Blogging

I think perhaps I don’t have as much to say about drinking, and quitting drinking, as I thought I did.  Everything is going so very much better these days that I just don’t have the need to write, or vent, or express myself.  I essentially write for a living, as most of my legal practice is appellate in nature, so opening my computer after hours to write a post often feels like a chore.  I don’t get a sense of release from it, and it doesn’t help me process things, really, since I usually rush through it. 

I started the blog because I wanted to be more a part of the online sober community, but I think perhaps I could do that just by reading, and commenting, without maintaining my own blog.  All this is to say that I am still here, and I am still sober, and I’m still grateful for all the support and encouragement I’ve received here.  If I don’t post, however, please assume everything is going fine.  If I stumble or fall, I’m sure I’ll be back here with a renewed sense of purpose.

Hilda

Mistakes and Laundry

I spent last weekend in a town several hours from here, babysitting my older sister during her work conference. Long story. But during the time I was there, I read, from start to finish, the wonderful blog at 365 Reasons 2 Sober. The author writes every day, or close to it. She talks about her current journey, but each day she also includes a “mistake,” or something horrible that happened while she was drinking. I really admire her dedication to the blog, and her willingness to revisit dark times so regularly.  And although she was a regular black-out drinker and I was more a daily drinker, I identify with many of her mistakes completely.  Her blog inspired me to revisit The Lowest Low with Part II, which I’ll try to do soon.

As for me? Well, I’m doing great. I feel very calm, almost serene, and more consistently so than I have since I quit drinking. I feel more and more like myself all the time. My relationship is improved tenfold – we talk instead of fighting about issues, and I’m so much more appreciate and positive about Andrew than I was while drinking. We’re moving soon, to a great new flat, and my job is going well. I feel my replacement sugar addition starting to wane, which is great news since it was starting to concern me. And all in all I just find myself smiling and happy more than I could have imagined five months ago.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my complete lack of a functional life routine has persisted even in sobriety.  I just never got into a good system in terms of doing laundry, figuring out when to shower (before work? At night?), getting just, like, life stuff done regularly. My car is always full of stuff – clothes, Tupperware containers from the lunches I pack for work, a yoga mat that never makes it into the house, etc. I need to get an oil change and refill my windshield wiper fluids. I need a haircut. I need to remove my toenail polish. I have packages of online clothes purchases that I must return. The tires on my bike are flat. Just, you know, STUFF. Stuff that I was used to letting pile up while drinking. Stuff that I can now make part of a regular, normal schedule. I can find a way to work these tasks into real, normal life, instead of just scrambling to do them whenever I can manage (often too late). I don’t have to put things off because of hangovers anymore, and I don’t have to write off my evenings as useless, either. I can make my life much more manageable. There’s nothing stopping me.

Onward,

Hilda

Chain-Smoking Basement Dwellers

I figured it was worth revisiting the topic of AA, since I think I’ve only mentioned it on here a few times in passing.  Once, maybe, in describing my first meeting, and then perhaps twice more just briefly.

Yes, so.  I did not want to go to AA.  Fuck that.  I considered myself way too independent.  I’m not a joiner.  I don’t like clubs, or groups.  I’m into exclusivity, not inclusiveness.  I’m an atheist, for god’s sake.  I hate cults.  And self-help books.  And people who talk in slogans, period.  I don’t like churches, I don’t like bad coffee, and I don’t like styrofoam.  I don’t like people who know more than me, and I don’t like admitting there’s something I don’t know (or can’t do).  I don’t like any of it.  So my position, even after I knew I had a problem, was that it wasn’t for me.  No thanks.

But I kinda trapped myself, see.  On December 31, 2012, my New Year’s Resolution was that I would quit drinking for a year.  For all of 2013.  I made the resolution sort of a big deal.  As a general matter, I’m not a resolution person.   But a few years prior, my New Year’s Resolution had been to quit smoking, and it worked.  So I took this one seriously.  I told Andrew.  We were camping in the desert.  It was freezing.  I was drinking wine by the campfire, and I told him I was quitting for a year.  I could sense his relief, which was scary.  He said he would support me however he could.   And then, as part of my resolution, I promised myself that, if this didn’t work, if I wasn’t able to quit this time, when I was taking it so seriously, then I guessed I’d have to go to AA after all.

I lasted 19 days.

I didn’t head to AA right away, of course.  Instead, I drank steadily all the way through 2013, and then even into the beginning of 2014.  But when I finally decided it was time to stop, I knew my promises would be empty without something more behind them.  I had already used up all my chances to do it on my own.

