364 days…

A year ago today, I had my last drink. I did not know it at the time and I honestly can’t remember what it was. Only that I went to bed drunk as usual, woke up probably still drunk and began that Monday morning as usual- getting ready for work, not knowing then that I had already had my last drink. On Monday November 8th, 2021, my sobriety journey began.

Let’s back up a bit so that you, dear reader, can try to understand how I had lost myself so completely to alcohol. Like most people who find themselves tumbling down the rabbit hole of addiction, I didn’t wake up one morning and say hey, I’m going to drink to excess everyday and ignore my problems. It was a slow process, a learned coping mechanism to deal with physical and mental heath issues.

As I have written about before, I suffer from chronic migraines and stage 4 endometriosis. I’m in pain most days. Alcohol numbs that pain. It is an escape from the mental and physical exhaustion of dealing with chronic pain. So what began as a glass of wine to unwind and relax when getting home from work slowly became approximately 2 bottles of wine a night.

It wasn’t always wine either, I had a penchant for whiskey, amoretto, and had gotten into white claw and the like. I wouldn’t get sloppy drunk. I was actually a very high functioning alcoholic. Most people had no idea -mainly, I think, because it has become so common place for mom’s to have wine time. I worked a full time job as a chemist and volunteered for years in the world of musical theater wearing various hats like director, producer, set designer, etc… and had a successful wellness consulting business all while drinking too much.

So how could I possibly have a drinking problem?

It took me a while to realize my drinking was out of control. Excessive alcohol consumption has become so normalized in our culture that the line is seriously blurred. Perhaps my first clue was that whenever a doctor asked me how much I drank, I lied. Who is going to admit to their doctor that they are have 5-6 or more drinks a night? I knew it was too much but hell – I still got up and went to work, took care of my family, volunteered so again; was it really a problem?

Maybe I realized something was up the day I locked my keys in the car. They had fallen out of my pocket as I hid scrunched down in the backseat slamming 2 small bottles of pumpkin rum. …or maybe it was the mornings I woke up to multiple empty bottles wondering who could have drank all of it? Or slurring my words at a wedding reception as I overindulged at the open bar?

There were so many signs, yet I ignored them all. I flirted with stopping or cutting back. “Only drinking on the weekends” would last a week. “I’ll use a smaller glass” means more refills.

This went on for years and years. So what finally happened that made me stop completely? A terrifying experience that I was unable to handle appropriately because I was drunk.

One year ago, on November 5th, a Friday; I was preparing for night two of three of the high school musical I had directed and produced. I had pretty much been absent from my home for the previous weeks if not months from 6:30 am until 8pm or so most days. Of course, the drinking commenced as soon as I was through the door (or occasionally first thing in the morning). The days prior to the show, my husband had come down with food poisoning, however I left him to fend for himself. I had a show to put on. In my head- he was an adult who could handle himself. I wasn’t paying attention to how sick he was.

So Friday night, I didn’t get home until 11pm or so and immediately downed a bottle of wine. Hubby was in bed and our son who was 18 at the time was playing video games. I unwound with my bottles of wine for over an hour. Finally, exhausted and pleasantly buzzed I went to bed.

About 2 hours later I awoke to a crash in the kitchen. It took me a few seconds to come to and realize where I was. I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen. It was dark and I could see my husband stumbling towards me. He made it around the corner but collapsed onto our sons baby grand piano just outside our bedroom door. Now panicking, I reach to grab him but was not strong enough. I grabbed his face yelling his name and his eyes glassed over.

That is about when I probably should have called 911. However, as I was 2 sheets to the wind, I left him lay there and went to wake up our son. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to wake up an 18 year old at two o’clock in the morning but it’s virtually impossible.

Long story short- finally managed to wake my son- there was yelling and freaking out- of course all me; and we managed to get my husband back in bed.

In the morning, hubby had no recollection of what had happened. I left my son in charge of him and prepared for closing night of the show. Drinking started before noon.

What I managed to get out of my slightly incoherent husband was that due to the food poisoning he couldn’t sleep so took Benadryl. He was so dehydrated from being sick at that point, that he forgot he took Benadryl and took Nyquil on top of it and pretty much passed out. But he’s an adult right!?! Why did I need to be home with him?!?

