Work and cravings

Someone in my online sober community said this: “remember, it isn’t supposed to be easy. If you truly want a change, then you’re going to have to work for it.”

Funny how you can know something but it takes a while to really let it sink in. I want to lose ten pounds and I know it’s going to take time and effort. I don’t waste time moaning about how hard it is to eat well or exercise, I just do it (or don’t), and move on.

Why do I agonize over booze cravings? Why do I sit in judgment of myself for having them in the first place, like somehow I’m failing just for having wanted it? I don’t do this with sugar. I crave candy and it’s not a big deal. I either give in, or I don’t, but I don’t draw any big conclusions about myself over my behavior. Yet if I give in to booze, another highly addictive substance, somehow that means grand and terrible things about me as a person.

It’s becoming more apparent to me the longer I go through this, how well-programmed I am to be harsh with myself. I know I’m not alone in this.

Today, I’m going to work on responding to the cravings with “no thank you, I don’t want a drink today” and try to view it as an external thing, like I’m turning down a server at a restaurant. If they offered me raw eggplant I would say “no thank you”, maybe suppress a little gag, and move on. No different with booze. 🙂

I’m also going to be okay with the work. I don’t mind the work of exercising, because I know it brings so many good things into my life. In the same way, I am going to try to be aware of the choice to be content with the work of resisting cravings, because going to bed clear-headed and waking up sober might be two of the best feelings in the world!

A breakthrough of sorts

First off, can all you wonderful, lovely, encouraging people go check out https://findingthebestofme419040771.wordpress.com/? She is new-ish here and needs bolstering from all you hearty souls out there!

Next: I think I may have had a breakthrough? Of sorts?

So, I’ve read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace which was hugely helpful in reframing some of the things I believed to be true about booze (most critical being that I need it to relax). The truths in the book carried me for months all the way to a stumbling block where I’ve been stagnating for months now.

While I recognize that booze doesn’t actually relax me, I do know that it DOES sedate me. And I like feeling sedated. I like blissing out into that immobile state where I do nothing of importance except breathe. What I’ve been struggling with is why, when I have a really great life (loving husband, pretty amazing, albeit challenging, preschooler/toddler, a flexible job, comfortable finances), why do I feel I need to sedate myself from experiencing it?

THE BREAKTHROUGH: I have high expectations for myself. Higher, honestly, than they ought to be. I feel like, after work, I should completely tidy the kitchen and prep dinner for tomorrow and lay out my clothes and pack the kids’ day care backpacks. I should do something creative: crochet, sew, scrapbook. I should declutter and clean and complete the tasks that nag me and keep my home from feeling truly peaceful. I should put time into the coursework I need to advance to the next level in my career.

But – I just don’t wanna.

So, instead of being a mature adult who recognizes and respects her emotional needs and allows herself downtime in the evening to recharge, I bliss out and sedate myself with booze so that I simply CAN’T be productive.

It is the oddest, most contradictory thing, but it’s almost like I say to myself, I’d rather be drunk and unproductive than lazy and unproductive. Like somehow it’s better to down a bottle of wine and waste money and time the next day recovering, than simply being gentle with myself and saying “hey, your day wasn’t that tough but you know what? You have one life to live, and if you want to live it on the couch rewatching Queer Eye on Netflix, have at ‘er. That’s okay.”

To boil it down, I was using booze as an excuse to be unproductive rather than giving myself the grace and freedom to just BE unproductive, and be ok with it.

Phew. That thought came to me at that old favorite time of day for us addicts, the sleepless 3 AM hour.

I’m on day 4 today and I am going to expect nothing of myself tonight except kindness and compassion, and sobriety. And hopefully WAY fewer wakeless 3 AMs in my future!

Powerless

I’ve never been wild about the AA line where you admit you’re powerless over alcohol. It feels defeatist to me, tail between your legs, almost victim-like.

BUT. In a podcast yesterday, the host made the comment that it’s ok to admit that you don’t have power over certain things. Her example was, if you pick up a flame, you don’t have the power to keep yourself from getting burned.

The whole issue with alcohol is that it makes people become physically addicted to it. I am powerless to change that. I have become addicted, and I have no power to change that.

What I DO have power over is not picking up the flame, not opening the wine bottle, not even entertaining the idea that I can drink. So, I’m not powerless over my behavior, but I’m powerless over the results that happen when I misbehave (if I have one drink, I WILL have five drinks. I will never stop sooner except in the rarest of circumstances).

