possibilities.

You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices. –Deepak Chopra

I was talking with my best friend last night as we had dinner at her place, while her 3 kids and 3 other neighbourhood kids tore up the living room. She is sober now. We’ve been best friends for 25 years and have drank and partied together for most of those years. When I started getting serious about getting sober, 3-4 years ago, our friendship was strained. There was a chasm growing between us that, for once in our years together, we didn’t know how to talk about.

This friend and I would find ourselves, in our youth, in the middle of raucous parties, sitting on the couch together delving into the subjects of life, analyzing and examining ourselves and existence. We have always had things to talk about. I have never discussed deeper topics with anyone. Yet, as I began to get sober, we ran out of things to talk about. I couldn’t share what I was experiencing and maybe she didn’t really want to hear it. I feared our friendship was coming to an end at times.

Life and relationships ebb and flow. Her and I have rode this wave together as we’ve been through things. We’ve dated best friends, we’ve travelled to foreign countries together, we’ve moved cities at the same time, we’ve navigated significant tragedies and deaths together, we’ve mingled within the same circles of friends, we’ve done similar work yet in completely different arenas. We’ve grown up and developed together. I wouldn’t be who I am without her influence.

Getting sober without her and the fear of losing our connection was a very painful part of quitting drinking. I had heard that sometimes you lose friends when you get sober but I struggled to think that she could be someone I would lose. I won’t tell her story- it is hers to tell- but she is sober now and it is the biggest gift to me. We’re in this together! My best friend is on the same path as I am (yet again) and it is the best. It’s a different path than mine, of course, as each of our paths are different, but the sober path.

What we talked about last night was so exciting. We talked about how sobriety opens up possibilities. It’s difficult to even fully explain it. But there is something that happens when you get out of that terrible cycle of drinking, eventually, once you make peace with not drinking, you start to see that life is full of options and choices and you can make any damn decision you want. You get to choose how you want to live. And you see you have the strength to make those choices a reality.

I think part of it comes from the internal strength you realize you have after doing something as hard as getting sober. The mental, emotional and spiritual power it takes to overcome the addictive brain is awe-inspiring. When you’re in addiction, your brain is taken over by primal urges and caught in a never-ending loop. Changing that takes time, effort, energy, and major internal resources. We literally change our brains, which we know now is possible- but it’s not easy. It takes incredible determination and dedication. We are the strongest people.

So, it starts to dawn, if I am capable of this- what else? Nothing becomes off limits. I think another part of seeing all possibilities is shaking off this old drinking identity. This I can only speak of personally, but for most of my life I had the identity of a drinker, of a partier, a bit of a rebel, someone who lived life that way. That’s how I conceived of myself, so it was hard to see possibilities that didn’t align with that particular identity. I couldn’t fully step into other parts of me- the parts that were interested in yoga and spirituality, or the athletic side of me, or the professional side of me. Those things all existed yet they didn’t feel authentic somehow. I couldn’t fully embody them. As I have been letting go of the drinking identity, which took up so much space, I am more free to embrace all the other parts of me. I can explore them more deeply, own them, become them. Become anything I want. I have become unstuck.

There is so much freedom in this life choice. I am only 477 days into my new life, so I am only at the beginning and I am very excited about what lies ahead. If you are considering getting sober, please know how worth it it is. Of course, it doesn’t always feel like this (there are still tough days) and especially not in the very beginning, but have faith that there is something better on the other side ❤

e.lee

ONE YEAR


Hello! This is just a quick post to mark my One Year sober anniversary. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to (finally) reach this goal. It has literally taken me years of trying to control and moderate my alcohol intake, realizing I can’t, starting and stopping, one million Day One’s, including a 10.5 month sober stretch, relapsing countless times again, to get to where I am today.

On April Fools Day of 2016 I had my last drink. I don’t know what made it different that time. 3 months into sobriety, my 10 year common law marriage broke. By some miracle I didn’t drink. I knew my life would be in danger if I did.

My life looks a lot different today then it did  one year, two, five, ten ago. But most importantly, I am different inside. I am happier, calmer, more positive, more creative, and have more energy than I’ve ever had in my life.

I owe it all to sobriety. And I’ll never look back.

My 3 themes for 2017.

Happy New Year Glorious Sober Warriors! I have 9 months sober today!

