• Leap…and the net will appear


    Today is a very big day. Today I mark 1 full calendar year of being alcohol free. I have been preparing for writing a blog post for this day to share how I got here. I’ve reviewed all of my blog posts to date, looked back through my journal entries and my FB account. I have included Brene Brown’s “Power of Vulnerability”, because this single thing, allowing myself to be seen, is what I truly believe why I am here today.

    One year ago yesterday, unbeknownst to me, I took my very last sip of alcohol. Nobody could have guessed, least of all me, that a 45 day break from drinking would lead to where I am today: 100% alcohol free, being an advocate for non-drinking, and absolutely loving this new life I am a part of.

    But how did I get here, exactly? I never, ever thought I’d become alcohol free. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my drinking. Most of my family and friends drink, many of which continued (and continue) to drink late into life. But I slowly started listening to the nagging voice in my head, asking the questions, “am I drinking too much; how much is too much; why can’t I cut back on my intake?” Little did I know by me deciding to take that 45 day break that it would lead down this road of self-discovery, forgiveness and, most of all, vulnerability.

    The morning of February 3rd, 2022, “today is the day, I’m going to take a 45 day break from alcohol”, I said to myself. Waking up with a horrible hangover, again; cleaning the mess in the kitchen from the night before, vowing that I was going to try it, no matter the cost. I shared with my husband what I was doing and he said he’d join me. I remembered we were going to a friend’s house for dinner the following week and knew we drink with them. But I reminded myself that there would always be an excuse, I might as well do it now.

    Over the next several weeks I deluged myself in anything and everything I could get my hands on about alcohol. Most times I was reading 2 books at a time about alcohol and sober living. I joined a sobriety group on line. I began journaling and meditating. And nearly 5 months into it, I decided to share my story on social media. Just like the decision to try 45 days of being alcohol free, the decision to share my story came out of nowhere. Just simply, something in my gut told me it was time to stop hiding and share my story. Not knowing why or understanding the decision, really, just something I felt I needed to do.

    Over the past year, my thoughts keep going back to just how in the heck did I get here? How did I make it this far, through all of the cravings and set backs? What actually led me to the decision to try being alcohol free in the first place? And I keep going back to that day I decided to share my story. About 5 months along my journey I decided to go “public” and shared my struggle with alcohol on Facebook. The instant I clicked “post”, there was a bit of a knot in my stomach, but then almost just as soon, I had a feeling it was all going to be okay. And it was. The outpouring of sympathy, encouragement, people sharing similar stories of either themselves or loved ones struggles’, was overwhelming. And then something magical happened, two people (friends from high school) reached out to me about their own struggle, asking for help.

    About 2 weeks after I shared my story, I ran across the Power of Vulnerability, by Brene Brown (TedTalk link above). Through her amazing research, the amount of people she described living their lives wholeheartedly with the core of being vulnerable, letting themselves be seen, was staggering. I didn’t know it, but that is what I did. I allowed vulnerability into my life. I shared my story of my drinking habits honestly and openly. In turn, this allowed others to be vulnerable and share their stories. It held me accountable and gave me something to continue to strive for. It led me to starting my own blog and unleashed my love of writing.

    Three personal values I hold dear to my heart are: compassion, courage and my sense of humor. I’ve been told I’m “one tough cookie”. This past year has led me down the path of self discovery and through journaling and now with the help of my therapist, I am learning how alcohol became such a huge part of my life. How much courage is it taking to lead me down this road? A lot. The word courage comes from the Latin word cur, which means heart, and the word courage translated means: to tell your story with your whole heart. By me sharing my story on social media, and, second, starting this blog, I am telling my story with my whole heart. I have discovered that I likely started my drinking in my teens for pain management, social acceptance and peer pressure. But that my drinking evolved to help numb emotional pain and loss. Only to solidify my addiction as it became the answer to all aspects of living my life. The good and the bad. Because as we numb, we not only numb the ugliness, sadness and negatives of life, but we numb everything good.

    Yesterday, in commemoration of my 1 year anniversary, I decided on 2 new tattoos. The word ‘courage’ on my right wrist, with a heart. One that I can readily see, reminding me of my strength, my story, my heart. And the other, the Zen saying: Leap…and the net will appear. I realized, going back to that very first morning, before I shared my story, before I went public, I took that fateful leap. Not knowing where I would land and seriously no clue that there would be a net. Only trusting that the jump was necessary.

