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Full Moon Vibes

11 May

Last night, I found myself lying in an industrial estate-turned wellness studio in a trendy part of town, swaddled in blankets and clutching a crystal. ‘Ask the crystal its name’ invited the impossibly beautiful ‘modern Shaman’ leading the ceremony. I had to stifle a tut/snort hybrid, but before long, I was tuning into the ‘vibrations’ of the crystal and entering a deep meditation under the light of the full moon.

One of the unexpected and glorious side effects of stopping drinking is that it’s opened me up to a whole new world of crazy ways to anchor my sobriety. If you’d said to me 12 months ago I’d be stuffing crystals in my bra and keeping them by my bedside, I’d think you were mad. But somewhere in the last 12 months, my sober interests have become a bit more openminded and frankly more ‘out there’ than I’d previously ever have imagined. I reserve a large dose of skepticism for many of these hippy tools, as I’m yet to see any scientific evidence of the benefits of crystals or sage smudging or any of the other new practices I’ve become open to, but in these new rituals, I find an incredible sense of connection and comfort. When drinking, the blurred lines of reality, the pain, the anguish and numbness all contributed to me being completely out of tune with my body and mind. I remember saying to friends over and over, ‘I can’t trust myself’ and ‘I don’t know what I think and feel.’ My intuition was literally and metaphorically buried. But in sobriety, my intuition has become a really finely honed instrument. I can trust my gut, I can tune into it, and I’m constantly seeking out ways to try and know it more intimately. It started with meetings and meditation, and has progressed to more… ‘experimental’ types of self exploration.

The first time I held a crystal, I felt a sense of deep connection to the earth. I weighed it in my hand and felt a vibration so subtle it was almost intangible, but I felt something there. In the early days, sobriety was about grounding into myself, learning to sit with my emotions, the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach and my swirling head. As I progress through sobriety, a fierce desire has developed in me to give myself the space to ground myself to the earth, to the community around me and to the natural rhythms of life. Sitting last night in the crystal/full moon ritual, I caught myself laughing at what a privileged, slightly ridiculous act it was to spend £30 on an evening like this, but I came out with a sense of connection and clarity I haven’t had in months.

As we lay, swaddled, we explored the unique qualities of the smoky quartz stone we held in our hands. Mine had a beautiful layer of white crystal, surrounded by the depths of dark shades. The stone felt like a beautiful metaphor for my current experiences of sobriety: the light and the dark can exist simultaneously, and I don’t need to try and stamp out the dark within, for it has a beautiful quality in itself. My darker side, which once manifested itself in alcoholism, will always exist, and is also the origin of some of my better qualities: my sensitivity, my deep well of emotion and my capacity for self-reflection. The dark and the light exist simultaneously, side by side, and that is ok.

Last night I remembered an important lesson: sobriety is about finding my soul’s medicine, over and over again, daily. And when I neglect to administer that medicine, I find myself in the deep anguish I’ve been experiencing of late. I used to resent the fact that sobriety is a constant work in progress, but I’m starting to open myself up to the notion that it’s an opportunity for never ending discovery.

Happy Thursday x

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That’s Where the Light Gets In

9 May

Once again, I’ve taken my foot off the gas when it comes to writing. I’ve had several aborted attempts to write a post, generally in the depths of some sort of desperation, and have chosen not to put pen to paper, because I feel strongly I shouldn’t only document the lows of sobriety, lest I put off someone new to sobriety with my tales of woe. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t document anything AT ALL… Tsk.

I’ve been through a particularly challenging period of sobriety, and indeed life, which has brought me dangerously close to a breakdown. I have barely been able get myself up in the morning. My soul is crying out for a sweet balm to soothe it. I have had extreme physical symptoms, which have forced me to stop entirely. No work, no socialising, no running or dancing or yoga, just wrapping myself up in my sober cocoon once more.

When I was in very early sobriety, I likened my sobriety to a precious little flame, the kind that you have to carefully kindle, and then cover with the palms of the hands, so it doesn’t flicker and fade. I put my heart and my soul into keeping that little flame safe, and it grew and it grew until it became a roaring fire of safe sobriety and I could let it burn brightly. There have been glorious times. I have danced, I have fallen madly in love, I have trebled my income since my first post as FFF, I have travelled to the corners of the earth, bought a home and climbed mountains of both the literal and metaphorical variety.

