It’s not how often you drink or how much…

More quotes from the spectacular Roger Ebert’s 2009 post about alcoholism (and AA):

Ebert: It’s not how often you drink or how much. It’s what happens. If you drink until drunk, as the doc says in the old joke, “Don’t do that no more.”

Bill: I have to say (IMHO) that individuals who attack the program for use of the “G Word” probably have some other agenda or obstacles, and are using god (sic) as an excuse. … Because nothing is ever so bad, that alcohol, drugs, or gambling can’t make it worse.

Ebert: Gaming as an addiction. Why not? When I sit in front of a slot machine, some demonic obsession forces me to continue long past the length of time I had intended, staring at spinning fruit and pushing the button. It’s not even a matter of winning. I choose cheaper machines, so even if I won, I wouldn’t win big (unless I won the Cadillac hanging from the ceiling). There is no sensual value or entertainment factor involved in sitting before the machine. I am simply disinclined to stop.

Josh: Computer games of this type have many similar characteristics to alcohol and drugs – they initially provide instant rewards, there are rituals and camaraderie that enforce each others’ playing, and even a sort of ‘tolerance’ in that milestones the game take longer and longer to achieve the longer one plays. These games are worse than drugs and alcohol, in fact, because you can buy them from any Target or Wal-Mart and they are promoted as being safe for children. You won’t get the DTs from quitting WoW abruptly, but you will think that you will lose all of your friends, which might actually be a worse negative reinforcer.

John: It would seem to me that the goal of A.A. is not to maintain its traditions, but to help people stop drinking.

Team 100 update for May 8th: 71 members. Welcome: Colleen (6), and Anna (3). Celebrations: Lawyer Anne (30 days), Sober Kat (7 months today!), Jenni was 100 days yesterday, Grace (14), Erica (99!), Mr. Belle (21), Roxanne (15), Laura (15) & Debra (101)

awkward

this is weird, and awkward. (Yes, i’m sober. It’s another kind of weird.) i’m struggling to write this. i’ve been thinking for days about how to start this post. whether to write it all. I talked to Mr. Belle and to Lawyer Anne. i can’t come up with a good solution. so i’m going to try this.

Problem:

Some of the people in the Sober Challenge have said things like “how can i thank you” or “i feel like i’m a burden to you” or “i don’t want to email too often because I know you have a lot of people on your list.”

And i’ve tried before to write about how GREAT it is to be your sober penpal. But there don’t seem to be enough words, or reassurances, or hugs i can give you that convey: yes, email me, i’m glad to hear from you.

I woke this morning to a message from Colleen (day 6), she writes: “I don’t know why you are doing this amazing thing for me and others but I appreciate you so much and hope you are getting something out of all this.”

And here’s my answer to her:

“it’s hard to explain, but really, to read your email [that you’re sober and doing well], it just lights up my day.  I know that drinking sucks us into a pit of despair.  You can’t believe how super fabulous it is to witness people fighting their way out of the pit.  It’s really truthfully impressive. I get to witness your strength and that’s just such an amazing thing to watch.  Cuz this shit ain’t easy!  And I get built-in-sobriety-insurance.  How could I possibly drink now? You’re doing the hard shit.  Me, all i have to do these days is bat away a few ideas now and then. I couldn’t give in to wolfie now when others are fighting much harder …

You inspire me.  How’s that? And all you have to do is get up, run, be honest, send an email, and you’re an inspiration 🙂

… would it make you feel better if you could give me something in return? does it really feel so unbalanced? maybe I’ll go and take out an anonymous post-office box with a really glamorous address, so people can mail me chocolates… not that I need any more, I assure you. Can you mail donuts? Probably not! Too bad, I can’t get donuts here…

So after i send that email, i make a cup of tea, i go for a run in the rain, and i talk to my husband again.

please hear this.  i know that some people are feeling weird about ‘taking’ from me. and they’re not reaching out as much as they want to cuz they’re feeling guilty or ashamed or something that can’t quite be articulated.

I got this message from Lawyer Anne who is Day 30 today: “…many thanks to you!! I don’t think words can express my appreciation. I wish I could mail you a cake 🙂 Thank you, thank you, thank you – you have helped me save my life. I will be eternally grateful I stumbled upon you on the internet and sent you that first email.”

So.

