I Need a Break

Stop

I’m an addict. I have an addict’s mind and I approach life with an addict’s mindset. If something brings be pleasure (or assumed pleasure), I want more of it. And, the more I get, the more I think I need.

My life has been consumed with different types of addictions. Praise from others, exercise, food at times, men and above all, alcohol. My addict mind becomes obsessed with my “drug” of choice to the point where it begins to consume my life. It’s very subtle how it sneaks up on me. Slowly, unknowingly I find myself struggling with the “need” to satisfy my cravings and the logical part of my mind that says, “It’s not good for you, it’s not important.”

Lately, I’ve found myself feeling uneasy, agitated, unsettled and disconnected. I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. And, then in a moment of clarity I realized what it was. I’ve been feeling totally and undeniably addicted to social media. I’ve been comparing my insides to everyone else’s outsides and that is dangerous ground for a recovering alcoholic like myself. I begin comparing who I am with how everyone else portrays themselves to be. I start feeling depressed, inadequate, incomplete and before long I begin to feel desperate. I feel desperate to “fix” how I’m feeling and that’s a scary feeling for me.

I think many of us go through phases where we realize we’re spending a little too much time online and make it a point to scale back – I know I have. But, this time it’s different. I’ve found myself caring more about what others think about me and what I post. Did they “like” it? How many people “liked” it” Why didn’t that person “like” it? Or, I fall into the trap of “needing” to share EVERYTHING in my life. Social media has created this “look at me” mentality that becomes all-consuming. Look what I can do? Look what I can make? Look how cute I am? Look how creative I am? Look how funny I am? LOOK AT ME! Really, it’s a disgusting habit that we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into. And, I take full responsibility for taking part in it.

In sobriety, we learn that being humble is a key part of our recovery. For me, social media attempts to take every ounce of humbleness away from me. Instead, it encourages me to act boastful and prideful. In essence, it takes me further and further away from my relationship with God where I find peace, clarity and humbleness.

I feel relief knowing what the problem is. And, now I need to take the steps to “get right” with myself and God again. I need to refocus my energy and my intentions. In the past, I’ve deleted my accounts, but not this time. Social media will always be there – it’s how I choose to approach it which is the key for me. I’ve deleted certain apps from my phone, which is a start. I’m coming “clean” with all of you, which is another step in the right direction. But, really, the most important step for me is focusing inward instead of outward. I’m okay with me. I’m okay with the person I am today. I’m not perfect. I’ll never be as skinny as I think I should be, or as creative as others. I’ll never be happy with my hair despite how I cut it or what color I dye it. I will ALWAYS have flaws. But, that’s not the point. The point is, I’m okay with me. And, most important, I know God is okay with me too.

Reflections on a Year Sober

Endurance

For some reason I’ve been putting off writing this post. While I’m happy about celebrating one year sober, I’m emotionally drained. Last week I attended two memorial services for young women who were taken too soon – both mothers. And, in the middle of that I celebrated one year sober. It was bittersweet in so many ways.

After driving back from attending Sadie’s service in California, while tired, I went to my home group meeting that evening to get my one year coin. My sponsor was planning to be there and it was important for me to be with the people who had been with me from the beginning – those who loved me when I couldn’t love myself.

Ironically, the topic of the meeting that night was “love.” If there was one word to describe Sadie’s service and Malia’s service it would be “love.” The love that shown through their bright smiles and the love displayed by those who came to celebrate and honor their lives was immense. While I was saddened by their loss, my heart was full.

In reflecting on the past year, I realized that the love I have received and the love I am able to now give is what matters most. I am not cut off from the world anymore, instead I am able to receive all that it has to offer and to finally give back after so many years of taking.

Sadie and Malia both loved deeply. They loved their children, their faith, their families and friends. I am more grateful than ever to have the ability to love like they did. To live my life not for me alone, but to live as God intended me to live – honest, joyous, peaceful and loving to those around me.

So, now what? It seems like a year sober is a pivotal time for me. I will never be a fully “recovered” alcoholic. I will always be “recovering.” I might not feel the anxiety that I felt in early sobriety, but I continue to be challenged with new situations that I must learn to “walk through” sober. It’s not easy, but no one ever said it was.

