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!!!

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

 

Sunday morning, three weeks in, and some gritty realities

Mornings are my very favorite part of this journey.  The part when I get to open my eyes to a new day and feel accomplished that I didn’t drink the night before.  The feeling of a clear head.  The energy I’m slowly regaining.  The view we have from our house is something I feel grateful for every day… we are up on a hill and can see the sunrise and the sunset both from the way we’re positioned, at least at this time of year.  Mornings make me feel humble and grateful that I’m making a change.  

This morning I still feel those things, but I also woke up with a bad cold and bad cramps.  I’m fighting not to have a bad attitude.  I mean, I should be celebrating the fact that today, I have three whole weeks sober!!  But for some reason I feel a little bitter.  Like, I’m being so good, not drinking, that I couldn’t possibly have to deal with feeling sick!  Ha.  Did I expect that if I gave up alcohol that I’d never get a cold or cramps again?  If only!

This is fast approaching the longest I’ve ever gone without a drink (24 days, last year).  I realized this weekend that I’m really nervous about reaching this point.  I’m terrified that my resolve to stick with this is going to crumble when I get around the same time period I abstained before.  Not sure why I have this fear, since this time is completely different.  When I gave up for 24 days, I had intended to give up alcohol for 40 days as part of a yoga program:  40 days of yoga, meditation, clean eating and reflection.  The program encouraged to you give up sugar, meat, caffeine, or whatever you personally felt had any sort of grip on you.  So naturally I gave up alcohol… for a little over half the time.  I’ve done the 40 day program a couple of other times, and I’ve never managed the full 40 days, in fact 24 was the most.  

The difference in my thinking is profound, though, this time.  Then, I was willing myself not to have the glass of wine I wanted so desperately, solely for the detox benefits.  I had no intention at that time of giving up as a lifestyle change.  It was only meant to be temporary.  Of course I have entertained the thought for at least 10 years that my drinking is problematic, at some times more than others, but I still could not fathom the thought of giving up for good.  That knowledge that it was temporary allowed me to pat myself on the back after abstaining for a “substantial” period of time and reward myself with a couple glasses.  I’d think that would be it and I’d continue to just have a couple glasses a week.  But once I drank one day, daily drinking resumed immediately.  

Friday night I really struggled, and in the midst of doing everything I knew how to do to distract myself I knew that one thing I should do is get some gritty realities down in black and white so that I could remember why this is important.  Here are a few of my worst moments, in all their ugliness:

(1)  A Sunday morning about 8 years ago, I vividly remember waking up completely naked on a bare carpet floor with no blanket, next to a guy I was “friends” with (who was not naked, btw), and having absolutely no memory of anything that had happened in that room.  The last thing I had remembered was dancing with him downstairs, maybe making out a little.  Nothing more.  Zero.  I remember feeling horrified and vulnerable.  Naked.  Finding my clothes, trying to play it cool, shaking all over from embarrassment and the worst hangover of my life (well, ok, I’ve had a lot of those “worst” ones).  I remember going to breakfast with the group of girls who had all stayed over that night (we were at a house party/weekend thing with several friends) and confessing to my best friend at the time that I had no idea whether I’d had sex with the guy or not.  Realizing later that I had.  Feeling like I really had to get my drinking in check.  Forgetting about that feeling by 5pm that evening.  

(2)  Waking up at a concert realizing I had just thrown up all over the chair next to me.  Luckily I had wandered off to a place in the way back balcony and no one was around.  Having no idea where my friends were or how long I’d been passed out up there.  Finding the rest of my group eventually, and pretending like nothing had happened.  

(3)  Getting into screaming, ugly fights with my ex-boyfriend where I could not let anything go and feeling desperate and crazy.  Going to bed with my eyes so swollen that I had to make up excuses for my appearance the next day, or I’d just call in sick to work.  Alcohol prevented me from seeing the truth about how volatile the relationship was and kept me hanging on to a person who’s drinking was even more problematic than my own.  My self-esteem was in the toilet.  

(4)  Constant evenings after work home alone, drinking a bottle of wine to myself.  Making phone calls and talking to friends for hours.  Never thinking that anyone noticed I was drinking.  Who knows?  Maybe they did maybe they didn’t.  I was pretty good at maintaining (except in situations like the above… so maybe that feeling of being good at maintaining was a delusion?).  Calling my mom in that state.  I can literally hear my own voice… too loud, too emotional, too intense.  Waking up feeling sick.  Vowing to take a night off.  Never taking it.  

Ok.  That’s all the honesty I can handle facing at the moment.  I’m terrified to post this but I also feel compelled to tell the truth about my life with alcohol and some of the things that have happened during my 15 years of drinking.  There are a plethora of other, awful moments, but #1 haunts me the most.  In recent years my behavior has improved, but drinking still triggers the pain of all the stupid, crazy mistakes I’ve made.  

Cold, cramps and all, I’ll take this sober Sunday morning any day.  

 

Fitness and booze

Today is my 19th day and I had a little epiphany during boot camp class tonight.  Well, a couple little epiphanies.  I need these positive revelations to keep on coming, because that urge to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home is far from gone.

The first revelation was how much easier it is to actually stick to my workout schedule.  At the risk of setting myself up for failure, I have to say, that when my workout is not competing with happy hour, I’m much more likely to go.  And, I feel so good afterward that it really is kind of it’s own happy hour.  Especially when my workout consists of classes, where there are other people getting in shape with me.  Good motivation.  Before, even if I had the best intentions to work out, if anyone invited me to happy hour I immediately had an excuse to get out of my workout.  I would happily ditch it for drinks and snacks with buddies.  A couple hours later I’d get home, buzzed, exhausted, probably would have another glass of wine, and I’d generally feel like crap that night and the next morning.  Now, I look forward to the workout, happy hour’s not an option, and when I get home I feel great and sleep like a baby.  Duh.

