Traveling Sober

I am not disciplined enough to have a blog. I don’t seem to be able to write consistently.  I began this blog  because reading other’s blogs about sobriety was extraordinarily helpful in my own journey. I wanted and want to help others to see that a life without alcohol is a better life.

Recently, my family and I returned from a trip to Sao Miguel in the Azores.  It was our fourth time visiting and we always joke that we have now seen the entire island and next year we need to expand our horizons and try somewhere new. We are drawn to the island for it’s exquisite beauty, but also maybe for its familiarity. My husband is not a lounge on the beach kind of guy, so he makes the most of being on vacation by being in constant motion. I love a good adventure myself, but then I want a little relaxation before heading off to the next one.

My husband is excellent at finding new and exciting places to explore each time we visit the island.  Our trips are full of hiking to majestic lookouts, swimming at hidden black beaches or in thermal waters. We have probably hiked most of the island, but we discover something new every time. My son, who is fifteen, and less inclined towards long hikes. Thankfully, there is always the reward of a jaw dropping view, a tunnel, a swimming hole or a waterfall to tempt. In one case, which was by far my son’s favorite, there were cats and baby chicks on the path. My son was successful at luring away the momma with potato chips and gleefully scooping up a baby chicks into his lap. I am of course aware that it is cringe worthy that we fed the chicken chips so we could hold the babies, but who could resist.

We rented  a house with a  beautiful backyard that ran parallel to a botanical garden. Every morning I would wake have my coffee, write in my journal and do a little yoga in the yard. Waking up well rested and without guilt, is a feeling I will never tire of.

I remember being particularly excited/nervous about travelling to the Azores last year because it would be my first time travelling sober. I prepared by packing lots of teas. We were welcomed to our rented house with a bottle of wine, fruit and bread. I immediately put the wine away somewhere out of site. This year, when the same thing happened, I just put the wine on a shelf and forgot about it.

It does get easier with time. Drinking alcohol becomes a habit that is so deeply embedded in our brains. For me,  I needed to change the way I saw alcohol. I had to come to terms with the fact that it offers no benefit, that it is not a treat.

The year before, at one particular restaurant I got a terrible pang of longing when we walked by the restaurant bar. I had drank there the year before with my husband and it was a pleasant memory. I struggled, but got through it and ordered tea. This year we visited the same restaurant and I felt very different. I watched the people around me drinking cocktails and wine and I felt no longing, In fact, I felt relief. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I could not drink, I felt a little sorry for them that they wanted or had to. In much the same way I feel terrible when I see someone smoking.

I have travelled several times sober now and it is by far better in every way.  I feel physically better, mentally more at peace. I am more present in my life. It might be the greatest gift I have ever given myself. Getting rid of alcohol has freed up an enormous amount of space in my life, space to let good things in.

 

Healing

I have been away from this blog for too long. For the past two months I have been experiencing vertigo off and on. And at the moment I am recovering from whooping cough of all things. It’s been a rough couple of months health wise and I will admit that there were many moments where all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch the birds out the window. Even when I was feeling good, there was always the fear of feeling bad at any moment.

During this time, I completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Miraculously, I would mostly feel good on the weekends that I was training. The training, thought difficult, was made easier by the bond I experienced with the woman in my group. It was strong and immediate.  There were five woman training and two teachers. We were dubbed early on “the laughing group.” All of us could not have been more different, and yet, there was an undeniable chemistry. We cheered each other on, we were our authentic selves, we shared who we were and we did not judge.

Until the training, I had not realized how much I needed the comradery of woman. How grateful I am for their compassion, for their knowing.

But this is not what I meant to write about. My intention was a seize the day kind of post. I have relied heavily on the poems of Mary Oliver to get through this rough patch. Whenever I feel down, her words lift my spirit. She reminds me of the miracle of simply being alive.

This Morning, by Mary Oliver

This morning the redbirds’ eggs

have hatched and already the chicks

are chirping for food. They don’t

know where it is coming from, they

just keep shouting, “More!, More!,”

As to anything else, they haven’t

had a single thought. Their eyes

haven’t yet opened, they no nothing,

about the sky that’s waiting. Or

the thousands, the millions of trees.

They don’t even know they have wings.

And just like that, like a simple

neighborhood event, a miracle is

taking place.

Right at this very moment, I feel good, healthy. And I give thanks. It’s not easy to walk around in a state of gratitude all the time, and well quite frankly its unrealistic. But, I do try to start and end my day in gratitude. To get outside and notice the miracles that are happening around us every minute. Nature can heal the soul and clear the mind of its constant chatter. I hope you are able to get outside and feel some relief from a life that can sometimes be difficult.

 

Remembering

Last December around the time of my son’s 15th birthday, I found out my mom’s cancer was progressing and that she might need treatment.

