awkward

this is weird, and awkward. (Yes, i’m sober. It’s another kind of weird.) i’m struggling to write this. i’ve been thinking for days about how to start this post. whether to write it all. I talked to Mr. Belle and to Lawyer Anne. i can’t come up with a good solution. so i’m going to try this.

Problem:

Some of the people in the Sober Challenge have said things like “how can i thank you” or “i feel like i’m a burden to you” or “i don’t want to email too often because I know you have a lot of people on your list.”

And i’ve tried before to write about how GREAT it is to be your sober penpal. But there don’t seem to be enough words, or reassurances, or hugs i can give you that convey: yes, email me, i’m glad to hear from you.

I woke this morning to a message from Colleen (day 6), she writes: “I don’t know why you are doing this amazing thing for me and others but I appreciate you so much and hope you are getting something out of all this.”

And here’s my answer to her:

“it’s hard to explain, but really, to read your email [that you’re sober and doing well], it just lights up my day.  I know that drinking sucks us into a pit of despair.  You can’t believe how super fabulous it is to witness people fighting their way out of the pit.  It’s really truthfully impressive. I get to witness your strength and that’s just such an amazing thing to watch.  Cuz this shit ain’t easy!  And I get built-in-sobriety-insurance.  How could I possibly drink now? You’re doing the hard shit.  Me, all i have to do these days is bat away a few ideas now and then. I couldn’t give in to wolfie now when others are fighting much harder …

You inspire me.  How’s that? And all you have to do is get up, run, be honest, send an email, and you’re an inspiration 🙂

… would it make you feel better if you could give me something in return? does it really feel so unbalanced? maybe I’ll go and take out an anonymous post-office box with a really glamorous address, so people can mail me chocolates… not that I need any more, I assure you. Can you mail donuts? Probably not! Too bad, I can’t get donuts here…

So after i send that email, i make a cup of tea, i go for a run in the rain, and i talk to my husband again.

please hear this.  i know that some people are feeling weird about ‘taking’ from me. and they’re not reaching out as much as they want to cuz they’re feeling guilty or ashamed or something that can’t quite be articulated.

I got this message from Lawyer Anne who is Day 30 today: “…many thanks to you!! I don’t think words can express my appreciation. I wish I could mail you a cake 🙂 Thank you, thank you, thank you – you have helped me save my life. I will be eternally grateful I stumbled upon you on the internet and sent you that first email.”

So.

Here’s what i’m going to do. I’ve put in a little button here that links to paypal. It’s a gift button, you fill in the amount. You don’t have to have a paypal acct to use it (link on bottom left after you click for non-paypal-users).

click here > tiny-gift-button

I will use any gift money to buy treats (i.e. I will not use it to pay the hydro bill!) i will buy cake with it. Or new oven mitts, or tea, or fuzzy socks. If you give $1 that’s fine.   There is no link between you making a gift and me emailing you.

and, to be accountable and transparent, i’ll post pictures of the treats that i purchase with the gift money.

 

today is the best day (part deux)

i just wrote a version of this to KT (who’s on day 9) on Friday, along the lines of “Every Day is a Good Day.” Here’s the original post, from January (when i was about 6.5 months sober):

Today is the Best Day

no matter what you think, when you’re quitting drinking, day one is best day.

it’s the day your sober car starts to roll downhill. it’s the day you’ll get to remember, and look back on, and it’s the day you’ll count from.  it’s your day one.  the first day.  It is the beginning of a parade of days that will go by, each one with its own challenges. … more here

I had an antsy feeling that I could only sum up with these words: “I want wine”

today is a good day but some days are rotten. Some days when we were drinking were rotten, and some days when we are sober are rotten.

DDG (49 days / 7 weeks!) sent me an email last week about feeling rotten, bored, antsy, irritated with the world. nothing to look forward to. and she said “being sober can be SO boring.”

as i was writing back to her (yes, some days suck. they just do), towards the end of the email i wrote out something i’d never really heard before. but once i wrote it i knew it was true.

oh I have lots of completely down days, had several this week.  just have so much to do and can’t get motivated to do any of it. right in the middle of catering on Wednesday I thought “I’m so done with this I never want to do it again.” then sometimes it think “I need a new project” and then other times I think “I should finish some of the projects I have going, like I haven’t filed my taxes yet …” There are whole afternoons lost to the internet and/or cooking tv shows.  And then there are days when I wake up, I feel better, I go for a run, I have a cup of coffee and everything seems fucking perfect.

my only miracle cures for days in the ‘dumps’ are sleep + running + cake.  oh and a bit of tea. and some sunshine …
and then when I have a good day, I’m all like super-analyzing trying to figure out WHY it’s a good day so that I can do it again tomorrow …

[last week on Thursday, on a particularly crappy day] i said to my husband “I’m going out to the store for boxes for mailing stuff and I’m going to get some wine. It feels like a good day for wine.” and Mr. Belle said it probably wasn’t.

