And the Resentments Just Keep on Coming

When I was doing my step work, I remember writing letter after letter after letter about how and when I was “wronged” and how I felt about it.  As with most people, that was probably the most cathartic work I’ve ever done (the jury is still out on the sexual abuse therapy).  Pouring all of that out onto a page and then talking about it with my sponsor was liberating.  I gained so much freedom during that time.  I was cleansed.

What I didn’t realize was that the work of dealing with resentments is an ongoing thing.  Step work is meant to help you heal and also to give you the tools that help you live in the world without the crutch of alcohol.  (I almost typed “like normal people” in that sentence until I realized that nothing could be further from the truth…everyone deals with this shit.)  I think that’s why people go through the steps many times in the program.  The work is never really finished.  Life goes on and we go on with it.

I’m thinking about all of this because I’m dealing with a whole heap of resentment that has spent the better part of the last year rolling around in my head and belly and making me sick AND I don’t know what to do about it.  Unlike my former resentments, this individual is still alive and on the fringe of my life.  I see her and speak with her from time to time and every damn time it feels like a knife in my gut.

I’ve prayed about this – a lot.  I’ve discussed it with the hubs and the boys and my daughter and I still can’t seem to let it go.  I’ve written emails pouring out my feelings only to delete them all before hitting send.  I thought just by writing it down I’d be able to release it into the universe and let it go.

Not so much.

Here’s why I’m struggling.  Old Sherry would have had no trouble calling a “meeting” and talking about it woman to woman, face to face.  I’d spill the venom all over her and then wait for my apology.  If it came, great, we could repair our relationship.  If not, good riddance to bad rubbish.  I didn’t care if it hurt the other person because I knew how healthy it was to clear the air and confront my issues head on.  If we couldn’t do this then we didn’t need to be friends anyway.

Yeah…I know.

I never stopped to think that, perhaps, the pain I was inflicting was exponentially greater than the pain I was feeling.  I never stopped to think if the carnage and collateral damage was really worth the price of my uncensored honesty.  I just knew that I was in pain and, being a balls to the wall bad ass, I had to confront it and drive it from my soul.

But now…hmmm…now I’m in recovery.  Now I’m learning that feelings are just feelings and they should be honored within my soul rather than banished (read…stuffed down).  Now I’m learning to weigh the cost of bringing this issue from May of last year into the light of this slushy, cold February.  What purpose would it serve?  She’s not even aware that the issue exists and she’s happy – why in the world would I ruin that?  Shouldn’t I be the bigger person and let it go?  Why do I feel like talking about this with her would be akin to punishment?  Do I want to punish her?

No…I don’t want to punish her.  I don’t even think I want an apology because apologies are hollow unless filled with the why.  What I want is to know why.  Why did you behave this way?  Why did you hurt me?  Was I being punished?

What I do know is that I’m sick to death of thinking about it.  Sick to death of it creeping it’s way into my head and making me cry.  Sick to death of dealing with an issue that, on the surface looks petty and unimportant but in my heart feels like a lead weight that is tethering me to the past and won’t let me go.

Being a grownup sucks sometimes.  When I was a little girl and my feelings were hurt, I would go to the offender and say, “You hurt my feelings.”  Then that person would say, “I’m sorry.”  I’d say, “Okay, you want to play?”  And just like that, we’d move on.

I would really like to move on.

Namaste

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54 at 54 Friday Update – Week 2

Down 1 pound…right on target.  If I can maintain a one pound per week loss then I will reach my goal (or just 2 lbs shy – big whup) by the end of the year.  To me, that not only feels doable, it feels peaceful.  Still a quiet determination.

I’m reading another book, It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell.  Here’s the Amazon description:

“A heartbreakingly honest, endearing memoir of incredible weight loss by a young food blogger who battles body image issues and overcomes food addiction to find self-acceptance.

All her life, Andie Mitchell had eaten lustily and mindlessly. Food was her babysitter, her best friend, her confidant, and it provided a refuge from her fractured family. But when she stepped on the scale on her twentieth birthday and it registered a shocking 268 pounds, she knew she had to change the way she thought about food and herself; that her life was at stake.

It Was Me All Along takes Andie from working class Boston to the romantic streets of Rome, from morbidly obese to half her size, from seeking comfort in anything that came cream-filled and two-to-a-pack to finding balance in exquisite (but modest) bowls of handmade pasta. This story is about much more than a woman who loves food and abhors her body. It is about someone who made changes when her situation seemed too far gone and how she discovered balance in an off-kilter world. More than anything, though, it is the story of her finding beauty in acceptance and learning to love all parts of herself.”

