A New Story

I am realizing that continued sobriety is all about changing the story of my life. When I first quit I couldn’t see this story very clearly, just hoped and prayed that there was SOMETHING, ANYTHING, better than what I was doing. When I think of those times, those desperate days, months and years leading up to my quit, I still feel a familiar tightening in my gut. A familiar fear and anxiety that I never want to experience again. When I quit I was afraid that I was going to die from drinking, and none of my dreams would ever come true, and I would live out my days in fear that my life had become something ugly and that it was going to end that way, too. 

Quitting was a huge leap of faith, but there was some sort of inner knowledge, an intuition, telling me that there was more for me if I stopped sabotaging myself. Now that I am creeping slowly upon two years of continuous sobriety, I am seeing more and more of what that might be. The universe is a mysterious place, and my new story leaves plenty of room for wonderful surprises. It’s not all perfection, of course, life is hard sometimes sober or not, but I am so much more open to my truth than I once was. I am becoming more and more aligned with my values and creating a life that reflects that. It just keeps getting richer and deeper. I am excited about what is in store for me, while constantly working to be present, grateful, and authentic in the moment. Not easy, but so much easier than it was at first. 

I still struggle with negativity sometimes, it comes in waves every few days or weeks, but in my new story this negativity no longer defines me. I am not an egomaniac with an inferiority complex anymore…I think I am finally feeling something close to right-sized. I am truly comfortable being social, in the right circumstances, at least. It took over a year and a half, but the transformation happened, just like others said it would. 

I feel like my story is wide open. Instead of being a victim of the shitty circumstances of my life, I am the creator of a beautiful life. It’s all in perspective, and time, and healing the old wounds that drinking simply covered up or exacerbated for years and years. Again, it is not perfect by any means, but so much different and better than I could have imagined. 

A Thicker Skin

Living life as a sober person requires a sense of humor and a thick skin. To fully integrate into everyday life you have to have the ability to laugh things off and not take everything so seriously.

Many people like to drink. While I sometimes wish this wasn’t the case, the world isn’t going to reorganize itself to suit my whims (or diseases). If I want to reintroduce myself into parts of my old social life, I have to be the one to adjust.

So, a lot of people like to drink, and they also like to talk about their drinks.

Friend: This wine is so delicious. Did you know that Australian varietals are really in right now?

Jen: ……No, I haven’t bought much wine lately…always good to know, though. Thanks.

Friend: So-and-so brought this fantastic pepper beer over recently and we all had a taste! It was weird…hot but cool, if you know what I mean.

Jen: ……

And then the subject changes and all is well in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this at first, which is why I pretty much stayed away from all drinking events, but it is more manageable now. I feel awkward, try not to take it personally, and then move on and talk about something else. I even try to laugh to myself at the whole situation.

I mean, I already drank a whole life’s worth of drinks, so I know how to talk about them. I think that the more comfortable I get in these situations the more comfortable others will be. I want people to feel comfortable around me, yet at the same time I don’t want people to talk about their damn drinks all night long. Seriously. That would make for a pretty boring conversation.

It just is less important now, which is really cool.

I read an article about ego-depletion somewhere recently. Ego-depletion is the idea that your self-control is finite; you only have so much willpower. Once you use it up, you use it up. This really spoke to me about addiction and placing ourselves in difficult situations that require the flexing of our sober muscles. We need to do it a little at a time and then have activities that fill us back up in between, like sober blogging. Or AA meetings. Or whatever makes us feel powerful and in control instead of deprived and sad that we can no longer drink.

Laughter helps to fill me up. When I can see the humor in a situation I am able to defend myself better against ego-depletion. I don’t feel like I am using so much self-control to avoid drinking, instead I feel happy that I am making good choices for myself.

Awkward Convos

I have been experiencing some awkward conversations about alcohol lately. It seems like certain people talk about it a lot, and I no longer really know what to say during those conversations since I don’t ever ingest or taste it anymore, so I just kind of nod when the subject is brought up. I mean, most of these people KNOW that I don’t drink. It’s not a huge deal, just kind of weird and funny when it happens. Here is a funny/witty/curse-word-filled article about addiction from Cracked that talks about many things, one being the awkward conversations about alcohol that happen after you quit. I enjoyed it and related to many of the realizations…maybe you will, too.

7 Things You Don’t Realize About Addiction (Until You Quit)

It is always nice to know that we aren’t alone. Never, ever. Have a great day!

