Virginia and California: My Star-Crossed Lovers

I am awaiting my flight to Vegas on a layover in the heavily populated Phoenix airport. In an attempt to be thrifty, I am hopping three flights to get to Philly where my sister and brother in law live. A man just sat down next to me talking all kinds of smack to himself. He belches a lot. I felt inspired by his crudeness which is why I am writing at this moment. Thanks, you daft random man.

I left California today for Virginia. I said that like I am cheating on the place I love more than anything in the world. There was a time when my code of conduct on travel included bridges of some sort being burned before I left. When faced with my inadequacies at any given place, I sprinted to the next best destination for an easier route. (Update: the belching king is back and someone named Tom Jones keeps ignoring his name blared over the loudspeaker. Maybe his own music would persuade him to make his flight on time). I chose to revisit Virginia for reasons completely foreign to me, none resembling the abandonment I am adept at inflicting. Thanks to my family, I saw a tiny window of opportunity to save my spirit once again. If sobriety has taught me anything worthwhile at all, it’s that rigorous honesty with self and surrender to reality are non-negotiables.

I have struggled for eight months to tread the tepid waters of brokeness in LA. With as much faith and support as a person could ever hope to receive, I met every financial setback with unyielding strength and encouragement from my friends. Our program tells us we will surely meet each other as we “trudge the road of happy destiny.” With a bit of sadness in my heart, I finally had to concede that a disproportionate amount of trudging has been the norm for a little too long. The happy comes in fits and spurts, thanks to my friends and their genius sense of humor. It’s time for me to achieve a balance and to reset.

I haven’t seen my family since I’ve gotten sober. And I couldn’t be more excited to be with them. For once, I am going toward something, rather than running away. I found my home in California, but it’s time for some southern charm. I will only be gone for a couple of months, but it already feels like an eternity has passed. Forgive my dramatic attitude; I enjoy airport histrionics, it’s kind of my thing.

I am freshly tattooed with Bowie’s likeness on my arm, so at least I can bring some LA flare to the Commenwealth. This trip, like everything else, is temporary. I pray to be of service to new AAers in VA. I will miss Los Angeles more than any place I’ve left because it is where I discovered my sobriety. I guess now is as good a time as any to exercise the 12 steps in even more dynamic ways.

Until next time,

Lucy

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Uhhhhhhh Self-Care, Anyone?

I had no idea how to take care of myself when I got sober. For me, it took a year of recovery and many stressful days and nights to arrive at the conclusion that I am not a person who one might call a “pro” at self-care (side note: self-care is apparently a verb; “so and so self-cares by eating spinach and kale 200 times a day”). As alcoholics, my tribe and I require the reminder that taking care of ourselves should be factored into our everyday lives–so much so that we need to use the words “self-care” to describe this phenomenon for it to make any sense to us. Before I got sober, I’d never considered treating my mind, body or spirit as the delicate treasures that they are. I drank and hoped the alcohol would take care of all of those things for me. I knew deep down that going to yoga classes three times a week hungover, in-between 10 cigarette breaks each, or replacing entire meals with wine and whiskey weren’t a part of what any healthy person would consider best practices. Now that I am in recovery, it pains me each time I deny myself the proper nutrients, water, exercise and sleep it takes to power a person who works a full-time program and two (new) part-time jobs. It’s about fucking time.

I recently enlisted the help of a trusted confidant to help me learn how to take care of myself. This person is my “wellness coach” of sorts; he helps me incorporate healthier lifestyle choices into my days, one tiny step at a time. I was hesitant to reach out to him, though I have experienced first-hand how his positive teaching methods have helped others around me. My hesitation reflected my fear of taking a cold, hard look at all of the ways I have not been looking after myself while being accountable to another human being other than myself. After about a week and a half working with him, It dawned on me this afternoon that I haven’t practiced self-care more than a few times in my life….hardly ever, hardly at all.