I will continue to write about my sobriety and my journey living sober, however, I might delve into other topics along the way. Next week, I start the process to become Catholic. This has been a long time coming and I’m excited. My husband will be my “sponsor” (yes, they have them there too!) and I’m grateful for that. He has been an example of faith when I didn’t even know what faith was. It will be a new journey for me, but it will also be a journey for us together.

Sobriety has taught me a lot of things, but most of all it has taught me the willingness to change, to follow my heart, to be okay with the unknown and to be at peace with my life – just the way it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Keep Those Sober Boots Walkin’: A Book Review

Sober Mercies

I have one word (okay, two words) to describe Heather Kopp’s new book Sober Mercies : spot on! She gives an intimate and real look into the world of a woman who discovers she has become something she never thought possible – an alcoholic. She begs the question, how could a nice, educated, Christian woman like herself end up in the depths of alcoholism, hiding mini wine bottles in her boots in her closet? And, while her story at times might seem unbelievable or outlandish to “normal” folks, anyone who has been there will nod their head and say, “I get it! I’ve done that too!”

Like when she says, “I understood passing out, because I did it nightly. It was the reason I usually got in my jammies and went to bed earlier than Dave. I didn’t want him to find me clothed, unconscious, and somewhere other than bed, making it obvious I hadn’t intentionally fallen asleep.” Yep, been there, done that. Or, when she describes getting honest with her husband about her drinking. “An idea that filled me with terror. Not because I was afraid of Dave’s reaction, but because I knew that once he knew the truth, it was all over. One way or another, I was going to lose something I couldn’t imagine living without.” For most people it would be a simple decision, give up alcohol to save your marriage and family. But for an alcoholic, it’s one of the hardest decisions we’ll ever be faced with because at that moment in time the thought of living without alcohol is nearly unbearable.

Heather gives a telling, yet often humorous portrayal of early recovery like when she describes flipping through a Pottery Barn catalog and noticing all the wine glasses filled with “what looked like a smooth, buttery Chardonnay” and wondering who got to drink it after the photo shoot. Oh, how I could relate! Once sober, I had to cancel my subscription to Sunset magazine because I couldn’t handle all the wine and cocktail recipes. And, I still find it troubling to flip through Pottery Barn catalogs because of all the drinking! Crazy? Maybe. True? You bet!

There are parts of Heather’s book that will make you laugh out loud and others which will show you the sadness and depth of a person trying to dig themselves out of that black hole we call alcoholism. Newly sober, she says, “It hit me then for the first time that while drinking had helped me to escape many negative aspects of reality, I’d missed so many of the good parts, too.” Reading this, I was reminded of the Easter years ago when I got so drunk the night before that I passed out and was unable to put the kids’ Easter baskets together, leaving my husband responsible for figuring out what belonged to who and putting their baskets together. It’s painful to remember those times, but it’s necessary because it’s part of my story.

As a self- described “Christian drunk,” Heather knows what is required of her to stay sober. “What I needed was humility and willingness both – and not just on big occasions, but every day. Through an ongoing posture of surrender, I would be giving God access to my deepest soul while offering as little resistance as possible to His work.”

And, that’s how we do it folks! Well, at least that’s how Heather and I do it!

Heather and her publisher have been kind enough to offer a giveaway of her book to one of my lucky readers – that sounds so game showy, doesn’t it?! So, this is how we’ll do it. You have ’till Friday 9/2 at 5:00 pm PST to post your comment. I’ll then number all the comments, put them in a bowl and have my hubby draw one. I’ll then contact the lucky reader with details.

Happy commenting!

Alive in the World

Alive

Today, I had the opportunity to drive on some local back roads that I don’t normally drive on. The scenery is beautiful, especially this time of year. It’s farm country so there’s lovely old farm houses, fields as far as you can see and that quintessential small town charm that has always appealed to me.

It’s also wine country. Need I say more?

As I drove, I couldn’t help but notice that every other sign was pointing in the direction of another winery. I found myself feeling melancholy – grieving all the wineries I would never have a chance to visit. Some I recognized, some I didn’t. At times, I would see one I recognized and think, “Oh, I always wanted to go there – but now I can’t.” After a while, I felt like the directional signs were taunting me, as if saying “Come over here. Look how beautiful I am. Look how nice my tasting room is.” And, I wanted to yell back, “No! Stop it! Don’t you know what I am? Don’t you know how hard I’ve worked to get here?!”

Finally, the kids and I arrived at our destination and I was safe. Oh, did I forget to mention the kids were with me? That’s because my crazy alcoholic mind was consumed with the damn winery signs! Sometimes I could slap myself. Seriously.

