Everybody’s got one. A project, a task, a chore, something that you’ve been meaning to get done, and that dogs you subconsciously. “Man, I really need to get around to…” Fill in the blank.
For me, that project is the basement. I have actually written about this once or twice on this blog. My basement had become a house-sized junk drawer. If something did not have a home, it was placed in the basement. If a quick clean-up had to be done because company was coming, all debris got thrown into the basement. When kids came over and weather was poor, kids played, amongst the clutter, in the basement, and they NEVER cleaned up. Add all that to the normal basement-y stuff (baby clothes, tools, decorations, etc.) and I’ve got myself quite a project.
And, like most projects I don’t want to do, I procrastinated, big-time. I kept trying to think my way into right acting, but visualizing the end result, making mental to-do lists, even wandering around the mess, but, shockingly, this effort produced no results. Go figure.
So with the confidence that only sobriety has brought me, I finally hatched a plan this past summer. I took the kids down to the basement, with a pen and paper, explained the mechanics of a brainstorming session, and asked them what their vision of our basement could be. The results of that brainstorming session could be the fodder for another post (my kids have very active imaginations), but by the end of that session we had a rough plan in place: let’s work on clearing out, and then we’ll move onto phase two, beautifying the basement. The culmination of Phase I was a yard sale, to be held at the end of the summer.
Well, things have ebbed and flowed since the brainstorming session, unexpected setbacks, as well as a windfall in the form of a neighborhood yard sale, and, as a result, we have reached the conclusion of Phase I this past Saturday. Here is some pictorial evidence:
I smile just looking at these pictures, and I have been down to the basement quite a few times in the last 48 hours just to wander around and admire.
Here is why I am writing about this experience, it is not just to brag about my empty basement! First, I would have never, ever achieved this goal without the tools I learned in sobriety. My entire life, pre-recovery, had been to procrastinate until forced into action, and then it was to take the most expedient, least labor-intensive course of action to get past whatever crisis into which I had landed. Just look at the before pix… this was not a mess that had been accumulated in a couple of months, it was something that I brought with me from my last home, and did nothing more than add to for the past 7 years. So I am practicing these principles in all my affairs… I made a mess, and I have cleaned it up!
I am also writing to talk about the unexpected bonuses that came along with the clean-up. First, amazing though it may be, I was the only person who really cared about the disaster area I called a basement. Kids are kids, they don’t think much about it, and my husband’s modus operandi was “out of sight, out of mind.” However, I was able to rally the family into a real team effort, and everyone responded accordingly. Over the course of the summer, I worked with the kids, the kids worked with each other, my husband and I worked together, and my husband worked with the kids, culminating into a total united front in the form of a very well-attended yard sale this past weekend. We have never worked on a project of this magnitude before as a family, and I believe we all gained a lot from our combined effort.
For myself, the project took me out of my comfort zone a lot… keeping up with the ongoing work, motivating a group of people that did not have the same level of commitment as me, asking for help, researching how the heck to even have a yard sale! And the biggest piece of the puzzle: dealing with the overzealous crowds! As someone who has never held a real yard sale, and someone who does not attend yard sales, I was very, very unprepared for the general craziness that went into that day. Negotiating, answering questions, feeling like I needed to be 10 different places at once… all a very new and very uncomfortable experience. I would like to think I learned a lot, but I’m not rushing out to have another yard sale to test this theory out!
Finally, and the most surprising lesson I gained, was learning to let go. I really had no idea what a candidate for Hoarders I really was… I had 22 Rubbermaid containers of baby clothes, from newborn to 5T (keep in mind I have only 2 children, and they are at least 6 years removed from these sizes). I should have been ecstatic to see these clothes go, but I had a pang every time someone came up to me with money for them, and I found myself telling the story of when my children wore those clothes last (and yes, I’m sure they all thought I was certifiable). At the end of the sale, my rule was: nothing goes back in, so we packed up and took the remaining things to the Salvation Army. Now the rubber really hits the road: I had to put my hands on these clothes, and put them in a bag to leave. That process took almost as long as the yard sale itself. The main thing that got me through was the invaluable wisdom of Time With Thea, who has been giving me amazing advice throughout this project. She told me that rather than feeling like I am giving something up (memories, my kids’ childhood), I should instead focus on what I am giving to somebody else (clothes for people who need them, creating new memories for new families). I’m telling you, I was actually saying those words out loud as I bagged up the remaining clothes!