    I cannot post this without giving a shout out to my loved ones for all of their support and encouragement. I’ve done the work, but I seriously couldn’t have come this far by myself. By sharing my story I have deepened these connections and expanded and strengthened the net in this place I now call home.

  • Tulips

    Tulips given to me yesterday from my husband for my birthday

    As long as I can remember, tulips have been my favorite flower. When I started drawing again, just recently, a single tulip was one I practiced and I was very disappointed in how it turned out. It started me thinking about the tulip and why I am so attracted to it.

    After all, tulips are nothing super spectacular. They’re rather simple looking if you compare them to an ornate flower like the chrysanthemum, for example. Tulips have no fragrance. And they don’t last long. Once cut and put in a vase, you’re lucky to get 2-3 days of them lasting before they start to wilt and their pedals start falling off.

    Klaus bought me these flowers yesterday and I put them in a vase with water last night. When I woke up this morning (this picture), I was awestruck by their elegant beauty. The way they just fell into place. Try as I might, I couldn’t have arranged that myself. I thought, also, THIS is what I love about them. In a simple bouquet, after a night of adjusting to their new environment, they adjusted and provided this gorgeous display.

    When I looked into the tulip’s meaning or symbolism, they represent deep love and perfection. Furthermore, they are one of the first flowers to bloom in spring (late winter) and this is taken as a meaning of rebirth and starting afresh. I’ve discussed before how springtime has been so significant in major changes in my life. Without planning to do so, I have made most of my life changing decisions during the spring. And most of which followed suit after losses or tragedies in my life.

    During my meditation practice today it was about stories or narratives we tell ourselves. A lot of which can be very negative self-talk. Since my blog post 2 days ago about feeling like a punching bag, I’ve been doing a bit of the negative self-talk and when asked during this practice what it is that is repeating in my head, I was reminded of the fact that one of my biggest fears is I have the appearance of being fragile or weak. What keeps me going is providing what I hope is strength for others. That my family and friends know that I am someone they can depend on. I am that rock, not that fragile, short-lived, tulip. The rock that is solid and has the staying power. Not something that only is around a few moments, then disappears when the going gets tough.

    But are tulips only around a few moments? Do they only show up momentarily, flash their outward beauty, then disappear when the going gets tough? I don’t think so. Not only do they symbolize unconditional love, but the representation of rebirth and starting afresh. Unconditional love is not tangible. I cannot draw it. I only know it is there. Just as when the tulip wilts and eventually dies, another tulip is developing. In the spring, after enduring the harsh winter, the tulip rises again, symbolizing new beginnings. That while they may appear to only provide a few moments of beauty, their unconditional love is eternal.

  • Unbroken

    I am not going to start this post by apologizing for my blog post yesterday, “punching bag”. I was in a very dark place and needed to express myself the best way I knew how.

    I haven’t been that far down in the hole in a long time. It’s frightening to me to think how I got there and what would happen if the circumstances in my life at that time hadn’t turned out the way they did. Getting my dog, for now, safe and sound in my care, at home. My thoughts go to people in my life who’ve suffered so much, like the loss of a child, and how in the world they find the courage to go on.

    As I did my morning meditation practice, the title of the session was “unbroken”. This lesson enforced the concept that we are not perfect beings. That we are imperfect and to believe that this is who we are and to try to learn to accept our flaws and allow worthiness in our world and hearts. I’m reminded of Trisha Yearwood’s song Broken. The chorus rang through my head this morning as I finished my mindfulness practice:

    I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing. With a broken heart that’s still beating. In the pain, there is healing. In your name, I find meaning. So I’m holding on….I may have lost my way now, but haven’t forgotten my way home…

    I had so many of my friends and family reach out to me yesterday offering me encouragement and words of support and love. Most of which was about having faith and believing that everything will be okay, no matter the outcome. I know I have come a long way this past couple of years. I am hanging on for another day. I have hope for a bright future, despite the road blocks in the way. I am eternally grateful for this life and am building a strong foundation for dealing with whatever it brings.

  • Punching bag

    Yesterday, January 3rd, I celebrated 11 months of being alcohol free. A day I never thought I’d reach, one month closer to celebrating a full year of sobriety, one I’d hoped to write an upbeat post or brag about my success, only to be yet, once again, reeling with loss and utter despair.

