Learning

I am simply popping up to quickly to acknowledge that in addition to not drinking (which is pretty easy so far), I am also committing to the aspect of sobriety that is just as important: self-care, and making sure I take some time for myself to attune to what I need. I spent a lot of time ignoring, avoiding, or minimizing what I needed with alcohol and now I am committed to taking time each day to take care of myself. I already exercise regularly, and I will never give that up, but I also am recognizing that I need to eat nutritiously, and with as much real foods as possible. I have a serious junk food problem (addiction, perhaps?) and I feel just as terrible about myself when I binge on junk as when I drink too much.

Obviously, the self-love piece needs to improve as well, instead of beating myself up as every turn, but for now, I want to feel comfortable, and I want to feel GOOD, and for me, that means eating as close to vegan as possible and eliminating all the sugar and chips that I consume more regularly than I would like to admit.

On a different note, I was doing some research on the internet today and found a few articles written by Stanton Peele. Has anyone read his stuff and liked it?

Tata for now 😉

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Back in the Saddle

Maybe I am over 30 years old and found the above image on Selena Gomez’s Instagram, and maybe I didn’t.

I took a few days off from blogging and spent some time on other things: running, doing work, trying to relax at the beach but basically failing, catching up with friends from long ago, and spinning for the first time ever!

I’ve noticed a few things since I’ve been sober the past few (almost three) weeks. One, people drink far less than I assumed they did. Two, no one has batted an eye that I am not drinking except incredibly oddly, my boss, my mother, and some woman I met once who, when asked what I was drinking at a recent wedding and I revealed it to be lemonade, widened her eyes and half-shouted, “I did NOT expect that.” 

What can I say, party-girl personas die hard.

I need to come clean about one aspect of this journey that is in the back of my mind and causing me joy and despair (ok, that’s a tad dramatic), alternatively. I made a commitment to my therapist (and most importantly, to myself) to be sober for 30 days. I am more more than halfway there, and it has been much easier than I thought. I am 90% committed to then committing to a year of sobriety following that, but have decided not to begin that next phase until September, meaning I have about a two-week free period of vacation from sobriety. Of course, I have all sorts of self-judgment about that: is that a cop-out, is that a set-up for failure when I engage in sobriety again, why am I such princess, but I do believe that there is a greater knowing part of me that understands that in order for me to commit to this, I need to drink a glass of wine with the knowledge and fear that I have know, about this disease that I suspect I have, to watch as my hand impassively reaches for the glass without my executive functioning being able to stop it.

The unexpected thing is, this break, though like a mirage of a waterfall in a dessert at time, is actually causing me a ton of anxiety. I am starting to become extremely wary of alcohol. In Boston, there’s a saying used by weary mothers who have seen it all, blue collar guys that the Affleck brothers emulate on the big screen, and cops that goes: “Yah (you’re) suspect,” meaning you are shady as fuck and I don’t believe anything that comes out of your mouth. That’s how I feel about alcohol these days. 

Unless, of course, it’s dressed up in a champagne flute and enjoyed by people I fantasize to be perfect, anyway. But that thought, like every other one, passes.

I do love not drinking in ways that I didn’t really expect. Obviously, waking up sans hangover is truly a gift. All of the anxiety associated with drinking – what if I have too much, what if I say something stupid, what if I post something on Facebook at 2AM so that everyone knows I was drinking on a school night – disappears. I am pleasantly surprised at how much more present I am in my everyday life, how much more I enjoy my co-workers without the tidal wave of mood swings exacerbated by flooding my system with a documented depressant, and that I am having a lot of fun without needing the social lubricant of booze. 

Of course, there is a lot more to me that I need to find peace with and work towards changing: the tendency towards procrastination, the constant need to compare myself to specific people that I have deemed thinner, smarter, and much more interesting than myself, and the barrage of negative self-talk that I engage in. 

