Seven months and this journey ain’t no rocket ship

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

Today marks seven months without alcohol.

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

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

I like those dreams best.

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

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

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

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

Of rotting away one’s chewy center.

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

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

Needing. Longing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

xo Rachel

Day 215

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

Carry On, Warrior #wearetheluckiest

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I recently discovered Glennon Doyle Melton. I know, I’m a little late to this party. Or maybe I’m actually in the bulge of the bell curve, just before she made it to Oprah and pretty much anywhere else you turn in the sober space. But, who cares, I’ve found her. I wouldn’t have expected to really resonate with her or what she has to say, though. Her story is really nothing like mine, all the way down to her being the pretty party girl in high school, with lots of boyfriends and booze, and then becoming a mother in her 20s with a guy she barely knew because “there was finally something [she] wanted more than drinking.” Even now I look at her and I think: “I won’t have anything in common with that person.”

But I do.

I have also struggled with disordered eating and I have struggled with alcohol. And those two things mean we may understand each other a little more than it may appear on the surface. And for me, where I really relate to and resonate with Glennon (or “G” as her friends and fans call her), is in her writing.

I haven’t read her new book,¬†Love Warrior yet. It sits on my nightstand waiting for me to finish her first best-selling book,¬†Carry On, Warrrior,¬†which I’m reading now.¬†She relies a bit more heavily on the Christian faith than I would expect from a book I like, but I am willing to let that be her higher power because I know she would let me have mine. (Whatever that is. Today I’m going with Universe, but some days it’s¬†LOVE, some days it’s Hope…¬†It’s a work-in-progress.)

So, after my bad/sad night Thursday (see: last post), I walked Bub, ate a little too much gelato, and then got into bed with the book. And while I got into bed without drinking, I was fully aware that even three months ago in this situation, feeling this way, I would have drunk my way to the bottom of a bottle of red. Or two. No question. I was aware of the progress, even if I wasn’t super happy about it.

I opened the book to where I had left off the night before, and what I read seemed so meant for me that it really did seem like a message. My heart was aching, but I was sober, and I was willing to listen.

Glennon Doyle Melton,¬†Carry On, Warrior (pg. 28) “To My Friend on Her First Sober Morning…”

…What matters most right now is that you are sober, so you will not worry about whether the real you will be brave or smart or funny or beautiful or responsible enough. Because the only thing that you have is to be sober. You owe the world¬†absolutely nothing but sobriety. If you are sober, you are enough.¬†Even if you are shaking and cursing and boring and terrified. You are enough.

But becoming sober, becoming real, will be hard and painful. A lot of things are.

Becoming sober is like recovering from frostbite.

Defrosting is excruciatingly painful. You have been numb for so long. As feeling comes back to your soul, you start to tingle, and it’s uncomfortable and strange. But then the tingles start feeling like daggers. Sadness, loss, fear, anger, anxiety–all of these things that you have been numbing with booze–you feel them for the first time, and it’s horrific at first, to tell you the damn truth. But welcoming the pain and refusing to escape from it is the only way to recovery.¬†You can’t go around it, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it.¬†There is no other option, besides amputation. If you allow the defrosting process to take place–if you trust that it will work and choose to endure the pain–one day you will get your soul back. If you can feel, then there has been no amputation. If you can feel, you are not too late.

Friend, we need you. The world has suffered while you’ve been hiding. You are already forgiven. You are loved. All there is left to do is to step into your life. What does that mean?¬†What the hell does that mean?

This is what it means. These are the steps you take. They are plain as mud. Get out of bed. Don’t lie there and think–thinking is the kiss of death for us–just move. Take a shower. Sing while you’re in there.¬†Make yourself sing. The stupider you feel, the better. Joy for its own sake–joy just for you, created by you–it’s the best.

…When you start to¬†feel, do. When you start to feel scared because you don’t have enough money, find someone to offer a little money. When you start to feel like you don’t have enough love, find someone to offer love. When you feel unappreciated and unacknowledged, appreciate and acknowledge someone else in a concrete way. When you feel unlucky, order yourself to consider a blessing or two. Then find a tangible way to make today somebody else’s lucky day. These strategies help me sidestep wallowing every day.

Don’t worry about whether you like doing these things or not. You’re going to hate everything for a long while. And the fact is that you don’t even¬†know what you like or hate yet.¬†Just do these things regardless of how you feel about doing these things.¬†Because these little things, done over and over again, eventually add up to a life. A good one.

Today I am a wife and a mother and a daughter and a friend and a writer and a dreamer and a Sister to one and a “sister” to thousands of readers. I wasn’t any of those things when I was a drunk. And I absolutely love being a recovering alcoholic. I am more proud of the “recovering” badge I wear than any other.

What will you be, friend? What will you be when you become yourself?

Glennon Doyle Melton

This. This is the journey I’m on. This is why I’m feeling the pain and not stuffing it down for a guy who is surely not part of where I’m going. And even if my purpose isn’t some big public impact and instead is just to live a contented and magical life all my own, I’m keeping the faith that it will be in a place transcendent from where I was even 60 days ago, and most certainly a year ago when I really started this process.

I’ve been listening to Rob Bell’s podcast (“RobCast”), and he recently had an episode on “Seasons” which was very good. He talked about the “seasons” of our lives and how big change happens, and when we move from one “season” to the next, it is uncomfortable, but in the space between seasons (moving from a past stage to the next one) called the “liminal space,” that is where all the interesting things happen. The mystics and wise people over a millennia have talked about the “liminal space” and how it’s a really important time to pay attention. “Spirit does all sorts of healing, redemptive, creative work in liminal space,” Rob said.

And we don’t like the tension and we don’t like to wait for the next season to start, so we try to rush our way through this space….

