I’m back.

I suppose it’s fitting that tonight I pigged out on fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls and french fries. That last day I posted (3 months ago), I was raving about the cures of heart&soul a good mac ‘n’ cheese can bring.

Still true.

Since then I’ve been on a little journey, a philosophical, introspective, exploratory walkabout, you might say. I think I was looking to get to the source of any lingering doubts about whether I should go completely AF, so I could be sure. Sure as a person can be.

I’ve heard it said, that while we’re driving our car, building our brick wall, walking our path, bobbing along on our proverbial sea — choose your favorite metaphor — as long as we are sober we are learning and growing in ways we may not even be aware of. We may not feel it’s happening, but OH, YOU BETTAH BELIEVE IT’S A’HAPPENIN’.

So here’s what I learned: I started to think maybe after all the months (since last summer) that I had gone with very little alcohol, maybe I would actually moderate. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe I really didn’t REALLY want to be that person who doesn’t drink EVER. I’d learned so much and I thought my patterns really had changed…maybe I could seamlessly merge back into the flow of all the other cool and happenin’ humans I know who could drink without it taking more than it was giving. Maybe, I’d reset the clock. (I’m going for maximum metaphor numbers here.)

But then I went on a business trip to Italy. I met a fantastically intoxicating Italian. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sexy and exciting and alive. There was fun and fantasy and Italian wine and I was swept away in a very fast current. I suppose I can thank my addictive tendencies for this too, but there was nothing and no one that was going to get me off that pleasure train.

Except reality.

It was a short short ride.

When I was ripped back to reality like Christopher Reeve when he finds that damned penny in his pocket in Somewhere in Time (did anyone else see that movie? OMG I loved that movie…), where was I then? I was basically back to where I’d started…and it had happened in no time. Flat.

It wasn’t horrific. I wasn’t off the rails. There was no Leaving Las Vegas and I’ll not be writing a fantastic and inspirational sober memoir about it (although it sounded like there was potential, no? “Rachel’s Roman Holiday: One Hot Italian and 20 Gallons of Red…”) But I was back to where I’d started in many ways, only this time, I had a perspective I didn’t have before. I could see very clearly that the sadness I was feeling, the fatigue, the flabbiness mentally and physically…it was all stemming from the wine.

I had finally started to see that the only way I was going to quit for good was if I started to connect that this — leaving alcohol behind — is about something greater than this very moment. For me, for the briefest of moments, being sober had brought me closer to coming in touch with my higher purpose than I may have ever been. I know this for sure.

I say that, and even now, I sit here with that clarity just beyond reach. I don’t even feel like I’m writing about it nearly as vividly as I experienced it. It feels like it has when I’ve woken from a dream that I saw so clearly, only to struggle to remember what it felt like by the end of the day. I close my eyes and try to feel it again, to find the words, but…all I have left is a blurry memory of how it felt, and the faith that if I stay the course this time, that sureness, that purity of contact with the Universe(?) that I absolutely had glimpses of before, will return. I apologize for sounding a bit woo woo. I honestly think my ham-handed vocabulary here is also a symptom of having moved too far from it to even describe it well.

So here I am, back at Day 3. I can’t bear to read my earlier blog posts right now, knowing how many times before I’ve been so sure and then changed course.

I know it won’t be easy. But this time I’ve seen what three months of drinking again feels like, and none of it was worth how I felt before finally quitting again. I dare say, even the time with the Hot Italian. He’s long gone (many lessons learned!) and here I sit, back on Day 3, very sure that my life is meant for more than this. I’m meant for greater things. The love of my life is out there somewhere. My mind and spirit have the potential for so much more. My higher purpose is yet to show itself, but it’s not far. And the choice I have to make — every day, perhaps — is all of those things over red wine.

THAT is what I have to remember, when I go on a business trip or I’m on a summertime patio/boat/cabin with friends or I’m in Italy with a fantastically handsome Italian.

I choose the rest of my “one wild and precious life,” over red wine.

I’ll be leaning on ALL my supports — and you are a huge part of that. Know that I’ve missed you. And I’ve missed the me who was emerging. It’s a super uncomfortable place to be in the swirl of it all. If you’ve been there (or are still there) you know. Our addict minds are such negotiators, and man, they can be persuasive. That can be a painful process. Fucking Wolfie.

