It’s amazing how just committing to writing about not drinking works for me! For now anyways, until it gets hard again. I was just telling Husband that maybe a rule I should follow is that I can drink in countries that I don’t live in. Would I want that? Would that open me up to slippery slope? Would that just make me hungover throughout my vacations? Why do I need to drink at all?
I am considering this option I must admit. But before I decide, I need to read through my old blog journey to here in order to remind myself where I have come from. Do I need any drink in my life to be contented with myself and my life? Do I need a pressure release a few times a years to allow for a simple pleasure?
Today was Family Fun Day at our school. An all day school event that was mandatory attendance. I didn’t get any of the beers on tap and it was “forced fun” but I still managed to have an enjoyable time.
I went right through Hump Day forgetting to write. I guess that is a good thing? Work keeps me in the present moment and then after work I made dinner: Chinese broccoli with beef and ginger. After that I couldn’t bring myself to work more, since today I will be at work until 8:30pm for a talent show, so I went to get my nails done. The lady was overly detailed and it took two whole hours! I was thankful that had headphones and battery life to listen to audio book.
I’m listen to “Big Brother” my Lionel Shriver, which is about a sister-brother relationship after he comes for a visit and shows up close to 300 lbs. There are addition issues, fat politics, underbellies of families and relationships woven it. I recommend it.
So yesterday was filed and drinking didn’t enter my mind. Today I will get home after my bedtime, so I feel safe. Especially since I has mostly kept the rule of not drinking at home during my 3-month experiment. What is next is negotiating the week-end. We have a two campus K-12 staff and family event on Saturday, mandatory attendance and free flowing wine and beer. Standing around at forced social event with drinking staff members will be my next test.
Day 3: Tuesday
In Egypt Tuesday was Hump Day, halfway through the work week and so a hurtle to dryly cross over. It is Tuesday here in China, which is like any Tuesday. I’m feeling okay today about the not drinking. There was a slight pang of outsiderness and loss when my boss slumped into my couch and said, “God I need a beer” and I thought “Yeah, me too…oh, no, not me too.” I’m back to the re-think and re-direction of what sooths me during stressful times. Without booze I have to ask myself what will really help me to have some release, escape or bolstering. For me, booze is the lazy way to feel like I’m treating myself, but then the next day I’m thrown back into the same mix with a hangover that led me to want to drink in the first place. Sound familiar, self?
What will I do to relieve myself from the stresses of the day?
My Tuesday night looks pretty good in list-form. My world looks full, diverse, interesting. Way more interesting than eating a pizza and drinking 3 pints of IPA at the local Irish Pub, right?
It’s a rainy Monday morning in Guangzhou, China. I am bus blogging again so I have a friend to start the journey anew. I feel, unknown witnesses, that I need to expand a bit about why I want to quit again at the same emphasis that I have not been out of control since I started drinking again. I would venture that I have only gotten drunk a few times in the last three months. But the changes in me I haven’t liked and the stress of holding my own lines feel too much to bare indefinitely. How many times can I say no? How much effort to I want to put into negotiating the terms of my rules and exceptions. There are always exceptions.
Some of the rules I tried and their success rates:
Changes I didn’t like seeing:
Hello old friends. I'm back. Back for many reasons, but the main reason is that I started drinking again and now I want to stop. Blogging it out worked last time to take one step at a time, maybe it can work this time as well.
Why did I start drinking again?
That is what I have to tease out, but on the surface I really did think that I could re-enter the world of drinking and do alright. I wanted to be less extreme, more in the mix, casual. I didn't drink for 2 1/2 years and it seemed enough of reset button. I was in a new country, a new context and new desire to be out in the world and make friends. I live in China now instead of Egypt. The bar scene here is cool, IPAs and good wines compared to the regular shitty alcohol of Egypt. I wanted to be part of that world.
Why do I want to stop again?
I've been back in the world of drinking and drinkers for 3 months now and I've had enough. I see where this is going for me. But strangely, and I do really think it is strange, it feels hard to stop. It seems like it shouldn't be hard to stop because I've done it before and came to love it. The benefits still outweigh the losses, so what's the deal? Well, as you know, drinking is easy. It makes you friends. It's fun. Until its not fun the next day. I made up rules, adjusted them when I broke them, but did alright for for the most part. Until I didn't. I get hungover so easily too, and for the whole day. Like now. I'm hungover right now and will be all day because I drank 4 tasty IPAs last night.
