Hidden Codependence


On this ever-changing quest of mine to achieve not only physical sobriety but also emotional sobriety, I am forced to look at the decisions I make on a day to day basis. One area which I have been avoiding is my relationship with my phone. It sounds weird, right?

But let’s face it, in this technological world, most of us can relate. I heard a podcast recently where the host was discussing the effects of social media and the amount of time teenagers spend online. It was 5-7 hours per DAY! I was shocked at first, but then I took a hard look at my own usage. If I am honest, I spend the same amount of time online,  and I don’t even have snapchat!

So I asked myself what am I doing on my phone all day. It ranged from playing candy crush to Instagram to Facebook to Twitter. I told myself since I was not a daily poster on these sites, that I wasn’t really addicted. But when I switched the conversation in my mind to “Well then, delete the apps,” I started to feel a little panicky. Further introspection told me that the time I am spending engaged inmindless scrolling isn’t that much different than the teenagers I was judging. I am no different.

So what do I do? For me, it isn’t as simple as just deleting the app and walking away. I asked myself, “What purpose is being online or playing games serving me?” The knee jerk answer was nothing. But the honest cleanup is that in most cases I was liking someone else’s post, or I was making a comment to build them up. None of these is inherently wrong, but my motivation is. I am engaging in these behaviors to look good. I am doing it for a reaction. “Oh, that was so sweet of you to say.” or “You are so nice!” I wasn’t doing it because I genuinely cared or because I felt that my comments were necessarily authentic. I was doing so for a reaction. Some of that reaction was occurring in my own mind. It was my way of telling myself that I am a kind person. And I am kind, but I need to find myself doing kinds things in real time not on someone’s feed.

Being codependent means I look for other people’s approval. I do things for others because I want them to like me. I want to look “good.” The reality is that other people’s opinions really cannot be swayed for any real lasting longevity based upon whether I like their post or make a nice  comment. And really, whether people like me or not is none of my business. I have to like me. I have to feel good about the choices and decisions I am making in my life because they serve me and they serve a higher purpose.

So I have made a decision to go out on a limb and to delete the apps. I have decided to be more purposeful in my day which involves spending present real time with my family and not sitting next to them on the couch scrolling acting as if I am.  Is this scary? Yes, yes it is. But just like my program of recovery I can do this one day at a time.

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Taking my Fuck It List to a Bucket List


Even when I was drinking, I had a mad crush on Tim McGraw; his “Live Like You Were Dying” song makes me tear up and feel motivated to do more, be more, see more, love more. It never gets old.

What I’ve noticed in the past 1,489 days of being sober is that slowly and surely my life is changing for the better. A traditional bucket list is one that includes awesome things to do. I don’t need to plan far-fetched, over-the-top things to do. Seriously. Every single day no matter how seemingly mundane is on my Bucket List. Why? Because not too long ago, I had no desire to live. Let’s look at how my lists have transformed over the years.

In 2013, my Fuck It List looked something like this:

  1. Job is miserable; no one appreciates me; I work harder than anyone else around here.
  2. Husband is an asshole; he is rude and disrespectful to me; I could do better.
  3. Kids are demanding; no matter what I do, they always want more.
  4. Car is a piece of shit; it doesn’t heat up fast enough; it’s terrible on the snow.
  5. My body is disgusting; I am bloated, out-of-shape, and angry. If it weren’t for #3, I’d have my figure.
  6. Traveling is a waste of time because I have to come home.
  7. None of my friends really care about me.
  8. I should go back to school and get my Ph.D.
  9. I’ve never gotten a break in my life; this is so unfair.

