So much has happened in the last month, I'm not even sure where to begin. My emotions, my feelings, the books and blogs I've been reading - well, they are just all over the map. Nine months without alcohol has shown me that the journey to sober living is going to be a daily act of awareness and a whole lot of soul searching. In a nutshell, it's a never-ending journey.
A.A. has served as a grounding force for me this month. I've attended meetings in earnest and even did an 8-day straight meeting stint a few weeks ago. I've connected with sober friends living all over the country via text messages and email and I've started a new morning routine (more on that a little later on).
All in all, this ninth month was an indicator of big-time spiritual growth for me. It's been such a gift to be sober and really have the time, space and energy to look inward and see what was really going on with me when I was drinking to smooth out my rough edges and soothe my soul. I'm not close to having all the answers, but I feel like I'm chipping off, little by little, the old paint on my soul and getting to the core of what makes me tick AND learning to be okay with it.
The biggest thing I've learned this month that has helped me with my sobriety was from a really great blog post called How to Build a Toolbox by Holly Glenn Whitaker over at Hip Sobriety. It's genius. After reading her post, I realized I was already kind of assembling my sober toolbox over the past few months (more on that below), and now I had a name for it. I've been removing and replacing some of my old bad habits with good things and newer rituals that I hope will turn into habits for me. If you are struggling with alcohol, I urge you to visit Holly's blog and dig around her archives and read her story. She writes extensively on the topic of addiction and does not subscribe to the A.A. dogma per se, because she's found her own unique path to sobriety and is generous enough to share it with her readers.
In re-reading some of my previous months of alcohol progress posts here on the blog, I found that they sound all rosy and positive and perhaps I'm not conveying the darkness that comes from struggling with removing alcohol and all its temptations from my life. When I sit down to write in this space, I've usually worked through the tough stuff and I'm finally ready to write about it. The thing is, I could probably write more honestly if I wrote when I was actually IN the middle of my struggle. I'll work on that. Until then, I offer this - every single day is a unique challenge for me now. The longer I'm sober, the more I'm discovering that I have to be unflinchingly honest with myself and others. In my writing, I think I've shied away from being totally transparent because it felt scary. My thinking has been that I should reserve some of my thoughts for my very own private pondering. But in doing so, I'm guessing that's made for a boring read. I mean, I read writers who have the guts to share the nitty gritty and I keep coming back for more. Writers like Laura McKowen, Caroline Knapp, Sarah Hepola, Claire Bidwell Smith and Cea Sunrise have all bared their souls and lived to tell the tale. There is something so refreshing about that, right? I'm going to try and tell you the straight truth here from now on in the hopes that someone finds meaning or inspiration in my journey with alcohol, too.
"We claim spiritual progress, not perfection."
- Big Book, How It Works, Page 60
When you stop drinking, the world slowly starts coming into focus. I'm nine months into this sober gig and that focus continues to sharpen in ways I never would have imagined. I'm analyzing the 12 steps and trying to figure out who in the hell God is to me. I'm questioning readings and principles that I just can't subscribe to (not yet anyway) - like the fact that you get to choose your own God and that he very well could be a fencepost or a blade of grass, if I choose him to be. That just sounds ridiculous to me.
"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."
- AA.org - Step One of the 12 Steps
And I don't feel powerless over alcohol. If anything I feel more powerful since I stopped drinking. I'm having a hard time with the words and phrases that are often uttered in A.A. I'm working through it and not giving up and being honest in those rooms about my feelings. And you know what? It's okay with everyone seated around the circle. They get it. They reserve judgment. They let me say what I want to say and move on. I've decided to suspend my disbelief for now so that I can see if there is something to be gleaned from the program. I'm sure there is and I look forward to the process of learning what it is.
For a girl who has been baptized three times, yes - THREE TIMES, I know I'm a seeker deep down in my soul. I'm just worried now that while I'm seeking, I'll fall for anything because I'm so lost. And in reaction to that feeling, my guard has been raised and I don't want to be duped or led astray. I feel vulnerable, but I feel strong, too, if that makes any sense. In the end, I think I'm just fighting myself, present enough with all these sober days under my belt to at least recognize it. I have a lot of work to do.
So, I guess I could sum up month nine as a cauldron of emotions, all bubbling up to the surface and now I'm skimming off the gunk and taking a better look at what's underneath.
I want to share some major tools I've added to my sobriety toolbox this month. These tools are being used to replace the bad habits I once had with regard to alcohol. I'm finding other ways to cope and feeling good about the heft of resources I've accumulated in this journey so far.
(also known as Things That Got Me Through The Month)
Carrying a stash of assorted tea bags with me has been such a revelation. If I'm at a party, having lunch on campus or somewhere where alcohol is the primary beverage, it feels good to know I have another option. I'm also loving the coconut water with aloe from Trader Joe's with a wedge of Meyer lemon squeezed into it. I feel my absolute best when I've juiced in the morning. It makes me feel like million bucks. And who doesn't want to start the day feeling like that? My go-to combo is beets, carrots, apples, cucumbers, and half a Meyer lemon.
