The Roller Coaster

You pull down the chest bar. The cart you’re in jerks, as you pull forward. The slow steady clicking, as you go up the incline, knowing quitting is coming. Closer. Closer. And then you hit the peak, and drop. All drinking stops. Plunge. It’s scary, thrilling (because you are NOT in a comfortable zone, no matter how boring sobriety may seem to everyone else), and then you hit the bottom and ride steady for a minute, before you approach your first loop. Emotions turn upside down, nothing is right, and you’re dangling, hanging on by a strap. Maybe it’s the first drinking social event you’ve attended sober. Maybe it’s Sunday dinner. Nothing is keeping  you from falling except one little man-made chest bar that you hope to goodness is locked. This chest bar, is your will to fight the gravitational pull that is wine (or name your poison). The inclines, hills, loops – they keep going for a bit. Screaming kids after a long day of work, a stopped up toilet, an exceedingly large cable bill, a family riff, a celebration. The emotions up and down. Back and forth. Smooth, bumpy. But sober. Suddenly, the ride slows, pulls in, chest bars unlock, and out you go. Back to real life.

I’m starting to understand this “pink cloud” notion. That is, you ride high for awhile on your sobriety, and then you suddenly fall hard, emotionally, after the energy and adrenaline from the high of “The Big Change” goes away – after the roller coaster pulls in, and you jump out. What it boils down to is this: (speaking on behalf of myself, and possibly of all functionalrecoveringperfectionistexdrinkers everywhere) we set our expectations so high, that life is going to be SO MUCH BETTER without alcohol. Our problems will suddenly become clear, and solutions will go hand in hand with our mind’s new found clarity. Then, after some time to adjust, we realize real shit is still real shit. Work is still hard, marriage is still work (but hopefully in a good and rewarding way), staying at home with children is still lonely, children are still lovely and exhausting, parents are still aging – whatever the circumstance may be. Everything is the same, except now we don’t drink.  And we start to get more emotional, because emotions are much more tangible now that we don’t block them out with the wine. And we fear we’re becoming boring, and are failing at the super-duper-crazy-ridiculous-immediate life changes we conjured up in our busy little delusional brains, because the earth around us has not shifted to our unrealistic high expectations.

Me to self: Get a freaking grip functionalrecoveringperfectionistexdrinker! Lower your standards already. Life is still Life. It’s just a little more raw now. Thank God. Feel it and embrace it and LIVE IT, because this is IT.

And then you realize, you’re in line again, and you’re up next to hop on, lower your chest bar, and get ready for another ride, into the next phase of your newly sober everyday life. Same crazy ride – but you’re more familiar now – so your expectations are adjusted, and you are a little wiser.

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Clarification

I want to clarify something I wrote on yesterday’s post. This is a forum of pure honesty, and I was very honest and raw in that post. (My own inner critic, and comment troll is trying to rear its ugly head). It’s not that I don’t want to make new friends in my new home (AND especially on this forum, where I so desperately want your friendships and support in this wonderful sober network). It’s just a self-discovery that without the wine ice-breakers, I don’t really feel like putting myself out there for new friends right now, and now I question if I ever really wanted to put myself out there, or if it was just a matter of survival. I think it’s the haze of the depression that has me feeling this way, along with the homesickness. But I am stronger than both.

And trust me when I say and acknowledge that my problems are minimal at best, compared to most of the world. I just read The Happiness Equation, which is a wonderful book. And it reminds me that I’ve won the lottery. I’m in that .5% of the world’s population that was born into a first world country, into middle class circumstances, with A/C, a roof, warmth, and everything I could ever need in life. But here’s the thing: those other 99.5% of people in this world? The ones without the A/C, democracy, financial stability, cable TV, libraries, etc? They are also happy. Because all they know are their circumstances, and financial stability, STUFF, and social accolades are not the equation for happiness.

Just even getting my small pity party out on a post yesterday helped me reflect and feel better today. It’s a little brighter now, and I am so grateful for your friendships and support.

Just as you have come to know/The false discrimination of yourself,/Apply this mentally to all phenomena. – Buddha

Have a blessed day.

Clouds

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I suffer from depression and anxiety, and take a low dose daily medication to treat it. It’s totally manageable, but some times the clouds move in for a bit. This was one of those cloudy weeks. My drinking cravings have significantly subsided, but I feel the emotions a lot stronger now.

It’s certainly the trade off, for better or worse.

