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.

Advertisements

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.

All Mixed Up

I have felt really up and down lately. I have been sick with a bad head cold, super hormonal this month, and generally an emotional messy mess. The end result is me feeling nostalgic for drinking days…blah. Very angsty teenager up in here, which is not what I’m aiming for. Gotta be me- I am working on self-acceptance even through the low phases/bad times/shit. I know these feelings will pass and I’ll be happy about staying sober. The end.

Just kidding.

I think I am getting down to some of the messy things that propel me to drink, aside from my genes and the addictive nature of alcohol. Without question I used alcohol as a way to escape emotions, but I am realizing that I also used it as a way to escape MYSELF. To become a different person- someone who took more risks. Some of those risks were bad and dangerous, sure, but some of them were healthy and good. Like talking to people that I wanted to talk to, and saying things that I really wanted or needed to say even though they were hard or scary. I sometimes feel so stuffed up without alcohol. It really released me from that insecure little voice that told me to pretend I didn’t see someone instead of going over and saying hello, or to stay at home alone when I’d really rather be out socializing, or to sit at a table acting cool instead of dancing and looking silly, or to say ‘I Love You’.

I know I have the power to change by taking more risks, and I am doing it little by little, but sometimes progress feels slow and I feel depressed that I HAVE this problem in the first place. Drinking is not an option for me anymore because the costs truly outweigh the benefits (love me a little cost/benefit analysis), but I am having some nostalgia over the whole thing. The changes seem so BIG right now. I am scared that I will miss special moments because I am too scared to really live them- to actually show up and take part in them- without booze. I hide at home now whereas I used to hide behind my boozy persona.

It sounds crazy to be nostalgic for something that mostly took things away from my life. ‘Tis the nature of the beast, I suppose. Changing these thought patterns can be serious work, but I am realizing that I have to take risks to live a happy, sober life. Which means changing my thought patterns so that I act differently than I have in the past.

A good friend of mine is getting married soon and I want to help her celebrate. I am going to try to loosen up a little more at her wedding and have sober FUN. Yeah!

Sometimes this sober stuff is hard on the brain box, but it is still so worth it. Big hugs to you all.

Moving Forward

6a00e551f9630d8833017d42452bd3970c

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.

 

 

Sober Night Out

I mentioned recently that I had plans to go out with friends this weekend and next, and last night was the first time in quite awhile that I did so. I met a group of old friends- friends that I don’t see so often these days- for drinks and appetizers at a restaurant/wine bar, and then we moved on to a legitimate bar for more drinks. Overall, it was fun to see friends and a good learning experience. I went a bit late and left pretty early, which was a good strategy this time.

I never really looked at it this way in the past, but now the whole concept of socializing at bars for hours and hours late at night seems like a waste of time to me. People should do what makes them happy, but for me, at this point in my life, having fuzzy, overly enthused conversations with acquaintances into the wee hours of the morning is not that much fun. I would rather have real conversations with people who are fully present. The late night bar scene seems like mental masturbation compared to the many things I could be doing that improve my life such as reading a great book, catching up on sleep, hanging out with my family, exercising, meditating, working on a project that makes me genuinely happy and content, or connecting with friends sober. I am not putting people down for doing this- I spent so much time in bars in the past that I would never judge anyone for that lifestyle choice- it is just not my thing anymore. I am perfectly okay with going to a nice restaurant for appetizers and drinks, enjoying a (non-alcoholic) cocktail on a patio in the summer, or going to a BBQ where alcohol is served, but I think I will avoid bars unless it is a special occasion or there is a band that I really want to see or another compelling reason.

It was strange to come home and talk to my husband about the night after the fact. At one point I realized that I never used to remember conversations so clearly during my drinking days. I remembered who I made plans with, what people said, who I saw, etc., and was able to share all of those small details with my husband. In the past I would have been trying to piece that information together the next day. I guess it is normal to remember everything about a night out? What a foreign concept. I don’t know though, it seems like even non-problem drinkers get a little exuberant and loose-lipped while drinking. I had to remind myself that all of the plans I made throughout the night might not actually come to fruition because the people I made them with were drinking, and I can’t be sure how much they were drinking exactly. Weird to be on that side of things for a change. I probably made a zillion plans with people in the past that I totally forgot about the next day. I wonder how many people’s feelings I hurt by doing that? Being drunk is not a very good excuse for shitty behavior.

Overall it was harmless and pretty fun. I left when I started to feel tired and slightly uncomfortable, and was happy to have a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, and a cuddle in front of the TV with my husband before bed. It was a nice night. I am looking forward to a friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party next weekend- hopefully it will be fun, too. It seems like all my friends are getting married this year! Maybe one day I will remember this as the year of sober weddings. 🙂

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!