Organic Evolution

For what it’s worth, I thought I might write about some things that I’ve learned and experienced since I’ve quit drinking-which was just about 2 1/2 years ago. Or 904 days as of today.

That last sentence, the number of days without alcohol might as well go into the first thing.  I don’t count days anymore.  To be honest, when I looked at how many days, I really didn’t know what was going to come up.  I just don’t give it much thought in that way anymore.  I suppose the whole counting thing comes from AA. How they give out chips for each milestone of sobriety.  In some ways, I can see that this is a good thing.. However, as time goes on, the fact that I don’t drink anymore just isn’t at the forefront of my consciousness. However, it does lead me into another point I’ve been thinking about.  Overthinking.

I am definitely into trying to be as conscious as I can be. Always looking at things from several angles, analyzing, processing. All of that.  But from my own experience as well as what I’ve read in various blogs, I think there may be a tendency to “overthink”.  Look, I get it-I am/was a pro at that.  That’s part of why I drank-to medicate that away.. To dull the whole overthinking thing-which in turn, kept me from truly being conscious.  The drinking, whether I was actually under the influence or not, totally played a part in every decision I made-in every aspect of my life. Always lurking in the background.  Then when we quit!  Well, everything comes up-in spades!  It’s almost as if we/I had been “bad” for so long that I had to correct it all at once.  No alcohol.  More exercise.  Better diet.  More this-less that.  Blah, blah, blah..That whole quest for and expectation of perfection. In many ways, it’s like changing one burden-the alcohol- for 100 others.  Sort of like all of the things that we don’t like about  ourselves and have kept at bay by the use of alcohol have been unleashed and allowed to run rampant in our psyche.  It’s crazy!  It’s stressful! It’s a mindfuck! It’s that voice saying “okay, you’ve stopped drinking (for like 1 day) now you have to get your act together and fix every single thing in your life!” Right…It’s also a way of not feeling good about yourself.  As I’ve mentioned before, for some crazy reason, quitting an abusive habit feels like punishment, when in fact, it’s one of the best kinds of self love we can give to ourselves.

So, here’s one thing that I can say. STOP! Just Stop It!!!  Try to quit doing a number on yourself.  All of that yammering is you telling yourself that you’re not good enough and that’s just not true.  The single most important thing to do when you first stop drinking-and by “first stop drinking” I don’t mean the first day or week or even month-I mean as long as it takes-just don’t drink. Don’t worry about your diet.  Don’t worry about the gym-although I would recommend light exercise- just get through the day the best you can without finding reasons to beat yourself up.  If that means coming home at 4 and going to bed, just do it.  If it means coming home at 4 and eating 3 scones with jam and cream-go for it.  If you need to make some sugary “mocktails” to get through wine-o-clock-, go to the store and stock up on the supplies for this.  If your significant other still drinks, do not buy their alcohol if that’s going to pose a problem for you and make you struggle with not buying some for yourself. Take care of yourself. DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE! I do understand that children take a priority, of course! But don’t use them as an excuse. The biggest gift you can give them is the same one you can give yourself-sobriety.

The first 6-8 weeks that I went without alcohol, I really thought that I was in the middle of having some kind of breakdown.  Not like DT’s or anything like that-although I was really tired. But, I was mentally fragile.  Oh, I could keep it together at work and with clients, but I felt like I was hanging by a thread.  I thought that I was going crazy.  I had absolutely no patience (not that I ever have much under the best of circumstances:) and I felt like I had developed some form of Tourett’s Syndrome because I was cussing an unbelievable amount-even for me! I just tried to stay as even as I could.  While I didn’t want to, walking my dog was an incredible therapy-just being outside. To be honest, sometimes we only walked to a nearby bench because I couldn’t handle anything more and just sat there, enjoying the energy of nature.  Me trying to hang on. At times, even though I wasn’t fighting the urge to drink, I would have to remind myself that the rollercoaster of emotions that I was experiencing was my body and mind trying to balance itself out. In writing this I get the picture of a ship in a storm that’s leaning on it’s side-almost to the point of going over-but it doesn’t. Eventually, the storm abates and the ship rights itself.