I can't concentrate very well to even write this. I have so much I want to say but can't organize my thoughts because I'm hungover for the second day in a row. I'm not proud of myself. But here I am right? Day 1, the last day of hangovers, the first day of getting back to the business of being me. Me without the drink.
I spend my evenings figuring out work around to numbers that don't pick up my weird international numbers, transferring my way through back to the nurses' station after we are disconnected for the 4th time because wifi and 3G is having another bad day in Egypt. I worry. I feel helpless. I feel far away.
My my dad is so sick with pneumonia that he can't talk. He let the infection fester for so long before going to the hospital that it caused his kidneys to fail and he is now "on" (is that the word?) dialysis. It is heart breaking. And hearing the nurses talk about health, calming describing how the COPD, the congestive heart failure and the hypertension in combination with pneumonia has led to his kidneys to fail causes such a panic, freezing pain in my chest that I almost vomit.
And then It turns to anxious energy. My way to cope with the emotions and the helplessness and the waiting is to take actions in other ways. It is a release. When I was drinking this week would have been long nights of drinking to self sooth, to embody the emotional pain-it seems to distance them zoom in in pain works to really keep for seeing it for what it really looks like.
Instead of drinking, I did some smoking, on the porch, talked to nurses, rearranged the living room and front room furniture, made jambalaya, made cards to send my dad, texted the firefighter that dad more sick than ornery. I talked with Husband about how to be a good daughter, how to love my dad in a way he can see and accept, how to honor his terms for how he wants to wrap up his life...when it comes. I feel I failed my mom as she was dying, I want to do better this time, but the rules are different.
Im almost to work, the bus blogging, the dwelling on my state will be paused. Work does draw me into the present: puts a spotlight on problems to solve, actions, movement, other's issues.
By the vague rules I set, as to not commit too much, I think I have partial success. I have smoked, repeatedly, but outside! And not-as-often-because-it-isn't-in-my-face.
But that isn't what I really want to talk about, I'm okay with my "failure". Yep, quotes around failure. I don't feel bad. It isn't like tripping up with drinking, that was a problematic state that needed a turnaround. I did that, I continue that, I'm so much better for that. This is minor, fine tuning of my wellness disguising the underlying need to improve myself, prove myself, drive myself...instead being able to love myself.
I'm currently listening to the book Present Over Perfect and relate to author Shauna Niequist's take to the root of her pushing, achieving, proving competency exhausting lifestyle: self loathing. Running from the self loathing into external affirmation or numbness. I have worked a lot to dig into myself and rut around into what is lurking there. But it is a long conversation.
I'm back to my family and how they trigger my emotions, my sadness, my failures, my resentment. I got a text from my Dad's friend, the firefighter, that my Dad called himself an ambulance and went to the emergency room. (I'm so glad I mined th firefighter's phone number from their newsletter-did I tell you that story?)
I called the hospital and talk to the ER nurses and he is just having a hard time breathing and has an elevated heart rate. I'm told that dad can't talk to me because he has on an oxygen mask. Okay, fine. I call everyday and a couple days later he is moved to a regular room. The hospital connects me to his room, no answer. His cellphone has no answer. I talk to The Firefighter and he says, "your dad is refusing to talk to us, he's being ornery." And there it is reflected back at me: my dad can't handle the love of his friends and family; the concern and attention makes him uncomfortable, he probably says it is no big deal.
When I see this in my father, it makes me sad, I want to tell him, "let people love you, we care about you. Your wellbeing is a big deal to us." Can I do this for myself? Better than him, not good enough for healthy.
On the the other side of the family, emailed to my brother to tell him that dad is in the hospital and to wish his boy a belated happy birthday. The email I got back told me his son is now 6 and not 5. No acknowledgment that our dad is in the hospital.
All good on the smoke free trail, but those sneaky thoughts are creeping in: I will just smoke outside too, and I won't want to do it all the time, I can go back to smoking a pipe without the tobacco. I am a pretty amazing problem solver against my own set limits. I need to crystallize my goal a bit more; the pro and con list can help this too.
