I don’t want to do early recovery again

As I was writing on DDG‘s blog this morning, as recently as last night i thought about having some wine.

Belle: … out for dinner, tired, the couple next to us was having wine, and i thought, yeah i want some too. i had to literally turn my head away, talk to husband, and distract myself. then the urge faded. It might have lasted a minute. which is a long time when you really feel like drinking. now it’s the next morning, and after 11 hrs sleep i feel fine (again). and i know from what everyone ELSE says, that it gets easier and easier as even MORE time goes on. i don’t think they’re exaggerating. and i want to get to where they are. where it’s even better than this.

I don’t drink because of this comment that Number 9 / Catholic Alcoholic posted on my blog:

Number 9: I’m almost to six [months] … I had three years sober and then without a sober network or tools in place I slowly picked it back up. Moderated at first, but only to prove something to myself. After about three months I was back into the drinking game and it took three years to get sober back. Ugh. I can’t even entertain the idea. I have too good of an imagination and my brain who romance me right back out there. At 43 with 2 children I just can’t risk it again.

I don’t drink because of this comment from Katherine this morning:

Katherine: Today is Day 259 for me and when I look back at those early days of sobriety, I was feeling scared, angry, stupid, guilty, sad, shaky and all alone.  Wondering how I made my life such a mess?  This isn’t what I wanted or wished for when I grew up!  …  I don’t want to do early recovery again, I don’t want to ruin my relationships, I don’t want to be the mom that drinks, I don’t want to hide how much I drank, I don’t want to be controlled by alcohol EVER again!  For those who are doing the 100 day challenge…you CAN do it…it will get easier and better!!! The support here is one of the greatest reasons I don’t drink anymore!  Thanks Belle!

I don’t drink because of this gem from Paul:

Paul: Relapse is part of alcoholism, not a part of recovery.  For this alcoholic, I could have another drunk [binge] in me, but I don’t have another recovery in me.

That my friends, might be all that’s keeping me from drinking again: fear of regret, fear of not being able to restart. Fear as a motivator is probably a good thing. That and the relief I feel: relief that i slept 11 hrs last night (guess i was tired!). relief that i’m going for a run today. relief that i know that i’m going out for dinner again tonight and that i’ll be the only one not drinking and i’m fine with that.

Team 100 update: 50 members! 1 missing, 1 rejoined. Welcome to newest members: Rachel (3), Christina (19), Shel (25), Marie (4), and Roxanne (2).  Sober Kat is on day 199! Sober Journalist Kate is on day 20, Mr. Belle is on day 8, and Katie on day 10.

I had plenty of similar episodes, I just never had an audience

well, it would seem like saturdays are rough. four Team 100 members emailed to ask that their counters begin again 1 after this past weekend … Being on the receiving end of so many thoughtful, touching, insightful emails from so many Team 100 members, i get emails that say “something bad happened, i didn’t do enough to prevent it, i could feel it coming but i didn’t get out of the way, i should have stayed home, can you start me again at one.”

they are NOT saying “oh well i’m on a bender now, see you next year.”

it’s like the next morning, after something bad happens, i get an email: “reset me at one. i am going to do this. i can do this. thanks for being there.”  I feel somewhat positive when i get an email right away, and if the slip doesn’t last more than 24 hrs. OK, I guess positive isn’t really the right word, but i feel somewhat encouraged. In the beginning, and until we have our tools in place … well, shit does sometimes happens.  that wolfie, he can be relentless. relapse doesn’t have to happen, and i don’t know enough about this, but i don’t suspect that relapse is unfortunately common on the way to ongoing sobriety.

