Am I sparkling yet? 100 DAYS!

I first started this blog back in June 2020, at which point I was a good year and a half into seriously struggling to control my relationship with alcohol. I had read so much about how you need to give booze-free living at least 100 days to really see how it goes. I had also read so many people talking about how incredible sobriety was and how it brought them back to their real self.

So I thought – I am desperate to sparkle again. I sparkled once (and by sparkle, I just mean that I lived with contentment and optimism, and loving kindness to the world), I can sparkle again, dammit. So I committed to 100 days.

And then I drank, got up, brushed myself off and committed again.

Drank, got up, brushed off, committed.

Repeat ad nauseum (literally, in most cases).

Honestly I started to think 100 days was impossible. Maybe you’re here, where the thought of stringing three digits together is mind-bogglingly impossible. Been there.

But finally, FINALLY, here I am, three digits on my sober tracker. So the big question is, am I sparkling? I would say yes, AND.

Yes, I am sparkling again – AND the sparkle is so much truer and kinder and gentler than I expected. I am slowly developing a loving care and respect for myself that is nothing short of miraculous. I have confidence in myself to do things I wouldn’t have let myself believe were possible before. I’m mothering myself like I should have been, and like I hope I can teach my children to do.

I knew it would be good, and it IS good, but so much more differently good than I could have predicted. Deeper and more meaningful. It’s not just not drinking. That’s almost a small piece of it now. It’s so much more about loving and encouraging myself and showing up every day to take care of me.

A sober friend asked today if I was going to continue. It was almost a surprise, like what? You think there’s any way I would possibly give this new life up? For the sake of WINE? No way in effing hell. What a racket.

And can I just say, what a beautiful about-face that is from the struggles early on. I am, and continue to grow more and more grateful.

If you’re struggling, please love yourself and continue. It’s worth it, and YOU are worth it.

xoxo

11 weeks, WHAT?!?

For the year and a half that I struggled with countless day 1’s, I would see people post numbers like that big, flashy “78” up there and it just wouldn’t compute. It was like I had asked for directions to the gas station and someone said “yep, just take a left at the tomato and it’ll be right past the cyclone dump.” Um. What? No sense at all.

But here I am, 11 weeks in. Miraculous. Truly. I don’t think I have a single iota of space left in any of my cells, as they are all full to the brim with gratitude.

For me, something shifted around 2 months (right after making it over the massive Christmas hurdle which turned out to be a mere speedbump for all I’d been dreading it). All of a sudden, the focus was no longer just on the thought “Do. Not. Drink.” Somehow, through some bigness outside of me, my brain started opening up to the possibilities of what lays beyond drinking.

I’ve been listening to Super Attractor by Gabby Bernstein and working on a [mostly] daily yoga practice. I’ve been dreaming about the future and getting excited. I’ve been able to notice all the tiny beautiful moments in my day (like listening to my two-year-old mimic an opera singer on one of our kid albums – never fails to make me laugh out loud). The muddy quagmire of early sobriety is finally starting to get rinsed off and I can see a little farther every day.

The cravings are not gone, but I haven’t spent even a second seriously considering giving in to them in well over two weeks. It’s more just like a knee-jerk afterthought, a vestige of former brain activity that still lingers in my consciousness. They are brushed off so swiftly, it’s barely a thought.

It’s also not all easy. I am still learning to manage anxious episodes, still wake up grumpy some days with little reason and struggle to break out of it. My sugar addiction rages on and leaves me feeling much the same as my booze addiction used to. But, there is light again. There are sunbeams on my face, so even though things can still be hard, the warm glow of sobriety softens the edges in a way I could only ever dream of.

My point in sharing all this is mostly for the newbies out there. Keep going. Keep suffering those day 1’s. There’s no magic rule for WHEN it’ll be your last day 1. Mine took the better part of two years. But there will be a last one. I can truly say now from experience, and not just on faith, that the suffering is WORTH IT. It took longer than I wanted but it was worth it.

