Sober Stories

The Goal Isn’t To Be Sober. The Goal Is To Love Yourself So Much That You Don’t Need To Drink.”

— Anonymous

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What a great honor to be interviewed by the inspirational Lotta Dann … otherwise known as Mrs D:

“Mrs D is the name Lotta Dann gave herself when she began anonymously blogging in 2011. Through her long-running blog, Mrs D Is Going Without, Lotta discovered the incredible power of online support for people quitting drinking. Her best-selling memoir, telling the story of her recovery, was published in 2014, and later that same year Living Sober was launched. Living Sober takes all of the powerful aspects Lotta discovered about online recovery, and condenses it here into one space, making it readily accessible for thousands of people so that they can also turn their lives around.”

Mrs D, a journalist, blogger and author is a relatively well-known name in New Zealand recovery circles. She has written several books about recovery and is an advocate for people in recovery in NZ.

She says her work and social environments made it easier for drinking to become a regular occurrence.

“The main thing that I think contributed to my drinking is the booze-soaked society I live in, where alcohol is normalised and glorified and used liberally at every turn,”
My interview is this week’s Sober Story.
This week’s Sober Story comes from Patti, a 62-year-old from the US now living in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

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Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?

Patti: This latest time – over six years.

Mrs D: What can you tell us about your childhood growing up and the impact that had on your drinking?

Patti: I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family. Both my parents were alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic, workaholic and adult child of an alcoholic. All un-treated of course. He was charming at times, Irish and told a great tale. My mother’s alcoholism looked bad – she was a sloppy, sad drunk. She’d sit in our kitchen, drink bourbon and often cry listening to opera records. My dad drank high end booze at nice restaurants, a ‘functioning alcoholic’. He drove a nice car and wore a suit. My mother stayed at home in her bathrobe. You get the picture. My mother died of alcoholism when I was only 16 years old.

Mrs D: That must have been tough.

Patti: This was in the early 1970’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, there were lots of drugs everywhere to help me numb the pain. I learned at an early age how to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol. I drank and used drugs throughout my teens and twenties. I blacked out right from the beginning, almost every time I drank. Somehow I got a degree, sometimes that still amazes me. When I was in my early twenties I was absolutely out of control – waking up in strange places; losing my car, forgetting where I had left it; waking up next to people I didn’t know… it was a time of intense shame and humiliation. Eventually I met my husband, and he didn’t drink much, so I curtailed my drinking and using while I was with him, and that probably helped to save my life. Just before my thirtieth birthday we started talking about starting a family, I knew that I did NOT want my children to have a mother like mine, so I went to my first AA meeting 2 days before my 30th. I found a woman’s meeting and I walked in and felt at home.

Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?

Patti: I was in the pink cloud of recovery for the first year, grateful and excited. By the 2nd year, when I started doing some intense counselling and looking at my family of origin, I went through some intense grief and anger, but also relief that it was finally coming out. There were about twenty women in the room, mostly my age, and mostly caring and empathetic. I was so lucky, at that first meeting, I found my tribe. A few years later we moved to New Zealand and when I went to my first AA meeting I was devastated! There were about five people there, mostly old men who were pedantic Big Book thumpers. I felt like I had lost my tribe. It didn’t take long before I quit going to meetings.

Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?

Patti: Yes. I had two babies and was focused on being a good mother with no alcohol on the scene. But as my sons got older and started school I fell in with other mums who often got together and drank wine while the kids played. These were the ‘cool mums’, ‘The Yummy Mummies’, drinking good wine on the deck after school. I had ventured away from recovery circles and had become very complacent in my recovery, and it wasn’t long before I had my first glass of wine after being sober for almost 13 years.

Mrs D: How did that go?

Patti: When I picked up again, I drank with a vengeance and it progressed quickly. Soon I was waking up feeling remorseful and promising myself I wouldn’t drink so much, or that I’d give up booze for good…until the next time. I started hiding my drinking from my husband. With sheer luck, I didn’t get in any accidents nor hurt anyone in that time, except myself. I felt shame and had horrible hangovers every time I drank. My middle-aged body could not cope with alcohol like it did as a teen or in my twenties. I ended up drinking for the next 13 ½ years until 2014.

Mrs D: What led you to stop again?

Patti: In 2014, after drinking at a work gathering, my business partner said to me, “You really shouldn’t drink with workshop participants; it’s not a good look.” And I knew that was true. I talked too much, got too loud, and made stupid jokes. I thought I was the life of the party, but no one else did. At the same time, I was writing my first book, a self-help book for women. I felt like a total hypocrite! I was advising others to ‘live their best lives’ and yet I was screwing my own life up. So I decided to give up alcohol again. This time I was not giving up alcohol for my husband or for my kids; I was doing it for me! That was in 2014, and I haven’t had a drink since.

Mrs D: Where have you found your support this time.

