NA beer and internalizing being a non-drinker takes time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jenny Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy sober Sunday, everyone!

xo Rachel.

 

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

Present for the last Sunday of 2015

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

It’s a gray and rainy Sunday in the Pacific Northwest, USA, and four weeks since my last drink. I do feel better – overall – even if there are moments when I want to put a fork in my eye for the boredom. Even if I am still craving euphoria, or any level of dopamine release into my body, and there is some part of my brain that still thinks it can conjure that with a glass of wine.

I’m coming to the conclusion (thanks in no small part to my fellow sober bloggers) that I will have to take my pleasure in smaller doses. Find it in new ways. And it may suck sometimes (that’s life), but it will be worth it.

IMG_6974

My New Year’s Challenge for myself: When bored, DO something. Appreciate the time (so much time). Take a moment to PAUSE, look around and observe at least one thing beautiful about your life. Go erg and get some adrenaline going (and remember a smaller pant size feels awesome and makes you very happy). Sit still and look out the window at the gorgeous view. Do a short meditation and breathe. Look at your list of projects and start just a small part of one (no need to commit to huge projects, just a little bit). Buy yourself a sober treat and savor it. Think about Bradley Cooper (but not in a creepy stalker way). 🙂 And if all else fails, it’s totally fine to re-watch any of the Jane Austen movies or Netflix series that you’ve already watched and loved while coloring in one of your beautiful new coloring books. Completely fine.

On this drizzly Sunday morning, I choose to be present, focus on my one wild and precious life, pack up the mini Christmas tree, and take a long walk in the rain with my dog. There is much beauty in this day and I’ll do my best to pay attention to it.

Rachel.

Day 28.

December 1: The 100-day Challenge begins

THIS from a woman who has still never gone more than 13 days without a drink. Ever.

I’m really, for sure, I’m not kidding around ready — no, really — and I’ve committed to NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, I’m not drinking for the next 100 days. I’ve started Belle’s “Sober Jumpstart” class, and part of all of that is a commitment to 100 days alcohol-free, NO MATTER. No excuses. No “experiments.” No one-last-tests or starting-tomorrows or fuck-its-I’m-bored-or-lonely-or-disappointed-or-just-want-to-make-a-mental-exit-who-cares-whys.

Nope. For the next 100 days, I’m strapped in and ready for the ride. No matter fucking what.

No matter fucking what.

Yay! I’ll dance to that…

office-holiday-party-madmen3

And I’ll say I’m off to a good start. My company’s holiday party was tonight and back in the day I would have been ALL OVER the glasses of red wine that were ready at the front door (choosing the fullest one on the tray, of course) before I even had a chance to take my coat off. I was psyched to see they were offering lemonade next to the wine. No problemo.

Four lemonades later I had to pee something fierce, but when the CEO of our larger corporation and two of our company presidents unexpectedly turned to ME for help to make some important stuff happen at the party, guess what? I was completely ready — AND sober and lucid.

And p.s., it wasn’t bad at all not drinking! Not at all. Sure, I left as soon as I could, but so what? Instead of drinking 4 glasses of wine and walking home in the rain, I rode my bike home in the rain(!), and was excited (excited!) to get to my warm bed, my amazing dog (whom I’m sick in love with), pour a cup of tea (with Calm magnesium) and begin reading and writing with all of yous. 🙂

I will say this: I do think all of the work I’ve done these last few months to quit drinking has made it easier to stop each time. It hasn’t gone to waste. It is DEFINITELY progress to be proud of. I’ve never been a “cold turkey” person for pretty much anything and there were still some important lessons for me to learn before I could pull the final rip cord.

Sorry for that unfortunate mixed metaphor.

And…so… getting to 14 days again may still be 14 looooooong days (I’m impatient, it’s true), but it’s already easier. I’m not saying it’s going to be a walk in the park, or that my 27 years of drinking habits aren’t going to be smacking me in the face from time-to-time, but I’m already noticing that I’ve gone a long way toward breaking that nightly habit of buying a bottle of wine on the way home from work and drinking my way to the bottom of it before heading to bed. A long way.

And just as importantly, it’s clear that my little “test/experiment” last weekend (after my not-so-awesome very first AA meeting – I’ll try another meeting sometime) DID trigger me and opened a chink in my still-fragile armor, making it easier for me to justify (in typical twisted wine addict brain brilliance) pushing out a “start date” to begin again.

Wow, that was quite a run-on sentence. There was a lot to pack in!

Basically, I learned that “just one” awakens the beast that I’ve been working so hard to kill. That constant noise in my head. That daily pull toward the wine counter. That complete fallacy that I need wine to have a connected, vibrant, fulfilling life.

Ass hole wine goblin is insidious that way. He’s voracious and sneaky and ever-so-greedy, and is NEVER satisfied. He makes promises he NEVER keeps. What a jerk face.

But now I’ve got his number.

SO! 100 days from today is March 9, 2016. Holy cow.

I’ve also finally managed to get a handle on putting anything within arms reach that isn’t bigger than my head (sometimes it was a close call) INTO MY MOUTH, so I’m hoping to have a happy reverse of this disconcerting weight gain I experienced over the last few weeks.

