… and that I can do

i am well. i am strangely at peace. it is very quiet in my head and i can assure you that NEVER happens, so i have to take note. it’s momentous.

nothing like a bit of young-kid-dying-too-young to make the penny drop. does tend to put one’s life into perspective.

and it’s like the 20-year-old’s “serene, can’t be rushed, all is good” energy has been distributed amongst her friends and family. all at once. you should see her FB page. we’re all feeling and saying virtually the same thing …

So yesterday and today, for whatever reason — because i’m grieving or because i’m awash in 20-year-old’s serene spirit — i have simply stopped resisting alcohol. the white knuckling, counting days, feeling tempted, trying to distract myself — it has all simply stopped.

abruptly.

Facing backwards in a car never suited me, anyway, as I get car sick. And now i’ve stopped facing backwards, I’ve stopped yearning for the thing i’ve left behind (wine). when i face forward i realize it’s not part of my world view. it has just vanished.

why? because i realize now, thanks to everyone, that living sober is NOT about resisting booze. It’s about dealing with life without having blurry edges.

I can do that.

It’s a weird sense of relief.  it’s like i’ve just been handed the ticket to understanding and surviving sobriety:

Here’s the HARDEST part, Belle.  You can no longer stuff down your feelings, and you can’t numb yourself with booze.

Hooray! I’m not wanting to make light of the situation here, but man-oh-man my response to that is it’s WAY EASIER to confront my emotions than it is to resist drinking. Resisting drinking is freaking nearly impossible.

[I wonder if that even makes sense.  If i was 3 days newly sober i’d think that Belle was delirious.]

Let me try to explain it again.

It’s a relief to know that the way THROUGH a life without wine is entirely within MY control, within my ability, and is something I can DO. There’s an action I can take that makes this easier.  It’s called: living life in its natural state. No artificial coloring, no additives. No booze, no smoothing the edges, no hiding.

Fuck man. Really? This is great news because I CAN DO THAT. 

yeah, i can’t do it all at once, and I can’t do it all today. But it is something i totally have within me to do.

cuz white knuckling and feeling tempted by wine and continuously having to turn away … that I can’t do.  I just can’t do it any more.  it’s exhausting, and unfulfilling.  I realize that’s what I was writing when I said that I was tired and couldn’t do this any more.

for today at least, i feel like i’ve got the ticket out.  it’s accepting life. No artificial colors, no additives.

and that I can do.

this is living sober

I’m fine (she says, again). thanks for all of the comments, direct emails, and cyber hugs.  all received and pretty darn helpful.

I cried off and on yesterday, from grief, heat, and terrible fatigue, having slept about 4 hrs the night before.

I did manage to run yesterday, though, mid-day, mid-sweltering heat, even though i was feeling like a bag of shit. it seemed liked good advice (from nomoremerlot) and it was a scheduled running day. better to do 20 minutes than skip a day.

that I went for a run is significant because while running, I asked for a ‘sign’ that I should continue on this sober journey a little while longer, or maybe it’d be OK if i had a drink or two at the end of my two months.  I saw a bird flying by, and i thought “that’s not the sign that i should drink.”  There was a sticker on the wall … no, that’s not it.  And not 2 minutes later, literally, I came around the corner to see a gigantic car accident, big white passenger van on its side on the sidewalk, smashed up against the pedestrian guardrails, having overturned a few parked motorcycles alongside.  Traffic diverted. police with whistles in their mouths, arms outstretched. no ambulances, no people around. just this van there waiting for the tow truck.

it was a freaky clear sign, and I barely believe in that kind of shit … [this is what i wrote in an email yesterday to cricket]. but whether i believe it in or not, i asked for a sign, and i got one.  I burst into tears right there on the sidewalk beside the van. (some witness-guy watched the not-thin girl go by in tight spandex on a jesus-hot day, sweaty from head to toe, dripping from all orifices, and clearly thought i’d lost my mind.)

OK, maybe i don’t really believe in signs but, being the hot mess that I was, it did seem brutally clear. and abrupt. and fast.

in the blink of an eye, the van can be on the sidewalk. you can make a tiny mistake with huge consequences. bad shit can and does happen. not often, but it does happen. life is already fragile enough. you don’t need to add mind altering drugs to that mix, do you Belle?

it was nearly 10 pm before i got the official news that my 20-year old friend had passed away after being taken off life support.  her mom describes it as a very spiritual experience, not as painful as you might imagine. Here’s a quote from the mom’s email:

“… There has only been one message, according to [daughter’s name]. And that is Love and Happiness. So I am not suffering as much as you’d think right now. Instead, I am feeling a profound sense of peace, and even gratitude for this experience, with occasional bursts of sobbing and grief. … Going through her end of life — from the call that she was in critical condition — to her final hours and the decision to donate her organs, was the most profoundly spiritual experience I have ever had.”

