Blog Archives

Since I’m Usually Late to a Party Anyway…

… I am going to ignore the fact that we are a week into the new year, but still state my intention for my Word Of The Year.  This practice has been making the rounds in my little corner of the blogging world, and it seems to have started with the delightful Mished-Up, I am so excited to have found her blog!  Thanks for this wonderful new ritual, I am excited to embrace the concept and see what great things it brings to my life!

For my inaugural word, I have selected:

en·er·gy
ˈenərjē/
noun
the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.

 

 

Here’s the reasons and hopes for and in selecting energy:

  • Just thinking about the word energy brightens my spirits.  I mentioned that I have been under the weather for the past few days.  The silver lining of this being that I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate about my Word Of the Year!  With zero energy right now, the idea of working to bring more of it into my life seems like a rewarding project.
  • Energy is applicable to every component of life, and can be incorporated into any possible resolution I might want to make.  If I choose to improve my diet, well, calories are technically units of energy.  If I choose to revamp (read:  restart) my fitness regimen, increased energy is a natural outcome.  If I choose to organize myself better in the new year, I am ultimately expending more energy than I have in the past.
  • I have an undertaking in the works currently that I will address in more detail in a later post, primarily because I detest talking about goals before I’ve really begun, but the undertaking involves the practice of meditation.  From my limited understanding, one of the many benefits of meditation is increased energy, as well as the development of a new set of skills for dealing with the negative energy in one’s life.
  • And speaking of negative energy, and by negative energy I am referring to any form of energy that is detrimental, learning how to best handle it would make this list as well.  Managing/eliminating/limiting toxic relationships, growing/encouraging/fostering positive relationships, eradicating that which drains me mentally, and working to end negative patterns all could fall under the umbrella of possibilities.
  • Harnessing the energy I possess and using it for good, rather than continuing to weigh the pro’s and con’s without ever taking action.  Giving myself permission to fail would be key to this process, as well as working against my natural tendency for all or nothing thinking.
  • Somewhat along the lines of the bullet point above, taking action to resolve long-standing issues that drain me of energy.  Continuing to bitch and moan about a problem without making any attempt to solve it enervates me, so, clearly, the opposite approach should energize.
  • Cultivate a greater awareness of and gratitude for the energy I have right here, right now.  It is default thinking for me to consider what I should be doing, how I could be better spending my time, and how much more could have been achieved.  Again, this type of thinking is exhausting.  Taking time each day to consider what has been done well always brings positive energy, so why not increase that energy as much as possible?
  • Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some component of recovery into this list.  I know from experience the energy I receive from helping another.  Continuing to reach my hand out to those in need boomerangs right back to me in a way that would be impossible to describe.  There is a virtually limitless supply of energy in being of service to others.

So, there you have it, time to get energized!  I really hope my throat and head are getting the message.  Let’s see how energized 2015 turns out to be!

Today’s Miracle:

Writing this, sitting upright in the home office, rather than slumped over the laptop on the recliner, seems to be miracle enough for today.

Advertisements

Progress Report

Two weeks ago I wrote a rather despondent post bemoaning my relationship with food.  As always, shining the light on my fears and troubles diminishes them.  The comments I received turned my negativity around almost instantaneously, and the support from my “in person” friends was the icing on the cake (the cake, of course, being gluten-free, sugar-free, and calorie-free).   I came to find out, once again, that I am indeed not alone in my troubling thoughts, and that, sharing the load truly lessens the burden.

One friend and I, who both have a trip booked for roughly the same time frame, have concocted a plan:  let’s grab some of the most effective tools from the recovery toolbox with which I have been blessed, and put them to work in constructing a healthier lifestyle.  Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Goal:  Take the next six weeks, and make small, incremental changes to our current diet and fitness lifestyle, and see if we can’t feel and look better in time for our trips.

Okay, so there’s the big picture goal, how will the next 6 weeks play out?  One of the biggest “tricks” to my success in recovery, especially in the early days, was that I had a to-do list of four things, and only four things, that I needed to accomplish in any given day, and if I went to bed having accomplished them, the day was a success.  I’ve written about this ad nauseam, no need to revisit the specifics.  So what I hope to do is use the same blueprint for improving my health.  I took a long, hard look (cringing A LOT) at all my bad habits, and I concluded that, to start, I could commit to 4 things each and every day, and I was (am) hopeful that in time, I can add/modify/eliminate as needed to continue on a positive path.  But for now, forget everything else, and commit to the following:

1.  Eliminate the 4 worst foods in my current diet that lead to binge eating (again using the number because it worked so effectively in the past for me)

2.  Commit to replacement foods that are healthier than existing foods

3.  20 minutes of dedicated physical activity

4.  Communication/progress reports each evening (She has her own four, and reciprocates with her own progress reports)

That is it.  Here’s what I am NOT going to do:  beat myself up over anything else that I do or don’t do during a given day… if I go to bed having accomplished those four things, that day is a success.

