100 Observations After 100 Days of Sobriety.

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  1. I sleep better. 
  2. Not perfect, but definitely better.
  3. It’s easier to fall asleep, I stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
  4. I have more energy.
  5. I am more focused.
  6. I read more.
  7. I have dreams that I drink and I am so disappointed in myself in the dream. 
  8. Then I wake up relieved that it was just a dream.
  9. I am glad that I decided to share my story. 
  10. It has allowed other women to reach out to me for support.
  11. My skin looks better. 
  12. Actually, it looks to me like it is glowing.
  13. I am getting more comfortable being uncomfortable.
  14. I feel all my feelings.
  15. I am finding new ways to decompress after a long day:
  16. Tea.
  17. Meditation.
  18. Guided body scan.
  19. Play with my pups.
  20. Reading.
  21. I binged on sugar when I first stopped drinking. 
  22. That has leveled out.
  23. I also binged on social media at first. 
  24. Still working on that one.
  25. I find it easier to make other heathy choices.
  26. I am easy on myself when I don’t.
  27. That’s a surprising development. 
  28. This newfound compassion for myself.This tenderness.
  29. I didn’t go out often at first. 
  30. I am slowly making my way back out into the social world.
  31. I am saving money. 
  32. Like probably $50 a month.
  33. I go out to eat less so I am saving money there as well.
  34. And when I do go out, the bill isn’t bloated with booze.
  35. Everyone has been supportive so far.
  36. No awkward questions about why I’m doing it or suggesting that I don’t have a problem or attempts to peer-pressure me into having just one drink.
  37. I do notice that some people feel compelled to justify when and how much they do drink. 
  38. I listen but I am not judging. 
  39. I am doing this for me. 
  40. Your path is your path.
  41. My dreams are more vivid and involved, often spooling out like novels or movies.
  42. My digestion is smooth.
  43. I no longer say things drunk that I wouldn’t say sober.
  44. If it can’t be said sober, it doesn’t need to be said at all.
  45. No hangovers!
  46. No shame.
  47. I collect sober celebrities.
  48. They keep me company on this journey.
  49. And they remind me that I am in good company.
  50. Demi Moore.
  51. Mackelmore.
  52. Jennifer Hudson.
  53. Jennifer Lopez
  54. Bradley Cooper.
  55. Brad Pitt
  56. Among many, many others.
  57. There is no longer this haze shrouding my vision.
  58. I see clearly who I am.
  59. And who I want to be.
  60. I feel like I am living my life on purpose.
  61. Not sure how this is related but I no longer buy a bunch of stuff.
  62. I am buying less books.
  63. Less clothes.
  64. Less stuff to clutter up my life.
  65. I go to Target and actually stick to my list.
  66. Maybe I am not longer trying fill myself up.
  67. Maybe I no longer see myself as broken.
  68. In need of fixing.
  69. Maybe I am finally able to embrace all parts of myself.
  70. No longer numbing to parts I don’t like.
  71. No longer trying to not feel what I am, indeed, feeling.
  72. I listen more intently.
  73. To myself.
  74. To those around me.
  75. To my body.
  76. To my intuition.
  77. I have space in my life to do the things that I always say I want/need to do:
  78. Meditate.
  79. Yoga.
  80. Writ.
  81. Read.
  82. Walk.
  83. I am clenching my jaw less.
  84. I don’t feel guilty when I feel the need to have a jammie day.
  85. I am starting to cook more.
  86. To be honest, that is probably partly due to the season change, too.
  87. I still have the urge to drink.
  88. Out of habit.
  89. After a long day.
  90. Out for a nice dinner.
  91. While cooking dinner.
  92. I no longer tell myself that I’ll probably drink again at some point so why not now?
  93. I have fun without drinking.
  94. Even if people around me drink.
  95. Summer was a test that I passed:
  96. Patios, birthday, Anniversary, Art Fairs. 4th of July without booze.
  97. I am experiencing more:
  98. Clarity.
  99. Grace.
  100. Ease.

