My first AA meeting drove me to drink

maurin-quina-french-poster-affiche-leonetto-capielloI went to my first AA meeting on Friday. I thought I would try it, and I was struggling with wanting to “feel good” by drinking, so I was hoping it would help.

My fear about AA meetings — besides that they’d be awkward and tedious — is that I’d be so emotionally stressed by the experience that it would drive me to drink. I used to binge on powdered donuts after every therapy session, back in the day…

And this is basically what happened. ūüė¶

Yes, I’ve learned from it. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it and hate to disappoint all of you who have been so supportive. Yes, it SUCKS to start at “Day 1” again, despite all of the days in between that I haven’t had a drink. Yes, I am convinced now that November 27, 2015 was my last drink. I want to be free.

I keep thinking about how Heya, Monster empathized with how painful it can be in the early days of trying over and over before it finally sticks. Yep. Here I am, right there. (Fork in eye…)

On the way back from the meeting I was feeling so down/stressed that I convinced myself that it wouldn’t count if I had a drink. (Seriously, what?)¬†It’s just a test, I told myself.¬†I needed to prove to myself once and for all that even a “nice” bottle of wine wouldn’t taste good and wouldn’t be worth it. I totally convinced myself that I would just pretend like it never happened and keep counting days.

And do you know what? I bought a really nice bottle of wine that I’ve loved in the past — and it tasted bad. I could taste the alcohol in a harsh and bitter way that I’ve never noticed before, and there was no upside. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t “gorgeous” or yummy. And probably thanks to the naltrexone injections that I’ve been getting, there was no euphoria. No buzz. No momentary surge. No thrill. NONE of what the dopamine glutton that lives in my wine addict brain¬†thought she needed. Just. this. once.

Still, as I was deeply into the “experiment” that I told myself “wouldn’t count” against my days AF, that I would just “pretend like it never happened,” I drank a second glass of wine. That was it. I didn’t finish the bottle and the next morning, completely nauseated and with a screaming, pounding headache, I poured the rest of the bottle down the sink.

I spent half the day in bed.

THIS is why. I quit drinking. This is why.

Wine will never be the answer to my dopamine levels being low. I see this now. I get it. I have to find new ways to feel euphoria. New paths to goodness and joy. Pleasure. Wine will never lead me there. I finally really really know that now. It may take time and I may have to suck it up and wait it out, but wine is not the answer to get me there.

I guess the good news is that I’ve had so little to drink in the last few months that my body is REALLY reacting to wine like the poison it is, from even a little bit. Before I quit drinking, two bottles of wine in one night wouldn’t have made me sick like that. This is good. Fucking ass hole wine goblin. I’m going to starve your sorry ass. You won’t win the next round.

I’m sorry to disappoint myself. I’m sorry to disappoint you. And of course once the wine goblin had his way and I had done it, the fog lifted and I knew I couldn’t lie and pretend it didn’t happen. Addicts are liars. I’m no liar.

So, if we’re counting days — which we are — I’m back at Day 2. Fuck me. Day 2.

I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed.

I’m so tired of thinking about this all the time. I think I’m going to start Belle’s “Sober Jumpstart” class on December 1. One more tool of support to get me through the tough first 100 days. One more tool.

Fuck, I’d take 30 days at this point.

I’ll get there. The wine goblin may have won this round, but he isn’t going to win the war. I want freedom.

I’m going to make it this time and I hope you’ll stick with me. You’ve made a big difference in my getting this far. Here’s to picking myself up and starting again.

Rachel.

 

 

 

 

Dinner with Bradley Cooper

It’s a glorious, beautiful day today. Not a cloud in the bright¬†sky, the ferries glide back and forth across the Sound, and tug boats and cargo ships move gently under the morning sun. No one hurries.

I feel so much better today, and resolute to find new ways to cope with the alcohol cravings when they come. I see now that drinking really was my “best friend,” a destructive, deeply emotional habit that I’ve used as a crutch for many, many years. I guess (despite what Allen Carr, Jason Vale and others might hope) I can’t expect it to be gone overnight.

Holidays are tricky times for a lot of people, drinking or not, and Facebook has only exacerbated that. I know myself well enough to know that if I’m feeling like I’m in a fragile place, I either don’t get on Facebook, or I give myself ONE post from someone else that makes me feel bad/sad/bothered, and I shut it down. I try to stay off altogether on holidays, because that one power-packed post often comes quickly. Holidays are funny that way.

