Learning To Swim

Every rental we’ve lived in since we left Alabama came with a disappointing bath tub.

Our town home, although small, had a large garden tub that I kept scrubbed clean. A hot bath with Epsom salts is the only thing that relaxes me the way wine does. When I was pregnant with Maverick, and later, Asher, I soaked in that tub almost every night to relax the muscles wrapping around my midsection.  As I floated, belly protruding, I could breathe.

Weightlessness. That’s what I am always searching for.

After we walked away from our mortgage in 2012 like so many other young couples who found themselves trapped in real estate in the market crash, I either drank myself to oblivion or crammed my body into the dingy tub of an overpriced rental home to relax. Sometimes, I did both.

A few days into sobriety, my brain still fogged over from detox, I wondered what would happen if I sank under the murky water and inhaled.

The dense fog has lifted now, and most days, being sober feels like a heavy weight. Drinking was like a weight, too, but this is different. Life is what feels heavy. Alcohol let me block it out but did not provide an escape from my problems. Sobriety opens up the curtains and lets the light in: painful, but promising.

I voluntarily opted to birth my middle child without any pain medication whatsoever. It was an amazing, horrifying, terrible, awesome experience. There were a few points when I was absolutely certain that I was going to die, but I had no choice but to keep going. With the help of my support system, my son and I made it to the other side alive.

It was exhilarating.

That is what it feels like to be in recovery. As terribly uncomfortable as it is, I just have to keep moving forward. Neither stopping nor going backwards is an option for me.

Some days I really wish I hadn’t made the choice to get better. At this particular time in my life, with small kids who have a lot of needs, true recovery can feel like an impossible undertaking. But, just like childbirth, I have to remind myself that I’m not the first woman to do this and I certainly won’t be the last.

Recovery from addiction is painful, but it’s not going to kill me.

My addiction is what will kill me.

Merriam-Webster defines heartbreak as “crushing grief, anguish, or distress.” I define it as something I worked really, really hard for a very long time to avoid. I thought if I moved on fast enough, planned well enough, and accomplished enough, I could somehow escape it. I ran, literally and figuratively; I recoiled from it like someone might turn away from a thing that has the potential to kill you.

I thought it would crush me if I allowed myself to feel it, so I refused to. I masked the pain with a number of relationships, walled myself, off, and became an alcoholic. I met my husband and we built a life, but as much as I love him I never allowed him to truly love me.

We can’t ever truly escape the past. My story will never go away, no matter how many times I try to pretend it didn’t happen. On January 9, 1999, I suffered emotional and physical trauma followed by a heartbreak so profound that I never allowed myself to address it at all. I smashed myself back together like a car wreck survivor might if lost in the woods without access to medical care, and I never healed properly.

Just like a broken arm that never healed correctly, I have to re-break my heart in order to allow it to fully mend. There is never, ever an ideal time for heartache. I procrastinated for 18 years, but now, if I want to remain sober from alcohol, and I do, I have no other choice but to surrender.

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I am learning to swim.

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Downward Facing Spiral

I’m going through a really scary time in my recovery: processing major events in my past that my alcoholism is rooted in. Maybe normal people wrestle with terrible things that happen in their lives within a reasonable time frame, without having to hit rock bottom half a lifetime later and narrowly avoiding rehab. Clearly, I am not a normal person.

For half my life, I stuffed and avoided and blocked out and denied and channeled all of the pain and sadness into defiance, drive, and misguided attempts at controlling the outcome of almost every situation I found myself in. When I had fully exhausted myself of all those options, I turned to alcohol.

I would drink anything that was handed to me. I knew it would make everything better, if only temporarily. The liquid burned; I didn’t care. The burning hurt less than the pain inside my chest.

I’m in a really uncomfortable place. I can’t eat and I can’t sleep and I’m sweaty all the time and it sort of reminds me of my first 30 days of sobriety, except without the shakes. I’m afraid. Feelings are terrifying — I’ve spent half my life running from them — but they aren’t fatal. I have to remember that.

