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You mean, it’s OK to not care what they think of me?

22 Dec

7:20 pm

I started this post a week ago–it’s been busy, to say the least.  BUT, it’s good to be home.  It’s starting to feel like home now, not some weird in-between world where mostly dead things were floating and roaming.  My memories have gone from sepia to color.  I can walk around and plan the current me’s day, not cry and think about the “old” me of eight years ago.

It’s good to be home again, it really is.  The re-entry was a bit rough, I have to say, but I feel like I’m settling into a new normal:  the feeling that this is too familiar has been replaced by, I’m grateful to feel at home; the feeling that I have outgrown my old life has been replaced by, I’m grateful that I’m in a different place, both personally and professionally (wow, that is an understatement:  I have a full-time job this time, whereas when I came down eight years ago, I was embarking on a freelance writing “career”…oof, it makes me tired and stressed just remembering just how much work, and uncertainty, and being poor that whole thing brought with it).

Mostly, I’ve come to accept that it is not the same, and it never will be.  BUT, it is still a place where I can live fully (with a different sense of self and empowerment, since I am sober and not getting-sober) and fully enjoy all the things, those that are familiar and those that are new; I get to rediscover the things that I loved most about living here.  It is what it is, right now, at this time–we are who were are, and there is no living in the past.  To live in the past would be…to turn into people who have never left, and that is not who we are.

So, it’s been a little over a month since we moved back to our island in the sun, and a lot has happened.  We’ve received our shipped stuff and our car; we’ve had a holiday (Thanksgiving) and a birthday (my boo’s); we’ve been on two boat trips (which is a record; normally, we didn’t go on a boat trip to neighboring islands but maybe once every three to six months!); I’ve somehow managed to make my brain work through the past four weeks of my job (hello, fog brain; I will fight you to the death) and survive yet another month of some crazy nighttime burning-up shit (I have stopped my Googling and just accepted that there is nothing more I can do right now except what I am doing and wait until I am further along; but, things have gotten better re: the night heat, I think, since last year, since two years ago, so there IS that).

What else?  I’ve walked countless times through our old ‘hood, along all the old trails; we’ve come to realize that our dog is never going to be able to walk much around here, but we can take her to the “dog beach,” which we’ve done a few times, and which she loves.  She loves being in her old childhood home; she’s finally remembered and is loving all her old spots, all her old things (she likes to guard her territory; she loves to sit on the deck, surveying the world, making sure it’s in order–I am so glad she can do that now because she’s not cooped up in a second-floor apartment).  We’ve been to quite a few restos again, and a few different beaches (kind of slacking on that, but we’ve both been cranking at work).  I’ve actually reached out–on my own–to several friends here, and we’ve done dinners, lunches, beach meetups.

And, I’ve actually joined a gym and gone a few times!  See, when I lived here before (for the entire five-plus years), I was always afraid to go to a gym for fear I would, I don’t know, have to be social, meet new people, work out in front of others.  It was one of the many sober ticks I had that held me back; it also served to further isolate me, as I only and always worked out alone (which meant slogging up and down the hills in the blazing heat, alone).  Anyway, this time, I just couldn’t slog it out anymore, hot and alone; and, running around our ‘hood today reminds me way too much of my sober walks with our now-gone son (our boxer-beagle) and our younger girl (the one who can’t walk much these days)–it was a wonder-full time, full of thinking, and wondering, and ruminating on getting sober, celebrating being sober, living in my pink bubble, but…

Been there, done that.  I still love my walks in the sun, surrounded by lush green hillsides and crystalline blue vistas–but, I am sober, and all that is done.  I mean, I am still and always will be in recovery–lately, I’ve realized that I still have a lot of work to do on my anger and resentment–but, those years spent getting sober are gone.  It’s time to fully embrace the present, here, and live in the real world, here, which I sort of didn’t do the last time around.  I mean, maybe not–can I just write fiction instead?  Anyway, if this makes any sense, going to the gym here is one step forward.

Another is not caring what other people think about me, or what I’m doing!  And, who KNEW that um, like almost every other alcoholic drinker, I, too, care/cared A LOT about what others thought of me (or, what I thought they thought of me, of my behavior, of my actions, etc.).