As I’ve said, I’m single, and my biggest fear, above all others by an order of magnitude, is dating and having a romantic relationship, without drinking. Of course rationally I can call that hogwash and know that I can have as much fun and romance without wine (or more) than with it, but there is a huge part of my head and heart that longs for the champagne for two on the balcony looking over the Mediterranean. Sharing a bottle of gorgeous red over a candlelit dinner. Toasting an anniversary or celebration at a table with my love and our best friends. Meeting for a drink on a cold, winter night, snow falling, just the two of us and no one else matters.

It goes without saying but I’ll say it: I’m a hopeless romantic.

I know that all of these things can happen without alcohol, and yes, I’ll actually be fully present for them. (To do: re-read the chapters about this by Allen Carr, Jason Vale and Annie Grace…) But wow, the pull. The fear of rejection. The wish to be loved fully and well, and to paint a romantic picture around all of it that, which has always included wine. Always wine.

I bring up Facebook because last night and today there are so many photos of families giving thanks. So many lovers and loves. So much beauty of love and romance had by so many lucky people who have found each other. Oh sure, I am keenly aware of the Facebook illusion, but sometimes even knowing that, it doesn’t matter. You know? Sometimes I let myself slip into the fantasy of meeting the love of my life and having all of that romance we see on the silver screen and the computer screen — just before there is a surge of fear that my not drinking will somehow cut my possibilities off at the pass. That saying “no thanks, I don’t drink” will suffocate any potential love I might find before it has a chance to grow.

I know it’s not really rational, and those who might have an issue with my not drinking might have their own issues with da booze. But at my age it’s a numbers game and creating more obstacles to finding someone is nerve-wracking. Jaysus, I’m already a pescatarian (nearly vegetarian) with an egg allergy who only drinks decaf coffee. Thank GOD I’m not gluten free. Then I might as well kiss ever having sex again goodbye.

ūüėČ

I know that when I’m becoming best person I can be — alcohol free and loving life — that’s when I have the best chance of finding my amazing and incredible life partner.

Now say it ten times fast. Now ten more. 

I can know all of these things in my brain, but it may take some time for my heart to catch up. It will just take some time.

I did a Google search for movie stars who don’t drink. I figured that with their fantastic beauty, dating lives, social calendars, high profiles, etc., if THEY can live their lives alcohol free (and still be fantastically desirable and cool), I sure should be able to too. Some of those I found were addicts who got clean, and some just made life choices to eliminate alcohol from their lives because it wasn’t helping. I keep the list hanging on the cupboard in my kitchen, and when I need a reminder of how many Beautiful People I’m in good company with, it’s right there. Boom.

…and let me just say that if Bradley Cooper or Ben Affleck wanted to meet for dinner or drinks (AF, of course), I’m quite sure we would have a fecking fantastic time without a drop of wine in sight.

Me-ow.

bradley-cooper

Here’s my list. If you have other favorites who inspire you, please let me know!

  • Bradley Cooper
  • Ben Affleck
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Jennifer Hudson
  • Christina Ricci
  • Kristen Davis
  • Macklemore
  • Tom Cruise
  • Eminem
  • Eva Mendez
  • Kim Cattrall
  • Tyra Banks
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Natalie Portman
  • Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Blake Lively
  • Edie Falco
  • Ewen McGregor
  • Rob Lowe
  • Robert Downey Jr.
  • David Beckam
  • James Franco
  • Matthew Perry
  • Katy Perry

I’m going to go ahead and add Jane Goodall to the list, because I’m willing to BET she doesn’t drink and she’s pretty fecking inspiring too.

Deep breath, Rachel. Life is good alcohol-free, and love (when I find it) will be too.

Has it really only been 13 days?

Day 13. Rachel.

 

I am a mountain, I am a mountain

Today was Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m grateful for a lot. Really. But today was more difficult than I expected.

My dog and I went to my Mom and step-dad’s place about a 75-minute drive away (which turned into 2 hours with traffic). I know Mom always pours herself a huge glass of red wine whenever I arrive — and I always join her — but even armed with three different kinds of NA beverages, including NA beer, I didn’t expect the powerful wave of desire and craving to hit me as hard as it did.

So I started talking about how it’s bugging me that I’m gaining weight since quitting drinking, ha ha, I said, which was not in my plans. Without missing a beat, my step-dad pours himself a full glass of bourbon on the rocks, and doesn’t engage in my¬†conversation.

Sure, that’s probably about him — maybe he’s even a wee threatened by my quitting drinking. who knows. — but what I needed in that moment was support. I know my Mom is supportive of my not drinking, but it was odd: she changed the subject and started talking about her new puppy.