Others in the program with more years of sobriety under their belts frequently remind me that I am not doing anything “wrong” and that it takes awhile for the mind to catch up with a growing and developing spirit. I am frustrated lately that it takes so much work for me to see what others might casually identify as obvious ways to feel better about myself. I think it all boils down to self-esteem. I get ahead of myself when I compare my journey to another person’s who has had different experiences than I have. I know groups of women who were (and still are) fitness instructors, yoga teachers, non-smokers, juicers, gluten-free, vegan activists who are at their core alcoholics, just as I am. These women are people I love and admire, not only for their healthy lifestyles, but also for the ways they bring honesty to our friendships and to the group. My ears perk up when I hear them share about the feelings that come along with being walking, talking paradoxes: healthy people with inherently unhealthy addictions.

And so I ask myself: is it possible for me to be an addict AND a healthy person? I still smoke cigarettes–much to the chagrin of myself and my mother–and I have made countless failed attempts to give that shit up once and for all. I have not been willing to give up one of the two things (cigs and nicotine) that “help” me manage my anxiety. I have the unhealthy habits of a drunk person, but I am as sober as the day is long. I have been smoking on and off for 10 years, mostly because I was always wasted and wanted as many crutches as I could utilize before my addictions became totally socially unacceptable (I toed that line more times than I care to admit). I want to quit smoking, limit my caffeine intake to two gallons of coffee per day, take up my beloved yoga practice again, cook for myself and my loved ones and sleep more than four hours a night. These are tall orders for someone like me who hasn’t considered that maybe it would be worth it–that I would be worth it–in the end. The more I try to think myself out of doing the very things I know will make me feel better, the less excited I feel about taking really good care of myself. In my experience being sober, whatever I resist, persists. The more I neglect the things I love, the more my self-esteem will take a hit. I can’t consciously accept this kind of denial as a conscious person, it just doesn’t sit right with me anymore.

I know my days as a smoker who doesn’t sleep and rarely exercises more than a couple times a month are swiftly coming to a close. I predict that posting this will attract the expertise of women and men in my social media networks who have some success at practicing self-care in a sustainable manner. I welcome any and all feedback from all of you who have found a harmonious balance to a healthy life. I know it’s possible…show me your ways!

xx

treatyoself

A Positive I.D.

Here I sit, recovering from the whirlwind of one year cake parades, steeped in dissatisfaction. The point of taking baked goods in exchange for 365 consecutive days and nights of  continuous sobriety is for other people who are counting days to see the glimmer of hope from a birthday person that they, too, can do it. I am certain that part of my dismay has something to do with the “come down” after large amounts of attention were on me last week for reaching my flagship year. I love when I get the spotlight, even though most people’s opinions of me cause the nervous sweats. Being that I feel generous with my honesty today, I will say that attention is my #1 boo thang, as I readily admit my love for the rush that accompanies occasions where all eyes are on me. Barring that reason, I am quick to see that my shitty attitude could stand a significant change ASAP.

It is not as though I expected perfection, however last week was unusually difficult to accept. The politics of choosing who gives you a cake at a meeting is beyond me. As with this entire past year, I faced my criminally bad compulsion to please everyone and be as inclusive as possible. Inevitably, people were disappointed they were “not included” in the celebration, which was never my intent…not to mention those who quite unexpectedly did not participate at all. On the flip side, there were two days where I felt like I was smiling so big from happiness that my face would surely crack open. One group of sexy punk people set up projections of David Bowie and brought cake and coffee and gifts and hugs and kisses. To my absolute delight, a grown man from that same group wore a glittering spandex unitard in the name of glam rock and recovery. (I think he may enjoy attention as I do, no?)

  

What is left in the wake of the celebration is resentment. Because I am an alcoholic, my brain will always have an acute tone-deafness for reality. Luckily for me, I know that it matters little if I am justified in my anger and/or disappointment. My disease is so masterful at building a case against a person that it wouldn’t matter if they committed the crime of the century or forgot to say “hi” to me, my brain will process both equally in its skillful and punitive manner. What is required of me at this point is to address these resentments through step work, #4 and #10: what’s really bugging me, how does that affect me and what part do I play in the ongoing saga, real or otherwise. But most importantly: what am I doing about it?

