Day 25 – Finding reasons NOT to drink in a time that definitely calls for a drink.

Covid-19 is top of the news, as it should be. It is a scary time. I believe we are in a time of change. A paradigm shift, if you will. I believe what is happening now is going to change the way we look at the world and specifically the way Millennial’s interact with their world going forward. I believe this change will be painful. But ultimately, perhaps we can find some good.

I believe we will all have to live with less. As of March, 2020, we are only just seeing the downstream effects of the impact on our global communities and supply chains. In a consumer driven, “disposable” world obsessed with more, bigger, newer, and scheduled obsolescence – we will be forced to slow down and accept a little less, at least temporarily.

Generations in the past have had these lessons, and I believe we are about to learn them as well.

As restaurants and bars close, gatherings of large numbers of people are cancelled, and children are sent home from school for weeks on end, we are forced to rethink how we live our lives. Currently there is no end in sight for this.  My hope is that this is over quickly. We blunt the spread of this through “social isolation” and can get back to our normal existence.

From the time we were infants we have spent our lives trying to understand our world and how we fit into it. As adults, we still learn. Social interaction is a HUGE part of this learning from early on. Limiting social interaction, even temporarily will be detrimental to some and catastrophic for others.  Elimination of places to gather – drinks with friends, happy hours, ball games and sporting events, plays, parades, bars, and legion halls will eliminate some of the only external interaction that is available for some people. Changing our physical culture from hand shakes and hugs to fist-bumps and elbow bumps will also have a separating effect on us as a people, albeit small.

What does this have to do with drinking or being sober? In my mind, everything. As we all plan for a world that is very different from the one, we know – we reach for the familiar. We want to understand our world. We want it to make sense. Up until recently, drinking was familiar. Drinking was a way to destress, loosen up, socialize with friends, and relax. If anyone needs to destress, loosen up, and socialize with friends (even if it is in small numbers) it is us, now. In short… I need a drink. Maybe we all do.

So how do I combat this psychological craving? To be honest, I admit that I want a drink first. That is putting it mildly. I admit that what I really want is to get all-the-way, properly, piss drunk, fucked up. I want to forget all this. I want to take a fucking mental break from fear and anxiety. It’s exhausting. I want to close my eyes and down the first of many glasses of wine. I want the sweet release of a hazy brain and watch lazily from a chair as the room spins… I need to get drunk. So badly.

Okay… I said it. I feel better. Now on to the way I have succeeded in NOT drinking (so far). I mentally list the reasons not to drink.  Here was the list from last night.

  1. I have 24 days sober. I’m doing so good. I haven’t cheated once. Don’t ruin it now.
  2. I hate hangovers. I have to work tomorrow and there is much to do. I can’t be fuzzy headed and feel ill. Also, I hate hangovers
  3. I need my wits. I need to be focused on what needs to be done for my home, my kiddo, my life. I can’t do that properly piss-drunk or hungover.
  4. I can’t afford to pick it back up again. Everyone’s job is in jeopardy except health care workers – even mine – so I can’t afford at $10 / day wine habit again. Knock it off. Austerity measures, bitch.
  5. It really does feel good to be sober.
  6. Tomorrow is 25 days. So close to 30. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS.

These are the things on my list. I hope you find your own list. If you have other coping ideas – please feel free to share.

Join me in a pledge to:
be community minded.
be kind to each other.
help one another and look out for each other.
learn to cook, sew, plant, preserve food.
reuse, recycle, and repair where we can.
learn self-reliance and patience.
(most importantly) wash our hands.

Love will not cure illness, but it will sure make our world a better place and make what’s happening around us feel a little less scary.

Much love to you all and please stay well!

Day 21 – Getting Sober, Just in time for the end of the World.

As I congratulate myself on 21 days sober, and we embark on the end of the world as we know it, I ask myself – well, shit… why try to do this now? Isn’t the end of the world the absolute BEST time to live it up, get sauced, and throw caution to the wind? Shit. Now or never, right?

Well… Yes and no. Depends on how you look at it.

On the one hand, yes. A glass (read: bottle) of red wine would be lovely to wind down from the day of worry over my job (Will I need to take off work? Can I afford that? Is my company in jeopardy?), the state of my 401k and investments (dwindling), my still impending divorce (looming), and whether my stockpile of toilet paper is big enough (probably not) …

However, on the other hand, if this is a real crisis, which I suspect it is – then a clear, level head is exactly what is required. I can think of no better reason to be sober than my family may need me to make preparations and decisions in their best interest. I definitely think more clearly now than I did just a month ago – of this I am certain. In addition to that, I am healthier when less pickled, giving my liver, gut, and immune system a chance to work better. With this in mind, I wish had become sober sooner. From a fiscal perspective, saving money on wine/beer (which would definitely be considered a “non-essential”), frees up my finances for more important things – like that ever growing stockpile of toilet paper.

