treats and rewards. must. must.

From me:

I am well, but tired. I say that too often. I did not get a mini-vacation this month, or last, saving money, should have done it anyway. I work hard and long and need the time off away from home, not only to rest, but also as a reward to look forward to. I know what makes me ‘tick’ and i need to stop resisting it. I resist giving myself the things i need on a Regular and Consistent basis because … [fill in the blank] … to prove that i can function with less? that I can do it without reward, without recognition (it would be like always working without pay, for free). Why? Why is that such an interesting character trait that i possess?

If i was giving myself more regular rewards, what would that MEAN? That i value myself more. that i’m worth it. that i’m doing hard work and have ‘earned’ it. that life is fun and i need to partake in the funness. That there’s a 3 year old inside me, and if she doesn’t get treats on a regular and consistent basis, she starts to temper tantrum about ‘HOW HARD THIS IS’ even when it isn’t really.

Here’s a treat, i say to her now, let me decide right now what your treats are for today.  After the big catering job of 150 sandwiches and 3 dozen cookies … Im talking to you, inner Belle. I’m serious here. Listen carefully:  go for a run after the catering is picked up even if you’re tired, make meatballs for dinner tonight (no more takeout), turn off the computer at 8 pm, take a bath, be in bed by 9:30 pm. do it. treats and rewards. Must. Must.

*NOTE: I have put together a collection of my blog posts, in chronological order, so you can see where i was on day 18 and see if it’s like where you are! To order the compiled PDF go here.

Notes from my inbox:

Carol: Day 16, halfway to one month which is where I got before, but this time there is no restarting! So many good things happening: going out on my own after only a little over 2 weeks at new job, picked up a difficult sock I was knitting months ago & realized I could easily finish it, you know — just lots of little things that make me happy. Plenty of really difficult things going on too but I’m not falling into the pit of despair, just letting them happen. I don’t have the power to make things different in any of these frustrating situations I’m peripherally involved in with family. In retrospect, all drinking did was sometimes make me act more involved & emotional, justifying my descent into the despair pit. Phew, glad I’m done with that way of coping.

Elle: Day 47, write a couple sentences on why this time is different for me. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days, and I keep coming up with the same answer. I don’t know. There wasn’t a drunken night or an excruciating hangover, in fact I can count the number of drinks I’ve had since Christmas on my fingers. I’m just tired of thinking about drinking. “Should I have a drink? Then I can’t drive (my number one rule is I NEVER drink and drive). If I have a drink, will I eat everything in sight? Pick a fight with my son? Will I call someone and babble? Will I wake up at 3AM with a racing heart? Will I drag in the morning and miss taking my dog for her early morning walk? (it is so hard saying no to those big brown eyes).” I guess I’m lazy and it’s just easier to not drink.

Team 100:

Welcome to PJ (day 2). Say hello to Simpson Sister (70), Thirteenpointone (340), Erica (150) and Donna – who has only recently joined Team 100 is in fact 100 days today!

I get by with a little help from my friends

Brandy has a long history of alcohol problems, and lost her father to the disease. She joined the 100 day challenge, and she restarted on day 1 a couple of times.

On May 7th, I got this email from her: “I hate to say and was embarrassed to tell you that I am starting over again 🙁 How do you do it?”

My answer:

me: Good question. How did I do it… I accepted, I think, that the first 30 days were going to suck.  I ate take out, I did the minimum work allowable to not get fired. I slept A LOT. Some nights I went to bed at 8:30 pm just because I wanted to drink so bad. I ate a ton of junk. I drank tonic water (bitter) with cranberry juice. And I hid in bed. I didn’t go out very much and … well, I waited. I also blogged every single day. (Not that you have to blog, of course, but you could email every day or even twice a day or every three hours, whatever it takes…). Usually, if I felt like drinking (which I did), then once I blogged about it, it was like I had “told” on my inner addict and the cravings were relieved somewhat … I know you’ve been sober before for periods of time. What have you done before that worked – at least short term …

On day #9, she sent me this:

Brandy: I started feeling the urge again yesterday but I did take your advise.  I took the rest of the day off from work and I organized my closet and my daughter’s closet. Yes, decluttering it is a weird kind of calming and therapy.  I cooked a nice meal watched a movie and went to bed early! I am happy to say I am on day 9.  I will continue to take your advise to get me thru these low days.

