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.

Day 4 – Sobriety: How do you know when you get there?

Now on my fourth day sober and feeling a little overwhelmed by the journey ahead of me. For the past few days, I have felt this false sense of bravado – like I have this thing licked… Like I’m just really gonna kick this thing right in the dick. As a strong, independent woman, I feel my fire and power and I’m ready to take sobriety head on… Sometimes.

Other times, like today, I feel REALLY small in the face of this. WHY I am doing this? Was it really THAT BAD? Do I really have a “problem” with alcohol? CAN I do this? I don’t have an every day problem with alcohol. I don’t have any police records, or DUI’s, or broken relationships over alcohol (except the last is not entirely truthful). These are all things I say as justification that I can, indeed, drink moderately and this whole sobriety thing is just an over-reaction to a bad night… But in my heart, I know that is not true.

Over the years I have stressed about my alcohol consumption many, many times. I know that it has been often out of hand. I know that it negatively affects my health, my performance, my relationships, my sleep, and my self esteem. I have struggled with quitting too many times to count, and all of the justifications mentioned above have led to me diving head first back into a wine bottle.

I thought surely I wouldn’t be in a position to go back and read Day Zero – Again so soon (my projection was 2 weeks) but here I am, re-reading my blog from the start. I have to say that Day 1: Not Hungover… is better for me to see inside myself on that day and remember how I felt. It helped me to remember that I am better without alcohol in so many ways. I will start listening to This Naked Mind again today. This book is a really good tool to highlight the ways in which alcohol affects us negatively. It is a great reminder that some of us are just better without alcohol. In all honestly, probably all of us are better without alcohol, but as promised, no proselytizing – we are all on our own journeys.

I hope that someone can identify with what I am going through and that maybe this helps someone, or you have some encouragement for me. I know detailing my journey in this way is helping me. It keeps me accountable and gives me a tether to travel back to the beginning. I need to be reminded where it started so I know to not go back. I need to remember how I felt on Day Zero – Again, and Day 1 – Not Hungover… I need to really feel this over and over until I understand that another “Day Zero” is an inevitable consequence of drinking until I stop once and for all.

So I don’t know how you know when you get there. I do know that I’m not there yet. I want so badly to feel free and right now I do not. Sometimes I really try and can convince myself I am. But not today. I know it has only been 4 days. I realize that I am asking a lot from this situation, very early on.

I also understand that I may be rushing the process. That going through the process may be the only way to be free. That I must feel all the feelings on the journey from here to there in order to be successful. But I have no interest in struggling with this for the rest of my life. That particular brand of sobriety makes me tired and angry thinking just about it.

If you are out there and are sober, when did it get better for you? When did you feel “on the other side of this?” I appreciate your feedback.

Day 3 – About last night…

My first weekend evening on this new journey. Last night, Friday night, was my first night of non-drinking with others who were drinking. I went with a to a friend’s house to celebrated his daughter’s birthday. There were a few little girls there. We made sushi and cake. Fortunately it was not a purely “adult” night, so it was a good excuse for me to not drink.

The other adults were drinking, and I could have certainly spent the night if I had decided to drink too much alcohol. I made sure to bring juice and kombucha in order to drink something with a little more kick than straight water or soda. (I will talk about my special juice later).

Part of me really did want to drink. Normally, even if I planned to drive, I would have had one or two drinks. I am very nervous about drinking and driving. I lost my father in a drinking and driving accident when I was a young child (he was driving). I never want to be the cause of some family’s pain. And as a mom, I never want to leave my child motherless because of some stupid action on my part. With that said, I was able to “justify” minimal drinking and driving because I had a system that I considered fool-proof. One drink + one hour = okay to drive. Two drinks+ two hours + food= okay to drive. I have not always tried to be responsible. I am ashamed to say that I did drink and drive prior to my daughter’s birth. I can only say this is because I was a selfish, immature asshole. I was young enough to not understand my own mortality, and had enough hubris to believe I could manage my drunk driving without hurting anyone or myself.

