Present for the last Sunday of 2015

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

It’s a gray and rainy Sunday in the Pacific Northwest, USA, and four weeks since my last drink. I do feel better – overall – even if there are moments when I want to put a fork in my eye for the boredom. Even if I am still craving euphoria, or any level of dopamine release into my body, and there is some part of my brain that still thinks it can conjure that with a glass of wine.

I’m coming to the conclusion (thanks in no small part to my fellow sober bloggers) that I will have to take my pleasure in smaller doses. Find it in new ways. And it may suck sometimes (that’s life), but it will be worth it.

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My New Year’s Challenge for myself: When bored, DO something. Appreciate the time (so much time). Take a moment to PAUSE, look around and observe at least one thing beautiful about your life. Go erg and get some adrenaline going (and remember a smaller pant size feels awesome and makes you very happy). Sit still and look out the window at the gorgeous view. Do a short meditation and breathe. Look at your list of projects and start just a small part of one (no need to commit to huge projects, just a little bit). Buy yourself a sober treat and savor it. Think about Bradley Cooper (but not in a creepy stalker way). 🙂 And if all else fails, it’s totally fine to re-watch any of the Jane Austen movies or Netflix series that you’ve already watched and loved while coloring in one of your beautiful new coloring books. Completely fine.

On this drizzly Sunday morning, I choose to be present, focus on my one wild and precious life, pack up the mini Christmas tree, and take a long walk in the rain with my dog. There is much beauty in this day and I’ll do my best to pay attention to it.

Rachel.

Day 28.

Searching for pleasure

Tonight I bought a bottle of wine and brought it home.

I’m tired of this. I’m bored. I need to feel more pleasure. I just want to be normal.

I’m tired of thinking about this all the time. I’m tired of fizzy water and tea. I’m tired of feeling like someone on the outside of life.

I told myself not today and I don’t want another Day 1 and I don’t want to disappoint everyone, including myself.

I kept saying out loud, Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I just have a drink to satisfy my desire to just feel good for a little while AND still be considered sober? Why? No, it doesn’t makes sense, but that was what I wanted.

I just want to be normal. I’m sick of the waiting and the hoping and wanting. I just want to feel good again.

So I told myself, I just want to be normal for today and I bought a bottle of wine. I also bought a small bag of Sriracha potato chips, a couple of cheese enchiladas and a whole bunch of flavored seltzer water.

I came home and put the wine on the counter. I looked at my calendar with all the days on the wall crossed off — today is Day 26 and there have been weeks of crossed off days since September, but never 26 straight days. I thought about what tomorrow will be like if I just have one big glass. What if it makes me sick? I need to row tomorrow. I’ll just have one glass. 

I reminded myself that the wine is not going to make me feel so good that it will be worth it. What else can you do to make yourself feel good? 

I just want to be normal. I just want this to not be a big deal anymore. I’m over it.

I put my glass on the counter. I opened the bag of chips and opened my patio door. I looked out onto the water. I looked for the sun. I ate the chips like there was no tomorrow, without slowing down, all they way to the last one. I put the enchiladas in the microwave and turned on the TV. The Martian with Matt Damon just hit the Roku selection, but it’s still only for purchase at $14.99. I was going to wait until it dropped to rental price, but decided screw it. I love that movie and I’m going to watch it now. I need pleasure. I bought it and hit play. The microwave beeped and my enchiladas were done and bubbly. I pulled them out and sat in front of the TV with a spoon. I was going to start watching and then pour the glass. I was going to do it, I just was waiting a minute. I swallowed the melted cheese of the enchilada, bite after bite, and the emotions of the dramatic movie scenes came quickly.

Suddenly I was sobbing. Fully, loudly sobbing. I just want to be normal. I don’t want to be sober anymore. I just want to feel good. Where is the pleasure? Why does it have to be this way? I just want to have a glass of wine, that’s all. Is that so bad? I just want a glass of wine. Just a glass. My dog came over to console me, tears running down my face.

I stood up and went to the fridge for an NA beer. In that moment I knew I would’t be opening the bottle of wine. Not today. I started sobbing again, a new wave of emotion coursing through me, coming from I don’t know where. My dog stayed close, concerned. All of this pent up emotion coming out: a sadness, a loneliness, a grief for whatever this means — the bigger meaning — that I am no longer drinking and on top of it all, where has the pleasure in my life gone?

A flash of red caught my eye and it was the sun setting on the horizon, a sinking blaze reminding me to be in the moment, to savor it. But even then, I could access only the faintest appreciation of the beauty. What am I going to do?

I’ve been reminding myself why I’m doing this, and all of the reasons still hold. But despite all my effort, I’m bored. And I’ve lost some perspective. I need to find a way to pull back, get a little distance and find the goodness in my life. There’s so much of it, but today/tonight I’m just mad.

I told myself, Not today, and it’s holding for now. I worry about what this means for hitting 100 days. If I’m losing perspective and the sand is shifting under my feet. I keep thinking, If “Addiction is an elevator that only goes down,” then when is life going to get better? It’s only been 26 days (this time) and it seems like forever. This is sure a heckova lot of emotion for just giving up alcohol. Then again, plenty of people say it’s the hardest (and most important) thing they ever did.

Where is the goddamned bliss?

It’s only been 26 days.

I keep thinking about Bradley Cooper (If only he knew how important he’s been in my journey) and how he surely must have pleasure in his life without alcohol. We don’t all need to be Bradley Cooper.

