at times of stress I am my own worst enemy

[edited]

the good news and the other good news. cardiologist told me that i’m much improved, he’s going to adjust my medication upwards a bit, and that some of my crappy symptoms are caused by worrying about having a heart problem!

Frankly, i was relieved to hear this.

i might be the only person on the planet who’s relieved to hear that they are having a problem with anxiety combined with a heart issue!

you see, anxiety and i are old friends. She hasn’t been around for a while, but i’m familiar with her ways. that sick feeling, panic, guts churning, feeling like i’m going to faint. “I feel terrible,” I say to the cardiologist, sprawled in his office chair. He gets up from behind his desk, comes around, checks my heart rate. Some of this is anxiety, he says. And i’m like “oh that’s good news. I’m not going to have a heart attack?” and he says no.

phew.

“am i going to fully recover from this heart rate episode and go back to normal, caffeine, sex, and running?” Yes, with medication. “will i need to be zapped?” no.

oh.

So then i sit up. cuz if the worst part of this is worrying about having a heart rate issue, then ladies and gentlemen, i know what to do. I have to breathe, calm my thinking, wait, and STAY HERE (see this and this). I have to not panic when i feel faint on the subway. I’m not going to actually pass out. I’m just having a ‘moment’.

now i’m home again, have had something to eat, a cup of mint tea, an apple.  And yes indeed i do feel fine. better than fine actually. cuz now I know … i’m not going to get any worse.

And at times of stress I am my own worst enemy.

You?

[Edit: sorry, to clarify … the anxiety is new, and is only because of the heart problem. I do have a real heart thingy, but the cardiologist says that worrying about it makes it worse. so now I can relax…]

~

Happy 100 days to Victoria 🙂

Happy 500 days sober to me. may there be cake that is baked by someone else in my future. Husband? can you get right on that?

“one thousand glimpses of beauty”

 

From my genius and amazing inbox, full of wonder and insight:

Gina (36): “I lost who I was and my passions after kids and the constant non stop consumption of alcohol buried my true self.  So part of this sobriety will be to discover who I am.”

Earthymama (3): “I feel like I’ve been let out of a prison sentence that I’d confined myself to for many years. Yesterdays darkness and struggle was worth it. I am remembering that with growth, you can’t go around it, you have to go through it.”

C How (131): “You have this unique perspective that I can only describe as a combination of deep insight and ‘hey, that’s really just common sense, why didn’t I think of that?’ It comes across in your blog, but hearing it and being able to just sit and listen and let it soak in seems to add a whole new dimension. Not to mention that I think you are both a talented writer and a talented speaker. It was especially helpful to be reminded in the first audio that it doesn’t matter what ‘bottom’ you may or may not have. If I’m on the internet searching for ‘sober’ stuff, then i was drinking too much for ME. it’s true it doesn’t really matter if I give myself a label or fit any certain criteria. The audio on accepting help and support was also very helpful. I think that’s the hardest part for a lot of people — reaching out and accepting that we can’t do everything alone. We can learn from others who have been there and we can accept additional help. Your attitude comes across as ‘what’s the big deal’ if we ask for some help. Hearing you say it in the way you did made me ask ‘what IS the big deal?’ and once i asked myself that question, I couldn’t come up with a single answer. So thanks very much for that.”

Sobermom (75): “I feel more human every day. And I get one thousand glimpses of beauty every day that I was blind to before. I thought I saw them but I had not a clue. I like people more, even my brother in law. My kids make me laugh and when I kiss them good night they smell dinner on my breath, not booze. When they cry I want desperately to hold them, not shush them like I did before.”

the sewer, the manhole cover, and the forecast is sunny

I’ve been thinking about quitting drinking. It’s a bit like getting out from underneath a manhole cover. It’s a big, weighty thing, that threatens to slam back down on us if we aren’t careful.

When we’re in the sewer (drinking) and we’re covered by the manhole cover, well, we’re dealing with a ‘known’ state. We know that the place smells, we know the view is terrible, and that it’s dark. There’s no future. There is only regret and heartache.

