Since 2010, I've picked a word for the year. This tradition started at a local yoga studio, where I would show up (usually hungover from the night before) and attend a 4-hour New Year's Day restorative yoga workshop. Each attendee would write down their intentions for the coming year on a 3"x5" index card and place it under their yoga mat. We would dedicate the day's practice to our intention for the New Year as we unfolded our bodies and minds for the next 240 minutes.
I find it so telling when I look back at these old index cards and see the Tammi that was trying to emerge. It's almost like a a storyboard for the last six years of my life. The intense feelings of needing to be more present and how all I wanted was the oh-so elusive balance in my life. The moderation card is almost laughable. It says so much about where I was at with my drinking and then the letting it go card? I knew what had to happen, but it would take a few more years of trying to accept my drinking and life the way it was until I finally just said this isn't working. I needed to SHED everything I could in order to start over. And, that finally worked for me but, as you can see, it was many years in the making.
My yoga teacher moved away a few years ago, but I continued the practice on New Year's Day by setting my intention for the year and meditating on my word. In 2014, I chose Acceptance to be my guiding word for the year. I remember wanting to accept myself just the way I was, but deep down knowing I could do better - in life, in being a mom, a wife, a friend, a human being. When I read my old blog posts (the ones before I quit drinking), it makes me sad. I was trying so hard and putting on a brave face with my writing, but I was a total mess. How I was living my life was totally unacceptable. But it would take me this next year of trials and errors to find my way.
When New Year's Day rolled around for 2015, I had just ended the darkest week of drinking I'd ever had. I managed to wake up without a hangover on New Year's Day and took myself to the beach. I wanted to remove so many things from my life that had been weighing me down - old thoughts and ideas, my unworthiness, shame and the general feeling of just not being good enough as I moved through this world. My father's words kept ringing in my ears Who do you think you are? I had no fucking clue. I felt like a fraud in life. Everything looked good on the outside, while I was slowly dying on the inside. I picked the word SHED because it was a noun and a verb. I needed action in my life if anything was going to change and so the great shedding and purging of 2015 began (read more about it here). This is the year I quit drinking. This is the year I went back to college. This is the year that kickstarted the life I'm living today.
When 2016 arrived, I decided I needed another action word. I had really lived my word for the year in 2015 and shed so many things from my life - like my 14 year old wine-stained wedding dress, my wedding album from my first marriage and the excess things that I had accumulated over the years that felt heavy and cumbersome both physically and mentally.
I ultimately landed on the word WORK for 2016. With all the shedding I did in 2015, it was time to get to WORK on creating firmer foundations in my day-to-day life.
I started off the year by participating in Holly Whitaker's 8-week Hip Sobriety School where I learned how to build a holistic recovery program for myself to add into my AA program. This was a game-changer for me. I also started working with my Sponsor from AA. We dove into the steps and I took my time with each one until it felt right to move on. I celebrated my one year of sobriety on February 3, 2016 and continued to write about my monthly milestones (click here for a full list of monthly milestone blog posts).
I worked and studied hard with respect to my college courses last year. I took Speech with a focus on Public Speaking, English 1A, History, Art History, Art Drawing + Composition and Philosophy. I received straight A's. This pleased me, but also acted like a warning sign in my life. Perfectionism runs deep in this gal and goes all the way back to my childhood. There is a pretty big part of me that has always wanted that gold star, the A+ and the acknowledgement or pat on the back. I know this about myself and, if I'm being honest, I still want all of that. It's what drives me a lot of the time, but I know it doesn't always serve me. This year I tried to address the need to be perfect by embracing the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi and finding beauty in the imperfections in this world, as well as the imperfections within myself. I did this through making art that was sometimes messy, imperfect or just embraced methods that were uncomfortable to me. Now, this philosophy is still very much a work in progress, but I became more aware of my perfectionist tendencies as I progressed throughout the year in school and with respect to my life.
I worked hard on my relationships. I made new friends. I spent quality time with lifelong friends, made time for my siblings and deepened our bonds. I traveled and met people I had only interacted with on social media. I reached out to creatives and slowly created work that could be shared on their platforms (a few can be found here, here and here). I spent time with my best friend who is in recovery from cancer. I made amends to the people closest to me and made time for people in recovery who needed me.
I worked hard, along with my husband, to finally sell our commercial property in Bodega Bay that had been losing money for eight long years. The banking crisis of 2008 set us up for a long, rocky road financially speaking, but we could not in good faith give this building back to the bank as was repeatedly recommended by our CPA. We cared about the people who bought our former business and this building housed them, along with that business. In the end, we had to cry uncle and put it on the market to save ourselves. It was tough and there were plenty of hard feelings surrounding the sale, but once I signed those closing escrow documents, I felt so relieved. The heavy burden had finally been lifted and the darkest financial times were hopefully behind us.
I worked on my spiritual growth and created daily rituals and routines to help embed those teachings. I made art every single day and realized that art is like a salve for me. I made a cup of detox tea every morning upon waking. I drew in my gratitude journals. I took supplements. I read from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I attended Hip Sobriety School. I took a scalding hot shower every night. I listened to countless spiritual teachers through interviews on podcasts like On Being with Krista Tippett and The Robcast.
I worked on how to face my social anxieties and picked up valuable tools to aid in that work. My husband took my son to Disneyland because I just couldn't figure out how to do that and not be a hot anxious mess about it. A new friend showed me how to navigate Costco, parking structures and the SFO airport terminal. Another friend introduced me to Rescue Remedy products when I was flailing in France and completely undone by huge bouts of anxiety. AA meetings, daily mantras, morning rituals, meditation and herbal teas were the tools I employed to work through my anxiety episodes. In December of last year, I would remove caffeine from my life and finally understand how it had played a roll in fueling my anxiety from the time I woke up. Eliminating it from my life has been the best move in terms of mitigating my anxiety.
I worked hard on creative pursuits and putting myself out there in 2016. I told my inner critic she was full of shit.
I worked really hard on the mantra project: 40 day email course with my friend Holly from Hip Sobriety and I was so proud when it was released to the world. I made money from my art for the first time and it felt so validating. I felt legit.
I worked with great intention on the concept of gratitude last year. Every single morning I would sit down and write a daily gratitude list and religiously continued with the practice every single day for all of 2016. These journals are now one of my most prized possessions. You can take a peek at a few of the lists by clicking here to see a sampling of the Instagram hashtag I used to keep track of them (#tammisdailygratitude2016). I also created a gratitude circle with a group of women in recovery who helped to keep me accountable to this daily practice. The ripple effect of that gratitude circle is still being felt in my recovery and life today.
I worked and completed the first nine steps of the 12-steps of AA. Initially, I had wanted to power through the steps and finish them by yearend, but I quickly figured out that the process is so much more valuable than the event of finishing. Step nine was a long one for me - five months total - but it was meant to be that way. The slow lessons that unfolded and the work I had to do to figure out my part in things was tantamount to my continued sobriety. I write about my journey with the 12 Steps in my column Crossing the Room for The Recovery Revolution online.
Once I quit drinking, my life got infinitely better - not all at once, but over time. That is one simple truth that I will not mess with. Some of the work I did this year was hard, but doable. Some of the work was a privilege and an honor to be fully present for. Some of the work didn't even feel like work.
All in all, I'd say choosing the word WORK to guide me and tether me to my intentions for 2016 was spot on. I ended up working my ass off in every aspect of my life and I'm grateful for the guiding force choosing a word for the year continues to instill in me.