Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Two years ago, and every year before that, I used Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) as an excuse to go out to dinner to celebrate Mexican heritage, or something like that. I’m not sure what the holiday is about exactly. We would get a group together to binge on margaritas, chips, and salsa. Maybe even a few shots of Cuervo, if somebody ordered a round for the table. (It would be rude to refuse.)

Then again, I used every holiday as an excuse to celebrate, no matter how obscure … St. Patrick’s Day, Bastille Day (what is that anyway?), the Chinese New Year, Yom Kippur. But soon every day became like a party, and I had a hard time convincing even myself that there was a reason to celebrate. The low point might have been drinking alone on Christmas Eve.

But today, at 400 DAYS SOBER, I got up, celebrated by going out to breakfast, and then went around town looking for an office space. A really cool one with big windows. For business purposes. As in I’ve been looking for a place away from home to concentrate on my creative talents. Instead of drinking the day away in a bar, pretending it was a celebration.

Never in a million zillion years could this have happened while I was drinking. By a conservative estimate, I’ve saved $12,000 since I quit drinking. (Conservative because I may have had health issues, possibly a car accident, possibly a DUI. The possibilities here are endless.) Instead, the possibilities for success are astronomical. I turned the train around, and then just kept chuggin’ along. I hope you are doing the same.

So, A VERY HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!

May you have many more. ♥ ♥ ♥

Sobriety is Like Middle School

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After giving up the drink, you will soon find out that facing the world newly sober is like going back to middle school.

You will suddenly morph into your 14-year-old self, and struggle to fit in. You are tongue-tied, awkward, overeager, and shy, all at the same time. Your clothes are weird and don’t fit right.

And you have to learn the basics of socializing all over again.

It doesn’t matter what personality you had in your drinking life, because with liquid courage, we were all super confident, talkative, funny, … charming even. (Until we had a little too much, but I don’t have to tell you that.)

Alcohol, being the great equalizer, has brought us all to this new playing field: middle school.

Your sober community (if you have one) is a great place to start honing your skills, but often they are as stunted socially as you are. And thriving in this community involves learning to speak in monologues and emote on cue, which are NOT assets in middle school. Still, try to hang out with some of the older kids in this group who know their way around the schoolyard. (And AVOID the ones selling pot on the playground, even though your lizard brain thinks they’re cool. Tell yourself you don’t want to be cool. Cool is for fools! Write this on your notebook where no one else can see it.)

Sooner or later, you will be forced out of your sober safety zone, like an eagle out of the nest. A gangly, awkward eagle who spits when he talks.

You might then begin venturing out with your old drinking buddies because that’s all you know. This doesn’t count. You can’t practice having a sober conversation with people who are drinking. They want to do all the talking, for one thing, and they aren’t listening to a word you say anyway. (You do this too.) They are performing. They need an audience. All you have to do is nod your head and laugh at their stories. Even little kids can do that.

Instead, after a few months of sobriety (a year, in my case), you must seek out some normal people and attempt to hang out with them.

I did this recently. My husband and I met another couple for dinner at a restaurant. I was pretty sure that no drinking would be involved because the other couple looked so respectable. We did our best to look respectable too. Drinking never even came up. (Did you even know people like this existed? People whose lives don’t revolve around whether or not they are going to order a drink?)

After I ordered my decaf coffee, right on cue, I morphed into a kid sitting at the grown-up’s table — tongue-tied, awkward, overeager, and shy, all at the same time.

I had to consciously think things like, Now it’s my turn to say something. Say something! I no longer even recognized the simple give and take of conversation.

The inner angsting continued. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Shift eye contact to the guy who’s talking. Don’t stare. Don’t say ‘shit.’ Don’t mention Trump. Wait, he just said ‘fuck.’ Does that mean I can say ‘shit’? No! It will seem like I’m trying to be cool. Be cool. Be cool. There’s a lull in the conversation … say something! Anything!

This from a girl who once smugly described herself as a social butterfly.

Mercifully, these middle school years don’t take as long as the first time around. They’re in dog years! Even faster. Right there at the table, I advanced to tenth grade.

I became that eager to please high school girl I once was. I jumped in to the conversation now and then, testing out my growing confidence. And the evening continued on pleasantly. It was fun even. We’re going to do it again soon.

What I remember now is that before I learned to drink, I learned to talk.

I learned to express myself. I watched what other people did to learn social cues. I risked talking to people, and then built on that experience to talk to someone else. I risked telling a joke. I failed, but didn’t let it destroy me. I tried again. I learned to be myself in a group. I found out that I have something to say.

Now, I get to learn who I am all over again. To relearn what I forgot mattered. To begin again with a clean slate.