Having kids around last evening and planning to drive was a good excuse to NOT drink. So I don’t think this was a really challenging test. In addition, I am still at less than the two week historic failure point for me, so I’m not feeling confident yet. I feel like I’m still on a “sobriety-high.” I feel really good about the decision to be sober, because I have called it a “challenge.” I am treating this as a gift I am giving to myself and my body. I am not sure the idea that I plan to NEVER drink alcohol again has actually set in.

I felt really good about not drinking. I didn’t feel superior to those that were drinking, I just felt that I was doing what was right for me. There weren’t a lot of questions, because I kept busy with the kids and made it clear I planned to drive. Now when it is only adults and everyone is drinking, except me, I believe there will be more questions, and potentially more pressure.

I want to talk about my juice for a bit. Whether it is because of conditioning or because of my taste buds, I really do like the taste of beer. I enjoy the bitterness. I enjoy the bite of it. I happened upon a juice that gives me a little bit of that bite. When mixed with kombucha, it provides a sweetness and a bite (more like a cider). I used this last evening to help me sate the desire for bitterness that beer provides. I even transported it in a little howler, just be funny.

The juice is simple, but effective for me. In case you are curious, here is the recipe:

1 celery bunch, 1 whole small lemon (with peel) or one half large lemon (can also sub in lime), 1 Granny Smith apple, 1 thumb of ginger, water (about 2 cups). I don’t have a juicer, but I use a vitamix to puree the ingredients and then sieve out the pulp with a milk nut bag. I am sure you could also make this with a juicer. Chill. I mean, chill the juice- but if you want to chill after making the juice, then please proceed to do so. I encourage chilling at every opportunity. If you try it, please let me know how you like it.

Turn People Into Trees

Beautiful thought.

TheEnlightenedMind622

When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.

-Ram Dass

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Day 2- Living Sober in a Drunken World

As I navigate an old world as a new me, I have concerns that my relationships will be affected by my choice to be sober. Alcohol is everywhere in our society. It is present at every social event, even in places where it would seem out of place, (baby showers, kids birthdays). It is almost always shown in media through a positive lens. It is the social lubricant, the courage builder, the stress reliever, the night cap, and constant companion of all social gatherings. It is readily available and there is no stigma around its consumption (except while driving). Since beginning to consider my own consumption of alcohol, I have become conscious of its availability. It is almost everywhere. Choosing to not drink alcohol in a world that is so saturated (pardon the pun) is going to be tough.

I am concerned about the impact my choice to be sober will have on my social life. As I said, I am mid-divorce and my social support system has become extremely important to me. My “tribe” has helped me in ways I can never repay. They have propped me up when I could not stand (literally and figuratively). They have comforted me, cried with me, and been righteously pissed off with me. They have reassured me that I am stronger than I realize, that I can face all of what lies ahead and will come out of it better than before. I am forever grateful to them.

I have a few “tribes.” These are sets of friends that I engage with on a regular basis that may or may not interact with one another. In every one of my tribes (save one), alcohol is ever-present. Chats at the dining table over wine, laughs at the new brewery (there is one around every corner here), pies with pints, happy hours with margaritas or sushi and wine are all a part of this dynamic. Alcohol saturates almost every gathering. I find myself nervous that without alcohol my interactions will be different. Will my friendships change? I refuse to stop participating in social events because of my desire to remain sober, but will my friends find me less interesting? Less engaging? Less Funny? Will my choice to be sober while they drink become bothersome to them? Will they eventually find it intolerable? Will I?

I have two very best friends. One has chosen not to drink. Not out of a need to curtail her own drinking or out of a need to regain control, but just because she drinks so little, what is the point? I am very envious of her and may actually secretly hate her for this. (kidding). When I spoke to her about my choice, she encouraged me. She did not say I had a problem or that I should quit – but rather it was a personal choice and she supports whatever decision I make. Based on what I have told her, she agrees that this is a good decision for me- precisely because I am feeling concern about it. A person without an complicated relationship with alcohol, WOULD say that. I admit, I was annoyed with her level-headedness about it.

