A Mishmash

I have a few things floating around in my brain that I want to get out, here today, at 526 days sober. I have been doing some thinking and a lot of obsessing. Some good, some bad. Such is life, but I am hoping for a breakthrough of some sort soon. I think writing here, in this lovely space, will help that happen. So I have a mishmash of a post here today. I need to clear my brain and let it all go. Thanks in advance for braving through it with me.

I enjoyed reading all the special words chosen for 2015. I have decided, quite late to the party, that my word for the year is inspiration. It keeps hitting me in different ways the more I think about it, which I love. I think it something that could be a lot more present in my life. I sometimes feel that life is meaningless, but when I choose inspiration I don’t feel that way. I feel a spark light up inside of me. Inspiration doesn’t just magically strike, at least not always; it needs to be sought out and given room to grow. So choosing this word means spending more time seeking inspiration in my everyday life. It also means trying my best to be an inspiration to others (humbly, oh so humbly) by living my best life. How else does it fit? Pursuing the spark of inspiration by writing and creating art. So, inspiration it is. Thank you to those ahead of me for inspiring me to choose a special word for 2015. Inspiration is truly everywhere. 🙂

I have also realized recently, maybe today even, that one of my biggest addictions is trying to control the world around me with obsessive thoughts. I don’t always do it, but when something is bothering me I think about it and worry over it until I feel in my bones that I have determined the outcome one way or another. Something clicked for me today, maybe when I was listening to an episode of the Bubble Hour, but I realized that oh hey, I don’t have to determine an outcome for every so-called problem that appears in my life. I don’t need to figure it all out. In fact, I can’t figure it all out, nothing big ever works the way I plan it, and trying is a huge waste of my time and energy. Epiphany!

For example, the past few days I have been obsessing over whether or not I should have another baby. I have thought about the pros, the cons, decided yes, decided no, talked to friends and family about the matter, talked to my husband about it, worried, and stressed. Yes, people do sometimes plan pregnancies or protect themselves against them, but in reality I have limited control over this. Since I have thought about this so much, I know that I will be okay no matter what, that my happiness does not depend in any way on the outcome of this decision, and that the ultimate fate of my uterus is in hands greater than mine. God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it. I am not calling the shots here, even if I desperately want to know what happens in the end. The stories that I tell myself about this subject aren’t helping me, and no matter what happens I will learn something. In fact, I am sure that I will learn valuable lessons no matter what.

This is an recent example, but these types of thoughts are pretty normal for me. I need to plan! I need to figure everything out! I am actually really happy with life right now, but I need to get out of my own way. I am ruining my own happiness. What a waste of a short life.

It is time to set down this heavy load and let myself be happy. It was these kinds of thought patterns that kept me stuck drinking and numbing. I am not numb anymore, I do not drink anymore, so it is time to let that baggage go. It is time to change. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind. I think I need to hold it a bit closer these days. I feel like I always need to qualify these things by saying that I am not all that religious, and that I don’t go to AA, but who really cares in the end? Sometimes wisdom is just wisdom. Here is the beginning of the Serenity Prayer if you want to read it, too.

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Wishing you all serenity today.

Small Things

I think I am learning how to let go of perfectionism. It looks something like this: realizing that nothing is ever perfect, that I make mistakes, and that is okay. Trying over when I do not do something the way that I planned. Working at my goals day by day. Chipping away instead of giving up if I do not do it right. Oh, and getting rid of the word right. And the word wrong. And the word perfect.

Except for drinking. I am “not drinking” perfectly because I don’t drink alcohol anymore. It is pretty easy to stay perfect at that goal as long as I don’t drink ever again. Drink, or don’t drink. I choose not to drink. Because I feel happier than I think I ever have, and I 100% believe that getting rid of drinking is the cause. Well, the cause that led to many other causes in a sort of snowball effect from quitting.

