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. 🙂

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

Christmas Day, and I’d really like to numb out

la-la-landI just saw “La La Land,” and I guess I should have predicted this: Watching Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a beautiful Hollywood romance just made me feel more lonely. And like I missed some big opportunities in my life. And that I just want to feel good and numb this ache. And that would happen if I drank a bottle of wine.

Yeah, after 158 days (more than 5 months) that would also make me sick as a dog. But some days a person can get really fucking tired of feeling her feelings and being present and doing the next best thing and thinking it all the way through and not comparing myself to others and being grateful and reaching out and looking for other ways to find my joy…

A bubble bath isn’t going to cut it.

Some days…this just fucking sucks.

I suddenly want to write them all down. All the relationships I had that didn’t work but maybe could have if I’d just done things a bit differently…all the work opportunities I had if I’d taken more risk or had more faith, but I chose something else instead…all the time I spent in my early life not being as smart as I could have been. All the time I spent doing things that led me to being nearly 50 and living in a small apartment alone with my dog, despite having known and dated really amazing men, having worked with really amazing (some famous) people, having had exposure and opportunities 20, even 10 years ago that I didn’t recognize for being as amazing as they were. I want to make them amount to something.

I used to say I don’t really have regrets. That I’ve had an amazing life of experience. That it has all led me here. And yet now, my whole life feels like a series of regrets.

I feel like I’ve been working hard to make good decisions and build a life that I want to stay sober for, but it’s coming slow. I can see now that drinking a bottle of wine now would be a cop out. An escape hatch to a place that might feel better for the moment, but is an illusion.

And so, I’m left sitting here lonely and in pain in this life I’m in. I built this life. I am here after a long series of life choices, including the decision to quit drinking. I decided I needed to take a clear-eyed look at my life and the way I’ve been living it.

I’m 48 years old and I’m not sure what the future holds. It does seem whatever that is, it’s a far cry from a love affair with Ryan Gosling and La La Land. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t the best day to watch an homage to screen love affairs of the Golden Era.

They say “your worst day sober is better than your best day drinking.” Well that sure seems like bullshit at the moment. I wasn’t that heavy a drinker, I just wanted a different life. I wanted to change my trajectory. I was taking the easy way out.

Maybe that’s the gift of sobriety: the clarity of what was the booze’s fault and what probably wasn’t.

Ugh.

There’s too much noise in my head. I just want out of my head.

I’m going to go on a long walk with my dog. Maybe that will relieve some of the pressure.

Rachel. Day 158.

 

We have lift off… Bradley Cooper

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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

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.

 

This is Where I Start

Last week  was an unusually intense week. Having spent the better part of the last year not drinking, learning to “feel the feels” is nothing new at this point. Early on I realized that (sometimes really powerful and seemingly random) memories and the (equally powerful, very much not random) feelings they invoked were coming up with a lot more regularity than they had before, and it was easy to make the connection between the missing alcohol and the oozing hotspring of goo urping up from my subconsciousness.

Pretty much one of the first things you learn as a quitting-the-booze boozer is to get prepared to feel your feelings.

This wasn’t that. Not exactly.

This week was way more seismic than that. Like, when there’s a tsunami off the coast of Japan or somewhere, and 10,000 miles away a day later the surf comes in all jacked up and super-sized.  I wasn’t sure why this was happening, these IMAX memories and feelings and fears and hopes, but I was aware of it and was doing my best to bob along in my little alcohol-free dingy and ride that mega-wave action,  letting it pass through to be on its way.

And then Liz Gilbert posted her incredibly beautiful post about her and her best friend (and partner), Rayya, and it was like a two-by-four landed right between my eyes.

When I first saw it, I was at work, and I could hardly concentrate until I spent a minute trying to really FEEL what it was that was so amazingly upending about it. It felt personal to me, even though it had nothing to do with me.

Of course it had nothing to do with me.

Did it?

This last year has been a nearly constant exercise of looking at my life and how I’ve been living it. And to my very soul I was moved to pay attention to this moment, even though I wasn’t immediately sure why it was affecting me so. After taking a little time to think about it– and to let myself listen to what I was feeling — I came to this:

…Besides being extraordinarily beautiful and heartbreaking in its message, I was absolutely blown away by Liz’s example of living a completely authentic life, open to this love.

…and I’ve realized that my inner circle has become very fragile this last year since I started the process of quitting drinking. I’ve been isolating, which is normal for a while, but I still haven’t been ready to step back into my friendships on my terms.

…and…

…and making an impact on the world.
…and asking the Universe what I’m meant to do and listening with curiosity.
…and being someone’s person.
…and having a person.

 

Wave after wave.

The night before Liz’s post I couldn’t sleep. It just about never happens to me. Maybe I had eaten too much sugar (gelato) too late, but that wouldn’t be unusual. What was unusual was how intense those feelings were. Fears, memories, hopes, wishes, loneliness, responsibilities, desires… it was a Technicolor movie that went from scene to scene to scene across the backs of my eyes, and none of my normal attempts to soothe and quiet my mind would work. Wave after wave they flooded in. I was still up at 1am before I took a 1/2 a sleeping pill and ate some nuts and chips and went back to bed to try again.

And I couldn’t help but feel like seeing Liz’s intense, beautiful post the next day was related.

I’ve been asking the Universe to tell me what I’m supposed to do in my life and help me listen. I’ve been asking the Universe for my partner in life and to be open to whomever that might be. Liz and Rayya’s courage and truth jarred me a little into opening my eyes (or heart) a little wider to listen. And to wonder about all the potential ahead. And to hope for courage and growth and progress.

And I truly believe this is the journey I’m on. Like I’m on the precipice of new knowing, and there may be days of tsunami waves as the Universe begins to realize that I’m serious about this not drinking thing and I’m getting ready to receive what it has to offer. No matter how new and scary and fucking REAL that might be.

I have every intention to build an incredible life from this place. From where I am today. and even though I don’t know yet what that means, and it’s hard to describe, I think the messages this week were a gift. Test balloons to see if I’m paying attention. It makes me wonder if important things are beginning to shake loose, and I plan to be ready to catch whatever it is I need to catch when the Universe sends it my way.

I’ll do my best to stay open and pay attention. I’m on the verge of something.

As Rob Bell says in his book, How To Be Here:

This is where I start.

And not to come back full circle to Bradley Cooper, but — I mean, who doesn’t want to think about Bradley Cooper if given the chance? — I was reminded again today about what he said about the revelation he had that made him quit drinking, which was that he knew that he was not fulfilling his potential (and was going to “sabotage his life”) unless he stopped.

I may have clued into this nearly 20 years later than he did, but it’s not too late for me yet. I, too, want to live an authentic, courageous, vivid, impactful life.

This is where I start. 

xo Rachel.
Day 52.

Dates go a lot faster sober

Saturday, Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like being sober. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel. Day 8.

NA beer and internalizing being a non-drinker takes time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jenny Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy sober Sunday, everyone!

xo Rachel.

 

Dinner with Bradley Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

😉

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

Now say it ten times fast. Now ten more. 

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

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

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

Me-ow.

bradley-cooper

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

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

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

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

Has it really only been 13 days?

Day 13. Rachel.