Words To Live By


I recently read an article from Psychology Today that talks about why we should all have a personal motto; something we say to ourselves that brings us comfort when things aren’t going well, or motivates us to reach a goal, or helps us establish a new habit. The article focuses on using a motto to change behaviors, but it got me to thinking about the importance of how we talk to ourselves. Before I got sober and learned a new way to live, the way I spoke to myself was a lot different from the way I do now.

In the past, my personal mottoes were all about hiding emotions, keeping up appearances, and not letting anyone see the real me. I can’t tell you the number of times I said to myself, “Get it together, DeLoe,” or, “Suck it up,” when my real emotions started to bubble up. It was all about pushing things back down and not feeling the negative emotions. Another personal motto of mine growing up came straight from my mom, “Act right.” This wasn’t meant in the same sense that the AA saying, “Do the next right thing,” is. It wasn’t about taking the next right step, or acting your way to a heart change. Its underlying meaning was whatever you do, however you feel, if it’s negative, don’t show it; just act right, and no one will know. Ugh. It’s no wonder I drank.

Now, I talk to myself differently. I allow myself to feel my emotions, and I express them. Sometimes it isn’t easy though, and old habits and methods of dealing with things pop up. When I start to hear the old sayings in my head, I combat them with new, true sayings. Here are a few that work for me:

This Too Shall Pass.  I remember the first time I heard this was in 7th grade English
class. I don’t remember the context in which my teacher said it, but I remember
thinking that those four short words provided such comfort. At the time, I was filled with that middle-school angst, worrying about things that I had no control over (yes, I did that even then), and wondering if I would always feel so messed up. The truth is, I did feel messed up for a long time, but I tried to remember that “this too shall pass,” and it did help. These days, whenever I face something that is hard to deal with, I say those same words to myself, only now, with three more decades of life experience, I know that they are true.

I’m a Real Girl, With Real Feelings. I have to credit my husband for this saying. When we were first dating, I would apologize whenever some uncomfortable feeling came up that I thought I had to hide or stuff back down so that he wouldn’t see it. Austin would tell me that I needn’t apologize, that I was a real girl, with real feelings. Wow. This was a revelation for me, because I had lived my life trying to keep any uncomfortable, or negative, emotion from showing outwardly. I thought that in order to be accepted, I had to appear to have it all together. I was wrong. Now I know that true acceptance only comes when I allow others to see the real me, feelings and all. From time to time, I still have to remind myself, or Austin does it for me, that I am a real girl, with real feelings.

I’ve made it through worse. Sometimes, when situations seem desperate, and I am feeling like I can’t take one more thing happening, I have to remind myself that I have made it through far worse. I have been raped, beaten, arrested, fired, divorced, and estranged from family. I have blacked out drinking and fought, wrecked cars, passed out in the dirt behind a dumpster, and been to rehab twice. I have suffered through PTSD related flashbacks, nightmares, and fear. I have been to the psych ward and to jail and thought my life was over. But you know what? Every single time, by the grace of God, I have survived. So today, when some obstacle or challenge comes up, if I remind myself that I have made it through worse, I am comforted, and I can persevere.

Everything is okay, right now. Staying present, not dwelling in the past or worrying about what is to come is huge for me. I slip into guilt and fear at the drop of a hat, so being mindful isn’t something that comes easy. When I remind myself that I am alright, in this present moment, whatever it is, I can carry on. This is especially important when I am feeling overwhelmed – either with emotion or with daily life. Believing that I am “okay, right now,” allows me to make it through the moment, and move on to the next.

All things work together for good. St. Paul’s comment in Romans 8:28 is something that I often say to myself. When something is going on that I can’t understand at the time, and I am asking myself, “Why me, God?”, I remind  myself of this verse. So many bad things happen in life, and we often can’t comprehend why until much later, when the real reason becomes clear. So, in the moment, I try to remember that there is a reason, God’s reason, and it’s okay if I don’t know what it is right now; something good will come of it, and I’ll understand later.

It is what it is. This saying is, by far, my favorite. As a matter of fact, I even have it tattooed on my wrist. I know that it’s overused and it sounds kind of flippant, but it holds special meaning for me, and I love it. One of the hardest things for me when I got sober was acceptance. I didn’t want to accept my past, I wanted it to be different. I didn’t want to accept that I was an alcoholic, or that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own. I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t control others, or at least sway them to my way of thinking. I didn’t want to accept that the mess I found myself in was caused by me. So when I say “It is what it is,” it’s all about acceptance. In recovery I had to learn that I have to accept the things I cannot change, and it hasn’t been easy. Having the reminder (right on my wrist!) helps me deal with situations that I have no control over. Some things just are what they are, and they’re not going to change no matter how much I wish they would. It is at those times that I say to myself, “It is what it is.”

