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.
In the last two weeks I haven't been able to crave out time to blog. I have missed my captive time on a bus for blogging. Here I am on a bus, blogging again.
AND, in addition to not having the routine space for writing, I haven't felt the need to blog out my feelings and thoughts relating to not drinking. There hasn't been any strife to where I'm at right now.
I have thoughts over and over about how I don't miss "that" in relation to a story or a behavior about drinking, and that is enough to give me pause to appreciate what I have going.
Everything is just becoming more and more normalized. I am just me, no longer me-without-the-drink. I forget I'm not drinking.
I am feeling great. In general and specifically about where I'm at with sobriety. It seems that I prefer to blog when there is strife, and since I'm having less and less of that, I have less to say online. I think once I get back into the routines and stressors of a new school year I will find more material that gets me reflecting and writing.
The other night I was sitting with some friends, me with my 6th soda water and everyone else with their beer or wine. It was early evening and in the shade it probably was about 96 degrees. Most of the group was suffering from jet lag and not feeling well due to the lack of sleep, the heat and the dehydration headaches that comes from heat + sweating + drinking. I commented that since I'd quit drinking I'm hardly ever dehydrated. This launched off a sharing of stories when they had quit drinking: for 7 months, 1 month, a few years. All of them talked about how they lost weight, they never felt better....even giving well informed facts about metabolism, and the vicious cycles of drinking, bad food, no exercise. Very self aware. Very stuck. The conversation moved on, and after all that sharing about how beneficial quitting drinking was, what hung in the air was that quitting drinking just so unimaginable or undesirable even with all the known benefits that would stop their dehydration headaches, feeling shitty, being overweight. I used to be right there with them. Even when I was doing cleanses I drank. I assumed I had food allergies, I worked out harder, I made drinking rules, I switched from beer to whisky to cut down calories, I slept with water next to by bed. I did so many things on behalf of my beloved alcohol. For so long I couldn't imagine life without, I thought it offered so many benefits that it was worth the downsides and that the downsides could be minimized if I could just be a little more moderate.
And now I'm on the other side and so thankful I am. Free.
I didn't do any preaching or really much sharing after my comment about not being dehydrated. I was fascinated by what they were saying and how I felt when I was in their shoes, where I'm at now; how far I've come. Above all, I really enjoyed that I was able to be open and nature and just say, "since I've stopped drinking..." to a table full of dudes drinking and the conversation bubbled up from it and flowed on. No record skipped, no horrified looks, no questions of why, how, when. It wasn't about me, my decision. I wasn't "otherfied." I shared, which made others share, and all was normal.
But I'm still quite happy with myself: publicly being the non-drinking me and no longer feeling powerless and torn about the costs and benefits of drinking. I came unstuck 7 months ago, and the momentum keeps growing.
My identity was wrapped up in my drinking. I was a drinker, and for a long while that was a positive identity to me: it signified I enjoyed life, I was fun, adventurous, edgy even. As the weeks and months tick by I'm shedding both the positive and negative of that drinker identity.
But in the void of that lost identity doesn't seem to be a new identity forming. I don't feel a kindred connection with non-drinkers/light drinkers and I have yet to meet anyone in the flesh that is in recovery. Drinkers have clear edges, you either can hold your own belly up to the bar or not. And once you prove yourself and are in the club, you really can do no wrong...all bad behavior is excused or made into a good story--and you are always welcome into the circle. That part of the identity is what I miss and I don't think sense of belonging occurs in the non-drinker side of things in the same way.
I am wrapping my mind around this drinking identity as being another discarded costume I have worn as part of the process of becoming who I am. It served its purpose, and I really mean that, to get me here...right here...in my life. Maybe there was an easier way to get here, but probably not.
In previous blogs of mine I have stated that I disagree with the notion that I need to surrender to a higher power to stay sober. I still believe that my resolve to not drink keeps me from not drinking and that I make choices that engage my willpower. Willpower keeps me sober.
