Stripping down

My first year or so sober, I remember being obsessed with relapse. I took every mood swing and longing as a warning sign. I heard horror stories, often secondhand, about people who drank after years of sobriety. I looked for similarities and clues. I didn’t drink. This last step is the only one that brought any measure of relief. Eventually fear of relapse faded from a constant roar to a fainter, warbly hum.

By now, I’ve stripped away a lot of the so-called protective layers that allowed me to numb and check out and avoid. This sounds like a big accomplishment, but most days it feels involuntary and like I’m standing naked in front of a mirror in the harshest light. This is me, cellulite and stretch marks and that scar from kindergarten from when I fell on rocks in the parking lot of a fair and limped on to win a stuffed donkey. It is possible to feel horrible and happy at the same time.

Next month I’ll be coming up on 3 years of not drinking. It seems impossible it has been this long. (This probably sounds good if you recently stopped!) I wonder if others feel this way or is it like how I can’t believe I’m already 40? Time flies when you’re having fun or oldish or sober. I wonder if other people have recently, suddenly found themselves unsubscribing to emails and avoiding Target like the plague and deleting entire inboxes with glee. I think sometimes I’m shrinking my life down so small there won’t be anything left.

 

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You can tell a lot about a company by their unsubscribe process. I would consider taking this one back.

I’ve worried before about shrinking my life too small. It might be an introvert thing, but free flowing information and interaction inevitably burns me out. For example, when I go on facebook regularly, I compare my reality with other people’s carefully presented posts and it’s not a good place for me. Hell, even my fantasies don’t measure up. I have options here – I can deactivate my account or pare down my list of follows, or just not log on as much – but I think what bothers me is how bad I feel about something that brings people together. I accept I am this way, but I feel bad about it.

Maybe I’m shrinking to grow in another way. This feels right. Above all, I am still an optimist. I am still fall-to-my-knees grateful to be sober. I am grateful that I am grateful. I’ve seen visible, exciting progress from the last not-quite 3 years. I run regularly and lost a good chunk (ha) of weight. I yell less and laugh more. I have a sense of spirituality that continues to sprout and grow. (I am most excited about this.) I cook less than I did when I drank, which is puzzling, but I read more. I find lately I don’t enjoy television as much and in fact find having to keep up with shows tedious. I love my bed more than I thought humanly possible. We’re practically engaged to be married.

This is where I am today, right now. Everything I just wrote could likely change in months or years, except hopefully not the part about not drinking. This is the gift that keeps giving, even as it strips away.

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46 thoughts on “Stripping down

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  1. My inbox is like a charnel house these days.
    I’m working on something, and hopefully once that’s better established, I’ll be pretty much off the net.
    Stripping away the noise is a great trick if you can do it.

    Congrats on your continued sobriety!

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    1. Well then you say something like “I’ll be pretty much off the net” and I get a little panicky…would miss your blog and smiling face on the internet. It’s like, yes, I don’t want to spend so much time here but you can’t leave too.

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  2. I turned 3 in March, and since then I have unsubscribed from so many lists it’s mind-boggling. I cleaned my inbox out of over 3000 emails, and now as they come in I immediately answer, dump or put in a folder. I have unfollower MOST of the people I am friends with on FB, keeping only those who I am genuinely interested in . Unfollowed, not defriended, don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings I guess. I have also curtailed my love of wandering around Target and malls and all sorts of places that make me want to spend money needlessly.

    Maybe it is something to do with being 3?
    I’m just feeling there is no time for nonsense, for noise, for spending time with people I don’t want in my life (or inbox or FB).

    Thanks for writing this, it made me realize that I was doing the same thing, and now to ponder what it means….

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    1. Yes, me too Michele. Maybe it’s turning “3” or maybe even for me and K, turning 40.

      I’m letting go / stripping down in many senses: physically, mentally and spiritually. I think it’s a good thing. A shifting of priorities, a rebalancing of what’s most important. It feels very freeing, doesn’t it?

      Thanks for a thoughtful and very relatable post, K!

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

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  3. I get this. About a month ago I deleted over 8,000 emails. Poof gone! Did the same at work. Stripped it down to nothing. Just unfollowed about 200 people on Twitter. Donated tons of old kids toys and clothing. If I can get rid of it, I will probably try to – for the reasons laid out. I want more simplicity. It would be easier without the kids, of course…ha ha. But I do my best, and I think it’s about the clutter. We used to carry a lot of mental and emotional clutter, and now that we see how free it feels in the mind and heart, it manifests in our physical lives. Shedding pounds, losing deadwood in the house and backyard. Tossing the deadweight so that our balloons can rise higher, I suppose.

