Square It Up Friday

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Not strictly speaking recovery related, but it made me laugh today!

Off to be Batman …. Prim xx

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Enlightenment dressed as chaos

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over the last few weeks a series of apparently unconnected external events have hit my family like small and large meteorites. after the latest – and one of the least – when my eldest suffered a twisted ankle which will significantly affect our plans for the next few weeks – something rang a bell in my brain and I remembered an old blog post by Martha Beck on how to survive Life’s rough patches, which you can read here.

in the post Martha advises that when we hit a rough patch – or a rumble strip – the best way to navigate it is to hit the brakes, put your mind in reverse, and then find and follow smooth terrain.

the part about hitting the brakes rings very true for me. having food in the fridge and clean underwear in the drawers can make the difference between bearable and unbearable levels of chaos. running (always!). early bed. quiet time in the mornings. medicinal levels of chocolate.

I also like her explanation of why there sometimes seems to be a procession of unrelated disasters – namely, because our lives are SUPPOSED to be an epic road trip towards inner wisdom, love and joy. and those things are not found on the smooth and straight road. they are found when our life assumptions rub up against reality.

if you are in the early days of sobriety – which I would classify as at least the first 200 days – then you may well have taken that decision because all the evidence has been proclaiming to you that your belief that consuming alcohol is an enjoyable and vital part of life is NOT TRUE, at least for you. and after decades perhaps of drinking, and social conditioning, that is an immensely hard belief to back away from, to challenge, to change.

one thing I continue to find difficult is seeing others in real life, many of whom are very dear to me, who are still stuck in that dark place. no-one can make that leap for another person. one of the reasons I blog is to try to help those who HAVE identified they have an issue with alcohol, and to offer hope and example that life without alcohol is not lesser, but vastly more. that it is not a case of not being able to drink, but not having to drink. which is something I am still thankful for, every day.

if you are in longer term sobriety, chances are you will already have had a meteorite storm of your own. I found Martha’s post most helpful in challenging my own assumption that everyday life should proceed smoothly and without hiccups. once I let go of that, then I reduce the energy I am spending railing against the events, and can concentrate on dealing with them.

and sometimes it turns out that the monster we are dealing with is not so very big, after all… Prim xx

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when the swallows gather

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Swallows Gathering, Geoff Jennings

(this is the post that I have been terrifically busy not-writing since about early May. I am giving myself a bare half-hour to get it down and out there so please forgive any lack in it.)

April this year saw my fiftieth birthday. that may have had something to do with it too, about how I began feeling afterwards and into May. a feeling of restlessness, of what next? I gave myself a necklace symbolising new doors opening, and began looking for the door. because something inside me was urging me, like the swallows, to gather, to rise, to move on to who knew where?

and I was bewildered and angry, a lot of the time, in May. angry because I have worked so hard, first on my sobriety, then on other lesser things, like meditation, and yoga, and getting offline, and putting other self-care routines into place like taking vitamins, and those things began to fall away from me. I couldn’t make myself do them because – what I couldn’t see at the time – was that I needed to make space for the next thing.

those things were all good things, and I had carefully constructed them. I felt like a Great British Bake Off finalist in the first round – the signature round – where I had been asked to create a croque en bouche – the French wedding cake painstakingly created out of a tower of profiteroles cemented together with caramel.

I wanted the next thing to be another teeny tiny cream-filled puff of choux pastry, to balance on the top of my almost-perfect life.

but no, dammit. I am in the next round.

it’s the technical bake, now, guys. where I get a list of basic ingredients and instructions for some mittel-European pastry, but I have not a glimmer of an idea of what the finished product is supposed to look like.

and I’ve decided not to go into here what my secondary Big Challenge is… essentially because I don’t feel comfortable doing so here, also because it could/would be something different for you – whether it is your marriage, your health, your finances, or your job, or your relationship with a parent, or whatever comes up for you when you are in long-term sobriety and STILL tripping over the Something Else.

so I will just describe it here, with entirely teeth-gritting optimism, as The Adventure. I have now been on The Adventure for six weeks, and I am working out a little bit better what it looks like. still a long way to go.

writing this here what I have learnt over the last few months – to say that if you feel those swallows gathering – please, pay attention to them. they are gathering because it is time for them to move on, to survive, to thrive. and if that struggle for you is around alcohol, there is a big leap to make, but you can do it, with faith and support. or if that Something Else is the next challenge, you can do that, too.

the swallows from England take six weeks to fly to Africa.

if a tiny bird the size of a matchbox can fly 6,000 miles over oceans and deserts, then what could you and I do, if we try? Prim xx

Square It Up Friday

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the above photo popped up on my Facebook feed this week. my reaction to it was in a descending cascade – I laughed, winced, and got cross about it.

cross because, you know, my life is shittier than anyone else appreciates, and who the hell are you to call me a miserable cow, and isn’t that the kind of sneery misogynist label applied to truly unhappy women by unpleasant, jeering men?

sigh. my brain is a very busy place.

but it was the wincing that tells me more than I like to hear. I was wincing in acknowledgment that when I have persistent negative thoughts and rumination they are often entirely of my own making, construction, and thus volition.

and just look, in that sentence above, at that one weasel word, ‘often’, which I typed and deleted and re-typed as my get out clause. sigh again.

I am not saying for a moment that anyone’s unhappiness is not valid or real. over-drinking is too often a reaction or a symptom of incredibly adverse circumstances or trauma. the pain of those things should be honoured and given space to heal.

but the humour in this image is a helpful reminder for me that an element of our own suffering can be self-imposed, can be a choice we choose not to make.

what will you choose today?

