He drinks and that’s cool, though it might also be the jean jacket

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This is my husband, Joe, and me. We’re sitting at a table meant for children and I’m wearing my oldest kid’s jacket, but I think we both look pretty cool. I look 85% cooler in sunglasses. All my husband needs is a jean jacket, though his glasses are pretty sharp too. I put this picture up on facebook and people all of a sudden started noticing Joe looks like Keith Olbermann. I always thought Joe looked angry in pictures because he never smiles, but now I see it could also be interpreted as quiet thoughtfulness or a  dedication to cutting edge journalism. This is the longest caption I’ve ever written but it’s too late to back down now.

 

In early recovery, I secretly worried I was doing everything wrong. I worried I wasn’t going to enough meetings or I wasn’t going to the right kinds of meetings. I worried because I wasn’t working with a sponsor and then worried I’d rushed into one too soon. I worried when I wasn’t working steps, and finally started working them only to worry I was doing them all wrong.

I then worried when I quit going to meetings and dropped my sponsor and stopped working steps. This makes all those other worries seem moot, but there is one worry I’ve carried consistently and I don’t write about it much because it involves another person.

I worry what it means to be married to a drinker and have access to a fully stocked bar in the kitchen. It may not be ideal to be around alcohol all the time and, in fact, it might be a terrible idea for some people trying to quit drinking. But it can be done. It can feel really challenging at times. It isn’t black and white. The real stuff never is.

The reason I’m writing about this is because two things popped up this weekend.

The first thing was we had lunch as a family in this lovely indoor picnic spot, which probably sounds strange but spring is still more lion than lamb in these parts. We almost had the place to ourselves except for an older couple lingering over lunch and a big bottle of wine. They noticed the specialty beer Joe was drinking and the guy even walked over for a closer look at his bottle.

Would anyone even do this over food? It’s a secret language, this shared love of craft brews and fine wine. I used to speak it and still understand, though I sat sipping coke zero from a plastic cup almost wishing it was a sissy juice box. Go ahead, make fun and I will cut you. Seeing older couples enjoy a big bottle of wine together is a trigger for me, apparently. I am mourning a future Joe and I have not had, nor will we ever if I’m lucky.

When the kids are grown, we’ll never get to tour wine country or swill beers from matching steins in Germany or linger over a big bottle of wine in an indoor picnic house. I blew it and that’s a fact and a blessing and, well, because it’s both it feels complicated.

But the fact is I don’t mourn anything about my decision to get sober 2.75 years ago. And Joe and I get along better than we have in years. I find more patience and joy in the little things and the best kept secret about sobriety is that everything is just as fun without alcohol. Even moreso without the hangovers and guilt. Some of you are nodding your head in agreement and some have it cocked to an odd angle because maybe you’re not there yet, but you’ll see too if you hang in there. I had to see it to believe it.

The other thing that popped up this weekend is a friend who is newly sober told me she shared with her boyfriend that she wants to start going to recovery meetings and was touched and maybe even a little surprised by his support. He still drinks. Oh man, do I get this.

When I told Joe I wanted – no, I probably said needed – to stop drinking, he looked surprised and/or skeptical, but he didn’t try to talk me out of it. He has been my strongest pillar of support aside from the overwhelming belief deep in my core that I am doing this for a reason that matters more than I can possibly understand.

Joe used to rush home from work on Tuesday nights when I wanted to make a certain recovery meeting. He still makes it work when I want to go on longer runs on the weekend. He buys fancy schmancy waters and green teas and copious amounts of jelly beans because he gets that enabling my other addictions might very well save me from the one that could kill me, or, worse yet, kill what we have now.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I hate that he still drinks sometimes. In that same picnic house, I could smell his beer and hated how good it smelled. I wish the smell made me sick or, better yet, did nothing for me at all. But I have to imagine if I’d given up chocolate for the last 2.75 years, it still would smell pretty fucking good. If I have to look for a silver lining in being around it constantly, it is that it reminds me how powerless I still am and will always be. It still smells just as good and I would still fall sideways into drinking if I tried moderating just one more time. Nothing has changed.