Then I went to the store to buy boxes.  I wasn’t really even really really thinking of buying wine.

but I had an antsy feeling that I could only sum up with those words.  after I bought the boxes, I cleaned out my inbox, had tea … the moment of “wine” was really a half-formed-thought-in-a-moment. at 10 months sober, I guess I know that I won’t actually drink.

but some blah days it seems like “this would be a good time for wine” is my go-to response to ‘cover up the day and hide from all of this, are we there yet, is this over yet’ feelings.  Instead, I go to bed early, get up and go for a long run, make a new recipe.

I’m not going to drink because of other disappointing other people. Because I never want to be on Day 1 again. Because I’m afraid if I restart drinking that I won’t be able to find the door into sobriety again and I’ll get stuck out there … I’m afraid because I’m not even sure that the antsy shit I feel is even wolfie at all.  he’s probably asleep and all that’s left is vestiges, worn neural pathways, patterns, habits.  and I am NOT going to drink because of a worn pathway.

and that, she says, is a grand commiseration for bored, blah, this day has no meaning. Knowing that tomorrow will be better.  because it always is. AND THANK FUCKING GOD FOR THAT!

(well, not god, per se …) but you know what i mean

hugs, Belle xoxo

Team 100 update: welcome to new members Lily UK (day 3), Moonbeam (2), JMM (6), Dawn (2), Paula (2), Clare, Allison (10), Allie (2), JG (3), TheDryCork (1), Colleen (4), Chelsie (1).

Celebrations today for: Jenni (day 99!), Sunflower (45), Lynda (49), Ellen/Whineless (20), Victoria (45), Kate (31), Lawyer Anne (28), Brandy (21), Lane (30), Katie (21).

there is so much ‘the same’ about us

One of my sober penpals says she likes that i am just “out there somewhere in Europe” … anonymous, living in the clouds, as if i have no fixed address, or that i live IN her email.

This made me wonder if there is perhaps a benefit in remaining anonymous, with only vague or general details that outline who we are.

I’m not protecting my anonymity anymore just because of my work (though that’s part of it).  it’s also because I think that it doesn’t matter “WHO” we are. The specific aspects that make us different can be distracting and distancing.  “Oh she has kids, doesn’t have kids, her kids are grown … so she wouldn’t understand.” Or “her problems are worse/better than my problems so I don’t belong here.”

I believe, now, that I would like to remain anonymous, because i want to focus on what is the the SAME about the sober world — the things we all have in common (of which there is a metric ton) — despite the specifics on the amounts of alcohol consumed, despite the depths or lengths of the bottoms, despite where we live, or what we do for work.

cuz there is so much ‘the same’ about us. We have/had skewed reward systems. We drank more than we wanted to. We had some degree of compulsive thoughts about booze. OK, maybe my compulsive thoughts could be ignored and/or replaced with other more healthy alternatives, with a dash of teeth gnashing, and a smattering of going to bed early thrown in for good measure. And maybe other people’s compulsive thoughts need medication or rehab or both to cope. But at the root, I think it’s all the same thing, just differing shades.

We have more in common that we realize. and I feel, today, right this minute, that where I live isn’t relevant. It’s an interesting detail. But it doesn’t contribute to the discussion. OK, maybe i’m being a bit weirdly black and white here, but i kind of like the idea that we all just live in the internet clouds, and we drop in on each other like angels. Faceless angels.

Maybe I’m rationalizing, maybe deep down I’m terrified of being discovered. maybe i’m denying, or sounding egotistic. and maybe I’m full of shit. don’t know. this is what I think today (or at least, it’s what I emailed to Ellen last night).

What do YOU think?

Team 100 update: 59 members. Welcome to new members: Erin (13), B (4), Tammy (35). Celebrations for MG (28), KC (14), Malia (14), Walk Sober (14), Sunny Sue (60), & Christina (28).

gold stickers

when we drink, I think our brain gets fucked up about the idea of REWARDS.

“I deserve this. hard week, difficult spouse, i finished the marathon, i’m on vacation, i’ve worked hard.” All those ideas equaled wine for me. Hard work = reward = wine.

