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My Sobriety Journey: 0-7 Months

When I first quit smoking, the support group I used did a great job of outlining what happens to the body over time after quitting. I found that motivational when going through the cravings and other hard stuff early in the quit. I haven’t been able to find something similar for stopping drinking. Maybe it’s radically different person-to-person when it comes to the physical changes. Or maybe the physical changes are not as big? If any of you reading this blog know of any sources like that– I’d love to hear about it.

There were some common threads among myself and other members in my sobriety school, so I thought I’d outline some of the things I experienced.  Quitting drinking is a bit different for everyone – we all have different lives and have different support and tools at different times, but we all do seem to go through similar feelings throughout the start.

If you’re thinking of quitting and want to know what you’re getting into, or if you’ve quit but are wondering if what you’re going through “is normal”, maybe this list will help.

 My Timeline

Day 0: hungover, exhausted, sick and tired of saying I won’t do it again but still doing it again, hopeless, full of doubt and fear, high anxiety, signed up for Hip Sobriety School

Day 1: anxious, scared but mixed with hopefulness, weight lifted from me because I’ve decided to stop the insanity, physically exhausted

Week 1: exhausted, trouble sleeping, moody, unable to keep still, battling cravings, still hopeful, grateful for sobriety

Week 2: sleeping a lot, still battling cravings and witching hours but using tools to face them and get past them, drinking dreams begin, still hopeful and grateful for sobriety, started reading Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind

Week 3: the “new and shiny” part of sobriety is starting to wear off, the reality of the hard work to stay sober hits me in the face, old thinking is creeping in (starting to question if I really have a problem and if drinking was really that bad), facing boredom for the first time, life feels bland, extremely cranky

Week 4: continuing to do the work, know that my mind is doing anything/everything it can to get me to go back to my old ways, exhausted but learning new ways to tackle old thinking, learning to fill time with new activities to overcome boredom, starting to face the world and be out and around drinking, facing “firsts” successfully, starting to see drinking differently than before, extremely grateful for my new life, starting to recognize how beautiful life really is and how much I’ve missed by drinking, cravings reducing, several days in a row pass without thinking of alcohol

Week 5: overall anxiety lessens, ability to handle stress increases, ability to think through problems seems to improve, starting to experience “seconds” and realizing that things are getting easier because I’ve successfully conquered “firsts”, seeing that it’s hard work but it gets easier with repetition and preparedness, thoughts of drinking dramatically decreased

Week 6: continued improvement, starting to face “the hard stuff” – the “what made me drink” stuff, starting to see how much more I could have lost, questioning if I really deserve what I have after almost throwing it all away, drinking dreams ramp up, dreams of the past begin, lots of emotions come up as past memories and traumas come up, thoughts of drinking coming up as I work through difficult emotions

Weeks 7-12: more happiness than sadness, alternating between working on past issues and taking breaks to just be happy with new life, increased energy, normalized sleeping, overall gratitude for new life, rarely thinking about drinking but occasionally getting caught off guard with triggers, still needing to remind myself of what’s at risk, started Annie Grace’s 30 Day Alcohol Experiment

4 Months: feeling “clunky” as I try new things, learning that I avoided a lot of life by drinking and that I have a lot of things to catch up on, figuring out how to socialize sober, rarely think of drinking, still working through lots of “firsts” and still need to prepare for each and every one of them, still grateful for sobriety but it no longer feels new – it’s part of who I am now, starting to see financial benefits from not drinking

7 Months: spending less time focused just on being sober and more time on day-to-day life, starting to figure out how to incorporate sobriety into normal daily life, learning how to manage energy and face normal day-to-day stress without turning to alcohol, still working through “firsts”, learning to re-frame old memories and see how much better they’d be if drinking wasn’t a part of them.

As I write this post, today marks 7 months for me! 7 months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, half drunk and half hungover, and clicked on an email to join Hip Sobriety School. In some ways, it feels like barely any time has passed at all.  In other ways, it feels like lifetimes have passed. While there was a lot of hard work to get here and there have certainly been ups and downs, I can honestly say that life has NEVER BEEN BETTER. When I do things, I am fully present and appreciate all the little things that I use to miss completely.  When I say things, I mean them.  When I feel things, I REALLY feel them.  It’s all about the little things now – all the little details that got completely muted with wine – watching my husband’s face fill with joy when he is about to go fishing, seeing my dog sniff the air with excitement when he’s about to go on a walk, really getting to know people instead of just having small talk.  There is SO MUCH MORE to life than what I use to experience. I wouldn’t trade this for anything!

