Monthly Archives: October 2012

Grace, Beauty and Light

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I loved the white hair of the little blue haired ladies at Grace’s Beauty Shoppe, after I had fully shampooed away their silver lining hair rinse.  Those little women didn’t like their pure white hair to be seen but I always marveled at how beautiful it was against their pale pink scalps.

They struggled showing their white, just as I struggle to allow my pure bright light to shine.  It’s apparently a universal condition.  Why am I, are we, so hesitant to fully be our magnificent selves?

I learned a lot during my days at Grace’s Beauty Shoppe.  I never realized the depth of wisdom that I was exposed to until years later and I starting experiencing women’s circles.  It felt foreign, yet so profoundly familiar, to be connected in such a powerful and intimate way.

By growing up in Grace’s Beauty Shoppe, I had been a part of informal women’s circles all my life.  There was a sense of deep connection and authenticity in that little community that I have continued to carry deep in my cells.

So it comes as no surprise that the most important moment in my life was a moment of grace and beauty and I was surrounded yet again by a circle of women and one of them, Courtney, just happened to be a hairdresser.  This was the moment that I finally, fully willing, surrendered that I was powerless over alcohol and began my journey into recovery.  Courtney the hairdresser whose career was to make women beautiful, was my guide and she gently coaxed the white, the light and the brightness out of my darkened soul.  And the other beautician in my life Grace, who was my very wise grandmother continues to guide me on this journey which is about far more than not drinking alcohol.  She is always there to nudge me into the next dimension of love and life.

 

my diet

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My diet is critical for my recovery.  When I put pure, whole food in my body, I feel clarity.  I feel light.  This combined with not overeating, not smoking, and not drinking feels holy.  For the first time in my life, I am honoring my body.  It is sacred.  And it’s not just my body that reaps the rewards.  I’m also making an impact on factory farming that is tortuous to animals.  And I’m reducing my carbon footprint.

Not contributing to factory farming is important to me.  When I began discovering the inhumane practices we have of making meat in this country it took away any appetite I had for a burger, pork chop or chicken salad.  I’m now very conscious of what goes in my body and I can’t stand the thought of consuming fear, pain and suffering that these animals endure.

My recovery process is very much based on compassion.  Compassion for myself is the biggest step.  I’ve spent a lifetime berating myself and this is a hard habit to break.  But, now I am adopting a compassionate attitude toward myself and it has a ripple effect to the animals, and the earth.  This is my contribution toward peace and I take it seriously.  I see it as another form of service in my recovery work.  I’m not evangelical in my veganism but I do hope to pique people’s curiosity and perhaps plant a seed.

Far From Boring…

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I remember contemplating sobriety and thinking how fucking boring it must be.  I was sure I would just shrivel up and die with a tepid glass of fizzy water in my hand.  Oh how naive I was!

I’ve got so much excitement and energy for life now.  I paint, I write, I do yoga, I hike, I meditate, I go on retreats, I read, I take workshops, I go to kirtans.  And I do it with zest and zeal.

I go to a Buddhist Recovery meeting.  We meditate together and then  I hear from all of these young wise recovering souls that have found a new way of life at such an early stage.  I am happy for them.  There’s not a lot I feel led to say in these groups so I focus on allowing all of this heart energy, love and light that continues to build in me, radiate out.  I can bring this to any setting now.

It’s my new way of numbing out.  When things turn to a point of discomfort I allow the love and light to build and send it to the situation or the person.  It works like a charm.  Perhaps it’s avoidance, but I believe what  I’m actually avoiding is getting caught up in ego, fight or flight or any of those old patterns that I’ve been so used to.

The Un-Mindful Colonic

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I was getting a colonic and enjoying an easy rapport with the therapist.  I couldn’t really see (and didn’t want to see) what all she was doing, but apparently while flushing out my colon with one hand, she was also checking her text messages with the other. 

I sensed she was a little distracted when she suddenly burst out, “my daughter is blowing my phone up”  she sighed and then began texting back with one hand, while the other continued to navigate the rubber hose inserted into my rear.

