A New Life

Wednesday April 21st, 2021

Day 107

The last several weeks have been good. I seem to have climbed out of the doldrums I was experiencing in February and the beginning of March, have more energy and have gotten back to feeling much more positive about not drinking. I’m not craving alcohol or feeling deprived; I just feel happy, healthy, and proud of myself.

Somewhere along the way over the past few weeks I came to an important realization: nothing will ever replace alcohol, and that’s okay. The anticipation of it, the high I get from drinking it, all of the feelings of excitement and “fun” surrounding it………..those things can’t be replaced. Nothing will ever affect me the same way, or give me the same feelings that alcohol did and part of that is chemical, part psychological, part emotional, and part physical. This is a substance I have granted so much power for so many years. I gave it the power to ease my sorrow when I felt down, to heighten my joy when I was happy, to relax me when I felt stressed, to make me feel cozy and warm on a cold winter’s night, or cool and refreshed on a hot summer afternoon. Such a powerful elixir. How could one not become addicted? But when you take a closer look, it’s actually all smoke and mirrors. None of it is real, and this realization makes it easier to say goodbye.

In the new life I’ve chosen, nothing will replace the adrenalin rush I get from anticipating a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio (or two) on a warm summer night, but the key has been to stop searching for a replacement. Instead I am focused on the contentment and peace of mind I feel when I wake up feeling good. Every. Single. Morning. And the contentment and peace of mind I feel all day long knowing that I am not slowly damaging all of my organs and killing brain cells every day.

For some reason I was scanning through some old photos this morning in bed while drinking my coffee and I came across pics from a trip to Portugal the hubby and I took in 2018. I can see the alcohol in my face. It looks puffy, red, tired and worn. I don’t like the way I look in the photos at all, but in addition to that, it reminded me of how I felt. There are several pics he snapped of me across from him at dinner, enjoying a glass of wine (probably more like a bottle though of course!), and looking at these photos brought me right back to the way I felt at the time. I know that I would have anticipated and waited for evening the entire day. Waiting for that moment I could finally enjoy a glass of wine. I would have enjoyed the rest of the day as well, but in many ways it was all just time to be logged before I could drink again. Having that first glass of wine with dinner I would feel relief rush over me, and finally be at peace and content to enjoy the moment. Soon I would be drunk and tired, the evening would be a blur and I would pass out into a deep sleep, just to start the cycle over again in the morning. Feeling not well rested, probably a bit irritable, dehydrated and achey, I would start my day again already thinking about when I could drink again.

That’s no way to live. And the adrenalin rush, excitement, and anticipation of that first drink of the day is not worth the battle in my body and mind that it creates before and after.

I look forward to a time (hopefully someday soon!), when I can enjoy travelling again with the hubby and not have to think about alcohol. Not having alcohol as the centrepiece of the entire experience will open up a whole new world of discovery and joy. With alcohol as the focus of every adventure, you miss out on so much beauty.

It’s hard to let go of what you believe alcohol provides, but dropping the idea of replacing it and focusing on a whole new way of living seems to be the answer for me at the moment.

An Epiphany

Saturday April 10th, 2021

Day 97

I had an epiphany yesterday, partly due to others’ comments on my No Regrets post. I’ve been writing a bit lately about missing alcohol, and wanting to drink, feeling bummed about not having that “fun” thing to do anymore while everyone else is out enjoying patio season and slugging back cocktails. Some of the other sober bloggers who have more experience than me and have logged more time on the other side of drinking, reminded me not to look at the situation from such a deficit perspective. At times it may seem like I’ve lost the ability to have the kind of “fun” I had been used to with alcohol; all of that immediate gratification, the hour or two of a chemically-induced high that quickly wears off and inevitably turns into a terrible low. But look at what I’ve gained: peace of mind, a sense of calm, a feeling of good health, and the ability to wake up every single morning feeling just fine and having no regrets.

I’ve also been contemplating what “fun” actually means. I used to think that anything involving alcohol was “fun”. It didn’t really matter who I was with, or what I was doing. I could be cleaning the toilets but if I had a glass of wine by my side, it felt like it was fun. But was it really fun? Does alcohol really make everything more fun? I’ve started thinking more about what I actually consider to be fun and interestingly, very few of those things would be paired with alcohol.

