Sunday, December 30, 2012

Was this me all along?

Tonight we went to my sister's house and played cards.  We hadn't done that in a long time and not since I stopped drinking.  OMG - I had a fantastic time! Others were drinking and I was not.  I was silly, a little loud, laughed a ton, was kind of a goofball and I WAS SOBER!!  If I would have been drinking, I would have been worried when we left (or at 3 AM when I woke up in an anxiety attack) about what everyone else was thinking, worried I looked like an idiot, worried if anyone had noticed how much I drank and probably felt crappy tomorrow.  Now,  I left thinking, "Wow maybe I really am a fun, goofy person that can make people laugh even without the alcohol!"  I had no regrets, no wondering, no guilt and I will feel great tomorrow.  My dear son said I acted the same as when I was drinking except my eyes didn't look funny and I didn't sound different (slurring).  My family even joked that I better lay off the seltzer water!  Being sober ROCKS!

12/30/12 (Sun) Today, at this moment in time - 150 days

I wrote this to the mmabsers list I am part of in response to the question - What had helped me...

It is so funny how all of us speak the exact same language.  Over and over and over I have read someone else's story and it could have been my own.  I am a teacher, have a house, a masters degree, a husband, two teenage children, tons of friends, work out, do yoga and also live in a micro brew town with a neighborhood full of "brewers." I have struggled for so long. I have had some success followed by epic failure.  All the while having my whole emotional state and mental energy being wrapped up in how much I did or didn't drink or if I was going to drink or how much or what tools I would use.  It was five days of exhausting for a few hours of fun on the weekend. 

I totally get your fear.  I still have it when thinking about the summer.  How am I ever going to go to the all inclusive vacation spot in Punta Cana without drinking?  That is unheard of! Free beer!  All day!  and not drink? That just seems like a waste of money and a terrible vacation!  That is what my addiction is screaming at me, even now when I feel I am doing so positive.

What helped me - you ask?  I think 3 things really helped me. 

1.  This list full of abstainer who really were happy.  Who were just like me - let me repeat LUST LIKE ME - at one time and now are really happy without alcohol.  I had to realize that I am not special in this addiction. I am not able to beat it, I am not stronger than everyone here.  That it really isn't about fighting and being strong - that it is more about giving up, giving in, stopping the fight, realizing that you never really will win against addiction.  It is stronger than me if I give it any power are all.  It's all or nothing.  Maybe not right away, but eventually all or nothing and usually worse.  Kind of like the yo-yo dieter.  Loose 10, gain 20 back.  (By the way I have gone from 133 pound to 120 pounds in 150 days and the only thing I have changed is I quit drinking!) I drank and loved it for 15 years, tried to moderate for 5 and was completely miserable for the last five - living in my own little personal hell.  

2.  I read the Alan Carr book - Easyway to Quit Drinking.  The book really did put things into perspective for me me.  It is just a stupid drug and I am pathetically addicted to it.  It made me feel like I am really no better than someone addicted to heroine.  I would plan parties, come up with excuses just to drink and was miserable when I couldn't have a few on the weekends.  I would put my partying before everyone and everything.  In retrospect it really was very selfish of me.  I was so wrapped up in feeding my addiction that I only hung out with people that would party with me and not judge me. Many of my relationships suffered.  The book is just a black and white explanation of a drug and how you get addicted to it.  It also talks about how alcohol is the only drug that society not only accepts but makes you feel like an outsider if you don't do it.  It's all just so ridiculous.  It really did give me something new to think about.

3.  The pain, suffering and misery of drinking was finally just becoming bigger than the enjoyment I got out of it on the couple of evenings a week I did spend drinking.  My weeks would go like this.  Friday - drink with my friends, have fun, sit in the sun, usually not drink too much (maybe 3 or 4), wake up Saturday a little tired but ok then plan my drinking all day, anxiously wait until 5, create some kind of reason (hanging out with friends, making dinner, putting away groceries (yeah I know stupid excuse), going out to dinner, and then drink - usually too much which for me was enough to have a hangover on Sunday. I would get really upset if I had to go to a family event or go pick up  my kids later because I would have to watch how much I drank.  The parties were usually at my house so I didn't have to drive.   Sunday - be worthless not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually - usually told my family I had a headache or stomach ache - my kids really never did know it was a hangover (they have told me that now). Monday and Tuesday - exhausted (really just withdrawals but didn't recognize that for a long time) - promising next weekend I would take care of myself and do better.  Wednesday - finally feeling better - still pretty sure I would be more careful next weekend, but starting to think about it.  Thursday and Friday - gearing up for the weekend and having a few drinks.  A time to relax, have fun, be with my friends.....It took me a long time - years - to recognize that pattern and how miserable it was making me when I wasn't doing it. Plus - my stop button was getting harder and harder to find. The more I tried to manage my addiction, the harder it fought back. I would win small battles for weeks or months at a time, but I was ultimately losing the war.  I would eventually be that alcoholic that I tried so long to deny if I kept on this path.  Either that or I would have the ultimate nightmare of an accident and dui caused by the poor judgment that alcohol brings. BTW - I am really sorry to hear about your dui - that was actually my biggest fear, because it somehow would have exposed my personal nightmare to the world before I was ready to admit it. 

