No dealbreakers here

Occasionally I get emails from people who are thinking of getting sober but aren’t quite there yet. I love getting these emails, but they scare me a little too because I want to tell them it’s fine here in Soberland – better than fine, even peachy keen most days – but I remember that jumping off point and how little I thought about it before making the leap. My counselor at the time told me to get to AA and I blindly did that and it just so happened to work for me in those early days. I went to meetings and I soaked in the stories and feeling of support and hope, and sobriety just kind of blossomed from there.

But what about those people who don’t believe AA will work for them? I know numerous people who got and stayed sober without setting foot in a meeting because it didn’t appeal or sometimes didn’t occur to them. They took up blogging or yoga or painting or running or chocolate – sometimes all of the above – to fill that god-sized hole that people at meetings talk about all the time, but of course they don’t know that because they’ve never set foot in one. Is their approach any more doomed or less-than compared to a 12-step recovery program? They certainly don’t seem to think so.

And what about someone who already went the AA route and doesn’t want to go it again but fears there is no easier, softer way? This isn’t a deal breaker. I believe there are as many ways to get sober as there are to go about your day. You can wake up and drink and lose most of it in blurriness and blackout regret or you can choose not to drink and read a sober book or blog or email a sober stranger instead and start to build your sober support network. And not drink. That last part is the only thing you absolutely must do if you want to stop drinking.

In the meanwhile, if you’re thinking of not drinking and aren’t quite there yet or you just want to read a poem about how to climb out of hell, Christy at Running on Sober cranked this out in a bout of sober insomnia. I’ve been up since 3:30 and all I wrote was an essay about carrying a metal Holly Hobbie lunchbox to school  and fighting over a tire swing for my daughter’s first grade class (my daughter just asked who’s Holly Hobbie?). Some of us make beautiful music, some of us clank around pots and pans. It’s still sober, and sober is pretty awesome, let us be the first to tell you.

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Give me some sugar

I’ve written about my struggle with sweet, sweet sugar too many times to count, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find I’m still learning new things.

I’ve had a sweet tooth my whole life, but in sobriety I’d lost my trusty emotional cushion of booze and instinctively turned to sugar. While part of me wishes I could just live with it, I’ve worked really hard over the last five years to lose more than 40 pounds through better diet and exercise, and sugar binges sabotage that. Plus it doesn’t feel good to feel out of control.

I’m writing about it this morning because some new ideas came my way via where else but the sober blogs.

First, More to Me Than This wrote this excellent piece on how sugar affects the brain and how it has affected her personally since getting sober. I would say it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve realized how much I’d been self-medicating with sugar, so her insight and ideas really impressed me.

When I started the herbal cleanse I mentioned in my last post, I took most refined sugar out of my diet. I say most because I did allow ice cream on two special occasions that fell within the cleanse period. In the past when I’ve attempted to wrangle sugar, ice cream was strictly forbidden.

I observed some new things this time around.

Moderation with sugar is pleasurable!

When I drank moderately, I hated it. I used to count drinks and as I got closer to the maximum number I’d allotted, I would feel every ounce of pleasure drain away. I didn’t enjoy a mild buzz. I wanted more.

When I eat dessert moderately, I enjoy the taste and textures. I’ve never really noticed an emotional effect from sugar, but I believe the reward centers of my brain are feeling it plenty. When I don’t overdo it, I also don’t suffer the post-binge crash, though there has been a curious emotional reaction more recently.

The guilt is still there, but maybe not forever

The secretive binges and shame I feel from overindulging in dessert remind me so much of how I used to drink. When I ate ice cream these last two times, I enjoyed the experience but not the guilt I felt while eating it. I wondered where this anxiety and fear came from. I was eating moderate servings. I wasn’t doing it every day. This wasn’t a binge, so why was I reacting like it was?

For me, I think it’s that I don’t trust myself yet. And with good reason. Enjoying sugar moderately is not something I have much experience with in sobriety.

When I ate the ice cream these last two times, part of me was thinking “oh no, here we go again.” Only I didn’t keep going back and I got back to healthy eating with the next meal. I also noticed my mood overall has been better when I eat sugar moderately compared to when I cut it out completely.

