Stages of loss

Well, I’m at Day 25 which is mind-boggling. I have clear memories from when I sat stagnating around Day 1 and reading people who were this far in and thinking it seemed insane. Months or years long sober people were like foreign aliens. What they did seemed completely inaccessible to me.

And here I am. I’ve experienced some weird thinking patterns this last week, thinking a lot about drinking and the good parts of checking out of life with a bottle of wine. Weirdly, it hasn’t crossed my mind to actually DO it. No part of me would consider actually doing it right now, but it’s like my brain needs to allow for future me to be able to do it even though I don’t want to.

I think it must be part of the grieving process, like sifting through the remains of a bad romantic relationship. The early days are emotionally easy: you pick out all the crap aspects of the relationship and you reject them, then affirm yourself for your wise choice to end it.

Then later days the memories of good times bubble up. No part of you wants to go back because you know on the whole it was a miserable relationship, but you recognize that it wasn’t all bad.

The thing I’m finally getting through my thick, stubborn, addicted skull is that… well… it kind of WAS all bad. I just didn’t recognize it. Or if not bad, then at least totally unnecessary, just a dead weight that holds you back.

I have said since almost the beginning of my fight to kick this damn thing out of my life in January 2019 that it keeps me mediocre. I don’t expect to be anyone major who will make headlines around the world, but I know that I can live my own life better, and booze keeps me average. Is that what I want my legacy to be?

So, in the meantime, I will sit with the weird feeling of loss for a relationship I’m glad is over. I’ll accept that it’s part of the grieving process for something I thought was a friend and now see so clearly was just a dead weight.

And I’ll reaffirm how EVERYTHING is currently better. Even the hard feelings are better because I know I’m working on them and moving past them instead of drowning them in booze just to face them all over again.

Has anyone else felt this sort of nostalgia for drinking mixed with knowing it wasn’t worth it?

Day 21 and emotional overwhelm

I am obviously one of a large group of recovering alcohol misusers who is also navigating parenting small kids through covid and forest fire fallout so I know that what I have to say isn’t new.

But guys, this is hard. Really fucking hard.

I think it’s mostly hard because I haven’t dealt with tough life stuff sober in many, many years, so I’m not only dealing with tough life stuff but I’m stretching muscles I haven’t used in a long time and attempting new coping mechanisms too. I’m not tempted to drink, thank god (well, except for sort of residual knee-jerk thoughts to go grab wine), but I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice to bliss out of existence for a hot second today.

Instead I’ll just say, this is hard. It’s okay that it’s hard. Feeling that it’s hard is good for me, just feeling it and accepting it and not reacting to it with a manic drive to DO SOMETHING to fix it. This is what life is supposed to be like! Generally content and happy with spikes of euphoria and dips into “this is hard” feelings.

So, no drinking today. I will plan a sober treat for later (I see ice cream in my future), and I will go for a walk and admire the red sun, and I will be okay with it just not being a great day so far. It’s only 10 AM. Lots of time for things to turn around.

14! Well, almost. :)

Technically I need to make it through tonight to get to two weeks sober but I have zero doubt I will so I’m calling it early. 14 days!

Last time I was here was about this time last year. I had lots of short stints, 2-4 days at a time, between then and now. I had a couple that were 10 ish, a couple that were 6-7, but haven’t cracked through that two week barrier in a year.

Honestly, I think the brainwashing is starting to pay off. It’s taken a year and a half of reading and rereading and testing and observing and honestly a lot of periods of not caring and drinking with wild abandon. But I think the facts I’ve been learning about booze are starting to stick.

