The Dark Side

The Girl In The Mirror

smokingmirrors

I love the madness that is the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The creativity, the fast-paced induced adrenaline rush of posting every 24 hours, the community spirit, and at times, the frustrating but glorious intensity.

This year I chose to write poems inspired by movies about addiction and absolution. I write often about the importance of honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but every now and then I resist the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs. So as April approached I took stock of my progress so far: two years of sobriety; an understanding and acceptance of my triggers; the warmth and affection that had grown in key relationships with loved ones; and the knowledge of what I felt I still needed to work on.

It was my intention to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needed to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that were stunting my growth. I hoped to reveal, better understand, and become more accepting and appreciative of the dark emotions I keep at bay. I was ready, or so I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, all in all, this year’s challenge exceeded all expectations. For one, I reached the depths I wanted to and spent more time there than I cared to in the end. Even though I’ve come away with several poems that are worth shaping and rewriting, my plan to use movies about addiction as triggers worked better that I’d anticipated.

The shift was gradual and I did not notice it at first. But by the time I’d reached the middle of the alphabet I was staying in bed longer on mornings, wide-eyed with the covers to my chin, unsure and a little afraid of what the day would bring. My meditative morning habit – a cup of ginger tea on my front porch with an inspiring book – had been replaced with reviewing the difficult poem I’d written the night before, and I was no longer jumping out of bed looking forward to my day. I had underestimated my vulnerabilities. The writing challenge theme I’d set for myself, together with two unexpected life events, affected me adversely. I won’t be doing something like this again. At least not without setting some boundaries and safe zones first.

There were breakthroughs as well, which I am grateful for, with poems like The Quiet, which makes me so uncomfortable to read even though I wrote it, and Thirteen, which I wrote when I came to an understanding about my relationship with my mother. I think if there is anything I am truly happy about is turning that corner with my Mom. It was my last important relationship to heal and I believe that now I can begin doing just that.

In the end, and today I am grateful for the opportunity to learn. I am not invincible. I cannot, ever, underestimate my triggers nor the importance of boundaries. I am grateful for loved ones (online and IRL) who supported me through this “mad experiment” and never judged me for it. It has helped me to be gentler with myself and keep my own Judge in check. I even have to send a nod to the Universe for crashing my laptop two weeks into the challenge. I chuckle to myself now when I think about it. Perhaps the Universe was sending me a message after all.

Love and light,

Phoenix

Pieces They Left Behind

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Last April, I participated in the scintillating madness that is the April A to Z. I accepted the challenge to write 26 posts, each corresponding with a letter of the alphabet and now I’m going back for more. For my A to Z 2016 Challenge I am combining my love for visual and musical storytelling with my passion for words.

I’ve been experimenting with poetry for a little over two years and while the adventure has been wonderful and reviews have been encouraging, I know that many of my poems don’t reach the emotional depths I would like them too.

Here in this space I write a lot about honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but truth be told, the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs, is still difficult for me to give in to.

It is my intention with this year’s A to Z to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needs to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that are stunting my growth. It is my hope that by April 30th, I would have come to a greater understanding and acceptance of the dark emotions I keep at bay and become more welcoming and appreciative of them.

My A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

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

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:
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/K_Bib
B&N http://bit.ly/k_Bbn
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.

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.

Victims ‘r’ us

Dark Korra

Iroh: If you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you’ll ever see.

Disclaimer: This post is not for the victims of traumatic events. This is for the doomsday folks, you know,
the ones who only see the dark stormclouds hung before them, and refuse to cast their eyes upward to see the sun.