Once we were back in the car for our drive home, I found myself focused on the winery signs yet again – despite going a different route. But, then, instead of thinking about how much I was missing by not being able to partake in the winery experience, I remembered all the times before when I had. I remembered never understanding the point of spitting your wine out while tasting. Really?! Who DOES that? I remembered wanting to care about how the wine tasted, but not caring because all I wanted to do was drink – more! I remembered worrying about who was going to drive me around from winery to winery because I sure wasn’t going to drive – are you kidding me?! I remembered the horrible headaches the next morning, feeling like a truck had run over me.

And, right around that time I heard these lyrics from a Jackson Browne song come across my Pandora station:

To open my eyes

And wake up alive in the world

To open my eyes

And finally arrive in the world

I looked in my rear view mirror at my son and daughter and knew God was there, listening to my thoughts and feelings and giving me a little reminder. Sometimes, that’s all I need. A little reminder, today in the way of song, to help me remember what it’s all about. I wake up. I open my eyes. I’m alive in this beautiful, painful world. And, that’s all I can ask for because some aren’t so fortunate.

R.I.P. Cory Monteith

 

 

My Heart Hurts

Have Faith

Wow. What a couple of weeks. Last week, we were on our annual family vacation to the beach and on Monday, the day after we returned, I celebrated my “belly button” birthday as we refer to it in recovery – as opposed to our sobriety birthday.

And, in the middle of all this, I got a phone call that caused me to stop, think and seriously evaluate my relationship with someone very close to me. For their privacy, I will write in general terms, yet I feel I must write about it because it’s heavy on my heart and I aim to speak the truth here.

For most of my life, I’ve been a people pleaser. I’ve always wanted people to like me. Often, this meant sacrificing my own thoughts and beliefs in order to appear more likeable to others. I guess I didn’t truly realize this until I got sober and took a hard look at my behavior and motives behind certain decisions. I wanted praise, accolades, pats on the back and “I’m so proud of yous” – especially from this particular person. I needed these things to feel worthy – to feel like I had achieved something.

So, when I got this phone call, I realized I was going to have to make some really hard decisions – decisions that could cause anger and jeopardize my relationship with this person. The person I speak of is an alcoholic and their drinking has become unmanageable.

I prayed, I thought about it, I talked it over with my husband, and in the end, I knew I had to take the steps to establish some boundaries. I could no longer stand by and subject myself or my family to their unpredictable alcoholic behavior. I knew without a doubt, I had to respect myself enough to speak up. Alcoholism is a disease and, while I can’t control or cure someone else’s disease, I can take the steps to protect myself from its consequences.

My love for this person is immeasurable. But, I also know that with love often comes pain and heartache. With love comes hard decisions that are scary, intimidating and gut wrenching.

The future of our relationship is unknown. I hope and pray for recovery. For a connection and faith in a Higher Power. But, I also know that I control very little of the outcome. I can take small steps to establish boundaries, but, in the end, my God is in control.

I can’t control the future, but I have an immense amount of faith in God’s future. A future that will know peace and serenity for those I love.

 

I Didn’t Plan This

Whatever Is My Lot

Last night, as I was walking around our neighborhood, I met a couple and their daughter who recently moved here from New Mexico. I had been wanting to meet them, and was excited about our chance encounter. When I first spotted them from a distance, I noticed they were pushing a wheelchair. For a moment, I thought perhaps it was an elderly parent, but as I got closer I realized it was a young child. In talking with them, I learned their daughter was twelve, but has the mental capacity of a two year old. The mom joked that she had been raising a toddler for ten years and I was relieved by her light heartedness.

As we stood in the middle of the street, talking and getting to know each other, another couple passing by joined us in our conversation. I had met them before and knew that they too had a daughter with special needs who was wheelchair-bound. Standing there, I found myself thinking “What a group.” From the outside, we look like any “typical” group of 30 and 40-something neighbors. Two doctors, a stay-at-home dad, a stay-at-home mom/marathon runner and a stay-at-home mom “with the pretty front yard.” Yet, there we stood, two families with special needs children and one alcoholic stay-at-home mom. Eventually, we said our goodbyes and I continued on my walk around the neighborhood.

