“got sucked into a bottle every night”

Happy Day 100 to Pam 🙂

From my inbox:

Kelly (day 10): “Getting sober this time around is completely different than my previous attempts. With AA I felt that if I didn’t do my steps absolutely properly and attend those meetings with an open mind, I would slip.  Despite my best efforts to be a good AAer, I slipped and fell and was never able to return.  I then tried going to a addiction support group run through the local hospital, but even being accountable with a urine test every week and some very good intended counsellors, it did not fit the bill of what I needed.

And then 9 days ago I found your website and it’s been a different journey all together.  I believe I was finally ready and because I was, it helped me find you and all my other kindred spirits.  What lit a spark in me was that I was to email you every day … checking in so to speak, but also, it was the extension of friendship and support to a total stranger that put me here at day 10.  I was stunned that within minutes of writing you to say I wanted to do the 100 day challenge, you wrote back!  If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought it was an auto reply! LOL  From that moment on, I knew someone out there gave a damn about me getting sober.

All I had to do was stay sober and write you every day to say I was…nothing more.  No smoothies, no exercise routine, no recommended reading, no telling the world that I was a drunk…the only thing you did was suggest I treat myself…WOW..what a fucking concept!  I have spent so much of my life (as have so many women) beating myself up and doing for everyone else, but me, no, I somehow never made the short list or the long list for that matter.  Today, I am the only one on the list and I treat daily with the simple pleasure of Tim Hortons cappuccino mix in my nightly coffee and an new African violet for my office.

You gave me permission to be kind to myself during a veryyyyyyyyyy difficult time in my life.  So as per your “dry drunk” audio, I couldn’t agree more.  As you said, my only job is to stay sober and whatever methods one uses to achieve that, then fine.  But the last thing we need is a list of “gotta dos” and feeling like we’ve failed in doing sober correctly!

The thing that has contributed to moving from day 1 to day 10, is that I finally feel that I am with others that I can finally relate to.  Not just the “oh I drank wine every day”, but moreover, the down and out humiliating shit that I did or did not do because of booze.  I have been reading the blogs (yours and others) and I am finding such solace knowing that I am not the only intelligent, self sufficient, loving, generous, etc. woman who got sucked into a bottle every night…not the only woman who regrets the years of memories lost, or who behaved in ways that still feels humiliating to remember.  You and these other women have given me the strength to slowly forgive myself, put the past behind me and greet each day with gratefulness and see it as an opportunity to live my life with grace and kindness. Hugs xo.” (she’s now on day 12)

Team 100 update: Welcome to MayaRose (8), Hazeleyes (3), KnxGrl (7), mkstafford (18), Carol Anne (44), Laurel (2), Davena (2), Maria (14), SR (4), and Christmas (6).

The Click

From Lurker D:  From other experiences, I know that once “the click” happens [for me and sobriety] — the switch that says I WILL do this — it’s like invisible tracks are laid down and even though it’s still hard, it’s almost like a foregone conclusion … I’ve gone through periods of not drinking that actually weren’t too bad, I just can’t seem to make the CLICK happen now to want to be sober again.

Can you offer any sense of how you finally made the click happen — why was it different when you finally gave up drinking? What made the switch? I’m sure you’d thought of it so many other times. What was different?

me:  You’re asking interesting questions. I think that a lot of people have to have some kind of a ‘bottom’ before they quit. Something at risk, something in jeopardy.

The problem then, of course, is that even when they want to quit, the wolfie voice that says “it’s not so bad you can just have one” is so loud that they can’t barely turn it off even when they’re going to lose their job, lose their kids, lose their marriages.

I didn’t have a CLICK either. I guess you could argue that I didn’t have to get sober. I hadn’t … lost my job (yet), lost my marriage (yet), gotten a DUI (yet). Except that I knew that I was missing out — on opportunities, on feeling good, on good sleep, on restful vacations. I knew that i was drinking more than I wanted to. I just couldn’t figure out how to drink less…

I didn’t have a CLICK.  Instead, I realized that if it was so hard for me to quit even for a few days, then that was probably already an indication of a problem. And if it wasn’t a problem YET, it was going to soon become one.

So I thought I’d prove to myself that I was in control, and that even though my life was ‘fine’ (ha!), I tried to quit for 30 days (Dry July).  It was hard. Very hard. And I couldn’t do it alone. Couldn’t do it without knowing someone else who’d also done it.

