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What I left behind

14 Jun

The day I stopped drinking for good, I left behind all of my failed attempts. Something clicked. I knew that all I had wanted was to stop feeling the heaviness of my heart each morning when I woke up, knowing I was not living true to my intentions.

On my final drinking day, I was dared into quitting. While I didn’t want to give up the comfort of the numbness that I drank in each glass of cool rosé, grenache, or zinfandel, I couldn’t really stand myself anymore. I chose to leave that self hatred behind in that dare. red solo cup

I left behind the romance of the vineyards, the fun of an afternoon drink in the park or hidden at the beach in a red Solo cup. I also left behind the shame.

I was hiding from myself. In my last months of drinking, I started visiting different stores to buy my bottles of wine. I kept thinking I would quit tomorrow, so I bought one bottle at a time. I visited the liquor store, the CVS, Cost Plus, 7 Eleven, my usual grocery store once each day on a kind of rotating schedule…or whatever was most convenient. I made excuses to stop at the store. I started ordering alcohol one bottle at a time through apps that deliver (is that just a Silicon Valley thing?). I was so ashamed of the fact that I kept drinking, and I really wanted to stop. So this once a day ritual was my way of hiding from the truth.

Recently when I was at the park for my daughter’s second grade summer goodbye party, some of the moms gathered around a separate cooler, red cups in hand. I sat far away. But the earthy, musty, bar floor smell of their drinks wafted over to me. I remembered the enjoyment of being together in a moment of relaxation – a raised Solo cup to toast the camaraderie of drinking together. I thought about how easy it would be to jump right back in.

All it took for me to continue sipping my water was the memory of what I left behind. I celebrate that sweet victory again today.

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180 Days Sober

22 Apr

I wrote this on Jan 26th, 2018 on Facebook:

Today I’m celebrating 180 days of sobriety. I’m getting myself a celebratory cake with 6 candles – one for each month. 🎂

Here’s why:

1) The act of quitting drinking was REALLY hard. I was afraid of that big change and what it would mean in my life.

I was afraid that I would look at alcohol dreaming of drinking all the time. That happens sometimes, but I am more often happy I am not facing the guilty feelings I had. Now I start to think about what’s going on that makes me want to take a drink.

I was afraid that I might get excluded or feel awkward in certain social situations. Maybe I haven’t been invited to some things?! If so, I don’t know. You can call me blissfully clueless. 🙂 As for the social situations, I have found that it’s easy enough to keep things in the present. “I’m not drinking tonight,” is a pretty satisfactory answer and sometimes I have a diet coke (!) or some other drink that
feels special or extraordinary.

I was afraid that whatever I was numbing (let’s be honest here…we all have reasons and ways we do that) would be unbearable. Being sober has given me the space and clarity to face some of the things I was putting off: kids behavior, marriage details, personal habits, and more.

2. I quit drinking for up to 3 months four times since I turned 40 (that’s 2.5 years ago now). Each time I started drinking again, I knew I wasn’t living the life I really wanted. Six months is a major milestone!

3) I committed to abstaining and have experienced so much freedom in that. Gretchen Rubin tells this story in her book Better Than Before about Samuel Jackson: “When a friend urged him ‘to take a little wine,’ Dr. Johnson explained, ‘I can’t drink a little, child; therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is as easy to me, as temperance would be difficult.’”

4. I am living closer to my personal vision of myself and what I profess. I think of myself as someone who is committed to living a healthy life in which I learn to love myself and share what I learn along the way. I am courageous and do things that make me uncomfortable. My use of alcohol was tearing me away from that daily. Living in my integrity is what drove me to commit to quit in the first place. It will be what drives me to maintain my sobriety.

The reality is that being sober hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it would be. All of the things I was afraid of may or may not have come true (more in a sec about that), but maintaining my sobriety, once I made a commitment to it, has been easier and much more fruitful than I thought.

Time to light the candles!!

A world I didn’t know existed

26 Jul

Three weeks ago I decided to step into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I admit that I didn’t really want to do it. I think that I thought that I could do it alone or that somehow I would find an easy community here online.

