‘Tis the season to get shit-faced – staying sober through the holidays

‘Tis the season to get shit-faced! The holidays – between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in the US – can be one of the most dangerous times of the year for those of us who are trying to maintain sobriety. It can be a time of happiness and celebration, a time of pain and desperation or a little bit of both – all of which are equally good reasons to get drunk. This is also a time where drinking is not only more accepted, it almost seems to be expected. It’s hardly surprising that so many people indulge in seasonal binge-drinking. Throw us sober folks into the mix and it’s a perfect storm.

The good stuff

This time of year makes me feel warm and fuzzy for so many reasons – the warmth I feel from within, the twinkling lights that surround me, the gratefulness I feel toward the people who touch my heart and the giving-ness I feel toward complete strangers – that’s powerful stuff! Every time I hear the song, O holy night, I get serious goose bumps and a feeling I can’t quite explain – and I’m a “non-believer!” My point is, for many reasons this season tends to make the world around us seem a bit brighter, warmer, more magical, giving, and hopeful.

The other stuff

For many of us, this isn’t necessarily a happy-go-lucky time of year. It’s a time to reflect on our lives and what’s missing from them – lost loves, lost money, lost dreams.

If you’re anything like me though, you may tend to get depressed no matter how wonderful life may be. I do believe that you can’t truly know one extreme without the other; stars can’t shine without the darkness. I’ve been low. I’ve experienced devastating losses. I’ve been lonely, scared, dark and broken. I’m grateful for those experiences now because I’d never known joy could be so peaceful, passionate, warm, uplifting and all-encompassing. Having said that, often when I’m in those moments of joy, I’m suddenly reminded of the people I’ve lost, with whom I’d love to share those moments. The awareness of those losses is the ickiest part for me.

Also at the tip of our minds may be money, or lack thereof – this is the time of giving. There’s so much pressure on us to buy shit, it’s ridiculous.

It’s easy to lose hope without a supportive family and/or environment. A bad attitude will bring you down, too. Isolation is a common theme for many of us sober folks and this time of year it seems to have a magnetic effect. I am so happy to report that MY ENTIRE FAMILY IS SOBER! How awesome is that?! (My husband and mom don’t count, as they can have just one or two drinks and call it a day – non-alcoholic freaks!) I feel such a tight bond with my dad and my brother, especially this year. Even my sister-in-law is sober! We are not only family, but it feels like we are part of an elite club. A club so many won’t ever understand and that so many could only imagine having the balls to join. If you’re in our club, you know what I mean and you should be damn proud of yourself.

Just don’t do it

Succumb to these seasonal feelings of darkness – isolation, pressure, loss – and you’re lurking in the danger zone. But would the world really end if you had just one? Sometimes I entertain the idea of having just one White Russian to honor my grandma’s memory. She too, was a boozer after all. And we sure do have good memories from our drinking days, don’t we? That general feeling of togetherness is what I miss the most. But we must remember where it ultimately led us – one drink and we’d be there, only worse this time. It’d be the end of life as we know it. At least that’s how I see it.

Please consider the following advice to help keep your hard-earned sobriety intact throughout the remainder of this season:

  1. Focus on your health. Get enough sleep, eat well and relax.
  2. Remember, you’re not alone. Don’t isolate yourself with the hopes of staying sober – loneliness is a HUGE trigger. Reach out if you need the help. If you’re worried about your pride or looking like a pussy, it’s too late – you’re already an alcoholic, so just get over it. Must. Stay. Sober.
  3. Let the pressure go. Do what you can and want to do. Set aside an evening to shop online instead of venturing out into the madness; Amazon rocks. Leave the cookie making to someone else this year. Don’t make that grueling 5 hour drive just to see people you’d rather see on Skype. Making others happy is certainly one thing, but when you’re compromising your own happiness, it’s just not worth it. Do something different. Or don’t do anything at all. Just let it go and do your own thing this year.
  4. Keep your distance from any annoying relatives, if you can. If you can’t, just be grateful there’s no chance you’ll get wasted and try to beat their face in or tell them how you really feel. Don’t let their idiocy ruin your cool, sober vibe.
  5. Plan ahead. Don’t get into those situations that you can avoid, but if you have to go to an office party, for instance, have an escape route. Or go late and leave early, no one notices or cares how long you’re there.
  6. Make it count. If you’re like me, a bit of an anxious introvert, and you’re feeling nervous or awkward about attending an event, just don’t go. It’s better to be sober and at home, than to be uncomfortable, on-edge and potentially tempted. Only you can protect your sobriety.
  7. Remember – No one cares if you’re drinking or not. If they DO care, they’re obviously retarded and you can feel free to junk punch them. Screw what people think about you – you get to decide who matters.
  8. Believe – It’s not what’s in the glass that’s important; it’s what’s in your heart.
  9. Realize – Taking one drink is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. It will cost you everything, my friend.
  10. Remind yourself and be very proud of just how far you’ve come. Your sobriety is everything! You are worth it.

Happy holidays my sober friends. May you stay strong and sober this holiday season and be reminded of just how amazing and special you truly are. 2013 and its abundance of opportunities and challenges is quickly approaching!

A special note to my friends who DO drink, please Please PLEASE remember the following:

  • Plan ahead – designate a sober driver THAT YOU CAN TRUST
  • Buzzed driving is drunk driving and you know I’m right, so just nutt up and leave your stupid car while you take a cab home. Choose inconvenience over jail or death. You started it anyway, by either being unprepared or by being a lush, you jackass.
  • Don’t EVER tell me how proud of me you are when you’ve been drinking…it makes me want to poke your eyes out and dropkick your head…just had to throw that one out there…

Dangerously Close to Relapse

Last week it presented itself. That moment you look back on and think, “What the hell just happened? How could I let myself even THINK of going down that road? Who AM I?” It was the closest I’ve ever been to relapse. But I’m still sober.