 She proceeded to tell me that her daughter was away at college, had a rash and it was spreading.  Daughter was at the store and needed mom’s guidance on what to buy to rid herself of said rash.

Mom and daughter continued texting with mom updating me along the way.  By this point, I had checked out.  I was annoyed that I had taken the time and money to get a colonic and my therapist was more involved with her daughter’s skin condition than my colon. 

And that’s when my racing mind took over.  I was having a very heated conversation in my head of whether or not I should confront her and let her know I didn’t appreciate the lack of attention. 

I had many potential sarcastic conversations in my head, like..oh don’t mind me, why don’t you step out and talk to your daughter and I’ll take over the hose in my butt. 

Finally I mentally floated away.   I went off  into my own lala land and when she gave me the latest update on her daughter’s plight, I just said mmhmm.  At that point, I had energetically switched into passive aggression.  That never gets me far.

Now if I had this to do over, I would have done it in a much more mindful and compassionate way.  I know that feeling victimized and irritated did nothing to benefit the flushing out of old poo.  What if I had just been present with what was happening.  Allow myself to feel my feelings but not attach a story or victimhood to it.  I could have also brought it to her attention that I was not feeling fully tended to, but I didn’t need to do it when I was in a defensive irritated state. Yes, these options feel better.  I have to remember being mindful doesn’t mean everything will always go my way.  Far from it.

A Shift in Perspective

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I’m Tammy and I’m an Alcoholic

I’ve always waffled on how I feel about saying I am an alcoholic. It’s such a negative label. If you want to watch people squirm, just say “No thanks, I’m a recovering alcoholic.” You might as well say you were just released from a leper colony.

I went through a phase of deciding I wasn’t going to label myself as an alcoholic. Alcoholic felt so negative. I rebranded myself as a grateful sober person. This worked well for several months. I even quit going to AA meetings. I was fully enjoying being a grateful sober person. Then I went on vacation and this grateful sober person who was staying in a beachfront suite with a hot tub began rationalizing how having just one glass of wine (well maybe two…but that’s it!) would be something that a sober person would do.   I suppose I had morphed from a grateful sober person to a “normal” drinker. It made sense at the time. And, I was convinced of two things.

One, it wasn’t that big of a deal. We’re just talking about having 1 or 2 glasses of wine while soaking and relaxing. That’s it and it’ll be over … well until maybe next year at vacation time.  And two, that I couldn’t possibly enjoy a hot tub soak without a glass of wine. It suddenly seemed impossible and totally unfair.

I went as far as going to the wine aisle of the grocery store and informing my husband that I would be buying a bottle. I would only drink two glasses. He gently put his hand on the small of my back and said, “You don’t want to give up all the time you have sober do you? You’d have to start over.” And he gently guided me in another direction of the store. I was fuming inside. I resorted to buying junk food and O’Douls non-alcoholic beer. I needed to do something rebellious.

As I stepped out of the grocery there was a car with a license plate that said AA. I didn’t find it very humorous. I rolled my eyes at my higher power.

I went back to the room and gorged on empty calories. I continued to feel cheated and finally fell into a self pitying, topsy-turvy sleep. The next morning I felt hung over. It was more than the empty calories. It was an emotional hangover.

It was in my quasi hung over state I decided I couldn’t live as a grateful sober person because the disease of alcoholism would sneak up and bite me in the ass as it almost had the night before. When I returned home I got myself to an AA meeting and confessed my sins.

As I sat in the meeting I felt a very strong connection to those crazy alcoholics. I realized that alcoholics are the only people in the world who can fully understand how my mind and emotions work when it comes to alcohol. I felt a huge surge of gratitude for the endless supply of support that existed for me in this alcoholic world. I could go on vacation anywhere on earth and find an AA meeting. We support each other. There appears to be no racism, classism, or sexism in the world of recovery. There is a great deal of humility and community. We are there for each other.

