Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sober Art Show

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I had my first art show.  I used to paint with an addition of chardonnay to loosen up the old creativity.  Now I paint stone sober and the creativity is far more juicy.

Ihad created over 40 paintings they were on display.  Hundreds of people had been invited.  I had an entire team of friends helping me pull it off.  There was food, music, oh yeah and wine…lots of wine.  It hit me about 10 minutes before show time that the old me would have lubricated my personality before the doors opened to ensure that I was calm, personable, chatty, even delightful.

Well guess what, I did it sober and I engaged with people non stop for 3 hours in the most authentic, wide awake manner possible.  No I wasn’t totally calm.  It felt overwhelming.

And quite honestly, it surprised me that a little inkling to have just one glass of wine to settle the nerves did arise.  I’m rarely tempted anymore.  So this little temptation, the awareness, and then the ability to allow myself to feel the nervousness was another miracle.  I had a little talk with myself.  “Of course your nervous!  This is a big deal. “  The old rationale of “therefore you deserve a glass of wine” does not hold weight anymore.  Instead, it was “you deserve to do this sober and to be honest with people.  It’s ok to say your nervous.  Feel your nervousness.  Breathe deep. “  And so that’s what I did.  I kept coming back to my breath.  Coming back to gratitude.  At the end of the night I remembered every single conversation, I had no regrets of what I may have said or how I acted.  And I woke up clear and filled with gratitude for such a successful night.  (oh and I sold 15 paintings!)

Support

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I recently had a beautiful AA moment.  Even though I’m four years into this sobriety business, I still have a hard time asking for help.  Stoic, non-emotional and without need….that’s me.  And I used to wear it like a badge, but now I have the insight to see it served a purpose but it’s not so grand anymore.

I was having a bit of an emotional breakdown which, and this was unfamiliar ground for the lifelong stoic.   Time in recovery is softening up my hard emotional shell.

When this wave of emotion came over me I was pretty perplexed as to what to do.  I tried my tools of breathing through it and meditating, but this time felt bigger and like I really needed to talk and process with someone.

But who has time for me at 8:00 on a Tuesday morning?  I knew I had the full capability of flipping the emotional switch and stuffing all those feelings far, far away.  But I also knew that was the pattern I’d done for years.  So I didn’t choose that route, but feeling it all was overwhelming.

Finally, I thought of an AA friend to call and I knew that she wanted to talk with me about this because by helping me work through something it would keep my alcoholic self sober (and therefore alive).  And by helping me she was also helping herself.  Somehow I needed to believe there was something in it for her for me to justify calling.

Perhaps this isn’t the best logic to move through when learning to ask for help, but it worked for me on that Tuesday.  I texted and said can you talk this morning?  She said yes, at 10:00.  We talked for about 10 minutes and my emotional overwhelm dissipated.

And I loved the experience of asking for help.  Yes, perhaps I’ll do it again some day.

I was a Party Girl

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Excerpt from upcoming memoir:

February 2012 –

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

Three 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.

Isolation

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It’s almost meeting time and I would so, so prefer to sit home in the quiet.  There is nothing wrong in my life right now.  I’m very content and happy.  And I would be especially content sitting at home.  Alone.

Now if there were something wrong in my life right now, I would also be especially content to sit at home and not have to interact with anyone.

I know this is rather consistent with other alcoholics too.  Why do we do this?  How can we keep ourselves from doing it?

Tonight, even though I’m very peaceful and content sitting at home, I know it’s more important that I go and plop my happy vibe down in the center of the meeting.  Someone there may need exactly what I’ve got tonight.  I will go.  Maybe I’ll share these thoughts.

The next time I’m not feeling so great, perhaps I’ll come back and read these words and drag my self pitying ass to a meeting and talk about how I’m feeling.  That is one of the hardest things to do, but also one of the most powerful.  It’s an alcoholic’s kryptonite.  It takes the power right out of the “woe is me”.

My Black Eye

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I have a black eye.  I am finding a lot of freedom in this black eye.  I find freedom in the oddest places with sobriety.  

The background of the black eye is that I’m allergic to cats.  I petted a cat.  The cat also inserted a little kitty nail into my skin…kitty venom then traveled to my eye (one, not both) and I began rubbing it.   Much to my surprise the venom and rubbing combo on aging thin skinned eyes produced a shiner.  

How is it that I find freedom in this?  Back in my drinking days I would have been highly conscientious of a black eye wondering if people thought I got it from drinking and falling down.   I had a blanket of shame and guilt around me all the time so worried that people would  find out the truth about my addiction.  

I love having nothing to hide now.  Not even a black eye.  

Stigma

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I wish there wasn’t such a stigma that goes along with being an alcoholic.  It’s interesting how being a party girl was much more comfortable for people than knowing I’m a recovering alcoholic.  If you want to throw a little awkwardness into any conversation,  mention recovering alcoholic.

I don’t feel flawed.  As crazy as this sounds, I’m actually grateful to be an alcoholic.  I have a built in community that is focused on healing, self care, and spirituality.  I can go anywhere in the world and find a meeting of my peers.  I can be in an airport and page Bill W. and someone from the program will come support me.

And what is the cost of being an alcoholic?  It means I can never take a sip of alcohol again.  So what.  It’s poison for me, so it’s not such a big cost??  It also means I don’t have the option of numbing out what I’m feeling, I get to move through whatever emotion or situation rather than pushing it down and filling it with liquid novacaine.  There is a lot of freedom in fully living.

