Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Tale of Two Pictures

Can you see it? It's funny how you see it in others and miss it in yourself. I was going though old pics from a year ago, exploring the images I took from a solo hike shortly after my last drink, and I came across this image. It seems perfectly juxtaposed against the second image from our recent vacation. Can you see the difference? To think, this was how I was interacting in my world. 
Sad eyes. Fake smile. 

I didn't fake it till I made it to this point. Honestly, I barely made it. Some days I was 100% certain I wouldn't make it at all. I struggled. I fought against the healing that I needed. Yet here I am. Not every day is a win. But each day is another day. For that I am grateful.

This summer has been slow for our business. Not unheard of in our industry, but it is scary as hell when this is your livelihood. The very thing that keeps a roof over your head and food on the table. Instead of seeing it as an industry trend I was internalizing it as personal failure. I kept telling myself, it's not enough. *sigh* That damn little voice in my head. Not good enough, not fast enough, not strong enough, blah blah blah. Shut up!

Then we went on vacation...and before you decide to judge me on why we would do THAT being as broke as we are, be sure you check yourself. This is my life and my journey, make your own decisions and I will applaud you. Our family needed a break. We needed to reconnect. Y'all, it was the BEST week I have had in such a long time. The perfect follow up to my one year of sobriety birthday. We took all of our work, and did absolutely NOTHING. I played on the beach and at the pool, there were lots of family cuddles and ice cream and fantastic beach sex (by now you know I overshare, right?), I thoroughly enjoyed myself and my family. I breathed. Deeply. I felt the most alive I have felt in so long. I even saw dolphins. Magical seems so hokey, and that is exactly what it was. I even took some time to reconnect with my past self, and apologize for some poor life choices and behavior to people that rocked my world and helped me become the woman I am becoming. Apologies that I have thought about for YEARS. Why? Because that's what I do best, beat myself up. You want to talk about humbling, try that on for size. I imagine that Dr. Brené Brown is nudging me and telling me, "girl, that's just a big heaping dose of vulnerability." If I ever win the life lottery and meet her I will be mortified that I ever typed that, but it helps me keep on trucking. I am learning that I actually have an active role in my life. I am accepting, per my therapist and sponsor's very insistent affirmations, I am NOT A VICTIM. Maybe I was, but I am not anymore. It is time to take charge.

I see these pictures, and beyond the obvious, I see a woman who has persevered. A woman who is living a life full of challenge, and rising to meet it every step of the way. I am not afraid of apologizing, I embrace that I am human. I acknowledge that I have many more amends to make to people even closer to my heart. I am accepting that these beautiful humans that have been and are currently in my life have contributed greatly to my present. And I am no longer resenting any of it. I am grateful for ALL I have endured. The good, the bad, the imperfectly perfect. I like this Jessica, and I see that she is going to go places and do things the likes of which the Jessica from just one year ago could never have imagined.

My spouse recently sent me an application to be a TED fellow, and while I don't think I am there quite yet...maybe it is not outside of my realm of possibilities. Maybe nothing is.
After all, I'm not a 15 year old scared girl anymore. 
I am a 35 year old woman with a helluva past, present, and future. 
And I am damn proud of that.

***Sweet human, whoever you are that is reading these words right now, you are loved. You are not alone. I send you the biggest virtual hug I can. You don't need a a big step, you just need one small step in the right direction (yea, I quoted the TV show Shield...completely relevant). So go take it, I'm cheering for you and I love you.***

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Happy Sobriety Year to me!!!

One year. One beautiful, messy, super fucking hard as shit year from hell. One year in which all the crap I ignored for 20 years bubbled up...and I am still wading through it. In the thick, so to speak. I am fortunate, though, I do not wade alone. And even when I do, life rafts are near by, held in place by people who love me. People I didn't know a year ago, and people that are slowly becoming my family. Thankfully, I also married a former life guard, and while he is on his own journey simultaneously, he is a quick learner. I never really had a clue how much connection played a role in addiction. I could tell you a whole lot of random shit about what addiction does to the brain, how it's a fantastic learning model, what it's like to give cocaine to rats...but connection? Funny, that never made it on my radar. It is everything, though. And the addict will tell you straight up how isolating life is when using. I don't need people when I have my vice. But like air, water, food, movement, and sleep...we NEED connection.

