Travel for Tokens

If you have been following my blog, you would know that my local meetings do not give out many sobriety chips. At first I was very frustrated by this. I had to drive to a city two hours away to get my 30 day chip. I got my 90 day chip while on vacation in another city. I found it nice and convenient that I was to be traveling again for my 180th day.

I made plans to have dinner with an old friend. He and I have bickered about a lot of things in the past. When I first got sober, I stopped talking to him because of his comments about alcoholism.  He does not believe it is a disease. It is a choice.  I couldn’t handle that in my first 30 or even 60 days. I think it was near 90 days sober before I unblocked him and started to talk to him again.

He wanted to invite his roommate and roommate’s girlfriend to dinner with us. The problem is his roommate is my ex-boyfriend.  I told him I did not want them to join.  He said they might get upset if they are left out and I said “I don’t fucking care.” This guy was horrible with returning phone calls and text messages. He did not care when that hurt me. And the way we ended things was he called me about some papers and then said “you know that whatever happens, we will always be friends.” We never talked about it. We never had closure. And the last time I was in town, he canceled dinner plans with me to go see this girl. So I really did not want him and his new love joining my evening. I did not want closure with his arms wrapped around her. I could not handle that sober.

Thankfully my friend did not invite them. He and I had a great dinner. We talked and caught up. Afterwards, I felt bad that I seemed to monopolize the conversation with my recovery. He said a few times that he does not think I need to quit forever. I told him I know I do. He kept saying he thinks I can control it. If we had this talk a few months ago, I would have got angry. Instead, I just explained to him that I do not want to drink. I do not need to drink. He came up with his excuses for drinking and I told him that is fine.  I have no problem with other people drinking. I have a problem with my drinking.

After dinner, I started to drive him home. I was planning to go to a meeting. He even looked up meetings for me near his home. I was about to turn towards his street and he asked where was I going. The meeting is straight. “You want to go to the meeting with me?” He said sure. This was the first time I had someone go to a meeting with me.

It was a beginners meeting. The topic was higher power and God. I thought he would enjoy this because we discuss/debate religion and religious issues a lot. I got called on and felt like I was in school and had to write an answer on the chalkboard.  I have never been to a meeting before where they randomly call on people. But I spoke about my feelings of spirituality and using energy and the universe as my higher power. (Maybe one day I will get around to make a blog about my spirituality.) After the meeting, my friend thanked me for what I said. He thought it helped balance out all the God and Jesus talk. I think he might have enjoyed the meeting even if he does not believe everyone in that room has a disease.

There was a few minutes left and I did not see anyone with a box. I whispered to him “I guess no chip.” But then the chairperson asked for a volunteer to pass out chips. A huge smile crept across my face. They started out with 18 months. Then 12. Then 6. I jumped up like it was the lottery. I was the only person in the room accepting a chip. My friend kept clapping after everyone else was finished. It felt so wonderful.

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And then I thought I really hate my local meetings. Why do they deprive people of this awesome feeling of accepting a chip? Only 90 days and yearly chips? That does not seem like enough reinforcement.  Maybe I am just Pavlovian dog.

Mistake 182- Many years ago, I was at a party at the house of my friend that joined me at this meeting. I do not remember much (as usual). But I cheated on my girlfriend with some guy at the party. In most lesbian relationships, that is the worst betrayal. I do not remember much of the incident. The images of it are fuzzy like it didn’t really happen. Another guy witnessed it which is how I discovered what I did. Our group of friends made a joke out of it. I felt such shame because of the betrayal and the fact I had to be told by someone else what I did with my own body. Drinking controlled me. I finally gave up the losing battle of trying to control it.

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6 Lessons from 6 Months

Lilly gave me the idea to make a post about what I have learned since I quit drinking. Strange that I haven’t really thought about it. I just know I feel happier. So let me jot down a few quick lessons I feel I have learned since January 20, 2014.

1) I never realized that I did drink to hide feelings. I always thought I only drank to party and “feel good”. When I read about people in recovery complaining about feeling again, I did not understand what they meant. I thought “I am an emotional person. I always feel things. Sometimes I feel too much.”

I have now noticed I get unexplained spurts of extreme feelings. One extreme is happiness. Not a manic type of happiness. Just find myself loving life. Even on rainy days, I might find myself over joyed about something simple like a baby smiling at me in the store.

I also get bouts of depression.  I realize that being sober is not all rainbows and roses. Sometimes I will just feel so down for no real reason. (Actually, usually the reason is I am tired.) But I get sad thinking about past relationships and lack of a current one, or my family situation, or events in the world. But I am very proud that I do not hide those feelings in the bottom of a bottle. Drinking worsened my depression in the past. St John’s wort helped with the first few months.

The more I read my journals and remember my drunk mistakes, the more I see that I did drink to hide pain, depression, anger, jealousy and other emotions I did not want to feel. I thought alcohol would be the antidote to the hurt feelings. I would cheer up with some beer. But it was like a sliding scale. The bottom of the first curve is my hurt feelings, then it curves up as I get tipsy, and then crash down below where it began. I hid the feelings temporarily but they always came back.