I drank the NA beer even though it tasted bad and didn’t help much to distract me. I was bored and trapped and I clearly hadn’t prepared properly for this. (Next time I’ll bring healthy snacks.) I glanced at Mom’s wine glass. She was already a quarter of the way to the bottom. The bottle still sat there on the counter, where it always is, staring at me invitingly.

I grabbed a Kombucha and started shoving handfulls of peanuts into my mouth. I scanned the room, searching for anything I could snack on. Nothing!

Mom, please stop telling me stories about people I don’t know or care about.¬†

The puppy is barking barking barking at Bub, he won’t stop barking.

I text my sister, who also doesn’t drink and will be arriving with my uncle:¬†Where are you? What is your ETA? Mom and (step-dad) are drinking and I’m painfully bored and really REALLY want a glass of wine.

Fun is on the way,”¬†she answers. “We’re about 30 minutes away. (Uncle) says we still need to stop for the cocaine.”

Perfect. I joke back. Just get here.

I finish the Kombucha and grab a Diet Coke out of the fridge. More peanuts.

I decide I need to call on a mindfulness meditation I¬†learned last week. There were two: the first one had us imagining a mild trigger and the wave of craving that would move through our bodies, then holding that feeling. Holding it… Holding it… Then asking ourselves, “What do I need right now?

The second started with imagining a mountain. A big, solid, beautiful mountain. The seasons move in and out around the mountain. All kinds of weather batters the mountain, swirls around the mountain, bears down on the mountain, passes in front of and behind the mountain, and all the while, the mountain is steady. I am to imagine I am part of the mountain. I am the mountain. I am the mountain.

Mountain

I move to the big chair in the living room while my Mom carries on in the kitchen, making the mashed potatoes, checking the (humanely raised) turkey, drinking her wine. I sit with my eyes closed, my hands on my legs. I breathe and imagine myself as the mountain. Solid, unchanging, unreactive to the wave of craving that is crashing through me like a front of thick fog.

Breathe. I am the mountain. 

Then I get another text from my sister. My uncle now has a flat tire just a few miles away. My step-dad is going to leave to find them and help.

My mind begins to race: If my Mom goes with him, I can pour myself a glass of wine and pound it back. No one would be the wiser. I can have a glass of wine. I want it. I want it.

My rational voice tries to fight back:¬†No, you don’t want it. You DON’T want to start at Day 1 again. You DON’T want to feel like shit tomorrow. It won’t even taste or feel that good. It won’t be worth it. You don’t need this. It’s poison.

Why do you think you need it?

I am a mountain.

Why did I quit? I’m trying to remember. I don’t remember.¬†

Because you were out of control and it was only getting worse. You look and feel like shit.

I am a mountain.

Breeeeeaaathe. You are a mountain. Don’t give into it. Stay strong…

Mom comes into the living room and sits down. She’s not leaving with (step-dad).¬†I breathe and imagine the wave of desire pass right through me.¬†It will pass,¬†I tell myself. It will be OK. Breathe…

It passed. Mostly.

I’m home now. I thought about going across the street to the corner store and getting a bottle. I’m getting fat fast and this is not OK. My fingers are puffy and my pants are tight. I can NOT get fat in exchange for not drinking. That will ruin my healthy, upward trajectory faster than anything. I will fail.

Millie joked that she basically had a feeding bag strapped to her face for the first few months after she stopped drinking, figuring it was better to eat than drink (and she lost the weight again). Others have told me that too.

I have a history of an eating disorder and so using food the way I have been and gaining weight is extra complicated for me. If I lose control of my food/eating in exchange for the wine, this will NOT be an acceptable trade-off. And it will sabotage my progress, I guarantee it.

I arrived home still uncomfortably full from Thanksgiving dinner AND dessert, but reached for more ice cream (“instead of wine”).

Then I heard myself think LOUDLY:

Maybe I can just drink one glass of wine a night and not eat dinner. I’d lose weight. I could get thin again that way. That would be better than getting fat.

Sigh. That’s why. That’s where my brain goes.

I didn’t go. For now, I am choosing not to drink. As Augusten Burroughs said about people who have successfully quit, I am just not doing it.

I decided to write about it instead. I’m going to try to be gentle with myself and allow that the last two weeks have been another lesson about how to cope, and I quickly need to adjust course. Tomorrow I will put my eating train back on the rails and find healthier ways to distract myself from drinking. Like walking my dog. Like rowing. Like going to the gym. Like reading. Like writing. Like sleeping. Hell, like just about anything but eating or drinking.¬†

I closed my eyes and cracked Cheryl Strayed’s book¬†Brave Enough¬†to a random page. This is what it said:

We are all at risk of something. Of ending up exactly where we began, of failing to imagine and find and know and actualize who we could be. We all need to jump from here to there. The only difference among us is the distance of the leap.

