Change

Therapy For Change

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“Therapy only works when we have a genuine desire to know ourselves as we are, not as we would like to be.” ~ Hannibal Lecter

Therapy can take different forms: seeing a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist; self awareness and personal development exercises; creative and artistic exploration; sharing past experiences with others who can relate to what you are going through. All require us to be brutally honest with ourselves and to have the courage and willingness to explore who we really are.

I sought professional help twice in my life, with the last time being back 2011. That session, which lasted just under a year, was effective because I was all in. I chose to seek the advice of a psychologist because I was fed up of two decades worth of repeating poor choices, from drinking and smoking too much, to allowing myself to foster codependent and unhealthy relationships, to sabotaging my own growth every time I made any progress. I knew I had to get at the root causes of my behaviour and I knew I could not do it on my own.

It was not easy rehashing my mistakes and painful experiences and I remember asking many times, “Why is it called a breakthrough when it feels like a breakdown?” But the tools I learned back in 2011 were invaluable when I quit drinking two years ago. I’m still learning about myself because I’m still changing. We are always changing and, hopefully growing.

“Real change is seldom a giant step. It’s usually a small one. Small but deeply real. We hold the fear and the faith at the same time and we cross the bridge slowly. When we get to the other side, we have been transformed – not by the stepping out itself – but by the willingness to stay open during the crossing. That’s what changes us – creating a space inside for a new way of being to emerge.” ~ Jeff Brown

~*~

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.

P.S. Is it weird that I’m totally excited about using a quote from Hannibal? 🙂

All Change Begins With A Plan

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“All change begins with a plan, the success of which depends upon several things: depth of commitment, passion for one’s cause, willingness to embrace a new path, determination to overcome any obstacle, and in some cases, even making unnatural alliances.” ~ Klaus Mikaelson

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is only a month away and the next month of 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.

All change begins with a plan

January is the month that many people make New Year resolutions to quit drinking, or at least, to not drink so much. When I made the decision to quit it was not the first time I’d said “That’s it! I’m NEVER drinking again. By that time in my life, I’d made that statement more times that I could remember, usually on the morning (or afternoon) after a night of heavy drinking. I’d be nursing the hangover from hell, trying with a very foggy brain to remember details of the night before, hoping and praying that I hadn’t said or done anything I’d really regret. Sounds familiar? So what made this declaration different than the ones before? For one thing, I’d just found out that I was in danger of losing the person I’d hurt this time. It was my sister and she had had enough. It was a wake-up call. I was full of remorse for what I’d done, disappointed in and more than angry and fed-up with myself. I was scared too. How many times was I going to do this to myself and to the people I care about? Why was it so hard to simply behave!? But you see, there wasn’t anything simple about my drinking at all. It was time to face facts: I had a problem, needed to get help and had to do whatever it took to deal.

Commitment, passion, openness, and determination

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 way 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 believed myself to be 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.

I made some phone calls and asked for advice on where to go. I went to a meeting and started this blog to hold myself accountable. I knew it was not going to be easy but I also knew that nothing was going to make me give up. When I quit drinking I quickly found out that I had let alcohol become a habitual way to deal with so many emotions: anger, hurt, loneliness, frustration, fear. Of course, I wasn’t really dealing with any emotion. I was in the “efficient” habit of numbing what I felt. In actuality, the numbing and “escaping” only served to push the difficult emotions deep down into my psyche, where they prevented any real growth on my part. Once I figured that out the real work began.

Making unnatural alliances

I had to become a friend, to myself. Before you think I’m referring to the “I have to learn to love myself” philosophy that’s all the rage, let me stop you right there. I mean, I had to get to KNOW myself. I know I did not quit drinking for my sister but her actions that day forced me to look at the kind of person I was. Who I knew myself to be deep down inside was not the person on the outside. The Me on the outside was drowning in alcohol related side effects and becoming someone who had no understanding of herself and honestly did not like herself very much. I needed to understand myself, simple as that. I had to dig deep to find the source of my triggers and negative core beliefs, and rewire my thinking process with compassion and acceptance. It’s a work in progress but it is doable. I’m proof of that.