Almost a year ago, I took a new job – a huge and unexpected opportunity I couldn’t say no to – which involved an uprooting of our family from our very comfortable lives in the midwest, to Idaho – which is a lovely state. However, it’s really, really far from where we lived. We’ve enjoyed our time out here, and fully expect to move back to where we came from, in the next year or so, with my new company, but we are homesick. I am really homesick. It’s cool having just each other, and the kids, but I really miss my friends and my sisters, whom were in driving distance. I’ve not made a lot of friends out here. It’s not as easy as it used to be- with small children, and limited time, there’s not a lot of time to socialize. The loneliness has been extra tangible – this week, especially, for some reason. I definitely feel like I leaned on wine a lot after moving, to fill the void.

However, something I’ve realized is that I don’t really have the desire to make new friends, so much as I want to surround myself with my old friends. I find myself texting them more, calling more (and I don’t talk on the phone much at all). I’ve always considered myself an extrovert because I can talk to anyone. However, the more I take a deeper dive into who I am, the more I realize, I am more introverted than I thought. I like time to myself. I enjoy the quiet. I was much better at socializing with people I didn’t know as well, when I was drinking because it took the edge off of my lack of energy for really wanting to put myself out there.

Having moved a lot as a child, I suppose that I really just knew how to put myself out there as a matter of survival – adaptation – not necessarily a natural tendency. Most people that know me would disagree. But I question whether I’ve just been pretending to be someone I’m really not for a very long time, because natural selection dictated I adapt to my new environment(s) as quickly as possible. I really enjoy being home. I really enjoy being surrounded by people that are close to me. I really enjoy being alone sometimes, too.

About 8 years ago, I swore I’d never move states or places again. I made this promise to myself because I’d had to move my whole life, and every component of my memory is a sad nostalgia about a life that has come and gone. People that have come and gone. No life long childhood friends. No home I grew up in from start to graduation. No geographic or social stability. I promised myself I wouldn’t live through that anymore. But then this opportunity came, and it promised to put us in a financial place of comfort – a place to achieve our dreams and goals that seemed very financially unattainable. So we are going through a stage of paying our dues – a means to an end.

I am trying desperately to live in the NOW and enjoy being here. I really am. It’s a very nice place. It’s a very happy place. It’s a very beautiful place. I have gratitude for my circumstances. It’s just, some weeks are just heavier than others. This past week was an emotional challenge. I’m trying to push through the cloud, and get back to stability and happiness. It will come. But living through these emotions, as opposed to numbing them with wine, is hard. It’s not so much the alcohol addiction or pull that I feel, as it is wanting to dull the pain, and the constant motion my brain is in.

It will pass. It will pass.

 

House of Carbs and Other Stuff

I guess now that I’ve cut down on metabolizing all the wine sugar on a nightly basis, my body is craving more sugar/carbs daily. Is that right? That’s how my brain logic works. In any event, I am usually a fairly healthy and conscientious eater. However, lately, all I’ve wanted is total junk. Pringles, goldfish, Pepperidge Farm Milanos (good heavens I could eat these until the cows come in). My pantry is pathetic. I live in a House of Carbs.

I know it’s a one thing at a time process, but I definitely would like to put the brakes on this type of eating, sooner, rather than later. I exercise regularly, which has been my only saving grace; but like any good dam, if the water keeps piling on, eventually it could bust the seams.

The wine cravings have significantly died down. However, tonight I had my first trigger in awhile. The kids were going a little nuts, and my son was clinging to my legs while I was cooking. He was whining a lot. A lot lot. It made my brain do a crazy dance of hysteria. I had a flashback to reaching to the little corner of my kitchen where I kept my wine, unscrewing a bottle, and filling up a glass. The vision was almost tangible.

Instead, I picked him up and held him for a few minutes, giving him the attention he was so desperately needing, and moved forward.

My daughter got in trouble the other day for slamming the bathroom door, while my son’s fingers were in the door jamb. It was a painful event for all parties involved. She didn’t quite understand the repercussions of her actions, even though I showed her exactly what happened, and what my son’s fingers looked like after (no broken bones, thank goodness). She’s just shy of 4, so the world is still very new to her. Tonight, I caught her reenacting the accident, with her own fingers in the door jamb, opening and partially closing the door to see what it felt like. It is exactly something I would have done as a child, and for some reason, this made me really sad. She was trying hard to understand. And she was curious about the pain. And maybe she was punishing herself a little. I ran over to her, in a flood of emotion, held her hand to my heart, and then kissed her fingers and said gently, “Don’t do that. You don’t have to hurt yourself to understand.” It broke my heart. She gave me a big hug, and her face looked relieved. Like she had just forgiven herself for something she didn’t quite understand. I felt very connected to her at that moment.