Those are a few of my personal mottoes and how they help me. What are some of yours?


Good Things Come to Those in Recovery

good-thingsI’ve been neglecting this blog lately. I haven’t written very many posts in the last few months, and I don’t have any legitimate excuses as to why, except that life happens. I’ve been really busy with some new things that have come along, Good things. Really good things that I have been spending quite a bit of time on. The past few months, for whatever reason, have been very good to me. A couple of years ago I wrote a post about wanting to do more of the things that feed my soul. It seems that there has been some sort of shift, and I am now getting to do those things.

There are a list of things that I consider nourishing for my soul: connecting with others, writing, recovery (from alcoholism and mental health issues), sharing my story and hearing other people’s stories, and deepening my relationship with God. There are more, of course, but these are the biggies, and in the last several months, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time doing them.

I’ll share some details:

  • My husband and I moved to a much bigger, nicer house at the end of last April. One of the things that has allowed us to do is entertain more. I’ve been able to connect with others so much more! In June we started what we call “First Sunday Dinner.” On the first Sunday of each month, we invite all of our friends over for a big potluck dinner. We set up extra tables in the living room and our friends come and go and it’s awesome! Sometimes we have more than 25 people, and sometimes we have a smaller group.  Either way, though, it’s fun to visit and laugh and eat, and most importantly, to connect.
  • I’ve been doing more writing (just not here) lately.  I’m doing some freelance copywriting, and earning some extra money. I’ve also been selected to be a blogger on the mental health website, HealthyPlace.com.  I’ll be writing for Trauma! A PTSD Blog on their site. It’s a great resource for anyone suffering from any kind of mental illness, or anyone who has a loved one who suffers from one.  Check it out if you have a chance, my posts will start next week.
  • One thing that I haven’t really blogged about, although if you listened to my story from a post last year I talked a little bit about it, is that I am post-abortive. Up until now, it hasn’t been something that I have been as open about as I am with my alcoholism. There is a lot that happens to a woman when she has an abortion, and the emotional and psychological impact isn’t talked about much. I have been fortunate enough to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat twice in the last few years. It’s a Christian retreat that provides healing and forgiveness for post-abortive women (and men who have had children aborted too). Now, I’ve joined the Rachel’s Vineyard team here in Tucson and I get to help other women whose shoes I have definitely been in. It’s such a blessing!
  • After a long search for a church where my husband and I feel accepted, with good preaching, liturgy we love, and a loving congregation, we found one! We’ve only been going for a short time, but I think this one is the right one for both of us. Thank you, God.
  • I’ve had some success with selling the prayer beads that my husband designed and I make.prayer beads green We started this as a way for people to learn to pray.  Austin chose the scripture that goes with each bead as you work your way around the loop. Making them is something that I love to do, as I feel like I am helping bring people closer to God, and I like being crafty!

It’s been an eventful few months, but I am so happy!  Life is good.  I am going to work on getting back to being more active here on Sober Grace, because my sobriety and recovery still have to come first, before all other things.  I cannot be complacent because it is only by staying sober that I can continue to do all of the wonderful things that feed my soul.

Good for the soul

It’s All About the Maintenance

I’ve been slowly working my steps with my sponsor, and have finally finished this go around.  I had steps 10, 11, and 12 to go, and since this is my umpteenth time through the steps, and I incorporate these 3 steps into everything I do, we worked them all together.  The last three steps are the program’s maintenance steps, how we should try to live our lives every day.  Even though I feel like I practice these steps pretty regularly, I still like to go through them with my sponsor.  She has me do some writing on them, and I always feel a sense of renewal in my program and have new insights that I hadn’t recognized before.

Step 10 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

step 10Step 10 is like a mini fourth step, that you do every day. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, without procrastination (one of my biggest character defects), so that at night you can go to sleep knowing that you took care of your side of the street in all of your interactions that day. This was really difficult for me when I started out in the program. I had a lot of resentments, and I clung to them tightly. I had what I thought was justified anger, and most of the time, I wasn’t too keen on letting them go. I sometimes recognized my part in them, but even when I did, I was nowhere near “prompt” in my handling of them. Step 10 has helped me to stop avoiding taking responsibility. When I look back at my day, and I see a situation that I could’ve handled better, or I see someone who I owe an amends, I really do try to take care of it right away, and No matter the outcome, I always feel better for doing so.

There are different ways to do this step.  There are daily inventory worksheets you can download, and there are apps for your phone, or you can do what I did in the beginning and call your sponsor every night.  But really it comes down to asking yourself, “how did I do today? Is there anything that I need to make right?”  When you answer those questions honestly, and you take the necessary action, you’re working step 10.

