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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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.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

I pulled into a parking spot in front of the grocery store, relieved I had made it that far. Beads of sweat were dripping down my forehead. My hands gripped tightly around the wheel. I could feel my pulse in my eardrums. I kept telling myself to breath. That none of this was real. This was all a figment of my imagination and if I could just get my shit together long enough to make sense, I’d realize this was just like any other day. This was just like any other trip to the store. I was make it worse by escalating it all with my thoughts. I took three very long, deep breaths. Nothing. No change. Calm thoughts. Calm thoughts. Just think calm thoughts. Big breath in. Big breath out. My hands trembling, I fumbled for my phone and played a guided meditation session by Tara Brach. My brain though. It wouldn’t stop. Nothing was working. The panic sunk deeper. I really needed half and half for my coffee. I was all out and the thought of not having my normal coffee the following morning was just – it was just not an option. I steadied myself as much as possible and forced my way into the store. I’d been in here a hundred times and suddenly it was so bright. People, the people were staring at me. Why was the song “Lovely Day” stuck on the main chorus? Can’t someone stop the damn record from skipping? Jesus, this is 2017 not 1979. Where the hell am I? Am I in a grocery store?  OMG what is my name? I don’t have time for trick questions. I need to get out of here. Why is everyone staring at me? I’m going mad. Where the fuck is the half and half? Did someone move everything around in here? 

That was day 8 of withdrawal from Klonopin. I don’t know how I made it home that day. All I know is I’ve never been more terrified in my life. I was put on .5 milligrams of Klonopin in 2009 to help with sleep. I was never told that this medication was not intended for more than 30 days. I was never told that this was an anti-seizure medication (I’ve never had seizures). I was never told that this drug was very addictive and that getting off of it would be challenging, if not nearly impossible. I tried many times, not making it past 24-48 of withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t push beyond that until I was forced. My doctor was no longer refilling my prescription.  After 78 hours of withdrawal, the longest I ever experienced, my muscular system started going haywire. My left eye was twitching completely shut. My arm would aggressively strike the air as if there was an unexpected intruder. My body temperature felt dangerously low and I couldn’t stop shaking. I wasn’t going to make it. This was not something I could survive. I managed to drive myself to my doctors and insist they give me a refill. The same people that insisted this drug would do wonders for me were now looking at me like I was a vagrant stranger. Seeing my state, they begrudgingly agreed but they would only give me 30 days. I had to get off this stuff. And I did. It made Hell sound like a vacation destination. I had to content with temporary amnesia, bouts of violent retching that lasted beyond 24 hours where I was sure I would die, hypothermia, the list goes on.  But I made it. It’s amazing what you can get through when there is no other choice.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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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Cool Surfer Looking Chick

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.

 

 

 

Nacho Average Diet

*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.