Do No Harm

Hi folks! I am back from a fun but stressful trip to visit family (aren’t all family visits kinda stressful? Is it just me?), and I wanted to pop in to say hello. It was a scary trip for me; I saw family that I haven’t seen in years, and I don’t think I would have planned it or gone if I had been drinking this year.

Stress still makes me want to drink in an abstract kind of way, but luckily it is getting much easier to see what is going on in my little lizard brain. Whenever I begin to think that drinking is a good idea, or that everyone drinks and why can’t I, or some other version of “poor me”, chances are that I am stressed or tired or sick. Once I talk about my feelings, or get some rest, or get away from the stressful situation, or practice some sort of self-care, I stop thinking that drinking is a good idea. Pretty simple, right? Yet it is amazingly difficult to remember sometimes, especially when in the thick of the bad feelings. Keep going going going, stay sober, and those tricky drinking thoughts get easier to recognize for what they are: bullshit. So that’s a cool development.

I am fast approaching one year of sobriety and I am pretty happy about it. I get discouraged sometimes that I am not moving fast enough in recovery, doing enough for others, actualizing into super-Jen, or making and achieving big goals. Yep- I still doubt myself and the path that I am on. BUT- and this is big- I am not hurting other people so much anymore, my goals are clarifying, and I am learning how to be happy with who I am, where I am, what I have, and what I am doing. I would say sobriety is a general success for me so far. And this is just the beginning! 

When I was a drinker I hurt people through my thoughtless actions, or brainless actions, as I did a lot of mean/stupid/careless things when I was blacked out. I still hurt people sometimes, especially those close to me, but the amount is so much less than it used to be. I can guarantee that if I had been drinking this year there would have been more fights, more hurt feelings and more tears. More DRAMA. And who freakin’ needs that? It is worth going through this tough transition- from a drinker to a sober woman- to hurt people less often and less severely. Do no harm. It is a good motto, I think.

I am finding it less necessary to delve into the past these days. I can hold my head high knowing that I am doing the right things for myself and the people that I love. That sounds pretty smug, but it just feels good. I don’t feel better than anyone else, I just could care less what others are doing most of the time (especially about drinking) as long as I am taking care of my own stuff. What YOU do doesn’t lessen ME. Who knew it would take almost 35 years to realize that? This vacation that I took with my family gave me a slight shift in perspective- a good reminder of the power of travel- that I needed to hopefully make this next year the best yet.

 

 

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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.

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

 

A Thicker Skin

Living life as a sober person requires a sense of humor and a thick skin. To fully integrate into everyday life you have to have the ability to laugh things off and not take everything so seriously.

Many people like to drink. While I sometimes wish this wasn’t the case, the world isn’t going to reorganize itself to suit my whims (or diseases). If I want to reintroduce myself into parts of my old social life, I have to be the one to adjust.

So, a lot of people like to drink, and they also like to talk about their drinks.

Friend: This wine is so delicious. Did you know that Australian varietals are really in right now?

Jen: ……No, I haven’t bought much wine lately…always good to know, though. Thanks.

Friend: So-and-so brought this fantastic pepper beer over recently and we all had a taste! It was weird…hot but cool, if you know what I mean.

Jen: ……

And then the subject changes and all is well in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this at first, which is why I pretty much stayed away from all drinking events, but it is more manageable now. I feel awkward, try not to take it personally, and then move on and talk about something else. I even try to laugh to myself at the whole situation.

I mean, I already drank a whole life’s worth of drinks, so I know how to talk about them. I think that the more comfortable I get in these situations the more comfortable others will be. I want people to feel comfortable around me, yet at the same time I don’t want people to talk about their damn drinks all night long. Seriously. That would make for a pretty boring conversation.

It just is less important now, which is really cool.

