I woke up this morning feeling like I had an actual hangover. Is that a thing? A phantom hangover from merely fighting the idea of a drink?
Given my mental fogginess, I gave myself permission to process less today. Today, I didn’t need to understand anything in particular. I declared it “sensory day” – just seeing, hearing, feeling, touching and tasting. No thinking but for one exception – I’d rethought the bath. The day was definitely going to end with a recovery meeting and a bath.
I went back to the same cafe this morning and wrote for two hours – just letting the words pour out with very little editing. I just allowed them to be whatever they were, knowing full well that a rather metaphoric post about addiction would not speak to everyone, but hope-trusting a handful of souls might nod in recognition at the bat-shit craziness of it all, and feel less alone in the world.
I felt lighter after having written it all down, and suddenly wanted to romp in the dog park as much as Pippa.
Having been there before she was relaxed and happy. Having been there before, I was also relaxed and happy. I ran around with Pippa, like a puppy myself.
As much as I seek out new experiences, a good part of me needs familiarity and routine. Even if it is just for two days in a town I’ve never been to before.
The drive between Prescott and Cottonwood along Highway 89A was stunning. Up, up, up…. trees getting taller, taller, taller. Before I knew it, the Verde Valley appeared and we were in the mountainside town of Jerome.
There’s something funky and just a little spooky about this little town of Jerome. Like, there was voo-doo in the air or something. The song “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors played quietly in the back of my head the whole time I was there, a strange soundtrack to accompany the higher-end galleries and wine-tasting bars. There were “Day of the Dead” skulls peeking out of unexpected spaces, and unwashed windows in high places. History. I could feel it. It is home to an old gold mine and a ghost town, but I wasn’t feeling up to meeting any new ghosts today. I have enough of my own to contend with presently and no more room in my van.
Pippa and I simply wandered through the town, which seemed to be all uphill no matter which way we navigated (what sorcery is this??) There were many visitors, all carrying shopping bags. It felt as if three busses had dropped them off simultaneously and might reappear at any moment to pick them all up.
Although almost every building appeared to be a heritage building (a bit like Prescott), this part of Arizona feels more “urban” than the southern areas. Local diners have morphed into bistros, if you know what I mean. Art for sale is of the “one of a kind” variety and jewellery has artist’s names attached to it.
I was able to smile at all the bars; the ones disquised as tourist attractions. They couldn’t fool me today. We didn’t actually go into any of the shops; I just window-wondered, imagining I’d likely return another time to enjoy the “full” experience and meet the ghosts who live here personally.
Today was just a gentle skimming. Because that’s all I felt like doing, and I’m the boss of me. This is becoming a bit of a mantra. I hear those words in my head in the voice of my four year old self, and know for sure I’m having a second childhood. Learning all the lessons I somehow missed the first time around.
There is a moment each day, when that day “turns” for me. It’s never at noon – when it becomes “afternoon” – that would be too easy. It must be the moment I notice the sun has dipped, but it’s not conscious. It just happens, and I am inspired to begin winding down; to have a plan for my safety, to have cover for the night.
That moment came around 3:00 pm, and it was suddenly time to move on. No thinking needed. There was a motel with my name on it, in the nearby town of Cottonwood. I’d looked ahead and found a recovery meeting at 5:30 and had a firm plan in place to have that long bath before.
Which I did. And it was divine.
Now, why was a bath divine tonight, and not last night? Because tonight it was just a bath, and not a near-drowning incident. Because last night, addiction had alterior motives and it took me a while to get wise to them.
That’s the dastardly super-power of addiction. It hijacks your thinking. Which can then hijack your behaviour. It takes a perfectly healthy, strong brain, one capable of making good decisions for it’s attached person, and renders it unconscious while it has it’s way with them. Being sober (for me) feels like a continual exercise in being wide awake and alert to this. It can all happen so quickly.
I was warmly welcomed at the meeting here in town. There were 30 souls gathered, aging from 18 to 80 I’d guess, from all walks of life and educational backgrounds. All seeking to keep addiction at bay so they can hope to live rich, full, healthy lives.
I shared a bit about my struggles with the group, and a young woman folded a little ticket into a small heart and slipped it across the table to me, when I wasn’t looking. When I did look, she smiled the warmest smile and nodded into my eyes. She had just made it to 6 months herself. And here she was, sharing love with me. I could feel such hope in that little heart. It now lives in my cell phone case to remind me I’m not alone.
When I came home I almost ordered a pizza (sometimes I overeat when I am struggling with cravings) but when I really paid attention to how I was feeling, I decided eating a whole pizza with double cheese wasn’t required at all.
Despite having had a rough bump yesterday, it was enough to have a second bath and enjoy a bagel with avocado, from my van-kitchen. There was nothing today I needed to numb out from. Nothing to bury or burn. That’s the sort of life I want to live.
Living in a minivan for an extended period of time isn’t for the faint of heart, but it isn’t an endurance contest either. No one living in a house would ever think it was somehow “cheating” if they stayed at a resort for a week or two in the winter. Or for any reason at all for that matter.
We all need to change things up once in a while. Maybe it’s taking a day off from the road, maybe it’s something else. But it’s important to be resposive, and flexible. Especially if one is going to sustain this lifestyle and enjoy it. I’ve been on the road almost 8 months and take a day or two off the road each month on average. I just seem to know when it’s time. If I look for patterns, I suspect it’s usually after something “big” (like when my daughter left) or when I feel a bit vulnerable and need more physical comfort.
We must be kind to ourselves. We don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Our lives are blank canvases, and we are free to paint in any style we like. Maybe it’s just me, being the goal oriented type. I still have the internalized “me” that wants the ego-boost of “achievement”. Needing comfort is not something I always feel comfortable with.
But this journey isn’t about achievement.
It’s more about a new kind of gentle acceptance. It’s about going with the flow. Learning to listen to my instinct. It’s not about becoming someone new, or finding myself.
It’s about discovering who I already am and knowing I am already enough.