Rebel Without a Cause

I had this crazy-very busy dream last night.  And what may have been my first drinking dream-in over 2 years!   Without getting tooo wordy about it all, I will tell this much.  I was getting on a bus and as I was boarding, Victoria Beckham was also getting on.  She handed me a champagne flute that was filled to the brim with brandy.  I was surprised on a couple of levels-one that she-Victoria Beckham-would do that and it was really early in the morning, like dawn.  I also didn’t want it.  I really wanted coffee-but, I took it.  I sipped at it all the while not liking it and afraid I’d get drunk.  Then at some point, Lucinda Williams got on.  Victoria handed her a glass too-and she loved it!  Had her guitar with her and started to sing.  Not sure if you know who Lucinda Williams is-I LOVE her!  She’s kind  of a folksy, country, rock and roller.  Has had a pretty wild ride. So, here I am, feeling  and believing that the people we see in dreams represent a part of us-of our personality. And boy! 2 very different sides here! “Posh” on the one hand and wild, rebel southern rocker chic on the other.  That sounds about right!

In thinking about and trying to analyze this dream, I realized several things.  The first is that I did not want nor was comfortable with having an alcoholic drink in my hand.  I did not want to get drunk. I wanted coffee!! Times do change! As a matter of fact, throughout the dream I kept looking for a way to either make or somhow get a coffee. I guess I would like to think that in some very, very small way, I can at times be “posh”.  But then! Then comes in Lucinda!  An-at least at one time-hard living woman!  With the gravelly voice to prove it! Yet at the same time, she’s an artist-a poet-a performer.  And yes, I have definitely had and lived through my rebel southern rocker chic stage.

All of this makes me think and remember how rebellious I was growning up. I was always angry- fear based anger.   God! I was always fighting something-having to prove something.  Because I got so nervous trying out for the drill team and only made pep squad-which I deemed was for nerds and failures, I went to the complete other side-drugging and drinking all through high school.   Then through my limited time in college.  Always being the one who could “stay in control”. Yeah! Right!  Eventually giving up drugs and pot, but hanging on to that alcoholic beverage.  Until of course 2 years ago when I quit.

What this dream ties into on some levels is something that occurred to me the other day. That aside from the fucked up political scene here in the US, I don’t really feel and underlying need to rebel anymore.  Which brings me to my belief that addiction and overindulgence on a regular basis is tied to underlying issues that we are either not in touch with or don’t want to be in touch with.  For example-or several- in my first marriage, I realized during all the therapy that I had during and after, that I never really felt safe with my ex.  Not in a fear of physical abuse, but emotional. And, now in thinking about it that while I can acknowledge that being with him helped bring me to where I am today, there was an underlying level of discomfort-and so I drank.

The same is true with my catering career.  While I was good at it, I never really wanted it and there was a HUGE amount of stress involved-both physical and mental. And to be honest, I should never have gone into business for myself.  I was good at the catering part-and pretty much every part except the business part.  So there was another underlying reason to medicate myself.  Another excuse.

Of course growing up I had issues with my parents.  A metally unstable father and an over-loving mother.  I spent so many years so angry at my mother-but as I like to say, she out lived my anger and I am so grateful for that. I was also adopted.  And while I was so loved and accepted by all of my family-and never thought of as an “outsider”, I think that was always something that I was aware of on some level. As a child and an adolescent, then as a young adult and then as a not so young adult, it seems that I was always in a state of outraged resentment.

I felt like I had to be the “coolest”.  And that of course involved substance abuse.  Even as an adult into my 30’s, 40’s and 50’s (YIKES!) that meant looking sophisticated with a glass of poison in my hand.  Using all kinds of excuses as to why I needed it.  Except of course the real, underlying ones.

Then, the other day that thought about not needing to rebel anymore occurred to me.  I’m in a strong, loving relationship with a man who treats me as an equal and isn’t into any kind of power trips or manipulation games and has a good heart.  I long ago made peace with my parents. I let go of my father long before he died and as I said, made peace with my mother and was able to be with her when she died.  I no longer have my business.  As a matter of fact, I totally closed out all of my business tax accounts at the end of the year.  I realized that even doing it once in a while was not enjoyable.  So now, I will cook for groups that I want to cook for-as a donation.  Like when a special Guru comes to town or the yoga retreat we go to every year.  Cooking out of love on my terms. I have a strong spiritual belief system.  And while I don’t have a ton of friends here in the city I live in, I do have strong, loyal friends that are there when I need them.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that getting to a place of being gounded in sobriety-or just life for that matter-is a process.  An ongoing process-ever unfolding. IF we do the work.  IF we face our demons and underlying reasons for WHY.  By facing those demons and confronting them and bringing them to the surface, we are able to heal.  I am certainly no therapist or professional in the recovery process, but I have to wonder if the reason so many people fail over and over and over to obtain sobriety is because they don’t want to deal with the underlying reasons as to why they need to medicate themselves.  To self-harm.  So many think if they just quit drinking, everything will change.  And yes, much will.  And sometimes, the main thing is to quit and stay quit-but what I’ve noticed with some people, is that while they might be sober, they still make the same poor choices as they always did.  They are still in the same “drama” as they’ve always been in.  Because they haven’t dealt with their shit.  I learned long ago-and am constantly reminded-that if we don’t deal with a deep underlying issue, it will keep presenting itself to us. It may come in a different form-but I can almost promise you it will come up-again and again.   For example-a therapist once told me that unless I dealt and learned about my issues with men, that I could choose someone who was totally different than my partner-totally opposite in physical characteristics, nationality-all of that.  BUT, because I hadn’t learned to be different, that sooner or later, we would have the same issues I’d had previously.  I mean, come on, how many times have you realized that “ok, here’s this same lesson again!!!”  When am going to learn??  When we change, when we have changed and learned from our core issues, we can create a new life.  A new way of being that we can be secure in. We attract new people and new situations.  A different kind of people and different kinds of situations.  When we learn to react differently, we change the dynamic.   We are then coming from a place of Self, not from some deeply flawed insecurity.  We can always blame the other person or situation, but at some point, in order to overcome and grow, we have to accept our part in things.  We have to have ownership as to why we are in the situation we’re in.  That’s where the growth comes from. Yes, it’s scary and it can be painful.  It can mean making some changes that are deeply uncomfortable until we can become rooted in them.  It may mean taking a stance against something or cutting someone out of our lives.  But hey-you can always go back to being dysfunctional-having dysfunctional relationships, so what do you have to lose?

