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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. 

Am I an Alcoholic?

29 Oct

Tonight, I opened my blog for the first time in a very long time and decided to read an old post. I was drawn to ‘100 Days Sober‘, my first big milestone, and my jaw almost hit the floor.

Lately, sobriety has seemed so easy. A drink would never cross my mind. So easy, in fact, I’ve forgotten the monumental struggle that this time three years ago was consuming me from the inside out. I literally could not stop. It was the biggest battle I had ever faced and yet today, it seems so distant. A whisper inside me enquires ‘Are you just making a big fuss? Are you really an alcoholic?

But when I look at my life today, I see the signs of alcoholism everywhere. I should preface this section of this post by saying if you are trying to get sober, do not be disheartened by what I’m about to say. Being sober is fecking wonderful and it means you can weather every storm that comes your way. I’m just in some rather choppy waters at present…

I think the best way of describing what has happened is that I have a case of ‘ItGotTooGood-Itis.’ Since I stopped drinking nearly 3 years ago, my life has grown at an amazing pace. I spent a little time this afternoon looking through all my recent photos and  I have done and achieved ALOT. ALOT ALOT. People who don’t know I’m an alcoholic look at what I do and say ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ Those who know I’m an alcoholic say, with a wry smile and a caring spirit: ‘watch yourself.’ Don’t get too carried away. And at first, I resented this sentiment a little. Why shouldn’t I fly? But the higher I fly, the more I know I need to heed their words.

Here are the words that best describe my current experience of life, which from the outside looks ‘Have It All’:

Fear.

Insecurity.

Pain.

Anxiety.

Resentment.

Vulnerability.

Shame.

Childlike sensitivity.

I’m brimming with tears frequently, like my emotion cannot be contained any longer. My instinct is to reinvent my life once again so I find simpler pleasures, simpler pressures, simpler personalities. To move away from the pressure of achievement.

But just as when I couldn’t trust myself when I was drinking, I can’t trust my feelings when I’m not doing my sobriety work. And that’s very much the case here. When I first stopped drinking, AA was a cornerstone of my life, and now, it’s not. I go to 2 meetings a month if I’m lucky and that my friends, is frankly not enough.

One of the things that made AA click for me is when I realised that the programme is about treating all the things in the list above. So why am I surprised that when I stop taking the medicine, the illness comes back? If I ever needed proof my alcoholism is real, writing this post has given me it. When I do the work, it helps me feel better. Simple as that. And yet the brain and heart forgets so easily…

Writing does me good. It helps me clarify my thoughts. I hope it will help me stay on the right track, if I make efforts to return to this keyboard that has given me such precious sanctuary. I need to get myself back on an even keel, so I can enjoy the bounty of the gift that is sobriety.

Happy Saturday, FFFx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame Can’t Survive the Light

15 Aug

After months away from the blogs, no writing, no checking of others, today I am drawn to write.

And the subject that has bubbled up in my consciousness is shame. The title of this blog post came to me as I was sitting quietly, an echo of another blog or podcast I have read or listenined to, a call to explore this idea. 

Before I explore shame, a little context about what I’ve been up to. Spirituality is becoming increasingly important in my life and of course, in my recovery. I’ve always had a spiritual approach to recovery, but of late, I’ve been interrogating that more deeply, reaching my fingers out to the sun-drenched corners of my happy sober existence and drawing in that light. 

This deep desire to pursue the spiritual comes when I carve out time for myself. Every day, I’m chipping away at the frenetic rhythms of my existence and finding a little pool of serenity. The form this takes changes. Sometimes, it’s a formal meditation. Sometimes, a little yoga. Sometimes a silent prayer in the shower and sometimes, a spiritual podcast consumed while packed into the commuter carriage of a train.

The form changes, but the feeling remains the same: deep groundedness and on a good day, a lightness that comes with the feeling of relief. Relief that everything will be ok if I just stop gripping so tightly onto the details of my life.

I’m trying to make the central pillar of my existence this: that there is a divine order, somewhere, in some form, and that it will take care of me. It may place challenges in my path that I won’t like, but they will be part of a plan I can’t yet fathom. 

I’m becoming more hippy dippy by the day, and I love it. This was not the direction I imagined my life going in, but it’s giving me growth and strength and joy.

I feel at the moment that I truly am reaching out my fingers and the tips of my tippy toes to something greater. A future self that takes me in a surprising direction I’m not yet ready for, a laying of foundations for a path ahead that will be more challenging and enriching than I could ever dream up.

In all of this, I’ve been doing lots of soul searching and in the space I’ve created for reflection, I’ve spotted huge areas of growth and of course, where I have stagnated.

An issue that comes up over and over again is food. Readers of this blog will know I have struggled (in my mind more than in my body, at times) with weight and food. Of late, I’ve eaten normally, happily, healthily and have been happy with my body. But in the past week, I’ve had a huge revelation. 

My issue with food is this: I have learnt the fact of being hungry and the act of eating to be an inherently shameful practice. A sign of weakness and moral flabbiness. I have been surrounded with people who have taught me these lessons, rebuked me for an appetite either verbally or silently, with their eyes, and have internalised it. 

I have found myself still, now, undertaking certain unhealthy practices around food. This mainly involves secrecy. Before writing this post, I stole away with a mid morning snack, ashamed to be seen consuming it. And yet the hunger I have at this moment is real. Why the surreptitious act? 

This is the only area of my life I feel shame in, and it’s the eyes of others that I imagine are casting negative thoughts towards me when I consume. I see, or imagine, depending on who the observer is, a slight flick of the eyes between my food and any tiny imperfection on my body. Correlating the two. Uttering a silent cluck of the tongue at my wanton abandon and disregard for self denial.

Some of this is in my head, yes, but for some of those around me, it is a practice they engage in every time I see them, caught in the prison of their own issues. The daily burden of shame I released when I stopped drinking is piled upon me once more, shattering the calm acceptance and spirituality I feel the vast majority of the time.

This realisation I see the act of eating as inherently shameful is a helpful one, yet I don’t quite know what to do with this piece of information. Whatever work I do within, will it be eroded by those around me?

My life is bathed in light, and I hope to outshine the shame. I’ll reach out those fingers and toes once more and try and apply my gratitude and acceptance and love to this area. I have no idea whether it will work. 

Time will tell, but for now, it’s good to be writing and feeling so content in recovery.
Happy Monday x

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