Posted in acceptance, motivation, self-care, sobriety, social anxiety, stress

External Measures of Success

So as you guys know, I started grad school in January and am pursuing my masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I made the decision to make this complete change in career while blogging in October! It is hard to believe that everything has happened so quickly!

When I made the decision, I knew it would be difficult. I haven’t been in school in over ten years. I have pretty bad social anxiety -so working in groups and presenting things to the class is going to be tough. Part of the school work is essentially intense therapy, and we all know I have my share of issues! but I wanted to do SOMETHING that mattered. I didn’t want to be a cog in the wheel anymore. I didn’t want to work in a field that is oversaturated and no longer creative and fun. I didn’t want to pretend for one more minute that I give a damn about forecasts, budgets, business suits, and sales meetings.

I want to do something meaningful, compassionate, creative, and purposeful. I told myself that I would simply work hard, do my best, and not let myself worry about the grades, the assignments, the approval of other students. Ha! I think we all knew that I’d be a stressful mess in no time lol! Well, I just got past my first round of exams and papers. I’m a walking ball of knots and stress! I had wine cravings and when I didn’t give in to those – my mind thought it would try for another old escapism go-to -gaming cravings. I did not cave to those either.

The thing is guys, I am programmed to give a fuck about all the stuff. I have spent my entire life believing I have to get the grade, the promotion, the 5 star writeup, and on and on. My anxiety is driven by my constant search for external validation…and here I am…enrolled in 2 years of constant external measures of success lol. Now, I can’t avoid it. I MUST find a way to be successful while somehow not caring SO MUCH about success. It is a great lesson to learn – one that I’m sure I’ll be helping many people through in the future.

Isn’t it funny how we can help others through something and be completely blind to our own selves needing to do the same thing? If I were supporting a friend right now, I would tell her to ramp up her self care. I would tell her that she needs to slow down and remember to also ENJOY the program. I would tell her she is smart and capable, and she always succeeds at everything she tries – so give herself a break! When she pushed back, I’d ask her to list a few times she was doing something REALLY important and thought she’d fail…and have her see how it worked out just fine then too. I’d even ask her to describe what would happen…on the totally unlikely chance that she didn’t make it through the program…and she’d see that everything would still be fine. Then I’d remind her that the reason she is anxious and stressed is because she wants to do well…and that’s totally normal too!

Well, it sounds like I have a pretty good idea what I need to do, huh?

Posted in gratitude, growth, motivation, sobriety, social anxiety

Well, that was fast!

One day, I’m feeling overly confident submitting grad school applications left and right.  Next day, I’m down and thinking I don’t even deserve to get into any of them.  Now….drum roll…I’ve gotten the news that I’m accepted into a program starting in January!  Wow, how drastically the world can feel when living life with anxiety.

Yesterday, I started my day with that great news!  And then I got to do something I’ve sort of missed out on with sobriety.  In giving up alcohol, at first, I was ashamed and embarassed that people would look differently at me.  As time went on, I developed this sense of “not everyone deserves my story” because quite frankly, not everyone does.  People often aren’t educated about addiction and telling those people my story just opens the door for judgement that this socially anxious girl doesn’t need.  So, I’ve spent over 2 years making amazing changes in my life – growing and becoming a completetly different person – but haven’t really shared it with anyone (other than my husband and fellow sober friends).  Yesterday, that completely changed! I got to tell the world that I am a new person… with new goals, new interests, and new pursuits!

I didn’t have to tell the world all about my past problems.  I now have a reason to just announce my change!  This new school adventure… this new career pursuit… gave me the opportunity to finally share this new side of me without having to get too personal with every “friend” on my feed.  Guys and gals, it felt AMAZING!  I got to say…”Hey world.  This is the new me!  I care about mental health and addiction, and I’m going to do something about it”!

You know what else I got to do? I got to give notice to my toxic consulting clients! The worst of my clients did exactly what I expected.  She was furious and said All. The. Shitty. Things.  And guess what? I don’t care.  I was able to tell her – “This is how it is.  Either take advantage of the time I’m still here to help… or waste it being pissed.  Your choice”.  Good riddance!

I know that going back to school is going to be HARD. I know that going into a new field in my 40s is going to be CHALLENGING.  I know that there will be unexpected downsides to this path.  Every path we choose has plusses and minusses.  I’m hoping doing something good in the world and helping people… will outweight whatever minusses come along with it.

