Sleeping with the “normie” – recovery with a spouse who drinks

My husband still drinks. I haven’t asked him to stop drinking because of my situation – that wouldn’t seem fair – he doesn’t have a drinking problem. We have a shit load of alcohol in the house, but I don’t freak out about it because we keep it out of sight. Our lifestyle has changed tremendously since I quit drinking and, for the most part, we are both happy with how we compromise in that respect. I do struggle when he’s having a drink or two at home, though. I don’t know what the hell he gets out of just a few drinks, but that’s a mystery I’ll never solve. On these evenings when he drinks, I often have to remind myself that he doesn’t have the same kind of relationship as I do with alcohol. A few seconds of reflection are tolerable, but some nights aren’t as smooth.

DISCLAIMER: YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SOME OF MY PRIVATE, NOT-SO-PRIVATE-ANYMORE THOUGHTS. I’M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THEM. IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING SUPPORTIVE TO SAY, I’M GAME. ALSO, I’M TERRIFIED TO CLICK “PUBLISH”, BUT WHATEVER.

Sitting at the counter, rests a water-stained stem-less wine glass, ravenously filling with rich, grapey, smooth perfection. Hints of oak and mild tobacco pillage my fluttering nostrils – and it all smells like home. As the vino gurgles through the aerator, it taunts me, “Neener, neener, neener! I’m sophisticated and delicious and you can’t have me!” My internal dialog gets a wild hair up its ass and goes to town. Come along on the crazy train for a minute and sample my secret, not-so-secret-anymore hell:

God damn wine. Screw him. Why the hell can’t I drink it? I’m a grown woman, I can make my own choices. Who does he think he is, giving me an ultimatum and then flaunting it in front of me?! That gurgling makes me want to shove that aerator up his ass. Why does he have to invite the booze, can’t it just be me and him? Hmm…Maybe this is just my perspective and not reality – if I had one or two drinks, that’s all I’d be focused on. He probably doesn’t focus on it one bit, he just has a drink and lives his life – he’s so weird. This isn’t fair. I bet I could have just one glass now. It’s been so long. Maybe I’m cured! Maybe I’m not actually an alcoholic – I was never THAT bad, anyway. I functioned well in all aspects of my life still. Well, except for verbally abusing the shit out of him – yeah, I guess that was pretty bad. Glad I don’t remember any of it. Would it hurt anything to try again though? I miss wine tasting with him. I miss our happy hours and funny adventures. I miss the relaxation. I miss the buzz. I miss getting wasted. I miss feeling normal. But I’m not normal, am I? I’m such a loser. I could never stop at just one or two, all I’d want to do is get shitty drunk. But what would that really accomplish? A glowing buzz, a moment to just let go and be wasted. Shit…I’m totally obsessed! The next day I’d be hung over AND be required to be a good mom, no thanks. I’d regret the shit out of losing my 8 years’ status and have to start back at day one…hour one…that’d be enough of a disappointment and reason to drink myself into oblivion. I don’t want to lose my life. I will not disappoint my family or myself. Plus, I have two kids I am responsible for! I want them to look up to me and know that because Mommy can do anything, they can too. Shit. Once again, I’ve talked myself out of this shit. Good. Like it was ever really touch-and-go. This is still annoying, though. Why can’t he just not drink? Would that be a fair ask? What if I did ask him to not drink? Would he be willing to? That’s a scary thought…I wouldn’t want him resenting me anyway, so it’s not an option. I’m the one who is strong enough to overcome resentment, I’ll take this on. I’m so much stronger than anyone knows. I’m actually the shit. He’s so lucky to have me. OK, now I feel a little better and actually hope he enjoys his wine…but not too much. If he gets a buzz on, I’m going to go through this all over again and want nothing to do with him. Maybe I should get out of here and head for the hills. Ok, ok. Simmer down, cray cray. All is good in my world. And both worlds can still meet for now. He’s totally fine. Stop watching him. Don’t count his drinks…STOP! Deep breath. Everything’s ok. I’m ok. One day at a time and I’m still sober. Damn, I think too much. I’m so strong, though. Look how I just worked through that shit. I really AM the shit…

Yep. Pretty intense for a gal on any given evening, huh? Sometimes I honestly wonder if I could be considered clinically insane in these moments. Why is it so hard to remember that I choose sobriety for myself?

