502 days and counting

I thought I’d touch base on where I am in my recovery journey at this point.  If there is anyone out there still following my blog, you may think I went back to drinking since I have been silent for so long.  Thankfully, that is not the case!  I’m still plugging away at sobriety one day at a time.

The day I got sober my daughter was exactly 502 days old.  For most of those days, her mother had been what I’ve come to know as a “dry drunk.”  I was forced to stay sober due to the fact that I was breastfeeding and, although there is no way I’d have admitted it at the time, I resented the hell out of it!  I wanted to drink so desperately.  I used to read articles like a crazy person trying to justify every extra drop I could swallow.  I had a screenshot of a chart on my phone showing me how many drinks I could have, how long I should wait to feed her, and whether or not I should “pump and dump.”  The amount of energy I put into it is exhausting even to think about.

I was wrestling with all my character defects without knowing what they were or trying to address them.  I was living in the wreckage that I’d created from my alcoholic choices, but my head was too foggy to begin to see it.  I was deeply lost in the dark caverns of alcoholism, but from the outside looking in, I was just a new mom with a gorgeous baby girl.  I wasn’t drinking like an alcoholic, so I couldn’t be one, right?

As I pulled away from breastfeeding, something that was profoundly important to me from a motherly standpoint, my drinking steadily increased.  I strategically dropped the night time feedings and replaced them with formula so that I could have that third, fourth, or fifth glass of wine.  Sometimes I’d wake up with a start around 2am with a panic, questioning if I’d just been asleep or passed out.  Would I hear her if she cried?

When my daughter was close to 365 days old, I weened completely and the progressive nature of the disease of alcoholism reared it’s ugly head in my life.  In the span of four months, I did things moms aren’t supposed to do.  I did them because alcohol had a power over me that I didn’t understand.  I crossed my own boundaries and broke my own rules I had carefully crafted to keep myself in the “social drinker” category and avoid the dreaded A word.

From the outside, maybe I was still pulling it off, but inside I was broken.

That milestone was important to me because my daughter deserves so much better than I gave her those first 502 days.  I am not perfect, but at least I am here.  I’m not checking out; and now I’ve been 100% here for more days than not.  I am constantly looking inward and trying to make myself better.  My daughter has inspired me to be the strongest woman I can be.  She makes me be accountable for every word that comes out of my mouth and every choice I make, and I love her for that.  Our day to day existence is so much more joyous and peaceful than it was before I got sober.

I don’t have a firm definition of my higher power, and sometimes I like to think of it as her; my daughter.  Maybe she was my higher power all along.

Since I haven’t written since June, a lot has happened.  I have made it through and incredibly contentious divorce and custody battle.  I have been able to strengthen old friendships and start some new.  I have been the victim of a crime and experienced the justice system in all it’s flawed glory.  I have remodeled a house and learned lots of fun new home improvement skills.  I have nurtured my soul through regular meetings.  I have made crucial discoveries in therapy about why I make the choices I make and how to make better ones in the future.

I did all without drinking.  There was a time when  I could not fathom going one day without drinking.  It’s a good feeling to know I have freedom from that today.

xo

 

No Major Changes in the First Year

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written on this blog, and I want to come clean about why.

I violated that sacred rule of not making any major changes in the first year.  I violated it so badly, up one side and down the other.  I guess I have been afraid about sharing this part of my story, so I stopped sharing any part of my story.

I quit my new awesome job, left my husband, and moved to my home town.

I posted before about how I love to change things up in my life.  Change is actually a more comfortable place for me than routine.  I fought this decision very hard, and sought multiple sources of counsel on the sanity or lack thereof in my reasoning.  I ultimately reached the conclusion that once I removed the fogginess of alcohol from my life, I was able to see some things much more clearly.  My marriage was very sick.  I tried desperately to fix it through therapy, looking at “my part” in things, sobriety, and God knows I also tried the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” method by drinking hard for a long time.  I must be very delicate when I talk about this, because I know it is not my right to ever take another person’s inventory for them.  All I know is that both of us were sick, and that neither of us could truly become healthy again unless I left.

Of course my daughter deserves a mention in all this, since being her mother was and is the catalyst for my sobriety.  Once I became sober in my thought processes, I could no longer brush off each instance where I thought I or my husband was doing her an injustice.  Every time we argued in front of her, when her stroller was pushed by an intoxicated parent, or when she knocked over a wine glass while toddling around exploring, it just made my insides burn with an indescribable sadness.  I could no longer be a part of those things happening to her or around her, whatever the cost.