Step 11 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

I love, love, love step 11! Now, that is. When I started out in AA, this step was one of the most daunting for me. I didn’t have any kind of relationship with God, and I didn’t know how I would ever get one. I never pictured myself as someone who prayed; I didn’t think that I could do it.step 11 coin

What I found was that Step 11 wasn’t something that had to be done perfectly from the start. It’s a step that evolves over time, starting as one thing, and growing into another. My prayers started out as simply as, “Help me, God” and “Thank you, God.”  That was all I could muster.  But it worked.  I no longer felt alone, like I had to do it all myself, and I felt grateful. Now, some four plus years later, my prayers and my relationship with God are full and rich. I talk to God all day long, and I thank him for everything, because I know that I couldn’t do this sobriety thing without Him.

Step 12 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

step 12The first time I reached step 12, I realized that it assumes (guarantees, really) that by this time we will have had a spiritual awakening. I wondered, at first, had I had one? What if I hadn’t? Had I done the steps wrong? As I thought about it though, I realized how different things were for me. I wasn’t drinking anymore, I wasn’t creating more wreckage, I was taking responsibility for my past actions and bad behavior, I was improving my conscious contact with God, I was living recovery. If that’s not a spiritual awakening, I don’t know what is!

The latter part of step 12 is about helping others and living all of the steps every day.  I love to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I love spending time with other alcoholics. I try to reach out to people who need help, and who need to hear that there is a better way to live. I feel like it’s my obligation and my privilege to share my story and spread the word of AA.

The last three steps really are all about the maintenance. I know that when I am doing my best to work all three, my life is happy, joyous, and free.  That’s the way I want to be.

it works if you work it










Making Amends with no Expectations

Step 9 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:


I am still working the steps, even though it may seem like I have stalled at step 9.  I haven’t.  But I am taking my time with it, because it is no easy task.  Step 8 has us make a list of the people who we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.  Step 9 asks us to use that list and to actually go to those people and make amends, unless it would be harmful.  That’s where I am…stuck somewhere between willingness and action.  This isn’t my first time through the steps, so I have done step 9 a few times.  And I continue to practice the maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) on a daily basis, so now when the necessity for an amends comes up, I do it right away…no procrastinating, and life is so much better when I do that.  So the amends list  I am working on now is short, but difficult.  They are the people who have been on my list since the beginning, but they are the ones whom I haven’t been ready to address.  I feel ready now, and my sponsor agrees that it is time, so I am doing it – cleaning up my side of the street, with no expectations of the outcome.  It’s still a scary prospect, but it will be a relief to have it done.

I think that the hardest part of making amends is not having expectations of what the other person’s response will be.  Over the last couple of years, when I have done step 9, I have had people react in different ways.  Some have hugged me, thanked me for talking to them and relationships have been made stronger, some have expressed their own amends to me for whatever their part in it was, some have completely ignored my attempts to take responsibility for my actions, some remained angry.   I have to be ok with whatever the outcome is.  I have to remember that I am not to focus on what the other person says, does, feels.  Step nine is about me taking responsibility for how I harmed someone, and trying to make it right.  Acceptance or rejection on the other person’s part should be none of my concern.  If only it were that easy.

The amends I am working on will all be done by letter, because those left on my list no longer want to speak to me.  My sponsor is going over everything I write and making suggestions and keeping me focused on exactly what it is I need to say.  My inclination is to take on the responsibility for every bad thing that has happened…I blame myself for just about everything.  So it’s extremely helpful to have someone look at what I am feeling and writing and say, “nope, this part isn’t your deal,” or “this sounds a little bit like begging, you don’t have to do that.”  It’s about recognizing my part, verbalizing to the other person that I realize how I harmed them, and doing what I can to make it right (if that is even a possibility).

9th step promisesWhile I have no idea what, if any, responses I will get to my amends letters, I do know that writing and sending them will bring me relief.  Knowing that I have done the best I can to make things better – staying sober being the biggest thing – is what will lead me to feeling the fulfillment that the 9th Step Promises guarantee.  I know that these promises do come true, I’ve seen it time and time again in the rooms of AA.  Doing a thorough 9th step changes people, it strengthens them in their life and their program.  I want what they have, so I am going to do what they did.  I will let you know how it goes.





A Slow Descent into Madness?


There is something going on with me and I’m not sure what it is, but my mental health isn’t feeling very, well, healthy.   I feel like hiding and isolating and not doing anything except binge-watching the new season of Orange is the New Black.  Then, last night I had a drinking dream.  Ugh.  Not one of the “freebies” people talk about at meetings, there was no actual drinking in it that I remember.  Instead, it was totally about dealing with the aftermath…the mess, both physical (my house was trashed) and the emotional (guilt, shame and anxiety).  It wasn’t pretty.  In fact, it was really fucking awful and upsetting.  I have never been so happy to have the alarm go off!

