Thursday, May 29, 2014

Getting Very Sleeeeeepy

One of the things I feared about quitting drinking was making friends with insomnia. I had this idea that I would be up until 3AM, wandering around the house or angrily tossing and turning in bed.

It's been the complete opposite.

Last night, I started dozing off at 9:15. I grant you, it was a long day on my feet, but excuse me? This is my new norm. I rarely go to bed later than 10:00. While I was drinking, I stayed up until the bottle was empty. If I got home from a meeting late, I would start drinking late and go to bed late. If I got home early, it was always with mixed feelings, because it meant that I could start drinking early (yay!), but that I had to nurse the bottle (boo!) because there's a weird feeling that comes with finishing a bottle when it's still light outside. Before I tried to moderate, I would buy wine in bulk and open a second bottle if I finished the first, but for the last 2 years, I decided to buy a bottle at a time (I was being good, right?) to prevent myself from drinking more than 1 a night. I am so glad I don't have to play these ridiculous mind games with myself anymore.

Anyway, I ought to be happy about all this great sleep I am getting. I sleep through the night and quite soundly. I even have trouble prying myself out of bed at 6:30. But now I'm all worried. Is this normal? Is it my body somehow repairing itself and detoxing after 12 years of heavy drinking, or did I do something bad to myself and this is a symptom of something else? Oh, fear, you have such a lovely way of manifesting in every little thing.  

Day 17 ... and needing coffee.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My First SMART Meeting

I attended my first meeting last night. It is the only SMART group in the state of Rhode Island. The organizer is 7 months sober. It is held at a little hospital cafe, which I find so much more comfortable than in a church. In SMART, the 12 steps aren't done, nor is there a higher power type deal. I am spiritual, and I do believe in a supreme being, but I don't subscribe to any religion. I keep it simple. If my religion had a name it would be, "The Temple of Unconditional Love." Because I firmly believe that love is the glue that binds us all. My relationship with God is personal and intimate and I don't talk about it with anyone. My husband is a staunch atheist, which I completely respect. I also respect people who are devout to the religion of their choice, I just prefer that it isn't preached to me. This is one of the reasons I chose SMART. I am also a little uncertain about the 12 Step thing. If it works for you, awesome. Every alcoholic needs to put the tools that they need in their tool box. Whatever keeps you sober. I prefer the SMART method because it doesn't feel as cult-like. Maybe if I attended an AA meeting and fully embraced the 12 Step Program, I might feel different, but it doesn't exactly fit with where I am now. 

It was a relief to discuss this disease with people who know, first hand, what it is all about. The organizer had progressed further into it than I did, but I don't see any alcoholic as being better or worse than me. I had chosen not to stop drinking when I did, who knows? I rarely managed to have more than a bottle of wine a day for 12 years, but that could have changed. I could have developed a serious illness as a result of my drinking. Any number of horrible things may have happened, so I am grateful I surrendered when I did.

We talked about telling family and what to do at parties/weddings/celebrations. Oh, and I brought up the O'Doul's. I was told that non-alcoholic beer and wine is for non-alcoholics. Fine. I am getting rid of it. I think I needed to hear that. I can have 1 O'Doul's now and not crave another, but I have no idea what that will mean in the future and I don't want to go there. I also don't need the stress of having to determine if it's okay or not. That's almost as exhausting as when I was trying to convince myself that I wasn't an alcoholic. So, okay, I'm done with O'Doul's.

I've been having strange dreams lately. Not dreams in which I drink again (though I did have those when I was abstaining for 30 days 2 years ago). More like dreams where I am being stalked and hunted. The other night, I found myself in a Friday the 13th movie, one of the late 1980's ones. I don't know if it has anything to do with early sobriety or not. Maybe it was just a random thing. I like horror movies, but I don't like scary dreams!

I'm on Day 16 ;)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Clear Skies

One cool thing about being sober is that my mind is clear. Like, all day. I was getting to the point, especially in the mornings, working through the fog of the previous night's drinking, where I would struggle to find words. Sometimes simple words. This was a little scary. I am finding it easier now to come up with those words. I am not forgetting the names of things anymore. My thoughts and sentences are complete. My conversations flow. This is good.

I am feeling lonely in my sobriety, though. I don't know anyone else with this disease. The friends that I have told and my husband are totally supportive of me, but they don't understand it completely. It has been wonderful listening to sobriety podcasts and reading blogs. I do, however, feel the need to have conversations with live humans who are struggling with alcoholism. Particularly people who are a year or more sober. When I was going through my divorce, I was able to talk to people I knew personally who had been there and that was incredibly helpful. I have since been able to do the same for others. I do hope that one day, when I am much further along in my sobriety, I can be of service to other people. I guess this is why it is important to go to meetings. I am really hoping the one I attend tonight will give me that opportunity, to have that dialog with people.

The Bubble Hour has been great and if you aren't listening to it, I highly recommend that you do. I have also been listening to the After Party Chat podcasts. This is a series of conversations hosted by Anna David. She speaks primarily to people in show business. On the one hand, I am learning a lot by listening to their struggles with addiction, but on the other hand, I have trouble relating because they are Hollywood people and speak that Hollywood language. It sounds like a criticism, and I certainly hope it doesn't come across that way, but I prefer real talk and people in the business have a bit of a phony edge that translates in their conversations, whether they are aware of it or not. There is a lot of name dropping and overuse of the words "honey" and "sweetheart," which seem to get in the way for me. This is their reality, though, shaped by the choices they made to be famous or whatever, but it is a bit foreign to an average person living somewhat anonymously in the world.

