Lockdown: Day 12

It’s officially day 12 of the lockdown here, but I’ve been in the house/remotely working even longer (17 days, I think). We are a little cranky and prone to bickering a bit, but it’s not that bad considering. Nothing serious. The lockdown is easier for me than for my partner because I am generally happy being a homebody. I mean, I like going hiking or to a restaurant or a movie. Don’t get me wrong. But I can putter around all day in the house no problem. He cannot. He is like a caged animal, arguing regularly that it is OK if WE go to a (closed to the public, mind you, because people were crowding all of the outdoor spaces last weekend) park because no one else will be there now. Like we have some kind of special hall pass that no one else has. Give me a break! On the plus side, we have worked out a pretty decent division of labor with the homeschooling, so I have been able to work a bit more. I’ve learned that I can disinfect with 3% hydrogen peroxide (since all of the disinfectant wipes and spray seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth). And my mom is fairly happy and still healthy. Hooray!

It’s also day 15 of my second 100-day period with no booze. It’s going fine. Occasionally, I really want to order some delivery wine when something stressful happens (like learning we really do have to complete some hideously difficult assignment for my daughter’s school that we thought we could ditch). There was one night where the desire to escape this way was strong, but in the morning, it was gone as usual. And, also as usual, I was glad I didn’t drink.

Oh, and as a follow-up to my last post, it sounds like we are turning a giant convention center here into a homeless shelter where there will be supportive services, and it is so big that the beds can all be 6 feet apart. And we are putting those that need quarantine in one of the thousands of empty hotel rooms, perhaps. This seems to be the plan at least. I really hope it works.

I hope all of you are well, and stay safe!

xoxo,

Ms. New Leaf

The Little Things and the Big Thing

It’s the little things that are getting me through this lockdown. Eating chocolate. Making a chickpea curry. Teaching my daughter to write a paragraph with a topic sentence and supporting sentences. Being OK with my daughter and my partner playing too much Super Mario Odyssey because it gives them so much joy. Organizing my pantry. Talking to my mom on the phone and realizing anew how tough she is. Wearing the most comfortable sweatpants all of the time. And being grateful that I’m not drinking.

Drinking would make everything so much worse right now. How would I get enough? We can order wine (and, incredibly, mixed drinks) to be delivered here, but I am sure it is insanely expensive. Do I think about it? Sure, but then I think that it would be incredibly hard to homeschool my daughter with a hangover. I don’t think I could actually do it.

For me, homeschooling is the hardest part of this so far. Knock on wood. My kid’s teachers are attempting to recreate the entire school experience and activities online, and it is impossible to get through all of it. Actually impossible. They say they understand that, but I know they really want us to do it if we can. Which I can’t. Somehow, I know there are other mothers, with always-eager-to-learn children, doing it all out there somewhere (sigh), but I’m trying not to think about that too much. Oh, and did I say that I’m ALSO supposed to work from home? Thank goodness for my understanding boss.

But enough complaining! I’m incredibly lucky.

What is really hard about all of this is knowing how many people are not as lucky as I am. We have thousands of people experiencing homelessness in our city. The city is making an effort to get everyone sheltered inside, but there’s no way it is actually going to happen (and makes one wonder why the daily horror of people sleeping on the street wasn’t enough to make these efforts earlier). Even if we were successful at sheltering everyone, people that aren’t obviously sick are going to be crammed together in shelter spaces by the hundreds. Not a good plan. A lot of people are going to die, I think, because we live in this fucked up dog-eat-dog economic system (I can’t even call it capitalism because we all know who gets the bailouts) where a few have more than anyone should ever have, and to hell with the rest. And what is going to happen now that so many have been laid off?

Yes, it is heartening that many are helping each other in this time of crisis. But, I can’t help wondering if some of the folks that are volunteering to go shopping for seniors are the same people that make nasty, heartless comments online about people without homes living on our streets. Because, in their heart of hearts, they think some people are more worthy of help than others.

