300 Days!!

Or 10 Months!  Or 43 Weeks!

Any I way I count it, I am so, so, so happy to be here.  I have not posted in quite a while again.  I needed to post more often in the first many months just to keep my head on straight and to process the intense emotions that were flooding my world without alcohol to make it all blurry.  Now that I am on the other side, I am not feeling as driven to share my happily uneventful days.

But I really wanted to post now for one BIG reason.  Whent I was just getting sober, I would find a blog that I loved and then sometimes that person would just disappear.  I would wonder what happened.  Is she okay?  Did he start drinking again? My heart would break a little, hoping that kind, brave soul was happy and healthy and wishing they would give me a happy update.

So I just wanted to say … I am okay!  I didn’t start drinking again!  In fact I am so much more than okay.  Life is changing in all the ways other amazing bloggers out there promised.  It just takes time and courage.

So if you are beginning this journey for the first time or the 50th time, don’t give up.  Ever!  I promise, long term sobriety is soooo worth it.

I know I have made benefits lists before, but it helps me and hopefully helps some of you, so here is the latest.

  • I’ve lost 13 lbs and am back to my pre-kids weight.  I work out a few times a week and I feel great.  I’m signed up for a race in October and look forward to running it with great friends.  My mom recently saw a picture of me on Facebook and said “OMG, you look like a teenager!”
  • Now my better connections are with friends who are creatures of the day instead of creatures of the night.  Interestingly, I have the exact same group of friends – I am just spending more time with the athletes and lighter drinkers.  Even friendships with people I used to party with have shifted.  Instead of going out for wine, we’ll go out for a movie or a walk.  Sound boring?  It isn’t!
  • I still do go out for drinks with friends,  I just don’t drink.  And you know what?  NOBODY CARES!  In fact, I often get admiration and comments like, “I wish I could do that, I really need to!  I can’t believe how strong you are!” I was just at a party last weekend with my mommy gal pals.  The next morning I got a text from one who said “Ugh, I wish I felt like you do this morning!”
  • I’m a much appreciated designated driver.
  • I have so much more energy to cultivate relationships with family and friends.  I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.
  • My life is SO MUCH LESS chaotic.  I am finding joy in decluttering, organizing and otherwise creating a calm, serene home for myself and my family.
  • Digging out of the mess makes everything else feel so much more possible.  I no longer feel harassed by daily life.  I am starting to look outward at what more I can contribute to the world.  But I am not going to jump into anything or get over committed just yet.  I want to ride this calm wave for a while and see where it takes me.

I’m sure I could write another page but I am off to a fitness class I really enjoy.

Hang in there Sober Warriors!!

The Value of Sober Bad Days

I’m still here and still sober!  I haven’t written much lately, probably because I am much more used to my sober life.  It is not such a big deal in my day to day now.

The last time I wrote, I was kind of reeling from a family visit.  It kind of upset the balance in my world.  I’m pretty sure most people feel that way, even if they are not newly sober.  The difference for me now is I just worked through it instead of escaping into alcohol.

Aside from that, I made a HUGE breakthrough in the last month or so.  Last year, I was diagnosed with Adult ADD (inattentive type, not hyperactive type, that’s why ADD rather than ADHD.)  The reason I finally decided to quit drinking altogether was that I couldn’t really figure out if any medication was helpful when I was still drinking a bottle or more of wine every night.  I couldn’t separate hangovers from side effects.  I wasn’t even entirely sure I had ADD as I kept thinking alcohol was the only problem.

So I quit drinking, cleaned up my diet and stopped taking all sleep aids in an attempt to start from ground zero.  Fast forward 7+ months and I was still feeling crummy.  My motivation and moods were terrible, I needed caffeine in the afternoon to keep going and I felt pointless and depressed.  I wasn’t tempted to start drinking again because I know where that leads.  But I knew something had to change.

I started trying ADD medication again.  After an initial period of working through side effects and finding the right dose, I am a much, much, much happier person.  I feel like before I was always walking through mud, trudging along, forcing myself to engage in life.  I lived for the relief of wine in the evening to boost my mood.  Now I just feel happy and normal.  WOW what a difference.  I realize now that I was probably self medicating with alcohol to combat this problem for my entire adult life.  I felt depressed and scattered so I drank every night to feel happier.  Then I felt worse the next day and repeated the cycle again and again.

I have read that many, many people who struggle with alcohol also have ADD.  They use alcohol in excess to try to feel better, to calm down their racing thoughts or cure their boredom.  ADD is also often misdiagnosed as depression.  There is a book about Adult ADD called “You Mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?” That’s how I felt until now.

