Sober Curious? Sober Pissed

20 Dec

 

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You may have heard about the “Sober Curious” movement.  Many people are seeking out the numerous benefits of going alcohol-free (AF) and there are even bars popping up all around the country that don’t serve booze.  According to a CBS News Story (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sober-curious-alcohol-free-bars-events-changing-what-nightlife-looks-like/), “Interest in the “sober curious” community can be seen at new alcohol-free bars and events and online, with more than 1.2 million #soberlife Instagram posts and more than 500,000 #soberissexy posts.”  While the movement is growing, it has a long way to go before it comes close to the 4.2 million likes of the “Mommy Needs Vodka” Facebook personal blog (almost as many as Sobrietease—ha).

A CNN Business article from June 10, 2019 (https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/08/tech/alcohol-alternative-sober-curious/index.html) says that people who want to socialize in a “bar-like location, but without having to drink alcohol” are part of a “larger trend”.  The article claims that “people of all ages are drinking less beer, while millennials are drinking less overall.”   It seems that more and more restaurants I go to have non-alcoholic drinks, or mocktails, on their menus.  As a recovering alcoholic, it’s nice to have options other than club soda or sparkling water with lime.

Last night, I went to a holiday work dinner at a restaurant that I’ve been to before.  I looked forward to having one of the creative, non-alcoholic drinks on their menu.  As work colleagues ordered their pomegranate martinis and commented on how festive the deep pink hue was for the holiday season, I was happy to order my mint-cucumber-lime concoction.  We chatted over appetizers, ordered our entrees and as another round was requested, I asked to try a different drink from the alcohol-free selections. This one was made with blood orange juice, sage and ginger beer.  The waiter asked if I wanted that without alcohol, and I said yes, also from the alcohol-free selections.  He said “Oh, the first drink I brought you had alcohol in it.”  I froze.  As did the people seated immediately next to me as they overheard, knowing that I have been in recovery for over seven and a half years now.  I stared at him in disbelief and questioned him.  I told him, no, I had ordered one of their AF drinks.  It couldn’t be.  I just kept looking at him.  He kept a straight face and continued to tell me that it contained alcohol.  After what seemed like hours, he finally broke into a smile and said “I’m just kidding!” He winked at me.   I went from terrified to furious.  Enraged.  If I were a cartoon character, you could have seen smoke blowing out of my ears.  I was speechless.  Not wanting to make a scene at the table, all I could muster up to say to him quietly was “that was not the least bit funny.”   He collected glasses around the table and went to get the next round.  My night was ruined.  Those seated across from me and next to me were also blown away by the waiter’s absolutely idiotic joke and behavior.  I made it as long as I could and was so relieved when the night was over and I got into my car to head home.  I was still fuming when I got home and shared what happened with my husband and daughter.

I tossed and turned some during the night, not only upset about what the waiter did, but also about what I did not do.  I didn’t do anything.  I froze.  I knew that I needed to take a little time to breathe, calm down and then sit down to write a piece about it.  But I wanted to do more.  If there are so many people out there “curious” about sobriety, more needs to be done to educate them and train people in the industry.  As soon as the restaurant opened, I called and asked to speak to the manager.  To my surprise, and I’m sure a God-wink, I got a hold of the manager, a very nice guy named Dan.  I calmly explained what had happened last night, but sternly made it clear that in no uncertain terms was it the least bit funny. I explained to him that there can be many reasons why someone might order a drink from the alcohol-free options on the menu—they could be pregnant, nursing, on medication that they can’t mix with alcohol, allergic, acting as the designated driver that night, or, as in my case, an alcoholic who is already struggling to stay sober during the difficult holiday season.  In any of those scenarios, joking about accidentally serving a drink containing alcohol is just plain cruel, tasteless, stupid, moronic, dumb, idiotic, asinine, foolish, brainless, imbecilic…did I mention idiotic??  I explained that I did not ask for the manager last night or make a bigger deal of it at the table given the circumstances.  It was also not my goal to get the waiter fired right before the holidays, but instead I hoped that the establishment would focus on educating and training their entire staff to be more aware and sensitive to the severity of the issue.

Dan not only apologized but shared with me that he has 16 years of sobriety.  He was mortified that one of his servers (or anyone for that matter) would be so thoughtless.  I was assured that he would share my concerns with his full staff and make sure they know that something like this is completely unacceptable.  He thanked me for “doing the next right thing” and taking the time to call him and explain what happened.  I hung up the phone and finally exhaled.  I realized that the old me might have simply held on to this resentment for days, weeks or longer and have been afraid to use my voice since I tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible.  But, as I grow in my sobriety, I grow in my strength and self-worth.  I owed it to myself to speak my truth. While I’ll never know, I hope that perhaps taking the action I did and writing this piece may help someone else from having the same experience I had last night.

For someone who writes books and a blog called “Sobrietease”, with a tagline that says “God, Grant Me the Serenity to Laugh at Life”, which emphasizes finding humor in life whenever possible, some things are simply not joking matters.  Off-limits.  Yes, it would have been much, much worse if there actually was alcohol in that drink.  And yes, I would think that I would have tasted it if it had, but who knows.  Sober curious does NOT mean that someone is curious about throwing their 2761 days of sobriety out the window at a holiday work dinner.  Sober curious means that many people, for whatever reason, are looking into living their life without alcohol in it.  I applaud the restaurants that are offering non-alcoholic options on their bar menus. I salute the talented bartenders who indulge me in my challenge to make delicious concoctions without booze.  I thank the waitress I had in San Antonio who was smart enough to make the connection when I asked for an alcohol-free drink that she warned me which dishes and desserts on the menu contained alcohol.  And, to my waiter from last night, I hope you’ll think next time before you make a joke like that again.  I have a great book you should read….maybe I’ll drop a copy off for you.  You might learn something.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”  e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round?

28 Aug

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Today marks 7 years and 3 months of sobriety.  2648 days. 378 weeks.  What is significant about 2648 days?  Nothing.  And everything.  It represents 2648 “one-day-at a-times”.  Countless victories over temptation and cravings and thoughts of giving in. Thousands of hours of work.  Working through the ups of the “pink cloud” of sobriety, the downs of facing life on life’s terms, and everything in between.  Facing my darkest demons head-on and surviving the battles.  Learning and understanding the true meaning of humility. Training myself to let go of things that are out of my control and turn them over to my Higher Power.  Sometimes I take a moment to pat myself on the back. But I will face day 2648 today as I do every other.  Just for today, I will not pick up a drink.  One day at a time.

