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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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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 !

____________________________________________________________________

Contact form:

You can also find me on Instagram

Dear Lockdown: Here We Go Again!

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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

Day 360-something: Pissed.

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No, no. Not drunk-pissed. Mad-pissed.

Today my advisor announced my PhD defense date (October 22nd, yikes!) and the committee members.

It’s the advisor’s job to decide who goes on the committee, after discussing it with the candidate, aka. Anne. I made it very very clear that I really wanted this nice lady, (let’s call her Professor E.) on my committee. Professor E. is a cute bird-like lady in her 60s, who has been SO supportive of my work and knows the material super well. And expressed multiple times her interest in reading my work/being on my committee. I thought it was obvious that she would be.

Turns out, my advisor doesn’t like professor E much. Not many faculty members in my department do, I don’t know why. (She’s the kind of sweet, older professor who rambles on and on, and is a little bit in the clouds, but is really nice). Turns out my advisor put two of her “friend” colleagues on the committee, instead of professor E, and just announced it by email without even mentioning it or explaining her choice, presenting it like good news.

Without the comforting, maternal presence of professor E. and with the unfamiliar presence of these two other professors (they are much more famous and scary), I suddenly feel very threatened, fragile, anxious and depressed. I know I just have to accept this and move on/get back to work, buuuuuuuut… it’s hard.

When I got the news a few hours ago I felt nauseous, and now I feel betrayed. I know it’s all ok and it doesn’t really matter in the long run. I know that I just have to sit through the defense and after that, all this will be a distant memory. But this afternoon I had a huge wave of lassitude, with thoughts of “urgh, it’s in cases like these that I would want to drink a beer” popping up. So I rant here instead.

Maybe I will take the evening off (though I can’t really “afford” it time wise) and go and watch Netflix with some snacks in my bed instead of putting in another 5 hours of work like a zombie.

Sigh.

Lots of love xxxx

Tired and stressed Anne.

Day 367: 1 Year Sober. HOLY F***K

Dear Past-Anne, 

It’s the end of summer, 2019. You just flew back from Paris back to your home on the East Coast of the U.S.A. Tomorrow you start your sobriety journey. I know you’ve been drinking almost every day these last few weeks, and that you’re really anxious at the idea of letting the booze go.

Past-Anne, you’ve relied on alcohol to regulate your emotions for most of your teenage and adult life. That’s what you were taught at home. But good for you, you’ve decided to break the family cycle, to take matters into your own hands and wean yourself off of the substance that is keeping you away from life, rather than making you more alive.

You’re sick of the hangovers, the headaches, the nausea. You’re sick of the shame, the guilt, the secrecy. You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, although you’ve never heard that expression before, nor have you heard any kind of other AA language.

You have no idea what awaits you. 

Well, first of all, you’re going to get smashed tonight. You won’t remember much when you wake up (something about being ubered home by friends while carrying a pull-up bar AND a giant barbell found on the street). But man, will you remember the next day… the bile-puking, head piercing, regret inducing hangover. The “please god, I will never drink again, I promise, make the pain go away” hangover. The one you know so well by now. Except this time, you committed, for real. In a way, it helped. It made Day 1 easy. 

Then, you’re going to get through your first 30 days with the help of One Year No Beer’s daily videos. Ticking the days off, like a prisoner. Reading people’s stories on the Facebook group. Hanging in there, realizing you are not alone. During that time, you’re going to go through a breakup, and the devastation will be a good indicator of how raw your emotions are once the liquid lubricant has been removed. You will unveil patterns of attachment, codependency, abandonment, and you will spend the next couple of months working through grief, sadness and anger, that run much deeper than the recent events in your life. You will go back to therapy, you will relapse on the nicotine front, you will start a visual arts journal called “The American Struggle” (LOL). You will meditate, and have tears streaming down your face almost every morning while you do. You will get back on anti-depressants, “to quick smoking.” You will feel very, very alone. 

