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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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Overwhelming Power of Fear

I posted last week, that despite horrific fear, I went to a local SMART Recovery meeting. Today’s the day to go back… and I am scared to death! I can do this… right? god, what’s the worst that can happen? What if I am trembling again when I walk in the door? What if my voice shakes when I speak? What if I turn bright red again when it’s my turn to introduce myself? WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF.

I can do hard things… I am willing to start before I’m ready…I believe in myself…I show up for myself even when I don’t feel like it….I trust the evolution of my life….my challenges are my greatest learning devices…

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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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Self-Care has Many Faces

I am feeling burned out. Last week’s political topics had me exhausted, and I am a member of several sobriety-related groups that were filled with tons of “oops day 1 again” posts that left me feeling like I just can’t possibly help. Exhaustion is my absolute biggest threat to sobriety, but here’s the thing… it’s something I can completely control. I can set appropriate boundaries, arrange my time within them, and limit my exposure to things that drain me quickly. That’s something I use to think was out of my control, but thanks to Holly and HSS, I now know that it is absolutely in my control. So, I spent the weekend off of news and Facebook, I said “No” to hubby when he wanted to go out and invite friends along, I canceled a baseball game with neighbors, and I downloaded some Facebook apps that filter out political posts and sponsored ads (all my sponsored ads are always alcohol products -no matter how many times I say they aren’t relevant to me). I’m not going to “hide from the world” forever, but I love the idea of being able to filter out content when I’m not up for seeing it. When I’m having a conversation and a hot topic comes up, I can say “I don’t want to get into that right now”… so why shouldn’t I be able to tell Facebook the same thing?

I was watching a show the other day that triggered me. I was caught SO off guard. I don’t really think about drinking much, and I can’t think of the last time I was triggered. That’s a beautiful place to be in sobriety, but also a scary place to be when a trigger DOES come up. That night, I had a drinking dream (which I haven’t had in months). I’ve had several dreams about drinking since then, and I keep having this random fear come up “what if I forget that I’m sober and accidentally drink”. It seems RIDICULOUS. How do you forget that you’re sober? But maybe that fear is really telling me that even though I feel stable in my alcohol-free ways, I shouldn’t get too confident about it.

What are you guys doing to keep your energy balanced and sobriety strong as time goes on?

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8 months!

This weekend made 8 months without a drop of alcohol. 8 months of learning how to actually LIVE, 8 months of reality, 8 months of remembering what I ordered on Amazon, 8 months of SO MUCH MORE TIME, 8 months with NO HANGOVERS, 8 months of figuring out what I like and doing it, 8 months of happy, grateful, scared to death, lonely, but SOBER and glad to be it!

I cant believe I am going into Memorial Day weekend, and all I can think about is how awesome every morning will feel!

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The Reality of Mommy-wine & Drinking Memes

Mothers Day is quickly approaching. With the rise of the mommy-wine culture, there are a disturbing amount of cards “joking” about how moms need alcohol or drugs to deal with the stress of parenting or how children are the reason moms need to turn to substances. Just take a look at the images above for a sampling (thank you to my Hip Sobriety group-mates for posting these)! This messaging is so dangerous but has really taken off. You can’t go a day without finding a meme justifying substance use in the name of stress.

I would have been the first in line to buy the socks that said “if you can read this, get me more wine” or the sign that said “its 5 o clock somewhere” – so I get it. But the thing is, I related to these messages because I had a problem. I related to them because I did not know how to face struggles in life, and alcohol (at first) helped me forget about them. Then later, I still didn’t know how to face them, AND there were even more of them, AND alcohol wasn’t really doing a good job at helping me forget them -so I had to drink a little more of it to forget them. Then later, I still had all these damn problems, and I had to drink even more alcohol to forget them, and I was starting to feel worse and worse about them. Then later…you get the point, right? I had a bad relationship with alcohol, and it was damaging my life and soul, but damn those socks are cute – am I right? Because if I can act like the funny little socks and the funny little memes are just jokes – and not actually signs of my big scary ass problem – well then, I can carry on drinking and harming myself right in plain sight with no one stopping me.

What’s frightening to me is how much of this message is out there! How women and moms are being targeted and marketed to. It’s like the booze industry is screaming “Life is hard! Don’t waste time facing adversity and learning to be present! Instead, avoid life and check out with this cup of potentially addictive poison! While you’re at it, teach your kids that this is what they get to do when they grow up too! Go ahead and start our marketing job for us, Moms”!

It seems like the booze industry use to target the occasional and social drinker. They’d tell them that booze made that occasional good time, a great time! But now it’s like -Why stop there? Why not go big or go home? What’s something everyone has? How can we make booze related to THAT? I GOT IT – Let’s teach society that PROBLEMS are better and easier with alcohol! What a bigger target audience THAT would be! Oh!! And what if we target women specifically too – they literally shape and mold the thoughts of our future customer base, after all. And just like that – we’ve got alcoholic memes all over the internet, wine yoga, pink spirits, an ever-growing nation of women facing alcohol related issues, and a generation of children believing THEY are the reason mommy lost her shoes and fell asleep before the bedtime story was over.

