Six Years

Six years sober today!

Not much to say today. I have thought a lot about drinking in the last few months – not for any negative reasons, but for positive ones, i.e., I was hanging out with friends in California and it seemed like drinking with everyone would be fun or I was planning to maybe possibly have champagne in Big Sur for my 20th wedding anniversary coming up or just, in general, life is great these days and it feels like sometimes I could drink moderately and be fine. I think. But I have no way of knowing how that risk would turn out.

And then the closer I got to today’s 6-year mark, the prouder I felt that I hadn’t done it after all and the more I knew I didn’t want to plan to do it, either – BECAUSE I don’t know how it would turn out. And the “reward,” such as it is, is still not worth that risk.

So I made it to six years. Happy and healthy. Life is good.

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Always Grateful

Steve and I were turning down the bed tonight and I suddenly had a very vivid flashback to all the years we slept on a cheap old bed with unmatched sheets and blankets and pillows. And the months during dating and then again in our early marriage when we slept on the floor because we couldn’t afford a bed.

Now, I sit here in my big soft bed in my beautiful, quiet, clean, earth toned house, warm and content. It’s autumn. It’s raining. Steve is still right here next to me. Cats are purring everywhere. We just watched two hours of Doctor Who, upstairs under a fuzzy blanket.

This is what I meant when I said the life of my dreams is the one right in front of me. No need to wander in search. It’s all right here. Steve and I are continually making every dream come true – the most significant of those being the simple serenity of stability, something neither of us had before each other.

Always always always grateful for what we’ve created and given to one another.

Five Years

Today I am five years sober. Five years of no alcohol and no hangovers. Five years of life continually opening up to me in new ways, all because I make the choice, every day, to not drink.

This year, I will keep it simple and tell you, as I have before, that I am immensely grateful. By choosing sobriety, I have chosen to create a life for myself, and for me and Steve, that is fuller and richer and brighter than I could have possibly imagined.

I am no longer an obese, inactive, chain-smoking drunk. I am fit and strong and engaged in the world around me.

I am no longer paralyzed by sadness, anxiety, anger, and fear. I experience these emotions, of course, but on a clear and manageable level.

I no longer wake up every day with a voice in my head saying things like “I hate myself, I suck, I’m a failure,” or, in the final few months, “I want to die.” I value my life. I value myself. I look forward to the future. I used to think I wouldn’t care if I died at 50. Now I think there aren’t enough years to spend with the people I love, to do all the things that bring me joy.

I live in optimism and hope, even on bad days.

That first day of sobriety was the beginning of everything wonderful. It was the catalyst to so many other decisions that led to the life I have before me. And I will never forget that. Every day, I make the choice to not drink, and to not forget that.

Daily Om: Emerging from the Grey

This showed up in my Timehop today, posted three years ago to Facebook. I commented at the time:

“True of drugs and alcohol, true of cigarettes, true of food, etc. etc. etc.”

Still all true. Also very relevant… and timely. More on that tomorrow.

Emerging from the Grey
Ways We Numb Ourselves

We are born equipped to experience a complex array of diverse emotions. Many of us, however, are uncomfortable confronting our most powerful emotions. We may shy away from delight and despair and deny life’s colors by retreating into a world of monotone grey. We may numb ourselves to what we are truly feeling. It’s easier to suppress our emotions than to deal with them, so we may momentarily turn to pleasures such as alcohol, food, sugar, shopping and too much television. We may even numb our hearts. While it’s normal to temporarily seek distractions as a means of coping with intense emotions, numbing yourself prevents you from confronting your issues and keeps you from ever finding resolution or peace. When you are numb, there is no pain or powerlessness, but there can also be no joy or healing.

The activities that numb you may seem harmless or pleasurable, but using them to numb yourself diminishes the quality of your life. Numbing yourself so that you don’t have to feel intense emotions can often satisfy a surface need while blocking your awareness of a deeper need. You may find solace in food or shopping when what you really need is spiritual nourishment. The less you feel, the less alive you feel. Your feelings add vividness to your experiences and serve to connect you to the world around you. It is possible to disavow yourself of numbing behaviors a little at a time and once again taste life’s rich flavors. When you sense that you are engaging in a particular behavior simply to deaden your emotions, stop and ask yourself why. Examining the feelings that drive you to numb yourself can help you understand what is triggering your desire to emotionally fade out.

With each numbing activity that you cut out of your life, you’ll find yourself being more aware and experiencing a greater emotionally acuity. Senses once shrouded by the fog of numbness become sharp and acute. Traumas and pain long hidden will emerge to the forefront of your consciousness and reveal themselves so that you can heal them. You’ll discover a deeper you—a self that is comfortable experiencing and working through intense emotions with courage and grace.

Debunking the Dry Drunk

Growing up in 12-step clubs, I heard the term “dry drunk” all my life. My dad got sober in 1970, with the help of AA, and chose to stick with that path of recovery all the way through 2003 when he died. It worked for him (that, and a lot of other spiritual and intellectual exploration he did on the side, but yeah).

But when I got sober in 2010, I only went to AA for a month before knowing that was not going to be my path. And I have seen many 12-step folks in online communities who disapprove of that, who shake their heads, call me a “dry drunk,” and say I will never truly change without the help of “the program.”