Posted in Uncategorized

1 down 2 to go…

Last time I posted, I talked about how I made the decision to go back to school and change career paths. I want to become a mental health counselor. I am still very excited about the decision, but today I am feeling a lot of doubt.   Do I really have any shot of making this happen?

Last week, I got word that I was turned down by one of the three schools I applied to.  It’s funny, because I had actually decided I didn’t want to go to their program after all…but then they gave me the form letter rejection, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I actually wish I hadn’t gotten the notice until after my next school interview – because it really shook my confidence.  Logically, I know that I was never guaranteed to get into the program.  They get 100s of applicants and were only selecting 6.  I’m a great human being, but I’m not necessarily top 6 of 100s.

I just got home from a group interview from a second school.  In that interview, every other applicant was already in the field!  For every question, they could speak to how they’ve already encountered it professionally or how they’ve been trained to.  Then there’s little ol me.  I work in a completely different field.  Most of my experiences related to therapy are related to my own personal therapy journey.  Many of the reasons I think I would be good as a counselor are related to my mentoring within sobriety – which I have no desire to even discuss publicly.  The other candidates seem to already know exactly what they want to do, what will be involved, and how to articulate it.  Meanwhile, my social anxiety was alive and kicking in a way I haven’t seen in over a decade.  I just couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.

I don’t believe I did great on the group interview.  Maybe, it’s just a case of me needing to know what a group interview is like.  After all, I’ve never been in an interview with other candidates before. Or maybe, I’m not far enough along to really deserve to be there.  What gives me the right to decide to go into this new field with little to no experience in it?  On the other hand, this is a field where there is a shortage of professionals AND an increase of patients.  Why is it so damn hard to get into a program when you’re willing to cast aside a successful career to get involved and help?

I should hear back from this 2nd school at the end of the week.  I’m either going to get great news… and then can start planning for how I will tackle social anxiety on a weekly basis while role playing and presenting things in front of groups of people LOL…or I’ll get bad news and then have to reevaluate what I’m going to do differently.  Either way, I know it will all work out in the end.  It always does.

Posted in Uncategorized

I might be a shitty dog mom, but I’m not a drunk dog mom!

Today is one of those days that I have to remember – even though it sucks, it would be so much worse if I still drank. The “bad days” are so real now. If this were 18 months ago, I would have had a lot of wine and vodka the past few days. And what sucks…is even though I don’t drink anymore, I still somehow spent the entire day as if I were hung over (including the Uber eats order of Mdonalds to get me through).

I barely slept last night – partly because I believe the waitress at dinner sabotaged me with caffeine when I asked for decaf, but also partly because I’m going through stress at home. Our super loving , but oh-so-fucked-up rescue dog had an altercation with a very sweet neighbor dog over the weekend. Now $460 later and an awkward relationship with a new neighbor – and here I am a complete and utter mess.

You go into pet ownership thinking about all the joy pets bring and all the fun they are. Until Friday, I never really had an appreciation…not a true one…for the fact that these are animals… with instincts and drive.. that I don’t even fully understand. Sometimes pets do crazy stuff that can completely fuck up your life…or someone else’s. It is a huge responsibility to own a pet – I mean…even my cat is basically an itty bitty murderer.

The crazy dog incident was an accident. Our rescue mutt hasn’t fought with another dog before…but he is anxious and scared of dogs, and I didnt keep him safe. I didn’t protect him from himself. I failed him. I stupidly let him in the garage with the door up – and off he ran, ready to fuck up the weekend …and fuck up his life.

On the scale of bad dog things – this wasn’t enormous. All the dogs are alive and well – one just has a lot less of an ear than she did before 😦 but I am horrified, embarassed, sad, and now scared to death of what the neighbors think and worried if the little ear-ripper is going to always be like this.

I feel so much guilt. It was an accident, though. I have to find a way to forgive myself…and to forgive my poor dog. I have to find a way to make his life less stressful and in a way where he doesn’t want to eat ears as an anxiety reduction method!

This has nothing really to do with sobriety…except it has everything to do with sobriety too. I don’t drink. Sometimes shitty things happen, and I still don’t drink then too. Now when shitty things happen – I feel them. God, do I fucking feel them…and I dont know how to always cope with that. I’m still learning.

