Reflections on 18 weeks….

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Here I am, 18 weeks sober. Best. Decision. Ever. I just can’t believe that I really thought that life was better with alcohol. It isn’t. Nothing feels better than waking up everyday with a clear mind, a body that is ready for anything, and peace.

I’m managing to navigate hanging out with friends (and a husband) who still drink, and whenever I feel a twinge of fomo, all I have to do is wait until they’re all on the 3rd drink and then I see the change that I never want to experience again. Knowing that they’ll have a harder time getting up in the morning and accomplishing anything. I don’t miss that. I seriously thought that the conversations I had while drunk were so profound, funny, interesting. Jeezus. They aren’t! They never were, but when everyone is in the same state, you never find out the reality. I feel good knowing that I can leave at any time, go home, read a little, and fall asleep with zero problems. I’m also learning to say no to hanging out as well, because honestly, if people are just planning to go to a bar and drink, I have no interest anymore. I need activities if I’m going to be around people who are drinking. So I’ve gone bowling, or gone to Beyonce dance parties, or out to see some live music. Stuff that I always enjoyed but forgot that I don’t need to be drunk to do. It was scary at first though. I remember the first time I went to the movies I cried because I wasn’t going to bring a roadie(s) (rum + diet coke) with me and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through it. A freaking movie! But once you do it, you realize that it’s okay and it’s nice to actually leave the theatre remembering how the movie ended. Once you do it, you realize that you can go out bowling then get up the next morning for an 7am barre class. 

Freedom. That’s what this feels like. I’ve been following Danielle LaPorte’s work for the last 2 years, and have been doing something called desire mapping. You find words that describe how you want to feel everyday, and you build your life from there. Freedom has been on my list of words for quite a while, but I never managed to feel that way in my life. And now I realize that alcohol was keeping me in a cage, without me even realizing it. The day I stopped drinking was the day I realized I had the key to leave all along. Don’t get it twisted- it’s not all a pink cloud 24/7. I have had more than a few moments of struggling with being severely uncomfortable and crippling anxiety, because I realize that I don’t know how to deal with all of my feelings yet. So that is something that 4.5 months in I’m finally starting to delve into, to figure out. I’ve never been good at feeling my feelings, unless they are good ones (surprise surprise). Before I had an alcohol problem, I struggled with bulimia. I think I traded one for the other. So there is a lot of work to be done. But this time, I want to do the work. I want to dive in and know all the parts of me, even the not so great ones. So, with all that said, here’s to the next 18 weeks!

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Reflections on changing friendships….

I’m a firm believer that everything that happens in our life has a lesson to teach us, whether we realize it at the time or not. This whole journey into sobriety has honestly, been much easier than I thought. But I realize now that as far as certain friendships go, I’ve been avoiding them. You see, I am a full time cater waiter and a part time musical theatre performer. I went through a period of about 5 years where I wasn’t focused on auditioning or booking shows. I went to auditions, but not as many as I should have. I was focused on other things, namely becoming more financially stable and getting married. I booked a show last year finally, and although it was a short experience, I made a bunch of new friends. 

The thing about this is, during this time and the months that followed, my drinking sky rocketed. I thought that I would go away to do this show and take a break from drinking. The complete opposite happened. My whole cast liked to party. And I partied every night. I was confusing my desire to have fun and break the shackles of catering with getting fucked up every night and making bad decisions. And this behavior carried through the summer and then the fall, right through the winter. But I was determined to develop these friendships that I had made during the show, and that meant going out more, partying, and ignoring the warning signs that perhaps I was being a little extra in my pursuit of being the fun, young, carefree girl. I neglected my marriage, choosing to go out and party with my young, handsome gay friends until the wee hours of the morning, sometimes not coming home. My friends made me feel free and fun, and life wasn’t so boring anymore. I was “free” but what I was really doing was trying not to feel anything, because I was unhappy with the state of myself deep down inside. There were countless mornings that I woke up and felt regret, shame, and reality setting in that this wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing anymore, but what would happen to these friendships if I pulled away?

Enter sobriety. I haven’t seen these particular friends much since I’ve stopped drinking. They’ve been away doing shows so that is part of it, but I haven’t been going out of my way to spend time with them. So this past Wednesday, I was invited to a birthday party in which they were also invited to. The last time I saw this particular group of people, I was drinking, so this was the first time I’d be seeing everyone. I asked the bartender if he made mocktails and he made me a great one, so I had the drink in my hand and most people didn’t notice. A few asked me what I was drinking, or asked to try it only to be surprised there was no booze in it. Then my closer friends showed up. The last time I saw my one friend, let’s call him Joe, we were crying drunk watching the last few episodes of This Is Us. He knew I was ‘taking a break’ but he was surprised to see that I was still on a break. He went on to say that I should be done with my break at this point, that I could moderate and just couldn’t understand my choice to keep going. Awkward. So I try to have fun, and I am for most of the time. I see my friends chugging drinks and taking shot after shot after shot, and although I feel a little left out of the ‘bonding’, I have no desire to drink.