Patti: I was still in that same small town, and the meetings had the same old men with the same pedantic ways of doing meetings. If I had an emotion, any emotion, I was told “Just don’t pick up and go to meetings.” Sigh. So another woman in recovery and I decided to start our own meeting. We started it under the banner of NA – but opened the doors to anyone with any addiction. We focus on Emotional Sobriety, empathy and caring. I consider my sobriety now, a bit of a patchwork approach. I read voraciously and am in the process of writing my second book now – focusing on women and recovery – finding our own path on that journey.

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

Patti: I really liked my own company! That totally surprised me. I was afraid of being along with myself when I was drinking, thus drank alone at home quite often.

Mrs D: What are the main benefits that have emerged for you since you last got sober?

Patti: My health improved: I started meditating daily, doing yoga, eating better, sleeping better, and ALL of my relationships improved – every single one!

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

Patti: I wish I had started my own 12-step group earlier on, before I relapsed. It makes all the difference in the world to feel like you’ve found your tribe. However, with that said, my relapse taught me a lot – about humility, about empathy and I can totally be there for anyone else that has relapsed.

Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this
journey?

Patti: Jump in completely! Immerse yourself. If you don’t like a meeting, if you don’t feel at home – then go to another meeting or find someone you like and respect and ask them what meetings they like, or start one yourself, or go to a Zoom Meeting – there are hundreds of them from all over the world! Find good TED Talks, read good books on various topics related to sobriety and keep going – Don’t Give Up On Yourself! You are Worth It!

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

Patti: You can read more about me and my journey on Thrive Global, on my blog site, or my website.

 

 

In other news … I will be a part of a free online summit this month that might interest one or two of you:

How-To face a Devastating Diagnosis or the anxiety of “What If”…

This Online Event will be nurturing and informative:
Here are some of the topics to be covered:

  • How someone outlived her Doctor’s diagnosis by 20 years
  • How-To let pain out instead of numbing it.
  • How-To empower yourself when facing a devastating diagnosis
  • To move through emotional pain with confidence
  • How-To face future fears after a diagnosis
  • Strategies for emotional freedom
  • Why creativity is powerful

The summit begins on July 13, lasts for 5 days, and ends Friday July 17. 

Each interview is about 30 minutes, packed with helpful information. You can join me on Thursday July 16.

I hope you can join us. Reserve your spot now!

 

I’ll close with an informative talk about addiction by one of my favorite addiction specialists – Dr Gabor Maté

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what I have shared. It’s always a bit awkward being so visible . . . so feedback is always appreciated!  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

A Tale of Two Countries

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 

it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, 

it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

— Charles Dickens

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I’m not unbiased. I would never claim to be. I have made my views clear on every occasion. And with dual citizenship in The US and New Zealand, I believe that I have a right to make a comparison between these two countries. And in the middle of Covid-19, the differences between the two are stark. I think it is obvious that the main reason behind how these countries are emerging from the pandemic is the difference between the two leaders …

‘The age of wisdom, the age of foolishness… The spring of hope, the winter of despair.’

I sought information from as many different sources as possible:

News sources from the US, from NZ and internationally…

And almost unanimously, from mainstream, established, internationally respected news sources, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has done a stellar job in handling this crisis; whereas the President of The United States, Donald Trump, has done a dismal job.

… Although for the sake of transparency, I did not go to Fox News where an alternate reality exists… As I said, I never claimed to be unbiased.

In terms of handling the outbreak, Jacinda has been direct and most importantly, empathetic. She did a great job at getting New Zealanders on board:

Jacinda Ardern Sold a Drastic Lockdown With Straight Talk and Mom Jokes

Leading New Zealand from isolation, Ms. Ardern coaxed her “team of five million” into accepting extreme restrictions. But the lessons of her success go beyond personality or charm…

Whereas Trump has shown little leadership, and when he has spoken up, many feel that he is more interested in himself than the people he supposedly leads:

Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people.

Trump has made it clear he sees this pandemic chiefly as a threat to the market and wealthy people’s interests (and relatedly, his political future)

Jacinda has been described as empathetic and caring, yet strong.

Whereas it has been stated that Trump is incapable of empathy. And Trump has been described as self-serving and authoritarian.

New Zealand has had one or two new cases of Covid-19 in the past several days, all from people coming in from overseas, and all in isolation. Their containment of the virus has been described as observing ‘good science’ and being well-communicated.

Trump’s handling of the virus has been described as ‘dismal!’ And it has been said that US could see 100,000 coronavirus daily cases in the near future.

And because of the better handling of this crisis, New Zealand is in a much better position economically at this point. “The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to leave a lasting scar on the world’s economies but New Zealand is likely to fare better than most.”

Whereas the US economy is far from healthy; as a matter of fact, CNBC stated thatNearly half the U.S. population is without a job, showing how far the labor recovery has to goThe employment-population ratio — the number of employed people as a percentage of the U.S. adult population — plunged to 52.8% in May, meaning 47.2% of Americans are jobless.

