Friday, December 26, 2014

Sober Day #424- Happy Holidays! And What Next? What am I?

Happy Holidays!  My second sober Christmas!   Much lighter and easier than the first one!  Last year, the effort of Not-Drinking occupied most of my consciousness.  This year, Not-Drinking is a background habit, freeing me to focus on other things. Which is lovely progress.

So there is it:  Not-Drinking is what happens in my life now, and most days it doesn't feel like a big deal.   I don't write here often because, honestly, I don't dwell on Not-Drinking. It just doesn't feel that important most of the time.   On the other hand, Not-Drinking is one of the most fundamental changes I've ever made in my life, and I am endlessly grateful for and happy about it!  I still occasionally visit my favorite sober blogs because I like keeping up with others, especially those who quit about when I did.  And I visit  blogs of the newly sober to leave some encouraging words, as so many of you did when I was newly sober.  So this sober blogging community is very meaningful to me, and I am very grateful for it.

But now that it's been more than a year since my last drink, and my life is becoming more and more focused on other stuff:  What am I?

There seem to be two basic models of being a person who used to drink to excess:

#1 = I used to drink to excess, so I am an Alcoholic, and will always be, and will build my life around that perceived pathology.

#2 = I used to drink to excess, and now I don't, so I'll get on with the rest of my life.

AA is in the minds of many THE model- and AA's model is that #1 option above.  And that just so doesn't work for me.  Yes, I know it works well for many- but it apparently has worked so well that it is accepted by many as The Only Way that Works.  Thinking AA was the only option for stopping drinking delayed my quitting for years, for the whole concept was a bad fit for me.  It wasn't until I discovered the online world of sober blogging that I was able to face my situation, decide to make changes, and do it.

So:  I used to drink too much, and now I don't.  I am very grateful for this change.  I used the anesthesia of alcohol to hide from all sorts of important things.  I am now facing these things head on, doing what needs doing, learning and growing.  I acknowledge that I have a faulty Off Switch fir alcohol, so I've decided that not using alcohol is the healthiest choice for me.  But I don't feel defined by my use of or avoidance of alcohol.  Alcohol is a crutch I used to need, and I don't now.  It was a tool  that I needed, a form of self-medication-  and I've now found healthier alternatives.  And that's it!

The fact that alcohol is not a big deal issue for me any more is the source of my ambivalence about writing here-  It's nice to visit, and revisit my past.  But spending much time focusing on the mechanics of not-drinking and the issues of not drinking, etc-  seems counterproductive, a weird anomaly in my now other-focused life.  Almost giving alcohol more importance than it deserves in my current life.

Obviously, I don't have this completely figured out for myself yet, and will undoubtedly be back for further discussion.

Wishing all a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Sober New Year!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sober Day #300- Optimism

The rhythm of my days continues to change.  This morning, as I was walking through the parking lot on my way in to work, I was admiring the pretty clouds, enjoying the warm summer breeze, thinking about some of the patients I'd see today-  and realized.  This is how my mornings are now.  Optimistic.  I may never get to the point of bounding out of bed, but I do get up feeling rested and refreshed.

I've started keeping my laptop by my bedside, so my first action each morning is to write down any dreams from the night before-  and then go on to my congratulations section-  where I list at least 3 things I am proud of from the day before-  Specifically, things I would not have done, felt or accomplished while I was still drinking.  It might be cooking a new dish (rather than relying mostly on prepared foods because they were quicker), or actually going outside for a run.  Or maybe meeting a new person socially and asking her questions about herself rather than just saying hello and turning away.  Or reacting to a mishap by saying- oops, that's bound to happen once in a while, it's now fixed, I'll be on to other matters rather than stopping, obsessing and feeling bad for a full day or two.  Being sure to give myself credit, kudos, helps me keep my hopeful eye on the things I am changing for the better.

Contrast this with a year ago, dragging myself from bed feeling critical and disappointed at my wine intake the night before, once again falling asleep sitting up on the red sofa, awakening at 2 or 3 AM to take myself over to the bed for a few more hours of fitful sleep.  Spending the morning with caffeine, feeling like I am climbing out of a deep hole.  Finally at midday, feeling out of the hole-  and longingly making plans for that evening's alcohol, planning how quickly I can slide back into that same hole again.

And here I was this morning, enjoying my world, looking forward to the day, open to enjoying whatever interesting things might happen, planned and expected, or unplanned and surprising.  This morning optimism is so delightful.

Depending on how much willpower the day demands of me, I may feel out of energy and a bit 'down' by the end of the workday,  but I'm learning to replenish with meditation and exercise.  And if that doesn't work, and I'm tired enough that my fascinating quilting and glass-bead making fail to enthrall me- it can be early to bed, for tomorrow is another day, and another chance for Awesome!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sober Day #294- Pushing my old drinking buttons!

Our trip to India was amazing! I'm sorting through photos, and will post a few here soon.

I'm happy to report that not-drinking gets easier and easier.  Vacations I usually associated with permission to drink whenever?  A mimosa at breakfast?  Sure, this is vacation.  Wine with lunch?  Of course.  On this trip, I very rarely had the urge to drink.  With one exception, when I did think of alcohol, it was in response to an external cue-  an advertisement, a cool hotel bar, an excellent wine list at dinner.  Only once did I have a reflex response to frustration of "OK, now I need a drink"  This was in  response to our guide telling us on our last day that he wanted to be paid his US$1400 in cash rather than credit card, necessitating us visiting several ATMs with various bank/credit cards to amass the needed cash.  And I acknowledge that money (or shortage thereof) can sometimes be a hot button for me- so my response wasn't entirely unexpected.  BUT, it was just a fleeting thought even then-  I noticed the thought going through my head, stopped and said, Hmm there's that silly thought, but I don't need to act on it-  and went on with my activities.  I count that as a real success!

So, yes,  I can have a stressful experience when I am around the globe from home, and even this is not currently enough to drive me to drink.  Yay, Carrie!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sober Day #234- Visas Arrived!!

I'm not sure why I keep counting days- except that it gives me a sense of pleasure and accomplishment to see that number climb steadily higher.  So I will continue it for a while longer.

Our visas for India arrived yesterday- Hurray!!  Next week we'll set off for New Delhi- and I am sooo excited!!

I realized that if we were making this trip a year ago, I would have some reluctance, because I would be unsure of having a ready supply of alcohol in a country I was unfamiliar with.  This would have colored, contaminated all my thinking about the trip.  How very wonderful it is to realize the absence of this preoccupation!

I am reading a very meaningful book right now.  It is Taking the Leap, Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by the American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron.   Interestingly, I was climbing out of my car at Starbucks the other day, and glanced at a cute sports car parked near me.  I noticed the vanity license plate:  Leap Now.  So when I came across this book on Amazon later that day, I decided:  Why not??

 This book is not addressed at alcohol or other addictions, except it is.   It talks about the hard-wired tendency of all humans to avoid discomfort and pain.  And about all the things we use to avoid discomfort, from super-busy-ness to cell phone obsession to food, gambling, drugs, alcohol.

Here's a direct quote:  "The sad part is that all we're trying to do is not feel that underlying uneasiness.  The sadder part is that we proceed in such a way that the uneasiness only gets worse.  The message here is that the only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully" (p 28)

And isn't that what we all discover when newly sober?  A world of emotions we've been avoiding, ready to pounce and disturb our new and fragile equilibrium?  And yet, sitting with these emotions, feeling them rather than avoiding them - through them rather than around them- is the way to quiet their incessant voices and begin to feel comfortable with ourselves!

A good and highly recommended read!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sober Day #223

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted.  But, as you see from this post's title, my absence doesn't mean I've deviated from my chosen path!

I guess I've been busy digesting how to live differently, how to live sober.  And it is very different.

Yesterday morning as I was doing my early morning stretching, I thought-  Wow, this is really the essence of the difference between living sober and not.  I was enjoying the sleek feel of my body enjoying the stretches, the pitter-patter of rapid thought through my head as I planned out my day, both tasks and treats. And I was fully present to my surroundings and myself.

Contrast that with a typical morning in June 2013:  Sleep in til the last imaginable moment.  Bolt out of bed, shower and throw on some clothes, grab my daughter and, if I am super-organized, something for my lunch.  Feeling, yup, hung-over.  Funny that, I never thought I got hang-overs, I thought that was part of why it was so easy to fall into drinking.  BUT-  in truth, I have discovered that I was almost never NOT hungover.  I just accepted the semi-fuzzy thinking, the bone-tiredness, the vague nausea, the constant feeling of being in combat with an unfriendly world that was out to get me-  I thought that was my inescapable normal.

I have discovered, to my delight, that that was not my normal.  Getting up feeling rested, stretching, making my bed, enjoying coordinating clothes for that day, having a delicious icy-cold diet coke, whilst perusing the Wall Street Journal-  (daughter is now on summer break from school).  This is a world away from this time last year.  And how happy that makes me!!

Think good thoughts for me, please, that our Visas for India will come through on time!  We are due to leave on the 25th, and have so far notarized and fed-exed 4 versions of our application-  once we had glasses on in our photos and looked to friendly ("neutral expression please")-  and there was our signatures extending several millimeters outside the designated printed box, etc, etc.   I so hope we get them in time to go-  but I guess I should say, they will come through if we are meant to go, otherwise another time.  Sigh.  So close and yet so far from one of my major bucket list items!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sober Day #164: Sober and a Cold

I've had a cold for the past few days.  Not a really bad one.  Just some runny nose, a bit of a headache and a touch of bronchitis.

It's surprising me, how this feels.  My darling mother-in-law used to say, when she was feeling tired, "My get-up-and-go done got up and went".  Horrible grammar, I know, but that's how this cold feels to me.  It puts kind of a thick grey blanket over my usual energetic enthusiasm for life.

I was thinking about this yesterday. I notice that use of words in talking to myself:  energetic, enthusiasm.  Whoa, I thought, I'm using those words to describe my usual life.  When did that happen?  I thought my normal was when most of regular life seemed grey, and the only brightly-colored moments came when drinking wine.  When I didn't feel really normal until I had the first glass or two of wine in me.

But, yes, this has changed.  No wine is becoming my new normal, and has brought with it all sorts of energy for standard everyday life.  I'm beginning to see the glory in a pink sunrise, to appreciate the dazzling beauty of the daffodils.  I'm beginning to think creatively about the next phase of my life, as sweet husband and I approach the age of starting to think about retirement.

Even with a cold, without alcohol, I can stay in the moment now.  I can acknowledge that this cold has sapped some of my usual energy.  But instead of using alcohol to avoid even feeling this grey-ness,  I can feel it.  Feel the greyness.  I can treat myself kindly:  have a nice bath, dear.  Let's get into bed early this evening, sweetie.  These house projects you were planning to tackle?  Let them wait til next week, when your energy levels will be back to normal.

Who knew that even having a cold could be a teacher about embracing my feelings and treating myself kindly?  That it could be a teacher about appreciating my usual enthusiasm and energy?  That it could teach me that even the not-so-fabulous times are do-able without wine- without falling into deep terror or sadness or other emotion I imagine I couldn't 'handle'.

It's all a grand adventure!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sober Day #160- Alcohol, Time Zones and Jet Lag

Home again!  And what a very fun trip.  The journey home was smooth except for an agonizing 2.5 hours in various lines at US Customs in Toronto- but even that didn't drive me to drink!  

In the past, travel- and fear of flying- was always an excuse for copious wine consumption.  This time I had none.  

I think a lot of the factors and experiences I'd assigned to 'Jet Lag' actually seem to be drinking-related instead.  We arrived home at 11 PM local time on Saturday.  I was up and energetic for my 9 AM pilates class on Sunday, in bed by 10 last night, and up at 6 AM this morning- almost back to my normal 5- 5:30 AM getting-up time.  Without agony.  Feeling fully back in this time zone and ready to resume my normal schedule.  

This is very different from how I felt after a long-haul flight when I thought I needed wine- and lots of it- to cope with fear of flying.  Then I would get home, sleep fitfully, and awaken feeling draggy and out-of-sorts.  It would typically take me  a week or so to feel fully transferred to the new time zone, as far as my internal clock was concerned.  Coming home whether traveling east or west, was the worst, because it was just back to routine, without the novelty of being in a new or different place to entertain me.  

Hmmmm.  It appears (although I probably need to do LOTS of exotic travel to check out this theory, lol) that not drinking actually makes the mechanics of shifting time zones easier- what a revelation!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sober Day #157: Oxford without Wine

Oxford is an amazing city.  We have been walking and walking, craning our necks to see building details, reading from our guides about the history of this building or that.  To use a worn cliche, it is like walking through history!  And it is so interesting to see this with the flow of students, the blue or green hair, the outrageous costumes, just the vibrancy and energy of all the kids.

Every third storefront, it seems, is a pub.  Yet even the pubs are interesting, even when one it not drinking.  The architectural details, the people, the menu items, the decor.  It is not as hard as I expected not to drink.  (That goodness for diet coke- a habit which I plan to give up eventually, but have decided definitely NOT to tackle during 2014 since I have committed to no alcohol this year).

This is the view from our hotel window:

I have been sitting here, just looking one-by-one at each of the individual elements of the designs, sketching and photographing various elements that will undoubtedly show up in my glass beads and quilt designs.  I know the resolution on this photo isn't great- but if you look at the doorway just above the red van, and just over that, flanking the smaller window- there are two life-sized statues, which are amazing.

Why am I mentioning all this in a Sober Blog?  Because in my prior way of traveling, involving lots of glasses of wine, I might not have seen, really seen these details at all.  I certainly wouldn't have had to patience to sketch design details.  And while I might have flirted with maybe someday perhaps making something incorporating these elements, it would never have happened.  And now it will.

And I really really like that!  I like noticing and appreciating details around me.  This feeds the part of me that used to feel starved, and that starvation is another thing that pushed me toward craving the numbness of alcohol.  I like knowing I will make more wonderful things.  And some month soon, when I am feeling really centered, I will tell y'all the URL of my other main website, which is all about the things I make.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sober Day #156: So Much Alcohol

I did an experiment yesterday. I consciously looked for all mention of alcohol around me- billboards, newspapers, magazine, websites...   This is in the UK, but the prevalence of alcohol references is pretty much the same at home in the US.

It is absolutely everywhere!   Partial list:

(1) In my email, a Social Living offer for a Mixology Course
(2) A flyer for a dinner featuring a different wine with each course
(3) Large billboards each advertising a different whiskey, gin, etc
(4) Article in a woman's magazine about 'Stocking your Bar'.
(5) Pubs, of course, with lists of alcohol far longer than the food offerings
(6) Newspaper ads for various alcohols, and an article about specific Merlots
(7) TV and magazine ads for various things- cars, travel, clothing or jewelry- showing a glamorous woman/man/couple with champagne/wine glasses as part of the setting

There was nothing else that was mentioned or shown so often and so lovingly.  Not cars, not food, not sports, not boats or high-end housing.  There seemed an assumption that alcohol is necessary for a normal social life.

On one level, it makes me think:  What is there about today's society that makes so many feel a need for a socially-sanctioned escape from it?

On another level, I think: perhaps those with a 'normal' relationship with alcohol (ie, those who have an appropriate OFF button) simply ignore these, and it is only my unhealthy relationship with alcohol that makes me notice these?

And on the most important level, I almost feel thankful for these constant reminders of what I am choosing to change.  Each mention I see/hear makes that first thought across my mind:  That sounds lovely, I'd like some of that.  And then the counterpoint:  Wow!  No, I really don't think I want to do that, at least not right now.  It doesn't seem fun right now to give away part of my life, part of my consciousness, to a substance.

And there is the constant dilemma for most of us:  How can something that logically makes no sense, none at all, still seem attractive and alluring?  

Bottom line:  Alcohol is pervasive in our society.  Those of us with no OFF switch are therefore continually reminded of our false friend, alcohol, and must continually re-think:  Yes or No?  Shall I or shan't I?  The bummer of this is constantly having to flex the "No, not today, thank you" muscle.  But the good side is that all this flexing of the muscle makes it stronger and stronger, and it becomes a bit easier each time to say "No" the next.

I went to a dinner with a large group of husband's colleagues last night.  Wine was being poured around the table by the server.  There was mineral water on the table.  I filled my wine glass with mineral water, said "neither, thank you" the first time I was asked "red or white?"- and the server with wine simply skipped me each time after that when she rounded the table.  It was simple, non-dramatic, I'm not even sure if those seated on either side of me noticed, and nobody mentioned it.  Easy as pie.  Which continues to surprise me.

No wine here yesterday, none planned for today!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sober Day #154: Flights and Pubs without Wine

I did it!  My first long flight without alcohol.  Eight hours or so, Chicago to Heathrow.  It was an overnight flight.  I did not head to the bar as soon as I cleared security.  Fortunately, the past 5 months have given me numerous opportunities for domestic flights, and I knew that my past need for wine before boarding a flight had more to do with a 'fear of fear' than with actual fear once I was in the air.

Here is a lovely pub in London, near our hotel in Mayfair.  Notice partial head-shot of 16 year old daughter in the lower left!  Eating in there entailed a diet coke with my yummy fish and chips.

I realized how much my vision of vacations or business travel is built around stopping in here and there for a drink.  This is very different:  Awakening each morning refreshed and myself, full of energy.  I've had a lot of practice with evenings and weekends at home without wine, even domestic travel without wine-  but this sort of travel is apparently in a different category in my wine-mind.  

And yet, I am persevering, reminding myself that is how I used to behave, not what I choose now.

On to Oxford tomorrow!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sober Day #150: Alcohol and smartphone apps- A-CHESS

This is really awesome-  A smart-phone app to help with continued sobriety after acute treatment.  This is not for most of us, as few of us have been through a formal treatment program.  Nevertheless, I think it is well worth knowing about.

I first heard about it on a CBS news feed, and then tracked down the actual article reporting this in the medical journal JAMA psychiatry.  And I found this online video vignette most helpful in seeing how the app could actually work in real time.  In a way, it's a formalized version of what Belle offers, a real-time response to help with those moments of searing temptation.  Belle's is a gentler, more personal version that works better for me, I think, than this app would.  But think of all the hundreds of people who could be helped by something like this!!

I find this in line with what I posted about yesterday, the effectiveness of a kinder, more personalized approach to helping people with alcohol and drug cessation.

I think that knowing what it feels like to be a semi-willing prisoner of a non-helpful chemical, whether alcohol or other mind-altering substances, makes me very driven to extend a hand to others, in the way such kind hands and friendships have been extended to me.  That's one of the reasons I love Lucy's posts.  She is such a great translator of the big picture, the cultural and policy mindsets that lead so many astray by insinuating that excessive drinking is normal and harmless.

May those of us who know what it is like not to have an alcohol OFF switch be always kind and encouraging to those who are still trapped in that daily drama!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sober Day #149- Alcohol and Kindness

I was in a bookstore yesterday, doing one of my favorite things- taking my time, browsing through all the different sections, looking for new sparks of interest or things to think about.  I bought one really fabulous book Why Olga Runs: about an amateur track and field runner, etc,-  which might seem less than fascinating until you realize she is 91 YEARS OLD-  a new hero for me.

I always look through the alcohol/addiction section.  What struck me yesterday was seeing several books on using kindness to help those trapped in unhealthy relationships with alcohol.    This flies in the face of the typical staged interventions with ultimatums, and the tough love concepts.  But it makes much more sense to me!

When I was drinking, nagging me about it would only make me put up more and thicker defensive walls:  Don't bother me.  Go away.  Leave me alone.  After a number of abortive attempts to moderate my drinking (techniques we are all familiar with:  only two drinks tomorrow night!  No more than one bottle of wine!  Drink only on weekends!)  I was finally again in a mood to change how I drank

This might have ended as all previous moderations had ended- resuming where I left off- had I not found Belle's blog.  And then Mrs. D.'s.  Belle's emphasis on treats (yes, imagine that, treating myself kindly rather than repeatedly bashing myself for being an inadequate person!) and Mrs. D.'s matter-of-fact pleasures of socializing without the protection/stimulus of booze-  these were eye-openers!

Suddenly, I could switch to seeing myself as a good person with an addiction problem to solve, rather than a low-life stupid slacker.  And what a huge difference this makes!!

And so here I am at nearly 5 months without any alcohol, observing, noticing and pondering how my life is changing and shifting, always focusing on today, leaving the big question of 'forever?', out there in the future.  And for today, that is fine.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sober Day #148 - How to Count, Revisited

All the way back on Day #87, I was thinking forward about how I would count days after making it to the magical goal of 100 days sober.  I was toying with counting by months, and working on how I would count after figuring in a day or two here and there of sampling wine again.

By Day #96,  I had spent some time agonizing over the benefits and risks of trialing wine again, and made the difficult but satisfying decision that 2014 would be an entirely alcohol-free year for me.  And so it is proceeding as I near the 5 month mark (counting from my last drink, on 28 October).

I have been surprised at the great satisfaction I find every day writing in my spread sheet (yeah, I know, it's a bit much, lol) another number, one day higher, one day more of being true and authentic with myself and others.  It is such a pleasure that I think I'll continue counting by days at least for the rest of 2014!

I walked into the gym this morning and glanced at a magazine lying nearby.  The back cover said YOU WON THE LOTTERY in huge print- and had pictures of a pink and a green margarita in classic margarita glasses.  I was so surprised at the wisp of a thought that flitted through my mind before I had a chance to consciously consider it.  Gosh, I thought, who would want to win a lottery that involved that yucky feeling of having consumed alcohol.  What?  The rest of me said to that voice.  What?  You love drinking, remember?  (me being the one who never really had an hangovers, so very little negative feedback).

The strong memory of an aroma flooded my mind- the smell of lilies-  which I have hated ever since being in hospital after major surgery about 20 years ago, loving the relief of physical pain that the narcotic pain medication provided, but loathing that fuzzy-minded feeling that came with it.  Ever since, that scent of lilies has been associated in my mind with that awful mental feeling.  (When it's my funeral, please do not send lilies, lol-  although hopefully it will be a number of decades before I have to worry about that).

It is moments like this, when I know for certain that my neural circuits and my entire being are continuing to change (for the better) after stopping alcohol- that fuel my determination to continue this journey for at least quite a bit longer, possibly forever.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sober Day #143- Saying No to Cravings

Smartphone games are a supreme waste of time.  Except when they aren't!

All of us have had the experience of craving something.  And most of us currently experience or vividly remember that craving for wine or some other mind-altering substance.  For myself, I remember the sight of a lovely crystal wineglass, with tiny sedate beads of moisture on the outside from the delicious chilled white wine I'd just poured into it.  And I can imagine that first taste, a little tart, cold, slightly bubbly, ricocheting around my mouth.  I can almost taste and feel it.

And that would be how another evening of drinking too much wine would begin- when I could no longer resist the call of that vision, that craving. 

There've been some studies of food craving showing that interrupting that visual image with a different one, especially one that requires concentration and physical movements, can decrease cravings.   Ta-Dah!  Enter the smartphone or computer game.  

A recent study** actually used the videogame Tetris to study naturally-occurring cravings in male undergrad students.  After the students clarified what they were craving, they were divided into two groups.  Group 1 played Tetris on computer for 3 minutes, and Group 2 got the same start, but their computers 'stalled' while loading the computer game.  There was significantly more decrease in craving in the game-playing group.  The theory is that the new visual images from engaging in the game partially supplant the craving images, and markedly decrease their intensity and thus their allure.  

The authors conclude: "In conclusion, we have shown that playing Tetris for a brief period is sufficient to reduce naturally occurring cravings that participants were already experiencing when they entered the laboratory. "

It seems to me that most smartphone games that require even a bit of strategy thinking could fulfill the same purpose.  (Hello, Candy Crush!).   Maybe this is another reliable tool to add to our Sober Toolboxes?

**Skorka-Brown J, Andrade J, May J.  Playing 'Tetris' reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings.  Appetite.  2014; 76:161-165

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sober Day #136- Alcohol and Fear of Flying

Apparently this is another myth about alcohol I constructed for myself:  I am a nervous flier who MUST have at least 2 glasses of wine prior to boarding a plane.  Since October, I have been NOT drinking before flying.  I guess this must be, oh, about 2 dozen flights since then.

Amazingly, it's OK.  I have my magazines or work to do, and read or work.  I still hope for nobody in the middle seat.  I still get impatient with how slow people are disembarking.  But even the turbulence that used to send me into a frenzy of What-Ifs is no longer bothersome.  I really think this is a myth I made to justify drinking, rather than a genuine deeply-embedded anxiety.

I also had the convenient back-story of "Everybody gets nervous flying so almost everyone drinks on a plane".  Actual observation:  Few people drink alcoholic beverages on a plane.  Who knew?  (not me, apparently!).

It feels so freeing to populate my world with stories based on actual observations, rather than 'observations' through that contorting lens of the bottom of a wine bottle!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sober Day #135- Sober in New Orleans

My mister is at a meeting in New Orleans, and I have joined him here.  I love this city!!  There is so much to do and see here.  For some, however, the impression of New Orleans is all about Mardi Gras, Krewes, and lots of booze!

There is definitely a component of heavy drinking here (for some, at least).  The epicenter of excessive drinking is Bourbon Street, in the Vieux Carre, or French Quarter.  This is also where there is some very good music!

Mister loves jazz, so we went wandering down Bourbon Street again last night.  This was about 9 PM, and we were sort of looking for some late dinner too, hoping to find a jazz bar with some great live music.  

On prior visits, I'd use the 'everyone is drinking' reasoning to drink myself.  This time, observing the scene through clear sober eyes was educational.  I was interested to notice the glazed, sort of surprised eyes of those who had been drinking, the slightly wobbly gait.  There were a couple of cigar stores and, unfortunately, a number of men who were wandering along the street smoking their cigars.  That is one smell that really bothers me, actually makes me nauseated.  

After about the 3rd Cigar Man passed us, my tummy started feeling a bit wobbly.  It was amazing how quickly my brain associated this feeling with drinking too much.  All of a sudden, I was so put off by the excesses around us, and so very glad I wasn't drinking.  I said to Mister, "I don't feel too well, let's head back to the hotel".  I probably said something about the environment bothering me.

Back in the room, he said sympathetically, "That was hard on you, wasn't it".  After a few minutes conversation, we discovered that he thought it was hard on me because around all that alcohol, it must have made me really really want to drink too.  He was astounded to realize that the combo of the cigar smoke and all the people drinking made me so relieved and happy that I wasn't drinking.  

An education for both of us!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sober Day #132: Loving My Feet

I am realizing that for many years I have resented my feet.  Sure, they function well, carrying me where-ever I need to go.  But they aren't naturally beautiful.  They require buffing and filing and cuticle-tending etc to look great in sandals.  I felt they were so trying, so difficult, that I couldn't manage them myself.  And so, I've out-sourced my feet.

Yup, I've been convinced that without a pedicure at least every other week, not only was I not beach-ready, I was really socially unacceptable.  This is not that much of an exaggeration.

Lately, I've been rethinking this.  Or, perhaps I mean, re-feeling this.  I've been paying more attention to my feet.  Spreading a little cuticle oil on daily.  Using foot lotion before bed.  A little gentle buffing in the shower.  And I am beginning to really like my feet.  OK, even love them.  Here are the sweet little unadorned piggies, which don't look all that horrendous after all!

Sounds trivial, this?  Talking about my feet and pedicures?  Think again!  This is a vital part of the process of a person who formerly used alcohol to hide from herself now re-discovering and re-owning herself and her truth!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sober Day #131: Sunshine Thanks!

A huge hug and thanks to Lucy for nominating me for the Sunshine Award!!  I am soooo honored by this nomination that I can't tell you how much it means to me.  On the flip side, I don't want to burden another 10 bloggers (no matter how much I admire them and how meaningful and life- (OK, sobriety-) saving their posts have been for me) with naming yet another 10 bloggers to nominate!

The part of this award that I particularly love is the requirement that all acceptees (hmmm, not really a word, I guess, but seems to fit the purpose here) list 10 previously unknown (as in un-blogged) facts about themselves.  Taking a cue from Sharon at Sober at Sixty, I'm going to list 5!

1.  Color drives my creative life!  I've never met a color that I can't enjoy once I find the right color-environment for it!!

2.  I lived for many years on the Texas Gulf Coast.  We boarded up and left for many a threatened hurricane!

3.  I do most of my blogging at my treadmill desk, logging 2 to 2.5 miles an hour.

4.  I adore dogs!  Here are my 3:

5.  (Probably no real surprise to anyone but me!) I am finding that I loooove being sober!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sober Day #130

One hundred and thirty days.  How much I am learning.  What I notice today- probably since Saturday is my long workout day- is how my feelings about fitness are shifting.

I've had a major commitment to fitness for about 10 years now.  I work out with a trainer 3 times weekly, and do changing group pursuits the other days-  pilates, TRX, barre, yoga, gyrotonics-  you name it, and I will try it!  Averaging at least an hour a day of vigorous activity.

Here's how I feel (or felt) at the beginning of a class/session:  I have made the commitment to this, so I will do it.  It's not very fun, but it IS important.  I will zone out when possible, and take shortcuts as needed to get through it.

Today I noticed a shift.  It's as though another layer of victim-hood is dropping away (for what I described above, if you reread it, is really being a victim of my own commitment).  Today I noticed that when the work gets hard, I am leaning into it.  When I just-about-can't do something, I push even harder.  And I am reveling in the hardness, and how it moves me toward a greater level of fitness.

It still looks just the same from the outside- but it feels very different from the inside.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sober Day #126: Making My Bed

With sobriety, I began again to notice the world around me.  To see, observe, think about it.  And to let my thinking about other people change, evolve.

I notice that nobody but me cares about whether our bed is made in the morning.  Oh, I think, nobody cares.  I don't have to make the bed.  And then I notice that I like it when the bed is made.  I like walking into our bedroom and seeing it look so tidy, so welcoming.  Gosh, I think, this looks as good as a hotel or a magazine ad.

And I decide to make the bed most mornings, for ME.  This task, this one minute or so of making the bed, shifts.  It is no longer something I do because I should or because it is what one does.  Or because my man wants this, expects this, or so I think.  He really doesn't care much.  Making my bed becomes something I do for me, and enjoy for me- and is no longer a burden in my mind, ripe for my resentment at All I Have To Do.

What freedom!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sober Day #125: Marriage/Partnerships and Sobriety

I have been married a long time.  My husband has known me since I was a college freshman, not even considering medical school, not intending to get married for a long long time, planning on never having children.  We got married about 6 months after we met, I've been a surgeon for many years, and our three children are 16 (F), 20 (M) and 21 (F).

This was also before I'd ever had more than a sip or 2 or wine or beer from someone else's glass.  Gradually, over time, he's seen me spiral deeper and deeper into a bit more, then another glass, well, maybe another, heck, yeah, I'll have one more.  And our relationship has changed to accommodate this.  He's remained a two glasses of red wine most evenings drinker.

The fact that he works about 5 hours away, and stays there a lot of the time brings a sharper focus to the changes in our relationship.  The recent very snowy/icy weather has meant difficult roads for this 5 hour drive, so this was the first weekend he's been home in a month.

Just before he got home, I had dreams 2 nights in a row about marrying him.  All with a twist- like in one, I was wearing a wedding dress I'd designed, with multiple very bright graphic green and yellow prints!  I think this was all about, almost literally, entering into a new marriage.

When he called to surprise me that he'd be home on Friday, rather than Saturday as planned, my first reaction?  Disappointment.  What?  Well, I had my Friday evening planned, they've sort of become routine.  A food treat (I eat very low carb most of the time), some new magazines or a new novel, and very early to bed before a 3-hour workout (I know, I know, but it's a one hour pilates class, a one hour barre class and an hour of weight-lifting with my trainer, so it's not really over-achieving, lol) on Saturday mornings.  And now I'd have to change that.

Hmmm, I said to myself. Really?  I mean, really?  Why, just why, do you think you have to change what you plan to do because he is home? Um, because.  Because, because,  Well, I'm not really sure why.  I decided to stick to my plan for the evening and proceed, with a strong commitment to being authentic.  And it turned out, he was wondering if I'd mind him going to meet up with some old friends/colleagues for a beer.  I had my treats, and when he returned home about 9 PM, I said, wanna go to bed early with me?  And so that worked out fine!

And the weekend proceeded like that, me initially thinking I'd have to modify the works-for-me-sober weekend activities I've developed, and then finding they meshed quite well with his plans-  and also finding that both of us could be quite flexible to accommodate what the other was wanting.

Our relationship has always been good, but this is a whole new level, a whole new marriage, and I am liking it very much!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sober Day #120- Boredom and Abstinence

For the past week or so, I've been feeling just a wee bit bored.  Bored with the effort of abstinence, bored with life in general.

Perhaps it is the gloomy winter weather, the lack of sun, the seemingly-perpetual cold?  But I think I also hear the voice of Wolfie:

(soft whisper) "Now you've proven you can do it!  Nearly 4 months without alcohol.  But that means you have control, you don't have to keep doing this-  go on, grab a bottle and settle down to an evening of real relaxation."

(more insistent) "You know what?  This is getting really old.  At first, it was a fab accomplishment, each day seemed like a new discovery- but can you say booooooring?"

(louder still)  "This isn't going to work forever, you know.  Go ahead and have a glass of wine when your friends are.  That glass of club soda with lime looks so stupid."

And yet:  I have made a commitment to myself for 2014 to be without alcohol.  And I am physically feeling awesome.  In a few weeks, I will be traveling to New Orleans again, and then on to a meeting in Las Vegas- there will be more sunshine there.

I think that voice above is not a true voice, not a helpful voice.  I went to bed quite early last night to shut it up.  Perhaps I need a new pair of shoes today.  I've been craving a pair of navy blue patent leather pointy-toed flats.  A web search for the perfect pair would be a nice project/reward for later today.

I might have to go to bed really early again tonight.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sober Day #116: Willpower and alcohol

Just do it?

Easy for Nike to say!  Whoops, no, that's about exercise.  Just say no?  Oh, that was Nancy Reagan.  Just set down the bottle, stupid!  Oh, if only it were that easy!!

Those of us who've had problems with excess alcohol consumption know there is a constant inner battle between:  Today I won't have any wine, and:  OMG, I can't live through the rest of this day without wine.

Here's a simplistic example:  Suppose you love chocolate chip cookies, and there is a platter of delectable ones sitting next to you.

Scenario A:
      Situation:  You put no mental restraints on your eating patterns.
      Result:  You eat or don't eat a cookie, and there is no mental stress attached with either.

Scenario B:
      Situation:  You have told yourself No Sweets Today.  But they look so good.  You eat two.
      Result:   Immediate gratification, but after about 5 minutes, you start beating up on yourself for not keeping your agreement.  This may or may not lead to eating the rest of the platter.

Situation C:
      Situation:  You have told yourself No Sweets Today.  You sit there trying to ignore the call of the cookies.  After about 30 minutes, you can't stand the temptation any more, so you (a) put them down the garbage disposal (b) give them to the neighborhood children, or other.
     Result:  You've exercised a lot of will-power and you've won!  You feel tired but triumphant.

Here's the really crazy part!  Suppose you then serve people from each group a large bowl of their favorite flavor of ice cream.  Studies show that after an exercise like this, people from Group C usually eat far more of the ice cream than Groups A or B.

WhaaaaT?  Aren't these the people who just showed how well they could use their willpower in the Cookie part of the exercise?  How could this happen?

It turns out that Willpower is in finite supply in most of us.  You can't just endlessly count on using willpower to change a deeply in-grained habit.  The habit will win a significant amount of the time.  That's why we need a whole deep bag of strategies for helping us change our alcohol consumption.

