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Who am I?

Hi, my name is Anne 🙂 OK, fine that’s my middle name, but a middle name is better than no name at all! And, oh god this feels weird and horrible, but I think I am an alcoholic. I am also sober curious. I am 33, I identify as female. I have a boyfriend and a cat, I am French and am finishing a PhD in comparative literature and philosophy in the U.S.A. I used to smoke a pack a day, I quit in May 2019. I like painting, reading, writing, cooking and, unfortunately, beer… a little too much. Honestly, now that I think about it, I have no idea who I am without alcohol. Hoping to find out as I share my thoughts and experience with you in this blog, for better and for worse!

You can also find me on Instagram

Taken by a very good friend ❤

Why this blog ?

  • Writing really helps in moments of doubt or discouragement !
  • Accountability is so important in any recovery journey and the people here on WP are wonderful, understanding people. I encourage anyone who feels on the fence to give this blogging thing a go 🙂
  • Reading sobriety blogs has really helped me make this decision. I wanna participate !
  • If reading my story can help even one person make this decision for themselves, this is useful!
  • What else am I going to do with all these pictures of me (or friends) taken from the back? I didn’t know I had so many!

Join me on this journey !

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Contact form:

You can also find me on Instagram

I have secretly regressed to anxious attachment style

Hi Friends, 

Happy new year to everyone! Hopefully we made it out of the worst part and things can only get better from here^^ I hope 2021 brings hope and positive change to your life, no matter what that implies for you at this moment. 

I want to write a quick post about the emotional ups and downs that come with a life where booze is no longer used as a crutch. [DISCLAIMER: the post turned out to be a boring / long anxious rant … now is a good time to go and do something more interesting. Otherwise, read on, but you have been warned!]

I’ve been single for a few months now, which has done me a tremendous amount of good, especially considering how rare the periods of solitude have been in my life. I’ve basically been in long term relationships since I was 14. Many of these, I realize, I chose to avoid being alone and feeling unwanted. Now for the first time, thanks to sobriety and the self-development work I started a few years ago, I have grown to tolerate, even cherish, being alone. Discovering my values. Getting to know myself. That kind of stuff. 

Now that I’m back in the dating game, I am also discovering the joys of finding partners out of CHOICE, not by default. I no longer need to find someone at all costs to avoid being alone. This makes a huge difference. But it has also made things more difficult, since as you know, I currently have a huge crush on someone who visibly is letting me do all the pursuing. Because I like this person so much, the stakes are much higher than all those times where I simply let myself be pursued by men who left me relatively indifferent, and “went with the flow.” With this new crush, I feel like everything is more intense, and the ball is constantly in my court, which is horribly nerve-wracking and turning me into an anxious mess. 

Strikingly though, ”Out Of My League Guy,” whose name is Jean, has expressed similar feelings of ME being out of HIS league (we both seem to have severe low self esteem issues^^). Everything is still very new and fresh, and I am trying my best not to get my hopes up, but guys… AT LAST! SHIT GOT PHYSICAL! [cue crowd cheers for Anne]. 

Yep, I asked him to spend New Years Eve together, solo, and he said ok, after expressing worry that because of him, I would spend “the most boring evening of my life.” WRONG! I had the BEST NIGHT EVER.

That evening, once I finally mustered up the courage to kiss him, things magically started to flow – he really does have a rule where he won’t do anything until the woman initiates, but man, once the ice was broken, things got insaaaane. I’ll spare you the details, but it involved lots of kissing, listening to music, deep talks, making love 5 times, pillow talk, and being generally very affectionate and tender. The pillow talk included lots of cheesy moments, where we both seemed to admit we really liked each other. At various moments during the evening, he mentioned how intimidated he was by me, how fortunate he felt to have met me, how “unique”, “special”, and “smart” I was. He also said I was beautiful and even called me a “sex Empress”, explaining that I was much more active in bed than most women, which was very surprising to me, given how hard I worked to get over my crippling shyness. I also reciprocated with similar compliments, and it all felt like a dream come true, despite my insecurities about showing my body to him.

A couple of days later he asked me if I was home, and when I said yes, he texted, “open the door, special delivery”. I was trembling when he came through my door and handed me a paper bag, saying “don’t open this until I’m gone.” I barely had time to say “wait!” and give him a long hug before he mumbled “I have to go” and disappeared into the staircase.  When I opened the bag, I found this beautiful terrarium [see pic above] in a big, heavy glass egg, and a cute note written on a small card.

So all in all, this sounds like the perfect beginning to a beautiful love story. 

And this is where things get sticky. 

The magical sex/bonding night was Thursday evening, and the terrarium thing was Saturday. We texted a lot that evening, but since then, zero news. Nada. Not a peep. I see him online on my phone, but he hasn’t written to me.

I know, I know…  it’s only been, what … 24 hours, but for some reason, I have been feeling emotionally starved every time this kind of silence has happened with this guy (which I would say, happens once or twice a week).

Why so anxious? Probably because so far, this man has let me make ALL the first moves. I asked to make plans first, I text first 90% of the time, I asked to spend new year’s eve together, I got him a (small, and in comparison, crappy) Xmas gift first, I had to kiss him first. I’ve never been this proactive with ANYONE, ever.

For someone who has ALWAYS relied on men (or alcohol) to make the first move, this guy is making me feel like a needy, desperate stalker.

Worse, his independent/introverted style and his apparent shyness (which I am really struggling to understand since he is both physically and intellectually stunning, and not shy AT ALL in bed), are extremely triggering for me. Although we text on a quasi-daily basis, there regularly comes a point where we don’t text for a day or two, which instantly gets me to switch to Panic-anxious-attachment mode: “WHY does this guy not initiate? Does he not like me anymore? Am I a clingy desperate wreck ? Will he feel smothered if I text? Is he juggling multiple women? Did I repulse him somehow? Is he just shy, or very independent, or simply emotionally unavailable? Am I crazy and overreacting?”

At this point, I know better than to reach out like a psycho. I am able to sit with all these unpleasant doubts, but it’s emotionally exhausting. I DID gain some insight though:

My previous relationship was with someone who was a LOT more anxious than I was, which naturally led me to adopt a more avoidant stance. But here, I am definitely in insecure/anxious attachment mode. Funny how attachment styles really ARE contextual. 

