The place was nondescript and located in the back of a small shopping center. From the street, it looks like a vacant shop. Only people who seek it out find it and then, they park along the side and back, entering through the rear door so privacy can be maintained.
In January of 2011, I found myself walking through that back entrance, crossing the kitchen and entering a large meeting room. Chairs were lined around the walls and a podium stood in the front. At the beginning of the meeting they ask for newcomers to introduce themselves and make the statement, “I’m so-and-so and I’m an alcoholic.” For those not ready to make such a bold testament, they’re asked to say, “and I have a wish to stop drinking.”
I introduced myself as an alcoholic, but in the few months I attended meetings, I realized AA wasn’t a fit for me. First of all, I didn’t find sitting in a room on a daily basis talking about drinking a way to keep myself from drinking. It didn’t drive me to want to drink, but it also didn’t help me move on from my poor decisions, it felt like it kept me rooted in reliving them over and over. Second, I realized I wasn’t an alcoholic. I had a drinking problem, that much was obvious, but I didn’t crave drinking the way true alcoholics do. I’d turned to drinking as a result of partying in reaction to a bad breakup. I’d formed a habit, and it was the habit I was addicted to, not the alcohol.
I stopped going after only a couple of months, and though I still occasionally drink too much when I drink, I am not an alcoholic. How do I know this? After abstaining for two years–from 2011 to 2013 during which time I had my son–I now can easily have one glass and stop. I can easily go days and weeks without a drink. I do like my wine and I have to watch myself because I will overdo it from time to time, but I do not need to drink.
I’m an overconsumer in everything, so it’s not just wine I have to watch. I overeat when there’s fantastic food, I shop too much when I should be saving my extra money, I spend too much time reading instead of handling responsibilities, etc. My problem isn’t with alcohol per se, it’s with knowing when to stop. Yoga has taught me to listen to my body and recognize, “I’m in a bad mood I shouldn’t have a drink it’ll make it worse,” or “I’m pretty tired… do I really want that glass of wine?” And I easily say no when I realize that as much as I may think I want a glass of wine, my body doesn’t.
While in the meetings I saw that for the people around me, if you weren’t dedicated enough to the program, you weren’t believed to be a true alcoholic and therefore, you didn’t belong. So I stopped going, and to be honest, that’s what I needed. I still recommend AA one hundred percent whether it turns out you’re an alcoholic or you just need to break a habit that’s gotten out of control. The support, the feeling of not being alone, the twelve-steps, everything about it can help turn your life around if you’re having a problem.
That’s what it did for me. It was more therapeutic than anything else. As I’ve gotten older I’ve applied many of the steps in overcoming things in life that have nothing to do with substance.
Step 1: Admit you have a problem. This can be with anything. I still remember the day I sat with my therapist and on the brink of saying, “Well, I think we’re done here. My anxiety and depression are better and I’m happy,” instead I told her, “I think we should talk about how I don’t eat.”
For moms, admitting you’re having a problem with breastfeeding, potty training, keeping your temper, homework, or you see behaviors in your child you’re worried might be symptoms of something, taking Step 1 is still the first step in getting the help you need.
Step 2: Accept a higher power. For AA, this is God. For me, while I accepted there is a higher power, I didn’t name my higher power. I didn’t make it religious. I just acknowledged there is something out there that’s powering this crazy thing we call life.
Step 3: Give in to that higher power. Without the acceptance of Step 2, we can’t get to Step 3. You can’t give in to the trust that everything will work out as it should without first believing there is something to trust.
For moms, this is about trusting in ourselves that even if we don’t always make the right decisions or even know what those are, our kids are going to turn out okay as long as we love them.
For more on the steps, click here.
Following the steps through any problem is helpful. But, beyond the steps, the greatest piece of advice I walked away with was to take it one day at a time. “Sometimes it’s all you can do to take it down to one minute at a time,” said the leader at my first meeting. I’ve never forgotten that. At least, I’ve always remembered it. Sometimes I do forget it when life gets rough and I find myself stuck in troubles I don’t know how to get out of.
My step-sons hate me and the rules I try to implement in our home. My husband is digging his head in the sand when it comes to them and doesn’t know how to be there for me. My son is angry and combative with all of us, back to tantrums and bed wetting. I’m an emotional wreck and smoking cigarettes on an almost regular basis.
I’m angry all the time. I want out. I feel like I’m having to parent the kids and then parent my husband on how to be a parent. When I don’t step in, he lets them do whatever they want. There’s no respect in the way they speak to us or for any of “our” (and by “our” I mean my) rules.
I’m not asking for a lot. Ask for permission before inviting friends over. When we say, “no,” it means no. No pot. No smoking. No vaping. No drinking. No sex. No illegal contraband in the house. Tell us where you’re going and be back by curfew. You know, all the things any (step)mom who gives a shit would do.
