Organizing fiend

That’s what I was today.  Today is day 8.  I survived Christmas, and then TWO holiday open house events on Saturday, which I actually enjoyed very much and wasn’t too terribly bothered not to be drinking.  I had sparkling water, and sparkling apple cider, and snacks, and I talked and observed and remembered everything.  Then when I was tired I left, and my husband stayed until he was done.  I had a few moments of wanting wine, but nothing too strong.  And when I started to smell it on everyone’s breath, I discovered I didn’t want it after all.

Sunday morning my family was all “moving slow” as they called it (read:  hung over) and I was bright eyed and ready to take on the day.  Hard not to feel just a tiny bit of glee there, knowing that normally I would be the one in the worst shape of all!  What a relief.

Today I was stricken with the need to organize and purge a bunch of junk that I’ve been meaning to get to for months.  I started in the bathroom and was amazed to see how much old makeup I had been hanging onto that I would obviously never use again!  I threw away an astounding amount of stuff, cleaned every single surface, organized like never before, and now my bathroom is sparkling clean and every drawer is neat with containers for each category.  The counter is clear.  I can’t explain how amazing this feels, because I am someone who has historically been, ahem, organizationally challenged.

But maybe that was just because I was always “tired” from wine… we shall see!  Tomorrow I’m taking on the closet.  AND we are getting our new couch delivered!!!  It will be a happy day of home rejuvenation, which is just so fitting at the moment, while I’m working on rejuvenating my insides.  🙂

Merry Christmas to me

My best present of all this year:  deciding not to drink and sticking to it despite a moment of almost slipping.  Luckily I voiced my thinking to my husband, who gently told me, “no.  You will feel nothing but angst later if you drink, and I don’t want to see that happen to you.”  Wise words and they were enough to set me straight.  How I needed to hear that from someone other than myself in order to kick back into my normal brain and remember what it is I’m up to.

The day was peaceful.  With my in-laws it’s always relaxing and fun but this year it was peaceful in my head too… I noticed at dinner when the rest of the table had wine (there were 6 of us total and I was the only one abstaining), they poured one bottle between the five of them (one glass each), and everyone slowly sipped it during the meal.  When my mother-in-law casually asked everyone later if anyone wanted, “tea, coffee, more wine?”, I noticed that had I been drinking I would have felt anxiety about desperately wanting more wine but waiting to see if anyone else was having more and/or being self-conscious about being the only one who wanted more.  When we were done with dinner, most of the wine glasses had a little wine left in them.  I marveled.  And I also felt totally free from that obsession.  I definitely kind of wanted some, but I noticed that I was happier and calmer without the distraction of needing more.

After 6 hours of family, I was tired and felt the need for some down time, and luckily for my my husband was ready to go too… we came home and curled up with our books and our dogs and I had some tea.  I can’t help but remember where I was a year ago, stuck in the cycle I’m now still trying to break, having gotten 20-some days, then broken it, then gotten another seven, then broken it over the Christmas holiday and drank for a week straight, but then had a sober New Years… but that pattern continued ALL through 2014.  Despite that, it has been an amazing year, a beautiful year, but also most definitely a year of self-discovery and if I have learned anything, it’s that it’s time to see what a year feels like without alcohol, and that self-imposed rules are not working for me.  Here’s hoping that I can make this time stick and that 2015 is the year that I’ll be writing on Christmas having a whole year of sobriety under my belt.

Merry Christmas Eve!

I love Christmas Eve.  When I was growing up, my family life was pretty idyllic.  Things eventually went south, but while I was a child, we had everything we needed.  My parents were loving.  My Dad would stomp around on the roof on Christmas Eve, after we went to bed, jingling bells so we would think it was the reindeer landing on our roof.  He would nibble the carrots we left for the reindeer and eat almost all the cookies for Santa.  We believed.  We felt loved, my brother and I.  It’s that childhood anticipation of a cozy morning around the tree, opening gifts and drinking hot chocolate in our flannel PJs, that sticks with me today.  I love that feeling of looking forward to sharing joyful moments with my loved ones.

Things have been different with my family for most of my adult life, as addiction ravaged my brother, and through their codependence, my parents.  Most of the time, spending time with them drives me straight into several glasses of wine and I feel a tightness in my chest that I can’t shake for hours.  But this year things shifted.  My brother, 7 months sober, was there and was warm, coherent, and loving.  Everyone was relaxed.  No one was drinking and the atmosphere was jovial.  I actually enjoyed myself and didn’t feel stressed.  It was like a miracle.  I didn’t feel like I needed a drink when I got home.  Instead, my husband and I exchanged one gift, had some tea, and I’m heading straight for bed.