So what now?

I can’t read minds, and don’t feel like I’ve known him long enough to share my needs for intimacy and connection (after all, we are NOT in a relationship, we’ve only been on 5 dates). 

Because I am sick of the cycle where I end up cracking and contacting him, I made a pact with myself yesterday. I SWORE that this time [beware, cheesy formulation coming up], I would give us BOTH the gift of space: for him, the space to realize he misses me, and get a chance to reach out himself. And for me, well …. to sit with this horrible crippling anxiety and practice focusing on my own life/hobbies/interest instead of obsessing over this guy 24-7 and of musing about how many babies we will have ^^ 

It’s really, really hard though. 

What if he NEVER reaches out? What if I’m 80 by the time he does, and my uterus has shriveled up and we can’t make all those babies?

Even worse = What if all this business about me trying not to be needy is just my own fear of being vulnerable and admitting to someone that I like them?

Worst of all = What if this dreaming about a relationship is all in my head? What if I’m on the Truman show and turns out he’s not interested at all and I’ve been hallucinating all these encouraging signs? ARGHHHHH

I must confess, the addict in me has contemplated seeing and sleeping with other guys to “make it” until Jean contacts me (deep down I know he will eventually).. But my sister said this was junkie thinking, and that I should practice finding self-worth by myself instead of using multiple guys as a fix to get attention and validation. Bloody younger siblings and their wisdom… 

I don’t know why I am so triggered – probably because of the uncertainty that comes with the early stages of what (I hope) might turn out to be a relationship. AND also cause of the specific characteristics of this insanely attractive yet seemingly unattainable (except when in person) guy.

If I KNEW he liked me for sure, I would chill out a lot. I know I’m not needy in a way where I am incapable of having my own life. Rather, I need to be reassured that the connection is secure, and he hasn’t disappeared into the void or changed his mind. I’m not the terrified infant who won’t leave her mother’s lap, I’m the infant who needs to know the mother is watching when I turn back to check, and once I feel like someone “has my back”, then I’ll happily keep moving forward in my exploration of the big scary world. 

It’s hard for me to express my need for daily communication to this guy, as I am literally terrified of coming off as clingy or desperate. I haven’t figured out if he has an avoidant style or just a secure style and is taking things slow. I’m obviously terrible at taking things slow but for now, I have no choice. This guy is the slowest person on earth it seems.

I hope this rant gets some of the anxiety out of my system. Sorry for the awful post… better here than in his email though ^^

I hope 2021 brings me more self-reliance!

Xoxoxo Anne

Crushy McCrush face

I drew an owl for my sister 🙂

Dear wordpress friends, 

It’s been so long, I apologize for being absent. Life has been intense these days, adapting to a new city, a new country, starting from scratch. I’ve been pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone and having fun opening up to strangers and seeing what comes. Life is full of precious moments and gifts and opening up if often the key to a stimulating, fulfilling experience. 

Work-wise, one of my committee members hired me to edit her new book on the history of schizophrenia. So I’m covered until February. And learning lots of interesting facts.

Hobby-wise, I’m having the time of my life.

I’ve started rollerskating. Not rollerblading. The old school, four wheel, funky kind of skating. I love it. I’m still terrible but I’m making progress fast. It’s a great quarantine solo activity. Well, I thought it would be solo. But every time I see a girl with skates on I go up and talk to her. I introduce myself and say let’s skate together. And now I have a little group of skater friends. They’re all in their early twenties, and I’m turning 34 in a month… When I told them my age one of them said “oh my goodness I had no idea you were an adult” ^^

I’ve also started drawing again. I bought myself some watercolor pencils and some acrylic paint and I’ve been enjoying using all my extra time and putting it towards more creative ends. After the last few months of PhD insanity, these two regressive hobbies feel insanely good. I feel like a 10 year old child. I am full of joy and full of life. The rational part of my brain says I should be anxious due to the uncertainty of the future, and the awfulness of the present global conditions. But no…. I’m happy. I never would have suspected that I would enjoy this new life so quickly. 

Of course, I miss my ex. And he’s having a hard time. He misses me a lot. I sent him a package with the analog prints of our California trip photos, and a whole series of paintings I made for him when I listened to his new solo album (the ex is a jazz musician, in case you forgot^^). 

I’ve also been dating BOYSSS. And I opened up my tinder profile to girls too (even though so far the women I have met have given me more of a “friend” vibe than a sexual one). I’m in exploration mode. I’ve realized that many men are interested in me, that I’m not perfect, but I’m a gentle and genuine person who has done enough personal work to be able to navigate all the social awkwardness of dating with relative ease. Last night I surprised myself, taking physical initiatives and leadership with a man whom I invited over to my house. 

But friends … the truth is, I have a crush. A big one. Not on last night-guy. Turns out I really, really, REALLY like “out of my league guy”. If you remember him from my previous post. His name is Jean. I’m extremely attracted to him, on both physical and intellectual levels. I think he likes me too, even though I feel like a blubbering nervous idiot every time I see him.. So far, we’ve been texting every day for the last month and a half, and our connection is getting deeper and deeper. We’ve only met in person about 4 or 5 times, but our conversations last for hours every time. HOWEVER, when we are physically close to each other (and even though we’ve declared our mutual attraction to each other in written form) we are both behaving like complete introverts… Every single time, I get shy and nervous, and nothing physical has happened yet.

We’ve talked about it. I explained my timid paralysis / sobriety shyness to him. He told me all about his insecurities, his introversion, and his rule about never initiating with women, as “for feminist reasons” he believes women should be left to make their move if they want to, but men should refrain (very #metoo). This rule surprised me, and sparked the insight that for the last 20 years, I’ve relied on alcohol to achieve disinhibition, and/or on men to make the first move, but I’ve NEVER been the one to take the risk and try anything physical unless I am 100% sure of the outcome. With the guy last night, it was easy. But initiating (sober) with someone I genuinely really really like, for some insane reason I cannot fathom, is much harder. I like the guy enough to give it a go at some point, though. Right now, I’m still torn between “I’m not good enough for him, he’s going to reject me and make fun of me” and “this person is deep and caring and has his own issues, it’s time to be brave and put myself out there”. If this ever goes anywhere, it could be a beautifully healing relationship for both of us. 