Maybe my dopamine receptors are so fucked up after 25 years of drinking that they are just off-line. Yes, I find moments of pleasure that I cling to, with my dog, with films, with my work, with friends, with nature. Maybe it’s just that today was Christmas and I was alone and the sun didn’t come out until the afternoon. Maybe I triggered myself more than I realized with the talk of adopting a dog.

I don’t know. But I’m sick of this.

I’m in bed on a Friday night at 8pm with my dog and another fucking cup of tea. Now I’m just being bitchy. On past nights this has been bliss – the bed, the dog, the tea — but today/tonight, I’m having trouble finding it. I’m going to sleep soon and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, ’cause this sober day pretty much sucked.

I told myself not today, and if I still wanted to drink tomorrow then I could decide then. If I made it to 30 days, even better, then I could re-evaluate.

I don’t know, but I do know I need to figure out where to find that pleasure. I’m reminded again about Augusten Burroughs’ point of view that I need to find something that I want more than I want to drink. It’s too fluffy to say “I want myself more,” even though that’s true. I will feel this craving until it passes, but I am going to need to find pleasure in a way that has only been a glimpse once or twice in the last month.

That’s what I need to do. Feels like my sobriety might depend on it.

Rachel.

Day 26.

 

Avoid Overwhelm (and eat ice cream)

mint-chocolate-cookie-detailI’m really full. I mean REALLY full. I just pounded back two Hostess cupcakes, a half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Oreo chocolate mint ice cream, several slices of cheese on crackers, two homemade marshmallows (one chocolate-covered) given to me by my dog walker, and two pieces of dark chocolate, and this AFTER I ate a dinner of quinoa, black beans and a half of a tofurkey spiced sausage.

I’m stuffed and a little queasy.

But I didn’t drink.

And it was a close one.

Day 24 and I’ve been doing GREAT. I was very tired today, and then I went to an animal shelter and went through an interview process to adopt another dog.

<<WARNING: TOTAL OVERWHELM>>

I’m worried it will be a huge mistake. I’m worried my dog, Bub, won’t like her or it will be a negative experience for him. And all I care about is making life better for Bub, not worse. We (the shelter and I) decided that a “Foster-to-Adopt” arrangement would be a better way to start, so I filled out the paperwork. But I began to panic a little as they called my references and set up an appointment to drop her off next Monday.

And then, like I’d slipped into river rapids and was sailing wildly downstream, all I wanted was to disappear into a glass of red wine.

No no no no no no!!! The internal battle began.

I can still back out. I can back out even if I have her for a week and change my mind. That’s the beauty of the “foster-to-adopt.” They want what’s best for Bub too.

And as my own epic mental battle began a la Star Wars (which I saw last weekend and LOVED — I’ll be Rey in this story), I heard Belle’s words ringing in my ears: “AVOID OVERWHELM.”

Use the FORCE, Rachel! 🙂 hehe, kidding. If only it were that easy, Jedi Master…

I’ve been feeling so great, so strong. I even went out to dinner with friends on Saturday (which I’ve been avoiding) and while there were some challenges in my own mind with being the only one not drinking alcohol, I made it through and was SO glad the next morning that I was still sober.

I even had a great talk with my life coach today at lunch and was feeling strong and confident about my sobriety.

So this crushing WAVE of desire to buy a bottle of wine and escape comes completely unexpected. I was at the store. I seriously considered buying a bottle. Even knowing full well it would probably make me sick.

Instead I bought anything and everything I wanted to put in my mouth that wasn’t alcohol and I gave myself permission to eat it. Nom nom nom… I really should be exercising for the adrenaline high, but instead I chose unrefined sugar and pure dairy fat.

It’s better than drinking, right? 

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a few times: I’ll get to 100 days and re-evaluate. Because, I can drink in moderation, right? This is all just one big exercise in self-control.

Eh hem.

That’s when I take the idea of drinking on Day 100 to its natural conclusion — Sure, I can have a glass and maybe it will even taste good. Not sure. But then… THEN I very likely slip quickly back into a routine of drinking a bottle or more of wine a night — and I’m back on track to drinking my life away.

Tonight has been hard. It’s dissipated a bit, the crushing craving, but it’s not completely gone. It will be.

It will pass. It will pass. Breathe…

I want to live to my full potential. I didn’t realize that alcohol is very likely standing in the way of that, like Bradley Cooper realized when he was 29. But I realize it now at 47, which is better than at 48. I have a lot of life left to live. I want to reach my full potential and I don’t know what that means yet, but I know one thing for sure: I will NOT do it if I’m drinking.

OK… Here I am writing it out. I’m a bit sick on all the sheit I scarfed down, BUT I DIDN’T DRINK.

Man, it’s been a mad scramble to call on all my tools in the last 2.5 hours. Things I learned in my mindfulness classes the last 6 weeks, things I’ve learned from Belle and from all of YOU, and from my private Facebook AF community, and from all of the books I’ve read.

And things I’ve learned from my past failures.

I told myself, I will NOT regret NOT drinking tomorrow, but I’m sure I will regret drinking.

I told myself, You promised yourself and others that you were committing to 100 days NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. 

I told myself, You don’t want to start at Day 1 again and you can’t lie about it (because that crossed my wine brain too).

I told myself, You want to get to the 45+ days that everyone talks about, where your mindset starts to really change and a real shift begins to happen.

