Just Checking In

Hi, kids! Here I am, chugging along in my little sober car. Life has thrown its challenges my way, but at 846 days, using booze to cope is just a distant, hazy memory.

First of all, the election. ‘Nuf said. The old me would have gotten VERY drunk election night and would have used the results as justification to “escape” our new national nightmare whenever necessary afterward.

Instead, I subscribed to Yogaglo and hit my mat pretty hard in the days afterward.

I got through Thanksgiving without a hiccup; my husband and I have the routine down pat. There’s a shit-ton of rearranging and “thinking things through” to be done (how to arrange all of the side dishes in an order that makes sense for people to serve themselves, buffet-style; where to set up the auxiliary dining room table, etc.) and then of course, putting the house back together before we can relax after everyone leaves….

But here’s the thing – this is what NEVER gets old, after my third sober Thanksgiving: my stress level is SO much lower. Unbelievable. And I’ve transferred my anticipation from looking forward to drinking with impunity to being excited about having two helpings of my favorite foods at dinner and then treating myself to not one, not two, but – THREE helpings of dessert. Oh my God I was flirting with sugar shock by the end of the day.

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember that I have a difficult relationship with my mother. Well, she’s been having some health issues and, after about five days in the hospital, has been placed in a rehab facility. Her first few days there were a nightmare of poor sleep, inattentive staff, and miscommunications about meds and medical equipment to make her comfortable.

Those issues seem to have been resolved, but I am one of four daughters in close proximity. The others don’t have the same baggage with her that I do (which isn’t to say that they don’t have their own) – and two share health care proxy responsibilities. Due to those circumstances and family and other obligations, I am able to spend far less time with her, by comparison. I struggle with feelings of guilt for not “pulling my weight” and concerns that resentment toward me may be simmering just below the surface.  We update each other via group texts and it’s difficult to read “tone” sometimes.  And, as women, we tend to overthink things.  .

What I have discovered is that my Mother seems to save her best behavior for me.  She’s on medication that makes her extremely loopy and  she talks constantly at an almost manic pace.  I spend most of my time with her giggling at her silliness.  She’ll be there through the holidays. Hopefully, she’ll  be home and back to her normal routine (which consists of pretty much doing nothing all day) by the first of the year.

Anyhoo.  My wish for all of you is a peaceful, memorable, sober holiday season.  It really is SO much easier once you have a round (or two) of sober holidays under your belt.

Take good care, friends.

Glorious Chaos

The kids all came over for dinner yesterday, to celebrate Mother’s Day. My husband had ordered specialty pizzas from my favorite place, along with these incredible, pizza oven baked, lemon-juice-and-olive-oil marinated chicken wings. Our son brought dessert and one of our sons-in-law brought two delectable salads he’d made. And homemade Gorgonzola vinaigrette. I was in food heaven!

By the time my son and his family arrived, our three year old granddaughter had fallen asleep in the car. She was carried in, snoozing contentedly, and lovingly placed in the middle of our bed and surrounded by pillows, to continue her slumber.

When she was awakened for dinner, it was discovered that she had peed on our comforter. It’s one of those big puffy ones that has to be cleaned in a commercial washing machine. I was a little unsettled, and went to determine just how much of our bed would need to be stripped and laundered. Luckily, nothing had soaked all the way through the bedspread so that was all that needed washing.

So, we sit down to dinner. Everyone’s laughing and talking and passing things at the table. My son goes to pick up one of the bowls of salad – which was heavier than he expected. The bowl slips out of his hand, and he inadvertently knocks over his bottle of beer. It goes sloshing across the table and onto his niece’s plate of food. This sweet toddler has recently been diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies, so her Mama prepares her food very carefully.  Into the trash her dinner went, and some homemade frozen soup had to be defrosted for her dinner instead. Much mopping up and apologizing ensued….

At the end of the evening, after everyone left, my husband and I headed up to the laundromat at about 8:30.  This was the view as we sat and chuckled  about the events of the day.

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And we laughed as we talked about how grateful we are that we HAVE children and grandchildren living within 20 minutes of us who can spill beer all over the dining room table and pee our bed.

I silently contemplated how differently I would have reacted to mishaps like this a couple of years ago.  Maybe not outwardly, but – I would have been SO massively annoyed, especially about being inconvenienced by the trip to the laundromat.  And no one but me would know how much I resented my “down time” (i.e., drinking time) being cut into. I was so incredibly calm and NOT stressed out.