So yeah, I have a girly girly crush. Another great thing about this guy is that he doesn’t drink either. I feel comfortable with him, when I’m not paralyzed by initiation-shyness.

I’m also trying hard to let go of being attached to a specific outcome. I’m keeping my options open, and remembering to focus on myself, my interests, my life, and my needs. I’m ok taking things slow. No more codependency love-addiction.

My family said I seem happy and calm and “in full bloom” 🙂

I have never been happier at the prospect of spending the holidays as a SOBER person in my alcoholic family. This year it’s not even an issue. 

Hang in there everyone. I can’t wait for 2020 to be CANCELLED 🙂 

Giant hugs

Xxx

Anne

2020, or the Joys of Sober Dating During a Global Pandemic

Sobriety helps you peel off the layers (thanks @Ditchingthewine for the expression), and figure out who you are.

I just moved back to my home country after being abroad for 6 years, and it’s taking a bit of readapting. My brain has to re-learn a set of cultural norms, switch to another language, adopt new ways of thinking and behaving, etc. Understandably, in order to save mental energy, a part of me is tempted to resort back to old familiar habits, and just become the person I used to be. The problem is that would mean: smoke, drink, be a French existentialist philosopher, put on a cynical, pessimistic, rationalist mask and pretend you are indifferent, even invulnerable, to everyone and everything around you. Show no “weakness.” Hide your fragility, your needs, your vulnerability, your tender heart. Sigh. I simply am not that person anymore. 

One pattern that is showing its face these days is the anxiety that flares up at the idea of being single. I have more or less always been in a relationship since I was 14. After that, I spent 15 years chasing love-drama, to feel desired, and worthy of love. But after 6 years in the US (and after working on myself a lot), I realize I am not that person either. I am no longer that desperate that I would take ANY relationship over being alone. I have changed, and grown to love myself.

I am still not a fan of the idea of being single for a long period of time, though. The prospect still causes distress and feelings of loneliness that I don’t experience when I have a secure attachment situation going on in the background. In other words: I am not anxiously attached when I am in a healthy relationship. But when I am single, the anxiety comes flaring up: What if no one ever loves me? Will I die alone? Will I become a spinster? How long will it take my cats to eat my corpse? etc.

But I am not desperate to find someone at all costs, like I used to be. I am now able to notice red flags. (In the past I ignored them and dove straight into drama-land, believing that getting the most unavailable person meant achieving the highest degree of desirability/self-worth. Sigh.) 

So I’ve been on a few Tinder walks these days. In fact, I just got home from one with a very nice, kind and gentle classical pianist. I like the artistic / creative types (my ex is a jazz saxophonist). This person was really very nice and quite interested in seeing me again. He seemed eager. Same for Physics PhD guy I’ve seen 3 times already, who wants to have me over at his house for lunch soon. Same with Computer Science guy whom I met last week. So ok, there are guys. But here’s the catch. A part of me would be happy to be friends with these people, but just isn’t really feeling that spark when it comes to starting something romantic. A part of me is wondering, “are these guys too eager?”. I’m confused as to why I am not attracted to them: these are perfectly nice people, who are interested in me, and have nothing “wrong” with them.  Is it that I still miss my ex (I do miss him)? Is it just a chemistry thing? Ooooooor, is it because they are actually interested in me?

And this is where Out of my League Guy enters the picture.

Ah, Out of my League guy… He’s a martial arts master, very athletic, very very smart, kind of a nerd, and INSANELY good looking, with buddhist tattoos all over his PERFECT body, kind of like if Apollo had dreadlocks and tattoos. Ahem, I digress.

We’ve been texting almost every day for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve clearly got a crush (at least, with the internet version of this guy). I’ve even caught myself in my old “anxious attachment” patterns, obsessing over my phone, waiting for messages, wondering why he isn’t asking me out or texting, etc. These patterns had not really flared up for the last 2 years, probably because my ex partner was clearly committed to me and therefore, gave me no reason to be anxiously attached (if anything, he was the anxious one and I was more avoidant).

But silly, silly Anne!

Why is it that out of 20 or so Tinder matches I pick out the most challenging, unattainable, possibly even emotionally unavailable, persont, and focus all my energy on him? Have I reverted back to the good old patterns of “If I can get HIM then I am lovable” mode? (for past-Anne, chasing unavailable men = compensating for lack of parental attention/affection/secure attachment style during childhood).

After two or three days of noticing myself reverting back into these obsessive/ruminative modes of being, I decided it was time to act. NO more of all that chasing unavailable men. That was for old Anne. New Anne has tools that she can use to refocus her attention on herself, and away from craving exterior validation.

So I did something drastic. (This is something that past-Anne would have NEVER done. Past-Anne would have elaborated a complex and covert military conquest strategy, lying in wait for the right moment, curating everything and constructing a fake image and patiently waiting until the person became interested, at tremendous emotional and energetic cost)

I figured = “OK Out of My League Guy. If you’re responding to my texts and looking at my instagram stories, SOME part of you must be interested. Well, I have no time to waste obsessing over whether or not you will ever ask me out, why you are not writing to me, whether you will later, etc. I have self-worth and I plenty of qualities to bring to the table, even if (unlike you) I am not supermodel hot. 

So I gathered my courage and straight up asked him out.

I figured it was better to face with rejection now (this, past Anne would not have been able to do) instead of obsess over how to get someone to like me. I figured this was true courage: taking the first step, not being afraid of the outcome. 

And guess what, he said yes 🙂 So we’re going to the park tomorrow.

This way, I can pop the bubble and get out of fantasy world of clinging and obsessing, I can escape the mental cesspool of doubt-insecurity and just see what happens in the real world. 

In person, I will be able to determine whether I actually like him or not, not just whether he likes me or not. 

