Nov 19

Monday

That’s right. I’ve stopped counting.

I’m in a different place than I was a year ago, where every day felt like a major accomplishment and this blog was an outlet for the roller coaster of emotions and struggles happening on a regular basis.

Now? I’m in a better place overall, yes. Still quit. Still a work in progress. But not feeling the need for a daily accounting anymore.

I signed in today after reading this article about unconditional self-love.

It made me realize that the self-love I’ve been practicing is more often ego-centered and conditional. Lately I’ve been struggling with negativity toward myself, about my parenting, my lack of self-discipline with exercise and the wack-a-mole addictions that have replaced alcohol, as well as some discouraging minor physical issues that are related to aging and a lifetime of poor stress management.

In all honesty, I feel like shit about myself right now.

In the past year, I’ve corrected this by doing things I’m proud of – reading a parenting book, attending kickboxing and/or yoga regularly, growing my nails out instead of biting them, eating healthy meals. And it works!

But although those things are all good (and I need to get back into that routine), I’m realizing that if I’m only loving myself when I feel I “deserve” it, that is not true self-love. It’s conditional.

So, how does one love oneself unconditionally?

I don’t know. 

That’s why I’m here. Stumped, and bookmarking the article for a re-read later.

The ongoing work-in-progress continues.

Y2 Day 25

Thursday

Realizing I’ve dropped off the blog for a bit, apologies to anyone reading. Still sober, and thankfully the lung issue was nothing to worry about – just some pulled intercostal muscles (still healing and quite annoying, but not life-threatening!).

Certain movements and deep breaths hurt a lot so I’ve been avoiding exercise which has had negative effects on my mood, patience and sleep. 

Not sure if it’s just this, or a deeper mental slump carried over from weeks ago but at times, I look back and remember all the energy I had for self-improvement at the beginning of last year’s commitment – and wonder where it went.

I’ve been slacking in more ways than one and can’t seem to motivate myself back out of it. But I’m not going to berate myself for it tonight. 

  • I’m sober.
  • I only yelled at my kids once today and it wasn’t that bad.
  • I got all my work done, which was a lot, and also managed to attend the boys’ halloween performances.
  • I’m chipping away at some long-overdue, long-procrastinated personal projects that I’d like to be done by the holidays, so that feels like progress.
  • Halloween costumes are pretty close to done.

Plans for the evening include a short list of chores followed by couch time with C before he goes to bed, then book-reading, long hot shower and hopefully an early bed for myself.

Must admit, I’m feeling overwhelmed in a lot of directions tonight but will power through. Maybe sleep will help, and hopefully exercise soon.

Guess today’s post is just to remind myself that this journey isn’t a straight path of constant improvement. There are ups and downs, steps forward and backward, slow periods and fast periods… just need to keep moving. And try to love myself through it all.

Y2 Day 17

kirk nilsen

Wednesday

Still no news from the doc, but I’m over the panic and assuming the results will be the most likely: negative. 

This week is slow at work but busy in other avenues – planning and packing for our weekend camping trip in the Poconos, figuring out the details of my arm tattoo, sorting through school stuff with the boys etc. 

And in the midst of it, this article captures how I feel without alcohol in my life – a sense of true freedom:

https://www.euphoricaf.com/blog-home/freedom

Y2 Day 15

Monday

In a funk lately, and having a hard time finding the energy and motivation for most of life’s usual demands. I’ve had a cold for the last month or so and finally went to the doc. Antibiotics are doing their thing, I think, but last week I managed to pull a muscle or otherwise injure my ribs while coughing. Doc called in an X-Ray and the latest news is that she sees a nodule and wants me to repeat the X-Ray to check.

“It’s probably nothing” she says. 

Of course I’m left in a panic which Dr. Google did nothing to help (obviously lung cancer), so I’ve moved on to more productive and encouraging ways of spending my energy. Including sharing this post that touched me:

 

Absolutely zero temptation to drink lately and even the smoke and online shopping has taken a break as I’ve been exhausted in the evenings and going to bed early hoping to heal this cold as quickly as possible.

More news on the X-Ray, hopefully tomorrow.

