It turned out to be true: I found reading about other people's stories helpful and actualizing of my own experiences. More so, I found that these books were able to give words to my feelings and the undercurrents of my relationship with alcohol that I lacked before the read.
Here are some quotes from Knapp that really hit home for me:
"There I was, sweaty and hung over and literally trying to muscle my body into a different state."
Since I've stopped drinking, I can't make myself kill it at the gym anymore. I was using exercise as a counterbalance and punishment for drinking and the bad eating that went with it. The more I drank the more I beat myself up with exercise. I don't have the drive anymore to prove to myself that I'm healthy, and I'm settling into a healing new routine: 2.5k jog with the dog every day, yoga once or twice a week, one day of weights and I just signed up for weekly tennis lessons. I'm learning to listen to my body, not my guilt or maintaining perceptions of balance.
"Liquor eases. Liquor soothes and protects, a psychic balm. Did that set me on the road to Alcoholism? I wouldn't have thought so as a teenage or young adult...I made connections between drinking and camaraderie, drinking and machismo, drinking and sophistication."
Until I started reading I really didn't question why I drank-it was because it made me happy, cool, connected, and enhanced the fun. I didn't consider the possibility that I drank for soothing pains and numbing feelings. When did that change? Obviously from last post I do have some emotions that are surfacing that I have held down under a layer of booze for a long time. How could I have been so oblivious?
"Drinking was the best way I knew, the fastest and simplest, to let my feelings out and to connect, just sit there and connect, with another human being."
Yes! YES. That is still how I feel much of the time. I feel exposed and vulnerable to look a friend in the eyes without a filter-to just sit and authentically connect. The fear of rejection or misunderstanding is terrifying when I think of it but in the moment I'm so present and feel rooted.
"Alcoholic drinking is by nature solitary drinking, drinking whose true nature is concealed from the outside world and, in some respects, the drinker as well. You think you're drinking to have fun, to be sociable or more relaxed. But you're also drinking to shut down, to retreat."
Another glimpse into myself that will slowly crack open to be pondered and nurtured. I actually really enjoyed drinking alone. It really was a way to relax the needs to "do," to quiet the mind from the task-master I am. There was always moments of panic and fear as the drink passed me from relaxation to retreat. That tiny space where the dark emotions surfaced for a second, then were buried again.
"Drinking alone is what you do when you can't stand the feeling of living in your own skin."
Horrifying! No way to live, so sad. That is where I was heading.
"Bad things didn't happen every time I drank, but every time something bad did happen, drinking was involved."
Yep. 100% yes to that. Without drink I never slept with someone unexpectedly, or stay up until dawn, or spend hundreds of dollars on food and drinks, or make an ass out of myself, or find myself in situations that were just not good for me.
I also found clarity in her progressive formulas for drinking and emotions:
Discomfort+Drink=No Discomfort (I think I was here)
These formulas ring true for the slow progression of the relationship with drinking over time. While the progress happens, I believe many probably still think they drink to feel open. At least I did, until I stopped drinking and started looking back.
I'm back after a week with limited wifi and privacy because I was a chaperone on a Ski Trip with students. I spend the week with 9th graders snowboarding and supervising evening activities and at night and in between events devouring the books Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Almost Alcoholic: Is My (or loved one's) Drinking A Problem? by Joseph Nowinski & Robert Doyle and started, After the Tears: Helping Adult Children of Alcoholics Heal Their Childhood Trauma by Jane Middelton-Moz & Lorie Dwinell. So while I was not blogging, I was doing massive reading and diving into the healing part of sobriety. I cried, I felt understood & exposed, connected, lost, scared, angry and empowered at different times of the week. While a physical week of beautiful mountains and fun routines, it was emotionally exhausting and I felt a bit haggard by the end of it.
After reading the first two books, I had this knee-jerk reaction to a trigger and concluded I needed to get a divorce. What the hell? That panicked feeling lasted about 12-hours until I listened to The Bubble Hour episode on Adult Children of Alcoholics and was like, "Fuck! That is how I react when I'm scared-I cut people and emotions out and start planning the logistics of my exit strategy?!!?? " I backed away from the divorce cliff and tried to peel away at the armor protecting my emotions. I have an instinct to "go-go-go" when I have dark emotions: drink it down when I can or distract myself through the dark with work, busyness, travel, task-completion...you name it to avoid feeling those feelings. I don't need a divorce, I need to work through my emotional baggage that I carry around, and the Bubble Hour led me to a book that is a good starting place.
