It’s been quite a while since I posted last. A lot has changed. Sobriety has a way of doing that. It’s also brought about a lot of peace. Sobriety has a way of doing that too. I’ve been sober for over a year now. It’s become a way of life. I don’t really think of it all that much anymore. I almost find myself at a loss for words about it because struggling with those intense emotions has fallen off. However, I wanted to put this out here to give others hope. I know when I first got sober I was scouring anything I could find on sobriety and success stories. I was anxious to find one that spoke to my soul. I hope this finds its way to touching someone’s soul and gives the motivation to change their lives.
My story: I’m pretty average. I was a reach for the bottle of wine at the end of the day kind of gal. I was the one that brought the wine to the party. I was all things wine. I got pictures of wine for my birthday, my kitchen was full of wine décor, and I was always being tagged in stuff on Facebook relating to wine. In every picture I had a glass of wine in my hand. Eventually though it began to bother me that I wasn’t doing anything with my spare time but drinking wine, talking about wine, or planning the next wine drinking event. The big change came after my 40th birthday party with friends. We went on a group trip to Florida to celebrate. We all had plans to do fun events, see things and explore. In the end all we did was drink and take day naps. There were also some moments I wish so, so deeply I could take back. Times when I was drunk and acted like social norms and boundaries didn’t matter. On the plane ride home I thought, “I’m never drinking again.” I think I was sober a month. That was no small feat. My downfall can essentially be whittled down to an identity crisis. Who was I without wine? It didn’t help that everyone I knew razzed me about it. Looking back, I can’t blame them. They were struggling with figuring out who I was without wine too. I spent a year bouncing between sobriety and drinking. Something had changed inside me and drinking just lost it’s luster, but I wasn’t familiar enough with sobriety to say that was definitely the road I wanted to go down. I tried very hard to be both. I heard, “Make up your mind!” more than once. So eventually I did make up my mind. I chose sobriety.
Today: These days I’m known for my yoga practice, meditation, and photography. I’ve also found a real love for wandering around thrift stores and hoping to find cool items for cheap money. There is a peace about my life that I wouldn’t trade of anything in the world. My friends know me as their sober friend. I still see them but admittedly not as much. It’s okay though. My life is a hundred times more interesting and fulfilling. When I do spend time with friends it’s usually because they want to join me in a trip along to coast to take random photos, or poke around a thrift/antique store and do lunch. I can’t remember the last time I had a nasty fight with my husband and my dog seems happier. I guess he can sense the peaceful change.
My advise: Just stick with it. We live in a very instant world these days but there’s nothing instant about sobriety. No two journey’s are the same. Listen to your heart. People will push back on your sobriety. You will find out who wants to know the sober you and who doesn’t. I’ve heard it said that ones who doesn’t stick around aren’t your real friends. I don’t really subscribe to that thought process. People change and grow apart all the time. It’s a natural part of life. It’s nothing personal. That’s how I’ve found peace with it anyway. The most important and best thing about this is you get to discover who you really are. It’s a very rewarding path to take. Even if you have one day sober and two days drinking. You’re moving towards creating a new habit and that should always be recognized.
After a long day at work I thought it would be a good idea to hop on my stationary bike and go for a 30 minute spin. “Just 30 minutes” I told myself. I had a good list of things I needed to get done in the yard and around the house but I definitely wanted to fit this in. So I got on my bike and set the time for 30 min.