Here is a list of a few things I find fun to get my day started in a positive way:

  • waterslides (I don’t know why, I just love them!)
  • swimming at a beach (not as much a pool, but I love a beach)
  • bike riding
  • morning dog walk with my hubby
  • taking my dog to the dog park and watching all the cute doggies playing
  • horseback riding
  • singing
  • sometimes……very rarely…….but when I’m in a certain kind of mood, dancing
  • writing
  • reading a good book
  • eating chocolate
  • going out for dinner
  • having yummy take out
  • going out for ice cream
  • having a campfire
  • having an indoor woodstove fire
  • walking in the snow
  • laughing with good friends or family
  • watching a good show or movie with my hubby
  • drinking coffee and reading the Saturday newspaper
  • playing tennis
  • going on a boat
  • playing Scrabble
  • sitting on the deck or porch on a sunny day
  • skiing
  • travelling
  • hiking
  • eating a whole bag of chips with dip and watching a trashy show like 90 Day FiancĂ©

I’m sure there are more things I could think of but you get the idea. As I said, you’ll notice that although several of these activities could involve alcohol (swimming at a beach or going out for dinner for example), they are also fun on their own without alcohol. Also interesting is that I’ve listed nothing that’s only fun with alcohol, for example going to a bar. People love to party and go to bars and patios, but what if you took the alcohol away in any of those scenarios. Would they still be fun? Think about a whole bunch of people standing around in a dark and crowded bar, loud music is blaring, and there is no alcohol. Is that still fun? Shouting over the music to talk, squished between dozens of people and nowhere to sit, just standing for hours like sardines and bobbing your head to the music? What about a party, is that really fun? Sometimes it can be fun if it’s with good friends who have lots to chat about and catch up on and you’re doing some sort of activity or sharing good food. But think about the typical party where you go to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but you’re surrounded by people you don’t really know, or barely know. Again there’s lots of standing around in close proximity to other people. There’s lots of small talk, making polite conversation, asking people about their kids or what they do for a living, maybe delicately nibbling on a few snacks but not wanting to make a pig of yourself even if you’re starving. Take away the alcohol. Is it really fun? I would say for the majority of people, it’s not. So is it really alcohol that makes it fun? Or does alcohol just make it bearable? For me I think it’s the latter.

Anyhoo, those are my thoughts for today. I am re-evaluating “fun” and what it actually means, or more specifically, what it actually means to me.

Have a wonderful Saturday everyone!

xo

No Regrets

Wednesday April 8th, 2021

Day 94

Although I’ve been struggling a bit lately with wanting to drink, and feeling kind of low, one thing remains constant in my sober journey: I wake up every morning with no regrets. I may have indulged in a takeout meal the night before, eaten too much chocolate, or skipped a workout, but every morning I get to say to myself, “I didn’t drink.” There used to be a constant battle going on in my head about drinking. I’d wake up feeling parched and fumble for my water bottle on the bedside table, immediately racking my brain for details about the night before. How much did I drink? Was it too much? What do I remember about the evening? Did I say/do anything I might regret? Did anyone notice I was drunk? Did I fall asleep on the couch again and miss the end of the show/movie?

Now I wake up and immediately have the pleasant and satisfying thought, “I didn’t drink.” As far as I’m concerned, no matter what happened the day/night before (which isn’t much these days!!) if I didn’t drink, then all is well.

In the days when I did drink, after the initial grasping thoughts, trying to recall the night before, I would then spend the rest of the day in a battle with myself about drinking again. I would always start off the day with, “I’m not going to drink again until the weekend.” By midday as the adrenalin started to wear off from too much alcohol the night before, and the irritability and exhaustion set in, I would start thinking about drinking again. Often by the end of the day I’d rationalized picking up another bottle of wine just to have a glass or two to sip while I prepared dinner. Of course it would never end with just a glass or two and the never-ending cycle would continue.

All this to say that no matter what else I’m feeling now, a bit low, or tired of the monotony as the pandemic wears on, waking up every morning with no regrets never gets old.

Update- 15 minutes later…..

Wednesday April 7, 2021

Day 93

Wow! I just read over a few of my old posts and I have to say I’m SO grateful to have them. It was extremely helpful reading those posts again. I read over one where I had just stopped drinking again, Back to Day 4 on January 8th of this year, and it reminded me how crappy I was feeling and how much BETTER I felt not drinking.

Then I read over The Benefits of Being Sober which reminded me of all the things I appreciate about not drinking.

Finally, I read Pink Clouds Again which I wrote at the end of January when I was waking up every day feeling super excited, motivated, and THRILLED to be sober. I actually noted in this particular post that I was concerned since I was feeling so fantastic during this time, that there would be an inevitable crash at some point and I better be prepared. I had forgotten how “up” and motivated I was feeling at that time as I’ve been mired in a bit of a downturn over the past month or so. It’s interesting how quickly we forget. This was helpful to read because it made me realize that I knew the downturn was coming. I maybe just didn’t prepare for it as I should have. So here we are, time to turn back to some of my tools like writing, reading other blogs or books, and perhaps finding someone to talk to.

