Who me?

learning to see myself clearly

Barbers, haircuts and places we always went…

I miss having a place to go where I can find a friendly face anytime.  Why are there no alcohol-free places like that around here?

I’m on day 49 and last night for the third time since I quit drinking, I stopped at the restaurant closest to home for a bite to eat.  Of course it is also the scene of a lot of my drinking.  I know it’s a bad idea.  I’ve heard the admonition:  if you keep going to the barbershop, eventually you’ll get a haircut.  The other two times, I went in early, got food and left.  I saw a couple of friends, had a cup of tea and felt very relaxed about it all.

Last night was different.

I knew it at the time.  I was on my way home from yoga and I was hungry.  Since I live alone in cold, snowy, dark New England, going home means walking into a dark 60 degree house needing to light a fire in the wood-stove and take three dogs out.  Last night the firewood was beneath a foot of snow, the driveway was beneath a few inches of ice and I couldn’t remember anything in the fridge that I could eat without making it a project.  Already feeling defeated, I opted for letting someone else feed me.

Since it was 8:30 when I arrived, the bar was well inhabited.  I knew everyone.  I sat down ordered tea and dinner, and for the first time, I felt completely out of place.  There was nothing right about it.  I was feeling good after my class and without the haze of some quickly consumed cocktails, the group looked largely sad and I didn’t want to be part of it.

It was as though I walked into the proverbial barbershop, but I could see the bad haircuts and I knew that I  never want what they have again.

The best advice I have received since becoming sober is to find people who have what I want and stay close and pay attention.  I did that.  I found a group of really positive women.  I figured out what meetings they go to.  One of them agreed to be my sponsor.  I will stick with them and remember that the old places and many of the old people just don’t have the life I want.

49 days sober and feeling very grateful

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I think I need to take a lesson from the dogs

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Confession:  I’ve been letting winter kick my butt the past couple of weeks.

It is common to battle feelings of sluggishness during the low light days of winter.  I know better than to give into the feeling.

It’s important to get out into the sunshine, especially when there is less of it.  My dogs certainly love running around in it.

It’s time for me to refocus.

Step one:  Look at what was working…

  • Yoga and meditation – I’ve missed classes because of the weather
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Going to 5 or 6 meetings a week
  • Less tv and more reading

Step two:  What was missing…

  • Real exercise – I need to get out and walk more
  • I need to reduce the bad carbs
  • Sleep schedule – I do better when I am more routine about sleep
  • I need to be more social – I need to call people just to talk, I need to make plans and get out

Step three:  Make a plan…

  • Go to Yoga classes on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  This also fills part of the social need.  During vacation next week go to at least 2 daytime classes.
  • Meditate everyday – first thing and last thing.  Add Yin if I miss a class
  • Pack my lunch for work
  • Eat fruit and yogurt when I crave something sweet.
  • Go to bed and wake the same time everyday.
  • Meetings – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  Meet my sponsor on Fridays.  During vacation next week hit the first light of day on Monday and Friday and the noon meeting on Wednesday.
  • Buy snowshoes and use them.  The dogs will love it.
  • Call at least one person everyday.
  • Call my sponsor at least 4 times a week
  • Everyday – spend time journaling, reading and knitting
  • Find people who like to hike and snowshoe

Step four: Do It!

On a positive note:  I am 49 days sober.

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Happy Dance!

happy-dance

It feels so good to reach the one month mark.  Beginning this journey, one month ago, able to write a bit about my thoughts and to have you all show me your support has been a gift.  I am finding new friends in the halls of AA and for once I don’t feel so much like an outsider.  I am realizing you can find strength when you open yourself up to a new way of thinking.

I was reluctant to go to AA.  I wasn’t sure I needed it.  I didn’t think I would feel comfortable…all the excuses you can imagine.  What I found there, I do need.  I need to open myself up to other people.  I need them and it’s good for me to allow them to lean on me as well.  I get so much out of reaching out to others.  I hear things in every share that I can relate to.  I feel less alone.  Communities are important and I am grateful to have found a new one here and in the halls.

