To someone who suffers from anxiety and/or depression, the word should can be so damaging.
Let me put it into perspective for you - last night I was having a chat with a friend and she brought up that she'd been in a recent funk. The weather here has been absolutely beautiful and instead of waking up and seizing the day she found herself sleeping in. I said to her that I understood that feeling - and the apathy that comes along with it - why not just go back to sleep? I told her that I set up an expectation for myself to go out and enjoy the sun, I felt that I should be doing so.
I remember the day that I started the curse the concept of the word should, I was at my therapist's office and talking to him about all of the pressures that I felt coming from simply myself. All of the expectations I was putting on myself to succeed, to remain sober, to pursue and maintain friendships, to give myself the space that I deserved to grow. When I finished my rant he looked at me and asked simply, "Why?"
"Because I should." I responded, and he smiled. Right there and then I had a revelation, because his next question of course would be again, why?
Now it's because I want to.
When I put the pressure on myself to feel the way I felt was appropriate, the way I should have felt, the internal backlash ensued. I felt I should be happy and I ended up miserable, instead of simply feeling. I felt I should be calm, I experienced anxiety. When I let myself breathe and allowed my body and spirit to feel the way that it wanted to feel, I experienced a true connection with myself and a genuine bliss.
I know I feel as though I "should" wake up every day motivated and energetic and happy, but when you live with a mental illness, this isn't always the case. Berating myself for waking up in a lousy mood is only going to make myself feel worse, and the pressured guilt of reminding myself that I "should" be happy compounds these emotions. If I wake and I am experiencing depression or any other negative emotion, I let myself and my body sit and reflect on it. The same is to be said about any anxiety.
Just yesterday I woke up at 8:30 and had plans with a friend for 10:00 and I was experiencing a particularly anxious morning. The word "should" repeated in my mind - "You should get up and shower, you should get dressed, you should brush your teeth, you should get ready for the day," and the more I said it to myself, the worse I felt. I sent a text to my friend explaining my anxieties and pushed the meeting back to 11:00 and allowed myself the space I needed to breathe. I waited until my body and mind told me that going out was something that I wanted to do.
Once I changed my mindset yesterday I was met with a day of entire bliss. I spent time at beaches and allowed myself to exist within nature. I went shopping for healing stones. I made a healthy balanced dinner. I treated myself to a sunset along the beach. I made time for my friends and went out for part of a local show. I came home to my partner and spent time with him. Most importantly, throughout my day yesterday I spent time with myself.
Not every day is easy when anxiety, depression, and mental illness are a part of your daily life. Not everything that I say or write will work for everybody - I am simply highlighting the techniques I learned through therapy or through myself, which have helped me cope with my anxieties. I don't think anxiety is something that ever goes away - it just becomes easier to cope with in time.
For myself, I had to stop telling myself what I should do, and started focusing on what I truly wanted to do. I had to ignore that voice in my head telling me how I should feel and instead just started feeling exactly how I do feel - even if that is anxiety at times. I have learned to allow myself to be.
Before I end this blog post I would like to share a technique I learned in therapy for calming down during anxiety/a panic attack. For me it has yielded extremely interesting results.
During my panic attacks I would self-inflict pain, physically and verbally. I would rip my hair out. I would call myself worthless. I would tell myself, "Normal up, stupid!" That was my mantra, to call myself stupid. The first (and only) time that my therapist saw me exhibit this behaviour, he explained to me how my negative comments to myself were ultimately destroying any chance at reducing my anxiety or depression. He taught me a practice that I use to this day.
"Close your eyes and imagine the last person or being that you touched with a true sense of love," he told to me (I still to this day imagine my cat, Fiona). "Feel the love that you had for this other person, this living being, feel the way that it felt in your body, flowing through your hands, and your fingers. Feel the energy of that love within your fingers as you are transferring it to this other entity."
It took me a few tries but I finally managed to get in the headspace and holding my hands together I was able to draw up that loving energy in the memory of last petting and cuddling with my cat.
