…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.

Happy, mellow Sunday

It’s been too long since I’ve posted, but I’m not isolating or avoiding. It’s actually because I’m in a really happy, contented place and I haven’t felt the need to “get it all out” on the page. Is this why they say musicians fall apart when they finally get happy? 🙂

Today is day 56 since I lurched forward and started this leg of the journey, after many “Day 1s.” Those many attempts were necessary to get here, as I learned important lessons and gained important insights along the way, and I can honestly say I’m stunned at how comfortable it has become to come home and have a fizzy water and then a cup of tea instead of reaching for the bottle. I feel a LOT better physically (although I haven’t lost weight yet — that is to come), but what I didn’t expect is how much better I feel mentally. Emotionally. Every day I’m excited for all the time I have — never enough time — to do so many things. I bought a stack of books that I’m excited to read, and I have so many other things I want to get going. None of this could have happened before because I was spending all my time (and money) thinking about or drinking red wine, but more importantly, I had lost my drive to do it. I haven’t finished a novel in so long I can’t even remember. Until now. I’m voraciously reading and can’t wait until I can pick up my next book.

I also joined a secret Facebook support group that has been super helpful, and is there for me (and many others) all day/night, every day. People at many stages of their own journeys, from all over the world, supporting each other.

And Belle. Belle and her emails and podcasts have been amazing too. And my life coach. And my best friends. I’m so fortunate to have so many supports in my life.

So that’s all today. It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning (it stopped raining!) and I’m looking out onto the water wondering how I am going to spend this way too short, glorious day. So much fun to be had. So much life to live today.

xo Rachel

Day 56

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.

 

Avoid Overwhelm (and eat ice cream)

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

I’m stuffed and a little queasy.

But I didn’t drink.

And it was a close one.

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

<<WARNING: TOTAL OVERWHELM>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s better than drinking, right? 

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

Eh hem.

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

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

It will pass. It will pass. Breathe…

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

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

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

And things I’ve learned from my past failures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I pigged out. 🙂

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

HominaHominaHomina… 

Lordy Lordy. 

Baby goat intermission, BECAUSE BABY GOAT.

baby goat

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

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

xo Rachel.

Day 24.

New milestones, new breakthroughs

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

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

SONY DSC

Baby Giraffe

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

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

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

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

I didn’t drink. 

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

Oh me oh my.

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

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

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

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

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

Blech.

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

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

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

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

Have a great week, y’all.

xo Rachel.

Day 14.

December 1: The 100-day Challenge begins

THIS from a woman who has still never gone more than 13 days without a drink. Ever.

I’m really, for sure, I’m not kidding around ready — no, really — and I’ve committed to NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, I’m not drinking for the next 100 days. I’ve started Belle’s “Sober Jumpstart” class, and part of all of that is a commitment to 100 days alcohol-free, NO MATTER. No excuses. No “experiments.” No one-last-tests or starting-tomorrows or fuck-its-I’m-bored-or-lonely-or-disappointed-or-just-want-to-make-a-mental-exit-who-cares-whys.

Nope. For the next 100 days, I’m strapped in and ready for the ride. No matter fucking what.

No matter fucking what.

Yay! I’ll dance to that…

office-holiday-party-madmen3

And I’ll say I’m off to a good start. My company’s holiday party was tonight and back in the day I would have been ALL OVER the glasses of red wine that were ready at the front door (choosing the fullest one on the tray, of course) before I even had a chance to take my coat off. I was psyched to see they were offering lemonade next to the wine. No problemo.

Four lemonades later I had to pee something fierce, but when the CEO of our larger corporation and two of our company presidents unexpectedly turned to ME for help to make some important stuff happen at the party, guess what? I was completely ready — AND sober and lucid.

And p.s., it wasn’t bad at all not drinking! Not at all. Sure, I left as soon as I could, but so what? Instead of drinking 4 glasses of wine and walking home in the rain, I rode my bike home in the rain(!), and was excited (excited!) to get to my warm bed, my amazing dog (whom I’m sick in love with), pour a cup of tea (with Calm magnesium) and begin reading and writing with all of yous. 🙂

I will say this: I do think all of the work I’ve done these last few months to quit drinking has made it easier to stop each time. It hasn’t gone to waste. It is DEFINITELY progress to be proud of. I’ve never been a “cold turkey” person for pretty much anything and there were still some important lessons for me to learn before I could pull the final rip cord.

Sorry for that unfortunate mixed metaphor.

And…so… getting to 14 days again may still be 14 looooooong days (I’m impatient, it’s true), but it’s already easier. I’m not saying it’s going to be a walk in the park, or that my 27 years of drinking habits aren’t going to be smacking me in the face from time-to-time, but I’m already noticing that I’ve gone a long way toward breaking that nightly habit of buying a bottle of wine on the way home from work and drinking my way to the bottom of it before heading to bed. A long way.

And just as importantly, it’s clear that my little “test/experiment” last weekend (after my not-so-awesome very first AA meeting – I’ll try another meeting sometime) DID trigger me and opened a chink in my still-fragile armor, making it easier for me to justify (in typical twisted wine addict brain brilliance) pushing out a “start date” to begin again.

Wow, that was quite a run-on sentence. There was a lot to pack in!

Basically, I learned that “just one” awakens the beast that I’ve been working so hard to kill. That constant noise in my head. That daily pull toward the wine counter. That complete fallacy that I need wine to have a connected, vibrant, fulfilling life.

Ass hole wine goblin is insidious that way. He’s voracious and sneaky and ever-so-greedy, and is NEVER satisfied. He makes promises he NEVER keeps. What a jerk face.

But now I’ve got his number.

SO! 100 days from today is March 9, 2016. Holy cow.

I’ve also finally managed to get a handle on putting anything within arms reach that isn’t bigger than my head (sometimes it was a close call) INTO MY MOUTH, so I’m hoping to have a happy reverse of this disconcerting weight gain I experienced over the last few weeks.

Because OH HELL NO. Bigger jeans just ain’t happening. No bueno. Popcorn is my friend. Heh.

So, here we are on December 1. (Seriously, how did THAT happen?) I already have a couple of days (again) AF under my belt, but today is the first day of the next 100 days! {{trumpets sounding}}

I have a business trip coming this weekend that I’m going to need to be extra-prepared for, but knowing I’m not drinking (fecking poison) NO MATTER WHAT is already relieving some of my stress about having to answer questions.

I’m on a 100-day challenge, BITCHES! 🙂

Rachel.

Day 1 (plus 2, but who’s counting?)

 

 

 

 

My first AA meeting drove me to drink

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

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

And this is basically what happened. 😦

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

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

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

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

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

I spent half the day in bed.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed.

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

Fuck, I’d take 30 days at this point.

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

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

Rachel.

 

 

 

 

Boo yeah – Double digits

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

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

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

This is not how this is supposed to work.

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

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

Simmer down, simmer down…

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

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

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

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

– The Sober Revolution

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

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

Right?

Day 10. Rachel.

Taking care of business

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

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

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

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

Yeah, right. Just one.

Guess I’d better finish that Annie Grace book.

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

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

Day 8. Rachel.

Brain goblins and razor wire

“Change is an upward spiral.”

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

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

Heh.

 Too dramatic?

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

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

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

Yes. But.

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

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

Would you like a drink? 

No thanks, I quit. 

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

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

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

I really need to get a boyfriend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shifting gears…

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

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

FullSizeRender (4)

I thought I should be magnanimous!

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

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

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

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

Loving myself more. Doing something about it.

Every day.

Day 3. Rachel.