Today I was cleaning out an old Gmail account and I found this Google Doc I created. I last edited it on February 16, 2014. That is 11 months exactly prior my true Day 1 of Sobriety: January 16, 2015. Reading it over I can see that I was trying, really trying but not succeeding again to limit/control/stop my drinking. Until this time, I'm succeeding this time. I'm at 6 and a half months sober and feeling strong, solid, fucking happy about it. I ask myself why this time it stuck and it is because I made it my own this time: by writing about it here and by not asking others to be an active participant in controlling my behavior. I control my own behavior, not anyone else. Others can give me high-fives about it, but I don't rely on them for the strength to resist a drink.
Here's the content of my Google Doc contract with myself:
Is Drinking Worth The Cost?
Benefits of drinking:
Benefits of not drinking:
Costs of drinking:
Costs of not drinking:
My drinking Goals:
Made Sunday February 9, 2014.
Hi good friends,
As you know, I like to drink and I like to drink with you guys. And you also know that I’ve been struggling with my relationship with alcohol for some time. I drink more than I want to way too often and feel physically sick the whole next day and that leaves me depressed, unmotivated and ashamed of myself. I need to cut back on my drinking, as I’m not ready to stop drinking completely at this point. Please help me by acknowledging and supporting the goals that I have made today and plan to keep until May 18, 2014.
I know that this probably is annoying... the loss of such an awesome drinking buddy. I may have to decline social gathering at times if I’m not feeling up to being around alcohol, as I know that my abilities to have only “a drink” at a big gathering usually doesn’t work for me.
Overall, I feel a bit silly asking for help, I’m not a “raging alcoholic,” but I need it as I continue to fall short of the promises I make myself about my drinking. This more public goal is the first step to acknowledge that I haven’t handled moderation very well, and that is very scary for me to consider that I might need to become a non-drinker one day...first step cutting back right now. And I’ll see how that goes.
Here are my goals:
Thanks for the love & support,
I Will Start With Water
Well, that didn't last the 3 months until my birthday, I can tell you that! Again, because I externalized the lotus of control from the beginning, I allowed myself to fold when they didn't hold up their end--offering me drinks, or giving me a look, whatever it was that had me saying, "fine already, gimme a drink!" And when I say "their end" it is as though it is if was a fair deal, like a contract I made with my friends. I was asking them to hold one side of my shit. No wonder it didn't work!
I'm back in Cairo, unscathed, ready to reflect on summertime in my old haunts where all my friends and family had plenty of drinks on hand to welcome me home.
I experienced again and again people responding to my drinking with a "oh, ok." and then thinking what they can offer me instead to drink. Like myself as a drinker, they often didn't have much or anything on hand. I used to drink: soda water, all sorts of booze and coffee. Finito. I bought myself an adorable portable cooler (lunch size) and a reusable ice pack to bring my own supplies of soda water and any other drinks I might want. This made the host feel less guilty about not having something for me, and me less sadness about drinking the dreaded tap water all night. I have come to hate plain old tap water. Add some bubbles or a splash of lime, then I guzzle it. My portable party bag makes me really happy. My soda water won't be mistaken as a mixer ever again!
So was not drinking hard? No, actually it wasn't. I enjoyed my company, I remember our conversations, I felt present and connected. I made sound decisions about food, sleep and plans.
Was being around heavy drinkers annoying? At times. There were so many conversations, plans and concerns about what to drink and how/when/where to get more to drink. Beer in hand at all times. Many compliments and discussions about how great said beer tasted and comparisons to other beers. People really do act like addicts about drinking Quite boring. I felt liberated. Freed from it all.
Such a better day today. All the drinking boys stayed respectable, drinking steadily, but no one took it too far, we stayed together in our enjoyment of the day. Dad took Husband, Visiting Friend and I out on his boat. We toured around seeing so many dolphins and a huge oil rig. We got to jump off the boat into refreshing beautiful water. It was a great outing!
