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.

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.

Grey Areas

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My thinking is becoming less black and white than it used to be- I both think and hope this is true. I am noticing the grey areas, and actually feel comfortable living there some of the time. I realize now that the black and white thinking that I was doing was childlike, probably because I never completely moved on from my childhood. I notice when I overreact to things, even if I am unable to completely stop myself from doing it. Progress, progress, progress. My sobriety is trudging along, making small changes in me, as long as I stick to the plan.

I must stick to the recovery plan that I constructed many months ago because it is still working. The pillars of prayer and gratitude keep me going. I am not going to attempt to live without them, probably ever again in my whole life, because it is too damn scary to contemplate drinking at this point. I just don’t want to go through that again, you know? The months of mental and physical self-harm leading up to the actual torturous quitting process. No thanks. I remember that whenever I am tempted to drink, which isn’t too often these days. The cravings come out of the blue and surprise me sometimes, or I feel a bit flat and bored, but nothing I can’t handle pretty easily. I remind myself that every single day is only twenty-four hours, and I can live through pretty much anything for twenty-four hours. After all, tomorrow is another day. Thank you, Scarlett O’Hara. I have loved her since I was twelve.

It is true that life goes on without drinking. I am slowly venturing out into the real world more and more, and handling it without experiencing crippling anxiety. I still feel anxious in new settings, but I am venturing out because I know it will get easier over time, and I am able to regulate my anxiety once again. I have a few events coming up where drinking will be happening, and I am curious to see how they go. I think I will be able to handle them a zillion times better than I did six months ago, but I will still have a plan to leave if I need to. My sobriety comes first, because it allows me to have everything else. It deserves to be treated with care and respect.

Recovery is real, people. Many of you know this, but if you are doubtful I am one more voice to tell you that it does get better. xoxo

Gym Rat (Not Really)

I joined a gym for the first time in years. I feel nervous about it! By joining I have committed myself to going. Plus- I am a stay-at-home Mom who hardly ever has childcare, so I will be using the childcare at the gym. That is a scary step for me/us, too. My son and I have been attached at the hip since he was born, and even more so since I got sober.

It is a positive step for us. I will focus on that and try to let the fear go.

I have so many goals. Sometimes they feel impossible. I try to remember to take it one freakin’ day at a time and do a few things today better than I did yesterday. A few SMALL things. Some days that doesn’t work out, but I like to think that the general trajectory of my life is moving in a positive and expansive direction. There are dips where I stop moving or move backwards, but the general progress is upwards and outwards.

“Remember to dream big, think long-term, underachieve on a daily basis, and take baby steps. That is the key to long-term success.” -Robert Kiyosaki

Happy Weekend! xx

Regrets

What will I regret at the end of my life? Living sober?

I don’t think living a sober life is something that I will EVER regret. Does it feel sort of lonely and flat sometimes? Yes. Do I have cravings for booze sometimes? Yes. Do I feel like I am missing out on fun sometimes? Yes.

Do I regret getting and staying sober for the past six months? Hell to the no.

I have been realizing more and more that experiencing life without tamping down my emotions is really fuckin’ worthwhile. I am feeling more creative than I have in years. I want to add to the world. I didn’t add much when I was drinking, even though I wanted and planned to, because I was stuck in a foggy rut of alcohol abuse. I did okay some of the time, but I was never even close to reaching my potential. Yikes.

I think people who abuse alcohol on the regular do not experience life in the same way. I was caught up in a cycle of ups and downs, highs and lows, hangovers, depression, anxiety, anticipation, being buzzed, wanting more, more, more and experiencing full-on drunkenness and blackouts. The next day the depression, anxiety, guilt and shame would kick in and the craving for booze would begin all over again. I would feel happy when I was drinking because it gave me a brief respite from feeling bad about myself and thinking about my life. I also spent a lot of time planning and thinking about drinking… when, where, with whom, how, on and on. All of that takes a lot of time! Hours, days, weeks, months, and years of my life spent thinking about, engaging in, or recovering from drinking! Fuck me sideways!

I have spent a lot of time in the past six months getting some balance back in my body, mind and spirit. I have had many negative thoughts. I have been scared shitless of living life without any alcohol in it. I have also learned how to be more kind to myself… to set boundaries and say no and tell myself nice things and let go of bad shit that keeps holding me back. I was really, really bad at all of that before. The fog of 20 years of alcohol abuse is slowly lifting from my brain, and I am beginning to see things much more clearly.

