Tuesday 27 January 2015

Serenity Scarf Completed

My Serenity Scarf is complete.  I finished it last night.  As I held it up after casting off the final stitches, I noticed the few loose threads of wool and a couple of  repaired slipped stitches.  I took out my crochet hook and carefully weaved the loose wool into the project reinforcing the already sturdy, warm, deep red neck warmer.

This project was started last February when I began my Gypsy life after selling our little Quebec cottage and moving to temporary accomodations until our house was built in my home province of Ontario.  While living in our small business office on the second floor of a commercial warehouse and then in a tent trailer during the rainiest summer on record, I was able to achieve my longest stint of sobriety followed by a major relapse and am now on my sixteenth day of my final quit.  

The scarf project was with me on my journey.  I picked it up, put it down, dropped stitches and picked them up again.  I felt guilty at times about knitting an item for myself when I have four grandchildren all under the age of five but I soldiered on finally doing something for myself.  Now that it`s complete, I will wear it proudly and it`s purpose could not be served at a better time of the year as it is bitter cold outside this winter.

Leo Babuta who runs the Zenhabits Blog is one of my favourite positive providers of motivation.  His latest post:  http://zenhabits.net/unconditional/ is about self- acceptance.  He talks about loving and accepting oneself despite the fact that we may be fat, addictive and/or not as attractive as we would like to be.  His explanation is 

``This person who loves herself (or himself) … she’s more likely to take actions that are loving. Doing some mindful yoga, or taking a walk with a friend after work, eating delicious healthy food like beans and veggies and nuts and berries and mangos and avocados, meditating, drinking some green tea … these are loving actions.``

It`s true in my life.  When I am accepting of myself, I tend to follow through on plans to do things that bring me joy... like going outside to walk the trails in the winter.

Today I plan on putting on my snow pants, my down filled jacket and gloves, my furry hat.. I`ll be grabbing my trusty, rusty snow shoes and hitting the trails.  

I`ll have my Serenity Scarf wrapped around my face to keep out the elements... secure and protected... and doing what I love best.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Thank You Addiction

My drinking problem is the best thing that's ever happened to me.  Without it I would have probably remained asleep to all the truths and teachings that I've learned.  Without the self-loathing that over-drinking promoted I would not have began my search for healing.

I've read that addictions are about people searching for God, spirituality or truth.  We addicts, initially, found a higher realm while intoxicated or high.  We, originally, found a happy, worry-free place while using our intoxicant of choice... for a while.  When we discovered we were not getting that anymore, we seekers were nudged to stop the now painful ingestion of our substance. The initial experience we had as users and the need to recapture it's glow can be the spring board to seeking and finding true serenity and consciousness.  That's how it worked for me.

I remember the first 'spiritual' book I read and it floored me.  It was Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.  I randomly picked it off my sister's bookshelf.  She had never read it as it threatened to contradict her strict Catholic belief system.  I nabbed it for the same reason.  I loved the idea of a greater power that didn't have a human face but was more of a benevolent intelligence; an all loving, forgiving teacher of what we all know to be true in the seat of our souls.

When we can teach ourselves to rest in the presence of what IS, we can relearn what we've always known at the core of our being: that life is transient.  Good things will happen, bad things will happen, people will be cruel and people will be kind.  It is all OK.   We cannot ever learn to control others or our thoughts; nor should we try.  We can and should learn to control our reaction (or non-reaction) to those thoughts.  Every whispered attack, boast, desire for change or whim our mind sends our way can be observed without being followed by our previous egoistic, automatic reactions.  We are capable of this but it takes practice.

Marianne's wonderful books and the many others written are wonderful learning tools.  They repeat much of the same thing: happiness is not situational - it's a choice we make every moment of every day.

None of this is easy to learn but my addiction to alcohol and my search for healing will always be dear to my heart.  I am a vulnerable, human being searching for happiness and the end of fear.  Alcohol didn't do the trick but within myself are the tools I need to achieve enlightenment in all it's definitions.  I may be enlightened today and sick of mind tomorrow.

Everything is transient.

