Healing

I have been away from this blog for too long. For the past two months I have been experiencing vertigo off and on. And at the moment I am recovering from whooping cough of all things. It’s been a rough couple of months health wise and I will admit that there were many moments where all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch the birds out the window. Even when I was feeling good, there was always the fear of feeling bad at any moment.

During this time, I completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Miraculously, I would mostly feel good on the weekends that I was training. The training, thought difficult, was made easier by the bond I experienced with the woman in my group. It was strong and immediate.  There were five woman training and two teachers. We were dubbed early on “the laughing group.” All of us could not have been more different, and yet, there was an undeniable chemistry. We cheered each other on, we were our authentic selves, we shared who we were and we did not judge.

Until the training, I had not realized how much I needed the comradery of woman. How grateful I am for their compassion, for their knowing.

But this is not what I meant to write about. My intention was a seize the day kind of post. I have relied heavily on the poems of Mary Oliver to get through this rough patch. Whenever I feel down, her words lift my spirit. She reminds me of the miracle of simply being alive.

This Morning, by Mary Oliver

This morning the redbirds’ eggs

have hatched and already the chicks

are chirping for food. They don’t

know where it is coming from, they

just keep shouting, “More!, More!,”

As to anything else, they haven’t

had a single thought. Their eyes

haven’t yet opened, they no nothing,

about the sky that’s waiting. Or

the thousands, the millions of trees.

They don’t even know they have wings.

And just like that, like a simple

neighborhood event, a miracle is

taking place.

Right at this very moment, I feel good, healthy. And I give thanks. It’s not easy to walk around in a state of gratitude all the time, and well quite frankly its unrealistic. But, I do try to start and end my day in gratitude. To get outside and notice the miracles that are happening around us every minute. Nature can heal the soul and clear the mind of its constant chatter. I hope you are able to get outside and feel some relief from a life that can sometimes be difficult.

 

Remembering

Last December around the time of my son’s 15th birthday, I found out my mom’s cancer was progressing and that she might need treatment.

For his birthday, my son wanted to go away with a friend somewhere fun with a pool. It was about a two hour car ride to the hotel, but it was the longest car ride I ever remember having.

I was obsessing for the entire drive about not being able to have a glass of wine (or three) when we arrived. I found myself scheming ways I might somehow sneak it without my son knowing. I kept thinking,  screw this whole thing, I’m going to start drinking again, I don’t care. Those same thoughts played over and over…

At dinner, the desire has lessened significantly. My husband ordered a beer not knowing how hard I was struggling. All around me people were drinking. I ordered tea. When the boys left to go swim at the hotel, my husband and I stayed. We talked a lot about my mom and what might be coming down the road. I cried right there in the restaurant. But I didn’t drink. I could not bear to let my son down. More than that, I could not bear to let myself down.

The next day, I told my husband how much I was struggling. That night he ordered ginger ale.

I’m telling this story because at that time in my sobriety I thought my desire to drink was gone, but old patterns can pop up when you least expect it. It takes time to rewire the brain.

I had been complacent. I had stopped reading about sobriety and had stepped away from the community that was helping me.

My advice, don’t be complacent. But more importantly, don’t be hard on yourself if you do have a urge to drink. Do something else for an hour or two…however long it takes. Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, whatever you need to do until l the feeling passes.

It will pass.

Since December, I have not had another moment like that one, but I am now more diligent about the process. This Sunday marks one year. And it’s been the best year of my life.

Almost a year

I am 48 years old and started my yoga teacher training last week. I was nervous that I would be the oldest. I’m not, but what I realized is it hardly matters. The women I spent my weekend with are amazing, all ages, all walks of life. We bonded almost immediately. I found myself saying things like, we should start a running club once we’re finished. I haven’t run in years, but I felt inspired by them. One woman wants to run thirty marathons in her thirties. How awesome is that? Another woman, only in her twenties stopped drinking four months ago because she was just tired and a little disgusted with the whole scene. Another woman works for the park service. What I mostly felt during the entire weekend with these women was connection and gratitude.

Then bam, I got hit with vertigo. What the F, really. Could the timing suck more…

I made it through the weekend and most of the week feeling mostly okay with bouts of wicked dizziness. My son and I even ran with Adventure Man (check him out on youtube). Then self pity set in and I started to feel really sorry for myself. And a little panicked about the five more weekends of yoga teacher training that would be very difficult to accomplish with vertigo.

