Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Gift to Others, A Gift to Myself

Dear Readers,
As I continue on this path of not drinking, I am understanding the immense importance of helping other people on their path to sobriety.
In AA, sharing your story, service, and sponsoring other people are a cornerstone of the program. 

There is a reason for this.
By helping other people, I get out of my own headspace.
I get away from self-centeredness and focus on someone else.

And guess what. It really does work!
There is some research behind the the helper theory in recovery.
People who help other people, stay sober longer themselves!
Some of the research is hard to read, but in case you want to read all the little figures and big words, go here.
However, there is a short easy-to-read article here.

But what if you don't go to meetings?
What other ways can you help?
Being a sober pen-pal for someone can help.
Writing a blog, and responding to other people's blog helps.

Who helped me?
My husband
My family
My friends
My Women for Sobriety friends
My AA friends
My sponsor
My yoga teachers
My yoga fellow learners
My life coach
My doctors
My former co-workers
My blogger friends

Yes, I have to do it myself, but not alone. The most powerful help comes from other people saying, "Yes, I get it. Yes, I did that too. Yes, you too can stop drinking and be really happy!"

A gift to you is a gift to myself. 

To all my friends in recovery who are struggling? Don't give up trying. Reach out for help, and keep reaching out. When you have a hand to hold yours, hang on tight. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trying to Figure Things Out

Dear Readers,
I feel as if I am starting life all over again.
And in a way I am, not only a new life not drinking, but a new life in retirement.
There is so much I have to learn.

Drinking stunted my ability to cope with all the ups and downs of life.
I only relied on that one way to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
So, I am learning new ways to deal with feelings.
Drinking also helped me pass the time. I am amazed, now that I'm not drinking, how much time I used just buying alcohol, home drinking, or going out to bars. 
So, I am learning how to use my time in a different way.

I loved my teaching career. It was my passion. I felt creative and wanted. I had connections with children and adults.
But I was overworked and burned out. 

My young self loved to read, write, ride her bike, sing, meet friends, help other people, play outside at night, sew, and even cook and bake. She loved learning new things.
This is the person I want to rediscover. 

But something keeps stopping me. I am at a loss to explain why I am struggling in my retirement. I can't quite figure out my new purpose or a new passion. Without that, I feel as if I am just floating around. I feel stuck. It's like I am looking a tree full of apples, but can't decide which one to pick. I keep thinking I will make the wrong choice. 

My new therapist is working with me to help me navigate this maze. 
She especially wants me to work on self-compassion, as I am very hard on myself.
I am not taking the best care of myself. I sometimes stay in the house for days, doing nothing but reading. I don't eat healthy food. 

I need to learn how I can be my own best friend and support myself while I am figuring things out.

So I feel as if I am standing in a doorway.
If I walk through it, I will find Wendy.
If I turn back, I will lose her again.

(A very good author on self-compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff.
Check out her web site here.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Happy Not Drinking on Day 203

Dear Readers,
I am so happy I quit drinking.
I have no idea how I would have coped with my operation, my depression, and my retirement if I hadn't quit.
It would not have been pretty, that's for sure, and I like pretty!

I choose not to drink today, because it would not make my life any better.
Instead of laughing, I'd be crying.
Instead of hugging my Loved One, I'd be mad at him.
Instead of meeting new friends, I'd be with bartenders.
Instead of moving my life outwards, I'd be closing down.

It is still early in my sobriety. I still need support. 
But I am noticing a shift in my thinking. 
I no longer have the feeling that I am missing anything.
Instead, I see the positives of not drinking.

This couldn't have happened without much effort and time being sober.
I went to AA, Women For Sobriety meetings, started blogging, went to a life coach, found a therapist, reached out to other people in recovery, and FINALLY I am finding peace.

Because I am still dealing with some depression from my operation as well as figuring out being retired, I have a lot more issues to work through.
But how happy I am today, that I don't have the burden of drinking that would only stop my healing.

To All My Friends in Recovery: If you are still drinking, know that there is hope for you, too!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Just Desserts on Day 198

Dear Readers,
Waiting for Dessert
Each time I go out, I am finding it more rewarding to stay sober. 
There is something very special about laughing and loving without being under the influence of any drug. There is a peace that comes from not worrying about what I may do.
I feel closer to who I was meant to be, the good and bad, but definitely more real.

Many people wonder if they can still have fun, and be fun if they don't drink. 
I did too. After six months of sober social events and date nights, I can truly say, I am having just as much fun. 
I am alive, not dulled with drinking. I can have a real conversation. I can dress up, feel pretty and dance! 