The Moment

It seems surreal to me as I replay the scenario backward and forward in my head. I wasn’t in any particular mood and I hadn’t had a bad day. I have been living a joyful structured life with a fairly simple routine. I was getting ready for dinner on a work night at home with my husband, kid and two dogs. As I poured a glass of wine for my husband I had a light-bulb-moment – “Wait a tick, I think I could handle a glass of wine,” said my suddenly inspired and disillusioned mind. I was so very hopeful and optimistic that this revelation could work; I actually started trying to convince my husband of it OUTLOUD! I had freaking butterflies of nervousness and excitement as I tried to exploit his perceived ignorance, to get him to buy-in. Did I truly believe I could do it in that moment? Well, I had a heaping bag of hope that I could “handle” it, so it was worth a shot, wasn’t it?

“You know you would regret it,” is all he had to say. BAM! Reality quickly took hold and there I was; my bubble burst and ego bruised. Having experienced and exposed such an irrational and crazy train of thoughts made me feel so foolish and unsteady – oddly, like I hadn’t been the one in the driver’s seat for those fleeting moments.

I’ve since realized that ridiculous and scary moment is now just a story. It’s SO last week! It has absolutely no power over me, as long as I don’t let it. I’m still shaking my head in shock and bewilderment however, so in the interest of transparency and further understanding I write this blog today.

What I Think I Know

We recovering alcoholics most certainly are not doomed; we have the power to make healthy choices for ourselves. I do think it’s important to be aware of the forces we’re up against however, so we can proactively arm ourselves for any future episodes that may slap us in the face.

Stress

Science has taught us that stress is a common trigger for relapse. I thought I had managed my “bad” stress well, until I wrote down a list of a few of my current stressors. Duh! I think managing stress is somewhat of an illusion, anyway. Life will always be stressful. I don’t care who you are, attempting to achieve balance 100% of the time is almost impossible and unrealistic if you ask me. Stress isn’t all bad; it helps us to meet goals and alerts us of when it’s necessary to make changes in our lives. Relaxation is just another tool we can throw into our ammunition belts! We’re never “too busy”, it’s all about priorities. Put this at the top of your list. Just slow down and breathe.

The Brain

Science also tells us that alcoholism is not a psychological disorder, a spiritual illness, weak will or character defect. Even though it affects seemingly all areas of your life, it is a brain disease. Over time, continuous use has changed my brain structure and function. Essentially, alcohol will always be on the “good list” inside of the “rewards center” in my brain; it has saved a permanent spot for my dear friend, Alcohol. I can do the hard work to reprioritize and fill this rewards center with healthy, rewarding acts and things, but as far as science has proven, the memory of the pleasurable effects of alcohol is engrained in my brain and will attempt to trick me. No matter how intelligent I think I am, or how life-or-death the decision to drink is for me, I’m always going to have to work against this tricky shit. I dumbed this down to the point that I’ve amazed myself; if you’d like to know more about the alcoholic brain you should look it up. There’s fascinating information out there and they’re learning more and more every day.

Keep Moving Forward

Don’t assume you’re ever “safe,” no matter how focused you are. It’s also one thing STAYING sober, but only through personal growth, will you be successful in LIVING sober. You want to LIVE, don’t you? Be loving. Be patient. Be tough. Be you. Be kind. Be thankful. There is always something to be thankful for. Happiness is living every moment with love and gratitude; it cannot be traveled to, owned, worn, consumed or earned. It just is. Be prepared to protect your happiness and sobriety. Keep moving forward, be in this moment and take it one day at a time. Living sober is just living.

Grow Up

In order to be all we can be we need to join the army. Just kidding, we need to start by growing up a bit. Most of us alcoholics feel some degree of shame – it’s damn near unavoidable – especially in our society where there is still so much stigma attached to alcoholism. We can’t control what anyone thinks about a given situation and we’re not ever going to be aware of the half of it, so we just have to let it go; not learn to let it go, just let the shit go. Life is too precious to let such an icky emotion fester when the shame affects nothing but our own beating hearts. In addition to the shame we often torture ourselves with are a number of psychological immaturities we must recognize and work through. Most of us started drinking in our teens or early twenties, when the frontal lobes of our brains were still maturing – responsible for our reasoning and problem solving capabilities. This is a huge one, people…I don’t know that many people realize this. Be accountable and apply the principles of logic to given situations.

Self-talk

If I had a friend who spoke to me the way that I speak to myself, I would have said, “good bye forever, you evil bitch” in an instant. I may have even pulled her hair out and poked her eyeballs a few times, but that’s just the angry drunk in me. It’s really ridiculous how vicious I am to my self when I consider how truly amazing I am. It has been a lot of work, but very rewarding as I am learning to recognize the bullshit things I say to myself about my worth on a damn near moment to moment basis, replacing every destructive thought or emotion with an opposing, positive one that’s more powerful. Start listening to your thoughts.

If you take a few steps back and dissect your reactions to things, they’ll most likely come back to a few key “truths” we subconsciously tell ourselves. My resonating theme seems to be that I’m not good enough. It breaks my heart to admit this to the world, but I have to to work it out. It can be a moment as simple as catching someone’s eye at the grocery store. I instantly get irritated. What’s behind the irritation is insecurity – I assume they are thinking that I look tired, or my hair is freakishly long, or I’m just plain ugly; I’m not good enough. Once I walk through this in my head I replace the thought with, “I AM good enough. I am beautiful in my way,” or whatever makes sense for the instance. I don’t believe it a lot of the time, but practice makes perfect, right? It’s really disappointing when my husband has to tell me how immature I’m being sometimes. Not everything is about me, but I sure do react that way more often than I’d like to. The person I made eye contact with could have thought about a joke they heard, wondering what to make for dinner, or trying to decide whether they should fart or go to the bathroom. No matter what, feeling defensive is certainly in my control. I’ve learned to recognize that when I’m defensive or angry, it’s usually because I’m being irrational. Slow down and walk through it, however exhausting it is! This will also help me to think before I speak, which is SO important – Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it true? Will it hurt anyone? I sometimes try to accept that I’m one of those people who just sticks their foot in their mouth on a regular basis, but it doesn’t have to be that way. My self-talk controls the way I feel and act.

