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Staying on track

13 May

3:21 pm

Like (probably) a lot (or at least some) of us, I am starting to feel the pressure of time to myself.  I am grateful for people who are working the front lines of this pandemic; and sometimes, I feel sort of guilty that I have free time that I could, if I wanted, use to do something to improve things.  But, I’ve only been furloughed for five weeks, and I am just trying to enjoy my free time…for now.

Speaking of time, I have a lot of “now that I have time, I should do this”-type of projects that have been on my radar for years; and, partly because these are pulling me in different directions, and partly because I am struggling to stay focused these days, I am starting to feel mentally overwhelmed.  How do I spend my time?  I know this not-working thing is not going to last–and, it’s a good opportunity to start planning for the future, in case I don’t get my job back in July–am I spending my free time well?

Out of necessity, I try to maintain a sense of structure to my days, which is a habit of having worked for myself for almost a decade.  What I’ve been practicing over the past eight years of working remotely–as in, alone all day, just me and my to-do list and my work–is staying on track.  What does that mean?  To me, it means, focusing only on what needs to be done, no matter how “small” it seems.

Getting what needs to be done, done, is easier if I make a to-do list.  It is especially important now, during this very freeform pandemic, where, if you’re not working or you’re working from home and not used to it, it SEEMS like you have no structure and all the time in the world–which can cause you to go crazy with panic, unable to focus on anything; before you know it, the day has passed, you’ve done laundry and snacked way too much, and, you are beating yourself up…giving you more anxiety.  And, if you’re someone like me, who has issues with control and perfectionism and anxiety and depression–well, it can start to feel VERY overwhelming when you want to get 15 things done, have gotten nothing done, and, should probably have expected to get only one or two things done in the first place!

I am here to tell you, staying on track is not a mandate to “get shit done.”  It’s more, for me anyway, stay focused and in the moment by getting only what needs to be done, done.  If you do the most important things today, what more can you ask for?  Honestly, some days, I don’t get anything done…but, I manage to journal and feel grateful (for, well, my sobriety, my “family” here, and then, my health).  On the days when my mind starts to wander to, let’s say, my long-form writing project(s), which take commitment that I may or may not have, EVER; or my passion projects/areas of career focus, which I’ve been neglecting for a long time (due to one, having had to prioritize earning a living and two, just being tired or burnt or lazy or just evolving away from said passions); when my head goes to the edge of the cliff and looks down and sees a huge, gaping hole of canyon needing to be filled with water…?  Well, I stay on track.  I take myself out of my head, stop thinking about all those other things I “should” or “need” to do, and focus on the task at hand.

These days, I don’t have a lot that I have to do–but, I have a lot of pre-projects; like, I am only just sort of thinking about a lot of things, and while I want to put them into project form, I can’t.  I mean, I am struggling with what to write about next, and how much time to further devote to this blog.  I am thinking about what to do next, as in, returning to a few passion areas of my life that I haven’t revisited since 2014–and, at the same time, feeling a sense of guilt, of dread over how much time I’ve been away from these things, that I let them go in the first place.  Why?  Can I catch up?  Do I want to?  What does it all mean?  And, then, of course, I’ll need to log some time looking into them to figure out where they might fit into my future, in a real sense (a job?  a volunteer assignment?  just read books about these things?).

On a different note, our dog took a turn for the worse last Friday.  One of her back legs gave out, and she can barely stand on her own anymore, let alone walk.  She keeps trying, though, and can still get up and down and go for short, stumbling jaunts; she even went on a walk yesterday, which overjoyed me!  Of course, we have to use a sling to help her hold herself up, which is awkward and kind of trips her up more than her lameness.  We wonder if she has “doggie ALS,” since she is part German Shepherd (that’s one of the breeds that is more genetically predisposed to a degenerative muscle disorder in dogs similar to some cases of ALS).  I think it could just be a break, maybe a joint that’s finally given out–she has a very bony protrusion on this leg around her knee area, and a part of me hopes that if we took her to the vet and got it set or whatever…?  Sigh.  Even if they could fix it, the rest of her spine and limbs will just keep getting worse.  So, we are at a new normal again.  We’re just taking it day by day.

And, of course, an update on Facebook:  it’s been a whole 30 days since I’ve been on Facebook!  Woo hoo!  Actually, I logged in for the first time in four weeks on Monday, with the sole intention of deactivating my account…but I just couldn’t do it.  I did end up starting to scroll/troll (is there a difference anymore these days?), and quickly realized that I needed to get off before I got swept back in.  It was a “slip,” let’s say; however, I had to log in to (try to) deactivate my account.  I’ll try again to extricate myself in another month, if I manage to not log in for 30 more days (which I intend to do)…

All this time to do it all, or nothing

7 May

5:17 pm

Doing it all.  I never use that expression because, well, I think it’s ludicrous.  Of course, no one can “do it all” (or “have it all”), certainly not working mothers (that’s what I automatically associate with the phrase “do it all” or “have it all,” but I suppose these can be applied to anyone living any type of lifestyle).

During this lockdown period–the “opportunity” to do whatever I want, all day long–which also happens to coincide with not working–I was furloughed from my normally-remote job for three months–I have felt the joy of being able to make a long list of things I want to do…and then felt the frustration of never really getting more than one or two things done in a day.  You know why?  Because I am an optimist.  Haha.  (I read that optimists are always late because they’re trying to fit too much in/have no sense–or refuse to have a sense–of realistic timing and scheduling.)

I am always trying to do too much–and always feeling like I am never getting anything done.  It’s not true that I’m not getting stuff done, it’s just that I get done what a normal human being can fit into one day, factoring in fatigue, being lazy, maybe something even spontaneous (gasp!).  I think it’s worse when you work full-time and then, have a bunch of time off–especially when you have a lot of things you like to do.  Every day, I want to do it all, everything that I never get to do during the daytime, now that I have time off.  I want to do it all, but I can’t–however, that doesn’t mean that I don’t try!  It can get a bit overwhelming, the sense of, man, another day, and I still didn’t get that done!  On the other hand, it’s kind of like a first-world problem, and I know this.  It doesn’t take away the frustration, though.