So that is the value sober bad days.  Once I wasn’t drowning my feelings in alcohol, I was finally able to get to the root of the problem and find a solution.  I feel like a new person.

Family

The last few weeks have been tough.  My family was visiting and that is always a challenge for me.  Everyone in my family drinks, most of them much more than I ever did.  When I talk about my decision to quit drinking, they look at me like I’m just being silly, strange or somehow elitist (like exercising, eating healthy food or refusing to be around cigarette smoke.)  On another one of my odd journeys that will take me further away from my roots.  Creating another wedge in our relationships.

Anyway, I realize that is contributing to some of my recent bad moods.  We were hanging out one afternoon and I was being open about how it felt to quit drinking and how I had a hard time stopping after a few glasses of wine.  My sister-in-law said, “Oh that is hard for everyone, you just have to be strong and decide not to have another one, like I do” as she poured herself a glass of wine.  Then my stepdad said “All this talk about drinking is making me thirsty!” and he cracked open a beer.

The next day, I apologized for being more quiet than usual and always leaving early (my family always hangs out, drinks and talks late into the evening.) I explained that it hard to be not drinking around a drinking crowd.  My mom said “You probably felt bad in the morning because you were drinking wine.  I always drink beer and I feel fine.”  Which sounded to me like she was saying “This whole not drinking thing is silly, Kim. Just drink beer, like me!”

So, being around all of this has made me crabby about my decision to quit drinking.  I’m not questioning it, I’m just not really feeling supported or understood by my family.  Oh well, now that visit is over and I can move on.

Still here ….. still sober …. feeling down

I can’t believe this, but I didn’t realize that I was at exactly 7 months  of sobriety until I started typing.  I guess that is a good thing, I’m not counting so much anymore.  I’m just living life.

But it is not easy.  Its pretty boring most of the time.  Full time sobriety gives me way too much time to think, be bored, be annoyed, feel trapped, feel sad, feel pointless.  I’m not very good at processing all of these emotions yet.  I want to run away and hide sometimes but I can’t.  I’m a wife and mother.  I have responsibilities.  I used to have alcohol to escape without actually leaving. Now what?

I am on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster lately.  Maybe that’s normal?  I am envious of people out here in the sober blogging world that sound so content.  Sometimes I feel that way, but a lot of the time I feel restless and irritable.  Shouldn’t I feel great after 7 months of sobriety?

I just got home from a party at my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s house.  They are big partiers, and in the past we have always had lots of fun together.  I was quiet and awkward, hiding away from meeting new people, avoiding small talk, counting the minutes till we could leave.  Alcohol always made situations like that easier.  I hate that I can’t just have a few glasses of wine to make a party more fun.  It sucks.

I honestly don’t even know who I am anymore.  I feel like a shell of my old self.  I feel less sparkly, less vibrant, less fun.  Now I am just killing time, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, feeling like life is one long repetitive, boring, pointless chore.  At least when I had wine, I had something fun to look forward to every night.  It just sucks that the aftermath was always so painful for me.

Wahhhh ….. I know this feeling will pass.  I know I will feel better soon and will be happy I don’t have a hangover.  But right now, I am not in a good place at all.

6 Months

Today is officially 6 months of sobriety for me.  This is the longest I have been sober in my adult life and I feel really good.  I wish I had something really profound to say but I don’t.  I just feel good!

Here are some random thoughts as I reach this milestone …

—  Turns out, no one really cares if I am drinking or not.  I don’t need to make a big deal of it.  Most of the time, I just pass.  No one notices.  If they do notice, I just say alcohol was making me feel sick and I’m taking a break.  Non-event.  Anyone who likes me for me doesn’t care if I drink or not.  Except for those that knew how much it was hurting me – they do notice and care a lot, they are happy for me!

—  Social situations were hard at first, but they are getting much easier.  I think it was hard because I was so used to having that buzzy buffer between me and others.  Now if I am feeling anxious, self conscious or bored, I can’t escape those feelings. I have to face those feelings.  Sometimes that is uncomfortable, most of the time it is not.

—  I realize how selfish I have been in some relationships.  I wasn’t really connecting.  I was there but I wasn’t there.  My connections are feeling more authentic now.  I’m more present in conversations.  I’m not showing up at events where I know I will bored with the company without alcohol.  In retrospect, in many cases I was there for the alcohol, not for the people.  Now I spend my time with people that I really enjoy, regardless of whether alcohol is involved..

