Somewhere in the recent past, my brain clicked one level up and I simply forgot about alcohol. Suddenly it’s a really distant thing and I forgot about this little spot I tucked away for myself. Oops.
My counter app (also forgotten for a bit) reads 118 days. Almost three weeks have traipsed along since I last checked it. Plenty has been happening in the regular day-to-day life way.
It’s nearly Christmas and cranberry simple syrup with a hint of clove is draining on my counter. It will go into soda for mocktails tomorrow. Maybe a cranberry mule with lots of lime.
I’m about 20 days into a no Facebook and no Instagram social media cleanse. It’s so much harder than sobriety and only now feels doable. It was painful for a while! I wish I could report that my home was cleaner and I was meditating but really I’m just hooked on a message board I follow and I’m refreshing cnn all day. I’ve listened to every murder podcast I can find and I hope my toddler isn’t forever damaged by the background noises.
I’m focussing on telling myself these are my home years whenever I feel frustrated. Winter has been warm so far and it is drizzling today for the winter solstice.
I still worry. What is my contribution? Is this of value? Is this selfish and would my children benefit more from wonderful daycare and a second income?
I did it!
It was after 10am when I remembered it’s today, my big goal of 100 days. I remember setting the goal in hot summer. I remember dreamily wondering if I’d celebrate in a big way or if I’d write a heartfelt and moving post for social media. Would I be, like, SO healthy? I’m a pretty private person but I imagined that I’d be so proud that maybe I’d be ready to announce myself to the world.
Today, none of those things are happening. I feel good and strong but no more ready to out myself than I did when I started in August. I bought groceries and I’ll make a chicken curry with coconut rice for dinner and I won’t be posting anything overt or subtle on Facebook or Instagram. I’m off all social media right now. It feels sort of hollow and disappointing that today isn’t what I’d envisioned. It’s such a regular day. I bought groceries. I am washing towels and rugs. It’s a Monday. Even my cool app that counted my days is gone. My new phone is an android and I had to get a different app that didn’t even congratulate me. It’s silly but I won’t deny that I wanted that sticker and that little high five of approval on my screen. The new app is just an ugly rectangle with a number in it. Life just keeps moving and there isn’t a parade.
But before I feel down that nobody else sees my accomplishment for the big deal it is to me, I remember that my body and my mind and my liver have been clean and sober over three months. Without cheating once, I put one day in front of the other and did something hard and simple and amazing. I am proud down deep to more core. It’s a bashful pride. I don’t really want to share it openly because it means so much that criticism or dismissal from my loved ones would sting. This month my mother told me I sound like a needed a drink. A friend asked if I was finally “coming back” after I hit 100. There is a line of they-don’t-get-it and once you’ve crossed it, you can’t go back. No matter what happens next and even if I ever drink again, I won’t go back. You can’t unknow once you see the way booze poisons bodies and souls. I don’t judge anyone who drinks occasionally or daily or by choice or because the choice is gone and they must. I know how damn powerful it is. I see the advertising. I see the culture. It’s so clear from this side of the line. The odds are stacked against us and it takes desperation and effort to quit from even the gray areas where I lived. So I give myself the back pats and the stickers and the gold stars I wish I was getting from the world. I’m my own cheerleader and I know I’m doing something awesome and I’m carving a new path bvb that will change the trajectory of my life.
Day 1 of no social media.
Last night I celebrated my dear friend’s 40th birthday. It felt kind of like a celebration and kind of like something I had to get through. I helped her parents plan the party. It was in a bar. I gave the big birthday toast. I stayed after 10pm and watched the crowd get drunker and do shots and it was fine. I didn’t crave to join them. I wasn’t disgusted by their behavior. I just watched and absorbed the feel of the room and stayed a little detached. I felt like I was in a foreign land. I posted a quick picture before bed and I signed out of my social media accounts and removed the apps from my phone. I’m starting a very uncomfortable social media cleanse until January. Social media has quickly become my zone out and maybe my alcohol replacement. I used to scroll with my wine in bed but now I scroll with my seltzer. I’m still checking out of the world too much and know I should do this. It’s also nasty dark December. I don’t do well in the winter and I think I’ll force myself to go outdoors more if I can’t accidentally fall into Facebook for an hour or more.