On another note, I am almost FOUR WEEKS off Facebook, and, while I have wondered here and there about a few people–oh, I wonder how she is; or, what’s he been up to?–I am simply 100% NOT TEMPTED to go on the site and check.  I have checked a few public pages–our government house and power company, for instance–to watch for updates that they don’t post anywhere else.  In addition to my groups’ postings, some of which do involve things that at least seem to matter (!), like my career and hiking through the Western desert–haha–that’s what I truly miss.  The rest?  Eh, I think I am over it.  I think I could very well be at the point where I could deactivate my account and one, not feel like I’m missing out on other people’s lives (which makes me feel friendless, lonely) and two, not feel like I’m being forgotten by never posting about mine.

I have a lot I want to do, so that helps to keep these niggling and useless thoughts from becoming anything worth noting or holding onto.

Crazy, COVID times, eh?  I am not looking forward to the world being set into motion again, but, thankfully, it will be slow and steady–enough time to get used to the grind-as-normal.  Meh!  I like the fact that I am finally, somehow, getting to the point of being OK with sitting in a chair and reading pulp fiction for hours on end…

Mental illness should not be a moral failing

28 Jul

11:24 am

So, because I’m either a cynic/pessimist, or because I’ve been around the sobriety block and tend to see deeper into things or events than the average “normie” and apply my perceptions differently as they relate to my long-term sobriety–YES, my presentation went off successfully, but I did learn a few things.  I learned that PTSD is real, the brain connections made to enable such a state are powerful, and using drugs to help yourself recover is not only not a bad thing, but a professional method toward recovery.  I learned that my real voice needed to be “let out of prison,” that some/maybe a lot of people relate success to willfulness only and not to a variety of factors (some of which, like mental illness, you are not always in control of), and of my own strong desire for approval from others.

In short, I mentioned the other day that I had been alerted about a month ago by my direct boss that I had to participate in giving a team presentation to our larger group/team at our group meeting that happened just this past week.  Upon hearing the news, and for the next month, I worried and obsessed–and prepared.  I have had a major fear of public speaking and stage fright surrounding this for about 13 years (since an incident in graduate school), and I simply HAD to deliver this time around.  I knew that if I didn’t get help, I would not be able to get up there, I would disappoint my big boss (my boss’s boss) and team yet again (I’ve had, as it goes with stage fright, major issues even introducing myself to the team at past events), and I might even jeopardize my job!

So, I freaking made it happen.  I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist, got a prescription, then used said drug at various public speaking “test” events around my ‘hood all throughout the month of July to see if it worked, and how much of it I needed to take for it to work.  Fast forward to the day of my talk–effing FINALLY–on Thursday of this past week, and WOW/HOLY EFF, I rocked it!  I got up in front of the crowd, and all of the sudden, this deep sense of calm came over me; I just stood there, folded my hands in front of my legs, and began speaking, interacting, and generally, performing at a level I never thought possible for me.  On the flight home, I came up with this as to how it made me feel:  the real me was released from my jail cell, and not only that, set free into the grass, where I danced, literally, to celebrate being free.  It was like, the real me was finally able to come out and perform–I was finally able to show my team who I was, how prepared I usually am, how committed and invested I am in this job, and how well I am doing the job, or at the very least, trying to do it.

It didn’t go unnoticed:  everyone, including my big boss, complimented me; she even took me aside and told me that not only did I do a great job, but that I had improved very much over the past three months (we last saw each other in April at another conference).  Which brings me to my first point:  how come I was now considered competent and successful, just because I was somehow (um, thanks pharmacology) able to “overcome” my stage fright and perform like a “normal” human being?  I mean, I am always competent, whether I have mental illness or not; it’s not my fault I have this type of stage fright/mental illness; and, it’s not something I can control.  BUT, having it does not preclude me from also being competent and succeeding at my job.

Another thing I realized was how much I was simply craving not just her approval, but the entire team’s.  I mean, I was SO wanting her to say, I approve of you–and she did, more or less, for the first time since I started this job. I felt SO relieved and reassured when, after complimenting me, she actually talked to me as a person (we had never had a real conversation before); and, later throughout the day, I felt somehow more or less included in the upper tier/managerial team (I am not really part of that team, but at my age and with my title and experience, I SHOULD embrace that type of role, if offered).  UGH–I mean, I cannot deny that that was exactly what I was craving, but it sort of startles me that I need approval that badly.

In any case, I am not only flying high, I am super-relieved.  Of course, there will be other conferences and meetings, and of course, I’ll have to decide if and how I will use the medication (there aren’t many side effects, but there are some; also, if I was a masochist, which I kind of am, I might want to keep attending my public speaking group events here at home to practice speaking without the medication–I don’t foresee myself EVER being able to be as calm and “competent-sounding” as I was on Thursday without that medication, but, you never know/stranger things have happened).  For now, though, I am flying high, grateful, and SO ready to put that behind me and move on.

Moving on, indeed!  In other news, we’ve decided to move back to our island!  I won’t say too much about that–it’s been a long 1.5 years here, struggling to learn, evolve, grow, and rediscover ourselves; and, we’ve both sort of found what we were looking for (for him, he doesn’t want what the mainland has to offer, and for me, I can take the parts of it that I know I want–I can work this nonprofit job remotely from there–and leave the rest, which I discovered in the past 18 months I actually don’t miss, want, or need).

Anyway, I just wanted to share the happy news that while I did succeed at my speaking event, it wasn’t without a few major personally-vexing revelations–welcome to long-term sobriety.  (oh, and of course, there was one night where I was SO burnt on the interacting with other people that I craved a glass of wine–but, no can do, folks/le effing sigh)

Who you are vs. who you want to be

14 May

6:14 pm

So, as you all know, we moved to a new place about three months ago, and we’re managing to stay sane, I suppose!  Being in a new place, my contract job having ended, and neither of us really all that extroverted or desiring to be so–it just sort of sucks!  It is NOT EASY moving somewhere new in your 40s!  Haha.  You sort of just don’t feel like any of it anymore, you know?  I knew that I would feel more comfortable in one of the many places that I have already lived, but I thought, take a chance, go outside your comfort zone (again), yada yada yada.  I think we have both realized that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to aging and trying certain new things, like, moving to a new place.  I don’t know.

