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.

gentle gifts from strangers

i had ‘drinks’ with some friends on Sunday. No, I didn’t drink. I had tea. But I did realized that only 2 of 4 people at the table had alcohol, and those who did only finished 3/4 of their drinks. If that was me, i would have had 2 glasses of wine during that same time period.

I kept watching the friend across from me. Her wine came, and she didn’t sip from the glass for what seemed like ages (at least 15 minutes). and that one glass lasted her the entire 2 hours. Shocking. I just don’t do that.

What I did instead of guzzling two glasses of wine, was i actually listened to what people were saying, and i said nice and kind things in return. There was one woman i hadn’t met before, and i said something like “nice to meet you, hope to see you again soon” as we were parting, and she responded with “gee, i sure hope so.”

that struck me. When was the last time someone was that happy to meet me? like genuinely happy. I used to say, sarcastically, “people either love me or hate me” – meaning i wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

And while that may still be true, i’m not everyone’s cup of tea, i now see that reflexive sarcastic, in-your-face-ness “take me or leave me” as just another bunch of bullshit from a chick who drinks too much.

“You don’t like that I get louder and talk more when I drink? Well, some people like me and some people don’t.”

Really!

Well, stuff is CHANGING brothers and sisters! For the better!

This no-booze thing is giving all kinds of cool gifts in return.  Now that i’m not drinking, i’m quite touched by the number of people who LIKE me.  God this sounds so sucky and narcissistic as i’m writing it, sorry sorry sorry.  i guess what i’m trying to say is that i’m noticing that i’m no longer such an “acquired taste” like olives or horseradish. I’m a bit more like chocolate now. I got this email last week:

“I had a lovely time, surrounded by lovely people, and a charming great host (Belle). Thank you very, very much for making my first [trip to your company] a really memorable and soothing moment. Thank you Belle.”

I can assure you that i used to drink through these events, even if i was ‘hosting’, and i never got feedback like that before. never.

what’s different? the sarcasm is gone. Like, 100% gone. Where did it go? When did it leave? Why was it here? No idea. But i like this new me. And thankfully people are kind enough to give me feedback that they notice.

I bet someone is telling you that you’re doing the right thing, and they’re cheerleading in their own, quiet ways.

now that i’ve stopped the bullshit, i can HEAR my cheerleaders better, and i realize that there’s positive feedback out there. I don’t have to bang on my chest saying “see how great I am” – (well, you might argue this blog is doing just that!) – i’m now getting unsolicited lovelies by email, each one gentle and kind. the sarcastic shit-haters just aren’t there. or they’re finding new company. As am I.

[who knows what i am trying to say here, this is just so all over the place. i guess i’m trying to say “YIPPEE” for me, and “check out who’s cheerleading you” to you … OK, i’ll stop now.]

Bring on Abstinence in August, or August Rush, or Whatever We’re Calling It… cheers to another 31 days sober.

oh god, i guess what i’m saying is “are we there yet?”

i realize now that i have some mood fluctuations up and down, some pink cloud-y days followed by some rancid thoughts. i realize now that both are OK, and neither mean i’m going to drink.

Today is the end of Dry July and i have to say i feel relieved. Like it’s about to get easier, finally. It is going to get easier, right?

well, maybe everyone feels the same way during their first 30 days:  you’ve got your head down, you’re singularly focused, kind of obsessed with the blogs, putting one foot in front of the other, not really looking around, just trying to reach THE GOAL.  The goal might be one day or one week or one month or forever. But you’re doing it head-down, focused.

i am at my first goal now (30 days) and i feel like i want to start to look up now. It’s like i pressed a giant PAUSE button on my life for July, and i really didn’t accomplish more than I had to.

OK, that’s not fair. i accomplished sobriety and that’s something! it just took a LOT of concentration to get here to July 31st. This past month, my goals were pretty simple:  get up, run, shower, eat 3 meals a day, and do the minimum to not get fired from my job. get to bed before midnight.  read a book a week? not much. feed my husband? not always.  laundry? nyet. Begin any other new projects? nein. Plan work stuff for September? não.

Now that Dry July is finished it’s probably a dangerous thought process i’m having today, but what i think i’m exploring now is HOW MUCH ATTENTION and focus and concentration do i give this thing… i’m sure it gets easier over time. But i’m really looking forward to getting back to my regularly schedule life, and i don’t want to miss out on any more summer.

