Month: March 2014

When Silence is Broken


I see blogging people.

Last night I found out that my anonymous blog was not as anonymous as I thought. A friend of mine, who recently became a wordpress blogger, used the Find Friends tool and there was my blog’s name all bright and bold next to my public email address. Yes, my friend was shown my blog because we exchanged email addresses years ago. My friend, upon reading my About page and realizing I was not ready to go fully public, wanted to let me know about what seemed to be anonymity loophole.

I guess I should’ve known better when I started and used a new email account to register this blog. But what is done is done. I’m not going to make use of the privacy setting because I do want my blog to be a source of help for anyone who needs it. I can take the trouble to export the blog to a new username if I really want to.

But technical options are not what I want to talk about.

What do you do when social networking outs you before you’re ready?

My first reaction to my friend’s news was to feign nonchalance. “Oh yeah, no big deal really but thanks for telling me.”  I’ve known my friend for sometime and last night’s revelation would’ve only come from a place of kindness. I understood that at the time but less than an hour later I was sitting in my car outside of my favourite Chinese restaurant crying on the phone to my best friend.

Why was I crying? Because fear and judgment were skipping along hand in hand through my mind kicking up trails of self doubt and shame behind them. Even though I already knew better I could not stop thinking all those self defeating thoughts:

What will people say?

How many other friends on my emailing list, or facebook or twitter have found my blog this way?

Now everyone knows I’m broken. Damaged. Unworthy. An unattractive problem. 

I don’t want to be “That Girl!”

Yes, the pity party had started and even as I talked to my best friend I told her I knew better. I knew that I’ve been growing in leaps and bounds and I knew that I should be proud of myself for where I am at, but all I was feeling  was shame, doubt, fear and loneliness. It had taken a lot out of me to even call my best friend because I did not want to admit what I was feeling and that I needed to talk it out and have someone tell me what I already knew deep down inside:

You are not broken. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

What you are feeling right now is understandable. It’s okay to admit that you’re scared and upset. 

I am still proud of you.

(God I love my friend for saying that. If I hadn’t called, it would’ve taken me the better part of the weekend to get to the point of accepting my emotions, letting them go and treating myself gently again.)

Alcoholism has such a stigma attached to it as most people see it as only about self control when it isn’t.  I know I have to face the fact that one day more people will know about my recovery and it’s very likely that some people will not understand and I may be judged. I have to accept that sometimes I will feel embarrassed, fearful, misunderstood and alone. I have to understand that that’s okay and learn how to handle things with grace. I have to remind myself that it is not about what others think, it’s about what I think:

I know that I am doing the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

I know that I am doing a good job. Being in recovery is a good thing.

I know that I have every right to feel proud of where I am.


The Way of the Sober Blogging Network

Hello MSBN (My Sober Blogging Network)!

Glad to see most of you doing fine, shadows, ashes, flames and all, and standing tall, making your mark as we wave at one another along our paths.

I’ve been quiet in this online space but don’t worry it’s been a beautiful whirlwind otherwise as I’ve been caught up with creative activities, friends and family life, and lots of introspection. Is that characteristic of the six to seven week phase?

During the last two weeks I’ve been pretty reflective and I’m happy to report that it has been in a fairly non-judgmental way. In a way it’s almost as if I’ve stepped out of my shoes for a moment and I’m holding my own hand and listening to myself. Does that make any sense? It’s as if I’m finally starting to listen to myself with kind ears.

Last night was the first time since my last post that I checked in with any of you and strangely enough I was a bit afraid to. Not entirely sure why but it may have to do with the fact that I came to fully appreciate the alone time. While I was spending a lot of physical time with friends and family and offering emotional support when needed, I exposed little of what was going on in my mind. Not because I felt I would be misunderstood or anything like that. I just needed to be. With me. It’s a sorting through process as far as I see it, in a very good way.

So I was hesitant to open the links to your worlds once more. I’m glad I did though. In short order I was chuckling and tearing up as I read what you’ve been posting over the last couple of weeks I’ve missed you all.

Have you ever seen The Way? It’s a powerful film about an ophthalmologist, Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) who goes to France following the death of his adult son, Daniel (Emilio Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), in  Spain. Tom’s purpose is initially to retrieve his son’s body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the ancient spiritual trail where his son died, taking Daniel’s ashes with him. While walking the Camino, Tom meets others from around the world, all looking for greater meaning in their lives. People walk the Camino for various reasons. Physical challenge, cultural immersion, spiritual exploration or journey to repentance, all have been reasons for people to walk the Camino for over 1000 years.


