Do No Harm

Hi folks! I am back from a fun but stressful trip to visit family (aren’t all family visits kinda stressful? Is it just me?), and I wanted to pop in to say hello. It was a scary trip for me; I saw family that I haven’t seen in years, and I don’t think I would have planned it or gone if I had been drinking this year.

Stress still makes me want to drink in an abstract kind of way, but luckily it is getting much easier to see what is going on in my little lizard brain. Whenever I begin to think that drinking is a good idea, or that everyone drinks and why can’t I, or some other version of “poor me”, chances are that I am stressed or tired or sick. Once I talk about my feelings, or get some rest, or get away from the stressful situation, or practice some sort of self-care, I stop thinking that drinking is a good idea. Pretty simple, right? Yet it is amazingly difficult to remember sometimes, especially when in the thick of the bad feelings. Keep going going going, stay sober, and those tricky drinking thoughts get easier to recognize for what they are: bullshit. So that’s a cool development.

I am fast approaching one year of sobriety and I am pretty happy about it. I get discouraged sometimes that I am not moving fast enough in recovery, doing enough for others, actualizing into super-Jen, or making and achieving big goals. Yep- I still doubt myself and the path that I am on. BUT- and this is big- I am not hurting other people so much anymore, my goals are clarifying, and I am learning how to be happy with who I am, where I am, what I have, and what I am doing. I would say sobriety is a general success for me so far. And this is just the beginning! 

When I was a drinker I hurt people through my thoughtless actions, or brainless actions, as I did a lot of mean/stupid/careless things when I was blacked out. I still hurt people sometimes, especially those close to me, but the amount is so much less than it used to be. I can guarantee that if I had been drinking this year there would have been more fights, more hurt feelings and more tears. More DRAMA. And who freakin’ needs that? It is worth going through this tough transition- from a drinker to a sober woman- to hurt people less often and less severely. Do no harm. It is a good motto, I think.

I am finding it less necessary to delve into the past these days. I can hold my head high knowing that I am doing the right things for myself and the people that I love. That sounds pretty smug, but it just feels good. I don’t feel better than anyone else, I just could care less what others are doing most of the time (especially about drinking) as long as I am taking care of my own stuff. What YOU do doesn’t lessen ME. Who knew it would take almost 35 years to realize that? This vacation that I took with my family gave me a slight shift in perspective- a good reminder of the power of travel- that I needed to hopefully make this next year the best yet.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

Saturday Morning Dance Party

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I have been writing a daily gratitude journal- well, most days at least- for the past few weeks. I am already noticing a shift in my attitude because of it. I became sick with the flu this week, and felt nauseous in a way that I haven’t since my last hangover. I can’t believe it used to be normal for me to feel that way so much of the time. It is SO not normal. Today I am grateful to be sober because I am learning that I deserve to spend most of my life feeling good.

Early this morning I had a dance party in my living room with my son. I never would have done that when I was drinking because I usually felt like I had the flu on Saturday mornings, and it was all I could do to make coffee and supervise. I am grateful for Saturday morning dance parties. They are 1,000,000 times better than Friday night drinking parties.

Happy weekend to you all.

The Small Things

My baby celebrated his first birthday this weekend, and it made me reflect on how my life would be different if I had not quit the booze. First of all, I probably would have thrown him a party this weekend. I would have felt obligated in some silly way, because I was less secure when I was drinking and I worried more about what people thought about me. You’re SUPPOSED to throw a party for your child EVERY YEAR, right? Or else you’re a bad parent? Um, no.

So … my one year-old would have had a party, filled with mainly grown-ups, hanging out. In most social circles one year-olds don’t have a bunch of friends to invite to parties yet. His party probably would have been a good time, but it wouldn’t have been as much about HIM. His wants and needs … not ours.

In addition, there likely would have been some drinking involved at this shindig. We would have justified it to ourselves by saying that we ‘deserved’ to celebrate. Heck, we have been parents for a whole year! That IS cause to celebrate! Why do we need to drink alcohol to celebrate, though? Especially when the MAIN event … the person we are really celebrating … has no use for alcohol, parties, and large groups of people at this point in his life. He just wants to hang with the P’s, play with his toys, go for walks, take baths, chase the cats, jump on the bed … you get the idea.

