sick, but free.

I’m sick today. I have developed a cold. It has given me the opportunity to stay home from work today and focus on recovery. Last night I also went to an AA meeting. I have only been to a handful of AA meetings since I got sober, and while I attribute some of their teachings to helping me get sober, I haven’t yet been sold on the program.

I have mentioned before that one of the things that got me sober this time was the concept of surrender. Acceptance and surrender. Which I believe is like the 1st step. And I would be lying if I said that I haven’t been relying partially on a power greater than myself in this process of recovery- which aligns with the 2nd and 3rd step. So, somehow, those 3 steps have been a part of getting me sober, along with sober blogs, Refuge Recovery, and other books/material. This combination of things have helped me get to 76 days sober, and I am truly grateful for all of these modalities.

The first 3-4 weeks were really hard, and then things started getting easier and better. It’s like the honeymoon period that e12p wrote about today. It’s when the fog of addiction starts to lift and your world gets a lot brighter. The possibility of sobriety starts to reveal itself. You wake up hangover free day after day and the world gets a certain sheen to it as you realize that you are not chained to a miserable substance any longer. You start making plans. It’s exciting.

Then, as e12p also wrote about, things shift again. You are still in the same life, day by day, doing much of the same things. You’ve removed the alcohol- which is awesome- but you realize that you are still here! Your mind is still here. Some of the same thoughts and feelings still exist. You’re still you, just sans booze.

If you’re anything like me, you are left a bit wanting. What now? What’s next? This can’t be it. As I wrote about in my last post, I was starting to feel a bit blue. I am now faced with my problems and I am now choosing not to numb them out, like I have done pretty much every night for a very long time. I was a heavy daily drinker for over 12 years, and a weekend binger for much longer than that. I have been plying myself with booze, on a consistent basis, and sometimes drugs, for over 25 years. While I like to think that I am a well-adjusted person, I only need to look at this fact to realize that I’ve been managing my emotions through substances and therefore haven’t really learned how to process them.

I went to a meeting last night because I had the feeling that I need to grow more. I was feeling tired (now I realize I was getting sick but at the time I didn’t know) and stuck. I wrote before about a void or emptiness in me, and it’s been on my mind that a way I could feel more whole would be to deepen a spiritual connection. When I am in nature sometimes, I feel a sort of love that seems spiritual to me. I feel connected to something much greater than myself, and in turn this makes me feel full. I’ve always been interested in spirituality, but I’ve never really allowed myself to follow a path. I have studied yoga, which I think is a spiritual path, but have been quite on and off (mostly due to my drinking). I’ve always had questions about the purpose of life, the existence of a higher power and why we are here. I was in a relationship in my early 20’s that was a bit emotionally abusive, and he used to mock me whenever I mentioned anything with a spiritual element, so I think I learned to suppress this side of me. Through the last couple of months of sobriety, I’ve come to accept that I am a spiritual person. I don’t understand how it works, but I truly feel that part of how I got sober this time around is because I surrendered control to some kind of higher power. I know that drinking alcohol is not in my best interest, actually it is a complete detriment to me, and I gave it up so that the force of life that moves around and through us could work in a more positive way for me.

I believe that the life force- whatever creates consciousness and keeps our hearts beating and birds flying and the oceans moving- is all about sustaining life and growth. The body, through it’s own magic, never stops doing the things it needs to do to keep us alive and in balance. Amazingly, the body, just like the earth, will not only maintain life, but try to heal itself.  THAT is the power that is greater than me. Alcohol, for me, was like a poison to this already perfect but susceptible system. I had to stop poisoning myself so that my body (as well as my mind and soul) can heal and continue on the path of growth and development.

I am developing a deep respect for this process of letting go of things. Yes, it’s a little bit painful right now- kind of like growing pains- but I am curious to discover what else I am making room for. I have heard other people say that they are grateful to be an addict because of the gifts found within recovery. I think I understand what they mean. The beauty of recovery is not only in the overcoming of something that leads to a greater sense of strength, confidence and self-worth, but also the space that it creates for a much more meaningful life. When you let go of something painful, it opens up room for the growth of something much more positive. In recovery, if I want it, I get to find a way to resolve and clear out old traumas, fears, and pain, connect to my purpose, and live. I am free to find and follow my path.

All that energy that was stuck and stagnant in the cycle of drinking can move more freely now. I guess the thing now is to figure out in which way to direct it. Whether it comes through working the steps in AA, or continuing with a Buddhist perspective on recovery, delving more deeply into yoga again, or a combination of all and more, I’m pretty sure that working on my spiritual life will be a part of my future. And, I am excited!

blue clouds.

I want my pink clouds back.

For a while there I was feeling so good all the time- feeling inspired, energetic, creative, and having what I would call spiritual awakenings. I guess I thought that would just continue. I sure hope it comes back.

