Grey Life


Left, right, up, down

In, out, over, under

Here, there, stop, go

North, south, east, west

Drunk, sober, young, old

Good, evil, dead, alive

Black, white.

 

Everything in between-

Everything in between…

 

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Grey rocks with a hint of love

Time ticking, leaves lofting, wind whispering

Serene, peaceful, calm

Stretching, growing, changing-

All fluid moments really

The only absolute is not absolute.

 

Grey life has its hold on me

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Super Annoyed and Life is STILL Grey


So about an hour ago, I wrote what I felt was a pretty darn good post about life being grey.  I took a self-proclaimed sick day because I could feel my body and mind getting antsy. The gist of the post was that in this world of change, I have to let go of living in black and white moments and acknowledge and accept the world of grey. I was feeling calm, serene and peaceful.

Then, I hit “publish.” Well my cursor spun so I hit File>save and named the file Grey Day thinking Word Press was not going to get the better of me today. I rebooted my comp, reloaded the Word Press page and searched my files. Sure enough, Grey Day was lurking in the background. I exhaled, hit open and there it was: a big, blank template.

What?!? Come on! I saved it. I named it. I, I, I. So I Googled how to retrieve a lost WordPress post. For whatever reason, the previous edit, drafts, settings- everything was a wash.

Kick me to the curb. I’m done!

But that isn’t what my post was about at all. It was based upon the uncertainties of life and how we can make a decision how we wish to respond. I wrapped my head around the possibilities of embracing the grey- how life can be a beautiful grey if we take the time to step back and look at the big picture. I believed that I deliberately took a day for some self-care so I could ponder some of life’s smallest moments.

But I didn’t want the grey at that moment. I wanted to be ticked or to have some miraculous screen pop up with my beautifully, well-written, thoughtful piece. I wanted all or nothing. I was jumping into what I just wrote about.

Slow down, Linda. Slow down.

I do NOT have to go black and white on this one. I can go grey. (Deep exhale here.)

The best part is this moment is exactly why I needed to think about the grey. Months ago the same thing happened. What I did then was to close my laptop and not write again for months. The pain of making a mistake was eating at me. So I quit. Temporarily. I posted a few pieces since then and I told myself I would be more careful.

And I WAS more careful. But sometimes, the file gets lost. Sometimes, the car breaks down. Sometimes, you take a day off of work and not a whole lot gets accomplished.

Life is grey after all.

 

You Never Know What’s Going to Happen


When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had no idea how my day was going to unfold. In fact, since I quit drinking nearly four years ago, I have really tried to live my life one day at a time and have quit trying to predict how each day is “supposed” to unravel.

This last week was no exception. The night before, I had picked my sons and nephew up from their Open Gym at their grade school. My nephew piped up in the back seat, “Hey. Did you tell your mom what happened today?”

I have learned this can mean any number of things, so I took a deep breath, looked over at my 12 yo and said, “No. I haven’t heard. Do tell.” The three of them got really quiet and super awkward. So I directed my son to fill me in.

“Well at lunch today, Jeanette (Not her real name) tried to get me to drink a margarita. I told her no.”

Wow. THAT was not at all what I had in mind.

“Wait, what?” I asked. “Start from the beginning.”

He proceeded to tell me how one of his classmates brought alcohol to school and was trying to get the kids at his table to drink it with her. Thankfully, this time, my son said no. We talked about the dangers, the risks involved, and how he went to the principal and told of what transpired. I was really proud of him in that moment. This was- to my knowledge- his first real run in with peer pressure, and he resisted. We called his dad and I had my son relay the story to him. My husband, in turn, was shocked but glad the outcome was in his favor. This time.

I have been through enough with my older daughter to know this isn’t always the case.

After the dust settled, I was able to call my sponsor and talk this through with her. Life is much different today for many of these kids. In that moment, I felt so much gratitude- gratitude that I am one of the lucky ones.

The next morning, I had to take the same son to a doctor appointment which afforded us a 45 minute car ride alone. I brought the margarita episode up again to him and said I really needed to talk to him more.

I asked him if we could talk a little bit about Jeanette and what her home life was like. I wanted to know how a 12 yo needs to numb at school. I needed some clarity. He mentioned how her parents are divorced, that she moved her late last year, and seemed pretty unhappy. He added, “He dad is a raging alcoholic.”

