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.

Life Lessons

This week has been hard. I’ve been holding onto my sobriety with a tight grip, knowing that drinking won’t do anything good, but desiring the fade out and numbing of my feelings that drinking would provide. Epiphanies, small and large, have been coming one after another, along with a lot of self doubt and uncertainty that I am on the right path.

Epiphanies are cool yet sometimes painful. I have been seeing more clearly the ways in which I have, and still am, living in fear a lot of the time. It is a hard thing to look at honestly because it hurts to see those flaws in myself- to allow myself to be truly vulnerable, even to myself.

I know that isolation is the bain of many alcoholics, but I never saw myself as isolating per se. Instead I told myself that I was a loner. I enjoyed my own company more than that of others. Instead of looking for my people I decided that there were no people like me in the world. I longed to write and needed the space and isolation to do so. Artists have to suffer! They have to weep and self destruct! There are some truths to these words, in these thoughts, but they are not the whole truth. They are not MY truth. I have been living my life shielded by my loner status to avoid the possibility of being rejected by others. To avoid having to show my true self to others. To avoid being vulnerable. And the truth hurts.

That’s the thing about quitting drinking. You no longer have a shield of alcohol to rely on when you are around people or things that scare you. You have to look people in the eye and see them and let them see you. This is a wonderful thing because it allows relationships to develop and form and grow. But it is also hard, especially when you have spent your entire life hiding from others. When you grew up hiding because your family hides and that is simply what people do.

I’ve begun to think that this blog is another way of hiding, which is not to say that it hasn’t been absolutely crucial in getting me sober. I don’t have to talk to people face to face about my drinking, or lack thereof, if I stay home and write about it on the Internet.** When faced with the shortness of life, I have realized that I don’t want to live this way anymore. Instead, I want to ravage life. I want to live it to the absolute fullest. I don’t want to hide away to stay sober. I want to mingle with all the people and experience all of the things, though I think I have experienced about all the alcohol I can handle in one lifetime, so that’s still out.

I was reading an article the other day. I don’t remember where it was from, or who wrote it, and I apologize if it was someone reading this blog because I didn’t like what it had to say. The individual spoke of treating her alcohol addiction as a disability and learning how to work around it for the rest of her life. I have been living my life like my addiction is a disability, so I see where this idea comes from, but I hate the idea of disability in the first place. Why can’t we just be people, with differences. Why do we have to “work around” anything? Why can’t we accept each other as we are? I want to heal the reasons that I drank so much in the first place so that I can go anywhere and do anything without requiring the fake fix that alcohol provides. I want to find my own elation in the world. A way of being that simply does not require or want alcohol to be a part of it. I don’t want to sequester myself into a tiny corner of the world and hide there forever.

Whew. Felt good to get that out.

**Edit: I am not judging anyone for writing about sobriety online. It has been a totally cool, amazing thing for me. Any way you get or stay sober totally freaking rocks. Not that you need to hear this from me, but I wanted to clarify my statement a little.

The Importance of the Bubble

When I first got sober it was crucial to develop and maintain a “sober bubble” to live inside until I felt safe. This bubble has been talked about in depth by many other people, but it has become a very important concept for me during my 439 (!!) days sober, so I wanted to touch on it a bit here.

I have recently come to the conclusion that the bubble is a way of life for me. In order to be happy and feel fulfilled, I need a bubble. The people and things that I put in my bubble vary, but I am responsible for taking care of my bubble and making sure that it is healthy. If a person is making me feel crazy, they might need to be removed from my bubble until I can handle them better, or for good. Facebook is no longer a part of my bubble because it doesn’t make me feel very good a lot of the time, and it takes too much of my precious time. My sober bubble is no longer so much about keeping the world out, but instead filtering  and making room for the important of things in my life. When I take care to monitor my bubble, I feel secure, safe and happy.

