If getting to the bottom of why I used alcohol to feel less anxious and more confident was only about drinking, then abstaining should have magically solved my problems. As I’ve written before, it didn’t work that way for me.
Figuring out a solution that did work meant expanding my focus beyond drinking. Today I thought I would share some of the unexpected things that helped me along the way.
Other people’s diaries. Strange, right? A dear friend of mine lent me the book New York Diaries which I read a page from every day for a year, and most mornings still start with an entry from the diaries of my great grandmother Mabel and her sister-in-law Georgie. What’s so great about reading first-hand accounts of other peoples’ lives? It's a reminder that not everything is about me.
When I'm stuck in a low place, its feels as if a kind of tunnel-vision takes hold. It’s almost like my misery makes me self-centered. I am shut off from the world and can only see my hurt and pain. Reading other peoples’ diaries reminds me that I am not brightest star in the universe. Everything does not revolve around me. There are billions of people with their own hopes and dreams, failures and hardships. Making a habit of reading their words, helps me to not always be so fixated on myself and my problems.
Headspace. I love this meditation app. I’m not perfect about using it, but I always feel better when I set aside time to meditate. My favorite part: the 3-minute SOS meditations that are specifically created for those moments when you’re having a meltdown. It’s a good reminder, that even 180 seconds can make a big difference. It’s not a cure all, but it does give me the space I need to reassess the situation.
Poetry. The subway system in New York has a program called Poetry in Motion, that displays poetry for strapphangers to enjoy. Walking into a crowded subway car and discovering a poem on the wall always made me smile.
A couple years ago, I decided that instead of spending my commute running through all the things I needed to do or whatever was nagging at me, I would use the time to memorize poems I love. Once it was tucked away inside my mind, the poem would be there whenever I needed it. Sometimes just reciting a poem to myself can shift something inside of me no well-reasoned argument to feel better can replicate. It’s like having an invisible life-line at your disposal whenever you need it.
Body work. Awkwardness was always something I ran from. With the feeling coursing through my body, all I wanted to do was run away. Things like standing, sitting, even just holding myself felt onerous and uncomfortable. Everything about my body felt wrong, and having a drink was the only way I knew how to get relief from awkwardness. After working for so many years to escape my body, what I really needed was to figure out how to get comfortable with it.
This really took off when I started practicing Pilates with an amazing instructor, Howard Schissler. It started as an attempt to resolve persistent lower back pain, but what I learned from Howard went way beyond strengthening my core. When we first started working together, Howard would ask me to move parts of my body that I truly had no idea how to connect with or control. It was as if I had amnesia when it came to certain parts of myself. Learning how to reconnect, and be present in my body, was a huge part of figuring out how to be comfortable in my own skin.
So there you have it, some unexpected things that have helped on my journey. The best part, they're so much more interesting to work on and to learn about than to sit around counting how many drinks I've had.