Friday, October 19, 2018

In a Good Lil Groove... I think (93 Days)

93 days! I made sporadic mental notes to really celebrate my 90 days of sobriety. Buy flowers! Take myself out to eat at an expensive restaurant! Buy some new clothes! Go get a lemonade from that deli I love! Tell everyone who will listen! Scream from the mountaintops!

I did none of those things.

I really can go days without thinking about alcohol, so when this number crept up in my busy life, I kept reminding myself to celebrate it and never did. I didn't even tell my husband, who wants me sober more than any other person on this planet. It's just something that periodically floats in and out of my brain. It doesn't stay and simmer. I don't think about what day I'm on or the last time I had alcohol. I get little pangs/reminders here and there... but they are not constant and a small glass of juice or sparkling water will remove it instantly.

To those who are far beyond where I am in recovery, I'm curious: is this nonchalant way of thinking dangerous? Should I be far more concerned every day that I'm at 90, 91, 92, 105, 167, 2,690 days sober? It's not on my mind all the time. Something has to compel my brain to think about it - like an alcohol commercial or an invite to dinner with the girls. These things don't happen constantly, since I don't watch live TV and my friends are as busy as I am. The habit of pouring two or three sparkling waters for myself every evening seems very normal and appropriate. So am I being too casual, too unconcerned about my very big alcohol problem? Is this natural progression or is my indifference an issue?


P.S. As a reminder to myself, here are the numbers for 90 days of sobriety, based on the five drinks nightly I was consuming prior to 7/16/18:

Money no longer spent on alcohol: $500+
Calories no longer spent on alcohol: 40,000+

Monday, October 1, 2018

Changing My Perception (75 Days)

Definition of  Recovery:
1. a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

75 days! My Sober Time app tells me today that "Happiness is not an accident or something you wish for. Happiness is something you design." True words for me today, as I feel like (for the present time) I've let go of a little bit of the negativity in this journey. It has not been a difficult journey for me in the way of cravings or unhappiness, but I assumed certain things would happen for me at certain times based on Google searches of recovery and the patterns of others in recovery. No pink cloud, no energy, no clarity, etc... Am I doing recovery wrong? Will I not ever reap the benefits of all this hard work? Is the effort worth anything?

The past 10 days have been different. I'm sleeping extremely well and have no more brain fog. I have managed trips to the gym and a few 3-5 mile hikes. I am not wiped out by 5 p.m. and, after sleeping really well, wake refreshed and ready to go. I wake so refreshed that if I don't get right to my green tea in the morning, it's okay. And the best parts: no intestinal cramping, no throbbing headache, no nasal stuffiness, no rapid heartbeat, no acid reflux, no dehydration, no guilt, no self-hate, no remorse.

In the past week, I definitely feel that the first definition of recovery is happening: a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. It's been so many years since I've known what my normal state is. I'm happy to know it's not how I was feeling three weeks ago. I'm at a steady pace with definition #2: the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

The BIG 90 is right around the corner and I'm excited to see that number pass. I'm so thankful that my prayers for continued strength and courage are answered every day.

- Penny

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I'm So Tired, My Tired is Tired... (63 Days)

Tired... and cranky... and moody... and exhausted... and tired... and tired... and tired...

I thought I was supposed to be over this by now?! I thought I was supposed to be on a Pink Cloud?! I thought I was supposed to have clarity! Mental focus! Positive attitude! Warm fuzzies! Weight loss! Clearer skin! What the hell is happening??

I am desperately clinging to the positive news I read that my energy will be found just around the next corner, the next week, the next day... but it isn't here yet and I'm losing hope. I know it's only been two months, and that these symptoms could stay with me for another few months. It's depressing to think about going through more months feeling like this.

And on top of all that, my selfie from today looks WORSE than my selfie from two months ago. I am not a selfie person, but figured I should track certain things, and how my face looks is one of them. Well, bummer of a morning today when I compared the two and realized I looked better the day after my last binge than I do this morning. I'm bloated, pasty, and swollen, with fat cheeks and a double chin.

Okay, now that I've had my small pity party, it's time to share some things that are good. My bloated face and cranky mood may very well have to do with my period. And possibly it's also a culprit in my exhaustion, even though I slept for 11 hours last night. So I shall get through this week and hope the next is better.

I had a few small urges and cravings in these past few weeks. Nothing so tempting that I wanted to drink, but a small voice in my head that took a while to shut up. The first was inviting a couple over last week for dinner and some quiet time by the fire pit. Only one of them drank; we three stuck with water and sparkling water. But the thought of this very pleasant summer evening, sitting around a fire pit with beloved friends - it just BEGGED for a very full glass of wine sitting in front of me. I really felt like wine was actually missing from this situation where barely any drinking was going on. It was not overpowering; just a nagging thought that stayed for the evening.

