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What up? It’s been a while since I’ve actively blogged. Going to try to do it daily. The purpose – to get perspective – to get grateful – to use writing as a tool to be a better person.

Since I was last blogging, so much has changed. I had another baby. I was promoted to CEO of the company where I work and then realized that trying to manage and control other human beings is not my scene… like AT ALL. My husband and I hit a rough patch but have come out of it more connected. Life happened. And it’s all to the good. And most importantly of all – I’m still fucking sober. Four years, man. It’s the best part of my life – my sobriety – because it makes it possible for all the other awesomeness to happen. Sobriety gives me a fighting chance to show up in my own life.

I started this blog as a space to explore a higher power because smart people in the program told me that if I didn’t find one, I would drink again. I know nothing more today about God than I did four years ago except this: “There is a God and I’m not it.” I don’t know who said that originally but it floats around the rooms. I love it. My daughter told me God is a “bubble full of hearts.”

I used to think that I couldn’t believe in God unless I figured God out. For years in recovery, I kept trying to nail down God. Like, “This weekend I’m going to pencil in some time to really sort out this whole GOD thing.” Such a self-centered piece – as though I’m going to be the human being of the 6 billion that really just gets it spot on. Now rather than try to sort out God, I contemplate outer space and nature and physics. I cannot make sense of any of that shit. I’m not in charge of star formations and they seem to happen just the same. The rest of the world, universe, galaxy, etc. keeps on keeping on whether my ass is involved or not. In the past, that might have freaked me out. Today, I take comfort in knowing I’m just one among many. It’s not my job to control. I’m powerless over alcohol, people, places, and things.

I’m a work in progress. I’m so much happier and more serene than I’ve every been but I’m still a bit crazy. I want to quit my day job and start a podcast and move to a farm. What’s up with that? My husband thinks I’ve come unhinged. I also suggested that we sell all our stuff, become minimalists, buy an RV and drive around the country for a year before our kids start school. He said “Hell No.” A good compromise is to try to keep up this blog for a while and see if it sticks. If it doesn’t, perhaps that is a sign that we can’t uproot our family and live out one of my whims.

Dare me to write again tomorrow?

trying again

This past weekend we celebrated my brother’s 38th birthday.  Getting ready for his party, I browsed my jewelry box looking to accessorize and came across a silver cuff bracelet with my initials engraved on the outside and a date engraved on the inside.

10-15-2005

An instant flash of heat and prickles of irritation radiated throughout my body. A lump in my throat accompanied a brief moment of shame and regret. These raw emotions quickly subsided and were replaced with some unexpected feelings – gratitude and acceptance. The silver cuff bracelet I never wore found its way onto my wrist Saturday.

The bracelet was a gift from my Mom. Although it was meant to be encouraging during one of my earlier attempts at sobriety, which was preceded by lots of desperate and pitiful phone calls to my parents, I hated the bracelet when she gave it to me. The year 2005 was when I came to the great jumping off place – a place where I could not envision a life for myself with alcohol but a life without alcohol seemed equally unlivable. What a horrible, lonely and excruciatingly painful place to be. I knew I needed to stop drinking but I could no more admit that I was powerless than I could accept a “God of my understanding” as somehow being a solution. This was a time in my life where I would string together 10 days, 15 days, one month of sobriety and then be driven back into the insanity of drinking because life sober wasn’t looking too much better than life drunk.

I received the bracelet from my Mom after an impassioned declaration of my intent to stay sober. Little did she know that between the time she purchased and mailed the bracelet and I received it, I had already picked up a drink. I could not stay sober for the life of me and I hated that stupid fucking bracelet because it was a physical reminder of my complete inability to manage my own life.

Despite myself, I did stop drinking for almost two years from April of 2006 to March of 2008. These were two of the best years of my life, but I lost my sobriety for all the usual reasons one does: I took back my will, I stopped working with a sponsor, I stopped going to meetings, I put myself at the center of my life, I let my resentments fester…. and so on. Things got so good when I was sober that I came to believe in the power of myself and came to believe that I could drink again like a normal person. I was out of the program from March of 2008 until August of 2011.

