Day 275: 9 months! No celebration after all…

I was planning on writing an uplifting and victorious 9 months post, but as usual, reality has a talent for kicking you in the ass whenever you have set expectations. 

Today on the East Coast of the U.S.A. the weather is stormy. Grey and stuffy, hot, humid, irritating. I am not a fan of complaining in public, but I think I need to be real today. No lies, no sugarcoating, no bullshit, no hypocrisy. No “everything is wonderful in sobriety land, namaste to you all”. This afternoon I am feeling depressed, irritable and at a loss as to what to do given the current situation in the world. While my Parisian friends celebrate the “end” of quarantine and the reopening of bars and restaurants, showing off pictures of friends smiling and up holding pints—maskless!!!!— in the sunshine, here, moods and cities are on fire, people are angry, and going through some serious trauma and purging.

I am on the fence about going to the protest tomorrow in the stifling heat, and feeling crushed under the burden of white guilt at the thought of staying home. Most of all, I am feeling guilty for feeling the self-pitying privilege of white guilt in the first place. Sigh. I am stuck in a dark gloomy circle. 

As a white person in a city which is 70% black and heavily affected by racial and social inequality, I feel helpless and complicit with the injustice that has oppressed and oppresses people of color, on a daily basis. On the other hand, as a foreigner, I feel overwhelmed by the intensity of these issues, which I don’t always grasp entirely. On top of that, I feel EXTREMELY guilty for not being more involved, especially with all the calling-out of white people for being misinformed and silently complicit happening this week. Indeed, the more I think about it, the more the “foreigner” thing sounds like a shitty excuse. After all, this is a country of foreigners, who supposedly welcome all people from all nations, and who (sorry fellow American friends) also happens to have murdered the native inhabitants of this land, before enslaving the people of Africa who were brought here on ships, and still murdering African-American citizens in 2020, while everyone watches the insane tweets of an orange faced maniac who somehow ended up in charge. 

I also happen to be leaving this country in 3 months, and am feeling very uncertain and anxious about my own future. Not only do I feel guilty for thinking about myself during these times, I can only imagine how in Europe there will be more shit, more injustice, more helplessness and disillusionment (and more covid) when I return in the fall. The government of my home country, France, is closely following in America’s steps with a neoliberal capitalist policy that can barely call itself socialist anymore. Also, none of this shit is new. Humanity has always been skilled at greed, envy, hatred, oppression, etc. etc. etc. 

It is from such joyful rumination that my cravings to drink emerged this afternoon. As the thunder and lightning roars outside (and hopefully will cool everything down a bit), after lunch I started to feel restless and ate a big bowl of ice-cream, then a bowl of cereal, and since then I have opened and closed the fridge fifty times, leaving empty handed because nothing seemed “worth eating”… and then it hit me. “Man, the only thing that would hit the spot right now is a nice cold IPA”. Bam.

Clearly, what hit me hit was the desire to numb all the unpleasant feelings that have been weighing down on me for the last few days. Letting tears roll down my face during my morning meditations is visibly not enough to get rid of the pent up emotion.

In reaction to these cravings, a part of me (the harsh part) sarcastically sneers: “boo hoo poor little white girl with her first world problems, bored and guilty, sitting in her privileged and safe home, doing nothing to help”. Another one (the pessimist) thinks “what’s the point of anything anyway” and just wants to go to bed, to forget about everything. The disciplined part tried to get me to read a book for my PhD but I simply couldn’t concentrate. Another (the rationalist) started looking for explanations: “Well you DID start halving your antidepressants two days ago…… correlationnnnnn ? And in any case, the country is on fire and Instagram is full of anger and suffering, no wonder you feel like shit if you spend hours scrolling through it everyday”). I just can’t seem to get in touch with the gentle, compassionate part right now. So I came here. I guess that it was the resourceful, wise part, that brought me here.

Cause there’s no way I’m drinking that beer. NO. FUCKING. WAY. By now I’ve grown aware and strong enough to not let myself get tricked by my own thoughts, and to know and trust that these feelings will pass, that I can sit with them, especially when others have to sit with much, much worse.

So I guess in a way, this IS a victorious post. For the first time in many moths, I feel like I’ve made a small win on the sobriety front: there was a challenging moment, and I did the right thing. I did not drink. 

To celebrate, I’ll post an “entry” which I hastily scribbled in my journal yesterday (that I hadn’t touched in months). It shows the before-after between when I moved here, at age 28–and had my first and only ever mental breakdown–, and what it will be like when I leave the country in a few months, at age 33.

Writing it down showed me how far I have come. Although I still often feel like the same person, when I read this list, it makes me seem like a completely different human. 

I am still working towards completing the second list (for example, I am still on a low lose of antidepressants), but in a 3 months if all goes well, I can check everything off.

Of course, there is no way to know if all will go well, but the more I step back, the more I can see the “victory” at the heart of this afternoon’s storm. 

In conclusion, blogging works! Lol

Sending big hugs to everyone ❤

Xxx

Anne

Day 273: Black lives matter

I don’t feel entitled to even try and begin making commentary on the current issues, especially on a sobriety blog, but I also don’t feel comfortable pretending like this reality doesn’t exist.

I am thinking of all of the people suffering in the world today, regardless of the bodies into which they were born.

xxxx

PS. Please avoid using the BLM slogan on social media with a hashtag if you are expressing sympathy–it floods the feeds and drowns crucial information and safety tips needed for those who are out in the streets protesting, or who want to know how to donate etc.

