Healthy Habit #10 – A Month of Getting Moving

Get Moving

Here we are in October, so it’s time for a new Healthy Habit.  I have put this one off as long as I could, being the sedentary person that I am.  It’s time though.

I can’t wait any longer.

I’ve got to get moving!

Since I did a month of yoga back in March, I haven’t done any real exercise. I’ve done a yoga class here and there, and I’ve done yoga at home from time to time, but that’s it.  So this month is going to be the month of getting moving.  In my last post, I talked about how difficult the coming months are for me.  I’ve been down and sluggish and not at all active.  My inclination is to go to work and then come home and lay around…doing nothing.   I am hopeful that adding a little bit of activity will not only improve my physical health, but also my mental health.

Here’s my plan: there is no real plan.  I don’t do so well with plans that are set in stone…I get bored and then I quit.  What I am going to work toward is doing something physical every day.  I have a little fitness center just across the parking lot from my apartment, I can go use the treadmill or the elliptical.  I have yoga DVDs that I can do at home.  I can walk around the lake at the park that is less than half a mile away.  I can use the weights that have been collecting dust beside my sofa.  The weather has cooled off here in the desert, so hiking on the weekends is an option.  Whatever it is that I do each day, I know that something is better than nothing.  :)

I’ll see how it goes, and hopefully I’ll be healthier and happier.

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Update on brown bagging it:  Taking my lunch to work every day, along with making sure that I take a real lunch break away from my desk (Healthy Habit #8), have definitely become a habit.  I haven’t eaten at my desk more than a couple of times in the last two months, and I haven’t ordered out or gotten Subway or pizza for over a month.  I find that I look forward to my lunches, and that I feel refreshed and more motivated in the afternoon.  Success!!

October

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post.  I’m not completely sure why, I just haven’t felt much like writing, or doing anything else for that matter.  I am sober and everything is alright.  But everything is also not alright.  I am a depressive, recovering alcoholic and I’ve just been feeling down. Nothing bad has happened, nothing of real consequence anyway.  I just feel down and unmotivated for no real particular reason.

Except that it’s October.  The beginning of fall and winter is right around the corner.

This is not my favorite time of year.  At all.  I’ve known that for the last few years, but I’ve blamed it my birthday and the anniversary of ending a pregnancy seven years ago.

But now, I think, there may be other reasons…

Have you ever heard a song, or smelled a scent, or felt something that triggered a specific memory?  Like whenever I hear Billy Idol sing Mony, Mony, I am transported back to my very first concert when I was fourteen.  Or  when I smell cinnamon rolls, memories of my first real job at a bakery come flooding back.

It was like that the other morning.  I got up early, about 4:30, as I usually do.  I went to sit outside on the patio and have some coffee in my usual morning attire – a pair of Austin’s boxers and a t-shirt, and I realized that I was cold.  I later heard on the news that it was our coolest night since last Spring.  Anyway, I had to go inside and put on a robe to be comfortable outside.  As I sat there, in the cool morning air, memories started filling my head.  These weren’t great memories like concerts and cinnamon rolls, these were memories of bad things.  Bad things that have happened to me, and bad things that I have caused.  Something about the weather triggered an onslaught of scenarios of the past, and filled my heart with feelings of regret and sadness.  At first I didn’t understand it.  But as I wrote in my journal about these things, it became clear to me.  Many, many of the negative things I’ve been through have happened in the fall and winter.  Actually, as I’ve really thought about it, almost everything that I would consider “bad” has happened between October and February.  It’s when I did much of my active drinking and when most of my bad behavior happened.  It’s when I suffered rape as a teenager, it’s when I went off the rails and ended up in the looney-bin, it’s when I’ve been sick enough to go to rehab….twice.

So, is it really the time of year that is to blame for my depression?  I don’t know for sure, but it makes sense to me.  If a song can trigger a feeling, then why not the weather?

Austin and I talked a lot about it, and after he thought about it, he agreed that this may be the reason.  He talked about his feelings of fall and winter which are quite the opposite of mine.  He has many, happy memories that are triggered by the beginning of fall, it’s when he feels the most hopeful and happy.  So if it affects him in a positive way, then I guess it stands to reason that it can affect me in a negative way.

But now, what to do with this new-found realization that I’ve had about my third-quarter depression?  I’m still working on that.  I know that lying around watching every old episode of Monarch of the Glen hasn’t really helped much.  What is working (a little) is telling myself the truth: the past is over, I can’t change it, and I am a different, healthier person today.  I tell myself that my expectations that this time of year is going to be sad and hopeless, are really unfounded.  The time of year may bring up old stuff, but my attitude and how I deal with it is really the key to me backing away from the ledge of despair.  I don’t have to succumb to my emotions…I can put one foot in front of the other and keep doing the things that I need to.  And I can do so happily.  Knowing this now, I can, and do, find joy in each day no matter what the weatherman forecasts.