And this time, I can do it right.

ONE YEAR!

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The tagline on my site says “A women’s quest for one year of sobriety.” And let me tell you, the odds weren’t in my favor.

But guess the fuck what? Fall down 1000 times, get up 1001!

WOO Freakin’ HOO!!

I would expound more about the miracle year I’ve had, but guess what? I am off on a reward vacation to Athens! Yes, all the way to Athens!

Athens, Georgia, actually. Ha ha ha! Why? Because I have family there, and as part of my newfound sobriety, I actually visit family with out worrying about how to drink around them. And it’s not even a family-obligation day, like Thanksgiving. AND I’m looking forward to it. This is soooo unlike me!

So I am off to Georgia y’all!

(Here’s a picture of Ug to make your day. He has to sit on ice packs during the football games so that he doesn’t get overheated. FYI — I am not a Georgia fan. I just like the dog.)

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How NOT to Stay Sober

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From a wealth of experience, some even remembered, I would like to start an un-checklist of things to avoid.

It just so happens I am an expert on how NOT to stay sober. Here are some pitfalls that played out over and over again in my own life. Feel free to add your own.

Don’t do these things! (An un-check list)

Play the victim. Even though you are the victim of a devastatingly addictive substance, playing the victim keeps you stuck. Don’t allow your mind to continually revisit the past, especially knowing that your brain is cleverly weeding out the shitty and emphasizing the sublime, so that it can once again turn you into its shady dealer.

You are not helpless. You are not defeated. You are still alive, and you can still win this battle.

Bathe in guilt. There is an allure to guilt. Sometimes it feels like you are punishing yourself (righteously!) the way you think you should be punished. But guilt has no place in early recovery, if anywhere at all. Guilt makes you feel like drinking. It makes you drink when other people aren’t watching. It makes you feel unworthy, and that eventually translates into feeling unworthy of healing. I used to force myself to review moments of bad behavior, and believe me, it didn’t bolster my will to succeed. It made me feel hopeless and ashamed.

Betray your own cause. I used to switch sides in the battle against alcohol like the worst traitor. Instead of siding with my self, my life, my children’s lives, my God, my better angels, my best intentions, my desperate handwritten pledges to stop drinking, I would gaze across the battlefield and see what the enemy had to offer. I would then sneak across battle lines in the middle of the night, like the turncoat I was, and begin plotting to allow myself to drink. I joined the enemy in shooting down help from the outside world and from my wiser self. You can’t help but lose when you abandon your own cause.

Let your thoughts rule you. One of the most freeing things I’ve learned since nixing the Cosmos is that I am respnsible for my thoughts. It’s not life that will cause you to drink again. It’s your thoughts about life and yourself that will cause you to drink.

If I’m not watching my thoughts, I will be controlled by them. The minute I start thinking, “Why can’t I have a drink? Everybody else is,” and then wallow in that self-pity, I have set the stage for eventual drinking.

Instead, I can hear the thought, recognize it as damaging and untrue, tell myself I am way beyond this kind of thinking, and then let it go. I then immediately substitute a thought like “I am healthy and happy.” I let that thought wash over me, and repeat it until I feel healthy and happy. Believe me when I say this becomes so second nature that the thought to drink becomes more like an annoying gnat than an alluring siren’s call.

Be accommodating. This was a huge factor in keeping me trapped for so long. I didn’t want to disappoint my drinking buddies. I wanted romantic relationships to stay the same. I wanted to continue the life I had, while somehow finding the fortitude not to drink. And I didn’t want to inconvenience other people.

THIS DOES NOT WORK.

You must put yourself first, no matter what. This is counter-intuitive to everyone who has been beaten down by alcohol. We must accommodate other people so that we don’t get fired, dumped, or exposed.

I remember a friend called me in one of my earlier attempts at sobriety, and she was upset. She begged me to meet her at a bar to ‘talk.’ It was 9:30 on a school night. I said no at first, but she pleaded, saying that I was the only one who would understand. I went. Three hours later, I was drinking, she was off dancing with someone, and I eventually had to call a cab because my friend wanted to stay.

She didn’t need me. I needed me. She could have easily called someone else. And I didn’t really help her, except by listening, which could have been done over the phone. On the other hand, I had betrayed my own cause and wrecked my sobriety. Was it worth it? It never ever is. Never.

So … what’s on your “un-check” list?

Stunning Video

Maybe you saw this at Christmas — I did not. It brought me to tears. No matter what your spiritual beliefs (and I learn from all of them), this will touch your heart. The music is amazing.

(Disclaimer: Prepare for blaring commercial in the beginning.)