And before you say something like, “well Belle you quit and haven’t relapsed in 10 months…”  all that means is that I didn’t announce i was quitting until after my stop-and-start stage.  I had plenty of similar episodes, I just never had an audience (!)…  for months before i actually tried to quit for 30 days, i would stop for a day, or two days, or three days.  i’d quit for 9 days or 6 days or for only half a day.  So yes, the last 10 months have been episode-free for me.

but you didn’t see the inside of my head the year leading up to that point…

and oh, the inside of the head. the thought processes on deciding to get sober: do i really need to, i hate that i can’t drink, why can she be a fuck up and it’s me who’s quitting drinking, why me, why this, why now. red wine, you fucker. wolfie, you fucker.

and while some people in team 100 have stopped and restarted their sober journey right away (about 27%), others are puttering along, adding up days, feeling the weeks start to whiz by (73%). Only two people out of 45 have dropped out entirely. Right this second, 43 people are sober and doing this 100 day challenge together.

Julie (day 158): “Wow, I’m glad to read that there are so many of us now …. I knew I couldn’t be alone in this struggle to quit without AA and look — I was right!!  Feeling stronger by the day and wishing I could share the energy with some of the newbies — it really does get better and easier, and if I can do this at my age (55) after drinking daily for 35 years, then we all can.”

Heidi (day 3): “I am one pissed off chick and I am not going to let alcohol or this damn wolf steal one more second of my life. I am in control and I can do this. Fuck off wolf and fuck you alcohol.”

The geek: “… the real trick is in the support of others who feel the same. I truly believe that there is nothing more powerful than another human who understands where you are coming from.”

Team 100 update: 45 members, 2 missing. Welcome to newest members: Mr. Lynda (36), and Anathu (day 2). Erica is day 84, DDG day 36, Ellen 26, and K is 40. I am on day 297, i have my sense of taste back, i went for a run, and i feel better than i have in a long time!

under-promise and over-deliver

I know from all of the emails i’ve received from Team 100 members that the disapproval of husbands can be quite grim. your husband or family might be disappointed with you. your husband or other family members might say something like “why can’t you just drink like normal people” or “why can’t you get your shit together.”

here’s part of an email i wrote to one of my sober penpals about husbands:

your husband (probably, I’m sure) loves you but he’s (probably, quite probably) scared.  He may seem ‘angry’, but for men, angry often means scared. he’s scared of what might happen if things don’t change.

but what he doesn’t know or understand (yet) is who you are becoming. the new you that is taking shape already in these last few days. the old you is going to slowly peel away and he’s going to see the new you. there aren’t many words to explain to him what will happen, it’s more something you’ll show.

those of us who drink too much are great at over-promising and under-delivering. now you’re going to get a chance to do the reserve:  to under-promise and over-deliver.

how do you achieve that? for now, you say “yes honey I know you’re right, and I’m working on it, you’ll see.” you stay at home a bit more rather than tempting yourself by being out with all the drinkers.  for now.  you can get enough sleep – for now. You’re making a GREAT choice for you.  fuck everybody else (for now!)

and slowly bit by bit you’ll do two things.  you’ll show YOU that you are someone who can be counted on.  and you’ll show HIM that you can be counted on.

I like the quote from the biography of Rob Lowe, as he was leaving rehab, they said to him “you can be the kind of celebrity who goes in and out of rehab, or you can get sober and stay sober.” Me, I’m just competitive enough with myself that I want to be the latter.  🙂

so now? patience. do what you’re doing. rinse, lather, repeat.  he’s scared/angry, and this will pass.  you’re tired and overwhelmed and this will pass.  make sure you have enough sleep, cake and sunshine.  in that order 🙂

in rereading this now, i think i’m always writing these messages to myself as much as i’m writing them to anyone else.  My husband had never said he was disappointed in me.  but truthfully, he never would have said anything. that’s just who he is. and i think i relied on that for too long. like, if husband never complains, it can’t be a problem…

the other thing i think i understand now, even more since writing this email, is that the process of getting sober is a slow process of proving something to myself:  that i can be counted on. that i’m reliable. that i do what i say i’m going to do. that i under-promise and over-deliver and not the reverse. that i can count on me. that i’m reliable. that i do what i say i’m going to do.  and as I prove that to myself, the rest of the world can’t help but notice.

