A second confession, another realization, and more science. . .
Last week, I unpacked a confession — that I've broken my 11-year sobriety in an effort to mitigate my stress with the move to TN. It didn't really work of course... but it was an interesting experiment. To catch up on it if you missed it, you can read that here.
We spent my 50th weekend at a 3-day run with the band Phish, after 2+ weeks of "vacation" on Shambhala, drinking nearly daily. It didn't feel good. I didn't love it. I was going with the flow because being around people who drink can be tiresome and depressing. You can't convince someone into sobriety, and I've been playing the game of "if you can't beat them, join 'em" for over a year, much to my own chagrin. It was fun while it lasted (kind of)... (not really), and then I had a major realization:
I've been struggling with my brain. My brain has felt limp, un-reactive, slow, sluggish, confused, and foggy. I blamed it on the "decision-making fatigue," the stress — the continual marathon we've been on with building Shambhala.
I was finally able to connect this to the work of Dr. Amen's work, and the disservice I've been doing to myself. Amen's scans show that even just a drink a week can create holes in your brain (among other things mentioned last week). I began to wonder how long it would take to heal my brain from the damage I'd done. So, I began to study Dr. Amen's work even more.
Sidebar and Confession #2: I was not only using alcohol. I'd gone back to smoking marijuana. It started with CBD for sleep. Harmless right? I hear the supportive arguments: "It's just one of God's plants, we have receptors for it." Science is linking some pretty severe claims to marijuana these days, including psychosis, depression, anxiety, and memory loss. Although I'd begun using it for anxiety, I noticed the next morning my anxiety was 10-fold.
I could go a week without either, no problem. The first day or two might be tricky—literally—the brain would trick me, and before I knew it, I was stoned or had a drink. But once I got past that first 3 days, I was good for the long haul. Yet, something would tempt me — a show, a dinner out, a reason to partake, and I would. The cycle would repeat.
Luckily, according to Dr. Amen, it can take just a few weeks for the brain to regrow itself, miraculously, thankfully. But until the brain has recovered, which can take months depending on the damage, the temptation to drink is still there — the body craves what it's made of, just like your gut health. You eat sugar = you crave sugar.
After the weekend of Phish, I came home sick. I spent 48 hours in bed, and the next few days taking it slow. My lungs hurt, my head hurt, my body felt poisoned. I was not only drinking and smoking, I was surrounded by cigarette smoke. I was also thinking some dark thoughts.
But a synchronicity happened on the 2nd night. The group of people who chose to sat in front of us all had a badge on that said "one show at a time." I finally had the nerve by the set break to ask one of them if it referred to sobriety, and it did. They told me about their journeys and why they're all together, and I thought, yes, I can get behind this. There's even a group at set break that meets for a "sobriety meeting." So cool. So inspiring. So synchronous.
While in bed, I thought of Dr. Amen, and I thought of Shambhala. When we wrote our guidelines for this magical place, we declared Shambhala a place of sobriety and clarity, intention and light. This declaration comes from many different philosophers' impressions upon us. From James Redfield to Dan Millman, Joe Dispenza to Mike Dooley, Louise Hay to Wayne Dyer. They all declare alcohol (and any mind-altering drug) to be a detriment to the mind, body and soul.
So, onward I go. From 3 days, to 10. Milestone upon milestone I will rebuild the 10 years, I know. Because I remember now why I quit. Because I'm smarter without it, and I like being smart. Because I'm happier without it, and I like being happy. Because I'm brighter without it, and I like being bright.
Don't dim your light for anyone or anything. Keep shining. And if you're struggling to clean up, reach out. You're not alone.
One show at a time,
A Confession and a Realization...
For 11 years I was relatively alcohol-free. I drank on only very special occasions—that I could count on one hand in 11 years. A taste of champagne on our visit to the Loire Valley in France. A polite, but tiny, glass of table wine in Italy when my cousin said it was from his very own vineyard. But never more than a few sips, never at home, nor even at a wedding. Just to actually appreciate the craftsmanship of the product.
