Feed the Soil

I think about this phrase a lot for my son. My job as his parent is to create an environment that can help him grow and thrive- to feed the soil not the plant. I don’t need to worry about every little thing, or react to every small daily incident, or worry worry worry about how his childhood is going, as long as I remember to feed the soil around my sweet little one. He needs to be surrounded by people who love him, books, toys that interest and challenge him, a variety of people, nature, and new experiences.

The same thing goes for my sobriety. I don’t need to worry about it so much anymore, as it has pretty much become second nature for me not to drink, at least most of the time. I still need to feed the soil regularly to stay fully committed to this path in life. This means reading sober blogs to hear about other people’s struggles and triumphs, reading uplifting materials (even just a few good quotes can do the trick), and spending time with positive people who help me feel good about life. I need to travel every so often to widen my perspective, to interact with people who challenge me, and to learn about new ideas. I need to write. I need fresh air, good food and exercise. I need hugs- so many hugs! All of these things feed the soil of my sobriety so that it can continue to grow and thrive. These things are important for everyone, but particularly for us sensitive-alcoholic types. I think many alcoholics are highly sensitive people, but that is a post for another day.

The opposite is also true. If I surround myself with downers and heavy drinkers, and don’t do the things that I need to stay healthy, then my sobriety will wither away.

Remember to be aware of what you are feeding your soil, is what I am saying. I will keep working on mine right alongside you.

xoxo

 

Gym Rat (Not Really)

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

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

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

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

Happy Weekend! xx

From The Outside Looking In

A friend of mine recently announced to the world, via social media, that she has not had a cigarette or drink of alcohol in a year, aside from one experience with a few glasses of wine over the summer. She moved away a few years ago and we don’t really stay in touch…we were really just becoming friends when she left. I follow her life through the amazing channels of social media, as I do with many other people. I apologize for the stalker-y nature of this post, but I think it is worth sharing how cool and good sobriety looks from the outside.

I was reflecting about her quitting, and how great that is, when I started thinking of a few other friends and acquaintances who are now sober, and who I have also followed on social media over the years. In many cases, I used to drink with these people, and they either moved away or we lost touch for one reason or another. I sometimes admired their sobriety from afar but never really dwelt on it, as it hit too close to home.

First of all, my sober friends are gorgeous. They have great haircuts, fabulous clothes, and generally look really put together. They definitely have that je ne sais quoi when it comes to personal style.

They also do a lot of fun things, according to the pictures that they share with the world. I know that social media doesn’t exactly provide an accurate picture of a person’s life, but you get an idea of what they are up to from what they choose to share. For example, mine is basically pictures of my baby right now. I can’t help it…my family is my main focus at this point in my life. My old pictures are filled with nights out drinking. I kind of want to delete them, but I also don’t want to erase my past. I did those things…I just don’t do them anymore.

Anyway…my sober friends go to interesting places, have nice dinners, go out at night, and generally appear to be having fun sober. They travel and live in cool locations. They create things. They appear to live well.

My point is that even though this sobriety stuff can be freakin’ hard and a pain in the neck sometimes, it is worth it because it helps to improve our lives. It improves it so much that it is actually visible to the outside world! It is one more tool for me to think about and picture when I am having a hard time staying sober…what do I want to show the world about myself? Well…I want to be a put together lady who treats herself well. Being sober helps me accomplish that.

A Mixed Bag

I have been a bit stressed out this holiday season, but I am holding tightly onto my sobriety. We have had two attempted break-ins (TWO! WTF!), family visiting, a teething and non-sleeping baby, etc. It has been tempting to look for answers in the booze, but I keep hearing over and over that they are not to be found there, and I believe it. How would being drunk help any of those things? It wouldn’t, and it would probably make them all worse. I am struggling with how to have fun without it, though. I know, I know…it wasn’t really “fun” anyway, but it made the boredom and bad feelings a lot more fuzzy, while everything is so crystal clear and sharp now. Drinking made me less present so I didn’t notice how little fun I was actually having. I mean, often I didn’t remember ANYTHING after drinking for more than a few hours, so I had no idea whether I had fun or not.

