Tuesday, February 19, 2008

100th Blog Post

Well, this is my 100th blog post and it seems as good a time as any to review where we've been for the past few months. I began this blog as an exploration into recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. I had been trying many different recovery modalities, but had yet to find one that seemed to fit me personally. You may have noticed that not every post, maybe not even half of them, are actually about addiction or recovery. There's a reason for that.

What I hope I show here is that there is a lot more to me than the drinking problem I defined myself by for so long. A whole helluva lot more. What I hope others with similar problems may realize is that they, too, can make the choice to define themselves differently.

One of the first decisions I made was to stop attending AA. There was a time in my life, which I've written about, when AA was a catalyst for positive change, but that time had long passed and I was only hurting myself by continuing to try and find something appropriate for me there. When I would go to AA and attempt to stay sober indefinitely, and then fail in that attempt, I would beat myself unmercifully and the deep and intense guilt I would experience was much worse on me than the actual drinking. Plus, some folks in and out of AA seemed all too eager to assist me in the lashing. So I decided to quit doing that to myself. When I stopped doing it to myself, I stopped letting anyone else do it either. I think that's called empowerment.

Some of my best friends are members of AA. In keeping with their 12th tradition, I would like to say thank you to two very special women - you know who you are.

I gave myself permission to explore the things I was really interested in and the things that I felt could lead me out of alcoholism. I had this idea that a life lived with deep passion and joy would leave little room for addiction. So I deepened my inquiry into astrology and how it could help me make sense of life. I also began work with a woman who had identified as alcoholic for many years, but who had transcended that label. She introduced me to Caroline Myss' work on archetypes which was a perfect accompaniment to astrology as astrology is really all about archetypes. I decided to explore the relationship between sex, guilt and addiction - specifically how feelings of guilt around early sexual experiences could morph into addiction disorders. Eric Frances over at Planet Waves provided a space for this exploration. I intended to write more about that here, but I haven't gotten comfortable enough to be quite that open. I maintained my spiritual practices - yoga, meditation and writing. Writing is a spiritual practice for me because I cannot hide from myself when I write. I can still hide from you if I want to, but not myself. None of these explorations have turned out like I thought they would; mostly they've turned out better than I could've imagined.

The first and most wonderful change came when I noticed that I could drink without guilt. I could enjoy drinking in a social fashion. This doesn't mean that there was an instantaneous switch to moderate drinking. I sometimes still drink too much, but I no longer beat the crap out of myself for doing it. I've observed that when I am in a difficult situation or having a hard time emotionally, I can still go into heavy drinking as a coping mechanism. And I've observed that I can stop it.

As long as I believed in powerlessness as the 1st of the 12 steps requires, I really was powerless. When I would drink under that premise, I literally felt that I couldn't stop drinking and the binges could last for days or even weeks. These binges were exacerbated by an addiction to a drug called ativan which I finally broke in September of 2006. What it feels like now is that I'm backing out of alcoholism. I like to drink. I practice harm reduction by not driving when I drink, not letting it interfere with my work, and not adding anything else to the mix. I believe as long as I am responsible to my fellow human beings, I can maintain my private life as I please. No harm, no foul. This is not a popular notion these days. At the same time, I have become much too aware of where my real joy lies to get too far away from that, which is where excess drinking takes me.

I have gained more confidence, more joy and more fulfillment from following my own path, however crooked it may look to someone else, than I ever did by trying to maintain abstinence from alcohol. Anyone will tell you that abstinence from alcohol does not equal recovery. Very few, if any, people will tell you that recovery is possible while continuing to drink. But I know there are others out there like me, who believe it is possible and who will follow that belief. Some may consider us stupid, a little crazy and even hopeless. Others may consider us courageous and ground-breaking, while most of you could probably care less one way or the other. Which leads me to the second wonderful thing that's happened for me. I don't base my decisions anymore on what someone else thinks is a good idea for me. I think they call that liberation.

A few weeks ago the woman I was working with had me make a list of the positive changes I'd seen since we began working together. Here is that list:

I've had more instances of drinking and enjoying it than I have of overdoing it and regretting it.

I've felt my confidence soar.

I've done some excellent writing.

I've felt the Universe filling me up from the inside out.

