Connection

 

img_5101It’s day 201! I want to talk about connection. I’ve never been a social butterfly. I am an introvert through and through that’s learned extravert skills over time. But I still only have a few close friendships, my partner and my adult daughters that I really care about. And of my close friendships, I don’t see them very often. Maybe a few times a year.

I started listening to podcasts a few weeks into my alcohol free journey. I remember a specific episode of The Unruffled talking about how you needed to find in person sober connection. How it was critical. I thought – oh, hell no! Absolutely not! I am an introvert and I am going to do this thing on my own. I can get everything I need from quit lit books and podcasts. I don’t have bandwidth or desire to make friends.

Then I discovered the sober community on Instagram. WOW! My virtual sober friends have been key to my success. Seeing their successes and challenges and having them cheer on mine has been invaluable. I would never have made it this far without them. I remember somewhere around 60 days, thinking I can probably moderate now and seeing a post from someone who had decided to go that route. They later posted the regret and it helped me decide to skip the moderation idea I was having and just keep going forward. Had I not seen that posted, I might have ended my journey then and there.

I’m now ready to take the next step and start making in person sober connections and friendships. I desire authentic communication with people who understand why I’m on this path, who have had similar struggles and are on their own journey to being their best selves.

So Sondra and Tammi were right. Sober connection is critical. And I think I’m finally ready to bring it to my real life world.

 

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Passed the Six Month Mark!

I made it to 6 months of sobriety last week. WOAH! I sure never saw that coming when I decided to take a 30 day alcohol free break last summer.

All parts of my life are better without alcohol in it. Yes, I occasionally miss it’s numbing properties, but I’ve developed healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with my stress without it. And let’s be clear, not having alcohol in my system has dropped my anxiety and stress by at least 90 percent!

My follow through has greatly improved. I’m taking care of all kinds of business I wanted to do, but put off… for YEARS! Got my tubes tied, had a big mole (I’ve hated since I was a kid) removed from my face, taken a crochet class, figured out how to use my massage therapy benefits so I get mostly covered regular massages! Hmm.. what else? Oh, I have an appointment in a couple weeks to get braces. I’ve always been self conscious about my smile, but could I ever do anything about it when alcohol was my stress reliever? No. I just didn’t have the bandwidth.

I have finally become a morning person, something I always wanted to be. But could never, ever do. I get up at 5am now to journal and do yoga before work. What!? I know, I impress myself often.

I am free and capable of so much now. I look forward to the future. It’s no longer something I need to trudge through and drink nightly to medicate over. It’s full of color and exciting possibilities.

When I started this AF journey, I was ashamed to tell many people for fear of what they would think. The eyebrows they would raise thinking how bad my problem must have been. And I didn’t hit rock bottom. Heck, the same people that might raise those brows probably drink more than I did, but still I didn’t want them to raise their brows about me.

Well, at the six month mark, I grew confidence and courage and posted a blast out notice on FB sharing my AF journey. Not all the nitty gritty, but the long term AF bit and how my life is better all around. I encouraged anyone questioning whether alcohol is helping them life their best life to try a 30 day break. I encourage this of you, too. If it’s something you are toying with. Try it! Life is so much better on the other side.

When the Memories Come…

img_4290It’s been a bit since I last posted, but I’ve been plugging along collecting more sober days. Today is day 138. For the most part, things have been going GREAT! I am continually awed by the leaps and bounds of positive growth that is happening to me without alcohol cluttering things up. It’s incredible, magical even.

I’m journaling regularly and quite in touch with my feelings these days. Memories from my past occasionally come up out of nowhere and remind me of just how far I’ve really come. A lot of people talk about shame and guilt from their drinking days in sobriety. And I’ve always been like, “I don’t have any shame or guilt. Alcohol just wasn’t making me feel good anymore so I stopped.” Read that with some attitude.

Well, hold the horses. My mind is reminding me that’s not true. There were a lot of hard times during my heaviest drinking years which were from the ages of 24-35. I’ve been moving in a positive direction since I turned 36 and I am 40 now. My drinking wasn’t out of control during these recent years. Sometimes it was heavier than others, but nothing like the 24-35 time period. I’ve realized I repressed much of the pain from that time, including shame and guilt.

