30 days, baby!

Here speaketh the Universe, or something. I had a whole little Zen post all planned out. Last week my lovely cleaning lady (without whom we would languish in perpetual chaos) was cleaning the refrigerator and the shelf above the crisper shattered in her hands, which was all a bit dramatic and gave us both quite a fright. The thing is, I utterly loathe dealing with these kinds of things. I find trying to look for model numbers and part numbers and match them up on finicky little diagrams insanely stressful. I am always convinced that I am going to end up with the wrong part or that I am going to make some mistake that will end up costing us loads extra or that I am somehow doing the wrong thing. (Actually this rather tragic conviction has been more or less my constant companion for as long as I can remember, but I digress.) Anyway, in the brightness and clarity (really – I love this part, crappy sleep notwithstanding, and even that is getting better!) of my new sobriety, I did the hard thing! I matched up the stupid numbers and scrutinized the minute diagram and went ahead and just ORDERED THE PART. As luck would have it, the package arrived today and I planned to draw some neat little metaphor about my fridge being restored to full capacity and sobriety and doing hard things.

So neat, and spot on – I have done a whole 30 days without wine and I CAN do hard things. But. It turns out that, in Sears’ parlance at least, “Glass refrigerator shelf” denotes a sheet of plain glass that is entirely useless without the plastic frame into which it slots and which we conscientiously recycled on the day of the incident, and whose replacement cost is the same again as said useless piece of glass, bringing the total for the repair to one fifth of the cost of a whole new fridge. I could blog instead about the equanimity and good humor with which newly-sober me finds herself able to navigate these little setbacks. Haha! “You FUCKER!!!!” is how I actually responded, aimed at Sears, the offending piece of glass and myself and heedless of the Little, who was playing on his own in the living room. “I am not a fucker!” he called, outraged. “You are a fucker. What is a fucker mommy?” My horrified “PLEASE don’t say that word. Don’t say what mommy says!” eliciting a still-affronted, “But you SAID fucker, mommy.” It was hilarious and awful. I died. 

(I apologize for the profanity – I am very sweary in real life although trying hard to be better about it.)

Here’s the thing, though. I was really irritated – with myself for having made the mistake and with Sears for not labeling their parts better – but I wasn’t swamped with shame and rage, as I would have been a month ago. I didn’t order the wrong part because I am a fuckup and incapable, and although I had to spend 17 years “chatting” with customer service to make sure that I ordered all the right missing parts and haggling for free shipping (was it worth it? we ask ourselves) it hasn’t ruined my day. 

I probably should have checked in with Sears to make sure I was getting the right part and before we recycled the frame, and they could definitely make the process a lot more straightforward with clearer descriptions, but… well, that’s life, isn’t it? I am so grateful to be sober. My great takeaway from these first 30 days is, getting sober isn’t going to magically transform me into someone else, and my sober life is not going to be miraculously problem free. Things are going to go wrong, and I am going to make mistakes – and I am probably going to swear a bit when I do, at least for now but, sober, I can live with myself. I am more than my mistakes and life is so, so much bigger and better than the minor (or even major) catastrophes that are a part of it. Sober, I can do better – and I am. 🤗

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I Can’t Do This Alone

And I can’t do it all at once. I know that. Obviously. But. It feels as though it is all happening TO ME, and all at once. It is overwhelming. Day 26, and I do not feel wonderful or free. I feel terrified and as though my entire world, outer and inner, may come crashing down on me at any moment. I read something on In Others’ Words this morning* about getting sober feeling like reaching the top of Mount Olympus and then realizing it’s actually just emerging from Mordor, and perhaps that is where I am at. 

By grace or dark comedy we started seeing a therapist on the same day I stopped drinking, ostensibly to talk about some difficulties my middle son has been experiencing, but by the time I’d spent the first 15 minutes of the appointment weeping ugly crying it became fairly clear that the old “put on your own oxygen mask first” chestnut may apply. The result is that I have been dredging up a lot of very painful stuff during the past 26 days (Wrote weeks there and had to come back and correct it. That pretty much sums it up!) not all of which relates to my drinking except to the extent that eventually everything relates to our drinking, whether it is caused by it or what we are using it to try and run from. 

I think on its own, the realization – which felt like a bolt from the blue although I know it cannot truly have been – that I have a “proper” drinking problem would have been a lot. This… has been a really lot. I am mindful that my continued, worsening (incredibly) insomnia is also making things feel more catastrophic and making it more challenging for me to deal with what I am experiencing, but that is nonetheless where I find myself today and understanding that lack of sleep is part of what is hurting doesn’t make it go away, sadly. 

Conversely, thanks to the many warriors who have come before me and written about their journeys so beautifully and bravely I have the framework (is that the right word?) to make sense of a lot of it, at least intellectually – especially the very fact of the noise level of all of the feelings and thoughts and fears and whatever else that I was drinking to drown out. (“Yes it is loud in here, honey. Drinking didn’t make that stop, it just meant you couldn’t hear it you could pretend to ignore it.)

