Seven months and this journey ain’t no rocket ship

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Lady Ostrich wouldn’t actually bury her head in the sand to hide from scary shit (that’s a myth), and neither will I

Today marks seven months without alcohol.

I’ve had a few dreams lately…but I know nobody wants to hear about another person’s dreams, so I won’t go into it.

All I’ll say is they’ve been of the variety where a) I drink accidentally because I “forgot” I quit drinking, b)  I’m thinking about drinking and I’m stressing over how I’ll explain it to all of my sober friends…or c) I have super sexy time with someone I really shouldn’t have been doing it with (but clearly really wanted to), and then I just lay with them, skin on skin, for hours…

I like those dreams best.

My recent work trip experience (when I nearly drank) has caused me to do some serious thinking about what I *really* want, what’s most important to me, what place alcohol had in my life that last 5-10 years before I finally stopped drinking, and what I’ve been learning since.

I keep saying: It’s really amazing what you can learn about yourself when you quit disappearing into a bottle of wine every night…oh, and it’s amazing what you learn when you quit drinking and you ramp up the therapy to several hours a week. 🙂

It’s a recipe for some warp drive self-discovery.

But I think the best part has been that unexpected feeling of being more firmly rooted in the ground than I think I’ve ever been. And if I were to try to break down how that is happening, I think it partly comes from a growing self-awareness (thanks sober therapy!) and partly from just feeling better physically and having gone seven months without regretfully saying or doing anything booze-fueled. There’s something in the regular cycle of self-recriminations that has a way of eroding one’s confidence.

Of rotting away one’s chewy center.

So, here I am. Day 215 or something and I’m committed to going a year without alcohol before I revisit what this all means to me — and yes, by that I mean, whether this is really forever or not. Some days I think it probably is…and some days…some days I still wonder.

Last night I was feeling a bit lonely and needing something.

Needing. Longing…

I felt that old pull of wanting to just bliss out (or blot out). To satisfy that soft sorrow with a fast hit to the central nervous system.

But here’s the thing: I’ve learned enough now to know that the whole “escaping into a bottle” thing may have felt like it was working for those painful years, but it turns out, drinking when I could have been feeling what I was feeling was just delaying the inevitable. Drinking was a symptom of my pain. And unless I wanted to stay drunk all the time (which, fortunately, I didn’t), I wasn’t actually escaping from anything. Not for long, anyway.

And p.s., I was fucking up my brain’s ability to produce dopamine in a normal way. Whoops.

“You did what you knew how to do. And when you knew better, you did better.” – Maya Angelou

So I give myself a break. My path is my path. Drinking the way I was drinking was my “dangerously misguided self-care,” and it worked for a while, when I needed it. Now my work is to get at the root of the WHY so I don’t go back there. I think we can all agree, I don’t want to do that.

What did I need last night? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Despite having a great couple of days connecting with some amazing people (including lots of non-drinkers, whom I adore), by last night I was feeling lonely.
  • I wanted to feel held.
  • I was working through some new realizations about what having a “partner” in life means, what it doesn’t mean, and what I might want in a partner. This brings up a lot of old stuff, of course.
  • I wanted to tap into my joy and pleasure. On demand.
  • I wanted to feel sexy and beautiful. (?? I have no idea where this came from, but my subconscious told me it needed to be included…)
  • There was a nagging anxiety coming from a little bit of work stuff that I wanted to soothe.
  • Joy and pleasure. Impatience.
  • Joy and pleasure.

So.

I’m not going to drink about any of this.

I AM making it a priority to find sources of joy and pleasure in ways that don’t include wine or food. I am going to get curious about that and see where it leads me. I am looking at how I spend my spare time, and begin practicing using that time for things that bring me joy, or make me feel like I’m working on things that are in line with my life goals or values. Like my writing. Or my activism. And building my home. And loving my dog.

And moving my body. Moving my body needs to be a priority in all of this .

So there it is. That’s the honest truth of where I am at seven months.

And one more thing: I’ve also realized that I might need to scale back a bit on listening to podcasts and reading the blogs of sober 30-somethings whose lives have “changed 180 degrees” from where they were when they were drinking and are now AMAZING and FANTASTIC. Because as inspired as I was by their insights when I first began this process, and I’m so grateful they helped me get woke, I’m beginning to see that the promise of “attracting” a completely different/renewed/better life in sobriety may be a bit counter-productive for those of us whose choices weren’t “QUIT DRINKING or DIE.”

Because for me, the “miracles” of living alcohol free look more and more to be a quiet process of newfound self-love and -awareness. Of confidence and connection. Of perspective and possibility.

Mine isn’t a story of the Phoenix ascending from the ashes into a glistening new life of career, relationships, fame, and so on.

Mine is a story of figuring out what I have to offer the world, what brings me joy, how I can be of service and how I can love.

We shall see.

xo Rachel

Day 215

“These are the days that must happen to you.” – Walt Whitman

Christmas Day, and I’d really like to numb out

la-la-landI just saw “La La Land,” and I guess I should have predicted this: Watching Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a beautiful Hollywood romance just made me feel more lonely. And like I missed some big opportunities in my life. And that I just want to feel good and numb this ache. And that would happen if I drank a bottle of wine.

