This is my best, my friends. And it is good enough.

i guess i want to say that i am feel awkward about the Awkward post. Yes, i did spend days trying to figure out what to do. Yes, i did consider a bunch of alternatives. Yes i looked into a post office box. Yes, i really did try to think this all the way through from a bunch of different angles.  Yes, I considered just saying “sorry no gifts allowed.”

I was asked if I could receive some thank yous, and I didn’t know what to do with this. I fretted for several days and then i figured that in the world of the internet, that paypal was the simplest solution.

This is new to me. There are no manuals. There are no models to follow. There’s no book written called “sober blogging and how not to get caught in a shit-storm if you mention money.”

Yes, ok, I am trying to meet everyone’s needs.  Of course, you can have an opinion about how i do that, but please know that i have already tried to consider this from all sides.  I’m a thoughtful and careful person. But if you want to buy me a coffee, I have no intentions of hurting your  feelings either by saying “no, really, I don’t need anything in return” or “well, ok, sure,….but I really don’t want it.”

I did get a number of private emails that were very supportive about my Awkward post 🙂  But in general i have to say that I really don’t want to take any shit about someone sending me $4 to buy a latte 🙂

Yes, we get weird when money enters a conversation. Well, tough.

I think this is worth talking about head-on because we’re dealing with big fucking issues here, like sobriety.  for some people that can be life and death. I am not dramatizing my role in this, i’m talking about the people who are reaching out for help. I hear this: “I didn’t want to email you again because i’ve already had two relapses and you’ve wasted enough time on me already. How can i repay you?” And i keep saying “really, you being sober is enough.”

what i’ve learned is that some people, with where they are in their addiction, have so much shame and pain that they can’t easily take any help without feeling guilty.

You can judge that if you want. You can tell me i should say “get over it.”

Those of us who have been sober for awhile can engage in long conversations about how ‘they shouldn’t feel that way,’ but after I’ve heard it for the 8th time from 8 different newly sober people, I feel like I have to do something. Please don’t judge how i’m trying to handle this. I really am doing my best.  Yes i’ve tried to think of all of the sides to this.  But to suggest that i should donate 2 hrs of my time per day and refuse the offer of a coffee in return is saddening. If someone is truly not reaching out because they feel like they’re a burden, I want to address that.  I certainly didn’t put up the tiny gift button to ‘get rich’.

And here’s the truth and it won’t come as any big surprise. I’m not great fan of this. I really am trying to do my best. You may think i’m a blowhard shit.  That’s fine. You may squirm when i put up the tiny-gift-button.  I may not be doing this well enough or good enough for you. I’m sorry. I really am.

so that’s what I’m feeling.  protective. and i hope i’ve already cried enough about this.

This is my best, my friends.

And it is good enough.

Being afraid of relapse is not the same thing as relapsing

I have a cold. my colds are never very bad, or long, 3-4 days maximum. they thankfully don’t turn into ear infections or require antibiotics.  they’re just garden variety head colds.

But having a cold is NOT good news for me, because i’ve had 2 before, since getting sober, and i know that both previous times i got a gigantic case of the ‘fuck its’ and decided to drink again. i set a date 7 days into the future and said “i’m drinking then.”  and then the cold goes away, and the date comes and goes, and i remain sober.  thankfully.

But there’s something about being sick that gives me a feeling of despair and woe-is-me.  i usually still run if it’s only a head cold (versus a chest cold). and running always makes me feel better.  I usually still work, jobs #1 and #2 and my passion job #3 thingy.  having a cold doesn’t keep me from getting things done, but the internal dialogue, the noise in my head … man, it ramps up into a frenzy.

During my 24 hour mini-vacation on the weekend, i could feel the cold coming on.  and i had an mini-anxiety attack to go with my mini-vacation… “oh no a cold is coming, you know what that means, better get prepared, get some meals ready, get your sober supports in place, get the catering wine out of the fridge (done!).”

Today is day 2 of said cold.  and while last night i had a very teary, despairing moment about this blog (!) and about the AA ideas of ego (what do i know about that? i’ve never been to AA!), and fleeting despair about the sober challenge … well, let’s just say i got scared.  I tried to explain it to my husband but he’s a normal drinker so he just doesn’t get it, though he does try really, really hard.