Still Struggling

Wednesday April 7, 2021

Day 93

Well I hit 90 days without any fanfare or celebration the other day. I’m still struggling with not drinking and feel like I’m on the precipice of a slip or fall. I don’t know why exactly. This time last year when I was 3 months into being sober, I felt great! I was excited and motivated by my new lifestyle change, sleeping great, working out a lot, and feeling healthy overall. This time is different. I feel sluggish all the time, have negative thoughts constantly running through my head, and more recently I’m spending a lot of time thinking about drinking. Perhaps it’s this global pandemic finally wearing me down?? I’m not sure.

I guess all along I’ve felt like I was fine, and of course I recognize I’m in a very fortunate situation with a job I can mostly do from home, a lovely home and even a vacation home now to spend my time, and a spouse whose company I enjoy. In some ways I even guiltily enjoyed this new pandemic lifestyle. As an introvert it’s been a relief not having to socialize and do the weekend rounds of dinners out, get togethers, and family celebrations. As for work I don’t have to go out to schools for meetings or to lead professional learning workshops. Every day I get to wear stretchy pants, sweats, or leggings and sit in front of my computer from the comfort of my home office. What could be better?! But as we make our way through the third wave of Covid and schools shut down again, it’s starting to feel like this will never end. And although I’m an introvert and on the surface feel some relief that I get to avoid socializing for an entire year, I’m starting to feel the truth that we are intrinsically social beings and feeling a connection with others is a basic need. I miss the difference between ‘out’ and ‘home’. Home used to be a sanctuary and a comforting place to land at the end of a busy day. I would appreciate my nights in, having the chance to relax on the couch with the hubby and watch some Netflix. But now that’s every day and one day blends into the next.

I guess that’s where the thought of drinking keeps creeping back in, just the ability to feel something different, or look forward to a special dinner with a nice bottle of wine. There are only so many different flavours of Bubly and La Croix…….

Even to feel hungover and then recover from the hangover and feel better. That sounds so weird, like wanting to feel pain so that I can feel the relief from the pain just to feel something different.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I think I’m going to read over some of my old posts and look for some motivation. It would probably also be in my best interest to find a therapist to talk all of this out, something I keep avoiding.

Missing Alcohol

Friday March 19th, 2021

Day 74

I’ve been missing alcohol lately. In fact I had a dream last night that I was drinking a Rum and Coke. Which is weird because I usually never drank hard liquour (very rarely had Rum and Coke at the end of a big night out to keep me going!), but mostly was a wine gal. In my dream I don’t know exactly what I was doing, working on some sort of big project, but suddenly I was sipping on a Rum and Coke and the taste of alcohol in my dream was so real I feel like I can still taste it now. It’s funny how dreams work because I was already well into the drink before I remembered that I was not supposed to be drinking. Then I was so disappointed with myself thinking, “Dammit! Now I’ve messed everything up!” but then at the same time I also thought, “One little drink can’t hurt. I’ll just continue not drinking after this Rum and Coke.” That makes me chuckle, because therein lies the problem. If only I could just have one little drink.

As the weather starts to turn spring-like, I’m finding more and more that I’m thinking about drinking. The novelty of being sober has worn off and it’s feeling like more of a drag. As we were driving out to our farmhouse last night the hubby asked if I ever get cravings. We just happened to be passing an LCBO (liquour store in Ontario) at that exact moment, and I said, “Yes.” He looked at me in surprise and said, “Really? Like when?” and I said, “Like right now.” Not that I really wanted to drink right then and there in the car, but as I start to look forward to nicer weather and enjoying the summer months with maybe some outdoor get togethers or at the very least enjoying the spectacular summer sunsets at the farmhouse, I am mourning alcohol. Not that I want to drink and get back on that roller coaster of feeling high, then terrible, then irritable, exhausted, unhealthy, and anxious all the time but I guess I feel a bit sad that I can’t just enjoy a nice bottle of wine with the hubby now and then. But again, therein lies the problem. If I was able to do now and then, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at at the moment. I’m not going to drink, and I actually don’t want to drink because when I play the tape forward I know exactly how it ends already and it’s not worth it. I know that everyone has their cross to bear and I could surely have a more challenging lot in life. I’m extremely fortunate in so many ways. But I guess it just feels like it sucks sometimes. Not to be able to just drink like a normal person and enjoy a bottle of wine now and then.

