sober lifestyle

Celebration

flowers

A lot has happened in the past week. Prior to marking — literally — my 210th alcohol-free day this morning, when I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in until 4:30 🙄, I had my one-year job review at the marketing company I joined at the beginning of 2019 as Step One on my “Plan B” post-journalism path. The meeting went well.

By “well,” of course, I mean that I sat in the HR guy’s office and cried, because hearing people tell me I’m doing a good job still affects me at 41 the way it did back in elementary school. Which is to say, deeply.

I might never have had clear goals, personally or professionally, but all I’ve ever wanted in life was to do a good job. Money, status, material things…nope; never gave a shit. I just wanted to feel worthwhile, to feel that my skills were useful to the world, in whatever small way.

(My husband is reading this going, “That’s very nice, but we also need our skills to pay the bills, especially when some people in this lovely house eat so damn much food.” 😬) Continue reading “Celebration”

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Sufficiency

Bar Selfie. Get it? 😉

The other day before a recovery meeting, I was chatting with someone in my group who, like me, enjoys working out.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic and CrossFitter,” I told him with a chuckle.

It wasn’t really a joke. After more than a year away from the competitive fitness circuit that consumed my free time and dominated my consciousness for about a decade, I can see very clearly how it brought out the best parts of my Type-A achiever personality.

I can also see how it fed and enabled my darkest demons.

Now, before anybody gets their booty shorts in a bunch, let me be clear: I have absolutely nothing against that community, nor would I try to pin any of my personal issues on an exercise methodology, a gym culture — or anything outside of my own brain, for that matter. I was a sick puppy long before I walked into my very first WOD back in (I think) 2009, and it’s like they say: Wherever you go, there you are.

Or, to quote another cliché: It’s not you, CrossFit. It’s me.

And I am a person plagued with never-ending, nagging not-enoughness.

It’s getting to the point where I can say that in past tense — “was plagued” — because 202 days of sobriety has begun to ever so slightly soften the sharp edges of stringent self-appraisal that used to make me look in the mirror at lean legs, cut arms and six-pack abs and think, “Yeah, but you can do better…”

Maybe some of you can relate to this awful affliction. It’s as damaging as any physical addiction, this innate compulsion to always keep reaching for more than what you have.

You’re in the best shape of your life, and you focus on what you perceive to still be wrong with your body. You push yourself hard, physically and mentally, in an activity, but still emerge displeased because you could have gone harder.

You measure your self worth by constantly comparing yourself to others.

If it’s possible to be better, why would you ever accept where you are? If satisfaction is somewhere else, why would you ever stop and enjoy the view here in this spot? If happiness is a few more accomplishments away, you can’t be happy until…

[Space Indicating An Infinite Wait] Continue reading “Sufficiency”

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Therapy

My butt hadn’t even begun to warm the seat cushion when it became abundantly clear: There would be no sitting back and getting comfy in that chair.

“What made it OK to stay with a drunk all those years?” the therapist asked my husband within the opening five minutes of our very first session.

😳

The balls, right? Of course, both of us just sat there, stunned. It’s actually funny now, to think about my sweet, kind, reserved hubby trying to come up with a response to a question like that on the spot, when he’d never even been to therapy before in his life.

Couldn’t tell you what was going through my head at that moment. My heart, on the other hand, somehow knew.

This was going to be a good fit. Continue reading “Therapy”

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Retreat

retreatcenter
I didn’t get to go on my regular weekly nature walk at Tyler State Park this weekend, but I’d say the grounds at St. Raphaela Center were a sufficient substitute.

This might sound silly, but an incident that happened on my high school volleyball team effectively poisoned me against women for most of my adult life. Burned in the recesses of my mind from age 17 on was the notion that even if they seemed agreeable, they were probably out to get me,  and they definitely weren’t to be trusted or “let in” as a potential friend. Yes, I fancied myself one of those “guy’s girls” who just didn’t get along with other women, and that was OK. 🙄

All it took was 25 years spent developing an alcohol addiction and f*cking up my life to discover how wrong I was and how much I had been missing.

Entering recovery back in July 2019 has opened up a whole new world to me, in general, and a beyond-amazing community of women, in particular. “Amazing” is an overused word now — and I hate feeling uncreative — but there just is no other way I can think of to describe the spiritual and emotional experience I’ve been through over my first six months of sobriety. Continue reading “Retreat”

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One-Eighty

“You’re different.”