I often hate dealing with life on life’s terms.  I still foolishly think I can do life on my terms.  Never really works out, but yet I still try.  I can honestly say that life is a zillion times better in sobriety than it was when I was drinking.  But shit happens in life, whether you are stone-cold sober or numbing it out and fooling yourself into thinking you’ve found some sort of Nirvana-like alternate reality.  Life is hard. But life is beautiful.  In these past 7 years and 3 months, I have ridden the emotional roller coaster time and time again.  Sobriety allows you to feel ineffable joy at times.  It also gives you the presence to fully experience pain, hurt, sorrow and grief — feelings that I often tried to avoid and numb by quickly reaching for the bottle.  I can honestly say that I’d rather fully feelthe joy and the sorrow than feel nothing.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin in which Grandma tells a story about riding on the roller coaster when she was younger.   She said “you know, it’s just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together.  Some didn’t like it.  They went on the merry-go-round.  That just goes around.  Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”   Steve Martin rolls his eyes thinking Grandma is just rambling.  His wife, Mary Steenburgen, clearly understands the wisdom that she is sharing with them.  Life is much more like a roller coaster than a merry go-round.  Stay real.

Recently, my roller coaster ride included taking my oldest child to college.  I see so many posts on social media about friends dropping their kids off at school.  The excitement, the fear, and the sadness of them flying the coop, all captured in the pictures and posts.  Many of these kids I’ve known since they were babies.  How did this happen?  It honestly feels like just yesterday that I was taking my daughter to the playground to play with them.  But time flies, kids grow, and they move on.  I didn’t cry.  I was so thrilled that she seemed happy, grounded and ready to go.  I realized that’s the best I could ask for as a parent.  To prepare them to move on and be strong on their own, teach them to make smart decisions, and always listen to and trust their gut.  When I drank, I couldn’t trust my gut.  I couldn’t feel my gut.  And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that being present now and available for my kids is a true gift of sobriety.  Whether I am at the top of the roller coaster, about to experience that thrill of the drop, or at the bottom working slowly on the climb up, I am here for them. Fully present.  Fully feeling.

The heat of the summer is coming to an end. The leaves will start falling and another season will arrive. Mother Nature’s roller coaster.  We will put the bathing suits, swim goggles and pool bags away and get out our new gear, sport our kids’ school colors and cheer at their football and lacrosse games. We will share in their triumphs and disappointments. We won’t make them stay on the merry-go-round.  We will let them ride the roller coaster.  But we will buckle them in and let them know they are loved.  And tell them to enjoy the ride.

“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” – Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly”

 

 

 

Trigger Happy

22 Jul

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After being sober for seven years now, I’ve learned how to deal with several of the triggers that bring out my urge to drink.  It took several years before I was able to comfortably go to social events and be surrounded by alcohol.  But I learned how to formulate a plan that would enable me to go and be with friends who drank—I would get a nonalcoholic beverage in my hand as soon as I arrived, focus on other thing besides the booze, have an excuse ready for why I wasn’t drinking, try to make conversations with people who did not breathe wine on me, and have an exit strategy for when I knew I needed to leave.   And I knew when it was time to go.  I would start staring at that glass of wine, or martini, or whatever, just a few seconds too long.  The drink devil sitting on my shoulder would start trying to tell me how good it would taste.  That it would be okay if I just had one.  Ha. Thank goodness the tools I acquired in my recovery taught me better and prepared me for how to ignore this nonsense.

There are so many triggers for me.  People, places and things that I associate with drinking.  I shared most of them in a piece I wrote called “Miss or Miss Out”. Crabs with a cold pitcher of beer.  Spicy Thai food paired with a cold glass of Viognier.  Margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.  Mint Juleps at a Kentucky Derby party.  A hearty Italian red wine with spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna.  Cold beers at a tailgate at a concert or sporting event. Hot toddies after a day of skiing.  A nice martini (with three olives) after a round of golf.  I could go on… But right now, the trigger that’s taking its aim at me is the beach.  As beautiful as it is, and as much as I enjoy it, there are few things more challenging to my sobriety than coming up from the beach at the end of the day.  The beach houses that surround me are filled with people enjoying their cocktails, cold beers, or blender drinks.  It’s like a Pavlovian response that’s hard for me to break—that walk home from the beach, washing off the sand, and reaching for a cold drink of something yummy.  To me, drinking was synonymous with the beach. Hell, drinking was synonymous with breathing, but right now we’re talking about the beach.

It’s one of those things I didn’t think about until it whacked me like a crashing wave as I walked through the sand to go back to the house in the late afternoon on our first day at Fire Island. I actually said it out loud to my daughter, telling her that I forgot how much the beach made me crave a drink.  Her incredibly thoughtful response was that we could go to the little general store and make some fun mocktails. Great idea. We did.  And the craving passed.  Sometimes just speaking it out loud takes the power out a craving.  Ice cream didn’t hurt either.

The reminders of what the alternatives would be are also quite helpful.  I’ve shared before that what often helps me the most is remembering to “think it all the way through.”  What happens after that first sip?  In addition to throwing away my 2612 days of sobriety and dealing with the shame and disappointment that would come with that, I know it wouldn’t be just one sip. Or just one drink. It would be off to the races.  And to a nasty hangover.  And not being able to enjoy watching my sons jump in the waves. Or the beautiful sunset over the water. Or the serenity that I have gained in my sobriety.

So hopefully I can add the end of the day at the beach to my list of triggers that I am now better equipped to handle. There will be many more.  But I will handle them like I do my days….one at a time.

“When we heal the wounds of our past, we move forward into our lives with an unburdened sense of self and a higher awareness of what our own triggers are.” –Athena Laz

 

 

Apprehended by Grace

22 Jun

 

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      Many people ask me what my rock bottom was. What finally made me stop drinking.  When I admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic and surrendered. I can give you a long list of when it SHOULD have been.  When friendships were torn apart. When my marriage started suffering.  When my mother and close friends expressed their concerns about how much I was drinking.  When I looked in the mirror and saw how bloated and puffy my face was and how red my eyes were.  When I started having health problems. When I was doing even more idiotic, embarrassing and shameful things than usual.  When I fell down a steep set of stairs, completely intoxicated, and should have been killed. When I continuously woke up not remembering what I had done or said the night before. Nope.  None of those things did it.