Saturday, February 22nd was our start date; today is March 6, roughly 2 weeks in.  How is it going?

Week one had its emotional ups and downs, but I successfully completed the week as laid out above.  Each day I would wake up, absolutely convinced that I would not, could not, make it through the day without giving in to one temptation or another (sound familiar, friends in recovery?).  Each night that I made it through, the exhilaration was palpable.

A surprising tool from recovery came in very handy during the first week.  Each time I refrained from eating something, or chose something healthy, a pessimistic voice in my head would taunt me, “Big deal… you made it through this one, tiny hurdle?  Do you REALLY think you are going to spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE doing this?”

Here’s the surprise answer I had at the ready, and it comes directly from all the lessons learned through recovery:  “Who cares about the rest of your life?  Can you make it through the rest of this day?”

And would you believe that response was as calming, as soothing, and as positive, as when I used it in the early days of sobriety?  So that was a really fun bonus.  And the voice has since quieted down, it’s almost inaudible!

Other positives:  the exercise thing, having committed to it effectively about 6 months ago but have since lapsed, was like riding a bike, in that making it a part of my daily life became routine fairly quickly.  Without getting too far ahead of myself, I do find myself pushing myself a bit further, here and there, and I suspect that as time goes on I will continue to do so.

The regular “checking in” process has loads of benefits, the main one being accountability.  There were several days that I turned away from one bad choice or another for the simple reason that I did not want to report I ate it.

Another huge milestone for me:  sharing about the foods that tempt me.  In the past, I would have been as secretive about this information as I was with every part of my active addiction.  I attach shame to eating certain foods, and thus do it privately, and fail to disclose it to anyone.  In order to have this communication with my friend be meaningful, I had to get real about the temptations in my life.  Unsurprisingly, my revelations did not raise an eyebrow, and since that time I’ve opened up with more people about it, getting similar results.

I did not recognize this shift until a few days ago.  I am a Catholic, and Lent is currently underway.  In preparation for this religious event, I was contemplating what I would sacrifice, and decided that it would be one of the foods on my list above… Lent would simply give me a few added weeks of abstinence.  However, tradition would have it that on “Fat Tuesday,” you celebrate with one last hoorah, and so I made the decision that I would break one of my four commitments.  I communicated this to my friend, in advance, explaining what I was going to do, and how I intend to not let it derail me permanently (as has so often happened in the past).  I finished explaining it in email, and when I sat back to review, I realized what an amazing accomplishment that was for me… that kind of unreserved honesty, as far as eating habits are concerned, is a first for me, and it felt really good to see the progress as it’s happening.

Last but not least, I am experiencing tangible results:  my clothes feel a tad looser, the numbers on the scale are down, 10 pounds the first week!  I am actually going to talk a little more about that, but it will have to wait for another post, since this one is running too long as it is!  Finally, my mood overall is more positive and optimistic.

All great stuff, and I will post again in two weeks on this subject and let you know where I’m at!

Today’s Miracle:

Having good news of any kind to report is a miracle!

Staying Motivated: 5 Tips to Keep On Keepin’ On!

In Monday’s post I wrote about an injury I sustained this past weekend.  Today is day 6 in dealing with a bum knee.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of the past 6 days:

  • Days 1 and 2:  debilitating pain keeps me a model patient:  I adhere to every directive designed to expedite healing
  • Day 3:  Despite every natural inclination, I make and keep Doctor’s appointment, at which I find that I am doing all that is necessary, but that I need to keep doing it
  • Day 4:  Feels quite a bit better than the first 3 days, which I take as a positive sign, begin to function more normally
  • Day 5:  Feeling same as yesterday, so increase my activity, which I then proceed to overdo.  Now the pain level is back to day 3, and I am dejected.  I try to recover in the evening
  • Day 6:  Wake up feeling as bad as yesterday, and now, besides being in pain, I am also outraged… how can this be happening?

Now, you might read this breakdown and scratch your head in bewilderment… is there something wrong with this woman?  Of course the pain has returned, she did not give it enough time!