In all seriousness, take care of yourselves. Take care of your friends and family. Take care of your neighbors.  We are literally all in this together. If we work together, look out for each other, and not try and take advantage of each other, things will get better.

I wish you and your family good health.

Day 18: Sobriety: What you do when no one is looking

This subject has been on my mind the past few days, I think because I have been by myself more than usual. Surprisingly, it has been easier not to drink when I am with someone who is drinking than it has been when I am alone. Maybe, this is because I said I will not drink so feel I cannot drink.

Yesterday I wanted a beer.  I still have “leftover” beer at my house from before I quit drinking that I refuse to throw out. I am rebellious about it, I guess. I live in a society in which I cannot avoid alcohol. I have already stated I don’t believe alcohol is inherently bad. I do believe it is poison. But many things we ingest are, on some level, poison (many FDA cleared drugs are, for instance). Enough of anything can kill you.

The reason I keep the beer is multi-faceted. 1. I am stubborn and refuse to believe I cannot be around it and not drink it. 2. I must learn live in a world with alcohol, but not partake in it. 3. I keep it around in the “beer fridge” outside in case someone comes over, I can offer them a drink.  (Funny, I thought and almost wrote “offer them poison,” which is a funny thing to offer people you like, I suppose. But again, no preaching here. We are all on our own journey). I will keep that beer in my fridge until it “goes bad” or someone drinks it.

This weekend I wanted that someone to be me. I wanted a beer to complement my weekend-warrioring-outside-suburban-farming-bad-assery. I worked really hard outside this weekend and wanted to “reward myself” with a beer.

I live alone. I was doing chores Sunday alone. I had a great day working in the yard. I was sore and exhausted and accomplished almost 100% of my goal for the weekend. I most certainly couldn’t have done nearly as much (or any) if I were hungover. My weekend goals are usually lofty so getting to nearly 100% completion is an accomplishment! Surely, I could reward my hard work with a beer.  Two, tops… Besides, no one would know. I could have ONE beer or maybe TWO and not be hungover tomorrow. It would satisfy that “itch” and then the craving would leave me alone for a while.

I don’t crave alcohol in the traditional sense. When I stopped drinking, I did not go into a physical withdraw. I did experience what I considered mini-withdraws after nights of heavy drinking (shaking, heart racing, hangover symptoms). My craving is more psychological than physical. But I think the craving is just as real, and may be more dangerous in some ways. Like many, my psychological craving triggers are reward, pain, stress, and the need to avoid/escape.

So, I had a decision to make. Do I drink the one or two beers that no one is counting but me? Do I let myself be “an adult, goddammit and have a beer if I want to”? Or do I allow myself the option to do the difficult thing? Stick to a commitment and see it through? Do I reward my hard day’s work with a beer or undo the last 16 days of hard work with that same beer?

I considered: What would happen after the two beers? Would there be two more? Would I then drink with friends again or just hide it at home, like a true, closeted drunk? I thought of this blog. Let me tell you, more than once I have thought “I could just delete the blog and no one would know it ever existed – not like I have a ton of followers or anyone is watching really.”  But this blog isn’t for others (yet it is), it is for me. Like my relationship with alcohol, it’s complicated. I love this medium and getting my thoughts out in an organized fashion. I love the interaction with others and knowing that maybe I am helping someone that is watching my journey.

I decided to compromise. I did two things: I got in my car and drove to the grocery store. I bought a six pack of Beck’s N/A beer. I also told another friend about my sobriety and about this blog. She requested the URL, so I gave it to her (hey girl – if you’re reading this, thanks!!) I brought the Beck’s home, cracked one open.  I drank one fake-beer and almost fell asleep on the couch before I finished it.  This was a test. I wouldn’t say I nailed it. I still wanted that beer. But I did pass. Sometimes passing is good enough.

I am becoming more open about my sobriety to friends, and also sharing this blog. I am not a writer by trade, nor am I sober by habit. None of my friends or family know me as either – so sharing both of these things makes me feel vulnerable and nervous. Perhaps this is my next step. Coming out.

Day 14 – Sobriety: Why Choose to be (stay) sober?

