Monday, June 10, 2019

6/10/19 - One Year Alcohol Free!!!!!

I can't believe it! I did it!  Today is my one-year sober anniversary! I am so incredibly proud of myself!

I NEVER thought I could do it. I tried and tried and tried to maintain sobriety - sometimes for 2 weekends, sometimes 2 weeks, sometimes 2 months - my longest previous attempts being 9 months and 6 months.  Part of my difficulty with remaining sober was that I never had anything really bad happen - no DUI, no loss of a job (I don't even think anyone at work knew I even struggled) - no loss of close relationships bc of my drinking, nothing that would be considered a "rock bottom".  Because I never had "proof" that my drinking was causing me problems, I kept convincing myself that I wasn't that bad, that it was just my latest obsession, that I could just try harder to control my weekend drinking. I still have a hard time with the word alcoholic - bc I really don't know if I am or not and that label (and the fact that I could not call myself one bc I hadn't had any of the classic alcoholic life difficulties) kept me sick for a long time. I would say to myself, "You are not an alcoholic. Look at the life of an alcoholic - yours is nothing like that. Since that is not you, you can learn to drink normally,  you can control your alcohol intake, you can be like everyone else. You can enjoy your life, be happy and drink. You just have to find a plan that works for you." I tried every rule in the book...no hard alcohol, no red wine, no high alcohol content beer, no drinking during the week, only drinking on Saturday, no more than 5 drinks a weekend, drinking water between every drink, making sure I ate first, never drinking before 4:00, not pre-partying before an event, etc.... It was exhausting and time and time after time/year after year, I found myself waking up in the middle of a Friday or Saturday night with night sweats, heart palpitations and severe anxiety unable to go back to sleep. It was the severe hangovers - no lasting for days - that made me want to quit. I spent entire summers (I am a teacher) reading books and researching how to stop my weekend drinking habit. I was miserable and exhausted. I hated myself for constantly making promises to myself and constantly breaking them. I knew deep down inside that this was not how I was supposed to be living, that I was not living up to my true potential. For the most part, I suffered in silence. My closest family members, a couple of friends and my online community knew...but other than that I lived in my own little prison I full of anger, self-loathing, failure, depression, obsession, compulsion, anxiety, and extreme sadness for 10 years!

One year ago, my super supportive husband made a comment to me while I was suffering from another debilitating hangover (after watching me struggle with this for so long and after yet another night of me not only drinking too much, but being kind of mean to him, not leaving with him and making him come pick my drunk ass up from my sister's house at midnight)  - he said, "Either quit or be an alcoholic." He had never said anything to me like that before. I cried and cried and cried - probably because I finally knew that this statement was a fact. I had suspected it all along but for someone else to say it to me was devastating. I finally called for help, got into an IOP program, got out of my own head and started to heal. He said exactly the right thing at exactly the right time and I will be forever grateful.

My daughter and son have also been amazing! They always listen to my constant rambling (I am a verbal processor) about my drinking, not drinking, how I am feeling, etc. and are ALWAYS so supportive.  My 21 yo son does not drink. He is part of a fraternity at his college and is the elected person in charge of "risk management" which is perfect for him. He can't stand the taste and thinks it is just stupid to alter your mind with a drug. He is really good about not judging other people who drink, he just doesn't choose to do it to himself.  My 24 yo daughter hardly ever drinks because as she says "why would I want to put that poison in my body - let alone the calories - I'd rather eat ice cream." I am so incredibly proud of them and actually look at them as inspirational. It is mind-boggling to me that they can be in their 20s, not drink and be happy. I was a pretty big weekend partier at their age and would have been miserable if I couldn't drink. They are both strong, compassionate, loving human beings. I am so incredibly grateful for my children and I will spend the rest of my life enjoying them in a much more present, less selfish, less self-absorbed, sober state of mind. I love my family so much for always being there for me in a non-judgemental, yet tough love sort of a way. I honestly don't know if I could have done it without them.

I also have a few friends and family members that have been there for me all along the way, supporting me and letting me know that I am indeed a happy, fun, enjoyable person to be around when not drinking. They have continued to hang out with me even though I am not drinking. They have proven to me I am worthy of being a friend, sister, daughter while just being me - without the aid of a social-anxiety reducing drug. I was really worried no one would want to hang out with me sober and really struggled with not isolating myself. I am learning, with the help of all of these people, that I am just as fun without alcohol. One of these friends even remembered my anniversary and planned a special day for me!

