Once my boots hit the dirt

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I’m climbing Longs Peak on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve had a boulder field camping permit since March. I’ve wanted to do this hike since before I even got into hiking, before I even climbed my first 14er. I’ve wanted this mountain for so long, for years. Dave and Kara are coming with me. I almost wish I was going by myself.

I am freaking out.

Why am I so nervous? Ok here we go, I’m going to take a huge feelings dump:

Unpredictable weather, Kara and Dave will want to “sleep in” Sunday morning, we have to get the ranger station before noon on Saturday, no parking at the trailhead, bad weather in the boulder field, we’ll be stuck in our tents, there will be snow, one of us could get altitude sickness, Dave’s sleeping bag isn’t warm enough, Dave’s shoes aren’t good enough, this is Dave’s first 14er, Dave will not have fun.

I’m mostly worried about the weather because it’s out my control. Worrying about things out of your control accomplishes nothing. I need to stop.

Maybe I should worry about whether or not I’ll have fun. Backpacking is my jam, my thing, my favorite. I’m like a pig in shit when I have my pack on. I just need to hit the trail. Once my boots hit the dirt I will feel better.

170 days.

Backpacking is my Favorite

The Master Shift Quotes

I read this quote recently and it resonated with me. Since reading it I have tried my best to do as it says. It exemplifies radical self care. Everything you do should be an expression of self love. Take care of yourself like you love yourself.

In practice this is hard to do, well for me anyways. I have said and done some awful things to myself over the years. Since I’ve stopped drinking those awful things don’t surface in my head as much.

I realized this weekend that the only time I’m really able to achieve self love and self care is when I’m backpacking. It makes a lot of sense. You have everything you need on your back so you’re only going to bring the essentials. I think very hard about each item I put in my pack. How will it serve me? Do I really need it? How will this item make me feel? A non-negotiable for me are camp shoes, something to wear around camp after I take my boots off (which, by the way, is one of the best moments that occurs while backpacking). Camp shoes make me feel happy and comfortable.

Another non-negotiable is yummy, nourishing food. Cheese? You got it. Expensive beef jerky? Yes! Two Trader Joe’s breakfast burritos? Hell yeah. I don’t use backpacking as an excuse to overeat but I also don’t spend a single second feeling guilty about one morsel of food that passes by my lips. When you’re backpacking your body becomes a machine. Your muscles power you up hills, over boulders and across streams. Your brain makes important decisions about safety and direction. You need fuel and rest to keep going. You need to say encouraging things to yourself if you have any hope of completing your journey.

I am writing about this because a long time friend and hiking partner was on a backpacking trip with me this weekend. They said the same things they do just about every time we’re in the woods together. This friend will eat a light breakfast on purpose, follow it up with very few snacks, a light lunch and a light dinner. They talk about how they want to lose a pound over the weekend. They push themselves hard on the hike in. They obsess about what they have eaten and feel the need to share it openly. This makes me uncomfortable probably because I have my own food issues. But thankfully they fade away when I’m on the trail. I eat when I need to. The only concern I have about the number of calories is making sure there’s enough. I’m so grateful that these thoughts melt away and I wish my friend could find the same peace as I do.

On strenuous hikes I bust out my mantra. My left leg is strong and my right leg is able. I pat each quadriceps as I repeat “strong and able” over and over in my head until I believe it. I repeat it until I become it. I am strong and I am able. I can get up this mountain. I can stay sober. I can love myself.

162 days.

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View from our camp of Lone Eagle Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Why I can’t have just one

Recently, I told a friend that I have decided to stop drinking. Her response was very similar to the responses I’ve gotten in the past. I get surprised looks. They say they never thought I had a problem with alcohol. Everyone has been supportive. However, almost everyone has said something along the lines of “well can’t you just moderate? just have one? set a limit for the evening and stick to it?” These are great questions but they have one answer…

No.

I can’t. I have tried. I have been trying ever since I started drinking thirteen years ago. I have been struggling for years to keep alcohol in my life even though it’s been tearing it apart. I’ve tried to keep it in my life by controlling it but I can’t, it has always controlled me.

