Day 10

Steve Wintercroft – DIY paper masks

Double digits!

Life’s crazy is continuing on without regard to the internal struggle I’m going through, and it has me thinking about the masks we wear.

One of the deeper issues I’m processing lately, mostly below the consciousness level until now, is the idea that I might actually have an issue with alcohol addiction. I know that sounds ridiculous, given that I’m making such a big deal about quitting – surely I must have already come to terms with being an alcoholic. But I haven’t. It was hard to even type that word out.

The subconscious struggle is fundamentally whether or not I actually need to be doing this. Am I really addicted? Is there really a problem? Could I just cut back? Am I making more drama about this than I need to? Everyone else is happily having their beer tastings, or work happy hours, or wine-o-clocks, or Mommy’s happy juice – and living apparently normal, healthy, balanced lives.

Am I really that person that can’t, ever again?

It’s rather bleak.


Day 9

“Thistle” on black scratchboard, Lisa Goesling

Still itchy, but surprised at how smoothly today went.

I think the firehose of onboarding at the new agency and creative push over the weekend/late night last night depleted my brain so that I was left on auto-pilot. And right now auto-pilot says, No drinking…just do the next thing on your list… kids bath & bedtime, kickboxing, check in with sober online group, post here, read book… bed.

Almost done.

Of note: husband has been following me around in the evenings as I go through the boy’s bedtime routine, out of concern, I believe, for my ability to handle it without losing my temper. Guess I’ve been snappier than normal during this last week. Usually HE’s the one losing his shit, but now it’s me. I hope this settles down soon. I’ve had to swallow my pride a couple times now and let him take over. Grateful that he’s supporting me in this, but also a bit ashamed that I’m that on edge.

I’ve heard that it takes 7 days for the alcohol to leave your system, so right now – the urges are all mental. I will say that I’ve noticed a clear-headedness that wasn’t there before, and a connectedness with the people around me, including coworkers, friends and family. I didn’t realize how often I was avoiding contact with people because I was either drunk/buzzed and unsure of how I would sound, or hungover and wanting to be more collected before we spoke. 

Interesting article on addiction/connection, with some neuroscience nuggets.

Day 8

Dermatographia example from Wikipedia

Really weak right now.

Almost through the weekend of this first week, but I hear that nagging voice. Just one… why not? You know how good it will feel, how great it will taste. Take the stress off.

Feeling itchy, literally and figuratively.

One of the physical issues I’ve had that caused me to examine life a little more closely was a constant all-over itch that got increasingly worse over the last few months. After weeks of testing and doctor visits, I was diagnosed with a condition called dermatographia. Basically, my mast cells (the white blood cells that release histamine) are a little hyper-sensitive, especially in times of stress. When my skin gets touched, or scratched, or pressed on, they break out the histamine and I get hives. So basically, life gives me hives.

And the stress has been pretty high lately, so this condition is the worst it’s been. I’m on high doses of antihistamine, but since quitting alcohol, even those haven’t touched the itch.

Anyhow, I’m sitting here, scratching and wanting a drink, and looking at my twins – doing their thing – bouncing from one activity to another at light speed. Just in the last half hour, we’ve:

  • painted halloween costumes
  • driven a spaceship (space heater)
  • sprayed the front garden with organic bug killer
  • played with a cardboard box that was alternately a bee cage, a robot costume, a drum, and a “delivery package”
  • dressed up as Super Why
  • had a pee accident
  • made a mess of daddy’s desk
  • begged for a snack and after being turned down, thrown a major fit
  • done cannonballs off the bed into the “ocean” and swam around on the floor

No lie. And now the crazies are writing pretend notes on a notepad (allowing me two minutes to write this), and I’m being drawn into playing puppets… back later for an evening update.

Late PM update:

I rode the wave and got through the witching hour. Left to run an errand while husband did bath time, and grabbed a couple kombucha drinks (new to me, but will be my treat tonight).  Now boys are in bed, and I’m headed into an evening of work. Hoping to get to bed early so I can be ahead of the game for tomorrow’s stressball of a day, and have planned out an exercise routine for every evening this week to ward off the inevitable cravings that will come from the new work pressure.

Definitely feeling more present with the boys already, and today’s reflection on their busy-ness was a helpful reminder of why I’m doing this. 


