sober mom

Guest Blogger: Jen Yockey of SOULFUeL

Ladies and gents, I think I've found my Sober Sister Soul Mate.  Seriously, reading Jen's piece was like standing in front of a mirror, a gentle and kind and beautiful mirror.  She has such a beautiful outlook on life and I got so much from her story.  Watch out for this one!  She's going places--who are we kidding?  She's already THERE.  If you can't get enough of her, don't you worry--she'll be featured as a RePro in the near future.

xoxo,
Laura


The Audacity of Recovery

au·dac·i·ty
ôˈdasədē/
noun
1.  the willingness to take bold risks.

Addiction. Recovery. Sobriety. Drugs. Alcohol. Shopping. Sex. Technology. Gambling.  A lot of buzz words these days and like some of our favorite quotes and sayings, I think they have been used so much that we have become de-sensitized to them.  We have stopped listening, hearing and feeling what these words truly mean.

Getting sober doesn’t mean quitting things.  It doesn’t mean the fun in your life ends and that you need to move to a monastery in Israel in order to find peace and enlightenment and recovery.  It also doesn’t mean that you *wanting* to get sober means that you are currently sleeping under a bridge, haven’t had a shower in weeks and everything you own resides in a shopping cart. 

Life is not black and white.  There is a lot of grey.  Labeling people and afflictions is our need to make things black and white.  Labeling people and afflictions can make it really difficult for people to truly recover or to get help in the first place.  Who wants to be labeled an alcoholic?  An addict? A gambler? A cheater?  Not me.  We are not a behavior, *I* am not a behavior.

What would it look like if recovering from an overuse of a substance was like recovering from strep throat?  You go to the doctor, you let them know your symptoms, they prescribe a treatment and you are on the mend.  No one says that you can *only* have medicine for 7 days or 28 days.  No one says you have to label yourself as a “strepthroater”.  No one says that you have to hide out at home and not tell anyone about your strep throat. No one says that you will never recover and that you should be afraid.  People aren’t ashamed to walk in to the doctor with strep throat.  *I* am not strep throat, I *have* strep throat.  I can recover from strep throat.  This is how sobriety and recovery is for me.  It is my story.  I abused a substance.  I don’t do that anymore.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  I have found the root cause of my wanting to do that.  I have recovered.  I have and continue to heal.

I have nothing against 12 step programs.   In fact, I credit those programs for my recovery foundation and I participated in these programs for the first 5 years of my sobriety. I got to a point, however, that I was able to start thinking for myself again.  I was able to trust my decisions.  I listened to that little voice inside of me instead of drowning it out with booze, drugs, men, over training, shopping, etcetera.  Little by little, I stopped being afraid; afraid that my “disease” was doing pushups in the backyard *waiting* for me, afraid of my past, afraid of relapse. 

I started loving my life.  I started investigating my core values.  I investigated my opinions on things; opinions and thoughts and “truths” that I had held on to for years that were no longer serving me.  I investigated words like co-dependency, boundaries and trauma.  I found ways to connect to myself rather than finding ways to distract myself.  I investigated and found peace with emotions and feelings.  I investigated Anger, Joy, Happiness, Sadness, Grief, Guilt, Shame, Apathy, Boredom, Confusion, Panic, Terror.  I investigated my past.  I investigated my “triggers”.  I investigated people.  I found some that I really connected with and I found some that I really needed to stay away from.

I found my inner athlete, again.  I found peace in yoga, meditation, and running.  I found that paying attention to my breath brought calm and less stress.  I found music and laughter and food and philosophy and hope.  I found others that were doing similar investigations; finding their way and sharing their knowledge.

There is hope and inspiration.  There is recovering and recovered.  There is sobriety born out of a love for life rather than a fear of what was.  There is an acceptance and a love and a knowledge of who each of us are.  There is self-awareness rather than denial.  There is a realization of truth rather than fantasy.  There is ownership of mis-steps and honoring *that* truth.  There are emotions.  There is joy.  There is sadness and grief.  There are tears. There is laughter.  There is the ability and willingness to be teachable and live with our eyes and hearts wide open.