Quitting Drinking for 2016

If you’ve come across my blog because you’re wondering if you have a problem with alcohol maybe this can help clear it up:

I was a binge drinker. Which means that I didn’t drink every day, or got drunk every time I drank, but I had problems with limits. By the time I reached my low point I was drinking at least three times for the week and getting drunk about four times for the month. Once or twice a year I’d get drunk enough to have to rely on loved ones to drive me home. Oh and most importantly, I used alcohol as a means of escape instead of dealing with life. Long story short, all binge drinkers can and, if their habits are not checked, will become alcoholics at some point. What happens next, is up to you.

Love, light and courage,

Phoenix

 

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 drip, drip, drip of existence

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The Monotony – by Enzzok

“I’ve been feeling a little bit down of late. It’s the process of maintaining my sobriety. It’s repetitive and it’s relentless and above all it’s tedious. When I left rehab I accepted your influence. I committed to my recovery and now two years in I find myself asking: Is this it? My sobriety is simply a grind. It’s just this leaky faucet which requires constant maintenance and in return offers only not to drip.
I used to imagine that a relapse would be the climax to some grand drama. Now I think that if I were to use drugs again it would in fact be an anticlimax, the impious surrender to the incessant ‘drip, drip, drip’ of existence.” ~ Sherlock, Elementary

I am 100% happy that I quit drinking. I celebrate the fact that I am sober and I am happy about it. I am relieved and grateful that the journey has not been difficult. So what’s my problem? Why can I relate so well to what Sherlock said up there?

In the beginning, when I quit, I knew that giving up my means of emotional escape would leave the doors and windows open for all my demons to enter. In actuality, the roof was blown off as well, leaving the way open for decades worth of dark stormclouds to wreak their vengeance on me for ignoring my own authentic heart. It has been, and still is, one hell of revealing, and amazing, journey. I don’t mind it all that much. What I do mind, and what I think I am having a problem with is the stasis.

I am at the point where I have changes to make. I feel an increasing need to make life simpler, cleaner, healthier, more creative, more worth it.

And that’s the crux of it isn’t it? To make a move. To push yourself to make the changes you need to. To clear away what you don’t need and what doesn’t serve you. To clear away the residue left by the nonsense, the bad habits, toxic relationships and poor choices. To clean and clear away until you find your authentc self and celebrate that. Work with that. To notice what makes you stand a little taller,  who makes your heart open and what brings you joy. Fill your lfe with those things and those people.

Stasis can be necessary sometimes for rest, reflection and regrouping. But then you move. YOU make things happen. The choice is yours.

Hugs and love,

Phoenix

The Ghost Of A Boy

The Book Thief Ghost of a Boy

“There once was a ghost of a boy who liked to live in the shadows, so he wouldn’t frighten people. His job was to wait for his sister, who was still alive. She wasn’t afraid of the dark, because she knew that’s where her brother was. At night, when darkness came to her room, she would tell her brother about the day. She would remind him how the sun felt on his skin, and what the air felt like to breathe, or how snow felt on his tongue. And that reminded her that she was still alive.” ~ The Book Thief

The world is breaking my spirit. The terrible stories I hear in the news every day are getting to me more and more. Stories of us, humans, hurting each other in horrifying and simple ways. We are not guiding our children. In the news recently four primary school boys gang raped a 12 year old girl. Primary schoolchildren! A man was arrested for molesting a 4 year old. I can’t imagine the irreparable damage done to these children. And this is just scratching the surface. Dozens of crimes go unreported. Our so called leaders are corrupt. Courtesy and considerstion don’t exist on our roads. People are filled with hate.

International news reads the same way. So many people live day to day and our cultures teach us to care only about ourselves not our neighbours. I can’t fathom the trauma faced by the girls kidnapped by boko harem. Most of them have had children who were starved alongside their teenaged mothers. I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Why are we so horrible to one another? Why do people decide to have children if they can’t make a commitment to raise them with kindness, consideration and love. Why have children if they can’t spend time with them, to teach them, to help them grow into adults who care?

What terrifies me more than anything is the growing awareness that these heinous acts have been prevalent in our societies throughout history, and we only now have ready-access knowledge of them through the internet and social media. Why do humans have such as much capacity for hate as we do for love? Why do some choose hate instead of love?