Team 100 update: We are 43 members now, 1 missing. Welcome to PP and Chris, both on day 1. Lawyer Anne is day 14 today (cake!), Kate is 17, Lynda is 35, and Jen (mommy) is 40. And i have my sense of taste back, and i’m on day 296 apparently. who knew!

fuck you wolfie, in very small print

Rinse Lather Repeat. I know i’ve written a blog with this title before. You’ve been sober for a bit? figure out what you’re doing that works and keep doing that thing. if it’s a mishmash of AA and blogging and reading, then do that. if you start to feel like you’re heading down a slippery slope, then do something soon, early, before you get derailed. i wrote this recently to a team 100 member:

… the slippery slope can escalate quite quickly, don’t take it lightly. in fact, take it heavily … 🙂 blog, call someone, go for a run, go to bed.  yell out loud at wolfie. fucking pig anus.  no no not this girl, no no no. not me not now.

for me, when i started getting a cold last sunday, i put on my big girl boots and waited.  i know that being sick is a gigantic trigger for me. i get woe-is-me-ism and i start to plan to drink. I don’t actually drink, but i start to bargain with myself … “if i feel like this in 7 days i’ll drink then.” Then the time comes and goes and i don’t drink and all is well.  But it’s the bargaining that i don’t like, that makes me feel quicksandy.

so this time, i knew what was coming, or i thought i did. taking my own advice, i blogged and emailed and told my husband. i prepared for the day that always arrives in my headcolds where i can’t taste anything, as that seems to be the trigger point.

i didn’t know it, but something had changed. I am in fact on DAY THREE of not being able to taste anything (!). and i’m actually doing fine.  Well, fine might be an exaggeration.  i’m cranky as hell, i hate my husband, i have a low grade headache, and all i want to do is sleep.  So sleep is what i’ve been doing (12 hrs at a time). i’ve been outside, i’ve been on the couch, i’ve been upright and i’ve been downright.

BUT wolfie is quiet.  The idea of saying ‘fuck-it let’s drink’ has not surfaced. not once.

i remember reading on someone else’s blog, someone who has much more sober time than me, and she said that something bad had happened (death, catastrophe) and she didn’t even think of drinking.  and i remember reading that, and i was like “yeah, I would be thinking about drinking for sure if that happened to me, no matter how sober i was.”

and yet, i didn’t. i haven’t. i’m not. holy shit when did this happen? sometime between my last cold (feb 14) (8 ish months sober) and now (april 21) (almost 10 months). Sometime in the last 2 months i have stopped linking wine as the solution to a dip in energy, a flagging of enthusiasm, a pit of despair.

ha! fuck you wolfie. no really. fuck right off with you.

[on a side note, I’m thinking of having some jewerly made for us, sober jewelry, that says “fuck you wolfie” on it, in very small print, so that only you know it’s there… no, I’m serious.]

so does it get better? the obsessing, the cravings? apparently yes 🙂 does it get easier, thank fucking god, yes. is it possible to get a cold and not think that the world is ending? yes and who knew?

Heidi: I realized that every moment sober is so much better than even the best moments drunk.  Because the time I have spent drunk has not been enjoyable.  Sure, the first few moments I feel the alcohol run through my veins provides a feeling of calm.  I feel relaxed.  I feel like I can finally turn my brain off from all the craziness of my life.  But those moments quickly disappear.  They are followed by shame, guilt, anxiety and fear.  Don’t even get me started on the hangover, the headaches, the vomiting and shakes.  So yes, the whole “not drinking” thing is going much better than I thought it was going to.  [husband] asked me what is different this time and how I have been able to stay sober.  Here is my answer:  I am able to not drink by doing just that — not drinking.  Whatever I need to do to not drink.  Every day is different.  Sometimes I read.  I watch TV. I cruise Facebook on my phone.  I call a friend.  I play with my kids.  I lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes.  I read sober blogs.  I email you.  I play games on my phone … I take a deep breath.  I walk up and down the stairs a few times.  I look outside.  I close my eyes.  I do anything — except for drink.  It has worked so far, and I am going to keep doing it.

