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sober lifestyle

Society

This week, I got a real-life Dundie (digital certificate standing in for cheap trophy) and was given “the floor” for the first 10 minutes of our weekly team teleconference. My new coworkers wanted me to highlight five fun facts about myself.

😳!

Mind ➡️ blank. I mean, other than my 397 days of sobriety, the personal revelations I’ve made in the past year through therapy/recovery, and the prescription for a new mood stabilizer that’s currently waiting for me at CVS 😬, I couldn’t think of anything “fun” — or, really, anything factual that wouldn’t result in excruciating awkward silence and immediately cement my role as Office Outcast after just one month on the job.

Heck, I’d already, unapologetically, blew off their Virtual Happy Hour invite a couple weeks ago. And believe it or not, as much as I’ve always loved the loner’s life, I don’t go around actively trying to be antisocial.

So, I pulled out the old standby.

“I was at Game 7 of the World Series in 2016 and got a ‘W’ flag tattoo to celebrate the Cubs winning, even though I’m really scared of needles and blood and pretty much anything…um, biological,” I blurted out…to a group comprised of 80 percent Bulgarian residents and 0 percent Midwesterners, by the way… “I also played Division I college softball, and even though I was a pitcher, I literally cannot throw a slow-pitch pitch over the plate to SAVE MY LIFE. …Weird, right?”

*30, maybe 40 seconds pass with no sound*

“Does anyone like the show ‘Better Call Saul,’ because I just started rewatching it on Netflix and I can’t believe how the characters drink beer or tequila like every day and never get hangovers or end up with weight or digestive issues or DUIs!!”

Continue reading “Society”
sober lifestyle

Expansion

What to say about the sky? I haven’t really known, so thus far, I’ve let my pictures do the talking.

The above was taken just a few hours ago in one of my favorite places on Earth: the top of the big hill on the main road into/out of Tyler State Park. The huge expanse of unobstructed, endless openness that greets you when you’ve hoofed your way up that steep incline has an effect that I can only describe as spiritual. Transcendent. Other-worldly. I’d say that the view “takes your breath away,” but unless you’re a world-class athlete, you don’t have much left to lose after completing the climb.

Today’s humid, stagnant morning air had me wheezing even more than usual.

Physically, right now, I’m not…shall we say…in great shape. At 13 months sober, walks in the park are my go-to form of exercise (when I do ramp it up to running, I head to the all-flat canal path). And at 42 years old, with a sedentary job and an increasing affinity for big meals, long naps, audiobooks and Netflix crime-show rabbit holes, I’ve…shall we say…lost some leanness from my old CrossFitting, strict-eating days.

Pre-Climb Selfie on Day 391
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sober lifestyle

Medication

Probably the saddest storyline I’ve ever watched play out on a TV show — and I mean, even worse than the tragic Adriana arc in “The Sopranos” and what happened to poor little Randy in Season 4 of “The Wire” — followed Wendy Byrde’s bipolar brother Ben in the Netflix series “Ozark.”

So, it probably wasn’t a great idea to watch his final few episodes on my wedding anniversary earlier this week. Just what my husband wanted to see when he came downstairs from the work day was his beloved wife wrapped in a blanket, swollen-faced and sobbing on the couch.

(He usually finds me in such amorous poses as “face buried in a salad bowl,” or “asleep and drooling,” wearing come-hither house coats and pajama pants, if you’re looking for the secret to our successful 13 years.) 🤣

“Ozark” is one of Hubby’s and my shared obsessions of late. I won’t bore you with a whole long character study of Ben, whose severe mental illness became a major plot point and whose decision to go off his meds — side effect: impotence — ultimately precipitated his devastating downfall. But his story touched me deeply, especially since I’m in the process of (possibly) procuring medication for my own mental health struggles.

After months and months…OK, years of talking about it, I finally made an appointment with a new psychiatrist in early August.

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Transition

One day earlier this week, I was so wrapped up in trying to get a handle on my new job that I burned my dinner to a crisp.

Throwing chicken on the stove to cook, then getting distracted and completely forgetting about it is something I used to do all the time when I was drinking — no fires OR DUIs in 20 years…miraculous 🙏🏻 — and yet here I am, at 370-some days sober, up to the same dumb tricks.

I thought I’d hit a year and experience a mental metamorphosis. I’d even heard people talk about “the fog lifting” at their 1-year mark, and I’d come to expect the same. So how is it that I feel foggier now? How is it that I wake up with headaches, when I long ago traded in my tumblers of tequila for copious coffee, energy drinks and diet soda?