The second was a magnificent Saturday I just had, leaving my house early to travel up to the mountains for a steep mountain hike (sorry, hip flexors!!) with two friends. It was such a beautiful day. The leaves were changing on the trees and the path to the top was amazing and tiring in a good way. Getting to the top was such a reward - 360 view of all the rocks, crags, mountain tops, lakes below. Just breathtaking! And here is where the urge comes in... because after every hike with every friend, our next stop is... the brewery! And so we did. My friends were tipsy from their micro brews, so I drove us home down the mountain, where we stopped at another brewery. And then went to one friend's house and played games and ate dinner. It was a most amazing day, I will cherish it for a long time to come. But again, not having a beer in my hand after that hike was like a piece was missing from my experience. Not so much that I would have actually picked up a beer, but I mourned what felt like a loss at the time.

Days later, I know for certain that I didn't actually miss out on anything. My body recovered faster from the hike because I wasn't drinking and dehydrating myself. I know this feeling of loss will not be so sharp in the months and years to come. But it aches right now. I will do my best to stay focused and positive!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Temptation (54 Days)

Last night was the yearly tribe gathering at a local festival/carnival/concert event near our area of the city. As tradition, we gather there for wine tasting, check out vendor booths, eat crap-crap-crap, drink lots-lots-lots, let our kids run around the carnival, and enjoy a grand finale of hearing a local band play near the beer tent. We look forward to it for months. We buy wine tasting tickets. We pack sweatshirts for the temperature change at sunset, and discuss where we will set up our camping chairs for the concert. We figure out who's picking up whom and where we'll meet. We decide whose kid/kids get to drive us home on their permit or newly acquired driver's license. It's great anticipation and excitement. It's camaraderie in its finest form.

Last night was very different.

Until last night, I hadn't been in a situation for the last 54 days that produced any craving or sadness about not drinking. Last night was different.

Not all my friends chose to participate in the wine tasting, so I wasn't alone in other activities. I didn't miss the wine tasting... as in tasting the wine. But oh, wow, I missed the wine tasting, as in sitting at a table with my friends and being a part of the fun. They were in it for two hours and came out walking the familiar line between not being able to stand up and dancing like crazy to the music of the concert. I remember how it feels. I do not have to close my eyes. I do not have to dive into the recesses of my memory to recall it. I remember how it feels. High. Free. Open. Fun. Wild. Daring. Lost. Giddy. And damn it, I missed that feeling.

One friend was drunkenly trying to convince me that she was having fun and I wasn't. I was having a different kind of fun. I was mostly sitting instead of standing. I was talking instead of yelling. I was listening to the music and actually hearing it. But those things look dull to people who are drunk, and it sucked to have someone--A FRIEND-- in my ear trying to make me feel bad about an important choice I've made. I understand that her comments and attitude are more about her than me. She was not so much trying to put down my behavior as condone her own. But it hurt anyway.

A conversation with another friend:

Friend: "So why did you decide to completely quit drinking?"
Me: "I couldn't control how much I was drinking. It was out of hand."
Friend: "No way! You were not out of control. You didn't drink that much."
Me: "Yes, I did."
Friend: "Well, it's not like you were drinking all the time during the work week."
Me: "Yes, I was. I was drinking every day."
Friend: "A lot of people have a drink after work."
Me: "I wasn't having one drink. I was having five or six. Every single day."
Friend: "You were drinking that much every day, even during the work week? Alone?" (my husband doesn't drink)
Me: "Yes."
Friend: "Oh."

It was a bold admission. No one knows how much I used to drink. To be honest with her felt really good. I didn't make me feel bad about myself, even though it was a lot of information to throw at someone who had no clue (like everyone else). And sweet friend she is, accepted my words and my honesty and moved on to other conversations.

I am happy today that I slept in only because I stayed up late binge-watching Better Call Saul - not because my stomach is cramped and I can't handle the daylight... or standing up, for that matter.

I am happy today because I feel hydrated, rested, calm, collected. I am ready for Monday morning.

I am happy today because I don't hate myself today.

I don't hate myself today! Last night may not have been ideal - and I may have to rethink the event next year if I'm not in a much better place (please tell me I'll be in a better place!!!), but I got through it with my sparkling water and my dearest friends. I have no regrets this morning, except that plate of loaded french fries that absolutely was not necessary.

Temptation's Mirage Moment:

A mirage is that hallucination parched people sometimes experience in a hot desert. A real desire for water and the shimmering heat of the sand play disorienting games with the mind and emotions. A refreshing oasis seems to appear in the distance promising the happiness of a quenched desire.

