Creature of Habit

When I was drinking I had my habits.  Mostly my drinking habits.  In the end, my life revolved around when and where I could drink.  My nerves were so frazzled, my self-esteem so fried, I had to know when the next opportunity would avail itself that I would be able to get that drink.  Just to “take the edge off,” I would say to myself.  I found myself scheduling my day around it.  It is hard to believe now that was how my life was, but it was.  Once I stopped drinking, going to a lot of meetings and doing the Steps -has really changed everything.

A Routine

In my first few weeks of Recovery, one of my friends told me about how important a routine was to filing some of the edges off alcohol abstinence and mental detox.  He told me about the acronym HALT (Hungry Angry Lonely Tired).  I had no idea what that meant and like most things, I thought it was silly. But I began to notice eating something healthy (Hungry), getting enough sleep, (Tired) were 2 things of the acronym that were vital to my first 90 days.  The “Angry and Lonely” were unavoidable for my first 6 months, but in meetings,  it did make me aware of how normal I was to feel that way.

Even though my routine isn’t rock solid, I do try and go to bed at the same time every night, get up about the same time every morning.  Grab a nap in the middle of the day when I can – usually the weekends.  I have said in meetings when I got sober, I turned into a toddler.  I need my sleep.  When I don’t get it, I’m screwed. I get impatient, frustrated, overly sensitive.  All feelings that get me closer to a drink.  When I do get my sleep, the whole day seems to go smoother.

Sleep Tolerance

I can wake up in the night and not get back to sleep a couple of times in a week without problems, but if I go to bed later than usual a couple nights AND my dog gets me up and I can’t get back to sleep, I really feel it and need a nap!  I have mentioned before in this blog, when I was drinking, I was hardly sleeping at all and hadn’t slept well for years, but that stopped 2 1/2 years ago.

A New Day

I love mornings. I love the quiet, watch the sun rise, I am not in a good mood particularly, but I do have time alone and get up early to have time alone.  I pray, meditate (like cross-legged on a cushion) and ease into my day. Get dressed and hit my morning meeting at the local Homeless Shelter.  I get my dose of gratitude and fellowship behind me prior to most people arriving at work.  It starts my day off right.  This can’t happen every day, but most days, even weekends.

The idea of a routine, soothed my body and head early on and today it still does.  I think subconsciously my system started trusting me again.  “Yes” we will get some sleep, “Yes” we will get some lunch.  Small routine tasks keep my mind from carrying on by itself.

Give It a Try

If you are new to Recovery, take the next week, make an effort to go to bed at the same time every night (within a half hour), get up – set the alarm if you have to – and get out of bed, start your day.  Don’t just lie there and be lazy. Let your system know you are up for Recovery today.  This Day.

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“Alcoholism Wants You DEAD But It Will Settle for Miserable”

Another meeting gem.  This quote is one of the hundreds that I have heard in meetings and many of them I have written down in a book that I carry in my purse.  Especially in the early days of Recovery, I would hear things and sometimes I didn’t understand them at all.  Or I would be offended or fearful. Later on, I may have heard the exact same thing, a different day, later on in my Recovery and I may have had a completely different understanding or feelings around it.

I understood that “Alcoholism wanted me dead but would settle for miserable.” Because I was miserable, and like Step 1 says, “my life was unmanageable.” Early on, I knew that was true.  But I had no idea to what extent Alcoholism wanted me to be miserable, I only knew I was indeed miserable when I came into the Fellowship. As the days have gone by, I have learned just how miserable and self-loathing I had become.

No Magic Wand

There was no wrinkling of my nose, snapping of my fingers and “TA DA” everything was great again. I still am not all that kind to myself.  I want to be prettier, I want to be thinner, I want to be in better physical shape.  But in time, as long as I stay away from a drink, I have faith I will get there.  Another term used often was “Self-Care.”

While drinking, I only took care of myself enough so people didn’t smell booze on my breath, I carried around eye drops or blamed my bloodshot eyes on allergies (which I do have allergies but not 365 days a year). I did just enough to get by, so people wouldn’t know I was in crisis.  That I was a drunk.