The feelings of being ‘outside’ when you first stop drinking are hard. But once you are brave enough to reach out to people who understand that, have ideas on how to navigate that, and who’ve lived through that — well, without support it was too hard for me to do. I couldn’t do it ‘alone’. [You do not have to be a blogger to be sober. At all. But if you don’t blog, you might benefit hugely from having a sober penpal.]

I didn’t have a CLICK. I did not wake up one day determined to get and be sober.

Instead, I thought “I’ll give up drinking for 30 days and then I’ll decide.” That’s all.

And at about 9 days sober I realized it was much harder than I thought… so I got some accountability and some help by commenting on sober blogs, and then I started my own blog. But not everyone needs to blog, that’s me.

But yes, I felt ‘outside’ and sad about being sober. But not for very long.  I felt antsy and irritated that the rest of my life wasn’t magically glorious once I got sober. But that sad feeling didn’t last for long either. The benefits of being sober far, far outweighed the downsides once I got some sober time together.

in the early sober days, it’s just too hard to decide anything. The wolfie voice is too loud. The only way I know to get the fucking voice to shut up long enough for me to make a sensible decision was to be sober, continuously, for at least 90 days … which is why the ‘100 day’ challenge … in my mind, it gives you the gift of clarity.

If you don’t think sobriety is worth it, you could drink again at the end of 100 days.  But if you get to 100 days, things really DO seem different just by being there.  Every single sober person I’ve communicated with has complained that the wolfie voice won’t stop when they’re first trying to quit drinking. The only answers I’ve ever read (or experienced) that made any sense to me are:  stop drinking and talk to other people who have been through the same thing to realize that you’re not crazy.  Get a sober penpal. Read sober blogs. And have faith that it will get better.

And after a bit of time, when i was reading sober blogs, I realized that I ‘wanted what they seemed to have’: the people with longer term sobriety seemed to have a peace of mind and a relief from the compulsive crazy thoughts that just.don’t.stop.  Well, the compulsive crazy feelings do NOT stop until you dehydrate the wolf… (I wrote this on day 50ish of sobriety: http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2012/08/20/dehydrate-the-wolf/ ).  Get sober.  Everything else happens after that point.

I hope some of this is helpful.  hugs from me

“I got *me* back”

From me:

Today I feel dumb and irritated. I made a mistake on a client’s account that i can’t easily fix. I’m trying to find a solution but i’m not that smart today.  I’ve been sitting here stewing about it. I went for a walk, and came home, and the client is out of the country. and it’s up to me to fix it and i don’t think i can. And this too shall pass. Apparently. Some day.

In better news, I did my one-on-one calls on Saturday and it was a very cool experience. I set up my day with a few calls then a break, then a few more calls and another break.

Well, you know how you’re supposed to look for times when you’re in a ‘state’ and where time passes quickly? Like when you’re at the beach and you look up and wowie 6 hrs have gone by?  Well, I can honestly say that Saturday went by in a blink, like a trip to the beach. I would look up from 4 back-to-back calls and realize that two whole hours had gone by. And I felt full-up instead of tired.

It’s so fascinating to speak with you directly. To see how much we have in common. That which connects us is so much more than that which separates us.  I got lots of lovely emails and comments and all I’m feeling is gratitude.  I get to be the cheerleader on some amazing, personal journeys.  I have a front row seat while you figure out that being sober is worth the work. And then we all get to see who you really are 🙂  Man-o-man it’s so awesome.

Also, honestly, this is the first time probably in my life that i’m getting paid to do something where the money aspect is completely divorced from the experience of doing the work.  I don’t really know how to explain that, but it’s like the money is so inconsequential to the excitement of being a cheerleader. Yeah, i guess that’s it. The more formal money-for-coaching aspect is a weird byproduct that squirts out one end, while i’m talking on the phone with you over here.

On the phone with you and you and you. Let’s do it again soon.

From my inbox:

Katherine recently celebrated her ONE year sober-versary.  And here’s the email she sent:

I drank like I needed it to survive for 5 years, and things got progressively worse.  Life got harder than it should have been.  Last summer on August 9th, 2012 was the last time I had wine or any numbing liquid.  The early days of sobriety were slow and sucked.  Every day I’d say ‘I’ll drink tomorrow, not today’.  I re-learned how to LOVE and take care of myself without wine!

