helping me to ‘be’ good

i’m enjoying rereading my journal from 2004, it’s quite entertaining, especially my thoughts pre-husband, when i was single for such a long time. In February 2004, I was doing a week without TV and without reading, and here’s a bit of my thought process, seems to fit today:

“It’s a transition, so some parts are harder than others, it’s about feeling uncomfortable temporarily. If we always want to feel good, then we’d stay well in from the edges of life so that nothing ever sticks us. Or [we can choose] a short-term discomfort for a longer-term gain. It’s not about helping me to ‘feel’ good, it’s helping me to ‘be’ good.” (Feb 24, 2004).

hope you’re having an easy day. good food. a laugh or two.

Sobriety is like a little car

I started writing about the ideas of early sobriety (less than 15 days) on Suzy’s blog, and also on Jen’s, but want to elaborate …

Right when you first quit, there are lot of questions, a lot of unknowns. part of why we ALL struggle in the first days is because it’s all so new, so foreign to how we usually live.

Questions like: “How will i go to a party and not drink? I won’t be any fun! How will i manage sober sex? Sober dating? How will i deal with stress?” and my personal favorite: “Is this no-drinking thing forever?”

And so on.

The initial question-asking stage of sobriety is deafening.  there are a billion things to consider. Or so it seems.

and yet, bit by bit, it gets easier. we read a few books and we  blog and/or read other sober blogs, and we comment, and maybe we do a meeting (or not). We run more (or not), we sleep better, we begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin.

in a few more days, some of hazy grayness starts to lift. For me it was around day 34 but i started off intending to quit only for a month, and so i farted around a lot in the first month with what-if ideas, and maybe everyone does that, or maybe you’re more focused than I was and your grayness will lift sooner.

Now here’s my metaphor:

Sobriety is like a little car, rolling downhill, that gathers momentum as it goes. But if you stop the car too soon (by giving up, by having just one drink), then you never get to experience the momentum it can gather with time, and you’ll just get to experience (repeatedly) the ‘starting over part’. which we agree, stinks.

it doesn’t take very long to feel better and to have a clearer head. so keep the car rolling, and feel your way through the grayness.

Sobriety is like a little car, and if you’ve got the little car already on its way downhill, however slowly, don’t do anything to stall. don’t change your medication, don’t suddenly quit your job, don’t buy a dog, don’t stop going to meetings. You want the car to keep moving, right? Downhill, yeah? Slowly gathering momentum. Don’t get impatient that other people don’t notice how great you are. Don’t confront your spouse about their radically different life plan. Not now. Not now.

protect your little sober car.

(and now, to mix metaphors) You need to walk around like a blind person with your arms outstretched, saying “don’t come near me with your drama, your shit, your demands. Stay the fuck away from me. I’m protecting me. See my outstretched hands grasping for the wall, grasping for something solid? Stay over there and gently guide me if you like, but do NOT dare come inside my arms-stretched-out space and fuck with my sobriety. Don’t tease me, don’t cajole me, and don’t bait me.”

(back to our regularly scheduled metaphor)

“Because i’ve got a little car of sobriety rolling downhill,” you say. “And some days it’s all i can do to keep going. but i ain’t pulling over. Not now, not for you. If this car stalls, it might not start again.”

Get out of my way. Sober car coming through …

Need to take a nap in the middle of the day and afraid you won’t fall asleep quickly enough? Drink.

was just reading this lovely newly sober post, and I wrote a comment and I wanted to share part of it here.

i know that empty ‘hole’ feeling you keep trying to pour stuff into. except most people can’t articulate it as well as you have.

I am particularly struck by your comment of gulping before bed. I used to do that, too. And now – 46 days later – i look back and think “what the hell WAS that? you’d already had 4 glasses of wine, and yet you took some to bed to drink JUST before turning off the lights … why? to feel a buzz? you’re going to be asleep. To guarantee that you will sleep? sheesh i think the first 4 glasses and the fact that it’s 1 am would do that just fine.”

It’s like a switch gets turned on, and we keep drinking till we fall down (literally or figuratively).

not drinking might be a struggle some days but it HAS to be better than living like that … who wants to go THERE again and feel so desperately empty … [blech].

Before I read Jason Vale & Allen Carr, i never had any idea that perhaps the booze itself was creating the ‘hole’ feeling.  i never considered that the alcohol was making me feel empty. i just thought some part of me was broken and that i was trying to fix it with booze.

what a bunch of bullshit.

we are ALL broken in our own small (or large ways). that doesn’t mean that adding poison will be helpful : ) I know, i know, that seems like a “duh” moment now, doesn’t it. I can assure you that while i was drinking, booze seemed like the ONLY solution to ALL problems.