My daughter sent me a meme once that said "Lions don't drink. Be a lion!" That has now become my mantra. I am a lion! I can live a happy life without alcohol. I can be in the minority, not drink when everyone else is and still enjoy myself. I can be proud of myself and maybe even inspirational to others. I can and will live the rest of my life without drinking. I can get through the tough times and the anxiety-filled events and the Mays and the summers and the weekends without alcohol and will be so much happier without it.  I am strong enough. I am good enough. I am worth it. I am a lion and I will roar every time I feel like drinking bc I will never let alcohol control me ever again! I am so excited to see what my future holds now that I am out of this self-imposed prison and will live my life fully present and forever grateful.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

4/21/19 (Sun) - How bad it was

I just went back and read my posts from last April.  Geez! I was a mess.  I was terribly stuck in the "I don't want to drink but continue to drink" loop.  I wanted so badly for last spring/summer to be different. I desperately wanted to do 40 days or maybe even (don't dare to think it could be possible) one year sober! I went on to also have a terrible, mentally ill, addicted May until I called for help June 10.

While I am still not feeling great, but I am so glad I am not where I was last year.  I have over 10 months under my belt and know I will make it a year. As uncomfortable as I may be feeling now, it is nowhere near the devastating misery I was feeling last spring.

I went to therapy on Thursday. I so badly wanted to cancel but knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn't go bc I would have broken a commitment I made to myself.  It was fine. It's just kinda weird to not be able to go when you really need it and then when you do get an appointment, you feel better so don't really want to talk about anything.

We talked a little bit about ACT (Acceptance/Commitment/Therapy) which I found interesting. She said to try to disconnect from my thoughts.  Just because I am thinking something doesn't make it true. I thought of it like - instead of being in the middle of a tornado of bad thoughts with everything swirling around me, overwhelming me, think of my thoughts as a bank of storm clouds.  Take cover, take care of myself, notice they are there but just wait and watch them pass by.  This was a pretty interesting metaphor for me. She is having a 6 week ACT support group on Thursday evenings. I think I will go. It may help me get through this first ever sober spring.

I also went to the Lifering meeting I have been wanting to try out.  It was weird that I wasn't at all scared or nervous to share my story, unlike IOP last summer when I was terrified and having a panic attack about it.  I didn't really get much out of this group. There were about 6 people sitting around sharing their week and any struggles they have coming up. I suppose it is supportive for them as some have been attending for years, but it just didn't do much for me. I like it better when that kind of "go around the circle and share" is accompanied by an actual topic or something new to learn about - a new perspective. This is why I am going to try out the ACT group. It will cost me $25 every week, while Lifering is free, but it is worth it. I was spending that much last spring on alcohol.

When I start feeling sorry for myself because I can't drink, I am going to come back here and read how miserable I was last spring...how I would have given anything to be in my shoes this spring - 10 months down 2 to go until I have made it to one year.  I need to remember how bad it was so I can appreciate how much better it is.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

4/13/19 10 Months

Well, truth be told, this month has not been easy. Previously, I had been overwhelmed with obligations at school and a flooded basement. I was very busy. I seem to actually do ok when really busy. I miss having a couple drink on the weekend to unwind and relax but am usually so tired I just go to bed.

What is harder for me is when everything becomes calm and I am not so busy. Then, it seems, all of my emotions come bubbling up, I get depressed, anxious, and really just despondent to life. We went on a vacation over spring break to Alaska to see my daughter and while I love being there and seeing her, it was really hard. It wasn't because I wanted to drink. Sure, I thought about it constantly...what would I be doing now? how much more fun would Mario Party be with a few drinks? etc. but I really didn't have much of a craving. In fact, I really noticed that it was way more relaxing than when drinking while on vacation.

What was difficult was my lack of anything to do...not much to do in southeast Alaska in spring. While spending my days sleeping in, walking my daughter's dog, playing games, etc was very relaxing, it also did something to my mood. It is hard to explain. I just got this whole - what is life all about/my life kinda sucks/why am I not happy/what is wrong with me/questioning everything/ever sensitive/down in the dumps/emotional kind of feeling. And then I had this feeling of if life is going to suck anyway, I might as well drink and enjoy it once in a while...get some relief from my depression/anxiety/boredom. We got back home and it took me a solid 5 days to shake the feeling. I still don't feel great but better.

Confused by my feelings, I started researching (I know shocker) and found something really interesting in an article about PAWS. This article said that PAWS can hit you up to two years into sobriety and it talked about the stages of relapse. I know I have written about his before, but I seem to have forgotten it (maybe my addicted brain wants me to forget). I had always thought that relapse was when you have that panicky/ I have to drink/go get one now before you change your mind/ hurry anxiety attack that I get right before I hastily slam a beer down my throat before I can talk myself out of it. I know that to deal with those I need to quickly distract myself, eat something, drink something (other than alcohol) call someone, etc...just power through until it passes.

