Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sobriety Pitfalls: Resentment

The Big Book tells us that resentment is the biggest threat to our sobriety.

I've been thinking about this lately because when I realized I wasn't ready to take a jump into more responsibility, I was tempted to look outward and blame the people in my life for not being supportive. I thought "if only you were more flexible and understanding, I could do this." It was tempting to turn my thoughts to the "failings" of others, deflect my own responsibility, and wallow in that deepest sense of unfairness.

The only reason I shook myself out of it was because I was afraid these thoughts would lead me to drink again. My gratitude for AA is underlined by this knowledge. Without all of those meetings and books, I would never have known that I needed to check these thoughts, find faith and gratitude, and look at my own inventory, rather than outward.

You know what? It worked.

Praying for the faith to believe that things are as they should be, right now was key. Looking at my own responsibilities for where I am now made it much easier to let go of the resentments and blame and anger I felt. I think I've learned the following:

I still feel a deep pull towards outward prestige and success.
I will remind myself that I am "good enough" right now and that my value is innate and not determined by external circumstances. The desire to be successful is not inherently negative, as long as my motivation is grounded in truth. Basing my value on the ever-changing opinions of others will introduce unneccessary stress and sour any feelings of success.

I have not been doing a great job of responsibily managing my money.
It's true. In the past several months I have bought many things I don't need. As I am a bargain hunter, the damage is not extreme, but the base fact is that when things get tough, or I feel bad about myself, I tend to seek solace in a new pair of jeans or a kick-ass pair of shoes. Over the weekend I put together a budget for saving and paying off bills. I also need to get the taxes in order and begin to manage this area of my life.

I need to stay close to my longer term goals.
The opportunity I had would have guarenteed that the goals I've set for myself would be shoved to the back-burner, because my attention and energy would have been consumed by the new job. This includes the blog, writing my novel, resuscitating my yoga practice, spending more time with my kids, working my steps, going out more with friends. Everything. Faith that my heart speaks truth about what I need to be whole needs to carry me through these distractions.

If you hang out at a barbershop, you're bound to get a haircut.
Working in advertising led me directly to my bottom. While I know many (maybe most) people in advertising aren't drunks, it felt a lot like college to me. When I was drinking it seemed like people worked crazy hours and then got wasted. Repeat. Perhaps it was just me. At seven months, I'm not ready to risk my sobriety and I feel like returning to the "scene of the crime" would produce too many triggers for me to bear.

If I hadn't been able to let go of my resentment and look at my side of the street, I would be wandering around, completely unaware of these truths.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pillars of Sobriety: Faith and Gratitude

I've been reading this book called Bringing Yoga to Life (I may have even mentioned it already) and last night I came across this wonderful concept. She asserts that the pillars of a life practice are gratitude and faith. She writes:

When this feeling of gratitude begins to build, it will naturally generate faith in your practice, the purpose of your life, and your own abilities. Gratitude and faith go together, hand in hand...There is something very tender about this gratitude: through it we recognize that life itself, without adornment or elaboration, is a gift. Simplifying things in this way, we can foster gratitude regardless of our circumstances.
As I read this book, I am continually reminded of the synchronicity between the practice of yoga and the underlying tenets of AA. A life practice can be anything - in fact, entering into recovery with an open mind and heart is itself a life practice.

I can remember when I first stopped drinking, the very act of gratitude was new to me. I had spent so much time complaining about my life and nearly everything in it, or, alternately, believing that everything good that happened was a just desert, that the simplicity of spending part of each day in a spirit of gratitude was earth shattering. In the beginning it was difficult and I struggled against thoughts like, "what is there to be grateful for here?? Everything sucks!" But as I continued to try to find and list things to be grateful for, subtle shifts began to occur and I could really begin to see and name the blessings in my life. I do have to continue to remind myself of this simple truth: gratitude leads to serenity, whatever the circumstances.