Each day I feel a little better, although one symptom of what I can only imagine is a detox symptom is that I’ll notice from time to time my eyes feel glassy and almost thick, for lack of a better word.  It’s such a strange sensation and it comes and goes.  I feel pretty exhausted and worn out by company after a couple hours.  But it’s okay.  Having done so many restarts, I’m familiar with the feelings I go through at this stage.  What I am looking forward to is seeing what it looks like after 32 days and beyond.  I’m finally starting to believe all you sober people that it really is better, and I can’t wait to find out.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Facing myself

This is incredibly humiliating to write.  I considered just carrying on, lying in my blog (how crazy is that, since this blog is for me?), lying to Belle, and just moving forward as though I didn’t have drinks last night.  After being so convicted that this time was for real, I’m still in shock that it happened and I’m starting to understand how very fragile I am and that I need way more help than I’ve been asking for.

The events of yesterday have me at the point of surrender… somehow, some way, in the past few years, I’ve become an alcoholic.  I don’t know what else to call this crazy disordered thinking, the fact that I’ve been at this for over a year and the longest stint I’ve strung together is 32 days, and the fact that each time I return to drinking it seems to be getting worse.  In all my compulsive listening to the Bubble Hour podcasts, reading blogs and books, I recognize myself more and more, and my ability to somehow consider myself separate from everyone else is diminishing.

I’m an alcoholic, and I need help.  I’ve never said those words before and just writing them makes me extremely uncomfortable and scared.  But I am so scared about how easily I lapsed into drinking yesterday, how while I grappled with myself momentarily, I already knew I would lose, and by the time we got to the restaurant I was agitated that the server didn’t come soon enough to take our drink order. That despite telling myself I would only have one or two, I had three at the restaurant, then opened two more bottles at home and had at least five more glasses with my husband and roommate (who had maybe two glasses, three at the most) over a game of trivia.  That at some point, I blacked out and have vague memories of lying on the bathroom floor and my husband dragging my sorry ass to bed at 8:00 p.m.  That once I had the one glass, I was immediately irritated by how little it seemed and that I had to concentrate to slow my drinking down to an acceptable pace.  That I found myself, once again, awake at 2:30 a.m., sweating and thirsty and in hell for the rest of the night.  Swearing just like always that I would never let it happen again.

I’m so scared of what will happen if I don’t get this under control… that I’ll never be able to get pregnant, that I’ll get a DUI, that I’ll pick a fight with my husband and say something horrible and damaging.  I can feel the wheels falling off of the business I’m trying to build this year… waves of sobriety accompanied by creativity, motivation, and being fully present, but interrupted by drinking days where I’m faking it, showing up half-assed, and doing the bare minimum.  I quite certainly will never realize my potential should I continue to drink.

Trigger that “caused” me to drink last night?  My husband saying how he could really go for a beer, and would I mind if he had one.  I said no, then immediately Wolfie pounced on me, feeding me those familiar lies:  “You’re overreacting.”  “Why quit right before the holidays?”  “Just wait until January 1st!”  “You can just have one or two.”  LIES!!!  Why is it so hard to recognize that these scenarios have NOT WORKED in the past!

So it is this way, at this moment, that the one and only thing I have to feel proud of is that I am not lying. I am here writing my truth, in the hopes that if I keep trying, something will click.  I feel compelled to try an AA meeting if only to have some face-to-face interaction, but I am absolutely TERRIFIED.  Terrified that I’ll see someone who knows me.  That I won’t relate to anyone.  That I’ll CRY.  That people will look at me.

Any advice on attending a first meeting would be most welcome.  At this point, I would be stupid to think that blogging alone is enough, when it hasn’t been enough for a whole year.  AA seems like the only option outside of spending loads of money we don’t have on a treatment center.  And it seems like there must be something to having real life, in person interaction right?

Coping with sugar

Day 4 and in the midst of the witching hour.  Had a minor panic attack earlier feeling like there is so much to do, so much on my plate, and I never seem to have enough hours in the day.  I felt suffocated by the organizing that needs to be done around the house, the dishes that didn’t get all the way done, the load of laundry waiting to be folded, the messages to return, the Christmas cards I should have ordered and sent but haven’t.  I found it difficult to breathe and I felt cranky and tense.

I’m not sure why, I think I have a longing to just hide away for a while, sleep, and get through these first few days in peace.  But I feel like I can’t ask for that, that it sounds ridiculous because no one thinks I have an issue, or at least not one I can’t handle on my own.  Asking for time, space or help seems impossible.  So what I’m doing instead, is allowing myself sugar.