Here’s what i’m going to do. I’ve put in a little button here that links to paypal. It’s a gift button, you fill in the amount. You don’t have to have a paypal acct to use it (link on bottom left after you click for non-paypal-users).

click here > tiny-gift-button

I will use any gift money to buy treats (i.e. I will not use it to pay the hydro bill!) i will buy cake with it. Or new oven mitts, or tea, or fuzzy socks. If you give $1 that’s fine.   There is no link between you making a gift and me emailing you.

and, to be accountable and transparent, i’ll post pictures of the treats that i purchase with the gift money.

 

wanted

WANTED

Lurker interested in completing 100 days sober. Yes, in a row.

Benefits include great sleep, return of self-esteem, elimination of hangovers. Lots of support. Save $400 to $1000 a month by not drinking.

Limited quantities available.

ACT NOW and receive a gold plated welcome email.

Operators are standing by. The next 5 people who sign up will receive a fast-action bonus: HOMEWORK to help with the first few days.

Double your money back guarantee.

[Team 100 has had 59 people in it for two days. And, you know, just for the sake of even numbers, it’d be good if someone else joined. Not OCD at all.]

there is so much ‘the same’ about us

One of my sober penpals says she likes that i am just “out there somewhere in Europe” … anonymous, living in the clouds, as if i have no fixed address, or that i live IN her email.

This made me wonder if there is perhaps a benefit in remaining anonymous, with only vague or general details that outline who we are.

I’m not protecting my anonymity anymore just because of my work (though that’s part of it).  it’s also because I think that it doesn’t matter “WHO” we are. The specific aspects that make us different can be distracting and distancing.  “Oh she has kids, doesn’t have kids, her kids are grown … so she wouldn’t understand.” Or “her problems are worse/better than my problems so I don’t belong here.”

I believe, now, that I would like to remain anonymous, because i want to focus on what is the the SAME about the sober world — the things we all have in common (of which there is a metric ton) — despite the specifics on the amounts of alcohol consumed, despite the depths or lengths of the bottoms, despite where we live, or what we do for work.

cuz there is so much ‘the same’ about us. We have/had skewed reward systems. We drank more than we wanted to. We had some degree of compulsive thoughts about booze. OK, maybe my compulsive thoughts could be ignored and/or replaced with other more healthy alternatives, with a dash of teeth gnashing, and a smattering of going to bed early thrown in for good measure. And maybe other people’s compulsive thoughts need medication or rehab or both to cope. But at the root, I think it’s all the same thing, just differing shades.

We have more in common that we realize. and I feel, today, right this minute, that where I live isn’t relevant. It’s an interesting detail. But it doesn’t contribute to the discussion. OK, maybe i’m being a bit weirdly black and white here, but i kind of like the idea that we all just live in the internet clouds, and we drop in on each other like angels. Faceless angels.

Maybe I’m rationalizing, maybe deep down I’m terrified of being discovered. maybe i’m denying, or sounding egotistic. and maybe I’m full of shit. don’t know. this is what I think today (or at least, it’s what I emailed to Ellen last night).

What do YOU think?

Team 100 update: 59 members. Welcome to new members: Erin (13), B (4), Tammy (35). Celebrations for MG (28), KC (14), Malia (14), Walk Sober (14), Sunny Sue (60), & Christina (28).

this time

This time it’s different. I tried to quit before, on my own, it never worked. I could do 2 days or 4 or 7 or even 9 days. But never longer.

Until things changed, and I finally opened myself up to asking for some help. I made my first post on this blog…  And because of that, i am TEN months sober today!

no, i don’t think that blogging is itself the solution. I just think that reaching out is key. Do you have to blog to be sober? Certainly not 🙂 Can you get sober alone in your head with your own best thoughts without outside ideas and support? No, probably not.

Shel (day 31): “This time — because of course this is not my first time quitting — something is different. Alcohol is not an option, gone, off the table, thinking the drink ALL the way through when the little voice starts up.  Last time the bottle was always hovering in my peripheral vision… something shifted, and I feel great. Thank you for being there.”

Simpson Sister (12): “I don’t have room in my head for all the thoughts of the past and all the what if’s of the future.  I only have room for the things that will help me stay sober.  I have freed up space in my mind and that has allowed me to devote the time and energy that it takes to fight off the demons in my head.  It’s working.”

PP (10): “Thanks so much for your support.  I don’t know why, but once I committed to the hundred days.. so far, easy. Of course I could be delusional… and I felt a bit scared this morning… knowing how easy it is to go back and I haven’t come very far. But it is a start and it feels good.”