Starting Small

It has taken a while, but I stopped punishing myself for everything that went right or wrong.  I took up yoga and started meditating.  I started shaving my legs regularly, may sound silly before I didn’t notice if I was shaving my legs or underneath my arms, I pretended that I didn’t care, when in reality what I was doing was spending lots of energy not caring and continued to harm myself by drinking constantly.  Harming myself was something I would learn to become a master at, along with manipulating myself.  If you asked me when I was drinking if I was harming myself, I honestly think I would have chosen not to answer the question or made a joke of it. I was my own worst enemy.

At The End of the Day

Before bed and after my prayers, I usually put lotion on my feet.  Thank my feet for carrying around my body all day. Last winter I didn’t even get cracks in my heels! Felt great!  I also try to write a few things down on a Gratitude List.  3-5 things, nothing huge but it’s a way to take some inventory of my day and be grateful for the little things. I read a few passages. None of these things cost much, most cost nothing, except time and focus on me and that I count for something.  That I matter.  If I don’t stop and notice, I won’t change.  I don’t want to be miserable anymore.  Doing these small things consistently have changed my life.

I Still Hate Sunday Nights

Sunday nights meant Monday mornings. In the old days, it was about pulling it together to go to work Monday mornings. It was only a few times I didn’t, I managed to function even at the end of my drinking days.

Same Ole Story
Now I am sober and as I have mentioned previously, I have not changed my job situation.  One reason, I am an owner in the company.  When I got sober I took my partners to lunch and apologized, explained that I was getting help.  They were as supportive as they knew how to be but since that conversation about 2 1/2 years ago, lots have changed.  One thing is, ME.

Truth
Being in recovery, I recognize things I never used to notice.  We are business partners and not close friends. We never have been.  We don’t and never have done anything socially.  I honestly don’t think they are capable of having real friends. Neither of them do to this day.  And of course, when I started going to AA and learning more and more about REAL relationships, the more the “notsoreal” relationships faded from my life.  This is the remaining relationship that I am in because I made a commitment that I am trying to live by.

Lies
One partner put his house on the market and has moved his family about 400 miles away.  At the time, we were told that it was a temporary thing, there were some elder care issues. Once the FOR SALE sign goes up it seems less than temporary.  The sign was up before I knew.  The idea was perhaps growing the business.  To this date, a year and a half later the business is not coming in.  He only criticizes this area and repeats statements that he believes we are backward here.  Then the other one has become a Department Head at a local university and is dividing his time significantly – he lives more than an hour away and recently complained that he is working 80 hours a week.  The 80 hours is not for our company.  I have a hard time feeling compassionate when it is his choice to put his commitment with our company on the back burner and we are supposed to move all our schedules around to accommodate these two men, for meetings, calls, etc.

Third Step
I don’t know how many times I have recited the Third Step Prayer in the parking lot before I have gone into my office.  I manage to get through the days but again, here I am on a Sunday night feeling major anxiety.  They treat me like shit, they treat our employees like shit unless they want something.  I have told both of them things are not acceptable but since I “outed” myself as an alcoholic they have distanced themselves even further than before. I am tired to talking to brick walls.

Test
I know my HP won’t give me anything more than I can handle, but it is hard to reach down and believe that it is all going to work out the way it is supposed to.

Cleaning Out the Locker, (Part II)

If you missed the last post, let me give you a quick abstract of it.  I just got finished telling you I lost my virginity getting raped by my boyfriend. The post goes into lots more detail but in case you missed it, I wanted this post to at least make sense.

The Good News

…I managed to get back onto the pool deck.  The Meet was still droning on and no one seemed to notice that I had been gone.  I looked up at the clock and it only been an hour. An hour for my whole life to change and on that evening I had no idea just how much.   In other Good News, my event, the event that I was supposed to swim wouldn’t swim until the morning.

