An Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is next week and I’ve been mentally assembling my gratitude list. Here it is, in stream-of-consciousness order:

1. My husband and I have adjusted happily to his recent retirement. He takes care of two of our granddaughters one day a week, subs at the school he used to teach at a couple of days a week, and pretty much plain damn does what he pleases with the bulk of the rest of his time. After 43 years, it’s pretty amazing that we can still tolerate each other, much less enjoy hanging out together. He’s truly my favorite person.

2. I’m so grateful that my kids have all reached a level of contentment and relative peace in their lives. They’re all married and settled and pretty happy. Gainfully employed and making plans for their families and their futures. Our granddaughters are our Number One fans – and it’s 100% mutual. There’s another grand baby on the way. What parent/grandparent could ask for more?

3. My schedule at work this year is manageable and enjoyable. I’ve been pushed waaaaaay out of my comfort zone in terms of what I’m teaching. Guess what? You CAN teach old dogs new tricks! My co-workers and I are in sync about SO many things. I try to remind myself how fortunate I am to work with friends. I almost – ALMOST – feel guilty about getting paid to have this much fun. I’ve fallen back in love with my job, and I try to remind myself of how lucky I am every day.

4. Friends, old and new. Some have suffered losses this year: a brother, a father….. and I’m grateful to be present and able to hold space for them. So very grateful for my sober friends: my online group, and one special friend and her husband that my husband and I have met and become fast friends with. Also very grateful for a new friend – newly sober – who has reached out to me and become a special new light in my life. She reminds me of how it felt to walk this path in the early days, and it’s a privilege to offer her support and share my experiences.

5. My health, physical and mental. This old bird still feels like a 19-year-old most days. I’m one of those rare women who actually LIKES  her body.  It’s produced three healthy children, fed two of them, and gets me where I need to go. I’m proud of every stretch mark and scar. They mean I survived.  I’m happy, content, at peace, and find joy in life’s smallest moments. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

So, friends – there’s my gratitude list.

What are YOU grateful for?

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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.

My Word for 2016: Health

Well, friends… now that I’ve got enough sober time under my belt, it’s time for me to focus on my health – mental and physical.  Starting this week, it’s back to counseling.  My therapist has recovered sufficiently to begin seeing me again.  I have so much to catch her up on, in the four months that’s elapsed since our last chat. I feel as though I’ve been in an emotional state of stasis since I saw her in September.

And I see my primary physician early next month to discuss physical therapy for a strained left shoulder,  and golfers’ elbow in my right arm.  Super frustrating as I tried cold laser therapy for the elbow, which was a gigantic waste of money and time. And I love to incorporate weights in my workouts.  Now I can’t even lift a 6 pound dumbbell comfortably.  I used to curl 20 pounds! Ugh.

The fridge and freezer are both stocked with healthy foods: fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy.   Breakfasts and lunches are prepped and healthy dinners are planned for the week. Time to tame the sugar monster: bowls of berries and cut-up fruit will replace ice cream for evening treats.  This is my year to focus on getting in the best shape of my life.

The second set of sober holidays was much, MUCH easier than the first.  So much more comfortable and normal feeling.  I’ve also noticed that the “drink counter” in my brain seems to have taken a hike.  I no longer notice, with such glaring focus, what everyone else seems to have in their glass.

Another new experience? Handling some pretty overwhelming worry sober.  One of my kids has a health issue that is almost positively minor, but I had managed to work myself into a near-frenzy over it. It cast a pall over much of my holiday break. I’m typically not a worrier and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t “talk myself off the ledge.”  Until I realized that this is the first time I’ve experienced something like this without any anesthetic.  I did work my way through to the other side, but – boy, howdy – it sucked scissors. But it just goes to show that we can handle the hard shit that life throws us, stone-cold sober.

And continue to grow, and learn, and evolve.

 

Is That All There Is?

Ugh. I’m really struggling these past few days. The entire world seems to be awash in cocktails, celebrating and partying and having fun.

And here I sit, with my stupid decaf. Feeling like a big fat loser.  Wet blanket. Stick in the mud.  As my mother-in-law used to chant teasingly to any of her children in a bad mood, “Every party has a pooper – that’s why we invited YOU!”

Last night, I was having dinner with my husband and daughter. They’re both in my “inner circle.” Daughter is eight years clean after a horrific couple of years on heroin. Hubs understands very, VERY well that I was heading toward big trouble with alcohol.

So when I took a deep breath and said something about sobriety being boring and missing out on all the fun – there were two very stricken faces and four big brown eyes locked on mine.

My husband has told me before that he would do everything in his power to prevent me from drinking ever again. And I’m really grateful for that additional layer of insulation. Because I just feel……. blah.  Like a big fat martini sounds reallllly good.

And then my daughter chimed in. She said that quitting alcohol is way harder than getting clean for her was, inasmuch as she couldn’t imagine being surrounded by people snorting and shooting heroin all around her and resisting it.  She reminded me that booze is just about everywhere you go these days, and – what’s more – there’s a societal expectation that everyone joins in! Non-drinkers are truly the odd men out.

I’m fifteen months in – and I have no idea if what I’m going through normal or not.  It’s just what I feel.  Sometimes the thought of never joining in the ‘fun’ again makes me so, so sad.

But I know that feelings aren’t facts and that this too, shall pass.

I’m not going to drink.  And after a long, tough week at work and a long day yesterday full of chores, my instincts are telling me it’s time for some good, old-fashioned self care.  So that’s definitely on the docket for this week.

I’ll let you know how it goes….

First Turkey Day Without Chardonnay

Well, my first alcohol free major holiday went off without a hitch!  Two surprising observations: first of all, I foolishly assumed that I’d have all kinds of time to visit with each guest and really get to spend some quality time chatting with everyone, since I wouldn’t be spending time sipping wine all day.  Wrong! We hosted dinner for 16 people and my husband and I worked together, enlarging the dining room table, rearranging a couple of rooms, removing shoes to the garage, setting up folding tables, setting the table, setting up the beverages, mashing ten pounds of potatoes, making two pies and apple sausage pecan stuffing (insert deep breath here) – there wasn’t a moment to sit and relax until after dinner was cleared away. I don’t know what I was thinking!

The really big surprise was that NOT drinking made everything sooooo much easier! Coordinating and timing the reheating of several side dishes, making sure there was enough counter space to lay out all the food and arrange it in a way that made it convenient for our guests to serve themselves – was all made so much easier by my unfuzzed brain, which eliminated a TON of stress.  I can’t tell you how interesting I found it that staying sober and clearheaded made so much of a difference when I thought it was the WINE that helped me de-stress.  Go figure!

I hope everyone out there who celebrated Thanksgiving today had a wonderful, peaceful holiday with their loved ones. I am so grateful for so many things this year – and one of the things I’m most thankful for is this new-found gift of sobriety.  Life isn’t perfect, but it’s so much better than I ever imagined it could be without alcohol.