I have been running regularly, which helps tremendously, and listening to a podcast called “Inside Out Weight Loss,” which I LOVE! It has been so helpful in slowing down, grounding myself, and connecting with the positivity that is easily found once you look for it. I have noticed myself naturally pausing to contemplate my food choices as a result, and for that, I am truly grateful. I have also been reading the book “The New You (and improved) Diet,” and i love the author’s focus on self-care and her easy and accessible language. I do an OK job with picking nutritious foods, but I definitely need additional motivation. Also, I am amazing at how something sweet (ginger beer, a no-jito) can provide the exact same refreshment that I used to associate with my beloved cocktails. And I never have more than one, because one of those sugary substances is more than enough. Fascinating.

Finally, it’s been a true blessing in this sobriety thing to get to know myself better and to learn how to take care of myself. I am realizing that I often turned to wine to numb an uncomfortable feeling (not exactly a new and profound realization), but it is exciting to realize that I can take care of myself in other ways, and in ways that are more sustainable and ultimately lead to more growth. For example, I found myself buzzing all day yesterday: being extremely productive, exerting myself at every turn, and not stepping away from the computer. And while a part of me loves days like this, I think my wiser self knows that it’s too much: that I need to force myself to take a break, no matter how much I want to power through and not lose my motivation. Because at the end of the day, I was exhausted and just wanted a drink to “take the edge off.” But meanwhile, I caused the edge by not allowing myself a break.

Anyway – it’s cool to get to know yourself in a different way, because I am finding it truly does allow you to be present for others, and that makes life so much more enjoyable. And that’s all I have for now. 🙂

 

Gratitude – Gotta Do It

Today I woke up and felt pretty A-OK. I did some work, and met with my therapist midday, which I was looking forward to. We had a pleasant session – I felt focused, and confident about my commitment to this ‘research phase’ of sobriety, and positive that I could complete the 30 days that she and I had agreed upon (and, actually, it would be more than 30 days, as I refrained from drinking for a few days before our appointment in which we agreed upon a 30 day break – NOT THAT I’M BRAGGING). We touched upon some things that weren’t totally enjoyable, but hey – it’s therapy. As a former therapist once remarked to me, it wouldn’t be therapy if all ya’ll talked about it was the good stuff.

Anyway, I went home to my apartment and walked myself into the worst mood that I have been encountered in WEEKS. Super cranky and irritable, annoyed for no reason that I could decipher, and worst of all, I had no idea what to do with myself and all of this anxious energy. Naturally, I trolled the internet and stalked all the people on Facebook that I assume to have a much better life than me and are more fabulous in every way, which oddly, didn’t leave me feeling any better about myself.

At some point I stopped this madness, journaled for a few minutes about this racing anxiety and irritability, reflected on the food that I consumed that day (mostly crap), took a few deep breaths, and forced myself to go to a hot yoga class, even though the more dominant part of me wanted to  sit around and vacillate between feeling sorry for myself and making elaborate plans for the future, when presumably, I would be able to stand myself more.

I went home and my ever patient and loving wife was waiting for me on the couch, and offered to go on a walk with me, because she knows me better than I know myself. We then had a a frank and somewhat difficult conversation, in which I directly communicated what was troubling me, and she was able to do the same. Obviously this is not that monumental – like, that’s the definition of a relationship – but, I think this is a shift for me, as far as dealing with the feeling instead of avoiding it or numbing it, or saying to myself and everyone around me – “fuck it, let’s have a drink.” Sometimes my wife is frustrated with me for not knowing what I want or what I need, and I have come to understand that I sometimes don’t know what is bugging me until hours or even days later, which is kinda crazy, right? Anyway, I am excited and nervous to get to know myself in a new way, in an authentic and honest way, in which only sobriety can offer.

Well, excited and terrified.

So, today I am forcing myself to stop and take stock of all of the things that I am grateful for, and the abundance present in my life. Because I got real wrapped up earlier in all the things that I don’t have, and all the things that I assume I will never receive in life – and what kind of fun is that?

I saw this quote yesterday on InstaFaceTweet and loved it:

“The mind that perceives the limitation is the limitation” – Buddha.