I am so grateful that I had a daughter in March of 2011. Being a mother taught me the definition of powerlessness and showed me humility in a way I have never experienced. In the first months of Lulu’s life, I was so exhausted from trying to drink, parent and work (in that order) that I surrendered. I was desperate enough to slink back into the rooms of AA. I knew there was a solution there the entire time I was drinking but my ego was so big that I couldn’t get myself through the door! Before Lulu’s arrival, I had resigned myself to live a life of silent misery as long as I could have alcohol by my side. I had too much pride to humble myself before the program that gave me so much and that I turned away from years before.

My first months back in AA, I had all this mental stuff going on about why I lost my sobriety, what the last three years could have been like if I were sober, where I would be now, I would have five years, Lulu would have had a sober Mom from day one, etc. As a result of working the steps these past months and really grasping the program in a whole new way, I do not “regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” I am grateful I am sober today and I accept the path that I have traveled to get here. Part of my recovery is appreciating the journey as much as the destination and working on acceptance of life on life’s terms.

Back to the bracelet. I have a new affection for this piece of jewelry. Where I used to view it as a reminder of my failure, I now see it as a reminder of the beautiful life I get to live when my life is built on a foundation of humility.

sitting in shit

About a month ago, I started working on my fourth step, which states “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” I haven’t posted in a month because I have been sitting in my shit.

I put pen to paper and began listing people, places and things that make me angry.  I hesitated and thought, well, I don’t really get angry. That’s not a nice emotion. I might get annoyed/irritated sometimes but I can usually just deal with that. I’m the nice one, the kind one. I got on team brain/ego and went about the business of analyzing and rationalizing and ignoring/avoiding/minimizing. I am very good at this.

With the help of my sponsor, I was able to get honest with myself about how I really feel. I gave myself permission to feel my anger. I tapped into some ugly shit. I unlocked a wellspring of poison at my core. I was seething with resentment, boiling with resentment, overflowing with resentment. I guess my tendency to ignore my resentments doesn’t make them any less real. Damn.

Doing a fourth step during the holidays is great because you are surrounded by all your lovely family and friends who you resent the hell out of. I have hateful and vile thoughts about the people that I love the most in this world. To be fair, I have hateful and vile thoughts about strangers, co-workers, neighbors, my dog, the weather. Thank God no one can hear what goes on inside my head. If my thoughts were broadcast, they would sound something like this:

Life is so unfair. I work so hard. I never get enough. 

I can’t believe (fill in the blank) lives his/her life like that. I would never do what they are doing.

(Fill in the blank) has it so much better than me. If (fill in the blank) only had my life, then he/she would understand how much I struggle. 

(Fill in the blank) doesn’t deserve all that money, success, good looks, support, good friendship, etc. – If my life was that easy then I would have all that money, success, good looks, happiness, etc. too. 

No one takes care of me. I am always taking care of everyone else and never get to be taken care of. 

I never get enough attention, no one listens to me or does what I want to do. 

I have been wronged. Everyone is always judging me. 

My resentments aren’t really about acts of harm done to me. I resent people for being themselves – for being human. I resent my loved ones because their entire being just rubs me the wrong way.

You being you gets in the way of my happiness because I don’t know how to feel about myself unless I compare myself to you. 

I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say that I spent the four days over Thanksgiving running from place to place feeling wronged at every encounter to the point that I couldn’t even keep straight what I was angry about or who I was angry with!

Sitting in shit is not a pretty image but that’s how I felt. I was sitting in my shit and it sucked. It sucked to acknowledge my awful thinking. I am selfish and self-centered. I am dishonest and inconsiderate and driven by a hundred forms of fear. I see these character defects. I don’t want to ignore these flaws. I don’t want to stuff the resentments. I want a way to let go of my anger. Rather than bury that poison in some faraway region of myself, I want the poison excavated and eviscerated.

I know that the fourth step was preparing me to be “entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character.” I did my fifth, sixth and seventh steps this past Sunday and it was awesome. I have been stuck in my fourth step junk and yuck and five, six and seven helped me see the path out of that thinking/being. AA is an amazing program for living. It works if you work it 🙂

 

sick puppies cannot care for sick babies

Lulu is sick. She is almost 8 months old and this is her first time with a fever or anything more significant than congestion. She is fussy and uncomfortable and crying these huge tears we seldom see coming from her sweet, little, almond-brown eyes. She is full of drool and snot. She is farting and gagging. She doesn’t want to eat a whole lot. She alternates between exhaustion and screaming. She seems to be in a fair bit of some type of pain she cannot speak.