One takeaway I have is to make sure I am not hard on her like I am on myself. I don’t want her to have the anxiety I do, or the perfectionist tenancies. I know I cannot control the outcome of her life, but hopefully I can frame her to be a happy individual by not pressuring her to be perfect, or making her feel like she needs to be perfect. She always says she wants to be just like me. (I know this will change as she gets older, especially through adolescence and teenage years). And she is a lot like me already. It makes my heart sing, but it makes me worry too. I pray that both of my children grow up happily and without losing their innocence before their time. I pray that I am a role model who shows them how to love and care for themselves, and accept/be happy with who they are.

I also selfishly pray that I quit eating all the carbs.

 

 

A Few More Quick Observations

I have not posted in a couple of days because, quite frankly, I have not been thinking about wine and drinking, as much. I seem to have hit a stride, for the time being. It will be 4 weeks tomorrow.

I’ve read though, that this early on, when you think you have the habit kicked or you are feeling really good, not to get too comfortable, because this is what is known as the Pink Cloud Syndrome. You can lose the momentum here. Or just get gobsmacked with pangs of want that bring you back down from those great heights. You know what they say – the higher you climb…the harder you fall. So I am cautiously optimistic about getting more comfortable without my wine fixation.

I rocked my son tonight, who will be 2 years old tomorrow. I had given him a bath. I held him in his little pjs, just before bed, and rocked him like a little baby. He let me hold him, and rested his head on my shoulder. He smelled so good, and was so sweet. I savored the moment, and mindfully recognized the value of being present.

A few days ago, I spoke with my parents, in person, about my developing drinking habits, and how I’ve quit. It felt really good to be open and honest, and they are very proud of my decision. I think this action, in and of itself, has brought me some peace. I was very stressed about sharing my life change, and very stressed about the accountability that would create on me. Turns out, it was a lot more stressful before sharing, than after.

That’s really all I have to say this evening.

Habits

I realized something – today, on the same walk, by the same bars, at the same time of day (wine-o’clock) as yesterday (the first time I walked by them), I did not have the same feeling, pangs or urges, as I did passing them the first time. I think what is happening is after all of these firsts, and knowing I pushed through the anxiety of them, I am starting to break the habit.

I’ve had a few “firsts,” without wine, to date. I’ve been to a friends’ home for dinner, and brought my sparkling water. No problem. Traveled on planes and had layovers (where the opportunity is RIPE for a glass of wine), no problem. Stayed in a hotel for 2 days, after loooooong stressful work meetings, and still, no problem.

I am seeing that I can do this. I have no false sense that this is going to be super easy. It’s a life choice, and like any life choice, it is going to take some discipline and self-knowledge. People that eat right make the life choice to eat right, and don’t stop at cup-cakeries, or eat empty carbs.

It’s funny how your mind can evolve into these expectations of what is “normal.” A large glass of wine while eating out – normal. 2 large glasses of wine, while eating out – normal. More than 2 glasses of wine, while eating out…is it a Friday or Saturday? You betcha. Normal. A glass of wine after getting home from eating out – why not. Gotta fill that extra hour of unwinding on the couch with another exciting glass of wine! I’m cooking, you know what pairs well with cooking? You guessed it! A glass of wine. I am at a work event – there’s free alcohol! Better get to the wines before they run out! I’m at a charity event and a bottomless glass of wine with the complimentary etched crappy wine glass – only $25 for the whole night! Better get your money’s worth of that wine – you know the good fundraiser stuff like Barefoot (sarcasm). Going on a date with the husband tonight? Better have a glass or two before leaving. Can’t wait until I get there to have some wine. Always good to go with a little buzz – relax a little. Kids crying, yet again, at the dinner table because they are toddlers, and positively insufferable when it comes to well rounded meal choices? Break out the wine for Mama.

There are just so many gaps in life you can fill with wine! It truly becomes this brain path of expectation that it’s the cure all for joy, stress, boredom, irritation, socializing, quiet, noise, and on. and on. and on. It’s easy to see how the habit forms.

For me, piece by piece, first time, by first time, the habit is starting to break. What’s interesting is that when I drank, I was never drunk, didn’t slur, and always stopped when I started feeling either like I was getting drunk, or losing control of my inhibitions. It was rare that I drank and got sick. But what was happening was that I couldn’t function in the evenings without that fixation, no matter the circumstance. I’d take my kids for evening stroller walks with wine in a solo cup. Really?? I look back on that and hang my head in shame. My brain became dependent on it, and it just became an everyday, matter of fact part of life. Without batting an eyelash.

