Remembering the bad to find the good

delicatefern

I generally don’t find it helpful to dwell on bad things that are in the past. It’s healthy to let go, to move forward, right? I don’t care to wallow in negativity about something I can’t change.

That said, I think a little crappy reminiscing can be helpful in this process. Lately my thoughts have been about where my actions lead me in relation to where I want to be.

When I think about drinking, too often I think of a pretty glass of wine at a special meal or a frosty pint at a cozy pub. It’s the first glass or two that I imagine will make some moment more perfect. And even if it goes a little farther than that, surely it’ll all be in good fun.

The reality might start with a little sparkle but more likely I’d be admiring my first glass in the early afternoon light of a weekday. Here is the not-uncommon ending I would do well to remember: my elbows on the toilet seat at 3am (again: weekday), rocking on my heels with my head in my hands, wondering if I’m going to throw up and if I can do it quietly. I’m sweaty and too ashamed to look my cat in the eye, never mind the the two people I love the most … who are asleep in rooms on either side of the bathroom where I’m tearfully vowing not to end up in this position again.

I wrote in a journal a decade ago—already aware on some level that my drinking was not particularly healthy—I touch glass most often. Bottles, glasses, cold and smooth. Held by my hands, protected, replenished. Did the payoff ever match the cost? It’s long past time for me to stop investing in my own destruction.

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I haven’t been counting days, but I think I’m at around 30. I’m seeing this as more of my new normal, just the way I live. Something about counting was throwing me off. I looooved it on my first go-round and found good motivation in not breaking my streak. I think the difference is that at that point, I was trying to prove that I could do it. No cheating, pure willpower, ta-da, I did it! And once I had proven that, I felt a bit like I could just do whatever I wanted again. The count-up was kind of feeling like a countdown to a drinking decision. But I’ve made the decision, I know the answer. Drinking is not good for me, it’s not good for my body, it’s not good for my family, it’s not good for my wallet. I have seen that I can live very happily without drinking, and I just need to relax and do it.

There are other things I abstain from for health or ethical reasons, but I don’t keep track of when I last consumed this or that, or how many days I’ve been without. I guess with those things, any ‘sacrifice’ doesn’t feel like one because I’m confident and comfortable in the benefits of those choices. I really did like counting days last time, so maybe I’ve just used that tool, it got me where I need to be, and now different tools will keep me going.

I had some challenging moments after accepting an invite to a friend’s going-away party. It was at a brewery … on karaoke night … and they didn’t serve food. I was determined to get over myself and show up for my friend, but I felt very uneasy about it. (And even as a drinker, I would’ve been nervous about karaoke peer-pressure!) The day of, I was still debating whether or not this was a good idea. I even went on their yelp page and looked through user photos of the place.

I just couldn’t picture myself there. I couldn’t see myself adding anything good to the evening as a sober person tempted to drink, without even a meal to distract me, and not particularly wanting to sing in front of people. I couldn’t see myself adding anything good to my life by drinking and “going with the flow” and doing something stupid. (Is there even an amount of alcohol where the ability to do karaoke and the ability to drive can coexist?)

So, I bailed. I sent a vague “sorry, can’t make it” excuse two hours before we were supposed to meet. Someone else had to cancel too, and I felt like a jerk friend contributing to a poor showing at our friend’s last hurrah (three others did make it). But it was the right thing to do. I thought about what was really going to matter, in two weeks, two months, two years. This wasn’t a super close friend, though I do care about her. But this is my life. I have to say “yes” to me, and protect the good life that I’m growing. It’s not even just about me. My choices ripple out from me to affect my loved ones, and J and M are far more affected by my well-being than a friend with her own full life. She’ll be ok. It was the right call.

I have more things on my mind, but this is long enough for now. Happy September. 🙂

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Pain and progress

weepingwillow

Things are going well. I’m really liking my new job. It’s just the right amount of challenge without hanging over me when I’m not actively working. The regularity and reliability of the work is melting away a tension I didn’t even realize was there. It’s been easier to be present in the other parts of my life. My early morning schedule has certainly made it easier for me not to drink, and I’m back to eating healthy breakfasts.

I’m trying to remember treats and rewards. I keep forgetting to plan them and instead end up labeling, say, ice cream as a treat when I’m already halfway through eating it. I still think that helps, though. I put Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola on hold at the library.

