sobriety makes you see better too


If you don’t wear contacts, this post will make even less sense than usual, but last night I was taking out my contacts and it occurred to me that in the last 10 months I’ve never opened up the little blue case in the morning and been all “where did that little fucker go?”

I can’t tell you how many times I thought I got both contacts in their respective saline chambers but then found one shriveled up on the bathroom counter like a worm on an august afternoon.

Just another reminder how life is easier and richer now that I’m not drunkenly clawing at my eyeballs while weaving to and fro in front of the bathroom mirror.

Sometimes a clown is the answer to your prayers

Monday night I dreamt about people from my Tuesday night meeting. In 10 months of meetings, this was the first time I dreamt about people I know from recovery meetings. The dream was convoluted in the usual way dreams are. Their faces were recognizable but instead of being from the fellowship, they were coworkers from a waitressing job I forgot to show up for. It was no doubt carryover guilt from skipping my one and only meeting last week to watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on the couch with my family.

The same night I dreamed about recovery people and waitressing, my little one had a dream about clowns and her best friend from preschool. And this was a good dream, mind you. She’s never seen Poltergeist. We talked about it in the car ride to school the next morning and then I thought A clown would be perfect for her birthday party.

I spent the last week stressing about her birthday party, which is this coming weekend. I get like that about parties or any event where I am responsible for providing structure because structure feels like something just beyond my grasp, although I crave it and assume everyone else does too. I still don’t really know how to pray but I thought more than once I wish for a little peace here. I wish I could just enjoy the excitement of my youngest turning four.

And the thing about a clown is he or she provides structure and whimsy in one terrifying package!  Oh I kid. My little one’s terrified of stink bugs but give her a clown or a mascot in a beanie and pretty soon they’ll be filing a restraining order against her. She just loves them that much.

So this idea is germinating in my head about a clown and we get to daycare and, I kid you not, this little boy proudly shows us his stack of business cards featuring a smiling clown in braids. We ooh and aah over them and I note the name of the clown and google her when I get to work. I probably could have asked for one of his business cards, but the little boy is two and that might have been like taking one of his toys away.

The clown answers the phone when I call, so I have to do the whole awkward last minute fumbling inquiry about availability and rates. She isn’t a cheap clown, but I like what I see online and I like her even better on the phone. You know how you just get a good feeling about a clown? Well, she’s that kind of clown. She says she has to call a couple people back to see if she’s available, but I tell her I’m interested and give her my number. I then think to myself I’m putting this in fate’s hands. If we’re meant to have a clown, we will have a clown. 

And we are meant to have a clown because she called me back this morning and we set the whole thing up and I frankly couldn’t be more excited about this birthday party. I have to make up food now to cut costs, but I’m even excited about that. What do you think clowns like to eat?

I can’t believe how this is all coming together. It started with asking for a little help and you never know what form that help might take. It might take shape in a dream and it might be a clown and a tinkerbell cake that you don’t have to make and family and friends coming from near and afar to share in your little one’s special day. These moments are precious. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that.

sober summer

One year ago, I would have been sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office, thumbing through Readers Digest and listening to Delilah’s Dilemma on overhead speakers turned up loud enough that I was forced to hear sad-sack callers but not marriage counseling in the next room. It’s a good thing I hadn’t realized I was worse off than both of those forces combined because I might have simply stopped going to therapy and then I wouldn’t have given up drinking and I wouldn’t be where I am today. Which is here. Which is much, much better.

Yesterday it got suddenly hot and when I say hot, I mean a real-feel of 87 degrees, which is all very well and fine for Florida or the northeast in August, but not April. On its own, it might have felt sweltering and unbearable, but the steady breeze made me think of last summer at the beach and how it might have felt a million years ago, but the fact is I was sober back then.

My family went to the beach for two weeks – once in July and again in August. The first trip I remember feeling terrified beforehand that I wouldn’t make it through sober.  My husband and I had always been about beers on the balcony and beers on the beach and beers on the boardwalk. I felt like that commercial where the man’s trying to figure out how the hell to drink his morning coffee without the aid of a cigarette. I bought sober books to read on the beach and looked up meetings in our vacation town, but once I got to the beach, I mostly forgot about my sober worries and just enjoyed myself. The second sober trip to the beach was even better. My husband gave me a tiny pewter serenity shell that I still carry in my purse to remind me of how good I felt when he gave it to me.

I’m not saying I have this sobriety thing in the bag because none of us ever really do. We’ve all seen too many sneak attacks and nasty surprises with people we were sure had their footing and somehow lost it. It’s always good to be a little wary. But still, yesterday when I felt the tease of summer, it made me think I feel ready to enjoy all the cliches of summer not only without a drink but without missing a drink.

I’m sure the feeling will come and go. Maybe someone’s glass of chardonnay will catch the summer light in such a way that it winks at me from across the table and I will think you look so pretty I would love to drink you and I will be unnerved until the feeling passes. I know cravings pop back from time to time, but sometime in the last month or so, I lost the obsession to drink. It didn’t come from anything but time and not drinking. Sure enough, it just happens.


Holiday weekends are real triggers for me, but by now I recognize this. Besides, the mild weather made me miss smoking on my porch more than I missed drinking, though I wasn’t completely off the hook.

