Some things remain hard…but I can do hard things…

We went to see Tool last night. It was a sold out show. 

Honesty, tool is a bit heavy for me…I like lyrics, and less head banging,  but it was interesting. I never once wished I wasn’t there. 

BUT

going to the concert meant leaving work early, an hour flight to a different city, renting a car, a hotel I have never stayed at and finally an arena I have only been in once.

For me this amount of change in one day results in amped up generalized anxiety. By the time we got to the arena I would say my anxiety, which is usually around a three was up to a six. Then we had to take a very steep and long escalator to the second level…and out seats were in an extremely steep section.

That was about it for me. Looking down I almost panicked. Sweating, heart racing, feeling ill. Somehow I made it to my seat…after a serious consideration of running away and going back to the hotel.

I don’t like heights. And when I am already off kilter this was too much.

A few years back, while drinking, we went to a comcertand sat in very high up seats. I couldn’t get to the seat. I couldn’t go back down to the ground. I ended up sitting  in a different row for part of the time. Booze trapped me there. I was paralyzed by the fear that day. I didn’t cause a complete scene, but it was bad enough. I wanted an ambulance. It was very scary.

Yesterday no booze meant I was still panicked and scared, but I managed. I would have killed for some Ativan, but I’m afraid of it. I am concerned I would like it too much. 

It took about a hour to finally relax. I never left the seat once during the concert. I didn’t think I could walk down the stairs again.

But I enjoyed myself and I managed.

My anxiety still exists. Medication, yoga, sobriety, mindfulness. They all support my mental health, but some of it is just how I am. I don’t like it, but I managed. That’s the best I can do!

We flew back home today. I know know to never, ever book seats in the second level of a stadium!

Stillness and peace

Anne

Ps. The stadium was full of drinkers. Not many looked like they were having fun by the end. They mostly looked tired. That’s how concerts always see, to me. People going hard and then slowly petering out before he show is even half done. What a waste.

Celebrating life

Hi all.

I have to post. Today is my 18 year wedding anniversary. 

After over 20 years being drinking buddies we have now been sober together for 3 1/2 years. These have been some of the absolutely best years of our life together. Change is possible.

I love you Craig.

Stillness and peace,

Anne

A Weekend of Rock (and rain) on the Range

Craig and I spent the weekend in Columbus, Ohio at Rock on the Range.

It turned out to be a weekend of highs and lows.

En route to Ohio news surfaced that Chris Cornell had died. Soundgarden was scheduled to be the headliner Friday night and it was one band I really was looking forward to seeing. Last summer we had seen Chris Cornell’s solo acoustic tour. He was amazing…and in 1995, when Craig and I were first dating, we saw Soundgarden in Calgary. 

So it was a sad start to the weekend, but many of the bands played songs in tribute. The show went on. Like life must.

During the weekend there were also 2 incidents of bad weather that resulted in a full evacuation of the stadium. It just highlighted the continued PTSD we have from last summers evacuation. Once the call to go was made Craig insisted we get in the car and get away asap. I didn’t want to leave. Denial is strong…but I agreed that not getting trapped in a parking lot was a good idea and we ended up back at our hotel, safe and sound. If shaken.

Otherwise the bands were awesome. Seether, I Prevail, the offspring and Chevelle were highlights. Metallica was great…but by the time they played Sunday night I was exhausted and completely spent. I just am too old for 4 days of standing in crowds in the sun/rain/wind!! We spent a lot of time in the VIP tent. Watching others I wonder how I ever survived these things drinking…but I realize I never went to things like this drinking because I knew I would never have been able to pace myself through the day and I would have had huge crowd anxiety.

Ah, the joys of sober fun! You absolutely can’t beat it. Watching people carry their friends around only reminds me of where I never want to be!

We highlighted the weekend with matching tattoos. Shocker, as all Craig’s tattoos are skulls and daggers, but this one worked for us both. 

Stillness and peace!

Anne

One year later

Today is the anniversary of the wildfire that devastated my community of Fort McMurray. All 80 plus thousand of us evacuated out on the one road – heading north or south through flames.

It is an odd thing to be part of a mass trauma. Everyone around you has experienced the same thing…to different degrees. And each of them reacts differently. The city feels prickly. People are short tempered and self focused. Comparison becomes a source of guilt. It’s hard to even express that.

The city itself has been left with a hum of discontent. We all experienced amazing generosity from across the globe and even that was hard to accept – to go from completely self sufficient to scared, lost and possessionless is very scary. And during the first days the not knowing if our house had burnt down, if I still had a job to go back to, if everyone was ok, was heartbreaking. 

We are fortunate. We did not lose our house. Our employer supported us fully. Kind people made our stay in Calgary easier.

