Day 14 on 2/14

Last night was my 14th day and also V-day… a day that my husband hates, but that he reluctantly participates in so as not to hurt my feelings.  Truth be told, I could not care less about valentine’s day either, especially since it’s one week before our first wedding anniversary which feels like the real special day.  But there’s still like this pressure to do something, you know???  

Normally, my hubs and I would make reservations at some fine dining place, where I would get the pleasure of ordering a fancy bottle of wine to pair perfectly with our food.  How I love to choose a special bottle of wine.  It is a ritual that calls upon my artistic side, my knowledge of different varietals, how they complement various dishes, what brings out the flavors in what.  I adore this process, the server pouring me a taste, to get my approval before pouring a delicate amount into both of our fancy glasses, the warmth in our eyes as we share a toast to whatever feels meaningful to us in that moment.  But this year, that was not to be.  So I set out to find us something different to do.  All a fancy restaurant would do for me now would be to cause distress at this perceived loss. 

Instead, I signed us up for a yoga workshop.  An evening workshop for partner stretching and massage.  When I proposed this idea to my husband, I was sure he was going to roll his eyes and say something to the effect of, “over my dead body.”  Rather, as he so often does, he surprised me by simply saying, “sure, I’ll do that with you babes.”  Swoon.  

I was under no delusions that we would take it completely seriously, and was pretty sure that we’d have a few good laughs about the experience and I was right.  Quite the cast of characters in that studio, as perhaps only those of you who live in a fairly (ahem) liberal area can imagine.  But overall, what was really cool was that we were together, sharing a few giggles, learning some easy and fun stretches and massage techniques.  We were connecting in a way that we normally never would be.  My husband got to meet the teacher who is instructing me to become a yoga teacher.  We had a genuinely good time.  

The studio owners, afterward, offered a wine tasting for all of us.  I felt mild regret about not participating, but I noticed that it wasn’t so much that I wanted the wine as it was that I felt a bit left out, or rude, for declining.  We thanked the teacher and told him we were both on a “drinking hiatus,” he hugged us and gave me a rose, and we left.  Stopped and had sushi for dinner on the way home, which was less tempting.  (For some reason, eating Asian food of any kind, sushi, vietnamese, chinese, or whatever, does not trigger my wine-drinking impulse the way other fancy restaurants do… I associate it more with tea!)  We got home and curled up with books in bed with our great Dane in between us.  (So romantic!!)  And it was just fine.  

This morning when I woke up, I was greeted with the amazing feeling of having had genuine sleep and saw in the mirror my bright, white eyes.  Any feeling of loss for not having had wine I might have been hanging onto melted completely away.  In the end, I know we had a better valentines day than we would have if we had followed our normal routine of fancy dinner + cocktails, bottle of wine, nightcap.  No arguments.  No drama.  No worrying about who drove.  Just togetherness.  And a toast with a big glass of cucumber water.  I felt more loved than ever.

 

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“You become what you repeat…”

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was going to begin training to become a yoga teacher this month.  Now I’m a couple of weekends in, and it is helping immeasurably with the urge to drink.  In fact, this time around I’ve had almost zero cravings.  I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I left my job and my routine is different, that I’m actively trying to care for myself, and that I’m being more honest with others about what I’m going through.  But there’s also this idea our yoga teacher introduced us to on our first day of training (also my day 1, and first day of teacher training!) that is simple, yet has stuck in my mind since then as a kind of mantra:  

“You become what you repeat.”  He referenced the yogic spiritual practice called Abhyassa when talking about this idea, and also called it “brain plasticity.”  Isn’t that so much of what we’re talking about here, with our attachments around alcohol consumption?  We practice consuming alcohol with dinner (wine), in social situations, to celebrate, to mourn, to relax, after work, etc.  We repeat this behavior because it’s the norm, and then that behavior sinks into our private lives as well, and the more we repeat it the more we become it.  

The opposite is also true.  This time around is markedly easier because of the things I’m doing to support myself, but also because I got some sober time under my belt on my previous rounds.  Each time I abstained, even if only for a week or so at a time, I added days that are like extra muscle fibers helping carry me now.  It is easier to divert myself to something else when I feel my urge to have a glass of wine coming on.  I’m getting better at rewarding myself with other things.  I’m practicing repeating positive behaviors and trusting that the more I repeat them, the more they will become my life.  Maybe it really is that simple.  It helps when I’m having a tough moment to pause, breathe, and remind myself that I’m practicing right now, and practicing can be hard.  But that with enough practice, this will become natural.  I will make it look easy.  It will be my life.  