While Ted Spiker’s book Down Size showed me a way to reach my goals by uncovering my own truths and facing my sexual abuse head on (that’s an entirely different post that I will address…sometime), Andie’s book has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to make peace with food and the role it has in my life.

Like her, I have never had a normal relationship with food.  Food has never been just sustenance for me.  While I don’t emotionally feel I’m using (and have used) food for comfort and to numb my feelings, intellectually I know that this is the case and her book helped to confirm it for me.  All I can say is thank God I found a great therapist because working through all of this may take a while.

From her alcoholic father (that hit so close to home I had to put down the book from time to time and catch my breath) to her obsessive calorie counting and exercise to her battle with undiagnosed depression, her journey is my journey.  I hope mine turns out as well as hers.  Thank you Andie.

And, TA-DA, my treadmill arrived this morning!!!!  My husband and son are going to put it together for me today and I’ll walk/run on it for the first time tonight.  I am SO EXCITED!!!  I’ll post a pic of my baby as soon as I can.  😉

Finally, I ordered a wellness journal from Amazon which, coincidentally (?) is due to arrive today as well.  I’m going to use it to set small, attainable goals (as well as the big one at the end of the year) and also record my workouts and food and moods to see if any patterns emerge.  I’ll let you know if I uncover anything.

Happy Friday!

Namaste

PS – If you’re interested in following Andie, she blogs at Can You Stay for Dinner.

Put Down the Rope

I’m baaaaaaack!!!

My hiatus is over and I’m back and feeling ready to write!  I know because the “feelings journal” I’ve been keeping for the therapist is turning into way more words than pictures.  When I hit a full-page of just writing – I knew I had to start posting again.

Again – this shit is cheap therapy and you guys are the best therapists there are.

Speaking of therapy (nice segue don’t you think) I adore my new therapist and I think the combination of me being really ready to do the work and him being a good fit for me is my ticket to a little peace of mind.  The key to it all will, of course, be whether or not I can be brutally honest with him AND myself.

Time will tell.

For  now however, I wanted to share an “ah-ha” moment I had the other day because…well…it rocked my psyche.  For reals yo.  Like most alcoholics, I have that little voice in my head that is constantly telling me I’m not good enough.  Couple that with depression that brings on its own version of self deprecation and it’s no wonder when I look in the mirror I really don’t like what I see…let alone love.

So I’m talking through this when Joe uses a tug of war analogy.  He says that it feels to him like my “monster” is on the other side of the rope and that I’m constantly trying to “beat” it and win the tug of war.  I pull and pull and sometimes I get ahead and sometimes the monster gets ahead but the bottom line is no one ever wins.  He said, “Have you ever tried to put down the rope?”

I stopped, shut my face and just stared at him for what seemed like 10 solid minutes but was probably more like 10 solid seconds.  Then I said, “But that feels like quitting…or failure.”  (This would be the part in a TV show where the soulful music plays and we fade to commercial on a shot of my face.  I do have a flair for the dramatic don’t you think?)

Anyway, we chatted a little longer, he gave me some homework and I left.  And ever since I haven’t been able to get that conversation out of my mind.

Put down the rope.

Just put down the rope.

Hmmm…

The bottom line is that this whole tug of war thing is actually a fight with myself.  A version of me on one side of the rope and a different version on the other side.  There are no winners or losers.  Either way I win and lose.

Well when you put it that way I look like a fucking idiot if I don’t put down the damn rope.

THEN I started thinking about the version of me on the other side of the tug of war pit.  The first visual that popped into my head was a four-year old version of me.  A version with ratty hair and a dirty face and filthy clothes.  A little girl who no one cares for or loves. 

This little girl has never been cared for properly and has never been taught to express herself correctly.  As such, when she’s upset, or frightened, lonely or feeling too much she says things like, “You’re ugly!”  “You’re fat!”  “I hate you!”  “No fair!”  And all of those other things four-year olds say when they are trying to tell you how they feel but don’t have the words.

Because they are four.  Because they are me…at four…who never progressed beyond that because no one taught me HOW to process those emotions in a healthy way.  So I stuffed them down and that little girl got angrier and more frustrated and no matter how I tried to externally soothe her (food, alcohol, shopping, chocolate) she remained in there waiting till the time she could start her temper tantrum once again.

A 49 year temper tantrum.

Fighting her never worked.  It just left me exhausted and unhappy.  Arguing with her never worked.  It just left me confused.  (Have you ever tried to reason with or argue with a four-year old?  Yeah.)  So why not try something new?