I want to acknowledge some of the wonderful stuff that has occurred in the past 48 hours. My daughter was sick and I was here to take care of her… sober. I responded to her pain and upset. I took her temperature and changed her diapers and put dry clothes on her and made her bottles and gave her baths and rocked her and shushed in her ear and sang to her. I stayed awake in the middle of the night and let her sleep on my chest as I sat in a chair because upright was the only position where she seemed comfortable. I put her in bed with me and rubbed her back and woke up at every sound. To most parents, these probably sound like pretty obvious things to do for a sick child. For me, this is a big deal because more than just doing these things, I was present and aware and tuned in to Lulu.I had the capacity to provide care, security and love to my child. In the midst of the fever and the poopy diapers and the no sleep, I was able to look at her and feel this enormous gratitude for this amazing little being that I get the privilege to take care of for as long as the Universe lets me. I have a generally healthy and thriving infant and I must be one of the luckiest people on the planet.

I can’t help but think about what taking care of Lulu with a fever would look like if I were still drinking. My drinking wasn’t always out of control, but I couldn’t control my drinking and therefore could never predict with much accuracy how a night of drinking would end. What state would I have been in when Lulu awoke in pain in the middle of the night? What would my embrace have looked like and smelled like and felt like at 2:00 am? How much comfort does a drunk parent really provide to a sick child? Would I have been able to take a rectal temp? Would she have been safe sleeping in bed with me? My sane husband most likely would have taken charge and let me sleep off my drunk.

The ensuing guilt, remorse and shame the next day would have been unbearable. My own self-loathing would eat away at my relationship with Lulu as I watched her depend on her father for the security I was too unstable to provide. I’m sure I would vow to be a better parent. Around 5:00 pm, I would get the itch to drink and start excusing my behavior of the night before. No defense against the first drink I swore I wouldn’t have, I would pour myself a glass of red wine while taking care of her. I would feel the war in my chest between the instinct run wild to drink more and the pressing matter of the sick infant at hand. Things would start to feel unmanageable. Her cries would elicit irritation rather than sympathy. I would get a rising up of anxiety in my chest because this baby was really cutting into some much needed drinking at the end of a long day of taking care of said baby. I would probably let Jim take care of her and promise myself that next time I would do better.

My skin crawls just thinking of how alcohol warps my thoughts, feelings and attachments. Alcohol would rob me of the experience of completely loving my baby through her first fever… which I have a feeling is bringing her first tooth right along with it.

 

 

 

all bee okay

According to Dr. Jung, the psychiatrist whose reference to alcoholics being “frustrated mystics” inspired this blog, alcoholics recover when they have spiritual experiences. Page 27 of the Big Book reads, “To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.”

Spiritual experience. Spiritual awakening. Emotional displacement. Are these required for sobriety?

For as long as I can remember, the undercurrent of my life has been this feeling that I AM NOT OKAY. At times, my dis-ease is a whisper in my ear to be on guard, a slight buzzing in my body to stay vigilant against the terrible things that might happen if I don’t pay attention. At other times, my dis-ease is an earth trembling roar that cannot be ignored. Fear inhabits my chest and as the blood courses through my body, it seems to take on a voice that pulsates, “I AM NOT OKAY.” Living with a constant perceived threat is exhausting. No amount of self-knowledge or meditation or yoga or rest ever relieved me of my fear. There was one thing that worked  –  alcohol. If I drank enough, I got to this place of oblivion where I didn’t feel much of anything. The problem with alcohol is that the effect wears off and life awaits you in the morning where you find yourself sober and petrified.  Alcohol was like a giant pause button on fear. Unfortunately, it was also a giant pause button on life, growth, relationships, development. I am so grateful to no longer be in that place.