It took a year of sobriety to really come to terms with that.

It's funny what comes up when you take away the one thing that made life bearable. Yea, I said it. Alcohol was actually my fall back, having almost died of a drug over dose when I was 20. Apparently I wanted to live more than I wanted to get high, so I just switched to weekend binge drinking. Black outs were still possible, but hey, alcohol is legal. Everyone does it. It must be safe. I toned it down slightly as school became more demanding. Trading one addiction (alcohol) for another (pursuit of education/success?). Both left me feeling empty, but both managed to hide the real shit. That stuff I have spent so long ignoring. If you don't think about it then it didn't happen. I spoon fed myself heaps of bullshit. After marriage came the desire to have kiddos, and with that came 2 rounds of 9 months of sobriety. I still remember vividly having a midwife tell me to have a glass of wine to calm down (graduate school is stressful), but oddly enough I couldn't drink pregnant. It all smelled and tasted like straight ethanol, exactly like what we used in the lab. I think that should have been my first clue.

By the time I quit I was already gaining momentum. Momming two kids is hard. Being broke is hard. Life is hard. I deserved a drink, or 3. I needed a break. And with the culture of normality surrounding "mommy-wino," well, it was easy to reinforce that notion to myself. Besides, I drank beer and bourbon, so clearly I didn't need to worry about over consuming entire bottles of wine. Yup, I could make and win those arguments with myself all day, every day. Just repeat the narrative I heard EVERYWHERE. But when my hormones went whack with a return to birth control, I knew I needed to help my body out. And then it happened, my demon reared it's head and screamed "What the actual fuck are you doing?" Crying in a closet over not drinking at your 4 year old's wedding one day ain't normal folks. Hell, checking out on life in any way is not normal. For me it was survival. It covered up the pain and trauma. It was silently destroying who I was meant to be.

I am a survivor. I can say and type those words, unattached to the full phrases they belong to for now. But that is some serious progress in one year...after 20 refusing to say anything near this. I am also one badass woman. I own a business that has doubled in revenue 2 years straight. I am a fantastic mom. I work hard at everything I do. I trained and achieved a Level 2 certification in MovNat, a physical feat that involved me finally managing a pull-up, or 5. My marriage hit some lows that it probably needed, so it could build back to the unbelievable level it is headed towards. Communication and empathy are on the forefront of my journey. Humility and vulnerability are my constant companions. I am seeing, often for the first time, my own role in many of the relationship problems I have encountered with friends and family over the years. And I am owning that. This year has been life altering, mind-blowing, soul stretching. I am so grateful. I feel so loved. And I am not even half-way done with my transformation.

I still think of my shitty ex-friend, a lot. Especially when the emotions start rolling in. But I don't let her back. I remind myself to reach out. Connect. Because I am not alone. We are not alone. 
And we never have to be alone again.

Love and peace from the sober side,

***Substance use disorders are a REAL thing. If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol, opiates, or any other thing that has become disruptive or detrimental to health, please seek professional help. You do not need to suffer anymore. You are not alone. None of us are. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Chaotic Ramblings

Discombobulated. That's where I am. An emotional roller coaster, lost in the onslaught of memories as I break down the glorious walls I built to protect myself. Eff this noise. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time becomes one moment, one breath.


This is it, I have now reached the point where I have been without alcohol (or drugs...but that’s a different story) for the longest stretch since I first got drunk at 19. Yup. 10 months. Excuse me while my brain throws it's monthly tantrum over me still being in the thick of this shit.

Therapy has gotten shitty. We see 3 therapists: one each and a couple's guru. They are simultaneously amazing and HARD. Holy shit it's hard. We are both working through our own stuff and then we pile on the stuff we do together once a week too. Now seems like the perfect time to go through it all, right? Amidst parenting, trying to grow our business, barely making ends meet. Sure thing. Let's do it all right now.


