The longest 4 days…

So normally when I slip up, my brain switches to this voice that says, “Yes!! We get a break from all this sober nonsense, let’s live it up for a few days! We’re in ‘not caring’ mode!” And then I proceed to drink for several days, weeks, in a row before I feel so utterly horrific that I have to face up to the quitting again.

This time, I drank one evening. Five days ago. And the next morning, I wanted to kill myself. I was gripped with anxiety so severe I was sweating, had trouble breathing, was paranoid, couldn’t move off the couch, was literally gripping the blanket with white knuckles. All day, all I could think was that just one beer would take the edge off and I’d feel better. But I DIDN’T DO IT!!! I’m so relieved. Here’s the crazy thing. My alcohol-infused brain likes to refer to this approach (the one where I drink beer to take the edge off a bad hangover) as the “taper method.” And to be honest, it sometimes kinda works. The lie is that I usually don’t really taper, I mean I’ll have less for a few days, maybe even only two glasses of wine on one or two nights, but I usually carry on through and end up with a few more big nights in there. This time I had the one night, and it ended so bad that I stuck to my resolve and made it through day one. And two, three, and four. Today is day four and it is close enough to bedtime that I’m in the clear. I think.

But you know what’s crazy?? I STILL feel hungover. Not like a headache, not nauseated or anything. But I feel this lingering anxiety and self-doubt. It doesn’t feel like me. I think the “taper-method,” when it does work effectively, masks the reality of how long it takes me to get back to feeling 100% normal after a binge. (For clarification as to Friday night’s events, I intended to have one or two glasses of wine… I drank my first one twice as fast as my friend, so refilled first, that’s two within the first 30 minutes… then had two more of the other bottle, then finished the bottle while everyone else had maybe a glass or two I had four or five. This is before dinner. Then with dinner, had two HUGE glasses of red wine, this bartender seriously pours me like 12 ounce glasses, so I suppose that would actually be 4 glasses.) So the conclusion I’m drawing here is, if you drink 8 or 9 glasses of red wine in a night, 4 or 5 of which were consumed prior to eating, you are going to feel like a massive piece of cat shit for several days afterward.

Hoping tomorrow feels a little better. Each day is a little better. But it sure is starting to seem less and less worth it to throw away three perfectly great days to work on my business. It is startling to see how long it actually takes me to get back on track with life… with exercise, sleep, feeling like a human, having energy, feeling clear-headed. I feel like the more I continue to slip and drink, the more severe the consequences feel. Is this a real phenomena? Does it mean my alcoholism is progressing? It’s a scary thought.

This time I’m doing something different and WAY out of my comfort zone by seeing a therapist who specializes in alcohol dependence. I actually had a consultation this morning and my first real session will be on the 10th. So… that’s pretty good motivation to stay sober until then. To be honest, and this sounds backward, I would love to be honest with a professional and have them just tell me flat out: You MUST quit drinking, you have a serious problem. Most people would probably want to hear that they DON’T have a problem, but here’s the thing. No one in my life thinks I have a problem. My husband is starting to believe me, but the thing is that a lot of the “problem” is how freaking crazy I feel in my own head. How my biochemistry feels off after drinking and I suffer extreme depression and anxiety. But at the same time I feel like, I’m stronger than this, I can’t say I have a problem because I wouldn’t be being genuine. For some reason I think I’d be “faking it” if I said I had a problem, or that my problem is not as serious as other’s, because my life is together, I’m driven, I have a house and a good marriage, and a career, etc. But the crazy feelings are still there, and the insane, child-like grief I feel at the thought of giving up is there… so that’s something. Something that I’ve finally decided has to be addressed in a professional’s office. And I can’t help it, I want her to say to me, “I hear you, and in my professional opinion you should quit drinking.” Because then I feel like I would KNOW. You know? I would be able to tell my whacked-out, whining for wine self that this is serious, and drinking is not an option.

Writing this is making me want to run screaming to the wine cellar and grab a bottle of pinot, so I’m going to sign off, go make some peanut butter toast for dinner, and some tea. And then do a little night time yoga and get into bed and hide.

Advertisements

One week later…

One week ago I couldn’t resist the urge to go out to dinner with my husband after a long work week.  “I’ll order sparkling water,” I thought.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity I saw to sit down, be waited on, connect and have fun with him.  When we got there, I thought, “I’ll just have one glass.”  (Why this thought is ever afforded ANY credibility in my mind, I have no idea.)  One turned into two, then three, VERY heavy pours.  Normally this wouldn’t be all that much for me, but last week I was on a sugar detox (yeah I realize one doesn’t actually do this successfully and still drink wine, but I was “just doing the food part.”  