But I have had a shift in my thinking the last couple days about willpower and sobriety and the term "dry." I have been back in Cairo on my own for over a week now, long days to fill and I'm having a great time. And I'm not having to use willpower to not drink. The first day back here I poked around and surveyed the leftover food the Airbnb guest left and found two bottles of vodka in the freezer. There are also probably bottles upon bottles of whisky and stuff in the cabinet, but I haven't even thought to open it and look. Drinking isn't on my mind and I don't have to continually resist it because it is near by. I just don't.
On the other hand, I bought two mini ice creams that were scheduled to be eaten after dinner two days in a row....and I ate both before they could even re-freeze from the trip home from the store. No willpower for resisting ice cream.
In my Google Doc Contract from 2014, I had a couple of webpage link for references - and I picked winners! Mrs. D inspired and supported the growth of the sobriety seed of even then. The other weblink I had completely forgotten about until I found my Google Doc. The Sober Journalist was another blog I was reading at the time.
These two blogs are written by women who "quietly" got sober anonymously. They both happen to be professional journalists and eventually came out of their closets and made careers about their journeys and resources. I'm glad they are out there, and can stand squarely in their lives and histories and now publicly help others. I will remain iwillstartwithwater, I cringe when I think of an expanding circle of friends and acquaintances reading my drinking dirt mixed up in with my family shit. This summer I regrettably mentioned the existence of my blog to two different people...but managed not to tell them the name in the moment. Neither of them followed up to ask for its name so I'm safe so far. I have a few of my inner circle friends that check in here and cheer me on and that is enough for me to feel supported, understood and stripped down. This blog is mainly for me and for other people out there quietly battling it out with their drinking selves. You are so not alone!
Both above links open to pages that show my worries as I tried to imagine a life without alcohol: social isolation, boredom, judgement from friends, folding to pressures of the drinking all around me. Basically, who would I be if I wasn't a drinker?
I'm still in a heavy drinking world most of the time, and I don't mind it most of the time. I like sitting around chatting with people and I can continue to do that while they drink alcohol and I drink something else. I one main change is that I get tired earlier and go home before I would have before. A positive, for sure. And mostly I'm impressed with how "with it" most people are when drinking and talking with me, again, because many times my drinking didn't stay at a nice warm buzz.
Poking around the The Sober Journalist this morning I read that the author has created a new site with resources that she had hoped for when she wanted to quit and was newly sober. Here it is: The Sober School. Looks pretty cool! I liked this concise statement to understand my relationship with booze and have a way to explain it to others when they ask me why I don't drink anymore:
"If you’re regularly drinking more than you intend to, and it’s making you miserable, then yes, you might well be dependent on alcohol. It is not really about how much you drink, it’s how it makes you feel."
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?
After my blog yesterday I talked to Husband about my feelings and had him read my blog. We talked it out and it was great. We had a booze free day, walking around Rovaniemi, going out for ice cream, shopping at H&M, booking a tour for a midnight sun adventure, cooking a simple dinner and playing cribbage. Fantastic. We even woke up and took a jog together this morning. Then he encouraged me to sign up for a yoga retreat in Portland that I'd been pining after but thought was too expensive. Husband!
Self-care, routine, and not demanding too much of one's self. These were the topics of the Bubble Hour episode on "Sober in the Summer" that I listened too as I jogged this morning. Of course I'm thinking a lot about drinking/not drinking. I'm out of my routine, I'm on vacation, and I've been neglecting my self-care bubble a bit. I'm back!
But the demanding too much of myself while in Portland, what might that look like? I know I do that, usually by too many scheduled social events. I can say no, I can enjoy my alone time when I only have 2.5 weeks this year to connect with my community. Blood pressure just rose a bit thinking about it. See the people that make me feel good, don't let in-laws dominate my time, quality over quantity.
I'm stressing a bit about it because last night I had a dream that combined where I am now (where Santa Claus comes from) and guilt about how I'm failing my loved ones when I come home for a visit. In my dream it was Christmas and I was panicking because Husband and I didn't bring any gifts for anyone and there were a huge disproportionate size pile for us. So uncomfortable and embarrassing!