Trying to stay focused on today is hard for a planner. Even as a child, I would lie awake in bed at night thinking about the next day, preparing my outfits in my head, making sure I don’t repeat anything twice.

Recovery has hills and valleys. There have been times that I felt amazing and everything was great. This is not like that. Right now, I’m in a valley, a dark one, and someone stole my flashlight.

I won’t stop moving forward, but I gotta say — I DON’T LIKE THIS PART AT ALL.

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I found this meme on Instagram via @hallelujahnellie and I LOVE IT SO.

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Finding Serenity

My first sober Thanksgiving is probably not the ideal time to work my 9th step, and yet, here we are.

I spent Thanksgiving Eve on the couch, reading trashy celebrity gossip and texting my friends who were running around town or traveling, so our conversations happened in snippets. I tried to boil my feelings down to a few short paragraphs.

I got up from my spot on the couch only a handful of times throughout the day to feed the kids and brew more coffee. We left the house exactly one time, and that was to run over to my parent’s to borrow a Crock Pot. There were things I should have been doing instead – I had complicated holiday dishes to assemble, and my house was not suitable for guests – but I felt rooted to the cushions. Almost 9 months into recovery, I have learned not to fight the exhaustion that sometimes comes in waves. I give in.

Change is exhausting. Finding the willingness to learn how to react differently to emotional situations or stress or heartache takes a deep level of mental energy that I’m not sure I have at this stage in my life. I have three elementary-aged kids, none of whom know how to brush their teeth properly, and sometimes I barely have the bandwidth to get everyone to school on time. Digging for the emotional strength that recovery requires is often beyond me.

Thankfully, miraculously, admitting that I JUST CAN’T is enough. I don’t understand how it works exactly, but announcing my powerlessness to another person or group of people gives me just enough strength – not a lot, but just enough – to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve literally drank or pilled my way through the past 16 or 17 year’s worth of holidays. I’d start drinking hard around Halloween and blast through to Thanksgiving, Christmas, December 26th (my birthday), and finally, New Year’s, which is when I would get so shitfaced and feel so horrible after months of unbridled eating and drinking that I would dial it back a bit to get myself straightened out for awhile.

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This was me. Literally.

Time ticked by like that, for years and years, without many people noticing a pattern. I’m a reserved, controlled drunk, until the end, when I hated everything and everyone — especially myself.

As a kid, holidays were my favorite time of year: magical and fun. The Christmas I turned 19 was the worst of my life. I never fully recovered from what happened that year, so from that point until I entered recovery almost exactly 18 years later, I found different ways to mask the pain that always crops up. I bulldozed through it. There is never a convenient time to feel pain or deal with uncomfortable emotions. You either face it, or you numb yourself.

This year, there’s no numbing or masking or bulldozing. There’s simply the experience of being awake. I want to say something nice about blessings and gratefulness and all the jazz, but I’m still too freaked out to feel blessed just yet.

I feel, in the words of my friend Amber, like a vulnerable dumpster fire. But at least I know that is how I feel, and not what I just drank an entire bottle of wine in order to pretend like I feel. So, as crazy as that probably sounds, I think what I’m feeling might be serenity.

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Saying Farewell To My Best Friend

I thought she was my best friend.

We planned to grow old together, laughing on the lawn of the old folk’s home where we would inevitably end up, wearing bright shades of lipstick and gaudy caftans.

We would be like the Golden Girls: brash, spunky, flashy, and so full of life that no one would dare ask us our age — they’d have no reason to, because we’d be so much fun to hang out with that no one would care if we were incontinent. We would outlive our husbands, of course, and maybe take a lover or two. Our children would come visit, their own children in tow, until the day we quietly died in our sleep.

I couldn’t imagine life without her.

I abruptly ended our friendship almost 9 months ago, and she left a bottle-shaped hole that I’ve worked daily to fill with other, less toxic, things. That was the problem; she was a stone cold bitch. I loved her too much to see it before now, but now that she’s out of my life, I understand clearly that she wanted nothing more than to see me dead.