Well, I can maybe predict some ‘reasonable’ answers… “Belle, you have to give sobriety as much ongoing time as necessary to maintain it, because it’s the most important thing.”

when really i want to dance. i want to suntan. i want to be free of restraints.  i don’t want to drink, i just want to be done with this part.

i’m not sure this makes sentido (sense).

oh god, i guess what i'm saying is "are we there yet?"




today I have 30 days

Ten good reasons to be 30 days sober:

  1. Celebrating a new ‘personal best’ every day. That doesn’t happen much when you’re an adult, taking on a new skill and seeing progress and improvement each and every day.
  2. Sleeping through the night. Doctor thought i was premenopausal when i complained of waking at 4 am. she should have asked how many glasses of wine i was having every night (answer: 3+).
  3. No arguments.  I haven’t had one disagreement with my husband in 30 days. I can’t tell you how often I used to go to bed teary, feeling completely misunderstood. That seems to be over.
  4. Supportive sober (online) friends. This blogging world rocks, is beyond anything i could have imagined. advice to lurkers: don’t lurk. you’re missing out on a life-line that’ll make the difference. my advice to lurkers is to be brave, read, comment and write every single day (well, for the first 30 days at least!).
  5. No one really gives a shit that i’m not drinking. All the worries of not ‘fitting in’ or being ‘different’ if i gave up drinking were totally bogus. no one gives a rat’s ass. I drink tea and you drink wine? who cares. We go to dinner, you guys order wine, I say i’m not drinking, only one comment in 30 days from Mister, a social acquaintance who i see about every 6 weeks, and now will probably see even less…
  6. It is quiet(er) in my head. This is the main reason I have given up drinking. I’m fortunate to have a “high bottom”. I wasn’t convicted of a DUI, and my marriage was not in jeopardy. But I drank much more than I wanted to, didn’t seem to be able to string together many days alcohol-free. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about when I could drink, how much, was there enough, should i start drinking from my husband’s glass when he left the room…
  7. I’m a nicer person. I’m kinder and more patient and less sarcastic. Much less sarcastic. I think I see people more clearly now. now I meet a new client who talks too much, and i see lonely instead of irritating.
  8. My irritation and frustration levels are diminished. This is a side by-product of being sober that I did not anticipate. Didn’t realize that drinking made me really grumpy, and itchy in my own skin. I think i’m less impulsive, too. Certainly there’ve been NO late-night stupid emails (to friends and clients) promising the moon.
  9. Motivation levels are higher. I used to get a lot done before. Now i’m getting things done with purpose. I’m not just running all over town on some kind of ‘urgent’ mission. Now i make plans and cross things off the list.
  10. I’ve stopped straightening my hair. OK, you can laugh if you want to. But straight hair is all the rage, and for the last 30 days i’ve just stopped. (Honestly some days it takes all of my concentration and focus to get up and get through the day, remember to run, to eat 3 times a day, and to not-drink.) I have naturally curly hair that i’ve been forcing into ‘style’ with a hot iron. this has stopped. my husband now tells me he likes the curly hair better (really? you didn’t say anything for the two years you’ve watched me straighten it?) He says i look younger and less like someone’s “aunt”  (i.e. less like a cougar)…) I think it’s also an outward expression of being more comfortable in my own skin … or it shows a complete abandon of personal grooming while i focus hard on being sober.  we’ll see.

i feel i should now re-order the list, to end with something punchy and strong. Instead it ends with a vain comment about my hair. oh well. there you go. I have cute curly hair, that isn’t the least bit in style. I’ll keep you posted.

today is day 29

today is day 29 and i’m happy for that. i hadn’t strung together more than 9 days before this attempt at Dry July. I started having regular beer/cider every day after work in 1987. I was 21.  Just one a day, it gave me a good buzz. I never drank in high school, was always afraid of alcohol, in fact, still am. That one beer a day, or every second day didn’t really expand at first.  I could buy a 6-pack of cider, and drink my one per day, taking a day off, then go and buy a new 6-pack. After about a year, i started working in a restaurant, and at the end of our shift we were allowed to have one staff drink, at $1 each. Again, i’d stay for one drink late at night, then head home. One or two beer or cider, that’s it. Go to a party and I’d have beer. I’d host an open house wine and cheese party at my office once a year, and I’d have 2 Coronas in the fridge for me.  I used to go to the store and just buy 2 beer at a time. That’s all I  wanted so that’s all I bought. I used to joke and say “i don’t buy more because beer speaks to me.” Beer hanging around my house says drink me now so i only bought two at a time. my friends though that was funny, kind of comedic, isn’t she hilarious.

in 1995 i remember being on vacation, and i bought a 6-pack every two nights, having 3 beer each night in my hotel room, putting the ice in the sink with the plug in. hotel too cheap for an ice bucket (and you can’t fit 3 beer in an ice bucket anyway).