I told myself, You are on a roll, you are looking good and losing weight and you don’t want the setback. Find other ways to release this anxiety. You don’t need the wine. 

Then — despite the objections of my wine brain grasping madly for an opening to go back and buy a bottle — I reached out to a couple of friends and told them I was tempted to have some wine. I didn’t say, Buy a bottle or Get loaded or DRINK — purposely downplaying my wine brain’s developing plan — I just said have some wine. Like maybe it would be one little glass. Two, tops.

Of course they responded immediately, with the best advice being that I should go get on the rowing machine and work it out.

So I pigged out. 🙂

I’m going to have a shower, get into bed and watch a movie. I don’t care that it’s 7:15 on a weeknight. I’ll turn the lights off early and sleep. And tomorrow, I’ll reset and continue reaching out to my support systems and remind myself why my life without alcohol is and will continue to be so much better than my life with it. That I am proud of myself with 24 days of sober momentum and I REALLY don’t want to fuck with that.

HominaHominaHomina… 

Lordy Lordy. 

Baby goat intermission, BECAUSE BABY GOAT.

baby goat

It’s funny, I found myself thinking today that never again will I have that feeling of disappearing into the oblivion of a bottle (or two) of wine. That’s why people relapse, isn’t it? It’s THAT feeling they want again. I totally get that now. Is there a replacement for that? I don’t think there is. But maybe, just maybe, that’s OK too. That’s the work I need to do. That’s what I have to figure out. And I have a feeling that it’s tied to reaching my potential too.

I may end up writing again tomorow or the next day, but if I don’t… MERRY CHRISTMAS to anyone who celebrates Christmas, HAPPY HOLIDAYS to everyone who doesn’t. And thanks for being such a support to me, whether you’ve commented or just lurked in the background. 🙂  I am super grateful to be on this journey with every one of you.

xo Rachel.

Day 24.

Star light, Star bright…

the-starry-night-1889It was a busy week with long days, and it’s Friday night again — the weekend begins — and I’m still sober.

Wednesday night felt like a real milestone. My rowing club had a caroling party, where rowers showed up and decorated the 8-person boats with lights, then we rowed out to a couple of destinations across the lake and sang for them…

…then those people gave the boats snacks and pitchers of alcohol to take away as the reward.

Our coach retrieved the first pitcher and handed it to my boat’s coxswain. I was in the “stroke” seat, the first seat in the row. The cox’n handed me the pitcher just after I heard my coach say, “I don’t know if it’s leaded or not!”

I wondered about that. I took a whiff and the high octane rum was undeniable. I said, “There’s rum in this!” (a LOT of it) and handed it to the rower behind me. Without hesitating, he handed it straight back to the rower behind him. I wasn’t the only one not drinking, that THAT was awesome. I wasn’t the odd-man out. The rest of our boat partied with rum punch and Bailey’s, and seats 7 & 8 (my seat pair and I) abstained.

There was a moment when I had a flash of an alternate Universe, where I was a drinker and I would have been thrilled to have the punch, and the Bailey’s, Because that’s part of the fun, right? I would have been keenly aware of where the pitcher and bottle were, who had them last and when they were coming back to me. Distraction. Mild agitation. Was I getting as much as them? Why were these little cups so small (what’s the point?) and could I just drink straight out of the pitcher and get more? More punch, more Bailey’s, whatever else came my way, and surely a bottle of wine when I got home.

But instead, I told myself very consciously: Be Present

I looked up at the stars, and the spectacular lights of the city and the neighborhoods reflecting on the water, which was calm as glass. Colored Christmas lights accented the houses, building rooftops, construction cranes, radio towers, sailboat masts and yacht cabins around the lake, adding color to the flickering whites of every day.

I looked into the houseboats as we floated past and imagined the lives happening inside. I felt the crisp air on my cheeks, and warmed my numbing fingers with handwarmers in my pockets.

Be Present. And Breathe. Stay in this moment.

I was very clear that alcohol would not have made the evening more fun, and as the rest of the boat was getting a bit silly and their rowing was becoming progressively worse, I felt clear and strong. And, when we started rowing hard again to get back to the boathouse, I was also sure that had I been drinking, I would have been weakened. I would have surely felt sick from it all. There would have been that downside that always arrived, sooner or later, and it would have taken what it had given — and then some.

No, what would have once been, in the very recent past, an absolute given — that the evening should include alcohol to enhance the fun — was now made so very much better without it.

And on top of it all, indeed the cherry on top, Seat 7 was a really cool guy I hadn’t met before (he’s a competitive rower and so we never practice at the same time) and quite handsome. So I rowed the whole night setting the pace for the boat, particularly this guy who spent the night looking at the back of my head. 🙂 No pressure.

After we returned to the boathouse and we were all hanging around a little by the fireplace, Mr. 7 made a point of saying it was really nice to meet me and that he was leaving. He said goodbye.

I’m convinced that had I been buzzed from a silly night of tipsy rowing and caroling, that wouldn’t have happened either. Instead, I was grounded and serene, and there was an energy there that alcohol would have corrupted. I’m sure of it.

Sure, I’m a hopeless romantic, but it was a beautiful night.

Yesterday was the last day at work for a lot of people until after Christmas. One of my indirect bosses came to my office to say goodbye and handed me a “Holiday Survival Kit,” which I could tell immediately contained a bottle of something.

