Posted in addiction, recovery, sobriety, social anxiety

Thankfully Sober

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! Today is day 1 of our vacation! Me and Hubby are celebrating our 3rd year of marriage this week! It is hard to believe I have been sober for A THIRD of our marriage! It’s harder to believe that I drank for TWO THIRDS! I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! I am thankful I found Hip Sobriety and This Naked Mind when I did. To be honest, who knows how much Hubby would have put up with if I hadn’t! I am thankful that he stood by my side while I found my way! A lot of people in my life didn’t.

I’ve been thinking about addiction and mental health a lot lately. I didn’t choose to have debilitating anxiety and when people learn about it – they dont blame me at all. I also didnt choose to become addicted to alcohol. In fact, I had been taught that only “some people” become addicted to alcohol -so I had no reason to believe it would be me, but it did happen to me.

When you hear people talk about addiction – they always blame the addict, not the product that hooked them. We as a society drink…everywhere… all the time. We drink to celebrate. We drink to loosen up. We drink to be social. We drink to have fun. We drink to unwind. We encourage everyone to drink, and tell people they are no fun if they dont. Then when one of us becomes unknowingly and unwantingly addicted…we shun them. We shame them. We blame them. That makes it nearly impossible to ask for help.

No one sets out to be addicted. No one wants to crave a product that no longer serves the purpose it use to. No one wants to be unable to control their use. No one wants to physically become dependent on a chemical that changes their brain and body for the worse. Everyone just wants to be happy and cope with life the best they can.

We are told that alcohol is a great tool, and then it betrays us…and then everyone blames the drinker, not the addictive drink?! I guess that’s how the world use to feel about smoking. Funny how we finally see nicotine for what it is – but dont see the similarities to alcohol.

Well anyways, this is all to say – that even in a world full of drinkers…that may never truly understand me…I am thankful to not be a drinker. I’d rather be misunderstood and living this amazing, new, and shiny life…than be bonding over a fake chemical reaction from booze.

For anyone struggling with addiction, or having a hard time being sober in this crazy booze-soaked world….it gets better and it IS worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT. I know how hard the holidays can be when active in an addiction. While it isn’t your fault that you are addicted, you are the one who needs to reach out to get help. If not now, then when? There are options and people to turn to: Smart recovery, Refuge recovery, AA, Hip Sobriety School, and This Naked Mind are just a few to get you started. Hang in there and know you are not alone.
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I did not drink…but I thought about it

In 11 days, I will be 1 year alcohol-free. I have done a ton of work – regularly blog about being alcohol free, attend a weekly SMART meeting, stay active on several sobriety Facebook groups. I rarely think about alcohol and usually anticipate potential triggers and pre-plan my ass off.

So – I have my shit together, right? I’m stable, right? I have nothing to worry about, right?

Last night, me and hubby checked into the cutest boutique hotel. We walked into this gorgeous suite, and were greeted with two bottles of red. I did not drink, but I thought about it.

Later, we walked down to this gorgeous restaurant with romantic live music playing. We sat at the over-sized table and looked through a delicious farm-to-table menu… covered with fancy drinks that we use to drink at places like this. I did not drink, but I thought about it.

We then booked a spa appointment and were told that they would be happy to welcome us with champagne. I didn’t take them up on that offer, but I thought about it.

While sitting through our delicious dinner, I heard wine glass after wine glass being poured and clinked with cheers. For a moment, I entertained this idea “I could drink tomorrow while hubby goes fishing. He would never know. I could just do it this once”. I sat with that thought for a minute. Normally I’d talk to hubby about it, but the tables were so huge that I felt like I’d be yelling across the room – so instead, I sat with it on my own. I then took a big deep breath and told myself what I’ve said to so many others in this situation… “Think it all the way through. How will you feel when you waste your weekend getaway drunk? How will you feel going for a massage dehydrated and hungover? How will you feel when hubby gets back from fishing and you’re clearly drunk? How will HE feel? Do you want this to be the weekend you drank 11 days before your 1-year celebration”?

Today, hubby left at 5 am to go fishing. I woke up happy and refreshed – because I wasn’t hungover. I had room service delivered – with pineapple juice and sparkling water instead of mimosas. Then I went to the spa where I was welcomed with delicious green tea instead of champagne.

Yesterday, I thought about drinking 4 different times. Today, I can’t even imagine any other way to be other than alcohol-free.

I’m sharing this for a few reasons…1) no matter how long it’s been or how much work you’ve done – don’t underestimate the power of memories and associations 2) that stuff passes just like everything else does 3) we have been taught great tools to get through this stuff – remember to use them 4) I am so grateful to have taken this journey and to have met all of the supportive, wonderful people (like you guys) through this process!

Today I am sober. Today is good. Alcohol can go fuck itself!

 

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Relapse Prevention

I’ve been attending SMART meetings recently and have been reading through their workbook. I find SMART to be a great addition to my sobriety toolbox.  It’s aligned with the sobriety school that I attended and really builds on what I’ve already worked through.  I’m grateful to have found it.

I’m coming up on 11 months alcohol-free.  Alcohol isn’t really on my mind much.  I don’t have to use my tools as much as I use to, and I don’t generally have to worry about sobriety.  I’ve figured out how to replace my old thoughts and activities with new healthy thoughts and activities.  I’m living a new life now, but just because I don’t have to worry often, doesn’t mean I should stop planning.