Y2 Day 9

Tuesday

Emotional bandwidth.

On a daily basis, there are things we do that subtract or add to emotional bandwidth. In a book we read the boys, the author uses the metaphor of a bucket being filled or emptied. The actions we take in life can empty or fill our own buckets or those around us, and the longer I stay sober the more aware I am of exactly how much those actions make a difference.

Sleep. Exercise. Meditation. Healthy eating. Gratitude.

Sometimes I’m on top of it, sometimes I’m not. I still consciously choose the unwise option all the time (like smoking last night).

But when I don’t take care of myself, the difference is apparent. I lose patience with others, life starts to feel impossible, my point of view becomes more constricted until it’s only able to see the tiny world immediately around me and I become unable to empathize with anyone else’s point of view.

It’s not just alcohol that makes us emotional unavailable to those we love, it’s the lack of self-care. And simply put, if we don’t show love to ourselves, we have nothing to extend to others.

But love is not a finite resource, although it may feel that way when we’re in self-preservation mode. The more we show loves to ourselves, the more we have to share – it multiplies. And all it takes is cracking that door open a little bit, giving ourselves the space to fill our own buckets, to get the ball rolling.

When I first started the “Love Myself” project back on Valentine’s Day 2017, I didn’t really know what that meant. All I knew was that I was sick and tired of NOT getting the love I wanted from those around me.

Now, almost two years later, I’m finally starting to understand what it means to really love oneself. And I’m feeling the emotional bandwidth extend beyond myself. Maybe I could start working on sharing it more with those I love, giving them the space to be human and faulty and unhappy.

Because I can handle it. 

Y2 Day 2

you are safe with me, hülya özdemir

Tuesday

I’m energized by the start of Year 2 and am already making goals for myself, surprise surprise. 

If I’m completely honest, part of why I haven’t been posting a lot in here lately comes from feeling disappointed in myself. Here I am, a year into sobriety and I’ve let myself down in almost all of the areas I’d hoped to improve over that year. 

Over the last month or so, I’ve stopped exercising regularly, my morning meditations are rushed and spotty, and the pot smoking and online shopping hasn’t improved in the slightest. In my defense, August and September were filled with 60-hr work weeks, vacation, and 2 weeks of illness, but I know deep down that’s not a real excuse.

For now, at least today, I’m not going to try to improve on all of it all at once. As far as exercise and meditation go, I’ll take it as it comes and do my best. Regarding the replacement addictions though, I think I’m ready to tackle those head-on.

I posted about it in a private sobriety group today and got a number of great responses. My favorite was this one:

You need to get to the root cause of the feelings that lead to a craving. for example, I get a craving for (insert alcohol netflix chocolate facebook scrolling etc) when I am actually feeling alone, I know that it goes way back. Before I had an addiction as such. I was adopted, and had difficulty feeling connected with others, and didn’t feel I belonged. If I am struggling with everyday stuff now, I can feel alone, and this triggers feelings that lead to an urge to drink etc. You can do this self discovery in therapy or you can journal freestyle such as I feel xxx because, and this makes me feel…. and this is valid / not valid because… that kind of stuff. I go for therapy myself as it worked for me.

She outlines a clear path and provides a very relatable personal example.

I’m not thrilled with my (very young, sweet, childless) therapist, who is the exact opposite of my previous one (older than I, cut-through-the-BS, say it like it is, gym every day kind of woman) so I’m going to start by looking for a new therapist as well as journaling here about the Why and When of these addictions.

Onward!

ONE YEAR

Monday

While the official Day 365 was yesterday, I’m celebrating one year today. And celebrate I have! I posted about my project on Facebook (a first) and have been basking in the internet applause as much as I’d like to think I’m above it.

I’m drinking a fancy Seedlip mocktail and giving my sick body a break from working out tonight. The highlight? I plan to go to bed early. What a PAR-TAY!!!

Yesterday, I celebrated by attending a music festival, SeaHearNow, in Asbury Park. C had VIP passes that we took turns using so I was solo for my evening out. And stone cold sober. I parked about 1/2 mile away and as I walked to the festival, I picked up the smell of beer from about a 1/4 mile away. Nope, don’t miss that one goddam bit.

