What is sober?

“I am in school now so don’t really think I will have time for blogging. But I feel confident I can have that percent up to 99% by January 21, 2017.” -me in one of my last blogs

Wow, I predicted that correct. I have not blogged since December 2016. Part of that is due to school. The other part is due to being in a happy, healthy relationship. My last posts mentioned the start of a new relationship. He and I are still together 28 months later. It has been a wonderful experience, getting to know each other, and not having booze to cloud my thoughts. We have taken it slower than any other relationship I have experienced in the past. But sometimes, too slow. Like he doesn’t seem to want to ever live together. And this makes me want to resort to my “run away!” answer. I told him if we are not looking at places to live together by our 3rd anniversary, I will apply for job in other countries. (Unfortunately, I might not be eligible for a lot of jobs in other countries because of my DUIs. Recruiters have told me it doesn’t matter how old the DUIs are, they could prevent me from obtaining work visas.)

As far as abstaining from alcohol, I was able to remain sober for all of 2017. It was the first complete year after I originally quit drinking that I did not have alcohol. I was able to travel and avoid the temptations. I went to Tulum, Mexico, and enjoyed many non-alcoholic tropical drinks. 20170112_130412

I went to the south of France in the summer of 2017, where I was tempted by wine, but managed to abstain and focus on art. I toured Renoir’s home and Arles, where Van Gogh once lived. I enjoyed my days with no hangovers and felt I was able to fully appreciate the sites I saw. I worked on improving my photography skills and read a lot of books.

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I took my mom on a trip to Europe, where we visited the Heineken Experience, and I used my free drink token for a Pepsi. She had a beer. Afterwards, she told me she was proud of me. She had beers in Germany and Netherlands, and some wine in France, and I only drank water, tea, and coffee. Being with my mom helped strengthen my sobriety. We spent three weeks traveling and sharing stories. I told her some of my drunk stories which helped her realize that I really had a problem, not just a weakness. She had her first-ever green beer on St Patrick’s Day in Poland, and I told her of my last drunk St Patricks in Savannah. I got so shit-faced, I had a fight with a guy hitting on my friend and I had to skip out on site-seeing the next morning due to my hangover.

(This year, I am working St Patrick’s day and annoyed by the people that need to day off  to get drunk.)

I started to see a therapist in 2017 to deal with my depression and anxiety. I went to her for over a year, but did not find it very helpful. I don’t feel she helped me develop coping skills or deal with my anxiety. I felt I got more out of blogging than talking to her. I was prescribed Lexapro, which made me gain 20lbs. Well, that plus being in a relationship, less time to exercise, and the stress from school. Maybe if I lose the weight I gained, I will find a new therapist and a different medication. I finish school this May and hope to use my free time to hike and bike.

I managed to avoid alcohol when meeting my boyfriend’s family. I was filled with nervousness and unease at each occasion, but I also knew that I might make a fool of myself if I drank. His parents like to have a glass of wine with dinner. His siblings drink wine or beer at the few events I’ve been to at their homes. I choose ice tea in the summer and water in the winter. My boyfriend got me into flavored, sparkling water, which we both drink as his family functions. He still doesn’t drink alcohol much around me. He did have a glass of wine the first dinner we had with his parents, but I think that was due to his jitters.

Then, I did have alcohol with my boyfriend. We managed to avoid alcohol our first two anniversary dinners. But we took our first big trip together to the US Virgin Islands for his birthday. For most of the trip, we enjoyed virgin-cocktails. The last night, we went to a nice restaurant. When the waitress handed us the wine menu, I asked if he wanted a bottle of wine for his birthday. He said “sure. Do you really want some?” I said if we limit it to one bottle to share, which should be about two glasses each, I can handle it. I picked out a nice Malbec, which I realized I missed so much since sobriety. It felt nice to be a littel tipsy, but I did worry “what are you starting!!!” My boyfriend and I agreed we would limit sharing wine to special occasions like our birthdays.

Then a few weeks later, we went on a weekend trip to a casino. At dinner, I asked again if he wanted wine. He seemed eager, like he wanted alcohol, but didn’t want to suggest it. He said he could go for a beer. So I decided I would have a glass of wine. It became two glasses. I felt tipsy. I had fun playing blackjack and slots. I ordered another glass of pinot grigio while walking around the slot machines. I was hoping the alcohol would lead to a sexy night in our hotel room, but we both passed out as soon as we got to the room.