Don’t you just love encountering people who only talk about their woes and how much they hate life? They assemble in groups, usually after work at their favourite watering holes or coffeeshops, trying to one up each other with their sob stories. It’s like a pissing contest to see whose day was worse or who has the roughest life. Oh boo hoo! We ALL deal with stuff. Strife, drama, and hardship are all relative and affect each person. How you deal with them is up to you. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to vent sometimes and that’s what friends (and the internet) are for but seriously, something bad happens to you EVERY day of your life? Nothing brings you happiness? You can’t find something to make you smile anywhere? There is nothing you can do to improve your life? I seriously doubt that. Hi, I’m Phoenix. I battle my demons every day. Some days I win and some days I don’t. I get that sometimes life gives us a raw deal, but I refuse to have a defeatist attitude about my life.

I understand “misery loves company” and the need to share sorrows and hardships with your peers – that’s what we do here on the Sober Blogging Network, but we also share our hopes, dreams and positive things about life too. Holding on to drama and grudges and swimming in a big vat of  “Everyone, and the world, is out to get me!” proclamations will never get you anywhere. At some point you have to take charge of your own life.

Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”  — Chinese proverb

You have to make the decision to change what you don’t like and then follow up with practical choices. This means not only being open to new ideas, approaches and practices, being willing to explore them and try them out, but also figuring out if you would benefit from surrounding yourself with those who look for and talk about the positives in life despite their difficulties. Words are very powerful.  What you say and what you listen to affect your beliefs about the world. Finding others who believe in the possibilities rather than the impossibilities will help you to believe that you too can do anything. I know that no one has it all figured out but I’ve found that sometimes a good shake up, dust off, and re-organizing of the group of people you spend most of your time with is always good. Figure out who inspires and motivates you, and says “I can” more than they say “I can’t.” The ones who care about you, will listen when you need them to and appreciate the time, care and consideration you offer when they are in need too.

Life is too short to spend so much time complaining and bogged down with only negative and pessimistic attitudes. Life is too short to miss the brightside.

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post V, 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.

Judgment

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Writing or talking about judgment still bothers me. I feel my body reacting: mild tummy ache, tingles at the back of my neck, goose bumps, cold sweat, difficulty swallowing. I even have a name for that overly critical part of me: The Judge. A few years ago I saw a psychotherapist for about a year and she introduced me to The Empty Chair method in an attempt to help me figure out the source of my distorted self image and negative self worth. We had tried creative methods before (visualization and painting) but chose this particular method because of my reaction and resistance to connecting with that part of myself. From our visualization session before, I realized that although my anxiety about criticism and judgment was rooted in my early relationships with adults, over the years I developed a powerful and relentlessly judgmental side of myself. The Judge. She was the one who I now I had a problem with and wanted to reach. After all, “many things that seem threatening in the dark become welcoming when we shine light on them.”  The Empty Chair method, we hoped, would allow me to converse with that side of myself and work through the discomfort to accept and embrace her.

I sat on a chair facing an empty one. Switching back and forth between them I was going to take turns speaking for myself and for the Judge. We were going to have a conversation out loud. I imagined The Judge sitting across from me and was immediately uncomfortable. It was a bit embarrassing to see how my body responded to an imaginary version of me, pretty much the way I described above. It made me self-conscious and silly and I laughed but I knew I was going through with it. I was going to talk to The Judge and she was going to talk back to me.

Me: Um, well Hello. (I was actually sheepish and shy if you can believe it!)
The Judge: (In a tone of voice dripping with disdain!) Okay, hello. We’re here, now what? What do you want to say?
Me: Well, I’m not sure.
The Judge: As usual. You never know what you want. You’re always second guessing yourself.
Me: Ok fine! I want to know why you are so hard on me?
The Judge: You know why. (smugly)
(I have to say it was so weird being me and then being The Judge. My body language and tone of voice even changed from chair to chair!)
Me: No I don’t. (defensively). Well not really. Maybe. But even if I do, everyone makes mistakes.
The Judge: You are not everyone. You are supposed to be better than this.
Me: I can only be who I am.
The Judge: You should be more.
(I started to cold sweat and my breathing became shallow)
The Judge: You are supposed to be more. Not the mess that you are in now, sitting in this room talking to an empty chair. And crying about it! Smarter, wiser, more capable. No mistakes! You know better!
Me: At least I’m trying! Everyone makes mistakes. And I am not a mistake! (I was shouting back)
The Judge: Aren’t you?
Me: No! And I can be better. I am already better. And you have no right to talk to me this way!
The Judge: Why?
Me: (I was quiet) Because we are the same.
The Judge: Ah. (she smiled!) Why would you say that?
Me: Because I judged  you for judging me. I called you mean, cruel, out of place, stupid.
The Judge: Well I suppose I am all of those things. Sometimes. But I am more than that too.
Me: As am I.

