How I am feeling right now

Overwhelmed. Irritable.  Anti-social.  Unable to concentrate or be productive in my work or at life because all I am doing is thinking about not drinking.  It has been 3 days in a row I have not drank.  I have been at this point countless times before.  I am feeling like, although I want this to be it, it probably won’t be because I have been here so many times before and failed.

Right now I am feeling like time is passing so slow.  I feel restless.  I want 1 week to pass without me having had a drink.  I want 30 days under my belt.  I am feeling fearful that I am not going to be able to fight off the cravings when they come.  That I will give in and drink in order to quiet the relentless calling for alcohol that my mind yells to me.

I am feeling like I am weak, meek.  I feel the opposite of strong.

I am feeling sad that I don’t have a community.  I read sobriety blogs and belong to sobriety Facebook groups, but find many posts, where people tell their sob stories, not be helpful for me.  I have even reached out and tried to be encouraging and/or supportive, but I honestly tire of listening to all the life drama people yap about.  As an addictive community we are always encouraged to reach out for help.  To share our struggles.  Often times, instead of relating, or empathizing, or wanting to help, I disengage.  This most likely comes from me not getting my sobriety needs met. I don’t like that I  have these non-empathetic thoughts.  I think this only adds to my sobriety frustrations.

I am feeling fearful to talk with my husband about my drinking.  We have had conversations about my drinking too many times.  He listens to a point, but then can only reach so far….He has seen me try to stop and fail multiple times.

 

Today, to sum it up, I feel alone.  I know that my best chance of success to overcome my cravings for alcohol is the opposite of alone….to find a community.  I struggle to find that.  It has to be my subconscious lack of openness and/or willingness, as I have put myself in many positions to belong to a sober community group, both on line and in person.    …Now who is the one belly-aching and telling her story of woe???

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Learning about the science of addiction

This journey, quest if you will, for finding my best self (which I know will happen once I am able to break my chain of alcohol addiction), has been ongoing for some time now.

I am grateful I recognize my addiction to alcohol.  I have been working really hard to overcome my addiction for some years now.  I have learned so much along the way.  I have learned lots about the science of addiction.  I’ve learned that my addiction is not something I chose of my own free will or purposely ‘did’ to myself.  This fact gives me some peace, compassion and empathy for my own self and for others who experience addiction illnesses.

From remembrance of my first sips, I have always loved alcohol.  I loved the way it tasted and I love the way it made me feel.  Alcohol numbed me.  Being a person who has been hard wired with anxiety disorders, I found alcohol gave me freedom from the tight and fearful feelings of anxiety that I experienced daily.

On a conscious level I didn’t connect drinking alcohol to helping relieve my anxiety.  In fact, early on in my drinking history I didn’t even realize I had ‘anxiety’.  Feeling chronically anxious was my normal.  I knew no different.  So when alcohol helped this normally tight and fearful sensation stop I found a new feeling… it was peaceful and pleasant.  It felt so good.  Soon I figured out that when I felt bad, stressed, upset, or other negative emotions, alcohol helped to stop those sensations too.  In fact, alcohol helped all sensations I felt, pleasant and unpleasant, feel better for me.  Alcohol, generally speaking, helped me feel more at peace and at ease.

In the beginning, my choosing to drink was benign.  No one warned me of it’s dangers or addictive nature.  I was ignorant to any ill long-term effects it might have on me.  I didn’t feel like I was doing anything harmful to myself.  In fact, I felt like I was helping myself. Yes, there were times early on when I woke up hung over and occasionally shameful…but those times were few and far between, and I didn’t honestly recognize a long-term problem brewing.

Fast forward decades later, the disease of alcohol addiction is a part of who I am now.  I wish someone had talked with me years ago about what was going to happen if I continued to use alcohol to self-medicate.  Now I feel like I don’t choose to drink alcohol…. I am compelled to drink it.  My brain has been chemically altered.  I have gone from seemingly benefiting from alcohol’s numbing effects in the beginning, to now, after years of chronic and steady involuntary increased consumption, enduring many unfavorable effects.  I now feel like I am alcohol’s slave.

