sober lifestyle

Fatigue

I attended a panel discussion on prison reform at DelVal U. this past week for a grad school class, and one of the guest experts was a straight-shooting ex-con and recovering addict named Dan, who “graduated” from a life behind bars to become a criminal justice educator, researcher and community leader down in Delaware. (He used the old “Penn State and the State Pen.” joke to describe his background, but I won’t count that against him. 😉)

The second Dan began talking, I felt instantly close to him, like I’d known him a long time. He had the down-to-Earth attitude and weathered, “f^cked around and found out” look of well-earned wisdom you get from the school of hard knocks. It’s a look I’ve seen time and again on sports fields and in 12-step meetings at various points over the past 20 years, and one I’ve come to associate with “my kind of people.”

When Dan spoke about waking up in jail on his 30th birthday and just feeling tired — as in, done with the whole in-and-out vicious cycle of the repeat-offender lifestyle and unable to fathom doing the same old shit for the rest of his life…I felt it, big-time, like a punch in the gut mixed with a nice warm hug.

That’s exactly the feeling that hit me on that June morning in 2019 on my parents’ back deck when my drunk-chick act officially got old. It’s the same kind of “come-to-Jesus” moment that started my recovery story more than three years ago.

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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).
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sober lifestyle

Reinvention

I was scrolling through social media last weekend, trying to self-soothe my anxiety as we drove three hours north for a visit with the in-laws, when I happened upon a news report about the latest round of layoffs at the media conglomerate where I used to work.

Well, I mean, I worked at a well-staffed, family-owned local newspaper that, like publications of its ilk all across the country, went straight to the chop shop when purchased by a soulless corporate behemoth (controlled by the same greed monsters who funded WeWork!) I came to Pennsylvania specifically for that job — and met my husband in the newsroom — but saw the writing on the wall, in blood, back in the fall of 2018. Thinking it was better to start from scratch at 40 than at 44, 45…I grabbed a buyout package and got the 🤬 outta there.

Yada yada…they nuked my entire department within six months of my departure. While I’d found another job by that point, I was basically just wandering lost in the wilderness until I decided to quit drinking in mid-2019. Luckily, as far gone as I got, I didn’t completely lose myself.

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sober lifestyle

Grief

A few months back, one of my counseling professors shared an assignment she’d given students in her undergrad addictions class: They had to write a break-up letter to their substance of choice.

It struck me as a powerful, meaningful exercise. I mean, if you really wanna know what it’s like for an addict trying to get sober, you’re going to have to process some pretty intense grief.

I guess that’s what this blog has been for me: one long “Dear John” for what seemed like the most intimate and significant long-term relationship of my life. Quitting drinking felt like losing a huge part of me, and almost three years later, that still stings from time to time.

Alcohol was a true, loyal BFF for someone who always avoided close friendships IRL, and there was a time when stripping “forever” from the equation seemed unthinkable. Impossible.

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Intermission

There are some things you never outgrow — I mean, I suppose you could outgrow them, if you snapped out of your unconscious stupor, got off your ass and put in some effort, but that would take…you know, effort. So, in some ways, I’m still the restless little baby who pitched a hissy fit every time an adult set her down and she had to stay stuck in one place for any length of time.

Knowing how much of a psychological game-changer it was for me to learn to walk, and how much movement has meant to me over the subsequent four decades, maybe I should take this master’s degree I’m earning and become an “eco therapist” who leads her clients on nature hikes. 🤔

Anyway, I think the fact that I sat relatively still through entire 3+-hour classes, all school year long, without completely melting down, is at least a small sign of maturity. And I didn’t knock anyone over, bolting for the door at dismissal time…I only shoved the occasional classmate out of the way when they took too long to clear the aisle!

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sober lifestyle

Payoff

Allow me just one moment of pure, unadulterated elation, universe. Can you do that? Let me snap my head back and yell at the top of my lungs, without worrying what’s going to fall out of the sky and knock me out when my guard is down.

OK? Here goes:

I PAID OFF MY CREDIT CARD!!!!

*Sigh* Thanks. That felt good. Now, I’ll get back to watching this student loan number climb and wondering how long that’s gonna take to take care of, while my husband tabulates how much he needs me to contribute to the credit cards in his name, which have been used for our vacations and household projects over the past 15 years….

It’s always something, you know? But I do want to commemorate this occasion and enjoy the here and now a little bit, before I allow what’s next to consume me.

Just a few years ago, that effing credit card was maxed out, y’all! Something like 10 grand! I signed up for that shit in another lifetime, at the GAP, to get 20% off clothes I have long since stopped wearing — can’t even remember the last time I thought about the GAP, much less shopped there. But since it was a regular VISA, I used it for every little thing: gas, groceries, sports tickets, half-marathon and fitness competition registrations, car repairs, restaurant and bar checks trumped up by numerous shots of Patron, weekly trips to the liquor store where I never spent less than $60. …

I can’t pretend to know everything that was on there, but I guarantee four digits were blown on alcohol.

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Release

Just a few more steps until it’s 3 YEARS! 🥳

One of the many strange things about me is my schedule. For example, I consider it “running late” to arrive at my local high school track any time after 5:30AM on a weekend morning, and by that point, I’ve most likely been awake for at least two hours, doing school work and/or yoga while awaiting the daylight.

I don’t even want to tell you when I usually go to bed.

This past Saturday, there was already someone else at the track, jogging laps with a visible sweat ring around the neckline of their T-shirt, when I pulled up. Nothing wrong with that, except it prohibits me from engaging in other strange proclivities, such as singing out loud to my workout playlist as I run.

I’m back to doing that again — under the right circumstances — now that I’m 35 months sober.

I find myself belting out lyrics at the top of the hill at Tyler State (when the sun is just rising and it’s still deserted), or out on secluded patches of the Delaware Canal path (why does a biker always come out of nowhere when I think I’m alone and catch me, mid-bellow? 😫), and I wonder where all this lightheartedness is coming from.

Even “normal” behavior, like cranking up the stereo and carpool-karaoke-ing as I drive to class on Thursday nights, feels a little weird.

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sober lifestyle

Apathy

Source: @anxiety_wellbeing

No offense to the lovely and not-at-all-annoying humans in my orbit, but one of the best decisions I ever made was to “clean up” my Instagram feed so it includes only psychology, sobriety, mental health and therapy-related content.

Now, when I’m strapped into the struggle bus for what feels like a never-ending, monotonous ride, scrolling on my phone can be an effective way to self-soothe. It actually lifts my spirits when I come across posts like these 👀⬆️⬇️ and relate to them on a deep level.

All these ubiquitous, faceless accounts with underscore-heavy handles really get me! I am not alone!

Source: @global_mental_health_support
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