What I had forgotten about were the reliable, predictable stages that lead up to that. Stage 1 - Emotional Relapse. This is exactly where I was in Juneau...depressed/sad/not enjoying life (but should be)/anxious/just feeling crappy. Not really wanting to drink but starting to think that if life is going to such anyway.....just thinking about getting some relief.  Stage 2 - Mental Relapse. I was close to starting down this road...trying to convince myslef I wasn't that bad, that I could try harder, that I don't want to live the rest of my life like this - without being able to drink (I all of a sudden need to stop writing about this becasue I can feel it waking something up in my head!).  Stage four - the physical panic attack that leads to drinking.

I know that I need to deal with my shit well before it gets to the physical stage. That is why I have an apt with my therapist this week, am making an apt with my dr and am going to a local Lifering meeting. I do not want to drink but am not super happy sober at the moment....jsut being honest.


Monday, April 1, 2019

4/1/19 Struggling

I am really struggling right now. I have no idea what is wrong with me. I feel like I am losing it...on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Is this is some sort of PAWS episode? I don't think I want to drink but am in such a bad emotional state that the thought that drinking would give me some relief has popped into my head. At least when I drank I could choose to not look at things. I would just focus on getting through until the weekend when I could have fun and not worry about things. 

Is this some sort of mid-life crisis? I have spent the last 25 years focusing on my kids and they are now all grown up. My daughter is thousands of miles away with a great boyfriend building a life for herself. My son is still in college but needs me less every day. I am so grateful that they have turned out so well, are doing a good job "adulting" and are happy. I just wonder where that leaves me.

Am I in an unhappy marriage that I have tried to end at least four times in the past but have either chickened out, changed my mind, decided I didn't want it, and for sure didn't want to hurt everyone else? Now I have no more distractions such as drinking and kids to keep me from seeing how unhappily married I am?

Do I have a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar? Do I need to be taking medication? I thought all of that was caused by my drinking and here I am 9 months sober suffering mentally and emotionally as badly as I did in active addiction.

Are my hormones off? Do I need to get my estrogen level checked again as I am having terrible night sweats, insomnia, exhaustion and sadness again? Maybe my HRT needs to be readjusted.

I feel so lost and don't know what to do. I am so sick and tired of trying to analyze myself, fix myself, figure out what is wrong with me. All of this obsessing over what is wrong with me, trying to have some insight and then trying to do better, be better, feel better is exhausting. I don't even know where to start. It all just feels so hopeless and pointless. I almost feel beyond the ability to function and I have no idea why.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

3/21/19 - Diabetes?!?!? Drinking?!?!?

Last weekend I was at my sister's house and we were messing around with her husband's blood sugar level tester that he has for diabetes.  My sister and son were at around 100-110 which is normal. I tested mine and it was 170! I was shocked! What?!?!?! I am not overweight and try to watch what I eat. Sure I could work out more but I have never had high blood sugar and have always had normal, healthy blood tests. Turns out, I found out because I tested my blood again later after I had washed my hands, that the Mango I had been eating earlier was on my skin and was inflating my number. I am actually around a 94.

The interesting (maybe pathetic) part of this story is that while we thought I suddenly had diabetes, my sister said, "Maybe this is why you can't tolerate alcohol. Alcohol has a lot of sugar in it and maybe the diabetes is making it so that you can't process it correctly and that is why it affects you more and you always have terrible hangovers."

All of a sudden, a switch flipped in my brain, what if that is true? What if I really do have diabetes and that explains everything. What if I go to the doctor get some medication for diabetes, get my blood sugar under control and then I CAN DRINK AGAIN?!?!?!?  WHAT?!?!? Really?!?! I could drink like a normal person - being able to stop at one or two and not wake up with a hellacious hangover after 3! I WAS SO EXCITED! I was actually thinking about if I could get to the doctor and get medication before our vacation that starts tomorrow!

My husband was like, "Oh my God! Seriously, don't drink!" My son was seriously mad at me saying things like, "You need to go to therapy. This is not the answer. I can't believe you are even thinking about drinking again." It was my daughter's reaction that hit me the hardest. Her reaction was, "ARE YOU F****ING KIDDING ME! MOM! So you are telling me that you are hoping for and glad that you might have diabetes SO YOU CAN DRINK! That is your addiction talking! If this doesn't prove you are addicted to alcohol, I don't know what does! Do you know how crazy that sounds! SHUT UP!! You are not drinking! That is just stupid!!!"

