Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Back to work and today I finally started feeling like Sober Me again. That person who identifies as a non-drinker.  Who feels just plain normal mostly. Who went on a cruise and remembers every single bit of it as grand and glorious because there were no tipsy nights or even mini-miserable mornings.  I like that person; I'm glad she's back.  Gotta fight complacency so she sticks around longer this time.

Finished my new book and although I enjoyed the combination of high-quality writing and forthright honesty, I was a bit sad that it contained a whole lot of "this is how I used to be" and not much of "this is what the sober part is like."  It seemed like a -short- 272 pages, possibly because there were "fantasy relapse" scenes sprinkled throughout.

In the words of Dom DeLuise "Nice. Nice. Not thrilling, but nice."

However there were two quotes I liked well enough to jot down:

Once the first sip of alcohol registered, the jig was up. Little addicted synapses all over my brain demanded more -- no matter how sober I was after just one sip


I prefer to bathe my feelings in copious amounts of alcohol rather than feel them.

Boy, did both of those ring true.

What I really want, though, is something about how life changes after the first 90 or 100 days. Like the four-to-eight months phase and the around-a-year phase. Stuff I can read to prepare and, I hope, have success. I suspect it's more than "just don't drink." I'm wondering if it's like a joke I heard once: "How many family counselors does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but you can't just change the bulb; you have to rewire the whole house." 

But for tonight I'm happy to have these eleven days. I think I'm doing a little better at the "be good to yourself" this time around -- in response to being a pick-up-and-put relative (so that Middle has the car for his odd-hours part-time job) and also to be Just Plain Easier I've started buying meals at work again instead of packing a lunch.  After only one day I'm now wondering what sort of crazed cost-effectiveness healthy-eating bee got in my bonnet that I started doing it in the first place given how much easier it is to let food service professionals deal with lunch.

I'm also wondering why lunch seems like an indulgence and why it is hard for me to indulge myself in even small ways when I'm all about letting other people - including family members - indulge themselves. Back to that "one set of standards for the rest of the known world; a different damned-near-impossible one for you."  Yeah, well, that can be fixed. I hope.

Double Digits

Made it to Day 10.  Night 10, actually, which is how I like it. Chores done, house buttoned down, jammies on (okay that happens way early in the evening) and unwinding.

Lot from which to unwind, too--today I dealt with a lot of anger and that's my biggest trigger emotion. Going all the way back to childhood I learned to just Not Express Anger either because it wouldn't do any good or because one got in trouble if one did or because people just plain didn't like it...and somewhere along the way I learned that stuffing my mouth full of food (or better yet booze but that came a bit later) didn't necessarily take the anger away but was nice and distracting and comforting in its own twisted way.

Flash forward to a mother whose response to all life's negative emotions was "here, have a drink." Took that with me to a new family and they were all too happy to play along.  Anger + booze = less anger.  Anger + enough booze = forget what you were mad about. Rinse, repeat.

Yeah, well, today I was mad most of the day but not drinking and not even overeating. It was all family stuff of course, mostly relating to the relatives in the other house calling up for what I thought were dumb reasons combined with having to share a car with Middle Child and the dog misbehaving but it was very ire-inducing at the time and I was not a happy camper most of the day.

What I did was a whole lot of "just sit with the emotions."  Learned that one from Caroline Knapp back in 2004 when I quit for a little over 4 months. Way easier said than done, too. Sure the first impulse is to do whatever it takes to just stop feeling the unpleasant feelings -- bath, exercise, housecleaning, distracting games or reading or whatever -- and if it's a craving those things often work but if it's a freaking self-generated in-response-to-something emotion then you're just running from the inevitable. Turns out nothing really happens if you sit there mad and fuming other than Youngest asking "are you okay?" and as long as one can maintain a civil enough tone, it's perfectly okay to say "No! I'm mad about X and Y and Z and I'll get over it eventually but right now I'm still pissed."

Well, no, something does  happen: you replay it in your head till you get sick of the tape loop then figure out a way to improve your situation. In my case that was to wait till Middle was home from work then take the car out to the grocery myself for a change just to get out of the house for the first time since Friday evening. That helped. So did acknowledging to myself, "hey, there's the liquor store across the parking lot and it's open. Sure I -could- go in but I'm not going to. I'm stronger than that today. Just because I had a bad day doesn't mean I have to drink."

My only regret was that despite wandering through the dollar store and the grocery store I didn't see anything I wanted as a treat. I was perfectly happy to give myself a treat but nothing appealed. I guess the trip was the treat, at least for today.

