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.

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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!

 

 

The Journey of 1,000 Days

….. Began with a decision. A decision that was born from a moment of the purest intuition. I just knew – in the very deepest core of my being – that I could no longer continue drinking. It was absolutely going to kill me.

One thousand mornings ago, I woke up – yet again – unable to remember going to bed the night before.  Or the details of the television show I’d watched.  Or much of anything after the big fat martini I’d consumed, come to think of it. (Which was after the drink in the afternoon and the glasses of wine I’d  had with dinner, of course.)

I woke up to my morning ritual – silent self-interrogation:

How much did I drink?

Do I remember going to bed?

Did I say or do anything I need to apologize to my husband for?

Along with the resolve to STOP drinking so often, so recklessly, so unpredictably….

I’ll never forget that moment: when a thought – no, more like a voice – unbidden and unwanted, said, “You need to stop drinking.” I couldn’t un-hear it.  Couldn’t un-know what I knew. I felt my blood turn to ice as I realized what I needed to do.  I had to save my own life. There was no turning back.

And the first year was alternately exhilarating, and terrifying, and sad, and frustrating, and exquisitely strange, and unbelievably wondrous.

Year two was when I could start to take my eye off the ball. Being a non-drinker became much more comfortable and natural. I felt like my old self, only a little more socially subversive and with just a touch of bad-assery.

I thought I’d be done getting used to this new way of life by now.  But I’m still growing and learning how to navigate tricky situations and uncomfortable moments.  Mostly by reminding myself that “I am the sky, and my feelings are just the weather.”

And when I start to feel guilty about treats or self-care, I need to remind myself that:

Sobriety is HARD work.

Taking care of myself benefits not only me – it allows me to be the very best person I can, which in turn creates a positive ripple effect that touches everyone in my life.

There was always money for booze – why not for self-care?

And the thing that I’ve realized that surprises me the most, is that my growth as a sober person will continue for the rest of my life.  At least, I certainly hope so.  Because I’m ready – both hands and my heart are wide open.

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

A Week of Extremes

My summer is melting like ice cream on a 90 degree July day – every day is jam-packed with granddaughters or yoga or long walks or even ice-skating with my husband. There’s a world of difference between last summer, my first as a sober adult, and this summer. Sobriety is as much a part of me as my eye color or height – just a part of what makes me “me.”

But last week, out of the blue, our son lost his job.  None of us saw it coming, as he’d worked his way up (in one of our city’s charter schools) from per diem substitute, to classroom teacher, to administrator, to principal.  He was the only constant employee in the school’s 13-year history.  A new ‘top dog’ was hired recently, and the decision was made to clean house. So his position was written out of the budget. Thirteen years of employment was reduced to six boxes in the back seat of his car.

At first, he was stunned. Then enveloped by such deep sadness. Then furious.  And he’s used his anger to propel him forward as he contemplates a brand-new career.  We were watching his two little girls that day and, consequently, were the first family members to see him.

I hugged and kissed my boy. And told him how sorry I was. And said that it was their loss.  And that they were fucking fuckers to do this to him.  And I cried a little after hearing that his sweet five year old tried to console him with a story about how she knew he was sad to leave his job, but that she understood how he might be feeling.  Because she was really sad to leave kindergarten but now she’s looking forward to first grade – and maybe he’d be just as excited about a new job.

But never – even though my mother’s heart was crushed for him – did drinking cross my mind.

And then a few days later, my entire family: three kids,  two sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, and three granddaughters, traveled to Cleveland to beam with pride as our youngest graduated from the University of Phoenix.

This young woman is in long-term recovery from heroin addiction and has attained her bachelors degree while working full-time.  It’s taken the better part of six years. And back in the dark days of her addiction, I never would have dreamed that she’d graduate from college. I thought it was far more likely to be planning her funeral.  But by God, she did it.  It was a weekend of memories I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

And again, I never wanted to drink to celebrate.  I wouldn’t dream of fuzzing out one second of the joy and pride and gratitude to a beneficent universe that I felt.

We can suffer crushing disappointment – sober.  We can experience huge, huge triumphs – sober.

And while it doesn’t make the hard stuff suck any less, it’s processed and moved through more efficiently when we “feel the feels,” instead of numbing out.  Because the unpleasant feelings are still waiting there, waiting to be dealt with, once you sober up. It’s just delaying the inevitable.

Being present for the good stuff makes for glowing, complete memories that last forever.  And they play in your mind, over and over, in a glorious loop.

Who knew that giving up one little thing would grant so many enormous blessings?

 

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.

 

 

 

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!

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.

This is What 600 Days of Sobriety Looks Like

Today marks 600 days since my last drink. 600 days since I woke up with shame. Or self-loathing. Or regret. Or worry about the damage I was doing to myself.

And, the morning of the day I decided that I’d had enough – that I had to stop or I was going to die before my time, by my own hand – I was as scared as I’d been in as long as I could remember.

Scared that I’d never have fun again. Scared that it would negatively affect my relationship with my husband. Scared that I wouldn’t know how to fill the gaping hole that would be left.

So much has changed since that day.

Yes, I’ll admit that I was sad and teary and terrified to leave my old buddy, my pal booze, behind forever.  I was in an emotional free fall, plummeting blindly without a clue where I’d land.  I felt raw and weird – like my skin was inside out. And after a month or so of what seemed like a bone-deep craving for sleep – these emotions started bubbling up from some pit in my psyche.  And I didn’t know what the hell to do with them!

I had so much help from Belle (Tired of Thinking About Drinking) and her 100-Day Challenge.  Her daily emails gave me accountability and a lifeline to a sober mentor. She’d give me homework assignments and reassure me that everything I was feeling and thinking was 100% normal and to be expected. I ate all the treats that I’d denied myself for years: homemade macaroons, pies, cakes and cookies.  What fun I had!  And I still lost weight without trying.  I read sobriety memoirs and found Mrs. D. and UnPickled on the internet.  I started writing this blog and eventually found my way into that private Facebook sobriety support group I’ve mentioned before.  That was another game changer.

I cut way back on “have to” and focused way more on “want to.”   My husband and I are taking ice-skating lessons!  I’ve started taking a weekly yoga class and intend to explore that even more often as the school year wraps up and I have the summer off.

There have been more subtle changes that I only notice when certain situations arise: conflict or any kind of emotional discomfort.  I find that I perseverate and beat myself up less.  I’m learning how to sit with unpleasant feelings and not immediately try to change them. And I can’t even remember the last time I picked a stupid argument with my husband or went to bed in tears over some real or imagined slight. We’ve never been closer…. His eyes shine with pride when he looks at me. Even better – I’m proud of who I am.  This is something only total badasses do!  And another surprise is that he drinks much less than he did before.  I was a very bad influence, I’m afraid…

Life continues to be “interesting.”  I’m becoming more confident that no matter what happens, I can handle it without altering my mental state.   Or even wanting to.

Which is pretty amazing, considering the fact that only 20 short months ago, that was my automatic go-to; my one and only coping mechanism.

Oh, friends.  Don’t get me wrong.  My life isn’t perfect.  I’m certainly not perfect.  But life is so much better and richer and more authentic and more – real – than I could’ve ever imagined. Or dared to hope for, on the morning of August 18th, 2014.

I’m one of the lucky ones who got to make the decision to walk away, before there were any horrible consequences.

You can do this, too.  Care to take a walk with me?