How will I know I’m cured?

I predict a continuation of cycles of eating better and overindulging with cravings. This doesn’t sound like much of a cure, huh? My hope is that with continued, consistent practice of making better choices about what I choose to eat, the eating-better cycles will last longer and the binges will slink back from whence they came. This will happen over time, like it already has. I have seen improvement in the last three years, so I can reasonably expect to see more if I continue seeking it.

A “cure” might be asking for a small slice of cake because I know it will satisfy. My hope is that I can enjoy dessert occasionally…moderately.

The last thing I wanted to share (via Sober Truths) is a TED-Ed on how sugar affects the brain. Watch if you have 5 minutes!

Blowing my own anonymity

The same week I finally got around to watching The Anonymous People (on Netflix streaming, thanks for the heads up, Amy!),  I had the opportunity to write something for a new blog feature The Fix is running. I could have used a pseudonym and shadowy picture, but it didn’t feel right after watching so many give convincing arguments for the need to remove the shame and stigma of addiction.

When I first started this blog, it hardly mattered that I didn’t post a picture or use my real name because no one was reading. Around the time when I started to interact more with other sober bloggers and wondered what they looked like – did they look like neighbors, friends, family… you know, like me? – I put up a photo as nonchalantly as I could and waited for the fallout, only to find none.

I’ve used my first name only up to this point for a number of reasons. And while my recovery feels like a sacred, private affair, it also feels wrong to keep it hidden. I am not ashamed of being in recovery.

These are some of the fears I have about being open about my recovery.

What will my family think?

My husband is the one who said “go for it” without hesitation when I told him I was thinking about using my real name on The Fix, so I’m not concerned about ruffling his feathers. In general, I wish I had more of his sense of fuck it when it comes to what other people think. It’s pretty liberating to just be yourself. But I don’t want to bring embarrassment or shame to my family. Let’s think about this for a moment, though. What is shameful about being sober and a better parent and employee and person in general? What is shameful about seeking a solution to a serious problem?

What will my future employer think?

There is no hiding thanks to the almighty power of Google, so I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that untreated alcoholism cost the US workforce $134 BILLION in 1998 due to lost productivity from alcohol-related deaths and disabilities. Over 15% of US workers reported showing up to work impaired and 9% reported being hungover at work, the latter of which seems pretty low based on my own informal research.

What will the neighbors/other parents/mailman think?

This is a mixed bag. There will be some who think getting sober is a brave, wise decision. Maybe they too will have family in recovery, which is likely considering addiction affects two-thirds of US households. Or maybe some will think I’m weak or flawed or making too much of nothing. I’ll never forget a haunting line in True Detective where a reverend said (to an alcoholic) “It’s kind of hard to trust a man who can’t trust himself with a beer.” Some people think this way and it isn’t my job to change their mind.

I do feel it’s important to show others that people in recovery look like everybody else. We’re quietly going about getting help and struggling some days and getting stronger in the process. When I drank and struggled secretively, it made little sense because help was there all along in the form of recovery meetings, therapy, online support and more. Hiding my recovery feels even stranger.

I’m not suggesting we all march into work and announce our sobriety or wear matching jackets to more easily identify as sober brethren. There is no shame in keeping sobriety private and sacred if that feels right to you. No one should put their sobriety or personal livelihood in jeopardy by speaking out. There are ways to speak candidly about being in recovery for those in 12-step programs, but I think more often the fear is for how others will see us because misunderstanding and stigma towards addiction feels too big. That same stigma keeps people like us from getting help every day.

I am in a comfortable place thanks to my sobriety, living a life far better than I could have imagined. There is no shame here, only gratitude.

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What I wish I’d known – a guest post by Robert

The thought of being 30 years sober makes me feel a little giddy, dizzy even. How does one stay sober that long? Does it have to involve meetings? Is relapse still a threat? Do you even still think about being sober anymore?

Robert, who blogs at the wonderful, wisdom-filled Process Not An Event, shares candidly about his recovery process and some of the most important things he’s learned in nearly three decades of sobriety. 


