On Paula

I have worked in a hospital for 20 years. 99% of my work has to do with outpatient administration. I am been in the background and very much away from the inpatient floors. Those few floors are where the procedures, recoveries and most critical health issues take place. Yet I nearly always forget I work in a hospital.

On some work calls I hear about the inpatient statistics and infection rates of COVID. Those patients seem distant and far away. They have little to do with me. Yet on other calls where letters are anonymously shared, patients and family members have the most human experiences on those floors. Experiences that are so positively impacting to their lives that they take the time to share. 

While these letters cause me smile and temporarily feel proud for working in my organization, they do not personally touch me.

Enter Paula.

Yesterday my husband & I moved a wooden flower container that was Paula’s from our deck to our small garden area behind the fence to remove the dirt. 

As soon as we dumped the dirt the entire container fell apart. Pieces of wood mixed with the dirt. I was surprised at the great condition those pieces were in. Being a self-proclaimed up cyclist artist, I immediately saw beautiful pieces in which to make art on. First order of business was to make something involving Paula. 

Paula used to have beautiful wildflowers in that same box. I remember her telling me in 2020 how she went to go put some seeds from a packet into the container when the wind carried the seeds right out of the packet! She thought they flew away, but a few months later beautiful flowers appeared. 

Now, like her life – some of the most raw, beautiful things such as the wildflowers are long gone, but the memories and magnificence of what was there remains. 

Paula was the first neighbor I met when my husband and I bought our current house in 2016. It was a second home on the water in Branford. We had no intention of living at it for several years, so I was taken aback (in a good way!) when Paula and a host of other neighbors warmly welcomed us to the neighborhood. 

Somehow every time we were here, I saw Paula. She was always around. Walking, talking to neighbors, out with her happy dog Stella. Paula was in her mid-sixties and lived alone. She was FULL of life. Always smiling, laughing, joking… Happy.  

She often invited me over with my dog Koji to her fenced yard. Sometimes I had limited time at the house to complete work and declined her offers, other times I went there to spend time with her. In a short time, I learned about her life. She had a beautiful home that was lifted from the ground recently (flood risk) and again she was one of the happiest people I ran across regularly. 

She often hosted Happy Hours. She held a welcome party for anyone who moved to our small community. She randomly met people on walks or in town and made connections with them and for them. 

Somehow, I had her cell phone and she texted me often. She would often call to let me know about how nice my renters were, that an ambulance was on the street, that something happened in the neighborhood we might be interested in. 

I felt a part of the neighborhood even though we didn’t live there – thanks to Paula. 

Extra bananas, clothes she was cleaning out, a knickknack that reminded her of me… she was often coming by with items that I may want that she didn’t need. 

She dressed beautifully. Her natural hair color of nearly white looked very chic on her stylish cut. She had keys to our house and often went in to check on things while we were away. She welcomed nearly all our renters to the area. I still have dozens of comments from renters about how wonderful the area, neighbors and particularly “that lady across the street” Paula was. 

She was the only neighbor our children knew the name of. None of them ever lived here but when they visited they were sure to run into her. 

I shared my blogs and stories with her. She often commented and referred to little things I wrote in daily interactions.

Based on an innocuous comment one hot summer day in July 2018, she was the very reason I realized how my PTSD was different from panic attacks. This kicked me into a 3-day frenzy of large flipcharts and sticky notes about the root cause as I explored a past that I was previously afraid to face. 

During that time there was a storm and we lost power. I was alone in my current home here in Branford. While I never went over to her place, Paula invited me over daily to have some salads and enjoy the comforts of her generator. I was very much involved in my little self-exploration and in a strange but cathartic despair. I knew Paula was right there if I needed anything. And that was comforting. 

She came to every party we hosted with a very elaborate store-bought dish to share. She WAS the life of the party. I do remember though in the early months of 2019 during a party she disappeared quite early. The next day I brought her coat that she left behind over. She would tell me she didn’t remember going home. She was drinking so I wrote it off. 

In the late summer of 2019 when we permanently packed up our Cheshire home and made the move to Branford. Paula was very excited. Yet every so often she seemed confused. It was getting to be this way for a while. I can’t say when exactly. But she wasn’t the same. 

She was never the same. In 2020 the decline had taken an obviously noticeable turn. She turned 70 that year and in the height of COVID her brother and sister-in-law hosted a very nice outdoor party. Paula had friends staying with her from all different times in her life. My husband & I heard stories from them about Paula that were not surprising – how friendly and vibrant she was, how amazing of a friend she had been, how she lit up a room. And how the person now on her 70th birthday was only a shadow of Paula. 

Now it’s 2022. Her home is empty. She is a patient that some administrator counts the beans for. She is a number. Paula is someone that providers confer about how to handle during a huddle. Someone that the family members will likely write a nice letter for if her care was good. A random note that someone like myself who does background work to make such a place run will hear about, smile for a moment and carry on. 

But what about that patient’s life? Their loved ones? The people they touched? The remnants of their possessions that used to hold such life and love? – Like the planter that used to adorn her lawn which is now in pieces in my yard? Where and how does that all count? 

Where do those stories and that love go? 

I was a very small part of her life for a very short period of time. Thinking about Paula and these pieces of her planter (that I will absolutely turn into something beautiful) will hopefully help me to stop and think about each patient while I run thousands of beans for them in various “ways til’ Tuesday” so the administration can make data informed decisions. 

These lives count. All lives matter. We aren’t just numbers. We are amazing human experiences that make differences for the next lives that come along. The history of each one of us may not be recorded – but we make history with every last interaction of our lives. Even by accident. Like the wildflowers that appeared when Paula thought they flew away. She planted something beautiful and didn’t even know it. 

Some pieces of the wood I plan to work on first out to dry.

On Non Alcoholic Beverages

20 months and counting. This is just my point of view and may not be suitable for all.

10/9/22

Today is 20 months without alcohol for me.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last 20 months, particularly about drinking. 

I love to drink. Not just alcohol. Beverages. All kinds. Coffee, tea, sparkling water, soda (diet ONLY), Crystal Lite… and now non alcoholic (NA) beer.

I’ve always loved the taste of beer. I think my first experience of beer was when I was around 7 or so. My family and I were coming back from a Sunday afternoon of fishing off the piers of Brooklyn NY.  We didn’t plan to stay out that long and we had nothing to drink. I was soooo thirsty. 

On the way home we stopped for a family favorite- pizza at Spumoni Gardens. My dad stood on the pizza line with my brothers and my mom and I on the drink line. The beer for my father came out first. I had been complaining for hours about being thirsty. The soda was taking entirely too much time. My mom handed me the beer and said “just a sip”. I took the flimsy wax coated cup off the tray and intended to take one gulp, but promptly downed the entire thing. My mom looked at me with horror. 

“You liked that?” she asked?

“Yes, I was thirsty” I replied.

The workers behind the counter handed us the sodas and the pressure of the line moved us out to the general courtyard where we sat with my dad and brothers.

My mom was still shocked when she said “I need to go back online to get the beer, Esterina drank it all”.

The rest of my family stared at me in awe. Everyone asking how I could have liked the taste. 

Geez, I was just thirsty and it quenched my thirst is all. I didn’t understand the big deal.

I had also danced for 10 years. 2-3 times a week for most of the school year I would put on a pink leotard for ballet lessons and the black one for tap and jazz. I was always concious of how that leotard fit. As I got older and started filling out more, I started to think about calories and the things I liked. I always loved soda and when I realized that diet soda tasted almost exactly the same I decided to never have non diet soda again.

I may have had non diet soda once or twice since then (I honestly can’t say), but it’s diet soda for me now. At least for the past 35 years it has been. 

As a young adult I never chose alcohol as a beverage of choice unless it was some fruity elaborate cocktail on a beach somewhere. Even then I’d only have one – completely aware of the sheer number of calories the drink had.

But sometime in my early 30s there was nothing but non diet soda and beer as an option with pizza somewhere after helping some friends move. I was hot, hungry and thirsty. I wouldn’t drink the soda but had the lite beer instead. Less calories.

And oh my gosh was it good! Beer and pizza together was amazing. It was Miller lite that our friends bought. So the next Friday for pizza night I picked up a six pack of Miller lite. Light beer became a part of my life. 

Well, fast forward a few years. I met my now husband who introduced me to enjoying the subtleties of wine. That was a new area for me. Wine isn’t so easy to just have 1 when there is a whole bottle involved. The addiction took hold from there. Light beer went to all kinds and a little wine too way too much. 

Now I’m 20 months from my last drink and am as happy as I’ve ever been. I don’t miss anything about it. But I do have to give a giant plug to NA beer. I love it! I love it like I love diet soda. All of my life since I switched to diet soda I just don’t even like the taste of regular soda. It’s so sweet my teeth hurt. When it’s the only option I’ve often taken a sip to be polite but let the cup sit full. 

When I first got sober, one day after gardening I craved beer. It has long been a go to after a very hot day or long hours of work. I remembered we had NA beer in the fridge. But I opted for the diet soda instead. It was just as refreshing. 

The next day I started telling this same story to one of the Aware Recovery companions that came to my house as part of the year long program I admitted myself to. When I got to the part where I remembered there was NA beer in the fridge she stopped me with some kind of urgency and almost yelled “You didn’t have any did you?!”. 

No I replied- taken aback that she perceived I nearly avoided a relapse. What did I know? Was NA beer a gateway to drinking again? It seemed to be!

A few days later I told another companion who was at the house about this treacherous near miss. This one told me that despite being in recovery, she is a bartender and has NA beer and mocktails all of the time. She treated the episode as no big deal. 

I didn’t comment. I needed to mull this over. Maybe it was one of these things where there is no hard and fast rule. To each their own. 

No one talked about NA drinks in AA. My husband ended up buying a few varieties to try himself and they were always around the house. But it wasn’t until about a year ago this month that I dared try one. 