Monday, May 26, 2014

This Need for Perfection

Last night, my husband and I enjoyed a nice evening with our neighbors, who we are really good friends with. We each have fire pits in our back yards and every summer, we hang out roasting marshmallows (vegan ones, in our case) and stay up talking around the fire for hours. In the past, I would bring a bottle of wine and tear through the entire thing over the course of the evening while my friends sipped on rum and cokes. Last night I had a bottle of O'Doul's followed by a big mug of my favorite tea (I had a lovely time, by the way). And the whole evening, I worried about drinking the non-alcoholic beer. I've posted about this before, the attitude that the AA community seems to have with non-alcoholic beer and wine. I've read that alcoholics should run far away from these beverages because they may cause relapses. Lately, I've been reading that we shouldn't drink them because they keep us locked into alcoholic thinking and behaviors. I'm taking my sobriety very seriously and I am concerned that I am somehow jeapardizing everything by enjoying an O'Doul's.

And then, I remembered that one of the reasons I drink is because of perfectionism. Beating myself up for drinking a non-alcoholic beer is a symptom of that. I realize that I am applying my perfectionist behavior to my sobriety and this is confusing me. 

I do think that whether or not drinking non-alcoholic beer and wine is really a personal choice. It depends on the individual. If your drink of choice was rum and coke, would you now have to avoid coke? If you always liked screwdrivers, do you now have to steer clear of orange juice (which, by the way, has more alcohol by volume than non-alcoholic beer)?

If I am trying to break a cycle with regards to fear and perfectionism, isn't judging my drinking an O'Doul's only feeding those things? I didn't feel any sort of compulsion to have a real beer after having the O'Doul's. I had one and was quite ready to switch to tea. Beer was never really my drink of choice, anyway. Sober Julie has written a mocktail recipe book which is celebrated on The Bubble Hour. Isn't that replacement? Isn't that dangerous?

I guess it's up to the person. I am committed to do the work I need to do on myself. I don't think that having an occasional O'Doul's is going to get in the way of that. I am even thinking about attending a SMART meeting tomorrow night. Am I just lying to myself about the O'Doul's? I suppose that I will develop a more clear picture about what works for me over time and I suppose I should simply give myself the flexibility to change this as time goes on. I like being sober, that much I know.

Today is Day 14. Two weeks.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Alignment with Purpose

I had another huge epiphany last night, while I was finishing up work. I always thought that I drank because I liked the taste of it, because it was a reward at the end of a day, because it helped me sleep. Yes to all those things. I didn't think I had all these underlying issues that everyone talks about in AA. The reason why I believed this is because 9-5 Kim deals with shit. Daytime Kim doesn't sweep anything under the carpet. She isn't in denial about her problems. [Okay, Kim my real name, even thought I started this blog with the intention of being anonymous. If I'm getting honest about everything else, I might as well have the courage to say my name.] To the largest extent, this is true. I firmly believe that if you don't have the courage to face your problems, they manifest in other ways and come charging at you later. Better to take the bull by the horns. What I learned to do was compartmentalize myself. Daytime Kim touches her fear and Nighttime Kim unwinds with a drink (or 2 or 3 or 4).

But what I learned about myself today below the lid off the whole thing.

Let me back up. I am a self employed person. I have my own soap making business. I started this business on the side back in 2007 because of a growing passion I had in the form of a hobby, which I had enjoyed since 2000. This passion was/is more of a calling. I can't explain it, but when I am engaged in it, I feel perfectly aligned with myself. The joy I get from making soap is so great and satisfying, I have trouble putting into words. In 2009, I decided to take the big and scary step into full time status with my business. I was trained as a project manager and picked up a lot of extremely critical skills during my years in the corporate world. The first few years were difficult, from a transitional point of view, because instead of getting a predictable paycheck deposited in my bank account at the end of every month, I had to adapt to getting more money some weeks and less others. I did 3 to 4 markets a week and busted my ass. Don't get me wrong, I loved every little part of it, but I was working harder than I ever had in my whole life and I wasn't sure what the results were going to be month to month. Even if I brought my best game, I couldn't change a rainy weekend or a poorly attended market. I still managed, though, to pay my bills. So, I couldn't afford to buy new clothes every season. Big deal. I realized that I was spending money on a lot of things that had no real value in my life. My schedule was flexible, so I was able to take my mother to her chemo appointments every week and spend quality time with her at the doctor's office. Sounds depressing, I know, but it was still time with my mother. I felt that for everything I lost in traditional employment, I gained other things, better things.

After my mother died, she left me money. I had no idea how much money it was going to be. Let's just say that it was a large sum. It was a great gift. But getting an inheritance is stressful. Firstly, I felt guilty about it. I received this money, but lost my mother. It was hard to resolve that in my mind. I decided to use some of the money to invest in my business, because I know that's what she would have wanted me to do. I opened a shop. It was a dream of mine from the time I started my business and my mother's gift allowed this to be a reality. I devoted a wall in my shop to "my ladies," pictures of my mother and my 2 grandmothers, right near the register. So that I could look up at their smiling faces every time I was at the counter.

Now, I have overhead. A lot more than when I rented a small commercial space. I have an employee. I have large utility bills. Although my business is grossing more than it ever has, the cost of doing business has risen significantly. I've always been profitable, but the profit is teensy weensy. The money my mother left me has been floating me. My husband is a care taker for the elderly. A very honorable job with a lifetime of job security, but extremely meager earnings. My goal is to grow my business to the point where I can take care of both of us, financially, and maybe have his earnings go into savings. I am making steady progress toward this goal.

