Grief · Relationships

It All Falls Down

heartbreak

So remember how I was all about acceptance about a week ago?

Turns out I’m human. And I’ve kinda been a bitch this past week because I’m human and I’m in pain.

This whole divorce reinforces the unfortunate belief I hold about myself that I’m just not enough for anyone. In some of my less finer moments this week, I begged my ex for an answer to this question. Why wasn’t I enough? He refused to answer because in his words, after 5 counseling sessions, he’s already picked up his pieces and moved forward.

This of course sent me spiraling into feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, hurt and anger. How is this so easy for him? How does he walk away from a 10 year relationship and in a matter of months find it so easy not to speak to the person he spoke to every day for 10 years and went through so much with? How is it so easy for him to stop caring? The only answer I’ve come up with is one that stings – he stopped loving me long ago.

Here is the difficult thing for me to explain and even understand. While the past few years have been less than happy, much of it my own fault I admit, and I knew long ago that things between us were over, I truly still loved him. Even now, I do.

My reasons for loving him are convoluted at the moment. Right now, as I wallow in my feelings of worthlessness, I tell myself that I love him because he is the only one who gets me and I love him for who I made him out to be in my mind.  I love him because he is safe and comfortable. I love him because I need to be loved back and I don’t want to be alone. And that right there says so much more than what I actually wrote, doesn’t it?

My mind tells me daily, these feelings are only temporary, hold on. My mind reminds me that I truly have been more content on my own the past few months. But my heart is broken and screaming, “YOU WERE NOT ENOUGH! YOU ARE NEVER ENOUGH!”

I’m not so sure how to silence this screaming. If I’m honest, it’s a message I’ve told myself since I was very young so I know I can’t quiet it in a day or two. I’m taking life one day at a time, mostly even just one hour at a time. I’m trying to be gentle with myself and give myself time and space to grieve. I’m not typically a woman who cries over much but I actually bawled for two hours straight on Saturday. While in those 2 hours I felt so awful and alone, I just let it happen. At one point when I thought I might die from the emotional pain, I reached out and texted a friend who I haven’t talked with in awhile but who I trust and let some of it out to her.  In the evening I realized that while I didn’t feel amazing, I certainly felt better after that release.

I’m trying to practice self-care and let myself feel and reach out for help when I need it and I really don’t even feel like drinking so I’m still sober but sometimes it all just fucking hurts and frankly, I don’t know how to balance the pain and the healing. Clearly I never learned any healthy coping mechanisms before I got sober. Now here I am trying figure out how to cope with the day to day shit as well as the big life shit and I don’t know if I’m doing things in a “normal” healthy way or if I’m making things worse for myself and my kids. How do people know these things? How do you know if you’re hurting the way you’re supposed to hurt and healing the way you’re supposed to heal? I don’t know and not knowing is terrible.

Self-Talk

Acceptance

I was partaking in some retail therapy this past weekend and lo and behold as I rounded a corner in the department store to check out the racks of sunglasses, I saw this lovely note tucked away:

lovethislife

Someone clearly intentionally put this reminder out to be found. I was the one who needed to find it.

My emotions have been all over the place recently (as if you couldn’t tell, haha!). Obviously I’m working out my grief over the loss of my father 3 years ago, but for whatever reason, my soul chose this past weekend to start grieving the end of my marriage.

Let me be clear – I do not want to continue in this marriage. It has run it’s course. While everyone always has the same question, “What happened?” anyone who has ever had a long term relationship end knows that there’s just not a simple answer to that question.

For the past several years I’ve felt nothing for the most part. The anger and resentment would rise and I would stifle it back down (with booze – SURPRISE!).  I didn’t feel heard or appreciated but I sure did feel lonely.

This weekend, maybe due to the flood gates already being opened by grief, I started to feel it all. There was so much pain coming from every direction it felt like.

Then I saw this sweet reminder in the middle of a department store.

I won’t lie, I didn’t turn my life around suddenly and decide to be happy right then and there. That’s not fair to my soul.  That quote from The Fault in Our Stars says it all…”That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” So I spent the rest of the weekend and some of today feeling it.

Then this evening I was thinking about how miserable I was making myself. I scrolled through my photos and saw this, remembering how I found it.  That’s when it clicked.

It’s okay for me to not be okay concerning the end of my marriage right now. This is uncharted territory for me and the future is unknown.  There are so many questions racing through my mind constantly about what will be.

But I’m here now. I have two beautiful children, a job that I love, a few good friends and I’ve given myself the best gift ever – my sobriety. How could I not “love this life?”

So tonight I put on my big girl panties and I sent my ex an e-mail apologizing for some hurtful things I said over the weekend to him.  Things are not all rosy now between us just because I sent that e-mail but that’s okay. I know I did the right thing and that’s what matters. I know I will try harder to be the best person I can be, even in my dealings with a difficult situation such as divorce.