At my first sip I was convinced I had beer. I had to go to the fridge and read the can. It wasn’t one of these 0.0% things. I did claim it was <0.5%. Again I was scared about this little amount. I looked it up and read there is no way anyone can get drunk from that amount. You need to drink 40 for any kind of buzz. Your body processes this tiny amount so quickly that even if you could injest 480 oz in any short period of time, you still can’t get inerbriared.

Inebriation-proof and tastes this good? It seemed as too good to be true as the Diet Coke I still love. 

I started drinking them and trying different kinds. They are so good. To me as good as the real thing, but no buzz. No risk of slurring or not being able to drive. 

Nothing came up on my very frequent urine tests with Aware, the breathalyzer or at the addiction treatment center I went to for Vivitrol shots. 

It took me weeks to even think about telling the third companion that I was drinking NA beer. She was the youngest of the group and seemed to be the most receptive to such an alternative thought. As soon as I told her she piped up that she still goes to bars with friends and drinks soda or whatever non alcoholic cocktail might be advertised on the menu. She has been doing that for years and never felt tempted.

Not long after another companion was added to my dwindling # of visits (because I was nearing the end of the program) and this one had a whole list of NA cocktails up her sleeve. Additionally she didn’t get the AA word that drinking any of these out of a wine glass was the road to ruin, so my guilt about even entertaining such a thought went out the window. 

Now I am not saying this is ok for everyone- to have NA drinks, beers or mocktails. Or to have them in traditional drinking cups. Perhaps if I didn’t take that pause when that first companion sort of scared me. Perhaps that may have quickly put me somewhere bad. I’ll never know. 

It’s often not possible to know when you made the right choice. Usually you know when you made the wrong one.

But I’m still not saying it’s a great idea or alternative for everyone. It might not be. I am not an expert and the only experience I’ve had is my own short lived one. 

Not long ago I opened the question about yes/no to NA beverages to the local town Facebook recovery group I am in… and if one could get their proverbial head bitten off I would have. Glad I only asked and didn’t tell them I did!! Not one person (not 1) thought it a good idea. 

The two biggest comments were

1- when did we ever drink for the taste?

2- mimicking the real thing will lead back to the real thing.

And I think that might be true for some people. But not all. 

Everyone thinks they are different or immune to whatever the warning is. I took pause here and evaluated. 

I’ve always had good discipline when it came to food/drinks/calories. I do realize that drugs and alcohol are a different story and their addictive qualities make that nearly impossible to control. 

But I am not having the real thing and there is nothing addictive to it. 

I’ve always been ok with knock off food versions. My Diet Coke as an example, but so much more. I switched to skim milk in high school when I had money from a job and a car to buy the milk. We only had whole milk at home. Did it taste as good?? No of course not. But it was better for me and good enough. Now I prefer it. But I don’t even drink milk anymore- only almond milk. Another switch that wasn’t as good at first but my now preference.

Same with sugar substitutes. I never minded snackwells or those fake types of sweets. I prefer making them myself. Yes, like the beer they taste a little different- but not much. These kind of things satisfy me without the guilt and over time I don’t even like the original anymore. The same has been true for me all my life from the milk down to tofu over meat. 

So in answer to the responses to my question in the Facebook recovery page, I did drink for the taste and never has the fake version led me back to the real thing. When I switched I switched for good.

It’s been a full year now since I dipped my toe into NA beverages. So far I don’t feel any closer to a road to ruin.  Do I miss wine? Not really. There are zero good subs for it and in the face of that reality and I am not even interested.

I haven’t really gotten very into mocktails – for the same reasons I never did before on hard cocktails or hard alcohol. The calories don’t seem worth it. 

The growth of NA beer is pretty astounding. It is available everywhere. The only place I haven’t come across it is in the Bahamas. But everywhere else I have been since in the world, it’s readily available.

What makes it even more fun is the lack of too many options. There are 1-3 available choices TOPS. So I get to try the one or three varieties and never feel like I’m missing out on the dozen more I could have tried like I often felt with the real wine or beer I drank too much of.

The truth is I love to drink. I like lots of drinks. I love the taste of beer and I can have that taste without the consequences. It’s a chance I was willing to take and knock on wood it’s been a gift!

Not for a second in the 20 months and counting now did I feel like I was missing out on a things. I feel great and I love my life. I love my life without alcohol.

Yeah

On the Importance of Food, Shelter and Clothing

Most mornings and evenings I walk with my husband and our beloved black lab mix – Koji. In the morning with limited time, we walk down the shore and back and observe the day awaken. In the evenings we take a longer walk. Depending on the time of year we are catching the height of the evening’s festivities, the daily wind down, or the flat out night in our neighborhood (summer to winter span).

This morning it is late September. The air is cool and I wore my lightweight, dark blue rain coat I purchased in Maine a few years during an unexpected rain storm while in Perkins Cove.

I already had my morning coffee. I wasn’t yet hungry. I was not stressing about what may be in my work inbox. My life felt content and I was alive.

So very alive that my senses were more open. 

I felt the crisp autumn air around me. I held my arms out and inhaled deep breaths. A few times in the past week or so I was able to detect the smell of wood burning in a nearby fireplace. 

I heard the dog sniffing. I heard the squirrels shuffling across the grass and their tiny feet crunching the dried fallen leaves. I heard water from the shore in the distance. I heard a lot of bird signals and whistles . Mingled into it all were the sound of crickets and other unidentified woodland creatures. I closed my eyes to help my ears hear all. What a song!

As we approached the shore I noticed the early morning light dancing across the water. The sun hadn’t quite made its way above the horizon. But the light was creating a spectacular palette of color nonetheless. 

I didn’t have my phone and asked my husband for his. I snapped a short video of the rippling water and rising sun. It looked beautiful through the camera, but more beautiful in real life. Nothing captures the moment like living, breathing and appreciating the actual moment.

On the way back home I contemplated nature with teaming life around me. I’ve been wanting to go back to being vegan. I do not need to eat so much. Some people have no healthy or good food options. Others have no food at all. 

This got me thinking… How can you have an appreciation for life when you are hungry? When your body is so primed to keep itself alive it is not thinking about other lives. It is telling you to feed it. 

Sometimes I walk at lunch. Almost always after dinner. I thought about how I don’t always enjoy these walks so much. When I am not dressed right, when I am in rush and worried about getting back to my computer, or when I am thirsty or hungry and fantasizing about what to eat or drink when I get back home is when I enjoy these walks the least. 

I like every other human feel content when I have food, shelter and clothing. Next up Maslow’s pyramid is safety. 

For years I did not feel psychologically ‘safe’ with my husband. For reasons that belong to another blog his perception of how to approach the issues in our lives brought a proverbial fire alarm in me. When I worry about work or the kids or when I don’t feel psychologically safe, the ability to have my senses pick out subtle sounds and visual nuances are dulled. I don’t notice what the dog is doing if I am walking him, and then I’ll subsequently feel annoyed with him. I’m not present to those walks or my life when I don’t have the bottom of the pyramid covered.

As we continued home this morning I contemplated how I felt safe. Safe with my husband who at that very moment of my quite contemplation seemed to sense just that by reaching down to gently place my hand into his. I felt safe with him and in my neighborhood. 

How can anyone feel safe living in the ‘hood’ just a few miles down the road? How can you feel like the world is beautiful when outside your window is nothing more than buildings that block the sun? Where there might be a dangerous concrete jungle? Where the sound of birds and crickets is overtaken by honking horns, someone yelling, loud street signs and overall chaos?  If your walk to school or commute to work is fraught with fear and anxiety about being safe and what may greet you when you get there, how can you be comfortable and take a moment to appreciate life. 

How can anyone thrive without life’s basics? 

A flower cannot grow without a medium, sun and water.

A human cannot flourish without food, shelter, clothing and safety. 

They just can’t.

Anyone who says we live in the land of the free and that anyone can make it is naïve. 

I’d like to think that too, but people who don’t feel safe at home or anywhere in their surroundings during their day-to-day life are not free. They are a prisoner of their own heightened senses that are keeping them alive. When a human is hungry, they cannot think of anything else but how to eat. When we are cold or too hot, our body turns down our other senses off to divert energy into keeping us alive. No shelter or an uncomfortable sleeping arrangement leads to sleep deprivation. No one thrives when their body is too tired to function.

I personally don’t know what to do other than what I already try to do. But I want to do more.

If you feel you have food, shelter, clothing and psychological safety at the moment – perhaps just take a few seconds to stop and think about one thing you can do to lift the consciousness of others so they can be happier and more productive members of society too. 

This morning I appreciated life. I wanted to be better, do better, go vegan. I felt that way because my needs were met and I was able to look past myself and help this beautiful world around me to thrive. I wanted to protect nature. I wanted to bring up other humans to a place where they could see and appreciate what I was able to at the moment. 

Pay it forward. Forward this message. Activate and do something, anything… and give me some ideas back along the way… 

Only we can help each other. Our families, our neighbors, our communities. It starts with me. It starts with you.   

If just one person does one thing to help raise us all as humans from reading this blog; then I consider that a success. 

On Transformation through Thoughts – You have more power than you think!

“She knew the power of her mind and so programmed it for success.”Carrie Green

I saw a Facebook post from my good friend Michele and it inspired me to write a blog. I haven’t felt inspired to write in a while.

There is so much truth to this quote.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the word “woke”. Back in 2008 I don’t remember what I googled, but I fell into a rabbit hole of reading about what the end of the Mayan long calendar meant in 2012.

There were all kind of end of the world predictions. There were also some spiritual explanations that were ever so slightly hokey, but something about those explanations felt right. Have you ever heard or read something that spoke truth to you down to a cellular level, where you knew in your core there was veracity to it?

The spiritual predictions said in 2012 there would be a mass spiritual awakening for many humans. People would start to look at the world in a different way and realize immutable truths that were otherwise hidden in plain site before.

I closed the browser that day and enjoyed the life I built at work and at home, although there was always a little bit of a nagging feeling that something was missing.