Funny thing is, now at the end of the day, I look forward to unwinding with my sparking water. The end of the day drink is still there, but it’s the fixation of that reward, and I’ve substituted the wine for something a whole lot better for me. And yes, it goes with me on our stroller walks.

The brain path is starting to erode, and pave itself in a different direction.

Gratitude

I have a dear friend who started something she calls, The Gratitude Movement. Every day, her mantra is, “What are you grateful for?” I have a sticker from her that says this very thing, and I have it stuck to the back of my laptop screen so people who see me working, see that sticker, and hopefully it sparks a grateful thought.

Today, I am grateful for the following:

Mrs. D, from Mrs. D Goes Without, a phenomenal, funny and extremely helpful blogger, did me the wonderful honor and service of posting a link to my blog on her website, with many other amazing sober bloggers, so that I may share in the joy of this community, receive support, and give support back. I am grateful for all of these things, but mostly for the generosity of someone else to share in their success by putting their name behind mine, so to speak. What a compliment, and what a gift. But also a responsibility, that I take very seriously. I am also grateful for the accountability this brings, which is so important. You just can’t do this alone.

I am grateful to MrsMac for following my blog, and I look forward to checking hers out as well, shortly.

I am grateful for this business trip, to be lying in a quiet hotel room, sipping on Pellegrino in a champagne bucket, under lovely white hotel bedding, instead of at the ale house taproom that was where the dinner was scheduled. I’m just not ready for that type of social setting yet. I walked by a ton of bars on my way back to the hotel, and the smells and sights and sounds were all to comfortable and familiar. Besides, I was with the group all day, shared two other meals, and worked/socialized my brain out over coffee and carbs. Instead of meeting up for happy hour, I hit the gym and crushed an hour workout, then retreated to my room for one of my favorite things in the world: room service. It didn’t disappoint.

I am grateful to our LGBTQ community who bring so much intellect, diversity, joy, color, culture, art, love, and life to this world. My sorrow is deep, for their families, friends, the LGBT community, and really, the human race. It’s times like these that I get waves of despair and doubt, and wonder what I was thinking, bringing children into such a cold, cruel world.

I am grateful for my dear friend who reminded me that our children are the ones that can and will make a difference. That the world needs more people like them. Like us.

I am grateful for my children, and the hope they bring. I am grateful for their loving father who takes such thoughtful, playful, and protective care of them, both in my presence and absence, without batting an eyelash.

I am grateful for rest this evening, the upcoming good night’s sleep, and a bright early morning, fresh, awake, alive and hopeful.

On business travel

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I had my drinking revelation really hit home on my last business trip. Well, just over 3 weeks from that date, here I am on a plane for yet another business trip. Will this be a challenge? I’m not sure yet. The dinner tomorrow is at a tap-room, of all things. I may beg out. Again, I’m not sure yet. But here are some differences that occurred today, vs. a standard day of travel for me.

Typically after I check in at the the security line, if it’s a reasonable time in the afternoon (and sometimes not), I head to the bar for a drink before the flight. Then, I hop on the flight, and usually fall asleep, or read, and wait for the flight attendant to stop by. It’s a coin toss whether or not I will order another drink from her, but lately, it’s been common that I have.

Today, I checked in, got a chai latte with almond milk, browsed a little shop, and then headed to my gate. With my head clear, I stopped by the check in desk, where I heard an unkind man walk up to the gate agent, and say very condescendingly, “HELLO DARLIN,” and then proceed to berate her because our flight was 15 minutes behind schedule. He kept badgering her about when we were going to take off, and where exactly our gate was (it had moved, heaven forbid, to one gate over, and that was just too much for him to handle). I heard her try to calmly speak to him, tell him where his seat was, and where the gate was, and he just kept coming at her. Once I knew where his seat was (i.e. not next to me), I stepped up, said, in front of God and everyone, “Excuse me sir, as she stated, your gate is right there. I’m sure you’ll be boarding soon. Oh by the way, you’re not being very nice to this lady are you?” To which he started stuttering, “of course I’m being nice -” and I cut him off and said ever so directly, “No. You’re not.” He then shut up and sat down. I had clarity of mind to do something. To stop a bully, and to help a young woman, who was so clearly being bullied because she was pretty, female, and young. I could tell others were pleased at what I had done, because the man’s actions had been making them uncomfortable as well. I basically said what they wanted to say too. Had I had my pre-flight drink, I may not have been there to stop the bullying, or, even worse, I would have been too lazy and buzzed to care, or even hear the conversation.