Most days when he drinks I only notice that he is drinking. I usually don’t pay mind to what beer or cocktail or how many. My brain has made alcohol invisible or at the very least translucent as a kind of coping mechanism. When he’s hungover and crabby and impatient, I know the cure for that. But I also know sobriety is a very individual choice and it’s a gift that not everyone gets or it’s a choice not everyone takes. I feel lucky I got the gift and took that choice, and I wonder if Joe took it, would he also threaten to dump clothes out the window like I did that time in early recovery when I was stuck in the seemingly insurmountable swamp of sorting out our youngest’s closet? Recovery is hard work, yo.

Not my gift to give, not my decision to make anyway. We might make another 17 years with him still sipping beer and me whatever zippy name the future calls diet soda. Today I am oh so grateful for the subtle ways sobriety has smoothed out my rough edges and the layered effects it’s had on our marriage.

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55 thoughts on “He drinks and that’s cool, though it might also be the jean jacket

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  1. FREAKING loved loved this~

    This is awesome and very encouraging new newbies like myself w/ drinking partners!

    I LAUGHED out loud when I read sissy juice box I will cut you~ fabulous!

    I have to admit how cool you both look cool~ you in the coveted North Face and Joe’s Abercrombie look in denim!

    Your daughters should be proud!

    B.

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  2. My husband quit drinking when i did, not because he has a problem, or because i forced him to. But because he knows i can not be around it. But our situation was different then you and your husbands. I didn’t need to tell anyone that i should stop, it was full blown out of hand, i almost lost my family, i technically died for 2 minutes, and i was drunk 24/7. In the past when i had tried to stop drinking. He still drank some but i always failed. I just could not handle being around it.

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  3. My husband still drinks too. When I stopped drinking, it gave him a reason to cut back considerably, something he never thought to do before. He’s a health nut so without all the extra calories, he ended up with a different kind of 6-pack. Jerk. Anyway, alcohol is kind of invisible in my house too and it’s generally not a trigger for me. Social situations outside of my house, like a wedding we went to on Saturday, can be a challenge. Even though I can block out his drinking, I admit that I’d be happy if he stopped altogether. Of course, he’d probably be happy if I could drink moderately like him. I love your caption! Very cool couple!

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    1. That’s great that your husband gave up drinking and got a six pack (I guess, ha. such a typical guy). Social situations are definitely tougher. Great point that while we might wish our spouses quit too, they might also wish we could drink normally.

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  4. I can relate to this. My husband still drinks, and we have a fully stocked liquor cabinet. I did tell him, NO wine in the house, period. I am only 4 months along, so that may change, but I know my limits, and an open bottle of white wine might push them too far.
    I too, mourn the things we won’t be able to do. One of my bucket list items was a tour of the California wine country.
    I counter those thoughts with the joy I feel when I wake up in the morning feeling awesome, and having no shame.
    I mourn the loss of times that we might have had sharing drinks here and there. I also know, that it never would have been the romantic view in my head, because I can’t just have one or two drinks and leave it at that. All of the scenarios would end differently in reality, with me overindulging. This way is hard, yo, but this way is better.
    Wonderful post and picture.

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    1. Of course that seems like a totally reasonable request. I’ve heard that from others — that they are okay having other kinds of booze in the house, but not their drink of choice. And yeah, the mourning is complicated because it’s not based on anything that has happened or would happen.

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  5. I mourn the chance of all those fabulous holidays and shared times too and like you I consider that I blew it. It’s a nice idea to think of sobriety as a gift. It is and even though I wish I could drink like a normal person I am grateful for my sobriety. My husband still drinks too, not very much, and I’m fine with it. We love our social life and have people around a lot, so we’re pretty fully stocked with wine and beer and I’m fine with that too. I think everyone has to find what works.

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  6. This really hit home for me. My husband has wine every night, at first it was really hard but I’ve accepted it now and our marriage is better now that I’m sober. But I have to admit I get pissy when he overdoes it. I’m also jealous of couples that quit together. But, it is what it is. Nothing’s perfect but sober is lots better.
    Sharon

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    1. Totally jealous. Hadn’t put a word to it, but that’s it. I also get some weird pleasure that he can still drink. Maybe it’s gratitude that I didn’t somehow blow it for him too.