Future me will thank today me

I’m back in a craving, angry funk and have been daily debating how much longer I can hold out. Yet somehow, every day I squeak past witching hour by the skin of my teeth and wake up grateful, but nervous.

Everyone says this is hard work, so my experience shouldn’t really come as a surprise. I don’t want to be a dry drunk which means I have to take this seriously and get through it if I want to arrive at that bigger, better life I crave.

I’m trying to latch on to this thought of how grateful future me will be for taking care of myself today. I’m looking at this in all aspects. I’ve been a nutritional nightmare for a month: future me will thank me for eating a damn salad today. I’ve been letting my laundry pile up: future me will thank me for just folding it and putting it away, right away.

And most importantly, future me will reach out to me today and hug me, and brush my hair back from my face and kiss my cheek. She will say, Thank you, dear one, for this struggle. Thank you for enduring such a severe and unrelenting discomfort. Thank you for somehow, by some will you don’t understand and never knew you had, continuing to say no.

She will recognize how I was totally blindsided by how hard it would be, for how long, and she will hold me and say, you had the power in you all along. It was uncomfortable peeling back those layers of self doubt, because you’ve never lived without them. But now you’re free and naked and can start clothing yourself in things you truly love: confidence, self-love, optimism.

So, while it remains hard, I am preemptively grateful that I’m crawling through, step by step. Everyone says it’s worth it. Future me knows it’s worth it. Today me just has to not drink today.

Just another month on the calendar

I’ve been stressing a bit about the BIGness of getting through the holidays sober. I’ve been letting my mind wander to bad places, imagining drinking this Christmas the way I have in past years. My memory sugar-coats and romanticizes it, and I have to shake myself in reminder of what I know to be true about how I would drink if I could: copiously and destructively.

So, this led to a bit of an epiphany as I was looking at my sober app and congratulating myself on both September and November completely booze-free (October… different story…). December is just another month. Just another 31 days, of which I’ve already been sober for almost a third now.

A pandemic-silver lining, I’m recognizing, is zero parties (my province is on complete social lockdown) so I don’t have to face the challenge of normalized drinking in festive atmospheres. All I have to face is my own addictive voice, and I’m getting better and better at shutting her up.

I’m coming out of a short week of really tough emotions, and thankfully feeling better and better, and I’m going to cling to this thought when stress around sober holidays come up: it’s just another month. Just 21 days to go. No big deal.

And to make it through my first sober Christmas would be SUCH a coup, such a victory. I can do it, I know this! It’s just a month on the calendar.

Rookie mistake

I’ve been feeling ridiculously cravey for four days now. Strong, almost physically painful pangs to just NUMB. My life is feeling so blah and I can pinpoint a thousand reasons for it but bottom line is, the cravings are there and they are pulling out all the stops.

I have a group of sober girlfriends who are supporting each other through these early days (6 weeks today, woop!), and honestly, the only thing that kept me from downing a bottle of wine was the knowledge that I didn’t want to tell them I had. But – I wasn’t grateful to them for that. I was actually angry. I was mad that their existence kept me from behaving in the self-destructive ways I really wanted to.

I told them this (they’re addicts, they get it!). One of them replied, “Remember, it’s not the wine you want. What you actually want is to not feel like shit for a while.”

DUH.

This is where the rookie mistake came in. I’ve been on this sober journey for close to two years now and my brain knows that feelings are going to come up and they’re going to be hard and I’m going to have to figure out new ways of enduring them. And yet – when that scenario was happening in full technicolor, I totally lost sight of what was happening. I started believing the old voice that told me booze would fix it.

I’ve been rolling this thought around in my head for the last half day since she said it, and it’s starting to wear down the edges of the cravings. They’re still there, but I feel like I’ve sort of capped their intensity a bit. I’m in the middle of tearing my eyes away from staring at the cravings and moving my vision toward other coping mechanisms.

This is all just hard. I knew it would be, and it is. And I can remind myself it’s early days yet, but it’s still hard. I’m told that 100 days is when you start to really see the light at the end of the tunnel, and 6 months or so you start to come out of the tunnel completely. But right now, I’m still just in the dark, moving on faith that this is indeed a tunnel leading somewhere and not just a dank, musty cave.