And, this has all made me start thinking about this whole, “go outside your comfort zone” thing, which I’ve been trying to do my whole life, to varying degrees of success.  Like, what IS a comfort zone, and why do we have this idea of it being a bad thing?  Are you supposed to be doing something that makes you feel comfortable, most like yourself; or are you supposed to be challenging yourself and doing things that are hard or scary or too big to chew?  I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I just can’t stand writing anymore, and I want to do something else; but, when I boil it down and observe myself in action–you know, being who I am, or who I have always gravitated toward being–I realize that I AM simply a writerly type (quiet, thoughtful, introverted, so at ease in my thoughts) and then, can’t seem to conclude that I should do something else.

Yet, what IF I didn’t want to be that thing anymore?  Can I just go and be someone else entirely, throwing off the “callings” and character traits that I always seem to relax into, and instead do something that I think would make me the person I want to be (less in my head, more active, more intrepid, as it were)?  I have thought about this a lot in getting sober, in moving through it all, in relocating, in losing yet another job that I didn’t really want in the first place but that I was “good” at and that I made money doing.  Are you supposed to be who you are, or work at being who you want to be?

I am SO fully on board right now with trying to be who I want to be–with putting in that work–because I am so tired of who I am.  I am so tired of being the neurotic writer, the science geek.  It’s like, I wasn’t that good at science and wanted to major in freaking poetry in college (yeah, the fear started way back then, and it is one of my life’s regrets)!?  Um, when as a child did I say, Mommy, I really want to be a…technical writer when I grow up?  Time is running out, y’all.  And not only that, but I am sort of becoming desperate to NOT be in my head all day–even IF it means taking a huge pay cut…at a time in my life when I need all the money I can get.

The other day, as I was contemplating who I am (a writer) versus who I want to be (maybe a public health professional, maybe someone who works for an international development nonprofit or NGO), I was struck by how confusing it is to decide who to be:  which person (the one you are, the one you want to be) is more authentic, more truthful, more along the lines of fulfilling a personal destiny?

It’s a dilemma.  As a writer, I am always looking for work, selling myself, and moving from contract to contract, subject to subject.  I mean, it would almost be easier to be a lawyer, or anything with a well-formed trajectory, and then at a certain point be like, it’s too late to change course.  As a writer, part of your job is changing course, so you are constantly also thinking about courses outside of your own realm (well, at least some of us are).

I am trying to sort of end this chapter in my life, but I have only ideas, and not enough savings, and a heavy dose of fear.  I hate that.  I hate feeling afraid at this late stage–I am 43 years old, and it’s only been in the past several years or so that I wouldn’t have just up and left a well-paying job to pursue a shitty paying passion.  And, I am grateful for that newfound level-headedness (it has enabled a lot of financial progress and big changes, like this move), but I’m also still learning how to balance my need to earn a big check with my equally large need to feel stimulated, excited, fulfilled, wanting to get out of bed in the morning.  I know there are many an alternate career I can pursue, and I just need to sit down and chart a course of action beyond the next few months.  All in due time, I say.

I gave up freelance writing because it did not pay the bills; and, I think it might have just tired me out and made me believe that I didn’t like writing when in fact, it was the stress of never making enough money.  I WANT to be like, eh, I don’t need the savings, the retirement account; I should just Go For It and become a barista (again), or a teacher, or a poorly paid writer for an international NGO.  Yet, can I expect to feel safe, or, the way I want to feel, on that kind of income anymore?  In an ideal world, we would have a thriving business, which would allow me to pursue a more “passionate” career again; in THIS world, maybe we would both feel equal parts comfortable and challenged; in this world, maybe I would love being a writer again.

Exhale.  It will all be OK, I keep telling myself.  You got this.  It’s all about balance, right?

Perchance to dream

16 Apr

4:26 pm

I had to look up this quote from Hamlet to make sure I wasn’t using it totally out of context–no, I have no intention of ending my own life, but the phrase conjures this idea of dreaming, of an uncertainty toward the future precisely because you have one.  I like this.  That is what I mean, perchance to dream…

I haven’t been writing much lately mainly due to the fact that life just feels busy–has felt busy, for going on years now.  I average one post a month here, and sometimes I feel like I have more to say, and sometimes I feel like I have nothing more to say.  So it goes with writing, I guess.

Anyway,  my brain has felt overloaded for the past too many months, with doing what needs to be done:  all the little details of work, earning a living, making life happen.  Two weeks ago, my contract job ended, and I don’t know if it will come back to me as a full-time role, and I know I don’t necessarily need to work for a few months–well, it’s the first chance I’ve had to breathe, to clear my head, to DREAM in a good long several years now.  Shit!  It’s been years since I pitched a journalistic story!?  It’s been years in the making, my to-do list of personal projects and ideas!  YEARS, friends, not months!  And, how GREAT does it feel to finally, at last, have some real time off in my new city (well, it’s suburbia, but it’s been home for three months now).

I feel like I can finally take that much needed step away from the daily grind, enjoy a slower pace, see what there is to see in this new home, and really look at what I’ve been spending my mind time doing–finally use this time to DREAM.

I need time to figure out what’s next.  We’ve been living states-side for about three months, and frankly, we don’t like it.  Well, no:  we LIKE the conveniences and cleanliness very much; what we don’t love is, well, the TOO much convenience, and the TOO much cleanliness!?  I know this feeling, as I felt it when I came back to America a couple years ago for a while after having lived in the islands for a few years.  It felt sterile, and the consumerism was just too much–cars and malls, malls and cars.