My eyes, ears, heart and soul are wide open to the naked truth of what is and what isn't. I am learning so much every day in my sober journey.  I know that my addiction served it's purpose.  I am here .. exactly where I am supposed to be.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Germination of the Seed

I just got back from my six a.m. meditation date with my friend who conveniently lives right across the street.  We`ve been at this since January 1st and when my bird song alarm chirps at 5:45 a.m. I am surprisingly, delighted to swing my feet out of bed and start the day.

I immediately begin by turning the hot water faucet on in my bathroom and then while the hot water is making it`s way to the faucet I brush my teeth.  After washing my face and getting dressed, I then go to the kitchen and put hubby`s lunch together while checking outside to see if my friend`s porch light is lit signalling her awakening.  I plod over at a few minutes before six and we spend an hour chatting and meditating while sipping herbal tea.

When I arrive home, I am either the only one up or hubby is pattering about getting ready for work.  My whole day is positively splashed with the colorful residue of my wonderful morning session.

All this could not happen if I was drinking.

What`s happening now is that I am feeling that tiny seed that was planted many months back begin to germinate; the seed of authentic living.  I`ve watered and cared for myself recently in a new way and it`s like a wonderful stimulant of composted, natural love has been added to the elixir of my life.

It manifests itself in a feeling of calmness in the throes of family strife, time taken to work on my goals, practicing discipline when it`s needed (office & house work) and a general feeling of well being with the undercurrent that all is as it should be.

What a lovely gift to give myself.

This afternoon we went dress shopping for my husband's fiance and then to a Pub called the Cheshire Cat for lunch.  I was treated to my lunch by my DIL's Dad.  Everyone had a drink and I found it easy to order a soda and cranberry juice although my favourite draft beer was available.  It's just an extension of that feeling of contentment in my own skin that's been I've been happily resting in.  Even when I felt a little left out of the conversation, I was avoid the poor me feeling by just accepting that the seating arrangement was not condusive to me being included without a fair amount of effort by all.  We were 5 people at a rectangle table with no room at either end so I was the one with no one across from me.  I just shrugged it off as time to check my emails on my phone.

Tonight we are hosting the same family and I`ve bought the wine and beer for the evening as hubby was at home making the spaghetti sauce.  No problem staying sober tonight.  I want to hang on to this feeling... forever.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Transient Thoughts and Cravings

How does one deal with exhaustion, irritation, boredom and other unsettling feelings?  I used wine to make those feelings go away.  The mindless activity of sipping ethanol was just the ticket to freedom from pain.  It worked.

I`ve been minding an eighteen month old while his parents are on holiday... that`s exhausting.

Hubby has been saying some self-promoting, hurtful things to boost himself up at my expense... that`s irritating.

Most evenings I`ve found myself alone while not alone while hubby loses himself in TV ... I get bored.

Naturally the thoughts of drinking are front and centre especially since hubby drinks wine or beer most evenings although not to excess.

I`ve found myself able to ride these feelings or cravings by just letting them enter my being, build to a climax and slowly dissipate ... just observing them rather than judging, analyzing or, even worse, acting on them.

The little guy I am minding is a sweet toddler and although, I am tired at the end of the day I know it`s only for this week so it`s pretty easy to ride this one out.

Hubby`s insensitive words were the hardest to stay authentic through.  I am grateful that I`ve been doing some work on resting in the present, being aware that it`s not all about me and generally accepting that people will say and do things that make me uncomfortable.  I find myself not saying much to defend myself and letting things go.  Sometimes we all need to blow off some steam.
Generally he is a great guy but we all can`t be perfect. :-)

Some evenings could be spent out of the home getting involved in the community or visiting friends. I hate the cold but it`s a reality where I live in the coldest capital city in the world (it rivals Moscow) but I will get out more.  I look forward to it.  It will happen and I will report on it.

So I continue on the 11th day of my sober journey knowing that life will continue to throw challenges at me.  Booze doesn`t help and the thought of drinking just reminds me that I don`t need another inevitable day one.  I`ve had too many and if I drink will definitely be adding yet another one to my path to authenticity.