There is a challenge on FB right now to post your first FB profile pic and your current one to see how you have changed. I did the challenge, of course. And when I really looked into the the eyes of my old self from 2009, I saw such sadness. 2009 was smack dab in the middle of my HARD years. I had a little cry for that girl this morning. Who knew a FB challenge would bring up so many feelings!

Remembering those times is important and there are things I need to spend some time working through, but I am thankful to be aware of the work I need to do. My heart is full of compassion for the hurting girl I used to be and I know she would be so proud of me now.

 

Coming Out of the Funk

img_3725 I was in a bad funk for 3-4 weeks. I passed the 100 day mark in that funk. I’m finally emerging and feeling brighter everyday. Today is 110!

The week of Thanksgiving I had a cold. The next week I had a surgery which had me lying on the couch for over a week trying to recover and then taking it easy for another week. Being tired, weak and low in spirits for weeks wore me down. It made it a lot harder to be strong in my resolve to remain alcohol free.

Toward the end, I was depressed and pissed off. Where was my pink cloud, my clear head, my new zest for life in sobriety? Where was this anxiety coming from? It had all but disappeared with my alcohol abstienence and now it was back? With each day that passed feeling bad, anxious or just bleak, I questioned what the hell was I doing not drinking. Fuck it occasionally crossed my mind. If I was going to consistently feel like crap, I might as well have my old friend around to console me. The Old Crow, my alcohol voice was happy to tell me that alcohol would soothe me, make the sad feelings fade, block out the anxiety. Sure it might be temporary, but would be better than nothing she assured me.

But I resisted. I kept telling myself I would feel better when this passed and it would pass. I figured I would feel worse if I succumbed, so I waded through this time without drinking. I had slacked off on using my sobriety tools while I was feeling down. I just didn’t have the energy.

As soon a flicker of energy appeared, I picked up my quit lit book, pressed play on my sobriety podcasts, journaled out all my anxious fears, returned to my daily gratitude art journal and worked on increasing my activity level with long walks.

It was amazing! Within a couple of days, the funk started to lift. I remembered why I am choosing not to drink. I am glad I listened to the part of me that advised me to wait and let it pass. It did. And I feel stronger and happier. Successfully getting through this funk without alcohol better equips me to deal with it when it comes around again. Because life is ups and downs. Being alcohol free makes the highs brighter and the lows, while not fun, more manageable. But what’s really cool is that it makes all the in-between time so nice. I’m able to find a lot of joy in the mundane. That’s the part I like the best because the majority of life is lived in-between the ups and downs.

Early Sobriety Toolkit: The First 90 Days

Today is 90 days alcohol free! Holy shit, I never thought I’d see this happen in my life. But here I am clear headed, proud and happy. When I started this journey I scoured the internet looking for tidbits that might help me. And I decided I would document what has helped me along the way so I could share it with you.

Here is my toolkit:

  • Timelines – I started with a 30 day alcohol free experiment that I extended to 60 days before deciding to remain alcohol free going forward. It was easier for me to initially commit to one month at a time rather than forever. Once the benefits became clear, I was ready to commit to a long term course. It seemed quite obvious after 60 days.
  • Delight – From the first week, I started to look for ways to delight myself that didn’t involve alcohol. Fresh weekly flowers to enjoy all week long, a new journal with soft pages, fancy new teas to try, thrifting for treasures. I regularly ask myself, “What would delight you, right now?” It’s not always stuff, sometimes it is a walk, a nap, a bubble bath, time to be creative or to clean out a closet.
  • Alcohol Voice – Give it a name. When you are able to recognize it and name it, it’s much easier to shake your head at it and move on. After much thought, I decided to name mine “Old Crow”. When she rears her ugly head, I just shake mine and say to myself, “Oh, no. Old Crow.”
  • Reading – I usually have three books going on my Kindle at all times; a fiction, a self improvement/inspiration and a quit lit. The quit lit being the most important. Continuously reading about other people’s experiences and learning more about the negative impacts of alcohol keeps the Old Crow from creeping in and telling me, “Hey, you didn’t really have a problem. You can drink in moderation.” Yeah, right. That never worked for very long in the past.
  • Sober Community – I found mine online. The Instagram sober community is amazing! Reading everyone’s triumphs, challenges and everything in between has been my greatest tool. This community is positive and inspiring, they are cheerleaders in my pocket. I don’t have much in person support so this community is my lifeline. You can search for them with hashtags like: #sober #sobriety #soberliving #alcoholfree
  • Journaling – Every few days I write in my journal, sometimes more. Especially when I am upset or frustrated. Writing helps get the feelings out so they’re not bouncing around in my head getting stronger and worsening. Early on I used this journal prompt: Write down all your beliefs about the benefits of alcohol and then write down a rational debate to these beliefs. It was quite eye opening.
  • Gratitude Art Journal – I always wanted to be someone that kept a gratitude journal, but every attempt never lasted longer than a few days. Now, I am serious about it. I found great inspiration from Tammi Salas’ book, My Daily Gratitude Practice. I write out my daily gratitudes and then decorate the page with watercolors. This practice has me looking for the positive in my life and is reminding me of my creativity.
  • Talisman – In my first week, I happened to walk into a hippy store and went straight to a brecciated jasper worry stone. I put it down, but kept walking around the store and back to you. I bought it and keep it in my jacket pocket. I hold it and rub my thumb over it when I am out walking thinking about my intention to be alcohol free and it really reinforces it. Any small object that is special for you would work.
  • Podcasts – I’ve listened to four sobriety podcasts during this period. They’re all good, but Edited is my favorite. It resonates with me the most. Regularly hearing from others that are living in sobriety helps a lot. Again, this helps keep Old Crow from screaming. I listen to them when I am walking and frequently they keep me company when I am making dinner instead of my old companion, wine. Here is the list of the ones I have explored:
    • Edited
    • Euphoric
    • Home
    • The Unruffled
  • Beverages – This is a big one. I didn’t want to replace alcohol with sugary drinks, but I also didn’t just want to drink water and coffee. I’ve become a huge tea connoisseur, trying out all kinds. Some I like, some I don’t. I’m also a huge fan of flavored seltzer water with ice and bits of fruit. These feel fancy, are refreshing and only have the natural sugar of the small amount of fruit. My favorites are:
    • Lemon La Croix with slices of lemon
    • Grapefruit La Croix with slices of grapefruit
    • Raspberry La Croix with a few raspberries
  • Exercise – For me this has been hot yoga and walking. I’ve been a walker for many years. My Fitbit long ago created a great addiction to my step count so I’ve kept that up. Hot yoga is something I’ve done off and on over the years. It’s been “on” during the good stretches and “off” during the bad or so so stretches. From my first sober week, I knew I needed hot yoga back in my life. It fills my time with something that is amazing for my mind and body. I take a class 2-3 times a week. My yoga mantra is: Just me, alcohol free. Actually, this is my mantra in general. I think it often and it brings a smile to my face because I am happy just being me without needing alcohol.
  • Guided Meditations – I used to never be able to sleep without booze and/or over the counter sleeping pills. I started using the Insight Timer app from my first sober night to listen to bedtime meditations hoping they would help me fall asleep. Within two weeks of sobriety, I was able to wean myself of the sleeping pills. I’m proud of this amazing accomplishment, but really it just goes to show the power of guided meditations. There is a lot of free content on this app, but so far I’ve only consistently used two meditations. They help me sleep peacefully and wake up feeling refreshed. I still have some nights of poor sleep, but they happen so much less then they did during my alcohol days. My two favorite meditations are:
    • Relax and Sleep Well by Glenn Harrold
    • Sleep Meditation: Awaken to a Clean Slate by Bethany Auriel-Hagan

These tools have helped me come this far. I will continue to use them and build on them. Having a sobriety toolkit is imperative for success. I hope sharing my toolkit helps some of you. Please feel free to comment with items you’d like to share from your toolkit.

Hey, Jealousy

img_3651It’s was a rough weekend. Sitting with some irritating feelings on day 84. They are getting stronger as the day wears on so I thought typing them out would be good.

I’ve been on my self care game, kicking ass really. Feeling good about life and super proud of myself. Many of the self care things I’ve always wanted to do regularly have been falling into place. I’m chugging along, not drinking and expanding myself with all the space that’s available to me without alcohol weighing me down.

I haven’t been sharing a lot of my alcohol free journey with my partner other than how great I am feeling because he doesn’t seem that interested. But he is witnessing my new habits and attitudes about life. And that is making him JEALOUS!

