Non-Alcoholic Cocktail: Drinking Vinegar and Seltzer

My first batch of homemade drinking vinegar was finally done yesterday, and it turned out great! Kind of like tangy grenadine. I added it to lemon-flavored seltzer for a delicious alcohol-free cocktail. I read about drinking vinegars, also known as shrubs, here on the blog Off-Dry. A perfect grown-up drink for those of us who adore vinegar.

Here’s what I did to make strawberry drinking vinegar. I used this recipe as a guideline. I think the strawberry would be fabulous with fresh basil thrown in, but my basil plants are way done for the year. I am going to experiment with different flavors … yum!

Place two cups of apple cider vinegar in a large jar. Add one cup of frozen strawberries. Set this on the counter for one week and shake daily. After one week, strain with cheesecloth, discard fruit, place vinegar back in jar and add one one cup of sugar to remaining vinegar. Place jar in fridge and shake daily until sugar is totally dissolved.

Create fun drinks and enjoy!

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90 Days

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I have been looking back a lot lately. I feel proud that I have gone 90 days without drinking, but I am SO aware of all of the mistakes I made in the past. I hope that I will eventually get to a place where I can be more accepting and forgiving of who I was. I am not ready to go there yet … it’s almost as if I need to dissociate from my ‘old’ self to really delve into changing my life and becoming the ‘new’ me. I think that one day I will be able to look back and feel happiness for the path I have taken, and my past, but there are a lot of painful memories that are still too close. Of course, there was grace present the entire time, which is why I am sitting here typing this today. I know that much is true.

My feelings are really raw lately … so much more so than they used to be. Angry feels angrier, sad feels sadder, happy feels downright joyous. Handling them is both beautiful and hard. They come out of the blue and really surprise me. It feels almost childlike, and can be disconcerting. I like feeling them, though. It makes me feel alive in an entirely different way than it used to when I was living so close to the edge.

I think the changing seasons has something to do with the melancholy I have been experiencing. Everything is dying, it is getting colder outside, I am sober. So what now? It is getting easier to stay sober, but I am not really comfortable living there yet. So I will continue to be free of alcohol and continue to take tiny steps forward. I love traveling light, and living a sober life has allowed me to set down some shitty and heavy baggage, and that is pretty damn cool.

90 days is pretty cool.

Escapism, Or When is Good Good Enough?

Eating. Watching TV. Playing on the computer. Shopping. Having dessert. Drinking coffee. All of these things can be addictive, so do I need to cut them out of my life completely because I have an ‘addictive personality’? What is normal escapism and what is a problem?

Hmm, my iPad just corrected ‘I’ to ‘PIE’, so maybe there is a problem… 🙂

I am firmly in the camp that it is okay, good, great even, to give myself lots of rewards in early sobriety. Getting sober is hard! I deserve little nice things. So do you.

I don’t want to find myself making excuses for behaviors, though. Or lying to myself about what I am doing. I think that could be a bad road to go down because I used to do that with booze. Honesty is best … no matter what. So yeah, I use the internet as a way to escape and I like to eat dessert because it makes my brain feel less sharp and prickly sometimes. I feel a little giddy and manic when I spend money, so I have to check with myself before making decisions. I am okay with those things (at least for now) because they are not nearly as harmful as alcohol to my body, spirit, soul, relationships, life, etc.

I think it is about balance. I am an all or nothing person, I have realized, and I have to fight that instinct within myself. It is okay to be less than perfect. Heck, I was never anywhere close to perfect, ever. That does not mean that I need to give up and start drinking again. I simply can’t be balanced when it comes to drinking, so complete abstinence is the best, most logical way to go.

I have a hard time knowing what ‘normal’ looks like, but I think I can tell when I am going off the rails into unhealthy or addictive behaviors. You know what else I’ve noticed? Just about everyone else does this type of stuff, too. It’s normal to be imperfect. Phew.

Accidental Living

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In an ongoing search for “the answer” to help my baby sleep better, I have been reading yet another in a long line of parenting books. This one talks a lot about ‘accidental parenting,’ an interesting idea that got me thinking about intention in other areas of my life. Accidental parenting refers to creating bad habits in babies and children by not thinking your actions through for the long run. Living with intention is about making sure that everything you do has a purpose. In what areas am I living with intention, and in what areas am I doing what I am now calling ‘accidental living?’

Before I made the decision to get sober I did a lot of accidental living. Things would happen TO me; I only steered my ship some of the time. I thought I was being spontaneous, but now I see that it was less about that and more about learned helplessness. I didn’t believe that I had the power to make changes in my life. If something good happened to me– great –but I didn’t have much to do with it. The same with bad stuff. I was essentially giving my power away by being a product of my circumstances. This is living accidentally, or living without intention. Boozing fit in perfectly with this idea because it helped keep me stuck in those thought and behavior patterns for a long time.