And when I first stopped drinking, i was lost … how else could i signal the end of a long day without wine? Where was the off switch — not just to numb me, but to put a clear demarcation between THIS (work), and THAT (relaxation).

Of course, i had to train my brain that there are other ways to ‘celebrate’.  Cuz my fucked up brain had decided that not only were weddings and marathons things to celebrate, but that Tuesday was worth celebrating too. Just getting to 6 pm was in itself a reason to celebrate for me.

what other ways are there to mark celebrations? (OK I know if you’re still drinking, this list will seem absolutely ridiculous): tonic + cranberry right at 6 pm, green tea, a bath, having take out Portuguese food for dinner (of course, in Portugal, they just call it ‘food’). I can celebrate bigger events with new sandals. I celebrated 90 days sober with a big griddle thing to make English Muffins.

Something I learned in my coaching job (job #2), is that the reward system of our brains is sort of like a 4 year old. “You did a good job, here’s a gold sticker.” Do you remember a time when you were motivated by gold stickers? It’s not that long ago. We give ourselves coins, badges, stickers all the time. We get watches and pens and bonuses at work for good performance. But we also get promotions without compensatory pay raises, so in effect we’re rewarded with MORE work and a few kind words.

What i learned from job #2, is that our brains can be retrained when it comes to rewards. (i learned these strategies a long time ago, but until i got sober last July, I never thought to link these ideas to booze; I was originally using these techniques about rewards to reinforce any new behavoir change). And it doesn’t take as long as you think it does to change your brain’s response to rewards.

Here’s an example from job #2, but you’ll see the transparent way it can be about booze (why i didn’t notice this until last July, when i used it to help me stay sober, i have no idea).

Example: you hate to exercise. you think it’s a big gigantic pain in the ass, and even when you feel better after walking on the treadmill, it’s like pulling teeth to get you ON the thing for 15 minutes. So you set up a reward system. You go to the fancy tea store, you buy some mint tea, and you come home, and you say to yourself: Every day when i do 15 minutes on the treadmill, i’ll have a cup of mint tea.

You link a reward to the new action. It has to be immediate, and you have to say “good job” to yourself as you have the tea.  You step off the treadmill, you dance around the garage, and you say “i rock, i’m amazing, i’m going to have some tea to celebrate this treadmill event!”

The first two days, three days, you hate the treadmill, you hate the tea.  You dance, but you’re not enthusiastic.

Then something changes. On day 4 or 5 or 6 you start to think … “i am looking forward to some mint tea today. better get on the treadmill so i can have my tea!” Really. Mint tea. No, really. I’m serious. i have been motivated by mint tea before.

So when i stopped drinking, i celebrated Day 30 and Day 60 and Day 90 (and Day 100, cuz why not). And sometimes when i’m emailing a sober penpal, and she’s coming up to a milestone, i say “do you have a treat planned?” Oh no, i couldn’t, she’ll say. I’ll wait ’til i’m further along before I celebrate…

Really? What about all the smaller bits in between? They can be celebrated too!

Jenni (to celebrate Day 60): “Per your suggestion, I treated myself to: 7 new books from Amazon, essential rosemary oil, and three new t-shirts plus one pair of comfy PJ pants that match one of the t-shirts, emblazoned with tiny cartoon skulls. Just knowing this little treasure trove is on its way is exciting!  These little milestones feel like birthdays used to feel before I got too old to enjoy getting older. If that makes any sense? It truly feels like a special day!! Like a highly anticipated goal that I have worked really hard to reach. And now it’s here and I feel like a giggly kid. Yay for 60 days! I hope you have a delightfully soberlicious day too.” (Jenni is now on day 96!)

Don’t have any ideas for celebration treats? Cake is always good. Don’t have any ideas for how to celebrate your long day? how about a tall glass of tonic water and a bath. I feel now like my life is filled with tea and baths and cake and other small treats.

Just yesterday, i got into the tubbie at 4:30 pm once my catering day was finished, to mark the end of the work day … (and really, there’s nothing better than a daytime bath!). A bath is my go-to reward now. I know, it sounds dumb.  Who is rewarded by a tub of hot water? It may sound ridiculous, but you were once rewarded with gold stickers. And you can again 🙂

perfect photo

Thanks to B for sending me this perfect image 🙂

this time

This time it’s different. I tried to quit before, on my own, it never worked. I could do 2 days or 4 or 7 or even 9 days. But never longer.

Until things changed, and I finally opened myself up to asking for some help. I made my first post on this blog…  And because of that, i am TEN months sober today!

no, i don’t think that blogging is itself the solution. I just think that reaching out is key. Do you have to blog to be sober? Certainly not 🙂 Can you get sober alone in your head with your own best thoughts without outside ideas and support? No, probably not.

