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)

Goodbye, 2019, and Good Riddance!

I am glad to be seeing the end of 2019. This was a very tough year. It is almost funny, the number of awful things that happened this year. So many, in fact, that (counterintuitively) one very good thing came out of it: I decided to stop drinking.

The first thing that happened was that my mom suddenly couldn’t live alone anymore. My mom has had memory problems for the last ten years. Her disease cruised along as a mild cognitive impairment for a long, long time, but about two years ago, it crossed over into mild dementia (probably Alzheimers). Now, my mom is a fiercely independent woman. She and my dad have been divorced since I was little, and she LOVES living by herself in her own place and driving herself around in her own car to do her own shopping. Until the last decade, she was the most competent and organized person I ever met. She knew how to do EVERYTHING by herself. All of this means that she refused to believe that there would ever come a time when she would not be able to live by herself.

Well, a day came when she forgot how to drive her car. So, I (as her only child) had to take the car away. A few weeks later, I received a telephone call from her. She was unable to communicate what she needed. My partner rushed over and found her extremely confused and disoriented. He took her to the hospital, and we discovered that she had somehow drank so much water that she had given herself a severe sodium and potassium deficiency. When she was discharged, the doctor felt (despite my misgivings) that she could go back to her apartment. Several days later, her neighbor called, in a panic, to tell me that mom had left the stove on AGAIN (it was the third time, apparently, but mom had sworn the neighbor to secrecy the first two times) and almost burned down her building. And that was it. Until her long-term insurance kicked in (which, thank heavens, she had been organized enough to buy), she would live with me. It took six months to get the insurance organized and all of the requirements met so she could move into an assisted living apartment. During that time, she was either inconsolably sad or ragingly angry (with me) much of the time. And I also alternated between being extremely pissed off and grieving the loss of the mother I knew.

Meanwhile, I went to see my doctor for a routine checkup. My blood work came back with the wrong number of blood cells. Nothing like this had ever happened before. My doctor said there were a number of things that could cause this problem, and over the course of several months, I was tested for one condition after another, including various cancers after other weird things popped up as she tested me. Every time I had a new test, I would wait by the computer and grow ever more anxious until she finally would email the result. Always negative. Until, finally, a genetic test came back that confirmed a mutated gene. I had a rare blood condition. It would require monthly monitoring for the rest of my life, would put me at significant risk for a “serious” cardiovascular event, and could potentially morph into something much worse. And I couldn’t tell my mom, even though she was living with me, because she wouldn’t be able to process it properly and it would cause her extreme distress.

Luckily, my dad and my stepmother came to help out, and my partner helped a lot. Needless to say, however, having my mom in the house put a huge amount of strain on our relationship. Things were tense, and anxiety was running high.

Just to put icing on the cake, my car was hit, not once but three separate times within the space of three months. Each time, it was innocently minding its own business, parked on the side of the road. The last time, I had it back from the body shop for maybe two or three weeks when a driver, wildly under the influence, came speeding the wrong way down the one-way street outside of our kid’s school, smashed into the car (while my kid and my mom were in it) and forced by partner to dive out of the way onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing being killed. Everyone was fine, thank heavens. But the car was totaled.

I have high baseline anxiety to start with. During the course of these events, I did what came naturally: I drank a very large amount of booze. While working full time, taking care of my mom, moving her out of her apartment, dealing with multiple insurance companies, and keeping track of all of the school deadlines, etc. It wasn’t working. I felt like shit every day, probably smelled like alcohol at work a few times, and constantly felt like something serious could fall through the cracks AT ANY MOMENT.

I finally got a chance to breathe after my mom was settled in her new place. It’s a great place, and she is safe and well taken care of. I looked at my life, and realized something had to change.

So, here I am. Taking charge. Life is too short to waste time, energy and creativity drinking buckets of wine. People need me. I need me. Time to take care of myself!

xoxo Ms. NL

Christmas is Better Sober Because…

It is massively easier to make a bunch of decorated sugar cookies when you are not hungover.

Staying up waiting for your sugared-up kid to FINALLY fall asleep (do you want Santa to come or not!?!?!) even though you are dog tired from making the aforementioned sugar cookies so you can sneak down to be Santa is a thousand times better without a bottle of wine + in your belly.

It is unlikely that you will randomly pick a fight with your partner for something stupid like not cleaning up the kitchen the way that you like it.

You can share in the joy and excitement of Christmas morning with your kid without a head that feels like it’s going split apart any second.

You might even feel energetic enough to go for that Christmas walk in nature your partner always wants but you are usually too draggy-ass to do.

You feel (somewhat) less guilty for all the sugar you are eating because you are saving calories from not drinking wine.

Spending time with family and friends you love needs no artificial enhancement – it’s wonderful all on its own.

Merry Christmas! ❤️

(Day 33)

Day Thirty: !!!

I made it! Day 30, my original goal. Here are a few things I am thinking about today as I reflect back on the last month:

It has been very up and down. Although one thing has been consistent: a persistent desire to drink that starts around 4:30 or 5 and lasts for a couple of/few hours. The good thing is that I now know that if I just wait it out, I will be glad I did in the morning. Candy helps. Going to bed early helps. And (I don’t want to get too excited yet) it seems like it has been a lot less intense the last few days. No more cursing, screaming monster in my head. Hopefully, I can keep that gal out. She’s the worst.

