Posted in addiction, recovery, sobriety

Sober and Struggling?

Sober and struggling today? Surrounded by relatives driving you insane and “just one” glass of wine seems like a way to get through it? Or home alone and “just a little” would really help you get through it?

Think it through. Why did you decide to quit in the first place? What lies did alcohol tell you? What truths were no longer true about drinking? Did the “just one” ever really end up as just one? Did the scattered memories the next day really make you feel better? Did the shame and regret that came the next day….along with the really shitty hangover…really serve you well?

What will you ACTUALLY get out of drinking today?

Humor me for just a few more moments… close your eyes and envision the following: you in your current situation… feeling strong and committed to not drinking today. Imagine the people, the smells, and the feelings. Think about all the details, and imagine you going through all the activities today, not drinking and feeling good about it. SHOW YOUR MIND WHAT RIGHT LOOKS LIKE. Now, imagine tomorrow. What do you feel like after keeping your commitment? What does it feel like to face a hard craving and conquer it?

You can do this. I know it’s hard, but every craving you face and conquer…is a craving that you will face with ease next time. Distract yourself, meditate for a few minutes, or make a really fun non-alcoholic drink. DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO, BUT DO NOT DRINK. And tomorrow, reward yourself for your amazing work.
You’ve got this.
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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To Beach or Not To Beach… Vacation Prep

I am headed on vacation next week and am very excited! I am also a little nervous! Although I have vacationed since giving up hooch, I haven’t been to this particular place since then. It’s a beach destination. I grew up LOVING the beach. (Honestly, every bit that makes up who I am has a little bit of beach in it)! And although I spent my early years creating non-drinking memories of the beach, I also spent… oh… at least 20 years associating the beach with alcohol.

Since getting sober, I’ve learned that a lot of things are really different sober vs. drinking. Some things that I thought I loved were actually just backdrops for drinking. And other things that I didn’t think I liked at all… are actually really fun now that I’m able to be present for it! I think maybe… just maybe… part of me is scared that I won’t love the beach anymore… that I’ll learn I never really loved the beach… that I just loved drinking at the beach. And if that were true?? Well, would that mean I just discovered another big piece of fiction about myself?! I just can’t even bare to think that a major part of my identity could be another falsehood!

I can’t necessarily do anything about the “what if” part of if I like the beach or not, but I CAN prepare for this vacation and make sure that my sobriety is at as little risk as possible before I go. I have found that preparation before a trip or event can make ALL the difference. The more I think about things beforehand, the less I have to think while I’m there. And isn’t that the whole point of the vacation – to stop having to think so much and so hard?!

Thanks to the help of my support groups, Hip Sobriety School, and my amazing planning talents (drum roll…ta da! Here is Super Planning Girl! No… that doesn’t sound like a very good super hero after all), here is my plan of attack for…er…planning:

Planning:

  • Why do I want to go? what do I want to do or achieve?
  • What triggers do I anticipate? What other tricky situations might come up?
  • What will I say if asked about drinking? What will I order instead of alcohol?
  • What will be my go-to tools during the trip?
  • What routines/exercises will I do to keep me grounded and secure?
  • What is my exit plan when in an uncomfortable situation?
  • What is my plan if an urgent situation (sober-risk ) occurs?

Travel Partner(s):

  • What do I need to let my travel partner(s) know about this trip related to my sobriety?
  • How do I want my travel partner(s) to support me?
  • What can I ask of my travel partner(s) that will aid me?
  • Is there anything related to my travel partner(s) that I should prepare for?

Visualization:

  • Show my brain what right looks like -visualize the event as detailed as possible- What am I doing, what are the sounds/sights/smells around me, what am I wearing, and what’s going on around me? Envision how I will answer questions about drinking, what it looks like to order non-alcoholic drinks, and what it looks like to have a good time without drinking.
  • Show my brain what right feels like -feel the feels- how do I want to feel during the event? Visualize myself feeling happiness, serenity, presence. How does it feel to be sober, fully aware, clear-headed, and rested?

Meditation:

  • Use Simple Habit or other meditation apps before and during trip

Reinforcement/Reward:

  • What will I do during and after to celebrate my successes and reinforce my positive sober experience?
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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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Intentional Happiness

During my 8 week sober workshop, we were sent a daily mantra to read first thing each day. Those mantras usually came with an awesome story and were RIGHT ON TIME with what we were going through. Something most people don’t expect when going through programs like that is the “what now” part when it’s all over. The daily mantra, weekly lessons, homework, weekly Q&A calls – it was an amazing structure that kept me on track. Sometimes, it was too much. Sometimes, I couldn’t get enough. But the one thing I can say now that it’s over, I didn’t appreciate it enough while it was going on.  I think we spend a lot of time in our lives not appreciating what we have and not actively seeking what we need, and that’s something I want to get better at.

When I drank, most of my days were pretty monotonous. I had really gotten into the habit of wake up – work – have wine – sleep. I remember longing for meaning, purpose, and true satisfaction. Apparently, you just don’t get those things by trudging through life blindly. Apparently, if you seek meaning and purpose, if you stop and appreciate what you have, if you search within yourself to figure out what you really need AND if you do something about it – well, apparently that’s when life becomes amazing.  To me, that sounds like a life worth truly living! Sadly, that’s a life I wasn’t capable of having when I drank. But thankfully, it’s a life I CAN have now that I don’t!

I’ve started reading Simple Abundance – a recommendation from one of the members of my aftercare group. It has small essays for each day of the year – so it’s a kind of way to replace the daily mantra from my sobriety school. It’s such a simple thing to do – read a short inspiring essay – and yet it’s so powerful!  I try to stick to a little routine every morning before the real day begins. A way to ease into the day, inspire, reflect, and then start my day off on a good foot. It’s something I learned to do during the sobriety workshop and honestly, I now wonder how I ever expected to have good days without this daily routine! I look back over my adult years and it’s like I just hoped it would happen on its own… somehow a good day was suppose to  just happen without me being responsible for it or sometimes even in spite of me and my doings. That seems ridiculous now, but that’s how I lived for 40 years! If I can have good days like that at all…imagine how many more I can have by intentionally aiming for them!

There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a life. I spent a lot of those hours and days, stunted and held back because of my drinking. I chose the only way I knew to handle stress and anxiety, but that basically left me and my life on hold. Alcohol doesn’t actually let you cope with anything – it just hits the pause button on life. I lost a lot of time and missed opportunities to experience life and learn how to live it. Now that I am alcohol-free, I don’t want to waste any more moments. I don’t want life to happen to me or around me.

I finally now want to live, learn, grow, and be truly happy.  I don’t plan on letting it happen by accident either!

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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.