Shel (day 31): “This time — because of course this is not my first time quitting — something is different. Alcohol is not an option, gone, off the table, thinking the drink ALL the way through when the little voice starts up.  Last time the bottle was always hovering in my peripheral vision… something shifted, and I feel great. Thank you for being there.”

Simpson Sister (12): “I don’t have room in my head for all the thoughts of the past and all the what if’s of the future.  I only have room for the things that will help me stay sober.  I have freed up space in my mind and that has allowed me to devote the time and energy that it takes to fight off the demons in my head.  It’s working.”

PP (10): “Thanks so much for your support.  I don’t know why, but once I committed to the hundred days.. so far, easy. Of course I could be delusional… and I felt a bit scared this morning… knowing how easy it is to go back and I haven’t come very far. But it is a start and it feels good.”

Lawyer Anne (23): “Thanks for creating a support space for the non-joiners of the world :)”

Team 100 update:  56 members. Welcome to new members: Debbie (day 3), KT (3), and Kristi (2). Let’s have cake for: Victoria (40), Terri (120), Erica (92), Shel (31). And me, i’m day 305. My first sober day was july 1, 2012. Amy votes me most likely to be sober at 11 months. Because I am in such good company, i would have to agree.

“Thanks for giving me a yeast infection”

how and what to tell. and whom. and when.

in the beginning i didn’t want any one to know. i had any number of stories. “i’ve quit drinking until I lose 20 pounds.” then i graduated to saying “I’m doing a self-discipline challenge, no alcohol for three months.”  and people would be like “oh I could never do that.  and I’d raise my eyebrows and say something like “well, I ran a marathon once, this will be easier I figure.” then people end up changing the subject to talk about THEMSELVES and they’ll talk about how they wish they could quit smoking, or run a marathon, or whatever…

i was honestly disappointed to realize how most people don’t really give a shit

if cornered by an evil sister, a weird in-law, a boozing friend who just won’t fucking stop, then I would have just flat-out-lied and created something. Antibiotics is always good. Just say ‘yeast infection’ and that should shut everyone up 🙂 Or you can say “i’ve quit booze for a year, and i’m on month 7 now, i know you won’t give me a hard time about it. right?”

I’ve recently started saying “i’m taking a one year leave of absence from alcohol.”  And when the end of the year comes up, if anyone remembers, which they won’t, then I’ll say “yeah, i liked it more than i thought I would so i’m doing more.”

And look, if you want to say something more, if you want to say you’re in AA or you’ve been to rehab, or you’re recovering or that you’re trying to recover… then say it.  But me, i’m really supportive of you telling what you want, when you want, and how you want. and NOT telling if you don’t want to. I didn’t even tell my husband for weeks.

if you want to be a big version of some authentic you, then please … have at it.  and if you want to be sober, improve your relationships, and not really tell your roommate from college why you look so good when you run into her at Starbucks, then I think you have every right to your privacy.  there’s that big group with the word “anonymous” right there in the title 🙂  if you find security and comfort in anonymity, then I say great. if you want to take out a full page ad, that’s OK too 🙂

Actual email i got Sunday from a sober penpal: “Thanks for giving me a yeast infection!!!!!!!! Love that.” [and later] “Well, this yeast infection is a bloody godsend. I’m sooooo glad I contracted it! Easy peasy evening, felt so simple not to drink. I would normally have been blotto by 7 pm, talking shit. Now I just talk shit, sober.”

saturdays might be tough, but …

weekends present special challenges. all this free time. the gaping space that needs to be filled. i would often start drinking at about 3 pm, and that would pretty much take care of the rest of the day. now that i’m not drinking, i sometimes find myself doing things that i never would have done before. Like going for groceries in the evening. Never would have done that!

And since Saturdays can be tough, I thought we could make a list of all the things that we do now, sober, that we never would have done if we were drinking. Physical, actual things that we do. Not just feelings that we have, but what are we getting done…

You can post a comment below, or send me an email. What do you do now with all your spare time?

Lynda (day 40): doing laundry at 9:30 pm and waiting up for it to dry because I need clothes for the morning.  Answering the phone at 9:45 pm and being able to accept a work assignment and be able to remember it and look forward to it.  Taking my dog for a walk later in the evening because I want to. Offering to drive a friend home after midnight … Volunteering at our playhouse theater and driving home after the late shift and enjoying the full moon while waving to the cop at the side of the road, knowing if he pulled me over it wouldn’t be an issue.