Ultimately, I don't like the daily tobacco intake. I'm mildly bothered by my ensuing laziness from the hash, but that isn't too big of a deal: I'm pretty productive most of the time. While I could say no to the Rollie, I find it so tempting because of the same ritualistic, calming, bonding characteristics that drinking has. It's sometimes to do while sitting around and chatting about the day. If I give stop completely the smoking the Rollies do I stop the shisha too? That isn't good for me either, but It isn't a daily or even weekly problem. Do I need to be this cut and dry? Am I getting neurotic and needing something to "work on"? Am I talking myself out of this because it's the drugs talking? ...I'm laughing at myself. I wish for moderation in everything, can I have it here? I wish not to be such a square, I wish to be healthy. Unnamed reader, you too have played this game with your mind.
Things I can conclude for now:
I didn't write yesterday but I thought about it and that kept me from smoking, both at the house and a shisha (which I haven't decided if I'm cutting out, but I had a jab of a headache behind my right ear just thinking about it) Thank you potential readers, one day at a time, one problem at a time.
I have been reminded again that I can't force those near and dear to change their habits to suit my needs. Let's cut to the chase: I can't make Husband change his habits to suit my needs. I have told him how difficult it is to be tempted by his constant rolling of cigarettes and smoking them in front of me. I asked him if he could just smoke outside. H said yes, but then sometimes he forgets and then jumps up guiltily. I don't want to be in charge of his actions, I don't want to have to remind him to do something each time. Or do I out of Principle that he is smoking in the house and tempting me? This is a new bad habit that started about 8 months ago. We never smoked in the house before that in our 10 years together. Now he is, I let it happen and joined in, and now I want it to stop.
Well then. Maybe I need to Pro and Con it. Even how I frame it leads to different results:
its between the last two, is the real issue the smoking in the house or that I want to stop smoking.? Easy answer is both. I never liked smoking in the house but I get too tired / lazy to enforce the rules against the actions of Husband. I find it exhausting to be the enforcer on household matters, this is one more of them.
But, this might be a good one to enforce, even though Husband claims this is an Egypt Specific Habit. Maybe it is, he can be like that. I'm out of time for the day. Pro and Con list will be milled about and captured in writing tomorrow.
So I'm back for a bit, with a new challenge that I'm hoping blogging can hold me accountable for quitting: Smoking. Smoking has crept into my evenings and week-ends and I want to stop and find that when presented, I can't resist. I had set myself up multiple times with different rules, new start dates to quit completely have not been able to keep that promise to myself. February 1 was the last nice round number that was going to be a fresh start, but that didn't work out, obviously. I wake up with headaches and ashtray mouth and claim "enough of this stupid habit!" in the morning, and then soon as I walk in the house in the evening, I can't wait for Husband to make a rollie. Repeat!
Happily I'm on Day 2 of not smoking. I started this blog on Day 2 of not drinking over 2 years ago. I just went through a lightening quick session of thoughts saying I should reward myself for that by having a rollie, that drinking was way more detrimental to my health than a couple of cigarettes a day....no foul. But the point is that I have fallen into the habit, I don't like this reliance on it and I can't keep my promise to myself to moderate.
Back to being on Day 2. All yesterday and most of today I've been thinking about and planning on blogging and those thoughts kept me from smoking: even thinking about accountability made me accountable to myself.
Why Day B instead of Day 2? Well, because it doesn't have the same heavy weight of needing the endless counting...Day 8?? of not drinking. At least I don't think it does, so I thought going through the alphabet once to mark the days over the blog might be all I need to cut out this bad habit. A-Z and then done. As I write this, it sounds dumb.
I've reached that magically date of two years. Why is it magical? I think because Mrs. D always talked about she wished she was at two years so her drinking years would be SO far behind her.
Well, I've reached that milestone! While exciting, while I want to grab people's arms and look them in the eye and say: "Can you believe it's been two years since I've had a drink?!?! Two years!" I still think the step into month two is more momentous for me. Stepping into Month Two was a true step into the dark for me, I had never gone that long without a drink before that moment. I was fragile, shaken in my identity and on a path into the unknown.