Thanks for listening to me whine…….

Happy Friday everyone!!

xo

Fear of the Fun Times

Friday March 5th, 2021

Day 59 (Let’s just say 2 months! Yahoo!!)

Although it’s wearing me out, and as I wrote in my last post I feel like I am dragging a bit at the moment, Covid has given me at least one silver lining which is that I feel like I’m protected from the draw of alcohol in a very cozy, and comfortable cocoon. I think that quitting drinking has, in some ways, been easier for me in lockdown than it would have been in the Before Times. There are no dinners out with friends to feel awkward at, no birthday parties or weddings to attend and drink only soda with lime, no beach getaways to mourn a midday margharita………..

It’s just me, the hubby, and the dog, and none of us are drinking so I’m never exposed to alcohol. I’m finding these days that I barely think about it and this time around I haven’t noticed any significant cravings at all! However with the weather warming up a bit for a day or two in the last week (and by warm I just mean not below freezing!), I’ve noticed more people out and about, kids playing on the street again, and that familiar feeling of your body breathing a tiny sigh of relief that maybe, finally, spring is on the way! But with that tiny sigh of relief a little feeling of dread is creeping in. Warmer weather means people on their porches sipping wine in the evenings, invitations for socially distanced backyard visits with drinks, and outdoor patios lining the nearby city streets (Covid permitting). And as people continue to get vaccinated and the world (possibly?hopefully?) starts to regain a sense of normalcy, alcohol and drinking will be more and more difficult to avoid. The thought of this makes me the slightest bit fearful. It’s so easy not to drink in my cozy little cocoon where alcohol doesn’t exist anymore, but what will happen when the fun times return? I guess it’s good to think about all of this and prepare and I suppose it’s possible that by that time I will have a good enough grounding in being Alcohol Free under my belt again that it won’t be as difficult as I’m imagining. Strangely, I guess there’s one reason I can almost be thankful for Covid: I’m not sure I would have been as successful with quitting drinking if this Global Pandemic had never happened. There would have been so many more opportunities to be around alcohol and be tempted by it, crave it, or feel deprived.

Now after almost a year of wanting this whole Covid thing to end, I’m feeling a bit fearful of the end and being forced out of my cozy and protective cocoon.

Dragging

Monday March 1st, 2021

Day 55

Why Am I Tired All The Time? We Asked A Doctor When To Seek Help | HuffPost  UK Life

I’ve been dragging these last couple of weeks. I guess that’s why I haven’t written much, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about other than the fact that I feel tired which is not very interesting.

During much of January, which was Month One of not drinking again, I felt really high and kind of wired. I remember writing about the “pink clouds” just a couple of weeks in and I was waking up every morning at 4:30-5:00, excited about my sober day ahead! Lately I’ve been dragging. Sleeping in until 6:00-6:30 (which yes, I recognize is still very early but it’s all relative, right?), feeling lethargic and groggy when I wake up, having long afternoon naps on the weekends and then still feeling sleepy and wanting to go to bed by 9:00.

I’m hoping that this is just part of the process and that my body is in recovery mode and will adjust back to normal at some point. It all seems kind of backwards though, like I should have been more sleepy and lethargic in the first month, and be starting to feel more energetic in month two. Looking back on my posts from January 2020 when I first stopped drinking for an extended period, it seems that in the first month I was lacking in energy but by the second month that was coming back and I was feeling pretty good.

Anyhoo, as I said, not a very interesting topic to write about but it’s good for me (and maybe helpful to others?) to keep track of how I’m feeling throughout this process. I suppose I could also attribute the lack of energy to the seemingly never-ending winter and the pandemic. Who would have thought at this time last year that “pandemic” would be come a regular, everyday word………….

Something Special

Saturday February 20th, 2021

Day 47

It’s difficult to think of special things to do these days. Between Covid and not drinking, every day is kind of the same. Like in the BC times (Before Covid), I might think, “It’s Friday! Let’s watch a movie or a fun Netflix show!” but we pretty much do that every day now because what else is there to do? I used to really relish an evening at home because during the week and on weekends we would be busy going out, meeting friends for various dinners and nights out. Now that we don’t have that option and it’s always a night in, it can be tricky to find something special to differentiate the weekends from the work week.

Anyway, here’s something special I did last night (Friday).

