Notes from the journey…

I’ve moved on to a phase of my journey where I’m facing some of my non-alcohol demons head-on. (I’m pretty convinced that the wine is directly related though).  One HUGE benefit of having stayed sober for 19 months, is that I now truly believe that I’m capable of significant and lasting change/healing.

I’m about 21 days into a nutrition plan where I don’t limit the amount I eat, but I only eat meat, seafood, fruits, veggies & nuts…no processed stuff, wheat, dairy or sugar (for now).  The first week had me thinking my life was over.  Now on week three, I’m feeling so very balanced and I’m enjoying not feeling out of control with food.  I still make treats with fruit…some are pretty good actually. I’m convinced that one or more of the things I eliminated from my diet is quite bad for me…because my appetite has leveled out and I feel full of energy now. I have faith I’ll figure it out over time.  I put away the scale, and I’m focusing on feeding my physical and spiritual growth and healing.  It’s kind of hard to explain. But it’s going well.

And I’m facing my financial issues in a more head-on fashion.  I need to.  It’s the one area where I still tend to lie to myself and that just doesn’t work for me anymore.  I’m in debt, and I won’t be out soon (which can seem overwhelming).  But I am living on a reasonable budget now…a balanced one that allows for some treats and fun…but respects that I have long term goals too.

With each of these things, I’m finally forgiving myself…which I’ve discovered is a quite necessary thing.  For me, the more shame I feel…the more hopeless I feel…the more powerless I feel..the more I want to fill that hole in my gut with something.  The more I forgive and let go…the more I accept myself the way I am…the more power I have in my own life…and the more peaceful that life is.

Sometimes this sober life is so awesome…that I’m afraid somebody will pinch me and I’ll wake up.

Jenn

 

 

My happy places

 

I awoke this morning…my 16 year old daughter slept in my bed beside me last night and she was still peacefully asleep. Watching her, I felt a breathtaking well of deep joy and happiness in my soul…I thought to myself “The Happiness Tag”!

I was recently tagged in the happiness post (where you’re asked to post 5 things that make you happy and 5 songs that make you happy)…OOPS…I am sometimes so awful about responding to people (because I’m busy, because I’m a little scatterbrained, etc)…I had been nominated to post about my what makes me happy (probably about a week ago. Sorry  Lulu for the delay. Sobriety has not yet cured my lateness)…So here it goes.  5 things that make me happy:

  1. When my daughter says “I love you so much Momma” and smiles at me.   I am so grateful to spend these last four years of her childhood with her…with me sober and aware…capable of true parenting with love and leadership.  We have been through so much together…my divorce, her father’s abuse (to me) her father’ abandonment (of her)…my breakdown and recovery.  We have survived the death of my father, death of my brother…She’s stood here watching me set boundaries and all of the (sometimes painful) family realignment that entails, dig our way out of a financial mess, quit drinking, learn to take care of myself.  Today she is a student at a well-respected private school and she’s thriving…she loves her friends and her teachers…she’s a leader in the school and she’s respected.  I was just recently accepted to an MBA program which I start next week…and I have a position as a program manager that’s close to home so I can work, go to school and be her mom.  It makes me happy to know that my joy is found in the journey…in the day to day…in what used to be mundane.
  2.  Knowing I’m done working for the week, and not having to be anywhere so I can just “be” at  home. Often this is nestled up on my couch, watching whatever Netflix show has me intrigued or perhaps reading a good book, with a cup of coffee..or eating something yummy (see next item on the list!)
  3. Cooking a delicious meal from scratch…especially when many of the ingredients come from my garden. And then sharing that meal.  In the height of my heavy drinking/breakdown years I stopped cooking real food or growing my gardens…I was so broken that all I managed to do was buy something prepared and throw it on the table and think to myself, “at least everyone is eating dinner”.  I comes from an old way of thinking where I would tell myself that I’m not a problem-drinker as long as I take care of my “responsibilities”.  I can’t tell you how much joy I robbed myself of.  I’ve just begun keeping one garden that has rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, and dill.  I’m working on my fall garden of tomatoes and winter veggies….I love the sweet smell of fertile soil…I love stepping outside to pluck some mint leaves and steeping mint tea for a nightime relaxer, or grabbing a handful of rosemary for the potatoes I’m roasting.  I love that I’m putting the joy and nourishment back into cooking, preparing and eating food.
  4. Figuring out a complex problem or challenge. I’m kind of an analysis junkie.  I’m wickedly good at breaking down a problem or situation and finding out-of-the-box solutions. I’ve got a knack for seeing the conncectedness of seemingly-unconnected aspects of things.   For a long time I doubted myself and second guessed myself constantly…my career and my financial situation reflected this.  After 19 months sober and growing and taking care of myself…I feel free to be me…which happens to be a bit of a “nerd”.  I love that recovery has freed me up to be myself and helped me remove the barriers (mostly in my mind) to my joy and success.  Now, instead of trying to turn myself into whatever I think it is that someone wants me to be…I instead feel free to be myself and I look for people who will like/love/respect me  to add to my tribe.
  5. Hope. I find tremendous joy in the feeling of hope that lives in me where once there was utter hell-ish despair.  I may have appeared to hide it back then because I worked, fed my kids at night, went to parties, had a good professional hairdresser, etc…I could wake up feeling like I wanted to die, not knowing exactly where I had been, or what I’d said to whom…but despite feeling like death I’d put my work clothes on and trudge through my day, head pounding, wondering where the next catastrophe was coming from and just trying to survive until wine-o-clock. I think I pretty much lived in a state of despair. I often thought that I was just biding my time until I die.  Now…even when I’m going through something that sucks…I have an inner sense of hope that is a miracle. And when I sit and reflect on this hope, I am happy to know that there will be more happiness.