This August I will be sober for 30 years. In 1984, three months after I was released from the detox unit, only one other person from my cohort of 20 remained sober.  I have often asked: Why Me? Why have I stayed sober and others have not?

I know sobriety has nothing to do with who drank the most or who had the most dysfunctional childhood or arrests or job losses. When I reflect back on my first recovery meetings, the old timer drunk-a-logs and their long-term sobriety held little meaning for me.  I wanted to hear how people put together just a couple of weeks or months of sobriety.

Over the years, below is some of what I have learned and wished I had heard at my first recovery meetings:

  • It’s not that I can’t drink today, rather I don’t have to drink today.  If I want to live life on life’s terms, then I don’t need to anesthetize myself to simply exist in a passive world.
  • AA meetings, sponsors, reading the Big Book and all of those practices ultimately are not the reason I stayed sober.  Making a decision to live in recovery and not in active addiction is the reason. Until I made that decision, all of the recovery tools were pretty useless.
  • Making that decision led me to explore a diversity of recovery tools.  In my first year of sobriety, I attended over 300 meetings.  From years 10 – 15, I don’t recall attending any AA meetings. Today I go to about 4 AA meetings each month. I don’t know if I will go to more or fewer meetings in the future.  Ditto on reading the Big Book. But I do read something or listen to a podcast or engage with some other recovery based material on a daily basis. I have not had an official AA sponsor in about 25 years, but I have honest and self-searching dialogue with others about recovery on a regular basis.  I also share my experience, strength and hope of recovery with anyone.  In essence, on a daily basis I remember that I am a recovering alcoholic.
  • I very truly believe that both recovery and relapse are processes and not events.  When I was first sober, I was warned that the sky was 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.” Based on my experience, I completely reject that notion.  A healthy fear of “slippery places” is good, particularly in early recovery, but it’s not going to keep me sober.  I am either on the recovery road or the relapse road in the same way I can either travel north or south.  I can’t get south by going north, nor will I relapse if I am going in the direction of recovery.
  • Today, what keeps me sober is not so much fear of drinking as is my total love and embracing of life in recovery.  I have learned over the years that my very existence today is the complete antithesis of my life when practicing my addiction.  Today, I am a role model for my step-children – that’s not a label I use but one given by my wife and children.  I am able to play a leadership role in my career.  I enjoy working with students, especially those who struggle to live into their true selves.  I don’t say this out of grandiosity, but out of humility in what recovery offers.  Without question, all of that is out the door with the first drink.
  • Recovery is about living life on life’s terms, and not the dictates of what others think I should be doing.
  • I often end my shares at AA meetings with “I have not a complaint in the world today.”  A bunch of years ago I decided I was going to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were, and live life fully in recovery.

These are the most important things I have learned about recovery.


What do you know now that you wish you’d known on Day 1 of your recovery? Please feel free to share in the comments. And check out Robert’s blog if it’s new to you. I find myself going back again and again. Thanks for the great post, Robert!

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.

Cakewalk

800px-Chesaspeake_Bay_Bridge_Panorama_60465636
source: wikipedia

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge took part in the slow, kindly intervention that occurred in the last year of my drinking. Kindly might not be the right word, but when you’re spared DUI or public humiliation, private pain feels like house arrest in a home much nicer than you deserve.

When I was a kid, crossing the Bay Bridge on a Friday night in summer symbolized a week in near heaven. It was the only way to the beach and my beloved Punchy raft and sandbars at noon and Mr. Softee ice cream cones that dripped melty globs of rainbow sprinkles on the tops of my brown, bare feet.

When I was ten, my family and I walked one side of the dual-span 4.3 mile stretch during a Bay Bridge Walk. The steel suspension bridge had never felt more alive, especially since we could feel it sway beneath us. Leaning over the guardrail at 186 feet inspired my very first short story about a toll collector who stole $100 from the register and (spoiler alert) plummeted to his death when he escaped on foot and dropped the bill and scurried after it.

Why didn’t he just drive in the car that he’d obviously used to get to work in the first place? Why didn’t he take more than $100? Which asshole had paid a $2.50 toll with a Ben Franklin anyway? I wish I could ask 10-year-old-me.

