We have lift off… Bradley Cooper

rocket-boosters

Today was Day 128 alcohol free, and it’s been a while since I’ve checked in. I’ve been good, although if I’m honest I admit that this time of year is always hard on me. Maybe for the same reasons it hard for other people, and maybe for some reasons that are particular to me. But my boat has definitely been taking on water lately, and I’ve found myself craving wine again in a way I haven’t since the early days.

Melancholy and loneliness are my most powerful triggers, and something about this time of year brings back a wash of memories, regrets, longings, and loneliness that I have a hard time shaking. On Thanksgiving day, as I was really trying to get to the root of the undertow that was pulling at me with such force, it occured to me that I couldn’t remember a relatively recent Thanksgiving when I was really happy. In fact, the last decade of Thanksgivings have been pretty bleak. Even awful. I’ve never really loved this holiday, frankly, and as hard as I’ve tried to list my gratitudes every day and be super mindful of all that is good in my life, right now it’s feeling a bit forced. I’m just a little sad and lonely right now, I guess. Maybe I should just feel my damned feelings and stop fighting it.

It also sounds like a good time to bring out my light therapy box for a daily dose of fake sunshine…. 🙂

The good news is that I haven’t had a drink in more than four months, something that was inconceivable to me even six months ago. And while the heavens haven’t opened up to deliver my divine purpose in the arms of my handsome (and single) lobster, and I have yet to shit anything remotely resembling glitter, I am still trusting the process and will have patience. This whole thing — you know, this changing the way I live my life by not disappearing into a bottle of wine every night thing — takes time.

And it takes as long as it takes, which is always longer than we wish it would take. Dammit.

And moods…they pass. (I am a mountain…everything else is the weather…) This dark mood will pass too. Because I do know one thing for sure: Drinking will NOT make it better. Disappearing into a bottle of wine tonight will NOT make anything feel better, let alone BE better. And my life sure as hell will not continue moving in a positive direction if I drink — and it is moving in a positive direction. I can be Betty Blues for the time being, but as glacial as it might seem, good things ARE happening in my life. Bit by bit. And if I stay true to why I started down this path in the first place, being gentle with myself and beginning to really focus, those turbo boosters are going to fire up.

I have to trust that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, right now.

And I remind myself: Seriously, girl, it’s been four months. Good shit is happening, just breathe and be patient. Good things are coming. FOCUS. 

I’ve finally stopped eating my body weight in gelato and I’m practicing yoga almost every day, so that’s progress. No?

Anyhow… When I got to 100 days last month it was a big deal, because — well, 100 days really IS a big deal for pretty much anyone, let alone someone who was drinking a bottle of red wine every night during the week and often six bottles on the weekends — so I wrote this little thing. My story.

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“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

Today is 100 days. How did that happen? 🙂

About two years ago I started buying books. Lots of books. I’d known I needed to reduce my drinking for a while, but I was finally ready to “take a break.” I read everything. Name the quit drinking book or sober memoir and I’ve probably read it. In January of 2015 I went 9 days without a drink and it was astounding how hard it was and how good I felt. It took me another eight months to try again.

I was drinking a bottle of red wine every night, no big deal, and usually more on the weekends. The bottles were opening earlier and earlier on Saturdays and Sundays, because, I thought, “Hell, if I might have a Bloody Mary or mimosa at brunch with friends, why not red wine at 10 a.m. at home by myself?”

Right?

But then the days would pass. Days of nothing getting done, seeing no one. Cancelling plans. Barely getting outside except to walk my dog and buy more wine. And I wasn’t a cheap wine drinker. Oh no. $20 a bottle was my minimum, and if I wanted to “treat” myself, it could easily be twice that.

There I’d sit, alone with my dog, and drink. It was my “only joy.”

And there have been “cringe moments.” Too many to mention. Too many bad decisions fueled by wine. I’ve never blacked out. Nothing “bad” has ever happened…no DUI or public humiliation or unalterable event. But I was making small decisions that were killing me little by little. Stealing my self-worth, one bottle at a time. Day after wasted day.

One of my first teachers was Belle at TiredofThinkingAboutDrinking.com. She had so many wise lessons to impart. So many tools. And I listened. I tried it all. I signed up for her 100 Day Challenge and failed. Over and over, I had so many Day 1s.

