Monday, September 3, 2018

9/3/18 - Could you have one glass of wine right now and be fine?

My sister (the one I always break my sobriety with...the one I love to drink wine with...the one who has never told me no when I have said I wanted to drink..the one who always questions if I am really that bad and if I will ever be able to drink again...the one who makes comments about how I am not drinking....again) invited us over for dinner last night. No one drank! It was awesome. Really the only other one who would have been drinking is her and I think she had already partied with some friends on Friday, so maybe she just wasn't feeling like it. I didn't get the impression it was because of me.

We were sitting on her back deck just chatting for a long time. Her husband joined us and asked me, "Do you miss drinking?" Well, that is a very complicated question that took a minute to answer... probably too long but I feel like the more they understand, the more they will support me. This was my response:

Sometimes, yes, I do miss it.  I have been thinking about what I really miss about it. Do I miss the low lows that come after drinking that lasts for days...NO!  Do I miss feeling buzzed, feeling kind of hyper and happy yet relaxed without any anxiety...sometimes but really not so much. I really don't think I miss the feeling of actually being buzzed. I would much rather sit here completely in the moment and present not trying to dominate the conversation and really not listening to anything. In fact, I have to say (directed toward my sister) I am really glad this evening turned out the way it did. You are really hard for me because we have always drank wine together and I have always enjoyed that. It has been difficult to be around you lately bc it triggers me to want to drink. The more we do this (get together without drinking) the easier it will be for me. She said, "I agree."

I continued...I think the really hard thing for me is missing the anticipation of drinking. Getting excited for the weekend and parties and get togethers and events.  I have a hard time feeling excited for things and many times don't even want to do them. I would just rather sit on my couch watch tv and go to bed bc it doesn't seem like it would be fun without alcohol. I know it could be, but I just don't want to deal with it. I also know that I can't isolate and the more sober experiences I have, the easier it will get. It just takes a lot of talking myself into even leaving my house. Once I do,  I end up being glad I did, but it is hard when nothing sounds fun anymore. I hope, with time, this gets better.

He doesn't drink very often and usually has no desire so he really doesn't understand. He asked, "So, are you saying you can never have another drink again? Are you like my uncle that if he drank a beer right now, he would be a drunk for days? Could you have one glass of wine right now and be fine?"

My response...Yes, I could have one glass of wine right now and not go off the deep end bingeing for days. But would I be fine? No. My obsession would start back up, my compulsive behavior with alcohol would be triggered, my alcohol induced bipolar behavior would start back up, my anxiety would increase, my insomnia would increase, my depression would increase, my heart palpitations and hot flashes would start back up, my oversensitive feeling would come back. And (after 10 years of keeping track) I know it would just be a matter of months before I was binge drinking again on the weekends, suffering from debilitating hangovers and just back in a very dark place. That one glass of wine right now isn't worth it. Alcohol is just not good for me.

Then, amazing things happened. My son chimed in. He said, "She is right. My sister and I have seen that cycle over and over and over for years. She is right. It will happen again." My husband said, "She is just happier when she isn't drinking." And my sister (who has never really understood it) said, "It is just better for her if she doesn't drink at all."

I left there house actually feeling understood. It was an amazing evening that would have never happened if I would have had that one glass of wine.

85 Days Sober

Sunday, August 26, 2018

8/26/18 - Building new relationships with old friends.

Got through my first full week as a middle school teacher.  I love it! I'm sure it is going to get more difficult once the assignments start rolling in (or not) and I have to deal with missing/ late work, kids who aren't understanding, parents who have questions, etc. but it is a relief to only teach one subject. Also, middle school teacher seem to be a little more chill which is good for me. I tend to get caught up in the environment I am in. If I am teaching with intense teachers, I tend to be more intense. I'd rather be chill :)

No major craving this week - too busy and too tired. Friday -  just came home, binged watched some Netflix, ate some pizza and went to bed early. Last night dh wanted to get together with two of our couple friends. He had gotten mad at me last weekend for not wanting to do anything, so I (reluctantly) said yes. One of the other women doesn't drink, so that made my decision a little easier. We went to dinner and then came back to our house. They guys stayed inside drinking their fancy high alcohol imperial stouts. We sat out back on the patio. I made myself a lemon/mint San Pellegrino in a fancy stemless wine glass full of ice and we just talked for four hours. 