But the scars from the days of fear remain. I still get upset looking at pictures. I still remember being on the highway with my daughter and not being able to connect with, or find, my husband and son in another vehicle. With fire burning along the road. That distress clings to my throats even as I type.

 I know many people who relapsed during this time. The loss of the familiar leads to unexpected behaviour. Craig and I both found support when needed to protect ourselves. Self care must continue no matter what. This was absolutely a time where doing less helped.

I didn’t want to return here last summer. First we didn’t want to leave…then I didn’t want to go back. The mind is complicated!

I continue to consider moving away. Every day I drive by vast stretches of burnt forest. It surrounds us. It used to be lush and green. I am afraid it won’t be this year. And it has become a constant reminder of what was…

My other side feels like moving is running away, although as time goes buy this belief is less and less true.  I have spent a year returning to my life and what I have found is that the old life is gone and a new, different life exists. If I choose to move it is because I know even another different life can be created wherever we go. Not because of the fire…just because home is where you make it.

I hope that one day I will look back at this as just another experience of our life. But today I am still stuck in the emotional upheaval.

I will take time to hug my family tight today. Please do the same. And remember…there is no experience so bad that you can’t make worse by drinking.

Thank you all for you support. I appreciate it. Especially jean from Unpickled, who is my close friend, and who interviewed me about the evacuation on the bubble hour. It helped me last summer. 

Stillness and peace,

Anne

Life goes on

Hi all,

If you gave up alcohol for lent I truly hope you have noticed the vast improvement a booze free life brings and have decided to continue on sober and free!

My life continues in a normal way. Kids at school, traveling for concerts (we saw Weezer a few weeks ago). Planning for the rest of the year. Work, teaching yoga, family. Normal stuff.

Along the way I gave up my volunteer yoga teaching at the local recovery centre. I had been teaching alternating Saturdays for a couple of years. It is small, a 16 bed facility, and provincially funded. They get people from all walks of life.

Over the years the class had its ups and downs. It is mandatory for the clients, who are all there at varying times of a 28 day stay. I didn’t expect them all to participate, but at a minimum to relax on a mat and nap if desired. As long as they weren’t disruptive. I generally kept the class pretty much a stretching exercise, with some breathing and moving to just get the group back into the body and perhaps to slow down. And a guided meditation, which was always very well received.

In the past few months the groups had been less receptive. There was a fight between 2 clients one week and I had to insist the facility staff stay in the room (they used to come and go). And in the weeks following there was always someone voicing their unhappiness at being made to come in the room. Of course, then there were great weeks where people participated and the time went by quickly.

Teaching to a non responsive group has been a huge learning. I know it is not about me. I know these people are in early sobriety, they are scared and angry and prickly. I am not trying to change the world, but to offer them an hour of respite. I know all this, but I still fall back into self doubt…thinking I am not doing a good job, nervous, generally dreading going to the recovery centre at all.

A few weeks ago I went to teach. I didnt want to. The group had been really aggressive the week before, and my anxiety was very high. I knew I should stay home, but I hated to disappoint the staff.

When I got there we had moved to a different, smaller room. There was general grumbling about that and as we settled in one of the guys stood up and declared it all bullshit that he had to attend. He was very angry and aggressive.

At that point I realized this was no longer a good situation, for me or for anyone else. I gathered my things, and wished everyone a good day  left. The nurse came and talked to me, apoplgizing, but I realized this was exactly what I needed. A break from the constant discord. I was shaking and almost ill

I was pretty distraught after. I felt I had failed, that a “regular” person could handle the conflict, that I was weak. I cried and cried.

Eventually The sadness passed and I and realized none of that is true.  I had stood up for myself and declared a boundary that I needed. I put my own mental and emotional wellbeing first. 

Afterwards the centre staff called and told me they would change how things are organized, but I have decided I will take a break from that for the rest of this year. Maybe someone else will take over and she or he might be the perfect person for the role.

For me, it pushed the boundary between wanting to help and trying to fix. 

When I ask myself what feels right for me today, I know I have chose the right thing for me. 

And life goes on.

Stillness and peace,

Anne

Omg I’m getting old & I Prevail

So…I have a stress fracture in my foot. I am not a runner. I practice a lot of yoga..vigorous and still. And I spend a good amount of time standing at concerts. Lol

Somehow these things, combines with some thinner bones from celiac disease and maybe years of strparving and drinking, have resulted in a fractured fifth metatarsal so I am currently galumphing along in an air boot. It’s very stylist. Lol. I am not happy to have to limit my activity. I’m trying to not freak out…

Anyway, on the weekend hubby and I headed south to see I Prevail. I tried to back out…claiming injury…but Craig didn’t want to go without his favourite sidekick (I have to say that was a definitely plus in all this. It’s nice to know he likes being with me as much as I like being with him).