Since then, I have had drunk dreams and guilt dreams. There is a tiny part of me that contemplates “moderation is possible”. But I have a disease. I need to remember I am not able to moderate, even with a few glasses at special occasions. I keep thinking the further I get away from my last drink, the more I think I am normal. I need to remind myself of the reasons to stay sober. It has been five years since I decided to quit, but never 100% sober. It is still a struggle and might always be a struggle. I need to reread my blog. Return to blogging. Read more sober books. And get back into shape!

 

 

Work Problems but Love Answers

Sorry I haven’t been around in blog world. I think this happens a lot in either long term recovery or those that return to a life of boozing. I am still sober. Sometimes happily sober; other times still struggling. In January it will be 3 years on-off sobriety. Lately (last few days)  I have been very depressed and having to keep reminding myself that happiness is not in a bottle of rum.

There have been issues at work. Without trying to give too much information about the situation, I lost 2 days of work and pay last week due to some paperwork not being filed on time. Then my boss changed her mind and said I can work until this paperwork thing is “figured out”, but if it isn’t, I might have to look for a new job. I started fixing my resume and searching to see who was hiring. I found some jobs that seemed good, but they required me to move away, at least for a few months.

Once upon a time, moving away would have been my answer, along with getting drunk. But I started to date someone two months ago that make me want to stay in this area. And I think he wants me to stay also. I talked to him about my problems at work and that I could always go back to travel contracts. He seemed sadden by this idea and asked how long I would be away.

Leaving my job would also mean giving up my tuition reimbursement benefits and tuition discount. It seems to be taking awhile, but I am less than two years away from my degree that could open up so many more opportunities. After much thinking and crying, I decided to get this paperwork thing settled and keep my head above water there until I finish school. And by then, who knows how things will be with this guy.

This guy: he is wonderful! Our first date was at a coffee shop. He made me laugh a lot so I realized I would like to see him again. Next date was dinner and a movie. I was surprised he did not order a beer or alcoholic drink at dinner and just got a water like me. Next date was a walk around his town and when he asked if I wanted to step into an Irish bar, I honestly replied I would rather not because it is too hard to talk in a bar. I think it was the 4th date I admitted that I do not drink alcohol anymore and he said he doesn’t really drink much either. I mentioned I used to drink too much to the blackout point, but I did not go into more details. After several more dates, I noticed he never ordered alcohol. Even at a nice restaurant in the city, he ordered a soda. Then the other night we went to a bar because he wanted to see what their live music lineup was: he asked for a non-alcoholic beer. I am still not sure if this is out of respect for my sobriety, if he really just doesn’t want alcohol, or if he is hiding details of a problem also. I told him at that bar I would drive if he wanted a real beer and he said no, that’s okay.

On top of being worried about work this last week, I have been worried about my status with this guy. Sometimes I text him questions  that he never answers. Even when he text me hours later, he seems to avoid the questions. I texted him the other day about New Years Eve plans and he replied the next morning with just gibberish about the weather. This turned my over-analyzing brain into crazy mode and wondered if he has other NYE plans or maybe a family tradition or something. So I canceled our Tuesday night plans because I got upset after overthinking. I said I was gonna go visit my mom instead. He said he would miss me but he understood. Then I get worried I am sabotaging things again and being sober doesn’t make me any better with this relationship sortie.

It took getting my legs waxed for me to see another view. My esthetician said it might be a financial thing. Maybe my idea for NYE cost too much. What other questions has he avoided? When I asked him about renewing his passport, when I asked him if he would like to go to Mexico with me, and my NYE plans did involve getting a hotel. She asked where he lived and pointed out rent is very pricey there. She said if he is worried about finances, his male pride might keep him from admitting that.