When i read this i felt somewhat better. it’s certainly not every day you get to witness someone losing their daughter like this… and the girl was really a special kid. we hung out quite a bit when she was traveling alone through europe, and she stayed with us a few times, bringing her guitar and her gigantic smile. she kept in touch with me directly, outside of my relationship with her mother, and we became ‘buddies’ (as much as a 45 year old can be buddies with a 20 year old).

And it was after receiving the news that she was gone, that I checked my blog and read the comments from yesterday’s post about sadness. In particular, Mrs. D saying that this is sober life. this is it – the shitty and the rough.  Well, she says it better than I can:

“Belle, this is living sober. This is what it is. It is crying, and getting frustrated, and angry. It is sadness, it is hopelessness. It is raw, it is real. It is hard, and it is relentless. It is sober living. This is why it is tricky and it takes some work getting used to it. This is raw life, without the drug. The drug is attractive because it bends our brains and shifts our attention to a more blurry place.”

because all the way through the day yesterday, i kept thinking that a shot of grand marnier would take the edge off, would numb me — just a bit — so that i could deal better. i don’t drink ‘for fun’ or because i’m ‘thirsty’ or to ‘be social’ or ‘to relax’…. i crave booze when i want to HIDE.

thanks everyone for the well-timed truths. I am fine. Day 53.

and just a PS, i’ve been feeling draggy and shitty and out of sorts and not enjoying my vacation for about a week … i did hunt to try to find the specific point that i started feeling bad, when the unraveling began.  well, it’s the same day we learned that the smiling 20 year old was in the hospital on life support after her heart attack. I hadn’t realized the direct correlation in the timing.  [sigh]

time to have a shower and begin my day.

Dehydrate the wolf

If you can picture booze like a Big Wolf With Black Eyes, he represents the voice in your head.  Now you have to very calmly starve the wolf. Or better yet, you have to dehydrate him by not giving him anything to drink.

At first he’ll be mad at you. “Where’s my drink?”

You’ll say … I have all this free time now. I can’t talk to you, wolfie. I’m running, baking, singing, reading, cleaning, spending time with my kids. I’m paying my taxes, cleaning off my desk, enjoying the weather.

The wolf will taunt you. “Everyone else is drinking, why can’t you?”

You’ll say … sorry, wolfie, can’t hear you. I’m too busy cranking up the volume on my new iPad that I bought with all the money I’ve saved. 50 days of sobriety @ 3/4 bottle of wine per day =  $225.  And some days were more, and other days included booze in restaurants, so it’s really more like $400 (or probably even $500).  At an even $10 A day, that means that in a year it’ll be $3,650 saved.  That’s a trip to Australia. That’s a small car. That’s a new wardrobe, le creuset cookware, and 2 new books a week with money left over. Sorry wolfie, can’t hear you, i’m COUNTING MY MONEY.

The wolf will throw temper tantrums. “Why can’t I? What about now? When is this sober thing finished? Can I drink in a few more days? When exactly can I drink again?”

You’ll say I’m too busy snuggling with my husband, staying awake for conversations, i can see the look in his eyes, how proud he is of me, how supportive. i would never want him to look at me any other way, wolfie, don’t you understand that one glass of red wine does NOT equal my marriage? I pick my marriage. I pick it every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I pick meaningful conversations with friends. I pick sober laughing. It’s the best. Have you tried it wolfie? Sober laughing? you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

The wolf will nearly be dehydrated. He’ll try a few more last-chance, desperate attempts. “You’re broken,” he’ll snarl. “you bitch, you can’t be fixed, you’ll always be a fuck-up, you suck at this, you might as well quit now.”

And you’ll say:  You want to fight? I’ll win. I’ve got so much more energy now that i’m sleeping through the night. I can outrun you wolfie. I’m light on my feet now.  I’ve got so much more spunk, clearer thinking. I’m planning to take over the world, wolfie, me and my clear-headed genius.

What is that? Sorry I can’t quite hear you. Your voice is so quiet wolfie. are you nearly dehydrated? you’re going to dry up and turn to dust.

[puts palm of hand up to lips and blows across the surface … dust disperses, wolfie is specks of gray in the air … and then gone]

You can wait and see … or you can fuck it up. Your choice.