I've drawn lines in the sand with people and been utterly prepared for whatever response I got.

I've spent a lot of time letting myself move through grief.

I've created a sex life for myself that doesn't require a partner and I've also enjoyed great partner sex.

I have redefined some relationships in my life to be on a more equal basis.

I'd like to add these to that list:

I've been true to myself.

I've moved out of blaming anyone, most especially myself.

I still feel the naysayer's judgment. I still wonder if they will be right in the end - if I will ultimately move back into full blown alcoholism and possibly lose my life. And then I remember: none of us gets out of here alive. Today is the day, baby. What are you going to do with it?

And on that note, this will probably be my last post before surgery. I've added some great new people to my blogroll, so please check out: Crazed and Confused, Frankiecon, Lee's River, Rae's Confessions, and The Electric Orchid Hunter.

And oh yeah, that picture? I took it with the cowboy on top of that snow-covered moutain, on a very sweet and sacred Sunday afternoon. Peace, ya'll.


Beverly Keaton Smith said...

Hey Angela, what a powerful post! So rich with your truth and authenticity. Impressive list of positive changes too! I wish you all the best on your upcoming surgery along with a nurturing recovery that has you back on your feet in no time. Hugs, Beverly

thailandchani said...

I think it's wonderful when people find their own way and their own answers. There's no packaged philosophy on the planet that will work for everyone. AA provided me with a good social network when I first stopped drinking but that was it. The philosophy never made any sense.

If you can do it the way you're doing it, more power to you. At least that's how I see it. :)

Wendy said...

Hey girl... had a minute to catch up with you but had to go back to the lowdown. I've found peace in recovery, and however you do it, I hope that's what you've found as well, and it sounds like you have. Good luck with that knee... and pardon the AA expression, but this too shall pass. Before you know it you'll be looking back and glad it's over with. I'll be thinking about you. LOL, Wendy

Sherri said...

Good luck with your surgery, Ang. I know you're gonna come out of it better than new. I'll keep you in my thoughts. :)

Olivia said...

I too loved your 100th post. Honest and authentic as always, something I try to emulate but am only just beginning to learn. The picture went with the sentiments---precious.

I think that the story one tells oneself about what is happening has a great deal to do with what happens next and the choices one is empowered or not empowered to make.

I will be thinking of you, Angela, as you undergo your surgery. I'll miss you. Healing energy, healing love, and rest, O

miss*R said...

so how long til surgery? good luck with it all

you know, there use to be a blogging rule that on the 100th post you had to write 100 things about yourself... dumb rule.. I never did it!
xoxo (I will send some healing thoughts too)

Angela said...

Thanks to all of you ladies. I admire and appreciate each and every one of you.

storyteller said...

Congratulations on your 100th post and the way you've shared your journey here. I've found the writings of Caroline Myss most significant in my life as well. Here's wishing you a speedy and full recovery from your surgery.

While you're recovering you can think about writing the "100 Things" list miss*R mentioned (or not). I did it recently on my 101st post … not all at once, but as a cumulative post over week or more adding things each day. Several times I considered “dumping it” but since folks had left comments along the way that didn’t seem right somehow. In retrospect, it was an interesting reflective process.
Hugs and blessings,

Rick Hamrick said...

Wow! What a power-packed post, Angela. I hope to do as well with my 100th, which is still some time away, I'm afraid.

I love the list of positive changes, including the ones which make me more curious than some of the others.

As you know, I had several times held you up as my real-life example of someone who determines her own way, then simply sets out that direction with the full intent of getting where she is going.

Olivia may claim she is only beginning to be as honest and authentic as I find you, yet she is another example I hold up, this time to myself when I wonder if what I am about to post will prove too embarrassing or challenging to others.

Thanks so much for the sharing you do, and I look forward to the day when you share more of those parts you are not yet quite ready to get into, here in this wacky world which we can only see through this window folks call a computer screen.

Healing beams of light heading your way, timed to arrive just when a dose of light will help your mood after your surgery!

Claudia said...

100 posts! I love the list and I just plain love this blog and you, too, Angela.

As you know.

originalremixed said...