Okay, back to the positive. Yoga retreat, camping, spending time with loved ones that make me feel strong, loved and enough when I don't come bearing gifts.
This morning I woke up feeling resentful about yesterday. A delayed emotional response, yet again. What was I resentful about? That the day's events revolved around Husband's drinking. And I don't anymore. I need a break from it, but didn't realize it until this morning-after yesterday where we got a drink in one bar, ate dinner in another bar, stopped to get beer at a store for later and then had a drink in another bar before heading back to our apartment. Then I got some sauna time. I went to bed and Husband had more beers!
We were out of sync yesterday.
When I traveled with CW and HH in Paris, drinking never came up because they didn't drink either, it was such a surprise to explore traveling as newly sober with other non-drinkers. Now I'm exploring traveling with a drinker, Husband, who I will do most of my traveling with over time. It's time for me to think through a bit of what I want that to look like, so as not to get stuck in silent resentment and open guilt.
I got to get out of this funk today. It's still before noon, I can still hake it and have a full day in the positive. Even just writing this has unburdened me. Blogging is the best!
Well, yesterday was a completely lovely day plagued by craving for beer. And like many abstainers, I didn't wake up regretting that I didn't drink yesterday. But the thoughts of wanting to drink peppered throughout the day were more than an irritant, they were a bit alarming!
Alarming because I had been thinking that I'm "over that." So much so that I have thought about wrapping up this blog at six months because I have nothing more to say. Foolish me, I'm not cured. Foolish me, any new environment or really any new may bring out a reaction in me or at least give me pause to reflect on who I am now in this new space with myself.
Husband and I are staying at a little cabin next to a lake. All there is to do is relax and look at the water, read and get in and out of the sauna. With so much free time to do nothing I couldn't help but romanize a beer on our cabin's porch. It would taste so good, would help me relax and settle me. I know. iknowiknowiknow. Walk through the whole thing. And I did. We would run out of beer and I'd be craving more, I would be embarrassed at how many bottles we went through for our host to recycle. I would have slept terribly, I would have...I would have...but I didn't. But mentally I felt close, a nudge closer to: "I could have..."
So now what??
I'm going to sit by this lake all day, now sipping tea, listening to the birds and the rolling thunder. I will meditate soon. Finish my book today. Eat lunch, light the stove for the sauna. Stay up to watch the sun set at 10:53pm but never get dark.
In the middle of all this, if I feel shaky, I will find some blogs to read, I will listen to the Bubble Hour. I can't imagine calling a friend...but I could research an AA meeting in Portland where I could meet another another person that I could call in the future that would understand that call, who would know what to say. I sure don't know ehatI would say. "Hey friend. I feel like drinking...I know it is stupid and I shouldn't but....?" I feel dumb already. Does that make me too proud to ask for help?
See my photo of tea and my lake view from the porch. What a beautiful day, not to be squandered by my demon thoughts. I'm going to mediate, drink my tea, and love my sober life today.
Just arrived in Helsinki, the start of our travels and trek back to PDX. And this afternoon I had a pretty strong urge to drink. I'm thankful Hasband didn't indulge my statement, "maybe I can just have a couple of drinks while on vacation."
I thought for a second about creating a rule: if I was in another country from where I lived I could drink. Short term, controllable, clear lines. And I knew it wouldn't work. And then I got sulky about for a half second: "no fair, look at everyone having a good time, relaxing with a beer or crisp white wine, I want to be able to do that!"
But then I walked through it. I would get a beer and it would taste so good and the effects I wanted would happen for a bit. The warmth, relaxation, contentment, the fun of the notion of drinking. Then I'd have another to intensify those feelings and another until I went from content and relaxed to weighted and too tired and lazy to do anything else besides continue to drink more. That would sedate me from actually exploring as much as I want, lead to bad food choices and hangovers. No thank you.
Got through that one. More soda water, a coffee and later when it started to drizzle hot chocolate tastes so good and appropriate for my chill.
Then when Husband bought an assortment meant of beers to drink at our place, instead of MORE soda water, I decided to branch out and try some treats: juices and flavored soda waters.
