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.

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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.

 

Saturday Morning Dance Party

one-thousand-gifts-ann-voskamp-gratitude

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.

Limiting Belief: Being Sober Isn’t Fun

Dear Limiting Belief,

I know that you believe that life without alcohol is boring and flat, but I am here to tell you that it is possible to have a great time sober. Alcohol never made things fun in the first place. It was an easy way to change your mood or to gain a bit of energy, but the good feelings that it created were short lived and fake.

You might have an idea in your head about the type of person who is sober while others are drinking. “What a bore! Must be totally uptight! Learn how to let loose and live a little!” The fact is, however, that many different types of people stay sober for a variety of reasons. You know what is crazy-sexy-cool? Taking care of yourself! Loving yourself! If you know that alcohol does bad things to your mind, body and soul, then not drinking it makes you smart. It is fun to be smart!

After you are sober for awhile you begin to realize that fun comes from within. It comes from spending time with people who ‘get’ you. It comes from finding things authentically funny and weird and awesome- which is totally life in a nutshell. It does not come from a bottle of booze.

Is it fun to say stupid things to people when you are drinking? No. What about waking up hungover? Um, no, not fun either. What about blacking out and not remembering how you got home? Scary, not fun. The list goes on…while drinking does make you feel a sense of euphoria, it can also make you sick and hurt and feel really bad about yourself. It can also do far worse things. Are these things fun? No, sir.

So you might feel left out sometimes when everyone else seems to be drinking. Does that mean that you can’t have a good time? Hell, no! You can do everything sober that you did while drinking, but in reality you might not want to. You might find that your idea of ‘fun’ changes a little bit. And that is 100% okay! It can be totally fun to stay home and read a good book or curl up on the sofa with a good friend and a cup of tea, chatting about life. These things are not wild and crazy, perhaps, but they are real and fun and good. You will probably realize that hanging out at bars with a bunch of drunk people isn’t actually all that much fun, and that if you need to be drunk to do something it likely isn’t a fun thing to do in the first place.

You know what is fun? Being yourself. Finding hobbies that you enjoy. Being creative. Taking real risks that don’t involve a crutch. Learning what makes you truly happy. Exploring. Traveling. Growing. Loving. Giving. Accomplishing goals.

Living life is fun! It’s your life. Free and clear and sober and authentic and messy and good and bad. So go away, limiting belief. Being sober IS fun and we don’t need you anymore.

Limiting Belief: I Don’t Deserve Nice Things

Dear Limiting Belief,

I am here to tell you that I do in fact deserve the nicer things in life. Just because I want to be surrounded by things and people that make me happy, that are lovely and quality and nice, does not make me selfish or greedy. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be comfortable. Not all the time, perhaps. But I deserve these things, just like everybody else deserves these things. We do not always get what we deserve, but we are all worthy of the very best that life has to offer.

For some reason when it comes to my own wants and needs I am perfectly content scraping the bottom of the barrel. I am uncomfortable being acknowledged. “No, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about me. I’m sorry for taking up so much space. I don’t need anything or anybody. Everything is okay!” This is my attitude a lot of the time. Where the hell did this attitude come from? When did I start believing that wanting normal material possessions or the people around me to acknowledge certain things about my life makes me greedy and selfish? It’s not like I want a private plane and a yacht. I want a comfortably furnished home that reflects my style, quality clothing that makes me feel good about myself, and a safe car. I want people to celebrate me when it is my birthday or when I do something that I worked hard to accomplish. I have wants and needs, dammit! So do you. We all do, and they are okay to acknowledge.

Am I so afraid of being disappointed that I don’t even try to have my needs and wants met anymore? That I put them down, and by doing so put myself down? Why? Making myself small does not serve me or anybody else. It takes away from the world, in fact.

For some reason it was perfectly fine to drink all the drinks and smoke all the smokes. To engage in unhealthy relationships that made me feel bad about myself. When it comes to hurting myself I can have as much as I want. This is crazy!!

So, limiting belief, I am not listening to you anymore. I am going to acknowledge my wants and needs. I deserve good things, nice things, wonderful things. I am not selfish and greedy because of this.

Do Whatever it Takes to Stop Drinking

I have been thinking about this expression and what it means to me. What do I have to do to stop drinking forever? What does ‘whatever it takes’ look like for me? What does it look like for you?

I am still figuring it out, but so far what I am doing seems to be working as far as keeping me off the booze in the short-term. But is it enough to sustain me comfortably in sobriety for years to come? Maybe, maybe not. It scares me that it is so easy to relapse and so difficult to tell if I am on the right path.

I think this is a big deal in recovery because you cannot just stop drinking and expect everything in your life to get better or change. I have been realizing that I need to slowly begin to work on building a new kind of life. A life that is not centered around alcohol in any way, shape or form. A life that is better, bigger, more beautiful and more whole. I need to let go of the past and who I used to be. This requires facing some fears and a whole lot of limiting beliefs that have been with me for a long time.

‘Whatever it takes’ is different for everyone. Some people need to go to AA meetings every day to stay sober, and that is 100% okay. Some people need to anonymously blog and tell nobody about their problem, and that’s okay too. Whatever works is whatever works is whatever works FOR YOU. Being honest with ourselves is so important, because only we know if we are doing enough at any given time.

Right now I believe I am doing enough. It is such a relief to know that there is more out there for me if I need it. AA- I’m talking to you. It seems that my daily routine of reading, reading, writing, talking, and reading some more is working. I mainly stay home. I hang out with my husband and son. I avoid social events that make me uncomfortable and talk to my drinking family on the phone less. I am setting boundaries that are difficult and uncomfortable but so, so necessary. That is okay because it is what I need to do to stay sober right now. It will change as I change. ‘Whatever it takes’ will look different as my sober time lengthens. It already looks different than it did on my first shaky day.

I need to challenge myself and get out of this comfort zone, though, if my sobriety is going to last forever. This much I am sure of.

So… what do you say? Let’s challenge ourselves to live bigger lives. To be our best selves. To worry less and pray more. To make goals and begin taking small steps to accomplish them. To do whatever it takes to be free.

We deserve all the good stuff that life has to offer.