Nothing changes if nothing changes

I don’t know exactly when I stopped praying.

I was raised Lutheran and even though I stopped going to church at age 14 — pretty much the moment I received a copy of the bible with my name etched in gold on the front cover — I still prayed every night. It wasn’t a fancy prayer or on my knees or anything, just your run-of-the-mill, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul will take.” (I don’t know who creates a prayer for little kids about dying in their sleep, but whatevs.) Then I would ask for forgiveness for my sins and go to sleep.

I said that prayer well into adulthood. I suppose I wasn’t much of a critical thinker when it came to faith. And I suppose saying the prayer was such a habit it was comforting, and on some level, maybe it was a little superstitious. I mean, what was the harm in it? It helped me connect with calm at the end of my day with the bonus of hedging my bets against eternal damnation.

That is, until I was about 30, and on my way home for Easter (I was living out of state) I had a revelation:

Wait a second… I don’t actually believe that Jesus is the Son of God. WTF.

Sure, I believed he was probably a cool  guy who walked the Earth and may have been super insightful, like, say, Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr, but the Son of God? (And also, in fact, God. Yeah, the whole trinity thing is a bit confusing.)

And so began my decade-long journey toward figuring out what I really did believe. I’ve read books on pretty much every religion, but 18 years later, really all I’ve succeeded in knowing for sure is that I really don’t know anymore. I’ve moved even further from any sense of God, not closer. In some ways I miss that single-minded sureness I had as a kid. Hell, even into college, if I’m honest. Even then, I still believed in God, a personal God who was watching over me.

That was nice. 🙂

Today, I really can only say for sure that I believe in an energy that connects us all. I’m pretty sure I believe in the Power of Attraction and that we can manifest things into our lives by expressly setting our intention and directing our energies toward them. I believe that the energy we put out into the Universe is the energy that is returned to us. I really want to believe that we each have a vibration, and the vibration attracts people of similar vibration into our lives. And our vibrations can change. Our vibrations can be elevated.

Woo. Woo.

But this is what I hold onto as I quit drinking. Call it prayer, call it meditation… Call it a call and response to the Universe. It may be be all of these things. But whatever we call it, I will write about it, and I when I lay down and turn out the light, I will fold my hands over my heart, and I will ask the Universe to take care of me. I will start again.

***

I’ve decided no more grand proclamations about being quit. They are too dangerous for me, partly because if I fail, it only intensifies the shame. And shame is my enemy as I learn the lessons I need to learn, to live a life that is alcohol free.

After the equinox happened, I made it 18 days when I decided to drink. I drank just a bottle of wine, but it made me violently ill. The good news is that my body was not having any of my bullshit. The bad news isthat I wasted a day of my life on my back (when I wasn’t bent over the toilet) trying to recover in all the ways you would expect: physically and emotionally. It was a disaster.

But in this entire year that I’ve been trying to quit, I have learned some things along the way. The number of messages that I’ve collected from so many people who have come before me have been growing, and they continue to knock around in my head. This one has been important:

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

And if I’m not able to stay sober for any length of time, I need more supports. I need to add more. What I’ve been doing is great, but not enough.

I’ve tried so many things… But I live alone with my dog and I don’t have a physical sober community. I tried a couple of AA meetings but they literally drove me to drink. (I may try some others soon.)

So…I was really scared, but I called the intensive 2-month program my coach had found. I had talked to them in December, but back then I decided it was more than I needed and I would keep trying on my own. I would try mindfulness. I would try AA. I would try more blogging and more transparency with friends and family and more sober treats and tools and listening to sober podcasts at every possible moment.

But I live alone. I’m an introvert and it’s easy to isolate. And after 2-3 weeks, the Wine Harpy sidles up next to me, a bit lonely and without my abusive boyfriend (wine), and says, “Aw, c’mon, you were over-reacting anyway. You don’t need to quit completely. Just go get a bottle and it will relieve the pressure. You’ll feel better, you’ll be comforted, and you can start again tomorrow.”

That bee-atch. She did it again.

And despite the planets aligning and all that, I drank. And two days later (after I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed until 5pm), I drank again. I didn’t even want to. I was depressed and disappointed and I just felt like I was coming unmoored. But that drinking voice in my brain told me that a bottle of wine would make me feel better, and I was so sad and in a twist, I listened. And that’s when I really started to get scared.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

I kept telling myself this when the drinking voice was screaming at me to not take my supports to the next level. It came up with so many reasons not to do it. It was really freaking out. It was backed into a corner and it was showing its teeth. I barely slept the night before deciding, and when I did, I dreamed of stressful, judgey women and being labeled an alcoholic.

What would that say about me that I couldn’t do it on my own like so many of my fellow bloggers have? How would I be labeled — forever — if I needed to go into a program like this to stop drinking? They may have described it as “graduate work for your inner self,” but all I could hear was “outpatient treatment.” When the fuck did I become that person? I should just try again on my own, right? I didn’t drink that much. I should just try again and I really didn’t want to spend several thousand dollars right now. Why couldn’t I just do it on my own??

But I kept coming back to this…

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

I started the program. It’s 2-months intensive — 3 days a week for 2-3 hours — then once a week after that for 10 months. There is also a 4-week Monday mindfulness series (making it four days a week), a few weeks of nutrition guidance, and then in continuing care there is a weekly yoga for relapse prevention component.

But the important thing here is this: I have six or seven other women there who are like me (“high bottom,” high functioning women), plus two counselors, and we are getting to the root of the WHY. Plus building and practicing tools to avoid lapsing, and learning from each other. Supporting each other. Being accountable to each other.