I am a bit scared and nervous, because he’s impressed me not just physically but also intellectually (unlike the other men I’ve seen so far). But I’m mostly scared because the voices my head keep saying I am not good/pretty/interesting enough, and that he is not interested/as I am.

In person I will be able to see if he is indeed standoffish and closed, in which case I think I am mature enough to walk away instead of trying to chase/change him, like I would have in the past. 

We’ll see how it goes. 

I think I’ll just go into it like I went into my PhD defense: jump in, shed all preconceptions, see what happens. And no matter what happens (even if he hates me, makes fun of me, feels repulsed because I seem too eager or desperate), I will have learnt something. There is a teaching in everything. 

And I think there is one right in front of my nose already: I probably need to explore the feelings of “repulsion” that I myself experience when I think someone is “desperate”. I suspect this is just a reaction stemming from my own shame. The shame caused by my own feelings of loneliness and desperation, that I am probably projecting onto others, who are just eager, not desperate. In the past I have spent a tremendous amount of energy trying to APPEAR independent, aka. not needy. Now, after a few years of therapy, I know that I don’t need to pretend to be indifferent. That it’s ok to be interested in someone, just like it’s ok if they are not interested in you. 

But once more, it’s interesting to see old patterns reappear and anxious emotions be triggered once we step out of our comfort zone and try new things. 

If anyone has any tips on how to “be yourself” and “be normal” on a date with an insanely hot person, I’m all ears 🙂

Wish me luck! 

Xxx

TInder-Anne

Lonely Potato

I swear this is an actual potato, that came in a bag of other perfectly normal potatoes from the market.

Guys! Tonight I cried, for the first time in many months.

I’m not talking about “shed an elegant tear during an emotional movie” crying … I’m talkin’ serious, “all hands on deck, close the curtains, no time to grab tissue, start weeping, now”, cried. I think hadn’t done that since October 2019, when I broke up with my ex partner, and spent a whole month picking myself up and going to therapy again, at the very beginning of this blog. That was before the pandemic and everything. And before we got back together for another year. Waaaaay before I moved away and left the US about a month ago.

Tonight is the first night where I actually missed my ex. Until today, I thought I was doing really well, navigating all the big changes that have occurred in the last few weeks/months. Dealing with the lockdown. Learning to be alone. Being rejected by one cool job (but hired for another, more on that another time). Practicing self-care.

So why did s***t hit the fan today?

Welllll … I might have put myself on Tinder a couple of weeks ago, mostly to meet people in this new city, where I don’t really know anyone. So far, I have taken 3 perfectly respectable, social distanced, outdoors, and masked, walks – with 2 different men (man, does 2020 dating suck. You can’t even see your date’s face). So far no huge crush, but at least it gets me out of the house and talking to someone other than my plants (or myself). Since I arrived, I’ve also been texting with my ex on a daily basis (we decided to stay friends: we both still love each other but neither of us wants long distance. The “plan” being to transition from romantic-love to friendship-love and support each other in the process.)

Back to the fan. And the sh***t that hit it.

So today, I candidly informed my ex about the aforementioned Tinder walks. Why you ask? Excellent question. Turns out it was a terrible idea, but maybe not for the reason you might expect. All this might seem pretty obvious to an outside perspective, but it only became clear to me retrospectively, after the fact … Ahem … Turns out that by announcing her Tinder walks, Anne was pre-consciously hoping for a reaction to the effect of “OHHHH ANNE, MY LOVE, you are so indispensable and irreplaceable, how could you break my hearth thus and already be seeing other men? I am so devastated I cannot go on living, the jealousy is too much to bear. Please I beg you spare my poor broken heart”.

Well, serves me (and my ego) right … The real-life response I got was: “Oh, what a relief! I wasn’t sure whether to tell you, but actually, I’m going on a Tinder walk with a woman this afternoon. Don’t worry though, I told her I was looking for something platonic”.

Wait… “WHAT A RELIEF?”

What the f****G f***ck???!!!!!!

I’ll skip the boring details (Nothing fancy … just good old Anne losing her sh***t a bit, unexpectedly hit by a gigantic wave of jealousy, triggered into feeling unexplainably and suddenly betrayed, worthless, rejected, abandoned, you name it. Yep, I cried on the phone, said it was too hard, that I wasn’t ready to hear about other women, and that maybe we should just stop contacting each other altogether.

Yeah you heard me: I’m fine with seeing other men, but if my ex takes a platonic walk with another woman, I freak out and have a mini-meltdown while projectile-crying all over the place.

Add to the ex-incident the fact that a Tinder guy that I actually DO find very attractive but haven’t met in person yet (I think he might be out of my league) doesn’t seem as interested as I am, and kind of lukewarmly stopped responding to my messages tonight.

And VOILA! You now have the perfect recipe to bake an Anne-has-low-self-esteem cake.

Or rather, pudding. Formless, squishy, quick to fall on the floor with a great big splat – like Anne’s self-esteem.

I then proceeded to have a shitty, lonely evening, despite a lovely Zoom with my siblings.

Clearly this is one of the remaining core areas where I still get triggered and need to build some kind of ego strength. I thought I was nailing the being alone/spending time with myself thing, but bring in more complicated factors (competition with other women, the cruel joys of the online dating world, lockdown), and all that “progress” seems to crumble and vanish as quickly as a hot Tinder guy.

Sigh.

Must make peace with image of dying alone, devoured by cats.

Must remember love comes from within.

I’m grateful to be sober tonight. Actually, in a twisted way, I’m grateful for the lockdown: It’s 11:30 pm, I couldn’t even find a drink if I wanted to.

But to be honest, I don’t even want to. I just want to be someone who can tolerate rejection and not mind.

I know this must seem pretty trivial and childish to most – but the loneliness and the difficult emotions and are so strong that to me, it all feels very very real.

Hope you’re all doing better than I am!

xxxx

Anne

Dear Lockdown: Here We Go Again!

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

While people in America wonder whether Halloween will be canceled, the French president announced that France would be going into a full nationwide lockdown again (this time, with schools staying open). Today is day 1. 