On day #13:

Brandy: OMG… I made it thru the weekend!!  Wow:)  I will tell you that wolfie was putting all kind of crap in my head….”you can drink after a long day working in the yard” I really laughed and said shut the f&%k up! Instead I rewarded myself with some sweet treats and a good nite sleep!

On day #30:

Brandy: It’s truly a MIRACLE 🙂 Enjoying my sober life today! So many blessing have happened in just 30 days. F@$K you WOLFIE!

And then it seemed that sobriety really took hold of Brandy. And today she’s on Day 51.  I asked her to explain why she’s sober now — what’s different this time?

Brandy: I am sober today because of my higher power… I mean it is truly a miracle.  The last time I drank… I wanted to give up and die, in this despair…. I got on my knees and prayed.  While I was praying I did feel this sense of comfort and a little voice saying…”It’s going to be OK.”- Then I knew, I never have to drink and feel that way ever again!

Since that day, what has helped me stay sober is your blog, my AA (ladies only meetings), and praying every morning for the strength to stay sober just for today and at night thanking my higher power for giving me that strength.

Today, I feel like a different person than I did at day 4.  My mind is so much clearer and I have some pretty big plans with my life.  When I think back to some of my actions while drinking, I think: “Who was that person?” I am happy to be ME again… and am truly happy to have “my life without drinking”

As you know I lost my father to this disease. I am just so grateful that I can say I am sober today and can make him proud!

Thank you for believing in me Belle 🙂

This isn’t a blog post about me. This is a blog post about not giving up, and keeping going even if you feel shitty. This is a blog post about Brandy and how fucking tough she is. And this is a blog post about Team 100. “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Team 100 update: Holy christmas 121 members. Welcome to Caroline & Maggy (6), Katherine (322), & LimeTree (3).  Happy days to Lawyer Anne (80), Lauren (95), Debra (151), KT (60), LilyUK (55), Paula (30), Allie (20), JG (55), Leah (45), Sam (21), ZenMeg (10), Cam (50), Sara (40), Julz & Quill (30), Lex & CB (10), Meka (11), Cassie’s Mom (14).

Happy 100 days to DDG & Lynda :)

Happy 100 days to DDG (holy am i ever glad to see you hit this date!) and Happy 100 days to Lynda (and to Mr. Lynda who is following along, too).

Here’s what Lynda has to say:

WOW!!  Thank you for inviting me on this journey.  It has been been truly amazing and I am so grateful and appreciative that I could come along and I’m planning on staying on this bus because I love the other passengers and driver. What have I enjoyed about this? Clarity in thinking and conversations, confidence, acceptance — life is like this, so just do it and move on, clear skin, brushing teeth at night … seeing people, understanding self, a calm knowing, “falling” asleep and feeling the wonderment of that, savoring coffee, playing 3 hour tennis matches, evening walks, early morning breakfasts, being of service with gratitude, not enough hours in a day to do the things I want to do, being available, increased intimacy in all relationships…. and this is just the beginning. Were/are there challenges?  You bet there are.  I choose not to list them because life has challenges whether we drink them away or not…. [emphasis added]

Now let me say this. Getting sober is hard. 

It’s really hard. When we’re used to squishing down feelings with booze, it’s so completely disorienting to remove the booze and to live life naked. (I wrote something about this to Quill yesterday).

i also think we’re all trying to be sober because we’re trying to sort some shit out.
and just because the tectonic plates cannot visibly be seen to be moving
does not mean that they’re not.
moving.

cuz they are

being sober isn’t a race or a destination or a popularity contest
it’s a tool
sobriety is a lever that we can use to open stuff up to get unstuck

and for some people being sober is how they avoid dying.
and how they get their life ‘back’
and how they keep their children
and how they repair their relationships

for me, being sober the first month was hard
and i wasn’t always sure what the point was
except i didn’t want to go back to day 1 so i kept going.

then i realized that i still was thinking that i wanted to drink at the end of
30 days, so i renewed it for another 60 days (90 total).

and here we are today, 370 days later.

i did not intend to do this. i intended to do 30 days just to prove that i could.
and something happened.
the tectonic plates shifted.
you can’t see it happening.
doesn’t meant it’s not.
happening.