These are some of the things that I did this year sober for the first time in a long time…

1. I woke up feeling great for 365 mornings!
2.  I didn’t waste money on wine.
3. I was able to face conflicts with courage for 365 days.
4. I can remember every conversation and event sober this year.
5. No more guilt, shame, disappointment and depression!
6. I quit the crazy job and got a much better job! Interviewing sober!
7. I don’t fight with my teen daughter anymore like I used to. Being a better role model.
8.  I set better parenting rules and follow through with them now.
9.  I EAT dinner now, instead of drinking through it.
10.  Sober sex.
11. First outdoor concert sober and had a blast.
12  First Thanksgiving without wine. Turkey doesn’t have to have wine with it!
13. First Christmas without wine.
14. First birthday without wine.
15. First New Years Eve without wine.
16.  No wine at the Casino.
17. No wine on vacation.
18.  No wine at bbq’s, restaurants, parties or the Super Bowl.
19.  Friday nights sober.
20.  Lost some friends being sober.
21.  Truly feeling calm and content…goodbye anxiety.
22. Treating myself to little rewards along the year, like specialty coffees, teas, ice cream, manicures, magazines and flowers.
23.  Reading blogs for support!
24. Waking early!

The list goes on and on… I am so happy to have returned to my lovely, happy self and that is the biggest reward of the year!!!

25.  I got ME back!!!

Hugs, Katherine

~

Sarita (day 60): You’re hilarious and real Belle! That’s why I look forward to your posts and emails. When the world is swirling around and I get Belle Mail, my heart skips a beat. It’s going to be real. “It’s a real one!!!” I say to myself. I won’t have to apply filters. I can relax and breathe thru this one. A colorful often humorous and/or insightful message — in my inbox. How lucky am I?!! I am so grateful to you!

~

Karen (day 8): As soon as I signed up for your class I felt a sense of calm.  Something about your voice and speaking style is very reassuring.  I felt I was going in the right direction and the daily audio lessons proved it.  I was successful the first week and believe I have the momentum to keep going.  I’m looking forward to what you have to offer in the future.

~

Earthy Mama (day 5): “I love being sober!  I saw this yesterday  “Fear is a liar. You don’t deserve to hang out with liars.” It immediately made me think about wolfie. I don’t want to hang out with wolfie. Wolfie is an asshole. I’m breaking up with wolfie like a toxic relationship. When wolfie calls, I won’t be answering. 🙂

Team 100 Update:

215 members, welcome to Stacey (49), April (15), The Soberist (4), Krystie (3), CT (2).  Happy Days to Jen (mommy) (4), Kate (136), Lawyer Anne (133), Lauren (148), Sunny Sue (167), and Lane (135).  Happy day 60 to Sarita. Happy 100 days to Laura. 

oh yeah, hobbies are supposed to be FUN

When Christina and I started this sober photography project, i would send her the assignment and she would (spontaneously) send me back her picture. Like, usually the same day. And she was so freaking excited. For the first assignment, I did my picture right away, too. But something happened to me with the bubble picture.

and maybe you can relate.

I suffered from a regular problem of mine. In my Job #1, I am a designer.  So (unfortunately) I can imagine an idealized idea of a ‘bubble’ picture in my head, and it was something that I was going to have to stage in a café with a bottle of water, and a glass and a straw, and sunlight, and a piece of lemon. I could imagine the final image right down to the kind of glass I wanted. and the angle of the straw.

So to take a picture in a café, this means I will have to leave my house (!), have a sunny day (!), and have the right background (!), etc.  On the day in question, I asked my husband at about 2 pm if he could stop working and come with me to the café to take my bubble picture, because i would feel too nervous pulling out my big stooopid camera, if alone at the table in front of a glass of water.

He rightfully said no, he had to work.

Right there I realized that I do this all the time with hobbies.  While I do good work for clients, I know that “good enough is good enough.” Unfortunately I often suck at applying the concept in my personal life.  I am typically someone who does things at the end of the deadline period, rather than at the beginning.  I’m never late, and I never need an extension, BUT I do (often, every day) wait until things are more perfect.

