Recovery, Again

pathI’ve been sober for eighteen years and three months. I haven’t felt a compulsion to drink or use drugs for eighteen years and one month. My last intense desire to use came at about sixty days sober. I was sitting in the office of the balloon store where I worked, holding the little slip of paper I kept all my sober friend’s names on, and was so overwhelmed with the desire to use that I kept calling my dealer’s beeper and then hanging up. Eventually I started calling people on that list. On that particular day I couldn’t reach anyone. I spent about two hours calling them all, leaving messages, and then going through the full list and starting again at the top. I must have left some people four or five messages that day.

In desperation I did the only thing I could think of; I got down on my knees, right there at work, and I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in and asked that the desire to use be taken away. And it was, just like that.

Ten years later, we moved out of the city and found it harder to get to the recovery meetings we knew and loved. We never really bonded with the meetings in our area, but we kept going. Then Tori was born and while at first it was easy to cart her to meetings, eventually she got too big and too bored and we started missing more than we attended. Eventually I found some daytime groups, even with babysitting, but then my work schedule picked up and suddenly the time between meetings grew from days to weeks to months.

While I haven’t had any desire to drink during those times with fewer meetings, my personality suffered. I became more sensitive, more prickly, more quick to anger. I also became judgemental, pushy, and defensive. Eventually I found myself in a place where I had a shortage of humility and I was focused on all the wrong things.

A couple of months ago I began taking the first steps to change that. I started calling my friend Dave once a week, asking him to commit to a weekly chat. Dave lives far away now, sadly, but is absolutely the most grounded sober person I know. He’s gifted at hearing me while also helping me see my own crazy. Then we arranged with local friends for an evening playdate for Tori while we went to a local recovery meeting; with amazing luck, we stumbled on a meeting with just the right mix of people and have found ourselves leaving each week with a big smile on our faces.

Finally, I started a little private Facebook group of sober women, and joined a much larger sober group with thousands of people in it. I’m not sure why I wasn’t taking advantage of the opportunities that social media can provide to us sober folks; I mean, I’m in plenty of business and friend related Facebook groups, so why not a sober one? I cannot explain why this didn’t occur to me sooner.

The result of concentrating again on my recovery? I feel better.

Duh.

Last night someone at the meeting said, “I try to wear life like a loose garment.” I must have heard it before; it’s from the earliest sober meditation book (it’s also apparently a quote falsely attributed to Buddha). But last night felt like the first time, and it rang through me the way the truth often does. I found myself thinking about the feeling of taking off restrictive clothing and slipping into your softest pajamas. How great that feels.

I’ve been wearing life lately like it was the weird spanx-type garment I have; it’s a tank top that goes all the way down past my hips to my mid-thigh. It’s got underwires that go under my bra, giving me TWO underwires. It’s incredibly uncomfortable. It makes me itchy and I sit awkwardly when I wear it because if I sit wrong I have trouble taking a deep breath. It forces me to concentrate on myself and my body and my discomfort. I can’t look outward when I’m wearing it because I’m so focused on being uncomfortable.

I don’t want to wear life in that way anymore. I’m tired of holding myself awkwardly and trying to make myself look and be a person who I’m not. I’m tired of being hyper aware of myself.

It’s time to look outward and begin recovering. Again.

My Tin Heart: On Ten Years of Blogging

tin heart art by Mariposa Fuerte from Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/90296840/colorful-sacred-heart-silver-mexican-tin

“So last night was PLANET MELTDOWN at my house. I lost my shit and had a total tantrum. It started because my husband was wanting to have sex and I soooooo didn’t– and went on from there. I ended my fest by slamming the bedroom door, falling on the bed weeping, and hurling my prenatal vitamins at the door (they didn’t break, more’s the pity), all the while wondering why my husband wasn’t coming into the room to comfort his violent and psycho wife. And this month I’m not even taking any fertility hormones.”

Those were the first words I wrote on this blog a decade ago, on March 22nd, 2004. This blog began as a way to chronicle our struggles with infertility. At the time I worked full time for a local women’s art college, running a retail art gallery that was half a store and half a marketing and public relations effort. I was younger, fitter, and active, spending 45 days of the year sleeping outside camping, and I hiked several times a week. I was deeply involved with my sobriety, I went to sober dances, I had too many cats, and I lived in the city. I was happy, but I couldn’t get pregnant.

This last decade has brought me my greatest joy, my greatest grief, my greatest failures, and my greatest successes. It’s hard to believe that I’ve packed so much in ten short years, but I have. Tori is my daily joy, while the loss of our sons is a solemn undercurrent of every breath I take. We nearly lost everything in 2009 during the economic crash, but we are still here.

It’s been a hell of a decade.

……….

My blog was called, back then, “And I Wasted All That Birth Control” but the url was a mess: it was zia.blogs.com, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Hardly anyone I knew had a domain name back then. We all just blogged on platforms that automatically created a url for us. I chose “zia” in there because Typepad let me choose an element, and I was from New Mexico, and I had a zia tattoo. My blog was ugly back then, too, because hardly anyone made their blogs pretty in the early days either.

