41 Months and Still Learning

I just realized it’s been a long time since I posted. Life has been moving at breakneck speed. I just wanted to share some things I’ve been thinking about.

This weekend my husband and I are going out of town for a family Bar Mitzvah. I’ve got all kinds of treats packed for the hotel room: Kcups and a clever little portable coffee maker, special creamer, fun a/f beverages, snacks…..

Almost exactly three years ago, we traveled to the same town for a family Bat Mitzvah. It was my first sober getaway and I remember still feeling like everything was almost painfully strange and new. I packed a care kit for myself that included special scented hand cream, treats for the hotel room, and ear buds so I could use a sleep meditation on my phone without disturbing my husband. I remember being at the party, where craft beers and glasses of wine were offered. The glasses of wine were so small – I wondered, if I’d still been drinking, how many of them I would have felt comfortable drinking without anyone noticing. Ugh.

Now I still notice what/how much other people drink, but I’ve realized nobody really cares what’s in my glass. Events like these are no problem whatsoever.

But here’s the thing: as I began making mental lists of what to pack, I noticed that my husband’s bottle of bourbon was running low (he likes to pack some for the hotel room). I found myself getting a little anxious that he wouldn’t have enough booze for the trip. Because I remember all too well having to make sure that there was enough wine for me when we traveled together.

Just a friendly reminder from the Universe that, yes indeedy, I had a problem, and – nope, my brain is neither healed or fixed, even after all this sober time under my belt.

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The Beauty of “IRL” Connection

You know that feeling when you meet someone and you instantly feel like they “get” you?  You feel safe  and comfortable with them right away – like you’ve known them forever?

I do.  I’ve met two incredible women “IRL” (In Real Life) through my blog and the Booze Free Brigade (the private FaceBook group I belong to). One of these new friends lives about 10 minutes away.  I’ve met her a handful of times for coffee and/or early morning walks. Our lives have many dissimilarities, but we each understand where the other is coming from.  We’ve been able to share our stories, openly and honestly.  And it’s a beautiful thing, the power of “me, too….” There’s absolutely nothing like talking to someone who has walked the same path and experienced the same struggles and triumphs.

I can trace the other friendship back to a specific date: April 14th, 2015. That’s the date she emailed me after stumbling onto my blog. What began as a casual email conversation has bloomed into what I truly believe will be a lifelong friendship.  She and her husband traveled to our town over Labor Day weekend, and we spent a couple of days talking, eating, shopping, and mostly, sharing and laughing.  It was also great for my husband to be able to talk to hers – and for them to be able to share their experiences with each other.

Well, I guess the point of this post is to encourage you to reach out  and make connections with people who understand this journey.  It’s easy to feel “other than” in a world that seems to be obsessed with the inclusion of alcohol for every occasion.  Having a connection with and talking to people who are traveling the same road is immensely comforting.

To that end – if you’d like information about the BFB, just send me an email and I’ll give you the secret handshake! It’s my very favorite place on the internet.

Two Years Sober

Two years ago today, I woke up sick at heart, sad, disgusted with myself, and desperate. Desperate for change. Desperate for something better. Desperate for a life I had no clue how to create. I knew that doing the same thing, over and over, was not working for me. And that it would most likely have disastrous results.

I was drinking. Too much and too often. Not every day.  And not every time I drank.  But far too often – more often than I was comfortable with.  I’d wake up full of regret and self-recrimination and promise myself that I’d never do that again.

I wasn’t drinking to escape anything. There wasn’t any trauma in my past that I was self-medicating over. I had an amazing husband who adores me.  A comfortable lifestyle. Three great kids, all happily married, productive members of society. Three beautiful, healthy granddaughters. A fulfilling job I enjoy with co-workers I adore. Plenty of time off.  So why?  WHY couldn’t I control my drinking?  What was wrong with me?