Sending love,

Anne

Day 270: 1 Month Sugar Free

I haven’t thought about my relation to food in a while, although for many women one’s relation to one’s body often transpires in their eating habits.

While I’ve always had a “healthy” diet (I’m talking whole grains, home cooking, organic fruit and veggies since childhood), during the years, I’ve also topped it off with a variety of less healthy psychological habits, which when life got stressful, ended up turning food into an area to control – or lose control over.

When I moved to the USA 6 years ago as a French existentialist smoker who had never exercised a day in her life -no, I did not stoop as low as wearing a turtleneck and beret-, I was in awe when I discovered (one of) the “American” lifestyle(s) of “going to the gym, counting calories, banishing carbs as the work of the devil, and whenever it all felt like too much, eating a ton of junk food as an emotional coping mechanism”. It was very strange. I started heavy weight lifting and got addicted to the sense of empowerment, started making protein shakes and restricting my calories, and when I went back home for Christmas I remember my friends telling me my upper body had developed so much I looked like a bulldog.

The point being, this was a lifestyle dramatically opposed to my previous “French” one: “walk everywhere but never do any kind of sports, eat carbs but banish fat as the work of the devil, lower your appetite by smoking a ton of cigarettes, enjoy your food and drink alcohol because what’s the point of life anyway”.

Long story short, despite the new bulldog physique, I lost a TON of weight during my first year in the US and got into the “strong is the new skinny” mentality. In France women are trained to want to be slim and petite, which can be perceived as being encouraged to take up as least space as possible: efface your existence and keep your voice low. I too, after 6 years in the U.S., now much prefer to stand up for myself and wear short shorts that reveal muscular thighs, laughing out loud with an “if you don’t like it, then f***ck off” attitude, thank trying to shrink my appearance down until *POOF* I turn invisible and disappear completely.

Anyway. 

Shit got out of control. I ended up having to stop lifting heavily because I fucked up all my joints (I blame my all or nothing mentality), and the repercussions of that year of intense calorie restriction began to manifest themselves during the next 5 years. A couple of google searches revealed that I had somehow ended up on the “binge eating disorder” wagon, trying to eat “healthy” (starve myself) until I cracked, and ended up in my bed with a ton of cookies or chocolate, and indulging in a delicious (aka “forbidden”) feast every time I came home drunk in the evening. Often I would eat until the point of physical pain, then fall asleep, and wake up the next day full of shame. Then you know the drill: repent, restrict, repeat. Sigh. 

Looking back I can see all the suffering, the desperate need to control the emotions and the body, rather of giving it what it needs, and treating oneself with kindness. I also still have horrible memories of constantly feeling deprived, of missing out on the joys of life. Thankfully, after I stopped weight lifting I discovered yoga, which (together with starting therapy for the first time) gradually changed my relation to my emotions and my body, and is still helping me to FEEL, rather than simply want to look, good.

I still drank throughout those last 5 years, and occasionally binged ate when I got drunk or when anxiety levels got too high to be manageable. However, with yoga and therapy added to the mix, it was like a small but very resilient caterpillar was simultaneously chewing at the destructive patterns, gradually inching its way, with every bite, towards more self-compassion. In fact, I think that was the beginning of the process that lead me here, in the middle of a post on a sobriety blog.

And indeed, when I quit drinking, my bingeing went WAAAAYYYYY down. But emotional eating still happened in situations of distress (mostly due to PhD work, or lack of boundary-setting in romantic relationships). Most of the time, it involved eating sugary foods to find comfort.

I decided to see if I wasn’t by any change “addicted to sugar”, and cut it out of my diet for a month. Here is what I found:

Effects of 1 month sugar free:

  • a LOT less sugary cravings (kind of like when you quit drinking)
  • increased feelings of satiety after meals (mostly due to increasing healthy fats in my diet)
  • Less “hanger” between meals: more stable blood sugar levels and moods
  • Less fear of eating fatty foods (my cholesterol levels even went down in a month!)
  • Complete change in taste buds: fruit now tastes VERY sweet
  • General decrease in impulse to snack in the evenings
  • My weight stayed relatively the same (I lost 1.3 lbs)

BUT unfortunately, (and this proves that binge eating is an emotional, not just physiological problem), on days where I felt SUPER anxious, I found myself replacing sugar by “fat”, snacking on almonds and nut butters and what have you, sometimes to the point of shame, just like I used to do with the sweets. So clearly, for me it is also about emotional regulation, not just about cutting out a single, “bad” food group.

DUH!

Although my food-obsession days are well over, I still want to find more balance and peace. I don’t regret doing this temporary experiment, but I don’t believe in cutting out specific food groups.

I do HOWEVER severely regret purchasing this 2 lb bag of “Organic Stevia/Erythritol” sweetener. I don’t care if it’s zero calorie, that shit tastes FOUL, and iI would be happy to mail it to you, preferably those who live in Europe so I can get it as far away from me as possible 🙂 🙂 🙂

All in all, the teachings of this last month have helped me “trust” myself and my sensations more, despite some remaining traces of thoughts like “once I get started I can’t stop” and to label foods “good” and “bad”. The big difference, however, is that by now, I know how to identify these as unhelpful thoughts, rather than take them for truths. I think all those years of self-hatred, drinking, combined with the body-image issues so many women suffer from in our day and age, ended up disrupting my ability to “intuitively” know what by body wants and needs. I definitely want to keep my sugar intake to moderate levels in everyday life, but I definitely don’t have time to obsess about it, and mostly want to find balance. Most importantly, I want to avoid the “orthorexic” mentality that has become so normalized yet to me, seems like just another unhealthy control (a.k.a. restrictive-addictive) mechanism.