Well…that pretty much ruins my thoughts romanticizing the drink. I absolutely HATED waking up not remembering anything, and now that never happens. One huge point for sobriety.

Early sobriety is a little like limbo. I am not yet comfortable being sober all the time, but I no longer want to be drunk. Or be a drunk, I suppose, because sometimes I do think it would be nice to be drunk for a few hours. Then I quickly think through the drink and…nope. I don’t want that life. So…patience is key. It gets easier in tiny increments and sometimes it goes two steps forward one step back. Progress feels slower around the holidays when everyone seems to be imbibing, and all sorts of unpleasant feelings come out to play for a whole bunch of reasons.

I am taking plenty of deep breaths. The end of the holidays is near. New Year’s Eve is tomorrow and I have limited my plans to the bare minimum, as I have done with every other major event this year. Kinda lame, maybe, but I am still too shaky to put myself in precarious situations with lots of alcohol. Maybe after a year or two…if I even want to be in those situations by then.

I will continue to make big plans for my sobriety, and my life, and then take it one day at a time. It is a mixed bag sometimes, but it is my bag and I am gonna focus on the good stuff as much as I can. I am opening my heart more and locking my doors tighter. Wishing you all a wonderful and happy New Year.

Sunny Day

I am no longer feeling angry, thank God. It didn’t last too long. Writing really helps me process and release my feelings, so I am freaking thankful that I started this blog. Back to normal and feeling happy most of the time.

I enforced boundaries with my younger brother this weekend by telling him not to visit me this holiday season because he won’t stop calling me drunk. I feel bad about it. Guilty. I think it was the right thing to do, though. Drunken phone calls from relatives really mess up my day. Especially at 8 in the morning after an all-night bender.

Enforcing boundaries in this situation caused problems with my mother, too. She was angry and hurt. Relationships are all kind of codependent in my family. We talked and worked it out, and she is going to fly here for part of the holidays instead of driving with my brother. I feel better about it now because we cleared the air by saying some things that needed to be said. Everything isn’t resolved or agreed upon- that will likely never happen- but we see each other more clearly.

And again, I feel bad that I hurt my mom, but I HAVE to do what is best for me right now. I am choosing a no stress, no drama, feel good kind of holiday season. I will work on my relationship with my brother as I grow stronger being sober. It is going to be really hard for me to be around active alcoholics for awhile, but hopefully he will gain an understanding of how serious I am because of this situation. We will see what happens, and I will hope for the best and try to be kind. I know how hard it is to be stuck in that shitty cycle of addiction. It took me a long time to break free, and I have to work at it every day.

Other than family stuff, being sober is wonderful right now. I don’t miss drinking very often because I genuinely feel GOOD most of the time. It is pretty sweet and cool and I am holding on tight to my new life. I am definitely a less social creature, though. That might change, but it might not. I think I will always be more of a one-on-one, quiet coffee date kind of girl than I used to be. I am also a pretty new mother, and I think it is all tied together. I like being home with my husband and child.

We had a nice weekend decorating our tree, doing craft projects, making homemade candies for gifts, shopping and cooking. I don’t think alcohol would have made it one iota better, and it quite possibly could have made it worse in some way. I think I have cleared the obstacles in my path (with family, mainly) to have a happy, sober holiday season, and I am totally excited about it. Happy Monday!

Extinguishing Triggers

When I quit smoking for the first time I was absolutely astonished by the process. I learned a lot about addiction and why people smoke, and was able to kick that ugly habit to the curb for five years. Of course, when my life got hard after five years I began smoking again, every once in awhile, until I gradually became just as addicted as I was in the first place.  And oh boy, was it ever hard to quit the second time. It took me two years, a bazillion tries, and finally becoming pregnant to give it up. And then I started again after the baby was born! Once again it was a little at a time, with long quits for weeks in between, but by early summer last year I was smoking every day and hating it. I quit again in July and haven’t looked back. I am SO happy that I do not have to deal with that addiction anymore. It totally contributed to my overall feeling of being OUT OF CONTROL.

