Breathe, just breathe

Some people have asked me if I can drink again after 25 years of sobriety. I really believe I can’t because my addictions are still present in my life. I have days when some of my old negative thinking is tripping me up, or something happens that makes me want to take a drink. Also, I might be surprised by the smell of a burning joint, or see some of my favourite liquor bottles when I didn’t expect it, or find a few beers in the fridge when I am struggling, and the desire to drink can come on incredibly strong.

It is all of those signs that remind me that I cannot take my sobriety for granted. I believe that I can’t afford to take even one drink or a single toke, because I would soon be drinking/using daily, and I believe I would fall harder and faster and farther than I ever did in my drinking and drugging days.

So what do I do to stay sober today?

  • While I rarely go to an A.A. meeting these days, I still think about the A.A. program and work on specific steps that hit home, whether it means going right back to Step 1 or thinking deeply about Steps 9 or 10, and continuing to practice the program and share its message with other alcoholics (Step 12).
  • I strive to walk on a spiritual path, living my life with intention and love (not that I manage that every day …).
  • I connect with nature (Mother Earth), because that brings such joy to my daily life.
  • And connecting with nature helps me to remember to breathe, to breathe deeply when I am feeling stressed or tempted to take a drink. Taking those breaths slows me down and lets me make a choice … to stay sober for today.

I am so grateful to have made it to 25 years of sobriety. To remember that gratitude when the chips are down, I breathe, just breathe.

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The dangers of alcohol for women (and some men)

This is another unusual blog post for me, about rape. Although there is more information available about rape worldwide, it does not stop rape from happening: whether it is the recent rape of a young woman by local high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, or the gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in December, or the increasing and systematic use of rape as a weapon of war in Bangladesh, in Bosnia, in Rwanda.

You might wonder why I am writing about rape on my blog about sobriety and gratitude. What really caught my eye – and hit me in the gut – was the Steubenville rape, where the rape happened while the high school girl was passed out from too much alcohol. I can remember times when I passed out at a party after too much booze or got a ride home from someone else because I was too drunk to drive.

It seems that we live in a culture where rape is excused, explained, accepted. Yes, men are at risk of being raped, especially if they are gay, but it is women – 1 in 4 – who are most at risk from rape or other forms of abuse. And drinking too much or getting really high makes you more vulnerable, less likely to be vigilant about your safety, more likely to be raped.

When I think of those times when I passed out or took that ride, I know just how dangerous it was. That’s one of the (many) problems with alcohol: loss of judgement. As a sober person, I would not choose to fall asleep on some stranger’s bed at a party or catch a ride with a man I barely knew. No one can give permission to have sex if they are passed out and no one should be forced to have sex without their consent under any circumstances – that is rape. But when I was drunk or high, I was not able to make good decisions. Alcohol and drugs made it impossible for me to protect myself.

My heart goes out to the very many women and some men who are raped the world over, my hope goes out that rape and other forms of abuse will become unacceptable everywhere, and my gratitude goes out that I no longer put myself in such dangerous situations because I am not drinking or using.

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Building community

Very kind blogger nsg2 sweetly nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award last week. Check out their deeply honest blogging about life and sobriety and spirituality: http://recoverspiritually.com/. Thanks nsg2!

As nsg2 posted, “the Liebster Blog Award is not really an award as such – there’s no panel of judges or even an actual award.  It is basically a way for bloggers to give a ‘shout out’ to their favourite blogs and make all kinds of networks and links with fellow bloggers.  Blogging, after all, represents a lovely community and I’m a cheerleader for anything that reinforces that.”

What anyone is asked to do if nominated for this award is:

1. Post 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator has set for you, and create 11 questions for the people you’ve tagged as great bloggers.
3. Choose 11 bloggers and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. No tag backs!

The questions I was asked are:

1. Name something really good that’s happened today (or yesterday if you’re reading this first thing in the morning!)

My sweetheart gave me tulips.