Leigh Ann (2): girly self-care stuff (nails, facial, etc.)

Heidi (8): I get to bathe my children and tuck them both into bed. I would be missing that if I was drunk … all is right in my world. That’s amazing. Kiss my ass you damn wolf!

The biggest difference for me, now, is I’m in the kitchen more than before. I plan meals, i buy groceries, and then i actually make meals. I find ways to use up leftovers. We hardly ever go out to eat in a restaurant any more (bye-bye to all the ridiculously large restaurant bills, which were always 75% alcohol).

What about you? What physical things are you doing now that you weren’t doing before, that now fill your time, fill the space where booze was before? Everyone who finds Saturdays long/hard wants to know what you think 🙂

Oh, and apparently it was day 300 for me yesterday? i was too busy to notice! DDG is on day 40, and Mr. Lynda is also on day 40! Welcome to new members: Kirst (2), Laura (4), Debra (day 90 today!).

“how about a nice cup of shut the fuck up”

From the last 30 days, here is a sample of search engine terms that people entered into Google that led them to my blog …

  • tired of thinking about drinking
  • the upside to quitting drinking
  • 100 day sober challenge
  • witching hour drinking
  • getting sober made me better
  • i threw up on my teacher
  • can you go 100 days without a drink
  • the best thing about being sober
  • do i want to be sober
  • gigantic anus
  • how to fill out the day when sober
  • quit drinking and pursue passion
  • how about a nice cup of shut the fuck up
  • change my thinking about drinking
  • jason vale bullshit
  • anus belle
  • what is the 100 day sober challenge good or bad
  • i’m always tired – is it the wine i drink?

I never know whether to laugh or cry …

I kind of like ‘anus belle’, maybe i should get a t-shirt with that written on it. i can wear that shirt in addition to my other t-shirt ideas that i’ll stock in my imaginary sober store:

  • “Pick Good Guys, Not Turds”
  • “Wieners do not get to rule the world”
  • “Cake there shall be”

and my personal favorite

  • “Fuck You Wolfie.”

 

I don’t want to do early recovery again

As I was writing on DDG‘s blog this morning, as recently as last night i thought about having some wine.

Belle: … out for dinner, tired, the couple next to us was having wine, and i thought, yeah i want some too. i had to literally turn my head away, talk to husband, and distract myself. then the urge faded. It might have lasted a minute. which is a long time when you really feel like drinking. now it’s the next morning, and after 11 hrs sleep i feel fine (again). and i know from what everyone ELSE says, that it gets easier and easier as even MORE time goes on. i don’t think they’re exaggerating. and i want to get to where they are. where it’s even better than this.

I don’t drink because of this comment that Number 9 / Catholic Alcoholic posted on my blog:

Number 9: I’m almost to six [months] … I had three years sober and then without a sober network or tools in place I slowly picked it back up. Moderated at first, but only to prove something to myself. After about three months I was back into the drinking game and it took three years to get sober back. Ugh. I can’t even entertain the idea. I have too good of an imagination and my brain who romance me right back out there. At 43 with 2 children I just can’t risk it again.

I don’t drink because of this comment from Katherine this morning:

Katherine: Today is Day 259 for me and when I look back at those early days of sobriety, I was feeling scared, angry, stupid, guilty, sad, shaky and all alone.  Wondering how I made my life such a mess?  This isn’t what I wanted or wished for when I grew up!  …  I don’t want to do early recovery again, I don’t want to ruin my relationships, I don’t want to be the mom that drinks, I don’t want to hide how much I drank, I don’t want to be controlled by alcohol EVER again!  For those who are doing the 100 day challenge…you CAN do it…it will get easier and better!!! The support here is one of the greatest reasons I don’t drink anymore!  Thanks Belle!

I don’t drink because of this gem from Paul:

Paul: Relapse is part of alcoholism, not a part of recovery.  For this alcoholic, I could have another drunk [binge] in me, but I don’t have another recovery in me.

That my friends, might be all that’s keeping me from drinking again: fear of regret, fear of not being able to restart. Fear as a motivator is probably a good thing. That and the relief I feel: relief that i slept 11 hrs last night (guess i was tired!). relief that i’m going for a run today. relief that i know that i’m going out for dinner again tonight and that i’ll be the only one not drinking and i’m fine with that.

Team 100 update: 50 members! 1 missing, 1 rejoined. Welcome to newest members: Rachel (3), Christina (19), Shel (25), Marie (4), and Roxanne (2).  Sober Kat is on day 199! Sober Journalist Kate is on day 20, Mr. Belle is on day 8, and Katie on day 10.