I read an article about ego-depletion somewhere recently. Ego-depletion is the idea that your self-control is finite; you only have so much willpower. Once you use it up, you use it up. This really spoke to me about addiction and placing ourselves in difficult situations that require the flexing of our sober muscles. We need to do it a little at a time and then have activities that fill us back up in between, like sober blogging. Or AA meetings. Or whatever makes us feel powerful and in control instead of deprived and sad that we can no longer drink.

Laughter helps to fill me up. When I can see the humor in a situation I am able to defend myself better against ego-depletion. I don’t feel like I am using so much self-control to avoid drinking, instead I feel happy that I am making good choices for myself.

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

Ups, Downs and All-Arounds

I was worried there for a bit, but things are starting to feel better. Life was beginning to feel really hard without alcohol. Like, really damn hard. I was feeling left out of activities because I no longer drink, worrying about meeting new people sober, and thinking that my husband would probably want to leave me because of how boring I have become since we were married, due to the lack of alcohol in my life, of course. My thoughts and reactions have been totally overblown and my paranoia has been in full effect. Last night I started thinking about why I have been feeling this way, and alas, I just passed 9 months sober last week. That significant trigger of a date plus a yucky sinus problem that felt never-ending pushed me over the edge, I think. Or triggered a PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) episode, more accurately.

Luckily yesterday, when I was beginning to think that I couldn’t take the stress and strain of it all anymore, I found some really reassuring reading about getting back to normal in sobriety and how at 9 months, it probably ain’t gonna happen. Not yet. But I am on the way there, and that makes me feel better. Just knowing and understanding that I was having a PAWS episode helped make me feel better. Like, right on. I’ve dealt with this before… I can handle this. Just ride it out and see what I can find out about myself in the process.

One thing I have learned from this rough patch is that I need to have a better plan for rough patches. Until today, I could feel myself slowly slipping down the path of relapse one negative thought at a time. I feel lucky to have found something- grace perhaps?- when I did. I was pulled up and out of my negative thinking at a crucial time. What will I do when something really bad happens? I don’t want to sit around waiting for my life to go to shit, but based on the fact that shitty, sad, scary, and bad things happen to everyone, I think I would be remiss not to make a plan for this eventuality. I am not sure what my plan is exactly, but working my atypical program on a regular basis is vital. The problem, I believe, is that relapse creeps up like depression and hits you when you are at your worst, when you’re weak and feeling less-than-able, so some of my program needs to be built into my life. Routine. Support people. Sturdy things that are there no matter what during those rough times. I need to work on structure.

I also need to remind myself to have more patience. I am thrilled to be free from alcohol for 9 months, but I am still learning about myself and my limitations. In order to stay off the booze I need to be careful with how I choose to spend my time, who I spend it with, etc. My ‘old normal’ just isn’t an option anymore, even if I feel left out of activities sometimes. I don’t get invited to bar outings anymore, which makes me feel sad and left out and bereft, but do I really want to go, anyway? Should I go? Probably not, to be honest. As much as I admire the cool sober chicks who are fine being at bars on the reg, I am just not there yet… and I might not ever be there. And that’s okay. Sobriety isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. It isn’t even a one-size-fits-all thing for me. It changes regularly.

I think I am finally-sorta-kinda-maybe beginning to understand that self-care is doing what feels right, what I can handle, and what is good for me on a day-to-day basis. I have always admired it in theory, but am pretty self-care challenged in everyday life, as much as it pains me to admit. In real life sobriety with real life things happening, there are ups, downs and all-arounds that you have to deal with. Luckily, it seems that the answer is pretty simple. Don’t drink and eventually you will be okay again. I was going to say don’t drink, do some processing, and eventually you will be okay again, but I am not sure that is accurate. Sometimes the processing just seems to happen with time. I have been dreaming crazy dreams like a madwoman the past few weeks, and I think my mind has been doing some subconscious processing… with or without me.

So, in summary, life is a mystery, but it is also amazing to be able to really and truly experience it without booze. Thanks for reading, my friends.

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.