However, I wrestle with demons. And the root of those demons is fear. I fear losing/squandering this beautiful gift my mother gave me. I keep thinking that maybe I wasn't cut out for this. Perhaps I don't have what it takes to be the success I have imagined for myself and my family. Every day, I get up and put one foot in front of the other and work toward my goals, but these fears are so real and have had such an impact on me, I get paralyzed by them at times. My shop has 2 successful businesses on either side of me and it is difficult to keep my jealous feelings at bay. They are a manifestation of my fears, I know that. And this was a huge reason why I drank.

I am feeling best when I can push the fear aside and draw my focus on my passion, on the love I have for my craft, my customers, my product. I feel great dignity in my career. I provide simple pleasures to people. And it's those small things that add up and make a difference in people's lives. I don't need to move mountains for people. If I can provide the tools for one to go home and de-stress themselves after a hard day, i have done my job.

My customers are wonderful. They take time out of their day to give me beautiful reviews on Yelp. They tell me how happy they feel when they are in my shop. Some people have told me that my soap has cleared up their skin conditions. I am enjoying a lot more private label clients and wholesale clients than ever before. I have a lot of reasons to stay positive and hopeful. But that fear is real.

I was raised to be motivated by fear. That the idea of losing everything should drive you to succeed. To have savings. To be prepared for a rainy day. This seems insurmountable right now. I have a lot riding on the success of my business and it doesn't seem to be happening at the pace I want it to.

Drinking helped me push that fear aside for the night. It helped me to detach from it. It gave me a break. Until 4 in the morning, when I would wake up stone cold sober. That fear would come back with a vengeance and slap me hard across the face. Forcing me, at my most vulnerable moment of the day, to think of nothing but the possibility of failure.

What I realized last night is that the fear is what keeps me from being properly aligned with my purpose and that my wine bottle was besties with my fear. They were a match made in heaven. Without those 2 things, I can reach my full potential. When this moment hit me, I literally cried out loud and thanked the universe. I will remember this for the rest of my life. It was an earth shattering discovery, as simple as it might seem.

So, my new quest is to dig deep and identify these fears. Get to know them intimately. Then, kindly let them go from my life. I need to focus on what keeps me aligned with my gifts and not let fear factor into the equation. Not even let it participate in the conversation.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

But, How Do you Know It's Different This Time?

I don't.

But what is different about this time is that I'm not afraid of admitting that I am an alcoholic. I have a very long road ahead of me. I'm not kidding myself here. I'm only on Day 11. Unlike my last attempt (which was to moderate after 30 days of abstinence), I don't have that carrot dangling in front of my face, that promise of a reward. Well, I am hoping for rewards, but not the drinking kind. The kind that come with self reflection and hard work. The reward of a better, richer, fuller life without booze.

The biggest revelation that has come to me so far, apart from the fact that I have realized I can call myself an alcoholic without fear, is thinking deeply about my father and his relationship to alcohol. It never occurred to me that he might have had an inner struggle. He was human, after all. Maybe he did have moments where he thought, "I have to do something about this." As I have stated, confronting alcoholism for him would have been so incredibly hard because it was one of the binding ingredients in his friendships. I'm not just talking about a few drinking buddies. I am talking about men he knew his entire life, people who knew him better than anyone else. People who stood by him during good and bad times. The wall between him and sobriety was much higher, much heavier, much thicker than mine was. And this made me very, very, very sad for him. I just never thought of it like that and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The powerlessness he must have felt and how he probably felt very alone in those feelings. I wish I could go back in time to tell him it was alright. That love takes care of everything. But I can't and that makes me really sad, too.

When I went through my divorce, I really steeped myself in it. I went to a therapist regularly, I kept a journal and I did an entire series of paintings about it. Henry Rollins says, "Touch your fear. Kiss your fear on the mouth." That is powerful and for me, it's the only way. I wanted to understand - fully - what my responsibility was in the unraveling of my marriage. I wanted to know how it got to that point and I wanted to be aware of those parts of myself that enabled it to happen so that I could recognize that moving ahead. I didn't want to drag any of that shit into my future relationships. I worked really fucking hard and I felt like a new person at the end of it.

While my mother was battling cancer, I did the same thing. I dealt with it, head on. As her disease progressed, I slowly started to mourn her death. Not knowingly, but it was a way of coping, a way of gradually letting go. I didn't run away from her diagnosis. At first, I was angry with God for doing this to her, to me, to her new husband. How could you, I thought, not ten years from the sudden death of my father. How dare you? But I slowly came to accept that she wasn't going to get better and I had to find a way of dealing with it. That's a whole other thing unto itself, but I guess my bigger point is that I didn't have a choice in the matter. I had to say goodbye to this woman who meant the whole world to me.

I don't see protecting my sobriety any differently. I am using the Henry Rollins method, because for me, it works. When I narrow my focus on something, watch the fuck out.

So to you, Booze Brain, I say, in the immortal words of Alice Cooper: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Road Closed

I've been listening more and more to people's stories and how they came to surrender. The word "surrender" brings a few things to mind.

1. An awesome song by Cheap Trick.
2. A white flag waving around at the end of a bloody battle on a big field.
3. A big religious moment in a huge church with people speaking in tongues.

For me, it was a "jig is up" kind of moment. It was the precise time when I just knew. I remember hearing about how the Son of Sam was apprehended by the police after his horrible killing spree in New York City in the 1970s. He was sitting in his car, eating a sandwich, I think, when the police placed him under arrest. He didn't struggle, didn't resist, just kind of sighed and said, "Gee, what took you so long?"