Face it and conquer it!Why does it take a few grueling minutes of inner torture to bring myself back to a place of peace? Sometimes I envy those who have significant others who are also in recovery, versus being with a “normie”. What a huge and instant support system, plus, they’d understand you on that level that only addicts could. But the grass is only greener where you water it. And I love my man. If I didn’t have challenges, I wouldn’t be human. And I’ve learned how strong I am. I’m not willing to give that up for anything.

So, here’s my takeaway: Boundaries are essential. In early sobriety, I had a rule that I wouldn’t open or pour drinks for anyone. I don’t know what happened, but somewhere along the way I started to slack. I think I wanted more normalcy and to be useful and less of a burden. My husband and I recently discovered that this boundary must be reset. Holding or pouring a drink is too dangerous for me. It’s death in a cup and could easily slide down my throat, poisoning everything beautiful in my life. This telling conversation sparked after I’d snapped at him – he was innocently pouring wine and I heard gurgling – “Go into the friggin’ pantry and shut the door when you’re pouring that gurgling shit, mother fucker!” For now, I am going to keep being real with myself about what sets me up for success. I’m grateful to have a partner who wants me happy and will agree to pour his wine in the pantry, so I can’t hear it. He’s pretty incredible and boy, has he learned more than he ever wanted to about alcoholism! I’m not a big fan of “rules”, but they are necessary in my life, at least right now. I’m hoping someone out there knows what it’s like to go through this. I always come out on the bright side, sure, but why does it feel so traumatic every damn time?! It’s draining and infuriating, but in the end I’m grateful that I can coach myself back to my peace. I always reach my peace, and that’s what matters most.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

3,000 Days Sober! No more stigma…

No more shame!On this 3,000th day of my sobriety, I sit here amazed. I’m amazed at myself, of the life I’ve created, and at how damn difficult this journey has been. I’m even more amazed that so many people out there are still suffering in silence. My heart is troubled lately, as I’ve realized how big of an epidemic this really is. Alcoholism isn’t what I’m referring to – it’s the stigma. This stigma is a salivating beast and a force to be reckoned with. I’ve joined the mission to kick its dirty little ass.

Off the top of my head, I can think of about 20 people who I know personally, struggling with alcoholism and problem-drinking. A handful is in the closet, dealing with their spouse’s drinking, some are getting divorced, and the others live in their own private drinking hells. People have confided in me – it’s awesome and a little scary – but mostly it’s a kick in my ass to get louder. So many are miserable, but very few are talking about it. Shame is all around us. I hate shame. This silence feeds the stigma, which, in turn, enables denial. Maybe more of us would have turned our lives around sooner, had we known more about this shit and the real people going through it. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate like stigma does – it takes idiots and scholars, assholes and saints, wealthy and poor, good-looking and fugly, strong and weak, and everything in-between. We are no more flawed than anyone, we are not a disgrace. It’s addiction, not a plague. We, in recovery, are not victims, we are warriors. Sometimes we fall – we get right back up. We are brave and amazing sons of bitches. And we must help others get out of the dark.

Knowledge nugget: You don’t have to join AA or get anywhere near the 12 steps to recover. I am proof of that with 3,000 days, dude! This misconception is driven by AA, and has ultimately fed fear and stigma. There’s no right or wrong way to recover. Recovery is yours. You don’t have to have a plan – the only plan I’ve had is: don’t drink. You don’t have to claim powerlessness. You don’t have to be anonymous! You don’t have to go to meetings. I’ve done just fine without meetings and some would even argue that I’m better off. Support is essential, whatever that means for you. I started off with a few close family members’ support. My greatest source of support these days has been from social media. More about that later. For now, as I revel in the last hour of my 3,000th day in recovery, I leave you with this…To my friends in recovery – you are never alone and I’m so proud of you. I’m here if you need anything. To those who are struggling, afraid to reach out for help – you can find your strength, it’s there, and we can help you. To all the sorry sacks out there that support this stigma – suck it and stay tuned.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Debunking the Dry Drunk

Somebody called me a “dry drunk” behind my back. That was over a year ago, but I’ve carried it with me ever since. It’s probably time to let this shit out because I’m getting pissed about still being pissed. I had to do some research, as I’d never heard of a dry drunk before. Turns out, I have a BIG problem with this label, so I want to raise awareness of its absurdity and potential for damage. It’s not helpful to anyone and needs to go away.