—  I still have a running slide show of embarrassing images from my drinking past.  Things pop into my head and I feel such shame and remorse.  I know just about anything I really regret had something to do with alcohol.  When these things loom too large for me, I just hope other people were drunk enough that they didn’t notice or don’t remember.  🙂

—  I realize what a huge factor my upbringing was in my drinking. I come from a heavy drinking family and a heavy drinking state. I thought it was normal to drink a lot, every night. Turns out it is not normal or healthy, but it took me a long time to reverse that social conditioning.  I thought I was being so cool in college when I could “drink like one of the guys” (to be fair, I got a lot of positive feedback for that …)  I thought drinking a lot and being a party girl was being edgy and fun, one of the cool kids.

Turns out, not everyone thinks that is so cool.  I recently heard some acquaintances talking about one of my party girl friends. She was pretty drunk at a formal event and was joking about the cheap booze she sneaked into the party in a flask.  They were laughing, saying “Oh, she’s your friend?  I don’t know if you want to own that one!  She acted like she was in high school!”  Hmmm … I wonder how many times I have been described that way.

—  I am so happy I am not being drunk in front of my kids anymore.  I was setting a terrible example.  I was giving them the same damaged social conditioning I had in my upbringing.  Now I can lead by example.  I’m still not a perfect parent.  But I am much, much better.

—  We got a puppy!  Our last dog died three years ago and I couldn’t imagine going through the puppy stage again.  I couldn’t imagine adding any more responsibility to my life.  Now that life isn’t feeling so unmanageable, I finally said yes to a puppy. We are all so excited to have a new member of our family.  I know there is direct correlation to my quitting drinking.

— Life is not perfect and I am not perfect.  I still have good days and bad days.  I still have insecurities, ask life’s big questions, procrastinate, drink too much coffee, eat too much chocolate – the list goes on and on.  In other words, I am human.  I realize now that whatever feelings I have will pass.  Drowning myself in alcohol didn’t make life better.  It only gave me regret and a nasty hangover.

What Made the Difference This Time? (Part 2 – Understanding Brain Chemistry)

As I approach 5 months of sobriety, I am continuing to share what made the difference this time.  What finally helped me commit to sobriety forever, when on all previous attempts I gave up after a few days, weeks or months?

The biggest difference is finally accepting that I cannot drink moderately.  Every time I tried,  I ended up back where I started.  After a few months, I would be drinking 1-2 bottles of wine every night, waking up with horrible hangovers, etc.

That personal experience, along with the book Beyond the Influence:  Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism, by Katherine Ketcham, finally convinced me it was time to quit forever.

This book explained the brain chemistry side of addiction in a way that really made sense to me.  I finally accepted that I cannot overcome my brain chemistry, no matter I hard I try or how much I wish I could.  I now understand this problem as a brain chemistry problem, not a moral failing or a psychological problem.

I spent years in different types of therapy, trying to chase down the causes of my overdrinking.  The hope being, if I could get to the bottom of whatever was making me drink so much, I would stop wanting to drink so much.  But now I believe my brain chemistry was always different.  From day one, I have always responded differently to alcohol than the 90% of people who can moderate easily.  Since my teenage years, I have had an addictive drive to drink more and more and more.  I have always ended up drinking too much, having blackouts, etc.  Not every time, but often enough and with increasing frequency over the years.

The following paragraphs really spoke to me:

“Alcoholism is not a psychological habit, a sign of collapsed willpower or emotional weakness, or a learned response to psychological, emotional or or physical trauma.  Alcoholism is a genetically transmitted neurological disease.

When we understand and accept the truth about alcoholism, we have no choice but to accept the futility of trying to teach an addicted brain how to circumvent its own chemistry.  We might as well try to teach a butterfly how to turn back into a caterpillar.”

Understanding it this way makes not drinking easier for me.  It is simply not an option.

What Made the Difference This Time? (Part 1 – Finally Acknowledging the Real Problem)

Someone asked a great question in the comments on my last post – “What made the difference this time?”  I’ve thought a lot about that, and it was many things.  I’ll write about that in the next few posts.

Finally Acknowledging the Real Problem (Is it ADHD? Depression? Anxiety?  Or is it all that wine I’m drinking ….) 

