Clarity

sunrise cloverdaleToday is day 12 of sobriety. This time around, it’s not so hard. I’ve been pregnant, and breastfeeding, so I’ve become used to not drinking. This time, my drinking was relatively minimal compared to what it was a couple of years ago. Most people around me never suspected I had difficulty with alcohol before, let alone recently. My one to two glasses of wine a night were, if anything, encouraged because I should just let myself “relax.” What people didn’t see was that it wasn’t relaxing me at all outside that one hour of false relief. That I spent way too much time wracked with guilt over whether I should be having wine every night, that I hated the way I had started to look forward to my daughter’s bedtime so I could have my glass or two, or the way I would pray for her not to wake up within a window of time that I would need to feed her with alcohol in my system. That every evening when I went to bed I felt stupid for drinking wine when I knew I was facing a night of waking up to care for my baby and I was doing something that only made me more tired.

This time I’m choosing to stop NOW, before I regress back down the road I was on before. I realize I’ve been on a slippery slope and that my thinking had started to rationalize a little more wine each night. I started to recognize the cycle of each day returning, even though I wasn’t consuming too much at a time. The cycle of waking up feeling guilty and promising myself to take a night off, then going through the day feeling good, then evening hitting and being exhausted and stressed and craving time to just unwind and throwing my promise out the window because “I deserve this relaxation,” and “It’s not a big deal,” then having as much wine as I feel I can get away with depending on how long I expect my daughter to sleep before her next feeding, then feeling guilty and stressed about it as soon as I drink. How EXHAUSTING. How insane that my brain tells me it’s relaxing at all!

As my awareness kicked in and my interest in living a dry, sober life returned, I stumbled upon Laura McKowen’s blog and read this post that said something that sealed the deal for me. She describes so beautifully realizing that she would never reach her potential as a drinker, and I know the same is true for me. She states,

“For my entire life, I had this ache in my heart to write, to teach, but most of what I wanted was unnameable—I just knew I wasn’t doing it. And I didn’t know how to get there. It was only after I stopped drinking that a path started to form—both because I had more time, space, energy—but also, and more importantly, because my soul could finally breathe. Without the blunting effect of alcohol, I could finally tap into the energy I’d been dimming out for two decades. I could feel God, my creativity, faith, guidance, intuition, my highest and wisest self—drinking cut off my access to all that….

It’s not that you don’t have the clarity in you, you just can’t access it and you never will be able to, so long as you’re employed by an addiction.

Woah. That’s a truth-bomb right there if I’ve ever heard one. Drinking, for me, regardless of whether I was in a heavy phase, (often in the past twenty-plus years) or a moderate phase (recently), has stunted my ability to see with clarity what it is I really want to be doing. I have the same ache in my heart that Laura describes. I have a vague idea that I want to be writing, but I can never seem to pin down what it is I want to write about. What I want feels unnameable. I can see now that I haven’t given it the space or clarity it needs to emerge.

My tendency is to rush things. To need the answer NOW. To push things through. This time, as I gain more and more sober momentum, my plan is to relax into it. To give myself time. To trust that the clarity I’m seeking will emerge when I’ve had enough time without numbing out and dulling my senses. So many sober women I admire talk about the resurgence of their creativity once they stop drinking and gain time without alcohol.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be, I think of the me that isn’t stifled or dulled. I think of the me that is confident and creative, reliable and loving, present and aware. I’m so grateful I read those words and made this choice now, while my daughter will never have to know me as the mom who drinks wine every night. We waited too long for the miracle of her birth for me to miss even a moment of her precious life.

Where I’ve Been

DCF 1.0

This photo was taken by ME, in October of 2015 while hiking the Kalalau trail in Kauai, all 11 miles to the beach.  If you have never seen the Napali coast of Kauai, I cannot recommend it enough.  It’s one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen and one of the hike to the remote beach is one of the most spectacular things I’ve accomplished in my life. This trip turned out to be a very significant time for my husband and I, for reasons I will get into in another post. Consider this a poor version of foreshadowing!

I figure since it’s shockingly been nearly two years since my last post, I should say just a couple of words about where I’ve been before I launch into blogging about my daily experiences again… I was surprised to see that my last post here was May 29, 2015, because I actually did stay completely sober until August 29, 2015.  A whole four months.  This may not seem like a lot to some, but for me it was by FAR the longest time I had ever strung together and it felt like a huge accomplishment. For some reason, I just tired of blogging around then. I had opened myself up to new avenues of getting sober, including AA, therapy, real-life sober friends, and just generally being honest with more people in my life. I think I felt at the time that I had let myself down so many times while I was trying to succeed with writing alone, that I needed to let go of this and focus on real life ways to get help. And it worked!  For a long time, it worked.