I have to accept my life as it is now. I have to accept the choices that led me here and how I choose to react to it all. Acceptance is something I know I need to work towards and I’d prefer to get there with some grace and dignity this time around. I’d prefer to get there with a positive attitude.

So that’s what I choose. I choose to own my life and work towards accepting and loving it just as it is because I only get one.

Grief · Uncategorized

No Title Will Do This Justice

image1
Thanks for that reminder, Starbucks.

He died 3 years ago.

Grief is a funny thing and not so much in the haha funny sort of way but more so the oh, isn’t that just so ironic and sad sort of way.

3 years and 4 months ago my life started to spiral out of control, but of course I didn’t know that then. It’s unfortunate that we can’t quite piece together everything until much later when we look back, but it is what it is.

This is when my drinking started to become less fun and more coping mechanism. Each newly discovered tumor, each new doctor’s appointment with more bad news, each day watching him shrink and lose more energy and life became another reason to drink just one more.

My grandparents died before I was born. I had never really experienced a major loss in my life.  But there I was, 31 years old with two young babies, a full-time job and the weight of the world on my shoulders as I watched my father die a little each day.

There are many types of men in this world. My father was an independent spirit, far from perfect as he battled his own alcoholic demons long ago, but nevertheless, a good man. He prided himself on his ability to take care of and provide for himself and his family after growing up with his own alcoholic, dirt poor parents who divorced during a time when divorce was frowned upon.

Yet here he was, at first angry and frustrated as daily he lost his ability to take care of himself let alone anyone else. He died with a grace and acceptance that I can only dream of having when my time comes, but watching the man who picked you up with you fell and tried to give you the world he was never given need his diaper changed and his mouth swabbed with a wet sponge for comfort could break a person.  It surely broke me.

Imbibing a beer or three each night as I returned home from helping my mom and family care for him seemed a small price to pay at the time.  Relief came in the way my muscles relaxed and senses dulled as the alcohol worked it’s magic the way it’s known to do. My mind stopped racing with the “What if’s” and “when he dies” and anxiety over the unknown for just that short time as I drank my feelings away.

This became more of a habit as the end approached. It was easier to drink and forget than feel.  The problem was, I would remember in the morning.

Then one morning, he didn’t wake up.  I thanked God because by this time he was simply a skeleton in that hospital bed in the living room who no long spoke or laughed or hugged me.

So I drank. I didn’t know how else to handle feelings of that magnitude.  Ignoring them and numbing them with alcohol when they became too much to ignore (which was nearly always) was easier and hurt less than acknowledging them and sitting in them. Until it didn’t.

2 and a half years I spent in a fog.  The first few months I didn’t think too much of the drinking, but by the first anniversary of his death, I knew I was getting in too deep. That didn’t stop me though.  Nothing could convince me that truly feeling his absence was worth it. So I kept drinking.

I wasn’t drinking before or during work.  I was high-functioning.  From the outside I’m sure it looked as though I’d dealt with my loss fairly quickly and without much destruction. In fact, someone recently told me just that – “You always seemed so okay.” I was anything but okay but I wouldn’t risk my job so I supplemented my avoidance with men. If I could distract myself with alcohol and male attention, I didn’t have to deal with my truth.

The next year passed and I knew I’d crossed a point of no return.  My brokenness was manifesting itself in every way possible so that others would begin to notice except for the one person who needed to – me. By the end of this year, blacking out was becoming a normal part of my drinking sessions. Drink until you can’t remember. Drink until you can’t feel.

I had attempted the typical relief tactics by this point – moderation, short bouts of sobriety, therapy with a counselor who spent more time judging me than listening to me. Nothing helped. On top of the grief I never dealt with I was filled with shame, guilt and humiliation on a daily basis. So I kept drinking so I could numb it all. It was too much.

Relationships with friends and relatives had been destroyed.  My marriage, while in jeopardy long before this period of my life, was so clearly over. While drunk I lashed out at anyone who was within 50 feet of me. If I had to hurt, I wanted everyone to hurt.

pain
From Pema Chodron’s “Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings”

When the second anniversary of his death rolled around, I knew something had to give and soon. I laid low through the summer but by fall I was back at it.  I was tired of blacking out and feeling like shit all the time so I started having longer periods of sobriety and I found a therapist I actually connected with, one who gets me. I found other ways to avoid my feelings but in the end, for one reason or another, I would end up back with the booze.

On December 17, 2016 I blacked out for the final time. My recovery journey began on December 18.  I could no longer deny or ignore the fact that my life had become unmanageable.