Day 7

Jersey Shore beach – Olivia Christina Photography

Work stress is putting a damper on what would normally have been a lovely “local summer” day, here at the Jersey Shore. Boys and I went to a new playground at the beach this morning and had a blast, but I knew I had work waiting for me when we got home. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

It’s a new freelance client, a large agency with a good reputation. I really want to wow them with this challenging assignment. Of course it comes with an impossible deadline and I’m working in a vacuum. Usually this type of work comes with a partner who you can bounce ideas off, and bitch about the crazy ask. On my own, and in this particular moment, I’m feeling quite insecure. A little insecurity is normal at this point in the brainstorming process, I’ve come to expect it. But right now, I feel even more handicapped than normal. A little fragile. Not quite myself. Not sure what to expect.

So I’m procrastinating, here instead.

If it weren’t for this minor drama turning me into a ball of stress, I might be looking for healthy, active ways to fill the flat and dangerous vacuum of my Saturday afternoon and evening. But I feel tied to the computer and my thoughts. My brain needs to perform, but half of it feels tied up in resisting the temptation to go grab a “well-deserved” Saturday evening cocktail. I mean, it’s almost 5-o-clock!

I just need to push through, knuckle-down and do it. Maybe a trip to the gym could be my reward for getting some thinking done this afternoon.

Last night’s bonfire with the husband didn’t end well. He slowly drank himself into the chair while I tried, in various light-hearted ways, to engage in conversation. Attempts were met with increasing reluctance and finally, mockery. I just got up and left. Felt angry and trapped. Was I overreacting? Maybe. Was he acting like an ass? Maybe. Will he remember it today? No.

Fucking alcohol.

Day 6

Lots of outdoor time working in the yard again. It’s a gorgeous fall day and I’m feeling the warmth of the sun still on my skin. I think the physical activity helps.

But now we’re headed into Friday night and I’m nervous about the weekend.

Even if I’d cut back during the week, the weekend, especially Friday night with the expanse of the weekend ahead, was our time to get CRANKY. Thankfully, C hasn’t been making his G&Ts in my earshot (per request) but I’m sure he’s at least 2 stiff ones in by now. Wine or beer with dinner, then on to the bourbon with beer chasers. I would have joined in the pre-dinner G&Ts, happily connecting with him about our days and getting a nice buzz on before the chaos of dinner began. 

Then, I’d have a few glasses of wine with dinner. Post-dinner, I’d take my wine glass with me to give the boys a bath, refilling if the evening was strenuous (which is usually is) before story time. Both of us would have a drink in the bedroom while putting the boys down. And I knew that was kind of sad and inappropriate. God knows how many beers and wines we’ve spilled up there because of the unpredictability of that hour and two crazy naked boys.

Once boys were down, all bets were off. We’d continue drinking until C passed out on the couch (doesn’t take long – we never, I mean never, make it through a whole movie or show), and then I’d usually have one more before pulling myself to bed.

But not tonight!

No plans for tonight other than going to a book club if I start feeling desperate around C’s drinking. If not, we might make a bonfire in the backyard, and if that becomes too much of a trigger (quite possible), I admit I’m considering taking a puff off the vaporizer – something I’ve avoided all week. We’ll see.

Today’s work in the yard was putting down topsoil and reseeding the front lawn. Seemed like such an easy task setting out, but it was rather back-breaking and sweaty and took the better part of 4 hours. As I carefully spread out the dirt, and then the fertilizer, and then sprinkled the seed… I thought about how long it would take to see results. I’m an inpatient person, and having done this before, I know I’m going to need to wait at least 2 weeks before those little green shoots start appearing.

I feel the same way about this quitting thing. It feels strenuous and difficult, and I won’t see results for a long time, but I’m investing in something that will pay off down the road. And it will be worth it.

Day 5

The plan today is to exhaust myself. No deep philosophical thoughts, just plowing through and working my ass off. Early morning with the boys, then once they were in school – off to my first Habitat for Humanity build. Morning shift down, then on to yard work, moving piles of dirt and leaves until my arms were shaking. Now, it’s the witching hour when I normally would have rewarded myself with a cold beer or G&T. I hear my husband preparing his own downstairs, so I’m up here hiding.