For his birthday, my son wanted to go away with a friend somewhere fun with a pool. It was about a two hour car ride to the hotel, but it was the longest car ride I ever remember having.

I was obsessing for the entire drive about not being able to have a glass of wine (or three) when we arrived. I found myself scheming ways I might somehow sneak it without my son knowing. I kept thinking,  screw this whole thing, I’m going to start drinking again, I don’t care. Those same thoughts played over and over…

At dinner, the desire has lessened significantly. My husband ordered a beer not knowing how hard I was struggling. All around me people were drinking. I ordered tea. When the boys left to go swim at the hotel, my husband and I stayed. We talked a lot about my mom and what might be coming down the road. I cried right there in the restaurant. But I didn’t drink. I could not bear to let my son down. More than that, I could not bear to let myself down.

The next day, I told my husband how much I was struggling. That night he ordered ginger ale.

I’m telling this story because at that time in my sobriety I thought my desire to drink was gone, but old patterns can pop up when you least expect it. It takes time to rewire the brain.

I had been complacent. I had stopped reading about sobriety and had stepped away from the community that was helping me.

My advice, don’t be complacent. But more importantly, don’t be hard on yourself if you do have a urge to drink. Do something else for an hour or two…however long it takes. Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, whatever you need to do until l the feeling passes.

It will pass.

Since December, I have not had another moment like that one, but I am now more diligent about the process. This Sunday marks one year. And it’s been the best year of my life.

Almost a year

I am 48 years old and started my yoga teacher training last week. I was nervous that I would be the oldest. I’m not, but what I realized is it hardly matters. The women I spent my weekend with are amazing, all ages, all walks of life. We bonded almost immediately. I found myself saying things like, we should start a running club once we’re finished. I haven’t run in years, but I felt inspired by them. One woman wants to run thirty marathons in her thirties. How awesome is that? Another woman, only in her twenties stopped drinking four months ago because she was just tired and a little disgusted with the whole scene. Another woman works for the park service. What I mostly felt during the entire weekend with these women was connection and gratitude.

Then bam, I got hit with vertigo. What the F, really. Could the timing suck more…

I made it through the weekend and most of the week feeling mostly okay with bouts of wicked dizziness. My son and I even ran with Adventure Man (check him out on youtube). Then self pity set in and I started to feel really sorry for myself. And a little panicked about the five more weekends of yoga teacher training that would be very difficult to accomplish with vertigo.

It felt really unfair. Then I realized that it could be so much worse. And it is strangely reassuring that I did not cause my illness. I might feel hungover, but I am not hungover. I did not do this to myself. There is no guilt. In fact, guilt is a feeling that is pretty much gone from my life.  Which is amazing because I used to feel it on a regular basis.

I am three weeks away from one year sober. From the outside my life looks that same. From the inside though, my life has changed dramatically. I am steadier, more at peace. I like who I am. Even with vertigo.

 

 

Self Care

Quitting drinking is the ultimate act of self care. After all, what is self care if not self love.

My very first act of self care was to begin a yoga. For me, yoga is much more than a practice, it’s a guide to living well. It’s learning to be in this world without a constant feeling of restlessness and need. It’s taking care of myself and of others. It’s learning to be less judgmental. Yoga is healing me and has healed me.

I decided to live a life free from alcohol. I made a public promise to stop drinking for a year. Now I feel completely different about alcohol. I don’t desire it. Instead, I see it as an ugly thing like smoking butts.

I started drinking tea. There are so many wonderful kinds of teas. I have become a connoisseur of tea.  My favorite at the moment is Rose. Tea is good for your health. It tastes delicious, is sophisticated and won’t make me behave like an asshole.

I became a voracious reader. I no longer waste my time watching ridiculous television programs while downing a bottle of wine. And if I do watch T.V. I remember what I watched. There are so many amazing stories to read and I can never run out.

Bathing is very healing. I will pour in some Epson salts and lavender or rose oil. Sometimes some pink Himalayan bath salts.  Light a candle. Maybe even give myself a little facial. I feel like I’m at a spa. Oh, and of course have tea.

The gift of a good nights sleep. One of my favorite feelings in the word is lying down at the end of a full day.  I feel such gratitude in the moments before sleep, for this beautiful life with my family.  Knowing that will never feel shame again. That I will wake up feeling healthy and rested.

Welcoming the day. I have a morning routine that I think is pretty spectacular and would highly suggest to anyone. First, I brush my teeth, you have a lot of bacteria in your mouth in the morning. Then, I come downstairs and make warm lemon water followed by my morning coffee, which I take very seriously. In my coffee I put cocoa powder, cinnamon, coconut milk powder and maple syrup. I started drinking it this way for a cleanse and now I love it.