Truly a Mother’s Day to remember.

Second Sober Thanksgiving

Wow.  What a fantastic day. Eighteen people this year, but Mother Nature smiled on us and it was in the mid-fifties and sunny. We even had a few windows open to keep the house comfortably cool; there were no muddy or snowy boots and shoes to contend with. Overall, I give it an A -.

There was just one little moment of tension, and that was between my husband and me. He was helping clean up after dinner and I let my passive aggressive bitch flag fly. I sniped at him for no good reason and immediately regretted it.  He was super annoyed with me and I don’t blame him. There were a couple of moments of tension but we worked it out and then everything was great for the rest of the evening.  But boy howdy, I’m ready to pass the hosting torch.

I realized the next morning that, even though there was all manner of booze flowing (none in excess), there wasn’t a second of wobbliness or craving or “oh poor me.”  Not ONE. As a matter of fact, I walked into the room just as my sister-in-law and her new boyfriend poured themselves glasses of white wine. I peeked at the label, out of curiosity.  It was Riesling, and my first thought was actually, “yuck.”

And here’s something else that’s really cool: we finished most of our holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving – AND – we’re working together today to put up the tree and decorate it.  I’ve never – EVER – been so far ahead of the game. Or felt so calm,  prepared for, or excited about the upcoming holiday season.

Life is so good.  Sobriety is the best gift,  and it just keeps on giving.

After the Party’s Over……

I. Did. It. I really friggin’ did it! Got through not one, not two, but – THREE major holidays without booze! I’m so relieved and happy and serene and proud. Very, very proud of myself.

Christmas was pretty easy, since we have an A/F brunch here for our kids and grandchildren. It’s always been dry, so no biggie.  Christmas night at my sister’s has been dry for several years now, since there are a couple of other family members who have/had issues with alcohol.

New Year’s Eve we went to my husband’s favorite restaurant.  I was DD and had my lovely club soda with lime and a splash of cranberry. Hubs had a drink before dinner and glass of wine with.  It didn’t bother me at all.  Looking around the restaurant, it did seem like most people were imbibing.  I do have that kind of ‘drink counter’ in my brain. (That’s his third beer!  Her second wine!)

Then we came home and watched “Gone Girl” and then Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin until midnight. There was no need to toast 2015 with a beverage, just sweet kisses and a few tears shared over how incredibly lucky and blessed we are.  All of our kids are happy, healthy, and whole, and live within a half an hour of us. The three precious granddaughters they’ve given us have brought so much light and laughter. We are incredibly fortunate.

New Year’s Day brings demons to exorcise. We traditionally host my husband’s family for a get-together and, especially the past two years, I had waaaaay too much to drink.  It doesn’t matter if another soul noticed; I know what was going on in my brain.  I privately swore two years ago that I would NEVER drink that much again. Riiiiiight. Another promise broken to myself. Before everyone came over I had some moments of real stress trying to figure out how best to accommodate 15 people in our small house.  My husband jokingly suggested that a glass of wine might help.  We had a good laugh and a big hug and then he talked me off the ledge. We figured everything out and I calmed right down. My panicky feelings passed and I was fine.

There was one moment – maybe a total of a full second – when my son was reaching into the fridge for a beer and I heard the bottles rattle together.  I had the fleeting thought, “A beer sounds GREAT right about now.” And it passed, just as quickly.  Quite honestly, in retrospect it seems more of a reflex than an authentic thought.

My favorite moments of the afternoon were when I was teaching my 11 year old niece and 4 year old granddaughter a hand-clapping game from my childhood.  I sat on the floor with them, cross-legged and laughing.  My adult son peeked his head in the doorway and I could see him taking a mental snapshot of his little girl, giggling helplessly at her Grandma. I could see the love and pride in his eyes and felt the same emotions myself, knowing that as I look back on all of the mental snapshots I took yesterday, I’ll see a sober, present woman who truly enjoyed herself and her family.  Free of heart, clear of mind and conscience.

I wish anyone who reads this the same kind of peace of mind and serenity. It is so, SO worth the effort to stay sober.

Bring it on, 2015! I’ve never been readier or more excited for a new year.

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?