Just What I Needed

Sometimes the universe gives you just a little “snap on the snout” to get your attention…. Today I got the message, loud and clear.

It has been a completely hellacious winter here. Shoveling to be able to get out of the driveway, taking our lives into our own hands to pull out of the driveway because the snow piles at the curb were so high, and shoveling to get back IN the driveway at the end of the work day…. more times than I care to count this winter. Now, I HATE hot weather. I’d rather be inside, reading a book in the air conditioning, thankyouverymuch.

But this morning, 215 days sober, I was thinking about spring. And summer. And how nice it would be to sit outside with an ice cold beer or a chilled glass of pinot grigio, my summertime fave… And I had just sent my daily email to Belle since I’m doing her 365 day challenge. And I had said as much to her.

Then I headed off to do some grocery shopping. As I was driving down the road, I noticed a kind of beaten-up truck in front of me. There was a rather large decal on the window directly behind the driver’s head. It said, “In Memory of my son, David.” And it listed the dates of his son’s birth and death. So sad…. he was only 13. But what made me REALLY sit up and take notice was that the day his son passed away was also the day of my last drink.

Here I was, feeling sorry for myself because I can’t have a fucking glass of wine on my deck and how am I going to get through a summer without drinking. Meanwhile, this poor man lost his son. How’s THAT for perspective?

And just in case I wasn’t paying attention, on my way home I turned on the radio, which I rarely do. I heard two songs: Chandelier by Sia, and Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. Back to back.

If I ever wavered for a moment about my decision to stop drinking, this little episode helped re-frame and re-focus me.

Unbelievable. All I can say is, “Thanks, Universe. Message received, loud and clear.”

Seven Months Sober

As I progress farther and farther along this sober road, new little revelations pop up like the sweetest flowers of spring….

Today marks seven months since my last drink/last drunk.  As muddy and bleary as the memories were of that evening, the next morning is etched with crystal clarity in my memory forever. The terrifying conclusion was unavoidable: I had to stop drinking.

Over the course of many years, alcohol had gone from being an occasional treat – to be enjoyed rarely – to an almost daily habit.  And an unhealthy obsession.  It was my ‘go to’ for every occasion: for celebrations and consolations. The remedy for monthly cramps. The perfect accompaniment to any and every special meal.  My weekend necessity. The solution for everything.

Until it became the problem.

And the revelation that occurred to me is that as I used wine or beer or vodka to help soften the edges of a bad day or bad feeling or bad anything, one of the trades I would make is that it would also prevent me from feeling the intensity of the good stuff: burying my nose in the sweet-smelling hair of one of my granddaughters.  The shared giggles over silly word play. The long summer walks, punctuated by trips to the library or the corner bagel shop. Teaching one of them how to play “Old Maid.”  Snuggling and reading books to them before a nap. Sharing a cuddle or a sweet, sleepy smile as the youngest one drifts off to sleep in my arms.  They make me laugh so hard….. sometimes I think my heart will just burst with joy.

It’s been challenging to learn how to sit with uncomfortable feelings without numbing out.  But – the unexpected rewards of true happiness and lightness of heart and spirit have been so, so worth the work.

Self-care vs Selfishness

When I was a little kid, about 7 or 8, my dad was hospitalized for a spell – long enough for me to remember visiting him on weekends and having ice cream sundaes in the hospital cafeteria with him and a bunch of my siblings. I have vague memories of whisperings about depression. Eventually he came back home and life returned to the normal day-to-day chaos that characterized my childhood, for the most part.

It wasn’t until I turned 18 that my mother sat me down and told me that Dad was an alcoholic. At the time 18 was the legal drinking age and she wanted me to know that, genetically speaking, the deck was stacked against me. I have no recollection of ever having seen either of my parents drink, so this was quite the shock for me.

My most vivid memories of my dad always revolve around his favorite pastimes: photography, building balsa-wood model airplanes, and reading – he loved science fiction and crime novels, mostly.

And hand-in-hand with that stroll down memory lane is the recollection of my mother’s disdain for and disapproval of his “hobbies.” We kids were reminded often that she only had one pair of ill-fitting shoes and a winter coat that she’d worn for years…. The unspoken message was received loud and clear: Dad was SELFISH. And I blindly, unthinkingly, silently agreed with that opinion.

Fast forward 35 years or so. I’ve struggled mightily, throughout my adult life, with the concept of self-care: what does it mean and when does it cross a line? Many of you reading this can probably relate.

I see things differently now, in the 206 days since I quit drinking. I should tell you that I’ve exercised regularly, at least three times a week, for the past 25 years. I get my nails done every two weeks. Go out to dinner a couple of times a week, on average. I like to wear comfortable, stylish clothes. I get my hair cut and colored regularly. Does that make me selfish? And since I stopped drinking, I’ve become even MORE self-indulgent. I’ve eliminated some major volunteer commitments from my personal docket. My life is far more “want to” than “have to” these days.

I think I understand my dad so much better now than I did back then – he was practicing self-care and protecting his sobriety. He should have been commended and admired.

Because if he hadn’t been sober, our family would have completely fallen apart.

As for myself, I figure anything that helps keep me on track without breaking the bank or jeopardizing my relationship with my husband is nobody’s business.

And – hot damn! That feels great.

Life with a normal drinker

My husband had minor surgery on his hand a couple of weeks ago. The other day the surgical site started to look a little funky: swollen, yellowish, and was super tender to the touch. So he called the doctor who prescribed an antibiotic. He stopped at the pharmacy after work and asked the pharmacy tech if there’s anything he should avoid while taking it.  She couldn’t give him a clear-cut answer.

He comes home and searches the drug on the Mayo Clinic website.  Sure enough, there’s a strong caution about avoiding alcohol while taking this medication.

From the other room he calls to me, “Hey, hon – you’re gonna have some company for the next week!”  I have no clue what he’s talking about, of course.  So he tells me he can’t drink while on this antibiotic.  To him, it’s no big whoop.  He doesn’t even bat an eye. I find that kind of approach to booze absolutely fascinating. Bewildering, in fact.

If that had been me, I would have probably talked to the doctor BEFORE he prescribed anything, nervously making sure that whatever he gave me was safe to take if I ‘had a glass of wine or something’. I would have felt an inner panic rising if I had been faced with a whole week in which I couldn’t drink. I’d have done EVERYTHING in my power to ensure that I was prescribed something that wouldn’t interfere with my wine consumption. And if that failed, I would have been completely, 100 percent miserable.

Add that to the list of reasons I really needed to quit drinking.

…And you know what REALLY pisses me off?

This stupid alcogenic culture of ours really makes me crazy. And I have to admit that I used to be as guilty of this as the people who suffer from the same mindset.

If you were talking to a friend or acquaintance and told them that you’d quit smoking, what kind of response would you get? “Oh my God that’s AWESOME, good for you!” would be the typical response, right? Because it IS awesome.

How many of you told a friend or acquaintance that you decided to stop drinking and got a less-than-positive response? Something more along the lines of, “YOU???? Really???” Or how about this one: “You’re not going to drink? Not EVER?”

Because in our society if you don’t drink you’re a weirdo. There’s got to be something wrong with you.

I used to keep a mental list of people I’d met who didn’t imbibe. No explanation given, just – no, thanks when they were offered booze. They fascinated me. And really annoyed me, more than a little, too. What the hell was WRONG with them? Who DOESN’T drink? Why in the world would anyone opt NOT to?

Funny how 197 days sober changes one’s perspective, isn’t it?