Can You Fill Up This Need-Hole For Me, Please?

Lack.jpg

And that is the problem with need-holes.

When my life gets tedious, mediocre, BLAH is exactly the place I struggle the most. When I have to do the dishes, again, when I have to make dinner, again, when one week becomes indistinguishable from the next is when my brain starts seeking stimulation. And yes, a trip to the museum or a movie would most likely satisfy, but that is not where my thoughts go first. That feeling of lack, void, is the hole I filled with booze or sex or new shoes, so now when I feel its insatiable mouth gaping open, my first thought is ACT OUT.

I can't always see these feelings coming, but the longer I'm sober, the more certain patterns become clear. This is that time of year with Halloween on the horizon, I know Christmas and the New Year will come blazing in like a speed train and I'm already regretfully looking back at 2018 wondering if I've done enough, if I've landed where I want to be.

Um, future-trip much?

I've found myself fantasizing that I'm floating in a lake with my ears underwater, where all I can hear is my  own heartbeat. If I stay there, time seems to stop. I just want to float and float, oblivious to time, ignorant of its slippage. 

Let's face it, I still want to change the way I feel. I don't want to sit with it, move through it, lean into it. I want to throw any self-helping book-quoting meme across the floor and watch it smash into a bazillion pieces. But I don't. I don't act out either. I stitch. Stitching, with a threaded needle, is the one thing I've found in sobriety that forces me still except for my hands and that thread, in and out. It's the one thing that makes me okay with the maddening idea that I have to just stew in my feeling of lack, that there is nothing outside of me that is going to fill my hole so I may as well stitch up my fucking jeans because nothing else is going to get done and I have to be okay with that because I am okay. Time will still slip, dishes will once again accumulate in the sink, I'll make burgers for the 20th time this month and soon enough, it won't all feel so dreadful as it does now. I once heard that if you are drinking (or insert whatever you use to fill the need-hole) to make life tolerable, you must look at what is intolerable. Even though I haven't had a sip of alcohol in four years and some change, this feeling is here to remind me that I'm only tolerating some things and my guess is, it's bigger than dishes.

*Addendum: I published the above words in a newsletter that went out to my subscribers earlier this week. It resonated with many, so I wanted to add some thoughts I’ve had since.

I don’t think there is a cure for pain, as Morphine’s Mark Sandman’s words searched in song, but if he ever arrived there, he surely wouldn’t need his drugs. I wish that Mark’s addendum would have been that he found it, but his heart finally broke all the way on a stage in Italy in 1999. I guess my conclusion thus far is no conclusion. When pain comes, we have to see it, acknowledge it like I did in my words above, recognize that it’s in the room, give it a comfortable chair. Let pain prop its feet up, as it may be here for a while. See pain as a teacher because without the contrast, we wouldn’t really know joy. And when pain gets up to leave, know that it is never Goodbye, only Until We Meet Again.

It is no cure, but what I have realized in the last few days is I am much better when I have goals. Maybe that is my future-focused tendencies but I got out my Name-It Journal and jotted down the Big Ideas that I’d like to see to fruition in the coming months. I put so much energy around that yearly calendar flip, but it really is just an arbitrary construct and time is as expansive as I intend it to be. Over four years ago, I left the particular pain I co-created with alcohol behind, so I now have room to see that when I am feeling angsty, it is always something bigger than the dishes. The creativity I am not bringing forth will always be a pain-point for me, the universality of that said best in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas 70,

If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.

It’s no cure, but it is a solution.

What You Resist, Do That (Seven Weeks)

I mentioned in my last blog post that I'm pulling a notecard where I categorized my first sobriety journal, in anticipation of three years of sobriety, I'm reflecting on a bit of what I wrote. Yes, I know, breaking the ODAAT rules, but I like how this exercise is forcing me to look back. My past is not where I live nor where I want to put my valuable energy, the shame that brings up throws me right back in fear jail and once again, I am stuck. But I do need to remember how fragile and precious those first days and weeks were, and how I was like a sponge, sopping up every bit of wisdom I could lay my eyes on. The one I pulled today is about resistance.

