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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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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sober lifestyle

Interview

On Thursday afternoon, I got dressed up — it might be more accurate to just say “got dressed” — and drove up to Quakertown for my first counseling job interview.

It’s actually an unpaid, 100-hour “practicum,” and it doesn’t start until next spring, during my second year of grad school. But, you know what I always say: “You’re never too early!”

I usually say this while sitting in my running car, parked outside the place I’m supposed to be going, with at least a half hour to kill because I gave myself 90 minutes for a 45-minute trip. 🙄 I say it right before I anxiously start snapping selfies (see above) because I don’t know what else to do with my idle hands. 🤣

My new mantra should really be “You’re never too late.” I mean, I turned 44 a week ago, and here I am, back in school and interviewing for internships in a brand new field. I’m in the midst of my third career transition in the past four years.

You might think this is a sign that something in my life has gone terribly wrong, but quite honestly, I feel like pinching myself. I can’t believe how very right everything feels with the world at this moment.

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sober lifestyle

Program

Source: @selfcareexpress

I was a few weeks sober and sitting across the table from the near-stranger I had asked to be my AA sponsor. It was our first official meeting, and we’d just finished reading a chapter from The Big Book when I decided to tell her about my blog.

“I’ve been writing about this whole experience on my personal website, and I’d love for you to take a look!” I said excitedly, as I ripped a page out of my notebook and began scribbling the address.

She held her hand up, palm out. 🖐🏻 A stop sign. 🛑 A rejection, from an authority figure. 🙅🏻‍♀️ My worst nightmare! 😱

Her words were stern and humorless: “I’m not going to go on your blog.”

She was concerned, she said, because I was breaking anonymity and putting personality over principles, and even potentially harming “The Program,” because what if I relapsed? Then all the people reading the blog would think AA didn’t work!

I was confused, hurt, pissed off and put off, for several reasons — one being, her admonition stunk of groupthink, or cult-speak, and I’m pretty much allergic to all that. But I filed my feelings away and stayed the 12-step course, for two full years. Meanwhile, I never stopped writing my little heart out, every single week.

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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.

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sober lifestyle

Application

Yeah, so, basically, I wrote a blog post to get into graduate school. Sat down one day, poured my whole heart and spilled a few guts into a Google Doc, then hit “download” and shipped off my application without even showing it to anyone first.

This has been my M.O., in relating to others, for most of my life: Overshare now, ask questions later. Tell ’em how you really feel, and let the chips fall where they may! If they don’t appreciate your authenticity, it wasn’t meant to be/you don’t want to associate with them, anyway! So there!

What really sucks is being like that but also needing a job and realizing, the hard way, that intense passion and professionalism sometimes don’t mix. Sometimes (*grits teeth*), you have to stop being so stubbornly set in your ways and consider what’s “socially acceptable.” You have to compromise for the sake of a paycheck.

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