Saturday, July 28, 2012

Two Years

I am two years sober today and life is, quite honestly, beyond spectacular. I never dreamed it could be this good.

I hit my bottom in March 2010 watching (er, trying to watch) the movie Up at home with Steve. Drunk, of course. Not too long into the film, I pretty much had a nervous breakdown. If you've watched the first 20 minutes of that movie, you know it's a killer for, well, anyone with a beating heart, but I felt it especially so for me, as I was already feeling so much like I was letting my life pass me by.

I seriously lost it, overcome with feelings of failure, thinking that I was wasting my life, that all the dreams I had would never come true. I hit me hard that all the promises I made to myself, I never kept. Oh, you should have heard me screaming and crying and raving at Steve, begging him to take me on an overseas trip somewhere, anywhere, before I died.

My brain chemistry was so destroyed by alcohol, my thinking so poisoned. I had fallen into utter despair and hopelessness. Exacerbating it was full on paranoia, a gut-wrenching constant fear of what I just KNEW everyone else was thinking about me and what a failure I was and how I never kept my word about what I was going to do or not do or make of my life. I realize now that my friends love me and never saw me that way, but I couldn't make sense of that at the time.

I stopped the next day, but that bout of sobriety only lasted until May 2010, when I picked up a bottle of vodka again to celebrate a personal financial success (irony of course being that if I had continued drinking long-term, that money would have gone entirely down the toilet). I drank every day again until late July, when, on just another night of bland drunkenness that had started to feel so normal, I knew I was through. I thought "I quit for two months, why am I doing this AGAIN, EVERY DAY?" and that was the end of that. No fanfare, no bad accident, no yelling or crying that time. Just a feeling of "This is it. I've had enough." My first sober day was on July 28, 2010.

Since then, everything has changed. Everything. To try to recount all of the realizations and spiritual growth and mental change would be overwhelming, though certainly some of it is documented on this blog through mid 2011.

Between that last post and now, though, I would say the changes have been a little more tangible, a little more geared toward the revamping of my everyday life, starting with...

I stopped smoking November 1, 2011. I tried numerous times to quit in 2011, but it only finally stuck that day, and the experience was eerily like the end of my drinking. No hoopla, no pronouncements, just a feeling of being through with it. I had a conversation with Steve the night before about how I was using my inhalers (I had developed asthma and allergies from years of destroying my own health) multiple times per day just so I could keep smoking. I had been hiding it from him, which was startling to admit. He wasn't angry; he just told me how distressed my breathing problems made him and that he was worried I was not going to be able to share a full, long life with him. It hit me in a way it never had before. His emotional words, in conjunction with the realization that I was lying - lying to my husband, my best friend - about my dirty habit, finally forced me to quit. The next day I just didn't buy more. That was that. I never looked back because, as with the alcohol, I had moments of total acceptance about it that kept me in place.

I lost 50 pounds.


That second picture from the left was taken just 10 days before I quit drinking. I'm totally wasted in it and don't even recognize myself behind my empty eyes and weak smile. I'm fascinated by this photo and look at it from time to time, staring at it the way you do a nasty car wreck, trying to comprehend my weight, my face, my unkempt hair, the obvious lack of pride I took in myself. I can't even process it.

I became a runner again. I used to love running. LOVE. It's really the only exercise I ever deeply loved because, to me, it's pure meditation. I am so happy to have it back. I ran my first 5K race in May 2012 and will definitely be doing more.


I rediscovered my passion in the kitchen. I eat incredibly clean, incredibly well and cook 95% of my own (and Steve's) food. Cooking sober has increased exponentially the joy I found in cooking in the first place and I haven't even come close to tiring of it.

Funny thing about food - I get a little crazy-headed about it and go overboard sometimes, downing a couple thousand extra calories in an hour or less. It's mostly on stuff like peanut butter or smoothies, since there is no "junk" in my house, but still. It's this bizarre out-of-control feeling, this compulsion that roars in my head, and it reminds me that the essential compulsive behavior is still with me and must be faced and fought. I'm still learning. I'm still fighting. I just don't doubt now that I will always come out on top.