Day 60 and I’ve been so impatient to get through this space. But this is an important time. A sacred time. My coach said I’m in pupation… ūüôā

You are in pupation.
The chrysalis stage of a butterfly.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pupa

As wikipedia says, Pupae are inactive.

You’re in that painful place where you see the big gap between where you are now and where you want to be.The bigger the gap is, the more painful, or frustrating, or overwhelming it is. And we feel like we need to get started RIGHT AWAY because we have SO MUCH GROUND TO COVER!! But the truth is, if you start when you’re truly ready, the journey will be shorter and easier.¬†And even if it does take a long time, it’s all about small steps. Small steps will get you there. You don’t have to try to accomplish everything all at once.”

She’s right. This is a special time and small steps will get me there. Small steps¬†ARE the thing.¬†Maybe it’s because I’m at the 60 day mark, but I’m starting to see that this is the journey. And it’s hard. And it’s important. And it’s beautiful.

I’m reminding myself to breathe. And take the small steps, day-by-day.

As Laura McKowen would say, #wearetheluckiest

xo Rachel. Day 60

I miss you. Goodbye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But single isn’t the same thing as available.

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

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

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

So. I’ve stayed away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So.

Fuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel. Day 57.

 

Tonight I went on a sober date

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel. Day 13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what C.C. said today:

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

LOVE.

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

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. ūüôā 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? ūüôā ) 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. ūüôā

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

All I want for Christmas…

Ryan ChristmasLast week on Thanksgiving, I don’t know which was worse: the absolute tedium I felt hanging out with my family without any red wine OR the ten pounds of food I stuffed into my gullet in order to compensate.

I came away realizing I need a different strategy for Christmas, which is going to be here before we know it.

Helllllloooo….Ryan…

I decided to propose the idea of bringing a puzzle that we could all work on. Yeah, I just want to distract myself in a way that isn’t completely anti-social. My parents only have one table, though, and whenever I show up for these family things, Mom has already arranged the place settings, enough for everyone.

I decided screw it, and I suggested the puzzle anyway. Maybe we could eat with plates on our laps this year? (It did not even occur to me to suggest TV trays like any self-respecting child of the 60s would. Wait, does anybody even own TV trays anymore?)

My mom, always in support of me no matter what, said “OK! Let’s try it!”

Then I got the text from my step-dad, which included my mom.

“Your mom tells me you want to do a 500-piece puzzle during Christmas Eve dinner. I think that with everything going on including dinner, the gift exchange, the ornament exchange, and just visiting, a puzzle is not a good idea.”

My heart sank. Clearly he didn’t realize that I was looking for a lifeline. I’m already dreading the evening, which is sad, because I normally enjoy spending time with my family. Although I will admit, the last few years I always planned to stay over on¬†those holiday evenings because the ‘rents¬†live over an hour away and I knew I would drink about a bottle of wine and crash in the guest room. In fact, I counted on it.

I felt my trigger reaction want to respond something passive-aggressive to the effect of¬†Well then I’ll just come late and leave early.¬†I wanted to avoid it altogether. I can’t imagine suffering through another night like Thanksgiving and why should I? I really do love them and I hope I don’t sound too ungrateful, but I’m trying to honor the fact that in my “baby giraffe” days, as my life coach described them, I’m walking on very wobbly legs and I need to do whatever I need to do to stay upright.

Especially when there’s the potential lion around every gum tree.

“You’re just going to be high maintenance for a little while,”¬†she said. “And that’s OK.”¬†What a gift to have permission to be high maintenance for a little while — and that’s OK.

So, instead of getting pissed or reacting or retreating, I took a breath and was honest:

“I’m trying to find a healthy way to keep myself (and others who want to participate) busy so I’m not just sitting there while others are drinking. Thanksgiving was difficult that way. I’m happy to go for a walk with Bub or something instead.”

And I waited.

That’s when my mom jumped in. She would rather throw herself in front of a moving train than alienate me in any way.

“We will hold off on the drinking! (Step-dad) and I are the only ones who imbibe and it’s no big deal for us. What time is good to come over? I’m easy! Bring a puzzle if you want! A smaller one for the end of the table. We can have all sorts of stuff going on. Or watch a DVD for Xmas. A Xmas comedy.”

I couldn’t have loved her more in that moment. I told them it sounded fun and I didn’t want to impose on their fun, I’m just learning new ways to keep myself occupied. Then my step-dad said:

“You know we love and support you in this. I promise we will not let you down. You, your sister and uncle are our fun so there is no way you could impose.”

And then I loved them even more.

So, I’m going to find a smaller puzzle to do myself. And maybe I’ll bring a fun game I played with friends a couple of months ago,¬†Bannanagrams¬†(I’m not a games person, but it was fun). And the Christmas movie idea could be fun too…and I’m going to bring my own snacks so I don’t have to worry about what I’m putting in my mouth. Aaaaaand I’ll probably show up a little later than usual and leave a little earlier, aaaaaand I’ll probably go on a walk with Bub at some point too.

I’m going to have about 27 arrows in my proverbial quiver and none of them is going to be a bottle of red wine. Urp.

Gotsta have TOOLS, my brothers and sisters! TOOLS!!

So here I am on Day 4 of my 100-Day Challenge and I will not drink TODAY.¬†Whoop! (although I’ve really had hardly anything to drink since October and I want credit, dammit. ūüôā )

Rachel.

{{Rachel, this is GOD. On behalf of your liver, I grant you…CREDIT!}}

Thanks, God.

Now, random completely unrelated fun fact: Did you know that scallops have about 60 blue eyes? Now you do.

kimberley131

 

Dinner with Bradley Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ūüėČ

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

Now say it ten times fast. Now ten more. 

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

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

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

Me-ow.

bradley-cooper

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

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

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

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

Has it really only been 13 days?

Day 13. Rachel.