I may never know for sure, although genetics is probably a factor. There’s alcoholism and alcohol abuse on both sides of my family.  I’ve reached a stage in my life where we have more expendable income. My kids are grown and independent and I’m not “on call” 24/7. And maybe, just maybe – if you ingest an addictive substance often enough over a period of say, 30-plus years, you juuuuuust might start sliding down the slippery slope of addiction.

I knew in the very core of my being that I was in trouble and that something had to change. How I secretly wished that some external force would intervene and I’d have to stop drinking! Something that wasn’t life-threatening but serious enough that it would be an easy choice – because I had zero faith in my ability to walk away and stay away.

Pulling the thread of alcohol from the fabric of my life left a pretty big hole, and I had no idea how to fill it.   I started by searching online for blogs and support groups – and found both. I found Tired of Thinking About Drinking and pledged not to drink, come hell or high water, for 100 Days. I found Mrs. D and UnPickled and a private FaceBook support group full of the best people on earth. I started this blog about two months into the journey. I napped a lot. Rediscovered a long-forgotten love for sweets and homemade desserts – because macaroons and martinis don’t go well together.

I had to work hard to learn how to feel and process uncomfortable feelings, without pushing them down or away, to drink over later.  And – boy, howdy – I’ve had many opportunities to practice this new skill! I hit a real rough patch at work that reduced me to tears more than once, about six months in. Helped one daughter through a cancer scare and another through a miscarriage.  My son lost a job we all foolishly assumed was incredibly secure.

And there have been two Thanksgivings and Christmases and New Year’s Eves – stone cold sober. Another huge surprise? The ever-present glass of wine only added to the stress of hosting holiday gatherings. Not so easy to coordinate dinner for upwards of 20 people when you’re muddle-headed on Chardonnay.  Who knew?

What I never expected to discover is that saying “no” to one thing – something that I thought I loved but finally realized wasn’t doing me any favors – has allowed me to enthusiastically say “yes!” to so many things I never would’ve even considered trying.  Like taking ice-skating lessons with my husband. And meditation. And taking Power Yoga classes, which I’ve become 100% obsessed with.

If you’d told me, two years ago today, as I sat in my family room so sad and lost and feeling so alone and broken – that I’d have better and more authentic relationships, more fun than I’d had in years, and peace of mind and a serenity the likes of which I’ve never known – I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend how it would be possible. And I’m not sure I would’ve believed you.

Let me amend that – I DEFINITELY would have thought you were lying to me, at best – or full of shit, at worst.

But when I wobbled, I was able to stay firm in my decision, using experiences from when I quit smoking as a reference point. I quit smoking, cold turkey, when I was 22. A few years later, I picked it up again socially (this was before smoking was banned in bars and clubs). Within very short order, the compulsion got stronger and stronger. I created opportunities to smoke. My re-addiction was cut short by my third pregnancy, and I never picked up a cigarette again.  So I knew I could be free of my obsession with alcohol, as long as I quit completely.  Forever.

Initially, I felt such an overwhelming sense of relief – especially after sharing my decision with my sweetheart of a husband, who told me how proud of me he was and that he’d do anything – including remove alcohol from our home – to make things easier for me.  And then I got through the first weekend and thought, “Okay. That wasn’t so bad – I can DO this!”  Keep in mind that, other than my pregnancies and a month or so over 20 years ago when I stopped just to prove to myself that I could – I hadn’t gone a weekend without drinking in more than 30 years.

And, sure – there were times when I felt “other than” and left out of the fun.  I mourned the end of socializing, and celebrating, and consoling myself, and I don’t know –  Tuesday – as I knew it. I got the “grumblefucks” when it seemed like everyone in the friggin’ world was sipping ice cold white wine or drinking a craft brew. And there I was  – with my big dumb coke glass with a big white straw  jabbed into it- sticking out like a sore thumb.

But slowly and gradually, I’ve evolved. As a non-drinker and, hopefully, as a human being. My perception has shifted. I’ve gone from feeling conspicuous and uncomfortable to feeling just a li’l bit like a superhero. I mean, this is HARD, people! To say “no” and hold firm while navigating my way through a society that’s absolutely DRENCHED with booze?  When everything from Paint Night to Book Club to Play Group to Yoga is paired with alcohol? Amazing!

