Saturday, September 30, 2017

100 days! How I got here 9/30/17

Today I have been sober 100 days.

I had a huge "light bulb moment"  a couple of years ago when I read about how using alcohol repeatedly physically, biochemically changes the neurotransmitters in such a way that you "need" alcohol to feel happy.  I realized - maybe I'm not just making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe it isn't just my latest obsession. Maybe, if I just stop worrying about my drinking, the worry/problem will go away.  Maybe, at this point the addiction isn't my fault. Well it is my fault bc I caused it but maybe it is more than just a mental game. Maybe it is an actual physical game that is making it hard for me to quit.  Maybe it isn't just that I am weak, so I can't control it. Maybe it is physically beyond my ability to control it at this point bc I have restructured my brain with a deadly chemical. Maybe I'm not just imagining I have a problem. Maybe it isn't just in my head. Maybe I'm not over exaggerating my inability to stop drinking.  I have no idea of that makes sense to anyone else but it flipped a switch for me.  It wasn't just about "trying harder to moderate....only drink two....drink first...." Somehow, learning all of this was a huge weight off my shoulders. Somehow, I felt less like a failure and that allowed me to start thinking about the only solution that made sense - to stop drinking and heal my damaged neurotransmitters. This explained my cravings, my desire to keep drinking, in a scientific, physical, real way. The first switch was flipped for me.

As long as I kept pouting alcohol into my brain, even when successfully moderating, the more damage I was physically causing to my reward system which was causing my cravings and inability to stop - I wasn't just making it all up - it was real. 

Then 100 days ago I had another HUGE "aha moment" when I realized that using alcohol every weekend, even moderately, was affecting my ability to enjoy life at all - ever - even when not hungover - that I needed a drink to feel happy, relaxed, at peace. Without my weekend drink, I  was just tired, depressed, anxious, kind of blah feeling all the time. It wasn't just that I was tired or over stressed or had a bad week. or whatever reason I came up with, it was because I didn't have alcohol in my brain setting off the chemicals responsible for making me happy.  I realized, 100 days ago, that I would feel tired, kinda down, not super happy until I had that drink. I noticed that I got talkative, my mood lightened and I could enjoy life once I had that drink.  Then the 2nd flip was switched.

I realized that not only was I living to drink on the weekend, I was drinking on the weekend to enjoy living - even when sober. I had rewired my brain (physically) to not be able to enjoy life without alcohol - even when sober.

This latest article I read, flipped a 3rd switch for me. The article was about the subconscious mind. Alcohol, no matter how small, relaxed me, calmed down the anxiety, made me feel relaxed, social, less stressed, less tired, happy. The more times (weekend drinking for about 30 years) my brain had the calm/relaxed/happy response from the alcohol, the more my subconscious mind put these two things together and craved the alcohol to achieve those feelings.  It's like Pavlov's dog or putting your foot on the brake in the driver's seat.  It becomes an automatic subconscious solution to feeling stressed, tired, anxious, worried or depressed.  My subconscious brain tells me, without me even realizing it, that I need that drug to feel better.  I realized this last night. I was exhausted. I had had a super busy week full of evening meetings, parent conferences, team meetings, etc. I was driving back from the grocery store, about to pass out from exhaustion and I thought to myself, "If I was having a nice IPA when I got home (while putting the groceries away) to celebrate the week being over, I would feel a lot better right now. I would be happy, have a lot more energy and be really looking forward to having that beer. Even the thought of drinking would make me feel better. And then I thought, "Why is that? I'm exhausted! Why would I want to drink?" It's bc my subconscious mind is telling me that it will relax me, make me feel better, make me happy. What my subconscious mind doesn't realize is that it is the lack of alcohol on a Friday night that is actually partially responsible for me feeling so shitty. That if I drink I am temporarily relieving the problem but exacerbating the problem long term because alcohol is what is causing the problem in the first place. Switch 3 flipped

I was relieving all of my depression, anxiety, boredom by drinking the drug that was causing all my problems. This was happening on a physical, subconscious and biochemical level. The only way to stop the insanity is to not drink at all - ever - and let my brain heal. It needs to relearn how to be happy - without a drug. 

Thank goodness the damage isn't permanent at this point.

It has been a long journey, mentally and physically, to get to this point of understanding with my addiction. I am thankful for every day I remain sober bc I am healing.

