No…but seriously. Sober is the new sexy.

Before I quit drinking I armed myself with a list of reasons why I needed to quit. It started off including things like being tired of embarrassing myself, tired of getting into meaningless arguments with my spouse, tired of wasting weekends away by drinking too much and not having energy to do anything but drink. After I quit (many times) I added things to the list that, prior to quitting, I had no idea were related to alcohol. Things like body pain, chronic depression, and dry hair.

Somebody said to me recently that they felt bad that I couldn’t drink. Huh. I don’t think of it that way. I explained that I would feel bad too if I didn’t feel so good but that it’s really been more of a blessing than anything. For the record, trying to explain that to someone who actively drinks is like trying to tell them the Lochness Monster exists. Not only do they not believe you but they also look at you like you’re crazy. It got me thinking though. How would I feel if someone told me today that I had to give up my sobriety?

When I first quit drinking I was terrified. If I had to quit sobriety I can’t say I’d be terrified. No, that’s not the word to describe it. I would be deeply saddened. Heartsick. Sobriety has become my best friend.  It’s become a place to call home. It’s the soft place to land when everything else blows up. I never imagined it would be this way. Sobriety didn’t just meet my expectations, it exceeded them. There is an infinite list of things I would miss about sobriety but if I had to pick my top three, this would be them. They are in no particular order of preference.

Sleep – Not just any old sleep. Deep sleep. The kind that truly allows you to forget about everything for a while. I used to have the worst sleep. Restless leg syndrome, night sweats, waking up at 3am for water, and in the morning I’d wake up remembering so many dreams. If I had to go back to that, then yes, I guess that would terrify me. As would those dreadful sleep lines on my face that I used to wake up with.

Confidence – The version of me when I was struggling with drinking compared to me today is night and day. They say confidence is the sexiest thing a person can wear and I can attest to that. I stand taller. I make eye contact. I’m not afraid to speak. I have a better feeling of who I am and I like her! There’s something very powerful about being sober. I walk like a queen and I feel like I queen. I’ve earned that. I make no apologies for it. *double snap*

Tea Time – If someone asked me how I take my tea I’d reply “Seriously. Very seriously”. I have time dedicated to it every night. After dinner I make a blend of Yogi Egyptian and Yogi Peppermint tea with seeping fennel seeds. Devine! I know if I had to give up my sobriety that would mean swapping out my tea for wine. That’s soooooo sad. Tea for me isn’t just something amazingly delicious to enjoy at the end of the day. It’s symbolic of my daily decision to stay sober. It’s a gift I give to myself for putting me first. I do things with tea that I never did with wine; such as writing out birthday cards, calling family to say hello, or making cupcakes for the little kids in my life.

My heart is free sober. To be told I had to give it up would be like being told I could no longer be free.  That would be devastating. I’m so thankful that I get to make this decision for myself every day. I get to chose to be the best version of myself and that’s a pretty damn amazing. I’ll close this out with one of my favorite quotes as I think it’s relevant.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. “ – Marianne Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Off Your High Horse Lady!

I sit here with my morning coffee. My favorite part of every day. I bounce out of bed, excited to face the day. I typically make my coffee and while that’s brewing, do a little yoga. Well, it’s stretching really. Ok, sometimes I just lay on my back. It’s me-time. You get the point. This morning feels a little different. I feel really thankful for my sobriety this morning but not in my usual “isn’t it great to not have a hangover” way. Maybe thankful isn’t the word I’m looking for. Respect maybe? Humbled?

I know how difficult it is to get sober. I understand the Jeckle/Hyde of it all.  The longing for a drink while simultaneously longing for sobriety. I know how it feels to beat personal bests on sobriety, only to nonchalantly pick up a bottle of wine on a Friday night. I know how isolating it can feel. It feels sometimes like you uninvited yourself from the funnest part of your relationships. I know the terror of not being able to pour a beautiful glass of escapism after a super hard day. Sometimes sobriety is all its cracked up to be. Sometimes it’s not. It depends on the day. And I know this is true because I’ve turned my back on sobriety many, many times.

I’ve been very haughty lately. I am on the longest stretch of my sobriety. With that has come a lot of well deserved pride. I’ve noticed though that it’s also come with a lot of ego. Some days it feels as though I’m standing on top of my sober mountain looking down at all the little people. Just look at their foolishness. I seem to have much compassion for anyone who has taken the steps towards sobriety or are actively seeking it. Yet I’m lacking it for those who know they need to stop or certainly peel back, and drudge forward anyway. When will they ever have the courage to do what I’ve done? 