Now I know, it isn’t fair to compare the US to NZ in many ways. New Zealand is a small country, only five million people; it’s located at the bottom of the world, a fair distance from any other countries; and it is easy to close the borders of an island nation. It is much easier to keep New Zealand safe from this virus than it is to keep a much bigger country that shares its borders.

However a comparison of these two countries does give a strong message. Good communication and empathic and caring, yet strong leadership helps a country through a crisis. A recent article in The New York Times argued that women led countries are doing much better in this crisis. ‘A new leadership style offers promise for a new era of global threats.’

Ultimately, I think it is fair to say that Jacinda Ardern is the Anti-Trump.

Vogue coined the phrase:

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Is Young, Forward-Looking, and Unabashedly Liberal—Call Her the Anti-Trump

 

I’d like to close with what has become Jacinda’s iconic Facebook Live post as New Zealand prepared to go into lockdown. Her empathy, caring and just plain humanness is evident.

 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these two leaders and their leadership styles.   And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Staying Close with Loved Ones Six Feet Apart … Intimacy, Connectedness and Coronavirus

“It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately we are all connected.”

— David Byrne

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I bring my husband tea in the morning; I put the cup down at the top of the stairs, then sit down on the landing, about 7 feet down from the top. My husband waits ’til I’m seated, then comes to collect his tea, and sits at the top of the stairs to drink it. Thus begins our morning routine, our time to reconnect after he has slept upstairs in our room, while I sleep downstairs in our son’s room. My husband returned from Asia a few days ago, (*Yes he did make it home from the trip I wrote about in my past post) and is now in ‘quarantine’. He uses only one door in the house to go outside, which I do not use, and I bleach the handle after he uses it; I keep his dishes separate, use a bucket and hot water and a bit of bleach to wash them; he does not enter the kitchen at all. He is taking his temperature every morning and evening and paying attention to any possible symptoms, as was recommended by the health clinic here. This is our routine for the two-week quarantine.

We live in New Zealand where our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is doing an incredible job. According to the Washington Post, she and the NZ government aren’t just flattening the curve, they are squashing it. Here in NZ, the vast majority of us are accepting the new norm and respecting the lockdown requirements here. But even during, especially during, this lockdown, staying connected is essential.

David Byrne, singer, songwriter, filmmaker and lead singer and founding member of the Talking Heads, has written a beautiful piece about our connectedness in his online journal: Reasons to Be Cheerful:

The World Is Changing — So Can We

The pandemic is revealing the many ways our lives intersect. Is this an opportunity for us to reimagine what we can be? It’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another.

So with this new forced isolation and distance, how do we maintain our intimacy, and hold on to these feelings of connectedness that are so essential?

Even though my husband and I cannot touch, cannot even be in close physical proximity, we have created new routines, like our stairway talks to maintain our closeness. I have completely come to rely on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. A simple phone call is not enough for me these days. I have a need to see friend’s faces. I message my sons more often. We ‘Hang Out’ and video chat on a more regular basis. Neighbors are checking in on each other more often – by phone, at the end of their drive or on walks.(keeping their physical distance of course). It is widely accepted that this connection with one another is absolutely necessary for one’s wellbeing.

I am seeing more and more articles about how to stay connected with friends and family during this challenging time.

Radio New Zealand featured an article about staying connected while in isolation with the help of technology; The United Way released guidelines about staying connected during Covid-19; and in The Atlantic recently, there was an article with suggestions on

The Art of Socializing During Quarantine. Writer Joe Pinsker has a few suggestions:

  • KEEP DINING AND DRINKING ‘TOGETHER’
  • REACH OUT TO FRIENDS NEAR AND FAR
  • USE A VARIETY OF MEDIA
  • SUPPORT OTHERS (OR JUST LET THEM KNOW YOU’RE AVAILABLE)
  • CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE IN YOUR OWN HOME (*even if it is 6 feet apart)

I am definitely prioritizing connection these days. I see this connection as vital to my health and wellbeing. I am using this isolating time as an opportunity to stay connected. Byrne describes it like this:

What is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behavior. For many of us, our belief in the value of the collective good has eroded in recent decades. But in an emergency that can change quickly. In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly. 

 

We are connected, no matter the physical distance between us. Let’s all nurture this connectedness and use this extraordinary time to strengthen the bonds between us.

 

“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

I’ll close with David Byrne discussing Reasons to be Cheerful.

I’d love to hear how you are staying connected in these challenging times. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Well-Being in the Time of Coronavirus

“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her!”

— Henry David Thoreau

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We are being told to wash our hands, frequently; to cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing; and to practice social distancing. This is for the common good, and I support it completely and unflinchingly. We all have to protect those more vulnerable and at risk.

