the long and winding road: 6 months!

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Holy crap on a cracker. It’s been 6 months since I had a drink.

It seems unbelievable to me. I was reflecting today where I was one year ago. I had just returned from a trip. My sweetie and I travelled in India for over a month. It was a fabulous trip but I was deeply unhappy. I felt so out of sorts. I was trying to control my drinking the entire time, like I have almost every single day for over the last decade.

There are towns in India where alcohol is illegal for religious reasons. Not drinking in those towns was a struggle for me. Eventually we found out that you could still get booze- the waiters in some restaurants would smuggle in beers for the tourists to drink.

Once we found this out, of course, we drank.

I originally had planned not to drink in India. But wherever you go, there you are. There is no magic that will cure addiction. A change of scenery and all the holy rivers in India could not keep me from drinking. I had to put in the daily work.

I was the saddest girl in the world around this time last year. It was a very dark period in my life. I was jet-lagged, drunk, hungover, dehydrated, bored and desperate. I was so sick of myself.

I barely remember this person today.

Thank the universe I stumbled across Belle and the sober blogging world. I wonder where I would have been had I found this all sooner! It’s weird that it never occurred to me that there was such a thing. I am a researcher by nature! I had already read so many books about addiction, found Recovery 2.0, and sought addiction counselling. I had dropped into AA meetings and SMART recovery meetings. I was a member of InTheRooms. I am stubborn as hell and it took me all this and more to get sober. It even took me reading blogs and blogging for 6 months before I could finally stick with it. And I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t checked my wordpress account. It has been my saviour.

On August 15th 2014 I had my last drink. I was quitting again for the millionth time, although this time was a bit different. Robin Williams had just killed himself a few days before. I don’t know why this rocked me so much; I can’t explain it fully. I just knew that if I didn’t change for real my life was in danger. I planned to have my last drink on a Friday night and my partner quit with me for a little while. I attended a few AA meetings for a few weeks. I turned down social events for about 6 weeks. I told myself that I was willing to do whatever it took to get through the cravings, the ups and downs. I had to be willing to feel whatever came up and not drink. I surrendered. I told myself that it will suck for a while but I had faith that it would get easier. I found things to look forward to.

Refuge Recovery meetings started in my city. I told myself that I really wanted to be sober to attend this group. I had read all of the founder’s books and I knew it was a program I believed in. The idea of being part of something- especially from the beginning- really intrigued me.

There have been some real ups and downs along the way, a lot of them I have written about here. There have been highs and pink clouds and spiritual awakenings and insights and true authentic joy. And there have been lows and sadness, confusion, loneliness, and boredom.

I have discovered passions- old and new- that have woken up my soul and my heart and made me remember who I am.

I have come face to face with some of my core issues and of the ways my heart has been broken.

Over the last 6 months as a sober person, I am happy to report that I have somehow managed to survive:

  • A wedding
  • A death in the family and a funeral/celebration of life
  • Christmas and xmas parties
  • New Years
  • Thanksgiving
  • Birthday parties (not mine)
  • Baby showers
  • BBQ’s
  • Dinner parties
  • Dinner out at fancy restaurants
  • Relationship/personal conflict/issues
  • Starting a new position at work
  • Job stress
  • The loss of and changing friendships

I’m also happy to report that over the last 6 months (however most of it in the last 6 weeks) I have lost 10 pounds 🙂 I have almost kicked my junk food and sugar habit and I have moved to a diet of clean whole foods with tons of veggies and fruit. Being active is a regular part of my life now that I am not hungover all the time and it’s getting a lot easier to make healthier choices.

I went into a liquor store and bought booze for the first time this weekend. I was co-hosting an event for a friend and I did most the food and drink. I was a little nervous but I felt ready. I TURNED DOWN FREE WINE SAMPLES in the store. I opened bottles of champagne for my friends and poured glasses for folks. My friends got hammered- old school style. And I didn’t drink. I had moments of wanting to and at one point I texted my partner and he talked me down. It was funny to watch my friends but by the end of the night I can’t say I envied how messy they got. It was still good to be with them though and be silly. We danced and sang and joked and laughed. There’s a lot of history and connection that comes with so many years of substance filled nights. I wouldn’t give up much of that past because in some ways that kind of wild abandon opened up my heart. I just went overboard with it until it turned on me.

We do keep a little alcohol in our house now… not much, but there’s a bottle of wine on the rack, beer in the fridge, and a couple of spirits around. It doesn’t bother me. The spell that alcohol used to have over me has almost been broken. I won’t say completely because I still have moments when it calls to me, but mostly the illusion that it will make me feel better is gone.

I just know that it makes me feel like shit. It’s hard to un-know that now.

I still don’t say that I will never drink again. But for now, I like this way better. Even though it’s hard sometimes and I feel left out and that makes me sad and I can’t numb myself out anymore, I still prefer it over the way I was.

And I’m going to keep going…

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social struggles.