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  7. well if or when your hubby does stop – he will also reap benefits of better inner health!

    I think people forget the toll that alcohol takes on the body!

    I have an upcoming post (still chewing on it) that I am going to share about alcohol – well I likely have a few posts – but this one has to do with the guy I met on a plane ride recently – I have to keep my comment here short – but I reminded him that every time he takes a break from alcohol- his brain does better and his liver is healthier.

    He was the kind of guy that still associated a good time primarily with partying – and he said that he gets his liver tested each year and that he is “fine” -very healthy – and he looked it too – but many times we do not always know what is going on inside. anyhow, so then I asked – “so do you need to wait for a symptom to develop in order to care for your health??” this got him thinking….

    and here’s there thing – I think so often there is basic classic conditioning at play – like pavlov’s dog drools to the sound of the bell – many times our first thought to unwind is to drink alcohol…. it is even worse when years of celebrating are associated with this consumption – and we are indeed SO creatures of habit. all of us. and so even putting aside the like or the enjoying the taste – well this goes beyond that – in our culture drinking has become ingrained as a lifestyle to where it is sneaky in the way it pulls from health.
    and that was the light bulb for my husband – it was for his health. It was years ago but he was feeling the age impacting his body. and so he said, okay, now why am I going to try and work out and get energy – I get a good night sleep – and all this – and then drink this liquid that pulls from health.
    alcohol pulls from physical health!!

    and he said, ‘yeah, there is always a perfect time for an ice cold beer – after work, after the soccer game, after cutting the lawn, etc.” – and that takes a toll on the inside of our physical bodies (and this is not even mentioning that it may help people escape or avoid dealing with things) and so these days, we still pick and choose “when and if” we have alcohol – there are SO MANY reasons to say “no thanks” for this very day. Like if nothing else- I am grateful because every time I say “no thanks” to a glass of this or a bottle of that – not only do we save money – but we will have more chances of being around to enjoy grandkids and to support and enjoy our children while they are adults.

    ….so the guy on the plane said he was going to get his gal wasted with mai-tais – and this middle aged man was so conditioned that his time in the Bahamas was going to be enjoyed more by getting plowed. He was going to treat his gal to a good time by giving her drinks she had never had – okay – drinking fruity drinks in pretty glasses with fun garnishes – but pulls from health – kills brain cells, stresses the liver, dehydrates – pulls almost all of the b-vitamins -and so much more gunk – and it gets worse for light eaters or for people who have underlying things they do not know about.
    No matter the glass or garnish – it pulls from health. – and so I challenged him – without preaching, I just said, I beg you to try one night of your trip by being alcohol free – he thought I was crazy – but that was only the “conditioning” that led him to raise the eyebrow – and then I added “and when you get home from the night out – your gal won’t be throwing up – she won’t be needing gatorade in the morning – and well, the sex will be better too.”
    everyone on the plane was now tuned in –

    okay – enough from moi! I have to run out – but REALLY great post –
    and
    also – – I love the picture – there is almost a glow surrounding you (coming up through the trees) and it adds to the special feel – and you and your hubby are a nice looking couple – and he is so much cuter than keith! ha!
    ~yvette

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    1. I think I’d like to sit next to you on a long plane ride. Bet the time would fly by. So many things to talk about. Your middle aged flight companion is more the norm than teetotalers. The first thing I thought was ‘his wife never had a mai-tai before? Really?” So my view is skewed. The health benefits you mention are very real. They took a long time to manifest fully. Sober sex took some getting used to also, but that’s another post for another day. Thanks for another fun comment, Yvette. Always enjoy hearing from you.

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  8. one more comment – just cause it has to do with your hubby – well when I first skimmed your “Robins” post last Feb – I scrolled the pics and the first line was “My husband swears he spotted the first robin of spring…” and so I thought the guy with the crazy mustache and arms out was tour hubby – well until I “read” the post – but for a short while I thought that was who BBB was married to O_o 😉

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    1. That was Yosemite Bear, aka Double Rainbow guy. LOVE that you interpreted the picture that way. I do that too and it takes my brain awhile to forget that thing it picked up in one second 🙂

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      1. well please know I figured it out pretty fast – but it is a “brain” thing, isn’t it -like to fill in the gaps and make connections so quickly…. sounds like another topic for yet another post… ah, maybe not….