The other is a 25 yr friend who has been by my side through marriages, divorces, career decisions, raising children, all the phases of the adult female life, and more bottles of wine than I could count. I don’t think anyone knows the real me better than she. When I spoke to her about my concerns and about my drinking, and how I didn’t want to use alcohol as a crutch or a reward, she was encouraging. She said “You should do what you feel is right. If you feel it is out of control, then you need to reign it in. I felt the same way about smoking – so I quit.” Then she said “But I’m not going to quit drinking! I’m STILL going to enjoy my wine and use it as a reward when I’ve had a tough day or a great one!” And I get where she is coming from. I have thought a lot about this conversation. I was not asking her to quit or to slow down her drinking. However, when I spoke of my own sobriety, she seemed to be a little defensive, as though I was making an accusation or a judgement about drinking in general. I certainly am not.

From the outside looking in, I have been told that my drinking does not appear to be out of control. But I feel very much out of control – mentally and physically worse with alcohol, perhaps emotionally dependent. And in the end, sobriety is a personal choice. Drinking alcohol is a personal choice. I have no intention of a being a zealot or true-believer. I refuse to be the ex-smoker railing against every current smoker because I quit. We are all on our own personal journeys. I accept encouragement gladly and will give freely it where I can. I cannot say what is right for other people. I can only say what is right for me. And for right now, in this moment, sobriety is best gift I can give myself.

I am concerned that my friends will become bored with me and my tedious sobriety. But who knows? Maybe it will just become a change to get used to – like I changed my hair color? Maybe being sober and more present in the moment will allow me to be funnier, more interesting, and more engaging. I guess we shall see.

Day 1- Not hungover but no different

I don’t drink every day. So taking one day off, isn’t really tough for me. And when I feel little low or hungover, I can easily take the day off from the booze.

My problem is when I do drink, I often go all in and drink way too much. OR I decide to drink, even though intellectually I know it isn’t helping my situation or me. I don’t want to be told “no.” I am rebellious even unto myself. The problem is not last night or today. The problem will come two weeks from now when I forget how miserable I felt yesterday and forget why it is important for me to do this. I will think “I work hard… I had a tough day… I’m a full adult, goddamnit, I can have a fucking beer if I want to.” I cuss a lot, angry me cusses even more.

Currently I am going through the end of a marriage. This requires a lot of energy to devote time and attention to details, paperwork. In addition to this, is the emotional toll of disappointment of what is, and failure of what was, and addressing my culpability in that is very heavy and sometimes I just want to walk away from it. I am not the first person to go through this, and certainly will not be the last. But if you have been through it, then you know it is stressful even under the most amicable of conditions. Amicable would NOT describe my current state of separation. Going through this big life change requires me to focus on things I would rather not. Alcohol allows me to remove that focus for a moment. HOWEVER……

What I also understand, after reading This Naked Mind and The Sober Diaries, (both I HIGHLY recommend), is that I am so much better when sober. When sober I am able to deal with what needs to be dealt with. I am stronger. I have more focus and acuity. I am more mentally agile – I can see around things without the avoidance I maintain through drinking or the fog that results from a hangover.

I also so suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Alcohol does NOTHING to help anxiety – except for a very brief moment. After the buzz, alcohol actually creates a rebound effect. My anxiety is worse after drinking than if I had never drank at all. If I had sat on the couch and binge watched Netflix, I would have been still behind, but better off. I didn’t erase the things I was worried about – they are still there, I’m just more behind. Instead of losing one evening to a Netflix binge, I lost two. One from being drunk and the next day from being hungover. Not only did I avoid the Big-ticket-items that I needed to work on, but also the small, mundane things that are of little or no effort when feeling 100%.

I saw this slow moving train wreck in my own life recently.

I started drinking more over the past 6 months. I did this I think to avoid doing the BIG things that are scary and will take a lot of time and energy. The things that make me nervous (like handling taxes, handling dissolution paperwork, tackling big projects at work). In addition, because I was drinking at night (when I normally do my housework, etc.), I was also avoiding doing the small things. Not all at first, but little by little, household tasks became less important. I love a clean house. I stopped spot cleaning every day, so the dust / small messes got bigger. Bigger messes require more time and energy and are more tempting for me to avoid. These became bigger messes just got bigger the longer I avoided them. I stopped doing my laundry as frequently and so the laundry piled up and became a “big” job instead of a small one and I would avoid it until I absolutely had to address it. I looked around my house one day and thought “WOW!” Now bear in mind, I am not a hoarder and my house is not “dirty,” but it was also in no way “clean.” This was my moment. Seeing my dirty house. Feeling like shit. Going to work foggy-headed. Still having not addressed my elephant-in-the-room (divorce). Knowing it was going to require effort to get my house in order (figuratively and literally) and knowing that I definitely did not have the energy for such fuckery at the present moment.