I am fulfilling one of my major life dreams/goals - buying a house. There is really no way to explain how much this means to me. It's one of the two life dreams I have had since childhood. Steve and I also used to talk about having a house together from the time we were first dating. Now it's finally happening. We picked up from California and moved all the way back to Texas, just as we always said we would, so we could buy a lot of home for less money. We said we would do it within a year and we have. I found a great job (he transferred in his, a real stroke of luck), we found a real estate agent, we searched, we found, we signed. Brand new home, not even finished for another couple of weeks. Hardwood floors like I always fantasized about, granite countertops, custom fixtures, loads of archways and windows. It's gorgeous. Closing is early September. DONE.

Which brings me to... all these accomplishments, all this rumination about what I've achieved in the last two years is really just to say...

I am living proof that you can turn it all around and that you can make your dreams come true. What's more is once you make one dream come true, you start to believe you can make all of them come true. Sobriety, giving up cigarettes, losing weight, running, moving, buying a home. One led to another led to another and they compiled and pretty soon I started to believe that I could and can do anything - ANYTHING - I set my mind and heart to doing.

My other life dream from childhood? Travel? Yeah, see, that is totally happening starting next year. You can bank on it. I can bank on it, because I am finally the person I wanted to be, the one who keeps her promises to herself and does what she says she is going to do. I am finally the woman I knew I was, the best version of myself, the one buried at my core, curled up in a fetal position, just waiting to be nurtured back to life.

I stand proud. Choked up proud. There's no feeling like it.

Happy two years to me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Birthday

May 24, 2011 was my first sober birthday in as long as I can remember and it was a more momentous occasion than I can express. Apparently. I say that because I have stopped and started this post more times than I can count. I couldn't figure out how to pull together into coherent sentences what my birthday party meant to me, what my friends meant to me and how that weekend was the genesis of a shift in my life that I didn't anticipate.

Five weeks later and I think I've managed to sort through it. I think. Let's see, shall we?

First thing's first: my party.

I wanted something intimate, so I had a dinner party at home with friends. It was a bit nerve-wracking, as I had never cooked for a group before and I wanted everything to be perfect. I also cringed at the thought that not everyone might click with one another.

Obviously, I had no reason to worry. To say it was a resounding success is an understatement. It wasn't just that the food was good or that everyone got along; it was even better than that. The energy in the room was so right, so warm. I've never felt anything like that before.

This is me opening presents.


Glowing much? This was the first time in my life I was excited opening presents. I didn't feel undeserving or self-conscious. I felt loved and I knew I was surrounded by women who wanted me to be happy.


That's Paola and Nina on the left. I am beyond blessed to have them both in my life, for many years now. And the one on the right, that's Kyle, also an old friend. She drove a couple of hours in traffic, 39 weeks pregnant, to be there for me. She rocks.


The two on the right in this picture, that's Amy and Krysta. I met them through, of all things, food blogging - Amy in 2009 and Krysta in 2007. They are now two of my best friends in the world. They live not so far from each other and had already met face-to-face a couple of times, but this was the first time I had met either of them in person. The morning of my party, they met up to carpool and then drove 6 hours to be with me for this occasion. I can't tell you how overwhelmed I am, still, that anyone would do something like that for me.

The whole night felt like one long laugh, one big hug. There was no drunkenness. There was no awkwardness. There was no judgment or conflict. I never knew this is how women could be together, but this is how women should be together.

The next morning, Amy and Krysta came for breakfast and a chat before departing for home and then I was left on my own to reflect. All I could think about the rest of the day was how grateful I was, how happy I was. Insanely happy. Like "being on vacation in Big Sur" happy, but with friends instead of with Steve. I didn't know birthdays could be like that. I didn't know friends could be like that.

I am thankful beyond measure.

However. In the midst of that most joyful weekend, the universe provided me a contrast that turned out to be a much needed lesson. On one hand, I had these amazing women show up to celebrate my special day, my sober life, my new-found happiness. On the other hand, I suffered a startling disappointment from an unexpected source, and one that set off a string of realizations that took me quite by surprise.

See, I invited someone else to my party, one of my oldest and, at one time, closest friends. She didn't show up. She didn't call or write, she simply didn't show up, and, when confronted about it, she told me lies. How do I know? As my dad always used to say, don't bullshit a bullshitter. There are a lot of little details that made me know, but they don't matter. The point is, it weighed heavily on me for weeks, even after finally seeing her and finding some closure about our now changed and diminished friendship. It wasn't that I was upset about her not coming. I was truly happy she didn't. The party would not have been the same with her there.

