Sober Again in Margaritaville – managing summertime sobriety

beachSummertime and sobriety may never sound like a glamorous combo to me. It’s always been my favorite time of the year. Ever since I’ve been sober though, it has become a season of pure torture for me. The days are long, the air is warm and more time is spent outdoors. It’s full of vacations, beaches, poolside action, boating trips, parties, and barbeques – these things present a series of triggers, making day-to-day happenings quite excruciating. I’m not trying to sound like a victim here – just being real.

Romancing the drink

I continuously slip into remembering the “good old drinking days,” especially when I watch others enjoying drinks or even feel the heat of the sun on my shoulders. People call it “romancing the drink,” and coupled with the “romance” of summer, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a hot mess of intense cravings and powerful self-sabotaging mind games.

I wonder if I will always miss those warm, carefree days where I could go wine tasting or sample new summer ales at a brewery – emerging with that powerful glow that rivaled the sun. Those day-long binges where I passed out in the sun and woke up with a raging headache, cotton mouth and sunburn – just in time to start over for the evening. Will I always long for an ice-cold beer or a smoky grapey glass of wine when I get home from a long day at work? Will a pitcher of sangria or a mojito always sound more refreshing to me than a glass of pure, mountain spring water? What about that warm feeling in my belly after a shot, the fuzzy brain, ease of social situations, instant courage and supreme relaxation?

Watch out

Who was I really hurting anyway? I had good jobs, paid my bills, took care of my responsibilities and spent time with my family and friends – and thoughts like these are what bring even more danger into my world. The negative aspects resulting from my past drinking start to slip away and seem more and more insignificant. Besides, my life and circumstances are different this time, right? I’m stronger and wiser now. Why is it so easy for us alcoholics to believe in our own bullshit?! Our twisted little brains get crafty on us and if we’re not on top of it at all times, relapse is just one thought away…Feelings

I’ve accepted the fact that I will never stop thinking like an addict. I’ll always have to deal with this. It’s exhausting going to war with myself everyday. When I start to ponder why I’m still doing this, I have to remember the pain I’ve caused the people I love – and more importantly the shit I put myself through. It has gotten a little easier with time, though. These thoughts still occur, just a bit less often and with less intensity. Although as I write this, it doesn’t feel any less intense, so maybe I just lied to myself. We’ll call it willful thinking.

Booze is here to stay

Alcohol is so out in the open, it’s difficult to avoid. There is seldom any event, private or public, that doesn’t offer alcohol. An alcoholic like me could manage to make anything into a booze-fest, though. Living sober in the real world means, at least for me, regularly coming into contact with alcohol and people who drink it. Some of these people need to hop right on that wagon with me, but it’s the others that piss me off even more – the ones that can get a nice buzz on if they want to and they still don’t have a problem. Freaks. When I start to feel bitter and left out, I also remind myself that I’ve completely changed my life and I’ve broken up with alcohol on my terms. It works, for the most part, but the frequency of this self-talk is almost mind-numbing.

feetBe where your feet are

Of course, I’m a grown up and I’m allowed to do whatever the hell I want, right? Damn right. But here’s the thing: authentic Chrystal made this terrifying and earth-shattering choice for me. To get sober. And then to stay sober. If I’m true and honest to myself, I must support what I know deep-down is the best for me. Getting out of my head is a near impossible feat, but I actively shut that manipulative boozer in me up. I love myself and I love my life more than any drink – it isn’t worth it. The idea of having limits of where I can and can’t go is kind of anti the point of being sober. The idea is to have a bigger, fuller life. That’s what it’s all about, really. Living sober is a very special process. A process that you can easily let yourself get tired of, or one that can lift you higher than any beverage could.

just breatheSo I go everywhere – armed with wisdom and love. I feel the ground beneath me, take a deep breath, look up at the summer sky and am grateful for this reality. I’m sober and that’s absolutely amazing. I don’t want to go back. I want to keep making myself proud and prove to the world that I am incredible. My head is clear (clearer, anyway), my priorities are straight, my choices are clean and time is on my side – it’s right now.

We are not alone

Millions of people are in recovery and they are going through similar experiences, I know they must be. When we are feeling weak or frustrated, we have to reach out. Whatever works, we need to do it. Writing works for me, sort of. A pill would be most convenient, though. I’ve decided that the best thing for me this summer is to plan. I have an exit plan in mind for just about every situation and I’m not going to push myself. Staying hydrated and well-rested are also top priorities, as a tired and thirsty Chrystal doesn’t always think straight, plus she’s not very pleasant. Sometimes I just need to go to that vulnerable and tender place, where I recognize just how strong I have been every day, let go, wrap myself up in ME and take a nap.