Here’s what would happen to me when I tried to moderate. I wouldn’t drink all week because I had work, went to the gym, was saving those calories for the weekend etc. Then Friday arrives and I have plans. Go out for drinks, dinner, a show at The Bluebird. I’s say to myself before leaving my apartment “You can have 4 drinks tonight, that’s enough to catch a buzz but not too many where you’ll end up blacking out”. Or I would decide on a dollar amount I could spend and then that’s it. Except there’s a huge problem with this. I was trying to control my consumption of a substance that when consumed impairs your judgment and self control. I would get to that fourth drink (usually a beer) and not want to stop. If four drinks makes me feel this good then eight will make me feel even better! Why would I want to stop drinking now after four drinks? I want this feeling to last the whole night.

Then that would be it. The four drink rule has been abandoned and I’m free to drink however much I please.

There’s so much inner struggle that went on in my head that I never shared with anyone. I would debate with myself constantly over whether or not I could get another drink. Is anyone noticing how fast I’m drinking? Is anyone else ready to get another? Do I have enough money? If I go big tonight I can cut back the rest of the weekend and take it easy the next. It was a constant stream of justifications and arguments with myself. I’m surprised I even socialized with anyone while I was out because I was so busy with myself in my own head.

So that is why I can’t have just one. It’s too hard for m to do. Even when I was able to do it I was miserable. For me the only option right now is to eliminate alcohol from my life completely.

I’m really happy about that decision.

147 days.

Sandbeach Lake

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Another weekend, another camping trip, more abstaining from alcohol.

This past weekend was roughly 50% perfect and 50% disaster. I organized an overnight backpacking trip to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP. Back in March when I requested the permit I didn’t know that THREE close friends would be returning to Colorado the same week after their time abroad. The stars aligned, everything fell into place and we were together again. I was so happy at the trailhead that I started crying. The hike in was tough. It was made even tougher due to my back deciding to give out that morning after the drive to the trailhead. It was too late to back out, I just had to hike.

It’s hard, looking back on the weekend, to separate the physical pain from the emotional pain. My boyfriend and I were mad at each other almost the entire time. I would have been happier if he hadn’t been there. I would have been less stressed out and less anxious. I don’t want to go on a trip like that with him again.

I’m also getting tired of spending my weekends with alcohol around. This past weekend there was beer, a bag of wine and whisky. After the hike, instead of going straight home which is what I needed to do because I was in so much pain, the group wanted to get food and beers at Southern Sun. I went because I knew it would mean a lot to everyone and I did have an OK time.

Mike noticed I wasn’t drinking and asked why. I told him about my decision to stop and he seemed supportive. That made me feel good especially because at that point in the trip I was feeling pretty invisible.

I don’t know where this post is going. I’m at a crossroads, I’m in turmoil, I’m lacking direction.

I’m so grateful I’m sober.

141 days.

Not my usual drinking dream

I usually dream of relapsing. I dream that I go to a bar with friends and drink like I used to. Sometimes I regret drinking in the moment and other times I enjoy it. I always wake up to a guilty feeling and a knot in my stomach.

Last night the dream was different and I think it’s a culmination of a few things.

I haven’t told many people directly that I am no longer drinking. I could list them…

Sara, Dave, Kara, Corinne, Casey, Chris, Sophie, Laura, Mom, Dad, Kate.

That’s not a lot of people. I’ve kept it that way on purpose. Moving forward if a friend asks why I’m not drinking I will be honest and tell them but so far no one has asked.

That brings us to this weekend. I went camping with friends up in the mountains and of course it involved two nights with a camp fire and drinking. This first night was fine because the group was smaller, maybe 6 to 8 of us around the fire. The second night however there were 18 people. As far as I could tell everyone was drinking and several people got very drunk, including my boyfriend, not cool. No one asked why I was drinking La Croix and passing the fireball away as quickly as I possibly could.

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So I had dream in which someone accused me of being drunk. I was surrounded by drunk people but I wasn’t drunk in my dream. I screamed as this person. I got really mad.

“I’m not drunk, I’m over four months sober!!”

“I stopped drinking!!”

“I gave up alcohol completely!!”