The costs have been great.  I have to accept giving up on a marriage that I once believed would be my refuge for the rest of my days.  I’ve realized I had responsibility in an abusive relationship, and that no one but me is to blame for my entering the relationship for fear based reasons.  I realized I lied to myself for years and had to really own up to all of it.  It’s not fun to admit those huge character flaws in myself, but I’ve grown so much since I did.

The costs have been and will continue to be great for my daughter, but I have to believe that the benefits will be greater.  She has to split time between her parents now, adjusting over and over to new environments.  She endures stressed out single parents, and witnesses tension between us where there once was at least some level of affection.  On the bright side, her parents are both much happier now.  For my part, I know that I am actually present when I look into my daughter’s eyes.  We play, we dance, we sing, we interact with extended family, and I’m there for all of it.  I don’t have that feeling of wanting to put her down for a nap or at bedtime so that I can rush to my wine glass.  I cherish the moments.

It appears to me that her father has a new appreciation for time with her now that the time is limited.  They do all sorts of fun activities when they spend time together.  I dare say their relationship will benefit from this uninterrupted one on one time.  I like to think of those positives to keep my spirits up when things get hard.

Since I took this leap of faith, many good things have happened for me.  I take this as a sign that the universe (God?) approves of my decision.  I have been able to pick my career up right where I left it, miraculously getting the exact position back that I had before we moved to Wyoming.  I love this job, and it is even better now that I’m sober, since my work already dealt with recovery services.  Through employment, I’m once again able to provide food, shelter, and health insurance to my child.  This gives me an immeasurable sense of pride and accomplishment, which helps in the healing and rebuilding process.  I am also incredibly lucky to have the full support of my own family, which means my daughter is now being cared for by people who truly love her.  Her experiences in day care have been wonderful as well, but there is something to be said for the sincere love and caring coming from her grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  She gets this on a daily basis, and it warms my heart and gives me peace.

A word on therapy.  I have used it to get through this time, and it is awesome.  I am picky about therapists, and I was very luck to have found a good one as soon as I got back to my home town.  She helped me to work through some of the emotions from being in an abusive relationship for so long.  She helped me to develop strategies to deal with the abusive behaviors that continue.  I’ve gained strength through sobriety and clarity and I’m better able to stand up for myself.  I no longer accept abusive behavior.  That is huge, and just one more gift of sobriety that I get the privilege to pass on to my daughter.

So there you have it.  That is why I’ve been silent for so many months.  Life continues to improve daily in sobriety, and I hit 10 months last week.  I’m proud of myself, but more so, I’m beyond grateful to the recovery community online, in Wyoming, and now in my native Utah.

It really does work if you work it.

xo

Huge Life Changes aka My Perfect Life

I love change.  It’s like I get to shake off all the dust that has accumulated in a thick layer over my life.  Everything will be bright, and smooth, and shiny again.  After this big change, life will be better.  I will be better.  I will finally do all the things I have never done.  I will finally be the person I have never been.  The person I envision in my mind’s eye when I see my perfect life will blossom.  I will be comfortable, content, wealthy, relaxed, fun, engaging, intelligent, present, understanding, compassionate, thoughtful, punctual, healthy, sexy, reliable, popular, respected.

But only if I make this GIGANTIC change in my life.  If I break up with this guy.  If I move to this foreign country.  If I get this degree.  If I backpack Europe by myself.  If I get a job.  If I buy a house.  If I have a baby.  If I get married.  If I get divorced.

Why can’t I just BE?  I think that is what this all boils down to.  I get restless, like I can’t take a deep breath and just stay where I am.  I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my skin.  Something is wrong, very wrong, and I search and search to figure out what it is.  Then I hit on it, on whatever I’ve chosen at that time in my life, and I become intent on fixing THAT.  It’s not me, it’s THAT.  It’s him.  It’s this place.  It’s whatever, but it certainly couldn’t be that I just can’t handle being ok with me the way I am.  Being ok with my life the way that it is.  Being genuinely happy with my lot, as is.

For the past few months, I’ve agonized over whether to apply for a Masters of Social Work program.  The application is due this week, so this weekend is my last chance to make a decision.  I’ve weighed the pros and cons obsessively.  Probably driven all of my confidantes insane with my “verbal processing.”  Here I am, in my office, doing a little private meditation on it.  I think I know in my heart that it is just too much to add to my plate right now, but I am having such a hard time coming to a place of peace with that.  I already work full time in a challenging job.  I have a vibrant toddler who will be two in March.  I have a marriage, which God knows is a full time job in and of itself.  I cook dinner at least 6 nights a week.  My family is going through a difficult time financially.  And on top of it all, I only have about 5 and a half months of sobriety.

