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.

 

Tonight I went on a sober date

…and when he walked me back to my door (we had been “having a drink” within walking distance of my apartment), I didn’t kiss him just because I’d been wondering about his lips all night. In fact, I didn’t do anything I’ll wonder (or cringe) about tomorrow morning. I didn’t say anything snarky or coarsely sarcastic or talk too much or too loudly at all. We didn’t stay too long or have a second (or third) unplanned glass or get too personal or intimate; we didn’t think we were having more fun than we would realize tomorrow we really were. I didn’t progressively look more tired or sloppy or flushed. I didn’t eat too much. I didn’t spend too much. I didn’t try too hard.

When I arrived, he was as cute as I’d hoped he’d be, and I ordered a lavender soda because the bartender didn’t have anything with shrub, and besides, I’d never tried the lavender. They served it to me in a tall water glass with a fat black straw, and when I said to my date that what I really wanted was a lowball glass and a wedge of lime, he popped right up and asked the bartender for them both. I transformed my clumsy, juvenile-looking drink into something that looked like a grown woman on a date would be holding it (sans straw). I made a little joke about the glass and the limes, and he seemed unfazed and ordered a glass of red wine without asking why I wasn’t joining him for a bottle. It took him about an hour to get to the bottom of that glass of wine. He didn’t order a second.

We had (what I thought was) a fun conversation and then he walked me back to the front door of my building. Oh, I do love it when men are gentlemen, and he made a joke about protecting me, which I also secretly loved. When we reached the door, he had “the look” (girls, you know the look) and if I had been floating on my 2-3 glasses of wine, I probably would have kissed him then. I’d have just made that happen. But instead, I hugged him close enough that he could smell my perfume if he were paying attention (and I’m pretty sure he was paying attention), and then we said goodbye. He walked back up the street toward his car.

I don’t know if he’ll call (text) again. I’ve found these things are hard to predict. Even when they seem like they will, they don’t always. Sure, I suppose in retrospect I may not have always been the best judge from behind such thick, cab-colored wine goggles. But either way, whether he wants to see me again or he doesn’t, I’m glad I didn’t drink tonight.

For all of these reasons, and so many more. I’m sanguine and I have absolutely no regrets.

Rachel. Day 13.

Busting out of prison (Don’t quit before the miracle!)

Don’t worry, I’m here. I’m alright. I’m sober.

I just had an intense weekend and sort of lost my buzz (pun only partially intended) for blogging every day. When “blog every night no matter what” went head-to-head with “avoid overwhelm,” the latter won.

It was a really intense weekend and maybe I’ll recount some of it in the coming days. Need to get back on the proverbial blogging horse somehow, so here we go. Baby steps. Tonight was another intense evening with the person who shall go unnamed for the time being, so here I am, still up way past my bedtime.

Not good. I’ll try to sleep a little longer tomorrow to catch up, ’cause Lord Knows I need my sleep.

Anyhow, today a woman on another private FB group I follow posted the most amazing thing. I won’t say her name as I want to protect her anonymity, but I do want to give her credit, so I’ll use her initials, C.C.

I just loved it, and it really has me thinking about things in a new way again. Like I’ve been peeling the damn onion on this non-drinking thing since last fall, layer-by-layer, getting to the root core of what I really think and need, and changing in layers too. Morphing. Coming to terms with what alcohol means in my life on my own terms, and by listening and learning to so many others who have come before me. It sometimes feels like a bit of an Escher painting, spirals and spirals that appear to be going inward — but look again, they are moving outward. The learning, the growing, the morphing…the learning some more…

Here is what C.C. said today:

Hello my friends! I am noticing a lot of folks struggling in recent weeks. Spring is here, weather is warmer, the allure of seasonal drinking and memories of alcohol drenched summers will be calling to us. I just wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having lately.
I just passed the 6 month mark last Sunday. How do I explain how different my life is? Everything is different. Everything. I never realized what a prison I had built for myself with alcohol. Alcohol governed my entire life. It was the Donald Trump of my soul. It was the center of my universe. I woke every morning and my eyes were on the clock for when I could open my wine. And if I had a concert to play that night, I was in a shitty mood all day because I wouldn’t be able to drink. And if I couldn’t drink, then I had nothing to look forward to. It controlled my life. It stole favor from my husband and children. From my job, that isn’t even a job, (I mean for crying out loud, I play the cello and I’m lucky enough to get paid for it). And I resented my amazing career, because it was an impediment to my drinking. I guess what I want all the newbies to know is how much BETTER life is to be out of that prison. So many of you are thinking, as I did, that “I’m not that bad. I’ve never gotten a DUI. I’ve never spent a night in jail.” But you are wrong. That’s a bunch of crap. You spend every night in jail, in a prison. Alcohol is your warden. There is a whole giant life out there waiting for you. There is a huge part of your brain and heart that awaken in the months after you take your last drink. And you realize that you have been operating on half power for years. You’ve been living life with the dimmer switch on. And I’m not going to lie, it’s not always awesome. Life doesn’t always look perfect when the lights are on full power, but by God at least you can see what the damage is and have half a shot at making it better. And the good stuff? The good stuff is still there, but bigger and brighter than you’ve ever seen it before. Take off your shackles. One day at a time. One hour at a time. Don’t quit before the miracle!!!!!!! Trust that the discomfort will dissipate. At six months I rarely even think about alcohol. But at six days, I thought I would literally die if I had to make dinner without my glass of wine, or do laundry without my glass of wine, or watch a stupid animated movie with my kids without my glass of wine. I thought I was being punished. But then slowly, the changes started happening. I slept like I have never slept before. Deep, thick sleep. I had energy in the morning to have a good attitude for my kids as we did the frantic “get out the door, dammit, why don’t you have your shoes on, what do you mean you haven’t brushed your teeth” routine. I started telling my husband when things bothered me. I was more direct. I wasn’t drinking at my feelings anymore. I wasn’t drinking “at” people when I was angry. So, that shit had to get out, and when it did, real conversations started happening. And guess what else? I’m a better cellist now than I was six months ago. My brain is clicking faster, clearer. My reaction time is faster. Yes, I still have an occasional bad day, when I fantasize about being a normal drinker. But then I remember that I was NEVER a normal drinker. Alcohol always came with a C.C. sized penitentiary attached to it. And I never want to live in those four walls again. So what am I calling for? Nothing short of a massive prison break. Bust out of there and join us. The world is a big beautiful place and life is short. I love you all and thank you so much for supporting me through my escape. And in gratitude, I will be here idling the get away car as you rappel down the walls of your Alcatraz.

LOVE.

I have a wedding all weekend starting Friday in Portland, and then I leave next Friday for my 2.5-week trip to Europe for work. I’m going to keep this and other favorites in my pocket. I’m newly inspired to not “quit before the miracle!” and I will keep on pushing until I stop caring about booze. I do feel it coming, bit-by-bit, layer-by-pungent layer. 🙂 I’m closing in on it.

(and I will write again tomorrow…)

xo Rachel. Day 18.

 

Lucky (Day) 13

Now that I’ve committed to writing something every night for the next 87 days, I’m even more impressed by people like Belle who have managed to do it AND be interesting and insightful every single day.

Today is my Friday — I have tomorrow off — and I felt the teeniest craving to relax into a bottle of wine after rowing tonight. It didn’t last long, and instead I came home, snacked a little and watched an episode of “House of Cards.” They sure drink a lot on that show. They sure drink a lot on a lot of the shows I watch, as it turns out. Most of the time it doesn’t bug me, but sometimes… it does.

I’m still very much in that place where I feel like I’m inhabiting two selves at the same time: the self that thinks a glass of wine would be fun/satisfying/comforting/euphoric, and the self that is looking at that situation almost from outside of myself, and knows it isn’t at all what that first self has it cracked up to be. It’s like two sides of the Cab-colored looking glass. It’s going to take time to jettison the first self. I know.

I do keep hearing that voice again in the back of my head. The wine harpy, whispering  in my ear that after 100 days I’ll see how I feel. I’m not going to fight that voice anymore — not now.  I’ll just go all Aikido on it and bend like a reed. Whatever. Sure, harpy. Sounds fine, I say to her, but back off because I’m going a 100 days this time. It’s not forever, just 100 days. We’ll see how I feel then. Talk to me then.

“Stay Here.” I finally broke down and bought the “Stay Here” bracelet from Belle. I already have the “Not Today” bracelet — I wear it every day. But something about stay here has been resonating with me lately. Stay. Right. Here. I don’t want to think about 100 days or forever or next week. I’m just going to think about today. And maybe, if I’m feeling good and bold, I’ll think about tomorrow. But that’s it. I don’t need to sort out what I’m going to do on day 100 right now. I’m a helluva long way from that and it isn’t productive for me to be spending cycles on the philosophical merits of telling myself 100 days vs 100+ vs forever, etc. For now, I’m right here.