I am happy and serene lately despite the real problems those I love are facing.  I love my kids and feel their pain but know that nothing stays the same.  Everything gets better.  Everything gets worse.  I`ll ride out life`s ups and downs staying awake and aware.  I`ll continue to be responsible for my actions by accepting my thoughts and feelings as real but transient.

Today I have a rare day to myself.  What shall I get up to?

Sunday 18 January 2015

Then and Now

Waking up hangover free rocks!! I never got many big hangovers but always woke up with dry mouth, feeling dull, listless and sad.  I have been taking much better care of myself since I stopped also.

Then: I brushed my teeth mid-morning and sometimes forgot
Now: First thing out of bed, they get brushed and at night sometimes too

Then: Bed head lasted all day
Now: My hair gets styled daily

Then: Bathed irregularly (not less than every second day, mind you)
Now: Take a long bath every evening that includes leg shaving, cream applying, body scrubs, etc.

Then: Practiced my hobbies of reading, knitting and playing the keyboard sporadically, if at all
Now: Spend time daily doing all three (my sober scarf is almost done)

Then: Planned but never succeeded in meditating or spiritual reading
Now: Daily meditation and spiritual reading

I am sure as time goes by, I`ll be adding much more to the mix.  I want to do more rebounding on my mini-trampoline and start eating a more vegan diet but everything takes time.

Another phenomenon that is lovely to report is that I`ve definitely stopped attacking myself in my head.  Those ``You are an idiot`` thoughts have been replaced with ``This is where you are now`` when I don`t follow through on planned goals.

I really want to get out in my community one or two evenings a week but the very cold temperatures have been dissuading me.  Spring will eventually come and maybe I`ll attack that goal then.

The snow is starting to pile up all around our new home.  It won`t melt now until May.  Winter is the season for quiet introspection and I just love staying cozy within these lovely walls recovering my soul from the clutches of alcohol.

My husband`s nephew has completed the painting I commissioned close to a year ago. It`s native themed with a dream catcher, a solemn native face, feathers, eagle and the colours of my bedroom which is where I am planning on hanging it.  Yves is a simple man who speaks no English and has led a harsh life.  His treatment of his elderly parents as they`ve aged has endeared him to me.  Despite his poverty it was he who offered his tiny apartment for Christmas dinner last year when no one else wanted to bother.  He is a talented artist and can use the money I am paying him although he doesn`t want to accept what I originally offered.

I can`t display the painting here unless someone can help me out.  It`s on facebook at the moment as we haven`t picked it up yet.

Friday 16 January 2015

Alone ... Ahhh !

Hubby and I are having a rare opportunity tonight.  We are alone.  Since we moved here from our Quebec secluded cottage in the woods we're never alone.  Won't go into detail about where everyone is but it's a candlelight, fancy dinner, make love night .. not necessarily in that order.

Hubby's having his after 'wrestling match' nap right now and I am going to make a lovely, late dinner of of bay scallops, gourmet fusuli, roasted garlic, an assortment of mushrooms and whatever green veggie I can dig up.  We now have a Whole Foods store in the region and we treated ourselves to a shopping trip yesterday after the funeral.  We bought all the fancy dancy ingredients for a weekend of deliciousness.

Tomorrow and Sunday nights we'll also be alone so we'll have an opportunity to rekindle the old days of romance and one on one conversations. My hubby is sometimes a little overwhelmed by the sudden immersion of my kids and their kids but surprisingly loves the grandchildren and is even trying to teach a few of them French.  I am very happy with this busy life and hope that it is enough to sustain my sobriety.

No urge to splurge on booze tonight.  I am very content with an A/F beer and some tea.

Well, I must go print the recipe I'm going to doctor tonight.  Have a great, sober evening.


Thursday 15 January 2015

Off to a Funeral in Quebec: a Distinct Society

We had company last night.  A few people got sloshed.  The DD for the couple that visited had only one beer.  She and I enjoyed my delicious N/A Becks Beer which, I must say, is delicious when ice cold.  It's funny but when the drinks have booze I am drawn to have the next and the next and the next but with this N/A beer one does quite nicely.  Then I put the kettle on for tea.

No criticism of the drinkers but I sure am glad I was not one of them.  My head is a little stuffed up from my cold this morning but perfectly fine otherwise if you get my drift.

