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

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.

Two weeks, focus and refocus

It’s a holiday weekend, I’m alone and having a bit of a pity party, and I’m not going to drink, but the Wine Harpy has been nipping at my heels all weekend. Annoying fucker. One part boredom (even thought I have *plenty* I could be doing), one part loneliness, the swirl I’ve been swimming in this weekend is exactly the time when my former drinking self would have headed straight to the store so I could “bliss out” in a bottle of red. Or two.

Deep breath…

But no more. So…I’ve been pulling out all the tools — well, a lot of them, anyway. And I relate to Belle when she says that in the early days she was spending HOURS online on sober blogs (and for me, secret sober Facebook pages too), reading and commenting and getting support from the amazing community there. I’ve been napping when I want to, eating chocolate and ice cream mostly when I want to, and really just trying to stay busy.

And breathe.

But I want to make sure I don’t just get into a constant reflex of “fighting” it off. Because if I take some deep breaths and really try to ground myself back to June 20 and why I am quitting alcohol — at least for now (I’m saying that so my wine brain doesn’t rebel and run straight to the store for a bottle) — then some of the anxiety lifts. The grasping releases. It helps me a lot to place myself in a healthy, balanced, happy place in this CHOICE of living alcohol-free, and to read about and look to others who are doing it too.

That’s why Bradley Cooper used to help a bit (where, oh, where has my Bradley fixation gone? 🙂 ), but that’s also why it helps so much to have so many sober supports online who are loving their sober lives, and reminding themselves and others why it matters, day-by-day.

But for me, it’s a conscious effort right now, which I know is normal. The reminding myself. The replaying the tape of how I felt back then. The repeating (sometimes out loud) of what I want my future to look like and the FACT that alcohol in my life will mean a different future than something amazing I can dream. (Remember, Bradley came to that realization too… Yes, we would be on a first name basis if I actually knew him. I’m sure of it. 🙂  )

I really don’t want to fritter away my weekend sloshing around inside a bottle of red wine….but Wolfie is bored. Wolfie wants to feel good (and, paradoxically, feel less). And he would love nothing more.

But Wolfie can bite me. The Harpy can go bother someone else, because that bee-atch getting nowhere with me. Jerks.

This is the part we just have to slog through. There’s no getting around it. No short cuts.

I admit, it worries me a bit to read/hear about people who have been AF for 100s of days or longer, who still have really bad days when Wolfie is standing on their chests, looking them in the face. Or those who just started drinking again on a whim, after months or years, only to be right back where they started before long. But I guess those stories are good warnings to not become complacent or take anything for granted. There IS no moderation (goddamn, I wish there were. REALLY I do). And drinking again is certainly not inevitable. We all have choice.

And for today (because today I can predict with 100 percent certainty), today I choose life. Myself. My amazing, unpredictable, unexpected future.

As Augusten Burroughs has said, “You don’t need to take an action to stop drinking. Drinking is an action: pouring the [wine] into the glass, raising the glass to your lips. To stop drinking, all you have to do is sit.” (and not drink)

I’ve said this before, but perhaps as a reminder to myself as much as anything, this is the other thing he said that sticks with me that I will be working on too. And it may not happen overnight, but I do believe it is really important, because when I’m feeling the void, the boredom, the loneliness, this is what will make the difference in the long term:

“To be successful at not drinking, a person needs to occupy the space in life drinking once filled with something more rewarding than the comfort and escape of alcohol. This is the thing you have to find.”

My challenge, my opportunity, my GIFT, is to fill that wine-shaped hole with all kinds of awesome. And this fits nicely into my intention and hope of finding my higher purpose as a non-drinking person. Yep, this is the thing I have to find.

With persistence and compassion…I’ll find it.  (OMG I HOPE.)

Rachel.

Day 14

It gets harder before it gets easier

It gets harder before it gets easier, and it’s getting harder now.

I remember the first time(s) I quit drinking, two days was an incredible feat. Just like is often told, I was white-knuckled and grieving, and all I wanted to do was end my day with my wine lover like I had grown so fond of doing. It was a painful breakup with an abusive boyfriend, and I wanted him back. That’s why AA gives out a 24-hour chip. It’s a really big deal.

