Grow Through It

BREAKFAST

A recent conversation with an old friend inspired me to share some thoughts on single life. Until last spring, I had not truly been single since Fall Out Boy and Xanga were cool. For those of you too young (or old) to get those references, I have had one relationship after another since 2003!

If you’re wondering, breakups still suck! I’m not jamming Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone while writing this. And I won’t ever sugarcoat lost love because that’s simply not the way my heart works. But I can accept relationships and friendships coming to a close as a necessary learning experience we have to GROW through.

I have not always put my best foot forward in relationships. I can admit that when things got too difficult, I stopped trying. There are a plethora of explanations for my past behavior, but they are exactly that, past. One of the most important things I have taken away from those years is the knowledge that I have some ugly patterns, much like my drinking habits, I’d rather not bring into my future! *Spoiler* I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t promise I will never drink again, I also can’t promise I won’t repeat those ugly patterns, but I can certainly try to avoid that girl from resurfacing.

Now that I’ve had time to grow and get to know myself, I see what I can and absolutely WILL bring to the table when I meet someone worthy of my weirdness. And I’m pleased to announce, I finally understand why so many people encouraged me to be alone and take time for myself. When I’m sad, lonely, anxious or angry, I depend on myself and God. That’s it.

I no longer hurl those tough feelings at someone like a basketball in hopes they will take it and run towards the goal for me. But I know that the person worthy of my love, will always be on my team, and call for me to pass them the ball when they see I need help. Aaaand apparently March Madness has taken over my brain?!?

So maybe you’re going through a breakup and beginning to navigate the open waters of singlehood. Or maybe you feel alone in a long-term relationship and you’re at a crossroads. Maybe you’re married and comfortable knowing you *hopefully* won’t ever be single again. And you could very well be none of the above!

I want you to STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING and think of someone you love.

It can be a parent, friend, boy/girlfriend, sibling, pet. Now think of ONE way you can continue growing in that relationship. How can you put your best foot forward, let them know you have their back and that you are on the same team? I believe, if we take the time to do this, we can strengthen our relationships and not lose sight of the importance of love. We can continue to grow together and not apart.

One More

running

I find it fascinating that a lot of recovering addicts, as well as people who live with mental health disorders, find a passion for running or working out. I’m aware there is scientific evidence that exercise activates the brain’s pleasure circuit (runner’s high), but I think I enjoy it so much because it’s the perfect mixture of meditation and (healthy) self-inflicted pain. In short, I have replaced a bad addiction with a good one. 

There are A LOT of parallels between my life and running.

1. The Voice: While intoxicated, I had this “voice” in my head that would scream, “one more…just ONE more drink!!” I rarely paused to debate with it. Now that I’m clean, sometimes I have to dig deep to hear the voice, but it urges me, “one more…just ONE more mile!!” During a particularly long, grueling run, I heard this voice and had the revelation that the personality trait that got me in trouble, now motivates me. The situation may be different, but I’m thankful that the voice is still just as persuasive as ever.

2. “I’m a Runner” (literally & figuratively): I typically laugh when I describe myself as a runner because it really is applicable in multiple areas of my life. Not only have I participated in sports and running from a young age, I also spent a good chunk of time running from my problems. *mentioned here*

3. Power of Accomplishments: When training for a race, there are some days I have a terrible run. Like, I can barely make it two miles and I’m scheduled to run six. My first reaction is to beat myself up. I have learned to pause and remind myself of the accomplishments I HAVE made – like 26.2 miles! I use my past accomplishments to encourage my future actions. Much like when I relapsed, I had the faith that I could pull myself back up, because I had done it before. While training for a marathon, you literally surprise yourself with each new milestone. The same goes for my sobriety – I am amazed at how far I have come and the strength I have to continue.

4. Crazy/Cool People: Whether it’s someone as “crazy” as you to train and complete 26.2 miles, or someone “crazy” to compare past stories with, there are some very cool people in both running and recovery circles. I love relating to people, especially the “crazy” ones!

5. Comfort in Connecting: When I run, I connect. Each time my feet hit the pavement, each squirrel I have to hurdle over, I’m reminded what a blessing it is to be alive. Running helps me reflect on the things going RIGHT in my life, as well as process the wrong. I thank God for giving me legs, the ability to move, lungs to breath, fresh air and a space to stretch, move, and grow. I feel this same gratitude, daily, since becoming alcohol-free. I’m happy every morning I don’t wake up hungover because I know I will be much more connected with my coworkers, friends, family, and in all areas of life.

6. Finding Your Pace: You’ve heard “life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” I used to think running meant going out and hitting your PR (personal record) every workout (run a fast mile and be done.) Since I’ve had years of experience training for half and full marathons, I know that is not the mindset to have when tackling these distances. You must be patient and find a pace that helps you endure the test of time. The same goes for sobriety. If you are working toward a goal or removing something from your life, finding your balance is key. There will be times the road gets hilly, you will be faced with challenges, but you have to remind yourself that if you push through the temporary pain, the end accomplishment is forever!

Running is one of my healthy addictions. Now that I am more in touch with my “all or nothing” personality, running makes perfect sense. I started with 5k’s and gradually kept tacking on “ONE MORE MILE,” until I realized I was capable of completing a full marathon. Again, nothing worth having comes easy, but I found an intense joy in pushing my body to new limits and celebrating the milestones along the way. I am constantly surprising myself at how strong I am in both running and living each day without alcohol.