Prim xx

a free seven day sober support video series

I seem to be blogging more than usual at the moment. my family is dealing with a lot right now and I am leaning heavily on my sober community to remind me of what is important in life – namely self-care, the people I love, and mini-Magnums…

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if you could do with a little extra support, sober-wise, at the moment, you might like to sign up for a free resource – The Sober School Seven Day Summer Reset video series, which  starts tomorrow – Monday, 27 June.

Every day for a week Kate, who runs the site, will be sharing a short video and a small action step to take afterwards, in preparation for a fantastic alcohol free summer.

Kate started sobriety and blogging in April 2013, a little bit before I did. she then took the step into sober coaching. she writes an upbeat, cheerful blog on her colourful, modern website, and is very responsive to comments there.

she also offers a six week online group coaching programme (for which she charges, and her website doesn’t give details of how much that course is unless you register your interest). her next course starts on Monday 10 July.

ok, reader survey – milk chocolate, white chocolate, or almond?! Prim xx

How do you get sober if accountability doesn’t work for you?

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I’ve thought hard about why I wanted to write this post. I was worried that I wanted to write it to ‘fix’ people, to offer suggestions in order to come up with some complex Recovery Theory of Everything to make myself look or feel good… I also don’t want anyone to think that I am aiming this particularly at them personally – I am honestly not. I hope I am trying to convey my understanding of what I have seen in LOTS of online interactions, where accountability to a coach, a forum or any organised group does not help the individual – in fact, quite the opposite.

My starting point for this was reading Gretchen Rubin’s personality model of The Four Tendencies, in which she categorises people according to how they react to outer and inner expectations. you can read about it and take the quiz here, if you like, which will describe you as an Upholder, an Obliger, a Questioner, or a Rebel. I loved this model when I first came across it because it seemed to explain so much about myself. if you have been reading this blog for a while you will know I adore a good graph, a good system.

I now think it can be a helpful starting point to understand ourselves, but that we all have aspects of each of the personality type within ourselves, and it can be hugely over-simplistic to say blithely that we are merely one of them. also what we are feels ‘normal’ and it can sometimes only be when we compare ourselves with others that we see differences. for example, I am definitely NOT a Questioner so when it comes the time to choose a holiday, or buy a new car, I am NOT the one in our family who spends three weekends in a row exhaustively reviewing all the options 😉

the other thing that the model skips out is that I believe it does not account for addiction (of course, Rubin never intended that it should). in addiction one does not merely resist inner and outer expectations, as in the Rebel category –  one is unable to meet inner or outer expectations, because the addiction is in the driving seat AND riding shotgun.

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Wolfie and Mrs Wolfie, out for a drive.

so in fact until addiction is out of the picture, it is tricky to assess one’s own true self, one’s own true preferences.

however, accepting the limitations of the model for the moment, where does it leave those who actively resist outer expectations but who want to get sober? if a person is not the sort of person who would derive support from a slimming class in order to lose weight, why do we expect them to use peer or coaching support in order to stop drinking? and I use the term ‘expect’ carefully because I know full well I have a raging case of confirmation bias myself, having successfully used Belle’s 100 day programme to get sober and that therefore it is easy for me to trill annoyingly, “ask for support!” and then shrug in bewilderment when either the person doesn’t ask for support, or they do ask, and it doesn’t work for them.

Rubin has a new book out in September about the Four Tendencies and I expect she will expand on such matters in that book. from what she has suggested already, I anticipate that she will say that for Rebels the concepts of freedom and identity are the most important, so that if those can be brought into play – for example, as an over-drinker, turning that rebellion into a desire not to be manipulated and controlled by Big Alcohol – then the person can drive change in that way.

ok throwing this open now – any thoughts on all this? in particular –

  • do you think that categories like this are helpful, or unhelpful?
  • if you felt drawn to doing the test, what category did you fall into, and how did that make you feel?
  • and, most importantly, if you identify as one of the two categories who resist outer expectation – the Questioners and the Rebels – how has that influenced the way you have either got sober, or are finding it difficult to get sober? do you have any recommendations for others who share such qualities?

I am aware that people who resist or do not need outer accountability may be the least likely to be reading sober blogs, likely to take a quiz or to answer questions about it 🙂 that’s the joy of us all being different, yes?!

have a smashing day, and don’t let anyone put you in a box if you don’t want to be in one!

Prim xx

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pretty sure I’m the one on the bottom right in this gif.

 

On a clear morning

I’m pretty sure I reblogged Laura’s one year post, or at least linked to it. Here’s her two year post.

You need to read it.

I needed to read it, too.

Prim xx

In Others' Words...

Can you imagine the hopelessness of trying to live a spiritual life when you’re secretly looking up at the skies not for illumination or direction, but to gauge, miserably, the odds of rain?
Anne Lamott

I lived in Seattle for more than a decade.  When you live in the Pacific Northwest you develop a nuanced relationship with the weather.  Most people seem to have the impression that it pours there all the time.  Not so, PNW rookies.  Not so.  It rains a little bit almost every single day for nine months out of the year.  Lots of gloom. Meteorologists in the Northwest are prone to saying things like, “It’ll be a brighter grey today.”

I always loved that.

As usual, this morning I woke up long before the alarm at what Favorite is prone to calling, “stupid o’clock.”  I stretched.  I waited for my eyes to focus and adjust to…

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