I have been reading The Recovering Heart: Emotional Sobriety for Women by Beverly Conyers. (Now my semester is over, maybe I can spend more time reading it.) It is making me think of how I am treating my problems and how I am facing this new relationship. I am acting like a teenager. I have responded to so many problems with running away. It makes sense since I started drinking at the age of 18. When talking about how we stop maturing when we start abusing alcohol or drugs, Conyers mentions “when she faces obstacles and disappointment, when she feel unhappy or anxious, she will resort to chemicals to make herself feel better, rather than trying to work things through.” I never learned how to work things through without alcohol. I never learned to stay and fight. I divorced quickly. I left jobs when I got unhappy.  Even after 3 years of sobriety, I am still growing up. Caroline Knapp said “The drink stunts you, prevents you from walking through the kinds of fearful life experiences that bring you from point A to point B on the maturity scale.”

It is like I am 18 again. Struggling with work and college. Starting a new relationship. I just have to do this without beer and rum this time.

Tonight I am going to his place. I will try to avoid text questions and just wait until I see him to discuss things. I like that I can feel happy around him without the desire to drink. It is just when he is not around and worries flood my mind that I desire booze to fight the flood. I have to keep reminding myself drunk=hangover=no answers.

Love and Exercise

I just want to write a quick note that I am feeling better. I had old friends that visited over the weekend. And today I went for a 3 mile hike. I think the love of friends and exercise helped a lot!

I am actually worried about my friends because they are both overweight. One is extremely overweight. He gained a lot since our days of partying in our 20s. He mentioned a few times “I need to lose weight” but then he ordered a few beers with every meal and some between meals. I wanted to slap it out of his hand “THIS IS NOT HELPING YOUR HEALTH!” He does not have a drinking problem but his drinking is not helping his weight problem. Anytime I have a friend whine about their weight and then see them drinking alcohol, I want to pour some of that beverage into a sack and glue it to their bellies. THAT IS WHERE IT IS GOING!

Now I know not everyone that drinks is overweight and a lot of people that quit drinking have problems losing weight. I know I was irritated when I first quit that pounds weren’t falling off. Then once I stopped replacing alcohol with carbs and sugar, and once I started hiking and walking, the weight dropped. It helps. Not fool proof but at least the walking helps pump my blood, clear my mind, and maybe see some pretty views.

I was disappointed my friends tired out very easily. But I guess it was like the days when I used to pass out on them early or disappear from the clubs.

Unhappy

But be careful when you finally get heppy. Because you can become greedy for the one thing you don’t have.
I missed drinking. This new world was grand, but I didn’t feel complete without that foamy abandon. I thought about drinking all the time. If only I could drink again, then I could lose myself to this handsome stranger and not be hobbled by my own nagging insecurities.

From Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

I haven’t had much time to read this wonderful book because of school. I haven’t been sleeping much nor well because of stress from work and school and life.

My mom is no longer talking to me because I demanded my 14 year old nephew apologize for ditching me 4 months ago. Not much. I just wanted an apology. But I guess my mom and sister were offended, like I was criticizing their parenting. So they stopped replying to me. In defense, I told my mom about my suicide attempt in 2001 that put me into the ICU. She tried to call and left a message wanting to know what is wrong. I got the message as I was going to class so I shot back a quick text reply about our family ignoring problems and I still want an apology. A week went by and no response. I guess she just wanted to make sure I didn’t have a gun to my head at that moment but as long as it is just my ramblings about excepting a teen to learn say “sorry”, she can go back to ignoring me. So I blocked her number and my sister. Then I deleted my nephews and brother off Facebook. I declare myself an orphan and only child. It is not much different than going on through life with them all ignoring me anyway.

I see my cousins posting about their brother that died in February. Their posts are full of love and mourning. I feel jealous for their closeness. “Sibling day” just passed and it reminds me of how crappy my siblings are. I am too. When the terrorists attacks happened in Paris last fall, I secretly wished my sister was there. I will miss my nephew and niece but I also feel guilty I don’t miss, nor know, my other nephew and niece.

The stress of being family-less has been eating me up. And hating work because I feel odd and unlike has made me want to quit. I start thinking drastic thoughts. Start thinking of getting drunk to numb it all. Start fantasizing about ways to die. Some think gardening when they see hoses. I think carbon monoxide poisoning. I think of buying a flight somewhere and chasing Valium with whatever rum is local. I think of going to the Middle East, breaking a law like fighting for women’s rights, and getting stoned to death. I think of going on a sailing trip and skinny dipping, after taking a bunch of Valium. I just want to stop feeling.