Image result for 100 days sober

Sunday, September 24, 2017

13 Traits of Integrity (9/24/17)

I think I am finally getting some of my energy back.  My workouts are starting to fee l good again - like something I want to do instead have need to do.  I have only lost 2-3 pounds but I can tell a little bot of a difference.  I realize I am gaining muscle while losing fat so the scale isn't super accurate. I also know I am not just working out to lose weight, I am doing it to feel better.  My dd told me last week that I was her hero.  Seriously....who could ask for anything more than that. The nest time I want to drink, I will just remind myself of what a hero would do...they would hold true to their morals and judgement and good decision making.

I was reading this article

13 Characteristics of People Who Have True Integrity

It made me think about my integrity an how my behavior has changed since I quit drinking. Here are the 13 traits and how I have changed (the formatting is terrible but I can't figure out how to fix it..)

The comments below are about me while not under the influence.  When I was drinking I was undoubtedly a selfish, self aggrandizing, conversation monopolizing, (albeit fun) crazy person.  Also, I don't think most people saw these shortcomings of mine. When not drinking (which was 80% of the time) I came off as caring, sensitive, responsible, good person.  A lot of what I describe below where my own thoughts..the private prison I lived in.

1. They value other people’s time.

They value their own time so they also value the time of other people. They know you have plenty of other places you need to be and won’t hold you up. If you spend time with them, it is likely they will thank you for that as well.

I feel like I have always thought about other people's time, just not always respected it. I hate being late. I always have tried to be on time, but am late a lot.  Now that I am sober, I am a little better about getting somewhere on time. My focus about getting out of the house is a little time management is a little better as my brains are a little less scattered and ADHD like. Still working on this one. 
I do appreciate spending time with other people more than I used to. I think it used to be more about spending time with alcohol while with other people.  I wouldn't really look forward to seeing people and catching up - finding out what was happening in their lives....It was more about looking forward to getting together with people so I could drink.

2. They give credit where it is due.

They do not take credit for things they did not do. They will always credit those who deserve it. If you help this person with a project he or she will likely mention your name so you can take credit for your work.
I have noticed a little change in this one.  I always gave credit to others but found myself being secretly jealous of other people success.  Jealous of people getting praise or getting a better paying job than me or having a nicer house than me or being in better shape than me.  It wasn't horrible jealousy, just a little secret voice that would sometimes hope other people didn't get what they wanted.  It made me feel like a terrible person.  I don't have nay idea where that came from or why but it is calming down. Maybe now that I am proud of myself and finding some peace in my own life, I can truly be happy for the success of others.

3. They are authentic.

They are their truest forms. You won’t catch them in a lie or being fake.
Really  other only thing I lied to others about what not being able to keep commitments due to having a hangover. I would skip out on things, not do something that was important to someone else, not get out of bed to be with my kids, or go and pretend I was fine. I would say I was getting sick or was stressed or blah,blah,blah.  It is nice now because #1 I have a lot more energy and willingness to do things that are important to other people but if I am sick...everyone actually believes me bc they know I am not drinking.  I also feel like if I really don't want to do something, I don't need to and I don't need to make excuses or feel guilty. I don't need to be everything for everyone. Somehow it just feels like a more honest way to live, which feels incredibly liberating.
I am also less fake.  I never really was too fake but I find that I have a much easier time just being quiet. I don't always need to be heard. My opinion does not always need to be understood.  Everyone isn't waiting for me to give my 2 cents.  It is pretty relaxing to not always be jockeying for position in every conversation. I don't need as much validation as I used to....and this is while sober.

4. They are always honest.

They are honest people that feel no need to lie as it is important for them to get to where they need to get in life honestly.
See above...but also I feel more honest with myself.  If I choose to sit her and type all of this in my blog today, it truly is what I want to do right in this moment.  It isn't merely a distraction from other things bc I have a hangover.  I feel like I am more honest with myself about my addiction, my imperfections, my values, my relationships, the way I feel about things (rather than the way others think I should feel or the way I would pretend to feel to make others happy).  This one is hard to explain, but my life just feel more honest.

5. They never take advantage of others.

They are not the kind of people who will take advantage of someone else. They love to build people up and help them get where they need to be. Taking too much from someone else will never be an issue with someone who has a lot of integrity.
I am trying to get better at this one with my dh.  I don't take advantage of him but I don't think I have done a very good job at building him up or appreciating him over the years.  I have been so ensnared in all of my own bullshit that I have kind of ignored him.  He has been the only one that has known about my issues for years and has supported me no matter what.  He doesn't care if I drink or don't drink, he just hated seeing what the addiction was doing to me mentally and emotionally.  It is so true that you are the worst to the people you trust the most.  I am really working on this one.