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2) I never solved anything by getting drunk. Even if I was using it as a social lubricant, sometimes that backfired. Sometimes I annoyed people more than impressed them. The last few years, it seemed more often than not I blacked out and did even remember the people I met. If I used it to get the courage to be with a guy, I usually felt shame later. If I did it to forget my problems, my problems were still there when I was hungover. And maybe accompanied by new problems.

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3) There is nothing in the world that could make me “need a drink”. I read my friends on Facebook make update that they need a drink after a hard day. Or they need a drink to celebrate. Or they need a drink because the game is on or it is Friday or it is hot out. A nice glass of water with lemon is great when it is hot out and won’t dehydrate you. When I think of how nothing is solved by drinking and of all the mistakes I have made drinking, I know I do not need a drink. I have seen the hell it takes me to and I do not need that.

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4) Quitting alcohol has made me happier even if I lost friends. It hurts when people act different or say unsupportive things once they know I do not want to drink anymore. But in the past, I spent so much energy trying to be liked by everyone. I felt I was always chasing the feeling of acceptance I never found as a teenager. It was like I never grew up from that phase. I did not start getting drunk until I was 18 and in the military. I started realizing I could get attention when drunk. I could forget the feelings of being unpopular. 
I felt I started to finally achieve popularity but for all the wrong reasons.

Yet still into my 30s,  I was chasing for that popular feeling. I kept wanting to be the party girl. People liked her. And when people did not like her, I felt defensive, hurt, and confused. Who should I be to get them to like me? I surrounded myself with new friends everywhere I moved to by being the party girl. I guess I can understand why some friends do not know how to relate to the non-party girl.

But a lot have stuck around. A lot are being very supportive whether it is abstaining themselves from alcohol around me, texting or emailing to check in, sending me congratulatory messages, or sharing with me stories about my drunk self to reinforce why I can not drink. I am realizing who my true friends are. There is always jokes about that a real friend would bail you out of jail or be sitting in the cell with you. I feel a real friend would help to prevent you from getting in that cell.

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5) I do not want to ever drink alcohol again, but I can not hide from it. I have to learn to accept I live in a society full of alcohol and adapt. I need to coexist with that pain-in-the-ass neighbor called liquor and just ignore her. Maybe build a tall fence.

I know the idea of changing places, people, and old habits. And I have changed somewhat. I will not sit in a bar hanging out with a glass of water. The only point to a bar is booze. Only point to sitting around with people in a place like that is to get drunk. I will go to bars for a special occasion. I will not avoid a wedding or other function because there is a bar. I will keep attending my festivals and avoid the free drinks.

Festivals have been a big part of my life for many other reasons besides the partying and drinking. I was amazed at how understanding people were at the festivals that I did not want alcohol. If someone offered me tea or juice, I would ask “is there any alcohol in here?” and they were swear there wasn’t. In the past, I asked that question and was always disappointed by the answer of no. Why would I want plain lemonade? 

6) I am glad I tell people I am not drinking. In the beginning, I was so scared to be honest. I thought I would hide it. Order a cranberry and tonic to make it look like I was drinking alcohol. Tell people I was allergic or had a health issue. Now I tell people I just got tired of being the party girl. I tell closer people that I got tired of blackouts. I tell most people I am trying to be healthier. “Do you know how many wasted calories are in that beer? Ew no thanks!” If I am honest, either they will not pressure me or they will go away. My sobriety might make them uncomfortable but that is their own issue.

I made a status update on Facebook yesterday that simply said “180 days!” I did not count the likes this time. I was almost able to predict who would like it. The three friends that gave positive comments have all dealt with addiction with their loved ones.

Then the most awesome thing happened! A girl that I met five years ago while traveling emailed me. I do not know her that well. We never even partied together. We stayed in touch and have swapped travel tips. But she wrote to tell me congratulations and that she had 60 days of sobriety.  She said she finally decided to do something about her problem. I never knew she had a problem! She said an article I posted a few months ago made her think about it. She said I was very brave for announcing it. She hasn’t told anyone else. I replied back with some positive words and thanked her for her email. Right away I thought I do not care if 400 people were uncomfortable with my post or if any of my friends wished I would stop announcing it every milestone. I helped one friend get sober.  I learned that feeling is one of the best feelings ever. And it is a feeling I would not have felt if I did not stop drinking six months ago.

Mistake 181- I wrote yesterday about meeting a Dating Website guy and then making out with ny friend. I went to my car after the bar closed with plans to sleep in the passenger side. I knew if I was in the driver’s seat drunk, I could get a DUI even if not driving. Dating Website guy called. “Where are you?” I told him I was sleeping in my car. I was too drunk to drive. He offered to give me a ride. I asked about the other girl he was flirting with all night. She went home. I was the leftover. The second choice. But I still told him where I was parked. I left the bar parking lot with him. He asked if I wanted to go back to his place for some wine. I do not know how much we drank but I do not remember the sex. He gave me a ride the next morning back to my car. Once again, I was probably still over the legal limit and drove home anyways.