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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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.

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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…

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sober lifestyle

Freedom

Fat, wet flakes started falling as I neared the causeway at Tyler State Park, smacking me in the forehead and occasionally the eyeball, and my face broke into a self-satisfied smile. This was my plan: To be out in nature when the storm started, and before every other human within miles crawled out of bed.

My mom is somewhere cringing, picturing this scene — “Do you always go walking alone?” she once asked me with alarm — but the truth is I much prefer the park when it’s deserted, and even sometimes when it’s dark. To take in a sunrise, witness a change in weather, or just stare at an early morning sky, is such an intensely personal experience for me that I think something would be amiss if anyone else was there.

I guess you could say that it’s when I am isolated that I feel most free.

I’ve been a loner all my life, and at 42, with an annoying habit of getting up at 2AM, I’ve pretty much given up hope of ever fitting in with society. I was always one of those “morning people” that seemed to perplex all the normies. These days, I feel like I’m at my best in the wee hours, when I write or do yoga while excitedly awaiting the dawn.

(Flash forward 12 hours, when some of y’all are just eating lunch):

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Physicality

Themed workouts are a big thing in the CrossFit world, and these workouts tend to be community events. So when the holidays rolled around, back when my husband and I belonged to local gyms, both communities offered opportunities to run around for an hour or two in reindeer antlers, socks splattered with Santas, etc., and shove your face full of food and booze…not necessarily in that order.

Hubby’s place was pretty laid back about it — they called it “Festivus” and strung lights on a PVC pipe, then stuck it in a stack of weight plates to represent Frank Costanza’s pole (see above pic) — and we showed up with gym bags filled with Mad Elf (see below pic), ready to sweat through a “12 Days of Christmas” circuit, but really prepared to party.

Some of us took the party portion of the day a bit more seriously than others. I mean, I’m not gonna lie: Working out and drinking were my top two hobbies for most of my adult life, so Festivus was always one of my favorite days of the year.

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Measurement

If you’ve been here before, you don’t need me to explain the above photo. You know that’s the whiteboard on the wall in my basement gym, aka “Fly The W Fitness.” And those are the one-day-at-a-time red hash marks I’ve been drawing on every inch of the thing — except a small space in the middle where we can write actual workout stuff, and a column where I collect inspirational quotes from the likes of deep-thinking former Cub Nick Castellanos and badass assassin/world-saver Arya Stark — to keep the score of my sobriety since July 7, 2019.

You’re looking at the tally as of last Tuesday.

Since I’ll officially run out of room in a few days when I hit 17 full months, my husband’s idea is to cover the walls with whiteboard paint so I can just start marking time there…

…🤔…

Sorry. Got distracted by thoughts of Homer Simpson scrawling all over the walls in that classic “Treehouse of Horror” parody of “The Shining.”

I can relate a little bit, my man! 🤣

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sober lifestyle

Patience

What I love about the Delaware Canal towpath — long, flat, soft stretches of trail uninterrupted by roadways — is also what I hate about it. How I’m feeling depends on whether I’m on the way out on a run, or on the way back, when I’ve gone as far as my achy lower back, touchy hamstrings and crampy calves can carry me without anything snapping or falling off, and I’ve slowed to a walking pace out of self-preservation.

That return trip to the car takes for-EVER.

It feels like plodding away on a treadmill, watching the seconds tick by but not really getting anywhere. You know you’re covering ground, but the distance ahead only seems to grow and grow. Your mind starts to dwell on all forms of discomfort: you’re cold, even moreso because you’re sweaty, and the coffee + energy drink from an hour ago is sloshing in your bladder, and your entire lower body is stiff as 🤬, and you wish like hell you could time warp to the point when you’re showered and cozy in house coat and pajama pants, probably also a winter hat for added warmth, and you’re eating egg whites with spinach and broccoli in front of some “Law & Order” rerun on TV.

It occurred to me, as that exact scenario played out on Sunday morning, that I spend a ridiculous amount of my life wishing away my life. I’m constantly looking at the clock, then looking anxiously ahead to when whatever is happening will be over.

This is why I’m not a good cook. Who wants to stand idly in a kitchen for 20 minutes, waiting for meat to reach that no-longer-potentially-deadly “done” point, or for a pizza to get un-soggy in the center? Who wants to spend TWO minutes heating up water for tea in the microwave? It’s so uncomfortable I have to, like, grab my phone and start scrolling through Twitter to occupy the emptiness.

Patience is a virtue…something something…” Hell, I couldn’t even stay in the moment long enough to listen to the entire proverb my grandmother used to say back in the day. No clue why she was always saying it to me. 😉

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