Freshly emerged from the depths of addiction, I ran around with a lust for life that brought me some of the best moments of my life. But during that excited frenzy, my recovery rituals have faltered, and there’s been a slow erosion of the pillars of my sobriety. As an alcoholic and a Highly Sensitive Person (a whole other post in itself), I have needed to slow down for a long time, and Life has intervened to make that happen.

It’s triggered a period of inertia which I perceived at first as intensely frustrating, but day by day I have inched towards reframing that anger: this is a necessary regathering of my sobriety, my health and my soul. It’s been agonising, but I’m slowly starting to move out of the dark and into the light, feeling my balance being restored, and my energy slowly coming back. The sober flame is being rekindled.

I’ve been using this wonderful quote which is attributed, in different forms, to everyone from Rumi to Ernest Hemingway, but my favourite configuration of this idea is from the late, loved Leonard Cohen:

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In early sobriety, I remember sitting in a basement in London’s Covent Garden declaring: ‘I’m so grateful I’m an alcoholic! It’s brought me so much joy in the discovery of the sober community.’ That is sickeningly Pink-cloudtastic, but I like to recall that moment in tough times, because it felt absolutely true. And continues to feel that way. Through the cracks, shards of light with the most exquisite and curious qualities filter. The hardship has been necessary. I’ve been devouring inspirational memoirs ever since I put down the Merlot, and never has a wonderful story begun from a point of stability. Stories begin from a point of desperation, or lack and a journey towards fulfilment. I’m walking that path every day, and want to document it more. To feel it more, and not just let the agonising thoughts rumble around in my head. They feel better on paper, they feel better shared in Another-F**king-Church-Basement, better in a comment on an Instagram post of a fellow sober young thing.

 

Position Vacant: General Manager of the Universe

7 Feb

There are things you realise, in sobriety, that you’d perhaps rather ignore. They are often, in my experience, related to why you drank and only surface when you’ve recovered from the initial shock of having to deal with the world sober.

For me, drinking was about letting go of my tight, tight  grip on reality. My overthinking, over worrying, anxiety ridden body gripped onto life tightly, yet when I drank, that grip was released almost from the very first sip. I used to be able to feel my body soften, let out an inaudible, inward sigh, and say ‘thank you.’

Letting go a little through alcohol is perfectly normal, but when I shifted from ‘taking the edge off’ to seeking the absolute obliteration of control… that’s when I had to stop.

I pottered on through my first few years of sobriety dealing with various issues, but I’d never really thought about my inner control freak, until recently, when it’s slowly and painfully come to light that I want to be able to influence the outcome of EVERYTHING. If The Times newspaper advertised the role of ‘General Manager of the Universe’, I’d apply, without a doubt. I’d be great! I could make everything exactly as I wanted to, and my benevolence would reign supreme. I’d be kind, of course, and understanding of people’s needs and desires, but this control would mean I’d know exactly how things were going to turn out. And that they’d turn out the right way.

Worrying, eh?

This terrifying need for control has slowly dawned on me over the past year. It came first, when i started managing my team at work. All of a sudden, I was responsible for the actions of others, without being able to control their behaviour. I could influence it, sure. But they have these terrifying things called *personalities* and *free will* and *independence.* Terrible.

I would lie away at night, feeling the burden of outcomes I could not predict, and the injustice that I’d be judged on others’ work, rather than just my own. I realised that up until this point, I’d only ever been responsible for my own actions.

Once I’d had this little glimpse of my inner dictator, I started, with horror, to see the signs in my personal life too. I can’t, alas, go into too many details of how this has played out without compromising my anonymity, but it’s been pretty painful. I’ve really, truly, shocked myself with my behaviour. Who is to say my way is the right way?! Me. Thats who runs this show in my head.

As I write, I’m starting to to recall a section in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that describes my tendencies completely:

“like an actor who tries to run the whole show; is forever trying to rearrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in [my] own way. If [my] arrangements would only stay put, if only people did as [I] wished, the show would be great. Everyone, including [myself], would be pleased. Life would be wonderful.’

Gulp. My writing above echoes these words almost exactly.

When I was setting my intention for 2017, I carefully chose the word ‘Surrender.” When I selected it, my reasoning was that I needed to learn to give in to my own destiny, to things being unpredictable and unscripted and not always going how I imagined they would. But in the past few weeks, I’ve realised that the significance of these words runs much deeper than this. I must surrender to what is. To who other people are. To relinquish my terrible notion that my way is the right way. Because I have a lot of empathy, and am really good at understanding others’ feelings and perspectives, I’d kept this trait to manipulate and control hidden. But now I’ve seen it. I’ve got to train my vision to it keenly.

