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. ♥ ♥ ♥

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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Facebook, Drinking, and Illusion

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It’s funny how life works.

Sometimes I get the exact phrase or story or song lyric that I will need right before being blindsided. It’s as if someone hands me a lifeline just as I’m about to go overboard.

Yesterday’s lifeline came in the form of an email from a friend in early sobriety, and she included a link to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability. (I’ve seen it before but was happy to listen to Brene once again discuss how embracing our weaknesses can help us connect with life and other people.) My friend described how she was using the Ted Talk to ‘lean in’ to uncomfortable feelings. I’d been trying to do that as well because I am forever scheming to avoid discomfort and pain, like most people. I am a great stuffer of bad feelings. Of course, I used to have alcohol to dull or sharpen or release ‘bad’ feelings, but that stopped working long ago.

My friend wrote about those overwhelming feelings and urges you get when you first stop drinking. I was beyond all that, I thought. I couldn’t really remember when the last strong desire to drink had hit me. I had graduated. Armed with almost a year of studying sobriety as if I were majoring in it, I felt safe.

On to Facebook ….

I rarely look at Facebook, mostly because I don’t have much interest in what people I knew years ago are having for breakfast. Or where their great-nephew is going to school. I do like to keep up with distant relatives and close friends, but that only takes the occasional glance at Facebook, and I wade past all of the invitations to like this or that. Consequently, I rarely post anything.

I was on Facebook to invite another friend of mine, Kim, on a spiritual retreat I was thinking of attending. I quickly Googled the retreat’s website to judge if it might be something that appealed to her. Unfortunately, the site featured a photo of a tired-looking  group of mostly older women acting kooky to demonstrate that they were having fun. (Never mind that they were probably my age.) Ah, well … hopefully she could see past the images to the more spiritual aspects of the retreat.

Clicking on Kim’s Facebook page, I saw that she was on a boat somewhere in the Caribbean. There she was, frosty glass of mimosa hoisted in the air. “Breakfast of champions!” was the caption. She looked tanned and happy, and I casually scrolled down through her photos. Kim in a cocktail dress, glass of wine in hand. Celebrating a birthday with a gang of friends, all casually strewn about an island bar. More photos of friends, friends, friends. So happy, all of them.

And a feeling I didn’t like began to wrap itself around my heart.

Envy. Hurt.

I used to do that. I used to be on those beaches, feeling the warm sun on my skin, hugging people I barely knew, hoisting my glass in the air. I wanted that back again. It was mine too. I felt a familiar wave of grief wash over me.

Then I thought about the spiritual getaway I would be going to. That awful photo of sober, kooky fun. I didn’t want to do that! That wasn’t me. I am one of those women on the boat. That’s where I belong.

But this time I recognized the feeling I was having, because I had named it before. Heartbreak.

And I sat with the feeling. I let myself feel it. It hung on tight around my chest, and then began to dissipate. I honored myself, acknowledging that it was OK to feel this grief, however misguided.

It hurt to let go of who I was. It hurt to suddenly be the kind of person who talks about mindfulness and yoga and healthy food, sprinkled in with a few anti-drinking anecdotes. A person who goes to bed by ten and has become predictable and has successfully driven most every drinking friend to the sidelines of her life. And has yet to search for new ones among the non-drinking world.

But that’s OK. That’s change, I told myself. Change for the better.

More reasonable thoughts began to enter my mind. As if on cue, a quote from an Eckhart Tolle article that I had written down rose in my mind: “Now you can use thought instead of being used by it.”

The photographs, and my thoughts that went with them, were an illusion. I knew that. When I was drinking with friends, the photos never covered the following morning, hung over and remorseful. Or the drunken arguments that took place late at night. Or the swerving cars leaving the dock. And this idea that drinking somehow led to vacations was also an illusion. It led to overdrawn bank accounts and money wasted on gallons of alcohol.

And broken families.

And I knew Kim was actually having a crisis of her own right now, wondering about her marriage, her career, her kids. And her drinking. She also was trying to save herself from a life that looked glittery and colorful on the outside, but that she found increasingly empty and unfulfilling.

I sent her the invite. And I look forward to the retreat, with her or without.

I went back to the retreat photo, to see it through my own eyes instead of how I perceived Kim might see it. On second glance, the people in the photo seemed genuine, like they didn’t take themselves so seriously. They were unconcerned about their image. Hell, they probably posted the photo on their Facebook pages.

Maybe they were just waiting for me to grow up enough to appreciate them. Maybe this group, I decided, was exactly what I needed.