6. They do not argue over disagreements.

They will talk through things in a civil manner or not talk at all. You cannot and will not force this person into arguing over something completely ridiculous. I find this to be a very respectable trait.
This one was huge for me to read!  The others were..ya, ya..I knew that, but this one really made me think.  I have been really bad at this one.  I could not ever let things go unless my perspective was validated.  The other person did not have to agree with me, but they did have to at least see where I was coming from. I never felt like my intentions were bad when in an argument and was so damn caught up in making sure no one thought I was a bad person, that I would really argue and argue and argue until at least they could admit they could see where I was coming from.  It is exhausting!!! Not arguing is a respectable trait....that line blew my mind...made me see something in a completely different way.  I am so excited to not be an arguer any more and can't wait to practice.  I know I am a good person, not matter what my opinion is of something. If someone doesn't see something the same as me, that doesn't mean I am wrong or they are wrong...just a different perspective...let it go! "You don't need constant validation from outside sources that you are a good person" I am trying to tell myself.

7. They give most people the benefit of the doubt.

They try to see the good in everyone. I think this is because they feel like maybe there are more people in this world that also have integrity. That being said, if you take advantage of them too much they will get rid of you.
I really have always done this. My dh even makes fun of me for it.  Sometimes I should take off my rose colored glasses, but I would rather assume the best and be wrong than assume the worst and always think negatively. This one I am already good at :)

8. They know when something is bothering someone.

They have a great intuition that lets them know when something is going on. If someone is down in the dumps they will notice. Chances are they will actually do what they can to cheer you up.
This one is so much easier while not struggling with the 24/7 all consuming thought process of addiction.  It is so much easier to be in tune with others when you aren't always consumed with yourself.  I would look at people but in more of a shallow not really seeing them sort of way. And if I did sense something was wrong my thoughts were more, "what's their problem? why are they acting like that? what did I do this time? whatever.." Now I just ask...are you ok? It was so all about me when in addiction. I just thought that the way everyone acted around me was about they were judging me It is easier now to see that it probably isn't about me at all so don't take it personally and see if you can help in any way.  Sobriety is weird..

9. They believe others.

They accept your word as truth until it is disproven. That being said, they do not take lying well. And once you lie to them, it is unlikely that they will ever take your word again.
I am pretty good at this one.  It is true that I believe in others, but once you lie to me or are mean to me, I have a really hard time.  I am super sensitive to not what people say but how they say it.  I am trying to do better with this as the way they deliver what they say may not be with the motivation that I assume it to be.  Their delivery may be my own perception of their intention...not truly what it is or may not have anything to do with me. In other words they may be being a bitch in their tone but aren't meaning to come off that way. Maybe they are just having a bad day and it had nothing to do with me.  I am trying to assume good intention in their delivery of what they say.  Mean people are really hard for me to handle. But, once again, I am trying to not take everything so personally. Doing that really is still living selfishly because you assume what everyone says and how they say it is always about you. I always used to look at that as sensitive as apposed to selfish...more denial I guess.

10. They apologize first.

If they have done something wrong they will come to you and apologize. This is just how they are. They own up to their mistake and try to make things right.
I would always apologize first......with a big fat BUT attached to it...It really didn't mean jack shit unless the other person admitted they could see where I was coming from, validated that and then took some responsibility in the conflict. And....I always acted like I was the bigger person for apologizing first. I could talk a really good Dr. Phil game but I was relentless in arguments about having my side validated...even to the point of talking for hours, repeating myself hundreds of times bc I didn't feel like I was being heard, writing endless text messages, talking to others who weren't even involved just to "get their take" but really to make sure they saw my side of things... OMG!!!! I have been so consumed with my own image probably bc I really felt like a shallow, dishonest,  worthless person on the inside. I was going to make damn sure that I never looked like a bad person in any situation... how exhausting.  WHO CARES???? You have your opinion, I have mine, let it go and move on. And if people think I am a bad person...who long as I know I am a good person.

11. They are humble.

They do not quite know their own worth. While they are very important and do so much good they don’t quite see it. You should remind them of it.

I am also working on this.  Oh I do know my own worth, believe it...I am a good person, mother and teacher. I could sometimes be a better friend, sister and wife but I'm not horrible either. My problem is making sure everyone else knows it. Again validation from outside sources.  Why do I need so much external validation?????????????

12. They do good when they can.

They are always helping other people. They love to know that they have improved someone’s life. It gives their lives meaning.

I am pretty good at this but now have a lot more time and energy to do that I am not consumed with my own personal bullshit all the time.

