Reflection

I go to work each day at a job that is “below” what I “should” be making….

About 8 years ago I worked for a bank that is actually right across the street from where I work now (three miles from my home, three miles from my daughter’s school).  I was offered a promotion which took me to a 40 minute commute and longer hours.  It was a lot more money. I thought I had made the right decision.  Only after several years did I learn just how valuable my time and freedom really is.  My family never realized any benefit from the additional income because of all the things I didn’t even know to factor in to my decision of where to work:  I was spending tons of money ordering pizzas and paying someone to be at my home every afternoon for my kids.  12 hour days wore me down and it was around this time in life that I started picking up my drinking some (after all…I was working all the time and a single momma so I “deserved” it…LOL) .  I was also working in an industry that welcomed lunchtime drinks and overindulgent after-work “wine-socials”….I missed flute recitals and soccer games….I missed dinners and homework hour…and it was soul-crushing for me…I fought with my kids…I missed parent teacher conferences…I grew frustrated, overworked and sullen.

So back to now…Over the past few weeks I have begun to lose sight of that story that I just told you.  Why?  Well, recently one friend got promoted to a position of high esteem…then another got appointed a professor position…and without me even realizing it the inner dialogue started:  “What’s wrong with you?  You are as smart as them…why are you working some middle management underpaid job? If only you hadn’t ______(fill in the blank with all the ways I found to berate myself)”.

So last week I listened to this berating voice (that has me convinced that I’m just losing the race with the Jones’ where my career is concerned) and I promptly submitted an application with my company for a job that pays a good deal more…but with a good deal more responsibility.  On the other side of town.  I am qualified for this job and will likely interview next week.

Then last night I was sitting on the couch with my daughter and she snuggled up to me and told me how wonderful she thinks our life is.  As she was saying this, I had been looking around me at all the projects I had to do to “update” my house so I that when I get my new position I can be proud to entertain people in a house that would impress someone.  In the moments before my daughter spoke I was thinking how shitty everything is:  My house is ugly, my job is beneath me, I am still 15 or 20 lbs overweight, I am getting old and no one will ever want to marry me, my clothes are ugly,…ugh!

My daughter’s comment was powerful and it “snapped me out of it”.  What the hell am I doing?  Berating myself? Purposely applying for a job that won’t allow me to spend time with my family, go to school, or have breathing room?  Oh my.

I decided to take some time this morning to be still and seek gratitude.  All those years ago when I was in the high-paying position but miserable, I used to dream of having a job that would be “enough” but still allow me to do all the things I love to do…cook for my family, garden, take walks, further my education, volunteer…etc.  And I have that now.  I HAVE EXACTLY WHAT I ASKED FOR…And I’m not happy?

Wait a minute…I actually AM happy.  BUT I was allowing a very shitty mind-set to propel me to start comparing myself to other people…to look around me with a magnifying glass at all of the things that are “wrong”.

I think I mentioned it before but this month, September of 2016…I can honestly say that all my bills are current and I’ve got my stuff together.  I’m eating healthier and have lost some weight and I’m even finding peace with food in a very substantial and meaningful way.  And I’m absolutely LOVING going to school…(I actually was offered a job in their tutoring center because of how much I help out other students).  So many positives.  Good health.  Enough money.  Opportunity. Living in a safe neighborhood and in a town where the economy is booming.  An upcoming trip to see family for Thanksgiving.

This morning when my daughter woke up, she looked out the front door at some basil seeds we had planted (which we harvested from the mother plant last week)…and she said with absolute delight and light-heartedness “Come look mamma…the basil babies are here!).  She is 16.  She was smiling ear to ear and looking down at the tiny, tiny little sprouts with awe and delight. She was truly lost in the joy of the moment at the wonder that a plant could make seeds that make other new plants come to life.  She did not care how much money we make, or if I had the latest granite counter-tops, or if my hair is grey…

After I took her to school…I broke down in tears of gratitude that I have my daughter to set me straight…Today I vow to practice acceptance, gratitude and self-care…and be mindfully present in my life.