Closing night of the show was a success and I didn’t get home until after midnight. Hubby sleeping and no more issues- or so I thought. Sunday morning I’m up and into my lovely alcoholic gifts from the kind parents of thespians. Then it off to school for clean up. 3 hours at school and all I could do is count the minutes until I was home cracking open a can of spicy margarita!

Once home I enjoy the margarita and copious amounts of wine. While hubby rested in bed. Did I ask him if he was drinking enough water? Probably not- I was too busy drinking and relishing the last 3 days. I asked him if he was feeling any better. He thought so. I left it at that.

Monday morning the alarms goes off at 5:20am and an I am up and out of bed. I start the coffee and get in the shower. As I exit the bathroom I see my husband waiting for me in the kitchen. He looks awful, pale and weak. He says I think I need you to take me to the hospital.

And off to the emergency room we go. He was severely dehydrated and needed 2 full bags of IV fluids and was out of work another 4 days to rest and recuperate.

And that was it. No more drinking.

Seeing how I completely ignored the situation with my husband because of my alcohol fog scared the shit out of me. Could the situation have turned out worse- you bet it could have. I was one lucky drunk! Upon returning home from the ER, I collected every drop of booze in the house and threw in the garbage. Done.

Now don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying stopping drinking was easy. It sucked. I struggled every day. But I wasn’t beating myself up everyday with a guilt ridden pity party because I downed multiples bottles of wine the night before. This was a different kind of struggle. I was anxiety ridden for a few weeks, then it would rear its ugly head if I had a social function to go to. How could I go out and not drink? What would people say? What would I say if that’s asked why i wasn’t drinking? Holy shit! Cycles of anxiety, fear, shame but ask me if it was worth it?

Now I sit here, a year later, a year to the day of my last drink.

I am still an alcoholic by definition. I am still in recovery, but I am SOBER.

So hello. It’s nice to meet you. If you knew me in my drinking days, I am sorry. Allow me to reintroduce myself; My name is Kristen and I am 364 day sober.

Need help with your drinking?

Visit Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Fool(ish) Musings

Today we will take some time to think about “the fool’s” journey through life. This theme is represented in literature with works such as “the Epic of Gilgamesh” and ”Alice in Wonderland” among many others. Joseph Campbell, American writer and professor, described it as the archetypal hero story.

These themes are prevalent in our own lives as we grow from child to adolescent to adult, gaining insight and experience along the way. We begin our journey as the uneducated novice, (infant) bound in pure awareness, with no sense of self – hence, the fool.

Our modern language has negative connotations associated with the word FOOL, however, when looked at through the eyes of experience we see that the fool is unencumbered by societal trappings and norms. It is the fool who experiences life in all its splendor, tasting experience for what it is. There is no shame, no guilt – only pure being.

As babies, we have no sense of self (as in self-consciousness), purely instinctual beings. Our whole experience is based upon survival- cry to be fed, changed, consoled. All our energy is concentrated in the root chakra. As we grow, we develop a sense of separation, of otherness. It is at this point our energy moves into the sacral chakra. We experience the separation based upon sex and slowly become aware of the power sex and sexual identification has in our lives.
Like the fool/hero on the journey, we must come to understand that power is limited, controlling and lacking Love.
If our karma in this life allows, we move the into the third chakra, some of us developing a stable sense of self, or we become lost in the anxiety of trying to fit in. Most people are living through the energy of the lower 3 Chakras.

Progress moving the energy upwards becomes difficult due to our physical plane of existence which is constantly telling us we need more to be happy, to be loved, to fit in. Beings stuck here are trapped by instant gratification-always seeking outside of themselves.

The fool/hero, however is able, after some time, to move beyond the physical plane of power. This can happen gradually or some trauma can rend open the heart instantly allowing the experience of the power of unconditional love. This subtle energy allows us to bridge the gap between the lower and upper chakras.

This love can then assist us further on our foolish yet heroic journey through life. It allows us to see the world for what is in in pure love. It invites compassionate speech, action and opens our intuition allow a depth of understanding: everything is exactly as it should be in every moment.