BUT Y’ALL WILL NEVER TAKE AWAY MY COFFEE. NEVER!

Hang in there folks!

Xxx

Anne

Day 261: Hit hard by reality

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

All this isolation has me regressing back into cocoon mode, where I forget about the outside world and the universe snugly fits into my safe little stay at home bubble.

And then I watched this 12 minute New York Times documentary about medical staff and morgue workers in Queens, U.S.A. and shit got real again. Instantly.

https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000007097093/coronavirus-st-johns-hospital-far-rockaway.html?referringSource=articleShare&fbclid=IwAR18dmWOO1Ovj6360RxajcVa6X531B_ajJ1o8AkZbfL3jVmqq-TDo51icis

It’s crazy how statistics about death can become meaningless as they creep up, higher and higher. How they become more and more abstract. But seeing this doctor cry as he accepts the inevitability of his own father’s death says it all: it only takes ONE SINGLE PERSON close to you –your mother, your father, your child, your lover….–and shit instantly gets real again. As real as it ever gets.

All of this is fucking real for someone, right now, even if it’s not us.

Thinking of everyone going back outside and heading to the beach or worse, going clothes shopping, makes me feel slightly sick.

This was a useful wake up call for me, to remember that we are all in the same boat together. To remember why I’m staying home in the first place. It’s not just because I like being in PJs.

The world has become such a strange place . Masks everywhere. Plexiglass. Avoiding strangers like the plague. I feel like we’re living in Zombie-robot-land.

Sigh.

I feel overwhelmed.

I feel like “back to normal” is a dream that somehow got lost in the past.

BUT OTHERWISE, ALL IS GOOD.

Hang in there everyone,

xxx

Anne

Day 258: counting things!

8 months and a half ! WOWOWOWOWOW.

Oh my, time flies, but I can’t disappear into the void altogether so here I post, about numbers, for some reason. (If you worry that I might have gone insane, I blame the last chapter of my PhD. I finish it this week if everything goes well. Then I promise, I will return to the land of the sane). 

8 months 1/2 is the amount of time I have been sober. 33 is the number of years I have been alive on this planet. 2 months is how long I have been quarantining (I think), and the days all blend into each other now. 2 is the number of humans I see on a regular basis. My best friend (she lives 3 blocks away) and my partner (he lives 1 block away). 2 years-ish is how long I have been meditating everyday. 6 years ago is when I started practicing yoga. Changed my fuckin’ life. 6 months and 18 days is how long I’ve gone without a cigarette, according to my phone. 5 years, is how long this loooooong tunnel has been, and I am SO CLOSE to the end …. this PhD will have seen a lot of lows but also quite a few honorable highs, and most of all a lot of growth. In the end, I am happy I did it. I never would have thought I would ever say that.

6 months is the longest I’ve been single since age 14.

Gulp.

2 months, is how long I have been living by a simple rule: all is well, as long as I stay at home, and manage to fit in yoga, meditation, PhD work and a daily walk. Ideally 10.000 steps, but in reality more like 6000-ish. Oh, and (wink wink Claire and Dwight) ZERO bikes. Also zero jogging. I’m too lazy for that. 26, give or take, is the number of years that I have been biting my nails. Zero is the number of successful attempts to stop biting them, despite the heroic efforts of people around me. 100 is the percentages of meals I cook at home these days, and enjoy every single time. 2 is the number of children I will have one day in my dreams. I come from a family of 6. 2 months is how long I have now been on Accutane, the hardcore treatment for acne that dermatologist only prescribe as a last resort treatment (it  basically involves overdosing on vitamin A and proving that you are not pregnant every month, because of severe birth deficiencies that can happen otherwise. I can’t begin to tell you how not fun it is to go and get bloodwork done in a lab when you have no car, and live in the time Covid). The treatment is working miracles – this is the second time I’ve done it, and I don’t regret it despite the side effects.

2 weeks, 2 looooong glorious weeks is how long I’ve been using “no added or refined sugar WHATSOEVER” in my food. Now, this is a biggie for me. So far I had been dealing with quarantine (and, to be honest, I think, sobriety) with lots and lots of M&Ms and ice-cream in the evening, sometimes uncontrollably so, and feeling lots and lots of shame the next day, promising myself not to do it again, but failing once the evening rolled round. Sound familiar, sobriety people?

So I finally watched a ton (number unidentified) of youtube videos about it, and decided to do a “30 sugar free” challenge. After all, that’s how I quit drinking. I’m not being a total Keto maniac though, I’m still eating fruit and whole grains. You can’t take EVERYTHING away from me. But no sugar (refined, raw, whatever), no honey, no artificial sweeteners, no processed foods containing added sugars (they’re EVERYWHERE), no white flour, no nothing. Conclusion after 2 weeks: It feels really good and I eat more fat now and I just drink tea in the evenings. Like when I quit booze, I had to fight the sugar cravings at first, (and still do, but less so) but I am gradually learning to implement new habits and replace mindless sugar binges with more meaningful habits in the evening (I’m talking Yin yoga, blogging, meditating and yep, mindless Netflix watching, but with tea ^^ ). The app I use for my alcohol has a setting where you can log different “addictions”, and sugar was in the list so now I have a daily pledge and milestone for that too.