There is so much I could say about AA, my experience there, what worked and what didn’t. I’m sure I will write more about it later on. For now, the brief summary is that I appreciated and valued the connections I made there, I loved the feeling of community, but it started to get weird for me once I felt pressured to work the steps. I found I didn’t identify with the methodology and the language of “alcoholic” stopped working for me. The tone I felt coming from some people rubbed me the wrong way and unfortunately I convinced myself that because I couldn’t relate to some of the people, I no longer had a problem at all.  On August 29, 2015, I decided that four months was enough and I had wine with my husband when we went out to dinner that night.

Life carried on and nothing bad happened.  I had learned so much during my work at trying to get sober, and during my four months, that for quite some time I no longer felt the”pull” I used to feel.  I no longer drank every night and I just didn’t feel absorbed with it anymore. My business was going well, we had a lot going on with our fertility journey, and I was really convinced that I had over-dramatized the whole problem.  I appreciated that I had needed a break, but after some time went by I felt almost ashamed and embarrassed for having thought it was a true problem and I disassociated with all my sober supports.

Fast forward ~ life went on.  We vacationed to Kauai and hiked that amazing trail with friends. We made critical decisions about our fertility journey that would ultimately lead to our success (another post or ten on this to come!), we moved, we went through another failed IVF cycle, and then we did another cycle… and we got pregnant!  I had a beautiful, healthy pregnancy with no complications.  Against the odds, we chose a natural birth at a birth center and had a water birth ~ bringing our daughter into the world on December 18, 2016. Since then, I have reveled in the miracle of it all, soaking up all the sweet moments with my baby who is three months old today.

So why am I here again?

The old, familiar pull is back.  Despite a long period of time where I felt healthy and happy and thought my relationship with alcohol was healed, things have started to shift.  Since my daughter’s birth, I realized the other night, I have had a drink every day except for a handful of days (like, three or four).  At first, I would have one, 5 ounce glass only after she went to sleep at night and I would drink it slowly. I had no problem sticking to that since I am breastfeeding.  Until I did have a problem sticking to that and I rationalized two glasses as her sleep stretches got longer.  Then two and a half sometimes.

I don’t want to be that kind of mother. We dreamed, prayed, cried, longed and worked to bring this baby into our lives. I want to be present for every second she is with me.  Even if I could keep my consumption to two glasses a night (unlikely, since I have a gnawing feeling that once she weans there won’t be a “good reason” to keep a lid on it), I don’t want her to notice that I need those two glasses.  I don’t want her to sense my drift.  I want to be her role model ~ a self-confident, happy person who doesn’t need a substance to relax or unwind. She has sparked in me the realization that I only have one chance to do things right with her.  At this moment in time, letting go of alcohol is nowhere NEAR as hard as it was for me when I was writing this blog originally, because my habit is currently so under control.  I re-read all my entries the other night and it became abundantly clear that I have two choices:  I can quit now, while it’s relatively easy to do so, or I can wait and see, risking falling back into the same vicious cycle I found myself in three years ago.

I know what I have to do. This nightly obsession with wine has already started to consume more energy than it should and the writing is on the wall (or in reality it’s here, on this blog…).  So I’m facing up and calling it quits.

Today is day 6. I’m so happy to be back. I have many more tools in my box this time. Stay tuned for a recap of my first Kundalini yoga class today ~ it was weird and wonderful and transformative.

Day 30 — Again but different.

Hello lovely sober blog friends.  I’ve been putting off writing this and making my comeback until I had gained some time, because frankly, I was sick of reading my own writing when I was so consistently wishy-washy about whether I actually had a problem, etc.

So here’s what happened — the short version, since it’s late but I wanted to write SOMETHING to commemorate today!  After my last sober stint in January, I only made it to day 32 — and I then drank at a leadership retreat I was on, despite having the best intentions prior to going.  From then until 30 days ago, I lived in that on-again, off-again, mostly on place where I went from thinking it was no problem, to a big problem, and so on.  In the meantime, my husband and I went through our first round of IVF.  So I did have some sober time while that was going on — at least while the hormone injections were happening.  And then, the IVF failed and we were told that I have a rare condition with my eggs making them extremely unlikely to ever be able to be fertilized.  We got grim statistics — if we tried another round of IVF (with another $20,000 price tag), we would have about a 1 out of 1,000 chance of it working.  That’s 0.001%.  99.99% likely to fail.  And this condition explains why I’ve likely never gotten pregnant.