Attitude

A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t get very far until you change it. My mom used to always say, “Bite yourself and get it over with.” If you’re feeling icky, just suck it up and stop. Realize the positive in every situation, everything and every person. The power of your thoughts can open any door.

Be You

With all the social conditioning out there, it’s easy to forget that this is MY life and I don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. I will never fully believe in myself if I compare myself to everyone else. Instead, I’ll compare myself to who I was yesterday.

It may be easier for most recovering alcoholics to NOT be around alcohol, have it in the house or pour it for someone, but avoiding it like the plague won’t work for me. This “all or nothing” girl now has shades of gray! Woo hoo! There’s no rule book when it comes to recovery and my decisions are just that, mine. I want to function on my own in the society we live in now, without trying to change anyone or anything. I’m certainly strong enough to do so. You may think I’m silly for wanting to be able to pour someone’s drink, but I don’t really give a shit what you think. How do you like them apples?! I’m excited to report that my husband has recently come to understand that all I really wanted was for him to acknowledge how inappropriate it was to assume I’d be okay to serve alcohol. Now that he’s validated my feelings, I feel respected and better understood and free to make my own decisions about it. Now it doesn’t feel like a compromise to pour him a glass of wine. To be clear, I AM still hot or cold about putting my hands on an alcoholic beverage at any given moment – one moment I can’t stand being near it and the next I’m enjoying a good sniff. It’s the respect and understanding I now have that gives me this freedom to choose, though. Naturally, my hubby thinks I’ve lost my marbles, but I don’t care! I reserve the right to be bat-shit crazy; I think I’ve earned it.

Remember that no matter how much progress you make, some people will insist that whatever you’re trying to do is impossible – and these people are a waste of your time. Do what you want to do because other peoples’ boundaries are not your own. No matter how much work I put into this on a daily basis, nor how proud I am that I’m different, there may always be a part of me that comes from deep inside that just wants to fit in and be “normal.” I think that’s a human instinct, but I believe that the more I accept me for me this urge will dwindle. The more proud I become of my choices, the less others’ opinions about them will matter. Don’t ever judge yourself through someone else’s eyes.

Be Nice

I’ve always been under the impression, if you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you, but that’s kind of lame; there have been a few times lately that people have come off a little rude to me, but I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and have actually responded MATURELY by STILL being nice. I do believe I helped to turn their days around because of it! Smile at people. Say hello to strangers, ask how they are doing. Listen, help, be courteous, be humble and be sincere. Forget about the mean people, it doesn’t matter why they’re mean, they have a long way to go and they’ll only bring you down.

Be Present

For me, being present means letting the past and future be. Some forces are simply out of our control but our attitude is what affects our overall potential. Anticipating or stressing over something that could happen is such a waste of the present. My scenario driven anxiety sets me back on a regular basis still, but when I concentrate, stop, breathe and let go, it’s really a powerful and uplifting feeling.

I’m not proud of many things I’ve said and done, but that’s okay. The past can’t be erased or changed; only my attitude about it can be. I am not my mistakes and I have learned from them all. I might eventually apologize to a few people, but for the rest of it all, I’m now banking on the past is never where I left it, so move on!

Be Prepared

It all comes down to being prepared. No matter where you are on your journey always be ready for the unexpected. I wasn’t ready to ever be in the place where I’d consider taking another drink, because I thought I was better than that. I’ve considered myself pretty savvy having saved a collection of inspiring quotes in my phone, but in the midst of that impulse was I really going to have the gumption to go searching for some positive affirmations? Negative, Ghost rider. To be prepared, we must be proactive. I might be special, but I’m not invincible or superior on any level. I’m just as susceptible to relapse as anyone else out there. I can’t tell you how huge of a revelation this has been for me. Relapse can happen to anyone. Anyone.

Aside from the growing up I have to do, I have determined that to be better prepared for something like this in the future, I must carry something meaningful to me on my person, at all times; something that supports and celebrates my sobriety. A symbol representing my life, why I want to be here, where I want to be and the struggles I’ve overcome will “hold the power” for me. I have an AA coin in mind – I endured an AA meeting just so I could get my 9 month coin. I will make it into a necklace or bracelet. A tattoo would be easier, but that’s not my style – would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?! 😉 Now that I’ve determined how I will best be prepared for a future slap in the face like this, I’m not afraid, like I was a few days ago. I strongly suggest having something like this for all of my friends who are in recovery out there, if you don’t already. This challenge will likely always exist for us – carry a physical reminder with you everywhere.

Everyone is Susceptible to Relapse

It used to just blow me away that my dad would relapse, especially after going through treatment and basically having everything to lose. Now I get it. This is monumental, people. I wasn’t even going down a slippery slope; I was high on the mountaintop, enjoying the view when this unexpectedness occurred. I was lucky to have my husband right there as my voice of reason, but what if I had been alone? Now I get it.

It’s not about weakness. It’s not about willpower. It’s not about focus. It’s not about support. It’s not about intelligence. It’s not about love. It’s about YOU having the right tools to help you make the right decisions. It’s about taking care of you, being a good person and continuously growing. It’s about having that physical reminder handy to ward off those demons! The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. Be prepared and be amazing.

