Seven months and this journey ain’t no rocket ship

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Lady Ostrich wouldn’t actually bury her head in the sand to hide from scary shit (that’s a myth), and neither will I

Today marks seven months without alcohol.

I’ve had a few dreams lately…but I know nobody wants to hear about another person’s dreams, so I won’t go into it.

All I’ll say is they’ve been of the variety where a) I drink accidentally because I “forgot” I quit drinking, b) ¬†I’m thinking about drinking and I’m stressing over how I’ll explain it to all of my sober friends…or c) I have super sexy time with someone I really shouldn’t have been doing it with (but clearly really wanted to), and then I just lay with them, skin on skin, for hours…

I like those dreams best.

My recent work trip experience (when I nearly drank) has caused me to do some serious thinking about what I *really* want, what’s most important to me, what place alcohol had in my life that last 5-10 years before I finally stopped drinking, and what I’ve been learning since.

I keep saying: It’s really amazing what you can learn about yourself when you quit disappearing into a bottle of wine every night…oh, and it’s amazing what you learn when you quit drinking and you ramp up the therapy to several hours a week. ūüôā

It’s¬†a recipe for some warp drive self-discovery.

But I think the best part has been that unexpected feeling of being more firmly rooted in the ground than I think I’ve ever been. And if I were to try to break down how that is happening, I think it partly¬†comes from a growing self-awareness (thanks sober therapy!) and partly from just feeling better physically and having gone seven months without regretfully saying or doing anything booze-fueled. There’s something in the regular cycle of self-recriminations that has a way of eroding¬†one’s confidence.

Of rotting away one’s chewy center.

So, here I am. Day 215 or something and I’m committed to going a year without alcohol before I revisit what this all means to me — and yes, by that I mean, whether this is really forever or not. Some days I think it probably is…and some days…some days I still wonder.

Last night I was feeling a bit lonely and needing something.

Needing. Longing…

I felt that old pull of wanting to just bliss out (or blot out). To satisfy that soft sorrow with a fast hit to the central nervous system.

But here’s the thing: I’ve learned enough now to know that the whole “escaping into a bottle” thing may have felt like it was working for those painful years, but it turns out, drinking when I could have been feeling what I was feeling was just delaying the inevitable. Drinking was a symptom of my pain. And¬†unless I wanted to stay drunk all the time (which, fortunately, I didn’t), I wasn’t actually escaping from anything. Not for long, anyway.

And p.s., I was fucking up my brain’s ability to produce dopamine in a normal way. Whoops.

“You did what you knew how to do. And when you knew better, you did better.” –¬†Maya Angelou

So I give myself a break. My path is my path. Drinking the way I was drinking was my “dangerously misguided self-care,” and it worked for a while, when I needed it. Now my work is to get at the root of the WHY so I don’t go back there. I think we can all agree, I don’t want to do that.

What did I need last night? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Despite having a great couple of days connecting with some amazing people (including lots of non-drinkers, whom I adore), by last night I was feeling lonely.
  • I wanted to feel held.
  • I was working through some new realizations about what having a “partner” in life means, what it doesn’t mean, and what I might want in a partner. This brings up a lot of old stuff, of course.
  • I wanted to tap into my joy and pleasure. On demand.
  • I wanted to feel sexy and beautiful. (?? I have no idea where this came from, but my subconscious told me it needed to be included…)
  • There was a nagging anxiety coming from a little bit of work stuff that I wanted to soothe.
  • Joy and pleasure. Impatience.
  • Joy and pleasure.

So.

I’m not going to drink about any of this.

I AM making it a priority to find sources of joy and pleasure in ways that don’t include wine or food. I am going to get curious about that and see where it leads me. I am looking at how I¬†spend my spare time, and begin practicing using that time for things that bring me joy, or make me feel like I’m working¬†on things that are in line with my life goals or values. Like my writing. Or my activism. And building my home. And loving my dog.

And moving my body. Moving my body needs to be a priority in all of this .

So there it is. That’s the honest truth of where I am at seven months.

And one more thing: I’ve also realized that I might need to scale back a bit on listening to podcasts and reading the blogs of sober 30-somethings whose lives have “changed 180 degrees” from where they were when they were drinking and are now AMAZING and FANTASTIC. Because as inspired as I was by their insights when I first began this process, and I’m so grateful they helped me get woke, I’m beginning to see that the promise of “attracting” a completely different/renewed/better life in sobriety may be a bit counter-productive for those of us whose choices weren’t “QUIT DRINKING¬†or DIE.”

