Slowing Down

I recently left my job as a professional dancer after 7 years of touring the world doing what I love. These years were grueling and blissful, soulful, heart-wrenching, enchanting and unforgettable. It’s rare a person gets to live out a dream such as this, and I know I am extremely lucky to have been able to do so.

After 7 years in this highly acclaimed company, I started to feel the desire to open my life up to other people and things that I loved. I loved my job, but it was so consuming that it was the only thing that could really hold significant space in my life…everything and everyone else came second to the demands of the job and the very specific lifestyle I had to lead in order to maintain this job. It was all worth it. I wouldn’t change it, but it was time to turn the page even though leaving scared the shit out of me and I never felt entirely ready to throw in the towel.

I left because I had this small voice telling me it was time to go even though I wasn’t quite ready, and had no idea what I was going to do next or where I was going to live. I just started taking steps to free up my life so that whatever the next move may be I was traveling lighter, and had fewer strings attached.

I got rid of almost all of my things. I own one chair now, my clothes and journals, a few treasured books and photos, and some of the artwork I have collected from traveling. I made it a point to collect local art instead of shot glasses when I was touring 🙂

I finished out my contract with the company, saved as much money as I could to live on for about a year, cleaned out the room I was living in, broke up with my boyfriend and consciously became a nomad gypsy for no other reason than I felt I had to do it. I felt that after my time in the company, that is how I defined myself, as a professional dancer, and whether it is true or not that’s also how I felt everyone else defined me. That’s all people talked about with me, all they wanted to know about. I wanted to see what was under this title I held. Who was I now after all these years of chasing and then fulfilling the dream if I were to take it all away. As I write I wonder if I was punishing myself to cut it all off, but I see it more as a reset, and setting myself free from any labels, places or job to tell me who I was supposed to be.

It has only been 2 months since I left this comfortable, rewarding position. I returned back to the place I grew up and spent time with my family and old friends, and revisited places from my childhood. I welcomed back memories both painful and pleasing that these images, places and people uncovered. I saw the basketball courts and fields where I grew up playing sports, bars I used to stumble out of, slept in my childhood room where I lost my virginity to a boy who snuck in through my window. I hiked the trails my parents used to take me on as a child, dug up the garden in my Dads backyard where my old dog is buried and cried in my big sisters arms because I was so terrified that I didn’t know what my next step in life should be.

To not be tethered to anything in a way leaves me suspended. I can go in any direction, I can do anything. People keep telling me what an awesome opportunity this is and how I should be so happy. I have never cried so hard and felt so lost and depressed as I have in these last couple months. I have never not been working towards something. I have never not had a job since I was 14 years old and I’m 33.

I felt all of my insecurities. I felt like a loser because I was not working. I felt I was going backwards because I was back home where I grew up. I felt like a fool for cutting off my whole damn life when there was nothing really wrong with it. I felt I felt I felt, but I still did what I did. I did it because that little voice told me to, and I knew I had to listen.

Now there are things that are showing me it is not so bad to feel this way, to be stripped down and be in this position. For one thing it is so entirely revealing about what is difficult for me. It showed me that I have a very hard time not having a regimented schedule, sitting still, breathing, relaxing, accepting the here and the now. It showed me I am a worker, the energizer bunny and that to slow down creates panic for me.

How crazy to realize these things. I have taken small steps to confront these things, take notice, and help myself through. One thing I did was really try to breathe. I would wake up in the mornings and feel anxiety and panic upon opening my eyes. My bodily systems would activate into stress…..and I practiced breathing in these moments and softening up my tissues and letting this pass. It worked. The breathing worked.

I started getting up early. I was sleeping in because I had no fixed schedule, I was feeling depressed and I just would. So I started waking up early, with the influence of a dear friend, and going on hikes very early in the morning, before the sun was all the way up and thinking about my day. My Dad said there was an old saying at the Bible college he went to that said “Get up before the Devil does” This made me laugh, and it also felt true. At that time of the morning, with how still and quiet everything is, how beautiful the light is and the entire atmosphere at that hour…it just really feels like nothing bad has room. It all feels good to me. It looks good, smells good, feels good. My days ended up feeling infinitely longer being up with the sun, and I was tired at a decent hour, and I woke up feeling way more rested.