I’ve been loving Sarah Hepola’s 5-part Series in Jezebel, “Ask a Former Drunk.” I really loved the entirety of this #2 piece, How Do I Keep My Sobriety From Being the Thing That Defines Me?  End-to-end. So. Good.

But the first in the series, When Do You Know That You Have a Problem? had a bit that particularly resonated with me too. I mean, probably for many/most of us. It really so often is (or was) the crux of it in the beginning. The letter-writer asked this:

I want sobriety and all that comes with it, but I just don’t want to stop drinking. I mean I do, but I don’t. Does that make sense?

McKenzie

And Sarah answered:

Dear McKenzie,

I’m not sure any sentence has ever made more sense. You want the clarity and peace of sobriety, but you don’t want the emotional discomfort, personal reckoning, and social exile that giving up alcohol would entail. You want the sun-dappled joy of a Sunday with no hangover, but you want the liquid abandon of a Friday night. Over the years, I’ve had many wishes like this: I want to travel the world, but I don’t want to pay for it. I want to lose weight, but I don’t want to stop eating cheese enchiladas. I want to lead a life of meaning, but I don’t want to leave this cozy queen-sized bed.

 

Right? I’ve even said that on this blog. I want to maintain my sobriety but still get a huge wine buzz. WTF?

But then, a bit later, Hepola says this:

…Having no idea what else to do, I made a new bet. The bet was that if I could stay sober for a year, or even three months—maybe things would get better.

They did. The change was neither fast, nor easy. Like you said, quitting drinking was “the ultimate struggle.” But six years later, I can tell you that quitting drinking is one of the smartest things I have ever done for myself. It has enriched my friendships, deepened my writing and my empathy, made my sex life more electrifying and profound, and given me a peace in my own body I did not even know was possible. I thought sobriety was the end of the road, and I had arrived at a dead end, but it’s more like a door that opens up to a thousand more doors, all of them in Technicolor, all of them stretching into the horizon.

All of them in Technicolor, all of them stretching into the horizon.

This is what I want my life to be. And my bet, my hope, my faith — thanks in part to so many amazing people who have been through this and have written about it in books and blogs — is that the glimmer of connection to the Universe I felt before was truly a pinhole into this future she describes.

It won’t be easy. It won’t always be good times. But it’s the only way through.

So, day by day. Day. By. Day.

Rachel.

Day 3.

 

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.

 

…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

2016: The Pleasure Principle

misty dayPleasure. I’ve been missing it.

And I’ve been kvetching a bit (OK, a LOT) about it lately in my posts — this bloody hatchet job to my reward center — and I’ve started to feel like I’ve lost the plot a bit with quitting drinking.

It’s only been 33 days, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it.

Is it normal? I’m told it is. Will it pass? I’m told it will. Eventually. But it could take months, or even years to return to “normal.” Whatever that is.

WTF.

Yeah, I know all about the dopamine regulation my body has likely been doing a yeoman’s job of over the past many years, which has warped my natural ability to feel pleasure now that I’m not feeding it booze. Yeah, I know about PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) and that a sense of “flatness” and “inability to feel pleasure or joy,” which can last way longer than I want to think about without wanting to say fuck it all and drink again. Because, RIGHT? Who wants to live like that? (I take some comfort in the fact that I wasn’t an opiate addict or even hard liquor, so it may not take years to be normal again, but still. Yikes. This is why people pick up new addictions like shopping, eating or sex when they quit drinking. Yo comprendo! No bueno!)

And yeah, I know that not only are the holidays a GINORMOUS trigger time for many most people, I also happen to have hit my 30-day milestone smack in the middle of them. Great timing, Rachel. Way to up the ante on that one. Double your pleasure — or not, as it were.

So… a few nights ago I was sitting in bed, flicking through Instagram on my phone while telling the wine goblin to FUCK OFF FUCK OFF because he had grown louder and louder in my ears. I had started to worry a bit that this nagging craving that I’ve been denying, the one that wants to have just one drink to just feeeel good while also keeping sober (so logical!), would never go away. No matter what everyone says, I was worrying that the promises of IT GETS BETTER HOLD ON didn’t apply to me. Why? Because I’m different?! Or I’m doing it wrong?! Or I’m not ready?! Or who the hell knows why, but I was worried. I’ve been worried that this low-pleasure, fleeting joy and only glimpses of awe pond I’m floating in is the new normal.