Books Read in September.

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“Future Home of the Living God” a novel by Louise Erdrich

When I tell you the my white name is Cedar Hawk Songmaker and that I am the adopted child of Minneapolis liberals, and that when I went looking for my Ojibwe parents and found that I was born Mary Potts I hid the knowledge, maybe you’ll understand. Or not.

Continuing my dystopian fascination, Erdrich leads us into a future where evolution has stopped. Pregnancy and childbearing become matters of state security and concern. 

Cedar is four months pregnant when the world begins to dissolve. She is on a journey to bring her child into the world, to find her birth family all while navigating  a new society where pregnant women become a commodity.

Fiercely moving and original, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 

A sentence that gave me chills:

The first thing that happens at the end of the world is the we don’t know what is happening.

A sentence I love:

Perhaps we function as neurons ourselves, interconnecting thoughts in the giant mind of God.

“Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington

When I first got Sober Curious, one persistent question kept blinking into view, like a lighthouse on a stormy night:

Would life be better without alcohol?

That same question blinks at me.

Warrington coined the term “sober curious” which I like. It allows someone like me who has not hit a dark rock bottom to find a space in which to begin to question my drinking. To rethink the role it plays in my life, own my health, in my body. 

She weaves her own sober curious journey with research and interviews, laying out a possible path for each of us to find on our own. No judgment.

She is honest, funny, engaging and invites us on this path she has lit for us, but always encouraging us to find our own way. This is what works for her and she is generous in sharing it with the world.

A sentence that makes so much sense:

Thinking back to Marc Lewis’s theory that all human behavior stems from our desire to seek out pleasure or to avoid pain, it seems obvious that our specific FOMA (fear of missing alcohol) triggers will be individual for each of us, even if they are rooted in the same basic needs.

“Ursula K. LeGuin- Conversations on Writing” by Ursula K. LeGuin with David Naimon

The interviewers I fear most are the ones who’ve read what the publisher’s PR people say about your book, along with some handy pull quotes.

Divided into 3 parts with passages of her own writing interspersed, Naimon discusses Fiction, Poetry and Non-fiction with LeGuin. The title is accurate in describing them as conversations rather that interviews. Luckily, Naimon is not the kind of interviewer she fears most. Each conversation ends up being a dance between two intelligent people about literature and its role in society.

I am ashamed to say I have read very little of her but that will be changing. She has a fascinating mind and is not afraid to say what needs to be said. 

One of my favorite pieces was “On Serious Literature” in which she responds to a review of a Michael Chabon book and it is clear that the reviewer is not a fan of so-called genre fiction. The lesson? It was never a good idea to piss off LeGuin.

A passage I love:

Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Since explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stocking endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.

“I Remember” by Joe Brainard

I remember the first time I got a letter that said “After Five Days Return To” on the envelope, and I thought that after I had kept the letter for five days I was supposed to return it to the sender.

Those two little words create a life. 

Those two little words were the first writing prompt I used. It opened a flood of words and images and memories that I then spilled onto the page. It is a prompt i still use to this day, along with the opposite: I don’t remember. 

When Dani Shapiro recommended this book, I immediately went on-line and found it. 

It’s truly amazing how an entire life can be revealed through memories. What we choose to remember, what we don’t. How one memory leads to the next. 

I can’t tell you how many times I read his words and thought, “Me, too!” like this one:

I remember milkmen. Postmen. Guest towels. “Welcome” mats. Avon ladies. 

This is an original book that reads like a path of memories laid out like breadcrumbs to reveal this particular human soul that is both universal and deeply personal sometimes humorous, sometimes deeply moving. Just like life.

A sentence I love:

I remember trying not to look lonely in restaurants alone.

“Awakening the Spine” by Vanda Scaravelli

This is not really a yoga book, nor is it a book on how to do the asanas.

This is a beautifully written and designed book that feeds both the eyes, the body and spirit. 