    Great stuff 🙂

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  4. “I cook less than I did when I drank, which is puzzling, but I read more. I find lately I don’t enjoy television as much and in fact find having to keep up with shows tedious.” I could have written these sentences, except substitute “movies” for “television.” (I never watched much TV in the first place.)
    At 4:30 this a.m. I suffered wakeful despair, the kind where I really just wanted a drink to escape from myself for a while. (Thankfully the bed was too cozy to get out of.) I’m okay now, but I do find in waking life that I tend more and more to escape from others, which is probably not a good move for someone who’s feeling tired of being around himself.
    Congrats on your impending three-year anniversary. As bad as I feel at times, I always remember that not sober would be much worse.

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    1. I get this Ross. I get up at 5am almost every morning anyway, but the 3:30 wake ups aren’t good. I can only spend so much time with myself. Tedious. Interesting point about escaping others…definitely feel the danger behind isolating too much. Blog interaction has always felt good. I need to push myself to keep seeking it, but in the right places.

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  5. Hello, thanks for this post. I am an introvert and I feel this way often! I barely ever go on Facebook anymore. If we haven’t ever been incredibly social to begin with things like that are just excruciating. I only have 30 days (today!) sober and your post today made me think that maybe I was drinking to become an extrovert, to become what people want. Have you read Quiet? (http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153) Its such a good book!

    I love, love, love, what you said here, “Maybe I’m shrinking to grow in another way. This feels right.” I’m going to use this as my mantra for a while! Thanks for sharing your story and congratulations on almost 3 years!

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  6. Congrats on the 3 years.
    I think my life was extremely small when I drank – really just me and the glass of booze in front of me. Others were there but didn’t matter – wife, kids, friends…
    Today my life isn’t big but it is bigger and much much better.
    Interesting post – since getting sober less stuff seems to really matter but what does really matters

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    1. Yeah, the connections with others are what deepen enjoyment of life, so this makes sense. Also, feel compelled to mention I don’t have 3 years until little less than a month so cannot accept congrats just yet. I’ll put them on ice for now, and thank you for them.

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      1. Ready to fully and totally cheer you over the line when you get there… like you though I don’t count the chickens until the vodka bottle has remained un-opened… or something like that :-/

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  7. I had to get away from everything, and most everyone when I got clean, and I mean had to. Life is so much better without all the nonsense and drama, now its just me, my kids, husband and my wonderful wordpress people, its pretty great.

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  8. I REALLY like your post. When I was three years sober, I was warned that the sky was still going to fall, that alcohol was “cunning, baffling and powerful” – which it is. One dude who was perhaps the most unhappy several year sober person I had ever met had a line that “each day I am sober, I am one day closer to my next drunk.” and on and on . . . I really got tired of that stuff.

    Here is what I wish folks would have told me on my third year anniversary – I need to remind my self every day that I am an addict and sober one-day-at-a-time. I have picked up an immense number of tools that I can use to keep me sober today. What works one day is not necessarily going to work the next day. Today I go to more AA meetings than I did 15 years ago, because it feels right. I don’t know if that will continue into the future.

    Most importantly, I practiced my addiction long enough and have been sober long enough to know when I am starting to rationalize alcoholic behavior. I believe that relapse is truly a process, not an event, just like recovery and sobriety is a process, not an event. I need to stay on the recovery road and not the relapse road.

    But most importantly, the thing about recovery is being able to return to living life on life’s terms, and not the dictates of what others think I should be doing.

    A bunch of years ago I decided I was going to stop waiting for the other foot to drop, as it were. As I usually end my shares at AA meetings, “I have not a complaint in the world today.”

    Congrats on three years!!!!!

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  9. Now that you are choosing sides for dodge ball I hope you will consider picking a few of us nerds to round out your team. We promise to give you our best efforts while keeping out of the way as much as possible. Oh and congratulations on your upcoming three year anniversary as well as your pending engagement!

    Kidding aside, you words and example continue to encourage us sober rookies. Grateful and grateful to be grateful indeed. Thank you K and thanks to all who blog and comment. You have made a world of difference in my life.

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    1. Hey nerd, I thought you already picked me to be on your team. I don’t know why since I’m afraid of the ball, but hope not to be one day. You continue to inspire and I am grateful.

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  10. Like I said above, me too. You’re so not alone.

    I deactivated FB because I just couldn’t manage keeping up with everyone on it and blogs and it just seemed so fake to me anyway. I felt from a time sense I had to choose blogs or FB, so I chose blogs because they felt more honest and real to me. (Though I’m scaling back from the blogs now too though. Seems the more time I spend in front of a screen, the bigger my ass gets, go figure.)

