Thursday, October 3, 2019

It Wasn't Easy, But It Was Worth It!

It Wasn't Easy, But It Was Worth It!

Loving life and living free from alcohol! Not one drop since 7/16/18... one year, two months, seventeen days according to my Sober Time app.

444 days without alcohol means:

  • I've saved over 220,000 calories.
  • I've saved more than $2,600. 
  • No hangovers. Ever. 
  • My skin is healthy and glowing.
  • I've lost 75 pounds (somewhat to do with not drinking; much more to do with a program called Optavia. Amazing! I lost 75 pounds in 8 months + 4 days).
  • My meals out are half the price of what I used to spend.
  • I never have worry or regret about what I did or said last night.
  • I have a lot more energy.
  • I can always get myself home safely.
  • I can always get my friends home safely.
  • I'm much braver now. I sing out loud off key, show off my not-so-great dance moves, speak my mind, and show more of myself (physically and mentally) to my husband
  • I don't get sick as often... brown-bottle flu or any other! My body is healthier.
  • My liver is happy and healthy.
  • I am always in control of my words and emotions.
  • I don't wake up with mysterious bruises or aches/pains that I can't explain.
  • Sex with the hubs is off the charts!
  • I remember things very clearly.
  • Life is drama free and I worry less.
  • My dog is happier because now I can take brisk walks with her instead of sort of slumping along the concrete, hating myself and shielding my eyes/face/life from the sun, neighbors, and the great outdoors.
  • Headache free days... every day!
  • No intestinal cramping, acid reflux, sleepless nights, aching joints, stuffy sinuses, dehydration, or vitamin absorption issues.
  • No waking up already tired and cranky and then being moody, unpredictable, and agitated all day.
  • No puffy, swollen face
  • No increased risk of cancer or heart/liver disease
  • I am putting back together the marriage I was ruining.

Why would I ever go back? Why would I ever look at that list and wish to have back that soul-sucking existence? I wouldn't. I can't. I won't. 

I prayed so hard for strength and courage. God, as always, came through for me. Life is just too good over here on this side. I choose to stay. 


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Breaking Chains (168 Days)

"The best flights are taken only after you have the courage to break away from the chains that bind you. You can't touch the sky if you can't get out of your comfort zone."  -Sulekha Pande

I gave up coffee years ago as part of a 10-day fad cleanse. I lost 10 pounds and felt great, but also lost my desire to drink coffee in the mornings. So I switched to a vitamin/energy drink called Spark for my morning caffeine. I eventually switched to green tea, which seems to suit me well. I prefer a cold, icy drink in the morning, and the green tea tastes and feels very light and clean... the perfect start to my day.

What's my point? Well, it didn't take me long at all... really maybe just a few months after that cleanse that I remember thinking how my brain turned off all desire and craving for coffee. It was just something I used to drink, something I didn't care for anymore... Something I drank and now I don't.


I have not changed my social life one bit since stopping alcohol on 7/16/18. I still have long lunches and dinners out with my friends. I still attend social events, happy hour, and outings with buddies. I hosted Thanksgiving dinner,  as well as a Christmas party that has gotten really outrageous in past years. I go to the movies and hike and shop, and I'm not nervous of any single event on my calendar for 2019. People can be as drunk or sober as they wish around me. I'm not affected. I'm not having an internal crisis. Alcohol is something I used to drink and now I don't. It really is that simple.

In the past, alcohol was soaked into every fiber of my life and body... as a whole, I was a big sponge, saturated in alcohol. It's surprising and wonderful that the idea of it now has no place in my body or mind. I was already on this road a few months ago, but then I read Jason Vale's book "Kick the Drink... Easily!" and his words laid cement for the path I walk. It was unbelievably eye-opening. We are all desperately gullible and clueless about alcohol! He shatters the preconceived, socially-acceptable ideas about drinking. One reviewer comments "this book exposes a scam of gigantic proportions... and gives the power back to the individual." We have truly been scammed. And I'm so glad I read the book and am free from alcohol addiction.

I'm not in recovery. I'm recovered. I have no plan or desire to sit in a room and have discussions about how today without alcohol was hard or easy. I don't need to find ways to keep my mind off alcohol. I am DONE. Washed my hands of it. Moved on. Not sorry. Not sad. Not wallowing in misery at the idea of never drinking again.

And now, I'm going to curl up with my iPad to watch Netflix with a large glass of sparkling water. Maybe as an extra treat, I'll add a splash of orange juice or lemonade... or maybe not. But the thought won't enter my mind to be upset about what's in the glass. I look forward to whatever flavor I pour. And I'll pour it and move on... to my book or to a Netflix binge or my kids or my alone time on the patio. I'll move on in my LIFE! I am awake, alert, and content, and alcohol is not on my brain.

Alcohol is something I used to drink and now I don't. It really is that simple.

- Penny

p.s. As a reminder to myself, here are the numbers associated with 168 days:
       $1,000 not spent
       84,000 calories not consumed

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.