Good Girl Addict vs. The Dark Woods

I have spent the last week more or less completely alone (with a brief meeting with my mother and another afternoon with my favorite aunt and favorite cousin). I didn’t have to work and I didn’t want to plan a big trip anywhere, so I mostly hung out with myself. I exercised, I meditated, I cleaned the shit out of my house and I went to multiple libraries to spend afternoons immersed in the words of strangers.

I’ve never purposely spent a vacation this way before. I intentionally set aside the week for myself. Only myself. The timing of it was perfect because, since I’ve started this whole recovery journey, work has been getting in the way of really starting to recover mentally. I needed the time to myself to simply sit with everything I’ve been thinking and feeling. I needed some serious breathing room, just for me. I’m so thankful I got it.

During my marathon afternoons of reading as many books as I could (including some really, really dark novels that even my beloved Stephen King was terrified by – I mean, I can’t read about self-discovery and addiction all the time) I picked up – Broken Open: How Difficult Times can Help us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. The opening page has this quote from Anais Nin: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” As soon as I read that I knew I had found a book that was really going to open my mind and help me reframe the dialogue within my head that I use to shape the valleys and hills of my life.

She references the philosopher, William James who wrote that there are two types of people – the Once-Born and the Twice-Born. The Once-Born people are those that choose to stick to the straight path; they don’t want to veer off into the dark part of the forest. Their choices are safe and acceptable. If life circumstances push them toward the darkness that lies off their chosen trajectory they turn away from it. They are comfortable in what they know and choose to remain there even if something in them (the soul perhaps) begins to wonder if the direction they are heading is the most fulfilling.

The Twice-Borns are the ones who step into those dark and lurking shadows. They probably make mistakes, they may suffer loss and fail spectacularly. But they don’t run away. They continue to risk because to turn back is to remain tight in the bud. They continue to move onward, forward and through the darkness in order to blossom in the light that lies ahead. Neither one is right or wrong.

The idea of being or becoming a Twice-Born resonated with me in a big, big way. I found myself nodding and reacting to the words. Feelings of hope and peace and actual self-acceptance began coursing up my spine into my scalp and down into my gut where I know the truth lives. I am definitely someone who stepped off her path. I felt like the book was speaking directly to my misguided and troubled thinking patterns (the ones that tell me I’m too FAT and undeserving of anything or anyone worthwhile. The ones that have been keeping me tragically stuck in the dark for years), urging them to let me go so that I can find my way out. Apparently, the woods around my path are fucking enormous and dense. But that doesn’t mean they are endless. It just means I’ve been working quietly, growing stronger to focus my energy on finding the light that will lead me home.

And now I’m feeling more and more that I am perfectly beautiful, capable and strong as fuck. I can do this. I can fucking own this process. I’m going to recover. I am recovering. Ha! I love that I was able to write that without feeling completely inauthentic or that I was lying to myself. All I have to do is be consistent. I want to practice making healthy decisions and I will slowly make my way out of my forest. Sure, I have moments of weakness (e.g., finally breaking down to buy some wine and drinking it alone. *sigh* My count is definitely back to zero now), but just because that happened doesn’t mean that I am sliding back to where I was in January when my mother was in the hospital with her immune system at absolute zero so that the doctors could restock her cancer-riddled body with fresh stem cells. Back then I was utterly shattered. Back then I was walking through the days as if my mother were about to die. I focused on the only thing that would help me not feel the pain of how monumentally challenging nursing my mother on my own has been – alcohol. My favorite crutch.

I recognize now how I was using something outside myself to get by. I wasn’t growing or trying to find my way out of a dark place. I was allowing my difficult time to suffocate me. I was choosing to stay numb. But that was January. That was many months ago. I feel the growth and change that has been happening. And I’m proud of myself. I’m encouraged with the progress I’ve been able to make these past few months. The more I talk about it and know that others read these words – even though I babble a lot and sometimes don’t make a lick of sense – the more I know I’m not alone in this. And that alone helps more than I can possibly articulate.

So, again. Thank you for reading, whoever you are.