Last April, I went to a “holistic psychiatrist” – a doctor who could prescribe medication for mood disorders, but would also look at natural solutions.  I felt like I was going crazy, feeling all stressed out and unable to focus and complete routine tasks in my life.  I wanted to try Wellbutrin, an antidepressant.  I had heard it helps some people cut down on drinking.  I thought that would be a great way to feel better AND keep drinking!  I tried it and hated it.  It made me crabby.  My doctor did a whole battery of blood and stool tests and found some nutritional deficiencies. (I am now taking the following supplements: Vitamin D, Stress Arrest, Methl Protect, Tranquil Sleep, Fish Oil and a probiotic.  I was also taking 5-HTP for awhile.)

I was diagnosed with adult ADHD and tried several stimulant medications, including Vyvance, Ritalin and Quillivant (a long release form of Ritalin.)  I had varying success with different meds and doses, but I felt jittery and getting the prescriptions filled was very difficult.  Stimulant medications are Schedule 2 Controlled Substances, so I had to pay for a doctors visit every month to get a new, handwritten prescription.  The pharmacy never seemed to have what I needed in stock and the meds were VERY expensive (over $200 a month) with my bare bones, self employed insurance.

After months of this, I felt like I was beating my head against a wall.  I was still drinking and couldn’t tell if the meds were helping or not.  I couldn’t tell if they were making me jittery or if hangovers or coffee were making me jittery.  I finally had this huge realization that I was trying to treat EVERYTHING but the real problem, my drinking.  Even if I did have ADHD, how could I know what was helping if I was still drinking too much and feeling horrible all day?

So last October, I went to my doctor and said “Its time to shoot the elephant in the room.  I have to stop drinking.”  I decided to quit drinking and stop taking all medication to start over from scratch.  I realized that was the only way know what what was really happening in my body and my mind.

I was worried about sleeping, so we made one exception – my doctor prescribed Ambien for sleep.  She said she didn’t want me to worry about sleep at all, that staying sober was enough to worry about at first.  I quit Ambien on my own after 2 months.

Now I am only taking natural supplements, no drugs of any kind.  I think I do have ADHD, but I am managing it without medication for now.  Without the added problem of feeling hungover all the time, I don’t think I need medication.  I like the feeling of not needing anything (well, except caffeine … I do love my coffee!)

Next Up ….. What Made the Difference This Time (Part 2 – Understanding Brain Chemistry)

Looking Back

With all this sober, conscious time I now have on my hands, I have been thinking a lot about the past.  I have all these icky memories that pop up, things that happened over the years that fill me with guilt and shame.  If I had been looking with today’s clear eyes and hindsight, I would have known that alcohol was always a serious problem for me.  Instead, I always felt blindsided.  I didn’t understand why things kept happening to me.  How did I start out planning to have a few drinks and end up passing out somewhere?  How did I end up slurring and stumbling, when everyone else seemed fine?  How did I go out with friends and wake up next to some guy I didn’t even like?

Where I grew up, everyone drank all the time.  My family, my friends, everyone.  People got hammered, did stupid things, did dangerous things, passed out, nursed hangovers, etc.  It was just part of the landscape.  Perfectly normal.  Expected. Hilarious.  I remember after college, a guy asked me out and made me dinner at his apartment.  He didn’t serve beer or wine with dinner and I thought that was so strange.  What kind of boring loser doesn’t drink with dinner?

It was only in the last many years that I realized how much more I was drinking than everyone else.  Or even if I was drinking the same amount, that it was affecting me differently.  If college was a big drunken party, most people sobered up when they graduated.  I kept going.

I finally started facing this problem in 2008.  I joined SMART Recovery Online and tried in earnest to get sober.  Looking back on my posts, here is what happened…

1/31/2008 –  Quit Drinking (36 days)
6/1/2008  – Quit Drinking Again (14 days)
8/18/2008 – Quit Drinking Again (a few days)
12/13/2008 – Quit Drinking Again (120 days)
7/4/2009 – Quit Drinking Again (a few days)
5/12/2010 –  Quit Drinking Again (a few days)
6/1/2010 – Started taking Naltrexone using The Sinclair Method to try moderation/extinction (tried a whole year, didn’t work)
9/8/2011 – Quit Drinking Again (a few days)
11/1/2012 – Tried Naltrexone and Sinclair Method Again (a few weeks)
12/5/2012 – Quit Drinking Again (a few days)
10/28/2013 – Quit Drinking Again (58 days)

11/6/2014 – Quit Drinking and started this blog (139 days and  counting …. longest period of sobriety in my adult life)

Every single time, I convinced myself that moderation was an option.  Clearly, it was not.  Even with medication.  All these amazing people at SMART Recovery tried to help me, but I was not listening.  I didn’t want to let go of drinking.  I thought I was different. Clearly, I was not.