In reading about the relationship between gratitude and faith, I can also see that faith cannot exist without gratitude. A mean spirit closes the door on faith in a higher power in any form. It blocks the light. As my gratitude has grown, so has my relationship with my HP. The ability to see life as a gift, regardless of the circumstances or uncertainty that will always be with me, regardless of the external circumstances is my goal.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lessons Learned

I have finally made a decision. Initially, I was thinking that it really doesn't matter, for the purposes of this post, what that decision was, but then I realized there is much to be said about the why, because I am certain I am not alone in my struggle to let go of this sense that I must be perfect, or at least put on a good show of striving for it.

Five years ago, or even two, I would have thoughtlessly taken on this new opportunity. I say thoughtless, because the urgent need to advance underlied so many of my daily decisions. New opportunities were shiny with possibilities of advancement, high pay, and recognition. That endless climb to the top was all that mattered. Getting there would prove to everyone how valuable I am.

To stay where I was would have been unthinkable - I would have believed that I already knew how everything was going to turn out. Staying where I was wouldn't have sounded good, because I would have thought that any chance of that power and prestige had already passed me by, else, I would already have it, right? So, I would have gone onto something new and the costs would have been unthinkingly absorbed until I felt something deep within myself shatter.

Last week, I almost did the opposite: I second-guessed and became embroiled in trying to determine the "correct" answer, the outcome. The siren call of prestige has a strong pull, even now that I am more aware of the costs. Those old feelings of not being good enough still push at me. I finally realized that there isn't a "right" decision to be divined, that the net is there regardless. Things are as they should be and my HP will take care of me. Making the decision only (ha!) required deep honesty as to where I am at now - not where I wish I was or where I want to be six months from now.

Ultimately, I said no, because my recovery must come first. I will have seven months of sobriety soon and it's really too soon to make a big change. I want less stress in my life, not more. As things stand now, most days are pretty good. Some days are simply awful. Not as bad as they used to be, but still riddled with stress and anxiety. I need to remember that three short months ago I was on stress leave, my life in shambles, and my anxiety through the roof. I've made a lot of progress since then, but I am still in a somewhat fragile place. I have to believe (and nearly do) that when I'm ready, another opportunity will come along. It will be one I am ready for, one that doesn't include painful trade-offs.

This post feels a bit jumbled together. I am out of practice with writing. It has taken a back burner over the past few weeks and I do miss it. With any luck a few more days of practice will iron out the kinks and the words will flow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I've Made a Decision...but May Change My Mind

There won't be a book review today, although if you're looking for something to read I would highly recommend When Love is Not Enough, the biography of Lois Wilson. In order to read it one must overcome two obstacles: first, it's been turned into a Hallmark Movie, which makes it totally embarrassing to read on the train, and second, how is it possible that Winona Ryder, the cool kid from my childhood, is acting in a Hallmark movie? Perhaps this is the same issue. The book is really interesting and I can totally relate to many of her feelings and experiences. It is always interesting to see alcoholism from the point of view of a spouse - there aren't enough books out there that voice the family's experience. In fact, if you know of any, please share them in the comments.

Back to Decision 2011. I think I've spoken with everyone I know over the past week. I've dragged myself into chaos through my attempts to divine the "correct" choice. If I had any idea where my taro cards are right now, I probably would have done a reading. Rather than attempt to find a quiet space to reflect or meditate, I've allowed my mind to race through both the best and worst case scenarios to divine what will happen next. As a result, I came no closer to a decision.

So, I said no. The chaos stopped. I felt relieved. But something in my heart clicked - I still hadn't made a decision. I had only decided I wouldn't decide. It sounds obvious, but it wasn't

So now, I'm going to go back to the beginning. This time I will sit still and listen carefully. I will wait until I hear the answer from deep within. I will not jump ahead to outcomes or drama. I will find the quiet space and make a decision.