I know that this was long (maybe more therapeutic for me than helpful to you) and I am by far no expert.  150 days is something to celebrate but certainly does not not mean I am "cured".  I need to be vigilant and stay the course one day at a time (and yes, I am finally starting to understand the meaning of that phrase). in fact last Friday I was just a second away from giving in.  I had that biggest urge at a restaurant we go to that has excellent micro beers, a fantastic menu and a really fun atmosphere. I don't think I have ever been there without drinking.  Perfect place to drink a few, go see a movie and then be ok to drive home :) It is connected to a mall and we were Christmas shopping afterward.  I want a beer sooooooooo bad and I almost, almost gave in.  I was 30 seconds away of being ok, ready to try again, strong enough to manage my intake, having fun, being like everyone else, being that normal drinker I so desperately wanted to be....but I didn't. Everyone else drank, but I did not.  That night I went to bed and tried to pretend that I had and how I would feel.  I would have been so upset at myself, I almost felt like crying just imagining it. Then I felt really proud of myself that I didn't.  All of the many small successes like this are making me finally feel the peace that comes without a stupid drug in my system.  That night I had many dreams about drinking and they were all fun!  Man this addiction is insidious and persistent! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One year later

so after everything I posted yesterday....I drank last night...I wanted to have a HO free Christmas day...and it is not!  i don't know what is wrong with me!  I just can't seem to say no when it is matter how convinced I was that morning that I wasn't going to drink.  I want soooooooo badly to be able to say, "I have been sober since Christmas day 2011."  But I just know I will fail...i always fail...i am tired of failing...

This is what I posted on 12/25/2011.  One year ago I was broken, defeated, depressed, anxious, and so sick of it all.  I could not imagine living life without alcohol, but I just couldn't seem to live happily with it.  

This year, today, 12/29/2012, I am 150 days sober and I feel great!  My last post was about not being able to feel the joy of not drinking. I think I have jumped that hurdle for now.  Just like when I quit smoking, it is all about a bunch of firsts. First start of school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, stressful days, sunny Fridays, neighborhood parties, saying no thank you, ordering club soda in many of my favorite restaurants to drink at, Christmas shopping, dealing with family, all without alcohol. This 150 days haven't been a piece of cake, I have been tempted on more than one occasion, but I am so glad I didn't give in.  I am finally starting to see that it is possible - I can enjoy my weekends, my friends, my life without alcohol. As a matter of fact I am more patient, kind, giving, unselfish, calm, peaceful, settled, organized and focussed than I ever was while drinking.

One night when I really wanted a beer at a restaurant that has amazing beer and was always a reason to drink, I actually asked my ds (15yo)  if he would be mad at me if I drank, if he would be dissappointed in me.  He, being the wise soul that he is, said, "It isn't about me and what I think, Mom. How are you going to feel about yourself?"  I was this close to having a beer and then the voice of reason came through loud and clear.  Please let it always be there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

House of Change

I found the moderation management website and online support group a few years ago.  When I was on the MM list, "Pierre" posted the following House of Change.  It has had such a profound impact on my journey that I asked his permission to post it here.  His writing is in the blue, my comments in black.

The House of Change.
The House of Change is crowded, especially the cellar which is damp, dark and cold. But the House of Change has also a roof terrace where the sun is bright and life is good. The way to change goes up from the cellar to the top by means of a huge staircase. Its steps may be of variable height. The House of Change has also large floors where people can rest on their way to change.

Some people in the cellar are not considering change. They are unaware, that high over them there is a sunny, warm place where the view is beautiful, the air pure and the ambiance soothing. They shiver from time to time in the cold and moisture, sometimes they have a feeling that there should be a better place to be, but in the dark of the place they are in and the darkness of their mind they don't see a way to get out. They don't look for a change, may be out of pure ignorance, well established indolence or sheer despair. They stagnate in the stage of precontemplation.

From around 17 to 27 I drank and loved it.  I was the life of the party and had a great time.  My dh and I were either attending or hosting a party.  I didn't drink during the week. I got a teaching degree, got my masters degree, got a teaching job, bought a new house, bought a new car, had fabulous friends, was in great shape, had a great job and partied on the weekend.  Partied to the point that I was pissed off if I had a family engagement and couldn't drink. 

Sometimes I had problems especially with members of my family - sisters, parents, etc. but I never related them to alcohol back then. I could never see how selfishly I was living.  It was all about me and too bad! I was having fun and my friends loved me.  I just focussed on that and didn't worry about family.  Why?  I would rather be with my friends. My dh and I would also fight but then just chalk it up to having too much to drink and forget about it.  

I didn't have a problem with alcohol!  I had plenty of friends that drank far more than I did and its not like I was homeless!

From 28 to 30 I had both my children.  Both extremely difficult pregnancies but had never been happier.  I thought I was just happy pregnant but looking back now maybe it was because I wasn't drinking.

At 30 I had kids and moved into a neighborhood full of partiers!  Perfect! I could raise my kids, take them to the parties with me (everyone else had kids they could play with) and then not have to drive home!  Was this heaven or what!  Plus, I was stressed out trying to raise kids and work full time, so damn it I deserved to let loose and relax on the weekends!  And I had plenty of company.