It feels strange, because in my mind drinking is so much deadlier, but then I think about how “moderate drinkers” probably think that alcohol is harmless. And I think of obesity and type 2 diabetes and marketing in the food industry, and realize that some anti-sugar advocates speak of it like we do about alcohol. So what do I know, maybe it “really” is an addiction, not just an indulgence – I’m not one to judge. Some days are easier than others, and globally I am trying to find balance between avoiding excess, and avoiding excess restriction. Because I don’t want to get addicted to restricting – I’ve taken a quick glimpse down that rabbit hole and I ain’t going in there. I just want to CONQUER the dream of leading a healthy, BALANCED lifestyle. Sigh. Aaaaaaaah, dear, dear MODERATION. When will I crack your code? When will I discover your secret? Open up to meeeeeeee, tell me how you work. I know, I know. A lot of it lies in correcting all or nothing thinking. Believe me, I work 1.000.000 times a day (number probably not accurate) on redirecting and turning extremist thoughts into softer, more gentle, more kind, friendly ones. I try to get them to match my harmless appearance and the outward impression I seem to give others of being “super nice”. Come oooooooon, beliefs about self, catch up!!!!

Anyway, I digress.

5 is the number of days in which I am hoping to send my chapter to my advisor, aka Voldemort. I’m joking, she’s the sweetest. I’m the insane fascist. 4 and a half, is the number of months I legally have left in the USA before I defend my Phd and have to leave the country, saying bye byyyyyyye to some very close friends and one lovely, but very dysfunctional relationship. 5000$ is the amount of money that my department just awarded me as a “research grant”, which will get me through the summer, as my funding runs out in June. Eternal unquantifiable gratitude, and a lot of covid guilt, is what I felt when I got the news this week.

ZERO is the number of ideas that I have about what to do next and which country to move to once I have finished my program. ZERO is the percentage of desire that I have to even begin to confront this difficult question. ZERO, no… MINUS A MILLION, is how much I want to end up living on my parents’ couch, with no job and no savings, one alcoholic mother and one enabling, passive father, who gets bullied all day long by his wife. Minus a million millions. AND YET, numerous yet unidentified, are the options and possibilities for the future, and (wink wink, Nadine) I promised a dear fellow blogger that I would cultivate noble speech with her and speak nicely about the world, which is why I will close this long list of numerals with ***one*** final motto: we can neither know the future nor control the world so might as well reel ourselves back here to right now. Hic et nunc, as the  Roman Numerals peeps used to say a few centuries ago. FIVE BILLION is the number of hugs that I am sending out to whoever made it through this crazy ramble. You. YES YOU! Remember, THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE, the future is pregnant with potentialities, and I’m pretty sure the future is not on Accutane so there’s a good chance the babies will turn out ok. There is potential hidden in everything, waiting to be developed. If acorns can do it, so can we.

I leave you with two pics of some delicious “zero added sugar” breakfasts I made this week.

Smoothie bowls, the best invention of American cuisine ^^
Bruuuuunch, not a bad invention either. (PS. the orange juice is freshly squeezed, so it still counts as no added sugar)

Hang in there,

Xxx Anne

Day 250: The Dreaded Liebster Post

I’ve been putting this off for soooooo long, but it’s time. First of all, thank you to the lovely Claire at Ditching the wine, https://gettingsobernow.wordpress.com/ for nominating me and placing her faith in my ability to take less than 6 months to write this post (these awards are all around the blogosphere these days and feel a lot like those chain letters kids to send to each other, and you HAD TO DO IT TO unless you wanted to suffer a SUDDEN AND PAINFUL DEATH BY BEING CURSED FOREVER …. I am sure you remember those) . Ok ok enough of the Scrooge/Grinch mentality, it’s chain blog algorithm time !!! YAY 🙂

Ok, this however is more than true, and the only part of the game I enjoy: I love Claire’s blog SO MUCH. She’s extremely intelligent yet humble, sensitive and wise, insightful and funny and generous and thoughtful – you should all click on that link and check out her blog. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/169561941/posts/370#comment-1183 Oh, and she has the cutest Guinnea-Pigs in the world! They’ll pop up here and there in her blog among other pics of her life in the U.K. ANYWAY I’m doing this for you Claire ! Woops, already failing at rule number one… I mean, THANK YOU CLAIRE ❤ 🙂

Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  • Share 11 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5-11 other bloggers.
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions.
  • Notify your nominees one you have uploaded your post.

Answers to Claire’s questions:

  1. If you could have had any job/career what would it have been? Painter. Painter. Possibly on drugs, but painter. I’m saving it for retirement now – without the drugs, that is.
  2. If you were stranded on a desert island what three items would you choose to have with you? 1) a FAT journal and pen 2) a manual on how to make more paper and ink for my journaling. 3) Lots of Sun Cream, cause I LOVE DESERT ISLANDS and once I’m there, I ain’t leaving.
  3. What the thing you like most about yourself? My hair. My wit, sometimes. My kindness.
  4. If you could relive one day again, exactly as it was before, what day would it be and why? There is no one single day that pops out. Also, I have terrible memory. So I’ll go buddhist on you and respond: Right now. because right now is all we have!
  5. If you could only see one more band/singer live, who would it be? Blink 182. My teenage crushes 🙂 They were terrible singers. Positively awful
  6. What is your biggest achievement in your life so far? ALMOST achieved: this stupid PhD 🙂 Almost there! Otherwise: 8 months sober, baby!
  7. What’s your favourite way to relax (keep it clean please!)? Yoga yoga yogaaaaa and more yoga.
  8. You can have a superpower for a year. Which one would you choose? Unlimited money bahahahaha! So I could DO GOOD with it, and buy my way into acquiring all the other superpowers 🙂
  9. What’s your favourite time of day and why? Mornings, because everything is still possible.
  10. What are you most afraid of? DEATH. Yup. All this ending.
  11. What are your ‘words to live by?’ Name the three most important for you. Compassion (for all beings). Patience. Breathing.