I started reading After the Tears and I have been a weepy mess ever since, as I relate to the stories and the ugly traumas of my childhood surface because there isn't a shield of booze holding them down. My knee-jerk reaction to strive is a common reaction for people with a traumatic or alcoholic childhood.
I came home and told my husband everything and we had a big heart-to-heart about our marriage, our roles, our strengths and our areas to grow. I don't know how he can love me sometimes-I'm a mess, and yes that is a common feeling of those who grew up in an alcoholic home: not feeling worthy of love. Along with the guilt. And the fear of dependency. And fear of intimacy. And the discounting and minimizing pain. And the knee jerk reactions to push away the one person who both knows me and rolls with the best and worst parts of me. Ugh, it tears me up. I have such gratitude and fear and shame.
What a week.
I spent this evening researching a couple of books to start reading. The two that I decided on are: Almost Alcoholic by Joseph Nowinski & Robert Doyle and Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.
I realize that while I don't want my life to revolve around being dry instead of drinking, I do need to keep it in the forefront to process and grow. Also, I have been noticing the last couple days I have been fighting mental flashes drinking. It comes out of no where: "I want a drink!" And a flash feeling: "I deserve a drink," and just plain thinking "I want to get drunk." I miss the feeling of being drunk. It has been a long time (for me) and that little voice is getting more persistent that this dry schnanigans has gone on long enough.
That little voice I'm going to call Shelly for right now, who was one of my alter egos when I got drunk. She is the trashier, cruder version of my sober self. Fuck off Shelly.
I hope reading about recovery and other people's journeys will help me outwit Shelly's attempts to peer pressure me back to the party. She's telling me while taking a break is a good way to reset, that my drinking wasn't that bad to begin with and I could handle my liquor, I had fun, and life without booze is too extreme for my balanced life philosophy.
I need to gather evidence and remember experiences that demonstrate consistent inability for me to be a normal drinker. This is part of the reason I chose the book Almost Alcoholic to start off my sobriety reads. I'm unsure if I really classify as an alcoholic and want some scientific evidence if I can rehabilitate myself to be a moderate drinker or if this is a forever thing. Shelly is requesting that read and crossing her fingers. I'm still on the fence.
Right now I only have this blog, Mrs. D is Going Without, and The Bubble Hour for community. I listen to the Bubble Hour and they always talk about the importance of community, not only to stay sober, but to heal the issues that are lurking under the drinking. They reference all sorts of books and blogs and go to daily meetings. Where is the time for all that? Is that what I really need? It's so focused and I usually only have 2 1/2 hours each night to cook, eat, chat with Husband and anything else bedfore bed. I want to workout, get 8 hours of sleep, read good fiction, listen to all sorts of podcasts, work on my puzzle, pet Dog Face. How do I fit in more community as all my free time is eaten up enjoying my dry life? I think I need to read a sobriety book-I'm ready to give it a chance-as much as I don't want the dry in my life to be the emphasis, I do need to keep it close. There are so many books to choose from. That is my goal this week: a book to build community and help with my healing.
Any suggestions you silent community? Throw me something!
I arrived home easily and unpacked. I looked more closely at the little box of chocolates that CG gave me to share with Husband. I read the label to see what kind were in there and underneath it said "No Alcohol." It brought tears to my eyes, it does again now as I type this out. Gratitude to CG to make sure a filling didn't have rum in it, gratitude that a chocolate company thinks of this in the first place, gratitude there is a market of people who need a box of alcohol-free chocolates.
Chocolates and alcohol brought up a memory of a guy I worked with during summer break of a college year. He told me he ate a Bon Bon once and that he itched for a drink for weeks afterwards, even though he had been sober for 23 years at the time of the Bon Bon. I clearly remember the word "itch." I was probably 19 years old and had not started drinking yet. It hit me hard that a little rum in a Bon Bon could be such a trigger. I remember thinking, "that sucks for that guy." Now, I'm proud of him, so proud of his resilience.