Sorry for the wordy post, but this project has been in the works for months, and I am just so excited to report the exciting results!
I believe, once I hit publish, that this is my 300th post, and I am so grateful to have all of you with whom to share my life!
Yep, these are all the spots I tapped!
When I first started writing this blog, I was more or less writing to myself. I really never contemplated the idea that others would be reading, and this belief went on for quite some time (in retrospect, a lot longer than it should have, I am a little slow on the uptake!). Since that time, I have come to understand all of the wonders that come with connecting with others in the blogging world, and I am still blown away every time I read a new post from a friend, or receive an insightful comment on my own blog.
But with those blessings, a bit of a curse has descended upon me. When I was essentially writing to and for myself, I just wrote whatever was going on during that particular day (yes, I did write every day back in the beginning, it blows my mind now to think of it!). Now, I often feel stymied about what to write, and I finally realized that it is because I am looking at this blog through a new lens: will that be interesting to readers? Will they relate, or even care? Is it important enough to publish?
I have finally come full circle in this thinking, because if I had only written what I thought was important in the beginning, this blog would have ended a month into my first publish!
So, with all that prelude, let me tell you what’s been on my mind this week. It started about three days ago, with a trip to the library. We needed a book for a book report, but were running between sports practices and CCD class (religious education), so we only had 10 minutes. But if I’m in a library, I’m finding something for myself, because I love books! So I headed off to the self-help aisle (I am still enthralled by the promises these books make), and see a book called The Little Book of Diet Help, by Kimberly Willis. It is small, and at a glance, easy to read, so I checked it out and ran to the next activity.
As I glanced through the book, a heading captured my attention: Tapping out Negative Beliefs. It goes on to describe how to break the hold established beliefs have on your life. The exercise asks you to look at one specific negative belief, and immediately the thought came into my head: “I will never change my unhealthy relationship with food.” This thought surprised me in the speed with which it popped into my head, and with the specificity of the statement. Then I read further into the exercise, and it’s talking about tapping pressure points, and, while it sounds somewhat familiar, I really have no idea what the author wants me to do. This, by the way, is what you get for jumping around a book, rather than reading it page by page. Towards the end of this section, it references an earlier section of the book for more details on “tapping” (which tells me I am not alone in jumping around a book!).
So I go back to the tapping section, and I have my aha moment…. I know where I have read about this practice before! Lisa Neumann, wise mentor and author of the tremendously insightful book Sober Identity, had written about it, but it’s been over a year since I’ve read it, so the concept had escaped my memory.
My rudimentary understanding of tapping (and I am understating rudimentary, for a better explanation, please google the term!) is that it is an ancient practice of using your fingers to tap various pressure points on the body, which will shift the energy in your body, presumably from a negative energy to a positive one.
When I first read this, 3 days ago, I didn’t give it a half second thought. I put the book down and went about my evening. But every time I picked up the book, I kept going back to those pages, and I started considering:
- I was drawn to the book for a reason
- I was drawn to this section for a reason
- I had an immediate response to the question of negative beliefs holding me back.
So, as the week progressed, and my wheels of what to write became more and more stuck in the mud, I finally thought, “What have I got to lose? I can try this tapping thing and see what the hell happens!”
Full disclosure: my feelings about the idea of tapping my head to dispel almost 44 years worth of negative beliefs is that it will be as effective as dropping an eye of newt and a toe of frog into a bubbling cauldron. In other words, I am a skeptic. But, and maybe this is the progress of my recovery, I know that meaningful change requires both open-mindedness and consistent effort. And since my best thinking has me stuck with the same unhealthy relationship with food for as long as I can remember, I can certainly afford to be open to new ideas.