– Cheryl Strayed

Until tomorrow, then.

Day 12. Rachel.

p.s., Sorry this is so long, y’all. I had to get it out. ūüôā Very skimmable, indeed.

 

Boo yeah – Double digits

Bill MurrayI’ve never made it to double digits before. My whole drinking life. It’s been ten days without a drink, and I feel pretty good. My mind feels clear, I realized this morning I didn’t take ANY ibuprofen today (unheard of!), and I do feel a bit more confident than I have in recent months. A bit.

Although I shouldn’t have stepped on the scale this morning. That didn’t help. I’m up a few pounds in the last few weeks. I guess all that mac-n-cheese and chocolate is paying off! :-/ ¬†So, while I completely agree that it’s better to be eating than drinking, if I start putting on weight, it’s going to be a problem. I had binge eating disorder in college which I got over, but gaining weight will still be¬†a real mind fuck, and will not help me stay alcohol free. So, today I tried harder to keep the snacking in check. Tomorrow too. I’ll figure out how to stop putting things in my mouth to keep it occupied AND still say no thanks to alcohol. I will.

I also looked really tired today. Like I’ve said, I keep waiting to start looking AMAAAAZING, which would actually be a great boost in motivation, but so far, not so much. Maybe it’s because I’ve gained a little weight? Maybe it’s because my skin is breaking out (hello toxins gushing out of my liver!), I feel like I’m retaining water which isn’t normal for me (despite the gallons of herbal tea I’m drinking), and my dog woke me up a couple of times in the middle of night, so I woke up this morning looking like I’d actually drunk a couple of bottles — without the hangover.

This is not how this is supposed to work.

I’m hanging in there. I did my best with my makeup this morning and then just hid behind¬†a pair of chunky glasses instead of wearing contacts. Issue solved.

Now my next goal is two weeks — this Saturday. Heya, Monster inspired me to set mini-goals and as soon as I nail one, immediately start another one. I’m not always awesome at setting goals and keeping them, but now that I’ve made it to 10 days, I’m going for 2 weeks, then 3 weeks, then 30 days, then… I guess we’ll see! 100 days? Solstice-to-solstice?

Simmer down, simmer down…

First, 2 weeks. Two weeks and go easy on the mac-n-cheese. And get enough sleep. And get more exercise.

At 3:30 today the wine goblin whispered in my ear:¬†mmm, it’s almost the holiday. What a RELEASE you’ll feel with a bottle or two of gorgeous red.¬†That bastard is insidious.

I finished Annie Grace’s book This Naked Mind, Control Alcohol¬†last night, and re-read my favorite (highlighted) parts of¬†The Sober Revolution, Women Calling Time on Wine O’clock,¬†by Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca¬†too. I bought that book at least a year ago, and re-reading the parts that resonated with me was interesting. They were all the same messages from Annie Grace’s book, as it turns out. I guess I just wasn’t ready to really do it yet.

In order to walk away from booze for good, it is essential that upon reaching this incredibly positive and empowering decision, you recognize that it is a step which will lead you to great things, the beginning of an exciting adventure and a whole new way of life.

–¬†The Sober Revolution

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that for most people, quitting alcohol is a process, and the HUGEST part is the mental shift. It took me a while to be ready, lots of negotiating with myself about moderation, lots of trials and fall-starts and lessons. Lost of frustration and shame and regret. I really do want an alcohol-free life, but despite it all, the addicted part of my brain is still fighting tooth and nail to change my mind. It will take time and practice to starve that ass hole wine goblin long enough that he finally unclenches from my brain stem. But I know the truth now and he can fuck himself.

And anyway, they say anything worth having doesn’t come easy, right?

Right?

Day 10. Rachel.

Taking care of business

Man, I got a lot done today, and had energy to do more. Was up early, breakfast, showered, laundry, dishes, read, blogged, went to REI for some things I needed (including waterproof socks for rowing!), then to the park for a 3-mile walk in the woods with my dog and a good friend, lunch, then looked up details for a return I need to make, then a (subpar, you-get-what-you-pay-for) pedicure (my toes are VERY red) and dinner (take-out pizza from a place I’ve been saying I need to try for months). Now I’m reading and taking care of some housekeeping, and it’s not quite 6pm. Feeling myself getting sleepy, so I’ll hit the rowing machine (erg) soon, and get ready for some awesome Sunday night TV. Loves me some¬†Madame Secretary¬†and¬†The Good Wife.