Now I'm at two years. What does that mean? I don't know. I still have moments of loss, of feeling left out, of having amnesia of why I'm extreme in the "all or nothing" stance of drinking. But I continue to "walk through the drink" and keep deciding that its best to stay on solid ground.
Husband and I travelled for New Years with old friends and the conversation came up about my not drinking. Of course, "do you miss it?" and "that sounds nice, but I could never do it" and "is it really forever?" was a part of the conversation. I've had that before. But both friends did bring up a fear of mine when they said they were both glad they knew me when I was a drinker, because if not they would be uncomfortable/intimated by my non-drinking. That's the worst! But that's a fact. Drinkers don't like non-drinkers around potentially and silently judging them. I've been there, saying, "fuck non-drinkers!" Even at two years and at 40 years old I have to keep telling myself: their insecurity is their problem not mine. Their insecurity says more about them then it does about me. AND if they want a 'safe' spot to drink without the prying eyes of a non-drinker, go for it, because it isn't that interesting and I'm not missing anything by not being there. That place isn't special when you see it from the outside, its a big sad actually. And You are annoying after 4 drinks.
On the morning of two years I am in London at a Job Fair. Yesterday Husband and I accepted jobs in Guangzhou, China. Husband celebrated with drinks and I celebrated with a lovely elderflower, soda and cucumber drink. I celebrated this morning by keeping my promise to myself to do yoga and say hello to my sober community. I'm celebrating by being grounded in the shake up of CHINA next year, celebrating the choice of growth instead of fear. Celebrating with clear eyes and mind about who I am and what brings me meaning in my life.
Thank you to Athalia for writing a blog comment to bring me back here! I haven't written and I haven't been drinking either. Living a life of soda water, self respect, yoga, good sleep and fun with people who still drink. I couldn't ask for anything more really. I continue to be in a really good spot with myself and because of that the ups and downs that life brings me are taken in stride.
This blog is about to expire, and I can't decide if I should pay to keep it active...it is just sitting here. I don't feel the need to write because the not-drinking isn't a central concern anymore, but, but might this blog sitting here be needed for someone on a day one at any point? Can my notes of the walk into the dark of a new identity and rediscovering myself be a service to others?
I just listened to a Terry Gross interview with Sarah Hepola, the author of Blackout. Wow! Sarah was able to articulate so well her motives for drinking and really owned her behavior without the shame I carry around. I cringed at my own memories that run parallel with hers. I was also comforted by her explanation and reveal at how often she blacked out. I blacked out very often, even when I thought I hadn't drank very much, which of course is relative, right?
I haven'r read Sarah's book, but now it is out in paperback...maybe I should add it to the ever growing reading list for summer. Anyone read it?
On May 18 I will be 40. On May 16 I will have 1 year and 4 months of sobriety. Both milestones bring me joy for my accomplishments and anticipation for what's to come for the second half of my life.
At a year and 4 months I would say my identity and "transformation" to non-drinker status is a success and no longer in transition. I am here. This is me. My community has adjusted and when rounds of drinks are ordered my soda water gets thrown in the mix, no questions. I do find a bit of relief / pride that every once in a while a friend will say, "What? You don't drink? Ever? But I thought I saw you ...." This shows me my core self before and after the sobriety isn't all that different after all and people are not noticing I'm not drinking. I fit in to the fun even without a drink.
I will always have to monitor and do check ins with myself but outside of that I would say urges and dangers seem very distant and theoretical. Can I say I arrived? It feels like it, but 21 year olds feel like they have arrived at adulthood and we know that is only technically true.
Since my my last write back in Februry, my world of fun and healthy habits continues to expand. The biggest life changer is Street Dog Dolly. This little street dog took up refuge in our back yard. We started to leave out food for her, then put a blanket out there, then decided to spay her, then, then, then, the baby steps led her to fully inside. Just this week I've started taking her on morning walks with Dog Face. She is being crate training and learning the ropes of being civilized. She is adorable. A meek little cuddler that wormed her way into our pack by choosing us.
The other "about to be" change is that I want to re-learn the viola as my 40th birthday gift to myself. I stuck right now because I can't find a "C" string in Cairo thus far, only violin strings. Anyone stopping by Cairo and could bring me one? But with my 3 strings I squeaked out "Ode to Joy" by memory from when I learned it in 4th grade. I will get a string eventually, even if that means I have to wait until July when in Portland. Then, to find someone to give me lessons! I just know it will be true: when a student is ready, a teacher will appear.