One week ago when my husband and I got home from the restaurant, I was drunk enough to be stumbling around the house.  Trying to talk to him about our infertility issues (um, inappropriate time to bring up highly emotional topics, much?).  I was immediately angered that he checked his phone during said “discussion” (which was probably me in some sort of exhausting, emotional ramble).  

One week ago, I provoked an out-of-control, emotionally charged, irrational fight with my husband.  And I wouldn’t let it go.  Even when he pointed out that we should sleep on it and talk in the morning when we were both sober.  Not even then.  Even when my dog was cowering at me because I was slamming doors and yelling and crying.  Even when he was yelling and telling me to stop.  Even when he hugged me and tried to comfort me.  Not even then.  

One week ago my husband and my dog both slept on the couch, leaving me in my misery.  I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with my eyes swollen shut and a pit of dread and remorse in my stomach.  My body and mind felt thick with sickness.  Every single time that I had been emotionally and physically abused by boyfriends past came bubbling to the surface, along with all the feelings of inadequacy and rejection those incidents caused me.  All the self-hatred for staying in those bad situations came up to haunt me.  Who I was in those moments, out-of-control rage that comes from the primal instinct to protect oneself, feeling demoralized, hurt and desperate, came right back like she had never left.  Only there was no danger one week ago, there was no abuse.  There was only the shadows in my mind.  

One week ago, I realized how very far I have come in my life since those times.  That I have a husband with whom, 99.9% of the time, I live in complete security and peace.  That I am loved and supported.  That these gifts that come with a healthy relationship resulted from the passing of time and from my slow, slow journey to treating myself with more respect.  I realized that alcohol was the last bastion of those days.  The last thing I have clung to from my time of turmoil.  What I always thought was my comfort and my escape.  What made me funny and confident when my home situation was unpredictable and dangerous.  Only now, it brings the opposite.  It brings that old me to the surface, the one that clung to drama, to chaos, to self-destruction.  It makes what would be a regular fight to most couples a highly traumatic situation for me.  It breaks down my progress.  It tethers me to the negativity of the past.  

One week ago, I prayed as I lay in bed, that I would feel that sick for the last time.  I felt the misery.  Really felt it.  I didn’t want to forget that feeling this time; I didn’t want to pretend it didn’t happen as soon as the hangover wore off.  I realized that I have the power not to bring this kind of negativity into my marriage.  I can choose not to scream at my husband and use emotional drama to manipulate him.  I don’t have to defend or protect myself from danger anymore.  That person has no place in my life now.  And it is so simple.  That person is not there unless alcohol is in the mix.  And finally, I knew what had to be done.  I acknowledged to myself that alcohol does not work in my body anymore.  The miserable, anxious, regret of an incident like that far outweighs the fleeting fun while drinking. 

Image

One week later, my eyes are clear.  I laugh easily.  I smell things.  I taste my food.  I breathe easily.  I feel free.  I exercise daily.  When I wake up, I feel excited to greet the day.  

One week later thoughts of drinking are easier to manage than they were the last times I’ve quit, because I have an acceptance in my heart that alcohol is a problem for me and that I’m happier and healthier without it.  They are still there, but I can breathe through them one hour at a time and with that awful memory close to my heart.  My husband, who previously questioned whether drinking was really a problem for me, has shifted into being fully supportive of this process for me in whatever form I need it to take.  With love.  

One week later, I have exercised, hiked in our local park, hugged my dog a lot, cooked healthy and beautiful meals for my husband and I. I have seriously considered trying a meeting but have chickened out so far.  I have humbly rejoined Belle’s 100 day challenge.  I have listened to lots of Bubble Hour podcasts.  I have named my wolfie, and her name is Sheila.  

One week later, I choose love.  I choose to accept love from my husband, my family, and my dog.  From all of you fellow kick-ass sobriety bloggers who know what the freak I’m talking about.  From my friends.  Most of all, I accept love from myself.  

Take that, Sheila.  

xo

 

Wine release party in the sun? Nope.

Not today. I was planning to go and thinking I would be fine. Then I thought, why do that to myself especially when I am so obviously fragile right now? When my thinking flip flops from moment to moment? Why set myself up for failure? So instead, I’m getting a pedicure and having lunch with a safe friend who gets my issues and who I don’t feel pressured to drink with. Then I’m going to the gym. Then I’m going home to snuggle with my dog and watch movies. It feels good to have a plan in place for the day… Safe. I need to be in a safe cocoon right now. Slowly realizing that I have to think of this as a thing, a thing I have to prioritize. If I leave it last on the list (after things like attending this party when I don’t feel up to it) it simply won’t happen. So yeah. That’s all for now, just me reporting from the cocoon of safety over here.

p.s., news flash: having several “day ones” back to back sucks. Like really sucks. Something to remember at 5pm today.