I’ve noticed, even in 5 days, how much clearer my head is and how much more confident I am in conversation.

Have I really been in such a fog?

I’m meeting my boys’ eyes more. Maybe I was before but not really connecting? Or maybe I was ashamed at the end of the day, because of my drinking – knowing that it wasn’t the best example, and also knowing that I was intentionally trying to get a buzz on – even though they were still awake and wanting my full attention. 

On into the chaos of witching hour and bedtime routines… then yoga.

Late PM update:

Went to my first yoga class at the new gym, and this was the instructor’s intro to the class:

[paraphrased] “Tonight is a full moon, so we are going to work on balance.”

She then read this aloud, as we all lay on our mats with eyes closed:

“The coming of the new moon is a time for new beginnings and new ways of looking at things. As the poet Rumi so elegantly put it: ‘Escape from the black cloud that surrounds you. Then you will see your own light as radiant as the full moon.’ So rise up and find your true inner strength. Claim your feminine power in the light of the full moon. Allow yourself to forgive and heal, and finally, to move forward.”

I had to quickly wipe away tears as the class began. The fog is clearing.

Day 4

It’s dark in here today.

Or maybe the word I’m looking for is Sober. Turns out when I’m not pumping my body full of alcohol, it doesn’t quite know now to be happy. Interesting science behind this here.

What that translates to in my case, apparently, is a lot of darkness. Kind of a flat darkness, like my brain doesn’t know how to navigate it – unlike the usual depression I feel, which I’m now associating with alcohol use.

I’ve decided to give a name to the insidious voice in my head, telling me I can’t do this. That it’s never going to work. Or the even more dangerous “You’re not an alcoholic, really – you can just have one drink, why are you even doing this?” I’m going to call it Despair. And it looks a bit like the picture on this post. It’s the voice of self-destruction.

By giving it a name, I’m hoping to separate from it and focus my energy on defeating it. It is my enemy, seeking only to steal, kill and destroy. 

Fuck that voice. 

It’s made a fool out of me before, but I am determined that it won’t again.

I plan to frame a favorite picture of my family to place in my safe zone as a reminder of the reasons I’m doing this. Behind it, hidden in the darkness, I will insert this picture of Despair, as a reminder to remain vigilant.


Poem: It Comes In Every Storm, by Olga Orozco

Music: Way Down We Go, Kaleo


Day 3

Julie Mehretu, Climate Change Anxieties

I’ll admit it, I’m a mess.

Life is full of sharp edges right now. The news, my marriage, work, my kids, my body struggling with this. It all hurts.

I snapped at my boys multiple times during the witching hour last night – my toughest time, 5pm – 8:30pm. The time I would usually be a few drinks in, “to take the edge off”. I snapped at my husband, trying to ask for help but not doing it very gracefully. And then, when he took off in the middle of the chaos to walk the dogs (setting a new precedent for avoidance), I found myself feeling desperately angry. 

Nights have been tough too. Laying awake, struggling with my racing thoughts, feeling the anxiety of insomnia mount as the hours go by. Sunday night, the twins woke up around 1:30am wanting to come to bed with us – I was still awake when they cried out. Then lay awake while they snuggle-pinned me in from both sides. Last night, only one came to bed with me, after I’d finally fallen asleep in the wee hours – but the sleep was still interrupted.

People say the first thing you notice when you quit is the improvement in your quality of sleep. I’d love to see that, if only I could get to sleep and stay asleep. Husband’s snoring has never been so incredibly irritating.

I find myself falling apart into tears at the smallest things. It’s like I don’t recognize myself. My emotions are all over the map – euphoria at the thought of being free from this, or in the moments after working out when my body is still thrilling. Dark, angst-filled moments reading the newsfeed, wondering what kind of world I’m bringing these children into. Deeply angry, hot, irritated tension between my husband and I – will we make it through this? Desperate anxiety about being a mother, in the moments where the boys try my patience to the brink. How do they know when I’m at my weakest? 

Stay strong, one right choice at a time. No need to conquer tomorrow, just right now. That’s what I keep telling myself.


Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

-Carl Jung

Day 2

Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes

For about a week prior, I anticipated Day 1 with an almost electric sense of change. Days flew by in a fury of adrenalin. My stomach in knots. Finding myself mid-conversation, staring into space… “is everything ok?” Constantly thinking about my Plan, all the details and the preparation, the unforeseen challenges ahead. Unable to sleep.