i think there was a post-bad-boyfriend time, the business I was running wasn’t going so well. maybe it was 1999. i was drinking 3-4 beer at a time.  not every night, but often enough.  probably two or three times a week. i really hated drinking beer, though, because i hated the repeated trips to the bathroom. i know. first world problems.

things stayed right there, 3 beer at a time, and not every night, for years. Later, much later, I met my husband (2005) and we started dating. Now i had my partner in crime, my buddy, my traveling partner, my drinking companion. wine or beer at all events. it’s really not his fault. i thought i was playing house, putting dinner on the table, the bottle of red wine. i knew someone would help me drink it. I’d buy different kinds of pinot noir and open them all at once, and we’d do taste tests. he drank to keep me company, never initiated it himself, but would always go out to get more if i asked. (left on his own, like he is now, he has 1 or 2 beer a week… oh god.)

so for seven years, the husband years, the good years, the happy years, the years where we could argue that problems with loneliness have been solved, that boredom had been erased, the years with unconditional love finally provided … yes, for these seven years i’ve been drinking 5 out of 7 nights, then 6, and then 7 out of 7.  right up until 29 days ago.  you might say i was drinking to fill loneliness back when it was 3 beer alone in a hotel room. but now? got no good excuse. except laziness. i took my eye off the ball.  I’d always been afraid of alcohol, knew what it could do to ruin your life, and i’d always been very very cautious. but in the safety of married life i got lazy and complacent and forgot to watch out. cuz i knew it was calling me. back when i joked that beer spoke to me, i knew it was waiting to suck me in … as soon as i took my eyes off the ball …

i’d like to clean this up

i still have moments where i think of drinking, in an abstract way. Not “I need wine right now” but more “this is what i usually do in this time period, in this circumstance.”

For example, there’s a half-jug of mixed cocktails in the fridge from last week’s dinner, and i wish that my husband would drink it. I keep looking at it thinking that i was STOOPID to make that amazing homemade cocktail and not set aside some for myself before adding the gin.  i really would have loved a virgin serving.

And now when i open the fridge, i see the half-pitcher there, gin already mixed in, and i’d like to — ok this sounds strange but i’m just going to say it — i’d like to “eat the leftovers, clean my plate, finish the bottle, get that over and done with, finish this up.”

I have been tempted by this half-jug of cocktails, but in the “i’d like to clean this up” way, rather than in the “i’d like to get a buzz” way. what a weird OCD flash this is.  Let’s “clean this up” my head says, and that would allow me to finish a glass of beer, the last inch in the bottle, the rest of the mixed cocktails…   so now i’m wondering if anyone else has/had thoughts of “this can’t go to waste” that led them to drinking more than they wanted?

pressing the off button

Sober: Day 27

up too early, not enough sleep, didn’t run, worked hard all day, very hot, ate sugar all day, didn’t really eat enough real food, tonic water and cranberry juice for my ‘drink’ … now it’s 8:20 pm and i feel like a bag of shit. i’m going to go to bed now before any damage is done, before any more sugar is consumed. i don’t feel like drinking, but if you’ve got another fuzzy warm escape idea, i’ll take it.  i realize what i want is a break FROM MYSELF. from thinking, from the noise in my head.  endless details of running a busy life and sometimes i just need it to turn off.  Bad TV, dark room, bottle of red wine kind of “OFF”. instead i’m going to have to grumble and settle for a non-dark bedroom (we’re too far north), clean sheets, the last few pages of a good book, and a headstart on a good night’s sleep.  some days can’t be rescued. they just need to end early.  it’s like pressing the OFF button.

[button pressed, tv screen dims to a tiny point of white light in a static-crackling ocean of gray dots]

tell me that blogging doesn’t ROCK

Mary says:

“In my experience, those who do well at moderation management are those who don’t need to moderate. They can take it or leave it, have abused alcohol in a crisis but are not alcohol-dependent.”

Cleo says:

“If I could make a decision about the 3rd glass of wine without the effect the 2 previous glasses have on my judgement – well then I would be a moderate drinker. Two glasses and I don’t have a brain. I have this huge, highly persuasive, rebellious party animal type thing in my head who just wants more, more, more.”

Kary May says:

“You so smart! I never saw the point in two glasses of wine and to tell you the truth I don’t know many drinkers that stop there. You have tried moderation, if you’re like me, you’ve been trying it your whole drinking life, you’ve just never tried a structured moderation program. The problem with structured drinking programs is that after two drinks my alcoholic brain is screaming, “Fuck structure, I want chaos!””

and Cleo, again:

“I feel like I know you through your writing … You are funny (portuguese english etc) and light and vivacious. But you are true and authentic and kind and warm. You definitely learnt something with that degree! I love the way you put it all out there about Dry July vs 90 days – revealed all, went through the whole process in writing what was going on in your mind.”