Then there was five days…Wow! Five days was a common fail day for me, and I hear for others too. I’m guessing that’s because it also often fell on a Friday for all those folks (including myself) whose Day 1s were Mondays. And Fridays were big venting days. A release of all the stresses of the week. The payoff. A chance to lift off from this planet and sail into oblivion.

So, when I made it through my first weekend I could hardly believe it. Seven or eight days had stretched out like the calendar was printed on a band of elastic. Sober days had become like dog years, and seven days felt like weeks. The weight of the length of time itself became daunting. If seven days feels like this, how am I going to make it…forever?

Then ten days — double digits. My sense of sober time was changing. Ten days became easier. Something I could do without really trying too hard.

Then 15…19…26…34… I don’t think I ever made it past 34 before starting over. So many expanses of weeks, and only to start the clock all over again.

And I know what happens, because it happens each time: It gets harder. Everyone who has made it any length of time (past 60 days? 90? 100?) will tell you IT GETS EASIER. And I actually do believe them. Eventually. But the stage I’m in now is when we really start to earn it, slogging through the dimly lit gauntlet, dodging obstacles and objects whizzing past our sober heads while trying to keep sight of that wee wee light at the end of the tunnel, which is only lit by the hope of other sober people who have come before us.

And man, that tunnel can feel long.

I really am holding out some giant-sized hope that I don’t still feel like this at 100 days.

Day 10. Enough days to know the alcohol is out of my system, I’ve got some momentum, I’m still using all the tools, but my proverbial sober legs are getting heavier and I have to remind myself over and over (and all day long on FB and with blogs) why I have to do this. Why I stopped drinking. Why this is so important. Why I truly believe it means the difference in the kind of future I will have.

I can repeat a million times that red wine is poison, but the thing that is really going to make a permanent difference is the bigger story. My story.

And I have to remember that when I’m tired and alone with my Bub, and I just want to be soothed. After 10 days, as real life sober starts to finally settle in. This is when my sober muscles are exposed as having atrophied since I was in high school, the last time I went without booze for any stretch of time. Once I discovered wine coolers and Seagram’s and Diet Coke in college (barf!!), I never went for more than a few days without some alcohol ever again. And let me say, college was a very long time ago.

As anyone who has gone through this knows, I’m learning how to live again.

So, I breathe. I tell Wolfie to FUCK OFF out loud when I’m walking into a grocery store and the wine bottles lined all along the window are SCREAMING at me. I do what Belle said and I get into bed (or on top of the covers, fully-clothed) and read a great book. There are so many great books! I eat ice cream, even though I’m trying to lose weight. (I know, I know…this is verboten, but I have promised myself that I choose sobriety above all, and if it starts to all feel “too hard,” I will choose eating what I want over drinking.) Tonight I ate ice cream and named it my Sober Treat. I will write about how I’m feeling here. I will post multiple times a day to the private sober groups I follow on Facebook. I will remind myself that there is no moderation — I know that now — and if, after 100 days I decide to drink again, it would be because I’m choosing a life of drowning in the bottle, because that’s what will end up happening. Eventually. And I know I don’t want that.

And I breathe. And I get to bed early. And I try my best to be kind and compassionate with myself, and to listen to what my heart tells me I really need. (The jury is still out on the rowing [see yesterday’s post]. I’m going to go tomorrow night to practice and see how it feels.)

And I’m going to have hope. And faith. And patience. And persistence. And courage.

And I’m going to scream my bloody head off into my pillow if I have to. I swear I will. I’m going to try it.

And I have to remember to dance in my living room. I forgot tonight. Tomorrow, I dance.

I keep reminding myself about the sober dog years (same goes for dieting): the days seem long, and time seems to pass so, so slowly, but one day follows on the next, and the next, and they just stack up. They just keep adding up. This is sure true for other things — whether it’s growing older, moving past a trauma, waiting for that amazing trip to finally start, or even just the weekend — and it’s true for being sober too. The days cross off, one-by-one, and time keeps marching on. I’m finally starting to really GET what people mean when they say that it is really just about staying sober TODAY, because if I keep doing that, the days, the time, it will take care of itself.

And then, at some point, it will start to get easier.