Jenn

 

 

 

 

600 days

Well, today is 603 to be exact.  I don’t count days anymore like I used to, but consecutive sober time definitely matters.

Living life alcohol-free has allowed me to heal from some pretty ugly stuff.  It’s taken some time for sure.  And I had to be away from the sauce long enough to even be present enough in my own life to even know what the hell it is I need to heal from.  And then I had to heal enough from the alcohol abuse so that I could grow strong enough and become grounded enough to begin the journey of really repairing the damaged areas of my life.

I’m not the same person anymore.  That’s both exhilarating and scary.  Damn, it’s hard to give up parts of  yourself even when they’re toxic…but it’s so damn worth it!….

I just started an MBA program and it feels good to be back in school. I’m prepared for my classes and on time…and I am happy to be in a place of learning.  (Compare with last three years of drinking where I attempted the same thing but didn’t show up so had to drop the first class, TWICE).

As of this very month, September 2016, all of my bills are current and paid on time!  No…I haven’t paid off my debt…that will take about 5 years.  Right now I work at a job that pays less than what I “could” get…but I am 3 miles from home, 3 miles from my daughter’s school, and I make the schedule which allows me to balance motherhood, work and my school.  I have also started back my business…very part time..just taking on 1-2 students at a time (about 2 hours a week).  I am not wealthy but I have enough right now.  Enough to sustain us, enough to fuel my and my kids ambitions, make some home improvements and travel to see family for our Thanksgiving holiday.

Things are taken care of. I go to the doctor, the dentist, take the dog to the vet, mow the lawn before it’s 6″ high (most of the time LOL)…do my laundry, budget my money…get things repaired and maintained, etc…All this sounds so damn mundane but a couple of years ago my life was a shitstorm of chasing my tail and reacting to one “crisis” after another.

I am making peace with food and my body.  This is no small feat…and it’s not separate from my drinking…it’s completely entangled with everything…right now I don’t eat anything processed or with chemicals at all, or wheat, dairy or sugar. It was a hard transition at first (and not something to enter into lightly, or in early sobriety)…after only a month of 100% giving those things up I feel very calm and balanced.  I stopped weighing myself (although I was overweight, my scale obsession really got unhealthy). I’ve lost 2 clothes sizes, a couple inches each from my waist and hips each…my joints don’t ache, I can think clearly…and the most amazing thing is that I have no cravings for food…I’ve spent most of my life pretty obsessed with my food choices so the mental break of not obsessing is very, very freeing.  I have no idea in time if I’ll have the occasional sugar treat or not (for treats, I have limited myself to naturally occurring sugar like bananas and mangoes).  I’m not limiting the amount I eat…I now eat when I’m hungry…my appetite seems to have regulated itself which is a minor miracle…I’ve seriously spent most of my life either feeling hungry or overeating…I’m going to continue on like this (strictly) for a while to give my body the opportunity to continue to heal.  Like I said this was hard at first…but now I’m discovering new food dishes, and new ways to cook (think more herbs and healthy fats…no cheese and sugar or creamy,sugary sauces etc.).

I still have times where I feel low.  Occasionally very low.  And I still get scared, overwhelmed, sad at the quick passage of time, impatient for what I want, etc. BUT, I seem to be able to handle these things with a growing sense of balance and grace that I didn’t have a couple of years ago.  I’ve actually stopped expecting life to be exactly as I want it to be (and then throwing a two-year-old tantrum and saying, “if life is going to be shitty, then I will (fill in blank with self-destructive thing like drink, smoke, overeat, date a jerk, spend stupid money, pick fight with someone I love, etc.)”.

I feel stronger and healthier than I have in years.  I love getting a good night’s sleep.  I love that I can drive anywhere I want and never worry about getting pulled over or killing someone.  I love remembering everything. I love that I am a good, present mom and leader of my family.  And I really love respecting and having faith in myself.  

Jenn

 

 

 

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