Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sober Christmas #3

I just celebrated my third sober Christmas-  and am looking forward to a booze-free New Year's Eve. Not drinking isn't something I think much about these days- it's just something I do.  I'm getting used to saying "I don't drink"-  and am still surprised at how often the reply is "Oh, I don't either".

To anyone just starting their Sober Journey-  it does get so much easier with time.  Most people in my family drink-  an evening glass of wine, or an occasional beer.  We are all comfortable with the fact that Mom doesn't drink now- and it doesn't cause me a pang to see them order and enjoy their tipple of choice.  They are all fortunate in having an alcohol Off Switch and rarely overindulge.  Me?  I've got that faulty Off Switch which says "Another one or two please" when it should be saying "Thanks, that's enough".

For my personal psychology, it works best to say to myself "I'm choosing not to drink right now".  That doesn't mean I will never ever have another glass of wine- I may.  But not in the near future.

The longer I am in Not-Drinking mode, the more I notice how much of our culture contains alcohol. Family holidays, festive parties, quiet evenings by the fireside-  so many idealize alcohol intake.

And our media are rife with the romanticizing of alcohol.  Even for me, this can push buttons.  It is not the big party scenes or the fast car with the fine whiskey and the sexy guy. It is the quiet moments that occasionally give me a momentary yearning to drink.  The dark cozy bar, the glass of excellent vodka on the rocks, for example, with the light in the bar coming mostly from the fire in the fireplace, with maybe a leather armchair and a well-filled bookshelf in the background.  Or the pale summer day, lunching on a terrace overlooking a pastoral scene, with a cool crisp glass of of a dry white wine.  When I notice yearnings such as these,  I dissect the scene.  Wait, I tell myself, you can have most of what seems so attractive in this scene without the alcohol.  What about a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream in the fire-lit bookroom with the decadent armchair?  What about a tall glass of sparkling mineral water with a lime for that early summer luncheon on the terrace scene?

Only once recently did I have a spontaneous (not triggered by advertisement or social situation) thought about drinking.  Following a particularly stressful day, after a final Straw/Camel's Back moment, the picture of a cold glass of wine popped into my mind.  I was quite surprised, and it was not hard to say gently to myself,  "Oh, wait, darlin', that's not how we handle stress these day!  Remember?"

I often find myself grateful for the gift of not drinking. I love the feeling of always being present, and of being capable of dealing with any challenges by finding answers or solutions.  This is a big change from my former approach of avoiding unpleasant things by drowning them in alcohol.  It has surprised me to find out how very competent and capable I am-  not at all the fragile victim I appeared to myself when I was drinking.  The sense of trust I now have in myself and my actions feels just fabulous-  so 2016 will be another non-drinking year for me.

Picture me raising my glass (sparkling mineral water with a bit of cranberry juice, such an fabulous pale pink) to toast to a fabulous 2016 for You! and for me!!

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!