Good news: the General Manager of the Universe position will remain vacant, at least for now 😉

Happy Tuesday x

3 Years Sober

17 Jan

Three Whole Years.

Who could have ever dreamed that this day would come. I turned 3 years sober on Friday, Saturday or possibly Sunday. I can’t quite remember where my sobriety date falls, because sobriety has become normality. What a departure from those early days of obsessively checking my Day Count. Sometimes several times a day, in the hope that I’d be shocked by the result: “Eight days sober, you say?! Goodness, when I checked this morning it was only four!” That kind of madness, you know?

How brilliant for 3 years to slip by quietly, unceremoniously and to be so immersed in My New Normal that I barely bat an eyelid at this massive achievement. Because it is an achievement. And I had make sure I dusted off this blog to underline that to myself.

In early sobriety, I read my old posts many times, to constantly knock myself over the head with the message: YOU ARE AN ALCOHOLIC. Now, I get a bit confused with the idea of being an alcoholic. A touch of the ‘What? Who, me? No… I couldn’t possibly be… Oh wait. I am.’

This morning, before putting pen to paper for the first time in ages, I decided to look at some posts and take myself back down memory lane.

Here is an extract from one I wrote one morning at work, barely able to type:

“I have empty bottles stashed in my draws and wardrobe. I threw up so hard last night, when I woke up this morning my teeth hurt.

I think I’ve probably spent more evenings drunk in 2013 than I have sober (that is definitely the case). November and December 2012 were similar, as were August and September. I don’t really recall October, which speaks for itself.

If *anyone* I know were to read this, they’d be shocked, horrified and really quite sad. I would be if someone showed me it and said I’d written it.

I’m here typing this with such a sense of detachment it scares me. I really need to sort this out, but I don’t know if I have the will power. Every time I start, I have a couple of good days booze free, think I’ll be fine if I have a drink and then spiral into 3-4 days of drinking every night. I need to read this back and remember that having a glass of wine with dinner when out will turn into sharing a bottle, needing to buy more on the way home and turning a casual Monday evening into an unnecessary waste of my health.”

I want to cry for 2013 me when I read that. I cannot believe I managed to hold down a job during that period and didn’t do myself more damage. That post was written at the stage where I thought drink was a temporary problem. Then it got worse:

Here I am, again, 6 months after I first started this blog to articulate my worries about drinking. 

The lack of posts indicates that things haven’t been going well. I’ve just emerged from what could be categorized as a 5 day controlled bender. When I say controlled, I mean I just drank a bit every night. You know, 14 units or so. 25 on one night.

I’ve been having therapy to try and work through some of the other issues I’m experiencing and this morning my therapist told me in no uncertain terms that we can’t continue to work together unless I kick the drinking. She almost threw me out of the session for being hungover (tough love eh?). Little does she know I turned up drunk to one of the evening sessions. Brilliant use of all that money I’ve been spending on the sessions eh?

I was full of resolve. I battled through the first period of the 100 days, thanks to support from this community and the wonderful Belle, who was an angel. It felt like she was some sort of divine being who spread her sober benevolence. And it was amazing to read the stories of other women getting sober, knowing I wasn’t alone.

I made it a few weeks, felt great, strong and confident and then:

Well I made it to day 24, then fell so spectacularly, it has terrified me.

I was doing brilliantly. I was full of pink clouds, knowing I was doing the right thing, socialising without booze, happy, fulfilled and calm. 

I knew a big work conference was on the horizon, talked about it with my therapist and lovely Belle, and thought I had my strategies in place.

Night 1 I went running, was happy, thrilled with not drinking, had a great time. 

Night 2, wolfie wrapped his hands round my throat slowly, decisively and throttled me. I got so drunk a colleague had to put me to bed, I fell over at a huge industry part, I was the talk of the town the next day, everyone was worried because I didn’t surface until 3pm. The list goes on.

I WAS SO WIPED OUT I SLEPT THROUGH AN EVACUATION OF THE ENTIRE HOTEL. 

I am so fucking ashamed. My anxiety has been off the scale since. I spent my 27th birthday mostly in bed, ashamed, or apologising. 

Sometimes I think I’m ok with drinking, but that incident shows why I used to drink so much on my own- to get the hit without the shame. 

I really do need to stop. 

