sober lifestyle

Holiday

I’ve started to get a “Twilight Zone”-esque vibe from this blog, where every time I write about being happy about something, it immediately goes all to 💩.

It’s like the classic episode — aren’t they all classic episodes? — where the husband-wife grifter team finds that old instant camera, and when they take a picture in the moment, it shows them what’s going to happen in the future. And most of what the camera foretells, with the (temporary) exception of predicting winners at the horse track, ain’t good.

You thought my 90s references were bad. This TZ episode aired in 1960.

No sooner did I start gushing about my newfound love of running, to the point that I was impulse-blogging from the running trail in a state of exercise-induced euphoria, that my hamstring decided to snap. Just one week after the aforementioned blog outburst, I drove all the way over to Yardley on a beautiful Sunday morning, gulping my usual turbo-charged pre-workout drink as I mentally prepped for a 6-miler, and when I got to the canal path and my feet went to push off toward Washington Crossing…

🏃‍♀️🧨💥☠️

Two weeks later, that hamstring still strenuously objects every time I move. 😩

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Experience

The student finished reading his personal narrative, and one of the English professors running the panel commended him on his closing paragraph. “You see a lot of young writers struggle with endings,” she said, “and yours was really strong.”

I wanted to yell out from my seat in the audience: “YES! Endings are SO HARD! Even for OLD WRITERS!”

The moment kind of reminded me of sitting in an AA meeting early in my sobriety and hearing someone talk about the alcohol-induced anxiety attacks that hit like clockwork every day at 3AM. It’s one of those things that everyone in a certain group of people goes through, but you think you’re the only one, and when someone else brings it up, you’re so relieved to know you’re not alone.

You’re hit with this feeling…like, you’re finally home.

That’s how I felt at the Delaware Valley University Student Writers Conference last week. Not surprisingly, I was the oldest one there — by quite a large margin — and from what I could tell, the only grad student. But art knows no age, and one of the first things you learn in studying this particular art form, other than “know your ending before you begin,” is to “write what you know.”

I was super impressed and inspired by the undergraduate authors all around me — like, to the point of tears. But let’s face it: When it comes to knowing stuff, I blew their little butts out of the water. I’m a 43-year-old recovering alcoholic in the midst of her third career transition (and second month of unemployment), for Pete’s sake! If life experience is a key advantage in the writing “game,” this “competition” was not a fair fight.

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sober lifestyle

Appearance

Another lovely day at the unemployment office.

I’d just snapped the above picture and punched the button in the side of my earbuds to silence the music, thinking, “I just want to listen to nature,” when a familiar voice filled the momentary void.

“Jen, is that you? Girl, you’re looking skinny!”

There it was: The sweet yet shattering sound of my sickness. I know it so well.

Turns out the speaker was an old friend from two gym memberships ago. I hadn’t seen her smiling face in years, and she was pausing her run to pay me a compliment.

It’s not her fault I still struggle to accept one.

Let me just be clear from the jump: This post isn’t about blaming others for my own deep-seated issues.

It’s actually about progress in the weakest part of my recovery “game.” It’s also about messages — the ones we send others, and the ones we tell ourselves. It’s about stopping that cycle of skewed interpretations, where we assign meaning to what someone else says based on our fear, insecurity and need for external validation, instead of our own unshakable personal truth.

I guess, then, it’s really about shaking out what’s true.

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sober lifestyle

Pride

Today, November 7, 2021, I celebrated 28 months of continuous sobriety by rising with the sun (“Fall Back”=Earlier Daylight=Much Happier Morning Person) and heading to the Delaware Canal towpath for a celebratory 5-mile (give or take a few feet) run.

Overcome with the euphoric combo of runner’s high and genuine pride at how far I’ve come, I snapped a pic at my end point to commemorate the occasion.

It might be my favorite self-portrait ever. I look so happy to be alive, and why wouldn’t I be?

Three years ago, at my lowest point, I legit did not want to go on living — like, I was pumped full of tequila and bawling out on my back deck, mere moments from calling the suicide hotline, but I called my mom instead, and together, we backed away from the ledge.