I said “what if i start drinking again? this team 100 thing? it’ll be a disaster.” And husband is like “yes, but you won’t.”

Me: “But i feel sick, so maybe i’ll just start opening the wine and drinking.  i could do that right now.”

Husband: “and you won’t.”

And he’s right. i won’t.

i think i learned something concrete last night:  Being afraid of relapse is not the same thing as relapsing.  In fact, being afraid of relapsing is probably a good thing.  it means i’m aware, i’m conscious.  I start to circle the wagons sooner.  i’m afraid, and therefore i read blogs online, i get the house cleaned up, and i get my cold medications ready.  i empty the fridge of catering wine and i go to bed and sleep 11 hours (again, last night).

i also know, deep down, that i won’t drink. But i gotta tell you i really hate feeling like it’s a possibility — even if the feeling is temporary.  I have a good cry and and big sleep and it goes away.  thank god.

Today is day 290 for me.  That’s 6,960 hours of sobriety, give or take. i’ve had 2 colds already and i have survived. i will survive this one.  This is not the zombie ap0calypse. it’s not worth drinking over.

frankly, nothing is worth drinking over.

hooray, cold medicine is working well today, and after 11 hrs sleep i feel significantly better than i did last night.  and that’s good news.

And every day I wake up to a some delightful sober messages, like these ones, please keep emailing so i can keep sharing:

J: “You know, in all the years of trying to quit drinking, your advice of going to bed RIGHT NOW is the most effective I’ve ever heard – sounds silly but it absolutely works, so thanks!”

Julie: “Ok, Belle, I’m sorry, but I laughed at “evil pig fucker”!  You (we) made it through … fuck you wolfie.”

MG: “I can’t describe this feeling.  It’s just an uber calm and peaceful sense.  Like I can’t believe how many years I was an anxious dreary mess.  And how excited i am to be moving on with this new me.  Again, the church message (hard to explain unless you were there) was kinda alluding to that “one thing” that you know needs fixing.  And I have heard that message time and again and WANTED to do something.  And finally I feel like I am.”

Terri: “… The question of whether I will stay stopped or not is still rattling round in my head … I joined [the challenge] because my original goal of 90 days was looming and I couldn’t figure out what to do next … I still get pangs sometimes, but compared to the beginning when it was a white-knuckle ride, I can brush them away much more easily.  At the moment because the answer to this eternal question is not definitive, I am not drinking.  I don’t want to throw away what I’ve achieved unless I am absolutely certain I can either manage it or jump back on the wagon without falling off a million times.  I read a great quote the other day – alcoholism is just death on an instalment plan. That is powerful and really stopped me in my tracks.  So in answer to the question what is better now than it was in the beginning – not having to work so hard to surf those urges is probably the best, waking up clear, sleeping more soundly and feeling better about myself for finally keeping a promise I made to me.”

Team 100 update:  We now have 36 people on this sober vacation, welcome to newest members: Lauren (23), Brandy (7), Sunny Sue (42), and Cindy (who is on day 2). I’d like to hear again from SoberinMtl, Vivien, TMcA, and Leigh.

you being sober is enough (or, Take the support already)

ok. so we’re doing this 100 day challenge thing, right? There are 35 people signed up now which is pretty awesome. I am on day 289, Amy is 130, MG is 9, Heidi is 35, and Sunflower is 24.

I got an email from K, but she’s not the alone in saying something like this: “it feels really strange to email you and not be giving anything back to you in the way of support! you are like a cheerleader to me and i so love getting encouragement from you!”

A few people have said that they’ve stopped sending their daily emails because they were worried they were ‘bothering’ me … 🙂

And I’m thinking, “WHAT?” It’s hardly a bother bother to hear that you’re sober. It lights up my day. Every morning I get up to an email inbox with 5 or 10 or 20 sober messages. It’s tearfully wonderful to hear from you, every day, as often as you want to write. Even when you’re having a bad day.