So we’ll consider this a little experiment. I did the full round of tapping that the book describes (and it was a lot… 14 different points, 8 taps each point, and there were 6 different affirmations for each round!), and I used the negative belief that I will never have a healthy relationship with food.
Here are the negatives: I felt very, very foolish as I started, which I believe hampered this experiment initially, and I needed to keep checking which was the next pressure point to tap, which was distracting.
Here are the positives: I got the hang of it before I was halfway through, and when I got to the second to the last affirmation (“I can allow myself to imagine what it would feel like if this belief weren’t true”), I did get a strange little hopeful fluttering, and I had vague waves of feeling lighter. Sounds ridiculous, even as I’m typing it, but it’s the truth.
I would imagine that this is the type of thing that gets easier and more effective with practice, so I am committing to this exercise daily for 30 days, and I will check in weekly and let you know how things progress. Will I be a supermodel by next month? Stay tuned!
I’ll take an anniversary any way I can get one, so today I am celebrating 20 months of sobriety!
When I attended college (back in the stone ages), there were different course requirements, depending upon the major you chose. For example, I was required to take courses in marketing each year. Freshman year the course title was Marketing 101, sophomore year the title was Marketing 201, and so on. In Marketing 101 we learned the basic principles. In Marketing 201, we built upon the foundation we learned in 101, but the subject matter was more sophisticated, and therefore more challenging.
I feel like my life could be entitled Parenting 201 this summer. My kids are 10 and 13, so theoretically I’ve known them for that length of time, but honest to God this summer it seems like aliens have taken over their bodies. No, I should clarify that statement. My 13-year-old daughter seems like an alien has taken over her body, my 10-year-old son is just joining in on the fun and games because that’s what little brothers do!
Maybe it’s because I’m in recovery, since I don’t remember thinking about this as in-depth as I have before now, but I’m trying to figure out where I’m going wrong, and I’m not coming up with any solutions. First, let me qualify the problems, as I see them, and perhaps writing them out will help me to process:
1. Time of Year. Separate from anything else, summer is a universally challenging time for any parent, due to all the unstructured time. Here is a miniscule example. Yesterday we had dentist appointments at noon, my son and I are waiting for my daughter to finish up.
Danny: “Let’s pick something up for lunch on the way home from here.”
Me: “No, we just had dinner out last night, do you remember how I drove 20 minutes to take you where you wanted to go? We are not eating out again. I’ll make lunch as soon as we get home. What would you prefer, a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”
Danny: “Could you grill me a hamburger?” (and yes, he did specify the way in which he would like his burger cooked)
Me (as even-toned as I could muster): “Would you like a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”
Danny: “What do we have in the fridge in terms of lunch meat? Could you cook up some bacon?”
Me: “This is the last time I am asking: do you want a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”
I will not bore you with the rest of the discussion, but the point is, this is one of about 1,000 such “teaching moments” on any given summer day. And I will not even begin to complain about the intra-sibling fights that take place each and every day. So, to recap, summer is a challenging season.
2. Changing personalities. This is the heart of the problem for me, and I will probably focus more on my teenage daughter with this issue. I know I am not covering any uncharted territory with this one, parents have been complaining about teenage girls since teenage girls first came into existence. So I do realize that I am not in a unique situation; what confounds me is what the hell to do about the behavior, along with my hurt feelings that my once-angelic daughter who acted as if I hung the moon now looks at me insolently, has nothing but sarcastic comments back to me, and argues EVERY SINGLE THING I say to her. Sometimes I try being honest with her (“When you stay at your cousin’s house for 3 days and fail to call me even once, it hurts my feelings”), I try the hard-lined approach (“You will speak to me with respect or you will face consequences”), I try sarcasm back (yes, I know this is not the best parenting technique, but sometimes my frustration level is so high that I need a release myself), and sometimes I try just ignoring whatever situation I’m in and hope it goes away. By the way, none of the above has been very effective.