Going Through the Motions

We boarded the bus to go back to the hotel and several of my friends were asking why I was so quiet, I made the excuse that I was tired and that seemed to satisfy everyone,  After a hot shower and a change of clothes I began to feel a little better even though my thighs were aching as well as everything in between.  We all shared rooms (2 double beds meant 4 girls/room) there was no room for tears and I just lost myself in my team mates stories, successes and some tears of their disappointments.  We were on a curfew and everyone was pretty tired. We all worked out and many of us, including me had events earlier in the day.  I went to sleep on my side just wanting things to be “normal” again.

The Finals

As I proceeded to the blocks I looked up in the stands and saw my parents and my aunt, plus the normal swim families that were always there to cheer us on.  I was not ready for this event.  Yet I had trained for months and months.  And in one hour, I had thrown it all away.  The Backstroke is an event that starts from the water.  I tried to clear my mind.  I prayed to God for focus and to restore my edge to compete.  It was a tough race and as I swam I felt an overwhelming sense of anger explode out of my aching body.  I swam like a mad woman.  I won.  I didn’t break the record that I had wanted to, but I won.  Everyone was going crazy. I got out of the water, walked back to the bench, looked up into the stands only to see my boyfriend and his fraternity brothers jumping around and slapping him on the back.  Just as I got to the bench my knees buckled and I just started balling.  I hadn’t noticed him before the race.  I wished I hadn’t seen them after, it was just too much energy and emotion rushing from me.

Girls Cry

My team rushed toward me and helped me to the bleachers, I had torn my bathing suit on the corner of one of them,  being reminded of the events of the day before.  They all were laughing and hugging me and making sure I was okay.  One of my friends was massaging my legs.  I couldn’t stop crying.  After a grueling race, people cry,  it was understandable to them why I was.  Only you, me and my boyfriend in the stands knew the real reason.

Still More to come only it gets “better”

Cleaning Out the Locker, Part I

As I started the step work with my sponsor, I was very aware of the fact that I started procrastinating when the “Going Got Tough.”  But because of my impatience, there was also the urge to rush through things just to say I had done them so I could move on to the next thing. This happened when I may not have been thorough in my thinking.  I could “say” that I finished even though I honestly didn’t.

Dirty Laundry

I have it.  Perhaps you do too. That is why I need to work the Steps to have a method in dealing with those things that caused me to drink, drug or whatever I used in an unhealthy way to escape.  Escape from myself.  Escape from you.  Now that there is no drinking or drugging, how do I live?

A Milestone

When I was 16, I started working.  As soon as I could legally work, I worked.  I met new friends from many surrounding towns.  Now many of these people I participated with on a regional sports team and competed around the state and New England.  Because of my athletic discipline, I was developing physically and had the curves to prove it.  The sport I did was swimming. Swimming certainly allowed for less clothes than let’s say, basketball, but I failed to see that my swim suit showed a young woman and not the little girl I was still inside.

The Job

Because of swimming, school and my job, everything was changing for me rapidly.  I developed some self esteem because I was a good swimmer, held records, friendly and popular.  I developed discipline to go to practice, go to school, go to work.  My friends and I were too busy to get into much trouble.  You may call us Jocks and perhaps we were but I generally view it as we had different goals than other kids and didn’t have a lot of time to get into much trouble.

Boy Meets Girl

At my job, I met a boy from the next town that was 3 years older than I was.  He was funny, he was in college and I liked him.  He wasn’t particularly handsome but he lit up my world whenever I saw him at work.  That was a new feeling for me. He had a car and a license.   I had the same name of a girl that he used to go out with.  They had broken up, he had told me the reasons but it seemed to me that he was on the “sad” end of the stick.

One day after swim practice he picked me up.  We went for a ride out to an island and watched the sunset and talked.  Knowing my father had a very strict curfew, we both knew the time we had.  On that day, our friendship turned into a relationship.  I went from being “one of the girls” to being “his girl.” He wasn’t overly possessive but we became a couple and I felt safe and loved and respected around the whole situation.  We held hands and kissed occasionally.

As our relationship grew, the summer came to a close and he went back to college.  We were still “an item.”  I was a sophomore in High School and he was in a fraternity at a University 2 hours from where we lived.  We only had house phones then,  lots of long distance calls and letters.  Fall meant an increase in swim practice.  Because of my ability as a swimmer, I swam on the Girls Team, practiced with the Boys Team and also with the regional team.  I swam and swam.

