i knew it was temporary, i knew i was ‘fine’

holy. i’m a chick who doesn’t like to fly. I can do it, just not always very happily. I usually have a beer before we get on the plane, then two small bottles of wine (or more) during the flight.

not this time.

I flew yesterday for the first time since getting sober a year ago. Thank fucking holy i had one full year of sobriety under my belt. Cuz that shitty day+flight put me at about 50% sober-strength.

I was worried off and on in the days leading up to the flight, but yesterday morning i woke feeling very calm. I knew i’d be fine.

We got to the airport and found out the flight was delayed 2 hrs, then 3, then 4 hrs.  All the sitting and waiting. The plane was not at the gate, and the updates were super non-specific. “We’ll update you again in another hour.” After they announced that the delay was because of a technical problem, I immediately felt a combination of “the plane is going to have some kind of mid-air problem” AND “they’re going to cancel the flight and I’m going to have to do this all over again tomorrow.”

My response? I started crying in the departure lounge at about the 4 hr mark. They fed us sandwiches, gave us almost no information, and then 4.5 hrs later the plane arrived, we boarded, and took off.  The crowd actually applauded on take-off.

And then … and then the flight was super bouncy. Three separate patches of turbulence, one particularly bad. But here’s what’s interesting.

I knew i wasn’t going to drink, and i was feeling pretty terrible, but I knew i was going to have to tough it out. I did have anti-anxiety medication in my bag but I knew that if i took the drugs i wouldn’t be able to drive the rental car on arrival (and yes, my husband could have driven…).

So i did it sans drugs. But holy fuckers there was a moment when it was bad.

AND THEN.

here’s the big light bulb moment.

you know how sometimes when you’re anxious, like something happens, then you feel anxious afterwards in the remembering of it.

That didn’t happen for me during this bumpy flight.  As soon as the turbulence would end, i was right back to my normal self, smiling, eating, watching the movie. There were no after effects.

And I witnessed myself feeling different even during the bumpy parts. Instead of thinking my usual: “i’m never flying again, i hate this, this is terrible” – instead i was thinking “it’s almost over, look there are even tiny breaks during, the steward is still pouring hot coffee for fucks sake, this isn’t even an event, if i press the down volume on the movie then the bumps will get smaller and smaller.”

And then it was over.

OK. let me try to be clearer (super tired, batman!):  Before, when drinking, i was more anxious. And the anxiety lasted longer, was more catastrophic, and i felt like it was all impending doom. Now, even when something was happening that i truly didn’t like, i knew it was temporary, i knew i was ‘fine’, and as soon as it was over there were no shadows or traces. I’m not dreading the flight home because i know that every flight can be good or bad, and there’s no telling in advance, and it doesn’t matter i’m doing it anyway, and even if i don’t like every single minute of it i know that i can do it sober and be totally fine.

i felt anxious but not panicked. if that makes any fucking sense.

And today. i’m so proud of myself. i not only flew sober, i was coherent enough during crappy parts to register growth, improvement, well-being.

Though tired, today i’m feeling pretty terrific. Eating a north american breakfast is also probably the best solution to most of the world’s problems! i highly recommend bagel breakfast sandwiches with home fries and big bowls of café au lait 🙂

Today I am one year sober

I had read about Dry July and I’d tried not drinking before. I could usually do 3 or 4 or 7 or 9 days. i thought about doing dry july… i mean, surely i could quit for a month…

I was either travelling or on vacation for most of June last year.  There was booze at all meals, lunch and dinner. The last night of vacation (june 27) we went out for dinner at a roast chicken ‘restaurant’ like Church’s Chicken/Swiss Chalet/St-Hubert. My husband had some nostalgic childhood thing he had to fulfill, it wasn’t my idea of a nice place for dinner. We ordered a bottle of wine, had our half-chicken-with-canned-sauce. We ordered more wine. Then we ordered more. It was our last night on vacation. We had purposely left the car behind. The bill came and i reached for the $80 that i had put in my shorts pocket. But the bill was for $130. For two people, two crappy half-chicken dinners, and some seriously overpriced, marked up, not even great wine (a lot of it). I didn’t have my wallet with me. the restaurant was closing. i didn’t have time to take the train back to our hotel room, get my bank card, and return. For whatever reason, all we had between us was my husband’s european driver’s license and $80. So we left his license with the minimum wage employee on the promise that we’d go to a bank in the morning and return before our flight to pay off the bill. and we did.

then we flew home to europe. we had wine on the plane. we had wine once we got home. and i knew i was done. I specifically remember June 30th when i had my last drink. I remember that i didn’t like it, it tasted like garbage, i was so sick and tired of the whole thing. I drank that night just to be finished with it, and so that i could begin Dry July the next day.  And, well, if you’ve read the first part of my long story from last july, you know that i got to day 7 sober and then i knew i was in trouble and that i couldn’t do it alone.

fast forward. today i am one year sober.