The feeling of waking up without a hangover truly never gets old. Yesterday I slept in (a rare and wonderful thing for me), lazed around in bed with coffee, read, and went to the gym. It was sunny. There is snow on the ground so it was extra bright out. It just felt so good to be alive and well!

I am so grateful for this awakened life. Even though I have gone through arguably one of the most challenging years of my life, I am filled with joy and gratitude. I know the meaning of true happiness. I know what it is to love myself. I have found all of this in sobriety, and I hope the same for you. Maybe it sounds kind of hippy dippy or pollyanna but I don’t care. I have spent way too much time in my life in darkness. And there are still moments of those. Lots, in fact. But I don’t live there. And it always passes, most of the time rather quickly. I can recognize it as the range of human emotion and not my permanent reality.

I have been thinking about of my word of the year. But I can’t narrow it down. I have 3 instead. 3 themes that I am going to focus on this year:

  1. CREATE. I have been extra inspired since my break-up creatively. I have been writing poetry again for the first time in many years. I want to do more of this. I’m also going to take that painting class I’ve been wanting to for years. I’ve been following artists and buying some art, decorating my new home, and I really enjoy it. I want to explore more of my creative side in 2017.
  2. GIVE. I want to give back more this year. I want to start volunteering somewhere, join a committee or board, get more involved in activism and the community. I want to help other women in recovery.
  3. BUILD. I want to continue to build skills professionally, build my meditation and yoga practice, build physical strength and endurance, build community.

My break-up has taken up so much time and energy. Tomorrow it will be 6 months since we split up, and 4 months since I’ve lived on my own. I know that in the scheme of things this isn’t a lot of time for a 10 year relationship, but I’m ready to start moving forward.

I’ve felt a shift in the last few weeks. I’m ready to start my new life without him. I’m ready to get to know who I am again on my own.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope the best for you.

sober and single.

Some darkness is setting in. The weather is gloomy and the sun is gone. Long nights; they end close to 8am and begin around 4 in the afternoon. The holidays are looming, and I don’t care. This will be my first Christmas without my partner and his son in 10 years. Sometimes I feel as though I’m being punished. Although I’m not quite sure what I’ve done. Lately, it’s harder to stay sober. I don’t crave alcohol so much as the feeling of being numb. I want something to take this all away, make the feelings go. I crave relief.

I feel like I should write posts that are positive, full of the benefits of sobriety. The truth is, it’s hard sometimes. While I am still 100% committed to my sobriety and sure that being sober is the best possible thing for me, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I think humans naturally want to find a way out of their suffering. We are hardwired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Being sober doesn’t mean that I have found a way out of this human condition.

The truth is that I am dealing with some depression and anxiety right now. Or maybe I am still in grief, I am not sure. My ex-partner has already moved on with someone else, and there are rumours that he was having an affair during our relationship, although he denies it. The last couple of weeks I have felt a new level of grief. The sinking realization that it is truly over.  The pain that comes with being rejected. The lingering feeling that perhaps I meant nothing to him at all. I know on an intellectual level that I am just telling stories to myself with that last statement. He was a good husband for many years and I know he loved me very much. Sometimes I used to think that he loved me more than I loved him. I don’t think I loved him very well actually.

While I did love him and thought we would spend our lives together, I also always had the feeling that he wasn’t the love of my life. I could never say that about him. Maybe that is something you can only say in retrospect though? So maybe it will turn out that way. All I know is that I miss him so much. But I wouldn’t get back together with him. What does that mean?

The way I feel right now is that I don’t understand love. What does it mean to be in love? How should that feel 5, 10, 20 years into a relationship? I know that love changes over time. I loved him- deeply- but I don’t know that I was in love with him towards the end. What I felt for him was a family type of love, not blood related family but I guess partnership is the right word. He was my home. My person.

It’s early days for me yet, but I am wondering what my future with relationships will look like. I don’t know very many single people. Everyone seems to be coupled with families. How do I even meet someone? While sober? I know I don’t need to worry about this right now as I’m not ready to date anyways, but it’s still hard not to think about. In the past, I’ve always met men through friends or hanging out, and always there has been large amounts of alcohol involved. It’s how I’ve connected with men in the past. I don’t think I’m incapable of connecting with someone sober- but I don’t even know in what scenario I would connect with someone sober. I don’t go out very much and when I do it’s with girlfriends or friends who are in relationships. I work in a field that is 90% women. I can’t even think about online dating. Yet, anyways.