Team 100 update: 41 members; 2 missing. Welcome to KS, who is on day 1. Sunflower is on day 30 as is Victoria 🙂 Mumscriber is on day 14. Erica is on day 82. Julie is 156. I am 295.

Sobriety: Satisfaction guaranteed or double your money back

On day #12 of sobriety, i wrote that alcohol was a ‘place’ to go.

Now i realize that sobriety is a place, too.  A completely different kind of place.  Sobriety is like a vacation. It’s a special deluxe resort where you can have a break from obsessive thinking.

You know. Obsessive thinking.  “Tired of Thinking About Drinking!” For me, it’s the wolfie voice that I heard loud and clear and continuously while i was still drinking:  “Is there enough wine? did he drink more than me? how early is too early to start? should i have one more (of course the answer is always yes). I’m going to feel terrible tomorrow, oh fuck it let’s drink anyway. oh god, i should stop, oh god is there enough booze, someone should go and buy more. oh god i drank too much my life is a misery my can’t i just drink less and enjoy it why am i pouring it in with no signs of stopping.”

to contrast that delightful picture, sobriety is a Place To Go To Have A Break From That Shit. It’s place where there is relief from the noise. it’s weirdly calm and peaceful in sobriety. it’s like a vacation.

Cindy (day 6):  “I have been working on not drinking since November 2011 (after 30 years). Since that time I have put together lots of pearls of sobriety.  Some made up of 60 days and others 10 days.  I have never relapsed, only had one day slips.  I joined the 100 Day Challenge because I think it is time to put together a number of continuous days of sobriety. I don’t like the feeling of always being at risk of going back to drinking away my feelings. I think a stretch of continuous sobriety would ease that fear” [emphasis added].

Sobriety. A place to go where you can feel less afraid. A place to get away from fear. OK, sometimes in sobriety you feel shitty and have sucky days. you had sucky days while drinking, too. But in sobriety you don’t have to be afraid anymore. There are other cool people in the sober place, on the sober vacation. They are there with you, saying “yeah man, i was dying out there, glad i got here.”  and you can be unsure and knock-kneed. you can think “my problem isn’t as bad as theirs, i don’t need to do this sobriety thing.”

But there’s no denying it. Sobriety is a resort vacation that is BETTER than advertised. You know those luxury 4 star all inclusive resorts that turn out to be dumps when you arrive?  Well, sobriety is the opposite of that. It’s waaaay better than the photos, so much better in fact that it’s almost impossible to describe. You’ve got to come here to see it for yourself.

You might as well try it.

Leigh: Thanks! Think I’ll just go ahead & do it this time

me: might as well see what all the fuss is about 🙂

Leigh: Better be worth it or you’re in big trouble!

me: satisfaction guaranteed or double your money back. we should have a bet.  a pool.  put in money. if you stay sober you win. ok, we don’t need a pool. you win more than money by being sober 🙂 🙂

Leigh: Win more & save more money by being sober. After all, I’ve never woken up the next morning after drinking thinking “I’m glad I did that. Money well spent.” Looking forward to being a real quitter!

Team 100 Update: 40 people have signed up, welcome to Kat (194), Katie (6), and DDG (33) — our newest members. I’m on day 294, Lilly is on day 42, MG is 14, Sunflower is 29, thirteenpointone is 321, Whineless is 23.  I’d love to have updates from TMcA and VP.

all these quotes apply to me

Here are some more clips and bits from Roger Ebert’s 2009 post and monumental list of 1,411 comments:

Terry: If you’ve ever thought you’re drinking too much, you are. If you ever “need a drink”, you’re a drunk or becoming one…. But, my god, what a colossal waste of my time it was to be boozed every night. Work 1/3, sleep 1/3 .. .and be drunk 1/3? Jesus, there’s better things to do than that with a life … So, whether [medications], AA, religion, or whatever does the job, all I can advise is there’s too much life out there to see it in a fog. It truly sucks after a while.

Ebert: I have no reason to attend an event where drinking is the purpose, and don’t.