Everyone’s rock bottom is different.  I know many people in recovery who spent time in jail, received DWIs, crashed cars, lost jobs, homes, families and friends, lived on the streets or in their cars, and had much lower rock bottoms than I did.  Others, like me, had what may be considered “high bottoms”, but they are just as much alcoholic as the others.  I once heard someone say that it’s not how much you drink but how the drinking affects you that matters.  Just as there are different rock bottoms, there are different types of alcoholics. Binge drinkers. Daily drinkers. Maintenance drinkers.  Bar drinkers.  Isolation drinkers.  Social drinkers.  Heck, I even went to college with a girl named Margarita Drinker. No lie. Her parents had quite a sense of humor, I guess.  Or named her after having a bit too much tequila themselves.  But I digress…

The point is that there is no singular description of the alcoholic.  No scale that tells you once you fall below a certain level, you have hit your rock bottom. It is different for everyone.  But at some moment, at some point, many people are somehow, and perhaps miraculously, apprehended by grace. I believe that is the moment when people finally surrender.  It may be in utter despair.  It may be when you realize you are simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. It may be while looking in the mirror and not able to face the person look back at you any longer. It may be after fighting back and resisting, be it an intervention, attending a recovery program as a “guest of the judge”, while at rehab or in the pscyh ward, or while dishing out your last dollar at the liquor store.  However it comes, it is when you finally realize and accept that you cannot continue to live your life like this.  That you cannot fight this battle alone.  That only power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.  It is when you wave the white flag and surrender to your Higher Power, whatever that may be for you, and at that moment, I believe that you are apprehended by grace.

 For me, my surrender came seven years ago in NYC. I’ve shared the story many times.  My hands were shaking until I got a drink in me at 11am. I was a mess, physically and emotionally.  Looked and felt horrible.  I had known for so long that I could not continue drinking the way I had been, but I could not imagine my life without alcohol.  It dominated every aspect of my life. Hell, it was my life.  It was both my best friend and my worst enemy.  How do you fight your worst enemy or get rid of them while losing your best friend at the same time? But as I sat there with my true best friend who lost her husband to alcoholism, I was, in fact, miraculously apprehended by grace, and I was finally able to admit that I had a drinking problem.  It was as if a 3,000-pound weight was lifted from my shoulders.

I believe that being apprehended by grace goes hand in hand with receiving the gift of humility.  To accept and realize that we are only human, that we cannot fix everything, including ourselves, and come to understand that our Higher Power can is a true blessing.  We somehow grasp that not only can we turn things over, we must. One of the definitions of grace is the “free and unmerited favor of God”.  Free. Unmerited.  We don’t need to do anything to earn it or receive it.  We simply need to be willing to ask.  And surrender.  To allow ourselves to be apprehended by grace.

Because we are human, we can forget.  We can stray. We can try to escape after having been apprehended.  Foolishly. But yet we still do it.  Staying on the right track, whatever that looks like for you, can keep you living a life of grace.  It may be prayer, meditation, working a recovery program, or however you continuously remind yourself to rely on and turn to your Higher Power.

I am so incredibly grateful to have been apprehended by grace. To have found the path to a better life. Free from the bondage of addiction. It doesn’t come easy many days, but if I remember to practice what I preach, to turn things over to my Higher Power and stay humble, it gets easier to find my way back to the right path.

For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” –Saint Augustine of Hippo

“Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning, then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.”-     Thomas Adams

“The meaning of life.  The wasted years of life.  The poor choices of life.  God answers the mess of life with one word:  ‘Grace,’” Max Lucado

A Toast to the Graduates

8 Jun

When I first got sober, I used to worry about how I would deal with a champagne toast at my daughter’s wedding.  Of course, that will be years from now, but hey, why not worry about things now right?  What I didn’t think about was toasting other major occasions, like her high school graduation, which was this past week.  And I almost got through it without having to think about it at all.  Almost.

It was a beautiful ceremony. I was so happy to be there with my whole family, including my parents. My daughter graduated summa cum laude and I was so proud of her.  I beamed as I watched her cross the stage to receive her diploma in her cap and gown and hood in bright school colors. For a few seconds, I thought about the fact that if I were still drinking, I’d probably be miserably hungover for this milestone in her life. Either that or I’d be just plain drunk.

The thought of drinking to celebrate her graduation now had never even occurred to me.  We went out for a celebratory lunch immediately after graduation.  Water and a cappuccino suited me just fine.  At the end of lunch, as desserts came out, the manager of the restaurant approached our table with a bottle of champagne in one hand and several glasses held between the fingers of the other. It was a lovely gesture.  He put the glass in front of me and then the other adults at the table.  He spoke to my father a bit as he worked to loosen the cork from the bottle.  As it finally gave way with a loud pop, he approached my seat to pour the light gold liquid into my glass.  It was easier than I had ever anticipated to simply say “thank you but I’m not having any.”

The world didn’t come to an end.  Everyone didn’t freeze mid-sentence and stare at me in an awkward silence.  The manager didn’t drop his jaw in shock at the fact that I had refused his kind offering.  No, no one really cared that I turned down a glass of champagne.  Most importantly, I didn’t care. I didn’t miss it. I didn’t pout.  I enjoyed being present and able to celebrate a special day knowing I would remember it in the future and wake up without a hangover.

My son graduates from elementary school next week.  Sparkling cider all around.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there, especially two very dear to me.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”–Oprah Winfrey

 

 

Squirrelly About Seven

24 May

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It usually happens to some extent every year.  A little before the anniversary of my sobriety date, I get squirrelly.  I get anxious.  Restless, irritable and discontent.  Excited but scared.  Proud but cautious.  This year seems worse than previous ones.  Maybe it’s the number 7.  Seven seas. Seven continents.  Seven days of the week.  Seven colors of the rainbow. Seven years of sobriety, God-willing, on May 28th. Many people would say I shouldn’t even write that and risk jinxing myself. But I do. Because it’s an important date. It’s the day my life changed for the better.

So why squirrelly? Why anxious?  Do I want to pick up a drink?  No.  Have I thought about it?  Many times. It’s a bittersweet weekend for me. Memorial Day weekend in 2012 was the last time I drank.  And I drank a lot.  And then some.  My hands shook at 11 am until I got some wine in me.  The weekend ended with me admitting that I was powerless over alcohol.  That my life had become unmanageable.  I made the decision to get help and it was the best thing I have ever done.  It was hard as hell, but 2553 days later, I have not had a drink.  I had that scare I wrote about in my last post (A Sip Not a Slip), when I accidentally picked up a drink with vodka in it, but I have not intentionally picked up a drink in a long, long time.