That’s just it though. I haven’t done anything. I’m no different. In fact, I am those people. I pick myself up every day and put one foot in front of the other, just like them. I struggle with making sense of life sometimes, just like them. I enjoy the simple things and just want happiness for myself and those I love, just like them. I do my best to be my best and sometimes fail, just like them.

Sobriety is not a given. It’s a daily decision. I’m thankful that I didn’t decide to drink last night. I’m hopeful I won’t decide to drink today. But if I do, I hope I show myself more compassion than I’ve been showing others lately. I need to take it down a peg. I don’t need to assume everyone who drinks is suffering and can’t rise above it. Just like they shouldn’t assume everyone who is sober is tightly wound with no sense of humor. Hey, who said that?!

 

 

 

 

Blame it on the Banana.

A family member just returned from a 9 month military tour overseas. We had the whole gang over to welcome him back. He brought with him a prestigious bottle of red wine from Italy. Everyone gathered around and waited to be poured their share. I kind of hung back and decided now would be a good time to mingle with the little kids. Then I heard my name being called and a glass was being walked over in my direction. Oh god, I thought, he doesn’t know. I didn’t want to have the “I’m not drinking anymore” conversation in front of everyone. I also didn’t want to have a “no thank you” portion of wine (is that even a thing?). So I did what any normal person put on the spot would do. I said I couldn’t have any because I just finished a banana and wine and banana go horrible together. The look of “what the f**k” was priceless. I giggled to myself because it made ZERO sense and yet, it worked! He accepted it and walked back to his table of supporters. I went back to coloring with 4 year olds. In true monkey-see monkey-do fashion they quickly offered me their lemonade. I gave them the same banana excuse. I got the same “what the f**k” looks. Oh well, nobody said it was a bullet proof excuse. Sometimes it just has to be crazy enough that nobody wants to press the issue further.

Be Quiet and Listen.

Living with a newly sober person can be hard. For quite some time, I judged my spouse big time for continuing to drink. I felt superior with my new found superpowers of health and vitality. The better I felt the more I talked about it. “You too could be this amazing if you quit drinking.” I was aggravating and annoying.

The problem here is my spouse has a slue of health problems. Had he not, he probably would have done the whole “that’s nice honey” thing and moved on. But my declarations of liveliness felt like a slap in the face to him. While it is true that a lot of his issues would be reduced if he quit drinking; nobody wants or deserves to have that crammed down their throat every day. When I was drinking I was overlooking his struggles that lead him to drink because I would just drink up with him. That was my way of showing support. When I got sober, I was continuing to overlook his struggles and simplify them all under the “just get sober” label.  That was my way of showing support. I thought I had the quickest resolution that would solve it all.

However, depression is real. Anxiety is real. Health issues as a result of depression and anxiety are real. There are a lot of very sober people who struggle with both. I’m learning to put the pom poms down and get to know his struggles. I’m taking time to ask questions and just listen. I know I was obnoxious. Understand, I was whistling past the graveyard. I really wanted this sobriety thing to be the best thing ever. I figured if I cheered loud enough then everyone would join me. The truth is I was scared to death of being alone with sobriety.

The funny thing about sobriety is you learn a lot about who you are. Time and time again I stepped off the wagon. Not because I didn’t enjoy how I felt. Not because I wasn’t feeling in my heart and soul that this was the best thing for me. I just didn’t want to be on that wagon alone. I have a fear of abandonment that rattles my security. I thought I had gotten over that years ago. Yet here it is. Had I not hopped on and off that wagon countless time, I would have never connected the dots on why. Had my supportive and honest husband not pointed out how incorrigible I was being, I may have never looked deeper.

So many lessons. So many beautiful and painful lessons along this journey.