4 years later when 2012 arrived I was in a new marriage with a larger family and despite the unbelievable love I had for my new family, there were equally unnecessary struggles with the adaptation of the new situation. So much so I was experiencing anxiety at levels that I’m sure was doing irreversible harm to my body.

And then oddly, a series of trainings, books and podcasts just happened to come my way. They were eye opening and in a few months I had radically shifted the way I saw the world. An absolutely new world opened up to me where I understood how our minds and brains work. How what I was doing and “striving” for was not the key to happiness.

That is what the term “Woke” has meant to me until 2020 today when I heard it used in the way most use it now.

True happiness does not come from things, vacations, relationships or experiences. True happiness comes from the way we choose to see the world. 

It’s that simple.It doesn’t sound possible to a scientifically minded left brain. But when I let go and allowed myself to be turned over to the will of the universe, the answers came to me, just as the Bible and other ancient texts promised.


Knowing was great! But remembering and using the principles were not a habit yet formed. It’s a lot easier said than done. 10 years later and I’m at a place where I remember more than I forget. It’s hard!!
So how do you just change the way you see the world & why does that make a difference in your life?

What do words and “spells” have to do with it? A simple way to put it is that every single thing in our universe has a vibrational frequency. Even thoughts.


Vibrations attract other vibrations.
You can’t see or experience something in a vibration that you are not aligned with. The same way we can’t hear a dog whistle or see ultraviolet rays. Humans do not have any senses that vibrate at those levels.


Also the whole universe works in the same way life in that it is manifested through various mixes of the five elements.


From densest to lightest (also lower to higher in frequency) those elements are:

Earth

Water

Fire

Air

Ether


A seed goes into the dirt and the dirt doesn’t care if it’s a watermelon seed or a carrot seed. Given the right conditions and mix of elements, that seed will grow into what it was intended to be.


The seed has potential and a code (watermelon/carrot/hydrangea). That code is the vibration or the intention- the thing with a lot of power that we cannot see.

The dirt is the womb that holds and brings that seed to fruition.

The other elements play a role too – air (wind), water, and fire (sun). The way they all mix will determine if and how that seed reaches its potential.Animal and human life is created the same way.


And so it’s said is the manifestation of everything else.

It’s not the situation that’s causing your stress, it’s your thoughts, and you can change that right here and now. You can choose to be peaceful right here and now. Peace is a choice, and it has nothing to do with what other people do or think.”Gerald G. Jampolsky, MD

Thoughts are like seeds and our mind is the womb in which they grow. We manifest what we think either intentionally or unintentionally. The mind doesn’t know or care if it’s a watermelon seed or pansy seed, it just nurtures the magic code in it to life.

That is why it is so important to be mindful of your thoughts. That isn’t easy without practice. The practice of meditation is one of the most helpful ways to remember to monitor your thoughts off the ‘mat’ too.

BUT- and this is a biggie, all thoughts have a vibrational frequency and even if you think you are manifesting something you want, if the intention behind it is not something you would want in your own life, you will get just what you asked for.


Huh???


You want money maybe. You put that thought in your mind and wait. But you don’t get it, you get the same life you have been living. “This crap doesn’t work” you say. It won’t if your intentions are not clear or different from the way you live now. The intention (potential like the code or ether in the seed) is what really matters.


What is the intention behind the desire for money? Is it to buy food and just survive? Is it to get drugs to get high? Is it to buy a big house or fancy car and ignore those who have nothing? Or is it to do good in the world? Is it a mix?


You will get what you intend. Like the line in The Lords Prayer “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. When you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven.


When you want something that will be harmful to others, you will in some way be harmed. When you just want to get by, you will get that. If you want to make a difference in the world and do good, opportunities will come your way to do that. Your vibration will attract similar vibrations.

We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. Anais Nin.


It’s not things we can manifest (car, money, house), we manifest our intentions. Whether we think them through or not- “Who’s head do I need to trample to get a raise and buy the new car?” Or “Who should I put down to feel better about myself?”. You will experience that which you wish. You may get the car, but you will not be happy very long because something equally as uncaring in the way it was obtained will happen to you and you ultimately will not enjoy that car.

You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”Marianne Williamson


The last piece to this is spoken word. Words have more power than thoughts. That is why chanting is so powerful. I’ve written about mantra before and why Sanskrit (which is not a spoken language) is used. It’s so the intention of the mantra stays clear without your own individual bias on what a word means being accidentally inflected into what you are asking for.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word.”

John 1:1

Before the universe, before the Big Bang, there was something immensely powerful all balled up and ready to explode. It had within it the intention of the entire universe- like a seed. When the bang happened and the universe began to spread out, the same law of seed, dirt and conditions were applied to all that were in that pre-explosion dense inject. The Christian bible uses God as the activator, but whatever higher power you believe in (could just be the universe itself), when this power made the decision to come into being and gave the command (spoke the “word”), action followed. Whatever it is you believe in, it really is the word.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” Pearl Strachan Hurd

There is a very scary truth to that line. Being mindful of what you say begins with being mindful of what you think. It’s easier said than done. It takes practice to catch yourself and be sure to keep replacing your thoughts with things you want to see and experience. Things that will do no harm.

Meditation is a great practice. Before you think “My mind can’t meditate, it doesn’t work for me”, consider this:

Just by being quiet you will very quickly hear what is going on in your mind. As things come up, contemplate if it’s a thought you want, a thought that does no harm, or a thought that is positive and uplifting. I promise a moment later you will forget and your mind will take over with either the same old thought or something new. It’s normal and the human condition, it’s not you . Your mind will keep chattering, but try to keep interrupting it. Keep asking yourself if that’s a keeper thought or if it should be plucked out like a weed. 5 minutes of meditation a day is a good start because that practice will help you to notice what repetitive string of thoughts come up the rest of the day that will either serve or not serve you. Keep at it. It takes very little work but the pay off is the life you want. It’s not a miracle, you have to practice it. Only with time will it work.

That is what it means to Wake Up. To be aware of yourself, your thoughts & your intentions, and not asleep at the wheel.

Words: So innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

So be “Woke” and change your life ☺️

Women Take Notice – While Our Heads are in the Sand

Women need to take notice. Men too. Our heads are in the proverbial sand. We are so bombarded with information that it’s difficult to process anything. Meanwhile somewhere in the background in many countries, including our own, human rights and common sense are at risk.

I was feeling depressed about the state of the world this morning while over coffee scrolling through the news. Top stories:

  • The economy is tanking at record levels
  • Roe vs. Wade is about to be annihilated
  • Baby formula has been recalled and it’s nearly impossible to come by
  • The Taliban is forcing women to cover from head to toe in Afghanistan
  • Same sex marriage could be on the line
  • A small U.N. agency was swindled by a corrupt banker

Holy poo-poo…

But equally “up there” in headlines: 

  • What being a witch really means 
  • COVID 19 conspiracy theorists
  • Space travel reservations are skyrocketing 

Wait, what – SPACE reservations? As in outer space?

Who has this kind of money? And why aren’t they worried about the above and solving real issues?

We have some of the scariest world leaders in history – Brazil, Russia, China, I won’t say anything about the Orange person who used to be in office in a powerful country and somehow helped bring the Supreme Court to a place where Roe vs Wade can be legitimately overturned. I have mixed feelings about this one; but I am no where close to agreeing with the direction this is leading.

We seem to be seeing more world leaders that look like ones I learned about in Elementary School while sitting at a small desk in my blue uniform in Brooklyn on a rainy day. Leaders like Stalin, Hilter, Mussolini. People with crazy ideas that went against progress, kindness, and the duty to care for all people, for all creatures and the planet. I felt safe in the United States in the 1980s looking out the window across the street at the retirement home being built. These leaders were from another time. But not anymore.

While our heads are in the sand –

Our food supply chain is contaminated and it’s altering our cells. 

We can’t agree that science is showing climate change is caused by human consumption and not something that would be happening naturally despite the mountains of evidence acquired in the past 50 years.

No one questions how the miracles of the Internet, the world on our watches, our car knowing the speed limit and where we are actually work. There are waves all around us we can’t see, that in some way just has to be going into our skin & lungs, penetrating our vital organs.

And people are spending record dollars on flying to space? As in off the planet? 

As I was writing this my son called to say Happy Mothers Day. I told him what I was writing about and in the blink of an eye he helped me to laugh after I capped all the bad things off with, “and people are wanting to fly to space?!”. 

Of course ma. People want to get the F*c# off the planet. They are going to be flying by waving at us and laughing. And why not try witch craft? Everything else seems unreal, who says witch craft isn’t?”. 

Yes. Not true, but true. In some way wouldn’t we all just like to run away?

But we can’t. Because while our heads are in the sand women’s rights around the world are starting to be pulled back. Haven’t you seen or read the Handmaid’s Tale? No one believed it could happen. While it was happening in the early stages people just went about their lives thinking someone will make sure it will not happen. Surely in this day and age it can’t… right?

Right?

But it is. No doubt Afghan women thought that. In a year or two Italy might be looking at the United States on the issue of abortion and thinking about us as we think about Afghanistan. As impossible as it might be, it’s over there; not in my backyard.

Meanwhile in Ukraine… how does this happen? 

How can we protect the rights we currently have before we do not have any? Women’s rights particularly are at stake. Women… who are more compassionate and need a voice at the table on all issues as well; perhaps now more than ever.

What on earth can I do as just one person who is very concerned and in a ‘free’ country as it is now in the year 2022? 

Before this happens?

On Rainbows

This morning I was doing mantras on my beloved mala beads off the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas on our good friend’s catamaran. 

It suddenly started to drizzle, then rain – quite abruptly and hard. My husband who was doing his own yoga on the other hull and I ran to the back of the boat where we were greeted with a beautiful rainbow.

Wow… It stopped me in my tracks. How beautiful. And how beautiful to see a full rainbow on the horizon. We are so lucky.

