Agent of Change

One of the most wonderful people I know, a true Soul Sister, is full of wisdom. We hike together on Tuesday mornings each week. We share our thoughts, our ideas, our lives. We partake in fascinating conversations about our personal journeys and the state of our world. Our spiritual beliefs are in alignment, and our world view, our philosophies of life, are in sync. We have known each other for well over two decades and the level of ease and comfort we feel is sublime. She is someone to whom I can say anything, someone I go to when there is something I need to work through. I cherish her. The world needs more friendships like ours- uplifting, fulfilling, delightful. Our Tuesday morning hikes on the gorgeous trail where we meet have been renamed Tuesday Trail Therapy. Post-hike I feel refreshed, filled with new wisdom, encouraged, enlightened, inspired. I love Tuesday mornings!

This friend has a wonderful way of looking at difficult situations, and has helped me see my challenges at work from a new perspective. She states that we are Agents of Change. She has had several experiences in business and other engagements where there was conflict, negativity, cattiness, backstabbing, lack of leadership, mismanagement. We have that in common, the frustration of having been a manager who creates by empowering, bringing out the very best in our teams, making a real difference by sifting through the rough to find each person’s pearl. We have each found ourselves in situations where the seeming opposite is the style. She helps me work through my irritations and disappointments in my current circumstances. Yesterday, I had another encounter that sent me fuming, and fortunately, once I stopped spewing about how upset the attack on my character made me feel, I remembered what Janice often states: “I am an Agent of Change.” She calls our placement in these predicaments “A Divine Assignment”.

Sometimes we are placed in an environment to impact that environment in the most positive way possible merely by showing up as our best selves, by being an Influencer, an Uplifter, a Light that shines to remind others of their light. Sometimes we put ourselves in a place where we learn by growing, where we encounter struggle and difficulty so we can become stronger, more resilient, wiser, develop a tougher skin. Both describe my current role of employment. When one of the management team verbally attacked me yesterday with her words of disempowerment and criticism of my social nature, I wanted to take her down. She is young and green and has no idea what it means to lead people, and although I know this, it drives me to intense frustration. I realize I should not share my heart with someone like that, but every once in awhile I forget and hear myself saying something that I can’t rewind and undo.

Yesterday I was upset about something that happens on a regular basis where I work. We have a large and loyal wine club whose members come in often to partake of the incredible wines and environment. They happily bring their family and friends, and love to stay for a couple of hours. They naturally expect to be treated like royalty and we honor that, as they are the foundation and main support of the winery. Yesterday I took immaculate, well above-and-beyond-care of a large group of wine club members who had brought in their kids for the first time. A lot of my day involves teaching, story telling, sharing details and interesting facts about the history, the family, and the wines. It means I put out a huge amount of energy, effort and time with each group. It is typical for a group to stay for two hours as they experience an elevated exposure to this high level of wine tasting and education. Nearly every party tells me how much they loved their time with me and how much they appreciate all I share and the generosity I show them. This particular party was very happy, acknowledged that I had given them the royal treatment as they remained in their section for at least two hours. They left without leaving a dime. Many people don’t know that in the service industry, at least in this part of the world, our wages are barely above the minimum. At this winery there is no commission on sales, so our income is our tips. Many people are under the false belief that we are well paid, compensated in commissions, or somehow make our living without their generosity – and this confounds me and my colleagues. It would be wonderful if the company supported us by somehow expressing how much we depend on and appreciate tips, but I guess they see that as unprofessional. It is somewhat devastating to receive nothing in return for giving exceptional service. I know that one of the great lessons I need to learn further is to not take anything personally, to let irritants roll off my back like water off a duck. Not easy for this highly sensitive soul! And not easy when tips are how I pay my bills.

I made the mistake of sharing (with the wrong person) my sadness and irritation about being left with nothing by this group, as they were most of my afternoon potential for income. I lamented that they didn’t even leave me a penny-and I shared this with a person who turned it all around as an opportunity to criticize me for expressing myself. This is typical of her, she is insensitive and has a tendency to offend. I see it now as yet another example that I am there as an Agent of Change. I can learn to stay happy and bright even with the negative energy I receive. I can also learn to keep my mouth shut! There are a few people I can honestly share with, a select few, and I need to remember to only share my frustrations in private with them. The Universe always puts people in our paths who are our greatest teachers, and I suppose it would behoove me greatly to say THANK YOU to each and every one of these teachers but dangit, sometimes growth isn’t any fun at all.

I came home from my work day to drink several delicious mocktails and was treated to a wonderful dinner out, my first since all of COVID. In conversation and sharing about my day, I received unconditional support, compassion, and empathy concerning the aforementioned situation. Not everyone in my world likes me, or cares about me, or sees me as I want to be seen, but I am beyond grateful to have those in my life who do see me, know me, understand me, love me. Waking up early this morning I felt inspired, hopeful, eager, filled with the joy of vitality. Sober living has brought me to new heights of awareness of who I am, what makes me tick, my purpose in life. Maybe I am in the “Pink Cloud” of early sober-euphoria, but that doesn’t mean I have to worry and fret that it will end. I am learning the meaning of mindfulness on a whole new level, and I choose to appreciate this moment- right here, right now, to the fullest. Let’s have a mocktail toast to living the good life! We Agents of Change are needed to heal our hurting world. When we show up as the best version of ourselves in each of our relationships, when we are able to share our love, our hearts, at the highest level, we have an exponentially positive affect on the entire world. As we live our best lives, we influence others to do the same. Here’s to the sweet life: may we live it, feel it, appreciate it, create it!