Stay here.

I have another date Saturday night with the guy, E. This time we’re going to see some music which starts kind of early (6:30 p.m.), so I left logistics open in case he wanted to make it a quick thing again like last time. (I’ve sometimes likened myself to a “dating autistic…I feel like I can’t read men’s expressions or behaviors accurately at all. like face blindness, but with romantic cues.) But he suggested we have a “late lunch/early dinner” at 4:30, so yay! I guess ‘be careful what you wish for,’ because now I’m definitely going to be with him for at least five hours, and all sober.

I’m going to do a lot of deep breathing and power posing (see: Amy Cuddy) before he comes to pick me up. 🙂 I’m also going to have a good talk with my life coach tomorrow about bringing my female energy to the date. Tips on how to be sexy and appealing. Oh, how I envy women who just get it. I know I don’t need wine to relax and have fun with him, but just try to tell that to my reptile brain! There’s a whole lotta years of programming to undo, and I’m diving in, head first (to mix metaphors).

The sun came out a bit today and it was beautiful. My coach responded to my email, and then masterfully addressed some of the team’s attitude issue during practice today. I was so relieved. I have to work tomorrow on my day off, but my good friend and I booked our airbnb apartment in Rome this morning and I’m so excited! Two weeks until I leave for Venice. I can’t wait. I’m very lucky and very grateful. It was a good day.

Rachel. Day 13.

The cute guy *really* doesn’t care that I don’t drink

I wasn’t going to go to the SMART Recovery meeting tonight — but I did.

I had been thinking I was too busy this week, that I have something going every night except Friday (so far), that I’m slammed at work and my dog is home long days, and…and…I’ll just skip this time because I’m feeling good and it’s fine.

I’m fine.

But then, I kept noticing a certain niggling, nagging chatter in my head. The kind that goes, You know why the cute guy (E.) hasn’t texted you yet, it’s because you were boring because you don’t drink. Or maybe you’re just too high maintenance, that’s probably why. Or maybe he thinks it’s just the tip of the iceberg and you must be hiding something. He wonders what it means. Or maybe… you just weren’t sexy because you didn’t have a glass of wine… 

You’re not good enough (because?)(and?) you don’t drink.

Brene Brown (who is also sober) would have a field day with this.

I kept hearing Belle in my head saying, “You don’t want to get to the point where you start thinking, ‘This is too hard.’ That’s Wolfie. Avoid overwhelm. Don’t drift from your supports. And don’t wait until you think you need them, because by then you could be on your way to relapse…”

I kept hearing the promise I made to myself (and to anyone listening on my blog–that’s YOU) that this time I was cranking up the support and doing this differently. This time I would LISTEN to the advice of others and do what they say. I promised.

This is too hard.  No, I wasn’t thinking it yet, but somewhere in the back of my mind I was worrying. I could feel it back there, a lurking shadow. The faintest whisper — surely from the fecking wine harpy — saying, Being sober is hard. It’s really hard. Especially dating someone new. You want to be NORMAL with this guy, don’t you? Don’t give him reasons not to be excited about you. It doesn’t have to be so uncomfortable… If you just had one glass of wine at dinner, you would give him one fewer reason to reject you. Be nooooorrrrrmmaaaaalllllll…..

But the thing is, E. was awesome about my not drinking. He was supportive and didn’t even finish his drink. All that shit is going on in MY head, and I really had no reason to believe that my not drinking had phased him negatively at all.

AND WHAT ABOUT BRADLEY COOPER? Natalie Portman? Naomi Campbell? Ben Affleck? (Rachel B! Brene Brown!)

All fantastically sexy and interesting people (I’m sure!), and they don’t drink.

So, at 5:45 p.m., I found myself very suddenly packing up my stuff and heading straight to the 6 o’clock meeting for the support. And because only five people showed up tonight, we spent some time breaking down my assumptions about what normal-drinking people think about non-drinkers, and how the goal is to normalize my not drinking (in my head) in situations like dates — or every day life. Essentially, the meeting leader said, E. was most likely not thinking about my not drinking at all (that was me), and the more we can treat it like a non-issue in these situations, the better off we’ll be. That’s the goal.