 

 

This Time it’s Personal

My sobriety came in stages. The first time I quit,, I didn’t think I had a problem at all. I felt like my husband was the one with the drinking problem and I was frustrated that he couldn’t just rein it in. One night were discussing his problem and he said “If quitting is so easy then why don’t you do it?”. That really struck a nerve with me. I immediately felt retracted and defensive. Why should I quit? I’m not the one with the problem. I had been drinking daily, side by side with him, for our entire relationship. I just didn’t consider myself the one with the issue because comparatively he was much worse. After digging in my heels for a few days I decided to quit. I was going to do this and show him it was possible. This was going to bring about real change in him, I thought.  Well, I cried for about 10 days straight. I felt like I had lost my best friend (alcohol) and I really didn’t know what to do with myself. With each passing day, which felt like forever, my husband was still drinking as he always had and that just enraged me. He also would point out that I was miserable and wasn’t setting a very good example for sobriety, which compounded all these unstable emotions I was experiencing. I considered it a failed experiment and went back to drinking but that first step planted a seed. If it was so hard for me, maybe I do have a problem?

I quit several times after that. A few times for about 30 days and then another for nearly 6 months. Every time my initial motivation was to change him. But in those sober stints I would notice changes that made me realize I should be doing this for me. I’d notice my sleep was improved. My energy was up. I didn’t carry the same level of anxiety and that looming black cloud would go away. I treated myself and others better. I started to realize that I was the best version of me sober.

It wasn’t until my motivation was to heal myself that sobriety really stuck. Beyond the benefits of sobriety was a field of issues I hadn’t dealt with. I had developed a habit of being sober long enough to enjoy the benefits but pull out once it was time to face the real stuff. The biggest issue for me is my fear of abandonment and how rooted it is in my lack of self confidence. I’m slowly learning to unravel this beast. I’m learning to ask myself what I want rather than ask myself what others might want from me. I’m learning to ask people what they like rather than trying to figure how to get them to like me. I’m learning to lead the way. For the first time, I’m excited to see what I might find. I’m nowhere near perfection but I have my backpack on and am ready for the journey.

My point in all this is it takes time. It takes battle after battle. Lesson after lesson. A willingness to learn and to fail. Take notes. Be patient.

Got Anxiety? I’ve got a solution.

We hear a lot about alcohol. The majority of what we hear is the advertised joy and lightheartedness it brings. Of course, we know it’s not all roses. We also read the news stories of alcohol induced rage, accidents and deaths. It’s the extremes we hear about. The extreme joys. The extreme lows. But what about the in-between? We don’t hear much about that. What about that person that drinks a few pops every night? Maybe a little more on the weekends? What kind of impact is alcohol having on a day to day basis for those people?

Everyone is different and our bodies all react to things differently. However, it is a well-known fact that alcohol hits our nervous system. To what degree depends on age, sex, weight, body chemistry, etc. But it happens. There’s no way around it. It’s also a depressant. Therefore, if you’re drinking regularly you can expect to feel things like general anxiety and depression. So many people walk around with a case of the blues and nervousness and attribute it to who they are. We hear “I’m just high strung”  or “I’m just a nervous wreck” all the time. I’m not saying those feeling can’t occur naturally. They can. Life is stressful. But drinking alcohol on a regular basis is known to exacerbate those feelings. It’s a clinical fact. Yet, nobody talks about it. There’s no disclaimer at the end of the Budweiser commercial running down the list of possible side effects. So you know what? I’ll list several for you here. This is not a comprehensive list. If it was it would be pages long.

Feeling Unsteady

Agitation

Anxiety

General Discontent

Depression

What’s concerning is how many of us go to the doctor for these symptoms and begin taking medication to help. Most of these medications do not work well with alcohol and could make the problem worse. I know personally I was prescribed Zoloft and Klonopin. It took me years to ween myself off alcohol, Zoloft and Klonopin. I was, as they say, a hot mess. I had no idea that if I just stopped putting these mind altering substances in my body I would be okay. Happy, in fact. At minimum, I am content on most days. If I feel stress, anxiety, nervousness I know exactly where it’s coming from and how to put it in check. They are no longer phantom emotions that I lug around and consider part of my being.

It angers me that we’re fed lies by corporations and even doctors in an effort to feed the pockets of others. We’re suffering and we don’t need to be. If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms and have not tried cutting out the booze first, I beg you to try it. If you don’t feel better within 30 days you can slap my ass and call me silly. But I honestly believe you will feel like you have a new lease on life. Life is sunnier sober. I promise. Don’t buy into the lies that it’s not.

 

 

 

The Sober Journey A Year (ish) Later

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.

 

 

 

It was supposed to last 30 minutes. 

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.

 

 

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Still sober.

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.

Namaste.

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Taking the pressure off

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.