But really, this is just an example of so many things in life:  we have a goal, we start out with gusto, and then, either fizzle out due to fading motivation, or to some wrench in the plans of life.  And what a perfect time of year to discuss this topic.  It is January 9th.  Had I not injured my knee, I would have been embarking on resuming my running regimen.  And I guarantee you I would have been facing feelings similar to the ones I am facing with this knee injury… either impatience that I am not progressing fast enough, disgust that I am not seeing any results, or simple boredom with the new routine.  Same with sobriety, the first several weeks of my recovery I remained sober, but life continued to plummet downward.  It’s hard enough making the decision to give up drinking/drugs, but to do so in the face of chaos, even more challenging.

Now, with this injury, I can cry and gnash my teeth all I want, but it’s not going to change anything.  But with other goals… new eating plans, staying sober, physical fitness… the mental engagement is critical to success.  So how to maintain the passion that drives someone to embark on a lifestyle change?

There are probably a million and one great articles out there on staying motivated, but here are the top 5 tips I have come across, have used myself, or will attempt to use in the upcoming weeks:

1.  Have a specific goal:  In terms of my injury, I want to completely recover from my injury so that I may resume my fitness routine.  This goal is specific, it is measurable (return to zero pain), it is attainable (doctor’s opinion), and it is time-bound (doctor-given guidelines).  For many reading this post, the goal could be sobriety:  I want to live my life chemically unaltered.  The simpler and more specific the goal, the better.

2.  Know why you wish to achieve this goal:  I want to recover from my injury so that I may have the full use of my leg… so that I may walk, run, climb stairs as any healthy person can.  The why behind this goal are more obvious that some other goals.  In terms of sobriety, it is important to know clearly why you want to be drug and alcohol free.  The reasons can be to attain benefits, such as “increased health,” or it can be to avoid negative consequences, such as “so that I don’t lose my self-respect, or the respect of others.”

3.  Visualize the end result:  For me, I really want to get back to my goal of running, so I picture myself as I was last summer and fall, when I was at my peak.  I can also visualize what it would be like to do even better than my best, as in run (not walk) in a 5K.  For sobriety, there are so many ways to visualize the end result:  how you will look and feel knowing that you have overcome an unhealthy relationship with drugs/alcohol, the joy of attending functions and not behaving irrationally, the peace that would come from living life with a clear mind, and without the worry of what you may have said or done under the influence.

4.  Learn from failures:  So I overdid things this week, and I recognize that only sets me back further from my goal.  I can bemoan this fact, or I can chalk it up as a learning experience… now I know what I can do, and what I cannot.  This is a critical piece for people in early sobriety.  Many times someone will accrue a number of sober days or weeks, and then slip.  Okay, it happened, so now there is the choice:  decide that all the progress was for nought, or figure out what led to the relapse so that you do not repeat the mistake.  As Buddha says, “There are only two mistakes along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”

5.  Reward yourself:  The more long-range the goal, the more mini-rewards should be given.  Celebrate every milestone along the way.  The more positive reinforcement you give yourself, the more likely you are to keep going!

I would love to hear from my friends in recovery:  what methods have you used to keep motivated in staying sober?

Today’s Miracle:

Giving advice on motivation is a reciprocal gift… I feel better as I type!

I’ve Talked the Talk, and Now I’ve Walked the Walk!

DSC_0257

The journey of a 5K starts with the support of two amazing friends, one of whom is walking beside me in this picture!

——————————————————-

So, like I said, no idea if this will work or if it is just another lame-ass attempt on my part that will fall by the wayside in a few hours/days/weeks.  I hope not, but my track record is not good in this department.  I do know this:  since the idea came, and Christy asked, I have been to the gym every day.

-Quote from my post, The Dreaded Topic, published June 5, 2013

————————————————————-

Before I talk about Saturday, some very, very important details need to addressed:  I would not be writing this post at all, I would not be feeling the amazing accomplishment I feel, if it weren’t for two very special people.  First and foremost, a teary-eyed thank you to my mentor Christy who writes Running on Sober.  Had it not been for her inspiration, motivation, encouragement, and dedication, I would not have this accomplishment to brag about!  Thank you seems inadequate, but it’s all I’ve got.

Second, and equally important:  Kristen, who writes Bye Bye Beer.  I can now claim Kristen as an “in-person friend” as well as a blogging friend, a miracle in and of itself!  If Kristen had not jumped in right away, volunteered to participate in a 5K with me, further volunteered to slow herself down to a walk when I injured my leg, I mean it when I say:  I never, ever would have followed through with participating in this race.  It was the personal connection and accountability that truly motivated me to see this project through to the end.