La Croix! I've finally found this elusive carbonated water that many have raved about. I found it at Target, so probably shouldn't be categorized as "elusive" - but it's new to me. Zero calories, Zero sugar, Zero sodium, Zero carbs, non-GMO and the list goes on. You can click here to read more about it here.
I'm all about the self-care indulgences this month. I'm starting to realize that as a mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, community volunteer, and co-worker - that I give a lot to others and leave only a little bit for myself. What I'm noticing is if I give myself a little more (more time, space, rest), others in my life benefit from it, too. When my well isn't dry, everyone gets to drink water from it.
I purchased myself a set of six essential oil blends from sumbody and they are in their own pretty little metal tin that is perfect for carrying around in my purse. I put a few drops on my wrists or palms in the morning and breathe in their scents to start my day or for a late afternoon pick-me-up. My favorite blend is called JOY. I've also been pretty good about scheduling a facial on or about the 3rd of every month, when I'm approaching another month of sobriety under my belt. I'm also totally giving into my chocolate cravings and treating myself to chocolate-covered raisins or a few pieces of a good chocolate bar with my early evening tea. I even got my car washed this week and felt so good after doing that! I took time out of a crazy day to spontaneously get a pedicure. All of these little things added up to self-care and a simple way of showing me that I'm loved…by me.
Here are a few things that have found their way to me this month that I want to share with you:
Books - I'm totally enthralled with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Against Wind & Tide, Letters + Journals 1947 - 1986. This woman is so wise and worldly and every entry is a gem to hold and think about. She was way ahead of her time and a deep, thoughtful thinker. I'm reading it slowly and it's written in a way that let's you pick it up and put it down on your own time. There's no rush to get through it.
I just started receiving monthly issues of Dwell and The New Yorker and it feels so decadent! A few years ago, in an effort to declutter and minimize items in my home, I unsubscribed from all of my magazine subscriptions (Real Simple, Sunset & bon appetit). But something always pulls me back to the printed word and this also qualifies as an indulgence for this glossy-magazine-loving-gal.
Blog(s) + Online Articles
I've been reading Laura McKowen and Holly Glenn Whitaker's blogs quite a bit this month. These two ladies are changing the face of alcoholism and two shining lights in my journey this year. I recommend both to you because they have different approaches to dealing with alcohol, both with amazing success and heart in the process. They also unapologetically say Fuck a lot and I kind of like that.
I also read an article titled Alcoholism in Women 'a public health crisis', says Drink author Ann Dowsett Johnston. I quickly ordered Ms. Dowsett Johnston's book, Drink, The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol and look forward to reading it.
One of the side effects of not drinking and being hungover, is that I'm learning that I operate at my best when I start the day early and with a ritual, routine or rhythm. Here are some of the ways I bring comfort and organization to the beginning of my day:
1. Waking early (5:30 - 6 a.m.) and taking my supplements, putting the kettle on for hot water + lemon, rolling out my yoga mat and reading the Thirteen Affirmations from the Women for Sobriety website has become my new favorite way to start the day.
2. Next, I throw a load of laundry in (every single morning). Something about this helps kick-start me into my daily chores and really helps me to start my day off on the right foot. I'm starting to notice that getting organized and putting things into motion work for me. It's really control that I'm seeking and I think that's a familiar characteristic for people who like to overindulge in alcohol. We're basically control freaks and use alcohol to check out or try to forget the very thing we want to control. Or something like that. I'm still working on my theory!
3. Then, I start the coffee, check Instagram, text briefly with a friend on the east coast and make marks in my art journal.
The result of doing all of the above is a calm entry into the day and, more importantly, it's working for me.
Here are a few podcasts that make my day better. Slow Your Home (a podcast about slowing down and minimalism), Happier with Gretchin Rubin (a podcast about habits and human nature) + HOME with Laura McKowen and Holly Glenn Whitaker (the two wonder women I've mentioned throughout this post). I see a home and happiness theme here and as Martha Stewart would say, it's a good thing.
The connections I’ve made on Instagram are priceless to me and have turned many into real life friendships. It’s probably hard for someone who isn't on social media to understand, but connecting with people who have similar interests or aesthetics is really cool. I glean inspiration from quotes I read, book stack recommendations, learn about writing or creative workshops and watch my favorite artists share their work. It's a virtual community of creative people and it's the bee's knees.
A few weeks ago, the HOME podcast gals created a secret Facebook page for their listeners and sent out an invitation to join. I was trying to phase out my personal page on Facebook, but this just hooked me back in! It's been a bright spot in my day to connect and read the stories of other women struggling with alcohol and learning how do life without the distraction of booze. A lot of connection and compassion is happening over there and it feels nice to engage in dialogue with other women going through similar battles.
Okay, this got really long. I'm going to sign off, but just want to let you know I'm doing okay. I have good days and rough days, but I'm learning so much about myself in this process and I'm appreciating the opportunity to be really present in this life of mine. I'm pushing through the dark and searching for the light in every challenging situation. It's working, however imperfectly, but it's working. I haven't taken a drink in nine months and I'm really proud of myself.
Eat. I'm nourishing my mind + body every single day.
Rest. I'm going to bed early + being kinder to myself + others.
Love. I'm in love with the progress I've made to date. Waking up without a hangover is my new addiction + I'm okay with that.