Then, hopefully, I can get back to actual writing here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taking the Plunge...or Not

It has been crazy the past few days. I keep going back and forth and am honestly not certain of the best decision in this case. I went to a meeting last night and was reminded of the importance of letting go and leaving the outcomes with God (of your understanding). I'm beginning to think that a sure sign I've taken back the Director's Chair are feelings of craziness, stress, and anxiety. If I'm really living for today and am trusting God, then there is no reason to be stressed out. Right?

Anyway, I'll be writing. Just need to calm down and get my head on straight first.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Unexpected

First, I want to say I've missed writing. My recent posts have been really short, partly because I've been running off to do the next thing. I miss taking the time to really think about what I'm going to say here. Not because I want to be "deep," but because I feel like when I don't write I begin to lose a piece of the plot.

Anyway, that said, I find myself staring at the blank screen, uncertain about what to put down here. Change is afoot, with a potential job change. It's unexpected and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I will say this: I keep repeating the phrase, "honest, open, and willing." It's been a mantra the past few days and I really do hope that the answer, the "yes" or "no," comes into my head before I have to make a decision. In this case, I really don't know what the right thing is. It's very confusing.

In this midst of this confusion, my overall goals have become crystal clear. They are:
  1. To spend more time with my kids - real time, not just errands and nagging.
  2. To determine a plan for transitioning into writing full-time - although, to be honest, I'm not sure what this looks like yet.
  3. To never take a job that does not ignite my passion.
  4. To be as honest with myself and those around me as possible.
The thing is, I've done crazy. I've worked all hours and have lived like it was the only thing that mattered. Now that I have some amount of balance in my life, I don't want to give it up. If possible, I want to build on that and find even more diverse experiences. I want to continue to expand my possibilities and to be able to look back on this time and be surprized by how much has changed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review Fridays: The Language of Letting Go

I can't believe it's already Friday, frankly. I haven't been posting because things have been so incredibly busy at work. Last week I discovered a wonderful book called The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie. The book is a once-a-day meditation series and I am finding it very helpful. Each entry is fairly short and provides specific guidance on an element of working through issues related to co-dependency.

I've tried other meditation books, but have found it difficult to make a real commitment to reading them each day. I'm not sure why, as there isn't anything specifically wrong with them. In this case, I do find real comfort that I'm not alone in how I feel. I also feel inspired to change the way I think and feel about things in my life.

Today is an exceedingly short post, but here's to getting through another weekend sober.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Willingness

Several months ago I remember reading that by the time one hits the 11th step, we pray only for willingness to carry out the will of our HP...or something like that. We do not pray for specific outcomes. At the time I remember thinking what?! Why on earth would I need to do that? I already know what I want.

I've since learned that I don't know what I want. I mean, I do know that I want to stay sober, I want a peaceful home, and I want to be as truthful as possible. I want to be honest, open, and willing. Beyond that, I really don't know. Except that I also want to be a writer, get in fantastic shape, make lots of money, and stay in my 30s forever.

Acceptance that things are precisely the way they should be right now is ellusive. But I do know one thing - any glimpses I have of peace come directly out of the moments I am able to accept my life, my work, and my people as it is now. I'm starting to really crave that feeling, more than anything. I now know there is much work to be done and it really does begin with praying for the strength to carry out the will of my HP.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Control and Running

Last week was a real battle. I swung from hopeful optimism to self-pity. I was tired and cranky. It seemed that nothing would help me feel better. I couldn't let go and get out of the way. It reminded me of this approach to savasana I learned a few months ago. In order to truly relax, you first tighten your muscles and hold it, then release so that you can go deeper into the pose. You grab on, so that you can let go.

I just wasn't able to do it. So, after months of cold weather during which I imagined myself jogging, I finally downloaded "Couch to 5K" and dusted off my running shoes. As you may remember, I smoke. Running and smoking really don't go together very well. Note: I did not smoke while I was running (har har). I hope to quit soon and have been working on various potential strategies. I'm not there yet, but I am hopeful that the process of committing to physical fitness will provide both an outlet and a rationale for quitting.

