Weekends

HAPPY FRIDAY

I made it through the week.   I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am that it is the weekend.  I love Friday nights because I know that I have two whole days ahead of me to do the things that I love – read, hang out with my husband and stepson, relax, watch the TV shows that I save all week (I call them “my stories”), take naps, visit with my sponsor and do step work, go to church and/or bible study – all of the things that there isn’t time for during the week.  It’s a time for me to recharge physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Weekends are when I am able to do the things that bring me joy and feed my soul.  It’s when I get to slow down and take care of me.

I sure haven’t always felt this way.  It’s crazy because, for the most part, I used to dread the weekends.  I think I started to dislike the weekends when I started drinking alcoholically.  At that time, I knew that I had a problem with booze, but I couldn’t stop drinking no matter what I tried.  So the weekends, when I didn’t have the responsibility, and distraction, of going to work, would end up being just awful.  I would start out trying not to drink, but knowing that I would.  I would eventually get blackout drunk, do dumb and dangerous things, sleep fitfully, and wake up to go through the whole ordeal again.  I was constantly thinking about drinking, planning how to drink without getting caught, actually drunk off my ass, or trying to recover.  It was absolute hell.  So Monday coming around was a little bit of a reprieve.  I knew that I had to go to work, and I had to act like I had it together.  It allowed me to distract myself from the mess that was my life.

When I first got sober, I still hated the weekends.  Again, I had no distraction, so I had plenty of time to wallow in self-pity, guilt and shame.  I had way too much time to think.  And way too much time to feel all of those emotions I drank to get away from.  I was still so happy when Monday came around and I could go to work and pretend that everything was okay, that I was loving sobriety, when, in reality, I wasn’t.

I’m not sure when exactly my aversion to weekends turned around.  I think it happened gradually.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that I met Austin and had someone to spend time with.  But I really think that the shift happened when I began to have a heart change about taking care of myself and letting go of the past.  Until I accepted my past for what it was, and truly believed that I, with God’s help, never had to go back to that way of living, I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts and feelings.

Now, I look forward to the weekends.  I know that I will have time to just be still and to stay present.  I don’t have to deal with the hectic pace of my job, I don’t have to feel like I have to constantly be doing something productive.  I can just be, and that’s a pretty awesome feeling.

I’m off to start my weekend.  I hope you enjoy yours!

This is my Monday now...

This is my Monday now…

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It is what it is

It is what it isUgh.  Today sucked.  A lot.  As I said in an earlier post, I have been feeling overwhelmed at work.  Today that overwhelming feeling got multiplied by a thousand, and a good amount of frustration was added in.  The story is a pretty boring one, typical behavior of any large company.  The corporate office made a decision to change some things around to make things better in the long run.  Sounds good, right?  But in the short run, it will be a HUGE amount of extra work, we’re talking lots of overtime, and very tedious, and most of the work will fall on my shoulders.  While the idea of all of the extra work causes me a fair bit of anxiety, that wasn’t what was so frustrating.  The thing that really got me was how the decision was communicated to the staff.  First of all, rumors about it started flying last week.  Then, yesterday there were conflicting stories of what was going to happen, depending on which manager you spoke to.  This morning, there was confirmation that the changes were not going to happen, it was business as usual.  So I spent my day accordingly – working to prepare things as I normally would.  At about 3:00 this afternoon, there was an announcement that the changes were going to take place after all!  So I wasted the whole day working on something that was ultimately going in the crapper.  I’m sorry, I know I’m rambling, but can you sense my frustration???

Needless to say, I was pretty grumpy.  And that got me to thinking.  What is it that I am so grumpy about?  Is it the changes that are coming?  Is it the extra work?  Am I trying to control something that I have no control over?  Why am I frustrated, and what am I going to do about it?  I never shy away from extra work, I’m a hard worker and deadlines don’t usually bother me, I always get the work done.  Now, I don’t love change, but I have gotten better about rolling with the punches.  It occured to me that I often react to these kinds of situations the same way.  I get worked up and anxious thinking about how awful things are going to be.  I freak out on the inside, while I act like everything is alright on the outside.  I worry, worry, worry in anticipation of whatever the crisis is.  Here’s the funny thing…when the real thing comes to pass, it is never as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Everything usually works out fine.  Hmm.  I know this.  I even have a tattoo that says “It is what it is” to remind me that there are  things that I can’t control, and that I have to accept them.  You would think that knowing all of that would keep me from becoming such a nutjob when things happen.

