Monday, January 31, 2011

On Gratitude

***Submitted by Tara, who blogs at The Act of Returning To Normal.    Tara posted about her 30 days, and she's back to write about how her journey is going. 

Recently I was at a meeting, and after months of sharing about my difficulties and struggles, I finally remembered to say that things are going well.

By this I mostly mean that my emotional state has improved, because, if you looked at the circumstances of my life with an objective eye, you might be hard-pressed to find many changes. From the outside, I'm sure my life looks much as it did when I was drinking, but as I approach five months of sobriety, I can honestly say that I have moments of sheer joy. This is new and it has only become possible because of my sobriety.

Now when I look back on my days of drinking, I'm reminded of the movie Ground Hog Day. I re-lived the same day over and over again, beginning with promises to not drink, followed by drinking to excess, followed by hangovers, both physical and emotional. If insanity is solely defined by performing the same actions and expecting different results, the only way I can classify my life as it was then, was insane.

Gosh, it's harder to write about happiness and peace than it is to write about sadness and pain, even though the emotions ostensibly come from the same place. But it is important to show the light, as well as the darkness, so here goes:

By staying sober and consciously focusing on finding gratitude for the gifts I have (so difficult in the beginning), I now find that an emphasis on gratitude has become a state of mind. Instead of always looking for the negative in any circumstance, I now find myself looking for the lesson, the positive elements, or even the "thank god that didn't happen."

As a result, I'm beginning to open myself up to possibilities, taking baby steps and moving forward, even though I don't know what the future holds...first things first, and all. I can now see others, independently from my own mental and emotional state, and actually be there to support them. Over the course of the past few months, these small changes have produced radical change.

While I'll never forget the intensity of the first 30 days, or 60, or even the relief at 90, obsessively counting each day, hour, or minute, I do want to say that with each small change, each day that passes, real life takes hold and it gets easier. It is possible now to go hours or days without thinking about a drink.
And even though it's only been four and a half months, my life is fuller than I ever thought possible.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One Year

***Submitted by Corinne, who is a regular contributor to Crying Out Now

I have strung 365 sober days together. At times painfully. At times effortlessly. And every day I count the months. I count the days. Sometimes I count the moments.

It helps me believe the truth in where I am. I am sober. I have chosen sobriety and my life and my children and my husband and each moment I have chosen to be present.

This year brought much reflection, digging, learning. I now know that I used to drink to numb, to not care. I used to drink to feel... like myself. Or the self that I thought I was. But I never really understood who I was until I stopped drinking.

And I’m still finding out.

When I look back at the last year, I see truth.

I see the truth of what sobriety can give you: freedom, bright eyed mornings, awareness. I see truth in the community of those in recovery: kindness, non judgement, compassion. I see truth in my life: honesty, openness, a gentle soul, and a long way to go. And in being true with myself and others, I’ve found a soft landing for this weary traveler to rest her soul.

One year. One beautifully painful exquisite year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Take away a girl's dancing shoes and she will find a pair of stiletto boots

Submitted by Julie, who blogs at Sober Julie Doing Life, and who is checking in from a family vacation at Disney to watch her post go live!

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Dancing shoes, you say?? I say YES!!!
Don't all women have a favorite pair of shoes? I certainly did. They changed over time but irrelevant which pair they were, whether they were the red sexy strappy shoes or my black high heeled boots I just felt FABULOUS in them. I may not have been able to get an instantly flat tummy but my butt certainly got an inch higher !

My girlfriends would come by for pre-girls' night out drinks and we would get ready while sipping away. These girls' nights generally consisted of the pre-party, then onto a bar, where we would dance the night away and feel like we were 20 again. I was always running late, everyone knew that if we had called a cab for 10 they would have to get me moving at 9:50 because I'd be chatting, with a bowl of red wine in my hand and no clue of time. So off I'd rush, funk out my hair, makeup applied, clothes thrown on and run to the front door.

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Where were my boots? Which ones hubby would ask....and in a voice which only he can possibly do to perfection (mocking to say the least)...."yur dancin' shoes?? On the evenings when the pre-party was short I could sometimes find these special items myself, but more often than not hubby would produce them from thin air after I searched for what seemed an hour. RELIEF. Now I could be "myself" and dance up a storm.

How is it that I couldn't dance without the boots? Isn't that the question of all time? I had a million reasons to get evil when I couldn't find my footwear of choice: soles stick to the floor, they don't show off my calves well....on and on. 


Whatever worked for me became a security blanket, one which I could hide behind. For me and dancing it was the shoes, at least a bottle of lovely Shiraz and some great friends. Actually, I was like that with footwear in general, for important business meetings there were certain shoes or boots exclusively for the occasion. Hmmm.... looks like my need to be a chameleon branches further than I thought.

My point is that during sobriety I've often felt like I've lost those dancing shoes. I've been discovering who I am and re-evaluating my priorities. This isn't easy AT ALL. I am coming to accept that I'm not always going to be the life of the party, that in fact I'm pretty quiet. I enjoy people and fun but I take life pretty seriously for the most part. I enjoy other's company and discussions more than I need the spotlight. I love to see others laugh, to know that someone is happy or enjoying life. Amazing that by becoming humble I am realizing that I'm OK. Pretty spectacular, really. Well, most days. 
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God is like what a pair of stiletto boots was to a night out.
Weird to put my Lord and creator in the same sentence with stilettos but hey, it's a good analogy for me. The feeling of security which I used to find through other things is a constant feeling now in my life. I know that life's difficult, that feeling all these emotions is tough, uncomfortable and icky but that God gave me the tools to get through the b. s. 