*NOTE: I’m putting together a collection of my blog posts, in chronological order, so you can see where i was on day 18 and see if it’s like where you are! If you want me to send it to you when it’s finished, put your name in the box here:  http://eepurl.com/BqAEn

the blog post with a lot of links in it

how am I? i’m really quite fine. all is well in my part of the world today.

a few new sober girls have arrived in the last week, never having seen this blog before. and yeah i know, i write a lot, but there are 215+ posts on here and it’s kind of hard to read it starting at the beginning cuz blogs are in reverse chrono order, and even if you search for just July 2012 (month #1), to see what what fucking terror i was dealing with on any particular day … well this is a long sentence without much point, but basically it’s hard to read a blog in chronological order especially when it’s long. yeah. you know what i’m trying to say, right?

so anyway, i spent a good chunk of yesterday compiling my blog posts from just month #1 of sobriety, putting them together in chronological order — with a few comments for good measure — and hopefully will be able to make some kind of PDF download thingy available. Month #1 is 80 pages long. No, really. Fuckers. No wonder you don’t want to read it online. ANYWAY. holy long winded without saying ANYTHING batman. if you’d like me to send you month #1 when it’s ready, you can do this thing here. Yes i will eventually some day when the planets align have the whole thing together as a book (!). yes, yes. eventually. for now there’s this. it’s what i can do for now.

i could find things to complain about (the weather! it’s cold!) but really i’m doing OK. I’ve got an email inbox full of sober (or trying to be sober) penpals. I’ve got a few photos for the sandal project already coming in, and i’m sending off some new Fuck You Wolfie bracelets (hopefully) later today! There are 119 people in Team 100 (welcome to Caroline and Maggy, both on day 4). Whineless is on day 70, Lane, Diane, Gindy & Christina are on day 80, Sober Journalist is 81, Kirst is 10. Carolyn is 30, Suzanne is 31.  And Amy is on day 201 but she’s on vacation! Hooray for Amy 🙂

Sorry, this whole blog post today is filled with links, but here’s another one… You remember Lurker M, right?

Here’s the email she sent me just a few days ago… (she’s on day 16 now!)

Lurker M: Day 13. Sober, sober, sober.  Belle, this is truly awesome. And, it’s not even about the drink; it’s more about the space that’s left when the drink has vacated. Ironically, that used to keep me drinking, filling up all those gaps, plugging away to avoid the vacuum. It stopped me feeling empty, at a loss, quiet. Terrified wondering what might emerge from the gaps – that I’d be left staring at ME in a cold, sober, deadly silence.

But, guess what? It’s liberating! I can feel myself re-emerging from that place. It was a self-induced solitary confinement which annihilated all my feelings and potential. So now … now I am making friends with myself again and re-acquainting myself with who-I-am. Some of this is uncomfortable, but those thoughts are far outweighed by a sense of relief and excitement at what-I-could-do!

All this new time, all this new energy, all this beautiful reflection that I’m now longer rushing to obliterate with alcohol. What an opportunity.

It’s my version of ‘The Great Escape’. Yup, that’s me, Lurker McQueen, excavating Tom, Dick and Harry tunnels, making new passports, eluding that Wolfie jail guard, roaring off on my sober motorbike. Can you hear the whistling theme music?!  Da da. Da da da dah dah dum.  Go go go!!!!!

And you my friend showed me the keys to escape. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

and here’s a great Quill-Quotable (she’s on day 28 today). I especially like the part about chicken sandwiches:

Quill: I feel, like a mild headache or a tickle in the throat — constant but not incapacitating — utter self-disgust. I don’t think there’s anything remotely worthwhile about me and most attempts at self-improvement are pointless because I am inherently broken and scummy. However, I am these days able to be 75% sure that is my depression talking and not actually the truth, which is a huge improvement (much like I think the people who say they like me actually do like me but are just poor judges of character, whereas 10 years ago I would have thought they were just straight-up lying).

I miss booze. Oh well. I miss good chicken sandwiches and a decent college football team, too, but I’m not going to move back to Tennessee, and I’m not going to have a drink today either.

Happy Tuesday to you. four more days until i have a long weekend. sorry did you say something? i’m too busy crossing off days on the calendar … are we there yet? is it summer yet?

drink my koolaid! come towards the light!