The things that make me me

As I enjoy this summertime with my friends and family, this psychotic mental circle will surely spin on. But to this moment I’ve always come out on top and I intend on continuing this trend. I’m strong. I’m real. I’m unique. I’m absolutely amazing! I’m also grateful to have a voice and be heard – it’s what I depend on these days. I will continue on this messed-up, excruciating, wonderful journey and I will live another day sober. Thank you for reading, friends.

 

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / /

SoberChrystal – Top @Mentioned on Twitter! #sobriety

It’s been a while since I’ve made any noise – I’ve been a bit out of the recovery loop (don’t worry, I’m still dry as dust). BUT apparently, because of the amazing people who support me and my blog, I’ve still had my voice! So, slap my ass and call me Sally!

I was playing around with this free tool called Twitter Analytics. You can discover trends and insights through Twitter, while Excel does all the work. I decided to plug-in #sobriety and look at what I found! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that I, SoberChrystal, am the top @mentioned (#Sobriety) on Twitter this week!

SoberChrystal - Top Mentioned May 14 - 21, 2013
SoberChrystal – Top Mentioned #Sobriety May 14 – 21, 2013

And you know who has mentioned me the most? Recovery SI, my favorite group of peeps who have supported me from the very beginning of my blogging recovery journey!

RecoverySI Mentions SoberChrystal the most!
RecoverySI Mentions SoberChrystal the most!

I can’t describe how awesome I feel, especially since my last blog post was over 3 months ago. I’ll tell you what, I’m damn inspired now, so you can expect some more from me in the very near future. This truly makes me feel like I’ve made at least a small difference in the world of sobriety and I’m fired up!

To all my people out there who read my words, struggle and learn along with me and who have reached out and supported me – thank you. My voice is sober and strong. This is hard work – every damn day. I’m amazed at myself and anyone else who stays sober for another day. Keep it up. I would like to be there for you – to lend an ear, a shoulder, an opinion or just to connect – please contact me by replying to this blog or by e-mailing me at soberchrystal@gmail.com.

A quick random thought to leave you with – I’ve always been under the impression that it’s BAD to burn a bridge. Not always. It’s embarrassing to say, but lately I’ve practiced having my very own thoughts and challenged what I think I’ve known all these years because of outside influences. Screw those people and situations that suck – there are things I never want to go back to. And so I repeat this to myself:

“May the bridges I burn light the way…”

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

Tagged : / / / / / /

Rock bottom – it’s just a story

rock_bottomDoes an alcoholic have to hit rock bottom to get sober? The answer is no. Is it true that alcoholism doesn’t stay in one place? Why yes, yes it is. It doesn’t hit a certain stage and then level off. Gradually things progress and get worse, in the course of many years for some of us. The general consensus from our loved ones seems – if we haven’t “seen the light” or continue to relapse, then we simply haven’t “hit rock bottom” yet.

Put the shovel down, people, not every alcoholic has a rock bottom to hit – a place where we finally admit that our lives have become unmanageable, where things could not get any worse. News flash: every situation could always be worse. And the worst possible scenario I can think of is being dead. THAT’S rock bottom. The dramatics of this misconception were surely conjured-up by an alcoholic. Only people like us feel the need to embrace our painted pictures of utter despair and destruction – a “woe is me” predicament for the self-tortured and tormented.

An excuseDrunk-passed-out-dude

This rock bottom ideal of the stereotypical alcoholic lying in a pool of their own shit and vomit – jobless, loveless, and damn-near lifeless – is exactly what allows most of us to justify our continued drinking. Because we haven’t yet reached that negative ideal. Your neighbor down the street might miss work here and there, have raging hangovers on the weekends and start fights with his wife when he’s wasted, but he’s not THAT bad. He’s not experiencing the level of pain he’s been programmed to watch out for. I remember knowing I had a drinking problem, but relying on the excuse that I wasn’t that bad, so I didn’t yet need to quit. I’m sure that’s why none of my friends or family were too concerned either, because I was just a crazy party girl who had a lot of fun and didn’t get into too much trouble.

boozer girlNot every story of recovery has to be a juicy one. We all have different levels of tolerance for pain in our lives. Alcoholism wraps its hideous grip around every race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, and financial status. You wouldn’t notice the majority of them if you saw them at the grocery store or in the classroom teaching your kids. While it’s true that many of our major life decisions are prompted by some amount of discomfort before we decide to change, there’s no rule that they have to get worse before they can get better. There is no magical moment we are destined for, as alcoholics.