When we get out of the sewer, and we stop drinking, at first we look over our shoulder, and we see the stinky sewer drinking hole. We let the manhole cover slam into place, and then we’re standing alone in the sunlight. Quite terrified. We try to explain the sewer and the manhole cover and the desperation to normal drinkers, and they don’t really understand.  We slowly, block by block, day by day, begin to walk AWAY from the hole behind us. With or without tools, with or without support.  With or without knowing what the fuck we’re doing.

And now there are two choices.  We can continue to look behind us.  See the hole again and again. Periodically test how heavy the manhole cover is.  Sample the delicious aroma of the sewer.  Or we can walk forward, into a place unknown, where it is forecast to be sunny with cloudy periods.

Yes. Bad crap still happens in the sunny place (kid, job, money, health-related), and yes, you might be tempted to turn around and look longingly at the sewer.  You’ll think that maybe it’d be a good idea to go back there, just for a minute, cuz at least it’s dark and quiet and stinky and depressing in there.

K (day 116): “I’m still sober but sort of wishing I wasn’t.  It’s funny how even though I know drinking would make things worse, I want to drink or I should say I want to check out & drinking is the only way to truly stop my mind.  Treating myself to a vacation, a massage, exercise don’t stop my mind or make the stress, worry, sadness, exhaustion go away.  I’m in a bad place & really trying to figure out what needs to be done to get out of it.  I just don’t know how.  Just had to get that out there hoping for a little relief.  The good news is even though in some ways I would like to drink, for the most part I truly have no desire to drink.  It’s not an option & I’m good with that.”

Belle:  my dear, let me say this.  turning to booze as the solution, well it really just is not a solution.  It’s a very temporary pause button (manhole cover) with horrendous consequences.  It’d be like turning to heroin.  It just isn’t the right solution for the problem. You might need time off, help, someone to talk to, a break, to cry, to yell, to vent, to write, to run, to sleep.  You may not know yet what you need to do to feel better.  But with 100% certainty, slamming your hand in the manhole cover (i.e. drinking) isn’t a solution.  I agree you need some solutions.  You don’t need to add problems. Let’s find you a solution 🙂

From my inbox:

Susan (39): “I have been thinking a lot about why alcohol was such a pull to me … I have the memory of feeling overwhelmed and anxious and having a couple of glasses of champagne and suddenly I was happy, all that I was worried about had disappeared. When I realized this I saw that I was using something outside myself to make me happy.  Somehow I felt that I couldn’t do it on my own.  Then this overwhelming thought came over me… I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN HAPPINESS … I cannot express in words how this affected me.  All these years I had been looking outside myself for happiness, when in truth it is me who is responsible for feeling that way.  If I am stressed out at the end of the day, I have to look to the balance in my life.  If things are overwhelming i have to develop the tools to deal with it.   I cannot express in words how deeply this rang in me.  I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN HAPPINESS!  From this place I was able to look at my drinking with compassion instead of shame.  Nothing to be ashamed of … you just didn’t know …  I feel free in such a beautiful simple way. I chose not to drink and instead, I choose to believe in myself.”

PP:  “I am not a joiner, not an extrovert, avoid facebook, cannot see myself joining AA … common sense is with me in the morning and escapes me in the later day. Sometimes I find the days too long. Enough yammering. I signed up for your coaching class. Already this morning, in bed, I decided on my mantra for today: Today I will be sober.”

Team 100 Update:

219 members, welcome to Dawn D (9), Brett (4), and Elizabeth (3). Happy days to Leigh (7), Jen (Mommy) (7), KT (116), Paula (86), Allie (29), JG (17), Colleen (8), Mary (90), Zenmeg (49), Melinda (60), Maya June (60), Lime Tree (60), Pete (50), Liberte (7), Stargal (51), BST (31), Pam (14), Tami (20), Catkin (32) .  Hooray for Elle and Leah – they both hit 100 days!