This past week I’ve been practicing putting down the rope.  I’ve been meditating on loving this child of mine.  For now just walking with her hand in mine, building a relationship and establishing trust.  It feels wonderful.  I’m letting my caring side take over and treating her the way I’d treat any four-year old.  With compassion and kindness. 

With love.

Now THAT’s progress people.

Namaste

Self Care

Google the term “self-care”.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

If you’re like me, reading just the first page of my Google results has my mind spinning.

Wikipedia

“Self care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development. In terms of health maintenance, self care is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease. A holistic health approach is common in self care.”  Wait…what?

PsychCentral

“Self-care is a touchy subject. That’s because our society largely views self-care as selfish, slothful and overly indulgent.

Yet, it’s anything but. Taking good care of yourself not only makes your life more fulfilling and contributes to your well-being, but it also extends to others.”  That’s fine…but HOW?

Student Health Center of NC State University

“Self care is active participation in enhancing the quality of your health. Some people may think that nurturing the self is only for the fragile, the weak-willed, or the slacker–it certainly couldn’t be for strong, ambitious college men and women. However, it is a vital part of maintaining good health and a vibrant life. It’s not just an occasional manicure, “chilling out” or a six-pack. Building up a repertoire of reliable self care habits now can affect your quality of life both now and in the future.”  How do you know it’s not the occasional manicure?  Who makes up these rules?

Images

Arenas of Self-Care.  I’m dizzy.

  This just pisses me off.

  Tell me something I don’t know.

Self care has become kitchy and cute.  A trendy catch phrase.  “Don’t bother me now.  Mommy is practicing self care.”  Which leave the little ones thinking, “What the fuck is that?  I just want a cookie.”

Well foul mouthed little one, I don’t know.  And neither does your mommy really.  Because the thing about catch phrases and trendy “of the moment” practices is that they are worn out.  Everybody is doing it which means that everybody has an opinion about how you should be doing it and why.  While that might be fine for the mother of four who just needs a moment to herself before she starts dinner or the single woman who’s been on too many dates recently and needs to step back and regroup or the man who has taken on too many jobs and needs to get some clarity; but a simple catch phrase or sign or buzz word ain’t gonna cut it for a recovering alcoholic who is trying to hold on to her sanity with her expertly applied acrylic nails.

Thing is…I’ve been thinking that I WAS practicing self-care.  My family offers me all the time I need to “have a moment” or grab a manicure or soak in a tub (which I will not do because I hate baths…but I digress).  I’ve read more that I care to remember about how to “forgive myself” or “let go” and still I struggle.  (I have however ordered Brene’s book you all recommeded and I will read it when it arrives.  For some reason I felt the need to actual hold this book in my hand and put it on my shelf.)

So just what IS self care anyway?

One thing I’ll say for Psyche Central is that yes, it is a touchy subject.  Anytime I do anything for myself I’m filled with guilt.  But if I knew that what I was doing was actually going to work, I could handle the guilt.  I am a firm believer that I’m no good to anybody if I’m not well.  It’s how I got sober.  During that first year or two, I felt absolutely no guilt for doing whatever I had to do to get and stay alcohol free.  I plowed through like the Mother Fucking Sober Warrior Ninja that I am and laid carnage to whatever or whoever got in my way.

But now my attempts at self-care feel selfish and indulgent.  Why?  Because they don’t work.  They’re attacking the issue from the outside and, as Ellie said, this is an inside job.  Manicures and shopping trips and time alone with my thoughts are not the answer.  Manicures are a necessity.  Shopping trips are dangerous to an “aholic” like me who is in crisis. (Is that what this is…a crisis?).  Time alone with my thoughts is ridiculous right now when all I can do is think about disaster and dying and wallow in my depression.

The self-care I need has to come from inside and I don’t know how to do that.  I don’t know how to make that mind-body-spirit thing connect and, more importantly, I don’t know how to keep it connected when I do manage to accidentally connect to the mother ship.  It feels like when the lights go off in a thunderstorm and the power company is working to restore them.  First they flicker, then they come on for a few minutes only to go off again and dissappoint.  Getting those lights to stay ON is what I need to do.

Except that I don’t WANT to.  Right now self-care to me feels like eating comfort food and sitting around watching trash TV.  It feels like cooking and baking for my family and not facing the outside world.  It feels like redecorating my home to remind me of the beach where I feel most connected but have been away from for four years.  It feels like flying to Oklahoma or driving to Maryland to be with my children and grandchildren who reaffirm my reason for being.