Now, that sense of “buy buy buy” is acutely intense–everything is about buying and selling here, and nothing feels to be about community, or “culture,” as it were.  I sort of hated the “culture” when we were in the islands, as I never felt all that welcome; now, all I see here is a lack of character, and a lack of history in some parts, which kind of lends a certain soullessness to the place.  On the other hand, I am grateful to be here, to have been able to finish out my contract in a new apartment with easy access to green space and with reliable, always-on utilities!  So, it’s not all bad.

So, yes, perchance to dream?  It’s a luxury that many people don’t often get.  In this mental space, though, I’ve noticed that a LOT of self-judgment is coming up, and I guess I should see this as a chance to work on simply accepting how I feel, and going with my gut, and not judging it as bad, or wrong.  We all have gut feelings about people, places, and things.  I am not sure why, but for most of my life, I did what I “should,” and not necessarily what I wanted–partly, it was and continues to be about deciphering calling from job; and discarding things that I simply don’t like or don’t suit me, that don’t make my brain hurt or scare me to death but that challenge me just enough to feel fulfilled.

These things change, and I am pretty sure that they will keep on changing–what fulfilled me in my teens and 20s is no longer what I want or need to do now!  So, instead of judging the way I feel about being here, in this new place; instead of punishing myself because I “should” like it–why not honor those feelings, and embrace them for what they are, which is guiding lights?  I need all the guiding light I can get right now, and so, embracing how I feel, actually honoring my feelings instead of hating on myself for having them, well that seems KEY to future happiness.

Perchance to dream–I will let you know what I come up with!  For now, it includes finally working on finishing the start of a big writing project; checking out the barista scene here; taking some camping trips (one reason we moved out here was to be able to camp and see all the great natural wonders of the West; we didn’t realize that a desert climate has all sorts of variables that might slow us down, like wind, and lack of humidity, and dangerously high temperatures); looking into finally moving from corporate work to nonprofit or NGO or disaster response (I once dreamed of getting a degree in public health, and maybe that’s something, too)…the list goes on, and I am super-duper grateful for days like today, when I feel “up” enough to not be overwhelmed, when I feel energized and clear-brained and well-rested enough to WANT to do all these things.  NOT always the case, folks; there have been quite a few days here when I haven’t felt like doing anything, where I’ve been wondering, will I ever feel excited the way I used to, about doing all these things on my “bucket list?”

It brings me ’round to mentioning that yup, over the past few weeks into months, I have wanted to start drinking red wine again, mainly for the “anticipation celebration” effect.  When I was getting sober, I wrote a lot about how drinking seemed to fuel a long many years in my life of achievement-oriented work, play, goals.  I drank in order to get excited to do things–and it worked, as wine drops dopamine, and your entire system just feels excited, and MOTIVATED–and I drank while I was striving for “excellence” and “achievement” in order to reward myself for all this freaking brain-crushing, soul-sucking “excellence” and “achievement.”  It was as if–and maybe it was actually so–my entire life of striving was built on the anticipation and then, reward of wine after a “job” well done.

So, when I quit drinking, and even now, of course, I struggle with feeling excited to do stuff!  Like, at night, I often feel I’ve done nothing, or not enough, with my day; I felt that way before I quit drinking, and I would mask it by downing wine.  I can’t hide from these feelings anymore, and I still have them, and I struggle at night when it’s time for bed and I’m like, I feel SO GOD DAMNED BORED but yet of all the MILLION things I could be doing, I don’t want to do any of them.  So, I go to bed, moping, feeling defeated, depressed, wondering, what’s the point here?  I am SO squandering my talents, my time, my LIFE.

Wow.  I know, I am neurotic, and it’s helped and hurt me.  What I am saying is, lately, I have been wanting to drink out of a sense of frustration at night (I am so not sexy anymore, here, this wine will make me feel young and hot again–NOT…haha) and a sense of existential panic (I feel so bored and so maybe I should read or write, but I SO don’t feel like doing that, and I can’t escape both feelings so here, let me have this wine to just erase the fuck out of all of this nonsense–NOT…haha).  Of course, I have no intention of drinking again, I stay firm, but, it’s not to say that this wispy idea hasn’t been coming back to me over and over again, sneaking its way into my “Oh, that sounds like a good idea” thought patterns…  I know I could benefit from meditation, and it’s something that has helped me in the past.

It’s a process, but I stand firm because I KNOW that drinking is not going to change ANYTHING but the cosmetic appearance (to myself) of my life; that I will wake up with the same face, black eyeliner smeared into bruise-like patterns where rouge and lipstick should be, wondering why I just spent $50 on wine and wasted another night?

Anyway, perchance to dream, and inhale, and exhale, all while sober–how lucky am I!

Facebook-free 2017

8 Jan

11:23 am

Well, I’m doin’ it.  Finally.  It’s been 1 week and almost 4 days since I logged onto Facebook.  Like, I literally have not logged in.  I decided that “deactivating” was not the route I wanted to take (in quotes because one, do you really disappear on the back end, and two, all you have to do to “reactivate” your account is log back in!).

And you know what?  I feel good.  Like, really good.

Yes, I feel out of it; and, I’m not sure I can maintain such a distance from my professional sphere for THAT long–personal and professional are intricately intertwined in journalism, and probably other metiers, too.  I don’t mean or want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I don’t want to disappear–I still want a career, and to be present in said career.  And to be present in the world of information is to have it, and to dish it out.

That all being acknowledged (obsessively, over and over), I’m learning to let all these fearful thoughts go because, well, I feel better.

I must admit, I feel that sort of righteous self-satisfaction that is similar to how you feel when you get sober.  I also have this sense of a load having been taken off; I am no longer burdened with YOUR LIVES.  Other people’s lives.  So many other lives to ping me, enrage me, give me joy–I guess it was just too much, and I took it home with me.  Now, I just have this sense of relief, this screaming cheer in my head that keeps saying, I don’t have to take my friends home with me!  Haha.  I get to focus on MY life.  Sure, it’s boring as shit sometimes, but… it’s my life.  Isn’t it worth as much appreciation–time and effort–as I’ve been putting into other people’s lives?  (And, now I really do see how this is related to drinking to drown out:  you tend to put yourself second, then you feel un- or under-appreciated; not to mention, you have ZERO actual connection, and reciprocity, in your relationships if they are primarily virtual ones…all stuff that drives us to drink to soothe, fix, drown out, douse, hide from!  I say, No shit, sherlock, now, but back then, how everything was connected and impacted my drinking seemed so…inaccessible.)