As I was reading Unwasted, though, I started to see that not only did I need to surround myself with a community of people who understand what I am going through, I need to change the way I relate to the world. I have become comfortable in being with my family and getting to know people through my business. My connections haven’t been very deep, and I’ve been avoiding those vulnerable connections.

Time to do something different. So I attended one meeting. Then another the next week. Then I went back and exchanged information and decided to follow through on those connections. I can already say that I am changing.

This other world of alcoholics is one of encouraging one another, listening, showing up and being present for each other, and I am floored by it. Each time I go, there is a different group of people – people who don’t look like me & people who have lived very different lives from mine. Every time, though, I am surprised at the richness of their stories, of their struggle, of their encouragement, and I am grateful for their words. It is a world I didn’t understand and one I judged and feared all at the same time.

What an amazing new world.

We cannot do this alone

12 Jul

I run. Maybe 20 miles a week when I’m training for something serious. Two or three times a week. When I run, I feel fully alive. Even when my legs are heavy weights or I struggle to go the speed I want, I love to run. It’s that feeling of accomplishment that comes from having followed through with my plan and done my best in the moment.

My favorite running moments are from the marathons I ran. The marathon is the most challenging race I have ever participated in and an experience I will forever cherish. My most powerful running moments during the marathon came when I found my dad amongst the crowd, cheering for me. When my then boyfriend surprised me and cheered me on. When my friend joined me for the last mile.

I have failed to stay sober. Really, I haven’t tried all that hard. The desire has waxed and waned. Getting to where I am right now has felt like a marathon, but one where I have been dragging my feet. Thankfully, I have people around me – both people I see and artists/writers/life living inspirations who influence me.

In my last session, my therapist encouraged me to think of myself running at the moment I wanted to take a drink. The healthy me. The faster, in tune, me. This image has planted itself in my mind and bloomed into something tangible and effective.

Then last night, when I read this…I felt something click into place.

In Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, Sacha Z Scoblic ends her book talking about running.

Nowadays, I see my sobriety as a path I am running along; it is lined with people cheering for me. Sometimes I am running by myself, but sometimes I am running with Spencer, the Sweathogs, or with the WolfPack. And if I ever drift off the path — where the road gets sticky, where one is all alone, and where each step feels like moving through molasses — the crowd will smile and gently nudge me back to the center of the path. As I run along the sober path, nimbly and happily, I will pass milestones instead of mile markers, I will lose my fear, I will find my peace.

And sometimes, when even the sober path gets difficult and the road feels long, I will close my eyes and think, I choose to run. 

I choose to be sober. I choose it and want to continue to choose it. I also choose to build a community around me – one of non-drinkers and people who will cheerlead me along this sobriety path filled with mile markers. Even though it has taken me much longer than I wanted to get here, I am excited to have found an image that has inspired me to take the biggest first step. I will not be able to do it alone.

I will do this

4 Jun

Based on the Peloton coach, Christine D’Ercole’s, system of Wordshopping the phrases “I am, I can, I will, I do,” I commit to this tonight:

I AM taking one step on this journey

I CAN find a community to surround and support me

I WILL not buy a bottle of wine tonight or take a sip of my husband’s beer.

I DO this to stay true to myself and my greater purpose.

This is my intention.

This cannot happen alone

3 Jun

alFrom Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain, strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself,  I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.  You must do the things you think you cannot do!”

I started seeing my therapist because I wanted to quit drinking. It took me a few sessions to be brave enough to bring this up. And I lied when I talked about how much I drank. Not much, just a little. Three glasses a night was really more like one bottle.

Since I’ve started talking about quitting, I’ve also started hiding more. Shame, probably part of the equation from the very beginning, is ever present, and more thickly each time I talk about it and do nothing. I used to drink my wine openly. But in the last couple of months, I’ve taken to hiding the fact. I don’t want to deal with my husband asking me why I’m not doing what I set out to do. I’m embarrassed that I keep doing the thing I know is holding me back.

