Thursday, September 14, 2017

Color of Sobriety

Dear Readers,
Sunset on Garden Lake, Ely MN

Fall is here, and although the temperatures are still rather warm, you can feel it in the air, feel the light changes, see the changes in the leaves, and even smell it.

Fall brings both beauty and anxiety for me.
For with the beauty of the fall leaves, and cool crisp air, also comes anxiety of the dark days, and low light that bring on low energy and depression.

Perhaps it's my mood today, although I feel good, maybe I'm just in a reflective mood.

Life is colors for me. I color things in my mind, see emotions in color, and breathe colors in and out.
Blue is the color that beings me the most peace. It's my protective color, and when I wear blue, or see blue, it's calming. 
Grey is my depression color.

Yesterday, I met a woman who looked sad. She was smiling, but I could see pain in her body and face.
Later I found out her son was in treatment for the 15th time. 
I felt so sad for her. I wished hope for her and her son.
I think that colored my world a little grey. 

My past drinking did not just affect me, but everyone around me. Even people I did not know, such as the clerks in quick shop stores, where I'd go and buy a bunch of junk food after drinking. They must have known I was drunk, and who knows how that affected their day, perhaps they went home feeling a little grey.

Addiction was stealing everything that was good in me. It was stealing my vibrancy, my joy, my love. It was stealing my happiness, my creativity, my empathy. 
Golfing! 

And in place of the goodness, my drinking was giving me pain, anger, resentments, judgments, and selfishness. 

My addiction to alcohol was bringing my marriage a great deal of grey. It was eroding all the good things between hubs and I. My recovery has meant the return of the calmness of blue.
We are happier now, and I like happy. 

With Much Love,
Wendy

Monday, September 4, 2017

3 Years!

Dear Readers, 
On September 4, I will be sober for three years.

For over 15 years we have gone up north to a cabin with several sets of friends, where we canoe, hike, and swim. It's beautiful up here with the lake, the woods, and huge rocks. 

But this is also a hard weekend for me.

I have a difficult time with my social anxiety, because there are many people, and I struggle to hear. 

It is also a big drinking weekend. 
In the last few years, before I stopped drinking, I would get very drunk. I would sneak wine, I would get very moody, trip over things, and isolate a lot. I tried to use drinking to deal with my social anxiety.

The first two times I came up here sober, seeing all the wine bottles, and other drinks, made me very anxious.
This year, at 3 years, was much better, and I had few worries around other people drinking. 

I wish I had wisdom for everyone about how to stop drinking and be happy.
I was reminded in a post by Primwho has been sober for about 4 years, about the decisions we need to make to get and stay sober.

I thought about that, and looked at the choices I had to make each day to be sober today.
After my last slip, I had to make that hard choice...do I continue this unhappiness, or do I stop.
Day after day, I had to make choices, or decisions about drinking or not drinking, about reaching out for support or keeping a secret. 
Day after day, I had to make a choice about facing life with a poor me attitude, or one of gratitude. 
I had to make the choice of staying sober, or driving drunk. 
So many choices, so many decisions, but I kept choosing the one that brought me peace of mind.

Slowly and surely, time passed, and here I am.
I never want to go back to the pain I experienced when I was drinking.
I do not want to bring that pain back to my husband.

I do want to continue being happy that I stopped. I have more joy and life now.
Do I have problems? Of course, and I shutter to think about how I would handle them if I were still drinking.

This is a process, and it is on-going. The life-giving choices of not drinking are much easier today. But the thoughts of drinking are still with me. Recently I was driving by myself about an hour from my home, and I was going to be gone all day. I felt free driving by myself.
I passed several places that whispered to me to come and stop and have a drink. No one would know.
I made the choice to keep driving past, reminding myself that the addiction voice is strong.
It's why I choose to continue to write, to read, to go to meetings, to help other people in recovery.

Life is better sober. 
It's really as simple as that.

Thank you to all of those who are on this path with me, because I truly can not do this alone.

With Love,  On 3 Years, or 1,095 Days.
Wendy

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hope

Dear Readers,
Addiction is tough. It kept me lost, and in denial for many years.
I refused to believe I had a problem. I refused to believe that I couldn't moderate.
I refused to believe my husband who told me I had to stop drinking.
Even after having to go to the hospital after drinking all day, and passing out, I refused to believe I had a problem.
Even after coming home drunk, falling down that stairs, I refused to believe I had a problem.
Even after falling down at a broadway play, I refused to believe I had a problem.

I am not sure why one day I was able to stop, why one day I was sober for another day, or why one day I had hope.
I had hope I could keep going.
I had hope that things would get better, that cravings would stop, that I wouldn't feel so strange at parties, that life would seem less difficult.

I had hope that I could find the pieces I had missing inside of me, that I would find my way back to Wendy, or discover a new part of me. 

And these things are happening. 
I am finding my way back home. 
I am no longer in denial, and I have hope that each day something good will happen. 

I have met so many people who are in recovery from both drugs and alcohol, and each one of them teach me something, each one shows me what hope looks like. Their lives all have hope, an expectation that things will be okay. They show me what hope looks like, even when things are overwhelmingly hard.

