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All The Feels

Today was a rough one. All day, I’ve had the feeling of an elephant sitting on my chest, waking up in a funk that never passed.

I live in a medium sized city. Traffic is minimal, people are friendly, and crime is low. I work at an unsatisfying office job at a company that allows me good flexibility, incredible benefits (I get 30 massages a year covered by insurance. 30!), and a livable wage. I own my house that was built in 1900, with plenty of little projects to do and character that I love. I have a wonderful family, a sweet daughter and a silly kitten. Even with all this, I felt an acute sense of lack.

3 distinct things played into my feeling of lack today: First, I cut my thumb about 3 months ago on a broken bowl and lacerated my tendon AND nerve, so I’ve been 1 handed since. So. Frustrating. Physical therapy today was difficult and nothing had changed. I’m waiting for the day when I walk in and it’s miraculously fixed. Instead, I have about a year of physical therapy ahead of me.

Second, not long before I was about to head home from work, there was news that a fugitive was potentially loose in my side of town. The thought made me uneasy, but I decided to go home anyway. As I was driving home, I got caught in the area where the police officers had indeed caught the fugitive and there were gunshots with 3 people being hit not far from where I was. With all the hate and violence that has been in the news lately, this hit hard. I felt unsafe in my only safe zone.

Third, when I got home, there were 3 beers chilling in the fridge. I knew that The Boyfriend had met a friend for beers that afternoon, but seeing those beers instantly gave me a feeling of relief; like THAT is what I needed to get this elephant off my chest. Of course, I closed the fridge and made some tea, but later, a bottle of wine was opened and I had the same visceral reaction, but this time, when I realized I couldn’t have any, it hurt. BAD. I realized I don’t have a coping skill to replace the drinking I did after a sad and difficult day.

A month ago, I would have immediately poured myself some of that Paso Robles Cab Sav gold as soon as I got home, played a game with my daughter and waited until she went to sleep to make myself some delicious whiskey drink (it IS Friday after all), to deliberately un-feel the feels. Un-feel all the uncomfortable feelings. Plus, I would have felt “happy”.

Not having a way to move past these feelings seems so crazy. How hard could it be?! Just about as hard as breaking a 10 year habit. Writing this feels good. I think I’m going to go to a Refuge Recovery meeting tomorrow, and like I mentioned in my last post, meditate. Finding something to relieve this feeling is a major priority. Ick.

On a positive note, I’M DOING IT! I’m sitting in the muck. I’m feeling the feels, and by some miracle, I’m still alive. Go me! 🙂

 

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Mehhh-ditation

I made it two minutes in. Before that, I found a quiet, comfortable place in my house, sat on a blanket, and got ready to do it: Meditation. Once I started the guided meditation on self-love that I found on YogaGlo, I found my mind wandering and unable to focus on what was being said. After 2 minutes, I decided it was more important to clean up the fallen leaves in my front yard. You are reading that correctly. I was able to sit still for a meager 2 minutes.

Being unable to focus on meditating simply solidifies the fact that I need it. Just the thought of sitting still for even just 15 precious minutes, when I have dishes to do, clothes to fold, and yes, leaves to rake, makes my anxiety skyrocket. Again, another reason I need to be doing it. Anxiety. It flows through my veins, and I’ve been able to control it with medication and therapy, but would like to wean off of both of those things – eventually.

To give you a look inside of my brain, I am constantly thinking. Constantly planning, worrying, visualizing. My brain rarely turns off. I think that forming a meditation practice could be a very benefitial tool for me to have, but it feels so MEH to me right now.

So, dear readers, I need help! I need your advice, your wisdom, your resources, your encouragement. What is the best thing you could tell someone struggling with starting a meditation practice? Any good meditation resource recommendations? Give me your knowledge, friends!

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How I Got Here (My Sobriety Story) – pt. 1

How I Got Here is a 4-part story of my journey to sobriety: from my first drink, to my last, and everything in between. Want to share your story on exLUSH? Email hello@exlush.com. 