I used to put a lot of resources into drinking that I can now put elsewhere. There is so much space that boozing used to fill… time, money, thoughts, etc. Booze takes up space, there is no doubt about it. Even if you drink normally, it still takes up space that you could be using differently. For me, it took up WAY too much space. And now I am relishing the fact that I have SO MUCH FREE TIME.

I am beginning with small goals. A few things that I can do/have been doing to live with more intention. Work everyday (for money). Write everyday (for me).  Entertain once in awhile. Eat healthy foods. Cut down on sugar. Drink more water and green tea instead of Diet Coke. Keep up with my gratitude lists. Work on letting go. Get up and move instead of messing with the iPad. Look at each moment as an opportunity for SOMETHING instead of as time to fill. It is a luxury to have this time, and it is up to me to make it amazing.

Gaining Understanding Vs. Playing the Victim

My parents are alcoholics. Admitting that is almost as hard as it was to first admit that I am an alcoholic. My mother is an active alcoholic and my father is dry (I think?) but not recovered or in recovery. It is stupidly hard to admit that I grew up with parents who put their addictions before me. I feel so guilty about it, like I am saying that they were bad parents. I still love them even if they WERE bad parents, and feel fiercely protective of that. They did a lot of good things, especially in my early formative years- travel, cultural events, books, extra-curricular activities, family dinners- but our lives gradually grew more and more out of control as I grew up. I adapted the best that I could with my limited skills and abilities, but I really needed more help learning how to navigate the world around me.

Part of my recovery process is learning why I ended up where I did. Gaining knowledge and understanding is one of the main things that drives me. I want to know WHY. Not just about this, but about everything that sparks my interest. In searching for answers I have been reading a lot of literature geared towards adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs). I have found that I fit in with this group better than any other groups I have found (not the support group, just generally). It is so comforting to finally understand why I do some of the things that I do and feel the way that I feel. This article, Adult Children of Alcoholics ACoAs: Qualities and Traits, is so right on. I exhibit almost ALL of the qualities and traits outlined in the article. It is interesting that being an ACoA is comparable to experiencing PTSD, and that it can be triggered by beginning a family of your own. I have felt traumatized, like something BIG was happening in my psyche, since my son was born. It is gradually getting easier and easier, especially with the clarity that comes from sobriety, but I totally identify with that. I am really thankful for this validation. Feeling “off” is the pits.

What do I do with this information now that I have been awakened to it? It is tempting to dive into a blaming, victim role and live there for a time, but I know that isn’t very healthy. I can’t really talk to my parents because they are not ready to face their denial or the ramifications of their actions. My brothers are stuck in an addictive hell that I can’t enter. (The article I referred to has an interesting section on ‘survival guilt’ that is already becoming an issue for me.) I think my husband finds my story increasingly sad as I make further realizations about who I am and where I come from, so I don’t want to heap too much on his plate. I put a lot on his plate anyway, as he is truly my best friend. My good friends have their own lives, struggles and family problems, even though they are always willing to lend an ear. I have decided that what I want, what is best for me, is to find a therapist who is experienced in these matters to help me sort it out. It seems like a big task to do alone, and since part of my family is still stuck in the cycle of addiction, it will be an ongoing struggle. I want to talk to a professional who understands what I am talking about. Also- self-care is where it’s at these days.

I think it is so helpful, regardless of where you are with being sober, to remember that you are not alone. xx

** Writing this post was really hard for me because so many people have had childhood experiences that were much worse. I have been pretty lucky overall, so who am I to complain? I am gradually realizing, however, that I have to tell my story and own my life experiences to truly move past them.

Sober Memoirs

Reading has helped me so much on this journey towards becoming a better human. I started reading sobriety memoirs by accident. Mary Karr is a writer that I have long admired, so when I saw her book ‘Lit’ at our local used bookstore last Christmas-time, I snatched it up pretty quickly, and immediately read it twice in a row. That is not super unusual for me, as books become like good friends and I often repeat read them. I identified with her writing and her story in many ways. Sometimes I even read it while I was drinking some wine or beers in the evenings. She has a way of telling a story that is very engaging, and this one is no different. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

The next ‘sober’ book that I read was Caroline Knapp’s ‘Drinking: A Love Story.’ This has got to be one of my favorite books in the genre. I read this while I was still drinking this summer, and it was one of my biggest motivators to quit. She tells her story in a really honest and heartbreaking way with a ton of self-reflection. I really saw myself in her, and it made me less afraid to face some of my own demons.

Here are a few other good books that I have read on sobriety. These are memoirs, though I have been delving into some scientific stuff lately as well. I highly recommend and love these books. They helped me realize that it is possible to become a happy, healthy sober person.  I checked most of them out from the library, but I think I want to purchase all of them and have a little sober library at home so I can revisit them like old friends.

– ‘Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety’ by Sacha Scoblic

– ‘Dry’ by Augusten Burroughs

– ‘Parched’ by Heather King

Please share your favorite memoirs about sobriety if you have any!