From what I have learned over these past nearly 7 years, my squirrelly feelings are quite common among people in recovery.  There’s something about facing the anniversary of the last drink that brings up a lot.  I look at the weekend ahead, which will be filled with those #^%@#& red Solo cups at pools, backyard barbeques, parties, etc.  Coolers filled with cold beer.  Wine glasses with beads of sweat dripping down the side.  And more.  And then I think about making it through the weekend to Tuesday.  And about reaching another milestone in this personal battle.  And I think about how much better my life is without the booze.  Without the hangovers.  Without the blackouts.  Without the poison that took its toll on my body.

Don’t get me wrong…life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows just because I don’t drink.  The shitstorms still come, and if you looked at the Doppler radar in my life right now, you’d see a huge storm raging right above me that’s not clearing for quite some time.  But, as I’ve heard repeatedly, there’s no problem that picking up a drink won’t make worse.  Jose Cuervo has no power over the storm clouds. But my Higher Power does. Sometimes I write what I need to read, hear, and remind myself.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try and do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work:  you don’t give up.”– Anne Lamott

A Sip Not a Slip

9 May

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I had absolutely no intention of putting a glass of vodka mixed with cranberry juice to my mouth.  No desire to have it touch my lips and wash against my tongue.  In fact, when it did, my reaction was so strong, it surprised me.  I immediately recognized that it was not my drink (cranberry juice and club soda) and once I realized that there was a strong amount of alcohol in the drink that I picked up, I turned away from the two women standing next to me and spit it out.  And spit again.  And again. And I think wiped my tongue with my sleeve.  And then wiped my lips.  Repeatedly.  I have not had a drink that contained alcohol in nearly 7 years (2537 days to be exact). What used to be so familiar to me was now a very, very unwelcome stranger.

I’m pretty sure I simply said “Well, that was not my drink!”  The woman whose drink I accidentally picked up apologized profusely.  She knew I didn’t drink. Totally not her fault.  The drinks looked identical. Both had lime garnishes. Both a pinkish-red hue from the cranberry juice. But one had an ingredient that was clearly not okay for an alcoholic. I walked away to return to the work event I was attending. The other woman, a good friend of mine, came over to me and asked if I was okay.  I told her that I was more than a little freaked out at having picked up an alcoholic drink.  She told me not to be too hard on myself, not to give it a second thought, since I clearly hadn’t done it on purpose.  I let it go…for the time being.

When I got in my car, I picked up my phone to call a friend who is also in recovery.  But then I hesitated.  For a few seconds, I worried that if I told her what had happened, should would tell me I should reset my start date and begin again at day one. So I thought about not telling her.  I think that scared me more than picking up the drink.  Sobriety requires “rigorous honesty”.  Keeping a secret about something that clearly bothered me, considerably, was not a good plan.  It doesn’t matter that other people may think it was totally innocent, no big deal, that I was overreacting, whatever.  The fact was that I was more than a little flustered about tasting vodka again, even for a split second.  I dialed the number and told her what happened. She told me it had happened to her, several times, that it was okay, clearly not intentional, that I didn’t fake it and swallow it and continue to drink the wrong drink, and that I did the right thing. She said it was a “sip, not a slip.”  I felt much better.

As Elvis Costello will tell you, accidents will happen. Chances are good that something like that will happen again. I’m actually quite glad that my reaction was so strong.  That I didn’t taste the vodka and feel like I missed it and wanted more. I’m grateful that I woke up today with another day of sobriety under my belt.  Grateful to wake up without a hangover. Grateful it was a sip, not a slip.

“There are no accidents…there is only some purpose that we haven’t yet understood.”-Ritu Ghatourey

 

 

Sober Doesn’t Have to Be Somber

16 Apr

 

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I remember when I first stopped drinking, almost 7 years ago, I couldn’t fathom that I would never be able to pick up a drink again.  How would life ever be fun without my personality lube?  How would I socialize without my liquid courage?  Would everyone see me as boring as they knocked ‘em back and I sat quietly and drank my seltzer?  I really couldn’t imagine the change I needed to make.  I only knew that I had to make it or I would continue heading down a deadly path.

There is a saying in recovery: “change I must or die I will.” It’s not enough to just stop drinking. We must change who we are at the core.   We must examine the things that made us want to escape into the bottle.  Look at our character defects and face them head-on.  Figure out what people, places and things served as triggers for our drinking and avoid them like the plague.  Dissect our resentments and fears and conquer them.  It is an all-out revamping, remodeling, rebuilding, and recreating who we were.  Stronger, healthier, wiser, and more at peace and comfortable in our own skin.  Do you remember the show the Six Million Dollar Man? Steve Austin?  “Gentlemen. We can rebuild him. We have the technology.  Better than he was before.  Better. Stronger. Faster.”  Ok, well maybe sobriety won’t get you all those things. But definitely better.

We get the “technology” or tools we need during recovery to rebuild ourselves better than before.  It’s far from easy.  It takes time and a great deal of effort.  Often lots of blood, sweat and tears.  And, as I’ve said many times over, we’re the only ones who can do it, but we don’t have to do it alone.  We can pick up a drink… or we can pick up the phone.  We can pour something that will eventually kill us over ice or we can pore over the pages of literature written by those who are much wiser and have gone before us, sharing their experience, strength and hope.

But does all this make us boring and no fun to be around?  What if we used to be the life of the party when we drank?  Or maybe we just thought we were the life of the party.  In either case, if we were used to our social lives revolving around alcohol—parties, bars, concerts, etc.—how do we make that change to a sober life without it being somber?  And dull.

I’m going to be perfectly honest.  Early in my sobriety.  It was beyond somber.  It was miserable.  Dark. Gray. Depressing.  Scary.  Lonely. I felt like I had lost my best friend. I mourned the breakup by staying in bed, getting over the physical symptoms of detoxing, for months. When I physically started to feel better, I faced the cold hard truth that I could no longer put myself in situations where people, places and things would trigger me to want to pick up a drink.  Since drinking was pretty much all I knew, that was basically everyone, everywhere and everything. So I stayed in my bed even longer.

