sober lifestyle

Momentum

Everything has felt incredibly heavy over the past few weeks: my entire body, the summer air, the constant drag of depression, the side effects of my second COVID shot (before you even ask: Pfizer), the looming responsibilities of attending — and paying for — grad school while working full time…

Lugging all that shit very slowly up a hill at Tyler State Park at 5AM on a Wednesday — less than 10 minutes in, my drenched clothes were like sandbags weighing me down even more — I started to crack.

It began as a guttural groan, like a mortally wounded animal crawling off to die, and crescendoed into a primal scream.

“OH MY GOD YOU’RE SO F*CKING FAT!!!”

😳

Of course, the sane part of me knows that verbally abusing oneself out loud in a public park not only doesn’t provide the satisfying release one seeks from abject misery, but it also drains additional energy from an already sputtering engine. Still, I yelled my putdowns and profanities, searing rage flying off me with every splash of sweat as I lumbered along my typical 30-minute jogging route.

I guess the key takeaway from this charming anecdote is that I kept going. I did not stop “running,” or give up and go home early, or throw myself into Neshaminy Creek hoping to float away forever — don’t think I haven’t contemplated that — and when my disgusting, dripping slab of meat finally burst back through the door into the air-conditioned entryway, creating an instant puddle on the wood floor, I felt a little better.

And that, friends, perfectly sums up my entire second year of sobriety. Well, the first 359 days of it. I still have one week to go. 😬

Continue reading “Momentum”
sober lifestyle

Calculation

For our first “date night” of the summer, my husband and I dove headfirst into the deep end of post-COVID reality, crawling through stop-and-go traffic down I-95 to Citizens Bank Park for last Sunday’s full-capacity Phillies-Yankees game.

On the drive to the stadium, we discussed how nice it was not to have a dog in the fight.

You see, the last time we were here, back in August of 2019, we came to see the Cubs…who rewarded our loyalty by blowing a 5-run lead and serving up a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper. 🤨

It was at that game that I first tried keeping score as a sobriety strategy — a hands-busying distraction from all the alcohol swirling around me — and it worked so well on Day 40 that I went back to it on Day 708.

Continue reading “Calculation”
sober lifestyle

Rewards

My husband and I booked an ocean-view suite on the “concierge floor” of a quirky old Victorian hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for a brief weekend getaway to celebrate my new job. The accommodations came with a list of perks, and the friendly young man in the suit who greeted us in the lobby (I think he was the actual concierge) was eager to tell us about them as he chaperoned us to our room.

I got distracted staring out the glass elevator shaft at the Atlantic, so I didn’t hear most of what he said. But I snapped back to attention when he pulled a pair of coupons out of his pocket.

“…and as a welcome gift, we’re happy to offer you BOTH complimentary alcoholic beverages at the bar!”

I burst out laughing. An inappropriate reaction, but I couldn’t help myself. It was like some internal pressure relief valve opened, and all the nervous energy and anxious tension I’d felt building up in my body throughout our three-hour drive came gushing out. And of course, because it’s me, this happened in the most awkward way possible.

The guy must’ve been used to all kinds of weirdness, because he barely missed a beat. “Orrrr…” he said, “if one of you doesn’t drink, it’s two drinks for the other person!”

“Thanks,” Hubby replied, taking the vouchers and handing the guy an obligatory tip as the elevator dinged and I dashed, still giggling, out the door down the hallway.

Nearly two years sober, and he still can’t take me anywhere.

Continue reading “Rewards”
sober lifestyle

Confidence

Covering one of my first stories as a one-woman videography band: the opening of Cole & Heidi Hamels’ charity headquarters on Philly’s Main Line. I ended up doing that video reporting job for six years (2012-2018)…and eventually learned to actually look at the camera. 🙈

There are dense clumps of cobwebs stretched across my memory banks, particularly in the pre-2019 era, so I can’t recall the exact details of the day when I officially became a video reporter.

In my head, it went something like this:

“We’re shutting down phillyBurbs.com [where you’ve worked as an online content writer for the past four years]; either take this camcorder and go shoot high school sports stories [which you’ve never, ever, ever done before] for the newspaper’s revamped website, or…seeya!”

I took the camcorder. That was 2012, and, by my calculations, it marked Major Life Change #4 for a young print journalism major from suburban Chicago.

Today, I’m on the threshold of #8.

Does that mean I have only one life left? 🙀

If everything goes according to plan (🤞🏻🤞🏻) that’s all I will need to reach my ultimate goal.