Here’s the thing though…that is the selfish and self indulgent kind of self care.  On the surface it looks to the rest of the trendsetters like that is exactly what I should be doing.  But those of us who have been to hell and back know that those things are outside things and, once again, this is an inside job.

I have never been naive enough to believe that recovery was a “once done” thing.  I’ve always known it was an ongoing process.  What I didn’t count on was all the shit that created this place I’m in now being this hard to overcome.  Who knew I would just go through life trading one addiction for another all the while declaring that I was FINE until I reached bottom and realized that, guess what, I am not fine.  I’m not fine AT ALL.  I am sober.  I don’t smoke.  I try to eat well.  I control my spending habits.  I don’t sleep around.

But I am most definitely not fine.

The thing is, my body and subconscious know when I’m lying to them.  Stress and the act of stuffing down emotions manifests itself for me through depression.  Back before anti-depressants my hair used to fall out or I’d break out in a rash.  Now that I’m medicated it just comes through as a deeper depression.  Like a little Sherry way down deep who’s been yelling and yelling and has finally grabbed a microphone and a sub-woofer and started screaming – ALL IS NOT WELL HERE DUMBASS!!!!!

Dang – I hear you…you don’t have to yell.

Namaste

Failure May Very Well Be An Option

Since my post the other day about the “A” word, I’ve been thinking a lot about why that word bothers me so much when I apply it to myself.  I have nothing but compassion (and maybe a little pity) for other alcoholics.  What’s the problem with just saying it out loud…to the world?  Why can’t I have the same compassion for myself that I feel for other addicts?

So I sat with the feeling a little while and tried to dissect it.  (Get me!  Using all my recovery tools like I know what I’m doing!)  I let the feeling settle.  I got very quiet until the reason popped into my head like one of those old MTV pop-ups.

Failure.

Whoa…back this train up a sec.  What did I just hear in my head?

F. A. I. L. U. R. E.

Shit.  That’s what I thought I heard.

The longer I sat with that one word, the more I realized that it was exactly why I was having trouble (and may always have trouble) with calling myself an alcoholic…even though SURVEY SAYS!!!!…I am most certainly an alcoholic and always have been an alcoholic.  (Let’s play a fitness game shall we?  Every time Sherry says the word “alcoholic” in this post, do 20 squats. That ought to help with that April challenge.)

Then I got all analytical on myself because…well because it’s what I do.

Why do I feel this way?

That, friends and neighbors, is the question.  Let’s examine the facts as we know them.

  1. We all know I grew up the child of an alcoholic.  I loved my father fiercely but I did not like what his alcoholism did to our family and to me.
  2. My mother was a train wreck that not only could not feel unconditional love, she couldn’t express it either.
  3. My extended family on my mother’s side – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. were also a fucked up mess and could have benefited greatly from some deep, soul-searching therapy.
  4. My extended family on my father’s side was either narcissistic, alcoholic or had divorced themselves from the family long ago (guess I should have taken that as a sign – I always liked those people).
  5. In short, I come from a long line of losers.  Some of them loveable but all of them a hot mess.

I grew up knowing that I was different.  That I wanted to be somebody separate and apart from these people.  I set about to make myself different.  I took control.  I took care of everyone and everything.  I dressed differently.  I spoke differently.  I carried myself differently.  Most importantly, I believed that I was different…better even.

And it worked!  It was a crock of shit but it worked!  I crafted a successful, well-educated, articulate and loving human being.  I have a lovely home, amazing husband and relationship, fulfilling career (for the most part) and six of the most wonderful offspring on the planet.  More importantly, they are growing up to be healthy and happy as well and have begun raising their own kids.  Look at me!  I’m not a loser!  I didn’t FAIL. 

But I forgot one, very important thing.  Genetics don’t give a flying rat’s ass what you think of yourself or how much you’ve worked to separate yourself from the fray.  If you’re born predisposed to alcoholism (it counts…start squatting) then guess what – if you drink then one day you’re going to wake up and say to yourself, “I think I have a problem.”  And you’ll be right.

For me…that spelled a failure of epic proportions.  How could I, the “good” one, the “successful” one, the “stuck up” one (that’s my sister talking) have let myself get this way?  How could I have lost control like that?  After all the promises I made to myself about how I wasn’t going to torture my family the way my father tortured us could I have let this happen?   OH MY GOD!  I’m one of THEM! 

I failed.