Today, as I was reflecting on our neighborhood gathering, I found myself thinking how our lives rarely turn out how we imagine or expect them to be. Oh, believe me, I had the perfect plan for how my life would turn out. I would go to college, get my master’s degree, get married, have two children by the time I was 30 (preferably boy and girl) and live happily ever after. What I forgot to plan for was all the stuff in between and the unexpected.

I never planned for my parents to get divorced or to suffer from anxiety and OCD. I never planned for my mom to die at such an early age; I never planned to almost lose my marriage and family; and I definitely never planned to be an alcoholic stay-at-home mom. I’m not alone. We all live with the unexpected. On the six month anniversary of the Newtown shootings, I think of the families who never expected in a million years that they would lose a loved one to such a tragic event; or the two local families who recently lost their 18 and 19 year old children to car accidents; or the families I spoke to last night who never expected to have special needs children.

The thing that gives me hope and leaves me in awe is despite the unexpected, we continue to live. Despite the pain and suffering, we still wake up each morning and face the day. Instead of asking “Why me?” we ask “Why not me?”

I used to be really pissed at God for how my life turned out. I’ve always been a planner and this was NOT my plan. Eventually, I stopped being angry and started living – what other choice did I have? I truly believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle – maybe we think He does, but He doesn’t. He knows us better than we could ever know ourselves and that gives me peace. We realize this when we think we have lost all strength to go on, yet somehow, someway find the strength to continue.

As I looked around at my neighbors last night, I saw that strength firsthand. Strength in living and doing the unexpected.

 

 

One Of Those Days

Hope

Today was one of those days when I wish there was a “reset” button.

After weeks of declining health, we decided to put our last cat down this morning. In many ways, it was the end of era. When my husband and I moved in together, he had a dog and cat and I had two cats. We ended up getting rid of one of the cats early on, but created a nice family unit with the remaining dog and two cats. Eventually, kids entered the mix, our dog died, “my” cat died and we were left with one remaining cat, our sweet, little orange tabby.

I grew up with cats and dogs, and for the most part, have always had one or the other in my adult life. I think it’s safe to say there are those who like animals and those who don’t. I’m not sure if I totally trust a person who doesn’t like animals. They teach us so much about ourselves – patience, trust, gentleness, selflessness. I’m confidant my cat, Alex, taught me many lessons about motherhood before I ever had children.

For many of us, loosing a pet is similar to loosing a member of the family. I went through most of today in a daze, grieving the loss of a true friend who I jokingly referred to as my “little shadow” for the way she followed me around the house, up and down the stairs and room to room.

Part of me feels silly writing about this, but if you’re an animal person you’ll “get” it and, if not, well, this post isn’t for you.

You see, I’m feeling sad. I’m sad that I lost a friend today; I’m sad that I was on edge all day with my kids; I’m sad that nothing seemed to go “right” today.

I used to drink when I was sad; now, I write. And, I pray and talk to God and tomorrow I will meet and talk with my sponsor. And, tomorrow will be a new day and won’t seem as bad as today.

The Icing on the Cake

God Is In Control

The icing on the cake today was when my four year-old son accidentally pooped his pants in the toy isle at Walgreens. True story.

Let me give you a short synopsis of the past week in my little world. On Monday the Boston Marathon bombings took place as I was at the gym on the elliptical, which led to feelings of depression and “What’s this world coming to?” type thoughts; on Wednesday I went in for gum graft surgery to fix some recession on my lower gum; aftermath of surgery included lots of pain and little eating; Saturday I pulled my neck and shoulder muscle out at which point my husband asks if I’m going to even be able to walk by the time I’m 40 (funny); on Sunday, just as we’re getting ready to walk out the door to church, my husband notices water leaking through the basement ceiling directly into my closet; no water for the rest of Sunday and Sunday night; and today we finally get plumbing fixed but now have to cut out ceiling and drywall damaged area. Oh, and I’m still in pain and not able to eat much except yogurt, soup and other soft foods, which makes me considerably hungry and irritable. Nuff said.

By no means am I trying to portray a “poor me” mentality because I’m not. Well, okay, a couple of times I might have caught myself going down that road, but I stopped myself before it was too late. No matter how crappy (no pun intended) this week has been, I realized something. This is life – and I can deal with it! What a concept!

In my past life, the first day would have sent me over the edge. I would have drunk that day and all the days following. I would have done anything to escape the reality of life – the frustration, the disappointment, the anxiety.

