I was both laying the foundation to change my life and becoming more and more ill from the tail end of this most recent phase of my life (which I absobloomin'lutely needed to change).
At this moment, it's a few minutes before 9 pm on the last night of a four week retreat in the mountains. I want to finish the laundry, go sit in the jacuzzi under the stars and maybe watch one more episode of Madame Secretary.
One of my several goals on this retreat was to start blogging again. I did post a couple of watercolors I made on my original blogger site that I've used primarily as a watercolor artist since 2006. Wow. That now seems like ages ago. So much has changed and changed again. What radical swings in the world!
It's vitally important to me to get this site up and running again. I think that I'll just paste here most of what I re-opened that blog with. Just a recounting of sorts. It both honors my limited time and last, unchecked goal.
Start where you are. That's Pema Chödrön's wise advice.
I'm in Asheville, North Carolina. I am sitting on the covered deck looking over the railing past the gurgling jacuzzi though the tall, delicate trees at the not so distant mountain top.
I've been planted in this comfy, heavy, sturdy armchair with my feet propped up on the square, heavy, sturdy ottoman since my arrival on 11 June. Just to be out in the fresh air, listening to bird song and allowing the days to pass has been enough to make this trip worthwhile. But the value of this long retreat is incalculable.
The last eighteen months of my life feel as though they've evaporated into thin air. Without going into details of why and how, late last November (2018), I started putting changes in motion. I made a radical decision about my finances, had eye surgery, and made long-range plans to end my weekly teaching job. The stress of my finances and teaching situation and my coping mechanisms were killing me. My primary coping mechanism would be alcohol. But more on that at a later date. Also, right, In October, I was pulled off my feet by a very strong dog and, for the first time in my life, was in excruciating lower back pain for many months. Almost forgot about that.
As a result of the lower back pain, I discovered that I have a herniated disk and osteoporosis. More on that at a later date, too.
I went through the lengthy, highly detailed process of addressing my finances in other words filing Chapter 7 and acting as my own attorney. When the last straw broke the proverbial camel's back at my long-term teaching job, I gave notice.
No sooner had I given notice than indoor chain smokers moved into the two apartments next to me.
I've lived in a relatively charming but poorly maintained 1940s garden apartment. The walls are paper thin, the roaches are indomitable but I've had the end unit of the best spot on the property, overlooking and partially sheltered by a grove of willow oak out front and a beautiful and productive garden that I've built out back. I appreciate most of my neighbors and have been centrally located in the absolute best neighborhood in town.
However, the city has changed dramatically in my six years here. Growth without planning. Clear-cutting lots, building new penitentiary style "luxury units" smack up to the edge of the sidewalks along two-lane roads never designed for the sudden influx of traffic. Plus, there's a new fire station catty-corner to my property that will undoubtedly withstand a tornado. Easy. I can only imagine the noise and energetic change when that thing is up and running.
I tried (really, really hard) to mitigate the second-hand smoke issue and after my doctor wrote a letter to the management describing the damage to my lungs, eyes and nasal passages, they kindly released me from all obligations to my lease and all the excellent references I might need.
With nothing and no one to hold me to this place that has presented me with a string of mighty challenges over the past six years, and no real idea of where I'd want to move or how I'd go about that, I thought, I would just like to house sit for a while.
So, after some research and work on the process, that's what I'm doing. Indefinitely. And this is my first stop.
I had no idea how burned out, weak, and ill I was until I arrived here. It took me about two weeks to just land and understand what condition I was in, to deal with the exceptionally neurotic (let's say) homeowner, to discover that I had an infection, and to completely let go of the alcohol.
I dealt with the homeowner, took antibiotics, daily jacuzzis, have stuck like glue to my morning yoga practice and meditation, and have taken the darling (very strong) dog for morning and late afternoon walks straight up the mountain road and then back down again with a round of fetch in between. I am also now on my twelfth day free of alcohol with (I am compelled to say) stretches of 3- to 6-days AF in the first two weeks.
In the last two weeks, I have made four pages of drawing and watercolor work, strung two necklaces of semi-precious healing stones, re-read a book (The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard), given notice at my apartment, started blogging again, and booked a few more housesitting situations. Check, check, and check (I am such a Virgo).
That's it in a nutshell. Except for a mysterious stretch of September into early October, I am booked for mostly long housesits through the end of November. I am also covered with bug bites but really don't care.
Wow. Well, that's a start. My goals were too many for what was really in order... a vacation retreat. The freelance life is stupidly stressful, risky, and fraught with uncertainty. I completely burned out. I lost my self. My soul. I am en route to rediscovering and honoring my soul.
For the public, I'm calling this my long-overdue sabbatical. At least, that's the elevator pitch.
It's dark now. The stars are out. I'm going to go gaze. Arcturus awaits.
Back at'cha real soon.
Just like that, my mood can change. Usually after a good night's sleep, or even a nap, my curmudgeonliness can flip to joy and easy smiles.
The weather around my parts changed yesterday. It has been too hot and humid way past summer. Finally, the weather broke and cooled off and dried up. Thank god.