My first sober traveling trip a success-I stayed dry! I leave tomorrow morning to go back to Egypt. It's been a fun trip, even without the Belgian beers. I had polar experiences with meeting up with old friends while here. I told my friend CG I was not drinking anymore and she took it in stride without asking any questions besides if I minded if she got a beer with dinner. Of course I didn’t mind and then her beer never showed up and she didn’t mind. Again, something I could never do. Her husband stopped drinking a few years back so I thought we might have some conversation about all of it but we didn’t. She didn’t ask many questions and we talked about other things-our adjustments to our second foreign-country, differences in our new schools and a bit the other friend I was going to meet up with and how his drinking has isolated him a bit in their new community. We worried about his drinking together. I did express my concern with meeting up with him and the other friends visiting him because of the drinking and she said she was available to meet up afterwards if I needed an exit plan. At first I wanted a therapy session with her when I told her I stopped drinking, full with “oh my God! That’s big! What’s going on….why? I’m so proud…” blah, blah, blah, me, me me. But I realized through writing this that her actions were more practically supportive than my desire to talk it out. She normalized the situation when we hung out and was there if I needed her. That is a friend indeed.
I left space to meet up with BT and TA. She texted me at 6am in the morning saying she was up and parched and we made plans for dinner later that night. But she canceled way after the time that we should have met for dinner. If I fill in the blanks: she got into Brussels the previous night and the group partied hard, she woke up really dehydrated and texted me before going back to sleep. They got a late start for their day trip, continued to drink, got back at 8pm and couldn’t handle much more. She texted me at 8:15pm, saying they were wiped out, sorry she was a bad friend but they were in for the night. I’ve done that many of times-tried to make multiple plans for the day and drinking prevented me from having the energy to have more than one plan a day. I was a bit relieved actually; we can always get on Skype to catch up and I don’t have a one-time encounter to try out a new dynamic with my old drinking friends.
I had a feeling they would flake, so I went to an afternoon movie with CG and her girlfriends and had a light dinner as I waited to hear from BT and TA. We went to see the movie, “Fifty-Shades of Grey.” What a guilty pleasure to see it with some lady friends and laugh at it and analyze it for its implications for young women and relationships with controlling men. We went out for pizza afterwards and no one drank…strange new world to realize that this is normal for people. If I were drinking, I would have ordered a drink and I bet that would have encouraged at least one or more of them to drink too. I would have been the drinking ringleader. I always was the one that was starting the party, many times without even realizing it. What I'm learning...
So exhausted at the end of my first Dry Anniversary. One month. 30 Days. Countless hours. How tired I feel today is a global feeling of the month itself. It's hard work being present all the time and having so many first sober experiences. I am tucker out. Time to go to bed!
Starting tomorrow it is definitely new territory for me-there is no way I have ever been dry for more than a month in over 18 years. Another milestone, another first. Yay me!
When I return to Egypt, I will have to celebrate this moment a little. But right now the biggest gift I can give myself is more than 8 hours of sleep.
Today wore on me a bit-I'm out of my bubble. I'm at an IB training at Brussels. I knew there would be Belgian beers and wines in all the restaurants but I did not expect there to be a wine and beer BUFFET at lunch! They don't skimp. My previous self would have done her best to get a good buzz on for the afternoon session. I would have taken a big pour of wine, gone back for seconds and then would have plotted about how to get more without anyone really noticing.
One realization I've had, is that along with the goal of getting buzzed, I would have thought of the "saving." Free wine? I have to get as much of that as possible! I'm such a cheap ex-drunk. I even thought that a little bit at dinner last night. I ordered the mussels and fries and it came with a free beer. What a waste to not drink it! Its free! But I asked for a soda water instead-still free. But not as cool as a free beer.
If I did have wine at lunch I would have been distracted and tired at the session, thinking about more booze and then after the session at the official reception I would have thrown back a couple glasses fast before settling into some conversations, drinking both beer and wine, and stayed until the end to take advantage of the free booze and then ordered more at dinner. I'm at about 6-8 drinks at this point? At least most of it was free my cheap-ass drunk self would say. And The school's paying for this too, hahahahaha.
Instead, 10 minutes into the reception I left with another participant who also wanted to walk back to the hotel in the daylight. A 45-minute walk through beautiful Brussels, a nice conversation, and I took myself out of scene that was starting to cause me strife-Belgian beers and wine everywhere, everyone seemed to be drinking but me. That can't be true but it felt like it. I started sweating the questions that might be asked and wanted out, and found a way out that was both social and healthy.
