The voice of I’M FINE

I have probably written about this before, but it’s January and there are lots of new faces!

If you have just started the sober journey, welcome! You are making a choice that might just lead you to a love of freedom and limitless possibility. The life we all have, but that gets bogged down in the booze.

If you are back from a break/relapse/whatever, it’s great to see you again. Big hug.

So. It’s 10days into January. The novelty of declaring that you are quitting drinking has worn off. Perhaps you have found these 10days easy and you are beginning to hear that inner voice slyly telling you nothing was wrong. Everyone drinks. You deserve it. You haven’t lost your job, house, marriage. You are FINE. Just drink moderately.

It’s good that you can hear that voice. It is important to recognize it. And it is also important to remember that not everything we think is true. Denial, especially around addictive behaviour, is strong. No one wants to feel like they have let things get out of control. Especially not anyone how otherwise is successful and driven. I know. This thinking kept me drinking much longer than I knew I should have.

But you are here, and so you realize that perhaps alcohol is part of the problem. So, what to do?

Give sobriety a chance. Consider it an experiment. See how your life works without alcohol dulling it.

It might be itchy and uncomfortable. But it will also be bright and poignant and beautiful. You just need to keep your eyes and mind open.

There is no easy way through the first days and weeks. This is where focusing on today is helpful. When asking for help might be necessary. Even if it is scary. It is also a brave step of self compassion.

I know it’s hard to believe that a life without alcohol could be exciting, fun and happy. I can only tell you my experience…

Before I quit drinking I was constantly on edge, depressed and I felt very unnoticed and taken for granted. I didn’t feel like my family saw all I was doing for them. I believed I was trying so hard and no one recognized my effort. I was full of self pity.

Once I stopped using alcohol to drown these thoughts I quickly realized it was part of the problem. I stopped blaming everyone and everything for what was wrong in my life. I actually started to see the good.

And I realized I was worth the effort. I deserved to be clear headed. And that life really was too beautiful to bide away my time on the couch crying into my class of wine. There is SO MUCH MORE!

So stick with it. Give it some time. Write your story. Go to meeting. Whatever. You will find a world of support.

Stillness and peace,

Anne

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Believe

It’s time for the word of the year.

I have been thinking about this a lot. Over the past few years my word of the year has helped me find inspiration and motivation. Each year I add another word onto my list. Not replacing one word with another, so much as adding another layer, another perspective.

In 2014 i used acceptance, when I was trying to understand my new sober life and things seems scary and hard. Change starts with acceptance. I needed this.

2015 was Love, as my life began to solidify into something beautiful. I learned to truly love myself.

For 2016 I chose Faith, when I needed to stop seeking, and start trusting myself.

2017 was santosha or contentment. The softening into a life of stillness and peace. It has served me well this year, as it was a disruptive year full of recovery from The 2016 wildfire, followed by an economic downturn. Santosha has reminded me that I always have everything I any moment. I just need to close my eyes and breathe.

For 2018 I have thought long and hard. I considered pride. I have had a few hard incidents this year that have shaken my confidence in myself and left me a little tentative and unsure of myself. I wondered if pride was what I needed to regain my self…but no…pride is not the right word for me this year. It is too brash and sharp. It feels too defensive.

Believe feels right. Believe can help me remember that I know who I am. Remember that I don’t always have to justify myself or explain myself. Sometimes people might not get me. Sometimes people might not like me or the choices I make. But that’s ok. I am making the right choices for me and my life.

I believe life is a beautiful, that an open mind can see endless possibilities, that when I do things wholeheartedly I can be proud of my actions, even if the results aren’t always what I expect.

For 2018 I can believe.

If you are a blogger and choose a word of the year please let me know. If you don’t blog maybe you can share your word, if you choose one, in the comments.

Merry Christmas.

Stillness and Peace,

Anne

Jay Z

This weekend we ventured outside our normal genre and went to see Jay Z. It was my birthday and craig bought us all tickets…in Edmonton.

It worked out well. Cleo had to see the eye specialist anyway, so we flew down on Thursday.

And we invited my parents to meet us. They drove up and we had hotel rooms on the same floor (not adjoining…not right beside).