Yeah, after 158 days (more than 5 months) that would also make me sick as a dog. But some days a person can get really fucking tired of feeling her feelings and being present and doing the next best thing and thinking it all the way through and not comparing myself to others and being grateful and reaching out and looking for other ways to find my joy…

A bubble bath isn’t going to cut it.

Some days…this just fucking sucks.

I suddenly want to write them all down. All the relationships I had that didn’t work but maybe could have if I’d just done things a bit differently…all the work opportunities I had if I’d taken more risk or had more faith, but I chose something else instead…all the time I spent in my early life not being as smart as I could have been. All the time I spent doing things that led me to being nearly 50 and living in a small apartment alone with my dog, despite having known and dated really amazing men, having worked with really amazing (some famous) people, having had exposure and opportunities 20, even 10 years ago that I didn’t recognize for being as amazing as they were. I want to make them amount to something.

I used to say I don’t really have regrets. That I’ve had an amazing life of experience. That it has all led me here. And yet now, my whole life feels like a series of regrets.

I feel like I’ve been working hard to make good decisions and build a life that I want to stay sober for, but it’s coming slow. I can see now that drinking a bottle of wine now would be a cop out. An escape hatch to a place that might feel better for the moment, but is an illusion.

And so, I’m left sitting here lonely and in pain in this life I’m in. I built this life. I am here after a long series of life choices, including the decision to quit drinking. I decided I needed to take a clear-eyed look at my life and the way I’ve been living it.

I’m 48 years old and I’m not sure what the future holds. It does seem whatever that is, it’s a far cry from a love affair with Ryan Gosling and La La Land. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t the best day to watch an homage to screen love affairs of the Golden Era.

They say “your worst day sober is better than your best day drinking.” Well that sure seems like bullshit at the moment. I wasn’t that heavy a drinker, I just wanted a different life. I wanted to change my trajectory. I was taking the easy way out.

Maybe that’s the gift of sobriety: the clarity of what was the booze’s fault and what probably wasn’t.

Ugh.

There’s too much noise in my head. I just want out of my head.

I’m going to go on a long walk with my dog. Maybe that will relieve some of the pressure.

Rachel. Day 158.

 

We have lift off… Bradley Cooper

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Today was Day 128 alcohol free, and it’s been a while since I’ve checked in. I’ve been good, although if I’m honest I admit that this time of year is always hard on me. Maybe for the same reasons it hard for other people, and maybe for some reasons that are particular to me. But my boat has definitely been taking on water lately, and I’ve found myself craving wine again in a way I haven’t since the early days.

Melancholy and loneliness are my most powerful triggers, and something about this time of year brings back a wash of memories, regrets, longings, and loneliness that I have a hard time shaking. On Thanksgiving day, as I was really trying to get to the root of the undertow that was pulling at me with such force, it occured to me that I couldn’t remember a relatively recent Thanksgiving when I was really happy. In fact, the last decade of Thanksgivings have been pretty bleak. Even awful. I’ve never really loved this holiday, frankly, and as hard as I’ve tried to list my gratitudes every day and be super mindful of all that is good in my life, right now it’s feeling a bit forced. I’m just a little sad and lonely right now, I guess. Maybe I should just feel my damned feelings and stop fighting it.

It also sounds like a good time to bring out my light therapy box for a daily dose of fake sunshine…. 🙂

The good news is that I haven’t had a drink in more than four months, something that was inconceivable to me even six months ago. And while the heavens haven’t opened up to deliver my divine purpose in the arms of my handsome (and single) lobster, and I have yet to shit anything remotely resembling glitter, I am still trusting the process and will have patience. This whole thing — you know, this changing the way I live my life by not disappearing into a bottle of wine every night thing — takes time.

And it takes as long as it takes, which is always longer than we wish it would take. Dammit.

And moods…they pass. (I am a mountain…everything else is the weather…) This dark mood will pass too. Because I do know one thing for sure: Drinking will NOT make it better. Disappearing into a bottle of wine tonight will NOT make anything feel better, let alone BE better. And my life sure as hell will not continue moving in a positive direction if I drink — and it is moving in a positive direction. I can be Betty Blues for the time being, but as glacial as it might seem, good things ARE happening in my life. Bit by bit. And if I stay true to why I started down this path in the first place, being gentle with myself and beginning to really focus, those turbo boosters are going to fire up.

I have to trust that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, right now.

And I remind myself: Seriously, girl, it’s been four months. Good shit is happening, just breathe and be patient. Good things are coming. FOCUS. 

I’ve finally stopped eating my body weight in gelato and I’m practicing yoga almost every day, so that’s progress. No?

Anyhow… When I got to 100 days last month it was a big deal, because — well, 100 days really IS a big deal for pretty much anyone, let alone someone who was drinking a bottle of red wine every night during the week and often six bottles on the weekends — so I wrote this little thing. My story.

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“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

Today is 100 days. How did that happen? 🙂

About two years ago I started buying books. Lots of books. I’d known I needed to reduce my drinking for a while, but I was finally ready to “take a break.” I read everything. Name the quit drinking book or sober memoir and I’ve probably read it. In January of 2015 I went 9 days without a drink and it was astounding how hard it was and how good I felt. It took me another eight months to try again.