An email exchange that i’ve been saving, that i want to post right now, early Saturday morning. this is about Feelings and it’s about Landscapes. you may agree with me or think i’m completely full of shit (both opinions at times valid), but there really is something amazing about being a sober penpal. it’s glorious, built-in sobriety insurance for me. I get to write to you (and really i’m writing to myself half the time). AND i have front-row seats on amazing sober journeys while you do the hard work and i do the cheerleading … yeah, it’s win-win.  really it is.  Here’s how I know:

From Lurker M:

Thank you … I’m in awe of you and your achievement and your resolve. And your patience in replying, instantly and gently to me. Jesus, Belle, how do you do it? Fit in all these messages to all these people? I am on a journey. Early steps. Learning a lot, trying to stay with it. Got to keep with it and understand the landscape. I feel like a novice and a silly schoolgirl. You’re a bit of a guru for me which must be weird to accept when you’re ordinary in your own life and extraordinary in mine. Don’t give up on me. You really are extra-ordinary.

From me:

I never gave up on you because you didn’t give up on you 🙂

it must be weird to think that I’m obsessing about not drinking – when I’m really not.  somehow doing the blogging and the emailing makes me feel connected to people, and not alone, which is very calming, even when some people’s lives are dramatically shitty.  But being your sober penpal never makes me think about ‘drinking’.  I think about the feelings I had, but never about the actual alcohol.

maybe that’s it.  maybe alcohol is just a blunt instrument we use to regulate feelings, and once the booze is removed, we’re all just left talking about our feelings. which was at the root anyway. anyway, I seem to be able to do that (talk about feelings) happily and without making me feel like i want to drink 🙂

the only thing I can say with some confidence, is that the sober landscape that you mention makes no sense until you’re further in.  everything seems weird until the booze has been gone for a while.  the answers come later.  the clarity and the lightness comes later.  and thankfully it begins to get better quickly, get to day 10 and it’s better, get to day 16, and it’s better still. Then day 30 is pretty remarkable, as is day 50.  And then it’s onwards and upwards from there …

The only thing you need to begin, is the feeling that there’s something out there better than obsessing about drinking.  And there is.  and those of us in the sober cheering section will all say the same thing.  it’s better over here.  we’ve been there (where you are), and we’ve been here.  it’s better here.

[that sounds a bit culty! drink my koolaid! come towards the light!] 🙂

Team 100 update: 117 members, welcome to Trish (13) and Sarita (2).  Happy day 50 to Lilly! It’s day 75 for Lawyer Anne, day 90 for Lauren. Let’s have a parade for Roxanne (60), Debbie (40), LilyUK (50), JG (50), Colleen (51), Rebecca (91), Jessica (10), JT without JB (14).

i pick sober

please don’t think that my life is rosy sunshine. i am sober, yes. there’s a checkmark in that one box.

i still have crappy family relationships, i still live far from my family (mostly on purpose). we are debt free but have no savings. we are happy and have friends. we are not rich. we don’t own a car.  I am probably the only person i know who doesn’t own a cell phone. Yes, we’re lucky to live in europe.

Don’t be tempted to gaze into my sober life and think that mine is dreamy and that yours is dreary.

You have kids or a yard or a home. you have a dog or a beach or a savings account. you can play piano or sew or speak italian.  you live near your best friend or you can grow your fingernails. you have straight hair or you have a tight butt.

i don’t have any of these things.

and really … it’s not about those things.

What i have is sunshine on the inside, even when it’s pouring rain (i know that sounds totally cheesy).  I have relatively even moods.  I have reassurance that i’m doing something hard (being sober) and that it’s a dramatic and vast improvement on where i was before.

and that’s it.

i have 6 talents, and so do you. i have a great husband, and maybe you do too, or you have a great sister or a great mother or a great gramma. i’ve paid for counselling in the past, maybe you have too. i’ve always relied on the help of others (mentors) to improve my life faster. i’m impatient. i try very very hard not to bumble around in the dark figuring things out for myself. If i need to ice a cake, i’m on youtube for 25 minutes, then i ice the cake, then i watch youtube some more, then the second iced cake is good enough.

before … when i consumed larger quantities of wine, I used to buy groceries and not make the meals. I used to have fridges full of dead or dying food. I knew myself well enough to know that i had to have dinner made before the first glass of wine, otherwise i would just abandon the meal part way. leave stuff on the stove. just give up.

and now, it’s so fun to see who we turn out to be once we take the booze away… i became an early morning baker (and i can ASSURE you this is not who i was when drinking). i routinely set my alarm for (fuckers) 6:30 am to bake. really. i promise you i am not an early morning person. but it turns out i like being a baker MORE than i like red wine.

yes, i’m married, i run, i have a husband and i make bread. i’m still the same fucked up chick i was before. Except now i’m sober. i’m slowly making improvements on the rest of my life. it’s like an amusement park, life. full of cool rides and things to do and places i want go and things i want to see. I don’t want to hide in a bottle anymore. i want to get shit done 🙂

i pick sober.