Yep, normally, I’m pretty restrained when it comes to sugar.  I’ve almost completely cut it out of my diet.  I am super into fitness and clean eating, but these past couple days all I want is cookies, brownies, you name it.  It’s so weird!  The past times I’ve tried quitting, I haven’t let myself give in because I didn’t want to trade the wine calories for sugar calories, but at this moment, all I can think about is comfort food.  And I figure if it gets me through this early period and onto more solid ground, then what the hell.  I know how to lose a few pounds when I need to.  For now, this feels like a way to be gentle with myself.  So I’m curled up in my sweats and a comforter, eating peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with a glass of unsweetened almond milk (oh, the irony!).  And I’m okay with it.  Previously I would see this as the ultimate failure, but right now it seems like progress.

Pushing through

Today is day 3, and it really felt like I had to push to get through it, but I think I had a breakthrough in figuring out one of my hangups about this whole, “am I or aren’t I” question.  I was so happy to wake up today feeling sober, after a real sleep.  Wow, mornings are really the best.  Waking up clear and rested, without having beat myself up and sweated through hours of anxiety… what a concept!!  Anyway, I woke up and felt good, worked most of the day, and when I needed a break I headed over to my family’s house to see a friend and do a workout with her.

On my way out, I ran into my brother who showed up just as I was leaving.   If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll remember that he is an alcoholic and a meth addict, and we have basically a non-existent relationship.  However, he’s been sober now for about seven months, and for the first time, his recovery seems to be going well.  I never trust it though, because he never makes it very long and when he’s active in his addiction, he’s really bad.  Near death, in jail or hospital bad.  My parents are raising his 4 year old son, who has cerebral palsy and developmental delays, and the whole situation is extremely stressful for me.  I try to stay out of it as much as possible, because historically it’s been a crazy co-dependent cycle between my brother and my parents, which has forced me out to a certain degree.  At least if I want to maintain my sanity.

So on my way out, we ended up talking on the porch for about 15 minutes (more words than we’ve spoken to each other since a year ago, when I spent a couple days with him in the hospital after he almost died from withdrawal seizures from being in jail).  He looked healthier than I’ve seen him in years. He was there to take care of his son, which he’s apparently been doing more of lately.  I was surprised, because even though I’d heard he was doing well, I never really believe it because it never lasts.  I find that when I have hope, it’s a waste of energy because it’s always dashed and that’s more painful than just keeping my distance.  But we ended up having a decent conversation and he told me about his recovery, the positive steps he’s taking, and that he loved me and missed me.

When I left, I felt gross all over.  It’s so hard to explain how I feel about my brother.  I am beyond angry and disgusted with him, and at the same time, when I think about his sweet, sensitive nature as a child, I can’t bring myself to express anger toward him for fear of pushing him over the edge.  As I drove away I immediately found myself hearing the Wolife voice:  “That’s what a REAL addict looks like.”  “That’s the kind of person that’s at an AA meeting.”  “You are NOTHING like him and Dad.”  “You have your shit together.”  “You can totally have a glass of wine and be fine; it’s not YOU who threw your life away, abandoned your son, went to jail.”  “Your problem is nothing.”  “Even if you need help, you can’t ask anyone.  No one like THEM can know this about you.”  “You are such a drama queen, thinking that a bottle of wine too often is a problem.”  “In fact, a bottle of wine sounds like just the thing.”

I listened to these thoughts all the way home, and all the while I cooked dinner.  I really wanted wine.  I rode the wave of thinking that I was being ridiculous for wanting to stop.  Then I reminded myself.  I have been here COUNTLESS TIMES over the past year.  I cannot stop thinking about it.  I feel HORRIBLE after drinking wine.  I am trying to get pregnant and haven’t been able to.  I NEED to quit.

So I chose to sit through the discomfort, but I did find it really interesting that the encounter with my brother made me want to drink so badly.  I realized that what I really wanted was to build the barrier between us back up.  There is NO WAY that I can have this in common with my brother.  His addiction is SO much different than mine.  SO much worse.  I have been seriously traumatized by the entire scenario with my family for the past 15 plus years, and I hate to admit this, but drinking for me had turned into a coping mechanism.  I could not possibly have a problem because theirs is so much worse, and I am nothing like them.  (He and my dad both are in recovery, but my dad is much more solid at 9 years.)  It helped me drown out the pain of it all, but also, who in my family has the energy for me to have a problem?  No one.  They are too consumed with my brother’s problems for that.  I’m the good child, the successful one, the reliable one.  I can’t ask for help from them, they don’t have the time or energy for that and they all look to me as the one who is strong.