My childhood friend who has always been very close to me invited me to go to Buddhist temple with him. I did because there wasn’t a whole lot on my schedule and I am always open to learning about different ways people think about spirituality. I liked this because it talked a lot about having control over the mind and not letting distracting thoughts take us over. I like the idea of observing my thoughts and assessing whether or not they are really true or if I need to buy into them before I just get swept away in whatever the mind is pumping out. To believe I have a choice in this is empowering.

I got into contact with a dancer friend who still lives in the area and we rented some space and I choreographed with her. It ended up turning into a piece about anxiety, about what I was going through and it was therapeutic. We haven’t gotten a place for her to perform it yet, but it felt meaningful to make anyway. I taught my high school dance teachers dance classes for two days and fell on my face the first day, then did way better the second day. I felt proud of myself and inspired.

There have been other things I am experiencing that are stretching me in ways that I never could before because I didn’t have the time and I didn’t have the space. Reading, writing, meditating, going to arts things, traveling, being in nature a lot. Learning to care about others and the world around me more than being so focused on my own ambitions and my own career. I realized I was deeply, deeply self-focused. In a way that made everything seem like way too big a deal and made it hard for me to ever see the big picture…..beyond what I was personally going though. That’s been tough to see. But now I see why I had that little voice telling me it was time to go. It was time for me to grow emotionally, time to broaden my perspective and face the things that had been holding me back. There is value in stopping, in slowing down. There is value in doing “nothing”, because there is always something being worked through or discovered underneath when we do this.

I still don’t know what the next step will be, where I will live and what job I will have. But I know this time is sacred and that life and this opportunity I have been allotted to step out into the unknown is truly a gift.

Advertisements

Owning It

There’s been a slow transition between being slightly embarrassed about the fact that I quit drinking into feeling undeniably proud that this is the way I am choosing to live. The embarrassment stemmed from feeling that because I made this choice it meant I didn’t have the wherewithal to control my intake or my life. It meant I had an illness, and it meant people maybe felt a little sorry for me or didn’t know how to behave around me because they wanted to be sensitive. I felt I always had to assure those around me who were drinking that it was fine and they need not change their behavior in my presence, as they sheepishly held a pint of beer and I awkwardly held my fizzy water trying to look cool. I think these are normal feelings, and certainly normal circumstances after quitting. I was pulling away from a culture I participated in for a very long time, and I have chosen to live outside the majority. I now live on the outskirts of the wine filled bachelorette parties, drunken happy hours and holidays filled with a substance that made me unable to experience or remember these things fully….and I like that.

I like even more that I am starting to own the choice. I have to admit, sometimes I feel it’s by some weird accident or force other than myself that’s kept me alcohol free this whole time. There have been many moments where I did feel sorry I had to live this way, and I wished so badly I could still enjoy drinks, especially at particularly celebratory occasions. I would try and remind myself who I was when I was drinking, and that there was a good reason (many in fact) that I didn’t want to be that person anymore. Time sometimes made me forget….forget the awful feelings of blackouts, hangovers, regretful words, hurt feelings and broken hearts. Not to mention the shame that encapsulated all of this. As the months passed those memories became distant and less tangible, and I would tease myself with the idea of maybe going back to drinking normally. I still haven’t tried. I still haven’t let myself see what would happen. Despite not always feeling solid and secure in my decision, there is something in my physical cells that holds such a fear it makes me not even want to take the chance. Whatever memories are logged away in my sub-conscious have power and they tell me, even when my thoughts don’t, to stay away.

At this point I have a small yet powerful chunk of sober time under my belt, a little over a year and a half, and I am getting tired of living in the gray area of my choice. Tired of walking this razors edge of “maybe I’ll stay this way, maybe I won’t”. I’m no longer satisfied with the feeling of just by chance or an outside force, and the amazing memory of my body and cells I am staying clean. I want to transfer that conviction over to my thoughts. I want to be firm in my mind that I am not going to waiver. For me this means feeling more settled, and being able to relax into the decision because it no longer becomes a question…it becomes an answer.