A friend had mentioned making French Onion Soup for her family and then I had the biggest craving for it all week! I gathered all of the ingredients when I went for groceries on Wednesday and then looked forward to Friday evening when I could start chopping onions and putting it all together. The same friend also gave me some sample bottles of an alcohol-free spirit called Seedlip. I had heard/read about this product before and had always wanted to try it out. It’s expensive to buy a whole bottle but I would definitely recommend it! The lovely part is that it tastes like an adult drink and it tastes special. You basically pour a shot of it over ice, then add tonic to it and it tastes like a special Friday night drink with complex flavours that aren’t just mixer without the alcohol. They distill things like rosemary, mint and juniper and put it into a bottle to mix with tonic.

So while I was caramelizing onions in a big stock pot over the stove, I was sipping on my special drink and enjoying my Friday night. Neither was so exciting, but it’s nice to have something a little bit special to make a Friday different from any other day.

In addition, the French Onion Soup called for a cup of red wine. I was a little concerned that opening the bottle of red, smelling it, and cooking with it might be a bit triggering but I was thrilled to discover the opposite! When I opened it up and poured it into the measuring cup, I took a good whiff and felt immediately turned off and a bit anxious. It just gave me a yucky feeling like, I remember that and it makes me feel gross. Don’t want to go there again. Almost like getting a whiff of cough medicine and how that makes you feel. It’s interesting that after not drinking for a while and having alcohol completely out of my system, I can see it (or smell it) for what it really is. I didn’t feel tempted at all. Just felt “Yuck”.

Anyway, here is a pic of my delicious soup and a link to the recipe, as well as a pic of the Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit and a link to their site.

Image result for seedlip

Please feel free to share any of your ideas for “Something Special” that you like to do to differentiate your Fridays and Saturdays from your Wednesdays!

Happy Saturday Everyone!! xx

Boring Drunk

Thursday February 18th, 2021

Day 45

I’m a boring drunk.

When I read the stories in memoirs of other people getting sober, this is what stands out to me the most. My life was never in ruins because of alcohol. I kept it pretty much together as a drinker most of the time and don’t really have any horrific stories of drunken behaviour aside from making bad relationship choices in my 20s and early 30s. If I wrote a memoir about my journey with alcohol it might very well put some people to sleep. I’m currently reading “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” by Sarah Hepola, and some of her drinking stories are terrifying and include trips to the hospital and fractured ribs. One time some comedian friends convinced her to perform on stage with them in front of 300 people and she doesn’t remember a bit of it because her nerves made her drink her face off beforehand and she was in a blackout the whole time. Apparently she was hilarious but she has no recollection. Another time she couldn’t make it up the back stairs of her apartment so her boyfriend convinced her she was a cat so she would crawl up on all fours and she meowed all the way.

Most of the time when I drank, the worst that would happen (as my husband tells me) is that I would glaze over and not really seem present anymore. I became more quiet and turned inward. I think this is why I enjoyed drinking alone. I could just zone out and float away on a cloud without having to be present or even talk to anyone.

More recently I was starting to have blackouts like Sarah Hepola. Luckily, being 45 and married now, I was not in dangerous situations during these blackouts but they still freaked me out. One night in early November (when Covid restrictions had lifted a bit), we had a good friend and her family to our farmhouse for the weekend. On the Saturday night my hubby and I spent a long time preparing a delicious meal for all of us and I started drinking around 4 p.m. while chopping vegetables. When I woke up the next morning I could not remember cooking the meal, eating it, or going to bed. The hubby told me that I had in fact finished cooking, eaten the meal, and then abruptly gotten up when I finished eating and gone straight to bed.

I know that’s not really an exciting story, but it scared me. I had never really had this kind of blackout experience before aside from the usual fuzziness around details of the taxi ride home at 2 a.m. after a big night out and many, many drinks. This seems reasonable and almost expected. But in this more recent experience, there was a whole chunk of evening time between about 7-9 p.m. that was just missing. I found it even more scary that I was completely conscious and functioning during this whole period that I couldn’t recall.

Similar scenarios happened a few times during the four months that I went back to drinking after eight months sober. Again, nothing too exciting or devastating, but still enough to freak me out. This is what ultimately led me back to stopping drinking again.

Anyway, I’m not sure exactly the point of this post but I guess it’s just to remind myself that just because I don’t have reams of horrific drunken tales to tell doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t a problem for me. It’s also a reminder that alcohol dependance is progressive. Something changed when I went back to drinking over the last four months and it wasn’t good. I wasn’t able to suddenly moderate like I had always hoped having an extended break might help me accomplish. This time around my mind was shutting down when I drank too much and I think it was trying to tell me to something.