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

I have joined a handful of sober FaceBook groups in which I am quite engaged. I interact with other people on the journey of sobriety, some enjoying long term extended sobriety, others brand new to the sober life. My favorite FaceBook group, the one I frequent more than any other, is The Alcohol Experiment https://learn.thisnakedmind.com/the-alcohol-experiment-registrationThe Alcohol Experiment, one of Annie Grace’s (This Naked Mind) creations. Annie gets the most credit for my decision to stop drinking. Annie has a clear and straightforward yet incredibly kind and compassionate style of informing us of all the ups and downs, truths and lies, and most of all the raw data, the science, behind addiction. I highly recommend her book and other works if you are looking for a really solid source to help guide you on this path.

Day to day in these groups, there are posts from participants lamenting that they are back to “Day 1”. “Woe is me”, they say, disgusted with themselves, full of shame as they detail all the drama of why they fell off the wagon. Again. I feel great compassion for these people, I know it’s so hard to slay The Booze Bitch. We all have to find a “why” that matters more than drinking, something that we want more than we want to drink. For me, that something is vitality. I have a business (www.ActiveChick.com) I know, I know, a shameless plug! that I cherish. She is my baby, my dream, my pride and joy. Active Chick was stunted in her growth over a seven year period for many reasons, the main cause being a business partnership that wasn’t working, and I take 50% responsibility for why it was dysfunctional. Active Chick was birthed several years ago from my desire to share my passion for vitality, connection, contribution, inspiration, environmentalism, giving back – all those ‘best life’ values. When I last drank, 80 days ago, I didn’t even enjoy a single drop of it. I made myself three margaritas that I slammed down because I was looking for the buzz, but the buzz came and went with zero joy, zero uplifting, zero pleasure. I felt annoyed and wildly disappointed. What the hell was I doing? I was completely addicted to pouring booze into my body to make myself feel better, when it only made me feel awful. Sure, the first drink tasted good, but I grew to resent the buzz, the effect on my brain. I no longer liked feeling numb or altered. I wanted to feel great again, like I had felt on and off throughout my entire life. There was no doubt whatsoever that I had to do something to change what was happening in my life. I wasn’t getting things done. I was procrastinating about even the smallest things, like bills that needed to be paid, clothes needing to be hung up in the closet, window sills needing a good dusting, decluttering my home. Mornings found me dragging, and solid sleep without anxiety and the devil’s twin depression, eluded me. I wasn’t as present with my loved ones as I could have been, because I was thinking about my next drink or recovering from the last. I had absolutely no ambition or motivation to write, to tackle any projects, to take good care of myself. I felt totally miserable.

As I read (or listen on Audible) the many amazing books written by courageous souls detailing their individual and very personal journey to sobriety, authors who put it all out on the table, I am beyond grateful that my story doesn’t include some of the tragedies that befell them. In some ways I am incredulous that I escaped severe consequences like an auto accident, getting a DUI, a hefty ticket for drinking while driving, or a myriad of other terrifying possibilities. Grace has accompanied me all of my life, I know I am indescribably lucky. I have always known that. I had a lot of conversations with myself that went something like “You have to stop doing this before your whole world collapses in a great big disastrous mess.” That’s what I would tell myself when I tucked myself into bed after a night of socializing out somewhere with friends, downing much more wine or other booze than I knew was okay before driving. I always seemed fine and thought I was until my vision was severely challenged by oncoming lights, and it was hard to see the road well, my focus out of whack.

We all have our own time to make the big decisions in life. Some of us just slide right down the slippery slope of addiction to the cesspool of homelessness, hopelessness, financial ruin, disaster, tragedy. I honestly can’t stop counting my blessings with surprise, awe, and enormous gratitude that I have been so fortunate to join the sober sphere while my entire life is still intact, the damage to my health still repairable, my mental health stabilized. I have so much more living to do, so much more contribution and growth lies ahead for me. My greatest hope is that all those folks who are experiencing yet another “Day 1” can find their way to the WHY that inspires them to make it to the promised land. Sober Island really is the most beautiful stretch of land I have ever seen in all my years. It is filled with authenticity, acceptance, compassion, openness, self love, boundless energy, and a fountain of joy that never stops flowing. I truly hope your WHY will lead you here, I would love to hug you and congratulate you on the biggest and best decision you could possibly make. And if you are already here, let’s get together for a mocktail! I am really developing a nice collection of herbal infused delicious drinks sans alcohol. I am having a blast!

Writers

Writing has been my greatest passion, the first love of my life, since age 4. Once I learned language, writing became my happy place. Writing is the source that allows me to show up in the world, it’s how I reach others, how I connect. Writing is my offering, my thank you to my Creator for this blessed life I have been given. When I am sad, I write about it in my journal. When I am angry, I express it in my writing. When I am fired up about something (often!), I write about it. When I am in full gratitude, I write about it. As a highly sensitive person, I feel things more deeply than most. When I hurt, it lands in my heart, taking away my breath, depleting me. I experience my emotions all the way to my core. When I am happy, the joy spills out of every cell in my body. My energy is tuned into the world’s energy, affected by everything. I have learned to protect my fragile heart, to be discerning, to set boundaries, to carefully choose the company I keep, to adhere to strict rules for myself about avoiding the immense negativity in the world. I do not partake or even observe voluntarily, violence, prejudice, harm to others-mine is a NO TV home. Writing is my mode of expression, my joy, my love, and my gift.