Day 1. Stop the madness.

Navigating triggers

So, here’s how my crazy mind works.  Wake up, feel convicted to abstain due to all the things we all write about:  anxiety.  insomnia.  shame.  remorse.  illness.  headache.  puffy face.  bloat.  foggy head.  lost brain cells.  Need I go on?  Then, the day progresses.  See a beer in the fridge at 11 a.m. and have fleeting thought of actually drinking it.  Quickly dismiss thought.  It’s only 11 a.m.!  Progress through day being mostly productive.  Checking things off list.  Feeling accomplished.  Inching toward 5:00.  Wine-o-clock.  I did everything I was supposed to today.  I’ll just have this one glass.  Okay, two glasses.  Might as well finish this bottle.  I’ll be fine, I’ll just drink lots of water.  Instant regret but still enjoying the buzz.  I’ll start tomorrow.  Sleep.  Wake at 2:30 a.m., repeat.  

When will I get off this ferris wheel?  I want to say today, I feel convicted now that today will be the day.  It’s noon.  I have no desire to drink.  

Here’s what happened the other day after I wrote my post and recommitted myself.  (I have been resistant to the idea of “triggers,” but apparently this qualified as one big enough to derail me on day one.)  I was feeling great about my choice to start again and looking forward to the improvements I remember seeing in my life last time I made it to 32 days.  I got lots of work done all day.  At 5:30, I was scheduled to meet my husband at our former law school to give a presentation to prospective students about our careers.  I put on a suit for the first time in a while, and felt nice and dressed up.  This made me think about happy hour, which I loved to frequent after a long hard day of practicing law, especially when I was looking chic and sophisticated.  Got to the school and we found out the husband had the time wrong, we didn’t have to be there for another hour.  What to do with that one hour?  The administrative assistant suggested we go get a beer down the street.  We laughed.  Then we did go down the street.  Internal wrestling commenced.  I’d just have sparkling water, I told myself.  Got to the bar.  They had an excellent wine list.  There I was, dressed up in my career (and happy hour) uniform, facing a presentation I was a little nervous about, with my handsome husband I love to hit happy hour with, at happy hour, with a good wine list staring me in the face.  Triggers, anyone?

So yeah, I figured, I’ll just have a glass.  One.  Not going to have more obviously, since we’re going to give a speech.  Had a delicious glass of pinot.  Went and gave the speech, which went very well.  Husband wanted a beer afterward which sounded great.  Hit the bar and had two more generous glasses of wine.  Internally, my head just said “fuck it.  Tomorrow.”  I didn’t get drunk or do anything stupid.  That’s never the issue really.  When we got home, I cooked us a great dinner.  Husband opened another bottle of wine, and I didn’t want any.  Didn’t touch it.  But that’s the thing with me:  I do have an off-switch once I start drinking and I reach my comfort zone.  I just can’t turn off the desire to get to that zone every evening.  

Yesterday, the remainder of that bottle husband opened was just sitting out on the counter.  He probably had only drank about four ounces of it.  Before he came home from work, between 5-6 p.m., I sat on the couch with the most recent episodes of “Parenthood” and polished that off.  Brushed my teeth and put the bottle in the recycling.  When he got home, we put on our running clothes and jogged down to the lake with our dog.  Yep!  I even exercised after drinking.  I didn’t want it to seem like I’d had any at all.  Came home, cooked dinner, and that was that.  Both nights, I woke up at 2:30, like clockwork.  I feel tired today.  

Lately I haven’t been suffering from the crippling level of anxiety that I was when I started that last round of 32 days.  But it’s coming.  It’s increasing.  Why wait until I feel horrible??  I’m here, I’m reading blogs, I’m writing.  I wouldn’t be taking the time to do this if part of me didn’t really want to be living booze-free.  It almost feels like I have two personalities.  Sigh.  

Today is a first.  The first of May.  I like firsts.  They feel clean and full of promise.  Like a good time to make a change.  I know that’s all a ridiculous mental game, but it kinda works doesn’t it?  There’s something about the first that seems like it carries a symbolism.  So I’m gonna grab onto that idea and hold on tight.  

Moral of the story:  avoid putting on a suit in the late afternoon if at all possible.  Avoid bars for now.  Tell husband I need to avoid bars for now.  Keep open bottles of wine from sitting around in the kitchen where they can talk to me too easily.  Keep busy between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m. doing something else… like going to the gym.  Avoid “triggers.”  