My second short story was about an alcoholic who fatally slipped on a broken bottle of booze, so if I could go back in time, the first thing I’d do is pat 10-year-old-me on the back for spinning dark, fatalistic morals and then I’d grill her with questions but not pointers since my work hasn’t progressed.

I lived a real-life drama on that bridge several years ago – almost to the date – when I drove over in the most hungover state I’ve ever been upright in. This particular hangover hadn’t been helped by a 2-hour drive and careful rationing of orange juice and vodka. Or maybe it was gin. The things I drank often matched the desperation I felt inside.

Alcoholics don’t drink in the morning for the buzz. Just like smokers don’t take their first drags for the fresh air, I drank secretively and at desperate times to make withdrawal symptoms go away.

Hangovers on a good day were a strip of tight pain that ran across my forehead and maybe a mouth that tasted like something had crawled in and died. A couple ibuprofen and an afternoon nap usually did the trick. On a bad day, hangovers were a rising tide of panic and nausea and doom, with a good measure of I’m not fit to be alive, let alone a parent.

The day I drove over the Bay Bridge in full blown hangover, I had been taking small sips to keep withdrawal at bay. It just hadn’t worked. My wretched drink ran out and I felt worse than ever. We met my extended family for lunch at a quaint harborside place just before the bridge. The beer I ordered came too little, too late. If I’d been with my husband, I would have ordered three more and I would have made him drive. Instead I drank my useless beer and muddled through small talk and ate actual food and grinned tightly before getting back in my car and silently praying for death.

Now I’m glad that panic attack happened because it forced the biggest wake up call of my drinking career. There is nowhere to pull over on the bridge and heave your guts out, so the fear and nausea grew with the realization that I might throw up all over myself – or just die, which felt a very real possibility – while my kids watched from the back seat, already silent because they could sense I was barely holding on.

My husband called as I was driving over the bridge and I cut him off with a “Can’t talk…think I’m having a panic attack.” I didn’t even tell him why; I just hung up. When I finally crossed over, the swell of nausea fell until I reached my parent’s house and feigned the flu and crawled into bed and rocked myself to sleep. I swore I would never drink again, which was absolutely true until the next night.

That wasn’t rock bottom – a moment so horrible I had no choice but to quit for good – but it was the most physically painful place my drinking took me, moreso because I suffered it alone. I can’t remember what labor pain felt like, but I acutely recall the bite of a bad hangover.

The hangovers got unpredictable and worse in the last year of my drinking. Sometimes drinking more made them go away, but more and more often it only made the pain feel worse. This is why I say the hangovers saved me.

This fall I’m signed up to run a Bay Bridge 10K with my younger sister. It will be the first time they’ve opened the bridge to runners in nearly a decade, though it’s a big deal to me for other reasons.

I am excited to bond with my sister over running. I’m eager to see how my fear of heights has beefed up over the years…maybe it’ll lead to another preachy short story.

The run and the bridge in general also symbolize how far I’ve come from that dark moment of panic and shame and just a really low shit-point in my life as a parent and a human being. While I’m a little nervous about running across a gently swaying hulk of metal suspended two-hundred feet above sharks*, I’ve lived through hell of my own doing the day I drove over in full-blown hangover and panic. Anything short of that feels like a cakewalk.

William Preston Lane on Bay Bridge (source: Wikipedia)
William Preston Lane on Bay Bridge, 1952 (source: Wikipedia)

 

*not really, but sharks sound better than sea nettles.

At dinner the other night, my daughter matter-of-factly announced to her friend that I’d eaten most of her Halloween candy last year. I might have protested if it hadn’t felt true. Also, her friend had just admitted her parents confiscate all the Halloween candy on November 1st and blame it on some nefarious Candy Fairy, so I guess I was feeling a step above that.

What a difference a year makes, and then again none at all. For the last three months, my stress levels have been through the roof at work and sugar intake has skyrocketed accordingly. It’s my favorite vice and it eases suffering in some way I don’t really understand but do accept.