I hiked with my Bestie yesterday and we spoke about writing. She has created a magnificent program of guiding, encouraging, and supporting others to write their legacies, share their lives, their personal stories, for future and present generations to cherish and know them. I am wowed by her discipline and stick-to-itness, qualities I used to lack because drinking was always more fun, easier. The Great Escape. We discussed Writer’s Block and what can be done about it. I commented that The Artist’s Way https://juliacameronlive.com/the-artists-way/ is a wonderful method of releasing the obstacles of our minds that keep us from writing. As a recovering procrastinator (pretty much most of my life!), my Bestie knows I share many personality characteristics with some of the peeps in her group. It caused me to reminisce. I loved The Artist’s Way when I read and practiced it many years ago. Julia Cameron, Author, suggests “Morning Pages”, writing three free-flowing pages every morning in a spiral notebook, post meditation, of whatever is in our brains, letting it flow without judgment or editing. It never needs to be shared, or even re-read. This process allows the flow of words to empty from our busy brains. It is free of “shoulds” or “must dos” or any source of shame or judgment. The process of writing freely releases our creative juices. If you love to write like I do, and ever get stuck, lacking motivation, The Artists Way will facilitate the rebirth of creativity in your writing. It works for me.

I love books because I am enamored with eloquent writing. Some of my favorite people are Writers, starting with my father. My sons are both magnificent writers, they definitely received the gift. I am thankful for my love of language, my skill at learning foreign languages, and my devotion to sharing who I am with the world. I appreciate so much all of you who read my meanderings and especially those who are following me. My journey of sobriety has been the hardest, the most challenging, the biggest, and ultimately the answer to my search for all the joy I was seeking. I have never felt more alive, more raw, more excited, more in alignment with my truest self, ever. Sobriety is extremely underrated. Drinking to find pleasure where it has been buried is an illusion. It is my greatest hope that I can be a source of support and inspiration to anyone questioning whether they are harming themselves and their lives by their drinking. If you are asking that question, you know the answer. Join me on Sobriety Road. The view is amazing, the air is pure, the people are spectacular. Take my hand and we’ll leap across the chasm to the other side of The Booze Bitch’s hell. The island awaits and I know the route! It is full of authenticity, empowerment, energy, productivity, love. Let’s DO this!

The Overflow

I guess this is the Honeymoon Period. The time of sobriety when the whole wide world is my oyster. I awaken in the morning filled with joy and inspiration, feeling so good, eager to tackle the day. Great big (and lots of little) blessings find their way to me all day long. I am letting go of what no longer serves me and making room for all the magic. I am living in the overflow of joy, feeling it spill out from all parts of me. Gratitude is pouring forth from the bursting rainclouds of blessings that live in the center of my heart.

Maybe this Honeymoon Period won’t last. My AA neighbor “warned me” that I will most likely develop cravings for booze and probably fail a time or two, relapse. I don’t think so. I have no illusions of ever going back to drinking. I don’t miss it at all. I have no cravings because I am totally satisfied with my clear mind, the productivity of my high energy, the happiness sobriety brings. I love my alcohol free “cocktails” (mocktails) each afternoon and evening, and I am having a blast creating new ones. Maybe I will feel discouraged here and there (I had a rough day just last Saturday at work! OYE), but now that I have a super solid foundation beneath me, a foundation made of pillars built on being in full integrity with myself, now that I have established a deeper self love than I have ever felt in my life, now that I know I will never go back to being a slave to The Booze Bitch, I won’t feed into the worry that this ecstatically happy place will go away. I have learned to live in the now, the present (it really IS a gift!!), and I am just gonna ride The Happy Wave as long as I can. I have learned to surf in Bliss Ocean, and I pretty much want to spend the majority of my days here. Why wouldn’t I want to hang out here, take in all the wonders that having a clear heart and mind can bring, give and receive happiness at levels I never knew existed?!

Being with discomfort was a big challenge for me. Drinking was my escape from having to deal with all the emotions of worry, fear, shame (the biggest for me!), less-than/not worthy, overwhelm, “I can’t do it-itis”, all the negative, disempowering feelings. Now I know the truth. I can do anything I set my mind to do. The whole world is out there waiting to meet me. I can see all the way to the end of the rainbow where my dreams land. All my great big dreams really can come true because they are anchored in generosity, love, contribution, joy. I could never have imagined that my life would be this full of vitality, ease, flow, and love. I think I’ll go surf another set of these waves, and just hang out here all day long. Want to join me?

Agreements

I am not an advocate of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. I have mentioned this before and maybe I’ll get a lot of kickback and controversy for it. I have a whole slew of reasons why it doesn’t feel right to me despite it having an almost cult-like loyal following of believers. If it feels right to you, to anyone anywhere, great! That’s awesome. I know many people attribute AA to saving their lives, and of course, I honor and applaud that. However, there is no denying that the very low ten percent success rate of AA is evidence it doesn’t work for the overwhelming majority of people who join.