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Feeling Stuck

stuck-dogIt’s not easy feeling stuck…when your head spins around the same thought.  It’s easy to spend time wondering, Why me?

Those thoughts are a trap.  We need to try to watch them go by and replace them with a more positive version.  How about,  Why not me?

Think about the difference.  Why me? belongs to a victim…someone who feels powerless.  Why not me? belongs to someone who is open to a lesson…someone who realizes that we are all tested in this life.  No one is too good for a lesson.

Everyone has stuff they deal with…  If you think someone doesn’t, you don’t know them as well as you think you do.

why

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Will power…or is it won’t power?

change willpower

I always thought one of my flaws was a lack of willpower.  I drank whatever I wanted, I ate whatever I wanted.  When confronted with a nice display of chocolate in our lunchroom at work, I heard one co-worker congratulating another on her willpower.  My response was, “I will have some, too.  I have plenty of willpower; I just need more won’t power.”  I’ve never had a shortage of self deprecating humor.  (note to self:  put that on the list of flaws)

Is willpower really the issue?  I’ve been allowing myself to indulge the sugar cravings a bit this month. (I’m on day 30)  I do know that this cannot go on endlessly.  I am sober, that is good.  I also need to watch my sugar intake for my health.  On that note, I am not ready to change.

I like the way that sounds.  When I consider whether or not I am ready to make a necessary change, it sounds like an opportunity for growth.  Lack of willpower sounds like an excuse, like some dreadful personal failing.  I am really working on thinking about things in a more positive way.  Today I will begin with this.

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Clearing the noise in my head

How do you clear your mind?  This was the question posed by my friend on Saturday.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that the answer wasn’t as simple as yoga, breathing, meditation, acupuncture…and all of those type of things I have mentioned.  I realized that it is deeper than that.

As an educator, I have spent over 25 years learning about how the brain works.  I learned, years ago, that when kids were working on things that were strongly right brained they talked less and didn’t seem to notice the passage of time.  I came to understand that this made sense because it is the left brain that perceives time and processes language.

I realized that when I thought about the kinds of things that calm me, they were primarily right brain activities.  I think that when I sit and run negative thoughts or over analyze things, that happens in my left brain.  Music, art, creativity, spatial kinds of puzzles, sudoku, watching and listening to the waves at the ocean, laughter, spontaneity all happen in my right brain and help pull me away from the things that drag me down.  It is when I do these kinds of things that time passes effortlessly and I relax.  Yoga and things like that work because I get lost in the music (right brain).

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Who am I?

My childhood was spent all over the United States; we moved every three to five years.  I learned to be a chameleon of sorts.  We would move to a new place and begin to explore.  We would see the new sights and try the new activities associated with our new acquaintances we hoped would become friends.  Sometimes, I loved the new experiences, other times I did not.  I would paste a smile on my face and make the best of it; that’s how you make friends.  Or is it?

I’ve developed a wide variety of interests over the years.  I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, almost anywhere.  When I had a drink in my hand, everyone was my friend.  Whether I was in the fanciest city club, or a biker bar in the country, I could make it work.  Making it work is different than feeling at home and really enjoying myself.  Thus the question…

You’d think that 50 years on this planet would teach you a thing or two.  I think I’ve learned a bit and this journey to sobriety seems to be a lot about picking the lessons to live by and learning to focus on things I really love.  I’ve begun with things that help me calm my mind without a substance.  Yoga is really working in that regard and I like the positive messages I hear.  They are a great balance to the sometimes darker feeling I get at meetings.  Massage and now acupuncture have proven wonderful to take the edge off the anxious feeling.

This is a difficult season for me.  The darkness comes too early in New England.  I find myself in a routine of immersing myself in my work.  It’s easy to do with a classroom of early adolescents.  Two evenings each week, I run off to, what is apparently one of the ten snowiest campuses in the US, to teach undergrads and graduate students.  If I am lucky, I have a little spare time apart from shoveling, correcting papers and napping.  Now that I don’t have to include drinking on my to-do list I have room for other activities.  Now I just need to remember what I enjoy doing sober.  It’ll be nice to find some sober friends along the way.