Mike: Earlier you mention that drunks are bores when one is sober (not to mention boors). During my youthful debauches, I used to say to friends: we are each drinking to tolerate the other’s drunkenness.

Ebert:Alcoholism is the only fatal disease from which you can choose to recover.

Frank: I believe the Navy’s alcohol rehab definition of an alcoholic: “if you crave a drink, even if it’s only one a month or one a year and you can’t have peace until you have that drink, you’re an alcoholic.” Makes sense to me…

Ebert: If one is an alcoholic, drinking moderately is dangerous. If one is NOT an alcoholic, drinking moderately comes naturally and doesn’t require treatment.

Such great quotes, i have more coming.  Now me, personally, i don’t brook with the word ‘alcoholic’, it’s part of my irritating rebellious nature.  i like to substitute ‘boozer’ or ‘drinker’ … BUT I don’t let the wording rub me the wrong way, I just substitute a word that I can ‘hear’.  I can hear ‘boozer’.  I’m a chick who likes her booze. So all these quotes above apply to me. Nuff said.

Team 100 update: Welcome to Lane (day 12) and DDG (day 31).  I’m on day 292 apparently. We are a little group of 37 members now. My husband also says he wants to join and do 100 consecutive days (he barely drinks any more now that i’ve stopped). So let’s add Mr. Belle as being on day 1. That makes us 38,  and we have one male member now!

Being afraid of relapse is not the same thing as relapsing

I have a cold. my colds are never very bad, or long, 3-4 days maximum. they thankfully don’t turn into ear infections or require antibiotics.  they’re just garden variety head colds.

But having a cold is NOT good news for me, because i’ve had 2 before, since getting sober, and i know that both previous times i got a gigantic case of the ‘fuck its’ and decided to drink again. i set a date 7 days into the future and said “i’m drinking then.”  and then the cold goes away, and the date comes and goes, and i remain sober.  thankfully.

But there’s something about being sick that gives me a feeling of despair and woe-is-me.  i usually still run if it’s only a head cold (versus a chest cold). and running always makes me feel better.  I usually still work, jobs #1 and #2 and my passion job #3 thingy.  having a cold doesn’t keep me from getting things done, but the internal dialogue, the noise in my head … man, it ramps up into a frenzy.

During my 24 hour mini-vacation on the weekend, i could feel the cold coming on.  and i had an mini-anxiety attack to go with my mini-vacation… “oh no a cold is coming, you know what that means, better get prepared, get some meals ready, get your sober supports in place, get the catering wine out of the fridge (done!).”

Today is day 2 of said cold.  and while last night i had a very teary, despairing moment about this blog (!) and about the AA ideas of ego (what do i know about that? i’ve never been to AA!), and fleeting despair about the sober challenge … well, let’s just say i got scared.  I tried to explain it to my husband but he’s a normal drinker so he just doesn’t get it, though he does try really, really hard.

I said “what if i start drinking again? this team 100 thing? it’ll be a disaster.” And husband is like “yes, but you won’t.”

Me: “But i feel sick, so maybe i’ll just start opening the wine and drinking.  i could do that right now.”

Husband: “and you won’t.”

And he’s right. i won’t.

i think i learned something concrete last night:  Being afraid of relapse is not the same thing as relapsing.  In fact, being afraid of relapsing is probably a good thing.  it means i’m aware, i’m conscious.  I start to circle the wagons sooner.  i’m afraid, and therefore i read blogs online, i get the house cleaned up, and i get my cold medications ready.  i empty the fridge of catering wine and i go to bed and sleep 11 hours (again, last night).

i also know, deep down, that i won’t drink. But i gotta tell you i really hate feeling like it’s a possibility — even if the feeling is temporary.  I have a good cry and and big sleep and it goes away.  thank god.

Today is day 290 for me.  That’s 6,960 hours of sobriety, give or take. i’ve had 2 colds already and i have survived. i will survive this one.  This is not the zombie ap0calypse. it’s not worth drinking over.

frankly, nothing is worth drinking over.

hooray, cold medicine is working well today, and after 11 hrs sleep i feel significantly better than i did last night.  and that’s good news.