And you will keep going. You will stay sober, pick yourself up, gather your strength, or rather, find it inside you. You will take that resilience everywhere you go, and face every situation armed with it. The sober Holidays, sober Christmas with your alcoholic family, your sober birthday, sober sex, sober restaurants, sober New Year’s eve. Gradually, you will start to enjoy sober living. You will reconcile with your partner (for better or for worse), who despite all the turmoil, will always be supportive on the sobriety front, and whose own sobriety will be a huge help in keeping you committed to your own journey. You will begin to taste the joy of life. You have no idea that in a few months, a global pandemic will hit and these simple pleasures be taken away from everybody. Sobriety helped you enjoy them while they were there. 

The months will go by. Sobriety will help you focus and put in the long work hours as you write your PhD and conquer the academia-related anxiety that used to keep you paralyzed a couple of years ago. Your self esteem will increase, slowly but surely. [cue Montage scene of Anne buried in a pile of books, writing at her desk, sipping Kombucha] You will quit smoking, get off your antidepressants, pay off all of your debt, keep meditating every day and practice yoga several times a week. You will fight of the feelings of worthlessness and negative thought patterns. You will have discovered new coping mechanisms. Most of them revolving around self-compassion, breathing, self-forgiveness, and being gentle.

And before you know it, you will reach the 1 year milestone. By then, sobriety will have become the new norm. You will look back, and realize that throughout this last year, a stream runs, connecting every experience. That stream is the WordPress blogging community. Through ups and downs, you will have reached out regularly to a group of incredible people, who were there for you no matter what. Supportive and nonjudgmental, present yet not intrusive, funny yet deeply empathetic.

So when the time comes, and September 4th 2020 has passed, you will emerge from your pile of books and sit at your desk to write them this short note. To say thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you. May your own journey bring you to the place you want to be. Mine has allowed me to completely change my relation to alcohol. To be the first in my family to ever get sober for a whole year and work on myself like this. To realize that drinking is just the surface issue, that the reasons that make us want to drink are what needs to be “fixed”. That drinking keeps those conveniently out of sight, until they explode in your face.

This year has and will have changed my life completely.

I am so grateful that I did it, no matter what the future holds. I feel like a completely different person, and am forever grateful to you, as you read this.  I hope I can do the same for you no matter what your aspirations are.

May we all keep moving on our path, no matter where it takes us.

Lots of Love, 

Anne

Day 347: The Final Push.

My friend Claire’s post about Resilience https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/169561941/posts/487 got me thinking today. 

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com. Get it? Final push? lol

As I embark on the final push toward finishing my dissertation (4 weeks left to edit a 550 page manuscript… yikes!) and reaching the 1 year sobriety mark (though that feels more like a soft swoop than a push), I pause for a moment to take a breath, to gather my energy, and realize that sobriety has given me a set of wonderful tools that have been helping me along the way. Resilience is one of the most important ones. 

Although I am under tremendous amounts of stress and feeling a constant sense of heightened anxiety (mostly about meeting my September 20th submission deadline), I have been dealing with it surprisingly well compared to other times in my life when the pressure piled up and shit got stressful.

Big shout-out to 2010 Anne who at age 23 had just moved to a new city and was afraid of teaching her first ever high school class the next morning. I can still see her, lying on the cool tile floor of her empty apartment, curled into a tight little ball, unable to get out of the fetal position… Oh, the fond memories of 2008 Anne, who gulped down a glass of vodka at 8:00 AM before jumping on the subway to take an oral exam she was nervous about. Aaaaah, sweet, tender nostalgia for 2005 Anne who downed 2 glasses of red wine at 9:00 ON THE DAY OF HER DRIVING TEST because she was nervous…. Get the picture?

Whoever invented the expression “liquid courage” knew what they were talking about. 