And ya know what, that’s probably one of the main takeaways for me after a year: I DON’T MISS IT. I honestly don’t.

I went back to my first few posts in reflection over the past couple days, and there was a lot of yearning, a lot of hedging my bets. Now? I don’t identify with that at all. 

Sure, the romantic idea of a good wine paired with a fine dinner experience is one that hasn’t completely left (specifically the notion of a Sonoma trip with C, tasting our way through California) But then I think back over the last year, and all of the wonderful romantic, wild, crazy, fun, adventurous times we’ve had – that I experienced fully, sans-alcohol. In fact, I might argue that I actually had a BETTER time without it.

I told myself One Year. But now, I’m not going back. I love the way this makes me feel, and I’ve appreciated the mental and emotional growth that has come as a result.

Speaking of which, I’d love to distill all my learnings into one “Top Ten” list for this post, but sorry to say, I haven’t. Maybe in the days to come I’ll take the time, but for now – I’ll share a few of the highlights. Here are some of the key things I’m learning:

The Ability to Absorb

Now that my brain isn’t soaking up alcohol, I find that it’s much more capable of absorbing the good stuff I had been trying to pour into it over the years. You know, all the self-care stuff, all the self-discipline needed to stick with healthy changes in routine, all the processing of difficult life shit, all (well, most) of the details of my friends’ and family’s lives that I used to forget in my self-centered haze.

And when I say absorb, I mean deeply. Not just on a superficial level.

I’ll give you an example.

Driving home from work today, I noticed that I was biting my nails and breathing shallowly. I took a few deep breaths and then found myself, in the most caring, loving way, saying “you’re going to be OK”.

The mother in me comforted the child in me, and it was such a profound, complete feeling of love that I started crying. 

Now, I know that we’re all supposed to love ourselves first and foremost. And that self-love is where it all starts. And although I’m not a mantra person, I can see how positive self-talk can help people. Today though, I truly absorbed the feeling of self-love in a way I’ve never experienced.

So so many penny drop experiences, sprinkled throughout the year. Like nothing I’d experienced when drinking. I’ve called them mini-epiphanies in this blog – and at the beginning, it was almost daily. 

The flip side of that coin is that you really do feel all the feels, with no buffer to ward off the pain. And through that, I’m learning about the power of:

True Body Awareness

When I was drinking, as much as I hate to admit it, a lot of my mental awareness of my body was connected to the alcohol. Headaches, dry mouth, upset stomach in the AM, the mental/physical pull in the PM, the relief of the first drink, the dissatisfied chasing of the buzz through the evening, then the dull immobilization at the end of the night. Of course I felt other things too, and I would never have thought that my physical experience of the world was dulled while I was still living in that haze.

But now? On the other side? O. M. G. It’s a completely different experience. Like someone took the bubblewrap off. Like I finally woke up.

While my body may not be literally FEELING more, I’m noticing it more. I’m more connected to my own body.

I notice the difference when I don’t [fill in the blank – exercise, eat healthy, sleep, meditate etc] and when I do. I notice my body’s reaction to stress, anger, sadness, and can (sometimes, not always) act appropriately instead of reacting unconsciously.

My posture has improved. With the time bought back in the evenings, I now have healthy options after a stressful day crouched over a computer. And I look forward to stretching my body like a cat, feeling the muscles expand and contract, feeling the strength and pushing them to improve. 

A hot shower at the end of a day can be almost as good as sex. There, I said it. Seriously though, now that I’m fully aware, I take long showers a few times a week and enjoy every damn minute.

Being truly IN my body, noticing the details I’d never paid attention to before, has time and again, taught lessons that have helped me grow.

And of course, while being in the body, one is also aware of the interior landscape of the mind.

Better Thought Control

The last highlight I’ll mention tonight, but a big one. This was one of the goals I wrote down at the beginning of 2018, and living sans alcohol has made it easier.

Before, everything felt like a drama. I wasn’t able to process the shit life handed me so I either overshared with others, blew steam off at C or the kids, and/or numbed it with alcohol/pot. It always felt like something was going wrong – and it was Life’s fault, not mine! 