So what am I going to do about it?  I’m going to get up tomorrow, go to work, and do my job.  And I will do it again and again, and in a few weeks, the worst of it will be behind me and things will go back to normal.  I’m going to remind myself that this is not a major crisis, I’ve had those, I should know the difference!  The most important thing to remember is that it is what it is.  It will work out just the way that it’s supposed to.  And it’s a whole lot easier to face it with a smile and a good attitude than the alternative.

Grace…even for me.

grace

I recently read somewhere that recovery is one of the greatest examples of grace.  I have found that to be so true.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think that I even knew, much less understood or felt, what grace was before I made my first attempts at recovery.

When I started trying to get sober by going to meetings, I thought that I would find out the trick to sobriety.  Maybe I would have to be initiated, learn a secret handshake, be sworn to secrecy, but then, I would be let in on the closely guarded secret that would save me from the bottle.  And then, just by having that knowledge, I wouldn’t have to drink anymore.  Well, it didn’t quite work that way.  I was told that I needed to act.  I had to go to meetings, find a sponsor, work (work!?!) the steps, be of service….oh and,  just change everything in my life as it was.  I was overwhelmed.  So, in my typical rebellious form, besides going to meetings, I didn’t do any of it.  It’s no wonder that I continued to drink and ended up in treatment.  That’s where I first started to feel little bits of grace.

I went to a Christian rehab, even though I didn’t identify as a Christian (they were the first one to return my call and they accepted my insurance).  I considered myself agnostic, because I never really heard any argument, for or against God, that resonated with me.  I think though, down deep, I knew that I was missing some integral “thing” and that I was trying to fill up that empty space with booze.  I certainly didn’t think that I would find whatever that “thing” was in rehab, but I was desperate.   My first days there were really difficult, because I was so fearful of everything and everyone.  I questioned whether or not I belonged there, maybe I had overreacted.  Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough on my own.  Was I really like these other people that here?  I couldn’t be, I didn’t shoot drugs into my veins, or crush them up and snort them.  I wasn’t unemployed and homeless.  Yes, I had a DUI, but who didn’t?  That was simply bad luck.  As all of these thoughts were churning around in my head, something amazing happened.  These people that I was having trouble identifying with, that I was feeling apart from, embraced me and included me.  They met me where I was, and didn’t run away screaming.  They listened to what I had to say, even when it didn’t make sense.  They encouraged me to open up, and didn’t blink when I told some of my shameful secrets.  They shared their stories with me, openly and honestly.  I didn’t know it then, but what they were doing was showing me grace.

Looking back, I’m able to see that it wasn’t just my fellow addicts that were demonstrating grace, I was receiving God’s grace as well.  How else could I explain that I was there, safe, sober and trying to get better?  How was it that I wasn’t in jail or dead?  How was it that I finally felt a little bit of hope?  These were all things that I couldn’t have done for myself.  I couldn’t have done them if there was some form of expectation for me to repay those favors.  Those things were free gifts given to me by God.  I knew then, and I know now, that I didn’t deserve them.  It was grace.

It has been over two years since then, and I wish I could say that my first trip to treatment did the trick, but it didn’t.  I returned at the end of last year for another 30 days after relapsing.  Once again, when I showed up, I was shown grace.  The staff was all the same, and they met me with love and compassion.  They told me that they don’t shoot their wounded, that I am not a bad person trying to be good, but instead a sick person trying to get well.  They accepted me.  This time I knew it was grace, I knew what it felt like.  When I returned to my home group after rehab, I was met in the same manner.  No one thought ill of me, no one expressed disappointment or anger.  I was encouraged to keep coming back.  And that’s what I’ve done.

