Post-Speaking Fatigue

I just got off what I’ll call the “local area AA speaker meeting circuit.”  It goes something like this.

  • You go to a meeting you don’t normally attend
  • You’re asked (possibly even begged) to speak at next week’s meeting, either because someone wants to hear your story, or their group is small and they’re so sick of listening to each other say the same things
  • You speak at next week’s meeting
  • As you try to slip out the back door another person catches you by the elbow and asks if you’re available to speak at their home group the next town over
  • Repeat
  • Repeat

Seriously, these things happen in 3s. 

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In a way it’s fun because it forces me to mix up my story so I’m not telling it the same way. Like once I focused more than I would have liked on the past (#DrunkALogs #ItHappens), so a few weeks later when I was asked to speak again I hit the major lows of my drinking in 5 minutes and focused more on what recovery had given me and the negatives it had taken away.

The following weekend I spoke at a morning meeting with a unique format: they give you a sentence or 2 from the Big Book (generally based on a step) and you talk about how that section is working in your recovery. That was definitely an exciting one!

I’ve noticed something funny, though. Since this big slew of speaking and really being this cheerleader for AA, recovery, experience, strength, hope, struggle, and success, I don’t really feel like I have much to share at the moment. No tips. No secrets. No tidbits or huge spiritual shifts with profound implications.

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I feel a bit empty, but not in a bad or concerning way. Like, I just want to go to several weeks of speaker meetings and hear other people share and keep my mouth shut. Soak up other people's sober-ness, you know? Even my Instagram feed the past week has mostly been pics from around my apartment and my work’s Hocus Pocus movie viewing. The quotes and recovery stuff will return, no question, but I'd rather not half-ass them. 

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Anyone else out there go through what I guess you would call mild-post-speaking-fatigue?  

-J

10 Rainy Day Self-Care Ideas

It’s Sunday, it’s rainy, and I’m seriously so excited. I'm not someone who would up and move to a rainy state; too many wet days makes me irritable and low-energy. But when a rainy day presents itself after a draining work week or after a string of sunny, activity-filled days, I welcome it with open arms and plush throw blankets.

During my drinking days I would have used a rainy day as a good excuse to make hot toddies or hunker down in a “cozier”, high-end establishment and drain bottles of red wine.  Obviously, and thankfully, those days are over. Here are a few things I love to do on rainy days to relax and feel like I’m getting in some recharging self-care. Yes, some of these items are more on the “luxurious”, #SoInstagramable side of self-care, but that’s okay. Sometimes self-care cannbe about pampering.

In no particular order….

  • Go see a movie. Sneak in snacks. Don’t feel too bad about it. Spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection!
  • Take a bubble bath and while you’re soaking read a tabloid filled with celeb gossip
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  • Catch up on all your favorite TV shows via Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime or start a new series. Full. On. Binge. Suggestions: West World, old episodes of Will & Grace, and going back to Stranger things before S2 starts!
  • Have a DIY spa day. I’m talking nails, face masks, deep conditioning. The whole works!
  • Whip up a complex, overly-complicated, ambitious meal that would be too much for a week night
Pretend you're hoping this meal lands you on the Michelin list!

Pretend you're hoping this meal lands you on the Michelin list!

  • Make a really nice cuppa with loose leaf tea or perfect your pour-over coffee method
  • Give 1 room of your home/apartment a deep clean. Be able to theoretically eat off the floor afterward
  • Have that perfect meditation session that is nearly impossible to have during the busy work week. Get out the crystals, incense, zen playlist, mala beads….
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  • Take a nap on the couch with those velvety blankets from TJ Maxx that you have 3 of
  • I’d be dishonest if I left sex/masturbation off this list. I’m, c’mon!
"Hey roomie...you going to be around today? No? Kthanks!"

"Hey roomie...you going to be around today? No? Kthanks!"

-J

There Are Such Unfortunates

Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest (The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous)

When I first came into the rooms of AA I used to bristle at that whole section, especially the portion that said “there are such unfortunates.” I always felt the line was coming across as a little bit snarky and a little bit bitchy.

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Earlier this spring I was talking to my mother, a woman who has over 30+ years in sobriety. She said the line with a mix of sadness and kindness in her voice and that broke it down simply. It is unfortunate.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot since last night, as I found out someone I’m acquainted with in the rooms went back out for a second time. This isn’t someone I’m super close with, but when someone takes up again, even someone you may not like, you cannot help but feel a sense of sadness.

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It is so unfortunate that this person (and others) has once again returned to a life of drinking. For many in the rooms it wasn’t just a few bad hangovers and maybe a few missed days at work. If that was the case, we probably wouldn’t be coming to meetings, making coffee, and stating "...and I'm an alcoholic" during introductions.

Drinking for an alcoholic was this. It was gut wrenching. Emotionally dizzying. Possibly attempted-suicide inducing. Crawl into a hole mortifying.

We felt:

  • Shame
  • Regret
  • Fear
  • Emptiness
  • Disgust
  • Hate
  • Resentment

We didn’t want to wake up some mornings.

There may have been some fun times, we’ll admit, but so many were marred by negative emotions and the heavy weight of anxiety and depression.

I pray for this person and everyone who goes out every day. Pray they come back before it gets too bad. Pray they can find some serenity and happiness in their life. Pray they find connection with friends and family and with a High Power of their own understanding. Pray they make it through.

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-J

 

I Can (And Will) Be Happy, Joyous, And Free!

I was walking home last night from a meeting and thought fell down from the sky and smacked me in the back of the head. The thought was this: “I am happy, joyous, and free.”

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It was loud and brash and commanding. I haven’t had something come into my mind with such force since Jan 10th of 2016 when, writing in the pains of yet another hangover, the idea that putting down the drink just might help me survive occurred.

I didn’t even argue with this overly positive phrase, which is my usual go-to because I love being pessimistic. Instead I agreed.

I can be that happy, bubbly person that shows up with a smile on her face. I can ooze a bit of sickly sweet joy. I can be free and carefree, not feeling held back by limiting thoughts or insecurities or opinions I don’t need to shoulder. I’ve heard “happy, joyous, and free” used from time to time in the rooms, but last night I really, truly, felt like I could have and be all those things.