I couldn’t help but think of the state of Ukraine and her beautiful human citizens who are not so lucky. These past few days I have instinctively wanted to use personal mantra to will something positive or hopeful to the outcome of this unnecessary war. But I also remembered that mantra is personal and will not work for anyone outside yourself. I briefly wondered just then as I have for the past several mornings why then do we use group mantra to raise consciousness or send faith outward? 

The answer was in front of me. 

The rainbow. I marveled at the colors. The anagram of ROY G BIV that I learned around the kindergarten years. The order holds true no matter where you are. 

About 10 years ago while listening to U2’s song Ultraviolet, I contemplated and then researched the meaning of colors and the length of their spectrums. As I started to get back into art a few years later, I considered the meaning of colors even more. The way they blend, and how a color wheel can seem continuous from red to purple, it’s really not. Purple to red is the only place on the wheel that isn’t quite part of nature. What happens between those two? Is there a real place between them? 

White light contains it all. The earth bends the suns rays and we get the rainbow to the visible eye. But what is beyond that? We know about infrared and ultraviolet, but what is there that we can’t see or detect with the combination of instruments and our 5 senses? 

Universally red is considered basic and instinctive while purple is considered spiritual and highly conscious. Red is larger and takes up more space on the rainbow. Purple is smaller and is only accessed by passing all of the rainbow’s outer colors. 

What lies past purple going inward?

What can’t we see?

I stared at this gem that appears when the elements of fire (sun) and water mix into the element of air seemingly right into the element of earth’s horizon. 

The purple color starts to go within. 

Going within is the key. It’s the path to something deeper, meaningful and what isn’t just a mirage or hologram, but what is real and we can’t see or detect with our eyes. 

We can all go within and quiet the mind of excuses, fears, worries, selfish desires, etc to find the right answer to anything. The answer that is ultimately right for the world, not just the human who is asking. 

Those fears, excuses, desire, etc are the other “colors” you need to pass through in order to find the peace within. 

The place within where field or maybe plane of existence of the personal self does not matter. What matters is what is real and what is for the greater good. 

So perhaps the question I wondered about mantras for personal matters vs mantras for others was right there in the rainbow. It is the bridge between personal self and greater good. I can do mantra to seek my own higher consciousness, which is ultimately for the greater good. Or I can chant with others in community for the greater good. 

It all works if the intention is to leave all the material and selfish behind and pray for peace and harmony for all. 

ALL. 

Regardless of species, race, skin or hair color, or beliefs anyone was taught. 

If you truly truly go within, you too will know that none of anything material or visible matters if what you wish for others is what you want for yourself. 

Just some of my deeper thoughts this morning. 

Namaste

Chinese New Year and the Magic of Your Thoughts

Last year right around this time a trip to the post office may have changed my life.

I was online and noticed a sign for stamps celebrating Chinese New Year. I picked up my phone to look up the date. Friday, February 12, 2021. I wondered why Chinese New Year wasn’t based on the calendar. 

Later, at home, I popped that very question into Google. I learned Chinese New Year was based on the new moon and I read quite a bit about the traditions and celebration.

Still, I wondered – Why this time of year

A few days later during my morning meditation routine I had some interesting thoughts. 

This time last year I set an intention during my morning meditation to quit drinking. I would do some EFT (tapping) and imagine burning up the energies getting in the way of doing so.

For the New Year of 2021 I placed a Shiva statue on my meditation table and switched my daily mala mantra to “Om Namah Shivaya”. I also placed a wooden sign I painted above the door frame of my meditation space with this same mantra.

Each morning felt fresh and new. I optimistically thought “Today is the day I don’t drink”. By mid-day I’d decide to drink, but that would be the last day. It was a futile merry go round and I couldn’t seem to make it stop and find where the exit back into the amusement park was.

I needed a push. I chose Shiva for that push. Stick with me about why… 

In yoga teacher training I learned a little about Hinduism and the 3 main deities of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They are the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer. In Ayruveda they can be likened to Spring, Summer and Fall/Winter. 

Shiva destroys the season of summer each year and ushers in Fall, then Winter. At some point Brahma takes over and creation starts over. Spring begins. Simple enough concept. 

This particular morning of 2/8 on my meditation cushion, I looked up at this piece I created in 2019.  It may literally look like “Chinese” to anyone but me – however; it represents my own conglomeration of beliefs/knowledge regarding Taoism, Hinduism, Ayurveda, the seasons, the directions of the earth, time, and the color wheel. 

I thought about Shiva and my question of why Chinese New Years falls during this time of year.

And while looking at my art I saw how I incorporated the 3 primary colors with the 3 Ayurvedic doshas into 4 seasons. 

Was there is a distinct point in which Spring really begins and Winter ends? A time when Shiva’s work ends and Brahma’s begins? How could it not be at this very time of year? 

While the ground is frozen and the leaves are long gone, it’s only 3 or so weeks away from crocuses coming up. Clearly flowers can’t pop up above ground without some underground work below right?

Buds are already on the trees at the Equinox. 

Mother Nature silently begins her work as the days become noticeably longer but it’s still very much winter. 

She must start around now. And why not with a mid-winter New Moon? Seems like good timing to me! Perhaps that is when the bulk of Shiva’s work is “done” for the season. 

Still with my conglomerate story? 

Shiva is a “destroyer” but simultaneously/alternatively known as a change agent or transformer. When Shiva is involved, it is apparent.

In this famous statue, Shiva is shown dancing. He is known as the cosmic dancer. Stomping and keeping the beat of the universe moving. The stomping and dancing represent moving things along, transforming life and matter, keeping it all going and preventing it all from being stuck. 

It’s why I was meditating and attempting to tap into this energy.

Side Note: In Christianity – Do you know who else is known as the Lord of the Dance?

This particular Monday morning of 2/8 I lamented on how another weekend went by and I did not stop drinking. Chinese New Year was that Friday 2/12. A new start, a new beginning. I would stop by that Friday with the Chinese New Year NO MATTER WHAT.  

I went through my morning routine: meditate, tap, mantra; with the strong intention of quitting the drink woven in.  

Be careful what you wish for. And even more importantly how you wish for it. 

That Friday did not arrive, at least not in the way I had planned. I wanted to stop by then and by golly some forces came in like a lion and made darn good certain that by Friday I was not to be drinking.

I drank that Monday. Forces were with me. There were four very irritating things taking place around me; four really tough things that would irritate and worry just about anyone.

Did I face them? No I didn’t. I drank instead. 

So what happened?

I lost my mind. I had a strong and violent PTSD episode. It wasn’t the first time. I had a lovely trip to the Emergency Room until the wee hours of the night because I was simply unable to stop hyperventilating in an elevated panic attack. 

It was on a gurney in the middle of the night on the morning of 2/9/21 at Yale New Haven Hospital, by myself. In the middle of a pandemic with a mask on and the future unknown in every way. 

I KNEW what had happened wouldn’t have happened if I did not drink. I couldn’t drink anymore. There can’t be any more “tomorrows” when I’ll quit. It had to happen now. Not Friday. NOW. I looked up a service I kept seeing on TV during my soap opera where they come into your home to help you with addiction issues. I put in a request for information and I began enrollment the next day.

The next few days and weeks were an absolute mess. I made a mess of my life. I didn’t live in my house again until April. My husband and I didn’t live together again until June. 

It was the worst of times.

It was the best of times. 

I prayed for a Shiva-like intervention. A Shiva like intervention is what I got.

It’s not how I would have imagined I’d get there, but it happened.

I don’t know if anything else would have given me pause to really self-reflect and evaluate where I was in my life, how I’d gotten there, and to really acknowledge and own the mistakes I made along with way.  

I knew the moment I made the absolute decision to quit that no matter what came next, things would be better even if everything fell apart and my future life would be unrecognizable. 

“All of these things make me who I am”

On the one hand my whole life, every decision I made and experiences I lived through led me to where I was (the bottle). On the other hand, in trying to quit and going to therapy and learning about PTSD with the intention to become a better person for the prior 10+ years; I felt I had been training for this moment for a long time. 

I’d learned and understood deeply before then that life goes on and everything happens for a reason. I learned how to meditate and breath through it. I knew where to look for resources, who in my life would be helpful, how to fall asleep in the face of pain and how to channel the influx of both good and bad overwhelming energy into something creative. 

I knew from mistakes past that I had to stop and rest when my body called for it. I knew I had to forgive myself when I really took the veil off about how I had hurt others. While it hurt to know, see and feel this pain, I knew ultimately it was ok because I had faith and know my creator doesn’t make mistakes. I was not supposed to be in any other place in space or time other than where I was.

It wasn’t AS easy as I am writing it out to sound. But it was easier than I thought. I knew no matter what happened that I would be ok, and eventually even better. I had preferences on what I would have liked and put the intentions out there. But I was careful to also put out the intention to accept whatever did happen, especially if it is ultimately for my own good.

Good things happened to a handful of others in my immediate circle as well. Based on some of the realizations and choices I made, others were able to ultimately respond to me in healthier ways and evaluate themselves with a new set of eyes.

If I expanded what I just wrote to those I have met in the past year from various recovery avenues; I have been unbelievably inspired and have been told that I have inspired many others too.

While not quite a picnic, everything that transpired put me and my loved ones in a more enlightened and accepting place. 

There are some folks in my outer circle who might not see it that way, but I trust in the powers that be that if those individuals were willing to look, there is a gem in there for them to uncover as well. Something we were meant to bump into one another for to better ourselves and each other in some form.

The Coelho’s The Alchemist, the boy searches the world for the treasure, only to learn it’s been within the whole time. One of my favorite lines from that book is: 

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 
 Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Thank you Shiva? 

However, the universe will not give you what you want directly. It will provide for you the intention that you have behind that desire. 

If your intentions are less than desirable, selfish, or towards only your kind/posse/etc, that will come to you just as it was put out. The Lord’s Prayer tells us this in the line: 

“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. 

You will only get from the universe what you give. 