Because for me, the “miracles” of living alcohol free look more and more to be a quiet process of newfound self-love and -awareness. Of confidence and connection. Of perspective and possibility.

Mine isn’t a story of the Phoenix ascending from the ashes into a glistening new life of career, relationships, fame, and so on.

Mine is a story of figuring out what I have to offer the world, what brings me joy, how I can be of service and how I can love.

We shall see.

xo Rachel

Day 215

“These are the days that must happen to you.” – Walt Whitman

Brain: Are you *sure* you don’t want to drink anymore?

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So, the naturopath who is part of my intensive sober women’s group program has said that at 3.5-4 months, the brain often checks in with people about whether or not they’re really serious about this quitting drinking thing. She said that it’s about that time that the neural pathways begin to pave over the old well-worn paths and begin the process of making the new paths more permanent, but before the brain really “commits,” at about 3.5-4 months, many people go through a period of revisiting the decision. It’s a thing.

Brain: Are you SUUUUUURRRE you’re quitting, before I make all these changes??

For the last couple of months at least,¬†I’ve been feeling pretty good. And while sometimes I’ll have thoughts or really mild cravings, the cravings haven’t been bad for a long time. I’m always able to identify exactly what’s going on: I’m stressed or tired or lonely or whatever. Usually guzzling a fizzy drink and eating some chocolate is enough. Not always — I do have to watch it so my old disordered eating doesn’t try to rear its ugly head — but since I started this weekly in-person program, thoughts of drinking have never even come close to threatening the accountability I feel toward my sober group.

That’s still true, but DAYAM, the last few days I’ve been having strong cravings. I’m not going to drink and I still stop and ask myself what is going on, what could be causing this…but it has been strong enough the last couple of days that I’ve resorted to ice cream and chocolate and LOTS of fizzy drinks again, and a pretty steady rhythm of snacking all day long. Looking for distraction. A tiring yoga workout this morning and a long walk with my dog this evening didn’t help much either.

Of course, just when I’m really trying to lose a little weight finally. Gah. Priority is not drinking, but dammit.

I watched the first part of¬†Eat, Pray, Love tonight — it’s one of those silly movies I can watch again and again — and of course the Rome portion of her journey was pretty triggering. Not only was she drinking a bottle of red wine in just about every scene with friends and laughter and pasta and spectacular ROME, but it was in ROME, where I spent some intense/romantic/dopamine-rich time this spring with the hot Italian, drinking gorgeous red wine and walking around the city with him, holding hands in the early hours of the morning, while wearing his sexy leather jacket draped over my shoulders. Ah me…. Bad timing for romantic memories of love and connection and wine.

Maybe I’m a little heartsick too. I did catch myself looking at photos on Facebook tonight of the first man I was ever with when I was 20 years old. I was with him until I was 27, and 21 years later, he looks exactly the same. Except now he has a wife and a child and a solid career and…

I guess I was revisiting old wounds today a bit too.

Anyway… If I break the craving down in my head TODAY (staying away from those triggering memories), I can play it to the end, and it’s clear what drinking *really* means in my life now — what I want¬†to gain and what I would be losing if I drank — and I won’t go there.

But this is as uncomfortable as I’ve been in a long while, and I can say for a fact that all of my snacking today didn’t help at all. Tomorrow I need to find another way to self-soothe. I’m thinking I need to revisit my mindfulness exercises too. And breathe.

I’m going to sleep as long as I need to tonight and hope I feel better tomorrow. It’s probably a brain thing going on. Maybe it’s time to really increase my exercise finally. Maybe it’s the seasons changing. That could very well be it. Who knows.

Lots to keep me busy tomorrow, in any case. This too shall pass.

Rachel.

Day 94.

I miss you. Goodbye.

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Yesterday was eight weeks without alcohol and I feel alright. Not spectacular, but alright.

Something’s¬†been nagging at me for a while, and that something is a man. He hasn’t been nagging me on purpose, but¬†it’s the thought of him and the last time we were together that has been tightening its grip a bit. Scratching at me like the tag on the back of my t-shirt, suddenly driving me ape shit and forcing me to pay attention.

