Relief, guilt and shame

I’ve been at home for 3 days since my grandma’s funeral.  The tears have dried up, and I spent yesterday working on cleaning up our back patio, and then we went to a movie last night, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I have to say I feel guilty for going back to my life and enjoying a movie so soon after I lost someone so important to me.  If I really sit and obsess and brood about it,  I could probably cry and cry some more, but I don’t want to cry anymore.   I feel guilty because I feel relieved.  Relieved that I don’t have to feel sad about her declining in the nursing home anymore.  I’m relived that she’s no longer in pain, no longer confused and scared, trapped in a reality that grew more confusing by the day.  That all the paperwork and worrying is over.  I feel guilty for being glad it’s all over.

I tell myself I should feel proud for being so strong and that I got through this so well, in large part because I wasn’t drinking.  But all I can hear is my dead mother’s voice in my head telling me how selfish I am.  That I should be ashamed for going back to my life and moving on so soon. It’s such an odd impulse, to feel like I should self-flagellate because I feel too good for the circumstances.  Isn’t this why I gave up drinking to begin with?  To feel better?

I feel that familiar itch to throw myself into something challenging.  Like really physically challenging, so I can feel something other than this confusing relief/guilt vortex swirling around in my brain.  I want to turn warrior, to put on face paint and become primal. Sweating, pushing,  feeling my lungs burning.

Today is day 686.

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One Decision

I’m sitting here on this New Year’s day thinking about how one decision made on 9/7/2014 changed the trajectory of the rest of my life.  Where would I be right now if I had continued drinking?  I’d probably be at least a little hung over.   I would have consumed at least 300 bottles of wine last year, assuming of course that I consumed the same amount as the year before.  The fact is, I probably would have increased my consumption, since that’s been my pattern over the last several years.  I would be less healthy, less fit, and more addicted.

All it takes is today.  One decision to turn it all around.  I could have been still heading down the road to complete physical addiction.  That’s the ultimate and inevitable destination for those of us who abuse alcohol.  That elevator only goes down, as someone wise once said.  If you’re struggling today, decide once and for all to get off that elevator and don’t get back on.  It’s not too late, and it will never be any easier than it is today.  In fact, it only gets harder.

It’s not always easy.  Sometimes it sucks ass.  But it’s worth it.  You will never regret not drinking yesterday.

Here’s to a new day.

 

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Looking back on the year

I’ve been taking time off from work for the last 10 days and I have about 2 weeks left.  When I was drinking,  this much time off would have made me a little crazy, but I’m really enjoying it this time.  I’m relaxing, doing little odd things around the house, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself.  And being away from the sometimes toxic politics of work is really refreshing.

When I was drinking, my time off would have been spent drinking daily, probably starting around 4pm.  I don’t know if anyone relates to this, but when I’d have the first drink, I’d feel happy, relaxed.  Then that would lead to a 2nd drink, and I’d start to feel the buzz.  By the third, I’d be starting to think about regulating myself to maintain that buzz, but not drink so much that I’d feel bad the next day.  Then I’d start to feel almost a sense of loss as I reached my “limit”…like my buzz is going to be over and I can’t drink any more.  This pattern used to consume my evenings.   Now that I don’t drink anymore, I think about that daily pattern of being up and then down, and I’m really glad I don’t do that anymore.

I’m also gearing up for our yearly trip home for Christmas and I’m thinking back to last year at this time.  Last year, I was so anxious about this trip, but this year, I’m actually looking forward to it.  Nothing has really changed that much between then and now, except I have an entire year of sobriety under my belt.  I guess that would account for most of it.  I feel much more comfortable in my sober skin now. The family all knows I don’t drink anymore, and it’s not a big deal.  It was never a big deal to them, but it was to me.  Last Christmas, I was at just over 100 days, and I thought I had come such a long way.  But now a year later, I can see how much farther I’ve come since then.

I’ve had a few bumps in the road this year, and have been tempted to turn to alcohol for temporary relief on several occasions, but I have not given in.  What I have gained from 1 year + 100 days of contiguous sobriety is far too valuable to throw away.  I have learned that there are times when you feel shitty, and that’s just all there is to it.  You feel shitty until you no longer feel shitty.  Sometimes there’s nothing else to do except try to be compassionate with yourself and give yourself permission to feel shitty. Not to wallow, but just to accept and sit with it.  It’s uncomfortable, but it’s part of life.  I’ve also learned how to relax and enjoy myself when I have free time.  That’s a huge one for me.  I used to become so anxious when faced with a lot of down time.  I think a lot of that was really from the effects of the booze, though.   The thing I’d like to learn is how to let go of stress with work, but at least if I’m really relaxing and recharging during my off time, I should be able to come back ready to go.

This year, I got to know myself better.  I was fully present for everything in my life, good and bad.  I’m pretty proud of that.

 

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I’ve been struggling.  I feel like I’m pushing everyone away.  My grandmother is the one person in this world who has always loved me.  She’s the one person whose love I never doubted, and she’s slipping away from me, a little bit every day from dementia.  I was just home to see her two weeks ago, and I’ve felt the walls closing in around me ever since I’ve been back.  I’ve fought it back up until a couple of days ago, but now the pain is overwhelming.  I cried yesterday.  The ugly, snotty, puffy eyes kind of crying that usually makes me feel better.  What is going to happen when my grandma is gone?  I feel like I’m going to die right along with her.  The vacuum left will suck me into the deepest hole. I’m afraid.  I’m afraid I can’t deal with it.  I can’t function right now, I am so sad and just…empty.  I don’t want to move or talk, I just want to curl up and disappear.  I just want this horrible feeling to go away.