 

 

 

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Warm Weather Triggers

Early in my sobriety, I learned about “the witching hour” and ways to tackle it.  The witching hour is that time of day (or day of the week) where you used to look forward to and regularly drank. When I first quit drinking – I had to figure out how the hell to tackle that evil witching hour.  For me, it was 5pm everyday and Fridays.  For the first two weeks – those times were hell! I was crawling out of my skin. I was unable to keep still. I was bored, I was mad, I was sad, and I was OBSESSED with alcohol. I couldn’t imagine going a single Friday without drinking. I couldn’t imagine that I wasn’t going to go COMPLETELY INSANE not drinking! I couldn’t even comprehend HOW I would ever get to a point that I wouldn’t feel utterly miserable about not drinking! I Just Couldn’t Imagine!

Part of the work to get past that stage was changing how I operated during the day -so that I didn’t work myself up and then feel like I NEEDED something to calm me back down at the end of the day or end of the week.  Part of the work was also learning to replace those drinking times with other activities that later I’d look forward to instead of drinking.  I remember right around a month of not drinking, I realized I had successfully gotten through a weekend without even thinking about drinking. I was so excited!  FINALLY, I had seen the work pay off!  From there, I had a lot more not-thinking-of-drinking days than thinking-of-drinking days.

Fast forward to 6ish months and I rarely think of drinking, but the funny thing is – when I do, it catches me WAY off guard.  Early in sobriety, I expected cravings and triggers and had all the tools to tackle them when they popped up.  If I’m not careful, though, it’s a lot easier to forget about those tools now that I don’t have to use them regularly.  In fact, warm weather snuck up on me.  It’s apparently another witching hour… a witching SEASON?! I have A LOT of glamorized alcoholic memories tied to warm weather – brunches with bloody marys, wine tastings after farmers markets, beer at baseball games, beer at barbeques, wine while dining outdoors, margaritas on the patio – the list can go on endlessly.  And that’s the thing! The list literally can go on endlessly because when I drink, I drink endlessly.  I drink indoors, outdoors, at an event, not at an event – it doesn’t matter what or where – when I drink, I drink.  I might have a bunch of memories about “great warm-weather drinking”, but let’s face it –drinking wasn’t ACTUALLY different in the warm weather. Is it possible that I just like warm weather? Is it possible that right now I associate drinking with warm weather because I’ve never had warm weather without drinking?! I mean, what am I doing now that would be ANY BETTER if I were drinking? NOTHING!  Me not drinking is WAY better than me drinking.  I LOVE remembering all the things I do.  I LOVE meaning everything I say. I LOVE that if I’m doing something – it’s for that thing, not because it’s just a backdrop for another drinking story. I LOVE that I actually DO THINGS now.

Is it possible that this “warm weather drinking nostalgia” is no different than 5pm.. or Fridays.. or any other first?!

LIGHTBULB! Maybe just like I had to recreate my 5pms and Fridays so that I looked forward to something other than drinking during them – maybe I need to recreate new warm weather activities so that I have new things to look forward to next spring and summer!  The best part about tackling cravings, triggers, witching hours – each time you face one head-on and win, you’re stronger for the next one.  So sure, this unexpected-warm-weather craving was surprising, but I have done this before. I have a proven track record that anytime I face a first, the next time is easier. I have a proven track record that after a few times of doing something sober, it becomes second-nature to me. So sure, maybe this first warm season is a trigger – but just like all my other firsts – this uncomfortable feeling WILL pass, and I WILL learn to love this first even more than all of the old drinking versions before it!

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Burnout

Yesterday I found myself in a crazy space I haven’t really been in before. I had so much to get done and had the day meticulously planned – to the minute – on how to get it all done. I’ve been there a million times before. In fact, I use to say that I thrived in that environment – running back and forth project to project, juggling multiple ideas all at once. I am quite talented at taking a complex problem, breaking it into little pieces, and executing flawlessly.

But….Not…Yesterday!

Yesterday, I couldn’t decide where to start. Yesterday, I couldn’t remember where I left off on any project. Yesterday, I thought I lost my spark!  I hate yesterday! Yesterday almost won, but guess what? Yesterday can suck it!

