health

I love you, alcohol.

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Every time I catch myself thinking fondly of red wine, I immediately get scared and think, “I must be experiencing relapse! Why does my mind keep thinking of all the good times I had when I was drinking?” I assume I am romanticizing about alcohol (which is dangerous to a person in recovery) therefore I must quickly remind myself of all the negative repercussions of drinking and ground myself in sobriety. I am going to guess this happens about 3 times a day. (That may sound like a lot but in the beginning it was about 20 times a day). I like to think I am retraining for my brain for sobriety by reviewing all the terrible things alcohol can do to me, but am I also reinforcing a negative mindset?

A common exercise for people in recovery from alcohol is to write a ‘goodbye’ letter to alcohol. It is suggested we make a list all the toxic and damaging experiences we had with the drink and keep this letter close should we ever feel tempted to go back to it, like the desire to go back to an old (yet abusive) lover. I have been a fan of this exercise until today… when it occurred to me, that my efforts to re-train my brain, may have served to sabotage my joy. A goodbye letter does not need to be mean good riddance, why can’t it be a love letter?

I know as much as the next adult that alcohol is bad for you. It is toxic and addictive and has ruined billions of lives. But when I think about my experience with alcohol, most of my memories are good. That’s right, my experiences with alcohol were mostly good - until they went bad. When they went bad, they went real bad and it was indeed time to stop. But does that mean the I need to look at the length of my relationship with alcohol as all bad? And not only that do I need to look at all the relationships I had with people who drank with as bad too? Of course not - but I will admit, this is what I felt I needed to do to overcome my addiction. Wow, it’s been a long and painful few years.

I compare it to my relationship with my father and the grief I experienced when he died. A few years after he died, all I could think about was how sick he was in the end. Eventually, I started to remember the years before his death and some of the good times we had. Now that my kids are getting older I am having memories of beautiful times spent with my dad when I was a little kid. The full range of our relationship is finally settling in my memory and I am at peace with him. The relationship is over and he is gone and I accept what it was, including all the flaws.

My husband does not drink alcohol either. Yet, he loves to talk about the old days when he was a wild teenager drinking with his buddies and getting in trouble. I would drive me crazy to hear him talk like this and it scared me that this would influence our children to want to drink. Really, I think it was just a sign that he was comfortable with his relationship with alcohol and remembering his youth fondly without judging himself or others. He doesn’t want to forget his drinking days, but he has no intention of reviving them. Drinking stays where it belongs for him, in the past.

What a lesson this is for me today! It honestly never really sunk in how paranoid I have been about talking about drinking with any kind of fondness, or of people who drink and talk about drinking fondly. I felt like I might get sucked in and manipulated back into the miserable state I was in before I quit. Of course this would not happen. I was trying way too hard to protect myself!

It is time to change the power dynamic between me and alcohol. My letter will not be a goodbye, rather a letter of love and appreciation:

Dear alcohol,

You have been there for me my whole life and will be with me until the day I die. I trust you will never leave, and I am grateful for all the support, lessons and opportunities you have given me.

You continue to help me grow and evolve as a person, as I come to understand what you are all about. You have given me a channel for connection with other people. Because of you, I was inspired to dig deep, live consciously and make improvements to my health and lifestyle.

Thank you alcohol, I welcome the memories, good and bad. I look forward to our future together and all that it shall bring. There is enough room in this life for the both of us to live interdependently. I am sorry I ever tried to cut you out of life. You are vital to my past and to my future. I accept, welcome and embrace you.

I love you, alcohol

Karyn.

Because it was never a secret!

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If you are wondering whether you should tell a friend or family member about your problem with alcohol, I have some news for you. Most likely they already know. In fact, it is highly likely that almost everyone you know, knows. It is you, who is the last to know. It is called denial friend. Good news is, if you are thinking of talking about your problem - you may have just gotten through one of the most difficult stages of recovery.

The same applies to depression. Feeling like you should let people know you struggle with depression but feeling afraid the stigma may be too much? Know this - most likely the people you know and love are well aware of your depression and are desperate to help you, but don’t know how. They are walking on eggshells and wishing you would just talk about it. Indeed there may be some stigma involved in your choice to talk about your problems, or seek a formal diagnosis, but this perceived judgement is a tiny price to pay for the loads of love and support that could become available to you, when you open up.

I found myself laughing out loud to myself today, as I drove home from work thinking about my last few years of change. I was thinking back to the email I sent my family members saying I had depression issues and was going to be taking medication and would no longer be drinking. It was like I expected them to gasp in disbelief. Much to my surprise, they were not at all surprised. There were no comments like “ You have a what? A drinking problem? I never would have thought….” Nope, not one. And, nobody said, “Are you kidding? You are depressed? Not you…. you are always so together!” That statement did not come my way. Instead it was more like… “Of course we will support you. Glad you are getting help” and “Thanks for sharing.”

So please, my fellow human who struggles with difficult thoughts and cravings to escape - do not go another day thinking you are hiding your dirty little secrets. It is always better to share. You will discover your issues are nothing to be ashamed of and that there is a world of support waiting for you.

There is a secret involved with this blog however - and here it is: It is not the people you expect to help you who will be the ones who help you most. You will be surprised by the miracles that happen when you open up. For me it was the people who gave me “likes” on facebook, with a little message of hope. It was the neighbour who dropped off a newspaper article at my house with a note of encouragement. It was the text that said, “Me too! I read your article and it helped me!” It was the people who started saying hi to me on the street or in the grocery store who never did before - but since speaking up they felt connected and welcomed me in with a smile.

Now, I’m not saying you need to become the poster-person for addiction or depression and start blogging and writing about every little detail (that’s my jam :) but I am saying you will not regret talking with people - a number of different people, with different perspectives, about your problems. It is not a burden to others when you make yourself vulnerable; it is an opportunity to connect and share gifts. It is not likely the person you open up to will have a toolbox of mindfulness techniques to teach you but they may intuitively know how to hold space for you and listen.

If you don’t know where to start, start here. Send me a message and I will write you back. You will be heard.

Much love friends,

Karyn

Out of the mud, blooms a thousand-petaled flower.

The philosophy of yoga uses the thousand-petaled white lotus flower as a symbol of inspiration. This flower is said to rise up from deep down in the muck and blossom into a beaming white oracle. We are also meant to rise up from the darkness and bloom.

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The muck for me, is called depression. Like the lotus flower, I have had moments of rising from the darkness and sharing my gifts with the world, only to watch my pedals fall off and my stem rot. And then I must start over.

Just as nature is an ongoing process of growth and decay, so is my depression. Every stage in the cycle has value. I have come to accept that the dark times need not be dreaded. In nature, this is when the nurturing and development happens. In the cycle of depression, the dark times are when the learning and healing happens.

However, one can get stuck in the mud. When this happens, a little fertilizer may be in order. If you are feeling stuck and need a boost, here are some tips. I made this list to help me out of my depression. Please use it to help yourself blossom:

To move out of sadness and into happiness, practice gratitude.

To move out of insecurity and into confidence, practice affirmation.

To move out of anger and into calm, practice compassion.

To move out of bitterness and into kindness, practice charity.

To move out of exhaustion and into feeling energized, practice self-care.