Lonely? Drink.

Irritated? Drink.

Stressed? Drink.

Need to take a nap in the middle of the day and afraid you won’t fall asleep quickly enough? Drink.

Vacation? Drink earlier.

Feel wickedly hung over? well, a small drink does wonders to make you suddenly feel “much better”.

Holy shit, batman.

i’m glad for today and I’m glad that i’m moving into a new part of my sober time, because it’s all seeming a LOT clearer now. And when my 3-year old whining brain periodically says “yes i know all that but I WAAAANNNT it anyway,” i am now better equipped to say to the 3-year old,

It doesn’t matter if you want it.  it’s not good for you. booze is a bottomless pit of emptiness that can’t be filled. get over it. find something else to do.

<le sigh>

[ps if you haven’t read the Allen Carr book, Easy Way to Control Alcohol, then i recommend it.  Yes, it’s basically the Jason Vale book rehashed. Yes, it’s the same ideas in virtually the same order with almost the same examples.  BUT it’s very well written, has some different examples, and uses a Pitcher Plant analogy of sliding to the bottom that is very helpful. If, like me, you were a tiny bit sad when you finished reading the Vale book, because you were riding high and then were sad that the book was over … well, you’ll be pleased to pick up this second book. I’m reading it more slowly, I don’t want it to be over! I like being tucked into their world (Vale’s and Carr’s). In their world, booze is poison, and we are MUCH better off without it … when i hang out with them, i believe this to be the truth and i’m thankful.]

tuesday weigh-in

day 45. all is well. i haven’t had any of the “holy shit i had a drink” dreams. Instead i dreamt that i was handed a glass, and had a sip of wine and then spit it out, shouting to the hostess who served it to me: “I don’t drink!”

not only is “all well” with me today, but i’d like to continue feeling like this please. yesterday and today (so far) have been surprisingly settled, calm, happy, even days. Better than i’ve felt in a LONG time. Maybe the best that  i’ve felt, ever. happy but not manic. content but not wacky. just good.

Now let’s talk about the 3 very small slices of chocolate cake i had yesterday. miniscule, really, but 3 nonetheless. I did mention that i wanted to do some baking during this vacation, and yesterday i got down to business.

i know that running 5 days a week, at my slow pace and for short distances, is all about mood control and not about weight management. I’m completely fine with that. I love running, and I don’t need to change anything about how i’m doing it. But my level of running does not permit me to eat ANYTHING i want.

yes, early days of quitting booze meant that i really didn’t have any choice. I needed the sugar and the calories and i needed it a lot.

but today is day 45 and i’m feeling good. so i’m going to slowly and gently begin to rein in the cake.

need a t-shirt made up:

“Must Eat Less Cake”

on my run today, i decided it will be best (for me) if i do something ‘out loud’ and accountable.  Since i know from the law of attraction that what we focus on EXPANDS, then i will focus on pounds lost, so that i can watch that number grow.

Since quitting booze 45 days ago, as of today, Tuesday morning, I am down 2.2 pounds. not bad considering said cake. Every Tuesday morning for the next several weeks, i will post my total weight loss so that I can watch the number increase … sort of like watching my sober days increase.  My current sober goal is 90 days (and beyond). my current weight goal is 15ish pounds (possibly beyond, i’ll see when i get there).

If you’re interested in joining me, you can go and weigh yourself now (2.2 pounds = 1 kilo). Yes, you can weigh yourself now, even if you’ve just eaten. Think how low the number will be by comparison next tuesday when you weigh yourself first thing : ) There’s no right time to start. There’s just now, and i’m starting here. i didn’t want to take on too much in the first 45 days, but now i feel OK with charting my numbers.  nothing strenuous. no big diet. just conscious awareness. and mindfulness.  Are you gonna join me?

 

I learned what I knew already …

Day 44. I am well, i having nothing new to report. I’m not having cravings. I learned nothing yesterday.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I think i learned these things, but i knew them before, but yesterday i learned them again.