This morning I was thinking more and more about what happened.  My work hasn’t changed.  I know that sobriety has made me feel all the feels, but I’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping my energy in check and doing the lemon water, bubble bath, meditation, stuff… so, what the fuck? Then it hit me.  Sure, my work hasn’t changed, but when I drank, there were at least two days a week where I was hungover and unable to dive into my work right away.  I’d waste entire mornings (sometimes even entire days) getting back on my feet.  Back then, I probably would have drank heavily before a busy day like yesterday (because I thought that was a way to relax before a busy day).  Then I would have drank WAY too much wine (doing the exact opposite to my body than relaxing), and I’d have woken up hungover. Then, I’d look at that busy-ass schedule and say “Well, guess that’s not gonna happen today”, and I’d proceed to nurture my hangover.  Every week I had at least one or two mornings like that.  Every week, I found it completely acceptable to blow off work for self-care because “I needed it” – never mind that it was self-induced.

Now fast forward to 6ish months sober.  Except for pre-planned time off, I don’t have any of those “fuck off” days where I have no choice but to blow off work and take care of myself.  I can’t even imagine looking at my busy schedule and saying, “fuck it, push everything on my calendar by a day”. I just can’t!  So now I see the problem!  Sure, I am managing my energy, doing my lemon water and bubble baths, loving my sober life – but my schedule is completely unrealistic as a sober person.  I overbooked myself before, but I probably only actually did 75% of what I booked.  I probably HAD to overbook myself just to get myself to do that 75%! But now, now I’m overbooked but trying to do ALL of it!

Yesterday wasn’t some fit of craziness – yesterday was actually filled with true signs of major burnout! Six months of an overbooked schedule with no “excuses” to FORCE me to stop.  Sure, I took a two week vacation – but if you come right back from vacation and keep doing what caused you to need the vacation – what good is that?!  I thought I was a fantastic consultant back when I drank. I even joked “If this is me at 50%, imagine what I’d be like at 100%”!  And sure, I want to be better than when I was a drinker, but do I really need to hold myself to such a high standard that I run myself into the ground?  One of the top threats to sobriety is stress – and while I feel pretty stable in my sobriety, I think that’s one of those things that can really creep up if we don’t keep it in check!

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Yes! No! Um, what I really mean is…

My mindset about change is one of those things that can wreak havoc on my life if I don’t keep it in check.  Even the simplest thing – like shifting my schedule by an hour – can send me into a complete tizzy. It might start out with me realizing the change isn’t working out as well as I thought, but by the end of the thought process, the entire world is about to cave in because of it!  “I’m not sleeping well with this new schedule change. I can’t possibly accept less sleep every day! I can’t possibly learn to deal with less energy every day! I can’t possibly start every day with so little energy and patience!  How will I ever get through life like this?! Clearly, good sleep is gone forever and life as I knew it is gone for good”!

OK OK – calm down, self! Change doesn’t have to be THAT bad, and change sure as hell doesn’t have to be bad forever! Keep things in perspective, drama girl!

My default state is to assume ALL change is BAD change until proven otherwise.  Because I know that I naturally resist change -I am trying to make an honest effort at being open to change.  Because I’m giving a lot of new things a try, there are going to be some things that just don’t work out.  So, I need to learn how to speak up!  So many times in life, I’ve just continued on with a commitment just because I committed to it… resenting everyone involved all the while… when in reality, everyone would have been better off if I had just said “Ya know what, I need to tweak this a bit” or “This isn’t actually working the way I expected”.

Hubby has started a new routine – which is amazing.  He’s super organized and super motivated. I love seeing this new routine work so well for him.  Of course, when one partner changes their routine, it also changes the other partner’s routine too. He’s awesome and realized that up front – so we worked together to come up with what seemed like a decent compromise – which shifted our sleep schedule by an hour.  This whole sleep schedule change isn’t working out the way I thought it would, and we had to make some tweaks to what we originally planned.  In the past, I would have just trudged along miserably until the lack of sleep caught up with me.  Then, I would have resented hubby (even though I never told him there was a problem and he never had any say in me continuing to live with it). Inevitably, there would have been some stupid argument about shoes being left out or how I hate our dishes or why does his stupid pocket knife always fall and hit my foot every time I do his laundry! And poor hubby would be all “Wow, I had no idea the pocket knife was such a big deal” and I’d be all like “Yeah, this sleep schedule fucking sucks” and then we’d be all like “Oh. This has nothing to do with a pocket knife”.  So – speaking up and working together to resolve the issue totally avoided the whole pocket knife fight!  See- that’s growth!  Look at that!