Total downer post! But – for posterity – I want to make sure I remember how bad it is right now. I don’t want to be here again.

Please comment with your favorite coping mechanisms to not feel like shit. I’m willing to try anything right now!

My second nemesis… sugar

Christmas used to be a time of consumption for me: shopping, booze, and sugar.

I can’t really avoid the shopping! I have every intent of avoiding the booze. And the sugar question is really, really hard for me.

Anyone else out there also battling a sugar addiction?

I’m recognizing that I use sugar in all the exact same ways I used to use booze. I turn to it when I’m bored, when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m anxious. I know the generally-accepted wisdom is to relax on the sugar issue while you’re in early sober days.

The thing is, the way I use it elicits all the same emotions afterward as booze used to. I feel ashamed. There’s endless self-recrimination for my inability to just stop. I binge and then I’m mad. Superficially, I know it wreaks havoc on my hormones which, among other things leads to pimply skin and belly bloat.

So on the one hand, I don’t want to overload myself with quitting two addictive substances at once. On the other hand, I don’t want to feel shitty and bound to a substance for any longer than I have to.

I welcome your insights! Thoughts on battling co-addictions that the world at large doesn’t view as actually that bad?

Day 30 Morn’

Here I am, starting out Day 30.

Outside of pregnancy, I have been here twice in the last 15 months or so. The last time, I was shocked and surprised that it was all still so hard.

This time, I’m neither shocked nor surprised that it’s all still so hard… 🙂

I was pretty smug in the first few weeks as I had next to no desire to drink. But the last week or so has been hitting me really hard for some reason . The best way I can describe it is grief over all the parts of boozing that I loved.

I’m trying to just be okay with it. As the sober wisdom tell us, as drinkers, we were well-accustomed to drowning out hard emotions in our glasses and never actually deal with them. I don’t want to judge the grief, because the relationship with wine wasn’t all bad (until it was). I don’t want to spend time on regrets because that’s a waste of energy.

Long-term, I know I won’t miss booze. Like the guy I dated for four years in my 20s, finally broke up with, cried for a while, missed him for a while, and now think of with COMPLETE and UTTER gratitude that I ended it when I did. My life is infinitely better without him.

I’ve said it before, but wine was a shitty friend to me in the end. I may think of our good times with some sadness, but also with faith that the cloud will lift and I will lose the grief, moving on to gratitude only.

Today, at 30 days, I am grateful to be moving through this and not be stuck anymore. Here’s a booze-free cheers to all the other hardy souls out there also working hard to keep moving!

Fighting my grizzly

My daughter turned 4 on October 28, and I have this romantic notion that it would be really beautiful to be able to say “I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since she turned 4!” Currently, that statement is true. My last drink was two weeks ago on October 27.

A sober friend sent me this post yesterday titled The Tipping Point by the wonderful Laura McKowen. In it, she writes: “Call it a disease, a condition, a bad habit, call it whatever—I came to respect [alcohol] the way I respect a tidal wave or a grizzly bear. I’m not going to pretend like I can play with either of those things.”

Gang, I just can’t mess with alcohol. It does as much good for me as a boxing match with a grizzly bear. The only difference is, with a grizzly, I’d very appropriately try to run and hide instead of booze, where I welcome it with arms wide open to tear me to a pulp.

There is so much inside me that just begs to be loved and cared for and understood, and alcohol just keeps me in the pit of thinking I don’t deserve that, that somehow I am unworthy of a beautiful life.

But it’s not true. And I’m starting to see this fight with addiction as being less about ditching booze, and more about fighting with all the layers of experience that have lied to me about my true self worth. Alcohol allowed me to just tap out of the fight for a while, and it was fine until it wasn’t.

That sweet daughter of mine? I never want her to have to know this fight. I want her to have an unshakeable knowledge that she is worthy. Of anything, anywhere, anytime. She is good enough, she is strong enough, she is loveable enough.

Alcohol stole these beliefs from me. My fight now is to take them back.

