My sobriety is strong these days. I don’t have cravings and I rarely think about drinking. I still attend LifeRing meetings because I like the people and I usually glean something from one of their stories. Rarely these days do I hear something at a meeting that takes my breath away.
I heard something last night at a meeting that resonated with me. When I heard it, time slowed down, just for a moment.
“Alcohol did the things for you that you couldn’t do for yourself”
::Big Exhale:: Wow! Yes. It soothed my anxiety. It eased my social awkwardness. It made me feel interesting and fun and desirable. And it worked really well for a number of years. But then it stopped working and I ignored the fact that it had stopped working for a long time after that.
When I stopped drinking I had to learn to do those things myself. I’m still learning. The learning and the growing never stops. I wouldn’t choose to have it any other way.
I went to Crested Butte to celebrate the New Year with friends. They drank I was sober. I had a fabulous time. Christian, a friend of mine, asked me a bunch of very thoughtful questions about my sobriety. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve felt like someone really listened to me, heard me, and cared. He asked questions, I answered them and he listened. He didn’t try to tell me what to do or how to feel like so many people have done before. It was really nice.
During that conversation I told him I had started this blog and I immediately regretted it because I never intended for anyone in my real life to read any of this. He wants to find it but I don’t think he will. But just incase I have titled this blog post as seen above. Below is what I wrote about an experience I had while skiing by myself on New Year’s Day…
I generally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I use my birthday to mark the passing of another year and take time at the end of the summer to reflect and decide how I want to move forward. This year will be different. There are a number of qualities and traits I possess that I don’t like. I can usually forgive myself when I’ve been lazy or spent money irresponsibly. One thing I do that I can’t forgive myself for is being judgmental. I really hate it when I do that.
I believe that every person we meet as the potential to teach us something. On New Year’s Day I was on the receiving end of some judgment. Two strangers made me feel like a poor dumb idiot. Long story short they kept pointing out how foolish it was for me to buy two half day lift tickets instead of one season pass. In a sense they were right. But they were also very wrong. They don’t have all the information, they don’t know me, and they don’t know my goals and priorities. I hate having to justify my choices once I’ve made them. While I’m still in the “deciding phase” I love to hear opinions and advice. But once I’ve made up my mind that’s it. I didn’t want to sit there and justify myself to two strangers, I didn’t have the energy or desire. So I shut down the conversation and we continued our chairlift ride in awkward silence. Looking back I could have chosen a different way to do this but what I said came from an honest place. This interaction has been dominating my thoughts ever since. If I’m going to think about what happened and replay what was said over and over again in my head then I might as well try to find the lesson.
The lesson I learned is to quit it with the judgment. Those two strangers knew nothing about me and I knew nothing about them. They don’t know that I almost drank myself to financial ruin. They don’t know that I’ve had to work hard on my relationship with money. That I took out a debt consolidation loan so I could pay off my credit card debt. I have a car payment and I’m still paying back my student loans. They don’t know that I just spent half of my emergency fund on dental work. They don’t know that I’m doing the best I can. Let me repeat that for myself: I am doing the best I can.
It didn’t feel good to be judged by those people on the chair lift so moving forward I want to judge people less. I want to ask more questions so I can learn where they are coming from. I may not agree with the choices other people make, the things they do, or the words they speak. But that’s going to have to be ok. I won’t always understand but I’d like to work towards acceptance. I also want to choose my words and the tone with which I say them more carefully. I know that sometimes I can sound judgmental when it’s not my intention. For example, talking about how a ten mile hike is no big deal for me in front of a person who would struggle to do that same hike might make them feel bad. And not too long ago I was that person.
I want to be less judgmental. I want to be more accepting. I want to recognize the path that others are walking and even though it’s different than mine it’s no less right.