They take life as they do recovery, one day, one moment at a time.
They teach me that hope and gratitude go hand in hand. They are so grateful for all they have even if they have little, grateful for all the good things that happen in a day.

I have hope now. I had lost that when I was drinking. 
There is hope for everyone who is struggling. 
I often hear people say, "We can and do recover."
I see that every day. I read blogs that show me this every day.

I close with this quote, from a poet who writes children's poems, one I often read to my students when I was teaching.

Listen to the mustn't, child. 
Listen to the don'ts. 
Listen to the shouldn't, the impossibles, the won'ts. 
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... 
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 

With Hope, Love and Gratitude,
On Day 1,087,
Wendy

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sobriety and Marriage


11th Grade 
Dear Readers,
On Monday, it will be Mr. UT's and my 41st wedding anniversary!
That is a LONG time! In fact, we met in 11th grade, and dated steady for 7 years until we got married!
(Well, except for 2 weeks in college when I broke up with him to date Peter, then decided life really wasn't greener on the other side!!)

I told hubs I don't even remember when or where he proposed to me! (He just shakes his head, knowing I have a very short memory except when it comes to food memories!)

When we were young we did not have much money, and yet we had a lot of fun. Camping trips, driving trips, little things that created a lovely life. We rented a little house and painted all the rooms in these brilliant colors. We loved that little house. (Except for the mice.)
When we had a fight, I'd run over to my grandma's house, a block away and my grandma and I would discuss the problem with men!
Our Wedding Day, A Long Time Ago!

We certainly had some very hard times during our marriage.There was a move to another state, where hubs found a job, and I fell into a deep depression due to losing my social support. I couldn't find a teaching job right away. I thought I wanted to leave my darling husband. I wasn't able to have a child. My depression was bad at times, and that often clouded my thinking. (Even writing about these times makes me feel the sadness.)

There were also so many wonderful sweet times. Times of love and joy. Times of travel, house fixing, bike riding, skiing, just plain fun. Mr. UT helped me in my classrooms, building shelves and helping me organize! There was much laughter in our house, as Mr. UT is very funny!

When I look back and see how we made it this far? Sometimes I am in awe!
We just never gave up. No matter what happened, we fought for our marriage. We had basically grown up together, being high school sweethearts. We had to learn, to compromise, to adapt, to change. We had to love unconditionally, even when this seemed so hard to do.
We also fought for each other. I wanted to protect my husband from all the bad things that could happen, and he supported me during all of my ups and down times and health problems. 

When my drinking became the biggest elephant in the room, we still never gave up.
It was a "we" effort, because truth be told, I am not sure I could have quit without his support. He stopped drinking when I did this last time, because he saw that I could not have alcohol in the house. It was too tempting.

Now, on the eve of our 41st wedding anniversary, and on the eve of coming up to my 3 years sober, we truly have found peace. Our love now is so strong, I know there is nothing that can break it. 

Perseverance, some stubbornness, willingness, surrender, forgiveness, honesty, and love and laughter. 
And Now!
These words are the words that hold our marriage together. 
I love you, dear husband.
Thank you for watching out for me, caring for me, providing for me, and loving me.

On Day 1,078, 
Wendy

Monday, August 7, 2017

Just For Today

Dear Readers,
Lately I have found myself feeling left out, about not being part of an "in-group".
I often feel very insecure when it comes to people. I will say something and then worry I said the wrong thing, or I talk too loud, and someone tells me to be quieter.
I often don't hear things people say in a group situation and so I either have to ask people to repeat, which gets old after a while for them, or I pretend I know what's going on, which leads to strange conversations. Sometimes I give up and leave.

I often want to be part of the "in-group" so much, that I forget to be happy with what gifts I already have!

Slowly but surely, I am learning that the secret to life for me, is being grateful. 
A woman I know, commented on the fact that Mr. UT is a wonderful guy.
I told her, I did not really appreciate him and all that he does for me, until I got sober.

Sobriety, (as Anne of Ainsobriety often says), is a gift.
It keeps bringing me new 'aha" moments. 
It gives me the chance to step back when I am upset or sad, and ask myself some questions, and then to be open to the answers.

And because I have lately had the feelings of being left out, I asked myself, "Why is it important to me to be included with these people?"
"What do I need or want that I am not getting?"

The answers that came to me were that I need and want connections, love and approval.
When I look at what I already have, and I discover that I have connections, love and approval right now.
I do not need to seek these things.
Instead, I want to appreciate the people that love me unconditionally.
This is a gift sobriety brings.

So, just for today, I will be sober, grateful, and probably a little loud!

With Love,
On 35 Months and 3 Days,
Wendy

PS - It was my birthday last Tuesday, and Mr. UT bought me a beautiful dress, and even got the right size!!
My Birthday Present from Mr. UT!!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Don't Give Up

Dear Readers,
Mr. UT and I went for long hike today, in a beautiful park.
When we had gone two miles we debated how far we should continue hiking.
We ended up hiking 5 miles in 92 degrees heat.

