Day 98 in the City by the Bay

Day 98!! It is just gone 6am, and I am watching the sun begin to lighten the skies over a foggy San Francisco from the dining room in our gorgeous B&B. We seem to be the only guests and our hosts are away for the weekend, so I have had to crash about the kitchen coming to terms with their coffee machine on my own (why is it that the gauges on coffee makers never ever correspond to any useful kind of measurement?) I made tar, basically, which I suspect I have now diluted too much – although in fairness the first sip of tar has skewed my taste perception a little. Anyway, it’s hot and bitter and all the boys (husband included) are still asleep so let’s call it a win. SF is three hours behind NYC so I suppose this is jet lag; 6am not being an hour I am terribly fond of or familiar with. During my years of crappy sleep (and, let’s be honest, constant hangovers) the hours between 4 and 7am were regularly the best and sometimes only deep sleep that I got, and my husband (R) has graciously if not skippingly shouldered the burden of early mornings in our household. I am determined that the new school year will see a more equitable split of this ungodly work, so this is good practice! 

This is our second visit to San Francisco. We visited last spring, arriving on day 12 of a planned 30-day alcohol and sugar detox. Predictably, the first day of that trip was by turns a great adventure and insanely stressful as the boys were out of their comfort and time zones and pretty wild. By 5pm I had a serious case of the fuckits, and by 5.01 (or thereabouts) we had nabbed a table on the terrace of a seafood restaurant and I was getting stuck in in to my first glass of prosecco, thus setting the tone for the rest of the trip. We had fun. We did a lot of sightseeing and exploring and enjoyed spending time together as a family, but the black dog (which I now understand to have been the wine witch all along) was my constant companion. Hungover and nagged with shame in the mornings I took several opportunities for a lunchtime pick-me-up and urgently looked forward to my first drink with dinner around 5 or 6, after which I would rush through my part of the bedtime routine so I could sink onto the couch with a (deserved! Earned!) glass (bottle) of red.  The fact that our hosts on that trip were a couple of British-expat stoners mitigated the walk of shame a little, but our accumulated recycling at the end of the trip took some carrying out nonetheless. 

I must be honest and say that I am deeply uneasy at how disconnected I feel from the woman who visited San Francisco last year. Intellectually, I remember the cycle of drinking and recovering, the mad scrabble at the end of the day to make sure that we had enough booze for the evening (only one evening at a time or I’d end up blowing through more than my allocation and writing off the next day) and feeling like shit as I staggered through the first few hours of our day’s activities (with lots and lots of coffee – not everything has changed) but for the most part these first three months of sobriety have been free of overwhelming cravings or triggers and it is only with effort that I can summon the awful sensations that accompanied the cycle. I regret that I didn’t blog more during the early days when all of that was still fresh. I am afraid that it has been too easy, and that I will forget how precious and hard-won the clarity and wellness I now enjoy really is. I hope not. 

I suppose this post ends up being an effort to remind myself and stake my ground, or something. It’s not what I intended writing, actually. The reason I came upstairs to write was that I was completely blindsided by cravings (of exactly the intensity that I just described having been, for the most part, spared) on our first day here. There seems to be booze everywhere – craft beer and organic wine ON TAP in loads of the coffee shops (!!!) and everywhere around us people having such a lovely, relaxing time. Of course this is also my first sober holiday since I was a teenager, and the association of drinking with holiday mode runs strong and deep. The boys are just as wound up and unmanageable as they were last year, and maintaining a vestige of order has been challenging (tantrums and full-contact wrestling on public transport, etc, etc, ad infinitum – always a joy for us and all those around us) which is also a monster trigger for me. 

I am also plain old tired. We’re coming to the end of a hectic summer, and getting the five of us packed and across the country (two days after hosting the Middle’s 6th birthday party, mind you!) was no small endeavor. We’re walking miles every day and as every step is through largely unfamiliar territory it all takes a lot of mental energy as well. I’m a little surprised that tiredness should prove to be such a trigger but on reflection I suppose in the context of being on holiday it prompts memories of the buzz and the energizing high of the first drink or two and the fluttering anticipation thereof – something about dopamine. I am definitely a little dispirited not to be leaping out of bed with boundless energy to play and explore and be super mom (surely that is not too much to ask of 98 days of sobriety…..) and that traveling with small children has not miraculously transformed itself into an exercise in unfettered joy, but – and here we come at last to my intention for this post – I am ok. I am not drinking. I gazed on those happy revelers with sadness approaching grief and yes, I felt those feelings. 

Then, thanks entirely to this community of bloggers for sharing your own similar experiences and thus giving me the tools and the language, I played the tape to the end. One celebratory, decompressing, energizing drink would have led to another and another. The shame of falling so close to the 100-day milestone would have been crushing and I would have lost all that I have gained in clarity and self awareness and pride. Traveling with little kids would be no easier and I would  have cut my own legs out from under me as far as the fortitude (seriously) to do the hard parts, to empathize with their discomfort and parent them instead of trying to control them, and the headspace not to take their behavior so intensely personally (I still totally do this but it has gotten much, much better.) 

This is not the quick, pithy post that I had intended but it has been more therapeutic even than I hoped. Thanks for bearing with me! The day is well and truly begun, now, and though much of the view remains shrouded in fog I know that it will lift as the sun is shining brightly. I am looking forward to exploring more of this beautiful city and being present with my family as we make memories I will actually remember. I accept that moments of grumpiness and craziness are likely (from all of us) and that there may well be more cravings before this holiday is through, knowing absolutely that I am better equipped to face all of that because I am sober. I am so, very, utterly grateful to be here. 

Xx

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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