The trick is to remember how this went today. Anger isn't going to magically stop being my hardest-to-deal-with most-triggery emotion but maybe next time when it's something even more annoying or closer up or both I can remind myself "anger CAN be managed in ways other than 'excuse to drink.'"  Another tool to fight complacency.

POST SCRIPTUM:  I thought I hit "publish" not "save" last night but it turned out for the best as I wanted to share that I ended up with a Day 10 Treat after all. 

While I was setting up the C. Knapp link above I noticed this book and after a quick look at the specs I had to have it. Stayed up a bit too late reading (Kindle app for iPhone--I love-love-love having a huge library in my pocket) too...but the one good thing about sober sleep is that even if you don't get as much of it for as long as you like (woke up at 1:15 and then the dog got startled by somedamnedthing around 5) it's still more restful and rejuvenating than anything drugged.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Makes Nine

Nine is almost ten and ten feels like progress.

Quiet day today; didn't leave the house.  Made a point of recognizing various feelings/states of mind as not necessarily what they seem. For example one thing I noticed after sobering up the last time around was that if I start feeling sad in the afternoon for no particular reason that actually means I'm hungry and just don't have sense enough to have the proper "hungry" cues and feelings. Well, that one is still quite true.  Whether it's an effect of the alcohol or the food issues or the crazy stuff going way back associated with the alcohol and food issues doesn't matter; what does matter is that if I'm feeling out of sorts in the afternoon, a snack will usually fix it.

Today I learned another one: "bored" is actually "tired."  Normally I don't have any problem keeping myself entertained. I was the latchkey only child OF an only child so I'm plenty used to my own company and now that I'm a working adult I'm always looking for playtime.  This afternoon, though, with a whole day to myself I found none of my usual toys (computer games, yarn stuff, book) a bit appealing and wondered what that was all about.  Was it some missing-booze thing? Nope, turned out I just needed a nap. Don't know why since I'm not usually a "nap" kind of person but once I stretched out on the couch and set the book aside I was out like a light and when I woke up about an hour later I was fine again. Something to file away for later.

Early bedtime for me though; even though I slept an hour later than usual -and- had a nap I'm perfectly content to call it a night a good hour earlier than usual.  Which is fine. Tomorrow is a holiday for me which means even more -restful- sleep and another good morning. There's just nothing like a whole string of sober mornings to start a nice feeling of self-esteem.

Still keeping the phrase "fighting complacency" close to my heart though. The days aren't all going to be easy, not at all.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Makes Eight

Today was the first day I felt like my real self again. Normal for the first time in months: since before I quit quitting, even. Not up, not down, just plain. Relieved I can feel normal this soon...I was worried it would take another week or so.

Didn't do anything particularly special other than sleep in till nearly nine which was a luxury.  I'm still not getting the totally excellent sleep I got in months 2.5 - 6 last time but I was smart enough today that when I woke up from weird dreams at 4am I took the dog out on my way back from the bathroom so that we both could go back to sleep and -stay- asleep, which worked. And since it's a holiday weekend I get to sleep in two more days; how cool is that?!?

I'm still taking it -very- easy though: didn't get dressed till closer to eleven and when Middle volunteered to do the grocery shopping I gladly accepted.

 Letting the shopping be done FOR me is something I want to acknowledge and praise myself for doing because I have a terrible time accepting help that is offered, never mind asking for any. I'm trying to change because the flip side of that particular coin is that I build up resentment and resentment is one of those emotions that helps "justify" drinking. I know it is both stupid and illogical to refuse help then get angry/sulky because I have too much to do so I've really been trying hard to get rid of that dysfunctional behavior especially as it (rightfully!) pisses off the family if they make a kind gesture and I say "no thanks."  My new plan is to say "yes" to whatever help is being offered, even if it does feel weird. That's another behavior I got from my mother. She was hell-bent on doing everything to, for, by, with, at and about herself all BY herself and it rubbed off on me.  Asking for help, any kind of help, was a sign of weakness and she didn't want to be -weak- bygoshbygollybygumbygee.  Even though I know it's maladaptive and that people LIKE to help others, that knowledge hasn't made it much easier to change my own behavior but practice has made it a little less hard.

 Because I've felt Mostly Normal today I was reminded of something Robin Williams said about sobriety:  "I'm still the same asshole; I just have fewer dents in my car."  Lot of truth there.

Friday, May 27, 2016


Yes indeed, it is the night of Day 7 and I'm feeling pretty darned content. This time last week I was already good and drunk and not having nearly as good a time as 1) I thought I would and 2) I am right now.