I was drinking a bottle of red wine every night, no big deal, and usually more on the weekends. The bottles were opening earlier and earlier on Saturdays and Sundays, because, I thought, “Hell, if I might have a Bloody Mary or mimosa at brunch with friends, why not red wine at 10 a.m. at home by myself?”

Right?

But then the days would pass. Days of nothing getting done, seeing no one. Cancelling plans. Barely getting outside except to walk my dog and buy more wine. And I wasn’t a cheap wine drinker. Oh no. $20 a bottle was my minimum, and if I wanted to “treat” myself, it could easily be twice that.

There I’d sit, alone with my dog, and drink. It was my “only joy.”

And there have been “cringe moments.” Too many to mention. Too many bad decisions fueled by wine. I’ve never blacked out. Nothing “bad” has ever happened…no DUI or public humiliation or unalterable event. But I was making small decisions that were killing me little by little. Stealing my self-worth, one bottle at a time. Day after wasted day.

One of my first teachers was Belle at TiredofThinkingAboutDrinking.com. She had so many wise lessons to impart. So many tools. And I listened. I tried it all. I signed up for her 100 Day Challenge and failed. Over and over, I had so many Day 1s.

But one of her lessons that I heard deep in my core was this: If you aren’t able to make sobriety stick, you need more supports. Last summer I got serious about quitting drinking, and yet, still…it wouldn’t stick. I kept layering on supports. I gave myself sober treats. I blogged. I read tons of bloggers/online writers. I tried AA (it literally drove me to drink). I bought jewelry and said mantras. I signed up for an 8-week Mindfulness for Relapse Prevention class and went every week. I talked to my doctor and started monthly Naltrexone injections (for 6 months). I listened to sober podcasts. I joined secret FB groups. I called an intensive outpatient women’s wellness program, which they billed as “graduate work for your inner self,” and decided no way, I wasn’t THAT person. I didn’t need THAT. I told my friends and family that I was “working on quitting drinking.”

But I’d make it 1, 2, 5, 13, 19, even once 34 days, and then I would just lose the plot and decide fuck it, and drink again. It was my only comfort (I thought). My constant friend (I thought). I could moderate (I thought). I wasn’t THAT bad…

Except some part of me knew that drinking a bottle of wine every night wasn’t healthy. And worse, I was 47 years old and I was drinking my days away. I want to make an impact in this world, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was single and 47 and making no progress toward any chance of making a difference. What kind of trajectory was this for a meaningful life?

Then in July, after trying to quit for a year, I had gone 19 days when I decided to drink again. I was tired or bored or lonely, or some combination, and asked myself: “Why am I doing this again?” The fucking Wine Harpy had made her way through. I bought a really nice bottle of wine telling myself I would “treat” myself and make it worth it. I drank it and didn’t enjoy it. It didn’t even taste good anymore. I just felt numb. Sad. And the next morning – a work day – I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed all day except to vomit. Now I was missing work too?

A day and a half later – a day and a half after being so sick I couldn’t stand up without vomiting — I was walking my dog, feeling depressed and confused, and I heard the voice in my head say that the way to feel better was to drink more wine. Go buy more wine. So I did. And I drank it.

That’s when I got scared.

But I heard another, louder voice in my head say calmly and clearly: “NOTHING CHANGES IF NOTHING CHANGES.”

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

I called the outpatient women’s program and this time I left a message. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – and showing up there on July 21 was DEFINITELY one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I was shaking. I was freaked out. I was terrified at what it meant.

But almost immediately, I knew I was home.

That was 100 days ago. The drinker’s voice is so much quieter now. It’s not gone, but I no longer come home and think about pouring a glass of wine, which is in itself a miracle. (I have a Soda Stream and lots of yummy AF drinks at the ready instead.) When I first started the process of quitting drinking I didn’t know how I would fill all the TIME I now had available (thank you Netflix, HBO and Showtime), but now, the world has opened up again. There isn’t enough time in the days again, so much to do and see and feel. And I’m beginning to feel joy again.

Joy. I was hoping the heavens would open up and the Universe would deliver me a different life – and it still may. But at 100 days I’m realizing that the joy comes in small moments, and that is real life. My dog carrying his bone home from the pet store, the pink morning light against the brick of a building, an engaged conversation with a friend knowing that everything I’m saying is coming from a centered place and I won’t regret a thing in the morning. Joy.

Early on I thought (like so many others), “I’ll just get to 100 days and then see how I feel.” But now that I’m here, there’s no way I want to go back to how I was feeling in July on that day I called for help. Or the year before that – the YEARS before that.

Now I realize that 100 days is amazing, but it’s such a short amount of time in the larger scheme of things. I want to see what my life can be when I really LIVE it. I want to see what my higher purpose really is. Who I am meant to be.

And I’m convinced the only way I can do that is by living my life without alcohol.

Laura McKowen wrote a piece a while back that was also pivotal for me and I have kept close as one of my mantras: The Bigger Yes. I want the BIGGER YES. Living life in this alcohol-soaked world isn’t always easy, but I’m going for the Bigger Yes. I want the bigger life that I can only have if I don’t drink. And I’m keeping the faith.