Happy 100 days to Carrie :)

Amy and I were sober penpals a long time ago (dec 9). a few others joined in. Team 100 was born on March 14th.  A few people joined who already had some days under their belt (like Sunny Sue!).  And then there’s Carrie. She is on Day 100 today!

About 6 weeks after she signed up, she sent me this:

Thanks for your email … I am  sitting in the park reading this with tears in my eyes because I am still hugely touched every time you reply to an email from me. That someone would bother to take the time to listen to my problems … that continues to surprise and humble me.

I wasn’t ready to own up and admit my problem to a room full of people. I am not ready to wear a label, I may never be. But, I also wasn’t in denial and I desperately wanted to be saved.

Who knew that being saved didn’t have to involve a public fall from grace, hitting rock bottom, or shouting from the rooftops for help.

Just one tiny email was all it took to be sitting here with huge waves of relief gushing over me, that I found a lifeline in someone else who gets this and cares that I am staying sober today. I only wish that I had found this/you sooner and that more people knew that reaching out would make  a fucking ENORMOUS difference to this journey.

And today, she sent me this:

Hi Belle, checking in to say still sober … 100 days!! Wow, I can’t believe it. I am so happy to be writing this email. I cannot thank you enough for being my sober friend and for the Team 100 idea both of which have helped me get to this momentous day. I really can’t believe that I have been sober for this long and have plans only to stay sober and happy too!

I made a million promises to myself that I would cut down or give up booze.

I needed to do something differently this time as my attempts always failed in the end. I would always convince myself that I had probably just overreacted and back to drinking I would go! I needed to admit to someone other than myself that I needed help. I needed to be understood. I needed someone to empathise with my situation and most of all, I needed to be accountable.

Among the online community, I found like minded people. I realised that I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t unique in my alcoholism. I realised that I am normal and there are lots of other regular people like me who are really struggling to cope with their drinking.

Reaching out online was the best thing I have ever done. In my sobriety, it is the single most important decision I have made. At the time it felt like the biggest, most difficult step but I swallowed hard, sent the emails and started on my journey. I have experienced being sober with and without support. I can say that being part of a group and with sober pen pals, it is a whole lot easier.

Team 100 and the online sober community gave my sobriety a whole new sense of purpose. It’s not just about not drinking. It’s about sharing fears, expressing feelings, asking for help, opening up, showing vulnerability and baring your soul. It’s about being encouraged, receiving praise, cheers, shout outs! It’s about giving advice too, supporting others, hoping, praying for them to do well. It’s following their journey, rooting for them, cheering them on, keeping each other company on the good days and the bad. It’s knowing someone has your back. Someone who understands.

Through this my sobriety has grown into something of value that is tangible. Not just to me but to others. It’s a huge part of who I am now and I have met some wonderful people. I couldn’t throw all of that away so easily for a glass of chardonnay or a beer. Being 100 days sober means I have a future that I can plan for again. Drinking and worrying about my drinking had taken over my life. I just couldn’t imagine a life without wine and yet I couldn’t imagine how my life was going to continue if I was drinking so heavily. I am back in control and drinking doesn’t dominate everything I do. Every decision doesn’t revolve around obsessing about alcohol. It’s an exciting, scary, new feeling but I would chose this over the constant thinking about alcohol every time.

Having 100 days has given me the strength to face 100 more. So I am going for 200 days sober, wow, I never thought I would say that!

You are a superstar, dear Belle. You are always going to be a huge part of my sober story and to say that I am eternally grateful to you for that doesn’t even begin to cover it. Thank you. xxxx

If you haven’t met Carrie yet, go and read her blog here.

Team 100 update: 113 members, welcome to Jen-Faith (4), JT without JB (10), and runningfromthebooze (2).  Happy days to Carrie (100!), Simpson Sister (60), Erica (140), Lawyer Anne (71), PP (15), Kirst (7), LilyUK (46), Paula (21), Allie (11), Sara (31), Julz & Quill (21), Designer Rachel & Ingrid (14), SugarRush3 (10), and Carol (8).

Team 100 “statistics” (and i put that word in quotes): 113 people have registered since we started. Lest you think it’s ‘easy’ for everyone (it ain’t), 28% of Team 100 members have restarted to day 1, sometimes more than once.  BUT an amazing 77% are sober today, and in regular communication.

do i still think about drinking?

