Tuesday, October 30, 2012

If You Haven't Seen It, Watch!

Crying Out Now Anniversary Video
Crying Out Now was a big part of the reason I got sober. That, and reading One Crafty Mother. It was the first time I felt more than simple shame about my drinking. It was the first time I felt capable of changing. "Thank you" just doesn't express it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Drug Store Triggers

It is so easy to buy alcohol here that I begin to think my problem would have been ever so much worse if we'd lived here when I was at the end of my drinking. There is a shopping area about three blocks from my house. In it, there are three places I can buy booze: a grocery store, a drug store, and a liquor store. Additionally, there are two licensed restaurants that helpfully have a bar/lounge area and open at 3 pm. I really can't imagine how I would have been sober at any point if my days had been spent here.

Strangely, I am no longer troubled by the grocery store. Obviously, the liquor store is 100% avoidable. What triggers me is the drug store. It's a run down place and it's mostly junky with over-bright fluorescent lights. About 25% of the floor space is devoted to alcohol. Yesterday when I was wandering through every single aisle in hopes of finding the right light bulbs for our now-darkened kitchen, I came dangerously close to those aisles and found myself remembering how I used to be. There is still a bit of a pull, an itch. I wish it wasn't there at all, and sometimes I'm very afraid I will drink again. This fear eats away at me sometimes, even though it's stuck at some future point and not about today.

I'm lucky because my life has changed so much now that I don't have time to be seduced into several hours of semi-consciousness. I've come clean to my kids about why I quit drinking and have apologized to them for not being there for them. To drink now would violate all of the work that's been done to rebuild my relationships with them. I also finally have some credibility at work and don't have to worry that I'm going to get caught out for missing key things, like I had to do when I was drinking. And I finally know my husband and have a marriage that's pretty good most of the time. And there's running too - something that never would have been able to happen while I was drinking.

So, it's good to know that I don't have to drink today.

Edited to add: Guess what! The drug store that finds space for three aisles of booze does NOT even carry light bulbs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review Friday: Unwasted

I really loved this book. Sacha Scoblic does a fantastic job of describing the impact of alcoholism and sobriety on her life and relationships.The primary theme of her book is that sobriety allows us to work towards honesty and intimacy, that we earn the lives we have. She is happy to be sober because it gives her integrity. She doesn't have to fear loss because she's actively working on herself and her relationships.

There were two elements that really struck me about the book. First, she talks about how she started shopping when she stopped drinking to fill the gap. I can relate to this, because, in addition to eating vats of candy, I also shopped to fill an emptiness that seemed far too big to fill. What's interesting is that she came to the conclusion that she believed she just needed more than other people. It was a justification for doing things she knew she shouldn't, for evading responsibility generally, and for avoiding herself. It was only when she realized this that she really felt she began to grow.

I've thought a lot about this notion of need. At a visceral level I really hate feeling need. It seems weak and hopeless and likely to disappoint. Looking back over my life, it's easy to see the ground littered with needs that went unmet. As a child, many of these were valid and truly counted as a basic need. Something shifted as I grew and wants began to cloud the landscape. Over time, my wants and my needs became indistinguishable to me, leading to an always present sense of disappointment. Instead of doing the real work of sorting and separating, I shut everything down by drinking. I pretended that I didn't need anything or anyone. I also pretended that every disappointment was an excuse to drink (or to shop, or to eat candy). At base, I still wasn't doing the real work of separating out wants from needs. And I still wasn't looking at myself closely enough to see that my needs really aren't greater than everyone else's. Nor are my disappointments. This process still needs quite a bit of work.

The second hard-hitting part of the book was about honesty with her husband and others who are close to her. She speaks about the habit of hiding, excusing and prevaricating that develops when we protect our addictions and about how difficult it is to stop doing it, even when we haven't done anything wrong. The evasiveness we develop when we're drinking (I only had two drinks, I'll complete the report tomorrow, I must have some kind of stomach bug), is difficult to stop. She points out that this problem is two-sided. It involves taking real responsibility when we screw up and letting the consequences follow. It also involves being aware that we don't have to lie when we did nothing wrong.

The first is easier for me. When I try to evade responsibility for something I've done (or haven't done), I feel that deep kick in the pants. I know I'm doing the wrong thing. I automatically think to myself: "put on your big girl pants and let the chips fall where they may." It's the second issue I struggle with. I sometimes lie when I don't even need to do so. I try to create an elaborate cover. I don't even know why I do this. The urge to self-protect, even in situations that are "safe" (because I haven't done anything wrong), feels deeply ingrained. It's going to take me some time to work through it and change.

