Using Dream

Since deciding to walk away from alcohol 104 days ago, I’ve spent hours on the internet devouring the wisdom of the sober universe.  I read posts from countless people who’d had using dreams.  My dreams were crazy, especially the first few weeks, but I’d never had a dream in which I drank.  Until last night.

Last night I dreamed we had company and I was telling another couple a true story about a time my aunt called the local Bishop’s office to get a special dispensation for her to serve steak to her guests on a Friday evening during Lent. As I was telling the story, someone had put a glass of red wine on the end table next to me.  I inadvertently drank – gulped – part of that glass of wine, thinking it was my glass of seltzer. I immediately felt warm and woozy and marble-mouthed and lost my train of thought while telling the story, unable to remember the point of the whole thing. That part of the dream was eerily realistic.  I had forgotten how awful that feeling of fuzzy-headedness was.  The best part of the dream  was feeling upset with myself and disgusted that I had consumed wine, even by accident.  I remember thinking, “Oh, shit! I have to reset my counter to day 1 again…” I was so, so unhappy, consciously pushed the glass aside and reached for the glass of flavored seltzer that I’d originally been drinking.

What’s the significance of this dream? Don’t know, really – but I’m relieved and pleased that “dream me” is on the same page as “awake me” as far as drinking is concerned.

Have any of you had these kinds of dreams?  How did they play themselves out and how did it make you feel?

First Turkey Day Without Chardonnay

Well, my first alcohol free major holiday went off without a hitch!  Two surprising observations: first of all, I foolishly assumed that I’d have all kinds of time to visit with each guest and really get to spend some quality time chatting with everyone, since I wouldn’t be spending time sipping wine all day.  Wrong! We hosted dinner for 16 people and my husband and I worked together, enlarging the dining room table, rearranging a couple of rooms, removing shoes to the garage, setting up folding tables, setting the table, setting up the beverages, mashing ten pounds of potatoes, making two pies and apple sausage pecan stuffing (insert deep breath here) – there wasn’t a moment to sit and relax until after dinner was cleared away. I don’t know what I was thinking!

The really big surprise was that NOT drinking made everything sooooo much easier! Coordinating and timing the reheating of several side dishes, making sure there was enough counter space to lay out all the food and arrange it in a way that made it convenient for our guests to serve themselves – was all made so much easier by my unfuzzed brain, which eliminated a TON of stress.  I can’t tell you how interesting I found it that staying sober and clearheaded made so much of a difference when I thought it was the WINE that helped me de-stress.  Go figure!

I hope everyone out there who celebrated Thanksgiving today had a wonderful, peaceful holiday with their loved ones. I am so grateful for so many things this year – and one of the things I’m most thankful for is this new-found gift of sobriety.  Life isn’t perfect, but it’s so much better than I ever imagined it could be without alcohol.

100 Days!

Today marks 100 days since I embarked upon an alcohol-free life. If you are new to this journey, please – hang in there – it is soooooo worth it! At first I felt like I was giving up something and felt so sorry for myself. I saw giving up drinking primarily as a negative in my life – how would I ever fill the hole alcohol left? But – before very long, I began to realize that I was gaining SO much more than booze had ever offered me. Let me tell you the things that I’ve discovered are AWESOME about not drinking (in no particular order):

1. Peace of mind. My thoughts are gloriously uncluttered, free of the constant mental diatribe of recrimination, worry, guilt, and fear. My focus is so much better without all that shit going on in my head!

2. Enjoying events for their own sake. Going out to dinner, having family over for dinner, going to a sporting event (ok honestly I’m not crazy about these), planning any kind of an outing…. There’s a purity to the simple joy of looking forward to something for its own sake, not the opportunity it will provide to have some drinks.

3. Spending waaaaaaaayyyyy less money. A side benefit has been that my husband drinks less, too. This has enabled me to do some ‘just because I want it’ shopping, which is the funnest. thing. ever!

