thinking about ‘never’ gets us stuck

K says: “so grateful to be a part of this challenge – it is helping me in so many ways.”

then I say “can you elaborate?” and she says …

Well, i have to say that i have about 100 reasons not to drink, but when i have a craving or someone asks me if i want to go out for beers … i often can’t think of a single one of my reasons to not drink. [it’s going to make me feel like absolute hell tomorrow? it’s expensive? i will look like a fool when one of my roommates wakes up to pee at four in the morning and i’m alone in the dark living room, hammered and still drinking like tomorrow is not a word in my vocabulary?] All of those reasons seem to disappear when I want to drink. Or i tell myself i will behave this time and will drink normally, and go to bed when everyone else does. (i never do.)

Being a part of the challenge has eliminated alcohol as an option for me, so when asked to go drinking in the last few weeks, my answer is an absolute, “no thank you.” It’s the first and only thing that comes to my mind.

also what i like about the challenge is that it is 100 days — not forever. in the past, i have gone from drinking my brains out, to saying i am going to stop forever. and then a really enticing opportunity to drink would arise and i would think, “well forever can start tomorrow, or after xyz event.” A hundred days is a very short time compared to forever, and for now it is a number that seems more significant than 30 and easier to swallow than, say, 365.

*

It’s funny that K wrote about “forever” because I had just written something along the same lines to Carrie.  And I wrote this for Carrie twice, cuz in the space of 24 hrs, she asked virtually the same question two separate times 🙂

I do believe that thinking about ‘never’ gets us stuck.  in early sobriety, everything is hard. so the BIG idea of ‘never’ is just too much to do right now.

the only plan I have is to not drink today.  and perhaps not drink tomorrow.  the rest of it, I’ll deal with it when it comes.  and the longer I’m sober, the more I realize that I’m likely to continue treating it the same way I have up to now. and that is a huge giant fucking relief.

is it never? I don’t even have to think about what never means.  I just have to do my thing.  and keep doing it.  rise, lather, repeat.  sure, I’m sure that ‘never’ gives a kind of comfort, but I’m just the kind of girl who hates rigid rules and might just rebel.  so I know me well enough, that if I’ve found something that’s working, I’m not changing it.  not even a tiny bit.  I’m just doing this.  again.  and again tomorrow 🙂

All of the muddled up thoughts (“is this forever?”) do stop.  It’s just wolfie rebelling, trying to find loopholes, ways out, ways to drink again.  and here’s the TRUTH:  you’re doing fine. even if you don’t believe me.  [this is why you’ve reached out for advice from others, because you truly can’t tell… that you’re ALREADY doing everything right.]

you’re not drinking.  that’s it. That’s all you have to do 🙂

9 months

not a typo, not an april fool’s joke. today is my 9 month sober-versary… no shit!

besides all of the anticipated comments about how i’ve birthed a baby or grown a human in this time, how i’ve become me, etc. etc. lemme say this: something has changed for me this month.

When I was 8 months sober, i was like “well, that’s a nice accomplishment.” And as I got closer and closer to 9 months, i realized something else entirely new.  I began to know that I’m easily going all the way to 1 year.  I mean, really, it’s only a short 3-month coast downhill from here.  My sober car has enough momentum now that i can easily see my one year sober-versary coming up.

also, now that the sober car is moving downhill, under its own speed, I no longer have to have both hands firmly clenched at 10-and-2 all the time. I have started to be able to relax and look around at the scenery.

This wasn’t a planned transition — are transitions ever planned? — i just realized maybe two or three days ago that I’m done with all of the struggle. I’m done with cravings in any meaningful way. I periodically have a thought like “wine would be a good idea right now” but those thoughts aren’t very well formed, and they have no possibility of turning into an action.

Update on Team 100: Anne is working on day 22, Emily on 13, and Heidi had a truly crappy weekend and she’s on day 21. Lynda is nearly day 14 (celebrations!). And me, i’m on day 275 (my first day 100% sober was July 1st. My longest sober stretch before that was about 9 days … this is a tiny bit longer than 9 days now!).

Being Sober is Like …

Today is Easter, and whether you celebrate it or not, it’s a great time for resurrecting, right?  🙂 Thanks to Whineless (day 3) for the great title.