I have to say, I just don’t care that much anymore what other people are doing and what they think of what I’m doing (or, more accurately, what I think they think of what I’m doing).  It is subtle, but not really: before, when I was here getting sober, it was almost all I thought about.  What do they think of me, of me getting and being sober?  What do they think of what I’m doing?  I used to fret all the time about whether people thought I was antisocial; if they judged me for choosing to stay at home and work for a company on the mainland.  Granted, I never thought twice about not being able to actually earn a living working at a low-paying job down here, and so intentionally never cutting my ties with my professional world; but, I always thought that people might have judged me as snooty, or somehow too good for this place.  It was weird.

This time around, I simply cannot and do not care about any of the above.  I am doing my do, and glad–no, super-grateful–for the fact that I CAN work remotely and that I had the vision to go for it so that I could pay off my student loan debt and start working on other financial goals.  Honestly, I don’t even have the time to care about what others are actually thinking and going through right now, let alone what I think they think of me!

Leaving helped.  Being away helped.  We were alone, without a familiar set of people and places; we had to had to sit down and figure out what we wanted–that was hard, and it took work, and it’s paid off.  I feel like I have a much broader idea of this world as it fits into the outside world, and our possibilities.  Frankly, I don’t feel intimidated anymore by people here, by MOST people (well, except my big boss at my current job–she is just too much fire for one five-foot woman).  Maybe it’s because people never WERE that intimidating, especially here; this place feels way more relaxed and inviting/welcoming than I ever remember it!?  Maybe we’ve just evolved and this is how it feels to be in your mid-40s (and, for that, I love being in my 40s).

Whatever, it’s just been liberating:  I feel allowed (by myself) to finally just do my thang and live.  To make my gorgeous plans, and to live them.  I don’t have to waste any more of my time wondering about what others are thinking, or doing; not that I don’t care, but that I have boundaries now such that I am able to live most fully and most happily.

Anyway, it’s good to be home, to be here.  Finally.

Who said you can’t go home again?

23 Nov

3:47 pm

I am not sure where my brain is, but it didn’t seem to make it from the check-in counter to the airplane.  Wow, can someone say, brain dead?  Brain fog?  I have literally gone home again, and it’s like, I’ve gone through a wormhole and don’t know if I’m eight years younger or 800 years in the future, talking back to my present-day self in an alien tongue (or maybe through code, like in one of my fave movies, Interstellar).

(Just a brief recap:  I moved to, we’ll just call it ‘the island’, in 2012, after a few months-long visits; during those visits, I fell in love, decided to get sober, and then spent the next five years, until the end of 2017, living and working and loving and being sober in this magical place.  We decided it was time to leave around the end of 2017, early 2018, and since then, lived in two places on the mainland.  We never felt at home after we left, so, when the stars aligned–our jobs worked out, our old house came back up for rent–we decided to move back.  That happened this week, two days ago, actually!)

Wow.

So, I turned off all my computers on Tuesday afternoon after my work day, and I haven’t turned one on until right now.  Yes, I have had my phone, and yes, I do “take notes on the day,” but in terms of processing my journey, nada.  And, y’all know that if I haven’t written about it, it didn’t happen (haha).  And, it’s been brewing to the point where, I was just angry last night–at the gods for making my dog have osteoarthritis, at myself for not being able to snap the eff out of it–so, here I am, starting to process the journey.  And, wow, it’s sort of been a trip.  Hopefully, the lessons I’ve been trying to practice over and over these past two years–living in the moment and letting go of the past–will serve me well.

To sum it up, we packed up our apartment and loaded a bunch of stuff into plastic containers, which my boo drove to a warehouse to be shipped (on the ocean!) on a palette; then, we cleared out, drove our car with luggage and dog to a port, where we dropped the car to be shipped (on the ocean!) via a car container (I think the cars are put into containers), then drove to our hotel, where we stayed the night so we could get up early for our flight the next day.  While our dog lived to tell the tale, I don’t think we’ll ever fly her again.  She is somewhere around 12 years old and seems to have gone from bad to worse in terms of mobility just in the past week.  It has become so painful to watch her try to walk, to struggle at night panting, to seem to be utterly exhausted.  She made the trip and the flight (we had to carry her through the airport), but by the time she stepped back into her old home, I’m not sure if she was glad to be home or just glad to be still, on a bed, not moving anymore.

