Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer, or Four Seasons of Sober

Yesterday I reached my first soberversary. This has been one of the weirdest, most enlightening, most frustrating, and generally coolest years of my life. It doesn’t all have to do with being sober, but sobriety has been there the whole time, weaving its magic into each day of my life, doing its sparkly and magical thing.

‘Cause being sober makes things possible. It changes your daily intention, if you are into that ‘law of attraction’ stuff. You manifest differently sober than you do when you are drinking.

It was really, really hard at first not to take a drink. More than that, it was unbearably hard to imagine a life without alcohol. None ever? Whaaaat? How is that even possible?

It gets easier, it gets better, and then it gets hard again. PAWS is real and it beat me up a little bit. It might not be done beating me up. But the hard times have become fewer and further in between and I’ve started working on the stuff underneath. The stuff that makes me want to drink in the first place. That is where I am now. Finding out things about myself that make me slightly crazy, and figuring out how to manage them without an escape.

But honestly, if you are thinking about sobriety and feeling unsure about the hugeness of it all, you don’t have to worry about that stuff yet. There will come a time when you naturally begin to feel more clarity about who you are and what you want out of your life. You will understand better who you were when you were drinking. It just happens…. and it’s not really all that scary when it comes down to it. In fact, not drinking is much less scary than drinking if you have a drinking problem. So, there is nothing to fear.

Even after a year there are still some hard times, but I don’t sit around thinking about drinking very much at all anymore. I know for a fact that drinking did not contribute anything good to my life. My friends have accepted the fact that I don’t drink, and many of them are back in my life after an initial period of protective space- the sober bubble that I needed to keep myself safe from temptation during those tender early months. Now I decide who I want to see and whether I can handle a specific event or not. I’ve (sort of) learned how to say no to protect my sobriety. I dropped some folks who drink way too much and are bad influences for me to be around. My life is precious and it comes first.

In the past few days I have felt a niggling frustration that things haven’t changed enough in the past year. I have been feeling impatient. I am still the same person, with many of the same problems.  Life didn’t magically shape up just because I quit abusing a drug. The difference is in how I handle the problems, as well as the good times. I hold my head higher, face my fears more directly, and practice gratitude. Life used to be a constant game of comparison where I always felt lacking. Now I know that I am loved and cared for, and I feel cocooned in the of safety of being sober. I am no longer fighting an internal battle about drinking, with the drinking side winning. I am no longer engaging in self-defeating behaviors. The end result is a safe feeling, a feeling of belonging in my skin and in the world, at least most of the time. Sometimes frustration and impatience is a part of life, sober or not.

The past few weeks have found me exploring vegan cooking, something I never have had an interest in before. When I first quit drinking I needed the snacks and sugary mocktails to get me through the witching hour. I craved my pieces of chocolate at the end of a tough day. I am finally getting to a place where I don’t need those outside comforts as much. That’s the weird thing about recovery… it shifts and changes, and in the end you change, too. I am realizing that I am a totally different person than I thought, while in many ways still the same. It is massively comforting.

Last week a new friend offered me a beer from her six-pack. I tell her no every time she offers, but she keeps offering anyway. I finally got up the nerve to be honest with her, and said that I hadn’t had any alcohol in almost a year. She was really and truly surprised. People really don’t care what you are drinking most of the time.

Yesterday I spent my official soberversary acting as the designated driver for a good friend’s bachelorette party (the last of the year). A couple of the girls brought non-alcoholic champagne and gave me and my one year anniversary a little toast, in the midst of the wine tastings scattered throughout the rest of the day. It made me feel good to be acknowledged, and I genuinely felt happy to be sober and capable of helping my friends by ensuring their safety. This weekend my husband and I will celebrate properly with good food, chocolate and naps. I feel like I have accomplished something this year, and I am proud of that fact.

On to year 2. I can’t wait.

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Things I Learned From a Party

I helped throw a party for a good friend who is getting married this past weekend. It was held at a winery, then we went to another winery, then dinner, then the group went on to a bar to watch a band and continue the festivities. I bowed out after dinner, which I think was the best call for me at this point in time. I was tired and ready to be at home with my family. It turned out great! I learned a few things that I want to share to help me remember this point in my sober life.

– It gets easier to be around people drinking, but it still feels a bit awkward at 229 days sober. I am much better at doing it than I was six months ago; there is no question. I really think this is different for everyone. I believe that my social life will continue to improve as long as I keep trying, don’t push myself more than I want/need to, and practice being patient. I have discovered that the outside world is there whenever I want to join it. Staying sober comes first!

– I am different now in these types of social situations. I tend to hang with a quieter crowd than I used to. I like being around the non-drinkers… they are interesting and thoughtful. I used to avoid them like the plague or try to get them to drink with me. No longer. Now I feel like they are my people!

– Being social for hours on end makes me TIRED. A good tired, but I need to be able to call it a day/night whenever I want and go home. I will be avoiding a friend’s out-of-town bachelorette party this year for that reason, along with a few other reasons. I still need to be able to escape.