  1. I feel better on days when i run (i’m running 5 out of 7 days now, sometimes only 20 minutes, but the 2 non-running-days stick out in the calm of the week).
  2. The longer the run (40 minutes+), the better. Therefore, Sundays are usually the most calm and peaceful and resourceful and relaxed that i feel all week.
  3. I used to really love adventures. Maybe moving to foreign-land used up my adventure quotient and then drinking buried the rest. This weekend, however, husband and I did two walking tours, one Saturday and one Sunday, and saw new and interesting parts of the city, discovered gardens, beautiful views, drank bottled water, took a gazillion photos, and enjoyed being outside in the sun.
  4. Sunshine makes me feel much, much better. Living here is an improvement over our last city, and i hope our next move is another improvement again …
  5. On our way to the walking tour yesterday afternoon, husband and I had a “joking” conversation on the train, but it might become real. I asked him what was the best part of our new lives here in this new city.  He told me: his new favorite hobby, which costs quite a bit of money.  The more money he has for it, the better. He can do it cheaply but would prefer to do it more often, more expensively. And he’d like a budget of maybe $300/month to go hog-wild (all-out). (god, what’s a universally understood translation of hog-wild?) (well, as much as he wants).  My new favorite thing to do here makes money. it’s the coolest funnest thing ever and it actually generates revenue. The “Joke” was me saying: “we should figure out how you can have as much $ as you need to enjoy your hobby, and I’ll just do my hobby more often to pay for yours.” His eyes lit up, really, it was soo sweet. I don’t really think he’d enjoy me doing mine as much as i’d like to (it’s quite disruptive and sucks a lot of my time), nor would i really want him gone 4 out of 7 nights doing his… but i think we’re on the way to finding a good compromise …
  6. i’m guilty on this one-month vacation of feeling bored, and that’s completely my own creation. beginning today, i want to get more done – even if it’s just cleaning, even if it’s just reading more books. i want to look back on the vacation and feel like it was worth taking the time off AND i want to fill up my time more, even if it’s just reading in the park, so that there’s less room for the demon bitchy booze cravings. Less time in front of the computer searching (for who knows what), and more time outside.
  7. I’m in charge of how good I feel.  Time to play that hand a bit better.

Happy Monday : )

how are you. i am fine. i ate chicken. are you bored yet?

i am committed to posting something every day for the first 60 (or perhaps 90) days, and i do not want to devolve to just recounting my day and telling you “what i did yesterday” or “what i plan to do today”. I’m challenging myself instead to record insights, struggles, things i’ve realized, things i’ve learned from reading other blogs, and recording successes.  Not just “we had company last night for dinner and i made roast chicken” … but instead “i was worried about not drinking last night and it turned out to be quite easy to have tonic and cranberry, what was i worried about?”

in fact, after the company left, my first thoughts were:  it’s early (10:30 pm, that’s an early ending to a saturday night, especially if wine is involved; guest and husband shared one bottle, how tame, how lame, how ordinary).

And my Number #2 thought, shocking, was: “why did i think that i was going to trip and fall and drink this evening? is having dinner with friends some kind of battle that requires fortification? what was so bad about that, about having dinner, that i thought i might be tempted to drink?”

was it a battle that required strength? was it a hurt that required soothing? was it a not-nice-event that could be lifted with a shot or two?

it was dinner. roast chicken. big windows open. molten chocolate cake for dessert (the first trial didn’t work so well and poured out all over the counter, so i let the other one bake longer and it was perfect…).

i think, before, i drank for NO REASON. there’s nothing about having dinner with friends that is improved by wine.

thus begins day 43. and in the spirit of not simply recounting my day without insight, let me say i’m back from my sunday long run, it’s sunny, and my husband is – as i type – making us breakfast complete with homemade sausage that i pulled from the freezer. we are going out for a big long walk today. it continues to be hot and sunny (25C). we will be having white bean soup with fennel for dinner…

i do not drink

i do not drink

even when a lovely guest is coming for dinner tonight, and there’ll just be the three of us, and he’s bringing wine to ‘share’

i do not drink

not even to be social, not even to say ‘thanks for bringing wine’ (i asked him to bring tonic water, too)

i do not drink

even though i’m grumpy and have been feeling out of sorts for a couple of days

this is not the beginning of the end, it’s just a bump in the road

i do not drink

day 42 today and sometimes it just feels like a lot of work to keep the wheels on this train …

i do not drink

 

try singing

this vacation thing, it’s kind of boring. I’m on vacation for a month but my husband is still working; we’re not going away anywhere exciting until Labor Day weekend (first weekend in September). most days i try to putter, relax, read, sit in the sun, go out somewhere, run, make dinner, and vegetate.

yesterday afternoon, one of our neighbors was having a very loud phone conversation, with her head and body hanging out her living room window. the sound of her voice got under my skin very quickly. my husband saw me and said “she’s been doing this for 4 years.”  Yes, i know, but i was irritated by her. yesterday she was making me bat-shit.  for no good reason.  i wanted her to shut up.

i went into the kitchen to make dinner and it was a complete mess.  I actually said out loud: “my outsides match my insides, i don’t feel good, I don’t know how to feel better … maybe I need loud music.”

and without missing a beat, husband unplugs the headphones from his laptop (where he’s been working), and super very loud Metallica hard rock music blares out of his computer speakers.