I have to was nice. We all kind of shared some things we were struggling with and were a little vulnerable.  I shared a little about my alcohol journey which always feels empowering. When I drank, I never really had authentic conversations with anyone. I was a manic made me hyper and kinda selfish. Sure, I could sit and talk for hours, but I was still hyper in my own head, wasn't really listening and probably wouldn't remember the conversations clearly the next day. I was sitting there talking and drinking and "listening" but not really present. It wasn't a real connection.

Last night, I really feel like we had some connections and were honest yet supportive of each other. I never have felt like I have had "real" girlfriends that truly cared about me and what was happening in my life. That could be bc I have been so wrapped up in my own bullshit for so many years I haven't really cared about anyone else. All of my relationships have seemed superficial bc they have been built while drinking. They have been more like drinking buddies.

Maybe now I can start to build some supportive, girlfriend, "real" connections with people. It is an interesting prospect that isn't going to happen with me isolating on the couch. I do know I need down time, though, so maybe just "chill" on Friday night and then try to do something social on Saturday...even if I don't feel like it. I didn't feel like it last night but am now glad that I did.

Here's to a hangover free life and building "real, authentic" relationships with people!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

8/18/18 - Relapse behavior

Well....I have been soooo busy the last couple of weeks. I went back to school. I got a new job in a middle school teaching math. I haven't switched schools for 15+ years so it has been a little stressful getting to know the new building and people. They have already gone out twice for happy hour. I have avoided both times giving some stupid excuse.  I have come home exhausted every night. I know I am not taking care of myself bc I am not working out, not going to appointments (I cancelled my therapist appt last night), not blogging, not reading, not meditating, not doing yoga, not eating well, not sleeping well, not even walking my dogs. Last night I really wanted to just sit down, after an exhausting week, and have a beer.  I didn't (and haven't for 69 days) but it was definitely on my mind. 

I learned from my IOP over the summer that need to recognize all of this behavior as a possible sign of relapse and be proactive to get in a better place. In the past, I start sliding down this slope of stress (at work), exhaustion (at home) and not taking care of myself only to keep sliding and eventually drinking to feel better. I need to recognize this and start doing things (as hard as it may be) to take care of myself so that I can be strong and self confident when a true "panic attack craving" comes. I feel it starting to toy with my mind. I am fooling myself if I think it won't happen this time - that this time is any different than the last 25 times I have tried to quit - that this time I am cured.

If I want different, I have to do different not just try to think different. So....I am updating my blog, I am going to get off my butt, get some stuff done today, but also take some time to just sit in the sun or do yoga or get a massage or something that helps fill my wellness tank a bit.

I have tried changing by changing my thoughts or emotions but it doesn't last. I need to change my behavior....I need to take care of myself.

Image result for changing behavior changing mind

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

8/7/18 - I did it!!! Alcohol free vacation!!!

So we went to Vancouver for a vacation last week.   I haven't had an alcohol free vacation since I was a teenager - so basically never as an adult. Vacations for me are all about drinking. I let my "rules" slide and alcohol is part of every day. Alcohol as always been one of the reasons I love going on vacation so much. I was super nervous about a sober vacation.