Yes, I’ve been giving myself sober treats and getting out in the sun and reading blogs and message boards and emailing with Belle trying to pull out all my tools.

Still, I was flicking through Instagram, swirling in these thoughts of mild dread, when I came across this:

P1

Wow. Zing! The sexy, sensual and romantic post sent a zing through my gut and reminded me of the days I used to be into poetry that could draw the same visceral response. A sigh. A blush. A moment of daydream. Then this:

P1a

Hmm, I thought. This feeling is pleasure. And joy. I had to read it again.

I kept scrolling and came to this:

P2

Peonies. My favorite. They are so glorious and they have about a 3- or 4-week window in the spring and then they are gone. I love that the post was from “SexySobriety” and it was for a sober treat.

Yes. Yes. LOVE these. And I LOVE how that feels. 

Hm. Now I was realizing I was onto something. Obviously I CAN still feel pleasure. Even intense pleasure. I’m not dead inside. 🙂 I kept going.

I hit two posts about being strong and feeling my power.

P4

Misty Copeland!

And this:P3

Yes. I’m powerful. I’m strong. I am stronger than this ass hole wine craving. And I guaran-fecking-tee you that prima ballerina Misty Copeland doesn’t drink. And she is an amazing role model in so many ways.

Now I was on a mission for other posts that represented intense pleasure. Joy. Awe.

Like art:

P5

Or music. I saw some great shows last year (I took these photos), including Colin Hay (the best show of the year by far) from the front row, Ann Wilson (Heart) and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) perform an incredible “Stairway to Heaven” at an auction with about 200 people, and Kris Orlowski’s “Smith Tower Sessions” in the apartment at the top of the Smith Tower — outstanding.

I also saw Liz Gilbert speak about her new (awesome) book, “Big Magic.” Here she is hugging a good friend of mine before the show. They are old friends. (So I’m friends with Liz Gilbert, once removed? 🙂 ) And I saw Cheryl Strayed a few weeks later, and she was every bit as inspiring.

liz gilbert

Of course this is all leading to what am *I* doing with my life now that I’m sober, what impact am *I* going to make on this world before I leave it? What gifts do I have to make the world a better place? This question — and the pursuit of the answer — also has the huge potential to bring intense joy. I’ll start working on it.

flower

#blossom. 🙂

I look to Jane Goodall as inspiration.

P7

 

When I think about the issues that matter most to me, where do I get the strongest pull? Or as my life coach would say, “LISTEN TO THE JUICE.”

Chimp Sanctuary Northwest and the orphaned elephants of David Sheldrick’s orphanage have juice.

Where else do I get intense pleasure? Or sense of purpose? Juice? Joy? Awe? Where else should I focus my attentions when the wine fucker goblin is whispering in my ear?

A morning row.

morning row

A sunset row.

sunset row

An evening row.

night row

 

Priceless moments with my heart, Bub…

 

…and my best friend. She loves slugs, so I snapped her this photo one day. And I picked up a book she returned to me ages ago, and found this note inside it. Love her.

 

And this is the year I work on falling in love WITH MYSELF.

P10

 

For 2016, my word is POTENTIAL.

I intend to do my best to live to my potential every day, in every possible way.

P9

Yes. This.

I listened to a lot of sober podcasts today and one of them said that these thoughts about alcohol won’t start to go quiet probably until abut Day 60 or so. Holy shit. Another month.

Here we go!!

And so begins 2016, the year LIVING EACH DAY TO MY POTENTIAL and spending my time doing the things that bring me the most pleasure. Rowing, loving/walking with my dog, spending more time with friends, more time in the sun, more focus on writing, reading, rocking work, eating well and getting more fit.

Peonies.

Music.

Finding a place where I can start to make an impact. Maybe it’s finishing my novel. Maybe it’s joining a non-profit. Maybe it’s working part-time to begin to build something important. I’m not sure yet.

And paying attention to the precious moments. The moments that send that zing through my gut and up through my heart. The things that give joy and awe.

P11

The last sunset of 2015

xo Rachel.

Day 33. And for making it to the bottom of this hella long post…

BABY GOAT.

baby goats

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.

Bored in Los Angeles with a chock-full mini bar

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

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

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

Day one, down.