Here’s what Leah has to say:  “Thank you!  I was calculating a few days ago and realized I was coming up on 100.  I can’t believe it! For so long I would be thinking “oh, I should probably stop drinking” but it felt impossible.  Alcohol really does sap your will, make you think you can’t do without it.  So it took a “hit bottom” moment — a trip to the ER — to finally make me stop. I am happy to be sober, and grateful that my “hit bottom” moment didn’t involve any permanent damage.  But lately I find myself not wanting to look back anymore, shying away from memories from when I was drinking.  Now that not drinking is “normal” I find myself wanting to forget that I ever did anything else.  I think that’s a mistake — both because I think it’s important to remember why I never want to go back, and because it makes me feel less happy and proud of myself for being able to give it up.  I think both of those things are important.  Anyway, I also want to thank you.  Coming across your 100 day challenge happened at just the right time, and I love the community you’ve created at your blog.  And I am so glad you are expanding your blog to start a coaching business and classes.  You are a natural at it!”

</um, blushes, thanks>

“Wow. Just WOW.”

Happy 100 days to Erin & Happy 100 days to Marie

Erin:  “Wow.  Just WOW.  I can’t believe how fast that came.  I was out to eat pizza the other night and asked to smell someone’s beer–yeah, that’s weird but we’re close.  So I sniffed it and it smelled like beer and that was that.  I had no desire to taste it.  The pizza was just as yummy without it.”

Marie: ” For the first time [a couple of days ago] I said out loud, ‘that drinking voice (Wolfie) is barely a whisper these days.’ When I was on day 5, and maybe around day 30, and again at day 40 (you get it), the voice was still pretty loud; I wanted to drink.  In the span of 100 days I’ve had bad days, good days, celebrations, family dinners, even the death of a close friend, and I have proven to myself that my life can be lived fully, and actually with more kindness and awareness, without the influence of booze. Honestly … I feel more anxious now than I have in a very long time and while I am distressed by this, it is also eye-opening for me.  I can tell that I was self-medicating with alcohol, and while it worked in a way, it was also not working in a big way.  Being free from alcohol has given me more confidence in myself (before this challenge I thought I could never give up drinking), but it has also uncovered some … untreated anxiety … About 5 weeks ago I discovered meditation and have been meditating daily since.  I am learning so much more about myself by being aware of the present and my thoughts/feelings/state of mind in the present.  I am actually allowing myself to really feel the feelings instead of looking for a way to numb them.  That has been huge for me.  It feels like giving up booze forced me to stop running from the things that scare me.  While it is tough trying to work through those things, I can already tell I am uncovering a much stronger, more peaceful and authentic me.”

From me:

I am continuing to sit with my ideas and thoughts. The old version of me, the non-sober version, would have already created a new thing, not knowing where she was going (I wrote about this new patience in my one-year summary bit).  This new version of me is more patient. She waits to see what’s going to happen. She has lots of good ideas, small group coaching, one-on-one calls, podcasts, some kind of subscription something, or even a private tree-house space. Yet, the new me is no longer trying to force a square peg into a round hole, trying to force a decision to be made…  Instead, I am open to having an idea drop into my lap, fully formed, if I just wait. And i’m thinking that August is a good time to be waiting, just percolating. Time off, sleep, baking, running, reading and waiting.

And hey, my life is pretty darn near perfect at this exact second.  My husband likes me again, I’m back to running after my cold. For the month of August I only work part-time for Job #1, as my two biggest clients and I coordinate our vacation times to all be off together.  I’m sleeping very well (9-10 hrs a night). I’m reading a lot. I have a new toy (an iPad, my first portable device). I’ve been hired to cater a wedding in the fall and have already received the deposit (thus the iPad!).

Last August, I was desperately waiting for the summer to end, and this year I’m sooo enjoying the slow pace. “Sober life is the best kind of boring.”

Team 100 update:

We have 177 members as of today, welcome to Barb (4), Rose Garden (5), Dale (6), True Grace  (5), Denise (3), Bev (3), FitFatFood (2), Sharon (3).  Happy days to: Anne (80), Grace (10), Brandy (85), Sober Kat (296), Debra (185), Kristi (11), Colleen (90), Elle (80), Leah (80), Rebecca (130), Catkin (10), Quill (64), Meka (45), Sarita (41), KC (40), Irish Eileen (85), Kathleen (7), MaryPat (20), Deidre (31), Brendan (7).  Me, i’m on day 396.