3. Finding the balance. This concept applies in about a million ways: balance between letting them find their own way, and guiding them to make the right decisions. Balance between allowing them to speak their mind and shutting down the incessant “but what about…” statements. Balance between respecting privacy and knowing how and with whom they spend their time. Balance between allowing them a relaxed summer and having expectations with regard to chores, reading and the like. I’ll stop now, but I could keep the balance list going for another several paragraphs.
So that’s where I’m at, parenting-wise. I try, as best I can, to incorporate the principles of recovery into parenting. When decisions seem impossible, I do my best to turn them over. When things get heated between me and either of my children, I make my amends as quickly as I can. I try as much as possible to accept that there is much about these kids over which I am powerless, and that list grows longer with every year they age.
Anyone out there experiencing the same? I’d love to hear from you. Even better, anyone have the magic solution to all this parenting stuff? I’d really appreciate it if you could share your wisdom?
Today is the miracle of sharing what’s on my mind and in my heart. Just having typed this post, without even receiving feedback, I feel lighter!
So, I’m going to tackle a subject I really, really don’t want to… health and fitness. If you’ve been following, even in an half-hearted sort of way, this blog, you will know this has been a tumultuous relationship all my life. Issues with body-altering substances predate issues with mind-altering ones by a lot of years.
When I hit my personal bottom, I was at the lowest weight of my adult life. But, let’s face it, active addiction is not a beauty regime… I looked like shit. Not that I was paying close attention to the numbers on the scale, but, then again, the fact that I can tell you the first fact of this paragraph means it registered in some way. So, fast forward through the past 16 months, and life is exponentially, magnificently, miraculously better. So much better, in fact, then let’s have some celebratory food… you get the picture. And up the weight has gone, through the past 16 months.
At first, I was just so damned happy to even want to eat, I was actually relieved to see the scale go up. I am not a therapist, but I don’t think it takes one to see that low weight (for me, that is) and active addiction are connected in my brain. So seeing a weight with which I am familiar is now connected with sobriety.
Except that is the stupidest form of logic ever, because my low weight is still well above the ideal weight for someone my age and height!
And here’s the other part, the part that is all about how my addicted brain works… if I am choosing not to worry about my weight (which for a long time I did, in order to make recovery my focus), then why not just go whole hog and eat whatever I feel like? And if I am eating whatever I feel like, then why bother with the gym? And so on, and so on, down the spiral we go. Which, as anyone who has tried to lose weight will tell you, the further down the spiral you go, the harder it is to turn it around.
Meanwhile, all the regular bloggers that I follow are, for one reason or another, going on cleanses, giving up sugar, running marathons. And you want to tell me God does not speak directly to us?!?
So, for all sorts of reasons, health and fitness have been on my mind. And every time I try to get up the gumption to do something about it, I feel overwhelmed, and I fall right back to my normal routine, which, as you know, has been a beautiful thing for me for the past 16 months. But, still, even though I had taken no action, I really have been thinking about it, praying about it, and trying to get quiet and listen for the answer.
This weekend, something new came to me. I have no idea if it is the answer, or just a load of crap, but any action is better than the total inaction of the past few months.
I realized that part of what overwhelmed me about trying to get myself “in shape” was the magnitude of the task. I mean, I have probably 6 or 7 major things that I should change, immediately if not sooner, to live a healthy lifestyle. But every time I thought of taking on this task, it tired me out just thinking about, plus that whiney little voice in my head saying, “oh great, yet another thing we need to give up!” It was just easier to think about it “later.”
So this weekend, it occurred to me: perhaps this all-or-nothing thinking might possibly be the stumbling block? Perhaps just taking one or two of the 6 or 7, focus on them, and see how I feel, might be the starting point. And, while I’m at it, I can address the whiney little voice by doing this… take 1 or 2 items that don’t require me to “give up” something; rather, take 1 or 2 items on the list that just have me add something in, and see how it goes.