I write all of this knowing that it may not be popular.  It may not “fit” with your recovery or sobriety narrative. However, it is my story.  My truth.  And when I first got sober, I needed to hear a lot of stories and truths.  Stories of experience, strength and hope. I needed to hear it from CEO’s and actors, teachers and lawyers, and construction workers.  I needed to hear it from those who lived high on the hill and at the homeless shelter.  One of the many nuggets that I took away from my 12 step meetings was to “take what I needed and leave the rest”.  My wish is that one person is able to see that there are many paths to recovery, that you can recover on your own terms.  This, however, does not mean that you do it by yourself. I know, for sure, that is not possible.   You will need help.  You will need guidance.  You will need people and connection in order to get your feet underneath you.  But you will learn to walk again.  You will learn to run again.  You will be able to trust yourself and others again.  You are not broken.  You have been on a path that may not be serving you anymore.  There are other paths.  Look around.  You have a choice to change the path you are on.  There are others waiting there for you.

The Audacity of Recovery.  The moxie to even *think* that you can recover.  The boldness for you to be you and find your own path & for me to be me and find mine; for all of us to find peace and hope and joy and to bear witness.  I can’t wait to hear *your* story of boldness and audaciousness and moxie.  Tell it, write it, speak it.  We all need to hear it.

 
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JEN YOCKEY is the founder of SOULFUeL Sundays and a graduate of Meadow DeVor’s Yoga Church Teacher Training.  In her words:  today, I am a Mom, a Wife, a Dog Mom, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a confidante.  I am a Yoga Teacher, a Master Life Coach, a Woman that is on a mission to be the best version of herself AND to help others do the same.  I KNOW that this is possible regardless of your past, regardless of what is happening at this moment.  You have more SUPER POWERS than you know.

Rosemary O'Connor - A Sober Mom's Shining Light

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I'm super thrilled and honored to introduce you all to Rosemary O'Connor, founder of ROC Recovery Services and author of A Sober Mom's Guide to Recovery: Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids.  Rosemary has a clear and powerful voice, and if you don't believe me, let Ms. Anne Lamott convince you.

 

Rosemary O’Connor is such a warm and experienced companion for women trying to manage the difficult and exhilarating path of sober motherhood. She has such a good sense of humor, and a lot of both practical and spiritual wisdom.  I wish I’d had this book when I had my child in early recovery.

--Anne Lammott

CHAPTER ONE: HITTING BOTTOM

Recovery is not so bad. It’s kinda like walking backward through molasses up to your crotch with your legs tied together. 

--Anne Wilson Schaef

 

I promised myself I was only going out for two drinks. I told the eleven-year-old babysitter I’d be home in a couple of hours—no later than nine. I walked out the door on my way to a fancy charity event, the Fireman’s Ball at the San Francisco Yacht Club. I was all dressed up in a long, sequined gown, high heels, hair and makeup to the nines (for me it was all about looking good on the outside). At the event, with drink in hand, I started chatting up a guy. I was doing straight shots of tequila and quickly spent $200 buying drinks from the bar—what every classy lady does. Mr. Not-So-Prince-Charming invited me to continue the party at his place. I remember following in my car, gripping the steering wheel, trying to steer in a straight line. The next thing I remember is waking up in Mr. Not-So- Prince-Charming’s bed at ten the next morning, thirteen hours after I’d told the babysitter I’d be back.

I drove home overcome with dread, silently promising never to drink again. The scene that met me there was Dickensian: my three children were lined up on the sofa in their pajamas, eyes wide with horror, staring at me. On either side of them were my best friend, Lori, whose daughter had been babysitting, and my estranged husband. They didn’t look too friendly, either. And no wonder—I was still wearing the sequined gown from the night before, which I’d thrown up on, and my hair and makeup were in shambles.

Lori looked me straight in the eye. “You’d better get hold of yourself,” she said, and stormed out. My husband looked at me with utter disgust. I got the message in his glare: If you don’t get your act together, I’ll take these kids away.

As he gathered the kids to go upstairs for their stuff, my five-year-old son asked me, “Mommy, are you okay?”

I was not. For the first time in the twenty-one years I’d been drinking, I acknowledged there was something really wrong with me. I said, “No, Mommy is not okay.” He grabbed me and hugged me. Then he ran upstairs crying.

My soon-to-be ex-husband left with my children and went to his house. I was alone, an empty shell, physically, spiritually, and emotionally bankrupt. What I feared most was that I would continue to do the same thing over and over and lose my children. This was not the mother I intended to be. That was my bottom. And I knew in that moment that if I didn’t get help, five o’clock would roll around and I’d be drunk once again.

Since then, I have worked with countless women and I know this scene has played itself out both in multimillion- dollar homes and in tenements. Our social standing, education, and self-knowledge don’t matter. When the alcohol or drugs get hold of us, we are taken over. We do things when we’re drinking and using that make us weep bitter tears when the high wears off.

