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.

 

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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.