In the meantime, it felt good to get out there. Really good. The weather is finally beginning to warm up and the sun was shining. Because of all of the practice at living one day at a time, I am working on viewing running in the same way. It helped me to get out of my own head. Burning lungs and thighs really help me to center my thoughts, to let go of the notion that I need to fix things.

I know some of you have quit smoking as part of your recovery; if you don't mind, I would love to hear how you did it - cold turkey, patch, medication, planned reduction, whatever. Please share in the comments.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I've been avoiding my clothes closet for quite a long time, only going in to snatch something quickly and tossing in clean clothes on laundry day. It's messy and overloaded with things I don't wear anymore. Finally, this morning I decided it was time to face the pile of crap in there. I expected to feel good about getting rid of the many "too big" items, and I did. The closet looks beautiful now - everything is hung up or put in drawers and now I'll be able to find something to wear without feeling overwhelmed by the clutter.

However, something happened that I did not expect: I found a pile of memories represented in many of the items: memories of mind-splitting hangovers mostly. Most of the clothes I tossed in the pile for Goodwill are those I associate with drinking and the resulting hangovers. I didn't expect that the sense memory of those experiences would be so closely tied to the items I wore so often then: draw-string waisted skirts for bloaty, "fat" days, cotton hoodies, for hiding the scars on my wrist, baggy shorts, old purses good for hiding a travel-sized bottle of vodka, ad naseum. But there they were, as if waiting for me to start drinking on the deck again.

It felt really good to toss them out. To make room for something new. I am not the woman who wore those clothes last year. Thank goodness.

Now: where the hell is spring???

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Then and Now

Yesterday I went to the doctor to deal with a cyst. It's nothing serious, but over the past five years I've had three of them and honestly had hoped that they were related to my drinking so that I'd never again have to go through the pain of dealing with them ever again.

Last year, I had one that became infected (TMI???) and put up with it for about a week before caving and going into the clinic. It hurt like crazy - it was definitely a case of the cure being worse than the symptoms. It is about 10 minutes of sheer agony, on par with labor, and then you start to feel better. After this horrific experience, I left the clinic and went directly to a bar, downing two double scotches before returning to work. I can remember feeling embarrassed that I was drinking hard alcohol at lunchtime. I actually told the bartender some story to justify my behavior. I also remember needing that drink more than anything and also clearly remember the rush of pleasure and the complete removal of pain. I wandered back to work, feeling much better about things.

Yesterday, I repeated the exact same procedure, without a thought about last year. After it was done, it all came rushing back to me. I didn't want to drink, not exactly, but I wasn't sure how to deal with my feelings. It was strange, this emptiness. I think the biggest thing was that it was completely unexpected and reminds me of the importance to continue to work on my recovery so that when the unexpected happens the tools are there for me.

Anyway, I got through the day and am starting to feel better. I have often heard in meetings that the urge to drink can come out of nowhere. This was definitely true yesterday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Letting Go Feels Fantastic

Putting into practice the notion that I am not in control of outcomes has had an immediate impact on my outlook. Strangely, it took longer for me to admit that not only are negative outcomes outside of my purview, but the positive ones are too. I cannot control how others feel, think or act. Eureka.

I realize this is recovery 101, but I will admit from the rooftops that it's one of my biggest struggles. It will continue to be so, too.

Sadly, I've been the person in the background trying to subtly manipulate outcomes since I was ten years old. It will take more than a day, or, in this case, six months to work through it. But for today, I feel lighter than air.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The CD Player is on Repeat

I was going to say that I feel like I'm a broken record player, but then realized that statement was so dated that most people might not understand what the hell I'm saying. In thinking about today's post, I've struggled because I feel like I'm saying the same thing over and over and over again. I've been going in circles with respect to my own responsibilities and outcomes. I've been unable to differentiate between those elements of life that are within my control, versus those that simply are not.

I'll be honest: I've been making myself sick with worry.

