Reflecting

Well it has been a while! We came back from San Francisco and hit the new school year running. My oldest son has aged into the standardized tests (3rd grade) about which my feelings are strong and not very positive, and I found myself immediately much more involved with the boys’ schooling than has hitherto been my wont. Busy-ness is not really the reason that I wandered away from this space, though. Although I posted a few times early on about coming to terms with the reality that sobriety would not equal an end to all my problems I think I believed that it would put paid to the problems of being me. This language is extreme and not entirely accurate but I have only allowed myself 20 minutes here, otherwise I would have talked myself out of showing up at all, and I think that I have been depriving myself of the time and ‘head’ space to really reflect on the ways I have grown and changed over the past five plus months. It would be fair to say that my intention in posting today is mostly by way of reclaiming this space for myself and setting the intention to be present here at least somewhat regularly. 

While I am not really missing drinking (no one is more surprised than I am) I am missing that surefire method to quiet the noise, if only temporarily, bitterly. My mental health is precarious and my emotional and spiritual wellbeing (and the peace and functioning of our household) seem entirely subject to the crests and valleys of my hormonal cycle, which I suppose I did not notice while I was drinking because the hamster wheel of drinking through the evenings and staggering through the days lent a certain – if wholly undesirable – levelness. 

I don’t feel awful all the time. I am insanely grateful not to be drinking and to be beginning the work of learning to human sober, even as I am daunted to find that it is a much more arduous endeavor than I anticipated. I don’t think I would have had either the courage or the clarity to reflect on my feelings about education and privilege and my kids’ access to both of those in any meaningful way if I was still drowning out the noise instead of trying to organize it, and I am grateful for that as well. If the way forward is messy, at least I believe there is one. As to being at the whim of my hormones, I was a little blindsided by the discovery, but without seeing ourselves as we are I suppose there can be little hope for progress toward where we would like to be. My plan is to spend a couple of months tinkering with supplements and diet and if all else fails I will follow the suggestion of LG (the therapist I have been working with) and speak to my doctor about medication. Just being able to entertain that course of  action is, in and of itself, progress. 

My time is up! That went as quickly as I suppose I knew it would. I hope this isn’t wildly incoherent but it is at least a beginning. One brief reflection as it came to me when I thought about writing this post and made me feel such deep sympathy for the woman I was a year ago and a new surge of gratitude for the changes this year has seen. Last Halloween I took the boys trick or treating at the Winter Village in Bryant Park, planning to meet up with my husband, who works nearby, and then go on to our traditional neighborhood outing. Having completed the circuit of the stalls there we settled to watch the Peanuts Halloween special that was being screened at one of the outdoor restaurants. Of course I ordered a large glass of wine – I had earned it! The thing is, it was no reward. I passed the 20 minutes or whatever it was in paroxysms of paranoid discomfort, certain that all other patrons, passers-by and serving staff were judging me for drinking alone with my children and in the (late) afternoon, or for having my kids in a bar at all. They probably were, but who cares really: the truth is that I was judging myself. I knew that I was in trouble. I knew that not being able to get through a half hour of trick or treating without a drink was a problem, and that my choice was neither appropriate nor “fun!” (I was such fun. A real good-time girl. Ask my kids.) I doubt I even enjoyed the drink. We will go trick or treating tonight (although we will forgo the crowds at the Winter Village – this journey is also about learning my limits) and I will not “deserve” or “need” a drink afterwards. This is not to say that I am going to find the crowds and the boys wild over-excitement and the ridiculous surfeit of candy wearying and likely a little overwhelming, but it will be fun, too, and I am able to give them this without needing a reward* or anesthetic to endure it. That is certainly something to be grateful for. 

*Well perhaps a little treat. Ah, sugar… 

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Truckin’

Day 52 – still here! I started feeling a bit of… guilt, I guess, or maybe embarrassment, that I am not blogging more frequently or abounding with the insights and energy that others seem to be at this stage of early sobriety, but then I realized that is a bit ridiculous. It doesn’t matter what my sobriety looks like for now, as long as I keep doing it – that is, not drinking – and so far that is going just fine. I am working hard to prioritize my sleep (at this stage my need for sleep!) and, as we decided not to put the kids in any kind of summer camp this year I am also full (FULL!)-time parenting three very energetic little boys. I am struggling with a bit of brain fog, which I hoped would have lifted more by now but under the circumstances perhaps just a function of not having enough time and head space to really organize my thoughts. If I am honest (and isn’t that why we are here?!) I have been giving my sugar dragon its head for too long and with too much abandon, and that is probably also taking a toll on my energy levels, mental health and waistline (ffs!). Onward…

Ah, Friday

Today is another milestone – 40 days since my last drink. This is the second-longest period of abstinence ever in my adult life, and by some margin the longest of intentional sobriety. (I was af for 87 days in 2015 as part of a paleo/whole30 lifestyle reset but that was all about getting fit and healthy and had nothing to do with my relationship with alcohol, which was clearly not a problem. At all. I just happened to count every single day that I didn’t drink, and then remember the count for two years because… Well, you know.)

So here I am! I feel pretty good. I am less anxious and my emotions are more stable. My thoughts (and my skin! Ha!) are much clearer and I have quite a bit more energy. My sleep issues have not resolved and I am beginning to accept that I may have to take further steps to improve things on that front. My therapist is fairly strongly of the opinion that I would benefit from a regimen of antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication but I am reluctant. I am trying to think clearly and honestly about my reasons, and when I get a chance may try to hammer them out in a post: perhaps someone reading has thoughts/experience on the matter and would be willing to weigh in. I think at this stage my chief objection is that I have only just begun to feel that I am truly “at the wheel,” if that makes sense, and I am not ready to relinquish this newfound sense of control (also something I would like to come back to, as the control I have gained through surrender has been a profound and unexpected shift for which I am deeply grateful.) I recognize that there is place for nuance here, but I think I am only just beginning to reckon with how much of an impact alcohol had on my behavior and personality and emotional landscape and I don’t really want to introduce another mind-altering substance until I have a proper handle on who I am. In any case, although inadequate sleep is definitely impacting me, it’s not a new problem – the hideous 3am wake ups were one of the things that motivated me to make this change – and underslept beats the pants off underslept and hungover, it turns out.

I’m sitting in the car park of the railway station waiting for my husband’s train and I’ve run out of time. I’ll try to come back to this tonight. Leaving aside all of the other aspects of this journey I do not know how I found the time to drink the way I did.

**Saturday** Day 41 is begun! I should probably wrap this up anyway as it’s getting a bit long. On reflection, I found the time to drink because I was resigned to not achieving or creating anything beyond the minimum required to get three little boys and a household through the day. (Not nothing, I’ll grant, but a level of “rolling down the hill” is possible that doesn’t demand a lot of brainpower.)

I just want to share this one last thing because it was so affirming and perfectly timed. It will be a good moment to come back to and may hopefully even encourage someone else!

(*Tuesday* I have woken up in the middle of the night thinking about this post. There was a great, valuable lesson for me in what I had posted but it used details about other people’s drinking which, even in this anonymous setting, I do not feel good about. We’re all on our own journeys. I was around people drinking and I was jealous, and then I was beautifully reminded that it is not the elixir of relaxation and happiness it appears to be. I’m grateful for that.)

Saturday morning, and I am so happy and grateful not to be hungover or scheming and wondering how early we can start drinking again. Have a wonderful sober weekend! x

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. 🤗

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. 

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