I believe that I had a difficult time with fear because I didn’t know what the opposite of fear, something I call Peace, felt like. I was so accustomed to being uncomfortable in my own life that I had no concept of what I was striving for. What did change feel like? What was I trying to get to? This is where my spiritual experience comes into play. I feel self-conscious sharing for fear (there it is again) that my story will sound hokey or lame. This 100% happened just the way I describe it and I believe it has been a touchstone for me to keep returning to Peace – a Peace I did not know before this occurred.

Before I got sober in 2006, my lovely Mom took me on a wellness retreat of sorts to help me get straightened out. On this retreat, I had the opportunity to get a Reiki massage.

I walk into a warm room, dimly lit, and introduce myself to the masseuse. She is a strong woman, rather homely, and she instructs me to lie down on the table. I was immediately confused because I was used to taking off my clothes for massages. I remember thinking, “Oh God, this is going to suck. I should have opted for the sports massage – I have so many knots in my neck.” Next, the woman asks my permission to invite spirits that would like to be present to enter the space. Huh? What the f#@k did I sign up for? Not wanting to offend, I give my permission and mentally prepare myself for an hour of bullshit.

What happened in the next hour is something I cannot explain intellectually. The masseuse went around my body, gently placing her hands on me. I felt myself relax. I felt myself let go. I felt feelings bubble up in my chest and move through my throat and out with my breath. Tears pooled in my eyes. I had a brief moment of panic. “What the hell is happening,” I thought. “This is so embarrassing… what if she sees that I’m going to start crying.” Something in the time and space of that moment allowed those thoughts to leave and made room for me to just go with it. I dropped the judgment and let myself be.

I felt myself open up. A light radiated from the place that always feels empty in my chest. From the void, it was like a swirling up of little stars, twinkling and floating within the gentle cyclone shape of a tornado. Peace radiated from a place I had never known peace – my body was usually just a battleground for instincts.

A memory entered my conscious mind. I am a young girl, probably seven years old, and I am swirling around in the front yard in a dress I loved. It was a hand-me-down from my cousins and it had pretty flowers all over it. Lost in the experience of twirling, I hear a buzzing and realize that there is a large bee in my vicinity. I panic. The dress has flowers on it and the bee is going to sting me. Fear vibrates through my body and I run for the safety of my front door. The bee pursues me. I feel it all around me, trying to sting me. I get to the door and in my panicked state I fumble with the screen door and then the front door. I am sure I will be stung. I am sure I will die. I finally get through the door and crumble on the floor in tears.

The me watching this memory understands the child’s fear but doesn’t take it on emotionally. This is where it gets a bit more out there so please bare with me! I have a sense that there are a host of benevolent beings in the space with me and they are communicating with me. Not communicating with me like I am hearing them talk – it’s more of a psychic understanding. They are laughing kindly. They tell me that I am still the child afraid of the bee. They tell me that I do not have to be afraid. They both sent the bee to get me worked up and they are always there to protect me from the bee. Almost like it’s a game or they are teaching me but again, in a very kind manner. I get the overwhelming sense that there is never anything to fear – no matter how scary life appears – because it is all okay. It has always been okay and always will be okay. I am okay. I am always exactly as I am supposed to be at all times in all places and in all conditions. I am love and light and peace. I am complete. I do not feel empty.

And then it is gone. The entire experience was a mere five minutes in the -982895320 minutes I have been alive as I type this. My calculator wouldn’t even calculate what percent of my life that is because it is so close to zero. Yet in that brief occurrence, I had a huge emotional displacement. I experienced a glimmer of something different, a new way to be in the world, a new way to relate to myself. I experienced God. I experienced a Peace that transcends all understanding.

I know that my path toward experiencing this Peace is a path I must walk sober. I still experience fear on a daily basis but I have a counterpoint in Peace. I can turn toward peace. I can bring myself back to peace. I can find relief from obsessing about myself and my fears by bringing myself to the present moment countless times a day and understanding in a profound way that I am okay. All of life’s troubles are merely bees and I am always that perfect creature twirling in life’s light.

powerpay

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, life is getting better as I develop in my sobriety. Part of my development includes knowing freedom and losing the fear of economic insecurity that has plagued me since I started footing the bill for my life. These Promises from the Big Book are beginning to take shape.