I haven’t accomplished that much on a Sunday in I don’t know when.

At the pizza place, a *really* handsome man told me I was very pretty while I was waiting. I sure haven’t felt pretty lately. OK, sure, he was drinking wine and watching the football game which was in the 4th quarter and he’d probably been there since kick-off, but it felt nice anyway. (Is this the other side of regret? Suspicion about¬†the authenticity of what someone tells us when they’ve been drinking?) I’ve been waiting for my skin to start glowing and for people to tell me how FAH-BULOUS I look since I quit drinking. Hehe. Hasn’t happened yet, and somehow I don’t think this counts. Does it? Nah.

It’s interesting to me now when I notice the desire for wine cropping up. Walking home from my pedicure at about 4pm tonight (oh wait, the witching hour), on a beautiful, crisp Sunday evening, the wine goblin whispered, Maybe you could have juuust one?¬†

Yeah, right. Just one.

Guess I’d better finish that Annie Grace book.

And goddammit, I’m almost to double-digits. I don’t want to start over again. Nine days is the longest I’ve ever gone without alcohol since I started drinking at age 20. That’s tomorrow. Tuesday is 10.

So now, I’m sitting through the mild nagging for a (delicious! ~Signed,¬†Wine Goblin)¬†bottle of wine with my Rooibos tea in hand. Feels like I may be getting to bed early tonight, and that is alright with me.

Day 8. Rachel.

Hello Saturday sunrise, nice to see you

I’ve definitely been giving myself some permission to eat “comfort” foods since I quit drinking. I crave sugar a bit more, sure, but last night I had deep-fried, mac-n-cheese balls(!) dipped in marinara sauce with a salad for dinner. Lunch today was chicken-fried tofu and a HUGE spoon (OK, ladle) of mac-n-cheese from Whole Foods (the bomb) and three big chocolate peanut butter malt balls.

Hell yes.

I have no intention of gaining weight (it will be salad for dinner), but the 1-2 bottles of wine a night that I haven’t been drinking gives me a teeny bit of leeway. For now.

Last night with my fried decadence I also drank¬†a non-alcoholic beer. I know this is somewhat controversial — does it make us feel like we’re “deprived” to drink “near beer”? Does it cultivate the taste for the alcohol, keep it alive? Is it a cheat because part of our brain is still going through the motions of drinking a beer, even if it’s alcohol-free?

I’m not even much of a beer drinker, but I tell you what: It worked. I was having a big craving for wine and went to the dog-friendly pub with my pup, Bub, because he loves it there and I wanted to get out. I wasn’t worried I was going to order a wine for myself (which used to be my habit there), but the taste of beer sounded really good, even knowing I wouldn’t get a buzz. I asked if they carried non-alcoholic beer, and they did.

It was perfect. I drank one with my meal and was done.

I suppose I can hear the argument that this is risky, but I guess I’ll play that by ear. If I feel a stronger urge to drink real alcohol because of it, I guess I won’t do it again. But so far, it hasn’t happened. I’m a vegetarian and I eat Tofurkey all the time. Why? Because after a lifetime of eating meat (until about 8 years ago), when I’m really craving a yummy turkey sandwich (which still happens, despite my powerful aversion to eating animals), “deli style” tofurkey, on wheat, with lettuce, tomato and mayo totally hits the spot. It just does. And no harm done.

IMG_6307I’m a rower. I just learned last spring and I’m completely in love with it. I row in an 8-person boat two nights a week (or more), and Saturday mornings. Since I moved to the advanced crew team, the start time on Saturdays is more than¬†an hour earlier than it was when I was just starting out: a perfectly humane 8:15.

Still, when I was drinking, getting up at 6:45 on a Saturday morning to go row — often in the dark, wet mornings of winter — was tough. And I admit, I’ve missed a few. I just couldn’t get there.

This morning was a glorious, beautiful morning. Yeah, it was 39 degrees, but the sky was clear, the sun was actually warm on my face, and the water was smooth as a plate of glass. The bridges across the lake were spectacular in silhouette against¬†the pink sky and rising sun. I had to take off a layer because we were rowing harder and farther than we have in a while. There were moments when I was in awe of how beautiful the city was, climbing up the hillside, float planes taking off and arriving overhead. There were times as we were really cranking, full out and breathless, that I got goosebumps, so grateful to be there on the water. So grateful to be there feeling good and clear and strong because I didn’t drink last night.

And now, the entire day awaits. So much to do, including a long walk with my sweetest, most loyal love, Bub.

I won’t lie: It’s Saturday and I find my brain wandering occasionally to the idea of having a drink still. Even now.