In the last year, I couldn’t make it one week without drinking. I would say “okay, one week (or two, or 5 days, or name your time frame) – no booze. If I can’t do that, then I must have a problem…” I can’t be the only person that has said this – made “deals” with myself in order to try and “test” whether I was an alcoholic or not. I have gone A/F for a week and longer in years past – but in these past 8-9 months it has been a real struggle to even get to 7 days. By day two I would drink again or day three.. But I couldn’t make it to seven. I would always have an excuse. Stress at work, celebrate with friends, I’m and adult goddammit and I will have a drink if I want… Name the excuse, I used it. My most recent attempt at 28 days A/F was out of sheer desperation. I thought something has to change or everything I’ve work for is going to fall apart. I felt like my life was starting to unravel and I was the idiot who wouldn’t quit pulling at the loose thread. Now no time is good for a life to unravel, but I felt at this point in my life it was the most inopportune time. So, I dug in and tried to reset my mind about drinking – read some books, bought some journals (that I never used), and did some online research. I had moderate success, but as previously noted, I did cheat.

A sober friend said to me today “it’s easier to be sober when life is easier.” And I am sure that is true. My main reason for wanting to quit drinking was precisely because my life is difficult right now. I was counselled that I will need to be in the best shape of my life mentally, physically, and emotionally in order to face what is coming my way. Divorce is ugly and gets uglier before it gets better. I have many “heavy lifts” emotionally, financially, and logistically with regard to my upcoming “un-nuptials” so need to be focused and clear-headed to face that challenge. In addition, a promotion at work has created more responsibility for me (sometimes good changes are also stressful). By drinking to excess and being hungover multiple days per week, I was not at my best and made my challenges even more challenging.  My choosing sobriety is an effort to respond to the need to face those challenges head on, as my best self.

But this is not the only reason I chose to be sober. I also chose to be sober to try and reclaim my life. I have been sober-curious for years. I have questioned myself. Do I have a problem? Do I drink too much? Am I an alcoholic? All the questions every sober-curious, alcohol-soaked person has asked themselves after a night of one-too-many or a day of I-just-wanna-lay-here-and-die.

I choose to be sober now because I absolutely love the way this feels. The benefits of sobriety for me, right now, far outweigh the benefit of being mentally absent and temporarily escaping my reality.

I would think in order to stay sober you need a reason (or reasons) to continue to be sober, even when you don’t really want to be sober. Currently, I have six. I am making this list because I know one day I will want to drink. Time will make me forget how today feels and the juxtaposition of sober life to the alternative. This list serves as my reminder.

So, through cataloging, self-reflection, and taking inventory, I have come up with a few good reasons to stay sober. Here are the short term results of sobriety as I have experienced them over the past two weeks.

  1. No Hangovers – I can try to describe how it feels to not be tired, head achy, sluggish, brain foggy, sick to my stomach, and bleary eyed, but I think I will do this feeling a misjustice. Remarkable is the word that comes to mind. Fantastic. Amazing. This benefit alone is almost worth the price of admission (not booze).
  2. I can drink four non-alcoholic beers and still drive to the bank (or anywhere).
    1. This recently happened to me.  I was working on my chicken coop in the backyard – I fancy myself a suburban farmer – and drinking a couple N/A beers while I worked. Drinking beer while wood-working or doing outdoor chores has always been a go-to for me. My tenant came with his rent and I had to go deposit this money in the bank. If I had been drinking, I would have had to wait until the next day (a work day) and make that deposit around my work schedule. I surely would have forgotten to do it, and that money would have set in my purse for a week before I got it into the bank. I was able to get the task done in real time and save myself the job of trying to fit it into my weekly schedule. I could do this without worry of being pulled over, or if my BAC was too high, or if I was a danger to anyone on the road. No anxiety. No buzz. No hangover the next day.
  3. Increased energy – This has been a surprise. I thought I had high energy before. I love doing projects around the house. I am always dreaming up and thinking about potential and new projects for my little “homestead” in the burbs. What I only now realized is that I had lost that energy. I thought of myself as someone that did these things (because I was before) but I had allowed drinking to replace a lot of that *(see earlier posts). I hate to say I allowed drinking to “rob me” of anything, because in all honestly, I gave it away freely, even if I didn’t realize I was doing it. I can’t blame the drink itself for my inability to see what I was allowing the drink to do to me.
  4. Increased productivity / focus – This has also been wonderful. I have tackled some projects at work that I was putting off. I have more focus and am able to get more done in less time. I feel like my old self again. I received a promotion at work, but was pretty ambivalent about it. I have been questioning everything. I felt stagnant. I realize now that I was in a fog. I was unable to concentrate and everything seemed more difficult.  Now I am very excited about my career path and where it is heading.
  5. Physical changes – aside from feeling more enthusiastic about life, I have more physical energy. I feel more in tune with my body. I check my “form” daily – and although I am not losing weight yet, I am seeing definite changes to the shape of my body. Belly bloat is way down, face bloat too. I feel leaner and less “puffy” all over. With physical energy through the roof, I am ready to take on my life and feel physically capable to complete tasks and goals, big or small.
  6. Emotional changes – I am so much more even keeled. I feel calm and centered. I feel like I am less reactive emotionally. More importantly, I feel more motivated to tackle the things I have been putting off. More willing to face the ugly things that are a little (or very) painful. More willing to shine a light in the dark places and address what I find there. I am much more prepared to face the uncomfortable tasks ahead of me. Being more present, I have more gratitude and appreciation for the lovely things in my life.