I'm one string short, but I will be ready soon teacher, so make your way over this way.
I am chaperoning a trip with 22 high school students that has too much down time built in. They blast their "gangster" hip hop, loving to scream along with the profanities and the glorified life of sex, drinking and weed is core to the songs on repeat.
They are so obsessed with drinking, often asking us American adults questions to see how we will respond. Most of them are Muslim kids on this trip, which adds one more layer of sinful allure to drinking and overtly sexualized behavior. They want to mimic the life in music videos and all of the drama they see there is cool to them. They want to loose control and be lost in the moment in the ways tv is showing them. Alcohol and drugs are glamorous and essential to be cool.
It has been nice to be able to honestly say that I don't drink, but of course they probably don't believe me or think I'm other worldly in my boringness. In moments like these I am reminded how grateful I am that I have shattered that glamorous allusion of alcohol. I recognize that they are 23 years younger than me and that it took me 22 years to fully change my relationship with alcohol, ultimately severing all ties.
I feel a bit helpless against the overwhelming force of drinking within societal norms. Because I struggled to pull myself away from a life centered around alcohol, I don't know how to realistically warn kids. Alcohol is a sneaky one to pin down. I hope that the kids are faking it, they see the allusion and parroting it back and not merely setting themselves up to enter that world.
Here we are a month later from my last post. I am a terrible blogger! Unreliable and not updated regularly. Until I started this blogged I didn't think too much about the time, dedication and energy it takes to blog-it-out successfully. Thanks bloggers, I respect the work you do.
I look back at my first few months on this journey and see that I was blogging everyday. Everyday! I can't imagine finding the time to do that now, even my bus rides to work are full with such enjoyable reading space that I can't bear to rip myself away from my alternate worlds. Yet, I think about blogging and what would I write about almost daily. It's like a little check in on my own state. Do I have something to process? To I have anything to share about being sober rat this point, right now? And usually, I'm pretty meh about what is going on. It all seems so minor compared to where I passed through those first 5-6 months.
But there are new developments, new snags and old flashes of "fucking forever?" And of great desires for a drink that knocks me over at times.
The questioning of how long I have to "do this" comes when I feel overly confident that I wasn't a problem drinker or when I miss the culture of being part of that crowd. But this is less and less, and I still can mentally walk myself through the drink and see that the end results are not desirable and I turn to less damaging vices: shisha, chocolate, soda water (when available)
A couple of months ago I was making bread that called for some beer. I used that cup of beer and pour the rest of it into a glass for Husband. And then I took a sip of it. Yep, a sip. And it did taste good! And then I thought through the drink and realized I haven't once ordered a non-alcoholic beer, so I must not love the taste that much. I do believe I associate the taste with all the other stuff My body loved about drinking. Pavlovian for sure.
Why didn't I blog about this sip earlier? I considered it, but then thought it wasn't a big deal to me and that by writing about it, it would make it a big deal. And I realized that I feared being judged by some my made-up fascist AA'ers that would now say that I relapsed because of that sip or just as bad that this is the first slip to the path of relapse - "they" are just waiting for me to be another statistic of failure. And I just am not that. I am successfully finding my way just fine by my own terms. So those self-created AA haters can shove it, I'm living the dream.
I have one day into my 2nd year of sobriety, today. I can't believe a whole year has taken place since my first day into sobriety. I cringe a bit when I look back my volatile state during the first few months. But hey, that's where I had to start to get here. Right here, where I can forget I'm so different than I was a year ago. I am who I've become over the last year.
Yesterday I hosted a small book club on the book The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. Great book for discussion, not related to sobriety. But all day I was cleaning and cooking, on my one year anniversary, and about 10 minutes before the door bell rang, I realized we didn't have any wine in the house or really anything to drink besides soda water and whisky. Oops, bad sober host move. I started some ice tea and the ladies seemed just fine.
A-year-ago-me would have had piles of drinking options and had everyone with a bevie before they got their coats off. Now I forget about other people's drinking needs. A couple years ago I would have thought a dry book club would be the worse thing ever, actually, a dry baby shower is really the worst. But I've been that bitch who complained after a dry book club or shower about the lack of drinks and how awkward it was to just sit around talking. I find most of life less awkward and less boring now; drinking amplified my awkwardness and boredom. But I still mostly dred showers of any kind.