These days, when I am asked to do something for someone else, I think about it a bit harder than I used to. I think about the big picture and my bubble. I try not to say yes to things simply because I feel like I should. Is the person important to me? Does doing this “thing” make me happy? Then yes. If not, then no. Simple, right? It isn’t always so easy in practice, of course, but it helps me differentiate the truly important things from the not-so-important.

Us sober folks can sometimes feel like we are missing out on things, especially in early sobriety. That was my experience, and I have a hunch that it is/was the same for many of you. Keeping a carefully curated bubble can help to alleviate those bad feelings. WE are in charge of our lives and what surrounds us. We choose not to have alcohol, or other toxic things, in our bubble.

 

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.

 

Celebrate Sobriety!!!!

My husband and I have a difference in opinion about whether or not sobriety is something to be celebrated. He doesn’t think so, as he thinks it is simply what responsible people do when they have a drinking problem. My husband quit drinking when I did, mainly to support me, so we both passed our one-year sobriety date this last weekend.

He has the right to his opinion. He doesn’t identify with being an alcoholic and may indeed resume drinking moderately at some point. I am okay with that for the most part. I wasn’t okay with him drinking at first because I knew I couldn’t do it without him, as he was my party buddy, but now I feel strong enough to handle being sober alone. I enjoy being sober and wouldn’t want to go back to my old way of life.

I worry about it because I worry about everything. I am working on that.

This isn’t a post to bash my husband’s opinions, but rather an opportunity to state my opinion on the subject of celebrating sobriety.

My view? It absolutely, 100%, most definitely should be celebrated. In many cases getting sober saves people’s lives. I believe it saved my life. Getting sober is hard! It takes some serious guts and determination to learn how to live life without drugs or alcohol. Plus, in recovery you learn all sorts of neat stuff about who you are and what you want. You learn how to live life without an escape hatch or a way to numb your emotions. You learn how to live life on life’s terms, which is a lesson that everyone should learn, addict or not.

If you are sober, no matter for how long, take some time to celebrate that fact. Don’t be ashamed that you have gone down this path in life. Many awesome people have gone before you. Sobriety rules!

 

Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer, or Four Seasons of Sober

Yesterday I reached my first soberversary. This has been one of the weirdest, most enlightening, most frustrating, and generally coolest years of my life. It doesn’t all have to do with being sober, but sobriety has been there the whole time, weaving its magic into each day of my life, doing its sparkly and magical thing.

‘Cause being sober makes things possible. It changes your daily intention, if you are into that ‘law of attraction’ stuff. You manifest differently sober than you do when you are drinking.

It was really, really hard at first not to take a drink. More than that, it was unbearably hard to imagine a life without alcohol. None ever? Whaaaat? How is that even possible?

It gets easier, it gets better, and then it gets hard again. PAWS is real and it beat me up a little bit. It might not be done beating me up. But the hard times have become fewer and further in between and I’ve started working on the stuff underneath. The stuff that makes me want to drink in the first place. That is where I am now. Finding out things about myself that make me slightly crazy, and figuring out how to manage them without an escape.

But honestly, if you are thinking about sobriety and feeling unsure about the hugeness of it all, you don’t have to worry about that stuff yet. There will come a time when you naturally begin to feel more clarity about who you are and what you want out of your life. You will understand better who you were when you were drinking. It just happens…. and it’s not really all that scary when it comes down to it. In fact, not drinking is much less scary than drinking if you have a drinking problem. So, there is nothing to fear.

Even after a year there are still some hard times, but I don’t sit around thinking about drinking very much at all anymore. I know for a fact that drinking did not contribute anything good to my life. My friends have accepted the fact that I don’t drink, and many of them are back in my life after an initial period of protective space- the sober bubble that I needed to keep myself safe from temptation during those tender early months. Now I decide who I want to see and whether I can handle a specific event or not. I’ve (sort of) learned how to say no to protect my sobriety. I dropped some folks who drink way too much and are bad influences for me to be around. My life is precious and it comes first.

