Mind vs Body

Ikiru (1956)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

“Life is brief / Fall in love, maidens / before the crimson bloom fades from your lips / before the tides of passion cool within you / for those of you who know no tomorrow.”

2nd February 2014 to 11th April 2016:
1 new hat, one healthier liver
2 clear eyes, two lungs more pink than grey
3 new career paths with ladybirds on sunflowers
4 loves given a reboot
5 community projects that bring the sunshine
7 writing partners with Mad Hatter hats
8 dear friendships strengthened and deepened
17 pounds of excess weight lost
27 articles published, with blushes (did I write that?)
43 new poems I’ve grown so fond of
91 sober blogging friends I could not do this without
100 revealing blogposts
216 times I chose not to drink
324 packs of cigarettes I chose not to buy
800 life-changing days of sobriety
48,600 TT dollars I did not spend on alcohol
69,120,000 seconds of hard truths and lessons, of learning self-care and self-respect.
1,152,000 minutes of healing and hope, with growth, gifts and gratitude.
19,200 hours and me, here now with a newborn lust for life, embracing joy, passion and pride.
800 days of being in love with living.

~*~

My 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

Pieces They Left Behind: Poems inspired by Movies about Addiction & Absolution

Copyright © 2016 by Phoenix, author of Shadow. Ash. Spirit. Flame. All rights reserved. This poem or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author.

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My Beating Heart

Artwork by Michael Parkes

Artwork by Michael Parkes

“Once. I was on a trek in the Andes, and a hummingbird flew up to me and just hovered there staring at me. Its tiny heart was pattering like a machine gun… And I thought, what a thing, you know, to have to work that hard every day just to stay alive, to be constantly on the verge of death, and how satisfying every day must be that it survived” ~ Klaus Mikaelson

The human body is remarkable in the way it is designed to repair and heal itself. With the exception of serious illnesses or compromised immune systems, from the moment we sustain an injury or get sick, our bodies begin repairing. Blood clots, new cells replace old or damaged ones, muscle tissue regenerates. When I gave up drinking, I understood that I would experience physical withdrawal symptoms until the alcohol was completely out of my system, and I also understood that healing would take time. For me, I started feeling healthier about six weeks after I quit. By then my sleeping and eating habits had normalized. My energy levels were higher than ever and I steered more of it toward enjoying life instead of fighting hangovers.

A few months ago I went in for my annual physical and after listening to my heartbeat my doctor recommended that I schedule an echo cardiogram. She explained that it was probably nothing to be concerned about, but she was hearing a ‘snap’ in the mistral valve of my heart. She explained what the mistral valve was and what may have been creating the sound she heard through her stethoscope. Of course when I got to work that day I googled and learned all about the mistral valve and put myself in a nice little state of panic. After a few deep breaths I decided not to worry until there was something to worry about, after all the appointment was a week away and I didn’t want to spend seven whole days worrying and imagining the worst.

The day of the echo cardiogram I arrived at the lab early and while I waited, chatted with an elderly lady who was also scheduled for the same scan. Having been in and out of hospitals for problems with her heart, she was worried because the prognosis for her ailment was not good. I didn’t know what to say to her.

When it was my turn in the exam room, I removed my shirt, and lay down as I was asked. The technician came in, set up the monitor and explained what he was going to do. I knew from my research on the net that it was more or less the same equipment used when performing a sonogram to see unborn babies. Then I heard a squoosh-woosh, squoosh-woosh sound and looking at the monitor saw my heart pumping away. It was fascinating. Almost as cool as seeing a baby on the monitor.

The technician looked at my heart from three different perspectives, and explained which image showed my mistral valve. The squoosh-woosh sound continued and I felt so very protective of my own heart. It actually seemed vulnerable, which made me feel guilty for ever doing things that were bad for my heart. Things like way too much alcohol and thousands of cigarettes, poor diet and not exercising. My heart was working so faithfully to keep me alive and I had been completely disregarding that fact for most of my life.

I started to feel better when the technician said that all seemed well. What a relief. I was very grateful. Then the doc came in and confirmed the technician’s opinion, “Yes…”, he said, studying the images, “Yes, you have one happy healthy heart there.” I liked that. ‘Happy healthy heart.’

From my Happy Healthy Heart to yours: Be kind to your hearts and take care of them. They work hard to keep you alive, and they give you the chance to see all the beauty, love, and magic in this world.

Take care of each other’s hearts too.

~*~

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.

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.

X = Sobriety

pai_sho

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.

Giving Into It

Katara Care 2

Katara: I know sometimes it hurts more to hope and it hurts more to care. But you have to promise me you’ll never stop caring.

