Monday, December 31, 2012

Old Anxiety

Last night I had a very intense dream where a sober friend of mine started drinking again. I got very mad at him and said he should think through the drink, remember what it was really like before so that he'd quit again. He said, "Tara, I used to be like that. I'd think and I wouldn't drink, but you know what, I have that drink and I don't have to think anymore." It really freaked me out - the thought that it can all slip away so easily. On the other hand, I know that's a lie too. When I used to drink I thought all the time about what I was doing to myself and how I needed to change and that I wasn't good enough and that I had to do something, anything, to get out of that continual feeling of dread and sick.

I don't find Christmas difficult because I miss drinking. I find it difficult because it reminds me how life and happiness can sometimes hang by a single thread. One person can ruin it for everyone. One person can drink too much, or say the wrong thing, or get trapped inside their own problems and kill a simple dream. I know now that I have tools to deal with these small losses, but as a child I never did. I don't even remember having big wishes for huge gifts. I remember wanting a peaceful Christmas like those I saw at my friends' houses. It was never to be, not until years after my parents divorced. And even then I was still (and am still) haunted by Christmases past.

What I realized from my dream this morning is that I'm also a bit haunted by Christmas future too. Not because I'm afraid I'll drink, but because the fabric of my own family still feels so delicate. I'm afraid my husband will drink, or that I'm not good enough, or that I haven't said or done the right things and am a huge disappointment. That our marriage will fall away and everyone will be desperately unhappy. I'm not sure where this anxiety comes from, but it's here in force and it leads me to worry and scheme (yes to scheme) about how I can go about preventing it. The thing is that of course I can only focus on what I'm doing. I can only work on fixing what's wrong with me. I can only try to stay in the moment and accept it and find the peace that is there now. Worrying about the future this way buys anxiety I don't need. I have to let go of what I think I want and of what I believe I can control. I have to be open to the idea that I don't have all of the answers and never will.

Right now, I need to look around and see that everything is okay. Breathe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Made It!

I'm not sure why Christmas continues to feel like such a slog, but there you have it. It feels like a slog through the day and then it's over and I begin to feel better. The girls liked their presents and we had a lovely dinner and watched Shrek 3, which reminded me of how important it is to value what we have in the here and now.

I was even thinking about that as I did the dishes over the past few nights. So many chores in life are more enjoyable when I can live in the moment of doing them and not jump ahead to the future of what I might be doing (or would rather be doing). It's a breath of air and it feels ever so much better.

I'll pull together a better, longer, more thoughtful post later, but I wanted to check in.

I hope all of you had a delightful sober Christmas. If not quite, I hope you got through okay.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sober Christmas

This will be my third sober Christmas and I'm very excited about it. It's so nice to really relax and recharge over the holidays, instead of using the time to squeeze in more drinking with seemingly fewer consequences. It's nice to know that although I may embarrass my daughters, it won't be the alcohol talking. It's really nice to know that I won't scream at my husband about nothing on Christmas Eve.

I had this realization that there are many flashback moments that exist in my body, just under the skin, that weigh me down a bit about Christmas. A few days ago I was doing the dishes, looking out the kitchen window into the darkness, feeling anxious. I had a pre-deja vu moment (is that a thing?) where I remembered all the times my dad used to stumble into the house after he'd been out drinking. It was always worse during the holidays, because there were so many opportunities to drink. And there was this time that my uncle had a fight with my Aunt and came over to our house on Christmas Eve. The adults stayed up late drinking and when I got up to see the presents, he'd thrown up on the living room carpet. It was gross and I hated him a bit then.It's strange how these things sit just beneath the skin, rising to the surface with the hanging of Christmas lights.

I was trying to think of  my own Christmas moments of shame. It took a while to remember any, to be honest (really showing how little we consider the feelings of others when we're drinking). Of course I do remember drinking to much. That's a given. But most of my moments of shame are sprinkled liberally throughout the year. However, my last drunk Christmas was a bit of a doozy. After dinner I drank a gallon of scotch with my dad (wtf??). My step-mother was annoyed as he started to fall asleep in situ. After everyone drifted off to bed, I stayed up talking with my step-sister until 3am. (I don't think she was drinking, but I know for a fact that I was.) When I got up the next morning, my hangover was so intense that I had wine with lunch. I had the feeling that my entire family thought it was "a bit much" although no one said anything. Nothing horrible happened (though who knows what memories live beneath my daughters' skins), but it was one of those situations where I felt vaguely pathetic. I remember trying to pace myself so that no one would think I was an alcoholic. I remember sneaking into the kitchen to top off my glass.