But let me back up. I quit drinking in 2011, at the age of 38, because I felt it no longer suited me. I remember the night of my last drink, it was my mother-in-law's birthday, August 1st, and my parents were also in town. We were at a fancy restaurant in Steamboat called Cafe Diva, and I had a few too many chocolate martinis. A few days earlier we'd been at a wedding, and I'd also had (more than a few) too many dirty gin martinis. Enough so that I'd blacked out and didn't remember the end of the night. I'd been contemplating letting go of alcohol for months, in fact, I'd quit once already—for all of 2009.
It was easy to walk away from for me, I never had an addiction to alcohol. I felt it had a darkness I didn't want in my body—something I realized in college. So, when I made the decision to "go sober" / "get clean" it was more about the health of my body and spirit than it was about the booze.
That said, even though the decision was easy, the social aspect wasn't. It seemed to make people uncomfortable, and they loved to pressure me to drink. But I stuck to my guns, and one thing that helped was counting time. Once I'd made it to the year-mark, I used that as my bargaining chip: Why drink now? I'd come so far. Then two years, then three. Before I knew it, I was celebrating my 10th anniversary. I would post my "sobriety date" on Facebook and get all the back-patting comments, inspiring some to do the same, but it felt a little false. I wasn't an alcoholic. I was just a health-nut. And alcohol wasn't healthy. At least for me.
Then my world changed on a dime. Selling most of our stuff, our home, starting from scratch, and build build build build build (still building lol) in TN. No one knew me here, so they didn't know I'd had a commitment, and what I realize now is that what it boils down to--I didn't have accountability. The drinking started small—at a meetup, I had a cider. Then on a build weekend, I had another. It was rare, until it wasn't. One drink led to two. A weekend led to daily.
Even though it seemed harmless, every time, I asked myself why. The answers I got sounded like someone else, someone I was coaching, not myself. "Because I'm stressed." "Because I deserve it." "Because everyone else is." "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." None of these sounded like the mindset and health coach I knew I was.
Side bar: Several months ago I watched the famous TED Talk from Dr. Daniel Amen, a leading psychiatrist who's been using neuroscientific testing to study the brain—over 10,000 scans—on alcohol. What I learned was not surprising, yet it was shocking.
In summary, drinking just 1-2 drinks per day:
✎ Shrinks the brain
✎ Creates holes in the brain
✎ Reduces blood flow to the brain
✎ Reduces brain cells
✎ ... and increases the risk of dementia
So why do people still do it?
This was always a big challenge when I was sober—frankly, being around the stupidity. No matter the age of the person in front of me, alcohol seemed to make them unpleasant to be around. Because their vibration dropped, their neuro-functioning was immediately and quite evidently decreased, and our conversation was often meaningless, tiresome, and impotent.
Did that change once I started drinking? A little. Only that it was tolerable to be around everyone else. Only that the pressure of what we're doing seemed to decrease (albeit temporarily). But I'd always wake up with regret, a sense of self-betrayal, and a fog I couldn't shake, sometimes for days.
What I have come to accept: This been an interesting experiment, and it's run its course.
In order to keep this (relatively) bite-sized, I will again split this in two.
To be continued...
Self-reflection is paramount;
50 is Nifty
When I was 10, I was told DOUBLE DIGITS! Like it was a huge milestone, a right of passage. Little did I know.
When I was 20, I thought I was grown up. Little did I know.
When I was 30, I felt like I was entering middle age. Little did I know.
When I was 40, I felt like I was still figuring it all out. I felt silly to think I hadn't yet. Little did I know.
Now I am turning 50, and when I think of what 50 looked like to 10, 20, 30 or 40, it felt old. I don't feel old. I feel better at 50, in fact, than I did at 30. At 30, I ate like crap, floundered in purpose and dedication (and loyalty), and it showed.
I am still figuring it out, but I am doing so by nurturing my inner child right now. I am seeing the young child parts of my self that haven't healed, and have come to Shambhala to do so. I am seeing the young adult parts of my self that haven't matured, and I have come to Shambhala to do so. And that may take another 50 years, and that's okay. I know what we are creating here is a place for everyone to do that kind of deep work and healing, through the land, though, not through me. My days of "healing" others are long behind me. Because we can't do that. Only us and us alone can do the work it takes to heal. And that knowledge alone, makes me feel every day of 50 — all 18,250 days of it.