This came as bad news, obviously.  I went into a deep depression for a while, then I would have days where I felt relief just to have an answer, but then another friend would turn up pregnant after only trying for a couple months and I’d lose it.  One particularly unexpected one of these friends-turning-up pregnant situations happened in early April, and it threw me way down the rabbit hole.  I felt totally unworthy — of my husband, of womanhood, of love.  My drinking escalated to places it hadn’t gone before — drinking vodka when my husband was out of the room, hiding wine, the whole thing.  I would drink and cry and offer to divorce him so that he could marry someone who could give him a child (meanwhile, he has been 100% supportive and was shocked to hear me talking like that.)  I disintegrated into being totally pathetic and started having suicidal thoughts.  One morning was particularly bad and I just knew I had had enough and that if I didn’t get help IN PERSON, I would never be able to do this.

So that was really the first time I’d ever surrendered to this thing.  I no longer wonder if I’m an alcoholic — I definitely am.  I feel totally liberated by this realization.  After one awful night of feeling like I was in the depths of despair, I woke up the next day and methodically reached out.  I made appointments to see a psychiatrist, a chemical dependency counselor, and my doctor.  I messaged the one and only old friend I have who I know is sober, and asked her to take me to a meeting.  I NEVER thought I’d set foot in one, but when I met with my friend and went to my first one, I left with a sense of peace and hope that I’ve not had this whole past year and a half.  I’ve continued to go to two or three meetings a week, I exchanged phone numbers with three new, sober friends, and I’ve been seeing my counselor every week.

These things are working for me.  I have accountability now — this sober blog is also good, but it’s not accountability because it’s anonymous and I can just hide.  Or at least I think I can… just today I received a comment out of the blue from someone who says they have been checking my site, hoping for an update.  So, here’s my update, with a huge side of gratitude that someone noticed, someone cared about my story.  There were some rough seas, but now I’m solidly 30 days back at it, and the in person accountability has added a whole new dimension and peace to this decision to be sober.  It’s just the way it has to be and I’m not going to argue with myself anymore.

Speechless?

That’s how I’ve felt the past few days.  I want to write, but I feel a sense of exhaustion about trying to record the events of the past few days.  I’ve been keeping my head down, trudging forward and keeping my eye on my first big goal, which will be accomplished tomorrow:  30 days!!  I haven’t seen that number since sometime last year when I made it to 32.  32 is my all-time record, from age 17 to now, at 37.  20 years of never stringing together more than one month… it seems impossible that this is true, and yet I can’t remember a time when I would have.  I never thought there was a real problem until age 27.  Actually now that I think of it, though, I may have compiled a month or two or three at that age.  I did have a phase of really trying to cut way back/clean up.  But I don’t remember counting days or taking note of how long it had been… it simply wasn’t a part of my life for a little while, as I had been making an effort to live a bit healthier and I was dating someone who was into fitness and didn’t drink.

Because, I was always a master chameleon.  Not really knowing who I was, I was pretty good at adopting whatever characteristics whoever I was dating found attractive.  I lived for that approval.  Most relationships, drinking made this morphing process feel totally natural.  One thing that makes this sobriety thing easier for me now, is that I finally AM in a relationship where I feel authentic, loved, and whole.  It makes a huge difference to my ability to not feel so exposed and raw… I’m quite sure I couldn’t have done this in previous relationships where I was so desperately trying to make things work that were never meant to be.

The past few days have been rough but also have shown a big, bright spotlight on my emotional stability.  I am shocked at how healthily I’ve been able to process things that normally would have me hysterical.  Now, being sober, it’s so much easier to take a few breaths, assess the situation, go for a walk, think rationally about how to handle it.  Who knew?  For example, I had an incident the other day, after driving home through stressful traffic, where my dog (she’s a Great Dane) jumped out of my car without her leash when we got home — normally okay, but she for some reason has a thing about my neighbor and she charged right toward her, running and barking and then jumping around her and growling… it was awful!!  Our neighbor is like the cutest, classiest, nicest elderly woman who has been quite patient with our dog in the past, trying to befriend her on several occasions.  And our dog is such a big baby, not aggressive at all except with this woman she gets weird!  I don’t think she would actually hurt her, but at the same time I know she’s still a dog and anything can happen.  So I’m watching in horror and holding our other dog back, yelling for the dog to come back and she’s not, and it seemed to go on forever but it was probably in reality just a few seconds.