I look forward to the longer, warmer days of spring and summer.  There are many more healthy diversions then.  Hopefully my feet will be more firmly beneath me as well.

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Triggers – what to avoid, what to face

The other day I read an article that questioned the wisdom of avoiding difficult situations entirely.  I wish I could find the link.  The article discussed the discomfort and difficulty of going to a restaurant.  They cited a study where people who avoided visiting a restaurant entirely had an intense reaction even after much time had passed, whereas people who faced the difficult situation experienced a gradual desensitization.   I’m trying to decide how I feel about this.

Last night, I met a friend for dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant.  I made my way there completely carefree.  I was early, so I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes catching up on email.  As I sat, my mind wandered.  I automatically anticipated the lovely margarita inside and had to push the thought aside.  Finally, I entered the place and was seated.  I asked for water, snacked on chips and pulled up my current read on my phone, good distraction.  My friend arrived and ordered herself a drink.  Fortunately,  as a life-long al-anon person, she never spoke about my drink choice.  It was okay.  We had a nice dinner and wonderful conversation, but I was left to wonder about the wisdom of going to places so firmly connected to drink.

Gray’s discussions this week of pseudo-booze and our routines were good food for thought.  If you haven’t found Gray’s writing, the humor alone is worth the read,  and his insights are thought provoking.  It is wonderful to know that the things we are experiencing are not unique.

Friday, I have been invited to a friend’s surprise birthday bash.  I am already planning ahead.  I will bring my own beverage and a full reserve of strength.  There is also a meeting that night.  The party is right after work, so I will plan to go to both.

The following article about relapse triggers seemed to make good sense.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/heartache-hope/201202/6-common-relapse-triggers-0

I fear I have been guilty of number three, at least outwardly.  I think I have been operating on the belief that if I keep telling myself that I am fine, I will start to believe it.  I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences with regards to triggers.  This community has been a gift.

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Searching for peace

peace

To be calm in my heart…that is what I seek.  I think if I learn to quiet my mind, to let go, this journey will be a success.

I love to go out to breakfast.  When I discovered there is a Saturday morning meeting at my favorite diner, I knew I’d be there.  It was a terrific way to start the day.  By the time I left, my tummy was nicely full and my mind was in a good place.  I was feeling a bit stressed and tight in my neck and shoulders.  I’ve also had some issues with tendinitis in my elbow.  I wanted some relief, so I decided it was a good time to give acupuncture a try.  I went in with no idea what to expect, but figured it was worth trying.

The studio is a community acupuncture studio, which seeks to provide affordable treatment to everyone.  The treatment room is warm and relaxing.  You choose a spot in the big circle of recliners and settle in.  The acupuncturist places the needles and you relax.  Most people fall asleep.  Treatments run from 30-90 minutes.  You leave when you are ready.  You pay what you want, $15-35, no questions asked.

When I left, I felt wonderful.  There was a calm in my heart.

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Seeing people clearly…

expectation

As I work on building the life I need and want, it has become clear to me that there are people and things that clearly do not fit.  The things are easy to see.  Alcohol doesn’t work for me.  I feel better when I eat well and drink plenty of water….   People and relationships are so complex; it is much more difficult to make sense of them.

I have a long history of finding people disappointing.  Now, if I am honest with myself, I know that there is not a large contingent of people who stay up nights thinking of ways to disappoint me.  The problem lies with my expectations.  I have learned that you must strive to see a person for who they are and then accept them, or not.  It really is that simple.

Notice, I didn’t say easy.  It is decidedly NOT easy.  If you are like me, you want to be liked.  You don’t want to hurt anyone.  You want to be a good friend and be there for your friends in their time of need.  It is ridiculously difficult to look at a friendship and realize that it is all one-sided.  It is sad, but you cannot build a healthy relationship based on negative things.  AND you can’t expect more of someone than they are capable of, it is a plan for disappointment and in the worst case anger.

I know these things, but I am having a terrible time coming to a place where I can let go.  I need to build friendships that add to my life in a positive way.  I do not need drama or people that thrive on it.  I am declaring my life a drama-free zone.  Now, I just need to figure out how to implement that kindly.

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