The Importance of the Bubble

When I first got sober it was crucial to develop and maintain a “sober bubble” to live inside until I felt safe. This bubble has been talked about in depth by many other people, but it has become a very important concept for me during my 439 (!!) days sober, so I wanted to touch on it a bit here.

I have recently come to the conclusion that the bubble is a way of life for me. In order to be happy and feel fulfilled, I need a bubble. The people and things that I put in my bubble vary, but I am responsible for taking care of my bubble and making sure that it is healthy. If a person is making me feel crazy, they might need to be removed from my bubble until I can handle them better, or for good. Facebook is no longer a part of my bubble because it doesn’t make me feel very good a lot of the time, and it takes too much of my precious time. My sober bubble is no longer so much about keeping the world out, but instead filtering  and making room for the important of things in my life. When I take care to monitor my bubble, I feel secure, safe and happy.

These days, when I am asked to do something for someone else, I think about it a bit harder than I used to. I think about the big picture and my bubble. I try not to say yes to things simply because I feel like I should. Is the person important to me? Does doing this “thing” make me happy? Then yes. If not, then no. Simple, right? It isn’t always so easy in practice, of course, but it helps me differentiate the truly important things from the not-so-important.

Us sober folks can sometimes feel like we are missing out on things, especially in early sobriety. That was my experience, and I have a hunch that it is/was the same for many of you. Keeping a carefully curated bubble can help to alleviate those bad feelings. WE are in charge of our lives and what surrounds us. We choose not to have alcohol, or other toxic things, in our bubble.

 

Advertisements

Recovery, and Life, and Hello

Recovery is a thing that happens all the time these days. It is seamless, integrated, a part of me that exists along with breathing and going pee. Well, maybe not exactly, but I feel super grateful that I no longer have to dwell on it quite as much as I used to. It took a lot of brain space and time. It was totally worth all of the brain space and time to start living a sober existence, but it has changed. Amazingly, though, I don’t feel in danger of relapsing because I am not focusing the same kind of attention on it. I feel super alive for the first time in many years, and I am grabbing onto that feeling with both hands.

Let me tell you a little about what is working for me these days, because recovery has a tendency to change over time, just like life. It looks different for different people, and it even looks different for different people on different days. Lately for me it has looked like reading lots of books that inspire me to be the best person that I can be. Thinking about big picture things on a regular basis. Being open with people about who I am, including the part of me that is an alcoholic. Starting a new business venture that scares the shit out of me but also makes me feel useful and creative. Reading one good book per week. Prayer. Gratitude. Family and friends.

Oh, and remembering this thought EVERY SINGLE DAY- I can not have this life, this amazing life, if I start drinking again. Drinking is simply not an option for me. I still think that surrendering to that knowledge is the single most important thing you can do to get yourself sober. As long as I remember that every day, I don’t feel in danger of drinking.

Blogging hasn’t really been my thing lately, and that’s okay with me. Being here all the time helped me so much for those first few months. Hell, for the first whole year even. I still stop by every day and read what all of you have to say, but I don’t comment as much as I used to. I feel like I have limited resources to get me through every day, and sometimes I would rather focus my attention elsewhere. So, it is what it is for now. Maybe one day I will feel like writing more here again, but for now I am okay with stopping by occasionally for an update, and reading your thoughts, struggles and feelings. It helps.

The work of recovery doesn’t ever stop, I am finding. I am constantly learning more about myself. Turns out I am a ‘highly sensitive person’. Have you heard of this label? It seems like a bit of pop psychology, but I secretly love pop psychology and self-help type stuff, and the description fits me perfectly. I recently read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and it helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses that come along with being this way. I think I was using alcohol as a type of medication for so many different purposes. It is interesting to become more ‘me’ as sober time increases. It’s not all good, but it’s definitely a more authentic way to live.

You all take care of yourselves out there and remember that you are never, ever alone. I’m sending out lots of good vibes to the universe for every single one of you.

 

Celebrate Sobriety!!!!

My husband and I have a difference in opinion about whether or not sobriety is something to be celebrated. He doesn’t think so, as he thinks it is simply what responsible people do when they have a drinking problem. My husband quit drinking when I did, mainly to support me, so we both passed our one-year sobriety date this last weekend.