Workout = 1.  Happy Hour = zero.

Revelation number two was along the same lines and seems totally obvious.  But I am realizing now how totally incompatible my drinking habits were with ever reaching my fitness goals.  When you suffer from a crazy hangover for at least one day of the weekend, therefore missing a workout, that inevitably leads to bad food choices, hair of the dog, lethargy, and missing a couple more days before getting back in the swing of things.  That’s like half the week, wasted!  Yet somehow I never truly faced this fact, always feeling sorry for myself for not achieving the results I felt I should see for working out and eating right half the week.  (Since I’m being honest here, even on most of my “good” days I’d plow through a decent amount of wine, I just never thought it “counted.”)  I’m loving the ease I feel around actually doing my workouts now.  I mean, it’s a hell of a lot easier to hit boot camp when you don’t have a hangover.  Am I right?  (Like I said, not rocket science here, but that’s how my denial system was working.)

What’s also easier = not grabbing extra snacks at night because I’m up watching junk TV with wine.  But oh, how I loved that feeling of checking out for the day.  It is so easy to look back on that little escape with rose-colored glasses and ignore the waking up at 2 a.m., unable to get back to sleep, the foggy-headed mornings, the fatigue.  No, the cold hard fact is that being responsible for myself and making healthy choices is just not as hard as I always made it out to be.  Turns out it’s not all that hard at all without wine in the way.  I’m surprised at myself for being surprised here.  Seems like a no-brainer.  But feels good to be honest with myself for once, and take stock of the ways booze was getting in the way of LIFE.

With that, I’m planning to ramp up my boot camp attendance this month and set a goal to lose five pounds by the new year.  Totally do-able and maybe by sharing that goal I’ll be even more motivated to stick to it.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep and 6 a.m. class tomorrow morning.

No More Aftermath

Last night I had an insane dream.  In fact, I’ve had a lot more dreams in general since ditching the booze.  Which is cool.  But my subconscious is definitely trying to work some things out I figure.  Like last night.

I dreamed that my husband and I were in this jungle land, only it was fantastical, with creepy faces coming out of the canopy and looking down at us as we moved along.  Think Avatar meets Land of the Lost, with a little Headless Horseman mixed in.  And maybe some Jim Henson scary puppet faces.  We were on a journey to unravel a mystery.  We had learned that I had spent five years during my twenties in a coma, and that I had been sexually assaulted while in the coma.  It was our job to help find out by who, and learn what had actually happened so that I could heal.

Woah.  I mean, woah.  In the context of thinking a lot about my drinking habits throughout my twenties and thirties up to now, and reflecting on what mistakes I made and what I lost, this is deep shit.  I mean, it’s kind of true, isn’t it?  That I let myself walk through life in something resembling a coma.  That I was never fully cognizant of the consequences of some very risky choices.  That I certainly did things which I later regretted and that I am not fully healed from.  All in the name of fun.

It was so easy then to write it all off as fun.  A party.  We would laugh if someone got sick.  We would laugh at the stupid things we said or did.  We would laugh about hookups with boys who’s names we couldn’t remember and who we would give labels instead.  “Polish guy.”  “Cell phone guy.”  And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a bit wild and free in your youth.  I don’t have a problem with that.  But for me personally, there were instances where it was a problem.  Where I woke up feeling disgusted with myself and angry at the world, and vowed to take better care of myself.  Those times chipped away at my self esteem, even if I didn’t realize that was the affect when it was happening.

Once when I was about 26, I had been in a bit of a downward spiral, partying too much on the weekends and dragging through the weeks.  Putting myself in situations I should not have been in.  Acting with a general lack of self respect.  And it got to be too much.  At the new year, I had had enough and I flew to Seattle to be with a friend of mine from childhood who is calm and soothing to me.  I journaled.  I questioned everything and seriously thought about whether I had an alcohol problem.  I took a “serious” (three week) break from drinking.  I promised myself I’d live a different life.  And for some time, I did.  I calmed down.  It was a turning point for me.  I started exercising and drank very moderately for the next year.

It is interesting to realize that was TEN years ago.  Where I hit a sort of turning point (I don’t like the word “bottom”, but that’s kind of what it was.)  And here I am again, ten years later, at another turning point.  I certainly was no longer putting myself in risky situations with my drinking.  In fact, I am living the dream, doing well in my career, living in a beautiful house with the love of my life and our amazing dog, and I have my family.  My behavior improved since that day ten years ago.  But my drinking only improved temporarily.  And the thing I’ve realized is, that even when I drink the way everyone else is drinking, (i.e., 3-4 glasses of wine with dinner, maybe a nightcap), I seem to feel worse than they do.  I beat myself up.  I worry.  I really feel the hangover and the insomnia and the foggy head, and the guilt.  And I’m slowly making a connection that for me, drinking brings up the past.  It makes me feel bad about myself, because I used to make very bad choices while drinking.  Does that even make sense?  It’s like opening up an old wound and pouring salt in it.

Of course it’s easy to forget that this is the aftermath when a beautiful, crisp sauvignon blanc presents itself, or a soft, silky pinot noir with some cheese… I’ll never not crave that.  But the aftermath is starting to overshadow the pleasure for me.  So when I’m in situations where the wine is calling, I will do as Lucy Rocca suggests in “Calling time on wine o’clock” and “play the movie to the end.”  The end of the movie for me is guilt, headache, fog, shame, insomnia, perhaps crying or picking a fight with my husband… no thank you.

No more aftermath.