This is a long post, both the question and my attempts at an answer. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts…

This message from Lurker M:

Belle, can I ask for your patience and ask you a genuine, serious question. I am so tired of thinking about drinking. I want NOT to think about it. I imagine life like a ‘normal’ person for whom booze is a ‘sometime treat’ just like chocolate cake is for me. But when it’s not there? Who cares? I occasionally fancy some cake, enjoy it, but wouldn’t dream of wolfing the lot down. (Excuse the pun.) I don’t spend my time analysing my cake intake, feeling shameful and guilty. I have my cake, eat it, then move on. If cake were somehow never, ever on offer again, I wouldn’t care. It’s wonderfully good while it’s there, one slice, but…I don’t need it.

So, here’s the thing, the question. I want to feel the same way about alcohol. I want never to have it again, but more crucially, I want to obliterate my feelings about it, to return to being ambivalent about it. It exists but it doesn’t connect with me. One way or another. Whether I have it or not. I want to feel ‘normal’ about it, like it’s a toaster or a 2nd pillow or a lipstick. Good stuff but I can do without them and not miss them if they’re not there.

I love and value these sober blogs, Belle but, the truth is, I feel depressed thinking that I’m locked into having alcohol possess me and my thoughts as a sober person, just like it did as a drinker. I don’t want to have to give it airtime at all. I want to just be free.

In short, am I like Eve now; I can’t undo my knowledge/experience of having had the forbidden, poisonous fruit. That I have to feel its presence whether I’m indulging it or not.
Can I ever be alcohol free, if I’m counting days and thinking about (not) drinking all the time, just like I thought about drinking all the time when I wasn’t sober?

Belle, this feels important to me and yet I’m worried it’s a dumb, vapid question. Insulting, even. I love your blog so much and need it. But I am wondering if you ever get tired of thinking about drinking, now that you’re not drinking, just like you you were tired of it, when you were? ~From me with love

And my answer …

happy to hear from you 🙂 and it’s not a vapid question at all … I think it’s a ‘teetering on the edge’ question – and I understand that 🙂

since you’re brave enough to ask an honest question, I’ll give you an honest answer. and these are my opinions, I am not a counsellor and I don’t know jack shit about anything except my own navel.

Think of it as if our brains have a tiny bit of OCD. You’d like to magically have that disappear, but that is unlikely. you’re not going back to the way you were before and you’re not going to go to bed and wake up in someone else’s life, or wake up and BE someone else. you’re going to be like you. And who you are is just fine 🙂

How this tiny-booze-OCD acts up in our thinking, is that it makes us want booze all the time, and one glass is never enough. we plan our days around it, we plan vacations around it, we watch how much other people drink, etc. we want it, don’t want it, think about it, start and stop, moan and wretch, begin and begin again, and it’s a shitty place to be. It’s like an itch that has to be scratched. This is all if you’re at the good end of the booze-OCD spectrum. (I was at the good end.)

But if you’re further sucked into the booze-OCD, then bigger shits starts to happen. vomiting, falling down stairs, blacking out. planning to quit and not able to do it.

And if you’re even further sucked into the pit, then physical dependence kicks in and even if you want to stop you can’t without medical intervention. people go to jail, get arrested, lose their kids, lose their teeth and keep drinking. They go to rehab, drink, go to rehab again, drink. The OCD/wolfie in their heads is SO LOUD that common sense just doesn’t have a place at the table any more. They’re unable to act in their own best interest.

Now if you’re where I was, let’s call it Phase 1, you drink more than you WANT to. The quantity isn’t even important. there’s no measurement that says “a-ha there’s a problem.” We are drinking too much, and we know it. There are some small consequences – disappointment in someone’s eyes, missed deadlines, missed opportunities, telling other people’s secrets when drunk, telling people at the dinner table about your husband’s vasectomy, etc. All that AND the noise about how to get alcohol, plan for it, arrange for it, is there enough, etc. is continuous.

Once we quit drinking, the voice tends to gets quite angry at first (temper tantrum), for about 7-10 days. Then wolfie realizes he’s not going to win. For me, at about 16 days, i turned a first corner and begin to breathe more easily. Other milestones, day 30 and 60 were feeling more solid. After about 100 days (slightly different for everyone of course, but around 70-100 days for me) the wolfie voice got MUCH much quieter. It’s like a volume button being turned down. We see booze in the store and we know we’re not going to drink it. we have hard days and we practise other ways to avoid drinking.