It felt really unfair. Then I realized that it could be so much worse. And it is strangely reassuring that I did not cause my illness. I might feel hungover, but I am not hungover. I did not do this to myself. There is no guilt. In fact, guilt is a feeling that is pretty much gone from my life.  Which is amazing because I used to feel it on a regular basis.

I am three weeks away from one year sober. From the outside my life looks that same. From the inside though, my life has changed dramatically. I am steadier, more at peace. I like who I am. Even with vertigo.

 

 

Self Care

Quitting drinking is the ultimate act of self care. After all, what is self care if not self love.

My very first act of self care was to begin a yoga. For me, yoga is much more than a practice, it’s a guide to living well. It’s learning to be in this world without a constant feeling of restlessness and need. It’s taking care of myself and of others. It’s learning to be less judgmental. Yoga is healing me and has healed me.

I decided to live a life free from alcohol. I made a public promise to stop drinking for a year. Now I feel completely different about alcohol. I don’t desire it. Instead, I see it as an ugly thing like smoking butts.

I started drinking tea. There are so many wonderful kinds of teas. I have become a connoisseur of tea.  My favorite at the moment is Rose. Tea is good for your health. It tastes delicious, is sophisticated and won’t make me behave like an asshole.

I became a voracious reader. I no longer waste my time watching ridiculous television programs while downing a bottle of wine. And if I do watch T.V. I remember what I watched. There are so many amazing stories to read and I can never run out.

Bathing is very healing. I will pour in some Epson salts and lavender or rose oil. Sometimes some pink Himalayan bath salts.  Light a candle. Maybe even give myself a little facial. I feel like I’m at a spa. Oh, and of course have tea.

The gift of a good nights sleep. One of my favorite feelings in the word is lying down at the end of a full day.  I feel such gratitude in the moments before sleep, for this beautiful life with my family.  Knowing that will never feel shame again. That I will wake up feeling healthy and rested.

Welcoming the day. I have a morning routine that I think is pretty spectacular and would highly suggest to anyone. First, I brush my teeth, you have a lot of bacteria in your mouth in the morning. Then, I come downstairs and make warm lemon water followed by my morning coffee, which I take very seriously. In my coffee I put cocoa powder, cinnamon, coconut milk powder and maple syrup. I started drinking it this way for a cleanse and now I love it.

Writing. Every morning, I sit on my couch and write in my journal. I make sure I have a full forty minutes to myself before I need to shower and get to work. Kitty purrs on the couch next to me while I write and I intermittently look out the window at the birds. Bliss.

A morning shower to start the day. Before I get into the shower I dry brush. If you haven’t tried it I highly suggest you do. There are all kinds of purported benefits, but mainly it just feels really good. I turn on the shower and add a couple of drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the shower. I oil pull while showering (my teeth have gotten whiter), and give myself a quick oil massage. This routine feels amazing and doesn’t take long at all.

I mostly eat healthy, but I am not adverse to treating myself. I start the day off with a smoothie of some sort, green or berry. Steel cut oats or a hard boiled egg. I make the oats ahead of time and store them in the fridge in mason jars. Easy Peasy.

I spend time in nature. Being outside helps me feel connected. I love the woods, the beach, my backyard. Being in or near the ocean is the ultimate act of self care for me. My motto: Any day spent in the ocean is a good day.

Practicing gratitude daily.  Being free from alcohol has completely changed my mood. Sure, I have crappy days. But, I have to say that it doesn’t happen very often. I have less anxiety, less anger, less judgement. What I feel inside now is hard to put into words without sounding corny.  I feel more at peace with myself and the world. I feel incredibly grateful for this life and my part in it.

Grateful

I am ten months sober. 308 days to be exact.  What I feel mostly these days is a whole lot of gratitude.  You hear a lot about the pink cloud when you first get sober. It’s when you feel ecstatic in your sobriety, grateful for everything,  noticing all the ways in which life is well.. beautiful.

I find myself on that cloud a lot. Hopping on and off intermittently.  I’m not constantly walking around with a grin on my face, but I am consistently in a better mood, less anxious and more myself.

Recently, my family and I went to Washington D.C. for my brother in laws fiftieth surprise party.

One of the highlights for me was scooting around D.C. with my husband and son. We could only get two scooters, so I rode on the back with my husband for most of it, balancing mostly on one foot. We saw so much, but to be honest it was being outside and riding around on the scooter that was the most fun. I felt like a kid again.

