Life gets stressful. We all get stressed out from time to time and it takes its effect on our bodies, minds, and souls. Unfortunately we tend to try to push past these stresses, or shrug them off, not allowing them to fully exist. Until - boom!
You crack and crash, like I did yesterday. I was on my way up island, I was stuck in traffic in an overheating car for an hour in the blazing heat, my phone was going off, and I just thought to myself, "Fuck this," and I cut across traffic and turned around and went home.
I locked myself in my room and sent a message to my roommates in our house group chat basically saying, "Hey, I love you guys, but I really really need to be alone right now and just not think. Have a good weekend," then I uninstalled Facebook messenger from my phone and had a nap. I spent all of yesterday and last night in my room reading, and it felt fucking amazing.
I take these 'me' days every so often, I try for once a month or once every two months. Where I literally do shut out the world and focus on myself and allow myself to breathe and truly feel my stresses without any distractions. When I first realized I needed a day like this, I was working as a content co-ordinator for a magazine and the deadline stresses were wearing me down to the point where I caught a nasty head cold. My mental health declined to the point of my physical health declining as well. It was an eye-opening experience and a reminder that I need to take time for myself.
Initially I felt guilt. I started calling them Selfish Days, and it was an unhealthy label, because instead of relaxing I would feel as though I was procrastinating or avoiding. That's simply not the case. I handle my responsibilities, and then shut everything off and walk away. The guilt accompanied these first few Days, before I snapped out of that mindset. If you feel like you're being selfish, you are defeating the purpose of these Me Days. You are taking the time to rest, relax, and to truly recharge.
In fact, my Me Day has extended to today as well. I'm at home all alone, my roommates are out for the weekend. I'm strangely not lonely. I'm cleaning, I'm organizing, I'm cranking the music as loud as I want to (sorry guys), I'm playing guitar in every room of the house, I'm cooking, I'm reading. I am truly enjoying being on my own, with my thoughts. I've gotta say, uninstalling Facebook Messenger from my phone has been an incredibly liberating experience to boot.
By spending time with myself, by myself, my attitude has completely changed. The stresses are washing away, slowly but surely. Before this weekend I couldn't remember the last time I took a day to myself like this.
Life gets hectic and it gets fast-paced and suddenly there aren't enough hours in a day to accomplish everything that you want to do. Balancing friends, work, relationships, that's hard enough - and the ultimate sacrifice is the time that you need to be spending with yourself, for yourself. So fuck it. Take a Me Day.
Stay in bed. Have a bath. Read a book. Sleep. Dance around your kitchen. Go for a drive. Write it out. Play your guitar, sing, and sing loud. Eat that fast food meal, that comfort food - eat ice cream. Wear your pajamas all day. Turn off your phone. Write a letter. Go to the beach. Do anything that your heart and body is desiring on your Me Day (within reason) and really make that day about yourself. Don't let yourself feel guilty for needing to take time to yourself - feel proud that you recognize it, and hopefully before you end up stuck on the side of a highway in a car ready to break down ...
And if you do, turn the fuck around and go home and focus on you. You deserve it.
I think I made a promise to stop counting the months, because now I'm counting the years. But it was really interesting this morning to scroll through my On This Day on Facebook and see last year I was celebrating 8 months sober. I did some quick math and thought ... holy shit.
It's crazy to see the positivity on my On This Day since I quit drinking, compared to my drunken or passive-aggressive Facebook statuses from years past. Those make me cringe. When I look at posts from the past twenty months, I can see authentic and genuine happiness.
Without Facebook's little reminder, I would have been completely oblivious to a monthly milestone. In all honesty, today has been a day just like any other day - wake up, errands, work, creativity, relaxation, and indulging in some much-needed Me Time, today has been a definite Me Day. And that's the funny part - is that today has been just another day, just like yesterday, and tomorrow. How quickly I have adapted to my life without alcohol. I every so often get that strange and sudden realization of how long it has been without a drop and I feel this incredible pride. It's no longer a struggle.
And in four short months I will be two years sober.
For me the most interesting challenge to remain in sobriety has been what I have chosen to do with my sobriety. I've learned through trial, error, and a relapse in 2013, that you can't just quit drinking and have that be that. For me I have learned to take pride in my creative projects and to express art on any medium necessary, and to truly create. I hang paintings, poetry, drawings, dream catchers around my room, I wear my clothing and my jewelry. I play my guitar. I do things that make me happy that I can take pride in.
In the past few months I have also started writing - more than I have in a long time. I've been writing my story. I've been writing about my struggles, my addiction, and I am now writing about my recovery.
I don't want to think that the years I spent wasted were wasted years. I know that I can't just not drink, that I do have to do something with my sobriety. I'm looking forward to sharing my story, my whole story, no holds barred, and publishing my memoirs this winter.
Growing up as an addict I used to turn to recovery memoirs to offer me some sort of hope and strength. At first I told myself, "These people, these are the ones with the real problems," and as time went on I found I could no longer deny the similarities I saw within myself. I then found myself skipping over the gory bits and diving straight into the end - how could a person find themselves clean, sober, and happy? During my writing this has been my struggle - I want to skip the bad and go straight to the good.
