Staying Sober During the Holidays

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I don’t know what it is about drinking and the holidays, but it’s like the flood gates are thrown open and people start guzzling bottles of champagne and wine like the apocalypse is coming. I can barely scroll through my social media feeds without seeing an alcohol related post. I get it people. You’re stressed out, you’re still pissed off about the election, you’ve had it with your boss, your kids are driving you crazy – you NEED a drink! Well, for those of us who have “been there, done that” we know that getting sloshed will never be the answer and we will do whatever we can to protect ourselves from the onslaught of “if I only had a drink” type of mentality being thrown in our faces. Yes, this is what people in sobriety have to deal with ALL OF THE TIME. Like it or not, we live in a society that is obsessed with drugs and alcohol.

Despite having been sober for awhile now, the holidays still cause me anxiety. It’s a given that I’ll be in situations where I’ll be around more drinking than I normally would. And, it’s usually a given that someone will say something that’s disrespectful or ignorant in regards to my sobriety. While I’ve come to expect these things, I still take measures to protect my sobriety, including:

  1. Just Say “No.”: I don’t mean, “just say no” to drinking (although that helps), but, before going, really think about the situations you put yourself in. Will there be heavy drinking? Will there be other sober people? Will I have supportive people around me? Can I leave easily if need be? If you don’t think it’s a good fit, politely decline and save yourself the trouble and temptations. It’s not worth it.
  2. Set Boundaries: Your sobriety should be your number one concern. If I want to attend a function where I know there’s going to be drinking, I stay for a certain amount of time and then leave. Typically, I don’t host gatherings at my home during the holidays because I don’t want the expectation of providing a full bar and I don’t want that kind of drinking taking place in my home. You have to be willing to stand up for yourself and your sobriety, despite what others want or expect of you.
  3. Don’t Defend Your Sobriety: The first Christmas I was sober I actually had a relative make a dig at my sobriety. I was drinking non-alcoholic wine because I wanted something “special” to drink and she said something along the lines of, “If I couldn’t drink, I wouldn’t even bother with that stuff.” I was so caught off guard I didn’t know what to say, however, I think my husband would have liked to thump her across the head. Sure, I could’ve told her how I hoped she would never have to experience what I did to get to that point in my life or I could’ve called her out on her own perceived drinking problem, but I didn’t because what I learned in recovery is that it doesn’t matter what others say, do or think. As long as I’m taking care of my side of the street, it’s all good.
  4. Trust Your Gut Instinct: Honestly, this is what I listen to most. If something doesn’t feel right, if you’re questioning whether or not you should do something or go somewhere, don’t do it. There’s a reason you’re feeling that way and usually that reason is for the best.
  5. Remember, We’re All God’s Children: Okay, so this one’s a little different, but it helps! I once had a sponsor who, whenever I would be complaining about someone, would kindly remind me that “We’re all God’s children.” So, now, when I’m driving in crazy holiday traffic or in line with grumpy holiday shoppers, I just remind myself to be patient, be kind and “We’re all God’s children” – even that grumpy lady!

No matter how long we’ve been sober, I think it’s always good to go over some of these reminders during the holidays. If you’re new to this sober thing, don’t be afraid to reach out to other sober people along the way. We’ve been there and we know what it’s like to feel isolated and alone. But, one thing we’ll all tell you, is that you’re not alone! There’s millions of us out there who don’t drink and don’t HAVE to drink during the holidays. We’ve made the decision to have sober and therefore memorable holidays, ones we can be active participants in, not only bystanders. Just another gift of sobriety.

I’d love to hear other ways you stay sober during the holidays!

 

 

 

I Am Not Anonymous

Who I Am

A few weeks ago I received an email from a writer for Dr. Oz’s website The Good Life. She had discovered my blog and wanted to interview me for a story she was doing for Alcohol Awareness Month in April. She felt my recovery journey would resonate with many of their readers, the majority being women. My initial response was surprise, gratitude – and fear.

Those who know me are aware of my story and while I have written about my experience here on my blog, I have always had a sense of security knowing that my audience is fairly small; that I had some (realistic or not) control over who knew about my journey and recovery from alcoholism.

For some, I suppose it would be an easy decision. I mean, come on – it’s Dr. freakin’ Oz! For better or worse, he’s probably the most well known Dr. in the world thanks to Oprah and daytime television. But, for me, I was hesitant to have my story profiled on such a large medium. You see, I’m really happy living my little life on our little farm here in Oregon. Yes, I’m open with my story, but I never set out to be the poster girl for “stay at home moms who are recovering alcoholics.”