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

Now THAT’s sad.

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

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

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

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

You know?

Fucking dopamine junky, I am.

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

Hey y’alls, it passes, right?

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

All that’s coming. I’m sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yikes. That’s messed up.

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

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

So by they way, this L.A. hotel (The Standard) is not without its amusements. It’s suitably hip, complete with waterbed pods in the rooftop bar area and plush purple couches in the lobby. One of the things that was hidden from view in the mini bar photo above was this package. Pretty hilarious, actually.
IMG_6876
Safety first! 🙂
I’m not sure what’s going on in that third icon…

And with that, goodnight!

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

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?)

 

 

 

 

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.

This is Where I Fall

It turns out Saturdays are the hardest. By Saturday I’m through the “end of the week” drive for relief, and my loneliness moves front and center. It’s clear to me now that I’m going to need more support to get through the tough weeks ahead, because when the loneliness comes, all I want to do is escape it. Escape myself. When the sadness comes, nothing sounds better than that amazing feeling of just blotting out the pain and feeling the soothing peace wash over me.

So I drink.

Except that euphoria doesn’t happen anymore. Drinking isn’t fun anymore. It doesn’t bring peace or pleasure. It doesn’t even taste good anymore. Alcohol doesn’t give anything anymore, it just takes. There is only cost — so, so much cost — with zero benefit.

I’m going to choose to be gentle with myself and be grateful to have finally come to this point — the tipping point. There is no question anymore about cutting back or taking a break. I know. There is no nostalgia left for those fun times drinking on the beach, or overlooking beautiful scenery, or at a candle lit dinner or on a first date. It’s gone. Now, all I want is to rid alcohol — and all it has been taking from me for so many years — from my life.

I want beauty and joy in my life again.

And it’s going to mean I have to face myself and all the feelings that come. The loneliness. The sadness and regret. Because until I deal with those things, I’ll continue to struggle to stay alcohol free. I can’t stuff any of it away anymore. As Ellie from The Bubble Hour said in the episode about relapse (which I listened to today), Recovery is nothing if not an inside job. 

I’m grateful to have received an email this morning from Kevin O’Hara of Alcohol Mastery called “Quitting Alcohol Failures.” It was so perfectly timed and I appreciated it so much, because it gave me permission to not completely beat myself up for drinking last night, but rather, consider this part of the process and learn from it.

And did I ever. It sucked. It will always suck.

“Failure is life’s greatest teacher. It’s an unwanted teacher because it can make you feel like shit, no doubt about it, but the fact is that you need to learn from each failure if you want to succeed. If you have gone a week, two weeks, a month, six months without drinking and you slip under pressure and take one drink, examine what happened and don’t repeat it. Think things through. Go back over the videos on Alcohol Mastery until you’ve got your mind back on track. There is no such thing as starting all over again. You start out just where you left off. Think about all that poison that YOU succeeded in not putting in YOUR body over all the time you weren’t drinking. That’s huge. One slip doesn’t take that away. Learn from the slip, get back onto the road, and continue to have great faith in yourself that you can do this, and that this is worth doing. Then you will succeed!”

So, I spent the day feeling physically ill (and pissed that I lost another day), and I finished reading Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Control Alcohol. It’s not a particularly well-written book and he repeats himself A LOT, but I liked the core message, which is basically:

Alcohol is poison and we’ve been brainwashed by our culture to believe we need it in every aspect of our lives (which we don’t). And until we accept those two basic facts, we’ll never be free.

I want to be free.

So, here goes. I decided to post tonight because I’m hoping that the setbacks can be as helpful sometimes as the triumphs. And I know it will be tough moving forward, but I feel better prepared somehow now to brace myself for them and get help if I need it. I’m starting the Mindfulness (relapse prevention) class tomorrow and I’ve been looking into options for support group meetings here in town for next weekend. It’s scary to admit that it’s come to this for me, but that just may be the next step and I’m finally ready to face that.

Thanks for all the support I’ve already received from so many of you out there. I KNOW I can do this. Your blogs and messages of support have been so inspiring and I find myself thinking about things you’ve said throughout the day. It matters.

My quitting alcohol has been a LONG time coming (I cringe looking back) and has taken me a few tries to get my sea legs, but I really do feel ready to begin again. And I’m going to make it this time.

Here goes.

Day 1. Rachel.