Recovery · Spiritual

Things I Survived in Recovery (That I was Certain Would Kill Me, but Obviously Didn’t)

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By: Jana Greene

I experienced a strange and new sensation last night, and I think it was invincibility. I’m not sure because I don’t think I’ve ever felt invincible before. But 20 years sober is making me catch ALLTHEFEELS.

I’m sharing this for those who feel getting sober is futile, or too difficult, or just too new and scary. Hons, there is HOPE on the other side of those musings.

I struggle with self-esteem to the point I shit talk myself pretty constantly. I give God all the glory for my recovery, but the truth is that I had a hand in it too. He didn’t do it for me, but with me. And in me. But I white-knuckled every temptation, nurtured every feeling, kept working the steps. And I’m pretty proud of this particular accomplishment because DAMN, a LOT has gone into it.

But I’m not talking about the regular kind of invincibility that manically tells you that you are bulletproof. Not the delusional kind that assures you things will work out as long as “A” and “B” happen as you plan. I had the feeling that I was going to be okay no matter WHAT 2021 OR my health doles out on me. “A” and “B” isn’t happening and probably won’t; it hardly ever does. But I crave a transcendent life, one that rises above circumstance.

I know I can remain sober if I work my recovery, help others find their way, and stick close to the heart of the Universe. That is the recipe for long-term sobriety. It’s not always easy, but it’s tried and true.

I also know that I could lose it by taking just one drink. Because, you see, I know myself. And I’d land back exactly where I was. One is too many, a thousand is not enough.

So on the heels of allowing myself to be joyous about the occasion, I took the time to sit down and compile a list of stuff I’ve survived with sobriety intact, (because it’s a miracle.) I’m as astounded that it stuck as anyone else, but so grateful.

The truth is I wasn’t sure I wanted to live sober. Oh the things I would have missed if I hadn’t chosen the recovery road. Here is a sampling of what I survived without taking a drink:

Went through a nasty divorce. It was traumatic and I’d only been sober a few years. I held tight to my recovery with both hands.

Became a single mom, and worked four jobs to support my kids after being a stay-at-home mom.

Experienced the dissolution of my family of origin.

Was 100% alone, with no outside help, not even from family.

I moved house three times in a short span of time.

Started getting sick – staying sick, and started the journey to try to find out what was wrong with me (it would take several years to get an accurate diagnoses.

Had 8 surgeries in the past 14 years.

A spinal tap and myriad of other invasive procedures.

Received the diagnosis that I have a rare genetic disorder in which my collagen is mutated, and that it would slowly cause me to lose mobility and be in pain almost every single day.

Survived blending a family with three teenage girls. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? (Everything, that’s what.)

Being sick more often than not, on account of having immune and auto-immune issues.

Recovery can be challenging even under the best of circumstances. But we know that life doesn’t work that way. It’s not designed to be an easy road. But whether or not I drink is entirely my choice. I know also that recovery is community. We need each other.

It’s not just the big things that I stayed sober through, either. There were wonderful things – things that would not have even happened if I’d picked up a drink. I married the love of my life. I have rich relationships with my adult daughters. Life is NOT PERFECT, but it’s good, and I get to BE here for it.

So yes, I know one drink could set me 20 years back, and that’s why I respect alcohol. It tried to kill me once.

But I wear the pants now. “*TeamSoberPants.*!)

DO have control over is turning that drink down. Alcohol is not the boss of you, I promise. Surviving through trauma with sobriety intact is it’s own glorious reward. And it’s available to you.

So long as we don’t pick up a drink.

God bless you, dear reader. I’m sending good vibes and prayers for you all.

Spiritual

Introducing a Series of Essays about Being alcohol-free for 20 Years and Other Unlikely Happenstance

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

No, I couldn’t think of a better name for this piece, lol. I think it’s because as I approach my 20 year sobriety anniversary this weekend, my mind is alllll over the place. But I want to record these thoughts, both random and cohesive. I made a promise to God while sprawled out on a bathroom floor, desperate and shaking, that if he would help me not drink, I wouldn’t be shy about sharing my story and journey. And I’m not shy about it. Being shy about addiction has helped to keep the good people of Earth sick and stuck for centuries.

Plus, I’m a shoot-from-the-hip kind of girl.

Twenty years ago, I walked into an AA meeting in the town where I lived. I can recall feeling shame that I didn’t make it two days prior and so I’d already blown my big New Year’s Eve target date. It was actually January 3rd when I darkened the door. My heart raced as I pulled the door open and peered inside. It was a particularly sunny day, which should have been foreshadowing of recovery and not what it felt like – intrusive sunshine that irritated my hangover. My eyes had to adjust to the light, so I couldn’t see faces at first.