All day I have been asking myself why I would dream that, when I feel so grounded in my recovery.  Do I have underlying stress that I am not consciously aware of?  Is my medication not working anymore?  Are my crazy peri-menopausal hormones taking over?  Or maybe it’s the beginning of my slow descent into madness…

The truth is, though, I don’t feel like I have any more stress than usual, my medication is most likely still effective, and my hormones are all in check (a blood test at the Doctor’s said so), and I know that I am not going mad.  I have PTSD.  And PTSD sucks.  And for whatever reason, the last week or so, I feel like my PTSD has been triggered.  I’m cranky, and jumpy, and my fight or flight response has kicked in a few times.  I’m having crazy dreams and sleeping fitfully.  Thoughts about the past that I don’t want to think about pop into my head, and I have to work to get them out.  I feel like I don’t want to leave the safety of my home, preferably my bedroom…with the door shut….and the curtains closed.  But I do…leave my home, that is.  I’ve been forcing myself to do the things I have to do, like going to work, and to the grocery store and running errands, and so far that’s working.

PTSD2The thing about PTSD is you don’t always know when something is going to trigger a negative response.  Obviously, I have collected a long list of things that I know may cause me to react.  I know that if I am watching something on TV where a woman is being sexually assaulted or beaten, I may be triggered.  I know being yelled at, or touched unexpectedly, or hearing loud noises, may cause me to go into hyper-arousal or fight or flight mode.  Some phrases, or sounds can trigger me.  Those things I have learned to deal with.  The PTSD symptoms come, I deal with it, and then they go.  But none of those things have happened lately.  This is one of the times when the timing just doesn’t make sense.  It’s just happened, for no reason that I can deduce.

There’s a quote from the movie When a Man Loves a Woman that I love, and although Meg Ryan’s character is saying it to describe early sobriety, I think it works for PTSD too:

Nothing has to happen for me to have a bad day.
That’s the thrilling part of all this.
It just comes and hits and runs me over like a goddam freight train.

Alice Green (Meg Ryan) – When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

That’s what it feels like.  It isn’t fun, at all.  However, it is survivable.  I just have to remember to do the things that work for me to get through it.  Things like telling myself the truth, that this is a temporary feeling that will pass; taking it easy, not over-scheduling myself; continuing to do the things I need to, not allowing myself to stay in bed all day and shirk responsibilities; and ratting myself out when I feel like this, which is what I am doing with this post.  When I remember to do those things, I almost immediately feel some relief, and I can feel the madness start to dissipate.  It loses its power over me and I feel mentally healthy again.  It doesn’t leave as quickly as it comes, but it does leave.

As a matter of fact, I think I feel it going now….  :)





Let it go, or suffer the consequences

can-t-keep-calm-cause-i-m-so-angryIn my last post I mentioned that my husband lost his job a few weeks back.  I panicked and freaked out and wanted to drink that night…briefly.  The desire to drink was really a fleeting feeling, it came and went and I didn’t act on it, thank God.  The panic and freaking out lasted longer, evidenced by the red eyes and tears that I wore to work for the next couple of days.  Once I calmed down and realized that everything would be ok and that we wouldn’t be destitute, living under a bridge, a different emotion set in.  Anger. Lots of it.

I don’t know if you remember from earlier posts, but my husband and I worked together at a local vocational college.  He was a teacher of general education classes for the Bachelor’s program and I am the registrar.  I was thrilled when he got the job, as we would get to spend more time together, and it was something that I knew he would be good at and enjoy.  And he was, and he did.  The experience he had there was almost all positive, and nearly all of his students loved and admired him.  So it was a shock to find out that because of a few lazy and manipulative students, he was let go from his position.  (I want you to know that even though I am mostly over the anger now, it takes an enormous amount of  restraint to only use the words lazy and manipulative.  My head and heart feel that only much stronger, uglier words, are truly appropriate to describe the students who went on the warpath.)

I was so angry.  I did, at first, have a resentment against my husband, if only for being naive and not getting how the corporate world works.  He has spent the majority of his adult life as a minister, not working in the secular realm, and there is a big difference.  He was simply not prepared for the bureaucracy that is involved in a for-profit college these days.  And so he got canned.  And I was angry at him.  Not for long, though.  I let that anger go quickly, almost without a second thought.  I know my husband’s heart, and I know that for him, this was an extremely unfair decision.  He was as devastated as I was.

The hardest part about this whole thing was that I had to go back to work the next day – at the same place, with the same boss, where my husband had just been treated unjustly.  I need my job, I need health insurance, and I must have a paycheck.  These are the thoughts that kept me going that first day back, but I was so very angry.  I somehow made it through the day, not without tears though.