Instead, we spent the whole weekend doing things that he likes to do. We saw a few friends, but we didn’t overwhelm him with a large party. We took a couple of nice walks, opened a present every few hours, made banana cupcakes that he smashed and ate, sang songs, read books, played with toys, took naps, etc. It was practically the same as a normal day except BETTER! He was so happy to be with his parents the whole weekend, and we were able to give him 100% of our attention. I didn’t think about drinking hardly at all, except that I was SO happy to be sober. It was perfect. A good introduction to birthdays for him, and no stress for me.

I can’t say FOR SURE how things would have gone down had I still been drinking, but I don’t think it would have been quite as nice. Once again, I feel that being sober is a gift you give to yourself and to the important people in your life. It’s always a good reminder.

My Hula Hoop

I had a really nice talk with one of my younger brothers today. I worry about his drinking a lot … it is easy for me to see how much BETTER his life would be if he were to stop. It is really easy to judge someone else’s situation from an outsider’s perspective, though. The hard part is actually doing it for yourself. But … it seems like he might be heading in the direction of quitting one day. I hope so more than anything. If I had my way my entire family would be in recovery. Ha! I laugh because it is both ridiculous and true.

This conversation, and my desire to influence my brother’s path, got me thinking about a saying that I heard recently. I actually think I read it somewhere … I have NO IDEA where because I read during, like, 50% of my free time or something crazy. Anyway, this saying was something about the fact that you only need to worry about what is inside your hula hoop.

What is in your hula hoop at any given time?  Hula hoops are pretty small. Right now, it is just me. Sitting here typing in the present moment. I don’t need to worry about my brother, my parents, my husband, or even my little boy (he is napping). I don’t need to worry about the future or the past because you definitely can’t fit THE FUTURE or THE PAST into a hula hoop. I like this because I can visualize my hula hoop and what I can fit in it, and it helps to stop my thoughts from spiraling out of control. Oops … sorry! Can’t fit that problem in my hula hoop. Moving on!

I am sure many of you, especially AA people, have heard this expression. It can work for a lot of different things.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Gaining Understanding Vs. Playing the Victim

My parents are alcoholics. Admitting that is almost as hard as it was to first admit that I am an alcoholic. My mother is an active alcoholic and my father is dry (I think?) but not recovered or in recovery. It is stupidly hard to admit that I grew up with parents who put their addictions before me. I feel so guilty about it, like I am saying that they were bad parents. I still love them even if they WERE bad parents, and feel fiercely protective of that. They did a lot of good things, especially in my early formative years- travel, cultural events, books, extra-curricular activities, family dinners- but our lives gradually grew more and more out of control as I grew up. I adapted the best that I could with my limited skills and abilities, but I really needed more help learning how to navigate the world around me.

Part of my recovery process is learning why I ended up where I did. Gaining knowledge and understanding is one of the main things that drives me. I want to know WHY. Not just about this, but about everything that sparks my interest. In searching for answers I have been reading a lot of literature geared towards adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs). I have found that I fit in with this group better than any other groups I have found (not the support group, just generally). It is so comforting to finally understand why I do some of the things that I do and feel the way that I feel. This article, Adult Children of Alcoholics ACoAs: Qualities and Traits, is so right on. I exhibit almost ALL of the qualities and traits outlined in the article. It is interesting that being an ACoA is comparable to experiencing PTSD, and that it can be triggered by beginning a family of your own. I have felt traumatized, like something BIG was happening in my psyche, since my son was born. It is gradually getting easier and easier, especially with the clarity that comes from sobriety, but I totally identify with that. I am really thankful for this validation. Feeling “off” is the pits.

