how are you. i am fine. i ate chicken. are you bored yet?

i am committed to posting something every day for the first 60 (or perhaps 90) days, and i do not want to devolve to just recounting my day and telling you “what i did yesterday” or “what i plan to do today”. I’m challenging myself instead to record insights, struggles, things i’ve realized, things i’ve learned from reading other blogs, and recording successes.  Not just “we had company last night for dinner and i made roast chicken” … but instead “i was worried about not drinking last night and it turned out to be quite easy to have tonic and cranberry, what was i worried about?”

in fact, after the company left, my first thoughts were:  it’s early (10:30 pm, that’s an early ending to a saturday night, especially if wine is involved; guest and husband shared one bottle, how tame, how lame, how ordinary).

And my Number #2 thought, shocking, was: “why did i think that i was going to trip and fall and drink this evening? is having dinner with friends some kind of battle that requires fortification? what was so bad about that, about having dinner, that i thought i might be tempted to drink?”

was it a battle that required strength? was it a hurt that required soothing? was it a not-nice-event that could be lifted with a shot or two?

it was dinner. roast chicken. big windows open. molten chocolate cake for dessert (the first trial didn’t work so well and poured out all over the counter, so i let the other one bake longer and it was perfect…).

i think, before, i drank for NO REASON. there’s nothing about having dinner with friends that is improved by wine.

thus begins day 43. and in the spirit of not simply recounting my day without insight, let me say i’m back from my sunday long run, it’s sunny, and my husband is – as i type – making us breakfast complete with homemade sausage that i pulled from the freezer. we are going out for a big long walk today. it continues to be hot and sunny (25C). we will be having white bean soup with fennel for dinner…

try singing

this vacation thing, it’s kind of boring. I’m on vacation for a month but my husband is still working; we’re not going away anywhere exciting until Labor Day weekend (first weekend in September). most days i try to putter, relax, read, sit in the sun, go out somewhere, run, make dinner, and vegetate.

yesterday afternoon, one of our neighbors was having a very loud phone conversation, with her head and body hanging out her living room window. the sound of her voice got under my skin very quickly. my husband saw me and said “she’s been doing this for 4 years.”  Yes, i know, but i was irritated by her. yesterday she was making me bat-shit.  for no good reason.  i wanted her to shut up.

i went into the kitchen to make dinner and it was a complete mess.  I actually said out loud: “my outsides match my insides, i don’t feel good, I don’t know how to feel better … maybe I need loud music.”

and without missing a beat, husband unplugs the headphones from his laptop (where he’s been working), and super very loud Metallica hard rock music blares out of his computer speakers.

I start to laugh, hilariously, crying laughing. “Maybe i need loud music.”

No darling, I meant loud music that I like : ) … roadtrip music, where I can sing along at full volume in the kitchen while doing the dishes.  I will never, really, never in my life, ever need to listen to Metallica at full volume!

But laughing, really laughing, broke the irritated spell. I did put on my playlist entitled “songs to sing”, and i sang in the kitchen, doing dishes.  Husband plugged his headphones back in, surrounded by *his* music.  I had my music. Some of it made me homesick, some of it made me dance around the kitchen. And after 4 or 5 songs i felt much better.

Note to self:  if running doesn’t clear your head, try singing.  drinking is never the answer.  there’s always another tool in the tool box. That the first tool fails to solve the problem does NOT mean that the problem is unsolveable.  Reach for a different tool… try singing.

 

slamming hand in car door is not a good idea

I probably don’t meet the definition of an alcoholic. No bottom, no disaster, just a slow erosion of quality of life.

but there was alcohol consumed in my immediate family, and i have watched the effects closely, all my life.

ok, i’m not a textbook alcoholic myself, perhaps, but did the consumption of alcohol negatively affect my life? definitely. i was grumpy when drinking, i slept poorly, and i still weigh more than i want to.

did i continue to drink for a long time after i knew that it wasn’t working for me? yes. i’ve been writing things in my journal like “drink less” for years. forever, it seems.  i have a diary from 2004 and it’s right there in black in white.