But adjust they did. I don’t know what I was expecting, but most of the attendees were much older than my 32 years. The place smelled of mid-grade coffee and served in styrofoam cups. It was a tiny community center – a one-room job. Nowhere to run, as they say.

The thing is, I knew when I walked up the sidewalk to the meeting that this would be a life changer one way or another, because once I showed my face at a recovery event, the jig was up. You can’t admit to God and country that you have an alcohol problem in a small town and then pretend it didn’t happen. Anonymity or not.

And the jig WAS up. I had gotten so sick that the whites of my eyes were yellowing. I had a litany of reasons I had no business being there – your garden variety justification.

I live at the beach and drinking is what everybody does.

I’m only 32, I can’t be an alcoholic.

I don’t drink before 5pm most days. Okay, SOME days.

I don’t drink a lot of the “hard stuff.”

And on and on and on, ad nauseum (literally.)

But of course I did need to be there – badly.

The denial wasn’t working anymore. My health told a different story about how sick I was, inside and out. And the toll on my relationships. And my walk with God. And in my Spirit, where it didn’t want to seem to wash out.

So on that January day in 2001, I made a commitment to myself and to my precious children. Mommy would get sober, but she would need God’s help.

God’s help came in the form of sitting down in a metal chair that day, the legs scraping against the linoleum just a little too loudly. I didn’t want to be seen. But I did want to get found.

The old man chairing the meeting started things off with the following admission:

“I didn’t take a drink for twenty years,” he says to nodding attendants. “But on my 20th sober anniversary, I figured I had obviously licked this thing. I proved that I can go without drinking, right?”

I squirmed in my chair, head splitting, arms crossed.

“So I had a drink to celebrate 20 years, and here I am again today, happily pursuing sobriety, and I have six months again. Keep coming back. It works if you work it.”

I remember thinking, “Dude, I cannot make it one day without drinking. Not a single one. Are you NUTS?” Also, YES….you ARE nuts, because how could you possibly have thought it was a good idea to have a drink after 20 years?

I WILL NEVER GET TO 20 YEARS, I thought. And I meant it. There was NO way; I loved drinking too much.

And now I understand what they guy who chaired the meeting means now. I know what he was up against, and I know how much respect my disease demands.

What IS this force we battle? For someone to go 20 years without and then BOOM! Back at square one? That’s the day I figured out that I wouldn’t get a “day off” from recovery. It’s the nature of the beast to convince you it has no control of you. But it DOES. Until it controls everything.

I never in a million years expected my sobriety to “stick;” and frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stick around myself without ever having another drink. But oh honey! The richness that is life without ingesting your own personal poison is INCREDIBLE!

I know it sounds impossible, but I promise your eyes will adjust to the light. And light aplenty there will be, illuminating so many wonderous things. The light vanquishes the dark, always.

I’m a seasoned veteran at recovery, but still (always) ONE drink away from disaster. I STILL take one single day at a time. There are occasions I learn more from newcomers than old-timers. And I have learned to trust God more than I’d imagined was possible.

The life I’ve been given as recompense, Oh MY! It’s a complex, beautiful dance to which I’m only now beginning to truly appreciate.

There is healing for you. Pick up your mat and come along. It’s the story of how my life was saved.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

Pregaming New Year’s Resolutions the Dysfunctional Way!

Ok, Lettuce…I don’t like you and you don’t like me, but by the first of the year, we gotta rekindle some sort of relationship, probably around the theme of Marzetti’s chunky blue cheese dressing.
I mean, I’m only human…

By: Jana Greene

have let my self go. It started with an injury 1 1/2 years ago that resulted in months of PT and taking a break from water aerobics. Then I had old metal hardware coming through the skin of my my ankle, so that necessitated surgery, which set me back more.

So at some point – I’m not sure when exactly – I adopted a “screw it” mentality. Why even bother if I’m just going to have many more injuries? I had my little emotional tantrum that it’s just too hard battling this disease and trying to be as healthy as possible – which actually ain’t even that healthy.

Well, because I’m diabetic and aside from taking the medicine for it, I’ve been living like the ‘beetus ain’t even a thang. But in the new year, I have to get it together and lose some weight and build muscle around my crappy, loosy-goosey joints. It means starting all over. Convo between Bob and I recently:

Me: “I’m getting back on the health train January 1st.”

Bob: “Why wait? Why not just now? Why does it have to be a future date?”

Me: “Are you kidding? That’s not how this works at ALL. I need time to mentally train for a certain day. I also need time to go down in a blaze of glory. Like, between now and the 1st of the year, Imma feed my baser instincts lavishly, really blow it out. Eat what I want, with the appreciation and grieving making a huge likfe change entails…”

Bob: “…..blinking and staring blankly…”

Me: “You know how I do.”

