Friday, September 24, 2010

Rollercoaster Ride

Today is better. The meeting last night really helped me to focus on what matters - turning control over to my higher power.

Everything I've read about early sobriety notes the crazy emotional ups and downs that happen in the first 30 (or 60 or 90) days. I mentally "prepared" myself for this, but thought I was fine. Stable. Balanced. Serene. Well, except for the constant ups and downs! In looking over my previous posts I realize the truth in the statements. I'm beginning to understand the concept that one need not take one's emotions so seriously. Fingers crossed that I can take this into the next "down".

With that in mind, I've been thinking about other preconceptions I had about alcoholism and the 12-steps:

1. Once You Get to "X" Days, You Don't Have to Worry Anymore

Because everything seems so difficult in the early days of recovery and it does get easier, I really thought that after a few years of sobriety you'd be fine. Because, while it made sense to me that after a few days or weeks, you wouldn't lose much by "going back out" it made no sense that anyone would give up those months or years. After reading and hearing people say they'd done precisely that I'm really beginning to comprehend the sleeping dragon. As alcoholics, we're really never safe from the disease.

2. 12-Steps and Then You're Done

This is related to the first misconception. I viewed the 12-steps like a recipe for a cake, or something??? The notion that once you'd gone through all of the steps, you'd be whole. Maybe...hate to say it...but perfect in some way? Like some version of sober nirvana would be attained and no further action would be required? Writing it out sounds foolish, but by going to a step-based meeting and hearing from a woman who has 26 years of sobriety, makes it utterly clear, that "progress, not perfection" is an on-going state of mind. In that sense, #2 is the solution to the problem of #1.

3. Drinking Was the Cause of My Discontent

I have been railing against this in many of my posts. I'm coming to realize that with this disease, drinking was the symptom of the underlying spiritual problem. I was the author of my problems. In sobriety a clearer mind provides a framework for addressing the underlying issues, but all of the problems are still there.

4. Slogans are Hokey and Unsophisticated

Before I stopped drinking, I used to think the many concise sayings from AA were beneath me as I was smart. From the moment I stated "I am powerless to control my consumption of alcohol" I began to cling to these. "Get your ego out of the way," "Fake it till you make it," "The only way out is through." "What other people think about you is none of your business." These and many others are a lifeline to me - they act as mantras which rescue me in moments of cynical thinking, like emergency boosts of medicine.

It would be wonderful if any of you have others to share!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sobriety is Awesome, Life Sucks

After I wrote yesterday's post (published this morning), I was walking our dog, positively stewing in anger, frustration, and a sense of hopelessness. I kept thinking: I really just want to give up. I wanted (and really still want) to stay in bed all day. Read a book. Knit. Quit.

Then something powerful happened.

I realized, for the first time, that wanting to give up didn't mean I wanted to drink. Sobriety really is amazing, and even though I'm new to it, I see it's many blessings evidenced. I don't wake up with a sense of self-loathing anymore. I remember my conversations. I see my daughters. I'm able to show love, because I don't hate myself quite so much.

So it came to me: "Sobriety rocks. Life just sucks right now." It's unfortunate, really. In my deepest moments of self pity (which happen daily), I think: "Where the f*ck is my pink cloud." I really do. I have to keep reminding myself that life has it's ups and downs. That this will pass. In Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down, the author points out that we always wish for bad times to end, but never do the same when we're happy or joyful. So true.

For now, not wanting to go back to drinking is at the top of my gratitude list. For the rest, I'm trying to remember that normal people don't hold a pity party everytime things aren't going their way. Normal people don't look out at the world around them and say to themselves: "Why is this happening to me!"

Tonight I go to my meeting. With luck, it will help me take my head out of my ass. :)

Liar, Liar...

If you asked me to rate my level of honesty six months ago, I would have unequivically told you that I am a very honest person. Perhaps I might have suggested that my desire to please people was an issue I needed to work on. But dishonest??? Never.

