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!!!

This is not how my story will end.

As usual after a setback, I’ve procrastinated returning here to the blogging world to report another defeat. It’s hard not to feel like this story is getting old, the endless attempts I’ve made to stay sober only to disappear after a couple of weeks (sometimes not even making it that far!), then return and start over with the same, tired intentions. Part of me almost feels like it’s irresponsible to keep writing, to readers who are obviously so much better at staying sober than I am and who are apparently taking it more seriously. What could I possibly say that is helpful to anyone, when I keep failing?

That’s one way to feel. The other way to feel is that I have the power to say, “This is not how my story will end.” Yes, I have let myself down countless times since I started this journey back in November. I have changed my mind about a billion times about whether or not alcohol is a problem for me. (Which is pretty indicative of a problem, all this excruciating thinking.) Yes, after 11 days sober, I had two glasses of wine at dinner with my husband on the way to the airport to New York, and proceeded to drink every day for the past 11 days. But this doesn’t have to be the end. I can pick myself up and try again.

Every time this happens I’m learning about whether I have “a problem.” Every time I pick up drinking again, it’s because I become convinced that I’m simply being dramatic and that alcohol is not a problem for me. That I’m strong enough to prevent it from becoming a problem. That I just want to be normal and that I in fact AM normal, because most of my friends drink like I do. But every time, there are more and more hints that maybe that’s not true. When I’m not drinking, I have a front row seat to actually see people’s lack of drinking. That it’s not as big a deal as I make it out to be.

When I am drinking, I’ve started to notice how fast I drink compared to other people, and that I have to concentrate to get myself to slow down to their pace. I notice that I feel irritated when I have to pace myself in this way, and that I can’t believe how slow people drink and that sometimes their glass of wine just SITS there, untouched, for what feels like hours. I’ve noticed that each time I pick up drinking again, I drink more and more in secret. That the urge to drink secretly is more and more present and seems more and more acceptable in my own head. I’ve noticed that when I am drinking, more and more often I cannot totally remember the night and I have to piece it back together the next day. This morning, it took me about a half hour to remember what happened when we got home from dinner. When I did remember, my stomach turned a bit; I had called my mom and talked to her for at least a half an hour. I’m sure she couldn’t tell I was drunk… right?

One of the things that makes it the hardest for me to embrace that I have a problem is that no one else sees it. My husband will listen to me swear off alcohol, and he’ll promise to help me, but when I decide to have a drink he doesn’t try to stop me. He’ll ask me if I’m sure, and then let me decide. I don’t know what else I’d have him do. And this last time, it was great. We had an awesome date at a beautiful wine bar and enjoyed every minute of it. I am terrified of losing the ability to enjoy wine in that way. Especially when he doesn’t see the problem for me… but he doesn’t live inside my head and feel the inevitable pull towards the daily obsession that happens after even one casual light drinking evening. Once the “I’m drinking now” switch is flipped, it’s like I’m scared to take a day off because I’d be missing out on my drinking days that will have to come to an end again soon. How crazy is that?? So I drank each day, never too much or too crazy, but a little more each day. Until yesterday, when I was happy that my husband took the dog out for a walk around the block, so that I would have time to drink from an open wine bottle I had concealed in the wine cellar, under the guise of doing laundry downstairs. Even though we were going to dinner shortly where I could order wine, and I had already had two drinks at the pool a bit earlier.

images

So yeah. I have a problem. But this is not how my story will end. So here I am again, on day one. Someday I will look back on this and think, “Remember how many times it took me of trying before I quit for good??” And someone out there will be having the same struggle. And I will understand. And I will say to them, “Your story is not over. I get you. Keep trying.”

xo

Fluctuations expected?

So yeah, the other day I was on cloud nine as you could tell from my happy post.  Things were feeling just right with the world.  As I suppose is to be expected, yesterday was a whole different story.  