My stomach twisted a little. This would have been a typical scenario where I would have brought that bottle home and drunk it straight away. I looked at it and it was a brand I don’t like and I thought – Phew… Upon closer inspection, I realized it was champagne. I would have drunk that too, but it didn’t have the same powerful pull as it would have had it been red wine. Thank goodness.

I was out late last night rowing (again) and went straight to bed, but today that bottle nagged me on the counter. I wasn’t worried about it, but I didn’t like that it was distracting some part of me. It was bothersome.

So, I put some holiday ribbon on it and walked it down to the manager of my apartment building, thanking him for all he does. Problem solved! And the whispering inside my head went quiet.

Tonight, Friday night, I’m really tired and the strange thing is, I don’t want to drink, but I still feel that powerful craving to find relief. Release. I guess this is progress.

Once again, I told myself, thou SHALT not drink — I’m just really tired and a little sick (I have a horrible cold) and I need to just get to bed. In the old days I would have drunk a lot of red wine when I was sick because of course that would make me feel better!

But not anymore.

Today my Not Today bracelet arrived. It’s a silver bracelet with Not Today inscribed on the inside, sitting against my skin.

Today it is 8:45pm and I’m in bed on a Friday night with my best bud, Bub, and a great book.

And I’m not drinking. Not today.

xo Rachel.

Day 19.

New milestones, new breakthroughs

Just checking in to say it’s been several days since I’ve written, but no worries: I’M STILL SOBER.

Today I passed a new milestone: 14 days. Officially 2 weeks.

SONY DSC

Baby Giraffe

Man, it seems like a whole LOT longer than that, since I’ve really been AF for most of the last 3 months, but 14 days is still 14 days — and the longest I’ve ever gone without a drink. On the one hand it seems like nothing (especially when I think about it in the context of so many of you who have so many more days/months/years under your belts), and on the other hand it’s bizarre to me that it has been two weeks since I’ve had any alcohol.

To be perfectly honest, it seems like much, much longer. I guess this is the double-edged sword of having a terrible memory: I am already forgetting what life was like for me just a short while ago when I came home every single night from work (and was starting earlier and earlier on the weekends) and drank bottles of red wine. One of the biggest contrasts is how much money I was spending on wine. Holy shit. A lot.

Friday was tough for about 15 minutes. Fridays were always such a huge drinking day. I had about 15 minutes of wanting that “release,” but this time, I have more tools and I’m using them. I used tools like AF beer which oddly hits the spot sometimes, then dinner in front of the TV (I know, terrible, but I’m letting myself), and the urge passed pretty quickly. I was just glad to be home with my dog after a long week and I give myself a LOT of leeway right now when it comes to doing stuff that just feels good and passes the time.

Saturday I predicted it to be tougher. Saturdays have been my drinking/relapse days historically. But it really wasn’t too bad. Yeah, I went on a long walk with my dog, and watched a movie, then had a long nap, and then WENT to a movie at the theater, and bought some adult coloring books and came home and colored a while, then read, then slept. Really, I did very little productive, but that’s OK.

I didn’t drink. 

Then today, Sunday. This morning I had to take my phone to the Genius Bar because I was a GENIUS and threw it on the ground and broke the screen. I waited next door at THE RAM, a sports bar, because I really wanted a greasy breakfast. It never even occurred to me that it might be a risky scene, and it wasn’t at all. I even ordered a virgin bloody mary to drink with my egg scramble and it was great. No problemo. It was actually kind of weird to look around the room at 10:30 in the morning and see most of the room drinking beers and other drinks at 10:30 in the morning while we watched the Seahawks football game. I’m especially shocked that I didn’t feel the urge to drink because I’ve been fighting a cold all weekend and historically I would DRINK when I felt sick. Always. Because drinking at 9 in the morning on a Sunday made me feel better, right?

Oh me oh my.

In fact, I’m going to add that to my AA rip-off: SHALT. Rachel, thou SHALT not drink when feeling Sad/Sick, Hungry, Angry/Agitated, Lonely or Tired. 

It wasn’t until later that I actually had the strongest urges of the weekend. Nordstrom has a really great new cafe/bar and I went to return some jeans and try to find new ones, which is always stressful. I hate shopping. I said to myself outloud, “beware of overwhelm,” because I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and I really wanted to head to that bar and have a drink, just like my best friend and I have done more than once. So, I got my butt out of there and headed home. I exercised for a while in the gym in my building and then I ate dinner and binged on a bit of Netflix while I colored pretty holiday images. Time sure flies when you’re doing two completely unproductive things simultaneously.

Anyway, it’s time for bed now and I spent the entire weekend alone with my dog entertaining myself, but it was a lot easier than it has been in the past. Sure, it’s only 14 days, but it was a good weekend, and that counts for a lot. I made sure I had lots of sleep and sober treats, and didn’t let myself get overwhelmed, and I did a lot of mindful things like coloring and reading. Yeah, I’m a ton of fun. 🙂

As I get more space on my last drink, I find myself having to go over in my mind all of the reasons why I quit and why I am choosing an alcohol-free life. Why it is better. Why it will get even better in the long run. Repeat, repeat. I know that’s a combination of the natural tendency we have to forget horrible things as time passes AND the wine goblin trying to get in my head and tell me Aw, it wasn’t so bad. You can drink again after you take a break and prove to yourself you can. 

Sure, I could try that. But I’m pretty sure that’s all bullshit and I’d end up right back where I started in a very short period of time. I just want to be free of the control wine/alcohol has had over me for so many years. And I want to be free of SO MUCH STUPID SHIT I’VE SAID AND DONE when I’d been drinking.