There were a few times that were difficult like the first night we arrived at out Airbnb house. It was a cute little house with a great back patio with couches and a fire pit. Man, a glass of wine would have been perfect. Then we went to a "Social House". They are these restaurants that focus on their drink menu. Kind of an uppity food and drink place. We went there because it was in walking distance and we were starving. As we sat outside on the patio, I wistfully watched women sit around with glasses of white wine and was a little sad. I ALWAYS drank on the first night to celebrate arriving and the beginning on our vacation.  Another time was when we went to Whistler and rode the Peak to Peak tram. When we were finished exploring, we went into the ski lodge to use the restroom and there was a fantastic outdoor seating area with magnificent views. Of course there was a bar and many people were enjoying a leisurely beer. That was a little hard to see. An IPA would have been perfect. Two other times that were a little difficult were when we were at the "Local Public Eatery" in Gastown. It was super busy - everyone drinking - a lot of people watching - just a festive, party atmosphere - this was probably hardest meal. Also, when we went to Granville Island and sat on the dock overlooking the marina eating dinner. The waitress started by talking about a drink special - lemonade, seltzer and vodka. I would have for sure ordered that as it was kinda hot outside. I ordered a virgin one instead.

I got through all of those occasions without drinking. Was I a little sad that I couldn't get that "anticipatory, hyper, fun, relaxed, happy" feeling that alcohol gives me - yes. Was I super grumpy and mad - no. I was just "being", just living in the moment with a clear head and certainly glad when I didn't wake up with a hangover. I definitely felt better in the mornings. My dh got a little snippy one night and I know if I had been drinking I would have overreacted which would have turned it into yet another huge fight on vacation. I was able to just tell him how I felt and then let it go.

My daughter asked me a very poignant question while at dinner in both Gastown and on Granville Island. I made a comment about how I would have been drinking. She asked, "Exactly what would that do for you right now? How would it make this moment better?"  I really had to think about that. What would a beer have done for me? How would have it changed the situation? While I do like feeling buzzed, I think I actually like having a clear head better. So what is it then? I think it was the "idea" of it. The romanticizing of it. The perceived enjoyment of it. The feeling of being part of the party - which is stupid because I was just sitting at a table with my family. Maybe it was the anticipation of it or the sophisticated , grown up feeling I get when drinking, somehow drinking makes me feel important - like it inflates my ego - like I'm more cool or something....or maybe, just maybe, it is as simple as - I am feeding my addiction which feels good.

I found myself thinking about alcohol most of the vacation, but not in an anxiety attack, intense craving sort of way which I thought was going to be the case. It was more of a curious, what would have I been doing right now, how would have it changed the situation if I was drinking sort of way. I also noticed that my thoughts were not being ruled by - where is a liquor store, is it late enough in the day to have a beer, when are we eating and do they serve alcohol, will the kids get mad if we stop at Whistler and have a beer, would it be really bad to have a Bloody Mary in the airport at 10:00 in the morning, can I sneak of with my dh to drink so the kids don't see me, will everyone judge me if I buy some wine, will my kids get mad if they have to drive even though they aren't on the rental contract, is it ok to drink as it is vacation and I will just start over when I get back, etc.  My brain was a lot quieter and calmer on this trip. I felt a little less selfish and willing to be open to what everyone else wanted to do.

I definitely know being with my kids helped. I want to make them proud of me. They know how hard I have worked at my sobriety this summer and would have been sad for me if I would have drank. I am proud of myself. I didn't want to let myself down. I wanted to be proud of myself as well. Instead of coming home feeling like an emotional wreck, exhausted and ignoring everything I needed to do, I came home, got a ton done, got a lot of sleep and am ready to go back to work tomorrow. I DEFINITELY  have less anxiety when I maintain my sobriety.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

7/29/18 Sharing with my neighbor

Yesterday started out kinda rough.  Still pretty physically blah but felt a little better mentally. Made myself get out of the house and went to dinner with family. Drank a Ginger Ale and gave myself permission to order a kinda pricey salmon dish as I was saving $20 on the two glasses of wine I would have normally drank. Came home and invited the neighbors (the one I wanted a beer with on Friday) over. I felt strong enough to socialize. I had blown her off on a number of occasions, including Friday, and didn't want her to think it was her so I told her everything. She knows that I go through periods of drinking and not drinking, but did not know the extent of my mental issues around my addiction. I told her that I don't necessarily drink like an alcoholic but I definitely THINK like one which would undoubtedly lead me to eventually to drinking like one. Even if that never happened, I am just sick of trying to battle the obsessive/compulsive nature of my thoughts around alcohol.  She is a super nice person but they are both pretty big drinkers, so I wasn't sure what her reaction would be.

