Triggers

The Moderation Contemplation

mona-davis-winds-of-freedom

Winds of Freedom – Mona Davis

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

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

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

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

I was a binge drinker which means that I could go days or weeks without drinking but when I did drink, anything could happen. Back then, if I was upset or angry the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that the high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped. Deep down I knew I had a problem with limits and believing it was a question of willpower, I had tried quitting or at least moderating my drinking many times. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.”

But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. Years later, when I finally got fed up enough with myself and all the blackouts, and with hurting people I loved, knew I had no choice. I knew that this time, I didn’t want to be the girl who couldn’t give it up. In my heart I believe that perspective made all the difference.

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

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

Advertisements

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

Ghosts

“Ghosts of the pasts have power over us. Even if we truly want to move on, it’s not easy.” – Abbie Gale, Sleepy Hollow

Passion Pit - Cry Like a Ghost

Video still from Passion Pit’s “Cry Like a Ghost”

I’ve been struggling with ghosts lately, ghosts of relationships past, and ghosts of Phoenix past.

My ex is having a hard time with our breakup and has been sending me letters. I have asked him repeatedly to take some space to heal and made it very clear (kindly/ firmly / angrily / calmly) that I do not want to be in a relationship with him. His gestures of affection are not welcome as we are not a couple and he is not courting me. There are several emotions I go through whenever I receive something from him: fear that it will be another letter saying how much he is hurting; indignation because I am reminded that these professions of love were missing when we were dating; frustration because he’s not respecting my boundaries now; and sadness and guilt for my part to play in his hurt.

My girlfriends have suggested I adjust the way I feel about his overtures, to choose to react differently and to just ignore him, as he will probably take a hint. They remind me that he is not a bad person and is just going through a difficult time. But I think that to try to change how I feel because he has issues and needs to get it out, seems like stepping back from what I need (distance, peace of mind, a chance to move on). Seems like the relationship all over again where his needs and issues came first and I’m making allowances again. It has been six months and I want to give up the ghost. It is difficult making room for new possibilities when there is harmful clutter from the past.

Then, last night I found out that the current girlfriend of an ex I dated ten years ago, has an issue with me. I have no idea why. He and I have remained on respectful, friendly terms without even a hint of emotional intimacy or closeness. We are not each other’s confidantes and do not share personal stories with one another. Apparently her issue with me is so large that he is not supposed to come to my apartment, where our writing group of meets. Why am I a ghost in her relationship, when she does not know me?

On a personal level, the ghosts of my demons have been apparating. Yes, I used a Harry Potter reference. I have been feeling trapped and backed into a corner and those demons who used to squirm and bang on doors demanding an escape, have been sitting quietly in the rooms of my mind, watching, waiting and making their presence known. I’m not worried about them because I know I won’t use alcohol as an escape, but I am concerned that they are there at all. They nod when I acknowledge that they’re there, sort of like a roll call: doubt, insecurity, fear, shame, victim, people-pleaser, judge. Over the past two years I’ve been able to handle and dismiss them, but now they’re sort of hanging about, and making them go away is becoming more difficult.

I read once that pain has an evolutionary purpose. It provides information from the environment that a particular behaviour isn’t good for us. I try to pay attention to situations and stimuli that make me uncomfortable or cause me emotional, physical or spiritual pain. I feel better about myself and have a lighter attitude when I honour the way I feel. When I fight against or resist making the changes I need to because I’m afraid or failure, or too worried about someone else’s well being before my own, I am not honouring myself. And when I do that for too long, little by little, I stop functioning: I have restless nights and don’t sleep well, I have constant pain beneath my shoulder blades, my eating habits change for the worse (I’m a stress eater), I get heartburn, I don’t clean my apartment or take care of my plant, I feel nervous before checking emails or answering phone calls, I avoid people. This timidity and lack of self care is against my true nature so I have to change my behaviour to remove that which is not helpful or uplifting to me. I must start somewhere and I can only start with me.