Blech.

I would also like to make an appeal to the sober gods to PLEASE take a few pounds off in the middle of the night and THAT would make it all even BETTER. 🙂 I’ve started making a more concerted effort now to eat better and exercise more again, so that should help. In the past, it would NOT have been unusual for me to drink five bottles of wine in a weekend, not to mention the bottle every night, so those calories have to be going somewhere! Right? WTF?? I haven’t been eating THAT much mac-n-cheese and ice cream. Really!

And soon, very soon, I’m going to start doing a lot more hard thinking about what I want to accomplish in my life with all this spare time. And lack of anxiety. And clarity. It isn’t going to be Olympic-level, competitive coloring, that’s for sure.

This is a good 2016 conversation to have with myself (and maybe my life coach).

Anyway, tonight I’m feeling quiet and a little dull (read: boring), but that’s a hell of a lot better than being drunk on a Sunday night. There’s time to build some excitement back into my life again, and in the meantime, I’m going to protect my little baby giraffe sobriety until she is walking a lot more sturdy on her wobbly little legs.

Have a great week, y’all.

xo Rachel.

Day 14.

Watch out for the Boomerang

boomerang air directionI got home tonight from my business trip. Wasn’t here 30 minutes when an intense wave of fatigue washed over me, followed immediately by agitation and a powerful desire to head to the corner store, get a bottle of wine and drink my way to oblivion.

What the hell. So much for my few days of POWERING through the business trip, fending off alcohol at every turn. I’ve heard about watching out for these boomerangs: You make it through a really tough time and feel all proud of yourself and let down your guard and – BAM!! – the desire to drink drops on your head like a ton of bricks.

The voices in my head were LOUD, questioning my decision to quit drinking, pleading for that relief. Badgering me, taunting me.

BUT. Don’t worry. I didn’t cave.

I’m learning.

S.H.A.L.T. Oh hell yes. (I’ve modified AA’s H.A.L.T. and made my own…)

I tell myself: Thou SHALT not drink when feeling SAD. HUNGRY. ANGRY/AGITATED. LONELY or TIRED.

I knew I was feeling tired. Very tired. But inexplicably, I was feeling agitated and a bit lonely/sad too. So, instead of letting myself jump into the wine-filled rabbit hole, I went into self-care overdrive:

  • I turned off the TV because it was only making me more agitated and not helping me unwind.
  • I told myself: Not Today. 
  • I listened to Belle’s “Sober Jumpstart” audio lesson about “Pre-lapse/Relapse” — twice. She said some good stuff about how my WORST sober day is still WAY better than my best drunk day. Aaaand how DAY ONEs suck ASS. (Well, she said “rocks,” but I’ll say ASS. ‘Cause they do suck ASS.)
  • I walked to the store in the pouring rain with my dog, Bub, to buy tea — I ran out — so I could have a cozy, early night in bed. I got soaked and it was kind of nice. Cozy, even.
  • I bought myself a chocolate truffle because I have NOT been giving myself enough sober treats lately. I also found some new low-cal NA flavored soda that look really good. One is grapefruit and the other is cucumber. I’ll try those tomorrow.
  • I took a shower, washed my face and applied a facial mask; brushed my teeth. 🙂
  • I turned on my heating blanket and now I’m in bed, getting ready for an early night to sleep. And I mean it. I need to sleep.

I wasn’t going to write tonight but I’m really trying to use all my tools, especially when it gets tough. Trying to keep asking for support, even when I don’t want to make the effort. I’m willing to listen to the lessons of others, and this is what I’m told to do SO I’M DOING IT.

Belle also said, “Don’t listen to the voice in your head.” Yeah, that fucking voice asking me if I really needed to quit. If I could do moderation. If I can go 9 or 10 days and have a drink only on special occasions, wouldn’t that be good? Wouldn’t it?

Uh, no. It wouldn’t. Today in the airport, after I sat with my co-workers in the bar while they had a round of drinks before getting on the plane (in retrospect, maybe I should have stayed at the gate), I found the voice VERY loud and getting louder. So I played it out. What would happen if I had a glass of wine at the airport? That’s easy. I would have then had to order at least one, probably two more glasses on the plane. I’d take a cab home, and walk straight to the store with my dog and buy a bottle, and drink too much of it, then be sick tomorrow and feel like shit. And regretful. And pissed and like a failure.

But it doesn’t have to even be this particular scenario to be useful. I’ve already proven to myself that moderation just does NOT work for me. Wine becomes all I think about. Wine-o-clock becomes all I look forward to. Nothing was getting done in my life and it was getting worse. Two bottles a day on the weekends instead of one-and-a-half. One-and-a-half bottles a night on the weekdays instead of one. Even on nights when I rowed. I’d head to the store after practice and pick up a bottle. I’d START a bottle on a weeknight at 8:30pm and still manage to finish it in front of the TV before bed.

Ah, what a picture-perfect life, no?

I was starting to look like a drunk — puffy and flabby — because of course, I was exercising less and less. And I am a fairly athletic person. This is not OK.

I was bailing on friends more and more often because I either wanted to drink by myself or I had already started and couldn’t show up. And when I did show up, we almost always had to drink. Breakfast? Bloody Marys! Lunch? That’s easy, wine! Happy hour? Always! Live music? I regret how many amazing shows I’ve seen that are a blur because I’d already drunk so much wine before the show that I could barely focus.

