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The Moderation Contemplation

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Winds of Freedom – Mona Davis

Are you trying to decide whether or not moderating your alcohol intake is the preferable option to giving it up entirely? Hugs and love to you. I know this is hard.

If I may, I’d like to ask you two questions:

1. Do you believe that being able to drink moderately makes you better or more whole as a person?
2. Do you know the reasons why you want the escape that drinking “promises”?

If you’re struggling to answer these two questions honestly, perhaps abstinence is the way to go. Of course the decision is yours but I’ll share my story:

I was a binge drinker which means that I could go days or weeks without drinking but when I did drink, anything could happen. Back then, if I was upset or angry the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that the high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped. Deep down I knew I had a problem with limits and believing it was a question of willpower, I had tried quitting or at least moderating my drinking many times. 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. Years later, when I finally got fed up enough with myself and all the blackouts, and with hurting people I loved, knew I had no choice. I knew that this time, I didn’t want to be the girl who couldn’t give it up. In my heart I believe that perspective made all the difference.

Early on in my sobriety I was afraid that I’d always feel broken, and inadequate, defective or abnormal because I couldn’t drink the way other people did. As time went on, I came to realize that choosing to figure out why I wanted to drink in the first place, and understanding that it was not about will power but instead about goodwill toward myself, made me proud not be a drinker. It became a source of strength and confidence.

Today, I know for a fact that alcohol never made anything better.  In terms of moderation, if you are already at the point where you are telling yourself that you should be moderating your alcohol intake, it usually means that alcohol simply isn’t for you. You are either safely unaffected by it or a stronger, better you without it.

Healthy Change Is Nurtured Into Being

Changing habits takes time. Gentleness, kindness and nurturing. There’s a reason for that. It’s so that change can be permanent. Think of your recovery, or any major life change as a tree. It starts as a seed – small, hard, seemingly unimportant in the grand scheme of things. That us, we’re seeds. Waiting to grow up.

If we’re rushed, we grow up stunted unable to be fruitful or to blossom. If we’re nurtured, fed nourishment and given everything that helps us to evolve we grow in strength and beauty. Granted, for most of us who struggle with limits or addiction or self-inflicting pain, we want to be better now – we want our lives to be different now. We judge ourselves harshly for not healing or growing or developing quickly enough. That kind of judgment hurts us and can be debilitating.

Healing and growing takes nurturing and kindness. Healthy change is nurtured into being. Be gentle with yourself dear one.

Hugs and love, Phoenix.

The Past Is Just A Story We Tell Ourselves

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Samantha: “Last week my feelings were hurt by something you said before: that I don’t know what it’s like to lose something. And I found myself…”
Theodore: “Oh, I’m sorry I said that.”
Samantha: “No, it’s okay. It’s okay. I just… I caught myself thinking about it over and over. And then I realized that I was simply remembering it as something that was wrong with me. That was the story I was telling myself – that I was somehow inferior. Isn’t that interesting? The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”

I read once that the stories we tell ourselves about our lives may be more important than the actual events of our lives, they can actually shape our happiness more than our lives themselves. For example, “if you still feel anguish from a particularly rough breakup, change the story you tell yourself about it. Rather than being the poor guy or girl who got cheated on and will never heal, make yourself the person who got out of a terrible situation before you married and made a big mistake. If you were a child of divorced parents and worry that you’re doomed to repeat the same pattern, turn yourself into the outlier of your family who will cultivate a lasting relationship.” ~ Alexis Meads

Seems simple enough. Of course, I know that the author did not mean burying feelings or ignoring realities or boundaries. He meant to change our perspective on the experience. Since I am changing the way I look at myself (victim or survivor; ashamed of or inspired by my past; afraid of failure or of regret), I am changing the way I tell my stories too. I won’t focus on painful and disappointing experiences. After all, it’s not what happened to me that hurt me but the way I viewed what happened. It’s the stories I tell myself: the interpretations and meanings I give to those experiences.

So I’ve made a decision: To choose a new story for my old stories. Instead of seeing them as examples of lack I choose to love that they will forever be a part of my life and accept that they are a part of me because they have made me who I am today.

“Oh darling, it’s okay that you faltered…that you engaged in a destructive behaviour that was not in keeping with your true values. You did it to dull the pain, diminish the anger. But you realised that it still lay there… pressed further down. Let it Come Up a thousand times, again & again. Let it Rise…and Drift Away.” ~ Patrice Charles

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by thought-provoking quotes by fictional philosophers, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

Do… or do not. There is no try

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Do… or do not. There is no try. ~ Yoda

A philosophical blogging challenge wouldn’t be complete without Master Yoda.

Especially when he is right. While I do also think that “you’ve already failed if you fail to try” I believe that Master Yoda was talking about having the right attitude. His apprentice, Luke, was young in the ways of The Force and didn’t believe in himself very much. He didn’t have the right attitude.

The many, many times I failed at quitting drinking, giving it up for a while, or even cutting back on the number of drinks, it was because I didn’t have the right attitude. I thought, like most people, that managing alcohol consumption was all, and only, about will power. I thought something must’ve really been truly wrong with me that I couldn’t drink (and enjoy alcohol) the way my friends did. But it was never about will power. It was about good will.

While I’m not judging anyone or condemning their relationships with alcohol I am much wiser when it comes to myself now. I know that I used alcohol as a tool for escape. I used it to run away from dealing with my issues and of course, it never made anything any better.

The times I’d failed to quit I didn’t have the right attitude, about many things. I didn’t see my self, my life and everything I wanted to achieve as worth enough to change my behaviour for. I didn’t see what alcohol really meant for someone like me. I didn’t see that I had issues with self worth that were deep-rooted. I didn’t believe that I could change them. I didn’t think I needed help.