Day 50 … thank you very much.

Long run Sunday, and on the run I realized something yucky and profound.

when i first met my husband, i’d only ever dated assholes and idiots. I’d had 3 boyfriends over 20 years, including two long periods of being single.

First, Mr. Laywer, met in high school, dated through university and law school. On and off for 8 years including several years where we lived on opposite sides of the country. Mr. Lawyer was sensitive, very very smart, could not commit to a relationship.  Together, apart, together, apart for years… He wouldn’t move to where I was (even though going there had originally been his idea but he’d chickened out at the last minute).

Second, Mr. Engineer. Super wealthy family, led a somewhat sheltered life, smart.  was so important that we once went on vacation in two cars, in case he had to come home to deal with his job … We dated full-time seriously for 6 months, and then slept together for another 2+ years. i waited and waited and waited to be “the one” for him. Never happened.

Third, Mr. TrainWreck. charming, compulsive liar, super manipulative. Angry, strange relationship with money (he didn’t have any plastic), strange relationship with alcohol (he had an AA tattoo but said it wasn’t his — i kid you not). i fell very hard for him. super hard. he could smell that kind of desperation a mile away and used it. lies and weirdness from the beginning that i refused to see.  never met any of his friends in 6 months. Super angry, temper, walking on eggshells.  One day he just stopped calling. i knew things were in a desperate state, so i only called timidly a few times the first week, then when he didn’t call back i stopped calling. never went to his house. figured if he was gone, it was best to let him go.

got some good therapy. left that city and moved back closer to my family (but not THAT close).

Met my husband, Mr. Belle. Here’s our story:  he asked me out, i went, we had 3 dates, he spent the night, he never went home. That’s it. I never had to say “when will I see you again?” He’s easy going, happy all the time. he’s self-contained, not needy, no demands. He does dishes (and cleans the bathroom). He’ll go out for milk at 10 pm if I decide I want to make pudding. We read the same books, we walk a lot. we enjoy each other’s company. he eats my recipe trials.

There is no drama in my marriage. We don’t fight and make up. We don’t get angry and sleep in separate rooms. Some days I think he’s a turd, but i usually don’t say anything, and then it passes.

This is a long story, here’s the realization i had this morning.

I’m so used to drama from my stupid childhood that I expect drama (and/or I create drama) when things are going well.

When I first met my husband, i was literally waiting for the other shoe to drop for an entire year.  Like i felt terrified that i was going to find out something that would prove that he was an asshole/idiot, and that he was too good to be true.  Husband was always reassuring when i was wacky worried. He said “you need a lot of reassurance” and then he gave more reassurance…

AND NOW…

I think that i’m treating my sobriety the same way. I’m expecting some drama.

I mean, how can you just give up booze and then go merrily on your way? What about the teeth-knashing, late nights, relapsing, disaster, crying, promising to try harder the next time.  I seem to be skipping most of that. (i’m good at teeth-knashing, but only when i work myself up into a pms frenzy.)

and in thinking about relapse, as i was last night, i wonder today in the cool light of sensible morning, if i was trying to MAKE some good-old fashioned drama.  “Everybody look at Belle, watch her fuck up.”

when really, i don’t need to fuck this up. i don’t need to create any drama here.

And just like the early days of my marriage, i can just stop waiting for the drama. and i can turn away from the temptation to CREATE drama. and i can say, with some certainty, “YES this is pretty good. It’s better than you thought you deserved, and yet here it is.”

“You can wait and see. Or you can fuck it up.  Your choice.”

If all of the drama in my life is self-created, because i’m uncomfortable with calm and peaceful wellness, then i need to give that up (again).  Drama and struggle don’t have to be something i pull along behind me, like a worn sweater. Drama and struggle are optional.

I am not drinking, and that’s just the way it is.  I need to get over myself.

No Drama Here.

Ode to red wine

i don’t usually post twice in one day. but i’ve been thinking about drinking just about the whole day. it’s like my toddler-brain is having a temper tantrum. and it sounds like this:

“why can’t i ‘take a few days off’ and then restart. other people have done it. relapse is normal. i think i’ll have myself a relapse.  would today be a good day for a relapse? well it’s the weekend, that’s always good. i’d like 2 glasses of red wine. yeah, i think i’d like some glass of wine, i mean, who wouldn’t.  well maybe i should wait until i have 50 days of sobriety (instead of today, day 49) because that would be a nice, round number. better to relapse on a ‘good’ number day.  better not to just fall off the wagon, how about if i plan to fall off. and god i don’t want to regret the relapse, so i’ll plan for it. and anyway, i was really only going to do 30 days and then i extended it to 60/90 and now i’m nearly at 50, so that’s good enough. what was the point of this anyway. this not drinking thing is tiring. i don’t want to post and read blogs any more, but i know that’s just me retreating so that i can have a few glasses of wine. i want it all to fucking stop — all the noise, all of it. i want the magical “i don’t need booze thanks” to fill me from top to bottom. and then i’d like some golden silence. instead of having to work at it. if not, i’m going to pour wine onto it until it shuts up.”