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Laura McKowen has been one of my teachers, inspirations, but there have been many others too…other women who have been on this path and have a powerful way with words. Here are a few favorites. Maybe they’ll help you too.

Aidan Donnelley Rowleyhttp://ivyleagueinsecurities.com/

http://ivyleagueinsecurities.com/2016/08/i-do/

Belle (Robertson) – http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/

http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2012/08/20/dehydrate-the-wolf/

http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2013/04/02/thinking-about-never-gets-us-stuck/

Laura McKowen – http://www.lauramckowen.com/

http://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/early-sobriety

http://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/bigger-yes

Holly Whitakerhttp://www.hipsobriety.com/

http://www.hipsobriety.com/home/2015/7/5/dear-hip-sobriety-1-where-do-i-start-10-tips-to-prepare-for-the-big-change

Kristi Coulter – http://www.kristicoulter.com/

https://medium.com/personal-growth/girl-skulks-into-a-room-cbeacad58a79#.79as0khfe

https://medium.com/@kristicoulter/the-otter-of-sobriety-f7065c29b764#.j81st9j5t

https://offdry.com/2015/07/04/day-730-two-years-today/

Tammi Salas – http://www.tammisalas.com/

http://www.tammisalas.com/blog/2016/8/5/18-months

And a top 25 list: https://thisnakedmind.com/top-25-recovery-bloggers/

Sarah Hepola: Ask a Former Drunk (5-part series)

http://jezebel.com/ask-a-former-drunk-how-do-i-keep-my-sobriety-from-bein-1781921044

http://jezebel.com/ask-a-former-drunk-when-do-you-know-you-have-a-problem-1780859204

And Bradley Cooper may be 12 or so years ahead of me with his alcohol free fabulousness, but he remains my celebrity role model for living an amazing life without the juice. Thanks, Bradley. 🙂

Rachel, Day 128. xoxo

Brain: Are you *sure* you don’t want to drink anymore?

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So, the naturopath who is part of my intensive sober women’s group program has said that at 3.5-4 months, the brain often checks in with people about whether or not they’re really serious about this quitting drinking thing. She said that it’s about that time that the neural pathways begin to pave over the old well-worn paths and begin the process of making the new paths more permanent, but before the brain really “commits,” at about 3.5-4 months, many people go through a period of revisiting the decision. It’s a thing.

Brain: Are you SUUUUUURRRE you’re quitting, before I make all these changes??

For the last couple of months at least, I’ve been feeling pretty good. And while sometimes I’ll have thoughts or really mild cravings, the cravings haven’t been bad for a long time. I’m always able to identify exactly what’s going on: I’m stressed or tired or lonely or whatever. Usually guzzling a fizzy drink and eating some chocolate is enough. Not always — I do have to watch it so my old disordered eating doesn’t try to rear its ugly head — but since I started this weekly in-person program, thoughts of drinking have never even come close to threatening the accountability I feel toward my sober group.

That’s still true, but DAYAM, the last few days I’ve been having strong cravings. I’m not going to drink and I still stop and ask myself what is going on, what could be causing this…but it has been strong enough the last couple of days that I’ve resorted to ice cream and chocolate and LOTS of fizzy drinks again, and a pretty steady rhythm of snacking all day long. Looking for distraction. A tiring yoga workout this morning and a long walk with my dog this evening didn’t help much either.

Of course, just when I’m really trying to lose a little weight finally. Gah. Priority is not drinking, but dammit.

I watched the first part of Eat, Pray, Love tonight — it’s one of those silly movies I can watch again and again — and of course the Rome portion of her journey was pretty triggering. Not only was she drinking a bottle of red wine in just about every scene with friends and laughter and pasta and spectacular ROME, but it was in ROME, where I spent some intense/romantic/dopamine-rich time this spring with the hot Italian, drinking gorgeous red wine and walking around the city with him, holding hands in the early hours of the morning, while wearing his sexy leather jacket draped over my shoulders. Ah me…. Bad timing for romantic memories of love and connection and wine.

Maybe I’m a little heartsick too. I did catch myself looking at photos on Facebook tonight of the first man I was ever with when I was 20 years old. I was with him until I was 27, and 21 years later, he looks exactly the same. Except now he has a wife and a child and a solid career and…

I guess I was revisiting old wounds today a bit too.

Anyway… If I break the craving down in my head TODAY (staying away from those triggering memories), I can play it to the end, and it’s clear what drinking *really* means in my life now — what I want to gain and what I would be losing if I drank — and I won’t go there.

But this is as uncomfortable as I’ve been in a long while, and I can say for a fact that all of my snacking today didn’t help at all. Tomorrow I need to find another way to self-soothe. I’m thinking I need to revisit my mindfulness exercises too. And breathe.

I’m going to sleep as long as I need to tonight and hope I feel better tomorrow. It’s probably a brain thing going on. Maybe it’s time to really increase my exercise finally. Maybe it’s the seasons changing. That could very well be it. Who knows.

Lots to keep me busy tomorrow, in any case. This too shall pass.

Rachel.

Day 94.