I had a major personal breakthrough about a week ago while I was listening to my favorite podcast, HOME. The hosts, Holly and Laura, have both dealt with disordered eating in the past and it comes up as a topic on the podcast. During this episode they interviewed a woman who also struggled with disordered eating. I was shocked at how much I could relate to what they talked about. Here is a list of things I never thought were that abnormal (but it turns out they are):
I can’t eat or drink anything without evaluating it’s degree of healthiness or unhealthiness
I have always felt a fear of scarcity around food
I am hyper aware of how much others eat around me and how much I eat around them
I get anxious when there are too many people eating in the break room at work
I constantly think about all the food I eat before, during, and after I have eaten it
I have felt angry at myself for being hungry when I think I shouldn’t be
I have done very intense workouts in anticipation of eating a lot or as a result of it
Food was my first drug. It’s that simple. It’s also something that I’ve always known but now I know. I have always had disordered eating patterns and thoughts. Now I see that many of my behaviors around food are the same as those I had around alcohol. One bite is too much but then I can’t get enough. The same with alcohol. I would constantly monitor how much everyone around me was drinking and making sure I wasn’t drinking more than them even though I desperately wanted more. When a bottle of wine was ordered to share I would make sure I somehow got the biggest pour without being detected. When eating family style with friends I have an inner struggle between how much food I want to take and how much I allow to end up on my plate.
Growing up, eating dinner in my house was a competition. Who could eat the most before the food was gone. There were no leftovers. It’s not because we were poor and couldn’t afford enough food it’s because no matter how much my Mom would make it all got devoured. My Dad is a fast eater. There was no such thing as not taking seconds. To this day I portion out servings at dinner so I can go back for more even though the total amount of food I eat could fit on my plate at one time, I have to go back for seconds or I don’t feel satisfied.
I tired to become anorexic. I learned about anorexia and bulimia in middle school and while the idea of throwing up turned me off I was very interested in the concept of just not eating. In high school I would skip breakfast and then eat a bite or two of a sandwich at lunch. As I left school I had every intention of not eating until dinner where I thought I would eat a small portion. But as soon as I got home I would eat everything I could. I would graze on everything that was in the house. By eating small amounts of everything I could I avoided being detected. After my binge (because I was starving, no shit) the shame would hit me and I would sink so low. My stomach would hurt and I’d feel sick but I never made myself throw up. I wanted to sit with my pain and discomfort because I deserved it because I was failing at being anorexic. BECAUSE I WAS FAILING AT BEING ANOREXIC. I was ashamed that I wasn’t strong enough to starve myself.
So it should be no surprise to anyone, including myself, that I fell in love with alcohol. Considering my anxiety, depression, low self esteem, and intense need to fit in it’s no wonder that alcohol took the place of food in my life when I went to college and drank for the first time. Alcohol was even more effective than food. It was the thing I had been searching for, clawing for, to use to change how I felt.
I have been dealing with addiction for much longer than I first thought. I have been an addict my whole life. My first drug was food.
I need to be easier on myself, kinder to myself. I need to treat myself gently because I’ve been living in a way that has been tearing me apart for a long time.
I have an app on my phone called Thoughtback. You record a thought and save it and the app randomly sends thoughts back to you. I love it. I use it mainly for motivational quotes. Every once in awhile I’ll get a really weird random thought, those are from when I was still drinking.
The thought I got sent today was “you’ve worked too hard to give up now”. This applies to two areas of my life: sobriety (of course) and weight loss.
Yesterday was my 11 month anniversary and I feel like I’m cruising right along. One year will be here before I know it. I don’t feel like I want to give up on my sobriety but I’m starting to feel like “isn’t this enough?”. I haven’t drank in a year isn’t that amazing? Can I just be done now? I confided in a coworker that I no longer drink and she couldn’t believe it. She said “even if you decided to start drinking again right now I’d still be so impressed with what you’ve done”. And I guess it’s true, what I’ve managed to do is impressive. But is it enough to be impressive? That’s not what I started out to do. Being impressive was not the end goal. The end goal was to live a healthy, happy, and balanced life without alcohol because I just couldn’t keep it around any more. I don’t want to give up but I want to know when it’s over. When is the learning and struggling and the meetings and the work over? I know the answer is never, it’s never over. Dwelling on that thought is overwhelming.
My weight loss journey has been going great, Omada is really working for me. But I’m getting back to the weight I was at around my 30th birthday which is great to be back down there but also a little terrifying. When I push past a certain number on the scale I will be entering unknown territory. I will also reach a point where I have no clothes in my closet that will fit me. Haven’t I lost enough (86 pounds) already? I’m no longer obese, I look good and I feel good, my friends are noticing and giving me compliments, can I just be done? I know the answer is no. My goal was to be at a healthy weight, being overweight was never my goal. If I continue to lose weight at the rate I have been, which is a 7% loss over 16 weeks, I will reach my goal by November 7th. Of this year! Nine months from now!
