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It’s All In Your Head

Here are two facts about me:

1.  I am extremely prone to motion sickness.  One of my earliest memories is not being able to stomach a trip to the local mall.  Side note: we had a behemoth 1975-ish Chevy Impala, I threw up, and my two older sisters turned into contortionists… to this day I don’t know how they got so far into the opposite corner of the back seat.

2.  I can be an extremely excitable person, particularly when I believe I am being delivered an injustice of any kind. Smart-alecky friends have been known to take advantage of this fact, and start rumors such as “Josie is the president of the Robin Williams fan club,” just to see me all fired up.

Now, knowing these two facts, imagine how I reacted when my cousin told me I should just go on an amusement park ride, because, “motion sickness is all in your head, and you can talk yourself out of it.”

Perhaps I should take him up on his offer, and allow him to sit beside me as we ride, I’m pretty sure that would teach him!

This glimpse into some banal facts about me is really just a backdrop into the real topic:  how much of what we deal with is “all in our heads?”  Despite my outrage over my cousin’s commentary, I have come to realize that I believe this statement more than I realize.  Except, of course, when it comes to motion sickness.

One example, and I know I am going to raise a few eyebrows with this one, but I personally have a hard time with the disease concept of alcoholism.  I am allowed to say that, since I am an alcoholic, along the same lines as:  I can criticize my family, but you better not try.  I certainly believe that I had an obsession, that, try as I did, I could not expel.  I believe that if I choose to alter my mind again with a substance, that obsession will return, but disease?  That is one that confounds this alcoholic.  I don’t waste a lot of time on it, just like I don’t waste a lot of time wondering when I crossed the line from enjoying a drink to craving one… I just did, that is my reality, and I will, for today, deal with my reality.

But I find the “all in your mind” mentality pervades other areas of my life, and I’m wondering if it’s something I need to explore.  Most recent example, and I have been giving periodic updates, but I have embarked on a fitness program.  Long story short, I have gone from zero exercise to considering participating in a 5k. August was to be dedicated to training for this event, to see how much of a 5k I could run (versus walking), and how low I could get my time down.  In my mind, if I could run at least half, and get my time under 45 minutes, I was set to do it.

And then, out of nowhere, I sustained an injury.  I really mean out of nowhere, because I still don’t know what the hell happened.  One minute, I’m jogging, the next minute, I almost fell over, because my leg couldn’t support me.

I could go into boring detail, but who really cares?  I am not a physical therapist, and I have never, and I mean never, been an athletic person, so I have never dealt with a sports injury of any kind.  So I look to my fellow supporters who have dealt with this, and I take every suggesting they give me (except go to the doctor, that is a last resort, and a topic for another post).

After an entire week of resting it, stretching it, icing it, I attempt to resume my training (treadmill this time).  Within 3 minutes, the pain is back, and I am limping again.

Again, long story short, I try everything I can think of, but the minute my legs go into running mode, this pain comes back.  So my husband, quite logically, says, “Well then just walk.”  Sensible, right?

But, and here is the real point:  I can’t wrap my mind around it.  Seriously.  I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t make myself grasp the concept that I am restricted from the activity of running.  I just keep thinking that I can figure out a way past this injury.

It’s this kind of thinking that reminds me that I’m an alcoholic, and that I will never be “cured” (of the disease that I still question in theory!).  The normal person would just see that running is not working, and switch to another form of exercise.  My thinking?  I can beat this leg injury, dammit!  Nothing so stupid is going to keep me from this goal!

I am off to meet a friend (from AA) for a walk in the same park I sustained my injury.  I am going to explain this thought process to her, and she is (hopefully) going to help me see the error in my thinking.

The progress:  that I know that there is an error in my thinking.

Today’s Miracle:

That I am choosing exercise over sitting around, that I am meeting a friend from AA with whom to exercise, and that I will choose walking over re-injuring myself until I can figure this whole thing out!

Home Again Home Again Jiggity-Jig!