It’s still early in the season, we will have to see how things eventuate for me, but knowing now why it is that I get sad at this time of year will help me to combat the blues.  There is power in knowing.

October

Time for confession

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Step 5 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Although it’s been a while since I posted about the steps, I am still working them with my sponsor as we both agreed at the beginning of the year that it would be a good idea.  I’m up to my 5th step which is all about confessing our wrongs to God, to ourselves, and to someone else.

When I started trying to get sober and attending AA meetings, this step was by far the most daunting to me.  I wasn’t anywhere close to the state of mental health that made telling all of my secrets seem like a good idea.  As I’ve written about before, I come from a family that clings tightly to presenting a good face, while secrets upon secrets live just under the skin where no one can see.  I simply couldn’t see how admitting my wrongs to another person was going to make anything better.

I think I understood the psychology of being honest with oneself and acknowledging, to myself, that I had done many, many things wrong and that I had caused a lot of pain to others.  I figured that it was important to understand where I was and what got me there in order to not repeat my past mistakes, and that meant getting honest with myself and acknowledging those things that I had struggled to hide away from my consciousness.  I got that.  I had to do that.  It made sense.

It also made sense that I had to confess my wrongdoings to God.  When I first attempted a fifth step, I was still a very new Christian.  I knew about God’s grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love, but I had yet to feel it.  It was still kind of an abstract idea to me; something that I wanted, and that I knew was out there, but I didn’t yet know how to accept for myself.  Consequently, when I did my fifth step and sat down to present it to God, it went something like this:  “Dear God, I have done so many things wrong.  I could list them all, but you already know what they all are, because you are all-knowing.  I am doing my best not to repeat those mistakes and I need your help.  Thank you.”  Over and out.  That was it.  Not quite explaining the “exact nature” of my wrongs, but it was a start.  At that time, talking to God felt appealing, yet still uncomfortable and new at that time, like a pair of beautiful new shoes, pleasing to the eye, but not broken in and therefore a little pinchy to the toes.  I had a feeling that at some point I would get comfortable talking to God, that I would be able to slip into it like I slip on my favorite pair of worn out black heels, but I wasn’t there yet. That was okay though, I had made a first attempt.

What didn’t make sense at the time, was why I had to tell all of my closely held secrets to another person.  How exactly was that going to help me?  Unless I presented my story to a therapist that was prepared to offer advice, or to a minister that was going to offer me God’s absolution, and I wasn’t going to do either of those, then what was the point?  Wasn’t I just opening myself up to fear and judgment and giving myself more ammunition to continue on with my self-loathing and low self-worth?  I knew deep down that if I ever told anyone everything about myself and what I had done, that I would lose my relationship with them.  How could they remain in my life when they knew the real me?  So, armed with those feelings and beliefs, when I sat down to do my fifth step with my first sponsor, I left a lot out.  I talked about some of my bad behavior while drinking, and I talked a lot about feelings of powerlessness and unmanageability, but when I look back at that conversation, I can see that it was very, very incomplete.  I told just enough that I thought my sponsor would believe that I understood that I was an alcoholic and that I wanted to get better.  But I didn’t tell her the things that I thought would make her look at me with disgust and drop me like a hot potato.  I was still holding on to secrets and trying to save face.  It’s no wonder that I ended up drinking again shortly after that.

After I went to treatment the second time, and really started to get honest with people other than myself, I began to understand the importance of admitting my wrongs – telling my story, honestly and completely.  I had a new sponsor, a new level of surrender, and I think a new willingness to do whatever it took to get better.  So when I sat down to do my fifth step again, I didn’t leave anything out.  Nothing.  It was a long, tiring, telling of my relationship with alcohol and everything that I was using the booze to get away from.  I think that conversation was a turning point for me.  As I told my story, my sponsor interjected from time to time telling me how her own story was similar to mine.  She related her own tales of bad behavior and insanity.  She smiled and affirmed me, she quietly and without many words let me know that I was not alone.  And you know what?  She didn’t judge me.  I never once saw a look of disgust on her face.  I never once felt like she wasn’t going to like me when I got to the end of my story.  And when I was done, I didn’t feel like I thought I would.  I had imagined feeling embarrassed and vulnerable and maybe a little bit like one would feel if she was required to run through the halls of high school  completely naked.  But I didn’t.  I felt good.  I felt lighter.  I felt like I had finally been completely honest with another person and she didn’t hate me!  In fact, she hugged me and thanked me for trusting her.  What a wonderful feeling.