It’s a different phase of life… dare I say I am approaching middle age. Sober and Single. It’s a completely new reality for me. I’m trying to just give myself time to be in the discomfort and not try to “fix” it. I don’t know what the future will bring. Anything could happen and I think it’s important that I stay open. Grounded and centred within myself and my sobriety, but open to possibilities and new experiences. Trusting that my life is unfolding as it should.

on not drinking through a break-up.

I have seven months sober today. I was thinking about writing a post today- and then I checked my wordpress and someone had just left a comment on my last post, which was over 2 months ago, checking on me. I have been silent here, but my mind has been roaring.

The emotions that I have been experiencing of late are probably nothing unique to one experiencing a break-up. I have experienced the kind of sadness that is frightening. I have experienced rage like I have never felt it before. I have experienced feeling lost and disillusioned. I think I haven’t written because I haven’t had the words that can possibly express what has been going on in my mind and my body. There is something to be said for just feeling the feelings and letting them be.

The only way I can truly explain it, is that it’s been like being on a rollercoaster. But one that I didn’t choose to be on. And one that I can’t seem to get off from.

Although, at the same time, I actually think I am doing quite fine. There’s these two parts: the rollercoaster self, and the part of me that is doing pretty well. I am completely fine when I’m at work. I am lucky enough to have a job that I love. A regular reader of this blog might know that I have switched positions a lot in the last few years, as I have entered a new field post-graduate degree. The position I am in is a perfect balance for me- it’s challenging but also chill. I have amazing co-workers who have been so supportive, and the best part is that we have lunch together everyday and just laugh. I am starting to be friendly with some of them outside of work too which has been great.

I seem to be adjusting to living alone and being single. I have been afraid of the weekends, as that is when I used to spend the most time with my ex-partner, but mostly they have been okay. I try to have a few things planned with friends- a hike, a movie, a meal, a girls night. I see how the FEAR of the thing- being alone- is bigger and scarier than the actual thing itself. When I’m alone it’s mostly nice.

Still, I have to fight against the mentality that I am not enough on my own. I have spent most of my life in a relationship or with a partner. It is rare for me not to have something romantic going on and it has always made me feel very insecure to be alone. I think this is a human condition thing, but I also think that for me, it has to do with this void I have had since I was a child. Since my father died. Lately I have been seeing the ways that experience changed and shaped me more clearly. The void the “trauma” of that event left in me that I have been trying to fill ever since with relationships and substances.

I use the word trauma in quotations because I kind of feel like the word is both overused and misunderstood. I have never allowed myself, until recently, to claim what happened to me as trauma. I always thought that trauma had to be some kind of major abuse or a catastrophic incident like a car crash or being in a war. I didn’t think the sudden death of my father, by his own hand, when I was nine, counted.

When I type that out it just seems kind of silly. Of course I knew it had an impact. But I thought the impact was grief and loss. That those were my claims to pain and rights of understanding. Trauma belonged to someone else. But what I know now is that a lot of adverse events, especially, but not limited to childhood, are traumas. And trauma changes us. It changes our brain and the way we see the world. It creates a wound that isn’t easily healed. It messes with things like our impulse control, which can lead to addiction.

I have also learned that the severity of the trauma, combined with other factors such as genetics, brain chemical imbalances, environment, etc., can lead to the severity of the addiction. Addiction is on a spectrum- that is caused by a confluence of bio-psycho-social and spiritual conditions.

I knew this stuff on an intellectual level before. I have read some on the subject but somehow, maybe because I wasn’t sober enough to understand it all, I never really “got” it.

I don’t know where I am going with this post. The force of these thoughts- that I am not whole on my own- is dying down. It’s not something I actually believe anymore, but it’s still there as a mentality I can go into sometimes- does that make sense? It’s kind of like getting sober- there’s those two minds. The sober mind that wants to be free and thrive and be well and feel good, and then the addicted mind that just can’t let go of thinking that alcohol or drugs is the way to happiness or the way to relieve the pain.

It is possible that I am re-working the neural pathways in my brain, just as I have to become a happy sober person, I am on the way to becoming a happy single person. Fingers crossed.

If I didn’t have that 11 month stretch of sobriety last year, I am not confident that I would still be sober through this break-up. But because I did have that, I lay down some serious tracks that have just stuck and not let me down. I also have built in more support- most of it still not in-person, but more nonetheless.