You can Google the shit out of “dry drunk” – it’s everywhere. It might seem like a simple term, but it’s riddled with bullshit. As I understand it, a dry drunk is someone who is abstaining from alcohol or drugs, but still hasn’t found inner-peace or happiness in life because they’re stuck in their old ways of thinking. The original term referred to a rare condition that can occur during the first few months of recovery — you stumble around like a sloppy drunk, even though you’re stone-cold sober. In reality, it’s an imaginary disease invented by A.A. and has evolved into a condescending slur, suggesting that the sober person is angry, resentful, and emotionally stagnant – surely on the verge of relapse. If you don’t do the twelve steps, you will likely suffer from this “condition”, according to many members of A.A. Legitimate recovery sites play into this fear and nonsense. They advise about “how to avoid dry drunk syndrome”, “signs you’re a dry drunk”, and “treatment for dry drunk syndrome”.

soberchrystal.comI take my sobriety seriously and no one is going to scoff at it on my watch.

Labeling someone in recovery as a “dry drunk” only feeds the stigma we are all trying so desperately to annihilate. It’s insulting and shameful, and sows the seeds of fear. Everyone judges; it’s human nature. But this is taking it too far. It’s a display of ignorance and makes my name-caller look like an evil piece of shit.

Hell yes, I call people names. But it’s usually contained within my vehicle, aimed at other drivers, and more than likely true. I never said I was perfect. If you’re on my ass, slowing down to merge, honking at a traffic light (wtf?!), not waving after I let you in, or performing a 10-point parking job at Costco, you’re a “dumb ass” (totally censored) and I would like you to eat shit. I get that I should probably tone it down, especially with kids in tow, but I consider my road rage a survival tool. This way my head doesn’t explode and we don’t have a parking lot derby on our hands. And let’s be real – there are a lot of stupid and rude people. You can't fix stupid. But, you can beat the shit out of it.When someone else’s lack of awareness slows me down, I release my fury in a Tourette-like fashion – quick, loud, and vulgar. After that, it’s out and I’m done. When assholes dare to speculate about MY sobriety, it simply isn’t overcome with an epic tongue lashing. We need change.

I am privileged to be part of an amazing, brave, remarkable community of recovering addicts. We must support and celebrate each other on all paths, whether we understand.

I’ve compiled the following list of “symptoms” that dry drunks tend to portray. NOTE: I’m over 8 years into my recovery and still experience most of this stuff regularly. I don’t believe we should focus on trying to avoid it; we need to live it and learn. It’s absurd to assume that any sort of combination of these “symptoms” will inevitably lead to relapse.