I’ve blogged already about when I quit and what I thought of that first meeting.  But what I haven’t blogged about is how I kept trying different meetings, even getting brave enough to attend some in my own neighborhood, until I found a few I like.  In LA, where I live, there are a handful of meetings with an agnostic focus, and I gravitated toward those.  Also, I go to meetings in my own neighborhood and neighboring ones, which means I identify with a greater number of the attendees than I did at that first meeting.  Sure, there’s still a range, but there are youngish people, like me, and other people who didn’t lose a car/job/relationship/their freedom, like me.  That was, especially at first, really important to me, because I needed to feel like I actually belonged there and wasn’t a “less serious” case, or somehow “not a real alcoholic.”  (I still have moments where I feel superior to other people there, but I try to nip that kind of shit in the bud.)

So, where I am now with this thing is that I go to about one meeting a week, and I actually like going.  I like hearing people’s stories.  Sure, I get annoyed by some of the terminology, and I take what I like (support, etc.) and leave the rest (working all the steps, especially the religious ones, getting a sponsor, etc.).  I’m not sure I’ll go forever, but I do notice that I feel calmer when I leave a meeting, and I feel like it lifts my spirits.  It’s nice to have a place (besides here!) to vent about the difficult parts of sobriety, and I like feeling like I’m being there for newcomers to the meeting.  It’s nice to be reminded how desperate I was, how raw, and how thankful that there was a place I could go when I had run out of options for trying to quit on my own.

 

Truckin’

Last night I went to a party for Andrew’s work.  All in all, I’d say it was mostly a success.  I had green tea with dinner at the sushi restaurant beforehand, so I was pretty well-caffeinated.  The bartender at the event made me a delicious mocktail, and I even admitted, when people kept asking me what it was, that it was booze-free.  (I learned my lesson about trying to hide that fact!)  I ended up leaving before Andrew did by about an hour — it was midnight, people were starting to really get down to it, and I was just, you know, done — and he cheerfully took a cab home.  I was grateful to drive home sober, grateful to be home with my tea and book, and grateful to wake up this morning hangover-free.  Again.

To be honest, I had pretty much outgrown the bar scene toward the end of my drinking.  I drank at restaurants, at friends’ houses, and at home, but rarely at bars.  So it’s actually much easier for me to order and drink a mocktail at a bar than it is for me to find and enjoy suitable drink during a fancy dinner.  I guess I’m still working on that one. 

Anyway, just another notch in my sober belt.  I hope all of you are still truckin’ along, too, and collecting sober belt notches of your own.

Lies About Cocktails

I got to the bar first, so I ordered a glass of tonic with a splash of grapefruit and a drop of bitters.  (Yes, I know bitters has alcohol in it.  I am not worried about a single drop once a month or so, and the bitterness keeps me from feeling depressed about drinking a too-sweet kid drink.)  The others arrived shortly thereafter, and when they asked what I was having, I for some reason answered, “It’s like a gin and tonic, but with a splash of grapefruit and bitters.”  So, that was a lie.  It wasn’t at all like a gin and tonic, because it had no gin.

Anyway, I congratulated myself and was having a decent time catching up with these folks, old classmates of mine.  And then the waitress came by to take our orders for the second round.  Now, I had ordered my drink at the bar, but I figured this could still work out.  (Apparently I’m new at life.)  I told the waitress that the bartender would know what I was drinking — “the weird thing with grapefruit juice and bitters.”  She nodded.  And then, HORROR OF HORRORS, someone else at the table said, “I’ll have one of those, too.”

So I was left with a few terrible options.  I could admit that I had misled them about my drink which – of course – is a really strange thing to do.  I could try to sneak over to the bartender to correct the order, but then surely the waitress would bring the drinks and say, “here’s the one with the gin,” or something like that.  Or, I could just sit tight and, I don’t know, feel awkward and wait for something truly embarrassing to happen.  I choice route C.

It was actually sort of okay, at least for a little while.  The drinks came.  My old classmate tasted the drink and said, “It’s good!”  Vainly hoping to cover my tracks or something, I said, “There’s a lot more juice in it this time.”  (I’m the worst.)  Anyway, we sipped.  And all was well . . . until the bill came.  There were the other folks’ drinks, in the $10-12 price range, and then there was an entry for two $2 7-ups (which I guess is how he charged the mostly-tonic drink).  DAMN.  I just sort of acted confused (I’m a bad actor), and so did the other guy (his confusion was genuine), and then we paid the bill.  I made a lame joke like, “Maybe that’s why it tasted like orange juice.”  And he laughed.  And then I went home, sober.  And feeling foolish.

Why?  Why did I lie, and why did I compulsively dig myself further in?  Just to avoid admitting that I wasn’t drinking?  Ugh.  How very, very strange.  What a totally, truly weird way to be.

Anyway, it was a good lesson.  Much better to just deal with the fact that I’m not drinking than try to hide it.  Shared tabs, picking up rounds . . . there’s just no way.  Whoever said it would work to just order a soda with lime to “trick” people into thinking you’re drinking clearly never went out socially the way people do in my circle — that is, sharing bottles of wine with dinner, picking up rounds for other people, offering to hit the bar for others, etc.  I just have to suck it up.  I’ll give an update on how that whole plan is working out after I survive the wedding I’m attending next weekend.