I won’t list it all of these things publicly, because you can guess what will be on there – friends! my wife! yoga! community! flowers! – like, i am a stereotype – but know that I am grateful for you, if you are reading this, and I am grateful to have stumbled upon this online community of support, which is amazingly just always there – and always inspiring.

Good night!

 

 

The Heebie-Jeebies, and Other Profound Thoughts

Today I woke up and decided I didn’t want to worry about being sober, or fret about what being sober would mean a year from now, or in October, or at the end of this month. Rather, I knew I wouldn’t drink today, and that was good enough. No need to plan, or build up motivation, or read about sobriety first thing in the morning.

And so I went to work, and got a ton done, and was pleasantly surprised by my ability to listen to others without reacting, and I also noticed annoyances that would typically fill my insides with rage dissipate instead. It was really lovely, and I noted that if I had been hungover, it would have been a different story entirely, and I would have written everyone in the office off as an idiot, and then passively aggressively texted my closest co-worker a thank you message that she was the only one I didn’t want to murder.

But today I could genuinely be the positive thinking, focused, and generally kind person that I want to be on any given day.

I meditated last night for the first time in months, which I think helped my sense of well-being today.  I also took a stroll through a park close to my house, which is really popular for runners, walkers, musicians, and picnic-ers (errrr, can I just make that word up?). I used to walk through that park all the time, before I took up running, and now it’s turned into a destination on my running route, which means that I haven’t leisurely strolled around in a long time. Years, actually. And it was so enjoyable! I was looking at all the faces that I passed, and smiling, and loving the fact that I was loving my time in the park, rather than pounding on the pavement and looking forward to being done, and out of the park. It was, as a dear friend says, a good mood-maker.

Tonight I actually did run, and I listened to a guided meditation about weight loss from the inside out, and was instructed to let go of the ever present weight burden by the host of the podcast. What a liberating thought and state of being! I began to wonder what other shackles I have imposed on myself: definitely the tug-of-war between drinking, drunking, hangovers, and all-encompassing anxiety, and certainly with my fixation on losing just 10 more pounds, and not being happy with myself until then. What if I could change my relationship with my own inner critic in the same way that I am changing my relationship with alcohol?

I recognize that changing my inner monologue and dialogue will be far more challenging than simply not ordering a cocktail when out, or choosing other coping skills when craving a glass of wine. I listened to the Bubble Hour podcast tonight about self-medication and self-care and totally related to what the ladies were saying. I can absolutely identify the relationship between anxiety and alcohol in my own life and have often felt extreme anxiety and even despair when massively hungover, which one time lead to an out-of-character binge watching of Gossip Girl, and honestly, that was the WORST.

But anyway, I really appreciated their courage in talking about the mental health relationship to alcoholism. For me, it’s impossible to talk about my relationship with alcohol without acknowledging how much anxiety book-ends my decision to drink alcohol, and the way I feel after over-consuming. But I also work in the mental-health field, so talking about my crazy and your crazy all day long is pretty normal for me. However, it brought me back to how wonderful it was to be in the moment the night before, and just enjoy what was unfolding before me as I walked – at a slow pace! for pleasure! – through the park, and it was a nice reminder to try not to get so worked up and anxious about what sobriety means in any other context but right here, and right now.

I have made the fucking worst decisions when I’ve been drinking. I’ve made some really good ones overall in life (always, I will note, when sober). I think that if I continue to take time to tune into myself, and follow my gut – which got me to jump into this sobriety thing headfirst – then I will start to trust myself again. And that may lead to a greater trust in others. And that, my friend, is what I am after. Peace within me, which allows me to offer peace to you.

Also, this made me giggle, and maybe if you have a sick-o sense of humor, you will enjoy it as well: 

http://www.theonion.com/articles/mans-anxiety-not-about-to-let-depression-muscle-in,36504/

 

 

Feel Like Funk

So, not-so-secret time.

