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

Day 85: still here!

It has been ten days since I last posted. I just wanted to surface and say, “I’m OK!” I have been unbelievably busy for weeks now, but I finally have 5 glorious days off from work and kid’s school commitments. Whew! Super tired because we were invited out at the last minute for a kid-and-parent gathering last night that turned out to be pretty fun. The lady who hosted is sober, but others were drinking wine and cocktails that only tempted me a little at the beginning. I have to admit that I haven’t tested my sobriety in many social drinking situations yet so it was good to have this experience last night. Too tired to post more now – just a quick check-in, but all is well.

xoxo

Ms NL

The Sneak Attack

Yesterday, I had the most ridiculously hard cravings to drink. I couldn’t believe it. I had just finished telling my therapist how great I was feeling and how easy it was not to drink now, and then by the time I got in my car, I was dying to drink! Out of nowhere. And it wasn’t the kind of craving I could mostly ignore. It wasn’t musing about whether I might have some wine someday. Rather, it was the kind where I really wondered if I was going to just buy some wine and drink before my 100 days are even up. Aaaargh! But, since I know what to do, I went to bed early and read sobriety stuff.

This morning, everything was magnificently better (of course). I woke up early, drank my coffee in bed, perused the paper, etc., did my morning meditation, woke my kid up with breakfast in bed, and did my stretching. And I felt on top of the world and like everything was going to all work out. I would ultimately solve all the issues and live my best life.

Then, by tonight, I started having cravings again (but not so bad this time). The yo yo’ing back and forth is giving me a headache. I’ll be going to bed soon. Maybe with some chocolate.

It is probably because I am having one of my rare, very busy times at work, and I haven’t had a day off in 10 days. And I have the nastiest cold. Last weekend, I had to do my kid’s financial aid application for school all day on Saturday and then work on work all day on Sunday while sick as a dog. So, yeah, that’s probably it. I’ll probably feel a lot better after I get some real rest.

Of course, all this sobriety is also making me think about confronting things I don’t really want to confront. Decisions about my life that are scary and hard to make. Isn’t there some sobriety wisdom about not making any big changes in the first year? Hmmm. Could be a good plan because I’m not sure I know what kind of changes I want to make for sure. I just know that some things are not working for me. And that I don’t want to wonder what could have been on my death bed.

One thing I can do is start setting better boundaries. There is one person in my life that consistently asks me to do things that I really don’t want to do. I give in because not giving in will create so much stress, I’d rather just avoid it. Isn’t that terrible? Just writing it out here is making me realize how terrible it is. And, of course, if I drink wine, I just don’t have to think about those things. I’m artificially happy and transported to a warm fuzzy place where none of this matters so much. Hmmm. Is this where the cravings are coming from?

The boundary thing seems obvious. I will have to make a plan and execute it. Gulp. The other things can wait, I think. And now, I’m going to bed. If you made it this far, thanks for listening to my rambling thoughts.

xoxo

Ms. NL (Day 75)

Day 72: the hideous dream

I had the worst insecurity dream last night about work. I was given a dedicated office space (instead of the cubicle I have now) when some people left our work and new people were hired. I was excited about it until I realized that I was moved into a closet-sized “office” space they made for me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MAIN HALLWAY where everyone is constantly walking up and down the stairs which run directly THROUGH my new “office.” I realized that they wanted me to feel good because the new hires all got offices, but theirs were nice, spacious (and private!). It dawned on me that it was because the new hires were providing valuable work for the company while I was just doing the shit tasks. It was awful, and in the dream, I screamed at everyone and quit, storming out, and for some reason, immediately found myself in a situation where I had a baby (by arms-length artificial insemination as part of some sort of contract) with an ex boyfriend I haven’t seen in years. I tell you the last bit because it is just so odd, and I thought you might find it amusing. 🙂

So, yeah, about the work part, the thing is that I used to have a job considered higher status than the one I do now. It required a specialized graduate degree and all, and while I was pretty good at it (and it was good work where I was actually helping people directly), I was stressed ALL OF THE TIME during the three years of graduate work and seven years of practice that I devoted to it.

When I got pregnant, I decided to quit my job and just be a mom for a year. Well, one year stretched to three, and by the time I wanted to go back to work, I knew I did not want to go back to my old job. So, I took another kind of job (still at a nonprofit that helps people, but less stressful, more behind-the-scenes). It’s an OK job. Nothing to be ashamed of, and I LOVE my co-workers. It’s a great “mom” job where I can feel free to take time for kid stuff (as well as my own large number of doctor’s appointments) without fear. But, it isn’t super challenging much of the time, and my supervisor definitely keeps most of the challenging tasks for herself and gives me a lot of shit work. Last year, in desperation, I went to the bigger boss (who loves me) and got a challenging side project that I was hoping might somehow turn into a whole job. It is almost over now, and while it has been fine, it didn’t exactly work out the way I had hoped.

