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sober lifestyle

Reaction

My job title right now is “Content Marketing Manager,” and although it seems like I’m barely scraping by just trying to manage myself, working for five different brands under one company umbrella, with a skeleton staff — and did I mention I’m the only copywriter? — I’ve been tasked with running a weekly Google Meet with the entire marketing team. On this call, we discuss the myriad visual and written content needed for various projects and campaigns.

Every project and campaign needs content — what is marketing without content? — so there’s a lot to talk about.

Being prone to nervous chatter and anxiety-fueled tangents, not to mention corny jokes, I don’t usually help keep it short and/or sweet.

The other day, I went a little further off the rails than usual.

We were discussing one particularly daunting challenge, and someone suggested we’d all get through it just fine, “but we’re going to need a lot of wine!”

Laughter ensued.

Some of us don’t drink, so that’s probably not going to help,” I fired back.

Laughter stopped.

All sound stopped.

“OK, moving on…” I scrolled my shared screen to the next item on the agenda, thinking, “Great job, Jen; you did it again.” 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Humility

Humility is perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted, or vexed, or irritated, or sore, or disappointed.

It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised.

It is to have a blessed home in myself, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and be at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is troubled.

Canon T.T. Carter

When I heard someone quote this passage in a recovery meeting, my ears perked and my curiosity was piqued. Humility, I always thought, meant meekness. Submissiveness. Devaluing yourself.

This definition? #LifeGoals.

I think these words belong in a frame right above my work station. Or tattooed on my inner forearm where I can look at them every time I feel fretted, vexed, irritated…basically, all day every day.

Of course, Canon Carter doesn’t really explain how to achieve this calm state of quiet-heartedness. I’m guessing it’s prayer and meditation. It’s always prayer and meditation.

It’s always the stuff that seems impossible to a busy-brained worrywart who’s basically addicted to background noise.

Example: I regularly do yoga in my living room with the TV on, unmuted. And we’re talking, like, crime investigation shows full of evil and death. 😳

No matter how you define humility, I’m really not it. I mean, self-worth has always been a huge struggle for me, so I’m certainly not walking around with a cocky swagger. I’ve always been afraid to initiate social interactions and have never learned how to take a compliment.

Actual conversation in my house:

Hubby: “I love you.”

Me: “Even though [insert character defect or personal failing here]?”

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Recollection

So many of my bad memories started just like this…

Sitting in one of my very first recovery meetings last summer, I heard people talk about all the mysterious injuries they would wake up with after a night of heavy drinking — unexplained bumps and bruises, dried blood caked here or there, broken digits and the like — and I thought to myself, “Not me! I never hurt myself while drunk!”

Many months later, WHAM! The memory burst into my brain, like a 160-pound human body from a higher row, suddenly toppling on the backs of unsuspecting concertgoers, then slamming into the hard stone amphitheater stairs at their feet.

In case you hadn’t guessed, the uninvited crowd surfer in that scenario was me, six summers ago, “celebrating” my wedding anniversary at the Interpol show at Penn’s Landing after pounding sakis at my hubby’s and my favorite sushi restaurant, then guzzling who-knows-how-many $12 hard ciders from vendors at the venue.

I’ve attached a “BEFORE” photo from that night. Didn’t think you’d keep reading if I chose the “AFTER.”

My shins ended up looking like ground meat after my unfortunate booze-fueled tumbling act, and the (untreated) trauma to my lower extremities was so severe I basically crawled through our subsequent Hawaiian vacation — where, as I’ve recounted in previous posts, I went on to take several more spills while soused. I couldn’t walk normally for like a month. I nearly had to pull out of a half marathon that November.

But no, I never got injured in the throes of alcoholism! 🙄

Tequila Sunrise-to-Sunset…would be an apt tagline for our entire 2015 trip to Hawaii. 🥴

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Resolution

How many licks does it take to completely blow up your healthy diet? Far too few, I’m finding.

True story: Staying sober during the pandemic has been easier for me than staying in shape.

I mean, thanks to my amazing husband keeping our house booze-free (I can’t in good conscience say “dry” when I’m dragging three recycling bins full of empty diet soda and sparkling water conveyances to the curb every Tuesday), I’ve had the safe environment I need to reach the 18-month recovery milestone, then tack on an additional 12 days (and counting).

However, when it comes to diet and fitness, another huge health priority in my life, I’m afraid I’m no longer earning a passing grade.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but it might take a formal declaration of renunciation — made “publicly,” here on the internet — to get me to stop eating candy canes and mini Tootsie pops for lunch every day.

I told the hubby to stop buying these things, too, but the man has as much trouble resisting grocery store markdowns and buy-in-bulk deals (did you SEE the bag in the above picture?) as I do mood-altering substances.

I certainly can’t judge him. Whatever spikes your dopamine! We all have our addictions! And don’t they all seem a little more potent around the holidays, whether we’re out partying with friends and family or cooped up at home in “social distancing” mode?

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Enjoyment

One way I tried to feel close to home this holiday season was to tune in to “The Score,” my go-to Chicago sports radio station, via an app on my phone. I listened on my daily walks through the neighborhood, gritting my teeth through the copious commercials — Radio.com has replaced its ear-wormy Kars4Kids ads with repetitive plugs for some Astros scandal podcast 🙉 — in order to hear host Dan Bernstein and guests break down the Bears’ big make-or-break matchup with the Packers in today’s regular-season finale.

They touched on other topics, but the resident NFL football team and its many flaws, particularly its beleaguered GM, coaching staff and quarterback, dominated the discussion.