I got the dogs in the house and yelled out how sorry I was.  I reprimanded the dog and then had to steady myself for a few minutes; I was totally shook up, my heart was racing, and I felt like such a jerk for having let her off the leash even though she is normally trustworthy.  I debated for a few minutes what to do; this neighbor is overly gracious about the situation but she certainly could have called and reported it or just generally made some sort of a scene.  Me being normally terrified of confrontation, I was sure that in my drinking life, I would have just let it lie and not done anything else.  But I calmed myself down and did the right thing by going next door and checking on her to make sure she was alright.  She was shook up and I assured her I would be more careful.  We ended up having a nice chat and I felt so much better having apologized and being able to assure her that I would take it seriously and prevent further incidents.

I don’t know why this felt so significant except that I noticed this:  Although I feel I’m hiding a bit in sobriety, I’m not actually hiding from the things that matter.  This mattered.  And this, I would have hid from had I been nursing a hangover and feeling all paranoid and shaky.  Instead, I did the right thing.  I’m not hiding from real life.  I’m only hiding from my previous drinking life and that’s okay.  That life isn’t serving me.  This is, because I left a bad situation feeling good about my ability to rectify it.

30 days tomorrow!!!

I’m gaining sober momentum

I think I know what sober momentum feels like now.  Each day, I feel better and better.  All my stops and starts of 2014 seem like such a HUGE waste of time and energy.  I never want to feel like that again.  Instead, I want to feel how I feel right now… naturally exhausted from a crazy productive day working my business and doing what I love.  I can feel my creativity and confidence coming back.  I will not mess this up.

Day 22 today.

15 Days and I feel like a new person already

It’s seriously amazing how much better I feel.  In all my stints this past year, I don’t remember ever feeling this good about being sober.  I am more motivated, more excited about life, and happier.  For the first time, I’m embracing this as a positive, FUN change rather than a struggle, a negative.  I attribute a lot of this to the fact that my health and fitness business is growing, and I am continuing to surround myself with more and more new friends who are focused on their health.  I have found a positive, uplifting community where the focus is on healthy cooking and exercise, rather than drinking.  So much better!

I am sleeping through the night, waking up feeling good, and my anxiety is lessened.  Isn’t it ironic how we drink to lessen our anxiety?  We think that’s what we’re doing when in reality we are creating loads of unnecessary anxiety.  Or at least, that’s how it was for me.  The anxiety I suffered after a night of drinking was positively crippling and would last for a week at least.  Well, I aint got time for that shit no more!!  On to a life full of possibility, realized potential, and living fully present.

Sober has never felt so good.

Happy New Year and Happy Day 11 to me!

Yesterday I got a text from my husband extending a last minute dinner invite to us from some colleague friends of ours.  I texted back that it sounded fine, we had neglected to really make plans yet and I figured that sounded like a good one.  But the more I thought it over, the more anxious I was feeling about going.  For no particular reason really, other than I just felt like staying in with our dogs and relaxing, and painting my toenails, and generally avoiding the drinking scene.  Just for a little while longer.  Even though it was New Years.  Normally, I would have shrugged this feeling off and forced myself to get ready and go anyway, because I wouldn’t want to seem like a party pooper and especially not on New Year’s Eve!

But normally, this sobriety thing just hasn’t worked for me for very long.  And this time, I really, really want it to, so I’m going to have to do some things differently.  So I asked my husband if I could just sit this one out.  And he was (as he always is) totally gracious about it and it was just fine.  I stayed in my safe little bubble for the night, got some quiet time in to read, paint my toenails, watch TV, and relax.  At 37 years old, this is the first time I’ve ever stayed home all alone on New Year’s Eve.  And it was GREAT.  Seriously.  I felt like I was doing something healthy for myself by resting.  I enjoyed the quiet time and knowing that people were out having fun.  I felt the calm satisfaction of knowing that I was making a new decision, a decision that I wouldn’t regret, and that I would wake up today feeling good.

This year, I’m going to live for the mornings.  Really.  It’s such a different idea for me, I’ve always been a night owl of course, since that’s when I’d relax with wine.  But sober, I LOVE waking up in the morning, full of enthusiasm for the day and knowing that I have the capacity to take on whatever I want to take on.

My new year’s day is rung in quietly, and I can’t help but gloat just a tiny bit that the husband is hung over and I feel great.  🙂  Hope all of you feel great too!  And that if you don’t feel great, if you are hung over but contemplating your drinking, that you read my blog… you’ll see a whole year of starts and stops, and here I am only on day 11 when I could be at over a year by now if I had only stuck with it.  I’m not going to beat myself up over it, but I DO want to make 2015 the year that I don’t leave wondering how much more I could have accomplished had I just honored my commitment to remain alcohol-free.  I didn’t gain anything by drinking in 2014 except more anguish, more anxiety, and less self-confidence.

This is the year I honor my commitments.   You can too!  Happy 2015!