Lawyer Anne (23): “Thanks for creating a support space for the non-joiners of the world :)”

Team 100 update:  56 members. Welcome to new members: Debbie (day 3), KT (3), and Kristi (2). Let’s have cake for: Victoria (40), Terri (120), Erica (92), Shel (31). And me, i’m day 305. My first sober day was july 1, 2012. Amy votes me most likely to be sober at 11 months. Because I am in such good company, i would have to agree.

“Thanks for giving me a yeast infection”

how and what to tell. and whom. and when.

in the beginning i didn’t want any one to know. i had any number of stories. “i’ve quit drinking until I lose 20 pounds.” then i graduated to saying “I’m doing a self-discipline challenge, no alcohol for three months.”  and people would be like “oh I could never do that.  and I’d raise my eyebrows and say something like “well, I ran a marathon once, this will be easier I figure.” then people end up changing the subject to talk about THEMSELVES and they’ll talk about how they wish they could quit smoking, or run a marathon, or whatever…

i was honestly disappointed to realize how most people don’t really give a shit

if cornered by an evil sister, a weird in-law, a boozing friend who just won’t fucking stop, then I would have just flat-out-lied and created something. Antibiotics is always good. Just say ‘yeast infection’ and that should shut everyone up 🙂 Or you can say “i’ve quit booze for a year, and i’m on month 7 now, i know you won’t give me a hard time about it. right?”

I’ve recently started saying “i’m taking a one year leave of absence from alcohol.”  And when the end of the year comes up, if anyone remembers, which they won’t, then I’ll say “yeah, i liked it more than i thought I would so i’m doing more.”

And look, if you want to say something more, if you want to say you’re in AA or you’ve been to rehab, or you’re recovering or that you’re trying to recover… then say it.  But me, i’m really supportive of you telling what you want, when you want, and how you want. and NOT telling if you don’t want to. I didn’t even tell my husband for weeks.

if you want to be a big version of some authentic you, then please … have at it.  and if you want to be sober, improve your relationships, and not really tell your roommate from college why you look so good when you run into her at Starbucks, then I think you have every right to your privacy.  there’s that big group with the word “anonymous” right there in the title 🙂  if you find security and comfort in anonymity, then I say great. if you want to take out a full page ad, that’s OK too 🙂

Actual email i got Sunday from a sober penpal: “Thanks for giving me a yeast infection!!!!!!!! Love that.” [and later] “Well, this yeast infection is a bloody godsend. I’m sooooo glad I contracted it! Easy peasy evening, felt so simple not to drink. I would normally have been blotto by 7 pm, talking shit. Now I just talk shit, sober.”

saturdays might be tough, but …

weekends present special challenges. all this free time. the gaping space that needs to be filled. i would often start drinking at about 3 pm, and that would pretty much take care of the rest of the day. now that i’m not drinking, i sometimes find myself doing things that i never would have done before. Like going for groceries in the evening. Never would have done that!

And since Saturdays can be tough, I thought we could make a list of all the things that we do now, sober, that we never would have done if we were drinking. Physical, actual things that we do. Not just feelings that we have, but what are we getting done…

You can post a comment below, or send me an email. What do you do now with all your spare time?

Lynda (day 40): doing laundry at 9:30 pm and waiting up for it to dry because I need clothes for the morning.  Answering the phone at 9:45 pm and being able to accept a work assignment and be able to remember it and look forward to it.  Taking my dog for a walk later in the evening because I want to. Offering to drive a friend home after midnight … Volunteering at our playhouse theater and driving home after the late shift and enjoying the full moon while waving to the cop at the side of the road, knowing if he pulled me over it wouldn’t be an issue.

Leigh Ann (2): girly self-care stuff (nails, facial, etc.)

Heidi (8): I get to bathe my children and tuck them both into bed. I would be missing that if I was drunk … all is right in my world. That’s amazing. Kiss my ass you damn wolf!

The biggest difference for me, now, is I’m in the kitchen more than before. I plan meals, i buy groceries, and then i actually make meals. I find ways to use up leftovers. We hardly ever go out to eat in a restaurant any more (bye-bye to all the ridiculously large restaurant bills, which were always 75% alcohol).

What about you? What physical things are you doing now that you weren’t doing before, that now fill your time, fill the space where booze was before? Everyone who finds Saturdays long/hard wants to know what you think 🙂

Oh, and apparently it was day 300 for me yesterday? i was too busy to notice! DDG is on day 40, and Mr. Lynda is also on day 40! Welcome to new members: Kirst (2), Laura (4), Debra (day 90 today!).

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!