Sober Blogging Network

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

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Kindness

Iroh and Ming Kindness

Uncle Iroh: Thank you, Ming. Your little gestures of kindness have made my days in prison bearable.

Kindness received and shown in any sort of recovery is invaluable to its success. I will always be grateful for the support and kindness shown to me when I first gave up alcohol.

My boyfriend’s support meant a lot to me this past year. His consideration of my efforts to stay sober, by cutting back on his drinking, keeping his fridge well stocked with non-alco beverages for me, being willing to discuss my rapidly changing moods in the early days and to talk through my thoughts on every related subject helped me not to feel abnormal.

My girlfriends were great too. They were 100% supportive of my choice and assured me that they were going to be available to me when I needed them. One or two even went so far as to opt to meet for coffee or lunch so I would still have my girls’ time without our ‘regular’ drinks, or abstain from drinking when we did go out so I wouldn’t feel like the odd one out. In those first few weeks I was touched and reassured that I my friendship was still impotant to them too. When my boyfriend and I broke up and my sister migrated a few days later, my girlfriends made sure that I was not alone.

My mom, although I’ve told her that I don’t want to know if she reads my blog and that I’m not ready to talk to her about my sobriety yet, every now and then sends me short, sweet and encouraging “I am proud of you” messages.

These little acts of kindness make me feel loved and supported, and boost my confidence in my ability to continue. In turn, I try to do the same for others I meet who are also trying to quit or stay sober. I am always moved and appreciative of readers who take the time to read, like or comment on my blog and I return that kindness as often as I can. Many times this journey is not an easy one and these little gestures go a long way, for all of us.

~*~

This is Post K, 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.

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.

Making The Switch

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Recovery takes time and yes, I found out the hard way that I would have to finally deal with challenges I had faced in my past if I wanted to move forward and claim the life I know I deserve.

For most of my life I have been my own worst critic, judging and condemning myself in ways I would never do to a loved one. I was particularly harsh whenever I drank, which, after two decades, was sometimes at least a four-times-a-week routine.

Many times I wonder if the first step to recovery is actually deciding to love yourself rather than putting down that drink.

Learning to love and be gentle with ourselves is the hardest thing we will have to learn and that’s understandable actually. Because it means reversing years and years of habitually telling ourselves we’re not worth it.

It helped me to figure out the root cause of my feelings of unworthiness. They came from a long time ago and as the years went by I repeated those negative thoughts to myself whenever a situation occurred which stirred emotions similar to those I felt I during a difficult experience in the past.

Fortunately for me, (and I’m only scraping the surface of the coincidence), in 2011 I saw a psychotherapist for about 11 months. I opted to go to these sessions because I had allowed myself to become involved in a co-dependent and dysfunctional relationship. When I ended the relationship I was playing the blame and judgment game and had to know why I did not value myself enough to stay away from a man who was so wrong for me on so many levels.

I had to go to therapy to figure out how to deal with all the questions and to undo the damage that was done. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Of course, the therapy sessions did not magically improve my life, but now, two years later as a person who is 9 months sober, the tools I learned in therapy are coming in quite handy.

The clarity brought on by sobriety feels unreal sometimes and often a bit overwhelming. I’ve always been an over-thinker and I have to say if it wasn’t for this blog I would be driving my friends crazy with all my philosophy and psychology talk. But the tools I learned in therapy have made quitting so worth it. I’m learning to see myself a different way. I am changing how I react to situations because I can recognize the triggers and understand the emotions they incite.

Those of you in my Sober Blogging Network I want you to know that it IS possible to change the way you see yourself. It is possible to understand your emotional triggers and to deal with the experiences that created them.

YOU are the most important person to you. YOU matter. and you deserve to be taken care of and loved. But it has to start with you. If you are struggling, reach out and don’t be too hard on yourself. You are making progress just by looking for guidance on our Network. Little by little you are healing. And most importantly, you are not alone.

Phoenix

The Way of the Sober Blogging Network

Hello MSBN (My Sober Blogging Network)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phoenix.

Does that happen to you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird?

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All of us need to feel a sense of love and belonging. We’re hard-wired to want to be connected to others – that’s what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. (Brené Brown)

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A few days ago in my human development class we were talking about what drives our need for human connection, which led me to thinking about why those of us in recovery attend meetings. According to Gerald May, meaning comes to us through our relationships in life. He says, the three facets of human spiritual longing are the desire for belonging and union, the desire for loving and the desire for just being.

Even though we seek these three we are constantly frustrated because at the same time, usually out of habit, we protect ourselves against being rejected, or being found wanting, or not measuring up. We hesitate to open up completely and allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable. We have a false perception that to express any vulnerability is a sign of weakness. We hold back because of this ‘perfection culture’, fearing rejection or a sense of shame.

But we don’t have to hold back. We connect by mutual understanding and truth in life’s experiences.

Whether it makes you smile or cringe, a truth spoken is a healing thing.”(Jennifer DeLucy)

Our most fundamental sense of well-being is derived from the conscious experience of belonging. Relatedness is essential to survival. This is the underlying reason why we attend meetings or visit each other’s blogs on the sober blogging network.

We do it to connect with others who can identify with our experiences and who we can learn from.

“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us–that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.” (Emilio Estevez)

Our feelings are our great connectors. Experiences and expressions of our feelings about those experiences allow us to connect and remember that we are not alone in this.

“Can I be honest with you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird? I mean, really, really, really honest? Sometimes I get sooo scared! I’ll wake up in the middle of the night all alone, hundreds of miles away from anybody, and it’s pitch dark, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen to me in the future, and I get so scared I want to scream. Does that happen to you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird? When it happens, I try to remind myself that I am connected to others—other things and other people. I work as hard as I can to list their names in my head. On that list, of course, is you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird. And the alley, and the well, and the persimmon tree, and that kind of thing. And the wigs that I’ve made here with my own hands. And the little bits and pieces I remember about the boy. All these little things (though you’re not just another one of those little things, Mr. Wind-Up Bird, but anyhow…) help me to come back “here” little by little.” 

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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Phoenix