something I’ve done on my previous soberversary key dates is to make a new promise or vow to myself before I reach the anniversary, so that there is no gaping chasm for me to accidentally fall into. (here is me going from 100 to 180, for example.) when I reached one year I decided that I didn’t need to renew a promise for another year. that forever would suit me best (I know the idea of forever doesn’t suit everyone, so do what suits you best, yes?)

but nonetheless in the last year I have had it at the back of my mind that PAWS can last for up to two years. (ugh.)

and so now I am coming out of those theoretical woods, where next?

the answer I came up with was to choose a word for my next year of sobriety. I did this at the start of 2015, when inspired by this post of Mished’s I chose myself the word ‘peace’. it has stood me in good stead. sometimes a one-word mantra is all there is time for… by the way do you know that the Sanskrit word ‘mantra’ consists of the root man- ‘to think’ and the suffix -tra, designating ‘tools or instruments’, so that a literal translation would be ‘instrument of thought’? so then mantras are literally tools which we can use to change how we think…

and in the best tradition of story telling, it took me three goes to settle on the right word for my third year of recovery.

my first idea was ‘safety’. I became terribly excited thinking up new ways in which I could keep myself and my family safe – devising rotas for checking smoke alarm batteries, and tyre pressures, and pension plans. but the more I went down that road, the more the walls seemed to press inwards on me.

this isn’t why I’ve made all this effort to get sober.

so my next thought was ‘freedom’. which was closer to the mark.

strings

and an abundance of images available, too! although I do wonder why freedom is constantly associated with being in one’s nightie.

and I found a truly inspiring and suitable quote from Erich Fromm, who said that freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin.

freedom is a huge part of what I have found in sobriety. and with it comes the taking of true responsibility for those I love, including (now) myself. so in that way it almost encapsulates safety, too? inasmuch as one can ever be truly safe in this world?

and I am already blessed with great freedoms, conferred upon me by the struggles and efforts of others, in the past and present. I find it all too easy to take these for granted.

‘Freedom from Want’, Norman Rockwell, 1942.

so I’ve thought about where I compromise my own freedom.

for example my emotional freedom, where I let other people’s behaviour affect my own. or my financial freedom ( I may be the only boozer whose getting hammered most nights for umpteen years affected them financially – but I very much doubt it.) or my freedom from compulsions – eating, shopping, or social media, perhaps?

and this was when I started getting fidgety. uncomfortable. which tells me that this is where I need to look further. when something itches in a way which I want to look away from.

the word I am choosing for my third year sobriety is attention.

which has some deep meanings, for me. things I need to consider as I move further away from early sobriety, more into working out who I need to be now. because the not-drinking is taking up virtually no effort, nowadays.

it’s the not being a jerk that I need to put my effort into. into focusing on that pause between reaction and response.

into bringing the most honest, real and true version of me into play, every day, whether I feel like it or not, whether it hurts or not. like using the best china, even if it might get broken. particularly when it might get broken.

into finding out who I will be, and being that person with all my might and main. loving my people well, and being of service to others out of joy and not duty.

there are some practical steps I am taking in an effort to move closer to these guiding star thoughts. some more of things, some less of things…

more meditation, initially. I’m going back to the gratitude lists which helped me so much in early sobriety. and I’m also trying to be more intentional about my workload, to make it less stressful and more fulfilling.

the ‘less of’ is going to be less of unproductive online time. I find this tricky to blog about, firstly because I don’t want to suggest that anyone else needs to change their habits, because the soberverse has been such a huge part of my own recovery. and I am going to have to work out what exactly ‘unproductive online time’ means. you may have noticed I have blogged about it intermittently, such as in this post back in July.

I’ve been experimenting further over the last few weeks, for example by defining blocks of time in which I don’t access particular sites. I’ve had some encouraging results with, for example, confining Facebook access to certain limited times, like my lunch hour and after supper. bright lines like that work well. but then rules seem to go out of the window at weekends and I end up back to where I was before after a couple of days – doesn’t this sound familiar?! when I go back to the behaviour it seems to affect me even more adversely after a few days away – my attention becomes more easily shredded, like a fragile, delicate fabric. my ability to focus took a huge hammering in the early years of my mothering. I hope these are the shoots of its recovery starting to sprout, rather than the last flickers of a candle before it completely sputters out…

something I’ve also tried is not looking at sober blogs first thing in the morning, ie over breakfast, which is breaking the habit of what I’ve done for the entire last two years. this works well in that I focus more on work, or domestic matters. after a week of this I am somewhat troubled at the evidence that I feel I am losing connection with others online, as I am less able to have uninterrupted chunks of time to compose blog posts, for example, in the evenings.

however this blog post was composed during the evening – but then I miss that time with my family…. bah! no easy answer, apparently!

if you have ever deliberately reduced your online time, whether soberversely or elsewhere, I’d love to hear how that went for you. all thoughts welcome!

I appreciate that I have the luxury with this to make mistakes. to get it wrong, to have compassion for myself when I do so, in a way that I think differs from the decision to completely stop drinking alcohol. this seems less binary, which makes it easier in some ways and more difficult in others. so if I find myself, in particular, entertaining thoughts of moderation then that will be a canary in a coal mine for me.

I am a tremendous admirer of Neil Gaiman. he writes a New Year message every December, but I missed his December 2014 one, somehow. as I am treating this as a New Year for me, it seems appropriate to quote him here:

“Be kind to yourself in the year ahead.

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them.

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.”

with sobriety, my next job is keeping it. I hope this literal focus upon where I put my attention will help me in doing that.

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