sober lifestyle

Apathy

Source: @anxiety_wellbeing

No offense to the lovely and not-at-all-annoying humans in my orbit, but one of the best decisions I ever made was to “clean up” my Instagram feed so it includes only psychology, sobriety, mental health and therapy-related content.

Now, when I’m strapped into the struggle bus for what feels like a never-ending, monotonous ride, scrolling on my phone can be an effective way to self-soothe. It actually lifts my spirits when I come across posts like these 👀⬆️⬇️ and relate to them on a deep level.

All these ubiquitous, faceless accounts with underscore-heavy handles really get me! I am not alone!

Source: @global_mental_health_support
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sober lifestyle

Interview

On Thursday afternoon, I got dressed up — it might be more accurate to just say “got dressed” — and drove up to Quakertown for my first counseling job interview.

It’s actually an unpaid, 100-hour “practicum,” and it doesn’t start until next spring, during my second year of grad school. But, you know what I always say: “You’re never too early!”

I usually say this while sitting in my running car, parked outside the place I’m supposed to be going, with at least a half hour to kill because I gave myself 90 minutes for a 45-minute trip. 🙄 I say it right before I anxiously start snapping selfies (see above) because I don’t know what else to do with my idle hands. 🤣

My new mantra should really be “You’re never too late.” I mean, I turned 44 a week ago, and here I am, back in school and interviewing for internships in a brand new field. I’m in the midst of my third career transition in the past four years.

You might think this is a sign that something in my life has gone terribly wrong, but quite honestly, I feel like pinching myself. I can’t believe how very right everything feels with the world at this moment.

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sober lifestyle

Rebirth

Miss this man and his philosophies. 😢

It’s my shtick. I’ve told pretty much everyone I’ve met in the past four-plus decades that I was born on Opening Day 1978 — often adding “a Cubs loss,” with exaggerated exasperation — as if that makes me a special brand of baseball fan.

I fancied myself exactly that for most of my life.

As a kid growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, in a house where Cubs baseball was (*Pat Hughes voice*) on the air, every afternoon from early April through…well, back then, it would’ve been the official drop-dead end of the regular season…sports fandom was like comfort food. It was a soothing distraction from childhood angst. It was also a pathway to social acceptance; being crazy about the Cubs gave me something in common with my dad, and a conversation starter to help me relate to my classmates.

Well, in reality, my wearing oversized polyester Ron Santo and Mark Grace jerseys mostly just gave fickle frontrunners/pubescent poseurs a great excuse to yell “Cubs suck!” at recess.

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sober lifestyle

Program

Source: @selfcareexpress

I was a few weeks sober and sitting across the table from the near-stranger I had asked to be my AA sponsor. It was our first official meeting, and we’d just finished reading a chapter from The Big Book when I decided to tell her about my blog.

“I’ve been writing about this whole experience on my personal website, and I’d love for you to take a look!” I said excitedly, as I ripped a page out of my notebook and began scribbling the address.

She held her hand up, palm out. 🖐🏻 A stop sign. 🛑 A rejection, from an authority figure. 🙅🏻‍♀️ My worst nightmare! 😱

Her words were stern and humorless: “I’m not going to go on your blog.”

She was concerned, she said, because I was breaking anonymity and putting personality over principles, and even potentially harming “The Program,” because what if I relapsed? Then all the people reading the blog would think AA didn’t work!

I was confused, hurt, pissed off and put off, for several reasons — one being, her admonition stunk of groupthink, or cult-speak, and I’m pretty much allergic to all that. But I filed my feelings away and stayed the 12-step course, for two full years. Meanwhile, I never stopped writing my little heart out, every single week.

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sober lifestyle

Application

Yeah, so, basically, I wrote a blog post to get into graduate school. Sat down one day, poured my whole heart and spilled a few guts into a Google Doc, then hit “download” and shipped off my application without even showing it to anyone first.

This has been my M.O., in relating to others, for most of my life: Overshare now, ask questions later. Tell ’em how you really feel, and let the chips fall where they may! If they don’t appreciate your authenticity, it wasn’t meant to be/you don’t want to associate with them, anyway! So there!

What really sucks is being like that but also needing a job and realizing, the hard way, that intense passion and professionalism sometimes don’t mix. Sometimes (*grits teeth*), you have to stop being so stubbornly set in your ways and consider what’s “socially acceptable.” You have to compromise for the sake of a paycheck.

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sober lifestyle

Preference

Sitting in the car in the parking lot of Washington Crossing Park, basking in the glorious — dare I say, addictive? — post-run euphoria, I finished saving the above collage to my camera roll and looked up to see the first drop of rain plop onto the windshield. Another kind of rush ran through my body: that pleased-with-yourself feeling you get when a gamble pays off.

Can you see the smug satisfaction in that selfie? I promise it’s there. 🧐

Not that running in the rain is terrible, but if you’ve visited the Delaware Canal lately when it’s thawed out and muddy as 🤬, you understand my desire to get up early and beat Sunday’s warm, wet weather forecast.

I had no trouble putting my custom Nikes on the path before 7AM. Amid my recent struggles with mental and physical health, running has been my go-to mood booster, and I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do to celebrate 32 months of continuous sobriety.

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sober lifestyle

Tolerance

Not to brag, but in the span of two weeks, I handled a dental drill to the mouth AND a tattoo needle to the arm without having a complete nervous breakdown. I didn’t even cry! I mean, I’m still kind of sore from the full-body tense-up I held for an hour at a time, and my hands are still stuck in a bit of a claw from death-gripping the chair arms/table sides…but all in all, I did good.

If you want to go back a month to the date of my COVID booster shot, you can even add a drama-free injection to my big-girl resume.

I proudly texted my friend earlier this month, upon returning home from getting inked for the third time (see above: two wolves on left tricep), that my pain tolerance had finally reached adult levels. 💪🏻

I’m a couple months shy of 44. 🤷🏼‍♀️

It only took a few decades of downward-spiraling into in an alcohol addiction, and 31 action-packed months of sobriety, but I’m starting to get the hang of facing my fears — and feelings — without my old favorite security blanket.

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sober lifestyle

Reinforcement

“If I want to stay married, I’ve got to stay quit.”

The words shot out of my mouth like a knee-jerk reaction. No idea where they came from. But that’s what I said to the new chiropractor I visited yesterday when the topic of alcohol came up.

I’m not exactly sure how my “NO” writ large on the intake form turned into a conversation — do all back specialists ask new patients if they smoke and drink? This one did! — but somehow, I learned that this guy had given up booze for three years and “hated it,” so he “picked up” again. He assured me he was “good now” with alcohol back in his life.

My quick comeback surprised me. Even after 2 1/2 years sober, I’m still quite green when it comes to discussions of drinking in social situations. I’m unpracticed in talking about alcohol anywhere outside the safe bubble of recovery meetings, family gatherings, therapy sessions or grad school classes.

And yet, what I said was perfect. Succinct, 100% accurate, but not overly revealing. I thought about the entire experience on the way home from the appointment — one of many to come as I try to take care of an out-of-whack SI joint that’s making my life miserable — and my mind wiggled down a rabbit hole.

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