I also think it’s given me the head space, literally, to start digging in on some personal writing projects.  And that digging in entails a lot of things that you forget, as a writer, are necessities to the creative process–one being the time and well, empty-headedness to actually think.  Or not think, as it were.  To conjure memories.  To dream up random plots, or have deeper thoughts that may have been buried, drowned out by all the incessant noise.  The chitter-chatter is gone, and it’s a relief.  The endless drone of increasingly source-less information (i.e., why the eff is THIS in my feed, and is it even real news?), over.

I decided NOT to deactivate because to me, that’s like giving the bird to your friends.  I mean, it’s rude.  It’s like, NO ONE keeps in touch via phone or email anymore, we all know this; so if you’re going to ghost but don’t mean to, at least have the courtesy to give people your “off Facebook” contact info.  Otherwise, you’re just ghosting.  That’s not what I want to gain from this–as it is, I feel guilty just “abandoning” some of my friends, i.e., not keeping up…  I just can’t anymore, is all.  And, it feels good, albeit a little scary, to let go.

I don’t know for how long this will be; maybe long enough to clear the cobwebs from my head, maybe longer.  I’m just going to keep going, and see where it takes me.  (Kind of like getting sober, no?)

Phrase of the year

2 Jan

11:24 am

I’ve seen many posts re: word of the year.  I used to do that, too, and in a way, I guess “phrase” is akin to “word”.

Move the earth.  Or, move the earth, beyotches.  This is my phrase of the year.

2017.  It does have an ominous, heavy feel to it.  Maybe because it’s closer to “20” than “15” or even “10”.  Maybe it’s because I know what lies ahead:  digging in, pushing out, molding form out of lumps of wet clay.  Focus, and effort.  And:  sweet, sweet smells of dirt, of salty earth, of pepper and fire and flint–steely eyes, steeled tongue.  I do not give any fucks anymore–in a good way.  😉

I’ve spent 18 months at a nearly-intolerable job in order to make money, essentially.  I feel like I’ve been PREPARING and PLANNING for a long time, and that includes, thinking about and writing about getting sober.  I won’t stop doing that–it seems, IS, as much a part of staying sober as any of my well-worn coping mechanisms.  BUT, I can officially say that I want something more.  Else.  Different.  New.

(Mind you, I also made my science journalism about writing about addiction, too, for a while, so maybe I’m just burnt out.  Sometimes I think, if I never have to write one more fucking word in my life, I will be the happiest girl alive.  And then I come back to reality:  I am a writer, I am compelled to write.  And I miss it terribly when I don’t write; I can’t even live my life when I don’t process it via the written word!  So, I let that thought go and try to embrace the grey area, so to speak–something that becomes more challenging the more I want to make real change instead of waiting, wanting, working toward something that is coming, in due time, if I just keep plugging.)

Last year at this time, I was in a world of hurt.  Glad that hell is over.  Yes, I made good money and have since continued working (remotely) for that company, but man, was I depressed last year.  No more.  Done.  I made it through.  Happy to NOT be there, and to be here.  Much has transpired between then and now that has helped me get happy again:  I moved home (I am much more myself in a tropical than desert climate); I worked as a barista, which I really loved; we got engaged in May; we traveled a lot this year (New Orleans was my favorite!); I paid off my graduate student loans; I got into running more (I have somehow managed to keep off those 15 pounds for 2.5 years).

One big thing I want to mention is that I started taking hormones by way of the pill!  Imagine:  at 42, I am taking the pill for the first time.  Haha.  It’s worth mentioning because, I have ZERO PMS craziness anymore.  It’s awesome.  MANY of my worst drinking binges happened around or because of my fluctuating hormones–many women who drink can probably say that, they, too, drank when they were PMSing.  No one talks about that, of course, but look, it can be as simple as taking birth control, or, I guess if you’re older, actual hormone replacement therapy–to feel way better, to NOT feel crazy, to not feel angry, or depressed, or like you want to down oceans of wine for two weeks out of the month. Not to mention, the hangovers are from SATAN when your body is not really processing booze well, which (ironically) is what’s happening around this time o’ the month.  (More on this for another post, methinks.)

Anyway, I feel stronger now, and I think I’m simply ready to start thinking about other stuff more of the time.  I mean, I will always blog here, that’s a given.  That I can’t let go.  I would love to wake up, however, and not have this feeling of, I have to think about sobriety.  I have to relate things I do now, in my present life, with my having gotten sober.  I DO, constantly, because it is all intertwined; I just wish there was a way I could both appreciate the past without having to think at all about it.  I’m grateful, though, and it’s just a matter of perspective when it comes to “ruminating” on getting sober, and being sober.

I need to get out more, too.  I quit the coffee shop job back in September, and it has been rough.  I am SO tired of these four walls, you know?  And, I’m getting kind of irritable.  Maybe, mean.  Like, cynical.  I need connection, we all do.  I’m on day 5 of a Facebook fast, and I feel like I like people more–what I get now from interactions is real, it’s authentic.

I admit:  I have felt lonely since not logging into Facebook.  Like, there’s no reason to go on my phone!  Haha.  BUT, I’m slowing down and opening up to the people and places around me; and I’m gaining a little bit of mental patience.  I can take things in that used to annoy me because they were too slow, not enough, immediately boring.  I felt…controlled by Facebook, and that felt very much like being addicted to binge drinking.  Now, I feel better, freer.  It’s good.  Despite feeling truly out of it, and lonely, I’m going to keep going.  (I really miss “on this day”, though…)

As for wanting to drink?  Well, I have to admit that on New Year’s Eve, as I was remembering other NYEs–when I was single, granted, and was going on all these crazy, “life experience”-type trips to far-flung places for the holidays–I felt staid.  Boring.  Not lacking in contentment, but sort of unhappy.  Vexed.  Fear of missing out was an actual, I am missing out.  I am not learning, or growing, or expanding my horizons!