I pushed myself harder than normal. It was a super busy day and I wanted to get rid of all that tension energy. 20 minutes in I was drenched in sweat and my legs felt like Jello. I’m usually a leisure rider with bursts of strong energy. It’s fair to say this ride was killing me. My dog enters the room with his favorite squeaky toy and squeaks it. Cute right? My pint sized cheerleader has arrived. I keep spinning. He reaches up the side of the couch and stretches his body out long while staring at me. I make a comment about how we’re working out together, how fun. I give him a little wink. Then all hell broke loose. My dog LOST his mind. He barked at me quite insistently. At first I thought someone was at the door but then I realized he was barking at me! I asked my little buddy what was wrong? He answered with a sharp, demanding bark. I started asking him questions like he was Lassie and was somehow going to answer me. “Are you out of water? Do you need to go out?”. Each one answered with that sharp, demanding bark. This was getting ridiculous. For a moment I contemplated getting off the bike to see what this was all about. I mean, I only had 5 minutes left. Then it hit me. He was challenging me. He picked up his squeaky toy and got uncomfortably close to the peddles on the bike. It’s as if he was saying “You better get off or you’ll hit me.” Inching closer and closer, squeaking his toy louder and louder, barking more and more. It all hit a fever pitch and I realized I can’t back down. I also can’t get down. I have to stay on this damn bike until this is over. If I get off now he’ll think he owns me and I don’t even want to know what that looks like.
How long could this last right? This is a new behavior for my 10 year old dog. He’s sure to tire out quickly and take a nap, right? THIRTY MINUTES LATER. I cycled for an entire hour! An additional 30 minutes of this Mexican stand off with my dog. But I won, dammit, I won! There was a time in my life when I would have stopped pedaling to find out what he needed. I’d go as far as to say I might have even stayed away from cycling because I didn’t want to deal with the barking. Eventually, I would have felt resentful towards my dog for ‘being a jerk’ and making me feel like I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I would have made myself the victim. It’s moments like that where I realize how far I’ve come. As absurd as the situation was, there was a feeling of pride in not getting off that bike. I wasn’t about to let his neediness at that moment override this time I was taking for myself. I’m not even sure he wanted me to really get off the bike. He just wanted to know where my limit was and I told him. In the end, he curled up in a ball and fell asleep. I hope to see more moments like this in myself. Where I know what I want, I do it, and I don’t let someone knock me off my proverbial bike.
I took a break from writing because I was getting depressed. Writing, in and of itself, wasn’t depressing. I just felt stuck. My thoughts were consumed with alcohol and being sober. I got so sick of it. Even though it was a positive change I found myself constantly making alcohol the center of my life. I think that’s natural, but being that this was my umpteenth time trying to get sober I was just done with it. I fell into a bad place where I was glad I was sober but I was mulling over each moment and proclaiming it wouldn’t be as vibrant and alive had I still been drinking. While that was true, it just felt like in a way I was keeping alcohol in my life. I liken it to bad break-up. Say I was married to Jim and we divorced. Ugly divorce. Would it help me to spend every day thinking of all the ways my life was better without Jim? Would that help prove I made the right decision? Or would it help me instead to start making a new life and allow the parallel of before/after Jim naturally occur?
I’ve been keeping myself busy with yoga, indoor cycling, walking and photography. The last time I was sober I used the money I saved to invest in a Nikon D3300 camera. It’s been fun to pick it back up and learn how to use the manual settings. I officially have 9 million black and white pictures of my dog. I’ve also taken a real liking to guided meditations by Tara Brach. https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/ It’s free. On her site you’ll find a variety of meditations ranging from 6-40 minutes. I don’t always stay awake for them. Especially if it’s right before bed. It is helping me sleep better though, and overall manage stress better.
Anyway, I’m learning to not take myself so seriously. I’m learning to laugh at myself. It’s just life after all.
I’ve been obsessed with getting my hair cut for the last week. I can’t get it off my mind. I imagine this cute, choppy bob. I envision my whole persona changing with this haircut. No longer will I be the girl with the long brown hair that fits in with every other girl with long brown hair. Oh no, I will become the cool surfer looking chick that is a little bold but still sweet. Somewhere between radical and totally peaceful. I imagine I’ll need a new wardrobe with this change because what I wear today won’t do. You can’t wear normal everyday clothes with this haircut. Oh no, I’ll need clothes that also scream “cool surfer looking chick”. I don’t know how to achieve that look so I google it. After extensive research I determine my new style is Boho. I’m going to need some long dresses even though I hate dresses. I’ll just have to suck it up if I’m going to achieve my new look. I’ll also have to invest in a lot of silver jewelry. This will be tricky because I’m allergic to metals. Maybe I can invest in Benadryl cream and lather it on prior to putting on my jewelry?
