Recovery in Troubled Times

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 was listening to the Tom Waits song “Hold On” just now, and sometimes, just holding on is enough.

We’ll get through this together. One day at a time.

May you be peaceful, may you love, and may you find grace today.

Namaste, Darlings.

—Maggie

Anxiety and Mindful Self-Care

I have an anxiety disorder.

“I take a problem and chew on it until all the flavor’s gone. Then I stick it in my hair.” -Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

“Cast all your cares upon the Lord.”

“Instead of worrying, pray.”

I have an anxiety disorder. This means that I am extremely likely to follow neurological ruts of worry. It means that my body can respond to everyday worries with a reaction that would be more appropriate if my ice-age ancestors were being attacked by a sabertooth tiger. This is not healthy.

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.

And the books and mocktails, of course.

Namaste, Darlings! 💜

“Everything Waiting to Grow”

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.

Namaste, Darlings!💜

Self-care Isn’t Selfish

Protect your alone 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!

Recharge.

Relax.

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.

On Rumination and retrospective

The Anxiety Toolkit says that anxious people are more likely than folks without anxiety to ruminate on past events and worry about future ones. Well, let’s triple that for the anxious alcoholic…

Guilty. I wonder, sometimes too much, about the what-might-have-beens. Perhaps I should take the easy way out and blame the classical cover of Adele that came up in a piano mix in listening to. But it’s honestly not that simple. And Adele bloody rocks.

For me, Rumination is the state of dwelling in the dark shadow of memory; it’s the negative side of the retrospective. Now the positives can be amazing. Beautiful memories and nostalgia, taking stock of how far we have come–these things rock. But worry, not so much. Worry can control my day if I let it. But today, I’m not going to.

Whatever may or may not have been, I’m here now. I can’t control yesterday, or tomorrow. What we can all do, though, is take the action available in this present moment, the one that will help accomplish our dreams. Even if that action is as simple as noticing the anxiety thoughts and queuing up a Netflix comedy to drown them out. It’s science—laughter really can be the best medicine.

For me, sometimes the right action is to drink a cup of coffee and relax while I read morning meditations. It’s not building the Eiffel Tower, or landing on the moon. But coffee, a smoothie in a Harry Potter glass, and sitting down to write is enough for me, right here, right now.

Namaste, darlings!

Self Care, Self Love

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I believe, so, so much in self-care. In the past, perhaps I didn’t even know what that meant. But I understand now that it means treating myself as I would a beloved friend. It’s more than flossing, though. This is deeper: we have to accept ourselves as we are, do our best from this present moment, and trust that our higher power will see us through. And we, along with HP, are enough. Just as we are, with all our glorious flaws. The hard thing about self-care, taking the time to do the things that restore your soul, mind, and body, is believing that we deserve it. But you do. I do.

We do.

Namaste, Darlings!

Sobriety is hard– But Recovery is Soooo Much Gentler Than Oblivion

Maggie Yancey Spring Garden Flowers

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.

Namaste, Darlings!

 

Reach for the Sky—but Remember, Progress, not Perfection

Maggie Yancey Daisy Yoga

There was a time when I couldn’t do a downward facing dog. Actually, there was a time when I could hardly move my neck, but that’s another story for another day. I found my way out, out of pain and dis-ease, and I’m so grateful! Several friends of mine joke now that I’m way too bendy, but I got there by millimeters, over years. Recovery is the same way–it doesn’t happen over night, but over time, with small changes, made when we can. It happens when we graft new habits over the old neurons and brave one more day. One day at a time, one millimeter at a time, reach for the sky. But remember–perfection is an illusion. It isn’t real. Progress is what matters.

Namaste, Darlings!