So here I am. Sober for the 153rd day, on the third anniversary of his death and for the first time, finally feeling this grief. Oh, how it hurts. It’s a pain I would wish upon no one, not even an enemy. I understand now though. This pain is so deep, so raw, that I understand why I drank and chased attention to avoid feeling it.  Because it hurts like no other pain I’ve ever experienced. I see now that I did the best I could at that time and for today at least, I forgive myself, because I get it now. I get how much it hurts.

 My heart is broken in a way that it’s never been broken before.  There is an emptiness that I suspect will never fully be filled but that I must somehow learn to accept and live with.  So I take this life, this grief, one day at a time. I pause and breathe and read and write and practice yoga and ask for what I need because I don’t ever want to go back.  For as much as this pain is breaking me, it’s not destroying me the way alcohol did.

I miss you Dad.

Mental Illness · Self-Care

I Sing Alone

canaries

Glennon Doyle Melton has this beautiful analogy comparing the mentally ill/addicts to canaries.  She explains it much more eloquently than I can, but the short version is as follows: Long ago, canaries were taken into mines because of their sensitivities to toxins in the air.  If they stopped singing, their carriers knew they needed to turn back because it would be dangerous to go on.  Addicts and those who live with mental illness are the canaries who are extremely sensitive, more so than others, to all of the world’s bullshit.

I feel very much like a canary today. My emotions are running high and I am picking up on all the other vibes from people around me. My morning started well but then I walked into a room that was clearly filled with tension and negativity.  Anxiety took over my body and mind almost immediately. I could not focus on anything except how awful I was feeling being in this environment. I wanted nothing more than to flee.

I looked around and I could see that most of the people in the room were oblivious to what was happening.  There were two however who were clearly the ones I was picking up the vibes from.  Scowls covered their faces, eyes were rolling and whispers about what a waste of time this was were rampant. My jaw clenched, my stomach did flips and I just felt so WRONG. I didn’t feel like the me I’ve started to get used to – calm, cautious, careful but doing my best to stay positive. I was being consumed by negativity.

I survived this experience but holy shit, was it ever hard. I left feeling angry and hurt that I’d let other people’s negative words and actions affect my attitude for the day. I was barely holding back from letting loose and giving the two people who were just downright RUDE a piece of my mind until finally I was able to leave.  I literally BOLTED out of the room and on to my next meeting.  Other people started texting me and asking where I was and I was in no position to be around others because I knew I would bring everyone else down. So I spent the afternoon working alone because I needed that time to refocus my energy and bring myself back to a place of positivity and peace.

The great news is – it worked. I just needed that time and space to refocus myself.  The strange news is – some people got worried because I “isolated” myself and asked to be alone for awhile. It’s so weird how the world works sometimes. I was just so proud of myself for recognizing how angry and terrible I was feeling and coping by walking away and taking some time to myself to calm down instead of wallowing in it and letting it grow into something bigger. I was proud that I even asked for what I needed and took care of myself.

This is the thing though – people who are not canaries do not understand. Besides the fact that my moods seem to be easily affected by other people’s moods, I feel things so, terribly deeply.  It’s literally indescribable.  This is the sensitivity of the canary.

Perhaps someone who is not a canary would not have been as affected as me by the few negative people in the room this morning, so they didn’t get it.  For me though, I stopped singing.  I was entering dangerous territory and it HURT. I wanted to run, escape, make it STOP because when I feel, I feel SO MUCH that sometimes it feels like I might break.

This is both a curse and a blessing as I’m sure many of those who read my blog will certainly understand.  The positive feelings are amplified just as much as the negative.  When I love, I love with every part of my being.  My joy and gratitude and contentment run just as deeply as my shame and guilt and anger.

I am a canary in this world and some days, like today, I sing alone.

sensitive

Self-Talk

True Things

WhatIKnow
Glennon’s list from Love Warrior.

I recently read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton and it was a wonderful read. I took away so much from it.  I took a photo (see above) of one page in particular that really resonated with me, one that displays a list of 5 things Glennon wrote that she knows for sure. It’s a beautiful list that I’ve read and reread multiple times since I finished her book to help keep me grounded.

There have been several things that have thrown me off balance over the past few weeks.  Nothing life shattering but enough at once that from time to time I feel shaken.  I think it’s important to have a set of beliefs that you can cling to in these times.  Right now, as I figure out myself and my own beliefs as a sober woman, I’m borrowing Glennon’s list to find my balance again until I am ready to make my own.

The one thing I would add to her list, the one thing I do know for sure to be a true thing at this point is this:

6.  You will survive. You may not want to, but you will and that will be enough.

We may not end up where we wanted to be, but we will always end up where we need to be.

Stigma

Sitting in the Discomfort

found

Life is hard.

My hard might not be the same as your hard but it’s hard. Today several things came together as sort of a perfect storm and I almost drank.

Thankfully during the past 139 days the urge to drink has been few and far between for me and never too strong.  Until today.

However, let me repeat myself. I almost drank. I almost drank.  But I DIDN’T.