I have to say, writing is like exercise:  the more you stay away from it, the harder it is to pick it up again!  And while I’m on the subject of exercise:

I have been plugging along in the fitness department.  I mentioned in a post (The Dreaded Topic)  I wrote about 2 months ago that I embarked on a fitness regime (alright, this is weird, I just went back to that post… June 5, it is now August 5th!).  So how have the last 2 months been?  Let me refresh your memory of my baseline:  walking upstairs to my bedroom was probably the most I exerted myself prior to taking on this challenge.  I wish I could say I am exaggerating for effect.  So my plan going in, for those that did not read:  do something physical every day.  I picked 20 minutes as my start time.  I guest posted early on over at Running On Sober, so I don’t remember the specifics, but for the first probably 5 or 6 weeks I did exactly that… every single day.  I started on the machine with which I was most comfortable (elliptical machine), but then I decided that going with comfort when it comes to exercise has never served me well, so I started mixing it up.  Here are some examples of the progress made within 2 months:

Elliptical Start time/mileage:  20 minutes, 1.25 miles, about 100 calories, Current:  45 minutes, 4 miles, 450 calories burned

Swimming Start:  6 laps, Current:  25 laps

Stationary Bike:  no stats to report, it hurt my knee, but the fact that I did it at all is something

Local Walking Start:  barely a mile, small loop within my development; Current:  I have built up to a 3.1 mile loop that starts in my development but extends beyond it

And, last but not least, the treadmill (or Dreadmill, as I thought of it)…

Start:  probably struggled to walk a mile around 20 minutes (I did not keep track of those early stats), Currently (as of yesterday):  46 minutes, 3.1 miles, interval walking/running

Now, none of these number are going to be making headlines over at ESPN, but the point is the progress in an incredibly short period of time.   There aren’t any major physical changes, but the mental ones are astounding.  Here’s the biggest example:  about 5 weeks into this commitment, I got an email from my unbelievably fitness-minded sister-in-law.  She knows of my new commitment, and has been encouraging me all she can.  She is the type to run in triathlons, half-marathons, mud runs, and other insane things, so she gets emails about local events regularly.  She forwarded one onto me:  a sober 5k walk/run sponsored by the Caron Foundation, and offered to walk it with me if I was interested.

Now, let’s pause and consider the information I gave you earlier:  2 months ago, ZERO exercise daily, never in my life have I been a sports-oriented person, never competed in anything physical… and now I am actually CONSIDERING this?!?!

Yes, I am.  I wanted to reply no, hit the delete button, and never think about it again, but I couldn’t do it.  So, first, I told my husband, who was encouraging and supportive, as always.  Next, I let my recovery-and-fitness-minded blogging friends know of this recent development, and, predictably, all are strongly encouraging me to do it (Bye Bye Beer has graciously offered to walk it with me, bless her soul!).  Finally, I started seeing if I could physically even do it, and to that end found local 3.1 miles loops, did treadmill workouts, in an attempt to get my time down.  My commitment to myself is this (and yes, I know I will be getting yelled at by my “exercise sponsor,” as I like to think of Christy, for not just signing up):  take the month of August and see what progress I can make in increasing running/decreasing walking for the 3.1 mile sessions.  Since it is only August 5, I’ve got some time, I will check back in on this subject in a few weeks!

Final mental breakthrough, and then I’ll stop rambling.  As it turns out, there was a promenade near the house that I stayed in last week that was flat, paved, and exactly 1.5 miles long  (another sign, in my opinion!), so I did that a few times last week.  Still being new to this whole outdoor running/walking gig, while at the same time being technologically handicapped when it comes to ipods, my playlists are disorganized and often interrupted with tween music.  So as I’m doing the “ralk,” as I call it, on the promenade, a song keeps coming up that was popular a year or two ago with the Disney crowd, It’s called “Who Says” by Selena Gomez.  I remember when my daughter listened to it a lot, and I remember thinking it a cute song, but that’s about it.  Now, as I’m regularly exercising, the music is an integral part in the process, and I am listening intently to the songs.  And this one is haunting me, although I don’t know why.  So I’m actually running as I think to myself, “pay closer attention and figure out why this song is bothering you.”  And the chorus comes on:

Who says, who says you’re not perfect?

