Thursday, July 31, 2014

A New Adventure

So, I tried a cool new mocktail recipe last night. Citrus + rosemary. I think I am hooked on this cool beverage fun! I never made fun drinks before, so this is all new to me. I made a simple syrup by simmering sugar, fresh orange and lime juice and a few sprigs of rosemary. I have a nice reserve of this and I only need 3-4 tablespoons per 8 ounces of plain seltzer for 1 serving. Throw some ice in there and viola! A great adult, alcohol-free summer drink! I grow basil in the backyard, so I am thinking about making something with that tonight. This syrup thing is so kickass. I love it. I sort of don't want to call it mocktail, though. How about spritzer?  I like that better, but, whatever you call it, it is easy, delicious, healthy and fucking fresh as hell. 

This Sunday's Bubble Hour topic was about desperation. As a gift. There were terrific guests on sharing their stories and Amanda went through her rock bottom in detail. I have heard her describe her experience in previous episodes, but for this one, as it was appropriate, she shared a lot more. I relate more to Jean, as my bottom was rather high, but she threw in a cautionary word about how some HFA's with high bottoms may be tempted to compare their lives to others who perhaps may have progressed further into the disease and think that they are fine. In reality, we are all the same. We all have a very toxic relationship with alcohol and the only way to get better is to be sober. There was a mention of the twenty questions that  Johns Hopkins University Hospital uses to see whether or not you are an alcoholic. Here is what the results mean:

  • If you answered YES to any 1 question, there is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic. 
  • If you answered YES to any 2 questions, the chances are that you are an alcoholic. 
  • If you answered YES to 3 or more questions, you are definitely an alcoholic. 

I answered yes to 8 of the 20. I certainly wasn't surprised by the results. The funny thing is, the first time I took the test, I thought I was doing pretty well because I checked "no" more than "yes." Then, I pressed the results button and got a pretty hearty laugh.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Warning: This Is All Over the Place

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about replacement. In my last post, I wrote about how awesome it would be to go to dry bars and have fun with other sober people, without the danger of alcohol ever being a factor. I do think that some recovery groups plan get-togethers where dancing and general merriment is had. I really love this idea. Anyway, I have been reflecting on this weird chasm that seems to exist between actively drinking and being totally sober. I think the alcoholic automatically thinks that they have demoted themselves to something like the little kid's table that they set up at Thanksgiving. Or maybe a Chucky Cheese kind of environment. I mean, hey, I'm all about having fun, kid-style. I love amusement parks and zoos and playing games. But I am an adult. I have a more sophisticated palette than I did when I was a little kid. Back in those days, I was content to fill my plastic cuppie with artificially flavored grape juice.

But I'm now 42. And this divide between the adult, drinking days and the "What do I do now?" days of sobriety is rather deep. Especially in early recovery. I have realized that I really enjoy the ritual, however, there are a couple of ways of viewing that.
  1. The ritual itself is part of the addictive cycle. We must, as people in recovery, recognize that we do not NEED the ritual. It's our addiction speaking to us, trying its best to lure us back into actively drinking. It's that old reward center of the brain piping up and reminding us how good it feels to give ourselves something special. 
  2. We ought to replace the ritual of drinking booze with safe rituals like walking, meditating, eating a bowl of ice cream, gardening and yoga. 
But there are also conflicting views on the whole idea of replacement.  For some people, whether it's something they want to admit or not, going to meetings can become a bit of an addiction. That's a rather taboo statement and it can cause a lot of defensive responses, as a lot of people in recovery believe that you can't attend too many meetings. I don't stand in judgement of anyone, but I am curious about the varying opinions. Replacing booze with sugar is a very common practice for people in recovery, the idea being that chocolate cake isn't going to kill you, but booze eventually will. Some people replace drinking with obsessive exercise. Again, not a life threatening replacement, but it can get out of control if it's taken too far. And addicted brains have a tendency to take things too far.