I haven’t figured out quite how to do this yet, but I know the main thing I want to accomplish is owning this decision. Making it mine, not because I should, or I had to, or people told me to. I need it to be something I have ownership over and that gives me a sense of pride. I have begun to find strength in saying it out loud, giving the thing (not drinking) a name. I have been practicing saying out loud, with confidence, “I don’t drink.” or asking very deliberately, “are you sure this does not have alcohol in it?”. I have also been practicing on the rare occasion I join my work friends at the bar for a toast “Do you serve non-alcoholic beer?” and if not, there’s plenty of other choices. Each time right before I say or ask these things, I have a speedy yet intense wave of anxiety because I am afraid people around me will hear me and make judgements and pin me as something I’m not. I move through those feelings as fast as I can, and just force the words out. Tell myself, ‘they’re just words, you can say them, and make sure you don’t whisper them, say them with conviction’. My first few months or even year I didn’t have this confidence. There wasn’t enough distance between me and my mistakes with alcohol to not still feel so much regret and like I’d rather just hide. The wounds were still open. But at this point I think it’s even more embarrassing to say it low and as if I am ashamed. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling ashamed, and when I think about it, I’m actually living in a way that involves far far less of this emotion, so I don’t want to speak about it in a shameful way.

These are some actions that are helping me own the choice not to drink and step away from the edge of “will I or won’t I?”, and instead be able stand with enough distance from that edge to know I am safe. To further my conviction, I have even been shopping a little online, not purchased anything yet, but looked at sober apparel. I was surprised to discover there’s several companies making sober apparel, not all of them my cup of tea, but some I think are great. I really like this cute T-shirt that says “Sober A F” and another hoodie that says “Hella Sober”. It kind of makes me smile, and why not be that proud of it? There really is a movement starting out there with waves of people that are squashing the fear that not drinking somehow makes us crippled, but instead means we are fighting for an elevated life.

The core reasons of why I am doing this have to do with transforming the way I feel about myself from hate into love. It has to do with discovery of the person I am and truly falling in love with her, which has happened. Not drinking for me has meant that each relationship I have and form, as well as every experience, is exponentially better. This should be enough. I don’t know why I need T-shirts or to write this blog. Why do I want the world to know how I feel? Why not just live my life for me and have acceptance from the person that matters most in my sobriety?…Myself. I suppose we all want to be heard and understood in some way. I think the bigger reason though, is maybe I should be a little more generous than that. Maybe by myself and others sharing we are creating community and having sure-fire proof we have support and are not alone. The world is changing; the internet has allowed people to discuss and openly admit things that are hard in a way that may be a little easier than doing it in person. We can research topics like ‘addiction’, or ‘how do I know when I’m drinking too much?’, fairly anonymously. Even before we speak ourselves, we can find the voices of others out there similar to us, inviting us to take our own path towards greater health. THAT is the reason not to keep our experiences to ourselves.

We all have different styles of how we go about our sobriety, and I think our techniques are going to be as unique as all of us. The beautiful thing about having access to peoples writing about their story is they are all going to have a slightly different perspective. We all see from only our own vantage point, so each of our ideas, experiences and bits of advice are totally one of a kind. This is also the reason that to share our experience is not a self-indulged activity, but a generous act of encouragement. I think becoming sober automatically makes people more generous. That can manifest in so many ways whether it is writing, being kinder to your friends and family, becoming a full-on advocate, or simply being a better you that is already the best gift we can give to the world. I really believe finding this outlet of generosity is something that we can all look forward to as we start to seek and live sobriety. There’s so many lessons and enlightening moments following the decision not to drink, and finding out how we come to own this decision is a complicated and deepening one.

 

How to Move Through Recovery

The other day I was reading a post on sober blog UnPickled, titled “Feedback Friday: What Changed?”. The blog began with a powerful quote, “To recover is to create a life in which numbness is no longer necessary for survival”. At the end of the post, Jean asked “What have you changed about yourself and your life to make numbing unnecessary?”. Almost immediately I thought about the actions of what I did differently, what my days are actually made of that are different now compared to when I was drinking. The question also begged me for answers about what in my soul has changed, my spirit? What emotionally is different now, or perhaps in my thinking that makes life more bearable? I am an athlete at heart- a dancer, a mover and someone who thrives outdoors. My physicality is something that I have always identified with, and through these actions-dance, sports, physical play and yoga, I have learned many of my most important lessons in life. Sports taught me teamwork, learning how to lose, not giving up and how to hold my head high. Dance brought out my creative side, visuals and design. It brought understanding of scientific principles like balance, gravity, weight and momentum. It taught me how to move and connect with others-lean on them, trust them. Physical play brings me joy, relaxation and giddiness…and yoga takes me within, connects all parts of my being both physical and spiritual, and keeps me working towards peace.