This past weekend, like the weekend before, I awoke on Saturday morning extremely hung over, nauseated w/ a terrible headache.  I was the only one in my household (my husband and our 3 young-ish children) drinking the night before.  I was not drinking for pleasure.  I was drinking because I could not say no to the signals my brain was sending me.  It was easier for me to give in and quiet my brain so I could feel peace.  Now instead of alcohol giving me peace, it controls my peace.

Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind, does a really nice job of explaining the science of how ingesting an addictive substance actually changes our brain chemistry.  She also shares her story of how she changed her thought process to not crave alcohol and encourages us that we can do the same. She provides scientific research of how, although our addictive brains have been permanently changed, it is possible to lead a non-tormented, prosperous and pleasant alcohol free life if we choose.

And so I am addicted to alcohol. I am addicted, but hopeful.  Hopeful that, although I will always be addicted to alcohol, through determination, perseverance and continuing to learn about addiction I will find what works for me to stop the drinking part of my addiction and be able to live alcohol free with peace, not torment.

Love thy self

Love thy self.  This is what I need to do.  Months have past between my last entry and this one.  My life journeyed on.  Alcohol snuck it’s way back in…slowly and slowly snuck it’s way back in.

How is it that consuming alcohol is something I crave and choose as a part of my life, yet I know it will cause me emotional and physical pain at the same time?  This is an aspect of addiction.

This summer I trained for a Sprint Triathlon.  I trained hard.  I got strong.  I swam, biked and ran that race a little over a month ago, and I felt so good and happy.  I felt good and happy, yes, these were sincere emotions I felt and emotions that my friends and family saw….however, there were other feelings that slowly creeped their way into my body as the summer went on and my training went on.  Those feelings were thinking about alcohol.  Wanting to drink alcohol.  Craving the sensations that alcohol gave me.  I was doing good and healthy things for my mental and physical self, yet I still wanted to drink alcohol knowing it is not good for me, knowing that drinking alcohol will give me immediate relief followed by more long-term physical and emotional heartaches.

I gave into those feelings the last month of my training, and I found myself training for this race hung over some mornings.  Some of those mornings I was hung over I ran exceptionally well, or biked awesomely.  Reassurance that I can have my drink and drink it too.  …but I knew…. I knew that even though I could train while drinking, and feel like I could do no better even if I didn’t drink the night before… I knew I did not want that for myself, yet addiction took hold and once again began to loudly ignite my inner dialogue of torture and torment.

The race has been over for more than one month now, and I am finding myself drinking more and more.  I am sliding down an emotional hole and loosing much of the strength and pride I felt after completing my race.

Why must I stop at the liquor store on my way home from my son’s little league baseball game?  Why must I stop on my way home from work???  What do I need to do to be my best self?

My dear self….you are the only person who drinks in your own home.  Why do you feel the need to drink by yourself surrounded by family who is not drinking???

This is what I need to figure out.  I need to figure out how to love myself enough and care about myself enough to stop the emotional and physical pains that come with my alcohol addiction.

Feeling Fearful in Sobriety

As I sit here right now, in this moment, I am feeling secure in my sobriety.  11 days.  11 days feels good.  I feel good.  However, at the same time there is an uncomfortable feeling of fear gnawing at me.  A fear that I will not be able to maintain my sobriety long term. ….or short term for that matter.  This disease of addiction is so hard to overcome, or even get a handle on sometimes.

I have tried so many times to live my life abstaining from alcohol.  I know this is the best choice for me.  It is my only choice if I want to live my life as my best self.  But I have tried so many times, I am wondering if I will ever be able to live my life without feeling the need to drink alcohol.  This thought scares me.  My addiction has me mentally chained with fear.  ‘Will I ever figure out what will keep me from returning to the drink?…and if not, what will become of me?’

I entered into my last recovery attempt strong.  I was trying different things.  I approached it with a new spirituality practice that I did not have in previous attempts.  I was reaching out to others in recovery and attending 12 step meetings.  I was reading recovery books.  I was keeping a journal.  I was listening to recovery podcasts.  I was doing things to help manage my anxiety and being actively aware of how my anxiety can feed my addiction.  I was engaging in physical exercise.  I was switching up my daily routine and trying to keep myself busy during typical craving times.  I started drinking warm tea to replace alcohol…and I was really enjoying this treat!

