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!
Summertime 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?
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…
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.
Be 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.
So 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.
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.
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 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 sunny day
a rainy day
getting off of work
going out in public
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.