After the lockdown in the U.S. last winter and spring, I, like many others around me, am tired of the whole no social life / no physical contact parts of 2020. Whereas last year I was fortunate enough to share the lockdown experience with a loving and caring romantic partner, this time I’m flying solo. Single and freshly moved to a new continent in the time of Covid … a memoir no one wants to read, probably because of its complete lack of plot. 

Here in France, every time you go out, you need to have an official paper with you at all times, that the police routinely checks, and on which you tick a box of listed options stating “legitimate” reasons to leave your house. Needless to say that dating and making new friends are not on the list. This morning, I went out to do some food shopping. The sun was shining and the sky was blue, but the streets were eerily empty, with shops closed, café terrasses deserted, and a few masked ghosts hurrying home with a bag of groceries or a baguette under their arm. Very post-apocalyptic-wartime atmosphere. 

I never thought I would get to taste the joys of lockdown in two different environments and countries.  In the U.S., I had vast open spaces, nature and trees, a quick drive away. Here, I am in a medieval city made of white stone, with narrow alleyways, and a small but beautiful botanical garden I can run to daily, whenever my nature cravings get too strong. There, I could cook, talk, hug and have sex with my partner, or pet (and, of course, talk to) my beloved cat. Here, I have a small but cosy apartment, and just myself to talk to in the mirror. 

I’m feeling a bit tired and exhausted at the prospect of spending a whole winter with no intimate or physical contact with another human being. Zoom just doesn’t always do the trick. 

So I am going to have to be resourceful. Reconnect with the creativity I set aside during my PhD: painting, drawing. I missed it so much. Reconnect with the joys of baking and cooking in France, where quality produce and recipes are abundant. Reconnect with myself, and my hard-won ability to be content and happy while being alone, and single (it really took me years to get to this point). As long as it’s not forever, I can navigate the lonely yearning for connection with grace. 

Thankfully, remote job opportunities are appearing on all sides, and I have the luxury to be able to choose between those that speak to me the most. As those of you who have been reading this blog know, I wasn’t really satisfied during my 6 years (or 10++ if you count the pre-grad school years) in Academia, a field that ended up limiting my sense of freedom and creativity, and spiking my anxiety levels, to a degree that was seriously unpleasant, rather than fulfilling.

This weekend I have several job interviews lined up. One of my committee members wants to hire me as her editor/research assistant starting Monday, for her new book on schizophrenia. I’ve also been asked whether I’d like to translate a book by a world-famous American philosopher called Martha Nussbaum into French. I applied to a bunch of translation and copy editing jobs, at various companies, and many are offering me remote projects. And last but not least, in a couple of hours, I have a Zoom interview to become editorial manager for an Eating Disorder Recovery program and online blog. I would really LOVE for them to hire me. That position would allow me to combine my writing/reading skills with a broader, nonacademic vision that aligns with my values, my passion for therapy, and my desire to help others. The way this program talks about recovery also really fits my own conception and experience of it, as a process of self-discovery and self-healing that goes beyond mere acquisition of knowledge and behavioral change, but also requires that we dive deep into our emotions, heart, and soul. That’s basically my interview pitch! lol 🙂 No, but seriously, it’s also what I truly believe. We’ll see what they say.

So I probably won’t meet my new boyfriend in the upcoming months, but that’s ok. I’ll snuggle up in my new apartment, and dive deep into work, while making sure to set time aside for self-care and self-nurturing. And more WordPress. I never thought I would go from regular party-goer / bar-dweller / relationship addict to hibernating / single nun / sober / disciplined worker in my 30s. But maybe that’s what your 30s are about: calming down, figuring out what you want, and what’s possible given what life throws at you. E.g. a global pandemic. 

Sigh. 

Long story short: I miss BOYSSSS but I’m gathering my energy to invest in myself, my meditation practice, and the new work projects that end up being my companions this year, now that I am no longer a PhD candidate but a PhD period 🙂 Life is mysterious. 

Sending big hugs, 

Introspective-resilient-Anne

The Controversial Topic of Nonalcoholic Drinks

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Hi friends,

I’ve been sober for over a year, and I’m fortunate that cravings very rarely hit me now. I barely think about drinking anymore, unless some new or triggering situation comes up, in which case I generally know what to do and have tools to navigate the whole thing. But yesterday, a new situation came up, which gave me the opportunity to think a bit more about an aspect of sobriety I hadn’t really encountered yet. The topic is nonalcoholic beers.

Surprisingly, I never really made it a habit, when I first gave up the booze, to replace my beloved IPAs with nonalcoholic beers. I spent a year happily drinking water, Kombucha, and tea, mostly avoiding the bar setting, as I was busy finishing a PhD during covid time and dating someone who was also sober and hated going to bars anyway. 

Now that I’ve moved back to France, where café, restaurant and bar culture is deeply engrained in the collective identity, I’ve been walking around and musing at the late summer crowds, gathering and connecting over drinks and food, filling outdoor terrasses like the pandemic never happened. (France is going back into lockdown tonight, so it’ll be a whole other story this winter).

But yesterday, as I was walking back from my new meditation group in the sunny streets, I felt like I really “needed” and “deserved” some wind-down time, a treat, after the intense last couple months I spent overworking and stressing about my PhD defense. I was on the phone, then suddenly walked past a craft beer store, and hung up and walked in. 

Before you start to worry about Anne throwing in the towel, let me stop you right there. Although during the PhD I did have moments where I toyed with the fantasy of giving moderation or occasional drinking a go, after the defense I realized those were mostly thoughts coming up due to a severe need of getting some rest and decompressing. I walked into that store with a very clear intention, and zero temptation to drink alcohol. I went straight to the vendor and asked him about their nonalcoholic options, saying that it’s quite hard to find a nonalcoholic beer that actually tastes good. I was happy to see they had a wide variety of choices, and walked out with two little bottles of alcohol free Citra IPA and an alcohol free Pale Ale. This is the first time that I had been so close to beer and actually held an object in my hand that looked and felt exactly the same as all those beers I drank in the past. What I held in my hand looked everything like the “forbidden” object, yet was supposedly harmless. My brain was struggling to process that this was even possible.