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” 
 Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

If you strive to become better – and your intentions are pure, you will see how clearly this plays out and notice how you are creating your own life with your own thoughts. 

It’s TRICKY. Pure doesn’t mean “I want to be rich”. Being rich means someone else loses or you have more than others. That isn’t pure and even if it happens, it will not manifest in ways that feel good. 

While tricky, little can go wrong if you are good and have respectable intentions. Also, it is important to be and be clear about what you want, because as you vacillate the universe is equally vacillating in giving it to you. 

I learned a lot this past year. Especially how I can enjoy life more by controlling my thinking which is so much easier when it is never clouded by alcohol. 

My life is different, but you’d hardly notice. Good and bad things can and will always happen. But it has been easier as I learn and remember to accept what is and I’m not pining and wishing for it to be any different. 

While I still may instinctively want things another way – I need to know that I really don’t want it any other way. What happens as my response to it – that is ALL on me. 

Namaste. 

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

Or if you like my style -consider visiting my Online Shop @

https://www.etsy.com/shop/esterinayb

On the Secret Life Around Us

Last weekend my husband and I had a smaller, pandemic approved sized gathering for our annual Swedish Smorgasbord. A good friend of mine brought a Christmas cactus as a hosting gift. I left it on my counter that evening, transplanted it to a permanent pot the next day and assigned it a temporary space until the holiday decorations come down and it will be placed in it’s new home.

I went about my life for the next few days and this morning there were two new blooms. 

Yawn huh? 

But no. That little beauty which looks inanimate is working full time at this moment to bloom for this time of year. This plant’s whole existence is to make these flowers around right now. 

I love this Albert Einstein quote.

I love being mindful. When I am, it is simply amazing to realize there is a secret life all around us that we often don’t acknowledge.

The plants. The trees. Animals. Our own pets. 

They are living beings just like we are and are carrying out their life’s purpose.

Do you have a tree up for the holidays? Is it live? It is carrying out it’s purpose. 

I just wanted to take the smallest of moments to appreciate life. All life. Even when we are not paying attention (almost always!), life is carrying on and doing it’s thing. Life doesn’t care who we are. We have almost no control of anything outside of us. These things at least seem to know it better than us. These things are all around us reminding us that we have no control and that life really is a miracle should we chose to see it that way. 

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog by subscribing for new posts right here:  

Or if you like my style -consider visiting my Online Shop @

https://www.etsy.com/shop/esterinayb

On Surrender

Hearing the word invokes an image in my mind of a person on the ground with a hand up, holding a white flag with one hand using whatever energy they have left to wave it. It also reminds me of many times as a kid playing board games with my brother Mario where one of us was winning so far ahead of the other that the loser decided to surrender, to not waste any more time playing a “losing hand”.

 

The word always felt like defeat to me, but now I see it differently. I view the word as honesty, truth, and innate beauty. 

 

As I described it above, surrender can also mean not wasting any more time. Surrender can mean being honest about what isn’t working and accepting what really is. Why waste time doing what isn’t working? Why not be honest about the situation and go from there? 

 

I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. Each week is themed. This week’s focus is on Spirituality and Addiction. Today’s meditation is about surrender. In it he writes “Surrender is the strongest, most subversive thing you can do in this world. It takes strength to admit you are weak, bravery to show you are vulnerable…”. 

 

There were two days earlier this March where I “surrendered” and literally felt a physical shift due to a change in my mental thoughts. A shift so powerful that it tangibly exhausted me. 

 

The first was a day while I was living alone in East Haven and coming to grips with a pending divorce and newly achieved sobriety. I picked up a Dialectical Behavior Ttherapy (DBT) workbook that I hadn’t touched but owned for a few years. I decided to do some exercises in this book each day. I was a few days in when I came upon the term “radical acceptance”. I was performing the radical acceptance exercises and was challenged to fully accept my current situation. I looked around and cried. I didn’t want to. I could NOT accept where I was at that moment in time. But I wanted very badly to experience radical acceptance, as there were so many benefits to doing so.

 

I closed the book and contemplated this. It felt like an angel and devil on my opposite shoulders as my mind shifted back and forth about whether or not to accept my situation. At some point about ten minutes into a mix of contemplation and crying, the angel suddenly made perfect sense when she said “But it’s where you are!”. 

 

It occurred to me that whether or not I accepted it, it IS where I am. Why am I not just accepting that this IS my reality at this moment in time? Whether or not I accept it, it doesn’t change a single thing. 

 

I’m going to write that again – Whether I “accept” it or not; it doesn’t change a single thing. 

 

I’m still where I am. So why not surrender to accepting my actual reality? When I realized this; if there was a visual of two parts of me that were in conflict; one literally faded into oblivion while the other filled in what just left. In the next minute or two I began to feel whole; lighter, and open. A physical shift materially took place once I changed my mind and surrendered.

 

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson says, “Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.” 

 

The next moment for me was about a week later. It was a dark early evening on a Sunday night when I just had to get out of the apartment where I was staying. I left – with nothing but my wallet and phone and drove off. It was cold and I didn’t know where to go. I suddenly had the desire to just write. I drove over to Walgreens and purchased a notebook. I grabbed a pen from my glovebox and a blanket from my trunk and sat on the town green with the light of my phone. I put the phone on airplane mode and just started to write. And write. And write.

 

I wrote about “poor me”. I wrote about how my kids and husband would tell me these things about myself that “weren’t true”. I stopped. I thought about what I had just written and I thought about radical acceptance. Again, I had an angel and devil on my shoulders in conflict. What they said was not true, I thought, but should I accept it? I remembered surrendering the week before to my reality and thought about surrendering to this. I cried. I didn’t want to, but this time it was easier to imagine just accepting this, to explore it completely, and perhaps write about it. 

 

So I put pen to paper and shifted my thoughts to how this was their reality and wrote. And wrote, and wrote, and wrote… Until it occurred to me that there was truth in what they were saying. Whether or not I liked it didn’t matter. This is what they experienced and it was true despite why or how it came to be. The explanations didn’t matter- it all happened. I radically accepted this. 

 

It happened, and whether or not they want to accept what my reality was or why, I needed to accept my part in it wholly. And I did. In a very distinct moment I didn’t care anymore when, why or how; I understood them and understood it all completely.

 

At the time my son was off from his job on paid leave because of a COVID outbreak at the place he works and was staying with my husband. I decided to write him a letter explaining that I understood him and understood everything he has told me 100% inside and out. I wrote my heart out. I wanted to write a letter to my husband too but my energy had waned, so I decided to just rip out the pages that I wrote and share with him my thoughts and how they had shifted to an understanding of him. I added a few lines to explain why I was sharing and made the decision to drive the letters over and leave them in the mailbox.

 

By this time it was fairly late in the evening. I felt so amazing. Lighter. Freer. I went into Stop & Shop to buy them some cookies I was obsessed with at the time and I drove over to my old neighborhood. I saw the trash and recycling bins out front since it was Sunday night, and for the briefest moment I felt jealous that I didn’t live there and wasn’t part of putting out the trash. But more so I immediately felt radical acceptance that I didn’t live there and I imagined a world where I’d be in a new place with maybe a different trash pick-up day; and alone and even dare I say… happy? 

 

I was able to surrender. I was able to accept my circumstances. And you know what? I was really ok with it! 

 

I put the letters in the mailbox and sent my son and husband a text. I drove home in an almost bliss-like state. I felt light, tired, and hungry. Really hungry! I saw a McDonalds sign and craved a Big Mac! I hadn’t eaten meat in a very long time, but my body was just spent and I just wanted something highly caloric and comforting.

 

Surrendering never tasted or felt so good.

 The first of the 12 Steps of Recovery is to admit we are powerless. I first learned of the 12 steps on a spiritual Podcast around 2014. The speaker convinced me that every single one of us is addicted to something (drugs, drink, tv, shopping, money, obsessive thought patterns, etc) and that the first step is to admit powerlessness. Is that really different from surrender or radical acceptance?  

The moment I let go and opted to understand, somehow it gave others around me permission to do the same. The universe knew what needed to be done. When we admit where we are and our part in it, miracles happen. The happiness behind it just pours out because there is nothing, not a single story, holding it back. It’s acceptance of the present moment. Radical acceptance. It’s surrender.  Surrender changed everything and every important relationship in my life. 

 

Fast forward several months down the line. Daren and I have never been more understanding of one another. We renewed our vows a few weeks ago. We wrote our own to one another. I referenced the song “Moment of Surrender” by U2 and read out loud the portion 

 

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

 

10 years before on our wedding day we were like two robots going about in the world doing things that adults do because it’s what adults do. As the years passed I started to spiritually wake up and perhaps took him with me. We are now so aware and conscious of what our biases were; how they played a role in our history and what we do in the present moment. 

 

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are” Stephen Covey

Don’t we all perceive things based on our own knowledge and circumstances? Couldn’t it perhaps do us good to know what our biases are so when we assess a situation we know our perspective and can imaginatively consider ways others see this same thing? The only way to do this is to surrender to the knowledge that we have biases in the first place. We are attached or addicted to the way we think or want something to be. Accepting it is freeing. Don’t we all want to be free and feel ok with life as it is? 

Later in U2’s song the lyrics state: 

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
And to the rhythm of my soul
And to the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

 

Our bodies want that freedom. Once you experience surrender it’s hard to come to grips with that fight in you anymore because you know what is on the other side and it’s so much better to just let go and accept life as it is. If you fight this and you are aware of yourself, as Bono sings, you can actually feel your body begging to get back to that open good place where love and the soul accept life on life’s terms. The Marianne Williamson quote above is from A Return to Love. Because surrendering brings you to love.

I will not pretend that I don’t forget this a lot. But I can tell you that once you do, you know freedom and once you do, it’s far easier to do it again and again. I’m not saying this is easy, but I can promise you it is worth it.  

 

I’m going to end this blog with the refrain (below) which reminds me of the Safire Rose Poem “She Let Go”. Only you know when you surrender. The world goes on. The moon shines, and you – you are FREE.

