"...if we don't feel our feelings all the way through, they never leave us, and then we do all kinds of unusual things to get out from under them. This is the cause of many addiction." From Mark Nepo's The Book of Awakening, March 26.
My day Sixty-Nine fell on March 26 and I wrote about how exhausted I was from feeling all my new feelings. I cracked open The Book of Awaking, and there it was: the reinforcement I needed to have that I'm doing the necessary work. I used to read his daily meditations regularly but haven't in about 9 months-and when I did start again is was strikingly relevant. It just took me a couple of days to sit with it here before I actually opened it.
I like when the universe lines up to send me a poignant message. I just have to be open to receive those messages and lessons. Makes me feel like It's a sign that I'm heading in the right direction with what I'm doing. Feeling feelings, confronting addictions, making good choices daily that add up to a good life.
A strong feeling and thought today: forever? Is it realistic that my goal is to never, ever drink again? I feel great and that's why I'm thinking this, but still it is frustrating to walk back through why I most likely won't be able to moderate. Hahaha, even writing this I imagined myself gulping a really cold beer. GULPING. Yep, not a sipper.
I've learned this acronym for relapse triggers: H.A.L.T.
I'm not really any of those today....maybe a bit lonely actually. I haven't had much contact or collaboration with my team in a bit. We are heads down and working towards spring break, I'm craving bonding and I'm feeling isolated in my role and office. But that's at work and I don't drink at work. So why would work loneliness make me thinking of drinking?
I think I felt bored today and that made drinking flash through my mind. Strange that I felt bored because I was so productive and centered in the good work of my job. I was in teachers' classes all day observing, giving feedback and offering support and suggestions. Six 20 minute drop-ins with written feedback to each one.
Why am I having flash thoughts about sobriety 20 years from now in the bathroom? Actually, I do know why that thought would happen in the bathroom. Old drinking habit to check the color of my pee to see how dehydrated I am. Today my pee was bright yellow and I had a second of, "What the..?" And then I remembered it was from my morning vitamin not because I majorly dehydrated from drinking.
But why 20 years out?
Maybe this is why people relapse-it seems too big. Until I die is too big. And there is that annoying and nagging thought: "I could just stop again if it got bad." You know, compare and contrast my Day seventy-Three's of sobriety over time. Is that the only thing that will keep me going: not wanting to start over? To prove I can do it? Just as I'm learning that no one really cares if I don't drink, no one really cares if I do drink.
It's for me. I'm doing this for me. I feel better, so much better. Its not worth the risks, and the benefits of drinking compared to the benefits of sobriety don't compare. Sobriety wins in all areas.
I'm happy here and a drink isn't going to make me feel less isolated at work or less bored. It would just make my job so much harder the next day and fuel my dark thoughts of isolation and sadness.
Okay-I thought through that one! I feel better. Ready to stay the course. Thank you my precious processing space.
I went to a whisky tasting, yes I know, bad idea to go to an event specifically about drinking so early in recovery. Especially because scotch whisky was one of my drinks. But I knew E would be there and I wanted to accept the invitation from the hosts. I didn't want to disappoint people. Another no-no in recovery safety.
The not drinking part was actually fine, but the isolation from the camaraderie was hard. It was a true blind tasting, so the party was really centered around the table, the characteristics of the different pours and I was outside of that inner circle, outside that dialog and coolness, sitting with soda water on a couch. Boo.
What irked me was that the party broke into gender camps and I was on the wrong side of where I normally would be. There were 7 women at the party and only one of them participated in the whisky tasting. I noticed that and felt really uncool for being one more woman fulfilling the stereotype that whisky is a man's drink. I wanted to impress and drink with the big boys.
Husband said to me at the end of the night that he felt bad for me, he knew how I would feel about not "man-ing up" with the scotch drinking and having to tea tottering in the fringes. He gets me.
The hostess served beautiful homemade food and made sure everyone had plenty to eat and drink while her husband shared his extensive and expensive Scotch collection from their travels to Scotland. The other ladies hovered on the edges watching their men drink and joke, and E and I sat on the couch chatting. Which was fine, but didn't have the same allure of conversations that I missed, some of the stories Husband recapped I bet were really funny first-hand. I didn't like how it was the men being active and the women being passive-it was their event and we were there as an the other-half, sitting oh the couch having our own conversations.
So I butted up against the feminist identity I've cultivated for a long time and that I have been working on to redefine. As a teenager and young adult I believed feminism was to strive to be as good as the next guy [alway a guy] and to do that I had to strip away my femininity and excel in the macho pursuits my father would be proud of-sports, understanding cars, drinking, distain for the feminine.
How else could I get the approval of a working class alcoholic dad but to show up in his world? The only problem was that I was a girl. So I stripped down my girliness as much as I could and became externally tough, versed in his language and became indoctrinated in disdain for femininity and myself by association. But consciously, I wasn't stripping away my identity, I felt proud to break the lady stereotypes out there. I thought I was rebellious and embodying the quote: "well-behaved women seldom make history." But this led me to being the last one at the bar, never saying no to another drink, romanticizing drinking alone and both covering and accessing my emotions with a strong drink.
I wanted that kind of respect that the world showed me men got because it value men and male over my gender. Lead role kind of respect. Go big or go home kind of respect. Being in the center not on the sidelines kind of respect. That identity was more fun than prudence. More fun than a supportive role. More fun than being the "better half" or the "moral compass."