But one of her lessons that I heard deep in my core was this: If you aren’t able to make sobriety stick, you need more supports. Last summer I got serious about quitting drinking, and yet, still…it wouldn’t stick. I kept layering on supports. I gave myself sober treats. I blogged. I read tons of bloggers/online writers. I tried AA (it literally drove me to drink). I bought jewelry and said mantras. I signed up for an 8-week Mindfulness for Relapse Prevention class and went every week. I talked to my doctor and started monthly Naltrexone injections (for 6 months). I listened to sober podcasts. I joined secret FB groups. I called an intensive outpatient women’s wellness program, which they billed as “graduate work for your inner self,” and decided no way, I wasn’t THAT person. I didn’t need THAT. I told my friends and family that I was “working on quitting drinking.”

But I’d make it 1, 2, 5, 13, 19, even once 34 days, and then I would just lose the plot and decide fuck it, and drink again. It was my only comfort (I thought). My constant friend (I thought). I could moderate (I thought). I wasn’t THAT bad…

Except some part of me knew that drinking a bottle of wine every night wasn’t healthy. And worse, I was 47 years old and I was drinking my days away. I want to make an impact in this world, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was single and 47 and making no progress toward any chance of making a difference. What kind of trajectory was this for a meaningful life?

Then in July, after trying to quit for a year, I had gone 19 days when I decided to drink again. I was tired or bored or lonely, or some combination, and asked myself: “Why am I doing this again?” The fucking Wine Harpy had made her way through. I bought a really nice bottle of wine telling myself I would “treat” myself and make it worth it. I drank it and didn’t enjoy it. It didn’t even taste good anymore. I just felt numb. Sad. And the next morning – a work day – I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed all day except to vomit. Now I was missing work too?

A day and a half later – a day and a half after being so sick I couldn’t stand up without vomiting — I was walking my dog, feeling depressed and confused, and I heard the voice in my head say that the way to feel better was to drink more wine. Go buy more wine. So I did. And I drank it.

That’s when I got scared.

But I heard another, louder voice in my head say calmly and clearly: “NOTHING CHANGES IF NOTHING CHANGES.”

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

I called the outpatient women’s program and this time I left a message. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – and showing up there on July 21 was DEFINITELY one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I was shaking. I was freaked out. I was terrified at what it meant.

But almost immediately, I knew I was home.

That was 100 days ago. The drinker’s voice is so much quieter now. It’s not gone, but I no longer come home and think about pouring a glass of wine, which is in itself a miracle. (I have a Soda Stream and lots of yummy AF drinks at the ready instead.) When I first started the process of quitting drinking I didn’t know how I would fill all the TIME I now had available (thank you Netflix, HBO and Showtime), but now, the world has opened up again. There isn’t enough time in the days again, so much to do and see and feel. And I’m beginning to feel joy again.

Joy. I was hoping the heavens would open up and the Universe would deliver me a different life – and it still may. But at 100 days I’m realizing that the joy comes in small moments, and that is real life. My dog carrying his bone home from the pet store, the pink morning light against the brick of a building, an engaged conversation with a friend knowing that everything I’m saying is coming from a centered place and I won’t regret a thing in the morning. Joy.

Early on I thought (like so many others), “I’ll just get to 100 days and then see how I feel.” But now that I’m here, there’s no way I want to go back to how I was feeling in July on that day I called for help. Or the year before that – the YEARS before that.

Now I realize that 100 days is amazing, but it’s such a short amount of time in the larger scheme of things. I want to see what my life can be when I really LIVE it. I want to see what my higher purpose really is. Who I am meant to be.

And I’m convinced the only way I can do that is by living my life without alcohol.

Laura McKowen wrote a piece a while back that was also pivotal for me and I have kept close as one of my mantras: The Bigger Yes. I want the BIGGER YES. Living life in this alcohol-soaked world isn’t always easy, but I’m going for the Bigger Yes. I want the bigger life that I can only have if I don’t drink. And I’m keeping the faith.

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Laura McKowen has been one of my teachers, inspirations, but there have been many others too…other women who have been on this path and have a powerful way with words. Here are a few favorites. Maybe they’ll help you too.

Aidan Donnelley Rowleyhttp://ivyleagueinsecurities.com/

http://ivyleagueinsecurities.com/2016/08/i-do/

Belle (Robertson)http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/

http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2012/08/20/dehydrate-the-wolf/

http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2013/04/02/thinking-about-never-gets-us-stuck/

Laura McKowenhttp://www.lauramckowen.com/

http://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/early-sobriety

http://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/bigger-yes

Holly Whitakerhttp://www.hipsobriety.com/

http://www.hipsobriety.com/home/2015/7/5/dear-hip-sobriety-1-where-do-i-start-10-tips-to-prepare-for-the-big-change

Kristi Coulterhttp://www.kristicoulter.com/

https://medium.com/personal-growth/girl-skulks-into-a-room-cbeacad58a79#.79as0khfe

https://medium.com/@kristicoulter/the-otter-of-sobriety-f7065c29b764#.j81st9j5t

https://offdry.com/2015/07/04/day-730-two-years-today/

Tammi Salashttp://www.tammisalas.com/

http://www.tammisalas.com/blog/2016/8/5/18-months

And a top 25 list: https://thisnakedmind.com/top-25-recovery-bloggers/

Sarah Hepola: Ask a Former Drunk (5-part series)

http://jezebel.com/ask-a-former-drunk-how-do-i-keep-my-sobriety-from-bein-1781921044

http://jezebel.com/ask-a-former-drunk-when-do-you-know-you-have-a-problem-1780859204

And Bradley Cooper may be 12 or so years ahead of me with his alcohol free fabulousness, but he remains my celebrity role model for living an amazing life without the juice. Thanks, Bradley. 🙂

Rachel, Day 128. xoxo

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

collesseum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel.

Day 94.

Let’s go for drinks

Whoa. Triggered again this afternoon. They’re coming fast and furious now. Wolfie must really be in a panic.

Someone at work who I really admire and who, I admit, I really want to think of me as being cool and interesting and ultra-worthy, said, “Well that’s a conversation to have over drinks.” He’s not coming on to me (he’s happily married and we’re just friends). We were talking about him coaching me a bit on some really cool life priorities stuff, and he’s said it before (“We really do need to go have those drinks and talk about it…”) — it’s kind of his go-to thing to say, in fact. But every time he says it I am completely TWEAKED.

And the thing is, when I was on my Italian wine walkabout in May, he was there. He has SEEN me pour plenty’o’wine down my gullet. There is some counter-programming that will need to happen at some point.

Goddammit, this is the really hard part.

I didn’t have the courage(?) to say, “Well, actually, I’m not drinking right now/anymore/forthenext100days,” or say anything at all. I just nodded and smiled and the conversation kept moving. Fact of the matter is, it will probably never happen. He’s super busy, and it would actually be awkward for us to go meet for a drink if it really were an option. Not sure how that would work, and so for lots of good reasons, it probably won’t.

But OMG Wolfie was psyched! Immediately my addict brain was thinking: Well, I could just have drinks that night. One night! So what. No big deal. You’d be fine. 

And then the most jarring part, my brain immediately went to: Well, if you’re going to drink anyway, why not pick up a bottle on the way home from work and have some? You might as well…

Holy shit. Wow. Fecking harpy is insidious, always poised to pounce. That is so scary. It was really powerful, and it was the same power I felt when I traveled abroad for work. Like, bend me like a reed powerful, and I’m afraid of failing.

There is some serious fear of rejection/FOMO going on here. Absolute limbic brain stuff.

I came home (walking straight past the store without slowing down), and immediately opened a flavored sparkling water and guzzled it. Then fed my dog, put my dinner in the microwave (with some salad preparation as well. I’m not a total culinary rube…), and sat down to watch my favorite political show online while eating, and guzzling yet another flavored water. I don’t think I’ve ever been so hydrated as when I quit drinking and started dieting at the same time. I might need to just get into bed. I’m still being taunted by the thought of a bottle of wine. WTF??

So here I am. Day 16 and scared to death. I don’t know what will happen if he actually follows through and we find a way to have that drink. Sitting here today, I know all the things I should be saying and thinking about how he’ll value me as much if I’m not a drinker and how it won’t be worth it to drink, and may even actually be a really bad idea. I know I am in control of my power and being a non-drinker is a really good thing for me, and he would (ultimately) appreciate that. He’s a good guy and he respects me. All of those things are true.

But at 16 days I realize how precarious my hold on sobriety actually is, and how clear it is that my main drivers for drinking have always included an incredibly deep-seated need to belong that goes all the way back to my earliest formative years. Yeah, my Dad was a drinker and left my Mom, little sister and me when I was 2-years-old, not to really show up again until he got sober when I was 12. And yeah, that experience, like for so many people, has influenced how I have related to men and to other situations of belonging and approval (like this) my entire life.

