A lot has happened since I celebrated my two year sobriety milestone back in February. For one thing, I lost my best friend to cancer. That single, heartbreaking event tested me and my sobriety in every single way, but I came through sturdy in my character and in my resolve to do the next right thing(s) and above all - keep my sobriety date of February 3rd, 2015 in tact.
Losing my person, Kacy, wound up being an invitation to experience grief and loss in a way that I had never been privy to before. It shifted my perspective in a deep and profound way. I'm still learning and reeling from the effects of losing her, but one thing I know for sure - I won't drink over it.
What I've gathered over these past six months is that the work I'm continuing to do in my recovery from alcohol has more to do with my emotional sobriety, rather than fixating on or taking an actual drink. If you are new to my blog, you can read more about each monthly sobriety milestone by clicking here for easy to reference links.
Attending 12-step meetings, on a regular basis, has been key to maintaining my emotional sobriety. There is something that happens during those 55 minutes that soothes and calms me down. Maybe its the ritual of the simple format of the meeting that brings me comfort. Or, maybe it's the fact that I can be seen or heard in those rooms without any cross-talk or comment on my share, my words. I just get to say what's in my heart and on my mind and leave it in the middle of the circle where my words quietly evaporate into the ether. Whatever it is, I know that if I'm feeling wonky and can't get out of my head, all I have to do is drive myself to a meeting, take a seat and I find relief. I've never left a meeting and thought Well, that was a total waste of time. Never. Not once.
All of that being said, I've attended far less meetings since Kacy passed away.
Creative Endeavors + Collaborations
I came home from Kacy's memorial in March with a fire lit under me creatively. Seeing my friend succumb to her disease and literally watching her take her last breath, reminded me that this life is fucking short. I've had so many ideas and creative projects floating around in my head ever since I got sober and my perspective on fear and what I can and can't do has majorly shifted.
Earlier this year, after co-hosting a gratitude workshop with Sondra Primeaux in Austin, we started putting the finishing touches on our idea to co-host a podcast together. We had been brainstorming and dreaming about a podcast that would focus on where creativity and recovery intersected and instead of focusing on our drinking past too much, we would instead try to focus on the creative paths of our guests and try to stay in the solution when it came to our own drinking stories. At first, it put us outside of our comfort zones. We felt way out of our league when it came to the technical aspect, but we did the dreaded thing we both knew we needed to do - we asked for help from others and made it happen.
We are 21 episodes into the podcast and today we are still pinching ourselves. You can find a full listing of episodes here.
I wrapped up my Spring semester at the local junior college by taking Pre-Algebra (again) and a beginning painting class. The lessons I learned went above and beyond the class syllabus for each course. I painted through my grief and found great comfort in the blank canvas that awaited me. The meditative quality of painting soothed my weary soul. The sweet camaraderie with my professor and fellow classmates filled me up when I needed it most.
Surprisingly, I found great comfort in solving equations, memorizing formulas and knowing that there was only one solution to a problem and then figuring it out on my own. Math created order for me during a time that my life felt on the brink of emotional chaos. It grounded me and was a totally unexpected byproduct of taking the class.
As the semester came to a close, I ended up with a nice body of work and a renewed sense of self. I had weathered a major emotional storm and stayed the course with my studies. I pushed through fear and grief at the same time. I developed new friendships and strengthened a few with former classmates and my professors. I even found the creative confidence to create a brand new marketplace here on the blog in order to sell my work.
I just added a few new small paintings to the listings. You can check it out here.
School was a major tool in my sobriety toolbox over these past six months.
Going to see my doctor for my annual physical on 2/3/15 was how I started down my own path to sober living. Here I'm sharing a few tweaks I've done over the past six months in that regard. I've saved a disgusting amount of money ($18,768...) since I quit drinking. I use some of that to indulge myself in radical self-care items (massage, books, workshops + organic food).
Coffee: Giving up coffee/caffeine almost nine months ago has changed my anxiety issues one thousand percent. I can't emphasize this enough. After an particularly severe anxiety attack last November, I decided to remove coffee from my diet to see what would happen. After 12 hours of lethargy and a raging headache, I then slept for 12 hours straight and then...relief. I had a three-cup-a-morning habit and that just kickstarted my anxiety for the day. Coffee fueled my moods upon waking and I was left in a state of reaction for the rest of the day. By removing coffee and drinking herbal tea first thing in the morning, I have recalibrated my day. It really was as simple as that for me. I'm 267 days into the no coffee thing and only wish I'd done it sooner.