But I’m holding out for the promised bliss to come (BRING ON THE BLISS!), and if moments like I had this morning on the lake come along a bit more often, it sure will make it easier.

Day 7. Rachel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hierarchy of needs: Red, red wine

When you’re hooked on booze, the decision to drink or not really isn’t a rational one. How many lists have I made thoroughly enumerating the downsides of drinking or the upsides of not? How many times have I looked in the mirror, hungover and red-faced and decided to take a break? How many times, then, have I had another glass of wine before the happy hour struck 4?

Many.

I know people in relationships have their own sets of issues when they’re trying to quit drinking. I used to be one of them. But being single also has its particular challenges, starting with the fact that I can drink any time I want without witness except loneliness, which visits often. Wine has been my best friend and lover for several years now, and if I’m honest, it was the case even when I was married.

Anyway…¬†this isn’t a pity party, I promise. I was just reading¬†This Is How¬†by Augusten Burroughs last night and he had some interesting things to say about quitting drinking that have been knocking around in my head today.

He isn’t a big fan of the AA tenet that we are powerless against alcohol, for one. Rather, he says the power is completely within us. As difficult as it is, I would tend to agree.

But more provocative, I thought, was this:

To be successful at not drinking, a person needs to occupy the space in life drinking once filled with something more rewarding than the comfort and escape of alcohol. This is the thing you have to find.

You might not. Most alcoholics won’t.

The truth is that people who cannot stop drinking are people who, however guilty they may feel and however dire the consequences, have become so addicted to the drug and the experience that they prefer it to the remainder of their lives. While they may truly want to be sober, they want to drink more.

… You can absolutely stop drinking today, right now. The question is only, do you want to be sober more than you want to drink? …

Very few people can answer this question truthfully and reply, yes. 

Yikes. What a buzz kill. ūüôā

It’s kind of terrifying. Because again tonight, and last night, I was craving that comfort and escape, more than just about anything. And I can tell myself alcohol is poison (rational) and that the benefits are a lie (rational) and that my list of why drinking is bad is a mile long (again, rational)… But tonight, home on a Thursday night with my dog, after a tiring week, what I REALLY want tonight is comfort and escape. I want to feel my dopamine receptors fire as if I’m being held by someone who loves me.

And THAT’s why giving up drinking is so fecking hard sometimes. It’s not rational. Those cravings are PRIMAL, and wine taps directly into my limbic system to say,¬†there there, I got you… don’t worry about a thing for now. just put your head here and fall asleep…

And is that really the challenge? Is that really what success will require? Finding something more rewarding than the comfort and escape of a primal longing?

Maybe so. And that’s why it takes so many different kinds of support to do this. It’s really fecking hard to not act on something so fundamental while trying to find something as or¬†more important to replace it.

I’m still holding out hope that at some point things will turn. That this state I find myself in each night won’t feel like giving up that comfort and escape forever. Because I can’t imagine feeling like my life is without the heights of pleasure now that I quit drinking, even if I look and feel better overall — and I hope I don’t have to. I hear it gets better. I know I’m doing a lot of the right things. Tonight I’ll get in bed and push through until tomorrow because it’s finally time to sleep.

And Augusten wasn’t a total scary bummer. He does also say this:

You don’t need to take action to stop drinking… all you have to do is sit.¬†

In 100 percent of the documented cases of alcoholism worldwide, the people who recovered all shared one thing in common, no matter how they did it:

They just didn’t do it.

I’m putting it out there to the Universe that I hope the new bliss of being alcohol free doesn’t wait too long to pay a visit. Please, oh, please, Universe? Bring mama some big goodness.

Because, maybe it goes without saying (seeing as I have this annoying¬†alcohol habit), but I’ve never been very good at delaying pleasure for the promise of better things to come. This is really an exercise in faith — mostly in the blogosphere and all of those who have come before me who say there are amazing things to come. This will pay off. It will be worth it. Just hold on.

Tonight I’m putting what’s left of my hope and strength in the plate and passing it around. I’m sure¬†it will be full again when tomorrow comes.

Day 5. (again) Rachel.

Brain goblins and razor wire

“Change is an upward spiral.”

A kind and wise fellow blogger recently relayed this quote, which someone had also shared with her. I love it, although I think I’d change it just a bit to something like:

Change is a bloody, upward jig-jagged, razor wire spiral littered with the flesh of those who have tried and failed.

Heh.

 Too dramatic?

Just kidding, although while I do love the image of an upward spiral, I think of the change spiral as much more uneven than a classic egg whisker. Instead it has some jigs, some jags, it expands in places, retracts in others, and has some recursive loops built in at stages along the way.

