Hello! Just a warning: This is a looooooong post. Squarespace kept crashing and losing my edits and I'm just so frustrated. Instead of editing and re-editing, I'm hitting publish. It's long, rambling and disjointed but, hey!, so am I at times. The images aren't all perfect and the way I want them, but I'm taking this as another opportunity to learn a lesson in life. Sometimes life isn't pretty or perfect and I'm in the process of learning that that can be okay, too. The world will not end because I've used too many verbs or have too many run-on sentences. It just won't. Thanks in advance for reading about my 10th month of sobriety.
I rarely post selfies, but I had to take one today for a self-portrait project I'm working on for my art class at the community college. I'm posting it here because today I'm 10 months sober and I felt like I looked content, healthy and present in this picture.
Normally, my vanity gets in the way of selfies and I leave my sunglasses on - like they can shield me from the camera lens and I like to hide behind them. Not today. Today, my grey roots are exposed and I'm no longer wearing contact lenses (after 20+ years of wearing them!). Buying new spectacles from Warby Parker was one of the best purchases I've made all year. I'm also not wearing any foundation and my neck lines are just…THERE. Nothing I can do about them, try as I might. A little bit of mascara and lip balm on my lips. No earrings. No bra (but I spared you that show and you're quite welcome). I feel like this image is very representative of how I feel right now on this journey - stripped down, bare, no filter and real.
I'm currently attending A.A. meetings about four times a week and getting so much out of them. I initially resisted these anonymous meetings and only started attending with regularity three months ago at the suggestion from a dear friend. It's been an eye-opening experience to be understood by the other people in the room. Like, really understood. People who don't have a drinking problem just can't understand, even though they might try to, and so it feels good to find a tribe of honest and open people who are willing to share their stories, so that I might find strength and hope in them. And I have.
I practiced a lot of self-care this month - hot showers, a deluxe facial, a deep tissue massage for the stress ball that had manifested itself in my upper left shoulder the week before Thanksgiving. I’ve bought myself new books, cashmere sweaters and exotic tins of tea. I downloaded this new app called Quit That! And, according to this app, I’ve saved almost $7,000 to date by abstaining from alcohol this year. Isn't that gross? Oh, well, I must move on. Anyhow, I feel completely justified in indulging myself with the little self-care splurges this month because I know how I used to spend my splurge money.
I’ve also been putting myself to bed around 7:30 p.m. on most nights and reading until I fall asleep. I get up before the sun rises now, light candles and drink hot lemon water and text with a friend who is also in recovery on the east coast. My mornings are vastly different from how they used to be. I’ve attended as many A.A. meetings as possible over the last 30 days. I’ve also reached out to two women about being temporary sponsors and I'm working the 12 steps with one of them. I'm currently on Step 1.
As a consequence of all of this self-care, I’m more engaged and eager to do the right things in my life. I’ve been taking care of business lately. What that looks like for me is ticking things off my perpetual to-do list. Since I quit drinking, I feel so much more capable at being an adult and getting my house and affairs in order. Purging the garage and other organizational tasks are like free therapy for me. Going through old photos and paperwork and cataloging my life in this way has been extremely healing for me in this journey towards sober living. I’ve been sloughing off the old (divorce decrees, old wedding albums, superfluous correspondence and a decade’s worth of receipts). This former legal secretary loves her some paperwork, but it's all getting shredded or put into a big bonfire soon. I know I will feel so much lighter when it's all been destroyed.
My check engine light came on in my car about a month ago. I thought if I just willed it away, I wouldn't have to deal with it. Do any of you do that? Well, I do. More than I like to admit. That frame of mind reminded me of how I used to deal with life when I was drinking. I put things off until they became urgent or I had to call in my husband to help me handle matters when I'd put things off for too long and desperately needed help. They were usually little things, but I’d put them off for so long that they soon became big things. By dealing with my car's check engine light, it served as a metaphor for how I'm dealing with my life's check engine light when it comes to my sobriety. I'm taking care of my responsibilities and that, in turn, reinforces not taking another drink for me. I'm seeing the results of tackling the tough stuff and that energizes me to keep going and I feel a high from getting shit done! It's been this beautiful, circuitous pattern that only leaves me feeling satisfied. It's been a lovely revelation.
To most people, my life looked charmed, I’m sure. I ran a successful business, was the PTA President, volunteered in the community, had a beautiful family and still drank to excess almost every night. My check engine lights have been coming on for years for me though. They showed up in many different forms - daily hangovers, disconnection with friends, forgotten conversations, broken promises and forgetting how a lot of my evenings ended.
There is such a stigma surrounding alcoholism and A.A., especially for women, that I'm not sure why I want to share all of this, my story, in such a public way. It may be too much information for some, but when I share my story, I feel like I can gauge the difference (in a palpable, meaningful way) between the way my life was and the way my life is now. I feel hopeful and centered when I’m sharing my truth and I want those feelings to be shored up and serve as a new foundation for me. I want to continue to grow as a person. I've always been a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of gal and I'm okay with sharing my process, my journey as it relates to alcohol.
One of the phrases I appreciate and hear at every meeting is this one:
Ever since I started attending A.A. meetings, I’d say my life has opened up. Attending these meetings has become less about how to quit drinking and more about how to live my life in a more transparent and honest way. I feel sturdy and strong when I leave a meeting. I feel open and loving. I always look forward to the next meeting and hearing everyone’s shares.
Earlier this month, I met with a temporary sponsor and shared my shortcomings and lack of a belief system in the God department. She heard what I had to say and then asked me this one simple question:
Are you willing to be willing?
I had to think about that. What exactly was she asking me? When I questioned her, she rephrased the question. Can you suspend your disbelief in God or a Higher Power and just be willing to listen and learn from others with similar stories?
Am I willing to be willing?
That’s actually a pretty big question and I needed a little time to think about my answer. Am I willing to show up, take a seat in these rooms and listen? Am I willing to suspend my disbelief in God or a Higher Power? Am I willing to try life in a new way? Am I willing to tell the unedited version of my story? Was I willing to be rigorously honest with myself and others?
And the answer came back a resounding yes. Yes. Absolutely. I am willing to be willing.
I am willing to admit that I don’t have all of the answers and maybe by parking my attitude and list of reasons why this-or-that won’t work at the door, I just might be able to lose the fear I have for so many things in my life. Maybe I'll finally find some peace within myself, with my life. Or, who knows, maybe even find a power greater than myself. We’ll see.
I have so much more to share, but this feels like the right spot to stop for today. I’ll leave you with one more quote that I’m chewing on today. It’s an acronym for GOD that someone shared in a meeting last night.
GOD = Grace Over Drama.
Now, read it slowly and let it sink in.
GOD = Grace Over Drama.
Think about that as you navigate your day. Choosing Grace in a situation over Drama. Not defaulting to gossip or unkind thoughts. Just Grace. This is such an important concept and one I’ll have to practice for a long, long time. Instead of waiting for Grace, I realize that I can create it with my actions. I can make better choices and opt out of harmful ones. By doing so, I'm slowly allowing the ripple effect of goodness (that I helped put into action) to seep slowly and steadily into my life. Now that is something I can believe in.
Grace Over Drama.
That’s my new mantra to help get me through December one day at a time.