Deep breath…

I will be happier sober. I know it. I am finally to the point where I choose to believe what everyone says and hold on. Some days I’ll be holding on with white knuckles and howling at the moon, some days (like tonight) I’ll be burying my head in my book to distract myself until I can turn out the light. Some days I’ll be happy as a clam with a cup of tea and Game of Thrones (because: DRAGONS!). But Wolfie can fuck off if he thinks I’m going to give up, even if my legs are starting to feel like I’m walking through a vat of brownie mix. It’s just for now. It will pass.

xo Rachel.

Day 10.

When a Team is not a healthy thing, I choose Me

Hey there,

I had a big rowing competition this weekend and WOW, I won a gold medal! I have to say, it felt pretty great and for the first time my team and I bonded. Suddenly there were Facebook friend requests flying around, people from across our larger team were actually talking to me (strange how a gold medal around your neck can make a difference…hmm…) and some of us finally had some great talks and got to know each other better while we sat on the beach and watched our fellow teammates row in their races.

But I think I’m going to leave rowing now. At least as the consuming ambition it’s been.

Why now?

There are several reasons, and at the end of the day, they all point back to how rowing makes me feel about myself. There are certainly pros and cons.

Pros:

  • I love being on the water. There are times when I just look at the sky and the clouds and the reflection of the city off the lake as the sun is setting and I just sit in the moment in gratitude. I breathe a few deep breaths and try to be absolutely present. It’s really awesome.
  • It’s cool. I think so and other people think so. I can admit that. I LOVE when other people are impressed or excited by the fact that I row (HELLO EGO! Jeez.)
  • I am proud of myself that it can be really hard, but I have stuck with it. I stuck with it in the middle of winter when it was dark and raining and 38 degrees, and I was out there.  I was out there when I had to get up at 4am to be there for 5am “hands on” days. I was out there when my hands were blistered and calloused, or the oars ripped whole pieces of skin off fingers and palms or made me bleed…I stuck to it. This is a big deal to me. Rarely in my life have I felt like I’m doing something that so many people admire or are impressed by and that I stuck to and skipped things for and got up early for and all of it. It feels pretty good (but I’m finding it comes at a cost. More on that below).
  • I love the workout. The training. A really hard workout can be a lot of fun — and obviously, is great exercise! And even when the weather is sheit and I’m out there, I can come back in not being able to feel my frozen feet :), but I also feel like a badass for having gone out in the first place. I loved that.
  • I love being part of something. Part of the community. Being able to call myself a rower and have a jacket with the logo on it and be extremely remotely associated with the guys who rowed in “Boys in the Boat.” (Pretty much everyone asks me, “Did you read “Boys in the Boat”? Answer: I bought it, and started to read it, but got bored and haven’t picked it up again – yet.)

Cons:

  • But that’s the thing. The community. The community I’ve experienced is very cliquey. When I joined this competitive boat to race with, very few of the women were nice to me. It got better over time as I got to know a few of them, but there is still a woman — in a boat of eight women and we just won a gold medal together — who has still never said hello to me. The woman who sits in the seat directly behind me barely spoke to me. And it’s like that across the boathouse. It has been a very rare thing that someone I didn’t know was friendly. I made it a point to always make the first move, but it started to wear me down how unfriendly so many people were. Unless they knew you already. And sometimes even then.
  • When I row, as awesome as it can be, I often feel bad about myself while I’m rowing. The coxswain is (what feels like constantly) pointing out what I am doing wrong, could be doing better. (It’s the only way I’m going to get better, but there is a limit to what a person can take during a single workout…) The other women in the boat are rarely friendly. The coxswains aren’t friendly or supportive. Or the coach snaps at me for something that wasn’t my fault. Or I feel big/heavy. I just don’t feel good enough or welcome when I’m there, and it has been well over a year. It may be all in my head, but is it that hard to be nice? (there are some nice people, but they are the exception, and oddly they are rarely among the good rowers.)
  • It’s a LOT of time. I train on the water three days a week, and the expectation with the competitive team is at least another two days on the ergs (rowing machines) or three additional hours a week cardio. And where it used to be fun to push to get better and people understood sometimes life happens too, now you are expected to be there to train and other things (life) are expected to take a back seat. I started thinking about all the things I want to get done in my life, and how little time I have with a full-time job and a dog to take care of, and there’s not much time left in the week. I have to be selective.

So, what REALLY matters here?