What I’m trying to say is don’t be impatient with yourself.  Give yourself time.  You can always start a new diet or a new workout regime.  In my case, things just evolved organically, over time.  While things may not move as quickly as you or your ego would like, they will move.  As you become more grounded in living without medicating yourself, I think you’ll find that things will even out.  As your body changes and adapts to living without alcohol, your tastes may change.  You will certainly become more aware of things. In my case, I’m just not as focused on my weight or working out as I was when I was drinking.  I don’t know why- maybe it’s because when I was drinking I was so out of control that controlling my food and working out like a maniac made me feel like I was in control.  A false sense of control that was, as my whole existence was dictated by how, when and what I was going to drink. Now having said that, I will say, that I eat a healthy diet overall-but when I don’t, I don’t beat myself up.  I just let that boat right itself and go on. I am much easier on myself.  I can forgive myself. Speaking of things changing-even my taste in clothes changed somewhat.  Well, not my taste but my color preference. I discovered black in 1986 and that’s about all I wore for “donkey’s years”.  Sometimes, I’d throw in something purple.  But for the most part, my closet was one big black line of clothes.  I still love black and it’s definitely the dominant color in my wardrobe. But, I’ve also started incorporating cobalt blue and a few other shades of blue and other colors as well. I doubt I’ll ever wear pastels-I’d need a total lobotomy for that! But I’m letting more color into my life-in many ways.

You know what else? When I look in the mirror-at any time of day-it’s not always my first reaction to hate what I see.  I mean my first reaction when looking in a mirror previously would be “Ick!”  No self love there! But, I don’t do that anymore. Okay, sometimes, but nowhere near as much.  I’ve gained self acceptance.

Another extremely important component is to reach out. Find someone you can really confide in-without shame. This could be AA or another type of support group, a good friend or even reaching out to a fellow blogger.  And, while I know that I’ve said this before, dig deep and do the work.  By “the work”  I mean some kind of therapy. I know this may be hard or foreign, but it’s so important to not only share what you’re going through but to dig down deep for the reasons behind the behavior.  Scary, yes I know. Painful. Yes, it can be. BUT-once you do it, you will know so much about yourself.  You will be able to let go of so much needless shit in your brain.  Remember my recent post, where I met that guy who was a mess in a public place, even though he’d been sober for like 20 years? He hadn’t done his work-or program as they call it in AA. To be clear, I’m not pushing AA. It’s great for some and not for others. It’s about finding what works for you and how to go about it. Find the way that fits for you. You know the whole “body, mind and spirit” thing?  I believe in that.  It’s important to have and develop all three of those components to make a whole.  To develop them in a way that is comfortable and works for you. Find an outlet-journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, yoga.  Just try something, for say 10 minutes a day-see what may work for you. In 1987, after finding out that my ex had been having an affair (he wasn’t my ex then!) I went to a therapist who suggested that I start keeping a journal.  I have continued that for the past 31 years! Sometimes I write pages, sometimes one line, sometimes I skip several days.  But, I always go back to it-it’s become my silent witness so to speak. And, just so you know-I don’t use a fancy, leather bound thing-just spiral notebooks, college lined.

The world is so crazy right now. So much going on-so many things to be upset about.  However, in the midst of all of the mess, all of the injustices, there is still beauty to be found. There is still joy to be had. Keep reaching.  Keep reminding yourself.  Keep evolving. Believe in Your Self. Keep on putting one step in front of the other.  It will change.