Here’s what I know:

  1. it’s much much easier after 30 days. then it’s easier again after 90. then 6 months is rocking. then something happens at about 8.5 months and since then i’ve been riding a pretty big upswing. The first bit of being sober is the hardest, and then it’s an uphill ride of betterness.  i cannot remember the last time i really craved wine. I know that i occasionally think that ‘wine would be a good idea right now’ but it never goes any further than that. it’s probably been 3 months since i’ve had a real craving. I tried to search my blog to find evidence, and all i can find is may 6th, so about 3 months ago: “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.”
  2. sober help. i would not have gotten (or stayed) sober without help from other sober people. my help came in the form of sober blogging. your help might come from a sober penpal, or commenting on other sober blogs. i really believe now (and i didn’t think this before) that i could not have gotten sober alone. i needed help with the noise in my head. i had to learn it was wolfie. i had to learn to not listen…
  3. i am less grumpy. i don’t go to bed in tears over some misunderstanding. i think i’m more even tempered in general.
  4. i’ve lost 10 pounds since giving up booze even WITH large amounts of cake, without dieting.
  5. we’ve stopped spending ‘dumb’ money, probably about $10 a day, it’s just stopped. We actually went out for dinner this week, and two hamburgers and a large bottle of water = $20.
  6. my husband stopped drinking at home when i quit. when i was 9 months sober, he quit entirely (his idea).
  7. I made room for my passion/job #3 thingy (catering) to really bloom. I am not a morning person. i can only get up at 6 am to bake bread because i’m sober. this i know for sure.
  8. I’m more likely to follow through on a commitment now. I’m better at answering emails and keeping my inbox empty. I follow through on what I say. No more late night facebook posts, and no more (oh god) emailing clients with ideas on how to build their businesses with absolutely no follow-through.
  9. weirdly more patient. I hope that in another year I’ll be writing that i’ve got this patience thing even more ‘figured out’. But today, i’m thankfully MORE patient than i was a year ago. some of my rapid brain syndrome has eased, some of my ADD-like ‘wanting to start a bunch of things and not finish them’ has eased too. I’m more likely to have an idea for … well, for angel food cake. Nowadays i’ll look at a recipe or two, and then roll over and go back to sleep. Before… well, before I would email a bunch of clients, ask their opinions, not follow up, put the new cake on the menu without having really figured it out, and then lose sleep once people started to order it, then deliver something half-assed.  (OK, i’m using cake as an example, right?) Now I’m more likely to have an idea, process it, and then file it away. No new actions taken until other bits are lined up. So what have i learned? I am better able to picture the outcomes of things before i begin, so that i can decide better what avenues to pursue. How’s that for being superbly unclear.
  10. as of today, i have 123 sober penpals. this fucking rocks 🙂 having a sober penpal is like sober insurance for me. Ever since the 100 day challenge started in March, i have known (at least on a subconscious level that now i know in a conscious way), that i will not drink again. When/if wolfie comes calling, i will sometimes say things to myself like “you can drink later” … but as later comes and goes, i think it’s spectacularly unlikely that i will drink again.

I’m writing this in the morning of July 1st, 9:45 am local time (3:45 am eastern).  Later today there will be cake. And we’re going out for dinner.  I will update this post later with a few photos. Happy Canada Day, happy sober birthday to me. Happy day #1 of Dry July to you.

Happy Happy.

Update: 3:22 pm local time

treatlunch

Thanks to the Tiny Gift Button

Happy 100 days to DDG & Lynda :)

Happy 100 days to DDG (holy am i ever glad to see you hit this date!) and Happy 100 days to Lynda (and to Mr. Lynda who is following along, too).

Here’s what Lynda has to say:

WOW!!  Thank you for inviting me on this journey.  It has been been truly amazing and I am so grateful and appreciative that I could come along and I’m planning on staying on this bus because I love the other passengers and driver. What have I enjoyed about this? Clarity in thinking and conversations, confidence, acceptance — life is like this, so just do it and move on, clear skin, brushing teeth at night … seeing people, understanding self, a calm knowing, “falling” asleep and feeling the wonderment of that, savoring coffee, playing 3 hour tennis matches, evening walks, early morning breakfasts, being of service with gratitude, not enough hours in a day to do the things I want to do, being available, increased intimacy in all relationships…. and this is just the beginning. Were/are there challenges?  You bet there are.  I choose not to list them because life has challenges whether we drink them away or not…. [emphasis added]

Now let me say this. Getting sober is hard. 

