Le Noche Oscura

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Thanksgiving week began better than fine. Sure, I had a list, but it was more about how I wanted to feel that week than what I wanted to accomplish. Less doing, more being, and even in 'doing', my expectations were low. Thanksgiving Day festivities came and went. It was not particularly exciting but there was no drama either. It was nice and even. There was one element missing though and that element was my son. He spent the day with his father and grandparents and I honestly felt that I lovingly gave my consent, again, no drama. He hadn't seen his grandparents in a while. Intellectually I was fine, however, I didn't check in with my heart too much. That night as I was waiting for his return, it started. I began to compulsively text his phone, his Dad's, his grandparent's and when they wouldn't return fast enough, the catastrophic thinking was triggered and it wouldn't stop. Even when he eventually arrived at home safely, it didn't stop and wouldn't for days. 

I don't know if you've ever had episodes of catastrophic thinking, but it's maddening. There are only two certainties in life: one is change, the other death. So yeah, we're all going to die. When you are stuck in a catastrophic loop, unfortunately often the natural progression is all out depression because if we are all going to die, then what's the point? What is the point of taking this next breath, much less take a shower or eat something? Except when you are depressed, you can't even think in options. Your brain doesn't even lay it out like that, "Sondra, you could take a shower today or not, your choice." No, it sees nothing, a vast void of nothing and the only response is uncontrollable waterworks. 

I think I've had a propensity to depression my entire life but I self-diagnosed and wrote my own prescription: alcohol. Alcohol worked enough to anesthetize myself to the feelings of it in the moment but as alcohol is a depressant, it would get right back to work, doing its job every morning  to convince me that not only was I still depressed, but I was also a piece of shit. Now that the alcohol has been removed, yep I feel the feels but at least I'm not piling on a distorted sense of worth. Remarkably now, because I know what feeling good feels like, I can become an observer, at least for a minute, a second, I can stroke that part of me that says IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS FOREVER, and say, "Nope, it isn't. Even though you can't remember what to do right now, you can't remember the things that make you feel better, you will. In the meantime, it's okay to bury your head into your teenage son's shoulder and sob through Lady Bird because everything is impermanent. He will leave someday and your daughter will probably hate you for a minute and you will say that wrong thing or not say the right thing but it will be okay." 

I'm pretty sure I got sober right when I was about to launch into perimenopause and I don't know if that was divine intervention or an ancient intuition guiding me (perhaps they are the same), so it is hard for me to separate regular depression from alcohol induced depression from hormonal depression. I don't know if it is hitting me so hard this year because I'm sober or because perimenopausal hormones are like CRAZY. When I woke up after a few days of it and, after crowdsourcing and asking for help, I remembered that acupuncture made me feel better so I showered and went. My acupuncturist was sitting in for the receptionist, so she was right there when I walked in. The words barely came out of my mouth, when she said, "Me too", and our words just spilled from our mouths almost simultaneously, each confirming the other's story. Funny how that works out. When I was kicked back in the comfy chair cooking, needles protruding from heads, hands and feet, I remembered that I had come to her years ago, maybe five, and cried as I told her that I needed to cut back on drinking and asked her for help. I had completely forgotten about that too. I then drifted into a meditation and I was an owl flying very low through a dark wooded forest. There was just enough moonlight to make the ferns and rocks glisten, it was still very dark but very beautiful and I was not afraid.  

Since I've shared a little of my experience this week, I'm gathering some resources. (Thank you if you have reached out, I really appreciate it!) Coming out of it, I have so much more than what I had going in, more connection, more resolution, stronger solutions. If you can believe it,  I am grateful for the valleys because without them, I don't think I would really appreciate the mountaintops. It's just a different view, and sometimes down there in the dark, you can really see your own layers, your depth, your fears and your resilience.  And then Sister Moon comes to shine a little light so you can fly your way out.

 

Housekeeping

Me and housekeeping go way back. I was never taught to love housekeeping or be mindful over it. I was never taught anything except to have disdain over it. So when I figured out that it could be a drinking activity, it became not only tolerable but an event that I looked forward to for the ritual I had created around it. Back in my single apartment dwelling days, I would save all of the cleaning and laundry for my day off, buy a giant bottle of Gallo Red and a pack of smokes and drink and clean, and drink and smoke and clean and fold and smoke and drink some more, all day. Usually, I would get lost in some old photos or a particular record would have me journal illegibly, but I would always wake up to a hangover and a clean apartment. 

The hardest things for me to get back to after getting sober was cooking and then surprisingly, doing the ensuing dishes. In the beginning, I just had to take time off from cooking and it was both sad and hard. I love to cook but I hadn't done much inspired cooking without my companion glass(es) of wine. I had my husband step in instead while I would head out the door, earbuds in, for a walk at 5pm. Or we had lots of pre-made dinners during that time that just required time in the oven. The crockpot saved me as well as that was loaded up before noon and I was generally safe from the obsessive thoughts. 

The dishes, though. You wouldn't think a task so seemingly blameless and uninvolved is still something I only approach if I am of strong mind. Doing the dishes was always something I would save until after everyone went to bed and I could finish the bottle, or open another most likely, and drink without six discerning eyes on me. Now, I often go to bed with dishes in the sink because you know what? Who cares. I go to bed sober with dishes in the sink and no one is marred from that. I figure my kids have therapy to look forward to over many things but it won't be because I left dishes in the sink.

My love for cooking has reblossomed and I'm very grateful for that. My Granny was a baker and just an all-around fabulous Southern cook, so it is in my DNA. I get great comfort from preparing a dinner or baking a pie, and I'm so pleased that this is the warm emotion that I feel now.

And you will know peace.

If you are reading this, maybe you made it through Thanksgiving sober, and maybe you didn't. And we have more to get through. My first Thanksgiving was very hard and I just powered through but just know, you don't have to power through. You can do less or you don't have to do it at all, I promise it will all be okay if you choose your sobriety and sanity. There will be another overly stimulating, inflated holiday next year, I promise.

I really do love to make pie. All of the Southern women in me love pie. Buttermilk is my favorite but this year I also made a pecan, which was my Daddy's favorite. Every time I've taken a walk in the last few weeks, I've brought a bag with me to gather pecans that have fallen on the streets and sidewalks in my neighborhood.  I'm sure to feel wistful when they've stopped falling.

I won't give you a pie recipe because they are all mostly the same. I will tell you that I make my own crust and I use butter AND Crisco. I don't care what anyone says, it's the best crust ever, end of argument (winky face). 

I would recommend making yourself a pie, on a Tuesday even. I would also recommend having pie for breakfast, with a fat cup of coffee. Go ahead. I give you permission.


Now for a bit more housekeeping. I have made some recovery themed embroidery art and it is over in the Marketplace. Perfect gift for that sober person in your life that seems to have everything!

The next bit is that Tammi Salas and I are going to be on the Since Right Now podcast this week! It will be live Wednesday evening but then rebroadcast after. We're going to talk about creativity and how it informs our recovery.  Look for SRN on Itunes, Soundcloud or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Finally, I am currently accepting submissions to Meet The Unruffled. If you are in recovery and find that creativity really fuels that, I would love to feature you and highlight your words/art/photography/poetry/music/hog calling/indigenous mushroom collecting/swamp dancing/whatevs. Bonus if you live in or around Austin, TX and I'll come and photograph you doing the thing. Hit me up!