Engaging the Right Muscles

The plan was to come and write a sort of re-centering post (I’m still here! I still rely way too heavily on coffee and sugar! Oy.) Anway, I have a new laptop and I switched browsers, so my drafts folder is in a different place and caught my eye; I went to see what I had left in there and found this. I don’t actually know how to feel about the fact that it is seven months old and totally on point for me today, but the title I was planning on using today was “Sitting with what is,” (which is totally aspirational, mind you) so I guess I’ll sit with this still being where I am at in many ways. I wandered away from gym again toward the end of last year (wandering away is definitely a theme. Parenthesis another…) but I am back and grateful to be. All promises below to the contrary I’m not going to edit. I never managed to finish this thought and I want to post it and then keep working through it. 

I was awake for an unnecessarily long time last night, composing posts of vitriol and loathing in my head. It seems that this New Cup may be sloshing around some Old Anger for a while longer – righteous and petty, both inwardly and outwardly directed. Oh, yes: I’ve got it all going on! But it’s Friday morning, the sun is shining and I have had a useful (if daunting) little insight that I want to get down here in hopes of developing and eventually working through it.

This morning at the utterly ungodly hour of 5:41 my husband – for whom this is a regular rising time although he is not really a morning person either – shook me awake, turned on my bedside light and made me pick up my coffee so I wouldn’t go back to sleep. (He is much, much more virtuous than I am and for the most part very much better than I am at overcoming his baser nature, for which I am usually profoundly thankful but which also elicits occasional belligerent irritation. Can you be belligerently irritated? I was last night, anyway. Ha! It’s taking me a while to get to the point here – I may have to come back and do some heavy editing.) In fairness, this is what I had explicitly asked him to do, and he didn’t know that I’d been up half the night.

Fortunately for both of us he went straight off to gym, leaving me to glare into the middle distance through my first cup of coffee and decide how much of my morning’s ambitions could realistically be achieved. Inevitably the light woke our oldest (apartment living) who came and crawled into bed next to me, which woke our youngest (involuntary, on our part, co-sleeping.) My urgent, unwavering need for solitude and silence in the morning can only realistically be met by stoically ignoring everything and everyone until I am ready to face them – easier said than done. I have high hopes that “easier” mornings will be an eventual benefit of sobriety,* whether because I am able to wake up a bit earlier and more easily thus not disturbing the boys and giving me a bit of legitimate quiet time or because my need for same diminishes somewhat, but for the time being this is where we find ourselves. (*They absolutely have been! Still very much a work in progress as I go to bed too late and seem naturally to need more sleep than the average bear, but around about the 8-month mark I started, finally, to sleep all night, almost every night.)

Anyway, so at last to the point. A lot of editing, definitely. The reason I asked to be woken so early and… thoroughly is that I wanted to fit a gym class into an already full day. Since I stopped drinking my workouts have improved considerably, in large part because I make it into the gym more regularly than once a fortnight and I am bringing my whole self to each one. The classes are short – half an hour – but intense and I work hard. I revel in the strength and capacity of my body.

I am strong, and getting fitter, but I am definitely not where I would like to be. For as long as I can remember, really, I have suffered from pain in my right hip and shoulder, which varies in intensity from mild to virtually debilitating and refers all over my body. Finally, though, after almost 37 years of living in this body, I have stopped telling myself that the way to wholeness and health is to try (or wish) harder to be like everyone else.

Instead, in addition to the scheduled gym classes I have started going for somewhat regular massages and doing some one-on-one sessions with my coach to identify and address the specific issues at the root of my pain (musculoskeletally speaking, but there is a metaphor here…) These are nothing like the regular classes. We move slowly, trying different exercises in different positions. We talk a lot. We are trying to figure it out, combining my lived experience with his knowledge and expertise. I work hard, but there is no endorphin high.

Wonderfully, though, after each session there is a marked difference in my understanding of my own body, which I am able to bring to subsequent workouts and I am steadily better able to keep up with the group in intensity and proficiency. My first insight, as I jogged (staggered) home from the class this morning, spent and exhilarated, was that I need both – in life as in fitness. What works for everyone will work for me IF I do my own work on my own stuff.

