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.

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Dealing with a stressful night

I had a very emotional, stressful night at work.  I cried a lot.  I dealt with a lot of moral questions. It was mentally draining.

I had my friend to “talk” about it via text messaging. He was very helpful and supportive with this situation. He asked how do I deal with this stress and stay sober.

Without hesitation, I told him getting drunk would not solve it. I could hide my feelings in the bottom of a bottle or deal with them. I would rather deal with them no matter how unpleasant they are. I had no desire to drink. I just wanted to cry myself to sleep. But I couldn’t until my shift was over.

I kept running to the bathroom to cry. Then I would look in the mirror and tell myself to dry my tears. I am a strong woman. Fighting alcoholism proves that. Everyday is a struggle. I need to keep strong in front of my coworkers.

I told my friend that in the past, I would focus my pain on picking up booze on my way home. I would figure out where I could buy a 6 pack or bottle of wine at 7am. What are the laws in this state? Then I would drink away the thoughts and get drunk at 8am. But nothing would be accomplished except maybe a hangover when I wake up.

There have been times where I got trashed after a stressful day of work. And I would do very stupid things like sex with a stranger, get in a fight, or drive drunk. I used the excuse “I was stressed out. I needed that drink” which was never just one drink. I would drink until I blacked out to try to erase thoughts and feelings from the day. Obliterate the stress. But it usually created more instead.

I cried a lot last night but it is better than crying in a drunk rage. I was hurting but pain is part of life. Self-medication with wine will not make suffering disappear.
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Mistake 146- I woke up once with a burglar in my bedroom. It was daytime. I don’t want to get into the details except to say thankfully I wasn’t hurt and he left when he saw me. But I was so stressed and frightened. A friend came over to support me while the cops took a report. Then my friend took me to lunch. I ordered 3 large margaritas at lunch. When I got home, I proceeded to drink every bit of alcohol I had in my apartment. A lot of people said they would have been too scared to be in their apartment after such an incident. I felt safe as long as I had my booze with me. I ended up drinking pumpkin liqueur by the end because I chugged everything else. I kept posting rants on Facebook complaining about my city and crime rates. I did not remember these rants until I saw them the next day. I went and deleted them all then.

I had a friend message me the next day to see how I was doing. I said I was coping. She mentioned she is still bleeding. I was confused until I scrolled back and saw we had a whole long conversation the previous day. She had a miscarriage. I admitted to her I did not remember that conversation at all but was very sorry for her loss. She replied “lol it is ok. You had a horrible day.”

I coped with my fear and stress by drinking until I blacked out. But it did not solve anything. It could have made things worse.