No, what was weighing heavily on me was the realization that the separation between us occurred because the life she is living right now is one I left behind and hadn't even realized it. It caught me utterly off guard, it did, when it dawned on me that it was gone. I don't mean a life with alcohol in it. Honestly, I won't go into the specifics of the life I am referring to in this space.

Suffice it to say that her current life represents to me the at times exhilarating life I once had that I will never have again and coming to terms with that brought up a lot of emotions. Those were times I still hold dear, more than I can explain. In watching her go through not-quite-the-same-but-similar times and how absorbed in it she is, it made me question what that life meant to me, if I had any regrets, whether or not I judge who I was and the things I did.

To be totally truthful, it also brought up a bit of envy and longing and sadness, for my youth (ack!) and for an old way of life that I can never have back. If you'll pardon the phrase, it brought about a mid-life crisis.

Now, I know I am not the first person to go through this, this mourning, nor will I be the last. As a matter of fact, Steve *just* went through this as well - very harshly - so, lucky for us, we got to work some of it out together.

Still. Common growing pain or not, it was a rough stretch getting through it. Figuring out how to leave my past behind without fully shutting the door on it. Figuring out how to incorporate the person I was with who I am now and the very different choices I have made for my future.

In the end, though, I kept coming back to one undeniable conclusion. If I am sure of anything, I am sure of this: I LOVE. MY. LIFE. NOW. I said those exact words out loud to Steve a few days ago and nearly burst into tears. I love who I am, I love my marriage, I love the friends with whom I choose to surround myself, I love the decisions I, and Steve, have made to provide ourselves with the future we truly desire.

I cherished my birthday party so, so much because it provided me with living proof of the stability and love I live in, but, in retrospect, it also served to intensely reinforce what my life is about now and why I have grown away from what it used to be.

It was a turning point, a shift in my priorities, my focus... it nudged me forward into true adulthood. In all these words and paragraphs, I still can't explain it as well as I wish I could. I really wish I could. It's just... I feel like a grown woman now. No longer crude and loud, needy or insecure, uncertain about who I am and what I want. I feel totally, deeply at peace. Happy birthday, indeed.

Every day, I bask in gratitude for this life I live now. I've said it many times before and will say it yet again: the life I thought I was waiting for is the one right in front of me. This "boring" life is anything but boring. It's fuller and more amazing than I could have imagined... I also know now, more than ever, that it's the only life I want.

I am happy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Accepting Yourself

"Every moment provides you the opportunity to move in the direction of your higher self or in the direction of stagnation or degradation."

A Dynamic Choice-Maker
Accepting Yourself
courtesy of Daily Om

There is no such thing as a good person or a bad person. There are choices and actions that lead us in different directions, and it is through those choices and actions that we create our realities. Sometimes we choose or do something that takes us in the opposite direction of the reality we want to create for ourselves. When we do this, we feel bad - uneasy, unhappy, unsure. We might go so far as to label ourselves “bad” when a situation like this arises. Instead of labeling ourselves, though, we could simply acknowledge that we made a choice that led us down a particular path, and then let it go, forgiving ourselves and preparing for our next opportunity to choose, and act, in ways that support our best intentions.

Many of us experienced childhoods in which the words good and bad were used as weapons to control us - you were good if you did what you were told and bad if you didn’t. This kind of discipline undermines a person’s ability to find their own moral center and to trust and be guided by their own inner self. If you were raised this way, you may find yourself feeling shockwaves of badness when you do something you were taught was wrong, even if now you don’t agree that it’s bad. Conversely, you may feel good when you do what you learned was right. Notice how this puts you in something of a straitjacket. An important part of our spiritual unfolding requires that we grow beyond what we learned and take responsibility for our own liberation in our own terms.

You are a human being with every right to be here, learning and exploring. To label yourself good or bad is to think too small. What you are is a decision-maker and every moment provides you the opportunity to move in the direction of your higher self or in the direction of stagnation or degradation. In the end, only you know the difference. If you find yourself going into self-judgment, try to stop yourself as soon as you can and come back to center. Know that you are not good or bad, you are simply you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes. This.

courtesy of my daily email from tut.com

If speaking to a spiritual novice during the darker days of human evolution, one might explain God, metaphorically, as if "He" were angry, testing, and judgmental.