11 facts about me:

  • I was born in Katmandu
  • I grew up in Vietnam
  • I am bilingual French-English
  • I live in the U.S.A.
  • Thou shalt not ask me where I’m from.
  • I believe culture should be free for all: free streaming, free books, free university.
  • I believe therapy should be free -and MANDATORY- for all.
  • I believe I should become a Communist leader, and that the world would be a better place for it ^^
  • My secret dream is to have a successful youtube Channel, yet remain anonymous. (Yes, I love eating cake and having it as well).
  • When I was 10, my dog gave birth to 6 puppies in my bed and I squished one when I rolled over. But they all survived 🙂
  • The longest I’ve been single since age 14 is about 6 months…… (hmmmmmm)

My nominees (SORRYYYYYYY):

  • Jim at Life Beyond Booze https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/99116151 (because I haven’t seen a Liebster post on his blog yet ^^ (I AM PASSING ON THE CURSE TO YOU JIM!). Jim is hilarious and deep and started his sobriety journey 2 weeks before mine. I am eternally trying to catch up, but that involves building a time machine. I love Jim and he will always be my number 1 sobriety buddy.
  • Boozebrain, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/773830 for his inestimable nuggets of wisdom, and because we don’t get a lot of personal stuff from him so maybe the threat of the ETERNAL CURSE will get us some. Best food for thought blog in the universe.
  • Drgettingsober https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/97318903 I don’t know if she has already been nominated for one of these, but just in case. Her blog is very thorough and includes wonderful bits of theoretical explanations about psychology and psychiatry questions, for anyone who is interested in the field. Also if you like horses and riding, this blog is for you!!!! I feel very close to Drgettingsober and much of what she writes resonates with me, a lot.
  • Melissa at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/105267458. is so smart and has been through so much. She also has a special place in my heart because I discovered her blog when I only just started on this journey.
  • Astrid https://astridetal.com/ Is very thoughtful and calm and gentle. Her blog is full of all kinds of self-care, mental health and just life in general oriented musings, including her #A to Z Challenge which she has just recently and very courageously completed 🙂
  • Drunky Drunk Girl: https://drunkydrunkgirl.com/ this lovely lady’s blog is feminine, thorough, and talks about addictions of all kinds, including to social media. USEFUL 🙂
  • Roaming and Recording Yogi https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/94351538 Leah is a yoga teacher and her lovely blog tells her story and gives lots of yoga, yoga teaching, and general health-related tips. Very cool !

My 11 questions to you guys are the same that Claire asked me up above. They’re excellent questions and I am very very lazy.

PHEW that wasn’t so bad.

THANK YOU CLAIIIIIIRE and good luck to my lovely nominees 🙂 ❤

Photo by HM Grand Central Hotel on Pexels.com

Day 235: Little Rays of Quarantine Sunshine

BRAG POST ALERT! This morning I reflect upon how sobriety can lead to dramatic change in reshaping your self-image.

In the past, I would alternate between narcissistic pride and hardcore self-deprecation, and there would be little room for anything in between, such as authenticity, feelings of self-worth, honest vulnerability, etc. Accepting a compliment, humbly stating a positive fact about myself, being satisfied with who I was, spontaneously offering my opinion or insights were very difficult, if not impossible goals to reach.

Today can feel how much my self-esteem has improved and how far away the feelings of self-hatred have gone. Of course, there are still plenty of times when I catch myself being too hard on myself. But hatred? Nope. never again.

Today I don’t feel like writing interminably about myself or the world, so instead, I’ll just share a few pictures of things I have seen, made or done these couple of weeks (outside of the 10 daily hours of PhD work, that is) which have either made my quarantine days brighter and/or made me feel proud 🙂

1. SCARY YOGA CHALLENGES !!!

I faced my fear of “death by crashing to my face” and made good progress on some asanas :

Peacock pose! (after a couple of crashes to the floor)


Headstand without the wall ! (I’m still afraid to lift my legs up but I’m getting there)
King Pigeon for the first time! (I felt very very vulnerable and strange afterwards, the chest opening/back bending was SUPER INTENSE, especially as I am very short (aka. have to reach back pretty far). But man, did I feel proud ! Also my cat is helping.

2. COOL THINGS ON WALKS:

The last of the cherry blossoms
Never lose hope!

Someone left these out next to a park bench…. not sure if it’s for humans, maybe deer?
People’s creativity never ceases to amaze me.

3. BAKIIIIIIING

My humble (aka. hyper-competitive) entry in my family “online fruit tart quarantine competition”. I have a competitive family 🙂

Baked myself a single cupcake for dessert one evening. SOLO BAKING is the best

and last but not least…..

4. QUARANTINE CATS

Fern the cat. She has been instrumental in helping me enjoy solitude all year long. I love her.