Awareness…so much awareness

Here I am. 11 days of no drinking (unless you count the margarita I had on Friday, which I mostly do not) and I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m quietly engaging with my life again. Very quietly. It’s almost like I’m observing my life as an open field; a young doe has slowly revealed herself from the cover of the forest and is gently eating some grass at the edge. This gorgeous and peaceful creature is my sobriety. She’s here, but she’s nervous and will bolt the second she feels threatened.

That’s why I’m approaching this whole thing lightly. I don’t want to upset my tentative equilibrium with a lot of big talk and half-hearted confidence. I’m gaining more self-assuredness from not drinking with each passing day. I am settling into it pretty well. And besides, I usually work better when I don’t think too much. When I just let something evolve on its’ own is when things shift into place in a positive way. When I put on my Good Girl Addict cape and try to fix and solve is when things get all messy and dirty. That’s when things can fall apart because I try to control too much. I am learning oh so very much these days.

I know it’s a serious thing I’m dealing with. Addiction is ugly. It’s complicated; full of many layers, just like ogres (if you want to get as technical as Shrek) and it waits.

I’m scared that my addiction is waiting for me to fuck up. I’m scared that it has gone into sleep mode and is waiting for the next clusterfuck of emotion to track me down so it can wake up immediately and snap back into action. It knows I’ve needed it before to protect me from whatever pain or hardship I couldn’t deal with on my own and it’s perfectly happy to wait and wait. I’m pretty sure that’s what it is doing. And for some reason, that feels ok. I have fully accepted that I went through a long stretch of years when I felt I had to use something to not feel. For whatever reason, my inability to see that has come sharply into focus and I’m ok with it. I’m not angry at myself. I don’t feel resentful about what I went through. I don’t have any angst about the drinking and eating and fucking to numb that I’ve done.

What I feel is awareness. Complete awareness. With that has come a deeply rooted need to allow myself to heal. It hurts my heart to know I still need to remain in healing mode. I mean, I thought I had healed. I thought I had done all the work I would ever have to do. HA! What a fucking delusional addictive thought that is, right? The self-work will never stop because for me, it’s about educating myself about myself. It’s about learning who I am and who I want to be and what I want my life to look like. Now, I’m going to do my damndest to walk the path that will foster the most growth to that end. Seriously. I feel like my world has opened up in a big, big way.

I almost broke down the other night and grabbed a bottle of red. I thought about it for 10 minutes or so. I felt the craving rise up from deep in my belly and I sat with it. I was minimally aware that I was scratching my beloved kitty girl under her chin while I imagined the way the wine would taste. She has no idea what an all-encompassing comfort she is to me. With every scratch on her glossy fur I could feel myself unwinding a bit more, coming down from the call to drink, turning away from it. It was tough to do. I even reasoned that I could just have one glass. Then a powerful, compassionate and true voice spoke up in my head and said, ‘you know that will never be true for you again as long as you drink wine to fill something, right?’

And just like that, I didn’t want to drink anything but water. Remembering that I used to use alcohol and food and men as shields against the holes in my life will be paramount as I move forward. Figuring out what else to fill those holes with now that I don’t want to use something will be an entirely new game I get to play. I’m thinking maybe meetings will actually serve as a huge help in that area. Couldn’t hurt, right? But for now, even though stripping down all these layers is disconcerting, uncomfortable and difficult….it feels completely worth it. Holy shit.

11 days.

Back to Zero?

Last night I went to a book club dinner at a friends’ house. I’ve known her and her husband since college. They have a dog and a sweet, adorable 18 month old baby girl. It’s a comfortable, loving, familiar atmosphere. My friend since junior high school was there too. Extra love and familiarity. I was really looking forward to book club this month. I adored the book we read (‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline…it’s loosely based on Charles Manson and his crew of lady killers told completely from a female perspective. I devoured it in 5 days) and I was craving some social interaction with people who I’ve known for ages.

Normally, when gearing up for book club I think about what kind of wine I would like to bring. Should I grab a bottle of red or white? What will go the best with the weather and food? I think about unwinding with some of my favorite ladies in the world while drinking a ‘few’ glasses of wine with them. I think about the fizzy, tipsy, floaty feeling that will settle over me like fairy dust as I sip (gulp) my wine. I think about the giggles we will share and how the wine will make me feel less awful about how FAT I am compared to my slender, fit and all-around lovely friends. I think about how the wine will make me feel that I am more interesting, fun, worthy of my friends’ time and attention. I think about remembering to ‘take it easy’ so that I will be able to drive the 40 minutes home safely. I think about how, even though I won’t be able to drink the same amount that I would if I were home alone, I’ll still be able to drink and that’s important and good because I don’t know how to not drink and I don’t want to take a night off because I want to numb and unwind and decompress.