The last week or so has been really tough for me. I have entered a blue could phase. It’s strange though- I don’t really have a craving to drink, but I have had thoughts of wanting to drink just so that I can change my blue mood or stop thinking so much. I now know that drinking will not solve any of my problems- it never did before so why would it now?? I also know that not only would it not solve anything but it would actually make it much worse. I would be stuck in a fog, feel like shit on all levels, depise my lack of self-control, and generally want to crawl into a hole and disappear.

I know drinking is not the answer, but, of course, a part of me thinks- what is the point of being sober if I am going to feel like shit anyways? I have been quite low for the last little while. Feeling really negative about my life and some of the choices I have made. I feel that emptiness I wrote about in my last post. I have been feeling like I need a change and I have been having doubts in several areas in my life. I am new again in a job and feel a bit shaky as I find my way into a groove within a new team. Most of my friends have young children and have their hands very full, and I feel disconnected from them. All of my family lives in another part of the province and I miss them. I feel lonely sometimes.

Without alcohol to numb out these feelings, there they are. I have to fucking feel them.

The icing on the cake this week is that my nemesis has decided to make an appearance. No, I’m not referring to wolfie or the wine witch or the drink demon, or whatever you want to call it. I am talking about a different, but equally annoying kind of beast.

I’m talking about PMS. It completely intensifies everything I am already feeling and dealing with.

Screw you, PMS.

Am I right, women?

I am just trying to remind myself that this will pass. I am stronger than this. Whatever it is that I am feeling distressed over are the things in my life that I need to deal with. I’ve tried drinking it away and it hasn’t worked. I am glad that I can do this now with a clear head but it’s still not easy. I guess this is the challenging part of getting sober- actually facing your problems!  But this is what I wanted to do in getting sober. Finally face some of those inner demons and sort them out. A lot of it I have posted about before- negative thinking. A lot of the things in my life that I feel are problems are actually thinking problems. I obsess about things instead of accepting or changing things. I go into a negativity spiral and end up feeling badly about myself.

I am hoping that meditation will help with the negative thinking. I have attended a couple of the Refuge Recovery meetings now, and so far I am really enjoying it. We talk about our recovery, we meditate together, and then we read and discuss part of the book the group is based on. I have done meditation before but I am starting to see it with a new lens. Whereas before I understood mediation to be something to do to “clear” the mind, I am now seeing it as something to do to be “aware” of the mind. I’d like to learn to observe the negative thinking and not become so engaged in the drama. I’d like to learn not to believe everything I think!

It’s a work in progress. I am a work in progress. I am excited to learn and grow and develop. I’m starting to come out of my blue mood. I want to make sure that I try to reflect and learn from this time. I know I had triggers that set me off around Thanksgiving, drinking, family, and my friend’s pregnancy. I had PMS. I also know that I didn’t get outside enough in the last week and I know how much that helps me.

Nature is my therapy. I need to get out in the woods once a week. It helps me to feel alive and connected to something greater than myself. I feel something like love when I am surrounded by nature and it’s the best feeling I know. It fills the void. It “completes” me 😉

It’s still early days and I know that I shouldn’t expect to recover over night. I have a long ways to go, I am sure. It’s just hard to deal with such negative feelings. I can see pretty clearly why I would want to drink so much to escape feeling how I have for the last 10 days. I am slowly learning other ways to cope with those emotions. I have hope and faith that I will learn to understand myself more fully and learn how to manage my thoughts and feelings.

70 days sober tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

the emptiness in me.

There is an emptiness in me.

Today, the emptiness in me is child-sized.

Last night, it was the size of a bottle of wine.

Sometimes, when I dream, the emptiness is the shape of someone that I used to know.

There is a space inside me, and I want to fill it with things. The space changes and morphs to what it wants. Often, it fools me into thinking that it is gone and then it abruptly makes itself known. Last night, we celebrated Thanksgiving with family- the food and drink were plenty. So the space within me grew to about 26 ounces big, and was crimson in colour. And earlier, I had brunch with a girlfriend- one of my last few friends who was child-less. She is pregnant. And while I feel so much joy for her, the space inside me cried out, in the shape of a child. Is this craving? Is this what the Buddha talks about- attachment? That the reason we suffer is due to our wanting. Our perceived lacking.

So, what is whole-ness? I suppose it is feeling that I am enough without the things that I desire.

But I desire to feel whole and alive and at peace. I try to do things that inspire me to feel that way. These things are simple. This morning I spent time alone by the sea. It was quiet and still and the sky was moody. I spend time hiking in the woods. I spend time with my partner who is my best friend and my lover. I spend time with my mother, my brothers, my niece and nephew, my girlfriends. I spend time reading and I write. Sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes I don’t.

Mostly, during these activities and beyond them, I spend time feeling. Just feeling. On my own. I feel the beauty of the world and of life. Sometimes I think it is the way I feel that is the most precious thing that I have. My new found sobriety is like how sweet it is to allow yourself to be consumed and enveloped in the rush of deeply falling for someone.

I am opening.

I breathe in this feeling that I can’t quite name yet. It is warm and smooth and so full. It embraces me and propels me. It makes me feel invincible, calm, and beautiful. It is exciting and comforting all at the same time. It is the opposite of heartache.