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  9. Joe is one cool dude.
    I don’t think the jacket has much to do with it.
    My husband, a one or two beer a week guy, quit after I began trying. Actually, he’s been dry longer than I have since I slipped a few times. I find that hilarious. I’d *probably* be ok if he wanted to resume drinking, (I think I scared him too badly) but I was the type that could not stay quit if it was anywhere–and I do mean anywhere–in the house. Even if it was locked up. I admire those of you who can quit around it…

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    1. I think we all adapt in different but equally remarkable ways when we give up this one (BIG) thing. One or two beers a week?? That’s even below what I always thought were totally unrealistic guidelines for moderate drinking. I’m glad your husband has been so supportive, C.

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      1. Me again 🙂

        Is it stalkerish of me to admit that I combed through the comments to find a Christy note? 🙂

        I loved that this post opened up and answered a question that was on my mind, but felt too rude to ask and worried that any wandering I did into a topic I know nothing about would leave me looking self-righteous and clueless.
        I often wonder what it is like to be married to, best friends with or around people who drink while you are fighting hard to win the battle. The “mom” in me worries about your daily struggles and inexperience leaves me feeling helpless to provide support or say the right things.

        Just knowing both of you (along with Karen and others) has made me much more aware of my own drinking habits. I don’t drink much at all…wine maybe once/month at a nice dinner or something. But, oddly enough, when I have poured a glass, I thought of my new friends and even lamented a little bit–about the same things you mentioned in this post. Traveling through wine country, sipping craft beers–things that couples in love do to have fun and bond. I’ve often wondered how I would handle those exact situations should I need to.

        I’ve become more aware of my surroundings and through this, have discovered my own co-workers and friends who have become recently sober. Learning from you has helped me be more aware, empathetic and way more interested in jelly beans and fritos than anything from a bottle.
        I hope this isn’t hijacking your post…just really wanted to say thank you.
        Michelle

        PS–LOVE the pic of you and hubby!

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      2. Only of it’s stalkerish to admit that I subscribe to Kristen’s comments, LOL. 🙂

        This is how we bridge that gap, Michelle. By talking and by asking and sharing. It helps reduce stigma and helps increase understanding. xoxo

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

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      3. Hey there – well I also subscribe to comment feeds – well only on some posts and only for so long – depends – right….
        anyhow, have been really enjoying this follow up feed – muy mucho…. 🙂 –

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      4. MMTerry – I think I speak for most recovery bloggers when I say I’m really touched that you have become more aware of those in your life who don’t drink anymore. We are grateful for those in our lives who do the same. The last thing I’d want is for someone to feel uncomfortable drinking around me, and to each his own there. As Christy points out, opening up about our habits and perceptions would seem an important part of removing the shame and stigma with addiction and recovery. We all have our battles, and it should be what we do about it that counts. Thank you for being so sweet and open in your comment. Really appreciated 🙂

        I’m grateful for every single comment (from you, Christy, Yvette… from everyone who leaves one). Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t reply to every single one – that it’s too much somehow – but your comments help me in a way that simply putting a post out there with no feedback or interaction could never do.

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  10. Oh, how I can relate to this! Tyler still drinks and we still keep alcohol in the house. I never expected him to stop drinking because it’s my problem, not his. But, it’s still hard and I still experience the grief of giving up the wine tastings and wine tours. But, I can guarantee he’s much happier now and so am I!