I always thought that the war on drugs could be ended if there was just a vaccination for addiction. If I had children, I would choose to vaccinate them against addiction along with other life changing protections.
I hoped that without the physical need people wouldn't overdose, rob, kill and all other sorts of terror for their next fix. I didn't think people would stop doing all drugs, but they would do them as recreation only; on their terms, which would have a clear line where the fun stopped and the alter state abandoned for sleep and water. What would the world look like without addiction?
While it isn't as easy or clean as a futuristic vaccination against the "addict gene," but there appears to be drugs that dampen the addiction and take away the euphoria of highs of all kind. I HAD NO IDEA THEY ALREADY EXISTED. That statement is in all caps because in all my reading about alcoholism I never ran across that there was a medical solution and that is a problem. So many people are looking for all sorts of inlets of help, and these drugs should be widely known as part of a package of support.
In this episode of Radio Lab, they discuss these drugs, how they work, and why they aren't offered by doctors to people who are struggling with addiction. The drugs do work for the physical addiction but there is still resistance to seeing alcoholism as a physical, treatable problem instead of a moralistic failure. Similar to how mental health was mostly ignored by the medical community until recently, addiction has been boxed off as something for psychologists to handle, not the medical doctor. Both are needed for people.
You should listen to this radio show, or research drugs that help mute the cravings if you are struggling to stay clean and dry. While AA works for some, it isn't the only way. http://www.radiolab.org/story/addiction/
A thought I had while listening to this story was about how much alcohol and drugs becomes a part of identity for people. The guy in the story stopped taking the drugs for a while because he didn't quite feel himself without drinking. They worked for the physical, but not for the psychological/emotional attachments to alcohol. I related to that, it is only a small pull now, but it is still there for me.
I also thought about my dad, who would never think he needed help with his drinking. If I lived with him, could I secretly give these pills to him and what would that do to him? Would that be a violation of his rights, adding in a pill to the handful of pills he takes each day? It might be nightmarish for him though, a bad trip where the booze becomes unappealing and then there isn't anything to keep it all suppressed and himself even keeled in the ways he's known for decades.
I'm on a train to Barcelona, having finished the week reunion with my friends. Of course my fears were unfounded. When I brought up I haven't drank in a year there was mild surprise and then lots of "good for you!" And "I need to cut down on my drinking" from a couple of peeps. Then things moved on to stories and laughs and where we were going next.
I enjoyed my time with them more than ever since I was so very present for all of it. I love these guys! It was so great to be with a group of friends where we have history together and we all expressed that we haven't yet found a community of similar depth in our new posts or where we all came from since. I felt in my skin, unjudged and part of.
We walked all over Madrid, eating everything and eating often. Everyone else has wine or beer each stop and I enjoyed their superior soda water (I'm serious) or red tea. Each spot we stopped for a drink and tapas, so through out the day I just got more and more HYDRATED and satiated with jámon iberico. I'm definitely bringing some back with me.
I didn't get a chance to feel morally superior with my water drinking since my soda waters or tea cost the same as beer or wine. Ultimately it is good that consumption is cheap, but I do like to feel that I'm saving money with my lack of drinking. But I'm still saving my health!!
Not everyone was into New Year Resolutions like I am, but everyone participated in the Spanish tradition to make 12 wishes and eat 12 grapes within the first 12 seconds of the new year. Here is was I wished for:
12 Wishes for 2016
1. Pain free running
2. Good financial decisions
3. Travel to Asia
4. Stress free job hunt
5. Back bends & handstands
6. Depth over breadth
7. Speak Arabic more
8. Stay under 140 lbs
9. Practice generosity
10. Express love more to friends and family
11. Quality time with the dog
12. Read more non-fiction
I didn't put any wishes of things that I'm currently doing and want to continue, like sobriety. I see that as a given and not some to wish upon but to live.
It's the day after Christmas and I'm on a plane to Spain to meet up with old friends from Colombia.