– It is absolutely the best to be able to plan a full day of productive activities the day after a party. In the past the day after would have been totally wasted while I recovered from a horrific hangover. I really love and appreciate this part of living sober.

– People don’t really seem to care whether I am drinking or not. Oh, and I don’t give a damn what people think about me not drinking. This has changed… I felt like I had two heads when I didn’t drink at first. So awkward and judged. Not anymore.

– Social events are more meaningful to me now that I am fully present. My conversations are more genuine, the plans I make matter to me, and I speak my truth instead of becoming blasted and getting overly emotional/complimentary/loud/whatever. I am more real. I feel more uptight than I used to, but I think that will lessen as I become more comfortable being sober around people socially. Like I said before, it is already getting so much easier than it was at first. I have only been sober for 7&1/2 months… that is not a very long time in the grand scheme of things. I can’t wait to see what it feels like at one year! 2 years! 5 years!

Okay… I also don’t want to wish my life away.

 

 

Sober Night Out

I mentioned recently that I had plans to go out with friends this weekend and next, and last night was the first time in quite awhile that I did so. I met a group of old friends- friends that I don’t see so often these days- for drinks and appetizers at a restaurant/wine bar, and then we moved on to a legitimate bar for more drinks. Overall, it was fun to see friends and a good learning experience. I went a bit late and left pretty early, which was a good strategy this time.

I never really looked at it this way in the past, but now the whole concept of socializing at bars for hours and hours late at night seems like a waste of time to me. People should do what makes them happy, but for me, at this point in my life, having fuzzy, overly enthused conversations with acquaintances into the wee hours of the morning is not that much fun. I would rather have real conversations with people who are fully present. The late night bar scene seems like mental masturbation compared to the many things I could be doing that improve my life such as reading a great book, catching up on sleep, hanging out with my family, exercising, meditating, working on a project that makes me genuinely happy and content, or connecting with friends sober. I am not putting people down for doing this- I spent so much time in bars in the past that I would never judge anyone for that lifestyle choice- it is just not my thing anymore. I am perfectly okay with going to a nice restaurant for appetizers and drinks, enjoying a (non-alcoholic) cocktail on a patio in the summer, or going to a BBQ where alcohol is served, but I think I will avoid bars unless it is a special occasion or there is a band that I really want to see or another compelling reason.

It was strange to come home and talk to my husband about the night after the fact. At one point I realized that I never used to remember conversations so clearly during my drinking days. I remembered who I made plans with, what people said, who I saw, etc., and was able to share all of those small details with my husband. In the past I would have been trying to piece that information together the next day. I guess it is normal to remember everything about a night out? What a foreign concept. I don’t know though, it seems like even non-problem drinkers get a little exuberant and loose-lipped while drinking. I had to remind myself that all of the plans I made throughout the night might not actually come to fruition because the people I made them with were drinking, and I can’t be sure how much they were drinking exactly. Weird to be on that side of things for a change. I probably made a zillion plans with people in the past that I totally forgot about the next day. I wonder how many people’s feelings I hurt by doing that? Being drunk is not a very good excuse for shitty behavior.

Overall it was harmless and pretty fun. I left when I started to feel tired and slightly uncomfortable, and was happy to have a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, and a cuddle in front of the TV with my husband before bed. It was a nice night. I am looking forward to a friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party next weekend- hopefully it will be fun, too. It seems like all my friends are getting married this year! Maybe one day I will remember this as the year of sober weddings. 🙂

A Little of This and That

I have been busy planning a friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party for next month. It is my latest obsession. It seems like I get through my days better if I have something to focus on… something to distract me from being present all the time. Last week I was researching cars like crazy, making lists, deciding which would be best for my family. This week it is party planning. Don’t get me wrong- I like doing these things most of the time. I might obsess a bit much, though. I also sometimes obsess and then drop the project completely when I get bored. Hmm.

The cool thing is that I am 100% not worried about being sober at this party. I am actually looking forward to it. I will be present, clear-headed, helpful, and able to DRIVE. So… it will be good. Plus- it’s not about me so I can sit back, relax, and help my friend have a great day.

I feel guilty when I am not 110% present in my life, which is ridiculous, I think. Nobody is totally present all the time. Distractions are good, especially in early sobriety….which I am STILL IN. I have to remind myself of that sometimes. Slow down, speedy, there is plenty of time to rule the world. But still… the nagging thought that I NEED something outside of myself to be fulfilled upsets me. It’s always on to the next purpose, goal, item to buy. Keep moving, moving, moving, buying, buying, buying. Sometimes it just all seems so compulsive and depressing. I didn’t want to get sober just to start ‘keeping up with the joneses’, you know?

Or maybe that was an excuse that I used to tell myself when I wanted too much out of life. I didn’t want to be greedy and materialistic like everybody else. Somewhere along the line being responsible became too normal for me. I was too cool for that shit. DOWN WITH THE MAN.

So now that I am sober and cleaning up my messes I realize that I was wrong about people. They aren’t boring because they are responsible… I said that to feel better about my life. I see it more clearly now because I am not boring even though I am behaving in a responsible way. Even if I am boring… who cares. I don’t have to please everyone, anyway.