 

 

 

A Slow Attitude Adjustment and The Spaces Between

I am thinking recovery is kind of like one long, slow attitude adjustment. I started out feeling really scared, hesitant, angry, and generally crappy about getting sober. I had backed myself into a corner. I HAD to do it or else the consequences would most likely be dire. That’s not the nicest place to be, as many of you know.

Over time my attitude has slowly gotten better, and I know that it will continue to improve the longer I stay sober AND work on my recovery. Being sober does wonders, but I have to keep making adjustments in order to truly be happy with my new life. I can’t force it to happen, though. It takes time, and that requires a shit ton of patience on my part. For example, one day I hope to be more social again. I HEAR that it is possible to go out and be sober, but I am just not ready yet. I have to listen to that voice of reason, as doing so has helped keep me sober for this long. It ain’t wrong, and it will tell me when I am truly ready to do certain things. Attitude is key to feeling happy and not deprived. By most accounts, as long as I work hard and STAY SOBER, it will only take a few years max to feel totally normal (or happy sober, I suppose…normal is kind of a dumb concept). A mere drop in the bucket!

In the meantime, I am focusing on the spaces between the hard times. It is getting easier, and the spaces are growing longer. Instead of focusing on the shit, I am trying to focus on the happy, fun sober times in between the bad times. The longer I stay sober and continue to work on my recovery, the bigger the spaces are.

See? It is all just a big attitude adjustment. 🙂

A Mixed Bag

I have been a bit stressed out this holiday season, but I am holding tightly onto my sobriety. We have had two attempted break-ins (TWO! WTF!), family visiting, a teething and non-sleeping baby, etc. It has been tempting to look for answers in the booze, but I keep hearing over and over that they are not to be found there, and I believe it. How would being drunk help any of those things? It wouldn’t, and it would probably make them all worse. I am struggling with how to have fun without it, though. I know, I know…it wasn’t really “fun” anyway, but it made the boredom and bad feelings a lot more fuzzy, while everything is so crystal clear and sharp now. Drinking made me less present so I didn’t notice how little fun I was actually having. I mean, often I didn’t remember ANYTHING after drinking for more than a few hours, so I had no idea whether I had fun or not.

Well…that pretty much ruins my thoughts romanticizing the drink. I absolutely HATED waking up not remembering anything, and now that never happens. One huge point for sobriety.

Early sobriety is a little like limbo. I am not yet comfortable being sober all the time, but I no longer want to be drunk. Or be a drunk, I suppose, because sometimes I do think it would be nice to be drunk for a few hours. Then I quickly think through the drink and…nope. I don’t want that life. So…patience is key. It gets easier in tiny increments and sometimes it goes two steps forward one step back. Progress feels slower around the holidays when everyone seems to be imbibing, and all sorts of unpleasant feelings come out to play for a whole bunch of reasons.

I am taking plenty of deep breaths. The end of the holidays is near. New Year’s Eve is tomorrow and I have limited my plans to the bare minimum, as I have done with every other major event this year. Kinda lame, maybe, but I am still too shaky to put myself in precarious situations with lots of alcohol. Maybe after a year or two…if I even want to be in those situations by then.

I will continue to make big plans for my sobriety, and my life, and then take it one day at a time. It is a mixed bag sometimes, but it is my bag and I am gonna focus on the good stuff as much as I can. I am opening my heart more and locking my doors tighter. Wishing you all a wonderful and happy New Year.

Limiting Belief: Being Sober Isn’t Fun

Dear Limiting Belief,

I know that you believe that life without alcohol is boring and flat, but I am here to tell you that it is possible to have a great time sober. Alcohol never made things fun in the first place. It was an easy way to change your mood or to gain a bit of energy, but the good feelings that it created were short lived and fake.

You might have an idea in your head about the type of person who is sober while others are drinking. “What a bore! Must be totally uptight! Learn how to let loose and live a little!” The fact is, however, that many different types of people stay sober for a variety of reasons. You know what is crazy-sexy-cool? Taking care of yourself! Loving yourself! If you know that alcohol does bad things to your mind, body and soul, then not drinking it makes you smart. It is fun to be smart!

After you are sober for awhile you begin to realize that fun comes from within. It comes from spending time with people who ‘get’ you. It comes from finding things authentically funny and weird and awesome- which is totally life in a nutshell. It does not come from a bottle of booze.

Is it fun to say stupid things to people when you are drinking? No. What about waking up hungover? Um, no, not fun either. What about blacking out and not remembering how you got home? Scary, not fun. The list goes on…while drinking does make you feel a sense of euphoria, it can also make you sick and hurt and feel really bad about yourself. It can also do far worse things. Are these things fun? No, sir.