I think I got a case of the Superwomans when I got sober.  I got it into my head that NOW, finally, NOW I can be that person that I always dreamed I would be.  In a way that is true, but maybe the picture of that woman needs to make a major shift back into normalcy.  Maybe she isn’t this be all do all tornado of a person. Maybe she is calmer, does a little yoga here and there, eats a little less sugar, works a little harder at the job she already has, is a little more loving to her husband, and just a little more present with her daughter.

Or maybe she is already enough.  Today.

I am not going to apply for the program.  I am going to try to feel peace with my decision to just be where I am.  I don’t have to climb that mountain right now.

The Key to Happiness

I had a vision this morning.

I have been struggling lately with a different addiction, to sugar.  I am working really hard to eliminate my intense NEED for sugar.  It has become a routine just like the way I drank.  I put my daughter down around 8pm and then head straight to the kitchen for my sugar fix.  Last night I was eating graham crackers and marshmallows.  Some nights it is nutella.  Literally anything I can find with sugar in it.

I am trying to analyse why I am reaching for sugar so often.  What is it doing for me?  Why can’t I just BE for Christ’s sake?  Must I always be shoving something down my gullet??

So I was imagining this need.  This seemingly uncontrollable need for sugar/alcohol/weed/fill-in-the-blank.

Remember that game that we would play as children, where you throw a quarter to the bottom of a swimming pool and then take turns swimming underwater to retrieve it?  I suddenly had a realization that for me, drinking was just like this game, especially towards the end.  It was like someone had thrown the key to happiness to the bottom of pool of alcohol.  Like there is an actual physical key, waiting at the bottom, if I could just get my fingers on it.  All of my dreams would come true, and I would finally feel the contentedness and peace that I’ve always wanted.

In order to get the key, all I would have to do is drink my way to the bottom of the pool.  Then, and only then, would I find my happiness.

So today I’m pondering the things I am still doing that resemble my drinking patterns.  I may have removed the alcohol, but I haven’t been cured, not by a long shot.  My consumption of sugar has got to stop!!  I’m trying to start a little “added sugar fast.”  I’m aiming for a week at least.  Wish me luck.

2014: The Year That I Became Me Again

I need to get something off my chest.  I need to say goodbye to this last year; 2014.

January started with me feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, and just basically flailing desperately.  I had just tried a career change, sheerly due to lack of availability of quality jobs in my profession, and it was a disaster.  I quit the job just before Christmas of 2013 and found myself ringing in the new 2014 as a stay at home mom in a rural, beautiful, isolated, freezing town in Idaho.  I had two friends in the area whom I saw rarely.  I was full of resentment.  I felt abused and mistreated by life.  My only joy was my sweet daughter who really carried me through each day.  I would put on a brave face as soon as she woke up.  I’d sing songs to her, talk to her constantly, try to do something every day with her that involved seeing actual other real live people.

I also drank.  I started to have a glass of wine with my lunch.  Then maybe my mommy happy hour started at 3pm, then 2pm…  Then I had a few days where I’d start around 11am, get a nice safe buzz where I still felt like I was a capable mother, then I’d nap when she napped.   I’d wake up ready to pretend like I’d had nothing to drink that day when my husband got home.  And maybe I’d have a few more glasses of wine on the couch with him.

This is when my boxed wine phase really got serious.  I had discovered I needed much more than one bottle could hold, so it became pointless–and way too revealing–to buy them.

There were some moderation tactics employed during this time.  We would agree that we would only drink on the weekends.  Then on Wednesday we’d grab pizza at the brewery and have a couple.  Then on Thursday it was pretty much the weekend so what the hell?  Then it was Friday and boy howdy!  I could finally just DRINK.

There was something nasty creeping into me.  This desire to drink and the act of it all…it had just become..sad.  It wasn’t sipping champagne to celebrate a special event.  It was downing a bottle of prosecco in under an hour between me and the hubs and then switching to white wine until I got just the right amount of a buzz to put me to sleep.