2. What makes you happiest?

The sweetness of my partner and daughter and friends. The joy of nature that surrounds me.

3. What’s your favourite way to relax?

A book.

4. What makes you really inspired and motivated?

Joining others to do some good. Small bits of good – they add up.

5. What made you first start blogging?

Approaching my 25th anniversary of sobriety, and wanting to share my journey.

6. What’s better: tea or coffee?

Love coffee, but have not had any since 2004 on the advice of a naturopath because of migraines.

7. You only have one day left to live.  What do you do with it?

Tell people how much I love them.

8. What’s your best quality?

Empathy (on the personal side) and organization (on the professional side).

9. What’s the nicest compliment anyone’s ever paid you?

That I am kind.

10. What are you most grateful for?

So many many things (that’s what I’m blogging about).

11. What’s your life’s dream?

To live an intentional life of kindness, and have some fun – of the sober kind – along the way.

Here are the blogs that I sample, sip, sup and enjoy – and nominate for the Liebster blog award:

The questions I would like to ask my nominees are:

  1. What started you blogging?
  2. What makes you laugh easily?
  3. Where are you most comfortable, in the country or in the city?
  4. What do you do for fun?
  5. Who do you want to be when you grow up?
  6. What is the title of the last book you read?
  7. What is a quiet joy in your life?
  8. What is your favourite comfort food?
  9. What do you like to make with your hands?
  10. If you could go for a walk with anyone from the past or present, who would you chose?
  11. If you could share just one piece of advice, what would it be?

Thanks again nsg2 for nominating me, and for the community of bloggers who share their sobriety journeys or otherwise post fun, thoughtful and interesting things to read and ponder. My heartful gratitude for inviting me into your worlds.

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Some days …

Oh, no matter how positive and sober a life I try to lead, there are some days where I just don’t do so well. This was one of those days. I woke up with a head-banger of a migraine in the middle of the night and am still feeling the effects more than 12 hours later, I’ve had a challenge with my work and a disagreement with a loved one.

Does all that drive me to drink? Fortunately, and with deep gratitude, no.

However, I do need to remember to draw on what I have learned in recovery. To remember to turn my will and life over to the care of God, which means for me to remember my intention to connect to a Higher Power, the Spirit that guides me. To connect to Mother Earth, and find my centre. To remember the goodness in myself, and in everyone. And to breathe deeply and slowly as I hold that centre, and connect to Spirit.

And rest, for having a migraine is a tiring thing. With gratitude for another day sober, good night.

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“Sorry” is a powerful word

Step 10 of the A.A. program is:

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

For me, taking personal inventory is all about being honest with myself. Early in my drinking and drugging days, I learned to lie really well, and lie about more and more. My life became such a complex web of lies that I found it hard to remember what was the truth. I began to wear a mask in more and more situations, hiding myself from others and from myself too.

Yes, some of the lies were for my personal safety, but lots of them were to hide the truth from people: my parents, my co-workers, even some of my friends and partners. If I didn’t admit how much I drank – except to other users who would applaud how much I could handle my booze or drugs, then it wasn’t a problem, right? If the people who cared about me didn’t know I spent most of my non-school, non-working hours drinking or toking, it was okay, right? Oh, the lies I told myself …

Then I started to get sober and work the A.A. program. It was like peeling away the layers of lies to find the core, the truth, my centre. To get to know myself again, as hard as it was and as shaky as I was in those early days of sobriety. What a blessing!

The second part of this Step is to admit when we are wrong. I have found saying sorry to be very powerful, when genuinely meant. To be able to see how my actions – what I said, what I did, and sometimes what I didn’t do – hurt someone else has become very important to living the intentional life I try to lead. To acknowledge to the other person that my action or inaction hurt them deepens those relationships, makes them more authentic. We all make mistakes, even if unintentionally. I have found that it is very genuine and freeing to be able to admit I have done something wrong, to say I am sorry and, by doing so, move the relationship forward.