I had a similar feeling when I surrendered, except I wasn't killing anyone (except myself). Two years ago, when I started my journey to manage my drinking and become "like a normal drinker again," I had come to a crossroads. There were 3 distinct paths:


Naturally, I chose the 3rd path. And I am glad I did. I needed to prove to myself that I couldn't moderate. I needed to hush the voice inside my head that said, "Well, you might not be an alcoholic." Also, I was afraid of the label. I ran far away from it like Grover in The Monster at the End of This Book. Until he realized that he was the monster. The cuddly, adorable, furry monster we all know and love. See? Nothing to be afraid of! Continuing to drink the way I wanted to was what I really needed to fear.

So, when I had that moment, it wasn't like a huge light bulb went off or a massive revelation. It was a quiet exhale, a moment of really knowing and not being afraid. I took a look at the crossroads and this is what I saw:


Only 2 paths left. I just kind of shrugged and said, "Okay." 

That moment is different for everyone, because we are snowflakes. I truly believe it came to me in a way that I could process, understand and embrace. The not drinking part isn't too difficult and I worry about that a little. Until I remind myself of that number. 4,380 bottles of wine in 12 years. You know, I am glad I did the math because that number is like a built-in brake pedal. I know that if I have just 1 drink, I could easily increase that number by another 700 or 1000.

Peace out, my loveys!
   


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quick Day 9 Eye Opening Moment

I needed to take Aleve this morning. I don't take pain medication unless it is totally necessary and I almost always worry about taking 2 instead of 1 because of my liver, since it was always in overtime mode with my drinking. Well, I took 2 this morning, without fear.

It's the little things.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life in 6 Songs

On Running On Sober's blog, there is a challenge to tell the story of your life in 6 songs. While it's hard to summarize 42 years in 6 songs, here's a start.


1. I Musta Got Lost by The J. Geils Band
I was incredibly close with my mother. I was an only child, so our bond was super tight. We used to enjoy all sorts of things together, from bike riding to baking to shopping. One of my fondest memories was taking long drives with her, singing along to the radio at the top of our lungs. Many times, we would be coming home from somewhere and we were having so much fun in the car, we would drive past our street and keep going into the next town, turn around in a nursing home parking lot and then loop home. We sang this song together more times than I can count and we even made up little lyrics in between the actual song lyrics. I'll never forget the joy I felt belting out songs in the car with my mom.


2. Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill
I don't like convention. I don't subscribe to traditional roles. You can be whatever you want when you grow up, is what my parents told me and I took that shit seriously.


3. Dreaming by Blondie
As hard as I work and as much as I perform within the bounds of the day-to-day, I would be no where without the ability to dream, to let my mind wander and discover a way to make them a reality.


4. Tread Water by De La Soul
For obvious reasons.
 

5. New England by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
'Cause, damn it, that's where I was born and raised and that's where I call home. If I get too far from the ocean, I freak out.


6. That's Life by Frank Sinatra
Every time I complained to my father, no matter how big or small my problem, he would sing this song to me. Sometimes, it pissed me off. Other times, it gave me perspective. Since he's been gone, I break out in happy tears whenever I hear it.

DAY 8

One week under my belt.

Maybe I am going through a honeymoon period here, but I am really liking how I am feeling. And how I am viewing myself. I am liking ME more. I have told a few people so far and all of those conversations went super well. I feel cradled in support and love.

 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Ties that Bind

I've been thinking a lot more about my father and his relationship to alcohol and how that may have shaped the kind of drinker I became. My father was a party animal. He even had a t-shirt with these words on it, illustration of a huge foaming beer mug underneath. He was the center of attention, the life of the party. Until that party came to an end 6 months before his 50th birthday.

He had a lot of friends. He was a force. My parents, in particular my dad, was the very picture of "work hard, party hard." My mom and dad were married when they were teenagers and I was born before my mom's 20th birthday. Their friends were all the same age and everyone had families young. Welcome to the early 70's! My childhood is filled with warm and fuzzy memories of cookouts at my godparents' house that started at noon and raged into the wee hours. They lived in the boondocks, had plenty of land and could basically get as rowdy as they liked without complaint. There were many games of horseshoes, boisterous laughter, rock and roll and good food. We kids would run around all day playing, daring each other to sneak booze (we were always too chicken to actually go through with it). When it got dark, everyone gathered down into the finished basement, which had a pool table and a fully stocked bar. Adults and children would meander between the living room and kitchen upstairs and the basement. My mother never drank much, so she was always able to drive us home. This is the world I grew up in and this what I thought adulthood was all about. The grown ups were all hardworking and responsible. They were active parents who cared very much about our futures, but part of that aspiration. at least for me, was to be like my old man.

I was a square teenager. I didn't drink or do drugs, nor did I have the desire to. I used to want my father to think I was as cool as he was, so I used to pretend like I was going to have wild parties when my parents went out for the night. I'm sure he laughed wildly in his head when I dropped hints because he knew his kid. I wouldn't dare go through with anything like that because (a) none of my friends drank and (b) I didn't have this huge pack of buddies, ready to unleash in my parents living room, like you see in the movies and on television. I was boring and predictable. At his insistence, I was a very accomplished teenager. I graduated with honors from high school, held a part time job, took dance lessons and stayed far away from trouble.