While the examples of grace I’ve written about above are nothing short of miraculous, the most profound and meaningful experience I have had with grace has come to me in my marriage (which, incidentally, is another gift of the program, as I met my husband in the rooms).  Never did I imagine that there could be such love and grace as I have found with Austin.  It’s why we work.  He gives me the grace to be myself, with all of my defects and neuroses.  He loves unconditionally, even when I don’t feel lovable.  When he had to drive me to treatment, he never once complained or acted disappointed.  Even in my misery, I never doubted that I had love and acceptance from him.  I also feel like I give him the same, at least he says so.  Each of us, by understanding God’s grace, can learn to give one another what He first gave us. .  That’s grace.

Keeping It Fresh

fresh

My husband secretly recorded my last drunk.  He told me that he had done so while I was in rehab, but it took me almost three months to be brave enough to watch it.  It was painful to watch what I become when I put alcohol in my body.  It was hard for me to believe that the person I was seeing and hearing was me.  I have little recollection of that afternoon and evening.  What I saw and heard in that video was so pathetic.  It was, as the Big Book says, pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.   I was a mess of emotions, crying and begging Austin to take care of me, and asking him over and over if he still loved me.  At one point (actually several times according to Austin), I was laying on my stomach in a bathtub full of water and he had to pull me out to keep me from drowning.

I wasn’t always that kind of sad, overly emotional, needy drunk.  There were many times that I was combative, mean, and just plain abusive.  We can joke now about me having been a brawler, because sober I couldn’t be farther from it.  But when it was going on, it was pretty damn ugly.  Booze made me someone that I am not.  It turned me into a liar, a cheat, a slut, and a thief.  My drunkalog is full of just awful, disgusting, scary situations that I put myself in.

Why am I writing all of this?  Because it’s important for me to keep it fresh.  I have to remember what it was like, so that I don’t ever have to go back to that way of living.  Or dying, as the case may be.  It’s really easy for my alcoholic mind to forget all of the negative things that happened when I drank, and to just remember that feeling of relief the first drink brought.  Euphoric recall has caused many an alcoholic to go back out, myself included.  Just last week, one of my husband’s sponsees relapsed.  He thought he could handle it.  It’s heartbreaking to see those AA members that bounce in and out like a ping pong ball, like I did for a while.  It’s scary too, because we never know if there is another recovery in us.  It’s a crap shoot.

For that reason, I try to keep it fresh.  Going to meetings help me with that.  When newcomers introduce themselves, I am reminded of how I felt when I was in their seat.  When I can see the shame and regret in the eyes of someone returning to the program after a slip or relapse, it helps me remember what it’s like to start over.   I recently heard something at a speaker meeting that really struck a chord with me.  The speaker said that it’s important for him to look in the mirror every day to see who he is.  Then he said that his mirror is the rooms of AA.  That is true for me too.  In the reflection that I see when I go to meetings I see those that are struggling to stay sober, those that are fighting for their lives, those that are not drinking even when things are bad, and those that are happy, joyous, and free in sobriety.  I see myself in all of them.

My worst day sober is better than my best day drunk.  I have gotten a second chance at happiness and I don’t want to let it go.  Ever.  That’s why I keep it fresh.

Fruitcake

fruitcake

I was tagged by Karen of Mended Musings to play a game of fruitcake tag. You know, I am new to this blogging and I was completely unaware there were blog games! Woo hoo! Here we go.

Step 1: Post the rules

Follow the steps. Those are the rules.

Step 2: Post a photo of yourself and eleven random facts about you.

This is me.

This is me.

1. I love peanut butter.

2. I hate wind. Cool wind, hot wind, doesn’t matter, I hate it. Nothing makes me grumpier faster.

3. I wake up with a song in my head almost every morning and it sets the tone for my day.

4. I’m a champion sleeper.

5. My favorite flowers are all yellow: sunflowers, daffodils and daisies

6. I was a vegetarian for almost 20 years, but now I’m a carnivore again. Bacon is the gateway meat.

7. I am married to an Anglican priest.

8. My favorite TV show is The Walking Dead.

9. I have four tattoos.

10. I love to read biographies and memoirs.

11. My favorite attire is one of my husband’s t-shirts and a pair of his boxers.

Step 3: Answer the questions given by the tagger (Karen)

1. Other than people and pets, what would you grab first if your house was on fire? My journals.

2. What was the last book you read or are currently reading? I just finished Sober Mercies by Heather Kopp. And now I’m reading Parched by Heather King, and The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson.