But of course I didn’t. These posts go on and on until in January 2014, I took myself to Alcoholics Anonymous. It was the most painful thing I have ever done. Yet in 90 minutes of sitting in that room, my life changed. The first few months were so difficult I never thought I’d get through them, but around 100 days it got easier, and at 6 months easier still, until it become second nature to be a sober laydee. If you are struggling, please take know it gets better. Read Belle’s sobriety is like a little car post and know it feels easier every day.

I have gained so much in sobriety, which I don’t reflect on that often. Here’s a few things that have opened up in my life since I cracked the booze: being in touch with my true emotions, trusting myself, falling madly in love, travelling the world, getting the job of my dreams, being delighted with my body after sobriety has shaped it into a little happy healthy thing, skin that glows so much that people comment on it, buying & renovating a home, learning to say no, some crazy wild experiences I’d never have dreamed of having sober, valuing my own self worth, running marathons, discovering yoga, learning to say no, learning to say yes and supporting myself through the scary bits, living a life bigger than I can sometimes cope with, going it alone, letting people in, discovering my authentic self, starting to tell people about my experiences with alcohol, starting my own business.

Not bad eh, in 3 little years?

Giving up alcohol is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever done. Long may the happy years continue.

 

 

Gratitude

15 Nov

Alone, I sat with my little candle as the world awoke. “Thank you”, I whispered, and the universe punctured the little ball of anxiety in my chest and winked “you’re welcome.”

Happy Tuesday x

Emotional Overflow

4 Nov

For all my flaws, one of my skills is a real ability to feel my emotions, step back and analyse them and strive to improve.

At my best, I’m very emotional intuitive and good at emotional connection with others. At my worst, I’m a husk, depleted from all the self flaggellation and analysis. 

Since I started writing and reflecting more, I’ve been wondering how I can limit my constant carousel of self analysis. It is CONSTANT. I’ve got to the point in my life where I seek such depth in conversation and relationships that I can lack levity and carefreeness (?!) and the ability to chitter chatter about nothing. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. But I do know I can’t keep putting myself through the mill of self analysis every hour of the day.

On the one hand, my recovery is off track because I’m not formalising it enough by going to meetings etc, but on the other, I almost can’t bear to turn up the dial of emotional work. 

Has anyone had this experience? Of being too emotionally intense, all the time?! How did you strike the balance of doing the work and being freer in your thoughts?

X X x

Pain For Pleasure

3 Nov

Somewhere, somehow I read an article this week that asked the question not “what would make you happy?” But “how much pain are you willing to tolerate?”
It was centred around the very reasonable observation that many of the external trappings of “happiness” (the dream job, the big house, the big salary) come with a degree of unavoidable pain. How much pain is involved varies, but often success comes with sacrifice. Rather than seeking happiness, the articles argues, we should identify how much pain we are willing to tolerate to get the things we want.

My pain dilemma is acute.

I have always been very comfortable with the pain of hard word and long hours, giving up social things and burying myself in my work. Ever since I was a child, I would seek out extra homework and in my university days whilst peers partied, I’d be tucked away in a romantic library, head in the books. Ironic, given I was the one to develop an alcohol problem, but anyhoo…

I enjoy hard graft, and it’s part of my DNA. I did an in depth personality test recently which marked me at The Achiever type. Correct. But I’m finding myself in a pickle. I am pushing myself so hard I want to kick out entirely and say “it’s over. I need a new life.” As I rush through my day and collapse exhausted as it draws to a close, I harbour fantasies of becoming a meditation teacher, a dog walker, a hermit in a remote land. Anything to give me more space and balance. I want the pain to stop entirely.
In the space between finishing that last sentence and starting this one, I have been to an AA meeting. The theme was “easy does it” and of course, I heard exactly what I needed to hear today.

The speaker, a young American man, talked about how he is always operating at speed; searching for drama; making things happen and then wanting to press the self destruct button. He said a marvellous line that made me chuckle, but resonated: “I can just let the story continue, I don’t always have to be seeking the season finale.” 

I’m looking for my season finale now, the dramatic plot twist in which I ditch it all for a simpler life, or crash and burn to later rise like a Phoenix for the flames.

What about if I just made some small changes to make the current situation better? What about that? Not dramatic enough. But infinitely more sensible. 

Then, the amount of “pain” I am required to tolerate will be managed. I can indulge my natural propensity to work hard but make sure I stop myself going mad. The worst thing about this pain dilemma is that I’m inflicting it upon myself and not allowing myself the sweet medicine of recovery to fix it.

The question changes each time I write but the answer remains the same: do more recovery. 

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