Later, we’d meet back at the hotel. Usually, everyone would be back by five because they had free drinks from five to seven. In the past, this might have been hard for me. But it wasn’t. Mostly I felt really lucky that I did not need or want to drink. When questioned, I would reply that I’m happier without it. And I meant it.

We played manhunt in the hotel, kids against adults. The management was not happy. At one point we heard one of the staff say into his walkie talkie, “they’re everywhere!”

I fully enjoyed and remember every moment of it.  And best of all, I woke up every day feeling great. When I go to bed at night, I feel so grateful to be sober. And when I wake up in the morning, I feel so grateful to be sober.

There are so many amazing things about being free from alcohol. It is impossible to convey it properly. There are the really huge things, like better health. But there are so many little things too. What I feel most often in my sobriety it gratitude. Grateful to always be myself, to never feel shame, to never willingly make myself sick. Grateful to notice all the little joys and to fill my life up with beautiful moments.

 

Forgiveness

When I think about how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time, it is astounding to me. The only change that has ever been bigger is motherhood, And that’s a whole other ball of wax.

I am finally feeling like myself again. I haven’t been true to myself in years. It’s like I’ve been wandering around lost, looking for the right path.

I have always had an exuberance for life, but when I was drinking, it looked and felt like restlessness. I was so rarely at ease with myself.

The real reason, I think, is that I just didn’t like myself. I had so much guilt and shame, all the time. Even if it was just the thought, I shouldn’t have had that third glass of wine, I still felt shitty about myself.

Sometimes the old me comes back to remind me of all the stupid things I’ve done in the past while drinking. Last night, was the first night in a long time I could not  sleep because I was having anxious thoughts, going all the way back to my teens.

Alcohol has put me in so many dangerous situations, No! I have put myself in so many dangerous situations because I was drinking alcohol. The drinking me was not really me. It was some insecure selfish version of me.

I am so, so, grateful to be free from booze. I don’t look back on drunk times and remember them fondly. Alcohol always left me feeling vulnerable. It always took away my self-respect.

I want to feel proud of myself, but that is such a foreign concept to me.  I’ve rarely, if ever, felt proud of myself.

I have plenty to feel good about, I’ve done a lot of things right. But, I’ve been tearing myself down for so long. And it’s going to take a long time to build myself up again.

I have a wonderful life. I’ve given myself the gift of a fresh start. I was going to say a new chapter, but really it’s a new book.  The main character has changed.

I’m me, I’ve always been me. But, forgiveness is long over do. The only person who can build me up, is me.  I thought someone else could do it. All these years, I’ve been relying on other people for my self-esteem. How stupid.

Sleep

Last night I had a dream about alcohol. Not unusual. In the dream my husband offered me a sip of his alcoholic drink. I was so pissed at him. I said, “you think I’m going to throw away eight months of sobriety for a sip of a root beer flavored booze, if I want to taste root beer, I’ll just have a fucking root beer.”

When I told my husband about the dream he said he didn’t really understand why having a sip of alcohol would be throwing away my sobriety. My husband is one of those unusual people who can easily have one or two beers on occasion and never have the desire for more.

If I had a sip of alcohol it would not send me into a downward spiral of drunkenness, but I would no longer consider myself alcohol free. I would have to start over

Thing is, I have no desire. I see booze for what it is because I no longer romanticize it and attach stories to it. Alcohol is a sedative. The reason you feel buzzy and more sociable is because the alcohol is sedating a part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex helps control our impulses and behavior.  Keep drinking and it will sedate other parts of your brain affecting your motor control. Eventually, as you begin to feel tired, your ability to stay conscious is diminishing. You are not really falling asleep, your passing out.

Some people believe they sleep better after a few drinks.  The truth is you are not entering naturally into sleep, it is more like a form of anesthesia.  In the book Why We Sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Mathew Walker, PHD, it states, “alcohol fragments sleep, littering the night with brief awakenings. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep that we know of, it’s rather like the cerebral version of cardiac arrest preventing the pulsating beat of brainwaves that otherwise power dream sleep.”

I always felt tired when I was drinking. Alcohol not only negatively affects your sleep, it also dehydrates you. An energy sucking combo. Whenever I drank, I would always wake up around 2:00 a.m. feeling wide awake and thirsty. Sometimes I would even dream of big pitchers of cool aid. I still keep a glass of water by my bed, but it is rarely touched by morning.

Now that I am fully aware of what alcohol does to my brain, not to mention the rest of the body, I just don’t feel the same about it. We need to wake up as a society and acknowledge that alcohol is a harmful drug that has harmful effects on our bodies and brain.