Like I mentioned before, I want my happiness to be intentional, not accidental.  Part of that is listening to my body and what I need and being open and honest about that.  I’m hoping over time, I’ll start to see the difference between “change is scary as fuck” vs. “no, THAT change just sucks”, but in the meanwhile, I’m going to practice speaking up and being true to myself when something inst’ working out.

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Balancing Act

Managing energy is a really important part of recovery. Productive, workaholic, perfectionist professionals (who me?!) especially fall into the trap of go-go-go all day long, then pour a glass of wine to slow-slow-slow for the evening. That, over time, is what develops the “witching hour” -which will be that first obstacle in trying to cut down or cut out drinking. I remember the first few times I woke up and felt pretty crappy after too many glasses of wine. “Oh man, never again! I won’t drink tonight for sure”! Then I’d run off to work…where I put out all the fires…managed all the divas…catered to all the special snowflakes….ALL. DAY. LONG. Then I fought through rush hour traffic to get back home, and then I felt… exhausted…and… just… couldn’t… turn off ….my brain! “I know I said I wouldn’t drink today, but the thing is, I didn’t know how bad today was going to be. OBVIOUSLY a glass is ok after today“! And there, my friends, is how it all begins. Also, how it continues….over and over and over.

So, when you give that all up…when you say enough is enough…that particular cycle is so very important to break immediately! In the sobriety school I attended, they focused quite a lot on that. At the time, I was all “How the fuck is lemon water or bubble baths gonna make wine cravings easier”? But guess what? It just does! And then I was like “I’m all stable now and don’t need to worry about that hippie, lovey, self-care stuff anymore”! But guess what? I still do!

It’s been a little over 6 months, and I have learned how to ease my way into my day, how to take small few-minute breaks throughout the day to recoup, how to balance myself to avoid those peaks that exhaust me (and inevitably make me think of having wine to slow down), and yet today I found myself completely and utterly exhausted. I was basically a temper-tantrum-throwing, snotty, 2 year old on the inside, screaming “me me me me”!!!! The thing is, I didn’t recognize that I had been depleting my daily energy really quickly all week, that I’ve been basically starting my days with an energy deficit and then wondering why my patience is running out super early each afternoon. But I’ve been doing all the hippie, lovey, self-care stuff – so what gives?! Well, what I hadn’t considered is that sometimes, it takes more to fill back up than other times. Like, say I’m a car, and I drive once a week. Now say this week, I drive every single day. I’m going to need more gas this week than last week, right? So in this not-so-creative scenario…the driving is my go-go-go and the gas is the.. lemons and bubbles (heh)! It sounds pretty simple when I put it like that, but believe me… it’s not always easy to see it in the moment.

I need to remember to work hard, but not to the point of exhaustion and depletion. But sometimes I don’t completely control that, right? Sometimes, that needy client just doesn’t care that it’s Meditate’o’clock or that my energy resource bar is blinking and running low! So when I have to use up all that gas that I normally don’t have to use up, I need to remember to give myself extra fuel. Maybe lemons and bubbles aren’t gonna cut it – maybe I need a chick flick, warm and fuzzy pajamas, a nap, and a hug! Whatever it is – I need to remember to get what I need, when I need it …or pay the price tenfold later.

We all have schedules, responsibilities, people taking up pieces of the pie – so it can be so easy to say “I’ve got too much going on. Today, I will skip the hippie, lovey, self-care stuff”. When in reality, those are the days we actually need that stuff the most! If I’ve got so much going on that I think I need to cut things out, I can guarantee I’m probably already sleeping less, eating unbalanced, and dealing with people that test my patience. If I want to survive that gracefully, I need to break out the lemons, the meditation, the tea, the what-the-fuck-ever-makes-me-happy stuff… and even if I only have a minute to spare, that’s a minute worth sparing on ME because it pays off for EVERYONE around me!

So ok, I forgot all this stuff and became a snappy, crabby, bitch. I am new to this stuff and still figuring it all out! At least I recognized it and can course-correct now. What’s important is seeing it and doing something about it -so that one day, when all the shitty stuff hits the Roomba…I’ve already practiced enough self-care to be able to take it in stride and quickly move forward!

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Where’s the shame in that?!