I’m laying on the couch watching a fantastic movie and find I can’t stop thinking about my hair. I start to notice how many times I’ve drifted and thought about this new haircut and style. It’s a lot. Too much to count. I realize that for a week this has consumed my thoughts. 24-7. I’ve even had dreams about it. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. It dawns on me that this has been a cycle my entire life. I obsess, I cut my hair, I buy new clothes. I end up never wearing the clothes because they’re not my style and I hate me with short hair. I spend a year or more pining for long hair and grow it all out. The once it’s successfully grown out, I obsess about cutting it and it starts all over again. Is this a mental illness? Am I okay? How have I gone this far in life and never questioned this pattern?
I don’t want to answer those last two questions. I know I’m working on being okay. I’m not going to cut my hair. I’m not going to color my hair. This obsession is tied to self sabotage. The same self sabotage that kept me drinking for so long. The best course of action here is to just stay. In a moment of stillness I close my eyes and think about what I really want. I want to stop trying to change into something I’m not. I love my long brown hair. I love my yoga pants and sweatshirts. I don’t want to cut my hair. I don’t want to wear dresses. Jewelry is pretty but it’s always felt heavy on me. I am kinda plain but on the inside I’m radiant. I don’t stand out but I don’t want to either. I’ve never been comfortable with a lot of attention. I prefer the shady spot under the tree to the limelight. This feels good guys. Identifying who I am today and feeling warmth towards that person. I feel a tugging of love for myself that’s never been there before. Each time I imagine me as me, and loving me as me with no pressure to be anything but me, my heart feels warm with love. I’m cool yoga pants & sweatshirt, long brown hair in a messy bun chick that loves to laugh and enjoy the simple things in life. Ya, I’m going to stay right here and enjoy this.
*UPDATE* The only thing verifiably true in this post is that my friend is struggling to lose weight despite working out like a maniac, and we should all try the nacho diet. Thank you.
I read recently that during the time we are actively drinking everything we eat gets immediately turned into fat. Meaning, there’s no burning off process. Even if you’re out on the town dancing the night away all those calories are being stored as fat. The science behind it is that alcohol gets split into two compounds when we consume it: fat and acetate. The fat is taken into the bloodstream and stored in our least favorite places. The acetate is used as fuel. Usually our bodies use calories/carbs as fuel. However, that isn’t happening while we’re drinking alcohol.
The other downside to how we metabolize alcohol is that it increases a hormone in our body, cortisol, which causes the body to breakdown muscle in order to increase blood sugar to the brain. It does this because alcohol makes our blood sugar levels drop. All of this made me think of a good friend of mine who is extremely active and eats healthy; lots of sushi and fish. He kills himself doing 90 minutes of Bikram yoga a couple times a weeks, playing tennis weekly, skiing on weekends, he skateboards, you name it. Yet, he can’t get rid of his extra layers of fat. He drinks vodka on the rocks thinking it’s a good zero calorie drink. In a way, I suppose he’s saving the added calories a mai-tia might bring to the table. However, if he continues to drink nightly he’ll also continue to negate his workouts.
One would think that this information would be more out in the open, right? I mean, so many people go on cleanses thinking it works because they drank 100% juice for a week, or 100% greens for a week, etc. I find the common theme in these cleanses is no alcohol. It’s why you hear people say “I can’t drink tonight. I’m on a cleanse.” The reality is that omitting alcohol is what makes people have so much clarity, lose a few pounds, increased energy, improved skin tone, etc. Then of course they go back to drinking when the cleanse is over and feel like crap again. Anybody could market a cleanse. Heck, I could. I could start the nachos cleanse. Eat nothing but nachos for a week and you’ll feel great! And it would work because people would also give up booze and be duped into thinking an all nacho diet is amazing!
Pssh…the lies we tell ourselves. If you guys see a book called “Nacho average diet” you’ll know it came from me.