I’m happy to see myself owning my decision even it was just a dream. Perhaps this is something I subconsciously want to start doing in real life? Talk about it, let people know, let them know it feels really good. The anger in the dream was palpable. I was angry. Am I upset that I had to completely give up alcohol? Am I resentful of people around me who appear to be able to drink and control it?

The situation I was in on Saturday brought up some very negative emotions. I would have removed myself from it but it was a freezing cold night and the fire was so warm. On the drive home I started having thoughts of being able to drink again. I even played the tape forward to the point of drinking like I used to and felt ok about it. Even though I’m four months into my sobriety I might need to make a few changes. I went into sobriety wanting nothing about my life to change. Dry people, dry places is starting to sound better and better.

I will not drink today.

126 days.

The ‘La Croix’nicles of My Sobriety

I might need to re-name my blog.

I had a rough weekend/week. There are a number of things that contributed to it. I’d like to talk about GABF.

Great American Beer Festival. A craft beer lovers paradise. For the past 8 years I have either attended and/or volunteered at GABF. I have drank amazing beers, met brewers I admire, and made memories with friends. I’ve also gotten black out drunk in front of my Dad after more than one session.

I have loved it. It was a huge part of my life. Craft beer was a huge part of my identity prior to getting sober. I prided myself on my knowledge and understanding of beer, the industry, and the people involved.

So, I can’t go to GABF this year and I know it. I wrote my volunteer team captain a quick email letting him know I will not be returning and that it’s time for me to “retire”, please give my volunteer slot to someone else. It was a hard email to write and even harder to send. The important things is that I did it, I sent it, the matter is closed.

I have already decided that I need to be out of town the weekend of GABF this year. I earned two comp tickets which I plan on selling and using towards getting out of town. I’m thinking Utah.

Yoga made me cry (again)!

I wrote about this before. Last time I was able to hold myself together until I was alone in my apartment. This time I started crying in class. I had to leave. I was embarrassed and ashamed.

What the hell is wrong with me?

After a quick Google search I discovered that nothing is wrong with me and I’m not special (as usual). Crying during and/or after yoga is normal. Think about it, we go through our days dealing with people, tasks, and events outside ourselves. We have jobs that require our attention and distract us from what’s going on inside. Then we go to yoga because it’s good for us and makes us feel awesome. Except yoga also forces us to look inward, to find the strength to get into a difficult pose and the willpower to stay there.

Yesterday, plow pose was what made me cry. As I talked about before, there are certain poses that are difficult for me because of my size, plow can now be added to the list. Here is a picture of a skinny woman in plow pose.

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Now imagine that this woman is 50 pounds heavier (maybe more, yeah definitely more) with larger breasts, a sizable stomach and shapely thighs. I felt like my neck was going to snap. I felt like I was suffocating. All of the fat located on the front size of my body was being compressed and I was very uncomfortable.

I like to sit in the front of the class, which should surprise no one who truly knows me. I like to be able to see myself in both the front and side mirror to constantly check my posture. It also pushes me to try my best because everyone else in the class can see me. So here I am at the front of the class trying to get into this pose and the instructor comes to me first. He walks around and helps each of us get into poses, I normally appreciate this but yesterday I would have loved to be left alone. So that’s what you get for sitting up front I guess. He’s helping me lower my legs slowly over my head. I think I got really close to the floor. But before I got there I panicked and yanked myself out of the pose. It was too much. All I could think was my body is too big, I can’t support the weight, my neck is going to break, my boobs are going to suffocate me, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe…

Then I started crying. Then I had to leave.

It was an ugly cry. One of those full body, red face, snotty, full blown sobbing cries. I was in public. I had no shoes (they were in the yoga studio). I didn’t want to walk around barefoot so I went into the cycling classroom next door and sat in the corner and cried. I decided I couldn’t go back while everyone was there so I would wait until 5 minutes after class let out to put away my mat and collect my shoes. I would be able to do this and make the 7 pm bus home. Well I completely lost track of time. I missed my bus which only runs every half hour. I paid $10 to take a lyft home because I had to get home immediately.

After just a brief introspection I realized I wasn’t crying because I couldn’t get into plow pose. Yeah it sucks that I feel limited by my body but there are a lot of things I can’t do that I don’t cry over. I cried because of all of the things that are bothering me right now. I haven’t dealt with any of these issues. I’ve been pushing them down because I don’t know how to handle them.