Now, I have made it through several weeks of work since my husband was let go.  I have kept my head down, nose to the grindstone, and gotten my work done.  I have gone from ignoring coworkers, to crying with coworkers, to acting like everything was completely normal.  But I did all of those things with a huge amount of underlying anger, that I had yet to express.  I was angry at my boss, and her boss, I was angry at the coworkers who said nothing in support of my husband, I was angry at the students who started this whole witch hunt.  It was hard to go to work everyday, and it was hard to care about anything that I was doing there.  And I thought maybe that this was just going to be the new normal.

After a while of that, though, I came to the realization that my anger was not serving me well.  I was grouchy and lazy and I was taking it out on those closest to me.  It wasn’t pretty.  Here’s  the thing though, even knowing all of the things that the program teaches about letting go of resentments, and having worked so hard on forgiveness of others in the past, I couldn’t seem to let it go, it felt like righteous, justified anger.  When you take those feelings with the added feeling that if I were to let it go, I would somehow be betraying my husband, the task of giving up my anger seemed impossible.  I knew intellectually that I was doing myself more harm than good by hanging onto it, but my heart wasn’t aligned with my head yet. I get the whole anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die thing, I get that resentments are the “number one” offender.  I have heard those so many times in the program, and I know that they’re true.  So why was it so hard for me to do what I knew I needed to do? Anger

My nature is to be friendly, talkative, helpful, and caring at work.  It took a lot of energy and negative thinking to keep myself in the state that I was while at work.  I knew that I wasn’t exactly punishing anyone else, their lives went on as usual, even my boss treated me like nothing negative had happened.  I also knew that it would be “easier” for me to go back to the way things were before.  I could feel the talkative, friendly person I usually am trying to get through the surly grouch that I had become.  I had to figure out how to let go of this anger and feel ok with doing so.

In the end, there were two things that helped me through the anger.  One was talking to my husband about what I was feeling.  I told him how I felt like it would be a betrayal against him to let it go.  I admitted to him that I knew that staying angry was taking too much effort and having a negative impact on me.  I was surprised to hear that he really didn’t want me to stat angry, and that he thought that it was best for me to let it go, that he already had!  He would not feel like I wasn’t in his corner just because I could no longer hold the grudges I had been clinging to.  What a relief!  I thought that when I went to work the next day, things would be better…and they were, sort of.  I still felt the anger well up though when I had to deal with my boss, or her boss.  My anger, while lessened, still lingered.

The second thing that helped me happened the next week.  I was approached by the “big boss” (my boss’ boss) for a chat.  He clearly knew that I was angry and unhappy and he took the time to sit down with me and he allowed me to express my feelings about what happened.  Admittedly, the first sit-down wasn’t exactly pleasant and I was still feeling righteous in my anger.  I’m sure he picked up on that.  But he came back, later in the day, and expressed how he felt about me as an employee and friend, and he said that he didn’t want to lose me, but that he would like the old Jami back.  He left it at that.

I didn’t go home feeling light and full of peace and serenity.  I wasn’t sure if I was being manipulated or if the sentiments that he expressed were genuine.  I wanted to believe the latter…I needed to believe that.  I talked again with my husband and he again encouraged me to trust that what I heard was true, and to let go of the anger.  So I made a decision – just like that! – to let it go.  It turns out that it doesn’t really matter what the truth was.  I was headed in the direction of letting it go, and I think that I just needed a little bit more of a push to get past my last shreds of holding on.  This was the nudge I needed.  Work was much more pleasant in the days that followed, I wasn’t the grumpy, clock-watching, sour-puss that I had been, and it felt really good.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that all of those trite, seemingly silly sayings that we hear in AA, are repeated and repeated for a reason.  They are true.  They work.  I just hope that next time something like this happens, I realize that sooner.

Let go


Progress, not perfection

Last Wednesday night I wanted to drink. Bad. Really bad.  I didn’t do it, thank God, but for a brief amount of time, I really wanted to.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how well things were going, and how that gave me anxiety.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop…and drop it did. My husband lost his job on Wednesday; the very job that allowed us to move into a nicer, bigger place and get out of our run-down apartment.  This happened 5 days after we moved in.  Five days!  Needless to say, the news on Wednesday put a huge damper on the happiness and fun of organizing and decorating our new home.   The first thing that struck me when he walked in the door when he should’ve been in class teaching was shock.  I didn’t know what to say or do or how to act, my mind was spinning and was full of racing thoughts.  What were we going to do?  How can we afford this house?  Are we going to have to break our lease and move somewhere cheap enough for my salary to afford?  Will it be worse than the last place we lived?  What did my husband do or say at work that changed things from the day before when all was well?  Why is everything falling apart after things have been going so well?  Where is God in all of this?  Why am I being punished?