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It was one part startling and one part beautiful and one part a reminder that the universe and a Higher Power are always looking to send you the message you need. You just have to be ready and willing to hear it.

Okay, maybe I sound a little cooky right now...

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And that’s okay, because it’s not like this thought told me to set the world on fire and take someone hostage, in which case, we’d have a problem. It simply gave me permission to be the lighter, softer, happier version of myself that I’ve been denying, even in sobriety, and that’s fantastic.

-J



*From the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, Page 132-133: "Everybody knows that those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not laugh much….We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us."

 

That Time I Went To London 9 Months Sober

I had just hit 9 months of sobriety and I was about to board a plane to London for a week-long solo trip. Yup.

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Back when I drank I had grandiose ideas (don’t all drunks) about all the adventures I’d go on. I really wanted to pull a geographic during those darker times, but would always come up with a million reasons why I couldn’t: money, culture, etc. In hindsight I’m glad my butt stayed planted in a familiar place while I hit my bottom. However, I still noticed this hold-me-back resistance in sobriety. My overthinking had gone from pragmatic usefulness and turned into paralyzing fear.

When Brexit was announced I thought to myself “I bet the pound won’t be as good” (sorry, Brits!) and without thinking booked a trip to London during a Thursday shift at the gym. I had no idea where I was going to stay, how much money I would have, or what I was going to do, but I gave myself a few months to figure it all out.

Aside from getting way too held up on finding the “right city shoes”- and just ending up bringing my already broken in Old Navy flats- I wasn’t too neurotic about the whole situation. I found an AirBnB, made a pre-week adjustment, and started looking up AA meetings and gluten free bakeries. Priorities, amiright?

Okay if you want to read the long stuff, hang in. If you just want a list of “cheeky” musings, scroll alllll the way down.

I got a great deal on a flight by leaving out of Montreal and doing a quick layover in Iceland (followed by a 25 hour layover on the flight back.) Honestly, the airport was the hardest part for me on the way over. There was so much booze everywhere. Wine bars. Cocktail bars. Duty-free shops with glistening bottles.

My chest started thumping and I thought to myself how poor an idea this all was. Thankfully, I remembered the question my sponsor asked me a lot during those first months of “Are you HALTing?”

H: Hungry

A: Angry

L: Lonely

T: Tired

Hmm, I was quite hungry. I got myself a large, overpriced burger, and after devouring it I was in a much better place to settle in and read for a few hours until my flight was ready to board.

The red-eye was fairly uneventful, which was good because when I arrived in London I was out of my element. For example, I had  to take the Tube Heathrow to my AirBnB. Mind you, I’d only ever taken the Subway a few times on chaperoned school trips, so it was quite a learning curve. In fact, I got lost a ton during the trip & penalized probably a collective 50 pounds for not scanning my Oyster Card correctly….You live, you learn, and if anything taking on the madness that is the Tube made the subway in Montreal, which I long avoided,  seem like child’s play.

The excellent thing about London is that so many amazing exhibits are free, like the British Museum. Much of my trip was centered around visiting  free art, monuments, and walking through the park. And, of course, meetings. The meetings in London were absolutely fantastic and they kept me grounded and from feeling squirrely. I even met up with a woman who runs a blog in london called DryScene and she brought me up to Sushi Samba for some fantastic mocktails then out to another restaurant that she pushed to have create a “Zero Proof” drink menu. She’s pretty effing fab and it was great to meet up with another sober individual and have one "proper" night out.

The British Museum

The British Museum

At the top of Sushi Samba drinking a delishhh alcohol-free drank. 

At the top of Sushi Samba drinking a delishhh alcohol-free drank. 

Some of the trip did have me feeling anxious. Central London was oh-so-very busy and fast paced and at times overwhelming. While I enjoyed it I didn’t truly feel in my groove until I moved out to Deptford (by Greenwich) where the pace was slower. That being said, I think most people, regardless of if they’re in recovery or not, would feel a sense of anxiety being in a new place by themselves, so once I accepted that reality it was much easier to push through.

 

Iceland was really beautiful, but short-lived, as I was only there for just over a day. I had made a reservation to do a few hours at the Blue Lagoon and was thrilled to see on Google maps that it was less than a mile away from the AirBnB I was staying out! Come to find out the Blue Lagoon has a corporate location and the actual geothermal pools were over an hour drive away soooo...that was a fun wasted $70. Again, you live and you learn.

Instead, I did a big walk about in the morning and before I left had some of the best sushi ever and it was from a mall, no less! All was not lost.

I still think of London often and would love to get back there again in the near future. And I hate to be one of those #SoChangedAfterAshortPeriodOfTraveling people, but I did learn a lot about myself. Like that I really do have terrible sense of direction and I need to accept it, that 5 days alone is good enough, that if I don’t micromanage everything will work itself out, and that I can be even more independent and adventurous without the aid of booze.

I really covered some distance in those 5 days and I thought to myself how different the trip would have been if I was drinking. I would have found the the closest pubs so I could get back safely if I blacked out and spent the warmer hours drinking in the park in a classy-but-not-really fashion. Or I’d go to fancy lounges and try to get a London banker to take me home or something similarly needy.

Sober life isn’t boring. I will say it doesn’t have that manufactured energy you get from drinking...but that’s not a bad thing either! You get to do more, see more, not deal with hangovers, and actually remember it all.

-J


TL;DR Musings, in no particular order

  • Brits apparently find American accents very sexy (who knew!)
  • At British AA meetings they serve you your tea
  • My apartment is a mansion compared to your average British flats
  • You really need to mind that gap!
  • I still prefer a big American breakfast over a big English breakfast
  • Saying someone is “fit” in America is not the same as saying someone is “fit” in England...
  • The Tube staff is absolutely amazing and kind and helpful and I’d still be lost without them
  • Beyond Bread Bakery is gluten free mecca
  • I’m 99.99999% sure I saw Idris Elba buzz by on a motorcycle
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Why I Rarely Go To The Bar In Recovery

I’m not good a quoting pages and lines of the AA Big Book verbatim, but I do know that somewhere (rather early on, in fact) the Big Book talks about alcoholics in recovery being able to travel anywhere regular drinkers can. That includes the bar.