Sure, it’s nice to give myself credit for making progress, even if I’m back to “Day 3.” (again) And when I think about how much I have(n’t) drunk in the last 4 weeks, even if I wasn’t perfect, it sure is a hellova lot less than I have been drinking the last 4 years. And that’s not nothing.

That’s why some people are against counting days, I guess. If I have 30 days or 300 days and I have a drink, that’s still a shit-ton of shit I didn’t put into my body.

Yes. But.

The trouble is, I know I can’t leave any opening for thinking I can drink every once in a while, or moderately, or at some given date in the future…or that it’s really fine to give in to a craving because on the whole I’m still way ahead.

I can’t and I know it. There is no such thing as moderation for me — I’ve spent a great deal of time, money and angst proving that out — and frankly, I would love the peace of mind that I keep reading comes (eventually) with closing the door. Completely. Shut. Not. An. Option.

Would you like a drink? 

No thanks, I quit. 

And anyway, that shit is poison, right? RIGHT?

Hm. I know it is. I know. And so why can I still vividly remember how much I DIDN’T enjoy drinking last Saturday, and I sure as hell didn’t enjoy the vomitous, hungover waste of the next day…so why, then, did¬†I still hear¬†my old beloved wine brain whispering in my ear on the way home tonight?

C’mon, you want to feel goood. Soooothe yourself… Relapse is noooormal. They are expecting it so what’s the big deeeaal?¬†Where is the pleasure? Wine will feel so good. What else will make you feel so good, especially after a long, frustrating day at work with so little ACTUAL pleasure? C’mon… wiiiiinnne.¬†

I really need to get a boyfriend.

Intellectually, rationally, I know why, of course, and I shut that shit down. I broke it down. I talked to myself outloud while I was walking down the street. (Who cares if people think I’m a little cray cray?) I asked myself: What am I feeling? Why do I think I want to drink? What do I think I will get from it? Why is this coming up now?

I saw myself walking into the corner store and picking out a bottle. In my mind, mind you, not with my legs.

And then, I decided to do something else, something we talked about in my mindfulness class last night. I decided to sit with these uncomfortable feelings. What the fu…?¬†And breathe. Name the feelings. And really notice what was going on and why I was suddenly — and unexpectedly — craving a bottle.

Because seriously, what the fuck? What lowdown, ass hole brain goblin is messing with me when I think I have been perfectly clear I want nothing to do with alcohol anymore?

(I realize Ms. Potty Mouth has shown up to narrate tonight… Who am I to tell her she isn’t welcome? She’s on my side.)

Yes, I had a frustrating day and that old goblin wanted his juice. Jerk. He’s a fecking dopamine glutton and he’s messed with my peace and joy, mainlining off my limbic system for too long.

I got home, leashed up my dog, walked right back to that corner store and picked up two flavored fizzy waters and a package of rice crackers to complement the olive hummus waiting for me in the fridge. YUM.  #screwthegoblin #biteme

Shifting gears…

I LOVE MY LIFE COACH. She’s awesome, and has helped me come further in the last 6 months than I ever would have been able to do on my own. Times ten.

I was telling her about how I invited an acquaintance to join me at the Glen Hansard show last Saturday who had been (somewhat annoyingly) fishing around for a ticket on Facebook. When I suddenly had an extra, I reluctantly asked her¬†if she wanted it. Why did I bother? Because of something I read in Cheryl Strayed’s recent book:

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I thought I should be magnanimous!

Hell, I’m all for doing whatever I can these days to make my life a hundred times better than it is.

So… I¬†gave her this highly sought-after ticket and, well, I’ll just say it ended up not being a wholly positive experience. I relayed the story to my life coach because the whole thing was still nagging at me a bit.

“Fuck being magnanimous!” she said. “You need to keep your focus on all of the things you are doing to make your life better and avoid anything or anyone who causes you grief or frustration. Avoid anyone who doesn’t make you feel awesome and surround yourself with people who support you and all you are trying to do.”

Of course she’s totally right. This whole thing — the quitting drinking and all of the lessons that are inextricably linked to it — are about loving myself more and doing something about it. And leaving as little flesh on the spiral as possible.

Loving myself more. Doing something about it.

Every day.

Day 3. Rachel.

 

 

This is Where I Fall

It turns out Saturdays are the hardest. By Saturday I’m through the “end of the week” drive for relief, and my loneliness moves front and center. It’s clear to me now that I’m going to need more support to get through the tough weeks ahead, because when the loneliness comes, all I want to do is escape it. Escape myself. When the sadness comes, nothing sounds better than that amazing feeling of just blotting out the pain and feeling the soothing peace wash over me.