What do I do with this information now that I have been awakened to it? It is tempting to dive into a blaming, victim role and live there for a time, but I know that isn’t very healthy. I can’t really talk to my parents because they are not ready to face their denial or the ramifications of their actions. My brothers are stuck in an addictive hell that I can’t enter. (The article I referred to has an interesting section on ‘survival guilt’ that is already becoming an issue for me.) I think my husband finds my story increasingly sad as I make further realizations about who I am and where I come from, so I don’t want to heap too much on his plate. I put a lot on his plate anyway, as he is truly my best friend. My good friends have their own lives, struggles and family problems, even though they are always willing to lend an ear. I have decided that what I want, what is best for me, is to find a therapist who is experienced in these matters to help me sort it out. It seems like a big task to do alone, and since part of my family is still stuck in the cycle of addiction, it will be an ongoing struggle. I want to talk to a professional who understands what I am talking about. Also- self-care is where it’s at these days.

I think it is so helpful, regardless of where you are with being sober, to remember that you are not alone. xx

** Writing this post was really hard for me because so many people have had childhood experiences that were much worse. I have been pretty lucky overall, so who am I to complain? I am gradually realizing, however, that I have to tell my story and own my life experiences to truly move past them.

A Family Disease

I am dealing with the day-to-day minutiae that goes along with being sober as well as a wife, mama, daughter, sister, friend, etc. I wrote the other day, here, about laying awake at night thinking about my family and their problems. It was weird, but my Mom cemented some of those thoughts in my head yesterday evening during a phone call.

We spoke about our plans for the holidays. The dreaded holidays. Everyone’s favorite time of the year to tie one on and cry over their turkey dinner (at least at our family holidays during my later childhood years). Why would I not want to redo those fun times every year, right? I am being sarcastic, but the holidays really are a very hard time for a lot of people. There is so much pressure to have a Pinterest-worthy home, table and decor, loads of fun, togetherness, and bonding… and it just doesn’t work out that way for most people. I am not particularly religious, or into the holidays, and I still feel pressure to make something happen every year. Sometimes I wish I could just lie on a beach and forget all about them. Hmm… goal for next year, perhaps? “Sorry, I’ll be in Bali for the holidays this year.” A girl can dream.

Anyway, my Mom wants to come visit this year to see my son, her only grandson, whom she loves very much. I want them to have a relationship with one another. What I don’t want is for my son to be a part of a dysfunctional environment where unhealthy drinking is the normal thing to do, which it is in my family. This means that we can’t go stay with her. My Mom lives in a relatively small house with my two alcoholic, unemployed brothers. I really don’t want alcohol in my house right now, either. She told me that she doesn’t want to visit if she can’t drink, as she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night.

I am really sad about this. Sad that she would choose alcohol over visiting me and her grandson. Sad that she can’t/won’t stop drinking for a week to help me when I really need it.  Sad that she is obviously addicted to alcohol but in total denial about it. Sad that I can’t just say “It’s okay! Come anyway!” and make the problems go away because I am a total people pleaser. Some of these thoughts and feelings aren’t rational, because I know alcoholism is a tricky thing and it’s not personal, but my head and heart are still hurting.

I have realized that part of the reason I kept drinking for so long was that I didn’t know how to do things any differently. Quitting meant having to deal not only with my personal problems, but also with the alcohol problems of my family. “Alcoholism is a disease of the family” makes more sense to me now. I don’t want to make excuses for my drinking, and I understand that it is my responsibility to care for my sobriety. I just hate that I have to hurt my family… even if it helps them in the end. It is a painful thing to do. I know that my Mom doesn’t see herself the way that she is behaving right now, and it breaks my heart. I am so tired of having my heart broken by alcohol. It has happened far too many times over the years.

My plan is to create and keep boundaries for the holidays. Absolutely no drinking in my house. Visitors can stay elsewhere and drink the night away, but will respect my home, as it is my safe place. If we visit those with a drinking problem, we will stay in a hotel and the visits will be cut short once drinking begins. I don’t know how else to handle it, and I am not going to stress and lose my sobriety over other people’s problems.

How do you handle difficult family situations, if you have them? Is Al-Anon helpful? I am thinking I might go to a meeting and check it out.

Health, Love, and Gifts

My son has been sick for the past few days with his first illness since he was born. He is currently snoozing peacefully on my lap as I write this. I look at his sleepy face and feel so much love and gratitude that he exists. He has changed my world, and my perspective, like nothing else in my life.

