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

All good things…

I have been having a really good week, and I thought I should write down the things that are good so I will remember when I feel blah again. Here goes:

I feel much, much better now than when I was drinking. I have energy just buzzing from within. Really, sometimes it is almost uncomfortable how much I can feel my internal energy buzzing when I am doing something like sitting at my desk at work and can’t let it out. It makes me dance around the house and start singing randomly sometimes (never in public, I promise! :)). When I was drinking, I was just dragging around in a fog, feeling so tired, pretty much every day. This time with sobriety, it took a long while for me to start feeling more energetic. I don’t know if it was because something had changed or if it was because I stopped drinking during cold season, but it seemed like it took a lot longer to get my energy back. I don’t want to lose it now!

My mind is so much more clear now. No more constant brain fog! I am doing a much better job at work, and I don’t have to feel ashamed that I may not be hiding my nightly heavy drinking from my co-workers any more. Thank goodness! What a burden that was.

I am feeling like I have more energy for other people again. I’m sorry to say that I was pretty damn self-centered for a while and feeling very burned out. I used to always have time to listen to others and try to help, but I felt like that was leaving me for a while there. I feel it coming back. I am more patient and loving. With others and myself. I think it’s just too difficult to be poisoning yourself every day and also have enough mental space to be there for other people.

I have been able to get up early to do a little meditating and stretching most mornings. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time but just couldn’t do it before now.

This is the longest I have ever gone without drinking unless I was pregnant or breastfeeding. Seriously – since I was 21. That is 28 years of drinking, most of them at considerably more than the recommended amount. It is a wonder than my liver is not damaged (I had it tested in the last year). It is not surprising that I am overweight and have high blood pressure, but I’m working on that now. Just took it. 121/87. Not too bad! Getting better for sure. I have to stay healthy. I have people depending on me, but also for myself! I may only have this one life, and I don’t want to spend it unhealthy, anxious and dragging around exhausted and in a fog every day!

(day 58)

What is it we really want to get from drinking?

Finally! It is Saturday (day 57!), and I can sit down to finish a post I started last Sunday. My weeks are so crazy busy that all I can do in the evenings after work is get everyone fed and collapse into bed with a book for a bit before my (very early) bedtime. But, now it is Saturday of a three-day weekend (hooray!), and it is time to catch up.

My last post was pretty down (that seems to be how it goes right now – up and down), but beautiful new friends I have through this blog helped me out of my funk. Thank you! And I had a fun time on a playdate with another mom. By Sunday morning, I was having an interesting conversation with my partner about whether we can get the feelings that we love about drinking without drinking, and we both agreed that we could. For context, my partner is an addict (I have his permission to disclose this) currently in a harm-reduction program. He is not drinking (thank heavens as he is a no-holds-barred black-out drinker when he gets going), but is struggling to get off of everything he uses. He is also a very sweet and loving guy.

During our conversation, I had one of those moments I have now (sometimes) where I could suddenly see clearly how unnecessary alcohol was. My partner often tells me that he would like me to be able to drink because of how anxious I can get and how alcohol mellows me out so well. It is true that it works very well as an instant “medication,” but in the long-term, it doesn’t seem so great. To say the least.

We had a long discussion of “fun and happy” drinking, what feeling we are really trying to achieve with alcohol at those times, and other things that cause that feeling without booze. Like the feeling of being cozy with a warm drink in front of a fire having a good chat with your friends. You really don’t need alcohol to get the desired feeling of camaraderie, belonging, stimulation, happiness, and coziness from this situation.

What I was left with was that alcohol ultimately just makes me feel NEED. Not any of the real things. Like something is missing – a hole of NEED in my chest that wants to be filled with alcohol. And I really don’t like feeling NEED, NEED, NEED.

Unfortunately, I still feel it. But, I think it is less and less each day. I think that once the NEED goes away, I will be able to feel fully satisfied with all of the activities I like to do without the addition of alcohol. I want to hold on to this. I very well may come back here tomorrow with another bummer post, but I would really like to hold on to this.

Thinking good thoughts for all of us.

xoxo

Ms. NL

Day 50: blah and more blah

I apologize in advance if this post is unfocused and rambling. I’m just going to try to write out what I am feeling right now, but I’m not sure how it is going to go.

I’m at day 50 (halfway to my current goal of 100 days), and I feel like MORE and EXCITING and INSPIRED and THOUGHTFUL and FULFILLING should be happening by now, and they are not. I’m impatient and a little bit scared. What if I get to day 100, and I’m not inspired by by new sober life? What if I decide to go to 180 days or 360 days or whatever, and the magic still doesn’t happen? Will I go back to drinking wine?

I don’t mean to be a downer, I really don’t. So, if this isn’t what you need to read right now, please feel free to look away. And don’t worry that I’m going to drink today because I’m not. I’m really not. I’m just having a case of the blahs and feeling a little cranky that things aren’t further along. I also know that I was blogging about pink clouds not that long ago.