In 2017, my Bucket List looks like this:

  1. Yeah. The kids at school are learning. I am going to keep writing my novel and teaching so I can have both in my life!
  2. My husband and I are a good team; he understands me like no other and is patient and kind.
  3. My kids are such a gift; I am grateful they are kind, honest, beautiful people who want to spend time with me.
  4. I have a new car that is clean, reliable, great gas mileage.
  5. I have lost weight, gained muscle, decreased my blood sugar and no longer have the health issues that poisoned me previously.  I love my body today because it is a 48 yo who acts 48- not 14.
  6. I have been to Punta Cana, Aruba (2xs), Lake Tahoe, Lake Geneva, Branson, Mo (4xs), the Dominican Republic and several Midwest ski resorts- all sober! Really? A Kenny Chesney concert in Boston totally sober? Yep. And I had a blast. In fact, I’ve been to over five concerts- all sober and have danced and enjoyed every single moment.
  7. I have the best friends a woman could want- yes they are all new.
  8. I have no desire to go back to school. Having my master’s is enough. I am enough.
  9. Life is beautiful. I have a gift in every single day and I am grateful.

Today, I do live like I am dying because I know the difference between existing and shuffling through hours versus deep breathing and feeling energized knowing I have a full day to live. I am so grateful that I have the chance to change my ways and to make a good impression on myself and others. It’s as rewarding as sky diving over the Grand Canyon.  🙂

How did I take one list and exchange it for the other?

One day at a time.

The Lotus Flower


I’ve been trying to be more aware of my surroundings over the past few weeks. I’ve heard lots of birds, felt crisp breezes and seen some pretty amazing colors in the setting sunsets. However, the image that stands out the most is the lotus flower. I’ve seen it on billboards, in advertising, written on papers. It seems to be popping up everywhere regardless of location or time. Curious, I looked up what it means.

In ancient Egyptian times, the white lotus was a symbol of rebirth. Wow! That resonates loud and clear with me. Being on a work hiatus has been really, really difficult. I’ve longed for time alone for years and now that I have it, I’ve been struggling. I’ve filled my time with prayer, meditation, long, hot bubble baths, a little reorganizing, reading great blogs, listening to podcasts, going to therapy, meeting with a light worker, getting massage therapy, and napping in front of the fireplace. All definitely good for the soul. I feel more balanced without a doubt, but I am not 100%.

This period I am going through is tough. I never felt anxious before- maybe I was just running too fast to notice. Maybe I mistook it for a caffeinated energy boost. Maybe I just ignored it. But the bottom line is I have been experiencing feelings and energy like never before. Not using alcohol or drugs for four years has been nothing short of a miracle. But the feelings of anxiety I have been having the last two weeks have taken me aback.

Rebirth.

So I dig deep. I try to quiet myself and check for the feelings beyond the rapid heart rate. What is my body telling me? What are my fears? Working through some of these emotions has helped tremendously. I’ve had to give new life to myself in so many ways. I’ve had to relearn how to feel because rather than drink, I ran myself ragged. I told myself life was good and it is! but at the expense of my health. By not being completely honest with myself and those around me, I allowed myself to become nothing short of exhausted in mind, body and spirit.

My rebirth has not been without pain. I’ve had to take an honest look at the life I’ve been living and make some tweaks, some changes and even more upheavals. It’s like cleaning a closet and deciding what to throw out, what to donate and what to keep. It’s not that easy, though, when dealing with life patterns. Acceptance has played a key role in all of this.

I have to accept the things (and people) I cannot change. The list is pretty easy to make: my job (for now), my husband, my kids, my friends, my home, etc. It is the accepting that I have trouble with. So I have to break that list down even more so it becomes manageable. I won’t bore you with all the details, but making the list into smaller lists makes the task of acceptance more tolerable. I have a hard time with loving people where they are at on their given journey. I want to think I know better which is pretty funny because I don’t even know where my path is leading me some days.

I have to recognize when I need  the courage to change the things I can. Again, a list helps. I have to identify what I actually can change and decide that is enough. Then, I have to proceed with the courage and make the changes. I have always wanted to write, but I am afraid. This week and a half has taught me that when I am ready, the words will come. I have to trust and have courage. Easy? No, but with each day, I am getting stronger at letting go when I need to and stepping up when I have to.

Having the wisdom to know the difference is also coming easier. Taking my mind to a higher plane and trusting through prayer and meditation have been key components to my rebirth. Merely sitting with my feelings and breathing through them has been tough at moments. But the release I feel after figuring out the how and why I am feeling has been cathartic. It is worth the pain in my belly.