I’m cruising along in my sobriety- 5 1/2 months! The obsession to drink is not really there, most of the time. I still think about drinking sometimes; last night, in a flash of a moment, I thought about grabbing my partner’s freshly poured vodka soda and having a sip, while he was out of the room.

But it doesn’t take long for me to play out that old scene. If I had a sip, then why not have a whole drink? Would I be able to stop at one? Would I start to lie about and hide my drinking again, would the obsession start up right away or would it take some time to percolate? I honestly don’t know, but all the evidence that I have gathered in my drinking history strongly suggests that it would become quickly problematic for me. Just thinking about it makes me tired. I am so done with that. It’s just easier not to drink then start all that up again.

Not that sobriety has been all rainbows and unicorns. There has been a fair share of those- yes- enough to keep me on this path, but there are real challenges too. One of the biggest issues my thinking mind loves to fixate on is my social life. Or lack thereof.

I became isolated in my drinking. I don’t fully understand the reasons why. It’s a long story. I have always been a social person, although not always the most outgoing. I fluctuate between an extrovert and an introvert. There’s a word for that- an ambivert. I don’t want to get too hung up on labels but it was good to know that there is a middle ground in there. I don’t feel very comfortable in groups and I enjoy spending time alone and solitary activities, but I also enjoy connecting with people and I do get energized around others sometimes. If left alone too much, I struggle with feeling bored and empty.

I have spent most of my life in large groups of hard partying friends. A lot of these friends I have only known intoxicated. The intoxication has helped with my uncomfortableness in groups. Of course, growing older, my social scene has changed a lot. This happens as your friends start to have families, especially when kid number 2 and 3 start to come along. I also find that people hang out as families with their children together, and as I don’t have children, I feel a bit left out of these get togethers.

It takes a lot more effort to socialize sober for me and I am just not reaching out to build relationships with friends and their families. My partner and I are kind of existing in this little bubble right now. I still see a good handful of my girlfriends- as I’ve mentioned a lot previously, I go for regular hikes and/or meals with them, which is awesome and I am truly grateful for these relationships. But that doesn’t include my partner.

We haven’t been putting any effort into doing “couple” type activities and I worry about us. He works a lot, and on the weekends he is pretty happy to just relax, or hang out with me as we don’t see much of each other during the week. Once or twice a month he gets together with a friend or two to watch a game or go for drinks. He seems content with this. Which is awesome for him.

But I have a desire to be a part of a “group” of friends. I want us to have friends together as a couple, like we used to, back before we both started isolating and before all my friends had kids. There is a group of friends we could be part of- and I am somewhat a part of in that if there is a birthday or special occasion I go to an event with them. But I have a hard time integrating my partner into it because he can’t always attend events due to work and/or his teenage son’s obligations. Because it is so hit and miss with him attending things, we aren’t building relationships with people. What we need to do is invite other couples/families over for dinner or something- but that’s where I start to freak out because of my soberness.

At least in a group, when I was partying, I could either just connect with one or two people at a times, or I could disappear into the group. And honestly I was usually so wasted it didn’t matter to me anymore. But I feel if it’s a small group, besides just my girlfriends, and I am sober, I anticipate feeling uncomfortable and awkward, or wanting to drink and feeling irritated by it. I am generally just pretty afraid of it.

I have social anxiety.

Feels good to admit it.

I have a strong desire to connect with other sober people too. I feel like I just need to be around others that understand and can relate. I can talk to my partner and friends about it but as you all are aware, there is nothing like connecting with someone else who understands the struggle of addiction.

I worry that as I am changing my life, I am becoming more separate from my partner. I feel like we have less in common than before. A big part of what we did together was go out for food and wine. Of course this almost seems silly now, but it was a big part of our reality before.

I can easily go to the dark side about this- my brain loves to bully me about not us having enough friends, having a lonely life, nobody likes me, I am going to die alone (!), etc… And my work around this has been to stay in the PRESENT moment, acknowledge the thoughts but not necessarily believe them, and not get worked up by them. My meditation practice is helping me to recognize these super negative and destructive thinking patterns- and once I become aware that I am not my thoughts- that my thoughts are not always true, it gives them less power.

I went to a great meeting today. It is a buddhist recovery meeting but most people are 12 steppers so it has a mix of philosophies. I really enjoyed it. Afterwards two women came and introduced themselves to me and told me about other meetings they go to that they enjoy, and one woman gave me her number and told me to call if I want to go to a meeting or for coffee. It was so nice! It made me feel so much less alone in this.

I just miss being around people, connecting and being carefree.

I know I need to create this for myself, in my new reality. I just need to be patient and yet slowly move towards what I want. I want sober friends but I also want to work on re-building existing friendships with my partner. My partner says that I am “reinventing” myself and that it will take time. I hope that we will have a rich social life again.

I never want to give up the time I have to myself- I truly love it, and I need it- but I do miss that feeling of community.