Which is fine, because I have been a bit blown away.  Like, this house is literally the house we lived in for five/six years here; this is the only place I’ve lived on island.  And, it’s the house where it ALL began and happened and transpired:  I got sober here, I fell in love here, I acquired dogs to love and care for again here, I committed to a freelance blogging and writing career here (all the early DDG posts, I wrote right here); I recovered here, in this house, in this ‘hood.  Oh, and don’t forget, we survived and recovered from the twin cat-5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, right here, in this very ‘hood.

I don’t quite know yet what to think or feel except, the view is still amazing, the people are still amazing, the island bush (an assortment of green shrubbery that protects the island, secures privacy, creates that magical sense of being hidden/tucked away on an island) is still amazing.  It’s all still here, almost exactly like we left it, in fact–our furniture (we sold our entire household to our landlady, who rented it furnished in our absence), our neighbors/family (they even kept our spices for us for these past 22 months), the water and sun and plants and trees and rocks and jungle critters that nourished us for all those years.

What isn’t here is a young dog.  What isn’t here is the younger version of me, the one who was BLOWN away by the newness of it all, as a newbie eight years ago.  I mean, it’s all so emotionally charged for me because I moved here and let go of EVERYTHING I was doing and embraced a brand new life and lifestyle–I got sober, I fell in love, I got to have a house and dogs to take care of, I got nature and ocean and this place that was SO the opposite of the competitive urban jungles I had been dwelling in for almost 20 years.  I was 37, so my time here then was also a time of great transition–my friends from those years, we went through the big choices of your late 30s:  getting sober, committing to your partner, having a baby.

I’m 45 now, and much improved–I am recovered (mostly), so don’t need to spend hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS inside my pink cloud/sober bubble.  I can go out and help others get sober, hey!  Back then, it was an unnatural feat to leave the house, let alone do something huge, like write a story and get paid for it, or get a part-time job as a barista.  Now, I’ve gotten my old self back–I have grown and I can’t ungrow, even if that means not necessarily feeling that same sense of excitement and achievement I once felt.  I know I have to let that entire past go–the plus is that I get to cherish, appreciate, mine my past and make something of it…without having to relive the weird and awkward of my early sobriety (even though I miss that time, I really do).

Our dog is probably not here for much longer–I didn’t want to admit it this past year, but, at this point, seeing her struggle to even lift her body up on her back legs…  It’s going to be really painful to let her go, too.  The thing is, our dogs meant SO much to both my boo and myself; they weren’t just strays to rescue, just dogs to care for and walk and have fun beach days with–though, we did all that and more.  We’ll both say, they saved our lives.  And that is not an exaggeration.  Both our dogs were my higher power; they both went through sobriety and recovery with me; they made me the person I am now.

With our other dog, it was too late by the time we got him to America–he was too sick to really enjoy the new place, the “world” off his little island rock that we wanted to show him.  The entire nearly-two years we’ve been away, we’ve kept telling our other dog, you’ll go home again soon, girl, you’ll be home soon.  Now, she is home, but…I think it might be a little bit too late for her, too (we can’t really take her on any of the walks that she knows and loves–or, at least knew and loved, as I’m not sure how dogs’ memories really work).

And then there’s me.  And my boo.  We’re not the same, and we have had our ups and downs these past two years.  The truth is, we’ve both become bigger and better humans–and that is how it should be.  I don’t want to roll back our evolution as people, of course not; what I miss is the naivity of even just a few years ago.  We had no idea what to expect; I feel like I’ve aged a decade at least in these past two years.

I also have to admit that I am probably never going to recover that sense of awe, of newness, here; and, I have to admit that I sort of mourn for that; I grieve, still, for the girl I once was…while also feeling relieved that I am no longer in that place of extreme sensitivity and vulnerability.  So weird, and so conflicted.

I’m not sure how I’m going to fare here, socially–I am hoping for the best, or at least, better than my first whirl.  When I lived here before, I came as an active alcoholic, so, not only did it takes years to become social, but I felt like my experience had become defined by who I was before and while getting sober.  At least now, I can leave all that angst and struggle and baggage behind, and approach my life here as a “normal” person…  I mean, I do feel a LOT more confident and social and able to be social and to form and nurture relationships now than I did then.  The question is, will I want to or will I fall back into old habits?

Eh, it’s all good, really.  Aside from our dog, things are already going to be smoother (we both have friends already, we both have secure jobs that pay well, um, I am already sober!).  So, what I say to my overactive mind is, let it work out, let it transpire, and think the thoughts but let them go.  Let them ooze out like pus so your brain can heal and start working again.  🙂

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)

Wake up!

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