I did it!

So, I did it! I celebrated my 50th birthday sober. We rented a fantastic older house in Carmel, California, full of nooks and hidden rooms and right across the street from the most lovely beach. Yes, the smoke from the fires was bad, but it was still beautiful there. We spent lots of time playing in the waves with the kids (mine and my neighbors’) or snuggled in the house, and it was great.

My neighbor didn’t complain even once about not drinking on the trip. We just had a fun, sober time together.

That’s my big news. Just a quick post today. Sending much love!

xoxo

Leafy

Red Sky in the Morning …

I woke up this morning to a reddish/orange hellscape of a sky. Right now, it is 8:13 in the morning, and I am sitting here in my unusually darkened room looking out at a thick blanket of orange clouds outside my window. We have had red sunrises for many days recently, but this orange sky is new.

It is the fires, of course, burning all over my state and, now, neighboring states. Apparently, smoke particles in the air can make the sky appear reddish or orange. The air quality isn’t even that terrible right now, but it really looks like the end of the world out there.

Except for the smoky air, we are OK in my city. It is unlikely that wildfires will burn my house down. My parents, however, live in the woods in a neighboring state, and they are not so lucky. They are sitting in a hotel with their two cats right now, waiting to hear if their house is still standing. Crazy stuff.

Anyway … I have been insanely busy with work lately so I haven’t been able to get on WordPress as much as I would like. I have to get back to it as I have a project due (end of the world or not!) today, but I wanted to hop on and say that I’m still sober. I told my friend that I am really NOT drinking on my birthday weekend. She did her complaining, disappointed thing, but I think she heard me. Regardless, I am resolved. So, I will enter my 50s with a clear head, looking positively toward the future, and sober. Hopefully, fire will not upend our beach getaway plans.

Sending much love and support to all of you.

xoxo

Leafy

Argh! There’s beer in my house!

But I didn’t drink it. Yesterday, I came out of my room after finishing work for the day, and my neighbor had brought over a six pack of beer. So, here’s the thing. I have been off-again with the booze much more often than not for the past 9 1/2 months, and she knows that. My first reaction was to feel a bit put out that she didn’t ask me first before she brought it over. I felt like she should have known I might not be drinking. And then, I told her, “no, thanks, I’m not drinking now,” and she proceeded to leave the remainder of the six pack on our counter when she left. Hmmm. I suppose that’s why she didn’t realize she shouldn’t bring it over – she had no problem stopping at just one! On the other hand, I’m sure she knows that I won’t stop at one. So, there’s that.

Anyway, this is really my fault for not setting a clear-enough boundary. I need to tell her I’m not drinking for the foreseeable future. I’ve been toying with the one-year thing in my head, but it is a big commitment! Sadly, I am still having issues with committing because, despite the ugly parts of drinking, there ARE fun parts, too. I think the ugly outweighs the fun, for me, though. At least right now. And, I don’t think I gave sobriety a long-enough chance. One hundred days isn’t long enough for me.

If I am really honest, I haven’t set a clear boundary with her because I know she will be disappointed and try to talk me out of not drinking on my birthday beach getaway. She has convinced me on two other vacations to drink even though I told her I didn’t want to at first. I think she thinks I’m more fun when I’m drinking. 😦 And, in my secret heart of hearts, I want to be able to drink wine on my birthday. I can feel the wheels turning in my head already, and I know I’m setting this up so that I have an excuse to drink wine that weekend. I guess I have to face that one, and think hard about it.

I hid the beer out of sight last night, and I will return it to her today. I am just not someone that can have alcohol in the house if I don’t want to drink. In a moment of weakness, I will drink it and/or my alcoholic (but on the wagon) partner will break down and drink it.

But I’m not going to drink today! Love and support to all of you.

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf

Feeling Trapped (and Grateful) II

I’m feeling stuck. Trapped. Wanting to spread my wings, but knowing I can’t really get out of the nest. Not yet.

Trapped by COVID, trapped by the massive wildfires which sprung from my lovely lightning, stuck in the house, stuck in a mask, stalled in my relationship, bored and frustrated with my pandemic bubble friends, paralyzed by the thought of distance learning (which starts tomorrow), and most importantly, trapped by my own brain.

All of this is making me fantasize about the future. Do I want change? Drastic change? Pull up stakes, sell the house, quit my job, ditch my long-term relationship, move to a new state, pursue my passion career, buy a house with space for a big garden, sort-of retire and travel the world, become nomads and home school my kid, settle in a small town, give my kid the suburban life she thinks she wants, rent out my house, move near my aging dad and stepmom, find a new doctor … Am I running out of time? Will I die early? What the hell is on my bucket list?

As you can see, my mind is a chaotic place right now. Restless. Oh, so restless!