It’s really hard. When we’re used to squishing down feelings with booze, it’s so completely disorienting to remove the booze and to live life naked. (I wrote something about this to Quill yesterday).

i also think we’re all trying to be sober because we’re trying to sort some shit out.
and just because the tectonic plates cannot visibly be seen to be moving
does not mean that they’re not.
moving.

cuz they are

being sober isn’t a race or a destination or a popularity contest
it’s a tool
sobriety is a lever that we can use to open stuff up to get unstuck

and for some people being sober is how they avoid dying.
and how they get their life ‘back’
and how they keep their children
and how they repair their relationships

for me, being sober the first month was hard
and i wasn’t always sure what the point was
except i didn’t want to go back to day 1 so i kept going.

then i realized that i still was thinking that i wanted to drink at the end of
30 days, so i renewed it for another 60 days (90 total).

and here we are today, 370 days later.

i did not intend to do this. i intended to do 30 days just to prove that i could.
and something happened.
the tectonic plates shifted.
you can’t see it happening.
doesn’t meant it’s not.
happening.

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

monday

Happy to be mailing out the first 5 bracelets today 🙂 super powers are on the way!

I got a great email from Colleen in my inbox on the weekend:

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could live out two lives — sort of like the in the Christmas Carol?  So we could see our life with alcohol, and the one where we chose sobriety?  How interesting would it be if we could see how our lives would be played out with each scenario.  What would we lose, gain?

I play this game in my head it scares me…because I know that alcohol would take everything away — my family, friends, health, finances, looks,  I am so glad I am not on that path and am choosing sobriety — the upward path.  But I know that the downward path of self-inflicted path of misery, pain and suffering is waiting for me — hiding and ready to pounce on me at places like backyard bbq, birthday parties and other seemingly innocuous places. I am grateful that I am on the path of sobriety and I don’t want to ever give up this freedom.

Had a nice time at my friend’s party … I didn’t have the desire to drink at all and this is SUCH a blessing.  I have made it this far before, but always white knuckling it — feeling deprived that everyone could drink and I couldn’t.  It is different this time.  I feel like I am the lucky one

Team 100 update: 97 members, welcome to Gindy (58), Lex (3), Camla (3).  Happy days to: Suzanne (9), Sara (16), Rebecca (72), Mel (15), Carolyn (8), Leah (22), Jackie (40), Elle & Helene (22), Mary (10), Colleen (32), JG (31), Lurker B (7), Debbie (21), Sunny Sue (90), Lilly (31), Thirteenpointone (365!).

imagine a 3 year old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store

R: “Is it wrong to think ‘I can’t seem to get more than 3 days in a row, yet I’ve had more sober days in the past 6 months than I have had in 6 years’?”

The only thing I’ll say about percentage of sober days, is that individual sober days are HARD and we’re just *waiting* to drink again.  part of how you get wolfie to shut the fuck up is to say “no not today, not tomorrow, see you again in 100 days.”  Then he backs off and leaves you alone.

I certainly found that “drink one day, be sober one day” was just too hard.  I tried it. It took too much energy.  It made me feel bad on the days I was drinking AND white knuckling tense feeling bad on the days I was not drinking.  Frankly, being sober for a longer period of time is just plain easier OK, we can argue that it sucks temporarily for the first few days, but that’s only for a VERY short period of time.  Then it gets easier. Wolfie acts up, you ignore him, and then he comes around less and less…

And I wrote this to MG, who also mentioned the idea of making ‘progress’ with her drinking:

Every time you drink, you wake up wolfie, and have to – to some extent – start again. OK, we can argue that it’s not all the way back to square 1 starting again, but it’s probably at least 50% starting over. Wolfie is awake, and he has learned that if he tortures you, you will give in. You have to shut the fucker up. Dehydrate the wolf.

imagine a 3 year old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. if you give that child candy … well, good luck ever going for groceries again without having candy on hand. sure it can be done, but it’s waaay harder than avoiding the situation entirely)

no more candy for the screaming child in the grocery store.  Anyway, that’s the goal with the 100 challenge.  just to see what 100 days continuous feels like. THEN you can make decisions going forward from there.