I am trying to find the light, to see the sunshine without feeling so desperate. To remind myself that there are things to be grateful for and joyful about. But more and more, I find that I am increasingly sensitive to how much we are hurting each other, our planet and ourselves. We have little regard for building sustainable futures or taking care of the Earth. We disrespect nature as much as we disrespect each other.

I want a way out, an escape, to block it all out all the negative. But if I do that, wouldn’t I just be doing what everyone else does? The fictional rape and burning of GoT’s Sansa and Shereen seems to have made more of an impact than the real life victims we hear about all over the world or even at home, in our own countries. I don’t understand. It’s all so heartbreaking.

In my own little way I try. I volunteer for food and clothing drives. I minimize waste and recycle as much as I can. I become involved in purposeful projects which encourage, support and celebrate young people. I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am. There is so much I love about life. But, for the last few weeks the ugliness in this world is made larger and more horrible against the fading backdrop of hope.

I disconnect a little more each day from social media’s reach. The news stories are all too much and I find myself drawn to certain places seeking solitude, peace and gratitude. I do find it, or rather, I used to find it, before. I would go for walks on the beach or in gardens to connect, to feel grounded amidst the chaos all around me. To feel the wind on my face, smell the salt in the sea air, and crunch grass beneath my bare feet. I would place my palms upon tree trunks. I would breathe deeply when I felt the real connection I sought and even sobbed at the fullness and the emptiness of the moment. I would return to “daily life” refreshed and revived.

But not anymore. I can’t find that peace and release. And I no longer know how to.

If I Should Have A Daughter

B (If I Should Have a Daughter)
by Sarah Kay

Instead of “Mom”, she’s gonna call me “Point B.” Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder-woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.

And “Baby,” I’ll tell her “don’t keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, you’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him.”

But I know that she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix. Okay, there are a few heartbreaks chocolate can’t fix. But that’s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything if you let it.

I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind. Because that’s how my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this, “There’ll be days like this my momma said” when you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you wanna save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say “thank you,” ‘cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.

You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.

And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

“Baby,” I’ll tell her “remember your mama is a worrier and your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.”

Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things and always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

You can find this new book by one of my favourite poets here: http://bit.ly/K_Bhbg

Or you can find it at any of these booksellers:
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Amazon: http://bit.ly/K_Baz

I Miss The Madness

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I was talking to a girlfriend about my choice of semi-goth attire for our most recent night out. Granted, some 15 years ago my chunky black boots, black eye liner and red lipstick were all part of my go-to gear for a night out listening to bands, but it’s a style I haven’t worn in a really long time.

I tried to explain to her that I was just trying it out, sort of tapping back into my expressive side. I was feeling particularly grungy and playful so I guess i felt like playing “dress up”. Plus, I was listening to Alice In Chains as I got dressed. But as I joked and teased about my little black vest I said “I’ve been toeing the line for so many months now that I miss madness a little.” I too was surprised by the statement and my widening eyes mirrored my friend’s as i realized how true it was. I don’t miss the recklessness but I do miss the freedom of abandon. Of feeling silly and youthful and comfortable enough with myself to play.

“Why so serious?”

Being sober is such a ‘serious’ thing that I’ve been straight spined with my clothes fixed just so and my toes to the line. Maybe it was what I needed to put my life in order and build stability amidst the chaos my life had become.

Maybe I’m on the flipside now. With so much sanity lately, maybe I need a little madness. I need little reminders of all the passion, creativity and fun life has to offer. Striking a balance is important after all.

“Madness can be a medicine for the modern world. You take it in moderation, it’s beneficial.” ~ Hannibal

Perhaps.

Zen & Self Acceptance

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Tenzin: I must stay focused. Remember who you are, Tenzin. You are the son of Avatar Aang. You are the hope for future generations of airbenders. The fate of the world rests on your shoulders. But what if I fail? Then your father’s hope for the future dies with you. I can’t fail!
Aang: Hello, my son.
Tenzin: Dad, I’ve failed you. I am no spiritual leader, and I’ve let the world down. I’ll never be the man you were.
Aang: You are right. You are trying to hold on to a false perception of yourself. You are not me, and you should not be me. You are Tenzin.
Tenzin: I am not a reflection of my father. I am Tenzin. I am Tenzin.