As I got myself into a recovery program, I learned that isolating was not a good idea.  I had to force myself to get out of my own head and be with other people.  I was blessed with some amazing friends who wouldn’t let me stay in my bed forever, despite my best efforts.  They got me to join an exercise program, a bible study, or go for walks.  I found other recovering alcoholics who would text me, especially Friday nights at 5pm when that dreaded happy hour rolled around. They knew how much I was struggling and trying to adjust to fill that time with something else besides my usual glass (ok, bottles) of wine.

Eventually, I managed to go to a few social outings.  I didn’t last long, and always had an “escape plan.” But I gradually got some strength to figure out how to still have a life while not drinking.  I’ll never forget going to a neighborhood pool party with a good friend who tried to pull me out to dance.  I told her that I couldn’t dance sober.  She reminded me that I couldn’t actually dance drunk either.  We both got a great laugh out of it.  And yes, I did dance. And I had fun.

Little by little, as each day went by, I got stronger and could do more socializing. I could go to restaurants and not drool every time a waiter walked by with a tray of martinis heading to another table.  I could go to a friend’s house and see people drinking wine while I had seltzer and not want to scream that life was unfair.  I could see someone holding a red Solo cup at our neighborhood pool and not obsess about what was in it, knowing full well it was an alcoholic beverage. I’ve shared before that we even hosted “Mocktail Parties” where people created their own fun, non-alcoholic beverages and competed for the best tasting and best named drinks.  My kids even joined in this party, making their own concoctions and socializing with a bunch of sober adults.

I even started going on trips to see friends and learned to travel without drinking.  Instead of researching which restaurants had the best wine lists or bars, I looked for other things in advance of my trips.  Places to hike, spas, and recovery meetings I could attend. And guess what?  I had fun.  I remembered where I went, what I did and who I met.  I didn’t wake up with a massive hangover and was able to enjoy the day. And the night. And the company I was with.  All while knowing I didn’t make any more of an ass of myself than I may be sober.

I recently went to Colorado to see a dear friend who was with me when I had my last drink and was the first person I told that I was an alcoholic.  We actually sat at the bar at the base of the mountain and had something to eat and a (nonalcoholic) drink at the end of a day of skiing.  We talked about how far I had come to be able to sit at a bar, facing bottles of alcohol, and not be totally freaked out.

So for those of you who may be early in your sobriety and struggling, wondering if life will ever be fun without the booze, I can tell you honestly that it will.  It will be so much better.  In so many ways.  Call me crazy, but what I used to think was fun often came with me spending a lot of time on the cold bathroom floor holding on to the toilet, vowing to never drink again. Or with my head pounding so hard that I had to shush my kids every time they spoke.  Or cancelling all my plans to simply nurse my hangover in bed. Or straining my brain (what was left after all the brain cells I had killed) to figure out what I had done the night before that I might be embarrassed about.

I may not be dancing on tables (and based on my friend’s comment, I’d say that is a good thing).  But I am far from somber.  Sobriety has given me many gifts, including a life that is happy, joyous and free.  And the gratitude and clarity to appreciate all that comes with that.  Somber is defined as “dark or dull in color or tone; gloomy”. Sobriety has brought back the rainbows in my life.

 

“No really, you’re an excellent dancer”—Jose Cuervo, Robert Mondavi, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam…..

Present Emotions Included

28 Jan

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Most of the books piled up on the side of my bed fall under the category of Self-Help books.  There are so many amazing ones out there.  I could fill an entire book just sharing what I learned from some of them.  I’ve referred to the idea I call “recycling the light” in previous blogs that I have written.  I try to pass along things that I’ve read, heard or learned that might help others. I almost always include an inspirational quote with my pieces, because there are millions of wise people who have said things so much more eloquently than I ever possibly could.  A great deal of what I read focuses on being present, staying positive and living your life as your authentic self.  Wonderful concepts in theory, but often much easier said than done.

Books like The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, Change Your Thoughts,Change Your Life and The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer, and The Law of Attraction and Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks helped me understand that we can change our lives for the better by simply focusing on the positive and raising our vibrational level to attract what we desire.  The Secret by Rhonda Byrne took the world by storm a decade ago with the concept that by simply envisioning and believing that we will receive what we want will result in it ultimately manifesting itself.  I could go on….but like I said, great in theory but difficult to always stick to.  How do you stay positive and believe when life gets really tough?  Should I just sing that song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin and pretend all is well?

A woman whom I greatly admire and am honored to call a friend, Maimah Karmo, recently said “More so than my successes, it was the times of struggle that showed me what I was made of.” I had the pleasure of participating in Maimah’s “I Manifest Online Soul Summit” and doing a podcast with her called “How to Overcome Hurt by Being Present in Your Life”.  As an alcoholic, I was anything but “present” for so much of my life.  I used alcohol to escape reality or numb feelings I didn’t want to feel.  So “overcoming hurt by being present”?  Yes.  Facing your demons head-on. Using your tools to resist the urge to escape, numb or run away from reality.  Staying in the moment instead of beating yourself up and dwelling on the past or constantly investing in the wreckage of the future.

But back to Maimah’s quote. It’s easier to stay positive and be present when things are going well and we can celebrate our successes. Times of struggle show us what we are truly made of.  It’s when the shit hits the fan that we are really tested.  When faced with difficult challenges, Bobby McFerrin’s isn’t the first song that pops into the song chart in my head.    Maybe a little something heavier, like Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumors” perhaps.  Oh, no wait –The Smiths.  Morrissey is always great for wallowing in self-pity.  I digress.  My point is this:  bad things will happen in life, whether you are sober or not.  It’s how you deal with them and how you move on that shows what you are made of.

Not only are there zillions of Self-Help books out there, there is an entire movement happening that is bringing people to meditation, living in the present moment, and understanding our universal connectedness.  Some of the most popular downloaded apps these days are for mindfulness and meditation. There are countless workshops, retreats, seminars, webinars, conferences, etc. that focus on spirituality, emotional and physical health, and overall mind-body wellness.  I had the pleasure of attending an event last week at a local concert hall which has attracted some of the biggest names in the music business over the years.  But instead of music, the featured act was a man named Kyle Cease—a former stand-up comedian now a transformational speaker who incorporates his humor and personal evolution for an incredibly entertaining and inspirational evening.  Kyle emphasizes that “when you embrace your pain, fear, and vulnerability instead of pushing it away, you will discover an authentic creativity and power that is truly unstoppable.”