I think the thought of being active can be intimidating to some people. They think they have to carry a water bottle at all times, live in the gym, have lulu lemons on and be power-walking into Whole Foods in their free time. All of these are good things, but the over-the-top approach to activity is not the step we all have to take. I observe that it’s hard to find a middle ground. Some people seem so intimidated by the thought of being active, that they don’t know where to start. So they do nothing. They literally do little to no physical activity and wonder why their health is bad, they aren’t happy with their shape, they have no energy and so on. I have always been active, even somehow managed it when I was drinking a lot, but now that I am not drinking I see more clearly than ever how physical activity helped carry me into sobriety.

I am a professional dancer. I have played nearly every sport, I love yoga, and yes I even love my lulu lemon pants. I get compliments on my body all the time. People joke they don’t want to swim, dance, or practice yoga next to me often because they don’t want to be compared to my physique. This hurts sometimes, because I in no way think it’s fair that me loving to be active and having a healthy body should make people not want to be next to me. Morso, it makes me feel sad that the difference in our bodies can cause us to make certain judgements about one another or think limiting things about ourselves. Many people so greatly underestimate their own capability of having a life that regularly involves physical activity. I get not everyone is going to be a born athlete…but I do believe everyone can move. Even with injuries and physical limitations. There are variations of all kinds of movement. I have taught creative movement to children, senior citizens, those with injuries, people with cognitive disabilities and people in wheel chairs. There is literally no excuse to refuse to move. It is all a really crappy thing that we tell ourselves. The most common things we say have something to do with not having time, money, equipment, knowledge of what to do or maybe the confidence to get out there and start. I believe being active, at least a little, hopefully a lot, is for everyone and it can be free, fun, social, alone, outdoors, indoors, and with or without any equipment. It can and should be customized to your personal style and way of life. In my mind there are infinite ways to be active- I am going to start by naming some free ones. Here are five FREE ways to be active. This is important for our health, happiness, recovery, boredom and overall enjoyment of a full happy life. You don’t have to be a gym rat, make tons of money or be wearing lulu lemons to get started. Here’s some suggestions:

1.) GO FOR A WALK

This is my favorite, favorite, favorite. I just started going on walks this year. Because I have been so intensively active my whole life, walking actually seemed a little boring and slow to me. Oh how I was wrong. Walking is AWESOME. It gave me a way to be immersed in my surroundings, not boxed in my car, and slowly take in what was around me. It can be done at any pace, there’s things to look at whether you’re in a city or in the country, and I really try to allow myself not to be in a rush. I literally stroll, which takes effort if you’re a person like me who’s always trying to be efficient and get stuff done. It’s meditative, it’s not competitive or demanding. I like to walk with no ear buds in, because I enjoy hearing the sounds around me and being present. It doesn’t take long before I really feel connected to myself. I think a walk around the block/down the street and back is a great place to start, and eventually you can build to an hour or so if you have the time. Take 10 minutes on your lunch break, walk around the block in the morning before work, or after dinner to help digestion. This is something wonderful to do alone or with someone. Don’t feel like you have to make any goals. Just walk and let your mind wander and take in what is around you.

2.) LOOK UP WORKOUTS ON YOUTUBE

We are in the age of technology, and if you are reading this post, you probably have access to the internet. Open YouTube and search “workouts for beginners”, “yoga for beginners”, “dance for beginners”, “stretching for beginners”…anything you can think of or have ever admired, been curious about, or think you have done in your past life and just haven’t gotten around to yet. Kick-boxing, hula, creative movement, martial arts, moving meditations etc. “for beginners”. I guarantee you will find something interesting, maybe something to try in your living room, and it could be fun, effective, or even funny if you are at a place where you can laugh at yourself. At the very least it will not be a waste because you will be mining for what you like and what kinds of activities you enjoy. The nice thing about this is you can do it privately by yourself first if that feels more comfortable and once you get a little taste and the gist of what to expect, It could very well lead to seeking out classes for this activity in your area that you can start taking on a regular basis. I bet this will also lead to meeting some new, fun, possibly like-minded people. I had to make new friends in new places once I left the bar stool- this will help.