Get real

drunk-passed-out-spooning-the-toiletStop comparing yourselves to others and just get real. Do you have a problem? I didn’t make the decision on my own, I was waiting for an ultimatum. I got one. Not everyone is lucky enough to receive an ultimatum or an intervention. It blows me away when I hear of people deciding on their own to get sober. My brother did it. I want to learn from these people. Their stories and achievements are no less impressive or important, in fact, they fascinate and inspire me.

What now?

I look back and wonder if I would have ever gotten there on my own, without an ultimatum. I had that picture in my head of what rock bottom looked like and I certainly wasn’t anywhere near it. So, how do we help each other to truly appreciate our own worth and realize how important today’s decisions really are? Maybe if there wasn’t that stigma forcing shame on us. Maybe if our society wasn’t so focussed on alcohol, it’d be easier to let go of it. It seems like alcohol is engrained in all of our lives with movies, tv shows, commercials, magazines, holidays, red-blooded American football, celebrations, events, non-events – it’s everywhere. Granted, I’m speaking from my perspective, but come on. I’m not far off . Where does it start to seem worth it to completely alter our lives and alienate ourselves from the norm? I don’t know. I do know this: the people who love us have a lot of power – they need to educate themselves, stop enabling us by helping us avoid our falls and nutt up and intervene. It’s not a solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. And this is what I propose. When an alcoholic can’t get out of their own way, our loved ones have a very powerful resource at their fingertips.

No matter what your story is, if you are sober, you’re absolutely amazing. To my friends out there who are still drinking and need to quit (whether you know it, or not) – I wish I could help you. I wish I could tell your friends and family that it’s not “mean” to do an intervention; in fact, it’s the ultimate act of love. I wish I could beat it into you (that’s my unresolved anger talking) that you can change now. Life is so short. Just don’t drink. Sound simple? It can be. How we get there is still the mystery. Getting sober isn’t easy and it’s not pleasant, but it’s worth it. But then, it’s the living sober is part that isn’t so simple.

Resources:

From my friends at Recovery Systems Institute:

 

Awkward moment – PEER PRESSURE and its impact on me…

peerpressureI have been sitting on this awkward moment of peer pressure for two months now, having to continuously brush it off. Apparently, I need to write about it. So here it goes.

The scene:

It was a picture-perfect holiday gathering of friends. A gorgeous home on the lake, with a crackling fire and glowing x-mas tree. You could hear laughter from all corners, as we stuffed our bellies with warm, homemade lasagna and watched the children play with exciting toys they had never seen before. A few of the sticky-fingered rascals were repeatedly sneaking colorfully frosted sugar cookies from the table, devouring them one by one. One of the little bastards was licking just about every item and then putting it back on the table for unsuspecting fools to enjoy. Vowing to avoid the gooey bounty and stick with my water, my husband and I were sitting at the table, enjoying the night.

Before:

I will admit that although this was a party thrown by a close friend, I was still a little nervous to confront the whole “alcohol thing” once again. Shit, you would think I was a newbie. At six years sober, I would expect it to be a little easier. I’m not sure that ever completely goes away, though. I was also nervous to talk to some of her friends because I can never remember who I know from where, what their names are or what “memories” we might share. I used to see most of them when I was drunk, I think. Nevertheless, that is a challenge I continuously have to deal with in many situations.

My anxiety was on the mid-scale this evening, which I considered to be definitely doable. I was excited to see my friends, so I rose to the challenge.

The moment:

My friend’s husband was the catalyst for the awkwardness. And it went something like this…

Friend: “Hey, Chrystal, do you want some champagne?”

Me: “No. Thanks.”

Wtf?! Did he forget that I am sober? Awkward…oh well.

Friend: “I’ve got lots of champagne here.”

Me: “No, really, I’m good. Thanks.”

Is he for real? Ahhhhh….he must be drunk. That explains it. I think.

My husband:(intervening) “She’s good.”

Friend: “Oh, come on. I can get you a different drink. What do you like?”

My husband: “No, she’s fine. Thanks.”

Am I seriously being peer pressured right now? I’m officially offended. How does he not remember? I’m defined by my sobriety! Heart rate elevating…

Friend: “I can make a blah, blah, blah, we have this and that… Have a drink.”