She made me believe I needed her to make me happy. She made me think I had to bring her with me almost everywhere I went, that people wouldn’t like me unless she was there, and that I’m no good without her, period.

She made me sick on my honeymoon, clutching the tiny toilet in our cruise ship bathroom. Because of her, I got myself into dangerous situations. I wandered drunk and alone in the middle of Manhattan at 3 a.m., too messed up to figure out how to get an Uber. I picked fights with my husband, threw things, blacked out, and made terrible decisions.

She erased a whole lot of memories that I wish I had.

Her influence touched every corner of my life. I made a living writing jokes and essays about our friendship. I didn’t miss a day without her, even when I was sick or taking antibiotics or a host of other prescription drugs that you aren’t supposed to mix with alcohol, because I believed the lie that nothing bad would happen.

She put me behind the wheel of every car I’ve ever owned, too drunk to see the lines on the road. She whispered that one more shot of whiskey or tequila or vodka wouldn’t hurt, that I could handle it if I just drank enough water. When I was angry or depressed, which happened more and more frequently toward the end of our friendship, she convinced me it was everyone else’s fault. She fanned the flames of my anger in every direction away from her. My problems were never, ever because of her. They couldn’t possibly be. She was my confidante, my closest companion, the one I ran to when life became too much.

It was always too much.

Towards the end, she was systematically ruining every relationship I had in an attempt to have me all to herself.

Getting sober from alcohol has been liberating and terrifying and life-changing, but I am also grieving the loss of a friend who knew all of my secret fears. She was aware of the darkness that I’ve learned to hide behind a happy exterior, the wounds that have never healed and the pieces of myself that I’ve tried and failed to smash back together without help. Breaking up with her, and staying broken up with her, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

But bitch, we are no longer friends. We aren’t even frenemies or arch-nemiseses or regular enemies. We don’t have a connection or a tie whatsoever tethering us together because I have burned every bridge that connected me to you. And really, I’m not even sad because I don’t want to die.

I want to live.

This is why.

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A Very Sober Halloween

This is the first Halloween that I’ve been sober for as long as I can remember, and I have a lot of feelings about it.

Part of what grieves me about the absence of alcohol in my life is all the fun I used to have while drinking. Clearly, there was lots of bad stuff too, or I’d still be doing it, but when I’m feeling sorry for myself I only remember the good times.

Before Robbie and I had kids, we went to Halloween parties every year, sometimes more than one in a night. We were the people who meandered from party to party — no curfew, no babysitter to worry about, and very few responsibilities to wake up to the next morning.  Because of this, I equate drinking to having very few responsibilities, which isn’t accurate at all, but that’s my way of romanticizing the past. As time went on and our family grew, my sense of responsibility, worry, and fear grew as well. Escaping responsibility and worry was one of the biggest reasons why I drank — and the more I drank, the more I drank, because I’m an alcoholic and my body craves it.

Also? My responsibilities did not go away. At all.

Last year, I was excited about the kid’s costumes — it was the first time in years that I’d planned ahead far enough in advance to avoid making a very last-minute trip to the store — but by that time in my drinking career, I was pretty much a miserable person, wracked with anxiety, sadness, and an overwhelming sense of dread. None of that is evident in the photos, but I remember.

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I carried a cup of wine with me the entire time the kids were trick-or-treating, ducking back into my friend’s house to refill without telling anyone. Today, as I was feeling sorry for myself thinking about all the carefree, happy parents who will be able to enjoy a beer or cocktail tonight, I remembered being drunk last year, after dark, with all three of my kids scattered in different parts of an unfamiliar neighborhood. I didn’t allow myself to consciously feel shame at the time, and it certainly wasn’t problematic enough for me to consider stopping my habit, but today, I let myself go there.

I’m ashamed that I was so deep in addiction that I couldn’t stomach the thought of taking my kids trick-or-treating sober. I’m ashamed that I have missed out on so much of their lives because I was either drunk, or miserable, or both. I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate my life because I was too busy running from it.