So. Year One was all about navigating new experiences as a sober person.  Figuring out how to create new habits and coping strategies when stress came calling. Year Two beckoned me to get my health – physical and mental – in order. Talk therapy? Check! Physical therapy for a bum elbow and shoulder? Check! Re-establish healthy eating habits? Check! Explore new forms of exercise? Check!

Onto Year Three – come along with me?

 

23 Months – 700 Days of Sobriety

Oh, friends….

So much has changed.  For the better. I’ll post more on my two – year soberversary, but if you’re on Day 1, for the first time…. Or the umpteenth time. I was where you are right now.

I was sad and scared and desperate. I had a love/hate relationship with alcohol. I wanted it out of my life but was terrified to say goodbye. I had no clue how to mend the huge hole that its absence would leave.

And now?

I know that it was absolutely the right decision.

I started this post 5 days ago and haven’t finished it because I’ve been too damn busy living my life and having F-U-N! Like taking granddaughters to amusement parks and taking long walks with my husband and taking yoga classes and ice skating and going to a cabin in the woods for an overnight visit with our daughter, son-in-law and youngest granddaughter.  And watching the RNC, which was fun like watching those videos where people skateboard down stair railings and end up slipping and smashing their crotches is fun. You can’t bear to see another second of it, but you just can’t tear your eyes away.

I’ll have a lot more to say in a few weeks, but for now – a sweet little nap is calling to me….

Oh my God! I love my life.

 

 

 

One Year: Celebrations and Observations

So, the parade is over. Confetti’s been tossed, marching band is back on the bus. Clowns have piled back into their teeny tiny car and driven off.  And life goes on.

The night before my one year anniversary, my husband took me out for dinner at one of our city’s finest restaurants. The waitress approaches to take our drink orders and excitedly announces that, since it’s the restaurant’s 40th anniversary, the first glass of wine is only 40 cents! I just smile and order my club soda with cranberry and lime – and the two of us notice how the waitress’s face falls momentarily.  Whatevs.  We had a delicious, special dinner on a lovely summer evening.  So we get the bill and his eleven dollar glass of chianti costs 40 cents and my two mocktails come to six dollars.  But, interestingly enough, most of the nice restaurants we’ve been to in the last year don’t even charge for club, cran, and lime.  When we called it to one waiter’s attention, he said, “It’s just water.”

Yesterday, which was the actual one-year mark, we babysat two of our granddaughters during the day.  They’re 5 and 2 and super active so I didn’t have too much time to reflect on what I was doing on this day last year.  Last night, we watched our youngest little sweetheart because it was her mommy’s birthday and we offered to take her so her parents could have some time to themselves.

She is just beginning to walk and loves nothing more than to practice her new skill, toddling from one end of the family room to her Grandpa, then pivoting and making her way across the room to me.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

As I’m watching her, I just can’t get enough of her energy: eyes alight with glee, her little tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth with concentration, huge grin, babbling with delight…. And I have that moment – when time freezes and you step outside yourself – and I remember EXACTLY where I was and how I felt one year ago.

And the contrast just floors me.  I was in the same room, holding this same precious baby, who was 2 1/2 months old, feeling so shaky and teary and scared shitless.  Terrified of the thought of never drinking again. So, so sad to have to say goodbye to alcohol. Too scared to to even try to imagine what my life would be like, post-booze. Feeling like I was teetering on the edge of a precipice, taking a heart-stopping free fall into an alien world.

And I had this moment of realization – I feel JUST like this sweet little toddler! Thrilled and proud and so friggin’ EXCITED about life!  Like I’m steady on my feet and confidently striding into the future! Getting stronger and more sure of myself and more confident with every step – I can’t WAIT to see what the coming year holds!

I hope you’ll come with me as I embark on the next phase of my journey – let’s go!!!