My imagination tends to get the best of me. When I am building a case against a person in my mind, it is as inaccurate as a composite sketch an artist does with eye-witness accounts. It is damn near impossible to get an accurate view of what a person really looks like when another person’s account is typically unreliable, probably fear-based. When my mind’s eye is clouded with disappointment in what I believe should have been a person’s actions or words, my view of them always gets distorted, followed shortly thereafter by my attitude. 

So, here is what I am doing about it: meeting friends for a “step work” writing party. We will write our inventories and hopefully share with each other what is getting to us. In the meantime, I am praying for those who’ve been taking up space in my mind. Truthfully, my spirit could use a tune-up. It is much more heartening for me to live in a dream world of gratitude rather than waking up mad at people, as though I am blaming them for something they did in a dream. Reality bites sometimes, but at least there is a way to identify positivity rather than making those I care about reluctant dream suspects.

TKO.

HOLY WHAAAAAT…I am one year and one day sober.

F^&$)?:@^{%~*<‘@!,;”#=+£€•}!

The most important thing I can say here (that is not an expletive) is thank you. Thank you to every single person who made themselves available to help me. Thank you to those who allowed me to be a part of your lives. Thank you to all of you for your support. Thank you to my Higher Power for giving me a chance to change.

I care more about this birthday than I have any other natal birthday in my lifetime. I spent all day yesterday with beautiful people who I love madly. I am humbled beyond any flimsy words that would try and fail to capture how great it feels to be in love like this.

Just a few days ago, a very good friend of mine imparted some wisdom about what it means for us moving forward in recovery:

“This is about letting those battlefields go and finding a new spiritual landscape inside that was once bare. It’s your true self and when you know who that is, you will know how to proceed with love in your heart. What others think and do will become unimportant and you will have the ability to choose.”

I once knew an ambivalence toward my own heart that always left me confused and defeated by the innumerable choices before me. It never occurred to me that by drinking like I did, I gave up my ability to choose best for myself. There was little difference between my way of thinking and a bantam heavyweight championship fight–I would become enraged that I couldn’t feel what my intuition was nudging me to do, so I would throw major right hooks at my emotional numbness, fighting my faults with negativity…to the psychic death. I took cheap shots (Jameson, especially) at myself, in the end. It was damn near impossible to keep fighting when I always knew the booze would win. As a result, my spirit began slipping into a slow and agonizing death from one too many punches thrown. 

Today, I am free to love myself because I gave up the fight. I have no power over my addiction to alcohol. Once I start drinking, I cannot control my alcohol intake, no matter how good my intentions are. By being in recovery, I am going against my body and mind’s natural state to self-destruct. Now that booze is no longer in my system, however, I get the chance to transmute all of that combativeness into care for myself, the kind of care that allows me to avail myself of others’ needs.

So with that, I leave all of my love to you, bloggers and readers, especially those who are finding it hard to be good to yourself. Be happy. You are loved. There is no use in fighting it.

xo

360 Degrees of Separation 

Today marks my 360th day of sobriety. Only 5 days stand between me and, well, just another standard issue, miracle-laced 24-hour period. All sorts of scary and wonderful thoughts have been coming to the surface lately. I am at once beaming with joy and terrified that I am accountable to a mystical and loving Higher Power, who I experience when I see my partners in sobriety grow each and every day.

This year, I finally learned how to commit. I put the bottle down long enough to discard my former fearful self in order to see how truly beautiful it is to have an unblocked heart. There is no metric to measure how amazing it feels to be a part of the world again, no matter what my brain leads me to believe. The space for insecurity, self-doubt, loneliness, self-centered fear and plain selfishness has been replaced by love, loyalty and faith. I feel like I know less about life and how I “should” live it than when I started. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am grateful to be writing again. I am honored to know happiness can blossom from empathy and compassion for self and others. I see that forgiveness was my missing link. I am fulfilled because I have direction of purpose. It pleases me to no end that all I had to do was wake up in pure consciousness to see that it is not about me anymore. Thank you to whomever ends up reading this, because you are also part of my recovery.