Or, maybe so many kind people are always there, but in regular times, their voices are drowned out. I would love it if, somehow, the silver lining in this is that we make a long-term shift to a system that doesn’t let children go uneducated, everyone has quality healthcare, and housing is a basic human right. We’ll see.

The City Is Quiet

I live in an area that is now pretty much in lockdown. We have been ordered to stay in our homes, and we are not allowed to leave except to buy groceries, go to the doctor, or other very basic activities. We must work from home or not work (unless we work in an “essential” industry). We can take a walk, but only if we stay 6 feet away from anyone we do not live with.

I believe this is the right thing to do. To save lives, we have to do this. I haven’t seen my 85-year-old mother in weeks, but it has to be that way. We send each other emails about what’s happening every day. Yesterday, they stopped the communal activities they do at the assisted living facility she lives in. Super scary. We have the phone, thank heavens, but I’m worried she is going to be terribly lonely.

It is allergy season, and I’ve got symptoms. No fever so I assume it isn’t COVID-19, but it still makes me a little nervous now and then. I’ve been taking more precautions than most for a few weeks now because of my pre-existing conditions, but others in my household have gone about their business fairly normally. It makes me nervous what the next two weeks could bring, but there’s nothing to be done about it.

Despite this, I feel very lucky. I can work from home. I have a home. My employer is (at least for now) paying me my full hours even though they know I will have to home school my kid for several of them every day. We can order groceries and medications, and have them delivered. My kid’s school seems to have a robust online learning plan. Children are not terribly at risk from the virus. I have enough toilet paper (I can not believe what people have been hoarding!). My neighbors and their child live in the same house we do so we can visit with them and not go crazy. We have a backyard. I am not drinking alcohol, nor am I addicted to tobacco or other drugs. These are all very good things.

Stay safe, everyone, wherever you are! Virtual hugs to all.

xoxo

Ms. NL

(AKA Leafy)

The Experiment

A week ago, I very deliberately decided to experiment with drinking alcohol. I was taking my friend to an extravagant birthday dinner where martinis are the usual first order of the night, and I decided to see what it would be like. So … here’s what happened: it was just OK. It was an underwhelming experience. I was expecting to really enjoy it, but the truth was that I didn’t feel like it added much to the evening. And I was tired the next day, which I did not like. So, I got back on the sober train in the morning, and I thought, “Well, now I know what that is like.” I planned to blog about it this weekend, with a week’s worth of sober days under my belt, so that I could feel feel strong and reflective when I wrote about it.

THEN, in the afternoon of the day after, I started to have that familiar feeling. You know, the thought that keeps coming around that some wine would be a good idea. And I had to resist it, just a little, to not drink. I didn’t drink the rest of the week, but then, for some reason, I decided to try again with some wine last night. Again, the same: not that great. Although I didn’t think it was going to be a problem to stay on the sober train for a good long while after the first experiment, that wasn’t true. Last night, my drinking was impulsive, not deliberate, and I see this slippery slope for what it is. I’m now writing it down so, hopefully, I won’t forget.

I need to make another commitment to not drink. I can’t say forever. I wish that I was at the point of surrender so beautifully described by my friend, Collette (gr8ful_colletteWine to Water), in her reflection on one year sober. But, I’m not. I know that I’m not in a place where I just know with certainty that I can never drink again.

I did learn something from my 100 plus days of sobriety, though. I like not drinking. I like feeling clear in the mornings. I like being connected to all of the really lovely people in this sober community. And I was just starting to learn more when I decided to briefly jump off the train. Most importantly, I do know with certainty that if I don’t make another commitment now, I’ll keep going until the train is going so fast I can’t get back on.

I’m not going to drink today or for the next 100 days at the very least. That’s the best I can do right now. I wanted to say six months, but it was too scary. It immediately made me feel like I should drink again tonight to get it out of my system. That sounds terrible, I know, but it is the honest truth.

I hope that by sharing this experience, it might help someone else who is considering jumping off the train.