When I made this blog in a fit of energy and frustration (it’s pretty obvious this is a place made spur-of-the-moment to dump my mental things as I collect them and it’s not a polished showpiece of lessons or edited essays) I remember spending a couple minutes picking a name and thinking of phrases with sober and phrases with clean or whatever buzzwords came to mind. None of them felt genuine to me. I wanted to start something more authentic in my life. I wanted to consider what’s true to me without the filters of family and society coloring my perspective. I felt weak and wanted to grow strong so that I could become the woman I am in daydreams.
I don’t know why I thought of the word simpler but it seemed like a good choice. I mostly wanted to set up something and fix the problems later. I have a big impatient streak and technology is my nemesis. I always feel like I’m seconds away from disaster when I set up an account of any sort, so it’s safe to say that I thought of the name quickly and decided it was good enough.
But maybe my subconscious knew more than it let on because I’m feeling like my journey (I hate that phrase but nothing else feels right) isn’t about alcohol. I feel like it’s about all the things I need to face, name, edit, and file. I feel it’s about taking my life in my thirties, which amounts to a metaphorical trash bag of receipts and smeared post-it notes, and turning it into my story. My story isn’t a novel or a memoir or a blog with a charismatic lifestyle guru headshot. It’s mine and for me to treasure and understand. But I’ve spent years with my braid in hibernation. It’s hard to engage without hiding. I’ve started to use social media as my way to zone out. Hours and hours mostly just reading. I love other people. I love being a low-key voyeur. I love reading between the lines. But I fall into it and stay there. I’ve decided to turn off all social media for a month. December is the month I often fall into the blues. I’m committed to acting different. Even if my results aren’t any better, I’ll know I’m showing a bit of discipline.
I spent an hour on my hands and knees scrubbing my hardwood living room with hot bleach water. There is a smell somewhere in my floor and I can’t find it. I’ve entered my Lady Macbeth period it seems. But I need it. I need some focus and cleansing. I’m looking for the things I want instead of wanting them from a place of sadness.
Thanksgiving break was a nice week for me and the kids. My daughter’s school was off the whole week and we had a few activities and plenty of relaxation time.
The day of Thanksgiving started with my daughter complaining of not feeling well but she wasn’t feverish and we gave her water and told her to try and poop. It sounds terrible but six-year-olds can be pretty bad at reading their own bodies and her idea of a stomach ache is almost always a fart. But as the day continued, she spiked a fever and got the shivers. Her sickness lasted through Saturday. Sunday morning we woke up and all the rest, broth, and medicine had worked. She was better.
I packed her lunchbox with an enthusiasm I’ve never felt before. I was ready to get back to regular life. Soon after that the texts and Facebook messages about the blizzard started coming in. They officially canceled school at 9:30 pm last night but I knew it was coming.
So this is 4th day in a row where we haven’t left the house. (She spent Thanksgiving dinner in a sleeping bag on her great-grandma’s couch). We are a little frazzled.
I’ve brought down a dollhouse from the attic, relaxed the screen time rules, made perler bead projects and read Magic Tree House books. I’ve cut my bath short to clean vomit once and scraped play-doh from a rug angrily once. I’ve thrown my hands in the air and declared I’m not making dinner and fed the kids granola bars, yogurt, carrot sticks and Doritos once. At no point have I wished for a drink. That’s not because I have something special within me; it’s because my brain is unhooked.
I have spent many a Chicago blizzard staining my teeth red and zoned out with a bottle of wine. I’ve made sure we had “enough” wine or beer for bad weather and felt so cozy and happy curling up all day while slowly drifting off into my own world. But…I would have also let the dishes soak and the kids would have whined that they’re bored and I would have been snippy. I’d have forgotten to wash my face or tell the kids to brush their teeth and there would have absolutely been a passive-aggressive fight with my husband about doing bedtime. I would have woken up at 3 am with my heart thumping and my mind racing and while I peed in the dark bathroom, I would have told myself I had to stop drinking so much. I would have tossed and turned for an hour with anxiety. These things always happened too. Why did I think that an afternoon and evening of wine was cozy and relaxing? It made me feel like shit. My kids got to overhear their parents bicker to get out of tucking them into bed. Dinner was crap or reheated frozen stuff.