To someone a bit more savvy, during easier times, one might explain God, metaphorically, as if "She" were always loving, nurturing, and forever conspiring on our behalf.

And to someone on the verge of a total breakthrough, during the latter days of human evolution, one might explain God by asking them to turn up the music, take off their shoes, walk in the grass, unleash the dogs, free the canary, catch a breeze, ride a wave, dance every day, get up early, take a nap, stay out late, eat chocolate, feel the love, give stuff away, earn it back, give some more, and laugh.... Really.

Really, really.

Catch a breeze -
The Universe

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Freedom To Be Myself

In early October, I was invited to a dinner party in Los Angeles by a good friend who was visiting from out of state. The hosts were a rather popular couple of food bloggers and, along with me and my friend, the party was rounded out by another young, lovely couple and a sharp and funny gal who also happened to be a Los Angeles Times food writer.

I had a horrible night (sorry, Jen, if you end up reading this, but I did). For days and days afterward, I was absolutely traumatized. Socially traumatized. Over and over again in my head, I went through what I said, what I did, how I behaved. My stomach was in knots every time I rehashed it. I knew something was very wrong with that evening, wrong with me, and I couldn't quite figure out what it was.

It took me a good couple of months for it to really hit me: I wasn't myself. The entire night I acted how I thought I should act with these people, these "famous" bloggers, the writer. I wasn't at all me. And though I'm sure they don't realize that, I also know there's a good reason I have never been invited back, even though I live close by. I have no doubt the energy I gave off in their presence was not particularly appealing.

I'm not saying all this now to beat myself up. I grant that I was not quite a few months sober at the time. It was early. I was not feeling emotionally settled and, really, I don't think I knew who I was yet; I was still peeling away the false layers I piled on during my years of drinking.

Still. It was a lesson, a hard earned lesson. I must be myself. Because if I am not, my mind and body will stage an excruciating revolt.

This realization sat in the back of my mind for a few weeks and solidified itself, ultimately, in a dream. In the dream, I was speaking with a couple of girls I knew in childhood, telling them that I finally figured it out, that I don't have to have social anxiety any more, ever, because I know the truth. And the truth is that I don't have to be perfect.

When I meet new people (or hell, even when I get together with the old ones), I don't have to say all the right things or behave a certain way. I can say something silly and not panic that no one will ever want to hang out with me again. I can let the conversation lag a bit when I am trying to get to know someone new, since I don't have the ease of familiarity and time yet.

All of us are putting ourselves out there, just doing the best we can to connect with one another, aren't we? And I can, too.

I woke up smiling. I felt rejuvenated. Aware. Deeply happy. For the first time in years, I knew I could go out in the world and be with others in a state of serenity and trust.

I carried this truth with me for weeks and it only continued to get stronger. Then, a couple of Saturdays ago, Steve and I went down to San Diego for a good friend's birthday celebration. There was a great dinner and then afterward, we all headed down the street to a club where said friend was spinning a set around midnight.

So many times I danced and smoked and talked ever so loudly and incoherently with people in clubs just like this one. I would wake up the next day wondering if people thought I was an idiot, if I said ridiculous things, if I looked stupid on the dance floor. I hadn't done much of this music stuff sober yet.

We arrived at the venue around 9:30 and for the next few hours, we watched people drink and chat and flirt and dance and we listened to each of the DJs doing their thing. And yes, it felt like a different world without a drink in my hand. But somehow so good. And around 11, as I was bopping around to the funky tunes that were playing, I stopped, turned around and looked at Steve and said:

"I love being sober. It gives me the freedom to be myself."

God, what a gift.

I danced and danced the rest of the night away, not caring how I looked because the movement of my body was natural, spontaneous. I talked and laughed with friends and new acquaintances alike without worry because my words were coming from a clear heart, a clear head. I was being me, fully present, fully engaged. Honest. And silly. And having the time of my life.

And if people didn't like me after that? Well then it was definitely their problem and not mine.

Social anxiety, be gone. Be. Gone. And don't you ever come back.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dirty Truths

Recently I was having a conversation with a very close friend about her brother, who is addicted to opiates. We were discussing how he can't seem to get his head in the right place to find a solution - he thinks he's on the right track sometimes, he talks of getting away (hello, geographical cure), and of straightening up - but it's just... all wrong. Poor guy. Anyway, she was telling me how I am not the same as him because I was strong and knew what I had to do to stop drinking. I recognized that I had a problem and I did something about it.