    You wrote: “Maybe I’m shrinking to grow in another way.”

    I really like that. Like a pruning process. A remolding, removing to allow a regrowing, reshaping. Like a rose bush.

    You can make your life as full or as small as you need. It’s YOUR life. And you can change your mind whenever you’d like. Sometimes when you shrink things, it allows you to see how full of life and possibility even the smallest lives can be. Like a single rose on that pruned rose bush.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    1. This scaling back process feels sad or scary sometimes. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing and it can change. Thanks for this reminder. Love the rosebush analogy though I have zero green thumb capabilities. This too could change! Doubtful but miracles do happen, possibilities are endless, sky’s the limit. Truly.

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  11. Happy 3 years! I can relate to everything you said, and I am only at 6 months. I no longer watch tv, read a ton more,(and remember it, bonus points), spend less time on Facebook, run more, cook less, and still am trying to figure out this sober thing.
    I enjoy my solitude, too much sometimes, and I used to hate to be alone. It is funny how life continues to evolve.

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    1. Ha, yes remembering what we read is an added bonus. I wonder what the not-cooking thing is all about. I know solitude is delicious. It’s a balancing act for sure, but too much interaction drains me.

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  12. BB, I have always enjoyed your posts because they are raw and honest – not so easy to find these days.
    Whilst I cannot share your journey, there are certainly some parallels with the way I have constructed my own path.
    Some years ago, being very busy and involved as we all do, I decided that life was being taken over by ‘Have to’s’ rather than ‘Want to’s’, making my life complicated and out of my own control.
    Being restless with this, my aim was to firstly regain control of my time and secondly, begin to realise my new stage of life.
    Whilst it sounds bad, I needed to walk away from a large number of the things that kept me involved and, dare I say, popular. My fears of being precluded from the social ‘A’ list were over-powering but my fear of living someone else’s dream was stronger.
    Fear is a great motivator as it was in this case. I walked away from many events and associations in the knowledge that there was no return. The terror and shame I felt was immense but I knew it was needed. It was the right thing to do.
    Having made these life changing decisions some 10years ago, I have now regained my simple life of ‘Pooh Bear’ and could not be happier. I see the groups I was involved in still doing the same thing and being popular, but I am smarter and more knowledgable that at any point in my life by giving myself time and space.
    Please let this be of further encouragement to you in your own life quest and be a continuation of the great steps you have taken already.
    Thankyou for your honesty and meaning that you bring to this forum.B

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    1. Hey B, thanks for this. I like where you’re at and I’m really glad you weighed in on this. We have everything we need. No need to go looking everywhere else for what is already there.

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  13. Sometimes I feel like we’re the same person. These last nearly-three years sober have been a scaling back process for me but like you said, it feels like I’m making room to grow. Change used to be the enemy and now I flow better with it. I don’t cook as much either, I stopped eating gluten and meat, I’ve lost weight (both physically and metaphorically), I avoid Facebook because it’s boring and I refuse to get notifications on new posts for more than 10 bloggers. At one point, I had 10 different email accounts and I’m scaling back to 3. I feel like I can pay closer attention to life when there are fewer distractions. And, I can change my mind about all of it anytime I want! Great post. 🙂

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    1. We’re like the same person except you’re more disciplined and concise and ahead of me by light years. And I love this about you. I love your posts and writing, but more importantly your fearlessness and how openly you embrace life and its challenges. You continue to inspire me, ie limiting notifications to 10 blogs…great idea.

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  14. For some reason I always just feel bored by Facebook because no-one is showing the real guts of life.. the honesty and truth about life. Like what we get here in the sober sphere..! Facebook is just for show.. the sober sphere is for truth. I am a big time unsubscribed and BBB I love that you are downsizing all this stuff… I think the main thing is that you do what suits you.. and the great thing about getting sober is that we work out what that is. Slowly we work it out. Lovely to hear from you xxxx

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  15. Great post, thank you. At six months I fret about relapse, like imagining I can hear footsteps following me down a dark street…hope they will fade into the distance for me, too.

    Getting sober for me feels like a process of being refined, like a precious metal. As we go through the fire the dross, the inessentials, are burnt away leaving only the pure gold. You and your writing shine brightly here – thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. That fear of relapse isn’t bad, though recall it weighed heavily at times. My guess is it fades naturally with sober time and getting through each “first” sober. Love the comparison of getting sober to being refined. Wonderful.