But this is where we are, and it is fugly and exquisite all at once. I cry a lot. I want to tell you how awful that is, and I can't quite do it. Some days I am not sure who is running the show, 15 year old Jessica or 35 year old Jessica. They are both pretty stellar, but damn. Most days end with the same thing: a prayer to the universe, I call her Goddess...because of course. It usually goes along the lines of "I don't have a fucking clue what I am ding, so I am hoping my connection to the infinite is guiding me somewhere right." This is a long way off from how I was taught to pray, but it feels a lot more authentic.

Where am I going? What are we doing? What do I want to do with my life?

Progress is so slow sometimes as to be nonexistent, but I see it. Sometimes I feel it. Ok, that's a lie. I ALWAYS feel it, sometimes I still have to numb those feelings by ignoring them or eating chocolate. 

I know what I want, deep down. I want connection and I want space. I want to grow. As a person and as our business. I want to reach more people and convince them ALL that movement is the answer. Moving better leads to wanting to live better, leads to confidence, capability, comfort, health, ALL THE THINGS. Mindset is altered as our physical perception shifts. We become more present in our lives as we sink deeper into our own bodies. How do I share this? 

I don't know. So, I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Doors open, people reach out to me, connections are made, ideas shared. So many things to consider that I feel myself slipping back to my old self, shrinking. Taking up less space. Letting others speak over me. I get frustrated but I can’t voice that. I don't even know how to say it aloud to myself most days.

Why? What good does it do to not feel? Not react? Not have those fiercely human emotions? Sometimes it hurts so bad that you need to scream and cry. That's ok. Sometimes it is so fucking amazing that you need to jump and dance and laugh out loud. Sometimes you need touchy-feely moments, sometimes you need space. What would happen if we chose to live our lives based on what we needed in each moment? Fully experiencing? What would happen?

I know how hard it is. I spent years boxing up my feelings, and then inevitably they would implode from the pressure. We aren't meant to hold all of that in. I never learned to experience and release, in each moment. I held tightly to it all. Afraid someone might see. And plenty did see, when it all blew up in my face. When I was rocking myself in the dark contemplating why I was still here? Failing at my self-control. But it wasn't self-control, it was isolated containment. It was hell. It is still hell some days, right now...many days. 10 MONTHS. And here I am. Being vulnerable with myself. Being vulnerable with you. Once you hear about vulnerability y'all, it will haunt you. Don't believe me? Start right here with Dr. Brene Brown. She will school you.

Feelings are hard, y'all. They suck. They are glorious. They are big, they are tiny. Feelings are a hot mess and a beautiful necessity. But feelings are not meant for boxes, or closets, or anywhere that they are not in full view of others. They are meant to be experienced, shared, and remembered.

Feelings are what make you human.
Be human.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

To HELL with Resolutions

I've never believed in new year's resolutions. Sure I made them, but like everyone February they were a long forgotten concept.

This year was a little different. As we near the end of another year I still balk at the idea of resolutions. But I find myself caught up in the whirlwind of reflection.

This year has been HARD. Yes, we have had other hard years as a family.
2017, it was a bitch of a year.
This year has been hard PERSONALLY.

This was the year that I became sober. July 5th, 2017. Almost 6 months ago.
This was the year I found my own role in our business, not just as CEO, but as an educator.
This was the year my life partner and I owned all the shit we have never worked through.
This was the year we lost our last old fur baby, and welcomed in a new one.
This was the year our kids transformed into big kids. One finally weaning, the other riding a bike with no training wheels.
This was the year I chose me first.

Y'all, it has been a year.

Our business doubled, our logo changed, we changed.
Our car was totaled, yet my daughter and I walked away unharmed.
We struggled financially, and yet grew exponentially.
We asked for help.
We allowed ourselves to receive it.
We journeyed, separate and together.

And on the horizon, on the brink of a new year, big adventures await.