After I was done telling her a brief history, where it had gotten to and about reaching out for help, she said, "You know I love you. I am so glad you talked to me about it. You need to have friends to talk to. I don't care if you drink or not and I think it is great you recognized you have a problem and are working on it."

I would call yesterday a success and today I feel much better about tackling a sober vacation.Vacations in the past have been exhausting. Thinking about drinking, drinking every day and waking up with a hangover almost every morning. I usually get back from vacations physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I have a great time, no doubt, but certainly do not feel relaxed and rested when I get home. I am going to try to have a different focus this vacation. Instead of hyper/party vacation full of selfish drinking, fighting and hangovers, I'm going to try a calm/restful vacation full of hiking, site seeing, dining and enjoying my family.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

7/28/18 Bad Day

Yesterday was not good.  My son has promised he would go on a hike with me. In my mind it was a reward for completing my IOP and getting all of my housework done. In his mind it was never a "for sure" thing. I waited for him to finally wake up only for him to say he didn't want to/couldn't bc he had too much to do and he was too tired.

My day just went off the rails. I was very disappointed which turned into being mad at him. Then, when outside, a neighbor said, "Want to get together for a beer later this afternoon?" which turned into me feeling sorry for myself bc I couldn't which turned into me getting really anxious about our upcoming vacation in which I can't drink. When he left to have lunch with a friend, I just sat in my room and cried. Then I binge watched Intervention. I did nothing all day and just felt really down in the dumps.

I even went as far as thinking, "My son doesn't even seem to care how disappointed I am. Maybe I will just have a beer and then he will know how upset he made me." How terrible is that! To make my son feel guilty for me having a beer! I couldn't believe I even thought this. That addictive voice is so selfish and conniving!

I am not going to lie - the thought of just letting go of all this silly sober stuff and having a beer with my friend and then being able to drink on vacation made me feel better. When I allowed myself to go to that mental place of justifying drinking, I really did feel my mood lift.

I also think the thought of my first sober vacation is really weighing on me. I drove to the airport on Wednesday and my thoughts went from excited bc next week I will be driving here to get on a plane for vacation to super excited bc my mind immediately went to being able to drink to disappointment that I can't drink (like I felt my shoulders slump) to worry and anxiety about having a sober vacation. All of these thoughts were out of my control and just flooded over me.

I didn't let myself stay in that place for too long for the fear of it sticking. I tried to "think it all the way through". If I had a beer with my friend, I would wake up tomorrow morning so mad at myself. I would think about the fact that it really didn't do that much for me and it wasn't worth how mad I would be the next day. It would also really increase my anxiety about vacation. I would be thinking things like, "Well I already screwed up. I might as well wait until after vacation to start again. It will be fine. My family might be a little disappointed in me, but they will get over it.  I will show them that I can do it after vacation." Those voices become so strong they are sometimes hard to resist. I read that these voices are the hallmark of an addiction. Proof I am addicted to alcohol.

I also tried to think about the saying, "Life on life's terms." I don't really understand that saying but I think it might mean "ya, so you are having a bad day, your son bailed on you...everyone has bad days - you don't need a drug to make you feel better - that makes you a drug addict - it will pass - it is just a bad day - hopefully tomorrow will be better. Drinking may help you feel better in the moment bc you are feeding your addiction, but most certainly will not help you be free from shame and disappointment in yourself. Drinking is not the answer to making a bad day better as it makes your tomorrow worse. Also, you need to have this sober vacation.  This is the perfect time to do it. You are only with your family - no drinking friends - who are supportive of your sobriety and will be super proud of you. Also, you may just have a relaxing, fun sober time. You will be so proud of yourself and it will be another really big milestone in your recovery"

I got over being mad at my son - like 10 hours later. I was really honest with my dh. He asked what would make me feel better. My immediate response was, "a beer." This made me think that the one disappointment in my day was really just getting my addiction becoming active and giving me an excuse. 

