The early days of sobriety are sometimes filled with a euphoric feeling known as a “pink cloud” phase. I am years-deep in sobriety and pleasantly surprised to find myself in a bit of a “pink cloud” of sorts lately, a feeling of easy contentment and general goodness.
I think I am due this bit of emotional fair-weather. The last year was just one hard thing after another that seemed to rippled outward to the edges of life. I put my head down, ate more than my share of ice cream and cut myself some slack. Time passed, life moved on.
Gratitude is an amazing thing. It kept me going through the hardest of days, but what I did not expect was how staying grateful would transform the easier, less eventful periods in life into glowing patches of tranquility.
I spent 4 days in Los Angeles for the SheRecovers conference and it was a gorgeous event. I could have focussed on the negative (a long travel day of missed connections, being so nervous about moderating the panels that I now have a huge dry-cleaning bill from flop-sweat on my nice dresses and blazers, the social anxiety that tends to hit in crowds), but I threw gratitude at those moments and they didn’t stand a chance.
The flights were at least free because, like all of the fun recovery-related trips I do, they were booked on points. (I use my credit card for everything from groceries to utility bills so that I can build points, which adds up to enough for a getaway every 18 months or so.) I was nervous about being on stage but also honoured, and my-oh-my what a stage! The historic Beverly Hilton is home to the Golden Globes and I got to be on that same stage (and in the green room, and the backstage bathrooms…). Gratitude, gratitude. As for the social anxiety, well not much I can do about that but I was thankful for every hug and hello from strangers and old friends alike. There is no warmer, safer crowd than a group of recovery people celebrating together.
It was all a blur but it was wonderful.
And when it was done, I flew (on points!) to Denver where my husband was to meet me for a camping trip, working our way back home to Canada from there. On arrival, my luggage and I took the train downtown and met an old/new friend, a fellow member of an online group whom I’d never met in person. We have been supporting each other’s recovery for years, and I’d reached out to let her know I’d be passing through. We took the opportunity to spend a few hours together, enjoying brunch at Union Station and then going for a walk through her gorgeous historic neighbourhood. She then kindly drove me to the campground. We talked nonstop the whole morning.
The suitcase of dresses and heels was stowed under the bed and I switched into camping mode for the duration of the week. My husband and I had an incredible adventure through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana on our way back home – a Punch Brothers concert in Red Rock, lobster mac and cheese by the river in Steamboat
a romantic stroll through Jackson, and the prettiest sunrise imaginable in Bozeman.
Home feels good, too. Somehow the floaty pink-cloud carried me through all of the laundry today, as well as 52 emails that needed attention. I don’t know how long the feeling will last, but I’ll enjoy it while it does. I have a quiet month ahead and I just want to bump along drinking coffee and paying bills and shaving my legs and walking my dog. All good, all good.
We got through the hard moments of the last year, and thankfully embraced better days. Remind me of all this if things get hard again, and they will, of course they will. That is just life, unfiltered.
Sometimes I am surprised by the power of old thoughts that pop up unexpectedly.
Last weekend I was at a festival browsing through the market stalls of polished stones, nature photos, handmade soaps, and other typical fare when I stopped in my tracks.
A booth selling marijuana products was next and I felt the awakening of a long-quiet part of my brain. I did the mental equivalent of a spit-take and realized this is the new reality here in Canada.
Marijuana will be legalized here this fall and already it is appearing everywhere. This particular stall was selling products – creams, powders, tinctures, edibles – at least I think it was because I didn’t get much closer. My heart was racing and I was inexplicably excited. I walked back and forth trying to get a better look and also trying to avoid it simultaneously.
I was like a twelve-year-old boy at his first school dance. I want to and I don’t.
There are new products to be marketed, and a lot of them have legitimate claims to health benefits. There seems to be this grey area of where health benefits end and recreation begins that my addiction sees as an invitation. Though alcohol was my vice of choice, I will tell you that I am tempted by everything that invites me to escape – even Gravol and cold medicine (though they’re great when needed for an actual illness).
