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

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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