It is my experience in learning how the twelve steps work, the principles of AA, that as people are told to label themselves alcoholics, a self image is formed that includes feeling unworthy, diseased, less than, inferior, imperfect, flawed. When we judge ourselves as bad, wrong, weak, powerless, when we are trained to think we have to rely on sheer willpower alone to overcome an addiction, we feel discouraged, overwhelmed, and easily give up. Relapse happens when we return to what is known because we feel small, lost, insecure, alone, afraid. We return to the escape of an alcohol addiction. Our strength and resolve can only carry us so far. Willpower by itself will never be enough to heal our brains, bodies, and souls from the controlling and powerful dependence on a highly addictive substance like booze. There has to be a relearning, a new awareness, a brand new way of being in the world, a different way of seeing who we are and how this happened to us.

My entire adult life has been a journey into mastering leadership and empowerment, healing and growth. People do not grow and become empowered when they are instructed to view themselves as wrong, feeble, incapable of tackling their wounds, problems, conflicts, or addictions with a stronghold. The greatest strength of AA is the community it creates, I acknowledge and support that concept completely. I couldn’t agree more that healing from addiction requires reinforcement from others who have traveled down the same path. It is my intention to create a community of interested people who come together with curiosity, hope, openness and wonder about what it might be like to live a life sans booze. This will be a calling out, an invitation to folks who are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I want to create connection with others on the same path of discovery and healing through sobriety. We will share ideas, suggestions, inspirations, ways to support one another, recipes, health and wellness tips, fun suggestions for things to keep our minds busy and away from drinking alcohol, creative pursuits, adventures, travel destinations, books we love – a resource to buoy us up, fill our hearts and souls with happiness instead of numbing out by turning to The Booze Bitch.

My personal choice of how to live my best life is aptly described in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I faithfully attempt to emulate the teachings as I go about interacting with others. I am taking the liberty here of delving into The Four Agreements for some exploration of just what it means to live this way:

Be impeccable with your word. Be honest! Be clear in your communications. Don’t talk about others behind their back, don’t be harsh and mean, never be a “backstabber”, don’t say unkind, cruel things about others OR about yourself. Don’t practice negative self talk. Be clean with how you express yourself, live in integrity, don’t make up stories or lies to cover up your guilt or make excuses. If you are late because you slept in, say that. If something distracted you, tell it like it is. Live in a way that you never have to feel ashamed of your words or your actions.

Don’t take anything personally. This is a hard one for me! What others do and think and say is about them, not about me. Remember that we are all on this path living our own individual lives, and we each have a story unique to us and us alone. What someone else has experienced in their life is their stuff. Others may have wounds that cause them to act in a certain way, maybe do or say things we do not understand. Maybe we are on the receiving end of very hurtful behaviors, but we always have a choice. We can remember not to take it personally, to know that each of us has our own path, our own stuff. Stay in your power, connect with your own beautiful spirit, no matter what.

Don’t make assumptions. Inadequate forms of communication, a lack of communication, poor communication, clouds understanding. As we assume we know what’s going on with another, when we make up stories in our heads about why they said or did a certain thing, we can get lost in false beliefs. We may be absolutely wrong. I admit that I am guilty of this more times than I can count, thinking someone feels a certain way when in reality, I couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to learn to give others an opportunity to tell us what is real. Wait. Be patient, allow space, pause. We really never know just what is going on in someone else’s life. We each write our own stories, have our own experiences, walk our own trails. When there are times that an absence of understanding peeks in, perhaps when not hearing from someone or not being clear about what a person is feeling or wanting to express, we need to breathe, allow air, pause, ask. We have to remember to open our minds and hearts to all possibilities.

Always do your best. This one is ongoing, of course. There are days when my best is about 50% of the 100% I can give on better days. There are days when maybe I couldn’t sleep and my energy is low, my patience is fading, my mind is unclear. “Always do your best” means giving as much as you are able to give to the situation at hand, doing the right thing when no one is watching. When we feel amazing, we perform at our best. Doing my best includes eating well, trying to get enough sleep, loving myself by caring well for myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. That means I am my own first priority, that I put myself first, take good care of myself, allow down time, quiet time, connection with spirit time. “Always do your best” means putting quality ingredients into our bodies that nourish us, resting when we are tired, choosing the company of others who uplift and inspire us as much as possible. Doing our best requires avoiding toxic people and situations whenever we can, putting out maximum effort to be a beneficial presence on the planet. For me, there is no denying that living my best life, doing my best all the time as much as I am able, absolutely includes sobriety. I have slayed The Booze bitch. Now I can more closely follow the Four Agreements and row, row, row my boat gently down the stream.

Great Love

In my life, I have been blessed with great love. My first romance was with a boy who worked as a lifeguard at our local community pool. He was older, an amazing swimmer, lanky and strong. I was on the swim team, one of the standouts. I had a huge crush, hoping our friendship would blossom into more. It did! He was my first. That summer was filled with evenings gazing up at the stars so majestically scattered across the sky, discussing our philosophies on life. We used to lie to my parents and say we were off to see a movie, followed by heading straight to the high school football field with a blanket. We would lie in each other’s arms, exploring one another ever so gently. I remember returning home and making up the story line of the supposed movie we just saw. I wonder if my parents ever suspected anything or if they ever noticed my hair was disheveled. We weren’t out of control, we just wanted to be with each other all the time. At the end of that summer, he went off to college and we wrote long love letters to each other every single day, sometimes ten plus pages declaring our love on each, sometimes just sharing our day. We were deeply devoted to one another. I remember our phone conversations lasting for hours, deep into the wee hours of the morning, and my parents’ fury when the phone bill totaled $500 one month. That was long before the days of cell phones. I had to pay every penny of that largest phone bill, which of course was right. We subsequently learned to call each other and let the phone ring just one time, which meant “I LOVE YOU!” Ours was a sweet and enduring love that lasted three years, through a move across the country (my family), through me heading off to college halfway across the country in the other direction, through my dad getting sick. Marty was a gem, and a great beginning to my decades of allegiance to this thing called love. Marty and I shared a deeply loving, caring, healthy tenderness. In our innocence, we agreed on names we would give the kids we planned to have someday. We truly thought we would end up married. Alas, life brought big changes, and it was time to move on.