With Love

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A Fine Line

I had a horrible night last night.  I fell asleep okay and was in the middle of a deep sleep, dreaming of Mexico-ahhhh.  Then I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.  And started to beat myself up about all sorts of stuff.  What’s interesting-kind of- is that I did the exact same thing to myself I used to do when I was drinking.  Going over my life.  Focusing on all of my failures, my near misses, my shoulda’s-woulda’s and coulda’s. Telling myself that I’m 60 not 40 and that’s a whole different deal.  That health problems are starting to show up in people that I know. Of course then I started focusing on all of the possible damage I may have done to myself.  I will say that last week I went and got a good check up-complete blood work, a spot sonogram checking my arteries and thyroid glands.  As there was a tiny bit a plaque, I go back next week for a more thorough test.  I go to a dermatologist this week for a yearly skin cancer check-I’ve never had it, but have spent most of my life in the sun-so it’s a good thing. As far as I know, I’m healthy- and I will know more in a few weeks time.

But, it’s also not only about the health stuff.  Why is that that we as humans, and I think especially women get a message that we should always be doing more, doing better.  In other words, we’re never good enough.  Why can’t we/I be happy where I am in life?  Why can’t I accept it?  I mean if I compare myself to people living in say, Syria, I know that I am blessed.  And, just by the luck of the draw that I was born here and not there am I leading a better life. If it’s not my weight, it’s my wrinkles. If it’s not my wrinkles it’s my posture.  If it’s not my posture it’s my living space or my car or my meditation practice or my…….Why can’t I just let myself be happy with myself? Why can’t I accept myself?  Where is the line between a healthy recognition of limitations or desires and an unhealthy obsession with never being good enough?  Never achieving enough at whatever it is that is the focus of the minute.

I have to think that true freedom- or a least a very important component of it-is not comparing oneself to anyone or anything else.  Total self acceptance.  Which would bring about self love. I’m not there.

I beat myself up over the fact that while I had a catering business for a long time-years and years, it never gave me financial security. I always went to the beat of a different drummer-never worked in a corporate environment-except to bring in lunch-was my own boss for most of my adult life.  And it worked for a long time, until it didn’t. Until the economy went down.  Until state agencies took sometimes several months to pay an invoice, which in turn made me late in paying bills.  Until I finally had to walk away with nothing but a good reputation and people that have nothing but rave reviews for my food. But, that’s not money in the bank.  It’s not being self sufficient.  It’s not truly taking care of myself.  Fortunately, my SO is not too bothered by it all and he saw firsthand the struggles I went through the last several years I was in business.  And, he would say that my financial situation is Karma.  That I’m not meant to have money as security in this life.  Well, that’s all well and good for him! He retired in his mid 50’s from a very lucrative profession in commercial real estate in the UK. He definitely does not have the negative money Karma going on!  And, then I know that I shouldn’t base it all on money. But, I look at some of my friends now, who have worked for years and years in corporate jobs-keeping all of their retirement  things going and who will probably be very comfortable when they finally do retire.

I need to be honest here-more honest. It’s not necessary that I work right now.  We don’t need any money from me to pay the rent or put food on the table.  But, I would like some for ME! for whatever kind of security it brings with it.  Petty cash.  I keep telling myself that I am going to put  my name on a list somewhere to do temp work-not food service, but maybe fill in receptionist-something like that. However, I am really having a very hard time getting motivated to do that.  Fear?

One thing that I keep thinking is how in AA they say don’t do or make any huge changes in your life the first year of sobriety.  I think that is about just learning to “be” in this new way of life.  I will have 8 months under my belt in the next week or so.  It seems like a very long time and it seems like no time.

Wow! I’ve drifted! I think the question or the issue is about beating ourselves up.  Alcohol was such a good reason for that.  And now that it has been removed from the equation, there’s all of this other stuff. Do we/I need the drama of self flagellation?  There will always be someone younger, richer, prettier, faster, stronger, more successful…at least on the outside.  We never really know do we?  But the self competition almost feels like self mutilation at times. It’s so easy when someone asks how we are to respond, “I’m good”. But, in reality, I don’t believe it.  At least not all of the time.  Not at 3 a.m.

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