The Early Days

1909505_519562111398_4144_n-1I remember the first sip. I was a senior in high school and had eyed those mysterious bottles above the refrigerator for months; obsessing about them and trying to orchestrate the perfect time to acquaint myself. All that I knew about drinking was from movies, tv, and a few of my friends who my mom had categorized as “being caught up in the wrong crowd”. That description never made much sense to me. Alcohol was so glamorous and cool. My self-conscious, awkward adolescent self wanted to bad to be just that: Glamorous, but especially cool.

I had a large, and diverse group of friends. My closest friends were the well-liked kids who hung out at the “hip” church, made virgin pina coladas and sat around a campfire singing “Wonderwall”. Gag. I was also friends with the partiers, but only during school hours. Come Monday, I hated hearing about the debauchery and fun from the weekend, as I desperately wanted to be included. My friend “L” and I decided to make it our mission to do just that: become partiers.

The change didn’t happen quickly. In fact, it took a while for me to do anything but obsess over wanting to try drinking. My first dabbles in drinking involved going home on my lunch break and filling a water bottle with orange juice and MAYBE a shot of vodka. I’d go back to school and drink it in math class, like my own little secret. I distinctly remember that warm glow and the subtle lack of inhibition that alcohol gave me, but I felt ashamed of drinking alone while in class. It eventually evolved to drinking at football games, after football games, and on the weekend, until it was a habit. I had finally done it: wedged myself into the world of the drinkers, and was fitting in.

I remember early on in my exploration, my “old” friends tried to stage an intervention for myself and another friend I had dragged down with me. At the time, I thought they were being ridiculous and petty. I didn’t have a drinking PROBLEM, I was just meeting new people and trying new things. Eventually, this caused a severe chasm in our friendship. One that would never fully heal.

During this time, I never once questioned whether my drinking was considered “dangerous”. My naivetĂ© convinced me, the worst thing that could happen was getting sick, throwing up in the toilet, and “rallying”. I loved trying to keep up, drink for drink, with the guys, being spontaneous, and feeling free. In my mind, I had done it: I was cool and ready to take my new-found hobby to college.

Keep an eye out here for part 2!

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Sitting in the Muck

4mmmyvxbtrajedidg5euuq_thumb_33fToday, I cried 5 separate times day, for 5 different reasons.

And now I’m sitting at home, Kava tea in hand, face mask on, trying to figure out what the hell is happening. And trying to CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

To give you some background, the beginning of my sobriety came easily. I’ve never been a “need to drink” drinker but rather a “I deserve to relax” drinker, so not drinking for 2 weeks was a piece of cake. I simply replaced drinking with reading books, finding a new show on Netflix to enjoy with The Boyfriend, and writing blog posts. The Boyfriend decided to take a break from drinking, and there was no booze for temptation in the house. It was easy.

But now, I HURT. I’m having to sit in the muck and feel all the feelings. So. Many. Feelings.

Booze made it easy to run away from all the hard things, which is why I loved it. Everything from facing pressing relationship issues, to the way I view myself physically, to how I am performing at work. Gone. Now I’m having to face these feelings. I’m having to sit in the muck and actually figure this shit out, and I have no idea how.

The Boyfriend is drinking again, and my stomach dropped at the sight of a beer in the fridge. “I deserve to drink just ONE more time.” That was my immediate reaction, but I closed the door. I walked away and remembered why I’m doing this. As hard as sobriety is (and will be), hurting people and regretting my actions is harder.

So, this is where I am. I’ve come to realize the difficulties that lie ahead. This will be hard, but I can do this. I can learn new healthy coping skills that will allow me to live life confidently and compassionately. I can finally live the life that I so desperately want for myself, but that was out of reach when I was drinking.

We can do hard things.

 

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First Parties Sober – I survived!

It’s official folks, I have survived my first 3 parties sober. Well, not really parties, per se, but social drinking situations. Thinking back, is it really necessary to drink at a baby shower, a kid’s pumpkin carving get together, and book club? I say no.

It’s amazing how alcohol-centric casual social events are. I honestly had never noticed until my decision to become sober, as I was the one planning a mimosa brunch or playfully calling our book club “Wine Club”. Being on the other side, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Do we really need alcohol to interact with our friends and family? The very people who we should feel most comfortable with?