The weather affects our moods so dramatically. I don't mind rain. In fact, I like it. I like a good storm, too. Sunlight is delightful. Even heat for a little while. But incessant heat and humidity day after day, month after month was beyond oppressive. I can't take it anymore.
Alcohol has been beyond oppressive in my life, my body, mind and soul, too. I may not have control over the weather but I do have control over whether or not I will drink. Whatever it takes to get me to not pick up, I'll do it.
For some, it's doing the twelve steps and going to meetings. I think that the steps are great though I have a hard time with meetings and have had hard turns with sponsors. Of course, they've all only been people steering themselves away from alcohol and trying to help others do the same. There is nothing wrong with that. Me, I need a toolbox full of options.
I find that the main thing is to be with sober people. To be with people, period. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Isolation is death. Community is life.
Now this is tough when you're an oversensitive creature like myself who works independently for the most part and really needs downtime, alone.
But as with everything, we have to find a happy medium. One hot and humid day is balanced nicely by one that's cool and dry. One day of itchy mind and crawling skin is relieved by a good night's sleep and a relaxing day.
Variety makes the world turn. Day. Night. Light. Dark. Rain clouds. Sunny blue skies.
The trick is to ride the wave of weather, the emotional swings, and to appreciate the journey and find joy in being alive, breathing, and the wonder of it all.
Honestly, it's really great to have some project or to create some project for yourself in early sobriety. Work off your early days creatively.
I've had the fortune of a painting commission. I've been working at it for about four or five days interrupted by two teaching days. I think that it's complete now but I'm going to sleep on it.
I'm happy with it and grateful for the project. If you're in early sobriety and biting your nails or something, make a list of everything you could do. Draw, sing, make up a song, make up a dance, knit, leaf through a Martha Stewart Living magazine if your imagination is not in gear. Cook some great meal just for fun. Practice an instrument.
Get involved with a creative project for the sake of doing the thing not to be great at it. This is definitely not the time to be saying that you're no good at anything. Who cares? It takes a gazillion hours of practice to get good at something. Just start for the fun of it.
Pick up a pencil or pen and start making marks on a piece of paper. The marks don't have to look like anything at all. Start a doodle diary. There's an idea.
Watch your crazy thinking evaporate and your energy flow into making something. It's a good thing.
This morning I received word that my mother's last sibling passed away.
My tears flowed. Through two meditations. I looked at photos of my mother as a teen and somewhere near 70 years. When I could not stop crying, I called my best friend who was able to listen for a while. That helped tremendously.
It's the end of an era and really all that bound me to blood relatives except for blood. I cannot attend the services and the thought of seeing gangs of relatives, frankly, leaves me woozy. Especially so early in this phase of sobriety. No need to go into any further detail or explanation. This is neither the time nor the place.
Except to say that if felt good to cry, to let the water flow freely, to let myself feel released. Cleansing, detoxifying.
While preparing this post, I thought, my god, I don't want to go rummaging through a box of family photos and then thought of this song, The Parting Glass which is apt. I love the simple arrangement and especially the way Luke MacFarlane sings it.
Of all the money that e'er I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm I've ever done
Alas it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
But since it fell unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be with you all
After the first few days of adjustment, you may notice that time becomes more available.
Sure, it is now possible to do more because you are no longer knocking yourself unconscious but even better,
you become more available.
When you start regaining consciousness, life opens up. You will be reminded of anxious thoughts that may have once made you want to knock yourself out. You will also notice more details in your environment. You may experience fatigue but you will also find a drive to do, to take little actions. Do take little actions. Don't try to conquer anything major.
About those anxious thoughts that arise... I encourage you to allow them to be. No, it's not always going to be easy.
Sit with those thoughts. Notice their images, texture, words, placement (if they're in the past or future). Notice how familiar they feel. Feel what is happening in your body. Where are they making you tense? How are they making you want to react?
You are going to be uncomfortable. Be uncomfortable. The discomfort will pass. It'll come back again. Then it will pass again.
In fact, you've gotten into a habit of being uncomfortably sick from alcohol. The discomfort you notice now is the weirdness of not knocking yourself unconscious when habits of thought arise.
Is that too convoluted? Basically, you're trading one way of dealing with discomfort with a different (better) way of being uncomfortable.
So what are you supposed to do about it?
Breathe. Just breathe. Then notice where you are. What's in your room? If you're outside or in the car, notice the trees or buildings. Feel your hands on the steering wheel. Connect to your immediate environment. Get into your body (and out of your mind).
See what that does for you.
Here's what you're doing. You are starting a practice of putting your higher mind (as in your pre-frontal cortex) in charge. Much, much more on that later. But for now, every time you have a thought that makes you want to react by reaching for a drink:
Notice where you are
Get into your physical body
Sit with the thought until it passes
It's a practice. Practice doing this.
Time will open up.
After a binge, it's going to take a few days to set yourself straight.
My last binge involved four nips of Jameson's, three glasses of red wine and a large pizza. By my third day sober, my body was still begging for good digestion.