Drinking won’t bring back the “life-changing” experiences that were INVARIABLY RUINED anyway by the time New Year’s Day rolled around in said far-flung places.  I know that drinking isn’t the answer, and cannot be:  it doesn’t work and hasn’t for years.  I know that what’s simmering in the pot will come together into a lump of…something good to eat, soon.  Yes, it still comes and goes, this desire to drink to fix, or transfer, or be reborn.  None of that happens, and never did, and never will.  It was fun, looking back–but, I’m here now, and pretty content, actually.

This year will still be about plugging away, and working, but also, finally starting to do stuff, you know?  After all this obligatory preparatory work–laying the groundwork-work, doing this before moving on-work–it will pay off.  Move the earth, beyotches!  🙂

Building

8 Aug

12:25 pm

So, I got a full-time job.  After three-and-a-half years.  I should be happy, since this has been in the works for almost a year (yeah, a full year of soul searching, job searching, and networking).  Why do I feel like my sober bubble is about to burst?  Or, like I’m about to jump off my sober cliff–and into what?  Free fall?

Actually, I ventured into the real world of real people and tens of millions of stressful triggers last year, and have continued to branch out in 2014 and 2015.  This year, I’ve decided, is going to be–has been–all about continuing to build off of what I created last year.  I’ve been working nearly non-stop this spring as a barista and freelance journalist, but the writing (no pun intended!) is definitely on the wall:  it’s an unsustainable (and physically exhausting) way to earn a living.  So, I found a full-time gig doing what I was doing (and what, from an outside perspective, drove me to become Drunky Drunk Girl) in the place I was doing it (albeit, much farther south, and therefore, not really in the same place).  And, while I have re-entered the world already, and managed just fine, this is still a huge transition.  I’ve created so much here that is SO different from my old life–and hence, my old drinking self–can I pull it off and continue to build on what I’ve done here, there?  We’ll see, is about all I’ve got.

What no one told me about sobriety is that I would miss the early days of my “sobriety cocoon.”  And that I would sort of live OFF of it, like a spider consuming whatever it’s caught and wrapped up in its silken web.  And that maybe that wasn’t a good idea, to nurse my sobriety cocoon like a bottle, but that’s what I did.  That’s what I did…until it got old, boring, until I saw that I really needed to venture out, to forage again for real sustenance.  It was my pink cloud of endless awesome–a hermetic existence that made it possible for me to exist, almost child-like, in newfound wonder.  It helped that I quit Corporate America, started my own business, and moved somewhere totally exotic.  It helped that I had a sober support network that allowed me to work less and think/ponder/analyze every gory detail of my sober journey.  I needed that.  I really, really needed that.  And, as it turns out, so did many of my readers.

It’s not that I’m no longer grateful to be sober–I am, and more and more every day.  The other morning, someone I worked with showed up to barista with a supreme hangover, complete with the 30 texts sent to the boy she’s currently fixated on, the other 20 calls to him and random friends, and the falling-down, bruises-from-out-of-nowhere drunkenness that lasted until her shift started (with me) at 5:30 am.  Oof, was mostly what I thought.  But also, eh, who cares?  What can I do for her?  And then, probing deeper, a desire on my part to turn away and FORGET that I was there, not too long ago.  A desire so intense to completely just forget, let it go, move on, NOT remember that I was there, not too long ago.

This desire I have to say, Fuck this sobriety bullshit, and move on, is strong right now, has been for a while (hence, the lack of blog posts).  But, another part of me–the one that became a drunk, and the one that had the need to write this blog–can’t help but wonder, is it OK for me to do that?  To let it go?  It’s not that I can’t empathize, it’s been too long; it’s that, I can, and I just don’t want to.

But I have to.  And, I don’t think it has anything to do with wanting to be nice to people or do the right thing–those two things are givens.  It’s that I’m still there.  I’m still there, in a way.

The longer I’m sober, the more I realize that I can’t just shove this “sobriety bullshit” into a box under the bed and wipe my hands of it.  It’s there, this “alcoholism” thing, and it’s not going anywhere.  I’m not “once a drunk, always a drunk,” though–like, the long-term effects of physiological dependence elude me to this day (in other words, who the fuck knows?  Wine no longer works for me, but maybe someone else with three years might have a glass and not feel dizzy, confused, and flat?).  What I am is STILL insecure, and STILL grappling with questions that truly have no answers.  I guess I’m learning to live in and with that insecurity, that instability, that uncertainty, that moving-sands, that lack-of-answers.  Those questions of self, of purpose, of existence–they’re still there, and they’re still somehow related to why I drank copious amounts of wine for a decade.

And, the fact remains that everyone has to cope with what this is, which is LIFE.  And these people did not also become drunks. Hmmm…

The difference between early and later sobriety is this:  ya have to live in the drinking world as a sober person, and you have to embrace the fact that it’s NEVER going to go away.  Your past, that is.  And, it shouldn’t.  The fact that you DID do all that shit, and you DID drink the way you drank.  The fact that your alcoholic drinking unfortunately has NOTHING to do with alcohol (would that it did!?).  Really–very, very little.  Sure, it was fun and you got buzzed and you got addicted because it helped you cope, but, in the end, the bigger motivations hovered dead-center around self-esteem, trauma, perfectionism.  We know this.  You know this.  So, forgetting about your drinking is like forgetting about the present-day issues that still linger.  You can’t, if you want to keep growing and keep healing–and frankly, keep helping others who are still stuck in addictive behavior.

The longer I’m sober, the more I see JUST how long healing takes.  Recovery.  I’m still recovering:  lost income, lost relationships, lost confidence.  I’m catching up, and I’m building.  I’m beyond satisfied that I got to spend most of my initial sobriety in a tropical paradise, literally recovering in isolation.  It was what allowed me to have the patience to dissect my process–and the faith to see a labor-intensive start to a freelance writing business through a nasty 18-month bout of PAWS (no motivation, will I ever WANT to work again?).