Hilda

Cause and Effect

Apparently there’s a correlation, for me, between working too hard and being stressed, irritable, and generally in a horrible mood.  Huh.  This should not come as a surprise, should it?  For so long, though, my moods weren’t related to external events, not really.  They were related to how much I drank, primarily, and how the alcohol was affecting my brain chemistry.  I was actually surprised today when I realized that the last two times my emotional well-being dipped were the last two weeks that work was drowning me.

So, last week was awful.  This week, with another big project finished, is just lovely.  Today, I went to work around 10am for a quick meeting, took an hour lunch, and then left at 2pm.  I came home, took a nap, went to a yoga class, took Petunia to the park, and ate fish tacos outside, wearing a sundress, as the sun was setting.  (Why yes, I do live in LA.  How could you tell?)  It. Was. Glorious.  I plan to “work” just as much tomorrow, and then maybe I’ll get back to real life.  Or, better, some sort of balance between the two.

I’m fascinated to see how this bizarre thing I’ve noticed–that is, that things that are happening in my life have an effect on my mood–plays out.  Stay tuned.

Cheers,

Hilda

Choices

A quotation worth sharing, as posted by Primrosep:

“I would rather spend the rest of my life sober, occasionally wishing that I could have a drink, than the rest of my life drinking and constantly wishing I could be sober.”

(She couldn’t find the source, and I can’t find it either.  But it’s a great reminder, for me.)

 

Wherever You Go, There You Are

A week ago, I finished a huge project at work, one 4 months in the making.  For the month prior, I had been working weekends, 15-hour days, and all that fun stuff.  So once it was completed, my first thought was, “Where can I go?”  I schemed about renting a cabin in the mountains nearby, or heading to a desert spa for some sunbathing and relaxation.  I dreamt of hot tubs, and books, and fresh white hotel sheets.  And I almost booked the trip, too.  But then I stopped myself.  I stayed at home.  I hiked. I went to yoga class and the farmer’s market.  I cleaned the house, which was in desperate need.  I downloaded NPR’s Top 100 Songs from SXSW and listened to all of them.  It was pretty fucking glorious.

That’s new for me, though, that idea of staying put.  Of making the best of it where I am.  My flight instinct is strong.  In the sobriety world, I’ve heard it called the search for a geographical fix, and I’ve certainly been guilty of that.  I went to a great college and transferred after one year.  (I thought I hated the town; I later lived there again and fell in love with it.)  I moved every year or two for the entire first decade out of college, with the exception of the three years I spent in law school.  That’s me:  I leave.  I escape.  I’ve always fled cities and jobs and relationships.  Problem?  Quit.  That has always been my solution.

It’s so interesting that all the things I’m learning about simply sitting with myself instead of drinking seem to be translating to other parts of life, too.  So I’m able to sit with the situation instead of fleeing for some different place whenever possible.  It’s a novel idea, just dealing with life instead of trying to escape it.  Picking fight vs. flight, for really the very first time.  I’m excited to see what other changes will come about.

Our Past Selves

Someone from this AA meeting I go to once a week sent me a Facebook friend request.  When I was scoping out his page, I was struck by how the person represented there — the person he seemed to be before his recent sobriety — seemed like a lot of fun.  Seemed carefree, and funny, with a wide social network.  Seemed like a much more compelling, attractive person than the introspective, almost timid newly sober person I’d seen at the meetings.  I caught myself thinking, man, it doesn’t seem worth it.  If you had to trade that irreverent, funny, up-for-anything, doesn’t give a fuck dude for this new, painfully self-aware, vulnerable, navel-gazing version, maybe just drink instead.

There are (at least) two things wrong with that reaction, of course: First, the life that Facebook tells people we lead is never very close to the truth, so that fun-loving, social guy probably wasn’t really who he was.  I know, from having heard his stories, how miserable he was.  So when I get nostalgic for him over the fun times he’s missing, I’m surely projecting – it comes from my own sense of loss.  And second, the version of him that I see in meetings is almost certainly not who he is now, either.  Those meetings are all about getting vulnerable.  All about exploring feelings, and stuff like that.  So probably the dude is still funny and irreverent sober.

But yeah, the projection.  I know I sort of miss the person I (thought I) was, who was willing to live dangerously, who said yes, who was up for anything.  The life of the party, the most fun at weddings, the one who never said no to just one more.  Now, I’m this tea-drinking, early-morning-waking, ducking-out-early-from-social-events person.  I was just going to type that I don’t recognize myself, but that’s not true — I actually recognize myself, a past version of myself, closer to the version I was pre-booze.  But I still miss that drinking Hilda, that drinking version of me, that party girl.  Maybe that was never me, but it was nice to pretend.  It’s just a little sad to say goodbye.