The second insight is harder to swallow in some ways and is actually the reason that I am leaving my long-suffering husband to cope with the boys, who are literally climbing the seats of this mercifully empty train, so that I can get this down before it vanishes in the chaos of the day.

***

This is a superbly dramatic point to have stopped writing. Presumably the situation on the train escalated, although the specifics are mercifully lost to the swirling mists, etc.

I suppose mostly because of a lengthy exercise-free hiatus progress has been slow on the fitness front, but I am so happy to realize as I write this that I am actually not at all in the SAME place as when I wrote this post, although it speaks to things I have been thinking about a lot.

The second insight, which I never got to recording after all was actually the subject of the post (the title, anyway,) and what I grappled with on that day was how much unnecessary pain I had caused myself in refusing to address the root causes of my problems. I think I see now, though, that I did what I could until I was ready to do more, and if the pain I caused myself (and others) was the cost of surviving, then there is room there for grace. I am grateful to be here. I am stronger than I was, and learning – one day and sometimes one moment at a time – to use my body and my life fully and intentionally.

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In the Weeds

Well! My sober summer (hashtag) is proceeding apace. This may not work out as a post that I can publish in the end, but I have been feeling extremely disconnected both from this community and my own interior life, as it were, so I thought I had better have a crack at it. As usual, I hoped to have a little more time, but just the act of creating this post has given me a measure of satisfaction. I’ll take it. 

My husband and I are having our first date night in some considerable time, and our first sober date night in longer still – possibly ever. I’m sitting in the bar area of the bistro where I am meeting him and enjoying a nonalcoholic cocktail while I wait. We are (so! More on this another time, perhaps) fortunate to live in New York City, where restaurants and bars are accustomed to accommodating all manner of needs and preferences, and it has been my experience this summer that “Something nonalcoholic and not too sweet,” is usually sufficient to produce a passable libation at the very least and, certainly as far as I have been aware, no particular surprise or censure. (Tonight’s effort is well beyond passable – yum!) 

On balance I am immensely thankful for the busy-ness that has kept me from the blog. As I have mentioned before, we made the decision to keep the boys out of any summer camp this year, and it has gone better than I dared hope. In particular I am grateful for the measure of peace and stability that sobriety has given me and so brought to my parenting and our home. Admittedly, these are relative attributes – the boys are… spirited and my noise tolerance is not what it could be. Blowups of one kind or another are not infrequent, but they are as passing squalls and on the whole we are all learning not to take them wildly personally. Between times we are having a lot of fun and I hope making memories we will all cherish. 

I started this on Friday and it is now Monday. Life continues to happen too fast for much meaningful reflection. To some extent I think that is just the season I am in (both summer and the stage of life I am at while my kids are still young and I am just getting the hang of sober living and parenting) but I am also very aware that my spirit/soul/interior life really needs attention and nurturing – that the lack of such has been both the cause of and caused by my drinking (which irony – paradox? – is almost too heavy to bear, really.) 

Our date night was good. We were definitely a bit self conscious with one another- one of the many things I regret about my habit of ending each day with a bottle of wine and oblivion has meant that my friendship with my husband has suffered terribly. We seem to have lost the art of connecting meaningfully with one another, and that is something that will take time and effort to restore, although I am hopeful. It seems to be something we both want, and perhaps that is half the battle. 

We spent the weekend with my parents and I think I have sort of outed myself, somewhat unintentionally, but I suppose I am relieved. We are very much a family who drinks together (which sounds less convivial than tawdry – it has been both in its time) and when I made the decision to stop drinking in May I told my parents that I was doing 100-day challenge – a “sober summer.” We have all expressed periodic discomfort with our own (and/or one another’s) relationships with alcohol so I knew that my 100 days would be accepted on its face and hopefully give me a bit of time to get my head straight. 

