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Rainy Day Reflections

It is pouring rain at the ski hill. Yesterday it was snowing and the conditions were glorious but today is just a few degrees warmer, which has made the difference between snow and rain. Snow builds the base and extends the season; rain exposes rocks that chew up skis. Snow is good, rain is bad, and the only difference between the two is one tiny line on the thermometer.

I am not prepared for ski season to end; it’s only been a few weeks since I got the green light to resume usual activity since gallbladder surgery. After all that down time, getting back on skis has been exhilarating. Spring can wait a little longer – I am not ready for this change. I don’t want it, don’t welcome it, and can’t stop it.

So I am snuggled here in this quiet cabin, considering the rain as a metaphor. Some things are inevitable and the only thing we can control is our own response in the midst of it all.

You know how sometimes it seems like bad things happen in clumps? I find myself in one of those mucky, yucky periods. It started at Christmas, and to my continued amazement one crappy thing after another just keeps unfolding. Have you ever experienced that?  When every phone call or email seems to bring bad news from someone you care about? Those times when we tell ourselves that “bad things happen in threes”, but then hear of the fourth, fifth, eighth and eleventh bad thing? More than a few nights, the sum total of my bedtime prayers has been Seriously, God? Seriously? followed by a long quiet pause while I wait for answers and settle instead for acceptance.

Three years ago we went through one of these spells, and it was a hard time. Just one shitty thing after another for months on end. Worry, sleepless nights, drudgery of dealing with unwanted (undeserved) problems.We kept going, we got through it.  I was glad to be sober, because the temptation to numb out and escape was strong. A lot of readers in early recovery worry about living without alcohol forever, but in my experience it is so much easier to just know that drinking isn’t an option. Numbing with alcohol never really did help, even though it felt like it worked at the time, and only slowed down the process of getting through the tough stuff.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was feeling really overwhelmed and dragged down by sadness because of several readers I’d been trying to help who all seemed to relapse at once. I felt like a failure, and – to be honest – a little resentful. (You can read that post here but then come back and read the rest of this post about what I have learned since!)

I confessed in that post that helping someone who ends up relapsing can feel like a sucker punch, and my subsequent resentments posed a palpable threat to my sobriety. It was a real wake up call to me that I had to examine my thinking. I felt people had taken advantage of me and wasted my time by pretending to want help while living a double life. I felt I had set them up for success and been duped. After a lot of reflection, I came to see otherwise.

5

Here is a lesson in codependency, people pleasing, and perfectionism: there’s a fine line between helping others and controlling their actions, and that line can separate outcomes as powerful as the one degree of difference between snow and rain.

When we offer help to others, the best we can do is hold space and provide the framework for their success regardless of whether or not they choose to do the next right thing. If someone is offered help and doesn’t make good use of it, that is their choice. It might feel like we have been taken advantage of, but it can also be viewed in the opposite way: that they chose to NOT take advantage of the opportunity provided, or maybe they wanted to but couldn’t.

Thousands of comments on this blog say sweet, kind things like, “UnPickled got me sober!” Those words always touch me deeply and affirm my effectiveness and purpose. I cherish the knowledge that my story has been helpful to others and made a pivotal difference in their lives. However, I came to see that by allowing myself to take credit for some people’s sobriety, I was also setting myself up to feel responsible for others’ setbacks. I had to reframe it to see that each person is responsible for their own outcome and the role of this blog is as a resource for insight and encouragement.

The term “holding space” is often heard in recovery circles. It means creating that safe, non-judgemental place of opportunity for another person to express themselves and heal. It also means allowing that person to proceed as they will, which is not necessarily as we might wish. “Holding space” does not come naturally to me; it is a skill I am learning. My instinct is to decide what a person “should” do and then try to coax them to my conclusion like a lawyer leading a witness. I thought this was the way to help others, and never understood it as manipulating or controlling. I surely could never sit quietly while someone spun an edited version of events or exaggerated their situation. I was the queen of correcting, arguing, setting the record straight. Okay, I still am that but I try not to be – it isn’t usually helpful. Things tend to unfold as they will regardless, so the difference is how agitated and annoying I want to make myself in the process.

