On April 7th I will be 6 years sober and a lot can happen in six years, redemption, renewal, rectification, rousing revelations, river rendezvous’, repetition, and…. rank shit, ayeee.. the only real rank shit that has occurred has been heavily created by the colonial government systems. I don’t fuck with you colonizer.
There have been some sprinkles placed on top of the last six years. Shit sprinkles composed of lateral violence where the oppressed became the oppressor. Anyways, lateral violence is a different topic for a different time and right now I want to talk about self-violence via substance use and the journey towards self-love and self-healing. Cue the Salt N Peppa instrumental.
Let’s talk about healing, ba-by
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
I know, I know, I killed that vibe. But it’s going to be my sobriety birthday and I can make lame ass hiphop references if I want to. So, let’s dig in shall we? 6 things I have learned in my 6 years of recovery that may or may not help you or provide some insight. Take what you can and leave the rest.
1. “Darling, you’re an addict”. Let me be clear, I know I am more than an addict/alcoholic, but it does not mean I am absent of the behaviours that led me into my alcoholism and cocaine spiral towards the bottom. I called my friend last year, baffled by my behaviour and inability to control myself in situations. I was all about that self gratification. If I wanted something. I would have it. Men. Food. Cigarettes. Clothes. In my mind I was not reaching out for a bottle or blow so why not indulge? I went through bouts of self restraint but at least once a year I had a blow out. These blowouts became problematic and I had to take a hard look at why I was creating cycles to keep myself stuck and stifling my own growth. My girl laughed when I didn’t know why I couldn’t get it right and she said, “Darling, you’re an addict.”
I was kind of upset about it too. I was five years sober and like… when is this addict shit going to leave me be?! …. When you heal that part of yourself… That’s when. Never stop healing yourself and moving towards self-evolution. Why? Because you are worthy of a good unencumbered life so put in the work.
2. B*tch, who do you love? You can’t be out there loving anyone until you love yourself. Easy to say, and one of THE hardest things to practice.
Self-love. There is danger in investing all of your love into someone so that they will give you the love you can’t give yourself. When the individual disappears from the equation, they can take that shit away and you are left back at self-loathing square one. I learned this in stages and over time. Other human beings are not a floatation device to keep me from drowning myself. Loving yourself means that you have to be GENTLE with yourself Babe. It means accepting that you will falter, fuck up, and fail miserably at doing right by yourself whilst trying to learn how to do right by yourself. This is OKAY, just pick yourself up and keep choosing to create change. Tell yourself in the mirror that you are choosing to love you. Tell yourself that you forgive yourself for whatever shortcomings you think you have. Tell yourself a reason why you will celebrate yourself in that moment. One of my favourite affirmations is: I was born Sacred. I am Sacred. I will die Sacred.
There is no hiding or running from that foundational knowledge. We have all been put here, yes even us “the fuck ups”, with a purpose. We have just lost our way and forgotten who we really are. Take the time to remind yourself daily just who the fuck you are. Own that shit until you really really OWN that shit. Be your own hype man, or have a friend by your hype man on days when you need it. You are worthy of love.
3. Foil yourself. Foil all over yourself. I ain’t talking about the classic self sabotage that we already do as addicts. Where something is going good and we are used to chaos so we (unconsciously) fuck shit up to keep our environment as we know it. No, I mean foil your plans to fuck shit up you big dummy. I remember at 4 years sober I had concocted this big plan to relapse in a city where no one knew me. I was on a long road trip by myself and had convinced myself that I could rent a room, get some drinks, and fall off the wagon hard for one night. I could taste the well crafted beer on my tongue and the burn of tequila in my throat. I wanted it. Shit I would even go by a fake name for the night, so no one could be like, oh Helen!?! Nah bitch, my name is Layla. Before I got to the city I pulled over at a road side café and called my girlfriend who has a few more years of sobriety than me.
“Hey…. So I want to drink and this is what is going on in my head….”
For an addict with a plan, these are always the hardest words to get out. To reach out to someone and tell them about the madness going on inside your head. One, because it is acknowledging your own weakness and two, because you are stopping your own plans and you want to go through with them. It is humbling and brave at the same time. No one can make it out here alone. So remember, if you choose to foil yourself and reach out… you are on the right path. Do not look at the feelings and urges as a setback on your journey, look at the choice you made to talk to someone because that is real strength. #realtalk
4. Refuse to own people’s shit. Change comes with boundaries and shifting social territories. There are people that will not like this and that will try to guilt and shame you about not coming around, or no longer allowing them to walk all over you. The boundaries that you are going to have to set are likely not just ones with liquor or hanging out in crack dens with the gang. No. We did not become addicts without having some majorly dysfunctional relationships and busted up boundaries. Maybe we had all the boys in the yard for the milkshakes and they drank it all up and left us with a yard full of red solo cups to clean up by ourselves. Maybe we participate in unhealthy family patterns because no one has ever done anything different. We shapeshifted in addiction in order to survive. We became the scapegoat, the saviour, the screw up, the emotional punching bag, the sacrificial lamb, etc. Becoming sober is a part of the equation but then you have to clear the space and set up boundaries with people in your life so you can actually become who you are without all of those behaviours.