Sober, I like the person i’m becoming. sure, i’d like to be able to have one glass of wine with dinner, but the noise in my head gets so loud that one drink would always turns into three. even when i have a big work gig in the morning, even when i know the next day would be a disaster.

I equate THAT with repeatedly slamming your hand in a car door.  like, if you want to feel pain, there are easier ways to get it!

Yes, we can have a conversation about degrees.  degrees of use, abuse, powerlessness.  i never want one glass of wine, i want three.  if i were to drink today, i would also drink tomorrow.

now that i’m not drinking, the noise in my head has mostly stopped.  only about once a day, or less, do i think “i could have a drink now” and then i let it go. the noise is getting tamer. It doesn’t fight back so hard.  and i’m smarter than the noise in my head. I’ve finally stopped slamming my hand in a car door. what a relief.

i am (finally) learning from my mistakes. i want to evolve.

Day 41. I’ve never been here before 🙂

i’m curious

i know there are lots of people reading sober blogs, and there are tons of people who — like me — were reading sober blogs even before they were sober. Personally, I was reading while still drinking because I was looking for ideas and motivation.  I wanted to get a sense that it would be OK to be sober.  I found out very soon that it would not only be OK, but that it would be BETTER …

I can see that my blog is getting lots of views and i’m wondering who you all are.

So here’s what i’m curious about. Can you do me a favor?

  1. Post a comment with your number of days sober.
  2. If you are an anonymous lurker, and you’re sober, you can just put Sober as your name, and then use a fake email as your email address (12345@12345.com) – tell me how many days sober. You can remain anonymous of course.
  3. If you are a lurker, and you aren’t (yet) sober but you’re looking for inspiration, you can put Hoping as your name (or whatever), and use my email as your email address (12345@12345.com). And you can pick a date when you’d like to start your sober journey (i.e. in 5 days, or on Aug 20, or whatever). You can remain anonymous, too.

I also sometimes forget how far along in the sober journey some of you are … so this will help me get a better idea.

Really, anonymous lurker is totally fine! Just chime in with where you are : )

 

 

I have begun this day with an error

I have begun this day with an error.

I’ve had two cups of coffee on an empty stomach followed by two pieces of raisin bread toast. And now I feel terrible. Like agitated, over-stimulated, anxious, and high/low at the same time.

Yes, I’m reading the Potatoes Not Prozac book, and yes I know better than this.

Hard to believe I know better and yet i’ve done this to myself.  I could have gotten up and gone for a long run in weak sunshine. I could have read my new junky detective novel on the couch.

It’s 10:30 am and I’m already waiting for it to be tomorrow, so that I can start again.

Greetings to Day #38. It would seem like I still have issues on self-torturing to sort out …

i’m not going to pout …

triggered. and i know there’s an old-timer out there who’s going to give me an ear-full. and i’m ready for it. really, i am.

i have a friend who’s been a big drinker. drink till it’s all gone, mix in some drugs, take some sleeping pills. that kind of drinker.

He’s been sober for several months, white-knuckling it, self-medicating with all that is not alcohol. but he’s being doing a damn good job of being sober, which was his first and primary goal.

he’s just recently started drinking again, albeit “controlled” amounts of “beer only” and “not to get drunk” etc.

Now, this is making me irritated … and it’s hard for me to articulate why.

[here’s where the old-timer chimes in and says, very sternly, “Belle, look away. Not your business. Not your shit.”]

the friend keeps asking for advice. i’ve offered some bits before, months ago, but recently i’ve stopped most communication.

So my absence to him means that i’m “still drinking” …

the irritated me would like to fire off a missive filled with advice on what i think he should do or try, like the Jason Vale book, or hanging out with you folks, or even trying AA … but i know it would fall on deaf ears.

I’d also like to chime in with “i’m NOT still drinking, i’m in fact 37 days sober and doing quite well, thanks for never asking, never following up, on how i was doing.”

i am not going to email him, and i’m going to leave it alone.  i’m not going to say or do anything, and i’m going to look away. i’m not going to pout and say “i’m quiet because i’m sober, not because i’m drinking.”  and i’m NOT offering this particular friend any advice. He won’t take it anyway, and when asking for advice i think maybe it’s just to hear himself talk …

So here’s my question “old-timers” … is there a sobriety rule about hanging out with people who are trying to quit and who aren’t managing to do it very well? I know i’m supposed to take care of me FIRST. but is there any duty to help, offer a hand, listen to the particular ongoing saga? where’s the line between being supportive, kind and helpful, and being irritated as shit?

