The Dichotomy of Recovery

Here’s what I’m thinking about today…..

I wrote recently about finally feeling like a grown up. Handling stress, letting it flow through me without trying to control it. Or stuffing it down and drinking over it later.

I was talking to my husband the other day about a kind of revelation I’d had about sobriety. I told him that, another thing I’m realizing about this decision to stop drinking, is that I’m experiencing life now at two extremes of the spectrum.  I feel such joy in the most ridiculously simple things: crawling into bed with a good book, playing with my granddaughters, drifting off to sleep at night cuddled against my husband, a good cup of coffee….. It’s happiness and serenity in its purest form.  Like being a child again.

And at the opposite end, I feel like a brand-new grown up. I’m learning that I can deal with whatever life throws at me, stone-cold sober.  I’ve noticed it may take me a while to figure out exactly how I feel about a situation, and that’s new, too. Just giving myself the gift of time to process instead of rushing to react to everything like I used to.  I would spend so much time shoving unpleasant shit down or avoiding dealing with it by having a couple of drinks to soften the edges for a while.

Life is so much richer and better and authentic now.

Which makes me kind of sad that I didn’t quit long, long ago.

Thoughts on Becoming a Grown-Up

This is what’s on my mind today…. You don’t get to your mid-fifties without going through some shit in your life. I’m no exception, without going into too many gory details. We married young and were pretty poor (had just enough money to cover the bills, had one car and lived in a two bedroom apartment) for the first several years of our marriage. I clearly remember having less than a dollar in cash between the two of us on one particular Monday before pay day. I became a mother just two weeks after my twenty first birthday.There have been health scares with our kids, a handful of surgeries (routine and a couple of pretty serious operations), the deaths of three of four of our parents, about five years of hell when our daughters were traveling the long dark road of heroin addiction….

Yeah. We’ve been through some shit, alright. And during every crisis we tucked and rolled and got through it and fell apart afterward.

But something interesting has been happening in the past six months. I’ve really been working on ‘feeling my feelings’ since walking away from booze. It’s not been easy, just sitting with discomfort instead of medicating it away.

Yesterday, the hubs had minor surgery. Now, I should tell you that he is the most amazing person. He wears so many hats in his job and accomplishes everything he sets out to do perfectly, with precision and integrity and complete attention to detail. He is very tightly scheduled and even more tightly wound. If you looked up the definition of “Type A personality”, you’d see his picture in the dictionary.

Well, we get to the surgical center at around 10 for an 11:15 procedure. And we wait. And wait some more.

They finally take him back to the pre-surgical area. Then they call me to come back and wait with him until the operation. We wait some more. Then we wait a LOT more. There were a few points at which I thought he would lose. His. Shit. Not get abusive or anything, but – he was almost literally crawling the walls.

I couldn’t blame him. You’re nervous, of course – and then you have to wait for almost three hours past your scheduled time??? Seriously???

But here’s the difference: I was able to sympathize and empathize and just let him vent without absorbing all the tension like a sponge. I didn’t fight it or resist it, even though reacting that way isn’t my thing. It’s like I was able to just let it run through me instead of soaking it up, marinating in it, and wanting to punch something. And then, like in the old days, biding my time until I could get home, get him settled, and have a drink. Or three. To just shake off the stress.

Afterward, he was so appreciative and sweet and thanked me a bunch of times for keeping him from going crazy… And I thought, “This must be what being a grown-up is. You just handle shit without having to medicate to get through it.”

Anybody else out there having these revelations? Doesn’t it feel so good to be a grown-up?

Pride

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve gotten really used to feeling proud of myself, these past six months since I quit drinking. Prior to that, I can’t tell you how many mornings my heart would just sink when I reviewed the previous days’ drinking. There was just so much shame attached to it, even if I’d only had a couple of glasses of wine. The worst of it was when I’d wake up in the morning and couldn’t be sure that things were ok between my husband and me. There were too many times I couldn’t remember everything that I’d said the evening before and wasn’t sure if he was annoyed with me. Ugh.

He’d told me more than once that the only time he found me unattractive was when I’d had too much to drink. Seriously?? He didn’t find a slurring, stumbling idiot sexy? Pfffft. What the hell’s the matter with that man?

The hubs has what you might call “a glass face.” Every thing he feels is clearly on display for all to see. I’m especially cued in to his emotions, naturally. And the only thing worse than feeling disgusted with myself was seeing his displeasure with me stamped clearly on his face.

And oh, the paranoia. That itchy thing that I’d do, reading into everything he said until I could be sure that we were ok.

Words fail to convey how good it feels to know that, good, bad, or indifferent – anything that I do or say these days is willful, deliberate, and lucid. I never again have to wake up and worry that I’ve said something stupid or mean under the influence of booze.