I got off work early on Good Friday and used the free half day to go grocery shopping and clean out my closet. I know, sober life is exciting. On my way to the grocery store, I thought how a year ago I would’ve hit the bar down the road from my office first for a little holiday weekend kickoff that would have ultimately made grocery shopping even more tedious. My kind of drinking fit with the kind of life where I could weave home from the bar and commence to porch drinking and smoking and nothing else. I am glad I never got that life, though eventually I would have.

Last Easter was different too. We went to brunch in the morning and I remember I had two beer mimosas (don’t ask) and several drafts and then I loaded my kids and a surly, stinky groundhog into my car and drove to a nature preserve. The story isn’t as interesting as the previous sentence might imply, it was just that this memory was sharp and fuzzy at the same time in the way a lot of my memories were from my last year of drinking. I carry a lot of regret at how reckless I had become. I had a lot of luck I do not deserve.

Last Easter

This Easter we had brunch and then took a leisurely stroll around serene gardens, and the only regret I have to live with is how much candy I ate in the afternoon. But this is something I can live with.

This Easter

The expert

Last night was my home group meeting. It’s the only one I go to these days. I guess I need to change that, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to give up precious weekend time to sit in a meeting anxiously waiting for my turn to introduce myself as “Kristen…alcoholic“. I hate the meetings that force me to speak, even if it’s just to share my name.

Anyway, it was an okay meeting last night. The speaker was interesting and sharp and he said something I’d never heard before that amends doesn’t mean apologies…that amend actually means to change something. I’d never thought of it that way, though I’m still ages away from doing step 9.  Just something to take away and store for later.

A lot of people who shared last night were angry about this thing or that thing. They were valid things to be angry about, but I get nervous when more than one person presents a certain way because I worry I’ll pick it up. I’m highly suggestible and I hate that about myself. (does it make me angry, perhaps?)

After the meeting, I spoke to another regular at the meeting and remarked that I love her positive-ness and energy and that it was nice to see her start to notice the changes of early sobriety. She had just shared about them at the meeting, but the way it came out of my mouth it sounded like I was this old-timer praising a newcomer. The woman has like 4 months less sobriety than I do. Sheesh. This is why I tend to keep my mouth closed at meetings.

Then I was talking to another woman I’ve struck up a friendship with and I really like her and she’s got this beautiful spirit, although she’s dealing with some shit in her life that I’d have no idea how to cope with sober. She started to talk about losing faith in god and I heard myself giving her permission to feel a certain way or do a certain thing and then thought “who the fuck do I think I am?” It’s like I have this need to smooth things over and I can’t just be in the moment and listen and do nothing at all.

I hate when I feel like that…like I feel what they’re struggling with and need to tell them it’ll all be okay. I might know what I would want to hear, but everybody’s different. Our stories before we stopped drinking are so different. Our lives after we stop are no different.

In moments like these I want to retreat to a comfortable life where I won’t mess with anyone at all. I won’t feel awkward and I won’t struggle and I won’t hurt. I will sit on a log all day and watch the sun crawl slowly into the sky and then back down again. I will feel comfortable and in control but restless and sick. This is how my recovery works…I have to keep moving.

I’ll start working on step 4. I’ve never felt more ripe for change, and besides, I really need it. This much, I know.


For years I thought I was an alcoholic but held hope I was just a problem drinker. Maybe I was a problem drinker back then. What’s the difference anyway?

Last week when I shared my story at a meeting and got to the point where I admitted I’d never had a DUI or lost a job or a husband or, god forbid, children, I felt I had to explain that I knew dire consequences were just around the corner. I did feel this in my gut, but the real reason I knew I had to stop was because I finally accepted that drinking like a normal person was much harder and less enjoyable than not drinking at all.

I attempted moderate drinking throughout my adult life. From time to time I’d decide not to drink during the week, which felt an especially poor decision come Monday night. This modified drinking schedule only lasted a month or so before I tired and gave up. Its end was never acknowledged with anything more than a toast to drinking freely.

The two times I seriously attempted moderate drinking, I went out and bought a book and joined a message board and everything. I followed the book’s guidelines and abstained for 30 days and congratulated myself for being able to give up drinking just like that. It reminds me of the sugar-free diet I’m on right now. It’s really fucking hard, but my sugar ban is not permanent and my brain knows that. Thirty days was just a little respite.

The last time I followed the moderation management program, I followed it to the T. I abstained for 30 days. I came up with a plan and even wrote it out and emailed it to my husband so he could share in the fun of transforming me into a normal drinker.

I stuck to my original plan of no drinks at all Monday through Thursday. I gritted my teeth extra hard on Mondays, but knew it was my last chance. Friday to Sunday, I stuck to my written limits of how much I would drink each night. For about two months, I kept this routine and did not slip or waiver. And you know what? I hated it.

Moderate drinking ruined drinking for me more than the consequences I hadn’t yet suffered. When I sipped beer, I did not get the buzz that feels like your brain slipping into a warm pool of honey. When I paced myself, the clock ran like its gears were gummed up with honey. I saw a half full beer as good as empty. Moderate drinking was hard work! It was not even fun!

Eventually I gave up and slipped back into my old drinking patterns and stayed there for months before I made the decision to stop. I’m not even sure what the final straw was, or if there was one. What I feared most during that time was that life would be miserable without alcohol. I just couldn’t imagine fun without booze.

Recovery is teaching me there is life without alcohol, and it’s actually sweeter than what I had before. Today it’s Monday and I’m grateful I don’t have to go home and feel restless and angry that I don’t get to have a drink. It’s just another day that I’m not going to drink because everything about my life is better when I don’t.

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