sober lifestyle

Tolerance

Not to brag, but in the span of two weeks, I handled a dental drill to the mouth AND a tattoo needle to the arm without having a complete nervous breakdown. I didn’t even cry! I mean, I’m still kind of sore from the full-body tense-up I held for an hour at a time, and my hands are still stuck in a bit of a claw from death-gripping the chair arms/table sides…but all in all, I did good.

If you want to go back a month to the date of my COVID booster shot, you can even add a drama-free injection to my big-girl resume.

I proudly texted my friend earlier this month, upon returning home from getting inked for the third time (see above: two wolves on left tricep), that my pain tolerance had finally reached adult levels. 💪🏻

I’m a couple months shy of 44. 🤷🏼‍♀️

It only took a few decades of downward-spiraling into in an alcohol addiction, and 31 action-packed months of sobriety, but I’m starting to get the hang of facing my fears — and feelings — without my old favorite security blanket.

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sober lifestyle

Reinforcement

“If I want to stay married, I’ve got to stay quit.”

The words shot out of my mouth like a knee-jerk reaction. No idea where they came from. But that’s what I said to the new chiropractor I visited yesterday when the topic of alcohol came up.

I’m not exactly sure how my “NO” writ large on the intake form turned into a conversation — do all back specialists ask new patients if they smoke and drink? This one did! — but somehow, I learned that this guy had given up booze for three years and “hated it,” so he “picked up” again. He assured me he was “good now” with alcohol back in his life.

My quick comeback surprised me. Even after 2 1/2 years sober, I’m still quite green when it comes to discussions of drinking in social situations. I’m unpracticed in talking about alcohol anywhere outside the safe bubble of recovery meetings, family gatherings, therapy sessions or grad school classes.

And yet, what I said was perfect. Succinct, 100% accurate, but not overly revealing. I thought about the entire experience on the way home from the appointment — one of many to come as I try to take care of an out-of-whack SI joint that’s making my life miserable — and my mind wiggled down a rabbit hole.

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Perfectionism

The professors made it clear: Even though they’re given a 1-to-5 scale to evaluate student performance in each semester of DelVal’s Counseling Psychology grad program, getting a 3 is the actual goal. That rating is labeled “Adequate” on the official form, but it means you’re A-OK. You’re on the right track, exactly where you need to be.

In fact, if an instructor wants to give you anything higher (better) or lower (worse), they’re required to include additional comments that explain why.

If that sounds fair, reasonable, acceptable…I envy your level-headed perspective.

I’ve spent my whole life chasing 5’s, and telling me I’m “Adequate” sets off short-circuits in my head.

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sober lifestyle

Turbulence

I interviewed my first freelance client last Friday around lunchtime — after filling out 100+ mind-numbing applications for content/copywriter positions and sitting on hold with unemployment for two months, to no avail, I figured it was time to take matters into my own hands — and after a quick trip to the local tree farm with my husband to snag a Fraser fir, I was sitting down to an early-dinner splurge on Jules Thin Crust pizza, when by sheer force of habit …(deep breath)…I opened the email app on my phone.

Two hours left in the work week, and out of the blue, I had TWO job offers flooding my inbox.

Neither was ideal, but still…🤯

Up until that point, it had been radio silence, with an occasional sprinkle of rejection, nonstop since early October. I was so thrown off by this sudden avalanche of opportunity that before I knew what was happening, I had housed my half of the pizza — and then some — in less than 15 minutes.

Free advice: if you’re an Highly Sensitive Person with anxiety issues and an all-or-nothing personality, never check your phone while eating. 🤢

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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

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.

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Education

The last thing the professor asked us to do in our orientation session Thursday night was go around the room and share one word that described our feelings about the upcoming semester — our first as “Cohort 9” in Delaware Valley University’s three-year MA in Counseling Psychology program.

It’s actually my first as a student, period, since the start of this century. 😳

Anyway, the other noobs were like, “Nervous!” “Overstimulated!” “Ready!” And your trusty wordsmith over here blurted out… “Summit.”

It wasn’t an adjective (still isn’t, actually). It made no sense outside my own head. So, true to form, I took up more than my share of allotted time, explaining myself to the group.

All I could think about during the 3+-hour session was the slow climb to the top of the big drop on a roller coaster — clickety clickety clickety 😳 — and that crazy-making anticipation of the terrifying free fall to come — clickety clickety clickety 😰.

You can’t turn back. You can’t get out. You have no control whatsoever. And you know you’re going to get thrown completely, wildly, out of your comfort zone. 😱

I’m so afraid of this exact scenario that I rarely even go on those coasters.

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