Not drinking alcohol anymore makes me feel like I can do lots of good things as long as I take them one day at a time. There is no need to worry so much about the outcome of everything, rather just fill up my time doing things that make me feel pretty good. And some chores, because lets face it, life is full of chores that must be done and not all of them are particularly fun. In fact, a lot of the things that I choose to do are not particularly fun while I am doing them, but they make me feel good and help me in some way. I feel good afterwards because they are finished. How strange.

I have been writing every day, just for me. I have been exercising more. I have been building my little business slowly. I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I spend whole days not exercising or working or writing. I let my toddler watch too much TV on those days. I mope and I am not particularly nice. But most days I do a little more than that. I write a page. I go for a walk. I get up and go to the gym early in the morning. I brainstorm business ideas. I put ideas into practice. I play with my toddler instead of allowing him to be hypnotized by TV. I go out into the world and say hello to people and look them in the eye and try to connect.

These things cannot be looked at too closely or they will fall apart. If I let myself look at the big picture or think about them too much I will panic and shut them down. My inner monologue goes something like this, “There is no way I will ever do this correctly so why even try? My little effort means absolutely nothing when there are people out there doing much bigger and better things. Who do I think I am to take this on in the first place? What is the point of life anyway? Why do humans do so many pointless things? Why not spend the rest of my time here on Earth with my head stuck in a bottle since THERE IS NO POINT TO ANYTHING ANYWAY?”

Sorry to yell, but it gets pretty rough when I travel down that old familiar road.

I can’t allow myself to follow those thought patterns anymore. I am NOT following these thought patterns as much anymore. They are unhelpful and fueled by fear. I try to focus on the positives, and take it one day, one small baby step, one little goal, at a time. I remember that we all matter, we all have things to share, and we are all worthwhile in so many ways. We are worth the effort it takes to make lasting changes in our lives and to be genuinely happy.

No wonder recovery is a lifelong process. I think I am just beginning down this path.

Recovery, and Life, and Hello

Recovery is a thing that happens all the time these days. It is seamless, integrated, a part of me that exists along with breathing and going pee. Well, maybe not exactly, but I feel super grateful that I no longer have to dwell on it quite as much as I used to. It took a lot of brain space and time. It was totally worth all of the brain space and time to start living a sober existence, but it has changed. Amazingly, though, I don’t feel in danger of relapsing because I am not focusing the same kind of attention on it. I feel super alive for the first time in many years, and I am grabbing onto that feeling with both hands.

Let me tell you a little about what is working for me these days, because recovery has a tendency to change over time, just like life. It looks different for different people, and it even looks different for different people on different days. Lately for me it has looked like reading lots of books that inspire me to be the best person that I can be. Thinking about big picture things on a regular basis. Being open with people about who I am, including the part of me that is an alcoholic. Starting a new business venture that scares the shit out of me but also makes me feel useful and creative. Reading one good book per week. Prayer. Gratitude. Family and friends.

Oh, and remembering this thought EVERY SINGLE DAY- I can not have this life, this amazing life, if I start drinking again. Drinking is simply not an option for me. I still think that surrendering to that knowledge is the single most important thing you can do to get yourself sober. As long as I remember that every day, I don’t feel in danger of drinking.

Blogging hasn’t really been my thing lately, and that’s okay with me. Being here all the time helped me so much for those first few months. Hell, for the first whole year even. I still stop by every day and read what all of you have to say, but I don’t comment as much as I used to. I feel like I have limited resources to get me through every day, and sometimes I would rather focus my attention elsewhere. So, it is what it is for now. Maybe one day I will feel like writing more here again, but for now I am okay with stopping by occasionally for an update, and reading your thoughts, struggles and feelings. It helps.

The work of recovery doesn’t ever stop, I am finding. I am constantly learning more about myself. Turns out I am a ‘highly sensitive person’. Have you heard of this label? It seems like a bit of pop psychology, but I secretly love pop psychology and self-help type stuff, and the description fits me perfectly. I recently read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and it helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses that come along with being this way. I think I was using alcohol as a type of medication for so many different purposes. It is interesting to become more ‘me’ as sober time increases. It’s not all good, but it’s definitely a more authentic way to live.