3.) FREE YOGA TRIAL

Go to any yoga studio and see what sign-up offers they have. Most yoga studios do specials for new students where they offer the first class or even a week + for free to try out the studio. You can google “yoga studios near me”, and then look up what their first-time packages are on their websites. There are yoga classes for literally everyone. The young, old, pregnant, injured, and first-timers. I find yoga to be the most welcoming because it is emphasized that each person is on their own path, working at their own pace and ability, and it is not a place for comparing or competing. That is anti-yoga. There is also all KINDS of yoga- fast, slow, restorative, hot, room-temperature, super structured, free-spirited…there’s lots of choices. The websites will call these classes different names in Sanskrit like Vinyasa, Hatha and other names that may not be recognizable, but there should be class descriptions on what all of those names mean and you can choose which class to try. Most yoga studios let you rent a yoga mat for a couple bucks if you don’t have your own. I know I said free, but try and scrounge up some money for the mat rental, it’s worth it. They may include the mat in your first time package. I don’t mean to encourage shifty things, but I have definitely tapped all the yoga studios in my area and done first trial after first trial for free when I didn’t have any money. Yoga to the People is a great yoga organization that offers yoga all day every day for free, they are solely based on donations, and they have studios in New York, Arizona, California and hopefully others soon. Googling “free yoga near me” might also produce some results for any special events that may be happening. Namaste.

4.) CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSET

This one kind of sucks to get started, but once started it can be addicting. When I say closet, I also mean garage, basement, your room, attic, shed, kids room who is grown up and moved out but has become a storage space…anywhere you put a lot of stuff. This does, believe it or not, take physical effort, especially if you’re reaching up and down pulling boxes from shelves, moving old furniture and hauling bags of crap to the trash. Then you sort of have to dust, sweep, reorganize, and I guarantee it will make your body move in new ways. Plus, the wonderful thing about this is it is a form of healthy purging- letting go of things we no longer need. Like letting go of drinking. Once I started this process, I could not stop. Going through all of my belongings brought back tons of memories both good and bad, and a whole lot of emotion. Going through this process was therapeutic and healing. My space feels lighter and freer, and there aren’t things stuffed in the corners like secrets. I kept a lot of secrets when I was drinking, and cleaning out my stuff was a total metaphor for cleaning up my actual life. I highly encourage this activity. I made a list of all the places or categories I wanted to clean out and did them one at a time over several weeks so I didn’t get overwhelmed. Some examples were- bathroom, jewelry, coat closet, clothes/shoes, kitchen, books etc…..and I just tackled them one by one. Breaking them up into small chunks made them manageable. Each time I got done with one I felt really good, and was amazed at how much stuff I did not need. There is tons of tips for cleaning out and organizing online if you google “how to declutter”. I watch Hoarders sometimes and stole the psychologists tip to put stuff I went through in categories of “keep, donate, or throw away”. I have had successful yard sales teaming up with friends or other families and we all made some cash. Also, I have sold things on this app called letgo- you post pictures, descriptions and prices for things you want to sell, and only the people in your area can see it so you are buying and selling in your own community. It’s safe and easy to use. Then there’s Goodwill, Salvation Army, thrift shops and the dump to get rid of everything else.

5.) PLAY IN THE PARK

This might sound silly, but I am so not joking. There’s a few ways to go about this. If there is a local park near you, you can go there and start with taking a simple walk or jog round the park. Maybe with your dog. Some parks have built in work-out equipment. Try using that stuff and see how it feels. Even if you’re not doing it “right”, just hang on the bars for a while or ask yourself “what CAN I do on this piece of equipment?”. If you have kids, a partner, or a good friend, get a frisbee, volleyball, football, (any ball) or softball and glove and play catch. Take a basketball and shoot some hoops. Who cares if you suck? No one does, actually, accept you. This is the “play” activity where you can’t take yourself too seriously. If you have small kids or grandkids, or babysit kids, go on the playground equipment with them instead of just watching them and see how fun it can be. Climb the ladders and slide down the slides. Push them on the swings and swing yourself! It is a simple joy and may just make you feel like a kid again. Can you do a cartwheel? How long has it been since you tried one? How about a head stand or even a simple log roll or somersault? These things involve all kinds of muscles we don’t use every day and it may feel weird at first, but our bodies love and are meant to move. You have to try a couple times. Several times to get used to playing again. Be safe, of course, but don’t be afraid to try. Another option is to check out some state parks that might be near you. These places involve nature and trails to hike and walk. Google “nature parks” or “state parks near me” for info. Many of these parks are free, and maybe you have never been to them before. This is a great way to get some fresh air, be surrounded by nature, and appreciate the beauty that is all around us when we give ourselves the chance to notice. Try to not be on your phone or have ear buds in, it does something healing to the mind and body when you can immerse all your senses in these natural settings.