This is a bit of a rambly and self-serving post, but I have to run to fetch the boys and my straggly drafts folder (already!) tells me if I don’t post this now, odds are, I won’t. I want to be able to come back to these days because I believe (mostly; I am trying to believe) that it will get better, even for me, and I don’t want to forget. I am WORKING ON BEING grateful to be here. 

x

*I spent the morning binge reading the first few months of her archives so I can’t say with certainty where from, but possibly her most recent post. Today is her two-year soberversary and it is a beautiful post. It is a beautiful blog. Thank you Prim for the link.)

Edited to add: Holy cow! 26 days!!! 26 mornings without a hangover. I am! I am SO GRATEFUL TO BE HERE. 

Peace in Small Doses

Thinking of renaming this blog “I have Deep Thoughts but Oh Lordy I’m Too Tired to Write About Them.” (Maybe they’re not even that deep!) I am sleeping way better but still seem to wake up around 5.30 and by the time the kids are in bed I pretty much need to be too. Also it turns out I have a LOT of kids and when I am not hungover and distracted they talk to me allll the time. Writing very much at all is going to have to wait until my brain is able to function after 8pm, especially as the summer holidays are almost upon us. 

Something funny and wonderful happened yesterday. My doctor rang with some test results and to prescribe a course of strong antibiotics, and I immediately and reflexively thought, “Ack! Not antibiotics! Not 10 days!” I have rarely been on antibiotics as an adult, but enough that my subconscious is fully briefed on the “no-alcohol” stipulation that accompanies every prescription and reacted with instant, abject dismay. Still on the phone to the doctor I recognized the panic and was flooded with relief as I realized, I don’t drink. I can start this course tonight and I am already doing possibly the most important thing my body needs me to to start healing itself. How cool is that? Day 23 and I am so grateful to be here!

Another Friday! (Day 19!)

Writing here is really helping me. I am grateful for the sense of community and am also finding that planning/figuring out what to write is giving me a focal point (or something) for reflection on how I am feeling and what I am learning or worrying about – even about things I haven’t ended up writing about yet. I am starting to feel a lot clearer and healthier, which is wonderful and will hopefully help with the coming days and weeks as the novelty wears off and I begin to encounter the inevitable social occasions and times of stress (etc etc). I know it is super early days but I am going to let myself off the hook on posting here every day, although I plan to try journaling offline and hopefully keep posting pretty regularly. I’m still sleeping badly and pretty tired by the end of the day but hopefully that will continue to improve and with it my ability to sustain a train of thought and write meaningfully about it! (On rereading there are an awful lot of “hopefully”s in this post. Speaks to my state of mind I guess!)

Wishing you all a very happy sober Friday and a lovely, peaceful weekend.

x

Better

Today was a good day. This is particularly delightful as it had all the makings of quite a crappy day – I woke up at 4 again (so over that!) and all the kids were home as the big boys’ school was closed, which I had forgotten about (hooray for chatty crossing guards or we may well have discovered the closure at the shuttered gates this morning; sobriety not doing anything for my diary management yet, apparently) and I had scheduled the little’s checkup not expecting to have the others with me. The thing is, even though I was really tired, and I am rubbish with no sleep – despite years and years of 3am practice – I am definitely… calmer. I read something today in “This Naked Mind” (Annie Grace) to the effect that although we don’t notice it, drinkers are basically in withdrawal all the time that we are not actually drinking, leading to feelings of restlessness and discomfort (I am seriously paraphrasing here) and as I read it I thought “OH! That’s it! That’s what I don’t have!” Just being in my skin feels so much easier and it is translating into a much more peaceful way of being and parenting. We got to the doctor in plenty of time, I had remembered water and snacks so we could head straight to the playground afterwards and then I was able to just be there for almost two hours – much longer than I had planned on staying. The amazing thing was that my being “present” and not distracted or crabby actually resulted in the boys needing me less. They just got on with being there and playing together, and it ended up being a really relaxing and lovely morning for me, rather than an unplanned disruption to be endured. I really needed this day (18!) and am so grateful for it.

PS Big thank you to the people visiting and reading and commenting on my posts. The last couple of weeks have been a LOT and I don’t really feel comfortable talking to any real-life people about it yet. My husband has been lovely but is also a little non-plussed as my epiphany and decision seemed to come about really suddenly (although in truth it has been coming for some time.) I so appreciate your companionship and encouragement and wisdom and experience – thank you! 

x

Some Days Will Go This Way

7.20pm and I have pretty much skulked off to bed. I was more or less assaulted by wine lust in the playground this afternoon (I know right? Talk about inappropriate triggers!) No particular reason – I am a little anxious but that seems to be a fairly consistent theme in early recovery and the weather is lovely (a perfect occasion to… neck a bottle of wine and pass out, naturally) but I actually think it might just be my brain realizing, “We’re serious about this, are we?” and panicking. One day at a time indeed, and this is number 17. 

Maybe It’s Just Me

So. Since I started this process, (yea all those 16 days (+/-) ago,) I’ve been wrestling with the concepts of “alcoholic” and “alcoholism.” I thought I was going to make my peace with them, but it turns out I haven’t. Yesterday my therapist asked me to define what I thought an alcoholic is, and my first impulse was to respond, not me. Now, I don’t have a second’s hesitation in saying that I have an addiction or that I am alcohol dependent, so I don’t think it’s denial, per se. I have an idea, though, which is a little unformed and I thought to try and hammer it out here. 