Oh my. I’ll do my best to shake it off and live to see another sober day, but this is scary, powerful shit. It helped a lot to know I have so many people on my side, cheering for me. It helped to remind myself that moderation just hasn’t worked. It helped that as I was eating I could look at the list I made for myself before my Day 1 of all the most important reasons alcohol wasn’t working for me anymore, and the benefits I’m counting on as time goes by.

I still want those. I’m still holding on (Jesus,it’s only day 16! This is dumb!) for the good energy of the Universe to start feeling my sober energy and begin sending some of that good energy back in my direction. I believe it will happen, but I have to hold on. I’m going woo woo on this shit.

Right now I remind myself that I don’t need wine to be included, accepted or loved. I just need to love and value myself enough to trust that. Shit. Yes. Why don’t I completely believe that? This will be my mantra. This is hard.

16 days is something but it feels like nothing. Wow. Some days will be easier than others. 16 days. I’m focusing too much on the future. I need to come back to today. Right here. Right now.

Stay. Here.

Rachel.

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.

 

Mac ‘n’ cheese cures all ills

I’m exhausted and when my coach asked the team who wanted to sit out from rowing tonight because we were one too many, I volunteered. I was there. I don’t know what I was thinking except how tired I am. I have two more chances to row before I’m gone for 2.5 weeks, and it was the most beautiful day we’ve had since last fall. And yet, I found myself driving to Whole Foods instead of rowing, on a mission to get ice cream because what I was hearing in my head was that tonight wine might be a nice escape. It is my Friday, after all, and I’m wrecked.

The good news is that I can go ahead and have that thought and the counter-thoughts are growing stronger, strong enough to overtake them quickly. I don’t want to be in this “prison” anymore. I don’t want to feel like shit tomorrow. I don’t want to do or say things that I will regret. I want my spirit to continue to soar up and up. Good things are starting to happen and maybe I’m being superstitious or supernatural or supersomething, but I can’t help but connect the shift that seems to be happening to how my energy, my vibe, my FREQUENCY is shifting since I’ve been quitting drinking. And while I think I’ve been losing a little weight and it feels great, tonight I decided to have some ice cream.

Of course, by the time I left Whole Foods, I had already snacked on some takeaway Mac ‘n’ Cheese and country fried tofu. It was marked “Comfort Food” with a big ole’ sign and hell yes I took comfort in it. Sure… I was regretting the calories I hadn’t burned, and the massive fat calories I ate instead — big time. But… I was heading home to watch the sun set with my Bub, planning to do some work I needed to do with much less stress, and then hitting bed early, which is really hard after a night of rowing. And I didn’t buy wine.

I will start anew tomorrow on the fitness front. The sun is supposed to be glorious again.

This has been a really hard couple of weeks at work. WAY too much work to do and not enough time to do it. Execs breathing down my neck about getting to the next thing, doing more, doing it differently. I love my job, but this has been a not fun, hard week.

And yet, I can brag to myself that I have been exhausted and stressed and frustrated and quite literally near the breaking point, and I still haven’t drunk about it. It doesn’t even cross my mind at work (thank god), and when I get home, most days, it doesn’t cross my mind then either. It’s really just Fridays and Saturdays that are still the hard days, and I know from experience (the last time I made it more than a month), that the weekend cravings start to fade pretty quickly too.

Can’t wait for the “miracle” to happen. 🙂

My life coach suggested I might ask my doc about beta blockers for the times when I’m feeling really anxious, like when I’m on a date. Those tend to be my very most difficult times to not drink. So, I asked my naturopath about it, and she said that before I go to that extreme (I guess beta blockers mess with your heart function and a side effect can be dizziness and depression, among other things), I should consider a natural alternative called Kavinace, by Neuroscience. I ordered it and we’ll see. I think it arrived today and maybe I’ll test it out this weekend while I’m at the wedding stuff in Portland. Because really, if I can conquer those anxious situations without booze, I’m going to be happy as a pig in the shizzle. Happy as a clam. Happy as a tick on a fat dog.

You get the picture.

Here’s to mac ‘n’ cheese instead of merlot.

Rachel. Day 20.

Soundly flogged by my own

Tonight, rowing was hell.

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

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

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

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

But I didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

SOBER

That’s all.

Rachel. Day 11.

100 Days vs Forever

On my call with my life coach, C., Wednesday, I told her how I was just committing to 100 days and then I’d see how I feel.  I don’t know why it’s so scary to say it’s forever, even though sitting here, I can’t imagine starting to drink again. I know that doesn’t work. I can sit here with my logical brain and know I don’t want that. And yet…I went through examples of people I know about who have started off with a short-term goal and then just…kept going. Like Belle. Like Hey Monster. Like the guy I know who quit drinking when his wife got pregnant and that was over a year ago and he “just kept going.”