Today we attend a wake/funeral for my husband's brother-in-law but the whole family are ex-alcoholics so they won't have any booze to tempt us.  We should be gone all day and because I work in the office from home, I am actually looking forward to the day socializing.  The kick is that not one of hubby's family speak English.  It'll be a very French function which I look at positively.  I either get to practice my French or get to be quiet and observe; both pastimes appeal to me.

Speaking of language, it has been lovely to have moved to an English community after spending the past twelve years immersed in the French culture.  The differences between these two ways of life are vast although the only thing separating us here in the Ottawa region, Canada's Capital is the Ottawa River.  The area is known as the Outaouais pronounced Oooh-ta-way.

Just for fun I'll list the differences and shed some light on how my drinking escalated while living on the Quebec side of the River. These are generalities - not absolutes.

Quebec - French speaking and protective of the language - often non-English speaking with all road signs in French only, services only offered in French, etc.

Ontario - English speaking with small percentage of population bilingual but with all services offered in both languages including road signs

- very family oriented: teenage parties include parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and often, grandparents all drinking away

- teens tend to party separate from their families and adults party with friends more than family

- small house, lots of toys ie; ATV, snowmobiles, Harleys (we have one), boats, sea-doos, etc.

- large home, big mortgage and not much money for anything else

- very open society - sex, drinking, weed all very acceptable and available.
This hilarious video says it all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj4FhDNQvrU

- more conservative and polite

I miss my Quebec days sometimes as I am an open person but just to be able to speak my native tongue has been huge in my recovery process as I don't have to deal with being the outsider any more.

English people who never experience life on the other side of the river are critical of Quebecers and their protective stance but having lived there, I have learned to love the genuine, non-pretentious way they live and hopefully have brought all that is good along with me in my new life in my home province of Ontario.

I have also, hopefully, left behind the use of booze to hide behind when feeling out of place or shy.

If you haven't completely lost interest by now, watch the video.. it's funny.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Insomnia by the Moon

Last night I did not drink and was very thankful that when my daughter called in crisis, I was able to get in the car late at night and drive over icy roads to her home to comfort her.  She is pregnant for her second and her first is just seven months old so she is tired, scared and weepy.  I was able to be there for her and she was grateful.  When I arrived I quickly cleaned up her kitchen, made us some tea and sat and knitted quietly allowing her to break the silence when she was ready. We talked but we both knew there was not much to say as this was an 'accept the things you cannot change' moments.  I drove home when her hubby arrived from work and went to bed still feeling the effects of the cold I am in the midst of.

Sleep came and went.  I have been awake a lot lately at night and I think it has more to do with menopause than drinking or abstaining.  Our bedroom window faces the back of the property which is forested and I have bohemian type, transparent curtains that consist of many strings hanging down.  The moon has been situated in my direct line of vision from my side of the bed for the past few nights.  Rather than feeling awful about being awake every hour on the hour, I've enjoyed gazing at the almost full moon.  As a female, the moon has pulled my monthly cycles to and fro for years and only recently has my body began to resist it's pull.  I have great respect and an affinity for the huge, globular lunar light and it's mysterious connection to fertility.

Commencing the end of my moon time at such a late age has given me plenty of time to gracefully accept all the changes that menopause brings.  The dryness, the heavy or lack of flow, the insomnia are all part of it.  I can hardly wait for the mood swings and hot flashes ... NOT!  I will try to accept them as I have no choice.  Life is cyclical; nothing stays the same.  Good times pass.  Bad times pass.  Life goes on.

Being sober is a gift.  Being there for my children is a gift.  I wish I could tell the younger women around me what a waste of precious experience they are self-imposing by sipping glass after glass of wine ... numbing themselves from the best part of their lives.

We all have to find our own way and it took me until now to appreciate being totally present for all that's left of my life.  I am not going to miss another authentic moment.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Atchooo !!! Boing, boing !!

We have lots of snow here in Eastern Ontario Canada.  It`s -22C (not sure what that is in farenheit but it`s frostbite cold).  The roads are icy and I am a tentative driver.  I have to go to the cell phone repair shop as my phone is toast and it`s needed for the business. Personally I am glad it`s dead but need to get it fixed nonetheless.