I am taking that lesson I learned from the recovery world and applying it to the stuff of everyday life. This mucky murky cluster of unrelated unfortunate events that seems to hover lately will pass, and I am making it through by letting go and allowing others do as they will. I am not trying to control things that don’t belong to me, and focussing on how I respond (with kindness, patience, indifference, silence, compassion). I am trying to remember the drama triangle and assessing which corner I’m casting myself into, so that I can dismantle the tension (really helpful – go read that post if you need help with difficult people!). I am getting to yoga several times a week as a means of healthy escape, one that is good for my body. Things seem easier than they have in the past, I think these tools are helping enormously.

Rain at the ski hill sucks, but in my garden back home tomorrow I may have a whole new perspective. I’ll go hunting for spring shoots and worms. Maybe I’ll do a little spring cleaning and put my winter sweaters into storage. There’s some skirts and boots in the back of the closet I haven’t seen for a while.

I can’t stop the rain, but I can wear something cute and get ready for what comes next.

 

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on March 5, 2016, in Getting Sober, Insights and Lessons, Life After Alcohol, Long Term Recovery, My UnPickled Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I am so looking forward to being part of this family

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  2. I’m about to turn 33 and a month after that, hit my four-year sobriety date. Your blog was one of the first ones I found when I needed daily inspiration and I will be forever grateful to you for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed to hear this today. It is so hard watching someone you care about fall further into that alcoholic pit, especially when you know from experience the huge relief and happiness of escape. I have the hardest time with the lying — because that is exactly what I did (to myself and others).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi – I believe in karma – many good things will come your way after this period on blah events. Am listening to and loving The Bubble Hour – I devour it, catching up on earlier podcasts. You are all such an inspiration. Follower on day 18!

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  5. Enjoyed reading this I Am in recovery , 3-1/2 years ,,thankyou for your blog !!

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  6. This post is super helpful to me. Many thanks for writing so clearly here. People talk about people pleasing and codependence and control issues, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually understood what they meant until I read this. For years I worked in a quasi-helping role, and I know exactly what you mean about feeling let down when people don’t take up the help that’s offered. I found a way around it in my job, but I see now that I still do that in lots of areas of my life. I didn’t know the term “holding space” but I’m glad to encounter it, and I see how useful it is to do just that. for others and for myself. Just the same, I still kind of want to say “Unpickled got me sober,” as your blog was a big part of be being able to even consider being sober as a viable option, and I’m awfully grateful to you for that! xo

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    • How about this: “I used UnPickled’s blog to help myself get sober!”? I am so happy to hear this post helped you understand the who mess that is codependence et al. it is a murky lake and it takes a long time to understand and make the necessary changes. I am learning constantly!

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  7. I am learning this, too!
    I just have to offer support, and what happens is up to them.
    That is what happened to me, when I was trying to get sober.
    People just offered me help, but my recovery was up to me!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am a 67 year old woman who has been an alcoholic for long that I cannot accurately recall when I started drinking wine every night . In 1997 I sopped ‘ cold turkey’ due to a marriage crisis and stayed sober for 4 yrs and 3 mths , thought I was cured and could drink sensibly …no such thing for alcoholics , I have been drinking ever since that day in June in Quebec city …I soooo want to stop and this today Day 1 of Sobriety , with hope and hard work will be the start of a successful journey , thank you so much for reading this and the support that this blog is giving me , look forward to stay connected here with kindred souls

    Michelle /Ottawa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Michelle, my heart goes out to you. Yes, yes, it is time to take back your power and get back to a way of life that honours you and serves you well. You are not alone!

