sober lifestyle

Manifestation

The woman sitting next to me in the conference room at my sober retreat a few weeks ago was telling a fantastical tale, and I was working hard to keep my incredulous inner cynic from bursting out.


She said she and her husband had traveled from Philly to a quaint little town in the Carolinas, and she loved it so much that she asked God for signs that they were meant to move south. Shortly thereafter, they wandered into a local church, where the door just happened to be unlocked and the priest just happened to be available to chat. He told the couple he knew of a nearby house that had just gone up for sale. They left the church to tour the house, made an offer on the spot…yada yada, it’s two months later, and they’re all set to relocate to their new home.

Pfft! Woo-woo overload, right?

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sober lifestyle

Exodus


My husband and I are supposed to set off today in the ’ole four-wheel-drive sleigh, to embrace the majesty of a holiday road trip to Chicago, via Honesdale, PA.

Our annual Christmas vacation typically takes us to both his (north) and my (west) parents’ houses, and we prefer to drive, rather than fly, because it gives us greater freedom/independence at our destinations — not to mention more room to pack.

Given the chaos at my part-time marketing job (who knows if I’ll even have it when I return to Philly in January), and the uncertainty over my counseling internship at the methadone clinic (they haven’t gotten back to me about training, start date or schedule 🤷🏼‍♀️), I’m especially eager to am-scray this year. I want to travel, even though our cross-regional trek could apparently involve some weather-related perils. 🌨

I mean, at least that’s what I’ve heard from my forecast-obsessed family members, who keep texting me about storm reports they saw on the news. I know they mean well, but getting freaked out about stuff beyond our control is precisely what we recovering alcoholics are trying NOT to do, so…snowrenity now! You know what I’m saying? 🙃

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Silence


I enjoy running immensely — I mean, who wouldn’t, with this (👀⬆️) beautiful, soft, flat nature trail at their disposal? — but I am by no means a runner. Come to the Delaware Canal towpath on any Sunday morning if you want to witness the clear contrast between regular, middle-aged schmoes like me and the real deal.

I mean, besides the obvious difference in speed and overall physique, I’ve got music from a carefully curated playlist blaring in my ear buds. I will slow down or even stop, if I need to adjust said music. Serious runners don’t mess with those types of pedestrian creature comforts. They motor through the miles in steely silence.

Me, vs. Them:


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sober lifestyle

Relationship

I feel bad putting my mom on blast, but this little snippet of her recent text message jumped out and smacked me in the face so hard that I felt compelled to drop everything and reflect on it the best way I know how.

That is, getting up out of bed at 2AM, pouring some coffee and pouring out my heart and soul on the internet.

I’ve expressed before how difficult it can be to measure progress in recovery, which is, to paraphrase a popular saying, an ultra-ultra-ultramarathon, as opposed to a sprint. Think: tortoise (versus hare), or better yet, stop-motion animation.

In the latter scenario, I’m arriving at the North Pole fresh off the boat from the Island of Misfit Toys, and my socialization process plays out in a series of painfully slow, nearly imperceptible movements that take forever to piece together and bring up to normal speed.

Still not sure what’s supposed to be “wrong” with this girl. She’s cute, cheerful, musical, has fashion sense and a few friends…guessing it must be perfectionism and performance-based self-worth causing her crippling anxiety and depression? (I know the type. 😉)
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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

Compassion

Source: @centerformindfulselfcompassion on Instagram.

RRRRRIIIIIIIIPPPPPP.

A tearing sensation snaked up the right side of my back as I yanked the handle of the rower toward my midsection, and I instantly knew: I was done…probably for a good long while. I released the chain with a snap and toppled stiffly from the seat to the floor, as the digital timer ticked down the final seconds of my workout.

Tears filled my eyes. One thought consumed my brain.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I’d just spent almost two months nursing a pulled hamstring, reluctantly ramping down my exercise routine to easy walks and modified yoga, with occasional light rowing and ultra-light lifting. Over a Christmas trip to Illinois, I pushed a little, and was elated to make it around the flat terrain of my childhood hometown in a slow jog, without incident. My patience was paying off!

And now, this. Something worse. A jacked-up back that basically rendered my entire body useless.

OK, universe! I surrender! I’m listening! What exactly are you trying to teach me?!?!

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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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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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