She is so right! How stupid was that? It absolutely was my addicted brain that just got this glimmer of hope. It was almost this primal, instinctual voice that came out of nowhere. Like it had been hiding - like I had kept in under a blanket for the last 9 months. Like a big wind gust came up and ripped the blanket away, suddenly exposing that dark, grinning, Cheshire cat, rubbing her hands together, saying, "Here we go! Let's do this! I think we can be happy again and drink! Hurry up, make the dr. appt. Maybe even drink right now since you will eventually anyway. You can have a glass of wine on the weekend again. You don't have to be socially isolated and not have any friends anymore! You can have fun and enjoy life again! You don't have to fight this anymore...you can just drink like a normal person! Thank goodness this sobriety is over."

Well...I don't have diabetes and I am not going to drink...but I do think I need to go back to group and therapy.

This is what I want my addiction to be: cute and controllable and happy

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This is really my addiction just laying in waiting to pounce and control me: angry and consuming


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This is what it promises me

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This is what I get

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Sunday, March 3, 2019

9 months

I will be 9 months sober on Wednesday.  I'm doing pretty well. 

I just posted this to someone on the mmlist that I am a part of:

"Hi! I don't know if you remember me but I, too, have been here at least 10 years. Here is my experience for what it is worth.  I have gone back and forth - drank and not cared, drank and cared but not done anything about it, drank and really tried to keep my weekend binge drinking under control, absed and fought it the whole time, absed and been relatively content with the process, etc.  Last summer I finally asked for help and completed a 4-week Intensive Outpatient Program.  I have now been sober 9 months - my longest attempt at forever sobriety yet.  What is true for me is that - ya weekends sometimes suck a little, vacations and holidays and special events sometimes suck a little bc I can't drink. Honestly, I miss it. I long to be able to just sit down relax with a drink and not care.....but.....that momentary sense of relief that alcohol brings just isn't worth the anxiety, depression, self-loathing, heart palpitations, insomnia, obsessive/compulsive thinking, etc that comes with it. The more I fought my drinking patterns and tried to control them, the harder I was on myself when I didn't do as well as I wanted.  I came to the realization that while my drinking had very much gotten better, my mental health was steadily declining.  

I feel best about myself when I am not drinking. I am proud of who I am. I am not the self-serving, attention seeking, overly sensitive, non-listening, loud person that I have come to dislike when I am drinking. I am quieter, have more healthy insight, am a better listener, friend, sister, daughter, mother, wife, teacher, coworker when I am able to get out of my own self-destructive obsessive thought patterns that come with drinking. I only get to this place when I have given up the fight - just accepted that I am a person that does not deal with alcohol very well and totally stop drinking.  For me, it became less about how much I was drinking and more about how much I thought about drinking and the feeling of not being the best person I could be. I am the best version of myself when I am not drinking at all.  Now I know that I have way less high highs that came with drinking, but those highs are not worth the low-lows that also came with drinking. I am now trying to figure out how to live in the even keelness of sobriety. "

What I am also realizing is that I don't think I ever really knew who I was.  All of the negative things about myself I blamed on alcohol. All the postive things about myself I gave credit to alcohol for.  For example, I am learning that I really do need down time. Time to regroup, be by myself and re-energize.  I never knew this about myself bc every time I had down time on the weekend it was bc of a hangover.  I am letting it be ok that I want to just binge watch "Castaways" on Hulu on a Saturday night. It is not a waste of time and sometimes I just need a little downtime.

I am also learning that I can be a little overbearing, a bit of a control freak, over achieving, impatient person...and that is not bc of the alcohol.  I don't really like this side of of myself and am working on being more patient and relaxed but I am not a bad person bc I have these qualities. I have always looked at these things as being caused by my drinking problem.  I don't think that is true, but what is true is that I am more accepting of myslef, flaws and all, when I am not beating myslef up about alcohol.  I am also in a better place to work on those things about me that I don't particularly like.  

This spring may not be easy.  I have never made it through a spring sober in 30 years except when pregnant.  I think I should maybe go to group, go see the therapist and blog on a regular basis.  I am a little nervous about getting through it.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

1/20/19 - My Birthday

Today is my 51 birthday.  I can't believe it! I still feel 35 in my head. I get kinda depressed when I think about how many years I have left, so I just don't think about that. I do, however, think about how I want to live those years.

Last night we were driving through the little town where I went to high school that was kind of a dump then but has now become trendy and popular.  There were Christmas lights everywhere. It looked so pretty. I felt fine until we drove past a little wine/beer trendy place and then two breweries that were full of people drinking and having fun.