That's a lot of miles... but not half way! If you know me well, you'll know my vision. I will live to 108. The number of beads on the mala and rosary strands, the number of completion. I have seen it, and it feels good. And I know it will be approaching the darkest of winter's days, so I'll be 108.5. And I'll have gone through my 4th Saturn Return.
Yes, 50 is a milestone, but 50 is just a number, another day, another year, another decade, and only whatever you make of it. I plan to make this year my best, as I always do. With the help of this magical place we now get to call home. I hope you come visit us here. It's indescribable.
Milestones are magical...
Lessons from the Land
If you read my musings from last week, you'll know that after 13 months of waiting, planning, creating, manifesting and completing more tasks than I can remember, we've finally made it to our final destination – The Shambhala Collective. To 40 acres in Eastern Tennessee, where 5 of us have partnered together to create a sustainable, off-grid, cooperative permaculture farm and education center (yes, that's a mouthful, and it's sometimes as daunting as it sounds).
First, it feels so good to be here. It's slower (as I mentioned last week), calmer, gentler, happier, and downright blissful, most of the time. When we remember not to sweat the small stuff. Such as miscommunication, a broken this or that, running out of space in our poop buckets, and generally—quite literally—sweating our thick-blooded tushies off (welcome to the South!).
The messages that keep recirculating for me are as follows. I hope they are helpful.
1. Be patient with the minds and hearts of others. They may not move as fast as yours, they may not be as open as yours, they may not love change. Be patient, send love, and ask questions.
2. Living in community is new. We are all adjusting to this concept. The lack of privacy, but the gain of so much more is what we brushed up against yesterday, and we don't even have all 8 of our families here yet. When we do, I see joyous gatherings, helpful work sessions, and the food--so much food and resources to share! And honestly, I felt the lack of privacy so much more deeply in Suburbia than I do here. I can shower naked behind my deck with no one in sight, just the birds and the trees as my witness. I couldn't even walk around in my own home naked because we have had neighbors on all four sides, within 20 yards, for over 15 years. I'm not a nudist, let me clarify, but I have been naked in creeks with friends in the woods and not cared a bit... but not, again, for well over 15 years (more like 25).
3. Trust that the Universe ALWAYS (always always!) provides! She has brought us this amazing piece of land. She has gifted us with amazing neighbors. She has given us the fruits of her own natural and abundant labor (the wild blackberries. OMG!). She has shown us what paths to take, which friends to make, and what branches to shake. She is with us, always. All you have to do is ask, and then TRUST. Which is harder for you? Perhaps both.
I am grateful to be here now, especially, as I am in the month of my birth, cycling into my 5th decade, and ready for the "second half" of a magical life that I have manifested through synchronicity, but more on that next week.
In Goddess we trust,
It's all happening
We have entered the fast pace of summer--where most things external distract and dance our attentions away, where busy is an understatement, where the pace quickens despite the desire to slow down.
This is normal. This is summer. Fun! Music! Travel! Kids! Play! Camping! Every weekend is packed, every party is loud, an so is the pool.
But here, on Shambhala, it is different.
On Monday, we moved all of our belongings up to the land, despite not being finished with our home—to be settled in one place, to be focused on one thing, to come together to build. We have slowed. Our hearts are open, our minds are open, and our pace is slow.
This is because when you retreat to the woods, you are on nature's time. The weather dictates projects. The energy levels dictate pace. There is no air-conditioning, and there is barely a kitchen, but it's coming together.
I went to the city today, and I watched the pace quicken, the traffic swell, the heat index rise. It was relieving to come home—to the country—to sit in solitude, with the one little bee that is buzzing around me as I write this. And it feels grounding, pacifying, and intentional.
I urge you to practice slowing. It's good for you. Listen to the birds, feel the heartbeat of mother earth, slow down and set intentions. Live in the present moment with enrichment. You won't regret it.
Wayne Dyer calls this getting in the gap between thoughts. This is the void--where the magic happens.
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