Last night, after we left the jazz club, I didn't want the night to end, because I love being downtown.
So I googled "late night desserts" and we found a very cool restaurant. 
We had a very tight place at the bar, and ordered lattes and chocolate tortes.
We talked, laughed, and had a very romantic evening.
What am I missing? 
Nothing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Keeping Open on Day 195

Dear Readers,
Today I found joy.
I found joy in a visit with a neighbor over coffee.
I found joy at yoga, connecting with a wonderful warm teacher, and some yoga buddies.
I found joy writing this blog.
I am noticing that when my mind is open to life, I am finding "experiences of hope, gratitude, joy, patience, forgiveness, connection, and wisdom".

(From the book, Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, by Elisha Goldstein, PhD.)

When I find these moments, I am trying to stay in them awhile. I hope to build upon these experiences and be even more open to them the next time.

It all depends on my mindset. 
Is it open or closed.
Is it accepting or judgmental.
Is it open to learning or closed to new ideas.
Am I in self-pity or am I in self-compassion.

Hope brings me a feeling of, "I can make it!" 
Gratitude brings me peace in all I have now.
Joy brings me lightness.
Patience brings me a calm mind, understanding I am human.
Forgiveness allows me to let go of the burden of hurt. 
Connection brings me hugs and togetherness.
Wisdom makes it easier to practice compassion, for myself and others.

Stopping drinking is a start, but if I am to flourish, I must continue growing.
Ever learning, ever reaching out, ever reaching up, and ever loving.

To all my friends in recovery, I wish you hope, peace and love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saturday Morning Thoughts

Dear Readers,
Happy Saturday!
I went to 6 yoga classes in 6 days, and I think my body says, "HELP"!
It was fun, though!

Our weather here has been so wonderful, everyone is in a sunny mood! Here's a picture I took with my car roof open! We went from deep winter to spring, overnight.


This warm weather brings another set of issues for those of us with alcohol addictions.
It means St. Patrick's Day, outside parties, barbecues, and weddings, where drinking is always present. It will be important for me to keep looking at all the good things I have in my life now that I am not drinking.

I went to several AA meetings this week, and I had some mixed thoughts. The topics were heavy. 

One meeting was men and women. Many of the people there had addictions to drugs as well as alcohol. They talked a lot about the drugs and the type of alcohol they drank. Luckily it wasn't wine! One person had relapsed and were going back to treatment. I had a strange feeling at that meeting, not sure how to place it. I did give a hug to a guy who I have seen before, and that felt good. 

The other meeting was an all women's meeting. I met my new friend again! The topic was amends. Now making amends is a topic in itself. I certainly am not an expert on this. It is a topic that scares people. I think the most important thing I learned is not to do this on your own. I had to make the deepest amends to my husband, who had to live with worry and concern. 

I am so grateful for all that I have. I am making gratitude my mantra. It takes away my petty thoughts, my petty complaints. 
"I am thankful."
"What can I do?"
"Thank you."

So I end this post with a "thank you" to all my readers who are supporting me on this journey!
Hugs,
Wendy


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's Playtime!

Dear Readers,
While I was practicing my yoga today, I realized what makes it so fun for me.
It's playing!
The studio I practice at is a joyful place.
I have met many fun people there.
The teachers are funny, kind, and open.
It's playing at its best.
Like in the sandbox, with friends. 

Playing is important in my life. 
These are times when I feel pure joy and freedom.
When I am in a place of play, I feel engaged, connected, and in the flow of life.
When I was teaching, I often had moments of pure joy, a feeling of playing.

Drinking often stopped that playfulness.
Instead of adding quality fun to my life, I depleted my play by only seeing drinking as my playtime. Bartenders were my playmates.
I thought drinking made me fun and playful, but that wasn't real play.

I am now rediscovering how I can add more play, playmates, and playtimes into my life. I am lucky in that my Loved One loves playing too!
I love biking, walking, taking photos, blogging, yoga, and clothes!
Meeting friends for coffee is playing! 
I was thinking that even reading the paper in the morning with my coffee seems like playing!
My drawing class will start in April. I hope that becomes another way to play.

Playing helps me heal.
Playing helps keep my depression away.
Having a playful attitude in life expands my life. 
When I am playing, I have feelings of pure joy. 
The wind in your hair kind of feeling.

From the book, Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfullness and Self-Compassion, by Elisa Goldstein, PhD:

Notice times you can savor.

Say to yourself:
1. "This is a good moment."
2. "In life there are good moments (or joyful moments)."
3. "Can I bring gratitude to this moment?"

Today as I write this post, drinking coffee in my favorite coffee shop, watching people, laughing with the coffee shop workers, I can say, "This is a good moment."

To all my friends in recovery, I wish you moments of joy and play today!

