Moving Right Along….

Holding steady here at 26-plus months of sobriety. Ticked off the last milestone on my list: a wedding. The only problem I encountered was having to wait until almost 8:30 for some kind of food to be put out at the reception, and avoiding some family members whom I don’t care for.

It was extra nice to not have to wait in a loooooong line for little tiny glasses of wine.

It was a wonderful evening – my entire little family was all there, sitting at the same table. I loved watching my sweet granddaughters play with each other.

We’ve had some more family stress since I wrote last. My son and his family were in an accident while riding in a Winnebago a few weeks ago. My son and daughter in law are both still dealing with aches and pains and bruises. Our older granddaughter suffered a broken collarbone; her little sister has a severe laceration on her face. They’re all lucky to be alive and I’m so, SO grateful that the injuries weren’t worse.

I had a mini-crisis at work, which caused me to struggle to get through every day without crying (and I’m not a cryer) – which I finally brought to the attention of my co-workers. The issues were addressed and resolved and I’m happy to go to work every day again.

And through it all, I realized that, again, drinking never occurred to me. It’s just not how I cope any more.

But here’s the thing: I’d been getting multiple daily emails about sobriety, and subscribed to a couple of sobriety podcasts. I had the realization the only time I thought about drinking was when it was brought to my attention….. And what I’ve discovered is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to read or listen to everything in my inbox.  Nor do I feel the need for the support.  It’s kind of like getting constant emails about how to care for a newborn – when you’ve got teenagers.  Just not relevant any more.

So I’ve unsubscribed from all of it and am enjoying the feeling of working without a net. Those emails were a lifeline for so long – but I’m solid in my sobriety.  I don’t ever see myself drinking, ever again. Life is too good to mess around with booze.

I’m still active in the private Facebook  group I belong to, although I tend to check in and ‘like’ and comment occasionally, rather than post often.  My life is happy and busy and overall, my problems are pretty minor, in the grand scheme of things.

So, friends….. My posts here are likely to become more and more infrequent, as the revelations that early sobriety brings have pretty much run their course. I’ve no plans to shut down my blog, but I’ll only be posting things I think will be helpful or resonant with you guys.

Take good care; talk to you later!

Perspective

I had an experience the other night that I’d like to share. This is especially for those of you who are in the very early days of sobriety.  I remember feeling so anxious and awkward and anxiety-ridden, especially as it pertained to social events and dining out. Like my skin was on inside-out; unsure of myself and uncomfortable.

About eight weeks in, I celebrated a special birthday.  My husband and I went to a fancy-schmancy restaurant for dinner. Once we were seated, the maitre d’ approached our table with two glasses of champagne and a big smile. Internally, I freaked out.  What do I do? What do I say?

So I kind of blurted out, “I’m sorry – I don’t drink!”

You know  that sound effect on TV – when the needle screeches across a record and everyone freezes?  Well, that’s what the reaction was like.  He stopped dead in his tracks, his smiled faded, he spun on his heel and whisked the offending beverages away.

Awk- warrrrrrrd.

So fast forward to this week.  Another nice dinner out to celebrate our 37th anniversary.  Different restaurant, same scenario. Waiter approaches our table with two champagne flutes, saying, “First things first. Happy anniversary!”

This time?  I smiled graciously, thanked him, and as soon as he walked away, slid the glass over to my husband.

When the waiter came back, I ordered a club soda with lime and a splash of grenadine.

And everything was just lovely.

It gets so, SO much easier, friends!

The Gift of Presence

For as long as I can remember, I always felt like there was something wrong with me emotionally; unless something directly affected me personally, I couldn’t really force myself to care the way I perceived that a normal person would. I felt vaguely disconnected.  Oh, I’d go through the motions and say (and hopefully, do) the right things.  But deep down inside, there was another part of me that felt detached. Disengaged. Other than. I thought I was inherently emotionally flawed somehow.

Since getting sober 18 months ago, I’ve undergone so much emotional growth – especially in terms of learning how to sit with unpleasant emotions and situations.  And I’ve learned something else: anger can be a blanket emotion.  I’ve been learning how to sift through what I’m feeling and dig out what’s underneath it. I feel so much more connected and tuned in to my own emotions and to the people I love.

Sometimes I don’t have the luxury of time to unpack what I’m feeling.  I have to react to a situation quickly and diplomatically, which isn’t one of my strengths. I can’t escape or emotionally check out. So, when all else fails, I try to remember: “if you can’t get out of it, get into it!” I take a deep breath and stay present.  Right here.  Right now. And do the best I can.

I realize now that booze was robbing me of the ability to stay in the moment.  I’d operate by kind of shoving feelings away and putting them on a shelf so I could drink over them later; medicate them away.

This is such an interesting journey.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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.

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.

Day 71…. who’da thunk it?

Sorry I’ve been remiss in posting…. Busy couple of weeks.  This past weekend was filled with babies, babies, and more babies – our three precious granddaughters.  Wonderful, wonderful stuff.  It was also the first weekend I missed drinking, in the 10 weekends since I stopped.  I wasn’t tempted, didn’t struggle, but – BUT. There were a few moments when I thought, “Shit.  I would REALLY love a drink right about now.”  To de-stress, relax, socialize.  These were passing thoughts that zipped through my brain.  I still feel as committed to being alcohol free as I did from the beginning.  It just kind of surprised me to have these thoughts float up to the surface, unbidden. Like my brain is an 8 ball, like I used to play with when I was a kid.

8 ball, am I going to have a drink?

“All signs point to ‘no’.”