You all take care of yourselves out there and remember that you are never, ever alone. I’m sending out lots of good vibes to the universe for every single one of you.

 

300 Days

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I’m going through a really lovely rebellious period right now where I feel happy as hell to be doing my own thing in life. Being me. Sober and proud, baby. I spent some time feeling sad that I wasn’t like everyone else anymore, but now I am happily living my nonconformist, sober life. Time to explore some uncharted territory and find ways to be high on life- real, unfiltered, and raw.

I love this article by Prince Rama’s Nimai Larson about quitting drinking. She is a badass and I admire the shit out of people who make positive changes in their lives. I don’t look down on her, or the countless other amazing people I read about who have quit drinking, so why feel less than myself?

I think it is badass to take control of your life and stop doing something that is hurting you!

Notes From a Good Day

Life has been good lately, and I know that it is because of sobriety. I am enjoying living more than I used to… genuinely appreciating the small things. The everyday things. Taking my son swimming. Drinking a delicious cup of coffee in the morning. Going for a hike and really noticing the trees and the sky and hearing the birds, and just feeling happy and content. Feeling joy bubble up inside when I hear a good song on the radio and can’t help but smile and dance around. I look silly, but I don’t care. My son dances, too, and I love how unselfconscious he is. I want that for myself.

It seems that my thinking has shifted. I used to feel fear and pain so much of the time. I thought constantly about drinking, even if I didn’t realize I was thinking about it. Everything revolved around numbing out my fear and pain, because then I was able to laugh and relax for awhile. Drinking was my constant reward for having to deal with life, which I found to be terribly hard and strenuous most of the time. Life wasn’t fair. I didn’t always get what I deserved. People could be so mean. I felt left out and left behind and so, so scared.

This is so much better. The true relaxation and happiness that comes with thinking things through, talking things out, feeling all the feelings on the spectrum, processing the happenings, and really and truly living life on life’s terms.

My family-of-origin has been helpful to me in letting go this past week, as they are nowhere near close to accepting the alcoholism that continues to warp and damage their lives. I have been hitting my head against a brick wall trying to get them to see the truth. Gah. I am realizing how hypocritical I have been by doing that, and therefore feel able to let go of it all, at least for now. Finally. I am sending them love and light from afar.

They aren’t all good days of course, but the good ones are really good. I am grateful to be here, writing to you all and myself, enjoying this glass of iced pomegranate green tea. Now I am off to clean the house and get prepared for a fun play date this afternoon. xo

Sober Biz

It’s pretty exciting thinking about all of the opportunities I have now that I am no longer chugging down booze every evening and feeling sickly every morning. All this free time gives me too many options, perhaps, as I am having a hard time deciding on one thing that I want to do FOREVER. Thinking about forever is a real mind fuck, isn’t it?

I mean, I can’t think about forever when it comes to sobriety. Why should I think that I can do it about anything else? Who cares about forever, anyway? I am certainly not going to live forever, so why worry about it?

So I am trying to rein it in a bit. Focus on what I want to do today or even next year, but not five years down the road, or forever down the road. I like that I am thinking bigger now that I am sober, once I get past the negativity of not being able to drink ever again, which ebbs and flows.

I want to do things with my life, like start a business. Drinking allowed me to procrastinate doing that for way too long. What kind of business? Well…that’s where the indecision comes in. I have a new idea every few weeks that I get super excited about and then let fizzle away.

To be honest, I have always done this. I have always had a hard time making up my mind, and have looked to others for answers as to how I should live my life. I did it once again a few weeks ago when a friend complimented me on a design I had made for a friend’s bridal shower invitations, and then again on her wedding invitations. She told me she thought I should open a business designing wedding invitations and things. I immediately mentally dropped the career plans that I had been making and thought “yes! that IS what I should do!” without realizing that I was doing it again- letting myself be guided by another in a direction that wasn’t of my choosing.