And every day I wake up to a some delightful sober messages, like these ones, please keep emailing so i can keep sharing:

J: “You know, in all the years of trying to quit drinking, your advice of going to bed RIGHT NOW is the most effective I’ve ever heard – sounds silly but it absolutely works, so thanks!”

Julie: “Ok, Belle, I’m sorry, but I laughed at “evil pig fucker”!  You (we) made it through … fuck you wolfie.”

MG: “I can’t describe this feeling.  It’s just an uber calm and peaceful sense.  Like I can’t believe how many years I was an anxious dreary mess.  And how excited i am to be moving on with this new me.  Again, the church message (hard to explain unless you were there) was kinda alluding to that “one thing” that you know needs fixing.  And I have heard that message time and again and WANTED to do something.  And finally I feel like I am.”

Terri: “… The question of whether I will stay stopped or not is still rattling round in my head … I joined [the challenge] because my original goal of 90 days was looming and I couldn’t figure out what to do next … I still get pangs sometimes, but compared to the beginning when it was a white-knuckle ride, I can brush them away much more easily.  At the moment because the answer to this eternal question is not definitive, I am not drinking.  I don’t want to throw away what I’ve achieved unless I am absolutely certain I can either manage it or jump back on the wagon without falling off a million times.  I read a great quote the other day – alcoholism is just death on an instalment plan. That is powerful and really stopped me in my tracks.  So in answer to the question what is better now than it was in the beginning – not having to work so hard to surf those urges is probably the best, waking up clear, sleeping more soundly and feeling better about myself for finally keeping a promise I made to me.”

Team 100 update:  We now have 36 people on this sober vacation, welcome to newest members: Lauren (23), Brandy (7), Sunny Sue (42), and Cindy (who is on day 2). I’d like to hear again from SoberinMtl, Vivien, TMcA, and Leigh.

you being sober is enough (or, Take the support already)

ok. so we’re doing this 100 day challenge thing, right? There are 35 people signed up now which is pretty awesome. I am on day 289, Amy is 130, MG is 9, Heidi is 35, and Sunflower is 24.

I got an email from K, but she’s not the alone in saying something like this: “it feels really strange to email you and not be giving anything back to you in the way of support! you are like a cheerleader to me and i so love getting encouragement from you!”

A few people have said that they’ve stopped sending their daily emails because they were worried they were ‘bothering’ me … 🙂

And I’m thinking, “WHAT?” It’s hardly a bother bother to hear that you’re sober. It lights up my day. Every morning I get up to an email inbox with 5 or 10 or 20 sober messages. It’s tearfully wonderful to hear from you, every day, as often as you want to write. Even when you’re having a bad day.

In fact, i think of this team 100 challenge as my own personal sobriety insurance.  Like, what are my chances of willfully relapsing now? zero. i’m not kidding.  it’s really a big zero. that’s a big gift for me. Money can’t buy that kind of insurance…

Did i know that being your sober penpal would be such a big deal for you? No idea.  None. I still barely understand it. I’m super glad, of course, but i’m perhaps as surprised as you are 🙂

You saying thank you is enough.

You being sober is enough.

With permission, here are quotes from three of my sober penpals:

Lawyer Anne: “I feel like my perspective is different this time. Usually I would feel like I was missing out on something and feel jealous when my husband has a few beers in the evening. This time I realize I’m not jealous of him… There is nothing to be jealous about because alcohol does me no good. I am not missing out on anything, but making a good choice for me. … As each day passes I am feeling energized and relieved by my decision to finally just stop. Not take a break or a month off to see how I feel. But to shift focus back to living my life. It sort of takes the stress off a little to make that final decision. I’ve not felt this before and I’m hoping it means this time around is different. I know I have the power to make it different.”

Lawyer Anne is on Day 7.