With all that build-up, it seems almost anticlimactic to say:  I participated in my first 5K this past weekend!  I still can’t believe it’s over, I have been working towards it for what feels like an eternity, but really it’s only been a few months.  The nuts and bolts of the day:  the weather was perfect!  Brisk and cool, some sun but not too much, in a beautiful state park in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Kristen and I found each other with no problems at all, and it was such an amazing thing… meeting up with someone in person whom you have gotten to know so personally, but online.  Is this what a live date with Match.com feels like?!?  I also met a friend of hers (she lives much closer to the race site than I do), and that was really fun, also, and of course my kids and husband got to meet Kristen.

5K logo

All too quickly they made the announcement to line up, and that is where the nerves started!  Remember, I have never done anything like this in my life.  Again, the miracle that is Kristen, patiently talking me through the process:  what was happening in the present, what was about to happen, in a calm way that put me at ease.  A woman from the Caron foundation said some beautiful and inspiring words about recovery, which served as a reminder for me as to why I was even doing this in the first place, and put me even more at ease.

Then the yell for the start began and we… walked!  We walked, and talked, and walked and talked some more.  The trail was quite a bit hillier than the trail where I trained at home, but otherwise it felt just as good as all the 5K’s I practiced in preparation for this day.  Actually, it felt better, in that I was so focused on talking to Kristen, I was completely unaware that I was exerting myself at all!  Before we knew it, we were at the halfway point, and a volunteer was handing us water… I couldn’t believe it!

I had resigned myself to the idea that I would be the slowest walker there, but the halfway point was actually a turnaround, and the second half is the same path as the first half, and I was amazed by how many people were behind us…so we weren’t the slowest!  Yeah, my training did pay off!

As we approached the finish line, my husband jumped out to take pictures, my daughter stood at the sidelines cheering, and my son jumped onto the trail, took my hand, and finished the last steps with me.  It’s hard to describe the feeling of joy that comes with all that.  I was reminded of how far I’ve come, in the race, in my exercise goals, and, in the largest sense, in my recovery from addiction.  All those feelings within me as I crossed that finish line, it is definitely not a moment I will soon forget.  A truly spectacular day!

Today’s Miracle:

This is technically yesterday’s miracle, but… Kristen and I were milling around after the race, and the DJ makes an announcement:  “we’d like to send a shout-out to a fan favorite, Josie!”  Turns out, my daughter was befriending the DJ throughout the race, and asked him to give me some props.  How lucky am I to have such a supportive family?

The End of the People Magazine Era… Or is it?

Maybe not quite this old…

If ever an admission of truth could lose readership, it will be this one.  I have been back and forth about whether or not to tell this story, but the comical aspect of it, combined with my pride in a dubious accomplishment, makes the telling of it irresistible.

For years I have had a subscription to People magazine.  This has been the source of endless ribbing by some of my “highbrow” friends (quotes are absolutely intentional, thank you very much), because I don’t follow the news very religiously (in fact, under antonym for “news junkie” you would find my picture) so the thinking is that the source of all my current events knowledge stems from this periodical.  If I make the mistake of mentioning something in headline news, the comments are predictable, and endless.

Now can you see why I keep these friends around for decades?

Back to me.  I developed a rule for this magazine:  I will only allow myself to read it at the gym.  The reason:  It covers up the control panel, and there are pictures to distract my mind while I toil away.  I came to think of reading the magazine as a reward, and if I was caught up on the issues, I felt good, because it meant I was exercising regularly, if there was a backlog, it motivated me to get my ass to the gym.

Enter the downward spiral of active addiction.  Because I am a stubborn son of a gun, I would not allow myself to look at them unless at the gym.  Unfortunately, since other obsessions occupied my time, the pile of People magazines grew as mountainous as my pile of regret and shame.

But throwing them out felt like I was giving up.  Oddly, holding on to almost a year’s worth of People magazines was actually a sign of hope, and faith that I could conquer this disease, and get back to normal life (if you consider normal reading about celebs while working out).

So, as most of you know, I bottomed out, and started the process of recovery, and still the pile of People magazines grew.  Throughout the year 2012, I worked my ass of in terms of recovery, but not in terms of anything physical.  I took the slogan “First things first” and ran with it… straight to the La-Z-Boy.  Occasionally I would take the pile, sort through it, and throw out the issues that seemed the least interesting, but still I hung on to the majority of them.

The subscription ended December 2012, and for obvious reasons I could not justify renewing it.  So for the next 5 1/2 months while the pile did not grow, it certainly did not diminish in size.  I moved them out of sight, but still could not bear to part with them.  At one point my husband was in the drawer that housed them and said, “What the hell are you planning to do with all those back issues of People?”  Of course, he was unaware of this particular insanity, so I mumbled something and the subject was dropped.