Have there have been many times these past 12 months where I just wanted to put the sober thing in a box, shove it under the bed, and say, Ugh, I’m done with this?  YES.  To say, let’s MOVE the fuck ON?  YES.  However, the reality is, I drank alcoholically–for reasons that I’m not quite sure I’ll ever truly pin down, define, or exorcise.  And that alcoholic-ness is what lies at the root of simple behavioral reactions that still trip me up in my day-to-day life!

I’ve made SO much headway this year and the last, in forging ahead, getting back into the workforce, and interacting with “normal” people in the real, non-sober world.  Now, the big test awaits:  can I somewhat seamlessly go back to doing what I was doing (albeit with a strong foothold remaining in the world of freelance journalism)?  I’d say yes, but I’ll also say, I’m nervous.  I’m wondering.  What will be?  What will happen?  Am I leaving my greatest creation behind, this “new me” that I’ve spent three years building?  Or, does she come with me now, wherever I go, and whatever I do?  All I can say to myself is, hold onto your heart, which happens to resemble (or even be) journalism.  It saved me once, twice, and will save me again.  It’s part of my sense of purpose and creative agency (and urgency)–the lack of which are my biggest triggers.  These things I know, so I’m hoping that knowing this, and having practiced this for so long now, will carry me through the next six months…

I’ll keep you posted!

(And, it’s good to be back!  Thanks for reading, friends.)

I’m back…I think

20 Jul

12:05 pm

Hi!

Just a very quick post to say, I finally came home from my month-long “volun-tour” adventure. I didn’t have much time to do any blogging, let alone drinking. And, there was, of course, a lot of drinking–but not on my part!

For many reasons, it was easy to not imbibe when it was a full-time party for some. One, I have lost my taste for it. I did “taste test” someone’s drink (always rum) three times, and all three times, I felt ill just smelling the fumes. Like, ZERO desire to go down that road. I also was never a hard booze type; I’ve mentioned before how I was strictly a wine girl (loved wine, in fact), but even when someone sat down next to me one night, slugging down her cup of wine, I could literally smell the fumes like a hound dog–and they made me cringe, from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head. It was white wine, to boot. I would drink white, but never in preference to red. I can feel my stomach getting sour just remembering an entire weekend I spent downing boxed white, never leaving my apartment except for once, on Sunday, at 3 pm, to get more wine. UGH.

Two, I surrounded myself with a group of non-drinkers, or light drinkers, and I felt like my old, dorky self. They know intuitively that drinking to get tanked is just not something one does, if one wants to get any shit done.

I’ve come so far, I realized. So very far.

Yes, I drank that beer–to end the obsession, as it were, which was becoming REALLY unhealthy (kind of also the reason I have been slow to check back in here–uber-focus on Sobriety with a capital “s” can be almost counterproductive to staying sober). YES, I taste-tested someone’s drink three times–once was because I was really quite curious how a pina colada made by a blender rigged to the back of a bicycle (it was a developing country, and there were a lot of “sustainable” types experimenting with alternative materials!) would taste; the other times were because I was taken off guard when someone shoved a drink up my nose, and because I had never tasted this somewhat-local drink everyone was talking about.

Even still, I wonder why I taste-tested. But, I let it go. I had zero desire to continue drinking because I really just have no taste for booze, especially hard stuff. But mainly, I had zero desire to be drunk–which comes with a huge price to pay, physically (hangover) and psychologically (depression, falling off my cloud, denting my force field of sober awesome). Probably mostly, I had NO TIME to be hungover. I literally had NO TIME to waste there, I was that busy with my volunteer writing and then, my trips, my own work here (gotta pay the bills!), and my general sense of, Wow, this place is different, but equally interesting, without the nonsense of drinking.

I am curious about wine, but, not enough to go trying it right now. I have an almost-irritating amount to do, and I also feel like drinking is Just Not The Answer to anything. Especially to continuing to move forward.

For me, IF I continue to make goals and set deadlines for my personal and professional lives, there is NEVER time for alcohol anymore. And, I’ve finally realized what a good thing this is. Am I doing it consciously? Almost. However, a large part of it is my heart, which keeps reining me in when I think about “trying wine again.” I don’t want this amazing sober ride to end, is all!

I can pretty much say that I would NEVER have gone back to where I went if I had not gotten sober. I found–I created, actually–my volunteer position of my own effort. I would never have had the follow-through, the long-term grit, to make it happen if I had not gotten sober. I am able to make much more long-term plans, but I’m also able to stare them down and see them through. (I had to get my picture taken at customs on the way back into the country, and really, my entire face has changed: my stare is so much more direct, cut-the-crap, kind, open, and calm–bring it on, Life. I know that the “sneaky, giggly” expression of my drunken yester-years is officially gone from my face now–once in a while, nostalgia has me wondering if this “new sober me” is TOO sober/serious, but the majority of the time, I marvel at how much more direct and at peace I look.)

I also know that if I “try wine again,” this energy, or commitment, to follow through on things might go away. And I literally can’t afford that to happen.

And, well, I just don’t want this amazing sober ride to end!

Drinking is boring. What is not boring is everything that YOU GET TO MAKE HAPPEN now that you’re sober.

So, that’s a quick update. I’m still sort of between there and here, and not quite sure why, but feeling anxious. I have a ton of work to do here–and some work to do there, that I didn’t finish before I left. And, this horrible flight crash–and all the other horrendous news that I managed to duck out on while abroad, in my bubble of developing-country-world–well, it’s got me feeling a tad bit overwhelmed. Time to process, and appreciate, and then, plan for the next adventure.

Thanks everyone for checking in, and onward we go!