Because OH HELL NO. Bigger jeans just ain’t happening. No bueno. Popcorn is my friend. Heh.

So, here we are on December 1. (Seriously, how did THAT happen?) I already have a couple of days (again) AF under my belt, but today is the first day of the next 100 days! {{trumpets sounding}}

I have a business trip coming this weekend that I’m going to need to be extra-prepared for, but knowing I’m not drinking (fecking poison) NO MATTER WHAT is already relieving some of my stress about having to answer questions.

I’m on a 100-day challenge, BITCHES! 🙂

Rachel.

Day 1 (plus 2, but who’s counting?)

 

 

 

 

My first AA meeting drove me to drink

maurin-quina-french-poster-affiche-leonetto-capielloI went to my first AA meeting on Friday. I thought I would try it, and I was struggling with wanting to “feel good” by drinking, so I was hoping it would help.

My fear about AA meetings — besides that they’d be awkward and tedious — is that I’d be so emotionally stressed by the experience that it would drive me to drink. I used to binge on powdered donuts after every therapy session, back in the day…

And this is basically what happened. 😦

Yes, I’ve learned from it. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it and hate to disappoint all of you who have been so supportive. Yes, it SUCKS to start at “Day 1” again, despite all of the days in between that I haven’t had a drink. Yes, I am convinced now that November 27, 2015 was my last drink. I want to be free.

I keep thinking about how Heya, Monster empathized with how painful it can be in the early days of trying over and over before it finally sticks. Yep. Here I am, right there. (Fork in eye…)

On the way back from the meeting I was feeling so down/stressed that I convinced myself that it wouldn’t count if I had a drink. (Seriously, what?) It’s just a test, I told myself. I needed to prove to myself once and for all that even a “nice” bottle of wine wouldn’t taste good and wouldn’t be worth it. I totally convinced myself that I would just pretend like it never happened and keep counting days.

And do you know what? I bought a really nice bottle of wine that I’ve loved in the past — and it tasted bad. I could taste the alcohol in a harsh and bitter way that I’ve never noticed before, and there was no upside. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t “gorgeous” or yummy. And probably thanks to the naltrexone injections that I’ve been getting, there was no euphoria. No buzz. No momentary surge. No thrill. NONE of what the dopamine glutton that lives in my wine addict brain thought she needed. Just. this. once.

Still, as I was deeply into the “experiment” that I told myself “wouldn’t count” against my days AF, that I would just “pretend like it never happened,” I drank a second glass of wine. That was it. I didn’t finish the bottle and the next morning, completely nauseated and with a screaming, pounding headache, I poured the rest of the bottle down the sink.

I spent half the day in bed.

THIS is why. I quit drinking. This is why.

Wine will never be the answer to my dopamine levels being low. I see this now. I get it. I have to find new ways to feel euphoria. New paths to goodness and joy. Pleasure. Wine will never lead me there. I finally really really know that now. It may take time and I may have to suck it up and wait it out, but wine is not the answer to get me there.

I guess the good news is that I’ve had so little to drink in the last few months that my body is REALLY reacting to wine like the poison it is, from even a little bit. Before I quit drinking, two bottles of wine in one night wouldn’t have made me sick like that. This is good. Fucking ass hole wine goblin. I’m going to starve your sorry ass. You won’t win the next round.

I’m sorry to disappoint myself. I’m sorry to disappoint you. And of course once the wine goblin had his way and I had done it, the fog lifted and I knew I couldn’t lie and pretend it didn’t happen. Addicts are liars. I’m no liar.

So, if we’re counting days — which we are — I’m back at Day 2. Fuck me. Day 2.

I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed.

I’m so tired of thinking about this all the time. I think I’m going to start Belle’s “Sober Jumpstart” class on December 1. One more tool of support to get me through the tough first 100 days. One more tool.

Fuck, I’d take 30 days at this point.

I’ll get there. The wine goblin may have won this round, but he isn’t going to win the war. I want freedom.

I’m going to make it this time and I hope you’ll stick with me. You’ve made a big difference in my getting this far. Here’s to picking myself up and starting again.

Rachel.

 

 

 

 

Dinner with Bradley Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

😉

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

Now say it ten times fast. Now ten more. 

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

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

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

Me-ow.

bradley-cooper

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

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

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

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

Has it really only been 13 days?

Day 13. Rachel.

 

I am a mountain, I am a mountain

Today was Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m grateful for a lot. Really. But today was more difficult than I expected.

My dog and I went to my Mom and step-dad’s place about a 75-minute drive away (which turned into 2 hours with traffic). I know Mom always pours herself a huge glass of red wine whenever I arrive — and I always join her — but even armed with three different kinds of NA beverages, including NA beer, I didn’t expect the powerful wave of desire and craving to hit me as hard as it did.

So I started talking about how it’s bugging me that I’m gaining weight since quitting drinking, ha ha, I said, which was not in my plans. Without missing a beat, my step-dad pours himself a full glass of bourbon on the rocks, and doesn’t engage in my conversation.