The First Month

The first month was sleep, and boredom, and pneumonia.  The first two are pretty common, I think.  The third may have just been me.

Andrew left town the day after my first AA meeting, which ended up being the actual first day I spent without alcohol in god knows how long.  He was gone for two weeks.  I spent that time going to meetings — something like 5 my first week, 4 the next week, and tapering so on until my current level of 1.  I spoke to Andrew every day but never mentioned that I had quit drinking.  I kept that to myself, for some reason.

I remember the exhilaration of driving to meetings at night, sober.  The exhilaration of feeling like I was doing something amazing for myself.  That I was doing it, finally doing it.  I also remember the panic when I got home each night and realized I couldn’t drink.  The panic thinking of trying to sleep without wine.  At some point in the evening, usually around 8:00, I would crave unconsciousness and would go to bed.

I’ve since read something that makes a lot of sense to me about why we sleep so much when we quit drinking:  It’s our only remaining escape from ourselves.  We used to use drinking as the escape valve at the end of the day — now our only option is sleeping, so off to bed we go, often ridiculously, absurdly early.  And that’s okay.  Also, I remember facing the expanse of the evening and wondering if I would ever want to stay up past 9pm again — if I couldn’t drink, what was the point?  But I’m glad to report that in month 2, most of the excessive sleeping has tapered off, and I’m once again staying up later than I should.  Sober.

I remember eating candy by the handful, having read somewhere that us winedrinkers need extra sugar at first because our bodies were used to getting so much of it each night through drinking.  I ordered sour watermelon candy by bulk and didn’t hold back.  As it turns out, I’m now having a hard time letting go of the sugar, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that particular stopgap.

I remember having an internal battle every single evening when I drove home from work past the two, three, four places I rotated my nightly wine-buying.  I would hear that little voice, and I had to fight it by almost arguing out loud.  When I got home and parked my car, when I climbed the steps up to the cottage, when I was safely inside, then I knew I had won the battle.

Oddly, I kept booze in the house.  I was never tempted to drink hard alcohol even when at my worst, though I went to pretty great lengths to make sure the wine flowed.  But Andrew bought me a bottle of wine the day before I quit, and I have kept it in the house.  It’s a sort of vote of confidence in myself, an acknowledgment that my drinking is just between me and myself, a realization that I want it enough to ignore that bottle of wine.  It has been a reminder of my strength.  A reminder of my desperation and of my commitment.  I like having it there.

My first sober socializing happened the first weekend after I quit drinking.  Some friends invited me over for sunset drinkings in the yard of their new house, and I accepted.  I was pretty nervous. I felt it might be a mistake.  But I grabbed a few bottles of kombucha and went on over.  And you know what, it was great.  I had a great time.  I realized right then and there that maybe my drinking had been hindering my ability to socialized.  I felt so present.  Undistracted.  (Thirsty Still has a great post up that touches on this topic.)  Although I will say that having committed to attending an AA meeting after the cocktail hour was a great incentive.  And it was absolutely thrilling to drive to that meeting, sober, after successfully navigating my first cocktail event.

I made lists in a journal I bought to help me quit.  Every day I would make a silly list, like:  1.  Get up early.  2.  Walk Petunia.  3.  Shower.  4.  Work productively.  5.  Go to a meeting.  6.  Do not drink.

Every day, the last entry was, “Do not drink.”  And the next day when I checked off the ones I had accomplished (usually all except work productively – more on that below), I took great satisfaction in checking off the “do not drink” entry.

Maybe the hardest part about that first month was the brain fog.  I had this idea that I would quit drinking and my job would be easier — I wouldn’t be distracted/hampered by hangovers, for one thing, and for another I wouldn’t have to skeedaddle out of the office as soon as I could to get that first drink.  But that brain fog was NO JOKE.  I no longer had hangovers, but I just felt like I couldn’t get my brain to engage.  Days and even weeks went by in that first month where very little got done.  I was panicked about it.  I’m a lawyer, and I had a lot of big deadlines coming up.  I quit drinking when I did in part because I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of work I had and felt I simply couldn’t balance my drinking with it anymore.  And so I had quit, and I couldn’t get ANYTHING done.  It was a horrible feeling.  Sinking, desperate.  What do you do when your brain just won’t WORK?  And on top of that, I got the flu and then pneumonia.  I was bitter that I couldn’t even enjoy feeling great after quitting –  I still felt like utter shit.

The brain fog passed, fortunately, probably around week 5 or 6.  I lost all that time, and since then I’ve been playing catch up, working weekends, 15-hour days, etc.  It sucks that I’m way behind schedule now and working all the time to catch up — in all my cases; these things tend to snowball — but when I think of the alternative, it’s just a small price to pay.

Hilda

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