20 year reunion and Kicking the Drink.

Last Friday, I attended my 20 year high school reunion. Just typing that makes me cringe a little bit. And shake my head in disbelief! I honestly do not know where the time has gone. It scares me to think another 20 years will fly by so quickly. I’d better make it count.

I’ve been caught in a bad cycle of managing to scrape together a few sober days (usually Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday), falling off the wagon on the weekend, and then continuing to drink to excess on Sunday and Monday nights until I am so sick and tired that I feel I’ve aged a hundred years. I missed work on Monday because I was hungover and exhausted. I’ve had my new job for 2 months. Not very impressed with myself. I am the biggest obstacle in my life. I am a menace to my physical and mental well-being. 

I am also the saviour of my own life. 

So, back to the reunion. I was a bit nervous to go and actually considered not going because of the drinking thing. I didn’t think I could do it sober and I didn’t want to jeopardize my sobriety (I think I had 5 days or something). But then I thought, fuck you, alcohol, you are not taking this experience away from me! So, I planned to go sober. I planned to drive so that I wouldn’t drink. But getting closer to the event, I got scared I would drink. Then I got scared I would drink and drive, or that I would drink and leave my car downtown and it would get towed or that something horrible would happen to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so, in the end, I planned to have a few drinks. I left my car at my brothers’ house and planned to sleep there (this was out of town). I got drunk and was very hungover the next day. Of course, I was part of the crew that closed down the bar and went on the the next one. The next day I spent with my family and then went out for dinner with a close friend. I went back to my mom’s to stay. She was out for the evening. I started drinking her booze, sneaking it from the cabinet and different wine bottles, so she wouldn’t notice how much I had drank. Just like when I was a teenager; just like 20 years ago. 

Have I not changed in 20 years? Have I not grown? It was painful to watch myself do this. Yet, I couldn’t stop. Did my mother notice? I am embarrassed. 

The reunion was good- I had a really fun time catching up with people and reminiscing. . My ex-boyfriend was there; my first real love. It was hard to talk to him. He is unhappy in his life. He told me life is meaningless and that it’s all “smoke and mirrors”. He said if he could do it all over again, he would do it differently. It was hard to hear him sound so negative and I tried to convince him how wrong he is about life. We argued a little bit. Because I had been drinking, I was feisty and bossy instead of being compassionate and supportive. Ugh. I hate that about myself when I drink. I get pretty fiery sometimes. I feel like I wasted that time with him. I really wanted to connect and catch up and booze ruined it. 

I ordered Jason Vale’s Kick the Drink book. It came while I was away and I read the whole thing on Monday (yesterday), figured that while I was too hungover to go to work, I could do something productive. I liked it. Completely reminded me of Allen Carr’s stuff. What I like about that approach is how positive it is. Getting into the mind frame that by quitting drinking, you are freeing yourself from a destructive, disgusting trap- and that is something to be celebrated! It is true. Sometimes I let myself get down thinking that alcohol is like a friend and that I need to grieve its loss in my life… that is bullshit. Alcohol is no friend of mine. It makes me sneak and steal booze from my mother like I am a 15 year old delinquent. 

I like how Vale breaks down all of the illusions we think are the advantages of alcohol. It doesn’t build our confidence- it destroys our ability to develop real, natural confidence. It doesn’t relax us, it numbs us. It doesn’t relieve boredom, it makes us forget we are still bored. It only relieves the craving that was produced by the alcohol in the first place. 

The key is accepting that alcohol doesn’t actually give us anything positive, and that we still need to learn how to do these things (be confident, sociable, relaxed, fun) on our own. Developing those qualities is the real work, and Vale doesn’t really go into how to do that. I guess that’s up to everyone to figure out on their own. I can actually see his ideas working with a program like AA, even though he seems to bash it throughout. I’m going to think some more about this. But for now I am going to try something new. I am going to stop counting days, like Vale suggests, and I am going to remind myself everyday how happy I am to be free of the alcohol trap- to see it as a very positive thing I have done, and remind myself of this when I start to miss it or crave it. But that doesn’t mean that I am going to stop working on myself and stop trying to deal with my insecurities. That’s just personal growth, which I think is super important. But I don’t have to think that I am defective or broken, either. I think I had been getting to negative about myself lately, which wasn’t helping. I’ll keep track of how this approach is working and post about it over the next few days.