"Good," my therapist told me, "Now take your hands and place them over your heart. Give that energy to yourself - you are the one who needs it the very most in your darkest of times. Remember to love yourself, and to show yourself compassion."
This is a technique that I have used to calm myself, to remind myself of the love that I deserve. Sometimes I even do this when I'm not experiencing anxiety - just to remind myself that I am worthy, I am deserving, I have love to give, and I am capable of receiving that love in return. Most importantly, to love myself and to show myself compassion.
I mentioned that this has held interesting results.
When I experience anxiety, I simultaneously experience incredible happiness. Often times when I am the most anxious I begin smiling, giggling, and laughing. It took me a few months to recognize this habit, after using this technique, and when I told my therapist this he smiled at me and confirmed exactly what I had suspected - I have subconsciously trained my body to react with happiness and self-love during my times of anxiety.
It has become a subconscious reaction to my anxiety.
There is no reason why this technique also wouldn't work during times of depression as well!
Isn't it amazing the effects that our brains can have? Imagine the effect that your subconscious can have on you if you stop caving into unknowingly damaging words that you inflict upon yourself, stop focusing on how you should feel, and simply start allowing yourself to be.
Is not an easy process. Oh wow is it difficult.
I've been on both sides of the spectrum. I've been the addict left, and the one who has had to leave an addict.
The biggest thing you can do is to recognize when it is time to leave. When the addict is interfering with your daily and personal life and manipulating and exploiting you. An addict will do whatever they can to keep you around, to let you enable them. I know, because I've done it. I'm not proud of it.
I have also been prone to drawing addicts into my life, as relationships, as friends. I have had people rely on me for their sobriety and that gets hard.
The only way I have found to do it is - tough love. Cut them off.
I know. I know they'll get the validation and enabling from somewhere else, but it doesn't have to end with you.
And you'll hear it, the lines they'll drop to get you to stay out of guilt.
"I need you."
My response - I need myself.
My response - I'll suffer the consequences.
"I can't make it without you."
My response - I can't make it with you.
It is so much easier said than done. An addict needs somebody by their side to hold them and to tell them that it's okay that they relapsed, that they have someone looking out for them. It is so hard for an addict to truly be alone and accountable for the consequences of their actions and addiction. No addict can truly get better with somebody by their side validating their failures and telling them that it will be okay. It's a nasty vortex to get sucked into, one that will leave you feeling unfulfilled and miserable. I think that women can relate to this, I know I can. I know I have nurturing tendencies and that I want to make the world better, person by person. I know I have a lot of love to give.
I know also that for the sake of my mental health and my own recovery, I need to turn around and give that love to myself first and foremost. It is important to me and my own addiction that I focus on myself first and foremost. And if I wasn't an addict myself? I think it's still important to put yourself first and remember that you can't save everybody. Not everybody has the coping skills to deal with an addict - I sure don't.
You need to value yourself. You need to put yourself first. You deserve so much better than being walked all over. You deserve to be happy, whether you receive that from yourself, another, or both. Ideally, always yourself.
Addiction truly touches us all and it's painful and it's sad.
For more resources on how to cope with an addict in your life
Addiction Recovery Guide (USA)
Did you know also that AA/NA meetings are not strictly for addicts? You can also work through AA/NA to cope with a partner/friend/family member's addiction, as well as create a mental support group for yourself in coping with another's addiction. Always be sure to check whether or not the group is closed, open, or gender-specific.
Addiction causes suffering, but you don't have to suffer for the actions of another. It's so much easier said than done, but once the pain outweighs the effort, you may find it easier to simply walk away. It is so difficult, but not as difficult as the pain that an addict can cause.
You deserve better.
Anxiety just sucks.
Last night I was super excited to go up island for a show. I picked up two friends and together we took off and went adventuring, I drove, we all chatted. We listened to Backstreet Boys and sang along and laughed at ourselves while pretending we didn't still all know all the words. We were having fun.
We got up island and my head started feeling gross - full of pressure, I felt dizzy. I blamed it on the altitude, the water trapped in my ear (for five years), the drive. I wanted to push through it. We went next door for dinner before the show and something hit me during dinner and I started to lose it. I had to escape.
