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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sober lifestyle

Anticipation

I woke up nervous Saturday morning, thoughts racing faster than usual, and as the hour of the event drew nearer, my pulse steadily quickened. It felt like I’d been plugged into an electrical outlet, like everything inside was vibrating, and by the time I was set to leave the house, I was so on edge that I felt like crying.

My anxiety is pretty potent on a normal day, but on days when there’s a commitment on my calendar?

(It’s funny because it’s true.)

Leaving an entire pot of coffee on the counter, untouched, for fear that caffeine would trigger a full-blown heart attack, I pushed through the front door. Slowing my pace only to prevent my slick-soled knee-high boots from slipping on black ice, I got in the car and set off to speak at a recovery meeting in a local drug and alcohol treatment center.

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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, Uncategorized

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”