Posted in self-care, sobriety, social anxiety

Two Social Weekends Over!

Good morning, everyone! It’s 8am and hubby has left to go fishing. I am sitting in my happy place with a lap full of dog and one of my favorite views. The minute we stepped in the cabin yesterday, I could feel all of the icky, stressful week just melt off of me. This is totally my sanctuary.

The last two weekends, we had visitors. The first weekend was Jan and Bob (who I wrote about last time) and then the next weekend were two important friends of my husband (who I had never met).

I went back and forth about how I felt about having visitors at the cabin. This cabin is half paid for with the money I use to spend on wine & vodka. This cabin represents so much about my sobriety and my new focus on self care. Did I really want to share it with family that stresses me out or with strangers? And what about alcohol? This cabin has never had a drop of alcohol in it (at least since we bought it). Its never had a hangover in it. Would someone drinking in my sober sanctuary ruin it? Some friends counseled me to forbid alcohol in the cabin, but then I’d have to tell them about my reasons for not drinking – and tbh, that is not something I share with just anyone. Some friends said we should just skip the cabin, and I considered that too, but even though Jan and Bob drive me insane…I also really wanted them to see the cabin. For some reason, I am forever trying to show them I turned out an ok adult.

So anyways, we did the cabin thing with both sets of visitors. With Bob and Jan, it was really tight quarters. They brought SO MUCH STUFF to a 700 square foot cabin! That’s totally “them”…go visit people and be as inconsiderate as possible. They didn’t drink at all the entire weekend, though. It was a surprise to me because literally every photo they post is a photo of alcohol. Alcohol is heavily intertwined in their reality. I don’t know if they just don’t enjoy drinking around non-drinkers or if they are trying to be respectful. They just know we don’t drink, not my situation. Honestly, most people think we don’t drink because hubby can’t drink on his medication. And while that’s true that he can’t – the reality is…I don’t drink because me and alcohol have had a 20 year abusive relationship, and hubby doesn’t drink because he is supporting me. The weekend with Bob and Jan was tough. I was pretty tired and was happy to reenergize after they left.

The next weekend with hubby’s friends – let’s call them Mike and Wendy – was AMAZING. I thought it would be difficult. I was going to be alone with Wendy the entire day while hubby and Mike went fishing. I imagined my social anxiety running the entire day. I thought of every single way I could fuck up the day. I imagined saying all the wrong things – or even worse – sitting around in that horribly uncomfortable silence that always leads me to bring up the strangest topics out of desperation. “Isnt it weird how socks have such an annoying hem right on the toe”? Seriously – 42 years and I haven’t come up with a list of NORMAL topics for this situation yet?!

All that worry and stress and yet the day was perfect! Me and Wendy went to the spa, then shopped, and then talked for hours. And we talked about politics, race, immigration – any “off topic” topic for talking to strangers…we talked about it! It felt so good to have a conversation with someone I was aligned with. That’s rare where I live. But get this…Wendy brought wine to the cabin! Fucking wine! Ugh! But honestly, it was fine. Since I told her I didnt drink, she just put it away until dinner time. At dinner, her and her hubby killed the bottle pretty fast. I could see her eyes glaze over just halfway into her first glass. I saw the fast drinking and the heavy pour…and I wondered if she doesn’t have even more in common with me…but who knows.

It’s funny how different the two weekends were. I had family with me one weekend – and I was stressed, tired, and felt tortured. Then I had perfect strangers with me another weekend and had the best time. We didn’t feel crowded in the small cabin and it just felt relaxing and good. That’s the thing about social anxiety – you prepare for all the potential terrors, but rarely do they come true. I almost always come out feeling completely different than I go into it. I wish I could get my logical self to explain that to my irrational self!

Happy Fall! It is really beautiful today, and I have two dreaded social weekends over and behind me!

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Everything Isn’t Always Perfect…and That’s OK!

When I was drinking, I led two separate lives. There was the life that everyone on the outside saw, and then there was the life that I actually lived on the inside. This is also how I view my life with an anxiety disorder. Everyone on the outside thinks I’m put together, but on the inside it takes a lot of medication, CBT, and other internal work to not lock the doors and never leave the house. I think this is also how many people feel with other mental illnesses.

I was not what society tends to think of when they think of “an alcoholic”. That’s because society has a completely inaccurate view of what that means. Unless you have struggled with alcohol or know someone who has – all you have to go by is advertisements, TV, and movies. We all think people with alcohol struggles are homeless …or cant keep jobs …or are the falling down drunk at the bar …or some other example of what is really the absolute end-game of addiction. There are SO many stages long before that happens. Unfortunately, because we don’t know that – a lot of troubled drinkers can continue their unhealthy relationships with alcohol for a lot longer because they have those examples to lean on. “I cant be an alcoholic, I work. I cant be an alcoholic, I’m responsible”.  The whole world believes we should be able to “drink responsibly” and magically consume an addictive substance using just “self control”. Meanwhile, alcohol makes you feel better (at first) when life is a little shitty – so why wouldn’t you use it to help get by? Then you play “Russian roulette” with the addiction-odds for the rest of your drinking career.

There are SO many people who struggle with substance use…so many people with anxiety disorders, depression, and other illnesses. Suicide rates, bullying, and mass shootings are climbing. These are all signs of people struggling to get by and not having the proper coping mechanisms. We don’t know how to recognize problems. We don’t know how to cope with them. We don’t know what to do once we realize we have them. So often, we see everyone else’s perfect lives and compare our reality to their carefully molded and Facebook-edited lives. We think we are broken because we don’t see anyone else broken. We think we are broken because no one else admits they struggle too. We think we are hopeless because we don’t know how to escape our issues, and no one else seems to have them.

We need to talk about our lives. We need to admit the good and the bad. We need to learn about the things our friends, family, and community are facing. It will never change if we keep hiding our problems. It will never change if we pretend nothing is wrong.

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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?