On the other hand, I can do nothing about any of these things right now. My daughter is committed to her school for the coming year, my mom is happy and settled in her assisted living apartment, I’m too scared of the virus to get on an airplane, I need my job, real estate prices are falling here so it is a bad time to sell, my partner and I are committed to raising our daughter together and get along pretty well most of the time (even if I’m not always sure this is the best partnership for me).

I’m also still grateful for all of the things I have: my trusted pandemic friends, my home, a school for my daughter that is really trying to make it all work, the wind blowing the right way (for my city, at least), my partner helping out, stable blood tests, health insurance, a flexible job, the positive changes sobriety is bringing …

Sigh. Still sober. Tomorrow is a new day.

With love and support to all of you.

xoxo

Leafy

Silver Linings

Historically, the summers are not reliably hot (or even warm) where I live. With climate change, we have had much warmer summers for the last ten to fifteen years, but it still usually doesn’t get “hot” here. This week, it has been miserably hot. Unless I have air conditioning, ample outside shade, and (ideally) a pool, I hate really hot weather. I grew up mostly in the inland part of the Los Angeles area in California, so I am familiar with hot weather. Having escaped it as an adult, however, it is hard to go back.

But, like with so many things, there’s a silver lining. The hot weather plus some unusual weather patterns have created another freak occurrence here: crazy thunder and lightning storms! Now, I LOVE thunder and lightning, and we rarely have it. The other night, I was suddenly awakened at 3:15 a.m. (no, I have not been boozing!) by the craziest lightning show I have ever seen. Lightning was striking every few seconds sometimes, and I could see it clearly through the windows and skylight in my bedroom. It was amazing! And, it sounds like it might happen again.

This isn’t a new thought, but sometimes I forget that silver linings are all around us if we look for them. For example, if I hadn’t stopped regular, heavy drinking last November, I would be more afraid for my health during the pandemic, spending ridiculous amounts of money on booze, and trying to home school and work from home tired and a little hungover most days. As it is, I’m getting some meditation and yoga in, staying more present for my daughter, and having less conflict with family and friends. Obviously, there are some situations where it is healthy to just let yourself feel sad or to embrace your anger, and I’m not suggesting that we ignore/suppress those feelings. For me, though, I think when it is possible (and reasonable) to focus more on the positive than the negative, it helps. Our minds are such tricky things.

To a certain degree, I think I am predisposed to look for the positive in things, and I am grateful for that gift. At the same time, I have more baseline anxiety than most people, and this obviously can get in the way. I know now that drinking can leave me mired in anxiety, and I feel better when I avoid it. Although I have drank alcohol sometimes over the last several months, I am proud of myself for not falling back into my old ways. I won’t go back there, and I am happy to be on stable, sober ground again. It feels great.

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf

30 Day Countdown

I’ve pushed it to the last minute again, and now it is 30 days until my 50th birthday. I’m back on the wagon, and it is time to get my other self-improvement tasks (soon to be habits!) going again. I’ve made absolutely no progress in the weight loss department since my last check-in about it. At least I haven’t gained weight, though! I have also stopped meditating and yoga’ing. I HAVE been eating more fruits and vegetables. And, for the first time in my life, I am committed to taking some vitamins and minerals every day. So, some minuses, some plusses, actually.

I should explain this last one a bit more. I’ve never really believed in taking supplements. I have always been one to think that food is the best and only way to get the right nutrients. However, if I am honest with myself, I haven’t actually eaten as well as I think I do for years. Recently, something scary happened: my hair started falling out. I was pretty terrified that it was some new and even scarier development in the ongoing saga of my chronic blood disorder, but I put on my big girl pants (I know, I know, it is probably getting old, but I still love this!), told my doctor, and braved the lab for a blood test. And you know what, it was a vitamin deficiency! Vitamin D, in fact. It is really hard to get enough sunshine when you hang about the house for months on end and, when you do go out, you wear tons of sunscreen. Who knew? I feel ridiculous not realizing this could happen. The doc says a supplement is the only real answer.

Today, I have already meditated, and I’ll be on to yoga soon. Definitely not drinking today. It was great to wake up and have that not-hungover first cup of coffee. I’ll be doing it again tomorrow for sure.

Much love and support to all of you!

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf

The Many Crappy Side Effects of Alcohol (Part II)

I’m writing this for me and for anyone reading this that may have been sober long enough to forget the horrible side effects of boozing. Personally, I keep staying sober for weeks (and loving it!), but then deciding to drink again for a while before hopping back on the wagon. It isn’t terrible, I suppose, EXCEPT that it seems to be getting easier and easier to give in to the temptation. And I’m afraid there WILL come a time when I don’t want to stop. I’m also fairly sure now that I’m sabotaging my long-term health and wellness goals. Also, drinking now that I’ve been sober for a period of time is often not as much fun as I remember. Wow. So many reasons. And, yet, I keep doing it even though I also want to keep the sobriety going and have a real fear of returning to my past. Which brings me to more reasons not to drink:

Insomnia!

