I’m staring at this blank page and thinking: This is one of the most honest things I have ever written to date. So be clear. Steady. Gently. Loving.
Yesterday marked 10 months sober from any alcohol, drugs, (not counting caffeine) and cigarettes. It feels weird because I never thought I had a problem with alcohol. Or drugs. Or cigarettes. In recovery meetings, people would share stories I couldn’t relate to. People had lost everything. I didn’t think I had lost much from drinking. But for some reason, on Jan 1st 2017 something inside me told me to stop all of it.
As each month passed, more truth.
I saw how many moments I had used alcohol to get numb. To avoid feeling. How normal my binge drinking seemed in my 20s because was drunk and high from Wednesday to Sunday. Or so I thought.
I recently said to a friend, “for most of my 20s I was smashed like everyone else.”
“Well, not everyone,” she said.
Truth arrow pierced my stomach as I inhaled deeply.
I reminisced with an old friend who had become a journalist in high conflict areas (my dream job). “I remember you as that girl who was standing ankle deep in keg beer most of the time,” he said. I had no recollection. He had been running the university paper. Of course he had noticed.
Suddenly – and finally – the past 20 years came back to me except without the cozy yet distorted buffer of ignorance. A boozy protective film between myself and the world so I wouldn’t have to feel. I drank just enough where I could dissapear. I didn’t do anything to draw attention to myself, like fail out of school, or end up in the hospital. I just created my own little world very few people could penetrate.
My 20s got the worst of it. Yoga taught me how to feel sensations in my body for 5 minutes when I was 28. Feeling those sensations became more interesting than feeling numb from alcohol. I slowed down my drinking, much to the chagrin of my boozing buddies “come ON Jen, stay OUT with us!!” they slurred. “Have a glass of wine, you’re such a health nut!” People really want you drink for some reason. I started going home early, but stayed numb in other ways.
I dated people who were as addicted as I had been and ready for an all encompassing co-dependent dance. Alcoholics. Cheaters. Workaholics. They were perfect. People who wouldn’t eer let me feel safe enough to get comfortable. This way I could justify spikes around my heart and not need to get to know anyone in great depth.
Staying distracted allowed me to avoid taking care of basic needs like responsible financial management, a clean apartment, and a healthy loving relationship. As long as these areas were completely out of control, I could avoid doing what truly scared me: that thing where you have a voice and an opinion in the world and make things out of love and inspiration. Whether those things were causes, or businesses, or books or families, staying in chaos allowed me to avoid doing them.
As Liz Gilbert says, if you’re a creative person and you don’t create, you will destroy. Similar to a Border Collie that doesn’t get a walk and tears apart the couch. Creating drama and destruction was way easier than creating out of inspiration.
What’s all the fear about?
For a creative HSP, creating a thing is the Best Possible Feeling. But what if the world doesn’t like the thing? What if I don’t like it? Then, the supposed Best Possible Feeling is not so wonderful, then what is there to live for, really?
As I voted my addictions off the Island of Jen one by one, I started to create bit by bit.
I started creating out of desperation at first. Creating out of desperation was easy. It was rooted in a mediocre place, so if it turned out badly, it didn’t really matter. I didn’t really care. Creating a business because I was desperate for money was somewhat inspiring, so I got somewhat good results, and was somewhat disappointed if a project didn’t work out.
Creating a relationships because I needed sex or someone to travel to countries I was scared to visit alone was pretty mediocre, so the relationships were as well.
Then oils came into my life in 2015. The plant medicine and vibrant community woke me up even more. I started to have more tools to stay in my body. More brave, kind, open hearted people sharing their journeys. The oils community is kind of like a recovery meeting with less super downer stories and people staring at me.
Just over a year later, I decided to stop drinking alcohol completely. Five months of being sober from alcohol, I met a man who I actually fell in love with on our first date.
No toxic drama or co-dependent dances. Not someone I wanted to manipulate to meet my all needs. Not someone I was seeking validation from. Not someone who was witholding intimacy to keep me in a wound up in a ball of desperation and angst.
