mountains and molehills.

That’s what my last week or so has felt like… climbing small peaks and tall ones.

Notable moments:

My partner and I were gifted alcohol this season- red wine and Baileys- and IT IS STILL IN THE HOUSE AND MY PARTNER HAS BEEN DRINKING IT AND I AM STILL SOBER. This is a pretty major milestone for me, as I have not been able to have wine in the house until now. Too much of a trigger. And I’m not saying I want to have a bunch of open bottles of liquor in the house all the time, by any means, but, I do seem to be confident in my sobriety enough that having some around doesn’t feel like a big risk anymore.

Christmas. Need I say more? Spending hours and hours on end around people who are drinking constantly, not in your own home and no room for escape, triggering memories and time of year, and complicated family dynamics, is pretty much a recipe for disaster as far as a boozer goes. But I got through it. I had my moments, but I did it.

The hardest thing that I have been through in the last week is the death of a family member. My cousin’s son, tragically took his own life on Christmas Day. I guess he had been struggling with mental health challenges for a while, although I still don’t know the details. Unfortunately, we are not that close with that side of the family, just having drifted apart after so many years since my Dad passed. We see them mostly at funerals and weddings, that sort of thing. And with social media, we are in the loop of each others lives even though we don’t see each other much.

But the distance does not make it any easier. My cousin’s son was far far too young for his life to end. To know how much he suffered is so painful. My heart breaks for his parents, my lovely cousin and her kids, my aunt and uncle, who have seen too much pain in their lives already. There is a legacy of suicide on this side of the family. I am filled with so many emotions right now. Grief, empathy, sadness, anger, guilt, denial. I am just sick to my stomach about it. The link between emotional and physical pain is so interesting to me. My heart literally hurts right now.

The New Year is almost upon us. That will be another little bump to get over, but things like that start to lose meaning in the face of such tragedy. As I am making my way out of my own private hell, I just wish for peace for all who are suffering.

But, mountains or molehills, I am still sober.

Peace.

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winter solstice: letting go

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Today is the first day after winter solstice. My favourite day of the year.

The winter solstice, for many around the world, is a time to turn inward and reflect on our lives, grieve our losses, and create a vision for the upcoming year.

It is the rebirth of the light and warmth, and, of our own creative force.

Known as Yule, rooted in pagan traditions and symbolized by the wheel, the solstice is known as the “seed time of year”, a time of rebirth, hope, and creation. There is a tradition of fire festivals- burning the “old” and making space for the new.

It is a time to set an intention for the upcoming solar year. Many of us do this already on New Years day- January 1st on the calendar year- in the form of resolutions. I am no history major, but it seems to be that the two must be linked. From doing a little reading online this morning, New Years celebrations and resolutions seem to be an ancient phenomenon.

The Babylonians back in 2000 BC– celebrated the “new year” in March, linked to spring and the beginning of the harvest year and they made promises to their gods at this time. The Romans- who also originally celebrated the New Year closer to spring until they linked it to January 1st, which corresponded to the god of Janus; the god of change and beginnings, also made promises to be better people.

I do not wish to ruffle any feathers but from the looks of it a lot of the other traditions we have around this time of year pre-date Christianity, such as lighting fires, sharing food, giving gifts, and generally being festive.

It is a meaningful time of year for many reasons, is the point. This time of year can be particularly painful for many of us, especially those who have lost loved ones, as tradition calls for us to be with the ones we love. My own dad passed away many many moons ago, but it can still be a tough time year for me as I grieve the loss of the cultural ideal of what a family is supposed to be.

But I choose to celebrate this time of year for what it is. Part of the cycle of nature and life. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year and the longest night. With the coming light and warmth I give myself the chance of renewal.

I do believe in setting intentions for the new year – creating a vision, although I’m not really a “goal-setter” anymore. My partner and his son and I usually write on a piece of paper something that we would like to manifest in the upcoming year, and burn it in the fire on the winter solstice. This year I will set my intentions based on what feelings I want to have more of in my life. Based on what feels good. Mishedup wrote a great post about coming up with a word of the year that guides her for the New Year- a fabulous idea. I like the idea of simplifying it down to one concept as I’ve usually had several and I usually end up forgetting about them.