You might think it’s hard to describe how great it is to be sober. Apparently Carrie (21) has no problem finding the words:

“Being sober is like the smell of freshly baked bread every morning when I wake up. It’s like the smell of fresh cut grass when I go outside. It feels like the last day of school as I go about my day.  Like stretching your legs after a really long car journey when I get home. At  the very end of my day, it’s like getting into bed when the sheets have just been cleaned. It’s like the white noise that you didn’t notice in the background of your thoughts suddenly stops. I can’t get enough of that silence. Being sober is all of this and with support it is even more. It’s when someone puts a blanket on you just as you are about to fall asleep. That’s you, that is. You do that.”

So how great is it to be sober? Her email got me thinking.

  • It’s like a Sunday long run, where you get all the green lights, taxis stop to let you cross, and then you run along the water in a group of other runners
  • It’s like when your husband makes you a tuna sandwich, because he does a better job, cuz he puts in bits of minced garlic
  • It’s like eating the best piece of red velvet cake, on a holiday weekend, after your long run, reading a brand new magazine, with a cup of coffee
  • It’s like a trip up the Eiffel Tower, a tour through the Vatican, a midnight walk across the Tower Bridge (with a full moon!).
  • It’s like swimming in the ocean and then stretching out on a blanket to dry off in the sun

And you? Can you describe how great it is to be sober … “It’s like…  [insert here]”

Happy Easter, or Happy Sunday, or Happy Whatever this day means to you 🙂 Love, me (274)

we feed it cake and say “shut the fuck up”

That desire to drink, it’s so boring. it comes and goes without warning, sometimes even without reason. The desire to drink is like a 3-year old having a temper tantrum. You’re going along fine, then the temper tantrum starts.  You look at your 3-year old and you think, “What? Now? In the bakery? You want wine now?” But if we can treat our desire to drink just like a whining 3-year old, we’d say: “yes, I hear you, but the answer is no.” Then the whining gets quieter.  That, and we feed it cake and say “shut the fuck up” 🙂

[I just sent that message to Jenny, in response to a comment about how the desire to drink is ‘here today, gone tomorrow’.]

and let me just say three cheers for Heidi, she is on day 19 today. Amy is 114. K is on day 16 🙂  There are now 23 of us on Team 100. And we’re all sober today.  So far as I know 🙂

Let there be cake.

i am well.  the 2-day irritation has passed.  seems to all be about sleep for me (no shit!).  i had a crappy night’s sleep Monday night (worrying about a big meeting on Tuesday), and then the lack of sleep snowballed as the week went on (thankfully a short week so only felt truly terrible on Wed and Thurs).  Now it’s a 4-day holiday weekend (at least for those of us following very queen-like schedules! all the colonies anyway…). I have been able to maintain running 5 days a week, even went for a run last night at 7:30 pm which, as i said to Anne, is a new thing for me… “now I do laundry after dinner!  now I sometimes work!  last night I went for a run … completely unheard of … sober girls = we get shit done :)”

and yes, it’s only early in the morning, but I’ve been waiting to say happy day 60 to Jenni, Day 19 to MysteryGirl, and Day 10 to KMCC.

There are now 20 of us on Team 100, that’s pretty wild! Welcome to newest joiner, Jen (Mommy’s Journey).

And only 2 people have emailed to ask that their counter begin again at 1.  One person, after she slipped, said she wasn’t going to count days and that she needed a little bit of time… I told her i wasn’t deleting her name from the list … and less than a week later she emailed back to say she’d been sober since the last email… so she’s on the chart again and is on day 5.

OK, so this isn’t a statistical thing, of course, but 20 out of 20 of us are sober. Two people slipped and got right back at it …

And me? I get to read the best emails every single morning.

  • “Sober.”
  • “Sober.”
  • “Sober and happy about it.”
  • “I have a cold and i’m going to bed sober.”
  • “I’m cleaning up vomit thank god i’m sober.”
  • “My crazy family makes me crazy, I will remain sober.”
  • “Your red velvet chocolate cake is nearly as good as the cheesecake.”

OK, that last one is from a catering client.  If she only knew what the rest of my inbox looked like!

