Life Lessons

This week has been hard. I’ve been holding onto my sobriety with a tight grip, knowing that drinking won’t do anything good, but desiring the fade out and numbing of my feelings that drinking would provide. Epiphanies, small and large, have been coming one after another, along with a lot of self doubt and uncertainty that I am on the right path.

Epiphanies are cool yet sometimes painful. I have been seeing more clearly the ways in which I have, and still am, living in fear a lot of the time. It is a hard thing to look at honestly because it hurts to see those flaws in myself- to allow myself to be truly vulnerable, even to myself.

I know that isolation is the bain of many alcoholics, but I never saw myself as isolating per se. Instead I told myself that I was a loner. I enjoyed my own company more than that of others. Instead of looking for my people I decided that there were no people like me in the world. I longed to write and needed the space and isolation to do so. Artists have to suffer! They have to weep and self destruct! There are some truths to these words, in these thoughts, but they are not the whole truth. They are not MY truth. I have been living my life shielded by my loner status to avoid the possibility of being rejected by others. To avoid having to show my true self to others. To avoid being vulnerable. And the truth hurts.

That’s the thing about quitting drinking. You no longer have a shield of alcohol to rely on when you are around people or things that scare you. You have to look people in the eye and see them and let them see you. This is a wonderful thing because it allows relationships to develop and form and grow. But it is also hard, especially when you have spent your entire life hiding from others. When you grew up hiding because your family hides and that is simply what people do.

I’ve begun to think that this blog is another way of hiding, which is not to say that it hasn’t been absolutely crucial in getting me sober. I don’t have to talk to people face to face about my drinking, or lack thereof, if I stay home and write about it on the Internet.** When faced with the shortness of life, I have realized that I don’t want to live this way anymore. Instead, I want to ravage life. I want to live it to the absolute fullest. I don’t want to hide away to stay sober. I want to mingle with all the people and experience all of the things, though I think I have experienced about all the alcohol I can handle in one lifetime, so that’s still out.

I was reading an article the other day. I don’t remember where it was from, or who wrote it, and I apologize if it was someone reading this blog because I didn’t like what it had to say. The individual spoke of treating her alcohol addiction as a disability and learning how to work around it for the rest of her life. I have been living my life like my addiction is a disability, so I see where this idea comes from, but I hate the idea of disability in the first place. Why can’t we just be people, with differences. Why do we have to “work around” anything? Why can’t we accept each other as we are? I want to heal the reasons that I drank so much in the first place so that I can go anywhere and do anything without requiring the fake fix that alcohol provides. I want to find my own elation in the world. A way of being that simply does not require or want alcohol to be a part of it. I don’t want to sequester myself into a tiny corner of the world and hide there forever.

Whew. Felt good to get that out.

**Edit: I am not judging anyone for writing about sobriety online. It has been a totally cool, amazing thing for me. Any way you get or stay sober totally freaking rocks. Not that you need to hear this from me, but I wanted to clarify my statement a little.

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.

All Mixed Up

I have felt really up and down lately. I have been sick with a bad head cold, super hormonal this month, and generally an emotional messy mess. The end result is me feeling nostalgic for drinking days…blah. Very angsty teenager up in here, which is not what I’m aiming for. Gotta be me- I am working on self-acceptance even through the low phases/bad times/shit. I know these feelings will pass and I’ll be happy about staying sober. The end.

Just kidding.

I think I am getting down to some of the messy things that propel me to drink, aside from my genes and the addictive nature of alcohol. Without question I used alcohol as a way to escape emotions, but I am realizing that I also used it as a way to escape MYSELF. To become a different person- someone who took more risks. Some of those risks were bad and dangerous, sure, but some of them were healthy and good. Like talking to people that I wanted to talk to, and saying things that I really wanted or needed to say even though they were hard or scary. I sometimes feel so stuffed up without alcohol. It really released me from that insecure little voice that told me to pretend I didn’t see someone instead of going over and saying hello, or to stay at home alone when I’d really rather be out socializing, or to sit at a table acting cool instead of dancing and looking silly, or to say ‘I Love You’.

I know I have the power to change by taking more risks, and I am doing it little by little, but sometimes progress feels slow and I feel depressed that I HAVE this problem in the first place. Drinking is not an option for me anymore because the costs truly outweigh the benefits (love me a little cost/benefit analysis), but I am having some nostalgia over the whole thing. The changes seem so BIG right now. I am scared that I will miss special moments because I am too scared to really live them- to actually show up and take part in them- without booze. I hide at home now whereas I used to hide behind my boozy persona.

It sounds crazy to be nostalgic for something that mostly took things away from my life. ‘Tis the nature of the beast, I suppose. Changing these thought patterns can be serious work, but I am realizing that I have to take risks to live a happy, sober life. Which means changing my thought patterns so that I act differently than I have in the past.

A good friend of mine is getting married soon and I want to help her celebrate. I am going to try to loosen up a little more at her wedding and have sober FUN. Yeah!

Sometimes this sober stuff is hard on the brain box, but it is still so worth it. Big hugs to you all.

Moving Forward

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I passed eight months sober the other day – woo! woo! – as my son would say in his adorable 17-month-old voice.

As far as my recovery is concerned I have been working on letting go of resentments, so I have been focusing energy there. I get really worked up over minor things and have trouble letting them go. People say things that hurt my feelings and it ruffles my feathers for days. I obsess and think about what I COULD have said and on and on. It is exhausting and I want to stop doing it. I have made some progress on letting go of hurts from my past, but I still hold onto real or imaginary hurts from the present too tightly.