3. Would you ever do Tough Mudder? Not a chance.

4. Would you actually eat fruitcake? Does it have bacon in it?

5. If you have kids, do you sneak their snacks? Absolutely! It’s one of the benefits of having children.

6. Do trampolines scare you? No, but falling off of one does.

7. Have you ever heard what sounded like a kitty cat in trouble only to discover that it was your new ring tone?
No, my phone is always on vibrate.

8. Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

9. What TV show do you secretly love even though you tell everyone you hate it? The Bachelor. Please don’t tell.

10. What was the last song you heard? What’s the frequency Kenneth? by REM

11. What’s your sign? (no, it’s not a pick up line) It used to be Danger…now it’s just Caution.

Step 4: Create eleven new questions for the people who’ve been tagged…

1. Dogs or cats?

2. Do you sing along to the radio in the car?

3. What is your favorite movie?

4. If you could spend a whole day doing whatever you wanted, what would you do?

5. Did you wear neon colors and tease your hair in the 80’s?

6. Vampires or zombies?

7. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

8. Are you a morning person?

9. Do you remember your dreams?

10. Are you a picker?

11. Do you have a Happy Dance?

Step 5: Tag some people!

I don’t know any of y’all very much, but I hope you’ll play!

One Too Many

Recovering By Grace

Mished-up

Food for the soul

soul

I’m feeling a little, maybe more than a little, overwhelmed at work. Today I had to go in early to complete a project. It had a deadline of noon. My coworker and I got there a little before seven and worked non-stop to finish on time. We didn’t make it. But, we did get it done an hour later and nothing was said about it being late. It’s a good thing, because I was already irritated and I probably would’ve said something sarcastic and defensive if I had been reprimanded. It’s weird, I used to thrive on that sort of hurry-up-and-get-it-done, but-make-sure-it’s-done-right, kind of thing. That’s where I excelled – working under pressure. That just isn’t the case anymore.

In the past, I think that I used school and/or work to validate my self-worth. As long as I did well at those tangible things, the things that everyone could see and approve of, then I was somehow valuable. Consequently, I always did well. I had to, otherwise what good was I? I defined myself by the job I had or the grade I received, not the person I was. I often had people compltely fooled, because it seemed like I had it all together. But really I was wasting away on the inside. I think that lack of self-worth and constant need for approval was one of the things that led me to self-medicate with alcohol.

In sobriety, I am finding that the things that used to make me feel worthy really aren’t so important to me. Don’t get me wrong, most days I like my job, I definitely like my coworkers, and I do need a paycheck. It just doesn’t fulfill me the way that it used to. I think that I used to try to feed my intellect to make myself feel good. Now, however, I have a need to feed my soul. It’s spending time with other people, going to meetings, journaling, being creative, having bible studies with my husband, praying, blogging about recovery, and things like that, that fulfill me now.

The struggle that I seem to be having is finding the balance between what I have to do and what I want to do. If I were to let myself, I’m sure that I would only do the things that truly bring me joy. Can there be too much of a good thing? I think so, probably. I mean there is laundry to be done, floors to be vacuumed, work projects to finish, right? Lately, what I am trying to do is allow myself time to do those things that fulfill me – at least a couple of them a day – while I am still taking care of my responsibilities. It’s a delicate balance that I am learning to master.

I’ll have to see what tomorrow brings, but I know that no matter what, while I am doing the things I have to, I’ll be looking for those little things that bring me joy and feed my soul.