4. I like and respect myself. When I look in the mirror, I like who I see – I am totally proud of her!

5. Better sleep. The first month or two, I felt like I couldn’t get enough sleep – and – wow. Talk about crazy dreams! But now I fall asleep quickly, wake refreshed, and if I do happen to wake up briefly during the night, no hobgoblins (in the form of worrying thoughts) are sitting on the nightstand waiting for my eyes to flutter open so they can perch on my shoulder and talk to me.

6. No more vices! Other than drinking excessive amounts of coffee throughout the day. All of my other ducks are in a row. Eat right? Check. Exercise? Check. Drink enough water? Check. Don’t smoke, don’t drink. No details to fudge when I go for a check up.

7. Authenticity. I feel 100% engaged and present in my life now. It occurred to me that my enjoyment in life has returned to an almost childlike state…. The very simplest things bring me so much joy: playing with my granddaughters, looking forward to settling down with a coffee and a good book after a day’s work, crawling into bed beside my husband, snuggling and falling asleep holding hands…. There’s a calm, peaceful purity to these simple things that’s beyond words. I truly love my life.

Onward and upward to day 200 – and beyond!

Let the Holiday Stress Begin!

I grew up in a house with too many people and not enough money, privacy, or bathrooms. Every holiday season, my mother would bake quadruple batches of at least a dozen different Christmas cookies, along with gift shopping and wrapping for eight kids. I have no idea how my parents absorbed the extra expense, much less found the time to get everything done they needed to to keep the fantasy of Santa Claus alive for us. Needless to say, it was an extremely stressful time of year – for everyone. When the stress got to be too much for her –  for example, when minor skirmishes would erupt between us kids any time between the end of November and the beginning of January, it wasn’t uncommon for my mother to exasperatedly yell, “Merry Christmas, you goddamn brats!”  My sisters and I have joked about this through the years but we all struggle with falling  prey to holiday-induced bitchiness. As a result, the two sisters with whom I am particularly close and I deliberately refuse to take on unnecessary stress as regards Christmas dinner.  Everyone who comes usually brings an appetizer and/or a dessert, a buffet table is laid, and everyone grazes and visits and RELAXES.

But this is my first holiday season alcohol free, and we host Thanksgiving dinner.  We’ll have about 15 people here including two babies, a preschooler, a preteen, teenager, and bunch of adults.  Our house isn’t very big. Everyone seems to congregate in the kitchen, which is extremely stressful for me, trying to get dinner ready. And I won’t have my old companion, Chardonnay, to soften the edges for me.  I’ve been doing my research on the sober blogs to see how everyone else handles holiday-induced stress.  I know to have my special drink (cherry pomegranate seltzer with cherry pomegranate Dasani drops added) in stock. I know to make sure I’m well rested and continue to exercise. My husband is wonderful – he and I work together as a team when we host big events like this. I told him last night I may need to ‘escape’ into our bedroom or the bathroom to take a few breaths or a whiff of my favorite soothing hand cream.  Just to regroup, center myself, and de-stress.  His response? “My job is to make sure YOU’RE ok.” Have I told you how much I love this man lately? He rocks my world.

This year, avoiding the “Merry Christmas you goddamn brats” is going to be a bit of a challenge without booze. What helps YOU during this time of year?

Fear and worry – Two More “Perks” of Drinking

Fear and worry kept me drinking long after I had the first inkling that I needed to quit.  I worried about what I was doing to my health, long-term.  I worried about how it would change my life if I quit.  I worried about socializing without alcohol.  I worried about how it would change my relationship with my husband if I didn’t drink any more.  And when I drank, I could blot out those fears for a while. But back to the health issue, I was terrified that someday I’d end up with cirrhosis or pancreatitis or liver or throat or stomach cancer from alcohol use and that my husband would be so, SO upset with me.  We’ve worked so hard for so many years and are anticipating a long, happy, healthy retirement together.  How could I so carelessly flirt with disaster? I used to wish that some external force would intervene and make the decision to stop for me, but finally realized that I didn’t want to wait around for that to happen.