So the lotus has become the symbol for my life. We are all in a series of rebirths throughout our lifetime and beyond. Being able to embrace the birthing process no matter how uncomfortable and how ugly is what makes us grow. Even if no one else notices the growth, I do. And that’s all that matters for me today.

Four Years and Some Change


November 7 marked four years of sobriety for me. That’s pretty incredible for someone who lived an almost daily life of drinking. The days I wasn’t drinking were spent obsessing over how to moderate (quitting wasn’t an option in my mind), how to be a better person, how to nurse my hangover, how I was a victim my whole life, how if people around me would just change they might see I was worthwhile. Madness. Sheer madness.

My life is better today without question. I have my home, my husband, my four kids, my job, a car, food to eat. All of those were out of control in my drinking days. I hated my house because it wasn’t perfect. I hated my husband because he was irritable and always looking for a fight. My kids were a burden because their activities cut into my drinking time and I couldn’t get a break. My job was miserable because everyone was negative and the work was hard. My car was a source of irritability too because it wouldn’t get warm fast enough or I was constantly having to fill it with gas. Food stunk because it reminded me of how bad my stomach hurt.

Fast forward to today. What I came to learn was that when I changed myself and my behavior all of the irritation seemed to fall away. I had to take a good look at what my role was. I was a grouch, rarely grateful and constantly running. When I learned to slow down a bit, what I found was a scared, fearful, child with little or no self esteem. I had to rebuild myself from the ground up. I had to learn how to take care of myself one day at a time. What seems innate to most people was a challenge for me. What did I want to eat? Was I getting enough sleep? Did I really need to go to the grocery store, or did I have something in the pantry that would suffice? I never viewed myself as a perfectionist, but there I was trying to be perfect.

What was I afraid of? Simply put, I was scared to death of being wrong. Wrong meant I was dumb or stupid- messages deep within me from a long time past. Not knowing meant I was incompetent and not worthwhile. If I didn’t have the answer that meant I was wrong which equalled shame. Living in a shame-based self is pretty miserable. Whether a student had an answer I didn’t or if I made a mistake turning the laundry blue, my biggest fear was making a mistake.

Silly. I know, But once I was able to dig deep and see the connection between my childhood experience and the one I was desperately trying to carve out for myself, it made not knowing easier. Almost tolerable.

Today, I am still on leave from work. Some moments the anxiety can be crippling. I can feel my legs get heavy, my heart rate goes up, and my breathing is labored. I have to say out loud that I am okay. This too shall pass and to dig deep into my mental toolbox of what to do next. The difference is I don’t want to drink today. I know in the deep recesses of my mind that drinking will solve nothing and will throw me back into a tailspin. I can’t afford to do that. I am on the cusp of learning so much about myself and I am healing. Drinking will stuff that all back inside and I will implode.

Four years of not drinking is a whole lot of emotions not being hidden away. The clarity is coming and it reveals itself slowly. I am grateful that what I see in myself today is a heck of a lot better than what it used to be.

When I broke down last week, I was so angry. I felt like I hadn’t grown at all in four years and that I was back to square one. I questioned what the heck I’ve been doing in the past four years in terms of personal growth and felt like I was knocked down to my knees. It seemed like nothing had changed and that I was still behaving like a spoiled child who was dealt a hand of injustice from the universe. But that simply isn’t true. In fact, the labor pains are the hardest and strongest right before the birth. This past week has been incredibly hard. My heart hurts. I’ve cried a lot. My sleep has been a bit restless.

But I pray, and I meditate. I ask my Divine for help to guide me and I ask my husband, my friends and my family to help me and to treat me with care. I take long, hot bubble baths with lavender oil. I say no without shame. I ask for help with the small things so I can appreciate the people I have in my life. I read good sober blogs. I listen to podcasts like The Bubble Hour and Vibrant Happy Women. I surrender.

I’ve learned that I HAVE come a long way. The growth today is painful because I am ready for it now.  What I am learning today about myself is that I don’t know how to ask for help because I still like to think I am a one woman show.  Asking means I am vulnerable and that still makes me feel uncomfortable. But it is also what makes me human. I have a good, solid network of people I can tap into for the various areas of my life. I am not alone.

