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.

Sleep

Last night I had a dream about alcohol. Not unusual. In the dream my husband offered me a sip of his alcoholic drink. I was so pissed at him. I said, “you think I’m going to throw away eight months of sobriety for a sip of a root beer flavored booze, if I want to taste root beer, I’ll just have a fucking root beer.”

When I told my husband about the dream he said he didn’t really understand why having a sip of alcohol would be throwing away my sobriety. My husband is one of those unusual people who can easily have one or two beers on occasion and never have the desire for more.

If I had a sip of alcohol it would not send me into a downward spiral of drunkenness, but I would no longer consider myself alcohol free. I would have to start over

Thing is, I have no desire. I see booze for what it is because I no longer romanticize it and attach stories to it. Alcohol is a sedative. The reason you feel buzzy and more sociable is because the alcohol is sedating a part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex helps control our impulses and behavior.  Keep drinking and it will sedate other parts of your brain affecting your motor control. Eventually, as you begin to feel tired, your ability to stay conscious is diminishing. You are not really falling asleep, your passing out.

Some people believe they sleep better after a few drinks.  The truth is you are not entering naturally into sleep, it is more like a form of anesthesia.  In the book Why We Sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Mathew Walker, PHD, it states, “alcohol fragments sleep, littering the night with brief awakenings. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep that we know of, it’s rather like the cerebral version of cardiac arrest preventing the pulsating beat of brainwaves that otherwise power dream sleep.”

I always felt tired when I was drinking. Alcohol not only negatively affects your sleep, it also dehydrates you. An energy sucking combo. Whenever I drank, I would always wake up around 2:00 a.m. feeling wide awake and thirsty. Sometimes I would even dream of big pitchers of cool aid. I still keep a glass of water by my bed, but it is rarely touched by morning.

Now that I am fully aware of what alcohol does to my brain, not to mention the rest of the body, I just don’t feel the same about it. We need to wake up as a society and acknowledge that alcohol is a harmful drug that has harmful effects on our bodies and brain.

Moderation is a bitch

I hate the word alcoholic. It conjures up images of dark alley ways and vomit. I have a hard time with the concept that a person is born addicted to alcohol. That it is a disease. If a person becomes addicted to cigarettes or cocaine do they have a disease? Were they born addicted to cigarettes? I would be willing to concede that some people are born with a personality more inclined towards addiction. However, it seems to me that if a person regularly partakes in an addictive substance, they are likely to become addicted to that substance.

Sobriety is stigmatized because society loves their booze. It is much easier to believe that “some people” have a problem than to admit that alcohol is a addictive drug. We don’t want to hear that it is a carcinogen and can cause cancer. We want to believe that the resveratrol in red wine is the new health elixir. That the hops in beer are good for us. It’s like swimming with sharks because swimming is good for us. We never call alcohol what it is. It’s hard to romanticize a drug.

A nice cold beer, good red wine, adult drinks, cordials, prosecco. Try this, replace “I would love a nice chilled glass of Rose with I would love a nice chilled glass of booze.”  Doesn’t quite have the same effect. We have been brainwashed and companies are making billions.

Before I became free from alcohol, the question of whether or not I was going to drink or how much I was going to drink was a conversation I had regularly with myself. On the way home from work, I would think, “should I stop and get a bottle of wine?” Or out to dinner, “should I have another glass.”

It’s challenging to moderate when you are anesthetizing your brain. After two drinks, your inhibitions are failing and the ability to make a good decisions is fading. That’s why so many of us find it hard to stop after a couple of drinks.

Even if I did manage drink moderately, I would still feel mildly crappy. Knowing I willingly made myself a little bit sick.

Repeating this pattern over and over again for years had a lot of negative effects, loss of time, loss of health, loss of money. But, the biggest most significant loss was the loss of my self-respect.

 

Last drink

 

I had my last drink was in April 2018 while vacationing in Barbados. I was already feeling disenchanted alcohol, but I continued to imbibe. I’m not sure why, maybe out of habit or because I was on vacation. It felt like everyone around me was drinking. We were at this beautiful beach where I  watched people order buckets of beers, do shots and stumble around.

Two woman were in the water with their drinks when a wave came up and knocked one of them over. She managed to hold the drink up in the air and not spill it. The woman was laughing hysterically saying, “I didn’t lose my drink,” which was funny, except that she kept repeating herself over and over, getting louder and louder.

I swam away.

On the same vacation, I was drinking my third glass of wine of the night, while watching my son swim in the pool. It was a perfect night, beautiful and warm. And I thought why I am I drinking this, I don’t even want it. So, I tossed the wine in the bushes.

When I got home from vacation. I wracked my brain for ways to make this whole not drinking thing stick, as I had tried to quit many times before. I knew I needed accountability and a challenge. So, I pledged to quit booze for one year and donate the projected money I would save to a local hospice on Facebook.

That decision has been the catalyst for every positive change I have made since.