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf (AKA Leafy)

Health and Habits

At the suggestion of some of my blogging friends, I decided to start doing some reading on habit change. I plan to read many more books on the subject (including the ones recommended), but I started with Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit as it was the one at the top of every book list on the subject. I haven’t finished it yet, but it is interesting so far. The idea that if we keep the same habit cue and habit reward, but change the routine (the habit you want to change) AND believe we can change, we can in fact change the habit, makes sense. I think this is why Holly Whitaker’s approach in Quit Like a Woman works for her. She describes this particularly well when she talks about her substitute evening routine. The cue: wine o’clock, the new routine: other relaxing things like a bath, music, etc., the reward: relaxation at the end of the day.

One thing that also makes sense to me is the idea of focusing on one habit change at a time. It always SOUNDS like a good idea to quit alcohol; quit sugar; eat only whole foods with 8 servings of fruit and vegetables a day; drink 8-10 glasses of water; do cardio 3 x a week, yoga 2x a week, and strength train 2 times a week; stretch every day; write in the gratitude journal; write the morning pages; meditate every day; etc. all at once as one big fell-swoop lifestyle change that will make you into the best version you could possibly be of yourself in as little time as possible. (Whew!) But COME ON! There’s no way I can do all of that unless I am actually at some wellness retreat where all of this is enforced every day (and there’s nothing else you have to do). And I have thousands and thousands of dollars do to it. Otherwise, on my own, I will just get overwhelmed and throw in the towel.

Yes, one big habit at a time for me, I think, with getting the other things in as I can. The last two weeks, I have been just simply trying to get more basic exercise in, and I’ve walked home from work (about 40-45 minutes) and stretched three or four times each week. Nothing crazy, but I also don’t want to injure myself so I’m starting small.

We will see where this goes. Love and support to you all!

100 Days After Quitting Alcohol

I made it! It has now been 100 days since I quit drinking, and I’ve achieved my goal. Hooray!

So, what’s it like at 100 days sober? Well, lots of different things. It sort of depends on when you ask, but there are some trends. The biggest one is something I wrote about yesterday, something my friend Claire (Clairei47 at Ditching the Wine, for those who don’t know her) calls the “Invisible Shield.” For me, this means having enough calmness and mental space to be able to react more reasonably to life’s uncomfortable events and stressors, not obsessing too much on what other people may or may not be thinking, noting the facts of what is happening rather than conjecture, and staying more present with the here and now. For example, it is getting easier to allow others to take responsibility for telling me what they want or don’t want, instead of stressing about figuring it out myself. Or assuming that someone’s bad mood must have something to do with me. Or just generally feeling like I should take up less space in the world sometimes. How ridiculous and futile. Not that I can use the shield all of the time (yet), but I can feel it strapped to my back and can use it more and more frequently at time goes on.

Also, I have to be honest that my brain is working much better now than when I was drinking. Work is easier and better. And I’m taking better care of my health (although I’m not going to lie. I ate a whole bag of licorice last night, and it was delicious!). I also think I am more patient with my family. I have WAY fewer arguments with my partner now. And I have more moments where I am calm and able to appreciate the things – big and small – around me in my life. Feel love and affection for them all.

The present moment thing is real. Lots of people have been writing about it lately, and I get why. If you spend too much time in the past or the future, you get stuck there. Not that you can’t plan for the future or learn from the past, but all you can really do now is take the next step. The best advice I received in graduate school was in the first week when the dean told us not to focus on how much work there was ahead. She said it would be paralyzing to do that, but if we just focused on the next thing we had to do, then the next, then the next, we would get there. It was so true, and I think it applies to many things in life.

The downside is that I miss drinking still. It isn’t hard not to drink now, but I do miss it. All I can really say about that is that I’m going to keep going with sobriety, at least for now, because it is helpful. And I really want to see where this is going.