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  16. You marry your bed, and I’ll marry this post. And we’ll all live happily ever after. (Isn’t that a song? “You marry a bed and I’ll marry a post honey! You marry a bed and I’ll marry a post baaaaabe! You marry a bed and I’ll marry a post and we’ll go down to the fishin’ hole honey, baby miiiiiine…..”)

    You are so so right that you can feel horrible and happy all at the same time. And also about sobriety being the gift that keeps on giving even while it takes and takes and takes. It takes time, it takes courage, it takes cookies.

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    1. Yes! That is my favorite song to serenade my bed whilst on a bicycle built for two. Oh my dear sweet Amy. Cannot tell you how much your blog and comments mean. You’re a keeper, as are those cookies.

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  17. Just found this post, and thank God I did! As someone straggling along behind the 3 year olds (I am coming up on 2 1/2), this is a great read because it tells me what I can look forward to… maybe I’ll start deleting right now!

    Actually, here’s a funny coincidence: this past Saturday, I dealt with a problem with my phone (wasn’t receiving emails to it). I happen to obsessively delete unnecessary emails (a cluttered inbox drives me bonkers), so I did not know what could be the problem. It turns out, there is a server that also needs to be deleted periodically (who knew? not me). Imagine my horror when they instructed me how to log on to the server, and I found 50,000 emails that needed to be dealt with? So what I’m saying here is… if you posted this Saturday, I very well may have been stripping down as you were publishing!

    Also, “maybe I’m shrinking to grow another way,” may I admit my juvenile reaction to this line that I would like to shrink. Period! Alright, enough with my self-deprecation…

    I need to go to thesaurus.com (if such a website even exists) and find a new way to say: Kristen, you are a beautiful, talented, gifted writer. I grow in wisdom and insight each time I read, and I am inspired to be a better writer because of you!

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  18. Dear Kristen,
    I’ve been thinking about you so much lately and finally took the time to sit down and read. What a lovely gift your post was…waiting patiently to be opened. Like a kid, I ripped open the packaging, touched everything inside and then came back to the beginning to read it again.
    First of all–congrats on your sobriety!! It would feel completely inauthentic for me to say much in this space since I have no frame of reference–everything I’ve learned has been from you and Christy and so many other amazing people I’m blessed to call friends. I can say with a full and genuine heart that you are amazing and inspiring in so many ways that are relevant to the larger group.
    I totally appreciate the piece about unsubscribing and paring down. I kept my FB account, but it’s really only so my parents can see pics of the kiddos (that maybe I post every few weeks) Moving from 20 times/day to once/day was so easy, too. I simply took the app off my phone and don’t have access to it. LIBERATING!! I’m off work for a month and haven’t touched e-mail since May 15…seriously, I could become a hermit if my son didn’t play baseball once/week!!
    Your words are beautiful, you are inspirational and I feel so blessed that our paths crossed. xo Michelle

    PS: Being married to the bed is awesome, huh?? Seriously, some nights I start planning my bedtime routine. It’s when I do all of my best reading and daydreaming 🙂

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  19. i’ve been paring down my non-sober acquaintances more and more. Not that i dislike them or consider them a threat to my sobriety or disapprove of their drinking, just that i have less and less in common with them and feel better hanging out with people i have more in common with. i do envy you your reducing, though, as there are so many areas where i feel i’m trying to take more and more on.

    And how dare you not post a picture with a title like that! 😉

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  20. well I read this last week but did not have time to leave a comment – and after coming back – well I read it again – and enjoyed it even more. Just soooooo tasty my friend.

    And I wonder if you were cooking more back then because it was a way of “giving” – or it was an act of over compensating or crying out – like I once read something from a lady = who used to give gifts to everyone – and she was known as the gift lady = well actually I know a lady like this – she works at the gift shop at GACC and still gives little gifts to almost everyone she encounters – it is like her thing. Anyhow, getting back to this other lady I read about – I remember that when she became settled and balanced inside – she no longer had the desire to give gift to everyone. Her friendship was enough. Now this is not to say that gift giving is always with motive – and being a “giver” myself – I know the pure joy of what it is like to find something that someone collects – or to just give to give – but for this lady – (and what struck me) was that in her case her giving was coming from her lack of settledness and the “action” allowed her a connection from her pain and it was something that brought comfort – which was a comfort no longer needed when she grew inside. And her story came to my mind with the cooking note – or maybe after smashing all those lids together you just find your tired of la covina – and well, I think we were built for so much more than kitchen duties anyhow – ha!

    and oh one more tidbit – regarding this part “I think what bothers me is how bad I feel about something that brings people together..” well a flip side to this is that even though that stuff brings people together – it is flawed and it can be a big drain – and the type of together it brings is a mixed bag.
    🙂

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