In fact, i think of this team 100 challenge as my own personal sobriety insurance.  Like, what are my chances of willfully relapsing now? zero. i’m not kidding.  it’s really a big zero. that’s a big gift for me. Money can’t buy that kind of insurance…

Did i know that being your sober penpal would be such a big deal for you? No idea.  None. I still barely understand it. I’m super glad, of course, but i’m perhaps as surprised as you are 🙂

You saying thank you is enough.

You being sober is enough.

With permission, here are quotes from three of my sober penpals:

Lawyer Anne: “I feel like my perspective is different this time. Usually I would feel like I was missing out on something and feel jealous when my husband has a few beers in the evening. This time I realize I’m not jealous of him… There is nothing to be jealous about because alcohol does me no good. I am not missing out on anything, but making a good choice for me. … As each day passes I am feeling energized and relieved by my decision to finally just stop. Not take a break or a month off to see how I feel. But to shift focus back to living my life. It sort of takes the stress off a little to make that final decision. I’ve not felt this before and I’m hoping it means this time around is different. I know I have the power to make it different.”

Lawyer Anne is on Day 7.

Carrie: “Something is different this time. I don’t feel like I am harboring some dark, dirty little secret anymore. I don’t feel like I am unique. Because i told you,  that I can’t drink normally and I reached out for help and I’m getting that help from you and Team 100 and everyone who blogs bravely about this fucking shameful secret.  I found someone who understands and now I don’t feel alone. It’s a little about accountability, but it’s a lot about finding empathy and support and advice that I can draw from when I am faced with difficult situations. I have real people who share my problem and we are all rooting for each other now. That’s what’s different and it makes it a ten times easier than before. Taking the problem out of my head and putting it into an email was all it took to change my journey.”

Carrie is on Day 36.

Brandy: “Alcoholism runs deep in my family … my drinking got worse since my dad passed away in December 2009.  I recently went to treatment, and have relapsed 4 times since January 2013.  I  literally just have a little over 24 hours sober time [at the time of writing this email].  I would like to participate in the 100 day challenge and am ready to finally have My life without Drinking. I am soo happy I found your blog!  I will pass it on to other people I know who are struggling.”

Brandy is now on Day 6.  She emailed three times yesterday, sounding better and better as the day went on.

Do you see what I see?  Can you imagine how fabulous it is to get to know you?

OK, enough cheerleading, now it’s time for me to rant a bit.  Take the support! Are you really looking at this and saying “not sure i want to email her it might be bothering her.”  Take the support already [you knew i couldn’t end this without a metric ton of swearing.  here’s more…] you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, of course i want to hear from you. you’re super amazing.  yes, you’re an introvert, or yes you’re not blogging.  any possibility that i like hearing from you cuz i like you? Really? no chance? of course I like you.  You’re honestly telling a story of you.  What’s not to like? Do you think you’re “not worthy, and who’d want to get to know you?” Enough already 🙂  There’s is at least one weird (sober) chick here who gives a shit, who cares if you’re sober or not.  But in fact, there’s a whole bunch of us here in Team 100. We’re all cheering for you. and waiting to hear from you. and to hear about you. and learn from you. and share with you.

there’s no numbness in one glass of wine

My good god i have so much to share. so many fan-tabulous emails, comments, insights. Let’s start here.

In explaining why she wants to be sober now, KC (day 22 today) wrote to me that she’d been sober for a long time (5 years?) and then …

… This cool guy was asking me out for beers after work, and I did the club soda thing for a long time.  Then I figured that clearly I had no problem anymore, and it snowballed pretty quickly to where I would’ve been if I’d never stopped. It’s always been about the anaesthesia, the wrapping up in cotton wool. Pitiful little urchin looking for a liquid hug, someone to say it’s all going to be fine. Yeah yeah, got it.  So now it needs to be about facing life head-on, no more insulating away.

What I would do differently this time: remember I CANNOT DRINK.  I’m not afraid of it, like some AA messages seem to want me to be. I will not cower down in fear before it. I just can’t do it, it does not work at all, same as how I can’t eat this food I’m allergic to.  My only focus during drinking has ever been to get numb, so I will never be able to moderate. Drinking is for other people.  I’ve already drunk enough for 4-5 lifetimes anyway – already put waaaay too many miles on that chevy.