CAKE 🙂  let there be cake.  Sober girls need cake. Leave it to me to devolve to cake in each and every post …

Even on its best day, wine was a shitty companion. never living up to its end of the bargain. always better in my imagination than in reality.

i did post that i was having a wine craving yesterday, i’m happy to report that the feeling continues today! It’s not an overwhelming “oh my god i must drink right now” feeling, it’s more of a “i think a glass of wine would be a nice idea” kind of feeling.

But one thing i know.  i am not going to drink.  i may have this feeling, and even though i posted about it last night, it was more to say that yes i do still have those feelings.  and while i’m currently experiencing an “i should drink wine” feeling, i also know in a tiny place in my head that i will not drink.  not now.  not like this.  i would always wait a week first.  i’d always go to bed first.  I’d always blog and ask for help first. I’d always ask someone to call me and try to talk me out of it first.   i’d always cry, and run 10K, and pound sand first.  I’d make sure i’d tried every fucking thing first.

and yes, this has been enough to get me to nearly 9 months (shocking! egads that’s a long fucking time).

in response to my post yesterday, Lilly sent me this message:

I saw your post and that was something I really needed to read today. Yes, the ‘fuck its’ and the ‘smell of defeat’. I can see the danger zone approaching rapidly if I don’t take active steps to combat it – take THAT stupid Wolfie.

And Carrie wrote:

we would all be lost without you if you went back to boozing! ( no pressure!).  Hope tomorrow is a better day…

Carrie’s comment made me feel a bit bad, because i didn’t want to sound overly dramatic. I may periodically have pangs, but I also know on some level that I won’t give in to them.  I have other coping strategies… sleep, writing, running, and deciding to wait a week to ensure that I still feel like it – and I never do.  I haven’t had a slip yet in 9 months so I’m pretty thankful for that, and expect to continue just like this.

I still feel the desire to drink sometimes, but I also know at the same time that I won’t give in to it 🙂

Then carrie asked a very clever question:

What do you miss? I mean really miss, enough to start drinking again?

great question!  I don’t miss anything *enough*.  sometimes I’m irritated that I’m on the outside of everyone else’s fun, but honestly that rarely rarely happens.   it’s the first thing to come mind, though, to say – but actually I’m kind of ok being a tiny bit different (esp. when being different is better for me).  I miss the ‘off’ switch that comes with a big glass of wine.  I just wish that one glass of wine would suffice, but it doesn’t.  so I’ve found other off switches.  I miss the hazy feeling of vacation, sunshine and booze in the daytime.  but really that leads to daytime ‘naps’, being grumpy with my husband, crying (I seem to cry more when drinking), weight gain, and headaches.  and then I’d always drink more at dinnertime after my ‘nap’ … of course.

for now there’s nothing I miss enough.  and the things that I’ve gained are much much more than wine ever gave me.

Even on its best day, wine was a shitty companion.  never living up to its end of the bargain. always better in my imagination than in reality.

and on Monday April 1st I’ll be 9 months sober.  let there be CAKE 🙂

the smell of defeat lurking about …

Sober penpal VP (day #14) says that some days she feels OK about being sober, but other times she can “smell defeat lurking.”

Funny thing that.  I can smell it too, sometimes.  I’ve been feeling like wine would be a good idea for a couple of days now.  Of course, wine would be a TERRIBLE idea, but it’s been on my mind. I have weeks and days where i’m like la-la-la-la life is great, and then there’s a whiff of “defeat” and a twinge of “fuck it” …

what i wrote to VP, and what i’ll write now, again, so that i’m saying it to me too is:  you may smell defeat lurking, but it’s just a feeling, not a decision.  the smell will pass! especially if you talk about it (with others, with hubby), and if you open the windows (i.e. get outside and don’t isolate), and if you reach out for help 🙂  

VP will be fine and I will be fine.  i have moments, though, like everyone else.  I will feel crummy for a bit.  I’ll go to bed early. my brain will throw a temper tantrum. then i’ll be fine.  I will reread my post about moods/feelings and decisions. and i’ll pretend that someone else wrote it.

happy day 17 to Lilly, day 13 to Leigh Ann, and day 296 to Thirteen… and happy day 269 to me 🙂

“I do have power over alcohol — I have the power to not drink it”

Heidi sent me an email as part of her sober update for today. With her permission, here’s an extract:

I had a dream. [I was in a hotel room, on my way out for the evening.] As I passed the fridge I thought, “what the hell? I’ll just have 2 here and no one will be the wiser.  Then I won’t have to drink in front of everyone else so no one will know that I didn’t stay sober.”  I cracked the beer and felt it work its way through my veins.  It tasted so good…and I quickly finished my second drink.