It started off great!  But over the course of 10 years, it slowly/gradually got pretty bad - embarrassing parties, weeknight wine drinking with the "ladies", not remembering things, worried about what my kids thought of me, stumbling home late at night.  My house eventually became the party house like it was in my twenties.  I didn't mind hosting or cleaning up as long as I had people to drink with that wouldn't judge me.  

I started drinking more and behaving badly.  This was different - I started picking fights and getting angry and saying mean things and getting really sensitive.  I had never been like that before. And the hangovers were devastating - physically, emotionally, mentally.  That was also a new development. Finally I found myself drinking most nights, sneaking beers, finishing other peoples wine glasses when they weren't looking, having some strange empty pit inside that just could never get enough alcohol once I started - almost like I was losing whatever control I thought I had. It scared the shit out of me.

There are those who stumble around in the dark , knowing that they need a change of scene, may be driven and haunted by the memories of better days, groping about to find the latch of the exit door they know to be somewhere. Sometimes they are exhausted by the search, some give it up for good, but most are struggling and after a rest resume the search of light and a better life. They live and search in the stage of contemplation.

Then, at around 38, I started looking for help. I was desperate for my weekends, my self esteem, my life to be different. I wanted to learn to  moderate and control my drinking like all normal people did.

And suddenly in the dark, you see a small stripe of pale yellow light, almost undetectably. You stumble towards the light moved by a wild hope, you get the doorknob, you open the door and you are overflowed by the bright light of a staircase. On the wall sticks a poster informing you that you are now in the preparation stage, and that the staircase is a magic one, where you can program the height of the steps, depending of your mood and ability of the present momentum. And now you plan the first steps to take, you move on driven by your determination to advance, fleeing the dark, damp and cold cellar, up to the light. You are in the action stage.

In the bright light of the large staircase you can now see your fellow occupants, the presence of who you only felt in the dark of the cellar of the House of Change. They are of all races, of all continents. They are small or tall, slim or big. There are males and females of all ages, most go upstairs, some come downstairs. You are yourself melting with this community, exchanging your impressions and experiences. You are warned that you may slip downstairs, that there are some traps where you can go right down to the cellar again, but always with the knowledge that there is an open door and a staircase to go up.

This is where I realized I wasn't alone.  There were so many people out there with the same issues as me.  I tried and tried and tried to moderate - for 6 years!  I would do really well and then have a horrible night and fall right back into regret and shame.  Those times would be fewer and fewer but when they happened, they were worse. Because of reading other people's experiences, I realized that I was withdrawing from alcohol every Sun, Mon, Tues - started feeling better Wed and Thurs was filled with the anticipation of the weekend coming and being able to drink. I was passing out in the bathroom, throwing up, spending beautiful Sundays in bed.  Working so effing hard to moderate just to come crashing down so much worse when I did drink.  I was so lost.

And so you go up and down, but always averaging to the up, sometimes with ease, sometimes with pain. You are passing the floors, taking a rest or not, sometimes finding yourself back on a floor where you have already been. Oh yes, this may be your fate in the action stage, but finally you reach the upper and last floor. On this floor there are club chairs, where you can take a rest and meditate before opening the door to the roof terrace. You look back to your struggle, you catch a glimpse over the railing to the basement and you are proud of your journey. You are older and wiser than you were in the cellar, and oh, so happier. You are in the waiting room to the final stage, you are in the maintenance stage.

Then I found MMabsers - a group of wonderful, positive, supportive, happy sober...wait...what....sober?  Really?  Could life really be good without alcohol?  I couldn't even imagine the thought of that!  No way!  

Last year at this time, I had a horrible Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Go back and look at my blog as I often do.  It was terrible! I was a mess!  OK fine I will try this abs thing.  I absed from from Dec to March which was amazing for me, but I wasn't happy.  The fear of having a summer without alcohol along with the warm sunny afternoons convinced me to give moderation another shot.  I did really well for a while and then had two drunken vacations. Right back to where I was. I decided enough was enough and decided to quit again.  I did for two weeks and then just got a wild hair to have a beer with my neighbor and got wasted.  

The day after that I quit again and have now been sober for 127 days. It is better this time.  I really have no desire to drink.  I get a craving once in awhile but it goes away.  

What I struggle with now is being in the waiting room.

Finally you open the door to the roof terrace. You are in a beautiful garden, richly flowered, bees are humming, the grass isgreener than it was ever in your memories and dreams, the sun is brighter and the sky is bluer. You are at the end of your cycle of change. You are in the termination stage.


I am waiting for that door to open so I can see all the beauty in life again without alcohol.  Although life is better and I am glad I am not drinking, it  just seems so boring, dull, average, uninspired, uneventful, without anticipation, lackluster without alcohol.  I am waiting desperately for joy to return to my life.  It has to, doesn't it? There are plenty of people who don't drink and are happy.  Can I be one of them?  Can I find fulfillment, purpose, joy in life without alcohol?

PS - Thank you mirror, mirror for checking on me :)