These are my six take-aways from this two-week experience and how it has changed me so far. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but it is getting easier. I know that there will be dark days ahead of me, as well as some beautiful ones. I hope to face those sober and fully present. Feel all the things that I must feel, change what can be changed, let go of what must be let go, and accept what must be accepted. I will spend the time doing the work that needs to be done. Building a better me.

Make it a beautiful day, y’all. I intend to.

Day 12 – Sobriety and Alcohol Math

I was thinking about the first time I tried to quit drinking (for 28 days). It didn’t work out brilliantly for me, but it did give me an idea of what to expect on this next leg of the journey. It also gave me a little insight into some alcohol math.


What is alcohol math?

Well, it is the hard numbers associated with alcohol. As I understand it, long term sobriety is associated with wonderful intangible benefits: better sleep, less bloat, better skin, more focus, no hangovers, less embarrassing situations, and more energy to name a few.

Alcohol math addresses the tangible benefits. What you can see with your own eyes that is objective (numbers) as opposed to subjective (my skin looks better)? Well, turns out, there are at least two.

Let’s start with a biggie for me – and most of us that are not independently wealthy: Money.

If I go out 4 times per week and drink an average of 4 beers at $6 each – that is $96 / wk. This translates to $416/ month and $4992/ year.  That money could fund at least a weekend get-away.  Now this is not taking into account if I get food while I am out (consider my idiotic “fool-proof” system of having a couple drinks + food = okay to drive). So even if I didn’t drink 4 times per week “out,” I most assuredly would have some food with those couple drinks and spend that $96/week easily. Sometimes it could be $96 in a weekend, hell, since we are being honest -an evening.

Now if I was going to be “going all-in” on a night out and not moderating my alcohol intake, I would arrange for a ride. I think Uber and Lyft are great ride services, if for no other reason they keep drunk people out from the behind the wheels of cars.  That said, I could spend $60 on an Uber or Lyft on a round trip from my home into town/bar/etc. If I split this, which I often did, that would equate to about $30/outing. If I did that type of outing once per week only (this is conservative) – that would add $30 to my $96/wk. This equates to a total of $126/week, $546/month, $6552/year. What asshole has that kind of money to spend on future hangovers? Apparently, me.  I’m that asshole.

A couple months ago, when I tried to complete the practice 28 day “dry-run” on sobriety (pun intended), I calculated how much money I spent (in ride services alone) the previous month. This math checks out and is a little conservative. I spent $150-$180 in paid rides alone for the two months leading up to my first 28 day sobriety challenge.

I know people that drink less than I did and people that drink more. Spending will vary for every person – but I bet if you sat down you could do this math easily. Numbers don’t lie, folks. I like money way more than I like hangovers. Just being honest.

The second kind of alcohol math I’ve considered is Alcohol Caloric Math.

Most people understand that calories in alcohol are empty calories. They serve no nutritional purpose, are high in sugar, and contribute to obesity and diabetes. It is called a “beer belly” or “wine gut” for a reason.

Some simple alcohol calorie (kcal) math:

Beer has about 153 kcal/12 oz beer on average.

Wine has 125-165 kcal (we can average this to 145 kcal/ 5 oz of wine.

Number of calories in one pound = 3500

Let’s say (conservatively) I drink 4 beers on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday.

On Friday I drink 2 glasses of wine while out at dinner.

On Saturday, I drink 3 glasses with some friends that stopped by.

For the week:

12 beers = 1848 kcal

5 glasses of wine = 725 kcal

Total empty, non-nutritional calories for the week = 2573

Number of calories in 1lb = 3500.