It wasn't like that all day though - far from it.  Spent most of the day sad for no particular reason. Not upset over any one thing but sad...and also draggy and unmotivated like you wouldn't believe. Belle says that during the first week do only what won't get you fired and that was kind of where I hovered today. But I allowed myself to websurf and then when the three o'clock draggies got really bad I indulged in chocolate with my double-strength tea and it helped. Some, anyhow.

Not enough to make me stop dreading bowling this week though.  My autistic brother-in-law (hereafter ABL) moved in with us on May 1 and the one thing he really likes to do is go bowling so on Friday nights Youngest and I take him to the lanes in our local gym complex. May 6 was the first time in thirty years I'd been bowling and of course I sucked at it and didn't much like doing it but we were the only people in the place which took a lot of the curse off it. All day I'd been making it out to be worse than it was -- which I do with most everydamnedthing I don't know why -- but I managed to calm myself down by the time it actually happened mostly by remembering "whatever 'it' is, it is never as bad as you make it out to be ahead of time." That turned out to be true because after four weeks I'm starting to not suck so much. (Broke 100 both games which is kind of amazing, actually.)

I was kind to myself by ditching the original dinner plans in favor of picking up ready-to-eat from the grocery store and we got a chocolate cream pie, too.  ABL thought the grocery store outing was grand fun and seeing him genuinely enjoy himself also boosted my mood. Fixing "too damned hungry" with food helped even more so that by the time I was soaking in the tub I could appreciate being completely aware and alert.  It felt good.

"Hungry" reminds me though...that HALT thing has a lot of merit.  I have mixed feelings about recovery language but "don't let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired" is wise advice for all of us - including toddlers - to help prevent meltdowns of any kind.

I didn't pick out a specific Day 7 treat but I am totally looking forward to being able to sleep in as late as I feel like it tomorrow morning and that is a treat in and of itself. Time for bed and a book (well, Kindle app on my phone) and contentment.

Been a long time since I felt contentment. It's nice.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


...and sulky. Out of sorts. Grumpy.  Don't have the urge to drink but not much liking life right now.

Yesterday morning was grand and even the midmorning was nice: helped a lost woman find her way to a meeting, got some lingering stuff done, the whole bit. By afternoon it was a whole different scene. Part of it was difficult conversations with relatives, part of it was the first really warm day in these parts, part of it was bloating and blah and all that but I was just crankypants all night.

Did the usual stuff: minimal homestuff (left dishes till morning) extra sugar in the system and early bedtime. It worked well enough.

Today was more of the same except hotter weather. I had hoped to start dialing down the carbs both simple and complex but after realizing I felt better after two servings of fettucine alfredo than I had the whole day I gently but firmly told That Voice that we could work on food issues AFTER a good 60 or 90 days, not before.  After all, part of what kept me on that damned six-week up-down on-off rollerdrinkingcoaster was stuff like "you have just as big a problem with food as you do booze so maybe you should deal with -that- and what about this exercise stuff and why aren't you doing it ALL, right now, since there are other people nearly -sixty- who are in amazing shape and you're just falling apart right where you sit..."  You get the idea. 

Anyhow, I have plenty of ammunition for self-loathing so the thing to do is pick the one -biggest- thing and fix that which by far and away is the drinking.  If I "need" -- no, wait, I'm not going to put the pejorative quotation marks there --  If I need to eat the last of the iced animal crackers because they are comforting and soothing right now then it's okay. I would tell a friend or a kid not to beat themselves up for such a thing so why be harder on myself?

Oh yeah. Because for some reason I have one set of reasonable, kind, achievable standards for Everyone Else but only perfection will do for myself. How fucked up is that? Probably has something to do with the Little Voice which just popped up with "because maybe then Daddy will like us again." 

I backspaced over and then re-typed that last sentence three separate times before letting it stand. Wasn't sure I wanted to go there at all, much less yet.  It feels pretty damned silly not to mention pathetic and lame to be months away from freaking fifty years of age and still have so many Parent Things running through my head. However since these are some of the things I was drinking to avoid, I might as well just acknowledge this shit when it pops up. Something out in the open has far less power than something kept a secret.

On a related note, one of the things I realized during that nice long sober time was that "drinking to avoid" is more than just the staying buzzed part It's the whole feeling crappy the next day part and the guilt part because if one focuses on all that then one doesn't have to focus on any of the other stuff making one feel crappy/guilty/ugly/unhappy/etc.  

That's enough navel-gazing for this night. Oddly enough, typing it all out seems to have taken some of the edge off. Interesting.

Tomorrow will be Day 7 and that's a whole week and that's the first milestone in Round Two. Hey, no, wait: today was actually the first milestone because since that lovely 202 days the longest I had gone was five days in a row and today makes six! Okay, tomorrow makes the second milestone. Nice to end on an "up" note.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Day 5 Morning Quickie

Just wanted to say that today was the first day I woke up feeling truly good.  Also very thirsty.