13. They are always kind to those who need it.

Giving kindness can go a long way. When someone looks like they need a little pick me up these people deliver. They can brighten up almost anyone’s day

I have always said I was there for others, but only if it fit into my drinking schedule.  If it interfered with that....I was out.  Nothing interfered with my weekend partying and if it did I was grumpy and pissed about it.  I do feel a lot less stressed out about commitments now that I don't have the competing thoughts about making time for drinking and the subsequent hangovers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

3 Months!!! 9/20/17

Image result for 3 sober months

Today marks three months of not drinking for me.

The ups:
Sleeping way better
Feel better
Heart palpitations gone
Anxiety much better
Depression slowly lifting
More motivated
Easier to focus
More positive with others
More compassionate
More patient
Less sensitive
Less selfish
Working out consistently
Hiking every weekend with dd
Easier to honor committments
More present in all moments

The downs:
Still tired - but getting better
Haven't lost much weight - but will
Only a couple of bad cravings  - but they passed
A couple of sad moments when thinking about never drinking again

I'd say that is a whole lot more ups than downs!  I'm going to just keep on keeping on :)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Today will be interesting 9/2/17 (Sun)

I am having my family over for dinner for the first time since May. I wrote this blog the event. I was really struggling in May, as is true every May, with drinking too much, hangovers, depression, exhaustion and anxiety.  When my mom starting guilt tripping me - I lost it.  I had a right to say everything I said and I don't regret it. What I regretted was my delivery.  I don't want to be the drunk yellar that is losing my mind when angry.  I had been drinking, of course, and I did not handle myself in a very mature way.

Hopefully, today will be different. Hopefully, today, she won't try to make me feel guilty about what is going on with my sister.  I know she knows it is my sister's fault, but she also knows I have been the only one to fix it in the past so she can get to me easier.  My sister just washes her hands of it and won't talk about it.

Not this time, mom, I have lived long enough with her treating me like shit - like she is better than me - like she never does anything wrong - like if she hurts my feelings, it is my fault bc she that wasn't her "intention". I am not perfect, but when I hurt someone I apologize even if I don't think I did anything wrong.  If I care about them, it doesn't matter what my intentions were. It matters that something I said or did hurt them even if unintentionally and I apologize.  Not my sister - somehow she always twists is around so that either I am overly sensitive and "we just don't see things the same way" or she is the victim.  She is always the victim and can successfully turn any situation around in which she is in the wrong to making me look bad in some way. When she started doing this to my adult children as well as putting up with it since high school, I just decided I was done. It is extremely painful for me as she is my sister, but I just can't have that kind on mental manipulation in my life.

She hasn't spoken to me in almost two years.  I think it has something to do with the fact that when our other sister got in a life threatening accident two years ago, I was having a little tif with her significant other and we weren't on the best terms.  She (my manipulative sister) was enjoying being in the middle and kind of playing both sides.

After the accident, the bother in law (of the injured sister) and I dropped all of our petty bullshit and came together to support my sister.  I was there every day for 6 months - heavily involved in anything I could do. My injured sister and I became very close again. She really appreciated everything I had done for her and I really appreciated the fact that she was still alive.

My younger sister couldn't handle it - she got so jealous that she started acting like a high schooler - walking out of rooms when I walked in, giving me dirty looks, telling everyone else goodbye except my family, making comments about "true colors" and that maybe I should "just marry my bother in law." Just stupid shit.  I have put up with this behavior from her for years but when she started being really mean to my adult kids I had had enough.

Then we found out some really bad stuff about how she was living her life.  She had been lying to us for years and actually had put our children in dangerous situations.  When we all found out, I was actually  more worried about her mental state when she found out we all knew. I even texted her saying that I was there for her - even after all of the emotional abuse she had put me and my family through for the last 3 months (while my other sister was fighting for her life). She never texted me back and turned it around on us saying that we ambushed her. She picked up her kids and moved to another state, with a boyfriend that was instrumental in causing all of this - kind of outed her.  Her kids got sick and needed surgery and she told my mom, "I can't believe they wouldn't even be there for me and my kids during this time."  And my mom bought it - hook, line and sinker!

How dare her! I was just dumbfounded! When we found out about her secrets, I thought, "there is no way she can turn this one around and there is no way my mom could take her side this time."  Well I was wrong and last May, when my mom tried to make me feel guilty about not supporting HER when her kids were sick, I lost it! She cut me off!  She moved away! She has chosen to not have two aunts, two uncles and four cousins be part of her kids' lives! She ripped this family apart. She refuses to try, in any way, to make things better. She has refused, just this once, to initiate a reconciliation. I didn't do anything wrong this time!

