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 small 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?

Continue reading “Achievement”
sober lifestyle

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”

sober lifestyle

Flexibility

I’ve never set foot in a studio or shown my face in a group class. I own one set of DVDs recorded in what looks like the mid-90s, one mud-stained, crumbling mat that’s at least 10 years old, and zero articles of Lululemon clothing. My “chair” pose is stiff like wicker and so painful that I’ve been known to say “f*ck off” to the sweet little instructor on the TV screen — or in my headphones — when she commands it. And my lack of grace while practicing on the wood floor in our living room can be heard throughout the house — “Hop your feet between your hands!” *BOOM* “Come up into airplane pose!” *CRASH* — so I’ve recently started taking it outside onto our deck.

Somehow, the deck is still standing. And I only have a few bruises. 😏

Sitting here today (at 2:30 AM on Sober Day #350), I would say yoga is currently my favorite form of exercise.

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sober lifestyle

Restraint

Not to brag or anything, but I saw a social media post that made my blood boil, and instead of going off in the comments, I threw my phone across the room onto the other couch and turned on the TV.

Then, someone from work pissed me off, and instead of firing an emotional retort into the group chat, I got up and stomped downstairs for a soda, grumbling profanely to myself as I went.

Later, I witnessed some bad behavior out in my local park, and instead of posting pictures of the offense in a public online forum along with a statement of outrage, I stopped in my tracks for a few moments and glowered at the mess, while grumbling profanely to myself, and kept on walking.

You guys, I really am learning to control how I react to the world, and it’s one of the greatest miracles of sobriety!

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sober lifestyle

Distraction

In a seeming show of solidarity with widespread social unrest, Mother Nature unleashed a storm earlier this week that was so intense it splintered, uprooted and felled large trees throughout my neighborhood. Our little pod of townhouses lost power for 24 hours.

All things considered, we got off easy, even though my husband and I had to scramble on Thursday morning to find somewhere to go that had electricity, WiFi, and allowed for safe social distancing so that we could do our jobs. HUGE shout-out to my generous and hospitable sister-in-law, who took in a couple of un-showered, laptop-toting hobos — one of whom desperately needed coffee — at her lovely home in Montgomery County.

Everything worked out in the end; it just took a little creativity.

Of course, to get to the other side of the power outage, I had to put myself through the old Wielgus Wringer of Worry, spending the latter part of Wednesday aimlessly pacing around the house or tossing and turning in bed or going out to the car to charge my phone and check my work email. All the while, my thoughts raced between the deliverables I had to get to a client in the morning and the 1,500-word content piece I was supposed to write — no way was I going to try doing that on a tiny iPhone screen! — and the food rapidly warming in the dead refrigerator, and the question of how I was going to get my coffee or attend my regular Zoom recovery meeting, or work out if there wasn’t enough warm water to wash off the sweat, and oh shit, I just did a load of towels and I can’t use the dryer! Continue reading “Distraction”

sober lifestyle

Eleven

My brain is always noisy, but for whatever reason — middle-aged hormones, current events, new Augusten Burroughs audiobooks (I finished “Running with Scissors” and currently am halfway through “Dry”) playing in my earphones nonstop during all non-sleeping hours — the constant clanging upstairs was particularly cacophonous this weekend, and I couldn’t focus long enough to decide on a topic, much less write a long, well-thought-out blog post.

Thus the screenshot. There really is a Simpsons reference for everything.

Anyway, I’m just popping in because I feel compelled to announce that as of today, I am 11 months sober. The dry-erase calendar in my kitchen now actually has “365” scrawled on it, at the very bottom, corresponding to July 6.

A year is within sight!!!

Recovery continues to be the most rewarding experience of my life, even if the last 3 months of it have passed mostly within the walls of my house. It’s bizarre to be feeling more stable, grateful and hopeful than I can personally remember feeling, when the world outside has never seemed more f*cked up, at least not in my time in it.

Continue reading “Eleven”