I was anxious. I was sad. I was worried about my future and about money, yet I was spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars A MONTH in wine. I cringe to think of it.

Oh yeah, AND IT’S POISON.

Alrighteee…. I didn’t intend for this to be a rundown of all the reasons that IT’S TOTAL BULLSHIT that the voice in my head is questioning my decision. I guess I needed to write it down, again. Here. For myself and with you as my witness.

Watch out for that freakin’ boomerang, is all I’m saying, and DON’T LISTEN TO THE WINE GOBLIN’S VOICE IN YOUR HEAD. That’s the addiction talking. That’s a lifetime of programming talking. It is changing for me, it’s just a jig-jag path of progress.

One more thing: Thinking about Bradley Cooper as a sober guy having an amazing life really helps me for some reason. Isn’t that weird? BRADLEY COOPER? Haha! I don’t know why it does, but it does. Maybe it’s because he’s HOT. lol.

Oh, Bradley, if only you knew. 😉

Headed to bed. Today I did not drink. Here’s to tomorrow being a brand new day of JOY and a happy sober me. I really don’t want to be white-knuckling this. Tomorrow is Day 10 again. I have a ways to go before the voices quiet, I know, but I’ll just try to be present in today. Learning.

xo Rachel. Day 9, Bitches! PHEW!

We-Can-Do-It-Rosie-the-Riveter-Wallpaper-2

 

Business trip: Making it through the gauntlet

Tonight I had the most amazing blackberry mocktail, with huge chunks of blackberries and the perfect amount of tartness, with just a little sweet.

This, while the other 40 people at our business dinner were drinking stemless glasses of red and white wine that had been handed to every person before our butts even hit the restaurant chairs.

Before we left the hotel for the restaurant, I felt that old familiar pull. We had made it through the last, long, tiring day of off-site workshop meetings and we were all going to dinner together. Before quitting drinking I would have been solely focused on that first glass of red wine — giddy for it to finally be sliding down my throat and into my bloodstream — and I felt that old mental habit nagging at me. Red wiiiine. Then the second. Red wiiiine. And hopefully, the third. Oh hell yeesss red wiiiiine! 

It turns out they cut everyone off at one drink and made them start a tab if they wanted more. Back in the day, I would have gladly put more glasses on my tab, pacing myself carefully so as not to be too obvious. Maybe joking when I ordered the third glass, “No dessert for me. I always drink my dessert.” Which was actually true. I always did.

This morning my boss mentioned how I came back to my room early last night. I told her the same thing I’d texted then — I went back for my phone and decided to stay — but I added: “Plus, I’m doing this 100-day challenge off of alcohol so I figured I might as well stay in.

It was a gamble. Do I just keep quiet about it and see if I have to deal with questions tonight at dinner, or do I head it off at the pass and then I’m covered for tonight? I threw the dice and chose the latter.

“I’m doing this 100-day challenge off of alcohol so I figured I might as well stay in,” I said.

I heard her breath suck in through her teeth.

“Ohhh, wow” she said, casually. “What brought that on? Just wanted to?”

Not the response I was hoping for. It sounded heavier than I’d wanted. Serious. What brought that on…? Must be serious if you are willing to stop for 100 days. Maybe I’m projecting, but no way in hell I was going to get into anything by way of explanation, except this truth:

“Yeah, I just feel a lot better…” my voice trailed off. I felt awkward. Clearly I need more practice at this. She joked about how she’d drunk too much last night and ended up staying at the rooftop lounge with a co-worker until 11pm and had they to fend off a couple of guys half their age.

OMG that sounds so tedious.

She was gracious and didn’t dwell, but next time maybe I’ll leave it until dinner. Or maybe I won’t and I should just shake it off. It’s no big deal and all is fine. She probably didn’t think twice about it, unlike ME who’s still thinking about it. But of course I am.

And tonight, while I drank my DIVINE blackberry AF drink, no one said a word. My boss asked me what was in it and I told her, but that was that. More rounds of wine came, but with the first drink of that fantabulous AF drink, the pull for wine was almost completely gone. Not COMPLETELY (I won’t lie), but as I read often: thoughts can’t hurt me. And tonight, they sure didn’t. I had to deal a little with getting to know a couple of new people and facing some shyness that wine always conveniently wiped out, but I made it through that too. My new friends and I ended up laughing so hard my stomach hurt. And all this completely sober.

Unheard of.

I looked around and some people nursed their wine glasses, barely touching them. Others had one glass of wine and stopped. One woman across the table barely sipped her glass of red the entire meal. It still stuns me to watch people do that. Just leaving a glass of red wine untouched is some kind of mortal sin to a wine addict. It just never made sense to me why someone would do that. Just one? What’s the point?? There is still that voice in my head that says to that lady *wasting* her glass of wine: Why aren’t you drinking that??!! 

Why? Because she’s doesn’t have a problem with red wine like I did. Do. Did.

But whatevs.

Housecleaning left the towel covering the mini bar and I tell ya, that really helped today too. It’s kind of shocking how big a difference “Out of sight, out of mind” can make. What am I, a primitive neanderthal, fooled by sleight of hand tricks on myself?

Yeah. Apparently something like that. 🙂

Anyhow, can I just say that I’m so grateful for the people who support each other on these blogs? Tonight I just kept thinking: Life is so much better — OVERALL– when you don’t drink. It’s just not worth it. This is a long game.