Broken sleep and insomnia were my constant companions during the last few years I was drinking too much wine nearly every night. For a while, I woke up at 3 a.m. on the dot at least three or four times every week, and I could only rarely go right back to sleep (after guzzling water and ibuprofen, of course). More often, I was awake for hours until I finally got tired enough to sleep again. If luck was with me, I would get a couple of hours of rest before I had to get up to go to work. Occasionally, I would have to call in sick to work because I was never able to go back to sleep at all. I am a person that just can’t function without enough sleep. Then, as explained in my last post, I also started to turn to alcohol to put me back to sleep. When I think about it now, I can see how crazy that is.

When I was in my teens, twenties, and early thirties, I never had any trouble sleeping (even after I started drinking booze), but sometime in my mid-to-late thirties, everything changed. At first, it seemed the inevitable byproduct of having an incredibly stressful job. Then (after finally getting pregnant and quitting the job), it was having a child who was a difficult sleeper and being a mom with (sometimes debilitating) postpartum anxiety. After I stopped breastfeeding and my daughter started (finally!) sleeping through the night, I could start up my wine habit in earnest again. And the insomnia and middle-of-the-night wakings just got worse. Even though I wondered if maybe it was just part of getting older, I suspected it was really the booze that was the culprit — a suspicion that was confirmed when I finally quit drinking and started sleeping.

When I woke at 3 a.m. on the morning of my latest (and hopefully last) day one, it all came rushing back. With a fierce hangover, I was exhausted but unable to sleep. Misery!

Anxiety!

OK. My most recent trip off the wagon began when I had something happened at work that really triggered my insecurities and anxiety. For the first time in a long while, I was very, very anxious and couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. Now, my neighbor and close friend had asked me a few days before if I would PLEASE drink some wine with her, and I said I didn’t want to, but … it got the old booze wheels turning in my head. So, primed, when my partner asked me several times if he could get me some wine to help me stop the horrible anxiety stress party in my head, I finally said yes, And, you know what? It did help. Briefly and for a few hours only. Then, in the morning, I was still anxious and also felt shitty.

I know this isn’t a healthy way to deal with my anxiety. I am on meds for this, and they really help. But, I know I need some way to deal with the rare sneak attacks that just send me spinning. Alcohol is a crappy way to self-medicate. I could get some other doctor-approved drug for the emergency times. I suppose I feel like I should be strong enough to wait it out or exercise it away or something. No real answers here, yet. But I do know alcohol isn’t the answer.

Making bad situations worse!

There are many more terrible side effects, of course, but the last one I recently remembered was that alcohol tends to make bad situations worse. Especially misunderstandings with friends and family. There is no argument that is properly resolved when at least one party involved is drunk. And many more that are needlessly started. There is no ex-boyfriend that can’t be embarrassingly flirted with if alcohol is involved. If it always remained fun and friendly (and with proper boundaries!) when people are boozing, maybe the hangovers would be worth it (once in a while!). But, we all know it doesn’t.

One other thing I know is that I was happy to wake up sober this morning, and I’m not going to drink today.

With love and support to all of you.

xoxo

Leafy

The Many Crappy Side Effects of Alcohol (Part I)

As you probably already know, I have been on-again, off-again with respect to the wagon since completing 100 days at the end of last year, beginning of this one. I want to be done with the off-again part.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about how alcohol is a crappy way to self-medicate. It just has too many side effects. Even its enjoyable aspects are only fleeting. Any relief from anxiety or stress is only replaced with and compounded by additional stress and anxiety soon afterwards. And what is the point of having a “fun” time with your friends when you only have hazy memories of what actually happened? Maybe that isn’t fair. Maybe the feeling of having had fun with your friends and having bonded (even if you don’t remember everything) is worth it … but I don’t think so. Not if this is what you do habitually. If alcohol was a prescription drug, there would be a very long list of probable side effects listed: additional anxiety, regular sleeplessness, severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, limited or failed relationships, memory loss, chronic hypertension, organ damage, cancer, dementia …

I know from my own experience that it is hard to see it after you’ve been sober for a while so I’m going to share some things I remembered recently about drinking booze to excess (the way I generally like it). I’ll start with the most obvious: hangovers suck.

