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.