I send these suggestions with whole-hearted belief that moving has guided me my whole life and been my best friend in recovery, and it can help you too. Our bodies are all unique- they are road maps of who we are and where we have been from our scars to our physical traits representing our lineage, to our physical gifts and limitations. Our bodies are ours. I believe its loving to ourselves to work towards accepting our bodies, and treating them with respect. After all, we do have to live in them our whole life. If you are reading this blog, you are already doing something divinely kind to your body by trying or continuing not to drink. Treating your body to movement, a little or a lot, goes hand-in-hand with this act of self-love. May you love yourself, and may you love your body.

“We will be in tune with our bodies only if we truly love and honor them. We can’t be in good communication with the enemy.”

-Harriet Lerner, PhD

Waking Up

As of today, I have been a non-drinker for a year and three months. This choice has paved the way for many wonderful and surprising changes in my life, but today I single out this one great side-effect of not drinking: the change in waking up.

I often woke up in an anxious panic following nights of binge drinking. These mornings I was short of breath, teeth felt fuzzy, head was pounding, and my thoughts were chaotic. If I was really sick, I had hours of juggling puking, dry-heaving, pouring liquids down my throat, laying back down, and having it all cycle through over and over. Once it stopped, I would become very aware of my shitty situation and how awful I felt about my state of being. I would feel an urgency to “fix” myself. My mind would race; it felt like a train going full speed carrying all my biggest worries, crashing into my consciousness. It was brain jarring.

This train wreck of a thought process would continue throughout the day. All my problems would look like a mountain. There were too many of them, they were too big and I wanted to fix them fast. I would feel dirty and I smelled like booze, cigarettes, and the ripe B.O. sweating out that booze and those cigarettes. I hadn’t brushed my teeth and was either in all my clothes from the night before or no clothes, depending on how fast I passed out. Stripping down totally naked was a trademark of mine when I was totally blacked out. My body carried with me the environment I had been in the night before- alcohol still slithering through my veins, static echo of music and voices and a night missing an ending. I have just woken up, and last I knew the party was still going.

The only thing that would give me any sort of relief or moral rebuilding on a morning like this was taking a bath or shower. To be in the water and soak, wash the metaphorical grime off my skin made me feel just a bit more wholesome. It was in these moments of rinsing and cleansing and soaps that smelled clean that I clearly knew how much I wanted to feel clean. I so badly did not want to wake up feeling I had to sterilize myself inside and out. There was a deep, deep feeling that I was betraying myself on these mornings, and that this is not who I really was. Looking back, each morning I woke up this way was another nudge from the universe (of no coincidence), urging me towards a better place. Each hangover was harder to bear, and further fueled my desire to change.

One year and three months later…

Waking up now is usually very comfortable. I swish my legs around to feel the covers and squish my head into my pillow as I stretch. I look out the window to see what the weather looks like. I always keep a huge glass of water by my bed when I go to sleep, and drink the whole thing as soon as I sit up. I’m never in a rush before work now, and most mornings I even have time to journal. I always make myself a healthy breakfast and sit down to eat. I listen to some music while I do this or ease into my day quietly, depending on how I’m feeling.

Of course sometimes I’m still tired or feel a little blah thinking about my upcoming day…but I’m not nauseous, and I know I didn’t create any extra obstacles by being drunk. I have my wits about me and am much more prepared to deal with whatever the day may bring. If it’s a weekend, I am happy to know I am not wasting my precious days off from work feeling like a dud, having only enough energy to eat junk food, smoke pot and watch T.V. These days I am rarely sitting around the house on weekends. I will take a morning yoga class, catch up with friends, do something outside, shop, and leave some hours open for other possibilities. I’m living with more gratitude for the life I have been given by simply being out there and living it.

Waking up is something we have to do every day. It’s a new beginning we are allotted every 24 hours, which is pretty amazing and generous if you ask me. I have woken up to my own life by quitting drinking. Each day I am able to learn more about who I am and the life I want because I really am AWAKE. My mind is clear and my perception of things are more realistic. I am more prepared to deal with life’s daily struggles, and more aware of its many gifts. I still wake up in various moods, but I always wake up healthier and far more alert than I was before. This is a daily reminder and representation of the bigger way I have woken up; eyes open and a more conscious mind working towards the life I am truly meant to live.

