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.

I Aim to Please

Recovering-People-Pleaser-Is-that-OK

A new friend recently asked me if I would be interested in nannying for her toddler, since I am home with my little one anyway. My brain was telling me to get as far away from the situation as I could (run! run now!), but I told her I would think about it. And that I would be happy to help the following week while she and her husband were working on some home renovations. No problem! I told myself.

The thing is, I am not really a kid person. I value my alone time, which often coincides with naptime in my house. Getting two toddlers to nap each day is a lot different than getting my own son to sleep. Basically, nannying is not something that I would ever, in a million years, be interested in doing. If my husband and I decide to have another baby we will figure it out as we go, but it will be our baby, and I will be willing to make sacrifices because I love my family fiercely.

It turns out I am not capable of saying what I really think when someone asks me for help.

Hi, my name is Jen, and I am a people pleaser. When someone asks me for something, I try to do it even if it isn’t good for me, isn’t what I want, and possibly interferes with the healthy functioning of my life. I try to solve their problems even though they aren’t mine to solve.

In the end I watched my friend’s son for one whole day, from start to finish. It went well, I thought. I got both toddlers to sleep at naptime, after some struggling and crying, but nobody died or got injured. When my husband got home he asked me about my day, and I started crying and couldn’t stop, thinking about doing it again the next day. It turns out I was doing something that I didn’t want to do, and I had rationalized it to myself by saying that it was the kind and unselfish choice. Really, I just didn’t know how to tell my friend no. I wasn’t being true to myself.

In theory, I like the idea of being a person who has a home open to kids. Where people can drop by whenever, stay all day, and enjoy themselves. I also like the idea of going to medical school, or living on a commune, or opening a nursery for plants, but that doesn’t mean that my personality is suited to those things, either. I am happy to host play dates, help friends in emergencies, and go out of my way for the people that I love, but I get to decide when and with whom to do those things. It is okay to say no, and to let other people solve their own problems in life.

I am now on my way to becoming a recovering people pleaser.

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

 

Notes From a Good Day

Life has been good lately, and I know that it is because of sobriety. I am enjoying living more than I used to… genuinely appreciating the small things. The everyday things. Taking my son swimming. Drinking a delicious cup of coffee in the morning. Going for a hike and really noticing the trees and the sky and hearing the birds, and just feeling happy and content. Feeling joy bubble up inside when I hear a good song on the radio and can’t help but smile and dance around. I look silly, but I don’t care. My son dances, too, and I love how unselfconscious he is. I want that for myself.

It seems that my thinking has shifted. I used to feel fear and pain so much of the time. I thought constantly about drinking, even if I didn’t realize I was thinking about it. Everything revolved around numbing out my fear and pain, because then I was able to laugh and relax for awhile. Drinking was my constant reward for having to deal with life, which I found to be terribly hard and strenuous most of the time. Life wasn’t fair. I didn’t always get what I deserved. People could be so mean. I felt left out and left behind and so, so scared.

This is so much better. The true relaxation and happiness that comes with thinking things through, talking things out, feeling all the feelings on the spectrum, processing the happenings, and really and truly living life on life’s terms.

My family-of-origin has been helpful to me in letting go this past week, as they are nowhere near close to accepting the alcoholism that continues to warp and damage their lives. I have been hitting my head against a brick wall trying to get them to see the truth. Gah. I am realizing how hypocritical I have been by doing that, and therefore feel able to let go of it all, at least for now. Finally. I am sending them love and light from afar.

They aren’t all good days of course, but the good ones are really good. I am grateful to be here, writing to you all and myself, enjoying this glass of iced pomegranate green tea. Now I am off to clean the house and get prepared for a fun play date this afternoon. xo

Sober Biz

It’s pretty exciting thinking about all of the opportunities I have now that I am no longer chugging down booze every evening and feeling sickly every morning. All this free time gives me too many options, perhaps, as I am having a hard time deciding on one thing that I want to do FOREVER. Thinking about forever is a real mind fuck, isn’t it?

I mean, I can’t think about forever when it comes to sobriety. Why should I think that I can do it about anything else? Who cares about forever, anyway? I am certainly not going to live forever, so why worry about it?

So I am trying to rein it in a bit. Focus on what I want to do today or even next year, but not five years down the road, or forever down the road. I like that I am thinking bigger now that I am sober, once I get past the negativity of not being able to drink ever again, which ebbs and flows.