Still, I’m here to give you my reasons for why I don’t frequent bars on a regular basis. It’s not that I never go to them, but they aren’t a part of my life anymore like they were in the bad ol’ days.

Temptation

Cravings are real. Even if you don’t have them often they can sneak up and bite you on the behind. One really bad craving I had occurred out of nowhere when I was taking a shower. Now, let’s say I chose to act on that craving. I’d have to end the shower, lotion (I’m black, and thus I don’t go anywhere without lotioning first), throw on a bra (I’m a woman, and thus I don’t go anywhere without a bra), and walk to a store to procure any booze to whet my addiction.

Now, imagine that craving happens when you’re at a bar. All you have to do is raise your finger and boom. A glass is in front of you. I also like the saying “'If you hang around the barbershop long enough, you're going to get a haircut.”

 

It’s not who I am anymore

I used to be a regular down at the bar. I had bar friends. I had my favorite bartenders. I even had some nights when I’d go out and only have 1 drink and then nurse water the rest of the evening. You know what? Those nights of water-nursing were the worst. Not because I so craved a drink (I could just reach out and take one), but because after 10pm drunk people get annoying. They’re belligerent, touchy, and loud. Conversations with these folks, while drunk, that once felt deep and secure now seemed lackluster; I'm looking at you, convos with all the ladies I met in the bathroom.  As a drinker I didn't even like having a "dry night", so as a sober person I really don’t have the tolerance.

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I don’t need to go to a bar to prove I “still go it”

Lately I’ve been hanging out on Twitter and Instagram in the recovery section. I see this with a lot of newbies to sobriety. They’re all “I went out to the bar/pub with friends and had a great time. Only drank a soda!” I’ll preface this mini-rant with saying I lucked out in that I really only had 2 good friends I really did regular, hard-drinking, bar stuff with. It wasn’t like my entire friend group shifted drastically that I felt so alone when I sobered up (mainly because I worked hard at hiding my drinking.)

However, I’ve never really heard a recovering addict say “I hung out at the old crack den last night! It was so fun. Everyone was smoking crack, but I just sat with my vape pen. #StillGotIt”

I would be remiss to not use this fine gif.

I would be remiss to not use this fine gif.

So why do we do that with booze? The risk is just so high! Is that line of thinking giving booze power over me? Perhaps. But booze was a powerful thing for me. I obsessed over it. I got so sick mentally and physically over it. I pondered ending my life over it. I have a healthy respect for the situations that will follow if I pick up again, so I don’t regularly and willingly surround myself with alcohol. Just like there is nothing left for me in a drink, there is nothing left in me being a regular bar attendee.

Those are 3 big reasons why I rarely go to the bar. Keyword: rarely. I’ve gone to bars a handful of times for visiting friends or non-mandatory team events. I’d say I go to a bar maybe once or twice a season. I get in, get my seltzer (smelling it literally 10x to make sure they didn’t assume I wanted booze in it), and after a few hours I’ve gotten my fill of time out with friends.

Sniff checkin'. Not just something you do to your pits!

Sniff checkin'. Not just something you do to your pits!

For the most part, the bar scene just bores me now. I can have so many of the interactions I’ve had a bar, even better ones, outside of those establishments.

-J

This Too Shall Pass, Right?

Hello World,

I’m still here. And alive. And sober. I’ve just have a lot going on to warrant nearly a month of blog silence, yaknowwhatImean?

The Good

  • Still seeing an amazing person
  • I have a roommate so I’m not going into debt with a $1090/mo rent
  • The summer weather is starting to turn around
  • Game Of Thrones is in full swing & chaos is a ladder
  • I’m officially a reader for a local poetry publication
  • I have a Montreal weekend getaway coming up with aforementioned amazing person
  • I made my first amends!


The Not So Good

  • I had a mini cry fest over my job and how much it’s eating away at me mentally, physically, and spiritually
  • I had a few moments of romancing a drink or suicide. Not necessarily considering suicide, but just thinking of the act itself
  • I felt myself slipping towards depression
  • I didn’t go to a meeting for a week or reach out to people (aka: isolating)
  •  stopped doing the things that make me feel good as a spiritual, recovered individual


I don’t think I really need to touch on the good things, but let me address the “Not So Good” column and what I’ve been doing about it to shift out of this downward spiral, so to speak.

It’s no secret that I really struggle with my job. One day I walked to work with the hopes of “clearing my mind” and once the building was 100 feet away I needed to rush to the mother’s breastfeeding room so I could cry. It made me realize how much I needed to move out of this position (i.e., courage to change the things I can.)

Kim and I don't have the same bank account amount, but we have the same crying face.

Kim and I don't have the same bank account amount, but we have the same crying face.

That happened on a Friday and on Monday I talked to my boss very candidly. She knows a lot about me (and my recovery) and was onboard with my request for moving back to my old position as a copywriter after 2 years & my old bosses were thrilled with the idea of me coming back. Now it’s just the waiting game for a position to open that I can slip back into. Honestly, I should have made changes with this job six months ago, but I didn’t have the courage.

Around this time I was also have thoughts of suicide. While it’s definitely a warning sign, I know it’s somewhere my mind goes. I don’t mean to sound glib; it’s just been that way since childhood. What scared me more, honestly, was the idea of drinking, because I don’t tend to have booze cravings. I needed to get to the root. The root, it seems, has been this all encompassing sadness about my job and feeling stuck. Ah, that infamous feeling.

For the weekend I allowed myself to feel a bit of sadness. I met up with friends, talked to them, and just wallowed a bit. Knowing well and good that when the weekend ended I needed to kick my ass into gear: going to meetings, calling women in the program, eating better, going to the gym (I hear rumor that working out gives you endorphins), and just not giving depression a chance to nestle into my bones and make itself at home.

I also started praying again. And meditating. It’s funny how it only takes 10-15 minutes to do both, but that I’m #TooBusy. Which is such bullshit. Because when I do it I feel amazing, but that’s how it goes: leaving the things that make you feel good. Kind of like stopping a round of antibiotics 3 days into a 2 week cycle.

