What’s the Opposite of Collateral Damage?

When I was contemplating giving up drinking forever, one of the things that kept me from taking the leap was the notion that it would change my relationship with my husband. And not for the better. We both loved good wine, craft beers, and the ritual of making drinks together. I really wondered and worried over how we would reinvent our relationship as regards booze.

Fast forward 123 days…. Not only have we saved a bucket of money, realized we still really LIKE each other, much less love each other, but my husband drinks much less than he used to. I was a really bad influence on him, I think.

The farther I get away from my life as a drinker, the more clearly I see that I was headed toward real trouble with alcohol. My consumption had steadily crept up through the years, and it had become waaaayyyy too integral to my day-to-day life. I remember reading an interview with Mary Tyler Moore (who also gave up the drink in middle age) and when asked why, she said something to the effect of, “I realized that alcohol had become far too important to me”. That really made an impact on me and was filed away mentally to mull over later.

Another thing I see clearly is that my husband is what we call a “normie”, in the sobriety blogs. He can have a beer – ONE BEER – and be done with booze for the day. Who does that???? What’s the point of ONE???

See what I mean? I am so glad I got off the elevator before it got all the way to the basement.

Before I stopped, all I could see were the negative aspects of not drinking. I would never have dreamed of all the blessings it would bring.

One Hundred Days Sober, A Lost Earring, A Hockey Game, and the Universe

I know, longest name for a blog post ever. But bear with me. And draw your own conclusions.

The themes for this post are: unexpected gifts of sobriety and the blessings of the universe.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I marked 100 days without alcohol. I celebrated it by giving myself a little gift, and later in the day my husband made quite a big deal out of my accomplishment. But that’s a story for another post.

A little background: for my birthday this year, my kids all conspired together on my gift.  They gave me a beautiful pair of chocolate-brown pearl earrings and a bracelet to match. I had worn them to work that day (the day before Thanksgiving) and that evening my husband and I went to watch our local NHL team play.  On the way to the game, I noticed that one of my earrings was missing. I felt my heart drop.  It was a special birthday and and even more special gift and I was so sad to have lost an earring.

We got to the hockey game and made our way to our seats, which are waaaayyyyyyy up in the arena.  The nosebleeds.  I joke with my husband that every time we go to a hockey game, of which I am not fond,

a.) The team goes into overtime, and

b.) I get squeezed between him and some guy who’s like, 7 feet tall.

Imagine my relief when I realize that there’s no one sitting next to us! I actually have a little room to breathe!  We settle in and get as comfy as possible in narrow, hard, plastic folding seats.  Shortly after the game begins, I glance up and notice a MOUNTAIN of a man making his way up the stairs toward our section. I’m thinking there’s no way he’d fit in one of these seats.  I’m also thinking, pleasedon’tbecomingherepleasedon’tbecomingherepleasedon’t – He’s coming here. Right next to me.

He and his friend sit next to us and my entire right side, from shoulder to knee, is pressed – very – shall we say, intimately? – against the stranger sitting next to me.  I’m uncomfortable.  He’s got to be VERY uncomfortable.

And here’s where the blessing of sobriety comes into play. Drinking me would have been MISERABLE. Whispering angrily to my husband about how creeped out I was, having to be that close to a stranger, I hate these stupid games anyway, this kind of shit always happens to me, etc.  I would have consoled myself with beer. I would have ended up making him so unhappy we probably would have left early.

The difference now, is that, even though I was uncomfortable about being squeezed by a stranger in our seats, I felt even worse for HIM. This poor man had to be so uncomfortable in his own skin – every minute of every day. I just felt awful for him.  So I just shut my mouth and let it go, determined to make the best of the evening instead of obsessing about how unhappy I was.  He did eventually move to a seat in a row that had open seats on both sides, and I felt better for both of us; especially him.

So.  The earring.  The next morning, we were getting the house ready for 16 guests for Thanksgiving dinner.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, our house isn’t large and we have to reconfigure some rooms to accommodate everyone.  We gather up all of our shoes and put them in the garage to make room by the door for our guests’ shoes. So my husband is doing that, and I ask him to sweep out the front of the garage because I want to set up a card table in there where it’s cold to hold the food that won’t fit in the fridge.

He heads out to handle the chore and a few minutes later, walks back into the house with a big smile on his face.  He’s like, “Guess what I found???” I completely draw a blank and he holds up MY EARRING! He found it in the garage and had swept it up with the last of the fall leaves that had ended up on the floor in there. It must have fallen off as I got in the car to go to the hockey game the night before.

Now, he is the LEAST new-agey spiritual person that I know.  And he says, “Honey, there is no WAY that we should have found this earring. It should have been swept up and thrown away without being noticed.  This is the universe saying, ‘You deserve this. You’ve worked hard and this is your reward.’ ”

I have to admit I kind of agree. Giving up booze is one of the scariest, best things I’ve ever done. And if there are unexpected blessings to be had as a result – the gift of compassion or something found I thought I’d lost forever – I’ll welcome every one.

The Paralysis of Analysis

I kind of foolishly thought that, if I stopped drinking, everything else about myself that I don’t like would just kind of magically fix itself. For one thing, I am a terrible procrastinator.  Every year, I drag my heels about decorating for the holidays.  It entails bringing up the tree, assembling and decorating it,  packing up all the pictures on the mantel and tchotchkes in the family room and replacing them with assorted snowmen I’ve collected through the years.  In addition, several years ago, I bought inexpensive winter-themed dishes that I replace my regular ones with, but that box has to be brought up from the basement, regular dishes have to be packed away, blah, blah, blah.  Well, here it is – December 9th – and all I’d managed to accomplish was bringing up the tree. Last night my husband (who’s an English teacher and always up to his eyeballs in schoolwork) told me that once he finished grading papers, he’d help me decorate the tree.  He said, tomorrow we can tackle the dishes.  The next day we’ll put up the snowmen.

And that’s all it took for me to shake off the paralysis – his suggestion of breaking down an overwhelming project into little bites. He is so smart! Old me would have put it off even longer, supplementing with a couple of glasses of wine to dull my own annoyance with my laziness.

But back to the whole idea of sobriety “fixing” me….. I am still so fundamentally flawed.  My conflict resolution mechanisms for stressful situations – most specifically, with people I’m close to – are woeful.  I pretty much know the wrong thing to say in any given situation, but really struggle to figure out the right thing to say. (My husband’s perpetual joke is that he’s going to get me a muzzle for my next birthday.) I know there’s work I have to do.

I finally feel like I’m beginning to have the mental and emotional energy to start doing this work. Can you help me, followers and/or lurkers?  Is there advice you can offer? Can you recommend a book to read or a website to visit to help me work on these issues?