I can already feel how I carry my differently, or how it carries me. I feel like I am much more aware of my spine and how it moves. So, yes, reading this book helped me to awaken my spine. 

A sentence I love:

You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain and centering your attention on that very delicate point, the back of the wist (where the spine moves in two opposite directions).

“The Pursuit of Alice Thrift” a novel by Elinor Lipman

You may have seen us in “Vows” in the New York Times: me, alone smoking a cigarette and contemplating my crossed ankles, and a larger blurry shot of us, postceremony, ducking and squinting through a hail of birdseed.

I pulled this gem out of my stacks and am so glad I did. I don’t remember laughing out loud while reading a novel in a long, long time. 

Alice Thrift is a surgical intern, very smart but also very awkwardly social. In fact, at one point her own mother wonders if she might be on the spectrum. 

The life of an intern, doesn’t leave much room for romance but that doesn’t stop Ray Russo, fudge salesman and extreme extrovert, from pursuing her. 

Filled with memorable characters, this novel was hard to put down.

A sentence that made me laugh out loud:

Finding Ray’s chin hooked on her shoulder while asleep:

Didn’t heads belong on pillows? Hadn’t beds evolved to queen-and king-sized so that body integrity could be maintained during sleep?

“Her Body and Other Parties” stories by Carmen Maria Machado

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:)

I don’t even know where to start with this remarkable collection of stories. They are mesmerizing, startling, lush and stake out new territory in this genre.

I began each story as if carefully opening a precious gift, never quite sure what I would find inside. I discovered worlds that (and I have to quote the back jacket) “blithely demolish the borders between psychological realism and science fiction.” A mysterious green ribbon around a woman neck tempts her husband. An inventory of lovers is revealed in the wake of a world catastrophe. Smack in the middle is this enthralling yet disturbing rendition of “Law and Order: SVU.”

Reading this collection as a writer reminded me to go where the characters take you, allow the writing to twist and turn and writhe on the page. And, most importantly, don’t be afraid to take risks.

A description of a baby that I loved:

She smells clean, but chemical. And behind it, an edge of milk, bodily and sour, like something tipped askance.

A description of being put under anesthesia:

As they put me to sleep, my mouth fills with the dust of the moon.

A description of autumn that took my breath away:

And then, autumn, the first autumn, our first autumn, the first squash dish, the sweaters, the burning smell of the space heater, never leaving the heavy blankets, the scent of smoke that reminds me of being a Girl Scout and being twelve and camping with girls who hate me. The leaves catch fire, color burning away green like a disease. More rain, another carpet of leaves, yellow as dandelions, red as pomegranate skin, orange as carrot peels. There are strange evenings when the sun sets but it rains anyway, and the sky is gold and peach and also gray and purple like a bruise. Every morning, a fine mist coats the grove. Some nights, a bloody harvest moon rises over the horizon and stains the clouds like an alien sunrise. 

Connection is Medicine.

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Medicine.

Medicine used to equal a cure or a fix or something to ease symptoms of pain.

It used to be so simple. I could take a pill and I would be better. I never questioned what better meant or looked like or felt like.

Usually it meant that the pain or discomfort would go away. But I never questioned where it went. Even more curious, I never questioned where it came from.

I used to think that medicine only came in the form of pills or surgery.

Now I am learning that anything that brings me back into awareness, back into balance is medicine.

Yoga.

Meditating.

Breathing.

Walking.

Moving.

Writing.

Sex.

Crying.

Laughter.

Deep conversations with friends.

Random encounters with strangers.

It is all medicine.

Connection is medicine.

We now know that social isolation can be as detrimental to our health as smoking cigarettes. Forming these deep bonds of love and friendship weave a tapestry of support through our lives.

Finding ways to connect is essential, and not only with others.

We need to connect with our bodies in a loving, compassionate way.

Connect with our hearts. What are we feeling? What do we need?

We need to connect with the Earth, our home.

We need to connect with that which is larger than ourselves. Something that allows us to feel a purpose for being here, in this body, at this time.