I better start saving money for new clothes or it’s going to be a cold winter.
This past Saturday marked 10 months of sobriety for me. It feels like so much and nothing has happened since the last time I wrote. My most important accomplishment was going through the holiday season sober for the first time in a decade. Maybe I’ll share more about it at a later date. All I want to say for now is that I spent New Years Eve alone in my apartment and it was fine.
Here is what moved me to my keyboard and got me typing today: I want to become a yoga teacher and use my skills to help people in recovery. There it is, I have set my intention.
Last night was the first night of the Great American Beer Festival. I have either attended or volunteered at this festival every year since 2008. This has been a do not miss event for me every year. Two years ago I chose an expensive flight home for a wedding just so I could squeeze in two sessions. I used to base much of my identity on my knowledge of craft beer and the industry itself. I prided myself on who and how much I knew.
I could never have guessed where I would have been last night instead. When I decided to get sober seven months ago I would never have thought I’d be at an Y12SR meeting instead of GABF. But I was and I’m so grateful that I was able to be there and I was actually happy to be there.
I shared last night about how much life can change in just a short amount of time. Sometimes these seven months have felt like the longest stretch of time and then it can also feel like a blink of an eye. It was nice to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come. I started and still maintain a regular yoga practice, I’ve cultivated relationships with my home LifeRing group, I’ve lost weight, I experience less anxiety, I’m more active, I ended a relationship that wasn’t working, and I’ve saved up a significant amount of money which makes me feel more secure.
Sobriety is fabulous.
March 7th, 2016 was SEVEN months ago so happy anniversary to me! I will celebrate by going for a run, maybe yoga if I can get there in time, not drinking, planning tomorrow’s day hike, eating a healthy dinner, and getting to bed early.
I’m been struggling with depression since breaking up with Dave. I was ok the first two weeks or so but now all of a sudden this week the loneliness and depression have hit my hard, seemingly out of nowhere. I don’t want to drink because I know it will only make the situation worse. I don’t want to drink because my sobriety is so important to me. But at the same time I am grasping for something to make the way I feel go away. I don’t want to sit with these feelings. At the same time I don’t want to talk about it either. I just want to be alone. I know that’s not going to make me feel better but it’s what I needed this week. I’m really glad I dragged myself to LifeRing Wednesday and went to Y12SR last night because I am feeling a little better today. I’m going to be ok, I know I won’t feel like this forever.
I’d like to end this post with a quote from Holly Whitaker:
“Dealing with the world straight up with no numbing is hardcore. Not the other way around.”
I broke up with Dave a week ago. I spend every unoccupied moment feeling depressed. I feel generally depressed, lonely, tired, bored, sad, anxious, and irritable.
That sounds terrible but honestly I don’t feel as bad as I thought I would. I put off breaking up with Dave because I was terrified of how bad I would feel. I was scared I would start drinking again to deal with it. I thought my friends wouldn’t be able to support me. But none of that has happened. I’ve been ok. I don’t think I could have done this much sooner though. I think the strength I’ve found in my sobriety enabled me to make this decision and handle what came from it. Like I said in my previous post, I am handling this break up just like early sobriety. Thankfully I’m eating less ice cream thus far.
This isn’t the worst I’ve ever felt. I’ve gone through periods of depression so deep and dark that I never thought I would get out. I felt worse this past winter before I got sober. I spent a lot of time in the relationship feeling unhappy. I’ve already mourned the loss of this relationship because it was over a long time ago for me.
Should I feel worse? Is it weird that I can get out of bed and go about my day? Last Thursday was tough but since then each day gets a little better and a little easier. I know the up coming holidays will be tough but Dave and I never spent them together because I was always home.
New Years Eve. That will be hard. Sober and single.
I broke up with my boyfriend last night. He wasn’t surprised. Neither of us had done anything terrible to the other person. We weren’t going to move forward. We both cried, me more than him. He admitted he would never have been strong enough to end it. We could have been together forever. I couldn’t fake it any longer.
I’m going to treat this break up just like sobriety.
Stay active by going to the gym and hiking
Reach out to friends and family for support
Find new activities to do without him
Try my best not to eat my feelings but if I do that a little it’s ok
Say nice things to myself
That’s really all I can write about it at the moment. The word single looks like it’s spelled incorrectly.