I love how this keeps happening… this clarity. It just keeps on coming!

I see that giving up alcohol is something I will never regret when the end comes and I am looking back over my life. Those hours, days, weeks, and years devoted to just getting by through a fog of addiction are now being spent in other ways. Better ways. Ways that fill me up instead of bleeding me dry. I have grabbed the reins and am learning how to be the curator of my life. I am shedding anger and sadness over the past and trying to view the future without fear.

Is living sober perfect? No. I still feel crappy sometimes. I don’t always like myself, sometimes I absolutely hate other people, and I still feel unsure of pretty much EVERYTHING at times. But one thing is for sure- losing the booze has simplified my life by leaps and bounds over the past six months. I like simple, so I am going to stay here.

Lately

I have been doing my thing lately, which involves spending a lot of time working on my recovery, plus eek-ing enjoyment out of my day-to-day life, when and where I can. I have been working on developing good routines, too, but that subject deserves a post of its own.

Recovery.

I used to hate that word and all it implied. If I was recovering from something it meant I had to acknowledge it, accept it, and actually deal with it. Yuck. It totally made me feel like damaged goods to even think about being an alcoholic- much less admitting to being one. We don’t acknowledge alcoholism and all of the problems that go along with it in my family, remember?

Luckily, I found that recovery is a natural process for me. I help it along by attempting to learn my patterns, trying to be aware of my behavior, reading-reading-reading about recovery, keeping a gratitude journal, etc., but the most important aspect of my recovery was making the decision to change my life. And deciding that alcohol has absolutely no place in it today or EVER. Once I got clear on those two points it began to get a little easier. My life began to develop a flow- some people call it grace- and I am lucky enough to be able to step into it some of the time.

I am actually starting to get excited about the future, which was a totally foreign concept to me a few months back. I was so caught up in my own cycles of self-defeating behavior, anxiety, and alcohol abuse that I had a hard time seeing my nose in front of my face, much less planning positive moves for the future. I experienced frantic feelings of needing to change or needing to DO something, which isn’t a good head space to be in. Now it is starting to be fun to think about life, make goals and plan ahead a little, but I am taking it slow, slow, slow. It is okay to be patient and try to spread my wings little by little…I am in no hurry to fly. I know that I will fly eventually if I keep going down this path. Or maybe I am flying already, just staying low to the ground. Either way it is OK. I am ok.

So…recovery. Yeah. It is nothing like I thought it would be and so much better than I could have imagined…sometimes. And sometimes it is hard as shit. Today is one of the good days.

 

Control Issues

I have a tendency to worry about things that I have no control over. I want desperately to be in control of everything in my life, but of course that can and never will happen. I have been reading more about being an ‘Adult Child of Alcoholism’ and control issues are par for the course, it seems.

For instance, this morning my husband and I had a conversation about the future and whether or not he plans to resume drinking booze at some point. He thinks that he might want to drink moderately in the future. Someday in the future…maybe after a few more months of abstinence. A little background- my husband quit drinking to support me and hasn’t appeared to have much of a problem giving it up so far.

The thought of him drinking ‘someday’ practically gave me an anxiety attack. I began worrying about the ways that our lives would be different if he were to become a drinker again, how there would be alcohol in our house, how we would TOTALLY grow apart, how our son would be exposed to people drinking, and on and on until I was positive that we will 100% end up divorced if he has a few drinks.

So…maybe my worrying spiraled a little bit out of control? We are referring to something that has not even happened yet, and that might not EVER happen. What about crossing that bridge when we get to it? I am SO BAD at that. I go down this wormhole into the future, and it is negative and bad and exists only in my mind.

I can’t control my husband’s decisions on this subject, but I want to. Boy, do I ever want to. I want to tell him “No. We are not drinkers anymore. That is the way it is.” I don’t want to do this alone. The fact of the matter, however, is that we are always doing this alone. Living a sober life is a personal choice. I cannot control his decision, and in reality I don’t want to control his decision. I don’t respect people that I can boss around. My problem is not his problem. 

Maybe some of my worries will happen down the line, but they probably won’t. If problems arise we can handle them as they come up. I need to let go of control and let life happen…live and let live. I think AA uses the Serenity Prayer and the idea of ‘Let Go and Let God’ to help with control issues. I like those. Any other ideas? Or how do those ideas help you?