A thirsty person might know that no oasis has previously existed in that location. But his desire to be happy, fueled by the hope that this time he just might find happiness there, or at least relief from misery, tempts him to believe the vision. If he yields, he discovers his hope was hopeless and his desire dashed because the oasis was a sham.

In temptation, the mirage moment occurs as we are tempted by a vision promising happiness. Some shimmering oasis of promised joy or relief from despair appears where God said it shouldn’t be.

The mirage’s appearance taps into our real desire to be happy. Our disoriented emotions begin to respond to this desire with a feeling of hope — hope that maybe this time, even if we’ve been disappointed many times before, the oasis will quench our desire.

We gain the strength of the temptation we resist. Fingers crossed that last night's experience will bring me continued strength.

Last Minute Update: Just received a text from a friend who was at last night's festivities. Last night while everyone was busy drinking and dancing, I chatted with her husband, who is also a very good friend. She just texted that her husband commented to her last night after our conversation that "she seems like a whole new person." I NEEDED THAT!!!  💖

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Leaving a Part of Me Behind (50 Days)

  • 2 leisurely lunches with the girls
  • 2 dinners out
  • 2 girls' dinners out (completely different than regular dinner out)
  • 1 happy hour
  • 2 outings/meals with family
  • 1 birthday party
  • 1 full weekend of family visiting
  • 1 four-day trip to Seattle
  • 1 day moving daughter back to college

Since July 15, in the last 50 days, these social situations have been on my calendar. I attended each one without drinking. More importantly, I attended each one without the desire to drink, but sometimes mourned the lack of drink with the specific situation. Thank goodness for Bubly sparkling water, the wonder drink! So refreshing. I drink 2-3 per night without guilt and with great pleasure.

I think the toughest was going to my dad's house and spending the day with my dad, sister, and niece. It is a treasured tradition that my sister and I meet out there and dive straight into the boxed wine that my dad always has on hand - TIME OF DAY BE DAMNED! It didn't matter if it was 11 a.m. or late afternoon. We maintained a steady buzz all day, just light enough to sober up and drive home at the end of the day. We always have a blast, laugh like crazy, and are generally silly and at ease. This last time, I felt very self-conscious and aware of not drinking. My sister pointed to the boxed wine (in past visits, she wouldn't have gotten that far; I would have found it myself), at which point I declined and she gave me a sideways, confused look. She left it at that for a few minutes and then asked me why I wasn't drinking. My response was very short and very sure: "I'm not drinking anymore."

At this point it had only been 19 days of sobriety, and she was really the first person I had said that out loud to after the fact (I had said it to anyone who would listen before the fact..) She asked how long it had been and I told her just since my birthday. Seemed like such a short period of time when I said it out loud. I didn't get cravings for the wine sitting there. I got cravings for the tradition, the expectation, the routine. But I didn't miss out and was more in-tuned to the conversations and setting.

I was very nervous for the dinners and happy hours with friends. During dinner with a friend, she questioned my not drinking and tried a few times to get me to try her drink, which I'm sure tasted wonderful. When I firmly said "no" for the second time, she left it alone. Happy hour with another friend went without a hitch; my not drinking was never brought up in conversation and I enjoyed my three glasses of raspberry tea. Dinner out with the whole tribe was easy - I had stashed two Bubly Sparking Waters in my purse and was thankful for that refreshing lime drink when everyone else was sitting at the table with big margaritas. That dinner would have been much harder if I hadn't thought ahead to bring something that kind of reminded me of a watered down, alcohol-free margarita.

My in-laws visited for three days, which included two very nice meals out. They didn't question my not drinking the first night, but the second night I was asked "You're not drinking wine anymore?!" I kept it simple and just said that wine does not agree with me anymore and makes me feel crappy. That was that. Not another mention. People I am closer with know the full and real reason why. It's true: wine does not agree with me and makes me feel crappy. But I believe there will always be instances in this journey where less is more in the way of explanation.

It's interesting and very good for me to realize that no one is thinking about my not drinking. No one spends time questioning it beyond the initial eyebrow raise. I am glad to have found a way to still socialize and spend time with my beloved friends without feeling like the magnifying glass is on me. And here is another very important realization: I define Happy Hour as being HAPPY, not being drunk. In the spirit of socializing and being out with friends:

I am where I am because I want to spend time with people who matter to me.

I am doing what I'm doing because conversation and socializing make me happy.

I am lucky to have amazing friends and family; I don't need alcohol to make any of them better.