The last time we were together just over eight weeks ago. He came over to my apartment and noticed the calendar on the wall that counted off the days in big pink numbers, 1, 2, 3…all the way to 19, before starting over again. 1,2,1,1,1 2,1… When he arrived at my apartment at midnight, I had already drunk a bottle of wine. I’m sure he could barely tell — a bottle of wine over the course of a few hours would have hardly been noticeable on me then — and he’d had a few beers of his own, I think.

We didn’t sleep together, if that’s where you think this is going, but we talked a lot and laughed a lot, and I fed him a late dinner, and after he ate that bowl of¬†pasta¬†he moved over to sit next to me and hold my hand.

He’s wicked smart — well-known for how smart he is, in fact — and he laughed especially hard once when he made an obscure reference I understood. He said he loved it that I got it and he didn’t have to explain. I loved it that he loved it. ¬†That he appreciated me that way. And I loved that he was holding my hand.

We’ve known each other more than 20 years and we’ve both been through a couple of marriages in that time. We’ve both been through plenty of brutal heartache. We’ve hooked up a few times over the years, but only now are we really both single at the same time.

But single isn’t the same thing as available.

I’ve been focused on me. I’ve been consumed by¬†quitting drinking and staying quit. And as anyone who has been through this process knows, in the early days it takes pretty much every bit of extra energy one has. Extra energy, which includes all the energy it also takes from one’s work, social life, mental capacity, diet… all of it. Quitting drinking is so much harder than anyone thinks it’s going to be, and it’s all-consuming for a good while.

He’s focused on him. He’s going through a messy, contemptuous divorce with a woman who keeps saying she’s changed her mind. He’s having to sell his house and parent his kids and work through his own massive life transition, which leaves him racked more days that not.

And, he wonders if we have known each other too long. If what he really needs is a fresh start. Despite the fact that he says he trusts me like he trusts very few people, he wonders.

So. I’ve stayed away.

I made a promise to myself after my last really big relationship blew up in a spectacular fireball of hell that I would never again invest myself emotionally in someone who can’t meet me in an equal place. Who is ambivalent. Who isn’t emotionally available. I promised. And I know it was the right promise to make.

And in the more than two months since last seeing him, he hasn’t reached out. He hasn’t inquired. He hasn’t asked about how I’m doing or tried to connect. He has a lot going on, but that’s no excuse. We all know that. I know that.

And so I’ve stayed away…until today. It felt like it was time to get my answer (because sometimes I need to force my own hand and kill any sprouts of hope I might be harboring by taking a machete to the ambiguity) and I finally decided to reach out to him. I would give him the opening he didn’t actually need. I would say hello.

I got my answer. He promptly responded and nicely answered my questions but still didn’t ask about me. He didn’t inquire. He didn’t keep the conversation going. He didn’t wonder.

And tonight I want to drink. I’m not going to drink, but I want to. I guzzled a couple of fizzy drinks and stuffed my belly with enough food to give me that full feeling that would slow down my drinker’s voice. I breathed and said out loud

Ouch. This hurts. I need to feel my feelings but this fucking hurts. I hurt. 

I’m not going to drink about it, but I want to. And I’m excruciatingly clear why: I want to squish these feelings and at the same time I want to feel loved. Desired. Worthy. I want to blot out this pain and sadness, and at the same time I want to feel held and comforted and included. I want to forget, and leave for a while, and fucking let go and not care. And I want to feel deeply and care with all my heart. I want to feel so much.

I know alcohol only makes it worse. All of it. I know it does’t fix anything. And I believe I won’t move forward if I drink. I won’t heal. I know.

So.

Fuck.

I’m feeling my fucking feelings. I’m going to go for a walk with Bub and then I’m going to get in bed early and read. And sleep. And I’m going to pray and hope the Universe has big plans for me. HUGE FUCKING PLANS. And those HUGE plans include bringing my partner to me. Someone who will do all the things this guy isn’t doing and then some. Someone who wants me and more importantly, deserves me. Someone who is my champion and makes me feel like I’m amazing when I’m with him — because I am.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to fill up my own damn hole, but goddammit, tonight I just want to be loved, and desired, and held. And that’s okay.