I Freely Gave it Away

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Excerpt from my upcoming memoir:

I had once again been sober for several weeks and was thriving in my new found state.  Then came Monday night football.  It was the biggest game of the year.  I decided I was doing so well, that drinking on this monumental night only made sense.  I arrived at the game feeling fabulous.  I had my first drink and it knocked me down a few notches, so I tossed back another.  That usually did the trick.  It didn’t.  Those two drinks not only stole my clarity and peace.  They hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was stumbling drunk.  There was no build up, no entertaining fun part.  I went straight from tranquility to apathetic and drunk.  I had the foresight to stop before it stole more of my new found harmony.

The following day I felt sluggish and toxic!  Based on my drinking history, I hadn’t drunk enough to be hung over, but I had put enough alcohol in my newly clear body to disturb it.  I found my thoughts racing all day.  The underlying anxiety, depression and self deprecating thoughts were back, with a vengeance.  I was so very, very tired of this pattern.

It was a beautiful sunny day in October, I was sitting on the deck of our little lake cabin, surrounded by a collage of autumn colors.  The sky was a brilliant blue.  It was the most perfect day, but I was depressed and once again journaling away my woes.  It was so cyclical..rehashing the same issues over and over.  Yet, I would often explore the pattern in this beautiful setting with an inherent knowing that it was a reflection of who I really was.  I looked out at the crisp and colorful view, it was bright, vivid and alive.  I listened to the  sounds of  birds, crickets, and the lake slapping against the bank.  It was a constant rhythmic hum.  I inhaled the very distinct fragrance of life on Tennessee water; a mossy earthy blend with scents of pine and cedar.   And I knew this collaborative effort that mother nature surrounded me with really was my true self.  This is who I was.  I was an earthy, colorful goddess…yes a goddess.  Not the polluted, heavy darkness that I was sitting with.

As I was frantically trying to write my way to a solution.  I suddenly heard “get off your fat ass and quit being a victim” and in that moment I knew I had just reached another turning point.  I took this rallying call seriously.  I was being a victim and I couldn’t keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.

I’ve always known I have dark humor angels surrounding me.  I believe I have divine guidance around me all the time, but it never feels like fluffy white wings, harps or cherubic faces.  My angels have moxie, edges and attitudes.  And on this particular day they were very bored with me and y recurring story.  I was suddenly sure they were rolling their eyes at my accusations that alcohol had stolen my clarity.  No, I had done this to myself.

Why did I keep acting like such a victim.  I allowed it.  Invited it.  We were back to the analogy of alcohol being the abusive boyfriend.  Here I was having found a new life that met all of my needs, yet not believing there was any way I could be happy on my own.  I went running back into his neighborhood begging him to give me another chance.  I handed over my peace.  It was not stolen.  I stood there arms wide open and urged alcohol, please come to me.  Here I am, I am offering my clear brain up to you to become fuzzy and dehydrated.  Please enter my entire system so that I can feel shaky and uncertain.  Tie up my emotions and make me question everything.  Insert yourself as a heavy dark fog between me and my higher self, my divine connection.  Yes, do all of these things…hurry!  Do it quick.  No, nothing had been stolen from me.  I freely gave it all away.

The Trick to Slowing Life Down

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I have so much more time now that I’m sober, yet I’m interested in so many more things (yoga, painting, writing, nature, cooking, meditating, reading, learning…) that I never feel like I have enough time and energy to do all that I want to do.

I frequently find myself being in this mental state of “lack.”   On one hand, it’s exciting to be so passionate about so many things after spending years just living for “happy hour.”  But on the other hand, I really have to coax myself to relax and enjoy the present moment.   Fully be in the present moment.  How can I truly enjoy painting if I’m thinking about going to yoga next?  I’ve been told if I slow down, time will slow down.  It’s my new practice.  And it’s definitely taking a lot of practice.

I also find myself having regret for the years I spent drinking and not pursuing all these passions.  When I catch myself doing that I put an immediate stop to living in the past.  That’s never gotten me anywhere.

Today I challenge myself to:  slow down and have gratitude in the moment.  Just for today.

Self Violence

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I read an article that spoke of the Dalai Lama crying as he gave a talk.  When the audience asked why he was crying he said it was because of how violent we are with ourselves.

That really hit home.  I used to be violent with myself by abusing my body with alcohol.  And the next day I would be incredibly violent with my self-hatred, self-loathing and the mental and emotional abuse that raced through my mind.

These days the volume on the self violence has been turned way down.  But I still “beat” myself up over the most minute things.  Because I’m quiet and intuitive I am very aware of others’ energy and their body language.  But I’m also self absorbed enough that I can launch into believing that their shift in energy or body language is a result of something I have done or said.  Most times this is probably not the case.  Other times it may be the case, but that doesn’t mean I have to go into a shame spiral and be mentally violent with myself.

I am practicing noticing when it happens.  Acknowledging that it may not be about me (imagine that!).  And also acknowledging that perhaps it is about me.  But that’s ok too.  I’m only human afterall and I will continue to say stupid, insensitive things, but that doesn’t make me a bad person, just a human one who is learning to live with more intention and consciousness.  I am learning to have compassion for myself.