Thinking of it this way gives me more peace about admitting I’m powerless in the face of alcohol.

The challenge remains, for me, to set my boundaries far enough away from the edge that I never even entertain a thought about drinking. For me, once the thought is there, it’s almost impossible to stop the train.

Does anyone out there have any insight on training yourself to actually truly not want to drink? Not to just want to want to not drink? Can anyone even follow my convoluted questioning?

Dry July

It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks and I drank most days since Father’s Day. Bleh.

But, hubby has joined me for Dry July (well, at least for the two first weeks), and I feel massively encouraged by that.

He and I had chatted a few weeks back about my drinking. He’s not terribly observant and I’m pretty sneaky (as I think all heavy drinkers are!), so he doesn’t know how bad my dirty little problem was getting. He actually said at the time that he doesn’t see a problem with me cutting back but thinks that maybe giving it up completely is too much. Again – if he knew how much I actually consumed, I have no doubt he’d be singing a different tune.

In any case, he’s dry with me for a couple weeks which is fun! I plan to do the whole month. I feel like if I can get a month under my belt then I’ll have gathered momentum to hopefully push me onward. Up until now the longest I’d gone in a long time was ten days but usually it’s 2-3 days at a time before I throw in the towel and bring all momentum to a crashing halt.

I was listening to a sober podcast today where the guest (Ronnie Stevenson) told a story about a person who wants to get sober and asks a sober guru for help. They agree to meet at a beach the next day, at which point they walk into the water. The guru then pushes the person under the water and holds them there, struggling, until they almost drown.

Finally, the person is released and comes up choking and sputtering, and obviously furious. The person demands to know why the guru did that, and the guru responds something like, “as soon as you want sobriety as much as you wanted breath when you were underwater, then it will be yours.”

My question to myself: do I want sobriety as much as I want to breathe?

Honestly, I waffle so much. I want to want sobriety. But I also really enjoy the blissful sedation in those first heady hours when the buzz settles in. I really do not enjoy the ensuing hangover, impatience, thirst, poor sleep, shame, irritability, anxiety, etc.

I wonder when I will pass over the secret, hidden line where I value the joys of sobriety more than the sedation of a good buzz, enough to take seriously the side effects of drinking. Everyone you hear from who’s long-term sober (we’re talking 6 months plus) says it’s amazing, incredible, joyful, and I have no reason to doubt that. And yet – for some reason I doubt them otherwise, why would I keep drinking?

As usual, I have no tidy conclusions for this line of thinking.

All I know is that today, I have pledged for the health and happiness of myself and my family, not to drink. It’s going to be a good evening. I love clocking sober days!

She lived a decent life (Day 3)

The things that I could do today to bring me joy are:

1. Sitting and reading with my kids at a random time of day (i.e. not just before bedtime)
2. Going for a run
3. Getting a few rows into my crochet blanket

Ok, maybe “joy” is farfetched but these things would bring me contentment and satisfaction, and a feeling of a life well-lived. This is what I think is a big, gaping hole on my drinking days, and sort of mirrors the concept of mediocrity that plagues me. Drinking days waste my life. They waste time while I’m doing it, and they waste time the next day while I recover and am less than good as I live my life. 

I know the first couple weeks require a lot of gentleness on my part: no pressure to do too much or to start losing weight. Really, I just keep people fed and not get fired, which is easy considering how little I’m working in COVID times anyway! 

The thing is, I used to think drinking brought me joy. I know now that drinking brought me sedation and the absence of stress and pain. This is NOT the same as joy. As my drinking evolved, I started recognizing that while the sedation of it was pleasant at the time, it brings about a disproportionate amount of unpleasantness on the back end. 

What a sad reflection that would be on my life if I didn’t end up stopping drinking: “she lived a life where she didn’t feel a lot of pain or stress.” Uh, BORING. That does not sound like how I’d like my obituary to read. “She gave life her best and was fully present for all its ups and downs.” Much better legacy, and more realistic than “she lived life full throttle and on her own terms” which I don’t think any of us really can or want to do!

What brings you joy? Or at least brings you satisfaction of a day decently-lived, which may be more attainable than joy! 🙂

The thing I never, ever regret (Day 2)

I made this comment in a reply to Claire who I will learn how to tag eventually on here (I swear I’m tech savvy but oh well). I never, ever regret waking up sober.