~*~

I’ve been stalling in writing the final post of the A to Z Challenge which was due on the 30th April. I put so much pressure on myself to write a brilliantly kick-ass wrap-up post that I just as brilliantly convinced myself that everything I composed was just plain ass. Of course, finding a title beginning with Z which was stimulating enough to inspire a post only served to exacerbate the issue. “Zis iz impozzible” crossed my mind many times. But here I am, more than two weeks late and determined to post tonight.

Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self. Heavy topic. But let’s see if I can explain where I am at. I am struggling and have been for a while. Quitting drinking and smoking a year ago changed the way I viewed many aspects of my life: my health, my social activities, my emotional, mental and spiritual habits, even the way I handled my finances. The aspects of my personality and character that are at the forefront of who I am now are different from those that were dominant a year ago.

While I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and pleased with the direction certain parts of my life are heading, I am wrestling with who I am. I am caught between who I expect I should be and who I think I am. I know much of it has to do with self criticism and judgment and I really am trying. I want to be more accepting of myself. I want to be comfortable with improving little by little or even just staying in one place for a little while. But I’m not. I know it is important to be patient and to understand that progress is a process, but honestly, sometimes I’m so tired of it all. I’m tired of thinking that I should be more.

In the scene quoted above, Tenzin’s realization that he had put tremendous pressure on himself by defining who he was as only one thing, Avatar Aang’s son, resonates with me. As I interpreted it, this scene was about self acceptance. Tenzin found clarity when he realized that he should not try to be anyone but himself. He accepted all of who he was, even the parts that he deemed “less” than worthy of the son of Avatar Aang. He was, in the end, more compassionate with himself.  This is how I endeavour to be: more compassionate and more accepting of myself.  I want to accept myself as I am. All of it. But even wanting to be more accepting of myself is thinking that “I should be more”. It’s a fine line to walk, I think.

While I have accepted the mistakes I made in the past, some time in the last year, I made it okay to hold my present self up to a very high standard. I give myself very little leeway for mistakes now, which, I think is wrong. I judge myself harshly for being “too sensitive” even when I know that my reactivity is not rooted in the present. I excuse unfair treatment by others because I tell myself to “rise above it.” I criticize myself for getting angry or shutting down when I need to set boundaries or retreat to a safe space, because I’m “supposed to be able to handle it.” I’ve been essentially setting myself up for failure and only hurting one person in the process: Me. Inadvertantly I’ve been eroding my self esteem by pushing too hard to be someone I think I should be.

From my research I’ve come to understand that although related, self acceptance is not the same as self esteem. Self esteem specifically refers to how valuable, or worthwhile  we see ourselves, and self acceptance alludes to a far more gobal affirmation of self. “When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves — not just the positive, more ‘esteem-able’ parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses, limitations, and foibles, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.” ~ Dr. Leon F. Seltzer

“Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self.” Okay. So here goes:

I accept that I am torn between dedicating hours doing purposeful work I enjoy and work I don’t. I accept that it might be some time before I figure out how to balance it all and I accept that this does not mean that I don’t really have super-powers. (smile)

I accept that I am at a particularly difficult crossroads, spiritually, emotionally and mentally which is manifesting itself physically, with headaches, tension, weight gain, backaches and shoulder pain. I accept that in an effort to feel more in control in this area, I have a tendency to project that loss of control onto other areas in my life. Unfairly so at times.

I accept that I have a fiery temper fueled by my insecurities and that I get jealous easily and feel abandoned easily. I accept that I inevitably try to determine the root cause of those inseurities and how they play out in my life.

I accept that I will always want to learn more and better understand this world and my place in it, I accept that I will always be curious about why I want to learn and understand in the first place.

I accept that I have both light and dark in me and that at the same time I need and don’t need balance.

I accept.

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Yabbering

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Toph: And then when I was nine, I ran away again. I know I shouldn’t complain, my parents gave me everything that I ever asked for. But they never gave me the one thing that I really wanted. Their love. You know what I mean?

I have a tendency to overshare. It was the most pronounced when I drank. Through the haze of alcohol drinking buddies and even acquaintances became “soul mates”. We were “destined to meet” and obviously had “a real connection” because after a few drinks we were pouring our hearts (and our personal business) out.