Thankfully, this year will be different. Although we are all far from perfect, I no longer feel like running away. I’m learning how to embrace the good and the bad, and although it’s really, really hard, it’s better than trying to escape.

For the first time in my adult life, I’m not trying to escape reality, or my emotions, or my fears. How appropriate that this Halloween night, the scariest thing I’ll have to face is myself.

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A Month Of Fitness

(This post is sponsored by Curves® International.)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about embarking on a journey to improve my physical health. Specifically, I was asked to work out at my local Curves franchise for a month and share my experience with others. At first I was like, really? I just wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. I mean, what do you imagine when you think of Curves? I always imagined old women moving at a slow pace.

One thing about early recovery is that I find myself being surprisingly open-minded when it comes to doing things that I previously would not be caught dead doing. I spent a lot of years in a state of avoidance — some of which was simply due to being in survival mode, some because of fear — and I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities. 7 months into sobriety, I’ve found myself saying “yes” a lot more to things I never would have agreed to, and “no” to things I previously would have jumped on.

Agreeing to work out for a month in an unfamiliar establishment is one of those things that old me never would have agreed to, but thankfully, that girl is long gone. The 30 minutes I spent, several days a week, inside Curves was … hmmm, let’s see. How can I describe it?

It was an ADVENTURE.

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Photo credit: Megan

I had my body fat, weight, and measurements recorded before I started my journey, and then again several weeks later. I was shocked to find that I lost several pounds and my body fat percentage went down, just in that short period of regular strength training. (Disclaimer: Curves Fitness members on average lose 5 pounds over a 20-week period. I received promotional consideration.)

My friend Megan and I loved meeting there twice a week and blasting through our workout together — it’s so short, that the time flew by. I got stronger quickly and noticed a major improvement in my mood and energy level throughout the day. I’ve been feeling like strength training is something I needed to start doing, but I didn’t really know where to begin. It was nice to have a coach to guide me, and the way Curves is set up, it’s almost impossible to injure yourself. It also helped kick-start my weight loss, and working out with such a positive group of women was inspiring and challenging.

I won’t join Curves permanently, because we have a family membership at our neighborhood athletic club, but I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to any stressed-out, frazzled mom who has 30 minutes a day to devote to herself.

(This post was sponsored by Curves International, but the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. Also, if you liked this post, then you should follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!)

 

 

 

 

 

When Did Authenticity Become Brave?

People keep telling me that I’m brave, but I feel like they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

They tell me things like “You’re so brave to be living sober,” or, “It’s so brave of you to talk so openly about your problem with alcohol.” For the record, people have been calling me brave ever since I started writing publicly 7 years ago, and back then I was just talking about motherhood. I thought it was weird then, and I think it’s even weirder now.

Since when did living authentically become synonymous with bravery? Are we that out of whack as a society that the simple act of owning one’s shit is considered courageous? I’ll tell you what I think is courageous. Joining the Army.

Walking into a room full of uptight, conservative, Bible-thumping church goers and announcing that you identify as a gay male.

Adoption.

Opting not to pee when there’s a clean restroom available in New Orleans.

Skydiving.

Fostering children over and over again, knowing that you’ll grow attached and feel sad when they leave, but doing it anyway.

Standing up to a person who scares you, even if that person is yourself.

Cloth diapering.

Leaving.

Staying.

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This chick walks away from situations a LOT.

Getting sober is brave. Talking about getting sober is not, at least not for me. It’s part of what keeps me well, and it’s a win-win — I raise awareness, and I keep myself from listening to that little voice that talks to me all day, every day, telling me that I should take up smoking, or that one glass of wine won’t hurt me, or that getting one bottle of Phentermine would knock this extra weight right off and THEN MY LIFE WOULD BE BETTER.

My therapist told me, when I was lamenting to her about how many messages I get from people who seem to think that sobriety is easy for me, as if I’m some kind of unicorn who is magically able to abstain from drinking without any effort whatsoever, that I should write about how it actually feels to stay sober for 24 hours at a time. So here goes.