Judgment is a funny thing. I’ve realized that in as much as it can feel intimidating and crushing, it can also help me to improve, if given and received with kindness. I am still working on forgiving myself and I try to understand my motivations (without criticism) and acknowledge my good intentions instead of berating myself for my past mistakes.

We can’t concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is.” Gyatso 

Judging closes a door. The opposite of judging is compassion. When I am compassionate, I am open, connected, and more available to communicating respectfully with myself.

I saw this Dove ad the other day. It demonstrates really well how easy it is to judge ourselves unfairly and how harsh we really can be sometimes.

“We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love.” ~Lori Deschene

Take care and be gentle with yourself. Hugs, Phoenix

~*~

This is Post J, 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.

Despair

Zuko Iroh Despair

Uncle Iroh: Zuko, You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.

Every now and then I come across something I’d written when I was good and proper under the influence. It was a habit I’d formed, scribbling on napkins in bars, texting lines of poetry to myself in the early morning hours, or typing away on a laptop with Tori Amos playing in the background:

“We deem ourselves masters of our own destinies yet forever doom ourselves being slaves to our own darkness.” ~ Phoenix

These days I shake my head and chuckle at the melodramatic lines I find hidden in books and treasure chests, and I wonder about the girl who cried her heart out while she wrote. Makes me sad to think that she felt at a loss to handle so much pain. There are also many lines with crushing self-criticism and I am so grateful that I don’t do that anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I am quite okay with hiding under my blanket and wallowing in my moodiness, but I understand that it is necessary to do so from time to time, and I don’t judge myself as weak or damaged, worthless or hopeless anymore. I don’t let the Negative Pity Party Committee in my head get away with their out of place comments for very long.

Still, there are feelings which creep in every now and then, at sunset, which I can’t quite explain. Feelings of dread, anxiety, confusion, and despair. They’re not overwhelming and crippling as before and usually very brief, so I don’t worry about them too much. But they’re a curiosity to me and I’m still working out the root cause. Does this happen to any of you?

Dad once asked if they’re residual feelings from childhood about not finishing homework on time, or knowing that the falling night meant that the next school day was much closer. He could be right. Maybe my grown up self feels unfulfilled at the end of the day and worried about not accomplishing enough. (Yes, the charming life of a control freak) Or, perhaps it has more to do with perspective. As the sun sets and the sky changes from blue to red signaling the end of another day, I think about my role in this vast Universe. Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing? Most of the time I don’t think I am. Life is calling out to me and I’m not listening. I still confine myself to the expectations and limitations placed upon me by others and by myself. That’s when the anxiety, fear, and dread set in. It’s almost like feeling my spirit die. Is that possible?

I know that despair is rooted in self-doubt and hopelessness. If anything this last year has taught me is that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. I am more capable than I thought and I can tap into my vast reserves of optimism, hope and faith. So today, thankfully, feelings of despair don’t last very long. And I do love mornings. I have been slowly but surely turning the table on twilight. I look for the beauty in it: the colours of the sky, the stillness and silence which follows as birds roost, the changing scent of the air. Maybe if I focus on these gifts, I won’t think about the negative.

~*~

This is Post D, 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 beautifully developed characters and kick-ass story lines) 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. 

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