(And, btw, day count busted at over two years counting? The pedantic in me was like, Oh, shit, now I have to start over, after 460 days, AGAIN. And, you know what? The pedantic in me is what made me drink. I think I’m far enough into sobriety where days, while important, aren’t that important. What is important is maintaining my resolve to not drink because…it’s the right choice. Habit and a long stint of continuous sobriety has pounded it into my brain–do not drink, EVER–but now, the training wheels are coming off. Yes, I drank, but…I’m not not drinking to reach a day count or some other cake-and-candles goal; I’m not drinking because I want–and need–to remain sober.)

Who am I now?, or, the art of no longer living in denial

18 Jun

12:10 pm

(I wasn’t going to post this, but I’m deciding to do so because, well, remaining sober means necessarily embracing it. And, Wolfie-boy and his ugly mange-y paw, Denial, can ruin the best of intentions. So, in an effort to embrace sobriety–and hang onto it in spite of Wolfie breathing down my neck (Oh, come ON, you’ve gone far enough, you can drink on this trip)–I’m reminding me (and you) of how I got here.)

I have to admit, I thought I was “different.” All these drunks at meetings, saying stuff like, “I had no idea who I was when I first got sober.” Pfft, please. That’s not me. *I* knew who I was, didn’t I? Don’t I? I know who I am, right? In FACT, I was the same person back then…except I drank. I still am that person, I just don’t drink.

Right? Riiiiight.

Anyway, I have accomplished some shit in my life, but one day last year, with my issues coming into crystal clear focus, I realized that it might have all been pretty much fueled by wine. And that hit me in the gut like a punching bag. Oof. Really? Have all my successes and achievements–and failures, even missteps–been a direct result of my drinking? Not in the, I needed wine to do this, kind of way, but in the, Wine was always in the picture, kind of way. And it did, indeed, allow me to do certain things. My sense of motivation–maybe a frenetic one, looking back–CAME FROM THE WINE. Sure, my brain is wired to accomplish, to want to achieve; but, in the later years, especially from about 2004 until now, was it the “wine brain” that was propelling me to do all the crazy, caution-to-the-wind shit that I did? Or, was that me?

Wait, who am I?

As I prepare for this volunteer trip (for which I, gulp, leave on Thursday), I have to admit: I have NO IDEA how to do this sober. I’ve never done it sober. I’ve gone to the country where I’m going three times already, but I’ve never seen the place through the lens of a sober person. That is to say, the past three times I’ve gone to where I’m going, I drank–like, drinky-drank-DRUNK drank!

The third time (four years ago), though, not so much. And, here’s what’s “hilarious” about that: for the past few years, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink *as much* on the third trip because I “wasn’t really an alcoholic” and that I just needed to find something purposeful to fill my hole.

What really happened, I’m remembering more clearly now, is that I was AFRAID OF KILLING MYSELF based on how ridiculously I drank the first two times.

Just to semi-recap: on the first trip (over five years ago), I drank every night, till the end (3 am), and then had to get up every morning at 7 am for work (manual labor–somehow the hangovers weren’t so bad when you were sweating them out). I drank WHILE ON malaria meds, and then WHILE HAVING A BAD REACTION to said meds, such that I was in a state of acute panic/anxiety for a period of 36 hours at one point. It was a nightmare; literally, a waking nightmare. I completely blamed this reaction on the chloroquine as being an older anti-malarial that I shouldn’t have taken based on my medical history of depression and anxiety. Now, however, I have to ask myself, Could it have been the probably-dangerous combination of a shit-ton of booze plus the meds? (tilts heads in mock wonder)

On the second trip, a year later, it only got worse! I got SO drunk one night at a party (thrown by and for my host mother’s family), that I kissed an old guy, got SUPER-emotional and crazy and was yelling at people, then, managed to pass out on the outhouse seat. I fell forward onto something hard and flat with the full weight of my noggin, bashing my forehead so hard that I not only had a huge welt up there, but gave myself a black eye (days later, after the blood drained down). The host mother was chagrined, to say the least, and there was at least one person who bid me an official farewell the next morning (even though I was there for another several days).

I mean, these are just a FEW stories of how I drank there. No, I wasn’t the only alcoholic, and no, others experienced a lot worse consequences (one guy fell off a roof and died), BUT…

It never seemed to click, how exhausting and dangerous all this was–year after year after year. Once the hangover wore off and the bad behavior, forgotten, I simply moved on and pretended that nothing needed to change. Or, at least nothing needed to change *that* much.

This is stuff that makes my (bobble)head spin, like someone threw a brick at my face–how could I have lived in such denial? Not only of what I was doing–and how I was using alcohol–but of how I was lying to myself about what I was doing?! Something must have stuck (was it the outhouse incident?) because, fully realizing that it would be dangerous to binge drink like that again, I managed to control my drinking on the third trip (the dehydration factor also helped).

Fast forward to now, and I seem to have forgotten about all of this! Like, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink heavily the last time because I didn’t need to, didn’t feel like it, realized that this work filled my unmet needs–no, I wasn’t really an alcoholic at home, I was just empty with want and my unmet needs.

Yes, unfortunately, I was an alcoholic at home. I drank and bad shit happened, but I kept drinking. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

All this being said, this time around, I am not going to drink because, well, I’m sober. Right? I’ve thought about it, of course: would it really be that bad to do the two-beers-a-night thing again? I’m sure I could do it, and might even want to. BUT…a part of me really wants to see this world, have this experience, live out this dream…through the prism of a sober mind. And this, somehow, seems much more important and real than all my doubts and fears (of which I have many, namely: Will this place have lost its romantic appeal now that I’m sober? Will this idealized reality–which I could maintain as a drinker–simply become mundane? Will my supposed “dream job,” which I’ll be doing there (as a volunteer), turn out to be something I really don’t like, find to be an actual pain-in-the-ass without the nightly reward and reinforcement of wine/beer?).

You know, I am no different from all those “people in AA meetings who don’t know themselves.” And, that actually makes me feel hopeful. I am living this thing now, for real, and that must mean…progress? I sure hope so!

Well, I might sneak in one more post before I take off, but if not, travel well, my sober friends, and I’ll see you in a little bit (will post from there, but it might be random and/or sporadic).

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