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. 

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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.