sober lifestyle

Courage

As soon as I marked the third out on my scoresheet and the teams on the field started their transition from top to bottom of the ninth, I booked, hurrying down the narrow metal walkway from the press box, through the stands, to the big chain-link gate down the right-field line. I positioned my hands on the latch — I’d been scolded by the grounds crew for actually opening the thing before the game was over — and stood at attention, heart pounding. Ready to pounce.

I must have looked like a crazy person. I mean, I pretty much was. The fear of having to walk into a clubhouse full of naked men after the game to do interviews was so strong it snapped me into ‘fight or flight’ survival mode around 10:30PM every night. I was more scared, cornered animal than 22-year-old reporter with a job to do.

What was I so 🤬-ing scared of? Ah, the central question of my existence! And the best answer I’ve been able to come up with as I’ve looked back over my life: I always craved safety and security, and, being prone to extremes, I pretty much viewed any discomfort as a fate worse than death.

Thus, avoiding discomfort became my primary purpose over the course of 40+ years.

In the 20 I spent as a journalist, post-game interviews made me hella uncomfortable, and adding nudity to the equation was just like 😱 to the point of 🤯. So, in my role as a minor-league beat writer in Macon, GA, circa 2000-2002, I went out of my way to avoid that scenario at all cost. I sprinted onto historic Luther Williams Field the second out #3 had been recorded, before the players had a chance to go inside, and got whatever quotes I could in a five-minute span.

Usually that meant turning in a one-source story, but I did not care. Crisis averted!

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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.

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sober lifestyle

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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sober lifestyle

Fortitude

In a former life, my hobby was signing up for fitness competitions and paying to get my ass kicked — and my nerves rattled — for entire Saturdays, from pre-dawn until whenever the three, four, five workouts were complete, and I got knocked out of the running for the coveted plastic trophy/tin medal/commemorative T-shirt/$5-off Hylete coupon, and I’d fully drained the 12-pack of hard ciders I packed with my CrossFit gear.

Apart from the drinking, I honestly hated every second of those comps. I hated the whole day. It was awful to wake up scared, feeling immense pressure and dreading what I had to do — what I’d chosen to do — and wishing I could just choose not to do it, just change my mind, even if that made me a weakling or a coward.

It’s been a long time since I felt that particular kind of unpleasant anxiety. I’m feeling it now.

Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up and go get a tattoo, all by myself.

The last time I did this, four years ago, I white-knuckle-death-gripped my husband’s hand for 45 minutes straight as Sue, my tattoo artist, branded my shoulder with a simple, monochromatic ‘W’ flag in honor of the Cubs’ historic World Series victory. I think I branded Hubby in the process.

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sober lifestyle

Inspiration

I’m a recovery junkie, craving anything and everything having to do with beating addiction. No amount of “you are not alone” seems to be enough.

That might explain why I’m now writing two or three blog posts per week on this subject, and on top of attending a regular Thursday 12-step meeting, I’m filling most of my free time devouring the inspirational stories of fellow addicts.

Including “Approved AA Literature,” I’ve read 24 “Quit Lit” books in the past 427 days. Some of them multiple times.

Can’t count the actual number of sober podcasts I’ve played on my phone while working out in my basement or walking in the park, but I have a solid rotation of four or five “shows” that I subscribe and look forward to every week.

I owe so much of my progress to these authors and speakers. I’ve never met them, but they feel like friends, and I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.

Thus the list I’m going to post below. Not that anyone mentioned will ever know how much they’ve done for me, but for anyone reading this who’s struggling with addiction — or just an unhealthy relationship with alcohol/drugs/food/love — I feel like my heroes can help you, too.

Enough with the intro. Let’s get to that list.

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sober lifestyle

Negativity

Forgive me if I play the blame game here, but I just can’t accept that my absolutely 💩💩-y attitude this week has been due to my being an actual 💩💩-y person.

It has to be side effects from the mental health medication and the hormonal 💩💩-show of middle-aged menstruation, topped with a liberal sprinkling of work stress, that’s making me a snarling, feral beast who wants to eat the face of every human I encounter — in person or virtually (especially virtually) — and smash to bits every inanimate object that doesn’t fully and immediately cooperate with my efforts to open, move or operate it (I’m 👀 at YOU, broken washing machine), and who is currently sitting here flinging 💩💩 at strangers on the internet.

I’m also sitting here with 425 days of sobriety, and while that’s notable, I think it’s clear that it does not make me a shiny, happy person able to deftly handle her 💩💩. (Ok, I’ll stop with the poop.)

I went on my weekly Zoom recovery meeting, video turned off so no one could see my bitter, sulky facial contortions, and confessed to “hating everything and everyone right now” and “not wanting to be here,” and while “hate” is indeed a poor choice of words, that was me actually trying to hold back. So as not to offend! Truth be told, when I went to share, about 20 minutes into the meeting, I contemplated hitting the “leave” button instead of the little mic to un-mute. Just, you know, 🤬 this! I’m out!

So, you get the picture. It’s ugly. I’m acting c*nty, and I own it.

Now what?

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sober lifestyle

Renunciation

So we could also call shenpa ‘The Urge’ — the urge to smoke that cigarette, to overeat, to have another drink, to indulge our addiction, whatever it is. Sometimes, shenpa is so strong that we’re willing to die getting this short-term symptom relief. The momentum behind the urge is so strong that we never pull out of the habitual pattern of turning to poison for comfort.”

— Pema Chödrön

The Urge is strong with this one. It has been all week. I could feel it building, or more like steadily pulsing in the center of my chest, and I described it to my therapist as feeling like I was plugged in to the Tesseract…you know, from the Marvel Universe?

She knew. Thank goodness. Nothing more awkward than when a pop culture reference falls flat. 😉

It’s an apt analogy, too: an indefatigable, incredibly powerful energy source that will not stay frozen or buried and can reawaken at any time and threaten to destroy everything. That, my friends, is the compulsion behind addiction.

It distressed me that at nearly 14 months sober, after several dull, sleepy — one might even say balanced — months, my old core issues had seemingly jolted back to life. Why now? What triggered this familiar, scary rush of need, to buy things, exercise all day, scroll through Twitter and Facebook, snap selfies…and write blogs on blogs on blogs?

All of the above = healthier than drinking tequila. So, there’s that. At the same time, it’s plain to see that the mere absence of alcohol does not remedy the underlying problem. It merely exposes it, more raw and real than ever before.

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sober lifestyle

Expansion

What to say about the sky? I haven’t really known, so thus far, I’ve let my pictures do the talking.

The above was taken just a few hours ago in one of my favorite places on Earth: the top of the big hill on the main road into/out of Tyler State Park. The huge expanse of unobstructed, endless openness that greets you when you’ve hoofed your way up that steep incline has an effect that I can only describe as spiritual. Transcendent. Other-worldly. I’d say that the view “takes your breath away,” but unless you’re a world-class athlete, you don’t have much left to lose after completing the climb.

Today’s humid, stagnant morning air had me wheezing even more than usual.

Physically, right now, I’m not…shall we say…in great shape. At 13 months sober, walks in the park are my go-to form of exercise (when I do ramp it up to running, I head to the all-flat canal path). And at 42 years old, with a sedentary job and an increasing affinity for big meals, long naps, audiobooks and Netflix crime-show rabbit holes, I’ve…shall we say…lost some leanness from my old CrossFitting, strict-eating days.

Pre-Climb Selfie on Day 391
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