Just a girl…

So this afternoon I had a meltdown. A snot-running, can’t-catch-my-breath crying, completely irrational breakdown. I don’t even know what happened, the day started off good enough. We went to our meeting at 6:45, came home, I made omelets for Father’s Day breakfast, and we chilled out. I finished the book I was reading, took a short nap, and then woke up feeling down and tearful. My husband and stepson were spending the afternoon playing one of their Star Wars video games, I could hear the bickering and trash-talking coming from the other room. In other words, this was an ordinary weekend in our house.

So what was it that set me off? I guess it could’ve been that I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke up every half hour and I had a crazy anxiety dream. In the dream I was going to school, high school maybe, and for some reason I thought that I could shower and get dressed at school. Then when I got there, the pricipal (played in my dream by my current boss at work…wierd) said no, that I couldn’t shower there. Now, when I wake up, I look like a crazy woman. I have long, curly hair and it is all over the place when I get up. In the dream it was no different. And, I was wearing pajamas. So, I had to call my mom to come and pick me up and I got yelled at and made to feel stupid when she got there. Then I woke up. I have never been so happy to be almost 25 years this side of high school!

It could also be that today is Father’s Day and I’m not with my family. Most holidays do get me down, but I really thought that I would be okay for this one. I felt like I was lucky that I got to spend it with my husband, Austin, and stepson, Benjamin. I wanted to be sure that Austin knew what a great dad I think he is, and that he and Benjamin got to spend the day doing what they wanted to. Then, by mid-afternoon I was feeling sad and left out. That’s so silly. I wanted the day to be about them, and then I made it about me. Sounds like alcohlic behavior, doesn’t it?

Another thing it could be is that I am PMS-ing, and that makes me kind of crazy.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a girl and I hadn’t had a good cry in a long, long time.

I don’t know what it was, maybe a combination of all of those things. What I do know is that Austin went and bought me chocolate (smart man), I called my sponsor to see if she thought I was nuts (she didn’t), and I wrote this post. Now, I feel better.

Accepted Rejection

From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417

From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417

My family doesn’t speak to me. Not one of them. The crazy thing about it is they all talked to me when I was actively drinking, encouraging (okay, more like begging and threatening) me to get some help. Yet, after I went to treatment the first time, they all dropped like flies. They were suddenly unable to deal with the wreckage I had created while drinking. Now, I honestly don’t know how they put up with me when I was drinking, and I wouldn’t have blamed them for writing me off then. But I was completely shocked and extremely hurt when they dumped me when I decided to try to get well. It has taken over two years to get to the point where I can accept that they are not a part of my life anymore. Of course, that acceptance can, and does, quickly turn to sadness and regret when special days come up. The holidays are particularly hard, and birthdays, both theirs and mine, kind of suck. The guilt and shame kick in big time, followed by anger, and finally self-pity and grief. I know the cycle well, it’s what caused my relapse seven months ago.

When I reentered treatment last November, I knew that the thing I needed to work on was acceptance. At the beginning, it felt like an uphill battle. I didn’t even know where to begin. Nearly every therapy session, many of my small group meetings, and a lot of one-on-one conversations that I had there were about acceptance. It was good for me to hear what others thought and felt about me and my situation. By learning how others saw me, even those that were privy to all of my shameful secrets and horrible choices, I was able to come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t the piece of crap that I thought I was. Yes, I had done awful things and behaved badly, but that didn’t make me worthless and irredeemable as my family seems to think. Learning that put me on the path to acceptance. I can’t control what my family thinks. I can’t control that they have no desire to see me. What I can control is the way I deal with it, and the choices I make now.

One of the choices that I make now is to surround myself with people that love me the way I am. I have the most wonderful husband that showers me with unconditional love, which I never knew before. I have a smart, handsome stepson that has loved and accepted me from the very start. I also have friends in and out of the program that value my friendship and know my heart. My sponsor is not only my guide through the steps, but my sister in sobriety, and one of my very best friends. These are the people that make up my family today. The fact that they don’t share my ancestry really doesn’t mean a thing. It is such a gift of sobriety to have genuine, meaningful relationships. I am truly blessed.