There are the rollercoasterish ups and downs and pain. But underneath all of that, here I am. Anything can happen to me, including seeing my ex at a restaurant with the woman he is seeing who is the same woman that I suspected something was going on with before our break-up (yes, this just happened on the weekend and woah!), and I am still me.

Nothing that is happening around me needs to change who I am at my core being. Emotions and thoughts come like a storm. And they go. This was a very yoga-ish realization I had, in a yoga class of course :), the other night. I was breathing my way through a hard pose, and it was like everything else. I will breathe and get through this hard time. Just like I got through getting sober. I am still me. I am still okay. My break-up doesn’t have to shatter my sense of self-worth. Being alone doesn’t have to mean I am not enough. Being sober doesn’t have to mean the end of the world, as many of us have learned- it is only the beginning.

My sobriety has actually given me the strength and clarity of self to get through this break-up. That is how I haven’t had a drink.

 

 

state of morning.

I feel better in the mornings.

I used to date a guy with a serious alcohol problem, back before I really had one myself. Although he was a heavy drinker, he was a morning person and he used to joke that his day went downhill from noon on. Maybe because that’s when he usually started drinking. His mornings were often filled with working (cooking), surfing, painting, or being out in nature, and then when he started drinking his day got messier and his mind got murkier.

He was a mean drunk. I woke up one morning and he was on his knees pissing on me, in a drunken stupor. When I woke up and shouted at him to stop, he told me to fuck off, lay back down and went to sleep. That’s when I finally broke it off with him. Which wasn’t easy because we were living in a tent on a beach in Costa Rica.

But that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, I wouldn’t doubt it if I were influenced by him in appreciating the morning. I love the quiet. I love it when it’s still a bit chilly from the cool night air. Even if (especially if) it’s going to be a hot sunny day, there’s that unmistakeable refreshing feeling first thing. I love the newness of the morning. The promise of it.

I never felt much like drinking in the morning, so it’s a “safe” space for me. No triggers. Of course, when I was drinking heavily myself, mornings were often filled with headaches, dehydration, nausea, and sadness. Which is what makes them so much sweeter in sobriety. What used to be filled with feeling sick, tired, and mountains of regret, is now filled with clarity, lightness, and hope. I can now really let in the beauty of the morning, and let it consume me instead of seeing it from an arm’s distance away. Trying to grasp it with not long enough fingers.

_____

My 10 year relationship is over. I move out soon into a cute little apartment in a small older style building in a different, more urban part of the city. I’ve actually never really lived on my own. Before I moved in with my partner, I pretty much always had roommates or partners to live with. I’m afraid. Sometimes I am so frightened that my chest (my heart?) feels like it’s in a vice grip and my stomach is in knots.

I don’t do alone very well. All my fears are coming up. Abandonment, rejection, being unloveable. I think I need to be with someone else to feel complete. My twisted thoughts tell me that I don’t have value unless someone wants to be with me.

Damn. Those are the reasons that I drank- so as not to be alone with myself and these feelings. Through the process of getting sober I thought I had dealt with all that. Turns out I was wrong… It’s still there. I still have work to do because I know those thoughts aren’t true. But I don’t know at the same time, some part of me still believes it.

In the morning I can better connect to the part of myself that knows my worth, and that knows I will be okay. Sometimes I even feel excitement for this new stage in my life- new freedoms, opportunities, the unknowns. I am curious of where life will take me now. I am always amazed at where it does. Maybe it’s in the newness of the day that I can connect to those feelings of wonder. Maybe it’s the quiet in the morning that allows me to feel confidence. I don’t know exactly what it is but right now I wish I could live in a perpetual state of morning.

so many things.

Thank you for all the kind, supportive comments on my last post. It’s difficult to write about this because my emotions are so up and down. Rapid cycling thoughts. But I think it’s important that I write some of it down.

I have had moments of peace and clarity in the last week and it is mostly when I remember that what I’m doing (becoming sober) is hard and beautiful and worth it. And I want to get that down for the moments when all I feel is despair. And rage. Oh, the rage.

Although I believed my husband was 100% supportive of me being sober, I can see now that he was reluctantly so. Of course, he wanted me to feel better. But I think he wished that I could get better and then drink again. I don’t know that he ever really wanted to understand that I was actually dealing with addiction. Part of me believes that he would have to look at his own self in order to fully grasp this.