When we went back to the hall for the show the music seemed to calm my nerves momentarily, and then it ended. I started feeling irrational. I started feeling guilty because I had to go home and I didn't want to end their night early.
When I get anxious I experience completely normal thoughts that seem irrational to my anxiety-riddled brain. The best way to describe it is imagine with a clear head you're looking at a taxi and you see the color yellow and this is normal. To my anxious brain I feel the need to justify that yellow is a 'normal' color for the taxi. This goes for everything. Why is that tree so large? Is that how that person's voice is supposed to sound? Is this what I'm supposed to be thinking? It all started to creep and grow in my mind. I had to get out. I had to leave and go home.
My friends found another ride back to Victoria and I took off, driving down windy roads. I headed through Shawnigan Lake, where I'd spent most of my teen years doing debaucherous things. My anxiety grew worse and worse and as I headed through Mill Bay I was flooded with memories of living up island - not unhealthy memories. I felt lost even though I knew exactly where I was. I felt like I should have felt safe and at home, but I felt exactly the opposite.
I kept a close eye on my speedometer, simultaneously terrified of being pulled over, as well as the gnawing uneasiness within me wanting to just speed the entire way and get home faster. I stuck to the speed limit. I tried to regulate my breathing. Every song on my iPod was bringing me to different timelines in my life and I was just trying to focus on the here and now. Looking back, I really shouldn't have been driving. I started experiencing mini-blackouts and kept seeing bright lights shining across the top of my window when there was no oncoming traffic. My throat was dry. I took a sip of ginger ale and my stomach immediately wanted to reject it. There was no turning back. I pulled over.
I felt unending guilt about leaving my friends, about missing the show, I just wanted to be home. I listened to my meditation song, Teleconnect Pt. 2 by VNV Nation, and I did. I listened to that song three times before I felt like I was safe enough to keep driving. I started the car and mentally pleaded with myself, "Just twenty more minutes until you're home, you can freak out when you get into your bed. You need to get yourself home." When I started driving again I realized just how out of it I really was - I was five minutes to the bottom of the Malahat, much closer to home than I thought.
When I hit Victoria the anxiety started to subside. I'm not sure why, maybe because I felt like I was home, or the altitude. I have no idea. By the time I pulled up to my house I felt exhausted, still panicky and shaky, but the exhaustion was taking over. Panicking so badly takes so much out of your body. Even today I've slept in much later than usual and I still feel tired. I'm taking a me day. The sun is shining and I'm going to go grocery shop for some healthy food and practice good self-care and meditation.
Why did I panic? I really don't know. I know that trying to figure it out can waste so much potential energy. Today I accept that I had a panic attack and that is okay with me. Today I accept that anxiety is a part of my life - it is not all of me. I am not anxious - I have anxiety. I am not bipolar - I have a bipolar disorder.
I will remember that my anxiety is my own and that nobody can experience it for me, and therefore I do not have to justify it. It is an emotion that belongs wholly to myself and my being. My anxiety is mine and yours is yours. Yeah, it sucks. Yeah, it can ruin your night.
But today I am accepting of my anxiety and embracing it. I will not let my anxiety ruin my life.
It's not easy coming clean about your recovery. Admitting to recovery means admitting a problem and that's not an easy thing to do.
When I first quit drinking I didn't make it public knowledge. My close friends and family knew about it but that was it. I think the more people that know, the heavier the weight feels on you - in the beginning at least. These days for me it's a breeze publicly admitting to both my sobriety and my drinking problem. But it took about six months of continued sobriety before being able to admit to myself that my drinking was a problem.
Since then I've met friends and formed relationships and in social scenarios when offered a drink, I have always said, "I don't drink." To me it seems easier to say that than, "I've quit drinking." When acquaintances find out you've quit drinking, there's always questions, and sometimes they aren't easy to answer. It was easier for me to say I didn't drink. But at this point in my recovery I'll tell anybody my story happily.
The reactions you get are interesting, sometimes heartbreaking, and every one will truly be eye-opening. People will define themselves based on their reaction to your sobriety and recovery - believe me.
