Missing the Sober Universe

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I am here and still alive, for those of you who have noticed my absence. I so miss this connection! I am traveling around with just an I-phone (although I know you all blog from your phones, I can’t) with an entourage of relatives, with no real place to check-in with my beloved blogging friends.

So far, I’ve gone to two weddings (sober) and had a blast, three days with the parents, a week of vacation at the beach, with another long weekend with countless in-laws coming up, and the idea of drinking has barely surfaced. It holds the same power now as my desire to have a giant piece of cheesecake — I glance at it, notice it might be appetizing, realize how sick it will make me, and then POOF! — the thought is gone immediately as I turn my attention elsewhere.

What they say is true, although I never believed it. The psychological desire for alcohol goes away. I thought I’d be salivating the rest of my life, watching the world have fun without me. I could care less about it now. Amazing!

Happy Wednesday all, and I will chat with you soon.

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. ♥ ♥ ♥

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?

Day 249: Save Your Life

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I have come to believe that self-love is the answer to not drinking.

If you loved yourself like you would a child, would you force poison down your own throat?

Dramatic, I know. But true.

I once decided, in a desperate attempt to somehow penetrate the thick fog surrounding my hung-over brain, to perform an experiment on two basil plants on my windowsill. I would water one basil plant, and give the other one only wine.

There was a few inches of warm wine in a glass from the night before. I started to pour the leftover wine into the plant, but then I noticed how beautiful its little green leaves were … how the intricate veins of green wound through the leaf’s surface … how perfect this plant  was that had been placed in my care.

And I couldn’t do it. I rinsed the wine out quickly and watered it to wash out what had absorbed in the soil, mentally apologizing to the plant for my complete lapse in judgment.

It wasn’t until years later, when describing this experiment in a meeting, that this occurred to me: I wouldn’t do this to a plant, but I would do it to myself.

I was dumbstruck, but it was true. I wouldn’t get help for myself, as if I didn’t matter. A plant mattered more.

Why was this? I knew it wasn’t always this way. I had changed, and not for the better.

I know now that alcohol’s slow beat of destruction gets you to this point. The step-by-step stripping away of your self worth. It’s sneaky, and if you don’t pay attention, you won’t notice it until it’s done a lot of damage.

I suddenly had an overwhelming compassion for the child that I once was. I felt tremendous love and sadness for myself, for a little girl that once had dreams of doing great things, but first and foremost, wanted to be loved.

How I had betrayed her.

I realized everything had to change. Not just by stopping the flow of poison … I had to change everything about the way I saw myself in the world.

I had to start treating myself like a beloved child. What would I want my daughter to do in a similar situation? I would want her to see her value … what I could see so clearly. I would want her to see the incredible wonderful spirit that she is and do whatever she had to to love herself enough to heal.

And that’s where I am today. Reminding myself what a beloved child of spirit I am, and so worth anything I have to do on my own behalf. To bring myself back from the brink is no less worthy than saving someone else’s life. It’s the bravest and most loving thing I could ever do.

Day 200: Postcard

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It’s day 200 of not drinking, but I no longer count the days except every now and then.

I don’t do it because it no longer matters. That agonizing, counting path of playing hide and seek with alcohol is behind me. I don’t know that person anymore. I feel for her, but even the memories of her 30 plus years of drinking are fading.

I have forgiven her.

Most of the time, I see her with eyes of love and understanding. When humiliating ghosts of her past arise, I watch them silently and then let them go. I don’t invest them with useless guilt and remorse. I don’t give them power. I am through punishing her.

I understand why she drank.

She drank because drinking is addictive. She started when she was just an adolescent, shy and self-conscious. Not overly so, probably just like most people. But still, it could be excruciating for her. She wanted to be someone who was louder, drew more attention, was comfortable with the stage. She wanted to be someone she was not, and that’s OK. We all go through it.

It’s passed away now, for the most part — that need to be “on.” It was so much more about what other people thought … that fear of not measuring up, of not being enough. That need to be, above all else, entertaining for other people. Of quelling fears and calming anxieties, of curbing anger and softening disappointment. No wonder I drank.

Today, after 200 days of not drinking, I have been overtaken by a glorious feeling of stillness and peace. I long for nothing, really, except to pass it on to someone else. I want you to feel like this. I would give anything to stop the heartache of the world — of my past self and everyone else still in the prison of drink. I want everyone to revel in the gift of healing. Words fall so short of describing the ways I’ve changed in just 200 short days. I didn’t know what assaulting my brain for decades took from me. I couldn’t remember what I’d lost. This feeling of wellbeing … maybe this is how a lot of non-drinking people feel. I barely recognize it because it has been so long since I’ve loved myself enough to allow healing.

I pray that you feel this peace as well. I’ve spent hours reading about the joy that is possible from people who are sober, not really believing it could be real for me. But it is. I’m a witness to what can happen if you give yourself a chance.

I hardly know the calm, loving, listening person I am becoming, but she’s pretty cool. I heard she almost drown once, but she’s finally coming up for air.

Wish you were here.