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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.

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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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Sobriety tools

So grateful for this 8 week sobriety workshop!  The tools and lectures are so perfectly timed. Anyone thinking of quitting drinking or who has already quit but is looking for ways to develop tools for your sober life, I highly recommend Hip Sobriety School. I was totally overwhelmed with the idea of making this map and toolkit, but finally I just put pen to paper and tried my best. It was easier than I thought and it was actually quite helpful!