This weekend he made comments about my high standards and how hard they are to live up to. That didn’t feel good to hear. I’m not pushing him to change in any way, but because I am elevating to a new level he thinks I am looking down on him. He said things about how… I’m killing it right now and making everyone else look bad, I’m too perfect and he’s feeling less than, he is worried I will move forward without him. Well, those words certainly don’t woo me.

He practically spit my self care practices out at me in a “you’re a goody two shoes” voice, “You’re doing great at yoga and you’re meditating, doing your gratitude journal. Oh, and let’s not forget your weekly flowers. Stop making the rest of us look bad, but hey… You’re doing a really good job, keep it up.”

Wow! Kind of at a loss for words. Feeling 100% unsupported and alone.

He does not struggle with alcohol. His vice is sugar. Which sometimes he controls and other times he does not. Currently he is out of control comforting himself with sweets. His self esteem is low because he is gaining weight and sugar negatively impacts his energy and attitude. He is very aware of what he is doing, but doesn’t want to stop right now.

We are all responsible for making our own choices and deciding when it is time to choose another path. The changes I’ve made in these last couple of months are paying off and I’m implementing more. Removing alcohol from my life has given me the strength and space to make so many other positive changes almost effortlessly. I hope he is able to figure his shit out because my shining light is here to stay. I’m willing to tolerate neutral support during this time of change, but I will not be dragged down.

I’m Not Numb Anymore

img_3581The majority of my adult life has been filled with attempts at moderating my drinking. That is about twenty years of wanting to drink less, but never to quit. God forbid! How sad would that be?

To give up my friend, my crutch. The companion that soothed my sadness, softened my anxiety, eased my stress, celebrated my success and made the mundane fun. No. I never wanted to give that up. It never even crossed my mind. I just wanted to drink a little less, to moderate. To feel all of that companionship without the hangovers, without the nagging feeling that I was holding myself back.

The volume and frequency of my consumption varied over the years and was by far, the worst in my late twenties to early thirties. I had a brief epiphany that alcohol wasn’t all that when I was 36. I’d ended a toxic 11 year relationship that revolved around drinking. I was done with the toxic man and I wanted to make sure the toxic drinking stopped, too. Just the toxic part mind you, not the drinking altogether.

It was a time of rebirth for me. I was living alone for the first time and experiencing ease in life. Everything was up. I’ve always been an incredibly anxious person, to the point of being frozen by anxiety at times. The anxiety faded. I only drank 1-2 times a week during this period and only 1-2 glasses at a time. While I didn’t quite catch on at the time, I can see in retrospect that for me alcohol = anxiety.

As life continued, my drinking gradually increased and I went back to trying to keep it in check. I turned 40 this year and my body stopped metabolizing alcohol as well as it used to. I mostly stuck to my well established drink limits, but started experiencing more hangovers. I stopped getting the fun, relaxed, drunk feeling. I felt disconnected even when I spent time with friends and family. I spent more of my time out thinking about getting the next drink, hoping it would take me to the fun, drunk side and being disappointed. The drinks took me from sober to irritated and tired. The happy middle no longer existed.  I didn’t think anything was fun without alcohol anymore, but I also wasn’t finding alcohol fun.

My alcohol brain started pouring me glasses on nights I didn’t feel good and didn’t want to drink, but before I knew it the bottle would be in my hand pouring a glass. And well, I didn’t want to drink, but the glass was already poured…

I was regularly feeling tired, unhappy and toxic inside. All the stars aligned and I stumbled on This Naked Mind’s 30 day alcohol experiment at the right time. Oh, a break? That sounded nice. And 30 days? I could do that. Give myself a little reset and then I’d be able to moderate successfully!

That 30 day experiment moved into a 60 day experiment because sobriety made me feel so good! I wanted to keep it going, but still wasn’t ready to quit. My 90 days is less than 2 weeks away and I’m going to keep it going. I don’t want to go back to alcohol. My anxiety is almost nonexistent, stress is much easier to manage, my communication is open and honest, life fills me with wonder. I’m able to appreciate the beauty around me. I’m curious about myself and other people. For so long I used alcohol to numb myself. Initially to make the hurt less painful, but it ended up numbing everything, all the good times, too. I am not numb anymore.