This is the most difficult pill to swallow. War, greed, suffering are all intrinsic parts of human existence. They are the opposite side of the coin of love, compassion, and empathy.

At a point in history we began to see everything as duality (Eve eating the apple/Gilgamesh and Enkidu) and we lost the pure taste of awareness.

Those of us whose karma is ripening for awakening feels the “something not quite right” in how we are told to experience life.

The fool’s/hero’s journey is never straight. It is a crooked path with many missteps and falls along the way.

Take time to look at your life from the perspective of story telling. Can you identify points in early life where energy became stagnant in the lower chakras?

In working with these ideas we must remember that we are most likely not fully awakening in this go-round. We are the fool – just beginning to open our eyes to the light of truth. This is a journey of many lifetimes, unpredictable and long.

It is with this realization ( which cannot be intellectuallized) that we begin to see the face of god in everyone we meet. No one better than us, no one less than us. All god, all one. All beings moving toward the light in their own way, in their own time.

The person that cut you off on the highway is god, the megalomaniac, hell-bent on persecuting other beings is also god. It is all energy in form. All one.
As Ram Dass says “ it is all grist for the mill.”

Everything we meet is the path.

Namaste

Stop doing. Start being.

“Did you read that poem?” Dorrance asked from behind Ralph. “The one that starts ‘Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else’?”

Steven King, from Insomnia

How many of us rush through what we have to “do” because it is boring or tedious or we just do not feel like doing it? We are leading unmindful lives, allowing moments to rush by in a flurry of frustration and angst always thinking the next thing will be better, more entertaining, more rewarding.

When we go through our days unengaged with the present moment we have a tendency to forget our days, conversations and moments. We are so caught up in thoughts and to-do lists that “doing” becomes frustration. So we need to learn how to flow through our days in a state of being, a state of awareness.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Being comes from our authentic self; our deepest inner knowingness. It is effortless, flowing, dynamic, honest. Most of us have experienced moments of awareness, true focus and immersion into what it is we are doing. Those states of flow, when the background chatter is reduced to non-existent, we become one with our task. I experience these stretched out moments of awareness when reading, painting, or drawing. Notice these are all creative endeavors. We are inherently creative beings, which is why a flow state is so natural in artists, writers and musicians.


Through practice we can begin to experience this moments of flow, of pure being more frequently. We can align ourselves with the Universe and live in harmony.

Escape is doing. Gentle awareness is being.

In addition to mindfulness practice/training we also need to look deeply at our motivation and intention. We need to understand the WHY of our actions. When we participate in practices that encourage mindlessness it is usually for escape. We try to escape stress and unpleasantness whether from our work, families or our own minds. Incessant scrolling on social media or imbibing substances recklessly are both examples of escapist behaviors. Escape is doing. Gentle awareness is being.

We must learn to sit with our toxic and unpleasant emotions when they arise. The next time you get frustrated doing the dishes or taking out the garbage, ask yourself “Why?”. What about performing a task (that must be preformed) is frustrating? Does your frustration actually relate to the task, or is there something deeper that gets triggered when performing certain tasks?

When we can take a moment to pause and look at the cause for the frustration, we begin to peal back the layers until we reach our central motivations. For example let’s say I get frustrated every time I take the garbage out. I recognize my frustration and pause to consider why. Perhaps I have repeatedly asked my son to take the garbage out, then I’m frustrated with his negligence. This could be evidence of a deeper issue, perhaps my son is lazy and this is one more example; yet I choose to ignore the connections to avoid confrontation. Magically we have arrive back at me. If I have problem with confrontation then I am most likely frustrated with myself for not dealing with the situations; instead blame-shifting first to my son, then to the garbage.

A lot of the time our frustration is because we have expectations of others that are not met. Again, the problem lies within. We cannot place unrealistic expectations on others. Life happens and sometimes it is no ones fault the expectation is not met. We need to be able to pause and see situation clearly and not through the lens of “how it only affects me”. This takes practice. In order to experience more flow in our day we must make time for stillness.

Through practices such as yoga, meditation and breath work we can begin to feel some ease and adjust to a slower pace; allowing space for gentle awareness to arise naturally. We begin to stop doing and start being.

Namaste.

Please contact me if you would like more information on how to start your own personal practices of ease and flow.