And fake it ’till you make it.

As I’ve said before, I’m still waiting for the BLISS to show itself and I know I have to be patient, but those words from other bloggers — and my own commitment to myself and focus on this 100-day challenge — carried me through tonight.

And for that I am very grateful.

Day 8. Rachel.

ps – I love this post from Soberistas.com today. A well-written rundown of some of the amazing benefits of quitting drinking.

Bored in Los Angeles with a chock-full mini bar

IMG_6875I flew to Los Angeles this morning for a 3-day work “off-site.” I’ve been a little nervous about this with respect to quitting drinking, not because I was really worried about drinking, but because I was anxious about having to answer questions about not drinking.

Today has been a day full of more triggers than I even expected:
  • First time to the airport since I stopped drinking. I had developed quite a habit of drinking when I fly, yes, even if I got to the airport for a 9:30 am flight, like I did today. I walked straight past Vino Volo at 8:30 am, even though it was open. No I don’t have anxiety about flying. It was always just an excuse to drink at 8:30 in the morning. Because why not?
  • First time to L.A. since I got divorced 3.5 years ago. My ex is from here and, well, duh. Trigger. But I have so say, getting off the plane at LAX today and seeing the hills and the palm trees kind of made me sad. HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. and Sad. I’d like to call it SHALT! And I SHALT not drink when I’m Sad, Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired!
  • A work “off-site” — and indeed, we landed and went straight to “have beers” where we also ended up eating. I ordered iced tea and a salad.
  • My room has a minibar FULL of booze, I mean, more booze than I’ve seen in a mini-bar in YEARS. I actually considered asking them to come get all the booze, but it’s been ok. I studied all of the booze on top of and inside the fridge for about 10 minutes, and then it was over. I wasn’t tempted. Not really. I’m steady that I’m not breaking my 100 days. BUT is has exacerbated my next point which is…
  • I like the people I work with just fine, but I’M BORED. I’m so bored. I realize that at things like this, I would just drink a lot of wine because then I was having my own fun and it didn’t matter that I’m actually kind of an introvert and I’d rather be home with my dog or in my hotel room watching my favorite show most times than be chit-chatting with a bunch of people from work. Gone gone gone are the days (like in my 20s) when my social life WAS work, and I could party with those people for hours and hours. Days. And drink through all of it.

I ended the evening at “cocktails” ordering cranberry and soda. No one seemed to notice or care. When I got to the bottom, I ordered another one and our VP said it sounded good and she switched to cranberry and soda. I slipped out before 8 and came back to my room to catch up on my reading and blogging, and watch my fav show. My boss texted me: “where’d you go?” I was hoping since she was on her third glass of wine she wouldn’t have noticed me missing. I told her I came back to my room for my phone and ended up staying. That’s not so far from the truth…

Day one, down.

IMG_6877I’m not going to drink today, I’M NOT GOING TO DRINK TOMORROW EITHER, but I’m definitely in a stage where I am getting really bored of not drinking. Does that sound dumb? It sure feels dumb saying it. The wine addict who can’t get that euphoric thrill any way but by pouring two bottles of wine down her throat?

Now THAT’s sad.

See, thing is, I’m in that place where I really started the process of stopping drinking for stretches of time (more than a day) about 3 months ago, and it’s no longer novel (thank god) and it’s a lot easier day-to-day (thank god), but I’m still thinking about quitting drinking every day, all day, and I’m still not reaping the huge benefits. Some benefits, yes. Huge benefits, no. The days and evenings and weekends stretch on and I’m bored with my own damn self.

Hell, it’s only Day 7 (again) this time and I’m in a sober lull. I even found myself considering whether I’m over-reacting by quitting drinking. It was only a passing thought and I KNOW that is the wine addict brain having a tantrum, but I thought it. It’s nagging me and needs to go away because I know it’s bullshit.

I’m not worried about drinking today (or tomorrow), but I’m worried about this boredom coming to a head and making me want to inject **fake excitement** into my chest plate like Uma Thurman’s character on Pulp Fiction. A massive syringe of BUZZ straight to the heart.
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Of course that would ruin everything and I’d have to start over again. It’s not going to happen. I’ve COMMITTED TO 100  DAYS and I’m sticking to it.

And the stupid thing is that I have plenty to keep me busy and things I could be doing with my time — so many things. So many fun, interesting or even healthy things! And I will do them. But I’m missing that ZING that booze gave me, once upon a time.

You know?

Fucking dopamine junky, I am.

I know this will pass. I sure hope it does anyway.

Hey y’alls, it passes, right?

So many people have said that it gets GOOD. And I’m not talking about the pink cloud stuff (which hasn’t happened yet, but looking forward to it), or the weight loss (also hasn’t happened yet), or the boundless energy (nope) or aMAAAAAAZING skin (no…) or such an incredible new sense of self that I suddenly meet the love of my life and I win the lottery and I save an entire TRAIN full of stray dogs from a horrific death on their way to a korean meat farm, and I owe it all to living alcohol free. 🙂

All that’s coming. I’m sure.

Because, truly, I’ve been working really hard at building in tons of supports and trying to take great care of myself and giving myself treats and getting good sleep and so on.

It’s just times like this, normal, boring, every day BLAH NORMAL LIFE DAYS, when you know, I miss that zing. That thrill. That wave of haaaaaaaaahhhhh sigh…that used to wash over with the first glass of wine.