If you're looking for a memoir I'd highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Drinking for Promotion?

I read a piece in the New York Times yesterday that really got under my skin: "Non-Drinking Can Be a Costly Expense." In the article, various people discuss how they've been excluded from key after-hours business meetings because their colleagues know they don't drink. The tone of the article suggests that if you want to get ahead in your career, you are better off if you can be "one of the guys" and have a few beers. For the one respondent who works for a high-end liquor magazine, this is most certainly the case.

And it may well be true for the rest of us. In fact, as I'm in sales, I am very well aware how often conferences and business dinners tend to revolve around drinking. However, for the most part, I don't find that others particularly care (or remember - ha!) what I've had to drink at those events. In most cases, it never comes up. In the end, the object of business is just that: business. The relationship-building element of sales is very non-concrete - people will do business with you because they like you and they trust you. At bottom, the reasons for both are not concrete. In some cases, I think my clients like me simply because I'm blond and pretty. Seriously. At other times we bond over shared family history, or a similar sense of humor. I also know that sometimes I can't close a deal because I'm perceived as an airhead (see blond and pretty above).  At the end of the day, I don't know why some do sign with me and others do not. (It's that old chestnut: what others think of us is none of our business.) I don't want to minimize the impact that not-drinking has on some people - I have certainly been pushed to have a drink at some events - but I do want to say that there a 1000 possible reasons we can't close a deal. To blame everything on being a non-drinker is overly simplistic. It's possible that some people simply don't like us, whether because of our clothes, our appearance, our sense of humor, or our grating personality and the not-drinking thing is simply a convenient excuse.

Secondly, I can point to a far greater number of circumstances where I lost respect and trust because I drank so much at company events. So while it may be true that having a few beers after work seals a promotion, I can honestly say that having ten G&Ts kills the deal. If it were possible for me to have a few drinks now and again I would have been doing that ALL ALONG. So if it is true that people don't want to do business with sober people, then I fully accept that as a cost of my sobriety. No deal is worth the utter self-loathing and disgust I felt when I was drinking.

At the end of the day, I think people find the subject of not drinking a touchy one. It's easy to appear judgmental (at least for some) simply through the act of not drinking alcohol at dinner. I'm really careful about how I represent it (if I'm asked), I ask for rocks glasses, and try to remember that most people really don't care. I've also learned a lot from my Mormon friend who thinks nothing of saying, "let's grab a beer sometime" even though he's never had a drink in his life. It's easy, especially in early sobriety, to find it near impossible to navigate these situations gracefully. It takes some practice and I can definitely see how I've refined my own approach over time. In the beginning I felt very defensive and often quickly blurted that I was in recovery. Now, I simply shrug and say I'm happy with a diet coke. I often think our knee-jerk defensiveness is a result of imposing our own judgments on those around us. We think they think what we used to think about non-drinkers.

My honest advice: forge onwards. There will always be an excuse to drink. Always. This just doesn't sound like a very good one.

Monday, October 1, 2012


When I woke up this morning, I was suddenly struck by a word to describe the way I've been feeling. Yep. Inadequate. Hopelessly inadequate. It's been overshadowing everything for the past few weeks, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It felt like a vague depression, lack of motivation, sleepiness, and a bunch of other things. I've been eating more junk to try to wake up, to try to drown this strange feeling of sorrow. I feel worse as a result. I've also been shopping for the momentary lift a new pair of running tights brings me. Now that I don't need anything new, that's out as far as strategies go.

I've also been worried about getting my work visa. What if I don't get it? What if I do? I've struggled with my current job for some time now, but when I think about leaving I worry I won't find anything else for months. I'm afraid that I'll be broke and forced to take something worse. This particular position gives me alot of flexibility with my schedule - blessing and curse, really. It's a blessing because it means I can take care of the girls, go running at odd times, and structure my day the way I want to. It's a curse because when I suffer from a complete lack of motivation the opportunities for procrastination are endless. None of this would matter too much if I didn't need to process a visa. There's no reason to rush into change now. But what if I don't get it and have issues returning home?What if something goes horribly wrong? What if my lack of motivation (possibly rooted in this overwhelming sense of inadequacy) continue without interruption for another month?

I'm hoping that my saying it out loud: "I feel inadequate", the feeling will lose some of it's power. And now that I realize what's going on, I'm hopeful that I will start to feel better.
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