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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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?

 

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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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Just in time

I posted yesterday that I’ve been feeling off and that old thinking was creeping back into my life. I’m using a daily affirmation app now and this is today’s affirmation Right.On.Time. A good reminder that we have everything we need inside of ourselves and we just need to remember to use it!

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Was it really that bad?

I feel like I’m losing my way a bit. While I know I am happy being alcohol free for 75 days now…and I know that alcohol doesn’t relax me or solve any problems…I think I’m forgetting WHY it was so bad for me. I keep seeing people out drinking and having that sloppy version of fun, and it still looks good to me. I find myself saying “would it really be that bad”…it still looks fun to me and even if it’s a chemical-fake fun, it felt fun when I did it. I guess I’m going through a “why can’t I just moderate” phase. Why do I have to be different than everyone else I know? Why can they drink and have “fake fun” and then wake up perfectly fine and go about their lives with no real issue?

I went into this thinking I’d quit drinking for good…but I guess I thought I’d be happier about it. I WAS very happy about it for most of the time, but now that I’m hanging out in situations with people drinking – it is getting harder. And when I try to talk to people about it – it’s clear they don’t completely get it. I’ll point out some fucked up thing about alcohol, and they will respond with something that makes it so clear that I am just different from them…they can take it or leave it and they don’t have those problems like me.

I guess I’m stuck because I didn’t want getting sober to be “a thing”. I didn’t want it to be some life long thing I had to do. But it is, right? I mean – am I ever not going to drink and not care when I’m surrounded by everyone else that still drinks? I guess I just have to come to the realization that even if I don’t want to label myself or “have a problem”…I do have a fucking problem.

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Gotta start somewhere

So when I first started HSS, one of the mantras was “I am willing to start before I’m ready”, and it came on a day that I was offered a project that I was scared to accept. I decided to follow the mantra and take the job. Today is the first meeting for this project, and I AM SO FUCKING SCARED.

Before quitting alcohol, I probably would have drank a bottle of wine last night and been hungover and anxious for the meeting. Instead, I am well rested and willing to see what happens. Nervous as hell….but how bad can it really be? If I can face the world every day without wine – I should be able to go to a conference call, right!?