Little 18 month old grandson cried off and on all night.  His parents are trying to get him to `not`come in their bed in the middle of the night because next week they are going to Cuba for an all-inclusive holiday and us grandparents will be stuck with the baby in the bed problem.  This morning DIL and I agreed that it`s pointless to try to train him now as us Grannys will not let him cry.  We`ll spoil him and ruin all the work they`ve done.  So hopefully a quiet night tonight.

I have finally caught the cold that the household has kept churning up since Christmas.  Sneezing, sore throat, the works!!  Not such a terrible thing since I can go back to bed whenever I want; unlike the members of the family that work outside the home.  There are definite advantages to working from the basement office.

Despite the cold I am keeping my meditation dates with my friend each morning at six a.m.  Today I woke up early (sneezing fit) and since I was up, jumped on the rebounder for a while before fixing myself a glass of warm water and lemon.  It`s ironic that when feeling well I don`t manage to exercise or drink healthy beverages at 5:30 a.m but I am sick and up and at it.  I`ve always been an enigma.

The daily mediation is serving to ground me and to start the day off well.  It helps that my friend, J, constantly reminds me that my visits are beneficial to her as well.  We all want to be wanted.  Maybe the morning ritual I`m developing will help with my sobriety.  I sure hope so.

It`s funny but a small thing like this morning commitment has the power to redirect me in many ways.  I`ve always been keen on getting up early and having a lovely start to the day but because I was not important enough, I did not follow through until J and I committed to each other.  I won`t question that fact, just be with it and be glad the ritual has begun.

I`ve had so many positive comments here and I really appreciate them.  Knowing that people reading this blog might take something from it that helps in their sober journey keeps me going.

When will complacency get the best of me?  I am scared of becoming over-confident.  Awareness is the first step, right?  I am aware that I cannot get complacent.  Very aware.

Monday 12 January 2015

One Year Since My Last Serious Attempt! Heal Thyself!!

It just occurred to me that, for the past year or so, I've thought about booze daily.  Within a few weeks it'll be the one year anniversary of my 'big quit'; the one that started with Belle's 100 day challenge and lasted four months.  Every day since then has not had an hour go by without me spending some of it planning, regretting and obsessing over alcohol.  This particular year is defined by the four month stint but I know I've wasted the previous five years unsuccessfully trying to quit drinking and the five before that developing my addiction.   I am now, after 13 years of a numbed, fearful life, at the point in this disease where it affects my moment to moment thoughts by harshly pulling me from denial to angst and over to fear and back to denial, etc.

I need sobriety because my life depends on it. If I continue as I am, painfully moderating, there's a good chance I'll live to a ripe old age as my 'controlled' drinking is minimally harmful.  The very sad and pathetic fact is that my authentic, conscious self will continue it's slow decline until I end up a soulless hollow shell of who I truly am. My whole life will have been wasted on feeding the fires of this truly remarkable foe: alcoholism.

I am helpless against the beast unless I am surrounded my sober soldiers.  I need the support of a community of like minded souls.  I now meditate and chat with my friend every morning at six a.m.  She is winning the war with her addiction and has attributed much of her success to our meetings.  For the first time since last February when I began my four month A/F stint I feel empowered again.  Everything is falling into place.  Belle has felt my readiness over the ocean that divides us.  She has invited me to another 100 day challenge.  I am up for it and am committed to spending an hour a day on sober sites reading, interacting and succeeding.

Thanks to Belle and everyone who has not given up on me.  

Heal Thyself!!

Saturday 10 January 2015

What I LOATHE about Booze!

I hate booze and here's 10 reasons why.