I questioned how much attention I really wanted. Because, really, there are times I’d like to crawl under a rock and leave it all behind me. To not be known for what I used to be, but known for who I am now. But, that’s just it. I am who I am today because of my past. And, after talking it over with my husband and going through all the maybes and maybe nots, I realized that this was way bigger than me. In fact, it wasn’t about me at all. This was about glorifying God. My story is His story. I’m but a messenger. And, when I began looking at it that way, it made my decision easy. Of course, I would share HIS story of faith, love, forgiveness and redemption.

Some may say, “But wait, aren’t you supposed to be anonymous? Aren’t you supposed to be hiding behind the tradition of anonymity?” And, my response to that would be, “Who am I helping by being anonymous?” We are taught “You are only as sick as your secrets” yet so many of us choose to keep our sobriety secret out of respect to an outdated tradition. For fear of what others will think, say or do.

Sharing your truth is a personal decision. For me, God made that decision for me when I got sober. It wasn’t anything I did to bring me out of the despair of alcoholism – believe me, I had tried before. It was by the grace of God that I went to that first meeting, took my first coin and continue to wake up each morning sober, and grateful.

I will continue to speak my truth – His truth. And, by the grace of God others will experience the gift of sobriety.

Please click here if you would like to read the article featured on Dr. Oz’s website.

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid or endorsed for my story. My ultimate wish is that other women like myself will find courage to seek help.

A Lesson on Dirt and Fear

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It’s springtime on our little farm here in Oregon, which means everything is green and bursting with new life. I love this time of year, but it’s also bittersweet. On May 3rd, it will mark 10 years since my mom died. I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of her at this time and I continue to be amazed how I can feel such joy and happiness, while also feeling such sorrow.

Today was the day I decided to start the garden. My husband had tilled and it was ready. But, ready for what? All I saw when I looked at it was a big plot of land, looming back at me. Empty.

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I’ve been eyeing that dirt for the last few days. Intimidated by its vast size and blankness. Instead of seeing it’s potential, I saw and felt fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear of all the “what ifs.” It was the same fear I felt after my mom died and when I made the decision to stop drinking. I was filled with fear of the unknown.

As I was making the bed this morning, I began crying as the fear poured out of me. Doubt started taking over. I couldn’t do this. What if I had gotten in over my head with this farm stuff? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” gardener? What if everything I planted in that plot of dirt died? I needed my mom. She was the real gardener. She would know exactly how to turn that brown piece of dirt into a lush garden.

As tears rolled down my face, I walked into the bathroom where my husband was getting ready. One look and he pulled me into his arms. He reminded me that my mom’s here – she’s always here. She’s by my side, quietly watching and teaching me as I walk through this life. And, he reminded me that I can do hard things. I can walk through the fear because I’ve done it before. I did it when I gave birth to our daughter four months after my mom died, not knowing anything about being a mom myself. I did it when I walked into that first recovery meeting, not knowing a single person or what to expect. I continue to do it when I share my story with others, unaware of how they will perceive me or what they will say.

Fear is real and it paralyzes us if we allow it to. But, making a choice to walk through the fear, to push it aside and instead see the possibilities of the new and unknown – that is freedom.

I spent all day in the garden today. Plotting, staking, digging rows and planting seeds one by one, envisioning the new seedlings poking up through the barren land. Tired and sore, I was faithful that the vast emptiness would one day reap a great harvest.

By continuing to walk through these moments of fear, I experience peace, joy, faith in the unknown and the freedom to be my true self, which is a beautiful thing.

Walking Through Fear

 

The Courage to Speak

Courage means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. To me, courage means doing what you know is right despite the fear or repercussions. Most of the time that applies to me sharing my truth about recovery – what my life used to look like and what it looks like today – despite worrying about what people are going to think or do with that information.

For the most part, I’m pretty open about my recovery, but there are times when I’d rather side-step the truth and just omit that part of my life. You know, take an eraser and make it nice and clean.

Recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to our church on tithing – time, talent and treasure. Basically, they wanted us to each share how the church has impacted us individually, as a family and in what ways we give back. When Tyler first mentioned it to me, I think I said something like “Ugh, why us?” I mean, we’re involved, but we’re not THAT involved. Surely, there is someone more qualified than me. Heck, I just became Catholic less than two years ago and there’s people who have been in the church their entire lives!

So, we ho hummed about it and finally decided that it was something we needed (not necessarily wanted) to do. I guess you could say, us not wanting to do it was a sign that we probably should do it. Definitely a “God-thing.”

Tyler wrote his part and I wrote mine. As I read over mine, looking for corrections, I kept feeling this nagging inside of me. I had been pretty honest, but not really. I had referred to a “difficult” time in my life three and a half years ago that had greatly impacted my relationship with the Church and God, but that’s as far as I went. Something kept telling me if I was going to stand up there in front of hundreds of my fellow parishioners and give my testimony, that I might as well let it all hang out – the good, the bad and the ugly. But, holy cow! What would they think? What would they say? Very few people at church knew my story. To most of them, I was just that mom who sat on the right-hand side of the church a few rows back from the front.