    Our pup, Whiskey Knasch, ended up in the vet ER on New Year’s day with what we suspected was bloat. It is a life threatening situation that is prevalent in large, deep-chested breeds, like German Shepherds. It often happens if they’ve eaten too much too fast. We were camping in Valley of Fire and fed him dinner, then all of a sudden he started showing classic signs. We loaded him up and rushed him into Las Vegas to the vet specialty ER where they x-rayed him and found him to have food bloat. They gave us some meds for nausea and vomiting and sent us on our way.

    Two days later, he started showing signs again so we took him to our vet. He is now there and they are suspecting bloat and are pushing IV fluids to see if the gas and fluid build up in his stomach will pass. He is not out of the woods yet.

    I cannot explain what happened to me inside yesterday at the vet. Something broke. As the vet is explaining what is going on, showing me the x-rays and discussing the treatment plan, I just couldn’t think anymore. Here we are again, giving authorization to do whatever it takes to save our dog. A dog who hasn’t even reached 2 years of age. How in the world is my heart going to survive another blow like this?

    I feel like I’ve been set up. That these past two years, which started with inspiration from losing my poor Sabot to a heart condition. Inspiration to live my life better, healthier in his honor and in honor of all my pets that come into my life. My final plea to give up alcohol for good. Over the past 11 months I’ve grown and uncovered a more compassionate, giving person. Wanting to share my experiences with others in hopes of inspiring others. Unleashing my gift of writing and art. Looking forward to my 55th birthday in a few days, only to be followed by my 1 year mark of being alcohol free.

    But, nope, I feel like a fucking punching bag. You know the ones. The ones that are planted to the ground, that you punch and they tip over, only to rise up again to take another blow. I feel like my entire life I fight to stand up straight only to be punched back down. From countless moves, loss of friendships, a back injury at a young age that led to a life of chronic pain, divorces, loss of my brother to suicide and subsequently his children, loss of jobs and sick pets. Just when I think things are smooth sailing, another storm comes along.

    This past year apparently was a trial and training. To get me into great emotional strength to fight yet another battle. But I feel I will lose again. All my efforts made in hopes of good outputting more good, only to be punched again to see how far of a hole I can climb out of now. I am sick and tired of searching for signs of courage, strength, fortitude and of climbing out of the holes. I am exhausted from fighting the fight.

    I threatened to start drinking again yesterday but in the end I didn’t. I am not feeling the strongest today or likely not by tomorrow or even the next. I’m sure I will rise again but today is not the day.

  • Two Wolves

    There is a well known tale about an elderly Cherokee who is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me”, he said to his grandson. “It’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, regret, greed, self pity, guilt and ego.” He continued, “the other is good. He is peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one you feed”.

    I’ve mentioned before how much I feel my being changed over the past several months and how much I can attribute it to my mindfulness practice. I have become more patient. I have become less irritable. And I find in my moments of frustration and anger, I am able to recover so much faster.

    Many things in my life have been lining up lately and I owe it to the skills I’ve developed. When I heard this story of the old Cherokee and the last line, “the one you feed”, I literally got chills. I thought he was going to say, “the one you choose”. But it is the one you feed. By paying forward all good things, it seems the universe pays it forward right back.

    On this special day, Christmas Eve, I thought this so appropriate to share. Paying forward peace, love and compassion and in celebration of the holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone. 🎄

  • Taking risks

    Since starting my blog several months ago, I’ve had a lot of people tell me I should write a book. My meditation practice this morning was about taking risks or stepping out of our comfort zones. When I contemplated this idea, I realized how much my very first step in becoming alcohol free was the decision I made to share my story on Facebook. That single risk has led to so many wonderful things in my life, the most important was uncovering my love of writing.

    In times of doubt, the one constant in my life is writing. If I don’t have anything to write about in my blog, I jot thoughts down in my journal. I am writing love letters to my family and friends. I have a gratitude journal that I write in faithfully every day. Each time I feel like I’ve got nothing more to say, another stream of ideas pour out and I write.

    Writing keeps me accountable. It inspires me. And it’s keeping me sober. By sharing my thoughts in writing, whether privately or for others to see, I am able to see a future in a world I want to belong.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever write a book. If I do, I don’t have a clue what it will be about. But just the thought of possibly writing a book someday, keeps me going. When titles of books pop in my head, I write them down. Taking risks has led me to where I am today and I am not ready to stop that practice.