I start to laugh, hilariously, crying laughing. “Maybe i need loud music.”

No darling, I meant loud music that I like : ) … roadtrip music, where I can sing along at full volume in the kitchen while doing the dishes.  I will never, really, never in my life, ever need to listen to Metallica at full volume!

But laughing, really laughing, broke the irritated spell. I did put on my playlist entitled “songs to sing”, and i sang in the kitchen, doing dishes.  Husband plugged his headphones back in, surrounded by *his* music.  I had my music. Some of it made me homesick, some of it made me dance around the kitchen. And after 4 or 5 songs i felt much better.

Note to self:  if running doesn’t clear your head, try singing.  drinking is never the answer.  there’s always another tool in the tool box. That the first tool fails to solve the problem does NOT mean that the problem is unsolveable.  Reach for a different tool… try singing.

 

slamming hand in car door is not a good idea

I probably don’t meet the definition of an alcoholic. No bottom, no disaster, just a slow erosion of quality of life.

but there was alcohol consumed in my immediate family, and i have watched the effects closely, all my life.

ok, i’m not a textbook alcoholic myself, perhaps, but did the consumption of alcohol negatively affect my life? definitely. i was grumpy when drinking, i slept poorly, and i still weigh more than i want to.

did i continue to drink for a long time after i knew that it wasn’t working for me? yes. i’ve been writing things in my journal like “drink less” for years. forever, it seems.  i have a diary from 2004 and it’s right there in black in white.

Sober, I like the person i’m becoming. sure, i’d like to be able to have one glass of wine with dinner, but the noise in my head gets so loud that one drink would always turns into three. even when i have a big work gig in the morning, even when i know the next day would be a disaster.

I equate THAT with repeatedly slamming your hand in a car door.  like, if you want to feel pain, there are easier ways to get it!

Yes, we can have a conversation about degrees.  degrees of use, abuse, powerlessness.  i never want one glass of wine, i want three.  if i were to drink today, i would also drink tomorrow.

now that i’m not drinking, the noise in my head has mostly stopped.  only about once a day, or less, do i think “i could have a drink now” and then i let it go. the noise is getting tamer. It doesn’t fight back so hard.  and i’m smarter than the noise in my head. I’ve finally stopped slamming my hand in a car door. what a relief.

i am (finally) learning from my mistakes. i want to evolve.

Day 41. I’ve never been here before 🙂

Because I can … (or, “Would you give your left nut to run along the water?”)

Day 40.

I am now back to running 5 days a week, which is the level I was at before we moved here to foreign-land.

I set out to run 30 minutes today and at about 20 mins I was tired. I know enough to finish the run, and to do what I set out to do. Because the few times that i’ve given up early (in my 12 years of running), i always regret it terribly afterwards. As a result, since I don’t want to disappoint myself, I almost always finish the run, AND I’m super careful to not plan to run too far.  In the mornings when I set out, I plan my run based on how i feel, how much training, i’ve been doing, how much sleep i had the night before, the weather, etc.

And so I knew that 30 minutes was completely within my ability today. I felt like stopping at 20 minutes, but I knew I could ignore those feelings.

[The parallels of running and ‘real life’ and sobriety are many. Don’t take on too much at once, we improve incrementally, don’t quit early, don’t quit at all if you can help it – even if you have to walk instead of run, it’s always better to finish no matter how you get there.]

So this morning, I was planning to do 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I went the “long way around” and at the end of 30 minutes I was NOT at the tram station where I hoped to end up, so that i could easily hop the tram and go home.

OK, no big deal. I decided to run from where I was to the tram (so my run was in fact 36 minutes … and I thought i was ‘too tired’ at 20 minutes … ha!)

On those last 6 “bonus” minutes, I had the coolest feeling. I know it’s in part from reading everyone’s brave and amazing comments on yesterday’s post. As I was running, I thought, I’m going to run this extra bit for all of the people who CAN’T. For everyone who wishes they could, but can’t (yet). And i got goosebumps, literally, like this really warm feeling of doing something for the greater good.  I know, I know, it’s a bit metaphysical even for this chick.

But there are lots of people who’d love to be me (sober on day 40), so I just cannot fuck it up.

There are tons of people who’d love to live in this beautiful city and see what I can see. So i cannot hide in my apartment.

There are billions of people who’d give their left nut to run along the water and then take the tram home.

So today I ran extra because I can.

Today I am sober because I can.