So today I raise my glass of plenty to God, and thank Him for my Armor of God, which feels better than any boots I ever owned!

Ephesians 6:13
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can't Erase Awareness

***Submitted by Monica

It’s such a tricky thing, being comfortable enough… brave enough… vulnerable enough, to own this piece of my story. I could give you the lowdown on the whole dirty truth, but to be honest, I’m not ready to do that here – even though this forum leaves my identity, essentially, unknown. And so, I will tell you about today, about thoughts that come with this ‘living’ thing that I’m trying to do - minus the anesthetic.

I’m 27-years-old. I’m an elementary school teacher and a wannabe writer. I’ve always been a book-devourer. I seem to have a thing for reality TV. And I am an alcoholic.

I wish I was writing something different right now: I wish I could tell you that I’d jumped in to recovery with both feet, surrendered to the solution, and had a significant amount of sobriety. But I can’t, and I don’t. January 9, 2011 marks day one of this day count. I’ve been trying to quit drinking and using for well over a year. As we entered 2011 I had 4 ½ months of sobriety under my belt. But addiction yells so loudly sometimes, and has this fine-tuned ability to conjure up completely believable justifications for another drink or drug.

And it’s never just one.

When I got honest with my sponsor about my relapse I was flooded with intense emotions: anger, shame, guilt, remorse, defeat, sadness. I felt that everything I had gained in the 4 ½ months was erased with the end of the day count. I believed I was a failure: that I wasn’t cut out to do this “sobriety thing”.

As I ‘begin’ this journey again, though, I am coming to believe that while my day count might be beginning again, and my sobriety date has changed (hopefully for the last time), the growth hasn’t been deleted: I can’t erase awareness or un-see patterns.

There are so many moments when I get scared of growth, because it is so unknown. I seem to have the spiraling out of control thing down pat, but this growth thing is totally foreign and scary. And so I get scared, take one – or both – feet out of this recovery thing, put them in running shoes, and bolt. This pattern is something that I can’t un-see: knowing this truth about how I behave is leagues beyond what I could have told you about myself six months ago, or even one month ago. Awareness of this pattern is growth, and it hasn’t been erased.

I feel like I’m re-learning how to do everything. All of the everyday experiences like going to the grocery store and going to work feel brand new as I struggle to take them on without any numbing agents in my system. Thoughts and emotions are felt intensely. Every event is experienced in hyper-coloured extremes. These everyday challenges drive me to run just as much as any growth or tragedy. Many times I crave that numb existence I know so well. My entire being feels like it’s been ripped from the comfort of what comes so naturally and thrown into alien surroundings. Navigating this new territory is tough stuff. And again, I find myself fighting the urge to run… but with my awareness of this – with the growth that I haven’t lost - I am able to interrupt that dangerous thought for a moment.

And so, I take a deep breath, take off the running shoes, throw them in the closet, and shut the door. I put on my comfy slippers and I pick up the phone. I call my friend & sponsor and ramble on about the kids at work today and what I had for breakfast and a new experience that I had at a meeting last night. I get brave enough to spew the thoughts spinning around in this crazy head. And I do the best I can with the rest of this day - keeping my slippers on - because sometimes I get cold feet, and, as my sponsor pointed out, slippers are that wonderful, comforting, ‘stay-put’ kind of footwear.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Release and Relief

***Submitted by Lisa

I woke up at 2 a.m with a sour taste in my mouth a sick rising feeling in my throat. My stomach felt unsettled and my body ached. I sat up slowly in an attempt to control the nausea that had awakened me. I sat in the kitchen and sipped a cool glass of water and chewed on some antacid. I thought about taking some ibuprofen but didn’t think my stomach could handle it. I returned to bed and eventually fell back into an uneasy sleep.

When the alarm went off my head throbbed. The memory of feeling this way on a regular basis was so vivid I didn’t even question why I felt the way I did. I pushed through the morning routine but felt myself flagging. My husband, who knew I was feeling poorly, commented that I had probably caught the stomach bug that was going around and suggested I go back to bed and all of sudden I had a moment of clarity. I was legitimately sick. I could return to bed without guilt and accept that my husband would get the kids off on time. I called my office without guilt and left a message that I was sick and would not be in. As lousy as I felt my mind was at ease.

This sickness was not caused by alcohol. I stopped drinking almost seven months ago. I know longer had to push through morning queasiness and a thick head with gritted teeth . There was no reason to hide my symptoms from my husband or brush my teeth four times in the hope of washing away the sour taste of last nights chardonnay from my breath.

I had spent my years of drinking so tightly wound, so invested in promoting my image of complete control that I still forget sometimes that I know longer have to keep up that front.

Stopping drinking for me was a relief a huge relief. I won’t say it was easy to do or easy to continue to do but I have these moments where I realize I know longer have to pretend. I no longer eye the wine bottle on the table and time my grab at it. I no longer have to concentrate on controlling my mouth, thick with the effects of alcohol, in an attempt to control the slight slur the begins as a drain my third glass.

When I don’t feel good I can take care of myself I can give myself a break. Life is not perfect but the misery is gone. I don’tneed to prove anything to anyone.. I just need to take care of myself, to continue to remain sober.