So we went to Edmonton to see I Prevail. 

It turned out they were playing in a bar. We usually see bands at bigger venues and for some reason thought this was a university hall. Nope…nightclub that hosts bands. It was interesting. I not big on bars. I don’t really love sitting beside the bottles of open liquor. I don’t want to drink them, but still…they seem looming when there.

The show was 16+ and the drinking seemsed fairly controlled. And wow, the crowd was young. I’m guessing the average age was in the lower 20s….I never usually feel old at 45, but in a nightclub, wearing a walking boot. Sober. I did.

Of course, the band was excellent. And once they play I don’t really care about the rest. I enjoy the live music and the clear love for performing that the bad had.

One of the band members spoke of a friend who had recently committed suicide. He told of his own struggles with depression. He encouraged anyone and everyone in the audience to recognize their innate worth, to know that they belong, and to ask for help if you find yourself struggling. I wish I could figure out how to link their song Alone….

It was a great message. One I try to both share myself, and follow. When a metalcore band can speak up during a set with a message like that, I know things are only getting better.

So remember…you are worthy. You deserve to be happy. Others want the best for you too.

Stillness and peace

Anne

Unexpected memories…Garth Brooks

I went to see Garth Brooks on Sunday. I know…not my usual scene!

But we are in Edmonton to see Billy Talent tonight and Garth is here playing 9 sold out shows. So I decided to get with the program and go.

25 years ago I loved Garth Brooks. My then boyfriend like country music and we frequented country bars. Garth Brooks was popular.

Years have passed and Garth has been in retirement for most of them. THe last I remember he had become unglued and remade himself as pop singer Chris Gaines before retiring to stay home with his kids. After that I never followed country much. I was at university and then Craig and I met and moved to fort mc.

So Sunday was a real shocker. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen. I knew almost all the songs. All the word. So many memories. I cried. More than once.

His singing is just so heartfelt and beautiful. His enthusiasm was unparalleled. I have seen many excellent bands this year, and enjoyed them, but this was a a tribute to fans from across the years. He played all his old hits. Who doesn’t like The Dance? Unanswered Prayers? Friends in low places? I didn’t sit the entire time!

The show was amazing. And for the encore he comes out alone, guitar in hand, and plays all the songs requested on signs. By himself. His ability to remember the lyrics to all these songs on a moments notice was shocking.

I’m so glad I went. It filled my heart.

Stillness and peace

Anne

Step one…admitting we are powerless over alcohol

I never planned to go to AA. I wasn’t that bad (ha ha…silly me). I really felt I just needed to get myself under control. To find the right combination of rules and restrictions to ensure I could drink enough to get buzzed, but not pass out on the couch. And perhaps to make it through a Sunday afternoon without drinking.

When I started this that is exactly what I did do. I decided zero alcohol for a year. A gift for myself. A non negotiable break.

For me, that was enough to get things going…it somehow got me through the hysteria, anxiety and then sever depression that followed in the first months of sobriety. That,and the immediate recognition that somehow life without alcohol was better,even if it felt scary and hard.

Eventually I started looking around for support. I was lonely and sad. I was still afraid to admit I had had a real drinking problem…after all, I had a professional job, a lovely home and family, a life that looked ok from the outside. 

Jean from Unpickled gave me some good words of advice. Be open minded. Try different things. Stop trying to solve the problem with the same thinking that created it.

So, I tried AA. Going to a meeting is a intensely scary and exhilarating experience. Everyone should try it! Don’t worry. No one will make you do or say anything!

And there I heard my own story told back to me from people I never expected. Stories of drinking compulsively. Of loneliness. And of dispair. Followed by a brilliant realization that there is another way to live, and that it is not only not bad, but full of joy and happiness and comfort and contentment. Honesty and personal responsibility.

The most powerful idea I have learned at AA is step one. Admitting I am powerless over alcohol, and that my life had become unmanageable.

I “do” this step every day. I know that the only way to take back my power is to not add alcohol. So I don’t. And life remains very manageable.

I spent many days reading about habits, diets, metabolism, changing behaviour, etc. In the end, I just had to let go of the clearly mistaken belief I had that alcohol added anything to my life. Or to anyone’s life, for that matter.

I still have the same job, family and life I had before. But Now I am able to see past my own self focus. A drinkers eyes are always turned on themselves. It is selfish and self destructive .

Sober eyes see the world. And the unending beauty and potential available.

If you are struggling, take the risk and go to a meeting. You never have to go back, but perhaps you will hear something that will change you thoughts.

Stillness and peace .

Anne