A few things

I have been thinking about writing, unfortunately my best ideas come when I am walking or driving in the car. And by the time I’m home, well, I just don’t feel like it.

Today, just now, I felt inspired to write after reading a post by Nadine from Sobriety Tree. She is now 8 months sober, amazing!! Nadine was the first person to follow me and I felt such hope, such inspiration at being able to help someone the way I had been helped by others.

It’s the night before Thanksgiving. In the past, this might have been a big drinking night. Lots of people home to see their families. And for sure, there would be lots of wine drinking on the day itself.

Instead, I am home writing. Soon, I will head out to my favorite yoga class. I have come to realize why yoga means so much to me. Yes, it makes me stronger and more flexible. It takes me out of my own head and helps me to be more mindful. But more than anything  it’s the community that gets me on my mat. A short chat or just a smile. A feeling of belonging. Of peace.

Already today I have put in a half day of teaching, grocery shopped, and taken a nap.  After my yoga class, my husband son and I will take a night walk. It’s relatively warm for New England today. I have a great book, two actually, so I know I will read later, take a hot bath and have tea. I will sleep sweetly and wake up feeling great, shame free.

Is it exciting? It’s a matter of perspective. What I mostly feel these days is contentment. Don’t get me wrong, I have really bad days, we all do. But they are nothing compared to the bad days I had when I was drinking. I am calmer, less judgmental, harder to rile. Something Nadine said about not arguing anymore with her spouse anymore really hit home. I pretty much never argue with my husband anymore.  Any big fight we have ever had was when I was drunk and combative. It was as though I wanted to prove that he didn’t love me enough. Now I see that I didn’t love me enough.

Tomorrow, I will wake early and take a blissful barre class.  It will be just the three of us and my mom for Thanksgiving dinner. It will be a day of ease. I won’t have to worry about how much I am drinking or if I am saying anything hurtful. I can be myself. I don’t have to drink alcohol and I am so very grateful for that and for this life with my family.

482

I’ve been alcohol free for 482 days today.

So far, I’ve learned:

  • to be kind and gentle with myself because giving up alcohol in a booze obsessed society is hard. It’s everywhere you look, even in kids movies.
  • being alcohol free is something to be proud of not ashamed. Alcohol is an addictive harmful substance that is no longer a part of my life.
  • I am not the norm and I like it. When others are drinking and I am not, I feel grateful that I don’t need or want alcohol and that it in no way drives my behavior.
  •  alcohol caused me anxiety. I thought alcohol was helping me to relax, but really it was exacerbating my fears and worries.
  • not to romanticize alcohol. This is possibly the biggest factor in me getting and staying alcohol free. All the positive stories that I had attached to alcohol were lies. The beautiful moments that I experienced while drinking were in spite of alcohol not because of it.
  • I sleep better. Drinking alcohol negatively effects your sleep. Sleeping better has improved my life overall.
  •  I have more time. Once I started drinking that was it, I wasn’t motivated to much of anything except watch television.  Alcohol is the great incapacitator.
  • to try and fail and try again. To be more vulnerable and to try new things. My world has opened.
  • alcohol  makes you look like crap. You can tell when someone smokes and you can tell when someone drinks. My skin is no longer dehydrated and my eyes are clear and  bright.
  •  alcohol makes you feel like crap. Being dehydrated all the time made me lethargic. Being hungover was the worst because not only was I sick, but I was responsible my illness.
  • to be present. A friend, who knows I no longer drink, asked me if I smoke pot or take edibles. I said that no I hadn’t really considered it. The thing is, I no longer have the desire to alter my reality.
  •  I like myself. I had been experiencing shame from drinking for so long that I didn’t even realize the self loathing was a direct result of drinking alcohol.
  • not to substitute the booze with fake booze. This might be unpopular and I truly believe that each person has to come to sobriety in their own way, but for me this was important. For as long as I felt the need to replace booze with a booze like substance I was telling my brain that I was missing out on something.
  •  I am not missing out. People who drink are not having more fun. If you don’t believe me, watch people who have been drinking for awhile.
  • there is a lack of real connection when you are drinking. Alcohol anethisizes your brain, which is why I often shared information I would not normally have shared when I was drinking.
  •  life is short and I don’t want to waste any of it drinking alcohol and recovering from drinking alcohol.
  • to  feel the pain when there is pain
  • to fill my life up with beautiful moments.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been here before

Recently, my son and I visited North Conway, NH., a place we stay every year, usually for a couple of nights.  We’ve been visiting North Conway, just he two of us, since my son was three years old, he’s now 15. We usually stay in the same inn, but every once in awhile I like to mix it up a bit and stay somewhere new. This time we stayed at an inn that we had stayed in only once before, back when I was drinking.

It was winter. We have a kind of routine that varies based on the season. We lunched at our favorite spot, took a hike in the woods, and loaded up on sour candy at Zeb’s country store. We visited the rock shop, purchasing a fossil and a cool rock that my son picked out. At Zebs, we bought a game to play later at the inn.  We probably arrived back at the inn at around 4:00 or 5:00. I was already looking forward to a glass of wine by the fire in the “library”. My son and I sat in the library and played our game, him with a soda me with a glass of wine.

By the time we were seated at dinner, I had drank two glasses pretty quickly and then proceeded to order another. If I remember correctly, I barely ate my dinner, feeling pretty buzzed and full from the wine.  I know I had a least one more glass, maybe two. We sat by the fire again after dinner. I was drunk. I was talking and laughing too loud and my son definitely noticed.

We only had to walk up the stairs to our room. I’m sure I was stumbling. I forgot to lock the door.

The next morning, I was so hungover. My head was pounding and I felt nauseous. I had to pretend to feel fine. I could barely eat the lovely breakfast that was included in the cost of the hotel. I felt sick and ashamed. I felt like a bad mother. I managed to go snowtubing like we had planned, but it was a chore not a joy.

Fast forward to present day. This time I was alcohol free. I was completely present. I wasn’t thinking about when we were going to get back to the inn so I could have a drink. I thoroughly enjoyed my meals. I woke up with a locked door and no hangover. But much more importantly, I woke without shame. I am incredibly grateful that I am a non-drinker. It feels so good to say that.

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.