sober lifestyle

Recovery

Funny GIFs might be the best I can do here, because whenever I try to put into words how recovery feels, what I come up with sounds either far-out “woo woo” or downright dull. Most of the time, I can’t find words at all.

And come to think of it, it’s actually not too far off-base to think of recovery as one day being a (self-centered, hedonistic) newt, under the influence of a wicked spell, and three years later, being human.

A dirty, Dark Ages kind of human, but human nonetheless. 🤣

If I wanted to present my incredible post-alcoholic journey in simple, tangible, social media-friendly terms, in honor of National Recovery Month, I guess I could post a series of side-by-side photos: “Newt Life” vs “Got Better.”

But I’m not even sure this says “DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATION” to anyone living outside my body. 🤔

Celebrating with my little sis at Wrigley Field: June 2019 (one week before sobriety date) vs. September 2022 (38 months after).
Continue reading “Recovery”
sober lifestyle

Qualification

Basically my biography 😬

The reading assignment this week for “Concepts of Psychopathology & Wellness” is two thick chapters — nearly 75 total pages — but I’ve learned not to stress too much about finishing the homework for this class.

I mean, I know it’s a thing for psych students to start self-diagnosing every disorder they study (it’s called Medical Student’s Disease), but for me, this is not about the power of suggestion. This shit is seriously my life story. I could’ve stood up in front of my cohort and spoken with confidence about the last five weeks’ worth of “Abnormal Behavior” readings without having cracked the book.

Many of my classmates have actual professional experience in counseling, in addition to their relevant bachelor’s degrees. So, in some ways, being in grad school for psychology at Delaware Valley University reminds me of my undergrad era at Northwestern, where I was surrounded by kids toting binders full of newspaper clips and highlight reels from TV and radio reporting internships, while I’d just checked “JOURNALISM” on my application because I loved to write.

Continue reading “Qualification”
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.

Continue reading “Appearance”
sober lifestyle

Regression

I started weighing myself again.

This is dangerous territory, where someone like me typically dares not tread. I mean, for one, who wants to look at their gnarly, mutant, never-been-pedicured toes? And secondly, when you’ve struggled most of your life with body image issues, to the point of eating disorders and exercise addictions, knowing that number can…(understatement alert!) royally mess with your head.

And yet I marched into the bathroom last weekend and stepped up onto the dreaded measuring device — and into a substantial collection of dust — as if pulled by some irresistible, mystical force.

You know shit is 🤬-ed up when a former anorexic/bulimic starts seeking solace in the scale.

Continue reading “Regression”
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

Success

It’s always tough going back through old photos on my phone. My camera roll is full of emotional triggers, from the head-shaking, facepalming, uncomfortable close-ups of tequilas-on-the-rocks and (dear God!) my face under the influence thereof, to the guilty gut-punch of all those CrossFit gym pics.

You guys, I once won trophies for my fitness! One of them was even made of metal! 💪🏻🏆👸🏼

(I don’t know if you can read the plates in the above image, but that hardware was from a local competition called “Masters of the Universe” that I used to enter every year in my late 30s.)

Sitting here years later, sans six-pack abs, and a good two clothing sizes larger (I would guess…my pandemic wardrobe has been 100% extremely lived-in loungewear), having swapped alcoholism for a sugar addiction, I remind myself for the 10 millionth time that I was not happy as a hard-bodied exercise fiend. Doing muscle-ups and deadlifting 300 pounds and running around in public in a sports bra and booty shorts did not fill the hole inside, just as guzzling booze and buying things and cruising social media and even winning awards at work failed to soothe my restless soul.

Continue reading “Success”
sober lifestyle

Resolution

How many licks does it take to completely blow up your healthy diet? Far too few, I’m finding.

True story: Staying sober during the pandemic has been easier for me than staying in shape.

I mean, thanks to my amazing husband keeping our house booze-free (I can’t in good conscience say “dry” when I’m dragging three recycling bins full of empty diet soda and sparkling water conveyances to the curb every Tuesday), I’ve had the safe environment I need to reach the 18-month recovery milestone, then tack on an additional 12 days (and counting).

However, when it comes to diet and fitness, another huge health priority in my life, I’m afraid I’m no longer earning a passing grade.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but it might take a formal declaration of renunciation — made “publicly,” here on the internet — to get me to stop eating candy canes and mini Tootsie pops for lunch every day.

I told the hubby to stop buying these things, too, but the man has as much trouble resisting grocery store markdowns and buy-in-bulk deals (did you SEE the bag in the above picture?) as I do mood-altering substances.

I certainly can’t judge him. Whatever spikes your dopamine! We all have our addictions! And don’t they all seem a little more potent around the holidays, whether we’re out partying with friends and family or cooped up at home in “social distancing” mode?

Continue reading “Resolution”