I think replacement is fine if it's done in a way that isn't obsessive.  The tricky thing about recovery is that there isn't a "one size fits all" style of sobriety. My truth is different from yours. I love sobriety blogs and podcasts and my SMART meetings. I have discovered that I do NOT like sobriety message boards. I find that people who are trying to be helpful are also dishing out the "one size fits all" type of advice and some people even throw in a little judgement for good measure. We are snowflakes, remember? We are all different, unique individuals and while there are very strong similarities between us because of our addictions, there are also great differences. Perhaps I don't feel like I need to limit myself to diet soda or just plain old water. That feels like sitting at the kid's table. I find myself wanting to explore all sorts of flavors now. Instead of limiting my palette as I once did (while I was drinking), I want to run out and try all sorts of non-alcoholic drinks. I want to be a mad scientist in my kitchen and bring things together that I never would have thought of. I want to explore beverage making in the same way that one has culinary adventures.

I'm not a child, so I'm not going to sit around drinking juice boxes. I'm also in recovery, so, of course, I won't be consuming alcohol. If it's easier for someone in recovery to limited their beverage choices, so be it. But if I want to try all sorts of kooky mocktails, please allow me to do so without judgement.

I'm going to try this one really soon! Check out all these cool recipes - you might find the mad scientist in you coming out, too!

Blackberry Lavender Lemonade (from Autostraddle.com) - YUM!




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Island Getaway


It was our anniversary weekend, so hubby and I went to our favorite little island in New England to celebrate. I found it difficult at times, as it was my first time visiting this gorgeous place without drinking. Usually, there's a cocktail with dinner, cocktails on the beach, cocktails on the porch at night. Not this go-round. So, yeah, I was triggery a lot of the time. Most people who come to the island do so to drink, drink, drink. It's a very laid-back sort of place with fire pits on the beach and cover bands at bars belting out Jimmy Buffet. Did I have fun? You bet I did! We biked all over the island, went to places we've never ventured to, and we walked and walked and walked. I had a non-alcoholic Beck's beer with dinner and at one point, I got a no-booze margarita, which was actually pretty good. I was really craving the salt and lime juice aspect of it. Beaches always make me want to consume seafood and salt. It's just a thing of mine. It was a very successful, alcohol-free get-away. I didn't miss the booze, but I find myself at a loss during the times and moments I would normally be drinking. I think it is just a matter of getting used to doing other things. This is really like another "first."

While we were there, I thought that it would be neat to be able to go to a non-alcoholic bar. In England, they call them "dry bars." It would be cool to go somewhere that is an adult-type place, but doesn't serve booze. A place where people can enjoy sophisticated non-alcoholic libations and have sober conversations with other adults. They have them in England and a few here and there in the US, but none around here, unfortunately. A lot of places do offer mocktails or would be more than willing to make one for you if you asked. It's not really the alcohol that I crave, it's the sort of specialness of it that I like. Many people in recovery can't handle anything beyond seltzer and coffee (and I'm sure seltzer is even difficult for some people, if they used to splash their booze into it when they were actively drinking), but I am the type of person in recovery who is all about FLAVORS! In my drinking days, I would generally deny any type of drink that wasn't red wine, even if it was boozy and pretty. I was attached at the hip to my wine. But now, I am really excited about all kinds of new beverages. Being sober does not have to be boring! Unless, of course, anything outside of soda and milk sends you back to drinking. I am lucky, I guess.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Rewards

For so much of my adult life, I fed the reward center of my brain with things that, in the long term, were not rewarding at all. Dangerous, actually. But darn, that reward center craved them. Alcohol, nicotine, bad food. I am now free of all of these things (okay, I do have occasional sugary treats, but I eat healthily 80-90% of the time). I gave up all meat (except fish, which I eat rarely, as my husband is a total vegetarian) almost 10 years ago. A lot of "depravity" has entered my life and now, without alcohol, I find myself to be the person Adam Ant makes fun of in his 80s hit, "Goody Two Shoes." It's odd to be this non-drinking, non-smoking, veggie burger eating, exercising, yoga person who is about to enter the world of massage therapy. This is a completely different person from the 25-year-old girl I used to be in 1996. The girl who used cigarettes to soothe her anxiety. The girl who used drinking to soothe her anger, heighten all her pleasurable experiences, and provide the necessary lubrication in social situations in which she found herself too shy to cope. If she had a bad day at work, she would write herself a prescription for (1) Chinese takeout, (2) a bottle of wine, (3) a pack of cigarettes and (4) a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Good thing she didn't have bad days very often!