I have fallen off the sugar wagon, which incidentally has peanut cup wheels with gum drop hubcaps. The carriage is constructed of solid, buttery toffee and the driver sits atop an oreo cushion (double stuff, of course), armed with a red licorice whip. I guess the only reason I didn’t want to fall off the wagon in the first place is I feared it might get away from me and then I could never nibble on its many delicious parts.

I’m not giving up or giving in, though the wagon description did make me very hungry. I am only admitting as proudly as I can that I haven’t got this thing licked. Or I do have it licked and that’s the problem. I’ve come to a certain amount of peace in accepting that my love of sweets is as much a part of me as my love of solitude and office supplies.

I could ask the nefarious Candy Fairy to pay a visit Halloween night. This feels too extreme and cruel, and I can hear the cries of my kids and sensible people asking “why don’t you just not eat the candy, ok?”

I’ve given a lot of thought lately to this expectation that I can remove a character defect that has been with me, I suspect, from the womb. For now, it feels easier to accept that I have a problem and always will. I’ve definitely made measurable progress overall in the last year, which I hear is the goal. This feels like enough for today and, in fact, it feels pretty great.

 

Catboy and upcakes

Thank you very much to those who knew I celebrated two years of sobriety last week and left comments. It meant a lot and helped to make the occasion very special. I said I was going to close out my two years with a post about the many gifts of sobriety, but then the time came and I couldn’t. I lost my dear sweet cat of 18 1/2 years a few weeks ago and, I don’t know, life happened and I just couldn’t bring myself to feel, let alone write about gratitude.

The cat was very, very old. The above picture, taken days before we had him put down, doesn’t show that he’d shrunk to 5 pounds and how his hip bones jutted out like matted fur and he was so wobbly he could barely stand. His death wasn’t a surprise and, in fact, we’d joked for years that we would have him stuffed when he died because he’d seemed such a permanent fixture in our lives. Instead we had him cremated and now he sits on our mantle in a small wooden box with his name on it. I guess we became those people.

And by those people, I guess I mean people doing normal life things, ready or not. In the week following the cat’s death, I was mostly fine but then I’d be putting laundry away and notice the giant hole in my heart. Honestly, I was mourning the loss of a life I haven’t known in years as much I was missing my sweet catboy. What I noticed was how much grief over one thing stirred up grief and fear and even resentment over other, seemingly unrelated things. Nothing new had happened in my life other than the cat dying, but here I was trapped in old patterns of feeling afraid and hopeless.

I have to keep an eye on this kind of feeling because I’ve been depressed before and taken medication for it. I’m trying not to right now, though I am taking supplements and definitely exercise. I’m trying to be kinder to my monkey mind (thanks, Christy) and so I just sit with it and listen to the chatter and occasionally feed it cupcakes, like the one I had at lunch the day I hit 2 years sober.

Not my photo because I ate mine before I thought to take one.

I met my sober friend Lisa for lunch. She is behind me in sobriety by not quite a month, and marking the occasion with her felt right. The place we went to has these things called upcakes, which are basically upside down cupcakes with the top cut off and icing all over. The description doesn’t do justice to how amazing these things taste. It must be the homemade icing.

For awhile there, I worried I might have to ditch dessert…again. I was hitting sugar hard and had picked up a few pounds and was feeling pretty miserable about it. This was even before my cat died and work got more stressful and old issues flared up. Then I sort of prayed on it in a half-assed, totally non-religious way — more like a “I don’t think I can do this anymore” whine thrown into the ether. And it seemed to work and I am grateful because it means I get to keep occasional upcakes and Rita’s gelatis, which are usually followed by 3 mile runs the next morning because I’m not fucking magical.

It’s ego and vanity, but running makes me feel good about myself. I’ve lost weight and so far kept it off and I can run longer and faster and it’s hard to explain how good that feels and how that keeps me going during the tougher moments. Oh, I also think I’m going to hit a meeting in the near future. I have no intention of attending regularly again, but I miss that sameness and feeling of comfort that comes from sitting in a room with a bunch of stranger-drunks.

We also plan to adopt two new kitties. The kids have never known a pet that sees children as anything other than a threat or competition, so I think this will be good for all of us.