Anyways, I digress. I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing him and what drove him to end our relationship. You know what? I will probably never really understand exactly because humans are complicated. Many of us barely understand our own minds and feelings let alone someone else’s. And whatever caused this on his part will make no difference to the outcome for me.

It is wild to me that this is where my recovery path has led me. You honestly never know what life is going to bring.

I’ve written before on this blog about my fear that my husband’s and my differences will cause us to grow apart. Socially we don’t have much of a common ground any longer and I don’t think either one of us knows how to resolve it. I have wanted things in life that he does not want. Many times I feel held back or that I have had to compromise too much for the relationship.

So when he spoke those words one week ago, in my heart I knew what he was saying was true. I just don’t like to admit what my heart knows all the time. Because it’s scary and painful and dreadful to think of uprooting. I also love him dearly but it’s maybe not the right kind of love to spend a lifetime with someone. Possible? For sure. The best possible? I doubt it.

I also took a lot of pleasure and pride in being committed. There were many times I could have left; instead, I compromised. One could say I sacrificed. Which only makes this pain so much worse. After all I have given up, now, he leaves. Now, he is done. Without even trying, it seems.

What this pushed me to do is tell my family about my sobriety. This past week I told them when I told them about the break-up. It was easy in the end to finally just say it. Of course, they were much more concerned about the relationship ending and my broken heart than the fact that I can no longer drink alcohol. So… I am “out”. I can’t quite access how it feels as all my feelings are so mixed up and I can’t quite isolate one from the other right now. But I suspect that being honest about my addiction and recovery with the people in my life I am closest to and who love me the most will help me feel free. More will be revealed in time.

I’ve been on the recovery path for about 2.5-3 years now. All there was in the beginning was despair. I had no idea how to get well and a very faint notion of what being well even was. Through research, study, practice, reaching out, counselling, introspection, writing, and trying different tools and strategies I feel I finally have a grasp on being sober. I believe with every ounce of my being that this is the right choice- the only choice- for me to have a happy and successful life. Even though I am still in early recovery, I had a solid sober stint last year (nearly 11 months) and in the last two years I have been sober much more than not. It all adds up. Today I don’t feel 3.5 months sober- instead all the sober things I’ve learned and done has accumulated even though there have been drinks in between.

I know that this is true because I am pulling on my different tools and strengths I’ve gained since getting sober to deal with my emotions right now. In the times of darkness, I know there is a light somewhere inside me that I can access- if not in this moment then perhaps in the next one.

I know that the only way through these emotions is to feel them. I am afraid to feel them, but I am doing it anyways. If I want to cry, I cry. The emotions come and go like waves. When I feel angry, I express it (usually by sharing it with a friend). I accept the support that my friends and family are giving me even though my tendency is want to isolate and be alone with it all. I know I can’t do this alone.

When I first got sober I had to have faith that it would get better. I believed the words that bloggers said about how it does in time. It is the only way to get through those beginning days and nights that are filled with craving, fear, and the insanity of addiction. Slowly, over time, I saw that life did get better being sober. I was happier, more stable, had more integrity, and liked myself better. It’s still hard, but always better than being trapped in that revolving door of drinking/hangover/drinking/hangover.

I am trying to rely on that same faith right now. That I will feel better again, feel happy one day without my partner by my side.

One week before this happened I went to retreat on a farm on a small island close to me. I joined 25 other women for yoga, organic food, hiking, paddling, self-care, and talking about recovery. I met some amazing women and my sober network has started to grow. It is kind of strange that right before my break-up, I was welcomed into a new, supportive, awake, alive, recovery tribe. I feel held and supported. And I have no regrets of this path I’m on.

I am struck that if I didn’t have my sobriety, I would be absolutely falling apart right now. But also that if I wasn’t sober, maybe this wouldn’t be happening at all. It is the one big way in which I’ve changed- the biggest way in which we’ve “grown apart”. I’ve changed; I am changing. And I think for the better. If my relationship could not survive it, I’m sorry for it, but I can’t go back. I love him very much, but I love myself more these days. That is the coolest thing about sobriety and recovery- the self-love that grows.

I am up and down like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster. Most of the day my heart feels broken. The things and details that come with separation feel entirely overwhelming. I’m angry that he gave up on us so easily after all. But I have ME: sober, alive, vital, lucid, clear, strong, and healthy. And I’m scared, but I think I’ll be okay.