Data Points

When I did the September Live Alcohol Experiment with Annie Grace, they make a point of seeing “relapses” instead as “data points”. They’re opportunities to observe a drinking session and examine what was really going on.

So, I had a data point over Canadian Thanksgiving last weekend. We traveled 9.5 hrs in the car to spend the long weekend with my brother. He is historically a heavy drinker, so I knew I had to have strong resolve, and I did! …at least, the first night.

[***trigger warning***] They’re the kind of people with booze proudly on display: a beautiful liquor cabinet; wine bottles artfully arranged; sparkling glasses ready to be filled; a little sign saying “mama needs a cocktail”. And they start drinking early on the weekends. So after being immersed in that for 24 hours, I caved. Then more the next night, then a couple nights again after we got home before I got back on the straight and narrow.

At this point, I had 6 sober weeks under my belt, so going back to day zero really sucked. It felt like it had been forever, but my first learning from the data point is that six weeks is still eeeeeeearly days in the sober world. In retrospect, it was foolish to think I was strong enough to have drinking in my face for 3 days straight and not cave.

My second learning: the peripheral danger of a new day zero is how it affects my addicted voice. That little hooligan big-time capitalizes on a day zero to encourage future drinking. It says things like “you may as well have a drink tonight because you’re already on day zero. You have no momentum. Just start over again tomorrow.” That’s what kept me going a few more days afterward.

Now that I’m FINALLY back on the wagon (four days, whoop!), my third learning is recognizing how beautifully comfortable my sober space has become for me. When you’re in the throes of addiction, it’s agony. The emotional thrashing, existing in a pit of stinky, gross shame and self-loathing is such a horrid place to live. Coming out of it feels like having a hot shower, a warm cup of tea, a solid meal and relaxing on the couch in front of the fire. It’s not fireworks, it’s not legendary, but it is oh so comfortable and comforting.

So – back to protecting my baby sobriety like my life depends on it. Because, well, it does!

No pink clouds

You hear a lot of people talk about the “pink cloud” in early sobriety. Apparently it’s a feeling of euphoria, of extreme pleasure in life and where you are and everything is just wonderful.

I haven’t felt that. I’ve actually felt remarkably sorta middle of the road.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than drinking. Better by a long shot! I would say it’s differently better though, like on a whole different spectrum of “better” than I could even be on when drinking. It’s like I used to be on highway 10, winding through a valley, thinking I liked the view of km 50 better than 20. Now I’m on a completely different highway that’s up on the mountains and I can see so much farther and it’s stunning! But I’m still just sitting in a car, driving through life.

I’ve honestly been okay with feeling a bit, well, “meh” because it has been SO much better than the agony of wanting to quit drinking and not being able to. And I feel so much more hopeful which, in and of itself, is an amazing thing. But I’ve wondered about that pink cloud.

Yesterday I listened to an Annie Grace podcast (This Naked Mind episode 320) talking about the pink cloud and the takeaway I got, from her breaking down the limited science on it, is that the pink cloud is not to be trusted. It’s often the people who feel it more intensely who end up relapsing. It’s like they get trapped up in the euphoria of sobriety and forget to be vigilant about watching for addiction triggers.

For me, these last 36 days, I have been vigilant. I’m feeling good but with an underlying wariness that I’m still in the danger zone. Maybe this is why I’m not in the pink cloud? I’ve decided that’s okay.

In an unrelated sober victory, my kids and I were doing our typical Saturday afternoon routine of hopping in the car, going to the river to throw rocks, then finding a playground to kill some time. Historically I’d enforce this time purely as an excuse to stop and buy wine on the way home. Friends, I went to bed yesterday and realized I hadn’t even thought about wine. I didn’t even glance off the highway at the no fewer than 5 liquor stores within easy stopping distance en route to the playground. VICTORY. Well, at least for that day.

Btw – 36 sober days under my belt. This is officially the longest I’ve been consecutively sober outside of pregnancy since I started drinking at 20!

I’d love to hear some stories of your early sober victories! They are so fun to read!