The sea. The mountains. The grass in the park. There is something primal about having our feet on the earth, barefoot.
In yoga, we focus a lot on grounding. Grounding into ourselves, the earth, the ultimate source. Our higher power.
Whenever I’m stressed, I have to stop. Take a breather. Take care of myself. And ground. Let go of what is hurting, binding, release it down. Dig my toes in–never mind the imperfection of the messy pedicure and flip-flop toe stub from the subway–and pull deep from the source. Feel the life in the ground beneath us, the promise in the earth itself.
Wherever you are today, I hope there’s a nice patch of land you can sink your toes in.
“In spite of our desires, changing others will never be an option, whereas changing ourselves takes only a decision and is a choice always available.” ― Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women Hazelden)
We can only change ourselves! This is good news, though, because it frees us from the overwhelming burden of having to fix ALL THE THINGS for EVERYONE–as if we actually could…
I love my 90s kid cultural references (and if you haven’t seen Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, you should, because it’s my favorite adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, like, ever).
But on a serious note, part of recovery is recognizing that the only part of our mental health equation we can control is ourselves. Our reactions, our choices, our outlook. We got this. God’s got this. And daily meditations like the one from THIS FABULOUS BOOK (quoted at the top of the post) help immensely.
So many folks in my recovery community are having a hard time with current political events. How do we stay sober while the world seems to be falling apart? The answer is simple, and complicated. The simple part is to keep doing the things that keep you sober in good times: keeping it in the day, giving the worry to your Higher Power, and making copious gratitude lists.
Harder right now, perhaps for those of us in recovery, the more complicated part is not giving in to the societal disease of power and indifference that we see around us.
It helps me, as a scholar of people, war, and human rights (and, weirdly, alcohol), to remember that countless people went through terrible times before in human history. The AA Big Book talks about World War II soldiers who went through the war in recovery; their stories can be inspirational. But on a more macro level, human history has always been full of troubled times: wars, famines, plagues—and we’ve made it through.
Celebrate small victories; I can’t do much about foreign policy right now other than educate those in my circle on how it relates to the USA’s history, and write. So at times like these, its important to celebrate small victories. I managed, after weeks of working at it, to take our household garbage down to just one can (bin for my Brits!); a lot of work on compost, traditional recycling, and my recycled paper art made that happen. Calling wiser friends who may be able to offer perspective, staying tight with your sober people, and being grateful for the things we can do, even if it’s just raise awareness, stay sober, or donate a few dollars (or pounds) to a cause we love. Hold the hand (or paw!) of someone you love. These things matter.
In fact, the simple act of being grateful for what we do have, saying a prayer, making a gratitude list, calling an old friend, or spending some time in nature, is itself a form of resistance. It is looking the darkness in the eye and saying, as Arya Stark said to Death: NOT TODAY!
I work on it. I actively practice observing my thoughts and shifting them to different topics when I notice anxiety rising up. This book helps.
But one of the best things for me to do is stop and pray. Ask for help. Make a gratitude list. Check out some funny cat videos. Think happy thoughts—on purpose. Make an anxiety busting Pinterest board! And do what makes you feel cared for. For me, I love alone time with books. Or the ritual fun of crafting a new mocktail in a sparkly glass (recipes here!).
Sometimes it feels like like I’m tackling a calculus problem (actually, calculus was a lot easier for me than dealing with anxiety)… But it’s worth it. Because winning small battles against anxiety adds up to winning the war. But a little humor and prayer go a long way.
I sat in my back yard looking and actually took the time to STOP and LOOK. What had just been a green space to step outside and take a breather from work became so much more when I let go and let myself become fully present in my garden moment.
I reflected on the changes from the cold winter, when I sat under the February Stars and watched the cold, naked tree limbs extent toward the inky blue sky. The world–my world–had transformed.
Now there are green leaves everywhere, wildflowers, grasses, soft moss. A squirrel was working in my favorite tree. A butterfly flitted by me, and a hummingbird hovered. A red robin looked for worms. Even the insects had come alive! But the winter didn’t show it.
One of my favorite songs is Catie Curtis’ “Everything Waiting to Grow,” about the beauty underneath the surface. In season, over time, after we work on it, our lives will sprout new growth.
It has been waiting, under the surface, for the spring to come.
Whatever season you are in, keep working, keep waiting. You will bloom in time.
I have a hard time with this, sometimes, because I want to be there for everyone alllllll the time. To be the friend who says YES instead of no. And when I keep a realistic view of my timetables and my boundaries intact, that’s okay. But sometimes, I get really tired.
That’s when I have to remember, repeat like a mantra: self-care isn’t selfish.
So I turn off the ringer. Enter Airplane mode. Soak up some sun, read a book, have a cup of tea, and just chill. Or put on some cute shoes. Whatever it takes!
I consider it a duty—to myself, my higher power, and even my community. Because no one can pour from an empty cup. So fill it! Self care isn’t selfish, it’s critical to our own health and well-being.
Today, I noticed that I have not slit a hole in any of my contacts since getting sober. My fingernails are the same–simply manicured by ME–but my hands don’t shake, so I don’t poke the contacts accidentally. And, I clean the contacts better, exactly as my eye doctor taught me, every night.
I floss daily, so I don’t have the nicotine and coffee stains along my gemlike that used to be so embarrassing—I thought it was because I had entered my thirties. It wasn’t that; it was the passing out after all the Malbec, because the day was too much for me to handle.
Now, the things that used to cause huge emotional overwhelm can be handled. I may still feel anxious about them, but I have the courage and confidence to push forward. Five hours with apple support, and my computer is like new. In the past, that would have brought on a meltdown, tears, frustration, fears of the end of the world as I know it, and panic followed by days in bed.
But this time, my computer crashed. I let it go when I couldn’t fix it myself, turned it off, and went to sleep, knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it when it happened, because what I had thought would be a simple operating system update had turned into a total computer failure. It had to be erased, and rebooted from the cloud.
But thank God for the cloud, and the serenity to know that whatever came with the computer, I could handle it. And handle it I did—with the help of three brilliant and affirming women in tech support, and a lot of prayer. And okay, some coffee and nicotine.
I’m not perfect. But I’m making progress. And that’s the whole point: I can see clearly through the eyes of recovery, and not just because I’m no longer slicing my contacts in half with my nails and dropping them in the toilet by accident. Recovery allows me to access the peaceful, serene space within that says: this is okay. God’s got this.
I breathe through it, ask for help, and tech support and my higher power save the day. Recovery makes that possible. Doing the work of recovery makes that possible.
And the flossed, bright white smile at the perfectly working computer, too, was brought by the miracles of recovery.