I'm back safe in my hotel bed. I'm going to walk to the the training again with the participant. It could be healthy book-ends to each day of training, a way to relax and re-energize instead of scouting out a pub and drinking in with strangers.
I'm at the Cairo airport, drinking a cappuccino and blogging! One idea that I fully embrace from the sober community is "the firsts" of sobriety. The most mundane thing can be the biggest shake-up or realization that it has been decades since I [fill-in-the-blank] sober. Airports are one of these experiences. Airports had become a place of luxury, excess, and pub crawls. Husband and I would book longer layovers to avoid stress and to allow us to bar hop around the airport-finding the perfect environment and the IPAs or types of wine we couldn't find in whichever developing nation we currently lived in. We would spend tons of money on booze and bar food and brush it off-it is the beginning/ending of vacation-we deserve it!! It was mostly fun, but then I was be so dehydrated on the plane, have to use the bathroom and be too foggy to read whatever beloved book I had planned to read for hours straight. Remorse usually set in: too much $$ spent and precious time lost reading on planes.
I'm traveling alone today and going back to my solo travel style of my early 20s when I was too poor to drink in airports. I will sit here with caffeine, reflect on my new dry experiences and read some of my book when I'm ready. I'm feeling good all of this.
When I'm feeling good, this all seems too easy. Stop drinking? No biggie! Just decided and here I am. Then I re-read yesterday's post or many of my previous posts and realize that I'm manic and really don't know how I feel about all of this. (and the obvious: I have never been successful at stopping my drinking before) It really is an experience that starts close, inside me and slowly my understanding and sharing is rippling out, little by little to my life. I image it to be like a little kid explore her world. First you know your house, then the yard and driveway, then the street, around the block...exploring out in rings from your home, from your center into the greater world. One step at a time when you feel ready.
My center: in my own head and my immediate actions.
First ring out: Husband and Dog Face
Second ring out: my inner circle friends
Third ring out to infinite: uncertain
So, I'm about to see old drinking friends and I feel really shaky about it. Too far out from my center.
Yesterday was so busy that I didn't make time to reflect or post. But the power is off again and here I sit with candles and Dog Face and some anxiety. This is day two of my first sandstorm. I liked the novelty of the sandstorm, a cool first experience, but it caused an 11 hour delay in my flight for a conference I have to attend. So stressful, I so wanted a whisky as I searched the web and called airlines to try to figure shit out. Instead I ate ice cream and peanut butter, using pieces of dark chocolate as a spoon. Sober indulgences! And now I have a stomach ache. But I did luck out and get things sorted before the power went out.
As for the title of today's post. In Brussels I will meet up with some old teacher friends who are big party people. I made plans to meet up with them before I stopped drinking, and now I feel a bit out of sorts. I want to see them, maybe for dinner, but after that I know it won't be fun to be around them and dangerous for me. And how to tell them I'm not drinking. Should I be casual? "I'm not drinking now...health stuff" and let the questions come and not dampen their party mood? Or be straight up and say, "I stopped drinking so I'll just be joining you for dinner" or say nothing and keep ordering club sodas? Can I even muster the phrase, "I don't drink anymore." That is conclusive. I can barely say that to myself, this past tense of drinking. I don't know, I don't know.
I'm also traveling with a collegue, when we go out to dinner and she wants wine, do I say I'm a non-drinker (another version of I don't drink anymore)? Just say none for me tonight? I don't know how much to reveal and how to just act natural. Not every one drinks with every meal, it is not strange, it is not strange. IT IS NOT STRANGE. It is strange for me, at 38, to not have drink with dinner.
Then I think about the new people I will meet in the future, what will I tell them? And then a thought crossed my mind and I heard myself say, "I used to be a lot of fun when I drank, but don't any more." Am I mentally preparing for apologizing for not drinking anymore?!?! Ugh! Gross! See? One of many problems I have with my drinking is I still associate it with enjoying life, being a adventurous, liberated woman not being a square (very important). Unconsciously, I feel I'm loosing those things about myself by not drinking and in association not being part of the crowd I find attractive, I am purposefully being a square. Sigh, I caught a glimpse of my 16-year mindset (just want to be cool...I'm a rebel....fuck fill-in-the-blank), That mindset of mine will take a lot of convincing that I am a non-drinker AND I'm fun and I'm me. And I'm not a square.