We are basically good women and mothers, and under normal circumstances we would take good care of ourselves and fiercely protect our children. We can’t imagine how we let this happen, how we could lose control. We feel disgust, shame, and hopelessness. We vow never to let this happen again.

I had made that promise more times than I could remember. But now, for the first time, I listened to a voice in my head. Ask for help, it said. I went to the phone book, found the num- ber for Alcoholics Anonymous, and called. The woman who answered the phone asked me to join her at an AA meeting. There I found women who used to feel the same way I did. At last I knew I was not alone. I stopped drinking one day at a time as other women taught me how to face life without a drink or a drug. In my recovery—fifteen years as of this writing—I have found peace, compassion, and forgiveness for myself. I respect myself and love the woman I am today. (Most of the time!) Best of all, I am present for my children, and they love me.

Getting clean and sober is like dropping a single rock into a still pond and sending healing ripples out to our family, friends, and all the people who share our journey of recovery.

 


SOBER MOM’S TOOLS FOR CLIMBING UP AFTER HITTING BOTTOM

1. Take the first step: in the recovery process, the first step is admitting that we have a problem. For me, the evidence that my life was unmanageable was right in front of me that morning I came home to face my children. Using my story as an example, write about your own “hitting bottom” experience. If you’re new to recovery, it might be painful to put it in writing, but it can help you take that first step to admitting you have a problem. Even after facing my children that morning, I still had my doubts as to whether I was a full-blown alcoholic. But it was suggested that I write down my last ten drinking episodes. In doing this it became quite evident that my drinking was nowhere near normal. It was clear that when I started with a glass of wine I never knew where I’d end up or what I’d do.

2. Ask for help: this is the single most important action we can take to liberate us from isolation and loneliness. For me, and for many other women, it’s easier and more helpful to reach out to another woman. We are not meant to do life alone. If you are still trying to deal with a drinking or using problem alone, pick up the phone and call for help. You can get immediate help by calling Alcoholics Anonymous, or if your drug of choice isn’t alcohol, you may want to try Narcotics Anonymous; both groups are free and available twenty-four hours a day. You don’t have to do this by yourself. (See the Recommended Resources at the back of this book for these and other Twelve Step programs.)

If you’re reluctant to get help for yourself, do it for the sake of your children. Addiction is a progressive, fatal disease. It’s not a matter of if this disease will get worse, it’s a matter of when. Many mothers have lost custody of their children due to their addiction.

If you are still questioning “if ” you have a problem with your drinking or using, go to www.aa.org, read the pamphlet A.A. for the Woman and take the fifteen-question test.

Thanks, 

Rosemary O'Connor

Kristine Williams of We are the Butterflies

From Kristine's first words in an email to me, I knew I would like her: 
"Thank you for creating this magical space for us."  I mean, how could I not?!  Kristine is a mom in her first year of sobriety and has all the same hopes and fears that we did at one point in time, or still do.  This is a voice to follow, folks.  She is a fantastic writer--and her story just walks off the page into my heart.  Hopefully, yours too.  xo, Laura


Sober Sisters

(originally posted on We Are the Butterflies)

It’s been 45 days since I’ve had a sip of alcohol, but who’s counting?

For as long as I can remember, every time I drink too much I blow chunks. I don’t want just one drink, I want the bottle, so more times than not, I drink too much.   Sometimes I drink and drive. Sometimes I drink and drive with my kids in the car. I’ve spent the night in the hospital twice to be “re-hydrated” due to drinking too much and uncontrollable vomiting (including on my wedding night). Over the past ten years, the frequency has increased and it takes less and less to trigger the sickness. I can have three drinks spread out over 5 hours, mixed in with water and food, drive home, go nighty-night and then I’ll have to race to the bathroom in the middle of the night to puke my brains out. I’ve seen doctors, and I’ve had lots of tests to see if I’m deficient in something, yet nothing has been revealed. Time after time when I describe my symptoms, the medical professional looks me in the eye and says, “Have you thought about not drinking?”   It’s like that old joke: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor says, “Don’t do that anymore.”   Yeah, well, duh, but it’s just not that simple.