Yesterday I was reading A Woman's Way Through the Twelve Steps and I came across the idea that we are responsible only for our own actions and attitude. I felt relieved and suddenly realized (for the 367th time) that I've been so focused on controlling outcomes that I haven't been focused on any of that. I try to determine how I feel about something, based on what I think I should do to get to the outcome I want. By taking a step back from that (waaaay back) even complex problems become more manageable and approachable. By focusing on my own feelings first and then making sure my actions follow from those deeply held truths, the burden becomes a lot lighter.

For the most part I've avoided reading these feminine books, feeling that as a feminist they aren't relevant. I tell myself I have escaped the punishment of sexism as a result sheer willpower. When I let go of this arrogance, I find comfort. Because it's true - as women, the way we experience our addiction and recovery is different, simply because of the cultural messages we're inundated with all the time. So, when I let myself read these books, and let go of the tough feminist, I feel an immediate identification. It makes me wonder why I identify strength with pushing away my feelings and the attempt to remain unaffected by everything that goes on around me. Letting go opens the door to another kind of strength, based on what I am able to control, instead of this constant struggle to control all of those things that I cannot.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sober Six Months!

Today marks my six month anniversary. I will be honest, there is still a long road to go with respect to my recovery, but at the same time my life has changed immeasurably. When I first stopped drinking, I made a list of truths about my drinking. I published part of it early on, but there were items I was too embarrassed to admit; today I'm ready to share the full list:
  1. I feel possessive about alcohol and always try to ensure I get my share.
  2. I sneak drinks to hide how much I drink.
  3. I hide bottles in old purses around the house.
  4. I promise a specific limit and always break the promise.
  5. I always want more than one glass.
  6. I drive sometimes, even if I'm close to the limit (I never really knew, maybe I was over...)
  7. I slur when I read books to my daughter at night.
  8. I black out.
  9. I pick fights when I'm drunk and don't remember them.
  10. I cannot remember tucking in the kids.
  11. I drink to overcome a hangover.
  12. I feel self-loathing, regret and disappointment all the time.
  13. I can't concentrate on anything at work because I feel so bad.
  14. I will drink anything with alcohol in it, even if it tastes awful.
  15. I avoid social situations so that I can drink.
  16. I keep my kids out of evening activities so that I can drink.
  17. I avoid people who don't drink.
  18. I drink every day.
  19. I promised I would stop drinking after I cut myself, but drink as much as I did before.
  20. I pat myself on the back for taking a day off.
  21. I drink less when people are around so they don't know how much I drink.
  22. I plan my day around getting the first drink.
  23. I rush my kids through their bedtime routine so I can drink.
  24. I wake up in the morning and don't remember anything past dinner (sometimes I don't remember dinner).
  25. I don't dream.
  26. I have the shakes in the morning.
  27. I have continual night sweats.
  28. I believe my marriage will fall apart if I quit drinking.
This list puts my drinking in stark relief. I go back to it now and again to remind  myself how it was... all the time and it keeps me from considering that first drink.

I really never thought I'd get here, to six months, but now that I'm here, I feel such gratitude that if the list above was a checklist, I would score zero.

Thanks so much for reading. Knowing you are out there, and understand all of this, has been an incredible support for me.

Next step: stop isolating!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review Fridays: The New Codependency

I'm re-reading a book I read early on in my recovery, The New Codependency, by Melody Beattie.

When I first read the book, I was 100% steeped in mirroring and internalizing what I thought others wanted from me. Every second thought related to how someone else felt, what I could do to improve the situation, and what would happen if I didn't do that thing. When I drank, I was able to shut the voices down, drown them, so they would finally be quiet. And if not quiet, when I was drunk enough I was able to say, "fuck it," and mean it. I felt like everyone had unstated expectations and endlessly judged my success or failure to meet them.

So, when I first quit drinking, I was in pain. Part of my detox involved finally having to listen to the endless voices swirling around in my brain. I couldn't believe how constantly they told me what to do, because I'd never really listened to them before.

