I posted a request on social media last week, asking the people who read my blog to post requests for anything they’d like me to write about. As much as I love sitting at my laptop and writing an almost stream-of-consciousness ramble about what’s been on my mind that week, I also want to post about things that interest others. A few days after posting my request, I got an email from a close friend. To put it simply, she asked some questions that I hadn’t ever asked myself. While I’d thought about some of the things she asked, I hadn’t ever verbalized any sort of cohesive answer. After reading (and re-reading) her email, I decided to tackle her questions in a post.
When I made a call for blog topic requests, I had no idea what I signed up for! So to my friend, who shall remain nameless, thank you for encouraging me, listening to me, challenging me, and asking really, really hard questions.
Firstly, I’m mostly curious about what it’s like to live with a lifelong chronic condition, and how you have navigated the highs and lows of that fact. Of course you’re in recovery and that’s great – but what is it like to know that you’ll always be recovering, present tense. Do you ever wish for past tense? How did and do you grieve the little things you’ll miss out on that others take for granted as rites of passage – things like champagne toasts at your wedding, and these kinds of things.
In case you’re new to my blog or know nothing about my story, I got sober on June 9th, 2014 after a few years of drinking way too heavily. As I write this post, I have 816 days of sobriety under my belt. One of the hardest parts about admitting that I had a problem was, without a doubt, knowing that it’s something I can’t take back. I can’t wake up one day and decide that I’ve addressed the underlying issues and now I can probably drink a casual glass of wine or sip on a beer with dinner, so in that sense, I will never be “recovered.” There is no gray area with this disease – I am either in recovery or I’m not. Luckily, gratefully, wonderfully, I am currently in recovery. While it would be incredible to say, “Ta-da! I’m recovered!” I am grateful for the vigilance and constant self-reflection that comes with being in active recovery.
I definitely had a hard time being content with my new, sober life, and I still get upset about it sometimes – usually when I least expect it. Sometimes I wish I could split a bottle of wine with my boyfriend while we watch movies, and I get a little surge of jealousy when I see a pretty pink cocktail being delivered to someone else’s table. However, those are such superficial, silly things to mourn considering the life that sobriety has given me. If I still drank, I
probably wouldn’t have my boyfriend in the first place. I’d be spending my weekend mornings nursing a headache rather than running in the California sunshine. My relationship with my mom would still be plagued with worry and guilt, and my relationship with myself wouldn’t be nearly as healthy. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself about the things I’m missing out on, I remember all the things that sobriety has given me.
I also think it would be interesting, at least for me, to get more insight into some of how you got from A to B in so many areas. For example, at Vanderbilt, thinness seemed to matter a lot to you, and maybe you flirted with veganism after reading Skinny Bitch, but now your attitude towards food just seems SO different, so much healthier and honestly like a smaller part of your life in general. How did you find that enjoyment? Why did you make the decision to go vegan and what made it stick this time as opposed to others?
I’ll just put it out there: I have an issue with doing things in moderation. Whether it’s drinking, dieting, exercising, eating junk food, or whatever, something in my brain tells me that more = better. I definitely have an “all or nothing” mentality, and that definitely applied to food and body image. If I wanted to be thin, that meant no junk food and nonstop cardio. If I decided I didn’t want to worry about my weight, that meant binge eating and straight up laziness. I couldn’t find a happy medium to save my life.
My relationship with food and exercise changed at the same time I stopped drinking. I realized that I’d always be miserable if I didn’t work on changing my approach to things. When I saw how much better I felt (and looked) when I gave up alcohol, I realized that I had to start treating my body with kindness in other ways. For the first time, I wanted to exercise because my body wanted it, and I wanted to start eating right because that’s what it needed. Mentally, though, I had to realize that treats were OK and I didn’t have to be a robot when it came to food and exercise. I know that diet gurus and fitness experts shove the concept down your throat, but it’s all about balance.
In regards to my veganism, that stuck this time because it has absolutely nothing to do with being thin, or with my looks at all. My veganism stems from a completely ethical place, and I can certainly go into details about that in another post (if people promise to read it with an open mind)! 🙂 It “stuck” this time because I feel in my heart it is the right thing to do for the planet, not because I’m trying to achieve something for myself.
What are you most afraid of? What do you feel least able to cope with?
I’m most afraid of working hard to “do the right things” and not seeing it pay off. I’m really afraid that my support system will somehow disappear and my sobriety and belief that I “have it all together” will crumble and I’ll realize that I’m not capable of doing it by myself. In a strange way, I’m scared that my resolve and my motivation isn’t actually mine, but it was “loaned” to me by my support system, if that makes any sense. I’m terrified it can somehow be taken away.
My biggest struggle is restlessness, which I addressed in my last post. Sometimes, I have to take a deep breath and remember that I have to be at peace with myself, in times of stillness. If I can’t handle not having something to rush off to do, I need to figure out what I’m trying to run away from or ignore.
How do you stay positive? And how do you give yourself permission to be honest and vulnerable when you’re not?
I love to read books and listen to self-help podcasts about “staying positive” and working through negative emotions, but I have trouble taking the advice. When I’m in a crummy mood or I feel upset about something, honestly, I usually just let myself feel that mood for a bit. However, I try really hard to set myself up to feel good again and get into a better mood. I know that certain things help get me out of my funks, and I’ll indulge myself in them (i.e. bubble baths, exercise, going outside in the sun, coffee, chocolate, playing with Henry, taking a nap, and so on). Just call me Self-Caroline – get it?? I’ve also just learned that there is no reason to inflict my mood on others, or to broadcast it to the world for no reason. Of course, I talk about my problems in my writing, but I no longer like to bitch and moan (pardon my language) just for the sake of it.
I’ve started being completely honest and vulnerable to myself and to others because, basically, why the hell not? I might say something that completely weirds people out or turns them off, but so be it. It’s my truth, and I’m allowed to say it. By being honest and vulnerable, I know that the people who like me actually like the real me!
Do you ever worry it’ll all fall apart? And if you don’t – why not? Are you afraid of relapsing? Do you plan for it?
Yes, I worry about that. I think that’s only human. Three years ago, I never would’ve imagined my life the way it is today. It would be cocky and ridiculous to sit here and predict my future, saying that I’m 100% certain everything will go smoothly. Of course, I hope for the best and I try to work every day to set myself up for success. I’ve tried really hard to surround myself with people who only want the best for me, and I know I have people to pick me up if I ever stumble. I think the only thing I can really do is take it one day at a time, and remain incredibly, incredibly grateful for everything I have now.