 

I’m running out of time to post…so I’m going to think about my happiness songs and post those in one of my next posts.  Until then….

Jenn

 

 

Quitting drinking, early sobriety, eating and self-care

In the first 6 months of my alcohol free life, I often ate chocolate, iced-cream and/or mashed potatoes almost every night, then sat on the couch and watched show after show of Netflix before passing out.  I worried that I would get fat.  I did get somewhat fat. I read all kinds of conflicting advise…some said “give up sugar when you get sober…it’s just a crutch!” or “your body will adjust and your cravings will die down” or “eat all the sugar you want..no one ever got pulled over and arrested for eating sugar and driving!”.  It caused me great anxiety.

Now, 1.5 years into this sober-journey, here’s what I think of how to approach nutrition and exercise in early sobriety :

If you’ve abused yourself with alcohol as I did (and if you’ve just gotten sober, you likely haven’t even come to terms with just how badly you’re drinking was destroying you)…if you’ve abused yourself with alcohol, lack of sleep, lack of self-care  or worse for years…. then when you first begin to heal from drinking, you honestly have no idea exactly what your body needs or how long it will take to begin healing your brain or restoring your brain chemistry as your whole self adjusts to living without alcohol.

When I first quit….I basically felt like a computer that someone had thrown a bucket of water in that didn’t stop working but all of the inputs were misread and the outputs didn’t make sense to anyone else! I’m not sure I knew the difference between being tired, hungry or thirsty and wanting a drink.  Thank goodness it didn’t stay that way.

 

Now…the reason I think that there’s so much conflicting advise on the subjects of eating/dieting/exercise in early sobriety…well I think that’s because when we begin sobering up…being in a sober-state without a substance to cover or mask issues uncovers very different things for different people:

Some people need to move more.  Get out and walk. Yoga. Go for a run. Clear your mind and heal.

Some people need to rest.  Sleep more. Eat more. Heal.

Some people discover co-morbid challenges like eating disorders or mental illnesses that were disguised while drinking and become apparent when we quit…I don’t think we can underestimate the role that eating/water/fitness/sleeping/stress (ie..self-care) can play in dealing with emotional/mental/eating disorders.

It’s so hard to listen to your body and the signals it gives you in early sobriety because there’s so much changing so fast.

And as addicted-minded people…we tend to want everything fixed “right now!”.  But healing has it’s own time, and we can’t dictate it.

So I say to focus, focus, focus on self-care (especially early on until it starts to feel normal to take care of yourself) and don’t drink. Eat the best you can, don’t restrict yourself unnecessarily, drink water, sleep, rest, find ways to treat yourself without alcohol  like baths, walks, movies, gardening, pedicures, massages, buy a new book (I’m not wealthy at all…you can probably get your house cleaned, buy a massage, or get a new outfit cheaper than it costs to go out for night of drinking!)…self-care could include getting professional help..a therapist, a nutritionist, a personal trainer/coach.  Self-care also includes being patient with yourself….if something’s not working, try something else.  Self-care can be many things…it could be setting boundaries, ending a relationship, or eating more broccoli.

For me, quitting drinking was a major act of self-care.

And at first, self-care was odd and foreign and difficult.  For example…I would try to set a boundary…and find myself in an argument with a family member but not have not emotional faculties to deal with it because I just quit drinking so instead of drinking I would eat a pound of chocolate then hate myself for that so I would watch 10 episodes of something on TV and then feel lazy…but I kept going.  I kept living and not drinking and seeking help from wherever I could find it. I go to therapy, I read, I meditate and take walks.  And little by little self-care and living sober has become normal.