(now we are veering into my personal opinion, rather that scientific studies).  I think that is what's so brilliant about Belle's idea of frequent small and large rewards.  In my experience, a pleasant reward sort of resets my willpower supply.  For example, suppose I've had a stressful day at work.  I arrive home, and regret that I've decided not to indulge in my old habit of a large glass of crisp white wine.  I know I've decided not to drink today, and I resist the urge-  but I feel a bit cheated, put-upon.

Then, however, I remember my rewards system, and have a large piece of my favorite chocolate cake, or indulge in alone-time in a luxurious bubble bath.  Suddenly, I feel taken-care-of, reset, ready to tackle the rest of the evening without that pouty/resentful feeling/look on my face.

If you dropped by my house, say, an hour later, with a bottle of my favorite wine to share-  by then, I'd be ready and able to say:  No, thanks, not today.  Would you like to try some of the fabulous iced tea I just made?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sober Day #111- Changes on my Radar Screen

I'm finding that with longer sobriety (I'm working on month #4 now) my personal radar screen is changing.  There are multiple things about my home, avocations and work that simply did not register when I was drinking.  My MO then was do whatever is needed to 'keep the ship afloat'- ie, satisfactorily complete the tasks absolutely required for keeping an even keel to my life, and ignore everything else.

WRT the house, this was probably compounded by having a live-in Nanny/Housekeeper until just 2 years ago.  When she was ready to retire, we decided that with our youngest being 13, we were ready to go solo.  This remained more of a 'holding things together' approach, though, rather than anything deliberate or proactive.  Crises were taken care of as they arose.

Over the past few months, I've begun realizing that there may actually be another way of doing things.  For example- over the weekend, two of the smoke detectors were doing their very annoying shrill beeping to let me know they needed new batteries.  Frustrated, I looked for batteries or another way to make them shut up.  Then the thought struck- Wait, these were new when the house was built, almost 15 years ago.  I know technology has improved!  Sure enough, Amazon had dual-type smoke detectors capable of raising a warning about both a fast flash fire and a slow smoldering fire.  I walked through the house counting smoke detectors and ordered a dozen of those suckers.  And I will have a handyman install them when they arrive.

Fist pump into the air, I am proactively improving our home safety!

And last night, I was cooking.  I was annoyed that my favorite knife was so dull, and unhappy at the way the electric knife sharpener I'd purchased was performing.  How frustrating!  Then, wait a minute, there are people who sharpen knives for a living.  I had a little discovery quest with Mr. Google, and found a business quite nearby.  This morning after working out, I took them my knives and scissors.  Now not only do I have 6 very sharp knives- they also sharpened my fabric shears, AND honed the blade so that the broken off tip (Son trying to use it as a screwdriver) no longer shows.  Wow!!

Another fist pump!  I love chopping vegetables, etc, when I have a very sharp knife.  This will really help with my Back-to-Eating-Low-Carb project.

I'm considering putting together a household calendar, with such things as: twice yearly take knives to be sharpened, get gutters cleaned, etc., etc.

While drinking wine most evenings, these are problems/tasks that never even appeared on my radar screen. I suppose you could say, see, sobriety is just giving you more To-Do jobs.  But that is not how it feels.  It feels as though I am getting out ahead, planning my life, investing a little time now to save major time or problems later-  and I am very satisfied!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sober Day #108- Unexpected help

A few days ago I was sitting around home feeling a bit out of sorts.  It was about 5 PM, the time in the past that would have meant wine, and I think I was longing for that a bit.  I wasn't grumpy, nor depressed, just feeling sort of disconnected from everything, and really, wondering why I was bothering with this whole sobriety stuff.

I noticed a tune in the background.  15-year-old daughter keeps her radio on constantly in her room, and I have by now learned to pretty much relegate it background noise and ignore it.  But this one caught my attention.  I realized it was Carry On, my theme for abstinence.  And so I shall.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sober Day #106: Dreaming of Wine.

More drinking dreams!

Night before last: I was touring a city-  possibly Paris, or Luxembourg-walking around by myself, thoroughly enjoying my explorations.  I was carrying a small glass- shot glass size- of Grand Marnier (which IS my favorite liqueur) and it was very important to keep stopping places to have it refilled.  In this dream, I had no awareness of participating in the Challenge, and no guilty or shameful feelings about drinking, I was just enjoying it.  Although actually, now that I consider it again, perhaps there was a little sort-of-gleeful feeling about semi-sneaking around with this alcohol, knowing that I was outside the norms of behaviour, a little feeling of defiance or rebellion.

Last night: I was aware of this challenge and just where I am in real life.  I had 'accidentally' drunk two glasses of wine.  I was at that stage of "Oh, screw, I'll just drink until I fall asleep, that sounds so delicious".  And yet, I was pausing there, actually weighing the pros and cons of continuing to drink.  I think I was leaning toward not drinking more.  And I was also very aware that whatever I decided, I was going to lie to myself and everyone else about having 'slipped'.

When I awoke, I'm not sure which bothered me more, having consumed wine while intending not to, or intending to lie about having consumed wine.

So my subconscious appears quite interested in discussing drinking/not drinking with me. And probably has some pointers/meanings for me- if I were clever enough to decipher them.