My boyfriend’s car, Rumi, in her native jungle. I love her too.
But OBVIOUSLY, Fern wins. Forever.

That’s all folks !

I hope you find moments to enjoy and connect with yourself and loved ones if you are lucky enough to have them around.

I am grateful to be sober every single day of this quarantine.

Hang in there everyone !!

xxxx Anne

Day 230: The “Coronation”

Miracle Mornings!

I hate waking up but I love coffee, so after 8:00 I’m willing to compromise. Anything before that and you’ll need a fire alarm to get me out of bed. So when I opened my eyes at 6:00 am to a dance of liquid gold coming in through the curtains today, I was like “ok fuck it, this hasn’t happened in years, I’m getting out of bed like a grown up”! 

As many have already written, for those of us who are quarantined at home, days can feel oddly groundhog-esque in these times. The last years of grad school -when you no longer have classes to take or teach,- already take a toll on your sense of what is a weekday vs. weekend, and what is morning vs. afternoon. So when you add COVID to the mix, it’s just sunlight and clocks letting you know you where’re you’re at. 

Still (and I am aware of the privilege in the mere ability to think these thoughts, as well as the suffering of so many others around me), a part of me is enjoying some aspects of the quarantine. There is something oddly monastic going on in the lulling rhythm of days following each other like pearls on a necklace. The self-discipline it takes to stay sane and keep anxiety at bay (which for me involves a strong work ethic, daily meditation, yoga/exercise and going out for 1h-2h long walks… oh and trying to limit snacking/binge eating as much as humanely possible) is paradoxically making my routine healthier than it was in the winter, when the cold and the OPTION of being able to go out made me want to curl up in bed with a book and a box of cookies 🙂 [the sober equivalent of settling down with a nice cloudy IPA at the end of EVERY SINGLE day : wanting to hide in a cocoon instead of going out into the world and grow].

Now that our civil liberties have been (temporarily, I hope) taken away, it seems insane to not use the freedom to go outside and walk once a day, even if I don’t feel like it or if I’m running out of new routes, when most of my friends in NYC have not left their apartments in almost a month. 

Yesterday I read (actually, I listened to the audio version as I was taking a nice long walk) an article by Charles Eisenstein, who asks the question of which post-pandemic possibilities are offered to us (humans) on a collective scale. Some moments got on my nerves, as my training in philosophy has made me allergic to any kind of conspiracy-theory or paranoia-inducing thinking. But as Eisenstein is himself trained as a philosopher and knows how to maintain a sense of rigor in the exposition of his thoughts, he ended his piece with a lot of nuance and toned down the somewhat extreme either/or alternative sketched out between one the one hand, a totalitarian society of control and surveillance, based on fear and the notion of separate individuals, and on the other, an open and compassionate society which accepts mortality, relinquishes the blind quest for material possessions and is more open to holistic medicine and practices, community, and reinvestment of the public space, even if that means that some of us have to die. The whole argument pivoted around the idea that it might be better to die at home with your loved ones than packed away in overcrowded ERs (or even nursing homes, for that matter) and die alone. And he does have a point – we live in a society in which death is the ultimate evil, to which every other value becomes subservient. Even happiness.

Eisenstein’s point was that we cannot use our fear of death as a justification to avoid living. That it’s better to go out into the world (post covid, that is) and take risks, than to live locked up all alone and at home, in the name of avoiding death – because death is inevitable, and it is better to live and die well than live in fear and die disconnected and terrified after a life of denial. To me this is an extremely controversial argument which is much easier to defend when one isn’t oneself facing the prospect of a painful death or of that of a loved one. On the other hand, I think we do live in a society that represses the truth of our mortality. We try everything we can to reverse the course of time and push back/away signs of aging and finitude with diets, beauty products, makeup, surgery, medical interventions to delay the moment as long as possible, etc. We value signs of youth aesthetically, and in the work place. Meanwhile nobody is teaching us how to deal with aging and acceptance of what is to come for all of us. Community and collective bonds slowly dissolve as we move more and more towards leading individual existences hidden behind screens of all kinds. When it comes to our death, we have to learn alone, the hard way, our backs to the wall, often after a lifetime of avoidance. I watched a chilling interview of the head of a Parisian hospital who described how old people infected with covid are dying alone and scared, their loved ones unable to come and say goodbye so as to limit further spread of the disease (I am not saying that it would be preferable to let everyone in and spread covid even more- simply deploying the fact that we have gotten to this point). 

Because as Eisenstein rightly points out in a striking analogy, if your fish is sick, you can 1) drug and quarantine the fish, or 2) clean the tank. Our tank wasn’t exactly the most pretty picture before covid hit us: alcoholism, diabetes, obesity all the conditions found in high numbers among the people dying from covid. Add workaholism and burnouts to lack of exercise and poor nutrition, throw in some excessive hand washing and germophobia which weaken our immune systems by making our internal flora less diverse (and don’t get me started on the food industry)… bake for a few decades, and tadaaaaaa, bon appétit!

Maybe if we had built a society in which people took better care of themselves and leaders better care of the public health system as well as socio-economic conditions (I’m talking universal healthcare and basic income), we would be facing a completely different situation.

If this —social distancing, masks, no mass gatherings etc.— is the “new normal” for the next year or so -estimates are still too vague to establish anything certain-, what kind of society do we want to create in the future? As Eisenstein points out, the collective trauma and pause in history, as well as the economic consequences of the whole disastrous situation, are also an occasion to sort out what is really essential for us (not just in terms of jobs, but also of values, held on a collective scale: material possessions, consumerism, and “eternal youth” on the one hand, or compassion, solidarity and connection, including with our elders —and a fortiori, with our own mortality, on the other?). 