Honest and supportive love. And not boring either. A tall dark and handsome, creative, driven person with a bad boy past, kind eyes, and a commitment to family and playfulness. And creating things. With me. Businesses. Music. Books. Adventures. SWOON.
I was so nervous about my tendency to purposefully make destructive choices, that I actually called him before our first date.
I was actually talking to myself when I said into my phone: “Look, we are going to dinner and a concert, and I know myself. Music is my gateway drug, and you’re very sexy, so before we start swaying whimsically, and I get caught up in the moment and make a bad decision, I need you to know that I’m committed to creating real, monogamous, fun, exciting, stable, supportive Barack-and-Michelle-power-couple-style partnership. That’s what I’m interested in exploring with you. So if you aren’t up for that, then we probably shouldn’t meet up tonight.”
My heart was in my throat. I was kind of stunned of the truth that had just come out of my mouth.
I waited for him to hang up. Or make some excuse that something had just come up. Or try and charm me with compliments and avoid any commitment or transparency.
What he said struck me in a way where I knew it was truth:
“Well I haven’t thought about it as much as you clearly have. But there’s a lot of bullshit out there and you seem to know what you want, and that’s interesting to me.”
It was good enough for me. I wasn’t needing validation from him. I was needing to share what was true for me and to learn what was true for him. That’s what we were doing. It was terrifying and wonderful. I felt my feelings and shared my vision and I didn’t die. I was okay. Trembling and sweating, yes. Dead? No.
The date was magic. And awkward. And funny. And romantic. And all the things. Except it wasn’t numb. Six hours long. No alcohol. No sex. Lots of jokes. Thank god he’s the chattiest person I’ve ever met. I was so nervous without any social lubricant and could barely talk. One kiss and he asked when he could see me again. We’ve spoken every single day since.
Alcohol recovery and love recovery. Status: started. ODAAT.
Financial chaos in full swing.
I started to pay more attention to my bank account. Usually I would ignore it for 6 months, then be so buried in debt and confusion, I would collapse into tears and ask my family for money or spend more on my line of credit. A big shame story here.
Then I started to look at my bank account daily. It was horrible to look at first. To see the debt. To realize how little I actually had. To see the useless crap I was spending money on. Then, after 6 months of not drinking and looking daily, my income doubled. A few months later, it tripled. My expenses stayed steady.
I still track every day. Every time I look at my bank account, I get a little knot in my stomach. A little bit of fear. But I breathe and feel it and don’t avoid it.
Stability made me start to create out of inspiration rather than desperation.
I started to create the Meditation for Grief series I’ve been talking about for years. I finally started the book I said I would start. Creating out of inspiration without the need to be great. Not even the need to be good. Just the need to be true.
This is just after 10 months of getting sober from alcohol. It seems so trivial. And the ripple effect has been everything for me.
The goal is to see, feel and speak what is true. The process is patient and kind.
It seems so basic and obvious, but it wasn’t basic or obvious to me for years.
Loves, we take care of ourselves so we can take care of each other better. We stay awake. I’m just getting started.
P.S. I know some people can live fulfilled, intimate lives while still drinking alcohol, not checking their bank account, and not choosing monogamous partnership. I am not saying everyone has a problem with alcohol, money and co-dependency. I had a problem with those things. Stopping drinking changed my life. I know some people stop and they don’t create a supportive partnership or triple their income. I had great coaches, friends, mentors, family and therapists to help me with all those areas. I am not an expert, if anyone is looking for support as they navigate their sobriety journey, I had coach and therapist resources. I get no commission from these referrals, they have just changed my life so much, I want everyone to benefit.
Also, if I don’t share something. It’s not because I forgot, it’s that I am trying to keep some things sacred between myself and the people I love. Living that fine balance of my purpose which is to vulnerably share myself so we don’t feel alone, while also guarding the special world I live in with my loved ones requires intentionality. So please don’t prod, judge, assume or gossip. If you can help it. Thank you loves.