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Hip Sobriety School, Day 5

"Just. Keep. Going."

So it's 4 AM on the day after Sunday, May 7th, but that day felt like it began the evening before and it's just now winding up—a journey that started with two glasses of wine (gasps all around). Holly's mantra could not be more serendipitous: Just. Keep. Going.

Saturday evening went south and turned into a crash-and-burn event where I ended up doing just what I "wanted" to do in that mysterious self-sabotaging, rebellious, damn-it-all way some of us know so well: I picked up a some bubbly in small one-drink bottles from the nearby gourmet grocery store. Small win was buying only two instead of three, which most of America would consider "normal" drinking on a Saturday night.

Can't even say if it felt good when the chemicals hit my brain. If that happened, it was brief and weak, like an orgasm you've worked really hard for that hits at the wrong moment and fizzles into some sad half-life instead of full bloom. Even so, my infamous "One more!" urge shot off like a rocket. And for another small win, I stood my ground. No, not a chance—we're just staying with this feeling of low-level, whole-body dullness, icky-ness and blah-ness and following the crumbs back to how we got here in the first place. Oddly, I felt no pangs of shame or self-recrimination, which for me, might be the biggest small win of them all. I just wanted to get to the bottom of what led me there, grab that bull by the horns, tackle him to the ground, and sit on him.

And clearly, the culprit was exhaustion, pure exhaustion on every level. That and a complete lack of balance. I was already physically depleted from a week of grueling non-stop cleaning, moving furniture, cleaning, climbing ladders, cleaning, on and on and on. But instead of moving into rest and extreme self-care, I took that same balls-to-the-wall tack on catching up all the lost time and assignments for Hip Sobriety School. Now THIS! Just THIS until I catch up! Too much computer time, no morning meditations, no breaks for much-needed rest or yoga stretches, and most of all—no regular intake of whole, real food. I was running on the leftover adrenaline of pushing myself to the limit and upping the ante with morning coffee followed by....nothing for hours and hours. By late Saturday afternoon, I felt exactly like this, except my red needle had slipped below the E:

And that, folks, is a major trigger for me. I have deep furrows of brain conditioning that says the fuel I need at that moment contains 12% ethanol. Short story long, two of the critical elements in this journey will be order and balance: Making self-care rituals not only a habit but a natural way of living and being. It might mean getting up or going to bed a little early, being more realistic about what I take on, letting go of the obsessive drive to finish something now, pulling way from the computer screen, saying "That day/time won't work for me," or any myriad of small adjustments. It's going to be a learning process but as Holly says (and God I love this word), "It's figureoutable."

Everyone runs into chaotic or stressful times that knock them out of kilter. They end up regrouping or recalibrating, but I've never had any solid routines to return to. My "pattern" is careening through life like a pinball on amphetamines, running around with my hair on fire, and vacillating between doing absolutely nothing meaningful with my precious free time or driving myself to total exhaustion. My poor kids didn't know that "schedule" was a concept until they went to school: "What? We're doing the same thing at the same time every day?" I can't remember ever having a deeply set balance of quiet time, productive time and social time fueled by a steady flow of healthy nourishment and hydration. Bits and pieces of all those things, yes. But the entire orchestra has never come together yet. Which catches us up to Saturday evening's ultimate Ah-ha! moment: That is my highest work for the duration of Hip Sobriety School—and the rest of my life.

All day Sunday was a gift from the gods, starting with an early dawn nature walk with baby bunnies, Gambel quail, scores of birds, and even a passing owl as my companions. Then it was off for a meditation workshop with Gary Springfield and five straight blissful hours of Nirvana. (His sessions are live but also online so if you are interested in learning more about one of the most powerful meditation techniques ever, check out GarySpringfield.com.) The next stop was baby shower for a dear young friend, and another small win. Even though the host had provided beer and wine for guests who wanted to drink, I felt a sudden rush of familiar joy as I reached into the cooler for water. After four years of struggling with "moderation," I had forgotten how happy-making sobriety grows to be, how natural it begins to feel, passing up the booze and having a bottle or glass of water in my hand. What a sweet surprise, a day with not one but two heavenly events.

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