I am generally loving the morning time. I am a morning person, and I am no longer suffering during the best part of the day. Woo! On the flip side, I am still not bounding out of bed, feeling fully rested, every day. This may be because I have a medical condition that makes me have to get up to pee several times a night, even when I’m not drinking. This is super disappointing, but I feel pretty motivated now to find some kind of solution. Unfortunately, it probably involves no hot chocolate or tea after dinner. 😦 Fixing the sleep problem is worth it.

I’m still having anxiety. It was better for the first couple of weeks, but it seems worse in the last two. This stinks! Mostly it’s the social anxiety/insecurity kind. That horrible voice in the back of your head that tells you: “everyone at work wishes you weren’t on this project” or “you just aren’t as smart as everyone else” or “you are uncool and boring. no wonder you don’t have more friends.” Sort of a continuation of what I was feeling as a teenager and a young adult. I’m 49 years old, but I am having teen angst! I’m even feeling insecure that I’m not giving a glowing, “everything is so fantastic now that I’ve quit drinking” review of the last 30 days. Which is ridiculous since I’ve been reading a lot of sober stuff, and clearly, not everyone follows the same path. A few weeks ago, I was feeling much more secure in my skin (and, in general, this has been the trend for years). I’m guessing that not being able to suppress my bad feelings with booze is responsible for this somehow. It seems likely to be temporary. And that, eventually, I’ll feel better than ever.

My high blood pressure seems to be improving. Slower than I would like, but improving! My skin is actually worse than ever, and I’m basically the same weight. This is probably due to the massive amount of sugar I am eating. It is becoming clear that I need to change some other things if I want to really start feeling good. Like starting to exercise and cutting way back on the sugar. Unless I really need it to beat back the screaming monster. Whatever I have to do, I will do.

I am not afraid of being sober longer. I’m excited about the 100 day mark, and I can even see beyond it. I have had no real pink clouds yet (boo!), but I can sort of see how things will get better. I am able to imagine a fulfilling life without wine and cocktails ever again at least half of the time.

My friends are starting to worry that I’m going to quit drinking forever. Which may be true. I was surprised that my neighbor and close friend asked me the other day when I was going to start drinking again. Like she couldn’t wait. When I told her that I didn’t really know, but that I wanted to keep going for now, she seemed disappointed. She even said that she had had a party to go to but didn’t invite me because I wasn’t drinking. What?! I was not expecting this from her. Well, they will get used to it.

I am grateful for everyone who has been brave enough to share their stories in books and on blogs. It is incredibly helpful. And the support from new sober buddies is invaluable. Thank you.

Well, that’s it for now. On to day 100!

Day Twenty-Eight: Yay mocktails!

I’m nearing my original goal of 30 days, and I’m feeling strong (except for those witching hours in the evening, but I can beat those back now). I’ve now survived a fancy drinks lunch at a nice restaurant with my co-workers. I also had a fancy drink, virgin of course, and I felt still quite festive. It was a proper cocktail, just no booze. I am loving that so many restaurants in my city are embracing the mocktail thing. There was an article in the paper the other day about the care and effort many restaurants are making in this regard. I was thrilled! It must mean that it is true that sobriety is becoming fashionable. I love that.

I have a fairly long vacation (at home) starting tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to reading more sobriety books (finishing The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, and I don’t want it to end! Maybe Mrs D is next. I read her blog ages ago and loved it, but from this side now, I’m thinking I’ll get even more out of her experience). And cleaning the house! And writing more for me! And resting. ❤️

Day Twenty-Four: About anxiety

Another long day, and I’m craving wine after work (as usual). But, it’s not too bad today. And by now I know tomorrow will be better.

I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety today and about the connection between anxiety and alcohol. It seems common that people who have decided to quit drinking have experienced anxiety in their lives. Me, too. My whole life, to varying degrees. At times, my anxiety has been paralyzing. Other times, just a gnawing sensation in my chest that is definitely improved by a few glasses of wine.

I’ve also read a lot that anxiety gets better (eventually) when we quit drinking. That, for some people at least, the alcohol itself may be causing the anxiety. Interesting. I’m afraid that my baseline anxiety is high even without alcohol, however. Even when I was a kid, I was anxious. And when I was pregnant and breastfeeding, my fears were off the charts. And neither time was I drinking.

I’m just not sure about the connection for me except that I have definitely self-medicated with it. But, truly, it seems like I want to drink myself into oblivion regardless of how anxious I am, and I don’t know why. I just do.

In recent years, I have done most of my drinking at home, secretly. For this reason, I haven’t had an embarrassing drinking moment (where I’ve been horrified at my behavior around other people the night before) for years. When I was younger and single, I had plenty of those, but not since I’ve settled down. So, I’m not talking about that kind of drinking anxiety.

Last year, I had a scary medical adventure. At the same time, my mom (who has dementia) got suddenly worse and needed a lot more care. These stressful experiences finally forced me to seek help, and I recently started taking proper doctor-prescribed medication for anxiety. Strangely, though, I wanted to drink EVEN MORE after I started it. Even though it was working. I had LESS control over the drinking after my anxiety was medicated. Not what I expected, and it scared me enough that I now sit here, typing this blog, 24 days sober and seriously contemplating life-long sobriety.

I feel like I’m just rambling here, but I am curious. Anyone else have a similar experience? Any thoughts on anxiety and its relationship with alcohol?