I didn't snap out of it - I just binge watched Big Brother and went to bed. I feel better today, but still not great. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

7/26/18 12th IOP Group Mtg and Shame and "The Wall"

Yesterday was my last IOP group meeting! I did it! I went to all 12 - 3 hour meetings. Now I need to figure out what to do next. Relapse Prevention meetings through Kaiser once a week (12 more to do)? Continue the family education meetings through Kaiser once a week (8 more to do)? Life Ring?

Yesterday the topic was Shame and Guilt - the same topic as my very first meeting. I guess I didn't need to go yesterday, but I was glad I did. It kind of felt like coming full circle. I remember sitting in that very first meeting - terrified. I didn't want to talk, I was barely listening to the topic (shame and guilt) and did not share anything. Yesterday, I felt totally comfortable, actually a little sad to be done as I have developed a sense of caring for a few of the members. And I shared. I talked about how I don't have a lot of guilt around drinking. I haven't gotten a DUI, lost a job, ruined relationships and that lack of guilt sometimes gets my in trouble bc it stimulates my relapse justification voice.

What I do have is shame. Shame I couldn't control it, shame that I always ended up back to my weekend binge drinking, that I couldn't keep my promises to myself, that I couldn't do better, that I couldn't BE better, that I was weak and that there was something inherently wrong with me. THIS is why I finally decided to get help. Not bc I have had external consequences or bc I drink everyday or get the shakes or need medical detox or am willing to give everything up for a drink - but bc I was living in my own mental torture chamber filled with shame and guilt and self loathing and depression and anxiety. As my therapist says, "I was not living according to my values. I was in conflict with the person I wanted to be."

We read this article and I could relate to almost all of the content. I almost stated crying when we read this paragraph:

Healing Shame

Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy. Then you’re able to internalize a new experience and begin to revise your beliefs about yourself. It may require revisiting shame-inducing events or past messages and re-evaluating them from a new perspective. Usually it takes an empathic therapist or counselor to create that space so that you can incrementally tolerate self-loathing and the pain of shame enough to self-reflect upon it until it dissipates.
I just had this realization that being in this group (or some other group) and seeing a therapist is EXACTLY what I needed. 
The second part of the meeting was about the Stages of Recovery which was also incredibly enlightening.  The stages are Withdrawal (14 days), Honeymoon aka Pink Cloud (15-45 days), The Wall (45 days to 4 months), Adjustment aka the 6 month syndrome (4-6 months) and Resolution.

I always relapse during the Wall, Adjustment or Resolution stage. These stages are marked by:
The Wall -  low energy, anhedonia, relapse justification, isolation, depression, behavioral drift, resistance to exercise, dissolution of structure, interpersonal conflict
Adjustment - drifting from commitment to recovery, sloppiness regarding limits, relaxation of structure, struggle over the acceptance of addiction, boredom, lack of goals, guilt and shame, job dissatisfaction,
Resolution - struggle with lifelong addiction concept, allowing people, places, things, emotions, structure, perfectionism, neglecting balance, unrealistic expectations and the relapse justification voice to convince you to try again to moderate.

I was thinking about how to combat relapse during these different stages.  I think it is all about what I talked about in a previous post - keep myself strong (physically, mentally, emotionally) so that I can fight for my sobriety. This would include being vigilant about continuing to exercise, meditate, eating well, sleeping enough, and going to group/therapy.  If I stop doing these things, I run the risk of relapsing during a weakened state. My relapse justification voice gets stronger.

I can not begin to express the sense of relief I feel that I finally found the courage to get some help. I was so scared. In the end, you all were right, there was nothing to be scared of. All of us are in the same boat and it is so nice to be able to talk to people who "get it." I am a little nervous to join a new group, but I will do it bc I need to do it.