My hopes are to live and die sober. Let’s say that means I live to 80. Just a guesstimate. That means I have just under 60 years of living to do and not all of it can be sunshine and peonies and high-ended scented candles. I imagine at least 5-10 cumulative years of it will suck. So, it’s a good thing that I’m figuring out how to weather through the small, not ideal periods now, so when the real crappola like layoffs, deaths, cul-de-sac crises, divorces, children’s scandals, etc., etc. happen, I can just sigh and say “this too shall pass- if I work the program”

I feel like the character from whatever this show is is actually snarking, but finding AA-based gifs is rare, so, beggars and choosers and all that noise.

I feel like the character from whatever this show is is actually snarking, but finding AA-based gifs is rare, so, beggars and choosers and all that noise.

-J

Move A Muscle, Change A Thought

Irritated and cannot stop thinking about x-issue or x-person? Move a muscle, change a thought.

Have a craving? Move a muscle, change a thought.

Feeling down and sad? Move a muscle, change a thought.

My sponsor gave me this phrase and I used it last year in Montreal when my ill-advised “Poutine Papa”  situation (what I call a Canadian version of a Sugar Daddy) stood me up 2x in a day. I didn’t even really want to see this man who I had met in Canada when I was 23 and still drinking. Our attitudes didn’t gel. He was brusque and expectant. He was also 41, divorced, and had an 8-year old daughter. But my pride was hurt.

It was truly nothing I needed to be involving myself with when I was drinking, never mind as a newly sober woman. But he owned a company and did stock market stuff. Ergo, fancy free dinner. I'm super proud of that time of my life....

After I very dramatically hung up on him I wanted to continue sitting on the couch watching TV and feeling sorry for myself. But I kept my sponsor’s words in mind: move a muscle change a thought. I put on my good jeans, good shoes, good top, and walked out the door in search of a good meal.

I didn’t get far before coming upon a new restaurant that had hostesses outside begging me to come in. The whole theme was no menu and a chef that served you produce and greens from their rooftop garden. Meat and seafood was prepared from the days freshest arrivals too.

I wanted something familiar. But the pleading pull of their eyes was too strong, so I grudgingly grabbed a seat.

What followed was one of the most amazing meals of my life. 3 courses of gastro-orgasming. A kind waiter who showed me the garden. A $70 pre-tip bill that didn’t even matter because it was all so great.

That simple action of moving my butt muscles off the couch completely changed my thoughts from self-pitying to grateful. Also, the restaurant, called Hvor, is now one of the top-rated places to eat in Montreal. Save your money and go. You won’t be disappointed.

Delicious aside over, let’s return to the present time. I used the phrase last night with a craving. Not a drinking one, but a shopping one.

Shopping for me is kind of similar to drinking. It’s something I do when I’m bored or sad or anxious or happy. After I’ve purchased the things I “need” I have this intense high and happiness. But by the time I get home I’m going through bags forgetting that I bought certain things or being floored by how I spent $80 on tchotkes and random articles of clothing in the course of 2 hours.

Thankfully I don’t have a credit card with a high limit (mine is $750)...but there have been times when I had to dig into my already paltry savings or push my electricity bill back a few weeks or only pay half my student loan payment to cover rent. I guess you can call it my secondary addiction. It’s always been there, but without the drinking layered on top of it it’s more glaring.

I’ve been able to pinpoint some of my triggers around shopping. Shocking-not-shocking, Friday is a big one, so I intentionally brought no money to work with me so I’d just go home afterward. But after a few hours I had that itch to “just go browse.” I sat in my living room trying to put it all out of my mind. I don’t need new clothes, it’s just a craving, stop being so stupid, white knuckle, white knuckle. And then I remembered: move a muscle change a thought.

So I got up and started cooking. Again, that simple action helped remove that irritation. By the time all was done and eaten I’d forgotten my craving (and the store was already closed.)

Whether you struggle with alcoholism, debt, drugs, etc., if you find yourself dealing with a craving that won’t go away, stop thinking about it or trying to intellectualize your way through it. That won’t always work. Get up. Maybe workout.  Just clean the apartment. Go to another room. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile. See if getting out of a head space that isn't serving you helps.

-J

I'm 1.5 Years Sober Today!

I've been really stoked for this day for the last few weeks. Why? It's my 1.5 year sober anniversary :) In honor of the  of the past 18 months, I've decided to compile a list of 18 things I've learned in sobriety.

These are things I couldn't do without the support of everyone in AA/recovery, my family, and my friends. I was an unraveled, unwell individual when I stopped drinking and a wonderful individual brought me to my first meeting. Today I feel closer to whole. 

1. I've learned again, and again, and again that there is nothing left for me in a drink (or drug)

2. I've learned to set boundaries and speak up

3. I've also learned that sometimes you just have to zip your lips and nod along

4. I've learned when I need to take time for myself to recoup and when I need to reach out to someone else.

5. I've learned how to fall asleep without 1/2 a bottle of wine or gin and tonic (but sometimes I still use Netflix; progress)

6. I've learned that anxiety is a normal, human feeling, but that there are ways I can cope with it that don't involve drinking (like journaling!)

7. I've learned that I can be a real asshole sometimes...and now I have the ability and humility to apologize

8. I've learned that Montreal is 10x better when you're not on a booze-induced bender

9. I've learned that is okay to cry and okay for it to take a few days for my emotions to process

10. I've learned how to pray to a Higher Power and once in a blue moon I'll meditate

11. I've learned how to "suit up and show up" for people, even if it's not convenient for me 

12. I've learned I cannot figure it all out myself and that I can ask others for opinion (and I'm slowly learning that their opinion might be "yo, girl, that's a dumb idea" and be okay with that)

13. I've learned the dangerous powers of resentments and am slowly working to deal with them

14. I've learned that even though I haven't touched a drink or a drug in over a year that I can still act like that sick individual

15. I've learned  the importance of sharing my hurt and happiness in a room full of fellow alcoholics and listening to theirs

16. I've learned how to live alone

17. I've learned how to not spin in my own head and the signs and habits that mean I'm not in a great mental space

18.  I've learned how to laugh and smile again

Today I Need To Reset My Recovery

A timeworn tale: I’ve been low key hating my job the last 2 months. I mean, I've never really liked the job in the entire 2 years I've had the title, but it's been really eating away at me lately.