These are dear friends and I can't wait to see them. But they are the good friends during the 4-years of my heaviest drinking, and they were there drinking with me. I'll be curious to see if they drink as much as I remember them drinking....as much as me, or if I assumed they were pacing with me or was I setting the pace? I'm never sure looking back.
These are the friends where we stayed for 3 hours at a bottomless champaign brunch because they kept pouring. We had spilt drinks, a crier, and ended up tipping with a counterfeit bill.
They were drinking with me the day before I woke up drunk for work filled with anxiety. I woke up Husband to reassure me I was ok, I felt like I was in a nightmare. I went to work and realized there I couldn't hold a conversation and couldn't function in the real world. I think JT called that state dreamscaping. It was the first time I called in sick to work because of drinking.
They were there when we overstayed our welcome at our favorite Mexican restaurant where one of us was drunk enough to lose his wallet then blame the waiter for stealing it.
They drank road sodas in taxis with me. They always brought two bottles of wine each for a dinner party, because "who are we kidding?"
We cooked feasts together, laughed and laughed at our own expense and of course others' expenses. We kept a warm fire blazing during the cold damp Sundays and drank and ate away the dread of Monday morning.
We rented fincas in the Colombian countryside to cook and drink poolside. There was beer pong but with whiskey. There were morning appropriate drinking with brunch, beers or crisp white wines during the hot day by the pool, cocktails before dinner and more wine with dinner, and any range or repeat of drinks after dinner until some sort of craziness said it was time for bed.
Great memories, yes. Great friends, yes. Great drinkers, yes!
I'm not nervous about being not drinking around them. I'm not worried that I won't have fun. I'm not concerned about our friendships. I am bracing for seeing the disappointment in their faces that I no longer drink. I fear that my sober state will act as a damper to their fun. They are reflective, sensitive and emphatic friends. I don't want them to overcompensate on my behalf.
I'm probably overthinking all of this as usual. Hence while I capture and release my reminders of history and my fears so I won't be caught off guard in the moment and out of my element.
I'm going to Spain to see my friends in a new place. I will eat delicious food, see beautiful sights and art, laugh at my friends' ridiculous stories, make precious memories and most importantly-remember all the details, have no regrets and no hangovers to ruin a day in Madrid.
I can't believe that I'm almost to a year without drinking. I'm back to thinking that I don't like the word sober - I just don't drink. "None for me, thanks!" In many ways my life hasn't changed all that much, on the surface I do still have the same friends, go to parties, sit around shooting the shit and have people bring me soda waters as they buy rounds. I'm social and sociable.
Even this month a new teacher was really surprise when I said I didn't drink when he offered me something. He swore he remembered me drinking a beer back in August as proof that I did indeed drink. But I didn't have that beer, but I like that I'm not remembered as the sober one, I don't have a scarlet "S" hanging around my neck. I take this as evidence that I have remained myself throughout this process. My fears of being labeled as self-righteous, boring, outside, different just haven't happened. I bet it helps that I don't make a thing about it, don't get offended or remind people that I don't drink when they offer me a drink. Again that is because I don't need help with saying no, I don't rely on others knowing to hold me in place. THAT is the liberty of my mindset, others can be theirselves around me and that allows me to be myself. I can't explain why I am able to be that way. I can pour drinks for others, buy it, talk about it fondly. But it doesn't cause me to have internal struggles or to spiral out of control.
On the inside, I continue to feel stable, balanced, energized and healthy. By now I've lost over 20 pounds even with my increased ice cream intake. My skin keeps getting better and better. Sleep is a joy not a source of anxiety. I have energy enough for work, my husband, dog, social life and personal care and growth. I have started volunteering at a dog shelter, finally! I brought 17 students on a week-end to walk dogs and learn about the shelter. It was powerful and heart-warming and wrenching at the same time. I still might reach my goal of my 39 hours of volunteer work by my 40th birthday after all.
Not drinking has not be in the forefront of my mind in the last few months, which I guess means it has become normal for me. But I do recognize that I don't feel and call up the gratitude that I used to my first few months into sobriety. I am grateful, but it isn't as prominent or emotional. I need to make a point of that more. Even writing this long over due blog post is a reminder of how grateful I am for this life, this 11th month anniversary, this time off of work to recharge. Thank you.