Sure, that’s probably about him — maybe he’s even a wee threatened by my quitting drinking. who knows. — but what I needed in that moment was support. I know my Mom is supportive of my not drinking, but it was odd: she changed the subject and started talking about her new puppy.

I drank the NA beer even though it tasted bad and didn’t help much to distract me. I was bored and trapped and I clearly hadn’t prepared properly for this. (Next time I’ll bring healthy snacks.) I glanced at Mom’s wine glass. She was already a quarter of the way to the bottom. The bottle still sat there on the counter, where it always is, staring at me invitingly.

I grabbed a Kombucha and started shoving handfulls of peanuts into my mouth. I scanned the room, searching for anything I could snack on. Nothing!

Mom, please stop telling me stories about people I don’t know or care about. 

The puppy is barking barking barking at Bub, he won’t stop barking.

I text my sister, who also doesn’t drink and will be arriving with my uncle: Where are you? What is your ETA? Mom and (step-dad) are drinking and I’m painfully bored and really REALLY want a glass of wine.

Fun is on the way,” she answers. “We’re about 30 minutes away. (Uncle) says we still need to stop for the cocaine.”

Perfect. I joke back. Just get here.

I finish the Kombucha and grab a Diet Coke out of the fridge. More peanuts.

I decide I need to call on a mindfulness meditation I learned last week. There were two: the first one had us imagining a mild trigger and the wave of craving that would move through our bodies, then holding that feeling. Holding it… Holding it… Then asking ourselves, “What do I need right now?

The second started with imagining a mountain. A big, solid, beautiful mountain. The seasons move in and out around the mountain. All kinds of weather batters the mountain, swirls around the mountain, bears down on the mountain, passes in front of and behind the mountain, and all the while, the mountain is steady. I am to imagine I am part of the mountain. I am the mountain. I am the mountain.

Mountain

I move to the big chair in the living room while my Mom carries on in the kitchen, making the mashed potatoes, checking the (humanely raised) turkey, drinking her wine. I sit with my eyes closed, my hands on my legs. I breathe and imagine myself as the mountain. Solid, unchanging, unreactive to the wave of craving that is crashing through me like a front of thick fog.

Breathe. I am the mountain. 

Then I get another text from my sister. My uncle now has a flat tire just a few miles away. My step-dad is going to leave to find them and help.

My mind begins to race: If my Mom goes with him, I can pour myself a glass of wine and pound it back. No one would be the wiser. I can have a glass of wine. I want it. I want it.

My rational voice tries to fight back: No, you don’t want it. You DON’T want to start at Day 1 again. You DON’T want to feel like shit tomorrow. It won’t even taste or feel that good. It won’t be worth it. You don’t need this. It’s poison.

Why do you think you need it?

I am a mountain.

Why did I quit? I’m trying to remember. I don’t remember. 

Because you were out of control and it was only getting worse. You look and feel like shit.

I am a mountain.

Breeeeeaaathe. You are a mountain. Don’t give into it. Stay strong…

Mom comes into the living room and sits down. She’s not leaving with (step-dad). I breathe and imagine the wave of desire pass right through me. It will pass, I tell myself. It will be OK. Breathe…

It passed. Mostly.

I’m home now. I thought about going across the street to the corner store and getting a bottle. I’m getting fat fast and this is not OK. My fingers are puffy and my pants are tight. I can NOT get fat in exchange for not drinking. That will ruin my healthy, upward trajectory faster than anything. I will fail.

Millie joked that she basically had a feeding bag strapped to her face for the first few months after she stopped drinking, figuring it was better to eat than drink (and she lost the weight again). Others have told me that too.

I have a history of an eating disorder and so using food the way I have been and gaining weight is extra complicated for me. If I lose control of my food/eating in exchange for the wine, this will NOT be an acceptable trade-off. And it will sabotage my progress, I guarantee it.

I arrived home still uncomfortably full from Thanksgiving dinner AND dessert, but reached for more ice cream (“instead of wine”).

Then I heard myself think LOUDLY:

Maybe I can just drink one glass of wine a night and not eat dinner. I’d lose weight. I could get thin again that way. That would be better than getting fat.

Sigh. That’s why. That’s where my brain goes.

I didn’t go. For now, I am choosing not to drink. As Augusten Burroughs said about people who have successfully quit, I am just not doing it.

I decided to write about it instead. I’m going to try to be gentle with myself and allow that the last two weeks have been another lesson about how to cope, and I quickly need to adjust course. Tomorrow I will put my eating train back on the rails and find healthier ways to distract myself from drinking. Like walking my dog. Like rowing. Like going to the gym. Like reading. Like writing. Like sleeping. Hell, like just about anything but eating or drinking. 

I closed my eyes and cracked Cheryl Strayed’s book Brave Enough to a random page. This is what it said:

We are all at risk of something. Of ending up exactly where we began, of failing to imagine and find and know and actualize who we could be. We all need to jump from here to there. The only difference among us is the distance of the leap.

– Cheryl Strayed

Until tomorrow, then.

Day 12. Rachel.

p.s., Sorry this is so long, y’all. I had to get it out. 🙂 Very skimmable, indeed.