He has the right to his opinion. He doesn’t identify with being an alcoholic and may indeed resume drinking moderately at some point. I am okay with that for the most part. I wasn’t okay with him drinking at first because I knew I couldn’t do it without him, as he was my party buddy, but now I feel strong enough to handle being sober alone. I enjoy being sober and wouldn’t want to go back to my old way of life.

I worry about it because I worry about everything. I am working on that.

This isn’t a post to bash my husband’s opinions, but rather an opportunity to state my opinion on the subject of celebrating sobriety.

My view? It absolutely, 100%, most definitely should be celebrated. In many cases getting sober saves people’s lives. I believe it saved my life. Getting sober is hard! It takes some serious guts and determination to learn how to live life without drugs or alcohol. Plus, in recovery you learn all sorts of neat stuff about who you are and what you want. You learn how to live life without an escape hatch or a way to numb your emotions. You learn how to live life on life’s terms, which is a lesson that everyone should learn, addict or not.

If you are sober, no matter for how long, take some time to celebrate that fact. Don’t be ashamed that you have gone down this path in life. Many awesome people have gone before you. Sobriety rules!

 

Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer, or Four Seasons of Sober

Yesterday I reached my first soberversary. This has been one of the weirdest, most enlightening, most frustrating, and generally coolest years of my life. It doesn’t all have to do with being sober, but sobriety has been there the whole time, weaving its magic into each day of my life, doing its sparkly and magical thing.

‘Cause being sober makes things possible. It changes your daily intention, if you are into that ‘law of attraction’ stuff. You manifest differently sober than you do when you are drinking.

It was really, really hard at first not to take a drink. More than that, it was unbearably hard to imagine a life without alcohol. None ever? Whaaaat? How is that even possible?

It gets easier, it gets better, and then it gets hard again. PAWS is real and it beat me up a little bit. It might not be done beating me up. But the hard times have become fewer and further in between and I’ve started working on the stuff underneath. The stuff that makes me want to drink in the first place. That is where I am now. Finding out things about myself that make me slightly crazy, and figuring out how to manage them without an escape.

But honestly, if you are thinking about sobriety and feeling unsure about the hugeness of it all, you don’t have to worry about that stuff yet. There will come a time when you naturally begin to feel more clarity about who you are and what you want out of your life. You will understand better who you were when you were drinking. It just happens…. and it’s not really all that scary when it comes down to it. In fact, not drinking is much less scary than drinking if you have a drinking problem. So, there is nothing to fear.

Even after a year there are still some hard times, but I don’t sit around thinking about drinking very much at all anymore. I know for a fact that drinking did not contribute anything good to my life. My friends have accepted the fact that I don’t drink, and many of them are back in my life after an initial period of protective space- the sober bubble that I needed to keep myself safe from temptation during those tender early months. Now I decide who I want to see and whether I can handle a specific event or not. I’ve (sort of) learned how to say no to protect my sobriety. I dropped some folks who drink way too much and are bad influences for me to be around. My life is precious and it comes first.

In the past few days I have felt a niggling frustration that things haven’t changed enough in the past year. I have been feeling impatient. I am still the same person, with many of the same problems.  Life didn’t magically shape up just because I quit abusing a drug. The difference is in how I handle the problems, as well as the good times. I hold my head higher, face my fears more directly, and practice gratitude. Life used to be a constant game of comparison where I always felt lacking. Now I know that I am loved and cared for, and I feel cocooned in the of safety of being sober. I am no longer fighting an internal battle about drinking, with the drinking side winning. I am no longer engaging in self-defeating behaviors. The end result is a safe feeling, a feeling of belonging in my skin and in the world, at least most of the time. Sometimes frustration and impatience is a part of life, sober or not.

The past few weeks have found me exploring vegan cooking, something I never have had an interest in before. When I first quit drinking I needed the snacks and sugary mocktails to get me through the witching hour. I craved my pieces of chocolate at the end of a tough day. I am finally getting to a place where I don’t need those outside comforts as much. That’s the weird thing about recovery… it shifts and changes, and in the end you change, too. I am realizing that I am a totally different person than I thought, while in many ways still the same. It is massively comforting.