So, when I came of age and I was able to drink with my dad, I think we were both pretty excited. It was a bonding experience. Like when I was 8 and he took me for ice cream or to the hotdog stand. Father and daughter sharing a pitcher of beer. I had arrived. I was a chip off the old block. It might be hard to understand, but this was a way of showing love. Similar to the way some people cook to show their love, this is what we had. Being able to drink large amounts of alcohol was like a badge of honor. See, dad? I can work hard and party hard, too! The other important contributor to this is that I was a girl. And my parents only had me. If I were a boy, my dad would have had someone to fix up cars in the garage with, to go drag racing with, to roughhouse with, to have man-to-man talks with. I wasn't a boy. When I was born, I'm sure a small part of his brain thought, "Well, what the fuck am I going to do with this?" So, drinking together became more important, more special, more of a bonding experience.

I had no idea that I was an alcoholic waiting to happen. I didn't realize what I was signing up for or that I was playing with fire.

Now, I don't, in ANY WAY, SHAPE or FORM blame my father for my disease. He and I were born with it. It wasn't his fault he was an alcoholic, either. But coming out as an alcoholic would have been MUCH HARDER for him. He was the mitochondria of his circle of friends. When he died, he left a giant hole that still remains. All of his friends drank the same as he did. They drank the same beer in the same volumes. But that beer was like a glue that kept them together, it unified them in a strange way. He worked out of our garage and that place was a holy sancuary for them. A place where they could confide in one another, needle one another, laugh together, complain about shit together. It was their man cave. A man cave without alcohol would be a strange, unrecognizable place. And admitting that he had a problem with alcohol would have put him in a vulnerable position, opening the door for ridicule. It would not have been safe. So, on top of grieving the loss of beer, he might have had to deal with the loss of his drinking buddies. Because that kind of admission would have been like holding up a giant mirror in all of their faces. They put up a brave and manly front. But trust me, this disease is fucking powerful. Mighty enough to turn them all into cowards if they dared confront it.

I'm not churchy. I waved good-bye to Catholicism decades ago. But I am spiritual and do believe that he has been there for me and is here for me now. Helping me to do something that he never had the courage to do. So that maybe I can make it to my 50th birthday.

Okay, I think I need some tissues now.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

ACOA

I listened to a podcast of The Bubble Hour this morning dealing with the topic of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA). I am, of course, an adult child of an alcoholic, so I thought I should give it a listen. The podcast started off by listing common characteristics of ACOAs. I listened patiently as it went on. I think of everything they read, I found only 1 trait I could identify with. The need for perfectionism. I also have a tendency to take a lot on.

There is a good reason for this. My dad was a highly functioning alcoholic, just like me. He wasn't an unpredictable drunk. He wasn't a mean drunk. He wasn't the kind of drunk who couldn't manage his life. He was self-employed, which means that he was able to start drinking whenever the hell he felt like it. Which typically meant a six pack was downed by noon. Did he ever slur his words? Fall down on his face? No. He never even got a DUI, though there were MANY occasions in which he drove while drinking beer, with me and others in the car. My father had a deep physical dependency and he controlled it throughout the day by keeping himself evenly buzzed. Until he passed out on the couch because "he had a long day." My father was overprotective of me and had exceedingly high expectations. He noticed if I slipped from an A to an A-. He was there for dance recitals and glee club concerts and graduations. But he was buzzed the entire time.

He had an uncanny ability to drive superbly while intoxicated. He was a sign painter and he produced stunning work while sucking down beer after beer after beer after beer.

Neither me nor my mother broached the subject with him. We didn't even bring it up with each other, save for one time. I asked my mother if she thought he was an alcoholic. She said, "I don't know. Probably."

So, I guess what I am trying to say is, I wasn't the kind of ACOA who spent my childhood being the parent, cleaning up after my father's drunken messes, caring for younger siblings as a parent should, making excuses and witnessing him funnel more and more out of control. But 2 or 3 six packs of beer a day for 20 years does qualify someone as an alcoholic. I'm pretty sure. I did become the president of Students Against Drunk Driving in high school as an effort to try to get him to at least consider not driving drunk. It had zero impact.

I think what my father's alcoholism taught me was how to be a highly functioning drinker, just like him. Through his example. That you can have your "shit together" and still pass out drunk on the couch after "a long day."

Post-Party Notes

I survived the party. And I actually had a really great time!

When I first got there, armed with a pitcher of non-alcoholic awesomeness (and back up stuff to make more), I was asked about it. You know, why I didn't have any booze. I forget who posed the question, but I just said what I had planned to say and no one batted an eye. I had heard someone on the Bubble Hour say that no one notices what you are drinking, you only think they do. They are paying attention to what they're drinking and thinking about what they'll be drinking next.

Observing the party sober was a surreal experience. At first, I was uncomfortable. There were a lot of new people at this shindig, so it took a little while to warm up to them. Also, my husband has a late shift on Saturdays, so he couldn't come until later. Things got a lot more relaxed for me as the night went on. I watched a lot of people get drunk and it was weird. One person, who I used to drink as much as, not only passed out on the floor, but was snoring loudly. No one seemed to care much. They just kind of made jokes about him, walked over him, etc. It was remarkable to be on the other side of sloppy, stinking, stupid drunk.

I remember everything that happened. I didn't overeat. I genuinely enjoyed myself. And this morning, I feel great! No hangover, no dry mouth and no wondering how I might have made an ass out of myself last night. I am getting ready to put on my running shoes.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Many Bottles of Wine on the Wall?

So I finally mustered the courage to figure out how much alcohol I have consumed.

4,380 bottles.