Fall Regionals

I qualified for the Thanksgiving Regional Meet to be held at the same University that my boyfriend attended.  I was the leading backstroker for that Meet.  Meanwhile, I was just excited to see my boyfriend, whom I had not seen since September.  Regional events drag on for days.  Lots of down time waiting for your turn. I snuck off to see my boyfriend, who’s fraternity house was just down over the hill from the pool.  It was a Saturday night and when I went into the house in my High School Swimming Uniform everyone was happy to see me.  The whole time I knew I was “sneaking around,” I knew I couldn’t stay long.  Breaking rules wasn’t my normal way of operating so I was pretty nervous.  They ushered me into the House and found my boyfriend.  He along with many others in the house had been drinking.  I had never seen him this way.  And as a swimmer I was not supposed to be around alcohol, much less out of the pool.  I would be ineligible to compete if anyone had found out.

After a big smelly hug and a “I am so happy to see you!!  How did you get away?”  My boyfriend and I left the main dining room and went to his room for a brief “one on one” visit.  The minute I got into his room he grabbed me by the arm and pushed me against the back of the door hard and pressed himself and his lips against mine. I would rather not go into the details of what happened next.  But let’s just say, I didn’t plan on losing my virginity that way.  It was rough and painful.  Even though I begged that he stopped, he didn’t.

He Passed Out

I put my bathing suit back on hoping that it wasn’t torn, the rest of my school uniform and ran the best I could, back to the pool crying.  My legs were shaking and I was aching inside and out.  I snuck back into the locker room hoping no one would notice that I had been gone.  I had broken a lot of rules that would get me in serious trouble but all I could think about was my broken heart and lost virginity.

More later…

So Many Ways to Surrender

Being brought up in a religious, fundamental style home, I certainly was God Fearing.  In fact, I would sit in the back seat of Mom’s car after church, hoping I died on the way home. I felt that only then, I was pure enough to go to heaven.  The rest of the week, I was a sinner and doomed.

A Power Greater Than Myself

I had no problem coming to grips with that concept.  Giving my will over is not easy for me. From what others say in the program, it is difficult for them too. As I attend meetings (hit 2 yesterday and 2 again today), this surrender process is just that a “process.”  So many times I know, I just know that something has happened, someone has called me or I have seen someone that has impacted my day or more so, my life. It is not my doing whatsoever, it is certainly that of my Higher Power.  And I certainly have done my best to blame God. When my two best friends in High School were killed on the way home from a dentist appointment, I blamed God.  I am sure that there are times that everyone does.

Those Steps

As I worked through Steps 4 and 5, my list of character defects was long. It was a horrible process.  I felt worse and worse with every aspect of my character I admitted I hated about myself.  And while my sponsor was supportive and helpful, I felt tremendous guilt that I had become such a monster.  As Step 5 work began, it was a relief to turn it over, to say, “HERE!  I did it, now please take it.”  But it doesn’t go away.  Steps 6 and 7 are reminders that we need to give it up. While I was in the pit of it, I felt some relief.  As part of living, I get on my knees and pray about it, ask for help and be thankful, but 50 years of living the way I lived, doesn’t fix itself in 7 1/2 months.

Is HP My “HandyMan?”

If you are my age you remember the song, “Handyman” by James Taylor.  “….I’m not the kind that use the pencil or rule…” that one. This song is about someone with a broken heart and I have one.  I broke it myself.  And I am hard to convince (stubborn) to trust again. Trust myself much less to trust God!

Work In Progress

I used to say, “I have Trust Issues.”  I do.  Like many of us, people I needed and depended on have let me down, hurt me, broken my heart. It started when I was too young to be able to do anything about it, thus, I had never learned how to trust. As I got older, I learned I could only trust myself and then when I drank, I gave that away to alcohol. So here I am, learning the ABC’s all over again.

First Things First

I need to trust again, myself and my Higher Power.  Then continue to turn my will over, not “One Day At A Time,” one minute at a time, just like the day I stopped drinking.