The proverbial window of opportunity nearly fell off its hinges.

“Well,” I asked, “What does an alcoholic look like to you?”

He answered something about being dirty, homeless, and uninvolved.

I nodded my head and asked him, “Would it surprise you if I told you I am an alcoholic?” He looked really confused and mentioned that I don’t drink.

“Not anymore, but I used to. I am not the same person when I drink.”

I let that soak in for a bit and then he asked if I had ever drank and drive.

“Yes. I did. Alcohol abuse causes people to make decisions that when they aren’t drinking, they would never make.”

I went on to explain to him that the meetings I attend are full of alcoholics: doctors, lawyers, politicians, other teachers, and yes, some homeless people and those who have served time in jail- some of whom fall into the former group as well. He was dumbfounded. I talked with him about how alcoholism is a disease, and that no one asks to be one. I explained it’s heredity and is no different than diabetes or even cancer. Just like no one signs up for those diseases, alcoholism is no different. I told him that we do’t refer to then as raging diabetics or people as raging cancer patients. Being able to help put these into perspective and to alleviate some of the stigma and myths associated with alcoholism was a moment I could have never predicted.

I hadn’t previously talked with my son about being an alcoholic because the opportunity hadn’t presented it self in a way quite like this one did. I did not ask him to keep our discussion a secret either, for I am not ashamed of who I am today.

We ended our talk by me explaining to him that Jeanette is in pain and that is why so many people drink or abuse  other drugs. I told him she needs help and that he can be a good friend by suggesting to her that she may want to see the guidance counselor at school. I also let him know that while he can be a friend, the problems she has right now are bigger than he is equipped to handle and that it’s best left to the professionals. We talked about boundaries and how he can be friends with her as long as drugs and alcohol are not part of the relationship. He smiled, hugged me tightly and told me how much he loved me. Not bad for a 12 yo boy just hitting puberty.

Being sober is truly a gift. This conversation would have never happened in the way it did had I still been active in my alcoholism. I know this.

The seed has been planted in my growing boy; I know I do not get to control his path, but it sure is rewarding knowing that I can be here for him, sober, when he needs me.

The Joy of Being Sober


So I have been a high school English teacher for 24 years. I used to absolutely dread Parent/Teacher conferences. I would have major anxiety several days before as a diatribe would be running through my head: “What if someone is mad?”; ” What if I say the wrong thing?”;”What if their kid has said something that causes a conflict?”. This would go on and on and on until the day of conferences. By that point, I’d already had all of the conferences in my head and played them out. I would come at the invisible conversations from so many angles that I’d felt no possible conference would be a surprise.

 

Except I forgot that it takes two people to have a real conversation.

Generally speaking, none of the meetings ever went as poorly as I had imagined (feature that…an alcoholic making a situation out to be worse than it really is.) In fact, most of them were very positive. I say this not because I really even remember what was said, but I had this habit of hanging onto a harm I felt someone had caused me so I would have recalled the negative feelings.

I have close to four years of sobriety. In that time, I have done a tremendous amount of inside work. I’ve gone to 12 Step meetings, individual and group therapy, listened to practically every episode of The Bubble Hour, practiced prayer and meditation, and read lots of sober books. In other words, I have immersed myself in living sober.

But it isn’t until I have a day like today that I realize just how far I’ve come. In my drinking days, I dreaded those days. I would rush through the conferences, speaking from a place of fear and anxiety, looking at the clock and counting the minutes until I could get in my car, dash home, get in comfy clothes and drink. I would recap the worst conferences with my husband- always embellishing so he wouldn’t question why I needed and deserved to drink. No one EVER had as many terrible conferences as I had.

Fast forward to today. I barely remembered I had conferences until I had a line of eager parents hanging outside my room. Opening my door and seeing them made me feel happy. I have a bunch of students whose parents care enough about their progress to show up. They were present and they wanted to let me share with them their kids’ triumphs, struggles, and concerns. This is a gift. I am humbled that I get to have people in my life today who want what I have. The funny thing is, I’ve always had Parent/Teacher conferences, but today was different. I finally made the connection and believed how the parents, the kids and I really are a team. In short, my conferences were really productive.

