Monthly Archives: August 2014
Heads turn when our bright orange 1973 VW camper van passes by. People smile, kids wave, hipsters nod approval. I don’t need to smile back because I’m already grinning as soon as the engine starts.
I call the camper van my time machine. It’s retro AM radio and clunky controls take me back to being a kid in the 70s when a dashboard was eye level (at least on those occasions I was lucky enough to ride in the front seat). My husband and I keep the windows (cranked) down when we drive because it’s hot as blazes in there, and the breeze whips my hair as I gaze at the passing landscape. How is it that same view looks so different with the window rolled down? I feel like I am part of the scenery instead of a moving observer. I reach my hand out the window and let the air bob it up and down, something my mother never allowed. I hear the echo of a scolding voice in my head but I decide nothing will tear my arm off, as I was once led to believe. I feel free and happy and unfettered.
We bought this sweet old van to celebrate our 25th anniversary this summer and retraced our honeymoon route through the Rocky Mountains. Back then, a camping trip in my parents’ motorhome was all we could afford and we hoped someday we would be able to travel in luxury. Now we can afford to travel as we wish, and this humble classic is what we choose.
In my early posts, I feared I would no longer be any fun or have any fun on vacations. I feared life would be dull and I would be a wet rag who dragged down the spirits of those around me. I wrote this on my 7th day of recovery:
My husband and I have had many wonderful adventures together and the mental postcards I’ve collected all include a beverage: Wiki Wackers on Catalina Island, Margaritas by the Riverwalk in San Antonio, PinaColadas on the beach in Dominican Republic, wine at an outdoor café on the promenade in Santa Monica. As we plan and save for our retirement, we dream of vineyard tours in Italy and having a pint in an Irish pub.
Would I have any fun without alcohol? Would I BE any fun? Would my husband dread the rest of our lives together, saddled with a tea-tottling ninny for a wife?
Let me tell you something. Buying this van was MY idea and retracing our honeymoon was an amazing adventure. We laughed, talked, hiked, made out, roasted hotdogs, and genuinely enjoyed ourselves.
It isn’t that life is really all that different without alcohol. It is that I have changed. I am able to feel my joy in my bones; a deep peaceful resonance. I am able to relax, to be unhurried. When I drank wine, it was to speed up the process of unwinding and I was never successful at drinking my way to the good feelings that I find myself experiencing regularly in recovery.
It has taken time to get here. For the first year or more I wrestled with feeling awkward and self-conscious as a non-drinker. Then I started to get some results from addressing the underlying issues and became ravenously introspective. And recently this peace emerged, maybe some of the old hippie vibes from my van rubbed off on me.
Do I have any fun without alcohol? Can I BE any fun? Does my husband dread the rest of our lives together? Look at the smiles in this picture, and you tell me.
In my last post, I showed you my privates: private pain, private shame, private guilt, and private struggles. I laid it all out there because I believed it would help people. I hit “publish” and almost vomited.
That was 7 weeks ago and I haven’t written another post since. I’ve spent the entire time fighting my way out of a “vulnerability hangover” – a term coined by Dr. Brene Brown to convey the regret associated with pushing the limits of the honesty comfort zone.
To refresh your memory, in the post “3 Years Sober: What It’s Like for Me” I talked about having a form of OCD called dermatillomania. People who have this condition (or it’s twin trichlotillomania, which is hair pulling) tend not to talk about it and as a result feel tremendous shame and feel freakish and alone. (Sound familiar, alcoholics? Any experience with isolation and shame? Anyone?)
I wrote the piece to be brave and try to help people, and guess what? I received a TON of emails from people who said “me too” as they expressed shock and relief that they are not alone. Most people did not know this burdensome condition even has a name let alone support communities and even a Facebook group.
With gobs of appreciative feedback, why then the vulnerability?
Back to Dr. Brene Brown for answers. (Sidebar: Brown’s books “I Thought It Was Just Me”, “Daring Greatly”, and “The Gifts of Imperfection” are fantastic tools for recovery and personal growth. If you aren’t already in love with her work you soon will be!)
Brown gave voice to the idea that to be vulnerable requires incredible courage, a counterintuitive notion because we have learned to equate the former with weakness and the latter with strength.
The payoff for being vulnerable, however, is nothing less than the eradication of shame. When we share our shame anecdotes with others who connect and utter those magical healing words “me, too,” shame evaporates.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection,” says Dr. Brown in “The Gifts of Imperfection”. Blogging is about connecting, connecting is about healing, and healing comes from digging deep and sharing our truth. Dr. Brown suggests that if we don’t feel a wee pang, then perhaps we have not been open enough.
I know this and yet I had the hardest time dragging myself back to the keyboard for another post. I’ve already showed you all my stretchmarks and warts – what’s left? Um, plenty. I have a lot more to share and I need to bounce back from the emotional sofa where I’ve waited out my vulnerability hangover.
It occurs to me as I write this that each person who commented and emailed to say “me too!” had the same feeling. It took courage to share your truth and I want you to know that I am grateful for your willingness to be vulnerable.
Here is to everyone out there who writes, comments, email, speaks, listens, and reaches out. We are all heroic in our small ways.