I’m heading out of town next weekend for a conference, and had booked my flight for Thursday since that was a cheaper option than flying out on Friday and I wanted a day to explore the city anyway.  All good.  Except that I had somehow completely forgotten that I have an important court hearing on Thursday, with witnesses who are expected to testify, that I can’t reschedule, and that’s been on the calendar for well over a month!  Hello??  How could I have forgotten about this?  I mean, I hadn’t forgotten about the hearing, but somehow my brain failed to compute that it was that day, when I was purchasing my plane ticket.  I’m telling you, this brain fog I’m experiencing is no joke.  A couple days ago my dad asked, “Hey, did you guys get a workout in yesterday?”  And my mind was suddenly completely and totally blank as to what I’d done the day before.  I couldn’t even call up a reference point from my previous day with which to unravel whether I’d worked out or not.  It was only hours later that it came to me that I had gone to yoga.  WTH??  

So I got up in a BAD mood, because I knew I’d have to pay to change the ticket.  I also knew that this meant if I wanted to arrive in time to play around on Friday that I’d probably have to take a redeye.  Which I do.  (Insert tiny violin playing here.)  All in all the mistake cost me $377.  Ouch.  The cost of brain fog.  I think what’s bothering me more though, is that this hearing I have to do is something I am Dreading.  (See the capital D?)  I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place with a difficult judge who is not super willing to hear my arguments, and calling a witness who is angry and uncooperative, all the while knowing that even though we are in the right, we are likely going to lose anyway.  And whichever strategy I employ I am not doing it right in someone’s eyes, because the law in unclear in this area.

The amount of stress I’m feeling because of this is off the charts.  Figure in the fact that I’m currently in a career change away from the legal field (this case is my last, but it has proven to be difficult and lasting), that I’m trying to stay sober and feel like I need space and less stress not more, and the upcoming procedure to fix my fallopian tube and all the infertility stress that goes along with that, and I felt like a total wreck yesterday.  Stomach ache, lethargic, cranky, headache, you name it.  Tata, cloud nine from yesterday!  

So here’s what I did.  We put our great dane in the car and drove out to the coast where we can let her off the leash.  I laughed a lot watching her play in the sand even though there were gale force winds out there and we had to retreat after a half hour or so!  The drive back was beautiful and I tried to soak it all up.  I noticed and consciously thanked God that I was hangover free, because I knew that my anxiety level, as bad as it was, would be a million times worse with a hangover!!  Went to one of our favorite Mexican places and had yummy veggie tacos and a root beer (I never allow myself to have soda but for some reason, root beer was calling me and hey, it’s not a real beer, so it’s still a win right?), came home and let myself just lay on the couch and watch TV in the day.  (Also something I never allow myself.)  It felt good just to give in to my fatigue and wallow for a bit.  Later I picked myself up and made myself head out for a jog with my Dane.  By the time that was over I felt so much better.  Exercise really is amazing for lifting spirits!!  Even when my internal voices were complaining the whole first half of the run, by the end I felt rebalanced.  Ate some leftovers and got back on the couch until I went to bed.  

So what’s the moral of the story here, you ask?  I guess what I learned from this is that I can’t expect that I’m going to feel amazing every single day (which is kinda what I was thinking there, on that last post of mine.)  I can’t let myself get mad that things don’t seem rosy every day just because I’m sober.  I still have to take the ups and downs.  I have to breathe.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.  Every time I thought about drinking yesterday (which wasn’t much actually, but the thoughts were sneaky, typical Sheila thoughts like, “what about next weekend?” and “forever!!!???!!?!?” and “you are fine, you are overreacting with this sober thing, now what have you done, you’ll never have fun again, this is so unnecessary,” and on and on), I just breathed and turned my attention to something else.  

I still felt crappy all day.  But I woke up today hangover free so that’s something.  Something big.  As Belle said the other day in an email (quoting another 100 Day Challenger), “Time marches on.  Life goes on.  With me sober, or with me drinking.”  This is so simple but really spoke to me.  Do I want to miss the passing of time in a drunken haze or with a hangover, even a mild one?  Nope.  No room for that anxious paranoia that hangovers give me these days.  No room for the unpredictable mood swings that come with drinking.  So even if I’m not the kind of drinker who does embarrassing things (I mean, there’ve been my fair share, but it’s not that often), or drinks all day, or blacks out, the effects I feel are negative enough that I want to live a life without them.  Because as crappy as I felt yesterday, I know it would have been worse with a hangover.  And for that, I’m grateful.  