I learned that I have a student whose dad is in jail for sexual assault. I have one who has refused to take his ADHD medication and has been flushing it instead. Another one believes I have a really strong personality and I intimidate her. Finally, I have a student who is enrolled in my class not because she tested in but because she really wants to learn about literature and writing.

I learned so much about so many kids today that I reflected on just how much I gained from the five minutes I spent with these happy, joyful, engaged parents. They felt open to give me suggestions- some of which I intend to use. They disclosed some pretty tough scenarios and looked for help; I was able to do that in a few cases. Most importantly, I realize now that I had no anxiety or fear going into the conferences. I was open-minded, calm, and ready to listen.

What a difference being sober makes. I am so, so grateful.

 

Growth Mindset


As a teacher, I am afforded the luxury of being home in the summer. This means I can sleep more, read more, clean more, relax more, parent more.  For the most part, I have done all of these- except the sleep part. My body seems to think 5:00 a.m. is a great time to start the day so I roll with it.

Being sober for almost 3.5 years has given me a new life and many new facets to this life. I eat better, exercise more, take care of myself more, am a kinder, softer version of my former self. I am a more compassionate mom, loving wife, and open-minded sibling/daughter. My teaching has changed and I no longer care deeply about test scores, completion of all assignments or letter grades. Rather, I focus on the individuals I have in front of me and how to best meet their needs to help them grow.

This growth mindset is affecting me as well. The book Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, M.D. is a fascinating read! I have identified many areas in my life where I have been prone to a fixed mindset: I am fearful of making a mistake therefore I don’t try. if I don’t try, I can’t fail. While there is truth to that statement, I also don’t grow. I am navigating a new life where failure is an option because, after all, if I try, I haven’t failed. I’ve opened new pathways for my brain to expand and to change. I find this pretty exciting.

In my drinking days, I would grumble and complain about my miserable life, job, marriage, home, car, family- you name it; everything that was negative in my life was because of someone else’s doing. It wasn’t until I got sober and really started to dig deep within the recesses of my mind did I recognize how wrong I was.

The first step (other than getting help and getting sober, of course) was to take a good look at what I could control and what I couldn’t and then determine if any action was needed. So I started with the easy parts: I couldn’t control other people in my life, but I could control how I responded to them. In some cases, no response was the only pertinent action. In other cases, it meant taking a step back, taking a big breath and trying to see the situation from their point of view. What was it my husband was trying to tell me? Regardless of his approach, (He is not physically or verbally abusive- those are different animals and I would NOT recommend this approach.) I needed to look to the issue. I had to put aside the bs, my emotions, my perspective and look for a new way. This often requires me to take time- once it took me two weeks! But when I approach our differences from a stable, sane point of view, I am better equipped to resolve the issue with him- not for me, not for him, but with him.

The next part was looking at my health. I knew I could change by eating better, drinking more water, working out and work towards smoking cessatation. So I took small steps. I drank water instead of Diet Coke; I got off the couch and started walking more; I looked up recipes and made some pretty darn good, healthy meals- something that benefits my whole family. The smoking has been a devil. I quit cold turkey for three months and made the error of thinking of could have one or two while on vacation. It was my coping vice while others were drinking. While I went back full force and then some, I did learn. It is a great reminder that if I take one drink, I will be back the same way if not worse than I had been before. So I set a new goal and plan to be smoke-free by summer’s end. These are all doable changes that I can control. I feel better; I look better and I behave better as a result. The self-confidence in my clothes doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

Taking care of the relationships in my life happened once I decided which ones I needed to keep and which ones I needed to let fall away. It is much like cleaning out a closet. The clothes that don’t fit, are dated, have tears or stains beyond repair- toss ’em. The people in my life who wouldn’t support my sobriety, didn’t care if they made comments like “Oh, he is SUCH a raging alcoholic; I can’t belive he just doesn’t have the will power to quit” or even said they like me better when I was drinking were all put into a bag of throwaways. I cannot afford to have people in my life that I think I am going to change. While I understand I cannot change anyone, my point is I cannot change the stigma of alcoholism overnight. The people who were a dire threat to my sobriety needed to go. The others were like the special occasion clothes: You wear them to a wedding or a funeral or a baby shower and then dry clean them and hang them up for another time. Some people in my path are like that. I run into them for certain special times; I am careful, I am kind, but I don’t go out of my way to reach out and communicate on a daily basis. Just like I am careful not to snag a special occasion sweater, I am careful not to offend, shame, or denegrate a special occasion friend. Some of my other clothes are the everyday ones: People I work with, people on my kids’ sports teams, people I see at meetings who are on the outskirts, friends of the family. I try not to take them for granted; I treat them with care; wash and dry and fold them neatly until the next time.  My husband, my kids, my siblings, and my sisters in sobriety are my favorite pair of jeans that look great, feel great, don’t stretch out. The ones I can pull of out the closet no matter what and I won’t be disappointed. They are the staple of my wardrobe and my look wouldn’t be complete with out them. I am sure to treat them with great care and respect and I always know where they are. Like my relationships, they evolve on certain levels, yet remain a constant in my life.