No, I don't do resolutions.
I live.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

There is no ALONE

The days come and go. Some are sweeter than honey, and you swim bravely through, soaking up the joy, embracing the hardships. Then an upset. You put one too many things on your own plate. Maybe you don't even do it, maybe life happens in overdrive all at once...and the overwhelming sets in. Except you don't know how to process overwhelming. There is no enticing liquid courage to help you brave it or ride it out. It just is. The glaring and daunting truth of life. You stand, shoulders squared, face to face against it. You hold strong, until you don't. You crumble under the weight. You failed. Maybe you didn't get that drink, but you feel like you shattered. The tears and feeling of failure simply won't dissipate. 
Why? What did you do wrong? You worked SO hard. You had it.

Or did you?

You worked SO HARD...ALONE. You think you always work so well alone. It's how you do all the things in life. You don't need help. You are strong and capable. Asking for help, having a limit, these are signs of weakness. 
You MUST do it on your own.

Except you cannot.
No one can.

A hand reaches out. And another. The universe shines down on you like a supernova exploding. You are blinded by the many people trying to break through the dark void you surround yourself with in your attempt to do it all alone. Maybe, just maybe, you should listen. Maybe it's not all about not taking a drink. Maybe it really is more than that. After all, does anyone really do it ALL ALONE? 
Look closely.
Do they?

You reach tentatively  Slowly. You are scared. What if they don't really want to help? What if there are conditions? Stipulations? You can't take the disappointment. So you pull back. But they keep coming. Keep pushing.
You break again under the weight of the shit you put on yourself.
Alone isn't working.
You reach out again and grab hold. Tightly.
You hope it's not too tight, but you know that you don't want to drown. 
You hope with the fierceness of the blue scarred hope permanently etched on your arm.
Hope is not without bumps and bruises.
It is simply a choice.
Your choice.
And now you choose faith.
Faith that others will remain steadfast in their strength, so you may once again find your own.

It is here, swaddled in connection, that you finally see.
There is no such thing as alone.
It was a figment of your imagination, a creation you held on to because of fear.
You can still be afraid. You just cannot let it master you anymore.
Connection will win.

You will persevere.

Love to you.
Strength for you.
Tomorrow is a new day.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Letter to a Healthy Alcoholic

Dear Healthy Alcoholic,

I see you there, sipping your craft beer or bourbon. I see you smiling, enjoying your evening. Tonight perhaps that's your only drink. But tomorrow will come, or a long day, or a setback in life/business. Whenever the feelings begin you will reach for another, and another. Just enough to dampen those feelings, maybe more if you just want to sleep and feel nothing. The hard times call, and damn if there just doesn't always seem to be a hard time. Pour another. You're not addicted or anything. You go days without drinking. Hell, you went 9 months with each kiddo. And what's one or two beers? Sure they are pretty heavy, sure you are a lightweight, but really...what's one or two? That's moderation. You are totally in control. It's not like your weekend binge past times from undergrad and grad school. Football games, nights out, back to the grind and feeling like ass on Monday. No, you don't do that. You have run half-marathons, you have had babies, you are grown up now. Maybe you USED to drink a lot, USED to like being drunk, but not now. No, you are responsible. No one has time for a hangover, just a slight buzz, right?

I see you spend your mornings ramping up your anxiety by recovering with caffeine. From one drug to the next you swing. That one or two drinks just doesn't feel as good without some solid sleep, does it? No sleeping in for you, you are a mom now. I see your lack of emotionality beyond angry or sad. I see your inability to fully feel joy. To fully immerse yourself in any moment, good or bad. That sucks. You know you have this beautiful family and that's something to be happy about. I see your excuses. So many of them. It's always something or someone. But not alcohol. You are a runner, you exercise, you read, you are a good mother, a good person. Fuck, you are really healthy. You do NOT have a problem with alcohol. What's a drink or two? Every mom has a drink to take the edge off, right? It's 5 'o'clock somewhere, or noon. They all understand. Being a parent is fucking hard. It's just one beer, or two. Maybe three tonight. It's not a problem, it's just relaxing. It's your mommy-break. Just a little breather, right?

I see your excuses growing. No, you don't want to run this morning. You're tired. A little snippy at the spouse and kids, but it's just stress. You just need a break. So what if you have had trouble are SO stressed out. Business is hard. Life is hard. It's all so overwhelming and you have to DO IT ALL - RIGHT NOW. There is absolutely nothing to worry about. It's just one drink. Wait, where did half of that bottle of bourbon go? Did you drink it? We just got it yesterday. Weird. You're fine. Maybe just one more, or two. You promise you won't drink for the next few days. Balance, right?