So…I figured that is a safe way to start.

“I’m going to challenge you on that,” C. said. “You have been telling me for months about all of the very good reasons why you wanted to quit drinking for good. Why would that change after 100 days?”

She was right, of course. It’s scary to say it’s forever. I’m not sure why, but it is.

“I know why,” she said. “It’s the finality of it. And it’s a loss. It’s okay to admit that. You’ve had a lot of your identity tied up in red wine, and that doesn’t change overnight. It’s a big deal and it’s really hard.”

I love her for the way she gives me permission to feel things as they should be felt.

Because even though I’ve read Jason Vale and Allen Carr and Annie Grace, and I really do believe it is a good thing and I am gaining in huge ways by quitting, I still have to let myself mourn and process this loss. This is a healthy thing.

“It’s a lot like when you are at your college graduation, and you have that best friend who is moving to the other side of the country, and you say ‘This isn’t goodbye, I’ll see you soon!’ but you know IT’S A LIE, because life is changing forever.”

I also love her for her powerful metaphors. I could totally put myself in that place, there with the pain and fear of the finality of something like leaving my best friend for the other side of the country, and nothing will ever be the same again. Even if it’s a good thing, it’s still bloody scary to admit.

Yes, the finality of it. There’s something so existential about it. So BIG. I’m still working out why it’s different than when I quit eating meat, but it is. I mean, despite the ubiquity of bacon, on a lot of levels, alcohol is a much more powerful influence in our society and our communities and our sense of selves, than the meat we eat. And I enjoyed meat (until I didn’t), but wine provided so much comfort and emotional support (however hollow), there must be something to that too.

It must be the part of my brain that still remembers the friend/lover/confident I thought I had in a big bottle of red. The dysfunctional relationship. The bad habit. It hasn’t really been that long since I broke up with red wine and he still sends me love letters from time-to-time, begging for me to come back and give him a whirl.

I can’t quit you, red wine! 

But I can.

C. was totally in support of my finding my voice in this. Going from avoidance to “I’m on a cleanse”-type excuses for not drinking, to hedges like “I haven’t been drinking,” to “I don’t drink.” It’s a process that takes time. That’s normal.

“It’s a lot like the coming out of the closet process,” she said. And she has some experience on the subject.

I laughed. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, at first someone might be, like, I kissed a girl in college but it didn’t mean anything. Then later she might say, Oh yeah, I make out with girls but only when I’m drunk. Eventually she works her way up to coming out as lesbian or queer or bi or whatever, but it’s normal for it to happen gradually. In layers.”

I can honestly say I haven’t heard that comparison before. Haha! But I can totally get it! Makes sense. Putting one’s sexuality out there is huge and personal and people sometimes judge — and once it’s out there, it’s hard to take back.

I was in a meeting this afternoon and I was a bit cocky (teasing) to my bosses at one point. My big boss (the President) said, “Rachel is sure on fire today! You need a drink!” 

A totally harmless thing to say, but every time he or others make off-handed comments like that, I’m brought back to a place of uncertainty. Discomfort. Of course, if he’d said, “You need a ham sandwich!” I would have laughed and said, “Ha! I don’t eat meat!” But instead, I just laughed it off and changed the subject. No need to announce to a room full of colleagues that I DON’T DRINK! That would just be weird.

And soon enough I’ll be comfortable and secure, and won’t tense up and panic a little when someone surprises me with a mention of drinking. So, now, I’ll honor my feelings and embrace the process of coming out sober. I’m definitely still straight (although I have kissed a girl when I was drunk :)), but I don’t drink

Yo, repeat after me…totally chill, with a quiet confidence: Haha, well that’s especially funny since I don’t drink.

Rachel. Day 6.

94 days to go (+ forever)  Oof, the finality of it. Even Belle tells herself she can drink again when she’s 70. That works for her to take the pressure off. I can see the wisdom in that.

Oh my god I’m tired and it’s only Tuesday

And still sober.

Today was a tough day at work. I’m completely underwater and brought more work home, even though I’m exhausted. I have been fighting a headache for days and today it turned into a full-on pre-migraine. Yep – and it’s only Tuesday.

I’m OK, drinking-wise, but the thoughts did flit through my head that I could just escape with wine — even with this headache! Amazeballs. It wasn’t strong, like an urge, but it passed through like a subway train whooshing past the platform I was standing on, and then it was gone.