So you might feel left out sometimes when everyone else seems to be drinking. Does that mean that you can’t have a good time? Hell, no! You can do everything sober that you did while drinking, but in reality you might not want to. You might find that your idea of ‘fun’ changes a little bit. And that is 100% okay! It can be totally fun to stay home and read a good book or curl up on the sofa with a good friend and a cup of tea, chatting about life. These things are not wild and crazy, perhaps, but they are real and fun and good. You will probably realize that hanging out at bars with a bunch of drunk people isn’t actually all that much fun, and that if you need to be drunk to do something it likely isn’t a fun thing to do in the first place.

You know what is fun? Being yourself. Finding hobbies that you enjoy. Being creative. Taking real risks that don’t involve a crutch. Learning what makes you truly happy. Exploring. Traveling. Growing. Loving. Giving. Accomplishing goals.

Living life is fun! It’s your life. Free and clear and sober and authentic and messy and good and bad. So go away, limiting belief. Being sober IS fun and we don’t need you anymore.

Fighting Evil Like a Boss

“In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

Sometimes I pretend that I am in a science fiction or fantasy novel where good is battling evil. Drinking is obviously evil in this scenario. It seems so fitting…I get out my flame thrower or light saber or (insert weapon of choice) and battle it to the death. Because for me, this truly is a life or death battle.

(That sounds so melodramatic when I say it… like, really? Life or death? But yeah. I think if I drink alcohol will contribute to my untimely demise one way or another.)

I can feel myself moving towards the good side the longer I stay sober. I do things that nourish my soul, and there is already more goodness in my life than there was a few short months ago. I don’t want to go back into the dark world I was living. My life is worth this battle. Alcohol is a sneaky, evil asshole who infiltrates my thoughts sometimes, especially when things are hard. When I am weak. When there is less light.

The answer is simple, though. The better I get at loving myself the more good there is in my life, and the easier it is to defeat my enemy.

Once again, it all comes down to love.

I Am Now a Wallflower

At this point I am not sure that I will ever be able to have a “normal” social life again. I am jesting a bit, but damn! It’s hard! I went to my friend’s bachelorette party and wedding last week/weekend and it was sorta fun for like one second and then I left. It is hard to be around friends drinking, and I felt uncomfortable, so I used my husband and baby as an excuse. Bad mama! It was just too tempting to have just one drink while my husband was at home and everyone else was tipsy, and I was scared of making that mistake, so I extricated myself from those situations. I was really hoping that I would be able to hang and party sober for awhile, but it just didn’t happen. I hope it will get easier if I keep trying, or else I might have to become a hermit. Maybe I should go ahead and purchase a cabin in a remote area in the mountains now! At least then I can hermit it up in style.

I dunno, I am really more of a one-on-one person when it comes to socializing anyway. I think I started liking alcohol because it made me feel more comfortable in crowds when I was nothing more than a wee, timid teenager. Alcohol made me louder and more carefree, and without it I struggle to feel heard in large groups. Now that I am alcohol free I think I am back to being more of a one-on-one or small group person. That is okay, but it will require some adjustments in my expectations and plans for my social life. Baby steps.

On another note, I am feeling under the weather today. I might have the flu or something because I am achy and generally icky feeling. Therefore I am going to keep this blog post short, but I wanted to thank everyone who gave me encouragement and support about being social during the past few weeks. I WAY over thought things, which is pretty normal for me, but at least I made safe, smart choices in the end. I am looking to all of you to show me how to eventually spread my wings a bit further. I know it is possible! Keepin’ the faith, yes I am.

Plus, I am 67 days sober! The days are really starting to add up without nearly as much work on my part, which is pretty damn cool. 67 days seems like a lot to me, but I know it is a mere drop in the bucket.

Have a good day, everyone. I am going back to bed.

Pay Attention!

I need to remind myself to pay attention to the small details. I was pretty close to drinking a tiny amount off alcohol yesterday evening, and I am sooo glad I didn’t. I do not want to be sliding down any slippery slopes ANYTIME in the near future. The situation reaffirmed my commitment to sobriety. It also made me think about a few things.

When is it okay to have a small amount of alcohol? In mouthwash? In a recipe? In vanilla extract while baking? Never? I wasn’t totally sure. I’m weirdly glad that I was forced to think about and reflect on the subject so I know what to do in the future. Now I have a plan. I’m ready for you, sneaky alcohol.

So… what brought on this freight train of thoughts?