Embracing your feeling when you are being present is not easy, especially when that feeling is fear or pain.  But if we can somehow train ourselves to sit with being uncomfortable, embrace it and then LET IT GO, we can move on.  Life will have ups and downs.  As hard as the downs can be, I truly believe that it is better to be present for them rather than numb or escape them.  Experiencing the downs, although incredibly difficult at times, allows us to not only truly appreciate and treasure the ups, but hopefully learn something and take away a lesson that will help us in the future and ultimately make us stronger. I’m always grateful to my dear friend who teaches me to find the silver lining in all situations. Things could always be better, but they can always be worse too.  All we truly have is the present.  Don’t get caught up in the past or waste time worrying about the future, which is never guaranteed.  Breathe. Smile. And live.

“It’s not ‘When something happens, I’ll be happy.’  It’s ‘When I’m happy, things will happen.’” -Kyle Cease–Evolving Out Loud

 

 

 

 

Turn the Page

31 Dec

dreamstimefree_18005194.jpg A new year brings with it the opportunity to turn to a blank page in a brand new book, full of possibilities for you to write your own story going forward.  Like many, I find myself introspective at the end of each year, looking back at the highs and lows, and peering forward optimistically at what might come.  I had grandiose ideas of writing a long piece exploring all of those things in greater detail, but, again, like many, I find myself out of steam as the year comes to a close.

So this piece will be brief. A simple thank you to those of you who have followed my blog this year.  Thank you for the kind words from people who have shared that my book or blog helped them get through a rough time, stay sober, or change their perspective on life for the better.

I’ll close out 2018 with 2409 days of sobriety under my belt.  Not something I take lightly.  There were many days when it looked like I might be starting back at day one again. But I pushed through.  And for that, I am grateful to those of you who stood by me, lent a helping hand or a shoulder, reminded me that I am strong and how hard I fought to get where I am today.  Most importantly, thank you for the reminder that I am not alone in this journey.

As for resolutions, I have thought of many.  But I’m leaving you with two quotes for the new year from people much smarter than I am:

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”– Abraham Lincoln

“Ring out the false, ring in the true.”- Alfred Lord Tennyson

 Happy New Year.

#wegetup

19 Nov

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The motto on the back of this year’s survivor t-shirts at the Walk to Bust Cancer a few weeks ago was “#wegetup”.  It’s the motto of a dear friend of mine, who inspires me and so many others with her unfaltering determination and positive attitude throughout her ongoing battle.  When she found out that her breast cancer had metastasized to her brain, she signed off on all her texts, emails and posts with #wegetup.  A reminder to herself and others that we will all get knocked down in life, but we have to get back up.  Many times, that is a very tall order.

#wegetup is the motto of the U.S. Figure Skating Association. When the campaign was launched in 2016, U.S. Figure Skating Association chief marketing officer, Ramsey Baker, said “We all fall, it’s how we get up that matters.”  My brave friend Mary reached out to the USFSA and explained why the motto was so important to her and received permission for us to use it for our local breast cancer walk. It was pretty amazing to look out at the crowd and see so many bright pink shirts proudly worn by survivors, those who had been knocked down but got up to fight, walk, support, and encourage others to do the same.

Throughout my journey of sobriety, I’ve known many people who have fallen/slipped/relapsed or “gone out to do more research”, as we like to say in recovery.  Unfortunately, some of them never made it back in.  But so many pull themselves back up, brush themselves off, throw away the bottles or pour the rest down the sink, and start at day one again.  At step one. Sometimes several times.  Progress not perfection.

I remember asking a close friend early in my sobriety what she would do if I drank again.  She said it would depend on if and how I get back up. I’ve made it almost 6 ½ years now, but that doesn’t mean for one second that I am out of the woods.  I never will be.  I can never take my sobriety for granted, get cocky or complacent, or think that somehow, I have this cunning, baffling and powerful disease beat.  When I hear of people who have been sober for decades slipping, it reinforces my vigilance.

I used to figure skate as a child.  That ice is cold when you fall.  And it’s hard and it hurts.  The longer you stay down, the colder you get and the more it hurts.  Same with drinking.  Add darker to that mix.  A darker, colder, harder, and deadlier spiral down.  There’s nothing wrong with asking for a hand to pull you back up.  #wegetup — but we don’t have to do it alone.

We all get knocked down at some point.  By something or someone.  Everyone has their struggles.  If you are lucky enough to have had a hand reach down and pull you back up, be grateful. If you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps, be proud.  If you were down for longer than you had hoped, be gentle on yourself.  If you’re still down, ask for help.  Remember the brave warriors who have gone before you who told themselves that #wegetup… and did.

“Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were.”  — Anonymous

 

Selfish?

31 Oct

I must have heard it hundreds of times as my children were growing up.  Someone would see them in the stroller or in my arms and comment on how fast the time goes and how quickly they grow.  They spoke from experience, longingly remembering the days that their own children were small enough to ride in a stroller or be carried. They were right.  The time goes so quickly.  As I help my oldest child with college applications, getting ready to send her off next year, I can’t help think that those days of diapers and bottles were just yesterday.

I’m writing this piece, as I usually do, to share my story with others in the hope of helping someone who is struggling.  But today, I’m also writing this as a reminder and help to myself.  On the days when the intense battle to resist the urge of picking up a drink ramps up, it’s helpful to be reminded of the joys of sobriety. The gift of being present is way up there.  I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories about families torn apart by alcoholism and addiction.  People who are estranged from their children or parents.  Older generations not allowed to spend time with their own grandchildren.  Friends cut off completely by loved ones because of their repeated offenses while drinking or using.  I have had it clearly presented to me exactly what could have happened had I continued down the path I was on.

But today, as I read my daughter’s college essay, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for the gift of sobriety.  And for the opportunity to understand what that means to her.  While the first line of her essay might suggest otherwise, my daughter has benefitted from my recovery more than I might have thought.  She begins her essay by saying “My mom is selfish.” Yup.  I am.  My sobriety comes first and foremost, and for that I will not apologize, even to friends and people in my life who don’t understand and criticize me for that.  My daughter goes on to say that she has learned that it is not only okay to put ourselves first, it is essential and actually selfless, in order to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and allow us to help those around us. I had shared with her my analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane.  Parents are always told that they should secure their own masks first so that they can then be able to assist their children with theirs.  My daughter describes how she has come to understand that I had to secure my own sobriety first so that I could assist her (and her brothers) in keeping safe on the airplane, or that crazy roller coaster called life.