The big difference this time, and in less than a month I will celebrate my second soberversary, is that I have the right attitude. While I will never underestimate alcohol again, I know I never drink again. I know I am worth it. I know I can do this. For me, there is no try.

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

You’re Kind of a Great Mess

You're kind of a great mess

“You’ve been hanging around here, trying to make yourself invisible behind this fragile little fuck-up routine of yours, but you can’t. You’re anything but invisible. You’re big. And you’re kind of a great mess, like a candle burning on both ends, but it’s beautiful. No amount or booze or weed or attitude is going to hide that.” ~ Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way we treat ourselves. Even those of us without obvious addictions. Many of my friends, beautiful, wonderfully creative and caring people, hurt themselves in so many ways. A few of us have trouble with recognizable addictions like alcohol and cigarettes, toxic relationships, unhealthy eating habits, too many hours at work, etc. For many of us, our negative habits are more internal: we put ourselves down, decry aspects of our bodies, doubt our worth, sabotage our potential and can be outright nasty when talking to own hearts. We say “I’m not good enough” far too often. We make ourselves so much smaller than we really are.

“The world beats you up on its own without you doing it to yourself.”  (The Way, 2010)

Nowadays, there is so much pressure to BE something else: more successful in business, finding the right partner, looking the right way, buying the right things, that it is no wonder so many of us think we don’t measure up to some preconceived notion of what we believe society expects us to be. By aiming to check things off on an impossible list we have forgotten how to trust our own hearts. Figuring out what are our passions, our strengths, the ways in which we can give back to the community or serve mankind. This kind of thinking is not usually encouraged and these goals are not made priorities. There’s so much pressure to become this or that, that little value is placed on just being true to ourselves.

Right now, all I want for myself and my friends (that includes you), is for us to be good to ourselves. To not make ourselves small by hiding and running away from our issues. To not hide parts of ourselves in shame. To recognize that it’s okay to have struggled and suffered and come out on the other side and to understand that it’s okay to celebrate that too. To be patient and tender and supportive if we’re still finding our way through. To honour that place inside that whispers wishes and hopes and tells us what we really want. Listen for it, underneath all the harsh words and cruel doubts. I know it’s hard to reach that place, to believe in that truth, especially if for years, we’ve been hearing something else. We ALL have good in us and deserve kindness and care, and deserve to stand up for ourselves, even if it’s to stand up to our own selves sometimes.

I get that it’s easier sometimes to be hard on ourselves, about our appearance or our progress toward our goals. But trying is what’s important. Reaching out to ask for help or to help others; doing the work to understand ourselves better; hoping, believing and trusting that we are all improving, fall backs and all, are the things that really matter.

As Spike told Buffy: “I love who you are, what you do, and how you try. You are very brave. I’ve seen your kindness and your strength and your weaknesses. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. Everything that you are, makes you beautiful.” Okay granted, Buffy was fighting vampires and other supernatural demons but we’re fighting our own demons too aren’t we? And we make messes and cry and scream against the madness and we try. Because we try and we fight, we are all the more beautiful in my eyes.

Love and light,

Phoenix

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

Coming Up On One

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I’ve been thinking about if it would mean something to me when February 3rd rolls around and marks my one year soberversary. I’ve written about my response to friends who advised me to be careful around my eight month mark because they knew people who had fallen off the wagon around this time. I said that it’s not about counting the days or months for me. It has about understanding the nature of my relationship with alcohol, recognizing my triggers, and learning how to truly care about myself.

But, lately I’ve been thinking that there is something important and beautiful about reaching that One Year milestone. My guy says that the first anniversary is significant from a cyclical perspective. On February 3rd, I would’ve gone through Carnival, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my birthday, loved ones’ birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s as a sober person. I would’ve celebrated and participated in yearly events differently than I had grown accustomed to. He has a point.

Then, as the Universe usually arranges, just as I was deep in thought about all of this one year anniversary stuff, I saw an episode of Elementary where Sherlock’s sponsor explained to him why he should care about his first soberversary:

Alfredo: Milestones like this one, they’re yours, but they’re not about you. They’re about all the people who haven’t got there yet.

Which of course I totally get. I have been so encouraged and energized by fellow bloggers who have made it past their first year:

Primrose just celebrated her first year, so did Vodka Goggles, and Sober Learning is days away from her anniversary.

Allie is at 9 months too like me.

Then there’s Cynthia Ann who talks about The Recovery Timeline on her blog Second Sobriety.

We are all so genuinely happy for one another when we succeed that the meaning of making these milestones, especially during our first year, has got to be greater than each of us.

A New Story

I had coffee with a new friend a few evenings ago. We had a great time comparing our stories and getting to know one another. Later that night, while I was falling asleep, I thought about all that we had talked about. I realized that while I was happy to have shared what I consider to be new stories, I had spoken of the old stories in the same way that I had been for a long time, despite the fact that a lot of time had passed and my understanding and interpretation of those old stories had changed.

I woke up feeling heavy and unsettled and it took me a few days to truly understand why. Even though I had long come to terms with the old stories and have accepted that they are a part of my past, I was still choosing to drag along with me the old heavy, hurtful, angry feelings they once produced.

I made a decision right then and there to choose more. To choose a new story for my old stories. I choose to love that they will forever be a part of my life and accept that they are important to me because they have made me who I am today. And I’m not half bad, when I really think about it.

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When Silence is Broken

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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.

Phoenix.

Once A Pickle, Always a Pickle

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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