And today, I rewarded myself with tulips and dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.  :):)

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There’s something about day 10…

So now I’ve been here a few times, on my tenth day sober.  I like day ten.  It feels long enough to have detoxified, to feel healthy and clean, and like an accomplishment.  It feels like I can be sure that I’ve recommitted myself after several shorter stops and starts.  I haven’t been blogging as much, I think because I wanted to prove to myself that I was really doing it this time, the full 100 days, and I wasn’t sure I trusted myself to keep going.  But I’m feeling confident today.  Here’s what’s helping me this time around:

First, I made the very difficult decision to leave my job.  I love my career and find it very fulfilling in many ways.  I’m talented at what I do, people respect me in my profession, and I have lots of room to grow.  I’m sure that most people did not see my departure coming and expected me to continue to rise through the ranks.  However, I am positive, after reflecting a lot about myself and what is healthy for me over the past couple of years and especially the last couple months, that it was not good for my health to stay there.  I know that for me, the amount of stress I was dealing with at a job that is notorious for causing “compassion fatigue” and severe burnout was simply not good for me and not good for my ability to stop downing a bottle of wine every night.  So I resigned.  Life is too short to sacrifice your health and happiness to stay in a job just because you feel it’s the “right” thing to do, people expect it of you, or any other reason.  Ultimately, you only have today.  And today I choose to make decisions that take care of me.  I’m stepping out in faith that I will figure out my next path.  I have savings, and a plan, but it’s still a little scary.  However, I am also finding that just shaking up the routine of coming home stressed out of my mind and popping a bottle of wine to cope has already helped.  I’m doing different things with my time this past week and it feels pretty amazing to have the pressure relieved.  

Second, my husband is taking a break from drinking for a month or two with me.  He’s not a drinker of the same variety as I am (he drinks beer, I drink wine.  He drinks mostly on weekends and can easily go all week without, I drink daily.  He can open a beer, drink half, and leave the rest, I cannot.), but it still helps to have us be doing the same thing for now, especially while I get some time under my belt.  I’ve opened up to him more about what’s been going on for me and he is always there to listen and have my back.  Pretty awesome.  

Third, I opened up to one of my best friends about my struggle today, and she’s the first person I’ve talked to about this whole thing aside from you fine people in the sober blogosphere, my husband, and lovely the Belle (who inspired me to go for 100 days in the first place and who keeps patiently resetting my start date for me without judgment…).  This friend is one of my main drinking buddies, but also a true best friend, who I’ve been close to since we were 18 year old babies.  We’ve worked at a deli together, been roommates, gone to school together, and had countless partying times together.  Lots of fun, but also a large number of the craziest times I’ve had, and a lot of the things I regret, have involved her.  She is one of my favorite people on this planet and I love her to death… I was scared to tell her about my issues but felt like in a way, she would understand because she has seen me at my worst.  I was still afraid though, that my decision would somehow damage our friendship; that she would think I’m boring now, or wouldn’t want to hang out with me.  I was so happy to find out that I was wrong.  She totally understood and even related stories of a couple other friends of hers who are doing the same thing.  She’s been traveling a lot, and seems to have grown immeasurably herself.  

In short, I underestimated her and it hit me that I’m probably projecting my own shit onto her.  Just because my drinking self used to find sober people exhausting, boring, overanalytical, and irritating doesn’t mean that’s how she feels.  True friends will just be happy to hear that you’re taking care of yourself, and that’s what she did.  We went to yoga, had lunch, and I dyed her hair, and it was great.  No thing.  I’m not going to go around telling all my friends, but I did realize something today:  It’s okay for me to go ahead and make decisions that feel right for me.  I don’t have to have anyone’s permission or approval to choose what I know is the right choice for me.  I struggle with allowing myself to just do what I need to do out of fear of how those choices might inconvenience others.  I feel guilty for being vegetarian when invited to someone else’s house, for example, because I don’t want them to have to change their cooking plans for me.  Similarly, I was scared to be sober because I don’t want any of my drinking friends to be uncomfortable around me.  Does that sounds crazy?  Enough of that!!  Only we know what it’s like to live in our own bodies, and what our own intuition is telling us about what to put in them.  I’m learning that I need to give people more credit… most people who love you really don’t care about what you eat or drink as long as you are healthy and happy.  

It really comes down to support.  I’m supporting myself by leaving an unhealthy situation no matter how scary that change is, my husband is giving me some kick ass support, and so is my best friend.  And so are all of you.  So maybe there’s something to this asking for help business.  🙂  

That, and I am allowing myself a supportive cupcake as the need arises.  

 

Day 7 of no alcohol and Day 4 of juice fasting!

Other than being ever so slightly hungry, I feel like a million bucks, seriously!  I can’t believe how good my body feels for giving it this gift of cleansing.  It has made abstaining from alcohol easier the past couple of days, because I’m focused on the cleanse and detoxing.  For the past four days, I’ve been drinking fresh juices and water, with mixes made from veggies and fruits like carrot, celery, apple, kale, parsley, beet, pear, ginger, chard, cucumber, and oranges.  I’ve never felt so healthy since I was a child.  It’s weird.  My vision even seems clearer!  I have a natural energy that I know I’ve felt before but it’s been so many years that it’s a foreign feeling.  