I can say, though, I may have accidentally let my horribly anxious dog out…but 18 months ago I’d have probably been drunk when it happened, and I bet that would have been a total shit show! So … accidents are different now. Accidents feel shitty, but at least I know they don’t happen because my brain is functioning poorly from poisonous chemicals.

At least I can say I am doing my best. I might mess up, but I do my best and learn from what I screw up. That is way better than barely remembering what I screwed up the next day!

I’m reaching a bit, here, but that’s all I got. Today, I am having a really hard time…but I never once thought alcohol would make it better. And even if my 25 pound, ear-munching mutt is the talk of the neighborhood- at least I’m a sober dog mom and not a drunk one!

Posted in acceptance, self-care, sobriety, trauma

Understanding the Past

Good morning everyone! It is a very crisp 27 degrees this morning! I am sitting outside on our heated porch, with two snuggly pups, listening to the birds.

I read a great post today where the writer was discussing people who call themselves “damaged goods”. I remember when I use to laughingly say that when describing myself to others. Back then, I would tell perfect strangers my worst truths upon meeting them. I’d rather just get it out there, up front, and see if they would stick around. It wasnt worth it to put in the effort of getting to know someone and have them leave once they found out my faults.

Can you imagine thinking you were so flawed that no one would want to be your friend if they really knew you? Some of you can relate, I am sure. People never did turn me away when they heard my flaws, though. In fact, my vulnerability to open up and share personal details almost always resulted in people being even more drawn to me. Funny thing, then I would push them away – “clearly you are a bad judge of character- so I shouldn’t count on you”. I really didn’t think much of myself.

As a child, I was surrounded by abuse, neglect, addiction, and enablement. I never knew my mother, and the family that I did know always hurt me or let me down. I grew to rely on myself. I am a survivor – strong and capable. I am far from perfect and have a long way to go, but I am NOT damaged goods. I use to think I was, but just because irresponsible and unhealthy people treated me poorly does not mean I am damaged. Their actions and poor behavior reflect on them, not on me. They have their own problems and illnesses. They did what they did as a result of that, not because I deserved it. That doesn’t mean I forgive them or can even completely let go of the past (yet)… but I do see it for what it is now.

It is hard as a kid to understand that people have a ton of baggage, and their actions toward you can be weighed down by that baggage. As an adult – as someone who has made mistakes because of my own baggage – I get it a little more, now. Sure, I have never done what was done to me – but I have certainly done things I regret and treated people ways they didnt deserve. We all have.

Today, I can honestly say that I am a good person. I am worth knowing. I bring value to life. It took a lot of soul searching, therapy, addiction, and sobriety to get this far – but here I am.
Posted in addiction, recovery, sobriety, social anxiety

Thankfully Sober

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! Today is day 1 of our vacation! Me and Hubby are celebrating our 3rd year of marriage this week! It is hard to believe I have been sober for A THIRD of our marriage! It’s harder to believe that I drank for TWO THIRDS! I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! I am thankful I found Hip Sobriety and This Naked Mind when I did. To be honest, who knows how much Hubby would have put up with if I hadn’t! I am thankful that he stood by my side while I found my way! A lot of people in my life didn’t.

I’ve been thinking about addiction and mental health a lot lately. I didn’t choose to have debilitating anxiety and when people learn about it – they dont blame me at all. I also didnt choose to become addicted to alcohol. In fact, I had been taught that only “some people” become addicted to alcohol -so I had no reason to believe it would be me, but it did happen to me.

When you hear people talk about addiction – they always blame the addict, not the product that hooked them. We as a society drink…everywhere… all the time. We drink to celebrate. We drink to loosen up. We drink to be social. We drink to have fun. We drink to unwind. We encourage everyone to drink, and tell people they are no fun if they dont. Then when one of us becomes unknowingly and unwantingly addicted…we shun them. We shame them. We blame them. That makes it nearly impossible to ask for help.

No one sets out to be addicted. No one wants to crave a product that no longer serves the purpose it use to. No one wants to be unable to control their use. No one wants to physically become dependent on a chemical that changes their brain and body for the worse. Everyone just wants to be happy and cope with life the best they can.

We are told that alcohol is a great tool, and then it betrays us…and then everyone blames the drinker, not the addictive drink?! I guess that’s how the world use to feel about smoking. Funny how we finally see nicotine for what it is – but dont see the similarities to alcohol.