I’ve been upset about my financial situation and how a lot of my mood relates to some poor spending habits & the reality that the luxury of living alone means I’m living from paycheck to paycheck, which wasn’t the case 4 months ago.

I’ve been upset about my lack of physical dedication and not being able to “settle” on an exercise style that I enjoy doing on a regular basis.

The only thing that has really brought consistent happiness to my life has been getting to know a certain gentleman the last few months. And that's nice, but clearly my happiness to sadness scale is severely unbalanced.

How I'm feeling on the inside. A pretty accurate, melodramatic representation.

How I'm feeling on the inside. A pretty accurate, melodramatic representation.

I know I need to do some investigating (aka: praying, meditating, journaling, and possibly a bit of crying.) I'm happy to have a bit of free time this afternoon to just lay my emotions on the living room floor and take stock of them. What do I have to accept, what can I change, and do I have the courage, as per the serenity prayer?

Did you know Rob Lowe has many, many years of sobriety? Fun fact!

Did you know Rob Lowe has many, many years of sobriety? Fun fact!

Afterward, I plan on collecting my discontent, irritatations, few crumbs of self-pity, and disturbances, and take a nice, warm bath. Then possibly painting my nails. And finally cracking a La Croix Coconut Seltzer I have chilling in the fridge. A bit of tough, soul-searching self-care followed by some more luxurious, fluffy self-care to end the day on a nicer note. On second thought, I”ll crack open the seltzer before the nails so I don’t fudge them up ;)

I know life isn’t always happy, but I need to do some real, solid cleaning to get myself back on a positive and more appreciative trajectory. Because you know what they say.

And that’s not good.

-J

I Promise, You Are Not Broken

Recently I was at a meeting and there was a woman in the room sobbing and telling everyone how she felt “broken” and that something was wrong with her.

I knew that feeling so well, and girl could I empathize.

For many years I thought and felt there was something intrinsically wrong with me.  Probably because I'm a writer and a bit dramatic, I likened it to this: being a toy that was put together incorrectly and my maker knew I was defective but still put me out in the world to hobble along anyway. I felt it jiggling around in my core. That stubborn, broken piece that meant I was less than.

 

 I’d feel this sense of brokenness especially if a romantic prospect fell through and would always think “something is wrong with me, so I’m just meant to walk this world alone.”

 A bleak mindset to have, right?

Me, when I was depressed and drinking every day.

Me, when I was depressed and drinking every day.

I’m not sure when the shift happened & I stopped feeling that way. To steal a quote from The Fault In Our Stars, I imagine it took place slowly, then all at once.

 First I just had to get sober.

Remove the boozy bullshit that was ruining my life and driving me deeper and deeper into madness and depression. Then I had to go to meetings, connect with other alcoholics, and feel like I wasn’t alone in my sadness. Later on I also I had to learn to accept that sometimes I was sitting on my “pity pot” with this feeling of brokenness, picking at it over and over again like a scab...but not on Day 1.

 Remember, this was a slow process.

Like the day I woke up and realized I didn’t want to drink anymore or didn’t want to die anymore, I woke up and didn’t feel broken anymore. The dread, loneliness, despair, and self-pity attached to that wildly incorrect notion was just...gone. Vanished. Poof.

 

 So, if you’re reading this and feel like you’re broken, know you aren’t alone...and that over time the thought will slip away and you will feel so much better. Wholeness feels damn good.

-J

Sober & Ready To Find My Birth Family

This last week I went home for a big trip. There is some family stuff going on and if AA has taught me anything (well, it’s taught me a lot of things) it’s that I need to suit up and show up for the people around me.

When I learned someone in my family was struggling with substance abuse issues, what I needed to do to help was immediately obvious: push my planned vacation up a week, go home, be there for support, and listen. Yay for a 9th Step Promise coming true!

Are these extravagant promises? We. Think. Not.

Are these extravagant promises? We. Think. Not.

It felt great being able to help a family member in need!

It felt great being able to help a family member in need!

The driving, little sleep, long conversations, and all over the place eating for a few days is enough to throw anyone emotionally. Add on top of that the fact that I found some really important information in the form of paperwork when going through a stack of boxes. Paperwork that could potentially lead me down a long, rewarding, and emotional path to finding family in Haiti, the country I was adopted from when I was 14 months.

I wept, happily, when I found the paperwork...then went back to sifting through other boxes of more contemporary reminders like middle school yearbooks and old diaries.

But it hit me hard this past weekend that my world has the potential to grow and shift substantially. There is a chance I have cousins, half-siblings, aunts and uncles, and possibly even a birth father still alive in Haiti. Talk about a God-Size hole shifting in size and shape. 

I know I keep speaking in chances, possibilities, maybes, and perhaps-es. I’m trying not to let the cart get ahead of the horse, but it’s kind of a big, exciting deal.

This isn’t news I could have comprehended when I was drinking. I was impulsive and stupid. I would have bought a flight to Haiti the next day, with no plan, jacked up on gin, and in no state to present myself.

Even now it still feels overwhelming and like I’m being cracked open and fighting this battle between wanting to feel a range of emotions and also just feel numb to it at the same time. But I went to a meeting and spoke about it and cried and that felt really good. There's more crying to do, though. 

-J

 

A (Sober) Trip To Montreal

Hello! I haven’t posted much in the last two weeks, but I assure you all has been well. I had a bit of vacation brain before the long weekend and feel like I’m still recouping from it.

With this being my third year I’ve made the trip, I guess spending Memorial Day Weekend in Montreal has become a bit of a tradition! Montreal is 100% my special place. I have a Godfather who has a condo up there as a second home and he’s amazingly gracious and lets me go up (free of charge) whenever I need a bit of a getaway. The first time I went up was when I was 20 and I’ve been coming up consistently since I was 23 for solo travels.

Me, pretending to be Canadian so I can come live in the fine city of Montreal....

Me, pretending to be Canadian so I can come live in the fine city of Montreal....

 

 I’m from a glorified town that likes to pretend it’s a city, so going up to Montreal really is big change, what with the metro, faster pace, scary city drivers, and so many museums to check out. Plus miles of shopping. Even with it being a night and day difference, I’ve always felt very comfortable in Montreal. However, the city does hold some darker memories.

