sober lifestyle

Certainty

Celebrating a sweet Chicago Sunday on my Monday sunrise walk. Forgive the tired face; it was smashed into a pillow like 10 minutes prior to taking this pic. 🥱

Sunday was the first time in a long time that I sat down and intentionally watched sports. It was a “safe” endeavor, given my complete lack of skin in the Eagles-Washington game — which, come to think of it, lacked “skin” altogether, now that the home team has dropped its controversial nickname.

“Safe” is all I do these days, now that I’m sober.

Of course, the second that game was decided, the sports gods LOLed at my snugness (and smugness), and FOX switched to the final seconds of Bears-Lions. Detroit had the ball down 4, with favorable field position and plenty of time to snag the winning score. Then, before I could change the channel in a panic, they had it — no, they dropped it! — and Matthew Stafford was launching one more last-ditch pass…😱

This was precisely the type of emotionally-charged, unpredictable situation I have been strenuously trying to avoid for the past 14 1/2 months.

It’s almost — no, it’s exactly — like I don’t want to feel things I can no longer numb with a drink. 🤔

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sober lifestyle

Support

It can be difficult for non-addicted people to understand that just because it’s been X number of days/years since your last “fix,” and you appear to be “killing it” in recovery, that doesn’t mean you’re totally OK with confronting the same old “people, places and things” from your drinking life.

It doesn’t mean you’re “cured.”

Familiar “triggers,” or situations in which you drank to self-soothe for years and years until it became an ingrained habit, can be very powerful, no matter how much time has passed. A certain person, or even a feeling, can send you reeling off in an anxiety spiral.

Then, add the ready availability of your go-to “medication,” your drug of choice looking you square in the face, and it’s not so easy to “act normal” or play it cool.

So, when I was overcome by a sudden, very unexpected sobbing fit on Sunday morning before we left for a family barbecue — the first gathering on our schedule in more than 2 months, and only the third time we were venturing out in a non-work capacity since COVID-19 quarantine closed everything down — I knew my husband was not the only one to talk to about it. He’s wonderfully supportive, and I 💯 would not be 428 days sober today without him…but he’s not an alcoholic.

A healthy support system absolutely starts at home, but for me, a well-rounded recovery requires some occasional, non-blog branching out.

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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

Aspiration

You know how people ask, “What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?” as a way of getting at your true goals?

As a little kid, I would’ve replied, “Cover the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune,” except I thought being a reporter was, in fact, a stable, well-paying job that set you up for a comfy life. 🤣 I also had no clue that life as a pro sportswriter was 90 percent waiting around to talk to dudes who just stepped out of the shower and were, like, actively trying to avoid talking to you. 🤣🤣

My gut said, “Write books,” but I only verbalized those words as a kind of pie-in-the-sky “reach.” Even in a childhood characterized by creative invention, I had trouble imagining such a free-wheeling, left-to-your-own-devices lifestyle. How would you support yourself, just sitting there and writing?

You had to pay your bills. You needed a “real job.” Dreams were cool, but money was an issue, and despite my youth, I somehow understood the importance of setting “practical” goals. Middle class kids who wore clothes from Venture had to pick something “safe.” Dreams were for the rich kids with a built-in safety net!

That’s how I thought, and it probably explains why it took me until age 42 to start thinking about my true purpose and how I might go about pursuing it.

I think I might have figured out what my dream is, and instead of throwing up a bunch of knee-jerk “reasons why not,” I’m sort of actually allowing myself permission to say, “Why not?”

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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

Regret

It’s not that I don’t have some beautiful memories of the once-in-a-lifetime, two-week trip to Hawaii I was fortunate enough to be invited on, back in August of 2015. It’s that the “bad,” or at least cringe-worthy, ones are so hauntingly vivid that they crowd out everything else.

I suppose I’m lucky to have any recollections at all of that time, given how much of it I spent intoxicated.

Part of early sobriety, I’m finding, is flashback attacks that hit at random moments, without warning. It’s like my brain is healing itself by scanning for sores and starting to apply ointment, creating some ugly, pus-like seepage in the process. 🤢

Sound gross? I’ll tell you, it is. Picture me relaxing on my deck at 14 months sober, listening to a peaceful, calm “beach massage” meditation track and suddenly, WHAMMO, I’m back to slipping on the wet tile stairs of a cabana in Kailua while double-fisting bottles of Corona I was drunkenly carrying back to the beach, then lying there bleeding profusely in a pile of broken glass while my traveling companions look on disgustedly, no doubt noting that just a few days earlier, they watched me drunkenly horsing around at the pool, and slipping and face-planting on a rock, cracking my front tooth and busting open my lip and cheek.

(Enlarge the attached picture — snapped, I think, in a blackout — and you can see the scabs.)

I lost a lot of blood on that trip. I also lost quite a few friends.

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