I am an empathetic listener and love psychoanalyzing people, so I have a way of getting people to open up to me. Of course, I always opened up about myself too. To an alarming degree at times. Then, the next time Sober Me (with a less than perfect memory of what we talked about) met the recipient of my confessions, I would be embarrassed and worried about how much I’d revealed. My new “friend” would be baffled by what appeared to be an about face on my part. I, on the other hand, would pretty much be ready to bolt.

I know why I did it. I told my personal stories to anyone who would listen, just because I needed approval and love so badly. I needed self-acceptance so much that I wanted someone who heard my stories to tell me that I was still a good person, not broken, or if I was indeed broken, say that I was made the more beautiful for it.

I keep the telling of my personal stories in check now, revealing them to only trusted friends. The reason why I share anything now has also changed. It’s no longer because I desperately seek approval or proof of worth, and is instead to offer understanding and compassion.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” ~ Brene Brown

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

X = Sobriety

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Jet: I’ve done some things in my past that I’m not proud of. But that’s why I’m going to Ba Sing Se, for a new beginning. A second chance.
Iroh: That’s very noble of you. I believe people can change their lives if they want to. I believe in second chances.

In primary school, we were given mathematical equations and taught how to solve for “x”.  We were taught how to look at a problem from all angles: algebraically, graphically and by using the concept of equivalence. We learned how to add, take-away, multiply and divide, and determine the variables (or unknowns) to find the solution. If we were impatient, tried too hard, or allowed the perceived complexity of the problem to overwhelm us, the solution was always frustratingly out of reach. But once we calmed down, realized that the math equation was not out to get us and followed simple rules, what was once puzzling was made clear.

Flash forward 30 years and I’m driving around the largest roundabout in the world, on my way to meet the girls, and having an epiphany. I finally realized what “x” is in my life. For me, x = sobriety. Now I am not saying that sobriety is the answer to all of my problems and that I have it all figured out. It isn’t and I don’t. But I cannot ignore how many different aspects of my life have improved since I had my last drink more than a year ago.

As 2014 began I was frustrated with my life and had little hope. I was sick and tired of making the same mistakes and I could not figure out why I could not get my life together. I was unhappy in my professional life, and felt stuck in a rut after working for the same firm for 15 years, yet at the same without hope that I could be of value anywhere else. I was angry with myself for drinking as often as I did and the way that I did. I was ashamed of it and unknowingly withdrew from or sabotaged relationships that were important to me. My self worth was at an all time low.

It was not all bad of course. There were moments of fun and happiness, and there were times that I did make an effort to change aspects of my life. I resigned from my job, but without having a new one waiting for me I ended up staying exactly where I was.  I was never getting enough sleep (sleeping off a hangover is not the same as a good night’s rest), smoking a half a pack a day (a pack if I was out drinking), not taking care of my body, and totally ignoring my creative side. I could not imagine what my future looked like. I just honestly could not picture it. And for the life of me, I could not figure out why I was where I was. I could not reason my way out of the puzzle I was in. At the time, I looked at giving up alcohol as just that. Giving it up. I would have the same life minus the booze. I had no idea that giving it up and thereby choosing to have a better life, that one factor, would be the common denominator in all the improvements to come.

Now, so many things have fallen into place. I feel like I have a second chance, at everything. Life did not magically improve of course, I put in the work that was required and I still do. But when I take stock and look back on the last 15 months and at all the variables, there is no denying that for me, x = sobriety.

There is a clarity of thought that I did not have before, the upside of which is focus which in turn manifested itself as determination and will. I now believe that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to or at least learn from simply striving for a new goal. Then there is the power of attraction. I do believe that like attracts like, and my more positive attitude and confidence has attracted a lot of positivity and stability into my life. No longer am I wasting my days and energy being hung over, regretting a night of drinking, or berating myself for having no direction in life. My days and energy are spent on more positive and rewarding endeavours.

I have been appreciating my relationships more than ever before, cultivating stronger relationships with old friends because I now know my worth and can be a better friend. I have also made new friends with common interests, other than alcohol, who inspire and motivate me on so many levels.

I have more love for myself and with it automatically comes self-confidence, care and self respect. I am gentler with myself by dealing with difficult emotions in healthier ways instead of judging myself for having them in the first place. I’ve found a renewal of faith that life is good, and that sincere effort is rewarded. I have hope again, for myself and for my future.

From my second chance to yours: love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.