Just the right amount.  Now here was the tricky part.  You see, I’m a mom, and I strive to be a good one.  I needed my alcohol, but I also needed to be there for this baby.  I constantly tried to catch and ride the wave of just buzzed enough but not actually “drunk.”  I may have done ok at it, but good God it was exhausting.  And the guilt!  Was I “asleep” or “passed out” from 11:30pm to 1:30am when I woke up?  What if my baby needed me during that time?  What if she cried for me and I didn’t hear her because I drank 6 glasses of wine before bed?  I would lay awake at night and feel a sense of dread.

In the spring, I began to think about suicide.  It would come into my head like a story I was imagining.  Maybe I could just drive off a cliff.  There were several nearby; it wouldn’t have been hard.  I could get a babysitter, and go for a drive.  I didn’t really plan on doing it, but I wanted a way to end the pain I was feeling.  I called a friend at one point sobbing uncontrollably.  I was having a complete panic attack.  I frantically called doctors trying to get in to see someone.  I ended up seeing my OBGYN and getting on good old-fashioned Prozac.  My doctor asked me that day how much I was drinking weekly.  I gave her a slightly altered number.  She was so gentle.  She said, “You realize alcohol is a depressant, right?”

I thought maybe I just needed a good vacation.  I went to see a dear friend, the same friend who consoled me that day and helped me to feel better about getting on Prozac.  She had just had a beautiful baby boy, and I wanted to go out and be a supportive friend to her while also getting a little vacation for myself.   The trip was overshadowed by the sadness that had seeped into every move I was making.  I drank to embarrassing excess.  At one point her husband asked her if this is how much I usually drink.  She was worried about me, of course, but was kind and gentle with me.  I don’t know what she really thought, but she was understanding and let me believe that it was just that I was going through a rough time.

We moved shortly after that, and as external solutions usually do, it worked for a little while.  I started exercising a little more.  The summer was here and I got some sunshine.  There are more people here and more opportunities for socialization for both my daughter and me, so that was refreshing.  I was still taking the Prozac.

I went to my hometown to visit my family for two weeks in the summer.  One of my best childhood friends was  in town as well.  She is also a mother, and also loves to drink.  I crossed some more lines during this trip.  I just wanted to be fucked up.  I finally had babysitters galore available to watch my child since my family is there, so I took the opportunity and pushed the envelope as much as I could.  There was a day where my friend and I took our kids to a hot springs and we brought along some wine and a little pint of vodka.  We cradled and cared for that cup of vodka mixed with syrupy pink lemonade.  We passed it back and forth, careful to not let the staff see us refilling it, since alcohol is not allowed there.  We still watched our children and played with them, but that cup was so important.  I needed it to be there, and I couldn’t wait to get home so I could drink more without needing to drive somewhere.

Then one day something happened.  One day in July, something inside me clicked.  I wanted to do life differently.  I was desperate and willing to go to any length.  Nothing spectacular happened that day.  Sure, I started drinking the precisely at the moment the clock turned from 11:59 to noon.  I used one of the giant bowl sized wine glasses I had recently purchased at the dollar store, and drank maybe 3 or 4 glasses of chardonnay.  I passed out on the couch while my daughter was napping, and when I woke up, something magical happened.

I googled “moms who drink too much,” found UnPickled, The Bubble Hour, FitFatFood, and so many other wonderful online resources.  I saw myself in every story I read.  The next day I went shyly to my first meeting in several years.  It was a women’s meeting, which felt safe for me.  I cried and said I’m a mom and I need help.  They all gave me their phone numbers, and I randomly chose a woman to ask to be my sponsor.  I picked her because she was older than me, presumably wiser than me, pretty and serene, and looked like she had her shit together.

This was on July 7, 2014, which unfortunately is not my sobriety date.  I spent my first couple of months wondering if maybe I was blowing this whole thing out of proportion.  Maybe it was just this move.  Maybe it was really my marriage that was the problem.  A friend, who has a few DUI’s on their record, told me I was definitely not an alcoholic.  Of course, I wanted to hear this and wanted it to be true.  I was fragile, and a few days later I drank while on vacation with my in-laws, mainly because of my fear of people not liking me unless I drink.  I got completely plastered, had some laughs, did some embarrassing things, made some terrible judgement calls, and had an awful day-consuming hangover the next day.  So of course I drank that day too just to ease the pain.  The next day, July 28, 2014 is my sobriety date.  I got home and got to a meeting, and I’ve been doing my best to work the program ever since, with the help of my pretty sponsor, who really is quite serene and wise.