Half the time, I complained to Mr. UT about how hot, tired, and thirsty I was.
But Mr. UT just kept reaching for my hand when I was going up a steep hill, and encouraged me to keep moving.

And guess what?
When we were done, I was so very glad I kept going and didn't give up.
The woods and lakes were lovely, green and blue, and little frogs were hopping everywhere.
I felt good about getting my exercise out in nature, and having time to discuss life with Mr. UT.

I am also thankful I went on a hard walk to find sobriety.
And yes, I complained to Mr. UT about how hard it was, how left out I felt, how I didn't think I could keep going.
But he, along with other people, offered me their hands, and pulled me along when my energy was sinking.
They talked me through my fears.

If I had given up on my road to sobriety, I would have never found the joy and peace of mind I have today.
Being sober brings me joy.
It brings joy to my marriage, joy to my family, and joy to all I meet in the world.
It brings joy when I water my flowers, volunteer, do the laundry, and have coffee.

It's not as if I am running around happy all the time.
I still have crabby times, tired times, sad times and angry times.
But there is an underlying joy and peace of mind knowing that these times will pass, and that I can meet any challenges that face me with grace.

It occurred to me last weekend, as Mr. UT and I ran around the city having too much fun, that I didn't miss drinking at all.
We went a museum, a sculpture garden, walked by lakes, and ate ice cream galore. (It was National Ice Cream Day!)

Now I am sore from our hike, my back is killing me.
I'm still a little crabby.
And I am so happy that I am still walking on the path of sobriety.

With an Iced Tea,
On Day 1,052,
Love, 
Wendy 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Grievance Stories

Dear Readers,
When I was in college, I had to do a supervised teaching semester in a kindergarten school. I went to meet the teachers and the school.
As soon as I returned home, I was informed by the dean of education, that they didn't want me to teach there.
He said It was because of my speech.
I was deeply hurt. This came out of nowhere. 
I was sent to see the speech and hearing clinic at the university, and found out that I had a hearing loss, and because of that I had a lisp.
I had no idea.

Later, when I first started teaching, I was hurt by another teacher.
She reported me to the superintendent, saying I shouldn't be teaching because of my speech. 
It was a horrible time. I almost quit teaching. I went into a severe depression. I didn't know who to trust on the staff, as she told many other teachers.

For many years I told these grievance stories, over and over. I struggled to let go of the hurt and pain. I was so angry. One night, many years later, in a drunk stupor, I called the teacher who reported me to the superintendent, and raged at her. 

These are but a few of my grievance stories. Stories where I have been hurt, but struggle to let them go, to learn from them, but not carry them. I first heard of the term grievance story from a book called Forgive For Good, by Dr. Fred Luskin.  Here is an excerpt from an interview he gave on Virtues for Life:

"A grievance is created when we take a normal life event that is painful, make it very personal as opposed to something that just happened, and then exaggerate how personal it is. Then we practice this pattern over and over, and forget that there are other ways of looking at the same situation."

When I was drinking, my grievance stories were about how horrible work was, and about how everyone had wronged me. They were magnified by the alcohol. I would sit for hours with my drinking buddy discussing everything that I was resentful about. 

Now, you can't rush the healing from these real hurts. 

In order for someone to forgive, "They have to have done some grief work about their loss or wound. They have to have done some grieving of it, which means that they have felt the pain and acknowledged their loss. Also, that they’ve looked at how they handled things and said, “Could I have handled it better?” So a lot of inner exploration and again going through these stages of grief. Then when these stages have been explored, you can look at letting it go. So you can’t forgive too early before you’ve had a chance to grieve the loss. That’s the biggest obstacle that people run into.

Now, one of my biggest grievance stories is about how I was hurt by being left out, or not being included.
My other one is being angry at my body for making me deaf, and the loss of hearing music. 

I really do have a choice. I can continue making myself feel bad, or I can change my story.
In terms of feeling left out, or feeling hurt, I can choose to see that in most cases, nobody tried to hurt me on purpose. If I reach out to people, I feel strong and happy, rather than wait to be invited some place.

I can choose to forgive my body for making me deaf.
I have had to grieve the loss of music. (A cochlear implant changes music and makes it sound very strange, and unpleasant.)
Now, I am telling people how lucky I was to be able to have insurance to cover a cochlear implant, so I can hear speech. 
I am telling myself and other people how happy I am I can hear birds, and hear people talking! I can hear speech on the radio now, too! 

Real life takes work. I just don't want to sit around moping about all the hurts I had past and present. 
By taking drinking out of the equation, I have been able to heal and let go of the resentments much faster. But I still have a ways to go.

In college, the dean found me another school to do my supervised teaching of kindergarten, and the teacher there was warm, loving, and I thrived. 
In the case of the teacher complaining about me, the district office put me in a different elementary school, and there I also thrived. 

Being grateful for all that I have, and remembering I can grieve, and then move on, helps me change my stories from a poor me Wendy, to a strong Wendy!

With A Sunny Walk,
On Day 1,044
Wendy