Wouldn’t that be awesome? That freedom? To be, like, ho-hum, no big deal, I don’t drink but you go ahead. That’s how I am with pot (I’ve never liked it or cared). And meat.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit I’m still a wee bit stressed out about it, that E. will care if I don’t drink, but I really do think I just need to breathe and decompress. It’s just compounded by the fact that dating is just nerve-wracking! The actual real issue is the part of my brain (wine harpy!) that is trying to use this opportunity to negotiate “moderation” or some bullshit. That is the God honest truth of it and I know it. That’s what the harpy wants.

She can bite me.

I won’t do it. Not this time. It’s not worth it, and do you know what? I’m kind of curious about what it’s going to feel like to spend time with the guy without wine. There is that silly stuff like, what do we do right before the music show this coming Saturday when there isn’t time for dinner? In the old days I would have said, Let’s have a drink! But now? Hell, I don’t know… Appetizers and fun fizzy drinks somewhere cool, maybe?

Hm. I think I just answered my own question. 🙂

Boom.

Rachel. Day 10.

Sunday is Daylight Savings and I CAN NOT WAIT. The sun is staying longer, flowers are beginning to bloom, and I am excited to see my favorite flower soon. Peonies. They have such a short window, but they are the absolute best while they are here.

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Dates go a lot faster sober

Saturday, Part 2.

Dates sure go a lot faster when we’re sober — or at least this one did. In and out in 90 minutes — AND he wants to do something again next weekend. 🙂

When the waiter came by and asked if we’d like anything to drink, he looked at me and said, “Do you want wine?”

Ugh, that awkward moment when I have to disappoint a date and not share a bottle. My worst fear.

I told him I was still not drinking (even since my cleanse) and I’ve been really cutting back the last five or six months. Playing with how much I can drink before feeling like crap. I told him I find anymore that I just feel better when I don’t drink at all and it’s been working for me.

“That’s cool,” he said, and he really seemed to mean it. “If you feel better without it, then don’t do it.” He ordered a glass of wine and I ordered a beet ginger shrub AF drink. He sipped that one glass for the entire meal and didn’t even finish it. Astonishing.

Sure, I wished I could have been helped to relax by a glass of wine. Sure, I would have liked to have shared a romantic experience with him, and moved into the buzz of the wine in sync with him. As nice as the meal and conversation were, I was aware of the absence of the wine. But I would be. I’ve only just begun.

But I was pleased and excited by the fact that we had great conversation and I was completely sober. I wasn’t blotting out my edginess, and I had to be in my body and be present. We laughed and teased a little, and even got a little vulnerable at the end talking about “what vulnerability means” — and all sober. I found myself admiring his smile and his hands, and his laugh and sense of humor, and being sober allowed me to admire that without crossing boundaries. Without getting sloppy.

A 90-minute date just never happened when I was drinking. In the past, my date and I might drink a bottle and probably order more, talking into the evening and then possibly going somewhere else for a nightcap. Sometimes, it might even lead to more, which I’m definitely not proud of, but it’s true. Looking back on it now, in the last couple of decades (except when I was married) I had a bad habit of moving too quickly into intimacy, and it was always aided and abetted by the bottle.

I think this is actually how grown-ups get to know each other. Not always — plenty of sober people and “normies” move quickly too, I imagine — but slow and steady is a good thing. Right now the thought of meeting him for 90 minutes once a week is a bit scary. I’m impatient. I’m restless. What if it fizzles out? What if he gets bored — or I do? What if I like him and I want to spend more time with him? That’s a lot of build up in between dates. What if I’m rejected?

But when I really think about it, moving too fast and forcing intimacy quickly (again, always with booze) never did me any favors. Maybe getting to know him sober, a little bit at a time, is best for both of us. When I asked him what being vulnerable looks like to him, he said it was being able to be honest about how you’re feeling no matter what. And that’s scary.

Sounds like being sober. 🙂

I agreed, that is scary, and for me, I can struggle with letting myself let go, for fear of being hurt. We stopped and looked at each other and he said, “That was intimacy!” And we laughed. But he meant it.

Maybe we both need to feel safe, in our own ways, and just maybe, doing things differently than I have done in probably the last 25 years — since before I started drinking — will lead to different results. At the very least I’ll learn something about myself.

He was cute and fun, and said he had a great time and asked me out again for next weekend. No games. No hedging. It was nice.