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    • Good luck to you Michelle. I’ve been sober just a few days short of a year and I just turned 64. The time has marched by so quickly. I feel like a brand new person already and am totally committed to sobriety. I guess you could say I’m addicted to sobriety now. So much more fun than being a slave to booze. Please hang in there and make this sobriety decision the greatest thing you’ve ever done for yourself. Because that’s what it would be.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. While drinking is truly not an option for me, I try to be mindful that it is an option for everyone else. This is one generalization that I can’t do without.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed – it is up to each person to make their own choices and WOW can I be judgemental – it comes from a lifetime of trying to be perfect and constantly comparing myself to others. Unplugging from that has been monumental in recovery, but I still gravitate back to that thinking if I am not careful.

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  10. My mantra: “I cannot control people or situations, only my reaction to them.” Being healthy is knowing when ANYTHING is a threat to your sobriety including trying to help people who do not want to help themselves. I fell into the same trap, and learned that I can only help by relating my experiences, and it is up to each individual to decide when they have had enough, and quit for good.

    I was in a horrendous car crash last October. This experience has left my otherwise brave self, skittish, nervous and freaked out when I have to drive, especially long distances (a 1-2 time a month occurrence). Decades of being safe, and feeling safe down the flipping toilet.

    Since October, I have driven through and survived a winter, total whiteout storm. My only coping tool was repeatedly screaming the F-word, and reassuring myself that I was safe, even though I could not see the semi only 1.5 car lengths ahead of me. I was asked why I didn’t just pull over — that was a much scarier option because I would have been a sitting duck for some other driver to blindly ram into me.

    This past Friday, not 15 minutes into a 5 hour drive, bumper-to-bumper traffic, the car next to me accelerated unexpectedly and slammed into the car in front of them. I wanted to turn around, go home, and crawl under the covers, and let all the other dumbass, distracted drivers smash each other up without me.

    If you have read the book or seen the movie Wild (highly recommend!), there is a quote that has resonated with me to this day, I hold it close especially when I am scared out of my mind: “……..how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay…….I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.”

    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I wanted to tell you that your posts “What’s the point” and “Nurse Jackie” spoke to me and lead me down the path to begin my journey. I am beginning day 7 today and was SO excited to see you had posted!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU……I was feeling sad this morning but you have added a ray of sunshine to my day! x

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    • CONGRATULATIONS on over a week of glorious freedom! Wonderful to hear. It is beautiful to know that you are here and well. Please keep posting and sharing your insights and lessons as they unfold. We all walk together!

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  12. I may not have a good run of successful sobriety yet, but every single thing you have advised, every comment you’ve made, and every post you’ve written have helped me. Sometimes I do feel that I have let you down, because you had faith in me, and I haven’t succeeded yet – but I am still trying, and your wise words and strength are very much part of my journey. Annie x

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  13. “My instinct is to decide what a person “should” do and then try to coax them to my conclusion like a lawyer leading a witness. I thought this was they way to help others, and never understood it as manipulating or controlling. I surely could never sit quietly while someone spun an edited version of events or exaggerated their situation. I was the queen of correcting, arguing, setting the record straight. Okay, I still am that but I try not to be – it isn’t usually helpful.” Jean this could have been written by me I kid you not!! I have similar stuff going on and being NATO (not attached to the outcome) is so bloody hard at times xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh but life becomes soooooo much easier when we loosen that grip…..! I am glad you said it hit home, because I wonder sometimes if I am the most uptight person ever. Nice to know there’s at least two of us!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Jean. In the end I have realized that I must offer love and support to others for my own benefit, with no expectations of it being returned or even accepted. No applause. No approval. No nothing.

    Teaching yoga at the recovery centre has been where this truly sunk in.
    I teach what I love. Sometimes they seem interested. Sometimes they are disruptive. Sometimes someone cries.

    I don’t know what will happen, but I keep going because I love offering my time. It brings me joy.

    You are a light and an inspiration. No matter what you do.
    Thank you
    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not easy for us approval junkies, is it? But so much better in the long run. For me it comes down to staying in the present, in my own actions, without considering outcomes or feedback. Just do the right thing – that’s the goal, just doing the right thing, not whatever happens after.

      Liked by 1 person

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