Bullshit. There are a myriad of ways to get sober, and once sober, a myriad of ways to stay that way. Want to know my three-step plan for recovery?

  1. Stop consuming alcohol – on your own or in a detox facility, however you have to do it. Depending on how much you were ingesting on a daily basis, it can take up to a month to feel like your body is functioning normally and your brain chemistry is back in (relative) balance. It took me a month and it was the weirdest, worst month ever. Then it got better. Hang in there.
  2. Find methods by which to improve your mental, emotional, and spiritual state so that you can try to better yourself, change your thinking and behavioral patterns, and restructure and reschedule your life to remain sober long-term. This could mean any or all of the following: good friends to talk to, supportive and loving partner, spiritual reading, online communities, meditation, prayer, fitness, volunteering, reading, writing, new hobbies, etc.
  3. Don’t let anyone tell you you have to do anything to be sober the “right” way. There is no right way. There is only what works for you to stay healthy and happy. The end.

Thank you to Sober Wayfarer for the link!

Debunking the Dry Drunk – SoberChrystal

Way More

At the beginning of every year, I have to do a new health assessment for the points program on my health insurance. This year, the questions were a little different and more in-depth. After I indicated that I didn’t drink, it opened up a set of sub-questions:

  1. Did you every drink regularly? (Yes)
  2. When you drank regularly, how many drinks of alcoholic beverages did you have in a typical week? A drink is a 12 oz. bottle or can of beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or a 1½ oz. shot of liquor.
  3. How long ago did you stop drinking? (More than one year ago)

It was that second question that gave me pause. The answer choices were:

  • Less than 1 drink
  • 1-7 drinks
  • 8-14 drinks
  • 15-21 drinks
  • 22 drinks or more

I picked the last one. And it was more. Way more. When I stopped to add it up, I’d have to guess it was between 40 and 50 per week. Maybe more sometimes.

Bizarre. Insane. I don’t know how I survived. Etc.

Alcoholic Tendencies

A friend of mine wrote (re. my post Partying Sober):

Until this post I thought Steve had given up alcohol, too. Sometimes I find it a little hard not to have a glass of wine when others are partaking. I tend not to put myself in situations anymore where others will be drinking.

You are not far off in thinking that about Steve. But to answer not only your comment, but a couple of questions from others, here is some clarification:

After I quit drinking in July 2010, Steve quit drinking on work nights. It was always my choice to stop at the store (and sometimes make a second run later) for vodka and beer. When that changed for me, it changed for him. He didn’t bother going on his own.

Fridays and Saturdays, though, were for drinking and dual-TV gaming with our best friend at the time, Matt, or spinning records with other friends. Either way, the key element was having other people around. He could enjoy and get drunk and I didn’t have to be sitting there sober with him by myself. The few times that happened (like at the end of a night when I was trying to get food in him or get us to bed) SUCKED. I would get nearly enraged with his silliness, lethargy, incoherence, or all of the above. SUCKED. I also spent a year of weekend mornings on my own, shopping, running errands, etc., because he was never awake before lunchtime.

Yet I never told him to stop drinking. Because I knew he wasn’t an alcoholic – at least not like me. He has alcoholic tendencies. He liked to indulge in drinking, as he does with all the things he finds pleasurable. And he was a heavy drinker for years because it was always fun for him. But there’s a difference between his behavior and mine.

A little over a year into my sobriety, we moved back to Texas. That’s when it all changed for good. He had no one to drink with anymore and therefore didn’t see the point. So he quit. He quit drinking and smoking like it was nothing at all – something I could never do. He’s had alcohol three times since October 2011, and they’ve all been during special social occasions with others. And that’s where the main difference lies.

The other night when we were at that club and he had that shot with our friends was a singular moment. He said it tasted great, felt good, it was cool to share a drink with friends. But he never even got a second one. We danced, had a fun night, and that was that.

Now here’s what would have happened if it had been me. I would have had that drink… and then a half hour later wanted another one. And another two or three before the night was over. I would have forced us to go across the street to buy cigarettes. I probably wouldn’t have shut up about it until I had one in my mouth.

The next night I would have stopped at one of the liquor stores near our house and got a small bottle of vodka. I can hear myself now:

“Just for one night. Because last night it felt so cool. It won’t turn into an everyday thing, no way. No way.”

A month later, I would be horrified to realize I’d been drunk every day for weeks on end. Probably smoking. Overeating. Not running.

You know, the funny thing is, until I thought out my response to this comment in detail, I don’t think I even realized how much that addict behavior would still surface in me if given the chance. But it would. I don’t doubt it. There are hundreds of stories about people who have been sober for years and then one drink later… everything is lost. I am not so full of myself to believe I am going to be the first one to beat those odds. And I won’t take the risk to find out.

Anyway. Back to the subject at hand. That is the Steve drinking-not drinking story. These days, we are both living a peaceful, active, sober life – a life we both value for all it’s worth, especially given how things used to be. And I know alcoholics who dealt with far worse trying to get sober with a partner or spouse – typically an alcoholic themselves – still drinking. I consider myself pretty lucky.