Finally, the time had come, and I signed up to kick-start my fitness over at Running On Sober.  Finally, the People magazines will be put to good use!

So I picked one out of the pile, and out the door I went.  As I started reading about Tom Cruise‘s idea of the perfect day being spending it with Katie Holmes, I realized a slight problem in my logic:  this was old news, really, really old news.

Did I mention that I am stubborn?  If I held on to these magazines for this long, by God, I am going to read them.

I watched the pile dwindle, and damned if I didn’t feel just a notch of pride each time I threw out a magazine.

Meanwhile, I got to find out the following hot-off-the-press information:

Here’s the end of this ridiculous story, and I promise this happened exactly as I am telling it.  I got down to the final old issue of People, and I put off reading it for a few days, because it felt like the end of an era.  So I swam or took neighborhood walks.  Finally, I went to the gym, read my last back issue, and threw it in the trashcan with a smile.  I drove home, went to the mailbox, and I swear to you, this was what I found, that day:

People

Could I even make this stuff up?

Today’s Miracle:

Surviving a trip to the mall with 5 kids ranging in age from 13 (with an attitude) to 2 (also with an attitude).  If mall employees were also recording miracles, it would be that we left with the building still standing!

Habits: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle

My husband emailed me a great article on forming new habits (http://zenhabits.net/sticky/).  My first thought… what is he trying to tell me?  My next thought… I don’t really want to know!

The first part of the article talks about all the ways we revert to old patterns, even when we acknowledge we want to create new habits.   And boy oh boy, could I relate to this part of the article.  Skipping a day of exercise turns into a week, and before I know it I haven’t seen the inside of my gym in months.  And then the whole starting over process… just thinking about it is so painful that I can almost convince myself that I am happy with the way things are.  And when I contemplate the number of times I have “started over” with my exercise regime, it becomes so overwhelming, it feels like I should just give up, because I have no long-term track record of success.

So that part of the article was a tad depressing.

But then, I read on to the second part of the article, which talks about how to create a habit from the ground up.  Simple advice that we have all heard before… start with one very specific habit, and make no other changes in your life besides the one habit.  Make the smallest possible change, but stick with that small change every single day.  Be accountable by talking to other people about your decision to acquire this habit.  Monitor negative self-talk; in other words, don’t talk yourself out of believing you can make this change.  Reward yourself regularly for sticking with the new habit.

When I read the second part of the article, it sounded familiar, because it is very much a part of my recovery story.  I have shared more times than I can count what I did in my days in early recovery… I prayed, I went to meetings, I talked to other alcoholics, and I refrained from picking up a drink or drug.  One specific habit, several very small action steps, but I did them every single day, and I talked about the importance of doing them with anyone who would listen.  And, over time, the rewards for this newly acquired habit… well, I would need a separate blog to detail all the rewards.

Here’s the upside to creating a habit, and one I would do well to remember any time I debate about going to the gym:  if you do it often enough, it becomes second nature, and gets to the point where you miss it when it’s gone.  Circumstances were such this week that I went two days without going to a 12-step meeting.  By the third morning (today), I woke up, realized that my schedule was free, and could not wait to get there.  Now, the day I am able to report this behavior with respect to exercise… well, it will be a glorious day indeed!

Today’s Miracle:

Unrelated to the subject matter at hand, today I am grateful for running water, and the miraculously talented family member who came to my rescue when the water was not running!

Related to the subject matter at hand, reading the article, then getting up from the computer, getting in the car, and driving to the gym… it’s a miracle!

losing anonymously

Learning to balance healthy and happy while living a full and busy life!

Oh for the love of...me

Just another 50+ woman trying to get her shit together.

Guitars and Life

Blog about life by a music obsessed middle aged recovering alcoholic from South East England

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

HealthyJenn

From daily wine drinker to alcohol free living...this is my journey.

themessyjessytruth.wordpress.com/

The emotional messy stuff...

Vodka Goggles

No longer seeing the world through vodka colored glasses..

Mindfulbalance

An Irish Mindfulness Meditation Blog: Finding calm, wellness, meaning and a happier life.

viatoday

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Starting today I am on my way.

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

Emotional Sobriety And Food

"... to be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety" -- living, loving & letting go.

girl gone sober.

a blog about living sober. i didn't always drink beer but when i did i drank a lot of it. stay sober my friends.

The Sober Garden

Jettisoning the heavy stuff...

The Six Year Hangover

A BLOG BY A GAY MAN GETTING SOBER IN NEW YORK CITY.