This little network we’ve formed reminds me of this film. Strangers who are each on their own journey, meet and form bonds just like that. We each have our own reasons for starting our journeys which feel very personal to us. We gingerly step onto our paths thinking that no one can understand what we feel or what we’ve gone through, and then as we walk along, by chance, we meet. We connect. We find out that there are others who can say: I understand. I can so relate. I know. I feel really lucky to have met you all and cannot express how much this network helps me. Thank you.

Okay enough mushyness. I have 17 posts and 17 drafts! What is that all about? Time to get to work. Have a beautiful day everyone!


Once A Pickle, Always a Pickle


Written by: Lushwell

“Can I get you a drink?”

“No thanks, I don’t drink.”

“Really? Why? I mean, why don’t you drink?”

“Same reason I don’t smoke. I see little good coming from it.”

The issue of drinking or abstaining is hosted in OUR minds. We make it an issue. “I have to drink to fit in”. Bullsh_t. Most who have encountered one of our bizarre episodes will be delighted when the night is through and we haven’t made an ass of ourselves and the cops weren’t needed. This time.

Discretion in drinking, or discretion in abstaining? You will find several schools of thought on this board regarding the realistic ability to control drinking. I subscribe to the thought that once predicable control of alcohol / chemicals usage has been lost, it is gone for good. Responsible efforts then need to be focused on abstinence.

I recall an old saying that you can take a cucumber and make it into a pickle, but once it becomes a pickle, it will never be a cucumber again. That sums it up for me pretty well. I passed from being a cucumber into the land of pickles. There isn’t any magic chant or potion or meeting to attend that will make me a cucumber again. I will be a pickle from here on out. This fact was pretty evident to me, in spite of my denial and excuses and rationalization. I didn’t drink every day. I didn’t drink antifreeze. The cops didn’t need to be called every time I opened a beer. I learned that those things, while important, weren’t what determined that I had crossed over into pickle territory. That test was much simpler. Here is the test:

It isn’t about how much we drink

Or how often

Or where

Or with who

Or when.

Its about what happens when we do drink. The inability to predict what will happen, how we will act, what we will do, and when it will end.

If any of the above fits, you may be in pickle territory. Don’t worry, though. We can get you out of the pickle brine. There is a way out. You’ll still be a pickle though.

I’m not sure where discretion fits in here for you. You can always call ahead and warn the party hosts that someone else will have to be the reason for the next exciting episode of “Cops” to be filmed at their party, as you will not be performing. See how many tell you they are sorry to hear that.

Originally published by Lushwell

The Choice Is Yours


There comes a point where you realize that you can’t blame anyone but yourself for the way you feel about things that happen to you or for the place you’re at. You’re unhappy and frustrated in that crappy and unfulfilling job because you chose to stay. You think you don’t have career options because you chose to procrastinate on revamping your resume and sending it out. You’re left holding the short end of a broken relationship because you chose not to see the warning signs. You’re unhappy about your weight because you didn’t make that commitment to yourself to just start exercising, even at home, to one of those shows on FitTV. You’re unhappy with your health because you chose to skip the fruits and veggies you love. You’re disappointed and fed up with yourself because you were afraid to accept the fact that you have a problem with alcohol. So there it is: you only have yourself to blame.

But then you realize ‘blame’ is too harsh a word. Yes, you are responsible for the choices you make, but owning up to those choices and then choosing how you react to the emotions and feelings they bring is also up to you. You can choose to judge yourself harshly and walk about cursing the day, scaring the hell out of small children and motorists. You can choose to wallow in self pity and cry “It’s not fair!” into your pillow at night. You can choose to be a victim or a warrior and fight for the person you know you can be.

You can choose to understand that your feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and disappointment are all indicators that you are not where you are meant to be. You can choose to man-up (or woman-up) and own and understand your feelings, not bury them or let them overwhelm you, but instead allow them to push you to make the necessary changes. You can choose to recognize that awareness is only half the battle, WILL is what will get you where you need to go. You can choose to accept responsibility for yourself and get help. You can choose to stay the course and not give in. You alone can motivate yourself to change your situation, whatever it may be. The choice is yours.


