Learning To Love Five

I wish every month was Na-Something-Something-Mo.

Some months could have designations that are fluffy and easily achieved, best saved for those short on days (February) or with pre-existing labor-intensive holidays (December):

Na-Clo-Cle-Mo (National Closet Cleaning Month – by then end of which you have a sparkling, organized wardrobe of perfectly coordinated outfits).

Na-Plu-Ha-Mo (National Pluck Hair Month – pluck 1500 individual body hairs every day for a month and be completely smooth from top to bottom in the grand reveal).

Na-Mee-Nei-Mo (National Meet Neighbours Month – knock on one door per day until you have 15 new friends in both directions of your front door).

During the months with lots of daylight and no significant holiday, we could up the ante with some heavier challenges:

Na-Nu-Lan-Mo (National New Language Month – learn a different language everyday and by month’s end you’ll be able to speak 30 languages!).

Na-Dri-Aw-Mo (National Drive Away Month – get in your car on the first of the month and drive in the direction of your choice for 3 hours per day. On the 30th donate car to charity in whichever location you find yourself and embark on the next challenge below).

Na-Hi-Ho-Mo (National Hitchhike Home Month – similar to previous month but in reverse direction begging rides from strangers).

I like a challenge. I like a deadline. I like the word “GO!” and I love the word “STOP!”

I like periods of extremely heavy work followed by periods of intense rest. It’s a pattern I see repeated again and again as I look back over my career and personal endeavors.

A friend recently asked why I don’t perform music anymore. I wrote and recorded two cds of original music, played solo shows and music festivals, and marketed my indie album to music stations across the nation. Then I just stopped.

“What happened?” he asked, perplexed by the sudden change.

“It’s my pattern,” I said. “Balls to the wall until I crash. That’s how I roll.” This had us both laughing, partly because of my ridiculous choice of words and mostly because they so perfectly described the trajectory of my songwriting career.

“I can’t just play guitar by a campfire. I can’t just write a song and leave it at that. I have to record. Have to perform. Have to push the album. I didn’t even like most of the work involved, I was just doing whatever it took to get myself on stage because I like singing for people. I hate setting up equipment, hate travelling to gigs, hate asking for my pay, hate selling cds, hate the stage fright and the awkwardness after the show when I’m still shaking from adrenalin but people want to chat with me. I got to the point where I was doing a thousand things I hated in order to have one hour I enjoyed, and it wasn’t worth it. So that’s that.”

As my mom had said with earnest pity, “You’re just so driven.”

I don’t know about that. “Drive” implies an and goal and a plan. “Compelled” is likely a better word.

Compulsion (kuhm-PUHL-shuhn) noun

A strong usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one’s will.

As Ellie once said on The Bubble Hour, “Alcoholics love ten and zero, but we hate five.”

Recovery has been a journey towards embracing five. It is a lesson in balance, in avoiding extremes, in accepting that I don’t have to be either glorified or shattered to be alive.

I’ve learned that the secret to loving five is to stay present, to really take note of what is going on around me. This is hard for an anxiety bag like me to do; I am always rushing forward in anticipation of the next challenge, disaster or reward.

Sometimes this feels quite positive. I open my eyes in the morning and immediately look forward to coffee and the paper. I can’t wait to see what each day holds. Would it hurt, though, to linger a moment longer and enjoy a luxurious stretch under the warm covers, listening to the quiet breathing of my husband beside me? Could I take one extra moment to be grateful and feel the joy of safety and comfort and love in that room?

Gratitude is a key component in overcoming an addiction. My pattern was to numb anxiety with alcohol while simultaneously creating more of it, perpetuating the cycle to which my brain had adapted. We learn what we are taught and our habits train our brains. Now that I live alcohol free, I work to curb the forward-thinking that fuels anxiety (what if…it will…I must…it might…) and focus on what is actually happening around me in that very moment, finding something for which to be grateful (this is…I am…I feel…). Breathe. Focus. Do.

My purpose for joining NaBloPoMo was to challenge myself, grow my blog, and create some better writing habits. I must confess that I momentarily considered doing NaNoWriMo as well, because I want to be the girl who does BOTH. I immediately recognized this compulsion towards an extreme; a self-destructive rush in the direction of perfectionism, competitiveness and the false safety of superiority. Easy girl. Five, not ten.