“Symptom” Logic
Old patterns remain. This shit takes time. And some things never change. Patterns are hard to break and recovery requires patience. This does not mean you are on the verge of relapse.
Struggling in sobriety. If you’re struggling, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing anything wrong. If it’s not a struggle, you’re probably a robot. I struggle often, which is the purpose of this blog and my Twitter account. For those in recovery there are endless resources, such as treatment centers, websites, books, and counselors – proving that everyone struggles in recovery.
Romancing the drink. This is when we remember all the good things about our drinking past. We push the pains we experienced as a result of our booze binges aside and daydreams dance through our heads like happily drunken rainbows and booze-soaked cotton candy. Who the hell doesn’t reminisce?! It’s totally normal to get caught up in these “enhanced” memories. They are moments that we all must work through and I don’t expect them to ever go away completely. Plus, I had some damn good times. I always get back around to embracing the reasons for and benefits of my sobriety.
Anxiety. If you don’t have anxiety about shit, how do you know if it’s important to you? I think anxiety is a necessary natural force that has alerted me of potential dangers, especially in early recovery. NOTE: There are a ton of alcoholics that have other shit going on, like other mental health issues they struggle with, as well as their addiction. Describing these people as dry drunks is stupid and makes me want to punch someone in the face.
Angry and resentful. Clearly, this is me. Often. Sometimes when my husband is drinking, talking about drinking or spending money on drinking, I want to chop his egg-shaped head off. Sure, anger and resentment blow, but they’re a work in progress and are stepping-stones. I’m not on the verge of relapse because I have domestic fits of rage. I may drive my husband to drink, but that’s a different story!
Jealousy. You can bet your sweet ass I’m jealous of the “normies”. It’s ugly, but it’s part of the deal. In some ways, I think jealousy has helped push me in the direction I want to move toward my own goals. In other ways, it makes me want to shove a half-drunken beer bottle up someone’s ass.
Being impatient or pursuing whims. I tend to exaggerate the importance and urgency of things to the point that I’m hostile. If I miss out on something because of someone else’s stupidity, it pisses me off. It’s not going to make me polish off a fifth of vodka, though. And I consider the ability to pursue a whim a beautiful thing.
Inability to make decisions. The only things I truly know are how I like my coffee and that I’m always hungry. I couldn’t decide on whether or not to comment further on this.
Detachment and self-absorption. These are survival skills! I think self-absorption is necessary while we’re relearning how to approach just about every single thought and feeling in our lives. Sobriety is an intense personal journey. I have to detach at times to keep my sanity.
Mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied. I’ve been a moody son of a bitch all my life – it is part of my charming personality. I have trouble expressing my emotions to others because I am socially retarded. And any time I feel unsatisfied, I see it as a kick in the ass to change something, no matter how long it takes me to realize. None of these are going to send me crawling into a liquor store.
Less participation in a 12-step program, or withdrawal from it completely. Suck it! Suck it right now!

We have the right to judge and say whatever we want, but I expect a healthy heart and mind in recovery to be a little more accepting and a little less spiteful. Maybe this name-calling is a coping mechanism because she (my name-caller) is scared to consider another path. The freedom of my 12-step-free journey requires self-awareness, self-empowerment, and accountability that she may not have the balls to explore. It’s natural to try to make sense of things that we don’t understand. She has been sober for over a year and still goes to two A.A. meetings per day. That shit boggles my damn mind. I’d be whacked to keep that up – my knuckles would probably glow in the dark! But I don’t know what it’s like to live in her world and I don’t need to understand. I am still proud as hell of her for staying sober all this time and support her journey moving forward. I expect more compassion and flexibility of my recovering peers. I expect more accountability.No one understands and that's ok

We all work really hard in sobriety. One more day sober is another amazing feat. We don’t know what anyone goes through every day. We don’t know how anyone feels. We don’t see the work people are doing on the inside. And we are not psychics or mind readers. Sometimes just staying sober is ok. It has to be – we’ve all been there. Recovery is likely the hardest thing we will ever have to live through. Can we please be a little gentler with each other and lose this label? There are lots of mysteries in recovery – focus on your own. If you don’t have something nice or supportive to say about someone else’s recovery, please keep your mouth shut. And maybe I’ll work on my road rage.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Anonymous Walls Crumblin’ Down – full disclosure in recovery

The other day, I was so thrilled to see an article about me and my husband in the Bleacher Report (GO SEAHAWKS!!!); I tweeted about my 15 minutes of fame from my anonymous Sober Chrystal account. Until then, I’d been so careful to make sure Sober Chrystal couldn’t be tied to the real me. Shedding my last name increased my chances of remaining anonymous to the public and lifted the weight of reality, just a bit, so I could pursue this social sober outlet via my blog and Twitter. I realize now that if anyone had given half of a shit, they could have easily figured out who I was (as if my half-faced profile pic is the epitome of anonymous). I’ve been a big, fat hypocrite. Is it such a bad thing if my cover’s blown, anyway? I’m about to find out.