A little later on, Joe, clearly drunk, starts talking to me about his birthday in October. He wants to have it in Vegas. I’m invited. But I have to drink he says. I tell him that most likely I won’t be drinking. And he keeps pushing the point that I must drink, it’s his birthday. I tell him again that I don’t think I’ll be drinking but Vegas still sounds fun, since I love to dance my face off. He gets angry, and goes on a diatribe about how it’s cute when sober people hang for happy hour, but after a while it gets weird when the party is really starting. And then he says that if I’m not drinking, I shouldn’t bother coming at all. And I just felt like I was punched. I had a friend sitting near me listening to this convo, and this friend is on his own sobriety journey, and he says to Joe, “It sounds to me like you’re the one with the problem.” And then I went to the bathroom and couldn’t stop crying. My worst fear was realized. The thing I was scared of the most: my friends not wanting to be around me anymore if I wasn’t drinking. That I wasn’t fun anymore. That I was different. I was in the bathroom for probably 10 minutes trying to calm myself down. As I left the bathroom, Joe asks what’s wrong, and I just knew in that moment I needed to leave the party. Just get out of there. I told Joe that if our friendship was dependent on my drinking, then I guess we weren’t friends, and I left.

I just felt so upset. I guess I had been pushing that fear to the side and refusing to entertain the notion that some of my friends just wouldn’t be supportive. Joe had expressed the thoughts that I was having but refused to acknowledge. Things are changing. I am different now, and my lifestyle is shifting to reflect this change. My relationships are changing and I’m not sure where some of them are headed. The friendships that I’ve made in the last year are the ones that are likely to change the most. These people haven’t known me for long, they’ve known only one version of me unlike some of my other long time friends, so I’m not sure if they’ll survive.

I’ve read a lot of sober blogs and articles and they all seem to agree that yes, you will lose friendships, but perhaps those friendships weren’t strong to begin with. I’d rather have 2 or 3 close friends than a bunch of friends who can’t accept who I am at this point in my life. It’s just not worth it. #nonewfriends (unless they’re sober ;-))

Reflections on 7 weeks…

If someone would have asked me 8 weeks ago if I would seriously consider never drinking again, I would have laughed in their face. I would have said that everyone has a vice, and mine is booze. And my rationale would have been- hey, at least I’m not a smoker or a drug addict, right? Silly me. These last 7 weeks have opened my eyes completely. It’s overwhelming to think of where I stand right now and how quickly the fog has lifted.

My life revolved around drinking. I have a close set of friends that are hard partying drinkers, and every other day (who am I kidding? every day) there was an excuse to drink. Long day at work? Drink. Friend working at a bar, can get us free drinks? Drink. Going to work? Drink. At work (I am a cater waiter and it’s kind of a sub culture for people to get drunk at events while working)? Drink. Going shopping? Drink! Going to the movies? Drink! Getting ready to go out? Drink! Hanging out at home watching TV? Drink! Bring a roadie full of booze anywhere and everywhere (you can drink on the subway and always take an uber home). No one will know. Not even that I was getting drunk all of these times, it was just a full blown habit, a routine developed over the last 7 years. On vacation? Drink e-ver-y-day. And I was completely okay with this for a long time. My hubby and I had a running joke that we were functioning alcoholics. But- not really. Well guess what? I suppose we are.

When I was struggling to try to actually stop drinking, Lent was the only way that I could get my head around not drinking everyday. If I could make it through Lent, that would mean that there was no problem, and I could go back to drinking, but way less than before. That was the original plan. And then I started to google. God bless the internet. Just google “sober for Lent”, and then fall down the rabbit hole. Soon I started finding all of the sober blogs, and I devoured each and every one of them. I started reading books: This Naked Mind, Kick the Drink Easily, The Easy Way for women to stop Drinking, Integral Recovery. I started to find a sober community on instagram, of people who were choosing the #drylife. People who hadn’t necessarily hit a bottom, but wanted to make a change before they inevitably got there. And people who had hit their bottom, and had to make a change. And over these last seven weeks I feel like now that I’ve seen what’s out there, now that I’ve had my eyes opened, I can’t close them again. And instead of dread, or a feeling of loss, I feel very hopeful, like I have a second chance at so many things. To stop hiding in a glass and start living, even if it scares me to get to know who I am without a dark & stormy in my hand…

A Start…

I needed to make a change. To take a step. To listen to that small, still voice deep down inside that’s been popping up more and more over the last year or so. The one that keeps telling me, every time something isn’t quite going right, every time my body goes through something that it shouldn’t be. ‘You need to take a break from the booze. That’s the only thing you refuse to change. And it’s the only thing that is going to help you change.’

My grandmother passed away on February 17th this year. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the last 12 years. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemies. It robbed her of life. It was a slow, painful death for the whole family. I didn’t think I would be so upset because she was finally at peace when she left us, but it hit me very hard. I couldn’t help thinking of all the times that I blacked out while drinking, and how it was becoming more and more frequent over the last half year or so. Here was my grandmother, who essentially slipped into a 12 year blackout, and I was choosing to do this? I’m already very aware of the fact that I may suffer from Alzheimer’s one day. I’m 32, so how many years would I have until that final blackout? 30? 40? And- again- I was CHOOSING to ingest something that kept me from forming memories and calling it a good time?

So, on Friday, March 3rd, I said no more. It’s imperative that I stop handing over my memories, my life. I will not say this is forever, though it feels that way, but I can at least try this out, experience my whole, full life for the next year, and then see if I really want to go back to that #blackoutlife.