 

 

Enter, abandonment and joy.

I met again with my counsellor today.

Counsellor might be too timid a word. She is more like a champion, a freedom fighter, a slayer of the lies we tell and the stories we make up to survive. She gets down to business with the inner workings of my mind.

I’ve been waiting for her. For this working relationship.

She doesn’t just listen and insert empathic statements. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Sometimes that’s what we need. Other times we need someone to point out our blind spots, our inconsistencies, and help us discover what has truly been holding us back. And then, we need a way to start dealing with that shit.

I don’t agree with everything she says. But she is helping me get down to my core issues. Which are around abandonment, loss, and feeling unworthy. I’ve known this on an intellectual level, but I’m not sure I’ve ever done the work to properly heal from this. I’ve never allowed myself to feel those emotions, feeling that it would be too self-indulgent. I’ve felt I’ve always had to take the ‘high road’, even when I haven’t known how to really get there. I’ve talked a really good talk, in other words. This is all coming to a head for me: I can’t pretend anymore how I feel and how I’ve felt and how certain life events have created these emotions in me. The talk is coming to an end. I have to begin to walk. One foot in front of the other, I finally need to face my demons. Stopping drinking is not enough (for me) without doing the emotional and spiritual work. I need to recover from not only drinking and the consequences it has produced In my life, but the reasons I drink in the first place.

I understand that I’ve been drinking to self-medicate. I understand that I’ve been drinking because I’ve felt uncomfortable being myself. I have been fighting myself for most of my life. Feeling that I shouldn’t feel what I feel. Feeling wrong somehow; different.

I’ve also started reading Why You Drink and How to Stop by Veronica Valli. What a read. I don’t know if I am just so open right now to what she writes about, or if I’ve never read something this true for me before. But I starting to realize that I am an alcoholic. I know I’ve had a drinking problem (obviously) for some time but nice never subscribed to the notion of alcoholism. It’s been too vague, too confusing. Is it a disease? A disorder? A mental illness? Is it genetic? Environmental? Post-traumatic? Is it a bio-psycho-social-spiritual condition?

Whatever it is, I have it.

And there is something in the admitting that feels so freeing.

I am not alone. There are others who struggle like me.

There are others who have recovered and become well, too. I need to walk among them. I think, because addiction has so many different and varying causes, it has so many different and varying forms of recovery. It’s about finding what works for you as an individual.

I am a spiritual person by nature. I have rejected the AA model because I do not believe in a Christian God. But I am starting to open up to the fact that AA might be more about a spiritual awakening than a religious one. That is something I can dig.

When I think about a spiritual connection, and that my addiction issues could be helped by nurturing this, I feel relief. I feel relief that I could love myself, feel comfortable in my skin, feel whole. I think a spiritual connection means living honestly to myself and to my beliefs. It’s about my morals and values. Something that living in addiction takes away from me.

I am getting to the point where I’m willing to do anything to get sober.

the void, exercise, meetings, family.

I haven’t been writing a lot. I feel like every time I write a blog post, I fall off the wagon. I don’t really think this is true. Perhaps it’s just another way the addiction keeps me isolated. The addiction knows that I could reach out, get support from others and continue to build sober relationships, but that scares her. She wants me all to herself. She wants me to believe that the only way to fill the void is her sick and seductive voice. She and wine are my best friends. She says wine will make me feel normal; complete; whole again. She will take any worries, inhibitions, or life stressors, and just melt them right away. She tells me that being sober is too hard, too boring, too unimportant. Life is too short. Life is too hard. The void is too deep. 

I started working with my counsellor again. Damn, she’s good. I’ve said this before but I love the way we go down to rabbit hole into my psyche. Right to the core. I’ve done therapy before and I work in the field so it’s important to me to find the right person. Someone who doesn’t blow fluff and talk in cliches and calls me out. I always have epiphanies or realizations in her office. I figure something out and she always gives me something really interesting to think about between sessions. I started seeing her for drinking around this time last year. She goes away in the winter so I’ve just seen her again once so far this season.

This time I wanted to talk to her about drinking but also about another issue that weighs heavy in my heart and soul. Not quite ready to write about it here, but I am sure I will in time. One of my friends has always said I should write about it, as a way to process, and also because other women are probably going through similar things.

Okay, I’ll share a little. It’s about children, and fertility, and loss, and the choices we make. 