 

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

 

 

Namaste

94429b13e7346d325c4ff8188945601e.jpg

8 months, but 10 years, A Short Story on an Inconspicuous Path to Overcoming Addiction 

It has been 8 months today since I have stopped drinking alcohol.  I feel like the pieces of my life have finally fallen into place. My baseline being with accompanying highs and lows feels manageable for the first time in my life. I no longer feel like a ticking time bomb. 

It’s almost like a switch flipped. The whole thing and the way my life and relationships fell into place is almost miraculous.

But is it a miracle? It feels like it. But when I stop to consider how this phenomenon took place it wasn’t magic. It was years of learning and work. A lot done in smaller, very memorable spurts. But it’s far from a miracle. 

As Alan Watts often said, there is no specific defining moment when an event begins. He challenged his listeners to think about when a war really begins. Or when life truly springs into action. At birth? Now of a proper embryo? When the sperm meets the egg and they mesh? Or is it at the point when there is a twinkle in the father’s eye upon seeing the female that he will procreate? 

My current sobriety journey started at some point. It was part of the plan long ago. It  has been 8 months since I have consumed alcohol. I did take Antibuse. I am on Vivitrol. I did increase my anti-anxiety medication. I did live alone for 2 months and dive headfirst into 2-3x per day sobriety meetings, visits, and activities. Those things made it easier, but the life lessons I learned through spirituality and yoga in past 6-10 years have made it so I may not have needed to start from scratch when it came to the absolutely brilliant concepts of AA where many recovering addicts learn to live a life without addictive substances. 

When I first learned some of the concepts that now use with ease, they all seemed to be “no brainers”. They were some of the most difficult and yet somehow simplest concepts to process and apply. They made sense. “Accepting life on life’s terms”. “One day at a time”. “It’s not your business what other people think about you”. “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. “If you want what you never had, you have to do what you’ve never done”. 

It was almost 10 years ago when I started to proverbially “wake up” spiritually and first began to contemplate that I’m in a participatory saga in this universe.  

This realization not being the norm, it felt jarring for a while. It wasn’t the way I knew the world to be. But it made SENSE. The world flipped on its head for me. I felt kind of lost but also curious and hopeful. 

The idea of “Let Go and Let God” wasn’t new. I went to Catholic school growing up and similar concepts were sort of beaten into my young mind. But I wasn’t taught what they truly meant or how to put them into action.  

It wasn’t until +/- 10 years ago after being divorced and seeing the world through completely different lenses which I, oddly, had difficulty adapting to, that I began to seek out spiritual living. When I listened to Podcasts on what “Faith” really meant. I realized I hadn’t really understood or practiced it. I wanted that. I wanted what people who live contently and simply had. I wanted to Let Go. I wanted Faith in something bigger than myself. 

Religion tries. Schools don’t touch it. Parents never learned it themselves. It took being downtrodden to want to seek it out. It took being curious, feeling scared, and feeling hopeless to consider a different way of looking at the world. It took having the security, intelligence and means in my life to have the luxury of exploring something else while living my current life as it was to test out different ways to approach things. 

TEST them out. Make mistakes. Try again, try something new. Watch the screw up or success. Learn and adapt. 

When I think back over the past decade, there were certain moments where I knew what was taking place was a turn off the current path and there was no road back. Unlike a highway where you can turn around, once we experience or know something; there is no way to unknow it. I am calling them Defining Moments. 

These moments were critical to me, but were any the start or even end to alcoholism? 

No doubt it all let to a more spiritual path. Everyone’s journey toward spirituality (if they get to experience it at all) is different. This was mine. 

When I first felt jarred, out of place, and not like myself – I noticed instantly. Until then I was one of the happiest people I knew. I thought this unsettling feeling would last a few hours. Then maybe a day. 

When a week passed, I realized a week had passed and I wasn’t myself again. I was worried but convinced that any day I’d snap out of it. But I didn’t. It was a time of absolute chaos. I had two tweens, two more young kids and my then fiancé at home. There were changes for everyone, not all being handled well by all the kids and more so worse with some of the adults that were throwing more difficulty at us by not adapting well in their own right and making my household even more disruptive. 

Defining Moment

I remember the very first time I used alcohol to chill out. It was a random weeknight. I picked up my kids from their father’s house. They were upstairs doing homework away from me at their desks) and I was practically home alone in a gigantic house starting dinner and anticipating the arrival of the other 3 household members to come bounding in with loud rolling backpacks, 3 dirty lunch boxes, dry cleaning and BAGs of stuff that needed to be distributed. It was around Jan or Feb 2011. I was OFF. My kids had complained to me earlier about how nothing felt normal for them. I now felt off, irritable, fearful, and uneasy for a few months on & off, but mostly ‘on’. I couldn’t take it. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that if I didn’t make dinner and just went up to my gargantuan gorgeous bedroom to cry that it would disrupt the evening, the sports schedule, homework help, and my husband’s fear that the kids won’t see us as blissfully happy, that our coming together was just all the big mistake that everyone was hoping it would be… you get it. 

With my heart beating uncontrollably in my chest, I contemplated taking a shot of hard alcohol. It worked for me once before in 2009 right before a kid’s party when someone in my life (an alcoholic at the time) gave me a shot to chill out while I ran around at the last-minute putting things together and was completely amped up. I remembered how it worked INSTANTLY. As the heat of the liquor warmed my chest cavity, I felt my nerves unpeeling and my mind slowing down that day back then. Did I really want to go down that path? 

I kept putting it out of my mind, but my mind kept bringing it up. I went over to the liquor cabinet and looked at what we had in there for hard liquor. 

At the time I enjoyed beer and wine. Perhaps a little too much, but I knew my limits and when I was hitting them. I knew how to stop. Days, weeks, and months could go by without thinking about drinking. There is a history of alcoholism in my family, and I always worried about it for myself knowing how much I enjoyed it. I had never abused it though. I never drank alone; would never even consider it.

Until now. 

I KNEW it was a bad move, but it seemed like a viable option. It would have been  viable if it had been  once every two years. But something in me knew that night that if I took a shot that it wouldn’t be the last time. 

As I stood there contemplating whether to do this dumb thing, I heard the peppers and onions I was making for fajitas sizzling in the pan behind me. It sounded like a ticking clock that was reminding me any moment the garage door would open or one of my kids would come down and I’d have to pretend I’m not disturbed and feeling the way I felt that nothing was wrong with me, and that I had an unwavering interest in everyone’s day. 

I couldn’t even tell you what it was that I took a shot of that evening. I can only tell you that it worked. I do know that it was about another week until I did that again. And probably another month or so that it became a sporadic “go to” when I was feeling so “Off” and out of control. Within a year it became the norm to open a bottle of wine before dinner and drink while cooking sometimes after a shot of hard liquor. It helped. That is the tricky thing about alcohol. When used as a medication substitute, it helps. 

It helped at the end of the day. During the day I struggled. I woke up every day with a beating heart. I still had to be “normal” though. I still had work and a house and kids to take care of. I still had to be a mom and now stepmom and think about everyone else’s well-being while my own was deteriorating. 

At the time I van-pooled to work. I loved my “vannies”. It was a welcome relief from home and work twice a day. I laughed and let loose. They were all crazy but normal. More like people I grew up with and felt comfortable with. One of the guys in the van started bible study classes after work on Thursday evenings. I couldn’t van-pool those days since the van left before the bible study began, but I decided it was worth it and drove in myself on those days. At first, I did it to support his endeavor, but I quickly grew to really enjoy talking about a bible piece and delving into a deep introspective talk about what the piece meant and how to live a spiritual life. 

Defining Moment

Not long after on Feb 28 & 29th of 2012 I took a work class off-site on “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”. My intention was to somehow be more organized and streamlined than I already was to deal with the chaos around me, but I absolutely got far more than I bargained for. 

I don’t know if the intention of the class was spiritual or not, but it was spiritual for me. It challenged me to look at the paradigm I lived in. A paradigm I had never considered to be different from anyone else’s. It challenged me to think about being intentional about what I want in my life. The treadmill I was on never allowed me time to think about what was important to me and if it would fit into my life. I just believed that if I went faster, I could fit all things in just fine (important things and things thrown at me). Just Run Faster…

Of course, I knew that wasn’t the answer but there wasn’t time to stop to do anything else. Or was there? The class had us break down where we spend our time. Work, cooking, cleaning, shopping, kid activities. No time for exercise, leisure, taking care of myself or spending quality time with anyone I loved. I often did my nails in the car before I drove to meet my vanpool so they could dry on the way to work. My hair was often wet and braided on the way to work. I was challenged to think about how these activities met my values. Wait – what were my values? How could I be 36 years old and not have thought about them before? 


I left thinking about all the habits but determined to ensure I had the four areas of Habit seven (Sharpen the Saw) in my life. Social/Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, and Mental. 

I was determined, but beaten back because I was a mom first, a wife/stepmother, and an employee. Those were what I made more important than my own needs. Too much of my time was spent in the mental arena of work and focusing on what the  important people in my life considered important, which was school and work. I wasn’t strong enough, or didn’t realize that it wasn’t selfish, to put my foot down and assert what I believed was important. I didn’t know that my body had limits and that if I didn’t take care of it that it would crash and burn. 

I began to look forward to bible study on Thursdays. It was a respite from life and a recipe for how to live. I threw myself into faith. I stopped questioning things I always questioned as a Catholic like the virgin birth or life after the cross. I just absorbed the messages and didn’t ask. 

Defining Moment

It was April 2012. My husband and I were out at our favorite watering hole having wings, pretzels, and beer with my father-in-law. I had been going to the bible study for a few months at that point and had become nostalgic for some old childhood Catholic comforts. I prayed. I read the bible. I read other religious books. I downloaded and listened to church music and found myself surprised to know I remembered the words and would often tear up thinking about all those hours in church with my blue uniform and first friends and crushes. 