But not a lot is being said about how to support our own well-being in this time of Coronavirus. Reading good books and watching good films and TV series are absolutely on my list of things to do during this time of social distancing. But I am finding that walks in nature and on the beach have become even more crucial to me these days.

A dear friend of mine is staying with me at the moment. We read the news daily, well several times a day to be honest, and wring our hands and weep with helplessness and frustration. How can so many people have lost sight of the common good? And how can so many members of the current U.S. government be so selfish and greedy?

My friend says she finds solace sitting on my couch looking out my window at the big pohutukawa tree growing in my neighbor’s yard. She finds it soothing, and says it brings to her what she can only call a state of awe.

As we sit on the deck and look at the tree, I am reminded that nature heals.   According to Environmental Psychology: “Just a walk in the woods or a stroll by the beach on a sunny morning can awaken the innermost feelings of happiness and peace.”

In this time, where we are told to keep our social distance, we must be mindful of what author Richard Louv calls ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’.

Nature-deficit disorder is not the presence of an anomaly in the brain; it is the loss of connection of humans to their natural environment. Staying close to nature improves physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It makes us feel alive from the inside.

Research has shown that spending longer periods of time in nature has huge physical benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, and reduced bowel disorders.
  • Reducing the chances of developing eyesight problems like hypermetropia and myopia.
  • Lower BMI; less fatigue and fewer chances of suffering from obesity.
  • Production of anti-cancer proteins and help in fighting terminal diseases.
  • Stronger immune system.

It has been repeatedly stated that we need to keep our immune system strong to fight Covid-19.

Other studies have shown that time in nature improves psychological well-being. This can include:

  • Significant mood improvement for all people, even those suffering from mild to major depressive disorders.
  • Reducing stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

The level of stress and anxiety has skyrocketed since this virus was detected, so anything that offers stress reduction is a gift.

So even if you are doing all the right things – washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and being vigilant in your social distancing, you can still take care of your well-being. The evidence is there. The studies have been done. Get out into nature!

As Frank Lloyd Wright so astutely said, “Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature. It will never fail you.

I’d like to close with an inspiring TED Talk – Prescribing Nature for Health.

I’d love to hear how you are looking after your well-being in these challenging times. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Secret to Enduring Love

“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”

— Mandy Len Catron

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What is the secret to enduring love? I thought this was a fitting blog post for February. However, as I started to research this, I realized that for this article to hold any power, to be truly authentic and real, I would have to write about myself, to make this personal.

I have been married for thirty years, and in relationship with Jeff, from friends to lovers, for over forty. I guess that gives me some credentials for enduring love. But it is not straightforward, not a simple dance. After thirty years of marriage, Jeff and I are now once again in therapy; this time working within the model of EFT, Emotionally Focused Therapy. We are reading “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson in an effort to overcome some really hard patterns we have developed.

Even after all this time, we still rub against each other’s raw spots. Dr. Johnson defines raw spots this way: “A hypersensitivity formed by moments in a person’s past or current relationships when an attachment need has been repeatedly neglected, ignored, or dismissed.”

After so long, you’d think that we would have figured out each other’s raw spots and avoid them. But we seem to pick at them, like a scab, before it can ever heal.

I like this quote:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe

… not that I’m comparing myself to Marilyn Monroe, I promise. But I can relate to it. The problem I face though is, how do we deal with relationship problems, when we are at our worst, when it seems like love is falling through the cracks…

Richard Bach proclaims: the opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy. So how do we hold on to that intimacy, even in the face of dealing with raw spots and fear of loneliness?

One of my biggest raw spots is fear of abandonment. My father left our family when I was 12 and my mother died when I was 16. I absolutely have a massive fear of abandonment… and my husband keeps leaving! He is about to leave again, this time to work in Bangladesh. For at least six months, perhaps up to a year.

Another quote from Bach, this one from one of his books that I love The Bridge Across Forever:I’m here not because I am supposed to be here, or because I’m trapped here, but because I’d rather be with you than anywhere else in the world.”

I want this to be true for Jeff; I want him to stay by my side because there is nowhere else he’d rather be. Unfortunately though, one of Jeff’s biggest drivers and passions in his life is to be of service and to work with people who are in the most need. This time he is off to work at a refugee camp. And I love him for it, I really do… and I struggle with not wanting him to leave. These two emotions co-exist in me. I love the man I married who has such high ideals and has a willingness to go through self-sacrifice to serve. And I hate the fact that he keeps leaving… I want to be enough to make him stay.

Every time Jeff leaves to work in another country, I feel a sense of abandonment, my attachment needs rubbed raw.

“Attachment needs are our human desires for acceptance, belonging, comfort when we hurt, and safety to be ourselves. From the cradle to the grave we all long to feel understood and accepted by those we love.”