My next love happened when I moved to Mexico City at the age of 20, almost 21. My family had vacationed in Acapulco for Christmas the year prior. Our time in Acapulco was a family reunion including my maternal grandmother after grandpa had died. We kids were spread out throughout the globe, one brother living in England and me in college at the U of MA. I still feel so much appreciation to my oldest brother for bringing us together to share a treasured destination spot he had frequented. I met Paco at a time when I was struggling to find myself. I wanted to immerse myself in a foreign country and experience all the lessons and growth that living in another culture teaches. Paco was a poor Native Mexican from a family of ten, all living in a small home. He worked for the family business, locksmithing. There was something about his innocence, his kindness, and the entertainment of his genuine and focused intention to be with a blonde American girl, that tickled me. Although I had registered and was about to attend the University of Mexico City to polish off my Spanish speaking skills, Paco’s lack of command of the English language and his clear and well enunciated Spanish was a much easier and more enjoyable way for me to learn the language. I withdrew after a few weeks of sitting in a classroom and moving forward slowly with the intricacies of the idiom and became fluent quickly through the conversations in which we partook, dictionary in hand. Paco was steady and reliable, and he drove a large station wagon which came in very handy with all the help I required. He knew the city well having lived there his entire life. His noble efforts to be at my side as my right hand man endeared him to me. He helped me with phone conversations, finding a place to live, navigating my way through the city to take care of my needs. What captured my heart was the way he stole our first kiss. He really did steal it! I was on the phone attempting to understand the person on the other end, and he literally took the phone away and laid a kiss on me that I have not forgotten to this day. His kiss was one of those long, passionate, sensuous, inquiring, exploring kisses that made me tingle from head to toe, every cell on fire. I was swept away right then and there. Paco and I had an extremely passionate affair and he asked me to marry him. We might have, at least my heart and mind thought so, until his long-time girlfriend let their history become known. One day I received a letter addressed directly to me, detailing how she knew all about me, how Paco had lead a double life (I still can’t figure out how he divided his time between us, living at my place half the time). She suggested I go back to my home country and leave Paco alone. I did go back home, but I missed him desperately. I found myself with him again even after all that had transpired. He denied any desire to be with her, telling me I was his great love. False. Eventually I did pick myself up and return permanently to my own country, where I ultimately landed in California and started over.

My first husband and I met during a statewide fruit fly invasion, an emergency situation where 1000 California Conservation Corps Members (we had each just joined the CCC) were all herded into one huge fairground building in Santa Clara to go walking door to door. We had to pick all sorts of beautiful fruit from the trees that lived at the homes throughout the area, bag it up, and assist in having it hauled away to be destroyed. We were together for a couple of years in the CCC, then moved up to Monterey Bay Area where we settled into our first home. Eventually we married and started a family with our two wonderful boys. In time, I embarked on a career in the restaurant industry and he chose to start a landscape business. We learned a great deal and shared a lot of love over twenty years together. In many aspects we grew up together, and today enjoy each other’s company along with delighting in our 7 year old beloved grandson.

My second husband and I met while I was newly single, just nine months separated from my first husband. This next marriage included the blending of our two families along with all the challenges that come with that scenario. I feel sadness as I look back on how I handled things at the time, so quickly leaping into a new relationship when what I really needed was to learn to be with myself. I loved this man, I respected and appreciated him. Our sons were very close in age, his son just 9 months older than my youngest. He was thrilled to give his son the experience of siblings, although that was a mighty rocky road for quite a time. We made a happy life together inclusive of the many challenges that come with the intertwining of different parenting styles. We maneuvered carefully and cautiously ingesting the personalities of three very different boys. We delighted in the many romantic nights when we found ourselves relaxing from our long weeks of work, lighting candles and dancing, drinking great wine, and enjoying friends gatherings when the boys were all at their other parent’s homes. Ultimately we separated but remain close and care deeply for one another.

Finally, I experienced a true and lasting love connection after my second divorce, with a man I met through online dating. We each were freshly divorced with wounds which cried out for healing. We helped each other heal in many different ways, shared our veracious passion for food and wine, and opened our hearts and minds to each other. We were kindred spirits filled with dreams and aspirations. We enjoyed a full summer of play, romance, ease, and star-gazing. We frequently watched shooting stars dive across the night sky while soaking in our hot tub prior to falling asleep together in the bed we set up outside. We lived together and enjoyed many beautiful meals (he cooked more than I), brainstormed ideas, encouraged and supported one another. Mornings found us sitting on the front porch watching passersby as we drank espressos. We had in-depth conversations about many facets of life sitting outside on the beautiful summer nights. We celebrated our joy with many fabulous date nights at restaurants throughout the area. Our heart connection was deep and real, and continues to this day.