She also questions her own role and responsibility in my recovery.  I am also grateful to read that she understands that ultimately no one else can stop me from picking up that first drink.  That’s all me.  Not her. Not anyone. The choice is mine.  And I have to do the work and all that I can to not let that happen.  But those who love me, like she does, can be there to support, encourage and ensure that my oxygen mask is still secured.  To tighten it when it gets too loose.  To remind me to put it back on if I get too cocky or complacent.

Her first choice for school next year is my alma mater.  In a corny act of superstition/hope for good luck/acceptance “rain dance”, I put on my college sweatshirt, torn and tattered from so many years of wear, and we pushed the send button together on the computer and submitted her application. Now we wait.  I have told her that it’s out of our hands.  That she will end up at the best place for her, even if it isn’t her first choice.  I remember well what a stressful time it was for me and I am grateful that I am sober and present to ride through this part of the roller coaster with her. And when the ride gets really bumpy, I’ll make sure my mask is on securely and double-check hers.  I am selfish. And so is she.  And I’m so proud of her.

“It is not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.  It’s necessary.”  –Mandy Hale

Menace to Sobriety

20 Oct

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Menace to Sobriety

I just wrapped up a huge work event that has consumed my time over the last several months. Between that and coming off the heels of being very sick for over a year, I haven’t written much.  Feels good to start typing.

The work event was the Third Annual Walk to Bust Cancer, which benefits the National Breast Center Foundation, of which I am the Executive Director.  This year’s walk drew over 700 people and far surpassed our fundraising goal of $75,000.  I was incredibly blessed to work with an amazing team of volunteers on this event; most of them breast cancer survivors who just want to give back.   The walk is a giant undertaking, with an inordinate amount of logistics, man-hours, details and, yes, stress.

Being sick for over 14 months, without answers or a diagnosis, also created a great deal of stress. Endless trips to doctors, hospitals, specialists, labs, etc. with no concrete results.  Finally, two different doctors came to the same conclusion: fibromyalgia.  An answer, but one with a great deal of mystery and uncertainty surrounding it.  While much is still unknown about the disorder, and the extremely long amount of time it took to diagnosis it left me beyond frustrated, I am relieved and grateful that the medicine that they put me on to treat it is helping immensely. Interestingly enough, one of the worst things and triggers for fibromyalgia?  Stress.

We all have stress in our lives.  At some times, greater amounts than others.  And some people are better at dealing with stress than others.  There are those who go to yoga and meditate and are able to successfully keep their stress at bay.  Others who work out intensely and release endorphins to combat the pressure, anxiety and tension in their lives.   And many others still who pour that glass of wine or scotch or whatever to take the edge off.  I was one of those.  So what does one do to combat stress when he or she can no longer reach for the numbing effects of alcohol?

2336 days ago, when I accepted and admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic, I made a firm commitment to never reach for that glass of wine again.  Well, not “never”, just one day at a time.  But whether it was to celebrate something or to drown my sorrows, or yes, to battle whatever stress factors were attacking me at the time, I knew that booze could no longer be my go-to. Not unless I wanted to continue the downward spiral and destructive path that my disease had me on.

There will inevitably be periods of stress in our lives.  I mentioned some healthy ways to deal with them: yoga, exercise, meditation. But how do we remember to do those things when we are so stressed out? Or how to we make time for them when time constraints add to our stress in the first place??   It’s so clear to me now that I am sober how awful drinking was for trying to combat stress. While it provided a very temporary reprieve, when I threw caution to the wind and simply enjoyed the buzz, the resulting hangover and usual aftermath almost always somehow increased my stress level.

I often spent the morning trying to piece together what I had done the night before, sometimes having no recollection whatsoever. I missed appointments, commitments or meetings because I was too hungover to keep them.  I often had to lie, either to cover up idiotic, drunken decisions or behavior, or to try to hide how much I was suffering from the effects of my drinking. Many times, I would act extra chipper on those mornings when my head was pounding and I fought the feeling of having to throw up.  I didn’t want my husband, children or work colleagues to know how badly I was hurting. Does lying contribute to stress? I’ll let you answer that.

Fast forward to today. During the long period of feeling like absolute crap this past year, now explained by my fibromyalgia diagnosis, many people commented to me about how amazed they were that I managed to stay so positive and keep a smile on my face (definitely not always, but I tried).  I relished in the miracle that throughout all the anger, frustration, exhaustion, illness and disappointment, I had learned, and I knew, that a drink would not make it the least bit better.  In fact, I finally understood that it would have just the opposite effect.  Because it wouldn’t be just  “a” drink.  It would be many.  Once I open that can of worms, it would be all downhill from there.  All the hard work, out the window.

So I am slowly making my way back to yoga, which helped me immensely when I first got sober almost 6 ½ years ago.  I’m better at listening to my body and taking it easy when I have to.   I have also incorporated a daily meditation practice into my routine, which has made a huge difference in how I handle and manage stress. Frankly, a huge difference in how I handle life in general.  Very grateful to a dear friend who encouraged this and walks the walk beautifully.  I’m gradually getting back to the gym and trying to exercise.  All of which will be huge factors in combating my fibromyalgia.

But my one, consistent fall-back and most powerful weapon against stress is the Serenity Prayer. Is it something I can control or do something about?  If it isn’t, I remind myself to let it go.  To turn it over.  And it never hurts to have that simple, powerful reminder:  breathe.

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” —Oprah Winfrey

 

 

Life on Life’s Terms

13 Sep

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Today marks 2300 days of sobriety.  Not sure if there is any particular significance to that number, other than it’s 2300 days without picking up a drink.  2300 days of not succumbing to temptations or cravings.  2300 days of learning that life is so much better sober. 2300 days of not choosing numbness over feelings, even if those feelings are painful. 2300 days of not relying on alcohol to provide me with an escape from reality.  2300 days of no hangovers.  2300 days of being present.  2300 days, one day at a time. 2300 days stronger.  Basically, 2300 days of living life on life’s terms.

Please don’t get me wrong –while I can honestly say that life is so much better sober, it does not mean that life is by any means easy or all rainbows and sunshine.  Bad things happen in life, whether we are sober or inebriated.  I used to do a great job of convincing myself that it was easier to deal with difficult times by escaping reality and anesthetizing myself with alcohol.  If I simply ignored the things I didn’t want to deal with, perhaps they would go away.  Funny, that never seemed to work. They would still be there in the morning, along with a miserable hangover and pounding headache.