So I drink.

Except that euphoria doesn’t happen anymore. Drinking isn’t fun anymore. It doesn’t bring peace or pleasure. It doesn’t even taste good anymore. Alcohol doesn’t give anything anymore, it just takes. There is only cost — so, so much cost — with zero benefit.

I’m going to choose to be gentle with myself and be grateful to have finally come to this point — the tipping point. There is no question anymore about cutting back or taking a break. I know. There is no nostalgia left¬†for those fun times drinking on the beach, or overlooking beautiful scenery, or at a candle lit dinner or on a first date. It’s gone. Now, all I want is to rid alcohol — and all it has been taking from me for so many years — from my life.

I want beauty and joy in my life again.

And it’s going to mean I have to face myself and all the feelings that come. The loneliness. The sadness and regret. Because until I deal with those things, I’ll continue to struggle to stay alcohol free. I can’t stuff any of it away anymore. As Ellie from The Bubble Hour said in the episode about relapse (which I listened to today), Recovery is nothing if not an inside job.¬†

I’m grateful to have received an email this morning from Kevin O’Hara of Alcohol Mastery called “Quitting Alcohol Failures.” It was so perfectly timed and I appreciated it so much, because it gave me permission to not completely beat myself up for drinking last night, but rather, consider this part of the process and learn from it.

And did I ever. It sucked. It will always suck.

“Failure is life‚Äôs greatest teacher. It‚Äôs an unwanted teacher because it can make you feel like shit, no doubt about it, but the fact is that you need to learn from each failure if you want to succeed.¬†If you have gone a week, two weeks, a month, six months without drinking and you slip under pressure and take one drink, examine what happened and don‚Äôt repeat it. Think things through. Go back over the videos on Alcohol Mastery until you‚Äôve got your mind back on track. There is no such thing as starting all over again. You start out just where you left off. Think about all that poison that YOU succeeded in not putting in YOUR body over all the time you weren‚Äôt drinking. That‚Äôs huge. One slip doesn‚Äôt take that away. Learn from the slip, get back onto the road, and continue to have great faith in yourself that you can do this, and that this is worth doing. Then you will succeed!”

So, I spent the day feeling physically ill (and pissed that I lost another day), and I finished reading Alan Carr’s¬†Easy Way to Control Alcohol.¬†It’s not a particularly well-written book and he repeats himself A LOT, but I liked the core message, which is basically:

Alcohol is poison and we’ve been brainwashed by our culture to believe we need it in every aspect of our lives (which we don’t). And until we accept those two basic facts, we’ll never be free.

I want to be free.

So, here goes. I decided to post tonight because I’m hoping that the setbacks can be as helpful sometimes as the triumphs. And I know it will be tough moving forward, but I feel better prepared somehow now to brace myself for them and get help if I need it. I’m starting the Mindfulness (relapse prevention) class tomorrow and I’ve been looking into options for support group meetings here in town for next weekend. It’s scary to admit that it’s come to this for me, but that just may be the next step and I’m finally ready to face that.

Thanks for all the support I’ve already received from so many of you out there. I KNOW I can do this. Your blogs and messages of support have been so inspiring and I find myself thinking about things you’ve said throughout the day. It matters.

My quitting alcohol has been a LONG time coming (I cringe looking back) and has taken me a few tries to get my sea legs, but I really do feel ready to begin¬†again. And I’m going to make it this time.

Here goes.

Day 1. Rachel.

Day 5, Part 2 — Out the Shoot

Today is just one day, but I can say I made it through. I think that’s as intense as I’ve ever felt about wanting to just drink, without heading straight to the store and making it happen.

Indeed, it did pass.

I blogged and received some awesome support. I walked in the rain with my dog to get more sparkling water, and when I got back, I went to the gym in my building and erged (rowing machine) HARD for 20 minutes while listening to The Bubble Hour and Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen’s Home Podcast. I showered, made some Sleepytime tea, and now I’ll read a bit before sleeping. I’m completely mellowed out. The danger has passed.

I skipped seeing some amazing music tonight because I just couldn’t trust myself at a nightclub, but that’s okay. I’ll have more chances to great music when I’m feeling more solid on my own two sober feet. And it will be worth it.

Phew. I’ve heard about the tough days and that was tough. But now with my dog sleeping at my feet and at 10:30 pm I’m still sober, I’m grateful I made it through.

And now for a little Allen Carr. I want to see what all the hubbub is about.

Rachel.