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.

 

 

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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.

 

Play Groups With Wine

My son and I started attending a new play group last week for mamas and littles (plus wine). I felt fine not drinking the first week we went, but this past week was a bit harder. Maybe because I was offered alcohol a bunch of times by an exuberant host husband trying to be polite and friendly? Or because the hosts drank more this time? Or because I was the only Mom not drinking? I am not sure exactly, except that it was a little harder to deal with this time around. I wasn’t close to drinking, but the thought crossed my mind about how easy it would be to say yes. These are new friends so they don’t know my history with alcohol, and I felt scared facing a social situation without the loss of inhibitions that comes with a few drinks. I didn’t feel loose; I felt uptight and shy. Prudish. Boring.

Those thoughts and feelings were all in my head, though. I believe that I came across just fine to others. I talked to moms, played with the kids, ate snacks, drank the bottled water that I brought with, and had a nice time overall. I am not sure anyone really CARED that I wasn’t drinking. In retrospect I don’t think they even noticed- I think I just felt sorta awkward about it and projected that onto others. I am still learning how to be sober in different situations. It takes time.

I played the tape forward and thought about what would happen if I did say yes to a drink in that situation. Well, I likely would have had more than one drink and then had to drive my sweet little toddler home. When I was drinking I felt nervous with new friends, as I do now, and would have craved more drinks to TRULY RELAX after I got home, so I would have stopped at the store on the way home for some beer or wine. I also would have wanted a cigarette to go with my drink(s), so then I would have bought a pack of cigarettes. The end result = me at home drinking and smoking on my back deck feeling like shit. Worth it to feel a bit less uncomfortable at a play group that lasted all of two hours? No!

The main problem is that I feel stiff and uptight sometimes. I have always felt that way, even when I WAS drinking. I am just not a dance-on-the-table type of person. And I feel defensive about being sober! Like I am defective and not good or fun enough to hang out with this group if I am not drinking. Wow- where do these thoughts come from?

So instead of drinking I am going to work on loosening up a little around others in a healthy way. I am going to start by trying to release fear and just be myself. What do I have to lose? I DON’T DRINK, so that is not an option.

Any readers have tips on letting go of fear? Let’s share!

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

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!