Love, not time, heals all wounds

Print by Enjo Mathew

Print by Enjo Mathew

“I’ve learned… That love, not time, heals all wounds.” ~ Andy Rooney

A friend posted that on facebook last year and it made an impression on me because it struck as me as completely true. Having known people who are still harbouring hurt and anger over circumstances that happened years ago, and knowing people who seem to be able to quickly let go and move on, it seems as though Time is not the deciding factor in healing. Time may allow us the opportunity to fine tune our masks, perfect burying our heads in the sand, and hone our defensive skills, but true healing can only take place with Love.

Nanice Ellis wrote, “every time we talk about an unhealed wound or trauma, we re-activate it in our emotional, spiritual and physical bodies. As we speak, or even think, about an old issue, we experience it as if it is happening right now. Since our subconscious mind does not know the difference between current experience and past memory, for all intents and purposes, the trauma or negative experience is happening now.”

When we re-activate old painful memories, our thoughts, words and emotions create a negative energy that we unknowingly project out into our future. This energy manifests in more painful experiences, similar to the original issue. In other words, when issues come up without resolution, a pattern develops. When I look at my past behaviour I can see how this can be possible.

According to her article, each time this pattern manifests in real life situations, we re-experience the original wound and the current hurt simultaneously. When this occurs, we have a powerful opportunity to heal the past wound by healing the current one. “Wounds are meant to be healed. We are not meant to spend our lives carrying around past issues and hurts. Unhealed issues weigh us down, keep us asleep and prevent us from consciously creating. It is only our personal issues that stop us from experiencing our greatest potential.”

I’m not made of steel. I too have residual hurt from wounds sustained long ago. But instead of ignoring my feelings or pushing them away, I take deep breaths and wrap my heart in love as it fills up with every breath. I send love to the source of my hurt and to myself. I write a letter from my heart, wishing only love.

All Change Begins With A Plan

image

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

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

All change begins with a plan

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

Commitment, passion, openness, and determination

Deciding to give up drinking is an emotional, mental and physical struggle I remember very well. For years I suspected I had a problem and was terrified to admit it. I was afraid that it would mean that I was broken and a mess, which (in my way of thinking back then) would mean that I was unworthy and unlovable. I was afraid that I would have to give up my keys to The Little World of Block-It-All-Out and be left with no way to escape all those issues I was running from. I wasn’t ready to spend time with real me because I believed myself to be ugly and shameful.

I had tried quitting or at least curbing my drinking before. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.” But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. When I finally got fed up enough with myself and knew I had no choice, I knew that this time, I was quitting for ME. In my heart I believe that this made all the difference in the world.

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

Making unnatural alliances

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

Quitting Drinking for 2016

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

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

Love, light and courage,

Phoenix

 

You’re Kind of a Great Mess

You're kind of a great mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and light,

Phoenix

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

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.

Bad Habit Build-Up

ATLA Energy Flow

Guru Pathik: The water flows through this creek much like the energy flows through your body. If nothing else were around, this creek would flow pure and clear. However, life is messy, and things tend to fall in the creek, and then what happens?

Aang: The creek can’t flow?

Guru Pathik: Yes. But if we open the paths between the pools...[clears some moss clogging the water with his stick. The water pours quickly into the next pool, and soon all of them are running clean and clear.]

Aang: The energy flows!

60a3a-aang2band2bchakras

Life is like that isn’t it? When we allow bad habits to develop as means of dealing with difficult life experiences we create blocks to our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical development and well being. When I quit drinking I quickly found out that I had let alcohol become a habitual way to deal with so many emotions: anger, hurt, loneliness, frustration, fear. Of course, I wasn’t really dealing with any emotion. I was in the “efficient” habit of numbing what I felt. In actuality, the numbing and “escaping” only served to push the difficult emotions deep down into my psyche, where they prevented any real growth on my part.

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 is no more and I’m allowing myself time to see, recognize and sit with the difficult emotions, 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 shifted my focus because I know drinking never really made anything better.

For many of us, self-criticism and self-judgment are also habits we develop, which do us tremendous harm. 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. Even the way we have become accustomed to perceiving and talking about our past stories can change. I know I’ve accumulated many blocks over the years and I’m working on clearing away the moss and weeds and emotional buildup, so my true self can shine through.

Yes, sometimes I don’t want to sit with my feelings. 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.

~*~

This is Post B, 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?

603590_10152840768355578_1031861738_n

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