  1. It's EVERYWHERE !!
  2. It's the only drug on the planet that is NOT socially acceptable to ABSTAIN from
  3. It tastes good with food but is impossible to curtail after the meal... wine with dinner... there goes the bottle
  4. It sneaks up on you and tricks you into thinking you can use it while all the while it is USING you
  5. It robs you of your confidence and ambition
  6. Although it tastes like crap, it always convinces you otherwise (especially before that first sip)
  7. It's cravings are not only physical but emotional, intellectual and spiritual.  Your body needs the sugar, your heart needs the filter, your brain denies the addiction and your spirit craves the lightness of being that is it's first fleeting sensation.
  8. Whole cultures and occasions are defined by it's existence: Ireland and Germany's beer, France and Italy's wine, Carribean Cruise cocktails, All-Inclusive resort packages, Champagne at weddings, the hockey beer culture,  etc.
  9. It lets you rest easy in your abstinence until you get complacent, then it subtly pulls you into it's trap again and again and again.
  10. Every quit is harder than the last... 
All the words, plans, ambitions and goals mean nothing unless they are followed through on.  Let this time be the last time.  Please ...

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Merlot on the Counter

The bottle of expensive Merlot was a gift.  We received it on Saturday evening as a gift from our next door neighbors as we had finally found the time to invite them over for a visit to thank them for all they had done for us while we were under construction.  They had 'lent' us electricity and water: two essentials when building a house and brought us much bounty from their overflowing vegetable garden and berry bushes.

It was also my first abstinent day in ages.  I always seem to choose Day Ones in the difficult category: ie - Friday or Saturday nights when we are socializing.  As they don't drink red wine and hubby was drinking beer we did not open the bottle.  It's sitting on the counter beckoning me.

Yesterday I made a lovely roasted root vegetable and chicken dinner and hubby was offering us a glass.  We all politely declined for different reasons: Son was playing hockey later on in the evening so had to decline.  DIL had just bought herself a new bikini for her trip to Cuba in a week and a half so she couldn't afford the extra calories and I had my reasons.  Hubby didn't want to drink alone.  So it's still there, unopened.

There will always be temptations and in a way it's good to have them in my face now in order to get used to them and desensitize myself to their pull.  That's my current theory any how.

My daily 6:00 a.m. jaunts across the street to meditate is a great incentive to stay on track and so is the knitting project.  Hubby was shocked and surprised when I told him I was knitting something for myself.  He commented that I never do anything for myself.  It's funny because I feel selfish sometimes when I take time for myself and over self-indulgent.  It's all in the perspective, eh..

So day four today....

Monday 5 January 2015

Knitting Rows of Sobriety

Since January 1st my lovely neighbor/friend and I have been meeting every morning at 6:00 a.m. to read daily insights from my Book of Awakenings.  We then discuss how they relate to us and sit in quiet meditation.  What a great way to begin each day.

I recently asked if we could also include a little report on how we are doing with our addictions.  We are both working on giving up some dangerous habits.  She agreed and since then, I've been a good, non-drinker.  Typical me!  I can fail myself easily but am not going to fail someone else.  Whatever it takes.

Afterwards, I go for a short walk and, when I return home, I usually am alone in the house for a time before the others yawn to life.  I've been knitting.  With four young grandchildren and a fifth on the way (my daughter's baby will be only a year old when she's due), you would think I would be knitting a sweater or blanket for one of the little ones.  Not so.  I've decided that as part of my self-nurturing I will knit myself a blood red scarf to wear on my cold morning walks.  It has become a necessity to cover my face now that the winter has turned cold and my scarf will be pretty and useful. It also is symbolic of the journey to sobriety I have embarked upon.  There are some places where I've dropped stitches and had to go back and pick them up.  I've had the wool break once or twice and have had to knot it and weave it into the whole structure.  I've picked up and put down this project many times in the past months much like the ups and downs of my journey towards becoming alcohol free.  I can go months without looking at it and work feverishly on it for days at a time only to drop a stitch or two and lose confidence for a time.

I want it to be different this time.  I want to see this project to the end.  I want to pick it up daily and weave my love, commitment, self discipline and love into it creating a work of art and a useful tool in my life's journey.  I want to wear this red scarf proudly and have it shield me from the bitter cold as my sobriety protects me from harming myself.

As I walk the paths and fields of my neighborhood, I will wear my lovely red scarf and it will serve as a reminder of the painstaking trail I've marked with as many mistakes as good intentions to eventually arrive at my journey's end.