Check, check, checking in

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Hi there,

So much has been going on — crazy time at work, still spending three days a week in my women’s intensive program and just trying to get enough sleep — that it’s been 21 days since my last check in.

I just wanted to say All Is Well. 🙂 I’ve been working too much, but this should be the last week before it gets somewhat back to normal, and as PERFECT TIMING would have it, I “graduated” from my intensive class on Saturday, and this coming Thursday I will be headed to a yoga retreat with “Recovery” as a theme. One doesn’t have to be sober to attend (although there will be no alcohol), but the focus is about finding oneself from a place of being lost. And I’ll get to meet Laura McKowen and Meadow DeVor, which I’m pretty excited about.

I can’t wait. Thursday eve to Sunday morn. I’ll miss my Bub, but he’ll be in good hands.

And so will I.

Day 81.

xo Rachel

Carry On, Warrior #wearetheluckiest

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I recently discovered Glennon Doyle Melton. I know, I’m a little late to this party. Or maybe I’m actually in the bulge of the bell curve, just before she made it to Oprah and pretty much anywhere else you turn in the sober space. But, who cares, I’ve found her. I wouldn’t have expected to really resonate with her or what she has to say, though. Her story is really nothing like mine, all the way down to her being the pretty party girl in high school, with lots of boyfriends and booze, and then becoming a mother in her 20s with a guy she barely knew because “there was finally something [she] wanted more than drinking.” Even now I look at her and I think: “I won’t have anything in common with that person.”

But I do.

I have also struggled with disordered eating and I have struggled with alcohol. And those two things mean we may understand each other a little more than it may appear on the surface. And for me, where I really relate to and resonate with Glennon (or “G” as her friends and fans call her), is in her writing.

I haven’t read her new book, Love Warrior yet. It sits on my nightstand waiting for me to finish her first best-selling book, Carry On, Warrrior, which I’m reading now. She relies a bit more heavily on the Christian faith than I would expect from a book I like, but I am willing to let that be her higher power because I know she would let me have mine. (Whatever that is. Today I’m going with Universe, but some days it’s LOVE, some days it’s Hope… It’s a work-in-progress.)

So, after my bad/sad night Thursday (see: last post), I walked Bub, ate a little too much gelato, and then got into bed with the book. And while I got into bed without drinking, I was fully aware that even three months ago in this situation, feeling this way, I would have drunk my way to the bottom of a bottle of red. Or two. No question. I was aware of the progress, even if I wasn’t super happy about it.

I opened the book to where I had left off the night before, and what I read seemed so meant for me that it really did seem like a message. My heart was aching, but I was sober, and I was willing to listen.

Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior (pg. 28) “To My Friend on Her First Sober Morning…”

…What matters most right now is that you are sober, so you will not worry about whether the real you will be brave or smart or funny or beautiful or responsible enough. Because the only thing that you have is to be sober. You owe the world absolutely nothing but sobriety. If you are sober, you are enough. Even if you are shaking and cursing and boring and terrified. You are enough.

But becoming sober, becoming real, will be hard and painful. A lot of things are.

Becoming sober is like recovering from frostbite.

Defrosting is excruciatingly painful. You have been numb for so long. As feeling comes back to your soul, you start to tingle, and it’s uncomfortable and strange. But then the tingles start feeling like daggers. Sadness, loss, fear, anger, anxiety–all of these things that you have been numbing with booze–you feel them for the first time, and it’s horrific at first, to tell you the damn truth. But welcoming the pain and refusing to escape from it is the only way to recovery. You can’t go around it, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it. There is no other option, besides amputation. If you allow the defrosting process to take place–if you trust that it will work and choose to endure the pain–one day you will get your soul back. If you can feel, then there has been no amputation. If you can feel, you are not too late.

Friend, we need you. The world has suffered while you’ve been hiding. You are already forgiven. You are loved. All there is left to do is to step into your life. What does that mean? What the hell does that mean?

This is what it means. These are the steps you take. They are plain as mud. Get out of bed. Don’t lie there and think–thinking is the kiss of death for us–just move. Take a shower. Sing while you’re in there. Make yourself sing. The stupider you feel, the better. Joy for its own sake–joy just for you, created by you–it’s the best.

…When you start to feel, do. When you start to feel scared because you don’t have enough money, find someone to offer a little money. When you start to feel like you don’t have enough love, find someone to offer love. When you feel unappreciated and unacknowledged, appreciate and acknowledge someone else in a concrete way. When you feel unlucky, order yourself to consider a blessing or two. Then find a tangible way to make today somebody else’s lucky day. These strategies help me sidestep wallowing every day.

Don’t worry about whether you like doing these things or not. You’re going to hate everything for a long while. And the fact is that you don’t even know what you like or hate yet. Just do these things regardless of how you feel about doing these things. Because these little things, done over and over again, eventually add up to a life. A good one.

Today I am a wife and a mother and a daughter and a friend and a writer and a dreamer and a Sister to one and a “sister” to thousands of readers. I wasn’t any of those things when I was a drunk. And I absolutely love being a recovering alcoholic. I am more proud of the “recovering” badge I wear than any other.

What will you be, friend? What will you be when you become yourself?