One evening, I told Tyler “I need to share my whole truth. I need to share about the alcoholism.” At first, he had the same fears I initially had. Did I really need to share ALL of it? Yes, I did. I knew without a doubt that I had to share MY truth. And, with that I re-wrote my portion of our talk, which goes as follows:

As Tyler mentioned, I come from a very different background. I wasn’t raised in any particular church, in fact, I was never baptized. It wasn’t until I met Tyler that I attended my first Catholic Mass. In all honestly, I was expecting an old, stodgy Priest with a totally irrelevant message. You can imagine my surprise when Fr. George, who many of you will remember from Queen of Peace, stood up and started talking. He was young (well, younger), dynamic and engaging. Not only was I surprised by his relevancy; I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in those pews. But, most of all, I was surprised by the peace I felt. It was the first time I had felt completely at home in a church setting.

Years went by and I continued to attend weekly Mass with Tyler, eventually baptizing both of our children in the Church. However, it wasn’t until three and a half years ago when I experienced the lowest point in my life, the reality that I was an alcoholic and my marriage was in shambles, that I was faced with a choice: open my heart to God and answer His knock, or continue down the same path that had led me to that point in my life.

Fortunately, I chose God’s path, and at my lowest moments, when I could barely drag myself out of bed or get through a single day, it was the strength of God and the peace of this Church that held me up – the same peace I experienced during that first Mass I attended years ago.

How can I repay a God and a Church that has provided me with so much? The reality is, I can’t, but I can live my life trying to the best of my ability. Two years ago I had the privilege of going through Brad’s first RCIA class, where I was baptized and confirmed into the Church. Over the years, I have given my time and talents in many ways, including participating in Catholic Bible studies and book groups, pro-life organizations and just this past year taught Vacation Bible School here at St. Ed’s.

As Tyler mentioned, there is no wrong on right way when it comes to tithing. While money and time are always appreciated, often the most important thing we can do as members of the Church is to be active participants in daily or weekly Mass; praying, singing, praising God and staying after Communion to hear uplifting talks like this!

Thank you for your time and God bless.

I didn’t share my truth about being an alcoholic for shock value or for attention. Like I mentioned before, I never wanted to be up there in the first place – with sweaty hands and a quivering voice – all while hundreds of eyes stared up at me. Yikes! No thanks.

No, I stood up there, feeling totally vulnerable, because I made a promise to God a long time ago when I first got sober. I promised that if I ever had the opportunity to share my story and maybe, just maybe, help someone else in the process, I would do it. I knew the nagging feeling I had felt was God saying, “Do it. Share it all.”

And, that my friends, took every ounce of courage I had.

I know God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my past and who I am, because the truth is, my story is His story. It is He who made me; and He who saved me. And, it is Him who continues to guide and direct me – but, only if I will listen.

The Gift of Plan B

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So…it’s been a long time. And, I’ve completely neglected this blog, but I’d like to think it was for good reason. In the beginning of sobriety, we often wonder how life will go on. How will we function without the daily drinks or glass (or um, bottle) of wine? How will we handle social situations? How will we ever make up for all the harm and destruction we have caused? We slowly see the need for a new normal, but the reality of it being long-term is terrifying. And, then we start to question if it’s all really worth it. Wouldn’t it be easier to go back to our old normal, the normal we were so used to and comfortable with? But, we know we can’t if we want to keep our families, our marriage, our children – our life.

If we’re one of the lucky ones, we begin to reluctantly accept the new normal. Like a child taking their first steps, we slowly, carefully venture into the unknown. We fall, we skin our knees, but we continue until we gain our balance and walk slowly, but steady. And, then the day comes along when we realize we’re running.

It’s not the path we intended to take, but it somehow got us where we needed to be – where we were meant to be all along.

On August 28th, I celebrated three years of sobriety. The day came and went without a lot of excitement or acknowledgment. Most of all, I felt peace and contentment.

Over the last month, we have moved to what we consider our “dream house.” It’s an older home on two acres in the Oregon valley with room for the kids to run and for us to have a big garden and raise a few animals. During the first week we were here, my husband and I were standing in the kitchen and he turned to me, and hugging me said, “This is the happiest I’ve ever been since we’ve been married.”

I will never forget his words or how they made me feel – totally and completely loved. All of the pain, anger and hurt I once caused and felt has been replaced with a love I never knew possible.

Every day I thank God for my plan B and this new normal I was blessed to have.

And, God Said Be Still

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On the 7th of this month, God said, be still. He said stop your busyness, throw away your to-do list, spend time with your family and just be. How did He do this? He sent snow. Lots and lots of snow. More snow than we’ve had in over five years. And, then He sent freezing rain. And, we were stuck. We were snowed in for three days. And, we were together.

On the first day, in the midst of my kids arguing, I said, God I don’t know if I can do this. And, I went downstairs (we have a daylight basement) and locked the door. I took some deep breathes and I prayed for patience. And, God said, you’ve got this. And, I did. That’s the thing about my God, He’s usually right.

The next day, it snowed a lot. As I stood in the kitchen cooking a big breakfast, looking out at the snow falling, I felt peace. Peace in the simplicity of a morning where we weren’t rushing out the door; or barking orders at each other. Peace in my children’s laughter and excitement over the new fallen snow. Peace in sitting with my husband, drinking our coffee and just being.

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We played, built snowmen and sledded down my in-law’s driveway. We didn’t need fancy sleds. Boxes worked just fine. We used my husband’s childhood sled to walk around the neighborhood, visiting friends along the way. It could have been anywhere; at any point in time. We were just a family – sledding, laughing and being together.

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Sledding

And, God said, Chenoa, I know you’re not a big board game player, but you’re going to play a game as a family, because, really, what else do you have to do that’s more important? And, so we played a game of Chutes and Ladders and we laughed. And, I said, okay God, that was fun but I’m pretty sure that game is rigged because every time you get to the top, you have to slide down one of those damn chutes and it’s impossible to win. And, He laughed, because He knows it’s true.

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We baked cookies, watched movies, did puzzles, danced and sang (I’m pretty sure my husband and I could both sing that “Frozen” song word for word). And, I didn’t worry about running out of wine – because before, that’s what I would’ve worried about. Because, before, that’s how I “coped” with my kids. Now, the only thing I worried about running out of was my coffee and Prozac. Because, God knows I need both of those to function. Yes, my God has a sense of humor.

And, in the silence of the snow, God said, this was good. This was good because it made you be still. That’s what I love about my God. He knows what I need, when I need it most.

Some Much Needed Sunshine

Sunshine Award

I love blogging awards because 1. It’s humbling to know others are actually reading your stuff (and like it) and 2. It gives you a chance to pay it forward and recognize others for their ability to reach out and touch you through their writing and stories.

I’m honored and humbled that Tracy over at Wanderlust nominated me for the Sunshine Award. Thanks Tracy – I could use a little sunshine right now in the midst of this cold! If you aren’t familiar with Tracy’s blog, stop by and check it out. Not only is she an AMAZING photographer, she has over 20 years of sobriety, which to me sounds like an eternity! I’ve found very few people in the blogging world who have that kind of sobriety so I consider her a true gem.

As with any award, there are a few guidelines. Here’s how it goes:

To accept the award, the awardee must do the following:

  • Display the award on your blog.
  • Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Present 10 deserving bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
  • Link to the awardees and let them know of the nomination.
  • List 10 interesting things about yourself.

Okay, 10 interesting (if you can call them that) things about myself.

  1. Growing up, I wanted to be a high school English teacher.
  2. I never, ever thought I would end up settling down in Oregon. But, now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love it.
  3. I used to think I really liked big cities, but as I get older, I realize that I don’t like them at all. And, I’m okay with that.
  4. My dream is to live on a little piece of land with room for a BIG garden and chickens.
  5. I have a thing for cowboy boots and love everything country – music, rodeo, Americana, etc. I think it has something to do with my Texas roots!
  6. I could never run for a political office because there are too many pictures of me topless and inhaling (not necessarily at the same time). Unfortunately, when you drink like I did, you do really stupid things that you end of regretting. Ugh. Oh, and if you happen to have any of those pictures PLEASE burn them!
  7. I used to think that being a church-going Christian meant you had to have really big hair and wear lots of makeup. Not so! God loves me just the way I am!
  8. I got my first (and only) tattoo on my 33rd birthday. It’s a naked woman sitting on a crescent moon, which is the same one my mom had on her ankle. It’s taken from a necklace she used to wear when I was little and I treasure it. It’s my way of holding her memory close to me – always.
  9. I’m thinking about getting my nose pierced again. Shhh…don’t tell my husband!
  10. I love, love, love strong coffee. Hot. In a big mug. Preferably by a big, roaring fire.

Okay, now for the good stuff! I absolutely love the blogging community and have come across so many amazing and talented people. I truly admire those who are willing to take a chance and expose themselves by sharing their innermost thoughts and experiences with total strangers. Not all of them are recovery sites, but they all speak to me in a special way and give me diverse views on living life. I encourage you to check out their sites.

http://thesimplecountrylife.com/

http://soberidentity.com/

http://beefandsweettea.com/

http://mendedmusings.com/

http://mentalrollercoaster.com/

http://soberboots.com/ (Heather is taking a little break from blogging, but she’s awesome so I had to include her.)

http://sobercourage.com/

http://drunkydrunkgirl.wordpress.com/

http://emotionaldrinkingdotcom.wordpress.com/

http://onetoomany1.wordpress.com/