Carry On, Warrior #wearetheluckiest

elephant

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

But I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming sober is like recovering from frostbite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glennon Doyle Melton

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

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

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

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

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

As wikipedia says, Pupae are inactive.

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

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

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

As Laura McKowen would say, #wearetheluckiest

xo Rachel. Day 60

Day. Day. Day. Day. Day. (zzzz)

It’s August 9 and another year has gone by. August 9 isn’t an anniversary of mine or a birthday or anything special to me, but I remember vividly that this time last year I had broken it off with the guy I was dating because I was going to take the month of August off from alcohol. I needed to be free of his ambivalence — and his extensive wine collection.

I told him I wanted a pause and he could call me in September if he wanted. He didn’t call.

So, it’s Day 20 of being alcohol free, and that also means three weeks that I’ve been in the intensive women’s support group. Right on cue I started hearing the wine harpy a little louder in my ear today, and I’m really glad I have the group to look forward to Thursday, keeping me accountable to myself until then. I notice this is about the time every time I quit when I start to really crave some the fun or feel-goodness, or maybe a few minutes of euphoria that red wine provided. I want to shrug off this “thing” I’m doing — you know, that not drinking thing — like a diet or not looking at Facebook from my phone, and take a day to cheat a little. I’ve been doing so well! (The harpy will say.) I deserve a cheat day and then back to it!

Just a half a bottle, no more.

And straight to the brain stem it would go. What a bunch of B.S. that harpy is full of. As if I have ever stopped at half a bottle in the last…oh man, who knows how many years.

But I’ve gotten better at playing it through to the end — the regret, the hangover, the stupid texts and IMs, the disappointment in myself, the depression, the binge-eating, the generally unmoored feeling that I am circling the drain of my own pretty good world.

Pretty good just isn’t good enough anymore. And let’s be honest: I’m not getting any younger and I’m single, and not only do I want the rest of my life to be way more fantastic on the whole than it currently is, I need/want to be fitter, healthier and have more money in 20 years when I retire than I was on track for while pouring a bottle or two of wine over my head every damn day. In fact most people would say that I really only have about eight or so really good earning years left before it all starts on the decline.

Oh geez, that is a depressing thought. And right before bedtime.

I do have to say these 20 days have been really easy. I guess there’s something to be said for practicing them over and over for a year. 🙂 But I hold no illusions. I know the deal. I’ve said it before and so have plenty of others: it’s going to get harder — probably a lot harder — before it starts to get easier. And there will be challenges. It’s only day 20. I have a least 40 days to go before (by most accounts) it starts to get a wee bit easier. Two more times what I’ve already done, and I’m kind of expecting the drinker’s voice to start getting louder, not quieter. It’s panic time for our old friend, Wolfie.

Time is so strange. Three weeks is really such a short period of time. It just zips on by. But at the exact same time can seem so very long. So, so very long. I guess that’s one of the things I’ve really learned too: I’ve tried to do my best to enjoy each day because they are going to pass slowly and I just need to accept that. Each one of them. One on top of the other.

Day.

Day.

Day.

And any hard thing I’m doing — quitting drinking, dieting, exercising, projects at work, wondering if the interesting man will call but being patient and trusting whatever happens — will move steadily along if I just pace myself, take good care of myself, get lots of sleep and embrace the slowness. Trust. Good things are ahead.

Step back and breathe, and remember the bigger picture. The bigger YES, as Laura McKowen so beautifully put it.

I’m really noticing the urge to want to rush progress. I want to BE at Day  50 or Day 100. I want to be there already! I want to BE with a life partner at my side, loving me. I want to BE thinner and feel great now or BE stronger so I can do that damned yoga pose better today and tomorrow. Now. I want those future things NOW.

But I have to work for them. Steadily and consistently. Patiently and faithfully. If I expect results (or miracles) too quickly and quit before they come, I’ll never get there. I’m having a lot of impatience with this process, and never too far from impatience is his best bud, boredom. I’m calmer, more contented, more comfortable and confident without alcohol, but every day I still fight the urge to feed my dopamine receptors all day, and I’m not super successful so far. That’s where sugar keeps coming in. And Facebook. Argh.

Last time I was alcohol free for 34 days I noticed that start to change. That’s not so far away. Two weeks. I can hold my breath if I have to for two weeks. But I won’t have to.

Slow and steady wins the race. I won’t give up.

Rachel. Day 20.

p.s., I took my first *really* hot yoga class tonight and once I got through the feeling that I had taken a wrong turn and was somehow mistakenly standing in the middle of a pizza oven, I really liked it.

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

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.

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). 🙂

 

100 Days vs Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t quit you, red wine! 

But I can.

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

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

I laughed. “Yeah?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel. Day 6.

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

2016: The Pleasure Principle

misty dayPleasure. I’ve been missing it.

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

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

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

WTF.

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

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

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

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

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

P1

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

P1a

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

I kept scrolling and came to this:

P2

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

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

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

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

P4

Misty Copeland!

And this:P3

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

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

Like art:

P5

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

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

liz gilbert

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

flower

#blossom. 🙂

I look to Jane Goodall as inspiration.

P7

 

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

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

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

A morning row.

morning row

A sunset row.

sunset row

An evening row.

night row

 

Priceless moments with my heart, Bub…

 

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

 

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

P10

 

For 2016, my word is POTENTIAL.

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

P9

Yes. This.

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

Here we go!!

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

Peonies.

Music.

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

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

P11

The last sunset of 2015

xo Rachel.

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

BABY GOAT.

baby goats