No need to be anonymousNEWS FLASH: My sobriety is the best thing about me! So, let’s just be ALL out with it.

Anonymity

One of the biggest challenges going against all of us in sobriety is dealing with the social stigma. Nothing feeds that beast like anonymity. It’s part of my beef with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is the reason it’s so damn hard to connect with people in real life who are on a similar path. No matter the intention, anonymity is a concept that is self-defeating.

As alcoholics, we are part of a community that’s riddled in self-doubt. Being anonymous makes it easier to share our stories and to connect with others online, resulting in motivation and hope. But, what if there’s more to the healing than swapping confessions and inspiration from behind those walls? I certainly don’t have this thing “licked”, but I believe that connecting with others in recovery is what sets me free. I’ve had a number of readers tell me that I’ve inspired them to get and/or stay sober. How amazing is that?! It is the highest honor I could imagine and it has given me purpose, drive, and accountability to keep my shit together. My actions are my only true belongings, so if I can do my part to chisel away at this wall of stigma and increase awareness, I’m going to do it. Owning up to who I am is a good start. Done.

There is no halfway.Anonymous is half-assed

I live my life and portray myself as a “go big or go home” kind of gal. There really is no halfway. I don’t halfway get angry at idiot drivers that don’t know how to merge (speed UP, don’t slow down!) and I don’t halfway eat a double double animal style In-N-Out burger. Hell NO! No more hiding behind a social media identity. I’m not just Sober Chrystal. I’m not a half-faced half-ass. This is intense because I know people will judge me. I’m paranoid that if people know I’m in recovery, it may limit any future job opportunities or friendships. I’ve already been dinged by my life insurance underwriters because somewhere along the way I mentioned my self-diagnosed alcoholism and that I’d gotten sober to a doctor. This increased my premium. Yep. Things need to change.

I’ve always been a fan of simplicity. What you see is what you get and if you don’t like it, I suggest you quit looking. I’m on this journey to love and accept myself. Fear of rejection can suck it. I’m not morally corrupt or weak and I’m not ashamed of who I am. I should be just as loud and proud as someone who has beaten heart disease! Do you remember who you were before everyone else started telling you who you should be? Well, I’m getting there. I’m a badass, for one. 7 years of sobriety in a world that still celebrates binge drinking and frequently recites that hideous phrase, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”, is not for the faint of heart. It’s for badasses. I’m Chrystal Comley. I’m Sober Chrystal. I’m a sober badass. Hear me roar!

Self-love

Recovery Runs in My Family

familyinrecovery

How many people can say that recovery runs in their family? Better yet, how many people can say it and be proud of it? I can! Let me introduce the three of us who are keeping it real every damn day: Me, my dad and my brother. We have a bond that is quite unique.

No matter how long we’ve each been sober, we make conscious decisions to not drink EVERY DAY. And just as many others in recovery have learned, it doesn’t get any easier, we just get a little bit better. What helps me be better is the connection I have with my dad and bro. I used to think I was a badass when I was wasted, but nothing compares to how powerful and awesome I feel having these two on my side and in my little “club.” Recovery posse up!

Today we celebrate my dad’s second year in recovery! Two years of sobriety is his longest stretch in over 40 years! That’s pretty amazing. I’ve never been more proud to be his daughter.

As I reflect upon my family in recovery, today especially, I bask in that powerful light that we’ve created together – healing ourselves, healing our family, and making our moments real. One day at a time, one panic attack at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time – we rock!

Happy SOBER New Year

Happy 2014!

My wish for all of my friends out there is for more peaceful and joyful moments in 2014. Only in sobriety can we genuinely experience these moments. Be proud of YOU and remember that with each sober breath you take, you are giving yourself the most precious gift.

An added bonus: remembering last night and starting the new year without a hangover!!!

My intentions are to judge less, look at the positive, take more deep breaths, trust my gut and STAY SOBER! Yeah baby!

Cheers to you with my grape raspberry spritzer!

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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.

 

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…

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.