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

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

on shame.

I am here and not here at the same time. I read blogs every day, but I haven’t been writing much. I am in a phase of just wanting the days to pass by, to build up more sober time… in order to get somewhere? I’m not sure. Just to feel more secure or something. I can’t explain the feeling.

I have had many more sober days in 2016 than not. Truth is that I’ve only had a handful or two of drinking days since January. After my last post, I drank on a weekend when I was visiting my family. I didn’t “set myself up” to be sober, instead I took it for granted and in doing so I compromised myself. My family maybe had 2-3 drinks over the course of a mellow evening- dinner and playing a board game. I had no fewer than 7 drinks. Of course I felt horrible.

It’s just kind of boring now, I suppose that’s why I don’t write about it. I will keep repeating the same mistake until I learn the lessons I should: I can’t drink like a normal person; I can’t moderate my alcohol intake; I have an addiction to alcohol and I need to treat it.

Anyways, I think I’m done now. While on the topic on counting: today marks 52 straight days. I had about 45 before I drank last time. And 3 weeks before that, and 3 weeks before that, and on and on. I do feel that I am getting somewhere, again. Last year I had nearly 11 months sober and I felt so good! I’ve been struggling to get there again, but slowly and surely I think I am.

I turn 40 in a month’s time and this is a catalyst for me to get sober. I gave so many years to alcohol and I want to enter into this chapter in life sober and healthy. Just as I didn’t want to go into my 30’s smoking, I don’t want to go into my 40’s drinking. I want to live with vitality and lucidity, things I don’t feel when I’m drinking.

I’ve been doing lots of reading still about recovery lately. Right now I’m reading The Naked Mind (Annie Grace) and also Integral Recovery (John Dupuy). It is fascinating to me how many books and perspectives there are on the subject of addiction and recovery. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts (Since Right Now and HOME being my favourites). I’ve joined some online groups and I will be attending a yoga and recovery retreat in June. In a way I feel like recovery and sobriety are becoming all-consuming. Not that this is a bad thing, I just didn’t expect it. I’ve tended to compartmentalize things in my life, and I’m not sure this is working for me anymore. Part of me has wanted to keep sobriety in this tidy little box that I can visit once in a while but put out of sight when needed. Kind of like how I kept my problematic drinking secret for the most part.

Shame kept my drinking hidden in a corner and I feel like it’s this same shame that keeps my sobriety out of sight as well. I’m starting to question this a lot. It’s different for everyone but I’m not sure I can stay sober if I am secret about it. It’s starting to feel inauthentic when I’m in a process of becoming more honest with myself about the cost and causes of addiction in my life. I’m tired of keeping things in tidy little boxes, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to do so.

I hate feeling separate from other people, but in reality not talking about my addiction and recovery creates even more of a chasm. Last year I told a lot of half-truths while sober. And while I don’t think I need to bare my soul to everyone I meet, I feel like I’m cheating myself by not being more honest with my loved ones. I’m cheating myself of building more support and connection. Of genuine relationships. I’ve thought that by lying about my recovery I’ve been protecting myself (from judgment? embarrassment?) and protecting others (from feeling awkward around me or worried about me), and I’m now starting to see how I’ve been doing a disservice to myself. I’m shutting people out because I don’t want to tell them. And it’s shame based.

I would never tell someone who came to me for support that they should be ashamed by an addiction or their quest to get sober. Indeed, I would tell them precisely the opposite- how brave they are for coming forward, how proud I am of them for taking steps towards wellness. But I can’t seem to offer myself the same advice.

This is my next big goal in sobriety: to come out. It feels like the next step I need to take, the one that has been holding me back. I’m ready to face and shed the shame.  I’ve already started to be more honest with some of my friends- and it’s been so positive for the most part. I’ve had offers of support, people saying they won’t drink around me if it would help, and it just feels so freeing to be honest. My family is the hardest for me to tell, they are the ones I have the most shame around. I guess because I have hidden my addiction so much around them. And created a facade of someone who has it all together.

But no one has it all together. And I am tired of pretending. Wish me luck 🙂

on the mend.

After many starts and stops, since last fall, including two 3-week periods, I have finally managed to make it to well over a month alcohol-free. Today marks 41 days.

This is significant to me because it takes 40 days to change consciousness and create new habits, according to yogic philosophy and other schools of thought.