Continue reading “Confidence”
sober lifestyle

Worthiness

Someone from another life sent me this picture several years ago, and in case you need help understanding why, I’ve drawn you a big red blob.

It’s very possible I’m the one who needs help.

I mean, I was the one who took the very flattering label of “Most Athletic” female — in a senior class of about 500 total kids — and internalized it to the point where it completely defined my identity. This process started long before the (Niles, IL) West Word staff assigned their 1996 Senior Superlatives; I was probably 8 years old (and going by Jenny Wielgus) when I smacked my first home run in coach-pitch softball, and, based on the reaction of the parents in the crowd, instantly decided that sports were MY THING. From that point on, I was convinced my purpose in life was to be a top athlete, and that my worth as a person was inextricably tied to my performance on the field/court.

To be “good” at all, I had to be better than everyone else. Not that those were my explicit thoughts…but sadly, looking back after a lifetime trapped in a “fixed mindset,” that’s really what my belief system came down to.

And then, I walked on to a Big Ten softball team, and WHAMMO!

Literally. 🥎💥🤯

Continue reading “Worthiness”
sober lifestyle

Comparison

One of my favorite parts of recovery is suddenly remembering embarrassing shit I used to do when I was drinking, and then dramatically clapping my hands together in a prayer pose and jerking my head skyward to thank heaven I don’t do it anymore. Sometimes, I even cry tears of joy.

The feeling of relief really does hit that deep. 🙏🏻

Unfortunately, there are also moments when comparing “Old Me” to “New Me” steals joy, rather than inspires it (see above TR quote.)

Those moments almost always have to do with my body and level of fitness.

“You really let yourself go,” I’ll think to myself as I hold a yoga pose, head bent over one of my legs and eyes pointing straight at my upper thigh. My mind will flash back to my CrossFit days, and I’ll start thinking how much slower and softer and lazier I’ve become. The old inner critic starts whispering: Who I am now is not enough…

Continue reading “Comparison”
sober lifestyle

Courage

As soon as I marked the third out on my scoresheet and the teams on the field started their transition from top to bottom of the ninth, I booked, hurrying down the narrow metal walkway from the press box, through the stands, to the big chain-link gate down the right-field line. I positioned my hands on the latch — I’d been scolded by the grounds crew for actually opening the thing before the game was over — and stood at attention, heart pounding. Ready to pounce.

I must have looked like a crazy person. I mean, I pretty much was. The fear of having to walk into a clubhouse full of naked men after the game to do interviews was so strong it snapped me into ‘fight or flight’ survival mode around 10:30PM every night. I was more scared, cornered animal than 22-year-old reporter with a job to do.

What was I so 🤬-ing scared of? Ah, the central question of my existence! And the best answer I’ve been able to come up with as I’ve looked back over my life: I always craved safety and security, and, being prone to extremes, I pretty much viewed any discomfort as a fate worse than death.

Thus, avoiding discomfort became my primary purpose over the course of 40+ years.

In the 20 I spent as a journalist, post-game interviews made me hella uncomfortable, and adding nudity to the equation was just like 😱 to the point of 🤯. So, in my role as a minor-league beat writer in Macon, GA, circa 2000-2002, I went out of my way to avoid that scenario at all cost. I sprinted onto historic Luther Williams Field the second out #3 had been recorded, before the players had a chance to go inside, and got whatever quotes I could in a five-minute span.

Usually that meant turning in a one-source story, but I did not care. Crisis averted!

Continue reading “Courage”
sober lifestyle

Trigger

Everything I loved most in the world was at that table: my hubby, the Cubbies (symbolically, at least), tequila…and freedom.

We were about to fly from snowy Philadelphia to sunny Phoenix for a weeklong Spring Training vacation in Mesa, and although we were sitting in a cramped corner of a nondescript airport bar, the promise of fulfilling a lifelong dream, plus the blissful buzz of those first few drinks, made that moment feel like paradise. ☀️🧢😎

Oh my God, those moments when you’re right smack dab in the sweet spot between reality and intoxication, when all seems right with the world and your place in it! I still grieve for those moments.

Sometimes, I wonder if I always will.

I was overcome with grief when the above picture popped up on my phone screen Saturday morning, as I sat in my therapist’s office waiting for my appointment to start. Facebook memories nearly always trigger an emotional reaction, and it makes sense, because pretty much anything I posted prior to my sobriety date — July 7, 2019, not even 2 years ago — involved alcohol. A.K.A., my ex-best friend.

The memories aren’t all bad.

Continue reading “Trigger”