And, of course, because there are no coincidences, Christy over at Running on Sober, right at the same time I am formulating this plan, asked me to join her in a new fitness regime, which I gratefully accepted.
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 (oh, and, for the record, the second item is to drink more water).
Sorry for the long-winded post. Interestingly, this is the first time in a long time that I have to actually stop myself from writing more. I could honestly go on for a lot longer with this thought process, which tells me that I have been putting this idea off for far too long (and should warn readers that this is not the last you will read on the subject). Wish me luck!
Summoning the courage to write about a sensitive topic… my normal way of thinking would have me achieve a goal before announcing my intention, so I am scared to reverse the order, but it’s time to try something new!
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…
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!
This one step- choosing a goal and sticking to it- changes everything. -Scott Reed
Here’s how the mind of an addict works: Time to un-decorate the house. Check. Start un-decorating, make some headway, then decide to start hauling the decorations down to the basement. Look around the basement and realize that all the cardboard boxes from online Christmas shopping are still sitting in a gigantic pile blocking the path to where Christmas storage containers sit. Alright, slight diversion, but deal with it, and move on. Trash day was yesterday, so move the pile, but mentally bemoan the fact that trash day has come and gone. Continue to organize decorations upstairs, all the while thinking about the projects that await in the basement. Look over and observe that there is still a pile of Christmas presents, in boxes, in a corner. Another diversion as they need to be unboxed, put in their place (What place do they go? Oh, man, just put them in the dining room for now.) Back to Christmas decorations. Wait, while in the dining room did I just observe yet more decorations? Okay, back to that room to un-decorate, and now the pile of decorations has grown, still not stored, still not down in the basement yet. Tree still upright, with all decorations on. Oh, and what about those high shelves with the decorations still on them? Where is the big ladder? Back down to the basement, no ladder anywhere in sight. Need to text husband to find out where the hell the ladder is. Back upstairs… okay, let’s just get the larger decorations into the basement and put them on the shelves, that’s a simple enough project. Back down the basement, only to discover there is no room on the shelves, because they are filled with non-Christmas decorations that go back up once the Christmas decorations come down. But which ones, and where do they go? And shouldn’t I completely dust and vacuum before I put non-Christmas decorations back in place? And don’t I need to completely un-assemble the tree before I dust and vacuum?
And now it’s two hours later, and I’m looking around the chaos I’ve created, and I have no idea what to do next…
Except stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath, and do something else on my to-do list so I can clear my head (which, if you have not figured out yet, is write this post). And realize that projects are done one step at a time, and obsessing about all the other projects that need to be done will not help complete the project at hand. One goal: can the Christmas decorations come down? Yes, if I stop adding things on, and worrying about other things.
One day at a time, or, in this case, one minute at a time, one project at a time.
I have an entire day with absolutely no distracting appointments in which to complete this project, and no matter how un-fun these chores are, I am still so happy to be at home to do them!
I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. –Tony Robbins
It’s that time of year again… resolution time. I was just watching a small clip of Tony Robbins, and he was explaining why most resolutions fail. He says in order to be successful at resolving to change, you must have these three components in place:
1. Compelling vision (not just “I want to lose 10 pounds,” but really have a clear picture of what it will feel like once you have lost weight)
2. Strong reasons for pushing through when inevitable challenges arise (the reasons can be negative or positive, but they have to be serious)
3. Review it and feel it daily (otherwise you will run out of steam quickly)
Today I am celebrating 11 months of sobriety, and I can say these components were critical to my success in recovery. My compelling vision, 11 months ago, was that I wanted my life back… I wanted to gain back the trust and love of my husband, I wanted my family reunited, and I wanted to repair relationships everywhere else in my life. The vision was compelling because I knew what it looked like… I wanted what I had before I was in active addiction.