What’s it like to drop your dad off at rehab? – I shall divulge…

I dropped my dad off at rehab this weekend, hopefully marking the end of his 42 yearlong rollercoaster ride with alcohol. This is his fourth time going into treatment and will most likely be his last. No, I’m not over-optimistic or delusional. I say this because he’ll either remain sober, or relapse and die. Those are the two options we are all faced with at this point with the progression of his disease. The health of his body has been one of the most important factors in his seeking sobriety, which is why this time around things are different – his motives to get sober are much more meaningful and essential.

As a sober alcoholic and the child of an alcoholic, I’ve gained a wealth of experience and knowledge on alcoholism. No matter the known facts or what I tell myself, I still feel things deep inside that I know are not true. I admit that the following story is an everyday element of my life: If he really loved me, he’d stay sober.

So, with THAT nagging at the core of my existence, it was an interesting drive toward his house to pick him up. The following cycle of emotions seemed to play in my head on repeat:

  • Fear – What if he decides to quit rehab halfway through? What if he dies in detox? What if he gets out and loses his job? What if they find out he has cirrhosis of the liver? What if he has a mental breakdown? Is he going to bullshit another recovery plan, or actually make some realistic goals? What if he doesn’t follow through with his recovery plan? What if he falls off the wagon?
  • Hurt – He’s ruined his life up until now. What a waste of such a unique and special human being. He must be in so much pain and so broken inside, so isolated and alone. He’s lost so much; so have I, for that matter. I sure have missed out on having a dad who has been present and involved in my life. I have experienced how awesome he is when he’s living sober and I want my dad back. I want my son to know his wonderful Grandpa. Aren’t we important enough? Why hasn’t he made more of an effort to see us? We’ve lost so much time.
  • Shame – I’m sure he has enough of this for the both of us, but I still feel pangs of shame here and there. This is the emotion I could really go without and in fact, I hate it. As fleeting as these feelings may be, they’re just absurd enough to bother me. My husband doesn’t “get it” (he’s learning!), so I’m certain his family isn’t educated about alcoholism either, so naturally I assume they a bit judgmental as a result. They all tend to lead with their hearts, so I really don’t think they would react negatively toward me or him, but who knows? What about my mom’s friends? They are real shit-talkers, I wonder what they think? The realization that I have no control over how someone else views me or my family and that it actually doesn’t need to have any effect on my life in the slightest, is what keeps these shameful thoughts at bay, or quickly launches them back there. Then I feel guilty for feeling the shame…
  • Anger – children should NEVER have to escort their parents to rehab. Children certainly shouldn’t have to PAY for part of it, nor should they have to clean up shit hole apartments (for a fresh start) that are better off ablaze. Because of how withdrawn my dad has been at times growing up, I ended up dating a bunch of losers (bad boys) who were also withdrawn – ultimately breaking down my self-worth by my feeling like I had to fight for attention and love. Say what?! He has absolutely no idea how much he’s affected me, or anyone else. My husband has been around for almost 8 years and has had little interaction with him, so they really don’t have a relationship to speak of and that pisses me right off. Nutt up, Dad! It’s time to kick some ass, laugh and enjoy life! What’s the point, otherwise?! I want to slap the sad right out of him.
  • Hope– he’ll instantly have more self-esteem once he’s been sobered up for a few weeks. His desire to talk to a counselor is a great sign. With his unresolved issues no longer covered up with alcohol, dulling the pain, he needs to learn how to overcome them. I can’t wait to have neat conversations with him again about nature and animals; he knows so much and is so passionate about that stuff. Maybe he’ll find a hot little number in an AA meeting, gaining a sober partner to offer support and love. Maybe his social phobia will dwindle away and his confidence and dreams will soar high above with the eagles.

It was a tearful goodbye as we parted ways, but as I drove away I noticed only one resounding emotion. It was a new one and it was GOOD:

  • Relief – There’s nothing but positive stuff going on now. He’s safe, he’s detoxing, he’s in a supportive environment and he chose to go. I no longer have to fear that phone call telling me he’s either in jail or dead. I’m actually glad I had the opportunity and could help him one last time, as it symbolizes the end of this chapter of this co-dependent reality for me. I can now be at peace with the fact that I have done everything I could do to help him.

I fully expect my dad to work his ass off to recreate a life for himself in sobriety. I’ll do my part to learn what I can about how best to support him – by going to some of the lectures and family meetings – but the rest is up to him. If I can do it, I know he can do it. There’s a little gift sobriety has brought me and it’s a strong sense of PRIDE. It’s an amazing feeling and even more amazing to welcome others into this circle. Go Dad!

 

What threatens my sobriety – getting sober is one thing, staying sober is another.

Triggers threaten my sobriety.
There will always be moments in my life where I will just want to get shit-faced drunk. I fantasize about it more often than I’d like to officially admit. I’m pretty sure I won’t ever actually do it, but in my wise old age of 34 I’ve learned that you can’t ever be too sure about anything and besides, cockiness is dangerous. My intention and mission in life is to stay sober, but if I want to maintain this I know I can’t just sit around and wish on it, I have to work hard at it.

Triggers

Triggers are threats to anyone’s sobriety; they are whatever makes you think about and/or crave alcohol. Triggers ultimately lead to relapse if you’re not careful and paying attention. Every day I experience a number of triggers, even at 5 1/2 years of sobriety. I am happy to say that it has gotten a bit easier, though. In early sobriety the triggers were much more frequent and difficult to deal with, as almost anything posed a potential threat:

 

 

  • a commercial
  • a song
  • a sunny day
  • a rainy day
  • getting off of work
  • feeling happy
  • feeling sad
  • watching football
  • going out in public
  • feeling uninteresting
  • holidays
  • stress
  • eating a steak
  • …you name it.