So what does this have to do with eating and weight loss in sobriety?

I’d like to leave you with the thought that eating and weight loss are part of the bigger picture of self-care…and can be very different for each of us as we learn, grow and heal.

And not to sound too dogmatic…but so far the most important nutritional decision I’ve ever made is to stop poisoning myself with wine on the daily.

Jenn

 

 

 

 

A little peace

For those of you that follow my recent family situation that I’ve posted about…things have drastically improved for me over the past week and half…I think that for my daughter and I…just having some peace in our home has been very healing.  I am very much beginning to see that I had to set the boundaries that I did not only for my son’s own good…but for my own mental health and continued sobriety too.

Although it’s been painful for sure…the acceptance of the situation as it is, and the following through on something hard…both of these actions have been very empowering.

 

I’m beginning to be able to embrace the dichotomy of both accepting where I am/ where I’ve been so far…AND…simultaneously working toward where and who I want to be.

Jenn

 

Sobriety and parenting

It’s been a tough couple of weeks.  We moved my son one state away to Colorado, where his uncle (his dad’s brother) lives.  He has a job there already, and his girlfriend’s family also just moved there with the military so he has people there.

This all happened Saturday, so I’ve been processing everything over the past few days.  I have mixed emotions.  I miss him. But I am also definitely enjoying the peace that’s returned to the house almost immediately after he left.  He’s been calling me almost every day to tell me about things.  It’s actually kind of nice to hear from him like that, instead of the dynamic we had when he was living here (basically, it was me daily trying to force him to do what he was supposed to do…i.e. be responsible, work, go to school, tell the truth, respect his sisters, etc plus him coming and going at odd hours interrupting sleep and such).

There’s much I could say about all this….Here, I want to talk about a parenting dynamic where alcohol is concerned.  It’s something I kind of always knew, but didn’t really “get” until now:

Having to make my very young adult son (age 20) move out of the house for the good of himself and the family…I had to dish out tough love, and it was absolutely gut wrenching.  When I put him on the train with his bags, I felt like my heart was completely broken and heavy. All of the base-level instincts of motherhood called me to bring him closer in a time of trouble, not send him off.

BUT…I absolutely KNEW I was doing the right thing (well, the most right thing given the choices I have at this time anyway).  If he is going to learn the lessons he needs to learn, whether it be now, or in the coming years…he won’t learn them by me enabling him and padding the natural consequences of his own choices.  I ultimately don’t control how he makes his decisions in adulthood…but I still have the responsibility as his mother to guide him, love him, hold him accountable, and when appropriate to let go.

And here’s the important part as it relates to drinking:  IF I WERE STILL DRINKING WINE EVERY NIGHT, I WOULD HAVE BEEN GUIDED (twisted) BY THE TREMENDOUS GUILT AND ACCOMPANYING DRIVE TO “MAKE IT UP TO MY KIDS”THAT SHROUDED MY ENTIRE LIFE IN THE LAST FEW YEARS OF DRINKING…I would have never, ever, sent him off, because I was always feeling so guilty about my drinking (I wasn’t acutely always aware of this then) that I couldn’t make a decision that involved this kind of sacrifice, and furthermore, when I drank, I didn’t have the deep awareness and clarity that I have now to truly separate my own emotions from knowing what is “best” for my kids as I make decisions that affect them….Not only was I able to make this decision and execute on it…I was also able to talk to him, and his sisters openly about what we are doing and why.

He left peacefully…we took him to the train station, and waited there with him. We said our goodbyes, hugged, and even cried.

My daughter that lives at home was feeling guilty because she “wanted” him to leave.  I have taken full responsibility for the decision I made and at the same time I told her that it’s okay to have mixed feelings.  We’ve talked a lot about setting boundaries…about how all families have challenges…how we can navigate this as a family…about acceptance…about handling a difficult situation without tending to self-destruct or sabotage our own lives, etc.

Today, it actually brings me peace to know that in quitting drinking and undertaking all of this growth that I have in sobriety, that I can be my authentic self in the sense that my motherhood has always been an important part of my own identity, and drinking took me away from that.

I think I like who I am becoming.  And I am becoming okay with who I already am too.

Jenn

 

 

 

Grace under fire

I’ve  written a few times here about my struggles with my adult son. He is leaving in 6 days to move out of state (he’s following his girlfriend’s family about 12 hours away).  He’s continuing on a path of some shaky decisions and it scares me.