Finally, I just want to say something about what a wonderful community it is here in the blogging world. I am not going to mention everyone (even though I would love to tell each of you what I love about you) because I am sure that I would forget someone. But I’ll keep trying to tell you along the way with comments, however awkward I may be at times. Everyone that has taken the time to comment, blog their experience, and support me (and everyone else) has been really wonderful. I appreciate you all so much!

With love and support to all.

xoxo

Leafy (otherwise known as Ms. New Leaf)

Small Changes Lead to Big Changes

I had another insanely busy week. A last-minute work project combined with several health-related appointments left me scrambling for time for everything, but it all was accomplished. Whew!

As I wrote last week, I’m focusing my attention right now on becoming more healthy. To that end, I saw the doctor and had about a billion lab tests run to investigate the source of my tiredness. I’m not sure if all of the tests are back, and I haven’t had the definitive word from my doctor yet. However, all of the extra tests so far have been normal EXCEPT that it does turn out that I have been walking around with a hidden infection. It may be that this is the answer. So, I’m on antibiotics, and I have hope that this will be it! Plus, my regular blood tests came back stable (again!) so I don’t have to think about that for two more months. I’ll be getting a hip x-ray to see about the hip pain next week. It feels really good to be taking care of this, and not hiding my head in the sand anymore. I also started walking more for exercise, and that feels good, too. By the way, my doctor seemed excited that I had quit drinking. She had never suggested that I had to quit, but she seemed pretty enthused that I was taking my health so seriously. It made me wonder if doctors get beaten down emotionally by so many patients continuing to do things that are not healthy even though they know they shouldn’t.

I may have already said this, but I have noticed my mood and emotions changing, gradually, as I spend more time without alcohol. I feel like I don’t get as worked up about stuff (anxious, worried, paranoid, angry, etc.) at home and at work. And if I do, it passes more quickly. I think it is easier for me to ignore what I imagine people might be thinking around me and just focus on what I want to do in any given situation (and just with the actual facts at hand). I also finally set a limit, successfully, around something I didn’t want to do anymore with one person in my life. When they started to stress me out about it, I thought briefly about caving, but then I didn’t. And it went well. The person seems to realize that I’m serious about it this time. This is exciting stuff.

It is all so gradual that it is hard to feel sure that these changes are real, but I think they are! I still feel half-baked, though. On my way, but not fully there yet. Oh, but wouldn’t it be great if it continues to become more and more clear how to live without so much fear?!

Day 99.

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf

Health and Expectations

In one week, I will hit my 100-day goal. Pretty exciting, and I am going to plan something really nice (for me) on that day. I think maybe I need more (not candy) sober treats to get through this rough patch. Because I’m definitely going to continue on not drinking, at least for now.

I think it is probably true that some of my recent obsessive thoughts about drinking have had to do with the expectations I had of getting to this point. I really thought I was going to see big changes (in health, happiness, etc.) by 100 days, and I am seeing changes, but they are still small. Too many sobriety books will do that to you, I think. I’m sure there must be some pressure from publishers to paint a less-nuanced picture of how the changes happen. It’s OK. I think I realize now that small things will eventually add up to bigger things, but I have to be patient with myself and the process. I also need to put in a little more effort when I am able to. However, I think a lot of it is attitude and recognizing what is going well and right. I know lots of other people have good luck with a gratitude journal, and I’m thinking I’m going to try that.

Warning: I’m now going to talk about health and weight loss, etc., here so if any of that is boring (or triggering) for you, please stop reading now!

A major motivator for me to stay away from alcohol is improved health. In the last three months, I have lost about 5-8 lbs without trying at all (depending on my water retention on that day), but I still have approximately 20-25 lbs to go to get to a no-longer-overweight state. I’d like to do that by my 50th birthday, and I have about 6 months to get there. I’ve long had a fantasy of being in really good health (as much as I can be given my blood disorder, of course) by my 50th birthday. Perhaps it is doable, and to be honest, I think I need to really start feeling healthier to stay away from boozing in the long run. I need some health momentum!