Then, this thought just popped into my head from nowhere, "How sad I won't ever get to try that wine/beer place. How sad I won't be able to be one of those people sitting in the brewery with their friends having fun, drinking beer. How sad I won't ever be able to have a cold glass of wine on a warm summer evening. How sad I won't ever again feel the relief that comes from letting yourself drink again - fully intending on doing better this time...being able to control it...not having to stress and worry about not drinking....not feeling left out....to just give in and be normal."

Those thoughts were followed by these, "I know I absolutely will not drink for a year (so until June 10). Maybe after being sober for a year, I will have reset some kind of addiction button in myself and I can try again. Maybe this time I can enjoy drinking without suffering the negative consequences. It's not like I was a full-fledged, drink every day, alcoholic. People would still be proud of my year and may not blame me for trying again. I could prove to them that I could do it. I just have to hang in for another four and a half months."

So weird how this just kind of hits out of nowhere. These thoughts are like little pokers that start in the back of my head and then just start circling little by little in the front of my head making a bigger and bigger hole in my desire to stay sober until the hole is big enough that I start toying with the idea of drinking...trying to rationalize it leading to seriously considering it.

I talked to my husband and 20 yo son about it as they were with me. My dh reminded me of how far I have come and how hard I have worked. He said that he is so proud of me and can see that I am much happier, in general, being sober. This is awesome to hear and makes me feel good, but what my ds said had more of an impact on my thinking.

He said, "Mom, you can't go back there. This is your cycle. Go back and read your blog from the past ten years. You are at a pivotal point. You either make it through this and continue with your sobriety or you go right back to where you have been for years.  I know you like analogies, so imagine yourself in a cornfield shaped like a bowl. You are in the middle of the bowl trying to get to the edge - out of the corn. You are halfway there. You can see it if you just keep going. Don't slide back to the center and have to start over. (I am not sure about the analogy, but I got the point.) You have to fight through this. This spring/summer might suck. You may have to write it off as not being as fun or happy as all your other spring/summers, but wouldn't you rather give up the excitement and happiness that comes with drinking this spring and summer to have the next ten years be better? Go read your blog, you will see. If you choose to drink again, you will not be happy. Plus, f you let yourself stay in this mental place, you will convince yourself to drink again in June which will probably lead you to drink sooner than that. You need to go back to your therapist and your sober group...now more than ever."  My dh husband added, "I agree."

My family is amazing! And so right.

What helps me stay sober is to think about why I quit in the first place....HANGOVERS! I know for a fact that if I could still drink like I did in my twenties and thirties, I would still be drinking.  The physical, mental and emotional hell I went through in my forties bc of drinking and the subsequent hangovers aren't worth it anymore.

It isn't super hard for me to stop anymore..it is hard to stay stopped. Each time I attempt sobriety now I make it longer. One day, one week, one month, even three months doesn't seem like that big of a deal anymore. The newness of it all has worn off. It is the monotonous longevity that I struggle with now. Sometimes it just all seems so boring. Yes, I do not have the low lows anymore but I also don't have the high highs that come with drinking and the anticipation of it.

I have to remember that this sober version of myself is who I am supposed to be. It is truly how I want to be. It is when I am most proud of myself. It is when my family is most proud of me. It is a kinder, more patient, more considerate, better listener, less sensitive, less judgy version of myself. It is a less depressed, less anxious, less stressed, less obsessed version of myself. I sleep better, don't have heart palpitations or hot flashes, don't get anxiety attacks or spend days on the couch being depressed and eating junk food. I am 100% available to people who might need me 100% of the time. I am not constantly thinking about/planning my drinking and what might interfere with that. 

I have fought really hard to get here. I have given up so many summers in the past either miserable bc I am on the exhausting roller coaster of high highs and low lows that some from  drinking or completely obsessed and self-absorbed with trying to quit - reading self-help books, analyzing the shit out of why I drink and the nature of addiction - trying to figure out why I can't do better, try harder, be better. Standing on a burning bridge trying to figure out why it is burning rather than just jumping off the stupid bridge. Last spring/summer I literally spent all of April-June drinking and either loving it or hating it...completely obsessed with it. Then, on June 14, I finally jumped off the burning bridge and called for help. I spent ALL of July and half of August in Intensive Outpatient Therapy - 12-14 hours a week of individual and group therapy sessions complete with antidepressants. Another 10 hours a week reading, blogging, analyzing, trying to get my shit together. 

I refuse to spend another summer living in my own mental prison/person hell of addiction. 

This spring/summer WILL be different. It might in fact "suck" much of the time but it can't possibly be worse than where I have been. And where I am headed has to be better.

Last year at this time my dd sent me a quote that said, "Lions don't drink, be a lion!" 
This year I have to think about climbing out of a cornfield bowl!
I love my kids!