“Fuck no Carol, I will no longer take your trash out for you when you are fully capable of doing it yourself. Why? Because I am out here trying to change, and I ain’t trying to change out your no name garbage bags for you because if I continue to do it I will only be perpetuating the learned helplessness our people have adopted through generations of systemic and direct oppression. Damn Carol, where your mind at with your dusty ass? I am trying to grow here and break these cycles”
Sidenote: Don’t ever set a boundary like that. “Dusty ass”, should never be a part of your boundary setting formula, and take Carol’s garbage out. She’s an elder. Give your head a shake.
5. Update your script. For a long time we have seen ourselves as someone who does things a certain way and reacts accordingly. When we choose to change we change our scripts. I recently did this exercise as suggested by my life coach with You & Me for Tea. Didn’t think I had a life coach with all these cuss words huh? Just because my life is proper doesn’t mean my mouth is okay. Hahaha… Ahh remember, I get to laugh because it’s my blog so… write your own if my personal touches rip you out of the reading material. Moving along. I looked at where the old me three years ago was at and what she was trying to achieve and how she had to go about it. I had to then acknowledge the work I have put in on all my levels: career, healing, family, etc. Then I wrote myself an updated script so I could act accordingly and bring myself up to speed. It works when my self doubt creeps up and tries to sucker punch me because I can block it and say… No, the old Helen isn’t here any more. Mental talk is one of your greatest weapons because we have negative tracks that play in our head and we need to disarm them daily until they don’t show up anymore. Flip the script.
6. Call your Spirit Back. It’s been jokes so far because we need laughter and addiction is already serious enough as it is but let’s get real for a minute. Sometimes we are walking about our lives not feeling whole and there is a reason for that. In western medicine we have the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), when an event hits us so hard that it messes with us and the memories pop up uninvited, fucking with our everyday lives. I like to use a closet analogy here to break this down. So normal memory storage is like one of those closets that are neatly organized with labeled bins for Christmas things and family photos. When you have a very intense event happen your life that neatly organized closet is more like a jumbled expanded junk drawer. Nothing is in the right place and sometimes the closet is overflowing and bursts open unexpectedly, spilling everything out into the hallway. So you shovel it all back in and try to close the door but it happens again and again. That’s what traumatic events do to us. We are in a constant state of harm reduction without ever getting to the root.
When you want to tidy it up you have to go through everything and check it out to see what is discardable. Everyone knows when you clean everything get’s messier too. So healing these parts of ourselves takes time and mental/emotional/spiritual/physical effort. When I say it gets messier, I mean that you may fall apart and it will be hard as you move through these moments so you can clean it all up once and for all. When I went through some of my traumas to clean it up I fell apart daily over the course of two weeks but I was in a safe place that allowed me to do so (rehab bitches).
Anyways, so there is this concept of PTSD but if we take off the western medicine goggles we would see that traditional knowledge will say that sometimes we leave parts of our spirits behind. A part of our spirit can actually be left behind, and from what I have learned this isn’t just for super traumatic events but also for places we are really happy or even if we are travelling a lot. Our spirit needs to catch up. So maybe you know people who have the practice of calling their spirit back to them when they leave places. Calling out to themselves by their full names or traditional names a few times to come back and come with them.
So if we don’t feel full, maybe we have left a part of our spirit behind and we are really not whole.
I’ve called my spirit back waterside with offerings. I have also visited places that I knew were important for me and laid tobacco and prayed with a calling of my spirit. Remember, you are also out there looking for yourself. You want to be protected, taken care of, and honoured so make sure you tell yourself that.
People visit their inner children through counselling, so what if that inner child is our spirit at that age?
Anyways, this is something that continues to be a practice for myself because healing is continual and there have been events within my sobriety that required I do some ceremony and call myself back from places and events and hold myself a little tighter. Love yourself, especially the broken parts because they need the most love.
PS hit me up, let me know what you have learned in your sobriety.
I’m so glad I found your blog! I’m just over a couple of months into sobriety and still figuring it all out. All the best, Sophie
Good stuff! Boundaries…oh boy! I find that too to be a process.
What I’ve learned is to keep boundaries. I laughed at your “fuck no, Carol, I will not take out the trash…” comment bc that sums it all up. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do anymore and it’s fantastic. I’ve also learned that I’m a complete introvert. I was a social butterfly on booze but now I prefer to stay home and engage in creative activities. Who knew! Thanks for sharing.