I have just discovered your blog, and I am delighted. You are a wonderful writer and I applaud you for defining the terms of your own recovery. I have stopped drinking 9 days ago after 10 years of "regular" not "social" drinking. I am going to do this as long as it feels right, but I have every intention of inviting alcohol back into my life, once or twice a week. I am writing occasionally about the journey on my blog (and about a lot of other things too!)
Blessings, GD

Angela said...

Rick, now let me guess just exactly what you want to hear more about. :)

Storyteller & Miss R - I had a hard enough time coming up with 7 things and you want me to come up with 100! Well, maybe I'll try.

C - right back at ya, girlfriend.

Originalremixed, I'm delighted you found me as well. I look forward to checking out your blog. Thank you!

Jane said...

What an amazing post! Angela, you really are an inspiration to us all. Congrats on your 100th post. Funny because I started to print out my posts this week...all 295! I thought that I could figure out a way to bind them and give it as a gift to someone. It is amazing when you look back at all the writing since you started. If anyone ever doubts that they've made change, all they have to do is look back at old writings and they'll KNOW the change.

Happy Thursday!

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

woman, no harm, no foul says it all. Best to you for what lies ahead.
(and I'm following up those links you posted. Sound very interesting.)
Will be here when you come back.

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

p.s. just read the sample at planet waves. My comment?
Right. On. (And thank you jesus that somebody's writing it.)

Rick Hamrick said...

(grinning) I'll try to be less transparent next time, Angela!


I found your blog from a link on Frankie's and I am so glad I did!
I do use the steps for my recovery but I am very, very aware that they do not work for everyone. I used to be an addiction counselor and was trained in a cognitive-behavioral model, then worked in a NON-12 step setting. So, believe me -- I get it!
On my blog, I include links to many, varying ways to improve one's chemical health. Abstinence is not the answer for everyone, nor is it necessary for everyone. I hope you don't mind if I put your link there.
I'll spend some more time catching up on yer blog. I will also send you an invite to mine. I'm not sure if you would be interested in it or not -- I primarily talk about my experiences in 12 step stuff.
Keep on writing -- its is good stuff!

Angela said...

Thank you, just another addict. I will visit your blog soon, but am having surgery in the morning so it may be awhile before I get there. Thanks for the invite!

Rae said...

Good luck with your surgery, Angela. I will say a prayer to the Universe for you.

Thanks so much for this post and for your courage to look past those feelings of the naysayers' judgments. I think we are all in recovery to uncover ourselves ... not learn how to walk someone else's path. I think it is wonderful that you are listening to the voices within.

Who knows? Like you said ... maybe you are just fooling yourself that you can drink and live through it ... but maybe others are beating themselves up when they could be finding true sobriety.

I strongly believe we have to walk our own path and for me, I have to learn to be gentle. Thanks for a great example of how to live that life.

Thanks too for the link love ... I appreciate it muchly.


kikipotamus said...

Lots of wisdom here. You are healing. It may be two steps forward, one back, as it is for every journey of healing. But healing it is. Big hug, K

Lisa said...

Oh my gosh. Can I just say YOU ROCK! You are a wise and wonderful woman and I am so pleased and priviledged to know you.

Have a quick and blessed recovery from surgery. Love you.

Lisa said...

Hi Angela,
This is Patrick (with Lisa).
I'm happy that you left AA. In my experience it was a sponsor-bitch relationship. If it were different perhaps I wouldn't drink, but it wasn't so I do.
And speaking of I do, Lisa and I are going to be married this year. We're going to run away from home and elope. Presents welcomed.

Angela said...

Lisa & Patrick,

How very exciting for you! Congratulations!

bella said...

What a wonderful walk through your discoveries and exploration since beginning this blog.
It feels good to look back, to take stock, to examine and then keep moving.
And I deeply resonated with moving beyond needing the external validation, to have someone tell you that you are doing "right" or "wrong". Very liberating.
Healing to you as you recover from surgery.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

Congratulations on the 100th post and the continued success of your journey. I apologize for my absence, but things have been rather involved in fleshspace, you see.

Your unabashed approach is wonderfully refreshing. Thanks, and keep it up!

Angela said...


It's always great to see you, whenever you stop by.

Addiction Treatment said...

congatulations for your 100th post and best of luck for surgery.