Ugh, speaking of books—one of my friends asked me the other day what I thought of “the book,” had I started reading it yet? Huh, what book? Um, for book club? What? I didn’t think we’d picked a new one! [nervous laughter] Uh, yeah, it was at the end of our last meeting….

Oops. I’d had at least three glasses of wine by the end of that last meeting (prior to my new day 1). I blushed and stammered out something about being distracted by an earlier conversation. But then the memory surfaced and I did remember us choosing the book, I even remember trying to request it through our library app and getting thwarted by a crappy cell signal. And then I gave that friend a ride home.

There’s no excuse for that, and no good reason for any of it. What am I trying to prove by drinking, by “being able to” drink? At best, the things it proves are mundane and unimpressive. At worst, it proves that my drinking style deserves no prize. There’s nothing to aspire to there, nothing gained. No growth, no strength.

My husband had a late night involving drinking last night, leaving him quite irritable today. I was simultaneously annoyed that I had to deal with the fallout of his poor choices and thankful for my own hangover-free day. I had oral surgery yesterday (minor but painful), so today was mostly about self-care. I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll feel less like I’ve been punched in the jaw.

I filled a prescription from my dentist; I was looking through the drug info earlier and noted the “do not drink” warnings. Who would drink after surgery and with all these crazy liver warnings? I thought. Oh. I would. Or at least I would have, a year ago. I’ve rolled my eyes at plenty of warnings, thought brilliant things like, Alcohol kills germs anyway, so how bad could it be? It practically helps. At least I can see now how crazy that is. Embarrassing as my old mindset was, this is progress.

 

 

Safe spaces

redcanoe3

Day 7.

I read lots of sober blogs last night and this morning, absorbing advice and relaxing in the safe spaces of others who know what this is like. That always gives me a good boost of motivation and resolve. When there’s nothing new in my reader, I check out recommended blogs, click through people’s blogrolls, check out their commenter’s blogs.

This post from A Woman Without Wine really spoke to me. The whole thing is a good read, and I’m eager to read more of her writing. This section in particular felt like it was collecting my own thoughts and delivering them in a more eloquent way:

I came to the conclusion I exhibited two types of drinking. One was pouring it down my neck without a single care in the world with no one to answer to and the other was trying to drink in a controlled fashion to keep some sense of responsibility. Both were similar to living life in a permanent state of panic and distress. When trying to drink in control I had to constantly be aware, I had to enforce willpower at every turn and I had to pretend I’d had enough when I hadn’t. I had to force myself to drink like a normal person and to act like a normal person when drinking. What is a normal person drinking anyway? When I drank with total freedom, with not a care in the world, the end result was always disastrous and when I drank with enforced willpower, desperately trying to keep it in check, sometimes the end result would still be disastrous. I couldn’t win either way; both were painful experiences for me.

This helps me see what’s wrong with the “occasional drinking” that looks ok on the surface. Even when it’s “fine” to have a few beers or glasses of wine, there are painful moments either while drinking or after. I don’t need to invite that angst into my life. I find it unsettling that I’ve chosen booze when I know it would be better not to have any, but for now I’ll do my best to hold that knowledge close and make better choices.

I didn’t climb a mountain

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Day 6.

I emailed Belle last week, begging for a pep talk to start these 100 days again. Feeling discouraged, I told her I felt like I’d already climbed that mountain, why do I have to do it again? She replied, “you didn’t climb a mountain. you drove down a road. today you put your car back on the highway and drive down a different road where you do things differently.”

It’s not the same as last time. It is a different road. Six days feels so tiny compared to the 125+ days I had racked up. Last time I was in awe as the number of days grew, but now I worry that I’m going to feel like a loser until I get farther than I did last time. I feel like there’s a *might not make it asterisk by my name.

It’s a neverending journey, which intimidates me. I can take it a day at a time or 100 days at a time, but it’s not a thing I can complete or conquer. It’s pretty much the opposite of a victory I can raise a glass to. The point will always be to keep going, right? And that’s what is daunting. I worry that failure lies ahead, I’m just not sure on which number day it might happen. And if it’s inevitable, why build this house of cards just for it to fall? I say: not today, not on a whim, but there’s a whisper of “someday, sometime” in those promises. It’s distracting. Oh, this talk in my head!