I want to do things with my life, like start a business. Drinking allowed me to procrastinate doing that for way too long. What kind of business? Well…that’s where the indecision comes in. I have a new idea every few weeks that I get super excited about and then let fizzle away.

To be honest, I have always done this. I have always had a hard time making up my mind, and have looked to others for answers as to how I should live my life. I did it once again a few weeks ago when a friend complimented me on a design I had made for a friend’s bridal shower invitations, and then again on her wedding invitations. She told me she thought I should open a business designing wedding invitations and things. I immediately mentally dropped the career plans that I had been making and thought “yes! that IS what I should do!” without realizing that I was doing it again- letting myself be guided by another in a direction that wasn’t of my choosing.

Of course, it was nice to hear that she thought I was a good designer. But I already KNOW that I have a bit of talent there. Sorry for the humblebrag. Does that mean that is what I should do with my life, though? No… I mean, I am not even a huge wedding person. I didn’t want a wedding. Why would I design wedding invitations for the rest of my life?

So I eventually realized this and moved on to another business idea. Sigh.

Sometimes I wonder if I am looking for another outside thing to make me happy. Work. A career. A business. Is that the same as filling up with booze? They are different, of course- it is necessary to have money, and working is healthier than drinking- but am I searching for an outside solution to an inside need? Work won’t make me whole, even if it can help make me feel fulfilled.

I think it is okay to be unsure for now. I am going to be kind to myself. I don’t have to decide anything today. I can let my mind travel through the possibilities of this new sober life until I feel ready to commit to something. The answers are here, within, if I give them time to incubate properly. They were soaked in booze for so long.

I like it when I feel flowy and good, so I am going to feel flowy and good today. Worrying about my future non-existent business makes me tense, and is pretty silly if you ask me. Life works out nicest when I have patience, think the best about things, take things slowly, and feel my feelings. When I let things unfold naturally instead of forcing things to happen.

 

Friendships and Life

I am working on building, or rebuilding, friendships in real life because I haven’t put much effort there, aside from the bare minimum, for the past 8 months. Getting sober has been my main concern- not friends. But obviously, friends are great when you have something to talk about, like old hook-ups, that leaves you feeling icky, icky and more icky. So there it is – lesson learned – we need people in all areas of our lives. We are not islands. Staying on my little sober island was good for awhile, but now it is becoming a hindrance to growth.

I don’t feel comfortable discussing certain things with my friends right now, though. When I say that I want to work on building friendships I mean the really deep kind where you can truly share yourself- even the icky, embarrassing parts. This makes me think that I might want to reconsider AA, because alcoholics are probably able to understand better about doing stupid stuff when blacked out, while moderate, normal drinkers don’t have those types of experiences often in life. I am expanding all the time… I can feel it. My life is getting bigger, and maybe AA should be a part of that. I am less scared (of everything, pretty much) than I was at first, so I might be able to handle going to meetings without feeling so shaky and close to drinking.

Sometimes I think that the friends that we attract mirror who we are, or how we are feeling, on the inside. When I am being judgmental or gossipy I notice those qualities in the friends around me. When I am feeling worthy and whole, I notice the best qualities about my friends. This is why I am going to work harder on developing friendships by being the best version of myself. For this introvert, that sometimes means staying home when I am feeling bad. That’s okay, though. It is all about knowing your limits and being comfortable in your own skin. Loving yourself.

I hate when I feel needy around friends. My people-pleasing, approval-seeking, perfectionist self comes out and wants my friends to tell me that I am doing everything right. That never happens, and is a ridiculous desire, so I need to keep seeking that approval from within. Loving myself by accepting that I am okay right now, as is.

Relationships can really push our buttons, can’t they? I think they are meant to sometimes, but sometimes you just want to have a few laughs and feel accepted. This happens to me more often around certain people than others. What I am trying to figure out now is how much judgment I am placing on friends, and how that is affecting the way that I feel around them. I want to be free from judgments as much as possible. Since I used to plan my social life and friendships around opportunities for drinking – instead of figuring out who gets me, inspires me, motivates me, challenges me – this is a whole new ball of wax. Like anything, when it is viewed as a fun experiment that cannot go wrong, it works so much better.

Enjoying life means enjoying people. I think recovery means figuring out how to be my genuine, social self in the world sans alcohol (like my tagline). A little at a time.

 

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.

 

 

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…

weirdness

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!