This is a big deal, ladies and gents.  Nobody starts out drinking to end up addicted, and most people still believe that you don’t have a problem as long as you aren’t drinking liquor out of a paper bag and fighting your buddy over using the grocery cart for the day.  So while the majority of people are sipping away their day-to-day stresses and keeping their shit together (for now), we are all facing a rise in addiction and don’t have the first clue how to even spot it let alone address it.  Meanwhile, the booze industry is raking in the cash at our own expense.

There are different types of drinkers and most people believe there’s “us” and “them” – those who can’t control alcohol and those who can.  In reality, you can be in any of these categories and still be struggling or on your way to struggling.  That’s because alcohol is an addictive substance.  Bottom line – the more often you drink it, the more likely you are to face problems related to it.  And guess what? Our culture begins drinking in our teens, and we drink most of our lives!  Addiction and alcohol related problems can creep up.  It happens so slowly that by the time most people realize they are facing negative impacts from alcohol – they are way further along in or toward addiction than they would have ever guessed. And the stigma related to alcohol – no doubt fueled by all the marketing we are fed our entire lives – makes it nearly impossible to catch it in time or fess up about what we’re experiencing. Chances are, no matter how you drink and no matter how your friends drink, you probably know someone who is having an issue with alcohol. Just think about these types of drinkers and the people you know. Think about the friends you have that wear the shirts, buy the cards, make the jokes.  Could any of them be having a harder time than you think? Could you be?

Occasional drinker – These drinkers drink every once in a while. They drink during special occasions, holidays, or just once in a blue moon. Most people would never question if this person is struggling or having problems related to alcohol, but just because you only drink once a year, doesn’t mean you can’t black out and spend 3 days nursing a hangover! Maybe the reason some of these drinkers are occasional drinkers is because they have such a hard time when they DO drink! Also, you have no idea how often someone really drinks.  I used to be known as an occasional drinker to some people!

Social drinkers – These drinkers drink when they are out with friends, at networking events, or having people over for a barbecue. They may only drink a couple times a month or they might literally socialize every day and drink. This group is that misleading group where many people in it are struggling to deal with their alcohol consumption but everyone around them touts “You can’t possibly have a problem! You’re just a social drinker”! Meanwhile some of these folks are starting to socialize every chance they get just to have a reason to drink.

“Because of” drinkers – These are the “woo, its Friday, pour me a martini”, “ugh Mondays are hard – let’s have some wine to unwind”, and the “it’s a baseball game – gotta have beer at a baseball game”! This group wears the wine socks and buys the mom cards.  This group has started to believe that alcohol makes things better. At first, there are all these great things in their life and then they add alcohol to make them even better. Over time, though, something can flip, and the brain will start to think alcohol is the common denominator…the thing you NEED for the good times. Once that happens – it’s more about the drink and less about the Friday or the Monday or the baseball game. You’ve basically graduated to the…

“I drink because I drink” Club – THIS is where the booze advertisers want you, and they start by getting you into that last group. The more reasons and occasions you can tie to a boozey beverage, the more likely you are to end up in this group. The group of frequent buyers. The group of recurring customers. And sure, you’re also more likely to end up with an addiction or at least a harmful problem – but ya know, that’s the cost of doing business. Plus – most people who quit have a hard time quitting – so they won’t lose too many customers to sobriety anyways.  It seems obvious when describing it in writing, but many people in this group are seeing negative impacts from alcohol in their life and surprisingly, most people still will say they don’t have a problem.

These are just a few “types” of drinkers, and I can think of a time when I fell into each of these groups.  I always had my shit together. I had good jobs, great homes, kept my obligations, and drank like a fish.  I bought the marketing hook, line, and sinker and drank my way through the boozey-matrix of life. For years, I suspected I was better off without alcohol.  For years, I questioned if I should maybe cut back or give it up.  For years, I secretly tried to cut back with no luck.  I’d occasionally bring it up to friends or family just to be told there was nothing wrong with me and that everyone feels the way I do sometimes.  I’d be reminded of all the great things I had going on and how an alcoholic couldn’t possibly have that.  My friends would buy me magnets with cute little drinking phrases on them or share embarrassing drunk stories about me on Facebook… but I didn’t have a problem, right? Why does everyone want you to wait until you’ve fucked it all up before you stop?  Why does everyone think it’s a good idea to wait until you’re so far gone that it’s nearly impossible to quit? I know some people believe you have to hit a “rock bottom” or that no one but you can influence your choice to quit… but that’s sort of bullshit, folks.  Life changes are not usually about singular moments.  Usually it’s a combination of experiences that lead us to the path.

Three people, over a few different periods in my life, told me they were worried about my drinking. No, I didn’t quit right then and there, BUT their concerns and words did stick with me.  Their words would come to mind when I was nursing a hangover or waking up in the middle of the night with the room spinning.  Their words would come to mind when it mattered, and ultimately their words were part of the reason I chose to make a change in my life. So when you’re with the people you care and love – think about this stuff.  Be the one who cared enough to bring up the “reality” behind the funny memes. Be the one who plants the seed that will someday help steer a friend in need.  We live in a time where we post all the good about our lives, where we create “social brands” and people believe only the story we make up about ourselves.  It’s even easier now to hide our problems and pretend they aren’t there. Take a look around.  Really look at those you care about.  Do you have any loved ones that might be struggling? Is it really funny that they are having such a hard time that they need wine to raise their kids? Is it really funny that their life feels so overwhelming that they can’t get by without a little something to take the pressure off?