In the rooms I so often hear other women say, "The worst part of my drinking is that I lost myself." I felt this way too - like I'd gone so far down the rabbit hole that my ability to describe even the barest facts about myself seemed impossible.The opening of the book spoke to me:

I know what it's like to lose yourself so badly that you don't know if there's a you or ever was one. I spent thirty years not knowing what boundaries were and another ten learning to set them. I gave until I was depleted and needed someone to take care of me. I threatened, begged, hinted, and manipulated to get what I wanted. I was convinced that I knew what was best for other people. I got so busy teaching them their lessons that I forgot to learn mine...I obsessed until my head ached. Literally, it hurt. I didn't know what feelings were. Whenever I said I felt something, people said, "Don't feel that!"
She speaks of the relationship between abuse and survival that result in this behavior:

Blaming ourselves is a survival skill. It helps us feel in control when life doesn't make sense and being abused doesn't make sense at all.
It made sense to me that these behaviors are learned in childhood as survival skills designed to keep us safe. When I was a child and my father drank, we all tiptoed around him, trying to avoid his fits of sadness as well as his anger. Part of my avoidance was that by the time I was a teenager, I really wanted nothing to do with him. I didn't want to see him drunk. By then, I'd turned my fear and anxiety into disgust and anger to protect myself from all of the times he'd let me down or embarrassed me. But part of it was an on-going sense of danger and unpredictability that we lived with. The sense of safety brought by superstition and by doing what was expected was instilled early on. When it worked out as I expected, it validated the strategy and made me feel safe, but it also meant that when it didn't work out I felt guilt and sense of failure.

P!nk has this great line in her song, Sober, "I'm safe up high up high, nothing can touch me... no pain inside, you're my protection." If I'd discovered this song when I was still drinking, this would have been an anthem for me: I fully believed that by getting drunk, I couldn't get hurt. What I didn't realize at the time was that by not accessing or processing the hurt, I was daily compounding it. The point wasn't to avoid the bad feelings, but to learn to separate what I was feeling from what I thought everyone was feeling about me. When you take on the weight of the world, any attempt to feel is overwhelming.

I've decided to re-read the book, because,well, now that the fog has cleared, I can see that there is a degree of superstitiousness that remains. I still struggle not to take on the world. I've been working on a self-affirmation - "You are not them. You are you." whenever I feel stressed out. The very fact that I need to do so, almost daily, should give some indication of where I'm still at. I'm hopeful that I am in a better position to work through the exercises in the book now. When I first read it, the main thing I gained was the understanding that I'm not alone. Millions of people live this way too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Anniversary Crying Out Now

If you haven't already seen it, you should definitely check out the video that Ellie put together on Crying Out Now. This site was essential in helping me to see that I wasn't alone in my struggle with alcohol. Before I stopped drinking I read every single post, identifying with something in each of them. The bravery and honesty I found on the site broke down my ability to remain in denial and gave me hope for the future.

If you haven't submitted your story yet, you should consider it. I found it so cathartic.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And This is Why You Need a Sponsor

Lately I've been tempted to skip my AA meeting, even though I only go once a week. The temptation I face is not to stay home, snuggled under blankets, but rather to go out and sit in a coffee shop and think. As if what I need is more time alone, thinking.

At the meeting last night it hit me: although I've not been ignoring my recovery, per se, and have been reading and learning and growing, I have stopped reading anything recovery-specific. Because the urgency to drink is gone and I don't feel the pull anymore it's easy to forget. I haven't forgotten that I'm an alcoholic who cannot drink, nor do I want to test the waters. But, I have taken a step back.

After a week or more of swirling around endlessly thinking and rethinking I finally talked to my sponsor. Ironically, I'd also been wondering if I'd chosen the right sponsor - she is young, unmarried, and without children, so I was thinking maybe she wouldn't be able to help me. Right? How could she understand what I go through each day? But a five minute conversation after the meeting last night really turned that around. She called my turmoil what it was - co-dependence and a near-complete focus on outcomes - and cut through about seventy layers of bullshit...in less than five minutes.

