Archive | October, 2018

Selfish?

31 Oct

I must have heard it hundreds of times as my children were growing up.  Someone would see them in the stroller or in my arms and comment on how fast the time goes and how quickly they grow.  They spoke from experience, longingly remembering the days that their own children were small enough to ride in a stroller or be carried. They were right.  The time goes so quickly.  As I help my oldest child with college applications, getting ready to send her off next year, I can’t help think that those days of diapers and bottles were just yesterday.

I’m writing this piece, as I usually do, to share my story with others in the hope of helping someone who is struggling.  But today, I’m also writing this as a reminder and help to myself.  On the days when the intense battle to resist the urge of picking up a drink ramps up, it’s helpful to be reminded of the joys of sobriety. The gift of being present is way up there.  I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories about families torn apart by alcoholism and addiction.  People who are estranged from their children or parents.  Older generations not allowed to spend time with their own grandchildren.  Friends cut off completely by loved ones because of their repeated offenses while drinking or using.  I have had it clearly presented to me exactly what could have happened had I continued down the path I was on.

But today, as I read my daughter’s college essay, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for the gift of sobriety.  And for the opportunity to understand what that means to her.  While the first line of her essay might suggest otherwise, my daughter has benefitted from my recovery more than I might have thought.  She begins her essay by saying “My mom is selfish.” Yup.  I am.  My sobriety comes first and foremost, and for that I will not apologize, even to friends and people in my life who don’t understand and criticize me for that.  My daughter goes on to say that she has learned that it is not only okay to put ourselves first, it is essential and actually selfless, in order to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and allow us to help those around us. I had shared with her my analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane.  Parents are always told that they should secure their own masks first so that they can then be able to assist their children with theirs.  My daughter describes how she has come to understand that I had to secure my own sobriety first so that I could assist her (and her brothers) in keeping safe on the airplane, or that crazy roller coaster called life.

She also questions her own role and responsibility in my recovery.  I am also grateful to read that she understands that ultimately no one else can stop me from picking up that first drink.  That’s all me.  Not her. Not anyone. The choice is mine.  And I have to do the work and all that I can to not let that happen.  But those who love me, like she does, can be there to support, encourage and ensure that my oxygen mask is still secured.  To tighten it when it gets too loose.  To remind me to put it back on if I get too cocky or complacent.

Her first choice for school next year is my alma mater.  In a corny act of superstition/hope for good luck/acceptance “rain dance”, I put on my college sweatshirt, torn and tattered from so many years of wear, and we pushed the send button together on the computer and submitted her application. Now we wait.  I have told her that it’s out of our hands.  That she will end up at the best place for her, even if it isn’t her first choice.  I remember well what a stressful time it was for me and I am grateful that I am sober and present to ride through this part of the roller coaster with her. And when the ride gets really bumpy, I’ll make sure my mask is on securely and double-check hers.  I am selfish. And so is she.  And I’m so proud of her.

“It is not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.  It’s necessary.”  –Mandy Hale

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Menace to Sobriety

20 Oct

326

Menace to Sobriety

I just wrapped up a huge work event that has consumed my time over the last several months. Between that and coming off the heels of being very sick for over a year, I haven’t written much.  Feels good to start typing.

The work event was the Third Annual Walk to Bust Cancer, which benefits the National Breast Center Foundation, of which I am the Executive Director.  This year’s walk drew over 700 people and far surpassed our fundraising goal of $75,000.  I was incredibly blessed to work with an amazing team of volunteers on this event; most of them breast cancer survivors who just want to give back.   The walk is a giant undertaking, with an inordinate amount of logistics, man-hours, details and, yes, stress.

Being sick for over 14 months, without answers or a diagnosis, also created a great deal of stress. Endless trips to doctors, hospitals, specialists, labs, etc. with no concrete results.  Finally, two different doctors came to the same conclusion: fibromyalgia.  An answer, but one with a great deal of mystery and uncertainty surrounding it.  While much is still unknown about the disorder, and the extremely long amount of time it took to diagnosis it left me beyond frustrated, I am relieved and grateful that the medicine that they put me on to treat it is helping immensely. Interestingly enough, one of the worst things and triggers for fibromyalgia?  Stress.

We all have stress in our lives.  At some times, greater amounts than others.  And some people are better at dealing with stress than others.  There are those who go to yoga and meditate and are able to successfully keep their stress at bay.  Others who work out intensely and release endorphins to combat the pressure, anxiety and tension in their lives.   And many others still who pour that glass of wine or scotch or whatever to take the edge off.  I was one of those.  So what does one do to combat stress when he or she can no longer reach for the numbing effects of alcohol?

2336 days ago, when I accepted and admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic, I made a firm commitment to never reach for that glass of wine again.  Well, not “never”, just one day at a time.  But whether it was to celebrate something or to drown my sorrows, or yes, to battle whatever stress factors were attacking me at the time, I knew that booze could no longer be my go-to. Not unless I wanted to continue the downward spiral and destructive path that my disease had me on.

There will inevitably be periods of stress in our lives.  I mentioned some healthy ways to deal with them: yoga, exercise, meditation. But how do we remember to do those things when we are so stressed out? Or how to we make time for them when time constraints add to our stress in the first place??   It’s so clear to me now that I am sober how awful drinking was for trying to combat stress. While it provided a very temporary reprieve, when I threw caution to the wind and simply enjoyed the buzz, the resulting hangover and usual aftermath almost always somehow increased my stress level.

I often spent the morning trying to piece together what I had done the night before, sometimes having no recollection whatsoever. I missed appointments, commitments or meetings because I was too hungover to keep them.  I often had to lie, either to cover up idiotic, drunken decisions or behavior, or to try to hide how much I was suffering from the effects of my drinking. Many times, I would act extra chipper on those mornings when my head was pounding and I fought the feeling of having to throw up.  I didn’t want my husband, children or work colleagues to know how badly I was hurting. Does lying contribute to stress? I’ll let you answer that.

Fast forward to today. During the long period of feeling like absolute crap this past year, now explained by my fibromyalgia diagnosis, many people commented to me about how amazed they were that I managed to stay so positive and keep a smile on my face (definitely not always, but I tried).  I relished in the miracle that throughout all the anger, frustration, exhaustion, illness and disappointment, I had learned, and I knew, that a drink would not make it the least bit better.  In fact, I finally understood that it would have just the opposite effect.  Because it wouldn’t be just  “a” drink.  It would be many.  Once I open that can of worms, it would be all downhill from there.  All the hard work, out the window.

So I am slowly making my way back to yoga, which helped me immensely when I first got sober almost 6 ½ years ago.  I’m better at listening to my body and taking it easy when I have to.   I have also incorporated a daily meditation practice into my routine, which has made a huge difference in how I handle and manage stress. Frankly, a huge difference in how I handle life in general.  Very grateful to a dear friend who encouraged this and walks the walk beautifully.  I’m gradually getting back to the gym and trying to exercise.  All of which will be huge factors in combating my fibromyalgia.

But my one, consistent fall-back and most powerful weapon against stress is the Serenity Prayer. Is it something I can control or do something about?  If it isn’t, I remind myself to let it go.  To turn it over.  And it never hurts to have that simple, powerful reminder:  breathe.

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” —Oprah Winfrey

 

 

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