Fuck you wolfie.

~

sober inspired art, thanks to mr.belle
this is painting #527. Stay here. you’re sober now. stay here.
www.artsober.com

Fuck You Wolfie Lemonade

this is my go-to fancy drink to have when others are guzzling that junky booze stuff.  Me, i like fresh and homemade and a bit tart:

Fuck You Wolfie Lemonade Concentrate

In a saucepan, stir together 1.5 cups of granulated white sugar (300 g) and 1 cup water (230 g) [for fancier drinks, add a stick or two of fresh rosemary to this while boiling.]

Heat until the mixture boils and the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

Meanwhile, juice 8 medium-sized lemons until you get 1.5 cups (340 g) juice. Strain the juice to remove pits and pulp.

Once the sugar syrup has cooled a bit, add the lemon juice, stir, leave the rosemary in, and then put in a container. You can freeze this (for 3-6 months) or store in the fridge for a week.

You now have about 3 cups concentrate.

When you’re ready for drinks, you add 50% concentrate with another liquid – regular water, carbonated soda water, bitter tonic water, or ginger ale.  I also put in a slash of cranberry juice.

It is dynamite, let me tell you.  I’ve served it in the ‘restaurant in my living room’ and the drinkers often like it better than the wine being served!

Marie (day 40) says: “I made the lemonade concentrate you gave me the recipe for and WOW!  That is amazing!  I may be stressed out, frustrated, a little depressed, and overwhelmed today, but I know that I have a yummy rosemary lemonade (made with seltzer water) waiting for me after my run tonight.  Thank you so much for that.”

 

The bracelet

IF YOU’D LIKE TO ORDER A BRACELET, I’VE MOVED IT HERE.

I chatted with Ellie from Shining Stones. she’s the lovely sober chick who made my custom “Fuck You Wolfie” bracelet.  She doesn’t usually work in aluminium and had to order in the bracelet for me.  Why did i want aluminium? it’s brighter than silver — i wanted something super shiny.  And it’s lighter in weight, so I barely even realize i have it on. and it’s also much less expensive than sterling silver. win-win.

I have no idea if this is really something you might like, but i did see a few excited emails with “where can i get my bracelet?” anyway, we’ll see what happens 🙂  once i have orders, i’ll finalize with Ellie, she’ll make and shape and bang and smooth and form.  then she’ll ship ’em to me and then i’ll send them out to you.

If you’d like to have a special Fuck You Wolfie bracelet just like mine (with secret powers!)

d--temp-fuckyouwolfie3 d--temp-fuckyouwolfie2 d--temp-fuck-you d--temp-fuckyouwolfie1

i think it has special powers

return to real life, after stay-cation, begins with my alarm going off at 6 a.m.

trudge with husband on the train to the countryside to present a big thing for his job. he needs help transporting about 7,500€ ($9825) worth of samples to a client. it’s not big stuff, and we’re unlikely to be robbed, but it takes two of us to carry it all.  we arrive 1.5 hrs later at the train station in the middle of nowhere, we get off with all of our stuff, and we stand in the rain near a bus stop, the designated meeting place, and are picked up by a company representative who whisks us off in her little car.

it is still pouring rain, and i’m being swung around in the back seat, head lolling from side to side, all the little european streets, the crazy round-abouts, trucks roaring out of nowhere, who can tell if we even have right away.  i try to close my eyes but the driver keeps speaking to me. i don’t speak her language as well as she thinks i do, and so i nod and close my eyes some more. and i hope she stops talking to me and instead watches the road more closely. couldn’t my husband ask her to slow down? are we there yet? it’s about 15 minutes and it’s very long.

we arrive at the big company headquarters.  pop open the trunk. unload. rain. There are only 3 bags.  We got off the train with 4 bags (of this i am sure). The fourth bag is not in the trunk of the car.  The driver says should we go back to the train station? My husband says “uh, yeah, we have to.” I say “i’ll say here” cuz i’m not getting back into that car. I drag the 3 bags alone into the building. I check in with security, hand over my drivers license in return for a visitor’s security badge.

i begin to unpack. I know my husband’s job well enough to start to set up.  And I do the math. How much product is in this one missing bag? (1,250€ / $1600). And who was carrying that bag when we got off the train? Me.