I was telling her that it’s like working out: it can be really hard to get yourself to do it, but you never regret having done it. I honestly can’t think of a single sober morning that I wished I’d drank more (well, besides maybe in my early 20’s when I didn’t know better).

Then, when I started thinking about it, I realized I had more sober firsts under my belt than I realized:

– my brother’s wedding with an open bar. I was dating an alcoholic at the time who was on a sober streak so it was in solidarity. I remember taking a pic with the bride and bridesmaids drinking champagne while we prepped and I totally faked it. This won’t surprise you: I still had a ridiculously fun time! I also ended up meeting my future husband there although I didn’t know it at the time

– my husband’s 40th birthday. Maybe not a real sober first since I’d found out that morning I was pregnant with our first kid, but again – still a great time in spite of the sobriety! I DID wake up sick and nauseous but that was the little munckin’s fault, not booze’s. (Side note: she’s 3.5 and sitting next to me playing with her farm set while I write this. Yes, she and her little brother are my #1 why’s)

– work steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris with paired wine. Ok, that one was hard, but I was also two days sober at the time and KEENLY aware of it. That was also the event where I learned just how delicious an icy soda and lime is! That was also also the event where I learned that as a newbie in my industry, I am WAY better served by not being drunk at events like that. Who knew (she asked SUPER sarcastically)?

I still say stupid shit when I’m sober. I still fall down and hurt myself. I still dance terribly. I still wake up and pee too often. I still cringe at the dumb shit that comes out of my mouth. I still have trouble sleeping. I still have mediocre sex sometimes but it’s always with my husband! But none of those things are tinged with that extra edge of shame and despair because I was drunk at the time.

Oh, and I also have a lot of amazing sex sober too, certainly more than I ever had drunk! 😂

Relieved and wary (Day 1)

Technically yesterday was my first full sober day in a while, so I’m on Day 2 now, but I think it helps to not count the day until it’s complete! I did decide to count publicly again, purely for my own accountability.

So – I’m relieved. Relieved for a morning with no regret (just a crackin’ headache and exhausted in spite of the alleged 7.5 hrs of sleep my Fitbit claims I got). Wary because I have been here so. many. times.

We had a flurry of family stuff the last ten days and I drank 9 of them. I learned that I need to stop being so private and scared about my sobriety. It’s a tiny precious baby. By not protecting it out of fear of judgment or being “other” with my in-laws, I am being an incredibly neglectful caregiver.

I think it’s simple, actually. The drink that calls me is wine, and my in-laws consistently bring over a box and leave it on the counter. I will just ask them to not leave it on the counter! If they put it somehwere out of site, where I can’t sneak a glass when others aren’t looking (as if they cared – I haven’t told any of them I’m trying for long-term sobriety), I will be less likely to cave.

Also, honestly, I need to limit my exposure to the heavy-drinking side of the family for a while. It was a brutal couple weeks with a couple different events and I regretted every single time I decided to drink. The only “good” thing about it was having a few bonding moments with my sister-in-law, whose relationship with her brother/my husband is not good and full of a lot of insecurity and judgment. It felt like I was rebuilding a bridge a little by relaxing and chatting.

But – that could be done sober too. I just don’t actually sit and chat sober because I’m either chasing littles or trying to cook or sleeping! And – oh wow this sounds horrible to say – I actually like her better when I’m tipsy and don’t care as much about the contradictory nonsense and excuse-making that comes out of her mouth all day long.

Whoa, hello Judgypants. Guess it’s not just her own brother who judges her.

That was a little bit of a rambling tangent there but the point is: I’m relieved to be off the pop again, as the Brits like to say. But I am wary because I know I sink all too quickly into confidence and out of vigilance. I’m layering my sober tools like a sonofagun this time. I started a new sober app that has a daily pledge with a picture of my two cherubs to remind me why I’m doing this. We all deserve a better me!

The beautiful lady living in my thoracic cavity

I started a new journaling app today and this was the prompt and the outcome:

Goal: I want to successfully complete 100 days sober in a row
Make it easier: I need to get to ten days first. I’ve only done that once in the last 10 months. After ten days, I’ll do another ten. Then another ten and another and and and…

I know that being on “vacation” at the lake is a big trigger for me. Drinking starts early and is a given. And we are here so much, which is AWESOME in many ways but such a scary ground to start sobriety.

