sober lifestyle

Manifestation

The woman sitting next to me in the conference room at my sober retreat a few weeks ago was telling a fantastical tale, and I was working hard to keep my incredulous inner cynic from bursting out.


She said she and her husband had traveled from Philly to a quaint little town in the Carolinas, and she loved it so much that she asked God for signs that they were meant to move south. Shortly thereafter, they wandered into a local church, where the door just happened to be unlocked and the priest just happened to be available to chat. He told the couple he knew of a nearby house that had just gone up for sale. They left the church to tour the house, made an offer on the spot…yada yada, it’s two months later, and they’re all set to relocate to their new home.

Pfft! Woo-woo overload, right?

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sober lifestyle

Vulnerability

“I don’t want to go,” I told my husband. “I’m feeling really vulnerable.”

He looked at me quizzically. “What do you mean?”

Oh boy…how could I put it into black-and-white words? How could I even sift through the avalanche of thoughts that had been rumbling through my brain all morning, as I contemplated the sober women’s retreat I was scheduled to attend?

My mind had been busier than usual, churning out potential excuses. Looking for an out. Strenuously chipping away at my resolve…

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sober lifestyle

Weather


The peaceful calm of Friday morning — I did yoga, attended a 12-step meeting, then took a quick walk around the neighborhood with Christmas classics playing in my headphones — quickly dissipated as the day progressed and the weather intensified.

It was Dec. 23rd, and my husband and I were supposed to drive three hours north for the first leg of our weeklong holiday journey. I sat on the couch, fully dressed and packed, waiting with dwindling patience for him to get ready, and listening with mounting concern as the drip, drip of light rain on the deck turned into the rapid rat-a-tat-tat of sleet against the windows and whoosh of wind around the building.

My thoughts raced: WHAT was taking him so long? Furthermore, WHY was it so important that we leave today, when tomorrow might be safer? Anxiety bubbled up inside me like a runaway train, and I, simultaneously exiting the most challenging month of the year and entering the hyper-hormonal “danger zone” of my monthly cycle, felt completely powerless to stop it…

It’s easy to see, now that it’s Jan. 3 and I’m peering at Christmas vacation in my rearview mirror, how this turned into the most difficult holiday season of my recovery thus far.

It’s clear, in hindsight: Fretting over a storm outside instead of tending to the storm inside can be a recipe for relapse.

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sober lifestyle

Exodus


My husband and I are supposed to set off today in the ’ole four-wheel-drive sleigh, to embrace the majesty of a holiday road trip to Chicago, via Honesdale, PA.

Our annual Christmas vacation typically takes us to both his (north) and my (west) parents’ houses, and we prefer to drive, rather than fly, because it gives us greater freedom/independence at our destinations — not to mention more room to pack.

Given the chaos at my part-time marketing job (who knows if I’ll even have it when I return to Philly in January), and the uncertainty over my counseling internship at the methadone clinic (they haven’t gotten back to me about training, start date or schedule 🤷🏼‍♀️), I’m especially eager to am-scray this year. I want to travel, even though our cross-regional trek could apparently involve some weather-related perils. 🌨

I mean, at least that’s what I’ve heard from my forecast-obsessed family members, who keep texting me about storm reports they saw on the news. I know they mean well, but getting freaked out about stuff beyond our control is precisely what we recovering alcoholics are trying NOT to do, so…snowrenity now! You know what I’m saying? 🙃

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sober lifestyle

Elevation

Sunrise at Tyler State Park, on Dec. 7, 2022, my 41st sober month-iversary.

“Try to give it up to your higher power,” my mom wrote me in a text, shortly after we’d hung up from my second distress call of the week.

Her message popped in just before I left for an appointment to get my 3-years-sober celebratory tattoo, and my entire body was a crackling live wire of rumination and worry.

It wasn’t because I’m a needle-phobe, though. I got over that with tatt #2. The issue du jour — yet again! — was work.

In short, it’s a shitshow. The “other shoe” I was afraid would drop since I agreed to re-join this chaotic company on a part-time basis back in January…well, it appears to be in motion, spelling the imminent demise of my rough-and-tumble marketing “career,” about six months too soon.

I was counting on this paycheck to get me through my next semester of grad school, or until it’s time to transition from the 100-hour “practicum” that starts in January to the full-time internship our program requires in Year 3.

So, add financial stress to the ever-present professional anxiety/depression that’s been hanging over me since I left journalism and started over from scratch in my 40s, and I quickly slip into an emotional spiral. It’s so easy to lose perspective, abandon my recovery toolbox, and let my agita run amok!

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sober lifestyle

Reconciliation

At nearly 3 1/2 years sober, I don’t really have drunk dreams anymore. Instead, my “resting” brain has moved on to torturing me with “you’re gonna get in trouble!” scenarios of increasing intensity, and I think that might actually be worse than an imaginary relapse.

The other night, like something out of a 90s teen slasher flick, I dreamt that some woman I didn’t recognize knocked on my door to deliver a hauntingly cryptic message: “I know.” 😱


WTF is that all about?!?

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Passion


You can take the girl out of English class, age her a few decades and put her through the wringer of trying to earn a living wage with the written word, but you can’t take the burning passion for English class out of the girl!

Safe to say I was totally in my element Tuesday night at Delaware Valley University’s annual Student Writing Conference, where I went to read one of my early-2022 blog posts, plus a short snippet of an even older piece that I struggled to slice and dice into a 100-word “Tiny Memoir.” (I only made it down to 126; shit, it’s tough being your own editor! 😫)

I attended the event to “celebrate writing” with classmates and kindred spirits, and just to soak up as much of “carefree” grad student life as I can before “the real world” hits — again — next semester in the form of an unpaid counseling internship that will usher in my second career transition in the past four years.

I was probably the oldest person in the room, besides the professors running the thing, and yet I was acting much like the 1990s tween/teen who sat riveted at a Park View School/Niles West High desk while Mr. Paulos or Dr. Graham led discussions of great literature and the art of storytelling.

Once a “try hard,” always a “try hard”…

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Silence


I enjoy running immensely — I mean, who wouldn’t, with this (👀⬆️) beautiful, soft, flat nature trail at their disposal? — but I am by no means a runner. Come to the Delaware Canal towpath on any Sunday morning if you want to witness the clear contrast between regular, middle-aged schmoes like me and the real deal.

I mean, besides the obvious difference in speed and overall physique, I’ve got music from a carefully curated playlist blaring in my ear buds. I will slow down or even stop, if I need to adjust said music. Serious runners don’t mess with those types of pedestrian creature comforts. They motor through the miles in steely silence.

Me, vs. Them:


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