The thoughts and questions filled my mind….and then, there it was….the thought that I hadn’t had in so long…

I want to drink to make all of this go away.  It worked in the past…it could work again.  The thought both intrigued and scared the hell out of me.

My husband had done a really smart thing.  On his way home from being canned, he called my sponsor.  She got to my house about five minutes before my husband and said something about being in the neighborhood.  I am so glad that she was there when he broke the news to me.  Not because I was really going to drink, I don’t think I was, but because she was there to help me remember all of the reasons that I don’t drink anymore.  Her very presence helped me, as they say in AA, play the tape through to the end. She didn’t have to say anything about it, I was already considering the consequences.  I could toss my two plus years of sobriety down the tubes and go get shit faced, but what would that accomplish?  The job loss would still be there when if I sobered up.  Knowing myself, it would likely end with jail or death, and even if it didn’t that night, I know that those things are just around the corner, because once I start drinking, I can’t stop.  Once the first taste of alcohol hits my lips, I lose the ability to choose what happens next.  It’s a crapshoot, and when it comes right down to it, I don’t want to take the chance.  Even though I knew that I wasn’t going to go buy booze, the fact that in a crisis that was my first thought, was terrifying.  I actively work my program, I talk to my sponsor often, I read and write about recovery, and here I was feeling like I might be back at square one.

As I have thought about it these last few days, though, I’ve realized a couple of things.  First of all, I am not back at square one.  The fact is, I didn’t drink.  I was in a moment of crisis, and I took the time to consider what would happen if I did.  That, clearly, is not square one.  Square one is me avoiding, denying, shutting down, and drowning out my feelings (or at least trying to) with gallons of booze.  Square one is me not caring about anything except changing the way I feel, by any means necessary.  No, this was not square one.  This is an alcoholic, recovery and all, having alcoholic thoughts.  There’s a saying in AA that goes like this:  Birds fly, fish swim, and alcoholics drink.  It’s so true!  And that was my second realization, no matter how far I get from my last drink, I will always be an alcoholic.  I may make progress – I have – and I may be firmly planted in the recovery community, but I will always be an alcoholic.  This is why they say that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful…it waits…for a weak moment, for a lapse in judgement, for your husband to lose a job.   It will always be there, so I must always be diligent.

I don’t know if you can tell by my little rant, but I was really upset and scared about my reaction to the situation.  I’ve calmed down now though, and the crisis has been downgraded to an inconvenience.  Within 24 hours of losing his job, my husband secured another one.  The pay isn’t quite as good, but it’s somewhere that he worked before and was loved and appreciated, and he is happy to go back.  He doesn’t start for a few weeks, but we’ll muddle through, and things will be alright.  In the last couple of days, we have returned to our normal, mostly happy, somewhat silly selves and have enjoyed working on setting up and unpacking our new house.  My thoughts have shifted from despair to hope, and from fear to taking action.  We are both amazed at our resiliency and how quickly we have recovered from this setback, in the past I would’ve been a big blubbery mess for a long time.   I have a renewed sense of dedication to the program of AA.  It works for me.  It gives me the life I have today.  I am rededicating myself to the program.  And why wouldn’t I?  It not only saved me two and a half years ago, it saved me again last week.


Happiness, good things, and…anxiety?

just be happy

Holy Cow!  It’s been almost two months since I’ve posted!  I honestly had no idea it had been that long.  Don’t worry, everything is ok, I’m still sober, still working the steps, and doing my best to practice the principles of AA in all of my affairs.  I have been working on my word-of-the-year, Connect, and spending more time with friends and family.  It’s just been a busy time and I haven’t felt the urge to write for a while.  Something has come up though, that I feel like I need to post about.

Since the beginning of the year, with very few, minor exceptions, things have been going really well.  In January, my husband started teaching full-time and our income increased by quite a bit.  That alleviated so many worries and problems.  There is something to be said for not having to worry about one paycheck running out before the next one comes.  About a month ago I was able to attend a women’s retreat for forgiveness and healing.  It was a wonderful, life-changing experience, and the best part was that two of my closest friends went too.  I feel so fortunate to have gone.  Then, after months of wanting to move to a bigger, nicer place, the perfect house more or less fell right into our laps!  We’re moving in two weeks and we couldn’t be happier.  My husband celebrated 5 years of sobriety a few weeks ago, and my sponsee just made one year sober.  Life has been so great to me lately!  The icing on the cake came unexpectedly earlier this week when a number of my coworkers and I received an email from the powers-that-be saying we were all getting raises, and they were retroactive to January 1st.  The only thing that could make things better is if I were to wake up tomorrow morning weighing 25 pounds less!