I have racked up quite a bit of debt over the past 10 years. Student loans and credit cards floated me through the majority of my twenties. It’s not that I didn’t understand that loans have to be repaid or that credit cards can charge crazy interest, it’s more that I chose to ignore the long-term consequences in order to satisfy myself in the moment. There is a great line on page 49 of the 12X12 that says, “We eat, drink and grab for more of everything than we need, fearing we shall never have enough.”

I have lived as a greedy little consumer for a long time and that grabbing/desiring/wanting is all fear-based and ego-driven. If you can pay for it with a credit card, I probably have: furniture, books, haircuts, eye exams, groceries, painting our home, getting new windows, cigarettes, alcohol, cell phone bills, clothes, vet bills, plane tickets, hotels, dinners, gas… you get the point. When I got married, neither myself or my husband had a steady job and I was about to start my Masters program. I bought about $5000 worth of furniture on credit so I could play house and we could appear to be a successful young couple in a cool loft apartment. I spent some pretty desperately drunk times on one of those stupid couches. This was the beginning of making financial decisions based on impulse, self-satisfaction, ego and a sense of entitlement.

No more! I want to be free from owing other people for my existence. The home I live in doesn’t quite belong to me. The student loans won’t be paid off until my own children go to college. The disposable income we have every month that could be saved, invested or used to enrich our lives is eaten up by credit card payments. It’s hard to feel free when you are wearing a $250k pound backpack of I.O.U.s. I would rather be free from debt than wear fancy clothes. I would rather be free from debt than drink Starbuck’s coffee everyday. I would rather be free from debt than buy that really cool piece of art I found on etsy.com.  Freedom doesn’t mean being able to buy whatever I desire – freedom means 100% ownership and acceptance of what I have.

The point of all this rambling is to share a website called powerpay.org. It’s a free resource that helps individuals create a debt elimination plan. We are utilizing the Dave Ramsey system of paying off debt smallest balance to largest balance.

Anyone else found financial freedom in sobriety? Any tips or suggestions for getting out of debt?

wounds

I heard something beautiful at a meeting this morning:

“I had the type of wounds that no human power could cleanse or mend.” – anonymous

Wisdom emanates from the space occupied by a bunch of sober people. The words from another human being’s experience act like a broom coming through my soul: they move the dust that has settled, stir up debris and air and light, cleanse the space and make way for the particles of my reconfigured understanding to touch down and embed themselves in my consciousness.

I have spent many hours in therapy as a patient. I have read countless academic books and scholarly journal articles on aspects of the human psyche and human experience. I have a special shelf in my bedroom dedicated to the self-help books I wouldn’t dare display in the more public areas of my home. I have tried really hard to figure myself out – to get me. I have wrestled with my “issues” with the tenacity of a five-year-old who repeats, “but WHY?” ad nauseam.

I understand on a cerebral level that I am predisposed to anxiety/depression/alcoholism based on my genetic makeup. I understand that events in my life – traumas along the way that I won’t delve into today – changed my hard-wiring and increased my susceptibility to these conditions. I know all about neurotransmitters and stress hormones. I know a lot about addiction as a disease. I know that how I think impacts my mood and behaviors on a daily basis. I know that exercise and a better diet and improved sleep will do wonders for my ailments.

Knowing what is wrong with me and knowing, intellectually, what to do about it are very different than experiencing an actual transformation that brings peace and serenity. Do not get me wrong here,  medical treatments for depression and anxiety are lifesaving and without therapy I would not be where I am today, but some parts of myself only respond to a spiritual solution. With regard to my alcoholism, only a spiritual solution works. And, in my specific case, when I am working a program of recovery, the depression and anxiety seem to leave.

I am coming to a place where I do not feel the pressure to “fix” myself  as though the core of me is damaged. A sense of acceptance, surrender, presence has given me glimmers of how to transcend my “issues” and experience peace that defies self-knowledge or human explanation. Knowing myself better can only bring me so far and often creates more problems. Forgetting myself and being present in the NOW allows me to experience a type of healing that I cannot read about in a book or have imparted onto me by another human. Some conditions reside not in the mind or body, but in the soul. Science cannot mend what it does not acknowledge or comprehend.