I’ve learned how to stop treating family, friendships and romantic relationships like they are disposable. I have a better idea of how to cop to the fact that I don’t know how to do something, whether it is at work or while I fumble through transportation issues. I trust that there are a lot of events and people ahead that will change my life for the better, though none more important than who or what exists in my life today. It appears that humility arises by expressing my truth rather than comparing myself to others. I am able to learn all of these things because running away stopped serving me. It turns out that presence is the only way to let go of ego’s destruction…and there is nowhere to be but here.

I am one of those people whose obsession with alcohol manifests when things are going really well and I am happy. A few days ago, I was driving in my friend’s car coming from a get together with sober friends and I felt a strong tingling in my throat that I can only liken to the first sip of whiskey I used to love/worship. I called fellow alcoholics to tell them my latest status report and their replies were priceless: “Of course you have cravings, you are an alcoholic–welcome to our world” and, my personal favorite, “It’s ok to be happy”.  Of all the thousands of wise words I’ve heard this year, the ones that strike me in the most dramatic Fashion are always the most simple. Events and people do not need to dictate my state of joy and neither do fears. There is a state of grace that awaits me when I am able to be still and true to myself. I’m pretty sure that is what is means to be human–addicted or not.

My solemn vow is to remain grateful. So thank you to all of you who taught me I am part of something bigger than myself. I cannot be separate when I am connected to you.

xx

Photo courtesy of Coachella.com

Interview With a Vampire

On Monday of this week, I interviewed for a position in a field completely unrelated to my former political pursuits. I walked in that office as a confident woman, strong in my abilities to communicate what I had to offer to this new company. I have always appeared confident in the professional arena, though I know that for the entirety of my career, I led somewhat of a double life: hard-working 20-something during the day and early evening, blotto drunk party girl for the remainder of the night. Day after day: rinse, lather, repeat. I adopted the “work hard, play hard” mentality as a solid creed by which I could survive in a competitive and demanding field. (To this day, it is shocking to me how I lived that way for so long, suffering needlessly.) My work in politics gave me the notoriety as an organizer/aspiring political hack that I thought would replace the weaning confidence I depleted in order to walk into the job “confident” in the first place. In short, I faked it. Isn’t that what we are taught to do? Fake it until we make it?

I have such a vivid memory of the night three years ago when I got the call that I would be interviewing for what was, in my opinion, my dream job at that point in my young professional life. My first reaction was immediate terror. What does this mean? Do they really think I can carry out the duties of this position? What could I possibly offer this employer? Could I stomach such a rigorous interview process? How could I prepare when the interview was only TWO weeks away? Was I ready for this kind of job? These questions induced chronic and intense anxiety—the likes of which I had never experienced. In my Higher Power’s fashion of impeccable timing, that same night my best friend had just gotten word that she got her job in California, and it was a night to celebrate. I did not know how to give myself the space to celebrate an interview for a job I really cared about, let alone be present for my friend who was following her dreams, too. Regardless of how I felt—or because of it—we broke out the Freixenet, while I silently broke out into the emotional equivalent of hives.

I interviewed three times for what would become my job for three years. I worked hard and had great relationships with admirable coworkers and supervisors. Though I was able to be a part of a great movement, I can’t help but think about my attitude going into those interviews and the oppressive anxiety I continued to toil under for the duration of my stay with my employer. I did not trust that I could make a difference, nor did I see that there were people there with me every step of the way to help me contribute to the team. Everything I viewed was through the lens of imminent failure. I rarely slept, even while I worked double-digit hours through multiple campaigns, day after day. I lived a half-life of sorts; I was a veritable vampire who worked incredibly hard during the day, counting down the minutes when I could get home to live my night life, subsisting on alcohol and a 1,000 vials of fears.