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Toughing it out, sort of…

I almost drank yesterday.  I had a really bad day at work, and was desperate to apply liquid salve to my bruised and smarting ego.  If my partner hadn’t been home, I am almost certain I would have had a drink.  Instead, I ate too many chocolate covered almonds.   She made dinner, and I went to bed early.

This morning, I woke up early with a clear head, and knew exactly what I needed to do with my work situation.  I sent the email I needed to send, essentially reigning in my ego for the time being, and I felt much better.  May be a post for another time, but it’s hard to imagine such a big ego living inside someone with such low self-esteem.  One of my idiosyncrasies, I guess.  When I’m unsure, I over-state to such a degree that I feel my neck stretched across the guillotine, and I wait for my head to be chopped off.

Anyway, I didn’t drink, and I’m glad I didn’t make today worse than yesterday by doing something I would have regretted so deeply.  Today is day 422.

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1 Year

Today marks 1 year to the day since I gave up alcohol.  It’s a decision that has changed how I view myself and others.  How have things improved?  I have become better at dealing with stress and pain and no longer worry that the next big crisis will put me over the edge.  I am much more active and present. I’m moving much more and eating better, and as a result have shed a few pounds, which is great.  But most of all, I have started to get to know who I am and what I’m about.  A person who doesn’t have problems with alcohol is likely to not really understand that sentence.  You live inside your own head, how do you not know yourself?  It’s sounds strange, but I had been numbing my emotions for so long, I didn’t really know what was real and what wasn’t.  Now I know that when I feel something, it’s coming from me, not the liquid depressant I was pouring into myself.  I’m finally living my life instead of living for 5 o’clock.  I don’t ever want to go back there!  Sobriety is the greatest thing I could have ever done for myself, and I only regret not doing it sooner!

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Alcoholic-Schmalcoholic

I ran across this from http://thesoberschool.com/drinking-problem

If you’re regularly drinking more than you intend to, and it’s making you miserable, then yes, you might well be dependent on alcohol. It is not really about how much you drink, it’s how it makes you feel

So you see, it doesn’t really matter what you label it. It doesn’t matter if someone you know drinks way more than you. And it doesn’t matter if everyone else is happy to get hammered all the time. If alcohol is causing you problems then it’s causing you problems. You don’t have to wait until things get really bad before you stop.

When I first stopped drinking, I struggled with the meaning of it all.  What did it mean that I had to quit drinking, entirely?  Does that mean I’m an alcoholic?  Does this represent a new identity for me and how do I integrate it into who I think I am and how I see myself?  Over time, and through reading many blogs of women (and men) with similar stories to mine, I came to accept that I had a problem with alcohol.  It didn’t matter that my friends drink more than I did and they didn’t think they had a problem.  All that mattered was how I alcohol was making me feel, and how stopping was making me feel better.  That was all the validation I needed that being a non-drinker was (and is) the right thing for me.

I am convinced that some of us are just more sensitive to the negative effects of alcohol than others, and I am just one of those people. It’s no different from food sensitivities.  I have a sensitivity to dairy.  When I have it, it makes me bloated and very uncomfortable, so I don’t consume it.   I have come to see alcohol in the same way.  It made me anxious and bloated, and it made me much less likely to exercise and eat well, because once I had the first drink of the evening, I was on the couch watching TV for the rest of the night.Now that I don’t drink, I often walk out the door after dinner for a 3-4 mile walk at 8pm.

Whether I call myself an alcoholic or not is beside the point.  Do I feel better without it? Is my life better?  The answer to that is absolutely, yes.   I do consider myself an alcoholic, it’s not that I have a problem applying the term to myself.  I think I’m an alcoholic who had a pretty “high bottom” and is therefore quite fortunate.

For anyone reading this who is struggling with the question of long-term or “forever” sobriety…don’t get caught up in what to call yourself.  Don’t get caught up in what it means or how it will define you.  Just focus on how you feel.  Do you feel better without booze?  Great!  No need to put a name on that, just do what is good for you, and don’t worry about the “A” word.   For some of us, alcohol is an extra-nasty poison, it’s just a fact for us.  You will never regret giving it up if it’s making you feel bad.   If you had a gluten sensitivity, you wouldn’t continue to stuff bread in your mouth and make yourself miserable, would you?  Of course not.  Obviously wheat is not an addictive a substance like alcohol,  and I’m not talking about people who are in full-blown addiction who can’t quit without medical intervention.  This post is not directed at someone in that situation, nor do I intend to minimize the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with full-blown alcohol addiction. The point is, why continue to do anything that makes you feel bad if it’s within your total power to stop?

If  you question whether your drinking is a problem, consider taking 30 days away from it.  That will tell you very quickly whether you have a problem.  I know for me, 30 days was difficult, and it scared me.   For someone without a problem, this would not be that hard.  And what do you have to lose?

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