Staying sober is a 24 hour cycle of ups and downs. I enjoy waking up and feeling awake instead of foggy. I appreciate that about sobriety, the clarity. I’m grateful for it, because without it, around 10 a.m. every morning, when that little voice starts telling me things like you should just stop eating, go get some pills to kill your appetite and the gnawing need to do something, anything, to stop the voice sets in, I need clarity in order to remain in control. I call someone and I talk about it. I go to rooms full of people and I talk about it. I write about it.

I have had to tell strangers about how hard it is for me to give my son his ADHD medication without throwing one into my mouth. I’ve admitted the deepest, darkest parts of me that lurk under the surface, the addiction that wants nothing more than to kill me, and I’ve learned that speaking the words into the air takes away their power.

When I say it, the compulsion to do it lessens, just a little. I do this over and over and over again.

After I work through one issue, another wave will come — this time, the voice will tell me, as my kids shout and paint with toothpaste and fight with each other the way that kids do, that I need something to numb myself from wanting to put my hands over my ears and scream. The voice says, What kind of mother can’t handle a little yelling from three children? What kind of parent doesn’t get ahead of the situation and send her kids outside to play, before she comes unhinged? You aren’t good enough. You need to take something so that you will be better.

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Eating breakfast with the cat.

The self-loathing and the shame creeps in, telling me that I’m deficient, my kids deserve better, and I should just drink. Thankfully, we don’t keep alcohol in the house.

There is something about my brain that is different. There’s an undercurrent there — one that I can’t completely eradicate — that actually makes me want to park my butt somewhere with an enormous bottle of something and drink it or snort it until I feel nothingness. I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to feel. That’s what makes me an addict, and it’s actually the opposite of bravery. It’s cowardice, a fear of feeling.

It’s not bravery or luck or some kind of upper crust morality that keeps me sober. Working a program keeps me sober. Talking about recovery is something that I hope more people start doing, because whether you think so or not, A LOT OF PEOPLE YOU KNOW ARE IN RECOVERY OF SOME SORT.

So, yes. Getting help is brave. Talking about getting help is not.

All of us should talk more.

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7 months sober! Photo credit: 4-year-old child.

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That Feeling When You Kind Of Want The Earth To Swallow You Whole

Robbie and I are very open with our kids. Children are smart — even if they don’t know you’re lying now, they’ll figure it out eventually. And then what? They’ll know you lied. They won’t trust you, and why should they? You didn’t earn it.

Our oldest child is especially perceptive. He’s likely the only one out of my three who will remember what it was like when I was still drinking; there were many nights that an issue with him is what drove me directly to the bottle. I know that he noticed, and when I stopped drinking, I told him the truth: I don’t drink anymore. Alcohol is not good for me.

“Oh,” he said. “I know what you have.”

“You do?”

 “Yep. You have … what’s that thing called that [name removed for confidentiality] has?”

“Alcoholism?”

“Yeah! Alcoholism.”

And there it was. A handful of days after I threw out my wine rack, my kid was calling me on my shit.

When my article about addiction was published in a local magazine this summer, he read it. I wasn’t planning to let him, but I had the kids with me when the publisher called to say that there was a package waiting for me at their office. We all went inside, took an elevator to the third floor, and retrieved the envelope full of magazines. I opened it on the ride back down and audibly gasped — I had no idea that I was going to be on the cover, and Maverick was the first to see it.

I’ll never forget how excited he was, shouting “MOM! MOM! THAT’S YOU!” and jumping up and down so hard that the elevator shook. Before I knew what was happening, he had a copy in his hands and refused to give it back.

“HOLD ON, I’M READING,” he yelled from the third row seat of our van. I finally gave up and let him.

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My oldest and my youngest. They’re beautiful.

Last weekend, it occurred to me that I’ve never taken the time to explain to him the difference between an alcoholic who is still drinking and an alcoholic who is in recovery. I pulled him away from the other kids to have a chat. About 5 seconds into our conversation, he interrupted my explanation about what it means to be in recovery.