Ultimately, fear did play a role in my decision to quit – but it was the fear of regret.  Regret for fuzzing the edges of my wonderful life and opting out of fully experiencing and enjoying the fruits of 55 years of hard, hard work. Who knows how much time any of us has left? I refused to spend one more day – one more minute! –  waking up in the morning with regret and self-recrimination.

After 89 days, I have to say that my overall anxiety/fear/worry has decreased by about 95%.  Now it’s limited to normal day-to-day stressors, most of which I have little to no control over. Getting rid of the biggest stressor in my life – booze – has made a huge, HUGE difference for the better.

If I’d known how good I could feel, I would have done this years ago.

Telling my Husband…

Hoo boy.  This was a night I’ll never forget.  I had made the gut-wrenching, terrifying decision to stop drinking the day before and held the secret, deep in my belly, like a ball of ice. I knew once I said the words out loud, there would be no going back.  Ever.

We were sitting outside on the deck, he with his cigar and glass of Jack.  Me with my bottle of flavored seltzer, cradled to my chest.  Just talking, drinking, enjoying a beautiful summer evening.  He commended me for my willpower.  We had made an agreement that we wouldn’t drink on weeknights (Monday through Wednesday, anyway). It had been a summer full of celebrations, showers, special occasion dinners – our youngest had gotten married a few weeks prior.  We were cycling back into our normal routine and wringing the last few drops out of summer. I had been wrestling with how to tell him I was done.  Honestly?  I was a tiny bit worried about how it would change our relationship.  Would he find ‘sober me’ fun? What about going out to dinner together?  What about  traveling together, which we love?  We always enjoyed wine and snacks in the afternoon, drinks with dinner, more wine later…. How would I fill that gap? He doesn’t have a problem with alcohol and I didn’t want to be a killjoy. So many thoughts I was struggling with…. having to reinvent so much of who I am.

Anyway. So he tells me he’s impressed with my willpower.  All the blood in my veins turns to ice as I think, “This is it. Tell him!” I take a deep breath and say something to the effect of, “I’m glad you’re impressed. You’re going to get used to me not drinking.”  He looks at me, visibly confused, and says, “I don’t understand…”.  I reply as my voice starts to break, “I think I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”

The floodgates broke.  I tearily told him how I’d been struggling with the notion of quitting for a long, LONG time.  Told him all the gory details of the incessant mental and emotional static I’d been dealing with. Probably for years.  Now, we are not a couple who keeps secrets from each other.  He has joked with me that I’m allowed to NOT share every thought that runs through my brain. I had been bearing this terrible, heavy burden for so long…. And it felt so good to dump it on the table between us and examine it with him. We talked for about two hours, sitting outside, lost in each other. I told him everything I’d been struggling with.

He said three things to me that night that, if I didn’t already love him like crazy, would have made me follow him to the ends of the earth:

1. He told me I was his hero.  He said I was brave and strong and that he was so proud of me and admired me so, so much. Such a soothing bandage for my raw, bleeding, embarrassed, vulnerable soul.  I felt weak and pathetic, but his words were a mirror that let me see myself in a much more positive light.

2. He told me that he would stop drinking at home if I ever decided it bothered me or compromised my ability to stay alcohol-free. And that he would back me one million percent if I felt I needed support, in any way, shape, or form.

3. Later that evening, I was feeling exhausted and wrung out – but in a good way. I had poured out the contents of my heart and he had helped me sift through everything, with love and without judgement. We were turning down the covers on the bed, each lost in our own thoughts.  Very quietly he says, “So…. what do you think they’ll put in the neighborhood liquor store when it closes?”  I burst out laughing – and fell just a little more in love with him.

Could I stay committed to being alcohol free without his support?  Sure.  Is it a jillion times easier, knowing he’s got my back? Totally, immensely easier to stay on this path, not because he thinks I need to be here.  But because he respects that I KNOW I have to stay here.

And that means everything.