I wasn’t expecting to have this reaction to being around drinking. I expected being in a state of total misery: missing having a glass of wine while discussing our book or craving that fancy Fall drink to spark my pumpkin carving creativity. But I haven’t missed or craved anything. I’ve enjoyed coming home from these events at a reasonable hour, sitting down with a book, having a discussion with The Boyfriend. These things are important to me. They always have been, but in the past I neglected realize the importance of setting myself up for success.

I’m finally living the life I want. Without alcohol. Amazing!

Quick Tips for Social Situations

If you struggle with anxiety, like I do, and aren’t feeling comfortable about being in a social situation with alcohol involved, here are a couple of tips that have helped me get through these early days:

  • Bring your own drink – I always pack a can of flavored sparkling water (like Dry soda or La Croix). It keeps your hands occupied and gives you something healthy to sip on. If you don’t want to bring attention to your drink, put it in a cup. It’s ok to do things the “easy way“.
  • Keep it simple – If someone offers you a drink, a simple “no thank you” is enough. There is no need to explain yourself. If someone asks why you don’t want a drink, countering with “I’m not drinking right now” is a concise, honest way to drop the subject.
  • Practice – Practice in front of the mirror, saying the above phrases out loud. It might sound silly, but practicing will give you confidence that will carry over into social situations.
  • Exit strategy – It’s ok to feel uncomfortable (or even bored) and want to leave. Remember, sobriety is for YOU. You don’t need to think about the comfort of anyone else. Thank the host, say goodbye to friends, and slip out.
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Day 13 – The Hard Way

Nearly two weeks in this sobriety journey, and I’m doing well! To be honest, the last two weeks have been relatively easy. Not because of the so-called “pink cloud” that it appears many people experience in early recovery (I have more to say on this later), but because I haven’t put myself in situations that may lead to anxiety or temptation. There has been lots of thinking about my  sobriety, and how to make the journey easier. I’ve also been focusing on reading my books and lots and lots of self-care. In my opinion, face masks, baths bombs, and new nail polish should be required for early recovery. Feeling good, FEELS GOOD.

We have a few social activities coming up including a couple Halloween parties. When I RSVP’ed for these parties, and because the hosts are close friends of mine, I let them know about my newfound sobriety. I didn’t get the reactions I was expecting, but I also wasn’t surprised. Putting myself in their shoes, I think I would have been equally as surprised if they had come up to me exclaiming a total life turnaround. This only confirmed my biggest fear about sobriety: what other people think about it.

I know, I know. It’s easy to say, “Fuck it! It’s my life, and I’m going to do what’s best for me.” But is it? Is it that easy?

I wish it could be as easy as bringing a 6 pack of La Croix sparkling water and sipping on those all night. No questions, no looks, no judgement. I feel as though I have to pretend I’m still drinking in order to help OTHER PEOPLE feel comfortable with MY decision. Seems disingenuous. Is this ridiculous? Maybe that ‘s their problem, not mine.

The Hard Way?

The Boyfriend brought up a fantastic point that I want to share. He told me that I don’t have to do this the hard way. I don’t have to invite questions and open myself up to judgement by proclaiming my sobriety and making it known – something that would trigger my anxiety, big time. He suggested I keep it simple. Just do it the easy way: put your La Croix in a glass with lime, enjoy time with your friends, and maybe in time they catch on, maybe they don’t. But make it easy on you, because that’s the most important right now. YES!

That really resonated with me, and I’m going to heed his advice. No need to do this the hard way, just keep it easy.

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Monthly Finds – October 2016

Here is a roundup of my favorite finds from this month – little things that speak to me and bring me joy.

Enamel Pins from Emily McDowell 

emily mcdowell enamel pins

These. These pins are everything. There are so many that apply that I haven’t decided which one I want to indulge in. Sometimes we forget the AMAZING things that we have overcome. Lets remember them, and celebrate them! <3

Six Mantras for Early Recovery by Laura McKowen

I’ve heard from so many people that meditation has been a major factor in their recovery success. It has been something that I’ve tried, and liked, but never gotten into the habit of practicing. I like that these mantras are simple and come with a personal story that gives meaning to them. I plan on keeping them with me for easy access for any anxiety/craving/stress moments that I may have in these early days of recovery. You can get these mantras at Laura’s website for a steal – $4. (Also, How Do I Get Through Early Sobriety?)