Maybe running isn’t your thing, but if you are working to eliminate the toxic in your life, I encourage you to find a hobby, sport, or mantra. The positive shift in energy will keep you moving forward and increase your gratitude for your body, mind and soul.

Eye Rolling

dearmarie_normalize

Over the last month, I have been tracking how long it takes me to see or hear something alcohol-related during my day.

Spoiler: I have yet to make it to noon.

While it’s possible that I am hyper-sensitive in terms of how often I notice alcohol, I prefer to think it’s the fact it’s virtually everywhere, that makes it practically unavoidable. It seems as though our society is abusing alcohol by overusing it in our advertisements and memes, and romanticizing it in our clothing and conversation.

When I chose to stop drinking, I knew alcohol would always be present in my life, in some capacity. I’m not naive enough to think I can avoid it all together. But I’m not sure if people realize, you don’t have to be in a bar or drinking environment to feel vulnerable and tempted. With that being said, this trend of normalizing alcohol use has become a gigantic pet peeve of mine.

Recently I went to Target to wander around aimlessly, because I’m weird and I like to touch a bunch of pretty things I know I can’t afford. Upon entering the store, there was a display of wine bottles ready to grab simultaneously with your cart. I rolled my eyes thinking about how I have to walk to the back of the store for something essential, like milk, but wine is literally 4 ft from the entrance! I venture to the next section – clothing. A wall of graphic tees with sayings like “Will Run for Wine” and “Coffee till Cocktails” are in my sight line (cue more eye rolling.) Next up, interior decor where the wall “art” urges me to do things like “Keep Calm and Drink More Wine!” At this point I probably let out an audible sigh along with another eye roll. All of this before I even make it to the actual grocery aisles.

When I see all of these things, basically glorifying alcohol, I can’t help but feel sad and angry. Think of all the people who are being influenced – even on a subconscious level. And what about those who are silently struggling but have accepted this as “the norm?” What about the people who simply cannot choose to ignore it?

These influences directly contribute to our nation’s addiction problem and I hate seeing people continually fall victim. These are ploys that blur the fact that alcohol is not a “cure all.” You might say, “it’s not Target or anyone else’s fault you can’t handle drinking!” And if that is what you think, you are missing the point. My point is that if alcohol wasn’t around us as a constant reminder, and wasn’t held in such high regard in every corner of our lives, we probably wouldn’t feel the need to partake as much.

While this may sound like over-sensitive, complaining to some, I hope you can understand that I see alcohol in a completely different light now. I know that it can (and does) ruin lives every day, while I strive to do the opposite. I would like to protect people from this unnecessary pressure, and in doing so, save lives. Because of all these subliminal messages around us, awareness is key to shielding oneself from the impact/affect. I want to send the message, especially to younger generations, that alcohol is NOT a required ingredient for a happy lifestyle. 

I challenge you to try my experiment. When you witness the insane amount of times you see alcohol throughout your day, try to think of the people who struggle to keep their cravings at bay. Think of the impressionable kids who are watching closer than you think. Think about families who have lost loved ones as the result of addiction. Are we sending the right message?

If you want to make a step in the right direction and make a difference as much as I do, check out CLTIVATE. I was drawn to the founder, Zack’s story, on instagram. He has such a big heart for those in recovery and I am 100% behind his mission to help cultivate the fight against addiction. Please read about how you can help and buy a shirt that has a positive meaning!

*These are my personal opinions and I am in no way saying sobriety is for everyone. However, life is for everyone and I hope you don’t miss it because of things that hold you back.

You lied

breakup
You pulled me in close and whispered everything would be okay
That in your presence, I would find security
You told me, with your help, I could be confident, sexy, alive
The warmth spread over me like a blanket
You promised everything I needed was in you
That I was nothing without you
You lied

Alcohol lied to me but I always seemed to have a desire to crawl back for just one more dance. In a lot of ways, giving up alcohol was like going through a breakup.

In the beginning, I knew it was the right decision but was scared to take action. I didn’t want to know who I was without it. After years of intertwining my identity and formulating my self-worth through a liquid, I had to discover who I was on my own and that terrified me. If you’re in this stage, I promise you will get through the initial shock.

Telling people wasn’t exactly fun either. I used to get that confused, sad look people give you when you tell them you broke up with your significant other. Then come the questions.”What? Why? How? Are you ok?” I remember dreading those questions in the beginning of my sobriety. The best thing I found was to be honest but remember you don’t owe anyone an answer if you aren’t comfortable providing one.

You lose friends. All who have gone through a break up know that you aren’t just losing one person, you’re most likely starting a silent siding war between your mutual friends, maybe even family. When you stop drinking, people will choose alcohol over you. But as I have mentioned previously, finding out who your real friends are is a blessing.

Then comes the delusional stage where you start to think the relationship may not have been as bad as you remember. Our brains have a funny way of recalling only the good times, right?! A photo will pop up on your timeline that makes you feel nostalgic, but you must remind yourself of the negatives lurking beneath the smiles. This can be extremely painful, but it has also helped me put things in perspective countless times.

Lastly, you will wake up one morning and realize your life is better. You will be happy and content with yourself. You no longer question your decisions and you no longer miss the relationship. People say time heals. And though that is real annoying to hear, it’s the truth. Major life changes, whether a break up or moving on from an addiction, take time. Be gentle with yourself in the beginning and embrace all the stages in between. You will get through it and you will be thankful you did.