If you are struggling today, remember this: You are not alone. Take a chance and reach out. I think you will be surprised at the love you receive.

Life Lesson #3006: Ask for Help


I’ve been just bouncing along here lately, and everything’s fine. Sun is shining, kids are happy, coffee is hot. Everything’ s fine.

Well, that’s the lie I was telling myself, yet here I sit on a highly recommended leave of absence (from my boss) from work.

The stress was building and I pushed it away. “Stay positive,” I told myself. “You’ve been through much, much worse. You can handle this. Just keep thinking positive thoughts and everything will work out fine. You’ll see.”

And while I am a huge believer in what you think about you bring about, this time life was too much. I could not slow down long enough to catch up with my thoughts. I thought I was slowing down, too. That’s the real kick in the pants. So I bumped along, little by little, resentments building up.

Monday, at work, I observed another teacher as part of my department chair duties. I could tell immediately the class was off. Too many kids, very low level abilities and very high behavior issues. Four were sleeping, six were talking, a few were having internet issues, some were even doing their work. I could see my coworker was exasperated and I decided it was my job to fix her problem. So I marched into the principal’s office and asked if she had a minute. As usual, she invited me in. I proceeded to unload on how we really need to get her class size down, the kids need to shape up and start being more attentive, my coworker was struggling and it was time to help her out. My principal tried to explain gently that this was out of my realm. I wasn’t having it. On and on I went and then brought up at least six other beefs I had with the school ranting about how no one was doing anything. Needless to say, her patience wore thin and eventually out. She explained that I need to look at what I can change and what I need to walk away from. She suggested that perhaps my issues were more personal in nature and really not for the good of the school. That. Set.Me. Off.  It struck a nerve. So rather than take a deep breath, I burst out crying and told her she was way off base and needed to be a better job actually seeing what was going on around her. I proceeded to tell her I was going home for the day as clearly I wasn’t going to get any help from her. I stormed off, cried my eyes out and headed home.

I called my husband on the way, blubbering about how unjust the situation was, how I give my heart and soul to that place and all that ever happens is I get dumped on. My passion was gone.  He’s a smart man, so he agreed with me. I begged him to let me quit right then and there. He asked me to please clam down a bit so I could drive safely and assured me we would talk when I got home.

I cried like I haven’t cried in nearly four years. My head hurt, my heart was pounding, and I was sure he’d let me quit.

I’d like to say I calmed down, took a breath and thought rationally once I got home.

But that didn’t happen. A few friends called and I unloaded on them winding myself back up again. I called in sick the next day, too. That’ll show them I  thought.

I talked to my sponsor several times. She suggested I call my therapist which I ended up doing. My therapist suggested I write an apology email for my part in the whole debacle. Ugh. I hate being wrong. Why wasn’t anyone taking my side?? But because I respect my therapist and my sponsor, I did just that.

Still damaged by my bruised ego, I begrudging wrote the email.

Moments later, I got a phone call from my principal. She suggested I take the next week and a half off. I was horrified. “This is not punitive,” she assured me. “But as your friend and not as your boss, I see you slipping. You need to walk away. You’ve worked too hard the last four years to throw this all away right now.”

That evening, I went to my group therapy and highjacked the meeting so I could get this stuff out. The ladies were gracious enough to play along- in all fairness though, they could all identify in one way or another, so they weren’t really just sitting there. They did provide some great insight, suggestions and empathy.

Unwillingly, I decided to take the offer I was gifted. The first day, I took a hot bath, watched a sad movie so I could cry some more, read a little and told myself I was practicing self care. The next day, I was still licking my wounds. Playing games on my phone, napping, drinking coffee. I was avoiding the big talk with myself. Today, after cleaning out my pantry, catching up on laundry, grocery shopping for a small army, washing the vegetable crisper in my fridge, and smudging my home, I decided it was time to get real and to address the elephant in the room. (My behavior is the elephant in case you haven’t figured that out. 🙂 )