And when we parted, he gave me a light hug and he was off.

Now, it’s 10:30 on a Saturday night. I’m sober and home with my Bub. I’ll wash my face, get into my warm, clean sheets, and read a bit of something easy before falling asleep. And tomorrow, I’ll be up early and feeling proud of myself and excited for the week ahead.

Rachel. Day 8.

…It’s a thinking problem

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process of quitting drinking, it is this:

Avoid overwhelm.

Because especially now, after more than 5 months since I began the serious process of quitting drinking, I am amazed to say that I have broken the habit of coming home to a bottle of wine every night.

Since I made it over the big hump — I’m not sure when it happened exactly, because for me this has been such an iterative process, but probably after the first 30 days continuous — I’ve been really embracing being alcohol-free and all of the super great things that come with it. I never would have imagined it, ME, not drinking red wine every day, let alone going weeks or months without a drink, but it’s true. It’s pretty easy now, and the benefits have been more than I could have imagined.

These benefits become especially clear when I do have a drink again.

I’m sure this is a necessary part of my process. It was the same way when I quit eating meat. Every once in a while I would test out eating meat to see how I felt about it, but then I’d see another horrific farm animal abuse video and my resolve would be set again. Of course I wasn’t addicted to bacon, but our culture is every bit as saturated with messages about eating meat as it is about drinking alcohol, not to mention being raised on meat being a part of virtually every meal, and yet I was able to stop finally. I don’t “test” it anymore, or wonder if someday I might start eating meat again “in moderation.” No. Eating meat is something I just don’t do. Even if a thought flits through my head about having a taste of something, it just as quickly is ushered right on through and out again. Nope. Pass. No thanks.

So all of that build up to say that this week I had a date that I had built up so much in my head that by the time I finally was about to meet the guy, I was so incredibly, beyond rationally nervous, that I couldn’t imagine layering the added awkwardness of saying I didn’t drink on top of it. I was completely worked up. I skipped rowing(!), and I tossed my own self-care aside and made this date the top priority.

Of course, I set myself up. I didn’t mean to, but I did. And so, I had a couple of glasses of wine and all I accomplished was making myself tired. That was it. I had something in my hand (which I could have accomplished in other ways) and it made it actually more difficult to engage with him.

And insult to injury, it wasn’t even a good date and I’ll not see him again! Jaysus.

Now, this isn’t tragedy (except blowing off rowing and breaking my AF streak, that’s a bummer). I’m not back to drinking and I’m completely in control. I don’t know what that means, but it’s true. I’m OK and not drinking today. But I am back to DAY 1. I can’t deny it. If counting days of continuous sobriety is what is important to me (and I’ve decided now that it is, and I’ll tell you why), then I have to start the clock again. This isn’t back to the beginning, but it is back to Day 1.

Here is what I’ve learned:

  • In the last month or so, I found myself questioning whether I might just be able to drink every once in a while. You know, being one of those people who hardly ever drinks, but does on rare occasion. I know some people like that; you probably do too. I was thinking, maybe I could choose that. (ha!) But while I *might* be able to manage that (maybe, not sure, questionable, doubtful), I realize now, I DON’T WANT TO. It has never been so clear as it was in the moments when I was actually drinking the glass of wine. I didn’t like it and it didn’t like me either.
  • I didn’t enjoy it (I’ve said this before, but it just doesn’t taste good anymore…I’ve UNacquired the taste), and while I’m not exactly feeling compulsion to drink today, I am noticing the chatter is a LOT louder in my head again. I think this is what I forget and is one of the most important lessons to remember moving forward. I had begun to get used to and really savor the peace in my head. The freedom from the chatter. I have begun to really look forward to my evenings with tea and a book or a project, without any of the mental conflict, and with all the time! While I’m OK and not feeling like I need/want a drink, I am uncomfortable that the volume of irrational background noise has increased a bit. I know it’s the wine goblin, who I clearly poked and gave some nourishment. Shit. The only way to kill him is to suffocate the fecking life out of him. I knew it, but I REALLY get it now. I do. The only way to kill that MoFo is by not having a single drink. Ever.
  • When I don’t drink I just feel happier and lighter and more free. It’s hard to explain and I would never have expected it, but I feel an old familiar sad angst in the pit of my gut today that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I’m convinced (not to get woo woo) it’s the demon that is alcohol. The poison is not just of the body, but it is of the spirit as well. There’s a heaviness of my spirit today that I realize now is the scrim that alcohol layers over our lives.
  • Remember: **Avoid overwhelm** and if I find that I am super stressed or freaked out or WAY too worked up about something, I need to do whatever I have to do to defuse the situation — and protect my sobriety. I choose this now, and it is just taking some time to adjust my mind to my new lifestyle. This also happened when I quit drinking caffeinated coffee. For months, part of my brain still felt like I wanted to “try” caffeine, even though rationally I knew I was better off without it and I was actually fine with that. It’s like my neuro-pathways of habit and emotional attachment need time to be rewired, and they are just always behind my rational mind. I guess that’s the definition of addiction. Normal.
  • When I drink, my eating habits go out the window, in the present and for the next day at least. This makes me feel bad and goes against my priority of self-care. I’ve been feeling great and eating well. Drinking is out of line with my values for self-care there as well. No bueno!
  • I will practice and accept sitting in the occasional discomfort of not drinking (which has become easier and easier, especially in social situations), because I’ve decided that alcohol doesn’t work for me anymore. I am almost allergic to it in the way it makes my body and my mind feel terrible. That’s a pretty simple message to get one’s head around. “No thanks, I don’t drink. It doesn’t agree with me.”