Part of the reason he’s leaving is that I am making him move out of my home because he doesn’t respect our home, or his sister or I.  This was not an easy decision for me.

There’s a particular despair I’m feeling in watching my adult son make some pretty obviously bad decisions. I’ve spent a ton of time thinking, reflecting, even praying about this. Here’s the conclusions I’ve come to so far.

It’s time for me to let him go…even push him out of the nest.  A decision like this isn’t right for every young adult…but here, in this case, it is right.  I have raised him. I have taught him to think for himself, to be honest, fair, and to help others…I’ve taught him academics, how to work hard, problem solve, etc, etc.  Sometimes he shows signs of having taken all that in. But he also grew up watching his father destroy me. And then watching me almost destroy myself.  And yes, he’s watched me come back from that too.  He’s conflicted and even a little damaged…but he also knows that people do get better. And people can and do heal and recover from all kinds of things in life.

And so I am letting him go.  And even putting my “foot” down firmly.  I’ve told him that he has my love, and moral support, and he’s on my health insurance…but besides that…he has refused college, or to respect any rules of the home, so it’s time for him to fly and begin to figure things out for  himself.  After all, he’s  a grown (very young) but grown man.  I can’t change the past for him…but I also can’t enable him to be an irresponsible or hurtful person either.  I can hold him accountable, with love.

And for the first time, I’m putting myself and my daughter first, and him second.  And I wouldn’t have the strength to do this, and do it so gracefully, were I still drinking. Drinking-Jenn couldn’t have even attempted this.

Somehow, I’m handling this really well. I’m not crying (maybe a little), or screaming, or drinking, or spending time self-destructing..or reacting to what others think, or hating my ex-husband for “ruining” him, or any of that…

Instead…

I  recognized what a significant time this is in our lives.  It’s time for me to take the tough-love stance with my son, and then help myself and my daughter navigate this time in our lives with acceptance and healing…so I took the week off of work for emergency leave to tend to the family and myself during this difficult time.  I also recently sought the help of a therapist to help my daughter and I work through everything.

Somewhere deep down, I’ve tapped into a strength that I didn’t know I had…and I’m handling almost every aspect of this crisis with grace.  It’s so drastically different than how I’ve handled any past crisis…so different in fact that I now know that my decision to stop drinking and start healing and growing…it has the potential to change not only my own life, but my whole family tree.

Wisdom and grace under fire…more gifts of sobriety which I would not give up for the elusive freedom that a glass of wine promises (but never, ever delivers).

Jenn

 

June 25

Everyone here on the sober blogosphere matters to me. When I open my computer, probably about 3 times or more a week to read blogs here, I look forward to all of the familiar “faces” I’ve come to know.  Addiction is scary, and it’s comforting to come hear and read that the people who were navigating life without booze last week, are still doing it this week.  And it warms my heart to cheer them on. And the wisdom I garner here is priceless…I hope I can one day give back what I’ve been given.

And when I read about someone’s bad night of drinking, or relapse, remorse, regret…it sends chills through me. I hurt for them and with them. And I’m somberly reminded that it is so easy to get lost. Really easy.

Every day, there’s a big, open door that leads to the darkside and all we have to do is walk through it.  We can walk through it by actually drinking, or by doing a million little things that incrementally lead to drinking…like neglecting self-care, lying to ourselves, feeding alternate addictions, failing to reach out and stay connected, failing to grow, etc.  It’s so easy to walk through that door…sometimes I feel the pull and it chills me to the bone to know that no matter how hard I work or how much I love my family…I’m always a few minutes, or a bad decision away from the hell of addiction.  That’s why it’s just such a damn miracle each day to be here:  healthy, present, alive and well without alcohol.  Each day I am finding a little more peace, acceptance, clarity and hope.  I am healing.

But when I feel that call  (to drink, to overwork, to overeat, to isolate, to lie, to not stay true to my principals, to neglect myself, to break a self-promise)…when I feel that call, and the fear that goes with it…I know that quitting drinking alone is not enough.  I must, and I mean must, continue to grow and heal.  I must learn to be still and listen to what my body and soul are really looking for during dark times…For years, I spent so much time escaping that sometimes I really don’t know the difference between, say, “hunger for food”, and a “hunger for life satisfaction”…I suppose it’s progress that I even recognize now that they aren’t one in the same.

I vow to be grateful each day that I am sober…each day that I get to grow…each day that my world gets bigger, calmer, more honest and more connected to everything and everyone.  I have a deep, healthy respect of how powerful addiction is, and that a world of shame, pain, lying, depression and anxiety…a very tiny, suffocating world awaits me in active addiction.  No thank you.

Jenn