The other parts of my life with which I found misery: my home, my car, my yard – have all improved with time. I take much better care of my “things” so they are not in a state of disrepair. I have also found gratitude and I have seen firsthand how good I have it. It’s funny when I changed my world became brighter and my steps were lighter.

The part was my job. I love my job – most days, but I also know I am called to do more. I am in control of this. So using the growth mindset, I am setting out this summer to develop sobriety based curriculum geared towards high schoolers. My first goal is to present this to my admin and work on having it implemented in my school. Later, my plan is to work with neighboring districts and expand into their schools. I would also like to have parent networks so we can work as a community to flush out the drug and alohol problems in our schools. Eventually, I would like to go on a national level and make this an extension into the grade schools and high schools. Our youth deserve the best chances in life and it starts with education. I feel empowered and passionate about education and wish for all people to be able to live a clean, healthy sober lifestyle.

Having a growth mindset will allow this dream to become a reality. I believe combing my teaching experience, my masters in currculum development and my road to recovery have all been laid out for me on this path to keep moving forward.

If any of my readers have practice with this, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Growth in Many Forms


I have been monitoring a Wednesday night AA meeting for just shy of 3.5 years. Last night when I got there, one of the old timers asked if I had a minute to chat. So we ventured to the front room where we sat. He proceeded to tell me how he loved my meeting- it was one of his favorites- and that he appreciated my service. In the next breath he went on to saw that “they” like to give lots of people the opportunity to monitor and a guy with six months wanted to step in and monitor that particular meeting. I said okay and thank you and just like that it was over.

Now that I’ve had some time to process ( I have rarely been one to think on my feet and my past tells me that when I have, my mouth tends to get me in deeper than if I had remained silent), I’ve come to some conclusions.

In the past, if someone asked me to speak in private, my heart would race, I would feel defensive, and my mind would kick into overdrive searching for what I did that was wrong, offensive, inappropriate, etc.

But that didn’t happen. I was calm and open-minded.  I took what he had to say as this is a natural transformation in our group. I didn’t look at it as a “punishment” or an “I’m not worthy moment.” In fact, I felt a bit relieved because I have numerous commitments this summer that would require me to either make a choice between the meeting or say one of my son’s baseball games or find someone to fill in which stirs up the old tape of not fulfilling my obligation. This is huge for me in terms of personal growth.

I wasn’t angry nor did I feel short-changed. I didn’t question why I didn’t get to be a part of the discussion and why this was decided for me. I didn’t internalize feelings of lack either.

When some members approached me after the meeting and inquired why I was moving on, I explained the scenario.  The reactions were varied: mostly anger directed at the old-timer. “How dare he make this decision?” “Who does he think HE is?” “We don’t have a president here!”

In all honesty, the only two feelings I have are relief and fear. Relief for the reasons above. The fear is my own. Wednesdays have been MY anchor, my absolute, my no excuses get to the meeting people are counting on you. Without that sense of obligation, I worried about what I would do. Would I slip away from AA slowly but surely? Would I become bitter? Would I find myself going without a meeting for weeks on end? What did this mean for my sobriety?

What I have come to conclude is that all things happen for a reason. Giving up being a monitor isn’t going to make me relapse. Not having that duty won’t be the reason I slip away. Actually, I feel I have more freedom now because I used to fret before the meetings to pick a good reading, have enough coffee on, debate to nauseum who would do the opening readings.

I am free now to go and to sit and to relax and to grow. Growth comes in many ways and this is just one more of them. For that, I am grateful.  🙂