Should i do the dishes now or after the next thing? Vacuum first or dust first? Like is there a right way to do any of this stuff, so long as it gets done. and for fuck’s sake, it’s an online anonymous photography project that was – at that time – between me and ONE other person, the lovely christina. Yeah, seems like the right time to over think…. not.

I do get stuff done, but i also think first (for a long time) about the right way to do it.  the most efficient way. This is useful in my business life. It perhaps has no place in the world of fun.

Faced with a FUN project, a hobby thing, and I pulled out all of my same perfectionistic ideas. And particularly with artistic things (because i’m a designer), I have an idea in my head of what i want the result to be, and I am often frustrated when the final creative artsy-project result does not match the vision I had in my head.  Like, I can picture what I want a painting or a photo to look like, but I can’t create it because of limited talent, limited time, or limited patience.

So when I realized that i was having this anti-fun-thought-process about the bubble picture, I emailed Christina and said: “I am going to shoot my bubbles picture TODAY. no matter what. just to begin to teach myself a lesson. I’m glad we’re doing this together.  I’m not sure what you’re learning, but I’m learning a lesson about hobbies and perfectionism.  Just enjoy it, Belle. stop trying to make it into ‘something’ …”

So I took my camera out for dinner where I was meeting friends.  I ordered bottled water, and asked for a tall glass and a straw. It did NOT look like the image i had in my head. And now I have a table of people staring at me. I take the picture, claiming some “photography project,” and then the dinner continues.

When I get home, I open up the image, flick some switches in Adobe, and come up with something I like.

In fact, I like it a lot. I send a copy to Christina AND I wait up late until my husband gets home so that I can show him my bubble picture.

It has, yes, shockingly, turned out better than the one i originally envisioned.

And for lots of reasons, I’m re-learning that HOBBIES are supposed to be FUN and are not meant to be PERFECT, and not every picture has to SAY SOMETHING, and not every bad image is really bad once you whack some Adobe Lightroom on it… I may be also learning that with photography, at least for me, any picture is better than NO picture.  and that adobe lightroom can make an average picture much improved.

Original Image

Original image (good enough!)
Original image (good enough!)

 

Photo post-processing

Finished image (happier with this than i thought i'd be!)
Finished image (happier than i thought i’d be!)

[*PS if anybody gives a rat’s ass about how adobe lightroom works, i’d be happy to share … or show you how to use free online software to achieve basically the same results…. anyway, lemme know]

and as I wrote in the blog comments a couple of days ago: “… that might be the KEY right there — just do it. don’t wait to be amazing. just have fun … I think as boozers we’ve forgotten about fun : ) it’s *where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter*. Fun is where there is no grade, there is no judgement, there is no competition. It’s when you play Pictionary without keeping score. It’s when you play Monopoly but lend your neighbor money so you can keep playing. With fun, there is no one-upping, there is no monetary gain, there is no impressing anybody. There’s just fun. Yes, and Yes, and Yes!”

Oh yeah, fun.  who knew i’d have to re-learn how to have fun. who knew I could learn it taking pictures?

And I got this in my inbox: “I don’t know what I am learning from this but I do know that it is providing a frisson of excitement that is lacking as I adjust to a life without so many bubbles.”

Happy Sunday 🙂

Team 100 update: 110 members, welcome to Sterling (3), Jessica (4), and Noeleen (1).  Celebrations for Lynda and Mr. Lynda (90), Whineless (61), DDG (90), Brandy (40), Mr. Belle (60), Katie & Rachel (7), Christina (71), Debra (140), Diane (71), Leah (35), Sam (10), Carolyn (21), Catkin (7), Gindy (71), Tiffany (10), Meka (11), Overndout (7). Welcome back to Lurker M (7).

100 days

100 days yesterday. bought myself a new pottery teacup as my reward.  i’m just back from a wonderful 4-day vacation, warm temperatures, lots of lounging, walking, eating good food. and upon arriving home, my 90 day reward (a big electric griddle) had arrived in the mail, so now there may be homemade english muffins in my future.

on my vacation, no cravings to drink. no thoughts whatsoever.  thankfully, it looks like a quiet week work-wise, which would be a blessing since the day before we left for vacation i think i worked 16 hrs … and the first day of vacation required a 3-hr nap to reset : )

get to the point, belle!

All is well now. i have laundry to do (who cares). i have a desk full of paperwork (yippee). and i really need to go to the big store and get big groceries (blech).  all is well. wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than here …