It’s a Matter of Taste

Me: You need a see-through fridge

Him: A what?

Me: A see-through fridge

Him: Oh! I thought you said a seafood fridge.

Me: See-through, see-food – same thing.

Him: No, I thought you said seafood fridge, as in S  E  A.

Me: Ohhh…. Ooh! We should get a seafood fridge. You know, a shelf for lobster tails, one for mussels and clams, one for scallops, one for shrimp… Yeah! Let’s get one of those.

Him: We should have scallops for dinner. I have some gorgeously plump ones in the freezer.

Me:  Seared scallops sounds yummy, but what on earth would I pair scallops with?


A month ago I would’ve popped open a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc or a sparkling rose to accompany our scallops. Now that my little book of food & wine / food & beer pairings has been permanently shelved, I’ve been experimenting these last few weeks as part of my mission to pair food with non-alcoholic beverages. I love dining out as much as I love cooking and over the last month it’s been quite an experience figuring out what pairs with what.

I don’t drink soft drinks or juices from concentrate so my options are pretty limited when I’m dining out: water (still and sparkling), coconut water, and fresh juices (which are difficult to come by and are often already sweetened with sugar.) I don’t mind the club soda but I miss the harmony which can be created when a dish is paired with the right beverage. Which explains my gastronomical mission: Find beverages which will match the intensity and strength of my meal and either compliment or contrast the flavours.

The green tea I paired with sushi and sashimi a few nights ago worked well enough, although I did notice that the flavour of the sashimi had changed when the tea cooled down. In doing some research online, I discovered that darker teas would’ve been a better match, according to The Nibble, which has quite a substantial list of food and tea pairings worth reading if you are a fan of tea.  Teas may actually be a pretty viable option once they are available: Lalani & Co., argues that tea’s 5,000-year history, and the impact of soils, altitude and ageing methods, give it a similar complexity to wine that’s only starting to be explored for food pairings.

Tony Conigliaro, a famous mixologist, has other suggestions as well: He says making drinks at home to complement food isn’t tricky. “Say you’re having a bolognese, you can make a basil water, two or three basil leaves, stir them into iced water, and you’ll get that beautiful perfume. All you need to do is release some of the essential oils, and herbs are great for that because they’ve got a quick release.” As with food, it’s about experimenting. “People need to be more adventurous, try things. Get some orange peel, cinammon, cloves. Just boil them up into syrups, mix them up and see what happens.”

I’m not too sure I’m ready to boil cloves and infuse basil just yet, but I’m willing to start simply. This afternoon, I’ll be experimenting with a virgin bloody Mary, white grape juice with club soda, and a cheese plate.

P.S. All pairing suggestions are welcome!


28 and Curious

Today is my twenty-eighth day of sobriety. It has been a pretty interesting four weeks filled with curiousities, insight and their fair share of annoyances too.

Mind Matters:

The foggy daytime mind present in the first two weeks is clearing rapidly while at the same time, that galloping horse of a nightime mind is moving faster than ever pulling a cartload of dreams behind her. I wake up at all hours of the night to scribble images and words into the little notebook on my bedside table. One day I’ll make sense of these tales.

Sleeping to heal:

That being said, I’m sleeping a helluva lot more which I’m taking as a sign that my body is working overtime, healing my liver, heart, lungs, tummy, brain, sanity.

Eating to heal:

As we’re onto the topic of healing i have noticed myself sheepishly admitting to organic store owners that I’ve quit drinking. Why sheepishly? I think it has something to do with a ‘should’ve known better all along’ type of thing. The owners I’ve known for a while have been very encouraging and are happy for me. We have long discussions about which fruits vegetables, herbs and spices have anti-oxidant, detoxifying and healing properties. It feels good to have such support from the right places.

The early bird catches a different worm:

Waking up earlier is also an added plus. It helps me to develop a productive morning routine the discipline of which stays with me for the day. I’ve been more creative, focused and positive, and the clarity of thought is pretty cool. Teeny downside: the over-thinking is too much sometimes, and the lists! OMG the lists! I was a list maker to begin with. The upside to all this clarity is actually setting get-able goals. I’m excited. I actually find myself planning for the future and saving money toward something instead of saving money because I ‘should’.

