Self-Care

Why I Love Libraries

books

Things have been…good. Calm. Just what I need.

One way I take care of myself is by volunteering. I always loved the idea of volunteering but I never took it too seriously. Probably because I was too busy destroying my life.

Back when I got my DUI, one of the things the court required me to do was community service. When presented with my choices, I chose to serve at my local library since I’ve always been an avid reader and writer and had a fondness for libraries.  Setting everything up to complete the community service was personally humiliating for me. It was not the way I had envisioned my philanthropic efforts to really begin to bloom.

I followed every rule and caught on quickly at the library. I spent as much time as I could there to complete the required amount of hours.  As I did so, I found a peace there. I hadn’t stopped drinking at this point, but when I was volunteering, I felt so at ease and my soul felt so good to be giving back, even though it was court mandated service.

While I was completing my community service hours, I also got to know the staff and other volunteers. I didn’t open up much at first because I didn’t want anyone to find out that I was a mom and a teacher and that I had gotten a DUI. No one seemed to mind though. I came and did my job and I learned about everyone else while they didn’t poke too much to find out about me.

While it may seem cold of them to have not inquired more about who I was, it wasn’t like that at all. I could tell they just sensed that I wasn’t ready to open up and they weren’t going to push me. No one asked why I was there or how I got started volunteering. They just let me be while making me feel welcome and loved when I felt so unlovable.

In less than two months I finished the required hours of community service. As I was getting my official court documents signed by the head librarian, I hesitantly asked if I could keep coming back to volunteer.  Without missing a beat she exclaimed that of course I could and they were all hoping I would! She even told me that I’d make a wonderful librarian if I ever decided to go that route. I nearly cried from all of the grace and love I felt from these wonderful people.

So I kept going back. For two to four hours a week you can find my volunteering at my local library. I’ve done so for the past year and will continue to do so. And to this day, none of the librarians have asked me about how I got my start as a volunteer. It hasn’t mattered to them.

Other volunteers have joined us who have community service hours to complete and when they do, I remember the grace and patience I was shown and I now show it to them. Every time I walk into the library, even now at a year later, I immediately relax and am filled with a joyful peace.  I am part of the family there and they have welcomed and loved me (and my kids!) with open arms.  It has been a truly beautiful experience.

I have often thought that maybe the whole DUI and community service part was a blessing in disguise for this opportunity at the very least. I was happy just to continue giving back to my community and those who have helped guide me when I’ve been lost without a court requiring me to do so.

Then today happened. The head librarian asked to speak to me in her office. I was slightly nervous – did I do something wrong? Had I messed up somehow? No, not at all. She offered me a paid part-time position for the summer.

My heart soared.

I have gone from court ordered community service to volunteering to now a paid position. The librarians think enough of me, the girl who got the DUI, to offer to pay her to work for them. I am in awe.

Life is certainly so much sweeter sober.

alcohol · Holidays

This Amazing Gift

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On Monday I returned from my first sober vacation…still sober.

There were a few instances in which I felt a little anxious about not drinking but with a few deep breaths and thinking about what awful things would probably happened if I picked up a drink, I was able to calm myself and even have fun.

Friday was spent traveling to the beach and then having lunch once we got there. I was probably the only one there who noticed that no one ordered alcohol with their meal. We grabbed a few groceries, dropped our belongings off at the beach house and then headed to the sand. We had a late dinner Friday evening followed by a short trip to a bar where the bartender kindly gave me my non-alcoholic beverage for free. He had a look in his eye that he understood and for that I was grateful.  My friends and I spent most of the evening laughing harder than we have in a long time. And I was sober.

Saturday morning three of us woke early and walked to a nearby Dunkin Donuts for coffee and conversation. What a blessing to wake up refreshed and with a clear head to be able to do that. Then I made breakfast for everyone and the majority of the day was spent at the beach. We went to a well known restaurant for dinner and then a night club.  I WAS SOBER IN A NIGHT CLUB.  This is unheard of for me. The unbelievable (for me) thing was, I was stone cold sober and yet I laughed and danced and sang along with the music and enjoyed every second.

Sunday morning I made breakfast again for the group and then we spent part of the day at the beach. I was burnt by this point and decided to go back to the house alone.  On my walk back, I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts and treated myself to an iced coffee. I read a book this day and we went to dinner again and then took a short trip to the boardwalk.  By evening, I was ready to head home the next day as I really missed my babies.

My amazing sober buddy checked in with me daily while I was away. I took deep breaths. I stayed in the present. I intentionally looked for the blessings that my sobriety brought:  early mornings with NO hangovers, feeling present, being able to make breakfast for my friends, knowing that I and the people I love were safe because I was the DD, fully enjoying the sunshine without the haze of alcohol, no shame or guilt, and I remember everything. EVERYTHING.