What does all this have to do with sobriety? Well, just as I need to do something about my social life (see last post and thank you, thank you, all of you for your wonderful support and comments!), I think sobriety may be now kicking my ass to do something about the work situation. At least, to start thinking about it seriously. It feels risky as this job gives me so much of what I need right now, but I think the dream was a way of telling me that it is also hurting my self-esteem in some way. Things to ponder.

Love and support to all of you.

xoxo

Ms. NL

Loneliness and making changes

I live in a big city full of people that seem to mostly keep to themselves. It can be kind of lonely sometimes. Particularly in the middle of winter when it gets dark early.

I have my family, of course, and my downstairs neighbors are close friends, but sometimes I just wish that we had a community gathering place of some kind. A place where we could go hang out with other people in our community on those evenings when things just seem a little dull and boring. Obviously, many people go to bars for this sort of thing, but if I’m not drinking, I’m not sure I want to hang out in a bar. Also, if you’re shy like me, it takes becoming a “regular” before you really get to know anyone. And, as a mom – even if I did drink – becoming a regular at a bar doesn’t really work for me. It has to be a place where the whole family can go, but that isn’t just oriented towards kids alone.

During nice weather, cafes can sometimes be a social gathering place, and for a while, I was a “regular” at my local cafe. I met some lovely people who often gathered there, but cafes are not generally open and bustling in the evening here. The ones that are are likely to be populated with speed freaks. Not exactly what I’m looking for.

When I was drinking wine every night, the fact that we spent most evenings at home doing the same thing just with each other didn’t really matter much because the wine amused me enough (except, of course, when it made me feel even more lonely!). Now that I don’t fill up my evenings with wine, I’m realizing that I sometimes feel isolated in our little nuclear family in the middle of this big city. Where people often don’t know their neighbors and generally don’t make eye contact on the street for fear the other person may be unpredictable. Even with acquaintances, it is totally normal to say “hi, how are you?” as you keep walking past them on the sidewalk and don’t wait for an answer. Seems shallow and rude, but that’s what we do. The other day, I actually stopped and had a brief conversation with someone I used to be roommates with in college (but who was never more than just an acquaintance). He has lived in my neighborhood for the last 20 years, and once in a while, we run into each other. He seemed genuinely surprised and pleased that I stopped. Our conversation was light, but it left me with a warm happiness at the connection.

Then there’s the fact that, at my life stage, people tend to stay in their nuclear families and not just drop-in on each other like we did when we were single and in our 20s. I really miss the way that, in my late teens and 20s, people would tend to gather together in predictable places. Meet up at a certain friend’s house or a particular cafe or bar and make plans to do something as a group. I wonder sometimes if it would be different if we lived in a smaller town rather than a big city. I have my close friends, and they are always happy to make plans when I reach out to them. It just takes more effort. And it seems really difficult to make new friends at my age. We have our friends and tend not to put a lot of effort into making a new friendship with someone we meet and like now. Since I’m an overly sensitive person that has to really work on not feeling insecure about whether people like me (even though most people seem to), I can go down a dark hole sometimes if I think too much about this.

I think when I was drinking alcohol, I could just ignore this sad state of affairs, but now I can’t! I need more social activity in my life! More time with existing friends, more new friendships, just more. I’m glad I’m waking up to this, and I don’t expect to solve it overnight. But I want to put it out there into the universe that this is something I intend to work on.

xoxo

Ms. NL

Day 62: Still good things!

Well, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it hasn’t so far. I’ve been consistently feeling very good for a couple of weeks now with no black clouds in sight. I haven’t had the horrible “witching hour” cravings for ages now, and while I still have a craving now and then, it’s not so bad. I know it is still early days and things change, but it is encouraging!

Last weekend, I was talking to my dad and stepmom, telling them about various things that would normally be very stressful and make me crazy. I realized while talking to them that it just didn’t feel the same. I can handle it. Whatever it is, I’ll figure it out.

And I feel SO MUCH better knowing that I am not still poisoning myself. I’m actually working on my health. For real. I’m exercising some control over the things I can control. I mean, I’m still not doing regular cardio, but I don’t smoke (for almost 10 years now), I’m getting pretty good sleep, I’m eating better (most of the time 🙂 ), I’m stretching … and I’m OK with just adding new things as I am able to. I am going to see my doctor soon, and I am ridiculously excited that I don’t have to stress about how I’ll answer the alcohol question. The answer is 0. That’s all. I really like feeling like I don’t have to hide anything. It’s a good feeling.

Well, that’s the view from day 62.

xoxo

Ms. NL