Now, I am nearly 100% removed from that person. I never want to work in a cubicle again, I want to remain sober and nicotine-free forever and I want to continue along the path of health and wellness that I began traveling on when I made my first batch of natural soap way back when. Since I changed my brain chemistry, though, it is a challenge to re-think rewards, to come up with strategies for dealing with cravings. "Play it forward" is excellent and seems to be the best tool in my toolbox at the moment. I also like the idea of sitting with the discomfort and asking what it really is that I am upset about. What is it that I feel I am lacking that booze/nicotine/chocolate cake will somehow make better? Really steeping in it and working to identify that issue.

There are, of course, healthy ways to reward yourself.

Good, nutritious food. Fresh, local produce. Simple foods. Food that might cost a little extra, but will be such a treat for your body. 
Healthy, natural body care. I make soap with fruit and vegetable purees (those are my soaps!) and I also encourage my customers to make their own facial recipes with fresh, simple ingredients. Your skin is an organ and deserves as much respect as your insides.

Adequate rest. Seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
Time with nature. I get three miles of cardio in every day and I am luck enough to live up the street from a huge and gorgeous city park (I took this pic on my exercise route). I don't see this as forced exercise. The park is like a church to me, a special and sacred place that I am honored to exist in. 
Appreciation of your body. Not just how it looks or yay! I just lost 3 pounds! I mean, it's great to lose weight (if you are overweight), but I think that if we take the time to appreciate what our bodies do and celebrate that, we can learn to love ourselves more. The human body is an amazing thing, capable of so very much. And we take a lot of this for granted every single day.
Appreciation of your family and friends. This is your support system. And for me, it's the reason I want to be healthy. My husband deserves that. My kitties deserve that. My family deserves that and so do my friends. How can I be of service to others if I am not healthy enough to do so?


I should also add that being able to connect with other alcoholics in recovery has been invaluable. My SMART meetings, The Bubble Hour podcasts, and sobriety blogs - all amazing, inspirational and absolutely essential. Removing alcohol, nicotine and crappy food isn't ignoring my reward center. It IS the reward. Good health is what we all deserve. We are all worth it. Being strong enough to silence those cravings and talk through all of those nagging reasons why we have them ought to be celebrated. With each day, we become more divine, more powerful.

Reward yourself! You deserve it!


Friday, July 18, 2014

More PAWS

Indeed, the fatigue came back this week. It reached it's peak on Wednesday evening. I even had an energy bar in the afternoon to try to combat it. Nope. My husband and I went out to dinner with friends and I really had to struggle to stay awake. I wasn't thinking about PAWS at the time, but looking back, I think that's what it was. I had it a little yesterday and even some right now. The crazy humid weather doesn't help, but I spend the majority of my day and night in air conditioning, so that's not much of an excuse. I have also been getting plenty of sleep.

I have read that the PAWS fatigue can come and go for up to a year. At least it's easier to deal with when I know what it is. And these episodes are not nearly as challenging as hangovers, which makes them dealable. But, of course, I keep thinking that I gave myself type 2 diabetes or worse.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's Attached to Your Drink?