I've found close friends and family to be incredibly supportive.
Of course my family first and foremost has been my rock. They've watched me struggle intensely with issues regarding self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, you name it - they've watched it all since I was a child. Alcohol for me was a trigger for the negative emotions in my life. When I told my family that I wanted to quit drinking they encouraged it. Actually my mother and I used to enjoy having a glass of wine together with dinner, and sometimes a few more ... whoops! This wasn't enabling. We used to bond with wine. When I go to visit her now, we drink juice or soda together. This is something she's changed about herself when I'm around - that support has been amazing. Thank you, Momma.
My close group of friends has seen the same struggles. These are even friends that I used to use and drink with in years previous. These are the friends who talked behind my back and called me Jess the Mess and had no idea how to get me help. Little did they know I'd come to help myself! These are the friends who have always been here for me and while our relationships then may have been based on common interests such as drinking or using, we have managed to forge an intense friendship without any artificial stimulants. How amazing! These friendships I have come to treasure most intensely.
New friends! I've made an entire new friend group since my sobriety. People who have never seen me drunk or high. To me this speaks volumes because these people take me at my word about my problem and addiction and still support me fully. I drink ginger ales right, I still go to parties and shows, and I drink my ginger ales (in a green can). I have one friend who every once in a while looks at me out of the corner of my eye, spots the green can, and imagines for a split second it's a Cariboo beer. I've seen his face fall, his hand hit his heart, his body crumple, and then he realizes it's a ginger ale. This is also the same friend that bought me a shot of apple juice to commemorate my first open mic. These are the people who have loved me for me - maybe even more of the me that my lifelong friends may have gotten to know (so far!) - a truly authentic me that I was able to discover through sobriety and self-love.
Then ... there's the enablers.
I won't even call them friends. There are always going to be these people - just recently I got a Facebook message from an old drinking buddy regarding one of my celebratory sobriety posts. "What the fuck? You're sober? Oh, and for fourteen months? You sound like some idiot talking about their toddler. Booo, you're boring sober, you were more fun drunk. Come camping and get drunk, I won't tell anyone." This was extremely upsetting and I let myself sit on it and contemplate it before responding. I removed him from my friends list and explained exactly why - I don't require outer support for my recovery, I rely on myself. I like to celebrate my successes. I avoid people who are detrimental to my mental health.
I allowed myself to think about the entire scenario and I recalled the way that this person and I used to binge-drink together and it hit me - he was unable to deal with my problem, because it would mean having to admit to his own. It's so much easier to tear down somebody who is bettering their life, than to be forced to analyze your own. To convince your buddy they don't have a drink/drug problem, because you want somebody to use or drink with. In the earlier stages of recovery this is so dangerous.
You may find your friendships aren't quite what they used to be, with people you used to call close. This is a hard-hitting reality. I experienced a huge loss of self when I realized that there were people in my life that I had nothing in common with - save for drinking. I could have chosen to relapse. Instead, I chose to go out and find and make friendships with people who were genuine - people who may drink here and there, but people who will call and ask me to come to the beach, or go canoeing, or 4x4ing, or any other sort of activity that creates a real human bonding. The people who don't rely on intoxicants to form friendships.
At the end of the day I define and control my relationship with alcohol, my friends, and myself.
The greatest person that I have encountered in my sobriety is myself. I love my friends, and I love my family, and the insurmountable support that they have given me. I even love the people who haven't supported me, because they have taught me important lessons about myself and how much value I have to place upon others.
So if you've either supported me, or opposed me, thank you!
This ... this might be an entire blog post about a single song.
For me, this song has changed my life. I'm planning on getting the lyrics tattooed on my thigh this summer, hopefully. Give me a minute of your time and let me explain why.
Last summer I was going through a bit of a tough time emotionally - I have no idea why. There was a few weeks during the most gorgeous days of sunshine where I just felt lost and sad, and I was crying nearly every day with no real explanation why. I found myself growing morose and was so afraid of slipping back into depression, so along with the sadness came - anxiety!