    “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go” – T.S. Eliot

    “Do one thing everyday that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt

    “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety” – Goethe

    “Never let odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

    “Leap and the net will appear” – Zen saying

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

  • Self Trust

    I started a new series in my mindfulness app on self-awareness. The very first topic was “self trust”.

    At the beginning of my alcohol free journey I had a couple “a-ha” moments. Those moments where it was very clear to me why I made some of the choices I have made throughout my life. Those moments where it was like, “well no wonder I was drinking!”. I haven’t had a moment like that, until this morning. So, yah, this self-trust thing, was huge for me.

    When I first saw the topic, I thought of my gut intuition. I think I have pretty good instincts and often get “feelings” around certain things and have learned to “trust” that. But once the narrator in today’s practice started discussing self trust, I realized I was completely off target. I started realizing that self trust meant trusting in myself to make the right decisions, to stick with goals, to accomplish things. Just like we trust in others. This was my “a-ha”.

    My track record, at least in my mind’s eye, is riddled with ill-decisions, poor judgments and forever regretting my past choices. When I put it in perspective, that maybe each decision after the last was based on what I had done in the past. That, well, I did this last time, and it turned out ok, let me try that again. Trusting that because of the simple fact “I’ve been here before and survived”, everything will turn out okay. From choosing partners, to changing jobs, my countless moves and, finally, my drinking. But, this track record inevitably led me down that all too familiar path..two divorces, loss of jobs, loss of family, failing health and not being able to quit drinking. And each time I put faith in myself that everything will turn out okay it only ended up right back where I started. Starting over…rebuilding…running…drinking…and that’s how it began…I stopped trusting myself.

    Along my journey and with the guidance of my counselor, focus has been on learning to forgive myself for my past “mistakes”. Trying to look at what I consider failures as mini successes. I can definitely look at my past errors as gaining some success, but I am having a hard time saying that I was a success. That although I gained so much and learned and grew from each experience, it still began as a failure on my part.

    So how to we regain trust? I consider myself a forgiving person. I don’t hold grudges and have forgiven a lot of people who have done some pretty shitty things to me. It’s exhausting to hold a grudge and feel hatred. But how did I regain their trust? They either kept showing up or they disappeared. That simple. Those that kept showing up and being there are still in my life. Many didn’t actually say “I’m sorry”, but just their actions alone let me know that they were there for me and wouldn’t hurt me again. The ones that disappeared, well I don’t even remember who they were or what they did.

    So, for me to regain trust in myself, I just have to keep showing up. I can’t disappear, so my only choice is to be here for myself. And without me knowing it, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing these past couple years. Starting with my diet, then my finances, my health and now to becoming alcohol free, I keep showing up. Every day I show up I am rebuilding trust in myself. The decisions I am now making each day are slowly allowing self forgiveness. And because my brain is not fogged in alcohol, I am better equipped to make good decisions. I am becoming trustworthy.

  • Sit and stay…

    Anyone who’s had dogs knows that two of the most basic and vital commands is to teach sit and stay. After listening to one of my mindfulness practices this morning, I realized how those two commands can also be so helpful to tell ourselves.

    The narrator described sitting with our emotions, allowing this time to give to ourselves. Allowing us to take a few moments to sit with ourselves and try not to let the worries of the day ahead interfere in this moment, if even for a few minutes.

    She even said the word “stay”. That’s what started me thinking about the dogs. The minute she said the word, I felt a huge relief. A big weight lifted off of my shoulders. That in this moment of only 10 minutes in my morning routine, I am going to allow myself to sit and stay. Everything that lays ahead of me the rest of today can wait.

    Just as in training dogs, I’ve learned how much of what we do is taking away their power or their responsibility, in a way. I never realized how much of that is in the command “stay”. By making my dog sit and stay, I have given away all of his power, all of his intention. He can just sit and wait, without worry, until I release him. How powerful is that??? In my moment of mindfulness practice, the second I heard the word “stay”, I let go of all my responsibilities in that moment. I allowed myself to sit and stay and all my worries subsided.

    As I put this into practice during my day I’m going to remind myself of my dog in his sit and stay moment. What a relief to be able to take those moments, especially when things seem so overwhelming…just “sit and stay”. The world will be there when I return.