That evening my father-in-law asked me if I really believed in the Catholic and Christian concepts. Of course, I didn’t really, but I wanted to; so, I said I did. He pushed in a kind way and asked me if I really, really did believe. I was drinking and I so wanted to be someone who did. Something about the drink, the atmosphere, the diametric opposites of the atmosphere of a bar while thinking about Jesus… At the moment, I felt like something in me just opened. Something about that conversation and my answers of “I don’t question” made it so. There was an actual moment where I let go and felt that I didn’t need to know the answers. All I needed to do was believe. At that moment I knew what it meant to have faith. 

Without knowing the phrase, I Let Go and  Let God. And do you know what happened when I really really really let go? A whole new world opened to me. Within a few weeks a Bishop Spong book somehow ended  up on my lap. 

Bishop Spong was a Christian Bishop who delivered the teachings of Jesus his whole career  but also secretly questioned. Post retirement he became a mystic and found religion to be allegorical. He had his own theories of how humans developed as a species, and why it was important to take the words of the bible as literal earlier on in our human years. The ideas of us as humans becoming more conscious of being conscious were new to me and absolutely fascinating.

From there I explored discovered a  world of Podcasts from the Centers for Spiritual Living  and Science of Mind. Life as I knew it flipped on its head. The bible made complete sense from a metaphorical standpoint. I stopped going to bible study because I felt in some way, I outgrew the literal interpretation of the bible  that some others were stuck on. The idea of being born again and seeing the world through different eyes was how I was experiencing life. 

The spring and summer of 2012 were when I experienced the most profound changes I had ever experienced to date  in my life, and in the shortest period. I understood things that I couldn’t before from a positively new perspective. All religions and spiritual teachings make so much sense. More importantly they seemed to all be saying the same thing. 

It sounds elementary to me now, but we really do create our own lives, and how we think about it creates our own experience. Nothing made more sense. Our universe is metaphorical. Thoughts are like seeds. You can’t plant a watermelon and expect a carrot. In the same way you can’t walk around miserable and looking at the world like it’s dangerous and then except happiness and freedom. 

One of the more difficult things for me was changing the way I thought when no one else around me was changing. I thought very highly of the people that surrounded me in various ways until I realized most of them were living on a treadmill like I had been. I was so excited to get off and slow down, but they weren’t. I still had to live and work in the same paradigm. I tried to get others off too, but I sounded like a crazy person. Others agreed and had long deep spiritual talks with me, but then walked away and did the same things they were doing before. 

???

I felt alone.

So, I’d drink and read about other people who were experiencing the same thing. 

At the end of 2012 as the holidays approached, I was looking for gifts that would provide experiences rather than more “stuff”. I looked into the adult education programs in my town and aside from ballroom dancing for my husband and I, I decided to sign up for an 8-week yoga class starting the next January as a nice way to kick off the new year. 

I’d only tried yoga a handful of times before either in classes or on my own with videos. But something inside me always knew that yoga was going to be part of my life in a more meaningful way. Just the word itself when hearing it for 30+ years of my life invoked some kind of knowing inside of me. I never disliked it; I just didn’t understand it. I had danced for 10  years and had always been flexible, so I really did not feel anything by doing it. I loved Savasana, lying in stillness, at the end, but often got up from that part because I was always so busy, and it felt like a waste of time. Surprisingly, after just one class, I understood.  Don’t let anyone tell you that an instructor can’t make a difference! Even more surprisingly, not long after I started going to yoga, I realized it had the same effect as drinking. I felt calm, slower, more in control. 

I’d leave yoga class and come home to chaos. It was so jarring and shocking to go from one world to another. How did I deal with it? Wine of course. 

Wine, yoga, and spirituality through podcasts, books and web searches helped me to stay sane. 

Until 2016 when I started yoga teacher training. I loved yoga by that point. I recognized the mind/body/soul connection. I wanted to do it more. I didn’t realize until teacher training how spiritual and deep it actually was. On day 1 of training, I met my two teachers. They were so open about their depression and anxiety. I admired their openness and willingness to share their own foibles. 

It wasn’t until a month and a half later, while thinking about a stressful work event two-day safter it had happened, while driving to work, that I had my first panic attack. It was then that I realized the “Off” feeling I had had for the past several years and for  I was abusing alcohol over, was anxiety. 

It took a few subsequent panic attacks within the next few weeks to realize this was anxiety. Holy cow – I had anxiety! Real clinical anxiety. I wanted help for that, but I did not want to have a mental health diagnosis on my record to get medication for it. I was confused. I talked to the yoga teacher that had anxiety about it and unprompted she shared that while she herself wasn’t on medicine, she did know it was a much faster way to get things under control. She gave no advice but did give me some things to contemplate. I read through forums and decided that the people who took medicine and felt better shared that it was more important to feel like themselves than to have any silly perceived stigmatized thoughts about being on medication .

I read and considered my options carefully for a few weeks while having more and more panic attacks before making an appointment with my PCP.  I started Lexapro. I did not stop drinking. It helped. 

There are no miracle drugs either. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds do not instantly work. You must start with really low doses until your body adjusts and eventually learn at what dose you feel normal again. This can take anywhere from weeks to months. I started this crazy mix in March of 2016.

By May of 2016 I just couldn’t go through the motions any longer. At the point in my “career” I was serious about work and loved it. I had fun there while learning new things nearly all the time. I had been in my job for 14 years and knew almost everyone who worked in my very large organization. I felt respected by most people. I had mentored a few dozen employees in an official capacity and many others sought my professional advice outside of an official mentor/mentee relationship. 

Almost overnight that love of work shifted. Suddenly, I couldn’t imagine spending the remainder of life waking up early every morning, donning a monkey suit, and getting in the metal box/trap called my car to commute anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes to work. I was no longer vanpooling because my drive home often involved picking up multiple kids and a dog which at times meant I got home nearly two hours after walking out of the office (in a complete rush of course). 

Honestly, looking back, it was the drama in my home at the end of the day that  was the catalyst that caused the most stress. Nonsensical first world drama that wasn’t exactly aligned with my beliefs but was brought into my house by divorce and blending two very different families.  Beyond the drama, there were responsibilities that required my time and attention but didn’t align with my priorities or values.  

I loved everyone I lived with. I wanted to support them. I wanted to be a team player. But I just couldn’t do it all. The obvious thing to cut back on seemed to be work. I made much less money than my husband. If I cut back to part time, our expenses would decrease by that amount of my half time salary. My ex had moved to another state. My husband traveled often, as did his ex-wife. This left me mostly in charge of logistics of four teenagers. Work outside the home suddenly had no appeal. 

I was exhausted. I was burnt out to the max supporting things that didn’t align with my values,  for kids who had no appreciation for the amount of time, money and effort it required to keep it up.

I had always been a natural organizer. I always had dinners planned, food stocked and prepped, clothes washed and ready for the week. Events were organized on a calendar with duties known ahead of time. I talked to my kids weekly about what to expect and how to help out. But that all went to the wayside when I got remarried. At first it wasn’t that bad. But as the kids grew older and became busier, the chaos took over. 

 I didn’t even know what was going on week to week. Daily there were unexpected events that I should have known about, that affected my time and what I had planned. I couldn’t get others to cooperate and help us stay. My husband’s ex seemed to thrive on chaos and take delight in disrupting any attempt at organization  We failed to establish any boundaries about what we would and wouldn’t do. Our lives and our scheduled seemed out of control and at the whim of people outside our family who didn’t care and refused to collaborate.

The Lexapro helped. Weekly therapy was ok. Yoga was a reprieve. The drinking continued. I’m not sure it was helping any longer, but it was now a habit that I didn’t want to let go. I leaned on it as my evening wind-down. Some days it was all I had to look forward to and when I had to wait to have a drink because of nonstop evening driving activities, it made me even crankier. 

I had written a few blogs by that point. Once I started Lexapro, I decided I didn’t want to keep it a secret. I couldn’t handle my life any longer. I couldn’t work full time, let alone mentor others. I cut back to part-time. I stopped teaching a topic at work (Facilitation) that I had once been over-the-top passionate about. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Everything I thought I knew about myself had flipped. My belief system had turned on its head and no one understood what I was talking about. I felt like the crazy person that was now documented in my medical charts who needed medicine. I was lost. 

What felt good about this particular time – when I came clean about not being able to handle life and needing medicine, was  that I felt loved. People I liked or mentored were surprised and almost happy that I wasn’t a walking miracle, that my  social media posts weren’t the whole story. I felt support like I never had before. Others told me for the first time in my life that they related to my stories and thought I was brave sharing. Me? Brave? 

I’d heard successful, friendly, helpful, lucky… but never brave. Those other things were fluff. They were what I thought I wanted and showed to the world. But the hardest and most brave thing was to be vulnerable. 

In that time – from 2012 to 2016 I was inundated with stress and immersed in spirituality tools, breathing techniques, movements, therapies, meditations, mantras, mudras, pranayama, etc. It was all so new. It made sense. But when I needed it, I couldn’t remember to use anything I knew would work. I’d just spiral into panic. I felt like a failure in some way for not being able to remember these simple tools, but yoga teacher training helped me to realize I’m human and that it could take up to 12 years to change a habit.

12 years??? 

Yes, 12 years. 

That’s pretty  stinking disappointing huh? 

I didn’t like that idea, but after learning much about it and why; it made sense to me, and I accepted that truth.  

Defining Moment

May 2017. I’ve written about it before. I realized I might have PTSD from a history of childhood abuse. It was late in the evening at a 50-hour mandated reporter course I was required to  take to teach  yoga in Connecticut  Domestic Violence shelters. There was a slide up on the screen that described  ME. 

Could I have PTSD? I never considered it before. That was something only war vets had. But that slide described ME. And it was the result of child abuse. It was an “Ah Hah” moment. 

At  that  point it was over a year since I began anti-anxiety meds. I was now working part-time. I was allowing myself to slow down and think. And to feel. Feel all the emotions that I never had time to process. 