Last week a new friend offered me a beer from her six-pack. I tell her no every time she offers, but she keeps offering anyway. I finally got up the nerve to be honest with her, and said that I hadn’t had any alcohol in almost a year. She was really and truly surprised. People really don’t care what you are drinking most of the time.

Yesterday I spent my official soberversary acting as the designated driver for a good friend’s bachelorette party (the last of the year). A couple of the girls brought non-alcoholic champagne and gave me and my one year anniversary a little toast, in the midst of the wine tastings scattered throughout the rest of the day. It made me feel good to be acknowledged, and I genuinely felt happy to be sober and capable of helping my friends by ensuring their safety. This weekend my husband and I will celebrate properly with good food, chocolate and naps. I feel like I have accomplished something this year, and I am proud of that fact.

On to year 2. I can’t wait.

I Aim to Please

Recovering-People-Pleaser-Is-that-OK

A new friend recently asked me if I would be interested in nannying for her toddler, since I am home with my little one anyway. My brain was telling me to get as far away from the situation as I could (run! run now!), but I told her I would think about it. And that I would be happy to help the following week while she and her husband were working on some home renovations. No problem! I told myself.

The thing is, I am not really a kid person. I value my alone time, which often coincides with naptime in my house. Getting two toddlers to nap each day is a lot different than getting my own son to sleep. Basically, nannying is not something that I would ever, in a million years, be interested in doing. If my husband and I decide to have another baby we will figure it out as we go, but it will be our baby, and I will be willing to make sacrifices because I love my family fiercely.

It turns out I am not capable of saying what I really think when someone asks me for help.

Hi, my name is Jen, and I am a people pleaser. When someone asks me for something, I try to do it even if it isn’t good for me, isn’t what I want, and possibly interferes with the healthy functioning of my life. I try to solve their problems even though they aren’t mine to solve.

In the end I watched my friend’s son for one whole day, from start to finish. It went well, I thought. I got both toddlers to sleep at naptime, after some struggling and crying, but nobody died or got injured. When my husband got home he asked me about my day, and I started crying and couldn’t stop, thinking about doing it again the next day. It turns out I was doing something that I didn’t want to do, and I had rationalized it to myself by saying that it was the kind and unselfish choice. Really, I just didn’t know how to tell my friend no. I wasn’t being true to myself.

In theory, I like the idea of being a person who has a home open to kids. Where people can drop by whenever, stay all day, and enjoy themselves. I also like the idea of going to medical school, or living on a commune, or opening a nursery for plants, but that doesn’t mean that my personality is suited to those things, either. I am happy to host play dates, help friends in emergencies, and go out of my way for the people that I love, but I get to decide when and with whom to do those things. It is okay to say no, and to let other people solve their own problems in life.

I am now on my way to becoming a recovering people pleaser.

Reflections

I haven’t been too keen on writing lately, and I have been having some wicked drinking dreams. These things might not seem related, but I know that they are. The dreams are coming up because I haven’t been taking good care of myself. I have felt tired when thinking about blogging here, and tired when thinking about the new site that I want to use for non-recovery related writings that I have not yet started. I am a jumbly, bumbling, grouchy, cross person when I don’t practice self-care. This needs to change, as I need a decent amount of alone time to feel like myself. My little family’s travels are over for the summer, additional family has visited and left, and now I have the space to take some alone time. All is well. The road to relapse is slippery, but I know what needs to be done from here to get back on sure footing.

I have been reflecting a lot on life in general lately, and the future, and the past. One year ago I was a total mess, on the inside for sure, and maybe on the outside a bit, too. Maybe that’s a huge understatement but it sure is hard to see yourself clearly when you are drinking every evening, and the past is gone forever, so all I have is memory and other people’s versions of the truth. I know that I was wearing yoga pants a lot and I was constantly freaking out that I wasn’t doing a good job at being a mother. The guilt and shame of parenting is amazing. I didn’t think it would happen to me- the guilt and fear that I was doing everything wrong and damaging my child at every turn- but it did. Parenting is a truly humbling experience, as is battling an addiction. Both are right up there in the category ‘life experiences that will change you forever’.