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Growth hurts. No matter who it’s coming from in my circle of friends, I have to trust that their perspective JUST might be a little more truthful and less tainted than mine. My principal was trying to explain to me that I cannot solve all of the problems nor should I expect to. I am the only one who placed that expectation on myself.
  2. I have a huge network of sober-minded people who really do love me enough to tell me the truth. Day in and day out, they hold up the mirror of Truth to me. That takes great risk on their behalf, and I am grateful.
  3. My coworkers are amazing. I received several different texts and emails – each one telling me I am loved, missed and appreciated. Some even went so far as to say they are glad I figured out I was over stressed before it went too far (ie. relapse into drinking). I am blessed in that regard.
  4. I judge myself much harsher than anyone else. All of the “I should be…” is a bunch of malarky. I told myself for weeks that I should be able to handle the stress of work, commuting, making dinner, attending meetings, paying bills, helping with the kids’  homework, running my kids to and from practice, shopping, cleaning, grading papers, feeding the dogs, keeping up with laundry, on and on. The truth is no one human could keep up with the schedule I was trying to keep. I told myself that a good mom, wife, teacher, sister, friend could/would/should do it all. That simply isn’t true.
  5. I am really loved by many. I have taken the people in my life for granted by being so caught up in my own stuff. Yet I have been treated with love, care, concern and dignity anyway.
  6. My sisters are phenomenal. All it took was me to FINALLY open up to them today. One is making a four-hour drive to come hang with me this weekend. If I knew one of them were struggling, I’d be there in a heart beat. It works both ways.
  7. My husband loves me deeply. He allowed me to cry, scream, bargain, fuss, sleep, bathe my way through this all the while hugging me and telling me, “We always land on our feet. Together.” (This from the guy I was ready to leave when I was tip active in my drinking.)
  8. I need to learn how to do some elementary things:  Asking for help. Setting up boundaries. Saying no. Practicing some HONEST self- care. Drinking a cup of hot coffee on my way out the door does not constitute self-care.
  9. A party of one is not a party.

Three days ago, I was in a hole I had created. I was sure quitting my job was the solution. I may or may not be ready for a career change, but doing something drastic like quitting midyear is not the solution. I didn’t see any other options three days ago. I wanted to run away. Today, I know that I probably do need to look into other options over time. I also know I need to carve out alone time where I just sit and be still. Most grounded people call this meditation. I also have learned that my boss is really one of my dearest friends despite her title. She treated me with mercy and grace even though my behavior did not warrant that type of response. But she KNOWS me and I never knew that until this happened.

Today, by the grace of my Higher Power, I can see the sun in the sky again. I have hope for myself and for my future. I do not feel stuck anymore.

Ask for help.

The Whatchamacallit Wasn’t Worth It #MeToo


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When I started this blog nearly four years ago, I was adamant that shame did not define me- at least not any longer. A large reason for my drinking was to cover up the guilt and shame of my many wrongdoings; ironically, every time I drank, I created more layers. This perpetual cycle of feeling poorly about myself, drinking to numb out those feelings, and waking with more shame nearly became the death of me physically. My spirit had been dead for decades.

Being active in the sober community, I have uncovered many layers of shame, worked through them, discovered more, tackled those and on and on. One of the areas of shame I had not addressed in my meetings, therapy, writing, or sponsor talks was that of sexual abuse. Of the many times I did play the victim in my life for attention or to magnify how bad my life was or to assign blame to others for my actions, the times I suffered from sexual abuse truly do define a victim. As I read  Patti Clark’s post shame-and-finding-well-being,  I was driven to write my story. I am grateful to Patti for sharing because I felt comfortable as a result.

It was the summer before high school, and being just 14, I could not secure a “real job.” In the fall, I was going to be attending the public high school with an enrollment of nearly 2,000 students- a huge increase of my Catholic grade school class of 38. So when the opportunity to work at the concession stand at our local baseball field became available, I jumped at the chance. Having the opportunity to make some money, be around boys, and work with girls my age was all too exciting to pass up. Plus, workers got free candy! The socializing was just what I needed before my big leap into unfamiliar territory. Plus, it was within blocks of my home so I could ride my bike. Independence was lurking right around the corner.

