If I’m ever going to survive becoming a sober person, I know that I have to learn self-care. It is absolutely essential that I figure out how to make time for me. I realize that alcohol plays for me, like it does for so many others, a role in giving myself an excuse to take a break from other things; to relax, to decompress, to numb out. So now what am I doing with that time I would have been spending on drinking?
Well unfortunately, I’m not so good at relaxing without drinking. I’m not so good at taking a break from the to-do list, the chores, working. In fact, it seems that quitting drinking made me all of sudden think I needed to throw myself into more of the get more duties or work done mentality, instead of building in self-care time. Hmm, I don’t know, kind of seems this might be just as unhealthy as the drinking was, right? My husband even has gotten on me saying, “Well that’s great that you aren’t drinking, but it seems like all you’ve done is replace it with working and doing chores and you seem stressed out. Why don’t you make some time for yourself even if you do have a day where you don’t get as much done around the house or with work?”
He’s right. I mean I do dream up how nice it might be to schedule a massage for myself, or just nestle into the bed for a nap or reading a good book, or going and finding a new place to go on a hike, but rarely do these things ever happen. I am constantly plagued with wondering whether I’ve gotten enough done, whether I could squeeze more time in the day to work harder, more efficiently, be more productive. I find myself feeling extremely guilty if I don’t feel like I got enough done. I think I always feel like I didn’t get enough done. The sad thing is, I am of course more productive these days at getting things done and more work done now that I’m not wasting time drinking or laying around hungover, but that negative Nancy in me just keeps shouting in my ear that it’s not good enough and why haven’t I gotten more accomplished?
But of course, this is obviously part of why I drank in the first place, as I’m sure many, many, many others out there who have this drinking problem also do. To shut up that anxious, over-worrying, OCD, perfectionist voice always trying to shame me into thinking I can do better, I can do more. Drinking was my ESCAPE from myself, from my anxiety, from my shame (even though once I was back to semi-recovering from drinking usually the next morning – I’d be weighted down with even worse anxiety and worse guilt – thus the vicious cycle most of us know where you count down the time til you can get that next drink in to escape all these negative feelings on top of negative feelings again).
I have to get on top of this anxiety thing. I have to get on top of this guilt thing. I have to do it a sober, mindful way. I have to repair some old toxic ways of thinking that stem all the way back from being a kid. Toxic, learned behaviors from some of the adults in my life. I have to build in healthy quiet reflection time for myself. Find the outlets that help me stay the course on my sobriety journey but also help me learn to not beat myself up when I take time for self-care. Time management, maybe a course or book on time management! Part of the anxiety thing is feeling like I don’t know how to balance the different priorities in the right way. Part of the anxiety is not taking the steering wheel and saying this is what I think is enough time to spend on this activity and this is what I think is too much time to spend on this activity. Part of sobriety is very much about learning how to love and take care of yourself without feeling the need to have alcohol to do it for you and to also have the wherewithal to acknowledge when you need a break from everything else too and just be.
I know that I am still in the early days of just floundering about in my new sober skin, learning how to feel comfortable with myself, my emotions. I know I have figured out some things that have helped me so far, even though I know I can also be so wishy-washy about sticking with doing positive things and sometimes just let myself languish in an irritable, whoa is me mentality instead of getting my butt in gear on finding solutions to a healthier lifestyle where I find tools and resources, activities and exercises to strengthen my anxiety deflector, to pump up my self-confidence and pride in myself.
A reminder to myself of things that have been helpful and to not give up on these things, even if I don’t always feel like doing them.
Getting out in Nature – It doesn’t even have to be anywhere super special. Back to the local parks, walking trails, out along the James River. Walking around in the yard, kicking a ball back and forth, whatever it is to just get out of the house and get some fresh air. It can’t be underestimated what a walk can do for the soul, hearing the sounds of nature, seeing the beauty around you in nature. It’s soothing, it’s healing, it’s restorative. What a great way to spend a day, especially a weekend day in which typically I would have made the excuse that I deserved to spend getting very drunk and/or laying around hungover instead. I’m a parent and you know, maybe when it was just myself I had to feel ashamed for not getting out and about that was one thing. It gives me a little more motivation nowadays thinking of the shame I’ll feel if my poor daughter has to suffer through me being a crappy parent because I got too drunk or am too hungover for us to get out and do an activity and explore in nature.
Social Media Sharing – Sharing my story and sobriety journey on social media – My first and foremost love in the sober sharing world is the BOOM community. Hands down one of the best resources for finding lovely down-to-earth folks to open up to who will not judge you, who will love you and support you and share a wealth of resources with you.