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  11. You’re reaching out to help others and that’s a more fantastic trip then could ever be gotten out of a bottle. You and your husband are very aware of each other – you have a frankness and support in you relationship and that’s powerful medicine… keep strong, happy and funny ’cause that’s who you are
    AnnMarie
    ps and thank you so very much for visiting my humble blogworld home 🙂

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  12. Ha ha my husband never smiles in photos either. He’s incredibly awkward about them actually. He also drinks wine most nights. But just one. Can you imagine that? One wine and that’s enough. Strange. Love to you BBB xxxx

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  13. Oh Lord, I havent even made it through the whole post yet but I had to shoot down to the comments after reading the bit about the best kept sobriety secret being EVERYTHING IS JUST AS FUN WITHOUT ALCOHOL!
    Sometimes I need that reminder, when I start feeling bad for myself.
    And then it becomes glaringly clear again that really, we are missing out on NOTHING by choosing to be sober. In those cases I just want to scream it from a mountain or something.

    And this:
    “When the kids are grown, we’ll never get to tour wine country or swill beers from matching steins in Germany or linger over a big bottle of wine in an indoor picnic house. I blew it and that’s a fact and a blessing and, well, because it’s both it feels complicated.”

    It’s a fact and a blessing indeed.

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  14. I so related to mourning the loss of a future I imagined, that pang of seeing (or even hearing about) a couple, especially an older couple, sharing a bottle of wine. My partner was telling me a story about an older friend of his looking forward to a night cooking with his wife. The friend apparently described the beautiful bottle of wine they were planning to open. I could sense that my partner felt a little pang thinking about how that would never be us, too, although he wouldn’t say it. It just sucks. There’s something so romantic about sharing a bottle of wine, isn’t there? And, of course, it’s something he and I actually did love doing together (until I had to take it to a different level altogether). Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    Hilda

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    1. Without the not-drinking, there wouldn’t be any casual enjoyment of anything. There never was casual enjoyment of wine with the obsessing and worrying and overdoing it. My husband can still drink and I can still enjoy my n/a drinks alongside him. It’s different but giving up the drink frees us to enjoy the little moments in life. I find it gets better and better.

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  15. There is another plus to this. I’ll say it because you seem to have a great attitude.

    Alcohol is hard on women. It does not treat their bodies well. Instead of Joe getting a drunken old hag he gets a hot MILF.

    Thats gotta be worth something.

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      1. well I heard a long-term lifestyle of drinking also gives people a big, red nose….
        and when I watch anthony bourdain – nice show and all – but when he parties so hard, I think “really?” – come on on now…..

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  16. Really meaningful and powerful stuff here! As a wife of 20+ years, and a recovering alcoholic of just under one year, I’m glad to see that I’m not crazy for not having a “dry house”. However, even though my husband still drinks, he’s cut it way back, and he’s fine with it…and also one of my biggest supporters! Thanks for sharing this with all of us-love your blog!

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  17. Great post, K. I do relate with much of what you say.

    But first things first – that Joe looks like a cool dude. This is the second pic I have seen of him, and he has that sardonic, bemused look on his face that is captivating. Maybe it’s only in pics. Maybe he’s a bad ass. Or maybe he’s the one that uses a sissy cup when driving or something. No idea, but I’d like to invite him to help me take on the Socs down by the park.

    Anyway, the idea of worrying about doing things “right”. Been there, still do that at times. Recovery is a different path for us, and by jove, you’re on a stellar one, my friend. And having an ally like Joe makes it that much easier. My wife drinks – once in a while – and no more than one or two. I don’t know how much she would drink if I were still active, but probably not much more. She’s just a normal person who just has the occassional beer or glass of wine.

    And yeah, I too wish I had that repellent, going-to-throw-up reaction around booze. I don’t. Beer still smells good. There, I said it. Doesn’t mean I am going to drink it, but it does smell good. As long as we are clear on this, and aren’t coming across as “oh my god, I vomit blood when I smell a hoppy, malty beverage” and being untrue. I have a friend with 10 years (and works a fine recovery program) who told me that he still finds the smell of beer good. So I didn’t feel so bad. And now you say it. so there…we’re normal in our not-so-normal and yet new normal way.

    Having someone who supports you is great, but not imperative, for recovery, in my opinion. Now, if my wife were an alcoholic herself, well, that’s another challenge. And many people come from relationships where both are / were alcoholics / addicts. So that’s a different thing. But having my wife being one of my greatest allies is awesome. As is Joe for you. Makes life a little easier, doesn’t it?