I wait. My husband and i have a friend who works at this company (who helped get the presentation arranged, we’re new here), and she comes to where I am waiting and we chat.  She’s just bought a new house, we talk about kitchen renovations.  do you want an open kitchen with the fish smell throughout your house? we wait for my husband and the driver to return.

she expresses some concern that the bag will not be found.  I assure her that my husband is good man, a lovely man in fact, and that he has earned this presentation. and that he ‘deserves’ this.  She is less sure. I say something like “this isn’t downtown New York” but she rolls her eyes.  I believe we have a 75% chance that the bag will be found, at the bus stop, just sitting there. That no one has picked it up, that the garbage man hasn’t come along and disposed of it.

45 minutes pass, i am worried and a bit sick. I have good faith that all will be well but i can’t figure out why it’s taking them so long. lots of traffic. my husband comes back with the driver, he gets out of the car, and then he goes and stands at the trunk of the car, waiting for the driver to open it.  The trunk? there must be something in the trunk. Yes, they have found the missing bag. it was on the side of the road, at the bus station, in the rain, for 45 minutes. Waiting to be picked up.

hugs and kisses and sorrys. our friend says to him, “you’re very lucky.” I say to my husband, “did you think it was there?” He says yes. I say, “i figured it would still be there, too.” The driver and our friend are both incredulous. who are these dreamers?  they got lucky.

there was champagne at the presentation, and during lunch, during celebrations; the driver had 5 glasses of champagne (i counted) and she didn’t eat.  husband and I drank OJ. we took the bus back to the train (the driver clearly wasn’t taking us anywhere at that point). we were back home by 4 pm and got into bed for a nap. the same bed. i like him today. he could nearly have divorced me.

I am sober. I wore my “fuck you wolfie” bracelet today. I think it has special powers.

I had plenty of similar episodes, I just never had an audience

well, it would seem like saturdays are rough. four Team 100 members emailed to ask that their counters begin again 1 after this past weekend … Being on the receiving end of so many thoughtful, touching, insightful emails from so many Team 100 members, i get emails that say “something bad happened, i didn’t do enough to prevent it, i could feel it coming but i didn’t get out of the way, i should have stayed home, can you start me again at one.”

they are NOT saying “oh well i’m on a bender now, see you next year.”

it’s like the next morning, after something bad happens, i get an email: “reset me at one. i am going to do this. i can do this. thanks for being there.”  I feel somewhat positive when i get an email right away, and if the slip doesn’t last more than 24 hrs. OK, I guess positive isn’t really the right word, but i feel somewhat encouraged. In the beginning, and until we have our tools in place … well, shit does sometimes happens.  that wolfie, he can be relentless. relapse doesn’t have to happen, and i don’t know enough about this, but i don’t suspect that relapse is unfortunately common on the way to ongoing sobriety.

And before you say something like, “well Belle you quit and haven’t relapsed in 10 months…”  all that means is that I didn’t announce i was quitting until after my stop-and-start stage.  I had plenty of similar episodes, I just never had an audience (!)…  for months before i actually tried to quit for 30 days, i would stop for a day, or two days, or three days.  i’d quit for 9 days or 6 days or for only half a day.  So yes, the last 10 months have been episode-free for me.

but you didn’t see the inside of my head the year leading up to that point…

and oh, the inside of the head. the thought processes on deciding to get sober: do i really need to, i hate that i can’t drink, why can she be a fuck up and it’s me who’s quitting drinking, why me, why this, why now. red wine, you fucker. wolfie, you fucker.

and while some people in team 100 have stopped and restarted their sober journey right away (about 27%), others are puttering along, adding up days, feeling the weeks start to whiz by (73%). Only two people out of 45 have dropped out entirely. Right this second, 43 people are sober and doing this 100 day challenge together.

Julie (day 158): “Wow, I’m glad to read that there are so many of us now …. I knew I couldn’t be alone in this struggle to quit without AA and look — I was right!!  Feeling stronger by the day and wishing I could share the energy with some of the newbies — it really does get better and easier, and if I can do this at my age (55) after drinking daily for 35 years, then we all can.”

Heidi (day 3): “I am one pissed off chick and I am not going to let alcohol or this damn wolf steal one more second of my life. I am in control and I can do this. Fuck off wolf and fuck you alcohol.”

The geek: “… the real trick is in the support of others who feel the same. I truly believe that there is nothing more powerful than another human who understands where you are coming from.”

Team 100 update: 45 members, 2 missing. Welcome to newest members: Mr. Lynda (36), and Anathu (day 2). Erica is day 84, DDG day 36, Ellen 26, and K is 40. I am on day 297, i have my sense of taste back, i went for a run, and i feel better than i have in a long time!