But independence wasn’t the only new experience lurking. Within the first few times of working, it happened. Frank- from what I recall in my mind today- was an old, 70 something man who was responsible for scheduling us, restocking the candy, and “manning’ the concession stand to be sure we didn’t steal the money. His face is blurry, but his smell and the picture of his cream-colored station wagon sit in my mind.

My stomach hurts, tears gloss my eyes, my mouth overproduces saliva, my heart rate increases, my breathing is louder. Still. Thirty four years later.

Standing behind me, his arms gripping the counter on either side of me, I feel it. His erection pushing against me. I feel shocked. My heart is jumping all over the place; my face burning hot with shame.  He slips his hands under my shirt and begins rubbing what little breasts I do have at that point. His hot, labored breathing scorches my ears. I am speechless. I do not say no; I do not back away; I do not slap him. I am frozen.

Someone walks past oblivious to the assault taking place.

“Hey Frank! Got another good-looking worker I see.”

What Frank says I cannot recall. I am petrified. I have no idea what is happening. Somehow I break away and make more popcorn. A game is over so we are flooded with customers. A welcome break from the groping of Frank.

This pattern repeated itself all summer. Not once did I complain. Never did I call in sick. Never did I say this wasn’t right. I bravely asked another girl once if he did this to her, too. She laughed it off and said, “Oh it’s just Frank. Who cares?” As if being “just Frank” made it okay. I believed that for a long time despite the shame burning in my face, the fear that pulsated throughout me as I would show up to work exactly on time (hoping someone else would be scheduled with me- although it never stopped him; he would just alternate between us.)

One evening, a game went into extra innings. The other girl had to get home as she had to babysit her brother. I was alone and I was afraid. As soon as the stand closed, I hopped on my bike and rode as fast as I could. I knew I couldn’t make it out of the park without him following me; I had felt his car trailing slowly behind me previously.  I made a quick right and ducked into some prickly, heavy bushes next to the rest rooms. I stayed there against the cold, brick building for a least a half an hour until I knew it would be safe to come out. I was fearful he would find out where I lived and violate me in my home. That fear nearly paralyzed me.

My adult self looks back at my 14-year-old self, and I feel outrage. Who was this guy? Who else knew of his behavior and kept quiet? Why was it a running joke among the male coaches that Frank always had the best looking workers? Why didn’t anyone stand up for us?

People didn’t talk like they do now. People looked the other way. We didn’t have the knowledge of the lasting effects back then. Education was far less.

Bull shit. Because IF all of that is true, why is #MeToo still happening?
We have made some ground, but we have a long way to go. Talking with girls AND boys about boundaries, self-respect, kindness, and our pasts- no matter how painful- is what will make the awareness happen and the chance to exact change.

So back to my 14-year-old self. She was a victim, yes. No question.

But I also see resilience in her. I see her work hard in spite of the abuse. I see her rise above and know that she is NOT responsible for this man’s illness. I see her learn to become a sum of all her parts- not amputate them, but embrace them. I see her love herself anyway.

I am proud to be a part of #MeToo.

 

 

 

Shoes and Sobriety


 

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In an effort to look at the little things sobriety offers each of us, I decided to think about choices I have now that I didn’t think I had before.  We all have the same choices, but being active in our illness tends to keep us back from life’s littlest things due to fear, anxiety, a who cares? attitude, the list goes on and on.

But today, I made a revelation! I don’t have to buy my shoes based on sobriety anymore!

Big deal? Damn right it is.

I can wear high heels for two reasons: 1) I won’t  be drunk and fall over and 2)If I’m getting a blister, I’ll be sober enough to know I am in pain and it’s time to lose the shoes (ah, self-care).

I like heels- sometimes. I am pretty much all torso, so heels can add some length to my legs. When I was drinking, heels were dangerous. Come to think of it, one night after a tremendous party I tripped in a parking lot wearing flip-flops so maybe it’s not the shoes…

I know how important it is to keep all things in moderation, to live in the grey as I mentioned in my post Super Annoyed and Life is STILL Grey yesterday. So in line with begin moderate, I will simply say that I am excited to be wearing heels again.