The problem is that children of dysfunctional homes that have taken on the control freak-care-giver-grow-up-way-too-fast persona (there’s usually one) don’t fail well.  We do not tolerate mistakes in ourselves.  We MUST be number one at all costs.  Things MUST be perfect in our lives.  Our houses must be clean.  Our children must be well-behaved and well-dressed and get perfect grades.  We must excel at school, work and every single activity we put on our plate. 

WE MUST SUCCEED.

And if we don’t?

Well then we fail don’t we?

I failed.  I succumbed.  I lost control.  I suck.

I became an alcoholic. (Squat)

But wait sports fans!  Sherry would never end a post with negativity like that!

Hate to disappoint you but this time she will.  After all, I just figured this out.  Believe it or not this concept of alcoholic=failure just popped into my pea-brain.  Why, you ask?  Well because I never thought of alcoholics as failures.  I never looked at my father and thought, “Dude…you failed!”  On the contrary, at some base level I knew he couldn’t help it – that he was an addict and that it had him in its grips.  He may not have been a great man but he was no failure.  He was simply an alcoholic.

So why can’t think of myself in the same way?  Why can’t I have that same level of compassion for myself?

I’ll have to get back to you on that one.  Besides, my butt cheeks are cramping up from all these squats I’ve been doing.

Namaste

Why I Love My Ink

I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was 45.  As I’ve said before…it was a mid-life thing (assuming I live to be 90).  It was cheaper than a sports car or plastic surgery and way less damaging than an affair.  I got a simple Om symbol in the small of my back (yes…tramp stamp).  I chose that spot because it was the place least likely to change regardless of what my body did as I aged…when I die at 90 it would be mostly recognizable.  In addition, the symbol had, and continues to have a deep, spiritual meaning for me.  My life was in the shitter at the time and I needed something.  I expected it to help…it did…a little.

What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with all things ink.  When I grew up the only people who had or got tattoos were bikers, sailors, gang bangers or trashy women.  To have a tattoo meant that you were part of the dregs of society and any friends I had that got tattoos at 18 or so, were in the process of having theirs removed while I was going under the needles.  But the art was evolving and I was fascinated.  I wanted something that was private and just mine (at my age there wasn’t any danger of my thong and tat peeking out of my jeans at a party) and my new art filled the bill.  I was in love.

So much so that I planned and thought about my next piece almost immediately.  I had my daughter (the artist) design something around my Om symbol that would not only add color but make it more meaningful.  Around my symbol she drew six cherry blossoms (for each of my kids), five little buds (for each of the grandkids) all of which paid homage to my hometown, Washington, DC.  In my 50th year I had that one inked on my back during a business trip to Orlando.  I got lucky and the artist did a wonderful job but thinking back, I should have waited and done some research…it could have gone very, very wrong.

By then I was watching Miami Ink, LA Ink, InkMaster, Best Ink, and any other tattoo show that came on TV.  I love hearing the stories of why people want to change their bodies permanently and I love watching these amazing artists do their work.  Some are silly and irresponsible while others are joyful and celebrate life.  Then there are those that are sad and pay homage to loved ones lost.  Some are ill placed (neck and hand tattoos????? risky) while others are hidden so well only that “special” person and the owner will ever see them.  All are fairly expensive and the really good ones by the really great ones are sometimes actually cost prohibitive. 

The one I saw that truly changed my opinion of tattoos forever was a picture in a magazine of a woman who had a radical mastectomy on both breasts and was left with horrible disfiguring scars.  Instead of attempting reconstruction (always a deeply personal decision) she had the most beautiful tattoo done over her chest and under her arms to her back.  It was breathtaking and for a moment, you didn’t see the scars…only the art.  That’s when I realized the impact tattoos could have.

The most important tattoo I have is the one I got about a year into my sobriety.  I got my sober date (1/7/10) tattooed on the inside of my right wrist…my “drinking” hand.  That tattoo served many purposes.  First it served as a constant reminder of what I was fighting for.  Second it was like a talisman…guiding me through the tough times.  And finally, it was a reminder that if I picked up, having it removed was going to be expensive and hurt like a sonofabitch!  Let’s just say that simple, quick and inexpensive tattoo served its purpose.

I have a swirly hard to read tat on my right ankle that says “Let Go”.  My friend and I got them together and they match.  Whenever I’m having trouble remembering that I’m not in charge…I think of that little piece of ink.  It works.

Finally, I recently decided that my sober date had served it’s purpose and it was time to move forward and stop looking back.  I now have four cherry blossoms covering that date and the words “Be Still” in my favorite font below it.

It also reminds me that I’m not in charge..

“Be still and know that I am God…” ~ Psalm 46:10

What’s next?  Only time, money and my impulsiveness will tell.

Namaste