There’s a good reason that most AA meetings celebrate short increments of sobriety like 30, 60, and 90 days with coins; the first stretch of abstinence is often the hardest. You’ve finally given up the booze, but you haven’t had the time to replace it with healthy tools and habits. Learning to approach life in new ways with a sober mind takes a shift in perspective and approach on just about everything, which takes a lot of time, energy and persistence.

Repression is a normal human defense mechanism that softens the bad stuff in our lives so we can handle it. Traumatic events from a few years ago don’t seem as big of deals anymore. There is also something called euphoric recall, which exaggerates the good times. Lots of people in sobriety say things like, “I messed up, got a few DUIs and lost the love of my life, but I had tons of fun when I was drinking and I think I’ve learned my lesson. I think I can enjoy the good times again and control my drinking. If it gets like it was before, I’ll get some help, but I think I can do it again.” This “disease” is insane and I wish the medical profession could get more of a handle on it, as there are just too many unknowns. So, if you’re experiencing triggers similar to those above, relapse is almost inevitable unless you are consciously at work, in my humble opinion.

Handling My Worst Triggers

I am finding that being further into sobriety the triggers are quite tricky. The most troubling triggers I am experiencing lately are my vivid day dreams about boozing, hearing certain songs or the temptation I feel when I am less than an arm’s length away from an open container. I’ve very recently realized (today, actually) just how dangerous my thoughts have become. They’ve snuck up behind me and have completely wrapped around my world. I’m so aware of it at this very moment, my heart is heavy and the pain of this is almost overwhelming. How could I not recognize this happening? If sobriety is my mission in life, why did it feel okay to consistently daydream about getting wasted? Why did it feel right to be so sneaky, transporting my mind back to that secret world? Why didn’t the strong part of me stop it? Why didn’t I stop myself from listening to those songs that instantly transport me back to that place?

I’m just really glad I’m aware now, so I’ve made a plan:

  1. Redirect my drunken day dreams – I’ll start with visualizing replacing every drink with water and feeling it flow through my body, making me feel fresh and alive. I’ll have to ponder this one some more, though.
  2. Turn off the music – The songs are easy, I can just turn them off. There’s only one type of music that is “trigger free” for me, so I’ll be listening to a lot more Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Get ready, hubby.
  3. Redirect my thoughts around open containers – this is the one I’m worried about, but if I focus on the steps above, maybe it’ll be easier. I have already cut back on my exposure to alcohol substantially, but it’s still everywhere. More often than not, I think about how close it is to me and how easily I could just put my lips on it and chug it down. I never tell anyone when I think these thoughts because they are all too often, and what’s the point, really? Plus, it scares the hell out of me. With one swift movement all of my hard work could go to the shitter along with my amazing life as I now know it. I do believe I’ll be making a counseling appointment a.s.a.p.

In my twisted little alcoholic brain, I’m now imagining the thoughts of my readers, as I had similar thoughts about my dad when I was younger:

  • “Why can’t she just stop and be done with it?”
  • “Doesn’t she have enough willpower?”
  • “Is she really that weak?”
  • “Why would she doubt herself? Is she looking for an excuse?”
  • “Does she not love her son enough?”
  • “Isn’t her husband’s threat to leave her enough?”

Here’s a shocking revelation: what you or anyone else thinks of me is NONE of my business, but I am aware that what I’m actually afraid of is what I think of me. I will say this, my husband DID help to spark my initial sobriety, but willpower and ultimatums certainly won’t keep me that way. I’m not weak or pessimistic, I’m honest and realistic. That’s what I’m counting on to get me through this. The only thing that will keep me sober is to continuously focus on how I can get better. How I can better think, act, react and love.

Prevention and Growth

Until I can see a counselor, I’m also putting the following plan into action:

  1. Put ME first – this is not selfish, it’s absolutely necessary to be a loving, caring, productive person, friend, wife, mom and daughter. The quality of my relationships are directly related to my relationship with me. I must do what’s right for ME more often. I’ve been practicing lately, but I’m really going to kick it up a notch now.
  2. Simplify – My closet (among other closets and drawers) is a pit, overflowing with clothes I don’t wear and it has been at the back of my mind for some time now – not a source of stress I need, no matter how small. Quite frankly, I don’t need to see or talk to anyone for my happiness either (except for my husband, son, brother and mom). I am perfectly content with just BEING at home most of the time. A happy marriage requires compromise however, so I do take part in many things to appease my husband and his relentless socialite craziness. He has been good for me in that respect, as I would likely be a fairly lazy gal, with a tendency to get a little depressed. We’ve actually slowed down lately, which has nurtured the homebody in me, so I’ll just keep it up.
  3. Connect with other sober alcoholics – this may seem like a contradiction to my earlier plan to simplify my social calendar, but it’s not. I need to do this on my own terms. It’s really important to me that I feel like I belong in some sense and learn to distinguish between healthy boundaries and emotional walls; I can’t think of a better way to practice and learn than with new people going through similar experiences. This step will probably the toughest one, due to my social anxiety. This is where my dad gets hung up…it has led to his relapse time and time again.
  4. Get rid of toxic people – Right now there isn’t anyone I necessarily need to break-up with, but there are people who are in unhealthy relationships or unhealthy lifestyles that I don’t want to spend time with. There will be instances where I must, however because that’s just how life is, but I am going to more diligently keep them out of my home (my safe place) and limiting my exposure to them.
  5. Relax – I don’t consider this a luxury, nor does it fall into the “put ME first” category. Regular relaxation is essential for a healthy life. Why the hell is it so hard to do, then? If I could get a weekly massage, I would. If I ever have disposable income I will do exactly that. So, in the meantime I’ll take more naps whether or not the house falls apart, or my husband bitches at me. Yes dear, I just said that.