If I'd continued drinking I think Christmas would have become like that all the time.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Running

It's very interesting to see how my running has changed now that I'm in my second year. I had a great first year - I even managed to drag myself through a marathon - and really made great progress. I went from thinking it would be impossible to run five minute intervals to running for more than an hour without stopping. I can see now that those runs were still really hard (some days they are still really hard). This is partly because my body hadn't had the time to build the muscles and stamina I needed to support my running body. But it's also because I had a notion about the pace I should be able to maintain and always started there, noticeably slowing as the run went on. In a word: I went out too fast for my fitness level. I'm still guilty of doing that, but I am getting better. I'm learning to s-l-o-w down. I'm using the first mile to warm up. I'm following advice on training paces (McMillan Running has pace calculators based on your current ability) so that I can improve my speed.

With the New Year in mind, I thought I'd put together a quick list of things I was supposed to do, but didn't do, and wish I had done last year.

Most Runs Should be at an Easy Effort
I read this again and again in every single book about running. Every single one. I ignored it. Well, I didn't ignore it, but I believed my 10 minute/mile pace was slow enough already. I convinced myself that I had faster paces in me to justify the practice.

The problem with running too hard when the run is supposed to be easy is that you miss out on active recovery and lose the benefits accrued by an easy run. It makes the next run harder (because you've worked too hard) and limits the mileage you can do on any given week. The other most important cost of doing this is that you miss out on the training benefits you can only achieve through the slower, easy pace.

Cross-Training Prevents Injuries
 Again, this is everywhere. The idea is that by doing other activities you build strength in counterposing muscle groups and reduce the likelihood of injury. I had two reasons for ignoring this advice: first, I never felt like I had time to run as much as I'd have liked, so I didn't want to squeeze in another activity. Second, I really don't like exercise. Although I was really active as a kid, the only activity I've ever done with regularity as an adult (and that was in my 20s) was yoga. And I haven't done that in years.

Now, because of our car situation, I've been riding my bike a lot. I can feel increased strength in my quads. I plan to introduce regular core and yoga. Like this week. Simply running just doesn't do enough to build the upper body (which is needed to support injury-free running.

Judgment and Evaluation are Different Things
 I've been tracking pace and mileage religiously since the beginning using first my phone and now my Garmin. I adore the Garmin. I hate to run without it. However, last year I continuously looked at my current pace so that I wouldn't go too slow. I felt discouraged if my pace was slow. I got really upset if I every run was not at my anticipated (hoped for) marathon pace. Basically, I treated every run as a measuring stick.

What I've realized recently is very basic. You can track your run, but choose NOT to display this data. In combination with my first point, I find that it's much more enjoyable to run based on perceived effort and then analyze the data later. By uploading once a week, I have enough distance from any given run and am then looking at broader patterns.

Goals Should be in Reach
The biggest mistake I made in running last year was to believe that I could achieve a faster pace through sheer will. If I missed my time goals I felt like a failure. I've since read that it can take up to five years to really see your capabilities as a runner. It takes a long time for your body to adjust to running. It takes patience and consistency, but improvement does happen. (Even when it seems like you aren't getting any better.)

This is a work in progress. Patience is difficult for me, and the temptation to feel I haven't worked hard enough to get where I want to be is a tempting default, even though it threatens my interest in running altogether sometimes.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

5 Posts in One

It took a while to finally figure out what I want (and I wish I was better at making decisions), but I finally did decide about that job. I realized that it would mean taking on a role I no longer enjoy with some hope that my role would change. Given the size of the company, it would have been unlikely. A few years ago I would have jumped for it in the hopes that it would work out. I would have been so desperate to leave my current job that I wouldn't have considered what I was going to. Change would have been enough.