It is very helpful for me to have this all in one place, as a reminder of where I have been.  I can see what happened every time.  What a relief it is to be on the other side.  It is so much easier to not drink at all than it is to be locked in a constant battle that I can never win.

True Acceptance

I am now a little more than 4 1/2 months sober (138 days, to be exact) and I believe that I am finally, truly, happily and forever sober.

I just returned from a work trip with my husband where we had free food and drinks the entire weekend.  I didn’t care at all that I wasn’t drinking.  Not even a little bit.  I was relieved.  I woke up early every day to watch the sunrise, and went to bed early when I got bored with dull conversation at night.  I felt great all day and didn’t think at all about alcohol.  No obsessing about when drinks would be served, when the waiter would be back, how I could bring drinks back the the room, etc.  This is my new normal and I actually like it.

Because I’m human and my mind is constantly working, images from my many years of drinking life keep popping into my head.  They are not the good times, the fun times I thought I would miss.  They are the many, many times I drank too much, even though it was never my plan to drink too much.  If I look back on something with deep humiliation or regret, it is always related to alcohol.  Always.  I think I need to start writing all these awful memories down, maybe then they will stop swimming around in my head, filling me with remorse, guilt and shame.

Now that I have shifted the lens I finally see everything differently.  All those years I was trying to hold on to drinking (“It is the only way to have fun!” “I’m just like everyone else!” “I don’t know why this keeps happening to me” “I can’t have a problem, I’m too smart, my life is too perfect” “I need alcohol to deal with [insert word, kids, work, family, whatever]”), I was willfully ignoring that it was a huge struggle for me to moderate, and I usually lost that struggle.  Instead of seeing this as a physiological disorder, I kept thinking there was something wrong with ME, at my CORE, my BEING.  How could I keep doing this unless I was somehow deeply flawed?

I can’t drink alcohol because my body and brain react badly.  That shift in perspective has been life changing for me.  I have been poisoning myself and thinking I was just having fun, just taking the edge off, just coping.  I thought I was using alcohol to make life easier, more manageable, but it was the opposite.  I was making life SO MUCH HARDER.  This doesn’t make me a bad person.  This makes me a person with a disorder – a disorder that is easily treated.  Just don’t drink.  It is simple but not easy, at least not at first.  But the good news is, after a few months now it IS easy.  It is so much easier than the daily internal war I was fighting with myself.

My husband and I left a party (boring without chasing wineglasses and small talk around all night) and took a long walk on the beach instead.  He said he really believes me that I have quit this time.  He said my attitude is different this time, that I am lighter and happier about it.  He is right.  This is the longest I have been sober in my adult life and I don’t ever want to go back.

On The Other Side

It is Day 111 here and I am feeling much better again.  I feel like I had a major temper tantrum last week.  I didn’t like feeling how I felt, and I know my family didn’t like being around me acting all bitchy and gloomy.  BUT, I got through it (thanks to all of you out there, you all help more than you know!), they got through it,  and life goes on.

I think a therapist would tell me it is good to get all those feelings out, that it is good to feel what I feel instead of holding it in or drowning it in alcohol.  But it is scary to put all that out there.  I realize that is probably one of the reasons I drank too much. Sometimes I’m afraid to feel what I feel and more afraid to express what I feel.  What if I make someone mad?  What if they can’t handle it and run away?  What if everything comes crashing down around me?  Facing real emotions can be scary!

Some positives as I approach four sober months … there may be repeats from prior posts, but it is good for me to review all the many, many positives in every single day instead of focusing on missing out on being a party girl every now and then.

– I am sleeping MUCH better, without any medication.

– My life feels so much less chaotic, less out of control, less overwhelming, more organized

– I have lots more energy

– My eyes and skin are clear

– I am much more engaged with my kids

– My husband is not mad at me for being drunk or hung over (although he is not very happy about my mood swings, he really has no idea what a big f-ing deal it is to quit drinking)

– I am exercising more and feeling stronger

– I am focusing on friendships that nourish me, finding the friends who could care less if I drink or not, spending quality time doing fun things during the day

– I don’t wake up with remorse and shame every day.

– I’m pursuing a really fun, interesting hobby that I never even dreamed of before …. amazing what you can do with more conscious time!

– I’m starting to watch several TV series that are interesting, watching more movies that I pick (instead of just going with what everyone else wants)

– I’m reading good books

– I’m planning to do a healthy cleanse for a few weeks, to see what foods might be making me feel less than 100%

All in all, far more good than bad.  🙂