 So we are doing more work, reading and holding each other, and trying to heal some of the raw spots. We are working to keep making our relationship more secure. Dr. Johnson explains “in insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” So in order to keep securing our relationship, we explore these vulnerabilities and work together with hope they will heal a bit more before we scratch at the scab.

I envision us growing old together, hopefully another thirty years. I believe we will. But I know it will continue to take work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to end this post by altering Mandy Len Catron’s quote I used in the beginning of this article slightly:

We’re in love because we make the choice to be, everyday, even when it is hard.

And I want to close with a TED Talk by Mandy Len Catron: Falling In Love is the Easy Part.

And if you are so inclined to explore the 36 questions that Catron talks about, here’s the link.

I’d love to hear your secret to enduring love. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Rest for the Weary . . . We Need Our Sleep!

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Early January and the holidays are over and most of us are getting back into ‘Real Life.’ For many of us, we’ve burned the candle at both ends and perhaps are feeling the exhaustion of the culmination of doing too much and not getting enough sleep. I’ve heard so many women in the last month or so tiredly grin, (or grimace) and say “No rest for the weary.” As though we all must blithely accept exhaustion.

But No – We cannot accept this lying down, or more likely running around! Sleep is essential and has been described by sleep expert Matthew Walker, as our life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality.

The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and the education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic, and it’s fast becoming one of the greatest public health challenges that we face in the 21st century. 

So why do we need sleep? What difference does a good night’s sleep actually make? I think we all know the obvious answers to that – lack of sleep makes us tired, grumpy and not quite able to think properly. But research shows that it’s much more serious than that. Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep impacts our immune system, hormones, heart, learning, memory and even impacts men’s testicles and women’s reproductive organs. Interestingly enough, it also impacts our genetic code.

Lack of sleep hugely impacts our ability to heal as well. In our body we have cells that protect us, sometimes called natural killer cellsYou can think of natural killer cells almost like the secret service agents of your immune system. They are very good at identifying dangerous, unwanted elements and eliminating them. In fact, what they’re doing here is destroying a cancerous tumor mass. So what you wish for is a virile set of these immune assassins at all times, and tragically, that’s what you don’t have if you’re not sleeping enough. 

And as we age, and our memory seems to fade rapidly, all of us over 50 can certainly attest to that, sleep is even more essential. Research is showing that the disruption of deep sleep is an underappreciated factor that is contributing to cognitive decline or memory decline in aging, and most recently discovered in Alzheimer’s disease as well. 

Basically in a nutshell there is nothing positive about not getting enough sleep.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything.

– Old Irish Proverb

On the other hand, getting enough sleep positively impacts us in almost every way. We have a stronger immune system, better focus, better memory, and a more optimistic outlook on life.

Walker describes recent research done at UC Berkeley on sleep and learning:

By placing electrodes all over the head, what we’ve discovered is that there are big, powerful brainwaves that happen during the very deepest stages of sleep that have riding on top of them these spectacular bursts of electrical activity that we call sleep spindles. And it’s the combined quality of these deep-sleep brainwaves that acts like a file-transfer mechanism at night, shifting memories from a short-term vulnerable reservoir to a more permanent long-term storage site within the brain, and therefore protecting them, making them safe. And it is important that we understand that during sleep actually transacts these memory benefits, because there are real medical and societal implications.”

 Sleep provides time for our brains to tidy up and make space; this action is called synaptic pruning.

Sleep provides a time when the brain’s synapses — the connections among neurons—shrink back by nearly 20 percent. During this time, the synapses rest and prepare for the next day, when they will grow stronger while receiving new input to learn new things.”

Without this reset, known as “synaptic homeostasis,” synapses could become overloaded and burned out, unable to function at an optimal level. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least.

I am totally in favor of pruning those unused pathways. I usually feel like my brain can use a little Marie Kondo action!

I think we all can agree that getting more and better quality sleep is essential. But what is the best way to do that? Fortunately, Walker does have a few suggestions:

The first is regularity. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, no matter whether it’s the weekday or the weekend. Regularity is king, and it will anchor your sleep and improve the quantity and the quality of that sleep. The second is keep it cool. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep, and it’s the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees, or about 18 degrees Celsius. That’s going to be optimal for the sleep of most people. 

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to meditate more often, and the Dalai Lama declares that sleep is the best meditation. And who am I to disagree with the Dalai Lama? So I think I’ll close here and go take a nap. Happy New Year to all of you, and may you have a restful 2020 filled with wonderful deep healing sleep.

Before you go take a nap, you may want to watch a great TED talk by Matt Walker entitled Sleep is Your Superpower.

I’d love to hear about your sleep habits if you have any. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Wishing You Peace this Holiday Season

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

― Hamilton Wright Mable

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As we all navigate the Holiday Season, remember to hold fast to the Light!