By the grace of a power far greater than me, I crossed the glamorous West Coast version of the Rubicon when I moved to Southern California. Los Angeles proved to be the single best place to hit rock bottom and it continues to be the perfect venue for solid sobriety. The job I moved here for gave me invaluable skills that will transfer to whatever industry I find myself working. The confident, less exhausted, person who showed up for an interview on completely unfamiliar turf did not have to fake a damn thing. It is curious to me that after such a small amount of time, facing my fears of succeeding have diminished drastically. My feelings of self-doubt have slipped away, presumably into the empty Wild Turkey 101 bottle I corked on March 16, 2014.

I did not end up getting that job, after all. My former self would have immediately launched into a self-hating, overly critical inner monologue. Yesterday, I got to open the email with a fellow alcoholic who walked me through my feelings of disappointment. There was no handwringing to speak of, no bouts of tears. My friends and fellow alcoholics reminded me that my Higher Power has his own plan and that my job is to do the foot work while my fate unfolds. Today, like the last 354 days, I met with other alcoholics and I will be writing gratitude lists after I call someone who might just need to talk. Today, like every other day in sobriety, I have the choice to trust that my disappointments are fodder for faith. There are no more questions that cause me to doubt myself or my abilities. Today, I know what to do. Tomorrow, too: Rinse, Lather, Repeat.

Yes, I Accept.

Typically, whenever I utter the words, “yes, I accept,” there is a an unmistakable shit-eating grin on my face and a twinkle in my eye.  The only times I have ever found these words worthy of elliciting my signature response apply to the following situations: A). I have been offered a badass job, B). Apple products require me to sign off on Terms and Conditions for my new iPhone, or C). Someone has asked me if I am willing to pay extra for guacamole or sour cream.  These days, my acceptance threshold has reached new levels of discernment: I face (with equal enthusiasm) an undeniably sobering reality, in addition to an unrelenting desire to coax the joy out of myself, even if it kills me.  (The “me” I reference here is Ego.)

What I have discovered in the last 48 hours–which have passed so effortlessly–is that acceptance has set me free.  I have attended hundreds of meetings since March of 2014, where many of the best passages out of the appropriate alcoholic literature describe acceptance being the antidote to my life’s “recent unpleasantness” (as my grandmother Myra “Bunch” Morrisette used to say).  One passage greets me with offensively bright pink highlighter each time I open my Big Book to read about how to get through the present time sober:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation–some fact of my life–unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment…I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.

I find immense joy in the knowledge that resistance is futile.  Sure, when my spicy Italian hot-headedness commands attention, I can spit expletives with the best of them.  A friend once even referred to it as The Morrisette Charm Offensive (and offensive it was).  I like being angry sometimes. However, the moment my Higher Power nudged me toward the exotic realm of sobriety, I agreed to disarm by disengaging my anger.  I made a commitment to myself and to all that is good and right in the world that I would no longer answer to the dictates of my own thoughts or emotions.  I am now reaching a new stratosphere of consciousness where there exists a far greater power in humility–or as I like to call it, knowing when to just shut the fuck up–thoughts, feelings and all.

I have struggled with powerful questions about what surrender and acceptance mean for my feelings, because I am addicted to feelings as much as I am addicted to my own line of thinking. The best, most non-addicting thought that has crossed my mind thus far is simply, “I don’t know”.  I find that my higher power lives in me amidst uncertainty, as well as in the outside world, guiding me with an ever-pliant intuition.  I see now that to accept how I feel at any given time requires a bit of consolidation rather than compounding. I get to feel angry; I don’t get to let that anger pervade all of my thoughts and actions with unconscious motivations…I am trying to stay sober, here, people.

And today, I accept that I no longer have the fight in me to resist joy.  I spent the afternoon with an alarmingly irreverent friend of mine, riding the same buses that recently brought me to public tears, panic and confusion…only to find that we did not stop laughing the entire 2+ hours we spent schlepping to West Hollywood, Silver Lake and onward to Glendale.  I observed my anger, resentments and situational depression slowly deflate after a meditation meeting last night clear through to this afternoon, job-hunting with a friend rather than lumbering under the duress of my false ego’s stronghold.

So, yes.  Yes to less.  Less pressure, less unhappiness, less trivialities.  Yes, I accept these terms and conditions.

 

Photo courtesy of en.memory-alpha.org