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.

 

Some things that helped me to be free from alcohol

I was going to title this, some things that helped me give up alcohol. But, this journey is not about giving something up. I feel very strongly that if you hold onto to the mindset that you are giving up something, you will never be free.

I had to completely change the way I saw drinking and alcohol. It would relax and numb me out briefly. But, then I would be chasing that feeling for the rest of night. Drinking alcohol gave me approximately twenty minutes of pleasure before I was either trying to moderate or drinking too much. Then, if I drank too much, I would feel sick, guilty, hungover and sleep deprived. If I tried to moderate, I would just feel deprived.

Here are some of the things that helped me to stop drinking:

Change the way I view alcohol. Alcohol is a poisonous addictive drug. It can increase your risk of developing cancer. It negatively effects sleep, slows down motor control causing slurring and imbalance, takes away inhibitions, and causes illness.

Accountability. This is huge!! I posted on Facebook and made a pledge not to drink for one year. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable, you need to find a way that is good for you. Also, telling my son was important because I want to be the best role model I can be and to teach him that a life without alcohol is beautiful.

Books. I read voraciously. Quit lit,  fiction, non-fiction, self-help, you name it. Some books that have helped me on this journey are: Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter, Why we sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Mathew Walker, PhD,  The Sober Diaries How One Woman stopped drinking and Started Living by Clare Pooley,  Kick the Drink Easily by Jason Vale,  Stop Drinking Now by Allen Carr, Perfectly Imperfect The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice by Baron Baptiste, The Power of Meaning Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith, Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, PhD, Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert and Circe by Madeline Miller.

Yoga. Yoga has helped me heal. In the beginning when the teacher would ask the class to set their intention, mine was always to heal. Yoga is not about touching your toes, it teaches you to make a mind body connection. It helped me feel strong, to get out of my own head and connect with my breath.

Moving my body. Yoga might not be for you. Do whatever exercise makes you feel good. Walk, run, hike, swim, bike, or try Zumba. Replacing booze with exercise is a win win.

Getting outside. I feel so much better when I am in nature. Even if it’s really cold, just stepping outside for a few minutes and listening to the sounds around me is peaceful. Going for a long walk, even better.

Trying new things. I have tried ring making, pottery, Thai massage, sound healing, travelling, writing a blog, restorative yoga, and guitar to name a few.

Rest. It takes a long time to heal from the negative effects that alcohol has on the body. Be kind to yourself and take rest when you need it.

Self-care. I have become a self-care, wellness fanatic. Some of my favorite ways to practice self- care are baths with Epson salts and essential oils, drinking tea, juicing, writing in my journal, dry brushing, massages, and all forms of restorative yoga.

Mindfulness. I have tried different apps, yoga workshops and reiki. I love them all. It depends on my mood. But really you can practice mindfulness anytime, just by focusing on the sounds around you.

Treats. I have saved a lot of money on booze and I regularly treat myself. Massages, fancy teas, cupcakes, workshops, classes, books, really good chocolate, clothes, and travel.

Forgiveness. I had to forgive the girl/woman I was. I do not believe we need to apologize to every person we ever hurt while we were drinking, but we most definitely need to forgive ourselves.

Getting Help. There is a huge non-drinking community on line. People are waking up to the fact that alcohol is really bad for us. Hip Sobriety, Sober School, One Year No Beer and Soberistas are just a few that have really helped me.

 

 

Reunion

Last night, I went to my high school reunion. And I have to say that I have never in my life been so grateful for my sobriety.

Everyone there was going through something, a break up, a divorce, loss of a parent, cancer. I listened. I heard the pain in their voices. And I watched as each person tried to bury their pain with alcohol.

I left early.

Driving home, I felt safe. I didn’t have to worry about being pulled over. I didn’t have to worry about feeling sick or acting like as asshole in front of my family.

When I got home my husband and son were watching a movie on the couch downstairs. I made myself some tea, wrote in my journal and went to bed. I thought about how hungover all those people at the reunion were going to feel the next day.

An overwhelming sense of relief washed over me, I no longer have to drink alcohol.

Mummers

My mom was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 1996. Since that diagnosis, she has had a blood test every six months following a watch and wait plan. It’s been a good plan, 22 years without treatment or illness. I have been incredibly lucky to have had so much time with my mom, who is also my best friend.

But, this last blood test result was not a good one. I can’t be more specific because I didn’t go with her to this appointment, expecting the results to be like all other results before, positive. All I know at this point is that her doctor is very worried, something about kidneys, a CAT scan and second blood test. My mom, being my mom, decided to put the tests off until after Thanksgiving.

We are in a state of limbo, but it feels like the shit is about to hit the fan.

I’ve been thinking a lot about alcohol these past two weeks. I think I have finally figured out why it is so appealing to the vast majority of us. It  provides a reprieve from thought, a temporary state of numbness.

I have been trying to come up with another way to relieve this overwhelming sense of sadness without giving up my sobriety. And I have come to this conclusion.

I am just going to have to feel it, all of it. There is no escape from this kind of pain.

 

I’m not going back

 

I didn’t come to sobriety through a recovery program. I came to sobriety because I was tired of repeating the same negative patterns over and over again. And once I arrived, I knew in my gut that if I started drinking again all the positive benefits I had gained would disappear.

In the beginning, I read a lot articles about people giving up the booze for a specified amount of time. I loved reading about the many benefits of giving up alcohol – better sleep, more energy, better relationships, a more productive and active lifestyle. In short, their lives were exponentially better without the booze. But, what I found amazingly frustrating was that once the specified amount of time was up, almost every person, in every article I read, said they would drink again.

What? Why?

Alcohol has that big of a hold on us as a society. Can you imagine someone telling you that they stopped eating apples and they lost weight, got clearer skin, slept better, reduced their risk of cancer, had more energy, and were more productive at work. But they were going to start eating apples again when the six months was up.

Why do we drink alcohol when there are so many obvious benefits to living a life free from it?

So far, I have travelled sober, maintained a steady yoga practice, been certified in Reiki, done a cleanse, started a blog, took a ceramics class, made my own ring, read umpteen books, became a consultant for a clean skincare company, hiked and walked all over the place, taken a sound healing workshop, started juicing and became a teetotaler. And I’m just getting started.

Will I go back to alcohol when my pledge of one year with no alcohol is up?

Hell no