*Gratitude to Bone Sigh Arts

Here is a Holiday Treat – A Gift from an amazing woman that I am happy to call my friend, Jean McCarthy – A Special Episode of

The Bubble Hour

Wish all of you Peace and Joy this Holiday Season!  May 2020 bring peace and harmony to the world.

 

Sending out a warm thanks to all of you who have read or followed my blog this year.
Gratitude to each and every one of you.

 

Doing the work . . moving toward Authentic Self

“Finding your true self is the cure for all suffering.”

― Deepak Chopra

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Deepak Chopra argues that finding and connecting with our true self can end our suffering. Is that true? I’m not sure, but I know I feel a lot more at peace and more grounded when I know I am centred and operating out of a deeper sense of self.

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Recently, I was having coffee and talking to a friend about healing old wounds, about dealing with old, deep trauma and abuse – about doing the deep work – the work to move from being stuck to finding one’s authentic self.  We both agreed that doing one’s personal growth work is essential to one’s well being. I believe that any of us with past emotional scaring, trauma, or abuse need to acknowledge it and do the work.  Staying stuck, staying in denial and pretending that everything is just wonderful is not helpful.   Pasting on a smile and saying I will just be positive when the pain inside is unbearable does not work. Neither does numbing it with drugs and alcohol. And believe me, for years I tried!

But it’s important to note, that when the numbing quit working the pain was still there and I spent many years doing my own work.  I went to one on one counselling, I did psychodrama groups, I did group counselling and I went to more personal growth workshops than I can count.  I did deep, deep work. Most of it was not fun and a lot of the work was very painful, but all of it helped move me forward on my path.  I was and still am committed to growing and not staying stuck.

In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at our past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on.

Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our deep work and touched our Authentic Self. So yes, for me, Deepak Chopra’s words ring true that finding your true self is the cure for all suffering . . . But for many of us, a lot of work has to be done first to get  ready for that trip.

I’ll close with with the video I quoted by Deepak Chopra:

I’d love to hear how you connect with your deepest sense of self.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

If you want to be more compassionate, set better boundaries

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

― Brené Brown

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God I love Brené Brown! She’s sassy and funny and smart. And 23 years clean and sober to top it all off. During a recent interview, Brené Brown and Russel Brand discussed sobriety, vulnerability and compassion among other things. And one of the things that surprised me most was what her research taught her about compassion. When she asked Russel what he thought the most compassionate people had common, I paused the video, I wanted to guess. I guessed empathy, self-love, self-compassion — that all made sense to me. But her research showed that when they analysed the data about what the most compassionate people that they had interviewed had in common, there was one variable that they shared:

Boundaries of steel.

Very compassionate people who were interviewed repeatedly said:

I’m compassionate because I do not subject myself to the abuse of other people.

From this research, Brown and her colleagues developed the idea of BIG:

“What Boundaries need to be in place so that I can be in my Integrity and be Generous toward you”

Wow — I don’t know about you, but from a young age, I learned to people-please; I learned to say yes even when I didn’t want to do something; I learned to smile and laugh things off even when they hurt; I learned to ‘go with the flow and not make waves and get along with people.’ I certainly did not learn to say no.

Most of us who grew up in chaotic and abusive homes learned to survive and/or escape by doing whatever it took, I learned to be a people pleaser and to numb the pain of losing myself.

“We do that by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet. And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” — Brené Brown

It was only when the pain got too much and the numbing out didn’t work anymore that I started to do my own work and learn about boundaries. I learned about boundaries in recovery rooms and in therapy rooms and by reading a lot of books!

Brené Brown’s books have all been instrumental in my healing journey. I love her Ten Guideposts for Whole Hearted Living from Rising Strong:

1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think

2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism

3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness

4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark

5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty

6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison

7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle

9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”

10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”

And I would add to this:

Cultivating boundaries of steel: letting go of people pleasing and resentment, and developing compassion.

In my on-going desire to grow and be the best person I can be, again I turn to Rising Strong, and take this list to heart. I strive to cultivate these traits:

  • Boundaries — I create clear boundaries and will respect your boundaries; and when I’m not clear about what’s okay and not okay, I’ll ask. And I’m willing to say no.
  • Reliability — I’ll do what I say I will do. I will be aware of my competencies and limitations so I don’t overpromise and am able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
  • Accountability — I own my mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
  • Vault — I don’t share information or experiences that are not mine to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that others are not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.
  • Integrity — I choose courage over comfort. I choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And I choose to practice my values rather than simply profess them.
  • Non-judgment — I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
  • Generosity — I extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

That’s a potent list, and I know it’s a matter of progress not perfection. I will keep cultivating these traits. And for today, I will choose to be compassionate. And that might mean that I say no, and that might mean that someone is less than pleased with me. And that’s OK.

I’ll Close with that incredible interview between Russel Brand and Brené Brown.  Take time to watch it, it’s really great!

I’d love to hear about how you set and keep boundaries, and does it help you stay more compassionate?

