It was hard to get this out today. Like, really, really hard.
Super fucking hard.
I let you all in on the not so little secret last month that April is a really exciting month for me. It’s all about birth, literally and figuratively. My birthday, my sober date (two years yesterday!), launching my first local gathering, venturing into other business areas… everything is in bloom.
Including the weeds.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to sum up my week, and it’s this…
A couple of weeks ago I was in yoga and we were working on headstands. I’d never done one and didn’t have much hope of accomplishing the impossible that day either. I folded my hands around my head, leaned forward, and slowly, one leg at a time, got my feet of the ground. For roughly 6 glorious seconds, I was a bonafide yoga headstander.Then my brain got wind of what was going on, said “Holy shit, you’re doing a headstand!” and brought the whole thing down with a very, very not zen-like thump.
This past Sunday we had our first Sober Second Sunday gathering and it was incredible. It capped off a week of seriously getting shit done. The pieces were all coming together and everything was aligning and it was the perfect start to my most favorite month of the year. I went to bed that night on top of the world, feeling connected and grateful and proud and excited for what was to come. The vision that I have for a building a local community in tandem with the virtual one is coming to fruition and it seriously freaking rocks!
Then that voice crept in, “Oh shit, this is happening”, and I started to collapse. I ate food that didn’t make me feel good, skipped yoga, didn’t meditate, fibbed to get out of commitments, and avoided doing work I love by making myself busy with social media and meaningless tasks… all kinds of avoiding.
That’s my red flag for fear.
In my twelve step program, they would say that alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful. I don’t disagree, but I also don’t lay that description squarely at the feet of Two Buck Chuck. The disordered thinking that got me there, the twisted stories that I’d repeat over and over, those are more powerful than any ABV% I’ve ever come across.
I think it’s really important to call ourselves out in moments like this, to see fear for what it is and recognize that we are all only human. As Elizabeth Gilbert said in one of my favorite interviews about her book Big Magic, the only truly fearless people out there are toddlers and sociopaths.
Fear is always coming along for the ride, but it has no dibs on the driver’s seat. We can’t really avoid it, but we do get to tell it no.
If you’ve struggled with alcohol or any addictive behavior, you’re probably no stranger to extremes. In my experience, many of us struggle with that “messy middle” part of ourselves, opting instead for the very clearly defined ends of the spectrum. When it comes to your shadowy parts, that usually means a) wallowing in it and letting the feelings take over or b) “manning up”, pushing through, and trying to stuff it all down until it doesn’t exist. Those choices, albeit painful, are easy because we know what they look like. It’s familiar and scary in the way that our favorite roller coasters still make us scream. You know the drop is coming and you can brace yourself for it.
But most of life happens in the middle.
I learned on Friday that the days leading up to the New Moon, which is today, is referred to as the dark side of the moon. It’s the shadow side that faces away. You can’t rush through the phases of the moon and you can’t pretend the only parts are the ones that are lit. All of the parts make it whole.
Sobriety isn’t a “cure” for our darkness but it sure does let us see it in a new way. I witnessed resentments and fear and judgment and the resistance that they were causing. That’s what most of those feelings need the most, a witness. They need to be heard and seen and acknowledged, not ignored or overly indulged. The only way to get to our own New Moon is to acknowledge the dark side as it passes, hold space for it, and thank it for making us whole.