Writing. Every morning, I sit on my couch and write in my journal. I make sure I have a full forty minutes to myself before I need to shower and get to work. Kitty purrs on the couch next to me while I write and I intermittently look out the window at the birds. Bliss.

A morning shower to start the day. Before I get into the shower I dry brush. If you haven’t tried it I highly suggest you do. There are all kinds of purported benefits, but mainly it just feels really good. I turn on the shower and add a couple of drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the shower. I oil pull while showering (my teeth have gotten whiter), and give myself a quick oil massage. This routine feels amazing and doesn’t take long at all.

I mostly eat healthy, but I am not adverse to treating myself. I start the day off with a smoothie of some sort, green or berry. Steel cut oats or a hard boiled egg. I make the oats ahead of time and store them in the fridge in mason jars. Easy Peasy.

I spend time in nature. Being outside helps me feel connected. I love the woods, the beach, my backyard. Being in or near the ocean is the ultimate act of self care for me. My motto: Any day spent in the ocean is a good day.

Practicing gratitude daily.  Being free from alcohol has completely changed my mood. Sure, I have crappy days. But, I have to say that it doesn’t happen very often. I have less anxiety, less anger, less judgement. What I feel inside now is hard to put into words without sounding corny.  I feel more at peace with myself and the world. I feel incredibly grateful for this life and my part in it.

Grateful

I am ten months sober. 308 days to be exact.  What I feel mostly these days is a whole lot of gratitude.  You hear a lot about the pink cloud when you first get sober. It’s when you feel ecstatic in your sobriety, grateful for everything,  noticing all the ways in which life is well.. beautiful.

I find myself on that cloud a lot. Hopping on and off intermittently.  I’m not constantly walking around with a grin on my face, but I am consistently in a better mood, less anxious and more myself.

Recently, my family and I went to Washington D.C. for my brother in laws fiftieth surprise party.

One of the highlights for me was scooting around D.C. with my husband and son. We could only get two scooters, so I rode on the back with my husband for most of it, balancing mostly on one foot. We saw so much, but to be honest it was being outside and riding around on the scooter that was the most fun. I felt like a kid again.

Later, we’d meet back at the hotel. Usually, everyone would be back by five because they had free drinks from five to seven. In the past, this might have been hard for me. But it wasn’t. Mostly I felt really lucky that I did not need or want to drink. When questioned, I would reply that I’m happier without it. And I meant it.

We played manhunt in the hotel, kids against adults. The management was not happy. At one point we heard one of the staff say into his walkie talkie, “they’re everywhere!”

I fully enjoyed and remember every moment of it.  And best of all, I woke up every day feeling great. When I go to bed at night, I feel so grateful to be sober. And when I wake up in the morning, I feel so grateful to be sober.

There are so many amazing things about being free from alcohol. It is impossible to convey it properly. There are the really huge things, like better health. But there are so many little things too. What I feel most often in my sobriety it gratitude. Grateful to always be myself, to never feel shame, to never willingly make myself sick. Grateful to notice all the little joys and to fill my life up with beautiful moments.

 

Forgiveness

When I think about how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time, it is astounding to me. The only change that has ever been bigger is motherhood, And that’s a whole other ball of wax.

I am finally feeling like myself again. I haven’t been true to myself in years. It’s like I’ve been wandering around lost, looking for the right path.

I have always had an exuberance for life, but when I was drinking, it looked and felt like restlessness. I was so rarely at ease with myself.

The real reason, I think, is that I just didn’t like myself. I had so much guilt and shame, all the time. Even if it was just the thought, I shouldn’t have had that third glass of wine, I still felt shitty about myself.

Sometimes the old me comes back to remind me of all the stupid things I’ve done in the past while drinking. Last night, was the first night in a long time I could not  sleep because I was having anxious thoughts, going all the way back to my teens.

Alcohol has put me in so many dangerous situations, No! I have put myself in so many dangerous situations because I was drinking alcohol. The drinking me was not really me. It was some insecure selfish version of me.

I am so, so, grateful to be free from booze. I don’t look back on drunk times and remember them fondly. Alcohol always left me feeling vulnerable. It always took away my self-respect.

I want to feel proud of myself, but that is such a foreign concept to me.  I’ve rarely, if ever, felt proud of myself.

I have plenty to feel good about, I’ve done a lot of things right. But, I’ve been tearing myself down for so long. And it’s going to take a long time to build myself up again.

I have a wonderful life. I’ve given myself the gift of a fresh start. I was going to say a new chapter, but really it’s a new book.  The main character has changed.

I’m me, I’ve always been me. But, forgiveness is long over do. The only person who can build me up, is me.  I thought someone else could do it. All these years, I’ve been relying on other people for my self-esteem. How stupid.