This year is different. The guilt, shame and fear has receded into memory-land, at least for the most part. I sometimes worry about my son, but I have a deeper sense that things are okay, and that I am mainly doing things right for him. I realize that everything about who he is and how he turns out is not my responsibility. Drinking is also a memory now. Some are good memories, but a lot are bad ones that hold the power to make me cringe when I think of them. They aren’t so present anymore, even though I can see them with a kind of clarity that only comes with time. They are wispy things, and for that I am grateful. I hold tight to them because they remind me that I never, ever want to go back to the dark place where I was living. No thank you very much.

On the other hand, I am not sure that my pink cloud of love for everything mundane and normal is going to last forever. Look at me! Living in my own house! Gardening! Eating a dinner with fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market! Paying my bills on time every month! Buying gifts and cards for people in a timely and appropriate fashion! Being normal!!!!

I know that not all of you relate to this sentiment, as your lives stayed more ‘normal’ during your drinking days, but mine was really up and down while I was drinking. I never quite had it all together, even though I tried reeeallly hard. It seems like I was always juggling everything and dropping balls, picking them back up only to drop another one. I was really proud of the balls I managed to keep in the air, though!

I can’t predict the future. I don’t know if ‘normal’ is going to be exciting enough for me forever. It is for right now, and I can keep building my life in the meantime, finding new and different things that I love to fill me up from the inside. Thank you all for following along and offering support to me over the past 11 1/2 months. It is so wonderful to know that this space is here for me when I need to work some stuff out. I follow many of your blogs and reading your stories helps a lot, too. Keep doing your thing.

 

Do No Harm

Hi folks! I am back from a fun but stressful trip to visit family (aren’t all family visits kinda stressful? Is it just me?), and I wanted to pop in to say hello. It was a scary trip for me; I saw family that I haven’t seen in years, and I don’t think I would have planned it or gone if I had been drinking this year.

Stress still makes me want to drink in an abstract kind of way, but luckily it is getting much easier to see what is going on in my little lizard brain. Whenever I begin to think that drinking is a good idea, or that everyone drinks and why can’t I, or some other version of “poor me”, chances are that I am stressed or tired or sick. Once I talk about my feelings, or get some rest, or get away from the stressful situation, or practice some sort of self-care, I stop thinking that drinking is a good idea. Pretty simple, right? Yet it is amazingly difficult to remember sometimes, especially when in the thick of the bad feelings. Keep going going going, stay sober, and those tricky drinking thoughts get easier to recognize for what they are: bullshit. So that’s a cool development.

I am fast approaching one year of sobriety and I am pretty happy about it. I get discouraged sometimes that I am not moving fast enough in recovery, doing enough for others, actualizing into super-Jen, or making and achieving big goals. Yep- I still doubt myself and the path that I am on. BUT- and this is big- I am not hurting other people so much anymore, my goals are clarifying, and I am learning how to be happy with who I am, where I am, what I have, and what I am doing. I would say sobriety is a general success for me so far. And this is just the beginning! 

When I was a drinker I hurt people through my thoughtless actions, or brainless actions, as I did a lot of mean/stupid/careless things when I was blacked out. I still hurt people sometimes, especially those close to me, but the amount is so much less than it used to be. I can guarantee that if I had been drinking this year there would have been more fights, more hurt feelings and more tears. More DRAMA. And who freakin’ needs that? It is worth going through this tough transition- from a drinker to a sober woman- to hurt people less often and less severely. Do no harm. It is a good motto, I think.

I am finding it less necessary to delve into the past these days. I can hold my head high knowing that I am doing the right things for myself and the people that I love. That sounds pretty smug, but it just feels good. I don’t feel better than anyone else, I just could care less what others are doing most of the time (especially about drinking) as long as I am taking care of my own stuff. What YOU do doesn’t lessen ME. Who knew it would take almost 35 years to realize that? This vacation that I took with my family gave me a slight shift in perspective- a good reminder of the power of travel- that I needed to hopefully make this next year the best yet.