Nostalgia

I used to worry constantly that I was missing out on something. In fact, I often drank to help numb the feeling that I was missing all of the cool happenings with the fun people of the world. I felt like everyone was out living amazing lives while I was sitting home feeling sad and alone, so why not drink? At least that way I might get drunk enough to go out and talk to people. But of course, if I left my house post-bottleofwhatever I wouldn’t remember talking to anyone, and I didn’t really act like myself while I was out, so I was left feeling sad and alone again. Sad, alone, and worried that I did something completely stupid by going out. A vicious, terrible cycle if you ask me.

I sometimes feel a mild nostalgia for those days, or for the people that I used to like drinking with, but those days are gone. I read a great line somewhere that said something like “once you experience nostalgia the thing you are feeling nostalgic about is long dead”,  and that makes so much sense to me. There is no going back once you get this far down the path of recovery. I could relapse, but I can’t unlearn what I have learned, and drinking will forever haunt me because I know how much more there is to life now. I genuinely used to think that drinking was the best. Now I am sad for the person who feels that way. Not sorry for them, but sad because life has a lot more to offer than hangovers and regrets. Life is different now in so many ways, and it is important to acknowledge that every once and again.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

No Drama Here

My good friend is now hitched, and I made it through the wedding festivities without drinking, so I am feeling good about things. Tired, but good. I was the matron of honor in her wedding, which I have never done before, and turned out to be a pretty fun yet stressful experience. I freaked out last minute about giving a speech at the reception and told her I couldn’t do it, because it was making me feel like diving into the closest vat of champagne (and there was plenty of booze available), but she said one of the other bridesmaids could do it and all was well. I am glad that I spoke my mind, even though I probably should have done it earlier. Public speaking on top of a sober wedding turned out to be a bit too much for me to handle. Maybe after a year of sobriety it won’t be such a big deal… I don’t know. I feel a little sheepish about being so afraid of speaking in front of the wedding, but I am trying to honor my fears and understand when to push through them and when to walk away. No need to push myself too hard too fast- I think it’s self-care to say no when I feel pushed to the edge to the point where my sobriety is in jeopardy. In the end nobody gave a speech at the wedding at all, at least before I left, so I worried about it for nothing. Such is life.

The rest of the festivities- rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception- went fine without booze. The main difference is that I get more tired now…or maybe I just truly feel when I am tired instead of masking it with fake drunk energy. I officially feel like one of the old married ladies, but then I remember that I am part of an old married couple. I did a little dancing, ate some food, chatted with friends, and tried to keep my little guy from having a meltdown. We left at around 10pm and were in bed by 11:30, sober and happy.

My attitude continues to shift… slowly at times, but surely, towards this new sober place of being. And the beauty of waking up feeling good, albeit with a slight emotional hangover, but no shame (from doing something stupid like talking to my friend’s relatives and not remembering what I said, or acting inappropriate and flirty with someone while my husband stood and watched, or any number of other embarrassing possibilities) makes me feel happy. Oh, and being a sober role model to my child. I just LOVE those things. They seriously do not get old.

I have been thinking more and more about life and sobriety being big picture, so whenever I start to worry and doubt myself I try to take a step back. From there I can see that I am on the right track, and that there is no need to worry about anything all that much. My child is not going to be hurt by the effects of parental alcohol use/misuse as long as I stay vigilant, and as an ACOA, I feel so proud of that fact. My life is not going to be hurt by alcohol anymore.

Onwards to the rest of the summer. We have a trip planned in July to see some family on the West Coast, but no big plans otherwise. Time to settle into my new life even more fully as I approach one year sober in August. It sounds good to me. Not dramatic, not particularly exciting even, but nice and wholesome and WHOLE and happy and good.

 

 

Ups, Downs and All-Arounds

I was worried there for a bit, but things are starting to feel better. Life was beginning to feel really hard without alcohol. Like, really damn hard. I was feeling left out of activities because I no longer drink, worrying about meeting new people sober, and thinking that my husband would probably want to leave me because of how boring I have become since we were married, due to the lack of alcohol in my life, of course. My thoughts and reactions have been totally overblown and my paranoia has been in full effect. Last night I started thinking about why I have been feeling this way, and alas, I just passed 9 months sober last week. That significant trigger of a date plus a yucky sinus problem that felt never-ending pushed me over the edge, I think. Or triggered a PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) episode, more accurately.

Luckily yesterday, when I was beginning to think that I couldn’t take the stress and strain of it all anymore, I found some really reassuring reading about getting back to normal in sobriety and how at 9 months, it probably ain’t gonna happen. Not yet. But I am on the way there, and that makes me feel better. Just knowing and understanding that I was having a PAWS episode helped make me feel better. Like, right on. I’ve dealt with this before… I can handle this. Just ride it out and see what I can find out about myself in the process.

One thing I have learned from this rough patch is that I need to have a better plan for rough patches. Until today, I could feel myself slowly slipping down the path of relapse one negative thought at a time. I feel lucky to have found something- grace perhaps?- when I did. I was pulled up and out of my negative thinking at a crucial time. What will I do when something really bad happens? I don’t want to sit around waiting for my life to go to shit, but based on the fact that shitty, sad, scary, and bad things happen to everyone, I think I would be remiss not to make a plan for this eventuality. I am not sure what my plan is exactly, but working my atypical program on a regular basis is vital. The problem, I believe, is that relapse creeps up like depression and hits you when you are at your worst, when you’re weak and feeling less-than-able, so some of my program needs to be built into my life. Routine. Support people. Sturdy things that are there no matter what during those rough times. I need to work on structure.