“Mom! I wish I would have known this before now!”

I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.

He started talking, and as I listened in horror, he told me all about how his teacher had each member of the class stand up and talk about their mother. I knew what was coming, and I was pretty sure I was going to die a little bit inside when I heard the words. I braced myself.

“So when it was my turn, I got up and said — ”

He took a deep breath.

“My mom’s an ALCOHOLIC!”

And he beamed.

He said it with such pride. He really is proud, though. My whole family is, not because I was lying half-naked in a gutter and they had to save me from myself, but because they mostly had no idea how bad it was and I made the decision to get help without being forced to. And sometimes, I’m proud of me too — but on that day, when I found out that my son had announced to his entire 4th grade class “MY MOM’S AN ALCOHOLIC,” I felt like the Earth fell out from under me.

I mean … you know. That sucked.

Most people die laughing when I tell this story, and I understand why — it’s something you might see on a sitcom — but Robbie didn’t laugh. He looked as horrified as I felt, and when I crawled under the covers at 8 p.m. that night and whispered, “I just want to go to sleep,” he smoothed my hair away from my face and told me he loved me.

I would be lying if I told this story and left out the part where I fell into a pretty major depression afterward, like I always do when it hits me like a ton of bricks that I brought alcoholism into my husband’s life and our children’s lives and now we all have to deal with it. I like to think it will make us all better people, but sometimes, I question what affect this will have on my kids. Sometimes, I worry that one or more of them will inherit it from me, or, like a catching disease, someone close to me will die from it.

The truth is that I can’t control what other people think about me or my journey, and I can’t control what my children say to their friends or what those friends will say to their parents. That scares me. When I talk about these issues, I control the conversation and it feels not scary. When MY CHILD TELLS HIS CLASS THAT HIS MOTHER IS AN ALKIE?

That’s scary.

The good news is, I walked through that experience — the shame, the sadness, the guilt, and every other awful feeling one feels when one has this kind of thing happen — and I’ve made it out on the other side.

And I’m still sober.

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No Makeup, No Men, and No Mirrors

(This post is sponsored by Curves® International.)

I’m taking a little break from talking about heavy stuff to bring you something FUN!  When I entered recovery earlier this year, I mistakenly assumed that cutting out the 1,000 or so calories per day that I was ingesting in the form of cabernet would cause me to drop weight. And I did, at first, because going through the detoxification process made me really, really sick.

After I got through the first 14 days of sobriety, I started to crave things like Skittles and jelly beans and Coke — stuff I normally would not eat or drink. My body, accustomed to getting a certain amount of sugar from alcohol, craved insane amounts of garbage, and because I was desperate to make my cravings for wine go away, I consumed it allllllllllllllllllllllllll. No, really. All.

I chowed down on 1-pound bags of dark chocolate M&M’s. I ordered everything on the Starbucks menu (side note: their “morning bun” is divine). I ate cinnamon rolls and french fries with cheese on top and deep fried things and full-size ice cream concoctions from Dairy Queen. I ate pizza and drank Ice-es and ate snowballs with condensed milk poured on top. It was very much like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I was the Very Hungry Sober Lady.

Everyone assured me that this was normal. Most women in early recovery spend their time crying and eating simple carbs, and that is pretty much exactly what I did for three whole months; by the time I was 4 months sober, I’d packed on 12 pounds. By month 6, I decided it was time to get serious about getting my weight under control, or at the very least, getting physically stronger. My mind is healing, and my body is, too. It would just be nice if there was a little less of me.

When I got the opportunity to spend a full month at Curves, one of the world’s largest fitness chains for women, I jumped on it. The closest franchise is only about a mile from my house, and since the workouts are only 30 minutes, there was really no excuse for me to NOT say yes.

I’d heard of Curves before, but had never been inside one. Isn’t it mostly full of old ladies? I was dubious, but willing to give it a shot.