 When my drinking was starting to progress, I’d really go all out in Montreal. I’d definitely use the stocked liquor cabinet, bring up enough wine to last for a few days, and drink greedily at restaurants and bars. My mornings would start with two glasses of wine and my days would end in the bath tub with the rest of the bottle. Plus imbibing in-between. Basically, I moved through the city slowly and in a bit of a blur, staying close enough that I could make it back to the apartment easily at night.

 On one particular trip up that I guess you could call a bender, I ended up having a mental breakdown. I even considered throwing myself off my Godfather’s 17th story balcony. It was bad and the fall out consisted of driving back to Vermont and spending 3 more days panicking on the living room floor. That’s when drinking really started to get bad and dark.

 Flash forward to about 5 months into sobriety and I took my first trip back to the city I considered ending my life in. I was so nervous that there would be nothing I’d find beautiful about the place. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, I fell back in love with it, but in a much happier and healthier way.

View from the condo taken Memorial Day Weekend of '16. Pretty stunning, right? When I first started going to MTL that big building was still in the construction process!

View from the condo taken Memorial Day Weekend of '16. Pretty stunning, right? When I first started going to MTL that big building was still in the construction process!

 One of the most important things I do when I go up to Montreal as a sober individual is get myself to AA meetings. On one trip last year I was sitting by myself and another young woman came and sat down next to me and introduced herself. We exchanged #s and have stayed in contact. When I told her I’d be up for the long weekend I found out there was an AA Round Up event and that her sponsor was driving people out.

 I got to spend 2 days surrounded a ton of people in sobriety, met some more kick-ass women, and had a super unique and exciting trip. Though it was very draining; I ended up taking another day off from work. All in all, I'm constantly amazed by the things I'm able to do in sobriety.

-J

My Daily Prayer

Prayer is a large part of the AA program and many people struggle with it at the beginning for various reasons. My path to prayer was a progressive one. It started at first in the car, saying a little prayer on my way to work. It was a rift on the 3rd step prayer. Someday I’ll commit to memorizing it, but it always feels a bit clunky, so I made up my own.

After a few weeks I realized praying while driving was a bit of a challenge, so I started sitting and doing it. Shortly after I- as they say- hit my knees and started praying at the side of my bed. It was a humbling experience.

I’m not perfect at pray-er. I’d say I pray 4 out of the 7 days of the week. And only in the morning. I usually forget 1 day during the workweek and during the weekends I’m not great about it; progress, progress, progress & more progress.

Here is a prayer I say in the mornings. Hopefully after reading this you’ll get an idea of how to develop your own prayer that has a deep meaning to you.

prayer1.gif
God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Help me take on the day with grace, strength, and ease. Remove from me the desire to be selfish, self-seeking, and the desire to impose my self-will on others. Remove from me also the desire to drink or drug or shop in order to enhance my emotions or to numb out. And when you remove these obstacles, I am better able help the fellow alcoholic, the fellow addict, and my fellow human.

That is the core of my prayer. I’ll also add on some extras most day. During the busy time of the month at work, I might throw in a line asking for helping dealing with challenging clients and being softer with them. If I know someone (friend, family, or person in the rooms) is struggling I’ll offer a prayer for them as well. You may have noticed I have “shopping” in there. I’m currently working through some behaviors with spending that are similar to my drinking, so I add that in too.

If I’m noting a resentment starting to really take root  I’ll start on a cycle of 2-week resentment praying where I pray for the person I resent to have everything I have and everything I want; resentment prayer is a humbling, humbling, beast.  Lastly, sometimes I’m just like “what do you want me to do, God/Higher Power/Presence of the universe?”

If you have a prayer practice, what does it look like? If you have been interested in prayer but holding back, what do you think is stopping you?

- J

 

 

Silly Sobriety: Going To Hear A Friend Speak

Few things are more exciting than going to hear a close friend in the program speak! You may know some of the details of her or his life before they came in, but you’ve never heard it all pieced together in one stunning, 20 minutes of speech. This, ladies & gents, is how I feel whenever one of my gals tells me they’re speaking and wants me to come if I can.

Friend: Will you come hear me speak at the 7pm Wednesday night meeting?

Me:

 

A few minutes before the meeting begins

Friend: I’m feeling a little bit nervous

Me:

 


 

10 minutes in when the real heart-wrenching emotions & stories come out

Me:

 

When she talks about how she finally got into the rooms and stopped feeling like the world was crushing her

Me:

 

When she finishes her story of experience, strength, and hope, and people get to share what they’ve taken away from it all, and I have to be, you know, mildly reserved in a large group setting.

 

Me afterward in the parking lot when I can really tell her how flippin' awesome she is!

A Day Off Sober Versus A Day Off In Active Alcoholism

Today I’m taking a day off from work. It’s going to be 80 degrees and I want to bask in the sunshine, as it’s been kind of gloomy and rainy for the past few weeks. It got me thinking how much my days off have changed from when I was in active alcoholism to nearly 1.5 years later as a sober woman. Let's take a look.

Today

I plan on waking up, putzing around the apartment in my fuzzy dad robe (I’m a great putzer) with a pour over coffee, and then heading to an 8am AA meeting. Not a bad way to get the day started.

Wait, this is what they mean by pour over coffee, right??

Wait, this is what they mean by pour over coffee, right??

 

When I was drinking I would have also woken up early. Instead of a coffee I would have popped open a bottle of cheap champagne and mixed in some OJ for a mimosa. If there was wine leftover I might have swilled some of that too.


Late Morning/Early Afternoon

I have 2 gal friends at work and during the warmer months we participate in “Ladies Who Lunch”. We take a long break and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant, preferably outside. These friends are “normal drinkers”, but it’s not big deal; I get a seltzer or tonic while they have a beer or margarita. Even though it’s my day off, I’m  hoping to still meet with them.

When I was drinking I would still make time to accompany them to Ladies Who Lunch. In fact, it would be even more exciting because I wouldn’t have to be mindful about the amount I drank. I likely would have gotten 2 cocktails and a cider. Because I would have spent the entire morning drinking, I’d probably need to go home after and sleep- forcing me to miss some of the best hours of sunshine!