I’ve been white knuckling and I know that’s a recipe for disaster (obviously, as I’ve failed at my commitment NOT to drink for the last 8 days in a row). Wolfie tends to tell me right after nap time that it’s been a hard day and I need to bliss out with a good wine buzz. Problem is, I KNOW this bliss is short-lived and I KNOW I’ll be upset the next day with myself but I still do it. 

I’ve been working on picturing my inner guide as a beautiful, older lady dressed in flowing clothes who lives in the middle of my chest cavity and is there just waiting for me to ask for her help.

This beautiful lady wants only good for me. She knows me and knows I’m capable of moving mountains and knows I get stuck in the small things. But she’s rooting for me. 

I need to actually ask her for help when that addictive voice starts speaking seductively to me. Actually, it’s not seductive, it’s more like a good buddy cajoling me into a drink. “You can always start tomorrow, may as well tack on one more drinking day. What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that my life is so small when I have to live it hungover. It’s full of silly irritations that are totally unnecessary and that I probably wouldn’t notice with a clean and clear head. It keeps me mediocre and dear GOD there is nothing I want less than to be mediocre. 

She can help. My inner guide is me and she is powerful beyond measure.

Discovered a new trigger!

…and his name is husband…

My husband is 95% wonderful: excellent dad, emotionally aware and introspective, kind and generally compassionate. BUT. When he’s upset about something, he doesn’t talk about it, he just kinda stews and is quiet and disengaged.

My own dad was not nearly as wonderful as my husband (still a decent man but dealing with a lot of his own stuff) but he would go into dark spaces for days or weeks and we kids would have to tiptoe around and watch our words so we didn’t set him deeper into his downward spiral.

I realize now how unfair that was, and that a child should never bear the responsibility for how an adult is feeling. But those channels run deep, and now when my husband retreats, I feel a mixture of the fear I had as a child that somehow it’s my fault, and also a really strong irritation and resentment because I don’t understand why it’s so hard to just say “I’m dealing with some stuff and I’m not ready to talk about it.”

I’ll give you three chances to guess how I behave in response to my irritation and resentment, but you’ll only need one.

I’ve come up with a few more appropriate responses than drinking:

– naming it: saying to him “You seem upset about something. Do you need some time away from family duties to work on it?”
A lot of my resentment stems from my dad getting into moods but still being around and crabby and we all had to deal with it and behave in front of him. Honestly, if my husband is going to disengage, it’s easier if he’s physically not present either.

– deep breathing and repeating a little mantra, something like “his bad mood is his problem, not mine. Drinking makes it my problem and doesn’t actually change anything. Sobriety remains my #1 goal.”
Even if it’s something I said or did that triggered the bad mood, it’s still HIS issue that he needs to work through, or at least have the guts to bring up to me instead of letting it fester.

– physically shaking it off: mini dance party with the kids or ten minute yoga session to break the momentum of crabbiness

Anyone else deal with this kind of thing at home? What positive coping strategies do you use?

There’s layers to this s***, playa – tiramisu

Shout out to any Macklemore fans out there! The rest of you are thinking “what the hell does that title mean?” 😂

I’m still working on reading through Belle Robertson’s Relapse ebook. So far she’s talking about sober tools and how we don’t get to say that one just didn’t work. She’s proposing that sober tools need to be layered.

Hot bath alone not cutting it? Add some meditation.
Still craving after meditation? Try getting into your hidden candy stash.
Addicted voice still whining through the candy? Get your journal and review your whys.
Why’s not cutting through the bulls***? Get your runners on and go walk.

You get the point. Layer it up.

I know that for me, I tend to adopt a f*** it mentality when I’ve gone through a few tools and I’m still craving. News flash – turns out sobriety is a LOT of hard work in the early days and we get tired. Putting effort into it over a couple hours to beat the cravings is exhausting.

Belle’s encouragement to keep adding layers was powerful to me yesterday as it allowed me to try a few more things (one being guilt-free chocolate, yassss) that kept me away from the booze.

The other thing that is a small ray of hope is knowing it’s not going to keep being this hard forever. I’m in the bushwhacking phase of creating new brain trails but they’ll get cleared eventually. I just have to stop relapsing and allowing the jungle to encroach on my hard work.