I can be in an airport (which happens to be a very big trigger for us alcoholics) and page Bill Wilson. This is code for, “HELP I’m an alcoholic and I need some AA support.” A recovering alcoholic will come to the rescue and help me through my plight.

I now view myself as a grateful recovering alcoholic. And when I say “that word” I don’t feel shame or regret. Because I know I have a lifetime support group that focuses on personal development, growth and keeping it real. And it’s all free. I can throw a dollar, a ten or nothing at all in the basket at the end of the meeting and there’s no judgment. This is my church. And I like it because you can cuss like a sailor and no one will care.

Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine

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Typically when getting sober people smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, eat tons of sugar, and sometimes overeat in general.  The whole point of recovery is to feel good mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Taking away the most toxic substance, is a huge accomplishment, but  replacing it with other addictive substances isn’t.

Eating a clean, plant based diet will give a person mental clarity when they most need it.  Coming off the booze will definitely leave you swimming in a fog .  I know there is the old adage of don’t change everything at once.  But if you’re going to be detoxing from  alcohol why not go ahead detox your body from meat , dairy, and processed foods too?

Can your diet really make a difference in how you feel mentally?  Absolutely.  Our brain health is important to how we think and feel.  And as drinkers we have already compromised the health of our brain by consistently consuming our brew.  And who knows what hangovers do to our brains.  All of that dehydration always made my brain feel as if it were shriveling up, pulling away and detaching from my skull.  But thank goodness that’s not exactly what was happening since the brain isn’t attached to the skull to begin with.  Having a clean diet supports brain function and sobriety.

The research is endless of how a plant based diet helps the body heal and restore itself.   But dairy does the body good you say?  No, actually the meat and dairy industries market well, lobby well, and have brain washed us from the time we were small children to believe we need these in our diets to be healthy.

But how can vegetables help my emotions you may wonder.  Well I don’t know about you, but my drinking nights and hungover mornings were filled with depression, anxiety and questioning.  What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I get a handle on this?  On the day after overindulging it would be an ugly, emotional downward spiral.  I would wake up feeling like dung and then start beating myself up and the self loathing would consume me.  Now a lot of different things are happening.  We all are made up of energy and some of us vibrate at  higher, lighter frequencies and others at lower, darker frequencies.  When drinking we are definitely lowering our frequency.  When we continue drinking the frequency gets lower and lower.  When we wake up feeling like muck, the frequency is even lower.   And when the self loathing begins, the already bottomed out energy sinks even lower.

Now, think about a colorful plate full of roasted vegetables, or a green salad loaded with ripe tomatoes, and avocado.  Now, think of a quarter pounder with cheese.  Which do you think has a higher vibration?  Yes, red and green wins.  The colorful vegetables are going to help raise your vibration more than the dead animals who have most likely lived a short fear-based life in a factory farm.

Along with a higher vibration you are also going to feel better about how you are treating yourself and your body.  Maybe you have never had a very good relationship with your body in the past.  You are now healing your body and this will affect your emotions.  For women who drink too much, many of us have had a lousy relationship with our bodies.   And there are so many ways to abuse the body.  Drugs and alcohol, food, sex, exercise, and what goes on in our thoughts and feelings.

I had patterns for years of eating and drinking too much and then would try to beat my body into submission with exercise.  My relationship with my body now is very compassionate and forgiving.  With a plant based diet I’ve gotten rid of cravings and I am in tune with my body.  I know when I’m full and I stop eating.  I don’t like the feeling of being too full.  I assume this is the way some people are with alcohol.  They have one or two drink and know it’s enough and they stop drinking.  Can you imagine?!

I am still working on having compassion for myself when I don’t exercise every single day.  I catch myself with the obsessive thinking and put a stop to it.  I am still a work in progress for sure.

Since I have a lot regulated with my body and emotions, I’ve occasionally had the distorted thought of “hmm maybe I can drink like a normal person now.”   First of all this the disease of alcoholism talking because if I could, then I would have done it in the 20 years that I tried to manage it.  But secondly, if by chance there really was some miracle that allowed me to drink modestly, I would not choose it now.  I am now very consciously choosing what goes into my body.  If I’m choosing not to put things like meat and dairy in because of how they affect my mood, healing aspects, energy, etc. then why would I put alcohol in which is going to lower my vibration?  It’s just not appealing to me.  I truly love being clear.