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sober lifestyle

Universality

“…There is so much stigma around the word alcoholism or the label of an alcoholic. The real work that needed to be done in my life was to actually accept failure, pain, brokenness and self-sabotage…”

Source: @jessicasimpson on Instagram

Did you hear? Jessica Simpson is four years sober!

I would’ve had no clue, but my husband saw something about it on the news and told me I should go check out her revelatory Instagram post. He knows I don’t give a 💩 about celebrities under normal circumstances, but he’s seen me melt into a puddle whenever I learn someone else — anyone else, from Jon Snow to our server at a local restaurant — is in recovery. He figured I’d enjoy adding another name to my “You Are Not Alone” ledger.

Of course, he was right. I have an extra-mushy soft spot for all people who find the courage to be open, authentic and vulnerable, whether it’s in private or on full public blast, and to share their messy, imperfect humanity with the rest of us messy, imperfect humans.

All you folks with self-awareness who don’t take yourselves so seriously, you have a fan in me!

That includes you, Jessica Simps! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Performance

Imagine a precocious little girl in a homemade, red plaid dress with matching ribbons in her shoulder-length, sandy-blonde hair (she has bangs, so clearly this is a flashback from long, long ago), and white anklet socks and brown top-siders on her feet. She is marching in the door with a good — in fact, near-perfect — report card, her whole body tingling in anticipation of that intoxicating hit of parental approval she knows is forthcoming.

That girl is me. Did you guess? It’s funny I chose to paint that exact picture, because the outfit was from first grade, when I had…let’s just say, “social adjustment issues,” that led to regular trips to the principal’s office and my teacher installing a special study carrel in the corner of the classroom to keep me from being disruptive.

Legend has it I was doing somersaults one day on the carpet in the back of the room that was supposed to be for, like, naps and storytime and docile 💩 like that. 😳

Explains a lot, right?

I ended up killing it in all the academic subjects, to the point they put me in the “gifted” —sorry, “enrichment” — program, but my conduct left something to be desired. Read on to see just how much has changed! 🤣

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Compensation

This week has been all about making up for lost time. I don’t know if one can actually do that, without injuring themselves…but dadgummit, I’m trying!

It’s like every moment I’m awake, I want to cram it to the brim with activities I enjoy. I want to take full advantage of my freedom and experience life on my terms!

So, I’ve basically been walking/running around Bucks County like a madwoman for days on end.

When I entered Tyler State Park on foot Friday afternoon, eyes fixed upward at the pure blue sky (when they should’ve been checking the path for those little round ankle-killers that fall from the trees 😬), I’d already run from Washington Crossing to Bowman’s Hill Tower on the canal path earlier that morning, then flowed through my usual yoga program on my deck shortly after breakfast. On Thursday, I walked in the park twice, in addition to working out in my basement and doing another hour of yoga. On Wednesday…

OK, Jen; they get the point. 🤐

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sober lifestyle

Separation

The start of a weekend of indeterminate length…😍

Is it just me, or do humans have the amazing capacity to disengage, reorient and start over, full speed ahead, with no strings attached?

You might not have discovered this capacity within yourself, if you’ve been living in the same place all your life or doing the same job for more than…oh, I dunno, 3/4 of a year…or if you’re the type of person who tends to form a lot of close, long-term relationships. But I suspect some of you understand what it’s like to look at your life as a series of books, rather than chapters, with quite a few common themes but not too many connected threads.

It’s a particular form of compartmentalization that’s both a product of circumstances and an evolutionary survival skill. I would liken it to a turtle’s protective shell, but (*checks Google*) apparently they’re all born with those. 🐢

Mine definitely was acquired in transit, formed while fighting off the Apex predator called emotional pain as I roamed from place to place. I have lived in three different states and worked in everything from newspaper writing to pop culture blogging (yes, I once was paid to blog) to video reporting to farm market clerking to SEO content development to social media marketing…and I did three of those jobs within the span of three years.

In my personal life, I was a rec softball enthusiast, then an avid runner, then a competitive CrossFitter repping three different gyms, and finally, an AA member and psychology grad student who’s standing, right now, at yet another crossroads.

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