[underlined bits are my emphasis]

KC said i could share this because it’s so damn lovely. i’d never heard the expression ‘liquid hug’ before, but it’s perfect, isn’t it.  really really perfect.

also the idea that if you want to get numb, then moderation is never going to do the job.  there’s no numbness in one glass of wine, there’s only irritation that we can’t have more.

i love this.  I know that i need to learn this lesson over and over again.  and so i’m glad to be writing this today.  I see it now.  I see it more clearly now.  Thanks KC.  Moderation is never going to do the job.

Team 100 update: Lilly (Day 31), Carrie (30), VP (28),  Ellen /Whineless is traveling and she’s on day 12. Welcome to Erica and Kate, our two newest members. We are 29 members today. If you’d like to join the 100 day challenge, read more here … even if you already have a bunch of sober days, you can commit to doing 100 more.

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?

Rinse, Lather, Repeat.

today i am 8 months sober. and i couldn’t be happier about it.

thankfully the first 30 to 60 days of “will this ever end” feelings have … well, they’ve ended.  The answer is yes, there is an end to thinking about drinking. At least for me. At least for now.

I’ve been riding on a pretty good sober-high since i recovered from my shitty cold x2. This is the longest stretch where I have not thought about drinking at all.  It doesn’t even register. Had a shitty day on Wednesday, super tired, disappointing, guy wanted to hire me for catering, came here and said he couldn’t hire me after all but stayed and ate all my samples – took up 2 hrs of my time – and then asked to take home the leftovers … and my response was to complain, and eat pie AND cake. I did not even think of having a drink. (ok, yes, I will later replace pie and cake with apples, but for now this is a huge and gigantic improvement of monumental proportions. i didn’t have to ‘bat away the idea’ of drinking, it didn’t even come up as a thought.)

what’s different?

sober pen pals. i wrote an email to Jenny that i’ve already posted here, but in brief it says: “Day one is behind you.  hungover, regret, disappointment, it’s all finished.  already behind you.  Day one was the hardest (and most exciting) part …  you’re already doing it.  the thing you’re waiting for is here.”

And in writing to Jenny, it seems to have firmly lodged in my own brain in a kind of concrete way.

That and Amy’s genius post about just fucking giving it up already … “Out of all the glorious things in life there is only one thing you cannot have: alcohol. Drop that shit like a bad habit.”

and DDG is in a similar place, i think, a place where we’ve abandoned the shit, and are embracing the new reality. and we are beginning to feel ‘recovered’.  There’s no big drama. I’ve adjusted to the newly found quiet in my head. And i’m moving forward… Like I told Jenny, doing the same thing today that worked yesterday.  Rinse, Lather, Repeat.

“Change your behavior and your thinking changes”

I’m reading a book about addiction, and I keep thinking “i should put this quote or that quote on the blog and see what you-all think…”

I will share more ideas later, and i think i’ll even have a contest to give away a copy of this mystery book … but for now, what do you think about these statements?  here you go…

A Few Inconvenient Truths About Dependency
• Addiction is a brain illness, not simply a failure of willpower or morals … Addiction is about the reward center of the brain. It’s a maladaptive response to trauma and stress.
• Change your behavior and your thinking changes.
• A new “brain model” of addiction is emerging that shows a close link between the symptoms of attention deficit disorder and those of an addicted brain.
• Express self-compassion and you begin to shed feelings of shame, which is at the root of depression and substance abuse.

Are you like me, jumping up and down, saying “YES YES, that’s exactly what I think!” or maybe you’re more relaxed than I am tonight 🙂  Or maybe you disagree entirely … In which case, Cool! More debate!

dental extraction of attitude

new sober blogger you should check out … Doc Drying Out. I was making a comment over there and thought i could put it here, too:

There should be a new category [when defining alcoholism]:
“Do you regularly drink more than you want to,
do you think about drinking more than most people,
and have you thought about quitting but can’t quite seem to do it.”
If that was a box, I’d check it : ).