There are a lot of similarities in the addictions to cigarettes and alcohol that I have observed so far in the quitting process. With smoking, I learned that the more times I met a trigger head-on the faster my brain would rewire itself. Not smoking would become the new normal in the same situation…where at one time not smoking would have been unheard of. It is the same with drinking! Once you encounter those tough situations a few times it becomes normal not to drink. The witching hour comes to mind. Or on a Friday evening. Those were my biggest triggers when I first became sober.

Now my triggers for drinking are sneakier. Holidays! Come! Out! Of! The! Blue! Since holidays only happen a few times per year it takes time to extinguish those triggers and make being sober the new normal. No wonder it is hard at first! Plus add all of the pressure from society and the world and family and the Internet to have FUN FUN FUN and CELEBRATE. No wonder it is hard for many of us not to drink!

I felt some cravings this Thanksgiving. I felt flat. Bored. I wanted alcohol to liven up my day.

Then I realized…I NEED TO LIVEN UP MY DAY! It is my responsibility to make it more fun. Alcohol would have numbed and masked reality, but it wouldn’t have changed any important parts of the day. In the end, it just would have made me drunk and full of regrets. I isolated myself this year because I was scared of what might happen if I didn’t, and because it is my first year sober and I wanted to meet my triggers head-on in a safe environment. I had a nice time with my little family, but it was a tad boring (sorry husband, if you are reading this) because I didn’t leave my comfort zone.

Next year, it is my responsibility to create the holiday that I want. To make it more exciting without booze. I am up for the challenge.

I learned things this year. I learned that A) the upcoming holidays are not going to be super easy, but they will be okay as long as I stay sober. They will pass. B) I have a lot of support and am doing exactly what I need to do. If I need to stay home this year it is perfectly fine. C) It might take a few years for holidays to become easy sober because they don’t happen very often and they are more charged with emotion than normal days. They WILL get easier one day. D) I love being sober and I love not smoking anymore. I feel free a lot of the time, and it is really wonderful.

I loved reading all of the holiday posts from sober bloggers. Thanks for all the tips, strategies and personal anecdotes. That info helped a lot and will continue to help over the next month. xxxx

**I used the website whyquit.com to help quit smoking. It has a lot of good info.

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.

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.

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.

Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

images

I had a big falling out with a friend a few months ago. She approached me for a serious discussion about my drinking, and it made me really upset. Sounds like a classic case of an alcoholic in denial, right? Well… yes and no. She told me some things that were true, but she did it in a insensitive and hurtful way.

I quit drinking a month later, and I am still trying to figure out what it all means. I had been thinking about quitting drinking permanently for awhile at that point, so she doesn’t deserve the credit for all of my hard work. Her words did trigger something, though. I mean, I pretty much obsessed over our conversation non-stop for the next week, at least. Letting our friendship go has saved me from drama and stress that she brought into my life. In fact, I think it has been easier to stay sober without having her around. But she helped me see things more clearly about my drinking… things that I was trying so hard not to see.

I am so, so grateful that circumstances in my life have changed since then. I have examined my priorities and am working on being my best self, sober. I feel much more confident than I did a few short months ago when it seemed that if you looked at me too hard you would see all of the holes I was trying to hide. Holes in my confidence, holes in my story… you get the picture. This situation is a good reminder to me to be mindful in my communications with others, because you never know what they are going through. You have to be careful how you approach people when it comes to delicate situations, like confronting alcoholism or whatever the issue is, or it could just make things worse. There are ways to approach people that are helpful, and ways that are not so helpful. And always remember to be kind. It is so, so important.

** I edited this post on 10/11/13. For some reason it made me really uncomfortable in its original form. I think I shared too much, too fast. I will return to this subject at a later date.