got grief?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

there is no right way

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

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

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

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

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

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

[underlined bits are my emphasis added]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 chocolate chip cookies in your honor

Thanks again to Amy (day 125) for linking to Roger Ebert’s blog post about alcoholism.  I spent the weekend (no, really) reading the one billion comments on his post. Here’s one comment that I loved. I don’t know this chick, but I wish I did:

Molly: Alcoholism is a behavior, it’s a reaction. It has nothing to do with the amount you drink. Rather it’s the decisions your body and brain make when you have been drinking. You do things you would never do when sober. You drive drunk, you get emotional, you pick fights with strangers. You sleep around, you become belligerent, you skip work. Sometimes it happens after one drink. Sometimes after many.

For those hung up on the “higher power” aspect [of AA], I encourage you to count your blessings. Life may not have always been good or fair to you, but you have not actually reached rock bottom. For when you do, you will gladly and easily give yourself up to a higher power. You will look at a radiator, a door knob, the person next to you, and you will know and cherish how truly lucky you are to be standing there, in that spot. You will trust anyone and everything that might even, in the slightest, help you make it through the next hour, the next day, the next week. Similar to hugging the toilet and saying over and over again, “Just get me through this. I swear I will never do this again. I will never touch the stuff ever again.” That is how you cling to your fellow AA members. You ask them, you beg of them, to help you, to forgive you, to show you the way. And they do, and they do over and over again, and likewise you do, and you do over and over again. And you are easy on each other, and you are hard on each other, and you lean on each other and you prop each other up. You are their higher power and they are yours.

And you believe it because you have witnessed it. Because that is the only way to explain your standing there, your being there. They are pinching you to remind you that you are still there, that you are still you, that you are still worthwhile.

[underlined bits are my emphasis added]

i know that the online world is not the same as AA (i’ve said it before, and i’m going to keep saying it).  BUT. i’m super beyond thankful every day to be in the company of such amazing sober friends. You prop me up. I can lean on you. i can ask questions and get answers.  Thanks you 🙂 I’ve just eaten four chocolate chip cookies in your honor. They were warm, right out of the oven. There’s a bowl of dough in the fridge. I can make some for you too if you need a pick-me-up.

Team 100 update: We now have 32 members, welcome to our newest members: Lawyer Anne (2), WalkSober (4) and Mumscriber (3). Also, gigantic happiness and parades to Heidi (30). And Terri hits 100!

there’s no numbness in one glass of wine

My good god i have so much to share. so many fan-tabulous emails, comments, insights. Let’s start here.

In explaining why she wants to be sober now, KC (day 22 today) wrote to me that she’d been sober for a long time (5 years?) and then …

… This cool guy was asking me out for beers after work, and I did the club soda thing for a long time.  Then I figured that clearly I had no problem anymore, and it snowballed pretty quickly to where I would’ve been if I’d never stopped. It’s always been about the anaesthesia, the wrapping up in cotton wool. Pitiful little urchin looking for a liquid hug, someone to say it’s all going to be fine. Yeah yeah, got it.  So now it needs to be about facing life head-on, no more insulating away.

What I would do differently this time: remember I CANNOT DRINK.  I’m not afraid of it, like some AA messages seem to want me to be. I will not cower down in fear before it. I just can’t do it, it does not work at all, same as how I can’t eat this food I’m allergic to.  My only focus during drinking has ever been to get numb, so I will never be able to moderate. Drinking is for other people.  I’ve already drunk enough for 4-5 lifetimes anyway – already put waaaay too many miles on that chevy.

[underlined bits are my emphasis]

KC said i could share this because it’s so damn lovely. i’d never heard the expression ‘liquid hug’ before, but it’s perfect, isn’t it.  really really perfect.

also the idea that if you want to get numb, then moderation is never going to do the job.  there’s no numbness in one glass of wine, there’s only irritation that we can’t have more.

i love this.  I know that i need to learn this lesson over and over again.  and so i’m glad to be writing this today.  I see it now.  I see it more clearly now.  Thanks KC.  Moderation is never going to do the job.

Team 100 update: Lilly (Day 31), Carrie (30), VP (28),  Ellen /Whineless is traveling and she’s on day 12. Welcome to Erica and Kate, our two newest members. We are 29 members today. If you’d like to join the 100 day challenge, read more here … even if you already have a bunch of sober days, you can commit to doing 100 more.

Learn From.

thanks to Amy, I literally spent 2 full days this weekend reading every single comment on Roger Ebert’s really amazing post about alcoholism and AA. I made a list of the most outstandingly thoughtful quotes and bits.

Here’s one.

Ebert: My own best efforts always ended in drinking. I needed to learn from those who had my problems, or sometimes much worse, and were staying sober. For me, the meetings accomplished for me what I could not do on my own.