Hardly anyone read my blog, and I was pseudo anonymous back then; I never said my last name, and I never mentioned exactly where I lived: I just said, “east coast.” I’m sure someone could have found me if they’d really tried, but no one did. There was a small group of us infertility bloggers, maybe a dozen at first, and then eventually about 25 of us, all sharing our struggles, complaining about the injections, the dildo cam, and that damned Hope Addict that reared her head each month as we all tracked every twinge in our bodies trying to determine if they were symptoms of pregnancy. Living in infertility hell is weird and sad and obsessive and tragic and hard. It’s one of those things where you just don’t get it unless you’ve lived through it, and having other people to connect with online that were going through it was a complete and utter miracle; I didn’t know anyone in my “real” life going through it, and these amazing women online saved my sanity every single day.

In those early days of blogging there was absolutely no way to promote your blog. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Pinterest, no blog hops, no Google+, no SEO, nothing. Zip. Nada. There were no feed readers either. We all read each other’s blogs and then we put our favorite blogs in a blogroll on our sidebar. It wasn’t a tool for anything other than self-expression. Almost everyone I knew in the early days, even the professional writers, kept their blogs separate from their professional lives. It was a private joy. I only told a handful of my closest friends; I didn’t tell my mother until I’d been blogging for several years.

The only way people found my blog was through random searches, and by clicking over from comments I left on other blogs. We were an insulated community, in a way, which seems like a strange thing to say given that everything we wrote and published was public.

……….

Things began to change, of course. I first remember hearing inklings of something, a gathering of women bloggers, a conference called BlogHer. I didn’t pay much attention, at first. I was too deeply mired in my infertility struggle, and then the loss of my boys, and then my best friend’s wedding, and then my next pregnancy and the birth of my daughter, Tori.

But I was changing too. I realized I loved writing, more than any other work I’d done, and that I was good at it and people liked it. My readership grew substantially. I also realized I hated being at my job, as wonderful as it was, because it meant I was away from my daughter. I began putting out feelers and telling people I was looking for writing work, and like a gift an offer came from an online friend’s husband. In 2007, I quit my job, and began writing articles to pay the bills.

And in 2008, I attended my first BlogHer. It was there I made the switch, in my head: I became a professional blogger. I rebranded my blog to Uppercase Woman, I decided to stop being anonymous, and I claimed my internet space.

As social media grew, and Facebook and Twitter and all the myriad other options appeared, I began pursuing involvement with professional organizations related to online media, and I’ve been on the board of my local Social Media Club for over five years now. I began writing for sites like Type-A Mom, Silicon Valley Moms, and eventually Babble.

What started as a hobby that helped me survive a time of crises became my full time career.

……….

There’s much that’s changed about blogging in the last decade that is challenging. Today there tens of millions of women blogging, and there’s money to be made. It’s been interesting watching each transition; I remember the gasps of dismay when bloggers began putting ads on their sites – but then all of us eagerly signed up for BlogHer’s ads once they launched (and wow, the checks were substantial back then too). Then came sponsored content, which resulted in another round of pearl clutching, and then reviews and giveaways and brand trips and more. Blogging is a competitive enterprise these days – like any other job or industry.

With money comes dissent, of course, and I could write pages about the fine art of trolling, but I’m no longer renting space in my brain to that negativity. It’s part and parcel of the web now, and it is what it is. Sometimes it’s made blogging really hard, but not enough for me to throw in the towel.

And after all, this post is supposed to be a celebration, so let’s not dwell on the bad side of things.

……….

So, finally, nearly 1200 words later, I come to this: you. You amazing, beautiful, fabulous, spectacular, generous, and loving people. For ten years now, you’ve read my words. You’ve listened to my stories. You’ve taught me how to grow up, how to be a better person, and how to open up my heart and my mind. You have been the most amazing gift anyone could ever receive – well, you know, other than Tori. And Charlie.

I will never forget that day in 2004 when I lay in the hospital, near death and grieving the boys, when Sarah printed out pages and pages of comments you all had left me on my blog (no hospital wifi in 2004). She read them to me in my darkened hospital room, and I could feel your love and support.

I felt it again when Tori was finally born, when you all saw her face for the first time.

Again when I quit my job and you encouraged me to succeed.

And again, when times grew dark, and many of you clicked on that tip jar on my blog and made it possible for us to pay our bills when we thought we’d lose it all.

And now, today, you are here with me, watching Tori grow up, watching my career grow, and still cheering me on.

You are one of the greatest lights of my life.

……….

I know not everyone that read in the beginning still reads today, although a few of you do. I know that many question the path I’ve taken. But I am here, today, because of this blog. Because ten years ago I hurled a bottle of prenatal vitamins at a closed door in a pique of rage, and I needed to tell someone about it. So I did.

The traditional gift on a ten year anniversary is tin (although according to Hallmark, it’s now diamonds, so feel free to send some of those on over). It’s fitting, because tin is a soft metal that shapes easily, making it perfect to contain things or make into art.

You can’t think of tin without thinking of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, wishing he only had a heart. This blog has been my heart for ten years – my bashed, bruised, and broken heart – like the tin heart* pictured above. It has been shaped over this last decade into something beautiful, and you have helped shape it.

This, of course, is all to say: thank you. Thank you for granting me this corner of the internet for ten whole years. Thank you for coming here each day or week or month or even year to check in with me. You have granted me grace, and I am grateful.

Happy tenth birthday, my little blog. What a long and amazing trip it’s been.

 

*(created by this Etsy artist)