I also have newly found inspiration in creating my own self-made quotes for sobriety overlayed on photographs I have taken for the backgrounds. I’m especially drawn to Instagram to share these, but I do have a Twitter and a Pinterest also. I made a Facebook page too but because I’m trying so hard to keep myself a bit unattached from people I know, I haven’t done much with it. I LOVE HAVING A PLACE TO GO TO SHARE THINGS, TO FIND OTHERS WHO ARE SHARING THEIR SOBRIETY JOURNEYS!!! It makes you feel a lot less alone in the world, for sure! It helps give you motivation to stay accountable to your journey.
A funny side note: I did initially try out Instagram a couple months ago, but when it tied to my phone contacts one day without me realizing it and a friend of my husband’s liked one of my posts, I got away from that profile and lay low for awhile. Hey he liked it right, so what’s the big deal? Well I freaked because I wasn’t really trying to put myself out there yet for people in our local social circles. I kind of felt the need to have some distance while I test the waters on how I talk about my sobriety journey and how I share it with people-seems much easier to find others out there in the world who aren’t super close to your life yet that understand what you’re going through and of course a lot of folks in my life are not on this same journey and don’t see a problem with their drinking, so it makes it a little harder to find courage to be so open with them about what I’m trying to do! Anyway, I finally gathered the courage to get back on and just be careful about not letting it tie to my location/contacts and wa-lah! I’ve been very much enjoying building up a tribe of folks to follow and who are following me for sobriety support.
Daily Devotionals – I’m really hit or miss with this one, but it never fails to help comfort me and give me guidance when I turn to some scripture or carve out some time for prayer. It’s funny how reading a daily devotional can feel like it’s really speaking to me at times in what I’m going through at that particular moment, especially when I’m feeling particularly downtrodden or discouraged. Today was a good example when I was going through a weekly devotional book I have and the topic for the week was the following:
In regards to the part where it says when following God/faith feels like a burden and being quick to reach for something or someone else it instructs, “Take a moment to reflect on who or what that may be.” I did take a moment to reflect on what it is that I’m quick to reach for and no big surprise, ding, ding, ding! Well my original go-to was of course alcohol and cigs. But now that I don’t have those, it’s distracting myself in a negative way by working too much or throwing myself into housework. I do need to release myself from “needing” to stay busy. What I need is to learn to sit quietly, mindfully, peacefully with myself and my thoughts. I need to learn to take a breather and be comfortable sitting with my thoughts, even if they are anxious, even if they are sad, even if they are irritable, even if they are euphoric, even if they are WHATEVER! I need to learn to stop running from myself and my feelings and be present!
Gratitude Journal – I mean really truly, this one is a no-brainer that if you spend some time jotting down a few things, even if it’s just taking a few minutes to do this in the morning and/or evening, it really does help boost your happiness a little to think of what you have to be grateful for, things that you may not have given yourself the time to even acknowledge or notice. Learning to be more aware of those moments in your day can be the best medicine to rolling through some of the tougher moments. Sometimes that’s hard to keep at the forefront when your mind is being consumed with what you perceive as all the burdens weighing down on you like a ton of bricks that you’re sure you’ll never be able to shake off, that surely no one understands what you have to deal with and what crap you’ve been dealt and how hard your life is and how isolating it feels. This unexpected life circumstance, this loved one who died, that bill that you might have to wait to pay, that part on the car that needs fixing, this person who seems to be blowing you off, this bad behavior your child is testing you with, blah, blah, blah, the list of negatives could go on and on if that’s how you choose to look at it.
Every Single One of Us in the World Could Go This Route. Every Single One. It’s all enough to make you feel like F**K it, I’m ready to go have a drink and not think about it anymore, right? Because you know, a drink really will solve everything won’t it? A drink really will help that anxiety, that miserableness you’re wallowing in… Funny how many times you can trick yourself into believing it will.
Now a gratitude journal, it doesn’t solve everything, it doesn’t give you a quick fix right then and there for everything, but taking that time to acknowledge what did go right in your day, what little moments you had even in a day that felt all wrong that were beautiful and inspirational, can help nourish your soul a bit through the rough patches. I’m willing to bet it’ll do a better job in the end than the drinking will. Also, you’ll have something tangible to go back and hold in your hand and look at and review the past entries when you need some extra encouragement to battle against those toxic circular whoa is me thoughts. Almost anyone, anywhere can find these moments if they keep an open heart and mind to them, regardless of what it feels like life has been flinging at you. It’s all in one’s perspective. We can all either choose to focus in on the bad, or we can choose to focus in on the good. Life does have both occurring, even if you tend towards the victim mentality who lets the negative things be more pronounced.