The Raw Writer

Its been almost a year since I have posted anything on my blog. I am happy to say I’m still not drinking, but somehow writing about it in the beginning proved to be too difficult for me. I felt too open, like I was sharing way too much, too vulnerable, and honestly too embarrassed about everything that I was writing. I hadn’t had, and still don’t have experience writing for public view. Writing has always been something I kept for myself.

I have been a dedicated viewer of other sobriety blogs, and I don’t know how I would have navigated my journey through quitting drinking without them. When I first quit, and also when I wrote my first posts, I was experiencing bungee-like emotions. Extremely happy, extremely sad…and I felt this all came out in my posts in almost a regurgitating-type way. I go back and read them, squish my face up a little, feeling uncomfortable and think, “goddamn I really haven’t found my voice yet….”

But so be it. That is the past- and today, and each day I have the opportunity to figure out what exactly it is I have to say. I believe you have to be bad at anything before you are great at it. I no longer feel shame in the things I regret because of drinking. I don’t have to worry about that anymore. There is a lingering sensation however, that I have to be ashamed of sharing my story. Sharing the story brings up old shitty memories. The ironic thing is, when I read other peoples stories about alcohol and recovery, I have nothing but feelings of respect and astonishment that they are so open, and comfort because I see so many of my own mistakes in their experiences. There is no judgment that comes to mind as I read about people who have walked a dark path with alcohol and come to a brighter clearing. I find warmth of recognition in their stories…yet I am almost paralyzed with fear of being judged if I were to share my own.

What I am excited about is what will come if I continue to write. What will I discover that I have to say, that I have kept pent up for so long? We all have such a unique story with important things to share. As I come out of this fog, walking with my eyes squinted trying to see what is ahead of me, I honestly don’t know what exactly I want to say. There are a few things. I can say I have not drank for over a year and two months. I can say that my life is better and easier in a lot of ways. I can say that for me, sometimes feeling my feelings in such a clear-ultra-HD form of them feels like too much still. Sometimes it makes my heart hurt to feel so hard. Sometimes I feel like happiness and pain are on either side of the thinnest line, and I wonder how they can live so close to each other.

In a large way, I have started over in living my life without alcohol. There are many other ways within the grand scheme of my life that also require starting over. Like writing for example. I know now even after I have stopped drinking alcohol and started over in many ways, you sometimes have to start those same things over AGAIN. So, I’m starting over, after I’ve started over, to write again.

“What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that” -Billy Crystal

Mending Relationships after Quitting Drinking

Being able to look yourself in the mirror and say “I did that, I’m not proud of it, but how can I be better today?” Is one of the most difficult lessons I am learning since I have quit drinking. My memory and focus are getting much clearer now and this is wonderful for being able to keep up with life’s daily tasks. Having that clarity to look back and see how alcohol has effected my relationships, however, has been a little rough to say the least.

Although I am doing this with as much self compassion as I know how (because this is key), it still hurts to realize that alcohol had a bigger role in creating rifts in my relationships with others than I would ever admit while I was drinking. I never wanted to take any ownership over my habit and the negative effects it was causing. I usually blamed my severe mood swings or impatience with people on them, or the situation, or basically the rest of the world….for inconveniencing me and being so stupid and not “getting it”. They had no idea what I had been through OR what I was going through and I certainly didn’t have time for what they thought. Plus, they must have missed the memo that it was all about me.

It’s not like I was a horrendous person. I still had friends, had my job and a pretty great life but I was not happy, and always felt utterly unfree. I was certainly more difficult than I would have been without all the boozing. Some of the many side effects I experienced from drinking so much were being tired, irritable, self-centered/loathing and lashing out at others who didn’t deserve it; especially, and most often, those I held dearest. It was harder for me to deal with stress and I often got flustered and wanted to abandon uncomfortable situations. Instead of working through them, I would get out of the situation as fast as possible and get to drinking so I could feel happy and not have to deal with my life. Since I’ve stopped drinking alcohol, I have noticed that I am still part of the same situations and relationships I’ve always been in, but they are all changing for the better….and the only variable that is different is me.

I’ve come to accept that alcohol was not my friend, but in fact causing real bruising in my actual relationships. I’ve had long conversations with people in my life about my recent choices and reflections. There is some damage I have caused with people that I simply can’t undo, and there’s also torn parts of other relationships that I have begun to mend. I am learning to say I am sorry and mean it. I am actively making efforts to be a better friend/family member/lover and be there for others; I ask them about their life, and not just focus the conversation on my problems. I have tried harder to talk through conflict with people instead of just leaving, or brushing it under the rug. Although these things are hard and I am still learning how to do them, it feels good and makes it easier to stick to my decision. I feel I am becoming more open, and sharing a more honest version of myself. My interactions with people both personally and professionally have started to noticeably improve. I respect myself more and feel more respected, and this is tremendously reaffirming.