Another monthly benchmark has come to pass. Five months. That is sizable. That is a successful new habit. I said I wanted to stop drinking and I have done it for 152 days. One hundred and fifty-two days. Substantial.
I now can go days without thinking about drinking or that I'm "doing" something to not drink. I feel like myself in my own skin, at ease with others, with my choices.
Watching the documentary Lipstick and Liquor-Secrets in The Suburbs confirmed for me that I'm in a different place in my recovery than before. While I bet this documentary would be helpful to many many women I didn't gleam any new information from it, in fact I was frustrated by the continued rhetoric around alcoholism being a blameless disease that can't be controlled by will power in one breath then in the next saying all alcoholics can do is ask for help to stop drinking. Huh? Why don't the books and documentaries I've seen acknowledge the quagmire they present? I find it a irritating thought loop that isn't helpful for me to understand myself, my actions and my mental patterns that led and can lead to more drinking.
Back to the documentary. It showcases many middle and upper-middle class women and their stories about recovery. In between each story their is enlongated mystery about Julie. A little cliff hanger in between each of the stories of hope and struggle, but I'll say no more to keep from a spoiler situation. Their stories were diverse and they told them well. I could have done without some of the recreations of events and dramatic spinning of liquor bottles and wine glasses.
This documentary's audience seems to be a 50s middle class suburban white woman who is shamefully and secretively drinking or new to sobriety and struggling with feeling guilt and alone.
The school year is over in about a week. There are the normal stresses and zoom of this transition, but I'm sitting solid in this. End of the year celebrations, "No thanks, I don't drink anymore." Fine.
But in a week in a half, my world becomes the unknown, I re-enter the zone of "sober firsts" again without a true retreat into a comfort bubble.
Husband are traveling to Finland for 10 days, this I'm actually feeling okay with, I love the shit out of soda water and will save hundreds of dollars not drinking.
Then Portland. Old friends, tons of unstructured free time. Should be fine, but it is still an unknown that I can't completely be prepared for. I do plan to go to a few AA meetings. I am curious and excited about having that experience and potential support.
Then there is time with Dad. I'm curious to see how he responds to me not drinking. I don't think we will talk about it, he doesn't adjust his drinking to what others are doing around him, or if others are around him. A friend of Husband and I is also visiting us while we are visiting dad. Here is a direct quote from his email to us:
I'm down for whatever you guys want to do, as long as sobriety is not on the list.
Soon, that stresses me a bit. He is a dear friend but that is what we have always done with him is get shit faced together, talk critical theory, cultural studies, art, literature, old school hip hop. High brow shit storm. He may be the one case that really struggles with my sobriety because he is a real heavy drinker and I'm changing the game of our friendship. Or maybe he won't care as long as he can continue to drink as usual.
Outside of travel logistics this is what swirls around in my mind.
On my birthday in May, sarted thinking about my new year ahead and combining it with the advice to give back to the world to support my recovery.
I decided the following for my 39th year on this planet:
#1. Give 39 hours (or more) of my time to causes I believe in
#2. Give $390 to a cause I believe in
Since then I've been thinking and planning this out. I figured out the volunteer work - I will volunteer at an animal shelter here in Cairo on Saturdays. 39 hours before May 18 is doable.
I also found a scholarship for Sudanese Refugees in Cairo that is organized by a student group at our school and partnered with: Stars There are many refugees here, while they can stay in the country, they are not provided any services by the government. I'm going to pay for a woman to earn a bachelor degree for about $290. Yea, total for the 3 years needed to graduate.
I'm feeling good about these decisions.
The actual drink as turned into a strange creature. I'm not interested in drinking it, but sometimes I'm compelled by it. I found myself staring at Husband's whisky with a slight rush of grabbing and dumping it down my throat. What if...? What would it feel like? It wasn't an edgy, "I'm about to relapse" situation. It was surreal, a feeling like the urge to jump off the edge of a cliff. Drinking has become a foreign surreal thing. I won't grab that drink just like I won't jump off that edge.