Tonight I will let myself feel this shit and mourn the hope I had that this rare amazing man and I might try something new and cool. That we might be just what the other needs and we were there all along. That it would be a new season for us.

I will mourn that and accept that it isn’t going to happen.

My coach might advise me to ask myself and the Universe, So, who else? Who else is out there?

So, yeah, okay, I’ll try that, but not tonight. Tonight I will hurt and miss him. And tonight I will let him go.

Rachel. Day 57.

 

When a Team is not a healthy thing, I choose Me

Hey there,

I had a big rowing competition this weekend and WOW, I won a gold medal! I have to say, it felt pretty great and for the first time my team and I bonded. Suddenly there were Facebook friend requests flying around, people from across our larger team were actually talking to me (strange how a gold medal around your neck can make a difference…hmm…) and some of us finally had some great talks and got to know each other better while we sat on the beach and watched our fellow teammates row in their races.

But I think I’m going to leave rowing now. At least as the consuming ambition it’s been.

Why now?

There are several reasons, and at the end of the day, they all point back to how rowing makes me feel about myself. There are certainly pros and cons.

Pros:

  • I love being on the water. There are times when I just look at the sky and the clouds and the reflection of the city off the lake as the sun is setting and I just sit in the moment in gratitude. I breathe a few deep breaths and try to be absolutely present. It’s really awesome.
  • It’s cool. I think so and other people think so. I can admit that. I LOVE when other people are impressed or excited by the fact that I row (HELLO EGO! Jeez.)
  • I am proud of myself that it can be really hard, but I have stuck with it. I stuck with it in the middle of winter when it was dark and raining and 38 degrees, and I was out there. ¬†I was out there when I had to get up at 4am to be there for 5am “hands on” days. I was out there when my hands were blistered and calloused, or the oars ripped whole pieces of skin off fingers and palms or made me bleed…I stuck to it. This is a big deal to me. Rarely in my life have I felt like I’m doing something that so many people admire or are impressed by and that I stuck to and skipped things for and got up early for and all of it. It feels pretty good (but I’m finding it comes at a cost. More on that below).
  • I love the workout. The training. A really hard workout can be a lot of fun — and obviously, is great exercise! And even when the weather is sheit and I’m out there, I can come back in not being able to feel my frozen feet :), but I also feel like a badass for having gone out in the first place. I loved that.
  • I love being part of something. Part of the community. Being able to call myself a rower and have a jacket with the logo on it and be extremely remotely associated with the guys who rowed in “Boys in the Boat.” (Pretty much everyone asks me, “Did you read “Boys in the Boat”? Answer: I bought it, and started to read it, but got bored and haven’t picked it up again – yet.)

Cons:

  • But that’s the thing. The community. The community I’ve experienced is very cliquey. When I joined this competitive boat to race with, very few of the women were nice to me. It got better over time as I got to know a few of them, but there is still a woman — in a boat of eight women and we just won a gold medal together — who has still never said hello to me. The woman who sits in the seat directly behind me barely spoke to me. And it’s like that across the boathouse. It has been a very rare thing that someone I didn’t know was friendly. I made it a point to always make the first move, but it started to wear me down how unfriendly so many people were. Unless they knew you already. And sometimes even then.
  • When I row, as awesome as it can be, I often feel bad about myself while I’m rowing. The coxswain is (what feels like constantly) pointing out what I am doing wrong, could be doing better. (It’s the only way I’m going to get better, but there is a limit to what a person can take during a single workout…) The other women in the boat are rarely friendly. The coxswains aren’t friendly or supportive. Or the coach snaps at me for something that wasn’t my fault. Or I feel big/heavy. I just don’t feel good enough or welcome when I’m there, and it has been well over a year. It may be all in my head, but is it that hard to be nice? (there are some nice people, but they are the exception, and oddly they are rarely among the good rowers.)
  • It’s a LOT of time. I train on the water three days a week, and the expectation with the competitive team is at least another two days on the ergs (rowing machines) or three additional hours a week cardio. And where it used to be fun to push to get better and people understood sometimes life happens too, now you are expected to be there to train and other things (life) are expected to take a back seat. I started thinking about all the things I want to get done in my life, and how little time I have with a full-time job and a dog to take care of, and there’s not much time left in the week. I have to be selective.