I think that a small part of me thought that sobriety would immediately lend itself to feeling good always and focused and being more productive, and becoming this amazing, fabulous, confident (did I mention productive?) person that I want to be, overnight. Reading about other people’s sobriety journeys online has been truly inspirational and motivational and has helped me begin to understand alcoholism in a new way, and for that I am deeply grateful. At the same time, I find myself doing something that I am even better at than getting drunk: comparing myself to others. Like, those bloggers seem to have grown so much, and shed so much old skin, and I am still feeling foggy and tired for no good reason and I am eating way too much sugar and I had no motivation to do anything today.

Then I remember that it has been 9 days since I last drank, and perhaps I am being too hard on myself. 

I am beginning to acknowledge a few fears I have about sobriety.

One is, am I gonna get fat? 

I feel like I drank through hunger sometimes, which wasn’t intentional, but I simply drank so much I forgot that I was hungry and/or couldn’t attend to my hunger. Of course, many nights, this resulted in me devouring whatever was in front of me (usually pizza, almost definitely Hint of Lime Tostitos), but many other nights, it just meant going to bed intoxicated and waking up hungover, without much of an appetite, and eating half of a muffin for lunch.

I have been reading a lot about food, particularly sugary substances, becoming a substitution of sorts to placate uncomfortable feelings and/or cravings and/or becoming a reward for not drinking. I have noticed myself gravitating towards candy (even more than usual, and let’s just say, that means it’s a lot). I also have had a semi-inexplicable hankering for frozen yogurt lately: I want it every day, though I don’t indulge every day. The wanting is concerning for me, though, because usually I take for granted that I can recognize that ice cream or frozen yogurt is a treat, and not something that I need to consume. This past week, it has been feeling like a need, and I don’t want to begin thinking about unhealthy foods as something that I need or even something that I can consume daily. Don’t get me wrong, me and junk food get along just fine (don’t get me started on Cheetos), but I usually am able to naturally set limits on myself that I haven’t done this week.

Perhaps this is mostly anxiety talking. I have come to realize that I am great and a natural at assuming the worst and usually, everything works out much better than I expected and I am left wondering why I got myself so worked up in the first place. Wondering about and really looking forward to how sobriety will shed light on and change this, as much of my assuming the worst comes from the recesses of the darkest metaphysical hangover.

Something that I can’t quite shake off as easily, however, is the alcoholic’s sense of entitlement. I am readying Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, by Sacha Scoblic (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=unwasted&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Aunwasted) and I have really loved it thus far and have related to so many things that I have read. I am a bit in awe of her, as well, in her ability to write with so much vitality and energy – her words truly jump off the page, and I don’t know that I have ever thought that about any writer. It’s hard to put the book down.

I was reading today about her struggles with consumption of goods (specifically, online shopping) as she maintained sobriety initially, and I was scared of how much I related to her description of entitlement, of needing just one more thing, and deserving more (formerly, a drink, currently, in her case, shoes or an outfit, etc), and feeling like other people just didn’t understand the need, or why she was different/special/more needing/more deserving. FUCK! This is me, to a T. This is so me that I got annoyed with her for calling me out, even though that makes no sense whatsoever and is demonstrative of my craziness. This is so me that I have been cranky/depressed/feeling like I deserve to hide from the world for the rest of the day because I am depressed that this is a thing, and not just some quirk that I can write off as a personality trait and never address. DAMNIT. My shopping habits and tendency towards spoiled as well as my leaving things out/downplaying the cost/lying  (I sneak little purchases in all the time because I “need” it (see: daily coffee purchase, even though I could easily make it at home. See: trendy sandals because my flip-flops won’t do. Even see: being late to meetings because I need a few extra minutes to get ready) are tied in with alcoholism? With addiction? What the fuck? So now I need to deal with this bullshit, too, instead of just not drinking?

Not drinking is easy. It’s like not smoking. You just don’t fucking do it.  It’s all this other shit that is terrifying.

I know that I need to go to an AA meeting, if simply to learn new mantras, and new ways of relating to the world, and unlearning this expectation that I am entitled to things I want, and not just need. Basically, I want to go to AA meetings because I want to be reminded that I am not special, and that I can’t blame alcoholism on my entitled tendencies. That I have a choice in my thoughts and my actions. Even about something I thought was just an unattractive, unchangeable part of me, and something that I tried to doctor up as even charming.  