If I do this every week over an above my actual caloric need, and I get all my required kcals from the food I eat, these additional empty calories will equate to a 38.2 lb weight gain for the year.

How did I come up with that math? 2573 kcal *52 weeks = 133,796 kcal per year / 3500 kcal in one pound = 38.2 lb total gain. Options? 1. Eat less. Replace nutritional (food) calories with empty (alcohol) ones. 2. Work out more to compensate. Y’all, I have busted my ass to burn 600 kcal in a work out class, or on the elliptical for an hour… I do not want to spend that time burning off the booze just to stay where I am when I could be burning of excess and getting FIT. I don’t have enough time or energy to exercise all of that off. I don’t think any of us do.

These are examples for me. But if my examples don’t work for you, please feel free to calculate your own. I used a combination of excel and this NIH website: https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Tools/Calculators/Calorie-Calculator.aspx

Happy Calculating!

Day 11 – Sobriety and the Juice Paradox

Day 11 – Sobriety and The Juice Paradox

It occurred to as I embark on this journey to better health and sobriety that drinking and good health do not always go hand in hand.

I am striving to be a better me.  Better sleep. Less anxiety. Better skin. Less bloat. More energy. More productivity. More patience. As I grow into my mid to late 40’s, and the hormonal changes that are associated with “women of a particular age” set in, I wonder – what can I do to improve my health (and let’s be honest, waistline)?

With these improvements in mind, I researched medications, herbal remedies, creams, exercise, diet, fasting, and meditation. Smoothies and juicing became a part of my weekly routine, along with more movement, mindful eating, fasting, counselling, and journaling.  All of these things improved my state of being. However, sleep was still elusive. My energy levels were still often zapped, and I was not nearly as productive as I knew I could be.

But I knew that incremental positive changes would yield great dividends if I just stuck to them.

The one thing I wasn’t addressing, the one thing that could really make an appreciable difference in most if not all of these areas without costing any money – and I didn’t have to actually DO anything… was to slow, limit, or eliminate alcohol consumption. Paradoxically, even though you do “nothing” to achieve sobriety technically, it seems like a great deal of effort if one has a complicated relationship with alcohol.

So here I am, juicing, working out, doing mindful eating, fasting, spending time, energy and money on making positive changes and also drinking to excess multiple times per week – whether its 6 beers (or more), a bottle (or so) of wine, or sugary margaritas – I was undoing all the incremental positive changes that I had worked so hard to make.  

It is like doing everything you can to improve your garden. You water it regularly. You use good compost. You treat pest infestations organically. You make sure it gets the adequate amount of sunlight. You put a great deal of effort into the health and aesthetic of your garden. Then right before bed, you spray just a little bit of Roundup on the whole of your garden. Not enough to kill everything outright, just enough to keep it from its full potential.  This is how I saw the effort I was putting into my health, then undoing all that effort by binge drinking.

I’m not saying drinking is bad. I will never use this blog to preach or say “you need to quit drinking” or “you are hurting yourself with alcohol.” You know if you do and you know if you are. That is a personal realization and a personal decision. No matter what justifications I gave myself or what “antioxidants” I was getting from wine, or “stress relief” I received from those few pints of beer – I knew in my heart that the bad definitely outweighed the good.

A couple months ago, I did a “practice run” on sobriety and was able to go 28 days sober (with a couple cheats in there, for sure). I needed that practice dry-run. It helped me to put into perspective how a real go at sobriety would look/feel. Today, I am really committed this and am seeing results. I feel better. I am sleeping better. I have more patience, more energy, and feel like I have more time. My face and abdomen are less bloated. Does my skin look better? I’m not sure. I am not working out regularly yet again – but will start back soon. I wanted to get over this hump first. I feel like I am almost there. I hope to soon stop thinking about “not drinking” and focus more on the other positive changes I can make to supercharge the improvements I have already experienced from this one small change.  

This change has not been small. Not insignificant. Not fucking easy by any stretch of the imagination. But I appreciate this medium – to get my thoughts out. I am grateful for the support of friends, near and far.  Thank you for taking part in this journey with me. I hope it may help someone else. I can’t be the only one with these thoughts.

Day 8 – Sobriety as background noise

As a newly sober person, I think every day about not drinking. I think about it every single fucking day. Makes me tired. It occurs to me that a person with a “healthy” relationship with alcohol never think about “not” drinking. They just do or don’t. Either way it is of little to no consequence to them. It isn’t in the forefront of their mind. It is just background noise.

