Clarity

sunrise cloverdaleToday is day 12 of sobriety. This time around, it’s not so hard. I’ve been pregnant, and breastfeeding, so I’ve become used to not drinking. This time, my drinking was relatively minimal compared to what it was a couple of years ago. Most people around me never suspected I had difficulty with alcohol before, let alone recently. My one to two glasses of wine a night were, if anything, encouraged because I should just let myself “relax.” What people didn’t see was that it wasn’t relaxing me at all outside that one hour of false relief. That I spent way too much time wracked with guilt over whether I should be having wine every night, that I hated the way I had started to look forward to my daughter’s bedtime so I could have my glass or two, or the way I would pray for her not to wake up within a window of time that I would need to feed her with alcohol in my system. That every evening when I went to bed I felt stupid for drinking wine when I knew I was facing a night of waking up to care for my baby and I was doing something that only made me more tired.

This time I’m choosing to stop NOW, before I regress back down the road I was on before. I realize I’ve been on a slippery slope and that my thinking had started to rationalize a little more wine each night. I started to recognize the cycle of each day returning, even though I wasn’t consuming too much at a time. The cycle of waking up feeling guilty and promising myself to take a night off, then going through the day feeling good, then evening hitting and being exhausted and stressed and craving time to just unwind and throwing my promise out the window because “I deserve this relaxation,” and “It’s not a big deal,” then having as much wine as I feel I can get away with depending on how long I expect my daughter to sleep before her next feeding, then feeling guilty and stressed about it as soon as I drink. How EXHAUSTING. How insane that my brain tells me it’s relaxing at all!

As my awareness kicked in and my interest in living a dry, sober life returned, I stumbled upon Laura McKowen’s blog and read this post that said something that sealed the deal for me. She describes so beautifully realizing that she would never reach her potential as a drinker, and I know the same is true for me. She states,

“For my entire life, I had this ache in my heart to write, to teach, but most of what I wanted was unnameable—I just knew I wasn’t doing it. And I didn’t know how to get there. It was only after I stopped drinking that a path started to form—both because I had more time, space, energy—but also, and more importantly, because my soul could finally breathe. Without the blunting effect of alcohol, I could finally tap into the energy I’d been dimming out for two decades. I could feel God, my creativity, faith, guidance, intuition, my highest and wisest self—drinking cut off my access to all that….

It’s not that you don’t have the clarity in you, you just can’t access it and you never will be able to, so long as you’re employed by an addiction.

Woah. That’s a truth-bomb right there if I’ve ever heard one. Drinking, for me, regardless of whether I was in a heavy phase, (often in the past twenty-plus years) or a moderate phase (recently), has stunted my ability to see with clarity what it is I really want to be doing. I have the same ache in my heart that Laura describes. I have a vague idea that I want to be writing, but I can never seem to pin down what it is I want to write about. What I want feels unnameable. I can see now that I haven’t given it the space or clarity it needs to emerge.

My tendency is to rush things. To need the answer NOW. To push things through. This time, as I gain more and more sober momentum, my plan is to relax into it. To give myself time. To trust that the clarity I’m seeking will emerge when I’ve had enough time without numbing out and dulling my senses. So many sober women I admire talk about the resurgence of their creativity once they stop drinking and gain time without alcohol.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be, I think of the me that isn’t stifled or dulled. I think of the me that is confident and creative, reliable and loving, present and aware. I’m so grateful I read those words and made this choice now, while my daughter will never have to know me as the mom who drinks wine every night. We waited too long for the miracle of her birth for me to miss even a moment of her precious life.

Speechless?

That’s how I’ve felt the past few days.  I want to write, but I feel a sense of exhaustion about trying to record the events of the past few days.  I’ve been keeping my head down, trudging forward and keeping my eye on my first big goal, which will be accomplished tomorrow:  30 days!!  I haven’t seen that number since sometime last year when I made it to 32.  32 is my all-time record, from age 17 to now, at 37.  20 years of never stringing together more than one month… it seems impossible that this is true, and yet I can’t remember a time when I would have.  I never thought there was a real problem until age 27.  Actually now that I think of it, though, I may have compiled a month or two or three at that age.  I did have a phase of really trying to cut way back/clean up.  But I don’t remember counting days or taking note of how long it had been… it simply wasn’t a part of my life for a little while, as I had been making an effort to live a bit healthier and I was dating someone who was into fitness and didn’t drink.

Because, I was always a master chameleon.  Not really knowing who I was, I was pretty good at adopting whatever characteristics whoever I was dating found attractive.  I lived for that approval.  Most relationships, drinking made this morphing process feel totally natural.  One thing that makes this sobriety thing easier for me now, is that I finally AM in a relationship where I feel authentic, loved, and whole.  It makes a huge difference to my ability to not feel so exposed and raw… I’m quite sure I couldn’t have done this in previous relationships where I was so desperately trying to make things work that were never meant to be.