Then around 6 months it gets better again (now it’s like we’re really during the volume down to about 3 out of 10) … and sometime between 8 to 10 months sober the volume is even better still (volume 1). I’ve heard from others, and I believe them, that after one year it’s even easier again (mostly zero with occasional static).

Do I think about Not Drinking all the time? No. I spend about an hour a day writing emails and/or writing on the blog. maybe 2 hrs tops on longer days. That’s my personal choice. lots of sober people certainly spend no time at all writing/blogging. Am I spending this time because I’m trying to ward off an alcohol craving? No, quite the reverse.  I seem to be able to articulate booze-shit and so i have been a sober penpal. At times I feel flattered, then scared that there’s so much need, then I feel grateful, then I feel thrilled when Simpson Sister is on a plane (sober) on her day 35, and she’s never been sober this long in 10 years and she emailed from the plane to tell me she was sober! That rocks.

That’s why I’m still involved as much as I am now. I get to be a tiny cheerleader for some amazing sober journeys.

But me personally, do I think *about drinking*? maybe once every 4-10 days for about 10 minutes. I think it’s getting less and less. If it’s possible to understand, I can write about it like this to you, but in no way does this make me want to drink, nor do I even consider this *thinking about drinking* … I feel like it’s a connection to you, a human, with a real question. My own wolfie is NOT speaking to me at all when I write about quitting, or managing cravings, or dealing with stress, or even when i write about drinking.

[I don’t even know if that makes sense.]

if our brains have a mini version of OCD, a disordered thinking, it’s not going to change at all until the booze is removed. the alcohol itself feeds the wolfie. it feeds into the depressed, hopeless, cyclic thinking. only once the alcohol is gone for a brief period of time (100 days ish) might you begin to figure out what you REALLY think about everything. And you know, if you hate being sober at 100 days … you can drink again 🙂

You’re not broken. If you are broken then so is every other person who’s gotten sober. We all started somewhere, and it’s possible to be sober without angst because a bunch of us have done it. Are doing it.

I am alcohol-free. I’m not counting days. I have an Excel chart and I can look up the day, but I never know what it is anymore. I see booze and it doesn’t scream ‘drink me’. my husband can drink and I don’t care (he isn’t now, but he could, and did). I have dinner parties and vacations and I travel booze-free. I never thought I’d be here. never. never. ever. It’s better than I can even describe. the freedom from the noise, the freedom from the bondage, the freedom from the never-ending grief. Being sober is way fucking easier. that’s why I’m here… it’s like a gift. that you get to open every day …

love
me

The first thing they say is “what can i get you to drink?”

I’m pleased to say that 5 more bracelets were put in to the mail on Tuesday …

And i already have 5 submissions for the bubble photo.

This bit of genius came in from Shel (day 74):

I have to say that I feel a little worried/guilty that staying sober feels so normal THIS TIME.  I have been uncomfortable on a few occasions mainly either worrying before the event or being at an event when everyone starts the stupid drunk conversations … GEEZE and to think that used to be me.

I am so happy to be truly living each day and truly present for the special people in my life.  I do occasionally have the “maybe I could resume social drinking one day” thoughts and I laugh out loud and say “what’s the point”.  If you think about it, what exactly IS the point??

I see how people get together and the first thing that is said when you walk through the door is “what can I get you to drink?” Why not “I am so happy to see you, how is everything, lets sit down and chat for a few minutes.” Now that is really connecting.

Then as the night goes on and the drinks go in the conversations become even more detached and superficial.  I was honestly sitting at the last party and everyone was talking about the dog hair that ISN’T in their house because of obsessive cleaning….WHAT?  This conversation held 3 other drinkers captive with head shaking, cheers, and oh yes me too’s….argh.

OK, getting off my soapbox now…I am not dropping my guard and getting cocky cuz I know what happens then, Wolfie sneaks up behind you and practically pours the drink down your throat before you know what has happened … my shield is staying in place and ready to protect my sobriety.

Talk to ya later. ~ Shel

Team 100 update: 107 members, welcome to Casse’s Mom (day 9).  Happy days to: Carrie (95), Simpson Sister (55), Victoria (14), Sunny Sue (100), PP (10), Mary (20), Jackie (50), and Lex (10).