Unfortunately, it's recently come to my attention that I am a huge liar. It's not that I go around town making up stories, or outwardly tell lies to people. But I am guilty of the following:
  1. I pretend everything is fine, when my world is crumbling around me.
  2. I ignore feelings of stress, boredom, discontentedness, sadness, frustration, and fear. Usually, I also talk myself out of them.
  3. I promise to do things and then avoid doing them.
  4. I justify myself and my actions constantly...even if only to myself.
Since I've stopped drinking, I really notice these things. Before, the thoughts and feelings were cut off by the buzz. Sure, I was carrying around a load of guilt and suffering from daily panic attacks. But "who doesn't?", right?

Now, I knew that everything would not be perfect when I quit drinking. I knew that all of the problems I'd been avoiding would still be there, right where I left them...but, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I thought I would simply stop doing all of the above. I didn't realize I believed alcohol was the cause, but it turns out I did.

In some ways it's easier to deal with these habits now. Because I spent so much time excusing my drinking, it was very simple to continue excusing myself in other areas of my life. Now that I have removed the "yes, but I was drunk at the time" excuse, I want to get rid of all of the other excuses I make. I want to be an honest and straightforward person. Whole. I really want to stop hiding.

I struggle, because I guess I didn't think it would be so hard.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 15 and the Nature of Cravings

Whew. I have finally managed to make it past the two week mark. The two weekends in a row mark. I'm really looking forward to the 30 day mark. It now seems possible. Of course, one day at a time.

I had really bad cravings yesterday. That desire to jump out of my skin for a while. In thinking about it, I realized that I didn't feel a craving for a glass of wine, or scotch, or cognac (I am classy of course!). Rather, I felt on edge and really wanted to zone out for a few hours. Get out of my skin, my mind, and my feelings. Escape. Because I understood this, the addicted part of me would have taken anything. It would have led me to walk for miles in driving rain to get something. If the liquor stores were closed, it would have taken pills, gotten high. Whatever...so much for classy.

The sober part of me was relieved to have this insight. The very knowledge that I only wanted some distance did not make the desire go away, but it did truly provide clarity. The message was important: I needed to make some space for quiet and solitude. So, I did.

And now I'm on day 15. It's not shaping up to be a great day, but at least it will be a sober one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm Not Afraid

When I first started reading people's stories of their alcoholism and sobriety, I always balked at the concept that, as alcoholics, we live in fear. I was NOT afraid, and fear definitely did not govern me. Oh no! Not me.

It's funny, because one would think I would have balked at the idea of being an alcoholic (denial could really only take me so far). But no, my stumbling block was the admission of fear.

As I put more sober days together, I am really beginning to see that fear did govern many of my choices. Not only was I afraid to be sober, but I was afraid of failing, of being vulnerable, of admitting I couldn't do something, of difficult conversations, of conflict, and almost everything else. So I drank. And for a few minutes or hours, the fear went away. Admitting to fear has been as freeing as it was to finally admit that I was powerless over alcohol. It brings the fear into the light and reduces it's power over my decisions.

I'm still afraid, but I'm starting to recognize it. There is clarity to my thinking (now, only because I'm not drunk or hungover) and with each day, I feel like I see a bit more. Things have happened over the past few months that I would never have been able to deal with if I were still drinking. And for that I feel deep gratitude.

I went to my first AA meeting last night and one of the topics people shared was about this fear and how it had contributed to their drinking. It was so nice to hear everyone talk honestly and to share a part of themselves. I related to something in each of their stories. I felt less alone. And it was fascinating, because it wasn't just that we were all recovering alcoholics that laid the foundation for common ground, it was that we all, in some way, didn't feel good enough and wanted something better for ourselves.

Everything I've read on the Boards or in blogs was true: people were so welcoming, everyone gave me their phone number, no one judged anyone else, and they laughed...I laughed. And unlike almost every social conversation I've had in the past two years, they were real.