This was a big win. A few years ago I decided that Christmas was not a time for visitors and I told my parents they couldn’t come to our house. The last time they did was December 2013. I had just quit drinking. I was stressed, hysterical, embarrassed, depressed. It was a nightmare.

My mom is hard to get along with. Nothing I do ever seems right or good enough. Everything is an underhanded criticism. When I am around her I begin to believe again that something is desperately wrong with me, and if I could just do better/more, be smarter, thinner, nicer, less difficult, less opinionated…sigh. Less me…than she might like me.

Yes. It is hard. And hurtful. And it really is like that. But, of course, if I ever mention it it’s all me. I over react. And in my drinking days I just drowned out the criticism and hurt and feelings of inadequacy with wine.

So. Over the past 4 years of therapy I have found short, neutral ground visits work best for me. I need my own space.

I have considered just not seeing her, but the kids enjoy short visits with their grandparents…although Cleo sees it all exactly as it is and refuses to take any crap from her grandmother. And I feel guilty when I avoid them.

So this weekend we met up and had some visits and did some shopping and played some cards. We celebrated my 46 birthday. We were all pleasant and nice.

Jay Z was fun. Not as much dope smoke as anticipated. Lol. May parents didn’t come to the concert.

4 years of sobriety have helped me find those boundaries while still living my life. I respect anyone who chooses complete avoidance from family who are difficult. It’s a hard decision to make, but a brave one. I am glad I have found a middle ground that works for now.

Life isn’t simple…it’s just much clearer. I am not the problem! And I remember everything.

If you feel obligated by family during the holidays step back and ask yourself what is necessary. What would you prefer. And how can you make that happen. People might not like it, but I know I’m responsible for my own mental health. We all are.

Stillness and peace,

Anne

FOUR YEARS LATER…

Looking back…

Four years ago I was sad. My life seemed bleak. I was full of anxiety and very depressed.

I had a good job, a nice family, but inside I felt wrong. I never felt good enough. I never felt successful. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I hated myself.

I had tried to solve my deep distress. I embrace exercise and food rules and became obsessed with fitness and low carb diets and depriving myself. I felt good when doing this, but in a bleak, self destructive way. There was always something I didn’t do right. During this time I really believed if only I could be perfect, things would be ok…and that consequences and accountability would help me find that.

This helped for a few years, as my ability to control my body and my food intake helped my anxiety….but eventually it stopped helping.

Through it all I could see that drinking was part of the problem, but I never really considered I would have to quit. I just needed to get things under control. So I drank more water, has more days off between drinking, etc. But it was part of our social life and I refused to do much more.

As my anxiety got worse I looked for more solutions. I joined an online fitness program. And it turned out to be a self help program in disguise. All that year we were encouraged to ask ourselves what our “best life”would include. What things we did to support this.

And drinking always cropped up as something holding me back.

December 1,2013 I finally had enough. I decided I couldn’t used stupid rules or plans to stop drinking. I just had to not drink.

So, as an early birthday gift, I decided to give myself a year of sobriety.

I have really never looked back. It has been very, very hard sometimes…I have had episodes of depression, people close to us have died, shitty things happened. BUT it has also been the easiest decision I ever made. And make every single day.

Because once the hysteria ended and shadow alcohol had over me lessened, i felt free.

With that freedom I have chosen to take the path of self awareness. I have looked for and asked for help from many different venues. I try to be open minded enough to participate before judging. And I let go of what isn’t helping me.

I follow the yogic path, I embrace honesty and compassion, and I try to treat myself and others like the precious and divine creators we are.

I have become a person I am proud of.

The thoughts of drinking are minuscule now. They mostly appear when I am hungry and tired and am feeling insecure. I find telling other about them make them powerless. Secrets have never helped me.

If you think alcohol is preventing you from living a life of joy and contentment, quit. Get whatever help you need to make that happen, and find out who you really are. You will be amazed.

Thank you all for all the support you have shown me over the years! My plan is for there to be many more.

Stillness and peace

Anne

Slips, relapses and blogging

I have read lots of blogs recently where people are dealing with relapse and trying to understand what the next step is.

