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.

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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.  🙂

Dark Clouds on Day 105

Warning – this is a gloomy post.  Normally I’m pretty upbeat and confident about my sobriety.  I usually see all the benefits and know I am on the right track.   But right now I’m feeling sad.  I think I need to get these feelings out so I can process and move past them.  😦  To bypass the stream of consciousness emotional catharsis, please go to the end where I have some questions about moving forward.  I would love any ideas I can get from this amazing group of sober bloggers.

Today is Day 105 for me.  I haven’t been writing much.  I just haven’t had much to say.  I’ve been kind of cruising along, feeling pretty good, enjoying my clear mornings, and overall accepting my decision not to drink.  I’ve had probably far too many social situations for early sobriety, but I made it through all of them feeling confident.

And then BOOM.  I hit a wall.  I got sad, mad and depressed.  I got bored, bored, bored.  I really, really miss the fun, alcohol soaked parties, the escape into that warm, fuzzy, altered place.  I was around several big trigger situations this week – people I associate with boozy fun, boxed seats at an event with free drinks, a little conflict I would usually escape with wine, an awkward sober dinner with friends, boredom with tasks I have to do but don’t like to do, etc.  All of this along with growing discomfort with this new sober identity.

I have made it this far in sobriety once before.  This is exactly where I decided it sucked to be the sober one all time and decided to start drinking again.  That was almost seven years ago.  I was sure after almost four months of sobriety that I could moderate.  Since then I have had stretches (a few weeks, a few months) where I am just fine. But over time, I always end up in that place where I am drinking too much every day, waking up with crushing hangovers and wondering what the hell I am doing to myself.

So, I know from experience where I will end up if I drink again.  And I don’t want to be there anymore.  I want to wake up with a clear head.  I want to live with integrity, without shame.  I want to be healthy.  I want to be present for my husband and kids.  I am NOT reconsidering my decision because I know I cannot moderate.  But I am also not feeling happy about it right now.

So I guess I’m in mourning.  I’m sad that I can’t be that fun, boozy party girl.  I’m sad that I can’t make cooking dinner more fun with a few glasses of wine.  One thing that really set me off was friends telling me about their weekend, when so-and-so came over and “we drank so much wine, it was so much fun, such-and-such didn’t even remember leaving … ”  I will never be that person again.  I am not part of the “Oh we had so much fun with … ” story anymore.   I am struggling with this new, sober identity and the flatness of it all. I miss the high of a few glasses of wine, the laughing, warm feeling of boozy connection with friends.

And I realize this probably sounds silly.  Do I really want to not remember leaving a party?  Do I really want to be in that obsessive relationship again?  That would also mean I was probably stumbling and slurring, and I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering how embarrassing I was.  And I would spend the next day feeling terrible, not getting my work done and feeling ashamed.  I know this.  And yet, I am sad.

I wish I could be one of those people who can have three or four drinks and be done.  My husband can do that.  He has enough to make a party more fun, and then he is done.  I could never do that.  I never wanted one or two, there was no point to that.  I wanted to be drunk and silly.  My addicted brain wanted more and more and more. But now I am stuck on the other side, on the sparkling water side.  I’m in social situations thinking “What the hell am I doing here, I’m bored out of my skull!”

I feel like I need to hibernate for awhile.  I need to keep myself away from people and places that are making me sad.  I have a big event in a few weeks I can’t get out of, but beyond that I have nothing on the calendar.  I need to be more protective of my fragile, sober self.

So, Sober Warriors, Soberistas …. can anyone tell me how to get happy from here?  How long till I start to feel like I am really, truly and happily on the other side?  How do I learn to live alcohol free in a social world that seems to revolve around alcohol?  How do I learn to love this new, sober identity?

So This is Normal

Happy Sober February, everyone!

I’m approaching 90 days sober, and life is good.  We hosted a Super Bowl party last night, and it went really well.  A few people knew I wasn’t drinking, most didn’t.  It didn’t matter, no one seems to notice or care one way or another.  I’m finding I want to be more social because I’m not feeling terrible and nursing a hangover all the time.  It is amazing – I thought I was using alcohol to cope with life.  Turns out alcohol was just making life harder.  I feel like I’ve been running at 25% for a long time and am finally returning to normal.

Some positives of quitting alcohol, in no particular order ….

– Recent doctor visit – perfect numbers on blood work, blood pressure, etc. – clear improvements from a year ago

– More engaged with my kids, much closer relationship with my son

– My husband is relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about me, can depend on me

– Exercising more, walking with friends, reaching out instead of hiding inside

– Finding fun things to do with more conscious time (taking a metalsmithing and jewelry class that I love, Photoshop class starting soon, new exercise classes with friends, etc.)

– Waking up clear headed, without remorse

– Starting to sleep better

– Getting a puppy!  Our loyal yellow lab passed away 3 years ago, and I have not been ready to take on the challenge of a new puppy … until now.  It is amazing how much seems possible when I am not feeling sick and hungover.

– NOT thinking about drinking.  At all.  Five o’ clock comes and goes and I am not obsessed with opening a bottle of wine anymore.  Occasionally a wine image will pass by, but it doesn’t take hold.  I know that it is behind me.  I am so much better off now.

– I feel like I could be a help to people like me, looking into how to support others in recovery

– Theoretically saving money and calories, although most of that savings is going directly to Starbucks 🙂

Some challenges ….

– Drinking too much coffee

– Eating too much chocolate

– Conversations can get pretty dull at parties – I’m definitely ready to go home earlier!

– I do miss being altered sometimes, not sure how to replace the high (that might explain the coffee ..)

Here’s to another new week and new month in this sober new year!

Coming Out

Wow, what a weekend!  We had a small party at our home on Saturday night, then had friends over today to watch football.  I ended up telling many people I wasn’t drinking and it was okay.  It was more than okay, it was great.  I had several people say they wished they could do the same, that I might inspire them to make the same change.

I had fun, and it really didn’t matter that I wasn’t drinking.  My friends were still my friends and they didn’t care at all.  They all drank as much as they would have (or wouldn’t have) anyway and were not uncomfortable – everything was exactly the same.  I feel so relieved.  And I get to wake up tomorrow with no hangover, no remorse, no regret.

I feel like this was a turning point for me.  I have been very secretive until now.  I have avoided situations, avoided people, avoided being honest about what is really happening.  Now I am being a little more open and it is okay.  No one is running away, no one thinks I am suddenly not fun, not worthy of their company – turns out my drinking doesn’t seem to matter to anyone but me.  What a nice feeling.  🙂