Carrie: “Something is different this time. I don’t feel like I am harboring some dark, dirty little secret anymore. I don’t feel like I am unique. Because i told you,  that I can’t drink normally and I reached out for help and I’m getting that help from you and Team 100 and everyone who blogs bravely about this fucking shameful secret.  I found someone who understands and now I don’t feel alone. It’s a little about accountability, but it’s a lot about finding empathy and support and advice that I can draw from when I am faced with difficult situations. I have real people who share my problem and we are all rooting for each other now. That’s what’s different and it makes it a ten times easier than before. Taking the problem out of my head and putting it into an email was all it took to change my journey.”

Carrie is on Day 36.

Brandy: “Alcoholism runs deep in my family … my drinking got worse since my dad passed away in December 2009.  I recently went to treatment, and have relapsed 4 times since January 2013.  I  literally just have a little over 24 hours sober time [at the time of writing this email].  I would like to participate in the 100 day challenge and am ready to finally have My life without Drinking. I am soo happy I found your blog!  I will pass it on to other people I know who are struggling.”

Brandy is now on Day 6.  She emailed three times yesterday, sounding better and better as the day went on.

Do you see what I see?  Can you imagine how fabulous it is to get to know you?

OK, enough cheerleading, now it’s time for me to rant a bit.  Take the support! Are you really looking at this and saying “not sure i want to email her it might be bothering her.”  Take the support already [you knew i couldn’t end this without a metric ton of swearing.  here’s more…] you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, of course i want to hear from you. you’re super amazing.  yes, you’re an introvert, or yes you’re not blogging.  any possibility that i like hearing from you cuz i like you? Really? no chance? of course I like you.  You’re honestly telling a story of you.  What’s not to like? Do you think you’re “not worthy, and who’d want to get to know you?” Enough already 🙂  There’s is at least one weird (sober) chick here who gives a shit, who cares if you’re sober or not.  But in fact, there’s a whole bunch of us here in Team 100. We’re all cheering for you. and waiting to hear from you. and to hear about you. and learn from you. and share with you.

got grief?

There’s grief in the air.  Two emails in two days from two different people talking about grief.  The first bit I want to share is a comment I wrote to Anonymous.  It is in response to a comment she posted on yesterday’s post, and i figured i’d copy part of my text here, cuz comments have a way of disappearing.

So first here’s me, this is part of what I wrote to Anonymous (who is 8ish months sober):

I think grief is a big stress, and it’s subtle. Like, there’s lots of crying to start, and then there’s none, and then later there’s ‘crying for no reason’. I once read that colds were uncried tears. and while I don’t believe that, every time I’m crying I think “at least I’m not getting sick.” and really, I’m a crier, barely need an excuse! I think that crying is fine. normal. good even. and wanting to drink to hide from crying or to hide from feelings is … well, it’s normal, because it’s what we USED to do. and some of those habits and patterns are still there. Maybe they’re hidden better after 8 months, but if you throw in a bit of grief or real distress, then the old patterns can easily surface.

And also, i got this email from J a couple of days ago, and she said i could share. Oh yeah, J is on day 147 today!:

Had a difficult day yesterday and wanted to drink all afternoon.  I’m again adding to our list of “even ifs….”: [I will not drink even if i am] dealing with finding an elderly neighbor who died two days ago, alone in his house.  So sad, brought up feelings of loss, grief, loneliness, finality, fragility of life … I just wanted to drink after dealing with the surprisingly detailed process of sending him off.  But, I didn’t drink — I just sat here and felt it all, knowing the numbness of the bottle would only be temporary relief.  I also knew I didn’t want to report in this morning with another day 1 … so thanks for that.