Yes, life is tough. But what I wish I could convey to people who are still struggling with addiction and alcoholism, still smothered with hopelessness and despair, is that the difference when you get to the other side boils down to one simple thing:  hope. Miraculously, recovery has given me the incredible peace of mind and comfort that somehow, someway, everything will turn out ok.  As. Long. As. I. Don’t. Pick. Up. A. Drink. Or, put another way, as a friend in recovery often says, “Not even if your ass is on fire.”

I’ve been dealing with significant health issues for over 14 months now.   To say that I’ve been frustrated is a huge understatement.  For a person who is used to going full-speed (and then some) to not have the energy or stamina to make it half-way through the day has been brutal.  Being in a constant state of pain and exhaustion has taken its toll, not only on me but on those closest to me I’m sure.  As days of feeling crappy turned into weeks, and then into months and a year, I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t think about picking up a drink.  I did.  Several times.  But I remembered: not even if my ass is on fire.  2300 days of sobriety has taught me that no matter what, a drink would only make things worse. Much worse.

I’m finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ve written many pieces about the trying to find the silver lining in all situations, something that a very dear friend has taught me.  While this whole ordeal has been pretty damn miserable, I have been able to take away a few key lessons.  First and foremost, I have learned to put myself first.  I do that with my sobriety because if I don’t have my sobriety I won’t have anything else.   But physical and emotional health go hand-in-hand with that. I’ve learned to listen to my body and that when I’m exhausted, I need to rest. And that it’s OK to rest.  Without feeling guilty.  For many of us, especially moms, it’s been drilled into us by society that we have to go a million miles an hour, take care of everyone and everything, and be constantly on the move, doing something productive at all times.  We often put ourselves last on our lists, if we even make it on there at all. Self-care is not a luxury.  It is imperative.

I’ve also learned to prioritize and reassess what is truly important.  It shouldn’t take being sick to do this, but it is what it is.  When you have limited energy and capacity, you have to be realistic about what you actually can do and what really needs to be done.  And what can take a backseat.  It’s often probably more than you might think.

I also came to understand that it’s okay to wave the white flag and ask for help.   Since my sobriety is very much at the top of that list of priorities and what is truly important, and sometimes getting to meetings wasn’t an option because I wasn’t feeling well enough to attend, I reached out to friends in recovery and they graciously brought a meeting to me. Or, if my tank was running on fumes, I chose a meeting over doing a load of laundry. Filling up my tank with fuel for staying sober was more important than loading up the washing machine dispenser with Tide.   Clean living over clean laundry?  Sorry, I’m getting carried away…

Self-care is crucial for everyone, not just those in recovery.  Taking care of yourself, in every way that is important, will allow you to live life on life’s terms.  On the good days and the bad days.  On the days when it feels like your ass is on fire.  Be kind to yourself.  Put yourself first on your list.  Aim for more days of rainbows and sunshine and you just might get there.

“An empty lantern provides no light.  Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”— Unknown

Dream Weaver

9 Aug

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I had a dream last night that I drank a glass of white wine, sitting at a table with friends at some kind of work event.  It seemed to be early in the morning, like a breakfast meeting or something.  Despite the fact that it was a dream (more like a nightmare for me), I could vividly feel the instantaneous remorse, regret, shame and guilt.  In the dream, I asked the people with me not to tell anyone that I drank the wine, and told them that I didn’t want to have to go back and start my count at zero days of sobriety again (as opposed to the 2265 days that I have accumulated since I stopped drinking 6 years and 2 months ago).  It was awful.

People in recovery often talk about having “drunk dreams” or “drinking dreams”.  Some experience them often in their early days of sobriety. Some have them even after decades of not drinking.  I woke up so grateful to realize that it was only a dream, but shaken by it enough to write down some thoughts to share.  The dream was a good reminder of just how cunning, baffling and powerful the disease of alcoholism is.  It’s always ready to pounce. It would be logical to think that most people relapse when things get really difficult in their lives, when tragedy strikes, or when they find themselves in bad shape emotionally, physically, financially or some other way.  But I know people who had gotten sober who simply picked up that drink when all was right in their world.  Just because it was a sunny, nice day outside.  Just because they thought that they could somehow now “control” their drinking.  Or without any forethought, they just poured one and started drinking.  They say in recovery that we pick up that drink in our minds long before the physical act actually occurs.

For those early in their sober journey, they may just not understand it yet.  They may still think that they are able to drink just one beer. Just one glass of wine.  If they are alcoholics, they simply cannot.  They think this time will be different.  That this time they can limit the amount they drink. The true definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Maybe that one particular time, they will only have one drink.  But then there will be the next time.  Once the alcohol primes the pump, fuels the disease, triggers that mental obsession and physical compulsion, it’s off to the races.  And back down to hell.

As we know, the first thing to go out the window when we drink is our judgment.  So after the first drink, our ability to discern the fact that another drink is not a good plan for us will be dwindling, if not gone already.  I have heard countless stories where that idea of just having one drink led down a dark, miserable path of self-destruction and pain.  Even death.

Do I really need to be so dramatic about this and use words like hell and death?  Yes, I do.  Because there are empty chairs in rooms I sit in where people thought that one drink wouldn’t hurt them.  Because I have seen first-hand the path of wreckage and destruction left behind by someone who made that choice to pick up the first drink, again. And because the cunning, baffling, powerful disease from which I suffer has tried to tell me that I, too, can maybe just have one drink now.  That maybe 6 years is long enough and I have somehow (miraculously) garnered the power and mystical ability to control my drinking.  It can tempt me with a dream that has me drink a glass of wine and seem fine.  But even in that dream, my gut told me it was wrong.  We tell our kids to listen to their guts to help them discern right from wrong.  If you get that bad feeling inside, you know you’re not on the right path.  How amazing that even in our dream state, we can get that feeling in our gut. As I said previously, I could vividly feel immediate remorse and regret after I drank the wine in the dream.  And shame.  Enough shame to ask the people around me to keep the fact that I drank a glass of wine a secret.  We are only as sick as our secrets.  Clearly, this alcoholic still has a great deal of work to do.

I’ve been told that these dreams will happen.  Cravings will still come.  Whether you have 6 days, 6 years, or 6 decades of sobriety, you have to always stay vigilant.  Do not let that drink devil that will sit on your shoulder and whisper nonsense in your ear win.  Do not get complacent.  The disease of alcoholism will continue to do pushups every day. Be stronger. Dream bigger. Dream brighter.  I’m on to day 2266 tomorrow—take that, Dream Weaver.

“I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.”–Jonas Salk

 

 

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