Now, I find myself able to walk through it. Instead of drinking and lashing out at everyone around me, I pray and I talk to God. I trust that He’s in control and that I will, despite doubting myself at times, be able to walk through the reality of life.

I’m not special; everyone has life smack them on the head once in a while. Maybe it’s a wake up call; something to help us realize just how good we have it. Because, really, most of us have it pretty damn good.

I’ve learned a lot throughout my sobriety, but I must say the greatest lesson I’ve learned is how to simply walk through life, trusting that God will lead me where I need to go.

What a relief!

TheBetterMom.com

Why Is Acceptance So Hard?

Acceptance

I’ve been struggling with acceptance lately. I’ve never been one of those people who can just say “Whatever!” to a situation or person and walk away. I want to understand the situation, or understand why someone is feeling or acting a certain way. I suppose I’ve always been sensitive to others reactions to me. And, of course, I always tend to think it’s my fault if they’re angry or upset.

The idea of acceptance was and continues to be a huge part of my recovery. Mainly, because the reaction I had to situations and my perceived notions about others often caused me to drink. In early recovery, I learned (and accepted) that my behavior had been totally self-centered.  Well, surprise! Your character defects (as we refer to them in recovery) don’t just go away once you get sober – you actually have to deal with them!

The truth is, I can be very self-centered at times. I obsess about how others react to me (or don’t react) and am positive I must be the main source of their discontentment or anger. And, as much as I want someone to change, to be a different person and act a different way, I have a very hard time accepting them as they are.

I’ve gotten better – way better since getting sober. But, I still struggle. I still want some people close to me to be a certain way – a way I know in my heart they will never be. I want them to say certain things, do certain things, ask certain things – things that will make ME feel better. Again, it usually comes back to me and how THEY are making ME feel.

For me, acceptance means accepting people and situations as they are right now – as God intends them to be. The only person I have power over is myself, and even that is very limited. As much as I would like to at times, I do not control the universe (which would be very scary!). Each day, I pray that I can be the best person God wants me to be. Nothing more, nothing less – just me.

Acceptance is hard – it’s really hard. But, through acceptance I have experienced a sense of peace and contentment that I have never known before. When I truly give it up to God, and say “Okay, this is not about me,” it gives me room to be the kind, loving and encouraging person I want to be.

And, most of all I accept this journey I’m on – this imperfect journey of acceptance.

Preparing Myself

Temptation

As I embark on this weekend, I’m preparing myself for two big events: 1) my first wedding sober and 2) our annual Easter celebration that I wrote about in my last post here.

This will be my second Easter sober, however, I’m still reminded of previous years where I used Easter (and all other holidays) as an excuse to drink as much as I could in a short amount of time. For some reason, I thought I needed it to cope, to have fun, to “survive.” It turns out, being sober made last year’s Easter celebration a lot more enjoyable – imagine that!

As for weddings, well, weddings and I have a long history – mostly a history of not remembering much. If there was ever an event that called (or more like begged) for drinking it was weddings. I mean heck, I got drunk for the first time when I was fourteen at my mom and stepdad’s wedding! I clearly remember the thrill and excitement of it, yet at the same time I remember my eighty-two year old grandmother helping me up the stairs and undressing me for bed. But, despite the shame and embarrassment the next morning, I loved it and I wanted more.

As I got older and my friends started getting married, weddings became all out parties – or at least they were for me! When I was single, I would find myself in questionable situations and after I got married, my husband would have to drag me (literally) out of the reception. Of course, it was always assumed that he would be the one driving and I would be the one passed out or throwing up in the passenger seat. Ironically, the only wedding I didn’t get drunk at was my own – go figure! Oh, and the one I attended while pregnant, but I’m sure I still managed to sneak a glass here and there. I mean, who could possibly imagine going to a wedding and not having ANYTHING to drink?!

To say that weddings bring up feelings of temptation is an understatement. Fortunately, we didn’t have any weddings last year, however, this year we’ve been invited to three. Tomorrow is the first of those three. To be honest, I’m not as anxious as I thought I would be, but I’m still doing the work in anticipation. I’ve gone to meetings this week, I’ve talked it over with my sponsor, I’ve done my readings and, most of all, I’ve been praying. I didn’t get sober on my own, and I know damn well I won’t stay sober on my own. I need God to help me and protect me, act as my armor if you will as I go into these situations.

Because that first drink is there, it’s always there waiting, tempting and calling my name.