But did I sip ginger tea, lemon water and eat cucumbers? No (although that would have been a very good idea.) I ate more bad carbs, drank coffee and ! smoked cigarettes. Now, I can only tolerate 3 cigarettes at the most without feeling like I've been hit by a truck in the morning but I am revealing my less than wise choices in the first few days of releasing myself from alcohol because I want to make a point.
AA rooms are often set with coffee and cookies and smokers outside. Common recommendations are often to allow yourself sweets and any sort of substitute of something, anything!, to put in your mouth instead of alcohol. So, okay. If you have to go with it, do whatever it takes to not let alcohol pass your lips. For just a little while.
On my third day sober, I ate a huge chocolate chip cookie. It took me all day to work my way through it because my stomach (which was still digesting pizza) was like, uh-uh. Don't do it. But I did. And I suffered a bit.
If you have to stuff something in your mouth instead of alcohol for the first few days, go for it. But do it with awareness.
Become aware of how easy it is to substitute one habit for another. Do you want to substitute over-eating for over-drinking? Probably not. You do not have to.
If you are newly sober, you may crave sugar and highly processed "foods". Just be aware that drinking alcohol causes your blood sugar levels to drop and when your body is adjusting to being alive without alcohol, it'll probably take a little while for your blood sugar levels to adjust. That's an educated guess. I'm not a doctor.
And there's probably no question about developing an addiction to nicotine just because you've quit drinking. Right?
In your first few days, your first week or so, your body is like, whoa! What is happening? The body is a magnificent instrument. It will learn to readjust and heal itself. With your common sense.
While this is happening, what your mind can do is notice your knee jerk reactions to the process of your body trying to right itself.
Give yourself a break. Do not beat yourself up. If you feel ugghish, sluggish, if your tummy is distressed and you want to stuff your pie hole with anything that fits, well, just become aware of what you are doing and how it makes you feel.
Awareness is half the battle. You became aware that alcohol was a problem for you. Now, you're going to expand that awareness. Get into how your body feels.
And, by the way, give yourself a happy pat on the back for not putting any alcohol into your mouth. And a huge round of applause.
You are righting your mighty ship! That is the ship of your soul.
My only wise words for today are these.
Alcohol abuse thrives in isolation. Especially for women.
Sobriety loves company. I want to be sober and stay sober. I want company.
If you do, too, I'd love your company. My journey to sobriety began a long time ago but this leg of the journey begins now.
The challenge that so many people have is not knowing how to take that first step of reaching out to another person for help.
Just sign up below, read about the Venus Retrograde challenge, or follow along in your own way. Whatever helps you the most.
Are you trying to heal yourself?
Are you depleted? Dry. Feel like you're dying but getting up to give more every day or wasted by what you've provided?
Are you angry? Is your anger masquerading or based in fear? Have you exploded recently?
Maybe you're suffering from chronic stress.
Maybe you're giving a little too much. Maybe you're not supporting yourself enough.
If you expect yourself to give, you absolutely must support yourself first. It's a universal law. It's a law of cosmic architecture.
If you do not provide yourself a good foundation, how can you build a structure that supports and shelters others?
If you are not healthy and strong within yourself, how can you support your family or your clients? That's a sincere question that I want you to ask yourself. Now.
More importantly, if you are chronically stressed, how can you support yourself?
What are you first doing to support yourself so that you can support yourself and support others? Again, tell us what you're doing in a comment below. Help everyone with your own experience.
Here's what you need to pay attention to if you are not serving from a strong and healthy foundation.
Are you experiencing
Are you addicted to anything?
Are you sabotaging yourself?
These are major signs that you are not fully supporting yourself or, better yet, that you are not allowing yourself to be fully supported by the universe at large, the great creator, the word, the light of creation, god, or however the all of eternity expresses itself to you.
• Sit still.
• Allow your heart to open.
• Consider the option of trust.
• Ask yourself, "What would it feel like to trust that the great creator has great creator has my back? What would it feel like to know that I am here to serve for the greatest good?
• What would it feel like to know that I am present, here, in this moment. Always?
• How fertile can I make the ground I am standing on?
Consider these tips. Seriously. What do you think? Leave comments below to help yourself and to help others help others.
I have a long "to-do" list to help you with chronic stress (coming soon) but that won't do you any good whatsoever if you don't first sit still, breathe, and ask yourself to do and answer the above.
Remain in light.
Loads of love to you...
Gosh. I remember the first time someone said that to me.
It's not just about you!
I'd never heard that phrase before and I reeled in reaction to someone saying that to me. It was meant as a snarky tease but it felt like a blow. Freaked me right out. (Do I really think that it's all about me? Yikes!)
It's true, though.
Especially if you are an entrepreneur, healer or teacher or in any service profession. The fact is that you are serving others. What you do is critical. Especially for your fellow humans at this moment in time.
You are serving humanity. You are serving the earth. You are serving our collective evolution.
In case you haven't noticed, we are in desperate need of your help.
This is the time. You are making a difference. You are moving people forward.
I challenge you to double down on the positive work you’re doing. You are in a position to help people. Get out there and do even more good.
Heal yourself to help heal others.
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