Also – where does limit-setting come in to play? Is my downright rebellious response to limits being imposed on me tied into addiction and alcoholism as well? How does feeling like I lack the ability to limit myself fit into this equation?

I always thought that was just bad parenting.

Sigh.

One less thing that I can blame on others.

… I really don’t want to give up that daily coffee indulgence though. 

 

 

Sober and … Loving It?

So, this is weird.

I went to a wedding last night, didn’t drink, and felt fine. I actually felt better than fine – I felt great. I don’t know what I was expecting. I thought that I would hate it, for sure. I thought that time would drag on. I thought that I would be shy and not know what to say and be awkward.

But I have never been shy. I am always starting conversation. When I was little, I would hide behind my mom while she introduced me to a stranger, and she would look down at me behind her and say “Oh, you’re gonna be shy? Really?” and look to her stranger friend, sigh and say, “This is my daughter. She is shy for five seconds.” And then they would start talking and it was true, after about 10 seconds, I would be asking that stranger about her personal life, or for money, or if she was pretty, if she could be my mom.

And as for awkwardness … well, I am awkward, I guess. Always. Pissy-drunk or sober.

For a split second, during the ceremony, I thought: I am going to have a glass of wine tonight. Just one. Who cares? It will be so nice. But about five minutes later, that thought passed, and a different thought drifted through my mind. I was reminded that I wanted to commit to 30 days of sobriety, and that I had to develop some stick-to-it-ness around it, even though every single time I have been debating having a drink in the past, I would have been like, YOLO. One drink. Who cares? But then one drink turns into 3 or maybe 7 and then I think I am Kesha on the dance floor and think I am best friends with everyone in the bridal party, especially the guy that I have decided needs counseling and so I grill him for 45 minutes about any early childhood trauma.

So, like, I am not even that fun when drunk. Just some terrible, drunk mess version of a self-involved Oprah.

And anyway, what would that one drink do for me, really? I felt awake, I felt alert, I felt aware. I felt FINE. I couldn’t believe how normal I felt, just, like, existing. Just being in the world without a pre-occupation or racing thoughts or anxiety or apprehension or anything. I was just sitting and enjoying the company I was keeping.

It was bizarre. Like, wait, I am not going to drink tonight, and I know that, and I have re-committed to it, and everything is OK?!?! What the fuck is this?

Waiting for the ceremony to begin, making small talk, relaxing, was so refreshing and surprisingly pleasant that I began to wonder if normally I am stressed and already nervous about a night of drinking to follow, that some part of me knows that I might get too drunk, that I might be too out there, that I will get out of control. And that some part of me hates that.

My dream for sobriety is that I commit to it, and make that choice day after day and moment after moment because it is the right choice for me, and one that feels me with joy. I am specifically not wanting to base my sobriety on fear: I don’t want to make choices based on the chance that I will lose control and kill someone in a drunk driving accident, or go to jail, or be raped and murdered. Of course, being out-of-control drunk absolutely increases the chances of those things happening to me. But the fear of these terrifying things happening will not motivate me not to drink. In fact, imagining those things happening makes me want to drink. Especially the latter. Jesus.

Fear as a guiding principle or limit-setter has never worked for me, and something that I actively rebel against … which, as you might imagine, is a par-etty terrible aspect of my personality when I am drunk. Like the time that I laid down in the middle of a highway when I was well on my way to a black-out because I was annoyed with people telling me to be careful when crossing the street, lest I get hit by a car. Or the time that I kept running out in the middle of a street in Boston on a Saturday night for the exact same reason, and a friend had to continuously pull me back my shirt. You know, little cute and daring stuff like that. Real superhero shit.

So, I want to make this sobriety choice because it feels good, and not because I am scared of the alternative. And being at the wedding, sober, last night felt really great. And it felt right. And I still had fun, and I still danced, and I even made a few jokes that people laughed at. I could party – which I love – without having one drop of alcohol.

What the fuck?

I wonder what other surprises are in store for me on this sober path?