My life coach said it and I think she’s right: I should NOT be doing anything right now — for my self-care but especially in early sobriety — that makes me feel like I’m not good enough. Even though sports are about mental toughness and getting better, and I am relatively new at this, I think she’s right. I’m beginning to see that the culture of this sport in particular leaves me constantly feeling like I’m not quite good enough.

I should be spending my very limited time doing things that are nurturing and aren’t triggering. Following my curiosity and doing things that are in line with my goals of making an impact and finding richness and strength. Challenging is good. Doing hard things…good. Swinging for the rafters and pushing myself beyond my limits…all good! But anything that isn’t supportive or, like I said, makes me feel less than, NOT GOOD.

I’m a sensitive person. I think drinkers often are. Empathic. A feeler. I’m not overly competitive and I certainly need to feel supported and encouraged when I’m doing something scary and really hard. Especially when I’m putting myself out there, exposed. There really was very very little of that, nurturing, support, and it was only getting worse as I was moving up the ranks to the competitive team. I’m a tall, strong woman. The “perfect” body type for this sport. But I’m beginning to think I’m not the perfect personality type for it. At least not at this boathouse.

Maybe someone needs to tell them that we would be a much stronger team if we supported one another and made each other feel appreciated and safe.

Alright, I realize I am sitting inside a made-for-TV movie right now. Back to real life.

So, there it is. I went to my first regatta this weekend, won a gold medal, and I think I may be done competing. I’m going out on top! 🙂 And as hard (and confusing) as this decision might be right now (think of all my new Facebook friends! 🙂 what about my intense FOMO?), my gut says, this may be the best decision overall for me. As hard as it is to feel like I’m “quitting” or worse, “giving up,” I was overcome with the view from the rafters that my time is a precious thing and every moment I can choose, I choose to move forward.

Pride aside. Admiration from others aside. Cool  factor and gold medals aside. I need to take care of my heart, and I need to stay sober.

Tara Brach said during one of her podcast lessons a couple of weeks ago, “What if you knew you only had a year to live? How would you spend your time? A month? A day?”

Rowing is a very cool thing. But I have things to do with my life. An impact to make in this world.

And so…here I am at Day 8. Don’t think it was easy not drinking this weekend after the first really hard day at the regatta! I was tired, stressed, had been under the sun all day, was scared for the race the next day, feeling alone and unsupported…and instead of drinking, I went to the bookstore and brought a book back to my motel for the night.

I’m really working on soothing myself in better ways, and that includes preventative care as well.

And now, sleep.

Rachel.

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what C.C. said today:

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

LOVE.

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

(and I will write again tomorrow…)

xo Rachel. Day 18.

 

A fortnight, and in search of pleasure

It’s Friday night and I’m still sober. Toot toot.

It’s been two weeks and today was my day off. It was a busy day of errands, then a short nap, and lots of reading. I can’t complain. I’m noticing an odd craving for wine, even though I don’t want it at all, at the same time. It’s easy for me to walk it through to the conclusion in my mind, and it’s all negative. All of it, including regret, shame, fear of doing or saying something stupid. Makes me tense just thinking about it.

I guess that’s the wine harpy again. Giving it a go. Seeing if she can spot weakness.

When I really examine it, I think what I’m *really* craving is pleasure. I used to satisfy that craving almost entirely with wine (and a little chocolate) and part of the discovery now is learning how to find pleasure in my life every day, without wine. That’s different from boredom – I’m not at all bored. I’m just on a mission for pleasure, every day. What a great challenge to have, actually.

Game on.

Rachel. Day 14.

Lucky (Day) 13

Now that I’ve committed to writing something every night for the next 87 days, I’m even more impressed by people like Belle who have managed to do it AND be interesting and insightful every single day.

Today is my Friday — I have tomorrow off — and I felt the teeniest craving to relax into a bottle of wine after rowing tonight. It didn’t last long, and instead I came home, snacked a little and watched an episode of “House of Cards.” They sure drink a lot on that show. They sure drink a lot on a lot of the shows I watch, as it turns out. Most of the time it doesn’t bug me, but sometimes… it does.

I’m still very much in that place where I feel like I’m inhabiting two selves at the same time: the self that thinks a glass of wine would be fun/satisfying/comforting/euphoric, and the self that is looking at that situation almost from outside of myself, and knows it isn’t at all what that first self has it cracked up to be. It’s like two sides of the Cab-colored looking glass. It’s going to take time to jettison the first self. I know.