But you can't. You can't have the good without the bad. You have to honor the struggle, because it is part of the person that you are - my addiction has turned me into the person that I am. As with my anxiety, I am grateful, yes, grateful, for the experiences I've had, including my struggle. Because without things to overcome, I wouldn't be the person that I am. If you don't climb the mountain, you'll never reach the top.
Almost two years.
I look back and I honor and cherish the changes that have come into my life after cutting out one simple thing - drinking. Life on its own isn't always roses, it comes with a new challenge every day, and for the past nearly two years, I have been facing everything in life head-on, with a clear perspective. I've changed my entire attitude in twenty months. I've found things to take pride in, my projects, and myself.
So tonight, how am I going to celebrate my sobriety? I'm not going to. I wrote a post a few months ago about celebrating sobriety, and I'm going to re-iterate what I wrote then -
That I will continue to celebrate myself every day. Today marks a milestone of accomplishment, but I'm not going to celebrate simply because of that. I'm going to wake up every morning with a reason to celebrate. I will celebrate, every damn day.
Let's also begin this by saying NO, I have not relapsed. I'm still looking forward to celebrating four years clean this November, and two years sober this December. But I would like to talk about my relapses and the affect they had on my life and well-being.
I have no qualms talking about my addiction. By the time I was seventeen years old I was a full-fledged coke addict, using daily. On June 18, 2007, I decided that was going to be the last day that I did cocaine. I had sampled my cart of drugs and coke was the one that got to me - it made me feel high on myself. I did way too much, got way out of control, and ended up in a terrible position mentally. I knew that I had to quit. Even then it wasn't a conscious decision. I remember getting my first paycheck after I started work again and thinking to myself, "Hey, I'll get a half gram and have myself a night to myself." At that point I was living with my parents again and I realized I had been clean for almost two months. I figured, why the hell not keep it up? So I bought a bottle of wine instead. This would go on to cause another addiction, but for then hey! I wasn't doing coke!
I kept this up for almost five years. June 18, 2012 should have been my five year anniversary celebrating my abstinence from cocaine. I was drinking daily and feeling reckless with myself. I ended up at a house party and walked into the kitchen and there it was sitting on the counter, like a lost lover, and I caved. I wish that I could say that I had only that night but oh, I went crazy for that summer and into the fall. It got worse when a person in our group received an incredibly insane large inheritance and suddenly it wasn't half grams, it was ounces - it never ended. At the end of one crazy week of partying I looked at myself in the mirror and went home and got some sleep. This was the last time I used.
After that I stuck to drinking. For November and December of 2012 I power-drank my way out of my cocaine addiction and used alcohol as a crutch, furthering another addiction. It didn't take too long for me to realize that I had just another problem, with a different substance. On December 29, 2012, I quit drinking.
This round of sobriety was short-lived. I never made it to six months sober. Somewhere between four and five months I was at a friends' house and received some unsettling news and flew back into my old habits of "we can drink this away". It was a situation I blew out of proportion and control and used it as an excuse to drink. The same way I had cracked before to my mind and relapsed with coke, I relapsed with alcohol. I told myself that I had it under control this time, and that I could drink responsibly. I had no idea that drinking responsibly meant not every day, or not to get drunk. I still don't know if I ever can drink responsibly - so why gamble?
As an addict, relapse is constantly my worst fear. It lingers in the back of my mind. When I start to feel socially anxious I have that little devil on my shoulder saying "we can drink this away." My brain plays tricks on me. It's been nearly four years since I touched blow and I still get cravings. It's been nearly two years since I quit drinking and I still get cravings. I have resigned myself to this for the rest of my life.
So what's the difference between now and then? How am I so sure that I won't relapse?
To be honest, I'm not so sure that I don't keep my barriers up. I don't want that gamble. I simply believe in myself and celebrate myself. I never want to lapse into a form of confidence where I believe I'm invincible - I'm an addict, and I always have to have my guard up.
It's fairly well-known that I still remain in a party/music scene - festivals, shows, trips, parties. I can't pretend that drinking and drug use don't happen around me, and I remain aware of it. To me, this has become a form of self-support. I had to do it. I had to prove to myself that I could keep my old life, my old self, without any intoxicants. When I started going to shows again after only a few months' sobriety under my belt, my dad said to me, "You're playing with fire." Every time I do it, every damn time I go out and I don't drink, I don't use, it normalizes it and reinforces it in the back of my mind. I've been to Lucky Bar sober now far more many times than I ever had drunk. To me now, being at a bar without booze has become normal to me. I won't pretend it wasn't hard at first, and I won't lie and say sometimes it isn't still hard. When it gets hard, or I feel that craving, that temptation, I distract myself. I go and order a ginger ale. I find a friend and chat myself through a few moments. I duck out and go sit in my car and listen to a song. I get away from it, and I come back, stronger than ever before.
Relapse is always a possibility. By keeping myself aware of this fact, I take the power away from the possibility. Instead of pushing the idea away, I remind myself, "this could happen. Be stronger than it," and so far, I have been.
I'm an addict. I will always be an addict. Maybe my form of recovery isn't a conventional approach - playing with fire, testing my limits, remaining stronger than my temptations - but it is what has worked for me. I have the utmost confidence that with the relationships I've built with my friends and myself, and my strength and inner belief, that this is the life that I have chose. I am sober, I am clean. I do what I do, and I do it my way!