But, more importantly, at this time of year, I try to connect to the idea of letting go. I light a candle to remember and then let go of my struggles. I let go of my grief, my turmoil, the thoughts of what life “should be”. I try to let go of all that stuff so I can make room for the new. Or just to make room for the present moment too.

Since I have gotten sober, and started meditating, I am starting to become more aware of my thoughts. I catch myself sometimes as my brain goes into overdrive and I realize that I don’t have to stay on the run-away train that is my mind. I am not my thoughts. I can just let it go. I am learning to let go of addiction, of craving, of self-sabotage.

As this part of the world moves from darkness to light, I wish the same for you.

May you be happy,

May you be healthy,

May you be at ease.

your body during a hangover.

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Here’s a little science to start your week off right. Check out this article which describes the myriad ways your body is negatively impacted by too much booze…

Here is What is Actually Happening to Your Body During a Hangover.

Your Stomach & Intestines Are Inflamed

Alcohol directly irritates the stomach and intestines, causing inflammation of the stomach lining (i.e., gastritis) and delayed stomach emptying, especially when beverages with a high alcohol concentration (i.e., greater than 15 percent) are consumed.

High levels of alcohol consumption can also produce a fatty liver, an accumulation of fat compounds called triglycerides and free fatty acids in liver cells. In addition, alcohol increases the production of gastric acid as well as pancreatic and intestinal secretions.

Any or all of these factors can result in the upper abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting experienced during a hangover.

Your Brain Is Hungry

Because alcohol leads to a condition known as fatty liver (mentioned above), the buildup of lactic acid usually follows, which can inhibit glucose production in the blood. Furthermore, not eating sufficiently enough due to nausea can also inhibit glucose production.

Because glucose is the primary energy source of the brain, hypoglycemia can contribute to hangover symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and mood disturbances. Diabetics are particularly sensitive to the alcohol-induced alterations in blood glucose. However, it has not been documented whether low blood sugar concentrations contribute to hangovers symptomatically.

You Are Thirsty & Depleted

It’s a no brain-er that alcohol increases urination. The consumption of 50 g of alcohol in 250 milliliters (mL) of water (i.e. approximately 4 drinks) causes the elimination of 600 to 1,000 mL (or up to 1 quart) of water over several hours.

Alcohol inhibits hormone release from the pituitary gland, a hormone which normally causes the kidneys to reabsorb water and electrolytes, therefore instead of being reabsorbed, it’s eliminated in the urine. Sweating, vomiting and diarrhea also commonly occur during a hangover, and these conditions can result in additional fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances.

 Your Brain Is Sending The Wrong Sleeping Signals

Although it’s known as a depressant, alcohol actually has counter-active sedative effects on the brain. Alcohol inhibits glutamate production, a stimulant whose job is to keep us awake. However, when our alcohol blood-levels reach zero (i.e., hangover time), our body reacts by overproducing this stimulant, resulting in broken sleeps as well as stomach irritation.

Your Brain Chemicals Are Out Of Whack

Although the complete etiology of alcohol induced headaches is still unknown, research suggests it has something to do with alcohol’s effect on the neurotransmitters histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins. Alcohol intoxication also results in vasodilatation, which may induce headaches.

You’re Actually Going Through Alcohol Withdrawal (AW)

Several lines of evidence suggest that a hangover is a mild manifestation of the AW syndrome in non-alcohol dependent drinkers. First, the signs and symptoms of hangover and mild AW overlap considerably.

One clinical scale used to assess the severity of a withdrawal episode in alcohol-dependent patients measures 10 withdrawal-associated items that are usually present during a hangover, including nausea and vomiting, tremor, sweating, anxiety, headache and sensory disturbances.

Furthermore, the observation that alcohol re-administration alleviates the unpleasantness of both AW syndrome and hangovers suggests that the two experiences share a common process.

it’s worth the risk.

sober

I am 4 months sober. Did I really just type those words? Yes, yes I did. Time is ticking on and I am still not drinking. This is hard to believe at first, but, I think I always had some kind of faith that I would get here. I think it helped that I quit smoking and although drinking is different than smoking, I knew that deep within me was a undeniable force that I would eventually tap into that would help me to get sober.