I still wonder if this is a forever state of being. I'm not so confident that can claim forever forever. There are still moments when a drink seems a perfect compliment for the memory of the moment, or to share the bond of friends over the rare scotch. But those moments are rare and fleeting right now. I'm thankful for that too.
I'll close by saying thank you again to all the higher powers. One of my yoga instructors closes the class with this: "the very highest and brightest in me bows down and recognizes the very highest and brightest in you. Namaste"
I've had 10 different months to celebrate my journey so far. The first month felt like such a huge accomplishment, the next few months anniversaries weren't as monumental but that time was so full of strive and work to get to know myself again. Not I'm at 10 months and it feels like a big deal again. Maybe it is the double digits, maybe it is the cumulative effects of feeling great, but I'm looking to celebrate where I stand.
So in the last 10 months what has changed:
The downfalls of 10 months sober? None when I think thought the affects of actual drinking. I still hang out with my drinking friends the same, maybe leaving a bit more early from gatherings. Sometimes boredom because I can't escape with drinks, but I've been bored when drinking too. So, no regrets.
Because of the Islamic New Year we had a day off from work so made plans with friends to go out for a nice dinner. An event, since it was out of the neighborhood in traffic, the place with great food, ambience AND foreign alcohol.
We arrived and when checking in for our reservation the mater'd reminded us that all establishments are dry because of the Islamic New Year. The reactions of my friends to this news was quite interesting to watch. There was anger and blame, "Why didn't they tell us when we made the reservation?" And there was consideration of just going home.
We ended up staying, they tried to order wine anyways and talked to the manager, hoping for expat consideration or this-is-Egypt-and-laws-are-suggestions but to no avail.
And then we all had fun anyways. I would have had my sober fun anyways, but listening to them talk through having fun despite not having booze was interesting...I know what they were going through. We had shisha, mezze, green tea with mint and coffees after dinner. Everyone was astonished that the bill was half the expected price because 3-4 but titles of wine wasn't ordered. Instead of find another bar, we went back to one of the couple's apartments and played a game, ate snacks, and watch the Cubs beat the Cardinals. They had drinks then, but there was lots of conversation about how fun our night was, better to come back early and hang out at home, better that there wasn't alcohol available that night.
I wasn't "glad" for the sober company. I do admit that I had a one second bitter thought "welcome to my world" when we were told that there wasn't any alcohol. But I don't really mean that, because I love my world, and I'm not in a sober sad prison. Then I had a second annoyed thought, "fuck, it's just one dinner without a drink people," and then got over that too.
I realize that if everyone knew there was no alcohol we would not had had that night together. Can even said at some point, this is one of the most fun nights I've had in Cairo, seriously." Possible without alcohol but not possible with intentional for most.
I had a great time throughout: new experience of a river taxi on the Nile, instead of scary, sweaty taxi in horrific traffic. Being part of a group where I felt accepted and at ease. Dressing up for a couple's dinner. Laughing and hanging out at someone's place.
My 8th month anniversary has come and gone without any fanfare. I'm just rolling with it, not thinking about not drinking. I am fine in social situations, I can talk about why I don't drink anymore, I've lost 15 pounds, I just feel healthy. All good.
But I do find the smell of whisky can be a trigger. Last night it was, and I thought in secession, "I got this [not drinking think]! Maybe I should have one drink." And then went through a quick thought conversation about how I have a self-imposed sanction on my drinking, no one would see me as if I fell off the wagon because I didn't seem to need to be on the wagon in the first place. I could just drink every-once-in-a-while and not be so extreme with "the none ever." One shot would get me nice and buzzed, that's all. I got it under control now.
Just in writing out my thoughts, I see how it wouldn't work out well, how it isn't worth the risk of diving back down into that life. Why the pull when the benefits are so small compared to the drawbacks? Why last night?
Some of that I could answer: Boredom. Isolation. Outlet.
I feel so prudent. I miss the wilded out fun that drinking induces. I'm bored with my well functioning life that is drama-free. Interestingly, the two antonyms of prudent listed with its synonyms are unwise and reckless. I want reckless but not unwise, and at this point to be reckless would be unwise because in my case they can't be separated. I must stay a prude. I need different outlets for adventure.
I can drink with the best of them, but I don't want to anymore. But really I do sometimes.