To that end, I’m trying to slow down the sugar consumption. I don’t think I really need it anymore, and it isn’t good for me. I want my new treats to be oriented toward health. One “treat” I have been indulging in, as my budget allows, is nice, high-quality, organic food from the fancy grocery store. I also need to start up hiking, yoga and cardio-based exercise again, but that is a little more tricky because I’ve been having hip pain and chronic tiredness lately. I’m finally going to go see my doctor tomorrow to try to figure this out and make a plan. It is a little scary given the diagnosis I received the LAST time I went for a full physical, but it has to be done. Big girl pants time. I also have to admit that I fell off of my regular meditating and stretching routine when my life got crazy busy for a while there. Somehow, all of this stuff needs to be non-negotiable. Something I do no matter what, even if life is nuts. Nothing extreme. Just the basics, but every day.

I’m pretty much just writing this out for me so (hopefully!) I will remember as I move forward. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf

Thank you

Thank you! Thank you so much for your incredibly thoughtful, caring, and very real responses to my last post. You all really helped, and I am so glad I wrote about how I was feeling instead of letting it fester.

Quitting drinking IS just so confusing sometimes. One day you are up, the next day down. But realizing you are not alone in this really helps. As does trying to focus on the good things that come with sobriety. Even if it isn’t all adding up to the amazing change you expected (too soon). A shift in attitude is all it takes. Even if circumstances remain the same. Anyway, bottom line is that I know I need more time without booze. I have only just scratched the surface here.

Thanks again! ❤️

Day 89: Almost there

Tomorrow, I will have been sober for 90 days or, roughly, three months. My goal has been 100 days so I am almost there. The 90-day thing seems to be a big deal, too, though. I go back to work tomorrow after a mini vacation, and I’m not sure if I’ll get a chance to post. So, yay me in advance!

Actually, I’m not totally sure why the 90-day thing is such a big thing. It IS true that I feel less of a pull to drink most of the time now, and it is not a huge deal to not drink in the evenings. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it! Because I do. OK. So, before you think this is going to be a mostly “yay, me!” post … BUMMER ALERT AHEAD.

To be honest (and what is the point of posting here if I am not honest), I think about having some wine (you know, now and again, not every day, and not excessively) often. I have not forgotten how it was hard to stop before the whole bottle was finished, and how my wine witch voice started telling me to get some every day as soon as I got off the train from work. Definitely still remember, but it’s like I can’t shake this feeling that I quit too soon. I wasn’t ready!!! I know this is a common feeling, but I am really thinking about what it would be like to “experiment” with a couple of glasses of wine to see how I feel. I know the conventional wisdom is that I’ll be “back to day 1” and I’ll go back to how I was before quickly, and that very well may be true. If it is FOR SURE true, then I guess I would like to know how to convince myself of it so I can just turn my back on alcohol for good. If that is what is definitely needed, I can do it. I am just having a hard time being sure about it.

Maybe if I had some really terrible consequences to remember, it would be easier to be sure. Of course, I know I don’t want terrible consequences, and again, the conventional wisdom is that I would have eventually kept spiraling down and had terrible consequences. But how do you convince yourself when your drinking (though too heavy much of the time) trajectory didn’t follow this path very closely? I had some pretty embarrassing moments and a few black outs, but the worst of that stuff happened at least a decade or two ago. That doesn’t mean my drinking was healthy for me, though. I know that. I really do, and I also know how much of a pull it is. Obviously. Here I am writing this post.

I also think that if I felt amazing right now, it would also be easier. But, I don’t. I’ve been the sickest I’ve ever been with colds since my kid was three this winter. And, even if I am not sick, I’m tired. I need a ton of sleep, and I still wake up tired. I’m going to go see the doctor and get checked out. Hopefully, we will get to the bottom of it, and maybe that will change my attitude.

I am not going to drink imminently. I’m really not. I may very well not drink at all ever after I hit my 100 days. I just feel like I need to talk this out somehow. And if anyone has any advice, I’d appreciate it. Thanks for reading.

xoxo

Ms. NL