In addition to the vomiting, I also feel like the blood pumping through my veins is poisoned the next day and sometimes for days afterwards. It’s hard to explain except to say that I just don’t feel right. I’m anxious, jittery and unsettled, uncomfortable in my own skin. Then, there’s the guilt, oh Lord, the guilt. I know that most likely I will get sick if I drink, yet I do it again and again and again.   Why? Am I an alcoholic? Alcoholism and depression plague my family history, and this knowledge haunts me.

46 days ago, I was with my very best friends in the whole wide world on our annual girls’ weekend. I drank a glass of wine at lunch, did a little wine tasting in the afternoon and then enjoyed a few wine spritzers poolside. As soon as I started to feel a good solid buzz (around 5:00 pm) I stopped drinking alcohol and only had water. We went to dinner around 7:00 pm at which time I felt sober. I had a margarita with my burrito. We moseyed back to our hotel and while the other girls continued drinking, I continued with water. Again, I felt sober.  Fast forward to the wee hours of the night where I formed an intimate relationship with the downstairs toilet. I took a Zofran to stop the vomiting, which didn’t have the desired effect, but did make me feel like I was tripping on acid.   Yep, fantastic.

The next morning, I was a hot mess. My friends woke up mostly feeling fine, maybe a little bit slow, but I don’t think anyone would have said they were hung-over. Give ‘em each a bagel and a coffee and they’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll. I, on the other hand, was a blubbering mess. Guilt-ridden and ashamed that once again I made a terrible choice. Why must I drink? I wondered aloud if I was an alcoholic to which the overwhelming response was, “God, NO!” You see if I’m an alcoholic, then others in that room might also be alcoholics and we certainly can’t have that.  They offered me Xanax, they suggested a nice nap, neither of which sounded appealing to me. I just wanted to shrivel up and die. I wanted to disappear.

You may remember that I said it’s been 45 days since my last drink, yet that incident was 46 days ago… Well, you see, there was still fun to be had on night 2 of our girls’ weekend. Approximately 15 hours after praying to the porcelain gods, I drank a Moscow mule and then a beer.   Why? Because drinking is FUN. Drinking is really fucking fun. Until it’s not.

I returned from our weekend an emotional wreck. I spent Monday in bed sobbing and praying for the strength to go on. I had thoughts of running away and thoughts of ending it all leaving my family better off without the pile of shit that I knew I was. Thankfully, I started to scare myself and I called my therapist for an emergency appointment. This marked the beginning of my recovery.

Now, I know that some of you reading this are going to think that I’m being awfully dramatic. “Recovery?” I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Seriously? Get a grip. I know you, and you are not an alcoholic; you are allergic to alcohol and it’s as simple as that.”

So, right this second I really don’t think I’m an alcoholic. But, isn’t that what every alcoholic says while they are in denial?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 45 days:

  • Perhaps I’m not addicted to alcohol, but I’m certainly addicted to the approval of others.

  • I am always drinking to feel better (to celebrate, to drown my sorrows, to ease my pain, to combat boredom), and, inevitably, I end up feeling worse.

  • I hate small talk; I crave deep conversations. With alcohol, I can go there without seeming strange (in my own mind anyway).

  • I don’t know how to socialize without alcohol; without a drink in my hand, I feel extremely anxious in social situations.

  • I have an overwhelming desire to fit in and to be perceived as “normal.”

  • I know that I am different on the inside, and I think I’m kind of weird, and I don’t want anyone to see that part of me for fear that they’ll reject me.

  • I’m afraid I’m going to make one false move and my friends are going to walk away.

  • I hold what I perceive to be other people’s expectations of me in a higher regard than my expectations for myself.

  • I don’t believe I’ll be any fun without alcohol.

  • I am like an M&M; I have a tough outer shell, but inside I’m just mush.

  • I’m not sure if I’m okay.

  • I need to stop drinking. Period.

About two weeks after my last beer, I started to believe that I might actually be able to stop drinking. My health is at stake, mentally and physically. I need to take care of myself and stop the insanity.   Will I be able to go to parties and still have fun? Not sure. Will my friends still want to hang out with me? Not sure about that either. What I am sure of, with 100% certainty, is that being sober is what is best for me.