Glennon Doyle Melton

This. This is the journey I’m on. This is why I’m feeling the pain and not stuffing it down for a guy who is surely not part of where I’m going. And even if my purpose isn’t some big public impact and instead is just to live a contented and magical life all my own, I’m keeping the faith that it will be in a place transcendent from where I was even 60 days ago, and most certainly a year ago when I really started this process.

I’ve been listening to Rob Bell’s podcast (“RobCast”), and he recently had an episode on “Seasons” which was very good. He talked about the “seasons” of our lives and how big change happens, and when we move from one “season” to the next, it is uncomfortable, but in the space between seasons (moving from a past stage to the next one) called the “liminal space,” that is where all the interesting things happen. The mystics and wise people over a millennia have talked about the “liminal space” and how it’s a really important time to pay attention. “Spirit does all sorts of healing, redemptive, creative work in liminal space,” Rob said.

And we don’t like the tension and we don’t like to wait for the next season to start, so we try to rush our way through this space….

Day 60 and I’ve been so impatient to get through this space. But this is an important time. A sacred time. My coach said I’m in pupation… 🙂

You are in pupation.
The chrysalis stage of a butterfly.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pupa

As wikipedia says, Pupae are inactive.

You’re in that painful place where you see the big gap between where you are now and where you want to be.The bigger the gap is, the more painful, or frustrating, or overwhelming it is. And we feel like we need to get started RIGHT AWAY because we have SO MUCH GROUND TO COVER!! But the truth is, if you start when you’re truly ready, the journey will be shorter and easier. And even if it does take a long time, it’s all about small steps. Small steps will get you there. You don’t have to try to accomplish everything all at once.”

She’s right. This is a special time and small steps will get me there. Small steps ARE the thing. Maybe it’s because I’m at the 60 day mark, but I’m starting to see that this is the journey. And it’s hard. And it’s important. And it’s beautiful.

I’m reminding myself to breathe. And take the small steps, day-by-day.

As Laura McKowen would say, #wearetheluckiest

xo Rachel. Day 60

I miss you. Goodbye.

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Yesterday was eight weeks without alcohol and I feel alright. Not spectacular, but alright.

Something’s been nagging at me for a while, and that something is a man. He hasn’t been nagging me on purpose, but it’s the thought of him and the last time we were together that has been tightening its grip a bit. Scratching at me like the tag on the back of my t-shirt, suddenly driving me ape shit and forcing me to pay attention.

The last time we were together just over eight weeks ago. He came over to my apartment and noticed the calendar on the wall that counted off the days in big pink numbers, 1, 2, 3…all the way to 19, before starting over again. 1,2,1,1,1 2,1… When he arrived at my apartment at midnight, I had already drunk a bottle of wine. I’m sure he could barely tell — a bottle of wine over the course of a few hours would have hardly been noticeable on me then — and he’d had a few beers of his own, I think.

We didn’t sleep together, if that’s where you think this is going, but we talked a lot and laughed a lot, and I fed him a late dinner, and after he ate that bowl of pasta he moved over to sit next to me and hold my hand.

He’s wicked smart — well-known for how smart he is, in fact — and he laughed especially hard once when he made an obscure reference I understood. He said he loved it that I got it and he didn’t have to explain. I loved it that he loved it.  That he appreciated me that way. And I loved that he was holding my hand.

We’ve known each other more than 20 years and we’ve both been through a couple of marriages in that time. We’ve both been through plenty of brutal heartache. We’ve hooked up a few times over the years, but only now are we really both single at the same time.

But single isn’t the same thing as available.

I’ve been focused on me. I’ve been consumed by quitting drinking and staying quit. And as anyone who has been through this process knows, in the early days it takes pretty much every bit of extra energy one has. Extra energy, which includes all the energy it also takes from one’s work, social life, mental capacity, diet… all of it. Quitting drinking is so much harder than anyone thinks it’s going to be, and it’s all-consuming for a good while.

He’s focused on him. He’s going through a messy, contemptuous divorce with a woman who keeps saying she’s changed her mind. He’s having to sell his house and parent his kids and work through his own massive life transition, which leaves him racked more days that not.

And, he wonders if we have known each other too long. If what he really needs is a fresh start. Despite the fact that he says he trusts me like he trusts very few people, he wonders.

So. I’ve stayed away.

I made a promise to myself after my last really big relationship blew up in a spectacular fireball of hell that I would never again invest myself emotionally in someone who can’t meet me in an equal place. Who is ambivalent. Who isn’t emotionally available. I promised. And I know it was the right promise to make.

And in the more than two months since last seeing him, he hasn’t reached out. He hasn’t inquired. He hasn’t asked about how I’m doing or tried to connect. He has a lot going on, but that’s no excuse. We all know that. I know that.

And so I’ve stayed away…until today. It felt like it was time to get my answer (because sometimes I need to force my own hand and kill any sprouts of hope I might be harboring by taking a machete to the ambiguity) and I finally decided to reach out to him. I would give him the opening he didn’t actually need. I would say hello.

I got my answer. He promptly responded and nicely answered my questions but still didn’t ask about me. He didn’t inquire. He didn’t keep the conversation going. He didn’t wonder.

