Three Years

On August 18th I marked three entire years of sobriety. I look back and see myself sitting in the exact same spot on the couch I’m sitting on as I write this. I wish I could reach through the veil of time and comfort that poor, lost woman. She had so much love in her life and had so much to be grateful for – but at her core, was so lost and felt so alone and so damn scared.

The one thing I wish that I’d known about sooner was the private Facebook group that I eventually learned about and joined.  It’s called the Booze Free Brigade and it’s chock full of the best people I’ve never met.  We all share a single goal: to live our very best lives without alcohol mucking everything up.  There are people in the BFB from all walks of life at every stage of the journey, and it’s a beautiful thing.  It’s a 24/7 support group. I’ve made a new friend who lives near me and connected with people from all over the world – there is absolutely nothing like talking to people who “get” you.

In the past three years, I’ve experienced just about every challenge you can think of. There have been births and deaths, my children have faced some major crises, work issues that have tested me, weddings, family and day-to-day stress,  and most recently – my 40th High School reunion.  Interestingly, the reunion was very, VERY difficult.  I graduated in a class of almost 1,000 – and did nothing of note during my three years there. I was incredibly uncomfortable for much of the evening – and didn’t want to drink so much as just pull an “I Dream of Jeannie” –  blink my eyes and disappear.  I felt uncomfortable and awkward and out of my element.  If my husband hadn’t encouraged me to walk around and talk to people, it would have been a complete waste of an evening.  I would have been far more comfortable in a room full of strangers than I was surrounded by people who, for the most part, I only had vague memories of.  Without the social lubricant of alcohol, I realized I have a definite social anxiety/shy streak.

I wish I had something new to say or some sparkling nugget of wisdom to pass on, but I don’t.  If you’ve just stumbled on my blog and/or you’re new to this journey, all I can encourage you to do is: anything but drink.  Read as many sobriety blogs as you can – some good ones are: Tired of Thinking About Drinking, Sober at Sixty, Mrs. D is Going Without, and UnPickled.  Listen to podcasts!  The Bubble Hour,  Since Right Now, and Hip Sobriety come to mind.  Eat ice cream, candy, popcorn with real butter – any damn thing you want.  Make things easy on yourself:  if the answer to any question isn’t a “Hell, yes!” – then it’s “Hell, NO!”  Cut back on any obligation that doesn’t make your soul sing. “No” is a complete sentence.  Try meditation.  Insight Timer is a great app – maybe costs two bucks – and is worth its weight in gold.  I use it every night. Try yoga – it works wonders for a million reasons.  There are tons of videos on YouTube. And when all else fails, go to bed.

And as for me, I plan to stay the course and make the most of whatever life throws my way. I’ll be posting less – but if you need me, I’m only an email away. (lifewithoutvodkarocks@gmail.com)

Take good care, friends!

 

 

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Another Milestone – and a Question

On February 18th, I marked two and a half years of continuous sobriety. This particular soberversary was greeted without fanfare, parade, treat, or celebration. Not sure how I feel about that.

On the one hand, my sobriety is like a pair of old slippers: broken in, comforting and comfortable, well-worn. Being sober is just part of who I am, instead of a conscious choice. My close circle of family and friends knows and appreciates the fact that I don’t drink (although only those closest to me – including you guys, of course – have been made privy to the real reasons behind my choice).

There’s been a not-so-subtle shift in my mindset about socializing sober. I feel strong and brave and just a little bit subversive – given our society’s insistence that you must imbibe alcohol to have fun of any kind.

I’m lucky to have some really considerate friends. I hosted a “paint night” a few weeks ago. A friend brought a bottle of special whiskey to share with everyone else, along with a pomegranate drink, just for me. Then last week, we were invited out to dinner – and the hostess had stocked up on seltzer, and even made a ginger syrup to create a special mocktail for me.

And on a related note, sometimes I still struggle with the notion of rewarding myself for NOT doing something to cause self-harm. I remember reading somewhere that “alcoholics are the only people who expect a medal for running out of a burning building.”

On the other hand,  this is hard, hard HARD, people! I still miss the taste of an ice-cold martini.  Probably will until the day I die. And I’d be lying if I said it never bothered me at all to see people at restaurants having cocktails with their meals. I still wish I could be a normal drinker. I know I will never be able to drink safely again…  So, I have to abstain.

But – considering what sobriety offers – mental clarity,  good health, peace of mind, self-respect, serenity, and joy – it’s a pretty easy choice.

So, the jury’s still out regarding a reward to mark this milestone. I don’t feel as if one is needed to entice me to continue along this path….

What about those of you who have several years of sobriety under your belt?  Do you still celebrate sobriety milestones with treats or rewards? I’d love to hear from you!

First Sober 4th and a Few Other Things…

My first sober Fourth of July is in the history books…. and, much to my surprise, it provided more challenges than I thought it would. Summer’s been harder than I thought it would be, even after almost 11 months of sobriety. It seems booze is in my face everywhere I go… Strolling down the main street of our town where people are dining and drinking outside, there are live bands playing every block or two and people are holding cups of beer or wine.

And – have you been to the movies lately? Have you seen the booze commercials before the movie? And here’s what I love: the slogan is all about “making the night unforgettable” with booze.  Hello?  Are you shitting me right now?

And I’m the allergic little kid staring longingly in the pet store window at the adorable puppies romping inside.

We went to a family party on the 4th where again, I was surrounded by people drinking beer, wine, mojitos… But guess what. Nobody but me gave one little shit about what was or wasn’t in my cup. (Diet grapefruit soda.) After I got over my bad self, I ate whatever I wanted.  And second helpings of dessert.

I was never at risk of throwing in the towel and drinking; I don’t ever plan to imbibe alcohol again. But the notion of being sober had faded to the background; become a thread in the fabric of my daily life. That fabric has become a little scratchy and uncomfortable lately and I just need to break it in a little bit –  it’ll be just fine.

Oh – and the counseling dilemma – I did go back for the second visit. We talked a little more and I was very honest about how deeply upsetting I found the breathalyzing/pee testing. And we agreed that this particular agency is not the place for me.  So the counselor there is going to come up with some names of psychologists she’s referred other people to.  She seems to think (and I agree) that short-term, issue-specific CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is what would be most beneficial for me.

So that’s what’s new.  My plan is to keep plugging along, doing my thing and enjoying my summer.

And I have confidence that things will get easier again, as long as I keep doing the next right thing.

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.

A Conversation with a Friend

The other day at lunch, a friend of mine who knows about my decision to stop drinking, asked me how the holidays went without booze. I thought for a minute and said, “Great. Really great.” Which they did. The thing that I learned that surprised me the most was that I always thought wine helped me unwind during the stressful times. Having gone through it sober, I learned that – yes, there’s still stress associated with the holidays, but that it was much more manageable WITHOUT alcohol.

The more sober time I accrue (today is day 148, I believe) the more clearly I see and am able to admit the problems booze was creating in my life.  I shared that with her in conversation the other day and she listened thoughtfully and intently.  I told her that for me, the bottom line was this: I knew it was time to quit when the thought of continuing the way I was going was MORE terrifying than the thought of quitting (which scared the absolute shit out of me, truth be told).

She thought for a second and said, “That makes a TON of sense.”

I think I’m getting to the point where I can selectively be more honest about my reasons for quitting.  And being a person who is not overfond of secrets, it’s pretty cool to be getting comfortable with my truth.