And I felt better.

It's time to make sure I continue to make time for my recovery, even as I continue to grow in other areas.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Controlled Drinking?

When I was drinking, near the end especially, I used to plan when I would first drink. And by plan, I mean that I would try to come up with ways to delay that first drink, knowing that one would lead inevitably to many. By this point it was rare for me to get through lunch without having at least one drink. For the most part there was pretence - I pretended I wasn't organizing my life around my drinking. I pretended it casually occurred to me to have a drink, rather than admit to myself that I'd been thinking and planning for hours. Even if it was lunchtime. Or a Saturday morning at home alone cleaning the house. I would drink to feel a calm sense of well-being. Sometimes it took one, most times, it was quite a bit more than that. If I didn't get too drunk, I would consider it a success. I fully believed no one noticed that I'd had two or three drinks before lunch on the weekends, or after lunch on the weekdays.

On days where I committed to cutting down, I would try to wait until five o'clock. This seemed a reasonable and socially acceptable thing to do. The problem was that I would be watching the clock, counting down to this magical moment. If something unexpected or upsetting happened, I would think "fuck it" and have a drink. I tried to be careful, watching how much and how fast I drank so that it could remain hidden, but there were tactical errors.

I remember one weekend, after wine with lunch, while everyone was off doing other things, I had some flavored vodka. This was a new drink for me and I adored the coffee or chocolate sweetness added to the kick the vodka provided. Unfortunately, it really did taste so good that it was easy to pour it down. In the end, I had too much. I think perhaps it was half a bottle, but it may have been more. The room spun and I'd gone too far...again. Panicked, I went to lay down on the bed, faking sick. My face was flushed, my gait long past unsteady. I couldn't sleep because the room wouldn't stay still, so I fixed my gaze on the window. From my vantage point, I could see the grey, overcast sky and the dead branches from a tree outside the window. It seemed the most desolate view. I don't know how long I stayed there, but I felt so incredibly hopeless. At one point, my daughter came to lie down with me. I felt closed off. Worthless. Untouchable. Still, I watched her sleep and wished that I could be good enough to be worthy of her.

Of course, I pushed all of this to the back of my mind and continued to drink for another six months. But slowly, days like that one began to add up and overflowed my ability to evade and deny.

Yesterday I came across a blog that took me right back into that space. The planning, the counting, the justification, the attempts to control. Ostensibly, the blog is meant to track one man's experiment in controlled drinking. Yet, he hides all consumption from his family, pretending to be sober and working the program. What the blog shows is more than three years of good days and bad days, all defined by how much alcohol is consumed. Denial, lies, justification, pain, and self-loathing penetrate the blog. I kept reading even as I recoiled.

After reading this, I tried to find studies comparing success rates between controlled drinking and abstinence. There aren't many and those I did find were difficult to assess, because it wasn't clear how the researchers were measuring success. Abstinence is a bit easier to measure - you do or you don't. The underlying justification for controlled drinking approaches seemed to be that more people would seek help if they could still drink "occasionally." This may be true. But at what cost?

I really feel there is a deep difference between an eating disorder and an addiction. Not because the nature of the addiction is very different (at its core), but because with an eating disorder abstinence is not possible. We all need to eat, so recovery from an eating disorder requires rethinking and changing your behavior. It takes work and commitment and, well, eating. It took me years to eat normally - to stop counting calories, to think that a feeling of fullness is a positive feeling, to moderate portions (in both directions). I had good days and bad days and often wished I could just take a pill each day, perfectly proportioned for nutrition and calories, so that I could stop worrying about it.

It seems to me that controlled drinking follows this model, without the underlying need to do so. Abstinence is far easier for me. Even had I been successful at controlling my drinking over a longer period, I really don't believe I would feel even half as good as I do now. The removal of the need to count, plan, account for, and evaluate my drinking has opened a space to think about other things.
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