It’s almost hard for me to relate to those months and years of feeling desperate because I wasn’t able to control my alcohol intake. The sheer number of times I told myself that I would quit or cut down and I failed to keep my promise to myself. I really really disliked that person I had become. I was completely consumed by my addiction. The amount of time that I thought about drinking, or quitting drinking, was so overwhelming that I felt trapped in my own mind. I almost got to a point where I could truly see no way out. I really scared myself at the end there. This shit is real. Addiction can destroy your life and perhaps kill you. It is a serious affliction and it can affect anyone.

The good news is that, I think, anyone can also overcome it. With the right support, you can build a recovery plan that works for you. Sometimes each person needs to go through their own kind of “bottom”- something painful enough to make them wake up and face the truth. It’s different for everyone. Some people will end up losing their job or family, some will nearly die in an alcohol related incident, some will betray their loved ones or their own sense of morality. Or, some people will reach a tipping point where they can no longer see any benefit in using. Whatever it is, a moment, or moments, in time will come and there will be no more running from the truth that you have to change your life. Hopefully, there will be no turning back.

I am grateful for the awareness of truth that finally arrived in my life. It took me years. I had been concerned about my drinking for about a dozen years, and downright miserable about it for about 2 years before I could stop. And I had been reading sober blogs, and blogging for 6 months before I quit. Part of the change, for me, was engaging with others who also felt the way I did. I could see myself in people’s stories, and I thought that maybe I would also be able to experience the freedom and happiness that some of them wrote about.

It was risky business, this getting sober. I knew that to quit drinking, I would have to go through the emotions that I have been numbing for many years. I would have to sit with discomfort instead of drown it out. I would have to feel the feelings of sadness, boredom, awkwardness, disappointment, and regret, instead of keeping them at bay with alcohol. Alcohol allowed me to shift into this other state- a state of not really caring about anything- and forget all else. This is a state of reckless abandon, a state of “fuck it”, a state that I craved from my youth.

It’s true that you can’t really run from yourself. Wherever you go, there you are. You can try to drink to deal with life, but life will always find you. If you use substances or unhealthy behaviours as a coping mechanism, it will catch up with you eventually. Your body/mind/heart/soul will start to cry out in pain. We need to treat ourselves with loving kindness or else we will resist and rebel. Just like any other living thing. For me, I came to a place where I had only two choices. I could keep poisoning myself and wish for death, or I could stop poisoning myself- at all costs- and see what would happen.

I will never regret the choice I made. At times it has been really difficult. I have had to feel a lot of things that I haven’t enjoyed feeling. But the really cool part is that I am starting to figure it out and deal with some things that needed to be dealt with. I have written here before that I have struggled with depression. Since becoming sober, I have been really able to track this and I have realized how much of my depression is connected to my cycle. After doing some research about this, I have discovered something called PMDD- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.  It is like an extreme version of PMS. I am going to see my doctor about this next week- the symptoms completely fit for me. I don’t think I would have figured this out if I were still drinking because of how shitty I felt most of the time.

The first 3 months were pretty hard. Lots of ups and downs. I felt fatigued a lot of the time too. But I now feel like I have a lot more energy and I am eager to do things. I don’t just want to sit around the house anymore. I have started going to another meditation group for recovery and I feel really interested and engaged with learning more about mediation and buddhism. I am being active- yoga classes, zumba classes, and hiking every week. I am starting to meet some new people! There are women in both of the recovery meditation groups that I really like so far. I am excited to keep moving forward, to see what other benefits sobriety will bring me.

I had to be willing to change my thinking and my life to get sober. Primrose wrote a fabulous post on the topic of Tommy Rosen’s addiction story premise the other day and I’ve been thinking a lot about this. My Addiction Story kept me in that nasty cycle- all the while telling me that drinking is glamorous and fun and that I needed it to cope. That it was benefitting me because on my own I am nothing worthwhile. That people wouldn’t want to be around me, and that I couldn’t stand even be around myself without being liquored up.

Now, I am learning what I like to do and how I really want to spend my time. I’m learning how to be around others sober, enjoying activities that I have in common with them. I am also learning to be alone and be content now. I am just learning how to relax and accept myself as I am.

Along with accepting myself, I am recognizing destructive thinking and learning to correct it. This has been one of the biggest gifts of sobriety.

Trust me, it is so worth the risk!