First cravings and a ‘first’ date:

I had my first craving last weekend, but it was not for alcohol – it was for the familiar. For the ease and ‘natural’ flow of a date. I didn’t know what to do with my hands at first and felt unsettled because I thought I looked uncomfortable which made me think I was making my host uncomfortable. He was pretty awesome about everything though: a tiny smile and a nod when I arrived at his house and handed him a box of green tea and a large bottle of water instead of a bottle of wine; allowing me to select music which would make me feel comfortable; kissing my pout away and pulling me to dance when I said I was feeling a little lost. The truth was I felt like I lost a way to connect. Our love of food and shared interest in food pairings, (usually with wine or beer), we had in common. This time I had tea instead of chardonnay with my sushi and thankfully the food critic in me was more interested in the difference in taste than the absence of wine. I guess this will take some adjusting to, but thankfully we have lots more in common and I’m game.

Judgment calls:

People keep asking me if i’m alright and I fly off the handle about it. This is typically how the conversation goes:

People: How are you?

Phoenix: I’m good. Doing fine actually: writing, de-cluttering and redecorating the apt, exercising, going to class.

People: That’s good but how are you doing with the…um… with everything?

Phoenix: Why does everyone keep asking me that? I’m fine!

I know. I’m sensitive. Yes, *pat pat* Phoenix , it is genuine concern on their part and not judgment and I shouldn’t take it as such. But whenever I hear that ‘concerned, not sure what to say’ tone, my inner Judge rears her ugly head. I am also aware that in the past I’ve been ‘superwoman strong’ and reluctant to turn to others for help,


so it’s understandable that others might assume that I won’t ask for help this time too. But while I have made this necessary change in my life and going through the process in the best way I can, I’m the same person. I’m not fragile. Not broken. Not irreparably damaged. I’ve always been a good listener and a shoulder for others, which I love being. I’m highly empathetic and I like being there for others. But I get the feeling that people are seeing me differently now. My sister confided in me about something important to her and then said she didn’t want ME to take it on and worry. As if stress and worry will make me start drinking again.

I find myself reminding people that I never craved that first drink. Sometimes I had trouble stopping once I started but I never pined for a glass of wine. It’s been over a year of sticking to that rule: Don’t drink when worried, stressed or angry. So it’s been quite a while since I wanted to drink when the going got tough. But all that aside I’m working to understanding that people are genuinely concerned and cutting them some slack. There are a lot of preconceived notions about the nature of alcoholism and most people just don’t understand what the nature of my relationship with alcohol is.

It really is like an abusive ex-boyfriend: Once you finally see who you are, what you deserve and find the strength to walk away, it is for good. I’m never going back to that place.


I’m still going to the Robert Paulson meetings and checking in at least once a day with you folks in my Sober Blogging Network.

On being around the Stuff.

I still have my boyfriend’s bottles of wine and my sister’s beers in the fridge for when they come over and I still hang out with my friends who drink. Little by little it’s becoming less noticeable to them when I order my soda water with mint and lemon and them noticing is becoming less important to me.

I’m awesome in the grocery store and while I do feel a little daring walking down the alcohol aisle and shaking my head at the little hairs standing up at the back of my neck, (not unlike seeing a dangerous ex), there are no feelings of loss, no FOMO, no urge to hide a bottle of wine in my basket and run for the hills. I like having more money and treating myself to US$30 worth of strawberries and blueberries instead of a US$30 bottle of wine, or calling up my favourite sushi restaurant on my way home from work and ordering sashimi to go. The same money I would’ve spent at the watering hole after work I use to treat myself with stuff I love. I gotta tell yah, the little rewards make this so worth it.

The Other Side

All that being said, I am not and will never underestimate alcohol again. It is and never will be something I can have a relationship with. Understanding acknowledging this fact was the first thing I had to do. Making the choice to stop drinking was the second. Understanding this ongoing process is what I’m doing now and I must say, it’s a good thing that psychology, philosophy, sociology and human development are some of my favourite subjects. I am understanding so much more about myself by acknowledging my triggers and coming to terms with their source. As Lisa Neumann says: I don’t choose to try drinking anymore. I tried it for a long time. It didn’t work. There is no secret to sobriety. Those that choose it, have it. So here I am at my Day 28 and very happy to be exactly where I am.