Purpose of Being, not Doing.

Who or what do we turn to when despair slugs through our veins? When sadness permeates our bones?

Feeling like we are merely here to do things then die is not medicine.

It is why I write, why I draw cards for guidance. Why I go outside in nature. Why I eat whole, fresh foods. Why I have lovingly built a tribe of amazing women.

It’s why I have stopped drinking. Drinking broke or frayed my ability to connect. It changed how I thought, changed who I was and so any connections I thought I was making were based on a lie.

So, now I know. Connection is medicine.

We are surrounded by opportunities to connect or isolate.

Connect or separate.

It’s all medicine.

Every word.

Every thought.

Every belief.

Every action.

Every choice.

We can ask if this choice will heal or harm. Then move toward the healing.

(Thank you to Bryonie Wise for the inspiration.)

No Place to Hide.

 

No Place to Hide

I like to keep track of things. Things I do and for how long.

Currently I am keeping track of how many days in a row I have not had a drink. (68) I track how many days in a row I have meditated. (426) And I keep track of how many days in a row I have written something. (1,337)

And what does this add up to? That is such a left-brain, ego-based question. Because the things we do must add up to something. To some goal, some achievement. Right?

Why can’t the achievement be in the doing. Or in the case of drinking, in the not doing?

These things may not have added up to something but they have certainly added to the quality of my life.

I am more present. I feel things more, which is challenging. There was a reason that I often poured one, two or three glasses of wine on a random night. I didn’t want to feel those pesky, uncomfortable feelings.

Meditating helps me to see how those feelings and thoughts just come and go. I know it will change so I can sit with it for now.

Writing helps me to process all those feelings. I get them out of the dark, knotted twisty space of my head, onto the page and into the light of day where they lose much of their power.

Doing things everyday, like writing, builds momentum. This is huge for me. I can become so easily stuck. Stuck in my head, stuck in this tendency to overthink every single thing and end up immobilized on the couch binge-watching Netflix. But writing something every day, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant is not insignificant at all. It builds momentum and the muscle of showing up.

Showing up when I am happy and inspired.

Showing up when I am sad and thoroughly uninspired.

Showing up when I know what happens next in my story.

Showing up when I have no idea at all what happens next.

Showing up after all these years. It’s obviously not for monetary reasons. Sure, that would be nice and I haven’t given up on that. But what keeps me coming back to the page again and again is this desire and habit to be there for the stories that want to be told. To be there for the deepest parts of my self that want to remain hidden but also want to be seen and heard.

There is nowhere to hide on the page. It’s like I tell my students, no matter what prompt I provide, whatever you need to write will find its way out.

I see now that each of these daily practices are spaces where I can no longer hide. I can’t hide from myself, my desires, my fears.

These daily practices allow me to see myself with clarity and compassion. And I can then turn that that clarity and compassion back out into the world around me.

 

Why Not Just Moderate my Drinking?

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I have a confession.

I lied in my last post.

I lied when I said this:

I am still not sure that never drinking again is even my goal.

It is my goal. I don’t want to drink anymore.

So, why abstain forever instead of moderate and allow myself to drink occasionally?

Well, for me, that just doesn’t work. I’ve tried. Many, many times.

I set myself drinking rules or guidelines:

  • only drink on weekends
  • only after 5:00
  • no more than two glasses of wine in one night…okay maybe three
  • only drink when I am out but not at home or only drink at home but don’t order over-priced drinks when I am out

It starts off fine. I abide my my rules. I even measure the amount of wine to match a serving which is 5 measly ounces.

But then it starts to shift. See, I’m fine I tell myself. I can drink what I want when I want. I’m a grown-ass woman and drinking is one of the perks of being an adult. It’s my off-switch. What’s wrong with that? Everybody drinks.

Soon, I am back to my old habits of drinking during the week, drinking at restaurants, drinking to take the edge off a crappy day, drinking to take the edge off a crappy world, drinking to celebrate, drinking to commiserate. Drinking, drinking, drinking.