Who says you’re not worth it?

Who says you’re the only one who’s hurting?

Trust me, that’s the price of beauty!

Who says you’re not pretty?

Who says you’re not beautiful

Who says?

And, just like that, my mind talked back to the questions, and said, “You say it, and you’re the only one who says it.”  And I thought of all the people in my life, and the voice is right… I am the only one saying negative things about me.  Well, immediately I started to cry, and now I am running down an extremely crowded promenade with tears streaming down my face.  I refused to make eye contact, but I can only imagine what the hell those people were thinking!

Even though it is the sappiest song ever, it is staying on my playlist, as a reminder that I only have one critic, and she has a proven spotty track record when it comes to making these judgments!

Today’s Miracle:

12 people at my meeting today, not a record, but a great number!

Using the Recovery Toolbox to Build a Fitness Routine

Since I am in “follow-up” mode this week, I figure I’d follow-up last Wednesday’s post.

I committed, to myself and to a fellow blogger, to start (re-start?  for the gazillionth time?) my fitness routine.  I have languished, and that is putting it mildly, for the past year, and it’s time to get back on the horse again (in this case, the horse is an elliptical machine).

Committing to somebody other than myself, so far, has been a brilliant maneuver:  I have exercised, in some form or another, for 10 days straight.  May not seem like much, but for me it feels like 10 days sober did… a miracle.  I genuinely cannot remember a time that I have exercised 10 days in a row.

And I have seen progress, too, in this short time.  First day:  14 minutes, and I thought I might pass out.  Today:  28 minutes, and I could have gone longer, but I am trying to do the “slow and steady” approach, so no more than one-minute increases each day until I hit 30 minutes, and I will re-assess this weekend.

So here’s my story for today:  I have been fortunate to grab the same machine each day since I started back to the gym.  This helps me because I can use the final numbers as a relatively accurate chart of my progress.  This morning, I was not so lucky.  An older woman was puttering around “my machine” for so long that I decided that I would just use another.

Which meant that, by the end of my time, my miles travelled, and calories burned, were way less than any of the other days.

Now, my logical mind certainly knows that each machine is different, and that the numbers are relative anyway.  But my competitive, instant-gratification senses were fairly disappointed:  how could I go for the longest time yet, and come up with such poor results?

Pre-recovery me would have sulked about this all day, would have held a deep resentment to the puttering old lady, and would have berated myself for such a poor performance, which in all probability would have led to giving up.

Post-recovery me knows that I committed to exercising every day, no matter what, and I went above and beyond my commitment to myself (20 minutes is the minimum).  Further, post-recovery me knows that using a different machine uses different muscles, which in all likelihood was better for me all around.

So, take that, old way of thinking!

Today’s Miracle:

Refraining from shooting the old lady dirty looks definitely constitutes a miracle.  Oh, second miracle… had a conversation at the bus stop about Garanimals, which I had to explain.  We compared ages, and are within a year of each other (which makes me all the more confused as to how Garanimals does not come instantly to mind). There was surprise at my year of birth, the thought was that I was of a younger generation.  Tell me that is not an excellent way to start the day!

Pain

Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things. –Henry Ward Beecher

Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress.   This concept is discussed in AA literature, but it is most certainly a universal truth.  Pain is almost always what makes me stop and realize that I need a change.  It can be physical pain…  my back aches to the point that I must stop whatever physical activity I am doing.  Mental pain… everyone in my life irritates me to the point that I must stop and consider that I am the common denominator.  Emotional pain… I continue with my addictive behavior until the consequences are so painful, that I must stop and consider a new way of living.

No matter what kind of pain you are experiencing, there is an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity for learning.  There is no way I would wish for myself (or anyone else) the kind of pain that addiction brings, but I can say that I have learned a hell of a lot about myself, about the disease, and about how to deal with life on life’s terms.  And since I don’t get to choose whether or not to be an addict, I must learn to play with the cards I’ve been dealt, so I may as well learn what I can, and apply the knowledge going forward.