I’ve been thinking about something that was said for the past several days.

A guy wrote in to Bernstein’s show, taking to task all the Bears fans who actively root for failure in this Packers game because they want to blow up the team and start over. The thinking is, by getting beat and thus missing the playoffs, Bears ownership will have no choice but to make a change — fire Ryan Pace, axe Matt Nagy, end the Mitch Trubisky era once and for all…in other words, get rid of everyone responsible for these past two subpar seasons. You know how this stuff goes. It’s par for the pro sports course.

So, this guy wrote in to “The Score” to scold all the city’s Negative Nellies. His letter said, and I’m paraphrasing here: “If you can’t enjoy what you have in the moment, with your team in a position to beat a hated rival (at least in theory) and extend its season/get one step closer to the Super Bowl, simply because the team/franchise is imperfect, you need to turn in your sports fan card and find another hobby.”

Such wisdom! From a sports radio listener! 😳

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Milestone

The wind always blows straight into your face on the far side of the track at Honesdale High School, and what I can best describe as unwelcome resistance on a warm day becomes, in the winter, a good reason to stay in bed.

When I pulled up to the snow-swept track on the morning after Christmas, the car’s built-in thermostat read 14 degrees.

I had driven up there reluctantly, and groggily, leaving my husband cozy and warm under the covers in the guest room of his parents’ house. It was nearly 8 AM, and the sun was up, making this an unusually late start for me; however, without my usual high-octane pre-workout drink (I forgot to pack it) and a belly that still felt full of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, apple pie and “moose tracks” ice cream (I took the holiday off from my gluten-free diet), it had taken quite a bit of self-coaxing — maybe more like self-flagellation — to get up, get bundled up, and get my ass out the door.

My preferred form of exercise these days is running, and although conditions never seem 100% ideal, and sometimes seem downright hostile, I’ve managed to make a habit of it.

“It” amounts to around 20-30 minutes of movement, three or four times a week, and if you asked me how far I go on a typical day, I could only venture a rough guess. It’s not quite enough to consider myself “a runner,” or to make a significant dent in my level of fitness, or even to burn off all the calories I’ve consumed over the course of this celebratory (read: incredibly lazy) month.

But “it” is something. And once I clear that initial motivational hurdle and start moving, it’s something I always enjoy. Fresh air is life-affirming, even when it’s so cold it numbs your face, and any time spent out in nature feels like sweet freedom, when you’ve spent the bulk of your year cooped up in the same eight-room townhouse.

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Necessity

In addition to celebrating Christmas this week, I will also be marking my 18th full month of continuous sobriety. That’s 1 1/2 years, alcohol-free.

Forgive my presumptuousness in writing about this now, when Day 540 isn’t until Sunday, and technically, I won’t have officially cleared the milestone until Monday. But I’m sure you can understand my heightened (desperate?) need to have something special to look forward to and get excited about, in a year that has seemed like an endless barrage of bad news.

I think you’ll agree, an addict finding the strength to stay sober — and actually learning to love the sober lifestyle — in any year is cause for celebration and a pretty good excuse to be excited. Maybe the topsy-turvy trajectory of 2020 adds a little extra oomph to that equation? I don’t know.

For my husband and me, things here in 2020 could be a whole lot worse. We both have jobs (as of this moment), and we’re taking long-awaited vacation time through the new year, and while we’re not “doing anything special,” as you can see from the attached picture, we don’t mind spending time together at home.

No, we won’t be traveling to Chicago to see my family for the holidays, due to COVID concerns, but as I sit here, that family is alive and well and still as wonderful as it has ever been. Maybe moreso, considering that my nieces and nephew are growing like weeds, developing personalities and senses of humor, playing full songs on trumpets and pianos…it’s all so incredible!

We will be visiting my in-laws this weekend, in their cozy home in Northeastern PA, where I have felt welcome and loved since Hubby first brought me there to “meet the parents” nearly two decades ago. We will relax, exchange gifts, eat turkey and fixin’s, drink enough San Pellegrino to flood the town…

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Anesthesia

Getting wheeled out of Holy Redeemer with a clean bill of health…and, for at least another hour, a clean colon. 😉

When they woke me up, with a gentle “You’re done!”, I understood exactly what “done” meant, and I was instantly filled with joy. This was like rising from a nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon and knowing you have, like, Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge for dinner. 😋 Or that it’s the one special Sunday in the month that you and your hubby “splurge” and order Jules Thin Crust pizza. 😋😋

“You guys weren’t kidding!” I said brightly to my colonoscopy team, before even rolling from my side to my back. “That anesthesia works GREAT!”

Yes, part of my joy came from visions of solid food after more than 24 hours of…you don’t wanna know 🤢, but a larger part came from the sweet, sweet mixture of propofol and lidocaine coursing through my veins.

I’m no expert; I’m just telling you what was explained to me in the obligatory pre-sedation consultation. These are the drugs administered before your gastroenterologist sticks a tiny camera into your intestines and looks around for 20 minutes, searching for potentially problematic polyps or any abnormalities that might explain the awful digestive issues you’ve been experiencing for more than 10 years.

I should probably break in here to say, I’m extra joyful because no polyps were found during my procedure. I do not have colon cancer. Now, what the hell is actually going on with my temperamental, often cranky gut remains a bit of a mystery — not that you asked, but the doctor said I have an unusually long, or “redundant” colon that could, in concert with stressors in my everyday life, be making me miserable, and I should resume taking my IBS medication and call him in three months.

But, like I said, no colon cancer. Time to eat!!! 🍕🍕🍕

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