A playlist
But wait, there’s more good news! You don’t have to try to find all of these genius Curse-y McCurse-urton easy meditation online videos by yourself, because I’ve done a bit of research for you already and put together a playlist (conveniently accessible on my YouTube channel home page) for you, aptly named “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” to make it super easy to find.
Check it out. I like to chill out with these tracks playing in my headphones while I’m out in nature somewhere, like a park or a beach or somewhere where there aren’t a lot of people around.
Let’s get physical, physical ♫ ♪
But probably my favorite way EVER to listen to “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” is to get physical with it and turn it into moving meditation. Typically, I will do that by standing up and doing some Tai Chi-esque flowing movements that help me get more grounded and centered in my body while I’m listening and breathing.
Also… you don’t even need to KNOW Tai Chi to take advantage of this type of thing. You can f*cking make it up! Hells yeah! In the past, I’ve taught some of my coaching clients a technique that I call “PRISM,” which stands for Playful, Really Intentional, Super-Slow Movements. PRISM is basically about making up your own movement flow, similar to Tai Chi but completely no-rules, no-holds-barred, just stringing movements together in an intuitive way that feels good to you and tells a story in your head.
Practicing a moving meditation like this allows you to come home to being present in your body and being aware of what’s going on with it. Some people call this process of coming home to your body “re-embodying yourself.” Regardless of what you call it, I feel like it’s a great thing to practice, especially if you’re in recovery from addiction, because substance use is often employed as a defense mechanism for DISembodying ourselves so that we do not have to be fully aware of what is going on with ourselves.
(Note: If you are in active addiction or early recovery, or are dealing with medical or psychological issues, please heed the warnings in the TrishBell.com user agreement before taking any action based on anything you may read on this website.)
Meditation that f*cking WORKS
And doing some moving meditation WHILE listening to “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” will blow your mind! Well, it blows my mind anyway. And what I mean by that is that it makes me smile, and feel peaceful, and giggle, and breathe deep, and ALL that sh*t, all at the same time, kinda. Regardless of whether you add in the moving meditation piece or not, though, my deepest hope for you is that all of this will spark something inside of you that feeds your flame in the same kinda way. And maybe inspires a giggle or two, and even a feeling of excitement about diving into this stuff, instead of dread.
If it does that for you, well, my work here is done! Voila, self-care!
Because here’s something that they don’t teach you in all those studies about the many awesome benefits of meditation: the most effective kind of meditation.
The most effective kind of meditation… revealed!
Do you know what the most EFFECTIVE kind of meditation actually is? You might be surprised to hear this, but it’s got nothing to do with the meditation style you choose. And it’s not about whether you do meditation at an in-person class or do meditation online, or whether you use the latest “easy meditation” techniques or play the right newfangled music or binaural beats in the background.
The most effective kind of meditation is the kind of meditation that you actually DO. Consistently. Period.
It’s not the kind that you just TALK about doing, and it’s not the kind that you schedule on your calendar but never get around to (P.S. here’s how to get around to it, if you need it!), and it’s not the kind that you’ve read 10 books about but only tried once or twice and then pretty much gave up on after that (but damn, those books do look impressive on your bookshelf, right?).
I love you, and I want you to actually DO your f*cking meditation, babes.
It is my heartfelt hope that “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” helps you break through any sense of resistance, frustration, or boredom that might in the past have kept you from really making meditation a daily part of your life. Because consistency in practice — that’s where the magic happens. That’s where the brain starts to change. That’s where the benefits start to shower down upon you like little raindrops of awesomeness. I want that for you. I want that for everyone, truly.
So, anyway, if you’ve made it this far in reading, I’m thinking you must have more than a passing interest in giving this whole meditation thing a real try. So… please let me know what you think about this easy meditation online playlist I put together, and about PRISM too (I’m gonna try to remember to make a video demonstrating a bit of that soon), if you give them a go! I’d love to hear from you!