Here’s the thing for me. If I am asking myself the question: Should I moderate my drinking? I m already pretty far down that slippery slope. If I am asking the question, the answer is definitely yes.

It takes so much energy to moderate. I have to think about it so much. Should I drink tonight? How much? Do I choose a restaurant that offers alcohol or not? Should I have another glass? Am I drinking enough water in between so I don’t wake up feeling hungover?

The headspace moderation takes up is tremendous and I’d much rather use all of that energy to just quit all together.

I had a writing teacher who talked about having a “yes writing day” or a “no writing day.” Choose one or the other and own it. Be okay with it. He said that those maybe days will kill you.

It’s true. It’s why I now write everyday. It’s no longer a decision that has to be made.

Same with drinking. If everyday is a no drinking day then I no longer have to waste my precious energy deciding whether to drink or not.

The decision has already been made.

Booze-Free…for Now.

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I have been extremely  hesitant to share any of this publicly. I kept telling myself to wait. Wait until I had more days under my belt. Wait until I had a handle on it. Wait until I had it figured out.

But here’s the thing. Whether I have 44 booze-free days stacked up (which I currently do) or 440 or 4400, it doesn’t mean I have a handle on it or that I have it figured out or that I will never drink again.

I am still not sure that never drinking again is even my goal.

All that I am sure of is that I what I need right now is to rethink my drinking.

My relationship to drinking has always been something I’ve never quite been comfortable with. I had my first real drink when I was thirteen with my cousins. We stole cans of Budweiser and I hated the taste but forced myself to drink it by taking big bites of a ham and cheese sandwich on Wonder Bread to help wash it down.Why? Why at 13 was it so important for me to finish that awful beer? I wanted to fit it.

In high school I drank to fit in and to be less anxious. I became a way more fun version of myself instead of the usual studious, honor society version of myself.

In college, the trend continued. Drinking was fun. Drinking made me feel more confident. More comfortable in my skin. It made it easier to approach guys and their attention was something I craved.

I actually didn’t drink much while my children were young. I jokingly now say that that was a blessing because I probably would’ve turned into an alcoholic if I had  turned to wine every time I was stressed. But it probably isn’t a joke.

For the last couple of years, I haven’t had a drink on New Year’s Eve because I don’t want to tarnish the beautiful blank slate ahead of me by being hung over on the first day of the new year.

I’ve participated in Dry January the last 2 years.

I stopped drinking for over 50 days earlier this year (after a particularly terrible hangover) but then had some wine the day my best friend had open heart surgery, telling myself that if there ever  time the I “deserved”a glass, it was then.

We drank a bit on our trip to Europe but not as much as I would’ve expected.

This latest foray into not drinking didn’t start because of a hangover. In fact, we had friends over in June and were drinking Moscow Mules and I was tipsy but not drunk. I wasn’t even hungover the next day. So why did I decide to try sobriety again? I think it was because I thought I should’ve been more drunk than I was. And that disturbed me. Was I trying to get drunk? Was that my sole purpose in drinking? And how much more would I have to drink to get to that feeling I was apparently chasing?

These are questions that I still don’t have answers to.

I still don’t know how long this will last.

I do know that I managed to not drink over 4th of July, on my birthday, at the art fair, at Girls’ Night Out and on our anniversary. Every time I am able to show up fully without the blurry haze of alcohol distorting my experience, the better I feel.

What I know for sure (right now anyway) is that as a yoga teacher, yogi and human being I want to be the most authentic version of myself. Looking back to the that very first drink, I can see that my intention in drinking is to be other than who I am, to feel something other than what I feel. That is not being authentic.

Sharing this before I know where it will end up or how it will end up is me being real.

I am booze-free, for now.

(I will continue to share my journey here as it and I evolve. This is not a judgment at all on those who do drink. This is an exploration into why I drink and if it really enhances my life or diminishes it. I plan to share the ups and downs, resources I have been drawn to that I have found helpful and what I am learning about myself along the way.)