I’m officially annoyed. This is day 3 of restless sleep. The last few days I’ve been struggling to keep my peace about me. My mind is wandering all over the place. Trying to do any one task in a productive manner is like trying to herd cats. I’m aggravated. Yesterday someone at work called me out on a couple mistakes I made on a project. I was livid. How dare she? I bet she thinks her shit doesn’t stink. Isn’t that just so typical of people in that department? They have no personality and think everyone should be perfect. I bet she’s going to talk to her boss about me. Then it hit me that most of the things I was annoyed with her about are traits I’m working on for myself and LORD that annoyed me even more. Must I psychoanalyze everything?!
The two days prior my husband and I spent discussing issues that popped up back home during the holidays surrounding two family members. Issues that we were very thankful not to be around physically, but at the same time got pulled into via phone conversations. We went over the stories that were told to us and spent days analyzing them to death. Isn’t it so typical of x. X never changes. I remember one time when x did something similar. Remember that? Or the one time when such and such happened. At the end of yesterday we looked at each other, drained from the smelly shit we allowed ourselves to sit in for the last 48 hours, and agreed not to discuss it the following day. Well, we woke up yesterday morning talking about it all over again. We stopped before it got out of hand but it lingered. All of it. It’s like we argued for 2 days and a morning. Only, we weren’t arguing. We were discussing other peoples destructive behaviors and actions. Ya know, getting worked up over other peoples transgressions has the intensity of an argument. The same physical response happens. The raised voice. The racing heartbeat. The outpouring of impulsive comments. Who will get their point across first? There’s nothing calm and organized about discussing how someone else fucked up, again.
I think the answer here is to truly just not go there when the topic of these people comes up again. Even if it means total silence. Even if it means admitting I can’t handle that right now. I’ll take total silence over petting the beast.
My thoughts have been consumed with negativity the last couple days and this helped me focus on something other than those thoughts. I didn’t want to meditate about it. I didn’t want to psychoanalyze it. I finding that at times those things actually compound my problem. So I thought I’d give some creative writing a try. I found a couple websites with creative writing exercises.
The second one offers an exercise for every day of the year which I thought was pretty cool. I thought I’d share what I came up with.
1. Outside the window – describe the weather outside:
The weather outside is seasonally fresh and crisp. A well timed gust of wind pushes through the steady air with the force of a commuter train. It shoves its way past deeply rooted trees, disturbing their otherwise sleeping leaves.
2. 7>7>7 : Find the 7th book from the bookshelf. Open it to page 7. Look at the 7th sentence on the page. Begin a poem that starts with that sentence and limit the length to 7 lines.
Color does not work that way. You cannot make
Look gray. Why would you want to anyway?
I’m adding this exercise to my sober toolbox. It’s a great way to redirect my mind off whatever is nagging me.
I had a Christmas Eve meltdown. Which threw me for a loop because this year there wasn’t any pressure to do much but go to my brothers. He drinks but he’s not the kind of drinker that cares if I do or don’t drink. His wife doesn’t drink much. She might be the first real “normie” I’ve ever met. She enjoys one glass of whiskey once a month. Is that crazy or what? She must have superpowers. Anyway, I’ve been doing surprisingly well with my sobriety this time around. I’m not sure why. The anxiety of “but what will others think” has been gone. The scenario game isn’t playing in my mind. The one where I ask myself “what about holidays? special occasions? vacations?”. It’s almost eerily comfortable this time around. I’m not overly enthusiastic and trying to be everyone’s cheerleader. I’m not obsessively pissed off at the alcohol industry. I don’t want to throat punch every person that drinks. Just calm. I take time every single day to enjoy this feeling because it can be an allusive one, I know that. I know that because Christmas Eve those feelings of panic and anxiety crept back. The fear that I wouldn’t get my calm footing back made me feel more panicked. I was mean. I was beating myself up for how I looked. My inner voice was tearing up my husband for how he looked. My dog even looked like he needed a bath. Suddenly everything in my world looked like it wasn’t right. I criticized myself for leaving dishes in the sink, spills on the oven top, crumbs on the counter. I remembered that this is what I had done in prior sober attempts. I made sure sober me was perfect. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things just right. That pressure caused a lot of anxiety. It also created a scapegoat for falling back into drinking. “See, sobriety isn’t working and it sucks anyway. May as well drink”.