My coach said to me, “It’s like learning a language no one ever taught you.” I supposed it is. And I’m doing this to take care of myself. To love myself more, which is my priority to practice these days.

OH MY GOD I was so, so scared at first — I was freaking out — but it’s been really good so far. I just finished my second week and I feel good. I didn’t want to check in here before this. I just wasn’t ready, and I was a bit embarrassed after my grand poetic proclamation, so it feels important this time to stay humble. To stay in TODAY the best I can.

And the hard work is about to begin. As I enter my third week, I know from history this is when the harpy starts to panic that she’s not going to drink again and she starts to pitch a fit. She starts telling me that “this doesn’t have to be forever and what about dating? How are you ever going to find someone to love you if you don’t have red wine? (She really knows where there are chinks in my armor.) “Maybe,” she says, “maybe when you find someone to share your life with, then you can start drinking again because you are just lonely now. That’s the only reason you are doing this. Just like paying a lot of money for an expensive diet and hoping it will change your life. C’mon…this is just for now…”

(I know this is going to be a hard slog. I know it will get easier. Eventually. But FUCK.)

OK, harpy, maybe it is just for now. All I can focus on is today. I will finish the 2-month intensive and when I do I’ll have been sober longer than I’ve ever been before. We’ll see how I feel then, okay, harpy?

All I can do is read those who inspire me. Listen to those who have come before me. Trust myself and why I made this decision in the first place (even if my memory starts to fade).

And I’ll pray.

Rachel. Day 11.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

 

8 thoughts on “Nothing changes if nothing changes

  1. I love reading your words, Rachel. You truly have a gift. And my heart breaks for you every time you start over. But it would break more if you didn’t.

    Comparing yourself to others is fruitless. No one in recovery has done it perfectly or even “on their own.” Whether we went to rehab or not, we still slogged through the same thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing and had to ask for help and make hard decisions, often failing and starting over again.

    AA works for me because of the 12 steps. Working each step, writing about it, sharing my thoughts with my sponsor, etc., has been transformational. Whether you attend meetings or not, the steps may work for you.

    Beautiful quote (“nothing changes if…”) and sums it up nicely. Very best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, NLG. I know what you mean: my heart breaks when I read other people I’m following tell of their struggles, their lapses, and sometimes I really don’t want to see it. As if it will rub off on me in some way… Sometimes I look for inspiration.

      And yet.

      It has helped me to know that some of my favorite sober people struggled with multiple starts in the early days, for a year, two years, even three years, even when they were *really* trying to quit, not just thinking they should. It helps for me to know I’m not lame that way. And then one day, they had their last day one. They’ve even said they didn’t necessarily realize it was their last day one that time. It was like – or even less remarkable than – other last day ones. But they started stringing days together and it gained momentum.

      I do compare. I will try not to, except to give me some comfort that so many of us have asked these same questions. Not when it makes me feel bad. I am certainly strong enough to do this, so I have to crack the code about what changes my overthinking mind each time. I have asked for help and I’m proud of that. I have heard about a few cool AA meetings that I will try (particularly the Women Only meetings, which I heard are generally different than the mixed). And I will keep on working to stay grounded in my motivation. Life will be better on the whole if I don’t pour it down my gullet every night. I know that much for sure.

      Your words helped this morning. Thank you… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Rachel, try not to worry what other people think – your path is the one that works for you no matter what anybody else is doing. Your program sounds really good, the sort of thing I would probably enjoy myself. I love the way you have come to an understanding of ‘something higher’ in your own way, I can really relate on the concept of an energy that connects everything. Keep going, I’m thinking of you. Take care, be well x

    Like

  3. Wow, that’s a really amazing decision! I feel like I am in the same place as you were, starting and then starting again, attending some recovery meetings but as an introvert it’s usually the LAST thing I want to do…which I know is why I should be doing it more. Hearing that you are doing this is really inspiring to me! “Graduate work on your inner self” sounds like the best graduate program there is. I’m at a point in my career where grad school or something similar makes some sense but I’ve known for the past year that getting sober would be the first step to anything else I want to do. Best of luck and thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi QD, thanks for reaching out. I really have come to the conclusion that if I want to reach the higher levels of being (and I mean that in practical and woo woo ways), I have to quit drinking. It is a barrier between me and my higher purpose. I don’t know what that is yet, but I truly believe I’m going to find out…
      And I totally get you about the recovery meetings. Not to mention the two meetings I went to may have been just bad luck, but I didn’t relate to them at all (people who had lived in their cars, etc.). This outpatient group isn’t always easy as an introvert either, but I feel safe and supported and we are all there for the same reason — to feel better. “Nothing changes if nothing changes…” 🙂 I’m going to keep trying until something shifts and I know I’ll make it at *least* 2 months this time because I have this support. Don’t give up!

      Like

  4. Hi Rachel!
    I am so glad you are trying something different! I know when I tried to get sober a few years ago, I couldn’t do it with just AA. I went back to drinking. It took a lot of changes to make it as far as I have this time.
    I am very proud of you for reaching out for help.
    I know it’s hard.
    When I put myself in outpatient treatment a few years ago, I was scared stiff!
    Try not to compare your story to other’s. It’s hard, but just focus on what will help you, what you need.
    Just as we all need different sizes of clothes, or different medicine, or have different types of work, our recovery will be different!
    Much Love,
    Wendy

    Liked by 2 people

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