Thankfully, this time I was in a better position to work through the options and to see that where I am now offers greater strategic opportunities than the position offered. It's no where near perfect. But I do have the flexibility to grow and learn. I will take advantage of that. Also, now that I know what I want, I'll know if something better comes along. I feel like I've finally found clarity around my career goals and objectives. I finally know (in a vague way at least) what I'm looking for.

I meant to write sooner, but we went skiing and there wasn't any coverage. It was surprising to be really away. And although the trip was exhausting and it squeezes the time we have for Christmas planning, it was really nice to get away.

Three days ago I saw a woman buying a case of beer at 8:30am. She was in her pajamas and her slippers. There was nothing else in her cart. She looked just like me, although I would have also filled my cart with a bunch of other stuff to cover the real purpose of my trip. It made me hope she would find peace. At the same time I fought judgement. Not because I never drank in the morning, but because I was more of a boy scout drinker - I almost never ran out. It also made me wish we could carry AA business cards, or that we were super heros who could swoop into the rescue. Lest you think I'm a total cow, I was buying cigarettes and saw that we were sisters in addiction.

This school shooting really threw me. The photos of the children especially remind me of how fragile our safety is. I always assume my kids are safe when I leave them at school (despite some bullying a few years ago that clearly demonstrates school hasn't changed much since I was a kid). Who shoots kids? Seriously. There have been too many events over the past six months that suggest we should home school and wrap them up in bullet proof blankets. Writing that, I remember that there are a lot of kids who aren't even safe in their own homes. It's distressing. And sometimes it feels like nothing can be done.

Finally, I seem to have picked up some low-level bug on the ski trip. I haven't been able to run without doggedly dragging myself through every mile for the past two weeks.It sucks, but instead of wishing for what I think should be, I'm taking a break. I hope I start to feel better, because it really sucks to feel so tired and out of sorts.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wishing Away

Years ago, when my oldest daughter was still a toddler, I can remember tucking her in a night and thinking "it must be so nice to go to sleep and wake up without a hangover." It was a weird random thought that flitted through my consciousness every month or two, depending on how much I was drinking at the time. I didn't want to quit drinking at that point, although sometimes I wished it would just go away. Poof. No more hangovers. I'm not even sure why I never considered actually quitting at this point, before any real damage was done to my kids, my marriage, and my reputation. I just didn't.

I still wish things away. I'll have a niggling feeling that something isn't quite right with my life and rather than do the work to remove the issue, I'll wish it away. I'll cross my fingers and hope it doesn't happen. Or that some mystical force will address it. Or that I'll get used to it and things won't seem so bad. Half the time, I'm not even sure what the right resolution is and I think that's part of my inaction.

Now that my daughter is growing up, I realize her life isn't quite so simple anymore. She has worries and responsibilities now. She carries her own burdens. I miss when things were simple. I hope she keeps telling me about what's bothering her for a long time. And I hope there's something I can say or do that helps her.

I am very glad to be sober today. I may not wake up refreshed exactly, but it is so nice to not wake up with a hangover. Even after almost two and a half years I can still say that.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Terrified of Change

I'm fully aware that it sounds silly to say I fear change when I just made a huge move. The thing is, I was scared then too. But not this kind of scared. I moved a ton when I was a kid and over the past five years, we've moved a lot, so I feel like an old hand at it. As I write this, I wonder if it's silly at all. I was scared about making the move here and did have to address a lot of fears, especially around whether it was the right thing to do. I probably spent two months in a state of anxiety. The thing that's truly strange is that I've totally forgotten about all of that.

The locus of my fear right now is about my job. I was going to say my career, but let's be honest, it's really a matter of a simple job change and I'm not sure whether it's the right thing to do. I'm bored silly at work right now and because I'm working from home I miss out on the office chatter. I really really miss being around people - far more than I thought I would - and I'm having issues with motivation. There is the potential to change jobs (it may not even come to fruition) and I find myself wishing for some kind of sign (by sign, I mean a clearly written email from God telling me what to do in this situation). I am afraid that if I make the change it won't change how I feel about work right now - I'm unmotivated and really don't have the energy to try really hard. I'm afraid if I do go it will mean being stuck in the same role forever, without the opportunity for growth from within the company. I'm afraid if I stay, I'll be here forever. I've been unhappy with my current job for such a long time that it's become a familiar friend almost.