Afternoon

Since it’s going to be so nice out the master plan is to get into my bathing suit! I haven’t yet decided where I’m going to go, but no matter what beach or stretch of grass I end up on, I’ll have at least 2 books with me, possibly a magazine, and a big bottle of bubbly water. Hanging outside with friends is fun, but solitude isn’t bad either!

When I was drinking, if I got back up from passing out earlier, I might have gone to the beach. I’d choose the one closest for walking if I was still feeling buzzed. I’d bring books and magazines, plus a mason jar. It’d likely be filled with my “signature” drink: gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, and tonic. There may have even been a mason jar with a white wine spritzer and berries, just in case I ran out. Once I got my towel down I’d immediately start in on my goods. I didn’t realize that it was because I was a.) nervous and b.) had such a dependency that I needed to stay inebriated not just mentally, but also physically!

I thought I was soooo classy....

I thought I was soooo classy....





 

Evening

My apartment is in a slight state of disarray, so I’ll probably go home and put away my laundry, scrub the tub, vacuum the carpets, and when all's said and done light a candle and relax with a few episodes of Harlots or the Handmaid’s Tale. If I’m feeling extra spry, I might go to another AA meeting! At the end of it all, I may stay up a little later than I’d like, but if that’s the worst then so be it.

When I was drinking I’d probably still go home and clean...but with the aid of a bottle of red wine. But because alcohol isn’t really the “great motivator” I would end up doing more drinking more than cleaning. I’d try to watch some TV too, but once I got into red wine my mind would start turning and if I was watching anything sad I’d start questioning the value of my life. I’d probably pass out on the couch, feeling anxious and sad about waking up the next morning and going back to work for 2 more days.

Drunk cleaning is just so ineffective.

Drunk cleaning is just so ineffective.

 

See...a lot has changed!


I felt like I needed alcohol every minute of every day, the same way I needed to breathe. I couldn’t function without it. Literally. I could not clean without a glass in hand. That’s no way for anyone to live. This is just a snapshot of how my life has changed since I got sober. Isn’t the second paragraph so dreary and honestly a little pathetic?

But, I didn’t know any better...I didn’t know how to start a day with tea or coffee or water or enjoy time with friends without throwing back three drinks. I thought I was classy. I thought I was really good at unwinding too, but I wasn’t. I was just good at drowning. Drowning the thoughts, fears, boredom and emotions with glass after glass.

I’m so grateful that with the help of meetings, friends, and time, I can actually have a day off and not spend it in a boozed out daze. And if you’re reading this, and are new to sobriety, know that it will get better! It’s not easy at first. You can still have days off that feel a little shaky, but it doesn’t have to be sad and monotonous like the old times.

- J

5 Tips For Staying Sober During BBQ Season

We’re a few weeks out from Memorial Day Weekend, which means pool parties and bbq events are just around the corner! Whether it’s your first sober BBQ season, or you’ve done a few, it’s always nice to have some tools in the toolbox for getting through these occasions that often have a heavy boozing atmosphere. The last tip is my favorite, but read through them all, you Sober  Sally’s and Sully’s.


1.) Have an exit strategy

This one is key! When I’m traveling or going to a party my sponsor asks me if I have a way to leave. If I’m driving myself I make sure I park in a spot where I won’t be blocked in. I have a few people in mind that I can call if I need to recenter myself. If you’re going with someone, it’s nice to arrive at these sort of events with a friend who understands your sobriety and will be okay with leaving early if need be. Lastly, don’t be afraid to leave! Thank the guest for inviting you and say it’s time for you to head home. Keep it brief and pleasant.

TTFN. Tata for now!

TTFN. Tata for now!

 

2.) Arrive early and leave early

Coming into an event that is already in full swing can be a little overwhelming. I like arriving early so I can settle in and grab a seltzer or soda. Arriving early also means I get to spend more time with people before the night starts to “turn”. You know what I’m talking about: when drinkers suddenly lose volume control, tipsy turns to drunk, and someone inevitably starts pounding shots or shotgunning beers. It’s much easier to pick up on this change when you aren’t drinking & that’s a great time to say your goodbyes. Reminder: don’t forget that if you arrive early to park further away so you don’t get blocked in!

early.gif

 

Have something in your hand

They say idle hands are the devil’s plaything, right? If you aren’t holding onto something someone is more likely to ask if you want a beer or wine if they don’t know you’re not drinking. Of course you can politely decline, but it cuts down a potential back and forth about why you aren’t drinking. I also find it grounding to have something to hold onto and sip on and feel more “apart of”.

You will be the most hydrated at the parrrtay.

You will be the most hydrated at the parrrtay.

 

Take 10 (breaths)

Consider it a mini-meditation. There is a Shambhala studio around the corner from my house and when you go they make you sit in a waiting room before allowing you to enter the meditation hall. The reasoning is to give you a few minutes to let go of some of the raw energy and emotions you’ve dragged in off the street. I try to do this in my general life before I leave the house, get on a scheduled client call, or even go to bed. It’s a great way to center yourself and feel that everything is going to be “alright”. Take 10 breaths before you walk into that BBQ!


 

My favorite tip: have fun!

Staying grounded and having these tips so you can remain sober is important. At the same time, while we need to be vigilant, that doesn’t mean we cannot have fun or have to resign ourselves to sitting in the living room with our blinds drawn. Yes you should have an exit strategy, don’t stay past a useful time, have something in hand, and mini-meditate before you go.  But plan on having fun too!

bbq fun.gif

 

I was surprised by my first few sober, summer outings. I thought I was going to be a wreck and miserable. After making it through a few minutes of itchy discomfort (which honestly most people are going to have anyway!), I had a ton of fun. I enjoyed having conversations without forgetting something mid-sentence because I was too drunk. Instead of hoarding the booze table I got to mingle with everyone. I actually remembered the entire night and didn’t wake up with “omg why did I say that?” shame. And I got to still see friends that are “normal” drinkers. Win-win.


What are some tools you utilize to stay sober during boozy summer events?

- J

Acting Out In Sobriety

Lately I felt that I was hitting the ceiling with my job. I've been candid with my manager about this and she set up an appointment for me to meet with a recruiter to learn about other departments within the organization.