    And as for that old couple sharing a bottle, etc. Well, I can’t say that me and the missus will be doing that, but I am sure that by then we will have found our other thing that brings us together and gives us something to share and laugh and reflect upon. There’s no blueprint for this stuff, other than the inner workings and nudgings of our Creator / conscious. We go where we need to go, and it’s a groovy thing to have someone beside us who knows and accepts that and helps.

    Even a guy in a cool jacket. But then again, it’s the man who makes the clothes, isn’t it?

    Have to say the cool chick beside him ain’t no slouch either 🙂

    Rock on…great stuff.

    Paul

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  18. There’s much to relate to in this post, and I see from the comments that I’m not alone in feeling that. My wife drinks wine — can’t get rid of the beer, actually, when it shows up in the house. I don’t mind that she drinks. In fact, I uncork and pour. I’ll even check the bouquet, which is risky but manageable; one small risk for one small pleasure. Occasionally, I’ll let lose with, “God, I want a drink!” and she’ll say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have to.” To which, as someone else said, I’ll say, no, it’s my problem, not hers. We’re coming up on a tough time of year, when the warmer weather calls for sitting outside in the evening with a glass or two. Tea is nice. I just keep telling myself that: tea is nice. But this is part of marriage, yes? You don’t always end up where you had planned, but it’s great to have the company on the voyage.

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    1. There is a lot of comfort in the great company, isn’t there? Tea is nice. Thanks for your comment. Spring is a trigger time for me too. Keep reminding myself it passes.

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  19. I’m finding this can be a touchy situation in early sobriety. It may sound like a cop-out, but there has been a few times in the past year that my wife’s drinking has played a part in mine. Even though I really want sobriety and have made it well know . I don’t know what to think about all of this. It’s all so new and we’ve drank together for 15+ years. I feel like, due to this, achieving sobriety is going to be that much harder. Maybe I’m having a little pity party. Day 15 for me.

    It’s great to hear everyone’s story. Thanks so much.

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    1. Having a spouse who still drinks can be really tough in early sobriety, but it can be done. I went to recovery meetings and got out of our usual night time routines for awhile because the reminders of drinking were too painful and I needed support. It definitely got easier over time. Thanks for commenting. We all benefit from each other’s stories.

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  20. Just discovered the sober blogging world and this post rings true for me. My husband drinks, daily but moderately. We keep a fully stocked liquor cabinet at home. There’s another at our office. All my friends drink. With other support groups I was admonished to remove all alcohol from the house and avoid drinking situations, at least in the early days. Well, that’s not gonna happen. So I’m encouraged and heartened by your own sense of balance and truth that rings through this post. The bottom line, for me, is that it’s all up to me.

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  21. I went 100 days sober thanks to Belle and her Tired of Thinking about Drinking Challenge. I admit I celebrated on day 100 with four beers. Did not taste as good as they used to. I slept horrible and hated myself for my weakness. I am embarrassed because after reading so many blogs I realize my that my problem is tiny in comparison to other peoples issues with Wolfie.
    I know now that I do not need alcohol to have a good time and I know that I will never drink like I used to. Life is too good without it. I know that alcohol is my main roadblock to a successful career.
    My husband quit right along with me. It was the first time in our 23 years of marriage that both of us were sober. It was enlightening to say the least. We thought we only fought when we were drunk…surprise! He has quit for up to 9 months before this for health reasons..but I never did. When I accepted the 100 day challenge he said he would not drink until I did. NO pressure there! Well, I did drink and now he has drank 4 out of the past 5 nights, getting so sloshed the last night he ate a frozen cinnamon roll in bed and made a huge mess. I got so angry!! How could he? What a loser! I wish I could tolerate his binges. I accept my brother no problem…he lives with us and drinks a 12 pack of Bud every day. Why is this? So…we are not drinking again….together:)
    Thanks for your awesome blog!

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  22. What a lovely post. Reading that seeing people enjoy a bottle of wine is a trigger for you is so reassuring…I get that feeling of angry-butterflies in my stomach thinking that I’ll never have that…but you’ve done it. And so will I!!Best of luck x

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