And a few bloggers have disappeared…maybe thinking they don’t want the pressure or will begin again in 2018….I don’t know, I just know my heart goes out to anyone struggling.

So. All I want to say is that in a sober community I really hope there is no need to hide or pretend things are better than they are. We all have struggled and felt defeat and couldn’t understand our own behaviour and created long, elaborate excuses for what we knew were not our best choices. We all learn by sharing our experiences.

This is hard. Really hard. Every day of sobriety is a win. Every time we choose not to drink is a act of self compassion.

In the year before I finally quit I swore every Monday that I was done. I always felt that horrible, post drinking anxiety and self loathing. I felt physically exhausted and mentally beaten down. By Thursday or Friday I would have perked up enough to begin to reconsider and in my head an argument would begin. I derserved to have a drink after a hard week. Everyone else drank. I was FINE. That thinking would grow and grow and become, what anothe blogger today called the fuck it’s.

I can still feel that intense tornado of anxiety that went with those thought. And eventually I would give in. I never ever expected to want long term sobriety, so even short term seemed unreasonable.

In a few weeks I will have 4 years of continuous sobriety. My life is dramatically more fulfilling than it was in 2013, but it is also very much the same. Same job, family, home. But I am very different. In these 4 years I have tried to explore support, open mindedness, asking for help, complete honesty. I have made sober friends in pèrson and online. 

So…where am I going with this…if you can at all relate to what I wrote and you have even a few days of sobriety, hold on to it. It is fragile and precious and needs nurturing. Talk to someone. Go to a meeting. Ask for support and if people say they don’t think you are “that bad,”,know all that matters is what you think. Because self denial is strong, but soul crushing.

On the other side is freedom and joy. And a different way of life that might seem scary and boring and bleak, but is beautiful.

And if you have longer term sobriety. Cherish it. I have many times considered if I could drink again…maybe it woüld be different. Maybe I’m more self aware and less self destructive. But I just can’t imagine I would be worth risking freedom and joy for alcohol and numbness. The basic fact it’s even a consideration reminds me why I don’t drink.

So keep writing. Keep tryin. Keep patting yourself on the back and telling yourself you love yoü. 

And don’t drink today!

Stillness and peace

Anne

Fall

Fall has come. I find this time of year hard. It is darker and darker every day and getting cold. We had some snow, but it melted. Snow will come to stay eventually!

Craig and I travelled to Sacramento to the aftershock festival. Nine inch nails were amazing. The rest of the line up was great too..Izzy, five finger death punch, Halestorm, starset…

The travel was hellacious. Everything that could go wrong did. I didn’t deal well at all. Sigh. I try hard to go with the flow, and am successful sometimes, but I can still be pushed into seeing red. I actually had a moment where I was so mad I thought…if there was a bottle here I might drink it…or if there was a knife I might stab someone…it’s scary to get so caught up in anger, but, instead, of choosing something self destructive I cried. I cried long and hard.

Crying seems like the weak choice, until I actually try it and then I realize just how cleansing those tears were. They were an act of self compassion. 

Anyway, I got over it and then spent a few days refilling my clearly empty cup. I went to restorative yoga instead of power flow. I slept more. And I got back to being ok.

And now I have the flu. Lol

I though it was seasonal allergies, but today the cough became a feverand headache and chills. I stayed home for. Work and slept all day. Hopefully tomorrow is better.

As I come up on 4 years of sobriety I realize the rest of my life will be a continuous practice of self compassion and contentment, but then forgetting and freaking out and learning from that experience. That what makes life interesting. Being zen all the time would be stagnant and boring. I know that, even if I still kind of wish it was possible.

I se lots of new bloggers and am missing some who haven’t posted for a while. I hope everyone is well. There is no bad day that drinking couldn’t make worse! 

Stillness and peace

Anne

Small joys…and complicated thoughts

Yesterday I had to get up at 4:30 to catch a plane to calgary. It was cold, dark and I was cranky…stomp stomp…why do I have to travel…

As I sat on the small corporate plane the pilot mentioned the northern lights were out. They turned off the cabin lights and I sat and watched the beautiful aurora borealis dance in the dark sky, surrounded by stars. On the other side of the plane the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon.