Damage control. Need damage control. Fight or flight initiating in one…two…

My husband: “No, she’s fine.” (Trying to change the subject somehow…)

Friend: “You sure you don’t want some champagne?”

OK. I need to get the F#@k out of here.

My husband: “How many hints do I have to give you, man? (With a light-hearted chuckle) She’s not drinking.”

He dropped it and carried on his merry way. And the night continued on without a hitch.

After:

That moment seemed like an eternity to me. The way I felt inside, I would assume would compare to how a kid in highschool would feel to be pressured to do drugs with the cool kids. I can’t totally relate here, because I would just do the drugs and didn’t really care, but the amount of humility I felt is what I’m trying to identify with here. My words had completely failed me. Why didn’t I joke with him, “No thanks, you don’t have enough” or say, “No dude, I’m a recovering alcoholic.”? Why did I feel so awkward and where were my words?? I had so much going on inside, I failed at simple communication. Why did I freeze? Wtf?!

My friend did nothing wrong. He was drunk, but he wasn’t belligerent. A little dense, but that comes with drinking booze. Trust me, I know. I’m 35 years old, so I’m quite capable of acting like a responsible, confident adult. Why did I feel like crawling into a hole?

I’m confused by the way I’ve reacted because most of the time I cannot wait to tell or remind people of the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic. I’m so damn proud of myself. And I love opening doors, increasing awareness and finding others like me. Apparently, there are other times when I act like a timid, insecure schoolgirl. None of my resulting internal turmoil has had anything to do with my friend, who was mortified and apologetic as hell, by the way. But, my resounding question is, what the hell happened to me?

What now?:

I guess I thought I had it all figured out. I guess I thought I had rehearsed enough responses to potential scenarios. Apparently, I was wrong.

Is this a simple thing, or totally complex? Why am I such a freak? Am I that insecure? Is it my social anxiety? Why did I feel so harassed and offended? Why couldn’t I just take it in stride? Why has this been bothering me so much?

The answer:

I don’t have a clue. And I don’t know where to look. My bewilderment has not subsided, as I had hoped would result from writing this.

My request:

I need your help.

First of all, don’t tell me I should see a counselor, I’m done interviewing and exhausting myself with them – I have the skills and resources to find my own way at this point. I think. Second, don’t tell me to go to AA. I have zero patience for listening to people going on and on about how their higher power saved them…where was it when they were half dead, slowly killing themselves and their relationships? I’m not meaning to totally bash “believers,” but I need to relate to rational people who are accountable to themselves and to society.

So here I am, reaching out, simply asking for someone to tell me they can relate to my experience and that I’m not completely off my rocker.

Thanks for listening, friends.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / /

A simple complement and how it has touched me…

Mark Twain nailed it when he said, “I can live for two months on a good complement.”

I’d like to share a quick message an old drinking pal sent to me recently. Here is what this thoughtful and amazing individual told me:

“I’ve never said as much, but this felt like the time. Watching your strength in choosing sobriety inspired me to confront my own alcoholism 3 years ago. It’s probably a bit ironic that my bar friends should be the ones to help me up onto the wagon, but there’s nowhere I’d rather be. Your latest blog post just reminded me that I’ve never really thanked you for that.”

HOLY SHIT. It probably took him 2 minutes to write that message and I’ve been speechless for almost a month. Even now I’m finding it difficult to put into words just how big of an effect this has had on my daily life.

In sobriety there seems to be so much self-doubt, self-loathing, pain and fear – especially when you’re new to it or contemplating it. To even consider that I’ve in some small way been an inspiration toward someone’s life-altering choice to get sober seems preposterous. Let this be proof that kind and thoughtful words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

We're all in this togetherBecause of his words I continue to feel validated, appreciated, needed, loved and inspired. I’m proud of myself. I’m so proud of my friend. And I’m proud of all of us in recovery. I’m proud of the people who’ve dealt with our drunk asses. I’m proud of the ones who’ve supported and grown with us along the way. This is some seriously powerful shit – all because someone took the time to tell me they were thankful. Thankful for ME!

So, there are two main messages I want to send here:

  1. Be true to yourself and work hard at what you want in life – I guarantee someone is paying attention.
  2. Express your gratitude – no matter how big or small. Tell someone how they’ve inspired or helped you or how they’ve made your day just a little brighter. It’s human nature to feel the need to be appreciated. And it feels amazing. AMAZING.

We’re all in this thing together – let’s be grateful for each other.

– SoberChrystal

Tagged : / / / /