graduate school, sober lifestyle

Release

Just a few more steps until it’s 3 YEARS! 🥳

One of the many strange things about me is my schedule. For example, I consider it “running late” to arrive at my local high school track any time after 5:30AM on a weekend morning, and by that point, I’ve most likely been awake for at least two hours, doing school work and/or yoga while awaiting the daylight.

I don’t even want to tell you when I usually go to bed.

This past Saturday, there was already someone else at the track, jogging laps with a visible sweat ring around the neckline of their T-shirt, when I pulled up. Nothing wrong with that, except it prohibits me from engaging in other strange proclivities, such as singing out loud to my workout playlist as I run.

I’m back to doing that again — under the right circumstances — now that I’m 35 months sober.

I find myself belting out lyrics at the top of the hill at Tyler State (when the sun is just rising and it’s still deserted), or out on secluded patches of the Delaware Canal path (why does a biker always come out of nowhere when I think I’m alone and catch me, mid-bellow? 😫), and I wonder where all this lightheartedness is coming from.

Even “normal” behavior, like cranking up the stereo and carpool-karaoke-ing as I drive to class on Thursday nights, feels a little weird.

I’ve been holding a lot in, and a lot back, for a really long time. I mean, I always knew I could count on exercise to blow off steam. But strangely enough, when I quit drinking, it seemed like my other go-to source of healthy release just kind of shut down and closed off.

I went from singing everywhere I went to actively avoiding the radio, the old iPod (my prized possession for so many years), and the music app on my phone. I can’t really explain it; I think it had something to do with an inability to experience joy, or to tap into my joyful side, unless I was intoxicated. I associated joy with alcohol for so long, and sobriety put me in a kind of hyper-vigilant, protective mode where I thought if I let my guard down at all, I’d just fall to pieces.

Maybe someone out there understands what I mean. 🤷🏼‍♀️

I’m mercifully past that stage and on to other head-scratchers, such as bawling my eyes out when I see sparkling water commercials. Seriously; there’s this new one circulating where a bunch of friends are on the beach picnicking with cans of black cherry pomegranate-flavored San Pellegrino Essenza — a lovely booze-free beverage that has saved my life at many a party over the past (almost) three years — and the idea of happy people BEING SHOWN ON TV enjoying the summer WITHOUT ALCOHOL…well, it about made my heart explode.

In a good way. 😭

I actually cried again a few days ago when I started to re-watch “The Wire” in honor of its 20th anniversary. There’s a scene early in Season 1 where Bubbles goes to an NA meeting, as a detached skeptic, and ends up getting a 24-hour chip and a hug from Walon, his eventual recovery sponsor.

“Awww! My people!” I thought to myself in between chest-heaves, as my mind jumped back to the summer day in 2019 when I collected my first coin. 😭😭

Throwback to one of my earliest blog posts, published on July 27, 2019.

Speaking of sobbing…maybe if you are one of “my people,” you’ll get why I broke down the other day when I couldn’t find my wallet. After running around, scouring the house and both cars in a frantic frenzy, I had a meltdown when I finally discovered it hiding on the couch under a blanket.

That terrible feeling of dread/fear/guilt, not knowing where your shit is, not remembering what you did with it, or with yourself, and desperately wanting to fix it but having no idea how, is something every addict knows all too well.

So, the lost wallet triggered me, big-time; in that quick burst of short-lived panic, I re-lived every awful moment of hung-over self-hatred.

The relief of finding what was lost, of realizing that everything was — is — all right…I’m not sure there is anything sweeter. 😭😭😭

Speaking of sweet…these were my hubby’s way of marking my 35-month milestone.

This was initially intended as a celebratory post to honor an anniversary, and I’m sitting here wiping tears off my phone screen! But hey, it’s been a long time since I visited this space, and I’ve had a lot of shit bottled up. Blogging is another form of healthy release, and I’m just 🤮…letting it all out.

And while I’m am it, not gonna lie, grad school has been a little nuts. My program makes you take six full credits in six weeks during the summer session, which means double the normal weekly workload — at least — plus a bunch of final projects and papers that are all due on the last day of June. The subject matter is heavy, too. I’m on the Social Justice Advocacy track, and we’re immersing ourselves in the evil institutions of oppression, from racism to classism to sexism to ableism, and un-learning so much of what we thought we knew, while constantly being told: It’s not enough to focus on helping individual people; you’re responsible for changing the world! Meanwhile…*gestures to everything* the world has never seemed more completely, irredeemably f*cked up. 🙈

I might have overcome some of my self-protective hang-ups in sobriety, but feeling like it’s safe to sing when you’re alone in the woods is a little different than feeling equipped to “fight the power.” To be honest, I’ve found myself wondering from time to time, “What the hell have I gotten myself into — besides thousands of dollars of student loan debt?” If I can’t watch a TV commercial without bawling, or sit through one four-hour Social Justice class without wanting to tear out my hair, or flip through Twitter without feeling like hiding under a rock for the rest of my life, how on Earth will I make it even one day as a legit professional mental health counselor?

Thank goodness I have this right outside my front door, or I don’t even know how I would cope:

I should’ve expected that a dramatic career change, and all the learning and growing that goes along with it, would be intense and uncomfortable. I couldn’t have known how discombobulating it would be to, on the one hand, be coming into my own as a woman in long-term recovery and finally getting to a point where I don’t have to feel guilty or sorry about every little thing, while on the other hand confronting all the unearned privileges I’ve lived with for 44 years, and all the systems of injustice I’ve been oblivious to and unwittingly participated in.

It’s like, a whole other load of reasons to feel guilty and sorry, and trying to “fix it” seems way more overwhelming than quitting drinking ever did.

It’s a tough process to go through, for sure, but I guess this is what you get when you finally pull your head out of your ass and start paying attention to what’s going on around you! This is what it feels like to be awake, alert, aware, and accountable! This is what they mean when they talk about growing pains, and it’s exactly the reason that people cling to their addictions and resist/put off getting clean.

Creating a whole new life is not supposed to be comfortable. My compulsion to curl into a self-protective cocoon and never come out is both very natural and extremely dangerous; it’s what led me down the path of addiction, and no matter how much sober time I get under my belt, it can lead me right back there…if I let it.

Some of the wiser words printed in the opening credits of “The Wire.” It’s helpful for me to remember that even with almost three years between me and my last drink, one bad choice could make it all go to 💩.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of healthy release in my recovery process, and whether or not this long, rambling post made any sense, it was sorely needed and immeasurably helpful. And now, holy crap, I really have to go! I’ve been writing for four hours, it’s 5:24AM and already light out, and I’m not even dressed for my workout. 😱🏃‍♀️💨

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