Yesterday my newly all better daughter was quietly making a beaded coaster (something I would have never ever allowed when I was drinking. I had absolutely no patience and said no to almost all crafts immediately) and she said apropos of nothing, “I’m glad you quit drinking, mom.” I told her I was glad too. “It makes people act crazy sometimes,” she said without elaborating and without a hint of meanness in her voice. I never ever fell down or threw up or did anything dramatic when I drank but she still saw it change me.
I’m almost at my 100 day goal and I can say that this was the best decision I could have made. I feel so much better in my body and mind.
In the past couple days my little internal voice is talking again. It’s amazing to me because I always thought that was the most cliched idea. I thought inner voices were in movies and that’s it but I can literally feel the words running through my mind.
My first experience was the day I quit drinking. I knew I should quit that day. All the pieces finally arranged and the puzzle fit together and I could see the solution and the solution was to not drink at all. That wasn’t my inner voice though; that was just reason beating me between the eyebrows. I decided I had to quit drinking that morning on August 25. It suddenly came together and made sense and I knew. But knowing and accepting are two different things. Oh, I was pissed off and deeply offended. How dare things be like this?! I was going to suffer and suffer and it was terrible. I was having a temper tantrum in my mind.
Then my inner voice spoke. My inner voice said “What if that’s all a lie? What if this is a gift you could give yourself? What if addiction is talking but this is actually the best thing and a good thing?” That felt like a mic drop. It shut up my inner tantrum and I was on board that instant.
So fast forward 90 or so days and I’m sober. I feel good. I’m a tiny bit skinnier and my skin is softer and my days are going pretty well. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m invincible or anything. Everything I’ve read warns that as soon as you feel you’ve got everything locked down, you might be in danger. But I don’t think about drinking and I feel free from that burden.
I’m living my life and the inner voice has returned as a whisper. There is no mic drop. It keeps asking “What next? What next?” I know exactly what it means too. I’m not drinking. I’m getting better. So where’s my enlightenment, huh? I was expecting some cosmic truths to be revealed to me as my path unfolded. Where is that? Is it coming soon? Can I expect wisdom in the 2019 calendar year? Serenity? The haughty elegance of a yoga babe? The calm perfection of the mom who never ever yells at her kids? I’m still living with a greasy stove and an ugly wardrobe and a cold sore. Is this the me I was envisioning sober? Nope. It’s just regular old me. Ugh.
It’s snowing! Thanksgiving is a week away.
In late summer, I had anxiety about the holidays. I imagined me hosting Thanksgiving, as I always do, and desperately wanting wine. I ran through that scenario many times over the past couple months.
After anxiously creating that imagined moment at least a dozen times in my brain, my husband’s grandmother called and asked us to please come to her house for Thanksgiving. It’s been years but she really wants to cook.
So that imagined stress of hosting without wine disappeared in an instant. My vision of me at my table being worried was gone. I wasn’t even going to be sitting at that table on Thanksgiving. I let anxiety create a truth that was never going to come to fruition.
Anxiety is just a waste of my time. Anxiety isn’t any better at guessing the future than hope or optimism.
I very rarely think about alcohol these days although I read two Facebook recovery groups daily and listen to sober podcasts. How can that be? I’m thinking about sobriety. I’m thinking about being proud of my newfound freedom. I’m thinking of feeling good in the morning and feeling ready to face my day. I’m also thinking about more and more as my life has opened up to two new jobs and my brain has come to life and started to think about things I’d like to try. I’m going to create a life beyond anything I would have created when my focus was on a bottle of wine.
When people mention drinking, it comes as a little surprise. “Oh, yeah. They still do that. Weird,” thinks my brain. It’s not a judgement but I do often wish everyone knew how good it feels to let go of the alcohol and to never again worry about drinking, hangovers, bloat, rides home, fuzzy memories, dry mouth and queasy gut. It was such a dead weight in my life and I can sense how it effects some people I love. It is not my business and these aren’t people who need an intervention as far as I can tell, just heavy drinkers who probably don’t see it that way. They probably think they’re average or moderate. Our culture tells them they’re drinking the “right” amount and they deserve a break and this is how we “all” relax. I know. I bought the message for a long long time. Did I want a sober asshole smugly telling me how to live me life? Hell no, I did not. So I’ll refrain but I will be happy and tell anyone who asks why. Evangelicalism isn’t my style, even if I feel giddy about my new amazing knowledge.