I scheduled an appointment with my therapist and he wasn't able to see me for over a week (which when you're waiting, can feel like a lifetime). On the day of the appointment I was over an hour early and thought to myself, "Well, what am I going to do way over on the other side of town?" I went to a beach.
I love this beach (Cattle Point in Oak Bay). I pulled up and I had my iPod and headphones, so I adventured down to the rocks and I sat there for nearly an hour. I was still feeling horrible anxiety.
Then ... this song came on. I closed my eyes.
It starts out pretty trance-y and just calming electronica that builds itself up over eight minutes, complete with soothing vocals. I'm not sure if the music just syncs up perfectly with a calming heart rate, if it gets me out of my own head, I am not sure what this song does, but it calms me down. I couldn't believe I had never heard it before. When the song was over I opened my eyes and remembered I was laying on a rock in the sun at the ocean. I realized I was going to be late for my therapy session. I got in my car and drove to my therapist's.
When I walked into his office he looked at me and asked how I was feeling.
I told him I thought that I possibly didn't need the session anymore for that day. He laughed and agreed and I told him about the song and my meditation journey I'd just experienced. He recommended that I hold onto this song, that feeling, that ease, that happiness, and that calmness, and I have.
It might sound strange but any time I feel anxious about an event, a journey, anything coming up, I listen to this song. Sometimes for no good reason I feel anxious and my boyfriend knows that if I put on this song I just need a few minutes of space and that I will be alright. It keeps me centered and grounded. I will always remember that day when I felt despair and the way it transformed me.
So you're probably thinking, what song IS this magic?!
Here it is. (PS - literally almost any song by this band will have the same effect!)
Lend me your deepest wisdom
Give me a sinner's chance
Learned spirits, won't you inspire?
Bear all my thoughts and wishes
To sacred places I'd reside
Where hope is born, where hope survives
Oh fallen lovers, won't you rise?
Fallen demons, won't you fight?
Your hearts were never made of stone
You who tempt the fates
You who've journeyed oh so far
To apparitions in the haze
Rise up you earthbound demons
Rise up before me now and fight
Your time has finally come
And take me back before the years
And memories are worn with time
Before the hourglass is drained
Before the colors start to fade
Teleconnect Pt. 2 - VNV Nation
CeA friend asked me this yesterday, "How do you celebrate your sobriety milestones?" We laughed about it for a minute.
Then it hit me and I was saddened by just how much of a social construct alcohol truly is in celebrations, milestones, etc.
I didn't have a proper answer yesterday, but after sleeping on it and thinking about it, today I have an answer to that question.
The first step is to celebrate every single day. A huge part of my recovery and sobriety was finding something to celebrate every day. A few months ago I started a journal, my book of Good Things. Every day I write down something good or positive that happened that day, or that I accomplished. I use this book for reference to remind me why I quit drinking and chose to focus on my recovery in the first place. Sometimes you have bad days, it's inevitable. Addiction and relapse rely on negative emotions like depression and stress. Imagine having a little devil on your shoulder saying, "It's okay, this will make you feel better."
You have to turn around and say, "No. I will make me feel better."
I started of course by counting my sober days. Then my sober weeks. Then my sober months. I tried not to post on Facebook for every monthly milestone, but I wanted to celebrate and share my successes and hopefully inspire others - which I did and have!
My first proudest milestone was six months. I quit drinking in 2013 and made it four and a half months. When I hit that six month milestone, I felt stronger and more accomplished. I felt like I could truly beat this.
My nine month milestone hit right before a large music festival I attended, and I celebrated it to myself. I was nervous as all hell to go to a music festival surrounded by booze and drunk people. I don't do well in large crowds. After I made it through the four day festival without a drop of liquor, I celebrated again.
I couldn't believe when I hit a whole year. It was December 24th of this past year and it was my Christmas present to my family, and to myself. I posted all over Facebook, phoned my extended family, and woke up that morning grinning. I wasn't looking for validation by doing this. I am the only one who validates my sobriety. It was important for me and for my family to know that I am finally beating this disease. On my one year my wonderful boyfriend bought me a bouquet of roses (which I still have today) and took me for breakfast.