My relapse lasted a very very long time. I have been trying to get sober again for almost 6 months. My recommendation for others who think they may want to check out drinking again, is not to do it. Of course, we all have to experience things for ourselves and some of us need to learn the hard way. But, if you can take my word for it, please do yourself a favour and DO NOT DRINK.

I haven’t written for a long time, I think I’ve been waiting to see if I can get a good chunk of sober time in. I went to Mexico for two weeks early February and I really thought I had set myself up to have a good sober vacation. I visualized myself on this vacation, being well-rested, going to bed early and waking early, taking long solitary walks on the beach, reading a ton, doing some art, and writing.

What I didn’t imagine was all the happy hours, cheap drinks, and booze infused touristy places. My husband drank every day (not to excess but a few beers every night). I cracked sometime in the middle of the trip when I got a strong whiff of tequila (tequila was my go-to drink for a few years). I drank some tequila, then some wine.

And I was devastated the next day. You know how it goes, it’s like a seal that is broken and hard to secure again. However, I only drank a few more more times. I had one hangover, and that was enough. I couldn’t stand it. I absolutely hate being hungover. It just feels like such a waste of life to me. So, I climbed back up on that wagon and kept on.

This time feels a bit different than last time I got sober- in some ways easier because I have been here before, but in some ways harder because some of the romance of early sobriety is gone. All of those “firsts” are challenging but they are also so rewarding and exciting. I haven’t experienced the pink cloud this time around (yet?). And I feel tired all the time.

Still wouldn’t trade it! I am growing calmer. I’ve had an extraordinary amount of anxiety over the last 9 months or so. Since we moved homes. Then I changed positions at work and I hated it. So I started drinking again, which I’m sure was to quell the anxiety but, of course, it only made it worse. Then my friend and godson moved, which turned my world upside down.

To top it all off, I broke my arm at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t drinking when I did it but it was enough to break the camel’s back, as they say.

Since then, things have been getting better. The neighbour which was making my home feel unsafe moved away! I changed positions (again) to a much more calm and civilized  department. My cast is off and arm is healing. I’m getting used to my friend being away. I have a good chunk of sobriety now. I am on the mend!

Bit by bit it’s all happening. I have started to move my body again, spending a little time at the gym and doing some yin yoga. I am looking forward to green smoothies and eating healthy. I’ve started meditating a few minutes at a time again. Spring is here and it’s time to feed my soul by spending time outside in the woods and by the sea.

Being sober is everything.

 

in this house.

images-5

It feels like there has been a heck of a lot of change happening in my life lately. Or maybe it’s always that way. They say that change is the only constant in life, and this, I know is true. If I don’t like how I am feeling usually all I need to do is wait a few hours or go to sleep, and sure enough, it will shift.

But really. There’s been big changes and small ones. In the last year or so, I have started a new job/career, I have gotten sober, I have made peace with important struggles, and now I am moving house. I have been in my current home for over 8 years, the longest time that I have ever lived in one place.

We have built so many memories in this place, both good and bad. Almost my entire relationship has taken place in this house. We moved into it when we had been together for less than a year. I completed my master’s degree in this house; we have both hated jobs and have changed jobs; we went through some very trying financial times; I learned how to cook and appreciate food in this house; I have hosted bbq’s, work celebrations, birthdays, baby showers, new years parties, thanksgiving, themed dinner parties, a wedding reception, and sadly, hosted a wake in this house, we were once pregnant and imagined growing our family here- and then we didn’t; we housed dance parties and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning; I’ve wailed in this house because I lost people that I love way way too early; I’ve had my book club over every few months for over half a decade, sitting around the kitchen island eating home made treats; I’ve learned how to can and pickle in this house; I’ve practiced a ton of yoga and meditation in this house; I’ve savoured my view of the mountains every single day from this house; I’ve spent countless nights awake in this house; and I’ve drank more wine in this house then anyone will ever know.

If these walls could talk they could spill my secrets. They could tell about all the evenings I spent alone, drink after drink, hiding and replacing and covering. The nights I cried myself to sleep because I was so sick of drinking and I couldn’t stop. The mornings I spent staring at myself in the mirror, wondering what had happened to my life and how I had gotten so out of control. All the times I threw up. All the times I couldn’t get out of bed or off the couch. All the wasted moments.

I never want to forget what I went through to get here because I never want to go back to that.