Even though I don't strive to be one of the dudes any more, my old understandings of feminism and hipness are still woven in my psyche. I don't think I necessarily need to avoid boozy events, but I need to avoid events that make me feel uncool or feel like an outsider until I can really internalize "I'm still fun even though I'm sober." Right now "sober and fun" is a little too parallel to "good for a girl." You can imagine how I feel about that.
All this thinking and feeling is exhausting. But I know there will be benefits down the road and I feel strongly that the purpose of life is to find one's meaning in life and this work gives me meaning of who I am and why I'm here.
Yesterday was an emotional day. On the way home from work I listened to the song that EA wrote and sang about her own strong feelings right now. She said she was inspired by my blog and honesty and wanted to share how she processes through song. That song, and our friendship, made me weepy in a good way this time-the loop of shame to gratitude back to shame that I'm stuck in.
Here are her words and her song:
An Invocation (F7, FC, Em, Am)
I release it all, to invite all (chorus)
I release wanting to be anyone else.
I invite my unique expressions to flow.
I release toxic people.
I invite the loving inspiring and grounded.
I release the fear of lack.
I invite abundance.
I release toxic food.
I invite listening to what my body needs.
I release toxic thoughts.
I invite self-compassion.
I release the need to know what's next.
I invite a trust that all is perfect as it is.
I release the illusion of separation.
I invite collaboration what is bigger than me
I release worry.
I invite miracles.
I release 'good enough.'
I invite amazing.
I release stagnant thoughts.
I invite wonder.
I release “I can’ts”
I invite possibility.
I release unrequited love.
I invite being cherished.
I release hiding from truth.
I invite clarity.
I release the need to earn love.
I invite being loved as I am.
I release blaming.
I invite personal responsibility.
I release leaning on others for a sense of self.
I invite standing in my power.
I release the fear that’s in my way
I invite the power that is within me
I release beliefs that limit.
I invite beliefs that expand.
I went to yoga and breathed in invitations and exhaled release for an hour and I was feeling good. But as I lay down for shavasana at the end of yoga I was thinking again about last week-end when I had EA, E and the ex-smoker, MC, over for a movie night. I loved that night. I really laughed with these funny women, that laugh that the smart women on the Bubble Hour have talked about. That real genuine laugh that comes in sobriety. We all sat around and talked and laughed and snacked and no one drank. I had wine and booze in the fridge fro them, but no one asked (and they could have!) and we all had fun.
Then out of no where, I berated myself during shavansana over this beautiful night and memory: "You are so pathetic!" I told myself.
"It took you until you were 38 years old to figure out you can laugh without alcohol and that other people have fun without it? You make a big deal out of everything! Who cares that you laughed one night with some women? Who cares that no one was drinking at a social event? God you're are so pathetic!"
Then the tears started to squeeze out of my closed eyes an roll down into my ears and hair as I weakly argued back with myself that "it isn't pathetic to find joy in these new moments, it was wonderful..."
What the fuck self? Stop sabotaging and tainting my recovery and my memories! That was a beautiful night I don't care what you say.
I'm still processing my thoughts about my therapy session. On the bus again and I will try not to sniffle my way to work. This may not be the best environment to dive into old wounds, but is the space I consistently have available.
My therapy session basically started with her asking me if there was any tragic events that happen when I was a child. Of course my sister's death qualifies, I also talked about my mom's suicide attempt and my dad getting rid of our cat without telling us. We talked about my mom dying a couple years ago as well and in all of this talking I had very little feelings besides shame in what it must sound like to an outsider to hear. She asked me quite a few times during my telling how I felt during that time. I've gotten to the point that I can talk about my past, but I still can't feel my past. I've been stuck here for years, intellectualized memories detached from the emotions I never have been able to express. And looking back, I don't know how I felt then, it's a blank spot, and even now I don't trust my emotions. I don't know how I "should" feel about things and often don't emotionally react right away, I need time to "think" about how I feel.
The only time I got emotional during therapy was when I talked about my mom dying, but mainly because I feel so much guilt for not doing enough, for not being there long enough, for the suffering I couldn't stop, for my family not being there to support her like she would have been for them.
Toward the end of our session she said, "you were like a pawn that was just put into these situations." She saw the pattern that I'm starting to see: I was often at the center of these terrible situations. The day after I turned 6 I found my sister's body in our shared bedroom and told my mom. When I was 12 I found my mom outside my bedroom door when she attempted suicide and I called 911. When I was 16 I drove the car and went searching for our cat in a neighborhood 25 minutes away from home. I've been the liaison between my family members who can't talk openly with each other, the decision maker in crisis, the most equipped of my family when I was just a child.
I'm both angry at my parents for not acting as the adults in many of the situations I had to manage, and also very sad for them that they had lives filled with their own pain that crippled their abilities to be fully present during my childhood. It seems my family's guilt, shame, loss and pain is generational. Not drinking and dealing with this stuff are the steps I know how to break the cycle and live my life fully. I can't necessary heal my family but I can work with myself.
My therapist said our sessions would be like peeling away layers, like onion skins. I think a better analogy is using a crow bar to wedge open a door that has been boarded shut, at least that's how it emotionally feels right now.
I used to drink with the best of them, but I don't anymore. My life is so much better for it.
-Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp