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!