Detail from my recent "snake collage", created on retreat.
Change is such a multi-level experience. I thought I’d rolled around enough in this subject in 2023 but apparently, I am not quite done. I shared a few months ago after a big change in my life (moving in with my partner) that the change was STILL changing. And maybe that’s the way life is. Never static, always shifting and in some sort of motion whether we see it, like it, or not.
Getting sober in 2014 was a hard-right off a road to no place I’d ever planned on going. Getting sober was by far, the biggest change of my life. And everything had to change for me to stay sober. Instead of spending all my free time drinking and partying or obsessing over when I was going to drink and party, I began to explore practices that would fill the space and time not-drinking created. Yoga, breathwork, dance, meditation, reading “quit-lit” books and listening to podcasts, joining communities, spending quality time in nature…all of this helped me heal the wounds caused by years of addictive drinking. These practices also helped heal the wounds that caused my addictive drinking in the first place. And of course, recovery is ongoing. I continue to learn and heal.
Nine sober years later, change is still changing! Even in my healthiest of states, I have to navigate the constant push and pull of life. Like most good humans, I resist the letting go. Letting go of shifting relationships; of carefully crafted roles that no longer fit; of comforts that have become slightly and then totally uncomfortable; of things that used to work beautifully and simply don’t any longer. When whatever life raft I’ve been hanging onto, slowly starts to sink, I seem to want to hold on for as long as possible. Maybe it’s not so much about change as facing the uncertainty of what is next.
I’ve always been someone who wanted to believe in something better, in magic and the unseen, and in the goodness of people (some might call that blind trust). This has not always worked out in my favour and annoyingly, has made me a target of teasing. I abhor being teased but in the magic of belief I still feel most like myself. There’s peace and a feeling of wholeness in letting myself believe. Trusting whatever energy is contained within a new thing will be the energy I need. Belief can feel like the “on” switch. You might be rolling your eyes about now. My astrological make-up (Taurus Sun/Virgo Rising) and the fact that my parents very much advocated for having your head screwed on straight, saves me. If I am a dreamer, I am most certainly a practical dreamer, and that helps when you’re about to long-jump between what is and what could be.
So how does one know when it’s time for something new?
I’ve stayed in things – relationships and jobs mostly – far longer than I should have. When I start to feel it in my body, I know the end is near. Often though, by that time, I’m like a fox in a steel trap. That’s started to change for me in recovery. A commitment to practicing self-care and self-love means that I don’t push myself to the brink. When change hammers on the door, I’m not cowering in bed with my head under the covers. Oh sure, I may blather on for a long while – “should I or shouldn’t I?” but I’m hurting myself less these days. Because I'm learning how to trust myself. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. It’s time for something new.
I want to normalize the difficulty in quieting the noise in our heads during times of change. Even when my heart is overflowing with belief and trust, a voice can rise out of nowhere, whispering in my ear. “Who do you think you are? This will never work.”
And so how does one anchor into the belief that something new will be transformational?
Could it be the act itself? The doing in doing something new and different?
It’s been said, written and expressed in a myriad of ways a million times over: we don’t expand our minds and our hearts by resisting change, by staying the same. The act of doing something we’ve never done before is scary. Growing is uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. It is a process that touches every part of our human...physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. And just beyond the jagged edges of discomfort, lies spaciousness and some kind of transformation with our name on it.
The Sufi poet Rumi pops into my head as I think about this.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
If we are going to hold on to anything, let it be our ability to change. It is a gift to have the freedom to change and grow. When it’s time for something new, let’s anchor into the belief that whatever comes, will be what we need. Let’s throw a big send-off bash for what we are leaving behind. We can wriggle out of it like a snake shedding its skin. Let it dissolve, and walk through the portal knowing whatever is meant for us, will find us.
One last thought here…
I recently heard this phrase: expansion plus experience equals evolution. Don’t these three words strung together sum up the experience of change? When you think about your life, hasn’t this equation played out more than a few times? In my recovery, it’s looked like this. Do the work and take up space. Feel how that feels (not always so great); watch how things and people around you respond. Continuous working and witnessing...stopping everyone once in a while to marvel at how far you've come.
When it’s time for something new, there is a point. The evolution of you. It can’t be done without change.
A few other things to share, while I'm here.
Speaking of letting go and change, my Expand Beyond Recovery membership is evolving into something new. I am aiming to offer EBR in a different format to begin in the new year; if you are interested stay tuned for that.
Right now you ca join my Facebook community here: Expand Beyond Recovery
I’m facilitating some retreats with the SHE RECOVERS Foundation in March 2024. If you are looking to redefine and strengthen your recovery with with like-hearted women in or seeking recovery, check out this LINK.
Finally, I’m off tomorrow to see my dear old Dad who turns 90 on Wednesday. I’m so grateful that I can be fully present for him, even when it’s so hard to watch his light dimming. If that was the only gift of recovery, it would be worth it a hundred time over. Fortunately for us all, presence is one of many. Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing space with me!