Shoe dropNow I’m not telling you all of this to brag about my good fortune.  There is a real problem with all of this.  It scares me.  I’m nervous and anxious and I don’t know how to handle things when they are going so well.  Crazy, right?  At least it makes me feel crazy.  I have so many things to be happy about, and here I am waiting for the other shoe to drop!  I know how to live when I have to struggle and deal with uncomfortable feelings and difficult situations, sobriety has taught me that.  I know how to be mindful and grateful when times are tough.  This is the first stretch of time though, when I haven’t had huge (at least in my mind) things to worry about, and it’s hard to accept.

I really thought that I had learned acceptance….boy, did I think that I had learned.  When bad things happen, or I have to deal with difficult situations, the first thing I do is remember the Serenity Prayer and move into acceptance about the situation as quickly as I can.  I know, from experience, that wallowing in self-pity and worrying about things that I have no control over never improves situations that are out of my hands.  But now, when I’m finally experiencing what the 9th step promises talk about, I am having a hard time accepting that it’s for real, and I’m filled with anxiety that something bad is looming right around the corner.

My sponsor suggested that I approach this period of time in the same way that I approach all of the other times, with gratitude and acceptance and with the knowledge that God is working in my life, and that all I have to do is continue to do the next right thing, and then next right thing, and that doing so is living a life of sobriety and recovery.  So that’s what I am trying to do.  I don’t want to ruin the happiness and joy that I am feeling (yes, I am happy and joyous…just anxious too), by worrying about things that haven’t yet transpired, and that, in reality, probably never will.

Ugh.  I guess I am still a work in progress.

Has anyone out there felt like this?  I would love to hear what you think about it, and how you have dealt with it.  :)

9th step promises

Mostly whiny, moderately bossy



Before my husband and I got married, I described myself to him as “mostly whiny, moderately bossy”.   I was trying something new, putting it all out there from the beginning, giving him every chance to get away while he still could.  Thank God he doesn’t scare easily!  Growing up, those words, whiny and bossy, are the words that I remember hearing most about myself when being described by my family.  It’s no wonder they stuck, and admittedly, sometimes they’re accurate.  Just ask my husband!

control-freakAs I have become more honest about my feelings, and more self-aware, I’ve realized that in those moments when I fall into whining or being bossy, what I’m really trying to do is control the situation, to make things go my way.   I am very aware that I am not unique when it comes to alcoholics…we want things our way and we want it now, and quite honestly, sometimes whining works.  More often though, it doesn’t, and that’s when things get rough.  Trying to control things that I have no control over never works!  Never!  I know this from past experience, yet I still fall into the whole “self-will run riot” that the Big Book of AA talks about.

The past couple of weeks have been difficult because I have been trying to run things that weren’t mine to run.  None of the things were really anything serious, no one’s life was hanging in the balance, and there wasn’t any danger of me wanting to pick up a bottle, but when I get started with the whole control thing, there is often a snowball effect; small things get big, and big things get ginormous.  We had problems with the office of our apartment complex regarding some maintenance that needed to be done that caused our place to have to be turned upside-down.  Then we had a rough weekend with my stepson who was having a rough time himself.  Then one of my best friends went to the hospital with a mystery illness that caused her to forget everyone and everything around her (she’s fine now, thank God).  Then my husband and I were on puppy duty, waiting for our dog to give birth.  Then coworkers kept getting fired – four in less than a month!  How’s that for workplace morale?  I could go on, but you get the point.  It’s been an eventful, and somewhat disturbing, couple of weeks.  And it took until today for me to remember what the real problem is:  ME.  And my desire to control things that I can’t.

I have often wondered why teachers and preachers repeat themselves so often when addressing their audiences.  Or why it is that I am drawn to AA meetings where you hear some of the same things over and over.  Here’s why:  We need reminding!  I need to hear the serenity prayer again and again, and I need to be reminded that my will mostly gets me nowhere, and I need to hear other perspectives that might improve mine, and I have to be reminded that having expectations lead to resentments.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to see the truth about things; that eventually my apartment will be fixed, that my friend will be okay, that my dog cannot house puppies in her belly forever, that there is workplace turnover everywhere, and that me whining or bossing others around isn’t going to fix anything.

So after being whiny and bossy today for the last couple of weeks, that’s what I am trying to do with this post, I’m telling myself the truth, and I’m relinquishing control to the One who actually has it.  I know that’s what works, I just have to remember it.



If you need me, I’ll be hiding in my bathroom

This photo is a reenactment of an actual event.

This photo is a reenactment of an actual event.