A simple happy hour invite goes a little something like this:

How I imagine it goes for a person with a health relationship with alcohol: (people I’m currently simultaneously annoyed with and envious of): My friends are going to happy hour. Should I go to happy hour and have a drink with friends after work? Maybe… Maybe not. Who will be there? I should go, have a beer or two and catch up. Maybe I can catch the game while I’m there… The question of “drinks” is just background noise to the main event – catching up with friends. Person goes to happy hour, has a great time, relaxes, enjoys the game, a beer, some appetizers and some laughs with friends.

How it goes for a person with a complicated relationship with alcohol embarking on sobriety (me): My friends invited me to go to happy hour. Should I go? I miss them, so I should go. If I don’t go, it will be weird. If I do go, I can’t drink. Can I go and not drink? Will I be miserable? If I don’t drink, will my friends have questions? Will I be boring? Will I be bored? Will I want to leave early? Will my leaving early be perceived as my being anti-social? The question of “drinks” becomes the focal point of the decision-making process. Decidedly NOT background noise. I go and try to act “normal” without a drink in my hand, feel awkward ordering iced tea or a mocktail, try too hard, feel uncomfortable, notice what an awkward banana I’m being and leave just a little too early. I then go home and work the events of the evening over in my mind for a couple hours… I want the idea of not drinking to become as small a part of my thought process as the what to have for lunch today. A decision to be made -but easily made with very little brain or emotional power driving it. I feel amazing today physically, but sobriety makes me emotionally tired. I can’t wait for this to all just be background noise.  I know I will get there eventually.

Until then, I will continue to be awkward. Continue to keep showing up. Staying strong. Knowing this is best for me. Waiting for the elephant to get a little smaller and take up a little less space.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. This platform has really helped me to organize my thoughts and keep me accountable.

Day 7 – Sobriety: 3 things I learned in the first week

Only I control my sobriety.

I am in control of my sobriety. No one can do this for me. No one can force me to choose not to drink. My reasons for drinking or not drinking are mine alone. It is not up to anyone else’s opinion about how much I drink or whether it is a “problem” by their own definition. It is up to me to decide what is enough. What is too much. When it is time to stop.

First let me say this: Friends that tell you your drinking is out of control are definitely friends you should listen to. It took a lot of guts for them to come to you and say those things. It was probably extremely difficult to confront you. Please listen to them.

In my case, it was the opposite. When I tell people about my desire to be sober, a few people have said “Hey, it doesn’t look that bad to me… How much are you drinking? Surely you can drink in moderation…” And their perception is what I wanted them to see. A ruse expertly executed to fool those around me. To them, I look “normal.” I usually drink a moderate amount and only really “tear it up” once in a while in front of friends. I don’t drink and drive or get into booze fueled trouble. I have a good job. My house is put together (until recently). I seem normal, high functioning, and social.  But what they don’t see is the wine o’clock turning to a bottle (or so) that leads to 10 o’clock, nothing done, feeling like garbage the next day, on more days than not. That part of me has been safely tucked away where only I can find her. So, because of my ability to hide my intake (for example, recycling bottles/cans in stages), I can feign “normal” drinking. My desire to be sober is my own. It is my goal. It is my responsibility. Only I control it and only I can break it. Regardless of any outside opinions on the matter, I have to look at myself in the mirror every day and ask myself – is this right for me? Right now, the answer is YES.

Let people help me

Let people help me that want to and can. Not everyone will understand my journey, but those that love me will support it. Let them. Tell the truth, as much as I am able. I am not ready to tell all of my truths and that is okay. Let those that are willing to listen hear what I can tell, listen to their feedback.

Goal: Join a sober or sober curious group. I admit I have not done this. AA is not for me (I went to a meeting several years back). I have tried a women’s only sobriety group, but I do not think I was ready for that either. I applaud those that join these groups and think if that is something you need, then you should do it.  I would love to join a group where alcohol is not even in the equation (for the most part). Something active perhaps. I will keep looking.  Meetup.com is a great place to find groups. I have poked around, but as an introverted extrovert (I know, oxymoron), I am intimidated in new groups of people on my own. There is one gal I reach out to on social media and check in with her about my sobriety. We are not very close friends in real life, but are friendly on social media. She is sober and is very open about her sobriety. I have reached out to her over the past few months with my struggle. She is a pragmatic, kind, and a take no excuses kind of gal. I like her. I won’t call her “my sponsor” – but she has definitely become my “sober sounding broad” yes, I understand the misspelling. 😊 Find yourself someone that has gone through it. I think truly they are the best ones to understand and help you.

