Recovering Out Loud

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A funny thing is starting to happen: I’m beginning to tell people in casual conversation that I’ve overcome an addiction to alcohol. What’s particularly surprising, even to me, is that I’m saying it with pride. I’m kind of glowing even, and a little giddy, like I’m sharing a great secret along the lines of “I just won a million dollar lottery” or “I’m being inducted into the sober hall of fame!” It’s the coolest feeling. And guess what? People respond in kind. I’m sharing from the heart, and I’m giving them a chance to do the same.

What they don’t see is shame.

The shame is dissipating, like smoke rising into thin air. I used to duck my head when talking about addiction. I used to cringe when admitting that I had to stop drinking. I felt vulnerable in sobriety — as if I’d been thrown out of an exclusive club.

Here’s a secret about the drinking club — anyone can get in. It takes a rock-solid superstar to check out. And I’m proud I did.

I can see the seeds of this pride years ago, when I’d get a few days sober, and tell someone — tentatively, barely meeting their eyes — that I was abstaining for a while. What I didn’t tell them is that I had a tiny hope that it would be my last Day One, that I could finally stop drinking my life into ruin.

I was right to hope. It’s possible, it turns out, even after decades of trying. I’m grateful that I reached beyond the veil of shame to ask for help — from the universe, from God, from Buddha — I didn’t care who. I was too desperate to be picky. And I’m proud of myself for being willing to believe what the universe told me — that I was worthy of being saved. That I was loved and precious beyond measure, and was meant for much greater things. It turns out the universe was right.

Dancing Sober: Is it Possible?

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I’ve never really been a confident dancer … not until I had that first drink. Then I could relax a little, and begin to unleash my inner Shakira.

Everyone has an inner Shakira. (Even men!) But how does one unleash even a restrained version of her joyous, uninhibited dancing without the mood-altering influence of alcohol?

Some people just decide it’s not worth the pain of trying. I was one of those, until I attended a weekend event on intuition led by Sonia Choquette. She required dancing during the class. And not restrained, robotic movements, but the wild kind — in full daylight, bopping along with everyone else in the class. I found it more awkward to try to sneak out the back than to dance, and so I did. Awkwardly.

But why did we have to dance? Sonia told us how dance is a kind of therapy, engaging the right brain and quieting the left. She had us measure our ‘vibes’ after just one wild romp to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way. We were amazingly invigorated! Our brains had been rewired! It turns out there are benefits to losing your decorum, your dignity, your uptight, buttoned-up version of yourself.

By the end of seminar, I felt like a kid again, singing along to the pounding music, jumping up and down … completely uninhibited.

It’s what we wanted the alcohol for … that sense of freedom, that wild release. It’s still inside you. Dance until you find it.

Forgiveness Is Like Kale

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Some things you have to experience to believe.

I’d heard about the power of forgiveness for a long time before I tried it. I didn’t see how it could make that much of a difference, really. And if I did mentally try to forgive someone, it was always half-hearted, like trying to make yourself like kale. I knew that kale was good for me, and that it would be helpful to eat it, but that bitter taste drove me away. I had to disguise the kale with a lot of other stuff to make it edible. So really, I was just choking it down.

Same with forgiveness. I didn’t really want to forgive say, someone like my ex, because it was all his fault. To forgive him would mean he got away with it. It would be condoning his behavior. I would be a victim all over again.

Now I can see that all that finger-pointing kept me from owning my part in anything ever. By projecting blame outward, I didn’t have to examine my own behavior. I used other people’s bad behavior to justify my own. He deserved it! And then I became this little gremlin inside, always plotting to undermine someone or manipulate people to join in my finger-pointing. And because I was a gremlin inside, I felt guilty. My thoughts were anything but pure.

Guilt is a bitter pill to swallow. Worse that straight kale, no dressing.

Everyone chooses their own path to forgiveness. AA talks about letting go of resentments. I follow A Course in Miracles, which tells you that forgiveness is the way to nirvana, basically. And who doesn’t want that? It teaches how to let go of blame completely by seeing other people as completely worthy of love. That took a lot of reading and practice from me, but I’m getting there.

I’ve found that forgiving is entirely in my own self-interest. And it’s true! It really works. I feel so much lighter and happier, now that I’ve set down the burden of attack and guilt. Ultimately, it allows me to forgive myself. It’s like a process for me. I forgive someone, and then I have a memory of something I did that I found unforgivable. Now, however, I see myself with the same compassion I extended to the person I forgave. I see it in the same light of forgiveness that I shined on someone else.

So all forgiveness is really for you. When you can see yourself with compassion, the gremlin goes away, and all that’s left is the beautiful light within you, shining out into a world that needs it.

Drinking Steals Dreams

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Drinking steals dreams.

Yesterday, I was a year and half sober, and I spent the morning dreaming. My latest? I’m dreaming of organizing a “pilgrimage.” I’m not sure where to yet, but I’m leaning towards the Camino de Santiago, across northern Spain. I’d never heard of it until yesterday, but that doesn’t matter. I have not the time, money, or friends to do this, but that doesn’t matter either, because it’s a dream. I’ll let the universe take care of the details.

This time ten years ago, well into my wine habit, I dreamed of not waking up. The sheer exhaustion of dealing with kids, a job, and a lack of funds made waking up a nightmare. New day, same problems. Same hangover.

The good news is that your dreams won’t die unless you do. Still alive? You qualify for dreams. What did you want to do when you were in the first grade? I wanted to write books. I’m doing that too.

What about you?