I think this is love. I oscillate between these two places- the emptiness and the fullness.

I am wanting and I am love.

I think the work is being okay with the wanting, to accept it. And then, to let it go. How many times and how often will I be reminded of those longings and desires? Is it like in meditation, when you are trying to quiet the mind, and thoughts keep coming up and you acknowledge them and then let them float away like clouds?

I don’t know how to make the emptiness go away, or even if it will. I don’t know how to stop wanting. I am hoping that if I fill my life up with all the other things and feelings that make me feel full, the empty space will get smaller and smaller. It seems to be working so far. Maybe I don’t want it to go away altogether so that I can remember where I’ve been and how I got here. I think I want to keep visiting it from time to time, because it will get less painful, and I will want to remember those parts of me. All the parts of my story.

60 days sober tomorrow.

50 days sober.

Amazingly, nothing short of a miracle, I have been sober for 50 days today. I don’t know exactly how it has happened this time that I’ve managed to stay sober! This is the longest I’ve ever gone without having a drink since I was a young teenager. It feels great.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy as I’ve been slowly stepping out of my sober comfort zone. I have also started exercising and I started a new position this week so it’s been extra busy. Small victories have been attending my book club sober (not a big drinking group of women), and I’ve have been out for dinner with my partner several times where he has had alcohol (luckily he has agreed to only drink beer around me, which doesn’t bother me in the least as I’ve never been a big beer drinker).

Larger things to celebrate are- I went to a southern style potluck that had a bourbon theme to it, dined in a fancy french restaurant where my friends drank cocktails and bottles of red wine, and stayed with family for a weekend who are good wine with good food types. Each challenge I’ve braced myself for feeling weird and out of place, and truth be told, I had moments where I felt disconnected and left out. But it was not the end of the world. I got through the uncomfortableness, relaxed, and let go of the voice in my head telling me that I should be different than I am. Some of my friends know my problems with alcohol and it’s been nice to be honest with them. I’ve told them that I will try attending events with alcohol and if I feel uncomfortable then I might have to leave. They have been accepting and supportive. I told my family that alcohol does not agree with me anymore and makes me feel shitty both physically and emotionally so I am choosing not to drink. I have eluded to this before with them so it didn’t come as a shock, and they were completely fine with me not drinking.

I am starting to believe that I am good exactly as I am. So what if I’m not the life of the party. So what if I’m not the funniest or that outgoing even? I am starting to respect myself in a way that is unfamiliar to me. I am learning to accept myself. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to improve or develop as a person, but that improving or developing has more to do with strengthening who I already am instead of trying to change who I am.

I am a social person, this is for sure. I’ve noticed that when I go too long without socializing, I feel down. I like to have plans and dates. I don’t have children and I have a partner who works a lot, so I’m realizing that I need to structure more activities into my week. However, socializing in very large groups or socializing too much drains me and makes me feel unsettled. So I’ve been trying to focus on the kinds of things that energize and empower me, like visiting one or a couple of good friends at a time. I do like meeting new people but I need to do so in small doses.

I am also recognizing that it’s important to me to focus on what makes me feel good and happy. On what makes me feel alive and well, engaged, and fulfilled. I have always known that I am an outdoors person and lately this has never been more true for me. Being outside, hiking in mountains and the woods makes me feel so uplifted. I can’t explain it in words even. It’s a spiritual experience for me. I feel connected, at peace, and full hearted when I am surrounded by the trees and the sky, and lately, the leaves turning beautiful hues of orange and red. I am on the pacific west coast and the fog is overwhelming me with it’s mystical beauty right now. Sometimes it’s so much I feel like I am going to burst. I just want to explore these feelings and see where it takes me. I am planning multi-day hiking trips in the future so that I can have more of this.

I couldn’t really connect to these kinds of feelings and experiences when I was drinking. I might have had glimpses, but they were small and fleeting. But they were present just enough for me to know that a sober life is a better life. Right now it is the only life for me. I am SO happy to be sober. I can not tell you enough. I don’t know if I am a credible source to take advice from as it has taken me so long to get where I am, and I am still so new, but if anyone reading this is wondering if getting sober is worth it, please believe me that it is so worth it!

For me, staying sober has been about finding and focussing on the positives. Find something that makes you feel alive and happy- or peaceful, confident, engaged, or excited- or whatever feeling that allows you to feel your best, and do this thing as much as possible. The first month is really tough but then it slowly starts to get better. Focus on the good. Even if they are only moments at first- keep them in mind and try to create more of them.

In other news, I attended a new recovery group last night. It is called Refuge Recovery and it is based on the work of Noah Levine, who is a Buddhist and meditation teacher and a therapist in California. I’ve always been interested in Buddhism and meditation and as I’m now getting more passionate about recovery, this group seemed like a good fit.  We did some introductions, a 20 minute meditation, then read part of the Refuge Recovery book and then spoke about what we read/what came up for us. It’s a new program, and I feel uncomfortable in groups, so I felt awkward last night, but I’m hopeful for what this group might become.

Hope you all have an amazing weekend.