Here’s what’s changing:

  • I’m starting to be able to truly play through to the bottom of the bottle. I can hop past the romanticized relief of the first glass and see myself with the last glass, sloppy and fuzzy, staying up too late and already feeling guilty, anticipating the shame of waking up.
  • I’m questioning what my brain tells me: “it’s Friday and you deserve to get lost in a bottle of white to celebrate the warm autumn sun and the end of a long week.” Hang on: is that true? Is it actually relaxing? Does it ever play out like I imagine it will? NO. I have small kids and relaxing on a Friday is not something they’ve learned to do yet. Plus, it’s not actually relaxing. See next point.
  • I’m learning to see the truth of the first glass too. Even without the kids around, it’s never as peaceful and blissful as I imagine, because that first sip just wakens the beast who wants more more more so immediately I start contemplating and feeling anxious about my next glass. When is too soon to refill? Is my husband watching? Can I sneak a glug out of his glass? Oh shoot he wants more too now there’s even LESS for me!
  • I really like other fizzy things on ice. Like truly do! Not only does ginger beer taste good, but I could have 7 and no one would bat an eye. But I wouldn’t have 7! One does the trick! Maybe this is how “normies” feel about one glass of booze!

Mostly I assume the brainwashing is really taking effect because it’s been two weeks and I’m nervous to even write it down but — it’s been pretty easy. It’s never been easy before! It’s mostly been agony. But this time I Just. Don’t. Want. It. I’ve had a few cravey feelings but I can immediately see them as false external thoughts and brush them away as not real and not important.

The thought of forever is still terrifying so I won’t commit to that. I know I’ll do 30 days and am pretty sure I’ll do longer but even the fact that 30 days isn’t terrifying is testament to how different this current time is.

For the record, I still feel tired as hell. I’ve been going to bed at 9 and feeling really fine about that. I truly hope that perks up soon because I’d like to start to have time to exercise along with working, momming, wifing and taking care of the house and geriatric dogs!

Anyone else remember when they stopped feeling bone-tired?

Last day until 30 days

A sober friend recommended Annie Grace’s Live Alcohol Experiment to me and I am all signed up and ready to start tomorrow! I’ve read her 30 day experiment book and almost made it through but apparently this, with the online community aspect, is a different ball game.

I’m really excited!

One of the prework videos they have you watch talks about really fostering this excitement. It makes sense to me, the whole idea that where you’re looking is where you’ll go. If my focus is on it being a really great experience and chock full of learning, then it will become that.

Another prework video has you drink the way you normally would but observe what’s really happening in your brain during the whole process. I did this Friday night and some things stood out to me:

  • there was definitely an easing of tension the moment I decided I was going to drink (versus happening when I had the first drink itself)
  • I took my little guy to happy hour at a local restaurant (super tame spot, kid-friendly, don’t judge me!) and had a beer while sitting with him at a high top table. It was really fun! I was going to say that the beer added to it but I don’t think it was the beer itself, it was the environs and the one-on-one time with my guy and not having to cook or clean up. Any delicious beverage would have added to the experience
  • the wine I bought to drink at home when he was asleep wasn’t great at first but you KNOW I still finished it. The experience of being tipsy was nice but also anxious – I felt like I had to keep it going or I would drop and that was uncomfortable. When that bottle was done I absolutely would have started another if I’d had one

So, it was good to experience these things mindfully before going into the experiment.

I don’t really have any social events, not major ones at least, that will threaten the safety of my secure little brand-new sober bubble. Honestly, that’s the least of my issues with drinking, generally. Most of the time I pick up a bottle for no other reason than I let the anxious addictive voice get the upper hand.

My understanding of early days sobriety is that generally it takes about ten days for the purely physical symptoms of detox to wind down. I have made it ten days at least 3-4 times in the last year then cave. I’d really like to know why that’s such a key marker for me?

I’d love to hear your memories of early day sobriety if you’re willing! What stood out? How long did it take for your emotions and physical self to even out? What were the hardest challenges to staying sober?

Things to look forward to

Thankful to Gr8ful Colette for inspiring me to do this: to write out all the things I have to look forward to with being sober.