My mom said that to me one morning during my recent holiday visit. We were sitting in the kitchen of my childhood home in suburban Chicago, where my husband and I bunked from Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve, sleeping in my old bedroom until an unheard-of 9 AM (10 Eastern!) every day. I had consumed only half a pot of coffee at the time — 2019 was a year for starting to kick the alcohol addiction; maaaaaaybe we’ll tackle caffeine in 2020 — so I didn’t really grasp what she was saying.

Also, at that particular moment, I absolutely did not feel different.

forestpreserve
Long before I had Tyler State Park, I had the Morton Grove Forest Preserve bike trail. My hometown might not be much to look at, but it’s a pedestrian’s paradise.

In fact, even without the full coffee rush, my brain had already begun its daily race, unleashing the same ripples of anxiety that had launched thousands of disappearing acts throughout my life — some as recent as 12 hours prior. I was already busy plotting my next escape out of the house to the local forest preserve trail for a long walk, just me and my new wireless headphones and the Binge Mode ‘Game of Thrones’ podcast that is my latest non-food/beverage obsession.

I moved through my first sober holiday season in a bit of a daze, observing everything around me with wide eyes and mute mouth, like an overstimulated toddler: Bright lights! Lots of people! Piles of gifts! Plates of food! Pots of coffee! Nonstop noise! News and talk shows on TV! Where’s the remote?! Oh shit, there are little kids here and I can’t put on “Game of Thrones”! I have to get the f*ck out of here NOW!

There were times I sat among my loved ones, my parents and aunts and sisters and their hubbies and children, listening to them talk around the table, and was so overwhelmed that I could not for the life of me conjure up one single thing to add to the conversation. So I did what I always do, which is either flee the scene or shove something in my mouth. Continue reading “One-Eighty”

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Appreciation

note
This happened to be sitting on the end table within reach of my recliner. How convenient.

We just got home from a lovely weekend celebrating early Christmas with my husband’s parents in the Poconos. It’s an hour until my bedtime. And while I only have to get up at 4 a.m. for two more days in the year 2019, tomorrow is one of those days.

So, this is going to be a quick one. (That’s what he said?)

It’s more of a note than a blog post.

A thank-you note.

When I started writing about my sobriety journey almost six months ago, it was only because I desperately needed an outlet for the overflowing toilet that was/is my brain. I never expected anyone else to read, much less care about, my everlong overshares packed with random pop culture references, none newer than 1999. I expected even less that anyone would take the time to reach out and tell me they cared. 

You guys did all three of those things.

You might not anymore if I keep talking about toilets, but while you’re here right now, I want to tell you how much your readership and support means to me.  Continue reading “Appreciation”

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Endurance

running1
Taken after my second half-marathon four years ago. Of course, the next picture in my camera roll was of the free celebratory cup of post-race beer…and this is why I rather dislike scrolling through the old pictures in my phone.

I used to run a lot in my younger years, and while I got gung-ho enough about it to complete two half-marathons, I never crossed the threshold into “hard-core runner” territory. Never did I feel even the faintest shred of desire to run a full marathon, and when people would ask when I was going to move on to that natural next step, I just laughed.

Hell, 13.1 was too much for me. I never lasted longer than 10 miles in training, and during the actual races, I distinctly remember getting to the seven-mile mark and being like, “OK, I’m good now! Ready to do something else!” (the first time), and “Shit! How did I forget about the awfulness of the last six miles and sign up for another one of these?!?” (the last time). Of course, I am a competitor at heart and I don’t quit in the middle of athletic events, so I kept plodding along to the finish line — and got there in less than two hours; thank you. But that invisible “wall” runners always talk about hitting was, to me, a mammoth fortification akin to the home of the Night’s Watch in “Game Of Thrones”, complete with undead ice monsters on the other side whom I didn’t care to meet.

At some point or another, I always smack straight into that damn wall, no matter what task I undertake or journey I embark upon. And it’s not that I get tired physically. It’s some kind of short circuit in my head.

I hit it — or it hit me — for the first time in my recovery last week. I just woke up one morning and felt empty and spent, as if all my positive energy had drained overnight and been replaced by sadness, frustration — and yes, self-pity. I found myself contemplating a dangerous question that tends to pop up during all the low times in my life: “What’s the point of it all?” Continue reading “Endurance”