Over the years, I have gotten so much better at admitting my wrongs.  I know that I have done really thorough fifth steps, and I know the feeling that comes with being able to share my story with others.  It’s so liberating.  It takes a lot out of a person to try to hold on to old secrets and keep up appearances.  I have found that it takes far less energy to be honest and open.  And the rewards of doing that are exponentially better.

So if you are at a point in your recovery where you are going to be doing a 5th step, find someone who you trust and relate to, and put it all out there.  Chances are, the person hearing your story will identify and affirm and love you unconditionally.  Accept it as a gift of sobriety and Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

 

Healthy Habit #9 – A month of brown bagging it

brown_bag_lunch

I know I’m a little late on this post, it’s already the 6th of the month, but for the month of September my Healthy Habit is taking my lunch to work instead of buying fast food every day.  It goes hand in hand with my healthy habit from last month, which was to actually take a lunch break away from my desk at work.  That, by the way, has been a great success.  I’ve enjoyed my lunch breaks and getting away from my desk, and I’ve noticed that my afternoons go faster and I am actually more productive.  So the time that I was “saving” by eating at my desk wasn’t really time saved after all.

Back to this month’s plan, though.  The idea is to take my lunch to work and not run to the Subway next door or the pizza place at the end of the complex.  Those two places have become my solution to being lazy in the morning and not wanting to fix a lunch before I leave for work.  It’s relatively cheap and it’s very convenient.  That said, I know that I consume more calories than I should and I know that fast food can’t be that great for me.  So if I take my own healthy lunches I can avoid those negatives.  All of that sounds great, right?  But there is a drawback.  And for me, it’s kind of a big one.  This whole taking my lunch every day is going to require some planning on my part.  I’m not so great at this planning stuff.  I tend to more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl when it comes to planning those kinds of things.  But, I’m going to do my best to prepare the night before and pack my brown bag each day.

If this healthy habit is successful I might just feel better and lose a little bit of weight…sounds good to me!

 

My Story

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So here it is.  I just received the audio of me telling my story at the Payson Roundup last weekend.  I just listened to it with my husband, and I feel good about posting it for everyone to hear.  You can tell that I am nervous at the beginning, please ignore all of the ‘ums’, but after I settle into it, I think it’s ok.

The recorder wasn’t working properly at the start of my talk, so it starts about 10 minutes in.  I chose to read the introduction to the memoir I am working on at the beginning, both to show the kind of drunk that I was, and to calm my nerves.  The recording starts in the middle of my reading, I will post the whole thing below, if you care to read the whole thing.

Here is the link to my book introduction:   Prologue

Here is the recording (I hope this works!):  Jami D. Payson Roundup

 

 

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

change

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change.  I’m not talking about the sixty-seven cents that I have in my wallet, but the kind of change that transforms someone.  The kind of long-lasting, sustained change that reverses our self narrative, that alters our perspectives and improves our lives.  I’m talking about heart-change.  Do we humans have the capacity to change those parts of us that make us sick, hold us back, or limit our happiness?  Does it ever happen?  Can we take what makes us “bad” in the eyes of others or ourselves, and mold it into something “good”?

My immediate response to those questions is yes, of course people can change.   I see it all the time in meetings – people who once were down and out, drinking alcoholically, losing all of the things that were important to them, incapable of living life on life’s terms, now sober with new, richer lives in which they not only don’t regret their pasts, they use their own experiences to help others.   But then I see it.  Or hear it.  Someone says or does something that is inappropriate, hurtful, or insulting to someone else at the meeting and I start to wonder…have they really changed from who they were before?  Or have they just changed some of their behaviors, like choosing not to drink anymore?  Is their motivation for living a life of sobriety a desire to avoid the negative consequences that their active drinking caused, or have they truly had a heart-change?

I guess that’s where the waters get a little bit muddy for me.  I really do think that people have the capacity to change, I’ve seen it and lived it myself.  When I look back at the me of 5 years ago, it is drastically different from the me of today.  Not  just my behaviors and actions, but also my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and values.  I honestly believe that I have had a heart-change about a number of things, and that those changes have gotten me to where I am today, which is a much healthier, happier place.  Even so, at times, I still feel my old ways of thinking trying to worm their way into my head.  I have to consciously speak my new truths to myself, otherwise I would be right back where I was before.  It would be so easy.  Is that what happens to the people who I see in meetings acting like dry drunks?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I guess we’re all on our own paths.  Whether that path leads to real, meaningful and sustained recovery is up to each individual.