I sat feeling all these emotions and I was tired and hungry and my mind was racing and I knew I was not in a good place. So I did the only thing I could think of that might possibly save me (and it did) – I texted a sober friend and word vomited the craziness bouncing around in my head.

I don’t actually know this friend “in real life” – we met through an online community of women in recovery. But holy shit, has she been the best friend and mentor a girl like me in recovery could ask for. I believe with all my heart the universe purposefully led our paths to cross and I will be forever grateful.

She talked me off the ledge and reminded me that while the first 30 minutes might feel nice, it wouldn’t stop at 30 minutes.  She is a big reason I will wake to see 140 days of sobriety tomorrow.

I have a great online community of people in recovery who get it.  People who understand, who love me without judging me and see the good in me – they know I’m more than my addiction or poor choices in the past.

I am angry that the “real world,” including “real” people in my life do not. To be honest, there are people who know I’m sober now without knowing much about why or what happened to lead me here and overall they’ve been great about it.  However, for a variety of reasons, I can’t truly be out and honest about my recovery with people who know me in real life.

This sucks on so many levels.

The one that really gets me though is that I can’t be who I am. I am proud of my recovery and I am learning to own my journey and know that I am truly a good person who has made some mistakes.  I am a survivor, a fighter.  Unfortunately, the world is filled with people who would only see me as my addiction if I were to live my life as authentically as possible.  With two young children to protect, I cannot risk it.

So for now, I am being authentic where I am safe. I dream of a day when we can all just be who we truly are without fear of consequences. When we can make mistakes and still be considered good, capable human beings.  When we can mess up and still love each other through it.

No matter who you are or where you are in your journey, I hope you know that there will always be one person who believes in you and your goodness and that is me. I know you’ve been through some shit but you’re still standing and fighting and you’re here. I am proud of you and I love you.  In case no one has told you that, you need to hear it and I want to be the one to tell you. The world may be full of people who don’t get it but look for us, the ones who do get it – we are waiting for you.  You are safe here.

And thank you to all of you who have kept me safe on this journey.

Self-Care

Tales from 5 a.m.

yoga

I have officially lost my mind.  Remember when I wrote about those crazy people who wake up at 5 am? Well, I’m trying that lifestyle out for a bit.

I’ve told myself I am only doing this for one week.  It makes it feel doable for me.  Though I also told myself I’d only stop drinking for one year and here I am at 136 days in and I never want to pick up a drink again and feel the way I felt back when I was drinking so heavily. Isn’t it funny how that works?

So Monday morning I woke up at 5 am.  I meditated for 10 minutes to start the day.  I followed my meditation with about 10 minutes of yoga. (I followed along to one of the Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube.) Then I broke out my bullet journal, (I’m a HUGE fan of bullet journaling!), and worked on planning my day while enjoying my first cup of coffee for the day.  At about 6 am I showered and got ready for work. I was out the door by 7 am.

I am shocked to admit it but this all seemed to have made a difference for me on Monday.  It was a long day to begin with as we had several things to do that evening and we didn’t get home until almost 9 pm.  I can honestly say though that for the majority of the day I felt so much more focused, energized and I was definitely much more productive than usual.

Of course I figured it was a fluke.

So I followed the same 5 am routine on Tuesday followed by a slightly less hectic, yet still busy, Tuesday evening. I had the same results.  I was a bit more tired by the evening on Tuesday than I had been on Monday but I had also eaten crap most of the day and had more mental/emotional stress (though nothing extremely overwhelming or even worth noting.) The cool thing was, being clear headed (aka SOBER) and more focused I was very aware of my body’s needs. I KNEW I needed sleep to recover from two early, long days.

So I gave myself what I needed and slept in today until 6:15.  Holy shit, what a different morning it was. I was completely unfocused and tense as I rushed to shower and get ready then run out the door. I got to work and still felt tense and a bit more focused but not like I was the past two days! I also was back to being very tired in the late afternoon/early evening today.

I’m okay with all of that. I knew I needed the sleep so I’m fine with having slept in a bit today. I also appreciate that I was able to see such a stark difference between the mornings I woke up early and spent some time on me versus the morning I did not.  I would never have noticed these little things if I were still drinking. I am grateful that I am able to do so now.

What does this all mean? It means that I definitely see the benefit to waking up early for meditation, yoga and journaling.  It means that now that I’m tired but feel more rested after a day to sleep in a bit, I plan to be back up at 5 am tomorrow again.  It also means that I need to come up with a plan for the weekend.  Originally I thought, there is no way in HELL I’d get up at 5 am on a weekend…but, well…it felt good. I’m not 100% ready to commit to the weekend yet but I’m certainly thinking seriously about it. I’m also pretty sure I’ll be up at 5 am next week too. This all begs one very important question however…

WHO. AM. I?!?!