So, what REALLY matters here?

My life coach said it and I think she’s right: I should NOT be doing anything right now — for my self-care but especially in early sobriety — that makes me feel like I’m not good enough. Even though sports are about mental toughness and getting better, and I am relatively new at this, I think she’s right. I’m beginning to see that the culture of this sport in particular leaves me constantly feeling like I’m not quite good enough.

I should be spending my very limited time doing things that are nurturing and aren’t triggering. Following my curiosity and doing things that are in line with my goals of making an impact and finding richness and strength. Challenging is good. Doing hard things…good. Swinging for the rafters and pushing myself beyond my limits…all good! But anything that isn’t supportive or, like I said, makes me feel less than, NOT GOOD.

I’m a sensitive person. I think drinkers often are. Empathic. A feeler. I’m not overly competitive and I certainly need to feel supported and encouraged when I’m doing something scary and really hard. Especially when I’m putting myself out there, exposed. There really was very very little of that, nurturing, support, and it was only getting worse as I was moving up the ranks to the competitive team. I’m a tall, strong woman. The “perfect” body type for this sport. But I’m beginning to think I’m not the perfect personality type for it. At least not at this boathouse.

Maybe someone needs to tell them that we would be a much stronger team if we supported one another and made each other feel appreciated and safe.

Alright, I realize I am sitting inside a made-for-TV movie right now. Back to real life.

So, there it is. I went to my first regatta this weekend, won a gold medal, and I think I may be done competing.¬†I’m going out on top! ūüôā¬†And as hard (and confusing) as this decision might be right now (think of all my new Facebook friends! ūüôā what about my intense FOMO?), my gut says, this may be the best decision overall for me. As hard as it is to feel like I’m “quitting” or worse, “giving up,” I was overcome with the view from the rafters that my time is a precious thing and every moment I can choose, I choose to move forward.

Pride aside. Admiration from others aside. Cool  factor and gold medals aside. I need to take care of my heart, and I need to stay sober.

Tara Brach said during one of her podcast lessons a couple of weeks ago, “What if you knew you only had a year to live? How would you spend your time? A month? A day?”

Rowing is a very cool thing. But I have things to do with my life. An impact to make in this world.

And so…here I am at Day 8. Don’t think it was easy not drinking this weekend after the first really hard day at the regatta! I was tired, stressed, had been under the sun all day, was scared for the race the next day, feeling alone¬†and unsupported…and instead of drinking, I went to the bookstore and brought a book back to my motel for the night.

I’m really working on soothing myself in better ways, and that includes preventative care as well.

And now, sleep.

Rachel.

 

 

A Drinker’s Dozen

I know a baker’s dozen is actually 13, but a (former) drinker doesn’t need to count an extra day to make a dozen. No siree, it’s a solid 12.

The rain keeps pouring down in Seattle. Rain rain rain. I’ve said before, about a month ago we broke the record for most rainy winter since record-keeping began, and it hasn’t really let up since. Rain rain rain. I bought a sun/light box and have been using it at least 30 minutes a day. I feel ok — I don’t know if it’s working but I do feel better than I’ve felt in recent weeks — but the rain is starting to finally get to me. Walking home from work today I was full-on Carrie Bradshaw’d — you know, where you’re walking down the street and a huge car/truck/bus drives full speed through a puddle in the road and the entire volume of puddle flies from the asphalt onto you? Yep, that happened to me today. Twice. (No, I wasn’t wearing a pink tutu and manolo blahniks…)

If I weren’t headed to Europe in just two weeks¬†(oh my god i need to start planning what i’m going to pack!!)¬†I would be looking into flights to somewhere warm and sunny. A shot of vitamin D to the system.

sunshine

Ahhhh…

I’m hoping Italy has some sun this time of year. I haven’t even checked. I may pack my light box just in case.

I’ve been stressed today, and haven’t fully shaken off the bummer that happened last night at rowing. I think I’m drinking too much caffeine again — time to cut back…. I think I need more sleep. Tonight I met a couple of friends for dinner and I was just off. Too tired and grumpy, and my best friend said she could tell something was up. No one drank any booze (I had another shrub drink) and the check was so inexpensive!

I’m not very interesting tonight but writing because I said I would. Tomorrow is Thursday and I have Friday off (yay!), and I have a¬†date Saturday evening to look forward to too.