I can’t cry. Yes, it is surprising to me too. I talk so much about honouring your emotions and allowing them to spill out of you when they need to. Yet, I can honestly say, I can’t cry. Sure, I get worked up emotionally and I get choked up to the point of squeezing out a few tears. But I am so very in the habit of swallowing tears and taking those deep suck-up-the-whole-world-of-worry breaths that I just don’t cry.

I used to bawl. Under the influence, during pretty bad episodes. I’d bawl to the heavens and sob with anguish. But of course, I’d never get the release promised because I’d usually pass out drunk before such relief came. Then I’d wake up hollow and empty.

I’ve been reading up on the subject (because it worries me) and apparently this is a common problem with people who have addictive tendencies because it is used as a means of escape – of disconnecting. It’s root is the same: Fear. Disconnecting from our emotions manifests in specific ways: overeating, working excessively, drinking daily, engaging in compulsive sex, working long hours, and many other types of compulsive behavior. We push our feelings down through excessive behavior, to make sure we do not feel them at that moment. In my case, now that the alcohol is out of the picture for me, it seems like analysis (writing), and overeating may have taken its place.

What really struck a chord with me was reading this:

“People spend much time talking about how they feel.  They attend workshops, they visit therapists, and they tell others who did what to them and describe how they feel about it.  They talk and talk about their feelings but they don’t feel their feelings.  They intellectualize and analyze their feelings without feeling them. People are afraid to really feel their feelings, afraid of losing control, afraid of the pain involved in feeling their emotions, of feeling the sense of loss or failure or whatever the emotion brings with it.   People are afraid to cry.  So much of life is about what you feel rather than what you think. Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings.  Feeling them means owning them. Being strongly connected to your emotional life is essential to living a life with high energy and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.”

So… I want all of that. I want to be connected to my emotional side on an analytical level and on an expressive level. I want to feel my way through life. I don’t mind talking or writing my way through feelings, but I’d rather not talk or write to the point of numbing them. I miss the surrender.

Phoenix

~*~

This is Post G, 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 in 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.

Booze-free Breakups, Blueberries and the Brightside

A few days into Sober Singledom and I’m doing alright. The episodes of being Miss Bitch while driving (swearing in sign language at incompetent and inconsiderate motorists, or grinding my teeth when faced with ineptitude at the office) are becoming less and less. Today is a rough one. I know my temper is short these days so I am reminding myself to breathe. Nevertheless, I have learned a few tricks while finding my way about this unfamiliar territory.

THE BOOZE-FREE BREAKUP

It’s remarkable how much this week has reminded me of the first few days after quitting, with the odd sleeping hours and the over-thinking. It’s ridiculous! Without the usual alcohol numbing escape I am analyzing everything. In between the “WTF” and the “How dare he?” questions, [Okay Phoenix, give Mr. Potato Head back his angry eyes] there are the “What if it’s really me?”, “What if I’m f***ed up?” and “What if I’m unlovable and will never be a compatible with anyone?” feelings. I know it’s okay to be sad, feel vulnerable and have my mind’s cogs turning and questioning everything.  I’m going with it but being careful not to get carried away by it. I accept that my sadness and regret stem from the fact that I’ve lost something that was a part of me, into which I put time, effort and emotion. It is natural for me to feel regret and loss but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am NOT back to square one. I am not the same person I was before the relationship began and today’s Me has so many new opportunities that the old me didn’t.

BUSY, NOT BOOZY

Ok, maybe I’m overdoing it a bit with the alliterations but work with me. I have a plan. I’ve been keeping myself busy without running from the rough stuff. I know I need to process everything to get through it, but I’m also taking care of ME in little ways, with mani-pedis, full body scrubs and moisturizing. You know how after a break-up, life feels surreal? Well being in contact with my own skin helps me to feel present and grounded. I’ve gotten a haircut and covered the 3mm of gray hair that would’ve frustrated me a week from now. I went to the dentist to clean and polish my pearly whites. I keep a new canvas with paints and brushes at the ready and try not to binge watch TV series, unless I really need to. I have my girls on call for silly pep talk or a heart to heart, and reach out on my blog when I need to. (Thanks so much to all of you for reaching back). I cleaned my apartment and de-cluttered my kitchen. Oh! Speaking of kitchens…