And now, when other kinds of pain come my way, I can recognize the potential for growth, and the potential to learn something new, even while I’m in the midst of it.

Here’s what else I’ve learned about pain:  you can try to ignore it, and hope it goes away on its own, but it does not.  In fact, ignoring pain tends to magnify it.  So, when I experience pain, I know I have a choice: deal with it now, or wait for it to get much worse.  Either way, I’m going to have to face it.

Today’s Miracle:

 Got up this morning at the usual time, but it was lighter and brighter, and it is only March 1st… spring is coming!!

Acting As If

Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness. -Earl of Derby

I really hate exercise.  There, I said it.  I hate dressing for it, fixing my hair for it, planning time in my day for it, driving to it (the gym), and even walking up to the elliptical machine.   About the only part I like about the whole process is getting into my car and driving out of the gym parking lot.

But I have been hearing a lot lately about the idea of “mind, body and spirit,” and I know, in my heart, that I am sadly lacking in the body part of it.  But man, just writing this post makes me sigh.  Yet another stupid mind shift I need to figure out.

So I’ve been thinking about how I can apply recovery to the whole physical fitness gig.  And the first thing that came to mind is the title of this post.  Act as if you are into physical fitness.  Another expression is “fake it ’til you make it.”  So, in that regard, I got up this morning, and even though I looked longingly at my jeans and sweater, I instead dressed in gym attire.  And I told my son to ask me if I went to the gym when he gets home from school.  And I acknowledged to my husband that I have about an hour free in my schedule that I could fill with a trip to the gym.  And I’m writing to all of you now.

Accountability.  I really hope tomorrow I write with a happy update…

Today’s Miracle:

Believe it or not, sharing this inner turmoil is a miracle.  I cannot stand talking about the gym before I actually do it, so hopefully this is the mental rearrangement I need!

Hitting a Plateau

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect. -Ronald Reagan

I have written frequently about the idea of perspective, and how things are as bad or as good as you believe them to be.  Someone might look at my last 293 days of sobriety and think, “big deal,” whereas someone who has been trying and failing to get sober might think 293 days is a lifetime.

So when I look at other areas of my life, I try to put the same grateful, positive spin that I do on my recovery… every day is a miracle, and every accomplishment is a milestone.

BUT…

Try as I might, that old thinking does come creeping back, and it is hard to fight.  For example, I have started an AA meeting, today was the 4th time I have held it.  The first week I had three attendees, second week, 7 attendees, third week, 5 attendees, and this morning, back to 3 attendees.  YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!! (quote from Planes, Trains and Automobiles).  Don’t get me wrong, this is still my favorite meeting of the week, I have left each time with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, and the small numbers make for some really meaningful exchanges.  But to show my results to almost anyone else on the planet, it looks like I am, if not failing, then certainly not succeeding.

Same general concept with this blog.  I have been writing for 8 months now, and my “numbers” have certainly grown, but when I compare my blog to some of the others I follow, then I have to wonder… what am I failing to do?

So, to combat these insecure feelings, I have to rely on my newly formed instincts… for the meeting, while I feel like I’ve done a decent job getting the word out there, I just have to keep trying, and keep marketing.  I am working on getting it listed on websites and our local AA directory.  Most important, I have to remember what I learned at the first meeting 293 days ago, which is that TIME stands for This I Must Earn.

For the blog, I have asked myself what it is I see happening with others that I do not see happening for myself.  In reality, it comes down to something so ridiculous, I am embarrassed even writing it down… I have yet to see my own blog listed on others’ “blog rolls.”  So, the next logical question, who do I have listed?  Answer:  no one, because I have never taken the time to develop that particular table of contents.  So, in the spirit of evolution, I have spent (I kid you not) two hours of my lifetime figuring out how to do it, and I now have a “blogs I follow” section on my front page.  Seriously, it took me 10 minutes just to figure out how to even view my own blog!  I also attempted to upgrade my “Gravatar” to include a picture, who even knows if that actually worked.  Here is the point:  if I want to break through the plateau, I have to keep moving in a direction.  If it doesn’t work, at least I am moving!

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