I have not had the desire to drink over the past few days because I have been busy caring for him. I imagine it is scary to be a baby sometimes, especially when you are in pain or aren’t feeling well, because you can’t understand what is happening. He has wanted to be close to Mama and Daddy constantly, which is totally understandable. Daddy has been a great help over the weekend, but nursing and sleeping are Mama’s territory, out of habit, comfort, and biological necessity. When we finally get him to sleep at night my husband and I breathe a sigh of relief. We are all pretty tired. 

I’ve thought about how things would be different if I were still drinking. I feel ashamed to think that after he went to bed last night I most likely would have had a few drinks to wind down and relax from the stress of caring for him. He woke up a bunch of times during the night, and I would have been slightly buzzed while attending to his needs. That thought breaks my heart.

Today I am grateful to be fully present for my sweet boy while he recovers from his first-ever virus. I am acting like the kind of Mama that I want to be, and I do not feel any shame or guilt. Thoughts about ‘what might have been’ are so much easier to deal with than real actions. Sobriety is a gift that I have given to myself and to those that I love.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Sunday.

Difficult Times

We got home from our trip last night, and it feels good to be back. Good and sad really, as my father-in-law passed away while we were in California visiting. I am not going to lie- it was really, really hard in so many ways, but especially handling the grief that surrounded me. I was/am sad, as my father-in-law was a wonderful, accomplished, loving man, but I ended up feeling really stressed out by the experience. I am still getting to know my husband’s family in a lot of ways. Most of our relationship has taken place many miles from both of our families, and we got pregnant/bought a house/got married in that order, all in a short amount of time.  I think I am still processing how I handled being there for my husband and his family, what I wish I had done differently, and what I will try to do in difficult future situations. Oh, life. You can be so tricky to navigate sometimes.

We had a long day of travel yesterday getting back home (two plane rides and two long car rides), and I made the decision that I was going to stop to buy beer and cigarettes on the way home. I decided this after our car acted like it wasn’t going to start in the long-term parking lot prior to our two-hour car ride home. Not that this was the worst or hardest part of the week, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I didn’t have a hard time staying away from alcohol during the trip, but the craving REALLY hit me hard in that hot parking lot, with the anxiety and tears building up inside. My brother-in-law magically started the car and we headed home, and I told my husband and brother-in-law that I was going to have a beer later. I felt desperate, like I NEEDED something to take the edge off. I told myself it would be just this one time. I would get drunk, smoke as many cigarettes as I wanted, and start over being sober again the following day. Everyone slips, right? Oh, the twisted thought process that went through my head during this time.

Well, I didn’t do it. I knew that I would feel awful in a myriad of ways if I were to say yes to my HORRIBLE junkie voice. Once we got going in the car and the baby fell asleep in his car seat, I closed my eyes and prayed for help to keep me from drinking and to help me feel NORMAL again. If not normal, then at least as strong as I felt before. So… yes, I pray sometimes. I am not really very religious, but prayer seems to help me when I am feeling really bad. I first noticed the positive effects in college and have done it regularly since then. I guess my prayers worked this time because the need that I was feeling, the desperate, empty, unexplainable hole, seemed to diminish. It closed enough that I was able to tell myself that I would drink another day. Tomorrow, next week, some other time, but not that night. I still felt really shaky about my sobriety- I was holding on by a thread- but I held onto that thread with all the power I could muster. I went home and ordered pizza, even got grouchy with my poor, sweet husband, but went to bed sober.

I am still feeling mentally and physically exhausted from everything that I’ve been through recently, so I plan to exercise some serious self-care over the next few days. I am going to relax around the house in comfy clothes, eat ice cream, watch movies, write here and in my journal, read something good, call friends and family that I have been neglecting, play with my sweet baby, and go for walks. I need to get back to feeling safe. Difficult times without a crutch are just that- difficult. I am a master of escaping from my emotions, and I can’t do that anymore. I think that for me, a true introverted soul, routine and safety are so important. I need to work on a plan for difficult times when I do not have my routine, my home, my familiar surroundings. I read a lot of blogs while I was gone but didn’t have the energy to write… maybe that would have helped.

Anyway, it is good to be back. Thank you for stopping by.