My strong reasons for pushing through were mostly negative, but they did work…. if I did not stay sober, I would lose my marriage, my family, and my life. Period. Along the way new reasons did pop up, such as letting down the people in the AA fellowship, and losing my sober time, which became an important part of my identity. All of these reasons kept me working towards my goal of recovery.
Reviewing it and feeling it daily is perhaps the most important of the three, at least for me. If I don’t get on my knees each morning and thank God for another day, if I don’t remind myself in meetings where I’ve been, and if I don’t reach out to help another person in need every day, then I am likely to forget the reasons I have chosen this resolution.
So the new question I am pondering, as the new year looms, and as I am heading towards the one year mark of sobriety… what am I resolving to progress towards next?
Last post on the topic of vacation, I promise!
Here’s what I did on my summer vacation:
- The same four things I do every day of “regular” life (not use a mind-altering substance, pray, go to a meeting, talk to another person in recovery). You know how you can get in “vacation mode,” for example with eating habits, and completely blow the progress you are making in one week’s time? Well, my fear was I would do that with recovery, but I did not!
- Consciously appreciated the variation in my life, the scenery I do not usually get to enjoy, the food I do not usually get to eat, the conversations I do not usually get to have.
- Made a point to do things each day that I thought would help others enjoy their vacation.
- Forced myself, for the sake of the household, to resume as normal a relationship as I could with family members estranged as a result of my addiction.
- Appreciated the enjoyment my children have on this vacation.
Here’s what I did not do on my summer vacation:
- Get drunk and make an ass out of myself.
- Wake up with a hangover, or guilt of any kind.
- Become obsessed with what other people were thinking of me, then react to my projections to the detriment of everyone.
- Engage in any household drama.
- Ignore the needs of other family members so I could do what I wanted to do.
Both lists could go on and on, but you get the general idea. From my perspective, this vacation was the best yet of the 16 or so in which I have participated. Having said that, I am so happy to be home and back in my normal routine (I almost cried when I laid down in my own bed last night… queen-size when you are used to king-size is quite the adjustment). Today is about getting through the rest of the wash, and enjoying being home. Tomorrow, on to the back-to-school count down (It’s the most wonderful time of the year)!
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. -Unknown
I had the opportunity, since yesterday, to turn around my thinking with respect to the current fear in my life, and I always feel accomplished when I can achieve these kinds of mental battles. In the past, I could not even recognize my negative thought patterns for what they were, and now, to not only do I recognize them, but I can rebut them and win the battle, which is a true gift.
So another way to look at fear, or any kind of hardship in your life, is to compare it against past, more difficult obstacles you have faced, and see how they compare. Or, to look at the world in general and see how your problems stack up against what the world at large is facing. You see, just as recently as a few months ago, I was facing problems I thought I could not overcome: I was losing my marriage, my home life, and, in a very real sense, my freedom. In 144 short days, I was able, through the miracle of a family babysitting offer, to have a wonderful date night with that same husband last night.
Five months ago, I truly did not believe I had the strength to overcome my personal demon, addiction. I truly did not believe I had the capacity to be honest with anyone, including myself… I wasn’t even sure I knew what honesty looked like. Today, I am genuinely proud, and even a little awestruck, of the things I have managed to accomplish in 144 days. And if I can do all of that, then really, what can’t I face? Certainly not the comparatively small issues that trouble me today. The kind of issues I face today are what are known as “champagne problems” in recovery… yes, they are irritating, and maybe worrisome, but they are nothing compared to problems facing someone in active addiction. And when they trouble me, because everyone in life has troubles of some kind, I have the added bonus of the toolkit I have gained in recovery… I know what I have to do to face any kind of hardship in life. So, while addiction has caused some of my problems, addiction has also given me the fantastic resources I now have to solve any problem in life.
And now, I can walk out of my house, face my fear, and know with certainty I am going to come out stronger on the other side… stay tuned!