And tonight I want to drink. I’m not going to drink, but I want to. I guzzled a couple of fizzy drinks and stuffed my belly with enough food to give me that full feeling that would slow down my drinker’s voice. I breathed and said out loud

Ouch. This hurts. I need to feel my feelings but this fucking hurts. I hurt. 

I’m not going to drink about it, but I want to. And I’m excruciatingly clear why: I want to squish these feelings and at the same time I want to feel loved. Desired. Worthy. I want to blot out this pain and sadness, and at the same time I want to feel held and comforted and included. I want to forget, and leave for a while, and fucking let go and not care. And I want to feel deeply and care with all my heart. I want to feel so much.

I know alcohol only makes it worse. All of it. I know it does’t fix anything. And I believe I won’t move forward if I drink. I won’t heal. I know.

So.

Fuck.

I’m feeling my fucking feelings. I’m going to go for a walk with Bub and then I’m going to get in bed early and read. And sleep. And I’m going to pray and hope the Universe has big plans for me. HUGE FUCKING PLANS. And those HUGE plans include bringing my partner to me. Someone who will do all the things this guy isn’t doing and then some. Someone who wants me and more importantly, deserves me. Someone who is my champion and makes me feel like I’m amazing when I’m with him — because I am.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to fill up my own damn hole, but goddammit, tonight I just want to be loved, and desired, and held. And that’s okay.

Tonight I will let myself feel this shit and mourn the hope I had that this rare amazing man and I might try something new and cool. That we might be just what the other needs and we were there all along. That it would be a new season for us.

I will mourn that and accept that it isn’t going to happen.

My coach might advise me to ask myself and the Universe, So, who else? Who else is out there?

So, yeah, okay, I’ll try that, but not tonight. Tonight I will hurt and miss him. And tonight I will let him go.

Rachel. Day 57.

 

This is Where I Start

Last week  was an unusually intense week. Having spent the better part of the last year not drinking, learning to “feel the feels” is nothing new at this point. Early on I realized that (sometimes really powerful and seemingly random) memories and the (equally powerful, very much not random) feelings they invoked were coming up with a lot more regularity than they had before, and it was easy to make the connection between the missing alcohol and the oozing hotspring of goo urping up from my subconsciousness.

Pretty much one of the first things you learn as a quitting-the-booze boozer is to get prepared to feel your feelings.

This wasn’t that. Not exactly.

This week was way more seismic than that. Like, when there’s a tsunami off the coast of Japan or somewhere, and 10,000 miles away a day later the surf comes in all jacked up and super-sized.  I wasn’t sure why this was happening, these IMAX memories and feelings and fears and hopes, but I was aware of it and was doing my best to bob along in my little alcohol-free dingy and ride that mega-wave action,  letting it pass through to be on its way.

And then Liz Gilbert posted her incredibly beautiful post about her and her best friend (and partner), Rayya, and it was like a two-by-four landed right between my eyes.

When I first saw it, I was at work, and I could hardly concentrate until I spent a minute trying to really FEEL what it was that was so amazingly upending about it. It felt personal to me, even though it had nothing to do with me.

Of course it had nothing to do with me.

Did it?

This last year has been a nearly constant exercise of looking at my life and how I’ve been living it. And to my very soul I was moved to pay attention to this moment, even though I wasn’t immediately sure why it was affecting me so. After taking a little time to think about it– and to let myself listen to what I was feeling — I came to this:

…Besides being extraordinarily beautiful and heartbreaking in its message, I was absolutely blown away by Liz’s example of living a completely authentic life, open to this love.

…and I’ve realized that my inner circle has become very fragile this last year since I started the process of quitting drinking. I’ve been isolating, which is normal for a while, but I still haven’t been ready to step back into my friendships on my terms.

…and…

…and making an impact on the world.
…and asking the Universe what I’m meant to do and listening with curiosity.
…and being someone’s person.
…and having a person.

 

Wave after wave.

The night before Liz’s post I couldn’t sleep. It just about never happens to me. Maybe I had eaten too much sugar (gelato) too late, but that wouldn’t be unusual. What was unusual was how intense those feelings were. Fears, memories, hopes, wishes, loneliness, responsibilities, desires… it was a Technicolor movie that went from scene to scene to scene across the backs of my eyes, and none of my normal attempts to soothe and quiet my mind would work. Wave after wave they flooded in. I was still up at 1am before I took a 1/2 a sleeping pill and ate some nuts and chips and went back to bed to try again.

And I couldn’t help but feel like seeing Liz’s intense, beautiful post the next day was related.

I’ve been asking the Universe to tell me what I’m supposed to do in my life and help me listen. I’ve been asking the Universe for my partner in life and to be open to whomever that might be. Liz and Rayya’s courage and truth jarred me a little into opening my eyes (or heart) a little wider to listen. And to wonder about all the potential ahead. And to hope for courage and growth and progress.

And I truly believe this is the journey I’m on. Like I’m on the precipice of new knowing, and there may be days of tsunami waves as the Universe begins to realize that I’m serious about this not drinking thing and I’m getting ready to receive what it has to offer. No matter how new and scary and fucking REAL that might be.

