+ sidewalk etching of the words "you are here"

Journal Entry #8: You Are Here

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.

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.
+ woman holding a puppy in a field

Journal Entry #7: Puppy Love and Swimsuit Anxiety

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?

LOL. Ugh.

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.

Oh.

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.

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.
+ woman holding sign reading "this is not my secret; it's yours"

Journal Entry #6: Shame Triggers

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.

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.
+ small yellow flower in a dark field, illuminated by a shaft of light

Journal Entry #5: A Shift in Thinking

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.
+ woman holding sledgehammer

Journal Entry #4: Please Excuse Our Dust

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.

But! But…

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.
+ woman with closed eyes resting chin on folded hands

Journal Entry #3: Excuses and Decisions

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.
+ tears shining in a woman's half hidden face

Journal Entry #2: Tears of Seeing

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.

F*ck me.

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.

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.
+ woman with pink hair leaning over railing

Journal Entry #1: Introductory Lessons in Pain

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.

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.
+ woman in pink shirt holding spiral notebook

My Sobriety Journey, Journaled

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.

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.

love from trish
+ lonely hand against window pane during social distancing

3 Wake-Up Calls Brought to You Courtesy of Social Distancing (and by the fact that I have not been TOUCHED by another human in 26 days… and counting)

“Hey, y’all… do you think it’s possible for an adult human to actually, like, literally die from lack of human contact?” This was, indeed, the question that I posed to a group of friends, as my online avatar flopped her sexy little pixels onto a sofa in a public room of the MMORPG where I’ve been spending a lot of my time these days. Yes, I’ve been taking advantage of the magic of the internet to hang out with others virtually, while simultaneously lamenting the frustrations of social distancing.

And I was only half joking with my question. Maybe only a quarter joking even. Because it’s a fact that infants very often will actually, literally perish if they don’t receive enough human touch after they are born. And while my Google search on the topic of the effects of lack of touch on adults didn’t yield quite as dire results as my search on infants did, the results did suggest that the psychological impacts of long-term social distancing could be potentially serious for us all.

Pondering post-pandemic psychology…

Which leads me to wonder… what will the state of our collective societal psychological health look like in the aftermath of this COVID-19 global pandemic? I mean, look at us now — with all of us locked away in our respective homes, with neighbors increasingly fearful of closeness to one another, with all of us diligently practicing the art of social distancing from each other for weeks (and possibly months) on end.

I’ll be honest. It never occurred to me that this whole self-isolation thing would be difficult. When the first murmurings of social distancing started filtering down from on high, I wasn’t concerned in the least. As a hard-core introvert, I didn’t think I’d have any trouble hanging out with my good old friends — me, myself, and I. We got along just dandy, after all. I was never the type to seek out group interactions in any situation. It would be business as usual, with a few less trips to the store, I imagined.

And yet. And yet…

Waking up to the reality of it all…

I also never considered the reality of it. Living alone. Unpartnered. Hundreds of miles from family. With not even a roommate to share meals with… or hugs… or even high-fives. “Whoa. Hold up. WTF is THIS mess?” my inner self protested, less than a week into the isolation period.

No, I didn’t imagine that I might stare longingly at neighbors as I walked my dog, more jealous of their live-in status and the fact that they had someone to cuddle with at night than I’d care to admit.

No, I didn’t imagine that I might find myself wondering — not entirely facetiously, mind you — if I might mayyyyybe be able to convince the guy with the motorcycle and the cool tatts a few streets down from me, who appeared to be single, if he’d be up for making a sort of “friends-with-benefits coronavirus pact” with me, so we wouldn’t have to be in this alone. Well… so I wouldn’t have to be in this alone. Actually, I’m still not toooootally convinced it’s a bad idea to propose this. Maybe if this whole quarantine thing goes on another week or two…

But in the meantime, here are a few of the wake-up calls I’ve gotten, courtesy of social distancing, that have helped me get through this time so far. Maybe one of them will help you, too.

Wake-Up Call #1: We are NOT alone. Not in this global pandemic. Not in ANYTHING. Not ever.

person standing silhouetted by a starry night sky

Yeah, I know this particular wake-up call can feel like a tough sell. And you’re right — it’s a grand-AF, sweeping-*ss statement to even try to make, let alone to wrap your head around. But I like to think that there is a bit of a method to my madness, so let me at least attempt to explain…

First of all… raise your hand if you feel alone sometimes, just because, for no real discernible reason at all. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt all alone while standing in the midst of a crowd. Raise your hand if all the crazy things happening in the world make you feel alone. Raise your hand if you feel more alone now than ever. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt ALONE in feeling alone.

Yeah. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to let the swamps of sadness get to you. The ironic thing about this is that the very fact that we all experience this struggle is, in itself, a powerful unifying force — and one that we often allow the strength of our emotions to blind us to.

Here’s a train of thought to mull over: According to some Buddhist teachings, the root cause of suffering (or dukkha) is craving or desire. And loneliness can certainly be thought of as a craving or desire. And we can probably all agree that loneliness can evoke feelings of suffering in us. But in facing that suffering head-on, in letting ourselves move fully into the experience of that suffering, we can actually find a deep sense of connection in loneliness… because there is an undeniable universality in that particular flavor of suffering (and in ALL suffering, really).

Think about this: In any given moment that you are experiencing feelings of loneliness — across your town, across your country, across the globe — millions of other humans are experiencing that same feeling (perhaps even billions of other humans, in this unique time of isolation in our global history). Imagine them all in your mind’s eye, these millions or even billions of other suffering souls, your kindred spirits — their loneliness shining out from wherever they might be around the world, lighting up the darkness like countless pinpoints of starlight speckling the night sky.