Now I dare you.  Go ahead, I double dare you.

Tell me that blogging doesn’t ROCK : )

 

 

The truth is that I drink more than I want to. Point finale.

Thanks again to everyone for comments and support and love over the past few days.  it really is a gift you’re offering. you may not realize how little gestures can mean sooo much. taking the time to read, to post, to write, to share, to be honest, to back-pat, to laugh, to groan, and to sigh with relief. Thanks and thanks again.

I have a few new thoughts on the idea of moderation.  And they’re perhaps kind of radical thoughts.  But that’s just the kind of chick i am.

Lots of you were very kind to offer that maybe i would be a “lucky” moderator, maybe i’m not so far gone that i can learn to moderate.  Others expressed their touching and personal experiences with FAILING at moderation, and that’s how they knew that being sober was the only choice for them.

Now while i realize that this decision is personal to me, and it’s up to me, and i have to be comfortable with the decisions that i make … I have to say that i’ve decided to go with the collective intelligence and NOT test out the theory of moderation myself.  While it’s possible that it’s easier to adopt abstinence if i’ve exhausted all other avenues, like if i’ve tried moderation and failed… i think i’m going to skip all that.

Here’s why.

I know what the logical thing to do is.

I know from reading everyone else’s very kind comments and life stories that moderation rarely works, maybe less than 10% of the time.

I know that even thinking about having 2 drinks in August got my brain going with “when, where, how much, what if…”

I know better.

Should I try moderation to rule it out? Probably. Am I going to? No. At least not now.

In the short time i’ve been blogging I’ve learned enough from you.  I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I can take guidance from those who have been there before me.  I do not have to “see for myself.” I know, i know, i know already. The truth is that I drink more than I want to.  Point finale.  Anything else is besides-the-point.  I drink more than I want to, and i’m not going to fuck with it any more.  All those swimming thoughts of:  “only beer, only weekends, only celebrations, never more than 2, only on vacations” – i want to be done with that.

So yes, maybe this means i’ll always wonder if i could have successfully moderated, and maybe it means that at 90 days I’ll think that I can … I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  for now i’m going to rely on collective genius.  Your collective genius. Whether you’ve got 2 days or 2 years.  I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I just have to do what i know will work.  Not drinking works for me.

Big hugs from me in the cyberworld.

pink-cloudy AND tortured on the same day

in my last post I started to contemplate what happens at the end of my Dry July.  Day #25 today. thanks to everyone for ideas and well wishes and kindness.  it’s pretty cool that no one said “wow this girl is heading on a downward slide into hell if she keeps going on this path” … even though i’m sure some of you were privately thinking just that.

on my run today, i realized that if i’m thinking about this still this much after a month, then best to continue onwards, sober. Like cleo with cigarettes, i cannot say the same for drinking. I can’t take it or leave it. Wine is not like corn on the cob.  I love corn on the cob, and sometimes i’ll even go to special stores to find it here.  but i don’t keep track of the BEST cob, nor do i remember the date of my last cob… Even in thinking out my idea of “maybe I’ll drink twice in August” … my internal wheels started to spin and I got tense. literally. i got wound up just thinking about it.  what if I use up the alcohol on a bad night? what if I don’t get the effect that I want and I waste it.  what if I drink and then I wish I hadn’t bothered? i’m sure that two drinks will be disappointing no matter what the context. 

again, on my run today (thank god for running!), I realized that i could give up MEAT for a month and not wonder when i could have more, or how much i would enjoy it.  i could probably even give up sugar for an entire month – including the sugar hidden in stupid things like mayonnaise. Yes, i’d feel pissed off if I had to give up sugar for a month, but i highly highly seriously doubt that i’d give it as much brain space as i have given to wine in the last 25 days. would i be reading other people’s sugar blogs? really? probably, highly not.

(in fact, when i started Dry July, i gave up meat, alcohol and sugar for the first 7 days, then reintroduced sugar and meat.  it was completely fine.  in fact, planning vegetarian meals took a bit of work but it distracted me nicely from thinking about booze. Note to self.  when feeling antsy, set a different non-alcohol-related goal that will have a positive outcome, that can distract me from boozing.)

i’m sure i’ll cycle around to the idea of moderation, oh, i don’t know, like a few more hundred times.  but for now i’m staying on the wagon. I like it here, even if I feel both pink-cloudy AND tortured ON THE SAME DAY.

For now, i’m going to extend Dry July to be 90 days.  and then probably longer again.