How you can help me, the sober alcoholic


Please do not change who you are around me. Don’t act differently, don’t talk differently and don’t drink differently. Don’t worry about little ‘ol me, I won’t break. Don’t try to shield or coddle me, that’ll just piss me off. Just keep your home stocked with my new fav, Diet Hansen’s, and then that’s where I’ll draw the line.

My seemingly endless internal turmoil is MY problem and I’ll own that, thank you very much. It was my choice to get sober.

Oh, but in my perfect world, I’d never again have to:

  • Set foot in another bar
  • Have alcohol in my home
  • Witness other people drinking on MY time
  • Deal with the masses thinking it’s so cool
  • Deal with the social stigma associated with problem drinkers
  • Think about all of this shit
  • Feel like it’s in my face every second of every freaking day!

Do I wish alcohol never existed? No. Because there are freaks of nature out there who can actually drink responsibly and don’t have “relationships” with alcohol. This is why I must endure all of the shit above.

I’m not against alcohol; I’m just sick of dealing with the clashing of my sober life and the rest of the world day in and day out. And herein lies the purpose for this blog; an outlet for self-discovery and unloading! So, you be you and I’ll be me and you can read about my journey if you want to.

If I make you uncomfortable – I know I do for some – suck it up, go have a little chat with yourself and figure out what the hell is wrong with you. I am not responsible for how you feel, just as you are not responsible for how I feel. Stop being such a sensitive sally.

What you CAN do:

  • Ask me questions. I love to talk about my sobriety and I find I learn a lot from doing so.
  • Sign up to receive email notifications for new blog entries I post. The more ears I have, the stronger and louder my voice will get. It’s so freeing to feel like someone is actually listening.

Got a prob? Could you be an alcoholic?

First of all, let me start out by saying that you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have a drinking problem. If you are wondering if you might have a drinking problem, you probably do. Ignorant people tend to picture alcoholics as falling-down, smelly boozers or bitchy trailer park whores, but the majority of alcoholics walk around looking and acting like “normal” people. If you don’t want to label yourself as an alcoholic or problem drinker, then don’t. Nobody is asking you to. Awareness is all I am going for here. Here are some warning signs:

  1. Not being able to imagine your life without alcohol in it – if this scenario is just too hard to grasp, I can certainly relate. Who the hell would want to hang out with you? Why would you want to hang out with your dumbass friends if you were the only one sober? What would you do with your time? Where the hell would you go? How would you deal with every single situation where alcohol is present?
  2. Obsessing about alcohol – about the next time you can drink, how you are going to get it and who you’re going to go out drinking with. I’m not talking about getting all frazzled like a crack whore, it can be as simple as daydreaming about those beers after work every day, or worse, putting a few back in the middle of the day, just to make it through.
  3. Surrounding yourself socially with heavy drinkers – all of my friends were partiers. I barely knew of any sober people. There are so many heavy drinkers out there; I’d say a large majority of the ones that I know have a problem to some degree. But what does that mean? Whatever the hell you want it to mean. Our society encourages heavy drinking, sadly. It just seems so glamorous to be instantly accepted into that “club”. Am I judgmental? Hell yeah, I am. I’ve earned that right, plus, what’s it matter to you?
  4. Binge drinking – considered to be 5 drinks or more consumed within one sitting – is there any other way? Anything less than that and I figured you just couldn’t hang. If you weren’t beer bonging, keg standing, shot gunning, or just plain trying to get wasted, I could not and did not want to relate to you.
  5. Inability to control your alcohol intake after starting to drink – I actually don’t think I fell into this category. I was usually pretty good at keeping a steady buzz without going off the deep end, or having the spins set in. I know many who cannot control their intake, however and decide to jump over fires, jump off of houses, drive around, break stuff by being retarded or have to cut a good time short because they’re so blitzed, they have to go pass out.
  6. Behaving in ways, while drunk, that are uncharacteristic of your sober personality – I don’t really have to go here, do I? Been there. Done that. Repeatedly.
  7. Feeling guilt and shame about your drunken behaviors – I’m not going here either, but I will say that toward the end of my drinking career, I was apologizing to my husband (then boyfriend) on a regular basis. I would turn into a royal bitch and basically become verbally abusive toward him. He would never repeat what I said to him…it must have been some awful shit…but thankfully, he forgave me and we worked through it all together.
  8. Repeating unwanted drinking patterns – in a normal person’s brain, they would likely learn from episodes and choose not to repeat them, at least not for a very long time. In an alcoholic’s brain (in my dumbed-down opinion), this choice is overridden by some type of chemical blip that almost makes you forget about the episode, or something like that. I had a friend who had to look at the guy’s mail on his table in the morning, to figure out what his name was…she was absolutely mortified, scared…she was right back out on the town the next weekend boozing and whoring around. Normal people don’t do that.
  9. Driving drunk – Here’s something scary, I drove during my blackouts. I honestly thought I was an exception to the rule. I’m damn lucky I never killed anyone. I am still ashamed about this and feel a little hypocritical now, but no, not really. I’m sober now, so that means I’m better than all of you who choose to drive drunk. If I see any of you bitches driving around, I’m calling 911. You need to actually think before you start drinking.
  10. Driving buzzed – even if you’re buzzed, you have no right to be behind that wheel. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. The alcohol makes you think you can do it. Here’s my advice: Plan. Plan. Plan. If you’re going out after work and you have two drinks on an empty stomach, you should have planned it out to have someone else drive you or pick you up. Inconvenient you say? So is a DUI or even worse, running over a pedestrian or killing someone. There are so many dumbasses that drive with a buzz; I really need to write a separate post on this subject.
  11. Getting drunk before actually arriving at parties/bars – PRE-FUNK, baby! It’s much cheaper, more fun and it’s so much more convenient to already be loose and extra social when you arrive to a function.
  12. Setting drinking limits – if you try to “only drink on the weekends” or have only 1 glass of wine with dinner, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure. If not, more power to you, but if you even have to consider setting limits, maybe you should honestly explore why that is.
  13. Taking breaks from drinking – “We were on a break!” Like that ever works out! Seriously, if you have to take a freaking break, you’re not being real with yourself.
  14. Always having to finish your alcoholic beverage or someone else’s – it’s a damn shame to waste perfectly good alcohol, I know. The only acceptable instance would be a very small pour out for all of your fallen homies. Bet.
  15. People have expressed concern about your negative drunken behaviors – here’s where I am confused and shocked…no one ever said anything to me that I remember. Most of my friends and family were surprised to hear that I had quit! It is such a shame how our society puts drinking and partying on such a pedestal. I wish someone would have expressed genuine concern for me, as deep down, I was breaking my own heart and wanting someone to really SEE me. Who knows, I may have laughed in their face or bitched them out if they tried, but I’d like to think it would have resonated on some level…if ifs were fifths…
  16. Having chronic blackouts – shit, that was the goal half the time. I blacked out on a very regular basis. A piece of advice for everyone: DON’T DRINK EVEN ONE DRINK ON ANTI-DEPRESSANTS, EVER!
  17. An increasing sense of denial that your heavy drinking is a problem because you are able to succeed professionally and personally – I think people hear the phrase, “functioning alcoholic” and forget that the majority of alcoholics ARE functioning, really. Alcoholics, problem drinkers, whatever you want to call it.