I headed out the door with a smile, finally feeling relaxed.  A thought quickly caught my attention. “What the heck am I going to tell Belle?”

That’s so weird, since I have never met you and actually know very little about you … I was worried about a promise I made to you, someone I don’t know, but yet I was able to break so many promises to the people I love over the years.

I woke up a little shaken (as I do after having “using” dreams).  I was trying to figure out what it all meant.

I decided the meaning was this: I am ready.  Truly ready to stop drinking.  Ready and willing.  It’s not about me keeping a promise to someone I don’t know versus breaking a promise to my loved ones.  It’s that I have finally found myself in a place of willingness and peace … a place where no one and nothing is going to stop me from being sober.  I am in control and with the help of others I can do this.  I can stay sober.  I love going to AA but I do have a hard time with the idea of powerlessness.  I am not powerless over alcohol — but when I drink, I give up that power.  I do have power over alcohol — I have the power to not drink it.  That’s a damn good feeling.

So yes, I am sober on day 13 [of the 100 day challenge] — you were right.  The temper tantrums in my head have gone down a little bit, and I can have feelings of happiness.  I’ll take it.  This is way better than being drunk.

As for me, i’m having a lovely Sunday. Day 267. Right when Heidi’s email came in, i was getting ready to make whipped cream for a cake. thought about adding some liqueur to the whipped cream but since the alcohol won’t be cooked off, I won’t.  I really debated it for a few seconds, well it’s only half a teaspoon… anyway the answer is no.  While I do sometimes ‘cook’ with alcohol, I don’t just add it ‘raw/uncooked’ to things. I don’t want to taste it. Well, I do want to taste it but I know not to taste it.  Thanks wolfie, you can go back into hiding now!

[I know that not everyone feels comfortable cooking with alcohol, in any form (even boiled/cooked), and lots of people aren’t comfortable having any booze in the house at all. I do a lot of catering and there is alcohol in my house. I know me, and I’m OK with it. You may not be like me.]

Hooray to Heidi, and thanks for letting me share your email on the blog 🙂

100 Day Challenge (update)

To the best of my knowledge, and not taking into consideration time change (i.e. it’s tomorrow in Australia already), I’m happy to report that 13 people so far have signed up to do the 100 day challenge.  Leigh Ann is 7 days, Carrie is 11, SoberInMtl is 49 (hooray tomorrow is 50!), and VP is on day 10.

I’ve had a great week with lots of great messages from sober penpals. Some just email and say ‘sober’, while others are more chatty 🙂

I had a very interesting email from Carrie (day 11)… and with her permission, I’m posting an extract here:

it’s been a huge help to be reading blogs, writing emails about it and generally feeling part of something which is bigger than just me and the desire to stop, all by myself. The challenge is brilliant too. I am going on a trip this weekend to see a girlfriend who I would usually associate with a big drink up. Dinner/wine/chatting/wine/movie/wine and the most HORRENDOUS hangover the next morning … followed by lunch/wine blah, blah, blah. Anyway on the phone I almost didn’t tell her that I am not drinking. I was dreading the disappointment in her voice. But when I thought about the challenge, I just told her I wouldn’t be drinking. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to start again or of having to say I couldn’t overcome the first real hurdle. It wouldn’t have even involved anything major, just the sound of a disappointed friend … really what is so bad about that? People get upset, let down, disappointed all the time. It’s not my responsibility to protect them from that?!

So, I will go on my trip and I won’t drink. If it hadn’t been for the challenge, then I probably would have postponed my precious sobriety again. So, thank you for that.

anyway, i just wanted to share how genius i think carrie is. it is super amazing to get an email like that, i can assure you.

All-round, the universe has really been rewarding me this week. thoughtful emails from (virtual) strangers. Kindness everywhere.  I even had a client in the US mail me (out of nowhere) the two things i can’t get here without huge expense: mayonnaise and canned cranberry sauce. with a note that says: “thanks for helping me to become a better version of myself.”  sniff.  it’s just one of those weeks 🙂

and every message I get, every email i send, every blog i read, every comment I make, and every random box of presents I get from a stranger — all add up to a happy, sober girl.  I even had cake for breakfast.  Really, this has just been the best day!