The greatest love of all is the one I found through decades of being on a spiritual quest, ultimately landing in the relationship I have with myself. It took me a whole lot of years, many heartbreaks, a series of growing and learning from hurts and pain, and an endless questioning of how to grow into the happiness I so deeply desired. Slowly but surely, I learned to love all of myself. I can now say I know how to be fully content living alone, that I am truly happy. I do not need a man in my life in order to feel complete. I desire a relationship because I have much to offer and I believe growth is most accentuated and experienced through the bond created in intimate exchange with another human. I look forward to engaging in my next relationship, which I believe with all my heart will be ultimately satisfying, wherever it takes me. I have slayed the booze bitch and no longer run from my emotions, no longer feel the need to separate from any discomfort I feel. I have no desire or need to blame another for any of my actions. I have no doubt I will bring all of my best self to the next man in my life. What a lucky guy.

The Narcissist

I venture to guess that each of us knows a narcissist, someone who twists blame back to us at every opportunity, as they are never, ever wrong or at fault. That person who leaves us wondering “huh, what just happened??!” as we try to pick ourselves up and brush ourselves off. That “power” (controlling!) personality that always makes us feel small, less than, devalued, unworthy, inferior. The perspective that we will never be number one in their life because they have already put themselves at the number one spot. The narcissist has no real space for us in their mind or heart because all their energy is focused on how to build themselves up, like a puffer fish, to look much larger, scarier, more fierce than they really are – making themselves larger than life. The narcissist has thin skin underneath their tough outer appearance, a facade, an inferiority complex covered in a mask.

I was thinking this morning, as I reflected on my somewhat recent relationships, about how much it hurts to feel like I am being put last. Maybe not last, but definitely not first, perhaps not even second. My opinion of commitment in a truly loving relationship means that the other person’s happiness and well being is a priority – never at the expense of my own, of course, because it is essential that I take care of my own happiness first, as we all must do if we are to be healthy and happy and whole. I believe devotion in a relationship means that I treat that person as someone special, someone I will make time for, someone important enough to me that I want to show up for them, reach out to them, handle them with care. I want to be with someone I believe deserves that from me. Someone with whom I really want to be all there, fully present, my best self. As my thoughts flowed on this subject, I went straight to the relationship between booze and those of us who become addicted to her.

The Booze Bitch is THE GREAT NARCISSIST. She takes over our lives in such sly ways we don’t see it coming. In the beginning she is dressed in beautiful outer coverings, with a sparkling personality, completely irresistible. She seduces us with her sensuality, her beauty, her finesse. Maybe she comes with a rich history so intriguing and alluring, we just can’t wait to learn more, to delve in deeper. The Booze Bitch wears a mask of benevolence, fun, social engagement, courage, inclusion. She helps us feel like we belong, a safe haven, our own little happy club. She is, upon first impression, full of goodness and positivity. She is our friend, our companion, our confidant. She is always there for us, keeping us company when we feel lonely or sad, depressed or anxious, present when we feel joyous and celebratory. What a great friend! Until…

It took so many years for me to see through the smoke screen, the thick fog that the Booze Bitch uses as her disguise. We are all so duped into believing she is The Good Witch Glenda. She is the ultimate Narcissist, destroying us ever so slowly, leading us in the downward spiral of addiction and finding us blaming ourselves, even, God forbid, insisting we call ourselves ALCOHOLICS and go into deep shame about how bad we are, when all the while, from the very beginning, she has been the perpetrator. Addiction happens when a substance that is highly addictive becomes too much to resist, when we become physically and physiologically, mentally, emotionally dependent on said substance. It is out of our control at this point. It’s almost insane really, how this substance called booze, alcohol, that we happily imbibe with laughter and an eagerness bordering on desperation, poisons every cell it affects, which is every cell we have, causing our entire body and brain to go into overdrive to get rid of the toxins, resulting in making us feel miserable mentally and physically. The Booze Bitch takes us down as far as she can take us. Sometimes we recover. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we lose everything and our lives are full of regret. Sometimes we just miss opportunities and let go of cherished dreams. Sometimes we avoid getting important things done because she is in control, and she tells us not to worry about it, we don’t have to do it right now. And “right now” can go on forever. The Booze Bitch is not unlike the worst Narcissists in history who have caused entire genocides. I think it is important that we see her that way, that we admit the power she has while not falling victim to it, important to acknowledge her influence on our culture and our society.

I have a dream, a big, beautiful, precious dream. I dream about all of us, our culture and our world, waking up to the fact that living our lives full of vitality, experiencing supreme health, living a life with boundless energy with a pure and boundless spirit, is our birth right, and certainly a million times better than following the Booze Bitch down the path to a living hell. We can do this! We can slay the Booze Bitch and bury her sorry ass forever.

The No Booze Bar

They say loss is a part of life. No doubt. I lost my father early, and an aunt, then my paternal grandma who I adored. Next came my maternal grandfather followed by my maternal grandmother who I also dearly loved. My stepfather died in 1990 making two fathers lost. My brother succumbed to cancer in my arms in 2008. My stepson died at age 23 in 2015. In recent years, friends have passed on, mostly from cancer. My mom said a frequent prayer, having lost most of her family to cancer, “God, anything but cancer, please!” She died from Lewey Body Syndrome in 2015. There’s more, especially if I count all the multitude of animals I have loved and lost, but I don’t need to go into details here. In addition to these deaths. I also went through two divorces after long marriages that I had hoped would last forever. Divorce is a huge loss. I have experienced at least my share of loss throughout my life, and unlike my dear mother who held all her grief inside, I have learned to process mine each time I encounter it. I became a Hospice volunteer because I felt so drawn to helping people experience a peaceful, no regrets, loving end to their lives. Hospice people are a special breed of huge hearted, caring, amazing folks. We need more humans like that in this world.