This post is pretty rambling…. thanks for reading. 🙂

I spoke with a family member last night and they told me all about this person at their job who had it in for them, and it reminded me of the old me. I used to always worry that other people had it in for me. I also thought people were assholes a lot of the time. I am realizing that I was wrong.

a) People can be assholes but they aren’t all the time. b) Drinking too much on a regular basis makes you see things in a fucked up way. c) Distractions are okay but I want/need to remember the important things in life. d) It is okay for my priorities to change now. It is okay to let go of the old me. I am not letting go of the good parts. e) It is okay to slow down and take this one step at a time.

Sober Hair and a Little Prayer

Today is a good day. Writing about my plans for later in the week (in my last post) helped to relieve some stress, and I have been spending time thinking about how much more positive I feel compared to when I was drinking. Plus, you guys! I got a new haircut. A totally new look, and I love it! I feel like a different person. Or… that’s not right exactly… I feel more like myself with this haircut. Yes, that’s it. It suits me quite well, I love it, and I never would have had the balls to do it in the past. And really… who cares what anybody else thinks, anyway? It’s my head! In the past I would have worried about it more, I think.

But seriously, life is good.  I feel more like myself on so many levels, not just superficially because of my hair. I think quitting drinking has given me a renewed sense of self, and I am only now beginning to explore it. I know these happy feelings won’t last forever, but I sure am enjoying them while they last.

Some of these good feelings have to do with praying and meditating, I do believe. I read a quote yesterday that made a lot of sense.

“Whenever you feel inadequate, pray to be of service. When you’re in an energy of service your ego melts away.” -Gabrielle Bernstein*

I feel inadequate a lot, and praying to be of service changes my perspective. It doesn’t have to be a big service or anything, you don’t have to immediately go out and begin feeding the homeless, for example, but doing this gets me out of my own head and thinking about others in a different way. I am going to do this a few times today to stay balanced and centered before heading out to my friend’s bachelorette party this evening. Maybe I can enjoy my time at the party by listening to friends talk about themselves instead of thinking about me, me, me and drinking, drinking, drinking the whole time. We will see how it goes.

*Gabrielle Bernstein is the author of ‘Spirit Junkie’ and ‘May Cause Miracles.’ I just checked out ‘May Cause Miracles’ from the library, and am curious to see if I like it. I will write about it if it is helpful. She has been sober (mainly from a drug addiction, I believe) for 8 years.

Facing Social Anxiety (a little bit at a time)

I have a few social events to attend this week, and I am trying hard to keep my cool. I can be a laid back social girl who doesn’t drink, right? I used to use all social events as drinking occasions, so thinking about going out sober is a new experience for me. The anticipation of drinking was probably more fun than the actual drinking, now that I think about it. Events used to be exhausting because I would begin to plan my drinking really early… whether I could drink beforehand, how I could stay semi-sober depending on the crowd, worrying about how to get home, finding the after party, etc. That does not even include normal planning like deciding what to wear (which I still think about because that part is actually fun!)

In the past I almost always drank too much during social situations. I have read about other people with drinking problems who drank mainly at home and feel kind of jealous… why didn’t I think of that? It would have been just as damaging in many ways but much less embarrassing! Ah well. Since I was a public drunk I feel accountable to my friends who know that I am no longer drinking. No big secrets here! I have actually been worrying about oversharing in regards to my alcoholism and sobriety more than anything. Once I start talking about quitting I have a hard time shutting up, which seems to invite unwanted advice and general awkwardness. I would rather speak eloquently and elegantly, shut the hell up, and then exercise boundaries when given advice that I do not care to hear.

Anyway, I am looking forward to testing out my sobriety in public in a few safe situations. Well, semi-safe situations at least. I will have supportive people at both events (a bachelorette party and a wedding). The bachelorette party is a low-key spa night at a girlfriend’s house near my own home, and the wedding is an afternoon event that I will be attending with my husband and son. Thank you sweet baby for giving me an excellent excuse to leave the moment I feel weird or uncomfortable.

Here are a few reasons why being sober in social situations is preferable to drinking (for me, at least):

– Make-up looks nice the entire time, hair is in place. Eyes are clear instead of bloodshot.

– Able to drive myself home without danger or fear. Aside from normal danger that comes with driving, that is.

– Leave at a reasonable time. I used to stay til the last drop was finished and then head to the next party. This meant keeping my husband and son waiting for me a few times this past year, or staying up way too late. Nothing good.

– No drunk texting. I am the worst at that. Ugh.

– Enjoy the company of friends and meeting new people instead of simply enjoying the free booze.

– Won’t say or do anything that I will regret the next day.

– Can walk better in heels.

– More dignified and attractive behavior overall.

– I can talk to anybody, not just heavy drinkers. I used to mainly confine myself to groups that I felt comfortable boozing around.

I have been taking it slow when it comes to being social because I still feel pretty shaky, so I am excited and curious to see how things go this week. I am sure it will be hard at times, which is why I am planning ahead. Life goes on whether you are sober or not, right? Luckily it is also easy to sit things out, as sobriety is my main priority.