So that’s how I came to “Day Zero” and I hope to come back to this and read this in two weeks when I really, really want a drink because I have had a hard day, I’m celebrating with friends, or I’m and adult goddamnit and I can have a beer (or bottle of wine) if I want to.

Remember where you are today. Remember that you feel good today. You got a lot accomplished today. You looked that elephant straight in his beady little eye today and at least pulled out your knife and fork. You are better without it.

The “A” word, it’s not what you think.

Abstinence.. Such an ugly word. Speaks to deprivation and sadness.

Abstinence is defined as: the fact or practice of restraining oneself from indulging in something. “Restraining oneself from indulging.” Well that sounds like a great big bag of no-fun, right?

The idea of a lifetime of abstinence from alcohol seems too daunting for me. So for now, I will commit to 30 days. I have completed a 30 days alcohol fast in the past. “They” say the first two weeks are the hardest, but I will tell you that the first 30 days are the definitely the most difficult!! By day 28, I was excited to get to day 31. And if I am being 100% honest, I cheated mid way through. Only once, but it was still a cheat.  However, even with the cheat, I did see huge improvements in my skin, my sleep, my anxiety levels, my abdominal bloat, and my energy levels. 

A quick check-in on where I am currently. I am drinking every day to every other day. I drink only at night and sometimes to excess. I do drink alone, but not to excess on those evenings. I drink out of boredom, loneliness, sadness, happiness, stress, celebration, and just because.

I have read two books recently that have helped me so much. This Naked Mind and The Sober Diaries.  The former speaks to re-framing your mind and thoughts about alcohol, in essence making abstinence a gift to you rather than a punishment. The latter is a journal of a middle aged woman in her first year of sobriety.  Both of these books are wonderful and have inspired me to create this blog in order to keep myself accountable.

I’m still unsure if moderation or elimination of alcohol is the answer. For now, I am erring on the side of elimination but starting for 30 days. 

 I assume some days I will be angry, some days feel great, some days hate this journey and some days be so grateful for it. This is meant to be real. And all those emotions are real. Feeling angry is okay. Feeling happy is okay. Feeling sad is okay.. But for the next 30 days, drinking is not. 

My real goal is 365 days… But for now, let’s just start with 30.

Eating that elephant… One bite at a time. 

 

Day Zero, Again

How many “Day Zero’s” have I had? 10? 20? Surely not 30… Maybe 30… I don’t know. Let’s call it 25 for the sake of argument. But as a woman, in her mid to late 40’s, with a lifelong complicated relationship with alcohol, I have at least had 20 “Day 0” days. The day that I said – this is the first day of no alcohol for two weeks, one month, 90 days, forever, etc….. And the inevitable question “Am I an alcoholic?”

No one may read this, and that is okay. A year from now I hope to come back and read this entry and smile at the woman who decided to start a blog, put herself out there, and congratulate her on 365 days of sobriety.

A little about me. I am an over 45, driven female that has a career that pays me enough to live with a little extra for fun. I have a grown daughter, and am in the middle of a divorce. I have my own home, two dogs, and a few chickens. I have been separated for more than a year. I am concerned about how this journey is going to affect my relationships.

This blog is going to be a raw look at me, my relationship with alcohol and how I think I got to this place in my life.

It is important for me to be honest and authentic in this blog. That is what it is for, right? Not to put out the watered-down-social-media-filter version of events, or only-what I-want-people-to-know version of events, but events as they actually are. Fully naked and raw.. Fully exposed. The only way to really be real is to just do it. That is why I made this blog anonymous.. to make way for complete authenticity.

I hope to keep myself accountable through this blog and hopefully create an online community with like-minded women like me (men also very welcome). Those imperfect souls that aren’t sure if they have a “problem” with alcohol, but suspect they might.