There were so many moments on this trip that I wanted to fall to my knees and thank God and the Universe for this chance to change my life. I’m choking up now just thinking of this. Nearly 6 months ago when things fell apart for the final time while I was drinking, I didn’t think life could be like this. I was so miserable and lost. When I decided on December 18 that I just could not have another drink and survive, I thought I was walking from one miserable life right into another miserable life but in that moment, in my mind, anything would have been better than continuing to drink.  At that time, sobriety meant no fun, no friends, isolation, anger and sadness. I was so focused on what I was having to give up that I couldn’t see what I might gain.

It is by the grace of God that I pushed through all of that and kept going. And there are no words to describe how grateful I am that I’ve made it to this point. Now I can see that what I gave up was not fun and friends. I gave up being controlled by alcohol, I gave up shame and guilt, I gave up self-destructive choices, I gave up completely ruining my children’s childhoods, I gave up running from all of my problems. I gave up faking who I was and what I wanted from my life.

I gained the ability to feel everything, good and bad, an appreciation for the here and now, and the chance to strengthen and deepen relationships that truly matter. I gained an appreciation for how strong I truly am.  I gained a sense of self that I had no idea was available to me. I gained the knowledge of beginning to figure out who the authentic me is and what she wants from this life. Sobriety has brought me to a place of self-love that I never knew existed.

I read stories from others who are on their own recovery journey and before when I would read things like, “sobriety is such a gift,” I had no real understanding of what that meant. But now, today, I do. I get it, I really get it. Even on the bad days, sobriety is so much better than where I used to be.

So if you’re reading this and you’re not quite there yet, have faith that it can happen for you too. You are not alone. So many of us have been there but you are strong and you are worth it. You will not regret giving yourself this beautiful gift.

Life is so much sweeter, sober.

beach2

Holidays · Mental Illness · Self-Care

My First Sober Vacation

beach

Guess who is going on her first sober vacation tomorrow? THIS GIRL!

Four other lovely ladies and myself will be heading to the beach a few hours away for a 3 day get away and I’m super excited. Let me be clear though – it wasn’t always this way.

When we first began to plan the trip a few months ago, I was very early into my recovery. The thought of going to the beach with some friends and NOT drinking gave me major anxiety. Apparently, the thought of going to the beach and my drinking gave some other people anxiety too.  Another friend decided not to join us thinking it would be a crazy, wild weekend courtesy of yours truly and she didn’t want any part of that because she had witnessed it enough times before to know that it was not fun. Truthfully, I don’t blame her. It’s embarrassing for me to know that my drinking is the reason she passed on a fun weekend away but I get it.  When I first learned of this (because she gave me a different excuse but then told others her real reason for staying back – me) I felt awful. I was humiliated and filled with shame, guilt and anxiety for around 2 weeks. I had to sit with that and own it. I’m not proud of who I was, but I know who I am now and I am incredibly proud of that woman.  Also, when we were planning this trip, not everyone knew that I had stopped drinking at that time and those who did didn’t think I was that serious about it. They were wrong.

As time has passed and I approach the 6 month sobriety mark, everyone who is attending the trip knows that I am sober and very serious about my recovery. Everyone is okay with that of course and frankly, I don’t think they really care as they all have their own problems and issues to worry about.  Funny how that works isn’t it?

Now I’ve gone from being anxious about not drinking to being anxious about being away from my kids for 3 and a half days because I’ve never been away from them for that long. And because I’m just an anxious person in general, so if I stop having anxiety about one thing, I just seem to find another to latch on to!

I know better than to get complacent though. That’s when, for me, I know a relapse could happen. I still remember how horrific it felt to wake up filled with shame and guilt and panic over not remembering what I said or did the night before.  The humiliation of having someone fill in the gaps for me, often angrily or disappointed. I remember how much I hated myself…how self-destructive I had become and how little I cared. I never, ever want to go back to that. So for today at least, I choose not to pick up a drink.

I also have been proactive in how I’m going to handle things on this vacation. I know the girls won’t pressure me to drink because they now understand how serious I am about my sobriety. I’ve already told them that if I feel anxious or don’t feel comfortable going somewhere with them, I’ll just stay back at the beach house.  I think it’s really important that I advocate for myself so I did. I’m bringing several books for the beach and for anytime I may stay at the house and need something to do. I plan on practicing yoga and meditating while away and I’ve made sure to pack my headphones so I can check in with my favorite sobriety podcast, Home. Of course I also know I can always check in here and read sobriety blogs or write if I need to. I also can check in with my wonderful sober friend who helps keep me in check at times if things get difficult.  I feel secure in utilizing these tools so that I never have to feel so hopeless again.