There is nothing to wait for

i think we all WAIT for things to happen. but as drinkers, it gets worse.

We wait ’til Monday to start a diet. We wait for the phone to ring. We check our email to see if something interesting is happening OUT there. We wait.

As drinkers, somewhere along the line, we give up and we stopped doing the reaching out, and instead we do the waiting.

I think alcohol makes us draw more into ourselves, and we forget to do the reaching out.

We forget that if life is like a car, then we’re the one driving it. it’s like we’ve pulled the car over for some self-examination, and now we’re waiting for someone ELSE to come along and say ‘it’s OK, you can start driving again’.

Well no shit, it’s your life. (my life, whatever). no one comes and says ‘PS, don’t forget to keep driving, don’t waste time sitting around waiting.’

No one shakes us and says ‘stop looking back, stop looking around, start looking FORWARD’.

So I guess we’re here to do that for each other. There’s nothing to wait for.

Time to make things happen.

oh god, this might just inspire me to make puff pastry and check on my health insurance and file my husband’s taxes for last year.

and you?

stay alert

the first thought i had this morning was “i don’t have time to be *sober* today, i’ve got too much to do.” Not that i plan to drink, but feeling i don’t have time to delve into the last pages of the Vale book, check on blogs, and comment on my own.

But if i’ve learned anything from other bloggers, most recently from Imogen, then it’s this: feeling like i don’t need to do this doesn’t mean that i don’t. how’s that for a sentence with a bunch of negatives.

ok, here it is again.

My advice to me:

Dear Belle:  write and comment and blog every day for the first 60 days or maybe 90 days. longer than you think. don’t give into complacency. don’t think for one second that you have it figured out. Yes, you have a lot to do today, but if you drink champagne today, when everyone else is drinking champagne today, you’ll fall over and this journey will end abruptly. stay alert.

stay alert.

there may be moments of wondering IF, and seconds of feeling like it isn’t worth it.

it is.

i feel less foggy

i feel better today. i feel less foggy. i feel less preoccupied. i’ve stopped counting days in my head and have to look at my excel spreadsheet to do the math (day 34). it is sunny. i’m on vacation. my copy of the jason vale book finally arrived yesterday by mail and i’ve started reading it. i’m glad i had 30 days sober first before i got the book, because i feel like i’m already underway, on my own, and now his writing can lift me up. it’s not a struggle to believe his ideas, because i’m already living them.

was out for a walk yesterday, ran into a random friend i haven’t seen in months. joined her on a patio in the sun for a drink. I had bottled water. two of her friends joined up. everyone had a glass of wine. i had my water. I listened to what other people were saying instead of waiting for a pause so i could interject my own damn insightful wisdom.

went out for dinner last night with the hubby to our corner restaurant, we both had water.  husband has stopped drinking at home, or in front of me, and now only has a few drinks a week when he’s out with friends. no big pronouncements. he was only drinking because i was, and that’s quite a realization.

i feel as good today as i’ve felt in a long time. vacations rock (or vacations rule, depending on your continent). having a sober vacation is like having a big christmas present i’ve yet to open. can’t wait to see what’s inside.

Belle is off-duty. Ask someone else.

When I was trying to quit drinking, i did some unusual things.

I’d drink the better part of a bottle of wine while watching downloaded episodes of A&E’s TV show “Intervention” (about drug and alcohol intervention and recovery). And I’d cry.  Other nights I’d inhale champagne, compulsively eat peanut butter cookies, and watch “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” online.  And I’d cry.

Very late in the game, like two months ago, I found the sober blog Unpickled, but only after someone else directed me to it (a guy i know is 5 months sober, doing it all on his own, white knuckling it really, and not entirely successfully and he offered up the Unpickled blog as an example of what wouldn’t work for him).