We went to a new restaurant and then hung out and watched and laughed together about the craziness of Trump and Reilly's commentary on it all.
Much better today.
First and second day Dad paced with husband, we had fun. Yesterday and today, he got all slurry drunk, as he does.
The longer I stay on my visit the more my eye focus in on the signs of his alcoholism. These newly sober eyes. Yesterday he only ate breakfast and then drank all day. Today sitting next to him in the bar I noticed he had deformities on his nose - he has a real gin blossom! He talks of his ailing health with a sigh, claiming it sucks to get old. He has nothing in his fridge besides condiments and beer. He upper arms are so skinny and his belly big. Drinking is definitely shortening his life.
It makes me so sad to bear witness to it while smiling and being the devot daughter that came to visit him so he can introduce me to all his friends. I felt so embarrassed and obligated to meet him drunk at the bar at 6pm today with Husband and Visiting Friend (Came here to see us from Bogotá) Dad slurring, his same stories and questions on repeat every 5-10 minutes. He proudly introduced me to his favorite bartenders and told me their whole backgrounds as though they are his good friends. He tries to be funny and chummy by gossiping and telling inappropriate jokes that are often bigoted and misogynistic. Embarrassing. Sad. Will not be me.
There is nothing I can do that will change his behavior, and I don't try because if I do, he will write me off as another female that tried to tell him what to do and I would loose the relationship that I do have with him. I know he cares about me deeply but it has been limited so severely by boundaries of his drinking.
Going to bed saddened. Going to bed so thankful that I'm sober.
I am deep in drinking culture down here in South Padre Island with Dad and his friends. But is it going just fine, actually.
At dinner, the neighbors invited us over to try some of their fancy Scotch that they had a long story about. The woman next to me specifically asked me if I liked Scotch and I said I did, but that I don't drink any more, and my Dad, Husband , and three of my dad's friends were listening. I said I was taking a break from drinking because got tired of the hangovers that would last all day and I wouldn't want to do anything. One of the other guys said he quit drinking for three months and it wasn't so bad...which I took to him relying and accepting me without the drink. Some one else they could understand why I would want to quit drinking. They were nice about it and didn't make me into a joke.
And that was how I told my dad I stopped drinking.
Later that night Dad actually asked me about it again and I explained myself my motives a bit more. I was happy that he brought it up and we could talk about it. It showed me that he was listening and that it wasn't going to be an unawknowlwgable topic. It went well.
Summer has been packed with social events, I have not made sufficient time to reflect as I go on this blog but I've been keeping mental notes, checking in with myself as I go about my days.
I'm now in the Houston Airport waiting for the connecting flight to Brownsville, TX where I will visit with my dad for a week.
I'm not sure how this week will go for me emotionally. I know there will be lots of bad tv while Dad and Husband drink. We will go to the Pro Shop everyday where Dad's friends drink for happy hour(s). A friend of Husband and I is visiting for half the time as well with the battle cry,
"I'm down for whatever you guys want to do, as long as sobriety is not on the list."
Well, you can see how my week might be if I let it get me down and isolate me. I plan to exercise every morning and meditate, focus on the food, and make as much meaning out of the precious time I have with both Dad and my friend JTM.
Here I am on my 6 month anniversary flying straight to one of the sources of my dysfunctional drinking, and it wasn't even planned!
Wish me luck!
Portland is a place of old friends. Old friends who know me, which means when we make plans for lunch they suggest a new brewery that I should try. A friend did that, via text messaging plan making and my first response was: "sure!" not wanting to make it about me and feel awkward texting something about not drinking...
Then I thought about it the next day and decided that 1) I don't want to go to a brewery, 2) If I was in her place and she sat down at the brewery and said, "I don't drink anymore but go ahead" I (as her) would have felt terrible: "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME, WE COULDN'T HAVE EATEN SOMEWHERE ELSE!" and guilty finished the previously ordered microbrew. I would hate to be caught off guard like that.