I’m only a little over 5 months sober.  Every day I realize more and more what a fool I’ve been for so long.  Every day I have a thought that feels just a little more mature, a little more grounded, than the way I was thinking the day before.  I feel like I’ve gone back to the 15 year old girl I was when I began using alcohol and pot to deal with life.  I feel like I’m going back and picking up where she left of and just growing the fuck up.  Growing.  Slowly.

They say that growth comes from pain.  There has been a lot of pain over the last 5 months, but it’s the kind of pain you know you need to feel.  I remember as a young girl having a conversation with my mom about the antidepressants she was taking.  I was so confused by them.  I asked her, “But if you take a pill to make yourself happy, how will you know what things in your life you need to change?”

Emotions. There has been a lot of joy.  Real, pure joy.  I am closer to secure in myself than I’ve ever been.  There has been boredom.  There have been actual real conversations at social gatherings where I look people in the eye and listen to what they are saying and give appropriate feedback.  I no longer obsess over what I will drink and when I will drink it and how much I can get away with without making a fool of myself and/or being an inadequate mother.  Now, I get nervous and I just feel the nervousness.  I feel how it makes my heart speed up and my hands and voice shaky.  I notice what makes me nervous and try to deduce why; there is almost always a fear there to look at.  I figure out what might calm me down, a cup of tea, slowing down, deep breaths, calling or texting a friend, a walk, a meeting, giving it over to God.  These are called coping mechanisms my friends, and they are what normal people use.

So, thank you 2014.  I met desperation, finally, hopefully for the last time, in you.  Desperation gave me willingness, and willingness is giving me hope and strength and faith that I can do this.

Thank you God, and thank you AA, for giving me the peace and strength to just be me.

xo

Today I’m Grateful for…

I suck at praying.  I wish I meditated or prayed consistently, but I just haven’t thus far in my life.  My newest habit I’m working on, however, is a little easier.  Look in the mirror every morning and every night, perhaps as I brush my teeth or wash my face, and name two things in my head or out loud that I am grateful for.

This morning I was grateful for:

1. Having a bathtub so I can take relaxing bubble baths whenever I want.

2. Having a great day care that my daughter loves, is well cared for, and safe while I go to work.

I’ve found that when I do this, other things keep popping up throughout the day that I am also grateful for, like crock pots.  And dishwashers.  And my dog.  And Netflix.  I seriously could go on all day, and that is the beauty of it.  It’s not some communion with God where I sit down and give a heartfelt shout out for all the things I’m grateful for.  By setting aside those 2 short times every morning and evening, it kind of spills out into the rest of my day.  It sets me off on a course of gratitude for the entire day.

I’m grateful for the woman who gave me this suggestion in a meeting, and I am ever so grateful for my sobriety.  Every second of every day.

xoxo

Alcohol: Best Friend or Worst Frenemy?

The glorification of alcohol is everywhere.  It is going to kick off your party, help you to get girls, make you the most interesting person in the world, make you sexier, and pretty much just make life better all around.  I know I used to think so.  It was that and so much more to me.  My aphrodisiac, my anesthesia, my confidante.  Alcohol was absolutely my best friend, especially towards the end.  I know I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but lately I’ve been watching the phenomena with other people who are carefully dipping a toe into the world of sobriety.  I see how much they depend on it, just like I did.  How much it seems like something they could never, ever live without.  They cling to it like it’s the most important relationship in their life, more important than their friends, family, or work relationships.  I did too.

I’ve come to see alcohol as something of a frenemy now.  Like that bitchy girl who pretends to be your friend, only to steal all your secrets and use them against you later.  Who smiles to your face but laughs behind your back.  The friend who is all fun and games, but no reality.  The one who doesn’t really care about your hopes and dreams and if you meet your full potential, but just cares if they have someone around to party with.

When I decided to give up alcohol almost four months ago, some people in my life were baffled as to why I would want to give it up completely.  I kept saying that alcohol wasn’t doing me any favors.   Why wouldn’t I just try to moderate my intake?  Drink like a normal person?  I would just smile and say, “I’ve tried,” because throwing things at walls and screaming “What a fucking stupid question!!” isn’t an appropriate way to behave.

I go back to that list a lot.  The list where I wrote down my entire drinking history from start to finish.  I was tasked with writing down all the times I’d tried to moderate my drinking, why did I try and what ended up happening.  Bottom line is that it NEVER worked.  That’s how I knew I had a drinking problem.  That’s how I finally realized that alcohol wasn’t my friend at all.  She was my frenemy, and frenemies, human or liquid, must be cut loose if we ever want to reach our full potential.

Happy Sunday everyone, xo.