Right before I began Dry July, i read the entire Unpickled blog from start to finish, a few pages at a time, and i thought “hey, here’s someone like me. no big bottom, probably not a ‘real’ alcoholic, but drinks more than she wants to. watching the clock until it’s Miller Time. That sounds like me. maybe i can (happily) quit drinking, too.”

When I started this blog, i didn’t have any idea that there was a sober blogging community out there. Like i said, i never put “quit drinking” into Google. i wasn’t lurking on a half-dozen sites waiting for motivation (god, i wish i’d thought of that, i could have sped this whole process up by a couple of months at least by starting earlier!).

I started this blog because I was stuck and scared. I wanted to do 30 days sober and i KNEW that i was just about to fail. so i started writing, in the faint hope that someone would find the site by accident. Since Unpickled hadn’t posted in months, i knew it wouldn’t be her.

well i got “welcome” comments right away (how shocking) and i slowly started to fill up my blogroll with people who reached out.

I’m still in baby steps here (day 33) and i’m super hesitant to offer any advice or approach that i haven’t already tried myself. I didn’t start this site, as some people do, with the intent to “help myself and help others” … honestly, i was only thinking of myself. don’t get me wrong, i think it’s great to help others. and i think it’s probably necessary to stay sober, but i just never thought of it like that.  i was in a selfish and desperate place, and i was thinking only of me.me.me.

Anyway, 33 days later, it’s super very cool when someone who has one or two days sober emails me (who knows nothing) to say thanks for being their motivation. or i realize that i’ve been linked, without even realizing it, to someone’s blog who has never actually posted on my site, but is following me quietly.

And it makes me nervous.

Here’s why.

In my real life, i have an unusual career that other people consider glamorous, i get to vacation a lot, and I live in Europe. i have a couple of university degrees, run a business, and (usually) have 9 plates spinning at the same time. i teach and lead and motivate a team. i have clients who pay me well for my advice.

And in my real life, I don’t have a peer group. not really. i have a few friends from school that i’ve had for ages. and everyone else is an employee, previous employee, client, or previous client. or potential client.

maybe everyone feels that they ‘don’t quite fit in’ in one way or another, but this has been my experience most of my life.

NEWS FLASH:  This sober blogging thing is the first time in forever that I feel like i have a peer group of people “just like me.”  Careers don’t matter, our ages barely matter, and to some extent our length of sobriety doesn’t matter either. There is love and support here.

And I don’t have to act like I have it together 24/7.

Best of all, i’m not in charge here (the host, the leader, the manager, “go ask Belle, she knows”). And I’m not trying to teach anybody anything. I don’t have to put on a good face, my business face, my I’ve-got-it-together face.

it’s such a relief.

so while i might occasionally slip into teaching mode and say:  “Let this be a lesson to you and you and you, do this, and you’ll feel better,” i’ve tried very hard to resist that aspect of my personality in this blog, even though it’s sooo engrained. and i gotta tell you, I adore this new way of being, where i’m under the radar.

[side note: I found this blog yesterday and thought “shit I could be her,  i should turn this sober thing into a business, i should come “out” to my clients and i should turn this sober THING into a platform.” OK, i am jealous of Nicole, and the way she gets to be a successful business chick AND an amazing writer AND she can swear in public AND talk openly about giving up booze and sugar.  My public face is quite a bit different …]

I guess what i’m saying is I don’t want to bring my public face IN HERE and act like i know what i’m talking about (cuz i don’t).  and i don’t want to take this sober life OUT THERE and share it with the world. i like being in here, in the sober blogging world. and i’m glad that the two worlds are separate.  If i’m helpful to Rigorous Honesty, then that is a delicious side-bonus. but this is the first time in forever that i’m doing something just for me. not trying to help anyone, not trying to make a business out of it. not trying to drum up clients.  I’m hiding here, safely, until i get my sober sea legs.

Belle is off-duty. Ask someone else. god, isn’t it great when someone else is in charge. In here, i’m a participant, struggling, just like everyone else. i’m not an example of anything other than ‘robust honesty’ as Mrs D puts it : ) Some other day i’ll write about the feeling of being in charge, and when it started (i was 9 yrs old) and how it makes me feel.  for now, let me say that i’m off duty.  saving the world is someone else’s responsibility.