Family

Laying down my rock

God

Thy will, not mine, be done. That is the essence of the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous. While I have found that all of the steps are hard, I think that the third step was, and continues to be, the hardest for me. By the time I got to the program, I knew without a doubt, that doing things my way wasn’t working. So when I got to step three, I was thrilled at the thought of letting someone else be in control. In theory, it seems so easy, just give it to God. In practice, however, I have found that that isn’t the case. I don’t know if it is alcoholic behavior, or just simply human nature, to want to be in control of everything. I guess it’s probably both. Which means that we alcoholics are faced with a sort of double whammy.

It used to be that everything I let go of, I let go of out of sheer desperation, not out of willingness. I fought tooth and nail to control everything. I have gotten better. I am now able and willing to turn things over to God. The problem for me is, nearly every time, I take it right back! And that starts a cycle of giving it up, then taking it back, then giving it up…

When I was in rehab, both times, we did an exercise designed to teach us that trying to carry past hurts and resentments on our own was burdensome and it didn’t make them go away. We were asked to go outside, pick a rock from the rock pile, and decorate it according to whatever it was that we were dwelling on. It seemed a little juvenile and silly, but we did what we were told. What we didn’t know at the beginning was that we were going to have to carry that rock around for the next three days. We had to have it with us at all times – in bed at night, in the shower, on our meal trays. When we got tired of, or irritated with, our rock, we were supposed to reflect on the things that we were trying to control on our own. At the end of those three days, we finally got to lay down our rocks. At the same time, we prayed that God would relieve us of our burden, whatever it was. As I put my rock down, I felt such a sense of peace. It was actually a really emotional moment for me. I was giving up something that I had been carrying for so long, I didn’t know who I would be without it. Of course, I did pick it up again, metaphorically. But that sense of peace that I felt, however fleeting, impacted me. I made a decision, then and there, that that was what I wanted. Peace.

What I have learned since then (and yes, I have done this exercise on my own at home), is that the sense of peace that I feel when I lay down my rock doesn’t have to be fleeting. When I am really able to give it to God, and not take it back, that peace can last, and I can heal.

Thy will, not mine, be done. I will forever be thankful to not have to be in control. But, if you ever see me, I may just have a rock in my pocket. 🙂

Right here, right now

Last week my husband suggested we check out the new Hobby Lobby that recently opened here. He knows how much I love craft stores, and luckily for me, he does too. So after work one day we stopped in just to look around. The store was huge, and there was a lot to see. As we perused the aisles and I daydreamed about the crafts I could make, we talked, laughed, planned future projects and purchases, and enjoyed ourselves. When we left the store, I checked the time and was surprised to see that we had been there for an hour and a half, just looking.

As I got in the car, it occurred to me that it hasn’t always been easy for me to just be in the moment like that and really enjoy myself. The whole time that we were in the store, I wasn’t thinking about the things that happened at work earlier in the day, or worrying about the pile of laundry that I needed to do later. I was just present. And I was happy.

When I went to treatment for my alcoholism, one of the things that I was taught was the importance of being mindful, staying present, basically knowing that I am ok right now, in this moment. As alcoholics, we tend to wallow in the past and worry about the future. Those two things, for me, were huge triggers for my drinking. I have a lot of wreckage in my past, huge amounts. Most of it was created by me, and so I suffered from so much guilt and shame that I would try to drink it away. I also had a lot of anxiety and fear about the future. Not knowing exactly how things were going to turn out, feeling like the negative things would never get better and that I was destined to live in fear and angst forever, also took me right to the bottle.

So how do you stay mindful and present? I am sure that there are many, many ways to do it. In fact, in treatment we were given a whole list of ideas that work for some people: journal, make gratitude lists, meditate, pray, the list goes on. But for me, what works is as simple as reminding myself that I cannot change the past, I cannot predict the future, and that I am ok, right now. Sometimes I have to do it over and over, because my alcoholic mind still tells me otherwise.

I try not to think about all of the beautiful moments that I missed because I was too caught up in worrying and feeling ashamed about things that had already come to pass, or feeling anxious and fearful about things that hadn’t even happened yet. What I know about now is that I miss far fewer of those beautiful moments. I am able to, most days, focus on the here and now, and feel the peace and joy that those moments bring.