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Hi I’m Patti and I’m a Rebel

“I realized that my sobriety isn’t a limitation. Sobriety isn’t even a “have to” – it’s a superpower.”

― Brené Brown

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I heard in a meeting once that getting sober and staying sober is one of the most rebellious things you can do in an addictive society. I like that, I like to think of myself as a rebel, I always have.

 

 

Last week, someone messaged me on my blog site and asked me about my ‘back story.’ Thank you for asking. I really enjoy being around curious people. So I looked back over the past several years of blog writing and I realized I haven’t really talked much about who I am and why I’m here writing. So I decided to take the plunge and give my ‘back story’. It’s rather long, and it feels sort of self-indulgent to write it out. I’ll try to keep it succinct, but I can’t guarantee it. Feel free to jump to the end if you get bored.

Most of the people who know me well, know that I don’t drink, that it’s a choice I made many years ago. Being sober isn’t ALL that I am, but it’s a very important piece of who I am. I made the choice for all the right reasons, but it’s not a straight-forward story.

I grew up in a chaotic home, with an alcoholic mother and father. My mother was the identified alcoholic, because she drank at home and got drunk and looked sloppy. My father looked good, drove a good car, had a good job, and also drank a lot, but functioned well. Both were alcoholics, both hugely impacted my childhood obviously. I remember every holiday had massive amounts of booze, family members drank, got drunk, and there was inevitably someone locked in the bathroom crying. There weren’t huge fights often, although they certainly happened. Mostly the drama was sadness, my mother listening to opera records in the kitchen crying, while the ironing piled up next to the ironing board that was always out. The curtains stayed shut at our house, the house remained in perpetual dimness. That’s my memory.

When I was 12 and my sister was 16, my father decided that he didn’t want to live in that dim house anymore and he took off; it was the day before Christmas Eve. The pain was immense. And it became our secret. My mother made us vow not to tell anyone that he had left, it was too shameful. So my sister and I added another shameful secret to our repertoire. Don’t invite friends home; they might see our mother drunk; they might notice our father gone.

I learned early on that booze numbed the pain and helped deal with the shame. I was about 13 the first time I drank and got drunk. It was pretty inevitable. I drank, I felt cool and rebellious and comfortable in my skin. My memories of high school weekends all involve alcohol, usually of me getting sick and passing out somewhere, wherever we were drinking. Somehow I always made it home, often not remembering how.

Then at 16, my world collapsed. My mother died of alcoholism. I didn’t know how I was supposed to carry on. That period is hazy, I remember drinking a lot and smoking a lot of pot. The pain was too big. I didn’t believe there was any alternative but to numb it out.

Fast forward through high school and college, partying a lot, somehow surviving and graduating. The day after graduating from high school, I moved away for the summer and partied most days. And soon after graduating from college, I left CA to drive across country, staying in campsites across the country, always ending the day with a 6 pack of beer. Eventually I moved up to Juneau, Alaska and became a bartender at The Red Dog Saloon, a kid in a candy shop. There was always plenty of booze and the added elixir of cocaine now became prevalent. It felt fun, dangerous, outrageous and oh so rebellious . . . until it didn’t . . . and then it felt scary and like a trap. I remember thinking to myself, if I continue down this path, I am going to die here, either in a car crash or just burning my body out. I remember so clearly imagining standing at a crossroads and having to make a decision: Stay here and continue this life style or get out. Luckily I had the option, an invitation from Jeff, (my friend then who later became my husband) to go travel. So I packed up and left.

We spent the next 4 years travelling and working around Asia and the South Pacific. When we returned to the US in 1987, I started drinking heavily again. And I got scared. Interestingly, it was an astrologist who confronted me. I went to see an astrologist in Ashland, Oregon where we were living at the time to get my chart done. She pointed to an area in my chart and said: “Looks like a lot of addiction in your system” – and I said yeah, my mother died of alcoholism; and she said, yeah but there’s more here, and I said yeah my father is also an alcoholic and she looked me in the eye and said: “Yeah but this looks personal… Are you an alcoholic?” Boom! I collapsed in her little room and sobbed. Confronted, the shame was aired, the secret was out, I couldn’t hide.

That same day as the reading, Jeff and I were driving to Tucson, AZ for Jeff to finish his BA. We got to Tucson in January 1988. Two days before my 30th birthday, I went to my first AA meeting. I walked into a woman’s meeting and I felt love, acceptance and at home. Grateful beyond measure.

I’d love to say I’ve been sober and happy ever since, but as I said earlier, it’s not that straight-forward. I wanted to stay sober because Jeff didn’t like being around me when I was drunk… fair enough, neither did I. And I was committed to being sober for the children that Jeff and I were planning to have; I was fiercely determined not to be my mother.

