Month: February 2015

The End Depends on The Beginning

“We think when we stop drinking that we are giving up a mind-expanding substance [when] in fact sobriety is the true freedom, and opens up new horizons beyond anything we could have dreamt.” Primrose

Deciding to give up drinking is an emotional, mental and physical struggle I remember very well. For years I suspected I had a problem and was terrified to admit it. I was afraid that it would mean that I was broken and a mess, which (in my ways of thinking back then) would mean that I was unworthy and unlovable. I was afraid that I would have to give up my keys to The Little World of Block-It-All-Out and be left with no way to escape all those issues I was running from. I wasn’t ready to spend time with real me because I felt that I was ugly and shameful.

I had tried quitting or at least curbing my drinking before. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.” But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. When I finally got fed up enough with myself and knew I had no choice, I knew that this time, I was quitting for ME. In my heart I believe that this made all the difference in the world.

“Problem is, people go into rehab and they’re not ready. You want to get sober for your parents, you want to get sober for your job, you want to get sober for the cops, you want to get sober to protect your image. A lot of good reasons, by the way, but unfortunately, the only thing that works is that you have to want to get sober for you. So, I was ready.” ~ Rob Lowe (quote courtesy How To Vomit Politely)

Finis origine pendet: The end depends on the beginning.

I was talking to a friend today about how self-assured and confident I feel. A lot of doubt has gone. I am ready for possibility, for all that life has to offer.

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Little Phoenix

I smile at baby photos of myself now. I never used to, and didn’t like to display my childhood photos around the apartment. When I looked at them I used to feel ashamed. Like I’d let that smiling toddler down. My heart would break to see her cheeky smile and innocence and I felt so far removed from the little girl I saw in those photos. I used to feel that I’d lost ME somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m smiling back with the same smile, full of wonder and joy and mischief. We whisper secrets back and forth. She tells me to look for the hummingbird hovering outside my window, to listen out for the wind chimes hanging in my porch, and about the real magic of rainbows. I tell her that the world is just as big and beautiful as she thought it would be, and even if life gets rough sometimes (as it will) she will be okay. And I tell her that I can remember her voice and her stories. I tell her that we are still up to mischief. I tell her that yes, she did grow up to be brave, strong and amazing.

If you choose to value yourself and make the change for YOU, because you deserve it, you too can do it.

Love and light, Phoenix

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You Have A Lot To Offer

Roots

On my one year anniversary I wrote from my heart about what I thought it took for me to reach my first milestone: Acceptance of self, understanding, community, structure and knowing when to ask for help. I forgot to add one valuable component: BEING OF SERVICE

On the days when I feel at my lowest and the most disconnected from myself are the days when I feel purposeless. Those are the days when I stay under the blanket and binge watch TV series like Vikings or Games of Thrones, or Harry Potter movies, just to disappear into a another world. But, once I get tired of hiding, (and feeling sorry for myself), I get to work. I look for ways to be of service. Trust me, helping others, helps you in so many ways too. I have found so much of myself by being compassionate and caring when I can. The big and the little things do make a difference.

TURN YOUR PASSION INTO A MISSION

I was lucky when I first gave up drinking, as at the same time I was also just starting up my own writing group. The little club I founded has proven to be one of the stabilizing factors of my journey. It became a space for creative growth with a fantastic energy which not only helped me but also helped the other writers in the group. It brings me such joy to hear them say they have learned, grown and found their own voices just from being a member of our group. Aside from identifying a hobby (which has always helped me) and bringing together other creatives with a passion for writing, being in charge of the group gave me responsibility and purpose.

LOOK FOR THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS

I try often to get involved in community clean up campaigns, fund-raisers and the like but last year I turned it up a notch. I made a point to surround myself with people who were actively making changes. I went to social enterprise meet-ups to find out who was involved in what and volunteered for projects. I couldn’t help out monetarily but I volunteered my time, helping with food and clothing drives and by writing articles or blogging for free.

DONATE

In my community, there are always people who need assistance. Banks, churches, social enterprises are always posting notices about items needed. I try to clear my closets at least twice a year, and my pantry more often than that. My sister has a toddler so I’m always giving away baby clothes and toys.

WRITE

Writing has always helped me. This is why I blog and I suspect this is why many of you blog as well. So I started writing encouraging and uplifting pieces for online journals that publish such work. I did it for fun and to keep myself busy and there is nothing more rewarding than reading comments which say that you’ve helped someone. Most online journals have a “Write For Us” section or you can simply send them an email to ask.

LISTEN

Many times I feel very wrapped up in my own life and my own issues. Which is also okay because I know I have to put my stability first, but I do make an effort to be there for my friends and family as well. Many times what people need is someone who will listen to them with kindness and without judgement. When someone is telling me about themselves, or a raw deal they are going through, I try not to interrupt them with my own feelings, thoughts, and stories. Simply listening, without going into my typical “must find a solution mode”, helps.

REACH OUT

We all feel cut off from friends and family and very alone at times so it stands to reason that your own loved ones also feel this way now and then. I try to remind my over-analytical self that sometimes when a loved one is being distant, it has nothing to do with me, and that they might be going through something as well. So I send a text message or call just to let them know that I’m thinking of them. Little gestures go a long way too.