Just writing this out now, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this beautiful gift of sobriety. Even in the midst of a divorce and still figuring out who I am as a sober person and working through all of the issues that led me to my addiction, I get to wake up sober and I am in awe of how blessed that makes me because I know the dark side of alcohol abuse. The old me would be looking forward to beginning my drinking at 10 am on the beach during this vacation and continuing until I blacked out each night and made a fool of myself.  This new me, the authentic me, is excited to read on the beach, truly feel the sunshine and sand beneath my toes and sneak out to the beach in the early morning to meditate and practice yoga. I only appreciate these small pleasures now because I understand what a life filled with pain is like.

Life is so much sweeter, sober.

Relationships · Self-Care

Update, Update, Read All About It!

thanks

Just in case no one has told you lately, ya’ll are the best readers a girl could have. Seriously. The support I’ve received from all of you has been wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I got to see my therapist a few days ago and that was so helpful.  As I sat in her office crying and asking why I’m just not enough for anyone, she simply asked, “Well, are you enough for you?” That really made me stop and consider what’s truly important right now.  I certainly feel more enough for myself today than I did 169 days ago.  Some days I feel like I am and some days I feel like I’m not.  What I know for sure is that I want those days that I do feel like I’m enough for me to be more consistent than they are now. So I stay sober and keep working on myself.

At the end of my session I asked my therapist if all of this is normal and am I grieving correctly? My fear is that I’m not processing everything in the right way and will end up making a mess of my life again like I did when I failed to grief my father’s death. She assured me that I’m doing okay and I’m much more self-aware than many people in this situation which made me feel less anxious.

My ex is having a minor health issue but it’s got him pretty worried and I don’t know if it’s that or what but he seemed to have called a truce and we’ve gotten along well the past few days.  Today we had an unexpected conversation concerning our marriage.  It was rational and emotional in that we were both able to admit we just aren’t happy together and in the end we want each other to be happy because that’s what’s best for our kids.  It was nice to feel like we are on the same page again.

So with that being said, I started the divorce process today.  He was going to file the papers, but after meeting with a lawyer last week he stalled. I wasn’t sure why until he filled me in today on some disheartening things the lawyer said.  When my ex walked in and introduced himself, the lawyer introduced himself and informed my ex that his job was to split up families.  This did not sit well with my ex because the one things we have agreed on through this whole situation is that whether we like it or not, the four of us will always be a family and we will do whatever we need to as parents to make sure our kids experience the least amount of stress over our divorce. There were some other things the lawyer said that aren’t in line with the kind of divorce we want to have so my ex said he just couldn’t do it using that particular attorney.  I am so grateful for his judgement on that.  So I took the reins today to get the ball rolling. It will probably be 5-6 months before everything is finalized just with state laws and such but it will end up being an amicable divorce that is on our terms and that is what is important.

As always, I’m continuing to work on my recovery.  It’s even more important for me to do so during difficult times.  I joined a gym and I signed up for a month of personal training sessions to kick start my journey. You see, I recently went to the doctor and when I was weighed, I saw that I had gained 10 pounds since I stopped drinking in December. This is a major red flag for me because I was also a food addict.

When I underwent gastric bypass surgery 10 years ago, I was 24 years old and tipped the scale at 285 pounds. This surgery truly saved my life. I didn’t admit it at the time or even a few years after, but I was a food addict. This addiction clearly transferred to alcohol when the perfect shit storm occurred to pull everything together to throw me right into my addiction to alcohol.  So when I saw that I had gained 10 pounds, I knew I needed to take action now or else my alcohol addiction could end up going right back to being a food addiction. I’ve worked too fucking hard battling both to end up with either one ever again.

I’m being proactive with the gym membership. I’ve been working on my mental/emotional health the past 169 days but I’ve not really focused at all on my physical health.  That’s okay with me because I know myself and I know that had I tried to take it all on at once from day 1, I would surely have relapsed by now.  But now I’m going to the gym at least 4 times a week at the recommendation of my trainer, doing the workouts he recommended and meeting with him one of those 4 times each week. He kicks my ass but I feel alive afterwards and I know that caring for myself physically will also help my mental/emotional wellness.

I’ve had two sessions so far and while I typically hate working out, especially in front of people who are waaaaaay more physically fit than me, I remind myself of all I have survived so far. I can survive 30 minutes of torture (haha) in order to take care of my physical health. My goal is to eventually lose 43 pounds and get toned up but just like my sobriety, I am taking it one day at a time.