That summer I had a major emotional breakdown in mid-July where I decided to admit myself to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). I used FMLA and spent a month traveling to the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT for four days per week to immerse myself in healthy mental environment with others like me: professionals who chose to spend time at such a place. 

I was unable to attend the program without having to quit alcohol for at least a week before the start and for the duration of the program. UGH. At first, I told the admissions area I didn’t think I could do that. They told me if I could not quit, I would have to go into the sister IOP for addiction. I couldn’t be labeled an addict – so I quit. 

It was at the IOP where I was officially diagnosed with PTSD. During my time there I learned another host of tools for my proverbial toolbox to help deal with overwhelming emotions and breakdowns.  The tools were very yoga-like. They were called different things, had differences of course; but the intention and underlying process was similar.  The more I learned the same types of things the more they made sense and the more I believed they could work. 

The last week or so of the program when I knew I wouldn’t be tested for drinking, I started to drink again. As much as before, even though I knew I didn’t need to and felt quite amazing without doing so. I didn’t want to quit. I rather liked drinking. I loved the taste, the smell, how it accompanied my food. I loved going to wineries and  breweries with my husband. I loved everything about it. 

That fall I began advanced yoga teacher training and delved even more deeply into spiritual practices, tools and beliefs that were aimed at serenity and peace. I found a therapist that spoke my language. The day I walked into her office she had a Pema Chodron quote on the wall, a jiggle jar on the coffee table and gave me a handout on the Ego vs Higher Self. Finally! A person that related to the way I was learning to deal with the world! 

You’d think all these things would help right? Every Monday I had yoga teacher training all day and would spend that night in Branford alone. As I learned all these healthy messages and things I started to practice, my mind was adjacently taken over with thoughts of alcohol. Where I would buy the wine, what kind I could buy. Should I buy it? I was learning all these healthy things, so why would I poison myself? There was an invisible angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. Every week it was going to be the last week and that next Monday I would quit. I graduated the program in June of 2018, but that “Monday” never came” 

Defining Moment 

There was an infamous incident in July 1993 that was equally as traumatizing as most of my childhood but changed the course of how it was dealt with. Every summer I had a mini break down, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 – exactly 25 years later that I realized a pattern.

Once again, I had a mid-July breakdown. This time the police were involved. This time my husband and I lived apart for a few weeks and I made time for mental health. I realized I had to quit drinking because these incidences were alcohol related. I had a problem with alcohol. I said the words for the first time in an email to my husband. I am an alcoholic. I quit on 7/13/18. 

A few days later I had a another defining moment. I was coming home from a mental health appointment to the house in Branford where I was staying alone. One of my neighbors walked up to my car when I got out to tell me that she really enjoyed my blogs. She said she didn’t realize that it was panic attacks she had been having until she read what I was describing. 

She was NOT the first person to tell me that. I didn’t understand. Once I started thinking about my panic attacks, I realized that I knew they were coming from a mile away.  Everyone else who had them seemed surprised by them.  I was not. As I once told my previous therapist (one of the many I didn’t connect with); I almost welcomed the panic attack. It was such a relief of emotion that I felt build up. It was a way to purge. That therapist said that was “interesting”, gave me a funny look and wrote something down on her legal pad. To me it sounded normal, obviously to her it was not.

But that day when my neighbor approached me, it was kind of like the final straw of needing to wonder why I was different. A few minutes after going into my house, in a very actualized moment; I realized I felt panic rising ahead of time because I was triggered. I was triggered because I had PTSD. It took over a year, but I finally understood what having PTSD really meant. 

I was so excited that I broke out a flip chart and stickie notes (my problem-solving skills from my facilitation days) and started to think about all the instances where I broke down and what I felt. Then I thought about where those feelings were coming from and how they related to childhood. Within 2-3 hours I had a list of my triggers and where they came from. It was an exhausting but very exhilarating day. I felt like I unlocked a key piece to my being that I didn’t even know was there. 

Liberating. 

That helped. But it wasn’t a miracle. I immersed myself in DBT (one of the therapies I learned at the IOP). I immersed myself with yogic practices. I was sober. I was picking up on my triggers about 50% of the time. When I didn’t, much of the time I knew how to stop the cascade. I was starting to heal from trauma I didn’t even know was there for more than 40 years. 

I started having an occasional glass of wine about 6 weeks after I quit. For several months I drank once a week or less. And never more than 2 glasses. I didn’t want anymore and didn’t miss it when I didn’t drink. 

Life went on. The holidays came. Drinking was involved in everything, everywhere. All the time. I imbibed. By mid-January 2019 I was drinking every day again. 

At this point I had a lot of tools to lean on. I used them. It wasn’t always perfect. I had little flare-ups but was able to reel them back in and come back to stability. 

For the next two years that was my life. Drinking daily, earlier, and earlier in the day as COVID came around. Occasional flare ups while drinking with the ability to reel myself back in. 

I finally came around to being able to use what I had been learning, but at this point I was an alcoholic who desired to stop drinking, intended to; but never could last more than a few weeks at a time when I did try. 

Then this last February 8, 2021 came around. It was a Monday. I was off from work, and I started drinking early in the day. I won’t get into the specifics of the day but there was a cascade of triggers from early on. At a point in the evening when I should have left, there was nowhere to go. Life was closed due to COVID, and I couldn’t drive to some secluded area because I was inebriated. I had a breakdown. A bad one. Police were involved again. I couldn’t come down from panic and was taken to the ER at Yale.

While I laid in the gurney in the middle of the night in the middle of the hallway at Yale for HOURS, I thought about how I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been drinking for nearly 12 hours straight. I had to quit. I was an alcoholic. 

Most days when I watched Days of Our Lives (my beloved Soap Opera) through an app on the 
Smart TV I had to watch ads. There was this ad for Aware Recovery Care that came on a few times a day. This program explained that they come into the client’s home “Where Addiction Lives” to help addicts recover in their own environment amongst their own particular lives.  Each day as I sat there to watch this soap with a freshly chilled bottle of Chardonnay, I would silently think about calling that program at some time in the near future. If I couldn’t quit on my own. I should be able to quit on my own. “Today” was going to be the last day. 

Today was every day. Tomorrow never came. 

I looked up Aware Recovery Care on my phone at midnight on the gurney in the ER hallway and inquired about their services online. The next day while I was in court Aware Recovery called me back and I set up an appointment that same evening for a telephone intake. That Friday I met my care team and I’ve been sober ever since.

Naturally they came in and at me armed with tools and ideas and quirky slogans. I had heard most of them before. I had been getting pretty good at implementing them. The only thing standing in my way of fully immersing was alcohol. When I was drinking and I was triggered, I did not recognize triggers. Or if I rarely did or was told – I didn’t care. It was in the way of my life.  

In February this year I jumped in with two feet/full body; and used everything at my disposal that was recommended. Aware came in for visits 4x a week at first. I had appointments with 2 different therapists (my previous therapist I held onto as well as an addiction counselor) and a psychiatrist for my meds. I went to AA once or twice a day at first. I went to group appointments. I attended online meetings for trauma. I pulled out my old DBT workbook. I started Antabuse (which makes you violently ill if you drink) as well as Vivitrol (curbs cravings). I upped my anti-anxiety meds. I did EMDR and LOVED it. 

I’ve been healthy ever since. 

I am still with Aware Recovery and down to one weekly visit. I canned the Antabuse (my skin breaking out very badly) and still go for a monthly Vivitrol shot. I can easily remember all the quirky slogans, sayings, tools, reminders, and breath techniques, when I need them. I know the feelings I have as I am having them, and I will pull back and slow down or walk away. It’s easy. It seems like a miracle. My entire life is the same, but everything has fallen into place. Nothing has changed, except my reaction to things. 

But is it a miracle? No. 

It’s been years of learning. Not just passive learning. I have been actively seeking out tools and methods and trying very hard to put what is needed in place. Nothing about it was easy. People at AA have said they don’t believe me when I say I am not having cravings and I feel happy and healthy. They don’t know my story. They might have learned life skills at AA and feel it saved them and I’m just a newcomer who thinks she knows it all. AA is great. But AA’s tools are the same things that I have been striving to master for a very long time. I’m finally getting the hook of it. No miracles. 

Today is 8 months since I quit drinking. But it has been more than 10 years that I have been working at building mental stability for myself. It’s been 10 years since I ever needed it. 

My divorce and subsequent remarriage shook me up and stirred up emotions and trauma I didn’t know I had. I was on such a great path before all this, but I was done growing. I needed a good shake up to grow deeper. I learned so much about myself and people in the last 11 years. I know that this is what I needed. 

Bringing my addiction back to my Alan Watts reference in the beginning of this blog, I must wonder… when did the addiction actually begin? When I started drinking every day? When I had that shot in the early months of 2011 while making dinner? Or before that when circumstances led me to believe that a shot would help? Or during my childhood when the trauma started? 

When did my recovery begin? Was it in February? Or did it start when I began seeking out help for overwhelming emotions even before my body was physically addicted? 

I am also not blind and do realize I can be hit with something tomorrow and be right back to square one in a New York second. I hope not, and I hope all I have learned will kick in and keep me on the good path. I need new habits of a constant check in. I need to continually assess myself and ensure my environment is not triggering. It can’t always be helped, but if it can I will do everything in my power to ensure my mental health is my #1 priority. 

I hope I’m not done learning. I don’t want or need such a big shake up again, but I do want to keep having “Ah Hah” moments. I hope to continue to be amazed at how sensible and deep little things are that sages and very normal people before us has passed down as wisdom. 

It’s been a journey. Some of it wonderful, other parts absolutely horrific. It spanned the range of the highest highs and lowest lows. I loved it all. It’s life. Beautiful, messy, organized, ugly. It all belongs and accepting that it ALL belongs makes it all the sweeter. 

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog by subscribing for new posts right here:  

Or if you like my style -consider visiting my Online Shop @

https://www.etsy.com/shop/esterinayb