I think I’m past the exciting first days of “this is a new adventure!” (obviously, I didn’t feel that way every day in the first 30 days…) and on to the “when does the magic happen?” I feel a little stuck. And then I think, “Well, if I’m not getting all of these amazing insights and new motivation to make life super, perhaps I should just drink?” It doesn’t help that I’ve recently been reading a few memoirs about quitting drinking where the person was drinking two, three or four times as much as I used to, and their life was in complete and utter chaos. Sometimes, those accounts make me feel like I’m not “bad enough” even though I KNOW that drinking a bottle of wine (sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more) regularly (even if not every night and some nights it really is only 2-3 glasses or none) is not healthy in any way or sane. I also haven’t had that classic spiral down to drinking more and more wine over time (except at the very end when I started taking anti-anxiety meds and all the breaks were suddenly off). But it has been consistently hovering between 3 glasses and a bottle almost every night for at least a decade so, rationally, that is dependence. And I’ve had consequences, just not big ones that I couldn’t ignore. Perhaps I’ll stop reading the memoirs for now. I just find them so inspiring sometimes.

I DO want my life to change in new and wonderful ways, and I am pretty sure I can’t make that happen while I’m still drinking. And I’m pretty sure I would hate just forcing myself to stick to 2 glasses of wine, 3 days a week or 1 glass every day. That sounds f*ing irritating just thinking about it. And I am successfully getting through hard moments without drinking where my anxiety shoots through the roof all of a sudden and all that I want is a drink. Those moments do go away, and I don’t need booze to get past it. And PROBABLY I am thinking more clearly and able to handle them better because I’m more clearheaded from not drinking. Right now, I feel like I need definitive proof that is true before I commit to that. But, it probably is.

Sigh. It’s OK. I’m going to break through the inertia and go for a walk with my family, visit my mom, and probably organize my fridge and pantry. I’m going to try to stop being such a big baby.

xoxo

Ms. NL/MNL

Why?!?!

This morning, I was pouring milk for my coffee, and the milk splattered all over the counter and down the sides of my kitchen cabinets. And I thought, “Why?!?! Why do I do these things?”

What happened was that I opened the milk from the wrong side last night, and during my efforts to get at the milk, I ripped the spout. Of course, I could have just realized my mistake and turned the carton around. And I certainly didn’t have to keep pouring from the ripped side even though I knew it would splatter milk all over the place. But did I stop? Of course not.

This morning, when I spilled the milk for the 3rd time, I finally figured out that I could just fix it. So, I did. What took me so long? Am I really that lazy (well, maybe…)? Is this how I live my life? Just doing the same unhelpful things over and over even though I know better? Even though I could fix it?

Then, it occurred to me that this reminds me of drinking. Why not just not drink if it causes problems and things are better and easier without it? Why do things the hard way (hangovers, shame, secrets, bullshit) if I can do them the easy way?
(Day 45)

Feeling flat

I’m not going to lie. I would really, really like to drink some red wine tonight. I won’t, but I would love to. Not to worry – I know that I can resist the craving. It isn’t actually all that strong. The problem is just that I’m feeling a little flat. There’s nothing really wrong. I’m just bored and unsatisfied. I went back to work yesterday (after a lovely 12 day break with very few serious cravings), and I always used to transition into cozy home mode with a few glasses of wine after work in the evening. It makes helping with homework better. It makes fixing dinner better. It just fills in the boring bits so nicely. And now I don’t have it, and things are just flat.

Once I crawl into bed and snuggle down with a book, I know I’ll feel better. Unfortunately, my sort-of sister in-law is coming over for a visit, and we have a complicated relationship. She’s just not that much fun for me to be around because, while she’s “nice” on the surface, it is impossible to talk to her about anything real. And she has a lot of barely concealed anger just seething under the surface all of the time. Damn. I hear her downstairs now. I have to go greet her soon or be thought rude.

Anyway – I’ll be great in the morning. I always am. And I know enough now to know that it isn’t worth it to throw that away for one night of wine. Day 42!

xoxo

Ms. NL

Hello, who are you?

I guess this is the part where I start with the introspection. I woke up this morning with these thoughts:

I would rather be up at 5 a.m. than at midnight.

I hate parties unless I know everyone there or I am the one throwing the party. I am shy. I hate chit chat and small talk. I like to have a one-on-one conversation with someone about real things the first time I meet them. I know this sometimes makes people uncomfortable. On the other hand, I have noticed that many people feel comfortable telling me all sorts of things about themselves upon first meeting.

I love to go dancing and hear live music. This is the exception to the up at 5 a.m. but not at midnight rule.

I love to go hiking.

I need alone time.

I love to read.

I hate yoga, but I also kind of love it, too. I know I need to do yoga because it is the only thing that I have found that makes my body feel better. I suspect the same is true of my mind and meditation.

Alcohol is not needed for any of these things. All of these things are better sober.

And now for something a little lighter…

That was a heavy post I wrote two days ago. For some reason, I felt the need to write it all out, the horrible stuff, and send it off into the past. Whew! That’s done now.

On a totally different subject, I am really loving my new sober drink: strawberry and rose hips drinking vinegar in sparkling water. You have to like vinegar, of course, but it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. I think it is a sour and tasty cocktail that is just right for before dinner.

I’m also slowly but surely making headway on the giant amount of clutter in my house. Slowly, slowly, but I’ve finally broken through my crippling inertia, and I’m making headway at last! I’ve set a goal to just do 1/2 hour a day during my days off. Not too long, and I usually end up doing more. So satisfying.

I’m also excited for my low-key New Year’s Eve. We did mellow Christmas (which was just right this year), and for New Year’s, we are going to a fun dinner with our neighbors and their kid, and then having dessert at my house with another friend and her kids. Three sober adults, two drinking adults and four girls running around screaming joyfully and causing mayhem and destruction. Good music. Bubbly drinks. Looking forward to it. 🥳

Perhaps a pink cloud coming my way?

xoxo

(Day 37)