Working on forgiving myself has been crucial in this whole process. Not only am I working on mending my relationships with others, I also have to mend my relationship with myself. What has happened has already happened, and there is nothing I can do to change the past. I have felt so pissed at myself for wasting time, doing so many embarrassing things, putting my body through the ringer, saying mean things to people etc. all because of my love for alcohol. The way I see it is, if my life wasn’t exactly the way it has been up until now I would be a completely different person. I am learning to truly love myself. Without the predicaments I found myself in because of alcohol, I wouldn’t be as strong, resilient, accepting, understanding or interesting. I love that I have been able to not have alcohol for 110 days. That is a small step on a much larger journey, but I am proud of it. I am learning so much about myself right now. How freaking awesome to give yourself the chance to find out who you really are; to accept yourself and start designing your person rather than feeling victim to it. So in that case, thank you alcohol- for helping me to fall flat on my damn face and challenging me to either be a better person and get to know who I truly am, or continue this dreadful cycle of drinking, shame and feeling like a broken-winged bird dying to be free.

“When you forgive, you free your soul. But when you say I’m sorry, you free two souls.” – Donald L. Hicks, Look Into the Stillness

You Don’t Drink Either?!

Today I am at 101 days of no alcohol and things are going great. Not perfect, but better than any of my days of drinking. There have been so many wonderful things that I’ve noticed in my life without having alcohol as a distraction. For me, alcohol was my gift to myself for any given occasion: celebration, relaxation, getting rid of the blues, hell even because it was a nice sunny day out! When I decided to stop, I didn’t know who I was going to hang out with or HOW I was going to hang out with people. This is what I learned…

I believe people all have a very powerful magnetism to them, some sort of law of attraction. I noticed for myself, the things and ideas that I put out into the world, are usually fed and supported by my surroundings if I do it consistently enough. First few weeks of no drinking I felt isolated and alone. Then I heard through the grapevine a good friend of mine had also quit drinking. We started talking on the phone a lot and compared our experiences. We hung out and had food and great conversation- a far cry from our earlier years when we did nothing but get super faded together and talk nonsense.

One of my childhood friends who is also in her early 30’s recently quit drinking. She had some of the same issues I did about having the tendency to overdo it, and was tired of living with preventable regrets. She was relieved to hear I had also chosen to put the bottle down, and it opened a flood gate of comfort in similar experiences between us. We knew we weren’t alone.

The online community has been phenomenal! Just google anything about quitting drinking, the benefits of stopping etc. and you’ll realize there are TONS of amazing, interesting people from all walks of life fighting the good fight.

Then there were the people right in my sight line that I had seemingly overlooked because they didn’t like going to the bar as much as I did. Now I am finding out what those people are all about, and I have to say I was missing out. When people aren’t drinking, they are doing all sorts of things, and I am learning how to join in on those activities and not be uncomfortable because I don’t have my crutch. It’s truly delightful to indulge in people soberly and get to know their mind, personality and overall essence. I noticed I have to be patient for this to unlock however. When I drank, I would try and get buzzed quick and my mouth would start running and I would coast. Being with someone sober I have to get over this small hump of “What the hell are we gonna do then?” but eventually as long as I stay present, things start to happen, conversation starts to flow and we end up having a genuinely good time.

Going out for breakfast and coffee is my favorite way to connect with people now. Only other people who aren’t going nuts with alcohol are available and willing to do this at this hour. I have grown to adore mornings because I am never hung over; I feel fresh and uplifted because I know the whole day is ahead of me. I feel energetic and positive when I wake up now, and it’s great to share that with friends and catch up this way. The morning is not a drag, it’s freaking AWESOME!!!

Contrary to what I thought before, not everyone drinks… And for sure not everyone likes to drink as much as I did. I realize this idea of magnetism and attracting good things in our lives can seem esoteric if that’s not your thing. My only response to that is we must have FAITH. Faith in a higher power, yourself, the universe, faith in the power of love….however we want to think about it. We must believe in something, and sometimes it takes a while to figure out what that is. Believing we are capable of making this change is a good place to start.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist