When We Feel Too Much

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel so much. I was reminded by my sponsor (again) today that I’m sensitive, emotional and all-too feeling at times. I’m sure there’s a million jokes that could be made about women and emotions, but in all seriousness, it can be devastating for someone like me; an alcoholic who used to drink to escape feeling.

I envy people like my husband who can be sad and empathize with what others are going through without taking on their feelings. Instead, I dive head first and take on their sadness, grief and heartache as if it were my own until it’s no longer about them, but about me (did I mention I can be really self-centered too?). Then, I slowly get sucked into this all-consuming depressive state of mind where everything is wrong and nothing is right in the world. My relationships and my spiritual life suffer. I find myself feeling angry, alone and isolated – the perfect storm for a relapse.

Even though I’ve been sober for a while now, it’s times like these when I know I can’t do this alone. I have to grab onto that life-preserver we call recovery if I’m going to pull myself out of it. Whether it’s going to meetings or meeting individually with my sponsor, I must be reminded on a regular basis that I AM AN ALCOHOLIC and what might seem laughable to some, is no joke for me. Because, that feeling, sensitive and emotional side of me that gets out of control at times could lead me to my death. Is that extreme? Maybe. Real? Absolutely.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as my sponsor looking at me and saying, “Chenoa, you need to put up some boundaries between other people’s feelings and your own.” Just because someone else is experiencing grief, sadness or pain doesn’t mean I have to take on their feelings as my own. I can feel bad for them and reach out to them, but I can’t, under any circumstances, let their experiences define my mood or behavior.

On this Ash Wednesday, I’m feeling renewed; stronger than I was yesterday or even this morning. As I go forward in this Lenten season, I want to focus less on myself and more on my spiritual condition and my relationship with God. I want to step out of myself and what I want for my life, and focus more on what God wants for me. How can I be the best version of myself? And, how can I better serve those around me?

I am reminded, yet again, that this is all part of the journey, and I find peace in trusting that God knows what He is doing and where He is leading me.

 

 

Maintenance Required

Today can be a hard day for those of us in recovery. In the past, Christmas Eve was a day (and I do mean most of the day) of drinking and partying. Today, it’s not about that, but I’m always aware of the extra diligence I have to take around this time of year.

I recently started working the 12 steps again with a new sponsor. Not because I was worried about my sobriety (although I’m always a little worried), but because I had become complacent in my sobriety. Things have been good, but I wasn’t “working” my program. I was busy living my life, starting a new business, taking care of my kids – being present. All of that is good – it’s really good. It means I’m reaping the benefits of my sobriety, but at some point I stopped and realized that I wasn’t maintaining my sobriety. Because, at the end of the day it’s my sobriety that made my life as I know it possible, and what happens if I don’t take care of the one thing that got me to this point?

So, I started from the beginning. I’m at step one, which is where I admit I’m powerless over alcohol. Yep, I am – totally and completely powerless over alcohol. No matter how successful I am, how much education I have under my belt, how good I look on the outside, how much I workout to stay healthy – when it comes to that bottle of wine or open bar, I am unable to stop at one. I will do everything (and have done everything) to try and convince myself that I can stop. But, when it’s all said and done, I simply can’t.

As I began reading in my recovery book again, I was just as shocked as I was the first time, three years ago, when I first read through the pages. Once again, I saw myself in those pages. It was me they were writing about it. How could that be? How could they know so much about the insanity that I went through each and every day. Again, I felt the comfort in knowing that it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t alone. There were and had been other people who had felt just like me – who had gone before me and lived to tell about it.

And, I was reminded yet again that no matter how much time goes by; how good we feel; how successful we are in our life and sobriety; we will never be safe from the grips of our alcoholism.

Most of us have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could thereafter drink normally…We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again: ‘Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’ Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever.

I know this is true because I have seen it more times than I’d like to admit. Yet, I can have all the knowledge in the world, but if I’m not maintaining my sobriety I can give into that first drink as quickly as the other person. No matter how much sobriety I may have, I am no stronger than the other alcoholic who has one day sober.

When I first got sober, I found strength and solace in reading the sobriety website Crying Out Now and the blog One Crafty Mother both started by Ellie, who also founded the podcast The Bubble Hour. I related to Ellie’s story and connected to her as a person and fellow sober woman. After many years of sobriety and much success, she relapsed nine months ago. It was bad and she suffered immensely, yet she is one of the lucky ones. She lived through it and is now talking about it openly and honestly. If you do one thing today, please read Ellie’s post here from yesterday. It might just save your life. Thanks, Ellie, for being so brave.

 

A Harsh Reminder

When I first got sober almost two and a half years ago (I had a relapse at six months), I came across the website Crying Out Now, which shares stories of recovery and of those struggling with substance abuse. I soon discovered that it’s founder, Ellie, also had her own blog called One Crafty Mother. As I got further into my own recovery, I communicated with Ellie and at one point had a portion of my story featured on Crying Out Now. Later, Ellie founded The Bubble Hour, a podcast featuring discussions about sobriety and interviews.