Sure, this might seem like hippie-dippy wishful thinking when the reality today is of finding a place to put dead bodies, turning lorries into temporary hospitals, unemployment, fear, hopelessness, locusts (I’m not joking, google it!), etc.

But we can’t live with our head in the sand forever: the world is half-collapsed already. What are we going to do with the pieces? IMHO, it’s up to each and every one of us to start by being more kind, loving and compassionate to those around us. And to ourselves: by taking care of our health, our hearths and our relationships. 

And then, the revolution of the proletariat !!!

Just kidding. I’m just a poor grad student writing a wordpress blog. I have no solution to offer on the global scale. I just know that I am proud and grateful to be 7 months 1/2 sober today, when a year ago I was terrified of going ONE SINGLE DAY without a drink.

In bref, I don’t think we can just “go back to normal” after all this. I definitely don’t think we should. Covid is like a magnifying glass that reveals how far we have come in building a world of injustice (in the US black people are dying of Covid a lot more than white people). What to we want after this has passed?

Now is the time to start becoming who we want to be, and hopefully we can do a better job than we were before all of this mess.

Every grain of sand counts !

Hang in there everyone, keep social distancing and protect the safety of the most vulnerable people around you !

Xxx

Anne

ps. Here is the link to the article for those of you who want to read it.  https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/

Day 218: back to square one?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don’t worry, I didn’t drink. I am just luring you in with a catchy title, because I have no soul.

The square one I am talking about it relationship-related, not substance related: looks like Anne might be single again – or in need of some serious relationship counseling,..

Why am I boring you with the repetitive back and forth stories about my chaotic love life? Because they not unrelated to a more extensive sense of the term “addiction”, and I for one have definitely used relationships in unhealthy ways to espace from difficult feelings of unworthiness, loneliness and low self-esteem in the past. Now that -thanks to sobriety- I have a bit more clarity as to who I am, who I want to be and what I want,  I am a lot less patient and a lot more reactive than I have ever been (which is … never). I think I’m making up, in slightly extreme ways, for years of codependent “settling” and people pleasing, and being treated poorly -never physically- in order to preserve -“save”- my relationships at all costs. 

Long story short, after yet another argument sparked by a small detail (I didn’t say what I wanted for breakfast -because I am terrible at asking for stuff-, boyfriend made breakfast for himself but not for me, and made a humiliating joke in front of his roommates while I was busy being upset at the lack of breakfast, and I flipped out), and I decided it was the last straw and declared this had to end. 

AND NOW…… cue panic back-pedaling. 

In the scope of a single afternoon, it went from “let’s break up” to “let’s take a break”. In classic Anne fashion, I became yet again torn between wanting out of this “unsatisfying relationship with a man-baby”, and terrified of being/dying alone and unwanted, Godzilla the cat having no other choice but to devour my corpse once the dry food runs out. Sigh. 

I am so confused: this person drives me crazy, mainly because he REALLY reminds me of mother, in so many ways (except for the alcoholism). And guess what, a lot of our arguments also happen because he is reminded of HIS mother in many of the ways I am (I have trouble expressing my needs/ he has trouble being attentive to the needs of others because of overwhelming anxiety = THE PERFECT COMBO). The strange thing about this relationship is that we are very often completely enmeshed, and often project our childhood/ family issues onto each other, but are very much aware of it (because of our recent sobriety and his work with his therapist: a lot of stuff is coming up for both of us) …. 

Our argument resolutions often sound like “I am sorry, I was triggered and swapped a parental figure for you and got overwhelmed, but now I know you are not my mother and I am sorry for my behavior”. Sigh. 

So here I am, actually enjoying this alone time (unlike our breakup in October, where I was a tragic heartbroken mess), but unsure as to what to do: we love each other deeply and have known each other for 6 years, but drive each other insane and are SO TRIGGERING for each other despite all our efforts and best intentions. ALSO, I am 33, whereas he is 28 (and has yet to see the world), and I am realizing this week that I want kids, and time is RUNNIN’ OUOOOUUUUT if I want to find the “perfect” partner (must stop thinking “perfect” is a thing),,,, and I can’t be wasting my time arguing in shitty relationships if I don’t want to die alone and childless, with entrail-eating cats for only company. On the other hand, this guy sees right through my bullshit and my fear of intimacy/vulnerability, and he has been SOOOO good in helping me learn how to trust and feel safe and loved for who I am. I will be eternally grateful to him for that. So it would be a shame to throw it all away especially as we only have another 6 months together before I am supposed to leave the USA. And yet another part of me really does want to explore how it is to be WITHOUT a relationship-crutch and just be with myself: to learn that it’s not that awful and that terrifying to be alone. AND YET, the present circumstances aren’t helping: being 100% alone during covid is NO FUN (especially without a car).

So yeah, “back to square 1” means: back to this crippling hesitation and inability to make a decision due to a gigantic internal conflict, which I would normally drink away, or worse: I would get drunk and make an uninhibited, rash decision, and then stick to whatever came out then, out of sheer stubbornness. But now I can’t do that, I have to actually figure out what I want, and nobody has taught me how to doooo thaaaaat.  

At least this time we’re not doing the no contact thing, and we’ve agreed to talk about all this (yet again) after a few more days of alone time.

