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.

Wow, it’s been a long time…

I knew I had been gone for a while, but didn’t realize it had been two and a half months since my last post! A LOT has happened in the last while. A lot of good stuff. I haven’t been sober, at least not the whole time. I’ve had more stops and starts. Some drinking days and some sober days. But for some reason, I couldn’t make a decision about whether to make those sober days “official,” and keep going, or to just go with the flow and see how drinking just fit back into my life.

I have had so much going on over the past two months that there have been times I wasn’t paying any attention to alcohol at all, days when I didn’t drink and didn’t want to or didn’t even think about it. I seem to have progressed in my ability to moderate more of the time. The tricky part is, though, that it’s not all of the time. And I don’t seem to have control over which times I end up drinking too much and which times I can easily stop after two glasses. So, same old story in that arena. I guess the fact that I’m under less stress, having left the lawyer gig in the past, helps. I don’t feel the same need to drink for stress relief. It’s less a part of my lifestyle, since I’m not around fellow colleagues going to happy hour, etc. Instead, I’ve started two businesses, related to health and wellness. So I’ve got quite a good focus on staying healthy these days.

It’s not enough. I think I hoped that the urge to drink would just naturally fade away as I embraced everything I’ve been learning in the health and nutrition world. Nope, it sure didn’t. And I know it’s hypocritical of me to counsel people about what they’re putting in their bodies when I can’t seem to get my own alcohol consumption under control.

Anyway my point is, I’ve been in cruise control. Nothing really bad has happened in the last two months, in fact my life has propelled forward in the right direction in lots of ways. But I sense impending danger if I don’t recommit to this. Not only that, I know I’ll never reach my potential in my new businesses if I don’t quit drinking. And to top it all off, I know, just in this deep down way, that I won’t get pregnant unless I quit drinking. I just have this gut feeling. And maybe I won’t anyway, but at least I’ll know that it wasn’t because I didn’t give sobriety a fair shot. I’m tired of beating myself up on that front. I want the best possible chance even though our odds are slim.

I think what woke me up to the fact that I really still do need to give sobriety a chance was my 20 year high school reunion. My high school best friend came to visit and we went to the reunion together. She barely drinks… for her, two glasses of wine does her in and she has a hangover (say what??). I told her I envied her and I wished I was the kind of person that was satisfied after half a glass of wine. She didn’t say anything and I wondered what she thought of my drinking… not that she knows really. But I’m always conscious of how much more I drink than her when we get together. So we go to the reunion. And it’s really fun, more fun than I expected. Nothing bad happens. I reconnect with old friends. I make lots of trips to the bar. More than my friends. We get a ride home. No big deal. But I remember being in the kitchen afterward, talking with her, rambling… I don’t really remember what I was talking about, but I’m quite sure that I was obviously drunk, especially to her with her one or two glasses all night.

In the morning we were talking, and after something I said she told me, “yeah, you were saying that last night.” In that way that sober people gently remind you that you’ve already told that story. And it’s not that big of a deal, but I was acutely aware of my behavior at that point. And that I don’t want to be that person, the one who can’t remember what she was talking about the night before, who repeats herself. Because you can’t take that person seriously. And I was talking about my goals for moving my businesses forward and ideas for what I want to offer in this world. I realized, those goals and dreams will be nothing but that, if I don’t get my shit together. If I don’t walk my talk. I’ll never make any of it happen if I don’t take proper care of myself. And I’m tired. Tired of feeling hungover, even mildly. That foggy head, that lack of motivation, that mild paranoia.

Saturday night was one of those nights where I thought I hadn’t had much to drink at all, but when I woke up with the familiar sweaty angst at 2:00 a.m., I knew I didn’t have a realistic view of how much was too much. I replayed the night in my head and didn’t like my behavior. Again, nothing crazy, just not healthy. Not necessary.

And so I floated quietly into Day 1 yesterday. Ironically, Belle emailed to check in on me on that very day, even though I’d been quietly away from her 100 Day Challenge for a couple of months. Weird how that timing works isn’t it? Today is day 2. I am clinging to the hope that I will persevere this time, but the truth is that this is the super easy part for me. Well okay, it’s not easy. But I can press on for a while normally, a week at least, sometimes two, less often three, and a couple of times I’ve made it to 30 days. But that’s where shit falls apart. I don’t want that to happen this time. But I suppose thinking about that now, on day 2, is useless stress and I should just focus on today.