This disease is a trickster. It tries hard to convince you that it would be fine to have just one. I mean, you've proven that you can handle life without booze, right? That old reward center of your brain waits and waits and waits. It bides it's time, knowing that there will be a celebration or maybe even a tragic time at some point down the road. "Remember me?" it asks. Yes, I remember you. I do remember the way you made me feel. The relaxation that you gave me, how you helped me talk to people when I was shy, the escape you allowed me after a long day of work and oh, how you stopped me from beating myself up after I made a mistake. You hushed the negativity. You were like a nice, comfy blanket I curled up with at the end of the day.

Every day. No matter what. Even when I was too tired to drive to the liquor store, I became like a robot and pulled into the parking lot anyway. When I was starting to get tired of you, you tightened your grip.

The next time I am tempted to cave into your sweet offering of one drink, I will remember what that drink is attached to. It has an invisible string tied firmly to a dump truck filled with all sorts of things. Horrible things. Hangovers, embarrassment,  health problems, daily dehydration, blackouts, guilt, shame, financial consequences, maybe even legal problems. As you begin to lure me with that soft voice of yours, I will hear the "beep, beep, beep" of that dump truck, backing up, ready to unload all the things that come along with that drink. And I'll know better. I see that string now, even though you might think it's invisible. I see the light glistening on it as it sways back and forth. You can't hide anymore. I don't want what that dump truck holds.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Week Wrap Up

Good news! I am now over my 2 month mark! It hasn't been without it's challenges. And I think there will be some unforeseen ones on the horizon, too. This past weekend, my husband and I had a wonderful time with his side of the family. We played on the beach with our nieces and nephews, swam in the pool and played mini golf. It was a beautiful New England summer weekend and we enjoyed it to the maximum. We ended our time with them by having a nice dinner out. My father-in-law was drinking beer and I was not. I had made mention that I stopped drinking in May (didn't say why or make a big deal out of it) and he made a remark about how I was a lush. I think he was joking and if he understood the seriousness of my abstinence and that I am actually an alcoholic, he would have had a bit more tact. He also has no idea how very much I was drinking, but the comment still stung me a bit. He might also be a bit jealous. He drinks more than he ought to. I don't know, maybe it shouldn't have bothered me. I really need to see it for what it was and not take it personally. He doesn't know the half of it.

I haven't had the urge to drink for some time, it seems. I haven't had any huge epiphanies during my sobriety in a while, either. Just kind of trucking along. It's the new norm and it's okay. Every so often, I beat myself up for abusing the privilege of drinking, for ruining that pleasure for the rest of my life. But then I must remind myself that I did not set out to become an alcoholic. Of course, I own every little part of it, but I didn't ask to get to this point. It just sort of happened, and here I am.

Am I perfect? No. But I am trying to be a better person, to make better decisions. I have a ways to go, but I like to think that with every day I don't drink, I am getting closer to that person I want to be.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Excited/Nervous

So, I made the decision to go back to school. I have always wanted to become a licensed massage therapist and I have finally made the decision to do something about it. I am going to begin the program in January. My goal is to combine this with my soapmaking career to sort of become a pillar of relaxation in many different ways. I don't think I would have had the courage to do this if I were still drinking. I might have, or I might have just thought about it and drank myself into a wishful coma. Either way, I am really excited about it! I submitted my application today and I am hoping to meet with an adviser next week to go over the details. It's an affordable, but highly comprehensive program that I can complete in 15 months. I figure, I can scale back my soap business while I am training, then figure a creative way to combine the two after. I might end up working for an established business for a while, though, to get real world experience first.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trudging Through

I don't know if it's because of my friend's death or what, but this week, I spent a lot of time thinking about the fact that I'm never going to be able to drink again. There was a VFW bar right next door to the funeral parlor and I kept thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice to go in there and tie one on with the rest of them?" I know that where a lot of people B-Lined to after the wake.

I confess that I did have a non-alcoholic beer the other night. I am not as against that as some alcoholics are, I don't consider it cheating or whatever. Especially since it doesn't lead to anything other than a cup of tea or water. But at the very least, it does tell me that I need to be doing more self care and work on my sobriety.

Tonight is my SMART meeting. Just in time, I think.