Although the difference between a morning after drinking and the morning after Day 1 is always big I think part of what makes the Day 2-4 hump hard is that you don't really keep feeling incrementally better each morning, or at least I didn't. Last time (the 202 days) it took every bit of a whole week before I had a really good morning.

I think that's part of why in the immediately-past 6 weeks and many times over the past decade I would start to quit then fail around Days 3 & 4. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fourth Night

It isn't Twelfth Night yet but I'm getting there.

Making this blog my "try different/add a tool" must be working since I dreamed about it last night. Had a drinking dream and part was "But what about the blog?!" Gotta love subconscious accountability.

Speaking of drinking one of the things I've heard and read over the years is "if you quit for a while and go back to it you will pick up exactly where you left off." That one is true. For me, anyhow. Oh sure, that very first night I had less but in no time at all I was right back to a half pint of decent vodka plus one or two minis and although the minis started out as only one Kaluha they quickly morphed into a flavored vodka or a Tanqueray gin. Make that a flavored vodka AND a Tanqueray gin. Spouse liked to wait till after 7 to start but once I was home and settled I usually poured at any time past six and if it was a bad day (and it is so easy for That Voice to make any day bad) I'd start as soon as I got home at 5:30-ish because I liked that hard-spirits-on-empty-stomach rush. Plain club soda mixer.

No wonder I was pushing fluids and eating stupid crap between the end of the booze and bedtime and no wonder I had miserable nights. What -is- rather a wonder was how easily I slipped right back into that pattern even knowing how much better life was without it. Ethanol is insidious for sure. Six shots on a weeknight didn't even seem particularly abnormal since I was doing All The Things each day in spite of not feeling truly human till elevenish.

Hence the changes this time around and the Fight Complacency mantra.

Today was a good day. Went much like yesterday in the breaking down of tasks with playtime in between. Brain fog and some clumsiness and one brief episode of weepiness but overall manageable. Even in a Really Annoying meeting.

Now for another decent night of sleep. I'm looking forward to the double digit days when sleep goes from decent to downright good.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Day (Three) Is Done...

...Night has come/from the hills/from the trees/from the sky...haven't sung that in about four decades but you get the idea.

Day 3 turned out well due to several things. One of them is that Spouse, Eldest and Beagle 1 left for an extended stay at our other house* this morning. A 33% reduction in humans and 50% reduction in canines will automatically decrease overwhelm.

Another is that I really made an effort to practice self care. One of the things which brought me down last time (and thus contributed to the "okay to drink again" state of mind) is that I kept thinking The Rest Of The Family should be noticing all the things I do and automatically, without being asked or signaled in any way, just -know- to say kind words of appreciation and do nice things for me.

On reflection that's pretty dumb. Heinlein once said one can't -expect- gratitude and he was right.  Also my own (and his own and her own and your own) self-worth and feelings of accomplishment should come from within, not by any external benchmarks. Which is real easy to type but not at all easy to live. So "not at all" that I think I'll be working on it like the Egyptians worked on the pyramids.

Anyhow, the "what" of the thing went like this. My first big meeting of the day was from 12 to 1:30 and my second was from 2 to 3:30.  The two meeting sites were fairly close together but far away from my office.  The Usual Me would have walked back to my office, sat there thinking "I ought to be doing something productive but this isn't really very much time what can I do how about..." and worked myself up into the Coulda-Shoulda-Worthless Blues.  New Me got tea from the cafeteria, found a shady spot outside, relaxed for twenty minutes (okay I was also reading Belle's new book) and then walked leisurely to the other meeting. It seems tiny in the telling but it was huge at the time.

New Me also planned to give myself a treat after both meetings--so much so that after chatting with a colleague before the first meeting about how my afternoon was all tied up I said "And I'm definitely giving myself a treat for that; don't know what yet, but something." Saying those words out loud had power in two ways: not only did it make the idea more real for me but she wholeheartedly endorsed it (suggested ice cream) which meant that the entire "be nice to yourself" concept was a perfectly reasonable thing.  Believe me, that part is hard too--my mother** was entirely about duty-duty-duty and self-loathing more than self-loving.  The treat turned out to be two small pieces of Dove dark chocolate but again, it was the mindset change which mattered.