I got soooo hung up on the definition of alcoholic when i was first quitting (and even beforehand).  Am I or aren’t I.  Should I be in AA or not.  I felt that there just weren’t enough boxes to check (on all those checklists) for those of us who are high-bottom boozers.

How about just this: “life is better without booze, give it a try. oh, you find it hard to try quitting even just for a while? then you will enjoy a life without booze even MORE than you think!”

And in follow-up to yesterday’s stupid/overwhelmed post, husband has a dentist appointment tomorrow (may they extract his attitude while in the dentist’s chair).  And right after I posted about scaling back, I cancelled one of the things I do for Job #2.  There weren’t many people using the service, but i was clenched against one or two emails saying “oh, i’m so sad you won’t be doing this any more, i love this …”

what did i get?

crickets. not one single email saying anything. Clearly i need to cut out more stuff, cuz what I think the universe needs is not what it needs right now! what a relief.  i’m not in charge of the universe : )

people just want oreos

Who would you be if you were already ‘enough’? what would you do if money and talent were not an obstacle?

The big contract for my third job/passion thingy has begun. i worked hard yesterday to be ready and just delivered the first installment this morning. I will go by the space later this afternoon to see how it’s looking, and to be onsite for questions, instruction, and brainstorming. Yes, i did work a long day yesterday, but i also ran, read, and ate relatively healthy food including homemade vegetable soup. in fact, on my tuesday weigh-in, i am down 2.2 lbs from July 1st, so that’s not too shabby. It means that the reliance on cake is waning somewhat. I was also in bed last night by 9:30 pm, asleep by 10 pm. My life is much improved by getting enough sleep. this might be the key to all of life’s problems… at least for me, at least for today.

if i was already enough, i’d (honestly) stop (entirely) one of my three jobs … job #2.  My work there is fragmented, clients never hear from me unless i’m trying to sell them something, and i don’t know what i’m delivering half the time, it’s not a good match of my skills + their needs. it’s like i have to keep convincing them that they need me. instead of finding people who ‘do’ need my services, and selling to them instead.

this is a light bulb moment.

forgive me if i stop here. for a moment.

god, this is why i continue to blog. so that i can explain things TO MYSELF. (It’s great if someone else is aided by my ramblings, but please forgive the gigantic belly-button-gazing-self-centered nature of today’s post.)

here it is:  stop trying to convince the world that they need bandaids for their worms (they don’t, and you’ll spend such a long time trying to convince them that they DO). stop trying to convince the world that they need a new pink handbag (they don’t, and stop buying so much fucking stuff anyway).  stop trying to convince the world that they should pay you to help them get up off the couch (whey they’re ready to get off the couch, they’ll find YOU). stop trying to convince people to buy this broccoli instead of that broccoli (because really, they just want oreos; find a way to sell healthy homemade-with-love oreos and just be done with it).

i would never have figured this out if i wasn’t sober. when drinking, i was on a treadmill of job 1, job 2. i was just getting through the day. now there’s actually time and energy to THINK about things.

now that i’ve mixed metaphors so much that you can’t follow me at all, let me say this:

Dear Belle.  As of today, stop wasting energy trying to sell things to people who don’t want them. Stop trying to convince anyone of anything. If they want oreos instead of carrots, then sell them oreos. And if you find oreos personally repelling, then just look away and do something else.

Business advice often heard:  “Where should you set up a hotdog stand? In front of a bunch of hungry hotdog eaters.” i never really understood this it until today. until right now, this minute. i’ve just delivered a big job to my job #3/passion/thingy and i realize that it’s the easiest work i’ve ever done. there’s a huge market for it and i can barely keep up. {DUH! WAKE UP CHICKY BABY}

Note to self. Try again. Dear Belle. You’re getting distracted. Listen here:

Sell to people who WANT to buy your stuff.  Stop trying to convince anyone of anything.

(the parallels with *real* life, of course, are evident. stop trying to convince people that they need to change, just be you.  be you as much as you can. do your thing with love and care. oh my god i know understand the fucking 1970s touchy-feely-hippie book title: do what you love and the money will follow … oh. my. god.)