Dairy: At the end of my drinking, my neck, jawline and hairline was full of cystic acne. I've struggled with it for years and thought it would go away once I gave up alcohol. After two years of monthly facials, the thing that has helped the most has been removing dairy from my diet. I'm not super strict on this, but I stopped eating hunks of cheddar cheese in the afternoon as a snack and I stopped using half and half in my morning cup of decaf. Slowly, my skin issues have cleared up. I no longer have to wear a scarf around my neck to hide my cystic acne and this is a huge relief. When I eat pizza or indulge in a bowl of ice cream, my face reacts. Not as bad as it once did, but it reminds me why I need to steer clear of dairy as much as possible.
Meat-free: Are you seeing a trend here? Ever since I quit drinking alcohol, I know that I can successfully give up just about anything if I set my mind to it. My doctor has been recommending that I remove animal products from my diet for the past three years. I finally feel sturdy enough in my sobriety and in my life to give it a go. I'm not jumping into veganism, but I have decided to remove meat from my diet (cow, lamb, duck, goat, chicken, pig) and I've opted to keep fish as a dietary option while I'm acclimating to the change. I'm 35 days into my meat abstinence and feeling really good. I'm looking into working with a health coach and will let you know how that goes, if and when I pull the trigger.
Grief came knocking on our door again with the death of my husband's brother. Together we have rallied together and leaned on each other in support. I once heard a family of three out at dinner talking about how they were like a triangle - the strongest of the geometric shapes. And that's exactly how I feel right now. We are leaning into each other, allowing space for grief and loss and heartache to exist while, at the same time, showing up for one another.
Our son just started high school last week and I feel so ready for this next step in his life. He was accepted into an exceptional private school and received a generous scholarship which will enable him to attend. I'm kind of bursting with mama pride over here. I'm also cognizant of the fact that I will not embarrass him during these next four years due to my overindulging in alcohol at school events, fundraisers and parent organization meetings. I mean, sure, I'm going to embarrass him just due to the mere fact that I'm breathing and he's 14, but I know I won't be buzzed or drunk or think I'm funny in public because I've had too much wine in order to ease my social anxieties. That feels comforting in a way that is new and welcome.
The above picture is one I snapped two years ago. I was about to embark on an 10-day adventure with my dear friend and our kids. We would summit Mt. Lassen, have lunch on Mt. Shasta, take a ski lift up Mt. Hood and slide down the mountain using trash bags. Our final ascent would be to John Muir's Cloud Camp on Mt. Rainier. It would be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life (and that includes childbirth). I wrote all about it here and here. I was six months sober and came home from that trip feeling invincible.
Flash forward two years and I still feel invincible. I haven't had to climb new mountain ranges to feel that way either. I know that the climbing up and out bed everyday presents me with the opportunity to do work that is just as hard, just as challenging. And, I don't have to sport metal crampons or traverse vertical ice fields to feel accomplished or satisfied by it. I get to feel it every night as I climb into bed and think about my day and take my personal inventory. I remind myself every morning as I jot down my daily gratitudes just how lucky I am to have made the choice to wake up to my own life.
At 2.5 years, the obsession to drink has been lifted and the work remains on maintaining emotional sobriety in my daily comings and goings. It's worthy work. It's spiritual in nature. It's a gift, really.
I'm often amazed that the byproduct of removing alcohol from my life has actually given me the life I had always wanted. Not perfect or pristine, but beautiful and messy. Hard, but worth the effort. By removing a few things in my life that were no longer serving me, I found relief. I took a step forward and then did a big pivot and started moving in the direction I had never even considered before. I'm more open and willing to try things that I once thought impossible, like give up booze + coffee, believe in a Higher Power and call myself the A-word while in the rooms of AA.
And, I'm so fucking grateful that I stopped working against myself and, really, just got over myself. Getting out of my own way has enabled me to reap the benefits of sobriety slowly, but consistently over these past 2.5 years.
My life is abundant now and I feel like I have a purpose.
That's enough for me.