That's 12 years of drinking a bottle of wine a day. Now, I had a few days here and there when I didn't drink, but that gets balanced out with days that I drank more than a bottle. And there were quite a few of those. This doesn't count any alcohol I had to drink between the time I was 18 and 30. I know I drank plenty during that time, so I could easily round this up to 5000.

5000. Well, shit, that's a lot.

A moderate drinker who consumes 4 glasses of wine a week would only have had 624 bottles in 12 years.

I guess it's just good to know, albeit scary.



Finally Used the "A" Word

Last night, my husband and I were about to eat dinner when our conversation turned to the party we are attending tonight. This brought us into a deeper discussion about my abstinence. It was clear that he wasn't quite understanding that I had finally come to terms with the fact that I am an alcoholic. I explained again that I can't just have one. That I am not capable of social drinking. Then I finally said the word. The A word. Alcoholic. I am an alcoholic. For a second, I could tell he was a little surprised, but then he calmly agreed and sort of settled into it. He is worried that I am going to succumb to a drink and hate myself afterward. I told him that while I am going to try my best, I can't make any guarantees. But I don't even want to say that because it feels like I am giving myself an out. I guess all I can say is that I feel strong in my resolve right now. Today.

He also wondered what I was going to say when people at the party noticed that I wasn't drinking. I decided to simply say, "I just can't do that anymore" and leave it at that. I am not interested in making other people feel comfortable, I don't care how they interpret my response. They aren't the one struggling with the disease, so why do I have to lie, cover it up, sugar coat it, etc.? I think he thought I was going to stand up in the middle of the party, gather everyone's attention and say something like, "Okay, people, I have an announcement to make!" I mean, seriously? I will only comment on it if I am asked, but I'm not going to say something like, "Oh, my stomach is bothering me," or, "I don't feel like it tonight." Why? There are several of reasons why.

  1. These people know me. They know how much I drink. They know I never, ever show up without a bottle or two at a party.
  2. If I say I don't feel like it or my stomach hurts, what will I say at the next party?
  3. They won't be surprised to learn that I've stopped drinking. I am pretty sure they know my deal.

We've determined that if I start to feel nervous or vulnerable that we will both leave. He is totally behind me on this. One hundred percent.

When I went up to bed, he hugged me tight and said, "I'm proud of you." Well, I'm proud of him, too. I have a true partner in life. Don't think I don't know how fortunate I am.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Like Snowflakes

A couple of years ago, I talked about Expressions of Alcoholism. Just like snowflakes, no 2 alcoholics are exactly the same. Of course, this stands to reason because no 2 people are exactly the same. In the world of alcohol dependence, there are many faces, many journeys, many back stories and many ways in which alcoholism manifests. But each alcoholic can only begin a sober life once they accept that they are, in fact, an alcoholic.

I didn't have a rock bottom, per sa. I had a gradual descent into dependency. And once I realized that I could no longer control it, I came to acceptance. It was a slow, steady sort of process. But even with this pace, I was fighting against who I was. I was fighting against the label. It's like saying the sky is green again and again and again until finally seeing that, no, it is, in fact, blue. And it always has been. Trying to fit myself into the mold of social drinking was a struggle. It was a fight. I don't know about you, but I have taken those online "Are you an alcoholic?" tests about a hundred times, always hoping for a different outcome. Praying that the results wouldn't always be: You have a problem. Get help right now. The way I dealt with that was by Googling around until I read what I wanted to read. There are a lot of others in denial about their dependency. Wine enthusiast type message boards are awesome places to go if you want to linger along with them.

I thought for a while that I couldn't be an alcoholic because I only drank wine. And I was fucking picky about the wine I drank. I found excellent wines near my house for stupidly low prices. When you rip through a bottle a night, you don't feel terrific laying down big bucks. I was both picky about it and dependent on it at the same time. But, somehow, being particular about the various notes and hints and features of the wine itself separated me from the cheap wine drinkers. And truth be told, if I didn't have time to buy the wine I liked and had some crappy wine sitting around the house, I wouldn't go to bed sober.

Coming to acceptance wasn't hard. I'm not mad about it. I exhausted all other options. I feel like a rat who has tried multiple ways to get through a maze that wasn't set up with a way out. I'm not angry. I'm just tired of it. And relieved, too, that I don't have to sit around wondering if I am an alcoholic or not. That is a very taxing process. To make all these mental bullet points and part of your brain steps up, like a defense attorney and recites said bullet points back to you, all the reasons you aren't an alcoholic, because admitting that you are is just too fucking scary.

Well, I don't have to wonder any more. The evidence is in and no jury in the world would label me as a social drinker. This isn't to suggest that I feel judged. I don't. I just kept ramming my car into a wall until a voice in my head said, "Um, why don't you try taking your foot off the gas?"

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Crabby? Moi?

I left work today and stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. Inspired by Sober Julie's recipe arsenal, I decided to grab some stuff to make a mocktail. She mentioned that pomegranate juice is great for people who preferred wine, so I figured I'd give it a go. I also got some orange tea, because that is my favorite herbal. I wanted to get Lapsang Souchong, too, and some good organic honey. I perused the tea aisle and was able to quickly locate the orange tea (many varieties, actually), but no-go on the Lapsang Souchong. I looked and looked and looked. Surely, I'm just not seeing it. Then, I started getting mad. Not like, "Bummer, I wish they had Lapsang Souchong tea." More like, "Look at all these crappy teas! There are herbal teas for all kinds of things here! I don't care about my digestive system right now! I want my fucking smoky tea!" You know, like, how dare you, Stop and Shop, not have precicely the kind of tea I am looking for? 