Anyway. This past month, while pressure has been building up, I have been religiously following what is now officially called the “2020 Anne life-saving ritual.” No joke, it has made a tremendous difference in helping me keep my shit together.

The ritual goes as follows: wake up, feed cat, coffee. Meditate for 21 minutes. Do 30 minutes of yoga. Shower, eat breakfast, and THEN, start the day.

So for the last 30 days, every single day, I’ve been doing a free yoga series by a lady called Leslie Fightmaster on youtube. It’s called “30 minute Hatha yoga for happiness” and it’s perfect for my current needs: not too long, but not for complete beginners either, just the right balance between gorunding, challenging and convenient. Also, lots and lots of gentle, positive energy ❤ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN1eW5nta3c She’s such a sweet lady, I’m now a big fan. THANK YOU MRS FIGHTMASTER, wherever you are!

Now, unlike past-Anne (or BS Anne, as my friend Claire would call her), whenever the waves of anxiety begin to feel overwhelming, I just breathe, and trust that I will get through all of this. That in a couple of months, I will be Dr. Anne 🙂  A few years ago trusting myself like this was inconceivable. Cutting through anxious loops and piercing anxious bubbles was unheard of. Surrendering and letting go instead of fighting was a skill I didn’t even know existed. You get the picture.

I won’t be blogging much for the next 4 weeks, though I’ll probably stop by on September 4th for my 1 year sober anniversary 🙂 And of course, I’ll try and stick around as much as I can to read and comment on all your posts. But if you don’t hear news for me for for a bit, don’t worry: I’m still on the wagon. I’m just also on another crazy academic wagon-rollercoaster, and moving into that period where I have to devote my time and energy to that one. But I’LL BE BACK 😉 

Xxx

Anne

Day 339: 11 months and My First Sober Camping Trip into the Wild

You might be thinking “Who on earth takes alcohol on a hike? Aren’t you supposed to travel light?” … Well, yes. Except when drinking is your top priority and—so you believe—the “only” to enjoy things. So yes, you read me correctly. This was a sober “first” for me.

In the past, if I went hiking and camped overnight, I would make sure to bring some kind of booze to “celebrate” by the fire after a long day of effort-making. Well, this weekend, after doing a portion of the Appalachian trail, some of it under the rain (one full day of it with horrible blisters on my feet), the reward was the joy of roasting marshmallows on the fire, and the simple, magnificent, joy of resting. Boy did it feel glorious. I don’t even think I would have wanted to drink, had the option been available. 

Anyway. In less than a month now I will have been sober for a year. My “anniversary” date is September 4th.

I’m saving the “big” thoughts for my one year post, but for now, to celebrate 11 months, I want to make one simple observation. Last month I had quite a lot of fantasizing about celebrating 1 year with a beer. Now that the 1 year landmark is approaching for real, the fantasies are dissolving, and instead, the desire to keep going is creeping up strong.

The timing of my PhD here is a blessing: I must submit my final draft on September 20th. Then, I will take a week long trip to California (my first time on the West Coast!) with my boyfriend… this will be our celebration/goodbye trip.

This means that my 1 year anniversary will happen in the middle of the final push before submitting my manuscript. There is no way in hell that I am messing that up by messing around with alcohol. So, I consider myself safe for at least another month, until I fly back to France on October 2nd.

That’s when the real challenge begins: back to the town where my drinking friends and family live, with the PhD postpartum blues, the boyfriend partum blues, the joblessness, the loneliness that comes from leaving 6 years behindon another content. A whole new life to build.

What kind of life will that be? When I think about it, a mixture of anxiety and hope blend together, which I can’t even begin to unravel right now. So instead, I return my attention to the present moment, to the work I still have to do, and to the comfort of knowing that the addict’s “all or nothing” mentality won’t be able to take over my brain when the 1 year mark comes by. 

Phew. 

I feel very small, but also very determined. 

Like a strong, hard, little rock.

Xxx

Anne 

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