I guess I did get around, in a round about way, to writing about the gifts of sobriety. I had the loss and felt it and didn’t run from it and cause it to mutate and multiply. Life isn’t easy sober, but it’s easier than I ever made it out to be.

I’m trying to remember when life consistently got easier in sobriety, as in Mrs. D’s point-on description:

Living sober means having an overall underlying state of calm.. interrupted by phases of emotion that are annoying but manageable.

Living sober means realising that phases of negative, tricky or uncomfortable emotion come along and are annoying.. but that they pass…they come.. and they go..

Since I hit 2 years sober later this month, I thought I’d write about the following each week until I get there.

  1. The overall process of the last 2 years
  2. Why I stopped drinking in the first place
  3. The many gifts of sobriety

This post is #1.

Months 1- 5

Meetings and vietnamese iced coffee

I remember going to a lot of meetings my first sober summer, though in reality it was only 2-3 a week. Each night I went, I slid into a metal  folding chair, still dressed in work clothes, and inhaled the smell of floor polish and stale books and felt like I’d come home. Mostly I just sat and listened to the stories of other people’s lives – their abuse and recovery, their promises. My real home had people who would never let me stare into space for an hour without demanding snacks or a story or some decision, so this is where I caught the pink cloud and coasted for about 5 months on pure relief plus also smoking too much and iced coffees with heaping tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, aka crack.

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Months 5-12

Unleashing the kraken and realizing he only looked 50 times bigger than a pink elephant

Most people report the first 90 days of sobriety are the hardest, but did I mention I’d been on a beautifully numbing antidepressant during that time? Maybe that’s considered cheating, but hey, it worked for me. Around 5 months sober, I decided to switch to another because frankly it was making me fat and killing my sex drive. I remember the doctor asking “Are you sure you want to switch right before the holidays?” I did it anyway.

The antidepressant I stopped taking is well known for its SSRI discontinuation syndrome and the new one I started taking was not at all numbing. I got those pesky feelings back and got angry over everything and cried in my car a lot. Overall this was a tough time for me, but still it was nothing compared to the overwhelming feelings of isolation and hopelessness I’d had at the end of my drinking.

There were many good days in here. I started eating way too much sugar in the absence of any real coping skills, but I also took up running. I lost weight. I quit smoking. I started making better decisions. Baby steps to progress, but slowly life started to feel more manageable.

Months 12-16 

The clouds part for longer than 5 minutes at a time

My least favorite kind of beach day is the kind where you can tell the sun wants to poke through the clouds, but it can’t seem to for any longer than a few seconds at a time. To add insult to injury, these tend to be the days where the biting flies are out and you can still get a sunburn.

Some time around the transition from summer to fall of 2012, the clouds parted and I experienced a real breakthrough.

I remember a facebook post that made light of binge drinking and I remember feeling really sorry for myself that I couldn’t drink anymore and that no one seemed to know how hard that was. I told my husband how crazy annoyed that made me and he said something like “why do you care what other people do?” Although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s strange to connect and harder to explain, but that time of longing and self-pity was immediately followed by the removal of my obsession with drinking. The realization that I didn’t need to worry what others thought about drinking or not drinking was very liberating.

Months 16-23 

The second act

People warned me that the second year sober is hard, but in a different way than the first. The good news is the second half of my second year got a lot easier! By now, I’ve learned that the rough spots still come, but they pass quickly if I do what I know works to get through them (see above, re: Mrs. D). Sometimes that means eating ice cream and going to bed early. Still not convinced there’s anything wrong with this approach, though long term this does not seem a sustainable coping mechanism.

My moods leveled out more in this time. I went off the second antidepressant. I kept running, literally, but not as much figuratively. I started journaling and writing more. I gave up sugar and then went back on sugar and now I’m cutting back again. Sugar is a little fucker!

I don’t know that my process is anything like others’. I think I’m a late bloomer in many respects, so I probably hit my rough patch later than most. Just want to stress again that even during the hard times, everything about being sober is better than anything while I was still drinking.

I’m just as grateful to be off the sauce as I was at Day 2 because let’s face it, Day 1 I was pretty sure I was going to die. I’ll write a little about that next week.

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