Sheet Masks

Yes, those masks that are the key to a 10-step Asian beauty routine – I’m hooked. Ever since I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve been upping my skincare routine habits, and I’ve seen MAJOR results. Smooth skin, no redness, no pimples?! While I’m sure the lack of skin-ruining booze has been a major contributor, I also think these masks have made a real difference. I look forward to the 20 minutes I get to put on a mask, lay down, relax, and treat myself! (The link above will get you 20% off your first order at Memebox, and will help me support my skincare habit <3)

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Books to Begin my Recovery

alcohol recovery booksOne thing that I’ve learned in this first WEEK of recovery, is that I need to un-learn most everything I thought I knew for sure – about myself, about relationships, about love and compassion, about life. I’ve been living a life knowing how I want to be and be perceived, but I’ve been too scared to start. Even when I did muster up a tidbit of courage, I had no idea what to do or how to act ultimately ending my push of courage in a ball of self pity.

I plan to change this. I WILL change this. I want to be courageous, strong, confident and most importantly, compassionate. I’m hoping that starting out recovery with a habit that I’ve been wanting to get into for years will help me get a grip on why I got to this point and how never to come back.

I compiled this list from a couple sources, namely Hip Sobriety’s 13 Essential Books to Build a Holistic Recovery and my own research into the vast abyss that is self-help books.

This book is based off the premise that with the absence of fear in our lives, and choosing love over fear, we are able to live miraculous lives. Gabrielle asks for 6 weeks – 42 days – to help you learn this skill, which each week having a different focus. I’ve only just started this book, but a lot is resonating with me. I’m realizing that so many of my drinking habits came from a desire to run from my fears. What I Hope to Learn: I want to be able to recognize my fears, face them, and flourish without their stronghold on my life.

I’ve never talked to anyone about alcohol abuse and reading about someone who has been in the same shoes as me is cathartic. Especially written by an intelligent, successful women. Learning that alcohol abuse can effect women of all walks of life, and that there IS a way out has been a major source of inspiration and strength for me.

I haven’t started this book yet, but I’m hoping that it can add some much needed tools to my Sobriety toolbox. It has come highly recommended from multiple sources.

Any other books that were integral to the start of your recovery journey?

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Day 2 – Surrender

Here I am. Day 2 of sobriety. A Sunday. That means that last night, I didn’t drink. On a Saturday. That’s because I drank on Friday. Boy, did I drink. And the night ended with me puffy-faced, tipsy and uncertain of my future. It’s not the first time this has happened. But I decided it would be the last.

I didn’t hit rock bottom last night, per se. Not like the rock bottom that you see on TV. I didn’t go to jail, I didn’t drink and drive, I didn’t injure myself physically. What I did do is hurt someone else. And it’s not the first time I’ve hurt this person, but this time his hurt, hurt me. I said something that wasn’t true, just to appear in control. Assertive. I want to be more assertive! The truth, though, is that I wasn’t being assertive. I was running. Running from my insecurities, my fears, any uncertainty. And I was running with a bottle of wine (AT LEAST) through my veins.

I’m a lush, or at least I WAS. Wine with dinner 4-5 nights a week, plus craft cocktails, IPA’s, and don’t even get me started on pumpkin beers. But I didn’t NEED the alcohol. I didn’t crave it, or wake up with the shakes. I liked it. I liked feeling more open, uninhibited. More social. But I didn’t NEED it. I had questioned before whether I had a problem. Whether I drank like other people did. Binge drinking is what young people do! I am normal, I just have a memory problem. And a regulation problem. And I hurt people who are dear to me.

So, I give up. I’m done being that girl. I’m done running. I’m starting this blog to help me find out my full potential and to remember where I came from. I want to document this journey, because something tells me the transition that I am about to go through will be beautiful.

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