Forgive myself / Forgive others

Grace. Give it freely to yourself and others.  I cannot wallow in my own self loathing and expect to not drink to quiet that. It is self-sabotage to remind myself of the shittiest parts of my character and past transgressions and expect to not want to drown out that little voice that keeps telling you that you are “just not good enough” or “OMG, remember that time when you…” That is not to say don’t take inventory of oneself. Do that. But when you do, give yourself grace. Give yourself forgiveness. Allow yourself to say “yes, that was shitty” and move on. Ask for forgiveness where required. Forgiveness is not guaranteed however, even if you are truly remorseful. Be okay with that. Forgive yourself anyway. I’m still working on this.

Conversely, I cannot hold the forever-grudge against someone that has wronged me. It has been quoted so many times, I am not sure who said it – but it has been said that “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiving someone is for YOU not for THEM. They don’t need to ask your forgiveness for you to give it. And giving forgiveness does not mean you are weak. In giving forgiveness (especially where no forgiveness is sought) you are actually taking back your power in the situation.  You are saying that you have put this behind you. You don’t have to forget, and it is sometimes useful not to – but forgiveness is a very powerful tool in feeling whole again. I am also working on this. But I must admit, it is much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive myself.

Day 6 – Sobriety, empathy for others, and learning a new dance

Day 6. Almost a week. Feeling strong. Feeling resolute. I know I don’t have this beat yet, but today I am feeling juiced up and ready to go. I am surrounded by people who love and care for me, and are supportive of my journey. I am also acutely aware that my journey may make some others feel uncomfortable. It may make some feel self-conscious of their own alcohol intake.

People I used to drink with regularly, daily or bi weekly, may start to become more aware of their own alcohol consumption in contrast to my abstinence. Just like I will feel out of place being the only one NOT drinking – when it is only two of us, and only one of us IS drinking, perhaps it is awkward for one or both of us. Perhaps not.

I say this because a friend that I have been drinking with regularly, who knows of my recent sobriety goals. He asked me the other day if it “would bother me to take a sip of this beer,” because they wanted to share the taste of it with me. I said no, it wouldn’t bother me. I am not allergic to alcohol, I just choose not to drink it. I do not feel that “tasting” a drink will lead me to drink a whole glass. I am not that type of… wait… I almost said alcoholic… easy, girl.. I am not that type of over-indulger. My problem is when the second one becomes the third and so on. My “off” switch is too frequently broken after a few drinks and I go balls-deep in the hooch until I am stumbly/mumbly and acting like I have jelly legs and no sense. Today, this same friend is coming for dinner and texted me “I’m bringing some wine.” Previously this text would have resulted in a “Woohoo!” or “Hell yeah!” or “You better!” This time my response was “Get it.” I am not sure if they were texting me to warn me, ask permission, or if they were hopeful that they would get the “old-me” response. But it makes me curious if my not drinking is making them uncomfortable.

The more disconcerting thought is that perhaps they are trying to sabotage me or test my resolve. That thought makes me sad, and I don’t want to believe it. Edit: As the evening has closed, I’m happy to report that this was not the case, and I am ashamed that I was suspicious had so little faith in my friend. I should have known better.

I know this journey is going to make some people I know uncomfortable. It may make me uncomfortable. It will make some people question their own alcohol intake and some will even think I am being a judgy bitch by not imbibing with them. I hope that last one isn’t true, but I am prepared for it.

What can I do about this? Be strong. Be kind. Be empathetic. I am not asking anyone to stop drinking around me. I am not preaching or telling people the ills of alcohol or how it is negatively impacting their life. Most of the people I know are aware I am writing a blog – but only a handful know what it is about and even fewer have been given access to it.

This is a not a completely solitary journey for me. I have shared with a few friends my desire to be sober. For some I have told them that it is for a specific amount of time, for others I have shared my real truth, that my goal is truly to be sober for life. The reasons for this difference in messages is as varied as my friends-sets. But in the end, this is MY journey. My truth. In many ways, this is a very selfish journey I am taking. I am laser focused on MY recovery. MY reasons. MY truth. MY. MY. MY. (That’s a lot of “my’s”).

We live in a world obsessed with self-care.  Perhaps we should try to balance our self care with our empathy for others. Ensure that we are getting what we need and still be considerate of others’ needs. Addressing of my own needs doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting the needs of others.

I need to understand how my journey will affect the people I love and be empathetic towards them. I need to understand that they see me a certain way, and it will be an adjustment for them to see me otherwise. I have created and accepted the expectations they have of me. As they can no longer count on my meeting those expectations, I need to understand this will create stress in some relationships. Especially those that are primarily based in a shared love of wine/beer/alcohol.