I celebrated separately with different friends and family members. I bought myself a bottle of sparkling grape juice. One of my biggest things was finding something else to drink at bars, and I chose ginger ale. Most people know me as the girl who rolls around town with a 20 case of ginger ale in the backseat... I wanted something different. I wondered if I would be triggered by drinking something that resembled liquor. I wasn't. I drank my glass of sparkling grape juice and felt accomplished.
My favorite part of celebrating my one year sober was knowing that from here on out I don't have to monumentalize the weeks or months anymore. I can start counting the years from here on out, my anniversaries.
But the important part is to celebrate every day. I don't wake up and think to myself, "I'm X amount of days/weeks/months sober," I wake up and tell myself, "I was sober yesterday and I will be sober again today." I find something beautiful in every day to make that day sober worth it.
Every party. Every show. Every stressful moment. I make it through all of them and I go to sleep feeling accomplished, and I wake up feeling accomplished and at ease.
I not only celebrate my sobriety every day, but I celebrate myself, my conviction, my strengths, my achievements, my goals, and my attitude every single day. Celebrate yourself as well as your milestones. Celebrating yourself will become the foundation of your recovery.
My glass of sparkling grape juice, celebrating with my boyfriend and his daughter.
Welcome to me, circa 2011.
They say a photo is a thousand words. I don't know if I can keep it under a thousand here.
My excuse for this night was that it was St. Patrick's Day. But guess what? It was a Tuesday. It was an excuse.
When you are an addict, you look for an excuse to use. You can restrict it to 'recreational' use, or tell yourself that. Tell yourself you're only going to use on special occasions. Then a weekend. Then you start trying to tell yourself that a Tuesday is a special occasion.
It was the exact same scenario when I quit cocaine in 2008. I had thought to myself that I could use recreationally. I realized that I couldn't. I realized that before I even tried. I had struggled with cocaine use for a year before I quit, and when I quit, I quit for good. Almost.
When I quit blow I still wanted something to fill that void. I turned to alcohol, because it was legal and socially acceptable. I could go to a bar and get drunk, sit at a family dinner and get drunk, go to the beach and get drunk, and there wasn't the same stigma as using drugs at these events. I could buy it in a store. I could justify drinking because it was legal and acceptable. I could abuse it, because for young adults it's acceptable to get wasted. Even on a Tuesday.
I abused alcohol the exact same way that I abused cocaine. It went on for years. I was the life of the party, I was always happy and giggling. I was so outgoing and bright and had no problem starting up a conversation with a total stranger, thanks to liquid courage. By nature I am a shy and anxious person, while on the other hand I am outgoing as well. It's a real conundrum! Booze helped me solve that riddle. I started to like myself more when I was buzzed, tipsy and drunk, and forgot to love myself at all sober. That's right. I had to get drunk to care about my well-being. It was about four years into the abuse when I realized that I could no longer look myself in the mirror.
I hated myself sober.
I grew to hate myself drunk.
My anxiety crept up on to me so slowly that I never saw it coming. The booze stopped working. I was anxious when I woke up in the morning hungover, I was afraid to check my phone to see what drunk things I had texted friends or exes. I couldn't own a phone that accessed Facebook, because I would be constantly posting drunk photos or status updates. Then the anxiety got so bad, the liquor couldn't shake it. I started to drink more and more. It took getting hammered before going to an event for me to feel comfortable, and then drinking more and more while I was out.
I had a breakdown in 2014. I think my body gave out and I had enough. I lost my job and I was afraid to leave my house. I was on a wait list to see a psychiatrist and I drank the whole time, trying to keep myself level and keep my emotions in check. My psychiatrist asked about my drinking and I lied to her and told her I didn't have a problem.
I had a problem. It was becoming apparent.
During that time I was diagnosed with a type two bipolar disorder. Suddenly everything preceding that moment made sense. The manic highs where I would avoid sleep, the depression where I would live on a couch for weeks at a time. The poor decisions. The drug abuse and drinking. And the self-esteem.