Still on the learn over here.

xo

GOTL

 

extremes

In all my obsessive thinking about sobriety lately, one of the most pervasive thought (and I know I’m not totally alone here) is that my life, from here until eternity, if I keep this sober bit up, is going to be boring.  I will be one of “those” people, who are uptight prudes who don’t like to have any fun.  Those people who you secretly feel are living richer lives than you, but all you can consciously feel about them is disdain.  Those people who I dismissed from my mind as potential friends because I couldn’t imagine what we would do for “fun” if I got to know them better.  I realized I have a deep fear of being regarded this way and that I have been going around assuming that everyone thought like this.  

Well, guess what?  It was gently pointed out to me yesterday by a friend/coach, that, (wait for it…) everyone doesn’t feel this way about people who don’t drink!!  Am I alone here in feeling slightly shocked by this revelation?  I mean, I guess I knew that there were people out there, somewhere, certainly not in my world, who didn’t think like I did.  But something about the way it was said to me really sunk in.  I felt it, down in my gut, this heavy realization that I’ve been living with a belief system so deep and ingrained that I created to protect my own behavior and avoid facing my own issues.  It was not a comfortable feeling, suddenly becoming aware that I wasn’t right.  (I really like to be right.  Like, all the time.)  

Also, though, this revelation seeped under my skin like a soft warmth of reassurance.  Because, if I was wrong, then this new way of living didn’t have to be as scary or boring as I feared.  Maybe, just maybe, people would like me for me.  Maybe I could like myself for me.  Maybe I didn’t have to see life as two extremes:  drinking, or sober.  Fun, spontaneous, exciting, and adventurous, or heavy, stressful, irritating and dull.  Maybe it’s not as black and white as I’m making it out to be.  

In my household as a teenager, my dad was an alcoholic.  But he wasn’t abusive or mean to us.  Maybe a bit irrational at times, but at that age I wasn’t even aware that had anything to do with alcohol.  What I do remember is that my family used to have fun together.  We would play games, we would laugh, I remember my dad telling jokes and staying up late with us as we grew into young adults.  When he got sober nine years ago, just as my brother sank deep into an addiction that he will likely never come out of, the fun disappeared from our family dynamic.  In fact, I can’t really think of a single time that I’ve truly relaxed, laughed and had fun with my family since then.  We’ve talked a lot.  About my dad’s recovery, about my brother’s latest emergency, about the sadness and helplessness my parents feel, and more recently, about my nephew who they are raising because my brother is too incapable to have custody of him.  But we have not relaxed.  When I see my family now, I have a tightness in my chest and skin.  I feel a great weight on my shoulders.  I love them, but I feel drained just thinking about spending time with them because of the seriousness, the grief, the constant co-dependent talk about my brother.  When my dad got sober, as proud of him as I am, the fun disappeared.  

I had never made this connection that maybe that’s part of the reason I can’t envision a life without alcohol ever being fun or relaxing.  This was a light bulb moment for me.  I’ve been seeing sobriety as this awful place where no one laughs, no one relaxes, and everyone feels bad all the time.  As my coach said:  Why the hell would I want to go to that place?  But here I am, on day 27.  I’m not miserable, I’ve relaxed a good deal in the past 27 days.  I feel healthy.  The next question is, what about “fun?”  

What was fun, in my mind, about drinking was the sense of complete abandonment of responsibility for a short while.  In a life lived under extreme pressure to perform, to serve others, and appear in court every day, while dealing with my family shit thrumming in the back of my head all the time, meeting friends for happy hour was an opportunity to go somewhere else entirely.  Hours of blocked off time where worrying was not an option.  A place where I went from feeling frazzled to calm, from too pudgy/old/awkward looking to sexy and attractive.  A place where my sense of humor flowed, where people were drawn to me, where I was the smart and powerful career woman who could handle her booze.  Where I could embrace my sense of rebellion from the tight constructs I put on myself in my day-to-day, over-achiever lifestyle.  Where I could live without self-imposed rules.  