The woman I met with was really kind, but the underlying vibe of the chat was that the chances of me trying to find a job within my company that fit some of the big, key “wants” was slim. She even suggested some outside companies to look at.

This wasn’t a complete surprise either. What was a surprise was how I took this news I essentially knew was coming down the pipeline.

I acted out. Like crazy.

I practically stamped back to my desk and huffed all afternoon. I gave a client serious attitude. This client normally bothers me anyway, but I know I let the job information add on a few, uncalled for layers of crabbiness. I snapped at a designer on the team and felt immediate shame.

Accurate representation and portrayal

Accurate representation and portrayal

 

After 30 minutes of being in a rare form, I turned to my desk mate, and said “I am being a bit of a ‘see you next Tuesday’, and I’m just going to quarantine myself until I stop acting like a child’ okay? *puts in headphones*” He laughed, nodded, and I chatted an apology to the designer who didn’t even notice I was being mean, but it was still the correct thing to do.

When I think of the gifts of sobriety, I like to imagine mental health, wellness, trust, friendship, and all the really pretty points. But some of the gifts have a more somber note. Like better self-awareness, particularly for when you’re acting out on fears, “character defects”, etc.

It sucks to accept when I've been acting out, but at the same time it’s a gift.  It’s a gift to be able to go apologize to those I've hurt during a moment when grace escaped me. It’s a gift to be able to dig deep into my actions and go “why am I acting out” and pinpoint the cause. It’s a gift to, as they say, clean my side of the street and help clear my conscience.

 

It’s not something I would or could have done when I was drinking every day. Nothing was my fault. Everything was out of my control. And the world was out to get me. I was in constant victim-hood. And that’s not to say that sometimes people aren’t victims of something sad and horrible, but the way I was acting last week was irrational, uncalled for, and I, unfortunately, unleashed my emotions on completely innocent bystanders.

How do you feel you “act out” when things don’t go your way and how do you address them? I’d love to know!

- J


Ps: I’m kinda impressed with my Captain Kirk gif abilities.

Silly Sobriety: Co-signing Bullsh!t

How I feel when someone won't co-sign my bullsh!t

It's the worst. I want to act out and do something I know is silly and get someone else on board and they're just not having it. You need people in sobriety who will stick up for you and be your "yes" woman (or man), but you also need someone who will call you out when you're being an ass clown.

My Brain Tried To Tell Me I Could Still Drink

“My alcoholism is outside doing push ups.”

“My alcoholism is cunning.”

“My alcoholism tells me it’s okay to drink again.”

 

Those are just some of the phrase you’ll hear every few meetings in AA, and while the image of alcoholism in the form of a human doing push ups on the other side of the door and staring me down is a bit humorous, it’s mostly a grave reminder.

When my anxiety, depression, and alcoholism team up.

When my anxiety, depression, and alcoholism team up.

 

In recovery, I’ve been very fortunate to not have cravings. That doesn’t make me a better, more-balanced, more recovered, individual. It’s just not something I deal with (I've got my own crap, but that's for another post.)

However, I was so surprised late Friday when I had not exactly a craving, but that evil little thought of maybe someday I can moderate. I felt like I was being sucker punched.

It all started the day before when after 8 months of using a basic phone, I decided I missed my iPhone and rebooted it back up. I had bought a super bulky, totally unattractive Kyocera flip phone back in the fall. The reason was not long after I stopped drinking I stopped Instagramming. I had long used “going out for dinner” as an excuse to get classy-plastered and without so many dinners to go to, I had less to Instagram. I was also was over feeling the need to take photos of everything I wore, ate, considered buying, and trying to get likes etc.

I was also sick of all the notifications, feeling like I had to respond to people immediately, and on and on. Why keep the phone then? So I went cold turkey and it felt great.

Jump to present day: last week I finally put in my PTO request to take some time off to go to Toronto in the summer. I realized that it’d be nice to have the map function, seeing as I got lost for a solid 4 hours one evening during my trip to London last September; cute the first time, but I wanted to avoid it again. Plus I kind of missed texting at lightening speed.

I called up Verizon, spoke to a man named Emmanuel, and within an hour was back up and running on my iPhone. I must, must, must state that if you ever call Verizon please ask for this fine gentleman. He’s an angel of technology sent from on high.

In just seconds I was texting like a maniac, sending peach and eggplant emojis, and re-installing my favorite apps.

 

I chuckled at this because I’ve heard there are 2 types of people that “go back out” (aka: fall off the wagon.) There are the type that can manage the idealized acceptable drinking for a few months-- maybe even a few years--before they go back down the rabbit hole. And there are the type that keep drinking as if they’d never been sober. I’ve always felt that if I went back out you’d best believe I’d down a bottle of wine from the get go, and in a lighthearted way my return to the iPhone kind of confirmed that.

Now, back to the initial point of this post: how did I suddenly start thinking, even if just for a brief moment, that I could moderate?

I was in the shower, where all people do their deep thinking. I was giving myself this silly pep talk of “Jocellyn, moderate your cell phone use. You don’t need to set all the notifications. Or keep it on your desk. Or check it every 2 minutes to make sure, you know, it’s still there.” All reasonable things, right? And then I just went flying past reason to “you know, if you can moderate your cell phone use, then maybe in 20 years you can moderate your drinking. Wouldn’t that be nice”

Oh hellllll no.

 

And as I was thinking this I knew it was wrong and I knew it was the not healthy side of my brain trying to drive the car. But it was still scary.

Sobriety is going to be a bumpy ride. And we’re not perfect beings. I’m so glad I have a support system of friends and family that I can be like “hey, I had this weird thought. Recovery, amiright?” I also am grateful that through my sponsor and going to meetings I had a strong base so I could be like “bye, Felicia” to that idea and not entertain it mentally or literally. Yes, it still has me a little shaken, but I’m certainly not wondering if there is any truth to it and I'm also not feeling like  "bad" sober person for having it either; thoughts happen, but actions don't have to follow.

(Ha, you thought there would be a Bye, Felicia gif, huh? That’d be too obvious.)

Do you ever deal with those types of thoughts? If so, what does your disease like to tell you?

-J