If cocaine is a stimulant, alcohol is a depressant. But they sort of go hand in hand and work the same way. Cocaine will deplete your serotonin and leave you depressed. Alcohol will work as a black cloud, causing a constant depression you need to drink your way out of. After years of abuse and an undiagnosed mental illness, I had really fucked myself over.
I didn't even quit drinking straight away! I drank for another two months or so after being put on my medication. That was a definite mistake.
On December 23rd, 2014, I went all out. I bought a 1.5L bottle of shiraz and I drank it before I even went out. I was sitting at home. It was a Tuesday. I was watching television, reading, writing, a normal night at home called for a liter and a half of red wine. My friend phoned me, they were having a party. He picked me up, and we stopped at the liquor store. I bought another bottle. I downed the thing in nearly an hour. He drove me home before 11, and we stopped at the liquor store again. Bottle number three. Remember, I was already three liters of wine deep.
But damned if I didn't drink the third bottle.
Four and a half liters of wine.
I sat on my couch and I cried and I cried about everything there was to cry about. Looking back, I was sad for myself. I didn't want to live. I didn't want to be myself anymore. December 23, 2014 was the worst night of my life that I can recall, and believe me, after that much wine, it's all a bit of a blur. I will never forget that sadness. It was a sadness that followed me around and alcohol amplified it.
I'm grateful that it did. That was the last time I've had a drink. The hangover the next day was excruciating - it lasted the better part of three days. I missed Christmas dinner with my family, my hangover was still so bad.
I haven't had a drop since. I've stayed on my medication. I've stayed sober, and clean.
I had to learn to love myself all over again. Looking back, I don't know that I ever really did. During my teenage years I struggled with self-esteem and drug abuse issues. Loving myself was never a real priority for me. I started by finding hobbies I could take pride in. I started playing guitar, I wrote a book, I started up Tattered. I went to the beach every single night with a cup of peppermint tea, listened to music and let the thoughts of the day wash away. I started singing in the shower. I went out without makeup and learned to love the face in the mirror. I read inspirational books and got into the habit of having a coffee and a cigarette each morning in the sun while I read and shared inspirational quotes. I started meditating and collecting healing stones. I took a break from the party scene.
It hasn't been without its struggles. Three months into my sobriety, St. Patrick's Day was on a Tuesday. I went out, and to a bar. I ordered a ginger ale and gave myself one hell of a pep talk. It was so hard being in a bar with drunk people everywhere, but I was going to do it. It was karaoke night. So I went up and did karaoke - the first time I had ever done sober karaoke. Remember how I said I'm shy? I was able to sing in front of people easy if I had at least a six pack under my belt. I sipped on my ginger ale and I sang my heart out. When I was done I had another accomplishment under my belt.
That's how I feel every time I go out, now. Shows and parties aren't a problem anymore. I associate things in my mind, "The last time you saw this band play you were sober, you got this." I remember everything. I always have my car keys, I always have to drive myself home. I get a sense of pride when I spent two dollars at a bar the whole night on ginger ale. I'm not afraid of my bank balance the next day, or any sent text messages. I can breathe a lot easier. Even though I do still experience anxiety going out, it's nothing compared to how it was before.
I can look at myself in the mirror and love myself. I don't need to wear a mask of makeup. I don't have to have glazed eyes and an unfocused drunken leer to find myself attractive or lovable. I don't look for acceptance in booze or lovers. For the first time in forever, I love myself, and have consistently each day more and more since I broke up with booze.
I haven't yet defined my relationship with alcohol, and I'm not focusing on it right now. I'm more concerned with defining my relationship with myself, first and foremost. In a lot of ways it was easy to quit, it just made sense. When I think about being sober forever, it terrifies me. But when I think about drinking again, that scares me even more. I think that gives me a good perspective into my addiction. I know that AA says you have to admit you're powerless to it, but I'm not. I don't want to be afraid of alcohol. I don't regret the time in my life that I spent drinking or using, because I think I love myself more for overcoming the things that I have. I have more of a sense of pride because I know where I've been.
And now you do too.