And oh, friends, I think I gave my poor brain a shock when I got home and opened the bottle and poured its content into a glass with a stem. Hadn’t held one of those in over a year. Took a sip: hadn’t tasted that taste in over a year. The gestures, the colors, the taste: it was all the same as a year ago. The “Aaaaaaah” feeling of instant relief with the first sip. All the mental associations were there. At first I thought: “This is the life, man. Who needs real beer when they make alcohol free options that taste this good?” 

But then something strange happened: the feelings of guilt and shame that used to be associated with drinking alcohol also started to come up a bit. I felt like deep down, I was going something wrong, something prohibited, something dangerous. I think a bit of placebo effect even happened, because my mind began to scan my body for feelings of inebriation, wondering if the very small percentage of alcohol in nonalcoholic beers could trigger feelings of drunkenness, or worse, the horrible emotional mechanisms that came with being addicted to drinking alcoholic beers. 

I had had a couple of alcohol free beers during the last year on random occasions, but they tasted disgusting, so none of this came up. Yesterday however, a part of me began to panic, because the experience was so similar to the ones I repeated again and again in the past, and work so hard to dismantle, that my brain automatically associated the consequences of my past drinking experiences to this present, supposedly harmless, alcohol free experience. 

I came out of the whole thing with a contemplative mind-frame: alcohol free IPAs definitely hit the spot for whenever a beer craving hits. Also, their calorie content is pretty low, so it’s great option compared to a regular coke, say. But I don’t want to end up relying on the ritual itself, even if it’s “harmless”, like I used to. I don’t want to have that triggering mechanism set off, and start the whole cycle of relying on the repetition of specific behaviors or the ingestion of exterior substances to get through life. Maybe this was just the “manager” part of me worrying that the satisfaction I got out of the alcohol-free beer would lead me to lose control, and step back into the dark side. For me, the “dangerous” part of the experience was that I really would not have been able to taste the difference between that alcohol-free beer and a real beer.

So I’m undecided about repeating the experience too often. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I’d rather stay on the cautious side of things. I realize I still have a constellation of associations crystallized around that one, very specific taste, that one specific ritual. I guess a part of me is still worried about going back to the “f***k it” mentality, and cross over that line.

I wish they had more Kombucha options in France. I’m brewing my own, because in stores, it’s generally very expensive and not very good. But it takes weeks to grow a SCOBY 🙂

I’m curious to know what’s your take on AF drinks. I know they were instrumental in some of you guys’ sobriety success, and I know others find them too triggering. All in all it was an instructive experience, but it also helped me realize that there are still some areas of my sobriety foundations that need nurturing and strengthening, to that I can settle down in a mental space where I do, fully trust myself. 

Holy sh*t, I’m a (sober) Doctor!

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I did it friends!

I successfully defended and submitted my PhD dissertation to my university, and I am now a doctor!

The two hour long defense was so intense, I had promised myself to rest beforehand but I ended up revising until the very last second. During the defense, which was on zoom (and even led to technical difficulties where I had to log out in the middle of a committee member’s question), I looked perfectly (lol or somewhat) calm and composed, but on the inside, I was so stressed that I could understand neither the members’ questions, nor the answers coming out of my own mouth! Thankfully, one of the committee members, who is a  sweet retired French man specialized in nineteenth-century literature, thought that asking a question meant rambling on and on for 20 minutes about what I talk about in my work, which gave me the opportunity to rest, while I vaguely tried to follow the flow of his words. At the very end of it, I couldn’t remember any of what the committee and I had talked about, I had spontaneous amnesia, and just when I thought I was out of the woods and it was over, my advisor asked one last follow up question. That was the awkward moment of the defense… By then, I was so tired that I really struggled to even begin to understand what she meant, and felt like I had done my duty (survived a 2 hour long interrogation^^). I had her repeat her question three times before apologizing and saying my brain was no longer working. The committee was really nice and smiled and said it was no problem, and they let me of the hook. I’m glad I decided to be honest rather than come up with some b****sht answer.

After everything was finished, my advisor and I had a private zoom chat for half an hour, where she said some unbelievable nice things. (She said she had never seen such enthusiasm and consensus in a defense about the work deserving publication, and that if I do choose to publish it, it would have to be 2, even 3 books, because of how rich the 600 dissertation was. She also said it deserved to be published at Harvard University Press or Oxford University Press. We thanked each other profusely and both ended up semi-crying, it was very cute. For now, I can’t even begin to think about turning it into a book, I’m just happy I survived and they didn’t fail me). 

Since then, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my chest. After waking up with a sense of impending doom for the last year or so, it feels so freeing to wake up and have “nothing to do,” and to rediscover life anxiety-free. I’m still a bit tired, but I’m finally able to feel my body and experience joy again 🙂 WOOHOOOO 

Now I need to find a job, asap. I’ve already applied to several remote positions, such as French translator-voice for a yoga app, and editorial manager of an online recovery journey community/blog/training program. I’m going to keep fishing in the world wide web pool of remote opportunities, and if I don’t find anything in the next month, I will go the traditional route of handing out CVs in all the shops that need extra help during the Christmas season (France is supposed to be a secular country, but its rhythm is still very much centered on the Christian calendar). 

I went to have Sunday lunch at my parents’ house yesterday. My mother was drunk and aggressive with my dad, but I was able to detach and even laugh at the absurdity of their situation (which is truly hellish, but has been going on for so long that I don’t think they will ever come out of it. It truly is a familiar Hell).  Still, they both agreed that they were proud of me and to lend me $3000 so that I can pay my first couple months of rent, and survive while I am job hunting. For all its flaws and dysfunction, I am truly grateful for having parents that are able to support me in this way (They went through some financial hardship in the past, and I still feel guilty accepting their help, even though I know they are happy to do it). I am very aware of the privilege this entails.

It feels strange, to be “in their debt” and not to be able to diabolize them completely and write them off as “bad” = they are humans too, they are trying their best (as we all are), and it’s very sad if their best involves self-destruction and blindness to how their life could be/could have been if my mother didn’t choose to drink herself into oblivion rather than work-through her difficult past. I am trying to practice feeling grateful, rather than guilty for accepting their help.