I think that J’s solution, as she articulates it here, is really very perfect. And I’m going to save her advice for when I need it next.  Sit and feel it. Know that numbness would only be temporary, and would in all likelihood make things much much worse. Feelings are sometimes uncomfortable, they’re sad, they’re weird, they’re distressing. Sit and feel it.

and i would also add… reach out for help. get support BEFORE you need it.  don’t wait till you’ve go the bottle of wine already opened… post or read or call or reach out early. feeling crummy? reach out. found out your neighbor died (good god!), email someone. don’t let wolfie get wound up and running around in there.  Don’t let him get any momentum going!
what do you think about grief and how to handle feelings of loss? i’m a big crier… and a runner.  can’t really do them at the same time, though… and i’m a sleeper.
what else could we add to the grief toolkit?

there is no right way

Recently MysteryGirl hit a bump in the road. She was just about to reach 30 days of sobriety, and then she emailed me and asked that I restart her counter to day #1 for the 100 day challenge.  I asked:  “for everyone who is thinking of relapsing, and is trying to avoid it … can you say a few words? Did you know right when you drank that you were going to enjoy it, or was it a ‘fuck-it’ moment, or was there any thinking.”

And — with her permission — here’s what she wrote to me:

My recent decision to drink on my 28th day of freedom from alcohol was completely a FUCK IT moment. I simply had a few glasses of wine to “take the edge off.”  Not in any way, shape or form did I feel better or relieved. The only relief I can think of is that once I had my slip, it was over.  I was relieved that I did not continue to slip the next day/night/week.  I simply put my big girl panties on, went to my regular Monday morning meeting and got back with the program …

Not once did I even CONSIDER calling one of my AA buddies.  This is probably the most frustrating part of all this.  I had been so proud of my upcoming 30 days … and I know for a fact that if I had not been able to reach the first person I called, I could have moved on to another.  I KNOW for a fact that someone could have talked me through the whole process… from pouring the initial glass to what the consequences might be.

That will be my number one change for the next time that I struggle.  They don’t have to be AA buddies – they just need to be people who understand you because if you are not someone who has struggles with alcohol, they will NOT get it and they NEVER will.

Why didn’t I think of the puppies and kittens as I went to buy that wine?  Why didn’t I reach out to someone to talk about things?  WHY did I let my brother’s drama turn into a reason to escape?  Still some unanswered questions, and all I can do is dust myself off and start again.

[underlined bits are my emphasis added]

I think sometimes people relapse ‘without’ thinking. It can be a weird, compulsive, spur of the moment thing. Like “ooops, i tripped, fell and drank.”

And other times i know that we plan to relapse. we think “i don’t like this feeling, i’m sure my problem isn’t so bad, i’m sure i can handle a drink or two or nineteen.”

I was curious if MG had either of these thoughts, or something different. I personally have ‘planned’ to drink, but have always managed to postpone actually doing it and later I felt better and the urge passed.  I personally have NOT had the compulsive “fuck it” thoughts and then found myself drinking.

But look. That doesn’t mean anything. It could happen to me tomorrow (god i hope not!). i’m not special. i’m not doing sobriety better than other people.  i am perhaps temporarily lucky. and i thought that if MG wrote out what happened to her, then it would make more sense to me (and to her, and to anyone else reading).

This reminds me of Al’s post about ‘ugly sobriety’.  In case there is any misunderstanding, my sobriety might look ‘pretty and rosy and divine and twinkling’. But it isn’t. Your sobriety might look heinous and difficult and shitty and not worth it.  But it isn’t.

We’re all doing the same thing. Trying to get and stay sober. And we’re doing the same thing in our own way.

My way is to put a positive spin on just about anything. Yes, i do that.  Yes, it’s irritating sometimes. And yes, just like everybody else, sometimes i go to bed and cry about how dramatically shitty my entire life is.

Mostly i’m optimistic. About life and about my sobriety. And I’m optimistic about yours, too.

There is no right way. Your way might be cheer-leader-y like me. You might blog or not. You might email me with your real name or not. You may want to date guys who drink, or not. You might be like MG, where you stop and start a bit, while you figure out how to get your sober car on the road. It doesn’t matter. There is no right way. There is only your way.

And frankly, drunks tend to isolate. That’s just what we do. Maybe in reading other people’s blogs you’ll find someone who ‘does it like you do it’.  I hope so. Cuz you deserve to be sober. And, to misquote Paul (MIAB), “the more sober cats, the better!”