I expect that moments of crabbiness and impatience are par for the course. On a positive note, I did make a fabulous mocktail the second I got home with fresh squeezed orange and lime, cranberry seltzer and  pomegranate juice. I love the sour notes balanced with the sweet and the fizzy. I reckon it isn't loaded with calories, either. I don't care for overly sweet beverages (unless they have rum), so this is totes hitting the spot right now. I have some Oolong tea for later and I will be using my delicious organic honey to sweeten it up. Just a little.

Coming Out as an Alcoholic

Several nights ago, my husband told me that he had invited our friend to come over and enjoy our fire pit. He asked if next Friday night would be okay. This is a friend who is going through a tough time and we both enjoy her company a lot, so of course I said, "Sure!" Then he said she was going to be bringing some wine, because, you know, she and I both like wine. I knew I was about to embark on Day 1, so I didn't say anything at the time. Last night, I said, "Hey, I don't mind if (friend's name) brings wine, but please let her know that I'm out." He kind of looked at me funny. "I just can't do it, honey, " I explained. He has never had a drink in his life, so he doesn't really get it. "Just cut back. You don't have to give it up," he responded. And then, I said out loud, and for the very first time, "I can't do it anymore. Like, ever. I can't cut down. I can't just have one." That last part was really hard to say. He responded with something like, "Alright, we'll see how long this lasts."

I don't want to suggest that my husband isn't supportive. We've been together for over 10 years and he has never given me a hard time about my drinking. He takes out the recycling, he knows what's up. He is a kind, sensitive, supportive, amazing man and I couldn't imagine a single day of my life without him. He is truly my soul mate. But he doesn't understand addiction.

I told him that I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I am resolved to it and that's enough. Still, I am scared about telling family and friends. I am loved, unconditionally, by all of them. I chose my friends wisely and I was gifted the most amazing mother-in-law a woman could ask for. When I tell her, she is going to embrace my sobriety with no judgement whatsoever, as she embraces all of my endeavors because that is the kind of loving, nurturing person that she is. Seriously, I hit the jackpot for mother-in-laws and I feel bad for anyone who has trouble forging a bond with theirs because our relationship is so solid, easy and natural. Just like the one I had with my mother. But I am concerned that people will worry about me and I don't want that to be the reaction. Or like, the "I'm so sorry," (eyes averted) type of reaction. I guess I'd just like people to say, "Hey, that's cool. You've got this, lady." My legs are literally weak and my heart is pounding with fear just thinking about it.

We are going to a party this weekend. There will be alcohol. I am thinking about making a few batches of mocktails for the occasion. I listened to a podcast this morning on The Bubble Hour and Sober Julie was on. She has a site with tons of recipes. I told my husband about this and he is super excited! I think our summer is going to be filled with delicious, refreshing mocktails in the backyard.

I know how lucky I am. A lot of women struggle with their alcoholism AND have to deal with a spouse that drinks. I hope mine can help keep me on track.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Didn't Ask to Sleep Next to a Baby

So, I've been thinking a lot about some of the wacky things I did while drinking, lately. Most days were pretty straight-forward. Leave work, pick up a bottle of wine, go home, uncork, drink until empty. Nothing terribly eventful to report, unless you count forgetting half of the shit I watched on television. Or crying - no heaving - when something remotely sad came on. Like, I would get insanely sensitive. I'd wake up with my eyes swollen and I'd search my brain until some fuzzy memory was unearthed. Something about maybe watching My Girl or Steel Magnolias some such thing. Oh, that's right!

I've only had a handful of truly embarrassing things happen to me while drunk. One of them happened years ago, when I was still married to my ex-husband. He and I were at a party, which sort of began on the beach and eventually went indoors. There was a virtual truck load of champagne on hand. I had an empty stomach. So you see, I started the day on the right foot. By nightfall, I was a wreck. Swaying, slurring, stumbling. I didn't get sick, oddly. But I was told that I should lie down. The party hosts had a futon in a spare room, which is where I was taken. I fell asleep pretty fast. My bladder was busting at the seams and I had this dream that I was peeing so much, that the toilet was overflowing. Except I was actually peeing. On the futon. In a strange house. You might think this is bad, and it definitely is. But the story gets worse. Unbeknownst to me, a couple at the party put their two year old down to sleep next to me. Some people took pictures. Aw, isn't that sweet? Drunk lady and toddler, sleeping soundly next to each other. Until my ex-husband came into check on me, in mid-pee. At this point, the "house lights" came on, so to speak. The boy's parents scooped him up. Sheets and blankets were quickly peeled off the futon. I began apologizing profusely. I am not sure how I functioned for a few days after that. I really had crossed a line in my head. I sent the party hosts a very expensive basket of fruit and cheese and chocolate, still unable to believe what I had done. A grown woman with a professional job. By the way, not a drop of pee ever touched the boy, in case you were wondering.

I'm sure other people can relate to this sort of thing. "Normal" people might be mortified. It's been ten years or so since that incident and I can kind of laugh about it now. Because (a) no one was hurt and (b) I never got that smashed again. But I still continued to drink. For a long ass time.