The spark, I guess, came from Andrew Solomon’s powerful book on depression, “The Noonday Demon,’ which I have just started reading. He says, “There is no essential self that lies pure… under the chaos of experience and chemistry.” (Isn’t that great?) So I think what it has got me thinking about is how problematic the disease conception of alcoholism is. It’s not like chicken pox or something, where we’ve been infected by a virus and but for that we’d be clear-eyed and in control, and nor does it seem accurate or helpful to think of alcohol as the virus, and would that a cure could be found we’d be “healthy.” I feel like I am mangling this thought – the passage from idea to expression is as ever a challenge. I’m not proud of, or attached to my drinking identity, but I am pretty sure that I am not separate from it, either, and that freeing myself of the addiction is actually not going to “cure me” of myself – part of which is all the constellation of neuroses and quirks and proclivities – and passions and gifts that… facilitated my descent into alcoholic drinking. 

I’m not defending it (my drinking) and I am not coming from a place of defensiveness; I just think I (and probably many of us) turned to alcohol to be able to cope with a world and a life that was in many ways overwhelming not so much because of my particular circumstances but because of how I’m wired. I don’t want to drink or otherwise numb myself to that overwhelm any more, and I don’t want to be defenseless in the face of the pain and darkness that  I am, I suppose vulnerable to (keenly aware of?) but… I don’t want to be cured of who I am or how I see the world – actually the prospect of a cure in that sense sounds a lot like obliteration. But maybe that’s just my addiction talking. Perhaps this is insufferable navel gazing. I feel like there’s a lot of chatter about the stigma of alcoholism but I haven’t really read anything that gets to the nut of it, or at least of my discomfort with it. That’s all I have for now. I’d really value your insights if you’ve read this far and think there’s anything to this – I’m a little afraid that this makes no sense at all. (Is it too soon to joke that at least when I was drinking I was convicted in my ideas even when my logic was less than stellar?) Day 16…

Day 15

Just checking in I guess. I was feeling a bit despondent this morning. I had been reading a few bloggers’ archives from their first few weeks of sobriety and… well, I’m a bit jealous. These past couple of weeks have been pretty grueling, emotionally and I’m still not sleeping and emphatically not losing weight. WHERE IS MY GODDESS, DAMMIT? I’ve given myself a pretty firm talking to before sitting down here tonight though and what I (grudgingly!) accept is that it is going to be different for everyone, and that my experience can only be what it is – somewhat of a tautology but I think I know what I mean. Hopefully anyone reading this will more or less understand. My sub-goddesshood notwithstanding, the profound relief I have felt about finally seeing, clearly, what a destructive force alcohol has been in my life has persisted. I am deeply, deeply grateful to be feeling these feelings and doing this work and for even the tiny changes that I am seeing in myself – particularly in the way I am present to my kids and able to react to the inevitable chaos of a household with three little boys – that is, not remotely goddess-like but materially less shouty.

Thanks so much to those of you reading and commenting, and writing about your journeys. I am so grateful, too, not to be doing this alone.

x

Two Weeks!

I have been thinking a lot about the difference between abstaining and sobriety. (Thanks to Barejane and her most recent post for the language. I had been struggling to frame it for myself.) I have had periods of abstention – sometimes several weeks at a time – but I have never really gotten sobriety or contemplated what that entails. I think what it means to me at this stage is the work of really LOOKING at my relationship with alcohol and how it has affected my other relationships and the way I have moved through my life; understanding (or beginning to) that my drinking has impacted and distorted my mental health and the way my personality has developed; and, wondrously, emerging hopes and ideas of what my sober life, relationships, mental health and identity will look like. Day 14, and I am glad to be here. 

x

Day 13

Wine o’ clock hit me very hard this afternoon, so I went for a run to beat the cravings, and had Many Thoughts. I started writing a post about it (it was taking ages! I wish there was some kind of thought-to-text function. My pithy eloquence seems to vanish when I am faced with a screen and keyboard.) but was called away for movie night. Instead, a vignette to remind my future self that my drinking was Not. Healthy. About a year ago, on another movie night, we took a family selfie – whole-family photos (and activities, if I am honest) being a little hard to come by. I thought to post it in the online journal I maintain to keep overseas rellies up to date with our growing boys and family news, but first… I spent an hour, easily, trying to edit my wineglass out of the picture. I don’t have any fancy editing software or the skill to use it so it was an exercise in futility in any case. The picture remains unposted, the moment uncelebrated and indeed a source of vague guilt and unease. Isn’t that ridiculous? Had you asked me then if I was ashamed of my drinking, or ever tried to hide it, I doubt I would have said yes. 

Tonight, I was all there. We watched Angry Birds and actually it was such a pleasant way to spend a Saturday evening that I didn’t even think to try for a picture. Funny, that. Day 13 and this is a much nicer way to do movie night. 

x