Then I went to a party Saturday. It was a costume party. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed expressing my creativity. I enjoyed seeing people that seemed honestly happy to see me. I felt surprise that people seemed impressed by my costume. That they seemed really happy to hug me. I felt liked. And that is more I get from my family.

So the suicide dreams are slipping away as I get more acceptance. Maybe happiness is on its way.

Sober Campus and Stories

It is Alcohol Awareness Week. At least according to all the flyers posted all over my school’s campus, with photos and a stories of a victim from boozing too much. When I google the event, I find that April is actually Alcohol Awareness Month. Is my school getting a early start? Or is there a separate week or month to focus on alcohol abuse on college campuses? Either way, it is sobering to read those stories.

There was a different one posted in each bathroom stall and on almost every door to each building. A 20 year old fell off a balcony while intoxicated at one school and died. At another school, a guy passed out in the road walking home from a party and was killed when  a car drove over him. 18 year old girl was found dead in her dorm room from alcohol poisoning on a different campus. All young people who probably thought they were just having fun, just fitting in, just partying, and not realizing the dangers of getting drunk. It took me two decades to learn for myself.

I have to keep reminding myself I was lucky. Even with all the dumbshit I did or horrible things that happened to me when I was actively drinking, I am alive. I survived. I am here to tell my own stories and not have them plastered on a wall for people to contemplate while they are peeing. (Unless you are reading my blog on a laptop on the toilet.)

I have started to read Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. I am only on page 12 and so far I love it. It is me. It is my story. It is about my life! Well, it is Sarah’s story but so far I relate to so much of it. I have to force myself to put it down and finish my school work first. But a quote that sounds as if it came out of my own personal journal is this:

I think I knew I was in trouble. The small, still voice inside me always knew. I didn’t hide the drinking but I hid how much it hurt.

I have been making new friends that seem to accept that I do not drink. It is the old friends that have been irritating me lately. The ones that say they are proud of me, but continue to overindulge in bottles of wine. The ones that parade photos of being plastered online. The ones that perpetuate the glamour of getting shit-faced. The ones bragging about all the green beer they will chug this Thursday, as if that is the more important event in the world. I don’t know if I am jealous, concerned, or lonely. But all three feelings make me annoyed.

I am working Thursday night. I wonder how many years it will be that I volunteer to work St Patrick’s night to avoid the parties and Jamesons.

Uncomfortable

I have already mentioned that I am going back to school. But “going back to school” makes it seem I had the summer or a semester off. In actuality, this is returning to the classroom after graduating with an associates degree fourteen years ago. And returning to a university rather than a community college after twenty years! I am surrounded by traditional students on campus. The community college I graduated from had a lot of older students that worked while getting their degrees. This school is mostly kids in their twenties that live on campus. This is more uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

I took some online classes the past two years. I started taking them to ease myself back into college life and to attempt to increase my GPA. None of the credits from those three classes were transferred to my new university. But I am glad I took them for the slow return to academia. Yet online classes are not the same as classroom classes. I was able to hide behind a computer screen.

I am at least fifteen years older than everyone in my class. It makes me feel old. But at the same time, taking a college class makes me feel young. Having homework and writing papers makes me reminisce about my twenties. I like having a notebook. I wish I had a locker to decorate. I could fill it with photos torn out of Teen Beat magazines.

My drinking slips made me realize being uncomfortable creates urges. If I am at a party or surrounded by people I do not know, I begin thinking “a beer will help me relax.” Yet that is not possible in a classroom. It had me thinking that I am learning to deal with the uncomfortable feelings I get surrounded by these new kids who are so different from me. If I can learn to handle the feeling there, maybe I can learn to deal with being uncomfortable at parties.

I need to read my SMART book. It has a section for dealing with cravings. Maybe it has a part for dealing with being uncomfortable.

Thoughts on detoxing

When I hear about alcoholic detoxing, part of me feels like “haha I am better than you because I never went through detox.” The other part of me wants to go back out drinking until I get to the point of detox. Then I will feel like a true alcoholic.