Boardwalk Empire

My husband and I are huge fans of Boardwalk Empire, an HBO series that centers around Prohibition and all of the criminal activity that era in our nation's history produced. I always feel like I was born in the wrong time period because I am completely - and  unapologetically -  in love with the 1920s. The fashions, the industrial developments, the music. All this despite the fact that I am also a heavy metal and hardcore punk addict. Anyway, apart from the impeccable performances, costume design and writing, this show deals with the very thing I love. Booze. In the opening scene, Nucky Thomson, the main character of the series (played by Steve Buschemi) looks out into the ocean from the Atlantic City boardwalk as hundreds and hundreds of bottles bob around on the waves. Every stinking time I watch this, I wonder, is that how much I've had to drink in my life? And then an equally frightening thought enters my mind. I've probably consumed a lot more.

The body is an amazing thing, isn't it? It allows you to consume whatever the hell and then filters out the toxins and you go about your business. It does catch up with you eventually, but I am in awe of how long it can chug along, purifying you, given you chance after chance to straighten the fuck out.

I guess I don't want to do the math to figure out how many bottles of (insert alcoholic beverage here) I've had. I might get too depressed. As I've said, I exercise. So for years, I always justified the drinking, kidding myself that I am balancing that out with a healthy diet and three miles a day in the park. Kidding is right. Because anyone who consumes large quantities of wine every night knows that after 2, 2 1/2 glasses, you go tip-toeing into the kitchen to see what junk food might be there. You don't care because the hunger is insatiable and your inhibitions are in the toilet.  And you'll wake up the next day feeling like a failure. Again. It's fun! Really! I highly recommend it!

I once heard Joe Perry of Aerosmith say, about his sobriety, that he had all the drinks he was ever to drink in a short period of his life. Like all sandwiched into a couple of decades. No enjoying a cocktail on the back porch after retirement. Not in the cards.

But let's think about that for a second. Has it ever lived up the hype? Drinking, I mean. Have you ever had a bottle of wine and said, "Ah, that really hit the spot!"? No. Instead, you hope that when your friend called you earlier, you acted straight enough to fool her into thinking that you were sober. You stare at the empty bottle on the shelf and realize that just a few hours before, it was full. In the morning, you wake up, red wine ring around your lips, cotton ball mouth, bladder full. I wouldn't call that hitting the spot.

I thought that I had learned to manage the pace of my drinking. That I had established a set of rules I could live by. All those rules will do is keep me in a constant state of withdrawal. One of Nucky Thompson's famous lines in Boardwalk Empire is, "You can't be half a gangster." Well, Nucky, you can't be half an alcoholic, either. 

Hey, Wait! I Thought I Was Fixed!

I re-read that last post from two years ago. I remember thinking, "Yes! I finally did it!" I thought I had arrived at that utopian place that a lot of people talk about. That place where one has a drink, savors it, then stops. I think I just got my hopes up. Even when I was writing that post, I was nervous in the sense that I was just brushing off this whole dependency thing. Because that's what we want to hear. That we aren't dependent. We aren't like those people. We don't have a problem. I'm pretty sure every highly functioning alcoholic has, at one time or another, taken comfort in the fact that there are people who wake up, pop open a beer and continue their day in a drunken haze. Glad I'm not that person, we think. Drinking a little wine at night is a far cry from that. Never mind that its an entire bottle. Every night. For as long as you can fucking remember.

So, as you can imagine, and as I'm sure anyone could predict, I was not able to just have one drink. Sure, you can do it once - and then you think you're cured! But how about this scenario? A friend invites you to dinner. This is a friend who doesn't have an alcohol dependency, but can have a couple of drinks and a good time. You like this friend a lot. You have a lot of warm, fuzzy (booze) associations with this person. But you're cured now, right? You can just have one, remember? So you go to dinner and each of you orders a glass of wine. It arrives. A nice, big one (I love when the restaurant doesn't skimp on size. It's not really a love so much as a sense of relief, that maybe I won't plow through the beverage as quickly and be forced to shamefully ask for another before dinner arrives). And you guys continue to have a grand old time. Your meal arrives, and when you are about to take that last bite, you notice that your wine is running very low. The waiter comes by and asks you if you'd like another. Your friend's glass is just as low and she quickly nods. What do you do? She has no idea you've made this promise to yourself. That someone gave you the keys to the secret world of "I Can Just Have One." Of course, you fucking cave and have another glass. Because you figure, okay, this is an exception, not an ordinary thing. But that's all Booze Brain needs to hear, because Booze Brain will remember this tomorrow at 5PM. "You had two yesterday and nothing bad happened." And so it goes. Your friend will be at her yoga class when you are trying to negotiate with Booze Brain and she won't thinking about alcohol again for a while.

I've since learned that Booze Brain is real. Seriously. My brain is just wired differently. It doesn't mean I'm a bad person or anything, it just means I have a different system up there. Even though I've never tried any hard core drugs, that doesn't mean I'm not already a cocaine addict and a heroin addict and a crack head. I'm a drug addict waiting to happen. It's the way I was made and it isn't my fault.

So, last night I decided to quit. Actually, it was yesterday morning. The previous night, I had a bit of an argument with my husband. He doesn't drink, by the way, and never has. No desire, bless his heart. It was a dumb argument that I started and he said something like, "You always say these weird things when you're drunk!" This doesn't seem too bad, but it was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. I also had been having a lot of black outs recently (not major ones, just forgetting that something was said here or there) and he recently made mention of how, even after I had brushed my teeth and went to bed, my breath was super boozy. This image of me breathing like some kind of a  wine dragon, filling the room with fiery puffs of grossness, is not very attractive. Unless you are in a co-dependent relationship with another alcoholic. Then it becomes some weird wine dragon breathing contest. Ew.

Wish me luck. Now I'm on Day 2. Again.