As I am now past the three-quarters mark (whoop!) and 100 days will more or less coincide with their 40th wedding anniversary I have been feeling a bit of pressure to move the goalposts, so to speak, and an opportunity presented itself while I was out jogging with my dad. He is dealing with a bit of a crisis at work and has decided to abstain until things have resolved so he can face it all clearheaded, and I mentioned that my stress seems to have become a lot more manageable since I stopped drinking. I told him that I have decided to extend the 100 days to a full year and then will reassess. I don’t know why I felt the need to do this: I have no intention of reassessing or drinking again, and I don’t think I am looking for a way out or anything like that. I almost feel like saying I’m done for good is too extreme to be taken seriously, if that makes any sense at all. Perhaps I am afraid of failing or being seen to fail, which is not really the same thing. That is actually probably the truth. 

As it happens, I may have been over thinking. It came up again this morning as one of my oldest and dearest friends and drinking buddies is coming to stay next weekend, and my mom mentioned that he was going to be disappointed that I wasn’t drinking. I actually told him a while ago that I have been worried about my drinking and was thinking of taking a substantial break, so I hope he is forewarned and will not make a big deal of it, but I took the opportunity to tell my mom that I’ve decided not to drink for a year. “Dad said,” she responded. “He thinks you have actually stopped drinking for good.” Hilariously (possibly. Sadly, maybe) I immediately felt myself becoming defensive, thoughts like  “Why?” And “Does he think I have a problem? Is he saying I’m an alcoholic??” flooding my mind. Shame is so powerful, and we want so badly to be seen to be okay, to be perfect and perfectly fine, it makes liars of us – well, me, at any rate. 

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I am NOT perfect, and that in fact I did (do) have a big problem, but also that I am strong and brave and doing hard things, and those are not things I need to be ashamed of at all. Every day is a choice and a victory. “Well,” I said, “I think I have.” Day 78 and I am so very grateful to be here. 

X

I Can’t Do This Alone

And I can’t do it all at once. I know that. Obviously. But. It feels as though it is all happening TO ME, and all at once. It is overwhelming. Day 26, and I do not feel wonderful or free. I feel terrified and as though my entire world, outer and inner, may come crashing down on me at any moment. I read something on In Others’ Words this morning* about getting sober feeling like reaching the top of Mount Olympus and then realizing it’s actually just emerging from Mordor, and perhaps that is where I am at. 

By grace or dark comedy we started seeing a therapist on the same day I stopped drinking, ostensibly to talk about some difficulties my middle son has been experiencing, but by the time I’d spent the first 15 minutes of the appointment weeping ugly crying it became fairly clear that the old “put on your own oxygen mask first” chestnut may apply. The result is that I have been dredging up a lot of very painful stuff during the past 26 days (Wrote weeks there and had to come back and correct it. That pretty much sums it up!) not all of which relates to my drinking except to the extent that eventually everything relates to our drinking, whether it is caused by it or what we are using it to try and run from. 

I think on its own, the realization – which felt like a bolt from the blue although I know it cannot truly have been – that I have a “proper” drinking problem would have been a lot. This… has been a really lot. I am mindful that my continued, worsening (incredibly) insomnia is also making things feel more catastrophic and making it more challenging for me to deal with what I am experiencing, but that is nonetheless where I find myself today and understanding that lack of sleep is part of what is hurting doesn’t make it go away, sadly. 

Conversely, thanks to the many warriors who have come before me and written about their journeys so beautifully and bravely I have the framework (is that the right word?) to make sense of a lot of it, at least intellectually – especially the very fact of the noise level of all of the feelings and thoughts and fears and whatever else that I was drinking to drown out. (“Yes it is loud in here, honey. Drinking didn’t make that stop, it just meant you couldn’t hear it you could pretend to ignore it.)

This is a bit of a rambly and self-serving post, but I have to run to fetch the boys and my straggly drafts folder (already!) tells me if I don’t post this now, odds are, I won’t. I want to be able to come back to these days because I believe (mostly; I am trying to believe) that it will get better, even for me, and I don’t want to forget. I am WORKING ON BEING grateful to be here. 

x

*I spent the morning binge reading the first few months of her archives so I can’t say with certainty where from, but possibly her most recent post. Today is her two-year soberversary and it is a beautiful post. It is a beautiful blog. Thank you Prim for the link.)

Edited to add: Holy cow! 26 days!!! 26 mornings without a hangover. I am! I am SO GRATEFUL TO BE HERE.