You know that feeling you get when you wake up feeling like someone is driving a stake through your head, and when you get up to take some ibuprofen, you can barely stand from ongoing deep waves of nausea? Maybe you don’t really remember it very well now that you’ve been sober for a while. Maybe you’ve managed to repress it. Well, I remember it. It sucks.

When I was a new drinker, having a hideous hangover meant that I would swear off booze (for a few days at least). The LAST thing I ever wanted to do was to taste alcohol while fighting to not throw up bile first thing in the morning (sorry, sorry, I know that’s gross). However, as I got on in my drinking years, I started to think a hair of the dog was a good idea. I would drink at 3 a.m. to go back to sleep (more on this later). I would drink at 8 a.m. to go back to sleep on weekends. Once in a while, I even got truly drunk for a second time in the middle of the night. This was rare, and I didn’t drink before work exactly, but near the end of last year, I had a few times when I worried I still had alcohol in my system from middle-of-the-night drinking when I arrived at work in the morning.

And speaking of work, how horrible is it to try to get through the workday while hungover? Every second is an eternity of suffering until you can get to that part of the day when the hangover finally releases you from its terrible grip and you start to feel human again?

I know that most of us probably didn’t experience hangovers this way every day. Personally, a bottle of wine didn’t really regularly give me a serious hangover after some years of drinking. But there was still always that malaise. The heavy fog. The exhaustion. The irritability. The nagging anxiety. It all sucks.

So, if you are thinking it might be a good idea to visit that old friend alcohol, think again about the crappy side effects. In my next post, I’ll explore “Why the f*** am I awake at 3 a.m. AGAIN?”

Sending love and support to all of you.

xoxo

Ms. New Leaf

Checking in

This is going to be a brief post as I’m on vacation in the woods with my coronavirus bubble family. I haven’t posted for many weeks now, so it seems like it is time for a check in. I also haven’t been on WordPress much, and I know I’ve missed many wonderful posts. I will catch up with what everyone has been up to soon!

So, briefly, what has happened? Well, a combination of events and my own wishy washiness resulted in another short detour from the wagon. I’m back on again (and nothing terrible happened), but it made me realize the two triggers that are the hardest for me: severe anxiety and friends that really want me to drink with them. Combine the two, and I’m in trouble. I’m climbing out of the anxiety hole I fell into, but clearly, I have to find better ways of dealing with these things when they happen.

Anyway, I’m ok. The woods are lovely, I can hike without fear of running into many other people, and I rarely have to mask up. A welcome break from the virus stress at home.

I’ll post again soon. Sending love and hugs to all of you!

xoxo

Leafy

Yoga and Growing Pains

It’s been a pretty good week and a shitty week. It’s Day 29 again, and things in the no-drinking department are going well. Last week was a bit of a failure in the health department, but I got back on the horse and started a yoga program this week. I did three days of yoga (for the first time in forever), and I’m pretty thrilled about it. I’m planning to do another this morning soon.

I’ve finally started reading Atomic Habits, by James Clear, a book that has been recommended to me by several people here. One of the things he says is that seeing yourself as someone that does a certain thing habitually (not just someone that wants to) is crucial to successfully changing your habits. Well, I am practicing seeing myself as one of those super-healthy people that eat well, sleep enough, don’t drink, and do yoga. I’m a person that wakes up in the morning, drinks an early cup of coffee in bed with the paper, and then gets up and starts her day with some yoga. I’m not even going to put it on my daily list of tasks because it is just something I do. It’s not a task. It is who I am.

Truthfully, my life has also been a little chaotic lately, and getting up and doing yoga gives me a sense of control and peace first thing. I haven’t talked about this much here, but my partner is a very sweet, funny, and artistic person who also struggles with mental health issues. He had a difficult childhood, experienced trauma at the hands of his parents, and sometimes, he gets gets so caught up in his emotions about past events that he has trouble even staying in the present moment. And he is full of anger and extreme agitation. Before you become concerned, it isn’t ever directed at me or our daughter, but it is hard to be around. And every time it happens, I think, we are a family, I love him, but maybe we should live in separate houses! This was one of those weeks.

Historically, he also deals with his agitation by smoking, drinking, or doing drugs. Right now, he has given it all up except for marijuana, but even that, he abuses. I don’t feel tempted by that, so it isn’t really a trigger for me. But … it is hard to be the only one that is sober all of the time. Not because I don’t enjoy sobriety, but because I would like to be with someone who is also, at least, sober most of the time. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that here.

Sometimes, it feels like growing pains. I want to grow, and he is stuck, is how it feels anyway. Not completely stuck, but stuck enough. Enough for me to wonder if there is another way for us to be a family. One that would work better for me. But, it doesn’t feel this way all of the time. Just enough of the time to be confusing.

I hope you all have the loveliest of lovely days. Sending love and support.

xoxo

Leafy