When I got on the flight, a friendly man sat next to me. He looked me in the eye and said hello. I smiled and said hi, and then immediately buried myself in my book, trying to indicate that I was not in a talking mood. Then something in me told me to let my guard down a little. I overheard him mention where he worked, and it happened to be a company that is a client of my husband’s work. I set my book down and decided to start a conversation with him based on that connection. Turns out he was the CFO, knew my husband, and had a wonderful church recommendation for us – something I’ve been searching for since we moved to our new home last August. I never would have done this with alcohol on my breath. I would have either been sleeping, being anti-social, and possibly sipping on an in-flight glass of wine. I am so excited at the prospect of a new church option, and also, hopefully a new friend.

When I got off the plane, a woman chased me down, introduced herself, and told me she overheard me talking, and that she too worked with my husband’s work. She seemed lovely, and shook my hand, and that also made me feel very good.

I was stopped in Denver for over an hour. Typically I would head to the bar, get an appetizer, and have at least 2 glasses of wine, in preparation for the long flight to my destination. Denver is a delightful airport, with a lot of options for bars, restaurants, and shops. It’s almost a mall. So it’s a great place for a layover. Today, obviously, I was not about to go to the bar. I headed to the bookstore. It’s been ages since I’ve read an actual hand-held book, as opposed to the hundreds of books I read on my ipad Kindle app. I went in, browsed the titles, held the books, and really got a good look at what’s on the shelves these days, as opposed to on the app. I will still probably read on my ipad, but now I’ve seen some really interesting titles I would have missed otherwise.

Next, I scoped out the restaurant options, because I needed to eat, since my flight wasn’t arriving until almost midnight. The restaurants, unlike some airports, are very decent fare in Denver. Chinese seemed to be calling to me, so I headed up to the Chinese restaurant, and placed my order. As I was walking to the pick up counter, I ran into my work friend from California, who incidentally was traveling to the same place. Our layovers had crossed paths. So I had my dinner companion, which I feel like was very much a gift, because the entire time I sat with him, discussing work, and career goals, and life, in general, I did not think about being without a drink. And, to boot, now I have someone to cab with me to the hotel, which is a much safer option than going alone, at midnight.

It’s been an interesting travel day for sure, and I’m not entirely surprised at all the things that I’ve been missing out on because I’ve been so focused on a wine fixation.

What I am surprised about is how sometimes, when you do the right thing, the universe has your back.

Waves

More on emotions. My daughter is a very sensitive little girl. I try to encourage her to be tougher, but deep down, I know she gets it from me. Being tough gets you through things faster. You don’t dwell in the emotional side, and you don’t show vulnerability. You don’t wear others out with your feelings and emotions. She deserves more grace. I am working through this.

I’ve been drowning the sensitive little girl that lives inside me for years. Be tougher, be smarter, be quicker, and be on top. Win. Somewhere along the way I decided that the only way to be these things was not to feel.

Now that these emotions are starting to surface, because I am no longer drowning them, they come in waves. Huge waves of anger, happiness, depression, sadness, boredom, impatience, shame, guilt, joy. If I were to plot my emotions on a chart, there would be no pattern. It’s exhausting. I suppose, in a good way – at least I hope. I’m working my way back to my true self. It’s taking an emotional toll, for sure. I was clinically diagnosed as depressed several years ago. I am on my regular low dose medication for this, and it helps, but without the additional mollification of nightly wine, my wounds are wide open. It’s making me very vulnerable.

I read last night that people who say they drink because they’re bored, are really depressed. I find that without my evening wine, sometimes, especially on weekends, and Friday nights, or at special events, I feel “bored.” And then the urge rises. I am digging deeper to understand if this boredom is really depression in disguise. The fear of being alone in my head. Raw.

Along with all of these thoughts, I must say, I feel a bit narcissistic going through this process. I know this is not a meaningful change to most people, and it shouldn’t be. It’s my problem. When I go out, I know nobody else cares whether I am drinking or not. I try to be mindful of this when I share with people, because really, how much do they want/need to hear about me not drinking?

I hope to find more like-minded people on the sobriety blog on-line community soon, that do take interest and offer their support. I would be ever so grateful, and more than willing to offer mine back in return.

It really is a lot, and that’s how I know it was becoming a problem.