I was reading something about resentments that said that if you hold really strong resentments like I do, you might not have had the space available to express your feelings properly as a child. That makes a lot of sense. Living with alcoholic family members means a lot of holding in feelings or having your feelings invalidated. Where there is denial of alcoholism there is a tendency to avoid talking about feelings relating to alcoholism… and everything else, for that matter. I remember feeling resentment as a child, and I don’t think I’ve ever figured out how NOT to feel that way.

I am working on expressing my true feelings in the moment, if it is possible and appropriate. This is great when it happens, but I don’t always understand my feelings in the moment, which is usually when I have resentments about things come up later. Here are a few things I have worked out/picked up about resentments so far. They will be a helpful reminder to me as I move forward.

– Feeling resentment is actually a choice; I am choosing to dwell instead of moving on and focusing on something else.

– Sometimes the resentment I am feeling is actually old resentment from childhood. I am comfortable being in a state of resentment because I have done it for so long, so I find ways to feel that way now. It seems so strange to subconsciously desire this feeling, but humans are adaptable and become comfortable feeling bad if we do it for long enough.

– I feel resentful when I feel threatened by my own vulnerability. I get triggered by something and then want to push the person away. I get defensive and then feel resentful of them after the fact. When I feel resentment I don’t want to include the person in my life for awhile… until I no longer feel that way towards them. I often don’t actually deal with the root of the problem, though, so it keeps coming up over and over again.

-I used to drink over my resentments and I don’t do that anymore. Now I have to feel some discomfort, but it is so much better than numbing out and then saying something about my resentment while drunk. I used to do that sometimes, and it always made things worse. It is better to face these problems head on.

-I do not need to confront the person every time I feel resentment. I need to remember that some of these feelings are old resentments from my past and are overreactions to the present situation.

So far these things are helping a little, but it always helps even more to write my thoughts out here. This blog has been such a good tool on my sober journey. I appreciate having this little space on the internet and people who actually read what I write. You guys are the best. I also learn so much from all of you bloggers, so thank you for doing your thing and sharing it so publicly. It makes me feel understood and comforted on so many levels to know that you all are out there.

 

 

Fear

My last post talked about a play group that I recently started attending that includes wine drinking for most of the other moms. I had a hard time at the last one that I attended, and kind of wanted to join in the drinking even though I knew that would be a horrible idea. I don’t have to attend this group! I am doing it so that my son has some kids to play with. If it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. I was worrying way too much, as I do. As I am trying NOT to do, but you know. It’s hard to stop.

Do I wish that we had a less alcohol-infused society? Yes. Do I want to try to meet more sober people? Yes. Do I want to ONLY attend activities that are alcohol-free? No, not really. A lot of people in our society drink so if I limit myself to spending time with those who are sober or teetotal I am severely limiting my life! However, if I find it too hard to be around drinkers I will leave. I don’t like being around drunk people. I will ALWAYS have an escape plan. I will ALWAYS say a little prayer before going out to help me stay sober. I will ALWAYS listen to my gut and try to do what is best for me (even if this means staying home and missing a social activity for me or my son). My sobriety comes first.

I think part of recovery is facing my fears. I couldn’t do that at first because I wasn’t ready, but I am stronger now. I have faith that I will make good decisions about my life. I trust myself. I don’t need to test myself or my resolve by placing myself in unnecessarily hard situations, but I need to learn how to live life as a sober person in various settings and situations. I want to be a social person. I don’t want to live in fear.

And speaking of fear- I think I have been reacting to old fears for a long time. I became scared as a young girl because I saw the world fall apart around me, and I learned to live with the constant fear I experienced by self-medicating. I don’t need to do that anymore. I need to fight these fears, many of which are totally irrational, and become the person I am capable of being.

Here is a good article about fear if you are interested in reading it.

Are Your Frightened Too? (from Veronica Valli’s blog)

I really appreciate all of your thoughts and support. I am sending the best and nicest of my thoughts to you all.

 

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.

 

 

Your Weirdness Will Make You Stronger…

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I saw this the other day when I was feeling bad. I have decided to move forward, take the good advice of you lovely people, and stop being so hard on myself. I have the tendency to overthink things, and it doesn’t do me any good. In fact, I get in my own way a lot of the time. Overthinkers unite!

After some thought (I know- I am thinking again), I realized that one of the main problems I have that leads to lying and manipulation is that I am not doing work that I enjoy to make money. Money is the worst sometimes. I only work a little, but I feel stuck and unhappy when I do it, and it leads me to cut corners at times because I want to finish as quickly as possible to work on fun, creative pursuits that I enjoy. The crazy thing is that I don’t really HAVE to work, but I put pressure on myself to do so. I want to focus on doing more creative stuff that could eventually lead to an income, but likely not for awhile, and not worry so much about adding to the household pot right now.

This means budgeting more carefully so that we are not counting on my income, and then only working when I feel good about it. When I can give it my complete, 100% attention and effort. I am going to start another blog to document my projects and creative pursuits, and to really try to figure out what it is that I would actually like to do for money when my son is a little older. I am going to get out of my own way and use the opportunity that I have been given to explore and experiment with what makes me happy.

I am scared to do this, which is why I have stayed stuck for so long. It is easier to keep working doing things that I don’t enjoy while simultaneously putting pressure on myself, beating myself up, and being unhappy, instead of following my dreams wherever they may take me. The crazy thing is that I have followed this same pattern for years. I have never taken the time to truly find out what I am good at and what I can really do. Fear of failure, maybe? Fear of disapproval? It doesn’t matter- I want more out of life!

This has to do with drinking because I can’t continue feeling bad about this without eventually giving in to the temptation to drink. I am setting myself up for eventual failure by continuing this pattern. Time to rearrange things, change it up, take the pressure off, and work on truly being happy. Scary but so freakin’ cool!