I’ve felt a little shaky, my stomach at turns achy and queasy. It’s hard to know what to attribute this to; it could be withdrawal or new-job stress plus not enough sleep. The first few days of work were tricky as I learned the ropes. There was a pretty big screw-up that I wasn’t responsible for but was still part of … not really the impression I’d hoped to make in my first week. I’ve untangled my nerves by figuring out when that error will no longer be a big deal. In two years? Undoubtedly. Two months? Almost certainly. Two weeks? It will be well on its way to fading by then. Exhale. I love that trick.

Day 1 again

saltcreek

Blech. Allow me to shake off how annoyed that post title makes me. I really didn’t want that to be me. But here I am. As my mother would often say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Let’s all have a pretty beach picture to perk things up.

The sober life is what I need right now. Nothing dramatic has happened with my drinking, just little disappointments. I was hung over on my birthday, and that was just lame. I easily recognized that I would have had a better day were it not for booze.

All I can do is move forward. Thankfully, I’m getting a big push in the right direction. I start a new job tomorrow (!!) that involves a 4:45am wakeup time. The mere thought of waking up that early with a hangover and then needing to be productive is enough to scare me straight. Not to mention the fact that this job seems perfect in so many ways. The hours are actually a plus. I’m working for a company in a different time zone, which will make the childcare situation much simpler. I do not want to mess this up.

This post was something I really needed to read right now. Good thoughts on procrastination and avoidance. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought so clearly about how exhausting it is to not do something vs. how energizing it is to actually get something done. I went through this recently with a project I kept putting off. The work weighed on me most heavily when I wasn’t even doing it. All of the days I did nothing related to the project were tinged with anxiety and self-loathing. And then I finished it, it wasn’t even hard, and it was ridiculous that I spent only a few hours actually working but countless hours feeling overwhelmed and bad about the situation.

A couple ideas I want to incorporate into my life: detailed to-do lists and a 5-minute timer. The lists should be easy; I looooove lists. Breaking tasks down into smaller steps = more boxes to check. Excellent. The 5-minute timer is for when I have a hard time getting started. Five minutes is such a short time commitment that I can’t turn it down, yet it’s probably long enough to get some momentum going.

*   *   *

I’d like to be more mindful of the tools that help me stay sober. One I’d been trying to rely on doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, and I’m just now recognizing that I need to mix it up in order to get different results. Duh. So I’m going to work on a list that I’ll post so I can refer back to it easily. If you’d like to share the things you turn to when it gets challenging or just what helps you stay on track, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Negotiation

moonsnailshell

I keep trying to work out a deal with myself, somehow figure out a way to drink occasionally. I probably should not do this and should instead think about ways to make it ok to not be drinking on the occasions that are tempting me. This pouty little voice in my head says, I only go out with friends maybe twice a month, and it should not be a big deal to have some drinks with them. Another part of me wonders if I should just stay home, but I’m not convinced that isolating myself is the right answer. Go and not drink … doable, but will I do it? Ok, maybe I can. I just looked at the menu for the next place we’re going, and the drink prices are obnoxious. Whatever works, right? And immediately: Ok, so I can just drink when it’s free, like at someone else’s house. Is it normal to want to whack oneself upside the head with a frying pan?

I reread some of my past posts (like Day 100), and I want that feeling back. I just binge-read a bunch of sober blog posts. So many good thoughts out there.

All this effort I’m putting into figuring out if I can drink would be better aimed in almost any other direction. What a thing to be spending so much time and worry on, really. I have to redirect that energy.

Eagles always look so mad

eagle3

I didn’t drink today. Ugh, I’m annoyed that is a thing that I need to write, but I guess I better get over that. These discomforts are better than the alternative, right?

Things I need to do:

  • reflect more (writing, rereading old posts, reading blogs)
  • be a little more physically active (appreciate how much better a healthy body feels)
  • do relaxing activities (art, reading a book) instead of aimless online time
  • recognize progress (treats as … treats … and as a reminder of non-booze rewards)

Nothing crazy there. I can do that.

Thank you for the comments and support. It really helps ease my anxiety about all this. And now I’m off to relax in bed and have some sober sleep.