I was doing so much….trying so hard to overcome this addiction to alcohol I know I have living in my brain.  I was trying SO VERY HARD.

And then the exhaustion came.   Slowly, over time, I found myself sputtering out, like a marathon runner who starts off the race in a strong sprint, and half way through runs out of steam.  So, after a few weeks, when the cravings came, I was feeling mentally exhausted and was having a hard time managing them.  I slowly started to feel overwhelmed by my addiction, as I had felt many times in the past.  The cravings and desire to drink would not seem to go away.  I was using all the recovery tools I had, but I was still struggling.

Then, on Christmas Day, about 1.5 months without a drink, I saw my husband (who is not in recovery, but was supporting me by not drinking), have a glass of wine at dinner. Well, in a split second decision…I did too.  And then I had another, and then another, and when the wine was gone I started sneaking hard alcohol and got drunk.

Fear…. now I am afraid that no matter how many tools I have in my recovery tool box, no matter what I do, or how hard I try, or how aware I try to be of all my triggers, I will not be able to overcome this addiction I have to alcohol.

I have tried, this go around, to figure out what went wrong last time, and what I can do different this time.  You know, at this point I don’t think I am even going to try to problem solve it.  What I think I am going to do however, is attempt to be kind to myself, be gentle.  Maybe not put so much pressure on myself.  Maybe not do too much recovery stuff at once. Reach out to others in recovery when I am struggling.  Maybe take some quiet time and slow my breathing when I start to get overwhelmed by cravings.

It is clear in my mind that this journey is not going to be a short one.  Living in fear during this journey will not help my quest.  Learning how to live without that fear is still a lesson I have yet to learn.  I am hopeful it will come.

 

How I knew it was time…

So, sometimes when I reflect back on my extensive alcoholic drinking past I think about times that stand out where too much was too much and I knew something was up.  There wasn’t just one time, but instead there were many times.  And recently I have noticed that they have been coming more and more frequently, which, I guess, is how I knew it was time.  …this time.

Time 1:  circa 2001: I was having an enjoyable evening with my boyfriend-at-the-time.  We were drinking white wine and making sushi. We needed rice vinegar and he left for the store to get some.  I stayed home and inadvertently drank probably a whole bottle of wine in the time he was gone.  I threw up in his bed that night. ewwww…gross.

Time 2: circa 2002: That boyfriend-at-the-time broke up with me about 6 months later.  I was devastated.  I fell into a clinically severe depression.  It was during this time that I isolated myself from friends and family and started to purposely and often-ly self-medicate with alcohol.  It worked…and moving forward in my life I would now self-medicate with alcohol for just about everything.

Time 3: circa 2007:  After the birth of my second child I became totally overwhelmed with my life.  I’m not sure what happened.  I didn’t have traditional post-partum depression, as I wasn’t sad, but my anxiety went through the roof.  My baby boy was such a low-key and easy baby.  He slept all the time and was so peaceful and pleasant.  But for some reason I couldn’t relax.  I was so wound up so often and drinking helped to calm me down.  It was then that I believe my husband started to take note of my abnormal drinking.  We would have stupid drunk fights.  It was at this time that I noticed I was thinking about drinking very very often.  I started to have blackouts that I recognized were problematic.  Yet I could not stop nor control my drinking.  One night I remember asking my husband to carry my son up the stairs to his crib because I was afraid that I was going to drop him.  I was that drunk and that anxious.  …This period of time was a big eye opener for me and eventually started me on my pathway to seek help with my alcohol addiction.

Time 4:  circa 2010:  I am actively trying to abstain from drinking but failing over and over.  I would not keep beer and wine in the house (these are the only alcohols I truly enjoy drinking), and find myself tapping into the hard stuff.  Saying I will have just a glass, and reaching for more and more and more.  Getting drunk when I don’t want to.  I am now sneaking my drinking from my husband.