I have spent nearly eight years learning to navigate a world full of alcohol and I feel like I have gotten the hang of it. Now a curve ball is coming, a new thing that is out there in the open and must be simultaneously accepted and avoided.
I am supportive of legalized marijuana and do believe that everyone has the right to do what they want with their own bodies. Likewise, it is my choice to live drug and alcohol free and my responsibility to sidestep temptations, marketing and messages that encourage me to indulge.
I used to feel angry at the ridiculous alcogenic marketing towards women – the bangle flasks, and baby onesies that say “Mommy’s Funner When She Drinks”, the purses built to hide bottles. Now I roll my eyes and scroll on.
I am feeling anxious at the thought of a whole new barrage of marketing to brace myself against, though I know I will get used to it, it’s nonetheless unnerving.
I am curious to hear from sober readers living in areas that already have legalization, if you feel it impacts your recovery and if the marketing feels as pervasive as the alcohol industry.
Want to read my story from the beginning? Start here.
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Join me for a SheRecovers retreat at Kripalu in November 2018 – info here.
Does this rustic Canadian beach look like a nice place for a stroll?
I walk this stretch almost every day when we are here at the lake. Sometimes twice a day. Often with my dog, generally by myself. I know every nook, cabin, rock, weed, and tree. I have come here every summer for 33 years and walked this beach hundreds of times.
When I leave the cabin on my own, my husband says, “Take your phone. Which route are you taking?” It seems slightly overprotective, and I rather love his concern. I am not a risk-taker. Whether I am kayaking, paddleboarding, or going for a walk, rest assured I will proceed in the most awkwardly overcautious manner possible. There is almost zero chance of me encountering a problem, beyond maybe a wasp bite or the misapplication of sunscreen.
My pride has taken a bit of a beating this summer. My swimsuit is now, well, not fitting quite the same. And the other day, I was trying to pull myself up the ladder into the boat and kept slipping back into the water. I felt awkward, all noodle-armed and bottom-heavy. I’ve been slacking on the yoga and exercise, and excelling at the dessert-eating. Plus, you know, menopause and all.
I look the same, I just don’t feel the same.
So needless to say, this particular walk was both necessary (post-dessert) and within my comfort zone.
Take your phone. Tell me your route.
Eye-roll. Smile. Leave.
Now. Do these rocks look like an appropriate place to do gymnastics?
They are not.
Nevertheless, I managed a backward shoulder roll while crossing this short rocky section of the beach. The same rocky section I have walked for decades without incident. But this day, I fell. Slowly. Backwards.
Before it happened, I was simply catching my balance. Hop to a rock, wait, balance, next rock, balance. It is fun. I like it. Wearing flip-flops was a bad idea, though. I knew better but I did it anyway. The sand was wet, the rocks were wet, but I pressed on as if nothing was different. I was taking chances, little baby chances.
Bad idea, I thought as my sandy flip-flops flipped and flopped over a slick stone.
Oh no, I may have said out loud, as the heavy-bottom, noodle-arm feeling returned and I reached out unsuccessfully for something to hang onto.
What is behind me? I tried to remember as I felt myself falling backwards, calmly wondering what part of my body was going to need protecting on the way down.
How is this going to turn out? Why is there time to think so much? I felt myself going upside down and remembered having the exact same thoughts the last time I fell in slow motion, which was on a ski hill and if you are wondering how that went, click here.
Well now, this is just embarrassing. I’d hit the ground without incident or injury but now the force of the fall was propelling me “ass over teakettle” (as my mother would say) and at this particular moment I was upside down and somewhat impressed with myself for turning this into a backward summersault, albeit a graceless one. (Knees apart, toes not pointed, did not stick the landing. My junior high phys ed teacher would grade it a C-.)