DO THE WORK!  There are many avenues-therapy, group therapy, an all women’s or all men’s group, books, online courses-online therapy.  In AA they tell people not to make any major changes in their first year of sobriety. I get that.  After my divorce I made a conscious choice not to become involved in a relationship until I became grounded in who I was working on to become- so that I would have changed enough to not attract the same type of person/relationship again. I was without a relationship for years! So long that a friend of mine remarked that so much time had passed I should consider myself a virgin again!

Its important to dig deep. It’s will take however long it takes. Give yourself time to “break in” those new shoes you will be walking in- to be comfortable with who you’re becoming.  Slowly, step by step walking away from the past and stepping into the new.

And love yourself.

Drunken Angel by Lucinda Willliams

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Continuing On…

So-to continue on from my last two posts.  If you’re still alcohol free, good for you!  If you’ve slipped, that’s OK!  The main thing is to not beat yourself up.  To try to catch yourself when you start to beat yourself up and stop. Stop right in the middle of it and try to bring your attention to a positive. I know-trust me! that at times this can be really, really hard.  But, just try!  Try to see the pattern of beating yourself up-try to see when you start to beat yourself up.

At one point in my life-and during my recovery, I found myself telling myself that I hated myself.  Over and over.  That’s not the kind of positive self reinforcement that does anyone any good.  It all ties into our self imposed stigma of having a problem with alcohol.  Our need to keep ourselves down and punished.  Has anyone who hasn’t been drinking for a few weeks been feeling like, “I feel like shit!  I don’t feel like I look any better!  I haven’t lost any weight!”? That is beating yourself up. Of course, in my case and maybe yours, it’s a natural thing to beat ouselves up-easier to act negatively towards ourselves than positively.

How about the next time you’re coming down on yourself, you try to negate it by telling yourself something like,” Yeah, I do feel like shit! I still don’t like my weight, etc.. BUT I haven’t had any alcohol in so many days.  I am trying something new and different.  I am learning to take care of myself.”  You are now in your own school.  The University of Healing and Self Love.  Getting a degree in how to live a fuller and more complete life.  From there, you can go to graduate school..And with any new type of self education, at times there’s a need for research. Sometimes there’s a need for a tutor.  There’s a need for new behaviors- new ways “to be”.

So, here are some of the things that have helped me.  I realize that some of these things-and maybe all of them- are listed in many places.  But, for what it’s worth, maybe you need to hear/read it one more time in a different way.

Permission Granted!  This means giving yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get you through the day without drinking.  If it means getting in bed at 5 p.m.-do it! If it means staying home on a Saturday night-do it! If it means eating a tub of ice cream in the bathtub, do it!

Treat Yourself  Find new ways to treat yourself.  Long baths-these are a tremendous help in so many ways!  Saving the money you would spend on drinking and treating yourself to something special-a facial-a new coat-whatever it is that feels special to you. Set a goal for that money-you’ll be surprised at how quickly it adds up.  I was also surprised that I got to a point where I would think how much I would rather spend that money on something other than alcohol. How wasteful it was just drinking it away.

Allow Yourself whatever time it takes to feel better about things.  There is no time frame here-no deadline.  It takes what it takes and it’s different for everyone.

Breathe the way we breathe is so important.  Watching your breath is a good way to take your focus on something such as not being able to sleep or feeling anxious.  A way that works for me, is to close my eyes and exhale up through the top of my head and inhale from the top of my head-in slow, long, deep breaths.  Even a couple of minutes of this is extremely helpful.  Ano-ther thing that helps when feeling anxious-especially if it hits during the day while sitting at a desk, is to put your head down between your legs, watching  your breath.  There is actually a scientific explanation of how this posture effects the brain in good ways, that I won’t go into now.  Just try to remember to breathe in a stressful time.