I battled addiction in this house.

I got sober in this house.

It’s been a time of reflection for me, sorting through old belongings, photos, and clothes- packing the details and stuff of our life. I do feel like a new chapter is opening. I will move into my new home a solidly sober person! Those walls won’t know the me who drank so much and cried so much. But I won’t be a new person. I still believe I am still the same person as I was when I was drinking myself to death, but the positive side of myself is much much stronger and the negative side is smaller.

I know joy on a much deeper level than I did before. I had glimpses of it while I was drinking but it never got the chance to stick around for too long. I battled depression for many years. I don’t know that I won’t battle it again some time in the future, but I do feel as though I have healed. Or at least, I am healing. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions, so I drank them away and as a result, I caused myself many more problems. The more time that passes, the clearer my addiction becomes.

I was reading today about a concept called radical acceptance. It means to fully accept this moment that you are in. It sounds simple but I think we spend a lot of time resisting our experience and wanting it to be different. No one wakes up and says I want to have an addiction. So we dance around it and make up stories and negotiate with ourselves to deny it. We can not change the past or what has happened to us. We may not understand the reasons why, or, maybe there is no clear reason why the things that happen happen. It doesn’t change the fact that it has happened. We don’t have to like it, want it or appreciate it but accepting it will help us to adjust and move on/forward/through.

The simple plain truth is that I was/am addicted to alcohol and it was ruining my life. Once I accepted this truth, fully and completely, I was faced with the choice to fix my problem. My life was never going to get better without fixing this.

I did lots of therapy and I studied yoga and meditation and health and healing for years while I was drinking but, like joy, these teachings never sunk in because most of my energy and power was enslaved to my addiction. I could never heal my emotional wounds or grow as a person because I was actually poisoning myself for years. How can a wound heal when you neglect it? How can you grow when you are drowning yourself?

So I am raising a toast to this house, these walls (edit- a non-alcoholic toast, obvs). They have been through a lot with me, they have seen me at my very worst and thank god they have now seen me coming into my best. I am leaving this house now, and I feel free.

8 months free

Young woman meditating outdoors

I’ve stopped counting single days of sobriety. I didn’t do it on purpose; one of my sobriety counter apps stopped working. I have another one that counts in months and days- and as of today I am 8 months and 7 days sober. I could probably do the math and figure out how many days that is pretty easily, but I don’t really have the desire to.

When I was drinking I had a weird thing with numbers and dates and days. For a long time Monday would always be the day I stopped drinking, then it switched because I felt like the pressure of Monday was backfiring on me. So I would pick a date that I think would have special significance… like it mattered that I got sober on the 12th or the 18th, as if those numbers in and of themselves had some kind of special power to keep me sober.

When I failed to stop it was in part because the date wasn’t right and I would find a new date that I thought mattered. It wasn’t just the date of the day but the month too and how this coincided with the year as well. This stuff really mattered to me, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. No, obsessing. Turning it over and over in my mind. This is the insanity of addiction.

In the beginning of my recovery, counting days was really important to me. Building a consecutive stint of alcohol free days was something to focus on, something that I could hang on to and strive for. Always trying to beat my last attempt helped to give me fuel to fight this thing. Having goals to reach- especially 30 days, 50 days and 100 days, allowed me to feel successful and like any addict knows, this is crucial when you are so used to letting yourself down all the time.

But when my app stopped working I found it simply didn’t matter to me anymore. Enough time has gone by that single days are not my focus anymore- months are. And hopefully, I will feel the same way about years in time.

I am entering my forth season of sobriety. I quit drinking in mid-August, well into summer. That was a difficult time to quit as summer is usually a time of debauchery, but I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I was so miserable that it really didn’t matter what time of year it was.

Fall was a beautiful time to be in the beginning of my recovery. It was so damn gorgeous out and I experienced the beauty of my surroundings intensely. I was so moved by the changing colours of the leaves and trees, the fog, the crispness in the air, and the stillness in the woods without the tourists and crowds. It helped me to remember who I am without this addiction, that I am a creature of this earth and universe and so much more than my twisted thoughts.

Winter, my least favourite season, brought it’s own special challenges, holidays, and characteristic lows for me, but I got through it without a drink. Now, entering spring, it is getting warm out, green again, and the flowers are blooming. I sometimes feel the call of patios and happy hour drinks, but the clarity I feel in the mornings when the sun peaks through my curtains is too much to give up. I’ve written before about the illusion of the drink- it’s really hard to give up that feeling of anticipation for the first drink, but in reality that feeling is so fleeting it’s really not worth risking everything I’ve gained in sobriety.