The “S” Word: Contemplation

I used to love to drink.

Playing around with that sentence, I could omit “used to” and you would have a snapshot of my relationship with alcohol for the past 14 years. Take out the part about love in the same sentence, and I have a potential future of sobriety, in which I walk away from alcohol, in which it’s no longer a part of every social situation I attend, in which I don’t order a glass of rose with a friend and sink into relaxation with every sip. This scary/hopeful unknown future, where alcohol is somebody that I used to know.

And in between these two scenarios, there’s the present moment, where a part of me hopes that I can learn to control my drinking, learn to stop after a glass or two, learn to approach alcohol in a new way. Where we are casual acquaintances. Where I can take it or leave it.

And the other part of me suspects, with a sinking feeling, that I will never be able to control alcohol, that I will never know when alcohol will swoop in, take over, and control me, and that to think that I am anything but powerless to alcohol is naive, foolish, or is perhaps the scariest scenario: denial.

And all the images and flashes of memory that fuel the different scenarios; controlled drinking, or straight-up sobriety: the nights when I pour myself a glass of wine and don’t finish it, dumping the majority of the contents down the sink when cleaning up from dinner without thinking twice. The nights that I have a few drinks and go home without any fuss at all, and fall asleep easily, waking up tired, but not hungover. The beads of moisture on a champagne flute as I enjoy – and I mean enjoy, pausing and sipping and being with – a crisp glass of sparkling wine on a patio as city life unfolds; those moments in life of being unhurried or harried in the busy-ness. Where I can float above it.

And then the other memories, and worse, the non-memories: slurring, smoking, screaming and raging at a significant other without provocation, the confused look on someone’s face when I repeat something I just said five minutes ago to them, the confession of secrets laced with shame, waking up in the morning with a thud in my head and my gut: what the fuck did I do last night? And all the days walking on eggshells, not bringing up the night before, but with my defenses sky high, jumping at any perceived criticism or judgment. one thing i learned early on in this drinking game: if any part of the night is hazy, best to act like everything is normal, and don’t ask any clarifying questions. pretend like everything is fine. and i don’t mean that in a 50s housewife- keeping-up-appearances-type-of-way. I mean, pretend like everything is fine because if it isn’t, I have no idea what to do about it, and then i am in big, big trouble.

And that’s how it was so long ago, in college, when I was black-out drunk and making a scene, regularly. And lately, as a 30-something, when the occasions of social drinking prove too much for me to handle, and suddenly, I am wasted, and I don’t know what I am saying, and I am wandering away from the group, and I have no idea how I got this drunk. And that is always how it is. I never know how I got this drunk, when I was just planning on having a few drinks/a bottle of wine/several  bottles of champagne.

As I write this, the pendulum swings in the direction of sobriety because, well, come on. Listen to me. And I haven’t even let my mind wander to the really, really bad stuff, the stuff that people without a drinking problem would say “nope, not touching that stuff ever again.” I am just skimming the surface, starting off light, because I am in the research phase, because I am just thinking about life without alcohol, without that shimmering glass of sparkling rose on the patio, without the shame and guilt, without the perfectly crafted Aviation cocktail, without ever having to wonder who I offended, who I have to avoid for awhile, what people think of me. Without a status symbol. Without a loss of control, an irresponsibility. Without people having to take care of me, at 30 something years old, because I can’t stand up straight. Without a sense of normalcy, of not having alcoholism.

Maybe the scariest and most frightening part of this is that if I take that huge leap of sobriety and dive right into the thick of it, I will have to accept who I am, and give up on this picture of a girl that I want to be. Because maybe I am an alcoholic, and I can never be that girl with cool confidence and utter control over myself, sipping an elegant glass of red with my co-workers, radiating calm and peace.

And of course, maybe I can be all those things, minus the elegant glass of red.

To start, this blog will be about finding peace with myself, perhaps as an alcoholic, perhaps as some other version of problem drinking person, but knowing that I need to make a serious and drastic change about how I relate to alcohol.

It’s been 7 days since my last drink.