If you do determine you or someone you love has a problem, there are many options for help and many different ways to go about it. Google it. Comments are welcome.

16 Truths in Dealing with Sober Reality

The hard part about sobriety is that you have to deal with life and other people as they really are, and you have to do this SOBER!

I’ve found the following to be true for me:

  1. It hasn’t gotten much easier.
  2. Most people are pretty boring – having said that, I do make a game out of it to spice it up and do usually find out interesting things about people or myself.
  3. I have little tolerance for annoying people – this has always been the case, but the level of annoying-ness soars when I’m sober, especially when the irritating party is drinking.
  4. I have little tolerance for people who don’t follow through with their own goals – I am so damn proud of myself for being able to do this day in and day out, I really don’t understand people who refuse to change their lives for the better. My lack of understanding surely leads to the intolerance, I’ll admit. Sure, we all get comfortable being uncomfortable at times, but I don’t get these people: People who bitch about being fat and do little about it just baffle my mind; People who hate their job, but don’t even look for a new one, willing to just be miserable for their short, precious lives; People who make New Years resolutions. Seriously, they’re kidding themselves if they wait to do it; People who drink all the way to the front door of rehab…you know that’s not going to end well. If you really wanted it, you’d start right this moment. Everyone wants a simple fix and no one wants to work hard for what they want. This is why I admire other sober people and want to know more of them, because it would be so easy to just take that first drink, but every minute of every day has a purpose, to stay sober…and then every other minute finds a new, more meaningful purpose. We do things on purpose, is what I am getting at. I like that. In the words of good ‘ol Hitch, “Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”
  5. My problems are still here, only they’re easier to work through.
  6. I know who my true friends are.
  7. Most functions are pretty boring – I make a game out of these, too. I have to, living with my social butterfly of a husband. My social anxiety doesn’t help, but sure does set the stage for some challenging interactions, which then elude the boring-ness, but make me a nervous wreck!
  8. Most functions include alcohol – true dat!
  9. Drunk people are obnoxious idiots – I am usually not around for this phase anymore, but on the lucky occasion I happen to be, they either disgust me, make me oh so grateful that I am who I am, or sometimes they are actually funny…at their expense, of course.
  10. I have zero tolerance for drinking and driving – ZERO.
  11. I’m more aware of my surroundings.
  12. It’s hard for me to relax and unwind – this is a bothersome one because relaxation is the essence of life. The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. Massages work tremendously well, but I don’t have the money, or I’d have one weekly. Working out does help. What I really want is the ability to better recognize when I’m in the middle of a crazy anxious frenzy (this happens daily and is on some level a panick attack, I believe), so I can take a deep breath and calm myself down somehow. Funny how relaxation doesn’t seem to come to me naturally.
  13. I am responsible for myself and answer only to myself.
  14. I remember what happened the night before – usually. I blame my current memory lapses on being a baby momma.
  15. I remember every sporting event I go to – not many people I know can say that!
  16. My bonds with some of my family and friends are stronger and more meaningful .
  17. Waking up clear-headed is an amazing way to start out the day.
  18. I still dream of getting trashed one day without consequence – it would be so nice to kick back with a few cold ones and let my brain get a little fuzzy while my worries and cares just drifted away for an afternoon…

“For the flavor of it” – gimme a break! This alcoholic’s not buying it!

Why do people have “just one drink?” – ah yes, “for the flavor of it.”

The next time someone says that to me, I am seriously going to junk punch them. Alcohol is designed to affect the brain and give the user a sense of pleasure. That’s the beauty of it, really. So I’m not buying it if you have “just one drink” at dinner or after work. If you like the flavor of it, have a non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic wine…they taste similar. Do they think it’s a bad thing to want the alcohol to have even the smallest of effects on them, which only one drink certainly will? It’s not a bad thing at all. It’s only when you can’t control how much you consume, or do stupid shit when under the influence that it becomes a problem (that’s certainly not the definition of an alcoholic, but you get my gist).

