sober living

cultivating my own voice

I was journaling today about how I feel as though I am going through a process of unwinding when I received an email from one of my brothers about vocation. Serendipity at its best. I was writing that I feel as though I am unwinding from what society expects of me and that I am moving toward what the life inside of me requires to thrive. I equate the process, in my mind, to that of a vine unraveling itself from its anchor point, withering, and then becoming what it was meant to become. In my case, a tree (metaphorical of course). The link that my brother emailed out was a Richard Rohr blog post about allowing Life to lead you to your vocation. Which may or may not be what earns you money. The post was totally on point for what I was writing about and feeling on this chilly, rainy day in Utah.

In writing about unwinding, I was also contemplating choice. On one level it often feels as though I don't have much choice, (in order to keep my home I have to pay my mortgage on time) and on another level I have too much choice, (which loaf of bread to buy, what to paint on the next blank canvas, what story to write next?), and the realization that the creative process is all about choice. I also realized that there is a whole litany of people, an entire movement, telling me that because I have this ability to choose that I am in charge of my own outcomes. But that is not exactly true, is it? Because if it were, I would be winning the lottery every week or getting rich off my art. Really, all that I am in charge of is how I choose to respond to the outcomes Life hands me. The choice is in the curl of the wave - resist and struggle OR, accept and surrender - and also when the wave lands on the beach. Once I'm on the beach, do I choose gratitude or grief or anger? And then the questions become: How do I live my life with greater intention and purpose? How do I surrender to what is and still move forward without apathy? And I think the key lies in finding joy in the service of whatever it is I choose. And I thought, what am I willing to give up to experience that joy? What am I willing to let go of to live the life of my dreams? Abraham was willing to give up his son Issac in service to God. Am I willing to give up my art, my writing to God? Am I willing to sacrifice my creative spirit to the service of the Divine? I don't know how that would actually serve Life, but yes. Although I struggle with the being willing part! Maybe what Life is asking me to surrender are outcomes. How do any of these questions help me cultivate my own voice?

During this unwinding it has become clear to me that I would like to simplify my life. Simplify my processes and expectations. And simplifying not only the expectations that society holds for me and I have for myself, but also the expectations that I have for Life. And by doing so create more clarity in my voice and vision for my life. While I was thinking about how and what exactly I could simplify, (I mean I already konmaried my house!), it occurred to me as an aha! that maybe my lack of vocal / creative clarity doesn't stem from having too much choice. A more accurate statement might be: I like what other people are doing so much that instead of appreciating and basking in the creativity of others and allowing it to inspire my own voice,  I try instead to mimic whatever they are doing. Admiring the loud and true voice of other creatives and also feeling a bit jealous, I often abandon my own true voice and copy them hoping their vision will ring true for me as well. But when it doesn't ring true for me, (as inevitably it won't!), when it falls flat, I feel defeated. I feel defeated in large part because deep down I know I could have used that time and energy listening to my own heart, cultivating my own voice.

There have been flashes - moments in my life where I allowed Life to flow through me in ways that were unique to me. And in those moments I thrived. But society always found a way to hook me back in. Whether through playing to my insecurities about "fitting in", the desire to be popular, or the simple need to have a roof over my head, I continually found myself copying the much stronger voices of others instead of strengthening my own. And it was during those times of not living my own life that I would drink in an effort to silence the despair of my heart. But now, choosing conscious sobriety, having vowed to sit through the discomfort that self awareness brings, there is a feeling of relief as my own truth emerges and a deep feeling of gratitude that comes from recognizing and cultivating my own voice. And by doing so I am able to surrender in bigger waves; to trust the process and allow Life to lead me to my true vocation.

photo by: moi hiking the peak of highland bowl / ski season 2011

photo by: moi hiking the peak of highland bowl / ski season 2011


I had dinner last night with a dear friend and amazing human being who is also on the sobriety bandwagon for similar reasons as myself. I was realizing after dinner how much easier it is to fraternize with people who are not imbibing because none of the questions about "why aren't you drinking?" and "how long until you're drinking again?" ever come up. So there's no reason to make up a socially acceptable excuse like, "I'm on a cleanse" or "I'm taking antibiotics" in an effort to not feel awkward. 

During dinner we were discussing how when you quit drinking your social circle changes and at first, rather dramatically. In the beginning of conscious sobriety all of the people with whom the only commonality was going out and drinking, fall away. Then, a tad more slowly, the social circle continues to shift as your attitudes about life and love evolve. The people who are stuck in blame, negativity, and resentment begin to fall away as well. Then there are the people who have stuck around seemingly to test your commitment to yourself and your truths as they subtly and repeatedly try to tempt you to live against your own integrity. And when you consistently stand up for yourself, they too eventually fall away. The handful of people that remain in your inner circle of life are the ones who have been supporting you and not passing any kind of judgement. And it may surprise you who the people are that you have allowed into your inner, sober, sanctuaries. In my experience they have been the most unlikely people that were living on the peripheries of my life, cheering me on from the sidelines. The happy and successful people who danced on the edges of my social circles. And now they've come to take up space near the core. And I have caught myself wondering at times how I could have missed their beauty and intelligence. 

One of the things I have experienced though conscious sober living is the grief that shows up around months 2-3 1/2. When this happened to me, I was confused. I was feeling so good physically and my mind was clearer than it had been in a while, so why was I feeling kinda down? I didn't recognize the grief as grief at first. Just an awkward discomfort and the anxiety of not knowing. But after sitting with the discomfort and being curious about it I had an aha! and understood that of course I was feeling this way; my life was changing. And while that is exciting and uplifting I realized there also needs to be a space to say goodbye to the people and actions and beliefs that no longer supported who I was becoming, who I am becoming. That I needed to say goodbye to the people and things that no longer served my higher purpose. And I realized I needed to acknowledge those empty places. Really sit with them and feel their emptiness because only then could I begin to fill them with people and actions that supported my journey.

While grief is uncomfortable, it's such an important part of the life process that we can't ignore it. Grief can cause us to become hermetic and retrospective. We may feel tired, bewildered, uninspired, and shy. We may feel very far away from ourselves and who we used to be. And we need to grieve that person too. The person who we once were. That person who loved and was loved differently than today.

It's ok to wallow for a while in your grief. Your heart will tell you when it's time to move on. Prayer helps as does exercise and finding a creative outlet. And binge watching Netflix never hurt anyone either. When you are ready, you'll step confidently and lovingly into yourself while saying goodbye to the past. And you will carry forward all the aspects and memories of yourself that will sustain you on your journey.