I KNOW a lot. I know that alcohol is a poison. I know that women who drink heavily tend to suffer from dementia and die earlier than men. I know my body and my mind will feel better once I stop drinking. I know that I am an alcoholic; conversations with other women about the way they drink has revealed to me how my daily habit is more than just a habit. It’s a problem. I know that I feel guilty. I know that I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about what I’m teaching my children about the world.

I know that I’m entrenched in a deep hole. It’s really deep. And lately, I can see how deep it is more clearly than ever before. I’ve gotten used to the hole. I’m a little bit afraid of what I’ll find on the outside. At the same time, I’m sick of it. I want out. So now I’m reaching out for help. First step, writing this blog. Second step, being honest more often with my husband. Third step, asking for help. Maybe you can help me.

Honestly, I wanted to build a community outside of Alcoholics Anonymous. The reality is, I need the community of others who are telling their stories, remembering why this is not good for them, and Alcoholics Anonymous is the best place to start. Maybe you’re in the same boat? What is your story? Help me by telling it!

My therapist is part of my help. But she reminded me that quitting drinking is just a dream without action. Even though I have a hundred excuses for why Alcoholics Anonymous is not where I want to go, it’s time. I have so many excuses for why I’m drinking. Excuses are NOT action. They are NOT looking fear in the face.

Quick story. I was at a conference recently with a huge group of like minded women. We were asked to partner up, stand across from each other and look into each other’s eyes. No words. No movement. Just gaze into the depths of the other woman’s eyes. The leader of the group asked us to speak to our partner through our eyes, telling her what we needed to hear without words. My partner and I came to tears as we did this. It was raw, deep, uncomfortable.

Then we were asked to join another pair, and then another and look at the person across from us in the eyes. I was surprised to see that a few of the women continued to wear their sunglasses during this exercise. So as the group came together and grew, there was some unspoken pressure for them to take their sunglasses off, but there was one woman who could not stand to look in the eyes of the other women. She gazed at a diagonal, clearly avoiding the eyes of the others in the group. I wondered what was happening for her. This looking into each other’s eyes was a very vulnerable thing. Maybe there were some cultural issues. But for me, it was about allowing yourself to be seen and open to the possibility of vulnerability. My excuses are me diverting my eyes.

It scares me to no end to just put this out into the world. I am afraid of looking you in the eyes. I’m afraid of looking myself in the eyes. I’m afraid of looking at my judger (me) in the eyes. Yet, I’m putting it out there. Community is part of the answer. I’m starting with you, my husband, my therapist and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Testing out the birthday suit

15 Jan

I’ve heard stories about toddlers running around in the buff . Even though I halfway expected it, when C pulled her pants down, tugged her shirt up around her shoulders and requested, “Off,” I was amused and a little worried. I thought I’d give it a week or so to see if it was just a quick passing thing.

The reader, all dressed up! Jan 12th.

Nope! As long as we’re home, or at someone else’s home, for longer than an hour, C begins to request help in getting her clothes off. At home I figure, why not? Although this does mean that my un-potty-trained toddler could pee (or poop!) anywhere. I’m grateful that she feels comfortable enough at other people’s homes to take her clothes off, but that has become the sign that it’s time to go. Potty training has suddenly become a priority. But is she ready? Am I ready?

It feels like all sorts of issues are piling up – getting her to sleep on her own, toddler tantrums (oh yes, I was the lady at the mall with the screaming baby..sorry guys!), and now potty training?? It is all happening so quickly, and I feel like I barely have the time to figure out what to do next.

Top that off with the fact that I’m trying to run a small business, grow as a fitness instructor, and fit all of that into the 45 minute nap that has begun to evolve and an hour of sanity in the evening after dinner, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed!

What stands out to me, though, is that I need to enjoy that cuddly and spirited little girl who loves running around in her birthday suit as much as I can. This time will be gone in a blink and what I will remember most was her joy in exploring the world in utter abandon and freedom.