Well. I recently heard a friend talking about having a bitters and soda drink, and it sounded nice. The perfect foil for the hot summer days we have been having lately. I told my husband that it sounded like a refreshing non-alcoholic drink and he agreed, so we drove to the store to buy bitters and club soda. The liquor store. I guess I should have thought twice about going there in the first place, huh? It was the only place I knew that sold the stuff. After purchasing the bitters we read the label and realized that bitters has a huge percentage of alcohol. 43% to be exact. Wow, who knew? Not me!

A bitters and soda only needs a few drops of bitters, but I couldn’t do it. It just felt wrong. I immediately got online and posted a question about it in the Women For Sobriety forums. I got five or six answers right away, which really helped me make my decision and stick to it. So…if any of you from WFS are reading this… thanks ladies! I felt supported, and I needed that. I also e-mailed Belle my daily sober e-mail and asked her advice (I am a member of the 100 Days Sober Challenge- which totally rules). She replied today in her usual helpful and thoughtful manner.

Most of the advice I received said it is best to avoid anything with alcohol in it. Recipes, mouthwash, flavorings, and so on. I knew that was the right answer in my gut, but also had a little voice in my head saying, “what’s the harm? It’s only a few drops…” Listening to that little voice could be a recipe for disaster. My husband didn’t see what the big deal was either, but he came around after I explained to him that drinking ANY amount of alcohol could be a very real threat to my sobriety.

The bitters is currently hidden in our basement in a unknown (to me) location, and we are going to give it a way to a friend.

Whew. Crisis averted.

Case of the Mondays… and Tuesdays?

Welp, I made it through my second weekend alcohol-free. That hasn’t happened for awhile. I feel good about it, but I also experienced a mild case of the Mondays yesterday and seem to be heading for a case of the Tuesdays today. I think I like having my husband home over the weekend. I also think that regardless of whether or not I am drinking, I get kind of depressed during the early part of the week. I always thought it was related to too much partying over the weekend, but I guess there is other stuff going on. The fun of the weekend is over, blah blah blah. Yesterday I snapped out of my funk by deep cleaning the kitchen. Today I might conquer the bathrooms. I’ve always felt that organizing my exterior spaces helps to keep me mentally balanced. Good old Virgo self.

Sunday evening was difficult for me. I really wanted a beer or a wine or something to take the edge off of my day. Not that my day was particularly bad… it was a totally normal Sunday… but I still experienced some cravings. I think alcohol had the ability to make boring, regular days seem more exciting in the past. It provided a sense of adventure… a feeling that anything could happen… even if all that normally happened was a hangover, a blackout, a sense of numbness, or a rare (and quite likely embarrassing) outing.

Luckily, the feeling passed. We put the baby to bed, grilled some burgers, and watched a few episodes of Breaking Bad. It was a nice, relaxing night with no regrets the next day. Yesterday I didn’t have the desire to drink.  I think I am craving excitement and need to work on adding a bit more to my life… in a way that doesn’t include alcohol. Or maybe I just need to focus on NOT DRINKING and be kinder to myself in the process. Excitement can wait. Not drinking is the important thing right now.

I have been thinking about writing a post about my history with alcohol, but the thought of doing so overwhelms me. I have been drinking in a  dysfunctional manner for SO LONG. There are SO MANY reasons why I drank. My family is a mess when it comes to alcohol, I have social anxiety,  etc. I’m not sure that writing it out all at once will really help me to heal. Maybe I will simply share a few examples (every once in awhile) why alcohol is no longer a part of my life.

Exhibit A:   I went to NYC on a college trip for a class that I was in. This was 10 to 12 years ago, I believe. We basically visited various fashion places during the day as a part of school (I was a fashion major), and then got completely loaded at clubs every night. Well, at least I got loaded… One day I was so hungover that I had to excuse myself to throw up during presentations by Vera Wang bridal, Liz Claiborne, and a few other major players. I basically spent the whole day being sick in the bathrooms at these places that I was hoping to learn from… maybe even work for one day. I thought it was funny at the time but now it strikes me as sad and pathetic. Why was I wasting my time in school in the first place? Why wasn’t I taking my life more seriously? How much of my life was I not showing up for because of drinking? I was definitely not ready at that point to admit that I had a serious problem with alcohol.

This is a very minor incident in my drinking career, but I think I will start small and build up towards the bigger and more humiliating stuff. Some of these things are difficult to write about, or even think about sometimes. But hey, my case of the Tuesdays is receding slightly. Thanks blog!