There is no doubt I have left a part of me behind. I don't know how noticeable it is to others. I don't know if I'm less fun, less talkative, less social, less happy around other people when they are drinking and I'm not. I don't think I am. I am melancholy when I think about what I'm leaving behind, not because I need it, but because it was a part of me. There is a hole and right now I'm not sure what to fill it with except endless icy glasses of Bubly. A filler will come to me, I know this. Right now, I am just being patient and slow and pondering the alcohol-free future.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

One Good Decision (33 Days)

My Sober Time app tells me I'm on day 33 of sobriety, which is about 30 days longer than I've been without alcohol for the past 9 or 10 years. It was exciting to see the number 30 a few days ago, but now, just 3 days later, it seems like a short time frame. So I adjusted the way I thought about it and came up with this: If I was still drinking, I would have had ~5 drinks every night for the last 33 days. This calculates to:

165 DRINKS in 33 days
If I had been drinking wine, I would have consumed 20,625 extra calories in the last 33 days.
If I had been drinking vodka w/ lemonade, or vodka w/ Gatorade, or whatever I chose to mix it with, I would have consumed approximately 25,750 extra calories in the last 33 days.
If I had been drinking beer, I would have consumed at least 16,335 extra calories in the last 33 days.


I haven't stepped on the scale, but I would hope that I've lost some weight. I don't think I'm compensating for the lack of alcohol with extra food. I actually think I am eating less. But the weight loss is secondary right now. I don't want to step on the scale, see the number hasn't moved, and feel depressed or angry. So I'll avoid it for now.

The metal taste in my mouth that I get when craving alcohol is pretty much non-existent. Happy for that, because that was always the sign that I would move mountains to get to a liquor store as soon as possible. Now, it's mostly just a craving for something fun to drink at the end of the day, and sparking water has come to my rescue in a big way. I have 8-packs in my refrigerator, in the pantry, and in storage in the garage.

I'm not sleeping as well as I was a few weeks ago. It's not solid anymore but that has to do with back/hip/knee pain that I've had for a while now. I absolutely hate tossing and turning, but at least I still wake up refreshed instead of queasy, swollen, and miserable.

I'm happier, healthier, kinder, and softer. I have no plans to change this course.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Danger Zone (17 Days)

17 days sober feels like a dangerous place. I'm getting used to this new normal, but at the same time am forgetting just how bad it was when I was drinking. Forgetting will be a big mistake for me, because here are the thoughts that run through my head every afternoon:

"It wasn't really that bad."
"I didn't drink to the point of being out of control."
"I didn't really drink that much."
"It's normal to have one bad habit."
"I didn't feel that bad after drinking."
"Am I really not EVER going to drink again?"
"Maybe I can learn to control it and just have a few drinks per week."
"This is all really unfair."
"I deserve to enjoy what everyone else enjoys!"

I don't want to forget. I think it's a big mistake. So I am making some notes to myself now that my body is accepting this new sober chemical balance.

While drinking, I:
  • slept terribly, couldn't find a comfortable position, woke up aching in every bone and joint
  • tossed and turned all night long with my bladder full and my intestines cramped
  • woke up already tired and cranky
  • suffered from a simmering headache all day long, until about 4 p.m., when I would start all over again
  • had stuffy sinuses from my obvious allergy to the nitrates in wine, which did not sidetrack me for the better part of 8 years
  • had horrible acid reflux and took medicine before bed 1-2x per week
  • hated looking in the mirror at my puffy and swollen face
  • increased my chance of heart disease and cancer with every sip
  • was ruining my marriage
  • had dehydration and vitamin absorption issues
  • was moody, unpredictable, and highly irritated at some point every day
  • ate way more than I needed to
  • drank hundreds of calories each day (if not 1,000+) and gained 40 pounds
I really feel good. I think I'm over the slump of being completely and utterly exhausted - or at least I hope so! I am not the type to sit still, but for the past few weeks, my days end around 5 or 6 p.m., when I have to go horizontal because I literally cannot stand or sit for another minute. I did some research and read that it was happening because my body was/is in healing mode and trying to keep up with this new chemical balance that doesn't depend on alcohol. I don't think I've lost weight, but I feel good. I'm sleeping VERY soundly and wake up alert and refreshed. But the craving... the metal taste in my mouth that I've always gotten when I think about/want/am ready to drink... that's a tough feeling to deal with every afternoon. I have found that flavored sparkling water on ice, with a splash of lemonade or orange juice, does wonders to satisfy me. So now I have a variety of flavors in my house and drink a few per day. An 8-pack costs $3.18, half of what I was spending every day on alcohol. I could drink the whole 8-pack in one day and still be saving money.

I really do want this, and I am proud of myself for these 17 days. It's been a challenge but it's not killing me.

Day by day...