As the SMART workbook says, “The best way to handle a relapse is to prevent it”!  I really liked the section in the workbook that addressed relapse prevention.  This is exactly what I was looking for at this stage!  Here are the main areas they say to always keep an eye out and prepare for:

Complacency – Beware of thinking “I’ve regained control and might be capable of moderation”.  I’ve had experience in the past with this, and it’s exactly where I tripped up before. My reality – and what I remind myself of when this comes up – I’ve tried the moderation thing.  The thing is – if I could moderate, moderation wouldn’t even be something I’d need to think about doing.  Moderation is a myth.  Either you don’t need to do it, or you wish you could do it.  There’s really no in between.

Association – Even though I’ve worked through a lot of “firsts” and changed a lot of associations that I’ve had with alcohol, there are still some that come up when I’m not expecting it. For example, the other day we were out eating sushi, and I saw a bottle of Sopporo.  For a split second, I thought “Oh wait – why haven’t I ordered Sopporo? I always have Sopporo here”!  Then immediately, I caught it! Without even realizing it, I was already responding to myself “Because I don’t drink anymore, and it wouldn’t be good anyways.  It wouldn’t be just one, and it wouldn’t do anything to improve this experience”.  Luckily, thanks mostly to the book This Naked Mind,  I’ve practiced recognizing this type of thinking and my rational thinking now automatically jumps into place.

Boredom – This is one I am still perfecting.  I didn’t realize how much of my time use to be filled with thinking about drinking and drinking.  And honestly, if I was bored and had no idea what to do… I just made some fancy drink and let the day proceed as a drinking day.  Now, if I am bored and have no idea what to do – I have to actually THINK…TRY…GET OFF MY ASS.  This is something I don’t have a lot of practice doing. I also don’t have a lot of patience – so trying to come up with ideas when I haven’t practiced it much – well, I grow tired of it quickly.  My inner two year old comes out BIG TIME.  “Why do I have to come up with something.  Can’t something just happen already”?  That’s not how the world works, missy!  Be responsible for yourself! Figure your shit out!  So, I need to make a list of “shit to do when I can’t think of shit to do”.  Then it won’t be so hard and frustrating when it comes up.

Emotions – This is another one that I’m still working on.  The thing is, drinkers don’t have a lot of practice in this area.  A lot of us used drinking to help us cope with emotions.  Excited and ready to celebrate? Pop some bubbly!  Exhausted from dealing with work divas all day?  Pour a glass of wine!  Bored out of your mind and don’t want to think?  Have a couple beers!  See what I mean?  Rather than dealing with and going through emotions we didn’t really care for… we just muted them with alcohol.  Early on, I figured out how to have happy moments without hooch.  Those moments are actually SO MUCH better without it, and that’s because it feels GOOD when you’re present and happy!  But… wait, you want me to also be present and feel the shitty ones too? WHAT?!  Yeah, that’s right… the shitty feelings ARE part of the human experience too.  And sure, we can try to distract ourselves, numb ourselves, push those things off for a while – but ya know what? They don’t go away until we face them!  So – while I am not enjoying stress, anger, boredom, frustration… I AM learning to appreciate them. I AM starting to see the value of those emotions. I am also realizing – they don’t last forever!  And honestly, I am starting to appreciate that I have the ability to have them.

Fantasy – We tend to glorify the “good times” and forget the bad parts.  While I don’t believe dwelling on the bad parts is what keeps me sober, I do believe remembering the reality of the situation does.  When I catch myself thinking back to “that cold mug of beer”… or “how great wine on the patio was”… I now think through the entire event.  I question myself. I make myself see the true reality of how I have a bunch of associations to alcohol that are lies – those associations don’t tell the full truth.  They might as well be ads for a big-promising-but-actually-crappy product that you’re like “this is nothing like they said it would be” after you get it!

Frustration – This goes back to that thing I discussed before – we tend to want what we want when we want it… and how we want it.  Part of being sober is recognizing that life isn’t always the way we want it. I am slowly learning acceptance and patience.  Things you watch parents teach their two year old – “no, you have to wait your turn” …. “no, you can’t play with that, it’s not yours” … “we can’t do anything about the fact that it’s raining”… that’s the stuff that I’m having to teach myself now, and it’s important to be patient with myself and remember drinking doesn’t make that stuff any better.

Opportunity  – This one was an interesting one I hadn’t considered until I read it in the workbook.  A triggering event can literally be a situation where you could drink, and no one would ever know.  So, maybe you’re on a work trip – you could drink and get away with it.  Or maybe you’re home alone and there’s a bottle of liquor in the house – you could drink, and no one would even know.  Because I don’t really think about drinking much at this stage, I hadn’t really considered this as a potential situation I’d face.  BUT – I also know perfect storms happen.  So, I think it’s important to plan for situations like this.  Going on a work trip?  You have no plan to drink, but what if the trip is total shit AND your presentation went bad AND you’re bored with nothing to do in the evenings AND your sitting at the hotel bar eating dinner?  It’s pretty damn possible that those circumstances could cause a trigger.  I think the best way to be successful through that is to prepare and have a plan for what I’d do in that situation OR how to prevent it from happening all together!

So, there’s my take on SMART’s relapse prevention tips.  Do any of you have other tips or advice? Have any of you gotten to the “I rarely think of alcohol” and then faced any of the above?  What did you do?

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My First SMART Recovery Meeting

I have been looking into non-AA ways to expand my IRL sober network and recently found a local SMART Recovery meeting near me. I’ve been SCARED TO DEATH to go and was trembling just walking in the building…but apparently I can do hard things…and I didnt come this far to only come this far….and I’m a fierce mother fucker….soooo I dragged my scared ass there, and I did it!

For anyone else worried about something like this – do it! You will feel so much better after you face the nervousness! It felt good to face a big fear. It also felt good to see people face to face and talk about sobriety.

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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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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.