When I quit drinking and smoking, and picked out quit dates (Jan. 1st for smoking, and Jan. 3rd for drinking,) None of that “no time for the present” BS. 😂

I went bananarama with indulging in my vices prior to my actual quitting. Like, I chain smoked for 20 hours before putting the cigs down til I felt absolutely sick. And then on Dec. 31st 2006, quit cold turkey, by which time I had allowed myself to really wallow in and accept that the times, they were ‘a changin’, and I was as prepared as I’d ever be – having obsessed about it and pouted about it, I emerged, Chrysalis-like on January 1st as a non-smoker. That’s IT. Bada bing bada boom!

For three weeks, I was MISERABLE and made everyone else miserable, but then the fog lifted, as it always does.

So in conclusion, last night, I ate Ben and Jerry’s Fudge Brownie Ice Cream at 3:00 am. I also had chips. By 4 am, I am sitting bleary-eyed covered in junk food crumbs in my husband’s recliner like some kind of Tudor era wedding feast guest in the literal dark of night. Oh, the debauchery!

All of this doesn’t make sense to My Beloved, who suspects I’m making it harder than it has to be, but Dude, I got a process here.

What looks binging diabetic shoveling Ben and Jerry’s in her gob is actually “spirit work,”my process. My twisted form of self care.

Gotta get a last binge period in before I start watching every single macro and calorie, which I will also do obsessively, HOW DO YOU NOT OBSESS, PEOPLE!?

And because mental health reasons. (I never claimed to have my shit together, lol.)

What is your process for putting down a bad habit and changing your mindset.

Spiritual

2020 Observations, Part I (or “Rising from the Fire Without Burning to a Crisp”)

This comic from 2013 by KC Green has never been more fitting.

By: Jana Greene

This is not a sappy piece about how we can all find the good in a shitty year, and we should all glean nuggets of gratitude (though we should.)

Twenty-twenty can be assessed by “a series of unfortunate events.” It’s a strange year, not just because of the obvious reasons (*gestures wildly), but because we are all having both universal experience AND an individual experience. We are going through much of the same stuff collectively, yet each and every one of us is entrenched in a totally unique experience.

So in other words, we have an opportunity to understand each other as never before, AND it is true to say that nobody understands what we are going through as individuals.

It’s changed me, and it’s changing you.

In the most fundamental way, I feel like we are all sort of victims of the pandemic and the economy, and the election and the drama that surrounds us.

But in another, we get to rise above, if we so choose to. A passel of impassioned victims is a very strong thing.

It’s been a difficult year to stay sober, I’ll be honest about that. But as I approach my 20 year anniversary of being alcohol-free, I’ve noticed a few things. This universally horrible year has taught me more about what matters than probably the last 20 combined.

I’ve learned to rabidly seek out that which makes me laugh.

Laughter is lifeblood. It carries all the things necessary for a good life on it’s coattails. I have never been sillier (albeit, some would question my “maturity,”) and I have no plans to curtail the silliness. Watch the comedies. Make time for your hilarious friends. Imbibe in standup comedy on Netflix (John Mulaney comes to mind,) look at the ridiculous memes and share them. Laugh and the world laughs with you.

Not everything I write has to be the best thing I ever wrote.

*Whines melodramatically*” BUT WHAT IS THE POINT OF WRITING, THEN?”

God I hate this about myself, the “all-or-nothing-ness.” I cease and desist the stifling of my creative flow just because sometimes I’m gonna suck. That primal fear of not being good enough keeps me from sharing at all, lest I not write something profound at every turn. Screw that. I’m a blogger, and bloggers gotta blog. Even if it’s a frothy piece with no deep, spiritual nutritional value.

ALL MY LABELS HAVE GONE TO SHIT, and I’m not even sure I have 2020 to blame for it.

Hooby, I have no idea what I’m doing. And I mean that across the board. I am a writer who doesn’t make a dime writing. I’m a Christian who has blissfully lost her evangelical bent. I’m a housewife whose house isn’t even clean, and who only cooks half the time. I’m a mom whose kids are grown and need her less (and in a different way.) I’m an artist who can’t seem to sell art, and what am I even DOING with my life?

This year has challenged me to question who I am, yet here I am still. And here you are. So in conclusion….

It’s enough to be a person. It’s enough to be a good friend. It’s enough to write for the love of the craft. It’s enough to have a close relationship with Jesus without all the dogma. It’s enough to be a loving wife. It’s enough to be a friend to those I love.

It’s ENOUGH. I’m enough. YOU are enough.

The bulldozer that is 2020 is a leveling disaster, but it’s a disaster that gives us the opportunity to rise like the mother-flippin’ Phoenixes we truly are.

God bless us, every single one.