Can’t compare apples to oranges

Comparing. In response to yesterday’s post, let me say this. We all have completely different lives. Some are big, some are small, some are near and some are far. We all have sobriety as our goal in common. But the rest of our lives may be very different. You have a yard, I don’t. You have kids, I don’t. You have a car, I don’t.  And so what? I don’t think it matters. At all. We’re here to support becoming our best selves, to be sober, and to get shit done. Kids or no kids, jobs or no jobs.  Someone is spending her weekends in jail because of past legal problems. Someone else is vacationing on a boat. But we’re all trying to figure out how to live sober. That’s it.

I recently wrote this on Paul’s blog:

me: I get lots of emails that say versions of this same thing: “Where is my big sober rainbow? Why is she happier in her sobriety than I am in mine.” And yeah, there’s no perfect happy sobriety. Some days are rotten. Other days are glorious. Some situations are easier. Some kids vomit on the carpet. We’re all doing our version of the sobriety thing. Can’t compare apples to oranges AND we can’t compare our internal journey to someone’s publicly broadcasted, edited, version of truth. Well you CAN compare, but only if you want to make yourself crazy… nuff said. 🙂

and i sent this email to another sober penpal this morning:

me: We have super very different lives I’m sure. There is no comparing. And while I may be amazing (!), I’m mostly just different … I’ve got a lot of free time that I’m happily spending on being a sober penpal.  That said, I don’t read as many blogs as I used to, nor am I doing any other sober reading anymore (though I did a shit-ton at the beginning).  You’re doing your thing and I’m doing mine.  Sometimes your life is going well, sometimes I’m underwater.  Then we switch places 🙂

finally, this bit of genius from Lawyer Anne (day 102):

Lawyer Anne:   I loved your post about comparing [June 19th ]… I think it’s a good reminder to focus on our own gifts and not get caught up on comparing ourselves to others….we all have our talents and our own journey.  I think in the world of the internet, Facebook, blogs, etc … to compare ourselves to others and wonder why we can’t be more like the *perfect* person we see pictures of or read about, it’s quite an unhealthy practice in my opinion. And when I find myself doing it on Facebook I try to take a break and deactivate my account for a few weeks. If I’m not using it to connect with friends or read articles and am making myself feel bad because I’m looking at pictures of *perfect* families, then I need a break and I need to re-evaluate.

…  While I quite easily focus on the negative things happening for me — work stress, relationship stress, car falling apart, regular anxiety and feeling nuts — I think it is important to remember the wonderful things happening every day. The fact that I have the luxury to choose to be sober and when that gets tough, the luxury to go to bed early, watch TV, etc., I am one lucky duck.

 

a glass wall of alcohol

In this city where we are visiting, in this city where we used to live, we had dinner last night with a long-time drinking friend. The guy (and his wife) drink a lot. A shit lot. Even when we were drinking too, we never drank as much as these two. The four of us would hang out, yes, but i’d always watch the guy and marvel/feel sick at the quantities he’d put away. The ordering ‘another round’ even after we’d already said we were done. The telling me he loved me at a particularly sloppy party. The disclosing of sexual details during a meal.

Last night, they had beer before the meal, a bottle of wine during, and opened a second bottle after. [This is exactly what we would have done, too.]

Mr. Belle was a bit nervous to arrive there with 3 cans of tonic water. The couple joked with us, saying that by the end of the night they would have ‘pushed us off the wagon’. But really, once they got drinking, they weren’t the least bit interested in what we were doing, whether we were drinking or not.

By 10:30 pm I was tired of them and ready to go home, tapped Mr. B’s foot under the table.  The guy looks to his wife and says (re the second bottle of wine) – have some more, it’s open.

I looked at their glasses of wine. I looked at their stained teeth. I looked at them talking loudly over each other, each vying for our attention, “let me tell the story, no let me. Did you see the tv episode where …”

In the car on the way home, i told Mr. B that i was sorry that they talked ‘at’ him, instead of ‘to’ him.  They didn’t ask questions about his work or his life in Europe or about how things are going for us.  Instead it seemed like they struggled and competed to tell him about every single thing that had happened to them since we saw them last, including punchlines to badly remember jokes, did you see that thing on YouTube.