I've concluded that while it may not be a big deal to others that I'm not drinking, no one likes surprises in these circumstances. Husband patiently listened as I brainstormed ideas about what to text back and here's how it went:
Me: "Hi! I was looking at the website of 10 Barrel and couldn't find what food they serve...is it good? I ask because I stopped drinking and would be focused on the food and the company :) not the brew"
Her: "Ha! And I just started cause I've started to wean. How about Thai? I like Khao San on 15th and Flanders."
Me: "Sounds great, but you know you can drink all you want with me, I just won't join in!"
Her: "Thanks! Was more thinking about the food. Ten Barrel is pretty pub grubby. After the 4th of July I'm ready for some rice!"
Me: "Cool, see you tomorrow. I haven't had good Thai in 10 months"
Okay for a first text message confession about not drinking. I seem to feel the need to assure people they can drink around me, I don't want people to feel bad about their drinking around me, but maybe I need to stop promoting people to drink around me.
On the 4th of July I told both my sister-in-law and mother-in-law that I'm not drinking anymore. In both incidences it went fine. I know mother-in-law must be very curious but she hasn't built up the courage yet to ask more questions. Mother-In-Law asked on the way home, when I talked about how tired I was (we just arrived from 24 hours of travel the day before) and she asked if I had anything to drink. So I said no, I stopped drinking a few months ago...better for my health, mumble mumble.
I've actually had a sinking feeling she already knew because all of our mail gets sent to her house because we live aboard, and she opens some of it to see if there important things we need to know about - which I find uncomfortably exposed - and a couple of days ago I saw that she opened the receipt for the registration of this domain name, iwillstartwithwater.com. I assumed she got curious and googled it and has been following my very public personal journey since. But maybe not, since she asked about me not drinking and isn't super into tech...who knows.
I know this is out there, publicly, but my initial feeling was as if she might have read my diary and didn't tell me. I like the idea of people who need my stories finding this in their search for community and support. It is different feeling when Mother-In-Law might be secretly following along with my journey because she opened my mail. I know she wouldn't have found this on her own and she isn't one of my inner circle friends invited in for my own accountability and support.
Started the day off positively with a jog, even before my morning coffee, of course listening to the Bubble Hour. The show was about isolation in recovery and how isolation can be caused by triggers and lead to relapse. One conversation I related to was that isolation isn't just physical but mental, and can start as soon as you think of yourself as outside or separate from others. It was a helpful dialog as I prepared for the day: the 4th of July BBQ.
Let me count the triggers:
During my run I thought that I would go shopping for a mini-cooler to carry my special drinks-no luke warm soda water or flat tap water to starting my pity party of isolation. A great plan that gives me one more tool to feel good about today and all the gatherings I will go to in the near future. I feel also conjure up my lessons from meditation app I have been using, I love "Head Space!" I will be present and focused and objective when I check in with how I'm feeling during the day. Bring it on!
Below are notes I took as I listened to the 2nd half of the Bubble Hour while on a 10-hour fight from Frankfurt to San Francisco.
-Busyness (hamster wheel) is a form of numbing out, another way to keep boredom at bay and the feelings clamped down that might percolate up when the mind isn't occupied.
-we stay too busy to feel.
-Soldiers returned from war report profound boredom. Post drinking can be boring because the chaos surrounding drinking is gone.
-Sign of friendship - don't have to be the perfect host, to entertain. Sharing the moment is enough.
-Recovery - we rise up to the level of our training. Prepare and practice for future triggers.
-Don't "should" yourself. See some of my current shoulds:
-improve my Arabic
-learn to play bridge!?!
-eat a salad for one meal a day
-Eats some sweets during a booze craving-hits pleasure center and ice cream or sweets often doesn't compliment alcohol like salty snacks (cheese and crackers begs for wine)
-Arrive where you are going with something for yourself-people may not have anything for adult non-drinkers. Keeps isolation and resentment down-who wants just to drink tap water all night?