[stomps toddler-like feet, and slams imaginary door]

well that’s special, isn’t it? i’m not drinking tonight. i am baking a chocolate cake (9:32 pm). it’s gigantically hot tonight (40C/105F) so that doesn’t help. i will wake up tomorrow in a better mood, will have my sunday long run, and will get up super early to beat the heat …

here’s my (not yet famous) poem:

Ode to red wine.
fuck you
fuck fuck you
fuck you
fucker.

~ love, Belle xoxo

helping me to ‘be’ good

i’m enjoying rereading my journal from 2004, it’s quite entertaining, especially my thoughts pre-husband, when i was single for such a long time. In February 2004, I was doing a week without TV and without reading, and here’s a bit of my thought process, seems to fit today:

“It’s a transition, so some parts are harder than others, it’s about feeling uncomfortable temporarily. If we always want to feel good, then we’d stay well in from the edges of life so that nothing ever sticks us. Or [we can choose] a short-term discomfort for a longer-term gain. It’s not about helping me to ‘feel’ good, it’s helping me to ‘be’ good.” (Feb 24, 2004).

hope you’re having an easy day. good food. a laugh or two.

Sobriety is like a little car

I started writing about the ideas of early sobriety (less than 15 days) on Suzy’s blog, and also on Jen’s, but want to elaborate …

Right when you first quit, there are lot of questions, a lot of unknowns. part of why we ALL struggle in the first days is because it’s all so new, so foreign to how we usually live.

Questions like: “How will i go to a party and not drink? I won’t be any fun! How will i manage sober sex? Sober dating? How will i deal with stress?” and my personal favorite: “Is this no-drinking thing forever?”

And so on.

The initial question-asking stage of sobriety is deafening.  there are a billion things to consider. Or so it seems.

and yet, bit by bit, it gets easier. we read a few books and we  blog and/or read other sober blogs, and we comment, and maybe we do a meeting (or not). We run more (or not), we sleep better, we begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin.

in a few more days, some of hazy grayness starts to lift. For me it was around day 34 but i started off intending to quit only for a month, and so i farted around a lot in the first month with what-if ideas, and maybe everyone does that, or maybe you’re more focused than I was and your grayness will lift sooner.

Now here’s my metaphor:

Sobriety is like a little car, rolling downhill, that gathers momentum as it goes. But if you stop the car too soon (by giving up, by having just one drink), then you never get to experience the momentum it can gather with time, and you’ll just get to experience (repeatedly) the ‘starting over part’. which we agree, stinks.

it doesn’t take very long to feel better and to have a clearer head. so keep the car rolling, and feel your way through the grayness.

Sobriety is like a little car, and if you’ve got the little car already on its way downhill, however slowly, don’t do anything to stall. don’t change your medication, don’t suddenly quit your job, don’t buy a dog, don’t stop going to meetings. You want the car to keep moving, right? Downhill, yeah? Slowly gathering momentum. Don’t get impatient that other people don’t notice how great you are. Don’t confront your spouse about their radically different life plan. Not now. Not now.

protect your little sober car.

(and now, to mix metaphors) You need to walk around like a blind person with your arms outstretched, saying “don’t come near me with your drama, your shit, your demands. Stay the fuck away from me. I’m protecting me. See my outstretched hands grasping for the wall, grasping for something solid? Stay over there and gently guide me if you like, but do NOT dare come inside my arms-stretched-out space and fuck with my sobriety. Don’t tease me, don’t cajole me, and don’t bait me.”

(back to our regularly scheduled metaphor)

“Because i’ve got a little car of sobriety rolling downhill,” you say. “And some days it’s all i can do to keep going. but i ain’t pulling over. Not now, not for you. If this car stalls, it might not start again.”