The past few days have been rough but also have shown a big, bright spotlight on my emotional stability.  I am shocked at how healthily I’ve been able to process things that normally would have me hysterical.  Now, being sober, it’s so much easier to take a few breaths, assess the situation, go for a walk, think rationally about how to handle it.  Who knew?  For example, I had an incident the other day, after driving home through stressful traffic, where my dog (she’s a Great Dane) jumped out of my car without her leash when we got home — normally okay, but she for some reason has a thing about my neighbor and she charged right toward her, running and barking and then jumping around her and growling… it was awful!!  Our neighbor is like the cutest, classiest, nicest elderly woman who has been quite patient with our dog in the past, trying to befriend her on several occasions.  And our dog is such a big baby, not aggressive at all except with this woman she gets weird!  I don’t think she would actually hurt her, but at the same time I know she’s still a dog and anything can happen.  So I’m watching in horror and holding our other dog back, yelling for the dog to come back and she’s not, and it seemed to go on forever but it was probably in reality just a few seconds.

I got the dogs in the house and yelled out how sorry I was.  I reprimanded the dog and then had to steady myself for a few minutes; I was totally shook up, my heart was racing, and I felt like such a jerk for having let her off the leash even though she is normally trustworthy.  I debated for a few minutes what to do; this neighbor is overly gracious about the situation but she certainly could have called and reported it or just generally made some sort of a scene.  Me being normally terrified of confrontation, I was sure that in my drinking life, I would have just let it lie and not done anything else.  But I calmed myself down and did the right thing by going next door and checking on her to make sure she was alright.  She was shook up and I assured her I would be more careful.  We ended up having a nice chat and I felt so much better having apologized and being able to assure her that I would take it seriously and prevent further incidents.

I don’t know why this felt so significant except that I noticed this:  Although I feel I’m hiding a bit in sobriety, I’m not actually hiding from the things that matter.  This mattered.  And this, I would have hid from had I been nursing a hangover and feeling all paranoid and shaky.  Instead, I did the right thing.  I’m not hiding from real life.  I’m only hiding from my previous drinking life and that’s okay.  That life isn’t serving me.  This is, because I left a bad situation feeling good about my ability to rectify it.

30 days tomorrow!!!

antsy…

Knew if I slowed down today I’d be struggling… I was struggling but staying busy helped me push through.  There is no better indicator of just how antsy I felt today than this:  not only did I run, do all the laundry, study, work, and organize the kitchen, I alphabetized my spices.  Yep.  If you knew me you would not be able to imagine me doing this in a million years.  I myself would never have imagined it. So either I’m going crazy, or I’m bringing to life some long-dormant organizing queen by being sober.  I prefer to envision the latter, and it may be true.  I found a totally unfamiliar but amazing feeling of satisfaction tonight in installing shelves into my cupboards, organizing the food in the pantry into categories, and aligned the glassware.  

Now my dreams are going to be all like, “anise, bay leaves, coriander, curry, fennel, ginger…”

Not so bad, actually.  A hell of a lot better than chaos and angst, so I’ll take it.  Anyone else go crazy on organizing during the first 30 days?  Or any time?

“You become what you repeat…”

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was going to begin training to become a yoga teacher this month.  Now I’m a couple of weekends in, and it is helping immeasurably with the urge to drink.  In fact, this time around I’ve had almost zero cravings.  I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I left my job and my routine is different, that I’m actively trying to care for myself, and that I’m being more honest with others about what I’m going through.  But there’s also this idea our yoga teacher introduced us to on our first day of training (also my day 1, and first day of teacher training!) that is simple, yet has stuck in my mind since then as a kind of mantra:  

“You become what you repeat.”  He referenced the yogic spiritual practice called Abhyassa when talking about this idea, and also called it “brain plasticity.”  Isn’t that so much of what we’re talking about here, with our attachments around alcohol consumption?  We practice consuming alcohol with dinner (wine), in social situations, to celebrate, to mourn, to relax, after work, etc.  We repeat this behavior because it’s the norm, and then that behavior sinks into our private lives as well, and the more we repeat it the more we become it.  

The opposite is also true.  This time around is markedly easier because of the things I’m doing to support myself, but also because I got some sober time under my belt on my previous rounds.  Each time I abstained, even if only for a week or so at a time, I added days that are like extra muscle fibers helping carry me now.  It is easier to divert myself to something else when I feel my urge to have a glass of wine coming on.  I’m getting better at rewarding myself with other things.  I’m practicing repeating positive behaviors and trusting that the more I repeat them, the more they will become my life.  Maybe it really is that simple.  It helps when I’m having a tough moment to pause, breathe, and remind myself that I’m practicing right now, and practicing can be hard.  But that with enough practice, this will become natural.  I will make it look easy.  It will be my life.  

And today, I rewarded myself with tulips and dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.  :):)

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