After two years alcohol-free and taking care of myself pretty well, I have lately taken notice that many members of my family experience issues with either substance abuse or struggles with mental illness. I think it would have been too hard to assess this kind of thing a few years ago when I wasn’t even ready to own up to my own struggles yet.
It’s not easy to be in recovery while those to whom you are close have unacknowledged issues…
Which brings me to today’s topic for me: Boundaries. The past two plus years have been a process of learning how to set healthy boundaries.
Work-life boundaries….I was a workaholic. This made me feel functional when I was otherwise not. Working all the time made it so that I didn’t have to be still and look within. Now that I’m starting to fit into my own sober-skin more and more…I find that I don’t feel the need to run so much AND I value my time and don’t want to spend it all at work anymore so I can do things I also like such as gardening and hiking.
Adult Children Boundaries…Wow. This is a huge one for me. I used to take on all of my children’s choices as my own. I was ridden with guilt for the divorce and the fact that I couldn’t provide them with the life I think they should have. I used to be unable and unwilling to separate what decisions were mine to own and which ones are theirs to own. I could be easily manipulated into giving money that wasn’t earned, or turning myself inside out to help them out of a mess that they created. I could write a book on this one. It has taken some serious time and work to set these boundaries. My adult children have my love, support and guidance and the rest is up to them. They are coming around and it’s a beautiful (albeit at times painful too) thing to witness.
Boundaries for everyone…If someone is disrespectful or trying to bait me into an unhealthy interaction, or somehow challenge my decision not to drink, etc….I live in a free country dammit I can hang up the phone, excuse myself from the conversation, leave the dinner early, walk away and take 5…and I can then talk to a healthy friend about it(reach out for support)and either deal with it (take an action) or let it go. I get to choose how and where to spend most of my time really. All of this seemed so foreign and out of reach for me a few years ago. It’s nice that normal, healthy coping has began to feel normal to me.
There are more examples and maybe I’ll post about them later. Really the boundary issue for me is about acceptance and letting go. I grew up in a home without healthy boundaries…and I continued that practice into my adult life…always trying to control things that aren’t mine to control… Now as I heal, actively practicing acceptance of the things that I never really controlled to begin with (adult children choices, their un-involved father, my dysfunctional family of origin, etc)….accepting and letting go allows me the freedom to love them for who they are or let go of those who I need to distance myself from… and letting go of control frees me to spend my time in ways that are meaningful and healthy rather than spinning my wheels trying to make things into what they are not.
Today I am grateful to be sober and free.
On this beautiful Sunday morning (it’s 70 degrees here in Texas) I’m sitting here on my patio enjoying my coffee and listening to the sounds of the morning: The various birds tweeting, my dogs chasing a squirrel, cars passing by on the highway in the distance and an owl that’s hooting from high up in a neighbor’s tree.
My daughter will be awake soon and we’ll be off to her Sunday morning Confirmation class (something that is very important to her and it’s actually quite a beautiful thing itself to watch a young person develop a faith that’s stronger and deeper even then your own). Anyway, this next 30 minutes is mine to be still…to enjoy nature, to read, to write or to just walk around aimlessly with my coffee and be. I didn’t realize how much I loved this part of my day until I recently read a blog post about how awesome this part of the day is….
And that got me thinking to how much I treasure our online community. It’s not something I can definitively define for you. There was a time in early sobriety that this community was a lifeline to survival on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. It was vital to me to have this outlet because the very idea of getting sober would have been so attacked and hard to defend in my “real” life that I needed to keep myself in my own little sober-bubble for a few months as I figured out how in the hell I was going to actually live sober.
Now, today, this recovery blogosphere is a place where I come to for insight, maybe to vent, maybe to share some creative thoughts, or just to give back the compassion, support and lifeline that was so generously extended to me (and continues to be). It is still a lifeline, but in a different, more subtle way that’s not quite as needy but still very profound. I love how completely unplanned and unbound by rules we are here…it reminds me how often beautiful things can just seem to pop out of seemingly nothing and take on a life-force of their own…which is a great lesson for this recovering mathematically-minded control freak right here 🙂
Anyway…on a seemingly unrelated note….even though it’s February I just discovered my word of the year (WOTY) today while reading another fine blog. (Yes, I am one month and couple weeks late LOL.) My word is BALANCE.
I plan to write more about my word…maybe even set some specific goals around it as well as just write about it freely and see where it takes me this year.
I’ll end on this note…
Today I am happy that I am sober. It is a wonderful thing to be sober. It’s an even greater marvel to be happy to be sober.
Shortly after my last post, I came down with some horrible strain of the flu. High fever, body aches and general misery, for about a week. Don’t think I’ve been that sick in 10 years.
I’m a horrible patient and generally feel like the world is ending every minute that I am sick. Ugh… At least, at this point in my life & recovery, I had the sense to take care of myself. I took several days off work, ordered my essential groceries online for delivery, and then parked my self on the couch/bed for a week of rest…Netflix-style.