I know the truth. Don’t worry. And even though now I see it for the destructive poison it was for me, I still miss that thrill. I see more and more clearly that I need to replace that thrill. 

Which brings me back to Augusten Burroughs’ words about finding something as good to replace it. Not addiction with addiction, but tapping into something deep and meaningful to fill the void.

AAAAAAnd, I hear that somewhere around 60 days for lots of people, the daily/hourly/constant thinking about it quiets. That will help.

Mercy. Only Day 7 on my way to Day 60. Bloody hell that feels like a long time right now.

Who knew such a HUGE part of my JOY(??) — fake joy, yes, but joy — every day came solely from red wine?

Yikes. That’s messed up.

I guess it’s good I’m finally seeing it for what it is. I guess this is my clarion call to make some changes in my life, even beyond giving up the drink. Yep.

Wow – it just came to me. This is today’s lesson. Indeed.

So by they way, this L.A. hotel (The Standard) is not without its amusements. It’s suitably hip, complete with waterbed pods in the rooftop bar area and plush purple couches in the lobby. One of the things that was hidden from view in the mini bar photo above was this package. Pretty hilarious, actually.
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Safety first! 🙂
I’m not sure what’s going on in that third icon…

And with that, goodnight!

Rachel. Day 7 (for the 27th time, it feels like). I’ll get to 100 yet!

All I want for Christmas…

Ryan ChristmasLast week on Thanksgiving, I don’t know which was worse: the absolute tedium I felt hanging out with my family without any red wine OR the ten pounds of food I stuffed into my gullet in order to compensate.

I came away realizing I need a different strategy for Christmas, which is going to be here before we know it.

Helllllloooo….Ryan…

I decided to propose the idea of bringing a puzzle that we could all work on. Yeah, I just want to distract myself in a way that isn’t completely anti-social. My parents only have one table, though, and whenever I show up for these family things, Mom has already arranged the place settings, enough for everyone.

I decided screw it, and I suggested the puzzle anyway. Maybe we could eat with plates on our laps this year? (It did not even occur to me to suggest TV trays like any self-respecting child of the 60s would. Wait, does anybody even own TV trays anymore?)

My mom, always in support of me no matter what, said “OK! Let’s try it!”

Then I got the text from my step-dad, which included my mom.

“Your mom tells me you want to do a 500-piece puzzle during Christmas Eve dinner. I think that with everything going on including dinner, the gift exchange, the ornament exchange, and just visiting, a puzzle is not a good idea.”

My heart sank. Clearly he didn’t realize that I was looking for a lifeline. I’m already dreading the evening, which is sad, because I normally enjoy spending time with my family. Although I will admit, the last few years I always planned to stay over on those holiday evenings because the ‘rents live over an hour away and I knew I would drink about a bottle of wine and crash in the guest room. In fact, I counted on it.

I felt my trigger reaction want to respond something passive-aggressive to the effect of Well then I’ll just come late and leave early. I wanted to avoid it altogether. I can’t imagine suffering through another night like Thanksgiving and why should I? I really do love them and I hope I don’t sound too ungrateful, but I’m trying to honor the fact that in my “baby giraffe” days, as my life coach described them, I’m walking on very wobbly legs and I need to do whatever I need to do to stay upright.

Especially when there’s the potential lion around every gum tree.

“You’re just going to be high maintenance for a little while,” she said. “And that’s OK.” What a gift to have permission to be high maintenance for a little while — and that’s OK.

So, instead of getting pissed or reacting or retreating, I took a breath and was honest:

“I’m trying to find a healthy way to keep myself (and others who want to participate) busy so I’m not just sitting there while others are drinking. Thanksgiving was difficult that way. I’m happy to go for a walk with Bub or something instead.”

And I waited.

That’s when my mom jumped in. She would rather throw herself in front of a moving train than alienate me in any way.

“We will hold off on the drinking! (Step-dad) and I are the only ones who imbibe and it’s no big deal for us. What time is good to come over? I’m easy! Bring a puzzle if you want! A smaller one for the end of the table. We can have all sorts of stuff going on. Or watch a DVD for Xmas. A Xmas comedy.”

I couldn’t have loved her more in that moment. I told them it sounded fun and I didn’t want to impose on their fun, I’m just learning new ways to keep myself occupied. Then my step-dad said:

“You know we love and support you in this. I promise we will not let you down. You, your sister and uncle are our fun so there is no way you could impose.”

And then I loved them even more.

So, I’m going to find a smaller puzzle to do myself. And maybe I’ll bring a fun game I played with friends a couple of months ago, Bannanagrams (I’m not a games person, but it was fun). And the Christmas movie idea could be fun too…and I’m going to bring my own snacks so I don’t have to worry about what I’m putting in my mouth. Aaaaaand I’ll probably show up a little later than usual and leave a little earlier, aaaaaand I’ll probably go on a walk with Bub at some point too.

I’m going to have about 27 arrows in my proverbial quiver and none of them is going to be a bottle of red wine. Urp.

Gotsta have TOOLS, my brothers and sisters! TOOLS!!

So here I am on Day 4 of my 100-Day Challenge and I will not drink TODAY. Whoop! (although I’ve really had hardly anything to drink since October and I want credit, dammit. 🙂 )

Rachel.

{{Rachel, this is GOD. On behalf of your liver, I grant you…CREDIT!}}

Thanks, God.

Now, random completely unrelated fun fact: Did you know that scallops have about 60 blue eyes? Now you do.

kimberley131