Last night was different. Very different.

I brought a bottle of wine I don’t particularly care for and when I arrived I poured a glass of it for a friend, but not for myself. I sat at the table and chatted with the her as she sipped. I watched her enjoy her drink. I stared at the rose colored liquid in the wine glass, enjoying the way the light reflected off of and through the alcohol. I imagined the smell and taste of the wine if I were sipping a glass of my own and realized that I didn’t want any. I just……..didn’t…..want wine. I waited for the want, desire, need to consume me and it just plain didn’t materialize. I felt like myself. I felt like Annie.

I kind of love and hate how amazing a discovery that was for me. I loved that I didn’t want wine because that meant that this sobriety thing I’m trying out might actually have a chance of working. I loved that I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I would be able to drive safely. I loved that I wouldn’t have a headache later or have an unsettled stomach or a hazy, unfocused mind. I loved that I didn’t want to feel fizzy, tipsy and floaty. I loved that, for the first time in probably years, I felt like enough. And my friends felt like they were enough too. I was present and really participating. It was fantastic.

What I hated was that I ever had any of the above thoughts to begin with. I hated that I got to a place where I had become consumed with thoughts and plans about alcohol. Do I have enough wine left at home to get through tonight? Or should I pick up an extra bottle, just in case? As if I were buying supplies to stock a survival kit. I hated that I was living in a mindset/lifestyle that factored drinking into every. single. solitary. day.

I sat at the table last night feeling vulnerable and exposed, but it wasn’t intolerable. I was a little nervous too, but that also felt manageable.

I wish I could say that I didn’t have a drop of alcohol last night. But that is not true. I had one margarita. ONE. If I had still been allowing the misguided and sick Good Girl Addict part of me to call the shots I would have had maybe TWO margaritas (and I would have probably topped each off with a tad more tequila) and possibly TWO glasses of wine. And I would have driven home. I would have chugged water after the final glass, telling myself I was diluting the alcohol in my blood.

But I only had the one drink and honestly, I didn’t even really enjoy it. I drank it slowly and let the ice melt. I drank water for the rest of the evening and was perfectly happy in doing so. I do believe they call that ‘drinking normally’ and I was kind of impressed I was able to do that. Does this mean that I want to never abstain completely from alcohol and try to be a ‘normal’ drinker? Not sure about that one. Does this mean that I have to start my ‘days without drinking counter’ back at zero? I hope not.

I’m still trying to figure all of this out. I want to see what fits and what doesn’t. I want to define this recovery thing in my own terms. I don’t know if that will include AA meetings and a sponsor (as my therapist has suggested and suggested) or if it will encompass some of what Rational Recovery preaches – I researched RR yesterday and I kind of dig it…but not totally sold.

In any case, I want to continue to live without drinking daily. I wasn’t worried on my drive home and I slept soundly. I woke up this morning feeling grateful. Feeling calm. Feeling peaceful. Feeling rested. I cannot tell you how rare that has been for me over the past…….12 years of drinking. Yes, I have traced all these patterns around drinking to 2004….God, that hurts to type, but it is very true.

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. I have an apartment to clean, new book to start and groceries to buy. Fun times — without booze.

Good Girl Addict vs. The Need to Help

Today I find myself filled with anxiety. Filled. To the brim. Anxious belly, tight shoulders, tension headache. The works. I know why I’m feeling this way and miraculously it has zero to do with booze (I’m now on day 6 of no alcohol. SIX!!) But it does have to do with what I’m slowly beginning to recognize as another layer of my addictive behaviors; I get consumed with other people’s ‘stuff’.

*Sigh*

I have always been this way, especially when it comes to men in my life (I choose the ones that are wrong for me. Really wrong And I secretly, fervently and unrealistically hope for them to change into exactly who I want them to be. Which we all know will never happen. Aces.)