I’ve heard it said that the two reasons that people really change are:  they have learned enough to want to change, or they have been hurt enough to want to change.  When it comes to getting sober, for me it took both.  I had been so hurt by others, but more so by myself, that I had to change or I was going to drink myself to death.  I had also learned enough about sobriety and people living sober successfully, that I knew it was possible, if it worked for them, it might work for me.  Making the decision to change was the easy part though.  It took me a really long time to realize that just not drinking wasn’t going to be enough to make me happy and healthy.  I had to make some big changes, practice open-mindedness, and realize that my way of thinking wasn’t the only way.   It was hard at first.  When you go along living for almost 40 years, it feels impossible to let go of some of the things that you held onto as truth, even when you have evolved enough to know intellectually that they are false.  But, I guess that’s where the process begins.

And it is a process.

A long, long process.

But it’s a process worth undertaking.

Change

Telling my story

One of the really great things about Arizona is that in just a few hours you can go from this:

tucson

To this:

Forest lakes

That’s what we did this weekend.  We spent the last two days up near Payson, Arizona attending the annual Payson Round-up.  It’s a huge camping trip that is organized by a local Payson homegroup every year for the last twenty-something years.  This is the first time that we have gone, and we had a great time.  Recovering alcoholics and addicts are my favorite people to hang out with, and there were plenty!  It was a true blessing to see so many people whose lives have been changed by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Just awesome!

It was so nice to get away from home, even for a short trip.  I had an extremely busy week at work because we had classes that started on Monday.  Start weeks are the busiest for me, and I was tired and burned out from working four 10-hour days so that I could take Friday off.  Our four-hour road trip started on Friday morning.  I love road trips!  Especially when I get to travel with my husband, Austin.  We have the best time, laughing and being silly, searching the iPod and the radio for songs to sing along to, telling each other stories from our pasts, and just being tuned into each other.  I will never turn down a road trip with my Honey.

This trip wasn’t a spur of the moment, let’s get out of the heat and see some trees, decision.  We’ve been planning on it for a few months now, because earlier in the year, I was asked to be one of the speakers at the round-up by one of the Payson homegroup members who attends my homegroup when he’s in Tucson.  At these kinds of AA events, there are usually a few members chosen to stand up and share their experience, strength and hope with the other attendees.  At this event, there were four AA speakers and one from Al-Anon.   I really don’t know how I got thrown into that handful, but I did, and I was really honored to be asked.

I have told my story, briefly, a few times at meetings.  But when w arrived on Friday, the organizers told us that they were expecting 350 people on Saturday!  I was speaking at 10:00 Saturday morning, and I was slated to speak for an hour!  And just so you know, I am one of the 75% of people who fear public speaking more than death.  I didn’t know what I gotten myself into.  Standing in front of that many people, baring my soul, was something that I never thought I would volunteer for, no matter how passionate I am about recovery.  Writing this blog allows me to hide behind a computer screen, without worry about judgment or dealing with people face-to-face.  Speaking at regular meetings (which, if I’m honest, I don’t do as often as I would like) isn’t as scary because I know the other members.  But on Friday night, as the nerves set in, I knew that I was in for something that was way out of my comfort zone.  I had trouble getting to sleep that night, which is something that very rarely ever happens to me.  I prayed, as I tried to go to sleep, that God would give me the strength that I needed for the next day, and that He would somehow give me the right words to reach those that needed to hear.

Saturday morning I woke up early and sat outside in the cool mountain air to write in my journal.  I felt surprisingly peaceful and ready for the day.  My fear and nervousness wasn’t gone, but I had faith that things would go well.  We got to the campsite and spent some time drinking coffee and visiting with some of the folks there, the meeting before the meeting, as it’s called.  Then, as the chairman if the event read the AA preamble and everyone started finding their seats, I felt a few pangs of anxiety.  What if I didn’t make sense?  What if I lost my place in my notes?  What if I talked too fast and finished too early?  What if everyone thinks I’m too new in sobriety to offer experience, strength and hope?  My thoughts were all over the place, but focused on me screwing up.  The gentleman that invited me to speak walked up to the mike…oh my gosh, I’ve never used a microphone…and introduced me to the group.  I walked up…

“Good morning, my name is Jami, and I’m an alcoholic….”

I confessed right at the beginning that I was nervous, that I was feeling a little bit pukey, and that I probably should’ve gone pee before getting up there.  That got a laugh, and I felt better.  I started to speak and I was ok, no one was booing, and everyone seemed to be engaged in what I had to say.  And you know what?  I made sense, I didn’t even look at my notes after the first couple of minutes, I spoke for nearly an hour, and I had so many people come up after to thank me and tell me that they identified with my story.  I was able to tell my story, completely and honestly, and I received so many kind words after.  I felt so blessed.

It was an amazing weekend of conquering my fears, trusting God, and carrying the message to other alcoholics.  I can’t imagine anything better.  :)

P.S. My story was recorded, so as soon as I get the recording, I will post it here.