This is pretty rambling today, but I wanted to let you know where I'm at.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don't Let Your Mind Ruin It

Awhile ago I read a piece in the New York Times about two amazing runners. They're 10 and 12 and have been placing ahead of many grown-ups in trail races. Often, they are the only under-eighteen competitors. Although there is some debate about whether they should be allowed to run these races (harkening back to old theories about whether women can run), that isn't what stuck with me about this article.

Right before the race their dad says, "don't let your mind ruin things for your body." As a runner, this really spoke to me. On any given day I find myself coming up with all sorts of reasons to stop running. These reasons aren't real. Oh, maybe there's a slight twinge in my foot or my hip, or maybe I'm pushing it a bit hard that day. But the real truth of the matter is that I don't always like to run unless it feels effortless. My mind triggers thoughts of all that I should be doing instead, minor aches and pains become harbingers of severe injury, and when I allow these thoughts purchase, my running actually suffers.

I think sobriety is like this too. Our minds really do ruin things for us. Instead of feeling grateful for all of the gifts we've received, we pick apart situations until they're untenable. We don't feel worthy of ourselves and we think of how nice it used to be to check out for a few hours. We forget the bad parts of our drinking and reminisce about the good parts. We remember the cool blast of a nice glass of white wine.

On Friday at the grocery store one of the employees came over to the cheese aisle and asked if I wanted to taste some wines. It was a shock and jolted me out of my careful search for sheep's milk cheese. I couldn't have been more surprised if he'd offered me cocaine. It was only after my initial reaction that I noticed the table set up with tasting wines. Suddenly it seemed benign, but at the same time I could physically taste that first sip. And I could easily remember a time when a quick shop for an evening's dinner might have turned into an early buzz. It was such an urgent feeling that I had to grab a Dr. Pepper and swig it right in the store - so urgent was the need to get the imaginary taste of the wine out of my mouth.

Our minds our powerful. They give us permission to soar and they take it away summarily, often without apparent provocation. At the moment, I'm working to remember this when I'm running and I'm hopeful that lessons learned on the road will transfer themselves to other situations in my life.

Who knew the grocery store wine pushers could be so dangerous? Take care out there and remember to reach for a Dr. Pepper.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dearest Blog

It has been months since I've written regularly. I am still sober. Some days have flown by, so I have not written. Other days have dragged on endlessly without respite, but I've had nothing to say. I have occasionally decided that I would no longer write here, that the muse that drove my sharing had gone on to do other things. I've also considered starting (and have gone so far as to create) another blog not tied to my experience as an alcoholic.

Something keeps me here in this limbo. Something prevents me from walking away altogether. It is the incredible community and support I've found here. I don't know if anyone is still around, per se. I hope so, because I plan to write again more frequently. I need the opportunity to share what I'm going through, even when it's not much, because I don't want to find myself in a situation where I forget where I came from. Where it seems okay to have a glass of wine because it's Tuesday.

I also miss you guys. I miss the wisdom I find in the comments. I miss the sense of belongingness that comes from talking to other alcoholics. It's funny here, because no one knows I am an alcoholic. I am alien to them because I don't ever drink (and probably also because I run and ride my bike everywhere), but it never seems appropriate to say why I don't drink. In Canada I never worried about the negative connotations suggested by the word alcoholic. Here, it seems too ugly a word to say to people I've just met. It's difficult enough to say that we only have one car because our other car is stuck in Canada with my dad and we cannot buy a new one until he sells that one. This is a very driver-centric place. Hopefully they just think Canadians are weird.

Running is the one thing that's kept me sane and sober over the past three months. It is a place for checking out and putting in miles. While I'm out there I feel a bit like a super hero. The words "I am a runner" permeate my consciousness and make me go faster. When I get back from the run my fears about my career, paying the bills, and figuring out what to do with the rest of my life are quiet for a while.

I am finally ready to write again. Fingers crossed that I'll have something worth reading.
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