And while I know she was saying that kindly and lovingly and she meant it, I also knew she was wrong. I am no different than he is. No different than any addict. Not then, not now. Put a drink back in my hands and I will turn right back into what I was: a sick, active alcoholic.

When I see other people out in the world struggling with alcohol, drugs, food, cigarettes, on and on and on, I remember to never look at the differences between them and me, but to look for the similarities, to practice infinite compassion. Because I must. Because I know we are all fighting the same fight. Yes, some addictions are a bit more grave than others, no doubt. And some of them wreck our lives harder and faster than others.

But the deep down uncomfortable truths of our lives are, in all likelihood, the same.

The truth is there was a lot of lying. A lot of daily white lies about why I was so tired, why I was so cranky, about how much I drank or didn't drink.

The truth is I carried around a massive amount of shame. Crippling shame. I could never look anyone in the eye when I spoke to them because when I did, I thought they could see right through me to what I was... nothing more than a sick, worthless, disgusting, stinky alcoholic. I felt ugly all the time, inside and out. Certainly not like a valuable human being. And most certainly not like a woman.

The truth is I was abusing my body to a horrific degree. I had sleep problems. Obviously. And skin problems due to constant dehydration. And respiratory problems from all the smoking I did along with my drinking. Stomach and digestive problems so painful they kept me out of work for two-day stretches. Kidney infections and bladder problems. And of course there was the panic and worry over all of those issues, compounding them, making them even worse.

The truth is that sometimes I would get so drunk so fast on any given night that I would throw up and pass out and wake up wondering how I got in bed, if I ate, if I got on the phone with some unfortunate friend and talked their ear off. I probably had dozens and dozens of blackouts in the course of a few years. I blanked them out. I made myself not think about them because when I did, I was immobilized by anxiety.

The truth is I used to bring home alcohol in the evenings and be itching to get into it, and I would drink and drink until I was head-spinning drunk, stuff my face, go to bed in a daze, wake up in pain, promise myself I would stop, berate myself and beat myself up mentally all.fucking.day.long., go home from work... and do it all over again. To paraphrase Tara, it was like living in a nasty version of Groundhog Day. Living the same day, the same awful day, for years on end.

I am constantly spouting joy in this space - and yay! there's nothing wrong with that! - but just because I have had, in my estimation, a very lucky, happy time of it being sober, that doesn't mean I have forgotten these truths. Like I said in my previous post, The Reality Of It, I have to remember the reality so that I have armor against the "I can just have one" mentality, if and when it surfaces in my consciousness.

And if I have to tell the truth now, I am putting them down here in this space not so much for me as for anyone who knew me before, reading this now, who didn't know how bad it was. Which is everyone, really. I was actually angry about that at first, that no one seemed to get it. But then, how could anyone get it? No one was here to see it.

But those are the dirty truths of what my life was. So yeah, I wake up happy as hell every single day now because you can't imagine how damn thankful I am that those are no longer my truths. I feel worthwhile now. I feel feminine. I feel healthy. I feel full of hope and love and laughter. And I am free of shame.

And I will keep fighting the good fight for myself, every single day, to make sure it stays that way.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Six Months

It has been six months since I last had a drink.

As this milestone has approached, I have had a lot of different things on my mind - wonderful things! - recent changes, realizations, shifts in perspective. So much I have started writing about and haven't finished yet. But instead of pressuring myself to finish, instead of rambling on about all the change and junk... I'm just going to say this. For tonight, just this...

I am happier today than I ever thought possible. I knew. I always knew. That if I could just rid my life of alcohol, that underneath, I was a deeply joyful, optimistic, vibrant person. Someone who is not prone to melancholy or depression or getting lost in my own head. A peaceful, generous, happy happy happy woman.

Well, here I am.

I always thought I knew what it could be. But this is far beyond what I could have imagined. There are moments I am so happy I could burst into tears. Or burst into song. Or burst into spontaneous laughter.

Life is wonderful and awesome and everything and nothing like I expected it would be without alcohol in it. I don't miss it at all. I am proud of myself today, I really am. And, as always, so profoundly grateful.