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.

16 thoughts on “Star light, Star bright…

  1. Drunken rowing does NOT SOUND SENSIBLE. Good for you and you new sober acquaintance. I think taking the “one drink” to its logical conclusion in your head is very helpful to remind yourself exactly how it will go down. And it’s tedious, isn’t it? When we think about what’s REALLY going to happen when we drink. Also LOVE the champagne dilemma solution. Have a great weekend:)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The rowing evening sounds gorgeous! (And your fellow rower doesn’t sound too shabby either!) I love when I am able to be present and realize that drinking would not only add nothing, it would ruin what there already is. I just feel so pleased with how well you’re doing. This post makes me want to do cartwheels! Hooray for you, getting through some more tough moments and turning them into wonderful ones! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Rachel, great post!! Well done on 19 days. You’re doing this!! I loved your rowing story, beautifully written, and yes, the evening was so much better not drinking. Good idea with the champagne, or as Allen Carr calls it Sham Pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Sham Pain! Love it. I had a night out with friends last night that I’ll write about later today, but there was a tough patch where I was thinking maybe I’ll just go 100 days and re-evaluate. I could still do that, but I can say that today I am so glad I didn’t drink and I am so much clearer about all the reasons I want an AF life today. Phew!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonder post, Rachel. I love the way you write; you pull me right in, even though I’ve never been rowing. I admit to liking the word coxswain, though I don’t know what it is. I could Google it, but I’m lazy. It’s 8:15, and I’m going to bed at 8:30. Sober head on pillow = victory.

    Liked by 1 person

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