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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Blackouts

Blackouts….ah yes, a super un-fun occurance that happens after you drink a lot of alcohol.  …or, after many years of chronic alcohol abuse, drinking just a little bit of alcohol, depending on how your body decides to process it on any particular evening.

I was having blackouts as a young 20-something before I even knew what blackouts were, or even recognized that I had a problem with the way I drank alcohol.  I remember waking up in my apartment after a night out at the bars with my friends, looking down at myself and feeling so –happy and satisfied— that I was neatly tucked into my bed w/ my pjs on.  And when I couldn’t recall where I had put my driver’s license and money at the end of the night, I had to look no further than over to my bureau to see that they were neatly stacked together, next to any jewelry I wore the night before.  …‘I’m such a good drunk’ I thought to myself amusingly.

Fast forward 15 years when drinking almost every night by myself, but with my family around me, was the norm for a long time.  There were too many times when I would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t remember what pjs I put on my children before bed.  Did I brush their teeth??? Of course I did…. It just took me a long time and lots of mental effort to remember, and even when I did the memories were fuzzy.  What did I watch before I went to bed… I usually couldn’t recall, and if I did, again, it usually took a lot of effort on my part to recreate the night before from the time where I did remember watching (earlier in the evening), to the time where I knew I switched the channel (or another program came on), but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was.

The most troubling blackouts were the numerous times my husband and I would have a conversation while I was drinking and the next day I wouldn’t remember any of it.  I would bring up a topic the next day and he would say to me, ‘don’t you remember we talked about that last night?’ ….no, I don’t.   These times were not fun nor funny.  I tried my best more than once to roller skate around a conversation if I had been caught not remembering it from the night before.  Often times I just didn’t bring up things during the day that I could have possibly talked about with him when I was drinking for fear that I would be caught in yet another blackout moment.  I will be honest with you…. this, and my drinking habits, took a very serious tool on our relationship.  Not fun.

And even as I sit here typing this entry… 3 days without a drink, I am crazy addicted to alcohol enough to think that maybe that won’t happen to me again….if I’m just careful and don’t go overboard.

I am grateful for understanding that alcohol addiction tricks your true mind into thinking ‘it won’t happen again,’ when you know it will.  I learned this the hard way… after numerous true and dedicated tries to control or abstain from drinking.  Ultimately they have all failed in the end, but not all is lost…. I learned from each relapse, and each time I try this journey of recovery from alcohol addiction I emerge a stronger and more wise person. … Here is to a successful day 4 tomorrow.

 

 

Physical Symptoms

One of the things I am most amazed at about my addiction to alcohol is that I have physical symptoms that are undisputedly directly related to drinking alcohol, yet, despite me knowing this I still continue to drink.  (well, this is day 2 of my too-many-times-to count attempts to stop drinking, but I have long known the physical consequences I incur on my body each time I drink, despite wishing I could stop, or at least control my drinking.)

I am talking about physical symptoms beyond just what many people consider a typical hangover, like headache and dehydration.  Although, when you think about it, who is OK living w/ a chronic hangover for most days of the week?  A person addicted to alcohol, that’s who.

Over the years I have accepted feelings of chronic fatigue, headaches, nausea, anxiousness, general muscle soreness, and numbness/tingling of my extremities as part of my everyday general health status.  ‘This is just what happens because I drink.’ ‘These are physical aspects of my life that I am OK with.  I don’t love them, but I accept them’.

This is what I thought for many years after I knew I had an addiction to alcohol. I accepted living my life with all these negative physical symptoms b/c I didn’t see any other way not to.

And what about the chronic cracks on the sides of my mouth that is most likely due to a vitamin B deficiency related to excessive alcohol intake?  I try to take care of them externally w/ ointments and vitamin supplements, knowing that if I stop drinking the cracks will most likely go away… but I can’t stop drinking (!!!???)

And how about the digestive side effects of alcohol consumption?  For me this is a topic unto itself.  The chronic inflammation of my gut that causes nausea, vomiting, esophageal reflux (to the point where sometimes I can’t swallow while eating because my esophageal muscles are spasming –painful and frightening).  And the sour smelling, thick and heavy (or light and airy) poops that are so off from my normal bowel movements.  I think to myself…. ‘what is this doing to my insides?’ 

The point I am trying to make is how can I, a person who values her health so much, sabotage it so severely by this one very bad habit?

Addiction is the answer to that question.  I know the answer.  My hope is to find a solution to overcome my addiction.  Stay tuned.

My turn

Addiction.  I am addicted to alcohol.

There is no way around it….I am allowing alcohol to enter my body knowing it is doing me harm.  I am slowly killing myself, both physically and mentally.

I want to feel peace in my life, but having alcohol ruling it does nothing but give me the opposite feeling.

How do I know I am addicted to alcohol?  The simple answer is I want to stop consuming it, but no matter how hard I try, no matter what way I try (and I’ve tried almost all of them), no matter how many times I try (going on 7 years now), I cannot do it.  Alcohol has always won in the end.

I have been so positively influenced by so many people telling their stories of how they have overcome their addiction to alcohol.  I’ve read and heard their stories via blogs, podcasts, books, face to face interactions.  These people really are doing it.  They seem to have figured out how to go from being a person whose life was ruled by alcohol to being released from it’s grips.  Their stories are so inspiring.  Their stories are raw, real, and sometimes not so pretty….and this makes them all that more inspiring.  These are real people w/ real addictions to alcohol, and they figured out how to successfully remove alcohol from their lives for an extended period of time.  As a consequence they all have one thing in common…. they seem happy that their lives are no longer controlled by the chains of alcohol.

It’s my turn now.  It has to be.  I am not a quitter by nature, but this addiction to alcohol is the hardest thing I have had to deal w/ in my life.  I have broken down and given into it time and time again.  It sucks.  The whole thing sucks.  And my addiction is sucking heath and happiness out of my life.  But it’s my turn now.  Please let it be my turn.  Please let it be my turn to figure out how to live my life without alcohol successfully.