Even as I write this, thinking about my family has me wanting to throw in the towel in order to separate myself from the exhausting cycle of failed recovery, dashed hope, the sickening lies, and the heavy weight that “sobriety” seems to represent in my family.  I have never envisioned sobriety being anything other than heavy, hard, wrought with drama.  No wonder I haven’t wanted to embrace it!!!

I do have another picture in my head, if I bring it back to ME.  That picture is light and airy.  It’s energetic mornings and organized rooms.  It’s freedom to read in the evenings with a clear head.  It’s self-respect and love.  It’s leaving the tragic actions of my past behind me and embracing my bright future.  It’s learning who I truly am, rather than relying on the buzzed version of myself.  It’s safety and calm.  It’s no more yelling.  It’s the ability to bring a child into the world.  It’s noticing the little moments.  It’s meeting friends for exercise rather than drinks.  It’s moving forward.

Focusing on this picture is where I need to stay.  I’ll need to figure out how to push through the feelings that come up around my family, and protect myself from that environment for a while if I’m going to stay here.  But I am willing to do whatever it takes!!

Just for now.

In the time I’ve been on a hiatus from the blog, you can absolutely guess the cycle I’ve been in, because I’ve written about it countless times.  I read through all my entries today, to see where I was a year ago and remind myself that it’s been a YEAR that I’ve actively struggled to get this alcohol issue under control… which really says something about whether there’s a problem.

This whole dilemma in my mind about whether there’s a problem is really just Wolife I’ve decided, trying to convince me that there might not be.  The problem is the obsessive thinking, the cycle of guilt and remorse and craving and abandon, and back.  Just as Belle’s blog so accurately says, I’m tired of thinking about drinking.  Who gives a crap if I’m an alcoholic or meet some other label.  I am obviously, and quite simply, unable to be my best self when I’m actively drinking.  That seems to be enough to convince me to stop.  And whatever happens, it certainly can’t be worse to be sober than it’s been to start over so many times this past year.

So here I am again, on day 1, and going to bed snuggled up with my dogs and feeling a sense of trepidation and relief and fear and shame for having done this so many times, and hope.  But I am going to refrain from making grandiose promises to myself because it truly seems that those statements sabotage me every time.  So just right now, I am not drinking and I am struggling and still, I am glad to be here.  I am afraid of what will happen if I continue, and I think that fear has grown over the past year to a sufficient level that I’m more comfortable admitting to myself that there is a real problem.  Because I’ve been forgetting things, like way more things than ever.  And I’ve been hiding my drinking sometimes, and having to try so hard to slow down when I’m with other drinkers at dinner so that I’m not done with my first glass of wine in 5 minutes.  And the forgetting… it has gotten bad and it is the scariest part of all.  Not so much forgetting what happens after a night of drinking, but forgetting appointments, forgetting where I put things, what a friend and I talked about (during the day, sober)… regular, every day things.

I went to a therapist for my drinking problems, about 2 months ago.  And to my surprise (and temporary relief), she told me she didn’t think I was an alcoholic and although I was in a place where I should be mindful, she didn’t think I was out of control.  But she also didn’t question me about it all that thoroughly, and I was in a place where I was telling her what sounded reasonable… I told her about the nights I COULD have just a couple glasses, and how I could string a group of days together.  And just like that, she gave me her blessing to keep drinking.  When I left her office that day I cried and cried… I felt so scared, like I had gone to her for help and left with no plan or help to stop drinking, which is what I wanted.   Instead, she suggested I add ice cubes to my wine to slow down my consumption.  I felt alone.

I’m so grateful to have this space to come and to write, and to read what all of you have to say.  But I do feel I need human interaction with someone or some people who are like me… this time around I am so desperate for this to work that I think I just may try a meeting.  My only real wish is that I could have someone tell me where to go, which one to go to, so that I’d make sure not to run into anybody who might recognize me and one with people like me.  Ha.  I fancy myself not a “mess” like I imagine most people at meetings are.  I don’t smoke.  I have a nice house and a good career and a husband with a good career.  We know loads of people in our town.  I drive a nice car.  I have a law degree.  I am not like “them.”

I suppose if I keep up this elitist attitude all I’ve got to look forward to is another cycle of drinking though, since I can’t seem to do it on my own.  So as soon as I can work up the courage, I might give it a go.  For now, I’m going to focus on the now, and write a LOT, and keep focusing on the now, one minute at a time.