I like the phrase “my best efforts” … i think what he’s saying is that on his own, using his own way of thinking, in his best attempts to find a solution, he still ended up drinking.  So he had to learn to listen to other people who had figured out how to stay sober.

This made me think of my feelings of NOT being terminally unique. And about mentors. As a person who is NOT going to AA, i’m super wowie excited glad happy amazed elated thankful grateful for the sobersphere. Newbies asking intelligent and scared questions. And people with LOTS more experience than me pointing out tree roots that i’ll need to step over, and warning about weird faulty logic that MAY spiral out into weird faulty actions.

I know this online thing isn’t the same as AA. and i know that not everyone’s problems can be solved by blogging and reaching out and asking for help and taking advice and learning to resist urges and trusting other people.  I get it.  I’m lucky. AND I’ve worked to get to where I am now, and i’m freaking proud of it … “I needed to learn from those who had my problems…”  Learn from.  Not just listen to and then ignore.  I had to Learn From. I had to let someone else’s learning inform me. I had to learn from.

i think that’s why lots of people don’t go to AA, and don’t reach out for help, and lurk, and keep drinking. They think they’ve got it figured out already. they don’t want to learn anything new … That’s not you, though. You’re here, you’re reading this, you’re online, you’re reaching out, you’re learning.

thinking about ‘never’ gets us stuck

K says: “so grateful to be a part of this challenge – it is helping me in so many ways.”

then I say “can you elaborate?” and she says …

Well, i have to say that i have about 100 reasons not to drink, but when i have a craving or someone asks me if i want to go out for beers … i often can’t think of a single one of my reasons to not drink. [it’s going to make me feel like absolute hell tomorrow? it’s expensive? i will look like a fool when one of my roommates wakes up to pee at four in the morning and i’m alone in the dark living room, hammered and still drinking like tomorrow is not a word in my vocabulary?] All of those reasons seem to disappear when I want to drink. Or i tell myself i will behave this time and will drink normally, and go to bed when everyone else does. (i never do.)

Being a part of the challenge has eliminated alcohol as an option for me, so when asked to go drinking in the last few weeks, my answer is an absolute, “no thank you.” It’s the first and only thing that comes to my mind.

also what i like about the challenge is that it is 100 days — not forever. in the past, i have gone from drinking my brains out, to saying i am going to stop forever. and then a really enticing opportunity to drink would arise and i would think, “well forever can start tomorrow, or after xyz event.” A hundred days is a very short time compared to forever, and for now it is a number that seems more significant than 30 and easier to swallow than, say, 365.

*

It’s funny that K wrote about “forever” because I had just written something along the same lines to Carrie.  And I wrote this for Carrie twice, cuz in the space of 24 hrs, she asked virtually the same question two separate times 🙂

I do believe that thinking about ‘never’ gets us stuck.  in early sobriety, everything is hard. so the BIG idea of ‘never’ is just too much to do right now.

the only plan I have is to not drink today.  and perhaps not drink tomorrow.  the rest of it, I’ll deal with it when it comes.  and the longer I’m sober, the more I realize that I’m likely to continue treating it the same way I have up to now. and that is a huge giant fucking relief.

is it never? I don’t even have to think about what never means.  I just have to do my thing.  and keep doing it.  rise, lather, repeat.  sure, I’m sure that ‘never’ gives a kind of comfort, but I’m just the kind of girl who hates rigid rules and might just rebel.  so I know me well enough, that if I’ve found something that’s working, I’m not changing it.  not even a tiny bit.  I’m just doing this.  again.  and again tomorrow 🙂

All of the muddled up thoughts (“is this forever?”) do stop.  It’s just wolfie rebelling, trying to find loopholes, ways out, ways to drink again.  and here’s the TRUTH:  you’re doing fine. even if you don’t believe me.  [this is why you’ve reached out for advice from others, because you truly can’t tell… that you’re ALREADY doing everything right.]

you’re not drinking.  that’s it. That’s all you have to do 🙂

9 months

not a typo, not an april fool’s joke. today is my 9 month sober-versary… no shit!

besides all of the anticipated comments about how i’ve birthed a baby or grown a human in this time, how i’ve become me, etc. etc. lemme say this: something has changed for me this month.

When I was 8 months sober, i was like “well, that’s a nice accomplishment.” And as I got closer and closer to 9 months, i realized something else entirely new.  I began to know that I’m easily going all the way to 1 year.  I mean, really, it’s only a short 3-month coast downhill from here.  My sober car has enough momentum now that i can easily see my one year sober-versary coming up.

also, now that the sober car is moving downhill, under its own speed, I no longer have to have both hands firmly clenched at 10-and-2 all the time. I have started to be able to relax and look around at the scenery.

This wasn’t a planned transition — are transitions ever planned? — i just realized maybe two or three days ago that I’m done with all of the struggle. I’m done with cravings in any meaningful way. I periodically have a thought like “wine would be a good idea right now” but those thoughts aren’t very well formed, and they have no possibility of turning into an action.