Well anyways, this is all to say – that even in a world full of drinkers…that may never truly understand me…I am thankful to not be a drinker. I’d rather be misunderstood and living this amazing, new, and shiny life…than be bonding over a fake chemical reaction from booze.

For anyone struggling with addiction, or having a hard time being sober in this crazy booze-soaked world….it gets better and it IS worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT. I know how hard the holidays can be when active in an addiction. While it isn’t your fault that you are addicted, you are the one who needs to reach out to get help. If not now, then when? There are options and people to turn to: Smart recovery, Refuge recovery, AA, Hip Sobriety School, and This Naked Mind are just a few to get you started. Hang in there and know you are not alone.
Posted in self-care, sobriety, social anxiety

Two Social Weekends Over!

Good morning, everyone! It’s 8am and hubby has left to go fishing. I am sitting in my happy place with a lap full of dog and one of my favorite views. The minute we stepped in the cabin yesterday, I could feel all of the icky, stressful week just melt off of me. This is totally my sanctuary.

The last two weekends, we had visitors. The first weekend was Jan and Bob (who I wrote about last time) and then the next weekend were two important friends of my husband (who I had never met).

I went back and forth about how I felt about having visitors at the cabin. This cabin is half paid for with the money I use to spend on wine & vodka. This cabin represents so much about my sobriety and my new focus on self care. Did I really want to share it with family that stresses me out or with strangers? And what about alcohol? This cabin has never had a drop of alcohol in it (at least since we bought it). Its never had a hangover in it. Would someone drinking in my sober sanctuary ruin it? Some friends counseled me to forbid alcohol in the cabin, but then I’d have to tell them about my reasons for not drinking – and tbh, that is not something I share with just anyone. Some friends said we should just skip the cabin, and I considered that too, but even though Jan and Bob drive me insane…I also really wanted them to see the cabin. For some reason, I am forever trying to show them I turned out an ok adult.

So anyways, we did the cabin thing with both sets of visitors. With Bob and Jan, it was really tight quarters. They brought SO MUCH STUFF to a 700 square foot cabin! That’s totally “them”…go visit people and be as inconsiderate as possible. They didn’t drink at all the entire weekend, though. It was a surprise to me because literally every photo they post is a photo of alcohol. Alcohol is heavily intertwined in their reality. I don’t know if they just don’t enjoy drinking around non-drinkers or if they are trying to be respectful. They just know we don’t drink, not my situation. Honestly, most people think we don’t drink because hubby can’t drink on his medication. And while that’s true that he can’t – the reality is…I don’t drink because me and alcohol have had a 20 year abusive relationship, and hubby doesn’t drink because he is supporting me. The weekend with Bob and Jan was tough. I was pretty tired and was happy to reenergize after they left.

The next weekend with hubby’s friends – let’s call them Mike and Wendy – was AMAZING. I thought it would be difficult. I was going to be alone with Wendy the entire day while hubby and Mike went fishing. I imagined my social anxiety running the entire day. I thought of every single way I could fuck up the day. I imagined saying all the wrong things – or even worse – sitting around in that horribly uncomfortable silence that always leads me to bring up the strangest topics out of desperation. “Isnt it weird how socks have such an annoying hem right on the toe”? Seriously – 42 years and I haven’t come up with a list of NORMAL topics for this situation yet?!

All that worry and stress and yet the day was perfect! Me and Wendy went to the spa, then shopped, and then talked for hours. And we talked about politics, race, immigration – any “off topic” topic for talking to strangers…we talked about it! It felt so good to have a conversation with someone I was aligned with. That’s rare where I live. But get this…Wendy brought wine to the cabin! Fucking wine! Ugh! But honestly, it was fine. Since I told her I didnt drink, she just put it away until dinner time. At dinner, her and her hubby killed the bottle pretty fast. I could see her eyes glaze over just halfway into her first glass. I saw the fast drinking and the heavy pour…and I wondered if she doesn’t have even more in common with me…but who knows.

It’s funny how different the two weekends were. I had family with me one weekend – and I was stressed, tired, and felt tortured. Then I had perfect strangers with me another weekend and had the best time. We didn’t feel crowded in the small cabin and it just felt relaxing and good. That’s the thing about social anxiety – you prepare for all the potential terrors, but rarely do they come true. I almost always come out feeling completely different than I go into it. I wish I could get my logical self to explain that to my irrational self!

Happy Fall! It is really beautiful today, and I have two dreaded social weekends over and behind me!