I’m so proud of myself for taking the very difficult step of removing alcohol from my life It’s been so, so hard and even more rewarding. But the love and pride I see reflected back at me from my husband’s big brown eyes is just….. the best.

Gratitude: it’s what’s for dinner!

Silly name for a blog post, but I’m feeling particularly thankful and happy today. Sobriety has become my new normal; just got back from another romantic little overnight trip with the Hubs. Another successful sober getaway under my belt.

And speaking of gratitude, here’s another thing that happened recently that is so unbelievably lucky, I had to share it with you…

My husband marks our milestone wedding anniversaries with a lovely piece of ‘bling’ for me. For our 30th anniversary five years ago, he gave me a gorgeous ring studded with several channel-set diamonds. I love it and never take it off. I should also note that I can’t be trusted with nice things: if something can be accomplished effectively at 5 mph, I just can’t do it that slowly. I’m hard-wired to go at least 55. Consequently, I tend to damage/chip/ break anything unfortunate enough to cross my path.

So, a few weekends ago, I decide to have all the kids and grandchildren over for homemade sauce and meatballs. I get the sauce on and proceed to clean the house. After I dust, scrub, vacuum like a woman possessed, I notice that one of the diamonds in my beloved ring is missing. I. Am. Heartsick.

So, lapsed Catholic that I am, I throw a little prayer up to Saint Anthony (patron saint of lost objects). And then I let it go, because I figure that stone is looooong gone. I mean, what are the chances I’ll ever find it again? I figured that it must have been vacuumed up or something, right?

Well, the next morning, I was emptying the dishwasher. I slid the Keurig out of the way to make more room on the counter for coffee mugs. And – lo and behold – what to my wondering eyes should appear – there was the diamond from my ring!!!

I very carefully put it away and plan to have the ring repaired soon…. And I promise, I’ll be much more careful with it – I really will.

So, friends, I have no idea what any of this means. But I kind of feel like it might be a little pat on the back from the Universe.  A sort of, “You go, girl!”, from the Powers That Be….?

‘Cause this past six months ain’t been easy.
But so worth it.

6 Months Without Alcohol!

I marked 180 days sober on Friday. Six months! That’s the longest I’ve gone without a drink in 32 years. Has it been worth it?

Unequivocally, absolutely, unflinchingly, yes.

I finally feel like my outside matches my insides. What you see is absolutely what you get. Has it been easy? At first, not so much. But as the days became weeks and months, milestones have been racked up and filed away – yes.  It has gotten easier, but not without challenges.

And let me tell you, in the past week or so, I’ve been put through the meat grinder at work. I’ve had the same job for 22 years; love Love LOVE what I do.  And can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve cried at work.  Two of those times occurred last week.  Not ONCE did drinking to cope enter my mind. Not. Once. Yay, sobriety!  You. Kick. Ass.

In 183 days, this is what I’ve closed the door on:

The constant mental diatribe of worry, shame, regret and self-recrimination. Waking up in the morning, taking stock of the day before and generally being disappointed in myself for drinking when I promised myself I wouldn’t. The mentally exhausting, never-ending stream of thought that was in the background of nearly every waking moment. My first thoughts were typically in this order: Did I drink last night? How much? Do I remember going to bed? Did I do or say anything my husband will be mad at me for? Do I remember everything we talked about last night?

That sad little morning ritual included assessing how I felt physically.  Are my hands a little shaky?  That ‘ping’ I felt in my right side – is that my liver barking at me?  Are the whites of my eyes a little yellow this morning? How much longer before there are health consequences I’ll have to face up to?

And on and on and on……

And this is what I’ve opened the door to:

Peace of mind. Knowing that I am honest with myself and no longer in denial about something that was becoming a real problem. Authenticity. Secure in the knowledge that who I am, right here and now, is truly me.  No shadows or secrets, no more feeling like I’m living a double life.  Serenity.  A calm self-assured awareness that, no matter what life throws my way, I can handle it.  I’ve been through so much – and used booze to help soften the edges – now I have enough sober time to be secure in the fact that being clear-headed makes handling stress so, SO much easier. True happiness. I have peace of mind and can really focus on and appreciate the incredible blessings there are in my life. An even better, closer relationship with my husband. In the course of this six months we’ve done a ton of talking about my decision to quit drinking. He really gets why I needed to quit. He’s almost as proud of me as I am! Wonderful, refreshing sleep.  Man, I’m out like a light soon after my head hits the pillow. And I generally sleep deeply and well, waking completely refreshed in the morning.

Let’s see…… do I regret quitting drinking?

Not for one frigging second.