In 1989, Jeff and I got married, we had a sober wedding; it was beautiful. In 1992, we moved to New Zealand, Jeff got a job teaching and we decided NZ would be a wonderful place to raise a family. We had our two sons in a small town in NZ on the coast of The Coromandel Peninsula. Life was good, I felt content.

I found a very small AA community in our small town and went to meetings. I do not want in anyway to blame anyone in that community… but I began to feel estranged, I felt like I did not belong. It was so different from my women’s meeting in Tucson. It was mostly old men in the rooms, and most of them did not want to talk about emotional sobriety, or talk about much else besides ‘Just don’t pick up and go to meetings!’ When I did talk about feelings and discomfort and didn’t respond well to ‘Just don’t pick up and go to meetings’ – I felt bullied and quit going to meetings. It was about that time that both boys were in school, and my full time motherhood role was diminished. And the social scene I found myself in often consisted of wine on the deck of one of the mother’s houses, while the kids played outside. The wine was alluring, the scene was cool and I felt like I didn’t belong with the sober people in town.

I was also feeling strongly that I understood my drinking habits, that I understood the underlying causes . . . I had done A LOT of therapy at that point!

So in 2000, after 12 years of sobriety, I decided that I could drink a bit and I’d be fine. I made deals with myself; I could have 2 glasses of wine on the deck with the other mothers, but no more. I could have 2 beers at the pizza party with the other families but not more. I was fastidiously ‘controlling’ my drinking behaviour . . . until I wasn’t. After several years, I was hiding how much I was drinking, making sure no one noticed when I refilled my glass, hiding wine bottles at the bottom of recycling, lying to people about how much I was drinking on a regular basis. I wasn’t drinking every day, I wasn’t getting in trouble, I lied about it being all under control, but mostly I was lying to myself and I knew it.

In 2014, just before my youngest son left for college, I had this thought in my head: “Once the kids are out of the house, I can drink as much as I want to!” and I knew that was really sick thinking, terrifying. I journalled and thought about where I was, who I was and who I wanted to be. I wrote about being My Best Self . . . and realized that that best version of myself did not include alcohol. So on the first of November 2014, I gave up alcohol again, this time, hopefully, for good.

And what I’ve come to realize about my sobriety this time is that I have decided not to drink anymore for ME. Not because I want to be a good mother, although obviously that plays into the decision hugely, I do want to be a good mother to my sons. And my decision to not drink was not made to hang on to my husband, although Jeff has said many times that he likes me a lot more when I’m not drinking. No the decision not to drink came because I want to like me, I want to be proud of me, I want to feel good about myself. I was ready …

And I believe that this is an act of rebellion in this day and age.

Just check out the social media groups: Moms Who Need Wine have over 700K likes; Mommy needs a beer over 990K likes; Women and Wine; Women & Wine; Wine Women – several hundred thousand likes, and Mommy Needs Vodka over 3.5 million likes.

Search online, and you’ll find hundreds of memes that joke about why women need a drink to get through the day or week — whether it’s related to their kids or their job. There’s an endless supply of products around this topic — like wine glasses emblazoned with the words “Mommy’s Little Helper.” A Facebook group called “Moms Who Need Wine” has more than 700,000 members. And #WineWednesday is often a trending topic on Twitter by midweek.

After that rebellious decision to quit drinking, I knew I needed to find like-minded people. I joined quite a few ‘sober communities’ online, but I didn’t want to return to the AA rooms here in my small town. But then a wonderful thing happened; I saw a couple my own age that I recognized from past times in the recovery community here. I approached the woman and asked if she was still in recovery and she said yes. And to make a long story a bit less long, we created our own meeting, focusing on emotional sobriety, free of bullying and open to anyone wanting to deal with any kind of addiction. We follow the tenets of NA, but are open to everyone dealing with any addiction. We are focused on love and openness and community.

I guess I did not ‘come out’ completely before now because I am in a small town and it feels like a big deal to lay it all out there. But what I have found, is that almost every time I talk about my recovery and choosing not to drink, someone asks me more about it, and often people reach out to me for help. And that feels important.  And I guess with all the ‘sober influencers’ now, it feels safer to ‘come out’ – Instagram Hashtags like: #SoberCurious, #SoberLife, #SoberAF, and #SoberIsSexy are becoming common in the social media universe. Celebrities are coming out as sober; people are talking about it as a sane choice in an insane world. My mentors like Brené Brown are celebrating their sobriety publically.

Quotes like this one from Mary Karr are found popping up:

“When I got sober, I thought giving up [alcohol] was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite. That’s when the sparkle started for me.”

So I decided to ‘come out’. The Instagram Influencers and celebrities made it a bit less intimidating, but to be honest, I really believe that this lifestyle that I’ve chosen is rebellious as hell! To choose not to drink and use in a society where drinking and using is pushed on us continuously feels like a very rebellious act, and as I said I’m Patti and I’m a Rebel.