Aside

I am sitting in a pacific beachfront home with some of my favorite women in the world while they are sipping red wine and I have no desire for it.  This is a freaking miracle.

A few years ago I got sober.  I would have never believed that I could be sitting in such an idyllic setting for overindulgence and not have it affect me.   Not only does it not tempt me, but you couldn’t pay me to drink because at this point alcohol is not only poison to my body,  it’s poison to my soul.

I love my new life.  But, I spent years wondering if I had a problem.  Years waking up to a pounding head full of regret.  I was a party girl.

Being a party girl in your 20’s has its benefits and a certain amount of intrigue.  In your 40’s it’s dehydrated skin and a recipe for self loathing, anxiety and depression…not so sexy.   In the first stages of sobriety, I had regret.  Why didn’t I reign myself in at 30?  Even 35.  If I had, then I would be a “normal” middle aged drinker.  But now I don’t have those regrets, I view recovery as one of the best things that has ever happened in my life.  And who am I kidding, I never had a normal relationship with alcohol to begin with.  It was a fiery passionate love affair from the first sip.  And we all know there is a lot of drama involved in those types of affairs.

There were years of knowing alcohol was not good for me, but no consideration that I would ever give it up.  The plan was always to cut back.  Not spend so much time together.  It would work for a while.  I would think I was in control of the relationship but in reality, alcohol ruled my life and would give me just enough space to believe I was ok.  I was in denial.

The pattern was that every few weeks, I would wake up in the morning wondering what the hell I had said or done the night before, nursing my throbbing head and inevitably vomiting to make myself feel better.  Then I would swear to myself, never again!  I would be a responsible drinker.  And I would.  For a few weeks, sometimes even longer.  And I would feel like I had taken control.  Then a slip up would occur and alcohol and I would have an intense date.  An all nighter.  Never planned, more of an “I was on your side of town and thought I would drop in” kind of slip-up.

This pattern continued for years.  “Party girl” grew up and evolved into “have a drink every night woman” because I deserve it, or I need to relax or I do really stressful work or because its Thursday,  There was always a justification.  Some nights were fine, 2 glasses of wine (just enough to take the edge off)…but many were a bit over the top.

The path to sobriety was not a quick, direct one.  I took the scenic route down the rabbit hole to find my way.

A miracle

Telling My Story

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I got sober almost four years ago, and I kept trying to find women who had experiences similar to mine, because I wondered if I could really be an alcoholic since I hadn’t had any bad consequences.  No DUIs, no lost jobs, no family or friends confronting me on my behavior…nothing that indicated I was an alcoholic (externally anyway).  Internally I was a mess.  I was incredibly depressed and felt like such a failure because I couldn’t control my drinking and the hangovers were hideous.  I was a puker.  But no need to go into more details about that.

So, I’m writing my big ole alcoholic memoir…partly to help me make sense of it all and also to see if my experience might help someone else find the light a little sooner.

I’ll be posting snippets of the memoir along with other random observations about life.   Here are a few things about me:

I’m from Nashville and love being from the south.  I love being a recovering alcoholic and the journey it’s brought me.  I meditate, do yoga, and eat a plant based diet…these things are a big part of my recovery.  I’m a fan of the mystical and the sacred and find a lot of intriguing things about different religions, but don’t claim to be a follower of any.

My church is on a hiking trail, in the art studio or on the yoga mat. I believe in the power of love and the human spirit.   I’ve become an artist and a writer since getting sober…finding my creative path has been very expansive.  I’m also intrigued with being a middle aged woman and seeing what all comes along with aging .   I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and a sluggish colon but I have a Happy Light and a Squatty Potty and both are manageable.  This random list could go on for a while…but keeping posts short and sweet is probably a good idea.  So until the next post….may this warm October weather warm your soul.    xoxo