I do keep hearing that voice again in the back of my head. The wine harpy, whispering  in my ear that after 100 days I’ll see how I feel. I’m not going to fight that voice anymore — not now.  I’ll just go all Aikido on it and bend like a reed. Whatever. Sure, harpy. Sounds fine, I say to her, but back off because I’m going a 100 days this time. It’s not forever, just 100 days. We’ll see how I feel then. Talk to me then.

“Stay Here.” I finally broke down and bought the “Stay Here” bracelet from Belle. I already have the “Not Today” bracelet — I wear it every day. But something about stay here has been resonating with me lately. Stay. Right. Here. I don’t want to think about 100 days or forever or next week. I’m just going to think about today. And maybe, if I’m feeling good and bold, I’ll think about tomorrow. But that’s it. I don’t need to sort out what I’m going to do on day 100 right now. I’m a helluva long way from that and it isn’t productive for me to be spending cycles on the philosophical merits of telling myself 100 days vs 100+ vs forever, etc. For now, I’m right here.

Stay here.

I have another date Saturday night with the guy, E. This time we’re going to see some music which starts kind of early (6:30 p.m.), so I left logistics open in case he wanted to make it a quick thing again like last time. (I’ve sometimes likened myself to a “dating autistic…I feel like I can’t read men’s expressions or behaviors accurately at all. like face blindness, but with romantic cues.) But he suggested we have a “late lunch/early dinner” at 4:30, so yay! I guess ‘be careful what you wish for,’ because now I’m definitely going to be with him for at least five hours, and all sober.

I’m going to do a lot of deep breathing and power posing (see: Amy Cuddy) before he comes to pick me up. 🙂 I’m also going to have a good talk with my life coach tomorrow about bringing my female energy to the date. Tips on how to be sexy and appealing. Oh, how I envy women who just get it. I know I don’t need wine to relax and have fun with him, but just try to tell that to my reptile brain! There’s a whole lotta years of programming to undo, and I’m diving in, head first (to mix metaphors).

The sun came out a bit today and it was beautiful. My coach responded to my email, and then masterfully addressed some of the team’s attitude issue during practice today. I was so relieved. I have to work tomorrow on my day off, but my good friend and I booked our airbnb apartment in Rome this morning and I’m so excited! Two weeks until I leave for Venice. I can’t wait. I’m very lucky and very grateful. It was a good day.

Rachel. Day 13.

A Drinker’s Dozen

I know a baker’s dozen is actually 13, but a (former) drinker doesn’t need to count an extra day to make a dozen. No siree, it’s a solid 12.

The rain keeps pouring down in Seattle. Rain rain rain. I’ve said before, about a month ago we broke the record for most rainy winter since record-keeping began, and it hasn’t really let up since. Rain rain rain. I bought a sun/light box and have been using it at least 30 minutes a day. I feel ok — I don’t know if it’s working but I do feel better than I’ve felt in recent weeks — but the rain is starting to finally get to me. Walking home from work today I was full-on Carrie Bradshaw’d — you know, where you’re walking down the street and a huge car/truck/bus drives full speed through a puddle in the road and the entire volume of puddle flies from the asphalt onto you? Yep, that happened to me today. Twice. (No, I wasn’t wearing a pink tutu and manolo blahniks…)

If I weren’t headed to Europe in just two weeks (oh my god i need to start planning what i’m going to pack!!) I would be looking into flights to somewhere warm and sunny. A shot of vitamin D to the system.

sunshine

Ahhhh…

I’m hoping Italy has some sun this time of year. I haven’t even checked. I may pack my light box just in case.

I’ve been stressed today, and haven’t fully shaken off the bummer that happened last night at rowing. I think I’m drinking too much caffeine again — time to cut back…. I think I need more sleep. Tonight I met a couple of friends for dinner and I was just off. Too tired and grumpy, and my best friend said she could tell something was up. No one drank any booze (I had another shrub drink) and the check was so inexpensive!

I’m not very interesting tonight but writing because I said I would. Tomorrow is Thursday and I have Friday off (yay!), and I have a date Saturday evening to look forward to too.

Happy happy, joy joy.

Sober, sober.

Rachel. It’s actually a non-drinker’s dozen (12). 🙂