The thing about sobriety that isn’t discussed as much as I think it should be, is that giving up booze is a loss. Actually a tremendous loss, extremely impactful. When I wrote “letter to my “ex””, my very first blog entry, when I said “Goodbye!” to alcohol, I recognized the importance it held in my life. Booze was such a constant in my life, as it is in most addicts’ lives. Every celebration, every friends’ gathering, all the live music venues, business social events, networking, music based anything, family connections, even just sitting home alone and relaxing – they ALL included booze. Becoming sober means rethinking the habit of inviting alcohol in to all those spaces. I know friends who work in the wine industry, in wineries where everyone has a glass of wine at the end of the shift. I am truly thankful the winery where I work has a “NO drinking on premises” rule, as I undoubtedly would have been crossing the line of intoxication, risking a DUI just before my long commute home. Life changes when we become sober, and one of the harder things we have to figure out is replacing booze with other things.

I am one of those wildly creative types, a true Entrepreneur, so for me, concocting mocktails (non alcoholic drinks that resemble cocktails minus the booze) is a super fun adventure, and I am completely hooked on them. I don’t miss my alcohol containing cocktails for a second because the mocktails are absolutely delicious. I crave them just as much when I get home from work as I ever did a glass of wine or cocktail with alcohol. It’s awesome! My love of concocting new beverages with massive flavors made me think how outrageously fun it would be to start a business of a Non-Alcoholic Bar with 12 or so varieties of mocktails, non alcoholic wines and beers, tons of choices other than booze. The No Booze Bar. Live music, dancing, comedy – with all the entertainment we enjoy going to a nightclub or wine bar to experience, but minus the intoxicating substances.

You probably have figured out by now that I tend to take on too much, full of thoughts and excitement about “the next thing”. I often have an endless array of new creative ideas wafting through my brain. History has shown me that I frequently become overwhelmed by the bigness of these visions and then give up before I go all the way through to fruition. I am not about to take on a new business as demanding as a NO BOOZE BAR, but somebody should! I promise to bring lots and lots of sober friends, or any friends who are curious about an evening sans booze. I would even LOVE to be part of the creation of it, because we need more of this in our lives-places to go where we are clear headed, have a blast without F-ing up our heads and endangering the public by driving after drinking. We could really use a venue where we can just have a whole lot of fun together without getting buzzed. The NO BUZZ BAR… Who wants to do this with me?

“Sensitive”

As long as I can remember, I have been told I am “too sensitive”. I have heard all too often that I need to develop a tougher skin, to not wear my heart on my sleeve. Maybe that’s why I became addicted to alcohol. Self medicating with booze is a very accepted way to tame the emotions I feel so deeply, society heralds us for it.

I take things personally when I shouldn’t. I tell myself stories about what others thinks of me, sometimes ruminating for days about something someone said. I feel everything deeply. I am sensitive to the cruelty of others, even when it has nothing to do with me. I always feel the energy in a room and am affected by it immediately. I pick up on each person’s and animal’s energy around me, often enjoying wild animals in the vicinity when on a hike as they curiously, always benevolently, come to say hello. It seems my body, my neurological system, absorbs all the world‘s energy. This is why I do not have television in my home, or watch the news anywhere,- it destroys me. On a positive note, I also get rushes down my spine, ‘chills’, ‘God bumps’ as I like to call them, often, as I observe or hear about anything that touches me tenderly. I am profoundly affected by the state of our world, particularly the treatment of other humans, animals, and our planet.

Living inside a body that feels everything so intensely can be wildly challenging. I spent a good portion of my life trying to grow a thicker skin, trying not to care so much. I numbed out with booze so I could avoid all those emotions. I embraced the spiritual path decades ago because it gave me so much peace and well-being regardless of what was happening in my life, it was a time out from the madness, a quiet, blissful oasis. Frequently, gratitude tears cascade down my cheeks, surprising me at their plentitude, as my connection with Source holds me in an embrace filled with love. I feel this love in every cell in my body as I allow myself to surrender in thankfulness for this one beautiful, magical, incredible life I have been given.

Since I embarked on this sober journey, or more specifically, as I advanced in my recovery / detox from addiction to booze (which took about 40 days), I started feeling everything even more acutely. I watch Cesar Milan on YouTube work with an aggressive dog, and I am stirred, touched, weeping. I read about suffering anywhere, and I feel grief overcome me, I can hardly breathe. I see or hear something wonderful, and the ecstasy of joy pours out of me, more tears. It is somewhat exhausting, but I will say this: I will gladly accept being a highly sensitive person over being someone who feels nothing. I am learning to connect with my emotions instead of medicate them away. I used to run away to avoid conflict. I used to escape, by whatever method I could manage, feelings of discomfort.