I also need to remind myself to have more patience. I am thrilled to be free from alcohol for 9 months, but I am still learning about myself and my limitations. In order to stay off the booze I need to be careful with how I choose to spend my time, who I spend it with, etc. My ‘old normal’ just isn’t an option anymore, even if I feel left out of activities sometimes. I don’t get invited to bar outings anymore, which makes me feel sad and left out and bereft, but do I really want to go, anyway? Should I go? Probably not, to be honest. As much as I admire the cool sober chicks who are fine being at bars on the reg, I am just not there yet… and I might not ever be there. And that’s okay. Sobriety isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. It isn’t even a one-size-fits-all thing for me. It changes regularly.

I think I am finally-sorta-kinda-maybe beginning to understand that self-care is doing what feels right, what I can handle, and what is good for me on a day-to-day basis. I have always admired it in theory, but am pretty self-care challenged in everyday life, as much as it pains me to admit. In real life sobriety with real life things happening, there are ups, downs and all-arounds that you have to deal with. Luckily, it seems that the answer is pretty simple. Don’t drink and eventually you will be okay again. I was going to say don’t drink, do some processing, and eventually you will be okay again, but I am not sure that is accurate. Sometimes the processing just seems to happen with time. I have been dreaming crazy dreams like a madwoman the past few weeks, and I think my mind has been doing some subconscious processing… with or without me.

So, in summary, life is a mystery, but it is also amazing to be able to really and truly experience it without booze. Thanks for reading, my friends.

How Did You Let It Get So Bad?

Admitting that I had a drinking problem meant that I had to admit that I let things fall apart in my life. How could I let it get so bad? I mean, how embarrassing! In the end I couldn’t deny that I had a problem without doing some serious mental acrobatics. I was horrified to admit that everything was, in fact, NOT okay after all.

Denying that there was a problem, making excuses for all of the “little things” that went wrong over the years, was easier than facing up to this huge problem I hadn’t dealt with. That I didn’t want to deal with. That I maybe even couldn’t deal with because I didn’t have the right tools, or didn’t know that I had the right tools. But in the end, how could I NOT deal with the big elephant in the room taking big elephant poops all over my life?

I am not horrified or embarrassed about my path anymore. I let my life get that way, yep, I sure did. I take the blame. Alcohol is an addictive substance for (some) people, and I got addicted. I think I was born addicted, but in the end I made choices and ended up where I ended up. I accept who I am, warts and all. Alcoholic and all.

On a lighter note, spring is fully here at last! I am happy about that. I quit drinking last August and was relieved when the colder months came around. I thought it would be easier to stay inside and drink hot tea during the winter, and it was cozy and nice to be inside, but winter was a toughy this year and stuck around for a bit too long. I feared spring and summer because, you know… nice weather, barbecues, gardening, swimming at the lake, etc. How do you do those things without a cold alcoholic beverage in your hand?

It turns out you don’t need one! I KNOW!

I was worried for nothing. Nice weather is actually nicer without being hungover, or blurry and tired from having one too many, or blackout drunk and not remembering anything. My husband and I got a lot of work done on the garden this weekend because we weren’t rushing to get to beer-thirty and then feeling crappy the next day, unable to work again. I had loads of energy, enjoyed the sunshine, and have a great feeling of accomplishment from doing lots of tasks and helping to improve our home. There were some pangs, but they were just pangs. I am not going to drink. I want to get to one year sober and beyond. Drinking isn’t an option for me anymore, man. It just isn’t.

It turns out sobriety is kind of like staying in winter because you are not sure about spring. You worry about what it will be like, but in actuality it is so much better than you could have imagined. I mean, there are flowers! Life without alcohol is actually preferable if you are a heavy hardcore boozer person. Drinking too much on a regular basis makes life harder. If it is either ALL or NOTHING then I choose nothing because life is still good without alcohol in it. The benefits of life, like enjoying nice days, spending time with family, doing fun things, feeling accomplishment of a job well done, etc. are there sober. In fact, I believe they are better sober.

The lows might be lower, too, that is true. There is nothing to take the edge off so you have to deal with life unfiltered. Right now, to me, that seems like an okay price to pay. I tell myself that I don’t get to have it all, and I am lucky for the things that I have in my life. And that feels good; it is enough for me right now.

 

Putting It Back Together

When I first made the decision to get alcohol out of my life I was scared, scared, scared. I was making this huge change that felt like it affected everything about me. Who was I without alcohol? What would I do if drinking was no longer a factor in my daily routine and decisions? My sense of self was totally shattered.

At first it felt like I needed to cut ties completely with the old me. I was breaking up with myself because I had been a bad friend. We all KNOW that you are supposed to be your own best friend, right? Well, I knew that I wasn’t doing that because I was hurting myself when I drank. I had to renounce my life as I knew it. It was very black and white, because I wasn’t capable of seeing other colors at that point.

Old Drinking Life = Bad

New Sober Life = Good

My attitude has shifted in the past few weeks. I no longer have to renounce my old life in its entirety. I did a lot of good things in my old life! I had a lot of fun! There are many things that I regret that have to do with drinking, but it wasn’t all bad. I simply wasn’t as awake as I am now. Because that is what I feel like. I am AWAKE now. At least, more so than I was when I used alcohol as a crutch for living life.

I am also feeling much more ready to face the world again. I needed some time to hide out and grow stronger in my sobriety. It was a fragile thing at first. It is gradually getting stronger the longer I live this way. Alcohol is NOT AN OPTION FOR ME. It never was. It was a destructive force, not a fun way to relax and have fun. I sometimes feel like an oddball for abstaining, but it could be worse. It is what it is. I am learning to make the most out of my life and my baggage, including the fact that when I drink I don’t like myself. I am okay with that and ready to be myself around others.

I am putting myself back together- the past, the present, and hopefully the future. They are all ME. The only black and white thinking I need is that I NO LONGER DRINK.