The gentle power of saying I am sorry is part of the glue that holds my loving life partnership together and strong, that brings joy to my relationship with my daughter, that enriches my friendships, and that is a foundation of my professional and volunteer life. So much gratitude!

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The best gift of all

Last week I wrote about how February was a big month in my sobriety. Getting my 9-month chip was very important, but finding out that I was pregnant 25 years ago was such a huge gift. I very much wanted a child, and to have made strides in sobriety before getting pregnant meant that:

  • I was feeling a bit steadier in the new sober life I was leading.
  • My body was clean and sober, creating a safe place for a child to start life.
  • Most importantly, if I could stay sober, my child would never know its mother as a drinker, a user or a drunk.

From my experience in A.A. and in therapy, I believe that, to be successful in sobering up, you have to do it for yourself, not for a partner, a child, a parent or a boss. People who care about you may encourage you, or threaten you, or give up on you, but it is only you who can decide to sober up and to accept the help you need to stay sober. I was the one who had to get there, had to see how I really needed to get sober, and be willing to try – I mean really try – to get the support that I needed through A.A.

Nonetheless, expecting and then raising a child was a huge incentive for me to stay sober. Every time I thought of having a drink when I was pregnant, I thought of the child growing inside me and how much harm alcohol would do if I took a drink or had a toke. And once she was born, being the best parent I could be meant breaking the cycle of alcoholism.

I am so grateful that to have raised my daughter – with the help of a loving partner – as a sober person. What a gift to me to be a parent, and to be able to be present and loving, instead of bringing my daughter up in a home with an alcoholic and addict and all the physical and emotional pain that comes along with that life for everyone in the family. My heartfelt and loving thanks to the Creator for gifting my life with a wonderful daughter, and helping me find and stay on the path to sobriety so I could be the parent I wanted to be.

In sobriety, I celebrate the lovely kind, sweet, creative young woman who I am proud to call “daughter.”

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9 month chip!

February was a really big month for me in that first year of sobriety. In February, I made nine months of sobriety. It was the month I finished my first time working right through the 12 Steps of A.A., and it was so worth it! When I got called up to pick up my nine month chip in my home group that Friday night, I was so proud to have made it to nine months, to be sober, to be less shaky about staying sober “just for today,” and to see that a bit more sanity had come into my life.

When I went up to the front of the A.A. meeting room to receive that chip, I was full of memories:

  • Walking into that first meeting when I finally decided to get sober, my last beer in my stomach and my heart in my throat. I was so scared, scared that I couldn’t do it, scared that people would know me, scared about never being able to have another drink or toke again and what that would mean to my enjoyment of life.
  • Those first few days when it was tough to hold on to the resolve not to drink, when I craved the booze and the easy highs of using.
  • Getting my first 30 days in, almost not believing that I had made it and remembering each very difficult day getting there.
  • Hearing about a Novelco program that was starting, where a group of people go through the 12 Steps of A.A. together in six months … and deciding to go for it.
  • Spending those six months with a great group of people, sharing our struggles to make it through each step, and sharing the triumphs too.

There were so many personal highs and lows in working through the 12 Steps. Hard work, hard thinking, hard emotions, but light, so much light and ease as I moved through the A.A. program. My deep thanks for the fellowship and sharing of the group that went on that journey with me.

Even though there would be many more struggles to stay sober in the years to come, that foundation of serious efforts on the 12 Steps were very important to my recovery. The depth of sobriety I got in those first nine months was so worth celebrating. For anyone in recovery, I’d recommend making a big effort to get through the 12 Steps. From my experience, I can say, “it works if you work it!”

*****

On a very sad note, I want to celebrate the life of my mother-in-law, Betty, who passed away in the early hours of this morning after a tough last few years of life. We had the pleasure of hosting her for many vacations and visits, where she shared her impish sense of humour and joie de vivre with us. I will miss her.

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