I am doing all I can to ensure that my month of daily posting is not only accomplished but also thoroughly enjoyed. I make writing the morning priority so I don’t spend the day worrying if it will get done. I take time to poke around other blogs, learn more about the art of writing and business of blogging, and expand my network a little.  And then I stop, and turn my attention elsewhere. I try to keep it at five.

Because five is good. Five is where I need to be. That’s how I roll.


  1. Soooo relevant. And also works if we’re talking about 5-as-in-o’clock which is what I thought the post was about from the title. How does a recovering alcoholic learn to love 5pm? Glad you’re writing so much, very inspiring.


  2. I have started to lay in bed after I wake up and experience how comfy I am, how lucky I am to have such a perfect bed to sleep in! It’s funny how being alchol free helps you notice all your blessings.


  3. I have to tell you, Jean, I for one am thrilled you took this challenge for yourself and your blog. I find myself chomping at the bit to see your post each day. Do I enjoy the posts? Oh yes! Do you make me laugh (until I almost pee my panties)? Double yes! Do you have me pondering your words throughout the day? Triple yes! The wisdom in your words has me truly reflecting upon my own journey through life and recovery. Thank you for this post as well. I have done most everything in my life “balls against the wall” and have come to a point where my five is enough as well.


  4. Beautiful written. I attempted to capture this words over in my blog but just didn’t know how. Being a Perfectionistic extremist has caused me much much anxiety in my 30’s. I always thought these character flaws were actually positive in my life as it was this very thing that helped me survive being pregnant and homeless as 18, finishing HS and working towards a career, having a career and making enough money to afford a comfortable life for me and my son. It got me through two very difficult divorces and so much more. In my 30’s however. ..it was the cause of many catastrophes including the increased intake of alcohol. I like your 5 analogy. I will be more conscious and aware of it. Thank you for your posts. They are realky good.


  5. I’m on day four of living without my daily wine habit ! This is where I will come for my meetings / support / encouragement / identification ! I love this last post about that place in the middle of the see-saw where you find it so hard to balance ! The last time I did this I went all out with gym , healthy lifestyle etc till that became an obsessive mania too ( stayed stopped a year ) .Reading your blog is going to represent a meeting to me ! I work in a rehab God forbid I would go to a meeting and be seen by my patients ! My shameful secret ! I’m not ready for that sort of pressure just for now ! I’ll attend here and get my strength , hope and encouragement here ! Then write a journal in the notes section of my phone . So Thankyou ! I identified with everything you described knowing you were ready , especially the recycle man and rotating wine stores !
    PS Love the style and humour you inject into your writing ! You truly give back in this space !


  6. Am so enjoying your daily posts. I so related to this subject. I am also a forward thinking, overthinker , all or nothing type personality with a super competitive nature. Yup that’s me. I am trying to change, to be calmer, more present, not so extreme. I am a work in progress . I have recently taken up a daily meditation practice,this is challenging but I can feel and see the effects! BTW my 5 year sobriety date was yesterday. Yay me!! I celebrated by buying a fabulous treadmill(no more running in the snow this winter)!!


  7. This is one of the best descriptions of the challenge of sobriety I’ve ever read — learning to love five. I totally understand the one and the ten, but god don’t make me do five! I also think your distinction between driven and compulsion is spot on. Working on balance myself. Thanks for the insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. In thoroughly enjoying my life at 5.
    I used to be proud when people called me intense.
    I’m now happy when people tell me I seem happy and relaxed.

    Extreme Anne was too hard to maintain. 42 years was long enough.


  9. I like the idea of ‘five’: neither crazily soaring above the clouds nor crashing to a halt. Just gently gliding and absorbing the view. Thank you. Bea x


  10. Love your posts. Completely identify with compulsions around activities. In fact, just completed my ‘list ‘ for today. My husband describes me as ‘extreme’ on a good day and ‘too intense’ on a challenging day. The alcoholic mindset makes me do triggered and anxious. Yet the feeling of ‘getting to the next thing’ and ‘crossing items off my list’ become my safe place to fall. I have not allowed any space for breathing or being still…which means my gratitude levels are not where I want them to be. Looking forward to reading more from you x

    Liked by 1 person

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