In all relationships there is a dance. Over time, you learn that dance, and anticipate your partner’s predictable actions so that you can react in a way that is predictable to them. This predictably leads to familiarity, which provides a sense of order. When you do not act or react in a predictable manner, it upsets this order and creates stress for the other “dancer.” Even if the change is positive, it still upsets the balance of the dance. I need to be patient with my friends as they adjust to my new dance moves. Perhaps some will decide they can’t get the steps and will just stop dancing with me. I need to be willing to accept that, as sad as it will be. My hope is that although the tune has changed – they will see me as just as clever a dancer as always and we will find a new rhythm that is pleasing for all of us.

Day 5 – Sobriety and the subtle art of addressing all the shit I was avoiding in my life while I was busy drinking…

The beautiful thing about drinking a lot of alcohol is that it gives you the illusion that you are temporarily removed you from all the responsibilities in your life that are weighing you down. You can be blissfully unaware that your life is falling apart around you. The downside is that when you are done drinking the problems you started with still exist, are still not handled (but are delayed), and may seem much bigger with the raging hangover you currently have. You may also have created some extra problems while being drunk, just for fun. Now you have to deal with your regular life and challenges, plus any problems you created during your drunk-capades, all while dealing with sour stomach, headache and cotton mouth caused by dehydration, exhaustion, and brain fog. When I put it like that it sounds terrible… Why would anyone drink too much? (read: at all).

The downside to being sober is that you realize whatever shit you thought you had together, was most definitely and profoundly not together – despite any facade you were able to erect to convince yourself and others to the contrary. From what I have read (and what I desperately hope), the upside to being sober long term is that you are able to address life’s challenges with more focus, clarity, energy, and determination.

The reasons I wanted to quit over the years have been varied. I have made an ass of myself more than once as a party or work function (that latter was only once – you get called “Otis” for a year at work after the Christmas party and you learn quickly to not even allow yourself to drink at work functions). I have lashed out in alcohol induced anger at people that love me. I have blacked out more times that I care to admit, having said or done things that came directly from my snake-brain and had little to do with higher function thinking but that I do not remember at all the next day. I have put myself in VERY dangerous situations that didn’t always work out in my favor. I have woken up so hungover that I have taken off work. (Side note: as I have gotten older, the hangovers are less like feeling bad and more like recovering from a car accident or minor surgery). After my more raucous bouts of drinking I would always ask myself the inevitable question: “Am I An Alcoholic?” This question has plagued my mind for years. Based on some of the details I have just admitted, some would say “yes.” Most of the more heinous events detailed occurred when I was a much younger woman. But not all. Some would say that solely because I ask the question, the answer is “yes,” until they hear how much and how often I currently drink. Then they say “maybe.” But I dislike the “Alcoholic” label/moniker. I reject the static permanence of being categorized for the rest of my life. I consider myself a person that used to drink, but no longer does. I do this because I feel it is best for me.

The reason I wanted to quit this time is because my ratio of avoidance distractions has changed in the past 6-8 months. I knew I was avoiding some big-ticket items in my life in favor of focusing on more pleasant things (working out, eating clean, working on projects at home, cleaning, cooking, hanging out with friends, dating, and yes, drinking wine). What I noticed is that the ratio of time that these activities were taking was starting to shift. I worked out less, worked on my house less, ate “dirtier,” dated more, hung out with friends more, drank a lot more and more often. What made me really take notice was when I looked around my house one day and saw it had become much less tidy than I was accustomed to, or comfortable with. My bed was unmade, my clothes were piled on the floor and on the dresser, my laundry was way behind. My floors were unswept. I had dirty dishes in the sink. My house was showing the neglect that I was showing my life in general. The big items were still being avoided, but the good-habits had been slowly removed in place of the bad. Now even my housekeeping had started to fail. My house had become a physical representation of my life. Somewhat put together on the surface, but just barely. It was time for change.

With 5 days behind me, I have addressed some of the minor details that needed to be addressed (the house is clean, for a start). I feel energized and have started to address some of the big-ticket items. There is so much to do that still lies ahead of me. I know that drinking would not help me to accomplish what I need to do.

I am currently listening to Take Control of Your life by Mel Robbins. These are recordings of live sessions with clients with commentary after every session. I highly recommend. This is not a book about alcoholism. It is about fear and how our fear and coping mechanisms to fear shape everything we do. I find a lot of what she is saying to be applicable to my current situation. So, although it is not about alcohol cessation, if you feel your life is out of control, I encourage you to listen, as it may help.