23 Months

As I approach this monthly sobriety check-in here in this space, I'm realizing that I'm just about over this practice of blogging about my sobriety in the month-by-month, blow-by-blow fashion that I've been exercising since early 2015.  I guess that's part of the process of my recovery from alcohol - you know, the loosening up of some fears, addressing anxieties and the morphing and adopting of new habits.  Since I've slowly been recovering parts of myself over these past 23 months, I feel more whole and my need to document these life changes is starting to leave me.  I'm settling into myself.  I've worked my ass off to get here.  This is my new normal.

Pen + ink + vintage ledger paper

Pen + ink + vintage ledger paper

Coffee

After a late night anxiety attack on the last day of November, it took me about a week to finally connect the dots and admit that coffee was fueling these episodes.  I mulled it over for a few days and finally decided to bid adieu to my morning cup of joe.  I had previously reduced my coffee intake to one cup a day upon our return from France earlier this summer.  Now I was saying goodbye for good.  I did this on a Monday (what was I thinking?!), a week before final exams and projects were due for my college courses (again, what?) and as we entered the most wonderful time of the year (clearly, I'm a masochist).

T-shirt from the HOME podcast store www.homepodcast.org

T-shirt from the HOME podcast store www.homepodcast.org

The repercussions were fast.  I shuffled through the day with a throbbing headache and I put myself to bed at 7 o'clock in the evening and slept for 12 hours straight.  And then?  Well, then it was over.

It's been 28 days since I quit drinking coffee and my anxiety has plummeted.  I'm completely delighted and shocked by the results.  I've navigated uncomfortable feelings, cocktail parties, final exams, public speaking, family travel, traffic jams and a visit from my mother.  And, guess what?  Zero anxiety attacks.  I feel like removing coffee from my day has given me a kind of superpower over my life.  Figuring out what not to put into my body has been tantamount to my emotional sobriety over these past four weeks.  I'm beyond relieved.

12 Step Stuff

December, with its already crazy-busyness, would be turn out to be the month that I would finish making amends in connection to the step-work I was doing in relation to AA's Step 9.

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
— Step 9, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (pp. 83-89)

At first, this sounded like total lunacy to me and I worried I would just be adding fuel to my already slow-burning emotional fire around the holidays.  I lamented about creating unnecessary drama in my life this month and thought long and hard about following through.  I met with my Sponsor a few times and discussed how it all would go down and, ultimately, I decided to go through with it.

In the end, adding a few uncomfortable conversations with two people I love very much ended up being the best decision I could have made this month.  While the actual conversations were very disappointing and I felt like they were not received in the spirit in which I was offering them, I quickly realized that I had absolutely no control over that part of the amends process.  I did not feel accurately seen or heard, but I know that I was 100% honest and authentic when I made the direct amends.  

A page from my daily gratitude journal for 2016

A page from my daily gratitude journal for 2016

Not everyone in my life is invested or supportive of my recovery and you know what?  That's okay, really it is.  I'm tired of worrying what everyone else in my life thinks.  I'm ready to be free of the people, places and things that used to drive me to drink.  

Making those final amends illuminated something for me when all was said and done and that was this:  

Amends work is really more for the person making the amends and not necessarily the recipient of the actual amends.

If the recipient of the amends happens to be healed by the experience, that is a wonderful byproduct but I don't think that's actually the point.  I think the point is to relieve ME from the bondage of self and, to that end, I'd have to call my final amends work a success.  Owning my part in things has changed how I move through the world now that I'm living a life without the bandaid of booze.  It's not my business if the other person doesn't want to forgive me or see me accurately.  That's their work to do, not mine.

Art

Art has been a big part of my days lately.  I'm wrapping up my year-long daily illustrated gratitude list practice at the end of this month.  I've written and illustrated a list every single day in 2016.  I've done a few year-long projects over the past few years, but this one really helped to cement my sobriety firmly into place.

Art 7A drawing + composition final critique at Santa Rosa Junior College

Art 7A drawing + composition final critique at Santa Rosa Junior College

My final project in my college-level drawing and composition class yielded a deeper exploration of the concept of recovering out loud in sobriety.  My muses for the project were three women I personally know and have met during this calendar year.  I drew them in three very different styles (L-R mixed media, graphite + drawing inks, bamboo reed + drawing inks) and displayed all of them for a final critique on the last day of the semester.

Letterpressed prints of the acronym for G.O.D. - Grace Over Drama for the Winter Solstice Recovery Gals Art Exchange Theme - SURRENDER

Letterpressed prints of the acronym for G.O.D. - Grace Over Drama for the Winter Solstice Recovery Gals Art Exchange Theme - SURRENDER

The surrender-themed art exchange happened on the winter solstice and I wrote more about it here.

All-in-all, I'd say this month has been a smashing success.  When uncomfortable feelings rose to the surface or pre-holiday party jitters came up for me, I worked through them by talking about them with my husband or texting with friends.  I left a holiday party 14 minutes after I arrived because it didn't feel right.  I hosted 12 people that I dearly love for Christmas Eve dinner in my home.  I listened to my gut and trusted that I knew what was best for me.  I practiced self-care, hit plenty of AA meetings and started each day with a cup of tea and my sketchbook.  I let go and surrendered.  I chose grace over drama as much as I could.

Today marks the 700th day since I've had to use alcohol to escape from my life.

Today marks the 700th day I've woken up without a hangover and eager to start my day.  This never gets old.

Today is also just another day.

This day will be made up of hundreds of tiny moments that will help to foster the shift in my thinking from focusing on deprivation and what I can no longer have, to looking at the abundance that now exists in my life.  I'm figuring out that by removing the things that no longer serve me - alcohol, caffeine, drama, I can better concentrate on all of the good things that have come into my life since I gave up drinking and numbing out to my life.

Today is my favorite day.