Get out of my way. Sober car coming through …

tuesday weigh-in

day 45. all is well. i haven’t had any of the “holy shit i had a drink” dreams. Instead i dreamt that i was handed a glass, and had a sip of wine and then spit it out, shouting to the hostess who served it to me: “I don’t drink!”

not only is “all well” with me today, but i’d like to continue feeling like this please. yesterday and today (so far) have been surprisingly settled, calm, happy, even days. Better than i’ve felt in a LONG time. Maybe the best that  i’ve felt, ever. happy but not manic. content but not wacky. just good.

Now let’s talk about the 3 very small slices of chocolate cake i had yesterday. miniscule, really, but 3 nonetheless. I did mention that i wanted to do some baking during this vacation, and yesterday i got down to business.

i know that running 5 days a week, at my slow pace and for short distances, is all about mood control and not about weight management. I’m completely fine with that. I love running, and I don’t need to change anything about how i’m doing it. But my level of running does not permit me to eat ANYTHING i want.

yes, early days of quitting booze meant that i really didn’t have any choice. I needed the sugar and the calories and i needed it a lot.

but today is day 45 and i’m feeling good. so i’m going to slowly and gently begin to rein in the cake.

need a t-shirt made up:

“Must Eat Less Cake”

on my run today, i decided it will be best (for me) if i do something ‘out loud’ and accountable.  Since i know from the law of attraction that what we focus on EXPANDS, then i will focus on pounds lost, so that i can watch that number grow.

Since quitting booze 45 days ago, as of today, Tuesday morning, I am down 2.2 pounds. not bad considering said cake. Every Tuesday morning for the next several weeks, i will post my total weight loss so that I can watch the number increase … sort of like watching my sober days increase.  My current sober goal is 90 days (and beyond). my current weight goal is 15ish pounds (possibly beyond, i’ll see when i get there).

If you’re interested in joining me, you can go and weigh yourself now (2.2 pounds = 1 kilo). Yes, you can weigh yourself now, even if you’ve just eaten. Think how low the number will be by comparison next tuesday when you weigh yourself first thing : ) There’s no right time to start. There’s just now, and i’m starting here. i didn’t want to take on too much in the first 45 days, but now i feel OK with charting my numbers.  nothing strenuous. no big diet. just conscious awareness. and mindfulness.  Are you gonna join me?

 

I learned what I knew already …

Day 44. I am well, i having nothing new to report. I’m not having cravings. I learned nothing yesterday.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I think i learned these things, but i knew them before, but yesterday i learned them again.

  1. I feel better on days when i run (i’m running 5 out of 7 days now, sometimes only 20 minutes, but the 2 non-running-days stick out in the calm of the week).
  2. The longer the run (40 minutes+), the better. Therefore, Sundays are usually the most calm and peaceful and resourceful and relaxed that i feel all week.
  3. I used to really love adventures. Maybe moving to foreign-land used up my adventure quotient and then drinking buried the rest. This weekend, however, husband and I did two walking tours, one Saturday and one Sunday, and saw new and interesting parts of the city, discovered gardens, beautiful views, drank bottled water, took a gazillion photos, and enjoyed being outside in the sun.
  4. Sunshine makes me feel much, much better. Living here is an improvement over our last city, and i hope our next move is another improvement again …
  5. On our way to the walking tour yesterday afternoon, husband and I had a “joking” conversation on the train, but it might become real. I asked him what was the best part of our new lives here in this new city.  He told me: his new favorite hobby, which costs quite a bit of money.  The more money he has for it, the better. He can do it cheaply but would prefer to do it more often, more expensively. And he’d like a budget of maybe $300/month to go hog-wild (all-out). (god, what’s a universally understood translation of hog-wild?) (well, as much as he wants).  My new favorite thing to do here makes money. it’s the coolest funnest thing ever and it actually generates revenue. The “Joke” was me saying: “we should figure out how you can have as much $ as you need to enjoy your hobby, and I’ll just do my hobby more often to pay for yours.” His eyes lit up, really, it was soo sweet. I don’t really think he’d enjoy me doing mine as much as i’d like to (it’s quite disruptive and sucks a lot of my time), nor would i really want him gone 4 out of 7 nights doing his… but i think we’re on the way to finding a good compromise …
  6. i’m guilty on this one-month vacation of feeling bored, and that’s completely my own creation. beginning today, i want to get more done – even if it’s just cleaning, even if it’s just reading more books. i want to look back on the vacation and feel like it was worth taking the time off AND i want to fill up my time more, even if it’s just reading in the park, so that there’s less room for the demon bitchy booze cravings. Less time in front of the computer searching (for who knows what), and more time outside.
  7. I’m in charge of how good I feel.  Time to play that hand a bit better.

Happy Monday : )

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…