In that moment I felt deep appreciation for my life. I was on a comfortable plane, flying across the province for a meeting,  watching the Northern lights. I was safe and secure. My life is unbelievably full of opportunity and potential.

Later that day my meeting was held near where we lived when we were evacuated. It’s funny how familiar sights start sneaky little thoughts. 

On the flight home all I could see was the burnt trees. I was stuck in those thoughts. And I undead up talking about my evacuation experience on the plane. About my intense fear when I couldn’t find cooper and craig on the highway and the fire was burning and there was so much smoke. About the feeling of displacement. Of my strong desire to never go back to fort mcmurray again and, since that time, my deep dissatisfaction that things aren’t the same as they were. 

I know that things will never be the same. I know. And I know wanting this to be different than they are is the root of suffering. But that’s how it is. I almost bask in the pain of it. It’s strange.

It’s interesting to step back and see how these varied and strong emotional states influence me. I am thankful for the moments of peace and contentment, because they are what bring me back from the episode of wallowing in self pity.i still consider I may have to move from here some days. That the natural destruction of the forest, by a fire that is really part of the natural cycle of life, might just be too much of a trigger for me. It’s possible…

But for now I step back and see the beauty that remains. And try to remember that even the burnt trees are temporary. New trees are growing. New houses are being built. New people move to town.

Different does not mean worse. Change is often good. I just can’t always see it in the moment.


Stillness and peace

Anne
Ps. Here is an illustration of the change. The same view walking up to the clubhouse at our golf course. The top is what was. It was one of the most beautiful courses…it is cut out of the trees and is along the river. The bottom is what is. Fall.

What was and what is. 

Sometimes it is the small things that remind me how difficult my life was.

The other morning my husband was getting ready for work and he thanked me for making his breakfast and lunch (I do this most days. I like to cook and I always bring my own lunch, so I make his too). He thanks me often. And it feels nice that he notices and acknowledges something I do for him. But on the days he doesn’t thank me I don’t feel unnoticed or resentful. I make his lunch because I want to. No string attached.

But…..it made me think back to when I was still drinking and very unhappy.

If he had thanked me for making his lunch then, I would probably have immediately felt attacked. Was this a backhanded criticism? Was he insinuating the other day I made lunch he didn’t appreciate it? Why couldn’t he see how much I do? I am so hard done by, under appreciated, invisible. Life is unfair. Spiral into anger, resentment and self pity. I must have been pretty hard to live with. And I really thought I had it together. Yikes.

Yes. It’s was that simple. A small comment could push me pretty far. Because I was already living in a place of fear of criticism, worry my true self, that I loathed and criticized was showing. All over an offhand remark.

It helps me to remember that. Because today I know my inner self was just crying for some love and self compassion. That I was never going to find peace from others applause or recognition. It all had to come from me. My motives need to be free from string. 

In the Bhagavad Gita this is karma yoga. The willingness to take action without any expectation of the results. To labour and have someone else enjoy the fruits. To give without any thought of getting something in return.

This concept was completely foreign until I quit drinking and started looking for a different way to live with my life long anxiety. Yogic philosophy puts in word what I need. It helps me understand how to live gently.

I try hard to live is way. It’s not easy…and I slide back into approval seeking (or, more noticeably) criticism avoiding. But that’s why yoga is a lifelong practice. I’m sure I will have many opportunities to let go of attachment. And it’s worth it, because it is one way to reduce future suffering.

Stillness and peace.

Anne

Why does not drinking feel so wrong?

I responded to a blog today and thought I would share.

It’s really hard to quit drinking when you are drinking problematically. No one wants to end up drunk on a park bench…but some do. Those same people were probably once drinking Pinot Grigio out of a crystaL wine glass. That’s an important reality. Even the worst addict was once a 5 year old, with their whole life ahead of them.

Here’s what I wrote…

I wish I had an answer. I spent quite a bit of time where you are. I loved to drink. All my friends drank. My hubby and I drank together.
We have excellent jobs, a lovely house, nice kids. Savings. No one could say we needed to change anything.

