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.

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.