I had something horrible happen to me as a little girl, and then another trauma not too long after that one. Our brains and our bodies don’t forget. I was never able to tell anyone, or heal from those traumas, until I did, 40 years later. I held in all that pain, all that shame, all that guilt, all that sadness, most of my adult life. It affected my relationships, my sense of self, my ability to perform, my outlook. I didn’t even realize it until I became brave enough, and felt safe enough, to share with my women’s circle of trusted, caring, compassionate souls. Booze was an elixir to help me bury my feelings. No wonder I was once diagnosed as Bipolar, my mood swings were my attempt at suppressing all the pain that would occasionally burst out at most inopportune times, in the most shocking ways. I experienced periods of debilitating depression and never could truly understand it. It is all so clear now. Thankfully, I had a wonderfully brilliant Therapist who assured me that not one single cell of my body was bipolar, and it was time to get off the potent medication I had been prescribed, Lamictal. I was told I would need to take that drug my entire life. Damn, I am so grateful to not be sticking mind altering drugs in my body anymore!

When I absolutely believed that I could trust the Universe, when I finally learned to forgive myself, and forgive my perpetrators, when I desired healing more than anything else, I was able to move forward with my life. That was when I made the decision to do whatever it took to get over the pain. I really thought I had done the healing I needed to do, but the step into sobriety was ultimately the missing link.

I was sharing with a friend just yesterday that because I have done decades of deep healing work, and have been seriously committed to my spiritual growth and practice, my change of direction in giving up booze has not been one of stumbling and falling as much as feeling completely free and blessed. I understand now that it has always been what I was meant to do in order to become the person I was born to be. I feel everything. I cry often. I laugh hysterically. I smile a lot because I feel joy right straight through to my heart center regularly, and I laugh at myself more than ever. No longer do I feel the need to escape, or make up stories, defend myself incessantly because I feel stupid, or less than, or wrong. I have embraced all of who I am because I have nothing to hide, no one to hide from, no secrets. Everything, all the parts of me, are laid out on the table for all the world, all of you, to see, examine, and hopefully appreciate, relate to, and perhaps feel compassion. I hope you sometimes see yourself. It is in our vulnerability that we find our strength. It is in our sharing that we find compassion. It is through our experience that we grow. I hope you feel the love pouring out to you as I write. My wish is for you to have the best life possible, and if that means slaying the booze bitch, do it with the sharpest sword you can find. And never look back.

The wake up call

My days feel almost magical lately, especially my mornings. I bliss out during my sacred time, and that powerful energy stays with me throughout the day. My energy is strong, but at the end of my work days at the winery, 9 hour days filled with nearly 5 miles of back and forth steps and long liturgies of information shared with guests, I am completely spent. Yesterday I worked outside and it was miserably hot. I am someone who melts in the heat, so I was excruciatingly uncomfortable, perspiration dripping down my torso and temples, needing to wipe my face with a cold cloth often, sticking my hands in the ice bucket for relief. I specifically begged to work outside so I couldn’t complain, and everyone was dealing with the heat anyway, we didn’t have a choice. Working outside meant I could breathe, as I could mostly avoid wearing a COVID 19 ordered mask. I find it impossible to do my job well – the role of “Wine Steward” which encompasses sharing with guests all the details of the history of the winery, the family, and each of the 7 wines- and still get enough oxygen to sustain myself while wearing a mask. Saturday I had to work inside all day and keep a mask on, and I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt exhausted and depleted like I haven’t felt in a long time, no doubt from oxygen deprivation. This pandemic has wreaked SO much havoc on our world. I am not writing this to provoke a discussion on how everything has been handled or the controversy of wearing or not wearing a mask. I am reflecting on how miserable I felt so recently, but how each morning, no matter what, I arrive back at my happy place.

I work with someone who triggers me in really big ways, often, and for many different reasons. I am not all that easily triggered, I can usually manage my aversion to how certain people handle themselves, but I set super high standards for myself. As a manager, I expected everyone else to have high standards for themselves too. It takes a team of strong, solid, empowered employees to create a business that shines with excellence. In my opinion, everyone should have a strong work ethic with a sense of responsibility, ownership, and self-motivation. I constantly tell myself that my challenging coworker is an incredible teacher for me, but the days are really long and unsettling when I have to work near her all day. I find it fascinating how I can let things roll off my back so easily sometimes, and other times every little irritant feels like 100 lbs on my shoulders, or an explosion I must suppress in my throat so I don’t lose it completely in front of authority. I acknowledge that I am not sleeping enough, which is a challenge. When I go through these creative spurts, I am so inspired to write, produce, be active – I just can’t quiet the ideas and flow in my mind, so I embrace the early hour. I often get up at 3 AM and sit in silence, bliss out, and notice how my mind starts filling with brilliant ideas. Two nights ago I had a series of dreams that got me so excited, I leaped out of bed with a big smile. I won’t give away the dreams, because they were gifts to me and I am excited to manifest them, in part with this blog – you’ll see! I find life full of wonder and mystery and bumps and bruises, an unusual concoction of flavors: bitter, sweet, sour, pungent and ultimately delicious.

Today I get to go stand up paddle boarding (SUP) for the first time since well before the pandemic, and I am so excited I could burst. SUPing is one of my most favorite activities in the whole wide world. I love living so close to the bay, the ocean, the beach. I do have an exceptionally blessed life, and I know it. I affirm the positivity in my life, and now that I am sober, it is in expansion mode. So may good things happening, so much love filling my heart. I often catch the time at 3:33 and 4:44, every version of “1”‘s (1:11. 11:11), signifying a flow of alignment, inspiration and creativity. I may not be getting enough sleep, but I can handle this. Feeling full of joy, energy, inspiration and health is worth the yawns. One day I will be back to sleeping normal hours, and that will feel good too. My life is on fire as I am transforming into the ME I am meant to be. This Sober Life is the biggest gift I could ever give myself. Sober is the bomb.