Of course, it was nice to hear that she thought I was a good designer. But I already KNOW that I have a bit of talent there. Sorry for the humblebrag. Does that mean that is what I should do with my life, though? No… I mean, I am not even a huge wedding person. I didn’t want a wedding. Why would I design wedding invitations for the rest of my life?

So I eventually realized this and moved on to another business idea. Sigh.

Sometimes I wonder if I am looking for another outside thing to make me happy. Work. A career. A business. Is that the same as filling up with booze? They are different, of course- it is necessary to have money, and working is healthier than drinking- but am I searching for an outside solution to an inside need? Work won’t make me whole, even if it can help make me feel fulfilled.

I think it is okay to be unsure for now. I am going to be kind to myself. I don’t have to decide anything today. I can let my mind travel through the possibilities of this new sober life until I feel ready to commit to something. The answers are here, within, if I give them time to incubate properly. They were soaked in booze for so long.

I like it when I feel flowy and good, so I am going to feel flowy and good today. Worrying about my future non-existent business makes me tense, and is pretty silly if you ask me. Life works out nicest when I have patience, think the best about things, take things slowly, and feel my feelings. When I let things unfold naturally instead of forcing things to happen.

 

How Did You Let It Get So Bad?

Admitting that I had a drinking problem meant that I had to admit that I let things fall apart in my life. How could I let it get so bad? I mean, how embarrassing! In the end I couldn’t deny that I had a problem without doing some serious mental acrobatics. I was horrified to admit that everything was, in fact, NOT okay after all.

Denying that there was a problem, making excuses for all of the “little things” that went wrong over the years, was easier than facing up to this huge problem I hadn’t dealt with. That I didn’t want to deal with. That I maybe even couldn’t deal with because I didn’t have the right tools, or didn’t know that I had the right tools. But in the end, how could I NOT deal with the big elephant in the room taking big elephant poops all over my life?

I am not horrified or embarrassed about my path anymore. I let my life get that way, yep, I sure did. I take the blame. Alcohol is an addictive substance for (some) people, and I got addicted. I think I was born addicted, but in the end I made choices and ended up where I ended up. I accept who I am, warts and all. Alcoholic and all.

On a lighter note, spring is fully here at last! I am happy about that. I quit drinking last August and was relieved when the colder months came around. I thought it would be easier to stay inside and drink hot tea during the winter, and it was cozy and nice to be inside, but winter was a toughy this year and stuck around for a bit too long. I feared spring and summer because, you know… nice weather, barbecues, gardening, swimming at the lake, etc. How do you do those things without a cold alcoholic beverage in your hand?

It turns out you don’t need one! I KNOW!

I was worried for nothing. Nice weather is actually nicer without being hungover, or blurry and tired from having one too many, or blackout drunk and not remembering anything. My husband and I got a lot of work done on the garden this weekend because we weren’t rushing to get to beer-thirty and then feeling crappy the next day, unable to work again. I had loads of energy, enjoyed the sunshine, and have a great feeling of accomplishment from doing lots of tasks and helping to improve our home. There were some pangs, but they were just pangs. I am not going to drink. I want to get to one year sober and beyond. Drinking isn’t an option for me anymore, man. It just isn’t.

It turns out sobriety is kind of like staying in winter because you are not sure about spring. You worry about what it will be like, but in actuality it is so much better than you could have imagined. I mean, there are flowers! Life without alcohol is actually preferable if you are a heavy hardcore boozer person. Drinking too much on a regular basis makes life harder. If it is either ALL or NOTHING then I choose nothing because life is still good without alcohol in it. The benefits of life, like enjoying nice days, spending time with family, doing fun things, feeling accomplishment of a job well done, etc. are there sober. In fact, I believe they are better sober.

The lows might be lower, too, that is true. There is nothing to take the edge off so you have to deal with life unfiltered. Right now, to me, that seems like an okay price to pay. I tell myself that I don’t get to have it all, and I am lucky for the things that I have in my life. And that feels good; it is enough for me right now.

 

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. 🙂

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