I stopped because I hated how regretful I felt when I wasn’t drinking. I hated the feeling of doom and guilt and the little inner voice that said I drank too much and wasn’t as good a parent as I could be. I hated the hangovers and paranoia and anxiety.
But I liked to drink, and I could not fathom life differently. People who didn’t drink weren’t even on my radar.

Figuring out life sober was strange. I wavered between relief, anger, grief and moments of deep peace. I became severely depressed and rarely left the house. 

It took a few months before I realized I was no longer angry I had quit drinking. That the empty time wasn’t boring, just time.

The clarity of sobriety is something I never had before. My soul is truly at peace. I feel moments of pure contentment.

I also have shorty days and boring days and hard days.

But I know the bliss is there. And it will return if I nurture myself and don’t numb with alcohol or drugs.

I quit when I was 42. Im not sure I would have given up the fun boozing years before that…but I am grateful now that nothing really bad ever happened…

Take care of yourself. There’s no easy way. 

Stillness and peace 

Anne

Annoyed with my body 

I eat well. Lots of vegetables, organic or local meat from my favourite farmer. Gluten free (I am celiac), but not many gf products that are crappy anyways.

I don’t drink or smoke. I practice yoga every day. I usually feel pretty good.

A couple weeks ago, on the way home from Quebec City, I started getting severe heartburn. This is not unfamiliar, I  had stomach problems for years and year. The celiac disease diagnosis made a huge difference, but I am still quite careful about what I eat. I am not sure how I survive the drinking years….unending antacids. But for the past few years I have felt pretty good. 

Anyway. This sudden, severe heartburn was accompanied by intense heart palpitations.  I tried to reassure myself it wasn’t unusual, but by day three of intense pain and a pounding heartI went to emerg. Turns out I was not having a heart attack, but severe heartburn and pvcs, which are benign irregular heartbeats. Whew.

So. I tried nexium. It made me nauseous. I stopped eating. It did not help the heartburn. I tried Prevacid and it made me vomit. I considered fasting longer. Eating only rice. The SCD diet. I became overwhelmed with indecision and frustrated with the pain. Because the pain was horrible. It felt like a knife in my chest. 

After a bit of sulking I had an idea. I went to my Ayurvedic doctor. I was conveniently in edmonton to see Lady Gaga. Fortuitous!

Ayurveda is the medicine of yoga. I have seen this doctor before. I first went in 2015. I had gone into premature menopause/adrenal fatigue during my years of starving and drinking and excessive exercise, and I hoped she could help me get myself back on track.

Within 2 months I was on my way back to normal. After years of hair loss and feeling terrible I felt like I was healing. 

Ayurveda tailors your diet and lifestyle to your dosha. It all starts with good digestion. I am a pitta/kapha. But my vata was out of whack. To help with this I eat warm, nourishing food. I avoid excessive extercise. I do a daily oil massage. Basically I treat myself kindly. I expect almost all sober women could use some vata pacifying!

Anyway, my current issue is aggravated pitta. This happens when it’s hot and when a person skips meals. For a prolonged period of time. Hmmm. I have been travelling quite a bit and when I am unsure of what to eat, or I get over hungry, I don’t eat. And I had lost some weight. My close fit better. I liked the feeling. Maybe a bit too much.

For me, not eating is a coping mechanism. It lets me feel like I am in control. It is not a coping mechanism that works well for me. Maybe it did once, but now it just adds to my anxiety and in a state of semi starvation I am irrational, easily rattled and hangry.

 Excess pitta creates heat. Causing heartburn, fast heart rate, sweating. It even explains my sore, red eyes. 

So I came home with a bunch of supplements and some plans to ensure I eat breakfast every day. Ayurveda recommends foods that are cooling and sweet for pitta and forgoing pepper, spicy foods and sour foods. I will be adding some fruit and some warm milk as well. I will let you know how it goes!

It all makes sense when I think about it. Digestion and health are like everything else. They require regular evaluation and effort. And perhaps some open minded ideas about heaLth and nutrition.

So, that’s my story for the weekend. I hope you are all well!

Stillness and peace,

Anne