BE KIND & COMPASSIONATE

These days, life is so busy. I’m always rushing about, juggling two jobs and my constructive extra curricular activities,  but I do try to remember that kindness goes a long way. I hold doors open for strangers, I chat with the people who serve me food or cash my purchases at the grocery or drugstore. I smile at people and say Hello or Good day. It makes a huge difference to my mood and the way people respond to me as well. Even a simple smile, a Hello, or compliment could lift someone’s spirit! Some days I’m a right proper grump and don’t feel like being courteous, which happens to all of us, but I regret it after as I’ve found that on those days, my mood inevitably deteriorates further and I end up under that blanket, hating the universe. So I try.

“Compassion is not prevention of all negative certainty, it is a home floating on the sea of fear, that equally brings assistance to those sinking.” ― James C. Emlund

Helping can be just about anything as long as it is done with sincerity. Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others.

Hugs and love, Phoenix

How Did I Get This Far?

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Two days ago my sister sent me an early Happy One Year message to say congratulations. I’ve been silent on this blog for a couple of months because my mind and heart were filled with unanswerable questions every time I tried to write a new post. As my anniversary approached I really had no idea how I would feel on the day itself.

Would I feel a sense of accomplishment? Or would I feel strange and a bit directionless as I usually do after a very rewarding experience? A tiny part of me even speculated that I’d feel sorrow or a sense of loss as I would no longer be a ‘newbie’ with all the gentleness, kindness and kid-glove handling that usually comes with being at the beginning of any journey that is deemed difficult. And then of course, there was the part of me that was a little freaked out by the big “So What Now” question. I even felt a bit guilty because, while my first year has been an intense emotional journey, for me it has not been particularly challenging physically or mentally (aside from the over-thinking). I know of so many others who are really struggling and I wish I could help. I’m not certain of what is different about my journey so far that has allowed me to reach this milestone, but I can tell you what has helped me:

CRAWL AROUND IN YOUR WOUNDS, SO YOU CAN HOPE AGAIN

In the first few months learning to recognize and understand what my triggers were helped me a lot.  Learning to accept and gently face my own personal issues has become invaluable to my growth. It’s not easy and sometimes I want to damn it all to hell. Believe me, I miss the abandon that can come from giving in to the madness. Sometimes I miss not caring so much. But, the trade-off is worth so much more to me than giving in. I have embraced walking around in my wounds, hand in hand with my dark side, and facing the shadows together, and I have to say, some days I actually enjoy exploring this new territory because I know that I’m wiser, tougher, and more whole because of it.

“As frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have, and it comes from the most human part of us: Hope.”  Professor X, X-men: Tales of Future Past

UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE NOT BROKEN

In the beginning I worried a lot about what people would say. I was ashamed and felt dirty, broken, unattractive. I thought that having a problem meant that I was a problem. Of course, I was wrong and even now, I still have to remind myself often. It’s takes a lot of work to change self-defeating habits into self-appreciating ones but it IS possible. You are not broken. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Making the decision to give up drinking is a big step in itself, one you should be proud of. Trying every day is also another.

“I stand firm in my belief that anyone who has repeatedly demonstrated that they do not posses an off switch would be far happier if they stopped trying to locate one. Stopping drinking for such people equates to the beginning of self-love, contentment and living a full life. Freeing the mind by calling it a day on the fight with alcohol is a true gift.” Soberistas

FIND A COMMUNITY

In the beginning I went to a few AA meetings because that was what was expected. I found a greater sense of community and healing here however, on the Sober Blogging Network. I could relate better to fellow writers and bloggers. No matter what “our drug of choice” is, or the level of our addiction, the struggles we face are the same. We all endeavour to value ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. We all face demons and dark sides of our past in the first few months of sobriety, and we all have to find the tools to deal with them and heal. We all have to come to an understanding about our triggers. We all want to feel better and be proud of our accomplishments. We all want compassion. We all want to be understood and to believe that we are not alone. Whether that sense of community comes from the Sober Blogging Network or from AA Meetings, it is invaluable to have. Find a community that feels comfortable for you and say Hi. You’ll find that there is always someone willing to smile back at you.

IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP

Trust me when I say that it is okay to ask for help. Whether you ask members of your AA group, the Sober Blogging Network, your friends, the higher power you believe in, or even me, you will find peace in asking. This is not a journey you have to undertake alone.

BE OF SERVICE

On the days when I feel at my lowest and the most disconnected from myself are the days when I feel purposeless. Those are the days when I stay under the blanket and binge watch TV series like Vikings or Games of Thrones, or Harry Potter movies, just to disappear into a another world. But, once I get tired of hiding, (and feeling sorry for myself), I get to work. I look for ways to be of service. Trust me, helping others, helps you in so many ways too. I have found so much of myself by being compassionate and caring when I can. The big and the little things do make a difference.

STRUCTURE

I figured out what worked for me and what brought me dangerously close to the edge. I changed my socializing habits and my diet. I made lists of what was important to me, pinned them to the fridge and stashed them in my wallet. I made a commitment to this blog. I focused on making the creative pursuits I enjoy a greater part of my life. I made a commitment to healing myself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. What worked, I kept. What didn’t, I tossed (without looking at myself as a failure). Different methods suit different people. Figure out what suits you and makes YOU happy.

“Part of recovery is structure: Recognizing what is working and sticking with it.” Sherlock, Elementary

NOW, TODAY IS THE DAY

I have officially been sober for 365 days. Yay me! I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of emotion I felt when I received my sister’s message that day. For the rest of that day, I was one of those people you see walking around with little smiles tugging at the corners of their lips. I was happy with ME. I was proud of myself, finally. And I still am.

Love and light to you all,

Phoenix