Day 214 (7 months!): Another Superhero Steps Out

 

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It’s 5:15 in the morning on day 214, month seven, of sobriety, and I am drawn to act upon some intuitive guidance I am receiving, here in a quiet house in the dark, with only a sleeping dog for company.

It will require an act of pure heroism (for me).

I’m going to use my real first name to sign off today. This is a big big deal.

It defies everything I used to think mattered — my reputation, my employability, my anonymity, my need to protect myself from the judgement of others. My commonsense.

Before you think this really is not such a heroic act, let me tell you that I have an unusual first name, and anyone who knows me will be able to tell from the blog who I am. If my first name and unusual last name are put together, there are only one or two of us in the world, according to Google.

If you want to read about the extent of my paranoia, read this: Day 42: Paranoia.

This amazing act of courage represents a few things that I notice have changed about me.

The Absence of Shame

I am beginning to release the idea that becoming addicted to an addictive substance is shameful. That seeking help is shameful. That I am less of a person because of it. I am beginning to think I am more because of it. I am who I am because of it. And this could not be a more monumental shift in mindset. This is me owning my story, not in shame, but with pride.

Compassion

I am pivoting from what other people think of me to what might be good for the rest of the world. I am thinking about what might be good for someone like me, who sees me coming forward, a little at a time, from a place of growing confidence and strength. It’s no longer all about me. What a relief! I can venture outside of myself again, something that became lost in those long years of drinking.

Rebirth

I am someone new. I am someone who takes risks now and then. I am someone who is learning to voice an opinion, without the liquid courage of a few drinks. I am stronger, wiser, more mature. I matter to myself, and to other people, and they now matter more to me than alcohol.

This represents so much more than I can put into words without writing the longest blog in history.

Thank you for being here to witness it.

With great love and compassion,

Shawna

 

Painting by Sachin Sagare

Day 203: Another Addiction

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For over six months, I have focused on quitting drinking. Other than a few attempts at quitting sugar, I have not tried any other major life changes.

Today, that all changes. Today, I am hitting another big addiction right where it hurts.

Big talk, I know, but quitting drinking has given me the self-confidence to believe that I could achieve other goals. And this one is a biggie. A really really big one (for me).

No, it’s not smoking. I used to wish I liked smoking so that I would have something to fall back on and fit in better at AA meetings. What I am addicted to is surfing the web. ┬áBasically, I am a political junkie.

To give you an idea of the scope of the problem, let’s just say that I spend at least two hours a day reading online political news: Chris Christie, Trump’s latest shenanigans, etc., but then I also see tantalizing headlines that pop up, leading me to gossipy events like the whole Bill Cosby deal, Brangelina, and whatever else can be found on Page Six. Still, I lump it all together as “political news” to make it sound less National Enquirer-ish. (Which is how I found out about the John Edwards love-child sensation.)

So last night, DURING THE LAST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, I announced to my husband that I was giving up surfing the web for news. (I am still allowed to look up wholesome sites like “Heal Your Life” or “How to Learn Spanish in Five Minutes a Day”).

My husband, who knows me well, said, “Are you sure you want to set yourself up like that, during an election like this one?” Normally, this would give me an out, and I would say, “OK, maybe after the election.”

But the new super-me was challenged! (I used to hate challenges. I knew I couldn’t follow through on the simplest things. Why would I want an additional challenge to fail?)

“NO!” I said with conviction, startling my husband. “It will start tomorrow and run through the entire election.”

My husband said, “Who are you?”

I’m not really sure who I am yet, but I know who I’m not! I’m not one to make idle threats and promises while trying not to slur my words.

I tossed and turned all night, dreaming about drinking with Donald Trump. Dear God, if that’s not evidence of an addiction, I don’t know what is.

Today, I woke up lost. I usually make my coffee, sit right down at the computer, and open up “Reddit Politics New,” which is a long list of the latest headlines from all kinds of news sources. Today, I took my coffee and awkwardly sat down across from my husband in the kitchen. He glanced up at me, confused, and then closed his laptop to see what was wrong with me.

“Let’s go out to breakfast,” I suggested.

And we did. And we sat across the table at the diner and talked, and we read the newspaper. (I am allowed to read the paper. We only buy it when out to breakfast, about once a week or so, so I can’t binge on it.)

Now, I am blogging bright and early in the day, where I would normally spend AN HOUR reading all the debate bullshit. See? Already, I am connecting with other people as opposed to raising my own blood pressure via politics and the occasional gossip.

And I have all kinds of time today to fill. Another thing about getting rid of addictions and time-wasters: It opens up space for dreams. I could start that book I’ve been wanting to write. I could take up painting again. I could take a class. I could imagine a beautiful future, and then make it happen.

When I was drinking, I had no dreams. Today, I am stepping over another hurdle on my path to becoming who we are all meant to be — our own superheroes.

Day 200: Postcard

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It’s day 200 of not drinking, but I no longer count the days except every now and then.

I don’t do it because it no longer matters. That agonizing, counting path of playing hide and seek with alcohol is behind me. I don’t know that person anymore. I feel for her, but even the memories of her 30 plus years of drinking are fading.

I have forgiven her.

Most of the time, I see her with eyes of love and understanding. When humiliating ghosts of her past arise, I watch them silently and then let them go. I don’t invest them with useless guilt and remorse. I don’t give them power. I am through punishing her.

I understand why she drank.

She drank because drinking is addictive. She started when she was just an adolescent, shy and self-conscious. Not overly so, probably just like most people. But still, it could be excruciating for her. She wanted to be someone who was louder, drew more attention, was comfortable with the stage. She wanted to be someone she was not, and that’s OK. We all go through it.

It’s passed away now, for the most part — that need to be “on.” It was so much more about what other people thought … that fear of not measuring up, of not being enough. That need to be, above all else, entertaining for other people. Of quelling fears and calming anxieties, of curbing anger and softening disappointment. No wonder I drank.

Today, after 200 days of not drinking, I have been overtaken by a glorious feeling of stillness and peace. I long for nothing, really, except to pass it on to someone else. I want you to feel like this. I would give anything to stop the heartache of the world — of my past self and everyone else still in the prison of drink. I want everyone to revel in the gift of healing. Words fall so short of describing the ways I’ve changed in just 200 short days. I didn’t know what assaulting my brain for decades took from me. I couldn’t remember what I’d lost. This feeling of wellbeing … maybe this is how a lot of non-drinking people feel. I barely recognize it because it has been so long since I’ve loved myself enough to allow healing.

I pray that you feel this peace as well. I’ve spent hours reading about the joy that is possible from people who are sober, not really believing it could be real for me. But it is. I’m a witness to what can happen if you give yourself a chance.

I hardly know the calm, loving, listening person I am becoming, but she’s pretty cool. I heard she almost drown once, but she’s finally coming up for air.

Wish you were here.