Today is a bit hard, only because it’s Saturday and the husband and I are lounging around the house with no plans other than to relax and watch a movie or two tonight.  He just went to pick himself up a burrito (swoon) and some organic berries and mint for me to make myself a dessert juice.  Sounds good, right?  It’s going to be my mock wine.  Only better.  But seriously, lounging around the house with time to relax definitely makes me want to drink.  I associate relaxing with wine.  It’s the weekend!  Relax!  Pour a glass of pinot and have some lovely cheese and crackers!  (Okay now I’m really making it harder on myself.)  I’m wondering when those thoughts will dissipate, or if they ever will.  It’s a learned behavior — for so long I’ve had wine to relax at home.  I’ve loved nothing more than to curl up in front of a favorite show or good movie, snack away on something fun and delicious, and wash it down with some fancy wine.  I live in wine country after all!  It’s a way of life here.  

I need to experience the discomfort of creating new habits, and it’s hard.  (Whine.)  Today in yoga my teacher kept saying that the true practice of yoga is to experience happiness in times of discomfort.  In a challenging pose, for example.  That concept translates to life off the mat and I find it extremely useful to meditate on it when the cravings hit hard.  I am happier sober.  This has proven itself to be true, time and time again.  If I can breathe through the craving, breathe in that happiness I feel when I wake up hangover free in the morning, and breathe out the craving, breathe out that urge for a vice whose happiness is a lie, it helps.  

On that yoga-geek note, I’m excited to say that I’ve signed up to start my training to attain my yoga teacher 200 hour certification!  This is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I really started a regular practice in May of 2011, and I’ve decided that this is the perfect time to dive in.  So I’ll be busy for five weekends starting in February.  When I am practicing regularly, I am better able to handle everything, including quitting drinking.  Plus, having yoga training on weekends is that much extra incentive to be alcohol free… drinking and yoga teacher training just do not go hand in hand.  

Staying focused on my goals and breathing through the hard parts… that’s my mantra today.  What helps you through a difficult craving?

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.

My first sober new years!!

Well, ok sure.  I was sober plenty of new years under the age of 18.  But once I lived on my own, I know that I never had another one.  Wait, there was one, about ten years ago, when I had previously contemplated my intense party-girl ways and had retreated to a friend’s house in Seattle to take time off.  But that sobriety stint lasted a couple of weeks and then I never saw another sober NYE.  Until last night!  Party at our house and all, I did not have a sip of alcohol.  

We had about 15 friends over throughout the night, I had cooked food and made snacks, people brought food and smiles and hugs.  Luckily most of the friends we invited were not our craziest party friends.  They are all people who drink, but pretty moderately.  They are people we have other things in common with through our careers or yoga.  So it was not as hard as I expected.  I had a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne that was actually pretty decent.  Turns out, there was another person at the party who was not drinking too, and he kept coming back to share the bottle of the non-alch stuff with me, which was pretty cool.  We talked a lot about health.  He had come prepared with tea and coconut water, which he shared with me too.  He was open about being on his tenth day of not drinking, for health reasons.  Made me feel more normal and less like I had to hide that I was sober all night.  All-in-all, it somehow really wasn’t a big deal.  

As the night wore on and people started to show their intoxication, I found myself actually happy to not be drinking.  The hardest part was while we were waiting for people to arrive (usually when I down a couple to ease my anxiety about the event) and during the first couple hours.  After that, no one really seemed to notice I wasn’t drinking, and I just stopped caring.  Here’s the crazy part — I stopped caring because I was actually just having fun.  Having fun sober.  I have been telling myself that this is a foreign concept to me, but somehow my mentality shifted last night and I just decided to give it a go.  Luckily I have great friends and it simply wasn’t a big deal.  I even danced with my husband and friends.  And totally noticed how awkward my dancing felt, but also didn’t let it get to me.  

You know what really helps with this fun-without-alcohol thing?  Besides having good friends who I realized I need to spend more time with (instead of cousin and her husband and their circle, as previously written about), yoga.  Yoga really, really helps me remember to breathe and be present.  That I can even take it one breath at a time if I need to.  It seriously motivated me to have a yoga workshop to look forward to today and the thought of attending it helped me stay with my goal of not drinking last night.  

Today in the workshop the yoga teacher invited us to feel proud of ourselves today for something we’ve accomplished, even if it was just showing up to yoga.  When he said the words, “you should feel really, really proud of yourselves,” I was so moved.  Because I am.  I am really, really proud of myself for staying true to my intention to not drink and for experiencing the beginning of a new year with clarity.  So now I am on day four and I am feeling great.  Whole new ways of living are ahead of me and I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds.  

Happy new year friends, and thank you for getting me through this hurdle by sharing your stories in this sober blogoshpere, and with your kind comments of encouragement.  I am so grateful.