I'll definitely go back.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Butterflies

I'm going to my first AA meeting tonight. I feel very nervous, but also excited. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thoughts on Day Nine

I was going to write nine thoughts, for poetic and organizational reasons, but it's time to read books and tuck in the kids, so we'll go with what I have so far:
  1.  I still remember my first day 1 - looking back, I still don't know how I managed it. There were so many days where I promised I would not drink "tomorrow" and drank anyway. Each day really does get easier, as new habits are formed.
  2. The spiritual component is so important. I avoided it at first, because I left that behind a long time ago. It is now the key to my sobriety and I feel such gratitude to have that support in my life.
  3. Yesterday, for the first time in such a long time, I turned to the people in my life, admitted my problem with alcohol, and asked for help. I've been so lonely and isolated, and now I feel more connected. It's such a relief to know I'm not alone in this.
  4. I'm still tired and grouchy sometimes, and I don't always do "the next right thing", but I feel real change happening. Another blogger wrote: "I love my sober self so much more than I thought possible." I feel gratitude because I'm starting to see glimpses of the real me.
  5. The first few times I quit, I thought any slip would be such a crushing failure I wouldn't find the strength to continue. Instead, I've learned something valuable from each instance and feel hope that focusing on only today will bring greater success. As a result, I've sort of stopped counting the days. I was putting too much emphasis on perfection and stumbling as a result...I'm still going to collect my chips though :)
I hope your day went well - thanks so much for reading!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Dash of Clarity

I've been giving last night's post a lot of thought today. I was in the process of trying to assess how to talk about all of the problems in my life, with the conviction that finding resolution to them would make recovery easier. At the same time, I felt like I couldn't violate anyone's privacy, but my own. Conundrum...head explodes.

Today I realized that regardless of the specifics of my family or work situation and the struggles I face with them, the bigger issue is the admission of powerlessness. If I truly believe I can only change me, then there really isn't any good reason to delve into any of those details. There is a good reason to admit my powerlessness to control them. The New Codependency is helping me to see where and how I can focus my energies on my own recovery. So that's where I'll start today.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bloggy Questions

So I'm up in the middle of the night - it's actually something I used to do alot before I drank. I know some people love the quiet of the early morning, but I used to be (and seem to be becoming again) such a night owl.

My mind is teeming with thoughts. But I have a question - how much can I really say about the other people in my life or history. So far, I've been mostly careful to only speak about me and what I think and feel. But the sad fact is, that much of what I'm thinking about involves my family and my relationship with them. None of them even know about the blog. It's fairly anonymous.

What do you think? Would it be a violation of their privacy? How do you see it?

Better Yet

Yesterday was a much better day. Today was also a pretty good day. I did two things I have gotten out of the habit of doing ever. First, I talked about how I was feeling. Short and sweet, no attempt to change it or fix it. Just admitted it to myself and my husband. People just do have bad days sometimes. Period. Second, I didn't wind myself up into a guilt trip about those feelings. It is what it is, after all.

When I woke up on Wednesday a weight had been lifted.

It is hard work though. I'm so used to softening edges and swallowing conflict with alcohol, that this idea of being here is unfamiliar. Strange.

I'll write a longer post tomorrow. I am filled with ideas. But for this week, it's been about hanging on, reading endlessly, and tying to stay true.

Thanks for your comments on the other posts - every single one has helped.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm Back...

...but I have to be honest, I don't feel very well today. I drank on Saturday. Nothing went horribly wrong, except that I woke to a panic attack at about 5am. This used to happen all the time. Every day. I didn't repeat my little foray into pretending I can or should drink "responsibly" and I thank god that I was able to go back to stopping. Back to day 1. And now it's Tuesday.

I feel so depressed. So incredibly hopeless. Work is stressful and I feel like I'm doing a horrible job. My husband is wrapped up in his own cycles, so I just don't feel like I can rely on him. In the days and weeks since I decided to get sober, I've realized how often I drank to escape the loneliness of living in this marriage.

So yes. My own little pity party is well in hand.

Time to find a meeting.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Still Here...

I'm still here. I haven't had a drink and am on day 11. More and more I realize that my urge to "check out" is triggered by feeling overwhelmed. There is simply too much too do, and I want to throw up my hands, and just not care about any of it for a while.

I'm reading The 12-Step Buddhist right now, trying to remind myself why I signed up for all of this. It's helping. And I know I'll get to a better spot, even if at the moment it seems impossible. I believe every one of you who has said it gets easier with time.

Besides - if I give in now, I'll still have to get through another day 11, right?

Thank you again for writing about your stories; it really does help.
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