Then it hit me.

I’d felt this way before, twice. Once was when I’d packed (or sold) all my belongings and moved to Italy – not knowing anyone there, not knowing the language, and without much of a plan except the immediate job I’d arranged to get my feet on the ground. The second time was when I quit my high-powered and highly stressful job to freelance. Both were conscious decisions made to improve my life, knowing that I was headed into the Unknown, but that the Unknown had a lot of potential. Both decisions were life-changing in the best possible way.

But there was a sense of leaving everything behind. Almost like traveling into outer space. Will I ever return? Will I be the same? What does that future look like? Will those I love be there when I get back?

When I deplaned in Milan, I walked out of the airport into blinding sunlight. In that moment, and in many many moments that followed, I had a deep sense of being exactly where I was supposed to be. Where I wanted to be.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. I had recurring nightmares of dying, alone, in a foreign place, where no one who loved me knew I’d died. It was horribly lonely at first, not knowing the language or anyone around me. But never did I lose that sense of Rightness.

In a similar way, quitting my job and going into business for myself has been Right. In spite of the hardships, the late nights, the personal investment and constant striving. I’ve had offers to return to full-time work, but easily turned them down. I am where I’m supposed to be.

What is Day 2 like?

Feeling anxious and jittery. I can’t tell how much of my twisted gut is fear, how much is excitement, and how much is just detox. But I know it’s Right.


Day 1

So this is Day 1.

It feels scary and small. Like it could be blown away by the slightest gust or stressful day. Honestly, I’m scared shitless.

But I’m committed. I have a plan and a support network, and I’ve already started telling those closest to me. I’m hoping that these days will accumulate and get easier, and that the accumulation of self-controlled moments will be an inspiration to keep going. Maybe by making this public it’ll help me to feel accountable, even if I’m the only one reading. Journaling outside my own head could only help, right?

2017 has been a year of internal change, for many reasons not the least of which was the self-reflection that came from turning 40. The importance of loving myself never clamored as loudly for my attention before. It took some emotional and physical issues for me to wake up to that need, and the realization that no one else was going to fill it. As part of that journey, I’ve decided to give up alcohol. Not indefinitely – I keep telling myself… because that makes it easier. The finality of never drinking ever again is too heavy. I mean, wine! with food! beer with friends! a chill G&T on a hot summer’s day!

But for me, similarly to my experience with smoking… I can’t just curb it. I need to cut it out, at least for now. Somehow, the black and white decision to quit seems like it will ultimately make things easier than trying to moderate. And it seems fitting that I quit cigarettes (for the last time) in my 30th year, and now here I am at 40, making a similar decision. The fact that I conquered that addition gives me confidence that I can conquer this one.

What are my reasons for doing this? Me, myself and I – primarily. A close second are my 3 year old boys, my husband, and the life we’re working hard to create. I want to be in control of my life. I’m tired of being short with my family because I haven’t had a drink yet, or because I have and it makes me mean, or because I’m tired and hungover and my head hurts. I’m tired of hangovers! And of knowing I can’t take certain medications because they react with alcohol and I’d rather chose the alcohol. I’m tired of feeling driven, at a certain point in the day, to drink. Anxious. I know the clock is ticking and I’m not getting younger. Addiction does not get better, it only gets worse… and I’ve seen this happening over the last 6 years. Each year, drinking more and feeling less control. I feel shame about my lack of control, and I’m tired of feeling that way.

FUCK this evil monster.

I know it won’t be easy. In fact, I know it will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. My husband drinks, and I know it will be hard to be around him. We already struggle in our communication, and this will only add more distance to an already distant relationship. My friends all drink – some more than others, so that will be hard too. A crutch during stressful times (which is all the time right now), a way to celebrate socially, a pairing with food, an excuse to travel, a layer of enjoyment to every-day occasions like sitting on the patio, a reward at the end of the day. Alcohol is such a part of my life – it will be hard to replace.

But I have a Plan, and I have a deep driving anger in my gut against this poison. My intense desire to do a better job of loving myself is also fueling this decision.

This needs to be Enough. It will be Enough. I’ve had Enough.