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.