All posts by ainsobriety

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.

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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

Am I an Alcoholic?

I have read a number of posts recently about the term alcoholic. Here’s howI look at it today. I expect it will change over time. Like everything else…

Am I an alcoholic?

I think drinkers spend too much time worrying about what others think and the right way to frame things. The truth was, I drank too much and it was hurting me. I may not have been drinking Vodka out of my coffee mug in the morning, or even drinking daily, but I was waking up every Monday full of self defeat and disappointment that I could not control my alcohol intake. I was sad and lonely. I felt life had passed me by. My denial was strong.

 After many attempts and failure, I quit drinking temporarily on December 1, 2013 and life became SO MUCH BETTER. Not overnight, but every sober day has been better than that last day hungover and depressed. Even the really hard ones.

For a while I did this with white knuckle resolve and a therapist. I read books.  Then I found blogging. I have been to aA and to refuge recovery. I have participated in online groups and I have a group of sober friends, mostly online. 

My temporary plans changes. Now I plan to never drink again. My mental health depends on it. I had become obsessed and compulsive. I lied about how much I drank and I hid my bottles. My own behaviour scared me. I constantly asked myself how things had gone so wrong, but from the outside looked so right. I can seee in hindsight that my facade was crumbling. 

Today I much prefer the freedom sobriety allows. It takes work and vigilance. For me that includes medication, eating, sleeping well, yoga, being kind and gentle with myself, trashy novels, sober friends and bubble baths. It also sometimes includes meetings and connection with other sober people. This is not onerous. Instead, this is how I make life easier for myself, not harder. Sobriety is precious. I am more than willing to give it the respect it needs.

I am responsible for my sobriety, but I know there is always help when I struggle. I just have to be brave and honest enough to ask.
I happily tell people I’m sober. If I’m at AA I will say alcoholic, but not usually outside that. I feel it encourages a differentiation between myself and others. And I don’t believe there is a difference. Anyone can get to the point where drinking is causing them harm. Anyone can benefit from sobriety. Anyone can be an alcoholic. 

To me personally, an alcoholic is a person who is still drinking and wishing they weren’t. I am not. But I could become an alcoholic again if I chose to drink.

AA is not my path, but I have gone to meetings and I did the steps on my own. They are an excellent tool to self awareness. The women’s way through the 12 steps even has a good workbook. If you plan to be sober it’s worth evaluating all options. 

However you stay sober is the right way if you feel at peace. Being willing to consider other ways if yours isn’t working is vital. Early on someone told me that the same thought process that got me into this mess cannot figure out how to get out. I have found this to be unquestionably true. I need others to help me see the way. It has taken years to develop even a little self awareness. I had none when drinking. It was too hard to look inward through the veil of alcohol and regret.

If you are drinking and wish life was different PLEASE don’t feel you have to wait until something bad happens before you quit. Don’t wait until you fit some archaic definition of alcoholic. Sobriety is available to anyone who wants it. It is a gift you give yourself.

Stillness and peace,

Anne

A lesson I learn over and over

I used to love food. I used to love wandering the streets of a different city and finding a cool menu to try.

Being celiac and eating gluten free means this is no longer possible. I do best to plan ahead and often must compromise and eat atchsin restaurants (or from the grocery store) to endure I get what I need.

But somehow the allure of the busy, tourist street calls and I think…today. Today I will find the right place. (Well, yesterday. This was a yesterday experience). It will appear if we just look long enough…

Of course, in the mean time I get tired and hungry and thirsty and angry. My poor daughter who is 12 and mainly concerned about herself, doesn’t understand. Meltdowns occur. Fortunately we are both quick to apologize and move on. Dinner was eaten from Starbucks. Dream bars and nuts go a long way! 

And, of course, the night ended with the Gorillaz! So it was ok!

Today I decided to do this differently. We decide where to eat before leaving the hotel. We go directly there. We get a table with a beautiful view and the most delicious gluten free bread I have had in years. 

I know the easy way. I just need to remember to follow it. It’s advice that works in every aspect of my life.

Stillness and peace

Anne

Wine dispensers

Hi all,

I was going to wrote a real post, with an actual theme connecting sobriety and the yoga sutras, but right now I must just comment on the wine dispensers in the hotel I’m staying in…

They are everywhere! Part of me is annoyed I never got to buy wine at will from a vending machine.

The rest of me is relieved I won’t be buying wine all night out if a vending machine. Because I am in Quebec City with my 12 year old daughter having an adventure. A wine vending machine would have meant a whole lot of hotel room and not much fun. Not what a 12 year old needs. Not one bit.

Tonight we are heading across the street to see The Who. Tomorrow is Metallica. And Saturday is the reason we are here. The Gorillaz play. Cleo’s favourite.

In the past week I have been to vegas, edmonton and now Quebec City. The highlight of the summer so far was Monday nights Duran Duran concert. Cleo and I sang and danced every minute. I was 15 again. And, like at Garth brooks, the swell of memories brought tears to my eyes. Those moments when things just seem exactly perfect are so lovely. 

I am amazed at how much enjoyment live music has brought to my life. When I was drinking I said I hated live music because of the crowds. I was missing so much!

Not anymore!

Stay sober. There is so much to do when you walk by the wine dispensers!

Stillness and peace,

Anne

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