Honestly, the evening was like a comedy show except it wasn’t funny. Yeah, it was like the worst kind of stand-up comedy. People trying to make a connection, and failing gigantically, because they are behind a ‘glass wall of alcohol’ – they kept talking even if Mr. B needed clarification.  They ignored Mr. B when he spoke, and literally jostled each other if one tried to interrupt the other. And on. And on.

Nothing of any real substance or connection or interest was shared. No real questions were asked or answered. No one felt touched, or brought together, or connected.

Looking into that glass wall of alcohol, i saw a mirror. And it was grim.

Did it make me want to drink?

No.

We used to be that couple, too. That used to be us.

“a brand new me”

Note from Tammy:

Hi Belle, what’s different today (Day 100) as compared to day 7?  First of all, I don’t really specifically remember day 7, but I do recall the first few weeks sucked.  I was obsessed with not drinking.  I got pissed off like a little kid when I thought about 100 days.  It seemed like forever, and with summer looming quite daunting.  I had little moments of “OK, this is good” I’m not hungover, I’m a little less anxious and I can do this.

Today, 100 days into it, I am overwhelmed. In a way, it feels like a brand new me.  Let’s just call it version 2.0.  Support has come in many ways, and the sober blogosphere has been my rock.  I’m a better me.  There are many, many blessings and if I listed the top three, they would be:

1. My creativity scale has soared and opened new, better doors.

2.  My mind and body are happier.

3.  My relationships feel like they have more authenticity and integrity.

This “better” hasn’t been a magic pill and it’s not simply “not drinking” … it’s doing some work and then some more.  On my [yoga] mat, with my words, with my head and most of all my heart.  Love & hugs.  Tammy

Team 100 Update: 143 members, welcome to Eden (2), Liberte (8), and Adrian (2).  Happy days to Amy 216, Carrie (122), KC (81), SimpsonSister (82), Sunflower (110), Victoria (41), Grace & Sarita (20), Lane (95), Katie & Trish (31), Christina (95), Marie (80), Laura (60), Erin (80), Em (20), Diane (95), Gindy (95), Camla (40), Ingrid (20), Carol (30), Sam, Favorite Day, Mrs F, CB & Beckie (10).

practising saying NO … to these people, to these places

From my inbox:

Paula (day 42):  Been working my ass off here. Not complaining, because I like it. I’ve been sleeping really good, like through the night. I’m not good at the whole counting sober days thing which I think is a good thing. I’m curious as to where I am but not drudging through each day. The first 10 days or so were tough. Now I feel like I’ve pretty much picked up where I left of with my [previous] long stretch of sobriety. But in a way it’s different this time.

Sobriety was very important to be before but now I feel gifted or something. Sobriety feels almost magic this time. I have truly learned that having a couple of years under my belt doesn’t make me immune to myself and my destructive behaviors. I can’t stress enough how terrifying that loss of control was to me. Especially after KNOWING [what a period of sobriety was like]. For me, looking at myself drinking, was like watching myself from above walking in front of a train. I truly felt unconnected and, shall we say, possessed. Possessed by some idiot who was trying to destroy me.

… This recent battle [to get sober again] removed any doubt in my mind (which already should have been removed) that I am addicted to alcohol. I am a fucking addict. This is dangerous shit and I don’t want to play around it. It will fucking kill me, there is no doubt in my mind.

Thank you Belle, for being there and believing in me, when I didn’t believe in myself. Luv, Paula

From me:

I’m now entering week #2 of working from a remote location, and i have to say i kind of like it. I really love vacations… lots of sunny, outside, walking around. Eating divine breakfasts and the best sandwiches. There are some things in North America that you just can’t get in Europe, and i’m trying to enjoy all of it while we’re here (and i’ve bought some supplies to take back with us, like plain Cheerios, baking powder, maple syrup, and ziplock bags).

This is my first time being sober and visiting a place where we used to live. It’s haunting, in that as I walk around, i think “i used to drink there, i had drinks there, remember the night at that place?”