BLUEBERRIES

I can’t run to booze, cigs, or weed to alter my mood, so I’m keeping my fridge stocked with feel-happy foods. Did you know that there are many foods that actually have a positive effect on our mood? Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain nutrients that help reduce stress and depression. Dark chocolate (yum) is high in magnesium, a mineral that calms muscles and reduces stress and anxiety. It also contains phenylethylamine (the same chemical generated by the brain when falling in love), causing the release of endorphins. Salmon and walnuts are packed with omega-3 which helps fight depression and mood swings. Avocados, coconut milk, almond milk and mushrooms all contain vitamin D which can improve mood by enhancing the production of the happy hormone, serotonin. Synthesized by the body in response to sunlight, serotonin becomes a feel-good neurotransmitter. Greek yogurt is a mood and immune system booster. Green tea, which is my go-to hot beverage, is full of theanine, an antioxidant which acts as a calming agent. I always knew bananas were a happy food and add them to my smoothies a few times per week. They are full of energy, vitamin B6, tryptophan, iron, magnesium and potassium. In fact, one banana has enough stress-reducing magnesium for the entire day!

THE BRIGHTSIDE

My impatience won’t last and I have admitted that the Universe is not really out to get me. I am so thankful that I am not dissolving into tears which I may very well have been doing if I’d been drinking. Being weepy and sorry for myself always came hand in hand with being too drunk.

I tell myself that the over-thinking and super analyzing is going to get me where I need to go much quicker. Instead of swallowing the rough feelings with whichever drink of choice as I would’ve done before, I am woman-ing up (with my pillow in hand) and allowing those pesky feelings to be sorted out.

My ex and I are on good terms and that’s a relief. We might even become better friends down the road because there was no damning, reckless,hurtful or resentful behaviour by either party in the end.

Because I have a sober head and able to stop an emotional meltdown, I am happy to report that I don’t see any risk of me turning to hook-ups to feel less needy. I know it is natural to feel that way after a break up as I am out of my comfort zone and just want to feel safe again, but that won’t happen by jumping into waiting arms or onto a waiting body. The age old advice: “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else” is utter BS. Those rebound relationships are never good. For me anyway. All my life, all they have ever done was delay the process of healing.

All these blueberries and dark chocolate and body treatments are actually good for my skin. Taking care of myself is comforting and protective in a way. I feel safe and fairly stable.

Remaining sober and taking care of myself physically has allowed me to be more present and recognize the positive things that are happening. I found the gumption to request and receive a raise at work which allowed me to buy my sister’s car. She is migrating so the sale of the car will help cover her start up costs. New articles are being published and proposals for future commissions have been accepted. I have seven articles due, my mom is visiting next week and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a break up, or booze jeopardize the positive adventures coming my way – career-wise, creatively or otherwise.

Love and light, Phoenix.

Click here for Blueberry Coconut Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Bits

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

Self-Destruction or Self-Preservation?

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“You don’t have a drinking problem you know. You just have to stop letting the bad stuff get to you. It’s only when you drink that you bring up all that old stuff and then you end up drinking more and crying.”

Worst advice I’ve ever been given. But in his defense, the person who said that had been a drinking buddy for a long time. In his defense I was still determinedly running from my darkside, hand in hand with Johnnie, Jack, and Jager.

But in my buddy’s “advice” lay two main truths. I was letting the ‘bad stuff’ (old demons, any perceived slights, rejections and unfair treatment) get to me. When new bad stuff happened and I dealt with it by drinking, all I would talk about would be the old bad stuff. And then the inevitable alcohol soaked outpouring would drench my world and any ready ear, friend or stranger.

It is astonishing (and a bit disturbing), the number of people I told about the bad stuff: about the stuff that bothered me to my core.  Okay, yes, they still bother me but I am learning how to deal with them in a healthier way, with self preservation in mind instead of self destruction. Self destruction only ever told me that my fears of being unworthy, unlovable or undeserving were warranted. I thought myself ‘bad’ and treated myself as such.

Anyway, to get back on topic. Alcohol never made anything better. Sure, the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that this 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.

Now that the alcohol induced fog has lifted and I’m allowing myself time to see, recognize and sit with the ‘bad stuff’, slowly but surely I am creating new ways of dealing with them. Bit by bit I am forming new habits. Instead of paying attention to the “I am feeling (insert difficult emotion here), so I want / need / deserve a drink” thoughts, I’m shifting my focus because I know drinking never really made anything better.

Yes, sometimes I don’t want to sit with my feelings or understand my triggers. Yes, sometimes I get tired of the over-thinking, and the mantras, and the pep talks to myself. But you know what? I’ll take being ‘frustrated with myself for brooding too much’ over ‘frustrated with myself for drinking’ any day. I know the brooding won’t last. I know that it’s all part of the process. I know it’s part of developing new habits, which instead of harming me, are actually helping me this time.

Love and light!

Phoenix

Photo Credit: Beyond The Mirror

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.