A “drink” is either one shot of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine or one beer, all of which contain the same amount of alcohol, pretty much. At the .02 blood alcohol concentration level, experiments have demonstrated that people exhibit some loss of judgment and begin to relax and feel good. But tests have also shown that drivers at the .02 level experience a decline in visual functions, affecting their ability to track a moving object, and experience a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time. These changes may be very subtle and barely noticeable to the person who has had only one drink, but in an emergency situation while behind the wheel of a vehicle, they could cause the driver to react (or not react) as they would without having had a drink. I thought it was worth mention, but I will cover drinking and driving in a future post. Just for the record, the only safe driving limit is .00 percent.

So all of those ridiculous people out there saying they have a drink “for the flavor of it” are lying to themselves. Self awareness is key, people. If you can’t admit to yourself that you like the effect a glass of wine has on you, what the hell else can’t you admit? If you’re trying to sugar coat it so as not to offend me, too late. Sometimes I never ever want to bear witness to another drop being consumed by anyone. Not because I assume they have a problem or because I’m jealous they don’t have a problem…well, it could be one those things, BUT I just don’t enjoy being surrounded by it day after day, having to constantly go through this turmoil inside, where I don’t seem to fit into this world anymore. MY world! It makes me mad that normal people take having “just one drink” so lightly, when that one drink for me signifies failure, regret and the end of life as I know it.

Don’t ever tell me you’re having that beer just because you love the taste. Be who you are and I’ll be who I am. You don’t need to censor yourself, making you look like a complete idiot in my eyes. It does more harm than good to try to shield or protect me, if that’s the case.

PS: If you have one glass of wine every day for an entire year, you are adding 54750 calories to your diet. This totals to about 15 pounds of extra calories. Drink up, fatty.

5 things I won’t miss about drinking

I love sobriety. 5 things I won’t miss about drinking:

  1. Hangovers – I remember thinking to myself, “Oh shit, how am I going to make it through the day?” “I don’t know if I can do this!” I dealt with this legitimate fear regularly. It was always accompanied with dizziness, irritability and a pounding head. And visual snow, fuzzy brain and scratchy throat. And thick tongue, dry lips, wool sweaters on my teeth and moderate dehydration. Good times.
  2. Fatigue – I was ALWAYS tired and worn down. I haven’t slept or felt this well-rested since early high school. Have I mentioned that I love sobriety?
  3. Paranoia – Knowing that I can’t EVER get a DUI is such an amazing feeling! I am free! I don’t have to hope for a drama-free evening anymore. Sobriety sure does have its benefits.
  4. Dishonesty – No one ever knew how much I really drank. I never lied to myself, just everyone that loves me. I thought I was so clever and crafty sometimes. I think alcoholics are dishonest to themselves, more than anyone. There’s so much rationalizing and externalizing. Denial is ugly.
  5. Regret – I can’t even get into this now. Alcohol cast its shadow on every single decision I ever made while I was drinking. Nothing was truly my own, yet I’m left with my lack of accountability to own up to.

Jealousy is a bitch – can’t I just be normal?!

The darkness of jealousy closes in on me daily.

Why can’t I just be normal like everyone else?

Just this morning, while in the kitchen with a few co-workers, they joked about wanting some Bailey’s for their coffees, rather than regular cream. At least, I think they were joking. Alcohol in the techy workplace is a common theme these days. I just smiled at them thinking, “Those assholes don’t know how good they have it.” Realistically, I wouldn’t last another day if I’d actually had some Bailey’s in my coffee. I would have achieved a glowing morning buzz and sustained it throughout the rest of the day until I needed a nap. It’s a damn shame to waste a perfectly good buzz.

I saw a friend post on Facebook about what a great time she had at dinner last night. Her accompanying friend commented with, “Good friends. Good dinner. Good wine.” I instantly felt nauseous with jealousy. Why does that chick have to focus on the wine? I’m sure they all got toasty, which elevated their good time into an illusion of an even better time of togetherness and warm fuzziness. It pisses me off that I feel so secluded from these types of events and connections.

I’d bet money on the fact that I’ll overhear someone in the office saying they’re going out for a drink after work. “A drink” is an alcoholic drink. I try to switch it in my head to mean any kind of drink, but I know I’m bullshitting myself. “I’d like to go, please. Can I please watch you get loose and glassy-eyed while I drink 10 Diet Cokes?” Alcohol is always in my face.

It’s not even noon yet.

Sometimes I look at my husband in the evening who’s drinking a glass of wine on the couch and I feel this awful, dark, piercing moment of resentment toward him. I hate that feeling. Most of the time he just has one glass or one beer. That is when I’m a little less jealous and more blown away – why the hell would you ever want just one? What’s the friggin point? Why waste calories on that? This is when I realize how differently we are wired. Sometimes he’ll get a nice buzz out of the deal and the inner battle within me really heats up. Sometimes I’m fine to pour him a glass at dinner, while at other times I’m completely blown away and offended that he asks me to. I’m up, then I’m down. I’m black, then I’m white. I get bitchy about it every once in a while, but he’s usually oblivious to these feelings I tend to have . I don’t want to bother him or change him or admit that it’s really that hard for me because I started this and I hate being perceived as weak. I’m the one with the problem. I have to adapt to the world. I am better for it. It’s tough, though. I can do it, it’s just an obscene amount of hard work on a daily basis that tires me out and sometimes makes me want to head for the hills.

In reality, I know I have come a long way and could have never imagined a life this good for myself. And I know I have a choice with every tormenting inner battle throughout the day. I can stay bitter, or I can take my mind through the process of reminding myself of how far I’ve come, how much better my life is and that I decided to live this way. I choose the latter, but damn, it’s exhausting. Practice makes perfect, right? Eventually, it should get a little easier.