Sometimes I really wonder if I’m crazy. I really have no idea if I’m an alcoholic or not. How does one decide this? I mean, I have a fair amount of control over it, just not all the time. I don’t get crazy. I do have an off switch even if it’s not as early as I’d like it to be. It’s rare that I drink until I pass out. I don’t generally get sick or miss work or do anything dangerous or tragic. At least not anymore. But then why does it take up so much headspace? Why do I find it almost impossible to go without my drinks, even if it is just two or three? I really hate the label alcoholic, and those who truly believe themselves alcoholics seem to be so SURE. I know that it would be disrespectful of me to call myself an alcoholic if I wasn’t sure. But then, I obviously can’t quit drinking on my own. So where does that leave me? Does anyone actually know the answer to this question about themselves?

Anyway that’s where my head’s at. Kind of scrambled up since it’s only day 2 and I still feel hungover from the weekend. I’m feeling really over it, and really ready to move forward. Here’s hoping I can hang on this time. I truly missed all your kind voices of support. Keep em coming. Glad to be back here.

xo
GOTL

Last post of 2013

And I’m sitting at my office.  It’s 4:15 p.m., almost time to head home for the night.  I plan to cook up a good pot of black eyed peas (apparently good luck for the new year, a southern tradition), straighten the house a bit, pour myself a good sparkling water with lemon in a fun glass, and prepare for our friends to arrive.  I have mixed feelings about having company, but I can feel the true me in there, who simply wants to share some good moments with friends and who doesn’t care about alcohol.  I was that person, once.  Even if I was a teenager, she’s still in there and I am going to channel her. 

In the middle of my day, I received news from my parents that my brother (who has been a chronic alcoholic, methamphetamine addict, et. al., to a level of extremity that I’ve never come close to) has completely deteriorated into meth and alcohol abuse again.  We all expected that he was deep into drinking again as he blew off the family (including his son, who my parents have full custody of since he can’t get his shit together) on Christmas and has not been responding to calls.  But meth?!?!  Again?  I couldn’t believe he would already sink so low when he was only out of the program a couple of weeks ago (he started drinking again three days after getting home but now has lost 20 pounds and has dropped into oblivion.)

To make an agonizingly long story short, this type of news is not unexpected with him.  This time, though, we all had more hope as my parents had put him through an expensive, longer term residential rehab program just a few months ago.  It was probably his seventh time, but we all had more hope this time.  He had gone to the emergency room for a cut finger (which he almost severed on a broken beer bottle) only to lose it in the ER and attack a bunch of medical staff and end up in jail, where he had mulitple seizures and was taken to the hospital again to suffer more seizures and an extremely painful detox process.  When I went to the hospital to see him, the nurse told me that if he ever has to detox like this again, he is likely not to make it because he has done such severe damage to his system. 

I hadn’t been in touch with my brother before that, really, because of this crazy roller coaster he’s put us all on over the years.  Watching him disrespect my parents, not caring when he lost custody of his disabled son, not caring about anyone.  Constantly waiting for the phone call that he’s dead or in jail.  But this time I felt moved to visit him in the hospital and I wasn’t sure why.  I spent the whole day with him and it was like I saw the true him shining through.  He told me that he had attempted suicide in the jail because the detox hurt so badly.  He told me he cried out to God, and that soon afterward he was embraced by a warm light and a feeling of peace.  He said that feeling saved his life and that he would never drink again.  That he knew he had a purpose and a reason to live.  I believed him, even though I usually wouldn’t.  So we sent him to the program.  “One last time,” we told him, our hearts full of hope. 

It’s hard not to scream, to run, to cry, to pull my hair out, to be so angry at him.  It’s hard not to drink.  Why the hell not?  It’s certainly not ME who has given up my child, who has been convicted of felonies, who has shot up drugs in my arms.  It’s not ME who has lost all control, lost all my friends and family, who has been to rehab seven times and never stayed clean.  My issues are not even a wildflower in the landscape of my brother’s problems.  It almost feels even more like I’m being ridiculous for entertaining the thought that I have a problem in the shadow of all that.  But here’s the thing.  I still get to choose to not drink if it’s not right for me.  I still get to love myself that much, even if my brother can’t find love for himself.  I can choose to let him live his life his way and know that I have done what is possible to help even if it has not worked, even if it hurts. 

Lots of challenges today between this sad news, hearing my parents’ despair and being unable to help, and having a party to host tonight.  But in this moment, I get to write stuff down and put it out there, and that does make me feel stronger.  And if I can make it through today, I can truly make it through anything.  Tonight will strengthen my sober muscles.  Gonna be a good workout but day 4 awaits me on new years morning.  🙂