So, I did this to myself. I threw caution to the wind and lost my way. Belle even told me: “Sobriety first, dating second.” I think hormones got the better of me. 🙂 (What am I, 15?)

Like I said, this isn’t a tragedy and I’m not loading shame on myself, which is a risk as a person who has been blogging about my sobriety journey. It’s easy to want to hide and not admit when the journey includes a couple of drinks, as I continuously work on the landscape of how I want to live my life. I so admire those of you who have (finally) been able to get months and years under your belt alcohol-free. It’s something to be so very proud of.

Some day I will have had my last drink. Maybe it was yesterday. I hope so. I can only promise today and tomorrow, but I am newly committed to the next 100 days as an accomplishment in and of itself.

Because another thing I’ve learned is that for me, counting days is motivating and feels great, and is something that I’ve been really proud of, also to a degree I didn’t expect. Part of it is how happy I’ve felt lately, and attributing that to having gone weeks and weeks without a drink — something that I never would have believed I could do.

AND…I finally caught glimpses of the BLISS everyone has talked about, and the mental freedom, and it was incredible.

I want more of that.

And I can have it.

Here’s to the next 100 days without alcohol. It feels so much easier than ever before. It’s not without its challenges (obviously), but I’m not bored anymore (yay!) and it’s truly not a struggle anymore the majority of the time. And that’s awesome.

Oh, and I’m going to make sure I don’t wander too far from all of my supports, like the blogging community. We’re all in this together, and it matters.

xo Rachel.

Day 1.

ps., I still plan to get my first tattoo at my 1-year mark. That just may have to be end of January, 2017. That’s all.

NA beer and internalizing being a non-drinker takes time

After my whiny whiny post on Jan 1, it got me wondering why I was having so much a sense of loss of fun. Pleasure. I really didn’t think I was feeling deprived — I mean, I’ve intellectualized the fact that it’s “poison,” all the harm it has caused in my life, and all I’m not getting done because I spent the bulk of every day when I wasn’t at work, drinking.

Maybe this was a normal part of the evolution? Maybe I just needed an attitude adjustment? Take a look around and be grateful for all the amazing things in my life? Maybe.

But I’ve really been starting to wonder if the AF beer I’ve been drinking from time-to-time has been causing this nagging flatness, or at least making it worse than it might have been. That maybe, the AF beer has been a low-grade trigger I didn’t realize.

I’m sure there are lots of articles on this — to drink AF drinks or not to drink them — and I hear that AA is so against AF beer that it considers drinking it a lapse. (If that’s true, another strike against me attending AA… Because, c’mon…) But this article was interesting about a test on rats that showed that even the smell of alcohol was a trigger for them. I wasn’t much of a beer drinker before, but I can understand it intuitively. It really does smell and taste like beer. You just don’t git no buzz on.