Anyways, that story is for another time.

I’m on day 4 today and it’s 7.45pm, and I know I won’t drink tonight. I really wanted to on the way home from work. Even though I woke up this morning and felt so good and strong and confident. I felt like I had stepped through something (again;). I went for a walk at lunch time and it was so beautiful out, and I kept thinking that I am just so tired of the struggle. I either want to stop drinking and get sober and heal this part of my life, or I just want to drink my face off and not worry about it anymore. I’m tired of being stuck in the middle of the two roads. I’ve got to shit or get off the pot, as they say. 

Then I don’t know what happened but I thought about booze all the way home. I ate a snack and relaxed for about 30 minutes, reading sober blogs. Then- I did an exercise video! I did it yesterday too. It’s 22 minutes of strength, cardio and abs circuit. I am pretty out of shape so it knocked me on my ass. I did a bit of gentle yoga afterwards and I can honestly say that the urge to drink was just gone. I made a delicious healthy dinner, sat on my back patio in the fading sunlight to eat, and now I’m writing on the patio. I really contemplated going to a meeting tonight, because let’s face it, evenings are LONG without the booze! But I wanted to write a blog post. Or, that was my excuse for not going to a meeting anyways. I’ve been to a few AA meetings in the past, but I am honestly just freaked out about them. I am so scared to speak in a group, even though I do it all the time professionally. But I do think meetings will be a part of my recovery. I just feel I need the extra support and would like to meet some sober friends. 

I’ve also decided to tell my family about my struggles with alcohol but I haven’t decided when yet. I am close with my family and the main reasons I haven’t told them are because I am ashamed, and because I don’t want them to worry about me.  I almost did on mother’s day but then I thought that might upset my mom and I didn’t want to do that on mama’s day. Not that she will be compeltely shocked, I reckon. Out of everyone in my life, she is the only person who has ever mentioned how much wine I drink. 

But, one thing at a time. First I’ll get myself to a meeting. Then, tell the family. In the meantime, I will do everything in my power to stay sober. 

tubthumping and drinking at work.

My British blogging buddies could more aptly explain what this term means, I’m sure. Wikipedia says it means a politician jumping on the band wagon of a popular idea, and Urban Dictionary says it means going out drinking and singing after a day of protesting.

So, I don’t know. Anyone?

Even if it means going out drinking after a day of protest, the hit 90’s song Tubthumping by Chumbawamba came on this morning on my way to work (on “Throwback Thursday”- yikes- the 90’s is considered a throwback era. I am officially getting old), and I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about part of the chorus all day. In a good way.

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

Even if the song then goes on to talk about pissing the night away with vodka and whisky drinks, this first part of it just kept playing over and over again in my head. I was extremely hungover when I was driving to work. I felt like I was dying inside. My stomach has been hurting all day, and, not for the first time, I wondered if I am actually doing permanent damage to my internal organs. I looked like I’ve aged about 10 years in the last couple of weeks of on and off again drinking, and I feel like a shell of my former self. I worry that people at work are gong to smell stale booze on me. Which would be pretty bad, because, well, I work in the healthcare field. I quite often see people that have done permanent and serious damage to their bodies and their minds with chronic alcohol use. Some of these people are not very old. Some are in their 30’s. Like me.

I went for a walk on my lunch break and for the first time that I can remember, I contemplated having a drink before heading back to work. Now, I’ve had a drink during the day before, but I’ve never been a day time drinker, except for maybe on vacation, or in my big partying days when I stayed up all night and through to the next afternoon drinking and drugging. So thinking about drinking during a work day was new for me. I thought maybe it would make me feel better, more relaxed, or lighten my mood. Then I realized what I was thinking about and I understood that the possibility of me taking the next step down this path of destruction is quite real.

As a highly functioning drinker, it’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t really have a problem. Or that you do have a problem, but it’s not very serious. But I never saw myself, where I am today, five years ago. And I don’t know that this problem of mine won’t take me to even worse places. Maybe I will start to drink at work to help me through the day. Maybe I will lose my job or my relationships. Maybe I will get cirrhosis of the liver. Maybe I will die of alcohol poisoning. Or, maybe I will get so tired of this battle that I’ll mix a bottle of pills with my booze and overdose.

I think that those are all possible scenarios. This is real. This is scary shit.