Monday, March 9, 2015

6 Months and 3 Days or 186 Days

Dear Readers,
This post finds me a little up and down, a little teary-eyed.
I might not be my perky self, but I'll try to suck it up!
(Words from my Loved One!)
I am AF now for 6 months.
This weekend I had a stronger thought of drinking. In fact, it was my old evil little liar voice telling me I could drink and no one would know.
HA! 
What a little liar that guy is!
The trigger was feeling left out on a face book post.
That is still an issue for me, even after all these years.
It stems from way back in childhood, with my speech, hearing, my eye, all factoring in.
I was never in the in-group and always wished I was.
I am working on this with my therapist, and I am so happy I have her.

So, now I'll switch to my perky self!
It turned spring overnight here!
Went from 8 degrees to 50.
It's lovely! No snow, no mittens!

What's good about being AF now?
Well, the mornings are still wonderful.
I love waking up sober.
I love being grateful for all I have.
I love having a Loved One who everyday tells me how proud he is!
I love helping other people in recovery.
I love knowing there is more out there besides drinking.
I love knowing I am driving sober, so I don't hurt anyone.
I love knowing I am stronger than I think.

There is nothing negative about not drinking.
Yes, you can live without drinking, and in fact, it is a beautiful way to live.
You don't need it to be funny.
You don't need it to relax.
You don't need it because you "earned it" after a hard day.
You don't need it because you fight with someone.
You don't need it at a party.
You don't need it.

I hope all of my friends in recovery stay strong today.
Hugs,
Wendy

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tops and Bottoms

Dear Readers,
Last night I went to a meeting with a delightful woman who met me on-line. She was reading my blog and guessed where I lived, and so we decided to connect in real life.
It is a joy to meet other people who are recovering and are succeeding.
It gives me much hope that I too can make it!

The speaker last night talked about bottoms and tops.
I used to compare my drinking bottom to other people's.
I wasn't as bad as them, or I was much worse.
I finally understand, it doesn't matter.
I am not them, they are not me. 
Comparing my story to other people's stories, does not help me heal.
In fact, it keeps me feeling either "high and mighty" or "I'm awful".

The speaker also discussed the tops. She was clearly joyful in her sobriety of two years.
She is doing things she would have never done while drinking.
I continue to discover my top.
I am on a path of growth.
Once again, my top will not be like other people's.
I can't compare because it won't help me grow.
It will just make me feel that "I could be better" or "I am better than them."

Today I volunteered at the school where I taught, helping another teacher.
I love helping other people. 
If I can make one person's life a little easier, how great is that!
That is what recovery is all about.
Helping ourselves, sharing our stories, and by doing that, helping other people.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to Be Yourself and Like It

Dear Readers,
I am in a joyful mood, despite the fact that it never stops snowing, and it's so cold the icicles are shivering!

Yesterday, my yoga teacher spoke about being yourself. 
You can only be yourself, of course, but all my life I wanted to be somebody else.
I wanted to be a famous singer, or a dancer.
I wanted to be that pretty girl, the popular one.
I wanted to be the rich person, the one with a cabin.

I almost never wanted to be me. 
In fact there were plenty of times when I hated myself.
Drinking helped me pretend I was someone else, and fueled that self-hate.
When I was drinking at a party, I could pretend I was the exotic singer.
I could pretend I was funny, brilliant, the girl everyone would remember.

Part of my journey getting sober is learning to accept being me.
Even the dark sides of me.
All of me.

I do believe I can be a better wife, friend, aunt, teacher, by being myself.
I can help other people in recovery by sharing my story honestly.
By being a human.
One that loves, laughs, and cries.

What can I give to someone else today?
It is only by accepting and knowing my gifts, can I give.

To all my friends in recovery, I wish you the peace of accepting and loving yourself.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Being Flexible

Dear Readers,
I decided I need to be sure I stay flexible with my new habits plan.
(Well, partly because I am failing the phone-checking part!)
But I AM happy to report that I:
1. Got ready to leave the house in 30 minutes today.
2. Got to yoga.
3. Have been able to limit TV to 4 hours or less.
4. Met a yoga buddy for lunch and have three more coffee dates set up.
5. Going to a meeting with a person I met in blog-land.
6. Ate lots of ice cream! (OK, not on my plan!)

I just want to be sure I don't get too rigid, or get mad at myself if I don't do this perfectly.
One week I might have three social events, and the next week none.
One day, I can stop checking my phone, all the time, the next day I can't.

Life is not perfectly balanced each day. 
(As My Loved One often reminds me.)
Life is high, low, up down, busy, slow.
I can't meet life being rigid.
I have to stay flexible.