I’m finally feeling better. Somehow, temporarily losing my health and well-being really makes me appreciate the overall health that I enjoy every day.
Today I am grateful to be alive and sober….ready to face what the day brings.
In early sobriety I fell into the mindset that now “because I don’t drink, everything will be okay. All the bad stuff happened because I drank, and now that I don’t drink the “good” part of me will get stronger and win”.
By and large, that has been mostly true. I have become honest…before I used to lie a lot. I pay my bills…when I got sober my mortgage was 36 months behind (yes, you read that right). I have more than doubled my income…mostly by being present and engaged in my job and not ever being hungover or late. I am also a better mother and leader. And I’m fixing up my house too…
But today I had a huge wake up call. I was recently irresponsible about something very important and it has a huge impact on my life and my future (it’s private and legal in nature and I’m sorry I can’t share it on the internet). And I did this sober. I screwed my own self over basically by doing what I did when I drank…I ignored an issue just like a 5 year-old and pretended it would go away. I don’t know why I do this. It’s part of what I need to work on as a person in long-term recovery from alcohol and general-self-destruction.
It’s the first time that I’ve seen, with 100% clarity, that alcohol DIDN’T cause all of my problems, and that at the core I have a side of me that is self-destructive…and I can’t pretend that it’s not there, or that by not drinking it magically goes away. “Not-drinking” makes it POSSIBLE for me to heal and get better over time. I still have to put in the work.
The road to recovery can be very hard at times. I am still as committed as I ever was…maybe even more so now. I guess I am both humbled and scared at the prospect that I have so very much work to do on myself and my life.
I can do this.
Spent the weekend in Austin with my younger daughter…we rented a fancy hotel, saw a great movie and a play, and tried out a few new restaurants and coffee shops too.
Austin is such a fun town…and while there is a drinking/weed culture there for sure…I find myself enjoying things like concerts and plays so much more without alcohol. I used to be too worried about my next drink and maintaining my buzz to really enjoy what was in front of me.
There’s a coffee shop in Austin that has concerts, stand up comedy and an open-mike night, all with coffee & soda and no alcohol. It’s nice to find outings that aren’t alcohol centered. I really enjoyed myself and I relish the time with my daughter.
We just arrived home earlier today, and right now I’m fighting the Sunday night blues as I transition from mini-vacation-mode to work-mode. Ugh. I always struggle to switch gears.
Happy Sunday night to everyone.
Tostitos chips has just released potato chips bags equipped with an alcohol sensor…so a drinker can breath on the bag and know their BAC and decide if they’re too drunk to drive.
I’m not sure how I feel about potato chip bags with breathalyzers on them.
I can somehow picture drunk-Jenn arriving at a party with a bottle of wine and potato chips with sensors on them. (My inner math-nerd is curious as to how accurate this sensor is.) (My inner-lawyer is surprised that this could pass by Tostidos legal team)…anyhow…
Maybe they’ll help increase awareness and prevent drunk driving.
But it concerns me whenever I see drinking so normalized. If you’re sitting in a bar breathing on a potato chip bag…it’s possible you have a problem.
But maybe I’m sensitive to the subject as a former problem-drinker, current sober-woman.
I think the sensor on the potato chips bags is a promotion for SuperBowl. I used to get very, very drunk watching football. Now I dont.
If you are struggling with your alcohol use….please know that it’s perfectly normal for a drug to be addictive and to wreak havoc with your life. Alcohol is a drug. Alcohol advertising is powerful and can make us feel like we should be able to drink a ton but always look fabulous and never look drunk (like on most alcohol commercials).
The super bowl can be enjoyed sober. That’s how I plan to spend mine.
Now…if only they’d install a calorie-alarm on those bags so I’d know when I’ve had a serving.
Let me tell you about the Facebook message I got today…
It was from a guy who I’m friends with on Facebook and don’t really know…somebody I met once maybe years ago….anyway….he messaged me and said “remember us???”
It took a minute. But I remembered that about 3 or 4 years ago I danced with his friend at a bar…the friend turned out to be married and his wife nearly attacked me at this fancy upscale bar. I don’t remember much else but fast forward a few hours I did “fall asleep” in my car, woke up at 3am and drove home, checked on my kids and passed out. The next day I talked to my friends about how crazy and and badass my night was….Except that the truth was that I was a 40 year old mom of 3 who once held things like dignity and marriage sacred, so behind my boasting was a very ashamed and damaged woman who really didn’t remember what she did the night before. Hiding…Shame…Fear… Hangovers… Blackouts… Ugh.
I don’t live like that anymore. I live my values. I remember everything. I am present. Life is no longer a party. But I sleep well every night, and I’m comfortable with and proud of who I am and who I am becoming.
And I want to cringe at the thought of that drunken embarrassing memory…but drunk-Jenn is part of me too. She was just trying to survive and not feel so lost and fearful and hurt. It just took her a long time to realize that it was up to her…that she could help herself out of the hole she’d sunk into.
Greatful to be alive, healthy and alcohol-free today.