I mean this in all honesty. And I never thought that I would be here. But my life is infinitely better for becoming alcohol free. It is still hard at times, and it’s tricky to put into words but I feel healthier. And not just physically. I feel healthier emotionally, spiritually and mentally too. I still have bad days and struggle with some negative thinking but I am oceans happier than I was when I was drinking. Things were dark when I was drinking. I didn’t like who I was because I was controlled by my addiction. I hid and lied about my drinking to my loved ones. I drank much more than I wanted to almost every single night. I had several terrible hangovers a week, was horribly dehydrated, I slept like shit, ate crap, and worst of all I felt like a fraud.

I was sick. And I’m not fully recovered- don’t know yet if that ever happens- but I don’t feel sick anymore. I have been taking anti-depressants on and off for about 8 years. And I am almost completely weaned off of them. And I feel really good. I don’t think they were having any effect on me anymore as I was drowning myself in alcohol and was extremely depressed. I have been a heavy/regular drinker for over 20 years so I am curious to see what my brain is like not on alcohol and not on anti-depressants. And yes, I am working with my doctor and weaning very very slowly 🙂

It has taken me a long time to figure out how to beat this thing. YEARS. I wouldn’t wish addiction on anyone. It is absolute hell. My advice to anyone struggling is to reach out reach out reach out. Keep trying keep learning keep working towards wellness. Do not give up and be willing to go outside of your comfort zone.

Really, we must be willing to get uncomfortable because it is our aversion to feeling things that are uncomfortable, whether that be anger, sadness, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, fear that drive us to our addictive behaviour. So the day we are willing to DO IT DIFFERENTLY than what our brain would have us do, we are making some headway.

I am filled with gratitude for this sober community and all of the people and tools that have supported me along the way. I am so thankful to have made it this far and experience life sober. I am not numbing myself anymore and I feel wide awake. I used to want to disappear sometimes and now all I want is to live my life to the fullest. Life feels like it is wide open for the taking. Things feel possible in a way I couldn’t perceive them before.

I climbed a mountain the other day, by myself. It was a beautiful sun filled day. I meditated when I got to the top. It felt a little cliche but it felt so good at the same time. There is a quiet confidence and peace developing in me. I feel like I am growing into myself, becoming more me, if that makes sense. Like I have always been there but have just been too messed up to fully realize myself.

I am excited about life again, and the darkness is fading away. Recovery is sweet.

Blessings.

it works. if you work it.

images

My last post I wrote I had been struggling internally. I’ve always loved this quote- “the mind is its own place and in itself, can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven” (John Milton).

I was suffering under the weight of my own thoughts. This week something has shifted. While my time of the month can be partly to blame for my mental state, so too was my lack of focus on my meditation practice. Over the last week i have returned to my practice, have been reading a lot of buddhist teachings/psychology, and I attended a “fifth precept” meeting which is a blend of buddhist and 12 step. I have also exercised a few times and been eating better.

Wouldn’t you know it, I feel better. I am working my “program” and it is working for me.

Today I had the feeling that I am truly in recovery. I am healing. I can feel it happening. I realized this week that I no longer punish myself in ways that I used to by setting so many rules for myself. When I was drinking I used to have so many rules! Of course, I broke them all the time. Constantly. And I hated myself for it. I felt so out of control, so undisciplined. So I would make more rules. And continually beat myself up.

Today discipline comes more from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing. I do things that are healthy or good for me because it feels good, and because I am learning to love and respect myself and treat myself well.

I listened to a great podcast today at the gym. It is from Josh Korda, who is the buddhist teacher at Dharmapunx in New York City. He is a recovering addict with 19 years sobriety. He has masses of podcasts, which are not all about addiction but he definitely makes them relate. This one is called “You are not damaged” and I found it very helpful.

He also has a video series on addiction, which is pretty cool.

http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/making-friends-your-demons-and-hungry-ghosts-buddhist-tools-recovery/causes-and-cond

Enjoy! In loving kindness!

my internal world.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and life has been quite full on lately. Spring has sprung and with it my social and family obligations have escalated. There are multiple new babies appearing in my circle of life and I’m happy to report that I have become a godmother (again). This time is a bit different though as my friend is a single mom so I’ve been extra involved.