Find a Mantra  When I was going through my divorce, years ago, it was incredibly stressful for me.  The owner of a Chinese restaurant that I frequented picked up on this and gave me a recording of Taoist Monks chanting. I listened to that tape almost 24/7.  I would come home from work, get in the tub with that Mantra going.  I never did know the meaning of it, but it calmed me.  I used it for years!  Another mantra that I used for years was something that I read in a book-that still comes to me occasionally. “The solution to all problems now manifests.  I feel free and filled with light.”  Now, because I follow a Hindu based meditation practice, I chant the Gayatri Mantra.  This is a very sacred Hindu mantra to the Divine Mother.  It is ingrained in me and sometimes I wake in the night to find it running through my head.  As with many mantras, there is a tremendous healing power in the words.  It’s about finding one that you resonate with. It may take you awhile to find the right fit for you.

Explore Relaxation Practices  The above Breathe section is one of these.  Yoga is a great one-so is meditation.  These can be done on many levels in many forms.  Find the one that works for you. You might go to a class or find an on-line version or even something offered on TV. Even if it’s gentle stretching, it will be a tremendous help to you.  At the least, it will show your Self that you are trying something healing.  You will be putting the message out to the Universe that you want to heal.  Walking is one of my favorite things to do.  I love being outside in Nature and feeling the healing energy of trees and other plants.  Find something that works for you and try to stick with it-even if you can only allow 10 minutes a day for it.

Start your Day out Right  What I mean by this is that before you even get out of bed, try give thanks for the positive things in your life.  Tell yourself that you are going to have a great day-or just that you’re going to make it through the day-Don’t look in the mirror and say “UGH!”  Look in that mirror and know that you don’t have a hangover and that’s a good thing.  Force yourself to eat breakfast! Something healthy. I also journal. Sometimes it’s only a line or two and other times it’s pages.  It really helps me.

Feed Yourself if you’ve followed me for a bit, you know that I have a strong food background.  I also feel that food is and has a very spiritual component to it.  All the years that I catered, I tried to be conscious that I was preparing food for others to take into their bodies.  I also firmly believe that it is extremely important that we cook for ourselves and feed ourselves a proper diet.  This is the best way that we can nurture ourselves.  I get that sometimes, pre-made food is necessary-but not every meal.  I believe that food not only supplies energy to our bodies, but it has energy. It has the energy of the one who has prepared it. To be honest, I’m pretty choosy about where I eat out-for just this reason.  I love to put on some kind of healing music or even Cuban music (which I love) and cook.  It makes me happy.  It goes into my food. Think about it! I bet you can think of a time or two when the food has put out a certain “energy”. I realize that for many, preparing a meal was the perfect reason to start drinking.  That was my drinking time.  With my SO in the other room, I could slurp away during that time.  So at first, I kept the food really simple and we started eating earlier-I found that usually, once I’d eaten the urge had passed. Of course there are lots of health benifits to eating earlier as well.

Get Healing Help What I mean by this is to reach out.  Read some books. Make some calls if you need to.  Find some pod casts that you resonate with.  Don’t overload yourself with all of this, but again, explore ways to heal.  These things don’t have to be about getting sober particularly.  They can be about healing in general. There is so much online now, it’s so easy to check something out and see if it’s a fit for you.  To see if there’s a particle of something that might be of help. Explore-find something that works for you.

Pace Yourself  If you’re like me-you should be able to do this.  While I am “an all or nothing” kind of person-when it came to my nightly “allotment” of a bottle of wine, I was really good at pacing myself.  As I’ve written before, I was a pro at making it take 2 hours to throw together an omelet!  That’s because I was pacing my drinking!  In this case what I mean is to take the time you need when you need it.  Don’t try to do it all at once. The one-and most important-thing is to get through the day without drinking-then the week and forward.  Don’t stop drinking, start a new diet, join a gym and sign up for volunteer work all on the same day.  Take it slow.  You’ll know when you’re really ready to take on another thing.   Try not to put to much pressure on yourself.  There is no timeline and no deadline.  This is an ongoing change that will be constantly evolving.  Evolving even when it feels like you’re at a standstill.  To be honest, it’s drinking that keeps us from evolving-keeps us stuck in old patterns and ways of being. Once that is out of the picture, life continues to flow and evolve.

You may be feeling raw right now, vulnerable.  That’s okay! It’s all new.  New can be scary.  While “life happens” try to keep things as simple as possible.  When I was first sober-at about 3 months- my SO and I went to Hong Kong.  WOW!  That was way too much for me at that point!  While I never really wanted to drink and didn’t have that issue, in retrospect I realized that I wasn’t grounded enough in my “new way of being” to handle so much. I had a kind of sensory-emotional overload.  I didn’t realize it at the time-but when we got back home, I just kind of blew a fuse.  To be honest, we’d planned the trip a few months before I quit-and I didn’t even think about what an impact the whole thing would have on me.  So, if you think that you may not feel comfortable in a situation and you can get out of it-do!

However you’re going about it, the thing is- You’re trying!  That counts for so much! More than you know!

Bravo to you!

With love