Time 5:  circa 2011-15:  I am now hiding alcohol around the house.  Hiding it from my husband.  Occasionally, if I am off work for the day, and cleaning the house, I will start drinking at 10 am while I clean.  One time my kids were at their grandparent’s house for the day and I had the house to myself.  I bought a bottle of wine after I dropped them off (about 10 am), drank the whole thing while cleaning, passed out in my bed and awoke only as I heard my husband’s truck pull in the driveway at 5 pm.  I was supposed to pick my kids up from my in-laws at 4:30.

Time 6: circa 2011-15:  Even though I don’t love it, I feel it is OK if I am slightly buzzed and drive my kids to the library, or on errands.  One time I drank 2 beers while my son was at preschool and picked him up not long after finishing drinking the second one.

Time 7:  2015-present:  I find myself driving home from events drunk time and time again even when I tell myself I will not do this.   I wonder what the consequence will be, not just to me and my husband, but for my innocent children, and the social consequences of having a mother who has a DUI, or more terribly:  a mother who committed manslaughter by killing someone while driving drunk.  The idea that I think I am even capable of this petrifies me.

Time 8:  2015-present:  I can not control my drinking and I know this.  I have proven this to myself over and over again.  I start to leave dinner parties, of parents with whom my children are friends with, much more intoxicated than I intend.  I even have black outs on these nights.  I have a big realization that I don’t want my addiction to alcohol to negatively impact my children’s social lives.  I need to stop this.

Big questions I ask myself is:  ‘can you do this?’  ‘what can you try differently this time that might work for you?’ ‘what is going to happen to you, your marriage, your children, your life, if you can’t move past this alcohol addiction?’

Day 9 for me today… I try, I persevere…one day at a time.

Anxiety

Anxiety —  A feeling that can range from an almost undetectable sensation of unsettlement, to a full blown out of control and distressing emotion.

I have lived w/ anxiety for as long as I can remember.  Even as a child I remember feeling chronically unsettled, nervous, and unable to fully relax, but, because ‘having anxiety’, or any other uncomfortable feelings, were never discussed w/ me growing up, I never knew there was any other way to feel.  Anxiety was my ‘normal’.

My primary caregiver, my mother, has been, and is, to this day, the most chronically anxious person I know.  To sum it up, one of her famous sayings is:  ‘I’m not happy if I don’t have anything to worry about’.  She seems to pride herself on this thought process. This is the woman who raised me.  The woman who I got so many of my mannerisms and habits from.  She was my primary role model from childhood right through to adult hood.  So it makes sense that anxiety has been ingrained in me.

As a young adult I eventually came to recognize that my constant feelings of worry and unsettlement was not the normal for everyone.  I had a chronic health condition.  It was called ‘anxiety’.  And oh yay… by the way mom, you have anxiety too…. really really bad anxiety.  Too bad you are unwilling to see that.

Until very recently I always viewed my anxiety as comparable to an asthma exacerbation… sometimes I had it, and sometimes I didn’t.  It wasn’t until just a few months ago that, during a new thing I was trying, meditation, I came to understand that I lived with anxiety 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Yes…even when I felt happy or life was going good, I came to realize, sitting on my meditation cushion one morning, that I have lived every moment of my life with some degree of anxiousness.  …WOW.  A light bulb went on in that moment and I knew I had uncovered a very big truth about myself.

So, how does my anxiety relate to my addiction to alcohol?   Well, let me give an example: Best case scenario – even if I am in a relaxed environment, having good times with friends or family, I still have an anxious feeling inside of me.  When I drink alcohol, I feel a release of that anxiousness that is a core part of who I am.  I recognize that now. When I drink alcohol I find my mind is able to have a break from my anxiety for a bit, or at least lessen it.  No wonder I like to drink.

The way I understand addiction is that the more you do something that feels good to you, the more you want to feel this way…. no matter what the consequences.  ‘In the moment I feel better when I drink alcohol.  It doesn’t matter that I feel bad after…. I just need to feel good right now.’  This is how addiction starts…  So I drink….innocently, trying to help myself feel better.  Self-medicating my anxiety.  Next thing you know, I have anxiety and now I have an alcohol addiction.

It has been one week and one day since my last drink of alcohol.  One day at a time is a good motto to live by.