The first few days were a bit disorienting, and I preferred to limit my time ‘out’ and stay in our rental home a bit more. To be fair, I’m enjoying being in a large home with two levels and a yard! it’s really a vacation for us compared to our tiny (darkish) european accommodations sans yard. I keep saying “i could live HERE” meaning in this house, if not ever again in this city …

Now that we’re into the second week, i’m doing better. It’s like i hadn’t yet practised saying ‘no’ here, to these people, to these places, and as we go along i realize that it’s fine. I may have an uncomfortable minute or series of minutes, but it’s fine. One great realization is that i have much less tolerance for stupidly expensive fancy trendy restaurants. Once you remove the $50 bottle of ‘vacation’ wine (“oh, we’re on vacation, oh this is a nice place, oh this is an ‘event'” (not to be confused with yesterday’s ‘event’)) – yeah once the booze is removed, those trendy places are just expensive and unnecessary. I’m happier with a really good pulled pork sandwich with tangy BBQ sauce that costs $8.

Happy 100 days to Shel & Tammy!

I’ve asked them both to share how it ‘feels’ to be on day 100, so stay tuned for updates from them 🙂

Team 100 update: Welcome to new members Pete (6), TV (4), Rob, June, Kathleen & Olivia (3), Irish Eileen (63), and Beckie (9).

I’m not drinking these days

Today I learned that I’m not ready to tell everyone why I’m not drinking. I’ve written about this before. It’s not a terribly new thing for me. But it hasn’t changed much either.

we were out for dinner tonight with old friends. i order tea with dinner, Mr. Belle orders an italian kind of cola. 

one of the friends says to me: “you’re not having any wine with your dinner? not even a glass? or how about a beer?”

me: “I’m not drinking these days.”

her: “yeah?”

me: “it’s been awhile now.”

and then Mr. Belle chirps up with:  “i’ve stopped drinking altogether. I was drinking too much and now i’ve stopped entirely.”

her: “that’s great.”

me (still doing my own thing): “i find i sleep better, i spend less money, i weigh less, i feel better.”

and inside, i was kind of irritated with my husband for saying that he drank too much (because he didn’t). But he felt he drank too much TO HIMSELF, and that’s all anyone can say about anything. But it did made me feel like he was telling that story for me, and that’s not the version of the story i wanted these people to know.

but i don’t control him, or what he says, or even what he says about me. they’re his friends, anyway, not even my friends.  He knows best what to say and how to say it. He may have handled it just like that so that this couple don’t ask him again, repeatedly, if he wants a drink.

And on the way home, i really had to admire my husband’s ‘bravery’.  He’s such a fucker like that.  He can just say “i was drinking too much” and then talk about the weather.

i admire him.  I’m not where he is.  I’m OK with either evolving over time to a different place, AND I’m OK with the fact that I may never be there. I can’t tolerate a whole bunch of “you’re not sober until you’ve told every fucking person on the planet the entirety of your personal business, including all the shitty people you hate.” I’m on day 372 and i’m doing fine. Mr. Belle is on day 81. He’s clearly doing fine, too…

I haven’t missed anything except regret

When i was drinking, I could control my alcohol quantities to some extent, I just didn’t like doing it … and so I didn’t do it as much as I should have. Like DDG says in her post, after I had one drink, i always wanted more. I would stop before things got ‘bad’ but only just before. And every night i’d say to myself “stop earlier this time,” and i’d go right to the limit again. Night after night after night after night.

And now a year later, while some individual days are shitty, i realize that all the things I was afraid I’d “miss out” on were all bogus. I haven’t ‘missed’ anything except regret.  I’ve gone to parties, I’ve danced, I’ve slept, I’ve had friends for dinner. I’ve had vacations, I’ve flown on airplanes, and I’ve negotiated contracts.  I’ve done it all without booze. I’m still a work in progress, but for now my work does not involve alcohol.  I didn’t intend to quit forever. And honestly, without the Team 100 challenge I’m not sure I would have made it to here… but here is where I am.

I still remember Paul’s best quote ever:

Paul: As alcoholics, we were able to control our drinking, but not enjoy it, or enjoy our drinking and not control it.  But not both.  It’s just not in the cards for me at least.  The idea of picking up again is almost ridiculous for me now.  Like you said, why mess with something that is going so well??   And mess it up for what?  Misery?  Yes, I get those flashes of a drink, but they dissipate as quickly as they come.  And then I move on.

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 ready, put your name in the box here:  http://eepurl.com/BqAEn