Which leads me to this:
(Artistic rendering of dramatic life moment.)
I allowed myself to lay in place momentarily in case someone had witnessed my fall and perchance might come running to my rescue. I wasn’t hurt and yet…well, it seemed appropriate to just give it a few breaths.
No one coming to check on my wellbeing? Oh okay. Great, actually. That means no one witnessed this. Oh right, except me.
Now listen, if you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I can suss out a recovery analogy from life’s little moments. Especially the awkward ones.
I knew better but I did it anyway….
I pressed on as if nothing was different. I was taking chances, little baby chances….
This is a story about a middle age woman who went for a walk and had a harmless tumble. It is also the story of that time you went to a party straight from work without eating first. It is about every sober person who said, “I am okay and everything is fine,” when that was not the truth.
Wait, wait, there is more.
The next day, my husband and I decided to cut down a tree that was growing too close to the cabin. I was on the guide ropes, my noodle arms responsible for tugging in the direction we wanted it to fall: away from the cabin.
Nothing was damaged, but the poor dog was terrified from the crash.
I took her for a walk to calm her down.
I double-knotted my runners, and headed back to the beach.
Want to come on retreat with me? Meet You at Kripalu!
Have you watched my kayaking video yet? Come Paddling With Me
Do you ruminate on bad memories? Try this: Memory Modification: A Tool for Recovery
If you have been feeling isolated and and disconnected in your recovery, this is a perfect way to shift gears. There is an incredible array of activities and sessions to enjoy each and every day, plus beautiful meals and, in the evenings, I will hold a special “sharing circle” just for our group.
As you know, I am a big believer in “patchwork recovery” – meaning we use various methods and modalities to create the perfect fit of recovery for ourselves. The theme of the retreat is “Expand your Recovery Bubble” because during your stay you will no doubt find many new tools and patches to strengthen and refresh your recovery – plus make new friendships and connections along the way.
I hope you will join me!
I am back home again in southern Alberta, settling into my routine. To wit, my routine now seems to include not getting to yoga, not getting my 10,000 steps a day in, not cooking regular meals, and not writing as much as I had planned. I am floundering.
On Friday night, we had our little grandsons come for a sleepover and it was a wonderful evening of reading books, sculpting play dough, eating snacks and missing the official bedtime by a long shot (unintentionally – they were too excited to fall asleep even though we got them to bed on time). Mornings are the best – all snuggles and pjs and quiet chatter.
I was feeling desperate to get some serious writing done. I am 19 days out from the arbitrary deadline I gave myself to finish a first draft of my novel and I need to get at it. I decided to send myself on an overnight writing retreat to the ski hill – our big family cabin is empty and quiet in the off-season; a perfect place to hide away and write. As soon as the little boys went home, I grabbed my laptop and a tea from Tim Horton’s (large, one milk, two sweeteners), and started driving.
So here I am, writing on the deck. That is not a painting behind me, that is the reflection of the mountain view. I used to drink a lot here, like a lot of people do on ski vacations. Now I drink tea and revel in the freedom and power of sobriety.
From the Rocky Mountain of southern Alberta, I wish you all freedom and peace.
I brought you along for a morning kayak today – a goofy experiment that worked out rather well:
If the panda comment seemed random, here is the meme I was referring to:
Are you dying to know how on earth I managed to fit a phone in my mouth??! I have a case called “Loopy” with a rubber loop on the back that is meant for a finger but as it turns out works nicely for other purposes. (Sidebar – the case says LOOPY in big pink letters and my husband likes to tease me that makes it “personalized” perfectly for me.)
If you enjoyed joining me for my morning kayak, be sure to pop over to The Bubble Hour and listen to the short episode I recorded while paddling.
Enjoy the warm weather!
I promised to write during my last trip but I was sooooo relaxed that I could only manage a few pictures on Instagram. Have a peek at @unpickledblog to see a handful of photos from the SheRecovers retreat I was attending in Mexico.
