Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sober Days #81 and #82: Anticipation vs. Reality

I made the decision to embark on 100 days without alcohol at the end of October last year.  I tried many ways to talk myself out of it.  The anticipation:  Can I possibly do family Thanksgiving without alcohol?  Or, OMG, Christmas and all the parties that precede it?  Oh, and then there's New Year's Eve-  without alcohol, without even a glass of champagne?  A travesty!!

And then some tentative part of me said:  Well, Carrie-   If you can carry this off, through all these holidays, you will know that you are truly divorced from needing alcohol.  If you can do this, you can handle any event or crisis without needing alcohol.  Go for it, babe!!

Belle had mentioned something about the anticipation of an event without alcohol often being far worse than the actual event, and I kept that in mind.

I'm not gonna lie-  there were some terrifically difficult moments.  When a glass of crisp white wine would have felt like the greatest!  But the less I thought about what I was missing, and the more I focused on my 'Here and Now'- the better it was.  When the regrets began to feel overwhelming, I used my Focus Tactic:  Sitting down, pulling into myself, and Noticing all that was around me:  The crackling fire, the murmur of multiple conversations, the smell of roast turkey in the air, the cool bubbly-ness of the club soda I was drinking, the fresh scent of the lime slice I had in the glass.

And, lo, it was not as miserable as I'd been anticipating.  When I added the lower-than-expected misery quotient to the pride I felt in my success-  It really was not too bad an experience at all.

I thought I couldn't fly without having a glass or two of wine before getting on the plane.  I was very nervous anticipating my first flight without alcohol, about 3 weeks into this 100 day challenge.  I was prepared for, anticipating a tooth-clenching, shaky and sweaty flight.  I treated myself to a new glossy magazine and boarded the flight.  I mentally got a firm grip on the arm-rests, and we took off.  When the drinks cart came by, I asked for a diet coke.  An hour and a half later, we landed. Whoa, I said to myself.  That was fast.  And I realized I was no longer a nervous flier.  How many years had I been self-medicating before flying-   for what turned out to be a no-longer-active problem.

Another anticipation far worse than the reality.  So now when I notice I am fearful/nervous in anticipation of a future event-  I give myself a mental shake (picture one of my dogs coming in from the rain) and remind myself:  Carrie, wait and see.  Don't spend energy anticipating- just commit to the experience.

Carrie's New Event Anticipation Motto: "Cowards die many times before their deaths.  The valiant never taste of death but once".     Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

6 comments:

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    1. It always helps to self-dramatize, I think! (insert giggle here). It's certainly better than ignoring my problems!

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  2. For months I was anxious about going out and not drinking. But on Saturday I went to a dinner party, and it wasn't until I said no thanks to an after dinner liqueur, when someone said "Sue, do you not drink alcohol at all?" and I said, "No, I don't."... that I realised I hadn't been anxious all night. I just enjoyed my soda water, enjoyed the evening, and enjoyed being able to say "I don't drink." It felt weirdly cool to say that. That's a miracle!

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    1. So you have hit your sweet spot, Sue- the role alcohol has in your life- nothing but a passing curiosity, something other people do- have become your new normal. That is so fabulous! Sometimes words come out of one's mouth in advance of thinking- and then you think, Gee, that really IS true!- and that's what your mouth did that evening. I have a feeling I may end up in exactly that spot too- but there is a little more experimentation I need to experience first.

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  3. Suddenly 80 sounds so big! Some days I feel I'm on auto-pilot, and some days just suck. But at the end of the day, I still have such a thrill getting into bed sober - knowing I won't have to face a guilty hangover in the morning.

    The anticipation thing keeps me focusing on today. If I get too far ahead of myself, I start the whole pity thing about never drinking again. So I focus on what you call the "here and now". It helps :)

    Good post! Again.

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    1. Same experience here, Ginger. The auto-pilot days are so easy that I say to myself: Whatever did I think the big deal was?? And then, a suck-y day pops up. That anticipation can be a devious trap for me- if I say: Really, Carrie, are you sure you want to do this, forever? It would mean never having champagne on New Year's Eve again?? This makes me want to cry and quit the stupidity of not-drinking. But saying: OK, Carrie, no alcohol today, remember? We will think about tomorrow, tomorrow. That works!!

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I'd love to hear about your journey, and hear your take on my journey. Comments are very welcome!!