[I’m sure one of you will know: isn’t there a thing where either addicts or codependents of children of alcoholics have trouble making decisions, especially ones with real-life “permanent” consequences?]

In either situation there is pain. And either way, it will be ok. Right now my biggest fear is breaking up and regretting it later. I think my uncertainty is due to my inability to see if this relationship is in fact toxic, or if it is merely extremely challenging because for the first time ever, it is with somebody who truly loves me and wants to heal just as much as I do. URGHHHHHHHH 

Hope you are having more productive lives and thoughts than I am !!!

Hang in there !

Xxxxx Anne

Day 214: 7 months, yo!!!!

Dear friends, 

Thank you for still being nice to me despite me being so flaky. I’ve been lurking around reading and commenting, but have been putting off writing.

And yet, on day 214 I cannot NOT write. So write I must, and write I shall ! 

Don’t know about you but I felt really depressed and anxious for the first couple of weeks of covid madness. But then, because I am a mature and resourceful individual, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I officially decided to stop being diplomatic and really be my “authentic self”, and so I became a real BITCH to my boyfriend, the only human I had seen in several weeks. I suddenly heard myself tell him I needed SPACE and ALONE TIME because I was SUFFOCATING in this relationship and couldn’t stand the feeling of us being the only presence in each other’s lives and needed to exist as a SEPARATE INDIVIDUAL so he needed to leave me ALONE and go home and stop relying on me to be his MOTHER and expect me to cook all the meals and tell him how to peel a potato and explain what “mincing an onion” means and .… etc. You get it.

Ok ok ok, I might have been able to do that in a SLIGHTLY more diplomatic way.

But weirdly he took it well, and agreed to try and be more independent and give me some space, so I got 3 or 4 glorious days of alone time, during which I have been following a Spartan routine of self-discipline and self-care, and would like to share it with you all here, because I think I’m definitely on to something.

  • Wake up
  • Feed Fern, aka Godzilla, the starving cat
  • Make coffee and wonder if sore throat + grogginess are Covid symptoms
  • Drink coffee
  • Meditate (AFTER COFFEE, NOT BEFORE !)
  • Read/write for PhD
  • Almost go insane because of too much reading and not enough breaks
  • Lunch
  • Read/write for PhD
  • Almost go insane because PhD is terrible and what’s the point anyway? Oh, looks like I haven’t been taking any breaks again – whoops!
  • Go for a 1 hour long walk (NON-NEGOCIABLE) while listening to some kind of self development podcast. Look up at sky and at trees in bloom and look down at lovely delicate flowers and blades of grass, and remember that 6 feet distance doesn’t preclude eye contact and smiling/nodding to say hello to other fellow humans who seem to all be doing the same thing and look like robots because who knows anyway you can’t get close enough to tell who is human and who is a robot…. and whatisthemeaningoflifeanyway ?!!?!?!?!
  • Get home and feed Godzilla who is starving again and very angry that food hasn’t been served earlier.
  • Do 30 mins – 1hour yoga (or any other spiritual workout, such as “how to tone your underbutt in 10 minutes” on youtube).
  • 5 minutes: Practice the handstand I still can’t do but thought I would be able to do after 3 months of sobriety. LOL
  • Shower
  • Switch into pyjamas mode! [Optional: do the Pyjama Dance]
  • Negotiate with self to read for one last hour before dinner. If self agrees, reward self with a snack to keep self going.
  • Make and eat delicious dinner
  • Think about doing evening meditation [but most of the time be too lazy and decide for Netflix instead]
  • Do paint by numbers in front of Netflix with Godzilla the in lap and decide that it counts as a “meditative activity”
  • Go to bed and DO NOT SET AN ALARM
  • Think of all the people who are scared and suffering in the world and working hard these days and feel like I haven’t fathomed the depth of what is happening to the world yet and am still in shock. Remember that I forgot to call my parents AGAIN (this miiiiiiight have to do with the fact that my mom is still drinking though she said she’d stop- see previous posts)
  • SLEEP
  • Fail at sleeping. Put on guided meditation to release stress and worry (or alternatively, “how to tone your underbutt in your sleep with no effort”)
  • Sleeeeeeeep
  • REPEAT, Groundhog Day style.

Tadaaaa

Should I publish this as an e-book and make lots and lots of $$$$$$? #remotejobs

So yes, Covid has made me insane, but hey, what do you expect ?!

***

Unrelated but related: 

A good friend of mine sent me an instagram message the other day, saying: “alcohol and marijuana are my two best friends these days. I don’t know how you sober people do it”. I replied that sobriety is actually what’s helping me “do it”, while drinking would just have made things worse. For me.

Ironically, a common friend of ours (with whom we used to form the perfect drinking trio) stopped drinking two weeks ago – he took the leap at the beginning of the quarantine and says he is feeling great. He is also writing a PhD and says it has improved his work and mood a lot. It feels so strange that this person would decide to take a break from drinking – I’ve known him to drink daily, for the last few years, and defend the lifestyle a LOT. I’m really really proud of him. I’m also a tiny bit proud of myself because he has inquired regularly about my journey, and a part of me wants to think that somehow, I set the example without even trying to.

So YAAAAAAAY to people who are deciding to stop drinking in this time when we hear so much about alcohol sales rising together with domestic violence and all the other stuff. It’s brave! And smart!

There you have it folks, my 7 months post 🙂

Stay well and stay at home !

Hang in there !!!!

xxxx

Anne

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