I have every intention to build an incredible life from this place. From where I am today. and even though I don’t know yet what that means, and it’s hard to describe, I think the messages this week were a gift. Test balloons to see if I’m paying attention. It makes me wonder if important things are beginning to shake loose, and I plan to be ready to catch whatever it is I need to catch when the Universe sends it my way.

I’ll do my best to stay open and pay attention. I’m on the verge of something.

As Rob Bell says in his book, How To Be Here:

This is where I start.

And not to come back full circle to Bradley Cooper, but — I mean, who doesn’t want to think about Bradley Cooper if given the chance? — I was reminded again today about what he said about the revelation he had that made him quit drinking, which was that he knew that he was not fulfilling his potential (and was going to “sabotage his life”) unless he stopped.

I may have clued into this nearly 20 years later than he did, but it’s not too late for me yet. I, too, want to live an authentic, courageous, vivid, impactful life.

This is where I start. 

xo Rachel.
Day 52.

The Kindness of Strangers

You have everything you need. Right here, right now.

You are enough.

This is the message that made it through the chaff to my ears this week. Reading a book I ordered on a whim about dating — The Tao of Dating — the writer said those words I’ve heard so many times before, but for some reason, I was finally ready to really hear them:

I have everything I need. Right here, right now. 

And if I’m not happy or fulfilled or content, nothing else coming into my life is going to change that. No boyfriend. No higher salary. No smaller pant size.

Theoretically, I have everything I need.

So, yes…that’s the question: How much of my struggle is the filter of my own perspective? They say more than 50% of one’s happiness is a choice. A choice. Perspective. Mind over matter. Quite literally, faking it until making it.

I have everything I need to be content. I have everything I need to be content. 

Still, in the past I’ve made some bad decisions. I chose a bad marriage. I’ve trusted some of the wrong people and given too much of myself away.

And for a while I was drinking too much.

But that’s all turning around now. I have been treating myself much better in the last several years. Trusting my gut and inner voice more and turning away from unhealthy people or situations. I’ve been working hard to heal some of the most difficult traumas and finally, about a year ago I started the stopping of the drinking habit that probably began as a misguided coping strategy.

Healing. Learning. Taking loving care of myself. And this week, I saw a glimmer of what it might feel like to really believe that I have everything I need, right now.

To be honest, it flickers in and out like a holographic malfunction, but…baby steps.

Sometimes mindfulness helps a bit. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a very good meditator, but I try to stay present. It’s a hard habit to break, living in the past and the future, fretting, hoping, wishing, regretting, but I do find some moments of peace and acceptance in the now. I think I’m making progress.

I was in a short mindfulness class about a week ago and the leader began talking about how, in order to find a place of calm, some people imagine themselves as a very deep sea. There might be a lot of activity up top on the surface, but the sea runs very deep, and way deep down, the sea is quiet and still.

I was reminded of the exercise we did last winter in my mindfulness class when I was a MOUNTAIN. That one resonated with me, and at a family gathering where I wasn’t drinking, I kept saying to myself, I am a mountain, I am a mountain… While I imagined the skies and weather moving in all around me and I, the mountain, remained steady and unchanging. It got me through the night.

The leader said some people also think of themselves as the sky, and when the clouds come in, thick and dark with rain, one can just move above the clouds to find blue sky again, and the sun…

The sun…

About eight years ago I was going through a really tough time. I was in a marriage that wasn’t working, with step-kids who were straight out of horrible step-kids/mean girls central casting, and the man who was supposed to be my partner — their father  — didn’t have the courage to support me. I was on my own.

After a particularly destructive and disheartening day (the writing was on the wall for my marriage, but I held on a few more years), I went to a local pub for lunch and a beer. Mostly the beer. I was pretty upset and I just needed to get away from them.

I sat and thought about what had happened that day and what it might mean for my future. I think my heart knew the prognosis for my marriage was bleak, but I had no idea what I was going to do. I sat there with my beer and soup, and pretended to read the monthly city rag, but really I was going over my options. I felt trapped and a bit lost, and I was in so, so much pain.

My eyes filled with tears and I fought them back. I scratched notes to myself across the newsprint and looked out the window. What was I going to do?

That’s when the bartender approached my table with what looked like a napkin in his hand. He said, “Another customer wanted me to give this to you,” and he offered me the napkin.

On it, that someone had written this message:

I looked up and scanned the room. There was hardly anyone else in the pub, and no one who appeared as though they might have sent this message. No one looking in my direction. No one who might fit the description of kind mystery stranger.

He never appeared.

I kept the note, obviously, and I’ve carried it with me through the years. I never showed my husband or told him what happened, and we did finally get divorced. I’ve moved several times since that day, and each time I move I come across this note again. I cherish it, and I wonder if the kind man (I’m certain it was a man) could possibly have any idea how much his note meant to me that day, and on so many days since.

And I keep persevering.

Because

The sun still shines

above the clouds.

xo Rachel. Day 47.

ps. I’ve just accepted that I suck at proclamations of 30 day pledges to post every day, for gratitudes or anything else. If I’m tired or not in the right mood, it’s better I take care of myself in other ways, I’ve discovered. And I’m all about listening to what I need most these days. Isn’t that the point?