When I decided to give up alcohol twelve years ago, it wasn't an easy decision. I hadn't lost a job, a relationship or a home because of my drinking. No one was laying down ultimatums or telling me to quit. In fact, my family was really upset when I announced that I stopped drinking and started going to 12 Step meetings. Overly concerned about what other people would think, they regarded my sobriety as more of an embarrassment than a triumph.
No one, at the time, wanted me to call myself an alcoholic. Friends and co-workers all jumped to my defense when I mentioned the word. Don't say you're an alcoholic! We all have those nights.
I knew I had a problem because those nights weren't the exception, they were the rule. Waking up with a hangover had become the norm. If my drinking felt like it was getting too out of control, I would tell myself to reign it in. By burying myself in work, taking on more responsibilities, and focusing on other people's problems, I auto-piloted into controlling behavior instead of getting the help I needed. I could go a week or even a month without drinking. Once I went almost five months, but the minute I picked up the first drink it was like being catapulted back into my addiction with a vengeance. I drank like I had never stopped but with the self righteousness of someone who could stop.
It took a long time to get help simply because no one was willing to admit I had a "real" problem. I was struggling to string more than 2 or 3 sober days together before I finally reached out to one of the only women I knew who didn't drink. I told her that I wanted to stop for a year this time- that I needed to reign it in. She laughed because it all sounded way too familiar. And then she told me where to go for the support and encouragement I needed.
I haven't looked back since. And today I am so thankful for the one dissenting voice that saved my life. It turns out that my liver was able to regenerate in the time I was sober before being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. This is not a subject that I take lightly. Going to those meetings literally saved my life, in more ways than one.
When asked what an addict looks like, most of us picture someone in the late stages of their disease. This depiction is unrealistic by today's standards, and yet the general consensus is to stick to the story of a person with shaky hands grabbing for the bottle first thing in the morning. And while this is a common scenario, it's far from the only scenario.
I ask myself why a lot... why do we enable a story that perpetuates unnecessary suffering?
For one, there is profit to be made from staying in denial. Stress, disease, and the elusive search for fulfillment make us buy more products, fill more prescriptions, and consume on so many different levels. It's as though we're set up to look for love and empowerment everywhere but where it actually resides, which is inside of us.
I was taught to equate martyrdom with love and intensity with intimacy. I believed that alcohol and a relationship would fix everything about me that felt broken. I call this brokenness my hungry ghost, and I thought exerting more discipline could keep my hungry ghost in check when things spiraled out of control. But for me controlling was actually part of the problem... and therein lies the paradox of addictive thinking.
With all the stigma still floating around, it takes courage to dig a little deeper and admit that our favorite coping skills may actually be hurting us, and that we, gasp, might have a problem with codependence or addiction. Keeping up appearances is one of the biggest obstacles for women when it comes to getting help. We are inundated with messages from a perfection-obsessed, I got this culture. No one wants to admit they are struggling, and yet, so many of us are.
The thing to keep in mind is that when a problem is named for what it is, the solution is easier to access, and the first thing we'll learn about that problem is that we're not alone.
We've been in an eclipse sandwich for several weeks along with six retrograding planets: Mercury, Mars, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto, and Uranus. That's A LOT of retrograde energy! The last of the eclipses happened on August 11th and Mercury stationed direct on August 19th which officially marked the end of eclipse season.
During heavy retrograde periods like the one we're in, slowing down and cultivating a detached awareness is often more productive than bulldozing through issues or conversely burying our heads in the sand. The goal is to observe and take stock while reserving judgment. (Notice I used the word goal.)
Eclipses are pauses and reboots. They give us an opportunity to acknowledge what's not working anymore. Rather than amputate a behavior, it's important to consider the driving need behind it which almost always comes back to 3 simple things: self-worth, self-care, and a yearning for connection & support. Even though the eclipses are over, we will be working with them for several months to come.
This is an excellent time to look at any patterns, behaviors, relationships, or beliefs that aren't serving you anymore. Sometimes the writing is on the wall and asking straightforward questions can be helpful. During this process, it's important to keep in mind that this isn't a morality check, it's a reality check. Self-judgment is counterproductive in healing.
However you approach this retrograde cycle, remember to hold yourself in a space of compassion and gentleness. But also, be honest. Confront what's uncomfortable. Believe there's a bigger life ahead of you if you can let go of fear and control.
Today as the sun moves from passionate, heart based Leo into practical, service oriented Virgo, place your hand on your heart and say, "I will love myself today by asking the hard questions and then by seeking the help and relief I need." When we heal ourselves, everyone else benefits. A healthier world starts with us.
May you be free of suffering and all the causes of suffering.