Looking back, I should have seen what happened at yoga coming from a mile away. I’m finally beginning to understand the mind/body connection that yoga gives you. But what do I do in the future when I’m feeling emotionally unstable, just not go to class? Have a better exit strategy than fleeing? Leave my shoes outside of the room? I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that I’m not going to stop going to yoga. I’ll get into plow pose, someday.

As always I am grateful for my sobriety. 86 days.

 

I’m rich! (well, not exactly)

But I sure do have a lot more money at my disposal.

I get paid once a month. It’s rough. It’s especially rough when you can’t say no to drinking and go out to the bar anyways and have a credit card that has way to high of a credit limit. I haven’t totally screwed myself financially but I was getting close.

This time each month I would crunch the budget numbers and freak out over how little was left. I would write the amount of money I had left on a small piece of tape and put it on my debit card. This was supposed to inform my purchasing decisions for the rest of the month. Well guess what would happen when there was no money left in checking? Charge it!

I wonder how much longer I could have gone on like that?

I am so grateful for my sobriety. I will not drink today.

My vacation was a vacation

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San Francisco was great. I didn’t drink, I saw and did so many things that I wanted to, and I had a relaxing time. You know the saying “I need a vacation from my vacation”? Well that used to be me, every time. But this vacation was different. I came back refreshed and happy. I feel like parts of myself woke up, came alive while I was away. I remember everything.

The best part was the mornings. While my friends were snoozing away I got up and explored. Grand View Park, Ocean Beach, Botanical Gardens and the Japanese Tea Garden. These are all things I went and did by myself. And I was so happy! I couldn’t find a dry place to sit on Ocean Beach so I walked in the water, eating a chocolate croissant and was the happiest girl on the planet.

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Speaking of croissants. There were two amazing bakeries very close to our Airbnb and I went to them three times each while I was there. I didn’t drink but I sure did eat a ton of baked goods. I didn’t know what a Chinese Bakery was or that they even existed before going to SF. I hope I can find one here in Denver (just checked, we have them).

I still went out to bars with my friends. I had fun but it was mostly very boring. The first hour or so was usually good. We were able to have coherent and stimulating conversations. However, once my friends started to get a buzz and then eventually get drunk, it wasn’t fun anymore. Drinking is a social activity but at the same time you spend a lot of time in your own head. You think about what you want to say next, wonder if everyone is paying enough attention to you, are you being funny enough. It’s social and anti-social at the same time. So when you’re the only sober one you notice everything because nothing is numbed or dulled. I found myself getting annoyed over things that I normally wouldn’t have. I was relieved each night when the Uber came to take us away.

I proved to myself that I could go on vacation while sober and have a really nice time. This accomplishment makes me hopeful for the future. I feel strong.

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California Bound

In one week from now I will be in San Francisco! I’ve never been there, or to California for the matter, ever before. I’m so excited that I giggle and bounce up and down when I’ve reminded of how close this trip is.

This will be my first sober vacation since I was a teenager. Holy shit.

I have a plan, which includes:

1- Things to do in the morning. Run to Ocean Beach. YogaGlo. Meditate in the Japanese Tea Garden. Coffee in the cute café around the corner.

2- LifeRing SF Meetings. I found two that will work while I’m there. If I’m feeling strong I won’t go but if I need them they are there.

3- LifeRing Denver support. I exchanged numbers with a convener and I’m going to check in with her every night before I go to bed. She is also going to pass my email on to a few LRSFers she knows.

4- Stock the fridge with La Croix and kombucha right away.

5- Tell my best friend before hand that I won’t be drinking and that I’m sober now.

I made that phone call last night. I’m tearing up just thinking about it because it could not have gone any better. I knew he would be supportive but I also knew that for him this decision would appear to come out of nowhere. It turns out he has been exploring sobriety in recent months too! He didn’t drink for about five months and has recently been practicing moderation. I am so proud of him. He plans on drinking on his brother’s birthday (a big part of the reason for this visit) but after that he’s planning on taking it easy. I’m going to hold him to that plan and he’s going to hold me to mine.

California, here I come.