Fecking harpy. Keep moving along…

I walked home (in the pouring, sideways rain), took my dog out (in the pouring, sideways rain), ate some dinner and surfed the web a little for something entertaining. Some sweet/funny/pleasing relief to enjoy with a spoon of peanut butter and honey (dessert). I found it, pretty much, with Super Tuesday news and some calorie-free Facebook videos (and my new Hollywood crush is Jeffrey Dean Morgan — Oy! — I watched his segment on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert… What’s next for me, Romance novels? 🙂 )…

jeffrey-dean-morgan-01-320

Jeffrey Dean Morgan. A good source of dopamine.

…then remembered I needed to blog.

So here I am. I’ll make some tea, have a shower and get into bed to do one last thing for work before picking up my book. I turned the lights out early-ish last night (10:30), but the way I’m feeling with the stress and the fatigue after this day, I think earlier is better tonight. I have zero desire for wine right now. I really just want comfort and sleep.

Tea. Shower. Work. Bed. Book. Sleep.

And tomorrow will come.

Rachel. Day 4.

p.s. – Tomorrow I’d better get a sober treat. (Tools!) Tomorrow.

The Wine Harpy

It’s Sunday morning and the Wine Harpy is asleep. Last night she tried just once to tap me on the shoulder, but I looked her straight in the eye and said, Are you fucking kidding me?, and she actually backed up and disappeared. She’ll be back another day, and may not be so easily dissuaded, but for today, this day, I’ll take it.

I like thinking of that other voice that assails my mind and assaults my peace as a harpy.

“A word to describe a woman who draws a man into her grasp by pleasing the victim’s biggest desire only to destroy all that makes him what he is.” — UrbanDictionary.com

Haha! How perfect is that? Replace “man” with “Rachel” and it is perfectly perfect.

A woman who draws Rachel into her grasp by pleasing the victim’s biggest desire only to destroy all that makes her what she is.

I love it. THAT’s what the Wine Harpy is capable of. I’m getting off this elevator now, Hell Boy, before it goes down any further.

I found this illustration online by B.R. Guthrie. Awesome, and utterly terrifying. (I can’t even watch scary movie trailers without covering my eyes, so I’m that person…)

harpy

The (Wine) Harpy

Zentient posted this MOST AMAZING video of the harpies. I’m going to play this to myself next time she comes a-tapping, and laugh in her face.

I can’t actually embed the video, but if you want to see it, please, oh please, watch it on YouTube –> Terrifying Harpies  You won’t be sorry. 🙂

***

I feel good today. More up and hopeful than I have in a while. Maybe it’s the feeling that I have a new beginning again and I didn’t wait until Leap Day like the Wine Harpy was telling me I should. “You need a REAL soberversary, one that you’ll remember and that will be special,” she kept saying. “It can’t be any old arbitrary day. How will you remember it? It won’t have the magnitude to really stick. Just drink a few more days (in a row), and then you’ll be ready.”

Well, besides the fact that that logic is flawed and every day is really as arbitrary as the next, if you think about it, I honestly was feeling so bad about drinking I couldn’t imagine drinking a few more days. And part of me worried that making it into a huge big deal on Leap Day would actually work against me. Like starting a diet on a Monday. Or after the holidays. Or on New Year’s Day. That never freakin’ works.

Why not just start today? Get my life going again? <–That was me speaking.

So I did. And I remembered, my Dad quit drinking on an arbitrary day in August, 35 years ago. He says he had to quit or his drinking was going to kill him. For me, I don’t want to live any more of my life under the voodoo mind control of alcohol. I don’t want it to kill my life, my hope, my future, before it actually kills me. I’m getting off this one-way shit train to hell now, thankyouveddymuch.

***

The sun is trying to come out today, in between rain showers. I’m breathing the light in as if it can actually fill my lungs. (I think it actually may.) That’s how much I need it right now, the light. Bub (my dog) and I are going for a long walk in a few minutes, rain be damned.

I’m struck by thinking: I’m 47 years old and there isn’t enough time in the day. So much to do, to accomplish. So many people to know and love well. So much to experience.

I’ll move out of this fancy apartment this summer and into a place that is much less expensive. I need to save more and manage my money better too. That is some of the best self-care I can think of.

But for now, I’ll just keep breathing.

IMG_7275

Some rain in the foreground, but sunny skies ahead. #metaphor

Day 2. Rachel.

 

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