I’m sure that when I shared my sorrows with others I came off as a constant victim of life circumstances, always looking for someone or something to blame.

My relationship with C was the biggest and most common place I pointed the ugly finger of blame. And it was all C’s fault.

Now, those thoughts still occur but I see them, I stand outside of them, and I chuckle a bit. That’s just a thought, Self. Just a thought. That’s not reality.

I’m not the best at this, but I’m getting better. Meditation is helping a lot.

And that brings me to my last point.

I’m not there yet.

And I’m realizing there is no There. Yeah yeah here comes the “life is a journey” inspirational poster line.

When it comes to me – a highly goal-oriented Type A personality – I need a There to strive for, but I’m learning to love and accept myself along the way, to cut myself a break for missing a night of exercise, or for biting my nails when I keep telling myself to stop goddammit, or for losing my shit with the boys again.

I’m a work in progress and I’m OK with that.

Can’t wait see what Year 2 brings!

Day 356

Friday

After a recent conversation with C, where he explained that basically he’s a 12 year old boy at heart (and I can confirm this over and over in our marriage), I’ve assembled some thoughts on the topic that I want to share here FWIW.

And of course, I’m going to tie it to alcohol.

C started drinking around age 14 and really hasn’t stopped at any point in his adult life. Without revealing personal details, he has had his share of negative life experiences through his adult years, and at every point the response has generally been to drink rather than to process the events in a healthy productive way. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions given my state of mind about alcohol, but I wonder if he isn’t 100% correct about his emotional age – with an arrested emotional development around age 14, that explains a lot.

And his job of 20 years, which is essentially that of Peter Pan – managing a team of on-air jocks at a rock radio station, and then entertaining the masses on his own morning drive show (primary aimed at the 18-45 male crowd who listen to classic & new rock), one can only imagine has further ingrained the idea that it’s 100% OK to be like this. In fact, it’s an asset in this environment where emotional maturity is seen as weakness, and machismo is alive and well.

This wasn’t the first time he’s brought up that 12-year-old comment, and it’s usually mentioned with a bit of a “well aren’t I cute” chuckle, in relation to some low-brow joke or insecurity about how to handle the complexities of women. 

I wonder how many men deal with similar issues in their emotional development. Emotional intelligence is proven to be encouraged more in girls than in boys during the formative years, and adding alcohol or drugs as an escape from the tough-to-deal-with emotions of life experiences certainly doesn’t help. But for those of us who have a natural tendency to avoid conflict (internally and externally), it provides a convenient, and in the case of alcohol, socially acceptable, way of handling the slings & arrows of life.

All that being said, in my understanding (still limited of course, given that all of this is just an assumption) of the situation with C, I am slowly, slowly coming to a place of acceptance and even empathy. Which, in the end regardless of whether I’m right or wrong about this way of framing the situation, is helping both of us.

Look at that – I’m processing!

Day 355

Rob Lawson

Thursday

Another week has flown by, 60-hr work week under my belt and this one shaping up to be similar. The first thing to go is this blog, and sleep unfortunately.

I’m exhausted and run down, ready for this project to be over. 

No major epiphanies lately, but I can provide a review of Seedlip’s non-alcoholic distilled spirits (I find their choice of language interesting).

I tried Spice, and treated it like my usual G&Ts from back in the day. I saved my first taste for Friday night after the punishing work week, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. 

I found it satisfying and fun to go through the old ritual… filling a tumbler with ice clink clink clink, then pouring the viscous clear liquid over the cubes. Topping it with tonic and a twist of lime – then stirring with the same knife I used to cut the fruit. Letting it all chill until the glass was foggy – then taking a slow, deliberate sip and letting it swirl around in my mouth a bit before swallowing.

Lo and behold, it drinks like a cocktail! No bite of alcohol, but the mouthfeel, the complexity, the dryness, all of that was there. It doesn’t taste like a G&T – nor would I expect it to – but it does have a lovely deep, rich, velvety spice taste that was quite enjoyable.

I’m slowly savoring a mocktail here and there, using it sparingly – but when this one is finished, I’m looking forward to trying out one of the other flavors.

All in all – two dry thumbs up.