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This is me, right before going inside Curves for the first time. #skeptical

 

The informal motto of Curves is “No makeup, no men, and no mirrors!” I have to admit, I can get on board with the no men and no mirrors part, but I still have to wear some makeup. Yes, I realize that’s stupid because no one cares and I’m just going to sweat it off. This is why I’m in therapy, people.

I find the people at Curves to be incredibly welcoming, helpful, and kind. I went through an intense assessment process (hello, body fat measuring thingy) before completing my first workout. The set up is a big room with a bunch of different equipment around the perimeter. You just jump in and start the circuit, and move to the next station every 30 seconds. I like the variety and the pace; 30 minutes flies by quickly.

When I was observing the other women exercise, I noticed that they were moving REALLY slowly on the machines, and — don’t judge me — I stupidly assumed it was because they are old.

Nope.

The machines are hydraulic and they are really challenging to use. It’s been a pretty humbling experience — I mean, I normally do Spin! Shouldn’t I be able to keep up with old ladies?! I’m in worse shape than I thought.

I roped my friend Megan into going with me every Tuesday and Thursday morning after we drop off our preschoolers, so I’m excited to see our progress through the month.

STAY TUNED!

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Photo credit: my friend Megan.

 

(This post was sponsored by Curves International, but the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.)

 

Marriage In Recovery

I’ve been married to Robbie for 12 years this October, and for almost our entire relationship, I didn’t believe that he truly loved me.

I mean, I thought he thought he did, and if someone thinks they love me, as has been the case in 95% of my relationships, that has always been good enough. I didn’t believe that I was worthy of genuine love, but I wasn’t fully aware of that belief. It lingered in the back of my subconscious, manifesting in the nagging voice that tells me I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, or good enough to amount to much of anything.

I built a wall.

The wall was up when I met Robbie, and as far as I know, parts of it are still there. Alcohol gave me the courage I needed to step out from behind it on occasion, and quite honestly, I miss the ease that comes with drinking. Sobriety is a lot of work. So is overcoming obstacles. I am effing exhausted.

Sometimes, I really, really think it would be easier just to keep the wall up, smear some extra concrete on it, and stay in hiding forever.

When a person goes through trauma, it literally rewires the brain. Addiction rewires it, too, which means that my brain has a lot of overdue healing to do. For a very long time, I functioned at what I considered to be a high capacity; looking back, I can see that I’ve never allowed myself or my marriage to reach its full potential. I assumed my husband thought he loved me, which was good enough because I really could not stand myself, and I drank to cope with the feelings that go along with self-loathing.

That is no way to live. I am allowing myself to get better because I want to LIVE.

It’s a weird thing to have to look in the mirror every morning and tell my reflection, “You are good enough.” This was an assignment given to me by my therapist.

“You’ll feel weird doing it,” she said. “But it’s important.”

“FINE,” I said.

But I haven’t followed through, not yet. The words sound hollow because I still don’t believe them, and I always cringe, because ew, affirmations.

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Robbie + Harmony on a date.

***

I sit on the couch next to Robbie. There’s a dip in the spot where he always parks himself — I call it The Hole — and my body slides over next to his by sheer force of gravity.

“Hi,” I say, smushing my left shoulder into his right armpit.

“Hi.” I think he feels crowded, but like I’ve told him a thousand times before, maybe he should consider sitting in another spot on the couch, a spot that is less like a giant hole.

“You love me,” I say, not like I’m testing his reaction or fishing for something. I say it with reverence. I’m stating a fact.

“Yes, I do.”

I no longer think he thinks he loves me. I know that he knows that he does.

I’ve given him a lot of reasons to excuse himself from the relationship. The cat’s out of the bag — I’m not the perfect wife or mother — I am an alcoholic. I’m flawed, I’m aware of my flaws, and I’m working on improving them. I’m not pretending anymore. And as screwed up as I may be, he won’t leave. Not today. Not ever.

And for the first time, I actually believe that I’m safe with him.

I know that I am.

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