As for baby-Anne, well, she is now in the hands of grownup, Doctor-Anne, and ready to take on the world and the new chapter in her life. I couldn’t have survived this whole process (sober!) without your support here, my dear, dear, WordPress friends. ❤ Deep thanks to each and every one of you for your kind words and your encouragement, that helped me get through this intense last month.

Now onwards and upwards !

Love,

xxxxx Adult-Anne

Sober stress management and self-parenting

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Hi, my name is Anne, and I’m an Academic.

Oh, and I also often suffer from a pathological fear of public speaking.

Oh, and ARGHHHHHH … my PhD defense is in 4 days and I feel like I don’t know or understand anything anymore … SOS, SOS, MAYDAY, HEEEELP !

Don’t worry.

Yes, I’m stressed, but deep down, I’m actually ok.

More specifically, I’m trying to accept that it’s OK to feel nervous, and to stop trying to fight it. Cause as we know, fighting anxiety just makes it worse. Deep breathing, self-acceptance, gentleness will go a loooooong way, and it’s true!.

In fact, as the final countdown to finishing grad school comes to an end, I realize that I am being given a beautiful gift — that of realizing how far I’ve come in changing my relationship to stress. That of looking back on the last 6 years, with its joys and its terrifying moments of doubt, wanting to quit, discouragement, and strong feelings of impostor’s syndrome. As this period comes to a close, I can see that I have developed a much more soothed/distanced relation to academia-related anxiety, as well as stronger self-esteem. Most importantly, I can see the dramatic acceleration of these positive effects during this last year, after I quit drinking.

During most of grad school, among other (shitty) things, I relied on alcohol as a (shitty) coping mechanism to manage the distress of anxiety, which in the long term only made things worse, adding a layer of shame to my already (shitty) emotional regulation skills.

When I stopped drinking I had no choice but to learn alternative ways to manage feelings of inadequacy and cope with temporary peaks of stress triggered by situations involving (my Achilles’ Heal) public speaking. It’s almost funny… I have many memories of being hungover while speaking at conferences because I drank the night before to numb out the discomfort and worries about performing poorly.

Fast forward one year sober and it becomes clear how yoga, therapy and meditation have been instrumental in gradually getting to a place where I can say: yes, I’m (VERY) stressed, but it’s ok, I can also make space for these uncomfortable feelings, without fighting them off like my life depended on it [If any of you have seen Season 1 of Stranger Things, when you try and fight it, anxiety is like the giant terrifying monster that destroys everything and everyone that comes close. And when you accept it, it’s … erm… like a cute badass 10 year old girl with psychic powers living inside of you (?)… and they all live happily ever after … until Season 2, THE END. Ok back to the point]. I can even tell these feelings that the are welcome, that they can stay here, just as they are.

And you know what? Turns out the anxiety is no longer monster-like and overwhelming or panic-inducing. It doesn’t spin out of control or threaten to drown/devour me. It just sits there, like a fat and annoying little guest, to whom I do my best to be polite and inviting.

These days I even catch myself engaging in positive self-talk, which I would have kept secret a few years ago, because of how “cheesy” it sounds. But F***k it – I ain’t got no shame! It goes something like: “It’s ok baby-Anne, you are strong, you can do this. You don’t need to ‘fake it’, you can actually DO IT because you actually do have REAL skills. You are not an impostor”. What’s new, is that this happens automatically now: I don’t have to ‘force myself” to say it or “fake it till I make it”. In a sense, this shows I HAVE “made” it.  

So … Rather than an torture session / interrogation by the Gestapo or the Inquisition, I’m doing my best to think of my defense as a conversation, among human beings. I am trying to remember that my place/role is legitimate, and that it’s ok to be imperfect and not know all the answers (this is my worst nightmare = not knowing how to answer a question).

I am trying to remember that over half of my committee members already know and love me, and want me to do well. 

I am trying to remind my ego (in the Western sense) that it is not in danger of being annihilated by this event, and remember that I do have SOME ego-strength. (In a more buddhist sense, the equivalent would be something like: I am trying to remember to set ego aside and let go of the need to live up to the perfectionist image I construct of having to be “good” at all costs, craving praise, and being averse to blame-rejection-criticism). In both paradigms, it’s all about letting things happen, letting go of the need for control, and the illusion that we can/should be perfect.

BLERG! 

In these peak moments, where everything is very intense and I feel hypersensitive, I am also grateful to feel the more solid foundation that I have built at the bottom of it all: the trust that no matter what happens, I will be ok, and that even if it all goes to shit, I will still love myself. And I am grateful that my defense is happening on Zoom rather than in person. The screen makes it much easier (and I can always pretend the sound/image/internet stoped working if I can’t answer a question ^^ hehehe).

But still…. AAARRGGGHHH I am so nervous 🙂 

Big hugs

Xxx

Chaotic-Anne

Melancholia vs. hope

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Hi friends, 

I meant to write this post a couple of days ago, when I woke up feeling down and melancholic and lonely and in need of a bit of hope. 

It’s fall here (as in most of the Northern hemisphere) and I’ve finally had a few days to settle down and feel lonely in my new apartment-town-country. This is the first time in years that I am dealing with such intense change and emotions without a crutch OR a supportive boyfriend to “help” me get through it all. Now it’s just me and my own little internal resources 😉

The other morning, I was staring out the window, admiring the view and feeling sad that I have no one here to enjoy it with—and I noticed the negative thought patterns begin to creep up. [OH WOE IS ME AND OH MY TRAGIC DEATH BY BEING-EATEN-BY-MY-CATS, and so on] Whenever I experience a wave of sadness/melancholy, I still have a survival instinct kick in, where I push it away and worry that depression is back to steal the show. I go into all or nothing mode, and give into all kinds of fallacious reasoning, making grand conclusions about worst case scenarios, dying alone, antidepressants, the misery of existence, etc.

But this time, something cute happened (some would call this a synchronicity) that shocked me out of my misery-loop and made me smile, even laugh a bit. It burst my bubble of unhelpful thought patterns and redirected my attention, away from myself and out towards the world. It gave me hope in a small, symbolic way.