The retreat is held at a gorgeous beachfront home that was built to host private groups so it’s perfectly suited for a yoga retreat. Every single thing about the week is restorative and joyful, but even better than the sun, sand, yoga, massages and gourmet food are the friendships I’ve made with incredible women from around the world.
I came home to a whirlwind four days of laundry, errands, seeing the family, and tending to life before packing up and driving 8 hours north to the lake.
Here in Canada it is Victoria Day Weekend, which for us means opening the lake cottage for the summer. The first to arrive has to ensure a tank of water is delivered, the septic truck is called out, the groceries are loaded and the grass gets cut. Then the rest of the family rolls in – this year totalling 16 humans and 5 dogs. Some put in the pier and boat hoist, some built a fire, some cook the meals, some do dishes, some fish, some read. Everyone does their fair share of work so there’s lots of time to play together. Paddle boards, games, boating, walks on the beach and visiting in the sunshine.
The two locations are worlds away and so too the experience of being with a houseful of new friends vs. together with extended family. Both are wonderful and exhausting in the best kind of way.
I recall writing a post several years ago about feeling upset because one of the kids drank the San Pelligrino I’d brought to the lake for *me*. Now it’s just so much easier. As long as there’s coffee (and cream!) for mornings I’m fine.
After dinner last night I enjoyed a different kind of nightcap: an hour of paddling solo in my kayak. Pure bliss.
I’m grateful to have an interesting life! From the beaches of Mexico to the Boreal Forest of Alberta, I know I am living my life to the fullest and being completely present.
Ten days between adventures.
The van is cleaned, serviced, stored. My desk is sorted, bills paid, reports filed, deadlines made.
Where am I off to now….?
(Hint: currently sitting in international departures at Calgary Airport.)
I’ll post again in a day or two to reveal my destination.
But meanwhile, take notice that there are no pictures of the week in between. Though full of laundry, errands and deskwork, it was most enjoyable. Just not photo-worthy.
I spent time with each of my kids and their families, both of my sisters, and my mom.
I wrote. Recorded two Bubble Hour episodes and organized all of the back catalogue into seasons and episodes. It was wonderfully routine and quiet, which felt surprisingly good.
I did manage one significant lapse of judgement just before leaving: allowing the nail tech to choose my polish colour. I can hardly type this post on my phone because my flamboyant nails are distracting. I suppose they are tame by most standards but I’m self-conscious of my hands (I had part of a finger amputated due to a childhood accident). I’d probably admire the bright teal on someone else.
My plane is boarding soon.
More to follow on arrival….
On a quiet walk in the woods of Qualicum Beach this morning, I saw a tree growing on top of an old stump.
I reflected on the ability of one life to fuel the next. Again and again it appeared, new growth sprouting from the decaying past.
Some of us push away our past, hoping to deny or overcome the things we’d rather forget. But maybe we can instead embrace it, not erase it, and use it to fuel our futures.
Oh the simple life. Crawling into our cozy van-bed with a book, quickly drifting to sleep and clocking a miraculous ten hours of deep rest, night after night. Amazing! I rarely sleep longer than seven hours a night at home. How is this even possible?
Our daily adventures look something like this: a gorgeous drive, a good meal, a pretty campsite, a nice walk, a deep sleep, morning coffee, repeat.
A cartwheel on the beach…and a hike through the forest at Porpoise Bay…No make up for days on end! I literally have not gone a week without makeup since I started wearing it (hiding behind it) in the 7th grade.
There is a lot to be said for breaking routine and doing things differently. I realize how stuck in my ways I am at home – from morning coffee to bedtime tea. Being overly entrenched in routine is how I got stuck in the wine loop, and then I leveraged routine to break free.
I’m far from a “Free Spirit” (as our van boasts) but I am embracing this version of freedom on our vacation. It’s nice to know I can do this, to just *be* and just *enjoy*.