I have written on this blog before about some of my issues around childlessness and lately I feel like I am in a good place with it. I adore my new little godson and part of me aches when I hold him but it’s mostly because I just love him so much. It’s taken me some time but I am starting to believe that not having children is the right path for me. I am fortunate to have godchildren, a stepson, a niece, a nephew, and more on the way who bring me so much happiness and joy. And although they add so much to my life, I have to say that I cherish the alone time I have too.

What I now know is that life ebbs and flows. Sometimes there are down times and low moments- I struggle at times with feeling bored and lonely and disillusioned with life. Then there are times that life feels full and busy and exciting.

Not only does life go through these cycles and changes, but so does my internal world. Even though my external life is busy and full right now, inside I have been feeling quite low and anxious. I have been struggling with feeling unmotivated. Every day after work I just want to come home and rest. I haven’t been exercising or eating very healthy. Maybe it’s because I have been so busy that those things have fallen off my priority list, but I am having a hard time getting back into things.

When I don’t eat well I don’t feel well. Which, of course, makes perfect sense! But I think we tend to overlook how much what we put into our bodies impact us. When I eat too many processed things, sugar, and dairy and not enough fresh clean plant based foods, I feel lethargic and depressed. And because I feel lethargic and depressed, I make poor choices, and want to sit around more, eating chocolate. The cycle perpetuates.

I have been full of anxiety lately. On the surface I am a pretty confident person but I came to the realization that I am so susceptible to what others think of me (or what I think they think of me). At work I often have to speak in meetings and I will re-play in my mind something I said for hours afterwards if I didn’t think it was well received. I had so much anxiety on the weekend while I was trying to coordinate multiple plans, I was exhausted by the end of it because of the self-imposed stress. Yesterday I sent out an email that was part of my recovery group chain and I agonized over something that was slightly misinterpreted. I wanted to crawl out of my skin I was so uncomfortable. No wonder I used to drink!

Luckily, last night I saw a post on social media from Tara Brach and thought I would have a listen. It was uncanny how perfect the timing was. The podcast was entitled “Freedom from Fear Based Beliefs” and I strongly urge you to check it out.

Through her talk I learned some important things. I learned that I felt anxiety all weekend because I was afraid of failing. I put so much pressure on myself to organize things and have everything be perfect, and I have this anxiety that something is going to go wrong. She talked about our human ‘negativity bias’ (which is part of the flight/fight/freeze brain which is meant to protect us from scary life-threatening things) and also how some of us are more hardwired for anxiety than others.

The thing I realized is that I could have gone through the whole weekend not feeling anxiety and things still would have turned out fine. It’s like I think the anxiety and stress I feel is what helps to ensure I get things done. Which just isn’t true.

The other awesome thing I learned was that the stress I feel at meetings at work or around other people is based on some pretty disturbing beliefs. Brach did an exercise on the podcast which helped me to get to the core of what those thoughts are… and mine are things like “I am incompetent”. Brach asks the listener to question the core belief, asking “is this true?” Now this was really interesting because as soon as I questioned it, I immediately saw the falseness of it. It was almost comical. I mean, I might not be the best at what I do, the most experienced or talented… but I am not incompetent! Faced with that, it was like this stress I had been carrying around for days just started to loosen up.

Then Brach asks, “who would you be without this belief?” And I thought, “I would be happy!”

It was like freeing myself from a mental prison. Sweet relief.

So, the moral of the story is, do not believe all of your thoughts. Investigate the core beliefs that shape your internal world. Question everything.

The other moral of the story is, for me, it’s time to get back to basics. My meditation and mindfulness practice is not just some kind of pastime or lark- it is the part of the foundation of my well-being. I’ve been feeling too busy, or uninterested in my recovery group and work lately, thinking that maybe it’s not for me… but the truth is that I need it. I need that refuge from myself, my ego, my brain, my addictions. I need it to feel healthy and peaceful.

I also need to treat my body well. Eat more vegetables. Exercise. Basics. So I got some stuff to make green smoothies and planned a hike for the weekend. Yoga tomorrow after work. And right after I finish reading up on sober blogs, I’m going to go meditate for 20 minutes.

These are the ingredients needed to make my internal world well. So simple but so easy to forget!