Finding Calm

Captiva Blue(c) Open Hearted

I spent the other week on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico, a place that holds a lot of magic and healing for me.  The sunshine and humidity warmed and brightened up my spirit from the inside.  The salt water washed away the sadness, grief and depression that had been plaguing me in San Francisco.  It was a little staggering how quickly my depression receded.  I felt like myself again – real laughter, real rest at night, moments of real joy, and real love in the arms of my daughter and husband.  While I’m so grateful to have had that time in Florida to find myself again, it made coming back to San Francisco unbearable.  This angry, overtired, mean and grumpy person, I felt desperate not to let her take hold again. The answer is that I need to put taking care of myself (and my sobriety) at the top of my list.

I’ve been plodding along in recovery from alcohol for the past two years with the help of a twelve step program, and now that I’m solid in my sobriety I’m feeling a nudge to go further.  I found a psychiatrist that deals with depression and anxiety, a counselor who works with addiction and now it’s time to make the changes that I’ve been avoiding.  In the beginning, I did whatever I needed to not to drink. Everything else could wait, and I’m so glad I did that because it let me find freedom from drinking. Now, the things that I have been looking to for relief – sugar, comfort eating, TV – aren’t helping me. They’re keeping me stuck. I want to get back to that joyful, easy going girl I remembered on that island. So I’m posting here for some accountability.  These are the main stays of my self-care.  (Not to mention, the holidays are here so having bullet proof self-care is a good plan.)

Casting a Spell

Essentially setting an intention is always the beginning for me.  The inner witch in me likes to thing of it as casting a spell. I want to heal from the emotional pain I’ve picked up over the course of my life and move through it, rather than drag it behind me.  That’s why I’m doing this.

Sleep

At minimum, 7-8 hours of sleep keeps me on an even keel.  With a toddler that often wakes up at night that’s not always possible.  In that case, I nap whenever I can.

Exercise

Running, yoga, dancing anything that gets my body moving and my heart rate going I count.  For some accountability, I took a little risk and reached out to find a running buddy.  Now I have two women that I meet twice a week to run and it’s the only thing that gets me out the door on the cold, dark nights of winter.

Eating Well

I have a lot of issues around food.  In the past I’ve obsessed about calorie counting, restricted and binged, and stuffed my face with food hoping it would make me feel better.  What’s working for the moment is focusing on structure – three meals and one snack – as well as getting enough protein.  These two pieces have been helping the most.  My energy is better and I feel like I’m eating for nourishment.

Spiritual Growth

I try to do one little thing every day that makes my spirit happy – reading a poem, going to recovery meetings, or reading recovery literature.

Creativity

Maybe it’s a strange one but when I’m not creating something I feel really angry, like there’s something inside clawing at me to get out.  Writing in a journal, cooking a new meal, writing a blog post, singing anything that helps me feel like I’m living a creative life.

Meditation

This is the one I don’t do, but makes me feel immeasurably better when I do.  Time to start doing it…

Gratitude

Every morning I write a list of the things I’m grateful for right when I wake up.  I’m also part of a private gratitude group on Facebook.  A small group of women friends all post each day about one thing they’re grateful for.  It’s been a really powerful way to connect and stay grounded no matter what happens.  Each day I’m reminded that I have everything I need, and a lot of things that I want.

 

Things I’ve Learned Since I Quit Drinking

I quit drinking nine months ago. Alcohol was making me feel anxious and depressed and I had this sneaking suspicion that I had a problem. I was relying on my nightly glass or three of wine to cope with everyday life. I’ve been in recovery for nine months now and there are a few things that were really important for me to learn.

1) It doesn’t really matter what you call it. If you feel like you have a problem with alcohol chances are pretty good that you do. Most normal drinkers don’t worry whether their drinking is normal. I asked myself so often – “Do I have a problem with alcohol?” I googled “What are the signs you’re an alcoholic?” many, many times over the years.

2) I am completely powerless over alcohol. As soon as I take that first drink I have zero control over what comes next. Some days I would only have two glasses and feel fine. Other days I would have one glass and become a terrible, awful human being. The point is I always craved more. One was too many and a thousand would never be enough.

3) “I’d rather go through life sober believing I am an alcoholic, than go through life drunk trying to convince myself that I am not.” I was in a lot of denial about my alcoholism. For so long, I struggled with the label alcoholic. I’d never driven drunk, I hadn’t lost a job, I was married with a beautiful baby, I was able to quit drinking during my pregnancy, I was functioning for the most part. At the end I was only drinking 2-3 glasses of wine a night. It doesn’t matter how much you drink, or what consequences you’ve faced from your drinking. What matter is what happens in between your ears. I was thinking about drinking or not drinking all the time. I felt dead inside, hopeless, and obsessed with making it to 7 pm when I put my baby to sleep and I could relax and unwind with my wine.

4) Quitting drinking was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, no one has to do it alone. I tried to quit or cut back on my own several times. This time was different I white knuckled my way through a few weeks and then I knew I needed help if I wanted to quit for good this time. I found an amazing community of recovery online and then eventually they nudged my to find help in person. None of us has to do it alone and I am so grateful.

5) Life without drinking is so flipping fantastic. I feel a profound sense of freedom and peace. Before I quit I worried about never, ever drinking again. I quit in October and I wondered what about Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s how will I enjoy them without drinking?! Cocktail parties? Nights out with girlfriends? I can’t afford to think that way though. I can only take it one day at a time. In reality, being freed of the obsession to drink has allowed me to enjoy these events so much more. I’m not fixated on how much I’m drinking and whether I can have another glass or not. I’m present, really listening and connecting to people. I’m learning my own limits and taking care of them, for example, excusing myself when an event is turning into a trigger. In the early days I had to build myself a little bubble doing whatever I needed to not to drink. I’m nine months into this journey now and I can handle most situations sober. It took a lot of work but each day is better and better.

(c) Open Hearted

(c) Open Hearted