  • Waves of Change

    Today’s lesson in my mindfulness practice was learning how to ride the waves of change. I was offline the past 3 days while camping and just now getting back into the rhythm of my daily routine and had a zoom call with some of the members of our sobriety team from TNM yesterday afternoon. The general consensus from my teammates is this feeling of some sense of loss and “what’s next” attitude. Once again, the topic from my mindfulness practice couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I have always welcomed change and didn’t even realize how much I thrive in change until I was a young adult starting out in the work force. So many of my colleagues and friends, past and present, share how much they dread change, that “I don’t like change”, or “I don’t do well with change” mentality was always somewhat of a mystery to me.

    I get it, for sure. The dread of the unknown. The fear that if things change, even in the smallest of quantities, that upheaval will occur. But, all my life, I’ve looked forward to change. I find I’ve always gotten bored and the feeling of getting in a rut is one of my biggest fears. And, in fact, I think many of my decisions in my life, good or bad, have been a direct result of me avoiding the boring rut of life.

    I realize now, through this journey I’ve been on these past 10 months, how much of this is because of my upbringing. Raised as a park service brat meant we moved a ton. I think I shared in a previous blog that I had once calculated how many times I moved in my life, from birth to around age 30, that I had moved, on the average, once a year of the time I had been on earth. Similar to military families, park service people move around every 4-5 years. I had a discussion about this with one of my patients (veteran) once and he brought up how he believed this lifestyle makes people quite resilient. I had never thought about that before, but it sure made a lot of sense to me. Without a doubt, my resiliency and adaptability most likely came from my childhood.

    I’m not saying that people who adapt to change easier than others are better or even more resilient. It would be interesting to do a sociological experiment, though, finding out if there is a correlation between people who accept change and roll with it are better able to adapt quicker or with less effort?

    In closing, I’ll leave a few quotes about change. I have found these mantras so helpful during the trying times in life and refer to them often.

    “Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong” – Mandy Hale

    “If you can’t change it, change your attitude” – Maya Angelou

    “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind” – C.S. Lewis

    “Growth and comfort do not coexist” – Ginni Rometty

    “Courage is the power to let go of the familiar” – Raymond Lindquist

    “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety” – Abraham Moslow

  • Laughter is the best medicine

    How many of you remember the Reader’s Digest magazines? I loved those books and remember my parents had a subscription when I was a kid. My favorite section of the book was “laughter is the best medicine”.

    In The Upside of Stress, a book I read a while back, one of the challenges was to write 3 values that I think define me as a person. My 3: sense of humor, compassion, courage. I wrote these 3 values on a sticky note along with the quote “a stressful life is a meaningful life” and stuck it to my computer screen at work. This was months ago and I found myself looking at it just yesterday and letting it really sink in again.

    I’ve been writing daily posts of mindfulness practice in a sober community we’ve built from past team members in the PATH. I generally follow cue from my morning meditation practice from the Calm app and I am presently doing a multi-day series on emotions. It is really a great series but it’s dealing with negative emotions, like, envy, grief, repression. So pretty heavy stuff.

    Just this morning I was checking this FB group and a member posted a YouTube video about an alien interviewing a human about drinking alcohol. Our teammate shared it saying “I hope this is okay to post here”. This video is a hilarious interview between an alien and a human about why we drink alcohol. After watching it, I wanted to reach out to this team member and say “hell YESSS you can post this kind of thing here…this is exactly what we need!”

    I think I come from a long line of very funny people. I have a huge extended family, on both sides, and we all have a great sense of humor. I learned a long time ago that the best place to be is in a state of laughter. How many times my mom would say “we’re not laughing AT you, but WITH you!!” But, honestly, more than half the time I think they were laughing at me (and me them)!! 🤣

    Thanks to the video my teammate posted this morning, I was taken back to my core value of my ‘sense of humor’. Daily postings of negative emotions is weighing on me a bit and I needed to express how important it is to remember and relish in the light hearted moments in life. Little things that brings a smile to our faces. Or more outrageous things that make us laugh until we cry and our stomachs hurt. Without being able to laugh at myself, including the ridiculous things I did when I was drinking, I don’t think I’d be here today.

    Here’s to all the funny people in my life and in the world!! Let’s keep laughing…☺️