Little by little, I’ve shared my story with very close friends and family, always with an intense fear of their reaction. In my mind they’ll argue with me and try to convince me that I actually don’t have a problem, or they’ll nod politely and then graffiti the information in bathroom stalls across the country. Nonetheless, I’ve mustered up the courage to talk about it, and I’m working on being okay with whatever the fall-out may be. Mostly, my friends have been supportive and have had very kind words of encouragement for me. For this, I simply do not have the appropriate words to express my gratitude. And… I’ve told my story and then an hour later the girls were trying to convince me to have just one drink with them. When I wouldn’t do that, they tried to get me to have just one sip of their wine. Seriously? Yep. I’ve had people diminish my angst and say, “Well, maybe it’s not forever, you’ll just have to see.” Some friends have laughed thinking I was joking, and then had no words at all when I insisted that I was serious. Okay, but there have been two reactions that rocked my world that I also need to share.

The first was a friend who said that she too feels like she doesn’t want to drink anymore, but she feels like she can’t stop. Not because she’s an alcoholic and can’t stop physically, but because it’s expected of her in certain situations. We had a long talk about how we feel like people really want us to drink. Everything is more fun when you add alcohol, right? That’s the perception. Play date with the kids? Let’s drink!   Hike to the top of Saddleback Mountain? I’ll bring the wine! Boat ride to Catalina at 9:00 am? Bloody Mary, please! Husband not home yet, cooking dinner for the family? I’ll just sip vodka out of this shot glass to take the edge off. Somewhere along the line we started adding alcohol to everything we do and now it’s expected. When you meet someone for the first time, if you find out they don’t drink you think they are weird. Don’t deny it, because I’ve heard you say it and I know it’s true. Or, perhaps you don’t think they’re weird, but you know that you could never truly “connect” with them if they don’t drink. What the FUCK is this about, ladies? I say “ladies” because I suspect the men don’t give a shit about who drinks and who doesn’t. I think this is an expectation that women have placed on each other and, in my opinion, it’s totally fucking un-cool.

The other thing happened when I shared my newfound sobriety with two girls who I love and trust at a play date. We laughed about how I might not be fun if I’m sober, and we joked about how maybe they won’t like me anymore. The ridiculous reality was that we had never spent a significant period of time together without alcohol by our side. We teased about all of this, but inside of my heart my deepest insecurity was triggered. I truly believe that some people are simply not going to like me anymore if I stay sober, because I just won’t be as much fun. At the end of the play date, we said our good-byes and I asked if they still liked me even though I didn’t drink. One of those beautiful ladies looked at me sort of sheepishly and said, “Do you still like me?” Oh my God, we are all the same! We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, yet we are afraid to be different! We fear rejection and judgment. You know that I wanted to grab that girl and hug her fiercely and tell her that I love her no matter what. Ah, but that might be weird, so instead I laughed and said, “Yes, of course.”

One of the main objectives of this blog is to increase the love factor in our universe. So, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about things they might have said or done in the past. I guess I’m just trying to raise some awareness in the hopes that we can decrease some of the negative junk that’s surrounding real issues. I know wholeheartedly that we are all doing the best we can with the tools that we have at any moment in time. Sometimes, we are just living our lives, doing our best, and unbeknownst to us, we are unintentionally judging/hurting/alienating others.  So, here’s the thing (for the record)… My choice for myself has nothing to do with what you should or should not do. Even if I decide to call myself an alcoholic that does not mean that you are any more or less likely to be an alcoholic yourself. My choice to not drink does not in anyway mean that I think you should not drink either. My choice is just for me and really, honestly, I swear to God, has nothing to do with you. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could somehow unlink our insecurities and let everyone just do their thing? If I drink and you don’t, that’s cool, man. If I don’t and you do, that’s cool, too. Let’s maybe lay off each other and try to see past the stupid alcohol, and instead work on true connections, understanding and support.

Another objective of this blog is to provide a sense of belonging for those of us who feel very much alone on the inside. Yes, actual humans surround us, but some of us feel isolated and misunderstood when we think about our souls. I’m hoping that anyone who is struggling with an addiction might find solace in knowing that they are not at all alone. Whether you’ve started your path to recovery or not; please know that you are in good company.

I’ve decided that I’m part of a club called Sober Sisters. I’ve also decided that you don’t actually have to be sober to be in this club, but you do have to support sobriety as a choice even if, especially if, you don’t get it. You can’t believe that we are ridiculous and dramatic, and you can’t talk shit about us behind our back.   To be a Sober Sister, you just have to love and accept those of us resisting the booze, and we promise to love and accept you too.

Who’s in?


 

Ooooh oooh!  Pick me!  I'm in!  :)  I'm a SOBER SISTER™ too!  
 

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Of course, after reading this, I desperately wanted an update on Kristine's life.  
In case you were also in my boat, look no further!  
 

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