All it was, was that as soon as I had began to go into “no one will ever love/hire me” mode, a white dove flew over the rooftops in front of me, then veered my way and flew straight at me, then above my head, and made a big circular swooping movement, before flying back in front of me with a trail of other, grey (ordinary lol) pigeons following behind it. Or her. [I want to call it a her 🙂 ] She was leading them, that white one.

I’m not a big fan of fallacious reasoning, having studied and taught philosophy for most of my adult life. But in the moment, I let all that intellectual snobbism go, and I said “ok universe, I choose to notice the awesome badass white dove leading the way and I will not give in to the self-deprecating/self-pitying thought loops. Someone will love me and someone will hire me and life has many great things in store for me, and above all, right here right now, I LOVE ME, thank you. I will not give in to despair. I will follow the white dove and be patient.” And I closed the window.

So now I’m trying to be more gentle and patient with myself: It’s been 3 days in a city where I don’t know anyone, in the middle of a pandemic, with a dissertation defense to prepare for. It’s ok to not have a giant group of friends and an awesome job yet.

Everything in its own time. 

Sigh.

Big hugs to everyone and YAY UNCERTAINTY 🙂

Xxx Anne

A New Life

Hi friends, I’m back, like I promised 🙂 

The photo above is the view from my window, out of which I contemplate the new life that stretches out before me, full of scary emptiness yet bursting with possibilities (if you’re an optimist).

I arrived in France a few days ago, after an intense couple of weeks in the U.S., where I said goodbye to my friends, a romantic partner (and now, friend), an empty apartment, a city, a country, a continent, and, most of all, a culture – which I will miss. 

It’s real. It’s happening. Or rather, it has happened.  I have returned to my homeland. [AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE HOME IS ANYMORE]

I’m staying in a cute airbnb in the South of France until the end of October, which drained the last of my savings (remember I haven’t been paid since June!), but is totally worth it. Although I feel uprooted and groundless, excited and nervous, strangely, I haven’t had time to really feel sad. Yet.

Last night, I clicked “send” and watched my 587 page long PhD dissertation fly away and into my committee’s email account. With that tiny little gesture, I shipped 6 years of work out into the world, exposing it to the eyes of five (scary) academics who will judge its quality, and ask me lots of (scary) questions on October 22nd, the date of my online defense. If all goes well, I will be a doctor by the end of the month.

I’ve worked so hard on this thing (that still ended up twice as long as it should have been) [IS HARD WORK ENOUGH TO MAKE IT GOOD?!?!?!] I feel vulnerable, fragile, raw, and almost ashamed at the though of my “intimate thoughts” being picked apart critically by a bunch of University Professors. Hopefully, I’ll grow some self esteem back once I am rested, and the defense will go ok.

Before leaving the US, I sold everything I owned, gave away my cat, said farewell to my boyfriend (must start saying “my ex”), and packed my whole life into 2 big suitcases… It was a wonderful exercise in letting go. I had to leave many things behind. And still got charged 100$ for the extra suitcase 🙂 

I also went on a magnificent week-long trip to the West Coast with my ex (urgh), where I visited Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, and Topanga Canyon outside of Malibu, with its beautiful hikes, its millionaires and eccentric old hippies, its gorgeous ocean views.

My flight to France was so bumpy that I thought I was going to die in a plane crash. We landed an hour early because of how strong the tailwinds were.

When I arrived, I had dinner at my parents’ house, who live in the town I have decided to move to, at least for now. T

here’s a reason why I spent the last of my money on an airbnb…

My mother has aged a lot since last winter. She is still drinking, although she found out she has alcohol induced hepatitis almost a year ago. She never delivered on her promise to quit drinking last year. Now, she has this slight, Parkinson-like trembling thing going on, that I was too nervous to bring up. I don’t even know if it’s alcohol-induced. Although my father says she is “trying hard”, she still managed to have 5 glasses of wine at dinner – which, believe it or not, is “not a lot” compared to other periods in her life. When they asked me to fetch something in my sister’s old bedroom, I opened the door and saw the room had been converted into a “larder” with dozens of bottles and boxes of wine stashed there, like precious supplies that one simply can’t bare to part with or run out of.

It’s all so sad, yet all too familiar, I can’t even begin to sort out how I feel. A part of me is even wondering why moved here, out of all places, when I spent most of my adult life trying to stay away from the toxic nest.

I talked about my mother’s health with my father, who reminded me that saving her is not my responsibility. I agree. But I also reminded him that burying our heads in the sand and enabling will only lead to one thing: cirrhosis, and, down the road (a road which is getting shorter and shorter), death. I am less angry at my father than I used to be. I realize that in a very very sad way, we are all doing our best. Speaking about alcohol is still a huge taboo in the family.

All I can do it follow my own path, and let go of what I cannot change. In any case, visiting my parents for a couple of hours was a powerful reminder of why I don’t want to rely on alcohol to get me through life. 

Lol. Fun post Anne!

Long story short, in two weeks, I will be a homeless and unemployed Doctor. I need to figure out what to do, where to live, and, most importantly, how to make money, fast. I also need to make friends, otherwise I will start to feel very lonely. 

Strikingly, I haven’t had any cravings to drink. Except for Kombucha – which is almost impossible to find here (I’ve been fantasizing about starting a microbrewery and taking over the French market 😉 but with no starting capital, that might be tricky). 

The day before submitting my dissertation, I did buy a pack of cigarettes, unfortunately. I have almost finished it. Now that the adrenaline rush of finishing the dissertation has receded though, I want to get back on track and focus on the tools that help keep me sane and happy: meditation, healthy living, yoga (I already found a studio and took a class, which sounds insane given that there’s a pandemic happening, but did me a lot of good). 

 Most of all, I need to introspect and assess what my goals, needs and priorities are. Right now, everything feels very big and very solid, almost blocked. I feel small, which is both scary and a good advantage when you’re looking to wriggle your way into a new life. 

As a “healthy” treat for finishing the dissertation, I booked myself an expensive hairdressing appointment this afternoon. Can’t wait.

Down below, me, poorly attempting Dancer’s pose in Death Valley Desert, a couple of hours before practically dying of heatstroke in a place (aply) called Desolation Canyon. 

Big big hugs to everyone, I missed you ! xxx ❤

Anne

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