I carried the stop-overload-start-self-care idea into the evening as well. Usual Me would start dinner prep then get the lunches made and the dishes dealt with all in the same multitasking frenzy which I would then use as an excuse to 1) put pebbles in my bag of resentment when nobody gave praise for how hard I was working and thus 2) drink. New Me broke it up into steps and took a planned reward break in between.  I made and served the dinner then spent a good couple hours at my computer watching the next episode of a new-to-me series*** and playing games. Only after I felt relaxed and NOT thinking "gotta get my Gottas done" did I deal with lunches and kitchen clean-up. 

The last thing was that I gave myself permission to snack even if I knew damned well it was emotional or "nervous" eating. Sure I've got food issues galore but in the "shoving shit in my mouth to plug up the hole where feelings might escape" hierarchy, quitting drinking comes way before eating a half-dozen iced animal crackers while making the lunches or taking a handful of chocolate chips with me to the computer.

All those things collectively made for a much better Day 3 than many Days 100+ of last time. My hope is that by both doing the self-love and writing about it I can keep up the clearly good work.

Now to bed.

*I have a Very Good Job in a rather wretched place to live so when the opportunity presented itself we got a second house in a place where we love to live but which has zippo job opportunities...which we call Chaos South to distinguish it from House of Chaos.

**Trust me, she'll come up again.

***Transparent and I just started Season 2 so imagine how pleasantly surprised I was this afternoon to find it mentioned in Belle's book!


Only two days and I have comments!  And followers!  THANKS for the support--this is fantastic.  Exactly what I was hoping to do with "try different."  Y'all rock.

The workday will be kicking off momentarily so I must run soon but had to share that yes it -was- a way better morning. Just as I had hoped.

Oh sure, I started at the "gee I could really use a couple hours more sleep" and today seems to be a Thirsty Day (somewhere between days 3 and 7 you -- well I, anyhow -- get horribly thirsty and just can't drink enough unsweetened beverages) but...

1) No waking up at 12-something AND at 1-something both to go to the toilet.
2) No waking up again at 3-something with the horrible sweaty yucky heart-pounding feelings.
3) No dizzy, no headache.
4)...and also 5) because it counts double: No self-loathing.

I'm pleased with myself.  But still very much fighting complacency because I know Days 4 - 10 are the toughest of the lot.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's A Wrap

Day 2, that is. Safely in bed.

Huge family drama and a drinking spouse were both tough obstacles but I stayed on the sober path. Wanted to acknowledge that fact instead of listening to the voice in my head saying "yeah,so? Two is nothing."

Two is not nothing. It is more than I've done in the past 8 days and a necessary step to Day 3. So That Voice can just fuck off.

Things I Did To Get Through This Day:

Jazzed up my usual iced tea with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a splash of seltzer.
Ate a lot of sweet starchy stuff.
Zoned out with computer games.
Did some long overdue decluttering.
Didn't cook.

Have an important long anticipated work meeting tomorrow. So glad I won't be miserable in that "dammit I feel like shit why did I DO that?!" way I've done so many times before.

I can do this. If there's anybody out there -we- can do this.

Another Day 2...

...and I hope it's my last Day 2. 

Hoping hard enough that I started a brand-new blog to help.  As Belle says, try different, not harder.

The blog title "Fighting Complacency" was taken which is a shame because that's my theme these days and here's why:

Decided to quit "for real" July 2, 2015.  Got 56 days which is the second-longest I've ever gone* then slipped back into pretty close to nightly drinking for nearly 3 weeks and had another Day 1 on September 15. 

That one went better for longer...into uncharted waters past Day 140.  Thought it would be forever and that I finally was a non-drinker and wasn't that all fine and dandy?  Yeah, well...around Day 180 I started getting complacent.  Something like "hey, it's been six months, you've got this" which might have been okay except...

...April was coming up and that's a personally hard month for me: wedding anniversary (spouse still drinking,) anniversary of my mother's death (died a raging alcoholic, recycle tub full of Barton's vodka bottes,) and work took a nose-dive too. Still thought it was no big deal and that no, I didn't need to do anything special or different for myself other than what I'd been doing.

Got to Day 202 and had the private realization "shit, I don't think I've gone this long without alcohol in my LIFE...I remember getting watered-down wine as a -tiny- child" and the public announcement from the family that "you were a lot less crabby when you were drinking" and there ended up being no Day 203.

Drank on April 6 and although there was a five-day run in mid-April when I thought I'd gotten my mojo back, it's been booze damned near every day for forty-five freaking days.  About six weeks.  A month and a half.  Exactly like it was last year and the year before and the whole freaking decade before.

It sucked.

Time to stop the cycle. I'm fighting complacency.

**Quit for a little over 4 months back in 2004 and it was terrific and I felt much better but because it was always around I quit quitting...for eleven freaking years.