 

Perspective and Growth

I have been abusing alcohol for about 15 years now.  I first recognized I had a problem with alcohol about 10 years ago, and have been chasing the brass ring of successful recovery from my alcohol addiction for the past 7 years or so.

It has been a long road, and I have learned much along the way.  There is still so much more I need to learn though, as I still struggle not only with figuring out how to live happily in sobriety, but just to live in sobriety in general.  (Baby steps : )

I am a determined soul however,  and over these past 7 years I’ve recognized time and time again how sick and tired I was of the downward spiral alcohol was creating in my life.  I knew I wanted to stop this madness and chaos that alcohol added to my life.  I decided I wanted to start living my life as my best self.  My best self does not drink, because alcohol does me much more harm than good.  The risks clearly outweigh the benefits.

So what have I learned so far???  The following are not original ideas…. they are valuable pieces of information I picked up through books, pod casts, blogs, face to face addiction recovery meetings, and all the other sources I have sought out to help me overcome this terrible addiction to alcohol I have.  So…..here it goes:

  1.  you have to want to stop drinking for yourself.  Someone else can call attention to your problematic drinking and plant a seed, but at the end of the day you are the one who needs to water the seed and figure out your own reasons to stop drinking.
  2. It’s hard.  For me, quitting drinking has been the most difficult and challenging action I have ever taken on.  Harder than grad school, harder than natural child birth, harder than training for and running a 1/2 marathon…all big goals I set for myself and succeeded in…  Looking back now, these big goals have taken no where near the amount of endurance, perseverance and energy I’ve put in to my goal to free myself from this alcohol addiction.  I will continue, because I know it will be worth it for myself in the end.
  3. You can’t do it alone.  …not if you want to have success long term.  This is something I learned in October of 2015, when, after years of brief and exhausting attempts of trying to quit drinking alcohol, and getting ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’, I came to understand what people living in successful long term recovery were saying all along…. you really can’t do it alone.  Although it is 2 1/2 years later and I am still figuring out how to successfully remove alcohol from my life, understanding this key concept created a huge forward movement shift in how I approach achieving my goal of long term recovery.
  4. It takes more than just your will power to not drink.  Will power can get the ball rolling for you, but it only lasts so long.  It is the shift in your views and mindset about alcohol, and finding how abstinence benefits you, (instead of all that you will miss from not drinking), that will be key to carry you into successful long term recovery.
  5. Be kind to yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up if you drink day after day even though you say you won’t.  If you want to give up alcohol because you think it is in your best interest, keep that intention.  If you stay true to your intention than events will follow to give you strength and help.  Even if it seems slow going, you will reap small victories along the way.  Celebrate and focus on the victories.
  6. Don’t give up on yourself or your goals.   (psst… goals can shift and change…stay true to yourself and be flexible too!)
  7. Seek out information.  For me it all started with the famous google of ‘How do I know if I’m an alcoholic?’ …. Knowledge is power.  The more you know the more you will understand what works for you, what doesn’t work for you, what you want to learn more about.  You will discover things about addiction you didn’t know before.  This will help you.  (For instance, I learned that people who pick their skin  (me), had a much higher tendency for substance abuse than people who don’t.  WOW… I had no idea!!!  I’m not saying that little tidbit of information pushed me through the door of recovery, but it did help me feel like there were other people out there like me, and I felt less alone and isolated in my addiction.  –It was also reassuring and comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who picks their chicken arm skin when they are anxious, board, or upset!)
  8. Focus on the similarities, not the differences. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned that is applicable in all aspects of my life.  I remember going to some AA meetings in the beginning , reading some recovery book, reading stories on line, and thinking, ‘these people are nothing like me, how can they help me?’  But then, over time, I did see similarities.  I saw similar struggles, similar thoughts.  I realized that, for the most part, all living beings want the same things, to feel peace and happiness.  We all come from unique upbringings and life situations, but at the end of the day our goals are not that different, and we all really can teach and learn from each other.

So this is an off the cuff list of some valuable concepts that I’ve learned thus far on this journey to my best self.  I’m sure there are many more, but this is enough for now.  Day 5 now my friends.