 

Yet Another Message from the Universe…

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to join a private Facebook group comprised of people endeavoring to stay sober. It’s a great, supportive, funny, smart group of people who offer each other advice and support. The symbol of the group is a penguin. I wondered why but found out it’s because penguins huddle together for warmth and strength, and protect the weak and vulnerable members of the group.

Bearing that in mind, I have little story for you today.

So we just got back from a little vacation to Washington, D.C. This is my third sober trip and I was well-prepared with books loaded on my phone, my meditation app (Simply Being), and my earphones. My biggest concern while being away from home is not being able to either get to sleep or stay asleep. The meditation app has been a huge, huge help.

When we go to a big city, we love to go on a walking Food Tour on the first or second day, because it helps us get “the lay of the land,” and gives us some ideas of places we might want to return to for meals.

We were in a group of about 15 super-nice people, and as we stroll the streets together, we’re chatting and getting to know each other a little. We get settled in one of the restaurants, waiting for our delicious hand-made spinach tortelloni stuffed with butternut squash and cheese in sage butter (delicious!)…

The tour guide says that the pasta is going to take a little while, so feel free to order cocktails. Some of the people do and I’m sitting with my glass of ice water, watching them toast each other with champagne cocktails and Manhattans. And not feeling triggery, just a wee bit sorry for myself.

Anyway. I shake it off as soon as the food arrives, resisting the urge to lick the plate – it was that good! And we all pack up to head to another restaurant for a sample of some Moroccan food.

So we’re walking up the street and I’m right behind the tour guide. It’s a chilly, blustery day and she’s bare-legged, wearing a denim skirt with little anklets and flats. I’m thinking, “Jeez! She must be FREEZING!” When something catches my eye – there’s a design on her socks. Upon closer scrutiny, I realize that they’re PENGUINS. I shit you not.

Just another message, courtesy of the Universe, that I’m right where I need to be.

First Sober Vacation

Well, kids! My last big sober milestone has been reached. Last weekend, the Hubs and I went to a family event out of town. I was more than a little nervous and curious about this. Mostly because, in the past, our pattern had been to have some drinks and snacks in the hotel room in the afternoon, followed by a nap (for me).  Then it would be out for dinner and drinks, and then finally, back to the room in the evening for – you guessed it – more drinks, possibly more snacks, and then bed. To be completely honest, I usually drank more than my husband.  He would typically fall asleep first, while I would either read or watch TV with a glass of wine until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.  It was then and only then that I’d be able to fall asleep.

So I was really nervous about the possibility that I wouldn’t sleep well, what with the room/bed/pillows being different, the room not smelling like home, the light under the room door from the hallway, unusual noises, etc.

But – I’d done my research and armed myself with some great tools: my favorite scented hand cream, most comfortable jammies, and the very best thing of all – the meditation app I’d purchased for $1.99, called “Simply Being.” The first night we were away, I had a hard time staying asleep, even though I’d been up really early that morning, probably due to the EXTREMELY strong cup of coffee I’d ordered at the Italian restaurant we went to.  I swear, the spoon stood up by itself in the thing. I woke up at 4:30 the following morning. We’re talking WIDE AWAKE. So, I plugged my earbuds in, fired up a 30 minute meditation session, and – presto! It was 6:30, time to get up, and I was refreshed, well-rested, and ready to start my day.

Then, that evening, I had a hard time settling down.  It was 11:30 and I was still wide awake.  Used the meditation app again, and – like magic, didn’t wake up until 6:45.  I felt great.

Just a side note here – there was a family party the second night, and wine and bottled beer were offered.  There were also urns of ice water, lemonade, and iced tea.  I drank iced tea for the most part, and returned several times to refill my glass.  I had the thought that, if I were still drinking, I would have probably started with wine, but since the glasses were on the small side and the bartender’s pour was pretty skimpy, I’d have switched to bottled beer.  I would have been anxious about getting enough to drink to satisfy me without looking like I was visiting the bar too often.   Nobody else at the party seemed to be drinking very enthusiastically.

So glad to have that piano off my back.