I hate that word.  

wineless coping strategies

So, yesterday I got some pretty bad news.  I went in for a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test to see if my tubes are open since we’ve been unable to conceive after trying for over a year now.  I have a history of abdominal surgeries, having had my appendix out at age 19, a tumor (benign) removed from my right ovary, and a uterine fibroid removed a couple years ago.  But, at the time of my last surgery my doctor had said everything should heal up fine and she didn’t foresee any problems.  

Turns out my right ovary ended up basically dying off after the last surgery — just too much intervention they think.  And ironically, the right tube is open but there’s no ovary, and the left ovary is healthy, but the left tube is blocked.  So the bottom line is, there’s no way for me to naturally conceive a baby at this point, unless they can unblock the tube with surgery (another surgery!) and then we keep trying.  (This has a pretty low success rate, not to mention I’m nearly 37 and don’t have lots of time.)  Or, we can have IVF.  I said I’d never do IVF, that it’s too invasive, too expensive, and that I didn’t want a baby bad enough to mess with nature like that.  But now that we’re faced with that being the only choice, I’m not so sure.  

The procedure yesterday was supposed to cause “moderate cramping,” but instead I felt like I was dying the pain was so bad, I went into shock and couldn’t feel my hands or feet and almost blacked out.  They rushed me to the ER and finally got me stabilized, but I had terrible cramps the rest of the day and still don’t feel great.  When I got home and told my husband I couldn’t stop crying.  I know we still have options, it just feels different, like this isn’t the way I imagined it going.  All I wanted to do yesterday was mourn this loss with some wine.  After all, my head was saying, all this time I thought maybe my drinking was the problem with trying to conceive.  And clearly, it has nothing to do with that at all!!!  Green light!  

Luckily my husband softly reminded me that he didn’t want me doing anything that would make me feel worse about myself later.  He told me he loved me no matter what.  He stayed home from work so he could be there if I needed something and he let me lay on the couch and soak up endless episodes of Nashville.  He went out and got me a huge salad and some ice cream to wallow in instead.  

Still sober.  Coping mechanisms:  crying, girly TV shows, ice cream, popcorn, allowing myself to lounge around and feel so that I can get it out of my system.  Maybe some yoga in a little while.  The husband was right — have to choose things that will restore me right now instead of damage me further.  

sigh.  

 

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

tiny glimpses of grace…

Today is my 20th day sober.  (mental applause!)  I was really struggling last night.  Yesterday I kept myself insanely busy, working out, organizing, writing, etc.  By the time my husband came home from work the last thing I wanted to do was cook and mess up the three day extravaganza of organizing the kitchen.  It was in spotless order!  All I wanted to do was go out to a nice dinner, which I could NOT picture doing without a glass of wine.  The husband was exhausted and hungry and wanted to just go somewhere.  For him, it’s easy peasy to go out and not drink.  I was conflicted between wanting so badly to go out, but knowing it would be hard for me, and wanting to please him by just toughing it out.  So we went.  

We went to a place where I used to go after work and have wine and sometimes food by myself.  The bar is super cozy and the food is awesome.  At the time, I was living in an adorable little duplex on my own, during a period of time where I was new in my career, newly single and nursing a broken heart.  My cousin and best friend was the bartender there, so it was a perfect way to grab dinner and drinks while socializing with her.  I love this restaurant and rarely go there anymore because she doesn’t work there now, and I don’t live in that little duplex anymore.  It holds fond memories, but I also associate it with the soothing comfort of an expensive glass or three or four of red wine.  However, they have a gluten-free menu, and the husband is trying out the gluten-free thing to see if it is the cause of some symptoms he’s been having.  So we went.  

I was totally anxiety ridden about ordering, without ordering wine.  I was imagining the awkward moment where the server would ask, “can I get you a glass of wine?”  and having to say no and order something “lame” (my mind’s adjective) like tea or mineral water.  White knuckles were in full effect.  When we arrived we were told it would be a half hour wait and I had that panicky feeling like, what the hell would we do for a half hour if we couldn’t get a drink at the bar while we wait!!!??  But then a spot opened up and we sat down.  Whew.  

When our server came over, turns out it was a girl who I’ve known since childhood.  I don’t know her well, but our dads worked together for years when we were kids.  I see her once in a while around town and our families give us news about each other.  I happen to know that she is in recovery.  She actually managed a sober living house years ago that my brother went to, and in fact she had to kick him out at one point for testing dirty.  Since that time, she asks about him when I see her.  She has, as far as I know, stayed sober since going to treatment almost ten years ago and has totally turned her life around.  I immediately felt a sense of relief that she was serving us.  When she asked if I cared for a glass of wine, and I ordered an elderflower spritzer, (delicious by the way), I still felt mildly awkward but so much less than I otherwise would have.  

This is a small thing, but it felt huge.  It felt like grace.  It helped me get through the witching hour and come out sober this morning.  And for that I’m so grateful.