Happy happy, joy joy.

Sober, sober.

Rachel. It’s actually a non-drinker’s dozen (12). ūüôā

 

Soundly flogged by my own

Tonight, rowing was hell.

I didn’t actually row — I had to be the coxswain, because it was my turn. We rotate through the lineups, and because I was out for work for a couple of weeks (grrr), I didn’t get to row, but my number still moves forward to cox. Bleck. At least it’s over now.

I couldn’t see (it was too dark without the moon), I couldn’t hear (it was windy and our coach was behind us), I couldn’t do much¬†right except make the calls to keep them rowing, but even that I fucked up a few times. I was in Backwardsland tonight for some reason (I was literally sitting the reverse from normal), and kept wanting to call the rower on the opposite sides. Some of the rowers were being jerk faces about it (just rude and un-teamplayer-like), which embarrassed me and bummed me out. This is my thing. I’m really good at this. And for a couple of bitches (frankly) to get oddly vocal about how things were sucking, was a bit too much for me. I wish I’d told them to shut it, grow the hell up and have some class. I didn’t think about it until I’d been stewing in my own shame for a little while, and then became quietly indignant. Like, what the hell, why did they need to be that way? For realz. I go back and forth between regretting not calling them out and being glad I took the high road. But did it look like weakness? Aren’t you supposed to meet bullies head on? Maybe.

I emailed my coach and asked him if the team could have a little talk next time about supporting each other in harsh conditions. We’ll see what he says.

Anyway, I¬†left pissed off and wanting to head to Whole Foods, buy a big bottle of red and drink three or four big glasses to stuff down these feelings. ¬†Sadness, anger, resentment, frustration, shame, embarrassment, regret, disappointment — it was all there. The whole nine yards of drinkers’ best excuses to drink!

But I didn’t.

Quickly I realized that was just a dumb idea, and I really needed to sit in my feelings and feel them. Gah. Feel yer fucking ass hole feelings.

SHALT — Sad, Hungry, Angry/Agitated, Lonely, Tired.¬†Try to avoid that shizzle. Do some deep breathing. Drink some tea and take a shower and write a blog post quick before I need to get to bed and start a new day. It’s time to end this day. That’s a fact.

What is it about Tuesdays? I’m noticing a pattern here. Last Tuesday sucked ass too.

Ah well. I’m home with my dog, Bub, who is sweet as ever, and he is ALWAYS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, loving and supportive of me. Always at my side, no. matter. what.

I’m really tired and I just want to shut my eyes and start again tomorrow. So, with that said, I think I will.

SOBER

That’s all.

Rachel. Day 11.

It’s Saturday, which calls for a two-fer

Saturday: Part 1.

I’m headed to rowing this morning for the first time in a couple of weeks. I was out of town for some of it, but if I’m honest, I haven’t been for the most part because I needed a break. And last week my mood was down and I didn’t go to bed Friday until very late. 1:30 a.m. or something crazy. I was ruminating and spinning and feeling lonely (Danger!), and I realized it was more important to get a full night’s sleep — even if it meant missing rowing. That was probably the right call — it turned out to be the unplanned Day 1 — but still. My first day of re-entry on the water in a while and my hand callouses (my badges of honor!) have dramatically shrunk. Boo.

At the recommendation of my coach, C., I bought the book “The Depression Cure” and a sun lamp. I’ve been feeling down for weeks, which is too long, and I think it’s just the record-breaking wet winter we’ve had here in Seattle (I need light). I want to do whatever I can to avoid medication, if possible. I’m not anti-meds when they’re needed. Not at all. But I’ll try natural remedies first. And I’m actually feeling better this week, by a lot.

Maybe it’s the boys paying attention to me. That always feels good.

Maybe it’s the impending spring (flowers are blooming!).

Maybe it’s shifts at work and my trip to Europe (for work) is¬†less than 3 weeks away!

Maybe it’s me coming to terms with some things in a healthy way and choosing to be grateful. Choosing Grace.

Maybe it’s just natural rhythms and a little bit of everything.

Whatever it is, I am grateful.

And now, off to rowing!

Rachel. Day 8.

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! ūüôā 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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā ¬†I am super grateful to be on this journey with every one of you.

xo Rachel.

Day 24.

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.