I related to Ellie and in many ways looked up to her. She was like me – mom, wife, otherwise pretty “normal” person – and alcoholic. If she could get sober; I surely could. Over the past couple of years, I’ve followed Ellie’s journey, becoming one of the most well-known sober bloggers and online recovery advocates.

I hadn’t heard or read anything from Ellie in a long time (time is all relative in the sober sphere) and I had this nagging feeling something was wrong. A couple days ago my fears were confirmed, when I came across a recent post from Ellie. She had relapsed and after spending two months in inpatient treatment, was currently living in a sober house with three other women.

I have hurt a lot of people over the past few months. I lost myself, and instead of asking for help, I thought I could tough my way through it on sheer force of will. I was so, so scared, but I kept madly weaving myself a tale of strength and hope, instead of admitting that fear had me by the throat. I would like to say I should have known better, but the irony is that all the knowledge in the world can’t help against addiction. I forgot about God. I took my will back.

Her words hit me like a brick. I sat there, staring at her post in disbelief, but also in fear. Because, if she could relapse, so could I. It was a harsh reminder that no matter how much sobriety we have; how well-known we are; how respected we are; how far we’ve come since that last drink – we are always an alcoholic just one drink away from going right back to where we began or worse.

I’ve been feeling comfortable in my sobriety – maybe a little too comfortable. I haven’t been going to meetings, I haven’t been reaching out to other women, I haven’t been talking to my sponsor – the list goes on. I haven’t been feeding my sobriety and that is a dangerous place to be. Because, I know from stories like Ellie’s, that when we stop feeding our sobriety, our all-to powerful self-will starts taking over. That little voice that says, “I’ve got this; I don’t need any of that other stuff.” And, that is a very, very dangerous place for me to live. Because, eventually, that voice gets louder and it takes over the voice of God.

Yesterday, I had what we often call in recovery a “God shot.” I was on an important “business” call and all of a sudden the call got disconnected and my phone was ringing, as if I had hung up and called someone else. A woman answered on the other end and I said, “Hello, hello? Who is this?” And, the woman said “Hi Chenoa, it’s Dana. You just called me.” What?! Huh?! Dana was a friend from my recovery program who I hadn’t talked to in a while. I quickly explained what had happened and said I would call her back after I finished with my original call.

Later in the day, Dana and I talked for a long time, catching up on our recovery and life in general. We both struggle with reaching out to other women in the program, and we agreed that we needed to get together soon. She had been spending time with a few women who she thought I would enjoy. After we got off the phone, I got a text from her asking if I could make it to the 5:30 meeting tonight. I think I will.

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. I believe that God puts certain people and situations in our life for a reason. God knew I needed that “God shot” yesterday from Dana. And, thankfully, I’m at a place in my life where I can recognize that, listen and take action.

I’m saddened by Ellie’s story. But, I’m also grateful that she has the courage to write about it and share her story with others like me who might need a wake up call…before it’s too late.

 

Insanity

Insanity

Yesterday, I was reminded of the alcoholic insanity that is always lurking in the back of my mind.

When I first got sober, I remember my sponsor telling me that you are never safe from that first drink. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, in fact, I probably half-listened as I did to many of the things she told me. I didn’t “get” it yet and all I cared about was rebuilding my life, which meant not drinking anymore. I first got sober in February 2012 and relapsed the following July – last summer. It took my relapse for me to truly understand I was powerless over alcohol and I was never safe from that first drink.

Fast forward to yesterday. I’ve been sober for nine months and have been fortunate to have had very few cravings for alcohol. Yet, while I was driving my kids to gymnastics late yesterday afternoon, I had an overwhelming craving for a drink. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The sun was out, the weather was warm and I wanted (or needed) that drink. Remember, I relapsed last July, so obviously these summer-like days are a trigger for me. There was no reason for my craving. I was in a great mood, but somewhere my mind was telling me I would even be better with a drink. Crazy? Yes. This is the INSANITY of alcoholism.

My body was literally craving that drink. I could almost taste that chilled glass of wine. But, why? After EVERYTHING I’ve been through and put my family through, how could I even consider a drink?

Unless you’ve been there, it’s impossible to understand the insanity of addiction. It takes over your body and mind, until it’s the ONLY thing you can think about. It’s awful, it’s horrible – it’s my alcoholic mind.

When I got home, I was irritable and angry. I told my husband I was just hungry and tired. It wasn’t until we sat down for dinner that I told him the truth. I had been craving a drink. While he knows that this is a reality of my disease, I still see the pain my honesty causes him. For those who love us, one of their worse fears is that we will take that first drink.

Tonight, I was tired. I didn’t feel like going to a meeting, but I knew I needed one. And, my husband knew I needed one. I went to one of my favorite women’s meetings and I left feeling renewed and grateful for the honesty that takes place in those rooms.

I know that I will never be safe from that first drink, which is why I have to continue to do the work and stay honest with myself and others. For me, it’s that simple.