I say they’re actually my rules because I’m alone in trying to enforce them. My husband just shrugs his shoulders and says, “what can I do?”
I’m currently living in a house where the children are doing whatever they want, and I’m a single mom to four kids instead of a married woman with three. And I’m angry.
I’m angry because despite how miserable I am right now, I love him. I want it to work. Which means my usual “take the easy way out,” which in this case means divorce, isn’t an option I’m willing to entertain (well, I’ve entertained it, but I’m not willing to take it).
I’m angry because I need him to step up or else I won’t be able to take it anymore. I’ve almost reached that breaking point and actually went as far as to tell him it was over a week ago.
I’m angry because I’ve stopped caring. I can’t care because if I do, I’ll be upset all the time and I’m tired of being upset all the time. I’m tired of fighting all the battles alone. I’m tired of holding his hand through parenting when I have no idea what the hell I’m doing either but at least I’m doing something.
I’m angry because the only way I’ve found to deal with my anger is through smoking. I’m angry I’ve let myself fall back into this terrible nasty habit. I’m angry that I’m training to be a yoga teacher and I’m harboring this much anger which has me doing something so damaging to my body.
I’m angry that I’m writing this angry ranty post. I feel like a child myself.
But through it all, I’m remembering that one piece of advice. One day at a time.
All families have problems. We are not alone in our struggles with the kids. We’re not alone in our relationship suffering for it. And we’ve been through tough times before and if I learned anything from the past, it’s that sometimes you just have to wait for the storm to pass. Once the clouds have parted, you can see the sun again.
Step 1: I admit I have a problem with my anger. I admit my marriage is in trouble. I admit I’m smoking again.
Step 2: I accepted a long time ago there is most definitely a higher power.
Step 3: This is where I’m having the problem. How do I let go and trust everything will be okay and still be there for my kids? How do I find that balance between giving in and giving up?
In the meantime, I’m doing everything that is in my power to take it one day at a time. Yes, I’ve been smoking on and off for a few months now. But, every time I make it a few days without cigarettes I’m getting closer to giving them up for good again. Yes, I’m angry and depressed, but I’m still getting my work done. I’m still getting up and eating as healthy as I can. I’m still doing yoga when I can muster the energy. I haven’t quit my YTT program despite feeling like a fraud. I haven’t given up, I’m just trying to give in to the pain.
In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson advises to “Choose Your Struggle.”
“If I ask you ‘What do you want out of life?’ and you say something like, ‘I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,’ your response is so common and expected it doesn’t really mean anything.
Everybody enjoys what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy, and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when they walk into a room.
Everybody wants that. It’s easy to want that.
A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”
He goes on to say:
“Because happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems. Joy doesn’t just sprout out of the ground like daisies and rainbows. Real, serious, lifelong fulfillment and meaning have to be earned through the choosing and management of our struggles. Whether you suffer from anxiety or loneliness or obsessive-compulsive disorder or a dickhead boss who ruins half your waking hours every day, the solution lies in the acceptance and active engagement of that negative experience–not the avoidance of it, not the salvation from it.”
I told myself before we were married, this relationship was a pain I choose to have in my life. He’s so not perfect, but neither am I. And if I were to leave him, I’d end up with someone else who isn’t perfect just in different ways. And if I continue to let the messiness of life derail me, I’ll only end up in this exact same place.
I’ve thought many times I might be better suited to stay single. Maybe I’m not cut out for a relationship…
But maybe I am. Maybe this is the relationship where I learn how to stick around through the struggles. Maybe this is the one where I choose the struggle rather than choose the easy way out.
And so, while things stay difficult, I’m reminding myself of that great piece of advice I heard so long ago when I was lower than low and I’m going to take it one damn day at a time. And for every day, I’m going to remind myself that I choose this pain.
That being said, I’m not going to lie down and do nothing about the situation. I’m going to take control of the one thing I can… me. I have an appointment this afternoon with a new friend who is a Reiki healer and I’m giving that a try. I have a yoga teacher training weekend coming up this week and I felt rejuvenated after my last one so I’m hoping the immersion will work its magic yet again this time.
P.S. I wrote this blog yesterday right before my Reiki session so I’d have a record of what I was feeling before I went in. Due to the success of the meeting, and not wanting to return to the negativity, I’ve left this post mostly unedited and in its first draft state. Please forgive any lousy writing and stay tuned for my next post on Things to Help You Be Zen: Reiki Healing.
And note, that while my GIFs make light of the steps, they are not meant to poke fun. I truly believe in their power, but I also believe in the power of laughter. And I added them today when I’m in a much better mood than when the text was written yesterday.
Do you have a mantra helping you be a Zen mama? Contact me if you’re interested in sharing it here on Zen Mama Mantras.