Just back from a two week vacation and getting ready for the real world again. During vacation, I celebrated 6 months being alcohol-free! I shared with one of my sober groups that I had been feeling really disconnected from my sobriety – as if most of my latest sobriety was by luck and not on-purpose.  The thing is – I have been doing this sobriety thing – not drinking, working through an 8 week workshop, being involved in several online sober groups, reading This Naked Mind, joining the 30 day Alcohol Experiment – I have been doing all of that and yet I still sometimes feel lost. Sure, part of it is because this is all new to me, but could the other part be because I’ve been hiding it all? I mean, “sober me” is basically a secret identity that only me, my hubby, and my sober groups know. Sobriety is basically some secret thing that I do when there’s down time or when it won’t be in anyone’s way. It is basically something I “fit in” in between life’s events. I think I’ve been stuck trying to “live my normal life” while adding in a dash of sobriety, but isn’t my “normal life” what got me drinking to begin with? Maybe it’s time to live my new life! Maybe it’s time to let go of who I thought I was, accept who I really am, and become who I know I can be!

Now, I’m not saying I need to “out myself” to the world or run around being Super Sober Girl or anything (side note – wouldn’t that be an interesting super hero), but I need to find a way for it to BE me and ME not be secretly ashamed of it. I started this path because I thought I could learn to moderate or drink less. Holly’s workshop was perfect because she gave us permission to just try new things and learn -with no labels, judgement, or forever-commitments. A brief time in, I realized life was better sober and I wanted it for good…but I didn’t want to have to label myself, or “have a disease”, or be that person who was different from everyone else, or be forced to do something for the rest of my life. I still don’t want that, but the thing is…I don’t actually think that has anything to do with me anyways. It’s not that I don’t want it to be “a thing”, it’s that I don’t want it to be a thing to everyone else. So here I am – doing something really healthy and amazing, feeling really great about it, choosing it as a way of life because I love it, and it’s all the warm and fuzzy things that it is – but I’m afraid of how I will be judged.

Isn’t it actually sad that so many of us walk around worried about judgement when in reality we had something going on in our life that we wanted to change, and we changed it?  That’s AMAZING! That’s AWESOME! That’s a GOOD FUCKING THING! Where’s the shame in that?!  Isn’t it actually sad that so many of us find ourselves in situations we weren’t expecting to be in and we’re too afraid of judgement to reach out for help and move forward in our lives?  Don’t you think that’s why problems get as bad as they do – because we have to hide our problems and keep them secret while we try to figure them all out by ourselves? You can’t tell me that every single person hasn’t, at some point in their life, had something they wanted to do differently. Self-improvement is self-improvement. We all have things we need to work on. We all have things we can do differently. Sure, some may be a fuck ton harder than others. Sure, some may require a longer commitment. Some people may have A LOT of little things and some people may have one giant thing…but the one thing that is certain is that we all have things to deal with! There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to making your life better, and I need to start remembering that.

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Something flipped

Morning everyone! So this past week, me and hubby have been watching Intervention and a few other shows where characters are clearly struggling w addiction. I’ve just realized that something has flipped for me! I no longer look at “epic drunk events” as fun – I literally just feel so bad for everyone not knowing the truth about what they are doing to their minds and bodies. I feel so bad that they don’t know how to cope with their lives. I no longer look at addiction the same way – now, I get angry that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into and their families have no idea how important it is to try to stop it earlier rather than later. I literally have NO desire to alter my brain chemistry. I’m not saying I won’t ever have cravings or a fleeting thought – I am sure they will still come…but this space I am in is SO different than before. Before, I “knew” the things we were learning about alcohol but I didn’t completely “get it”. And you know what – I don’t think I would if I weren’t out seeing people drinking, watching it on tv – witnessing the actual proof of what we have learned. I was so scared those things would trigger me but it’s just proving to me that I have done the right thing.

We were watching this one Intervention episode and the girl drank crazy amounts of vodka everyday. I totally related to her but hubby said to me “see, you were nothing like her”. It’s funny how on the outside I still appeared fine -because I know I was not fine by any means. All I could really say is “we all need to stop judging people’s drinking against the worst case scenario and instead judge it based on what they have already lost and harmed”. Maybe I wasn’t dying from a brain disease caused by vodka YET but I sure as hell poisoned my body for 20 years and hid from emotions the entire time.

Never again! Life is too beautiful to be duped into addiction.