  • pride in myself
  • energy in the mornings
  • fewer nagging skin/body irritations/aches
  • peace of mind
  • increased ability to be present with my small kids (they’re such amazing little humans and it breaks my heart sometimes how little patience I have for them when I’m hungover)
  • I will be a better partner to my husband and take on more of the stuff he shouldn’t have to do so much of because I just don’t have the energy
  • desire to eat well and move my body
  • time and mental space to work on some of the underlying stuff that got me addicted in the first place
  • money not spent on stupid shit – not just the wine but things like greasy fast food breakfasts
  • brain space to focus on other things besides obsessing about drinking
  • no nagging feelings of shame and regret – well, maybe for other reasons but that’s okay! 😀
  • a big, beautiful life

No one who’s well into sobriety ever says it’s not wonderful. I want to get there! These early days are just so uncomfortable. But you know what? They’re not painful. They’re not pure agony. They’re just uncomfortable and maybe a tiny bit of agony from time to time! Meaning, I can handle it!

TODAY I am sober. TODAY I will not drink.

I’m a GD cheetah

July was so good! Maybe 6 drinking days total. Then August has been shitsville. 5 days sober so far.

So many thoughts to dump out of this brain. 

I’m not drinking today. I KNOW that Wolfie (my addictive voice, named a la the sober coach Belle Robertson) is going to come at me hard and strong and ask me what’s the harm in kicking my sober day 0 down the calendar one more time?

Problem is, Wolfie is a lying son of a gun. Actually, I feel sometimes like it’s disingenuous to believe him to be some nasty creature bent on my destruction. I much prefer to think of him (her?) as my anxious little ego, not wanting to change because change is scary as fuck. Change requires effort and discomfort and being ok with it all not being ok for a while. Change means leaving my comfortable norms (which aren’t that comfortable actually but at least they’re familiar). Wolfie doesn’t want me to change because Wolfie is anxious and scared.

So when Wolfie starts howling at 3 pm I’m going to say: 

  • No, Wolfie, I don’t need wine to relax. It actually makes me feel worse. I’m not buying any on my way home from work.
  • No, Wolfie, wine isn’t my reward for a hard day. My reward is looking with clarity at the faces of my family and knowing that I’m giving them a better me. I’m not buying any wine tonight. 
  • No, Wolfie, I’m not just going to start tomorrow. I hate resetting my counter app. I hate waking up with shame and regret. 
  • Not today, Wolfie. Not fucking today.

I have built myself some strong and deep neuropathways and it’s going to take time to redirect them. 

It will be uncomfortable, but that’s ok. I am learning to be okay with discomfort and to actually sit with it and look at it and start to understand it. 

It will be hard but I CAN DO HARD THINGS. 

Like Glennon Doyle says, I am a Goddamn cheetah. I am built to run. Wine is the fence holding me in.

Muddy and tired but climbing

I made a new sober mom friend through a private Facebook group I joined. She’s new to attempting sobriety (not an old hand at failed attempts like I am!) and asked me what works for me.

My response:

“I think I’ve come to a realization, that there isn’t ever going to be one thing that works for me.

“I’m kinda going with the “throw anything and everything at it as needed” plan. Some days I won’t need much. Some days a mug of tea and a book in the bath will be ok. Some days it’s going to be a knock-down, drag out fight throwing every last ounce of resistance at it. And some days, I’ll just drink. I have to be ok with the process, and the learning, and the knowledge that I’m improving even though all my brain wants to see is the “failure” days.

“But it’s been empowering in a weird way to relax on my search for the one right thing and just keep going with all the little things that do make a difference but seem totally lame. LIke, seriously? Who solves addiction with a variety of herbal teas. CHILD’S PLAY. But, if it adds that 5% of resistance that I need to get through today then who am I to knock it?”

Sometimes I feel like a person struggling to climb out of a deep hole. There’s nothing graceful or calculated about my attempts, like those beautiful rock climbers you can see in clips practically floating up rock faces. This is a scrappy, muddy effort but you know what? All that matters is that I get out of the hole. Grap that branch, brace myself on that rock, whatever works to get out, I just need to do it and stop thinking there’s a best way or a right way.

I’m currently on my 6th consecutive boozeless day. I’ve only drank twice so far in July. That, my friends, is progress. And I am very proud of myself.

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?