I didn’t drink. I got home and wrote out all my feelings, determined not to let this anxiety feeling settle in. Alcohol is extremely addictive and crafty, isn’t it? It knows what hot buttons to push. The conclusion I came to that night was that it was my first weekend not binge drinking so my brain was craving booze and acting like a jerk. I also realized that I don’t have to buy into it. If I have a panic attack about not drinking, the thought process that actually helped me that night before bed was “I didn’t just quit drinking. I made a decision to take care of myself in the most loving way possible.” I took a moment to think about all the changes I’ve been making and it really is a lifestyle change. I’m paying attention to the things I tell myself, allowing myself to indulge in some chocolate and hot cocoa (with REAL milk and chocolate syrup), going for fresh air walks and not putting pressure to go to a 90 min. yoga class 4 times a week. All of these things dissolve those feelings of not being good enough, which is what I really struggle with. The goal is no longer to be perfect. The goal isn’t to be superwoman. The goal isn’t to be motivator or a cheerleader, although I do like pom poms. 🙂 The goal isn’t to keep my home so clean that it feels like a museum. The goal is to take all the pressure off and just love myself unconditionally, love the people in my life unconditionally, and enjoy where I am in life right now. I dunno, I kinda like that goal.
I found a letter I wrote myself a few years back. I was asking myself to stop drinking. I was tired of living my life in a haze, tired of being tired, tired of missing out on life because my priority was booze. Here I am all these years later and its the same conversation. When I found the letter I felt frustrated and angry. WTH am I still struggling with this? Why won’t I let this go when it’s so clearly what I want and need.
A friend of mine is having problems in her marriage. For three years she has talked about leaving him. It’s not an abusive relationship but she feels like the love is gone. Yet she can’t bring herself to leave. She’s waiting for that honeymoon romantic love to come back again. Another friend of mine has been talking about wanting to change her diet for years. She has a medical condition and her diet needs to change if she’s ever going to get better. She’s having a hard time letting go though. She’s waiting for her doctor to tell her that something miraculous has changed with her health and she’s free to eat whatever she wants.
When I think of my friends and see how they too struggle, I don’t feel so frustrated with myself. I see that this is normal. We all do it to one extent or another. The last time I drank I believe I gave myself alcohol poisoning. Maybe I did it on purpose. Maybe I wanted to make myself so sick from it that I would never touch it again. So far, mission accomplished. I want to write new letter to myself and I hope I find it years from now. A message that says I’ve quit drinking. I’ve given myself my life and freedom back. I know I’ll have new things that I’ll struggle with, but this, this won’t be one of them anymore.
I got up early today. I started work early so I could get a jump start on the day. Also, starting early means I can take a few extra breaks throughout the day. I used those breaks to go for a couple good walks. I haven’t been exercising at all and my new fitness band is there to remind me , every hour, that I’m not moving. You can’t argue with numbers. Yesterday it said I could earn 1000 points for walking an hour and a half or doing 45 minutes of cardio. I earned 2 points. 2. So fine, message received. I got my hiney walking today and hit the 1000 point goal. It was actually really nice to get the fresh air. I’m not a big cardio person. You’ll never see me run. In fact, I actually break out in hives when I run. I thank God for little blessings. Anyway, the neighborhood is lit up with Christmas decorations. I saw people raking leaves, children playing outside, little ankle biter dogs barking at the front doors of homes. It was nice. Since I started working from home I’ve lost a lot of social time. Even though I wasn’t talking with these people I saw it was nice just to make eye contact and smile with someone. My eyes got to see more than the inside of my home and the computer screen.
Day 3 is it?