In the past few days I have felt a niggling frustration that things haven’t changed enough in the past year. I have been feeling impatient. I am still the same person, with many of the same problems.  Life didn’t magically shape up just because I quit abusing a drug. The difference is in how I handle the problems, as well as the good times. I hold my head higher, face my fears more directly, and practice gratitude. Life used to be a constant game of comparison where I always felt lacking. Now I know that I am loved and cared for, and I feel cocooned in the of safety of being sober. I am no longer fighting an internal battle about drinking, with the drinking side winning. I am no longer engaging in self-defeating behaviors. The end result is a safe feeling, a feeling of belonging in my skin and in the world, at least most of the time. Sometimes frustration and impatience is a part of life, sober or not.

The past few weeks have found me exploring vegan cooking, something I never have had an interest in before. When I first quit drinking I needed the snacks and sugary mocktails to get me through the witching hour. I craved my pieces of chocolate at the end of a tough day. I am finally getting to a place where I don’t need those outside comforts as much. That’s the weird thing about recovery… it shifts and changes, and in the end you change, too. I am realizing that I am a totally different person than I thought, while in many ways still the same. It is massively comforting.

Last week a new friend offered me a beer from her six-pack. I tell her no every time she offers, but she keeps offering anyway. I finally got up the nerve to be honest with her, and said that I hadn’t had any alcohol in almost a year. She was really and truly surprised. People really don’t care what you are drinking most of the time.

Yesterday I spent my official soberversary acting as the designated driver for a good friend’s bachelorette party (the last of the year). A couple of the girls brought non-alcoholic champagne and gave me and my one year anniversary a little toast, in the midst of the wine tastings scattered throughout the rest of the day. It made me feel good to be acknowledged, and I genuinely felt happy to be sober and capable of helping my friends by ensuring their safety. This weekend my husband and I will celebrate properly with good food, chocolate and naps. I feel like I have accomplished something this year, and I am proud of that fact.

On to year 2. I can’t wait.

Experiencing LIFE

I have been stalking plants in my neighborhood. Daily stalking, mainly through walks, though sometimes I drive, to check out the gardens of the people living in my neighborhood. I am particularly interested in a few hydrangeas living close by. Those sexy beasts. My husband thinks I have gone slightly mad, and I do not completely disagree. He spends his days and nights dreaming of Vespa scooters, so we are a perfect pair, really. A good match with our slightly obsessive temperaments in regards to hobbies. I feel open enough with him to share my obsessions, in part due to the fact that he’s been there during my struggle with booze. So, I am an ex-boozer and plant enthusiast (stalker). Nice to meet you.

Life seems different to me now. When I take my daily walk to visit my plant friends, listening to the sweet and humorous sounds of my son’s new words bubbling up from the stroller in front of me, I notice the vast quantities of life around me. There is life everywhere and it all seems so new to me now. Where was all of this life before? How did I miss it? We live in a wild place, in a small town near a large forest, and we are surrounded by wild things. I stop and look up at the trees almost every day. “Wow. That is an amazing tree,” I say to myself, “How did I never notice how tall? How green? How old? Those leaves. Wow.”

I did notice, of course, in my own way. The trees were there, the people were there, the animals were there, and the life was there. It’s just that I was stuck inside of my sad drinking life- which is what it is to me now. I accept it, surrender to it, and don’t condemn myself for it, but it was sad to be so damn sad all the time. I spent the majority of my precious time feeling sorry for myself, while numbing the life that was all around me, and inside me, and a part of me and everything else. I was keeping myself in the dark instead of allowing myself to wake up and see the light. But I did see the light sometimes. I noticed the beauty of the world around me at times. Enough to eventually wake up, realize there is more out there, and quit drinking.

Life is breathtakingly beautiful at times. Crushing in the sweetest way possible. And sometimes crushing in a not-so-sweet way. It isn’t always easy to feel this much more of every feeling than I used to. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.