It says, "Instead of looking what you are willing to do, look at what you are unwilling to do. Look at the resistance. Because if what ever you are doing isn't working, it's time to try something different." When I reached three months of sobriety, I remember very distinctly the extent of my willingness. I felt so different after that short time, I was much more afraid of going back than I was to try something new. That started with reaching out to people I knew that were sober, telling my friends, No, it's not just for tonight, I'm NOT drinking. This was when I started thinking about a 12-step program, and I didn't dive in just yet, but I began to think it could be a possibility. I started asking myself questions like, Well, why not? Is that true? Maybe, perhaps, I could? I took out that very long list of things I'd been adding to for decades, things that I didn't do, couldn't do, wasn't willing to try, Oh-that's-just-not-me and I took a long look at it. I examined every item. I had an inch of willingness and that was all that was needed.

Will it be uncomfortable? 100% of the time. And there is a 100% chance of failure. If you are willing to jump into that ring, only everything on the other side. Don't compare your first attempts at something to someone else's that is way down the road. Instead, let that be something to aspire to. If someone has what you want, set your intention on the path to get there. Name that thing you want and if you feel contempt come up (sounds like: I could never have that, that is just not me, I've never been able to do that before why do I think I could do that now...THAT voice), that is your resistance. And that is your next bread crumb, grab it.


So those words above me there, yeah, written a month ago and sat here unpublished. The same lessons keep showing up, don't they? I could give a million excuses why I couldn't commit to this series, even though the resistance is the obvious one. I've mentioned that working in seasons really flows for me, since I do have several passions that vie for my time. Lately, I have yearned to work with my hands. Writing is such a cerebral activity and when I neglect my hands for too long, I can feel their ache. My biggest lesson (and by virtue, gift) in recovery has been living in the moment. Whatever program you choose, rigid or loose, meetings or mats, I hope it is a program for living because that is all of it, wrapped up in a pretty bow. 

Living, showing up and say Yes has afforded me friends and opportunities that I just didn't have before. Sure, I had friends and opportunities but I always had an agenda, expectations. Now my checklist is much shorter, my first question true to my intention, Will this bring my joy? If there is a check by that question, the rest seems to fall into place.

This brings me joy.

If you live in the Austin area and haven't been to one of my meetups yet, please come! This was a succulent planting party that my friend Jenn was kind enough to host at her beautiful home. My one item list was definitely checked this day. Friends, this is what living in recovery means to me.

If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it. --Hamilton, the Musical

 

 

Daily Practices

Don't you love a good creative daily practice? I find that they really keep me grounded in the day, whatever they are at the moment, because I can get distracted like a MFr. To be clear, I'm not talking about prayer and meditation, yoga or brushing your teeth, although all of those obviously have value (and these are arguably creative too). I'm referring to a daily, creative activity that because you do it every day, it sort of forces your creativity to come out and play. Some have come and stayed, some have died for the moment. Morning Pages and a happy jar are the first that come to mind that seemed to have fizzled for the moment, but they can come back anytime. Some I adopted about a year ago I'm still successfully sticking with, like drawing a tarot card a day from The Wild Unknown deck or listing daily gratitudes in a gratitude circle comprised of some dear friends, both of which juice my brain and soul equally.

I always seem to come busting out the gate at the first of the year with some kind of new daily practice I've schemed. Right now, I'm posting one #dailygratitude on IG and I'm numbering them in hopes that that will keep me accountable for the year. I'm a photo-taker, so that one doesn't feel like too much effort. 

And speaking of tarot, there is a card that I often draw, more than I'd like actually. It is the Four of Cups and it's about being discontent (keep working on the gratitudes, Lady) but at the end it asks this question: What are you longing for? Name it. Well, my husband came back from the art store shortly after the New Year with a handful of journals that were in the sale bin. I grabbed one, not sure what I was going to do with it and then it hit me. Okay 4 of Cups, you win. I will name it. 

 

So I'm naming it and holding nothing back. 

I don't know about you, but I have high-level problems with expectations. I'm almost always left disappointed and sometimes resentful. This practice gets these 'wants' out of my head and onto the page. Done. Gone. It sort of deflates the expectation like a sad little balloon left in a hot car. If they happen, neutral. If they don't happen, neutral. It is just about the practice. And then it sort of magically frees my mind up to think about ways I can GIVE than GET. *Magic*

You know what else I get to include in my list of wants? Things I already have, because things I already have are things I want. And this is NEVER not the case.

What are your creative daily practices? I'd love to hear in the comments!