We are so NOT alone.

Wake-Up Call #2: We ALL struggle. Every. Single. Day.

woman sitting on floor in an empty room, looking sad while social distancing

If you pop into social media these days, it’s overwhelmingly clear: It’s not business as usual, and NONE of us are acing this unexpected COVID-19 pop quiz thrown at us by the universe.

We, collectively, as a human species, are currently NOT okay.

And I really believe, whether we are showing it on the outside or not, that we are all pretty much freaking the f*ck out right now. With good reason.

But you know what? That’s okay. It’s normal. And this too, eventually, will pass. (I mean… right? Is it time yet? Is it passing? **sighs and stares out the window fondly at the empty grassy fields of the oh-so-nearby but totally closed-up and locked-down doggie park**) But in the meantime, the outpouring of vulnerable, open, gut-deep shares that are currently going in on our online global community — on Instagram, in Facebook, in whatever online groups or communities you belong to — is just breathtaking to witness.

Yes, there are certainly a vast range of differences in our current personal situations during this time of social distancing, and in how we are each dealing with the impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic on our lives. But make no mistake, we are all struggling with something.

My writing obviously comes from the perspective of someone living the solitary lock-down life (and as a full-time RVer… which has it’s own unique and sometimes stressful challenges, especially with many parks and recreation areas now completely closed down as well… but that’s a post for another time), but I know that there are just as many struggles for those locked down with family, friends, or roommates. I mean, seriously, people… I’d imagine we can only take so much of each other in confined spaces before even the smallest things start to grate on our nerves… and all of a sudden the sound of someone clipping their toenails in the next room sends us on a Max Rager rampage… am I right? Well, maybe some of that is just me. #hardcoreintrovert <– Ahem. But I’m sure you get the idea.

And since so many of us haven’t really trained ourselves up to be naturally and actively practicing healthy self-care when things fall apart (as they always seem to), many of us are, in fact, probably down to our very last nerve, at this very moment.

Wake-Up Call #3: Sometimes Things Fall Apart. But that Doesn’t Mean WE Have to Fall Apart.

woman laying in old fashioned bathtub reading book while social distancing

So I want to talk about self-care a little bit.

But I kind of also really want to jump up and down right here and be all like, “Read this really cool book, y’all!”

(Or listen to the audiobook, like I did. I mean, can I even settle into a chair long enough to actually, literally read a whole PHYSICAL copy of a book with my actual, literal eyeballs anymore? That’s a good question. Future research is required. But I digress.)

So let me just say that Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart is awesome. It helps tons. It helped me tons, anyway.

But also… taking care of yourself, just in general — that helps too, y’all. For real. I’ve written before about how the idea of actually practicing real, daily self-care can feel like a radical concept in today’s fast-paced world. But the world is slowing down right now. And that’s a wake-up call if I ever did hear one.

Many, many, many of us are now being FORCED by circumstance — and social distancing — to slow. the. F. down. You know? And that’s kind of a gift, in some ways. Although I think it’s a gift that a lot of us don’t know what to do with, because we haven’t trained up in taking care of ourselves, in being kind to ourselves, in finding restorative, rejuvenating ways to spend all of the quiet alone time that’s been unceremoniously dumped in our laps.

But we can accept this gift with grace and with openness, if we try. I mean, this is a suuuuuper cool time to explore your self-care options with a real sense of playfulness, y’all. Pull out that dusty yoga mat. Dig out that musical instrument you used to love playing. Make a chalk drawing on your driveway. Play with body paints! Cut your own hair! Lay out under a tree in the yard and read a REAL, ACTUAL book. (Okay, that last one was my own suggestion to myself.)

Explore. Restore. And more! (Okay, I’m done with my Dr. Seuss rhyme time now. Ahem. But that was kinda fun.)

In Summary: We are resourceful. We are resilient. And we are TOGETHER. Even (and maybe especially) when we’re apart. And also… does anyone want to make a FWB coronavirus quarantine pact with me? J/K! Sorta.

Listen: We’ve got resourcefulness and resilience up the wazoo, my friends! And no, I’m not just talking about how I’ve discovered that it’s really not quite as horrific or disastrous as I’d imagined it might be to try to cut my dog’s hair without the help of a groomer… or to cut my own hair without the help of a professional stylist… or to bake bread in a toaster oven (WITHOUT burning my RV to the ground! woot!). Although, I will admit, those have indeed been resilient and resourceful-AF moments of revelation for me over the past few weeks.

But seriously. Just look around you. The creativity and strength of character and general outpouring of loving kindness that I see all around me in today’s so-called “isolated” society absolutely amazes me. You all amaze me. And sometimes… just sometimes… I even amaze myself.

From my little plot of land on the planet to yours, wherever it may be, I salute you. And when you start feeling all the feels (as I have been!), and all the feels get to feeling like maybe too much to hold in your heart, remember — it’s the feels that connect us. It’s the feels that unite us.

We may feel apart from one another right now, but we are all a part of a greater, universal whole. And we are not alone.

I love you.

love from trish

P.S. But if you’re down for that whole FWB pact thing, umm… you know… just, like… message me, ‘kay? 😜

P.P.S. Yeah, I’m fairly sure I used the words “actually” and “literally” about a million gazillion times in this post. But I’m gonna let it ride, and let myself be okay with that, because… you know, self-care and stuff. 💙