I see you seek help. You are depressed. You have anxiety. It's your hormones. It is definitely not alcohol. You have your life together. Graduate school, mommy hood  owning your own business now. Your husband says you are angry a lot, but come on, it's not easy running the show. Maybe you just don't know how to process emotionality so well, that's a learning thing, work on that in therapy. It's all good. You have all the psych background and psychologists supporting you on this. If only meds didn't suck so bad for you, maybe it would be easier. That's cool though. You have running, and a drink when you need it. Because sometimes you do NEED A DRINK, what's wrong with that? Just one, just taking the edge off a little, just surviving like everyone else. The rough days seem to be progressing, and maybe that was more nights drinking this week than not, but moderation is balance. Next week will be better, right?

I see you made a decision to quit drinking for purely health reasons, time to get those hormones back in control. Good for you! Way to be proactive. 
Wait...what's wrong with you? Why are you crying? It's just alcohol. 

Holy fuck what did you do? Why did we quit? We can't live like this. How will we relax? How will we socialize? How will we LIVE? No, change your mind, I insist. Take it back, you don't mean it. You LOVE beer. You LOVE bourbon. Come on, don't be silly. This is just temporary. You will totally be able to go back to moderation, you are in complete control. Ignore that nagging voice, you are nothing like an alcoholic or addict. NOTHING. Just one drink. Please. Just one. I swear you got this, I can help. We can moderate better together. You NEED this. It's so relaxing and delicious too. What about all that science about moderate drinking and positive health effects? The tears? That's just hormone shifts, not alcohol. None of this is about alcohol. 

I see you clearly now. It wasn't depression, was it? Not just hormones? This is real, isn't it? You mean this. I see. I don't want to, but I do. You are an addict. You learned an unhealthy coping mechanism and it took over your entire life. I changed. I learned that this was the only way, but there is never only one way is there? This happened before, didn't it? No one knew. Maybe we didn't know then. Fortunate circumstances pulled us out, but it came right back in another form. A legal form, a socially acceptable form. 
You are right, it is time. Ok, I concede. We will do this for real. Teetotalers. 
This sucks, ya know. No more pumpkin beer or awesome bars of Athens, GA. Still not sure how we will have fun or socialize with others...maybe we can just fake it? One day at a time right? Those people in those meetings all seem to get it. They have stories like yours. They don't "look" like addicts, whatever that means. They seem completely normal. 
Like you. 

Congrats, healthy alcoholic. You took that plunge into the unknown. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I guess we are in this together. I think I can be ok with this. But seriously, what's one drink? Yea yea, maybe sometimes I just want one. I get it, there is no half-assing. Terrible idea...

Still seeing you better than you think,
Your brain

***79 days sober***

Friday, September 15, 2017

From Sobriety to Grief...It's been a long few months

I tend to take long hiatuses in writing. I don't know if it is due to the excessive demands of every day life, or if it is the fear of being as authentic as I want to be. Whatever the reason, I am back for the moment.

I have a lot I want to share, and I will get there. For instance, today I am 72 days sober from alcohol. This was a health choice that turned into a HARD lesson on addiction...a subject I know far more about than I should have needed to see it within myself.  A struggle I have encountered before but seemingly ignored due to fear of stigma. I am not afraid anymore. And to prove it I am going to cry and sing in a video dedicated to my big baby pup, Rambo, who we said goodbye to yesterday.

This is a raw message. It wasn't intended to be shared publicly. I have intense fear of singing in public. Yet as I find my voice, as I learn to say what needs to be said, I am also learning that fear only holds as much power as I allow it to. My sweet Rambo wasn't afraid of anything. He was loving, loyal, and never cared how big he got - he was always our lap baby. I may be afraid still, but I won't let it silence me anymore. I have no aspirations of being a vocalist, this is just me jumping off the cliff and trusting I will find my wings on the way down.

Cry with me, laugh with me, sing with me, and join me as I find my words again. One day at a time.