OK, so I know the answer to that. Hydrate properly or get hangovers; this is a fact of life for alcoholics, teetotalers and “normies” alike.

And while we’re on the subject of Wisdom We’re Currently Ignoring, they caution recovering addicts not to make any major life changes in the first year of sobriety. Well, duh! How did I not see it coming, that leaving a relatively stable, structured worker-bee role at a small agency for a leadership position at an international multi-brand company with more moving parts than I can calculate — much less comprehend — at this juncture, when skyrocketing anxiety issues have been my biggest struggle in recovery so far, by far…might be a potential trigger?

Just reading my own rambling words right now, I’m like, “Wow! This chick is NUTS!”

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sober lifestyle

Achievement

This week’s traditional Sunday walk took me through my literal old stomping grounds, from my parents’ house down to the Morton Grove Forest Preserve, where I snapped the attached picture to mark the dawn of Day 365. Along the way, I passed my former elementary school and the park across the street, which together made up the “small pond” for the “big fish” I was as a child.

My name is on a plaque in the main school hallway, as the 1992 female American Legion Award winner, which basically cemented my status as an eighth-grade achiever. I didn’t make the record board in the big gym, which was reserved for the fastest shuttle-runners and longest flexed-arm-hangers, but I did make a graduation speech themed “Be Your Own Person” in that high-ceilinged, yellow-tinted room. I stood in front of the whole student body and botched the word “wreckage” in the spelling bee finals. I sang a solo at an all-school concert (the intro to “Show Me The Way” by Styx 😂). I discovered the power of my right arm by smashing overhand volleyball serves into many an unsuspecting opposing player (and occasionally the opposite wall.) I finished third overall in our co-ed gym class mile run, wearing basic canvas Keds… 😂 😂

I think you get the point. I “achieved” a lot of stuff when I was younger that doesn’t matter anymore — if it ever did.

My life now is nothing like I thought it would be back then.

At 42, I return to my hometown a recovering alcoholic in the middle of a career transition — this is like my fifth since leaving Illinois in the spring of 2000 for a newspaper job in Georgia, and the entry-level marketing job I just left paid less than that one did.

I don’t say any of that to poor-mouth my journey; in fact, I’m proud of my ability — or at least my willingness — to start from scratch and reinvent myself when the path I’m on isn’t working, or appears to be careening off a cliff. I’ll have one full year of sobriety after today, then one day to bask in that tremendous achievement before another set of professional challenges smacks me in the face on Tuesday morning.

Reflecting on my first sober “birthday,” hanging here in a hammock under a tree in my sister’s yard, after an emotional week and an up-and-down year, I feel utterly exhausted. I feel relaxed. I feel very warm (hello, Chicago heat wave.) I also feel a little…let down?

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Opportunity

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Today is special for so many reasons that my brain feels too full to focus. Which is kind of  frustrating, considering I spend so much time during the week thinking of topics I want to tackle in this space (see: 12 unfinished drafts saved in my WordPress account), and then when the time comes to sit down and write, it’s like the freaking county fair up in my head.

Maybe more like Lollapalooza, which was a crowded, distraction-filled event I actually enjoyed. Death Cab was one of the headliners. Grant Park was hot and muddy but still gorgeous. We flew out for the weekend. Had to miss Wilco on Sunday night for our flight back to Philly…

Geez. Point proven, I guess. I’ve got a lot going on, in addition to having adult-onset ADD. 🤯

Today is my nephew’s second birthday, and on his first — so, a year ago today — I finally made the decision to stop drinking. The above picture comes from the previous day, our family trip to Wrigley Field, and it kind of saddens me that the only pictures I have with Jackson make me instantly think, “You were drunk.” At the same time I think, “Jackson will never know me as a drunk,” and I instantly feel better.

We’re planning to drive out to Chicago and see the big boy, and all my other cherished loved ones, over the 4th of July weekend.

By that point, I will have moved on from my old job in order to take a new job, which is another thing I am celebrating today. This opportunity basically fell from the sky, which is both scary as shit and exciting beyond words, but at the same time, it figures. The universe has opened up in an amazing way since I got sober, and it’s been pouring so many blessings on my head that I’ve started to lose track of just how good my life, on Day 357, really is.

Maybe it’s all hitting me now, and that’s why I’m feeling overwhelmed. Continue reading “Opportunity”