This is why moderation has failed for me recently.  The reason drinking is fun for me, is that while I am enjoying my wine, there are no rules.  I don’t have to get an “A.”  I don’t have to win my case.  I don’t have to be the “good child” for my parents.  I don’t have to lose 5 more pounds, go for a run, count my calories, organize my closet, finish the laundry, and end world hunger before I can be okay with myself.  In that first glass of wine, all of those cares melt away.  I instantly give myself permission to be in the space of relaxation and to let all those worries go.  To impose a two-drink limit on my “fun” time would completely interfere with the whole purpose of letting go in those moments.  I might only have two, but it won’t be because of a limit I put on myself.  The minute that limit is in my mind, the minute I will break it.  

Living a life of extremes (extreme work, extreme play) has been my norm for as long as I can remember.  I’m hoping as I move away from this lifestyle that the craving for total, alcohol fueled abandon will subside in favor of a more balanced enjoyment of life.  Fun doesn’t have to be destructive.  For all the fun of abandoning my rules and responsibilities in those drinking hours, I would only find triple that in anxiety for having woken up with a hangover and feeling even less capable of coping with them.  

“Not everyone thinks this way.”  This simple and gentle statement pretty much rocked my world.  Time to find the relaxation, laughter and fun that swim in all that soft gray area and quit jumping from black to white while ignoring all the beauty in the middle.  

p.s.  thanks, coach. 

xo

Day 6 and back to counting

I was hesitant to say I was counting days again until I made it through new years and even then, I felt like I needed a couple of days to strengthen my resolve.  Today I feel like I’m back on solid ground, so I’m comfortable taking a look at what day it is… day 6.

This is take three of my attempt at 100 days sober.  I seriously have learned so much from my first two attempts.  Even the fact that I’ve been attempting this means that my days of drinking have been seriously cut down in the past six weeks or so.  To have stints of sobriety and then times when I slipped into drinking has taught me loads about what triggers me to drink, what the after affects of drinking are (I could never tell before what was from alcohol and what wasn’t, because I never took a break), and simply how much better I feel once I’ve been sober for a few days.  The feeling of health is something I didn’t even realize I was missing.  I never thought I was hung over on weekdays, but looking back it seems comical that I didn’t think I was.  I woke up every day with a fog in my head.  It was hard to remember things.  Everything seemed difficult.  I had trouble breathing.  I was nauseated.  But still didn’t think of that as being a hangover.  Read = denial.

A couple days before new years my husband and I watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  It totally inspired us to buy a juicer, which we did.  We’re still waiting for it to arrive, but in the meantime, when we got up on new years day we decided to go to Whole Foods and get a fresh juice for breakfast.  We spent the day lounging around, except for me going to yoga.  I felt so good after the juice that I decided to turn it into a juice fast to let my digestive system rest and detoxify a bit.  So for the past three days I’ve had lots of fresh vegetable juice, kombucha tea, detox tea, and tons of water.  I’m slightly hungry but most of today I have felt pretty amazing!  I’m surprised at myself for doing this even though I know the benefits of a fast every now and then.  I probably haven’t done this for ten years.

Usually, the thought of fasting was too much for me because I would have to have no alcohol and there was always something coming up where I’d “have to drink.”  It’s so liberating to not have that mentality going on right now, that I have to drink just because some event is coming up.  Because really, that mentality included every event.  Every dinner out, every time I met with a friend, every party, every social interaction, period.  And if I tried to abstain at something, a friend would inevitably say, “Oh, come on and just have a glass of wine.  It’s [insert special occasion here].”  What they didn’t know, and what would make me cringe inside, was that I would have been drinking at home every night that week and was exhausted from my solo “special occasions.”  Even times when I didn’t feel like drinking when out, or at least knew that I should ease up or take a break, I would do it anyway because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do.  I’d muscle through the first glass of wine even when it tasted bad because my body was begging me to stop.  Once that glass sunk in, the rest went down just fine.  And that’s how I kept going.

To not have that compulsion ruling my life right now really does feel amazing.  I feel like a weight has lifted from my whole body.  And maybe this is the vegetable juice, but it actually feels like my cells are thanking me.  I’m going to try and stick to this fast for at least 7 days.  They recommend 10, but not sure I can pull that off.  Whenever I feel like I need to call it off I will.  But for now, it feels perfect to be allowing my body to heal itself and rid itself from toxins.  Perfect way to start the new year.

I’m going to email Belle (tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.wordpress.com) and start my count over at 6.  This time I am more determined than ever to make this 100 days happen.