And most of all - she has hurt me so deeply that I can't even express it. I thought she loved me, cared about me, valued me in her and her kids' lives.  I guess I was wrong.

My mom is just so desperate for things to be ok - that she tries to guilt me into fixing it - bc I have always - ALWAYS - been the one to make things better in the past - for her. I am 73 days sober, in control of my emotions, what I say and how I act.  I am much less volatile, sensitive and reactive.  She just got back from a three month visit with my sister out of state and said she really missed all of us.  Hopefully she doesn't start any of her shenanigans, but if she does, I will not react and not play into it. Last time I felt like she brought it up three times bc she was baiting me into reacting.  The rift is so hard for her that she wanted someone else to be miserable about it too.

I just try not to think about it and let it be. If my sister ever wants me back in her life, she will let me know. I do miss her and especially her kids but this time it isn't mine to fix.  You teach people how to treat you. I will not let her get away with the way she has treated me and my family - not this time.  All she has to do is say, "I miss you, I'm sorry." and she can't even do whatever.

Wish me luck :)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Crazy couple of weeks 9/2/17 (Sat)

I thought I would check in. I can't believe I haven't posted since 8/19.  I has been a crazy couple of weeks.  My daughter came back from out of state and moved in with us to finish up her college education.  She graduates in December.  I absolutely love having her around. She is motivating me to get up every morning at 4:30 and work out and to eat healthy.  My son moved out into a college dorm.  I miss him very terribly, but he is only 10 miles away and he is thriving at his "nerdy/super smart" engineering school.  He has finally found his people. I am super excited for him.  I have three weeks in the books already for this school year.  I have new teammates, a new bunch of sixth graders and different curriculum to teach this year, but so far so good - no drama :)

And I am sober 72 Days!  This time is so different.  I really don't have the "pink cloud" like I did last time maybe because sobriety isn't a new feeling, but I also don't have the depressed, deprived angry feelings when not drinking like last time either.

When drinking I was living a life of high/highs and low/lows.  I was either excited to get to drink on the upcoming weekend, actually drinking and having fun or suffering through a three day hangover and then the dull/depressed feelings in between.

Last time I quit I also had high/highs and low/lows. I either had the high/highs of waking up hangover free, being in awe of how present and calm I felt or the low/lows of being depressed and pissed that I couldn't drink on the weekends - fearful (terrified) of every situation - that I might screw up and drink or that I might have an anxiety attack bc I couldn't.

This time there isn't high/highs or low/lows.  I am still waiting for the "this is the best I have ever felt/I am so happy/my life is great" feelings.  I hope they do eventually arrive, but it isn't like I am miserable either. I feel like I am just chugging along, doing life, but in a more controlled way. I feel more in control of my emotions, my thoughts, my insecurities. I am working out and starting to feel the need to, I am less grumpy, sleeping better, getting a lot more done, feel a lot more present and really do feel calmer.

The biggest difference this time is that I really don't want to drink. I have only had two "close calls" in 72 days. One was the Tuesday afternoon when I had a full on panic attack and the 2nd was when we went out to dinner with our friends.  I just really don't seem to care about it - which is awesome.  I can also admit to myself that I did really like it and had a lot of fun drinking. I do miss the sense of connecting with people (albeit semi present/drug induced/somewhat fake connections) I felt while drinking with friends. I miss the hyper, excited feeling I would get about an upcoming weekend event.  I miss being the life of the party and having a lot of drinking fun. I miss going to new breweries on a Friday afternoon. I miss opening a bottle of wine or a cold beer on a Friday after a long week at work.

But all that I miss about it is not worth the misery it causes just isn't worth it.

I will give up the high/highs to not have to go through the low/lows. I just have to figure out how to be truly happy on the middle ground - to go from ho-hum to life is great. I also need to figure out how to calm down. Instead of drinking on the weekends now I am just constantly moving - cleaning, shopping, hiking, yard work, etc. While all of that is good stuff, I am not giving myself time to relax. When drinking (or smoking before I quit) I would sit down to do it. Both calmed me down in a sense. It is hard to explain bc alcohol revved me up but also made my brain not think about everything that I need to do, calmed it down and helped it have fun.  While alcohol made me miserable most of the time it did help me to stop thinking which in a way is relaxing. I need to figure out how to do that without a drug.

Well, that's it for now - off to clean my house, do yard work, do laundry, work out, pay my bills and go buy some hiking shoes - lol!