But better than that one, this article really articulates how I feel about not drinking now, and how the “slips” over the last several months since I really (seriously) started quitting back in August, have contributed to killing what she calls the “scratchy curiosity” of whether or not I can or want to drink ever again. (Yes! THAT I relate to!) She accidentally drank an AF beer that had .5% alcohol, and she says she felt a bit drunk from it. But instead of experiencing a pleasing euphoria, she felt an unpleasant “mechanical and empty” buzz, which she couldn’t wait to wear off. That was my experience exactly, not with the AF beer (mine is 0.0% alcohol), but with the wine in the last few months. And for me, not only was there no euphoria, but it didn’t even taste good anymore.

“After my Schneider Weisse experience, I was completely surprised by my reaction, or lack thereof. Maybe it was a lucky break; maybe I’ve simply lost the ability to get buzzed off alcohol. In any case, this experience added more to my toolset than probably anything thus far. My two slips (once at two months, another at six months) helped me to fully commit to abstinence, for instance, while this near-beer episode gave me an incentive to drink that goes beyond craving, triggers, and self-talk/Higher Power: I don’t drink because it doesn’t make me feel good. I can’t drink, not because I’m afraid of losing control, but because it doesn’t work. I choose to not drink because I know I don’t want to,instead of, I can’t drink even though I want to.

I am not saying that experimenting is safe, or advisable. Know thyself. Be mindful. Many drunks—myself included—find that abstinence is the only way to heal. I drank that small beer feeling strong and happy in my skin. Every time I drank in the past five years, however, I drank when I was feeling down; I drank to numb, to mask depression and anxiety. Now that I know it doesn’t work—when I’m feeling up, at least—I’m more firmly committed to finding another way to deal.

I am also not saying I’d go out and try this again. I know all too well the thoughts that lead to the “fuck it” mentality—the rationalizations that go from one-sip-here to two-bottles-a-night-there. It’s a slippery slope.

What I am saying is that I appreciate having taken a calculated risk—even if it was accidental. I appreciate knowing more about how my mind is working these days in response to alcohol. I appreciate not having to live within this scratchy curiosity. In fact, I appreciate not having to live in fear.

I used to think the whole point of getting sober was to be able to drink “normally” again. These days, I’ve come to believe the point of getting sober is to not want to drink—in essence, to thrive without alcohol, and not just find workarounds. For me, this is what sober living is about, and I think my near-beer accident might have been the best “mistake” I ever made.”

— Jenny Oliver

My “slips” in the last several months have been completely necessary for the larger question and answer for me, which is being sober on purpose, as a choice, and alternative to feeling shitty. And as an alternative to not reaching my full potential in so so many ways.

And I know for a fact that alcohol was keeping me down. Still, killing that “scratchy curiosity” of whether I could still get a euphoric pleasure from wine was a critical step in the process.

I’ll probably still feel a bit awkward for a while on dates, or with friends when they are all drinking. (I was recently on a date and told him I was doing a “100-day challenge” and it started to get awkward before I managed to change the subject. I’m going to try a different tack next time, saying it impacts my sleep and makes me feel lousy. ‘Maybe I’m just getting old,’ yuck yuck… and see if that works better. I suspect it will.)

And there may be rough patches in the future when I lose the plot again and wonder why I’m not drinking like everyone else. The wine goblin (addiction) is insidious, and I understand he’ll never ever be completely gone. That’s when I’ll really need to lean more on my tools and supports, my community, and remember why I chose to drop alcohol from my life.

But it’s already getting better. Getting easier dealing in those situations. I really do feel like I’ve turned a corner, and just like I don’t eat meat and a date eating meat isn’t going to make me suddenly cave to eating a big steak, the same will go for alcohol. If my friends or my date don’t like the fact that I basically have an allergic reaction to alcohol so I avoid it (“it makes me feel bad, messes with my sleep” etc.), then that’s on them, not me.

And all the free time I have to read books and walk in the sun with Bub is so amazing. Why would I regret that? Certainly it’s worth figuring out what to do with my hands at an occasional dinner.

I’m starting Brene Brown’s Courage Works semester tomorrow. It’s all part of the journey I’m on to be the best me I can be. I’m excited to start.

Day 42  – technically, but I really started not drinking for bigger and bigger gaps of time sometime in August. I’d like credit for those too, thank you. 🙂 All a necessary part of getting me to this place.

Happy sober Sunday, everyone!

xo Rachel.

 

Dinner with Bradley Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

😉

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

Now say it ten times fast. Now ten more. 

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

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

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

Me-ow.

bradley-cooper

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

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

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

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

Has it really only been 13 days?

Day 13. Rachel.