Go Team 100, Go 🙂

toxic

My sober penpal Lilly asked me a good question about our crazy brains.

Her question was about amnesia, how we forget the feeling of being hungover. and why do we continue to drink (or to crave drinking) when we know it’s not good for us.  It’s like we forget all the bad parts as time goes on.

first, i must give my standard disclaimer. I am not a counsellor 🙂 I know nothing about nothing.  I am only 8.75 months sober.  I know nothing.  There are lot of people out there a lot smarter that I am, with a lot more experience.

but my first gut reflex is that drinking is like being in a toxic relationship (with a man, in my case, but you can insert your own appropriate gender!).  Yes, there are good days when you’re dating a bad guy. there are promises of improvement that don’t materialize. there are moments when you realize with certain clarity that you have to leave. and then later, you believe his stories. because you want to believe. because you’re not ready to leave yet. Because you think you’re broken and he’s probably the best you can get. and he really does have his good points.  He has such nice hair, and he can sing in tune (!).

we stay in toxic relationships because it’s not easy to see what needs to be done when you’re in it. Which is why the sober blogs are so damn helpful, as I can rely on the genius of others who’ve been there to see right through my lame rationalizations.

we stay in unhealthy relationships because we have low-self esteem  on some level, probably not consciously, we don’t think we deserve better.  clearly, if we deserved better, we’d be out there ensuring that ‘better’ happens to us.  instead we hide.  we pull the tent flaps down around us, and we say ridiculous things like “next time…” Next time I’ll make sure I eat something first.  Next time I’ll have a glass of water every second drink.  Next time I’ll stop when everyone else stops.

we stay in abusive relationships because our vision of reality becomes warped and we can’t really see what is right and what is wrong. we have moments of clarity, hungover desperate moments, and then once the sun is shining and he’s cleaned up for you, and he’s smiling that smile, you say “oh it wasn’t that bad.”

and while I got all jiggy on the blog earlier this week about me NOT being superhuman, one thing I think I DID do, that perhaps other people don’t do, is I decided to improve my situation BEFORE it got bad.  I got sober early. I didn’t wait till the last minute, I didn’t try to find ten hundred different ways to continue drinking. I figured that getting out was probably worth trying, and once I was out, I realized how much better I felt, and how much stronger. yes, I do deserve more. yes, I was previously hiding in a tent (yes, someone who owns a company or two can still be hiding in a tent, not really facing all the glorious things the world has to offer).  I decided that it was better to be ‘single’ (sober) than to be in a ‘bad relationship’ (spending every evening with a bottle of red wine).

and everything else we believe about booze, when we know better, are just excuses. because we don’t think we deserve more.

and really, really, you do.  deserve more. tons and heaps more.

we may not even realize it, but in trying to quit, it’s like we’ve already raised our hands and said: “Me! Me! Hey, look at me! I want something else.  I don’t even know what it is yet, but this thing I’ve been doing ain’t working. I know I need something better/different. I know that something better is out there for me.  I’m going to go out and find it. I’m not going to wait in this shit hole any longer, thinking it’ll magically change. Holy I have no idea what I’m doing, at all.  All of my usual coping strategies have been left behind.  But I’m doing it anyway.”

Another thing, and i forgot to mention this, but i think the booze itself made me depressed.  I don’t drink because I was depressed — the booze made me feel lethargic and like a bag of shit.  The booze itself got into me and changed me. And then there’s wolfie …

Thanks to Lilly, cuz I really do love questions like this. They make me think hard.  I was in a toxic boy relationship before I met my husband.  we only dated for 6 months but it was like train wreck from start to finish.  why was I there? I must have believed that it was the best I could do (I was 35ish). I believed his lies (and it was all lies, including his name). He (literally) had an AA tattoo on his shoulder and he told me it “wasn’t his.”  hahahahahahahahaha … but oh, he was cute and could sing in tune.  and said such nice things to me… Thankfully my husband, who can’t even tell white lies, is also cute and can sing. and isn’t a gigantic jackass.

What do you think?