The August air is starting to feel a little cooler. The summer light and shadows have shifted ever-so-slightly. I saw a single, burnt-red leaf on the ground yesterday on my bike ride. I can smell September.
Back-to-school is once again, in my periphery. It's a familiar stress buzzing quietly in the background. Worry does have a sound.
A big event comes to fruition in September, the last of its kind. My world is divided in two these days – before said-big-event and after said-big-event.
Fall is my favorite season and September is right around the corner. I almost don’t give a second thought to the fact that on the first of the month, I will be nine years sober from alcohol. I like to say that I have been in recovery for 11 years. I attempted to quit drinking in 2012. That lasted for three months. I said yes to a glass of red wine at a dinner party one night and then drank heavily for another year a nd a half. The evening of August 31, 2014 was my last alcohol-soaked-roller-coaster-ride. The next day, with my head spinning, and fervent vows of “never again” spinning with it, I slinked into a nearby AA meeting. I am grateful that I’ve been able to keep the vows I made that day. My life has been profoundly changed for the better.
As I contemplated writing this month, I thought about this milestone and waited for the inspirational “Nine years sober” lightening bolt to hit me. The meaning of it. To be honest, it felt a little flat. Don’t get me wrong, everything and everyone good in my life is because I am sober. Each passing September has been a marker and reminder of one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. But this 8th year has been a little more complex than previous years. Unexpected challenges. Delayed grief. Huge transitions. Nothing is wrapping itself up in a neat little bow and that goes for inspiration too.
So, what of this year? I decided to look to numerology for a sign. According to numerology.com, the number nine represents the completion of a cycle and acts as an usher for transformation. Nine represents lessons learned. The strengths of this number are listed as awakening, tolerant and supportive. I can relate to those strengths. Its weaknesses are resentment, sacrifice and suffering; now these three…well, they stir something inside of me.
In 12 step work, I was taught that resentments unchecked are the reason I drank and will be my downfall, ever at-the-ready to lead me back into addiction. I was advised to unearth all these resentments; to shine an unforgiving light on the lot, and then dig into the deeper work of examining the what, the how and the why of each. This work leads to releasing resentments. This has been a good practice for me and it certainly works for many. But the roots of resentment are sometimes long and tightly wound around other relationships and experiences. As I write this, I realize how resentment has been the loudest voice in my room this past year.
In a recent circle, a wise woman reminded me that resentment and expectations walk hand-in-hand. I think boundary work is the third wheel. I reflect on how my brain can trick me into thinking that things SHOULD be a certain way. And when they are not, my automatic response is to pull back, isolate, and hide. This is a coping mechanism of mine from way back. Of course, now I realize that this is where resentments flourish, echoing in the dark until they become a chorus. Resentments are the the drunk people at the party, sucking up all the air and making all the noise. And so here I am on my journey, being reminded that tempering my expectations, communicating on what I want and need, creating and adhering to supportive boundaries is still the work I need to be doing.
Back to the numerology of nine and the second weakness. Sacrifice…a blurry line for me. Acceptance bleeds into sacrifice depending the weight I have chosen to carry that day. Current experiences with caregiving are central themes here. Sometimes it feels like I am driving in the dark, on a slick, black road, my eyes clocked to the yellow line to keep myself from being pulled into the ditch. I practice acceptance a lot, I tell myself. But am I truly accepting the circumstances I find myself in? Just because I’m practicing…does that mean I’m getting any better at it? Acceptance doesn't always have to result in sacrifice. And sacrifice is a tricky concept, especially when it comes to those we love. The responsibilities of caring for my now (technically) adult, high needs son and managing the care of my ailing Father are a deep dive into murky waters. My weakness is forgetting that there is hope and light here too; there is choice on how I respond and all the lessons to be learned from trying something different. Being a caregiver for multiple people in my family has shown me on more than one occasion, that I need to get out of my head.
Because when I’m only in my head, I suffer.
In the last six months or so, I’ve focusing my recovery on my physical body and physical health. Menopause has been kicking my ass. My physical daily routine was not inspiring me and quite frankly, not helping me feel better. I went it for some bloodwork, and it came back showing possible kidney issues, near-anemia, and high cholesterol. I decided to work with a holistic nutrition coach to change some of my habits and to take care of my body in a way that supports the hormonal changes happening (there is so much conflicting information floating around). I began strength-training. I recommitted to making good choices for myself because I want to age well. I’m slowly starting to feel better and some physical issues have vanished. I’m stronger. I’m patting myself on the back for responding to what was happening and trying something different.
As I approach marking another year sober, I think it’s time to come back to this resentment work once more. (This makes the case that recovery and healing are indeed “practices”.) So much of life, of this human experience, we have absolutely no control over. We can only choose our responses, our actions, and our mindset. I’m getting tired of hearing myself say, I am “crunchy”. Suffering is not sustainable.
Fall is coming with all its beauty and change.
Winter will follow and stay longer than I want it to.
New experiences will create a before and an after. The cycles will continue.
And maybe, on a journey of recovery, inspiration doesn't always show up as a lightening bolt or sparkly, superwoman cape. Sometimes it might be just a quiet resolve to simply keep doing the work.
If you're in a similar place, reach down and grab my hand. You are not alone.
P.S. I realized yesterday as I was finishing this bit of writing, my post date, August 16th is a New Moon. Fitting. It’s a new Moon in Leo and I’m off to find out what messages my favorite astrologers have for me. Wishing you both expansion and peace during these last days of Summer!
P.S.S. I invite you to join my Facebook group, Expand Beyond Recovery, a place where I share tips & tools (meaningful astrology from my favs), resources and inspiration for women on a journey of recovery. It's a place for us all to share and support each other. Give me a holler and let me know you are there!