It’s the middle of the day on a weekday, I don’t remember why it was that I wasn’t at work and my husband was, but for some reason I was home alone.  Well, I was alone except for my dogs.  I was doing normal things that I would do on a day off, laundry and cleaning and such.  As I remember, I was in a good mood, nothing weighing on me or worrying me; nothing bad or upsetting had happened recently to put me on edge.  We have a small patio outside our front door with a tall wood fence going around it and a gate that I always lock from the inside when I’m home.  The slats of the fence are too close together to see through, either in or out.  I was inside doing my thing and I heard a knocking on the gate.  Or rather, a normal person would have heard a knocking on the gate, what I heard was someone trying to break down the gate to come in and do God-knows-what to me.  So I did what seemed logical to me in the situation.  I quickly collected my dogs, ran into the bathroom, and hid in the bathtub until I was sure whoever it was had given up and gone away.  After the fact, that doesn’t seem quite so logical.  Why didn’t I look outside to see who it was?  It could have been a neighbor or a delivery man.  It could have been someone trying to sell me something or even the mailman.  Who knows?  I sure don’t because I was hiding in the freaking bathtub!

That little chain of events happened a couple of years ago.  And guess what?  I wasn’t drunk when it happened.  I was somehow triggered into fight or flight (fleeing to the bathtub counts!), because I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and sometimes my reactions to things aren’t always as rational as I would like them to be.  I don’t know what it was about that day that set me off, it hadn’t happened before and it hasn’t happened since.  My husband I joke about it these days, because, well, what else are you gonna do?

When I was diagnosed with PTSD while between my two stints in rehab for alcoholism, I was kind of surprised.  I suffered a rape when I was a teenager, and pretty severe physical, verbal and sexual abuse from my ex-husband, but at that time, I thought, like a lot of people, that PTSD was mainly a diagnosis bestowed upon veterans of wars, not us civilians.  It turns out that it’s not only combat veterans who suffer from PTSD.  According to statistics from the National Center for PTSD, a department of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 7 or 8% of the non-military population will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and women are more than twice as likely to develop it than men. Who knew?  I sure didn’t.

There are lots of ways that PTSD makes itself known, flashbacks, nightmares, negative thoughts, hyper-vigilance, hyper-arousal.  I had all of those things to a degree, but for me, the worst of my symptoms were the flashbacks.  I could be busy doing something, even working, and BAM they would just hit me out of nowhere.  For those of you not familiar with PTSD or flashbacks, it’s not just like a passing thought about something that happened.  It’s like your reality has gone back in time and you are living through the trauma again.  It’s real.  It’s scary.  It’s unpredictable.  And it’s really hard to turn off.  It’s no wonder that many who suffer with PTSD turn to alcohol to try to drown out flashbacks and negative memories.  I tried that route, and it worked, until it didn’t.  At first it was an easy way to get those thoughts and scenarios out of my mind.  I would gladly suffer through a hangover if I could stop the thoughts for a while.  That, of course, led to my really extreme alcoholic drinking.  That’s when my anger came out.  Sufferers of PTSD tend to have anger issues due to suppressing their feelings for so long.  I always kept my anger in check unless I was drinking, and then the gloves were off!  My little, petite self became a brawler at the drop of a hat.  There were times that I fought whomever I was with in complete blackouts.  I didn’t even know what happened until I sobered up and was told the next day.  It is difficult for me to look back at that.  I have accepted that it is part of my past, and I have made amends to those who I can, but it’s still difficult.

The good news about this PTSD thing, is that there are some great treatments for it.  I have written about the fact that I take medication to treat my depression and PTSD, and that has made a huge difference in my life.  Being properly treated has saved me and I believe it was a huge help in removing my compulsion to drink.  I have done, and continue to do, a lot of therapy and step-work about my traumas and while emotional and exhausting, I’ve benefited greatly from it.  I also participated in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR).  I won’t even try to described what or how it works, but it does!!  Here’s how the EMDR Institute Inc. describes it:

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

You can read more about the specific procedures and what the therapy sessions look like here, if you would like.

What EMDR did for me was take me out of the flashbacks.  When I think about the events that triggered my disorder, I no longer feel like it is happening all over again.  I recall everything that happened, but I don’t “feel”  it.  It has turned those memories into just that, memories.  I don’t have to live through the physical pain anymore.  That’s a miracle.

All of that said, I am clearly not cured!  I don’t think that all of my PTSD symptoms will ever be completely gone.  I still startle easily, am almost always super-aware of what’s going on around me and I am sometimes quick to become over-stimulated.  In restaurants I like to sit with my back against the wall so there aren’t people behind me, and I get nervous when there is someone walking behind me.  However, I have learned how to tell when my feelings are rational and when they are irrational, and I try to act accordingly.  And, believe it or not, I haven’t felt the need to hide in my bathtub for a long time!

If you, or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, please know that there is help out there, and that the odds are there is treatment that will really improve your quality of life.