Update on Team 100: Anne is working on day 22, Emily on 13, and Heidi had a truly crappy weekend and she’s on day 21. Lynda is nearly day 14 (celebrations!). And me, i’m on day 275 (my first day 100% sober was July 1st. My longest sober stretch before that was about 9 days … this is a tiny bit longer than 9 days now!).

Being Sober is Like …

Today is Easter, and whether you celebrate it or not, it’s a great time for resurrecting, right?  🙂 Thanks to Whineless (day 3) for the great title.

You might think it’s hard to describe how great it is to be sober. Apparently Carrie (21) has no problem finding the words:

“Being sober is like the smell of freshly baked bread every morning when I wake up. It’s like the smell of fresh cut grass when I go outside. It feels like the last day of school as I go about my day.  Like stretching your legs after a really long car journey when I get home. At  the very end of my day, it’s like getting into bed when the sheets have just been cleaned. It’s like the white noise that you didn’t notice in the background of your thoughts suddenly stops. I can’t get enough of that silence. Being sober is all of this and with support it is even more. It’s when someone puts a blanket on you just as you are about to fall asleep. That’s you, that is. You do that.”

So how great is it to be sober? Her email got me thinking.

  • It’s like a Sunday long run, where you get all the green lights, taxis stop to let you cross, and then you run along the water in a group of other runners
  • It’s like when your husband makes you a tuna sandwich, because he does a better job, cuz he puts in bits of minced garlic
  • It’s like eating the best piece of red velvet cake, on a holiday weekend, after your long run, reading a brand new magazine, with a cup of coffee
  • It’s like a trip up the Eiffel Tower, a tour through the Vatican, a midnight walk across the Tower Bridge (with a full moon!).
  • It’s like swimming in the ocean and then stretching out on a blanket to dry off in the sun

And you? Can you describe how great it is to be sober … “It’s like…  [insert here]”

Happy Easter, or Happy Sunday, or Happy Whatever this day means to you 🙂 Love, me (274)

we feed it cake and say “shut the fuck up”

That desire to drink, it’s so boring. it comes and goes without warning, sometimes even without reason. The desire to drink is like a 3-year old having a temper tantrum. You’re going along fine, then the temper tantrum starts.  You look at your 3-year old and you think, “What? Now? In the bakery? You want wine now?” But if we can treat our desire to drink just like a whining 3-year old, we’d say: “yes, I hear you, but the answer is no.” Then the whining gets quieter.  That, and we feed it cake and say “shut the fuck up” 🙂

[I just sent that message to Jenny, in response to a comment about how the desire to drink is ‘here today, gone tomorrow’.]

and let me just say three cheers for Heidi, she is on day 19 today. Amy is 114. K is on day 16 🙂  There are now 23 of us on Team 100. And we’re all sober today.  So far as I know 🙂

Let there be cake.

i am well.  the 2-day irritation has passed.  seems to all be about sleep for me (no shit!).  i had a crappy night’s sleep Monday night (worrying about a big meeting on Tuesday), and then the lack of sleep snowballed as the week went on (thankfully a short week so only felt truly terrible on Wed and Thurs).  Now it’s a 4-day holiday weekend (at least for those of us following very queen-like schedules! all the colonies anyway…). I have been able to maintain running 5 days a week, even went for a run last night at 7:30 pm which, as i said to Anne, is a new thing for me… “now I do laundry after dinner!  now I sometimes work!  last night I went for a run … completely unheard of … sober girls = we get shit done :)”

and yes, it’s only early in the morning, but I’ve been waiting to say happy day 60 to Jenni, Day 19 to MysteryGirl, and Day 10 to KMCC.

There are now 20 of us on Team 100, that’s pretty wild! Welcome to newest joiner, Jen (Mommy’s Journey).

And only 2 people have emailed to ask that their counter begin again at 1.  One person, after she slipped, said she wasn’t going to count days and that she needed a little bit of time… I told her i wasn’t deleting her name from the list … and less than a week later she emailed back to say she’d been sober since the last email… so she’s on the chart again and is on day 5.

OK, so this isn’t a statistical thing, of course, but 20 out of 20 of us are sober. Two people slipped and got right back at it …

And me? I get to read the best emails every single morning.

  • “Sober.”
  • “Sober.”
  • “Sober and happy about it.”
  • “I have a cold and i’m going to bed sober.”
  • “I’m cleaning up vomit thank god i’m sober.”
  • “My crazy family makes me crazy, I will remain sober.”
  • “Your red velvet chocolate cake is nearly as good as the cheesecake.”

OK, that last one is from a catering client.  If she only knew what the rest of my inbox looked like!

CAKE 🙂  let there be cake.  Sober girls need cake. Leave it to me to devolve to cake in each and every post …