I’ve never experienced it this intensely though – me getting mixed up and involved in someone else’s bullshit. Maybe that’s because I have a tiny, oh so tiny amount of clear headed sobriety under my belt and I’m actually beginning to feel my feelings again? Could be. All I know is, I got an alarming phone call yesterday from someone who should really be living in my past and I didn’t hesitate to say “YES” to helping him out of a jam that was 100% his own fault.

I’m not going to go into knitty gritty details. It was just your basic mess which comes from bad decision after bad decision mixed in with some serious denial and avoidance and….voila…he’s in trouble and needs someone (me) to bail him out. What alarms me is not that he found himself in trouble – again – but that I didn’t think twice to jump in and help. I didn’t have to help. I really, truly didn’t. But I just couldn’t help myself. I needed to get my hands in there and help him fix it. Fucking needed to. And, I felt like it was the right thing to do…so really it was the perfect combination of my people pleasing and helping syndrome. Good Girl to the rescue! Just another addiction to hang on my wall I suppose. Another thing I really should not fuck with anymore.

The reason said fuckery must be put on hold is this: I have been triggered and affected by what happened yesterday and I don’t have it in me to feel this way any longer. It’s way too much. I thought I would feel good about helping him and glad for my effort. But I didn’t. What I felt was exhaustion. Bone deep tiredness.

Exhaustion because, without knowing it, I give everything I’ve got emotionally and mentally when I’m in this ‘I have to help’ mode. I rush around and feel frantic. It’s not healthy for me. I completely do it to myself. All he did was ask for help. I could have easily said NO. But I didn’t and he knew I wouldn’t say no. That’s why he called me first.

I am still trying to save Tom in some way – this person and my brother are cut from the same cloth, Whoa Nelly – and if I can help the living, breathing version of Tom that I see in front of me then, in my Good Girl Addict way, I feel less guilty for being a ‘bad’ sister to my dead brother. Ugh.

At least I can see it. That’s the good news. I went ahead and fulfilled my misled Good Girl Addict need without thinking about it and now I know that it’s a need that doesn’t lead me anywhere worthwhile. Ever. I can see that I still need to be needed by people that are bad for me. I can see that I still need to help those who refuse to help themselves.

I’m ok with those needs. I will be able to recognize them the next time something pops up and I want to rush into overdrive to head into battle without thinking. I am learning myself. I am learning what I want for my life and what I don’t. That in and of itself is a miracle. Being able to say, ‘no, I just can’t help you because I need to take care of myself first’ is a tremendously large step forward for me. That’s what I will say the next time something happens….because I know it will.

 

6 Days.

 

Relatively Normal…

Since writing my last post the last line I wrote started to reverberate around in my head….’guess what I’m not planning to do tonight? Drink.’ Not planning to drink. Not drink. It banged around in my head and somehow I stuck to the idea of not drinking. I didn’t buy wine. I ran my normal errands and went home. I thought about the wine I didn’t buy. A lot. I thought about the glass I would use and how the ice would melt and pop delightfully in the liquid. I thought about how it would taste and feel as it warmed my insides. I thought about what my evening would look like without it. Would I start climbing the walls in need? Would I get restless and itchy? Would I break down and run to the packie before it closed to pick up a bottle? Part of me was nervous. Part of me was very, very unsure that I would actually pull it off.

The rest of me was open to the idea of not drinking.

And that’s what happened.

I didn’t drink.

I drank seltzer with my dinner. I made myself a cup of tea before bed. I read the new book I had checked out of the library the previous day. I tucked myself in and thanked God or whatever is out there acting as a power higher than myself for the first sober evening I had spent in probably 6 months.

I didn’t sleep well, but I slept some. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night with a belly that felt like lava and fire ants were dancing the quickstep all over it. With heels on. I didn’t crawl out of bed with limbs that felt like they were full of wet sand. I didn’t wake up feeling hungover and miserable. I woke up feeling relatively normal. Not saved or free or ecstatic. But, that’s doesn’t matter because normal is a pretty decent alternative to the way I’ve been greeting my days for years on end.

I don’t want to talk too much about it and get all pumped up and excited. I don’t want to jinx whatever good sense has begun to step onto the stage in my brain. I just wanted to quietly mention that I didn’t drink on Sunday. Or Monday. Or Tuesday.